Archives for November 2011

Tuesdays Unwrapped: Sitting in the Sun

They came as gifts – gifts of life, of hope, of promise.

They came at a dark time – a time of dying, of despair, of good-bye. 

Two small ones, born a month apart – the last of 3 boys for our middle daughter, the first of 2 girls for our only son.

Our son-in-law (husband to our eldest daughter and father to our three oldest grandsons) was fading away, growing increasingly frail, fighting with every ounce of life he had to hang on. We tip-toed around the sadness, the fear, the suffering. 

But then word came of two new babies to join the circle, and somehow, the light was switched on, bright and beautiful, even as our world grew smaller and dimmer.

Both were difficult births, both survived and thrived. Every milestone reached became a small miracle, a treasure to be cherished – turned over and over, catching and reflecting the light right into all our darkness.

Every glimpse of them together has been a multiplication of that initial shard of hope and life and light, now three years into a new and different kind of living, one without Mark here.

And now, they are six years old. Last Saturday, I sat outside in the warm southern California sunshine with my middle daughter. We talked of everyday things, relaxing into the surprising heat of a late fall day. 

And all around us, these gifts of ours laughed and leapt, bumping into each other with easy camaraderie as they chased two small balls around the edge of the pool. Too cold to swim, but still the water entices! 

Poppy got out the long-handled scooper and they took turns dragging those balls from the middle of the pool to the edges, running in circles, padding in their bare feet, getting splashed and not caring one whit about the wet. 

And for just a brief moment, sitting there, lit by the light, warmed by the sun – the gates of heaven opened a tiny crack. And I saw the goodness of God made real in the flesh of two small children. I heard the whisper of God in the laughter that rose to the cloudless sky. I felt the nearness of God as I talked with my girl about schools and schedules, about lunches and holidays, about all the real that we live in the midst of, day in and day out.  

And for just those few moments, all of life took on the glow of the Good, the Beautiful, the True. The air fairly vibrated with the power and the glory. 

And I was satisfied, full to the brim with Life.

I am absolutely delighted to join two memes brand new to me – one brand new to everyone, one a re-issue of a long-loved invitation. Emily Freeman’s “Tuesdays Unwrapped,” and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s new “God-Bumps & God-incidences.”

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

An Advent Surprise-a Kiss from God

 A tender statue in the middle of a small fountain 
at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, CA

It’s been a strange ten days or so. I’ve felt out of sync, out of sorts, out of step. We’ve done a lot of driving, a lot of worrying, a lot of wondering. What is the best next step for each of our mothers? Is there a ‘next step?’ We’re neck deep in providing some financial counseling to younger couples in a bind, something my husband and I have learned to love doing together since my pastoring days. The Thanksgiving holiday bore down on us like a mack truck, filling the landscape with planning and shopping and the usual fol-de-rol. 

And in the middle of all of that, I stopped writing. For about 10 days. That’s the longest stretch since about one year ago, when I dove into this stuff head first, intrigued, driven, wanting to wrestle with the words, to wrestle with God, to get it down there in black and white. But I’ve wondered about it these last days. Wondered if I should just chuck it and devote myself to family and spiritual direction and give up this ‘thing,’ this force that takes enormous amounts of time and energy and thought and prayer and wondering. I’ve been asking God about it a lot. “Is this what I should be doing with my time?” 

Today in our first-Sunday-in-Advent service, I was visited by the Holy Spirit in a way that totally surprised me. It came out of left field, as a friend – sitting to our left, across the aisle – strode up to the podium to lead us in congregational prayer. She took out the little prayer book I gave to folks as a thank-you gift for our years together in this place, a collection of written public prayers and a few photos that I handed out at my retirement dinner last December. And she thanked me for it. Then she read a prayer from it – along with one by Walter Bruggemann, yes, THE Walter Brueggemann!! And as she read and I listened, something shifted inside me. Something opened. I have never heard anything I’ve written read by someone else. And I hadn’t even looked at this prayer for more than a year, so it came to me fresh. And it touched something in me. That ‘something’ felt like a kiss from God. Yes, that’s what it felt like. A kiss – a gesture, an answer, a sweet call, a kind ‘yes.’ So, that’s my first-Sunday-in-Advent report for this week. The sermon was wonderful, the music perfect. But it was the prayer – my own, God-given words – that spoke to me at some deep level this week, as the door to this season of waiting swung wide.  Yes indeed, it’s been a very strange 10 days or so. (The formatting is a tad funky – I had to cut and paste and the line breaks did not all cooperate):

Prayer for the 1st Sunday in Advent, 2009
written by Diana R.G. Trautwein

Funny thing, Lord – it doesn’t quite feel like New Year’s.
But that’s where we find ourselves today, isn’t it?
The first Sunday in Advent – the very beginning of
    the church calendar.
Starting over.
Looking back at the beginning again.
Yet also looking forward, even leaning forward,
    with anticipation and expectation and hope.
That’s what Advent is for us, Lord, and we’re so grateful for it.
And for the promise this season brings –
    the promise of good things still to come,
    the promise of the manger,
    the promise of you – visiting us in some new way,
        coming to us with your arms wide open,
        ready to meet us, right where we live.

But… I have to admit that it’s sometimes tough to slide into the     
    spirit of this wonderful season when it comes so close
    on the heels of the holiday just past .
We’re still full from all the feasting,
    we’re still dizzy from all the football,
    we’re still dealing with the aftermath of family
        gatherings and conversations –
        some of which were wonderful and refreshing;
        some of which were exhausting and complicated.

So.  Today – this morning – right now –
    as we sit here with our heads bowed and our spirits quiet,
    remind us again of why we ‘do’ Advent here.

Tell us the old, old story, and open our hearts to hear it anew.
Whisper to us of starry nights,
    and shepherds,
    and wise men coming from faraway places.
Sing to us – and teach us to sing to one another – 

    about crowded inns,
    and strange dreams,
    and, O Lord, remind us about the angels!
Your special envoys, messengers come to tell us Big News,
    Good News.
And help us to hear what the angels have to say –
    what they have to say to the lead players in the                           

    Christmas story of long ago –
    and what they have to say to us,
        today, right here, right now.
Bless and encourage our pastor Don as he brings us 

    your word of hope this 1st Sunday in Advent.

For that is our primary prayer this morning, Lord:
    Building that hope on the sure foundation of your word,
    living that hope in the nitty-gritty of every day
        decision making,
        and relationship building
        and kid-tending,
        and school assignments,
        and jobs;
    and sharing that hope in the hard places of our lives,
    offering it to those who seem to have little of it.

So, Lord God, as we take in the scent of this beautiful tree
    and enjoy the beauty of our first lit candle,
    and as we begin to move ourselves,
    both literally and figuratively,
    from the colors of autumn to the colors of Christmas,
call us again to hope, hope in you.
Take the gifts we’ve brought today and multiply
    them in the miraculous way that only you can do.

Build your kingdom in this world, Lord,
    and use us and our gifts to help do that!
And build your kingdom in us –
    heal our diseases,
    bind up our broken hearts,
    forgive our sins,
    transform our very beings so that we might
        look more and more like Jesus,
        who is the reason for the season,
        and in whose name we pray today,

Joining with Jen and with Michelle for their weekly invitation, after several weeks away. I am so grateful for each of them and for the communities they are building. And also sending this out to the community at Bonnie Gray’s place and over to Emily Wierenga, too.


Reflections on Thanksgiving Week

It was the little things that made my insides open wide. The small surprises, those ‘mere’ moments that steal the breath and sear themselves into the memory.

The students from Asia and Europe who willingly looked silly while acting out a First Thanksgiving Day narrative at a dinner we helped to serve on the Saturday before the Big Day. So kind and grateful for a window into an American custom, brought to them by a caring church community, spread throughout the city of Santa Barbara. Held in our gym, sponsored by ISI.

The neurologist’s words, “No, it’s not Alzheimer’s but there is some serious short-term memory loss and some medication issues to be resolved,” at mom’s wrap-up visit on Monday of the Big Week. 

The first-time-in-a-long-time baking frenzy that somehow filled the hollows inside, those hollows that come from worry and uncertainty, from watching loved ones come undone.
The weeping that came from my good man as he read a note from his sister, with words quoted from his mom: “How long is this going to go on? I just wish my parents would come and get me so I could go home.” Oh yes, I added my own sobs to his. 

The shouts of, “Hi, Nana. How are you?” as our three youngest grandboys burst through the door on Thanksgiving Day. And the sweet looks of love between our eldest daughter and her new husband, looks that happened naturally and frequently all afternoon.

Introducing yet another attempt to collectively give thanks for all that is ours. This year, colorful cut-out leaves found on-line with space to write three things, large or small, for which we are grateful. The six-year-old helped me find pens and pencils for each place and we read them before dessert. Most of them sweet and sincere, one of them noteworthy – from the 17-year-old, of course – who is grateful for: “my incredible brain and my dashing good looks, but most of all my surpassing humility.” 

Yes. Well. Maybe next year!

The hard-pounding basketball as boys and men shot the hoops on Friday afternoon, getting sweaty and having a great time doing it.

Hugging my mom that night, and commiserating with her about the vagaries of aging – without my usual descent into guilty fears that it’s all somehow my fault. (How could I have such power??)

Sitting in the sun long after the lunch of leftovers on Saturday, enjoying my middle daughter’s company, watching as our two six-year-olds frolicked barefoot around the pool. These two precious souls arrived in our family circle in the middle of one of the most harrowing times we’ve walked through together. Their very presence always speaks to me of life and hope, of sunshine and laughter, and the sure promise of the future.

Heading into the house that same afternoon to cut birthday cake and discovering that one of the birthday girls – my dear daughter-in-law – had put away all the food, done the dishes and was playing with her (and our!) littlest girl.

Celebrating two of the finest women it has ever been my privilege to know – my daughter Joy and my daughter-in-law Rachel – as they each have a birthday this week. Singing the song decidedly off-key but finishing with smiles and giggles.

Trying to cut what will undoubtedly be a cake that goes down in family lore as one of the weirdest ever – an attempt at a caramel ‘fringe’ accidentally became a caramel blanket! (It tasted okay, but looks?? Not so hot!)

The sweet relief of a quiet house by dinner time on Saturday – so grateful for its fullness over the previous three days, but glad to be just two once again. 

Life is good, even when it’s hard. God is good, even when it doesn’t feel like that’s true. We have much to say ‘thank you’ for and I’m so glad I get to do it with these people.

Joining with Laura and Laura after a long break. I’ll try and reflect on why the break in the next post.
On In Around button


Joining with Deidra Riggs over at JumpingTandem for her lovely meme called simply – Sunday!

A 6-hour drive to northern California, heading to a spiritual direction retreat with a friend, brought this amazing view during a quick stop in San Luis Obispo. And here’s the shot without the verse superimposed, because sometimes pictures can speak all on their own.

Five Minute Friday: GROW

Maybe, in these few minutes before midnight, I can actually get a post linked on time this week. Sigh. Yup, it’s been one of those. I’ve driven over 1000 miles in the last week and my bod is feeling it. So, it will feel good to join Lisa-Jo over at The Gypsy Mama for her weekly invitation to just write – without worrying whether it’s just right or not. Always one of my very favorite things to do! Why don’t you try it yourself?


Somehow, the look on sweet Lilly’s face, the way she’s pulling on her pants, the little pink angel wings – somehow it all reminded me of my usual way of approaching life as I wrote about this topic. Read it and see if this picture choice makes any sense at all to you!



For much of my life, I associated the verb ‘grow’ with the verb ‘do.’ If I wanted to grow in any way – mentally, athletically (now that is a funny adverb for me to choose – I am the LEAST athletic person you will ever meet anywhere!), musically, emotionally, academically, spiritually – then I needed to get busy. You know what I mean… 

Want to know something more about a topic? 
Do the research. 

Want to hit a baseball better?
Do the batting cage. 

Want to sing a solo?
Do the practicing.

Want to understand why you act the way you do?
Do the therapeutic work.

Want to excel in school?
Do the homework. 

Want to get closer to God?
Do the quiet time. 

For the first five arenas, all that doing seemed to work out pretty well. (Though no amount of time at the batting cage will ever make a baseball player out of me!) 

But that last one? Hmmm… maybe. 
And that’s a great big, gigantic BUT here… 
I am slowly learning that to grow deeper in my connection to God, to gain understanding of how God works in the human heart, most particularly in my human heart – I need to stop doing. 

Yes. There. I said it. 

Organized, scheduled study time – great for learning about scripture and about myself. Even for learning about God. 

But to grow in knowing God – not about God – well. 
I just need to stop.

Yes, stop. 

Stop trying so dang hard to impress God. 
Stop trying to please God. 
Stop trying to learn all I can about God through reading and writing and talking. 
I just need to STOP. 
I need to use many fewer words. 
I need to listen. 
I need to ‘go inside.’ 

And to do that – I have to work against everything I’ve ever learned about succeeding and growing in this world. Because knowing God simply cannot be done when I’m all wrapped up in doing. Especially when that doing is being done for some crazy mixed up reasons. 

It’s when I slow down, on purpose, and carve out a few minutes here, a few minutes there and hit the pause button – that’s when I grow. 

But it doesn’t usually show up at the time I’m pausing. 
In fact, sometimes it feels like absolutely NOTHING is happening. 

Ah, but then. 

But then I begin to notice small differences:
a more centered calmness in my usually rapidly spinning mind, 
a more gentle approach to myself and those I live with and love, 
a deeper patience with the frustrations of schedules 
and car trips 
and the personal idiosyncracies of others. 

Yeah, that’s when I grow. When I stop all the doing.

Well. That took a bit longer than 5 minutes. I forgot to look up at my computer clock and just kept typing! More like 8 or 9, I think! Maybe this is really important right now. Yeah, that must be it. :>)

Italics/bold/formatting added later.


Family Portraits #5: Uncle Harold

It’s been a weird week – lots of travel, with many hours spent in the car. And intermittent problems with internet connections several times this week, too. So I am late with this post. And I completely missed posting on Sunday’s service, something I will try to rectify very soon as we heard a magnificent sermon at our daughter’s church, one that we’ve been pondering ever since. 

With this week’s word portrait (500 words, lots of detail), I’m moving back to my mom’s family after a couple of weeks with dad’s siblings. One more uncle next week, then a few reflections on more distant relatives before circling round to each of my grandparents. I highly recommend this kind of written memory work – it helps to pull together some of the threads of your life and serves as a kind of living gratitude journal. Try it – I think you’ll like it!

My mother with her kid brother, at Mom’s 90th birthday party last June.

Fifteen months younger than Mom, my Uncle Harold – like all the Hobson children – was a beautiful baby. Now in his late 80’s, he is an adorable old man. In between, he was a heartthrob teenager, an emotionally wounded soldier, a man who dealt with some personal demons, and a devoted husband and dad. Like all of us, Harold’s personal history is a tale that is complicated and uneven. But in my life, as a little kid and through all the stages of adult life, he has been a steady, fun-loving, kind and affectionate presence.

During most of my growing up years, my grandparents owned and operated two nursery schools in the San Fernando Valley. They lived at one of them. I have clear memories of family gatherings there – with the play equipment in the yards and no furniture in the house. Instead there was a master bedroom, where my grandparents lived, and there were assorted cubby-shelves, small tables and chairs, toy baskets and napping cots spread throughout what would have been a living room, dining room, family room and additional bedrooms.

Both of my uncles worked for their parents, but one of them always felt like the low man on the totem pole. I am sure my grandparents tried to balance the complicated dual relationships that so often show up in a family owned business, but they were not terribly good at it. I spent a week or two assisting my grandmother during summer vacation from high school and I saw those hurt feelings erupt into bitter confrontation. At the time, I found that puzzling and troubling.

As I’ve gotten older, I have understood more about it – and I have been able to see my grandparents in a more realistic light. They did play favorites, they did keep secrets, they did undercut their middle son and it was not fair, it was not right. And I am sorry for the pain of those years and for the scars that were left, scars that lasted a long, long time.

But here is what I have learned from watching my Uncle Harold live his life: by the grace of God, we can choose to let go of the pain, we can choose to learn from it, grow through it, be transformed by it. Like my mother, Uncle Harold suffers from macular degeneration and is almost completely blind. He lost the love of his life to a rare form of cancer, he lost one son at a young age to the ravages of drugs and another to a long lifetime of sad choices. He lives alone (enjoying dinners out with a kind lady friend most days), he has two beautiful, courageous daughters whom he adores, and he is one of the sunniest, most cheerful people I know. He thanks God for his life, even for the hardest parts of it. And this small man with the twinkle in his eye, well… he literally radiates good cheer wherever he goes. For me, he epitomizes growing old gracefully and I am grateful.


Five Minute Friday: Unexpected

Joining Lisa-Jo late this week – been a heckuva a time trying to be available for a number of different needs in our family circle. But I found five minutes today, so I’ll be ‘better late than never’ I guess. The Gypsy Mama invites us to join her each and every Friday to just write and not worry about whether or not it’s just right. So join us, why don’t you?

 Mom, at her 90th birthday party last June. That was a great day and good time for all of us.


I sit in this narrow room, waiting. My mother is in the room next to me, sitting with a neuro-psychologist. They are playing games. Of a sort. At 90, mom’s memory is fading, betraying her more and more often. She is also grieving lots of different losses – my dad, my brother, her own vision.

But this? This is completely unexpected. Our beautiful, gregarious, socially skilled mother is fearful, insecure, unable to remember simple processes she once knew how to do without looking. Of course, she can no longer ‘look.’ That is a big part of the problem.

My remaining brother and I shake our heads in sorrow and puzzlement: how can this be happening to her? She, the vibrant, verbal one in our original circle of five. Mom, the one with the wicked sense of humor, the grace of a dancer, though she never danced in her life, the ability to take simple cut flowers from the garden and create a small oasis in the middle of any table. Where is she?

We still see traces. The doctors we are visiting in these weeks of exploration are struck with how ‘sharp’ she is. They should have seen her 10 years ago! She can still make you smile, put you at ease, tell you stories about her more distant past. She cannot dial the phone, read a calendar, remember what you told her 10 minutes ago.

It is all so completely unexpected. No one else in her family tree has suffered anything like this – and she – she has always been herself. Deliciously, frustratingly, wonderfully, sometimes obnoxiously – herself. Now? We’re not sure.

And we weep inside.


Family Portraits #4: Aunt Frances

I must admit that I am finding this series to be both fun and moving to write. It is a good thing to remember the people who influenced me in my early life – a very good thing. This week’s installment is about my dad’s older sister. Keeping these essays to 500-550 words greatly limits what I can say, so it’s interesting to note that what rises to the surface are all the truly positive things I recall – and usually one or two interesting, even quirky memories. There is no room here for complication/implication/criticism, and each of the people I am remembering was (or is) a very complicated person, living lives filled with both good and bad choices – like we all do. My thanks once again to and Ann Kroeker and Jennifer Dukes Lee for designing the original series from which these ongoing Wednesday reflections flow.

The fountain at Laity Lodge, where I met both Jennifer and Ann.
Like my dad, Frances was born in Arkansas, and traveled as a toddler to Los Angeles where her parents, grandparents, and other assorted shirttail relatives settled in adjacent neighborhoods. Both Frances and Dad were born in the midst of World War 1 and grew to adulthood during the Great Depression. Sepia-toned photos show her with a brown bowl-cut, a huge bow on her head and a large, heavy-looking jaw. Her eyes twinkle, looking out at the world with intelligence and curiosity.

When she went to UCLA, she studied hard and excelled, also working a part time job to save money for jaw surgery and orthodontia. It is hard for me to imagine such female determination in the 1930’s, especially growing up as she did in a very conservative Methodist home. But education was highly valued by my dad’s entire family – my grandfather had an accounting degree, my grandmother a teacher’s certificate and all three siblings were college graduates, two earning doctorates. ‘Looks’ were definitely not a high value. I don’t think it occurred to my grandmother that Frances felt self-conscious about hers. 
After college, she married a big, blustery Norwegian named Bob and together, they set out to change the world. Literally. My Uncle Bob was a local politician, working in city and county government until his death from cancer about 35 years ago. And Aunt Frances? Well. Frances Gold Anderson was the driving force behind two county-wide Sunday school organizations – G.L.A.S.S. and B.R.A.S.S. That first acronym stands for Greater Los Angeles Sunday Schools and the second for Bernardino Riverside Area Sunday Schools.

Let me tell you, from the 1950’s up until about the 1990’s, those organizations were a very big deal in southern CA evangelicalism, and lots of people knew and deeply respected my aunt. To me, however, she was just another member of my dad’s quirky family – a gifted, sincere, big-hearted soul. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I realized that Aunt Frances was a Big Deal.

This is what I know about her: she loved the Lord, she loved the church, she loved her family, but she also really, REALLY loved her work with para-church ministries. In truth, I would say that she was a very driven person. In her later life, she added a ministry area and worked to build California Baptist College into a university with a growing reputation for excellence.

And she knew how to throw one heckuva bridal shower. She did that for me and for each of my three kids at her sprawling home in Riverside. Everything was always carefully, creatively and deliciously done. She did not have my mom’s flair for beauty and décor, but she was great at clever games (so was my dad, actually), really thoughtful about family history and a gracious hostess and concerned aunt.

Every single Christmas, she sent out a long family Christmas letter, almost always written in rhyme. Yes, that’s what I said – rhyme. Oh my, we giggled over those! But we also looked forward to their arrival and secretly sort of admired her chutzpah. She was a widow for a long time and was the last of her siblings to die. I didn’t always understand what made her tick, but I admired her a lot. And I loved her, too.

When God Asks the Questions: do you believe this?

Yesterday was All Saints’ Sunday.
It was also Communion Sunday.
Two of my very favorite worship experiences on the same day.
When Don Johnson became our pastor, he brought with him some liturgical traditions that were new to us, 
every one of which I love. 
Each All Saints’ Sunday, we share a litany of thanksgiving for 
those who have died in the year just past.
And a couple of years ago, we added a new piece to this observance:
lit votive candles sit on a table at the back of the center aisle, and during the opening worship song, we are invited to pick up a candle and bring it to the front, placing it on the shelves to the side of the chancel. Those who wish to remember loved ones who have passed from this life to the next are invited to do so in this tactile and beautiful way. It always moves me to tears. I carried a candle for our son-in-law and for my youngest brother yesterday. My husband carried a candle for his father and mine. At least 40 people streamed forward with candles, adding their small lights to the gathering brightness in the front of the sanctuary. It provided a beautiful focus for the service which followed, most particularly for the sermon built on John 11’s story of Jesus’ encounter with Martha and the subsequent raising of Lazarus from the dead. Check it out in John 11:17-44 – it’s one of the all time great conversations in scripture, to say nothing of the miraculous activity that follows it. The photo below was taken by our pastor using the hipstmatic app on his iphone. It created a mirror image of one of our candlelit shelves – and is lovely in it’s black and white simplicity. 
Thank you, Don – for the picture and the sermon.
How many times have I heard this question asked?
How many times have I asked it myself, offering these words as a call to worship at a memorial Service of the Resurrection?
“I am the resurrection and the life. 
Anyone who believes in me will live, 
even though they die, 
and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. 
Do you believe this?”
Do you believe this??
I wonder sometimes at Martha’s quick, sure response:
“Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah, 
the Son of God who was to come into the world.”

I wonder in both senses of that word – 
I ponder it, 
surprised and maybe a little doubtful 
that she truly understood what she was saying.
And I wonder – I truly WONDER.
I am awestruck at her simple, clear faith.

For in truth, who of us ever understands what this means?
This remarkable statement of identity,
this claim to divine status,
this fulfillment of centuries of promise,
of hope delayed,
of suffering and enemy occupation and senseless slaughter.

It is an astounding claim, when you think about it.
This entire story is fraught with mind-boggling details:
Jesus delayed two days before going to see 
one of his best friends who was seriously ill.
He delayed two days.

He makes strange noises about glory and death not being death.

He engages Martha – the over-busy one, the one he loves in her over-busyness – 
he speaks to her with confidence and tenderness and hope. 
He surprises her with his question, I think.
And she blurts out her gut response.
“Do you believe this?”
Yes, Lord, I BELIEVE.”

He strides over to the tomb, struck by the weeping all around 
as he walks. So struck that he himself weeps.
Death is so clearly the enemy in this story.
The grief and wrenching disorientation that death brings – 
these are the things that bring tears to the Savior.

He patiently endures the blame – from the sisters, these ones who are part of his inner circle, the women who have seen him and known him as few others have. 
And the unspoken blame that sat heavy in the air all around him  
as he climbed to that tomb.
“He loved him – but couldn’t he have done something to prevent all this weeping? 
Where was he?  Where was he?

And then comes the command: Take away that stone!

Martha – bless her – Martha once again speaks before she takes time to think.
“But Lord, he’s been here for four days – he’s going to stink!”

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

How this line cuts me to the quick, every single time I read it.

Did I not tell you?
Do you not know?
Do you not believe?

And then, the prayer of thanksgiving, offered BEFORE the miracle.

And the booming voice, the voice over creation, now the voice over death:
And he does!
In front of them all, this stunning truth:
trailing his burial cloths, Lazarus walks out of his own tomb.
This revelation is the big one – the penultimate one – 
and it is designed to show his closest friends exactly who he is, 
to provide the most powerful visual aid ever, to picture who God truly is – 
a God who raises the dead. 
A God who raises the dead.
And one last, all-important detail remains…
“Take off the grave clothes, and let him go.
And something inside my spirit begins to ring like a tuning fork.
Yes, I recognize this deep truth, this call to freedom.
For when I take a good look at myself, 
I often see the trailing ends of rags, 
those bindings of death that slow my forward motion,
that keep me from truly seeing, 
from truly living my life. 
Sometimes I need help to get rid of them.
And sometimes, so do you.
That’s why we’re together on this journey, isn’t it?
To help each other believe.
To help each other believe that we serve a God who raises the dead. 
A God who says to us all,
“Unwind the tangles. 
Release each other to fullness of life. 
Do you believe this?
Joining this Monday, as I do most Mondays, with Michelle over at “Graceful” and tomorrow with the soli deo gloria sisterhood at Jen’s place, “Finding Heaven. 


Writing with a Timer: a Childhood Memory

A few months ago, I discovered a delightful blog about writing, one that comes complete with prompts. Timed prompts. I am discovering that this an absolutely crucial element for me. In order for my words to flow best, I need a clock ticking. I don’t completely ‘get’ this phenomenon, but I’m guessing it’s somehow tied to this sad truth learned in high school: the essay I sweat over the night before will earn a B+ at most. The essay I hurriedly scribble at lunchtime, just before the bell rings for English class, will get an A. This knowledge did not help my academic career or my sanity. I have spent way too many sleepless nights completing assignments I have left til the last minute – because, you know, it just ‘flows better that way.’ Oy vey. At any rate, please check out Joe Bunting’s wonderful place. Here is a link to today’s prompt –

And here is the interesting story that came to my mind when I read it. My answer to Joe’s question – “Who are you writing for?” – was the same answer it’s been for a while now. I write first for my granddaughters. They are too young to read much of this now, but someday – perhaps about the time I’ve honed my skills enough to compile the bits and pieces of my life and my reflections into some sort of cohesive whole! – they just might.  A funny – as in funny-peculiar, not so much funny-ha-ha – memory is what came out my fingertips during this 15 minute trip to the past. Maybe someone out there can relate to this hyper-imaginative child?

We took a trip to the park, my parents, my younger brother and I. It was a big park, one I’d never seen before, filled with tall, tall trees and wide-reaching ferns, with winding pathways and waiting-to-be-explored fairy hollows. I remember being overwhelmed by green, all different shades and textures of green. I think I was about seven or eight years old, so my brother would have been five or six.

The shadows were deep in this place, sunlight flickering down between branches and leaves. I noticed the interesting way those flickers made our faces look different than usual,
creating creases and shadows, shades of color we’d never exhibited at home. It was fascinating and a little bit frightening, too.

We lived in the San Fernando Valley, in a ‘new’ housing development. We had no trees to speak of, nothing with big, leafy branches stretching high and wide. So my usual landscape looked open, almost flat. I loved the way the shady side of the house nourished calla lilies and small ferns, but there was nothing on my street to match the size and spread of these trees, nothing to create such enchanting shadow play.

My brother and I found a small bench in the curve of a pathway, and behind the bench was a small open space where we could sit on the ground, luxuriating beneath those big, cool trees. We climbed back there and enjoyed ourselves, imagining a tiny world of elves and fairies all around us. My parents decided to keep exploring the park and told us to stay where we were while they continued to walk. We blithely agreed and returned to our imaginative games. I remember watching them turn the bend up ahead, disappearing from our line of vision.

We enjoyed our woodland hideaway for quite a while – until my brother got bored with the whole elf and fairy idea and began to beat the bushes, hunting wild game! I tried to maintain my beautiful tiny world, but found it much harder to do without someone else’s imagination to bolster my own. And I began to feel just the slightest twinge of anxiety about the truth that I did not know where my parents were.

That was a new feeling for me. I ALWAYS knew where they were. Daddy went to work, Mommy stayed at home with Tom and with me. She took us to the store sometimes, she walked us over to our cousins’ house, she had coffee with a neighbor and we went along. We weren’t left alone very often, that’s for sure.

So as I waited in the woods, I found my heart beating a little bit faster than usual. And my imagination kicking into overdrive. “Where are they?” I wondered. “Maybe they’ve been kidnapped!” “Maybe they’re never coming back!”

After about five minutes of that kind of thinking, I was good and truly scared. Then, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw them, turning on the pathway just up the hill from us! They were coming around a bend and they were deeply engrossed in conversation. Such relief! It flooded over me in waves.

For about one minute.

Then another whole set of questions began tumbling around in my head:

“Well, it looks like Mommy and Daddy, but can I be sure it’s really them?”

“What if someone came from outer space and sucked them out of their bodies and replaced them with someone I don’t know?”

“What if …?”

“What if…?

And you want to know the really weird part? I kept wondering about that for years and years. 

In fact, sometimes I still think it might have happened.

Putting this one into the mix over at L.L’s place, and Laura’s, too. Somehow it seems to fit both of their invitations this week: On In Around button