Books! Books! Books!

“I cannot live without books.”  Thomas Jefferson

I know, Virginia the blogger posted something yesterday & here she is again? But, it’s WORLD BOOK DAY. That’s right, today we celebrate reading, literacy and BOOKS.

As a self-confessed bookaholic (my sister invited me to Celebrate Recovery at her church for my ‘book thing’), I have collected a few books: a whole study with floor to ceiling bulging shelves, overflowing shelves in my room & guestroom; yet piles of books in corners still await shelf space.

You get the idea – I like books. I really like books!

When I was a child, my Mama took my younger brother and I to the library every week. We happily carried out piles of books, read them cover to cover, then returned the next week for new piles. The cool thing: my brother eventually became a librarian (and has been one for 18 years.) And, yes, I still enjoy weekly visits to the library.

Reading. Books. Reading. Reading. More Books. Books. Reading.

Why do we read?

Books transport us to other places, to new worlds, to different parts of our world that develop and stretch our imagination muscles. When we get lost in a good story, we touch something outside ourselves that takes us away from our humdrum existence.

We read to know. To know more about others, about ourselves.

Books teach us how to: read, speak, learn, garden, travel, do maths, and understand a host of subjects in textbooks we muddle through in school…

…or how to cook, like these favorite cookbooks in my kitchen, that (in addition to 200+ in the study) also make food exciting, offering opportunities to try new things.

Books educate, not just how to cook or for classes in school, but on a seemingly infinite number of subjects. The challenges and triumphs in our world: what’s working & what’s not. History. Biography. The real lives of real people who have made a difference, often pushing the limits of what’s possible. Then there are those who did horrible things, we read about them hoping never again.

Books introduce us to concepts, ideas, people. To situations and people outside of our experience, yet reading about them develops empathy in our hearts. Or, we resonate in eureka moments: hey, it’s not just me, others have faced this, struggled with this, too.

Books can astound us with beauty: the art of poetry, of blissful skies crafted in our imaginations from story, of characters we come to know like friends.

Books can make us laugh, and laugh, and laugh. (My Farside & Calvin & Hobbes books toted overseas to conflict zones may be tattered, but they sure helped lighten the load!)

Books build our sense of wonder (Science Fiction, Fantasy), or take us where we don’t want to go (like Horror, of which I am not a fan, creepy, creepy.)

Books make us think, and puzzle, like a good mystery: a good who done it?

C.S. Lewis said, “I can’t imagine really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”  There are books to which we return, repeatedly, that become part of us. Books that touch our minds and hearts.

Then there are books of faith that zap our souls and draw us to Light and Love. Books so precious with truths that jump off the page, indelibly written in our minds and hearts.

We turn to them, again & again. Books that inspire, lead, guide us, and help us cope when hard times come knocking.

Why read?

To be inspired. To inspire ourselves and to inspire others.

We read for our hearts, minds and spirits.

We read for the joy of reading.

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”  Madeleine L’ Engle

So, here’s a confession of a bookaholic. My idea of a good time: a big cup of tea, a good book, comfy chair… and no plans for the evening.

Happy World Book Day!

grace, peace & books!

Virginia : )

p.s. Gotta dash, it’s the last day of our Friends of the Williamsburg Regional Library annual Book Sale!!   😊

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…earth day inspiration…

It’s Earth Day 2017: a day to give thanks for our truly amazing planet…

… and consider all that needs doing to protect it from imploding. Today our planet Earth faces huge climate change challenges, environmental degradation of natural resources, pollution, lack of safe water access in many communities…

…deforestation and…and…and… the list is, sadly, way too long.

The challenges can be so overwhelming we end up stymied, doing nothing, or maybe just mouthing off sentiments once a year when Earth Day comes around.

“It’s bad, bad, bad – the fault of big corporations, apathetic governments. Everybody else – it’s their fault.”

Hey, you (& me), the point of Earth Day (& each day) is #1 – to be grateful for this amazing planet and appreciate the beauty of creation all around us. What a gift! And, #2 – to do our part to take better care of what’s around us.

Getting involved in advocacy campaigns is admirable (check out the Earth Day website for links.) We can, however, have a positive impact on the environment around us by daily choices we make.

Two years ago at a women’s conference, my sister and I attended an environmental advocacy workshop. Taking furious notes on the stack of handouts of all the things that needed changing, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Egads, who knew? And what about the cost?  (Why is it that environmentally safe alternatives are often so expensive?) At the end, however, our workshop leader challenged us: instead of trying to change everything (which most often leads to not changing anything), choose ONE THING to change.

And make that change.

I had already switched to organic natural bath soap, made by a local artisan, and we recycle our glass, tin, paper & plastic items (for biweekly curb-pick up in our neighborhood.) So, I decided to switch to environmentally safe laundry detergent. Doesn’t seem like such a huge thing, but two years later, I’m still using ECOS detergent.

Last year I switched to environmentally safe dish detergent… and still going.

Small steps, small choices, but one by one, can make a difference.

Maybe you can ride a bike to work vs. always driving a car? Maybe that next car purchase can be a hybrid? (or electric car? they seem pretty amazing…) Or support locally grown initiatives, farm-to-table restaurants, farmer’s markets (local produce always tastes so much better!) Or get involved in community gardens (or plant your own: my brother has 12 different vegetables going in pots on our deck, and herbs overflowing all around the backyard.)

Looking at water issues globally also overwhelms, but maybe pick a favorite agency to support safe water, like a well or filtration system, for one community?

There’s so much to do, but try to pick ONE THING: and do it. Then, after that’s a habit, choose another…

…taking small steps on the path towards a greener, healthy planet.

“This me, like all of creation, lives in a glorious dance of communion with all the universe. In isolation we die; in interdependence we live.”  Madeleine L’Engle

While searching for favorite musician John Adorney‘s “If a Rose Could Speak” (see my previous blog about it) to finish this off, I found another inspirational song of his, “Even in Your Darkest Hour,” with amazing photographs that are so appropriate for Earth Day. Give it a watch (& listen) and be blessed (not overwhelmed!)

grace, peace & glorious interdependent Earth Day dances

Virginia : )

p.s. all photos taken during Vancouver & Canadian Rockies trip last June. From the top: Lake Minnewanka, a lonely tree @ Morraine Lake, Butchart Gardens pathway, & treeline @ Banff National Park.

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Good Friday Blues

Good Friday: Jesus is rejected, beaten, mocked, whipped, scourged. After carrying a heavy cross, nails pierce His hands and His feet. There He hangs, on the cross, suffering for you, and me; suffering for us & all humanity.

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34)

Easter is coming, but the Suffering Christ is there for us, with us, in our suffering. Can we draw closer to the Cross?

To stand… like Mary.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother…” (John 19:25)

At the foot of the Cross, Mary must have wondered amidst flashbacks of angels, shepherds, wise men, kingly gifts, miracles of water into wine. How came her son, the Messiah, to hang like a common criminal on a cross?

Yet, in sorrow Mary stood. With the faith of her ‘yes’ to the angel, to God, risking all, 33 years later she stands at the foot of the Cross. Confused and bewildered? Most likely, yet in faith she stood.

Maybe our suffering is so great it’s hard to move forward; maybe it’s crushing our spirits and our will to do. Perhaps we’ve stumbled, taken a tumble, and it’s hard to stand after a fall.

But, look at Christ on the Cross, suffering. He’s there for me, and for you. Do we have  faith, like Mary, to stand? Even if we don’t fully understand?

“Failure is painful, but without pain there is no living in love. So, go through the arches of Christ’s pain and enter into the joy of His heart. Unite yourself with Him and his passion and keep on going.”  Catherine Doherty

grace, peace & Good Friday blues

Virginia

Here’s something to lift Good Friday blues from one of my favorite singers, Sarah Hart. Be blessed to give it a listen and find “Joy in These Bones.”

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Holy Thursday L.O.V.E.

The Easter Triduum begins tonight with celebration of the Lord’s Supper & culminates with the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Here are a few thoughts, again, about the L.O.V.E. of Jesus. 

Holy Thursday takes us to the Upper Room where the first thing Jesus did was wash the disciples’ feet, humbly like a servant. Across the world this evening thousands of lay people will have their feet washed by Clergy (bishops, priests, pastors, the Pope!)  I don’t know about you, but if asked to be one of the in-public-washees, I would make sure my feetsies were properly pedicured before anyone (especially a priest) washes them.

In the time of Jesus most folks wore sandals. Walking around the Middle East is a dusty business, which would make the disciples’ feet smelly, dirty & definitely not pre-pedicured. But Jesus takes those smelly feet gently in His hands and washes the grime away. Jesus, their leader. Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus, their Teacher. On His knees. With a towel and basin. Washing. Their feet. Teaching them (and us) a lesson in LOVE.

It’s time to put on our aprons of faith, roll up our sleeves and start washing. Since those water buckets get heavy, it’s a good idea to strengthen our L.O.V.E. muscles. How?

Live   Others-centered  Value  Everyone

Live   We must choose to live love, because love is a choice. Choosing to live with a towel of love wrapped around our attitudes vs. being dead to the needs of those around us or within us. Living in Love is to be alive with the love of Christ in the deepest part of our hearts & letting that love infiltrate our minds & other parts of our being.

Others-centered   Washing feet puts the focus on what we can do for others. Small things, big things, sometimes smelly things: our actions speak louder than our words. Being others-centered means not seeking ‘what’s in it for me’ but what’s in me for others.  (“love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres…” I Cor 13:7)

Value     To tenderly wash someone’s feet intimates their value. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but first we must ‘get’ our Beloved status as daughters & sons of The King of Heaven. We are beloved. Of value. As we act out of our Belovedness, we recognize that same status in others and lift them up (not down), showing them they are beloved by God and us. Valued. Valuable. Precious in God’s sight, and ours.

Everyone     A tax collector (sell-out to Rome), Zealot (freedom fighter/terrorist depending on which side you’re on) & Judas (the betrayer): Jesus washed the feet of everyone in that Upper Room. That means your annoying colleague, neighbor, pushy Republican/ Democrat in-law, liberal or conservative, a (sometimes) friend. Ever thought about washing the feet of those with whom you have very little in common? or maybe even dislike? Love is not so much about ‘like’ as it is about choice & commitment.  Everyone also includes HIV/AIDS victims, the rich, poor, politicians (!!) & people of every color, ethnicity & ability around this world. EVERYONE.

If we exercised our L.O.V.E. muscles more often (vs. our ‘judge-others’ muscles) maybe (just maybe) we might fulfill what Jesus Christ asked us to do:

“Do you know what I have done to you? ..if I, your Lord & Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet… As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in My love… This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”    (John 13:12, 14; John 15: 9, 12)

grace, peace & L.O.V.E. muscles

Virginia : )

p.s. Years ago when I started the care-giving gig for my parents, my sister gave me this beautiful ceramic of Jesus with His basin and towel. Setting it next to my bed, it was a great reminder of the love of Jesus during many nights & days of washing my Mama & Papa’s feet (& many other places, like the kitchen floor!) 🙂

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celebratory vibes vs. whiny vibes…

The post I’ve been working on the last two days still has whiny vibes, so here’s a flower pic sent yesterday to my sis on her birthday. Celebratory vibes vs. whiny vibes? Celebratory vibes win: Easter is only one week away!

After photographing these flowers last June at Butchart Gardens in Victoria (B.C.) during our Canada trip, I’m still amazed at their beaming beauty. Inspiring. Uplifting.

We just got home from a most precious memorial celebration for the father of a dear friend. There were a few tears, yet so much joy and laughter celebrating his life – well loved and well lived. Inspiring. Uplifting.

It reminded me of a devotional reading from Henri Nouwen last week:

There is a time for mourning and a time for dancing.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) But mourning and dancing are never fully separated… In fact, their times may become one. Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts… Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.”   Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Mourning and dancing touch each other…

Life is a gift!

grace, peace & inspiring lives

Virginia : )

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grace, grace, grace…. and Ruby Falls!

Here’s a bit of spiritual wisdom on this Lenten Tuesday as we tackle the tough stuff in front of us, our piles, ‘to do lists’ (and maybe things we keep putting off?)

“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

My Papa broke it down like this:

“God is able to make all grace (not just a little bit of grace), abound (not just trickle), toward you (not just Billy Graham, your pastor, missionaries, but toward you), that you (Paul repeats you for emphasis), always (not just sometimes), having all sufficiency (not just some sufficiency), in all things (not just some things), may abound (not just limp along), unto every good work (not just some good works.)”   Dick Woodward

All grace, abounding, all the time – even when we’re stuck in the muck, it’s there like a waterfall powered by God’s love.

My brother & I recently visited Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It’s a magnificent waterfall on Lookout Mountain, not on top (as waterfalls tend to be located) but deep underneath the mountain. It sparkles when lights are turned on, yet keeps tinkling and flowing when the lights go out.

Like God’s grace that’s there for us in good times and bad, in times of electrifying light and petrifying darkness. It’s the real deal: enough grace for each day, hour, minute to make it through to the next day, hour, minute.

May God’s grace abound in our lives, like this waterfall, in darkness & light.

grace, peace & waterfall groupies

Virginia : )

“If you think you are too small to do a big thing, try doing small things in a big way.” Anonymous

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Roses in the Rubble

Easter is a few weeks away & Virginia the blogger has been AWOL most of Lent. Not much chance for the post-a-day Lenten gig of previous years, but there’s still time to offer a few bits for reflection. Psalm 27:1&4 are precious verses written in the indelible ink of God’s love across my heart and life. This morning when Msgr. Keeney challenged us every day to pray, “Lord be my strength,” (after he explained about God being our Light), these verses came to mind. I remembered how they influenced these words written years ago when starting this blog & why I chose the name Roses in the Rubble…

As a relief & development worker I documented some sobering issues – child victims of war, ravages of HIV/AIDS, and injustice (mass graves inclusive) in conflict zones & places of poverty all over the world. After collecting flower photographs during my first posting in the Middle East, what began as a hobby (making cards out of flower pics) became something more, especially during the Kosovo relief program. Finding roses in the rubble and capturing them on film. Finding beauty – HOPE – in a disaster zone.

I love flowers – our Creator’s heavenly paintbrush splashing beauty around us. In Africa beautiful jacaranda trees lined a street near our main office. During the month of December when lavender flowers canopied in giant trees fluttered everywhere, it reminded me of elven Lothlorien in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. When I went on (& on) about the beauty of these trees, my African boss said, “the flowers mess up your windshield & make a mess all over your car!”

But, hey, they were a beautiful, inspiring mess!

Sometimes our lives are filled with messy mistakes, failures and piles of rubble. But the thing about finding roses in rubble, you have to look for them. Sometimes they’re hiding behind our fears, insecurities, anger and bitterness. But God can do the impossible & is rather good at bringing good out of impossibly challenging circumstances.

Think of Joseph, thrown down a well and sold into slavery by his MEAN brothers. Never say it can’t get worse: he ended up in the rubble of an Egyptian prison (they are notoriously bad now – imagine what it must have been like 5,000 or so years ago?)  Keeping the faith, however, years later he became the second most powerful man in Egypt and saved not only Jacob & his family but the whole region from starvation. Joseph became a powerfully strong rose amidst debilitating, devastating rubble. As he later told his brothers, “what you meant for evil, God used for good.”

I know that God has grown roses out of my personal rubble in impossible-to-comprehend ways and those around me (especially my bed-fast quadriplegic Papa!) I’ve also met many roses living in the rubble of conflict-zones who reflect the beauty of hope to shattered hearts and broken dreams around them. Their scarred blooms are filled with petals of faith, hope, peace and love as they exude the bitter-to-sweet scent of joy amidst suffering.

Living roses inspire us to be more of who we are meant to be: beloved sons and daughters of an Almighty Heavenly Father. Regardless of whether we are pink, purple, red or yellow: we all come from the same human stem of life created in God’s image.

If you are bogged down looking at the rubble around you. Heads up! Look around…the sun still rises & the sun still sets (keeping those Heavenly paintbrushes busy.) If God clothes the flowers of the field so beautifully, will God not take care of us? Have faith and COURAGE.

It takes courage to be a rose when rubble surrounds you!

“The Lord is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? One thing I desire, and that I will seek after: to behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His temple.”  Psalm 27:1&4

grace, peace & roses (blooming in the rubble)

Virginia : )

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