Snapshots & Whatnot: Change is Good?

Snapshot:

& Whatnot:

Last month I read comedian Louie Anderson’s moving book, “Hey Mom.” Composed of letters he wrote to his mom (who passed some years ago), Louie shares the joys and challenges of his life: from winning Emmy awards to dealing with loss and tough issues with grace and faith. His memoir touched my heart (and all of me, really) – at times making me teary-eyed from his poignant prose and life stories, then other times laughing til it hurt.

Today’s here’s one of his quotes (that went straight into my journal) for our minds and hearts to munch on:

“It’s so hard to change, even when that change is so good. I wish I could change my inability to change.”  Louie Anderson, Hey Mom

Here’s to changing our inabilities to change (or, at least working on it?)

grace, peace & change (the good kind)

Virginia : )

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Friday Good People Grooves

Even though our world may be completely whacked out, it’s FRIDAY! Time to kick back to some Good People grooves from Jack Johnson. Awhile back my big sis Shere introduced me to Jack Johnson on a birthday trip to Charlottesville when we blasted his CDs there and back (over and over again) – his music is so awesome!

Since then his music compilations have received high-frequency plays in Virginia’s kick-back playlist. Jack Johnson has so many amazing songs it’s hard to pick a fav, but his “Good People” is definitely near the top of my list.

Here’s a YouTube video of the album version (there are lots of great concert YouTubes to check out of him singing this song, but this one had the best sound.)

Email readers, you know the drill – click in to the Roses website to catch a listen (the 15 second ad can be annoying, but then you can listen to the song.) 🙂

For all the good (& struggling-to-be-good) people out there, here’s some jellyfish joy to spread around (as captured a few years ago @ the Vancouver Aquarium.)

“Found my foundation, it was underneath me all along. On this path I’m on I’ll never walk alone.”  Jack Johnson

Here’s to not walking (or jellyfishing it) alone!

grace, peace & good people (jellyfishy) grooves

Virginia : )

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Snapshots & Whatnot: Turtles! Turtles! Turtles!

On this steamy July Friday, here’s a pic and turtle-ish inspiration to contemplate.

SNAPSHOT:

A meandering turtle (sticking his neck out) in the Japanese Garden pond @ Maymont Park in Richmond, VA. (As a Monet groupie, couldn’t believe how this photo turned out more like a painting!)

…& WHATNOT:

“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”  James Bryant Conant

“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” Bruce Feiler

grace, peace & inspirational turtles

Virginia : )

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Elijah! Elijah! Elijah! Elijah!!

Today, 20 July, is the feast day of Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. His example of courageous faith has inspired me (& many others) for a very long time. Returning from an 8-day silent retreat filled with healing for a burned-out redhead, I wrote this reflection about Elijah. May it bless all who are worn out, discouraged, tired and tired of…

This morning in church I got to thinking about Elijah. Thank You, God, for his faith going up against the prophets of Baal and Your faithfulness when he ran, pell-mell, from Jezebel after that great victory on Mt. Carmel.

Why does Elijah’s example seem so relevant now?

He had faith of immense proportions. Gigantic. Huge. He taunted the 450 prophets of Baal. He not only put wood on the altar of sacrifice, he also immersed it with buckets of water that turned the trench around the altar into a small lake.

He believed. His faith said, ‘God is GOD of miracles that bring glory to God’s name. We will make a water-logged altar, so the people of Israel will know God’s response is not a lucky fluke, but a miracle.’

Then Elijah witnessed Your blazing fire completely consume the sacrifice and evaporate the buckets of water in the trenches. In the throes of Your miraculous response, Elijah wiped out the prophets of Baal. All 450 of them. Victory for God, Hallelujah! Time to now start marching on the palace to root out the evil rulers of the day. He prayed and You delivered a major miracle. Surely all of Elijah’s future challenges will be tackled as efficiently.

Fresh from victory and miracles, Elijah hears Jezebel is on the warpath to get him. Does he remember Your awesome power? Your faithfulness when he stood one against 450? (Relatively daunting odds.)

No. He turns into a cowardly pile of jelly and runs into the desert to hide. From a Public Relations perspective, it was bad timing to run. After such a huge victory for God, he should have filled the Judean airwaves with anti-Jezebel messages and pro-God sound bytes. (The FIRE has come. God wants You: NOW!)  Canvassing village to village, he could have roused the troops of faith, strategically riding the miracle momentum into an all-out campaign to replace the vile rulers.

Instead, Elijah runs “in fear for his very life.”  Where is his awesome faith now? The faith that believed in Your victorious triumph over evil and Your overwhelming ability to respond, not with just a match-stick flame to lightly toast the sacrifice, but with awesome power to handle water-logged trenches too?

Unfortunately, Elijah’s buckets of water faith suffered a few faith-beats of failure. When he heard Jezebel’s threat to kill him, he didn’t stop to pray, he just ran. (It says something about Jezebel, that she was more frightening than 450 men!)

Yet despite this faith setback, You restored and renewed Elijah.

He was tired. Very, very tired. You let him sleep and provided food.

Then he walked for 40 days and nights with supernatural strength to Mt. Horeb. There, after a bombastic hurricane, earthquake and fire passed by, he heard Your still, small voice.

In the quiet of his heart, he heard Your voice.

What did You say? The record in the first book of Kings (chapters 18-19) is short. Maybe Elijah was too uncomfortable to include the private bits of Your conversations. Maybe they went something like this:

“Elijah, I am with you ALWAYS, in victory and in defeat. When you act with courage, I am with you – strengthening your faith. Know also, that when you’re afraid – when fear grips your very soul, paralyzing your mind – I’m still with you.

I will meet all your needs. I will cover your back, guiding your steps against evil Jezebels pursuing you. I will protect you with the armor of My love and let your spirit soar on the wings of My joy. My peace will permeate the pallor of anxiety clogging your arteries of belief. My grace will handle your faith-beats of failure. My wisdom will help clarify what really matters. I will restore and renew your faith. My angels will look after you.

Believe in Me and in My love for You. 

See, you are not alone. There are others faithful to Me, so if you look around, you will get help in this battle against the darkness.

It’s not about you, it’s about Me. God of all consuming Light, I will blaze My fire through the clouds of doubt blocking your sight. Be mine. Open wider the doors of your heart. Break the chains of fear. Let the brilliant Light of My kingdom within you shine out for all to see.

You have seen My miracles outside you, now let my Holy Spirit empower new miracles within you. New mercies are available every morning, just turn on the Heavenly tap. Let Me infuse you with sparkling champagne of the spiritual realm: My steadfast love for you. 

Be transformed by My love, for I am here with you always.

When you are weak, I am strong. Don’t be dismayed, open your heart and keep walking the path of faith with Me. Let the light of My love bubble over for all to see.

Those buckets of cold water you’ve poured in the tired out trenches around your heart, let the spark of My love ignite them back into blazing furnaces of faith: ready for transformation, ready for action, ready to be who, where, and what I want you to be.

Go now, be my Hands and Feet to the hurting. Be grace. Be peace. Be salt in this tasteless world. Be Joy. Be Light – brilliant, burning bright – in the darkness.

Be Love. Be ME.”

After Your still, small voice, Elijah went back with his faith renewed to follow Your plan.  What a lesson from a great saint about faith, the buckets of water kind.  But why is this still meaningful 5,000 years (or so) later?  Just as Elijah ran in pell-mell fear to the desert, I may have knowingly (or unknowingly) done the same thing.

Oh Lord, even after witnessing countless examples (often miraculous) of Your awesome faithfulness, I’ve suffered recent faith-beat failures. The need is too great. The obstacles are too big. I am too tired. My get-up-and-go got up and left. I’m stuck in the snows of doubt with fear-bitten feet, too cold to walk forward into the new.

As Elijah’s buckets of water faith weathered the drought of fear and exhaustion, I want to follow his example now.

Please, Lord God, strengthen my faith. Let the warmth of Your love defrost these fear-bitten feet. Ignite my heart’s desire to be transformed with the Flame of Your Kingdom: come, Holy Spirit, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with Your Fire.

Heavenly Father, fill this clay, earthen pot with the sparkling champagne of the spiritual realm – your steadfast Love for ME and all those around me. Let this heart beat as one with Your love, joy, peace, grace, wisdom, mercy and patience.

May You provide a deep well of courage to move forward, one step at a time, to face whatever challenges may come with renewed faith – Elijah’s buckets-of-water kind!

grace, peace & buckets-of-water faith

Virginia : )

(26 November 2006)

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Character Muscles (& Crutches!)

The life of a relief & development worker is never easy at best, but sometimes added challenges make it super hard to cope. Here’s one of Virginia’s first blogs from July 2011 about how she managed to build a few character muscles in Africa…

The measure of a person’s character is: what does it take to stop you?”

I shared these words with Domeka Kelley, a dynamic young pastor my Papa mentors on Mondays, as he slowly hobbled in with a swollen sprained ankle. Ouch! It’s hard getting around on crutches (painfully hard getting motivated to get around) but Domeka determinedly made it into the living room for his time with Papa.

Papa emailed this quote years ago when I fell (splat) on a patch of unwieldy pavement, fracturing my ankle during Christmas holidays in South Africa. It became a mantra of sorts as I struggled to cope with life on crutches in Africa.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t travel home from Tanzania that Christmas since I couldn’t bear the 30+ hour journey after neck disc surgery the previous June in America. I had returned to Tanzania in August a wee bit (too) early figuring half days were possible, but not figuring how the long journey would set the healing process back, and, well, HURT.

God is good (ALL the time) and going back early assisted the birth process of a large malaria project for the whole country of Tanzania (those half days thankfully paid off.)

Back to Christmas in South Africa… Hobbling through the airport on crutches with a scary neck brace did serve as an effective male repellent on the short trip back to Dar es Salaam, but that was just the beginning. After four weeks wearing an ankle aircast, hopping & hobbling (while still driving, mind you, and keeping a regular work schedule in Dar) I went to Dr. Ype at the International Clinic who x-rayed the misbehaving-still-very-swollen ankle to find it was actually badly fractured.

On went an immovable cast (no more driving) and stern instructions: you must use crutches for three (gasp!) months.

Egads. My apartment was located up 3 flights of stairs. Our office was – guess what – up 3 flights of stairs. January, February and March are hotter-than-fireballs. (In the August winter of Dar es Salaam temperatures are a chilly 80 degrees.) 🙂  In the heat I dripped to work, dripped to meetings, and dripped home on crutches.

What does it take to stop you? (hop, hop, breathe, rest arms, drip, drip…) What does it take to stop you?(hop, hobble, hop, hop…drip, drip, drip…)

My travel schedule was heavy: a conference in Uganda, Roll Back Malaria regional meetings in Nairobi, important meetings in Arusha. African airports generally tend to have lots of stairs and few elevators. I learned the intrinsic value of flash drive sticks (dragging a laptop around on crutches increases the puddle factor, tremendously.)

Then, while up in Arusha (still on crutches) I met malaria up close & personal: 104 fever and zig-zagidy joint pain like you can’t believe. Somehow I wobbled (hobbling in a wobbly fashion) to meetings at our National Office as a walking advertisement for our malaria programs.

Throughout God was extremely generous in the grace department (I am a rather wimpy amazon woman with very limited muscle-development inclinations) but this whole-do-Africa-on-crutches thing did build up character muscles. Here I previously thought climbing up the Stairs of Repentance on Mount Sinai in Egypt a hard feat, but wobbling about on crutches in Africa was definitely harder!

To be sure, I asked for God’s help (note ‘wimpy amazon’ is understated) and to have made it through those months on crutches – in the heat – is nothing short of miraculous. But I also thought of the many children, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers suffering from malaria, HIV/AIDS and many other challenges. Their courageous examples of not giving up also motivated me to keep going – and then there’s my Papa, who can’t move anything and yet he faithfully keeps on, keeping on.

What does it take to stop you? There are all sorts of crutches that keep us from moving forward after our spills (splat) on the pavement of life: bruised egos and empty pockets, tears and fears, maybe sprained hearts too hurt to love anew.

Why not let God keep building up your character muscles? Instead of asking ‘why?’ focus on taking that next step – drip, drip, puff, puff, wobble, hobble – and you might find yourself before long casting those crutches aside walking healed in God’s Love.

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be disjointed, but rather may be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13

grace, peace & character muscles

Virginia : )

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Upside-down Pineapple Cake Blues

Here’s another archived post from Virginia’s first month of blogging (11 July 2011)

Last weekend I experienced a bad case of upside-down pineapple cake blues. After checking the baking progress of a carefully constructed pineapple upside-down cake, it looked done (according to the recipe time, it should have been and then some!)

Inverting it upside-down on a cake plate, however, hot brown sugar syrup splattered all over the counter. A bit dismayed dodging the scalding, sticky mess, I unclasped the spring-form pan and took the top off (very carefully) to find an alarmingly large sinking crater of liquid batter in the middle of the cake.

TOTAL DISASTER ALERT!!

Major-league cake blues ensued. What to do? With busy pots on burners bubbling away for a special celebratory dinner, there was no time to procure a cake or bake another one. Contemplating the demise of all those yummy ingredients also increased the blues factor. Frazzled, yet suddenly dazzled with possibility, I quickly upside-downed the ruined cake back into the pan, and (with a prayer) put it in the oven for a second round of baking.

While tending busy dinner pots, a food flash of inspiration hit (this also required a bit of faith that everything would pan out ok.) 🙂 Why not make more brown sugar syrup to replace the sticky mess scrubbed off the counter? After 30 more baking minutes, the crispier cratered cake was once again upside-downed, poked, drizzled with new syrup, and later served after dinner with a bit of faith & whipped cream. (Note: turned upside-down no one could see the crater underneath!)

My brother, the feted one who chose the cake, said it was the “best pineapple cake he ever ate.”  There were no crumbs left on anyone’s plates (mine inclusive!)

Washing up with a grateful heart, I got to thinking. Hmmm, Lord, maybe there’s a lesson here? Sometimes our lives get messy with upside-down blues when things don’t turn out as we expect and look disastrous – like crashing craters of cake and carefully crafted brown sugar syrup splattered everywhere.

We get befuddled & muddled by craters and splatters – how we’ve mixed things up, our failures and (seemingly) wasted efforts, maybe what we’ve splattered on others?

But God has given us good ingredients: grace, mercy, wisdom, peace, patience, and joy mixed in divine batter of Everlasting Love for us. If we by faith persevere, God is good in the divine restoration department and second chances are what God is all about.

Don’t give up. Try again…

No crumbs left.

grace, peace & upside-down pineapple cakes

Virginia : )

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Touched by the Hand of God

Looking back over the first month of blog posts here @ Roses in the Rubble (mostly about books & movies), Virginia thought she might re-share a few (since it took awhile to learn about things like ‘tagging.’) Here’s one from 05 July 2011…

Sitting under Michelangelo’s Creation in the Sistine Chapel is one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. Visiting the Vatican Museum two years ago on a blustery November day, we were blessed with no lines. At 10:00 a.m. I told my travel buddy, “Let’s do the Sistine Chapel, the Raphaels – 2 hours max.”

NINE hours later, we had a hard time leaving!

Watching “The Agony & the Ecstasy” with Charlton Heston & Rex Harrison a month before the trip provided a bit of welcomed context. (We still joke around the house, “When will you make an end? When I am finished.”) In the movie Michelangelo is prodded along by Pope Julius II, sometimes quite forcefully. In my favorite scene, Pope Julius (who regularly leads troops in battles to protect the church) sneaks a peak at the ceiling and can’t get over how Michelangelo sees the face of God as a loving Creator.  Great movie about art, faith & inspiration.

Back to Rome and the Sistine Chapel. Since we had plenty of time (after getting quite a neck cramp) I whipped out my journal & jotted down inspirited thoughts..

The Creation… 

Touched by the Hand of God: touched by the Love of God.

Naked we come into the world: naked we stand before God our Creator.

It seemed as if God was saying:

Receive My love anew, to BE My love anew…

 Open your heart, beloved child, and receive My love anew. 

Let Me create in you a New thing…

Beloved, Beautiful Child.

Trust Me and do NOT be afraid –

(I’ve been in this creation business a long time!)

Now I try to pray this each day: that God will pour out love anew in the heart of this clay pot, that I might BE God’s love anew. Not an easy task, to be sure (that’s why this prayer gets repeated LOTS!)

Guess we can also ask for grace, joy, peace, wisdom & mercy anew, too.

God has an infinite store!

grace, peace & inspirational art

Virginia

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