31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 3

It is dark as I begin.
I am an owl, a night owl,
so this early morning darkness
feels strange to my skin.
Yet it invites discovery.
I sense a secret, 
waiting to be unwrapped.

I gently close my lodge-room door,
walk down the lighted hallway,
the one on the outside
of the building,
searching the downward pathways,
the ones that take me past the art studio,
the gallery,
the large covered pergola,
the tennis courts.

I am hunting the jogging track.
One quarter mile,
circling through the brush,
winding a bit,
decorated with deer scat,
yet carefully tended and groomed.
Like everything else in this place,
a welcoming thing.

Slowly, the morning sun
makes itself known,
and as I reach the halfway
point of round four,
I stop for a moment 
on a bench, perfectly placed.

And this is what I see.
The darkness is fully rent now,
no more flash required,
that flash on my small pocket camera, 
the one that bounced back
at me,
reflecting only
trunks and branches.

Now I can see through them
to the river below,
almost out of sight,
down the grade.
The river that flows easily,
It does so in the light,
but also,
it does so in the dark.

In the feeble, clouded light of day,
I can see the path itself,

all of it – 
the edges,
the surroundings,
the general direction of things.
And somehow, 
it feels more real,
more solid,
more purposeful.

Yet nothing has changed.
The river,
the path,
the trees –
all of them are there
in the light and in the dark.

But sometimes it takes being in the dark
to fully appreciate the light.
Sometimes what seems hidden
in the dark
is not really hidden at all,
only veiled beauty, waiting
to shimmer in the light of day.

And sometimes we have to walk
the path when we’re not sure
where it is,
much less where it’s going. 

31 Days in which. . . I Am Saved by Beauty

At the end of it all, I am tired.
I am weary, to tell it true.
I wonder about so many things,
so many people,
so much pain,

There are days when I am tempted
to lose heart.
To chuck it,
check out,
roll over and play dead.

And then . . .

I walk into a room
where I will be alone
for a few days.
And I sigh, deep.
I peer through the slats,
find greens and browns,
lines and curves,
light and shadow.
And I am stunned,

I hear water, 
moving over rocks.

Smell rain,
coming in the back door,
blowing, dancing,
playing with the sky.

I find welcome,
tables spread with goodness,
candles lit,
napkins ready,
bread fresh-baked.

I find row upon row of hand-thrown mugs,
colors of earth and sky,
for the taking,
for the warming.

And the sighs keep coming.
One of my mother’s 
greatest gifts to me —
the finding of beauty in both
the everyday gifts
and the  
once-in-a-great-while ones.

Like simple wild roses,
and cerise beauty-berries,

exotic and unusual
to this California

Solid, old hymns,
and newly-minted words,
all of it gifted
with excellence
and joy.

There is deep thinking,
hard questioning,
good learning —
about our brains
and our words,
and our faithfulness
to the gifts
given us.

And there is the turning-around
closing service,
chairs facing out over the glory,
beholding the Glory.
Because this is the heart of it all.
When we’re weary,
when we’re frightened,
when we wonder where next
to put our feet,
this is how we find the way.

We hear the words,
we say the words,
we see the words,
and we meet the Word.
We take the Word,
we share the Word,
and we remember.
We re-member.
We find food for the journey,
rest for the weary,
and hope for the world.

Giving thanks this night for time at Laity Lodge, whose location, hospitality, beauty and generosity are not to be matched. We were led by brilliant and creative teachers – Professor, researcher and author Dr. John Medina; author and film critic Jeffrey Overstreet;  publisher and editor, John Wilson; author and priest, Lauren Winner; Professor, poet and essayist Julia Kasdorf; musicians extraordinaire, Ashley Cleveland and Kenny Greenburg.

And with this post, beginning a 31 day exploration of a famous Tolstoy quote which has haunted me for the last three years, since it was given to me by my spiritual director as we began our time together. Somehow, these seven words (“The world will be saved through beauty.”) have spoken to deep places in me and I’d like to explore those a little, with photos, words, quotes, scripture, prayer. It’s not all mapped out, but I believe we’ll get there just the same. Kind of like life.

Joining with The Nester and the 1000 (YES, ONE THOUSAND other bloggers who have taken up the gauntlet and will write every day for the month of October. Go on over there and check it out if you don’t believe me.

And I cannot leave this particular post without saying specific words of thanksgiving for the people with whom I was privileged to live, eat, work, think, talk and worship this past weekend. Here are a few of them:

From left to right-Dena Dyer, Sheila Lagrand, Michelle DeRusha, Deidra Riggs, Nancy Owens Franson, Sandra Heska King, Amanda Johnston Hill, me. (with Shelly Miller and Marilyn Yocum at the table just behind this one.)
Shelly Miller of Redemption’s Beauty and Amanda Hill of Hill+Pen
Marcus Goodyear – our faithful Senior Editor at The High Calling 
and his henchwoman, Deidra Riggs.
A whole bunch of The High Calling bloggers – we were about 1/3 of the total number of 
participants in this magnificent weekend.
Megan Willome and Dena Dyer, former neighbors, native Texans,
brilliant writers, great people.
Cindee Snider Re (Breathe Deeply) and Marilyn Yocum, one from Wisconsin, 
the other from Ohio,
fabulous human beings, creative lovers of beauty.
Amanda Hill, Shelly Miller, Michelle DeRusha (Graceful) and Sheila Seiler Lagrand (Godspotting). DO YOU SEE HOW BLESSED I AM?
Sharing with Michelle, Ann, Jen, Laura Boggess & LL Barkat tonight:

On In Around button

5-Minute Friday: GRASP – A Photo Essay

I am sitting on a porch, in a beautiful wooden rocking chair, overlooking the Frio River in the Hill Country of Texas. Gathered at a Writers’ Retreat are about 70 people, here to learn more about the creative process, to eat well, watch a little rain fall onto a drought-prone stretch of chapparal, and to marvel at the goodness of God. I am at Laity Lodge for the second year in a row, delighted to be among such good company, with time to laugh, converse, think–even to write. So, this week’s 5-Minute Friday will look a little different than most. I’ll write first and then give you a 
brief photographic overview of our trip out to the canyon yesterday. 
 Please come on over to Lisa-Jo’s fine blog, where over 200 folks join in the party each and every week. We are to write for 5 minutes, no editing, no over-thinking -just whatever comes out of our fingertips. It’s great fun and often more than a little revealing.
Five Minute Friday

It’s hard to get from Santa Barbara CA to San Antonio TX.
It requires an overnight stay near LAX,
getting up at 3:45 a.m.,
going through airport security before one is fully conscious,
flying one hour to Phoenix,
walking miles through the airport to another terminal
to board another plane for 2 hours to your final destination.
Then you wait for your van-load of compatriots,
some of whom you actually might recognize,
and drive for 2 hours away from civilization
to this amazing place.
I’ve been here once before,
so I know what to expect.
It’s an enriching, challenging,
welcoming experience to land in this space.
And I cannot quite grasp the words to say why.
We’re singing with a a grammy-winning worship leader,,
listening to a PhD in neuro-biology tag-teaming with 
a film critic, learning how to write a good sentence
and just sort of spreading out on the inside of our souls.
Funny stories, serious questions, shared struggles – 
all of it makes for an enriching, encouraging experience.
There is freedom in this place,
there is welcome.
There is beauty, silence, companionship when desired.
And there is a sense of God’s smile everywhere you look.
I sat on a bench by a jogging trail early this morning
and just listened for about 5 minutes.
Do you know what I hear?
Only a far away bird song.

THAT’s what this place provides that 

so few places on this earth can – 

the sound of good silence.


Driving away from the airport.
The contrast of brilliant light and pouring rain off in the distance seen 360 degrees around in Texas.
What you might expect to find in Texas actually can be found in Texas.
Something about these mailboxes seems representative of the wide open spaces and ranch land of this part of the world.
Turning off the highway to the dirt road leading down to the HEB Foundation Camps.
A lovely harbinger of good things ahead.
Reaching the river road that leads to Laity Lodge
This is the only way in and it’s remarkable.
The rainbow almost spanning the canyon carved by the Frio.
Looking out over the Frio right after our arrival at about 6 last night.
Hopeful reflections of beauty to come. Thank you, Lord.

Psssst. . . A Sneak Peek at Something Grand!

Have you ever had a dream?
A crazy, wild, hold-your-breath,
kind of dream?
One that you’re pretty sure came from God,
but sorta scares you to death?
My friend Deidra Riggs had exactly that 
kind of dream . . .
and she is doing something about it.
Beginning October 1st,
Early-Bird registration will open
for a wonderfully-wild-and-wooly retreat designed
to encourage women of faith in the blogging world.
It will be held April 19-21, 2013 just outside of Omaha, Nebraska
This picture header from the new retreat website 
doesn’t really fit on my blog page,
but I think it will give you an idea of some of the folks
who are going to be there.
And they’re going to be there in order
to encourage all who come to dream big dreams.

If you’d like to take a peek at the website (currently under construction), just click on this sentence and head on over to look around!

As the website nears completion, here are some important details to keep in mind as you think and pray about attending. Details like – dates, cost, and a peek at the retreat center. Clicking on that sentence up there will let you read about the speakers/leaders and the Big Dream ideas that will be the thematic thread of our time together. I am excited! And I’m honored to be there as a Pastor-in-Residence. Any opportunity to become Real Life Community is a gift. And this one is a doozy.

  1. Early bird registration will begin October 1 and run through October 6.
  2. The retreat will take place April 19-21, 2013.
  3. Early bird tickets will be $249 and will include a retreat pass, two nights lodging, and five meals.  
  4. Regular price tickets (purchased after October 6) will be $299.
  5. A day pass will also be available for those who may live nearby and choose not to stay at the retreat center. The cost for a day pass is $99 (early bird) and $139 (regular price)  and will include lunch and dinner on Saturday.
  6. Ashland, NE is a 30-minute drive from the Omaha airport. We will provide a shuttle from the airport to the retreat center.
  7. The retreat will be held at the Carol Joy Holling Conference and Retreat Center. Here’s a link: http://www.cjhcenter.org/the-sjogren-center
  8. Optional “Be Brave” activities will include the ropes course and zip line, under the supervision and direction of Retreat Center staff members. Participants can add this activity as one of their breakout sessions for an additional $10.
  9. The event is designed to be casual, cozy, and small — we’re planning for about 60 overnight participants, with a possibility of up to 100 total (including those who choose a day pass)