Finding an old road

Author Julia Cameron has a quote in her best-selling book, The Artist’s Date Book, that I like very much:  “Through morning pages, we see what obstacles impede us, what roads are open to us.”

The “morning pages” she refers to are three handwritten pages that she says you should write every morning, before you do anything else. It doesn’t matter what you write, according to Julia, who teaches creativity classes for all kinds of artists. The only thing that matters is to write.  The idea is to get past that critical internal editor that most of us have, the ones that whispers, you can’t do this. You’re no good. No one will ever care about what you write, draw, paint, think, do or say……

That voice is powerful. But there is another Voice you can learn to hear, too, one that says, I am for you. You are enough, and you are loved.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” ~ Jer. 6:16, NIV

(with thanks to Lucy Mercer,, for a lovely walk in her woods, which are pictured in this image)

Come Messy

Recently I’ve been working on our back deck. The deck is about 15 years old now, weather-battered and sun-worn, and I’ve gotten tired of looking at the bleached boards and popped-up nails. So I’ve been hammering, and I’ve put out lots of flowers that I hope will attract butterflies–and distract human visitors from seeing how bad the old deck really is.

I spent hours sanding the old paint and rust off a set of outdoor furniture we have, too, so I could re-paint the table and chairs, to give us a nice place to sit in the evenings. I bought fabric to make new seat cushions. It’s weather-resistant, and it’s really pretty, with a chocolate brown background, and  lemon yellow and cream-colored flowers.

The table has a glass top, which I scrubbed and cleaned, and I thought, when everything’s finished, I’ll put a nice candle or lantern on the tabletop.


And then —this happened:

Yep. I dropped the paint.  All over the already awful-looking deck. This is just one spot. Amazing, how far a half-empty bucket of paint can go!

It’s going to take a lot of—well, I don’t know what it takes to get oil-based paint off of wood. Whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t be easy.

Don’t you hate it when you’re trying hard, and things seem to be going okay, but everything winds up in a mess?

At least this reminded me that no matter how hard we try, we’re never going to be perfect. God loves us anyway.

So I’m thinking, it’s okay. The paint will come off. Or it won’t come off. Jesus says, Don’t worry about things. Rest in Me. Come to Me, even if you come messy.

“I will sing aloud of your steadfast love…” Psalm 88:13










Endless Ocean…Endless Love

Gulf Shores tide

The ocean has such a timeless feel, doesn’t it? It’s one of those places that makes me aware of how fleeting our lives are. We’re here a short time, but the tides wash over the sand in a kind of endless dance orchestrated by the moon.

And who hangs the moon that pulls the tides?

Talk about timeless….talk about eternal.

“…there is none like You, O Lord…great is Your love toward me….You have delivered me.” Psalm 86: 8-13, NIV

Even Miracles

miracles sign

I almost bought this little wooden sign at a gift shop the other day–and then I thought, wait–I don’t need to spend $15 to be reminded of this!

I do believe in the kind of miracles that can happen in the wink of an eye, but I also believe those are rare indeed nowadays. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen. It just means that God usually works through ordinary ways, and ordinary people, to accomplish what we need and ask for.

While we might like to have our heart’s desires in a –well, in a heartbeat–there’s much to be said for learning patience and practicing grace. Hmmm…maybe that’s part of the miracle…

Romans 5:4, NIV: “…endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Sign of the times

I’ve got to admit:  when I first thought about posting this sign on my blog, I wondered what kind of reaction it would get.

Would come across as ironic? I mean, the world’s a mess these days.

Even on a small scale, most of us deal with all kinds of problems, like broken washing machines, surly teenagers, sickness, more debts than our paychecks can cover–you name it.

I thought people might see this and say, “Oh, sure. It’s a day in paradise somewhere. But not here ”

But then I remembered the royal wedding, and how happy Kate and William looked. They celebrated their marriage in lavish style, expecting most people to share in their joy. And you know what? I think most of us really did, even those of us whose homes don’t cost as much as that fabulous ring.

In the end, I don’t think paradise is about “stuff” at all, or even Jimmy Buffet-type beaches and ocean views and sailboats.

Look around. There are butterflies floating around, even over the weeds. If you get up early in the morning, you can hear a free concert, performed by your local songbirds.  The sun is warm, and right this minute, it’s coaxing little seeds to burst through the soil and grow into ripe tomatoes and hot peppers and crunchy lettuce. All for you. All for me.

Miracles. Everywhere.

Yeah. I’m okay with that sign. Are you?


Lulu’s Fountain for Youth

I snapped a photo of this little boy last night at Lulu’s, a restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Turns out Lulu is owned and operated by Jimmy Buffet’s sister, which explains the beach-fun atmosphere and live music. I love that Lulu’s offers lots of things for kids to do and play with while their parents wait to be called to a table.

Love this New World translation of Matthew 18:3, too: “…Truly I say to you, Unless You turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.”

Isn’t it sad that when we grow up, we start feeling guilty about taking any time to play? We can worship God in our play as well as in our work, as long as we honor His creation and love each other.

Hope you will do something fun for yourself today, and revel in the joy that comes from remembering how to play!

Brave Seeds

We had a fierce storm last night–I mean, fierce. The winds were so strong, they blew rain right through the window screens, into the house and all over the floor, which made me hop up out of bed, when I realized what was happening, and grab a mob.

But before I rescued our floors, I ran out to the porch, where I’d left a couple of trays of seedlings. I knew that our gutters were packed with the last of autumn’s leaves, and soon rain would be pouring onto the railings where the seed trays sat. I saved them in time, although they took a bit of a beating from all that water.

When I got up this morning, I made the picture you see above. Not very impressive, is it? Just a plastic tray with a few tiny green shoots coming up. Or maybe that’s all you see at first glance. Squint a little, please, and use your imagination, and maybe you’ll see more.

To me, these are brave little seedlings. They’re still small and fragile. One hungry bird could take them out in a quick peck, or they could collapse from a fungal disease, since this spring has been cool and wet. But they haven’t.  At least, not yet. They’re still standing, just growing their tiny hearts out.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I love that. Isn’t that what we are called to do, everyday? Sometimes we get pounded by the storms, and they can hit in our darker hours, when we’re feeling weak and defenseless. But you know something? We’re stronger than we guess, because we have have a living Spirit in us, just as these little plants have a life-spirit in them.

My seedlings made it through a bad-weather night, and now I’m looking forward to seeing them grow and bear fruit (tomatoes and peppers, in case you’re wondering). So, too, the Father waits for us to grow and bear fruit, and we can do this, because we know that the storms are not bigger or stronger than His love.

“…I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last….This is my command: love one another.” John 15:1-6-17, NIV

grace and peace,


Dirty Feathers

Churches that sit alongside busy interstates get a lot of needy visitors, and the one where I worked was no exception.  We met all kinds of people, like the construction worker whose job just ended, leaving him without a paycheck to cover his rent.

We saw single mothers with kids spread out in age from nursery school to high school, who ran out of milk and peanut butter and diapers. Sometimes a guy in an old car came by, saying he needed gas money to another state, where his family would take him in.  Sometimes we met scary people whose eyes were glazed from drugs or drink, and it was hard to figure out what they even wanted.

But there was only one George.

George showed up one spring day, when the dogwoods were scattering their creamy petals all over the church parking lot like confetti in a parade.  The wind was blowing, and when he opened the door to the church office, we felt it sweep in with him, a kind of restless, unsettled wind that wasn’t winter and wasn’t spring, just that moody, changeable, impulsive energy that pulses between the seasons.

There was something off about him, although we weren’t sure at first what it was.  He stopped by the first time to ask us to heat up his cup of instant soup in our microwave. His pupils were huge and dark, and he talked non-stop, and so fast, we couldn’t answer his questions before he was saying something else. Some of what he said was nonsense.  He’d been to another church that was going to buy him a ticket to go to Hawaii, he said.  He had friends that let him stay at their house, but made him sleep outside.  He knew all about the Bible, but he didn’t want to take the one we offered when he left.

The next time he came back, he asked us for shoes.  Sure enough, the sneakers he had on were too small for his feet. Our associate pastor got a new pair for him, and he was on his way again.

In a few days, he was back, this time with a Styrofoam box of leftovers he had probably scavenged from a garbage can, and we let him sit in the office to eat it with utensils from our employee kitchen. He rambled about how 29 policemen were after him with drawn guns.

He was intimidating and scary, because we never knew what he was going to say, and once we had to tell him to stop cursing or leave. He could be insistent, too, asking over and over for the same things—more shoes, although he had a new pair now. We gave him food when we could, but after many visits, the pastor told him he had to limit his visits, because we had to help a lot of other people, too.  And he couldn’t just come in and disrupt our work, muttering under his breath and swearing.

One day he came in as summer was approaching.  The days were getting longer, but George was still wearing an old nylon coat he’d had on since the first day we met him. It was made of black nylon, quilted into diamond shapes, and it was ripped in places. Dirty, broken feathers fell out as he walked, leaving a trail of cheap duck feathers in his wake.

I helped him when he came in that afternoon, asking once again to have some soup microwaved.  While we waited for the timer to beep, I found some duct tape and tried to patch the holes in his jacket. He shrugged and told me not to worry, the weather was getting warmer anyway.  The soup was ready, so he sat down to eat.

Our pastor came in, and George started ranting about some wrong he’d suffered. He asked again for that ticket to Hawaii. Our pastor listened and tried to calm him down, but George got more agitated. He shook his dreadlocks and told us there was glass in his hair, that those 29 policemen had shot at him, shattering his windows.

His voice got louder until the pastor had to ask him to go outside. This time, George got mad. He threated to send somebody to hurt the pastor.  I’ll get so-and-so to come back and knock you up-side the head, he said.  George said this to the pastor who had found a shelter to take him in, although he refused to go. He said this to the pastor who had given him shoes and food. Finally the pastor said, you can’t come back.

I want a ticket to Hawaii, George insisted. The pastor shook his head. Leave now.

George might have been crazy; he might have been high. But he knew he’d crossed the line. He never came back.

Oddly, I missed him. That afternoon, I saw another feather on the floor from George’s ragged jacket, and it made me think about angels’ wings, and how we were all like George, in a way. He was just a man wearing a ragged, ugly coat, and we are all just men and women wearing the ugly rags of sin. But underneath, we all bear the marks of our Maker. Underneath, we still have a few feathers. They may be tattered and torn and dirty, but they are there.  They are the remnants of heaven in all of us.

There is this, too:  who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii? Who doesn’t want to find Paradise?