Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wisdom in Unexpected Places

Wisdom - knowledge, wise sayings or teachings.

When I was in high school and college and needed information for a paper or project, one of my parents dropped me off at the closest library where I spent a few hours looking through encyclopedias. The library continued to be a resource when I needed to read about a particular topic throughout much of my adult life. Recently, however, I discovered a new place of wisdom -  the wrapper of Hall's cough drops!!

Last week I had a sore, dry throat, so I purchased a package of Hall's sugar-free cherry cough drops. Unwrapping the first one, I noticed the following phrase printed on the paper: "A pep talk in every drop." Looking further I saw these words in the center of the diamond logo: "Dust off and get up," "It's yours for the taking," "March forward!" "Conquer today!"

Wisdom in a cough drop wrapper?? Through the next five days, while my cough healed, I accumulated quite a pile of wrappers, containing endless wisdom and good wishes including the following:

"Put your game face on ...Let's hear your battle cry ...Seize the day ....Get through it ....You can do it and you know it ...Power through ...Don't waste a precious minute ... Nothing you can't handle ....Keep your chin up."

I realized there were other "unlikely" places for gleaning wisdom such as fortune cookies, on pieces of Dove chocolate and the front page of the Indianapolis Star (which always prints the same Bible verse, 2 Corinthians 3:17 - Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.). The Fishers YMCA has a basket of narrow, multi-colored strips of paper containing scripture. Patrons are welcome to take one or more at each visit.

Perhaps the people at Hall's want to offer an encouraging word to those who aren't feeling well, to brighten their day and distract their physical duress. Well, it worked. I gained a bit of wisdom and energy, each time I unwrapped one of their cough drops.

Where do you find wisdom n unexpected places?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

An Opening Is A Beginning

Last summer I taught a class at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York called,  "Praying with Sand, Paper, Paint and Pen."

One of my students came in the first day and shared how she was going through a divorce. The second day she provided more detail acknowledging how her husband's infidelity was causing upheaval in their family.

Another student commented, "Why don't you pray for the other woman?"

The woman replied, "That's an interesting thought."

The third day of class we shared our pictures of prayer completed in various colors and designs.

"I decided to pray for the woman who now lives with my ex-husband. I used yellow and green and these shapes," she said showing us her picture.

Noting spaces of white in the middle of the paper and on the sides, I commented, "Even if this is all you do,  there is an opening."

My student smiled.

Opening our heart can be the first step to creating space for God to enter. Opening breaks the tension, tightness and hold that can grip our very core when difficult circumstances come our way.

Thirteen years ago, Sarah gave me a paperweight for Mother's Day. A red heart is in the middle surrounded by clear glass. The hollow center of the heart dips into the base. You can feel the depth of the opening with your finger.

Dipping your finger into the heart and "roaming" through illustrates how much room an open heart offers for God. Rough patches happen in many forms and it's easy to close our hearts when pain overwhelms. We can become hardened with envy, jealousy, anger and frustration.

However, even small openings or spaces, as my student left between shapes, are room enough for God's light to enter and slowly work along the raw and rough insides of our hearts. God's love can be a soothing balm that over time will lessen pain or change to a new form that is manageable and doesn't carry quite the hurt that once was there.

How can you create openings in your heart and space for God to come in and work?

Prayer: God, no one is immune to sorrow or loss for circumstances happen in life that hurt and harden our hearts. We often call to you for understanding and in our cries are the beginning of openings where you can come in and work through the hard tunnels and passages that hardship seems to burrow. Send your light to these places so that peace can come. Amen.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not Reading

I attended an author fair at the Carmel Public Library on a recent summer Saturday afternoon. More than twenty authors gathered to sell their publications and interact with visitors.

Talking with other writers inspires me. I love learning why he or she is interested in a particular topic to write a book. Intrigued, I went from table to table, skimming books and chatting with the authors. Three different writers asked me the same question that was an unexpected query, "What type of books do you like to read?"

I was stumped!! First, I didn't expect an author to ask me a question and second, I had to reveal my lack of reading during the past several years.

Embarrassed, I replied to each, "I haven't been reading. I write." My brief response ended the conversation and I walked to the next table.

Not reading books during the past few years has left a gap in my life. I miss getting lost in a book, thinking about the plot while I am at work or driving, eager to return to read what was going to happen with my favorite character or how the plot would evolve.

I learned a long time ago that reading expands vocabulary, inspires imagination and is especially helpful for those who like to write.

One of my favorite blog writers is Charity Singleton Craig. When I see Charity's writing appear in my email, I click immediately. Her post on August 27, "Read and Respond: Writing Comes from Reading," chronicles her path of reading beginning when she was four. Charity references another writer, L. L. Barkat, who comments in her blog, "Green Inventions Central" on August 25, 2011, about her fourteen year old daughter's passion for writing poetry is due to her prolific reading. L. L. Barkat says, "All that reading, I'm convinced has shaped her writing."

Maybe all of the reading I used to do has influenced my writing, the writing I do today. Much of my reading as an adult involved authors and their processes of writing including Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Madeleine L'Engle, and Kathleen Norris, all of whom have a reflective, self-exploring style. 

The day after the author fair I stopped by the library in the church I attend, hoping once again to find a book to read. After all, since "reading comes from writing," I was desperate. I chose a book by Robert Hamma called Landscapes of the Soul: A Spirituality of Place.

The author shares a story in the introduction about a third century monk, St. Antony, who is asked by a philosopher how he can survive without books. St. Antony's reply gives me comfort: "My book, sir philosopher, is the nature of created things, and it is always at hand when I wish to read the words of God."

Although I haven't advanced beyond the introduction, I did receive encouragement for my lack of reading by learning than an awareness of God as I look deeply at people, things, events and experiences in my world, will let me find God there ...... and write what I discover.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Guest Writer: Anna Reed - "Not quite a bowl, but it worked just fine."

On June 14, I shared a picture of a bowl purchased at Betsy and Iya, the store where Anna, my youngest daughter is in charge of media and marketing. The blog entry invited readers to select, bless and fill a bowl in whatever way they chose during the months of July and August.

Anna completed the project.  Here is a picture of her bowl and comments about the experience.

"When I read my mom's post from June 14th, I was filled with the customary inspiration that comes after reading her words. I connected even deeper to this particular post since the bowl she described came from the shop where I work. I am beyond delighted that something she bought during a visit to Portland inspired such a mindful project. When I read the call-to-action for her readers to also conduct a "bowl project," I knew it was something I wanted to do.

I have the classic conundrum of those with both a small living space and borderline hoarder tendencies: I don't have a lot of room in my one bedroom apartment, but I do have a lot of things I want to keep. Most of these things are reminders of love. My parents are a constant reminder of love, and their acts are the things that remind me of God's love as well. My bowl - not a bowl at all, but rather a small vessel handmade by one of my favorite ceramists in Portland - became a place for holding these special things.

Often times, I am messy in my way of keeping track of these items that cross many miles to get to me and remind me that I am loved. Having the bowl project gave me a devoted place to keep these things, a place that is beautiful in decoration and easy to access, but also didn't take up too much space in my apartment.

Things that found their way in there were mindfully placed mementos of love: handwritten notes from my mom, an envelope addressed by my dad (just seeing familiar handwriting is a reminder of love to me), a movie ticket a friend bought me out of love - because we both needed to escape the heat and what better treat than a cool, dark theater?

Through the project, I learned that simply being open and ready to receive is enough to find oneself "overflowing with expressions of love," as my mom wrote. It doesn't have to take up a lot of space in your mind or on your countertop, nor is it complicated to catalogue. I never second guessed what I put in the bowl, I just knew. Because I was open.

Ultimately, my bowl experience was a fulfillment of my mom's prayer for her readers at the end of her post. That prayer reads: God, fill us to overflowing with tangible expressions of your goodness, love and challenge. Guide our reflections with what you give so we can learn more about ourselves and our lives with you. Amen.

Who doesn't want to feel that? I feel blessed that I did through this project, and continue to because of it."

Anna Reed, August 27, 2015.