Beyond strong hands

Communion_Baptist
Photo by Alanscottwalker, creative commons license

I depend on the work of my hands to feed my family. All day, my fingers tap the keyboard.

I use my hands for my hobby, looping yarn into warm pieces to wear or dishcloths to clean.

I struggle with my hands. Since breaking my hand in a motorcycle accident in my 20s, I’ve always felt the weather. Then I was diagnosed with arthritis in my hand in my 30s.

I serve as a deacon in our church. As I pass the brass trays of bread and juice, I see how many people struggle with their hands, too. The tray might be too heavy. The wafer of bread—as small as a fingernail—might be too small to grasp. The juice cup might be unmanageable for hands that shake.

As I see people struggle, I see others notice and respond. They see the need, respond to the need and show God’s love.

I pray that when my hands give out, I sit next to a true Christian: a person who sees the need and responds to the need, showing God’s love.

Photo by Dino Olivieri, creative commons license (orig: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dino_olivieri/460053136/)
Photo by Dino Olivieri, creative commons license (orig: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dino_olivieri/460053136/)

Blessing

God bless your hands. May they do good for others when they are strong, and accept help from others when they are weak.

The Love of Christmas: For everyone

"Marianne Stokes Madonna and Child" by Marianne Stokes
"Marianne Stokes Madonna and Child" by Marianne Stokes
“Madonna and Child” by Marianne Stokes, courtesy of Rlbberlin, creative commons license

We focus on love this week in Advent. What does love look like in your life?

I heard a report today on NPR that more happiness comes from our natural generosity that selfishness.

My Christmas wish is that the coming year will be the most generous one yet for me: that I give more, enjoy more and live all my days in the depth of God’s love.

With much affection for all my readers, I wish you a good and merry Christmas!

Many ways to say Merry Christmas!
Many ways to say Merry Christmas! From 1907. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Pray with me

Let us celebrate the birth of our Lord
with all our might, all our strength and
all our heart!
For God so loves our world.

The Joy of Advent: confusion and acceptance

Chase our catI don’t see well at night. Where most people can make out an understanding of their surroundings, I struggle to make sense of the shadows.

The other night we were driving home on our gravel road. I was a passenger, my son was in the back and my husband drove.

As we got closer, I saw something running in front of the car. Rather than dashing across, it took a lead position and kept a few feet in front of the car. Worried it was one of our cats, I said, “Careful! Is it one of ours?”

“Honey, we don’t own a raccoon,” said my husband. We all broke into laughter.

“Well, thank goodness we don’t. Seven animals is enough,” I said. “I can’t imagine how chaotic it would be adding a raccoon to our mix.”

I’m grateful to be known by people who love me and accept my weaknesses.

This week in Advent is focused on joy.

Joy to me isn’t quite the same as happiness. The feeling of being happy can be momentary, as in, “Oh! You brought me chocolate! I’m so happy!”

Joy can come mixed with challenges. Parenthood is a joy, but doesn’t always make people happy in the moment. Joy comes from recognizing the holy and being grateful. Things might be rough but joy is always available.

Horatio Spafford, the writer of one of my favorite hymns, It Is Well with My Soul, lost his son from scarlet fever, faced financial ruin after the Great Chicago Fire and then lost his four daughters from a shipwreck. As he traveled the sea near where his daughters died, he wrote the words, “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

That wellness of the soul is the joy of a God-centered life.

I can’t see in the dark. I might mistake raccoons for pet cats. But I can tell joy when I see it. Coming home with my family, laughing as we go, this is joy.

May you be blessed with joy this week!

Blessing

God, give us eyes to see your goodness,
strength to do your will and
bravery to accept your grace.

Tell me your thoughts!

How do you enjoy your life?

The peace of Advent: Prayers in the darkness

This week in Advent focuses on peace.

Every night, I pray for peace.

Peace, I ask of you, O Lord.
Peace in my words,
Peace in my hands,
Peace in my memories,
Peace in my home,
Peace in my relationships,
Peace in our world.

The world doesn’t seem peaceful now, does it?

All the more reason to respond to upheaval and distress with compassion, to reach out to those who need help.

I have more to say but not the strength now to say it. Another time.

Peace, I ask of you, O Lord.

Mercy at sunset

Blessing

Thank you for the blessing of peace and the opportunity to bring more of your love to others.

Peace, we ask of you, O Lord.

Renew our eyes to see who our neighbors are.

Rehabilitate our hearts to heal the pain, the lack and the suffering around us.

Restore us to harmony.

Fill us with peace as today ends.

Tell me your thoughts!

Where could you use more peace in your life?

The hope of Advent: a question for the Christmas season

Baby feet by Genevieve Howard

Whew, what a month November was for me! I wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo that I’m excited for you to read in the coming year. Fiction was fun, so much easier compared to memoir!

I printed out a copy that is wire-bound and begging for edits. Nothing like the heft and substance of a printed book, especially my own! With many colors of highlighters and matching sticky flags, I will do some revising and then prepare the story for its public debut next year.

Thank you, everyone, for supporting my writing. Without you, my treasured readers, there would be little reason for writing.

Advent

Advent began this week, the time of the year in Christianity when we wait with eager hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This week in Advent focuses on hope.

During my Stephen Ministry meeting last night, our leader asked,

“How will you keep the Christmas season Christ-centered?”

I will reflect on this question and think on ways I can make it so. How about you?

May you feel a renewed sense of hope this week!

Blessings to you during this Advent season.

What happens when a pastor, a poet and an artist walk in a house?

Six Doors to the Seventh DimensionA book!

Our newly published book is called Six Doors to the Seventh Dimension. It explores spirituality through the metaphor of a house offering a guided tour complete with poetic responses and artistic interpretations.

Upcoming events

Listen for us on the David Lile Radio Show on KFRU this Thursday, Aug. 21 at 8:30 a.m.

Become a Six Doors housemate at our official book launch party Friday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. in the Columbia Art League. Visit with us while enjoying wine and cheese. We will autograph copies and read excerpts. Our event is free and open to the public. See you there!

About the authors

You already know me, so I would like to say a bit about my friends. I recently asked them six questions about Six Doors.

Tim

Tim Carson
Tim Carson. Photo by Dave McGee.

Tim Carson is the narrator of the book. He is a bold person with a strong voice in his speaking, singing and written word. With a wonder and curiosity, he explores big ideas. He initiates change in people: how they think and feel and act. He makes new things happen, like this book as an example! One of the best huggers I have ever known, he does people good with his expressiveness and warm heart. He is willing to stand in the mystery.

Why did you decide to collaborate on this book?
I had a recent experience with collaboration through our local art league—one that paired writers with artists. The outcomes were something richer and more unexpected than any solo effort could create. So when the idea for Six Doors was hatched, I thought, why not? I am so thankful for the gift of that insight!

What was the hardest part of making this book?
The collaborative piece took more time, but I wouldn’t consider it hard. In fact, that was part of the fun. If you are willing to let go of some control, the outcome can be much better than any one person imagined.

For me, in my portion, the hardest part came as I shifted from the early part of the narrative that is pretty discursive to the final chapter that is clearly not. I had to change the voice and finding the way to do that without disrupting the flow was difficult. My fellow creators knew this was hard for me. They suffered with me in my relative confusion at that point and provided council in the ways they could.

Give us insight into what you think is different about this book.
The obvious difference that sets this book apart from so many others is the collaborative outcome itself. But there is also the schema of the house and its six doors. Using geographic referents is not new; it is found in classic literature from Dante to Chaucer to Merton. But the way that we used a physical schema—a house— to describe our anthropology and spiritual dimension beyond that does hold, I think, something new or at least fresh.

What are you working on now?
I’m working with an editor to provide a second edition manuscript to the publisher for my earlier book, The Square Root of God. Wipf & Stock should release it before the end of this calendar year.

How can we connect with you?
You could follow my blog at vitalwholeness.wordpress.com.

Any final tips for my readers on how to keep creativity flowing?
Look at the same thing from a different angle. Just because you’ve looked at the rose in the morning, it does not mean that it will appear the same in the afternoon or under the aspect of moonlight.

Set your mind and heart free from what you thought you had to create. Let your subconscious work for you, writing or creating after sleep, free-floating in the shower, piecing things together as you think of nothing beholding the river.

Jenny

Jenny McGee
Jenny McGee. Photo by Dave McGee.

Jenny McGee made the art in the book. With tender vulnerability, she dares to go beyond words into the places of deepest feelings and deepest questions. She wants to see people with clear and bright eyes. She delights in her children and encourages them to be true to themselves. Delicate and strong, she is both fine fluttering branches and deep roots anchored in the nourishing earth of her faith. Healer-artist-interpreter Jenny is the whole tree.

Why did you decide to collaborate on this book?
Collaborating on this book was a chance to grow spiritually free with two people I highly respect and also offer others a chance to heal and journey through the combination of message, artwork and poetry.

What was the hardest part of making this book?
The hardest part of making the book was facing my own judgments about the artwork. I had to work hard on silencing the critic inside of myself and trust that my visual interpretation of the message was successful. During the process I tried hard not to critique or judge the artwork so that my hand felt free and the artwork could evolve unrestricted.

Give us insight into what you think is different about this book.
This book is unique because it offers its readers three unique interpretations of the story. Everyone is invited into this house and welcome to unveil its dimensions. It is like three books in one with each part interconnected to the other.

What are you working on now?
Right now I am working on a large custom painting for a family in Kansas City. It will be a triptych that will hang in their living room and is an expression of them and their uniqueness as a family.

How can we connect with you?
Please connect with me at www.jennymcgeeart.com

Any final tips for my readers on how to keep creativity flowing?
To keep the creativity flowing I would suggest being keenly aware of the critics in your head and what they are saying to you. Once you identified them, whoever they are and what they are saying to you, it is time to kick them out of your house. One way to do so is to close your eyes and imagine what they look like. Hand them a bunch of imaginary flowers and say, “Good-bye, you are no longer welcome in my life. Take these roses and you may never come back.”

Think you’re out of balance? Add this to your to-do list

tea

teaIn the education portion of my recent Stephen Ministry meeting, we learned about the need for balance between giving energy outward and restoring energy inward. Too much giving creates burnout. Too much rest produces sluggishness.

Where would you fall on that spectrum? You can probably guess where I am.

I have lists from when I was 8 years old. Nothing like a good list to put things in order! Take care of something, cross it off. Next thing. Next thing. A list maker must have more things to put on the list. Next thing. Next thing.

On an average day, I make three lists: a personal to-do, one for work and one before I go to bed at night with any worries on my mind. I buy books of lists to keep my household on track. I avoid shopping without one. I’ve been known to make a list of pros and cons when faced with a tough decision. Lists give me a sense of control in a life of uncertainties and demands.

I love lists and hope to always be a list maker. But I want to use them for my good. My established list habit can be a tool to restore myself and strengthen my trust in God.

What would my life look like if I put “rest and refill my positive attitude” on the list as an item? I can build in more breaks between writing code, shopping for school supplies and caring for others. Well rested, I will have more patience and good humor.

How about if I added “spend time in friendship with God”?

I will take the time to relax over a cup of tea and ask God to help me recognize when my need to accomplish is coming from pride or fear. Yes, the laundry needs to be done, but I can stop for a moment and give myself a chance to hear God.

Even if all my items don’t get crossed off, I’ll see clearly the blessing that is my day-to-day life.

Blessing

Lord, our minds grow anxious
from undone things and outside demands:
jobs, family needs, losses, requirements, changes.

Place your holy hand of peace on our shoulders.
Remind us we can trust you.
Your kingdom is our destination.

The needs of the world are passing away;
we can rest in your mercy
and take comfort in your loving embrace.

Tell me your thoughts!

What do you feel that you have to take care of by yourself? How would it help to stop and rest with God? Where do you find you push yourself the hardest?