Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hub Caps and Sparrows

I’d been ignoring the sound for weeks, while simultaneously monitoring it just enough to know it was metal scraping against something and it originated in the rear end the well-worn Mistsubishi that is my car. In this season of economic challenges, oil changes are the extent of the maintenance, and the scraping of metal doesn’t typically indicate a need for oil. I am convinced it is an exhaust clamp, or pipe, or muffler rusted and ready to go skidding down the freeway at the most inopportune moment and that the funds in my checking account will not be enough to cover repairs. 

On this particular morning, windows open because it was such a beautiful day, I drove across the parking lot and the sound grew loud enough that it could no longer be ignored. As I monitored the problem, I realized the sound occurred more frequently when I accelerated and slowed down when I put on the breaks. Tired of the low-voltage anxiety of ignoring the sound, I found a parking place in an empty row, got out of the car, and put my ear to the asphalt—fully expecting to see an epic failure somewhere in the exhaust system. Surprise and delight rushed to greet me when my mind confirmed my optical observation—all is well. 

I got up from the pavement and brushed some pebbles from my knees. Standing beside the car for a moment I am baffled, not quite knowing what to do next. Then I looked down and discovered that the plastic hub cab on the rear tire was hanging loose. I kicked it a couple of times, gently, to force it back into place before taking a closer look. The overwhelming majority of clips designed to attach the hub cap to the rim were broken. Only one intact clip remained. Breaking the final clip, I removed the hub cap and tossed it into the back seat. As I pulled out of the parking lot the noise of metal scraping no longer accompanied me. The 2003 Mitsubishi seems to run just fine without the hub cab.

All this to say that ignoring the noise didn’t ease my anxiety, it just camouflaged my worry. This misadventure clearly reveals my wavering ability to trust in God’s provision. In sharing this story with friends recently, I found myself saying—and hopefully more faithfully believing—that God cares for me and for you more deeply and fully than He cares for the sparrows, that our Creator is a generous God, and with faith we can rest in the assurance that the worrisome economic challenges we face are hub caps in God’s economy. 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

Friday, August 18, 2017

at the end of me

I remember this recent time and place. At more than four miles into the journey, this is the moment I reached the end of me.

I remember my exhausted grandmother body crying out, not wanting to take another step; my heart, soul and mind wrestling within me, intent on reaching the summit.

Looking down on the Black Hills of South Dakota from 6500 feet above sea level is glorious, worth every ounce of effort.

Finding the end of me is even more precious, exposing the bedrock of my humanity, opening my heart to deeply appreciate God's Divinity.

Since I first stood with Mama Kimberly in 2011, she has become my friend, my mentor, my sister.

In the years from then until now, there is much to be thankful for and there is much to grieve.

And at the summit we celebrate!

Deep inside the captives are set free!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” -- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Joy dropped by this morning just before sunrise in an email announcing that my submission titled Ecclesiastes was now live online.

As I follow the link to view the image the publisher selected to accompany my words, I notice something is different. The scripture included in my closing thoughts now appears at the beginning, just beneath a delicate floral image.

To every thing there is a season,and a time to every purpose under the heaven. —Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV 

Brilliant! is my heartfelt response. This simple change that the writer me could not imagine is powerful, practical, peaceful—capturing the essence, welcoming our readers.

Stunning! the editor me chimes in, awed by the simplicity and complexity of another woman's editorial talents.

My eyes move down the page.

Em dashes replace the misused en dashes. Yes. As a writer and an editor I often straddle the fence, using punctuation and structuring sentences in ways that promise to make my middle school grammar teacher cringe. So much of my writing is visual. I like the space-dash-space of the en dash and often feel confined by the em dash appearing to touch the words. So much of my writing is also auditory, filled with sentence fragments imitating the impromptu nature of public speaking.

Grateful! I am grateful for the generosity shown me by the community publishing my work and for the breathtaking trust a writer exhibits when giving me her precious unpublished manuscript.

I close my eyes, allowing my heart and mind to meditate on the duet that is writing and editing.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Third Chair

Back in the day, clarinet was my instrument ... high school marching band and playing concerts in the gym. I wasn't very good. In all honesty, I loathed practicing, and when the new young band director came on staff, my upperclassman status didn't count for much. He held auditions. Shuffled things up a bit -- and me down a bit -- from first to third clarinet part. 

I quit band at the end of that semester, choosing instead to audition for the newly-forming flag corps. This kept me in the loop with marching band and football games, without the drudgery and expectations of clarinet lessons.

The flag corps was fresh and fun, requiring skills that came more naturally -- dance, movement, rhythm, precision. Practices flew by as we developed choreography and worked out the performance details -- like the "how to" of ditching our togas after a selection from "Animal House" under the Friday night lights.

No regrets.

As I listen to a podcast from The Allender Center [more] a quote opens a barren chamber in my heart:

"The most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra is second fiddle." 
- Leonard Bernstein

As I struggle in this season of grief and depression, when hopelessness comes in huge and unexpected waves, when drowning gruesomely promises to be easier than breathing, when it feels as though nothing will ever be fresh and fun God opens a barren chamber within my heart.

And I am reminded of the words from the bible that first captivated me:

... what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. [more]

I surrender. I will breath. I will wait. 


Photo: Miss Jacobson's Music blog "Music Stand Humor"

Monday, March 20, 2017

Being Human

The sun is setting over the Meramec River outside my bedroom window, palest pink over a foundation of gray clouds. The trees are just budding out, dark leafless branches silhouetted by the light. The sound of coyotes woke me just before two in the morning, and still resonates a primal predator-and-prey choreography within my being.

The temp will drop to 47 degrees overnight, from the balmy 78 we're enjoying right now. The windows are open and a cool breeze from the north caresses us. Harley, my 12-year-old Papillion, snoozes on the bed next to me. Born in Texas, Harley never really acclimated to the winters in Wisconsin, and he is flourishing here despite his old age.

Ruminating, I become keenly aware that in the midst of the first two work-is-everything decades of my adult life, I rarely paused for sunsets. We rarely paused at all, my husband and I having bought into the American dream, chasing careers, raising kids, house payments, orthodontics, hours spent commuting.

As the sun sets, I am thankful for the third decade, a time of drawing closer to God and to my husband, for putting careers several notches lower on the list and spending more time just being human.

And tonight, my soul longs for Eden.

   Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26


Thursday, March 16, 2017


A mid-week gathering at the big church this week, my first one, opens with pizza and breadsticks, cookies, water, lemonade, or coffee. Afterwards the kids are given over to the care of volunteers in the well-appointed children's ministry area. Adults move from the tables in the church-meets-caribou coffee area near the entrance into the the centrally-located worship space.

The worship space is arranged differently from the Sunday experience. Most of the comfortably upholstered chairs are missing. Tonight we sit in the center section, cozy but not too crowded. The emptied spaces to our right and left are filled with round white tables accompanied by black chrome-and-plastic chairs. The tables are clean and plain, new enough that table clothes are not required. At the center of each table is a basket or visually pleasing plastic container -- but I get ahead of myself.

The teaching pastor is standing up front. Three large panels backlight the stage. To his left and a good distance behind him are a guitar and a microphone. His bible and a computer notebook rest on a tall table that acts as a lecturn in a lighter, more accessible way. To his right and forward is a screen that reads: Understanding God's Will: Compass v. Blueprint. I am pleased and intrigued, having heard him teach one Sunday and finding grace and truth in the message. The people in the seats surrounding me are quiet and listening. I am listening, watching and taking notes.

He teaches a five-point message, weaving together scripture from Deuteronomy, 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Matthew, Luke, James and Proverbs. He closes in prayer and asks us to reflect. Sufficient and suitable time passes as we sit in silence, then another man walks onto the stage, a musician. He picks up the guitar and moves the microphone forward, then begins playing as lyrics are displayed on the screen. Those of us gathered stand and sing -- worshiping, reflecting -- perhaps silently praying, asking forgiveness, accepting grace. At the close of a second song we are invited to move to the tables for communion. The basket at the center of the table where I am seated contains communion elements in prepackaged individual portions and a postcard with simple instructions: introductions then communion, read included scriptures -- Jesus' words from Matthew: this is My Body, this is My Blood. 

The sting of tears alerts me to the tenderness of my lonely and broken heart. I miss the crusty loaves of bread passed from hand to hand, all in attendance at worship standing in a circle, diversity and unity, humanity sharing communion together, sharing life together.

This morning -- the morning after -- as I reflect on the big church mid-week  experience I understand that there is structure and efficiency necessary to serve increasing numbers of people, to invite newcomers, to grow a Christ-centered community this size: 1200 people each weekend. There is not enough time nor humanity within the lead pastor and the teaching pastor to be fully engaged with everyone. The connection I once enjoyed in the intimacy of a smaller congregation cannot be sustained at the macro level. The tables for communion offer opportunity for micro communities within the big church. I understand, yet it feels foreign, unwelcoming.

Tears here, flowing again. I so miss being fully known and loved as I was at Fellowship. Did I offer that to others? I hope so. 

I can't ascertain the truth alone; there is difficulty. Seeing myself as others experience me is clouded.


Scriptures more

Photo: Daniel Schwen, 2011