Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Gift For When You Are Tongue-Tied

We are a wordy people.  Spoken aloud or written in solitude, those intricate combinations of vowels and consonants spill out and over, trip us up, magnify our majestic Savior, encourage and bring hope, or cause us to hit a wall.  They can destroy like a wielded sword or be the sweetest salve on tender wounds.

But sometimes there  .  are  .  no  .  words.

We dig deep and try to find them, but they are not to be found.  Illusive they have become.  Our wells brim over with deepest sorrow or the most profound joy ever.  And we look for a way to express where we truly are.

But tongue-tied we have become.






It seems that only the most articulate among us can harvest those gems, the gifts that beg to be spoken, articulated, shared, offered up.  The rest of us are left to simply be still.

And savor all that's truest in our hearts.  

And lift up hands that are heavily laden with some of the most profound, awesome emotions we've experienced on this journey here on earth.

For those of us who have not been gifted with the tongues of angels or a gold-encrusted pen, we can only offer our feeble musings as a living sacrifice to the One who sees those unformed, unexpressed thoughts and emotions that whirl and swirl, that end up permanently engraved on our hearts.

For His eyes only.

And when all is said and done, we understand once again that more often than not, it can be quite a magnificent offering to let our words be few {Ecclesiastes 5:2}.



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adapted

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see you at
Holley's place

Thursday, April 13, 2017

In Which I Consider Unsettling Holy Week Questions

When the big box office hit The Passion of the Christ hit the theaters back in 2004, I made a fairly easy decision.  There was just no way I was going to sit in a comfy seat in a darkened theater and watch the Holy One I adored get tortured to death.

I couldn't bear even the thought of it.  It made my skin crawl, my stomach turn.

Who could bear the viewing of such agony?

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It's hit me afresh recently ... the outrageous cruelty, the gruesome barbaric scene, the ultimate sacrifice we consider this Holy Week.  And who are the eyewitnesses to this horrific crucifixion?  His mother, Mary ... and 'many women were there, watching from a distance.'

All the disciples, the multitudes, the followers?  The only one mentioned is John, and Jesus entrusts His mother to his care ... her children, for some reason, weren't present.  Mark 6 tells us that Jesus had at least 3 brothers and 2 sisters.  

Where did they disappear to?  Did they flee for the hills in fear?  Did they not believe He was who He said He was?  How could they not be there to support their Brother, their mother?

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My questions lead to more considerations.  Unsettling personal ones.  Hard stuff.

If I had been in town that day, how would I have demonstrated my love for the Christ I had committed to follow?  What choices would I have made as He groaned in agony, bloodied and battered, spikes holding his broken body to raw and ragged wood, noontime sky turning dark and the curtain of the temple torn in two from top to bottom?

For me.  For my sins. 

Would I have been fully present to the Son of God in every way possible?  

I'd like to think that by some kind of amazing grace I wouldn't have denied knowing Him.  Or skedaddled off to ride out the sheer terror of it all in the relative comfort and safety of my home.  I'm hoping I wouldn't have made haste for the hills or scurried off somewhere to bury my head in the sand.

God only knows.



Matthew 27
Mark 15
Luke 23
John 19

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sharing questions with
  Holley

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Little Sister & I Chat About This Month's Favorite Novel . . . & Her Fabulous Book Club

What are the odds that you and your sister would read the exact same book at the exact same time, neither one with the slightest idea of what the other was up to?

I kid you not.

But that's what happened this month as the two of us grabbed copies of Christina Baker Kline's A Piece of the World: A Novel, completely clueless that the other was falling in love with the same beautifully spun chapters.

Kindred spirits we are.  

Over breakfast this past weekend, we chatted for the first time about this elegantly penned, instant New York Times best seller ... comparing notes on this haunting, compelling, absorbing tale set on the rugged Maine coast.

We both were captivated by this fictionalized story of artist's Andrew Wyeth's inspirational muse, Christina Olson, whose figure on a hillside field, crawling toward an old Maine homestead, has become the focus of one of the 20th century's most admired paintings.

'Later he told me that he'd been afraid to show me the painting.  He thought I wouldn't like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind.  The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy.  That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won't stay hidden.'

The author deftly captures the unusual, complex relationship that Christina and Andrew shared.  Christina's determination to survive shines through despite a life filled with heartache and challenge, past the bitterness in her spirit and the physical pain that daunts her.  And Andrew captures her simple existence, her very essence, with his artistic genius, his paintings stunning, mesmerizing.

Little Sister and I observed that when you choose bitterness you choose isolation.  

And we both agreed that we couldn't put the book down ... not because it was action-packed or filled with suspense.  But simply because we had been so utterly transported to Christina's world.






And then we continued sipping our mugs of hot tea as we moved on to the subject of the book club she's been attending since 2001.

Each September, 7 - 9 faithful readers kick off another year at the same Thai restaurant where they share their summer readings with each other.  In their 16 years together, they've read about 120 volumes ... a wide variety of genres that range from 'blood and guts' to historical fiction.  Poetry.  Volumes about other countries, world wars, women's issues.

And a number of New England and Boston writings, set on streets that are familiar as the back of their hands.

Books she admits she never would have pulled off the shelf on her own.

The leader kicks off the discussion by asking, 'So what did you think of the book?' and then they take off from there.  The conversation is freewheeling and they don't bother with the suggested questions tucked in the back of the book.  If you thought it was a boring read or you didn't get to finish it, you come anyway.

Differences of opinion are common in the judgement-free zone of their conversations together.  They've chosen not to gather a clique of friends, instead inviting participants with diverse opinions, their ages ranging from their 40's to their 70's.

The hostess-of-the-month has often served snacks that meshed with the subject at hand.  France?  Little croissants.  A concentration camp where the prisoners survived on rice and crumbs?  Matzoh.  A southern theme?  Glasses of lemonade with lots of ice.

On those occasions where they gather to watch film versions of favorite books, individual boxes of popcorn and candy are ready and waiting.

And while the members don't socialize outside of their regularly scheduled meetings, the women in this club give each other sweet, steady support as they lose spouses or launch children.  Wrestle with family issues, battle cancer ... or begin to venture down dementia's long road.

I asked my sister if she'd share their Book Club's 2001 - 2017 Reading List with the readers of this blog ... and she said YES!  To receive your copy, simply join the discussion in the comment section and then email me at lindastoll@juno.com and I'll be glad to send it your way.

No strings attached.  Promise.

So ... let's talk about what you're reading right now.  And your book club experiences.

P.S.
Speaking of sisters, I just finished Susan Meissner's Secrets of a Charmed Life, the story of two young sisters lives forever altered by one's ambitious, selfish choices in the midst of the chaotic tragedy of the London bombings in 1940's.  Yet another superb piece of fiction.




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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Grace of Guarding & Cherishing Your Creativity

We've all been given a sweet spot of creative time.  Optimally, it's a daily gift.

These are our most productive moments for we're sharp and alert and right on top of our game.

We get to choose what we want to do with those precious minutes. Or wide open hours. Whatever they may be.










For those of us who find great joy in setting words onto paper, our spacious space is quiet and undistracted.  The urgent must-dos are out of the way.  Our heads are clear and focused, our hearts unfold wide, listening to the Spirit's beckoning.

The awaiting creative sparks have room to spin and soar, random ideas and words and phrases pour forth and knit themselves together, sometimes surprising us with the force of their unexpected arrival. 

A rhythm, a flow emerges as everything that's within comes together.  Fingertips speed over keyboard with little hesitation.  And our labor of love is birthed, often messy and incomplete as it bursts forth.  We pause to let the offering marinate, return to massage it again and again, and have the pleasure of watching our heart-words finally pull together and take wings.

As we follow His lead, this whimsically creative process accomplishes what He pleases.

Blogging.  Working on your manuscript.  Designing lesson plans, a seminar, or a sermon.  Journaling.  Penning poetry or a love letter.  Agenda setting.  Brainstorming some sort of an out-of-the-box project.




Maybe you're not a wordsmith but you've just gotta nail down that tune that won't leave your head.  Or spend time in the kitchen, kneading yeasty, warm dough.  Head out the door to explore an unknown path, camera at the ready.  Quilt tiny stitches on gorgeous fabric or maybe plunge your hands down deep and dirty in the richest of soil.  Splash paint on a blank canvas with wild abandon.  Wield some kind of tool in your awaiting workshop.

Whatever.

Sure, we can produce work at other times of day or night.  But it often ends up forced or hollow or stilted.  And we wonder what's going on for us.  Not to worry.  It's just not your best time, that's all.

Discover and embrace, guard and cherish your sweet spot of creative time.  This sacred space is an incredible grace to enjoy, with the end result going forth as a needed encouragement for another soul.




For when all is said and done, it's all about blessing others.

May our offerings reflect His heart.  And may He prosper the work of our hands.

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Let's talk about what you're creating ...

Monday, March 27, 2017

When Life Hands You Lemons . . .

Let's just say that 75% of what was rather confidently scrawled onto this month's calendar never took place.

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I'll be honest with you.

In the waves of disappointment and frustration that flowed during recent weeks, I did more than my fair share of moaning and groaning, my husband and I {usually} patient in allowing each other to verbally wrestle through some befuddling occurrences.

Personally, this season of Lent and time of sparse online interaction has been a very good thing, opening up some substantial moments with the One who has allowed those upheavals and changes, the closed doors and unbidden surprises.




For while I'm sure that the enemy wanted to sow seeds of doubt and fear, God is in the business of turning lemons into lemonade.  So to speak {Genesis 50:20}.  For while much has been unsettling, it hasn't been a wasted experience.  He has revealed some awesome things about His character, His faithful heart, and His exquisite timing that left me smiling and whispering a quiet 'amen' from time to time.

The whole ordeal is serving as a powerful reminder that the writer of Proverbs wasn't kidding when he penned, 'many are the plans of a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails' {Proverbs 19:21}.

I've been reminded once again for the need to fully process our very real emotions and not to shove them into some dark spooky crevice of our souls.  To unpack the messy stuff with someone who's safe and sane and confidently pray together for God's will to become crystal clear.  To journal through weird seasons even as we claim gratitude for all God is inviting us to in the midst of the unsteadiness.













As March rolls to an end, please let me encourage you to toss your pen to the wind and use a pencil to jot down appointments, obligations, and plans ... and be sure that a big eraser is close at hand.  Because life happens and chances are you'll need to delete, adjust, and reconfigure.

Repeatedly.

As Pastor Rick Warren says, 'It will dramatically lower the frustration level in your life if you remember it is not all up to you.'





So, go ahead, friend.  Squeeze those lemons with glee.  Make something sweet and zesty even as you choose to give thanks for God's steady presence in the midst of all that's swirling around you.  I'd be happy, joyful really, to share a glass or two of lemonade with you as we chat about what we're learning in the waiting room.




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sharing lemonade with