Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Value of Small

Imagine the known world as it was the day Jesus was born. It certainly was smaller, much of it remaining to be discovered. It was clearly less hyper-spectacular, compared to this modern age, for sure. 

The Christmas Story, as it has been passed down generation to generation, leaves out a few small, utilitarian details for the sake of not messing with the big beautiful picture but those particulars did/do matter - in the big scheme of things anyway. 

Those not-so-pretty tiny pieces all came together one by one to write the greatest story ever told.

Taking Mary’s POV, imagine being huge pregnant and straddling a donkey on a miserable trek across a wilderness to find yourself sheltered in a stable. Now imagine you go into labor. Whoa. The donkey ride alone might be considered a cause to effect. Was there a moment when she wondered what she had gotten herself into? Was that how she envisioned giving birth to the Son of God? 

When the long promised day came for God’s Son to enter the world, considering the omnipotence of the Author, it could have been a massive production with flash and thunder for all the world to see. Though the angels appearing to the shepherds was a big deal still it was a private concert. The star that guided the wisemen was likely seen by others who might have taken a second glance and wondered but had no clue what it meant. They might have squinted at it momentarily and then resumed the tedium of living, completely oblivious to the significance of the sky light that guided noblemen to the obscure, humbly orchestrated, birth of a child. 

This ostensibly keyed down moment, that would completely alter the balance of time, is a classic example of how small is a highly under-rated adjective. Which makes it all the more confounding when one notes that God often does use small in very big ways. Imagine the shock of Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) viewing through his newly invented microscope for the first time at wiggling living things theretofore never seen or considered to exist. 

Even in this era of all things big, small remains significant. 

Every day we are presented with opportunities to do the smallest thing that could be the beginning of a whole new deal. A kind word, a hardly noticeable putting out of a bit of extra effort, an encouragement, a gift of listening. Two dollars in a Salvation Army kettle. A prayer.

A small hand up when all hope is lost. 

Because we never expect dynamic results from all things small in our day to day existence and because we are deeply influenced by this ‘go big’ age, we lean toward going for the all or nothing show, the flash and boom that will likely garner the largest attention and reaction. And for that miscalculation we often lose out on being the unseen impetus for that which could be seen to actually happen.

History is replete with recollections about turning points, discoveries, and unchartered territories conquered, mapped and claimed. But records skip over the smallest moves made by individuals that were instrumental in changing the course of humankind’s journey from there to here and beyond. 

Everything is made of something. All things, whether seen or unseen, come together to make up the whole. Since God is in charge of time and size, we ought to reconsider how enormous that which is deemed unimportant can be and is most often the true cause of all that really matters.

Merry Christmas! May your new year be full of grand opportunities to be small. 

For Him,

(Colossians 1:16) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

To-Do List

So. It’s Wednesday already. Sometimes I feel like time is a freight train bearing down on me, threatening to squash me on the rails. I had a discussion recently with a friend about having a daily ‘to-do’ list when we were younger. We both admitted we were so anal about it if we did a thing that wasn’t on the list we would add it and cross it out. 

Well, seems like nowadays I make a list that might cover what I want to do by the end of the week (not the day) and I may or may not get to it all - both items even. 

Of course, in this modern age it’s a fancier list - typed on my computer. I can do specialized itemization. I can designate the importance of a task by color or organize with • bullet point, or BOLD type or italicized. This enhancement capability does make my list appear to be much more serious and important and that’s really what matters now. After all, in the Matrix it’s appearance that counts. Right? 

Nevertheless, I concede in complete frustration that time gets away from me and the strikethrough function often gets put on hold. (I may or may not have stooped to backspacing to erase a task in order to make my list seem more completed but I submit that there is no proof of this). 

As I have progressed on my timeline, I have noticed that not only is the list shorter, it’s decidedly less manic and certainly less physical. Which, in my humble opinion, is a good thing. No more notations about building a cabinet or painting an 8‘X30’ mural. Some things you just let go without so much as a whimper.

In truth, my to-do list is less about things that must be done and more a nudge to keep my brain charged. It might include ‘practice Uke’ and ‘write’ and ‘read book’ and ‘do laundry’. One might conclude from this sampling that I am not a busy person but then one might be wrong too. Life happens, especially when you are close to your family. Things come up that do not make the list, ought not to be recorded anywhere, and therefore cannot be counted. 

I also have a back up (long range) to-do list which some refer to as a ‘bucket list’ but I just see it as those things I absolutely intend to do. Like - ‘finish the two titles in the queue’ and ‘finish soundtrack for the Alzheimer’s video project’.  

But I find that thing about time being a train is definitely a concern to keep in the forefront. When time goes from the light at the end of the tunnel to ‘oh my, it really is a train!’ one can’t squander too much of it making and checking lists. One has to just do and let the to-do list manage itself.

For Him,


Friday, December 1, 2017

Blame it on the Ukulele

As I have aged, having suffered through the first four stages - denial, grief, anger, negotiating, I now ease into acceptance with a small residual of resistance. I can’t seem to go gently into that good night. But then, I’m nothing if not a rebel. 

Nevertheless, I’ve been forced, by the mounting reality of my physical limitations, to at least admit that I am not what I used to be and those activities that were once second nature to me are now impossible if not alien. Not to mention that the bulk of my relevance here has greatly thinned out, which is as it should be, of course. It is the young who inherit the earth.

However, I am determined to retain my sense of humor through all this humbling and reordering of what I am and my current place in the continuum. If what I once was is now relegated to historical notes, fine then! I will not be a grump about it! But during all the rites of passage through each phase of letting go and moving on, echoes of deep longings linger in the shadows. My guitar ranks high on the list. 

I truly marvel at all the old musicians, the ones even older than I, still performing in front of audiences, still banging away with endurance, agility and the skills fine-tuned by time. I was never a performer so I can’t speak to the drive that pushes one to that kind of exertion in order to feel alive, vital and relevant but I well understand the compulsion to make music.

My decision to end the four decade love affair with my guitar was because my beloved Conrad, the dear friend that gave me precious bits of time to regenerate and refill my well during the manic child rearing years, suddenly got bigger and heavier. It’s a mystery for sure.

For that reason and advancing arthritis in my hands, I gave up playing and eventually the poor old thing needed repair anyway and slept forlorn on a shelf in the basement under a blanket of dust. And then, one day, my son, in the dearest of loving gestures, sneaked it out and had it repaired to surprise me for a Mother’s Day. That reunion, that first time, after years of silence, when I formed a chord and heard that distinct ring of the strings, I was awash with emotions that threatened to drown me. 

However, as wonderful as it was to have my guitar back, there was no way to deny that the years, having taken their toll, demanded that I stop trying to regenerate what once was so easy and now is not. With somber resolve, I decided to give it to my son who is now the keeper of the instrument and the forty years of memories it represents. 

But, again, rebel that I am, I’ve never been a quitter. So, still haunted, by the need to make music, I tried to compromise my limited skills with a lap dulcimer and then an electronic guitar thingy that sounded more like a toy electronic autoharp. 

Meh. Did not quite fill the need for strings and chords and picking. Or something.

>> Here’s where I’m going to insert that God does know what we need and He often, with amazing grace, provides it in the strangest of ways even when we didn’t think to pray for it.<< 

One day, meandering through a local flea market, I stopped at a booth that featured small instruments. Hanging high up on the side I spotted a ukulele. Four strings. Small. Easy to hold. I took it down and strummed it lightly and I swear I heard an old familiar call to which I responded - and took it home.

Amazing the change in perspective a new learning curve can generate in an old mind and bent fingers. 

I’m well aware my family gets a big kick out of me. I understand that stories told about me are the source of much laughter and I’m good with that. Further, I often do and say things to instigate amusement, having always maintained that I hope when I go I can leave ‘em laughin’.

But I also secretly relish that they don’t have to know everything there is to know about me, and actually can’t.  After all, they only know me based on our familial relationship from the moment of their beginning. Thus they don’t know the me who was long before they were. They don’t know the young woman who needed beyond reason to create music even if no one else listened or heard, who didn’t need or want cheering audiences, record deals or worldly acclaim. 

...the girl who wanted to turn her poems into lyrics, to lose herself, for her reasons, in music that only she could appreciate.

When my daughter asked me why I started my diet again and walking every day, I knew the core answer would be too long and/or boring so I cut to the chase: 

“It’s because of the ukulele,” I replied.

I’ve been told there was much raucous hooting and knee slapping over that one, which, I admit, makes me smile real big as well. 

For Him,