Chess, old cars and a reunion

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Two things I don’t know much about: Classic car engines and chess. But yesterday I learned a little about both. I learned that it’s a common thing for chess players to set up a board and wait for an opponent to show up. I had no idea. That’s so cool.

I learned about these types of engines…..

 

A friend’s husband and son had a couple corvettes at the local Car Show downtown so we decided to go see what was what. I was staggered at the amount of classic cars buffed and polished, lining the street like artwork. I snapped way too many pictures. It was hard not to, they don’t make these beauties anymore. As we passed by the different engines, Elaine was explaining how they worked. (She inherited her Dad’s talent for engineering and making anything run.)

The one on the left in her words:

“Three two barrel carburetors which in the car world is called a six-pack (more power, hence more fuel to the engine) The 442 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a Dynaglide transmission which was patented by Oldsmobile.”

And the one on the right:

“A 496 cubic inch twelve-hundred horse power turbo charged engine.” Very fast. (Most cars today maybe push 200 horse power tops.)

We looked at cars in between ducking into some local antique shops for about two hours when we saw the little Cellar with tables that looked very inviting right on the street. It was a perfect place to rest awhile and another excuse celebrate my Birthday early. We sat there enjoying Champagne like rich people who don’t have a care in the world. (Is that ever not true!) I wondered out loud about the Cheese Shop next door, but they didn’t have anything ready-made, so Elaine ventured further down and brought back a wonderful appetizer plate with meats, cheese and crackers which was perfect. She was like an explorer coming back from an expedition.

So now for the story about the Chess guy. He was an older gentleman who came walking up to the table adjacent to ours with his duffel bag in tow. He proceeded to set up his chess board in preparation for a game, as if waiting for some competition.

While we were sipping and talking I asked Elaine if that was something chess people did and she said yes. Sometimes whole mini worlds open up to me that I never knew existed. I love when that happens.

We noticed a young couple walk by and make a comment to the elderly man, it sounded like a throw-down to me. I kinda thought it was all in jest, but by and by they came back and the young man sat down facing the elderly man on the “white” side of the chess board. He said with a smile, “Do you remember me?” Turns out, years ago the kid’s father thought it would be a good thing for him to get his hands dirty harvesting potatoes on this farmer’s land and this elderly gentlemen was that farmer!

Well, then he said his name and his eyes lit up in disbelief and ours did too. I was thinking that we were witnessing something really special. They commenced to play, but not before I snapped this photo. I will treasure it and the memory of that day.

When we had champagne and cheese in the middle of the afternoon. And for a little while, all was right with the world. We had witnessed a Divine connection, what can really happen when people choose to reconnect and remember a simpler time and bring it all back to the present.

Evening Falls

 

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Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul……..Thomas Merton

I am trying to learn this: When words are few, there is a reason and a purpose for it. At least that’s what I am telling myself. There was a time not so long ago that my words poured out almost effortlessly. Not anymore. I know it’s a season I am going through and I don’t know if it will last for another month or a year or even more. I am resting in His timing, trying not to force words that aren’t there.

This evening I told myself I would come out here and write whatever came, whatever sounds I heard. Just now, the sun is slipping away to another part of the world giving way to a cool evening and a colder night. I am drinking Tazo Zen tea, the kind I used to drink on my work afternoons with a drop of honey and milk. I thought that might spark something creative.

The Mockingbird has stopped singing and now I hear the drowsy growl of a small plane overhead. That makes me think of fishing when I was a kid, and BBQ potato chips and a rocking boat and water lapping against the side. I didn’t really fish I just went along. I remember the sky being so very blue.

It’s beautiful here now, like living inside a Haiku poem. California in Spring, especially in the foothills is very close to Tolkien’s Hobbiton. On our drive there the other day it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Bilbo and Gandalf on a stroll or sitting on the side of a hill blowing smoke rings as they puffed their pipe-weed.

Green hills

And the other day I found a perfect nest. I was walking up from the river and I saw a big dark object laying at the foot of the trees. I looked all over and didn’t see any baby birds or eggs, thankfully. I carried it like a trophy, it was such a marvel I didn’t know what to do with it. I wanted to preserve the miracle, for that’s what it was (is) to me. How a bird could design something so incredible and engineer something from nothing is beyond me. It’s just God, that’s all.

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So, my friends if you are still reading, “Good on ya!” I am thankful for anyone and everyone who has been keeping up with me on this blog. It’s a Grace journey we are all on. Along with Thomas Merton, I believe that everything we go through here serves some kind of purpose.

My tea has gone cold in the mug and the mosquito’s are out. I wish the bats would come and eat them all. It’s about time for them to come out. The birds have gone quiet now, all tucked away on their secure boughs. Time to go for now.

Evening falls once again…….It is well with my soul even when words don’t come.

When God seems distant

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There are times in every believers life when God feels distant. I have described this feeling in some previous posts on this blog. It’s a season I am going through, nothing more, but it’s disconcerting to me. My thoughts run something like this:

I used to talk to you God, and tell you everything. I used to enjoy the glow of Your Presence in prayer and while sitting in silence. I used to feel your Spirit leap for joy within me while out running and listening to music, or even doing simple chores like vacuuming. What’s different now? Is it me? Am I doing something wrong? I feel as if a scoop of something has been taken from my soul and I want it back.

For some reason, words seemed to come much easier when I was in Arizona, but then I had more time to reflect as well. I worked long hours when I worked but I was off 3 and 4 days at a time. Circumstances aside,  this lack of flow has been disturbing. I used to talk to God with the familiar and easy relationship of a father to his daughter, but now there is a blockage and I am navigating through it the best I can. Maybe it’s simply this:

When God seems distant, maybe He is asking you me stretch my faith. Maybe it’s just that easy. He wants me to ride it out, knowing that the Bible assures me that others have gone through these times as well. I can rest in my assurance that God hasn’t gone anywhere.

In times such as these I draw strength from King David. Listen to his lament in Psalm 13 verse 1:

How long Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

But David knew His God. Though His feelings were valid; people were searching him out to take his life after all, He knew in His heart he was not forgotten. Listen to what he says in verse 5.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

He had the key to success. He drew from the well of experience and memory and remembered all the times God had been there and he knew that God hadn’t changed. Can it be that it’s as simple as continuing to draw on all those answered prayers, all those times of closeness? More importantly, that God is who He says He is and will never leave His children behind.

This morning as I stepped down my little road to the prayer shack, I heard not one but two owls calling back and forth. Thank you God, that’s a gift.  Another gift He presented me with was the honor of having my photos shared on another blog today. I never expected that and it was a very good day to start my day. You can see them and also have the pleasure of some wonderful works shared by the talented Glynn Young here.

I am grateful this moment as I type these words. The sun is partially shining today and that’s another blessing. We have waited all week for this. Maybe today I will go the used Bookstore and turn in my CDs and get a little credit. It’s a good day God.

I thank You for it. I rest today in Your sovereignty, Your love, Your gracious Presence. This daughter loves you.

 

Day is done…….

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It’s growing late….earlier I watched stars shyly make their sequined appearance one by one in the cobalt sky. Humans and animals alike have settled into deep breathing for the rhythm of the night has caught us all. The house creaks, and the events of the day flutter, collect, and float down and gather at my feet coming to greet me again here in my quiet chair. I smile, for it was a good day. Soon all the lights will go out for me and I will say a prayer and talk to God unless I fall asleep first. Later, in the deep dark when it’s morning but not quite morning, worry will come to find me. But I am ready for it. I have the 23rd Psalm.

Times like these I reach for Merton’s hours. So now I look for Monday and it’s here:

Let us live in this love and this happiness, you and I and all of us, in the love of Christ and in contemplation, for this is where we find ourselves and one another as we truly are. It is only in this love that we at last become real. For it is here that we most truly share the life of One God in three Persons.

Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours.

Usually, you just don’t need that many words……..I am finding that out. The more I write, the more I realize that to be a good writer, you need to be an even better editor.

Why I took a break, and why I’m back

Sometimes the blogging world gets noisy. And sometimes you even forget why you blog. And you go to a post where you feel you have held your heart out to the world…painfully so, and you get no comments. And you are disappointed. Even though you know you aren’t writing for:
Accolades……Comments……Validation…..and those are all good things, that was never my motivation.
And you read all these wonderful other blogs, and you feel like your voice is just one more and it’s not quite as beautiful, as esthetically pleasing….as skillful, as creative….fill in the blank.
A scribbling on a blank piece of paper could save your life, if it is just what you need to hear in that moment. 
I have also been mad at the “blogger” platform. Different reasons. All of a sudden my playlist didn’t work. It won’t start playing right when you open my blog. I thought I had it set up to do so, but I still can’t get it to work right.
When I noticed myself scrolling to comments right away? That’s when I knew I had lost my way. I needed to remember Who I was blogging for and why I started in the first place.
Only three reasons, but they are big ones. God, the Word, and You the readers.
I have been going through some changes myself, and no doubt this blog will change with me. Change is a good thing. But the one thing about this blog that will never change is the message. It is a little four letter word but it means the world…..and it’s what the world needs right now:
Hope.
And I realized another thing. My little voice means something, and so does yours.
And after all, how many voices are too many for praise to the living God?
This year has been tough, and it still is. Going on two years of care taking and it takes its toll no doubt about it. But Elaine and I are still laughing despite the circumstances. And now I am going through some other things personally, physical changes which I have talked about here.
And even when the moods are incredibly dark? The amazing thing is that at unexpected moments I have this absurd joy. It just won’t stop, because God has me. And He has you too, no matter what else is going on in your life. Because each and every one of us has circumstances we have to deal with. Those will never go away.
But neither will God.
That, my friends is my main message. And this morning, as if to highlight what I was feeling, this song came on and it said: Let my life song sing to you.
Let my life song sing to you. And you and you.
And like those stones along the road to Jerusalem that would not be silent?  I will never ever stop praising Him, because He is worthy.

The Final Answer

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I smoothed the sheets on my bed this morning and said a prayer of thanks because I didn’t feel like I did yesterday morning. Yesterday I wasn’t ready to enter into the day and I did something I never do on a day off……I went back to bed. Yet, even as I crawled back under the covers, I was aware that it was a luxury.  Just the fact that I could do it. Most can’t.
I pulled the covers up, curled into a ball and slept until 9. For me, that’s late.
After that I went to Walmart, which is my new place between places. I call it my own personal Bermuda Triangle. I sat with my cart amongst the fake Christmas trees and patio sets and smiled at the irony. The depression snaked behind me, but just then I felt I had outsmarted it. I felt cushioned in an island of peace. Even the pink one didn’t bother me, it stood there innocently wearing sparkling white lights. How could I get mad at it?
I sat there playing my Words with Friends like I had nothing else to do. And it was good.
I got back and put everything away. And Joyce was agitated and pacing. I had closed my bedroom door and I think that threw her off too. Alzheimer’s patients are like Autistic kids in that they like routine and they like normal. They don’t like change.
And she forgets that Elaine has a job now and wonders where she is. Imagine never remembering anything? Your mind would have to work 10 times harder than anyone else’s.
Every time I sat down at the keyboard to clack out words…..she came in or out the door. I gave up trying to write. I felt hemmed in, so I went outside for awhile and watched the birds eat the bread I left. The cactus wrens were up to their usual antics and I couldn’t help but smile watching them.
And later the phone rang and it was a dear blogger friend just calling to say……”I have been praying for you.” Never underestimate how important that is. To me it was grace like spring rain.
He told me his frustration about how some of his young friends just don’t seem to get it. That it’s not all about them, but it’s about us and how we are all in this world together. And about Haiti and a world of people in need. And suddenly my problems felt smaller again. And I was able to write about just that very thing. Thank you, Duane Scott. You are a treasure.
Elaine came home after having to call four parents for out of control kids on the bus. They were new kids added to her route. She was exhausted. It was obvious the other driver had been ignoring the bad behavior. And then she sat in a training class where one of the other drivers constantly interrupted the instructor with unbelievably foul language.
Nobody was saying anything, so she finally did.
Then later my Mom called and told me of her friend’s daughter in law. She is in Stanford right now, a mother of three. They were all camping and she came home with a fever. Now something is attacking her liver. She is in Stanford undergoing tests and they can’t find anything wrong, all those very bright minds.
And it was morning and it was evening and God is pulling the shade down on another day.
And the team we were rooting for last night is going to the World Series.
Each day has its own set of wins and losses. Sometimes people get it but sometimes they don’t. And it’s okay……..We do the best we can any given day. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and prays for us with groans that words cannot express.
And in every conflict, as my friend so wisely said, the answer is always the same……Love.

What the Haiti Bloggers Taught Me

 
Tent City, a partial view….photo by telegraph.co.uk

There was a group of bloggers that went to Haiti not long ago. I guess you could say I went along with them. I found myself eagerly following their journey, swept up in their enthusiasm, fear, and trepidation about what they would see, hear and discover.

On Facebook and through each of their blogs, I packed with them, boarded planes with them and prayed with them. I was there, at least in spirit, while they waited in airports and when they touched ground there. I was wrapped up in it, but from a safe distance.

I read the first reports, saw the pictures come in one after another. Each sharing their own personal journey…..in their own words. And there was power in their words, because of what they saw.

Like drumbeats in a native village, the stories came back from each writer, along with the stunning pictures that went where words could not. And it wasn’t just the stories, it was the real people attached to them. People whose faces would be forever imprinted on the hearts of each writer.

I myself slept in my own comfortable bed as they told about how a Haitian Pastor slept on the ground outside by the orphan children that he was protecting, because as Duane Scott said in his post today, “A shepherd never leaves his flock.”

I was in prayer with them when they landed and came back to this land that must have felt a little bit foreign even after being in Haiti a few days. This land where normal means, buying the next model of IPhone simply because you must have the latest and newest version, not because there is anything wrong with your phone.

What they saw changed them from the inside out. Not only that, it has changed me too. I learned some things from them:

That a handful of committed people can make a big difference……and you don’t have to go to another country to be impacted and feel the change yourself, (but it helps).

That God doesn’t want my leftover gifts. He wants my heart.

That I am thinking harder and longer before I purchase something.

That even though I can wake up depressed like I did this morning? Over there in that country little children and adults are living in conditions no one should ever live in, and they are still smiling.

Singing, rejoicing……but they are also

Fainting in classrooms for lack of food.

Being kidnapped and raped.

Living with fear night and day and never ever feeling safe……

And God is watching how we respond, how I respond.

Each of us can make a difference. If only half of us went without one Starbucks Latte per day, we could build houses in Haiti.

If God moves you to do so, you can sign up for a project or make a one time donation right here, or find out more by clicking my “Help One Now Button.”

If God doesn’t lead you to give, then pray for those courageous souls doing God’s work over there. Your prayers make a difference!

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”  James 5:16, The Message.