Sunday, November 26, 2017

In Memoriam

When I have a thing to say I can usually find the words to express it. I wasn’t sure I could write this one though. One thing I do know, regardless all the things I do not know or am not, I am a writer. The qualifier of good or bad is subjective and depends on who is critiquing. So good, bad, or ugly, write I must. The reason(s) why I struggled to pull this post together are many and are woven as tightly together as the weft and warp of a swatch of silk. 

I met Marian Clark in 1975 when my oldest daughter wanted to join Camp Fire Girls. Marian was the group leader of the third grade Blue Birds. The girls had such a wonderful year exploring and learning under Marian’s enthusiastic guidance I was honored when she asked if I would like to be her assistant as the girls advanced to the next level in fourth grade. 

Marian was one of a kind. Always positive, always looking to learn and teach. She was certainly my mentor during the ten years I assisted her with the Camp Fire group. While the girls were growing up and learning, experiencing so much, I was too. The first camp out at Camp Waluhili has a revered spot in my long term memory. I had no idea what I was doing but Marian guided us through each step of the experience from building a fire in a misting rain to cooking on a homemade tin can stove top. 

Though it may be cliche to say I could fill a book with the memories of those years, it is also quite true. One time stands out though. It was after we had all become seasoned campers and the girls were mostly in charge, so Marian and I could kick back a little. We were in one of the newer cabins at our final Horizon camp out weekend playing Spoons in a circle on the floor. At one point, in the frenzied moment of spirited play, Marian, who was always a model of decorum, lost her mind and climbed up in the middle of one of the girls to grab a card. Laughing so loudly, disturbing the peace, we were paid a visit by Miss Peggy who issued a stern warning for us to honor lights out. We dutifully went to bed, stifling our giggles, but I fell asleep savoring that moment - our last camp out with the girls on the verge of stepping into their adult lives. Exciting, rewarding and bittersweet all in one mess of emotion. 

Life whizzes by in a blur most of the time and memories of the people and events that shaped us can fade. But I will never forget Marian Clark and all the ways she influenced my life. Heaven has gained an amazing teacher. 

I still have the songs we wrote around the camp fire in my now ancient song binder. This one is dated 1979:

Wood smoke drifting in the air
Voices harmonize
Golden memories that we share
Cherished all our lives

Camp Waluhili
We love you
Camp Waluhili
We will be true

The hoot owl watches as we learn
The wonders of these things
We watch the gentle fire burn
And quietly we sing

Camp Waluhili
We love you
Camp Waluhili
We will be true

Peaceful moments, laughter, fun
Each joy that we recall

But through the years they blend to one
Waluhili is it all

Camp Waluhili
we love you
Camp Waluhili
We will be true

Somewhere in the middle of all this there might be a thread of facing my own mortality at this stage of my own timeline and all those things done or not done, opportunities blown, which make up the sum of my rewards awaiting me. 

Rest in peace, Marian, you more than earned all of the jewels in your crown.

For Him,

Thursday, November 16, 2017


For as long as my children have been grown and have had children of their own, we have had to be flexible at the holidays because of individual schedules and other family commitments. We’ve gathered to celebrate Christmas as early as December 11th and as late as December 29th. The day on the calendar was not as important as our being together so we made the calendar a somewhat fluid concept. 

Same with more than two dozen Thanksgivings. Some on the actual day, but just as many on another. Sometimes it’s a huge crowd, sometimes a small but elite group. Over the years, as our tribe has changed and aged, we’ve added and subtracted to our numbers with the inevitabilities of moves, marriage, divorce, births and deaths. Regardless, somehow we always bring it together to acknowledge through our traditions that we are grateful. 

And grateful we are. So grateful.

Thanksgiving 2016 we pulled together as many as were able to enjoy our traditional turkey feast on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Proving, yet again, that we are not beholden to a printed calendar.  On the actual designated day, as the tribe dispersed to celebrate the holiday with others, Poppy and I escaped to our boat on Lake Lanier for the start of a long quiet weekend. I planned a scaled down mock turkey dinner for us to chow on. Seemed like the normal thing to do, not sure why, likely more to do with honoring tradition than desire to eat more turkey.

As I was preparing our little representative meal, suddenly I found myself fighting off a tug of sadness. I soon rationalized it as empathy that comes from immersion in a circumstance. It washed over me that there were likely uncountable others who, without family to share the day/meal with, would be all alone, to eat whatever, endure and cope as best they could. I let the slideshow roll in my head reviewing our boisterous, happy, too-much-food to consume gathering on the previous Saturday and stood there temporarily immobilized in my small galley in a swirl of emotion. 

I offered up a prayer for those alone, no matter the reason. And then I offered up a prayer of gratitude, not only for the blessings of family and friends or for more than enough food and homes to gather to eat it in, but also for the opportunity that comes with those blessings abundant. Opportunities to share and care - opportunities to praise God for more than merely being spared some of the trials others face every day - but thankful for obligations of heart. The ability/honor to be God’s hands and feet to bless others.

After our scaled down repast we bravely sat, bundled up on the back deck. The norm for the busy marina is motion and noise so I’ve never experienced such stillness and quiet there. I could easily imagine the other dockers elsewhere eating too much and hooping it up with their favorite people as the two of us simply embraced the abnormal peace. 

Looking out to the undisturbed polished patent leather water reflecting a fringe of the last remaining rusty golden trees of autumn I understood, in the briefest flush of insight, how deep and wide gratitude could be. How being grateful is not what you are at the end of being blessed. It is the beginning of what you do to show it.

As a winter gull took advantage of an updraft overhead, questing for his favorite meal, I pondered my opportunity.

For Him,


Saturday, November 4, 2017


When we are in school we study and practice to learn a thing. And then we are tested to  demonstrate we have mastered it.

And so it goes in our spiritual life as well. We study the Word, then we have opportunities to practice what we think we have learned. But then final test day comes. We are cornered, trapped at our spiritual desk, pencil in hand, moment of truth set before us to prove ourselves. Have we committed the skill to long term memory, truly learned the lesson?

I had such a test recently. As old as I am, I continue to be examined. 

Our chimney needed cleaning. I did a small amount of research and, of course, I opted for the least expensive offer. I had a coupon, which made it a bit cheaper still. I set up the appointment and the day arrived.

Two very nice men came and within less than a minute the lead guy informed me my chimney was in very bad shape and needed more service, a chemical treatment that would cost $39.95 extra and additional ongoing treatment with chemicals in a tube added to the next three fires, at $20 each, that he could provide, of course. In retrospect I can see the speed at which this diagnosis was made and then applied was orchestrated to prevent me from having too much time to think about it. That the whole service was quick is an understatement.

In less than 20 minutes, the two skilled workers vacuumed the ash from my fireplace, shoved a wire brush up the two floors of chimney pipe, supposedly sprayed a chemical up into the darkness, turned on the gas jet ‘to warm it up’ and left to go over to my daughter’s house to do the same thing. Not too surprisingly they found all sorts of things wrong with her chimney as well. When she called me to complain they had dropped ash and coals on her new rug and yet she had to ask them to clean it up, I started to feel as though we had been had. But when she said they were gone and I realized they weren’t coming back to finish the job at my house was when fury welled up in me.

I called the number to see if they were returning to put the heavy grate back, that they had left outside on my front steps, and recheck the job the ‘chemical’ had done and then turn off the gas. He answered and seemed shocked I had called and replied they were finished. I am not a hot head and never have been but I instantly responded in angered tone, asking him if putting the grate back was not part of the service I had paid for. He said, as though he were doing me a favor, that he would come back, and I replied, no thanks I’ll do it myself and hung up.

So this was the multiple answer test before me on my spiritual desk:

A) Call the company and make a formal complaint.

B) Put a one star rating and rant on their website

C) Let it go.

I chose C because deep inside of me there is a well of knowledge that has been building for seven decades into a fine-tuned instinct. This knowledge was not gained or is even knowable without practice. Lots of practice. Like doing a 100 math problem sheet or writing a 2000 word essay with proper grammar, the embedding of ‘how to’ comes only from practical experience.

The deep knowledge that must be tested in order for us to know that we have graduated to the next level of learning is revealed in how we respond but it’s also complex and the answer isn’t always as absolute as math or conjugating a verb. Sometimes the test is about our willingness to let go and let God handle the ending and sometimes the test is about our strength of will to stand up against evil. 

Discerning which is which is a language arts skill. Listening to and correctly interpreting the still small voice and then responding appropriately determines our advancement to the next grade.

For Him,

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.