Saturday, July 13, 2013

We Have This Hope

Coincidences.  I don't believe in them.  Too many times when I'm on the verge of saying "What a coincidence!" I look closer and realize it's no such thing.  Take this morning, for example.  A few minutes ago I was reading a friend's blog post about "Hope."  It was simple, yet profound.  An honest conversation about the difference between hoping and wishing and how they are not the same thing.  I was moved by the reminder that hope is grounded in something far deeper than a simple desire.  It is based on knowledge, although that knowledge might be hidden or even buried
at times.

As I was thinking about this, the CD that had been playing in the background changed to the next hymn:  "We Have This Hope" based on Titus 2:13 (We should live like that while we wait for our great hope and the coming of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ).  Electrified, as the words simultaneously burst into my consciousness with the words already on my mind, I paid attention to the words as never before:

We have this hope that burns within our hearts,
Hope in the coming of the Lord.
We have this faith that Christ alone imparts,
Faith in the promise of His word.
We believe the time is here
When the nations far and near
Shall awaken, shout and sing
Hallelujah, Christ is King!
We have this hope that burns within our hearts,

Hope in the coming of the Lord.

We are united in Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are united in His love.
Love for the waiting people of the world,
People who need our Savior’s love.
Soon the heav’ns will open wide,
Christ will come to claim His bride,
All the universe will sing
Hallelujah! Christ is King!
We have this hope, this faith, and God’s great love,
We are united in Christ.

Composed for the 1962 General Conference session by legendary Christian composer and musician Wayne Hooper, I first heard this beautiful reminder two years later at a Youth Congress in Atlantic City.  I will never forget it.  Not even 10 years old yet, and I understood clearly the difference Hope can make.  Looking back today, I can see how everything in my life revolves around this hope, this secure knowledge that Christ alone imparts when you embrace Him whole-heartedly.  I don't always remember it, unfortunately, but that's what reminders are for.  Reminders like Christy's blogpost this morning, or hearing that beloved hymn, or going back in memory to the time I first knew what hope was all about.

This morning, there are many things I am hopeful about--from the insignificant to the consequential, and everything in between.  Most importantly, hope in the soon-coming of the Lord.

[Photos from the sunset at my parents' in Maine on Wednesday night.]

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Words Matter

QuickWrites are just that.  Quick.  They don't allow for revision.  But that doesn't mean what you write during that time shouldn't be revised.  QuickWrites just give you the time to get the words down quickly so you can take your time with them later.  Here's the second poem I wrote during the QuickWrite on Tuesday.  First, the 90 second version based on the last line of Robert Wrigley's poem "Do You Love Me?":

"Say it. . . . Say it to me."
I wonder what he means by that.
Say what?  Say what to whom?
Why does it matter
that we say the words too?
"Actions speak louder than words."
Yet we want the words.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones
but words will never hurt me."
Ah.  But they do.
they have, and they will again.
"Say them over again to me
Wonderful words of life."
"I am the Way, the Truth, the Life."
"The Word of God."
"The Word made Flesh."
"the Word . . . dwells among us."

Say it.
Say it to me.

On the last day of the main part of this retreat, Linda asked us to choose something we had written during the week to share with the whole group (about 50 of us).  Now, that was daunting, I must say.  But I decided to read part of this poem.  I actually marked the lines I wanted to read, but changed my mind twice about which ones to include (she said to choose something short, or selections from something longer).  While this isn't a short poem, I felt there were too many references to things people might not get.  Here's the result:

Why does it matter
that we say the words?
Actions speak louder than words.
Yet, we want the words.
Sticks and stones may break my bones
but words will never hurt me.
Ah, but they do.
They have and they will again.

The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.


In Spite of Everything

In spite of everything, God
is still in charge.
I mean--He's there.
He sees all, knows all.
He's engaged in a great civil war
testing whether mercy
trumps justice.

In spite of everything, I
don't blame Him.
Not for wars, pestilence,
hate, loss, pain.
Nor all the things that bring down
And life.

In spite of everything, He
loves me.
This . . . I know.
I've seen it.
Heard it.
Felt it
deep in the marrow
of my bones.

In spite of everything, Love
will triumph over evil, mercy
will triumph over justice.
The lame will walk,
The blind will see.
And we.
In spite of everything.

I wrote this a few days ago (June 25th) during an early morning QuickWrite session with Linda Rief, the writing mentor at this year's Boothbay Literacy Retreat in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  I had the privilege of attending this retreat for the first time and I am already needing to go back.  Amazing.  That's the word that kept coming to my lips.  The word I kept rejecting as not adequate, not enough.  What else is there, though?  What word can you use to describe 5 days of "sitting among greatness," as one participant tweeted?

During these five days, we were quite literally listening to legends, writing beside game-changers, soaking up energy from cutting edge learners, thinkers, teachers, writers.  Maybe the word I should use is lucky.  I was so lucky to be there.  Maybe the word I should use is inspired.  I was inspired and excited to go back to my classroom, my kids.  Maybe the word I should use is again.  I need to do this again and again.

The poem comes from a line in Edward Hirsch's poem "In spite of everything, the stars."  The idea of a QuickWrite is to read a short poem, then take a line that speaks to you and use that as the jumping off point for 90 seconds of your own writing.  Any kind of writing, just continual writing for 90 seconds.  This was Tuesday's poem.  Unedited, just as I wrote it.

It surprised me that I could write something that quickly and be OK with sharing it with others...because that's the next step:  sharing.  The only thing that made that part doable is that everyone else had to do it, too.  Sitting there listening to what others did was fascinating--that each one could get something completely different from the same poem.  That's the beauty of the QuickWrite.  It's quick, it's uncensored, it's honest.  And so many times amazing.  There's that word again :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Listen! The Wind!

Several weeks ago I wrote the first two paragraphs of this blog but never published it for some reason I don't remember now.  School was not out yet and apparently we had a big windstorm going on.  I wrote:  "The wind is blowing outside my classroom window.  It's a sound we don't usually get here in Arizona. There were warnings last night, though.  And a memo to staff:  "High wind advisory today.  Please notify all of your students to be careful of falling branches and debris.  Thanks!"

"Listen!  The wind!  The soft roar outside my room takes me thousands of miles from here to a long lake in northwestern Maine:  Mooselookmeguntic, where my sister and her in-laws have a cabin right on the lake.  I've heard the wind there many a morning.  Some of my happiest memories are of time in that cabin, listening to the wind, drinking in the sunset, walking the road to the bridge, crossing the iced-over water to Toothaker Island."

When I was at the cabin last weekend, it was somewhat windy off and on, especially Friday evening, just after we arrived.  Sunset was just beginning and I took a few nice pictures (see previous entry).  I went inside to unpack and was surprised, when I looked outside a few minutes later.  The beautiful sunset was gone, the mountains across the lake obliterated.  There was a loud roar coming through the windows and rain was pouring from the sky!  Just that fast!

I went outside to grab a few pictures, but the wind was so strong and the rain driving so hard that I could only get two before I had to run for cover.    Now here's the strange part:  this rain and fog lasted only about 10 minutes.  Then, just as quickly as it came, the wind and rain died down, the fog lifted, the mountain returned to view, the sun came out and continued to set.  Except for the freshly-washed look, you would never know it had rained.

The Heavens Declare . . .

Spent last weekend at one of my favorite spots on earth--at my sister's family cabin on Mooselookmeguntic Lake in northwestern Maine.  They've owned it since the early 80s and I've been lucky enough to enough many happy visits there over the years.  The cabin's deck faces west over the lake, treating us to hundreds of amazing sunsets, none of them the same.  Take the two we enjoyed this weekend.  Frist, Friday night's from two perspectives (the first two at the end of the lake, the next six from the cabin's deck):

Then check out the sunset on Saturday night.  For the longest time, there was almost no other color in the sky besides the gold of the sun.  Then, suddenly, the molten gold spread across the sky:

Psalm 19 1-2 God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
    God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
    Professor Night lectures each evening.
3-4 Their words aren’t heard,
    their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
    unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
4-5 God makes a huge dome
    for the sun—a superdome!
The morning sun’s a new husband
    leaping from his honeymoon bed,
The daybreaking sun an athlete
    racing to the tape.
That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
    from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
    warming hearts to faith.

~The Message Bible

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Way Life Should Be

My road trip continued north after a brief respit with a friend in Laurel, Maryland (briefer than expected as I thought my plane left at 5 p.m. and instead it left at 6 a.m!).  After a quick plane trip that would have taken another 8 hours to drive, I landed in Boston and spent a few hours with my sister before she drove me north to our parents' home in Maine where I will remain for several weeks.

The slogan for this lovely far-northeastern state currently states that Maine is "Worth a Visit, Worth a Lifetime."  I prefer the older slogan that used to greet us when we crossed the border on route 95 from New Hampshire into Maine:  "The Way Life Should Be."  My blogging plan is to share the many reasons I agree with this slogan.  I'll start with my parents' back yard.  It is as beautiful as ever:

Saturday, June 08, 2013

End of the Road Trip

We only had about 3 more hours to drive to get to where Linda and I parted ways.  My friend Lou Anne picked me up in White Oaks, MD and I went to spend the rest of the day and night with her.  Linda went on to the Eastern Shore to meet her husband.  Before the sun set, she had finished and defended her Master's Degree in Nursing!  Congratulations to her!

Our drive from Staunton north was rainy.  There is a tropical storm lurking around, bringing about the deluge.  It wasn't too heavy to drive in but it is affecting the entire east coast so that even today (a day later) it is still rainy and cool--in Boston, where I have since traveled.  My time in Maryland was brief.  I discovered that my plane left at 6 a.m. rather than 5 p.m., cutting my visit short by nearly 12 hours.  Still, I was glad for the time I did have.

Now, I have already covered (via plane) more territory in 1 hour as it took us to drive our first day.   I'll not complain, though.  There is no substitute for a good road trip.  This one certainly was!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Oh Shenandoah . . . I'm bound Away

This is actually the Tennessee River, flooded, but
I thought it worked with the lyrics of the
song :)
Oh Shenandoah, I hear you calling,
Hi-Ho, You rolling river.
Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you, 
Hi-Ho, I'm bound Away.
~ Traditional American Folk Song, early 19th Century

Linda and I have been learning oh, so much on this trip!  Anytime we see something along the way and don't know about it, I look it up on my trusty iPhone and regale her with what is probably an overload of information.  We feel so smart when we're done, though!!!  So no, to answer anyone's question about whether or not we are bored, no.  Besides that, we have well over 100 years of stories between us to share, so it will be awhile before we run out of things to say.  And, we have made four more days of good stories to share . . .

This was in the bathroom at the
Whistle Stop Cafe where we
had lunch.  Except for the "brain's" part
(should be "brains") this
describes our trip so far :)
Today, we mostly just drove.  It was our second day of rainy weather, so stops were not as inviting.  Plus, we needed to cover ground.  Which we did.  More than 700 miles of ground.  Most of Tennessee and quite a bit of Virginia.  We will get to where we are going sometime tomorrow morning.  When we arrive depends on we leave (duh).  The hotel people have warned us that there is quite a bit of traffic between here (Staunton, VA) and D.C. so we are thinking about what to do about leaving.  We don't want to venture forth only to sit in traffic.  We will decide in the morning.

One of the things that has amused us no end is the odd names to places along the way.  I've been keeping a list of the more preposterous SMH ones (shaking my head): Bucksnort, TN (a town), Pigtail Creek, Mouse tail Camp, Magazine Mountain, Frozen Head State Park (yes!), Cross-eyed Cricket Campground, Hungry Mother State Park, Route 666/Hog Back Road, Scrooges Restaurant, among others.  We thought "Frozen Head" might have an interesting story, but it only referred to the snowy mountain top near the park.  Kind of disappointing.  I did find an account of 18 frozen heads that were discovered in a container at an airport, though.  And something about the Ted Williams cryogenics controversy.

We've been collecting interesting road signs.
This one warns motorcycle riders of
grooved pavement.
Our room is at the back of the hotel, next to railroad tracks.  Linda had to sign a waiver about the noise of the "unscheduled trains" saying we understood there were no refunds for the possibly noisy room.  We didn't know what that could mean, but have just experienced the first train...and it is noisy and does shake the room a bit.  We are hoping to sleep through the next one :)

Yet another series of favorite pictures from the day:

It was extremely foggy in the mountains much of
the day.
The VW van in front of the Whistle
Stop Cafe (our place for lunch in the
town of Baxter, TN)
We saw at least four of these giant crosses
in front of churches in both TN and VA.  They
were all the same--huge and overpowering.

There are quite a few similar museums
along the way in TN and VA.  Too bad
we had no time for them today.
My favorite road-side photo.
Seventh-day Adventist Church in VA (don't recall
what city).  This is the 4th SDA Church we've
seen along the roadside.
Joe Bear enjoying the picturesque VA rest stop.
The VW van is to the left of the second sign.
This cute rubber ducky and note were on our
bathtub at tonight's Best Western!
We've seen several similar signs questioning our
destiny (we also saw a lot advertising "adult"
entertainment!  Strange juxtaposition of