Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mundane Faithfulness

What will you do in the mundane days of  faithfulness? Martin Luther

The Megan S. Ott Foundation was established in 2010. Megan, a native of Noblesville, was diagnosed with breast cancer, when she was thirty-two weeks pregnant with her second daughter. Prior to Megan's death, she, her husband and parents established the foundation to assist families dealing with financial expenses involved with cancer treatment. To date, three hundred women have received help.

One of these women, Kara Tippett, a friend of Megan's from high school, came to Indianapolis to speak the Monday before Thanksgiving. Over eight hundred people came to hear her story of cancer and survival.

Honored to be in the audience, I listened as Kara explained the discovery of a lump in her breast a few days after she, her husband and four children moved to Colorado Springs in 2012 to plant a church.

Inspired by Kara's blog, "Mundane Faithfulness" and her book, The Hardest Peace, I was eager to hear this remarkable young woman, who has persevered through multiple treatments as the disease has progressed throughout her body, most recently to her brain. Although she continues to receive medical treatment, she is living with terminal cancer.

Kara chronicled her faith journey from experiences in high school to how she lives with God in suffering. Her remarkable story of welcoming God into her illness, and hearing how she's been faithful to God, leaned on Jesus and approached suffering of any kind was deeply inspirational.

In a quote from her book (page 56) she and her husband, Jason, are discussing problems with their first church in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

     "In the impossibility of walking through this season of life, I remember clinging to Jason at night and asking him if we were going to be alright. It felt like our hearts were going to break and never heal again. He turned to me and gently told me, 'Kara, tomorrow we get to wake up and be faithful. Whatever each step brings and whatever hard comes, people will always disappoint us. But tomorrow, we get to be faithful in that moment.'"

As Kara's cancer spread and she comes to realize she may not live to see her children grow up, she talks about hope - not hope in a cure, but hope in God (page 78).

     "The stomaching of endless pills feels proactive, and I find myself hopeful in a good outcome, but my hope is not in a cure today. My hope is not in the absence of suffering and comfort returned. My hope is in the presence of the One who promises never to leave or forsake, the One who declares nothing 'will be able to separate us from the love of God.'" (Romans 8:39)

Early in her hospitalization, the day after she arrived in Colorado, she told her husband to return to their children so they did not awaken with the stranger who was staying with them.

     "Alone in the hospital room, in a brand-new town, I remembered a question I had asked a group of young girls I had worked with: 'in the absence of comfort and friends, is Jesus enough?' In that cold stark hospital room, with only employed staff as my company, that question echoed through my mind. The answer was sure and the peace was present. It was an answer I was holding tight."

Kara's honesty and realistic approach to a terminal diagnosis inspires by captivating and illustrating a life lived completely with God. She doesn't deny her sadness leaving her husband and children. Letters to each conclude her book.

I invite you to follow her blog and purchase her book. You do not have to be dealing with cancer to receive encouragement and hope for whatever suffering is in your life.

Prayer: God, help me remember that no matter what I am facing, I have the opportunity to get up each day and be faithful to you. I have the assurance that nothing will ever separate me from you, and the reality of your presence and companionship whenever I am alone is enough. Amen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Rising Womb

John 6:25-35 - "I am the bread of life," Jesus told them. "He who comes to me will never be hungry' he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

The week before Christmas, 2010, I made cinnamon rolls to give a few friends. Baking is a way I connect with God, and I was excited to begin. Blessing my hands reminded me I was beginning holy work. After gathering the utensils and ingredients, I lit a candle. I was ready.

My large, brown, glass bowl - the only piece remaining from a three-bowl set Mike and I received for a wedding gift - brought memories of decades of baking. Whenever I make bread or rolls, I use this bowl because it is the perfect size to hold dough that often rises over the edges.

I mixed the ingredients, transferring the sticky dough to the kitchen counter, and began the rhythmic flow of adding flour, rolling the dough, adding more flour until the dough was smooth. Returning the dough to the bowl, now in a different form, I covered it with a towel. 

I was in and out of the kitchen for the next hour. Every time I looked at the bowl, the towel was higher, pushed upward by the expanding dough.

"This is what Mary's womb must have looked like as her pregnancy advanced," I thought. "Here is a picture of Jesus, who eventually called himself, 'the bread of life', right in my own kitchen!"

In that moment, a week before the celebration of Jesus' birth, a familiar expression of Jesus, cradled in a bowl that celebrated new life through marriage, came forth once again in the beauty and mystery of rising dough.

Prayer: Jesus, I love you and the way you come to me, making my fingers sticky with your presence. You are my bread, you promise me daily bread. I set my table early in the morning, waiting for you to rise in my heart and fill my plate. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Conner Prairie Sheep and Mary's Preparation for Birth

One of the advantages of living five minutes from Conner Prairie is I can visit frequently. My first stop is always the barn. I enjoy petting the animals and seeing the babies born throughout the year.

When I went to the animal barn back in the spring, I noticed a mother sheep resting in a corner of the barn almost buried in straw.

"Why does that sheep have so much straw around her?" I asked the volunteer.

"She is preparing to give birth. The straw keeps the dust settled so when the lambs are born, they do not aspirate dust which could lead to difficulty breathing and possibly death."

Reflecting on this lesson from the barn, I remembered Mary, the night Jesus was born. I believe there were more preparations and care for the sheep about to deliver than there were for Mary.

Mary's preparation for Jesus' birth seemingly looks rather sloppy and haphazard - riding on a donkey during the ninth month of pregnancy, walking around Bethlehem trying to find a place to stay, eventually settling in a stable where animals lived.

Jesus' birth was really the culmination of Mary and Joseph's whole lives. Both knew God, both had hearts that were open to God's leading in confusing circumstances, and both embraced with faith and trust God's design for their lives. Jesus' birth was not completely a beginning, but an ending and a beginning of two persons who intimately knew God.

The workers in the barn at Conner Prairie prepared the area so the mother sheep could safely birth her lambs. The preparation that brought Mary and Joseph to a similar place - a barn and stable - came from years of spending time with God, seeking God and celebrating, even in confusion and uncertainty about what the future would bring - God in person.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How Can This Be? - Mary's Question

Scripture: Luke 1: 26-38

The angel, Gabriel, came to visit a young, peasant woman, Mary, one day, announcing she would give birth to God's son. (verses 30-33). I like to image Mary baking bread when the angel appeared. Perhaps her hands were covered with dough, her focus on the shape of the bread forming with each movement of her fingers.

Mary replied to Gabriel, "I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?" (verse 34)

Often viewed as a model of obedience, Mary's question indicated uncertainty and confusion. The angel gave Mary more information about how the pregnancy would occur even sharing details about Elizabeth's pregnancy in advanced age as an additional example of what God can accomplish.

Mary replies, "I am the Lord's servant, may it happen to me as you have said." And the angel left her.(verse 38)

We don't know how much time passed between Mary being deeply troubled by the angel's news (verse 29), Mary's question (verse 34), and her acceptance (verse 38).

When serious illness comes, when relationships are impaired, when a beloved friend or family member dies suddenly, when a job loss or relocation happens, we too may be troubled like Mary and say, "How can this be?"

Through prayer, we offer ourselves to God, acknowledging we need God's help to grow through the many faces of circumstances which prompt the question "How can this be?"

Eventually, with God's companionship, strength and encouragement, we can join Mary, with acceptance and say, "I am yours, God. You are with me all of the time and through anything life presents."

Prayer: God, how many times do we cry out, "How can this be?" when we struggle or when we received unexpected blessings. Help us trust you for all parts of life.  Amen.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Stocking Stuffers - Ways God Has Filled My Stocking Through The Years

Here are a few thoughts with which God has filled my stocking.

1. Salvation Army ringers are posted at many stores I visit. Usually I make a donation the first time I go to the store after Thanksgiving, but not after. However, last year I had an idea to assuage my guilt that I wasn't donating every time I walked by the bright red kettle.

I asked the ringer if he or she was hungry. Every time, his/her face lit up. I heard these responses:

   "I had to ring through lunch. I am starved."
   "I didn't have time to eat breakfast. I am very hungry."
    "Ringing in a grocery store makes me want to eat.."

Listening to their answers opened a new way of being present to these volunteers. I gave each ringer the choice of a sandwich and drink from the store deli or a meal from a McDonald's just down the street. Smiles of delight and words of gratitude came when I brought the small meal. Each ringer I asked last year (four) accepted my offer. I was delighted to serve nourishment as they volunteered to help others.

2. There are over a hundred names for Jesus, including Emmanuel, Son of God, Alpha and Omega, Comforter, Door of the Sheep, Morning Star, Bread of Life. The star the night Jesus was born shone over the manger where he slept, was fed by and held by Mary and Joseph. The "morning star" in the sky was shining over the "Morning Star" resting in a manger.

3. God's heart looks like Jesus.

4. Mary tenderly placed Jesus in his first bed, a manger, a feeding trough for animals. Another one of Jesus' names is "Bread of Life". The one who became 'food for others' rested in a container where animals ate.

Although we may find candy, and small presents in our stockings, there may also be insights or perspectives about the season that may come our way. Making room for these 'small gifts from God' will fill our stockings with depth, meaning and love.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

From What Perspective Would You Have Liked To Witness The Birth of Christ?

There are many persons, animals and objects who/which are part of the Christmas narrative. Select one every day in Advent. Tell why you chose each one.  Describe the perspective the person, object or animal witnessed  before, during or after the birth of Christ.

For example, I chose the donkey because this animal could hear all of the conversations between Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem, during their time in the stable, and as they left for Egypt. The donkey could have been a wonderful reporter recording the most intimate remarks during and after the day Jesus was born, writing an inspiring and interesting account of the birth and travels.

     "Was Mary patient?" "How did Joseph respond to her?" "What were Joseph's feelings as he walked beside the donkey?" "How did Joseph and Mary process the lack of space to stay with the eminent birth of Jesus?" "What did Mary say during labor?" "What were Joseph's words when Jesus was born?" 'How did Joseph explain to Mary the need to travel to Egypt, again on a donkey with an infant?" "What did Joseph and Mary think when townspeople walked by to look at the family - was there interaction?" "Did anyone bring Mary and Joseph food after Jesus' birth?" "What conversation occurred among the shepherds when they saw Jesus?" "Did they talk to Mary and Joseph?" "Was Jesus a fussy baby?"

The donkey could have answered all of these questions and filled in even more information about the many days he spent with Mary and Joseph.

Which person or animal will you choose among the ones listed below? What are your experiences with these reflections? Let me know what path your reflection follows.

Mary - Joseph - Jesus - donkey - stable - manger - innkeeper - other people traveling to Bethlehem - sheep - shepherds - star - wise men - angel - Simeon - Anna - townspeople of Bethlehem, adults and children,  walking by the manger - merchants -

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Accept - verb - to receive, undertake, consent, to take what is offered.

Acceptance - in human psychology - a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it.

The word, accept, used as a verb, can be a positive experience. I accept your compliment. I accept with pleasure a thoughtful gift. I accept your perspective.

The word, acceptance, in human psychology is much more challenging, often requiring great courage, strength and energy to work through difficult experiences in life. Awareness, identification, causes, solutions are phases of the process. Eventually acceptance may come into the picture. Acceptance of events or circumstances that happen beyond our control does not occur overnight, and involves layers of healing. There is not timetable when acceptance may come.

The young woman who has cut my hair for almost four years recently had a miscarriage. She and her husband were devastated. They are self-described planners, and a miscarriage was not in their timetable for becoming parents. Sending a card after I received her email was my initial response of compassion and care. When I saw her three weeks later she said, "Every day gets better. We're getting better."

Time and the outpouring of love from family and friends, were helping her move from a place of broken-heartedness toward a place of peace and acceptance.

I am no expert on this topic as I struggle to reach a place of acceptance for several challenging areas. I can already see that what acceptance looks like for one person may not be the same for another.

My friend who cuts my hair accepted cards, gestures of love from family and friends, and a visit from her mother who lived out of state. All of these acts of kindness helped her move closer to a place where she could accept what happened, always remembering the baby she lost late in the first trimester.

A lot of us deal with more private or complicated concerns for which we'll never receive cards or loving thoughts from friends and family who live close by or far away. How does acceptance happen for wounds so deep they aren't something you can share?

Here are some suggestions.

1. Acknowledge you cannot walk this path on your own. Ask God for strength  and courage to persevere as you tackle layers of wound by yourself or with a professional.

2. Write about what happened, your feelings, including injustice and unfairness related to what occurred. Being honest as you pour through events or circumstances that robbed you of a full experience of life is helpful.

3.Exercise regularly. Take a walk, swim a few laps, join a yoga class. Working through difficulties takes a lot of energy, but can also generate restlessness which impairs focus and concentration. Exercise can help diffuse excess energy restlessness brings.

4. Discover a creative outlet. Bake cookies. Get a box of crayons or paints. Associate a color with your feelings. Draw a circle or a set of lines using that color. Write a few words that describe what the color means to you in the moment.

5. Do something for someone else.

6. Keep a gratitude journal.

7. Stay close to God in ways you find meaningful.

8. Create a mantra to write on an index card and repeat every morning.
     a. Choose a name for God. _______________________
     b. Add these words:  "Help me find acceptance."
     c. Name the loss or what you are trying to accept.
     d. The mantra I created is - "Comforting shepherd, lead me to find acceptance to be present in and to my body."

9. Take care of yourself. Recognize what steps you have to take when you get overwhelmed or exhausted.

10. Celebrate gains when they occur even if seemingly insignificant. Going to the grocery store, returning a book to the library, teaching a class, employment, all of which when you are working toward acceptance indicates the tasks of daily living are within reach and attainable.

Acceptance frees me to move into other parts of life, not minimizing or forgetting my experiences, but in some way lessening the pain of the hurt. Acceptance may mean continuing with life even though you do not feel well, but realizing you are never alone, God is with you.

I savor, with gratitude, the pockets of peace that come, resting deeply in God's mercy and compassion.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why Am I Being Punished? - Zachariah

Definition: To punish - 'to make (someone) suffer for a crime or for bad behavior

Scripture: Luke 1: 5-38

When the angel told Zechariah about Elizabeth's pregnancy and described the characteristics of his son, Zechariah replied, "How shall I know this is so? I am an old man and my wife is old also?"

The angel interpreted Zechariah's question as disbelief and punished him by removing his ability to speak until his son, John, was born.

A few verses later, the angel tells Mary, "God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus." Mary, too, replies with a question, "I am a virgin. How can this be?"

Mary, however, is not punished as the angel offers additional details about Jesus' conception in the verses that follow.

What is Zechariah punished and Mary is not?

Zechariah was known as a good person, who obeyed fully all the laws and commands. He was a priest completing tasks in the temple with love and devotion.

Perhaps Zechariah needed an extended period of time to reflect on God's goodness as he and Elizabeth awaited the birth of their son. During these days of silence, God moved in and through Zechariah's heart so after John's birth, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and he spoke with deep insight about the nature of his son's life and the coming of Jesus.

Are we ever silenced by God? When life's circumstances are overwhelming we are often "left without speech" as we attempt to understand and restore order and equilibrium. We may spend more time with God, praying or reading the Bible, "silencing ourselves" to outside distractions and activities. Just like Zechariah, we too can come to a place where we can again praise God and sing about God's goodness.

Prayer: God, when you come to us, help our unbelief. When we question your direction or guidance, "silence" our minds so our hearts can open through spending time with you. Deepen our understanding and open acceptance for unexpected messages from you. Amen.

Friday, November 28, 2014

God Working Through My Life With Words

Resting on the short, shaggy carpet in my office, is a green folder bulging with copies of every blog post. Looking at the pile, I see resurrection.

When I was growing up, my parents often described their participation in the high
school band. Both played the clarinet, but my father also played the saxophone.

 My brother and I were expected to play an instrument. I chose the piano, but since there was no money or space in our tiny home, I had to play my father's old saxophone. My parents were delighted I was carrying on the 'family tradition' of playing in the band as I began in sixth grade and continued through high school.

What I really wanted to do was write. Beginning in the fourth grade, I started writing poems, and in the sixth grade wrote a book called "Adopted Beth," a pseudo-memoir reflecting the desire of my heart. One day, I came home from school and couldn't find my book which I kept under my pillow, the only hiding place where I thought could safely guard my private thoughts about life.

My mother must have found the book and, thrown it out, as I never saw it again. She probably had difficulty accepting and understanding the turmoil I expressed and her confiscation shut down any further writing.

Although I wrote to complete class assignments in high school and college, occasionally my soul was stirred to record my thoughts in poetry or verse. Later, I didn't have a lot of time to pursue writing because I worked full time when I was single and then was busy with Mike and my sweet children.

However, God reached my writing heart. I wrote for a clergy spouse magazine called SPICE, no longer in print. The Indianapolis Star called for volunteers for the religion section which featured a few of my thoughts.

Last December, I decided to devote this year to exploring my writing, which always brought delight to my soul, made my heart sing, and offered a way to pray. Searching for a writing coach, I found the perfect teacher, an accomplished writer and editor whose two books I read years ago and used when I was the MOPS mentor and in my Sunday school class, both at Fishers United Methodist Church.

Ann Kroeker has worked with me weekly all year and has given exceptional professional counsel and Christian companionship to lead me, and help me explore a path waiting in the depths of my soul to retrieve and develop.

My early writing with Ann plowed through decades of strands that clouded my words and bound my hands. Getting through this work over many months eventually led to light - light placed within me at my creation, surfaced when I was young, but when that book disappeared it sealed tight like the lid on a jar of jam.

The lid opened by the discovery that my non-dominant left-hand could write and draw - another moment of resurrection. My mother told me she covered my left hand when I used it to grasp and reach items when I was a toddler, because in the late 1940's being left handed was considered a detriment.

Swimming in words and putting words together all handwritten by my left hand on notebook paper, I seem to tap into rich places, reaching through to the writing self God created. With Ann's help and God's companionship, I'm stitching my scattered self back together from shattered desires and loosely explored talents to see a pile from God resting on my floor and growing each day.

What areas in your life have you experienced resurrection? What talents or abilities have you wanted to explore, but not taken time to do so?

Prayer: God, you shower us with blessings each day, heaping your love in generous ways. Show us new parts of ourselves which may have been only partially examined. Give us courage to seek those who may help us develop skills which you have created. Amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lessons from Mother Teresa for All Who Follow Jesus

Almost twenty years ago, a local news reporter, Anne Ryder, went to Calcutta, India, to interview Mother Teresa. When Anne returned, she wrote an article for Indianapolis Women Magazine (no longer published) where she listed the top ten lessons she learned from Mother Teresa.

In 2008-2008, I was the mentor for the MOPS chapter at Fishers United Methodist Church. I looked forward to the twice monthly meetings. One of my responsibilities was to prepare a reflection on a topic relevant to mothers and children.

After reading Anne's article, I wrote my own adaptation of Mother Teresa's lessons focused on those who have young children

Anne's words are in bold print - mine are in italics.

10. Expect Miracles.

 Miracles come everyday! Be alert for them - when a child accomplishes a skill like riding a bike or solving math problems,  when you have a few minutes during a busy day to read or pray - when everyone likes a new dish served for dinner , when a flower blooms, when you hear God's voice and respond - these are miracles!

9. You must be spiritually empty to be filled.

 Keep an empty bowl on the kitchen table as a reminder that emptiness in body, mind and spirit leaves room for God to come in.

8. Get out of your comfort zone. Mother Teresa says it is the only way to let your heart be touched.

Recall experiences which have caused you to grow. Were these during "ordinary times" or moments when you've felt stretched?

7. Use your hands, not just your eyes and money.

 It's easy to write a check, but more effective to serve a meal or take pledges for a charity walk or cause. Participate in the Angel Tree project at Christmas or fill a box for a needy child through Samaritan's Purse. You might have your own interests where you devote your time and talents.

6. It is not how much you do that matters, but how much love with which you do it.

 Any task completed with love, however seemingly insignificant reflects God.

5. Keep it simple. We make our lives more complicated than they need to be.

 Simplicity opens the pathway to God. What can you live without? How can you reduce complicated schedules to allow more family time such as dinner together?

4. Matthew 25:35-40 - (Jesus is teaching.) "I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me. The righteous will then answer him, 'When Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? Jesus replied, ' I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it to me!'" These words of Jesus are the guiding philosophy of Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity.

Treat everyone as if he/she was Jesus. We are created in God's image, and called to respond to the needs of those in our homes and around us.

3.The rich can be poorer than the poor.

What did Jesus say about possessions? What items did Jesus carry? Can you trust God to provide everything you need

2. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Treat everyone with an open, loving heart.

1. Find the silence of your heart and pray. Mother Teresa began praying at 4 a.m. She talked and listened to God, but always starts by finding the silence of her heart, which is where God talks to her.

Although finding time to pray with young children or a job outside the home, there are many ways to carve small increments of time to be still before God. Quiet your mind by taking a few deep breaths. Prayers can be a single word or asking God to enter your heart.

I was fortunate to hear Anne speak about her trip to India and the impact of spending time with Mother Teresa had on her life. Although Mother Teresa is no longer living, she left a legacy of compassionate love and service to emulate at any stage in life.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for Mother Teresa's life and for the lessons Anne learned from her trip.  Guide us to expect miracles, fill us with your love, give us strength to get out of our comfort zones, direct our hands to serve, let us spread love wherever we go, help us keep our lives simple, and love all whom we encounter, and create space so we can find the silence of our hearts to connect to you. Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Two little girls at Target

Wandering the aisles at Target always leads to a cart filled with many food, household and clothing items. Checking out last week in a long line offered a slice of life I wish had not happened.

I noticed two little girls sitting on a bench in front of the check out line two rows ahead. These sweet children were seated side by side, chatting non-stop. I wondered if they were sisters or cousins or best friends. The youngest was bald, making me wonder if she was a cancer patient. She was adorably clad in a purple top, jeans, and black Chuck Taylors swinging vigorously under the bench.

Another child, who looked about five or six, also captured my attention. She and her mother were in the line closest to the bench. This little girl kept pointing to the bald child, pulling her mother's arm, saying loud enough for me to hear two lanes over, "Look at that little girl. She has no hair!"

She repeated the sentence several times, always pointing to the child.. Her mother was busy, paying for her merchandise, collecting all the plastic bags, oblivious to her daughter's remarks. .

I noticed the little bald child's face change from happy, smiling, engaged in conversation to silent wrenching. With every remark and emphatic gesture, her face twisted revealing the canvas of her heart.

Eventually the mother finished, pushing the bulging cart by the bench ignoring the pain of human life resting on a bench in a busy store.

I wondered if the trip to Target was a break from cancer treatment or  a way to get "a breath of fresh air" for the sick child. She surely carried more emotional pain out of the store than when she entered. Perhaps she was used to stares, comments and pointed fingers as part of the path a cancer patient walks.

Feeling compassion for both children, I prayed, "Lord, in your mercy care for both of these little girls, the one who is sick and the one who pointed. Amen."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My First Experience Receiving Gratitude

I saw John and his mother walk to the side of the swimming pool where the lessons began. He clung to her with both hands, he was crying softly, and he looked down.

I was 16 years old teaching swimming lessons at a neighborhood pool. The first session, which lasted a week, my fellow teacher and I were assigned a group of five, four-year-old children.

The other children gathered, sitting on the edge of the pool kicking their legs, eager to jump in and swim. John stood behind the group, gripping his mother's hand, wanting no part of swim lessons.

Realizing this little boy needed individual attention, I said to my colleague, "Let me take John. The other children are ready to get in the water."

His intense fear of the water stirred compassion and sadness in me and a desire to help. John clung to his mother most of the first day. Nothing I did or said, convinced him to release his bond. Finally, I reached both of my hands to this frightened four-year-old and with great courage he reached for one of my hands, then the other, still standing close to his mother, but inching closer to the side of the pool.

By the end of the first class, John stepped tentatively, - always holding my hand - to the edge of the pool where he sat dangling his legs. A small triumph compared with the other children already bobbing their heads and dipping under water.

Tuesday morning we began again sitting on the edge of the pool, playing with the water and talking. By Wednesday, John slipped into the waist-high water, and with increasing confidence jumped and played, copying the activity of the other children. Toward the end of class, he bent over and put his face in the water. I clapped! His mother, watching from the side clapped, and John emerged from the water with a huge smile on his face.

Thursday John jumped in the pool, put his face under water and joined the class, as they learned to float and kick. John had caught up with the other children. He was using a kickboard as he propelled himself across the pool. He kept his head under water, and smiled as he bobbed up and down.

Friday, with all of the children together, we taught them arm movements for the front crawl. They stood in the water practicing and before the session ended there were five new swimmers in Columbus, Ohio.

When John's mother came to pick him up on Friday, she carried an aluminum pan covered with foil.

"Thank you so much," she said, smiling, handing me the pan.

Lifting the foil, I saw a stack of brownies. My mother never made these delicious treats. I'd heard about them, but never tasted one.

"Oh thank you so much. I'm proud of John!" I replied, equally pleased with her son's progress.

This mother taught me I could receive someone's concerns and then serve as an agent of change in a little boy's life. The plate of homemade brownies, a tangible expression of a mother's gratitude for my
work with her child was an unexpected surprise. The impact of her kindness remains with me fifty years later.

How do you express gratitude to others? How do others express gratitude to you?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Poems for Friday

(Recently I wrote three poems, all ending with the words, "All is well." The context for each poem is described below.)

Poem One - (Written while listening to a local author speak to a group of young mothers. The subject of the poem is the music stand holding her talk.)

A stand holds
Things that are light,
But heavy in meaning.
Doubly anchored on
Each side
Connecting top to bottom.
All is well.

Poem Two - (I was working in the reading room of the Carmel library, looking at the burgundy wall.)

Bright burgundy wall
Covering marks
Or patches;
Beauty over wounding
All is well.

Poem Three - (Written after enjoying a visit with a friend over a beautiful teapot and matching cups she received as a wedding present from one of her bridesmaids.

A flowered china teapot
Seeped blueberry delight
Poured in cups
With a ladybug waiting inside.
A yellow butterfly
Attached to the pot's handle.
Friends chat.
All is well.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Love Takes Time

Middle-aged Jane and her younger brother, Sam, come just about every Thursday night to eat dinner at the soup kitchen where I volunteer. They live together in government housing.

Jane looks like Cleopatra with long, straight back hair, and bangs that cover half her forehead. She wears a ring on each finger and at least one, sometimes two, silver necklaces. When I compliment Jane on her choice of jewelry, she smiles.

Her stocky built is usually wrapped in black slacks and a brightly patterned black top with swirls of color including orange, yellow or green.

Each week I sit with Sam and Jane. We talk about the weather, sports, what they did since last Thursday or something that broke the monotony of their daily routine. Sam is friendly and eager to talk. Jane is much more hesitant, tentative and guarded, not too open to conversation. I learned they have a tradition when they receive their welfare checks on the first of each month. They pay their bills, then eat breakfast at McDonald's and dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

Over the weeks, I learned Jane's daughter died suddenly last year and she is estranged from her two sons. Their parents are not living.

"Jane, I missed you last week," I said Thursday when I saw her and Sam enter the dining room. "How are you today?"

"I just got a call forty minutes ago from my niece that my sister died."

"Oh, no. Is that sister the one you talk to everyday?"

"Yes, that's the one. We sometimes talk three times a day."

"I am so sorry. I you pray for you and your family as you make arrangements for the funeral."

"Thank you," she said looking at the floor.

When Sam and Jane finished dinner I wanted to give both of them a hug. I walked to their table, approached each one slowly, but Jane pulled back and Sam walked away. My heart hugged them out as they faced days of grief.

The following week when Sam and Jane came for dinner, I wanted to hear about the funeral and learn how they were doing.

"My sister couldn't read or write," Jane said. "We talked three times a day. I really miss her."

"I am sorry. Here is a card for you and Sam, and another card just for you to read after your surgery on Monday. You are in my prayers, Jane."

She extended her chubby, ring covered hand, which I grasped firmly. She gave me a part of herself with a simple gesture of gratitude from trust gained over time and crumbs.

Celtic spirituality uses a term "thin places" to describe moments with persons or in places touched by a deep awareness of God's presence. I realized when Jane extended her hand, I was in a "thin place" where God had touched Jane's heart with strength to reach out and receive love I waited long to offer.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Mike and I have traveled several places this year including Denver, Portland, Oregon, and Erie, Pennsylvania. We’ve either stayed in a Hampton Inn or Comfort Suites. We find these two motels offer nice accommodations as well as the bonus of a free breakfast.

What caught my eye at both motels, other than the huge comfortable pillows on each bed, were the tablets resting on the tables straddled between the telephone and Gideon Bible. The words on the bottom of the tablet from the Hampton Inn were “thought pad”. Comfort Suites had these words in a large circle at the top left hand corner “more space for your thoughts”.

The words on both of these tablets suggest that time spent in the room away from the normal routine, might offer an opportunity to think about topics or decisions or whatever might come to mind. Whenever I see these words I wander to a reflective place.
Perhaps the owners of these businesses want to encourage customers to take a few moments while they are gone to think about concerns, challenges or even joys that we carry wherever we go and often ignore, but might surface when we go away from the normal routine and have space to devote to reflection.

Jesus reminded his followers to “go away” and “take time to pray” (Matthew 14:22-24). Jesus found a hill, a garden, and the wilderness to contemplate, spend time with God, and perhaps sort through the path his life was taking or prepare for future encounters and experiences. I wonder if Jesus had a tablet with “thought pad” or “more space for your thoughts” tucked under his robe to record what he received and wanted to remember.

My guess is that Jesus knew clearly the focus of his life. His heart guided him to love and serve others, teaching and healing in God’s name. His clarity in purpose was like no one else experiences and there was no need to record the strength, courage and insight God was giving him.

Packing the two tablets in my suitcase from each stay, reminded me to allow space for new thoughts, insights and perspectives about life and people which always happens when I visit new places. Getting out of my everyday routine, traveling someplace different can at times overload me with thoughts to write about when I return home. The tablets from the Hampton Inn and Comfort Suites sit on my kitchen counter as helpful souvenirs to encourage reflection about my time away and life with God.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Designed to Work - Surrounded by God's Presence

My work as a speech pathologist in a large Catholic hospital began when I got out of bed and went to my desk. Reading the Bible, and praying for my patients grounded me for work in a place where every day was different. Anyone who works in a medical setting is well aware of how the condition of the human body can change in a second.

The thirty-minute drive I completed in silence lengthened my preparation, as I connected with God and examined myself, asking for insight and wisdom as I evaluated patients who could range from infants weighing less than to pounds to adults requiring geriatric care.

Parking on the side of the hospital, I crossed the street to the hospital entrance.

"Hi Sunshine!" I heard from a landscaper, one of my former stroke patients.

"I'm glad to see you back at work.!" I replied, "How are you doing?"

"Just fine, Sunshine. Have a good day!"

I grinned and waved then passed the sculpture of three large interlocking doves on the front of the hospital, witnessing to the hospital's priority to treat mind, body, and spirit.

Walking down the hall shortly before 8:00 a.m., my gait slowed as I stopped to hear a reflection piped over the loudspeaker - a reminder God was with me. I continued on when they finished.

Unless I had to attend a department staff meeting, I always tried to sit in on one of the hospital services at 8:00 a.m. or noon.

The handles of the heavy chapel door were shaped like crosses. I'd take hold of one and heave the door open, passing a basin of holy water on the right wall. Sitting in the back, I appreciated the opportunity to rest in God as priests on the hospital staff led worship. Leaving the chapel I reached into the basin of holy water splashing my hands, asking God to bless my work.

With my stack of patient folders locked under my arm and other tools of my profession tucked in the deep pockets of my white lab coat, I began my rounds, filled with a sense of God's presence in order to serve God's people.

Usually I saw eight to ten patients each day, writing in charts, supervising student interns and giving an occasional lecture to medical students formed my day.

Reaching the floor, I began to assess patients with all types of neurological impairments and swallowing difficulty. Their suffering was reflected in a tangible way with the presence of crucifixes - one in each room and every fifty feet down the halls. While I performed my professional responsibilities, I prayed the visible Christ would become real to those in my care. Although I could not pray with my patients, I could pray for them.

"Are you awake?" I asked a middle-aged heart transplant patient having trouble swallowing, gently touching his shoulder.

"Oh yes, I'm just resting my eyes. They don't let you sleep here. Someone's always poking at me, asking questions. I need to get home and rest," he chuckled.

I began my assessment with this gentleman given a second chance at life. "Tell me about your swallowing. Do you have more difficulty with solids or liquids?"

While I was working with him, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jesus hanging on a cross, as if watching my work. And though that sculpted figure was not watching, Jesus Himself was fully aware of all that happened in these walls - one family suffering loss and another celebrating new life, and this man struggling to swallow solids.

God was with me as I worked to bring some healing to this man, and as I hoped and prayed he would recognize God was with him, as well - body, mind and spirit.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Come Thou Almighty King" - All Saints Day, November 1

In Catholic and some Protestant churches, November 1 is celebrated as "All Saints Day" to remember and honor not only saints of old, but also those in a congregation who have died since the previous November 1.

Although I attended church most Sundays growing up, my home did not reflect Christian values. Fortunately, I attended public school where I met Mrs. Rossi, my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. DeShong, my fifth grade teacher, and Miss Lightner, my sixth grade teacher.

This Sunday, when "All Saints Day" will be celebrated, I want to remember these three women who nurtured my faith in ways they were unaware. They died decades ago, but their influence on my life remains.

Back in the mid and late fifties, when I was in elementary school, all classes began by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer. Mrs. Rossi, my fourth grade teacher, liked to sing. Filled with a room of chatty children, she stood in front of the classroom leading us in hymns while we passed completed papers or spelling tests down the row of desks. "Come Thou Almighty King" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" were my two favorites. Perhaps she thought singing children were less distracting than talking children.

My family moved from Columbus, Ohio, to a small town west of Pittsburgh, when I was in fifth grade. Mrs. DeShong, my fifth grade teacher, and Miss Lightner, my sixth grade teacher, led the class in prayer before we went to lunch. Simone, a student in my class both years was Jewish. Once a week, she was asked to say the prayer. She prayed in Hebrew then translated in English. Simone was the first Jewish person I knew.

All three teachers helped me learn that thinking about God was not just for Sunday morning in church. Mrs. DeShong and Miss Lightner taught me about gratitude and honoring other faith traditions. Through Mrs. Rossi's love of music, I learned hymns that were not sung in my church. Each teacher provided daily links to God through prayer and music, which reminded me I was able to come to God wherever I was - even at my desk in school.

I wish I could thank these women or even their descendants for the influence each had on my life. Recent efforts to locate teacher records in each school were not productive. When I attend church on Sunday, I will honor "my three saints" by recalling their witness and realizing the impact each had, caring for me in my faith every day in ways I was not receiving at home.

Who can you honor on "All Saints Day" for influencing, directing or nurturing your walk with God?

Prayer: God, thank you for persons who witness to their faith in you and can inspire by example. Amen.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What Do We Say When Good Things Happen?

Saturday night, October 18, Mike and I were driving home from the Landmark Center near downtown Indianapolis, where Mike performed the wedding ceremony for a friend of Anna's from high school and college. Although we only knew the bride, we had a great time visiting with family members and guests at our table.

We were thankful to end the day with a happy occasion because we spent the morning visiting two families prior to funeral services for a beloved grandfather and young son. Less than a week ago, we attended another funeral for a colleague of Mike's who died swiftly from a rapid spreading form of cancer.

Mike and I discussed the events of the past eight days, mentioning the question that appears repeatedly when unfortunate circumstances come in the lives of people ... Why do bad things happen to good people?

Mike said, "Why don't we ask ... 'Why am I blessed? Why do good things happen? We have no better answer to when good things happen than we do when bad things happen.'

His comment brought a shift in perspective. When unfortunate and unexplained happenings come our way, we struggle and ask, "Why?" When we travel safely to work or to the store, when we share fun times with family and friends, when we have an 'uneventful' annual physical, when we read a book with an interesting plot that helps us relax, when we take a walk that is refreshing, when we have a day where everything goes smoothly, do we ask, 'Why did good things happen today?"

Do we thank God for our good life or do we take for granted uneventful moments and roll them into the folds of our heart with nonchalance?

How do you respond when good things happen?

Prayer: God, our days can be a mixture of challenge and peace. Help us give thanks at all times knowing you are with us to celebrate and care. Amen.

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Uninterrupted Prayer Life ... Maybe

Mike walks every morning. He often picks up trash or coins he finds on the sidewalk or in the road. He tosses the trash in our container and fills an envelope with the coins to fund mission projects at church.

Sunday, October 19, Mike came home with a soaking wet prayer book filled with leaves, evergreen needles and mud.

An embroidered green cloth with side pockets on the inside covered the prayer book. A purple ribbon marked the place where the person was reading: Saturday, October 18.

Handling the book with reverence, I explored the items tucked between the pages hoping to find a name and phone number of the person who owned the book.

Inside I found two laminated prayer cards, a prayer to St. Michael, and two small pieces of tablet paper from "Princess Cruises". The person had written errands to places such as the driver's license bureau, the courthouse, Costco, Wal-Mart, JoAnn Fabric, Calico Corner. Each store's address was written after the name, so I wondered if she was new to the area. A pink and green crochet cross with a pink ribbon down the middle was in the back pocket.

"Give Us This Day - daily prayer for Today's Catholic, October 2014", was the book held by the beautiful cover.

Soaking the cloth cover and crochet cross in soapy warm water removed the dirt and grit. I set the book in a warm corner of the laundry room so the pages could dry.

Handling all of these pieces of someone else's prayer life made me want to find the owner. I wonder if the person put the book on the roof of her car and drove off perhaps in a hurry to get to church, forgetting to retrieve what was on top. Since Mike found the book early Sunday morning, I wondered if the owner was going to Saturday evening Mass.

Holding the crochet cross reminded me of a nearly identical one a dear friend made me, which I keep in my Bible and treasure.

What should I do with these holy tools of someone's prayer life? Was her prayer life interrupted because she lost her prayer book, prayer cards and crochet cross? I am sure she paused and felt disappointed when cherished pieces leading her to God were lost.

The prayer book is only for the month of October. I committed to pray for this person until the end of the month, using the prayers given for each day. Perhaps I can be a link between her and God using her materials.

My house is equidistant between two Catholic churches. Within the next week, I plan to take everything Mike found to each church hoping the owner called the office to report missing items.

All the contents reflect someone whose walk with God was meaningful and who came to God each day following the guide for prayer and scripture reading written for each day.

Although I hold her in prayer as her treasures rest on my desk, I feel certain her walk with God has remained solid. Perhaps she even purchased a new book cover, and a copy of "Give Us This Day" for November. Maybe she asked the person who crocheted the cross to make another one. Her faith and trust in God are aided by what Mike found and I cleaned, but not dependent on these items.

The person I'm holding in prayer knows God, God knows her. And as I glance at the cross and pray today's prayer, feel a if I know her a little bit too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

One day last summer, when I had multiple appointments and several places to go, I started my day swimming at the Y. I went early hoping to get in and out quickly, but every time I tried to slip out the door, I kept seeing people I knew and wanted to greet each one.

Finally reaching the exit, I pushed open the heavy door and crossed the parking lot. As I neared my car and reached for my keys, I heard someone call my name.

Noticing someone from a distance, but unable to recognize, I walked closer to the sound of the voice and saw Elizabeth a former employee at the grocery store down the street from where I live. Elizabeth worked in the floral department. Whenever I purchased flowers, she always took time to wrap them, adding a ribbon to bind the bouquet.

Elizabeth like to talk, often complaining about working conditions. I listened to her often, but sometimes when I went to shop I was in a hurry. Since the floral department was at the store entrance, I couldn't avoid seeing her. Honestly, I was never late anywhere I was going, just delayed.

Here she was at the Y parking lot calling my name. We talked for a few minutes. She asked about the Y, and I suggested she take a tour and perhaps take a water aerobic class.

Meanwhile, I was getting restless, wondering if I would be late for my 9:30 art class.

Finally, she said, "I think it was a God thing I saw you today."

"Oh, my!" I did not think seeing her was a God thing for me because I wanted to make sure I was prompt for my class. Her perspective was different than mine.

I made it to my art class and to other commitments, but I kept think of my conversation with Elizabeth. I was disturbed because she thought seeing me was of God and I thought seeing her was a delay.

I asked God to forgive my impatience and help me manage my time more wisely when I had a full agenda.

I was thankful Elizabeth regarded seeing me as part of God's design for her day. She didn't explain why, but I noticed a few weeks later, she had joined the Y and was participating in one of the popular water aerobics classes.

Perhaps she was hesitant to enter an unfamiliar building or self-conscious because exercise had not been part of her life. Seeing a familiar face and receiving my encouragement must have been exactly what she needed to enroll.

We never know when we leave the house who we will encounter or how we will be perceived by those we see.

Prayer: God, help us receive all we meet in your name, and may our words and actions reflect your love. Amen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

God's Selfie is Jesus ... And Us

Sunday afternoon I left the Apple Store at Conner Prairie - one of my favorite seasonal stores carrying fall treats like jams, jellies and locally grown apples - loaded my bag of apples in the car and noticed an attractive young couple walking across the parking lot, laughing and holding hands. The man pulled his phone from a back pocket. The two put their heads together with big grins, while he snapped again and again.

Sitting in my car watching the moment of delight, I remembered the days when someone had to be left out of a picture to capture a group. Cell phones now allow everyone to be included in a picture and preserve many moments which in the past would be incomplete.

People find great pleasure taking selfies, often posting on Facebook. Selfies enable us to capture what is happening in the moment in one click and share with others a few seconds later.

What would God do with a cell phone camera?

We know we live and move in God's presence and we are God's people created in God's image. We reflect God's love in our hearts through words and actions. If God took a selfie, would all who believe and follow God's teachings be included?

I believe Jesus is God's first selfie. After all, Colossians 1:15 says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." Jesus, God's son, came to earth modeling a life of love and teaching how to live in all circumstances.

There were no cell phones during the time Jesus lived, but if Jesus had one, do you think he would take selfies with the people he healed, with the little boy who brought bread and fish, with the wedding couple in front of the barrels he changed from water to wine?

Jesus' instagram could have multiple daily postings as he traveled through towns and villages doing God's work always bringing glory to God.

Thinking how selfies might have provided Jesus with an instant evangelistic tool and an 'up to the minute' recording of his work is amusing to consider, but not really reflective of Jesus' character.

Twice Jesus reminded people he healed not to tell anyone about their interaction. He was emphatic after he healed two blind men. "Jesus spoke sternly to them. 'Don't tell this to anyone.'" (Matthew 9:27-29). When he healed a man with a skin disorder, Jesus said to him, "Listen! Don't tell anyone." (Matthew 8:1-4).

I often see selfies on Facebook of teenagers and adults who are in places of service or on mission trips. These photos are posted to bring glory to God and honor the energy and vision Christ provides to care for those in need.

Eating a crisp, juicy apple as I drove away from the Apple Store, I realized Jesus would not feel comfortable making a selfie, but he might receive pleasure as he notes the way believers in the twenty-first century record and publicize the many ways God is at work in the kingdom.

What selfie can you take that brings love to others and models God's first selfie, Jesus?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

When Bad Things Happen to Good People - God is There

Two women - one a friend, the other a woman I don't know, but stay updated on her condition through a closed blog - were perfectly healthy three months ago. Now, both of them are in hospice at home. Another sweet friend, lost twins at almost twenty-four weeks. Each day she deals with their loss as well as with infertility.

My neighbors will soon recognize the one year anniversary of the sudden death of their sister and mother. I grew up in a home that not only lacked nurturing and love, but actually caused scarring pain. I compare my lifelong aftereffects to wearing a coat lined with tacks and nails, and a few patches that only occasionally rests on a hanger.

These people - myself included - would be considered "good people" who've had extraordinary circumstances interrupt their lives, some compromising their ability to function fully in life with family and friends.

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book in 1981, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People", after his son died two days after his fourteenth birthday from progeria, a disease that causes rapid aging. Rabbi Kushner said he wrote the book for himself "out of his own needs". He discusses God and misconceptions people often have about God when illness or other life injustices happen.

Almost thirty years ago, a close friend died in an accident at a state park. As she was placed in the ambulance, an EMT said to her husband, "This must be God's will for you and her." Her husband, a pastor, replied, "If her fall and death is God's will, then God's will stinks." A few days later at her funeral, through his tears explaining details of the accident, he said, "I believe God was the first one to cry when Brenda fell."

I too believe God cries when our bodies develop serious illness, when children aren't treated with love, when babies die, when employment is severed, when a spouse commits infidelity, when a child is born with special needs, when relationships among families or friends are impaired, when countries can't seem to live in peace. We could point to examples of injustice on every page of the paper and throughout our churches and neighborhoods.

Whatever circumstance is happening in life, though, God can come in. And when God comes in, the person can find a source of companionship in the midst of trouble, loss, injustice, pain.

Recently I was speaking with my spiritual director, a woman I admire for her wisdom and depth of rest in God. I explained how I felt like I was always "clinging to God, holding so tightly to God" as pieces from my past  keep surfacing each day, sometimes with little space to catch my breath.

I told her I desired a more relaxed way of being with God, perhaps just resting in the fullness of God's presence. Her response? She imagined God holding hands with Adam and Eve walking through the Garden of Eden.

"Maybe you can think about God walking with you sometimes hand in hand for those tough moments and other times just walking side-by-side in conversation or silence."

Reflecting on her comments, I gained the phrase "verbing with God", in other words, I can imagine God's companionship in whatever I am doing. When I walk or swim, God is with me. When I bake I light a candle to serve as a tangible, visual way to celebrate God with me.

When I have the assurance of God's companionship I can request strength, hope, courage, patience, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness with confidence that God hears my prayers and will respond. Whatever happens along my path, God is with me, sometimes holding my hand tightly, always walking beside me.

Unfortunately, bad things happened to those who are "good", to those who seemingly live in ways that reflect kindness and love.  Life is not fair. Bad things happened to "bad" people as well as "good"
people. The joy for those whom we call "good" as well as "bad" is that God does not see with eyes that label or judge. God is available to all in any challenge.

Prayer: God sometimes things happen to us that are not fair, that make us angry, sad and disappointed. As we sit at the bottom in despair bring a space of clarity and vision so we can reach to you the source of all we need. Come in to those circumstances which give us challenge so we can rest in you, sometimes holding your hand other times feeling you walking beside, for you are all we need. Amen.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Didn't Have Time to Pray - Or Maybe I Was Being God's Language

Tuesday morning I overslept. I didn't have time for my morning routine. Usually I read the Bible, pray for myself and others, and sit in God's presence watching the sun rise and noting the changes in the trees behind our house from the day before. Tuesday I rushed out the door.

Before I did, thinking I might have a few moments during the day to "catch up" on those spiritually enriching activities, I stuffed my Bible, prayer cards and the little book I'm reading into my favorite bag - placing all of my "tools for a devout life" in the back of my car - as if I could recreate my morning moments with God by osmosis through the car seat.

Stopping by the Y for a quick swim gave me the opportunity to hug the two foreign female custodians. Although their English comprehension is limited, daily hugs let them know I honor them and appreciate the care they give the locker room.

Next, was my last session of physical therapy for uneven hips. Waiting my turn, I saw a lady who used to attend the church Mike pastored. She had a pained expression on her face, uncharacteristic from when I knew her in the past. She explained she was on disability due to physical difficulties with her back and neck. I remembered her energy and vitality, now turned to despair and pain as reflected in her eyes and body posture. I heard regret and longing in her voice as we talked. When my name was called, I stood and gave her a hug adding her to my prayer list.

My physical therapists have been patient and encouraging the past four weeks. Practicing the exercises they gave me helped level my hips and eliminate the pain that had accompanied me for several months. At the end of the session, I gave each one a note of gratitude for their care.

Changing clothes, I walked quickly to the other side of the building from the physical therapy office to volunteer at the IU Saxony Hospital. Each week I walk all over the hospital listening to the joys and concerns of the staff and family members and friends of patients.

After that, I traveled to a church in Castleton for a meeting. On the way I glanced at the back in the back of my car.

"Still no time to pray," I thought, stopping at the bank to make a deposit for Sarah.

Inside the church I helped an interior designer move a chair from one end of the church to another where a new office is being constructed. Blessing the chair for the person who will use it for ministry allowed me to be present to the new life the chair will bring in God's service to many.

Returning home to eat dinner, I left to teach an evening class on prayer at St. Luke's United Methodist Church. Seeing my bag in the back seat where I put it earlier in the day, I shook my head and thought, "Still haven't prayed today. Oh my."

After class, I drove home thinking about a short note of condolence I wanted to write to one of Anna's friends whose grandmother died. Wanting the card to go out in the mail the next day, I went to my desk, where I expressed my thoughts and decorated the paper with two pieces of embroidery.

Noticing my Bible and prayer cards were not on my desk, I ran downstairs to the garage, sighed, grabbed the handles of the bag containing "my tools for a devout life", and carried it inside, regretting my lack of discipline to wake up early enough to pray.

Then I remembered two quotes. The first is from the preface of Rabbi Harold Kushner's book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People". He mentions a nineteenth century rabbi, Menachem Mendel of Rymanov who once said, "Human beings are God's language." The second quote is one of my favorites from Mother Theresa, "We are pencils in God's hand."

Although I did not get up early to complete my usual time of reflection, I pray my life and every one of my responses was God's language; I hope that I was a pencil in God's hand.

I trusted in that grace, nevertheless, I set my alarm clock to wake me earlier tomorrow morning.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Kick the Can - Kick the Acorn - Center in God

To play the children's game, "Kick the Can," a tin can is placed in the middle of a yard, cul de sac or
playing field. Teams hide and the person who is "it", tries to find the others. When someone is found and names the hider, both run to the can. If the person who is "it" gets to the can first, the hider is in jail. If the hider gets there first, he or she kicks the can and finds a new place to hid. The place of the can is re-established and the person who is "it" goes looking for those hiding again.

Several years ago I felt like I played a version of "Kick the Can" when I was preparing to confront my brother, with examples of betrayal from the past. I was the one coming out of hiding, speaking the truth.

The Sunday prior to meeting my brother I took a walk around the neighborhood. On that mid-September afternoon the sun was bright, the cloudless sky deep blue. My favorite red sweater gave me a layer of confidence as I thought about the meeting three days later. Although I prepared for the encounter several weeks, as time approached I felt my anxiety increase.

Setting of on streets familiar to my feet from many years of walking, I noted homes whose owners had changed three or four times. Living in a start-up community makes for rapid turnover.

Reaching the back of winding streets, I noticed a row of oak trees that lined the street almost to the curb. Acorns were scattered on the street so I kicked one. Watching its lopsided roll a few feet in front of me, I kicked it again where it stopped. I began a rhythm of kicking the acorn, watching it move, and kicking it again as my path moved around a bend in the road and back onto the straight way.

With each kick I noticed a stirring in my heart so I kept kicking realizing I was being drawn into God's presence. My walk was transforming into a time of prayer, my heart filling with God's love with every kick.

Reaching home I realized I kicked the acorn almost two miles. What further astonished me was how a simple act brought me to God greatly reducing the anxiety which held me when I started. Lifting the acorn from the ground, I put it in my pocket.

On that September day, kicking the acorn on a two-mile walk created space for communion with Go. I needed God's presence to ground me and strengthen me for the confrontation scheduled later in the week. Carrying the acorn in my pant's pocket the day I entered the room where my brother sat, helped me speak with boldness and courage. My words were not easy to say, but my voice was heard and God was with me.

The acorn rests in one of my desk drawers as a reminder how a simple act, like taking a walk and kicking an acorn - my adult version of kick the can - brought me to God. The acorn also reminds me of God's presence and strength for some of the most difficult things we ever have to do.

Prayer: God you continually amaze me the ways you come to me in simple acts and every day encounters. Your presence fills me generously and with abundance. I am so grateful. Amen.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Knee High In Leaves

The fall of Sarah's second year we lived in a small town in southern Indiana (population 7,000). The closest city of any size  and with any shopping to speak of was twenty miles away. Since we only had one car, our daily routine consisted of a morning walk, an afternoon trip to the park or library, a visit to a few elderly neighbors, and a few minutes of reading books on the parsonage swing before bedtime.

I cherish the days Sarah and I went walking through leaves. One October day, I dressed her in a long sleeved white cotton shirt and a tan corduroy jumpsuit. I made most of her clothes including this outfit. She liked reindeer at the time and I appliqued a deer to the bib. She liked pointing to the deer on her little suit saying, "deer mommy, deer".

On that cool, sunny, morning, we wore jackets and I placed a little hat on Sarah's head. It covered her medium brown chin length hair that I pulled to the side with a ribbon or barrette. We began our walk on the sidewalk  that outlined the front of the parsonage and the church. There were no leaves on our path as the custodian was care to keep the walk clear.

When we crossed the street, however, we discovered blocks and blocks of sidewalks covered with layers of leaves.

"Look at all the leaves, Sarah," I said. "I see red, yellow, brown and green leaves."

"Leaves, yellow, green, brown and red," she echoed.

We held hands watching dead, dried leaves that fell from old, old trees  almost like rain. I noted the leaves came to Sarah's knees as we continued. Sometimes she "marched" when the leaves were so deep she had to lift her legs to keep moving forward. I realized in those moments I was witnessing a time that would pass like a blink of an eye, so I absorbed the sound of every leaf she crunched and each word she spoke to describe our time together.

"There will be many fall seasons as Sarah grows," I thought. "However, her two-year-old October is the only one when the leaves will be ' knee high'".

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Few Lines of St. Patrick's Prayer

Today as I walked into the hospital were I'm a volunteer, I held open the door for the person behind me.

I heard a deep masculine voice chuckling. "Now my mother taught me I was supposed to open the door for you!"

Turning around I saw a tall, stocky older gentleman dressed in faded overalls and a blue T-shirt holding a single rose wrapped in florist paper.

Laughing I replied, "Looking over my shoulder when I go through a door is a practice I started several years ago. You can open the next door", I suggested pausing in the entry way between the two doors leading to the hospital.

Many years ago I wanted to find ways to honor people, whether I know them or not. The simple act of holding the door for the person behind me to walk through is a way to honor Christ who lives in all and affirm a stranger who happened to cross my path. Not knowing what others are dealing with, I like to offer at least one act of kindness a person can remember from his or her day.

These lines from the prayer of St. Patrick, remind me to bring holiness to a common act:
                           "Christ be with me, Christ within me.
                            Christ behind me, Christ before me."
Christ lives within me, so when I honor those who are behind and before me, I honor Christ.

Although automatic doors open automatically, there are many manual doors everywhere, offering opportunities to spread God's love behind.

Prayer: Guide us to become more aware of simple ways to honor you  and your children. As we affirm others we affirm you. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Different Type of Communion - The Blood of Christ

(Note: This is part two of a two part series.)

 I made a quick trip to Target, not bothering to change my clothes after swimming. Of course, I saw a friend whom I've known since she was three. We chatted a few minutes. Walking away I glanced at my faded sweatshirt, and noticed several purple spots obtained when I picked grapes and made jelly earlier in the week.

My friend, Ann, told me about a local vineyard following the advice given by God in Exodus 23:10-11 -"You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove."

Reaching the vineyard early in the morning the first day of picking enabled me to select many ripe bunches of purple Concord grapes. I went to the end of a long row because I wanted to pick in silence. However, other pickers arrived shortly, and soon children were running up and down the rows chatting loudly with excitement, wonder and curiosity.

"The kingdom is filled with many people appreciating the generosity of the owners," I thought, hearing the comments from other visitors.

Deciding two overflowing boxes were enough grapes for twelve jars of jelly, I stopped picking, hauled my treasures over the wet grass, and deposited them in the trunk of my car.

I followed internet instructions to make jelly and soon had twelve jars resting on my kitchen counter. The jelly was deep purple, however, the finished consistency was more like juice. The jelly/juice had a deep rich taste and was delicious poured over biscuits.

Making biscuits for over three decades has put me in touch with the body of Christ, metaphorically and reflectively. Perhaps my jelly was supposed to be more like juice so I could have the complete communion experience - making the body and blood of Christ.

One night recently I was having trouble sleeping. I went downstairs to the refrigerator, took a small biscuit, and poured a teaspoon of jelly over the top. Asking God to bless my communion, I trusted God to enter my experience. Walking slowly upstairs, I returned to bed, falling asleep quickly.

Prayer: God for the blessing and generosity of  Sabbath grapes, I give you thanks. For baking bread that comes easily from my hands made in the light of your presence, I give you thanks. For homemade communion touched by your mystery, I give you thanks. Amen.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Different Type of Communion - Bread of Christ

(Note - This is part one of a two part series.)

Sitting in church one cool September morning, I glanced at the red cable-knit sweater I grabbed from the stack in my closet and saw the crispy white residue of bread dough on my sleeve.

"Oh, my!" I thought. "I forgot I wore this sweater when I baked biscuits last week. A dollop of dough landed on my arm and dried."

Baking biscuits is a longtime favorite activity - one that I complete prayerfully. Usually I light a candle while I gather the ingredients, reminding me I am always in God's presence. If the biscuits are for someone else, I pray for that person or family.

Earlier in the year, I was asked to bake bread for communion at church. I wrote about my experience:

"I hardly felt worthy to bake bread, because I was dealing with anxiety, anger, frustration, loneliness and confusion as well as forgiveness in the tangle web I imagined my life. I was afraid all of my feelings would transfer to the dough as I kneaded."

"Baking bread is usually one of the ways I connect with God. Today, however, I was in a different state of mind. I went through the motions mechanically - not prayerfully or reverently - gathering and combining numerous ingredients, putting the smooth dough in my favorite brown glass bowl for the first rising. The bowl was the last of a nesting set we received forty years ago as a wedding gift. The bowl held thousands of batches of dough, but today's batch was the first to become the body of Christ."

"The dough rose twice. After the second rising, I molded two circles and put each one in a buttered aluminum pan. Before placing the pans in the over, I studied the loaves. In those mounds of flour, I saw all of the discontent in my life. I prayed that all of my negative feelings would bake out of me and go right into the heart of Jesus whose body I formed that day."

"The next day I walked into the sanctuary and found a pew close to the front in sight of the two oval forms of bread covered with embroidered white cloths resting in the middle of the altar. Then I recalled my prayer the day before as those loaves entered the oven. As I sat in the pew and examined my heart, I realized even before receiving communion, I felt peace. The negativity had burned away, my feelings now resting in Jesus' heart."

Although I have different feelings when I bake biscuits or bread, the candle I light reminds me that God takes all of me, however I am in that moment.  God receives my heart, like the oven receives the dough, baking out of me those emotions that challenge. God replaces it all with peace, comfort or love.

Prayer: God thank you for the ways you use common tasks to come closer to you.  All we complete can become a metaphor for life with you.  Our stories are like your parables offering wisdom about the kingdom which we  can experience at our finger tips. For touching you in baking bread, I give you thanks. Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Not What I Was Expecting

athAnticipating a peaceful, relaxing time swimming laps Friday morning after my writing class, I drove to the Jordan Y in Indianapolis. Parking the car, checking in, finding a locker, changing clothes, entering the pool all went smoothly. Slipping into the water, I pushed off from the side of the pool, gliding rhythmically to the other side.

After completing ten laps, someone grabbed my foot!

"There is a class starting that needs three lanes," the lifeguard said. "You can still swim on the other side of the lane divider," the lifeguard added. "Unfortunately the other lane dividers are broken and we can't unroll them. You'll have to swim in open water."

Lane dividers not only outline a space in the water where two swimmers can move comfortably, but also keep the water smooth.

Switching from a lane to the open swim area meant I joined three others, making the water choppy.  I contributed to the unsettled water as I attempted to navigate from one side of the pool to the other, trying to avoid colliding with three other swimmers.

Swimming in unmarked water is disruptive, stressful and risky. In the past I have bumped into other swimmers when dividers are missing.

Finishing my laps, stretching at the end, I realized I experienced a picture of how we can find ourselves in rough waters when we least expect it. The first ten laps I completed in smooth, calm water. Then, after the guard grabbed my foot and explained the defective line dividers, I was suddenly plunged into choppy swimming conditions.

In an instant life can change. A shift in a relationship, illness, a tree crashing into your house in a strong storm, a van rear ending your car, unkind words from a friend. All these things change our reality, physically or emotionally. Even extreme events and loss, like death, unemployment or relocation, change life in dramatic ways.

Although nothing affected my personal life while I swam, I was disappointed having my smooth, peaceful time in the water disrupted. The metaphor I lived that day reminded me to appreciate times of ease and peace and brave myself for open waters.

Prayer: God, we know we will face factors in life over which we have no control. You are like the lane dividers at the pool, offering strength to the water as well as guidance, direction and boundaries for those who swim.  Help us offer gratitude in smooth water and empower us to seek you when our days become rough and choppy. Amen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Word Souvenir from a trip to Portland, Oregon - POSSIBILITY

Possibility - a future prospect or potential

The word POSSIBILITY emerged when I recently perused a stack of photos from our visits to Portland, Oregon.

Anna moved to Portland in December, 2008. Our first visit to the "Rose City" was in April 2010. We took the train from the airport to our hotel giving us an immediate idea of the priority of public transportation in the city. Walking to our hotel room from our train stop, we passed several city buses also available to transport patrons using a common pass.

For the next few days, we followed Anna's brisk pace up and down the streets, meeting her friends, visiting her place of employment, trying her favorite coffee shops and enjoying meals at restaurants she'd been waiting for us to try. Snow-capped Mt. Hood graced every part of the city we explored.

Three places offered a prospect or potential for the future - possibility.

1. The first picture I took was in Anna's studio apartment which did no have much space for decorating. Along one wall she hung ten picture frames. Only two frames had pictures; the other eight were empty... waiting for the possibility to display a piece of art or a photo of a memorable experience.

2. Walking down the street on the way to coffee one morning, we passed a cleaning and alteration store. On the wall was a large wooden rack holding over three hundred spools of various colors of thread. I was in awe of this unique display of color, imagining the dresses, pants, shirts, and blouses that received the possibility for "new life" from a tailor's hand. Thread offered possibilities ... new ways for a tear or hem in an article of clothing to be held together and repaired.

3. A collection of thirty clay pots lining a short section of sidewalk across the street from Anna's apartment caught my eye. Half of the pots were filled with plants, while the remaining empty ones offered the possibility to hold dirt and seeds. Flowering plants could bloom from these pots, creating the possibility for additional beauty along the curb.

My Portland brought new perspectives on a familiar word. What words come as you see various objects or have experiences and encounters throughout your day?

Now, I wonder if Anna has filled any more of her frames? Another visit is in order to check the status of the apartment wall!

Prayer: God, you come to us in many ways - one of which is words. So many possibilities come from life in you. Move us deeper into how you created us so we can see the possibilities we have to grow in faith so we can serve with faith and love in your kingdom. Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches - Part Two

One of my readers sent me her experience with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the poor after she read Monday's post. Here is her story.

My friend was going to school in San Francisco. Each Saturday morning while driving to school, she always was caught at the same stoplight, where "an older homeless man who was dirty with a long beard" stood.

"I started making him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for those Saturday mornings. Some days I would add a granola bar or a piece of fruit. He was grateful. Then one day he wasn't there. Then the next week he wasn't there. I never saw him again."

She continued, "After reading your blog, it makes me think that I was ministering to him in some way. Small gestures can make a big impact on people's lives I think. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich touched you recently and it has touched my life too. I have prayed for that man, always wondering what happened to him. There's more to a sandwich than meets the eye!"

Jesus teaches in Matthew 25:35-40 - "I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me." The righteous will then answer him, "When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!" (Good News Bible)

Jesus wants us to know when we care for those who are "least' in the kingdom we are showing love to him.

Prayer: God, increase our awareness to all in the kingdom with whom we come in contact. Occasionally we offer something tangible like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and other times, smiling, opening the door or taking time to listen can convey your love. Open our hearts to receive more of your love so we can give to others. Amen.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches for Communion - Perhaps

The church I attend prepares food once a month to take to a Sunday lunch ministry at Roberts Park United Methodist Church in downtown Indianapolis. Anyone who needs a meal is invited.

I volunteered to make thirty-six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Three large, long loaves of white bread, two jumbo jars of peanut butter and jelly nestled in my grocery cart awakening memories of preparing lunch for my oldest daughter, Sarah. Every day in elementary school, she ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on crumbly, homemade bread. She never varied except when the school served pizza and she purchased lunch.

Arriving home, I put the ingredients on the kitchen table beginning an assembly line with six slices of bread. First, I spread the peanut butter then dropped a dollop of jelly in the middle. Spreading jelly on the peanut butter kept the bread together. Capping the sandwich with another piece of bread sealed the meal.

Blessing each sandwich, and slipping into a baggie, I sent my love to whomever ate nourishment  from my kitchen to eager hands. Wondering if distributing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to hungry people would be considered a form of communion crossed my mind as I piled the filled baggies into a grocery bag to take to church.

Here are a few definitions of the word "communion" -

- intimate communication
- the act of sharing or holding in common participation
- fellowship

Although I did not go to Roberts Park to serve lunch, I feel sure that the communion I shared with God while I prepared the sandwiches was absorbed by each one and carried to the recipient. I felt like I held God when the bread was in my hands, because Jesus is bread for all starving souls. The person who received my sandwiches experienced God whether he or she acknowledged or was aware of what they held.

Eating bread is shown throughout the Old Testament, sustaining people traveling and in daily life. Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life. At the Last Supper, he told the disciples to remember him by eating bread and drinking wine.

Bread is still a staple today. I remember going to the grocery store one day last winter just before a major snow was predicted. Walking by the bread aisle, no loaves of bread remained. I was so astonished looking at five rows of bare shelves I took a picture with my cell phone to send to my daughters, Sarah and Anna.

The sandwiches I made for those who are poor and hungry addressed their immediate need, satisfying their hunger for a few hours, sustaining their lives temporarily. I, too, was nourished, prayerfully preparing food for God's people. In my sharing, I received communion as I offered communion.

Prayer:  Thank you God for opportunities to experience your presence in simple tasks.  Let all we do include you for you are all in all. Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Using Scripture for Intercessory Prayer

Addition:  The name of the person to whom I referenced was changed.

Using Scripture for Intercessory Prayer

Last week I received a phone call from a friend who was in one of Mike's previous churches. We worked together and developed a friendship that included studying God's word and praying for each other.

When Mike was appointed to another church, we corresponded frequently and continued to pray for each other and our families. Over the years, the letters dwindled as our lives changed. We kept in touch on birthdays and at Christmas.

Her call came unexpectedly, but with joy. We talked and caught up on our families and places in life. Her main purpose for contacting me was to ask for prayer when she had surgery the following week. She chose two scriptures to guide her through the challenges of hospitalization and recovery.

"I'll pray for you using the scripture. We will be united before God." I said.

She liked my idea and gave me these two passages:
     Psalm 34:4 - I prayed to the Lord and he answered me; he freed me from all my fears.

     Nahum 1:7 - The Lord is good; he protects his people in times of trouble..

When I brought her name (Susan) to God each day, I prayed the scripture inserting her name:

     Psalm 34:4 - Susan prayed to the Lord and he answered her; he freed her from all her fears.

     Nahum 1:7 - The Lord is good; he protects Susan, his child in times of trouble.

Praying for my friend using scripture helped me connect with her and with God. I was honored to pray using words God gave her.

Next time a friend asks me to pray for him or her, I plan to ask if there is scripture to which he/she feels close, and use those words in prayer.

Even though Susan lives seven hours away, I felt close to her heart and united in prayer as she underwent the surgery and recovered.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Word Souvenirs from Vacation - How do I put them in a scrapbook? - Part Two

I taught a three day class at Chautauqua called, “Praying with Paint, Paper, Pencil and Sand”.  Part of the class included sharing a way of praying developed by Sybil MacBeth described in her book Praying in Color.

I heard her speak several years ago in Indianapolis. Adapting her way of praying into my own style seemed natural since I like art.  I showed the class two framed pictures of how I used color to pray.  Giving them homework for the next day was their challenge.  I told them, I too, would complete the assignment and together we could share our picture prayers the next day.

Spending time by the lake is peaceful for me so I starting my prayer with a picture of the lake.I added two sailboats, which dot the lake all summer, and a kayak that I rented for an hour.  I finished the picture by painting a blue sky above the water. I also wrote four words that came to me during my quiet time of prayer.
Sharing our pictures of prayer the next day was inspiring, as God spoke to each of us in different ways.
When I arrived home, I wrote the four words (Inviting, Impromptu, Snippets and Holding) on long strips of paper and “framed” my picture of the boats.
I plan to spend time reflecting on these words and the picture wondering how God will use my “souvenirs” in the days ahead. Although my scrapbook will only contain two photos, I will record my thoughts and drawings.

Prayer: God, thank you for ways you give us to remember vacations. Souvenirs come in many forms. Some we can savor and enjoy like maple syrup and apple butter. Others, like words or pictures can be used for reflection to process our time away. For whatever you give us we are grateful.  Bless our souvenirs which remind us of your goodness to us.  Amen. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Vacation Souvenirs - Part One

When I returned from vacation last year, I brought home a box of sticks, a few leaves, two containers of maple syrup, one jar of apple butter, and a camera full of pictures. This year, Mike and I went to the same place, the Chautauqua Institute in Western New York, but I left the sticks and leaves on the grounds, took two pictures from a rented kayak, and purchased nothing.  What I did bring back were four words which came to me as I experienced life at Chautauqua.


Most of the homes at Chautauqua have front porches with wooden rocking chairs, and wicker chairs containing colorful, thick cushions. These chairs offered a silent invitation to come, sit, get to know each other, and discuss a lecture or other common topic of interest.

Rarely do I see porches in Indiana, unless I go to an older part of Indianapolis. Many people have decks in the back of their homes suggesting a need for privacy and time away from people instead of an invitation to gather.

Although I did not know anyone who owned a home in Chautauqua, I felt invited to various porches as I walked by each day.


Since cars aren't allowed on the grounds except to load and unload suitcases, people walk everywhere. I heard many snippets of conversation that I found interesting especially since I did not know the background or the outcome of what I heard.  Here are a few samples:

-"Are you sober?"

-"I don't think I can get over her."

-"I'm taking a class in the fall."

-"I need to find a good massage therapist."

-"I really like your blue toenails."

-"The concert last night had a twenty minute intermission which was too long.  I heard that is part of the musician's union."

-"My ex-husband is dying, and I am surprised the feelings coming up."


People often gather close to a large circular fountain in the center of a large grassy area in the middle of the grounds. Twice during the week, I heard two impromptu violin "concerts", in this grassy area, offered by students who come to Chautauqua for enrichment and lessons. I also saw dancers perform their own interpretation of classical music selections. People gather to watch these impromptu events, recognizing the skill and quality.

One afternoon I was sitting in the library and a man waiting to check out a book started singing in a deep, baritone voice the song "Old Man River", from the musical "Porgy and Bess". I couldn't believe an impromptu concert in the library.


The word, "holding" came when I was sitting in the amphitheater where concerts, lectures, and worship occur. One day I watched the Charlotte, North Carolina ballet company practice. Few people sat in the audience, so I could hear tapping from pointe shoes as the dancers moved over the old wooden floor. Last year the stage absorbed a loud, enthusiastic concert by "The Beach Boys". Lectures, services of worship, and symphonies all have been held by the stage for over a hundred and forty years.

These words - INVITING, SNIPPETS, IMPROMPTU, HOLDING - framed by days at Chautauqua and were my souvenirs. I really enjoyed the maple syrup and apple butter from last year, but I think the words will have more lasting value as I explore each one in the future.

To be continued.