Archives for January 2009

Who Knew?

I’m going through some older posts, re-working them a bit and I’ll be putting them out for different writing prompts and invitations. This one is for The Red Dress Club’s ‘a favorite blog’ invitation. This was originally written in January of ’09. It might be helpful to know that I live on the central coast of California…
When I got my first really good 35mm camera almost 12 years ago, I jumped into my car and started chasing the sunset. It was May, and the sky was beautiful.

I really wanted to try my hand at some pictures of the sun setting over the Pacific, so I started driving to see if I could find a good viewpoint to do just that. Well, I ended up driving all the way up to Gaviota (about 50 miles from our home) and even there, no luck.
Well, duh. In the springtime, the sun sets much further to the northwest than it does in the winter. It took me a while to figure it out. The great sunset shots happen between November and March.

But here’s something I just learned today.

The sun also RISES over the water in the wintertime in Santa Barbara.
Why did it take me so long to learn this piece of the geographic puzzle that is our strange little peninsula here on the central coast of California?
Well….let’s put it this way. I am not what is commonly referred to as ‘a morning person.’ I’m just getting recharged about 9:00 p.m. and can read/write/watch tv/crochet until 12:30 or 1:00 with little problem.
However…in the morning – ahem – I much prefer the warmth of my bed to any other airspace until about 8:00 or 8:30.

But today, my husband was traveling to Chicago. By himself. In the middle of one of the coldest winters in recent years. And he’s been nervous about it for about 2 weeks. When my husband is nervous, he’s a lot harder to live with than when he’s his usual mellow self.

Cranky, short-tempered, worried about strange details, easily put-upon. And he’s not an easy traveler in the best of times. He loves destinations – big time. But the getting there is tough. It’s hard for most of us, I suppose. But somehow, his particular nervous system struggles with travel days more than mine.
I decided to remove one small piece of his nervousness by driving him to the airport at 6:00 a.m. today, and I’ll pick him up tomorrow night.

So, I dropped him off, and began to drive back toward Montecito.

And I noticed that the sky was beginning to pink up a little bit. So, I took the nearest off-ramp, drove through a MacDonald’s to get something warm to eat, and headed out toward the bluffs of Shoreline Park.
Oh, my. What an absolutely exhilarating experience!
It was cold (for these parts), just over 40 degrees, clear as a bell, and the small Santa Barbara fishing fleet was just setting out for the deeper waters of the channel.
The pelicans were skimming the water, as were a few coots. And as the sun began to rise, the reflection on the water began to take on shades and stripes of coral and soft orange, mixed with the dark teal of the water itself. It was just stunning.

Once again, I am so grateful to be living in this part of the world, to have the ocean within minutes of our home, to enjoy the animal and bird life that congregates here, to gaze at the contrast between rocky hills and lapping sea.

And to see the sun over the water at both ends of the day.

Ears to Hear…A Prayer for Sunday 1/18/09

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
The boy Samuel said those words to you, O God,
waiting in the darkness of the tabernacle,
and he truly did not have a clue what he was saying,
he did not know what kind of God you are.
Samuel was young,
but he was willing,
he was obedient,
he was pliable,
he was teachable.

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.”
The psalmist said those words to you, O God,
from the depths of his inmost thoughts and reflections.
Maybe he did have a clue,
maybe he did understand something about the powerful truth
that when you call us,
when you speak to us,
when you nudge us,
when you show us that you know us,
that’s a fearful and wonderful thing.
The psalmist was older and far more experienced than Samuel,
yet he, too, seems

“Come and see.”
Philip said those words to Nathaniel,
standing there under the fig tree.
He said those words about you, Jesus.
Come and see what you are all about,
see what you can do,
hear what you can say,
watch – and maybe even experience –
how you can take a life
and turn it around,
upside down,
and inside out.
Philip and Nathaniel were in-between – young adults,
and they, too, show themselves to be

That’s who we need to be, Lord,
no matter where we are,
no matter what our age.
Will you help us?
Will you remind us that we, too, are invited to
be with you,
to ‘come and see,’
to ‘come and be known,’
to ‘listen’ to your voice.

Help us to truly grasp what it means
to be seen by you,
as Nathaniel was;
to be spoken to by you,
as Samuel was,
to be known by you,
as the psalmist was.

Wherever we find ourselves in the week ahead,
whatever our hands find to do,
whomever we encounter,
renew in us your strong call on our lives,
your call to
a life of worship,
a life of service,
a life of joy – even in the midst of sorrow,
a life of beauty and excellence –
even in the midst of:
exams and schoolwork,
sometimes messy family relationships,
continuing recovery and adjustment from the fire,
chronically frail health,
uncertain futures,
and grief.

In the midst of it all,
may we be so centered in your call to us
that our lives are unmistakably marked by

And we are bold this morning to ask the same thing for our leaders:
for our new president,
for our new national leaders,
in whatever capacity they may serve,
for our state officials,
and our city council;
for our church council,
for our staff,
for our congregation.

Bless us with your presence,
bless us with your voice,
And give us ears to hear and eyes to see
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saying Goodbye

It was getting on toward sunset as we walked across the rocky beach out to the pier. Thanksgiving weekend brought our family together on Catalina Island, at Campus by the Sea, the InterVarsity camp at Gallagher’s Cove. The weather was clear, beautiful and cold. Our gathered family and friends were serious and quiet, yet so glad to be together. The service was simple, even elegant. Our daughter had done a lovely job of planning, her sons spoke lovingly of their dad, we heard words of encouragement from scripture, some of them read by his handsome nephews.

All during that day, strange and wonderful things happened. Roils of fish just offshore in the cold Pacific brought large numbers of sea birds, including cormorants by the hundreds. A monarch butterfly flitted its brilliant wings in the back of the canyon. As we moved from the firepit, where the first part of the service happened, and walked across to the pier, where it would conclude, a solo great blue heron landed on the pier railing, watching our progress and taking off with his own unique salute as we began to approach. Then, just as we all assembled at the end of the pier, a lone pelican skimmed over the water, coming directly toward us. And as we finished saying goodbye that late afternoon, the dying sun sent soft colors toward the south, lighting on the clear white sail of a single sailboat. Mark would have loved that! We were there because he had asked us be there: together, remembering him with gratitude, thanking God for his life and gathering strength from one another as we stepped out into a different kind of life, one without him in it.

These colorful kayaks lined the edge of the beach, and as we were walking back up the canyon for dinner, I snapped this picture, hoping to capture some small sense of the beauty to be found in small, unexpected places. That’s what we’re all trying to do these days – find small, personal snapshots of God’s grace at work in a world which has been so profoundly altered, so painfully and permanently transformed for us all. Someone that weekend gathered heart-shaped rocks and spread them out on a picnic table for us all to see. Many of us tucked one away in a pocket or a suitcase, a tactile talisman of a memorable place, a memorable day.

Thanks be to God for his gracious gift of Mark, a good man, loving husband, devoted dad, son, brother, uncle and friend. Peace be to his memory.

A Prayer for the New Year

“I’m finding myself at a loss for words…”
so the song goes.
And it’s true.
I am at a loss –
a loss for words
a loss for sighs
a loss even for groans.
So I think I’ll be quiet for a while.

If I am quiet – which is difficult for me…
if I am quiet, I just might find the words…
or I just might hear the words:
The words that I need to say,
the words that I need to hear.

So, I’ll start by asking for a little help…
….to be quiet.
To be still.
To be.

Help! Please…

I’ll try breathing in,
and breathing out.
Breathing in the newness of this day
and of this year.
Breathing out the old…
the old sorrows,
the old regrets,
the old patterns that can too easily cause me to lose my way.

How long has it been, Lord?
How long has it been since I’ve been truly still in your presence?
Still enough to hear my heart beating.
Still enough to feel my body settle,
Still enough to let go of…
what worries me,
what drives me,
what irritates me,
what excites me,
what distracts me,
what upsets me,
what consumes me?

Forgive me, Lord, for holding on so tightly,
to everything, and everyone else in my life,
and for neglecting the “one thing that is needed,”
as you so kindly described it to Martha, that
over-committed-to-the-point-of-distraction sister,
that dear disciple whom you loved.

Thank you that you love me, too.
Thank you that you love my brothers and sisters,
so many of whom are a lot like me,
a lot like Martha.

And help us to make room for the Mary in us –
that part of us who stops to listen as well as talk,
who stops, completely guilt-free, every once in a while,
who loves to learn by sitting and watching
as well as by working and doing.

It’s a new year, a new beginning, a fresh start.
Thank you for this small space to enjoy that newness,
thank you for a piece of silence, however fleeting,
in which to remember again…
who you are,
who I am,
what is really important in this life I’ve been given.

For life is indeed a gift –
even when it’s hard,
even when it’s filled with loss,
even when it’s confusing,
even when it’s overwhelming,
even when it’s scary,
even when it seems too short.

Life is a gift, filled with wonder as well as regret,
with simple joys as well as complicated problems,
with sweetness as well as sadness,
with beautiful, heart-stopping, life-saving moments,
moments that glisten and glimmer against the darkness without.
Moments that help me keep things in perspective.
Thank you for it all. Thank you for life.
Help me to live it well.
For Jesus’ sake. Amen.