Deer Season Blessing

I have always lived in places rural and just a little bit wild. I like it that way. But these places are also where it’s assumed that you and a deer or two will have an unfortunate meeting at dusk somewhere, likely when your phone isn’t charged at the end of a long day. My family had just such a meeting late one Sunday when I was ten; for months afterward, my parents remedied my panic at driving in the dark and meeting yet another by Mom sitting in the back seat while I hid my face in her lap.

As an eventual driver myself, I’ve had run-ins with fawns, full grown deer, a bear, a few dogs, and multiple rodents. I’ve been well-trained; you can’t swerve for a rodent at the risk of you, the car, and anyone else in it (though evasive maneuvers are accepted in case of large mammals and skunks.) But now is the season where my fellow citizens thin the deer herds, and in honor of their woodsy sagas which feed their families and keep the rest of us a little bit safer, a deer season blessing:

animal deer road snow

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

O, you who thin the wild herds

And keep my car from harm:

May you be blessed with close encounters

On these chilly Autumn morns’.

 

May your coffee keep you cozy

And your blaze-orange keep you well.

May all your tags be used,

Whilst you have signal for your cell.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Rest Test

 

It’s most definitely Fall. Mums and pumpkins everywhere, leaves changing, chilly mornings that may or may not turn into warm days and my personal favorite: apple orchards are having their seasonal bonanza. Anyone who has babies or small children are trotting off to have pictures taken in the orchards whilst wearing their best earth tones, and in a certain county in Indiana, everyone is bracing for Bridge Fest.

img_20191007_102619442-2

This is the season of abundance and ending. You can smell it in the air as soon as you step outside. I suspect I only notice it because it is so short; it’s barely a season. It’s more of a transition. But this is when you hustle the last of the produce out of the garden. Now is when you shake the sunflower heads free of their seeds and build bonfires of dry stalks and roots. Now is when you look at all you’ve gathered and wonder if you’ll really eat it all…and you will. This is also when it gets colder, and those days of snow and ice would mean difficulty for anyone who didn’t prepare. It is still the season of ending.

I don’t much like referring to life experiences in terms of “seasons”; I suppose I object because it’s never quite that clear-cut when it comes to people. It’s not as clear as that one-day transition from warm and growing to dry, crackling and the wet smell of leaves. Even so, it’s more accurate than most descriptions. Just like a season, the way life is right now will inevitably change; unlike a season, no one knows when that will be.

But all of it counts.

In the trial of either abundance or the trial of evident need, we are intended to trust God. If we fail at either, then some other god has proved to be incontinent. YHWH cares for us; He has said so. This is true in the trial of need or fear. So submission to His work gives up our treasured anxiety and stress, or our protected quiet. He has all and is all; our rest is in this God.

img_20191004_143024536_burst001

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. 

In God, whose word I praise–in God I trust and am not afraid. 

Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll–are they not in your record? 

Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me. 

Ps. 56: 3, 8-9

How to Make a Notebook Addict Happy

If you know someone who wants notebooks (doodling/writing/combo/whatever) it’s probably pretty important to understand what kind of equipment they use best. In fact, I would suggest that this is…vital. The wrong kind of notebook can lend a distinct sort of “stuck-ness” to a doodler/writer/combo-er/whatever. So, some tips for helping the notebook addict in your life.

img_20190927_131344979

  1. Take him/her to a place where they sell a variety of notebooks and let them free-range. It’s a bit like letting a squirrel loose on a nut farm. Tell him/her to choose one and go find yourself a cozy corner with coffee and a book. In about twenty minutes, if you haven’t seen them, you’ll likely find them writing busily and sniffing their new notebook…because they can’t help it. It’s THAT exciting.
  2. Learn what kind of paper tickles his/her gizzard. Lined paper? Graph? Blank? Textured? It makes a difference.
  3. Know their cover. Hard? Floppy? Paper? Leather? Moleskin? Tip: Sometimes aroma is everything…
  4. When and how do they use this notebook? This knowledge will help you choose what size notebook. Do they have a bag that they usually stuff it in? Will the notebook you are currently considering fit inside said bag? Or do they usually carry it in a pocket? A purse?
  5. How should this notebook fasten? Long leather thongs are nice for multiple fastening options. If they break, you can just tie them off again. Snaps are nice, too, but with long use they get bendy in the important snug parts and stop working. If there is no fastener…well, it ought to be a pretty big notebook to account for edge/corner squashing.
  6. Know their writing utensil preferences. Unless they are a pencil person, they likely have either a brand of pen that is vital to their happiness or a size nib that is equally so. Fine tip? Brush tip? Multiple colors? Ball-point? Calligraphy?

People who like notebooks can tend towards notebook sobbery, and if their notebook needs aren’t met, they won’t be able to bring themselves to use it. If he/she has a spiral-bound notebook when he/she prefers a wrap-around leather one…it’s rather hopeless. (Once long ago, some well-meaning soul gave me a spiral-bound, lined paper, hard-cover notebook with chubby, unclothed cherub/fairies fluttering glittery wings (that shed glitter) on the cover. There was NO WAY I would be caught dead within 20 feet of that abomination to notebooks. YEARS later, I took it to school to my “free” table hoping that it might meet the needs of some young writer/doodler/combo-er/whatever. It did. Happy ending.)

So here’s what I would like: In the comments on this blog or if you prefer, elsewhere, tell us all what your notebook needs/preferences are.

Happy writing. Doodling. Combo-ing. Whatever.

img_20190927_131406819-1

DOWNWIND OF THE RABBIT WARREN; an interview about the fine arts

From Downwind of the Rabbit Warren by Cherry Scott. An interview with a watercolorist, Landon Rex Stoltzmann.

multicolored abstract art

Photo by Amber Lamoreaux on Pexels.com

CS: So of course, let’s start with that famous “how did you begin in watercolor painting” question. I wouldn’t be doing this right if I didn’t start there.

LRS: I was always interested in art. One of the best gifts my parents gave me were watercolor lessons with a local artist. Those lessons felt so different from the other ones I took as a kid—sports, music, etc. These were magical. You had to strategize a bit if you wanted white space. Watching a snowy landscape appear on the paper was magical. I found it immensely calming and looked forward to those lessons every week. I am so grateful that my parents saw fit to give me those lessons.

pexels-photo-1988681.jpeg

Photo by Isabella Mariana on Pexels.com

CS: Why watercolor as opposed to oil painting or charcoals or–?

LRS: Oil is fun, but not as forgiving—for me, anyway. It’s more expensive with brush cleaners and such, and the paints themselves. Charcoals and pastels are messy, which is fun every once in awhile. Watercolors are really forgiving. I can let it dry, come back later, add water, and start again. I can have either a hard edge of color or soften the edges. It gives me room to think and experiment. If I don’t like what I’ve done, I can lift the color right out of the paper with a bit of water and a paper towel. I love that.

CS: Who do you find inspiring in the world of watercolor?

LRS: My original teacher, obviously, Jack Macavoy. If I walk into a gallery, I can spot her pieces right away. She’s leagues beyond me, of course, but has a depth of ability that includes fluid pieces, and pieces with distinct and defined images. The world of watercolor has both styles—and a very wide range in between. Also, Beatrix Potter, writer and original illustrator of the Peter Rabbit stories. All of her sketches are watercolor. Gorgeous.

CS: So do you call yourself a painter?

LRS: No. I’m a storyteller. Stories come in words, in pictures, in colors and lines. I’ll never be rich from either words or watercolor pictures, but they are my preferred media and I use them often enough to at least mush them together into one and calling myself a storyteller. The difficulty is that without words, you have to accept that your viewer won’t necessarily get what you’re driving at. All you have is a title, unless you have the chance to create a visual that’s evocative.

CS: You’ve said before that you love symbology. So what is watercolor symbolic of, do you think?

LRS: Oh, I love this question. I’ve already said this, but you can make a mistake, and while you can’t completely remove the color, you can make significant changes But obviously, technique is fused with your eye and experience. The more you have of all of those, the more pleasing the overall effect is going to be.  So perhaps all of that makes me think of forgiveness; all of us are being made…and remade…and fixed…and fixed some more. A modern philosophy suggests that we’re all perfectly fine the way we are and have nothing to fix, yet we all are willing to agree with phrases like “practice makes perfect” and other basic ideas that disprove that at a fundamental level. Also, we send our kids to school…so we disprove that theory all over the place in daily life. That’s also true of our character, personalities, how we interact with others, etc. Frankly, I think all the fine arts are symbolic of our spiritual lives; always striving for better, more beautiful, and closer to the Master.

CS: Do you think people who don’t practice fine arts feel like the arts are symbolic in themselves (as opposed to just one work of art being spiritually symbolic)?

LRS: I don’t know—I hope so. I do tend to think that people who practice the fine arts on a regular basis almost have to philosophize about how they spend their time. I think it’s important to know why you do it if you do it a lot. I rather suspect that people who paint, or draw or perform only every once in awhile have a better idea of why they do it than “experts” who are always in danger of burnout or excess of fear or lack of ideas.

CS: What is something that you wish non-writers and non-painters knew?

LRS: In the full-on professional fine arts world, there’s the constant swirling conversation that “creativity is not exclusive to the fine arts.” EVERYONE is creative SOMEHOW; I think most practitioners of the fine arts are in some way eager to prove to everyone that creativity isn’t just writing or drawing or coloring or whatever. I would argue that we can’t help but be creative just in basic daily survival.

person writing illustration in spiral notebook

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

CS: This belief is also part of your faith, yeah?

LRS: What I said before about creativity comes from my belief that what the Bible says about God “making man in His own image” includes creativity. God made the world and all we see around us; we, too, were made with a creative bent that drives us to philosophize, fix things, recycle, explore…it’s endless. I honestly think we would die without creativity.

There’s more, but for that, you’ll have to read the essay book…which isn’t on the market just now. But it will be. For now, this is a preview on It’s Raining Ink. Until next time. –The Rewriter

When You Don’t Have Much to Give

adorable animal bed bedroom

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I didn’t realize I had put ice cubes in my salad bowl until my dressing was poised over my coffee. When I got around to actually sipping my coffee, it tasted like…buttered toast.

Migraines mess with all your senses and turn them upside down. Nothing sounds, looks, tastes, or is perceived in the same way. Sounds rarely bother me; light, though… Sometimes, the best thing to do is go back to bed and lay a soft pillow over your eyes for darkness and pressure.  I can’t read correctly. My eyes rearrange words; my tongue loses speaking agility. Whatever signals are usually sent to my brain when I eat something, the wires definitely get crossed when my neurons are overloaded with migraine frustration. They get confused, and suddenly, coffee is interpreted as toast.

It wasn’t until I did some research that some of the things I’ve experienced for years started to make sense. Day 1: you just hurt. I get gentler; milder, quieter. I have to speak more slowly (than I already do…my slowness in spitting out what I’m thinking has confused people for years) and I’m more patient. Day 2: Well-in, you start to wonder what you’re doing wrong, but still pushing through. Day 3: You start to think about things like brain tumors, and if this will ever end, and you get a little…emotionally unbalanced. I cry at cat videos, for instance.  It takes a lot of real energy to deal with pain, so you’re tired, a bit like jet-lag. If you take a nap to try and diffuse headaches you have Very. Weird. Dreams. You slowly learn to change your habits because you only have so much to give. On these strange and unhelpful days, you have a couple of choices.

1: Feel sorry for yourself. Lie in bed with that pillow over your face, all the headache meds, tricks and tips, and a full-on case of the mopes.

2: Be grateful. Be grateful for being forced to be still. When you can’t do anything else, you can pray. Be grateful that there will be days when you DON’T have one—the air smells sweeter, I tell you. Be grateful that we can all laugh a little at the silliness of this little body not working right.

Honestly, most migraine days, I start with feeling sorry for myself until I remember the gift I’ve been given in the quiet, the waiting, and the really silly stories. I’ve started to wonder if someone I know doesn’t need extra prayer on those days, because I often think of people I haven’t thought of in awhile…so I pray for them. Then the things I always pray for…I pray for again. And sometimes again.

I’ve been thinking often lately of my actual position in the world-wide church. There is SO much I CAN’T do, both literally in my physical, current church body, and in the church at large. I can’t rescue the children, I can’t heal my friends, I can’t save anyone’s soul, I can’t heal families…I can’t do a lot, actually. No gift of mine really does any good at all…unless God intervenes and uses it. Then it is good.

That is why it is no waste of time to pray when I can’t do anything else. Sometimes, I wake up, pray, and go back to sleep. Sometimes, I have more to offer than that. But if that is all that I am left able to do, then it is enough.

It is more than enough.

It is good.

When I Feel Very Small

I was trying to do a little watercolor piece as a meditation on weakness and smallness. Not victimhood, you understand, though one is the cousin of the other, but about how sometimes, we can’t. Our resources are limited, our efforts keep failing, and it just somehow doesn’t work.

Ironically, I couldn’t. img_20190910_113655589

I had all the things, but I couldn’t make it work. I had gone walking and collected source material; I arranged, studied details, and sketched. But I kept erasing, re-drawing, re-wording, and trying again. I was nowhere near adding color because I couldn’t get the lines right. I began to fear I was destroying the very paper that was meant to be the vehicle of my little meditation. So I put it down to work on the next day.

My Bible tells me over and over again that humility–or a marked lack of pride–is what God prizes and uses. It also says that He uses powerful things, like kings and storms and whole nations, but often without their knowledge. They have no power to say otherwise. But it seems that the small things are His delight to use. He wanted to talk to the children; He wanted to spend time with people no one else valued: beggars, tax collectors (i.e. traitors), adulterers…and those people were never the same.

It doesn’t seem to be a far reach to say that when I am creatively stuck, frustrated, incapable, exhausted, stressed, and otherwise distinctly feeling my limits, I am closer to be genuinely useful to God than when I am feeling confident, in control and successful. The difference, of course, is that in one situation, I am tempted to rather worship myself, while in the other, I have to rely on my good God and have to give Him praise.   Of course, we often think of 2 Corinthians 12 when we refer to our own weakness, but the author seems to be focusing more on strength in physical persecution–not a frustrated artist. Yet no matter what I find myself doing, I know that I am not particularly useful to the people around me when I am full up on my own awesomeness; the same is certainly true of how useful I am to God. Yet neither am I useful if I am wallowing in failure. Humility, then, is a rejoicing in God and His provision even as I fail.

It seems a bit wild that I wouldn’t pray for wisdom in creativity, yet I have to remind myself to do that very thing again and again. So on this lovely rainy morning, I rejoice in the idea that God has the “big” things well in hand, and that He will enable me to be faithful in all those little things. Even when you are feeling very small and quite unable, He isn’t.

If you need a reminder, perhaps this song will be a good beginning: Lord of the Small.

A Doxology: Is There Anyone in Heaven?

Praise God–from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. 

img_20170619_115905983

“Doxology” originally referred to either written or verbal expression of praise. Its liturgical use in the high church tradition solidified it in our collective understanding to mean “group song”–specifically, the one above. But The Doxology, so familiar, has built into it the original purpose of praise: anytime, anywhere. “All blessings”: can you number your blessings just today? The last hour? Peaceful moments, sunshine, work, rain and cloudy skies, food you like, small things to look forward to, a place to live, people to love…etc.

“…all creatures here below” doesn’t leave much excuse for us not to praise Him. Everything else already does. Have you ever watch a bird catch updrafts and wheel in the open sky, looking like they’re honestly having fun doing what they were made to do and not think they’re not praising God?

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6

It’s awfully tempting to despair of late, it seems. When big personalities in Christendom leave the faith, it feels like somehow more than one person. It preys on the minds of the believers. Yet our Father tells us to continue in faith ; we continue on joyfully, in love, in grace, and in confidence in our God rather than people.

Our theology comes from Him; so too, must our doxology.

I am not the first

To observe that the greater the beauty

The more ugly the loss.

The safer the harbor

The more shattering the invasion.

The deeper the trust

The more destructive the deception.

 

–We know these things too well.

–They have been practiced on us.

–We rage to see them practiced on those we love.

–And if we are honest…

–We are terrified of ourselves

–And our propensity to be:

–The Ugliness

–The Invader

–The Destroyer

–And we ask someone, anyone

–To fix the broken.

–To fix us before we break something.

–But they can’t.

–Because they too are at fault.

 

He didn’t just say that He was Coming.

He said, too, that He Is Here.

He said that He Never Leaves.

He called Himself Beginning and End

He must too be all that is between.

So I take the ugliness to Him to fix.

I tell Him about the invaders.

And I leave the destroyers to His care.

Do you have anyone else in Heaven to ask?