29 February 2016

Important Days

These few, short, weekend days are so important. These are days of slowing down, lingering in moments, and being quiet and reflective. That helps me recharge for the coming week.
What is important to you for a weekend?

Here are some requirements of mine:
- Morning hours spent with coffee and books
- Quiet time with Scripture
- Listening to some vinyl records
- Cooking if I feel like it (sometimes second breakfast is essential)
- Walking outside if the weather is pleasant
- Checking out something fun, new, or a favourite spot
- Hours of reading
- Planning for travel and holiday
- Finishing chores and feeling free!
- Organizing my home
- Having some thought provoking conversations
- Watching a lecture, talk, or movie that is thought provoking
- Most of all - resting

25 February 2016

A Quiet Corner

From a wise heart flow
careful words,
Wise words make the lips
more persuasive.
 - Proverbs 16.23

Release those tense shoulders. You did not even realize they were so weighed down by the burdens of the day, did you? When you relax them, do you see burdens cascading off your shoulders like a waterfall, falling down to your feet?

With your shoulders now at a relaxed place, take a deep breath. Let it out, and slowly fill your lungs deeply again. Your pace is already slowing down, just by slowing down for a deep breath.

Next, find a spot. A quiet corner. A place out of the way. This may be outside your norm, or maybe not. Perhaps you like to be at the centre, but not right now. There will be a time for that. For now, it is about something deeper. When you quiet your soul, and still all those voices in your head, you can truly listen. All the reminders, critiques, to-dos, and complaints can be set aside, for they do no good here.

Here is where you need to be. Your presence is requested. God is there already, and while He does not have to bear the confines of time and waiting, He is waiting for you. Beyond time.

When you still yourself - heart and soul - you open up to a new realm of listening. You can somehow listen with your heart and soul. Suddenly, some stirring may come alongside you, and you know you must allow attention to be given it, and the goodness that can follow is your delight to share.

In this quiet corner where you are fully present, you are not at the centre, and yet you are hearing from God by being open to Him. We tend to think ourselves too busy all the time that we do not long for quiet corners in which to be quiet and still. But while there is time to be busy and engaged in many activities, there is a time to be the exact opposite. You cannot grow into the complete picture of what God wants you to be without filling in the holes. Shading in the picture takes time, patience, wisdom, and the willingness to slow down and receive.

24 February 2016

Reading Fiction

This past month, I have been flying through some fiction.When it comes to fiction, especially when it is of an action/adventure nature, I read at a hurried pace, as if I was in the story, being chased and in danger.

Dune by Frank Herbert 
First published in 1965, this is the staple piece of sci-fi literature (and not a short piece - at 800 pages)  that all the other books look up to. (Like Lord of the Rings is to the fantasy genre). It is a complex tale of politics, religion, mystery, and environment. A duke's family is moved to a desert planet to rule/oversee that planet, but a dangerous plan is already in motion to kill the duke (and family) and take over. The planet is the source of a spice in the sand dunes, but it is dangerous to harvest because of huge sand worms that surround it. The son of the duke, Paul, and his mother, Jessica, are not going quietly. They escape into the dangerous desert, where Paul learns to use his skills and rise up to become a leader of the neglected desert tribe, and overcome the evil empire that is set to kill him.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. At the end of the first book, Katniss has survived the games, and saved Peeta as well. There is only supposed to be one victor, so that is not supposed to happen, and unintentionally, she has started a rebellious mindset in the people across all the districts. The President has his own plans to reverse this with more oppression and killings. He announces another hunger games to take place, with the previous victors as the participants, which means Katniss and Peeta are going into the games again.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
In the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy, District 13, that once was thought to be destroyed, rescues Katniss from death in the arena of the hunger games, and is setting the plan in motion to take down the capital.  Katniss suffers from injuries and deeper mental issues. She knows she is being used by both the capital and District 13, and must come to terms with how she is going to handle that. Is she going to allow herself to be used, for the greater good? With so much brutality all around, how can the world be set right? Even if they overtake the capital, how can peace and normalcy be restored? It is not without pain and sacrifice, as the story goes.

22 February 2016

Notes on Narnia

If you have read the Narnia books, you know the charm and beauty of these stories. They are more than stories, and you saw that easily, but while the books all have a central character, Aslan, it has seemed to some to be just an imaginative conglomeration of seven books that do not wholly relate to one another, but somehow do relate to one another.

There has been a mystery surrounding Narnia, as well as a search for a deeper meaning in the books. Up until now it has remained a myriad of speculative assumptions. But now the mystery has an answer. The source has been found, and Planet Narnia, by Dr. Michael Ward is the book about what he discovered. In his book, he describes all the deeper meanings of each book in the series and how they all relate to the seven different planets of Medieval times. Each book is a planet, or each planet is a book.

The beginning of discovery came about when Dr. Ward was reading the poem by Lewis called "The Planets" (lines 89-90) late one night, and there was one phrase that stuck out suddenly  - "Winter past and guilt forgiven" which was part of the Jupiter sequence in the poem. He realized that the phrase is a perfectly summed up synopsis of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And the light bulb went off in his head. Jupiter has a kingly nature, and "the jovial character is cheerful, festive, yet temperate, tranquil, magnanimous." All those words describe aspects of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and as he go through all the connections, it is reveals more and more of Lewis' creative, hidden genius.

So, Dr. Ward began to research and come to find out, each book has countless connections with a certain planet. Remember, C.S. Lewis was a scholar of Medieval literature, so his knowledge on the time period was very deep. This was pre-Copernican times, so the earth was at the centre. The planets were the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The book with battle scene after battle scene, Prince Caspian, for example, corresponds to Mars, the god of war, and there are themes which reflect the nature of Mars throughout the book, which Dr. Ward explains. 

What this new discovery reveals is the depth of C.S. Lewis' genius in secrecy. He did not tell anyone about this hidden feature of the Narnia books (which is itself a mystery - I mean, wouldn't you want to tell one person, maybe your close friend, about a hidden meaning in the books you were writing?), and yet, the signs are all there. And they are not there by accident.

 For those interested in looking deeper into the themes of Narnia, this book dives into those with a scholarly look. I enjoyed it very much and when I re-read the Narnia books again, I will be looking for these planetary and Medieval connections.

19 February 2016


O that within us hearts had propagation,
Since many gifts do challenge many hearts!
- George Herbert

The morning is cold and quiet, and I am chilly. The sun slowly begins to show its coloured rays above the horizon. I smile. Our version of winter suits me. I have a delicious cup of coffee on the table in front of me. A pen is in my hand. My thoughts can flow freely.

If I don't get too carried away with my writing, I have a book next to me, ready to be opened. But for now, I need to write. These thoughts need a place to rest after dancing about in my head. Onto paper they shall go.

As I write I see the words emerge on paper that confirm how I know God is working in a multitude of ways in my life. For one, I am being sharpened every day, which, seemingly contradictory to being sharpened has me growing into a softer and more loving person. There are always ways I need sharpening. These things can be hard to work through, when you see how change is necessary in yourself, but I know with God's help I can do it, and I am joyful in that knowledge because everyday is an opportunity to learn and grow.

When you can let something go to God, to take hold of the challenge, it is a freeing feeling. Rather than feeling weighed down with the heavy burden that goes along with such words as "this needs to change" or "this is what you need to be" that I would tell myself, the oppressive thoughts do not linger, and instead the focus can be on the people, the growth, the wisdom, and insightful moments. These are the things that grab my attention, and I let God take everything else that distorts my view.

The Lord's thoughts are far higher than my own. Let them be my guide, in every moment. 

When encouragement comes along, my thoughts lift high, to God, where my eyes go as well. When love extends outward and my eyes are rightly focused, the possibility of goodness is endless. If we all did this a little more, we would propagate God's love even beyond our own reach and beyond our sight. It is an endless delight to share God's love.

16 February 2016

Tulip Season

He is happiest who hath power to gather wisdom from a flower.
- Mary Howitt

Every year the season comes. Tulips suddenly show up in the grocery store, like a burst of warmth on a blustery and cold day, and I rejoice. They are my favourite flower, and there is a short season in which I get to buy them fresh and enjoy their natural beauty and grace.

Lovely, they are. Tulips are tall and stand upright. If they decide to bend, it is like a graceful ballerina with strong arms and pointed toes. Like ballerinas, tulips are always beautiful no matter what stance they take.

It is their simple beauty I admire. They don't need any adornments. Just the silky petals blooming with a thin stem and leaves that reach up as well, adding to their height.

When tulip season comes, I wish to have them in every room if possible. I want to enjoy the time they are here, for it doesn't last long. And every season has its charms and special gifts we should greet with our attention. Awaken our attention to the Winter-Spring season that we are in now. This time in between. 

12 February 2016

Hearts Full

Happy is he, whose heart
hath found the art
to turn his double pains
to double praise.

- George Herbert

This is not a post about how I love/despise/am indifferent to Valentine's Day. I think if we live our every day with hearts full of God's love for one another, we would have love-filled days every day.

Most mornings rise with many challenges ahead for the day that we have to work through. Whether it is within ourselves, or with others, we have things to work on. We can always look for the joys and goodness, despite, perhaps, the struggling that might be going on in the present. Our view should be that we can work through it, knowing that God is with us, and he has our best interests in the plan, ready for us to step into. We are being sharpened, which isn't usually an easy breezy thing. I am trying to remember this every day, and live it.

As we walk through bumpy roads, we become ingrained with wisdom as we make good decisions. We gain wisdom when we work with people having ears and hearts open to them. We gain wisdom when we encourage one another. We gain wisdom when we look to the interest of others over ourselves. We gain wisdom when we are full of patience in difficult situations.

This is how we can praise when we are amidst struggles. By making the best decisions of love over the selfishness that might seem more appealing at the time. Let's ponder that in our hearts as this weekend of Valentine's sweeps over us.

11 February 2016

What Wondrous Love is This

Ash Wednesday Reflections

A sombre time. A stillness sweeps over me in a quiet sanctuary with hundreds of other people. The night is cold, and sitting there on the pew I feel the chill, making me almost reach for my scarf. But instead, I am caught in the reflective moments. The service is led by our three pastors, and they move from prayer into responses into a sermon. Quiet organ pieces fill the space. Hymns are sung. On a little slip of paper we write sins we have committed against God, our neighbors, and ourselves. We bring those slips of paper forward, and as the pastor nails those words just written to a large wooden cross, the other pastor smudges an ashen cross on your forehead with his thumb. This ashen smudge marks a reminder to us that it is by the blood of Christ, given freely on the cross, that we are able to be washed clean of the sins we wrote on that slip of paper. And when I kneel to pray at the altar before walking back to my seat, a washed feeling comes over me as I pray for strength to be more loving and to follow God at every moment, and not myself. As these very simple prayers dwell in my thoughts, I sense the presence of God close, listening, and comforting my heart. An overwhelming sense of love fills me and I know it can only be the love of God. It is powerful, and I am thankful.

Suddenly I am warm, but from the inside.

Hidden in my secret heart is the love of God.
So, then we sang:

What Wondrous Love is This

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of life
to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing:
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

09 February 2016

Reminder Notes : Mercy and Truth

Stay focused; do not lose sight of mercy and truth.
- Proverbs 3.3

This morning I was getting ready in my bathroom, and as I finished my hair, the sun was beginning to rise above the horizon. The orange glow was radiant, like a bulb rising slowly, with the shape and shade changing and shifting with each passing moment. I stood in awe and watched out my window, thanking God for the perfect sunrise window view I "happen" to have from my bathroom.

Sometimes I need a simple reminder such as this one to start the day. After several tiring weeks with bouts of feeling scattered in different directions (emotionally and physically), I know the need to be focused on truth is even greater. For these are the days that could lead to good things, or alternatively, not so good things. That is why the choices we make in the toughest moments can be absolutely critical.

Each morning I take some time to write in my journal. A few pages. Nothing grand is required, but just the focus of several minutes that I can let my thoughts go anywhere. Sometimes my hand struggles to keep up, scrawling hurriedly onto the pages in black ink. Writing each morning is something that helps me focus on the thankfulness rather than something else that might try to creep in. I hear the words of Screwtape (a devil from C.S. Lewis' book- The Screwtape Letters), in his letters to his nephew on how to trap us humans using our own thoughts that slowly shift just so that we barely notice, until it is too late. The devil wants us to lose our focus.

Writing my thoughts, whatever they may be, helps remind me of God's mercy that has rained upon me, so many countless times that I do not deserve. Putting these thoughts out there in writing brings me back to focus and centre on what I should be thinking. Reminder notes with my own handwriting. No matter what the rest of the day looks like, the moment of sunrise steeps soundlessly into my soul and can nourish me through the day. Writing clears the way for focus. Getting all these words out so more words can fill the spaces.

06 February 2016

Saint Louis Musings

The word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. 

The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
- Psalms 33:4-5

Each year at this same time, my office takes a flight to St. Louis for our company's winter event. I never know what to expect from the craziness of the few days we are there, including the variety of temperatures. There is always the chance we Floridians will freeze with single digit temperatures, but this time, it warmed into the 60's on a few days, which was balmy to all the locals.

I am always thankful to go to the events, even though it is exhausting because there is so much social time, we never get enough sleep, and finding rides to all the events can sometimes be a challenge. I am independent, so learning to ask for a ride is like a torturous stretch for me, but I am quite used to it after almost three years. And all our people are so wonderful and generous, there is no reason for me to begrudge asking for rides.

One thing different this time around was a co-worker in St. Louis offered to pick us up on the first morning and take us wherever we wanted for breakfast. After some research, we found a delightful restaurant, Café Osage, which serves breakfast and lunch using fresh ingredients, many from their garden there on site. They also have a shop with plants and beautiful goods to buy.

After a delicious breakfast, we went to Blueprint Coffee, in a different neighborhood, and enjoyed a busy atmosphere while sipping on lattes. I love to visit local coffee shops when I travel, because it allows me to see and hear what is going on in that community. For a little while, I get to be part of that.

After bowling with our operations teams after coffee, where I bowled my highest score (most likely my lifetime highest score- 138), a company meeting, and a quick dinner, we went to visit our company's foundation building that we helped remodel and paint last year. It is a historic building from the 1920's. The spots where I painted last year, now is a glassed-in office for the leaders of our foundation to work out of. The space is open, sleek, and industrial, all while feeling cool and stylish. We were able to walk around the building to explore each floor. Two floors below the offices is the furniture workshop for Narrative Furniture, the company our foundation started. The pieces (desks, tables, etc..) they create are really beautiful.

The next morning I was part of a large group that went to a homeless shelter to paint all morning. My group painted a bedroom on the top floor, which had five beds and a crib. It was a very small space, but three of us managed to get beds shifted around the room as we painted. To know that we brightened the children and parents' stay with a fresh coat of paint was a good reminder that what we do matters. The little things do make a difference. Even if it is a small way. It lets them know that we care.

It isn't the winter event without the fancy banquet. Everyone gets dressed up, we call it the prom, and shuttle off to a lovely ballroom. We get to mingle, sit at tables with people we may not know well yet, and hear several of our leaders speak and give out awards. I always enjoy that event, especially the talks from our leaders, who always share their faith in inspiring ways. It is encouraging to be reminded of what is the most important aspect of what we do. It is to give glory to God. 

03 February 2016

Far, Far Better Things Ahead

Place your trust in the Eternal;
rely on Him completely;
never depend upon your own
ideas and inventions.
Give Him credit for everything you accomplish.

 - Proverbs 3.5-6

The rain is softly pattering onto the trees, leaves, grass, and homes. It is not cold out, but it is not hot, either. It is somewhere in between. Stuck. Not clear of a direction yet, as the hours wane. For some reason it is not annoying being stuck in between at the moment, and I am thankful.

How do you foster a thankful heart?
The question came to me in the quiet of the morning raindrops hitting my windows. A question seemingly out of nowhere, but full of the importance of life, and deeper questions.

As I ask this question, I know that it is about where we look. By looking eternally, and knowing that the faith we hold in God and His promises are things we can fully rely on, we know we can never be let down. People will let us down, always. No matter how much they try, or we try, somewhere, sometime, something will be forgotten, ignored, misused, or a mistake made.

We hold onto the trust in God through all things, and we don't let go when some strong winds hit us. No. We hold fast and let God help us maintain a good grip. Sometimes that wind comes rushing at us without warning, and we topple over, losing our ground.

I have known sorrow and hurt. The kind that can tear you in pieces and leave you feeling so dark. But I have hope for all that God pr
omises, and I know what lies ahead is much better than what is now in the past. As C.S. Lewis wrote "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

It is only through Christ that we even have that hope, or can even imagine it. That is the reason we do not have to be afraid, and we can stare down anything with the quiet confidence that comes with placing our trust in God, with
any and all situations.

01 February 2016

Joy in Plain Sight

You see, a minute goes by so fearfully quick. You might as well try to stop a bandersnatch.
- Lewis Carroll

This lovely month has gone by in a snap. No time to dwell in time because it moves too quickly. Days feel like hours and the next month glides by. Does it mean we are not paying attention? To have lost time is to just float through without memory of specific details and events. Does it mean we forget?

Do our memories easily hold onto those times where we are fully immersed? Yes, of course, because we allow ourselves liberty to dwell in it, feel, see, touch, and taste the scene before us. These make impressions/pictures/images on our memory. To etch it into our memories is to be immersed in moments we are given.

This is where our imaginations take off. When there is space to fly and jump to and fro. Where time seems to inch by as clouds race by.

In these moments we are able to go deeper into the meaning of things, and the imaginative structure breaks away because there is no structure to the imagination.  It's a free form with a lot of bend and give because it is not afraid of differently shaped puzzle pieces. Our norm as adults is to build a box around ourselves each day, and those walls need to be torn down with delight.

Here is where we shall see what we haven't seen before, and feel the joy of discovery.

Memorize these moments. 
Pay attention to the details.
Joy is hiding in plain sight, to be discovered.