Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fleas

In 2010, our cat’s flea medication stopped working. We returned from a two week vacation to discover a house full of fleas. When flea bombing didn’t work, we called an exterminator. He sprayed the house and left instructions:

  1. Throw out food exposed to insecticide.

2. Wipe all the surfaces in the house.

3. Vacuum every inch of the floors and furniture daily for four weeks. 

The first we had already done. The second was a one-and-done. The third, something else:  two hours devoted to vacuuming every sofa and chair cushion, every baseboard heater vent, and the floors of every room in the house. Then repeated twenty-seven times.

For the first week, it felt like undeserved punishment: it wasn’t our fault, but we were stuck with the consequences anyway. Even worse, we would still see a flea every so often.

Week two wasn’t much better. There was a lot of swearing when the children weren’t around, and silent swearing when they were. The fleas appeared to be gone, but who knew if the eggs were still around?

Week three: cursing wasn’t necessary – we just got on with the business of getting it done. We didn’t even look for fleas.

At the fourth week’s end, it was over.

Every so often, circumstance requires more effort and time than I’d like to give – “getting rid of fleas” work, in the symbolic sense. Sometimes this is of my own making and sometimes it isn’t. Either way, I still have to put in the work. These days, I do my best to skip the whining and cursing and just get on with it.

exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God. 

[This is one in a series. For the full prayer, click “A Morning Resolve” above.]

 

Great Soul

Cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

Magnanimity: Loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness or pettiness, and to display a noble generosity. [merriam-webster.com. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary]

The other day, I tested a new product: window markers. Since my drawing abilities are somewhat limited, I drew a simple heart in red. It wasn’t very noticeable through the storm splashed, February filthy window.

Passing my office door a couple of days back, I noticed a new mark on the floor.

Had someone Sharpie’d a heart on my carpet? That’s what I thought, until I looked up.

The unremarkable heart on my window had cast its colorful shape.

Perhaps magnanimity is just the same: standing in God’s light in all our imperfections and in all circumstances, casting a reflection of love so much bigger than ourselves.

[For more on this prayer, click A Morning Resolve above. A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day, inside front cover; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement. www.ForwardMovement.org.]

Welcome, Jesus!

Readings: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:8-20

Glad tidings of great joy! Jesus has been born to us! Merry Christmas!

Boney M, Mary’s Boy Child/ Oh My Lord, Sony Music Entertainment, 2010, available on itunes]

[Holy Family, by Margaret Hill]

[Nat King Cole, A Cradle in Bethlehem Christmas for Kids, Capitol Records, 2000]

Transformations as Modeled for Us by Cicadas

   Readings: Psalm 146:5-10; Ruth 4:13-17; 2 Peter 3:11-18

“The Lord sets the prisoners free.” — Psalm 146:7

“May he also be to you a restorer of life.” — Ruth 4:15

While some people have spirit animals that they claim inspire and protect them, I have recently welcomed a spirit insect to my life (see image above): the remarkable cicada. Like snakes, cicadas break out of their skins as they grow leaving behind their exoskeleton for a new, larger body. I find this transformation to be an inspirational model for how to move up, out, and beyond myself when I’ve outgrown the current structures of my life.

If you have ever watched a cicada breaking out of its skin (either in person or via YouTube), what you will notice is that it cracks open its back shell first and then wiggles through the opening emerging upright in green glory then it pauses before jettisoning itself off the brown husk. I find the time lapse videos on this process endlessly fascinating. In case you, too, might be a wannabe cicada fan, here’s a link for your appreciation:   https://youtu.be/Nnl4hXrq4LM

I identify five parallels between cicada transformations and my own:

  1. Change starts from the inside first and then, after a time of momentum building, forces itself into the exterior world. For example, when I and my business partner started two businesses in 2017, we had had a year before that of internal, private visioning, goal setting, and planning together before it ever became obvious to people in our community that anything different was happening.
  2. Once the change starts happening, it takes tremendous effort.  The cicada/evolving person must be intrinsically and powerfully motivated to stay the course through to the other side of the transformation. Having started, we have to finish, and no one can do it for us other than us.
  3. What gets us through the process is a commitment to being willing to let go of the old and risk moving into the new. Without that, we get dangerously stuck.
  4. Of paramount importance is an understanding that we can’t rush any step in the transformative journey. It happens the way it is meant to happen and any effort on our parts to slow it down or speed it up will be counter-productive.
  5. Finally, once the new has emerged, it is crucial that we follow the wisdom of the cicada and pause.  Taking the time to pause serves many important functions. It gives us time to luxuriate in our massive achievement. It provides us with perspective on where we have come from and maybe a hint of where we are going next.

As the Scriptures cited above point out, “prisoners are set free” and “restored to life” as, using the analogy of cicada transformations and comparison to how self-aware humans go through life passages, the cycle of life — death — life plays out. It is natural and beautiful…and often painful, but always a miracle.

Offered by Jill Fredrickson, businesswoman, encourager of growth, walking home to Bethlehem.

[Cicada Emerging, photo by Shane Gross, Marine Conservation Photojournalist, taken November 2017. Go to stocksy.com to view and purchase more of his works.]

[Two Rowhouses, Colin Fredrickson, artist]

 

For the Beauty and Bounty

For the beauty and the bounty of this place I call home, Lord, I thank you. May I live in gratitude for  your creation, and be a good caretaker of my own little part of it.

 Common Sage in my front yard.

 Rosemary

[Liz Story, Simple Gifts, The Carols of Christmas: A Windham Hill Collection; Windham Hill Records, 2003]

Absolute Color

A week before Easter nineteen years ago, a package came for me. My mother-in-law had sent a set of floral placemats and napkins, with this note:

I saw these in a shop downtown and thought they would look lovely with your violet tablecloth. Happy Easter. Love, Carol

She was right. There was a bit of violet in the fabric that was an exact match for my tablecloth. How she knew that from thousands of miles away, I do not know. But if there’s a visual equivalent to absolute pitch, Carol had it.

The beauty of things mattered to her – setting a table, arranging furniture, picking a wardrobe. She had the gift of making things look just so, and my own table is the better for it.

My son and I used those napkins last night. More than for their beauty, I value them because they are a visible sign of Carol’s love. My life is more beautiful for it.

 

I Love You

Jeanne Pena is a master at saying these three precious words. So is John Capellaro. Fred Rogers said like, but everyone knew there was love behind it. The more candles I add to my birthday cake, the more I’m convinced that these are the real movers and shakers of the world.

If ever the Kingdom of Heaven is realized in the Here and Now, it will come because every living creature has learned how to say, believe, and live these words.

 

Us and Them

It’s one of the tracks on Dark Side of the Moon [Pink Floyd], it’s a mindset, and it’s a lie. Cosmically and religiously speaking, it’s all us  – it’s just that the us comes in many shapes and sizes. All of us are God’s beloved creatures, given the capacity to love and the terrible freedom to withhold it. My husband, siblings, children, and other relatives are part of us; the person in the grocery checkout, the driver cutting me off on route 3 are part of us; Barbara next door and the grieving people of Christ Church, New Zealand are us; even the ones who hurt and kill are part of us – just a part I’d rather not acknowledge.

Them is a false category, a dark place to put the people I don’t know or don’t like. But it comes at a cost: a piece of who I am always goes to the hell I wish for others.

It’s why Jesus advised us to judge not lest ye be judged (Mt. 7:1) – it’s as much to save us as it is to benefit the ones we would pass judgement upon…

Loving Mother

Readings: Psalm 80:1-7; Isaiah 66:7-11; Luke 13:31-35

Before she was in labor she gave birth;

before her pain came upon her she delivered a son.

Who has heard of such a thing?

Who has seen such things?

Shall a land be born in one day?

Shall a nation be delivered in one moment?

Yet as soon as Zion was in labor she delivered her children.

Shall I open the womb and not deliver? says the Lord;

shall I, the one who delivers, shut the womb? says your God.

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her;

rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her –

that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast;

that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.

Isaiah 66:7-11 NRSV

New life doesn’t survive on its own very long: a mother’s milk nourishes the newborn body, a mother’s and father’s loving gaze and comforting embrace nourish the heart, mind, and soul. Without this love and devotion, new life withers and does not grow.

Sometimes I forget that the same is true of the life-giving spark that is born in the soul, the image-of-God in everyone. That spark is nurtured by the people we love and the faith traditions that sustain them. I am in debt to every person who embraced my spiritual growth and fostered it.

Sometimes, I forget that faiths are also born – gifts of the loving God who created everything and sustains every breath. My own faith of manger and cross was born to the faithful children of Yahweh. It is the faith of Israel, the heritage of Abraham and Sarah, Deborah, Jacob, Mary, and Joseph that embraced and fed it. I am an ungrateful and unwise child, indeed, if I don’t see in this a mother’s love and the steadying hand of God. 

Nat King Cole, Christmas for Kids from One to Ninety-two, (recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA), compilation [Hollywood, CA: Capitol Records, 2000]

shoot, branch, root

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-9; Numbers 16:1-19; Hebrews 13:7-17

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, 

and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1, NRSV

This image incorporates twigs from the artist’s family home. This was originally posted during Advent, 2015, when Riley was attending college in Virginia.

Offered by Riley Anderson, artist, seeker, child of God.