REROUTING

This morning I walked at a city park a few miles from home, wondering if this will become the new place for my daily hikes…

You may know that I have had a favorite place along my regular walking route, an open field in the hills where I can see the sunrise on the horizon. Each morning, I have paused there to thank God for the new day. Last October I was told that this place, my special sanctuary on the hill, was going to be turned into a recreational park in the coming year. Although I was disappointed, I was hopeful that some new opportunities and blessings would be found there, too (I shared my feelings about that news in my post, Changing Landscapes, October 7th).

But a few months ago, I came upon a large hole at the top of my path to the field. Speculating that it might become a restroom or concession stand, I simply walked around the hole each day to take photos and thank God, just as I had before.

Then one day, my neighbor friend Diana suggested that I should stay away from the area – the funding for the recreational park had been redirected, and the hole was going to be filled with contaminated soil that had been dug up around utility boxes and poles. And soon it was…

I was heartbroken, but I adapted my course to a nearby gravel path that would lead to the same field, and I began greeting the sun from a different viewpoint. I soon found new blessings from this side of the hill.

Until this week, when I found this in the middle of my favorite scene.

So, this morning I found myself at the city park.

This story could be a fitting metaphor for much of life, couldn’t it? We may be on a path that is comfortable and suitable for our needs, a path that brings us joy and peace, and then one day, the path no longer works well for us. Something about the path has changed – or maybe something about us has changed – and so we adjust the path just a bit to gain a new perspective from a different angle that once again blesses.

But what happens when every perspective, every viewpoint on that path no longer brings joy?

We may be tempted to find reasons to remain, but maybe these experiences are invitations for us to seek a completely new route. The route that we seek will not feel familiar, nor will it feel perfect, but it should be a route that, at the very least, will not add to our sadness or anxiety like a contaminated pit. Nor should the path impede or detract from our joy like a construction trailer and backhoes. Our new route may not be as easy or familiar, but perhaps we can find joy in the exploration, excitement in the unknowing, or new hope in every step we take.

We can certainly still hold gratitude for all of the previous paths we once walked. These paths have served us well, and often they have led to great serenity and peace. But there may come a time to leave those paths behind – and to find new ones that will lead us to greater joy, genuine life, and generous love.

What new path may be waiting for you?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSVUE)

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…  If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23, 25 (NRSVUE)

Bible verses found at ttps://www.biblegateway.com/
Photos by Karen

…AND YET

Thank you, Brightest Love and Light,
for showing us that we still might
shine with your love and peace.
Your love will shine and never cease
to remain with us in every day
through your small, ordinary way…

The breaking of dawn,

long shadows on the lawn,

the light of love that shines upon
downcast souls like me.

Orange on trees,

the fields of weeds,
(the spectacular sneeze)

the fragrance of the peonies.

We hold our grief, we feel despair
then look to you – and hope is there,
reminding us that when we choose
to shine your light in every hue
even in meager and humble ways
we’ll brighten your world with love today.

~~~~~

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

(Psalm 139:7-12 NIV)



Photos by Karen, dawn on May 17, 2022
Psalm found at https://www.biblegateway.com/

THIS…

I hope that regular readers have come to know that my blog posts are intended to encourage, uplift, and then prompt us all to share God’s love in the world.
I hope that my words give inspiration, comfort, and kindness.
I hope to remind readers of God’s infinite love for everyone as often as possible.
I hope to show the gifts and beauty of everyday moments and of all of creation.

Writing these thoughts brings joy and purpose to my soul.

But this week, I had been working on several drafts while pondering some new inspirations to share. Then, for yet another time, I sadly learned about the senseless killing of ten more black people in Buffalo, by a gunman whose very intention was to reduce their numbers.

My words seem futile. My encouragement seems pointless. My stories seem petty and insignificant against the backdrop of these incredibly painful tragedies.

Our family is beautifully diverse in color, orientation, and identity, and we are bonded by much more than birth and bloodline. Each time I hear these stories – far too many of them – that someone has been killed only because of who they are, my maternal heart and soul become so very angry, fearful, despairing, and terribly, terribly sad.

Please, PLEASE, keep pouring love into the world, dear friends.

This is all I have to say today.



Photo by Karen

POEMS AND PRAYERS (INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE)

This week, I participated in the annual HOPE*WRITERS INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE. Each day, we were given a word and invited to share an image and our thoughts on that theme. I thought I would share my contribution here, too. May you find many blessings this weekend. Thank you for stopping by!


DAY 1: SUPPORT

We support one another best not from a distance,
shouting words of encouragement
standing perfectly upright and pristine
serving as a model to emulate.

We support one another best in coming together,
listening with full attention
leaning fully and freely into each other
learning as we go…
together.



DAY 2: PATH

When the journey is uncertain
and I cannot see ahead;
when the path divides before me
and no tracks are there to tread –
I remember you are with me
and trust that I am led.



DAY 3: ROUTINE

We arise before dawn
put the coffee on
get ready for our day
take a few moments to pray
then wave our goodbyes
with love in our eyes.

I return to my desk
to journal and reflect
ask God for new insight
embrace God’s delight
then walk to the sunrise
with joy in my eyes.

I go on with my day
know God leads the way
feel more prepared
(a little less scared)
then meet each surprise
with hope in my eyes.

We say our “goodnight”
turn out the light
consider the day
thank God as I pray
then breathe quiet sighs
with peace in my eyes.

God,
Thank you for my everyday tasks
for they provide a sense of normalcy
when life is anything but.

Thank you for my morning routines
for they remain a source of centering
when life is filled with distraction.

Thank you for my daily reflections
for you are my certainty and my serenity
when life seems quite precarious.

Thank you for my ordinary routines
for they have become sacred, holy rituals
and life is significant and meaningful.



DAY 4: COMMITMENT

Commitment is perseverance…

the hunkering down to keep on walking
underneath the rain,
the typing of that one last word
as eyes begin to strain,
the rising after falling
even when you feel the pain

and knowing that in all things,
God is and will remain.


Commitment is faithfulness…

the standing still and steady
when you’d really rather leave,
the asking of hard questions
when you’d rather not believe,
the seeking of significance,
often difficult to perceive

and knowing that in all things,
God is here to help relieve.


Commitment is steadfastness…

the acting with integrity,
keeping promises you make,
the dedicating of yourself
to do the things that it might take,
the holding fast to all the gifts
within the sad heartache

and knowing that in all things,
your burdens God will take.


Commitment is attentiveness…

the tending of your heart and soul
as you live and serve and move,
the setting time for practices
when the push becomes a shove,
the receiving of encouragement
to do all of the above

and knowing that in all things,
you’re loved with Infinite Love.



DAY 5: VISION

Give me double vision, God –
the kind that helps me see
the hidden, deeper meanings
of the things that seem to be.

A special type of vision
to search the depths below
and find beneath the surface
what you would have me know.

Give me double vision, God –
to see more than meets the eye,
the significant magnificence
of earth and sea and sky.

A special type of vision
to find the gift within the trial,
the blessing in the heartache,
and your presence all the while.

Give me double vision, God –
help my eyes and then my head
to see more to someone’s story
than what is being said.

A special type of vision
to see humanity anew
so when I meet another…

I find that I see you.


(Photos by Karen)

ENJOYING THE JOURNEY

Back in January, when the fresh new year once again sparked my overzealous goal setting, I decided to pursue my dream of hiking the 17-mile trail at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark later this year (when the weather cools and the bugs disappear). I am not certain if Jim is as excited, but he loves me enough to support my dreams, and he worries about me enough to come along.

We have walked almost daily for a number of years, so this new goal will be a stretch, but at least we have already started. “Our” plan is to lengthen our daily walks from three miles to four or five, and on the weekends, hike a rugged nature trail as often as we can. As we continue through the year, we will try to walk longer distances more regularly, first increasing our distance on level ground then moving to the hills and steeper paths as we grow stronger.

We love our weekend trail hikes, so I find this to be the best part of our preparation. This past weekend, Jim suggested that we try walking the campgrounds at Beech State Park for our first five-mile loop of the season. I was excited about our new challenge and the adventures we would have together! But as soon as we began walking, I suddenly felt weary. My body ached and I felt so sluggish that even nature’s beauty didn’t motivate me. We managed 2.5 miles (on level roads) and then I sadly suggested we return home.

I truly think I was having an unusual day, but I was so discouraged that I was tempted to give up my 17-mile dream. I told Jim that I just need to accept that I am getting older and cannot do the things I once could (yet recognizing how fortunate I am to be able to walk as much as I do).

But after some reflection, I (we 🙂 ) plan to keep pursuing this dream. I am beginning to see that the goal serves merely as the invitation, while the joy is found in our planning, pursuing, and progressing. “The joy is in the journey,” others have said, and I agree. I love walking each morning to greet the sunrise and thank God for the day. I cherish hiking with Jim, as we move from our busy places into nature’s sanctuary. I treasure feeling the nearness of God through God’s beautiful creation. I delight in taking care of my body and my soul while walking in reverent contemplation.

Keeping this goal before us, we will take each next step, enjoy the hikes and places, stretch ourselves as often as possible, and then – perhaps in October – we will discover how far we have traveled and how well we have prepared. We may never do the hike. But we will have explored and hiked and tried and ached and discovered and savored and relished and dreamed and laughed and loved and helped and listened and paused and noticed and accepted and wondered and worshiped and delighted and progressed and improved…

and enjoyed the journey.


You show me the path of life.
    In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11 NRSV)


Photo by Karen (actually, Jim), Winfield, WV
Bible verse found at https://www.biblegateway.com/


SCATTERING SEEDS

A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed… some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold. (Luke 8:5,8 NRSV)

Yesterday I listened to an inspirational podcast on Everyday Spirituality.* This episode, “Music and Spirituality” was from June 2021, in which Pastor Debbie Bronkema interviewed Tabreeca Woodside.(Tabreeca is a talented jazz singer who loves God and music; I have had the pleasure of meeting both Pastor Debbie and Tabreeca through the connect.faith weekly Creativity Labs.)

The whole interview was such a gift, especially Tabreeca’s thoughts about expanding with God beyond normal practices or expectations. I found that her journey and insights along the way resonated with my own. Then, in the middle of the interview, she suddenly felt prompted to share some poetic reflections she had written, and her words profoundly touched my soul! After she read her reflection, she added that she had honored that prompt to share it, because “You never know who needed to hear or identify…”

So yesterday – nearly a year later – I decided to listen to that podcast on my morning walk. At that moment, her words, scattered out to the world like seeds, finally landed, took hold, and uplifted me.

I began to think of other seed-scatterers who continue to generously share their seeds of inspiration with the world. My writer friends have written many good words of hope, kindness, and understanding, even as they do not know how their heartfelt works will be received. My artist friends steadfastly paint for the sheer joy and beauty of the art and of the world, even as they do not know who will find a blessing from their canvas. My kind and caring friends continue to work for change, offer help and hope to those in need, and give sacrificially for others, even as they do not know what differences they will make.

All of them persevere from a deep longing to share their gifts and help make the world a more beautiful place. And then, in one holy moment in time – when the pause, the prompt, the passion, and the people intersect – these gifts, these scattered seeds, are gratefully received and nurtured for further growth.

Writers, keep writing. Artists, keep creating. Musicians, keep playing. Friends of kindness and love, keep scattering those seeds of hope, encouragement, and beauty. Follow your passions, create from your heart, honor those nudges, and generously scatter your good seeds with the world.

Because “You never know…”



*https://connect.faith/listen/everydayspirituality/episode-24/

Photo by Karen – Meek’s Mountain, WV
Bible verses found at https://www.biblegateway.com/

FROM DARKNESS INTO DAWN (EASTER)

EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 17TH

I walked from darkness into dawn
and the moon had kindly shined upon
this traveler with its gentle glow,
until it faded and then went low.

The sky reflected beautiful hues
from darker purple to brighter blue
and shining yellow from softer peach.

All nature seemed intent to teach
a subtle but profound insight…
How can I live, so that I might
follow in their sweet surrender?

Reflecting light, remaining tender,
while gradually learning to let go.

Then, in adoration bending low
as the sun breaks forth in bright array
and ushers in a brand-new day.


Blessed Easter, dear friends.

(Poem and photos by Karen, March 2022)

MENTORING MOMENTS – WAITING (THE EASTER VIGIL)

THE VIGIL OF EASTER, SATURDAY, APRIL 16TH

Today we come to Jesus, our beloved mentor and friend, and find an empty seat. He is not here. We know why. We know his terrible story, his incredible suffering, his excruciating death. Our sad and reverent silence is filled with grief, fear, guilt, and loss. And yet, our quiet vigil also holds hope, expectation, awe, mystery, and a tiny bit of joy. For we know that within the tomb, an amazing transformation is under way. While we wait, Jesus is being recreated into our glorious, living, resurrected savior who will soon emerge from the grave!

And so we pray…

WHILE WE WAIT…

For light from darkness
for words from silence
for peace from despair
for joy from sorrow
for life from death.

Transform us, too.
Enlighten us, too.
Recreate us, too.
Unbind us, too.

And then…
Resurrect us, too, God.

Fashion us into new life
beyond our imagination
but envisioned by yours.
Amen.


Photo by Memento Media on Unsplash

MENTORING MOMENTS – TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE

GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 15TH
A TIME OF BLESSING

On this Good Friday, we sadly gather around Jesus to hear of his last hours on earth.

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with me. When we came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified me there with the criminals, one on my right and one on my left. 

He pauses for a moment, taking a deep breath, then continues…

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding me and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:32-33, 39-43, NRSV, revised*)

As you sit quietly with Jesus at your side, reflecting on his words, is there anything you would like to ask him? What final words of blessing would you like to say to him?

Reflection:

Even as he is painfully and slowly dying, Jesus gives yet another blessing. He promises this criminal that he will soon be with Jesus in paradise. Even in his darkest terrible moment, Jesus never stops loving, never stops forgiving, never stops giving hope to us all.

Thank you, Jesus.


Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash
Bible verses found at https://www.biblegateway.com/

*The name of Jesus and his pronouns have been adapted by Karen into first-person.

MENTORING MOMENTS – FROM DESPERATION TO SURRENDER

(Garden of Gethsemane, Israel)

MAUNDY THURSDAY, APRIL 14TH
A TIME OF SHARED STRUGGLE

We gather around Jesus in somber silence today, for we know what is to come. Jesus soberly begins…

We went to a place called Gethsemane; and I said to my disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” I took with me Peter and James and John, and I began to be distressed and agitated. And I said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, I threw myself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from me. I said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” I came and found them sleeping; and I said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again I went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more I came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to me. I came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:32-42, NRSV, revised*)

Sit in the silence for a few minutes and place yourself next to Jesus as he prays. What would you like to do for him? How do you feel as you consider his anguish and your helplessness? Quietly remain in his presence as his gentle, listening friend, the only one who has stayed awake. What do you hear him saying to you?

Reflection:

During some trying times in my life, God has always helped to gradually move me from experiencing grief to receiving grace. I especially noticed this when my prayers slowly transformed from desperation to surrender… from fighting to acceptance… from fear into peace. I imagine that you also have experienced this in some way.

We find that our prayers evolve…

~ Please, God, keep my marriage intact… Help my family through this divorceWe will find new life in you.
~ Please, God, let it not be cancerHelp me to stay strong… I will rest in your perfect love no matter what is ahead.
~ Please, God, keep my loved one alive… Keep her from pain… I entrust her to you.

The prayers of Jesus in Gethsemane touch us profoundly, because we more clearly understand how he questioned, faced, and endured his terrible trials as a human person like the rest of us. He could not avoid pain, sadness, despair, agony, or even death. He had no superpower or strength beyond human capacity. Jesus truly suffered, agonized, wept, and pleaded with God in Gethsemane. Just like we would.

What Jesus did have – and what we all can have – is his deep trust in God. He found the courage and strength to endure everything, because he knew that God was with him and perfectly loved him. Through his earnest, desperate prayers, Jesus opened his heart to God. And God filled Jesus with all that he needed, including acceptance… and then peace.

In our trials, we may not know what goodness God will bring to us, but we do know that God is good. We may not understand the hardship, but we do feel God’s presence with us in the storm. We may not feel ready to bear the difficult days ahead, but we do know that God is already preparing us and God is always going before us.

We may not know the Why, but we can trust the Who.



Photo by Stacey Franco on Unsplash
Bible verses found at https://www.biblegateway.com/

*The name of Jesus and his pronouns have been adapted by Karen into first-person.