Paper Prayer

Please, God, don’t let me become a paper snob.

Thank you for my expensive journals with paper that doesn’t bleed through, but remind me that words written on a napkin or the back of an envelope are no less important than those written in a Moleskine journal — just harder to keep track of.

I love that watercolor paper has both a rough and a smooth side, but let me not look down upon those who have yet to discover this wonder or on watercolor papers that lack this attribute.

Help me remember that the lesser grade papers are not lesser in importance, but may require gentler handling or may be suited for a different purpose.

The variety of paper in this world is astounding — paper towel, parchment paper, wrapping paper, newspaper, brown paper, filter paper, toilet paper, loose leaf paper, rag paper, wood pulp paper, even elephant poo paper. Thank you for each one, although I don’t ever see myself using the elephant poo paper.

I worry about becoming a pen snob, too, so tomorrow, can we talk about writing instruments?

Amen.

 

Tender Mercies

It was hard for me to feel peaceful in Paris, what with the busyness of the place and all.

Then I remembered the harp store.

Our hotel was on a narrow streets not far from the Arc de Triomphe. On our first night there, we had walked to a little bodega (not sure what the French word would be) at the end of the street to buy something and the poor store owner was in the midst of an argument with a couple who looked strung out on something. He would glance nervously at us, the naive Americans, and argue a little more in French with the couple. It probably was a good thing I couldn’t understand what was being said.

In my heart, I bemoaned the city. It was all too much.

But the next morning, when I stepped out the door, I saw the harp store, wedged into a tiny space precisely where I couldn’t miss it.

It was lovely and reminded me of those tender mercies God gives us to help us remember Him.

Yesterday, back in rural New York, I was reminded over and over of those little mercies all around me.

As I drove Mary into work, I turned onto the street where Cooperstown has their helicopter pad. I quickly pulled my phone out of my pocket and handed it to Mary.

“What?” she asked.

“Get some pictures,” I said.

The state police were taking their dogs-in-training for helicopter rides. Mary snapped a bunch of pictures.

“They’re probably pretty bad,” she said apologetically.

“That’s okay,” I told her. “I just want to remember this. It’s pretty awesome that we live in a town where dogs get to go for helicopter rides.”

The line of police cars at the helicopter pad

Where else could I go to see such a sight?

On my evening walk, the cows were in the field near the road.

A week ago, another blogger had written about playing Queen and watching the bovine reaction — “most of their uncomprehending faces turned toward the noise, and turned right back to chewing cud sightlessly.” A few nights later I decided to play a little music for the cows near me. Mozart — one of my favorites, and what I had been listening to — elicited little-to-no reaction.  They perked right up for Andrew Peterson though; some even approached the fence. (For the record, it was “Hosanna” that I played.)

Owen thought I should play John Gorka’s song “Winter Cows” for them. So last night, that’s what I did. This was their response.

Hmm… I wonder what it is about Andrew Peterson.

Also, where else could I test out cows’ listening preferences on my evening walks?

Further on, I saw a deer.

She watched me for a while before bounding away.

And then there was the sunset — all golden and lovely.  

The steadfast love of the Lord isn’t just new every morning. It’s there throughout the day if we but open our eyes to see it.

A Run With Andrew Peterson and Friends

Laurel told me something about wearing exercise clothes making you want to exercise, so I bought the uniform of the runner — leggings — and it sort of works. Once I put them on, I feel like I’ve made the commitment to run.

This morning I really didn’t want to run — and when I say “run”, I mean “walk-run”, with more walking than running at this point in my 5K run app.

So, I didn’t want to run, but I had on the leggings and my father was still sleeping and Mary was downstairs in case he got up anyway and I had no other excuses. I headed out the door and down the hill.

About 5 minutes in, I heard a *ka-pling* from my phone, so I checked to see if I was supposed to start running, but it was a message from a friend. I barely had time to see her name when I heard the *ding* signaling time to run. I shoved my phone back in my pocket, and began running and praying for her.

Lord, I don’t know what’s going on with my friend

Meanwhile, in the background of my run, Andrew Peterson was singing, “Keep to the old roads, keep to the old roads, and you’ll find your way…”

I focused on a distant tree, telling myself I could run that far. It’s a thing I do because I really hate running – set a short-term goal.

*ding* — I could walk again. I pulled out my phone and read her note. “We are very lost and hurt…”

“Keep to the old roads,” sang Andrew. He was on the last chorus.

Lord, help her to remember the old roads. Help her find her way.

I know that lost feeling, when it seems everything is wrong and wasted. I thought of another friend who recently lost her home in a fire and the heavy ache she must feel, sifting through ashes. I’ve gotten those heart-wrenching phone calls and driven to far emergency rooms. I sat with my mother through her last breaths.

*ding* — Time to run again. I picked a barn to run to. Andrew was singing “Dancing in the Minefields.”

“This is harder than we dreamed…” Indeed, it is. Marriage, parenting, life.

It all is so hard and no one warns us about that.

Or they do, and we don’t believe it because we have stars in our eyes and hope in our hearts. But the stars are replaced with the pollution of life, stinging our eyes. And the hope in our hearts withers like an unwatered plant.

Lord, walk with her in these shadowlands.

And so my walk-run went.

Andrew sang, “So when my body’s weak and the day is long, When I feel my faith is all but gone, I’ll remember when I sing this song, that I believe….”

And I prayed.

Andrew sang, “Isn’t it love?”

And I prayed.

The last bit of my run-walk is miserable, absolutely miserable. I start off going downhill which means I finish going up.

I thought about a comment Jonathan Rogers had recently made when someone praised him for being an encouragement.  He said something like, “I’m like the cross-country coach who pulls alongside in the golf cart, takes a drag of his cigarette, and tells you to keep going.”

I thought about a new friend who wished me Bon Courage and explained that it’s not about bravery, but strength and resolve.

I thought about my friend who is lost and struggling, and that we’re all like the guy in the golf-cart, smoking our cigarettes and encouraging from our comfort, while we really don’t understand the pounding on the pavement pain of the runner in that moment, and that we need strength and resolve, and to be able to set our sights on reachable goals.

We also need to remember the ultimate goal — that running with endurance the race that is set before us. We have a cloud of witnesses — not riding golf-carts. We need to focus on Christ for our strength and resolve, our bon courage.

And so I prayed for my friend as I finished that final hill.

 

 

The Moon

I watch you shine a light that’s not your own
It’s nothing that you’ve mustered from within
The sun but shares its brilliance with you
And you, in turn, reflect a light that’s been

I watch you pausing, caught up in the tree
Peeking in and out of clouds and mist
In and of yourself you have no light
Fraudulant brightness daring to exist

I watch you bring some beauty to this earth
Reflecting, e’er reflecting our great sun
A picture of the way we should reflect
Our mighty God from whom all blessings come

If there’s one thing I love to photograph, it’s the moon. All my pictures are taken on my phone, so they may not be great, but the moon is so beautiful that I just want to capture it.

“What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary. ”

It’s a Wonderful Life

Church

A hush fell over the congregation.

The pastor had asked, “Are there any other announcements?”

A slender older woman at the back said, “I have one, but I’m coming up there.”

We all waited while she slid out of her pew, went around the back, and walked up the center aisle. Nobody said a word as she climbed the few steps up the lectern. She stood, looking at the congregation, her lips pressed in a tight line. Finally she spoke.

“The rumors, the hate mail — it all has to stop. We need to support our pastor.”

My mind went back some 15 or 16 years before — to a different church, a different problem. The pastor had begun a belittling diatribe from the pulpit against individuals in the congregation. One man — a big teddy bear of a man, a former dairy farmer — stood up.

“This has to stop,” he said, addressing the pastor.

A shouting match ensued. I don’t remember the particulars because I had quickly gotten my children out of the sanctuary. We waited in the safety of the nursery until church was over.

Sanctuary. It’s a funny word for what was happening in there that day.

Sometimes church becomes ugly and unsafe.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

We sing, but we don’t do.

Until one person stands up and reminds us that we can choose a better way.

Last week we celebrated the resurrection. This week our pastor read from John 21, when the (unrecognized) risen Christ found the disciples fishing again.

How easily we slip back into old ways!

But He has given us a new way to live — it’s by doing the hard work of love.

Q is for Quirky

I often don’t know how to describe my collages, so I use the word quirky. How else could explain this odd conglomeration using a couple of dogs and a Dr. Seuss character?

from The New Century Dictionary, 1948, — a 2 volume set found in the free box at the Endicott library.

A quirk is a sudden twist. I was surprised to read that in the dictionary, because I think of quirks as “unique-nesses” — those things that make you you.

We currently have a cat that loves belly rubs. I consider that a quirk.

Last week our cat disappeared.

The first day, I didn’t think much of it. She’ll be back, I told myself.

But when I went for a walk, I scanned the ditches on either side of the road, just in case she had darted out in front of a car and met her demise.

The second day, I started mentally running through the list of predators in the vicinity. I hear coyotes howl at night. Do they like cats? My brother told me that large owls prey on cats. I hadn’t seen any large owls, but he said there were some in the area. Our neighbor once told us that foxes prey on cats. I know foxes live around here. I was pretty sure that the bald eagles prefer fish from the river, so I ruled them out — hoping I was right about that.

I walked the road again looking for our little black cat, calling her, looking in the fields for her — but the only black I saw were crows.

The third day came and I was worried. I asked my brother, didn’t we used to have cats that would disappear for a week at a time?

Ishibon (1967)

“Ishibon would go off two to three weeks,” he said.

Ishibon had been our first cat. I remembered Ishibon going off and coming back. I felt better.

A little.

But by the fourth day, I felt like I needed to brace Mary for the inevitable.

“If Piper doesn’t come back,” I told her, “we’ll need to get another cat to keep the mice at bay.”

“I don’t want another cat,” she said. “I want Piper.”

Piper, with all her little quirks, was our cat.

It was Good Friday, and I found myself thinking about Jesus’ disciples watching Jesus die on the cross. They had so hoped that He was the Messiah.

“There, there,” the Pharisees undoubtedly said. “We’ll get another Messiah.”

And one of the Marys would have replied, “I don’t want another Messiah. I want Jesus.”

Because for all His quirks — picking grain on the Sabbath and speaking with a Samaritan woman, all those times He behaved in unexpected ways, and then, at the end, to die like that — He WAS the Messiah.

The people simply couldn’t see it at the time.

If He had behaved like everybody else, He wouldn’t have been God.

I know I’m not saying it well, but the quirks made the Messiah.

Your quirks make you. My quirks make me.

And our quirky little cat returned on Saturday, an early Easter gift for us.

I think she wanted a belly rub.

Piper

K is for Kindness

Part of my morning quiet time includes a creed — to remind myself of those things I believe to be true. It started with the basic Apostles’ Creed, but has grown. One part that I added is this:

I believe that the trials in my life are ultimately God’s good for me. They are like the grains of sand in an oyster that God uses to produce pearls.

The world is an unkind place. It’s full of people who thumb their noses and stick out their tongues.

Yesterday, in the checkout at the grocery store, the young woman behind me, obviously upset by something that had happened, said to her companion, “I just want to punch her in the face.”

With violent words, we betray the frustrations in our hearts.

This past Sunday, I was especially frustrated by a situation I knew that my father would encounter, where he would be excluded and pushed aside. The mama-bear in me raised her hackles and lashed out with words — words I didn’t entirely regret but wish I had said with a little more kindness.

When I put together this collage, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was saying, but when looking for a “K” collage, I paused on it. Yes, I think I know now. It’s about right responses. It’s about kindness. So timely for me today.

The one boy is obviously the bully. He’s not nice. He’s not being nice.

The man is ready to rush in and give him a good smack.

But the other boy, he’s still extending the ping-pong paddle.

In kindness.

“Come and play,” he seems to be saying.

It’s Jesus. He constantly says, “There, there. I see. I know. Come unto me, you weary, heavy-laden, frustrated, overwhelmed child. I still love you. I still want to play ping-pong with you.”

And as I yield to Him, He adds another layer to the grit in my life, working to create a pearl.


Background from The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Man from My Dad’s Job by Peter Glassman, illustrated by Timothy Bush

Ping-pong paddle boy from My Fun With Words by James Ertel, illustrated by Geoffrey Brittingham, Seymour Fleishman, Vernon McKissack

Bully from Wheels on the Bus (a Raffi Song to Read book) illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz Wickstrom