Archives for October 2017

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Thirty-One — REST


We have arrived at the end, my friends! My deepest thanks to those of you who have stuck with me through this long journey. And my sad good-byes to the 8 or so who unsubscribed over the course of this daily invasion of your inbox. It happens every.dang.time.

And now it’s time for me to take a break from the daily and rest these fingers for a while. This view will help! It’s a corner of our longer one, our peek at the water. And for a while this summer, it was barely visible. The rains from last spring had fostered a lot of growth in our neighbors’ back yards and until I mustered up my courage and offered our kind gardener’s services in their yards, we could barely find the water. They said, “Of course,” and now I feel as though I’ve been given an adrenalin shot. I love it so much.

How do you find rest? Being near water is restful, restorative, rejuvenating, re-creational for me. How about you? Almost any part of nature does that same thing. I also like resting in a comfortable place, reading a good book, watching a well-crafted film or television show, talking quietly with friends, having someone else prepare the meal. 

Rest is an important and life-giving part of what it means to be human, don’t you think?


I’ll be back with a daily Advent devotional at the end of November. And maybe a book review or two in the meantime . . .

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Thirty — REFINE


This valley is where I spent about 8 of the early years of my life. In some ways, it was a refining place. Although I loved living near to my cousins and my grandparents, I never really felt at home in the San Fernando Valley. When I was twelve, we moved to Glendale, which was in a neighboring valley, this one named San Gabriel. THAT place felt like home to me.

The houses were older, the trees were bigger, the stores more classic. There were building regulations in the San Gabriel Valley, almost none in the San Fernando. So strip malls proliferated, sidewalks were scattered, housing was usually tract upon tract. Maybe you could say that living in the San Fernando Valley refined some of my values? Now, at this point in my life, I am living in a tract! But it’s a more interesting one than those that surrounded me as I grew up. Built about 1950, the houses vary widely and offer stunning views over city and shore.

In the valley of my younger years, the views were non-existent, as most often the sky was shrouded with smog. That got better with time. And the building regulators got to work so things are easier to look at now than they were in the early 50s, when we lived there. And the newer valleys, the ones further west? Like Simi, Santa Clarita and Westlake? They are LOVELY — and tract housing has taken on a whole new meaning. 

I still love old homes, however. And value the long growth of trees.

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-Nine — FOLLOW


“Just follow the coastline north.”

That’s what I tell people when they ask me where I live. Drive up the 101 until you find the Pacific Ocean, then keep going for about 35 miles. We’re right there!

I love to follow this particular road. This view shows you a corner of Highway One, down and to the left. The vantage point is taken from Hwy 101, which is much ‘straighter’ than the Hwy 1. Also? It’s a freeway most of the way and the other is notoriously NOT a speed route. 

We’ve driven a lot of beautiful highways in this world, including along the coasts of South Africa, Italy, England, Scotland, Ireland and France. But nothing beats this route in California.

Right in this small, blurry snapshot, you can see a few of the reasons why — the mountains, which are always nearby the coast in CA. And the green fields of agriculture just below the roadway. More produce is grown in the state of CA than any other state in the union. Did you know that? This particular field is full of strawberries this year. We’ve seen green beans, and several varieties of flowers grown in this field. But strawberries seem to be the long haul staple.

And, of course, the ocean itself. You can’t see the coast all the way along the 101, but you see it regularly. And each time, it’s like a breath of fresh air, a beckoning to somewhere new and bigger than life. Oceans do that to a person!

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-Eight — CONNECT


Like a watercolor painting, this view is the first sighting of our town as we drive back to it from southern CA. Just a small point in the water, with a few trees, a house barely visible. But as soon as I see it, the connection is there. This is HOME.  And I am always so glad to be here.

When we moved here, almost 21 years ago, it was so that I could start a job as associate pastor. My husband commuted to work in the middle of each week for the next ten years, took one retirement for a year, then went back to work for another two before retiring in 2010, as did I. So Santa Barbara has been home for as long as any other place we have ever lived together. Our connection is solid, but it is very different from the connection we feel to points south.

That’s where we raised our family, where both my husband and I grew up, where our middle daughter still lives. It’s ‘home’ in a very different way, and the connections are strong and deep. And even though it’s now been over 50 years since we spent our two years in Zambia, we still have connections to that place and some of those people, too. I wish those connections were with African students, but sadly, the AIDS epidemic took the lives of many, many of those fine young people and we seldom hear from anyone who actually lives in country anymore. Our connections now are with those who lived and taught with us, and a couple of those are enduring and deep.

Where do you feel connected — geographically and emotionally? To a place? A group of people? A particular house? A school? Tell me a little in the comments . . .

Book of the Year — A Review and a Hearty Recommendation


Admittedly, I am way behind on my book-reading and reviewing. Some of that is due to illness, a whole lot to long-term grieving, a smidge or two to laziness. 

But this book, I read.

In one sitting.

And so did my husband.

This is, hands down, my favorite book about church, people, love, living life well and true, community, belonging . . . you name it. I read a lot of non-fiction, good books, finely written books, some of them written by friends of mine. Not one of them comes as whisker close to truth as does this fictional compilation of letters. Maybe it’s because our church was going through its own search for a new pastor at the time I received this slender tome. Whatever the reason(s), this one struck a nerve. Better, it struck THE nerve, that one that goes to the core of who we are and begins to resonate when we find true north.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I simply cannot. It is tender, true, sensitive, heart-warming, and yet challenging, in the very best of ways. Is this the kind of pastor I have been? And want to continue to be, in the limited ways that remain available to me? Is this the kind of congregation my community is, or wants to be? Are we wrestling through the hard questions well? Are we welcoming others — all kinds of others?  Are we listening to the Spirit, together?

Built around the seasons of the church year, these 165 pages consist entirely of letters, most of them written by pastor-to-be, then new-pastor, then seasoned-pastor-approaching-his-first-sabbatical-leave Jonas McAnn. It is what is known in the trade as an epistolary novel and it is a hum-dinger. Herewith a sample — then get yourself to your favorite bookstore (clicking on the picture should take you straight to Amazon) and order up a copy . . . or two or three. This would make a perfect gift for every single member of a search committee or a church leadership board.

Maybe these words from the opening letter, written by a crusty woman member of the search committee to all potential candidates will give you a glimpse of the power and beauty I’m talking about. This one was signed by the entire committee (all 4 of them) after several frustrating months. The one candidate who answered honestly is the one they called:

“We do have a few questions for you. Perhaps we’re foolish, but I’m going to assume you love Jesus and aren’t too much of a loon when it comes to your creed. We want theology, but we want the kind that will pierce our soul or prompt tears or leave us sitting in a calm silence, the kind that will put us smack-dab in the middle of the story, the kind that will work well with a bit of Billy Collins or Wendell Berry now and then. Oh, and we like a good guffaw. I’ll be up front with you: we don’t trust a pastor who never laughs — we’ll put up with a lot, but that one’s a deal-killer.

“Here are our questions: We’d like to know if you’re going to use us. Will our church be your opportunity to right all the Church’s wrongs, the ones you’ve been jotting down over your vast ten years of experience. . . Is our church going to be your opportunity to finally enact that one flaming vision you’ve had in your crosshairs ever since seminary, that one strategic model that will finally get this Church thing straight? Or might we hope that our church might be a place where you’d settle in with us and love along-side us, cry with us and curse the darkness with us, and remind us how much God’s crazy about us?

“In other words, the question we want answered is very simple: do you actually want to be our pastor?

“I’m trying to be as straight as I know how: Will you love us? And will you teach us how to love one another? Will you give us God — and all the mystery and possibility that entails? Will you preach with hope and wonder in your heart?

“Will  you tell us again and again about the ‘love that wilt not let us go,” not ever? Will you believe with us and for us that the Kingdom is truer than we know — and that there are no shortcuts? Will you tell us the truth — that the huckster promise of a quick fix or some glitzy church dream is 100 percent BS?” — pp. 5-6

See what I mean? Thank you, thank  you, thank you, Winn Collier for telling it true. And beautifully.

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-Seven — OVERCOME


This photo was taken last Friday night, as I was leaving my friend Tonia’s home after setting out catered food to feed about 50 out-of-town guests following her daughter’s memorial service earlier in the afternoon. I was exhausted, ready for bed. She was grieving her girl AND still in recovery mode herself after a horrendous fall seven weeks earlier that caused her right leg to explode into a bazillion pieces.

She had a large plate, about 20 screws and six weeks of no weight-bearing behind her at this point. We are three months apart in age and were neighbors for 13 years, members of the same congregation for 21 years and Birthday Club sisters for about 35 years. When she sent me this picture on Sunday evening, I wrote her back and said, “Hey, we look okay for a coupla old broads, don’t we?” She wrote back immediately and said, “We do! Love you!”

We are very different in many ways, but I consider her to be a heart friend, someone who has known me through thick and thin (quite literally, for me!), someone I can rely on and someone she can rely on, too. Together, we have overcome a lot of crap that life can throw our way and have lived to tell about it. And to testify to the power of grace, companionship and faith along the way. 

To tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s possible for human beings to overcome much without a good friend or two, do you?

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-Six — CHANGE



We drove south this past weekend and on the day we left, I woke up feeling heavy and sad. The reason for our trip was the funeral of the daughter of a dear friend, a daughter who died way too young and for all the wrong reasons. Before the health crisis I referenced in an earlier post, I had agreed to organize a supper at their home following the memorial service. Now I was in need of extra help. Change in plans.

As we drove on Friday, I was fascinated by the sky. There were huge, billowy clouds along our 100+ mile route, a sign of fall in southern CA. The temperature, however, has not quite gotten the message as it remains in the high 90s as I write these words. I took the top picture about 40 miles down the road and the one below it, about 30 miles later. There was a definite change in the composition of those big things in the sky! They went from white to light gray to dark gray and finally, at one bend in the road, to an ominous black. Change in the weather.

This particular change, however, did not signify very much. It did, however, make for a fascinating skyline as we drove. Some changes are tiny and end up being quite big. Some seem huge and end up meaning very little. What kind of change is going on in your life right now, friend? And what are you learning about yourself and this world and our God as you walk through it? 

Some changes are wonderful, life-giving, affirming and grand. Some are exactly the opposite of all of that. The only thing that is certain is this . . .change will come. To every single one of us. The only way to be ready for it is to live a life of trust, confident that no matter what, we won’t have to walk through whatever change may come on our own. Thanks be to God.


31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-Five — BECAUSE


“Well . . . just because, that’s why.”

How many times did I utter those words in my years as an impatient mommy of three little ones. Oh, my, I got so tired of the “why” questions! Most particularly when it came time for me to give instructions (or orders!) of one kind or another. “But why, Mommy? Why do I have to do . . . ?”

Yeah, I wasn’t the best of moms. I tried. I really did. I loved my kids inordinately — they were fascinating, adorable, smart, funny and good company. Except when they weren’t. Or when I wasn’t. Then things could get a little dicey. I have asked their forgiveness numerous times across the intervening decades. They assure me all is well — but I often wonder about that. Why? Well . . . just because.

I think I got some things right– but I got a whole lotta things wrong. However, I do take heart when I interact with them now, as adults. They are all such interesting, committed, caring and kind people. And they are GREAT parents. I watch with admiration and a tinge of envy, to tell you the truth. Maybe it’s because they spaced their kids more widely apart than we did. But maybe it’s because they are simply smarter and gentler than I am. 

I do notice that my kids all decorate their homes seasonally, which is something I always did — kinda over the top — when they were little. I still do some, on a much smaller scale, and I still enjoy it. Maybe that decorative stuff helped to make up for some of the less attractive features of my parenting? One can only hope!

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-Four — REVISE


Well, the best laid plans and all that. About 3 weeks ago, I stumbled while heading out my bedroom door, tripping over the wheel of a chaise lounge and landing hard on my left knee and side. This doozy of a bruise complicated my life two weeks later when it was discovered that I had — once again — multiple small blood clots in both of my lungs.

Talk about revising things.


This was so not on my calendar, friends. SO NOT. We spent one entire Saturday in two different emergency clinics to receive this explanation for the searing back pain that had kept me wakeful most of the previous night. Some of you may remember that another series of falls two years ago took me off of the blood thinning medicine I was taking at the time – coumadin. Now I’m on a newer version called Xarelto, twice a day for three weeks to help break up these clots (and hopefully, the small, tender hemotoma or two that still remain from this yucky bruise) and then once a day thereafter, probably for however much longer I live. I will actually be visiting my blood specialist at about the time this will arrive in your inboxes today — hopefully, I’ll learn more then.

Our bodies are marvelous things, able to accomplish so many different things, holding us upright for decades, birthing babies, handling late hours and too many burdens. And then, one day, they’re proven to be fragile, difficult, complex and limiting. Yes, there are limits. And I’m re-learning mine these days. Not thrilled about this kind of revision, but hopefully, open to learning what it may teach me.

31 Days of 5 Minute Prompts: Day Twenty-Three — WORK


This small arrangement sits on the corner of my cooktop island, the place where I do the work I don’t really like very much. Cooking.

Baking, I enjoy. Cooking? Not so much. But I do it almost every night of the week. 

My husband has learned to handle his own breakfast and lunch. But he does not do dinner. So . . .almost 52 years later, I do it. We have a repertoire we go through with some regularity, most of it easy to fix. And I frequently incorporate new recipes I’ve discovered on the internet — one of my favorite plusses of the electronic age, I must admit!

Because I’ve had a bit of a health crisis over this last weekend, I’m not up to doing much right now, so tonight we’ll have leftovers. Actually, there are several to choose from — a problem when you’re cooking for just two people. Our kids brought us pad thai last night — so yummy. Maybe we’ll try that. Or there’s the taco salad fixings still waiting to be heated.

Yeah, that’ll be the extent of my work right now!

Well, that and writing all these posts. And my columns. And prepping confirmation lessons. And helping plan a memorial dinner for a friend who lost her daughter. Plus getting myself up, dressed, face washed, teeth brushed . . .you, know the regular stuff. Yeah, it’s all work of some kind or another, isn’t it?

Fortunately, I really enjoy a lot of it. And that makes it feel a whole lot less like work, doesn’t it??