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Courage

I do not typically remember my dreams, not sure if that is a good or a bad thing, however, when I am awakened by a vivid dream, I take note.  A few nights ago, I was abruptly awakened from a disconcerting dream. I was on a trip to an urban city, I had a specific task to accomplish, but didn’t know what it was. One of my closest friends and confidants was speaking with me on the phone while I was maneuvering through dark busy streets full of people, but with no sense of community. Everyone  was busy with their own agenda. My friend on the phone was trying to give me advice, they had experience in this city and although the advice was helpful and well intended, it didn’t exactly apply to my immediate circumstance.

As the evening grew into darkness, I realized that I needed to secure a place to stay temporarily until I could make the contact and connection that I needed. My luggage was cumbersome and growing heavier and more difficult to manage through the crowd. I finally found a small place that had an affordable  temporary space for me to collect myself. I paid and got the key, but I could not get access into the building to get to the small space. I dragged my things around and covered the entire structure, but no matter which way I tried to get in, there was a blockade. Frustrated, confused and exhausted, I sat and pondered.

Finally I saw a group of young people lingering in a nearby quad, and as I approached them, I saw some stairs leading downward to an entry that was out of sight to the typical passerby. I approached it and was able to gain entry, relieved, I looked for my rented space and saw an adorable dog with its owner. The man had the most friendly and incredible smile and for the first time since my arrival to the city, I felt peace. I dropped my things off and realized that I had not eaten all day, so I headed back out with the intention of getting a quick bite to eat and back to my temporary pad.

The streets were busier and darker than ever. I did not have much money, but I saw an affordable and familiar restaurant in the distance and headed to it. Out of the corner of the darkness where the street lights had ended I suddenly saw a bear and a lion and some other darker creatures of the night. They were intense and I was in their sight. I anxiously looked for an escape route, and chose a palm tree that had no fronds or growth. I clambered up, simultaneously the bear was leaping and nipping at my feet. I clung to the top of the dead tree wavering. The lion and bear paced below. And that is when I abruptly awoke…

Of course, this dream could very well have been the result of the Mexican Meal I had that prior evening, but nevertheless, I thought about the possibility that I might glean some wisdom from it.

I am in a state of transition, and as I prepare to make decisions and move in the coarse ahead, I am acutely aware that circumstances can feel isolating, even in the midst of crowds of people. It is true that danger lurks and is even sometimes more likely to target the individual in a new environment, not connected or familiar with the surrounding group. Change, limited resources, and isolation can leave one feeling vulnerable and confused.  I Peter 5:8 says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

I am comforted by Jesus response to the prowling enemy. In Matthew 16:18-19 He said this, ” And on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.”

Years ago a friend gave me the book, The Dream Giver. It is a wonderful allegory about the Love God has for each of His children and how He has uniquely designed us with a Dream to fulfill His purpose for our lives. As I move through my different seasons of life and transition, The white feather has represented the unique Dream and purpose God has for my life. On special occasion, He delivers a beautiful white feather as a reminder to me that the The Dream Lives, and He is faithful always.

“In the U.S., the white feather has become a symbol of courage, persistence and superior combat marksmanship. A historical example of one who wore the white feather was US. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock. He was awarded the Silver Star medal for bravery during the Vietnam War. He picked up a white feather on a mission and wore it in his hat to taunt the enemy. He was so feared by enemy troops that they put a price on his head. Its wear on combat headgear flaunts an insultingly easy target for enemy snipers.”(Wikipedia)

Today on my walk in the Sanctuary, I found 2 beautiful white feathers. I have not come across any in years, and yet as is true to His character, He delivered a personal message. I am presently in a very big transitional state and if left to my own thoughts, it can feel dark , dangerous and isolating. But the Lord wants to remind me that The Dream Lives and I am SURE that He smiled as He deposited not one, but two white feathers in my path this morning.

Isaiah 61:7  “Instead of shame you will receive a double portion and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land and everlasting joy will be yours.”  Yes, there is always danger and darkness lurking, but I have every confidence in my Lord that He has provided me with all I need to overcome it and to move joyously within the path and fulfill the unique Dream He has given me.

I may just get a hat to wear so that I may flaunt my White Dream Feathers to the enemy. May it be so for you as well.

The Vantage Point in Life

I headed straight to the sanctuary after work; the Bird Sanctuary, that is. Walking with purpose, increasing my pace, clearing my mind after a long day at work. I looked at the ducks, squirrels, rabbits, and various water fowl. I listened to the grunt of the neighborhood alligator and then I looked at the marshy waters edge.

There were 3 baby Moorhens and one had clambered up a reed and sat perched, looking as though it wanted to leap and test it’s wings. But it swayed frozen at the end of the reed. Suddenly the 2 other little Moorhens saw what their sibling had done, and they scrambled from the marshy patch to the reed and proceeded to compete at the base of it, in an attempt to climb  to the top. They scrapped and wrestled and one finally got a grip and stepped on the head of the other and proceeded to climb past the catatonic sibling. Then it leapt with a few flutters of it’s wings, and plop, right onto the marshy bed below.

The other little Moorhen at the bottom of the reed then clambered up and pushed passed the still “frozen in time” sibling, and as with the other sibling, it fluttered and took it’s first crack at flight, landing practically on top of it’s brother. I watched with curiosity “What will the first Moorhen” ,still perched awkwardly in fear at the top of the swaying reed, “do?”.

Well, it sat awkwardly swaying, looking at the other two down below. It stretched it’s wings and took a firmer bracing stance and posture and then in a much more effective manner, flapped and “flew” (somewhat) to the marshy ground next to his brothers. They proceeded to run off and seek out other sport.

Of course my first impression was that this must be how the episodes of The Three Stooges were developed. It really was clumsy and comical. Second, as the mother of 3 boys, I reminisced over many such similar escapades that my sons attempted. Of course I am certain there are many escapades that I don’t know about and it is probably better that I don’t.

Third, I thought about how this is a reflection of so many scenarios in life. Leadership, ambition, initiative, camaraderie, and success. Each of these  character qualities develop through relationship, trial and error, success and failure, observation, improving a standard (Best Practices), lots of struggle, teamwork, individualism and momentum.

The first Moorhen had an instinct, an impulse, an idea. he took initiative and because he was testing it out without a roadmap, he started slowly, cautiously, perhaps even fearfully. His initiative, even though he paused into a seemingly “frozen” state, drew the attention, curiosity, admiration, envy and ultimately the catalyst that drove the other two Moorhens to follow his path.

The other two followed the path of the first, they learned from his approach and built momentum, assured that the reed could hold them up. ( while their brother flailed at the top. ) The two launched out and in haste had fluttering first attempts at flight.

The first Moorhen observed the actions and outcome of his siblings, made some adjustments, regained some confidence and flapped instead of fluttering, and ultimately had the best “First Flight” of the 3. It was an important vantage point.

In life the vantage point is often for the first one who steps out. Those close by, often gain confidence by association and collectively they each motivate one another to move towards success, growth and flight.

There are some important “Vantage Points” in life:

  • Work collaboratively.
  • Branch out as needed.
  • Learn from each other’s successes and failures.
  • Look for a soft landing whenever possible, but  if need be brace yourself and leap anyhow.
  • Most importantly, don’t stay frozen, dangling at the top of a wavering reed.
  • Leap, flap, fly and most of all have fun….

Heroic

Having lived in Florida most of my life, it is not uncommon when driving along to see a turtle lumbering across a busy road. I have always been impressed when I see a car pulled aside, flashers on and an individual heroically picking up the gentle creature taking it to safety in a nearby ditch or field. In all of my years I have not come across a scenario where I was the “First Responder” who would save the day for the distressed reptile.

Finally a few weeks back I was driving down a  narrow rural road, it was a beautiful day and as I looked ahead I saw a shape in the distance on the other side of the road. At first I could not tell what it was, and thought it was debris from a fender bender, but as I got closer, I realized it was a large turtle slowly crossing the road and there was a car moving swiftly in its direction.

This was my chance to be heroic. I put my car into park put on my flashers and jumped out waving to the oncoming car. Yes, it was dangerous, but I was the “First Responder” and finally I was going to get to save the day. I ran up to my creature in distress and as I drew closer, I realized it was a large turtle, roughly the size of a small dutch oven. I had to move swiftly because the oncoming car drew nearer and I was concerned that a car coming in my lane might not see my flashers or me. This turtle was so big, I wondered how heavy he would be as I prepared to scoop him up in my arms and whisk him away to safety.

But then I came right up next to him, and stopped dead in my tracks with my jaw dropping to the asphalt. This adorable turtle I was heroically going to save, had a hideous head and a ferocious looking face, his legs and tail were spiked like a dinosaur. It was a very large Alligator Snapping Turtle. Ugh!!! It was hideous ugly and looked fierce. So now   my excitement over rescuing this creature waned and I instantly considered leaving it be and jumping in my car and heading homeward. But I knew that if I did not act fast, the oncoming car was sure to run right over it.

I could not pick it up, it was so big and so angry, that it would have made a snack out of my fingers, so I used my foot to scoot it along. The prehistoric creature kept rearing up its ugly head in protest and digging in his  spiked feet and legs, This really was not what I had in mind as my first rescue…  There I was scooting along this angry and resistant Alligator Snapping Turtle, and all I can think of now is, “I sure hope nobody hits my car for this.”  I moved the prehistoric looking creature to safety, with absolutely no assistance or appreciation from him.

I hopped into the car and headed on my way, pondering over the fact that I was much more excited about the idea of being a hero and saving a cute helpless turtle.  Sadly, when reality occurred and the creature that needed my help was cantankerous, and even possibly dangerous, it changed the prospective ROI (Return On Investment) for me. There was much less glory in this rescue.   I almost turned away and let the turtle take its chances with the oncoming car, simply because I did not feel comfortable  based on its looks and attitude. I am not proud of that.

I thought about those people who cross my path in daily settings, such as work, neighborhood, church, check out lines, behind the wheel,etc. Some people can be challenging and cantankerous, and I find that my tendency is to avoid them at all cost. Jesus, came into a world full of complicated and cantankerous people, lumbering in the path of danger. He made Himself completely available to touch, heal and offer Words of Life and Love and the actual path for eternal rescue. Not once did He waiver or change His course and purpose for being here. He came to do His Father’s Will, to pay the price on the cross for our cantankerous  and life threatening/condemning sins . He didn’t allow our unappreciative attitudes, or our snapping protests and our stubborn wills that cause us to dig in and resist His act of selfless love and heroism to keep Him from Heroically offering the Rescue. He loves us, because we are His creation and He longs to bring us into  safety and so much more.

The day that I saved that hideous creature, I learned that Alligator Snapping Turtles are endangered species and in spite of his resistance and ugly demeanor he needed to be saved and there was no way he was going to outmaneuver that oncoming car on his own…..

At the end of the day I didn’t feel heroic, but rather humbled instead….

Happy Feet

I had the opportunity to see the Gin Blossoms 25th Anniversary Tour of “New Miserable Experience”. The event was in a small theater venue and our seats were up front but off to the side. It was a small enough venue that we were within 2 steps of the stage, and the band was excellent! Time has not taken away from their talent, and it is always refreshing to see a band that has managed to maintain their original integrity and skill.

The majority of the crowd appeared to be within my age range or older, but there were some younger fans scattered amongst the gray hair and soft middles. There were definitely some characters and as fate would have it, my seat was right in line with one of the security guards for the evening. He was at least 6’3 and held a menacing demeanor. My girlfriend, who has been to this venue several times, whispered to me, “Bummer, that guy takes his job so seriously, we will never be able to get up and walk the 4 feet to the stage without him sternly sending us back to our assigned  seats.”

I watched as he stood there, arms folded and glaring at the crowd. As the band entered the stage, people around us stood, some moved forward to take pictures and as my friend had suggested, “Dudley Do Right”, moved in swiftly and sharply pointing people back to their place. With the exception of a few V.I.P. guests seated immediately in front of the band, most of the crowd remained seated , hoping to avoid the glare or wrath of the zealot security guard.

His presence was so impacting that the lead singer finally spoke up and told the crowd that “This is a rock concert, not a movie, stand up and join us at the stage.” Even after that invitation, only a few people came forward and took some pics, quickly returning to their seats and those seated in the center aisles sheepishly began to stand and clap. But there I sat with “Dudley” 3 feet in front of me. I could spy the corner of the stage that I wanted to go to, but I had to traverse right past him and even then I would be shoulder to shoulder with him.

I have a reputation for having a dance style like the character “Elaine” from Seinfeld. All I could think of was that if I actually got the courage to jump up and move to the stage corner with my eclectic dance moves, “Dudley” would have an elbow in his eye and I would be escorted out of the building. So I sat there in my seat watching this amazing band , tentatively clapping my hands and my feet were shuffling with stilted energy.

If you have ever seen the movie “Happy Feet”, it is a movie about a little penguin who is different than the others. While the other penguins all sing angelically and in order, “Happy Feet” moves convulsively in place when he hears music, as he attempts to suppress his natural response to the music.  It is a sweet movie, if you haven’t seen it. So I sat convulsively moving in my seat and although I enjoyed the band, it all felt awkward, and I thought this isn’t quite how I pictured this experience in my head as I drove to the concert earlier that evening.

Then something happened, a young man who was probably in his twenties suddenly stormed the stage and leaped up at the feet of the lead guitarist. “Dudley” was on it and that poor young man was dragged off swiftly and escorted out by 2 security guards and a police man. I have a feeling that he had a rough night, and I hope that he is okay and that he isn’t charged too severely for his “zealous” response to the evening. The thing is, that moment changed the rest of the evening. I realized that I didn’t have to sit convulsively in my seat in a stoical state. (Yes, I am aware that this statement is an oxymoron, but if you knew me, you would understand .)

I jumped to my feet and did my best “Elaine” dance and even moved to the corner stage. I even got to “High Five” the lead singer, Robin Wilson.”Dudley” was definitely within my elbow shot, but thankfully, there were no black eyes on either of our part. The concert was excellent, The Gin Blossoms wrapped it up with an awesome tribute song to Tom Petty, which of course made me even more impressed with the evening.

Social etiquette can be so complicated, there is a spectrum within which we all try to fit. For some it is easier than others, and in some cases there are extremes that in all truth for the sake and safety of the crowd, we need to respectfully curb. The young man who stormed the stage created a genuine safety risk for himself ( highly inebriated) and for the band and other concert goers. I understand why there is a need to keep some degree of order, hence “Dudley”.

The rest of the evening, “Dudley” was much more relaxed and less intense towards the crowd. He only approached people to disperse if they lingered too long in areas that had potential to create a hazard risk. I had a great time, and I actually wonder if perhaps “Dudley” did as well. He wasn’t all that bad after all….

Bold, Barefoot and Brilliant!!!!

So a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a Tom Petty Tribute Concert at Skipper’s Smokehouse (If you have never been, you must go to Skipper’s, nothing else like it on the planet). I went with one of my very best friends from high school, back in the day, we were fans of Tom and his rebel band the Heart Breakers and it was nostalgic to attend this event together.

There were bands playing tribute songs beginning at 4 p.m. and going nonstop until past 10 p.m. It was fun to see so many band members of a wide range of ages and genre playing Tom’s songs with such verve… Of course none could outperform Mr. Petty himself, but they honored him well.

One of the band leaders was very young, most likely in his mid twenties. He was good looking, like a younger version of Johnny Depp, and he was dressed brilliantly and had amazing energy and passion. I was impressed, and yet as he sang, I felt as though the performance was just that, a performance. I am sure that this young man has a great future ahead of him, and he definitely has the “It” factor that seems so important in Hollywood and/or Nashville.

There was a different band however, that truly caught my eye. As they came out to set up, the Lead singer and guitar player stepped on stage, barefoot and in a white t-shirt and worn out old jeans. He was older, probably my age, which is to say that he most likely was playing in a band about the time my friend and i were in high school or college.

My girlfriend said,  “He looks like Luke Perry.” and  my reply was “Yeah, Luke Perry after many rough years on the road.”  You see this man was handsome, but he also bore the look of someone who had been through a few more life experiences than the Johnny Depp lookalike.

When the band (Sonic Stew) began to play, it sounded good, but something was off. For a brief bit of time, they seemed to struggle with coming together  with the right sound. That is when I saw something amazing happen. This Barefoot Lead Singer, went over to the Base Player and he began to listen to the cords and essentially lead him into an incredible synchrony. What started out as a sound that was flat and off, turned into one of the best combinations and performances of the evening.

This Barefoot Leader, remained calm, never lost focus, kept smiling throughout and worked with the band to turn the performance into a memorable tribute. At one point he looked my way, and I saw in his eyes calm confidence and sheer joy. I know that Tom P. was honored that evening, and I left that concert impressed with the reminder that First Impressions are important, but be very careful not to put all of your expectations and assumptions in them. You might just miss the best performance of the night….

I do not know the name of the Barefoot, Bold and Brilliant Leader of Sonic Stew, but that evening was a fun hands on expression of Leadership at it’s Best. Sadly, I do not actually see much of that from Leaders in the corporate setting. Many talk a good talk, dress brilliantly and have energy and passion, but the confident focus and genuine passion and leading by example such as the Barefoot Leader exhibited , is far and few between.

Tom Petty wrote and performed many brilliant songs, but the one that comes to mind as I ponder this recent tribute event is “Saving Grace”. The lyrics are so solid and no doubt Mr. Petty was searching as we all are. There was another Barefoot/Sandaled Leader many years ago, and without Jesus, there would be no soul searching Saving Grace.

“For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-10

“Happy”

I don’t watch much television, but there is a quirky show on Public Television called
Doc Martin. It takes place in a sleepy seaside English Village , Port Isaac.  The main character is a complex man who is diagnosed with OCD, Attachment Disorder and a myriad of other spectrum issues that leave him “flat” in his human interactions.

His character is married with a child, but due to his lack of emotional attachment, his wife considers divorce. There is a scene where Doc Martin is with a therapist and with great difficulty explains that he is there because he wants to save his marriage, and he wants his wife to be “Happy”. The therapist asks him if he would like to be “Happy”, and he flatly answers that he just doesn’t operate with that realm of emotion or expression. How sad.

It seems that “Happiness” is one of the primary reasons that sales and marketing thrive. The companies want to convince us that we have a problem and they have the solution, and if we purchase the solution, we will be “Happy”. Of course in this scenario, the “Happy” bucket has a hole in it and therefore the companies continue to sell and market newer and improved ways to be “Happy” ,at a price of course.

I was in London years ago and after 10 wonderful days, I was rushing through Heathrow Airport to head home. A vendor caught my eye with her wares and I stopped to look at some beautiful gold jewelry. I noticed a necklace, it was very simple and understated, and it had a Chinese symbol on the charm. I asked the woman what it meant and she beamed as she said “Happiness”. I smiled, purchased the necklace and proceeded to place “Happiness”  around my neck.

It would be great if it were that easy, just put it on like a charm. I confess that I have relied too heavily on my circumstances and relationship status to measure my “Happiness” level. Of course there are times when it soars under this system, but there are times where it plunges as well and if I mapped it out according to those standards, my “Happiness” meter would look like an abnormal EKG.

I believe that true “Happiness” must be stamped on our heart and our head. It is a benefit that swells from the peace and joy of the Lord. Psalm 144:15 says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”  That is lasting and that is what I desire, but I can still get caught up in my circumstances and forget this truth at times. May I never forget the true source of “Happiness”.

Besides, I don’t truly know what that symbol on my necklace is…..I don’t read or speak Chinese:)

The Richest ….

It has been quite a while since my last post. Many changes occurring in life, which really just means life is as it always is, ever evolving. I spent some time this past week with some very dear friends and it made me think of a phrase that a particularly special friend says to me occasionally, “You’re the richest woman I know.”  If wealth were measured in terms of valuable relationships and the quality of the people in my life, then I will have to concur that I am  indeed rich, regardless of the condition of my bank statement.

I walk daily with the Lord and feel sure in His Loving presence and guidance. I have sons that honor and love me. It  leaves me beaming with pride for the men that they are and continue to grow into, as God directs their paths. I have numerous friends, all of whom have loved me generously through time, laughter, tears and toil. I have siblings, whom although so very different from me, are always there and have my back if life gets too complicated. My 86 year old mother, has the sweetest heart and so much wisdom to impart as number 9 of 11 children raised during the Depression.

Even though  I am grateful to learn that the statistics at present show a positive trend for our nation’s economy, I know many individuals who are still struggling financially.  Living in the American Culture can add to the pressure, since the things we take for granted are often luxuries in other societies. I am thankful for the safe warm place that I and my family reside in. I am thankful that I have a car that is getting closer to 200,000 miles, but runs like a charm. I am thankful for my own health, and that of my family. I am so thankful for the family and friends that God has abundantly Blessed me with.

Matthew 6:33-34 says “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV Bible). And I will add to this, that God is Always Good, no matter what the trouble of the day brings.

What  makes you rich????