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Tuesday thoughts

“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? . . . Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?” — The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

I love the written word. I love reading the written word.

When I was a child, I was not such a vivacious reader. Reading assignments in school left me feeling anxious about finishing the book. Sadly, I often laid aside the volume with pages left unread.

Somewhere in my life, I developed a love for the printed page, and I cannot imagine not having a book in progress. Often there are several.

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The written word is powerful. Being able to read is power also. To keep people enslaved, do not let them learn to read.

Words themselves carry power. The Bible says the tongue has the power of life and death. I bear witness to that truth. Haven’t we all experienced the encouraging word or the ones that crushed our spirit?

Consider the might and authority that brought forth the earth by the spoken word of God. “And God said, let there be . . .” And it was.

That the very Word of God was made flesh and lived among people is astounding. Jesus carried with Him the might and authority of the Father, yet he walked humbly as a human, being obedient even unto death.

His glory was on full display. Some saw it and recognized the glory. Some did not. Some read the signs and saw deity. Others closed the book because they didn’t like the way the story was going.

And so the writing continues in the lives of those who believe. Written on our hearts for the world to see and read is the splendor of the gospel.

May it be a story of beauty and hope, one that illuminates and inspires with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness. May it display the deepest mysteries of the majesty of God.

And these are my Tuesday thoughts.

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June ending

I have made an effort to fly like the breeze in June, as I promised myself. Lest one think I laid around in my bathrobe all month munching on bonbons, let me clear up that misconception. There was work to do. Cooking and washing up. Laundry and folding clothes. Sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms. Weeding gardens and paying bills. It is the stuff of life, and it had to be done. Before I sit with nothing to do, I will be transported somewhere else, maybe another planet.

But I tried to be less regimented and plan-oriented and allowed myself more spontaneity and relaxation.

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The breezy part of the month began on June 2nd which just happened to be National Donut Day in the United States of America. And I think, “What a great country this is!”

After hearing it announced on the radio, Sweet William and I wanted to honor this occasion. We just left an appointment, so we headed for Krispy Kreme where the line was long but the excitement was high. Krispy Kreme was giving away a free donut with each order.  A little girl in line behind me was focused on the confection with colored sprinkles behind the glass case. No amount of suggestions from her mother would dissuade her. I knew how that little girl felt.

I spent some time in hospital waiting rooms. They are places too familiar for me.  It was a time for me to comfort as I have been comforted. I hoped just being there would provide encouragement to friends who feel like family. We gathered to offer the gift of presence, holding on to hope after a loved one experienced a trauma no one could have expected. Sweet William and I pray daily for this family.

June 4 marked a holiday known as Pentecost, important in Jewish and Christian history. It gets little attention from my community of faith, which I find a bit sad.  I get the feeling that some denominations fear the word Pentecost, as if something weird is about to happen. If we deny the dynamics and power of the Holy Spirit, where does that leave us as believers? We cannot do this thing called the Christian walk on our own strength.

We welcomed planned and unplanned visitors in June. One morning while I was still sitting at the breakfast table in my nightgown and robe, a younger friend rang the doorbell. She came in and said she just needed a hug before she faced a trying situation. I held her and Sweet William and I prayed, for courage and a perfect strength that is always available to us who are weak. She went on her way, and I have faith in the God we love that she will endure.

I read a book called The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. She took one year of her life and decided to be grateful each day. It made me happy just reading it. The author said it changed her relationships and her attitudes about her life. She didn’t write from a Christian viewpoint of giving thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.  She wrote from a non-religious perspective, simply trying it as an experiment. Her story affirmed the truth to me once again, that God instructs us for our good. He gives us guidelines, instructions and laws, that to some seem restrictive, but actually are for our freedom and good will.

Silence and solitude were also topics of interest this month. One book was about a man who decided to keep quiet for a day. That decision stretched into two decades without speaking words to anyone, though he did gesture to get his thoughts across. I just thought that was weird and didn’t finish the book.

Another selection, A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland, was written in a journalistic approach. The author reported on people through history who have sought silence and how solitude affects us. She ventured into her own experiences of silence at a cabin, on the dessert and in the mountains. It changed her in ways that surprised her.

By far the most intriguing book was called The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel. He wrote about a man who walked away from society in his twenties to camp in the woods of Main for 27 years. He did not have a conversation with another human for the duration.  That this “stranger” could exist in the rugged elements with camping equipment and stolen objects for almost almost 30 years was amazing, but that he did not have any companionship, nor any desire for it, seemed astounding.

Letting these books influence me, I decided to take a half day and spend it in solitude at the end of the month. Sweet William was going to an early appointment and then to visit his brother, so it was a good opportunity for me to practice quietness. I was set to begin, when the phone rang, and I heard the caller ID announce the familiar number of number one son. I reset my start time and answered that call. I had the nicest chat with my boy.

I played no TV, no music and looked at no internet. There is way too much noise on-line. This is my favorite quote for the month: “The internet before breakfast does NOT lead me into paths of righteousness, but into despair. “ — 

I found it harder to be quiet than I imagined. I am an introvert by personality (though I do tend to talk to myself and that became annoying).

I spent much of the time outside, just listening and enjoying the gentle sounds of nature. Listening was a more intense activity. I realized there is no true silence when there are voices from the neighborhoods, dogs barking, cars running on a nearby highway, and an inner dialog of my own mind.

Maisie was a little confused that I was not giving her voice commands.

I found it refreshing to be still for several hours. It was a good discipline for me. I would like to do it again. Perhaps fasting from words will make me appreciate the ability to express myself and to measure what I say and how it comes across.

One other media source worth mentioning that had nothing to do with silence is the movie The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. I got it from my Free Public Library (my favorite place for books and movies), and it was delightful. I watched it twice before I returned it. It is Christian based, well done, and funny. I recommend it.

I began two different Bible studies this month. One I am preparing to lead in the fall. I am a class member in the other. I notice I am very different in these environments. It is interesting to recognize different sides of me.

As I lead a study, I am vocal and forthcoming, well-planned in how I present the topic and encourage discussion. As a class attender, I am quiet and wait for others to respond before I assert myself. The leadership role is out of my comfort zone. I recognize it as a gift from the Holy Spirit (that power source mentioned earlier) because my comfy security blanket is being unobtrusive and in the background. That just goes to show what God can do and wants to do with each individual. He gives gifts as He wills, not to make us proud or boastful or to make a name for ourselves, but to recognize the abilities and competency comes from a higher Source. It is really humbling.

June welcomed the beginning of summer, and it has been appropriately hot. The day lilies began blooming in their array of colors and shapes. Many of them were gifts from a friend who loves to share the bounties of her own garden. When the flowers bloom I think of her and am thankful for her generosity and friendship.

There were a few near perfect days this last week of June. I wistfully watch the month end. It’s been light and liberating to loosen my grip on the plan.

An email to a friend reflects my final thoughts: “I have been somewhat reclusive this month, enjoying home and the blessings God has bestowed on us. I’ve stayed inside when the weather was too hot, enjoyed rainy days from my window view. Perhaps life was meant to be more like this than the frantic way in which we spend our lives. Food for thought.”

Good-by June. You’ve been delightful.

 

 

January ending

I’ve not posted much in January, but I’ve journaled almost daily. My inside thoughts have been more prominent that my blogging ones. It’s been that kind of month.

A few sunny hours on a few days were rare, a welcome respite from the grey days. The glowing shades in sunsets were sweet because they were infrequent as Maisie and I enjoyed walking closer to 6:30 than 5:30 in the evening. The days really are getting longer.

In the middle of cloudiness, a letter from my granddaughter arrived in the mail. It brought its own version of cheer and sunbeams, eliciting smiles as I wrapped myself in her words like a comfortable old quilt.

Which is a perfect segue into the creative project I began this month. My friend is teaching several women how to make a sticks and stones quilt out of leftover scraps from her years of quilt making. I’m still a newbie quilter, this only my second, and I need the gentle instructions and reassurance that I’m doing it correctly.

sticks-and-stones-quiltHopefully, mine will look something like this when I’m finished.

January creates an organizing frenzy inside me and the house.  While removing and recycling my mess, some objects stirred memories of former joys, and I just couldn’t surrender them yet. I rediscovered a few items I’d been looking for, which is always a treat. And I gave away a couple of treasures to new homes, new owners who were delighted to receive them.

I found Venus in my night sky. At the first sighting, I stood in wonder, its brightness enthralling me. And this verse: When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place,  what is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him?”

Sweet William and I attended weddings and celebrated an anniversary, and I asked a rhetorical question, “Who gets married in January?” Well, we did. Lots of memories surfaced as we thanked God for His indescribable grace to us.

I stayed glued to the TV during the presidential inauguration, the peaceful transfer of power from Democratic to Republican leadership. It was calm and dignified, an example of the freedom we live with and value in the United States. Still, the country is reeling in protests against the democratic process of making a choice through our right and privilege of voting.  We are blessed with the liberty to choose and to protest. But eventually, can we just get over it and move on?

I read several books or listened to them on CD. Two of the most impacting were Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and The Insanity of God. The first was a biography of a young Muslim man who came to know Jesus Christ. His was a deep and thorough search, a studied reasoning against all he had been taught from his childhood. He struggled to relinquish what was familiar and the connection to his family. His story moved me. In addition, I learned much about the Muslim religion and examined my own faith.

The second book, The Insanity of God, was written under a pseudonym. The author visited the persecuted church in many foreign countries and marveled how the Christians were accustomed to spending years in jail and being tortured. To them it was normal. Yet the house churches were alive and thriving in a hostile atmosphere where Christianity is condemned. The stories of the persecuted believers humbled me and I thanked God for my freedom. I questioned how much I value this privilege and how seriously I take it.

Beth Moore’s first novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus, was an entertaining read. I happened to be at my library branch at the right moment to check it out. Beth’s characters came alive in the heart of New Orleans. I’m hoping for a sequel sometime in the near future.

I said “yes” to a leadership team, surprising myself with the decision. I thought I’d done my share of this sort of thing and was through. The group of women with whom I will be serving are diverse in ages, gifts, personalities, and  experiences. I am looking forward to building deeper relationships with them and discovering where the Lord desires takes us.

The first month of a new year leads us toward what is to come. Annie Dillard says it this way:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

January is spent. February is fresh and waiting to be explored.

 

July ending

It has been hot this July at my old Kentucky home. HOT.

The 90-degree temperatures with high humidity have kept us indoors with the shades pulled and curtains drawn to keep out the heat. We prayed the air conditioner would keep running. Even Maisie was quick to come in, her tongue wagging, after a short time in her fenced yard.

July was a month of birthdays. The United States, the one and only son, and I got a year older. I shared my day with our eldest granddaughter, her celebrating the ending of high school and the beginning of a new journey. Being with my family was present enough. Their presence is the gift I always crave.

Indoor activity prompted me to read several books, including another by author Sophie Hudson. This one, called A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, made me laugh out loud. And it felt so good. I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and could not contain myself. I looked around at all the people with their phones in their faces and thought they didn’t know what they were missing.

I also read a book about punctuation. Yes, punctuation. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss, was also humorous (not enough to make me laugh) and incorporated how our writing has evolved.

The question is why would I read a book about punctuation. I ask myself that. For one, it was recommended at a writing workshop I attended this year. For another, I want to be a better writer. When I was trying to get the best grade possible in a shorthand class years ago, every incorrect comma and capital letter carried grave consequences. I’d like to avoid those red correction marks.

One other book worth mentioning is Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy. She is an artist with words, documenting a year of her family’s life after moving to an old farm house. I gave the book to someone who has been in a difficult transition all year. Then I bought another copy for myself so I could re-read the book slowly and taste every delicious phrase.

I’ve started doing word-search puzzles. Admittedly, I’ve not been fond of them. Since it may be good for my brain, I will make the effort. Keeping my brain young is important as the birthdays keep accumulating.

I made peach jam from the biggest and sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted, right out of Alabama fields.

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I’ve enjoyed precious time with friends, shopped the thrift store and found a few bargains. I welcomed my piano students back after a month break. I made gallons of sweet tea and more cups of coffee than I will mention. Because for the record, it is never too hot for a cup of coffee.

I watched both the Republican and Democratic national conventions. I heard lots of promises and plenty of demeaning remarks. I pray for my country.

The butterfly bushes and the morning glories are blooming, a sign of late summer. They require nothing of me. They simply do what they are designed to do.

As August begins we enjoy one more month of summer. It will most likely be hot. The lazy days of the season must be a myth as I heard talk about busy, busy schedules from too many. Schools will open their doors to teachers and students who may or may not be glad for routines to resume.

I plan to attack the yard with a vengeance and my weed sprayer because it’s a jungle out there. My little hand surgery, the recovery time, and the heat have given the weeds a chance to flourish. But their heyday is over.

Sweet William and are looking forward to fall this year. Cooler days and nights when we can open the windows. Flannel shirts and warm blankets to snuggle us. The changing of the leaves from green to golden, maroon, and copper. Listening for the sound of geese and crane flying overhead for warmer climate. Roasting some hot dogs and marshmallows on our homemade fire pit in the side yard. Inviting the neighbors to come sit and talk awhile. Being thankful for all the good days and bounty of blessings God gives.

A good cup of coffee will be nice as temperatures drop. Because the weather is always just right for a fresh hot brew.

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