Monday, February 29, 2016

Chimney Calls

A string of setbacks.  One lousy thing ... after another ... and another.  That's what the week had been like ... seriously ... that's what the month has been like. 

Somehow I thought the new year was going to change all of that.

So far ... it has not.

There has been car trouble.  And family situations. And a stupid speeding ticket. Things have been lost. Confidences have been broken.

It was the morning after the meeting that came as a blindside ... the one that opened with name-calling and ended with veiled threats to the happiness of one of the ones I love most.

What is one to do when standing up for what's right ... costs so much more
than simply backing down?!?

There was a brittleness in the air that morning as I drank my coffee ... and he drank his cocoa.


A loud bird call broke the silence.  Taboo craned his neck straight over his back so that his cat-eyes could stare at the fireplace upside down.  Startled  ... and drawn as if by a magnet to the call.

"Was that an owl?" he asked.

"I don't know," came my reply. "Maybe."


The call came again.  It sounded as if it was right in the room with us. 
I headed for the door as he strode to the fireplace.

"It's coming from here," he said. "It must be inside the chimney!"

Carefully I opened the door to the screened in porch and stepped out.  As I reached the outer patio the persistent call came again.


From inside he insisted, "It's in the chimney!  The bird must be stuck down in the chimney!"

I looked up to the rooftop. And there He sat.
Calm. Serene. Unruffled. Larger than life.

A humongous dove ... was perched on top of the chimney.

He met my gaze with a steady stare.  After what seemed like several minutes ... but was probably just a second or two ... He turned and gracefully flew away.

"It was a dove," I cried. "Sitting up on the chimney top.  The BIGGEST dove I have ever seen!"

Back inside we marveled at the experience.

Three times the dove called down the chimney ... so that His call would be heard by us ...
on the inside.

It was deliberate ... undeniable ... direct. In the blink of an eye, the hopelessness in the air had ... vanished.

"I had a visit from a dove a few years ago," I said excitedly.  "It was amazing. I blogged about it at the time."

Urgently, I began searching for it.  It took a little while to find ... Odds (August 4, 2012)

I was unprepared as I began reading outloud.  Sharing the first dove story with him that morning.

Over more coffee. More cocoa.

My voice broke. Tears wet my cheeks. Amazing how this string of setbacks resonated with those on that other day.

A quick Google search confirmed
... then and now ... an appearance of a dove is
an encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Broken. I was.  Humbled by this personal reminder that God is faithful. He never changes.  And His Word is the same ... from everlasting to everlasting.

"It was God calling to us," I told him. "Did you hear Him?"
~ photo by Bill Fagan 9.23.13

"Yes. I did."

Three times ... that morning ... God called down the chimney.

Once for Taboo. Once for Roland. Once for me.

Each message is different. Personal. Special.

God only knows what He said to Taboo.

Then He waited patiently for me to come out ... to see ... Him.

Odd.  Only the day before I had asked Him ... to show me His glory.

(c) lifelessons-mj 2016

Monday, November 30, 2015

Post Thanksgiving

It was the day after Thanksgiving when the rain began.
And since then it has rained ... and rained ... and rained.

The day before, I gave thanks for my family, new opportunities, plans ... and the unconditional love that seemed to be permeating the gathering.

Then all hell broke loose.

First the yard flooded.  Just like every time it has ever rained at this house.  Then somehow the bathrooms were overflowed.  Water was sloshing around under the floors.  In both downstairs bathrooms ... and the hall.

It made no sense where all of the water was pooling.

Give thanks ... with a grateful heart ... give thanks to the holy One ...

The song had been playing as an undercurrent in my heart for days. By Saturday, when the second backflow-flooding took place ... it was becoming harder and harder ... to sing along.

And the rain kept falling ... and falling.

Dry inside but there was no toilet flushing ... showering ... laundering ... going on this weekend as we waited for the water to recede once again.

Everyone decided to attend church.  A new song filled my heart ... Your glory is so beautiful!

Lost in the singing ... eyes closed ... I offered up my silent prayer.

Lord, I am weary and overwhelmed.  The rain's are falling and the darkness is beginning to surround me. Speak directly into my life. I need to hear You. Show me Your glory! 

The message was about being content no matter what the circumstances. Brother Del took a jab at "choosing happy".  He shared some archaic philosophical writings that had to do with eliminating desires and emotions ... likening it to the propensity of ... choosing happy.

Choosing happy ... saved my life.  I believe it's possible to choose happy ... without giving up my desires or my emotions ... by faith and acceptance of God's will for my life.

And still it rained.  And rained. And rained.

Maintain.  That was the best I could muster ... the rest of the day.

Progress was made with the floors drying. An ongoing battle with the antenna ensued.

Snow was falling in Denver as I struggled to catch a glimpse of a beautiful young friend at the stadium ... only a week or so into her newest adventure.

A random personal connection keeps me from ever pulling for the Patriots.  And the MJ in me always pulls for the underdog. So I was trying to get lost in the game ... with the second string quarterback ... the game that was declared "over" here on the home front within the first 3 minutes.

Faith. Persistence. Courage. That's what brought the Broncos into overtime ... to a truly miraculous win ... against the unbeaten Super Bowl champions.

Their victory helped to keep my feelings of defeat at bay ... a little.

Today. Still raining.
There was nothing that I had to do today ... so I decided to just lay low. Stay home.

Around 3 o'clock, I decided that I would slip out to the bank and grocery store.
Just a quick trip to nearby and neighborly places.

Stopped at the stoplight in the center of town.  There was big Ford truck in front of me.  A sedan-like car in front of him.

Light turns green.  Sedan moves forward. Truck moves forward.  I take my foot off the brake and ease forward. Sedan slams on brakes. Truck slams on brakes. I slam on brakes ... slip and slide into the trailer hitch of the truck.

Sedan drives off. Truck moves into a parking lot.  I pull in, too.  Nice young man jumps out apologizing for stopping so abruptly.

"We were barely moving, there's no damage to my truck" he says. "Is your car ok?"

I had to laugh.  Of course, there's damage to my car.  It's an Audi with plastic parts.

Limped over to see my friends at the body shop.  On the way the coolant light came on and by the time I stopped there steam was blowing out from under the hood.

So, yeah, there's body damage ... to the front ... again.  And possibly a radiator to be replaced.

As my body shop friend drove me home, he shared his Thanksgiving weekend story. It's not really my story to tell ... but it had to do with an out-of-town relative making a parking garage out of the recently completed addition to his home.

Somehow I felt a little better.  And I know that he shared his sad story with me ... for that very reason.

A conversation with my brother ... who is also one of my best friends ... brought perspective to the situation as well.  Bottomline is ... it's only money.

 Our conversations always bounce back and forth between what's going on in his life and what's going on in mine.  It was interesting to me that he asked me if I ever had any fears?

Funny, I thought I had always taken my fears to him.

Anyway, he helped me to stop and smile at all of the signs that God sends me ... to show me that He's always near ... and in control. 

When I gathered my things from my car this afternoon, I looked down on the driver side floorboard.  There was a penny.  Just laying there.  It wasn't there when I left home.  My purse was on the passenger seat so there's no way it fell out on impact.

The penny ... in-God-we-trust-side up ... caught me by surprise.  Just like so many other times.

I shared that with my brother.  I told him that it was a reminder of how God always shows up ... in small ways ... in big ways.

He said I should take a few minutes and make a list of things I was grateful for right now.  It sounded like something I would tell him to do.   I am the Gratitude Challenge promoter extraordinaire, after all.

Today I am thankful for a brother who is also a friend; a God who never leaves my side; the best friends in the universe; and a faith that allows me to accept the setbacks with confidence and grace.

The weatherman on the radio says there will be sunshine tomorrow before returning to the music.

Do you hear what I hear? A song. A song. Is ringing through the night.  It will bring us goodness and light.

November 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cuts Like A Knife ...

Jessica recently found herself with a tidy sum of "extra" money.  Enough money that some consideration needed to be made on how to spend it.

She wasn't allowed to use it on gifts for others.  She had to spend it on things for herself.

In the past there has been a great deal of communication with me about how Jessica spends her money at such times.  This time not so much.

A new couch ... because the one she brought when she moved in was ... ahem ... a "danger" to her. It was not but that's a another story.  A nightstand sized dresser to replace a broken down shelf thingy that was there when she moved in. A mop.

And ... a set of steak knives.

That's the list that was come up with on her behalf.

Steak knives.  It was an interesting choice.  Jessi is living independently. Her cooking primarily involves frozen dinners and entrees that she can heat in the microwave.  Pretty much nothing that would require more than an ordinary butter knife to cut up.

I was told that she specifically asked for the steak knives.  That she was adamant that it was something that she wanted and needed. Sometimes she gets something in her head and than she fixates on it until she gets it.  Jessi is funny like that at times.

I figured this must be one of those times.

Sometime last week all of her purchases had been made and I went over to see her new things.  She showed me the new couch and the new nightstand.  The old broken down shelf thingy was still there ... as well as the broken television shoved in a corner that was replaced almost a year ago.

The old couch is at my house.  After a cursory inspection , it was discovered that there wasn't a thing wrong with it after all. As I said, that's a different story.

"Did you get your steak knives?" I asked.
Yes was the prompt reply.

"Why did you want steak knives, Jessi?" I pressed.
 "I don't know. I didn't ask for steak knives, Mom," she replied. "She told me that's what I should say I wanted ... so I did."

I went into the kitchen and began opening drawers.  There were no steak knives to be found.
"Where are they?" I asked.
"In the cookie jar." she replied.

I lifted the lid of her sweet cookie jar ... a house-warming gift from someone who wanted her to feel special every day ... sure enough ... there were the steak knives ... handles down ... sharp pointed ends up.

"Why are they in your cookie jar?" I asked.
"I don't know," said Jessi. "She said to put them there so I wouldn't cut myself by accident when I reached into the drawer."


Wonder what happens to the friend who wanders into Jessi's kitchen and reaches into the cookie jar ... in anticipation of a treat?!?

In a different conversation with a different loved one ... it was said ...

"I don't ever mean to hurt you, MaryJane.  I guess ... I just don't consider you."

It took a minute to recognize the wound ... much like a paper cut ... only bigger  ... surprisingly painful ... it's not a fresh cut ... just one that seems to be taking forever ... to heal.

Truth is, it had been explained that way to me once before. I wasn't quite ready to ... get it ... the first time. You see, it's one thing to be deliberately left out for whatever reason ... when it's a conscious choice.  It's something entirely different ... to simply not be considered at all.

Now that it's been said to me twice, I believe it.  It was said to me with such kindness, after all.

On the way home, I laughed into the wind at the irony of it.

You see ... that's what happens when you reach an unsuspecting hand into a cookie jar ... full of steak knives ... hoping to find something sweet.

“Most scars are invisible. Damn transparent knives. Does anything cut deeper than love? 
 ~Jarod Kintz 

April 2015