Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Garden in the Bus

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden” 
----Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
I had not expected a garden to show up in a bus. I was hoping I’d be able to physically handle the ride via DART to downtown Seattle, usually a thirty minute drive during non-rush hour traffic. Stops and starts, unexpected turns, wide scopes of peripheral vision compromise my vestibular system pretty fast if I am not grounded driving my car. But a dear friend had invited me out to lunch and wanted to try out the DART bus. She had signed up for this service should she need it.
The hospital where she is currently undergoing extensive chemotherapy treatments after her ovarian cancer surgery, was featuring an offer -- an offer too good to refuse. Professional photographers donated their time and talents over the course of  two days. It was a time to pamper cancer patients  (current and survivors). They’d experience the joy of an attentive team for a portrait sitting. The outcome would be a treasured image to cherish.
I have accompanied my friend to some of her treatments, but this was to be a day of fun. I took my camera to photograph her through the process leading up to her completed portrait. First, we had to get there via the DART bus ride! 
There were others to pick up and bus drivers who patiently offered help to those needing assistance getting onto the bus and settled inside. After many twists, turns, speed bumps bumped and others taken to their destinations, we arrived at ours.
So why do I mention a garden?  It emerged with each stop we made, with each soul who brought her self and some of her life story into the vehicle. On this particular day only women were on our route.  
S. came on her scooter, unable to walk even a few steps without her oxygen. She was going to town to shop at some bargain stores. 
D. arrived in her wheelchair, sporting an artificial leg, an outgoing and cheerful spirit, and was able to transfer to a regular seat on the bus. She was grateful and bubbled over sharing with us her anticipation getting to a specialized yoga class that helps her stay limber. She lives with MS and other neurological challenges.
The bus ( still bumping and twisting along ) was filled with the chatter of these women, wanting to know what we were up to and where we were going. One by one, after stories were shared, each got dropped off at her destination. Later, we  were delighted to have S. and D. both get back on the bus during our return trip. Joys were expressed. S. showed us the special bargain outfit she got for summer wear. D. was so appreciative of the relaxation and care she had received at her yoga class.
The bus navigated around corners arriving at a church in north Seattle where N. was transferred via her wheelchair on board. She had come about as far geographically as my friend and I had to attend a social support group. She was abuzz telling of the fun her group had experienced. Blind since birth and dealing with cerebral palsy, N. had a smile that lit up the already sunny day. She told me that she lived in an adult home. I asked her if she had made close friends there. She said only one as the other residents were unable to communicate clearly. I realized she had come to where some joy was present, where support and friendship was a given. I hugged her as she went to the transfer bus, wondering if she ever got hugs and knowing that she could not see me beaming at her and her tenacity.

I had not expected a garden to show up in a bus. But the fruits of the Holy Spirit unfolded right before my eyes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) 

The garden emerged as I saw women choosing to thrive where they found themselves, using the means they could to get out, to socialize, to meet their challenges with a gusto that left me -  less encumbered - humbly inspired. Bus drivers were patient with the logistics of getting the riders onto the bus. I observe my friend, courageously confronting cancer with faith and fervor - S. taking in breaths with the help of an oxygen tank and exhaling an acceptance of where life had brought her -  N. having never seen a sunny sky giving off beams via her beautiful smile that would rival any sunflower - D., apologizing that she was not good with names yet remembering what had been said in the morning ride and wanting to know all about our individual experiences of the day. This garden was alive!
Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of the Bible, describes my experience this way.

“God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. . . Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 The Message).
I had not expected a garden to show up in a bus. but it showed up nonetheless and its fragrance lingers. 
Photo by Lynn 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Just A Feather Will Do

Some years ago a friend sent me a music CD. A short phrase in one verse caught my imagination --  just a feather will do. I do not have a collection of feathers but I have a few that hold significance because of when I discovered them.
Feathers -- some so light that they are wisps -- some heavy to help eagles take flight. For those of us who embraced the film,“Forrest Gump” , there is a remembrance of the opening scenes as a feather winds its way to Forrest’s feet. His acceptance of it becomes the metaphor of his taking flight into the adventures that became the fabric of his life. 
I ponder the heavier wonderments of my life and its meanings. These are not negative times but there is potential in missing the immediate moments with their wisps of grace God has before my eyes. I want to remember that He is taking care of the future and wants me to rest in the moments, to be more intentional in seeking what they hold.They are step-builders to his ordained future.
All parts of God’s creation are significant. I want just a feather to do: a teardrop, a raindrop that bring the fruits of restoration and nurture; the rests that are part of a larger musical score making it complete because they are there; a smile that lifts, a hug that comforts, a friend who understands.
I asked my cousin, Teri, if I could share about the feathers that God brought to her life and to our family’s lives through her. I will weave my comments in among her story.
Jan. 5th 2011, I received a call at work from John [her husband] who was very distraught and said there had been a bad accident and I must come to the hospital. I was at the Express Lane at work with customers and he said, “Come quick, it isn’t good.”
Aaron [ their 28 year old son ] had called me the night before and asked me if I could take Ashley [Aaron's wife] to work the next day. He needed the truck she usually drove to work. So, of course, I said, “Yes”,  and he responded with the most emotion I had ever heard in his voice, “THANKS MAMA, I LOVE YOU!” Those would be the last words I ever heard from him.
[The family runs a tree service business in a rural area. Aaron was high up on a crane, all safety measures in place, preparing a tree to be felled, high enough to see the eagles swooping by in the freedom they have, as if owning the skies.]
What must go through a mother’s heart at such a time? What must have gone through Aaron’s young wife’s mind as Teri swooped her up with the urgency in the call and they took to the road. Surely, she and Aaron’s one-year old daughter, Abigail, filled some of her thoughts. Feathers of grace fell into place without hesitation.

We cried and prayed the whole way to the hospital. We drove not knowing if Aaron was alive or dead. We held hands and prayed and prayed and prayed. We reached the road near where John was raised. At that moment, and on that particular spot in the highway, a large eagle actually swooped over our windshield and flew over the bay and towards the horizon upward. I knew within my mother’s heart that at that very moment, Aaron was being lifted to heaven on eagles wings. To me an eagle has always represented God! I knew that God was lifting Aaron Home. When we finally arrived at the hospital, we found that the moment the eagle had swooped our car was the exact minute that they had declared Aaron dead on arrival. I choose to declare him resurrected!
When I received the news later that day from Teri’s brother, as I sat in disbelief of the accident and all that it may have entailed, feathered thoughts were upon me -- a mantle of God’s presence. In my mind’s eye I saw Aaron falling from his spot high above the road, but as he fell, God swooped in. Cradling Aaron in his arms to soften the fall, holding him close, He whispered, “It is okay, son. I’ve got you. I am taking you Home.” It was months later that I found out that the place where Aaron came to rest was softened as I had seen. He lie as if in sleep, no evidence of what one would think the scene could be. His father and brother rushed to administer CPR as they awaited the paramedics. Moments of unbelief, pain, horror coexisting with God’s hand of grace to help them.
Life became a blur for the week or two before Aaron’s life celebration. The day before the service, I felt led to speak for our family to those who gathered. I went up to the 100 year old homestead where Aaron and Ashley had been married. I wanted to hear the words from God that  I was to share. It was 8p.m. and already dark. As I turned on the  porch light at the house where I would write God’s message, there on the doorstep of the old farmhouse was a young eagle feather -- God’s signature to me that He was with us in all of this. Aaron was secure with Him. He had lived his ordained earthly days. 

Teri came to know, as others of us have experienced too, that God wants to gift us with signs and wonders, assurances of what can bring us comfort in the deepest days of despair. It will not be literal feathers for everyone, although young Abigail now knows that her Daddy may wing some feathers down from above, signs that he walks alongside her as she steps into the days and adventures of her life. For some it could be the promise seen in the appearance of an unexpected rainbow or a timely word in a note or phone call. I often am blessed hearing  a song that brings tears of recognition that God understands the depths of what I am feeling, notes of grace for me. Such signs will always be of personal encouragement as that is how God loves us. His Word is filled with exhortations of how He wants us to rest in the shelter of his wings. It is where He can give us the gift of himself and the assurance that He, who is mighty, can honor us with a feather of help pulled from his abundance. Such a feather will do just fine.

I Find Your Love
Composer: Patrick Doyle
Lyrics: Beth Nielsen Chapman
Performed by Beth Nielsen Chapman

Lynn's photo of feathers she holds close in heart

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Perhaps Love . . .

My mother told the story of my toddler days and nap times. I’d never awaken crying but lie or sit contentedly singing until she came to get me. One song, popular to her generation in the 40s, poured out of my young lungs. “I don’t know why I love you like I do. . . I don’t know why, I just do.”

Through my mother’s influence, all kinds of music were an important part of my growing up years. When my brothers and I reached our teen’s, she flowed with interest into the music we loved and other music over the ensuring years. 

In my late 20s, I learned to play the guitar. What a great instrument to use in my classroom. I passed on to my students many notes from my songbook. Among these were some songs by John Denver, a favorite of mine from the era of folk singers.

He knew his way with many a song that mirrored the human condition and the need to honor the creation that we were given by God to tend. How far we have roamed from the original Garden, yet we have gardens to tend as we wend our way back Home. Our gardens include the dimensions and blooms of love. 

“Perhaps Love”  ranks high on my list of John Denver’s hits. To listen to its lyrics one gets the impression that he was confused about love. Well, aren’t we all? 

It leads me to another John, the Apostle who walked with Christ and wrote Gospel accounts of that time.  In John 17, we read a communion of words that Christ offers to his Father. In the chapter’s context it is placed prior to the day leading to Christ’s Crucifixion, the completion of his earthly mission, and his return Home. He prays from his heart on our behalf. 

I compiled a duet between the words of the two men named, John, and within lie some answers about love.  


“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone” (John 1: 1-4 NLT).

Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home

“Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began” (John 17: 24 NLT).
Perhaps love is like a window
Perhaps an open door
It invites you to come closer
It wants to show you more
And even if you lose yourself 
And don't know what to do
The memory of love will see you thru

“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them” (verses 25-26 ).
O love to some is like a cloud
To some as strong as steel
For some a way of living
For some a way to feel
And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some say love is everything
Some say they don't know

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” ( verses 22-23).
Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict full of change 
Like a fire when it's cold outside
A thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you

"Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth” ( verses 17-19).
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you


And what of that toddler in her crib, singing, “I don’t know why I love you like I do. . . I don’t know why, I just do”? That song remains deep in my heart of memories and was pulled out a bit over a decade ago. I sat on the bed in a hospice room where my Mom lie in a deep sleep, a nap of a kind, one from which she would awaken and know the perfection of Love -- choruses of love --promised because of the Love the Father sent, not a “perhaps love”.  I sang to her. I sang my toddler song but I was able to add on “the whys”. During this rendition of the song, tears flowed with the words falling out of my heart. 

Perhaps love is simply that -- all the pieces in our hearts that cannot be contained but need to flow out and become known. It  is the “why of God “ poured into us, his defining of us, his gift to us to extravagantly lavish on those we meet. In following His lead, we come to understand many of the whys and the ways that love becomes real.

If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 12-13 NLT).

Lynn’s guitar,
“Perhaps Love” sheet music,
rocking chair where years of love were 
poured out, sitting, sharing, and singing
Listen to the song! 
Perhaps Love

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Find Us Faithful

We are given many to help us along the journey of our life. For those of us who have chosen a Christian walk, we can count many mentors in Scripture from whom we garner counsel. 
As I look to the Old Testament and the life and times of Abraham, I find encouragement. I decided to write him a letter. 
Dear Abe,
It is the year, 20012 A.D...many millenniums past the days you were here on earth and leading your life with faithfulness and trust in God. So much has happened and among the best of things is that we now have God’s Word written down. You are right in that book and I have come to know and admire you. I decided to write you a letter and tell you why.
Well, maybe I should explain the new name I’ve given to you. One custom in our day is that folks who are good friends often give each other what is called “nicknames”. Since you are acquainted with having your name changed, I did not think you would mind my boldness in giving you this one. I think we are kindred souls. That  might just help you smile as you wander up there in the heavens enjoying your eternal reward and understanding more fully all of the trials you faced here on earth.
 One of the things I admire about you, Abe, is that you were called a friend of God. God Himself told you that!  He spoke to you and you listened. Those of us who follow Him all these years later are also called his friends. But I think you were the first to hear Him say such a wonderful thing as He called you into a personal relationship.
I am so grateful that He blessed you and called you righteous just because you believed in Him. You trusted Him, learned to hear His voice, and were willing to follow His guidance as best you could. I also love that you did not always get it right. I don’t either. But you persevered and walked into many foreign lands not knowing what awaited  you and your family but just because God said to go.  He knew His plan. He trusted you. I, too, have wandered through  many mysterious times. I, too, have learned that God’s grace is there to sustain and, eventually, He can bring good out of whatever happens. 
I can view your life looking back upon it. You had to live your life moving forwards and, as you know,  it is not so clear to see the outcome. I know that you sacrificed your son, Ishmael, by sending him away. God brought good out of that and a new nation. I know that you were willing to sacrifice the son of your heart, Isaac,  but God intervened and honored your obedience and spared Isaac. All those descendants He promised you.....the ones that would number more than the stars He showed you in the sky...well, we are here and we grow day by day. I am one of your spiritual descendants. No wonder I can call you, Abe.
Many, many years after you lived, God Himself sacrificed His only  Son...only this was a completed sacrifice and we, His followers, are  now called righteous because of that sacrifice.That does not make my journey any easier than yours, but both of us have the experience of God’s Presence helping us to listen and learn. You have been a good mentor. 
 Thank you for helping me remember the value of believing in God’s promises, of trusting Him, of waiting even when my eyes cannot see and my heart aches for what seems impossible.
Well, Abe, I can be a gabby one when writing to a friend. It is best I get this flung up to the stars so you can read it. But I want to end with a little piece of  writing done by another one of God’s friends. I think that he must have also been a kindred soul of yours. He expresses so well more of what I have learned by reading about you. Here is what he said:
“It is your future,
Don’t back into it.
Don’t grope into its mists blindfolded.
Put the hand of your faith into the Hand of God.
Get used to His voice.
He warns you of dangers and strangers.
He leads you to experience His prepared future.
He does not disappoint.
There is always more for those who walk with Him.
He straightens question marks into exclamation points.”*
Okay, Abe, watch those stars. Here  comes a letter from one of your fans!
*To the best of my remembrance, this quote that is on a scrap of paper from a church bulletin I cut out 25+ years ago, was written by Chuck Swindoll.

music/lyrics: Jon Mohr, recorded by: Steve Green

Watercolor sketch by Dave Peterson, friend of Lynn's. Thank you, Dave!