"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Flowers

Listen to: Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" - Spring


Spring is such a lovely time of year because of the bursts of color.  I think what I love most is the different shades of green of the grass and of the leaves as they begin to appear on the trees interspersed with the various colors of flowers.  These are some of the trees and bushes in bloom in our yard:


Red Bud


Dogwood


Cherry with some unknown bush below


Viburnum


I have some perennials already in bloom, too:


Bleeding Heart

Primrose


These little flowers come up naturally every year in the grass:


Violets

Ground cover:

Periwinkle

And, of course, lots of bulbs:

Crocus

Red tulips

Pink tulips

Jonquils


And many more plants pushing up through the soil:


Easter lilies


Peonies, Coreopsis, and False Aster


Hostas and Coral Bells in the background

And I can't forget all the baby bunnies springing up everywhere!



Yes, Spring is in the air!  A time of renewal.  A time to plant new seeds of hope and love.


Father, thank you for each season in my year....each season of my life.  May I awaken from my slumber refreshed and invigorated--ready to grow more like You.


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/ephesians/4-15.htm

Take action: Plant a Flower Garden

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Masks Part III

The peacock is one of the most beautiful of birds in my opinion.


But it does not come with a very good reputation.  Words such as "proud" and "strut" are associated with them and they are most definitely noisy!


In researching peacocks I found that they also have been symbolic of renewal and immortality throughout history.  But they make me think of another way in which we use masks to keep from truly connecting with one another--through distraction.  Earlier I wrote about using masks to hide behind.  The male peacock is so beautiful he is able to attract the female by distracting her from the other male peacocks.  By strutting about and fanning his beautiful feathers he's making her take notice of him.


For us it's the smoke and mirror trick otherwise known as the artful deception.  It's where we put on a facade.  It might be by the way we present ourselves physically--the way we dress, etc. or by our manners.  What makes it deception is when we present ourselves one way with someone and another way with someone else or situation.  We aren't being truthful about who we are.  We try to distract people from seeing the real us by being flashy with our exterior looks and behavior.  


I love this quote by Alan Cohen:   


Your true self cannot be improved.  It can only be lived.


What he is saying is that we need to quit trying to be someone else and instead be who God made us to be.  Yes, we all can stand to grow.  But that is different from being improved upon.  By "living" the person you were created to be, God will provide the means and the way to become the best YOU, if you will allow Him free reign.  We each start out as an infant, and we must grow up into adults who are capable of caring not only for ourselves but others.  God uses other people in our lives to help us grow--first our parents, then other family members, friends, teachers and so on.  We have to let these people into our lives at an intimate level if we are going to grow up to be ourselves.  We must not create masks to hide behind or distractions to avoid connecting with people.  We must be a Mary instead of a Martha (see scripture).


Father, thank you for the people in my life that have helped me to grow up.  May I be available to others in such a way to help them to become themselves.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/luke/10-38.htm


Take action:  Intimacy





Saturday, March 24, 2012

Masks Part II

Donald C. Johnson writes in 1986 of visiting Pendle Hill in England where George Fox, whose revelation led to the founding of the Quaker movement (Religious Society of Friends), was said to have had his spiritual experience.  

He said other pilgrims to the site had left a stone on the increasingly growing pile of rocks to show they had been there.  A few years ago Ken and I visited Walden Pond where Henry David Thoreau spent two years in a cabin contemplating life.  We found such a pile of rocks there and left our own:


It was a moving experience to walk around the lake and imagine Thoreau's time there.  Donald Johnson said of his experience at Pendle Hill, "Within the quiet, peace-filled mist on top of the hill, I began to feel a sense of connectiveness [sic] with those who had traveled up the hill before me and with those who would be in the future...In the solitude of our hearts each of us, wherever we are, has the opportunity to experience the gift of feeling connected with one another...."
Pendle Hill in the mist

I have been other places and seen little piles of rocks--beaches, overlooks off hiking trails....It seems we humans crave connectedness  yet we tend to perpetuate a lifestyle and ideology that precludes it.  Why is this?  Perhaps it's because, as Marianne Williamson says in "A Return to Love":  "People who have the most to teach us are often the ones who reflect back to us the limits to our own capacity to love..."  We crave connectedness but we're afraid to face our own inadequacies so we just don't "go there".  


Is that why Adam and Eve disobeyed God when confronted with the choice to gain the knowledge that the Tree of Life offered?  Did they feel inadequate and wanted to be like God even though they had everything they needed?  No wonder God says in order to come to Him we must humble ourselves. This, then, is the key to life.  Thoreau thought to find it through living simply.  That is a part of humility--to not live beyond your means and to get your priorities straight.  For George Fox it meant loving even his enemies which meant he could not take up arms against them.  What would humility look like in your life?  What would have to change?


Father, may I look into my own heart and see what keeps me from seeking true humility--what stands in the way of my being able to connect completely with You and with others.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/colossians/3-12.htm

Take action: The Art of Pilgrimage

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Masks

"Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden but not embarrassed.  That doesn't mean they were physically naked.  It means they were emotionally naked, totally real and honest, yet they were not embarrassed because they felt accepted completely for who they were."  --Marianne Williamson, "A Return to Love"



It took a while to find a painting of Adam and Eve that was modest.  I'd wanted a Renaissance painting but they would have gotten an X-rating for my Blog!  Marianne Williamson's statement, above, declares that Adam's and Eve's nakedness was merely symbolic for their emotional nakedness.  I believe this could quite possibly be true, but that does not mean they did not become ashamed of their bodies as well.  Our physical bodies have become symbolic of our spiritual bodies.  When we're afraid, don't our bodies often perspire and we get a sick feeling in our stomach?  When we're sad, don't we feel overly tired and lacking in strength?  And when we're happy and excited don't our eyes twinkle and we feel a rush of energy?  Those things are all results of our spiritual condition since we are spiritual beings having a human experience.  

Williamson declares that our "special" relationship--marriage--will only succeed if it is a Holy relationship.    Too often two people come together for Ego's sake.  She writes, "In the special relationship, the ego guides our thinking and we meet in fear, mask to mask.  In the holy relationship, the Holy Spirit has changed our minds about the purpose of love and we meet heart to heart."  And we can only do this if we come out of hiding.  Instead we enter into pretend relationships because we fear if the object of our desire knew the truth about us, he/she wouldn't want us.  This holds true in the other direction as well.  We don't really want to know the truth about the other person either because we fear we might find something we don't like, and then where would we be?  Alone.  This is not a good reason to marry.  As Williamson says, "It is not love but exploitation."

She continues, "The ego seeks to use a relationship to fill our needs as we define them.  The Holy Spirit asks that the relationship be used by God to serve His purposes.  And His purpose is always that we might learn how to love others more purely.  We love purely when we release other people to be who they are.  The ego seeks intimacy through control and guilt.  The Holy Spirit seeks intimacy through acceptance and release."

Father, we are taught early on to put on masks if we are to fit in.  This begins with our families and extends into the various social groups we find ourselves in.  It is a very hard thing to avoid!  But by Your Grace You have provided a relationship where we can let down our guard--marriage.  May we give this relationship all the care and respect it is due.  



Take action: Marriage Counseling

Sunday, March 18, 2012

God's Kindness

"The places in our personality where we tend to deviate from love are...our wounds."  "Treating someone with compassion and forgiveness is much more likely to illicit a healed response."  --Marianne Williamson, "A Return To Love"


The above quotes remind me of a song from the 1980's written and song by Leslie Phillips.  I couldn't find her singing it, but this rendition is just a lovely: Your Kindness

I sang this song back then in a church I was rather new in.  A young man I did not know came up to me afterwards wanting to know the scripture I'd referred to before singing it:  Romans 2:4 "...realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance."  He told me it was exactly what he needed to hear--that God loved him no matter what.  The song spoke to his need to turn to God for his forgiveness and the assurance he would receive it.  The first part of the verse says, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness...."  This is the other side of the coin.  Throughout scripture you'll find that to receive God's grace means more will be required from you--to whom much is given much is required.  In God's economy we can't expect to be given much and then hoard it.


I love the story of Pollyanna because of her indomitable spirit.  She was determined to find the good in people and situations.  




Here is an excerpt from the 1960 movie where Pollyanna explains the Glad Game: The Glad Game  The word "pollyanna" is even in the dictionary now.  It means "an excessively cheerful or optimistic person" but is often used in a derogatory manner to refer to someone who is being accused of being naive.  


Perhaps that is our problem--we have become too cynical as a society.  We don't believe there is any good in people and therefore don't expect it from them.  We hone in on their faults rather than their good deeds.  Why is that?  If you believe the quote at the top of the page, then it's because of our wounds.  The second quote gives us the solution for healing those wounds.  But first, we must start with forgiving ourselves.  This is the hardest part because so many of us don't even realize that we need to forgive ourselves.  For what?  For rejecting God's love.  Our stubborn pride won't admit we belong to Him and that we need Him.  Then we must forgive others.  The Lord's Prayer tells us as we forgive others we will be forgiven.  It's all tied together because we are told to do unto others as we'd have them do unto us.  Just like God's kindness to us is meant to lead us to kindness toward others--that is, it leads us to repent of our unkindness towards others--our kindness to others will lead them to repent of their unkindness.   


Father, too often I take and take and do not give back.  Thank you for reminding me that in being glad for all that You've given me I will be in a place to help heal wounds rather than inflict them.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/romans/2-1.htm


If you want to watch all of Pollyanna you can find it here: Pollyanna Part 1 
Part 2, etc., of the movie can be found on the right side of the YouTube page.


Take action: CLASP

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Illumination


This double-exposure photo was taken in the 1990's.  It was not intentional.  My camera's film advance mechanism was defective.  But I've always liked it because it illustrates life so perfectly for me.  We have the Statue of Liberty which is the symbol of the liberty and democracy the United States offers it's citizens as well as immigrants.  Her torch symbolizes illumination held high to light the way.  The light emitted from the 25 windows illuminate the seven continents represented by its rays.  The city skyline in the background from the second photograph represents the world and its inhabitants.  And in the foreground are my sons and me taken at the base of the Statue.  You can see the pedestrian bridge of the second photograph superimposed on one of my sons. 

The Statue is merely symbolic of the light this world needs.  It's God's people who have to carry it forth into the world.  We are God's bridge.  The inscription on the Statue written by Emma Lazarus implores:

Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Humankind is the tired, huddled masses yearning for freedom.  We are homeless whether we know it or not, if we count our sojourn here on earth as all there is.  God offers us the Way back to Him, our real Home.  And once we accept His Holy Spirit as His Seal we become beacons of light for others.

Father, may I let my light shine and not hide it under a bushel basket!

Link to:  The Answer


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Time Change

I realize I need to apologize to my husband.....We were lying in bed this morning discussing whether the time change would affect when the newspaper would be delivered this morning--would the deliverer have to get up an hour earlier to get the paper here by the required 7:00 a.m.?




This led to talking about the paper route he had as a boy south of Chicago from 1955 to 1964.  He was 9 when he started and his brother was 11.  They shared the 168-customer route for two years, having to get up at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings to roll the papers and then start delivering by 5:00 a.m. on their bicycles, in the dark, in the cold Chicago snow-covered streets.  By the time he was 11 his brother had gone off to boarding school and the route was left to do by himself.  No wonder he doesn't like to walk down our steep 300-foot driveway to get our paper when it's cold and dark!  My apology is for giving you a hard time, Dear, for those times you've driven down to the street to get the paper.


It is hard to imagine there was a time when allowing a 9-year-old to be outside that time of night under those circumstances was considered OK and not child-neglect.  Times have changed.  We've come a long way as a society in caring for our children.  But at the same time we may have gone overboard in protecting them from real life.  Parents have the hard task of weighing the pros and cons of certain activities they will allow their children to participate in.   We did not encourage our boys to get jobs while still in high school.  When one of them asked to work a few hours a week we allowed it with the condition it wouldn't interfere with his education or our family time.  I know of some families where between extra curricular activities, part-time jobs, school, and social activities, the "family" is non-existent!  Peer pressure makes it difficult to go against the tide and take a stand--but it must be done if the family is to survive.  Our three sons all live in the same area an hour's drive from us.  They will get together on their own from time to time and all come home for birthday celebrations and major holidays.  I have to think it's because of the importance we put on family life when they were growing up.


Father, thank you for helping us take a stand and draw the necessary lines to keep our family intact.  It is a blessing not only to us, but to society when families stay together. 


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/ephesians/6-4.htm

Take action: Child Advocacy

Friday, March 9, 2012

Trust Part III

Back in January I wrote a post called Clean Slate in which I agonized over whether or not I'd made a mistake in buying a piece of used furniture with the intent of having it reupholstered before I'd found out what it would cost to do so.  I finally resolved it by having a back-up plan for what to do with the sofa if it turned out to be too costly to refurbish.  I ended up going ahead with the project but not without more dilemmas.  


After deciding to proceed with the project I spent several hours looking at fabric on-line and at the fabric store.  This in itself was harrowing just because I'm not good at envisioning the finished project.  To go from a swatch to a whole sofa was daunting to me!  The fabric I finally picked was one I loved and had used to cover (crudely with safety pins) some chair cushions for my previous living room furniture.  I'd even made matching pillows to go on the old sofa (the ones in the photo below).  I don't know why it took me so long to realize that this was the fabric I should get.  It was under my nose the whole time.  It would even go with the existing curtains.  To top it off I was able to buy it at 50% off with the store's coupons.  


It ended up costing a little more than the original estimate I'd been given because all the foam had to be replaced.  It turns out the previous owner had a pet and the bad smell permeated beyond just the old fabric.  But the added cost did not put it beyond a reasonable price for what I ended up with--a sofa with the lines and fabric that I love:




I wonder how often we miss receiving what God intends for us to have because we are afraid of risking something.....especially when it's love.  My used sofa ended up getting a whole new make-over--from the inside out.  But I had to take some risks with my money.  Until I saw it finished I couldn't be sure I'd love it.


When it comes to risking love we don't know what the outcome will be either.  We might be rejected or taken advantage of.  Yet, you can be sure if you "play it safe" and don't risk it, you'll end up without it...just like it would have been with me and my sofa.


Father, thank you for this lesson in taking a risk to get what I want.  And even if the outcome had been different, I know You would have used it for good in some way in my life--just as You do when it comes to risking love.


Link to scripture:  http://bible.cc/1_corinthians/13-7.htm


Take action: Volunteers of America



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Trust Part II

Yesterday I had my 6-months' dental check-up and came home with the usual samples....


....but with one less tooth.  I knew I had a bad tooth.  At my last 6-months' appointment I'd pointed out the tooth I suspected was causing the pain but my dentist, even with an x-ray, could not see anything wrong with it.  The pain eventually went away as long as I didn't chew on that side, but now I could feel a difference in that tooth with my tongue.  


My appointment was supposed to have been two weeks ago but the hygienist was out so it was rescheduled with a different doctor in the office for yesterday--someone I'd never seen before.  So when he told me it couldn't be saved because there was too much filling and not enough tooth I felt the panic rising in me.  I have an innate distrust of doctors as well as some bad experiences to reinforce my distrust.  The new-to-me dentist was explaining my choices--do nothing and risk infection along with not being able to chew on that side of my mouth vs. pull it and probably require a bone transplant so a post could be implanted to secure a crown to fill the gap.  At this point I sorta drifted out of my body in order to cope with having to make a decision that held no good options as far as I was concerned.   On top of that, was he sure the tooth couldn't be dealt with any other way?  


I was left alone for a few moments while he went to check his schedule and the availability of his assistant and the room where the tooth would be pulled if I should decide to have it done right then and there.  It was then the song I posted the other day came floating through my head....Still, My Soul Be Still....God, You are my God, and I will trust in You and not be shaken...♫  Then things began to change.


The hygienist returned and I voiced my concerns aloud to her.  She was careful not to offer me her opinion.  So I decided to request a new x-ray to confirm the diagnosis.  If he still maintained it needed pulling, I would go home and wait for my regular dentist to look at it upon his return and give me a second opinion.  


I moved to the new room, had the x-ray, and once the technician left the room gathered up my belongings and went to the front desk so I could inform the receptionist of my plan.  There I discovered the doctor looking at the x-ray on his lap top telling the hygienist what he saw.  I could tell by the look on the assistant's, hygienist's, and receptionist's faces, who all had seen my arrival at the front desk, that I was not being a "good patient" because I had not remained in the treatment room.  When my presence was pointed out to the doctor he called me over to look at the x-ray myself.  He pointed out the areas of infection--which just looked like shadows to me--and the hairline crack--which I couldn't see at all.  But in that moment I knew what I had to do--have it removed and the sooner the better.  


He conceded that I didn't have to have a crown if I didn't want one since it was at the end of the row and would not affect the rest of my teeth.  But once in the chair and given the Novocain to numb the area he proceeded to tell me all the things that could go wrong while trying to wrestle that tooth out, so I still wasn't out of the woods....the woods where fear lurked.  But I settled back in the chair and allowed the words of the song to wash over me in my head.  It was interesting that the dentist at that point told his assistant he had a Billy Joel song going through his head.  It seems there was some competition in the troposphere!  But my song won out.  I relaxed despite all that was going on inside my mouth.  Now, a day later, my mouth almost feels back to normal and I'm so glad I took care of it while I was still there--no extra 60-mile roundtrip back to the dentist--no build-up of anxiety of what was to happen.  


Father, thank you for holding my hand when I felt anxious about making the right decision and that I didn't bolt like I felt like doing.  And then when I did make a decision I had immediate peace about it.  


Link to Scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/62.htm

Take Action: American Dental Association Advocacy

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Artist's Way


I wrote the following poem a couple years after completing Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way":

“The Artist’s Way”

Sometimes one must make his own way
Amongst the worldly cares
Without the benefit of others--
Alone

Perhaps, this is the way of the artist
For the one who sees and feels things others do not see or feel
Must walk the path of life--
Alone

There will always be an empty spot
A place without time or space
That cannot, will not, should not be filled
For this is your well from which you will draw--
Alone

A well whose depth will depend
On what you will allow to be carved from its inner core
A reservoir that will hold your heart
The heart that speaks for others--
Alone

                                                                                                        cgs 15 November 1999



I had picked up Cameron's book in 1997 because there was a part of me that knew that with my first born's high school graduation and subsequent leaving for college later that year I'd need something to redirect the energy I'd devoted to him.  I still had two sons at home, but I needed something to fill the empty spot his absence created in my life.  I'd always wanted to be a "painter" artist, but did not have the gift for it.  Cameron's book helped me get in touch with all the other aspects of what it means to be an artist....it's any creative endeavor.  In fact, she later wrote a book called "The Artist's Way at Work".  So I set about doing the exercises in the book.  My enthusiasm was so great that a friend to whom I'd talked about it asked if she could join me.  We started at the beginning and met weekly to share the results of the exercises.  During that time I began writing children's stories and even, to my utter amazement, drew the three main characters--Poetry the Calico Cat, Gabriel the Snowman and Sandy the Dog.  You can read their stories at The Adventures of Calico the Cat







It was as though a well had opened up and all sorts of things I did not know existed in me came forth.  But I soon discovered, as I reveal in my poem, that it can be a lonely life to be an artist if you do not surround yourself with other like-minded people.  My friend moved away, and I was never able to replace her role in my life.  People who are not willing to open themselves up to that "empty spot" where their creativity resides, too often are threatened by yours it seems. 


I think this is true also of spiritual growth.  People who are used to having faith in the power of the material world become uneasy when you begin to talk of faith in the power of God--the unseen world.  That is why scripture speaks of not neglecting to come together to encourage one another.  Community, whether it's an artist's community or a spiritual community, provides a safe place in which to grow our creative spirits.  


God needs more artists in this world--those who reach into their souls and share what they find there for the benefit of not only themselves but others.  With all that mankind has achieved, it's obvious, having been made in God's image (Genesis 1:26), we are co-creators with Him.


Father, may I be open to the work You are doing in and through me to create a better world in whatever capacity You've planned for me.   


Inspiration video: Four Chicks and a Muse

Take action:  The Artist's Way

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sanctuary


Link to song: Still, My Soul Be Still

Father, fear is never a good reason to do something.  I will trust in You and not be shaken.  May I rest in You alone always in all things.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/6-10.htm

Take Action: Stonecroft Ministries

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gravitational Pull Part II

Yesterday I referred to my Vertigo in my Gravitational Pull post and  how it compared to the downward pull of the Ego.  I went on to say how it felt like falling down the hole in Alice in Wonderland. 


I found this trailer of the latest movie version of the story, Alice in Wonderland (Trailer), showing Alice falling down the hole.  The Rev. Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, wrote his story in response to an outing in a rowboat with a friend and the three young daughters of the Dean of Christ Church.  One of the daughters, named Alice, loved the story he told them and asked that he write it down for her.  As with all great stories his story is rife with symbolism.  You can read more about the symbolism in Alice in Wonderland here:  Symbolism

The impetus for starting my Another Perfect Day Blog was because of the spiritual symbolism of everyday happenings that I kept noticing.   I believe God is speaking to us constantly through all things if we would just pay attention.  I remember back in the 1980's there was an author who used the phrase "God Spy" like in the child's game of "I Spy".  He made a practice of noticing things that happened in his life that had God's "fingerprints" all over them.  An example in my own life during that same time was the thank you card I'd just opened from a teenager in our church for whom I'd given a baby shower.  Because she'd conceived this child before marrying the baby's father she was quite surprised that the church would give her a shower.  On the front of the note card was a picture of a small Violet.  I was still standing at the mailbox at the end of our driveway, card in my hand, waiting for my young son to get off the school bus when he and the neighborhood girl came up to me after walking the short distance from the bus.  Along the way little Abby had picked a flower and proceeded to hand it to me.  It was a Violet.  I get goosebumps still just thinking about it.  In that moment I felt that little flower was God saying thank you, too.


Father, thank you for making Yourself known to me in ways that I can perceive and understand.  


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/romans/1-20.htm


Take action: Nurse-Family Partnership

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Gravitational Pull

"The ego is like a gravitational force field...which draws us away from the love in our hearts."  Marianne Williamson, "A Return to Love"

This is a good description of what I've been experiencing for several days with a bout of Vertigo.  It feels like this looks:




When it comes upon me I feel I'm on a raft going over a waterfall being pulled down into the vortex, spinning at an ever increasing speed.  If I'm standing I have to hang onto something or else I'll be pulled down to the floor.  It is a rather interesting but disconcerting feeling--like you get when you first step off a whirly ride at the carnival.  I can experience it just turning over in bed.  I feel like Alice in Wonderland being sucked down into the rabbit hole!


Williamson's comparison of this gravitation force to the ego is apropo.  How many times have I been left in the same sort of confused state when my ego exerts itself and pursues the very opposite of what I want--to be love--to get and give it.  I end up going in circles--from exerting my rights and feeling good about it, to feeling the separation it causes and feeling bad about it.  The ego is fear-based.  It fights for self-survival.  But true happiness is love-based.  


Jesus talks about being one with the Father and His desire to be one with us and that we be one with each other.  When we give to others we're giving to ourselves.  Whatever we withhold from others we withhold from ourselves.  Williamson says it clearly this way, "To the extent that we abandon love, to that extent we will feel it has abandoned us."


Susan Branch says it another way.  She offers a free bookmark you can print out on her website that says Love is Love's Reward.  I think it is a very good reminder that we have a choice between letting Ego rule over us or letting Love be our guide.


Father, thank you for the vivid experience of what it feels like to be caught up in my Ego.  It is not a pleasant feeling.  How much better and less harrowing if I would just let Love be my guide always.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/17-20.htm

Take action: Guide to Finding a Charity You Can Trust