Sunday, May 21, 2017

Who Commands The Air?









I am not a comfortable airplane traveler. At the least amount of turbulence, I think the plane is going down. The last week in April, Mike and I flew to Portland, Oregon, to visit our daughter, Anna. We were all day reaching our destination that included a lengthy layover in Denver.

On the second leg of our travels, from Denver to Portland, the pilot’s voice came on halfway through the flight and asked the passengers to keep seatbelts fastened because turbulence would make the remaining time in the air bumpy.

I clicked my seatbelt together. “Oh, my,” I thought, “the airplane is going down for sure!”

As predicted, we encountered the air pockets that create turbulence and a bumpy ride began. Usually when we travel I bring a piece of quilting. I was working on a table runner to use in the kitchen. With each jolt of the plane, I noted my stitches went deeper through the cloth and were closer together.

Quilting keeps me calm, brings me comfort, and is a way to pray. As I quilted across the land, I formed a prayer: “Jesus calm the air.” I repeated these words like a mantra to remind myself at 30,000 feet I was not alone.

I was taken back to the sermon I heard a few weeks ago from Matthew 8:23-27 about the time Jesus and the disciples were in a boat crossing a lake. While they were sailing, Jesus fell asleep. A storm hit the lake causing the boat to toss and turn. The disciples thought they were about to die. They awakened Jesus, who chastised them – “What little faith you have!” Jesus “ordered the wind and the waves to stop” and calmness returned.

I knew my prayer wouldn’t calm the air…or could it? As I repeated the words, I felt my heart reach a place of peace and, interestingly, the turbulence ended.

While I was waiting in line to exit the plane, I saw the pilot and one of the flight attendants talking. When I got closer, I heard the pilot say, “Well, I guess I misread the turbulence. It just didn’t happen as I thought.”

Walking through the tunnel that leads from the plane to the terminal, I reflected – there were two pilots for this flight: Jesus, and the pilot who flew the plane.

For Your Reflection:

  1. When “storms” come in your life and you feel tossed and turned, how do you respond?
  2. What short prayer or mantra can you repeat as you experience “turbulence” in life?
Prayer: God, thank you for calming the air and my heart, just like Jesus calmed the sea for the disciples. Remind me always to look toward you at all times. Amen.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Whole Box of Crayons








One day, Powell’s, a large independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, posted this on its Instagram account:

“Life is like using the whole box of crayons.” Ru Paul 

Weaving Multiple Colors of Yarn 

The Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple offers a series of two-hour classes they make open to the public. Recently I was part of a weaving class. Driving to the center, I imagined choosing yellow, teal, orange and soft pink to make the small weaving advertised as the class project. When I arrived and saw the array of colors of yarn spread over four tables, including my current favorites, I was elated. I could hardly wait for the teacher to instruct us and let us choose our yarn.

The instructor began by saying we were not weaving a wall hanging like the one described in the course catalogue. Instead, our focus for the afternoon was a “small interpretive piece.”

“Choose a picture,” she said, gesturing to an assortment of magazines strewn in the center of the long table around which we gathered. “This will form the basis for your interpretive weaving.”

After we found a picture, we chose yarn to match colors in the picture, and then wrapped the yarn around a 5 x 7 piece of heavy cardboard – not what I was expecting. In my mind, wrapping yarn around cardboard had no connection to weaving.

Turning the pages of several magazines, I was determined to find a picture with my favorite bright pastels. However, along the way, I was distracted by a picture of a flock of sheep and decided to use that picture instead. At the yarn table, I selected several shades of white and cream, as well as tan, pink, and black, all of which I saw in the magazine picture. With these colors I was surely exploring hues in the box of crayons previously ignored.

I slowly wrapped the cream yarn around the cardboard, anchoring each row with a knot on the back. Threading a needle with the pink textured yarn, I began weaving the needle in and out. I came to a weaving class, and I was determined to weave my creation.

When I took a break from weaving, I wrapped another cardboard square with yellow, teal, green, and blue. Somehow these colors didn’t feel right to my soul. I felt like I was forcing the colors when my heart was connected to the creams, pink, tan, and black to match the sheep.

A Surprise Using New Colors

On the drive home, I reflected on my experience and realized I came to the class focused on certain colors much like a child might tend to draw with only his or her favorite selection of five or six crayons.

Fortunately, I yielded to the leading of my heart and opened myself to a group of colors that were not my usual preference, but fit the photo perfectly.

Opening to new experiences in color reminds me to break out of other ruts in my life where I follow the same pathways or routines over and over. I realized how open I was to new ideas and perceptions when I ventured into colors that are unfamiliar. It’s the same way in life—if I venture into new locations or interact with new people or entertain new thoughts, I’ll be open to change. Even in my thought processes, changing from loss to gain and good will energize, strengthen, and empower me – just like I experienced when exploring new colors.

For your Reflection:


  1. Purchase a small box of crayons. Get a sheet of paper and empty the box.
  2. To what colors are you attracted? What are your favorite colors? Draw a few shapes or designs using those colors.
  3. Eventually use all of the colors in the box. What feelings arise or insights come as you explore the crayons you tend to use less infrequently or not at all?
  4. What parallels in your life can you make by using all of the colors in the box? 
Prayer: God, you are the master of color, creating every shade we see in nature. Even we humans have different types and colors of hair, skin, eyes. All were made by your pleasure within your presence and creative choice. Give us courage to explore “all crayons in the box” so we can free ourselves of habits and ruts that impair fresh possibilities. Then we can arrive at new places of healing and creative potential, all for use in your kingdom and for your glory. Amen.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Chairs



Chairs in the
Church parlor—
Different colors,
Different shapes—
Just like the people
Who will sit in them.

Arranged in a circle
For the meeting
Later in the day.

Chairs hold the people
Who sit in them
As well as their history,
Silently containing
Thousands of stories

Through a lifetime of use.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A New Day




When I look out the window

At the beginning of each day,

I wonder what will happen as

The hours go by.

Some things are planned, but

Unexpected turns

catches me off guard –

Keep me centered in you when

I fall in thought.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sowing Seeds at the Grocery Store



One day on the way to an art class, I stopped in a local grocery store to purchase an orange and an apple for a mid-afternoon snack.

I stood in the checkout lane behind an off-duty Marion County sheriff, whose food filled the belt. Noticing my two small purchases at the end of his order, he said in a booming voice, “I’ll pay for her fruit. I’m a seed sower. I like to be a seed sower.”

I was flustered at first. “You don’t have to do that.”

He smiled. “I like to be a seed sower.”

I thanked him for his generosity. “I will pass on your kindness in the future.”

Following him out of the store, I saw him load his groceries in the sheriff’s car right next to me – the only two cars in the parking lot. I thanked him again, and we offered each other blessings for our days.

His kindness reminded me of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 9:11 – “We have sown spiritual seeds among you.” The sheriff was living out these words written by Paul, flowing from the love of God in his heart.

Paul wasn’t talking about sowing seeds that result in plants, but “spiritual seeds” that when “planted” through acts of love encourage the recipient to ponder the kindness and perhaps “sow it forward” to someone else. Love sows love, you might say.

For Your Reflection

How can you declare and demonstrate “I’m a seed sower,” like the sheriff did to me?

Prayer: God, living and moving among your kingdom is what we do in our jobs, at home, in stores, at parks, and in all of the places we go. Remind us to be “seed sowers” in whatever form that may take. We know you bless our efforts to spread your message of love everywhere. Amen.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Poems Are Like Patches of Fabric In A Quilt


Over the nearly forty years I have pieced quilts together, every step of the process has meaning: from finding a pattern, selecting and cutting fabric, sewing the pieces together by hand or machine, to the final stage of sewing the quilt top, batting and back fabric together. Reflecting on the recipient adds loving thoughts to the process. If the quilt is for someone unfamiliar, joy can come from beginning and completing a project of great beauty.

I find great pleasure from touching cloth through these construction stages. I liken it to the story of the woman who knew that if she touched only the hem of Jesus’ cloak she would experience healing from a twelve-year history of severe bleeding (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-35; Luke 8:40-56).

Touching fabric brings me into the healing presence of God. In late November, I began writing a series of poems that captured what I was doing during the days of preparation leading to Christmas. Although I’ve written poems in the past, these collections of words, stacked on top of each other like blocks, expressed a multitude of events, emotions, and experiences:
  • The joy of receiving a plate of Christmas cookies and candy 
  • Seeing bird nests in trees without leaves 
  • Reflecting about the pitcher resting in the baptismal fount at my church 
Many other moments throughout my day were recorded as poems.

These poems were gifts to me. I approach and complete all my writing as prayer. The words coming from God bring me comfort regardless of form – poetry or prose. These poems that came daily gave language to what I saw or encountered and became patches that eventually fit together to form a big quilt. Instead of fabric, poems—some long, some short, a few related to my past, most coming from the present—collectively brought comfort to my heart in much the same way a quilt does when I rest cozy under the tiny stitches that hold many pieces of fabric together.

I’ll share a few poems in the weeks ahead – scraps of comfort from words that come from God, not a store…pieced together with love.

For your reflection: What brings comfort to you?

Prayer: God, you come to use in many ways. Thank you for poems that are like stars in the sky reflecting the light of your presence in my life. Open our hearts to new ways we can receive you, recently as a baby on Christmas morning. With grateful and loving hearts we come to you. Amen.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Art Remains In Sarah's Hands


When I saw her

Long, slender fingers

Press and mold the

Clay,

I returned to those

Early years

When small fingers

Drew and painted

And formed play dough

Into many shapes and forms.








Now she teaches art to eager students,

The same set of fingers

Move over lesson plans,

And give examples

Of artistic possibilities

And outcomes.



The art started in the nursery,

And continues

In the classroom,

Nearly four decades later.



(A poem written for my daughter, Sarah, after a recent visit.)