new life

Bones rattling dry
   no flesh
      no breath

“Command the wind.”
“Who? I?”
“Command the wind.”
“Yes, Lord.
         Breathe –
   and want, and cry.”

Breath bringing life

Inspired by the Easter Vigil reading of The Valley of Dry Bones.


1000 Gifts

1000_Gifts_JournalI wanted joy. I wanted something new to fill my mind. So, before One Thousand Gifts became a bestseller, when the recording of thankfulness was only a few blog posts, I opened a beautiful journal and began counting.

The Izmit Earthquake of 1999 rocked my country, leaving 17,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. Buildings turned into heaps of dust, leaned wildly to the side, sank four stories underground. People escaped with nothing but the clothing on their backs—and that wasn’t much. August nights are hot.

Six years later an earthquake storm hit my city. Four significant quakes and innumerable tremors shook the ground for weeks. Buildings cracked. People gave up sleeping inside. Those who could slept on their roofs; others slept in their cars or on the sidewalk—anywhere but the potential casket of concrete apartments.

The ground stopped shaking after a month. Our hearts took longer to settle. The first few nights back in my bed I could not sleep. My every movement was amplified by the springs in my mattress. I kept thinking there was another tremor. Only by staring at the hanging light fixture could I be certain that it was just my mattress, not the world, shaking.

That month left me with a fear of showering—not of the shower itself, but of being caught showering when an earthquake hit. What if I had to run outside with only a towel? I would be mortified! I showered as quickly as possible and spent every awful moment in the shower planning what I would grab and how I would escape if the building were to start shaking.

Several months after the earthquake storm I moved to the other side of the globe, to a region that had no earthquakes in recorded history. That ought to have calmed my fears and allowed me to shower in peace, but my mind was in a rut. I continued to spend showers planning my escape.

When I began counting one thousand gifts, evidences of God’s care, I made a few rules for myself:

  1. The gift must be from today (no stealing from yesterday or borrowing from tomorrow)
  2. The gift must be specific (no “everything in my room”)
  3. The gift must be unique (no writing “my house” every day)

The first days were easy, but after a couple weeks I started running out of gifts. I couldn’t repeat myself, so I had to open my eyes wide and pay attention to life. Each day became a treasure hunt, a search for more of the 1000 gifts.

One day, intent on discovering gifts, I started looking for them while showering. Warm water, good water pressure, soft towel, good-smelling shampoo—I stopped, surprised. I didn’t have to worry about earthquakes in the shower. I could pay attention to the present, to God’s presence in the present.

Later that day I found myself worrying about another remotely possible disaster. I stopped myself. And I started looking for gifts: a green pen, the smell of rain, the chance to share my dinner with a hungry boy . . .

As I crawled into bed more worries crowded my mind. I returned to counting gifts: warm colors in a quilt, bright stars, lentils and rice filling my stomach . . .

1000_gifts_listThe treasure hunt continued. I tried to find at least 10 gifts tucked into each day. Spring turned into summer. On July 6 I counted the one thousandth gift. Then I counted the thousand and first, and the thousand and second. I had not worried about an earthquake in months.

Four and a half years have passed. I no longer number lists, but I still count. After a difficult day, tempted to worry, I begin again: a warm house, steady income, my home in the Church, a friend’s “well done,” Your angels watching over me . . .

still life

Blue. A quiet peacefulness.
Old walls, the paint cracked.
She feels comfortable.

The mirror draws her in, as all mirrors do.
What is in the world of the mirror?
Is that who she is?
Is that her world through another’s eyes?

The still life is sad:
dead candle,
dead butterflies,
dying flowers,
detached pears,
empty plates,
a faded lion over it all.

Yet it is beautiful.

The lion and butterflies capture her imagination.

Shimmering blue and silver,
symbols of transformation and freedom,
stuck, lifeless,
pinned in formation,
enclosed in glass,
on display.
Beauty killed to be enjoyed.
Freedom captured.

And the faded lion.

She’s been the still life,
put together peace and beauty for others to enjoy–
but dead.

Yet, hidden in the shadows, she’s a lion–
fierce, roaring,
roaming free and wild,
chasing her tail,
But no one sees.

Visible is only the tranquil beauty:
old marble
plaster imprint
gold in frames
golden wax
golden pears
petals scattered blue, pink, red, and white.
All quiet. All neat. All placed.

There will be no change but aging. Aging and rotting.
There is no potential:
no ground for seed to fall into,
no person to enjoy the fruit,
no hope–
except that the lion come alive and breathe.

New England Beauty

Fall in New England! There’s nothing quite like it.

This weekend local artisans opened their studios to the public. What a treat! Studios scattered across the New Englad countryside, men at their craft, women bent over art, barns converted to workshops, garages made galleries, hot apple cider, homemade cookies, shiny spun pewter, patterns in woven wool, peaceful waters on framed canvas, miniatures of baskets, irises appearing in blown glass, old buildings captured in print . . .

Driving from through the country, I soaked in the autumn sun, smiled as the wind played with my hair, delighted in the red highlights of the forest. What a beautiful world my God has made! And what creative people!

Made in the image of God, the image of the Creator God, the creative God. The beauty of man’s creativity melds with and extends the beauty of God’s.