Dec 30, 2013

December Learning

 To tell the truth, there is so much that I learn in a month that when Chatting at the Sky invites bloggers to link up to share what’s new for each of us, its really only the public worthy or the perceptions that ‘rise to the top’ that get sifted and printed here. All the rest, the numerous inklings of expanded awareness, settles in the soul and is honored as gifts that were given, intended for continued growth that hopefully will shape a better me.

But here,
these are a few things I can share, 
some gifts that might resonate with another.

A small Christmas still carries a message. 
Here’s the back story: circumstances resulted in just our three foot Christmas tree this year. An oversight resulted in no Christmas lights lining the rooftop. Presents by way of charitable donations lead to no gifts to wrap. Out of state travel meant no holiday cooking. These traditions were missed but the three foot tree still lit the manger scene. Christmas carols still filled the chapel. And the spirit of Christmas still warmed our hearts. It really is only about a very small babe.

The dubious quality of corn syrup aside, I still love Pecan pie at Christmas time, especially my mother in law's masterpiece. 

Those quiet, wintery days between Christmas and the New Year, I slip into READING mode. 
Just finished Nina Schuyler's The Painting of set in 1860‘s Paris and Tokyo. A beautiful tale of enduring human spirit in the grip of war and revolution, sustained by memories and art. The turbulent historical backdrop expanded my awareness of the Japanese Revolution and the Prussian siege of Paris. So appreciate how knowledge of history informs life.

I learned that according to 74 year old, life long Louisiana resident Phil Robertson, he never saw his fellow black citizens mistreated. If inequity is the norm perhaps one is blinded to its presence.

St. Stephen's Day and Boxer's Day share a history of GIVING TO OTHERS.
"Box" up what is needed and give it those in need. Both of these traditions are celebrated the day after Christmas. I love that! It reminded me of this delightful Christmas ad of young people providing Christmas joy for an elderly neighbor.

Your visit,
your reading of these thoughts,
its always and honor.
Happy New Year!

Dec 18, 2013

A Light Has Dawned

We sit with steaming cups of tea,
mine, green with hints of orange rind; 
his, Chai, with rising wafts of vanilla.
Our kitchen window frames a view of blowing, wintery woodlands. 

“Another grey day”,  he says.
It is grey. White grey sky. Dark grey-brown trunks and limbs. Grey-green pines and hollies. Pond waters rippling liquid slate. Even the wood ducks repeat the same color palette.

Against a backdrop of these framed window panes the table candle flickers boldly bright. The Christmas tree glitters, brilliantly casting light far across the room. 

Against the dark and the grey, because of the dark and grey, the power of LIGHT expands its dominion and claims all attention. 

The light of Our Lord arrives in darkness; 
at His birth and in our hearts. 
The flame is eternal.

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9: 2-7

Posting with other communities pondering the quiet, the small, and the Spirit filled. 
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Dec 16, 2013

The Proclamations of Angels

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! 
The Lord is with you.” 
Luke 1:28

 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." 
Luke 2: 9-10

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

James Chadwick 1862  
(Translated from a French carol by an unknown author)

Dec 9, 2013

Seek Peace

Consider the blameless,
observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
Psalm 37:37 NIV

Look at those who are honest and good,
for a wonderful future awaits 
those who love peace.
Psalm 37:37 NLT

Nov 29, 2013

A Passion for Words

{This post is linked to Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky
I don't examine too closely why a bunch of really talented women enjoy 'chatting up' about what we learned each month. 
I'll will say, reading what these women have learned goes really well with a cup of coffee and cookies. Join us at Chatting at the Sky.}

Lists catch my eye.

Word lists prompt my curiosity.

Naturally, when I came across 100 words Every High School Graduate Should Know 
my interest was peeked and then...
my pride was irked. 

I'm a reader, a word collector, and a writer; 
and yet, there are words on this list I. did. not. know. 

Working on that! 


Words like "just" and "thing" 
don't serve me well.

I've always been conscious of how our choice of words affect those whom we are speaking too. 
As an educator, my word choice was paramount to the learner's attention, understanding, and ultimate success. 
As a mentor to other women, being clear, maintaining the roll of faciiltator, the importance remains. 
As an artist engaging in self-talk it continues to have a personal impact. 

Writer, Emily Freeman, urges readers to be sensitive to the dismissive connotations of the words "just" and "thing"; I just facilitate the Bible study class or I devote time to a volunteer thing. 
I'm learning to give the respect due to myself or another by dropping words that demean, dismiss, and negatively frame the subject of being discussed.


Now that you understand my thinking about words it wont come as a surprise that the term intertextuality hooked my attention. As described by the post at The Write Practice:

 "Intertextuality denotes the way in which texts (any text, not just literature) gain meaning through their referencing or evocation of other texts." 

It's obvious how that is related to the general topic of words and all the other reading a person has ever done, right. Fellow readers out there, it's like gourmet menu when a good read references another good read, and your brain is thrilled by the gymnastics of the domino like, cerebral connections!


Lastly, can I state for the record that I prefer  real, hard copy dictionaries. 

I relish every word preceding the one I'm looking up and every word that follows it. Then of course, one could get distracted and end up chasing down a few other words... 
just since you're there.


Nov 24, 2013

Hope Waits

Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the liturgical year; we rejoice in the Genesis through Revelation accounts of God’s hope for the world. And for the world, because of hope, our faith, our Christian beliefs, will never cease among people. God has taught us hope, promised us hope, revealed the blessings of hope. The sacred texts record the history of hope among the faithful from generation to generation. Our traditions of worship and prayer, our holiest days, nurture hope. We are galvanized by the legacy of hope, thousands of years of hope. Hope fueled by His Spirit persists, endures, and waits. To live with the Hope of God is to experience Hope's triumph.


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Nov 10, 2013

God Whispers Grace Over the Good Earth

A pair of squirrels race across rooftops leaping effortlessly onto tree boughs, swirling down the trunk, to join in the mingled mass of leaves drifted across the still green grass. Heron’s grey serpentine neck is silhouetted against the low light sky as it’s perched at the upper most reaches of a fall canopy of tree color. Roses bravely continue to offer a few scant blooms, opening fragile petals despite the dropping temperatures. The afternoon air is uncommonly still. Beyond the squirrel rustling and bird twitters, its quiet. Quiet enough to encourage a pause. Quiet enough to close the eyes, to stand among the living woods, to hear the season’s heartbeat, to wonder if that breathing hush is God whispering grace over the good earth. Hopeful, I stay in place, stand open handed, listening amidst an age old whisper that can be heard in God’s natural world.


"And God saw everything that He had made,
and, behold,it was very good."
Genesis 1:31


“As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme architect, 
who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, 
our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder 
at His infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.” 
John Calvin

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Oct 31, 2013

Living Art

There eventually came a time in life when a new expanse of freedom allowed me to design how I wanted my days to be filled. 
Instinctively I craved creative endeavors. My interests ranged from typical artistic pursuits of writing, painting, and photography, to the theology of spiritual gifts and  neuroscience findings related to brain function. All under the larger umbrella of creativity. 
An additional layer of my quest at that time concerned the desire to understand how my experiences with creative pursuits dovetailed with a sense of meditation and a sense God’s presence. 
I began studying oil painting in an artist’s studio and spending time photographing everything, everywhere. I wrote children’s stories, memoir pieces about family and professional recollections. I participated in a spiritual arts journaling workshop and began teaching the first of many years of Women’s Bible Study classes. Eventually in this same season I posted the first  entry on Reflections-Beside Still Waters blog. 
The deeply rewarding outcome of these endeavors continue today, with new elements emerging from time to time to constitute the richly woven fabric of a redesigned, greatly rewarding, deeply faith filled, creative daily life. 

“And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, 
in wisdom, in understanding 
and in knowledge and 
in all craftsmanship” 
Exodus 35:31


Celebrating with Emily
A Million Little Ways
We Will Make Art 
link up.

Oct 19, 2013

Wait for Hope to Appear

Leaving the house behind I turn my face into the blustery winds, crisp with the promise of fall, sharp with urgency; willing the force of cold to burrow through my mind and sweep out every shred of worry clinging in the corners. I whisper to myself with kindness, “Breath deeply”, wanting to hasten the air’s cleansing properties through my heart and lungs . Fall’s shifting nature spills a brief shower of rain in the midst of the afternoon’s shining light. I step under dense, overhanging trees until the weeping cloud drifts on. Walking on, step following step, breath following breath easing the mind to emptiness, working the chest to fullness, purposefully leaving space for holy presence and peace. 

Oct 13, 2013

The Good Things of Your House

I'm joining the STILL SATURDAY community and the beauty that is gathered there every weekend. Select and click that button below and wander over for more photo-scripture pairings and thoughts on stillness. You will be encouraged!

Sep 28, 2013

He Heard My Voice

I love the Lord,

for he heard my voice;

he heard my cry for mercy.

Because he turned his ear to me, 

I will call on him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:1-2

"How does the Lord turn His ear to me?", one might ask.

The ways are countless and the occurrences numerous. Perhaps such 

would be seen in the kindness offered by a passing stranger, in the assurance heard in sacred 

hymns and songs of praise, in the scripture passage that shines brighter than every other word 

on the page, in the mental image that suddenly emerges {from where, you may wonder},  

or in the words of surprising wisdom from a child or your loved one. He has been refining 

your attentiveness to these mercies ever since his spirit first entered your heart. Remain alert. 

Engage the Lord's presence through prayerful intent throughout your days. Notice how He 

turns His ear to your praise and faithfulness.


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Sep 27, 2013

September Learning

September, a month traditionally associated with learning, did not disappoint.
School agers, educators, grad students, continuing ed adults, ballet, piano, even fall Bible study classes; nation wide, students of every phase and form, returned to endeavors of gathering knowledge. 
And then there are also those life long pursuits of deeper understanding and those serendipitous new ahas! that spark our daily lives.
Hence, this community of writers gathers over at Chatting at the Sky to rattle off what we’ve learned, some pearls of wisdom, or just plain whimsy that tickled our brains this month. Below, my notes on new wisdom and whimsy...


I watched...
Seriously, with great admiration and learned the magnitude of courage, sacrifice, intellectual warfare, and God sustained determination that accompanied President LINCOLN’s passage of the thirteenth amendment that abolished slavery in our nation. I know this stunning movie  debuted last fall but its bound to be a classic worthy of every American’s attention.

I studied...
GIDEON, a moving Bible study that portrays human weakness as key designed to open something God has in mind specifically for you. Our weakness is meant to unleash the strength of God in our lives. Our weakness is the key God uses to unlock the door to His power. Gideon is written by Priscilla Shirer.

I read...
“...that when you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that’s always in progress.” Anne Lamott, 


Husband taught me...
about Any List an app on our phones that allows us to share our grocery list. So honey does this mean you’re going to the grocery store?

Finally found the answer to...
Why God Made a Dog I promise, these photos and poem will make you smile.

there was surprising personal learning that burst all around me during recent travels, and there was learning offered humbly through the stories of people whom I’m in prayer with, and there is learning that falls like rain as I walk in the morning.

This learning thing, its really very closely aligned with blessings. There is SO MUCH that comes our way that shapes our character, corrects our narrowness, expands our horizons, clarifies our insight; all that certainly qualifies as God’s good grace and blessing.

Are curious about previous LEARNING posts? Just for grins here's the lists for July and August.

Aug 31, 2013

Paint Flows

"Gladiola in Profile", Oil on canvas, Lisa Moreland
Paint flows from brush to canvas. 
Delight springs 
from the glossy trail of color
as eye and hand collaborate to compose form. 
Deep in the brain 
synapse sing 
with the mysterious energy of being creative. 
Satisfaction rises from my soul. 
Dismissed aptitude,
neglected modes of expression 
and unfold 
like a saturated seed 
each time paint streams from the brush.
Lisa Moreland 

"Those things that mark our creativity - 
our sensual awareness, imaginative thinking, and manual skills - 
are God given tools in our task of cultivating the earth...and...simply for our delight."  
Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts
Hilary Brand & Adrienne Chaplin, P. 46

Aug 30, 2013

Summer's End, August Learning

August, its a milestone month. 
The final warmth of summer in some regions; 
the final weeks of vacation too. 
The last vestiges of free schedules, sandals, lingering morning coffee by the pool. 
Even we bloggers feel the shift in season and time as the writing glances back at summer's inspiration before stepping into themes for the season ahead. 
In that over-my-shoulder glance, I've noted some things I've learned  like...

Bold summer nail color is way fun... 
(specifically Unfor-greta-bly Blue from OPI)

... then I can link up with Chatting at the Sky 
'cause the community over there likes to share these things.

Things I Learned This Month ~

Gutsy female characters catch my attention every time...
Reading Geraldine Brooks' Caleb's Crossing, a  gorgeous and captivating historical story of a brilliant heroine, Bethia in 17th century Pilgrim New England. I totally curled up for the entire weekend to read this exquisitely written book straight through, that kind of good! Learned a lot, such as: Harvard, the new world's first university in 1650 had an original charter that describes its missions as "the education of the English and Indian youth of this country". Much food for thought in this riveting portrayal [in part] of 17th century education; who gets it, who doesn't, and to what ends.

Repurposed architecture fascinates me...
Fabulous new library rises from the bones of an abandoned Walmart. What do you think of that?

Still have a fascination with words...
Just let this one spill from your tongue, quotidian.  
A mere four syllables, but don't they sound like you must have some intellectual moxie?
Here's the irony. The word means "occurring every day; belonging to the every day; commonplace, ordinary. To my mind, so not ordinary.
Then I read Kathleen Norris' discussion of the "everyday" and this makes it all better:
It is a paradox of human life that in is in the routine and the everyday that we find the possibilities for the greatest transformation...what we dread as mindless activity can free us, mind and heart, for the workings of the Holy Spirit...  The Quotidian Mysteries, p.82
It appears that I'm officially an introvert...
Susan Cain's bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking...well it just rings true. And I'm humbled to join the good company of fellow introverts like Eleanor Roosevelt, Madeleine L'Engle, and Rosa Parks. And then the Huffington Post ran an article with this list. So really, I feel better about the strengths that folks like me bring to humanity, such as, in the hunter -gather era, being "geared to inspect" we were more likely to do surveillance, scan the field under cover while the extroverts brashly stepped out in the open, serving themselves up to predators. Thus the introvert's skills of keen observation and data gathering have survived evolution. Something empowering about that.

I love lively, dynamic conversations...
We met for coffee and more than an hour went by as we wildly gestured and parlayed back and forth probably running off more than one adjacent java soul. I'm still an introvert.

How to create Art from Words ...
This nifty site helps you create art work gifts from any collection of words that you like. There are dozens of applications. The one I have seen is a beautiful pastel handprint created from all the names of the staff at our church preschool and given to them as a Back to School gift. Delightful.

A new recipe... 
CLEAN {healthy} Prosciutto Chicken. Easy, fast, low fat, yummy...I'm in. 

September looms with all its seasonal tradition and glory! 
Really hope Emily continues this link up next month. 
Fall has such possibilities! 

Curious about other posts in this Link UP? 

Here's the JUNE and JULY lists.

Aug 25, 2013

Jars of Clay

Wandering among the results of a potter’s wheel brings to heart thoughts and meditations on God’s words. Words proclaim God’s people created from clay; as varied in shape, size, form, hues, and glazes as the pottery stacked in the artist’s yard. God’s people as fragile, as prone to chipping and susceptible to damage as every vessel made from earth’s malleable substance. Like earthenware, we are strengthened by a kiln. Through the kiln of life’s struggles and pain our Lord fashions our character, reveals our spiritual gifts, and builds our faith. We are God’s creation. We are made and remade for His purposes and His glory. And as such we are filled. Here, this is where we diverge from the ordinary, empty vessels found in a potter’s yard. Our divine creator filled us with the gift, the treasure of His Holy Spirit. No empty vessel are we. No. Fallible, breakable, yes; but treasured beyond understanding, blessed and gifted beyond deserving. Designed to serve our Lord and equipped to do so by the abiding power of the Holy Spirit. 
I bring the camera to my eye and strive to frame the large number and variety of pottery in the viewfinder, praising all the while that I am among God’s multitude of wonderfully made people. 
And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Is. 64: 7-9 NLT
18 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. 5 Then the Lord gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. Jeremiah 18: 1-6
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:6-8 NLT

Aug 10, 2013

Strength in the Stillness

Their strength is to sit still...
For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; 
In returning and rest 
shall ye be saved; 
in quietness and in confidence 
shall be your strength
Isaiah 30:7, 15 KJV

A lone chair, pulled away from the gathered seating at distance. Pulled closer to the water, closer to the pouring  sounds of the fountain’s spray, closer to the trees lining the shore. Seperated from chattering voices mingling about. Botanically hedged in and away from boulevard and path. A single seat. A momentary respite from restless going about. A miniature sanctuary under green boughs. A   chance occasion accepted to settle alone along the shore. To notice glory. To whisper gratitude. To seek Holy Spirit’s assuring presence and to recall the Lord’s restoring words. A lone chair; a call to quiet retreat, a return to rest. 
May you, faith filled visitors 
to this corner of online STILLNESS, 
happen upon your own 
quiet call to weekend rest. 
Linking with Still Saturday 
and the SUNDAY communities. 
Join them by clicking on their buttons below.

Aug 3, 2013

Follow the Bird Song

Luke 13:18-19
 18 Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? 19 It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”
Mark 4:30-32
 30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
Matthew 13:31-32
 31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
A photo and a few words to join the prayerful communities at Still Saturday and  Sunday. Select their buttons from those below to enjoy more photo praise.

Aug 1, 2013

The Din of Chatter: Tell What You Learned

Coffee is brewed. The cup warm and swirled with vanilla creamer. 
Settled in the favorite wingback to join Emily's readers at Chatting at the Sky
Thanks to Emily for this midsummer link up to share what's up with her readers. 
And did you read last month's posts?I mean these women were talking. 
Everything form savvy techno pointers [lots of that], to the best books/films/music, and [always a favorite] tips on the best chocolate.
If we had been in a Fellowship Hall [because we're church women you see],
the din of chatter would have been heard all the way up the stairs to the chapel doors! 

Wondering what these women will come up this month?

Not to be left out, here's a bit of 
what I've learned in the last 30 days...

Risk and nervy ideas can pay off...
Decided to display one of my paintings in a local arts cafe. 
Great surprise, it sold! That's a first.

Solid wisdom gained ...
from Christian Songwriter/Singer Jason Grey's blog post about a father's intention to "foster kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home", not to mention how  Jason's music makes me sing at the top of my lungs!

Infant elephants play in the summer rain...
My southwest region has been deluged with rain that we NEVER get in July. So this bit of trivia was new on many levels. Ten day old (yet to be named) baby elephant at the Ft. Worth Zoo toddles about, gingerly experiencing rain for the first time; slips, slides, hunkers down under mama...too cute.

Even the well known list their learning...
Kathleen Norris writes in Amazing Grace, "..I have learned two things about my religious quest: First of all, that it is God who is seeking me, and who has myriad ways of finding me. Second, that my most substantial changes, in terms of religious conversion, come through other people." Still reading this book; absorbing the tangibly authentic, real living perspective that Norris portrays in a discussion of lofty, often difficult to grasp Christian concepts.

Daring Greatly author, Brene' Brown lists "the three lessons I learned about joy and light from people who have spent time in sorrow and darkness: 
1. Joy comes in ordinary moments. 2. Be grateful for what you have. 3. Don't squander joy. There's a mountain of wisdom to learn from this woman's research (!) ...the least of which, but oh so affirming,  in the last chapter, her family is typically late to church too.

New to me vocalist ...
Leigh Nash and her CD Hymns & Sacred Songs came to me as a gift. A gift I'm grateful for over and over as the lilting notes of her unique voice fill my ears with words of praise.

Fresh is best...
Real, juicy orange sections in my favorite summer salad is so much more flavorful than that from a can, makes the taste burst with the heightened sweet and tangy contrast to my honey-apple cider dressing.

CREATIVITY rises from unexpected places...
A children's orchestra rises from the slums. WATCH this, it will warm your heart!

Poetry preaches and heals...
and sounds very much like the Lord's redeeming hand .

with the bones of the black sticks
left when the fire has gone out
has written something new in the ashes of your life.
You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades now,
You are arriving."

Taken from "The Journey" by David White

Of course there was so much more. Not for public lists, no. But learning that stretched the heart, challenged the mind, strengthened faith... so much to learn from the opportunities offered everyday.