Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This is what it's all about

The night has once again gotten to be very long and I reach for something to settle my spirit and my wandering thoughts that seem to be very loud in the quietness of this night. Everyone (even the cats), are long asleep.....except me. I've finally decided on a color for the large open concept living space on the main floor of our large townhouse. It's the most refined, soft (but not feminine) with a certain loving brightness and warmth to it all at the same time, elegant, welcoming shade of delicate peach. Now I really really have to try to go to sleep!

There's a song which has always brought me both comfort and strength in every situation you can imagine and I wanted to share it. Amazing that the performance I found of "My Life is In Your Hands" by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir was part of an outdoor concert their smaller traveling group (but just as big in sound) gave at a state penitentiary in Louisiana...where the average sentence is 88 years. Angola state penitentiary --- a place the name of which strikes fear and hopelessness in the hearts and minds of those who are either about to go there, have family there or have been to a place where this is familiar

I hope as the music washes over you that it will give you whatever it is you need, and the freedom to feel at peace, and then maybe you might say a little prayer for the souls there who still have not yet found *freedom* even in a place where that word brings thoughts of impossibility. Our life is in His hands.....this is really what it's all about. I pray you're able to find rest there.....and me, too.

Newer is not necessarily better...

Ok I'll admit it. I have AOL, and not the freebie one. Before we entered the online world I had carefully researched the various Internet Providers and concluded that for lots of reasons (waaay back then) AOL was going to be "it". Well, it's many years later and yes, we still have AOL. I don't quite dare go to the free version not only because you just know it's not going to be *free* forever, but also because I don't like the way it manages my email or allows ME to manage/create it.

You may think me nuts for hanging onto it, but it's been so user friendly and intuitive, plus as I don't read print newspapers, I get all my main and world news online. I have my AOL set to point me in the direction of my personal interests in addition to the headlines and other intriguing things and I can take it from there. And I can keep up in a conversation with anybody who reads any newspaper and often have tidbits of info that they don't know about.

Yes, I love my Google Chrome browser and my Mozilla Foxfire and frequently will exit AOL to use these to access the internet after I'm done with mail and catching up with news. Love the speed and the ability (with Google Chrome) to save the places/pages I most often go to so I can just click on them and boom.....I'm there.

This computer has Vista for its OS and of course, periodically AOL upgrades its software for "newer, faster, better" and sometimes, it's actually been a good thing. However, when AOL 9.5 came out in beta, man was that some bad stuff. It would continually stop working and run very slowly which made no sense as this is a very fast machine with tons of RAM. Yes, I know AOL runs every little thing through various filters and such which would result in slowing it down, but I no longer even use their anti-virus "security suite" once they discontinued it as part of your subscription. As we have cable access, I have the anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-anything bad stuff through our cable provider which CONSTANTLY updates it. So, when AOL 10 appeared, I uninstalled my clunky 9.5 and thought "NOW we're going to get something good!" and installed AOL 10.

Friends, unless you have microscopic vision and also enjoy torture, DON'T DO IT!!!! Talk about frustration. Yes AOL 10 was fast. But the way the email program worked was just plain crazy! Loony! Two different "saved mail" folders? I tried to adapt and learn, really I did. Soon I thought I'd get the hang of this "tabbed browsing" lunacy, but no. So just a little while ago I went through the exercise of uninstalling AOL 10 and searched for an older version which would run on Vista. Let me tell you, they do not make this easy, especially if you have Vista or Windows 7. Finally I was left with the option of going back to 9.5 which is now thankfully out of beta. I said a little prayer and installed it hoping that it would load pages faster and not be "unresponsive" causing me to have to shut it down and start over.

So far, so good. It was wonderful to see my email the way I used to see it, create and manage it. That in itself was worth the FOREVERNESS it took to download and install. Just why is that, anyway? But after all that, I've got it back.

Just another example of newer is not necessarily better........

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Commodores - Nightshift Live (1985)

This is really getting to be a regular Nightshift!

Another night (ahem....morning but without any sleep between last night and now) and all is quiet around me. Too much racing mind about everything to get done. Would you believe that I have to get ANOTHER book, that is 3 ring binder with protective vinyl sleeves for paint "chips" and all the other stuff that goes along with the Londonderry house end of things (meaning we have to wash all the walls and repaint everything due to our tenant having been a heavy smoker). And hey....I'm not a prude about that smoker issue. But when you get some computer generated correspondence from this person through the mail, read it, and then even your hand smells like you've had a cigarette, now, that's going to be some heavy smoke issue stuff to deal with. If just the paper which rolled out of his printer and came through the mail smelling that strong, can you even imagine what a large townhouse is going to be like? Walls, carpet, window treatments......have to stop thinking about that now.

Then there are the pages with all the things necessary about moving from HERE. Heck, I've got one page color coded with the different marker colors for each room to mark the boxes with so the movers will know where they go! And I'm not especially unusual in this, apparently as I've always moved this way and the moving guy I'm dealing with is very familiar (and happy) with this technique. Each room in our home to where we're moving back will have the same color codes on the doors (taped) so everything will be very clear. Saves bunches of time and frustration on moving day. But now? Endless details.

Oh....and the multiple reminders.....did the tenant leave a zero balance with the utilities so we'll have no issue putting them in our name. I kid you not: there was a season when the gas bill which was NOT in our name remained unpaid and the gas company came after US up here where we're living! I learned from this experience. Leaving nothing to chance about that one. Gas and electric. Already checked with cable and his cable is his wherever he goes, as is ours. We have no concerns about any potential cable balances there. I do think this is about the ONLY thing we have no concerns about. Yikes. No wonder I'm not sleeping. My thought is that when I write something in the notebook and then close it, I don't have to think about it any more. But my mind is endlessly turning over things I may have forgotten. OH! Like, I learned there's a different cellar door which has been to locate the local locksmith to change ALL the locks, including that one. See what I mean?

Many of you can relate to this "nightshift" concept, but in totally different ways, though those of you in the insomniac club are very familiar with my particular version. Had to do something to ease my mind beyond everything else, none of which has been working. Yup. Youtube again. For some unknown Blogger reason, the song got posted before the post about the song! Go figure. But at least it's here!

I love this wonderful song by the Commodores....everything about it. The harmonies, the rhythm, the meaning of the words, the people gone too soon from among us but who brought us other wonderful music. I wish I could have found a better recording of this, but this was the best I could find.

So for all of you who are on the "nightshift" along with me, for whatever reasons....including actual work shifts, take a break and settle in. I'm working on getting my groove back and this is the kind of music that does it for me. I hope it refreshes you. Breathe easy, friends. Somehow, it will all work out. Go ahead. Click on it and listen once again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Such Pure Joy!!!

Have you had so many sleepless nights that your brain feels hot? Well, I know it's not my "brain" because it cannot *feel*. But, if I didn't know any better, it's been just too cooked. Too much to think about. Too much to do. Too many unknowns! AAAAAARGH! For a person like me, this is like sandpaper on raw nerves. Literally nothing under my control. Choices, but can they be accomplished? I've lost my "vision" and my sense of purpose. I knew I needed to just go play.

At times like this, YouTube never fails me. It's been so long that I've posted to this blog, though, that I can't seem to share this song I really like with you and the amazing video with it. Dolphins flying and leaping through the ocean. Whales that you can almost hear laugh. Utter abandon. Not a care in the world. Watching it, hearing a song I've not listened to in a long time, "Cool Change" brought the temperature of my brain down a few degrees. Phooey. Oh not about the slightly cooler brain, but that I'm not sure I can embed the video here. If you haven't seen it, you'll love it. Who can see this without being amazed, relaxed and released from tension at least for a little while. Going to try it again (embed the video). Hallelujah it worked! Oh take a few minutes, and enjoy!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Life Through Lent...Prepare the Way

Yesterday the doorbell rang which of course set off the ferocious barking of Daisy, our Westie wonder watch dog. This isn't unusual as you never know who may be at the door, or what critters might wander across our lawn. Daisy has a huge vocabulary which is different for squirrels, other dogs or cats, people on the street, the UPS guy, people who come to the door and especially the postman. Wow does he get some intense barking. I really believe she is certain it is solely her earnest barking which keeps him from coming right into the house, as our mailbox is just outside the front door.

But this visitor brought two pleasant surprises. One was a jar of maple butter and the other was his annual request to tap the maple trees. "Already??" I asked. "Really?" He seemed a little amused at my inability to keep track of the shift in the season and he smilingly reassured me that yes, now is the time to begin the sugaring season.
When you think of it, there's more than a little irony in the timing of this, as just the day before was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent and the time we think of some kind of self-deprivation…not "sugaring" and the luscious sweetness springing from the heart of the sugar maple trees.

The concept of choosing something we enjoy and giving it up during the Lenten season is for the purpose of feeling the little vacuum and pang from its temporary loss in order to step a bit away from the world and walk more closely with Jesus…to fill that vacuum with prayer, Bible reading, quiet time, or some other spiritual reading or activity to deepen our relationship with the Lord. The fact that the timing of this coincides with "sugaring season" gives even further dimension to what this opportunity for spiritual growth is about.

Those who have lived in maple syrup country know that the syrup doesn't just flow straight out of the trees, ready to be poured on pancakes or other yummy food. Tapping the trees is just the start of the process which will then involve lots of boiling down to get to the real essence of the luscious, precious golden syrup itself. The sap is strained to remove any little odd bits which have fallen into it and then the boiling and separating into different qualities of syrup begins.

When you think of it, this is very similar to the spiritual process and purpose of Lent, too. Sifting out the things in our hearts and lives which keep us from being closer to Jesus as well as from healthier relationships with others, and enduring whichever deprivation we may choose or discipline we elect to practice in this season in order to become more united with the heart of Christ, deepen our relationship with Him, and experience more fulfilled and joyful Christian living.

If we look even more closely at the tree symbolism, the sweetness of our salvation and eternal life involves trees as well. Beginning with the harsh long spiky thorns of the Hawthorn bush from which the "Crown of Thorns" was woven as a crown of humiliation for Jesus, to the trees which furnished the timbers for Jesus' cross for his crucifixion, death and resurrection, so also is the precious sweet essence in the sugar maple tree brought forth through the intense and completely transformative process it undergoes. Of course maple syrup is a non-essential luxury and a treat. Our salvation and eternal life is a blessed gift to embrace and celebrate.

We people are similar to sugar maple trees. Some have more harsh exteriors with bark which seems impossible to penetrate. Some are gnarled and bent, or have branches which make them appear unapproachable. But inside all of us is the sweetness God put there when we were made. Some of us have either forgotten about it or have broken places in our hearts which make it difficult for us to access or even believe it's there, let alone enjoy it ourselves or dispense it to others.

This year I'm choosing a different path for my Lenten journey. Instead of taking up a special book to study, or give up something I delight in, I'm going to carve out time every day for prayerful "sifting". My purpose will be to ask the Lord to show me the inner things which need to be healed, the broken places as well as the habits which get in the way of more peace in my life, and ask Him to remove them from me. I'll include Bible reading about the time in Jesus' life which Lent commemorates, beginning with Matthew 4:1-11 and expand from there. It's a journey we can all take to sort out and get rid of the things which keep us from our inner sweetness, the love of Christ and His goodness which dwells deep in our hearts to enjoy and share with others. In this way, I'll be preparing the way for new life just as the maple trees are preparing for spring, and as we prepare to celebrate our new life in Christ at Easter. Why not choose to take this journey, too?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January --- Happy New Year ….. EVERY Day!


The sky was the kind of brilliant blue you only see in fabulous nature magazines, and all the leaves were fallen and brown, leaving the trees empty and waiting for winter. Around us, somewhere in the neighborhood, we could hear the relentless sound of a leaf blower. We have neighbors who are extremely particular about their lawns, and leaf blowers in the fall and lawn mowers in the grass growing season are very familiar sounds.

Except this time the leaf blower noise was getting closer and closer. Generally we have it down…we can tell when it's the neighbors next door, across the street, a couple houses away etc. But this was definitely different. "Look!" My husband suddenly exclaimed. "It's a guy blowing leaves in our back yard!" Now this was a first, and much needed as we sure had a yard full of leaves.
John has an electric leaf blower but hardly has time to use it.

So, who was this guy and why was he doing us the kindness of blowing the leaves out of our yard? He was extremely diligent, starting on the side, chasing the leaves along the way, out of the large dried daylily bed and ridding them all from the herb garden. When he got to the lower part of the back yard, I told my husband, "You've got to go out there, find out who he is and thank him!" He didn't have any rinky dink kind of leaf blower, either. It was gasoline powered and he had it strapped to his back. Rarely did the man look up, but concentrated on getting every single leaf out of our yard.

Pretty soon I was in the upstairs bathroom window watching John approach the leaf blower man gingerly so as not to startle him. Oh! It was a neighbor! He stopped his machine long enough to receive John's heartfelt thanks and to explain quite seriously, "Well, I needed to pray. And this is one of the ways I do it best". After nodding to John, he started up his machine and went back at it until he was done. He wouldn't accept anything in return for what ended up to be an entire afternoon of work….and prayer. Wow!

It's late in December and the snow is covering everything outside, but still those words continue to stay with me. "I needed to pray…and this is one of the ways I do it best." Think of it. "Praying best" by doing it while working, doing a nice thing for someone. Actually, everything about it makes complete sense. Deep contemplative prayer is best done while the rest of you is occupied with doing something else, or you'll find your mind wandering into other territory than what you're wanting to meditate on or talk with God about. And to combine the praying with doing something for someone else, now that's a triple blessing: you're praying, you feel good that you're doing something nice for someone, and the recipient(s) feel gratefully delighted!

As I've continued to think about this simple but profound notion since that gorgeous fall day, I've found small ways to incorporate this concept into my everyday life. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and I have found it to be a way which not only blesses others but brings peace into my life. It will make you feel that the work of your hands which God has given you to do is something sacred. Bingo! We are called to lead a holy life and this brings us out of the mundane into the observation and peacefulness of things we'd otherwise ignore and involve our mind in worry or other similar things.

More importantly, it gives us multitudes of ways to pray for others in the time we never knew we had! How to do this? Some of the ways I weave this kind of prayer into my life are to pray for the car in front of me (especially at stop lights), to pray for the people in the houses I drive by, to pray for all the people in our church whenever I'm looking at it or doing "ordinary" tasks inside it, to ask God to bring people to my mind to pray for when I'm cleaning, and many other ways I won't share or I'll be disclosing secret kindnesses as well as perhaps keeping you from creating and designing your own methods. Friends, this is a simple pathway to happiness and contentment. In keeping our mind on higher things, in doing small things for others, we are not only happier and more peaceful, but also doing some of the work of God.

Every day is a new beginning, every moment brings us a new start. Although I'm not ready to get a gas powered leaf blower, I'll never forget the wonderful lesson I learned that day. Why not begin to engage in this way of praying for others, as well as continuing an ongoing conversation with God? I promise you you'll be mightily blessed! Happy New Year Every Day!