Tuesday, April 26, 2011

::Keep Walking::

Teacher: "Stop second-guessing."

My words. Ever my power. Ever my weapon. Allow vibrating-throat to release formed thoughts? Or clip them off with teeth clamped?

Student: "Yeah, that's been the burden I carry these days. . . Do you ever do that?"

Tell me you do.

Teacher: "Not really."

How can that be?

Student: "What do you do when you've made a mistake? I mean, what goes on inside your head?"

Teach. This student needs to learn.

Teacher: "Not much. We have a Saviour who forgives. So I keep walking."

Keep walking.

Teacher: "Better to make the mistakes while pouring out love than to give hurting people nothing at all. It's the love they will remember."

The love.

Teacher: "Love covers over a multitude of sins."

Truth-Breathed Scripture. 'Yes!' echoes in me.

Student: "Ah, yes. And there it is."

Keep loving.
Keep walking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

::Purple Ballerina::

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

::Built to Last::

Specimen A.
A centuries-old piece of a rotting Spanish caravel ship that carried explorers to America?
In fact it is a 3 year-old part from our washing machine, courtesy of the crooks at Whirlpool inc.

Specimen B.
Specimen A's replacement, and soon to be barnacled twin.

Just a friendly reminder to check the guts of your big machines every now and then. (Even if they are new!) They might need surgery.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

::Ten Boundary Stones::

". . . but showing steadfast love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments."
~Exodus 20:6~

Can anyone put words to the texture of pain in watching a beloved spit at the God you breathe for? This God whose hand has smoothed out the sharp edges of my own rebellion with such tenderness. Whose commandments have become the downy blankets which form around my vulnerable, sleeping frame, washing away fear. His Words are my boundaries. My safe-keeping. Within them are the Canaan grasses and sweet waters of goodness that keep me from wanting to wander into the desert again. The wasteland where I playacted at being god of my own brokenness.

Haven to one.
Hated walls of another.

In Exodus 20, God himself etched ten laws into stone for His people. One of them is this: Do not craft another god and hold it up higher than me in your life. God continues to explain that supplanting Him as God will have ramifications that bleed into the future in ways that we can't understand from our limited vantage point.

God assures us that He sees the truth of this: ". . . visiting the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and forth generation of those who hate me. . ." We often read this verse to mean that a parents' sins lead to decades of divine punishment for their children. Looking at the original language we can see that the word visiting, in this verse means review or inspect in Hebrew. In other words, God can see the pattern from his divine vantage point and wants us to know about it-- the slow seeping of a stubborn life of sin into the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Everything within these verses speaks to the reality of natural consequences. I once read a fairy tale about a Queen who became so enamoured of herself, and so fiercely protective of her beauty that she looked into a mirror every moment of the day-- standing vigil for the day of it's fading. Her own reflection held her gaze like a vise. Meanwhile, her tiny daughter was left to wander without her mother's care. Not even a tug at her mother's hem could earn her a look or touch. Eventually it was the shattered mirror that killed the Queen, and a piece of the mirror lodged in the daughter's heart, making her cold-- unable to feel warmth.
The vanity and neglect of a mother.
The coldness and isolation of a daughter.

It would not be hard to draw parallels from fantasy to reality: sad stories of action and consequence.

Stripping the Exodus text down to it's roots we see something that shimmers with meaning under the surface: . . . but showing steadfast love. . . That word actually means build or craft. Whereas the consequences of living outside the walls of God's ways fall upon us naturally and inevitably, the good things in our lives are worked in by a God who builds.

"Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
~John 14:21~

God actively works goodness into our lives when we actively work Him into our lives. God actively carved out ten stunningly clear boundary stones within which, if we choose to live, good will come to us and those who follow us. Within the parameters of God's commandments we are told we will be fueled by a power source unlike any other beyond the gates: Himself. The God who laid the boundaries will show Himself to us throughout our lives of discipline. Never more true is the saying; If we read between the lines. . . If we determine to hedge our lives about with the ten stones of God's ways, He promises to show us Himself in each stone indentation. In each true and perfect word. In each act of obedience to those commands. In each moment safeguarded by a life of self-discipline.

Having spent years watching the back of a loved one, while he walks steadily away from the boundary lines, I can't help but grab hold of this: The consequence of sin are said to last for a time, while the love of God, and the goodness it brings are said to last forever. There is the hope. A boy can turn.

Commandments are not a prison. They are the arms of a Father.
Running from them is like a child who tears free from a parent's embrace and runs headlong into the desert-- leaving behind safety, support and direction. And as he goes, he slowly lays down his own boundary stones. One for anger. One for indulgence. One for spite. One for a throne. Within the stones, he creates a pasture of parched isolation, where the only face he sees is his own. The once-familiar contours of a Father's face fading.

". . . For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
~Ezekiel 18:32~

Thursday, April 14, 2011

::Egyptian Art::

Caelah and I tried our hand at Egyptian art. I studied an original painting, cut out the bits I didn't care for and kept the pretty bits.

Cae stuck with a single butter

Another thing we tried was drawing on sandpaper. It has a similar effect as painting on rock.

I have always loved artistically reducing real life images into simpler lines. This is an essential Egyptian technique that, in combination with bold, beautiful colours, gives me such an affinity in me for this art.

Monday, April 11, 2011

::Golden Gladiola::

Friday, April 08, 2011

::For the Generations to Come::

Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.’
~Exodus 16:32~

In my Exodus studies, I came across God's gift of manna, sent like dew to the desert each morning for the wandering Israelites. It was a completely strange and wondrous thing. No one had ever seen it before. And no one ever would again. Except for those who took a peek inside the jar, that is. God opened His hand of blessing to His people in the form of a unique gift: sweet bread falling from the sky in flakes. A one-of-a-kind blessing suited to the needs of a one-of-a-kind people.

The God of manna is our God also. This is the same God who opens His hand to us this very day. The One who rained down manna rains down unique blessings upon each of of His children as they need it. Do we sift through the dew of the dawn to find our manna? This morning, when you woke up in the sunlit crinkles of your bed, what did He have waiting for you? Look. Pray that He gives you eyes to see the things He sends.

And then. . . Store them up.
In a jar? Maybe not-- if only we could!-- but what then?
How will we pass on God's Goodness to us to our children and their children?

I write.
It began when I was 6. Simple and raw. Precious facts about my uncomplicated existence: my brother was annoying, my cat died, Jenny got mad at me at school, the weather was rainy. Halting snippets scrawled by an untested hand. Linear. Oblivious. Full of Hope.
A memorial to the God who protected and nurtured me.

My writing continued into a womanhood of brand names and makeup. Subtly, at first, the pages became tainted with Self. The events of the day were written through a lens of self-consciousness and flattery. Every compliment was recorded. Every injustice was taken note of, and refuted. Every sinful action was justified and quietly put to bed without repentance. Flowing odes to Self, seamlessly strung together by a hand in denial. Stained. But Aware. Full of Pride.
A memorial to the God who did not grow weary of patiently drawing me out of myself.

Now, I write for glory. Not mine. His.
I am learning to sense his Hand of provision and guidance, and I am following the trail of Him with words. The manna I collect in my basket is renewal, reconciliation, growth, trial, loss, love, pain, victory. These endless gifts from His hand. They alight on the ground, wisps on the periphery, easily unrecognized. Many times I trod upon them, unaware that I have been touched. My lips never open in praise for the unseen and unknown. I pray that I will have the eyes to see Him move. And when I do, I capture the Goodness in words, if I can. I write with a hand of love. Redeemed. Striving. Full of Joy.

A memorial to my God who transforms me even as the sun rises.

Monday, April 04, 2011

::Impressionist Apples::

First poetry, now art. We are finishing up our subjects one by one. We finished our unit on John Singer Sargent by trying to paint in his style. A very daunting task. In the end we just followed a few basic principles, in Sargent's own words:

1. You do not want dabs of color, you want plenty of paint to
paint with.

2. Don't you see it? The way the light quivers across it?

3. If you begin with the
middle-tone and work up from in towards the darks -- so
that you deal last with your highest lights and darkest
darks -- you avoid false accents.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

::Last Day in New York::

Our last day.
It was 9:30 when we woke up in the morning. Unheard of at home. We had all been curled up on the couch watching a ::Keith Green documentary::, (what an amazing guy he was!) when I looked over at Sus and saw she had passed out. I remember thinking; Well, then I can too! And I don't remember a whole lot more. The smell of cooking lead me to the kitchen. Rick had made pancakes. He says he uses a recipe for crepes, but just makes them thick. "Pancakes are just so spongy," he said. Exactly!

Sus and I had conspired the day before to get out on our own, and sprung the idea to the menfolk. I knew Aidan would be content with down time anyways. So, I had a shower while Sus got the kids ready for a trip to the park, and the men set out for a morning in the sun while we hit the Subway. I wanted to see the World Trade Center site. The stop spit us out right at it's feet. All I could really see was construction, and a partly-built tower. We wandered into the a church that has been converted into an informal museum/memorial. Sorrow is still very near the surface for most people. I can't believe it was a decade ago! It does feel like it only just happened.

We set off in search of SOHO, but were directed in the opposite direction. No problem! Walking is what I came to this city to do! So we turned around and headed back the way we had come.

We swung into a store called ::Pearl River::, filled with colourful Asian wares. I settled on some small shoes for Norah, four tiny kettles, and cups and a sushi set for Josh & Karin. Eventually, we found The Angelique Cafe I had so enjoyed a few days before. Sus loved it immediately. We ordered way too much food and ate most of it. The same waitress was working, and in my naivety, I assumed she would remember me. She pretended too. It appears she is equally invested in each customer.

Back home, I sat next to Aidan on the floor of Amelia's room and unwound. It occurred to me that I had to eat out at a restaurant one hour from then, and my stomach was still very full. we had decided to leave our dinner location up to the recommendations of Rick & Sus. They both suggested a local Italian place called ::Convivium Osteria::. An intimidating name, but not a cozy establishment. I even loved the sign above the door. A very warm interior--copper and gold everywhere. I loved it. The staff were a little intense. They all had a very hard time speaking English, and because we were the first to sit down, we were stared at. But, it was nothing like the glares I experienced the day before from the cradle-robber.

First, we ordered a cheese platter that was sooooooooooo good. We also had a bowl of crunchy French bread and olive oil. Then came my fish in a white wine reduction and Aidan's braised ribs. We were both very pleased with our meal.

After the meal I asked if we could walk and walk and walk. And just as we set out to travel a long way down 7th Ave we came upon Tom, a childhood friend. What are the odds?! Tom kept mentioning Ottawa-- and my mom. She has left a deep impression on him. I am not surprised. She leaves that impression of everyone. I can just picture little Tom sitting between the two intense sisters while we girls fluttered about worrying about our hair. He must have preferred our mothers' company. Can't blame him. We left, having decided they needed to come and stay with us. Two New Yorkers who actually value, both love kids and the countryside!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

::New York: Day 3::

I wonder how many miles I have walked so far? Many, many, many.

Susanna and I spent the morning being crafty-- literally. We did some decoupage. It is amazing what can be done with old magazines and ModPodge. Rick is a talented artist. His paintings are here and there around the house. This is his latest. Classic Brooklyn:

In the afternoon, I made my second solo trip on the Subway to 34th. The plan: dinner in Soho. I waited for Aidan in the lobby and The Pennsylvania Hotel and read a book. I eavesdropped on a greasy pair of Latino men trying to lasso one another into a business deal. "I don't mess around. I am just telling you like it is. If some other guy offers my 400 thousand, I will have to accept." This is not my world!

We walked hand in hand from 34th to 4th. We made a pit-stop at Whole Foods, because we are food nerds and, while being unmoved my Hollywood stars, are deeply moved by Top Chefs who might have run down these isles for a Quickfire.

We veered East to SOHO and found ourselves wandering down some really neat streets, densely packed with shops and overhanging awnings. Our journey ended at The Mercer Kitchen. We had a few restaurants in mind, but settled on the first one we bumped into. It was a memorable experience in more ways then one. First off, the food did not disappoint: tuna rolls, lobster with roasted garlic and new potatoes, and braised short ribs that fell of the bone. The things is, in New York, the good places get stuffed with crazy people. Two of whom sat just across the way. He was about 50, with a severe face and a sleek, bare head. She was platinum blond, with electric blue thigh-high sicks and no skirt to be seen, and certainly no older that 20. They were devouring one another. The man saw me staring and I could feel the challenge from across the room. What are you going to do about it? And for the next 30 minutes, if I looked up from talking with Aidan, he was glaring at me with a smirk. Shudder. I was so relied when they left.

Next came the party to our right. One script-writer, we gathered, and three actresses who, oddly enough, looked more or less alike. The extant of the conversation was this: Man shares his script idea, girls gush and gush and gush and gush using only three word: Fantastic! Fabulous! And Phenomenal!

I grew sad, when, after having been exposed to death-stares and too many F-words, I wandered down to use the washrooms in the bar area and found the dinner experience of my life waiting. Turns out the bar area was gorgeous! Dark and glittery and cozy. Sigh. Aidan reminded me that the Mercer Bar was completely booked up. We wouldn't have been able to eat there anyways. But it was so pretty! (Apparently a huge famous-person hangout.)

We stopped off for desert much closer to home at The Chocolate Room. Rick and Susanna had recommended it, and we'd walked ourselves into a bit of extra tummy-space. Very cozy. Like every shop around, exposed brick and high ceilings. We sat at the bar and watched the kitchen do it's thing. One girl clearly ran the show. This lady worked with zeal. She stuck her tongue out when she whipped cream and gritted her teeth when cutting cake, and scooped ice cream like it was nobody's business. And she never stood still for a second. She had a curious pair of tattoos on her upper arms. A figure stretching his arms upwards to a stand of trees. and a bird flying upward. It made me think of Jesus' baptism, but am sure it is likely an Aboriginal/ Mother Earth thing.
Aidan ordered a Chocolate Stout Float made from Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout and vanilla ice cream. I ordered more traditionally, (hey, don't mess with chocolate!): Brownie Sunday: The essence of homemade… house brownies warmed to order, topped with and a fresh cherry.

The experience could have been marred by the lone cockroach that crept up the painting by our seats. But Aidan quietly crushed it out of existence with his napkin, and we just pretended we hadn't seen a thing. I silently tried to recall, though, if I have felt a crunch while eating my Sunday. Good thing we kept quiet. Minutes later I smashed one of their glasses. It was easier to walk away than it would have been if we had just told them they might have a roach problem.