Shadowlands

Buddy is a complex fellow.

His Ma said he was in a dark mood when she snapped this pic. Observe the slight tipping of his right ear . . . anyone with even the slightest amount of FEI (feline emotional intelligence) would tell you that this cat is not cool with whatever it is that y’all are doing. He’s in full on grumpy cat mode regardless of how you treat him, coddle him, ignore him. Get back, honkey cat and whatever you do, do not touch him or even think about doing so.

Interesting how a dark mood can occasionally overtake even the sunniest of souls. Like a total eclipse of the sun the lightness and brightness of our usual vibe can be momentarily overshadowed. While a little short term shadow dwelling provides us a chance to chill out, more long term shadow dwelling turns into habit, turns into lifestyle, turns into terminal curmudgeonly crankiness if not checked. That’s the power of a shadow. It has the potential to shift, over time, from visible darkness to a gloominess of mind and soul that isn’t always obvious. Others may not initially be so aware and might altogether miss that subtle, almost imperceptible, Buddy-like tipping of the ear when we’re actually telegraphing the emotion (or rather the lack of any). Dwelling in the shadowland is no bueno for anyone, cat or otherwise. Better to pass through and not to set up shop there. “Yay, though I walk t h r o u g h the valley of the shadow of death . . . Key word—through. As in keep moving.

We must walk through. To-the-other-side-of-that-valley through. C’mon buddy, step back into the light. Out of the shadows and into the light. One paw at a time until you’re back.

Just some Sunday reflections on an occasionally grumpy cat named Buddy.

Like the Man

Like the man who could not walk but had friends who could. Friends like Rachel and Joey who rallied together in their care and compassion for his sorry situation. Friends who carried him on a stretcher to a house where a miracle worker was visiting. This miracle worker was turning water into wine and making blind people see. The admission was free with nary an intake chart in sight. No guarantee of payment expected. No overnight stay required at this free clinic of sorts. Just determined friends bringing this guy to this house of healing, to this pop-up hospital, to this flash mob of resurrection, if you will.

But the joint was full. Standing room only and no room at all for those who could not stand. So the determined friends found another way in and another way to get this friend up on his feet again. And that was down. They managed to get their friend above the crowd by taking him up to the roof and then (how they did this we don’t fully know) lowering him down by removing roof tiles and getting him in the presence of the healer.

This wasn’t an MD with a reserved parking space at Johns Hopkins hospital. None that gained their sight or were able to walk again that day cared about his credentials though. They got what they came for and more and it was absolutely free. They too became free. Maybe it was a foreshadow of the day to come when the healer himself would be lowered down. And in time they did lower The Healer down from where they’d hung him but it did not change his standing or his position on the throne in his father’s kingdom. Oh no, it confirmed his mission and his purpose.

You see, lowering isnt losing. That’s just what we status conscious folk think. Even the slightest of shift in our thinking can let the light into what seems to be a fixed situation and make space for a miracle.

“What if it IS possible?” you may ask. Well, It is.

It Starts With A J

Before the earth was formed . . . will you allow your mind to imagine it? When there was nothing but darkness and a mass of a planet that had no known life on it yet—there was a J.

When plants of every imaginable kind began to cover its surface, because at that point there was now Light—there was a J.

Fast forward to our planet now being filled with folk and our antsy-est of ancestors running amuck like sheep gone astray—there was a J then too.

I like that letter a lot. Its been the first letter of my name for as long as I can remember. And for a long time now I’ve known that my name was the girl version of John. Cool. That’s always been a good solid name. The name means “gift of God” after all and that’s a good thing. On the tour I took of Israel our jewish tour guide informed me that my name in Hebrew was Yohanna. One friend began to call me that for the duration of and even after the end of our trip. I heard that those ancient dudes spelled with a Y and pronounced with a J. Love that if its accurate.

There always was and always will be a J. Your name doesn’t have to start with a j or include a j to belong to The “J.” The everlasting creator who made the earth and all that is in it. There is deep and lasting love in that name like you’ve never known.

J

#Jehovah #Jesus #planetshaker #preacher #love #hope #joy #peace

Postal Tales

I am a frequent postal patron of the after hours kind. Legitimate reasons exist but they do not matter here and now. On a recent early morning visit to my local PO, when the morning sun barely had risen, I raced into my local post office with the intent of a postal hit-and-run. The plan was to use the self-service equipment to get some postage slapped on my package then rush onward to the demands of the day. But noooooo (said in slo-mo delivery). The post office had changed its evening and weekend hours recently and I had not yet become aware. There had been a string of after-hours break-ins of those PO boxes that many people prefer over home delivery mail service.

So said the genuinely friendly fellow who came in the door shortly behind me having a similar singular agenda that morning. Get in-get out. Done. Mission accomplished. As friendly and as conversational as this guy was, he too was in a hurry—on a mission. Deciding to be uber helpful he anxiously began to tell me what buttons on the touch screen I needed to press. Thank you kind sir—Not helpful.

I held my postal ground as cool as a cucumber and continued on my own trajectory and at my own pace. He tried hard to keep up the friendly facade and banter but it got neither him nor me anywhere any faster. Thank you, kind sir. When you know what you’re doing and someone “helpful“ comes along with honest intent that is yet shaded by their own agenda, it can have the opposite effect, slowing down rather than accelerating things towards the desired outcome.

Note to self: being fake-helpful to others to accomplish my own agenda isn’t necessarily a crime punishable by law. But just maybe I can dial it back a notch. Oh, isn’t that called patience? Its a lovely character quality that we expect from others but don’t often perfect in our own repertoire. Hurry makes us a little bit blind to other people’s rights, situation or circumstances.

Patience is a virtue. One worth a little more practice.

So ends this installment of my postal tales.

True Talent

An elegant red sports car made its way through the neighborhood streets where I live, driving safely with restraint and in moderate speed, about what I was driving in my comfortable four door sedan. We were both driving within the speed limit towards the nearest freeway entrance. Side by side we both made the same approach to the onramp that morning until this sleek little red marvel turned on its afterburners to speed ahead and give me the space needed to also make the green light at the onramp. Then it was as if their rocket boosters thrust it into light speed and out of my sight in an instant.

I pondered. It was the perfect picture of restraint when appropriate and of power when needed. I honestly marveled at the driver’s self-control while driving through the neighborhoods where young children played. So much horsepower in their hands yet they used it with great judiciousness. And with thoughtfulness to someone who also shared the same road.

It reminded me of a talented girl I once knew— someone I’ve mentioned before—having the illustration of her behavior still etched in my memory. This girl could sing and dance and play the guitar quite well AND look amazing which she often did all at the same time. Perhaps possessing the talent to rise through the ranks on one of those TV talent shows like The Voice but without the humbleness that made you want to cheer for her and beg God for her to advance to the next level. Her being on high performance level 98% of the time-on or off the stage- was just too much of a good thing. No control. Without restraint.

There’s something alluring about someone who possesses special talents and abilities yet doesn’t use them 24/7 in every situation. Power within restraint is a delicate art. The driver of that pretty red sports car knew this. Judiciously applied strengths, abilities, and agilities are the most powerful of talents.

Kryptonite

I really don’t want to rush summer to its soon-coming end but I find I’m having to suppress my early onset giddiness as I begin having visions of plaid stadium blankets and acorns, and oak leaves. Pumpkin spice everything cometh and for others like me who love to wear multiple layers of sweaters with jackets and oversized faux woolen scarves, and bake apple crisps, and simmer chili on the back of the stove . . . it can be hard not to want to nudge the beautiful season of summer to its conclusion—to fast forward to the season finale. But I press pause on my own preferences for the moment and envision a summertime scene of a blazing bonfire on the beach. The crackling orangey flames, with each addition of fuel, leap higher and higher towards the sky. This isn’t the slow burning, embers just right, kind of fire that produces toasty, tawny marshmallows of perfection. This is a beach-sized version of a house-a-fire.

Taking several steps back from the seaside inferno here described a most interesting image of juxtaposition fills the flat screen of my mind. There’s the vastness of the water just beyond and in the foreground the burning bonfire.

So close in proximity. One is all powerful. The other is its Kryptonite. Yet they dance together in a beautiful way. You do your thing and I’ll do mine, agreeing to disagree who has the upper hand here. One sustains life while the other brings light and heat. They couldn’t be from further apart at their opposite ends of the spectrum. Catch a fish supper from one and cook it over the flames of the other. That’s a perfect collaboration if you ask me. Yet all it will take is a bit more gravitational pull to bring a rolling wave of H2O beyond its prescribed boundary and in a moment the Kryptonite will have created a whimpering, fizzled out pile of charred fuel. Seems cruel and yet the properties of each contain much power.

Best to stay friends. Best to do your amazing thing with the super powers you’ve been entrusted with and not to use your own giftedness (what ever it may be) to overwhelm someone else’s flame or gravitational pull. Better to dance together than to extinguish a super power of a different genre.

Just dance.

Image by Spirit Tribe Awakening on Youtube

Just Believe

Do you believe?

I will break it to you gently and in hushed tones so the children don’t hear this, unicorns aren’t real. I know, I know this is almost like finding out that your parents were really the ones that put the presents under the Christmas tree. This announcement is up there with other grown-up awakenings. But it isn’t meant to crush your spirit or suspend your belief in something you’ve never seen or haven’t touched.

Hope is like that. We hope for things we can’t see or touch. We believe that better days will come and that some sort of sparkly fairy dust will be sprinkled over the work of our hands. We dream about attaining what seems to be unreal and sometimes we do.

Faith is, after all, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see yet.

I love me a pocketful of rainbows and unicorns. Only one of these is real though. I can’t touch that colorful brushstroke in the sky—way up in the clouds. But I can see it and hold it in my heart as it reminds me to hope. It stirs me to believe that the things I think are out of reach, that I want so badly I can taste them, might not be as way up in the heavens and out-of-reach as they appear. Light refracted on water droplets . . . and as we know the human body, in point of fact, is made up of about 60% of water. Hmmm.

Rainbows and hope produce dreams that can and sometimes do come true.

Waiting Room

A fair slice of life is spent sitting, waiting.

According to a recent study Americans sit down way too much. We’ve been dubbed, “the couch potato nation.“ Ouch. But a basic remedy to our inactivity is to move.

“A single bout of physical activity can sharpen your mind, reduce your anxiety, lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep and strengthen your body’s ability to convert blood sugar into energy,” says the study. Good to know. Good to move and yet we sit and we wait because we have to and we’re often instructed to. Everything we want and need doesn’t happen in a minute—doesn’t happen on our timeline just because we wish it. Drat that grown-up reality.

We’ve become particularly accustomed to waiting in a seated position because that’s the most convenient for those we’re waiting for, right? They politely say, “ please take a seat.“ Or we do so willingly perhaps because we’re just tired and ready to take a load off. We’ve transferred that physical position, metaphorically, to other “wait-lines” in life. Other queues where we’re waiting for our ship to come in or for the sun to come out (tomorrow maybe?) or for our prince to come or for the deal to close.

Old Time seems to run on his own schedule not ours. Waiting for that check to come feels like forever. The nine months of prenatal supplements and prepping the nursery don’t fly by at all—they drag on. The thirty minutes waiting to hear the test results . . . an eternity.

So we wait. We take a seat. But how about maximizing the moments spent on hold? How about taking a stand instead of a seat while we wait? The world still turns and life goes on for all around us while we hold our breath and wait. How about we just exhale a bit and move our minds while we take a stand for something in the waiting? Maybe something worthwhile. How ‘bout it?

Lavender Cupcakes

Lavender was the color of the mini skirt I wore that long ago day when Mr. Cosca’s 6th grade class took a field trip to the local Jr. High. All the cool kids went to school there. Oh, while it was good to be at the top of the heap at Wilson Elementary, it had grown tiresome being surrounded by all the lower grade kiddies. The playground had become so small and seemed worn out and tired. We weren’t playing on the jungle gym anymore anyways and were more than ready to hang out with the more mature. With the 12, 13, and 14-year-olds who, like us emerging sixth graders, were listening to music their parents didn’t like and beginning to think higher thoughts.

Or so we thought.

It’s precious now to replay the home movies of the mind, remembering the colors we wore, the gossip we spread, the bands we crushed on, the exams we may or may not have aced. The summers at the beach and the lavender swimsuit I used to wear.

I enjoyed a lavender cupcake while vacationing in the central coast earlier this summer. It was gluten free unlike my Wonderbread and Spam filled childhood which wasn’t. This vegan version of buttercream frosting tasted decadent yet had a faint hint of the medicinal. Maybe the pastry chef’s assistant had too liberal a hand with that batch.

Lavender continues to captivates me in all its various forms, fashions, and flavors. Funny how a gluten free taste of today can stir up some delicious memories from days gone by. And stir up an encouragement to us all to lay down good tracks in the here and now. To spend as much quality time as possible with the ones we love doing the simplest of things. To invest our amazingly bright spirits into needy others, worthy others, helpless and helpful others alike. Not as a challenge or as a burden upon ourselves but as in opening a door to a spaciousness of living that one day will be recalled with a lavender tinted smile. Not in medicinal proportions but with just enough sweetness to recall all the joy.

Image from wallflowerkitchen.com

Floral Thoughts

Grandma Cary ran a flower shop for years out in Ontario. She taught me the art of boutonniere making at a very early age. For a while my sister owned a shop too and it was a fun place to exercise creativity and work among the petals and stems.

At one of my earliest jobs, having my own little desk, I would often stop at a florist on my drive in and pick up a few stems to brighten my workspace. Who doesn’t enjoy the color, variety, fragrance and sense of happiness that indoor flowers can bring?

These cheerful flower girls on my desk in a vase once had roots that fed them nutrients from the soil. They once lived in the sunshine where they danced in the breeze and grew without care. Their new indoor life of tap water and fluorescent lighting would invariably result in a gentle journey towards stagnation then inevitable decay. Their water grew slimy and the once precious blossoms silently gave up the ghost.

The vase does not have to become the tomb. Wash it out. Rinse it clean. The decaying stuff in the murky water used to sustain cheerful daisies, clean and fresh. Time and conditions have their way with the health of a thing. Or a heart.

Bring on the free flowing water, let it run down your soul with a cleansing effect. Let it rain. Keep it fresh.