Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sowing Seeds at the Grocery Store

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Your Reflection

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Poems Are Like Patches of Fabric In A Quilt

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

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

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

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

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

For your reflection: What brings comfort to you?

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Art Remains In Sarah's Hands

When I saw her

Long, slender fingers

Press and mold the


I returned to those

Early years

When small fingers

Drew and painted

And formed play dough

Into many shapes and forms.

Now she teaches art to eager students,

The same set of fingers

Move over lesson plans,

And give examples

Of artistic possibilities

And outcomes.

The art started in the nursery,

And continues

In the classroom,

Nearly four decades later.

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Thank You Note To A Book

Tweetspeak Poetry, a blog I follow, often gives poetry prompts with their weekly posts. Recently, they suggested we write a thank-you note in the form of poetry, a paragraph, or using pictures of your favorite books.

I decided to write short notes of gratitude to books that were significant to me in high school and when I was in my mid-twenties.

Early History with Books 

Books were not companions when I was a child. I received my first book, Now We Are Six, by A. A. Milne, for my sixth birthday from my father’s work colleague whom I’d never met.

I first visited the public library when I was thirteen years old. I checked out a stack of five books, the maximum allowed, every other week during the summer. At that time I wanted to be a nurse, so I read every book in the Cherry Ames, Nurse series.

Although I wanted to purchase my own books, opportunities to earn money were limited. I babysat occasionally, earning fifty cents an hour, but my earnings had to cover all of my desires. Saving for almost a year when I was a junior in high school, I was excited when I finally had enough money to purchase three books. I wish to thank them today.

Francie Nolan is the heroine in Betty Smith’s novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, published in 1943. The book chronicles Francie’s adventures growing up in the squalor and poverty of the Brooklyn slums. Francie is 11 when the story begins.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, details 13-year-old Anne’s experiences when she and her family were in hiding during World War 2. The annex where they lived was part of a house in Amsterdam.

The third book I bought was the newly released bestseller To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The story is narrated by Scout Finch, who was growing up in Maycomb County, a fictionalized place in Southern Alabama. Scout, who was ages six to nine in the book, lived with her father, Atticus, and her brother, Jem. Her mother died before the story began.

Gratitude to These Books 

These three books had a common factor of a young girl growing up in challenging circumstances, just like I was. Thanking these three books acknowledges others who were struggling and whose lives offered me encouragement. Anne, Francie, and Scout were companions during my high school years, resting between the pages of books that had a place of prominence on the small bookcase in my bedroom.

Even though I didn’t know real people named Scout, Francie, or Anne, these girls were alive to me as their characters developed. Their life experiences nurtured and brought me comfort day after day, helping me realize I was not alone as I faced challenges just like they did.

Gratitude to Books a Few Years Later 

When I was in my mid-twenties, I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s series of letters and diaries. Although I never met her, she showed me that a mother could write while taking care of a family and maintaining a house. Grateful for her inspiration through books I cherish, I continued to write as my family increased. Since I had no one who encouraged me, I appreciated her thoughts and reflections on writing amidst a busy life.

Thank You to Every Author 

Authors deserve my gratitude for supplying gaps in my life for companionship and encouragement through the characters they created. Though I have not written fiction, it brings me joy to imagine and hope that my writing can offer to a level of companionship and encouragement, just like others have given me.

For your Reflection:

What books hold significant places in your life and merit a “thank you”?

Prayer: Thank you, God, for ways that authors and their stories can offer encouragement, support, companionship, and identification, as we read and rest with their work. The gift of writing can bless abundantly those who read and reflect. Thank you for the way you care for us with books. Amen.