reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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life lessons. [merely-a-thought monday]

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you have those friends.  the ones you don’t get to talk to or see all the time, but the instant you call or text or, even better, get to be with them, you pick up right where you left off.  sometimes, those calls or visits are really long; there’s so much to catch up on.

susan and i had one of those calls recently.  the conversation ranged across a gigantic prairie of life subjects – from children to lenten service music to food to relationships to age to challenges to direction to joys to disappointments.  there’s always the inevitable “we should talk more often” and “i miss you”; times we realize how much running our crazy worlds past each other matters.  the “tuition” takes just a little bit less of a toll if we can utter the gory details to our friend, divulge our imagined vindication on whatever the “tuition” is, paint a picture – describing in inordinate detail – of each of our chronicles.

linda, infinite in wisdom and groundedness, finds humor and the wise sticking point in situations.  she has been there for me for decades, close by and from afar.  she is a model of loving steadfastness and makes me feel as if she hugged me, even if we are only on the phone.

heidi, another one of those dear people for me, always asks, “what’s the learning?”.  as infuriating as that question can be, it is a perspective-arranger.  it gives you pause for thought and invites another viewpoint.  the thing i may be obsessing on may not be the point after all.

toward the end of our phone call, susan and i laughed about all the things we were ‘learning’.  oh yes, grateful students?  well, maybe not exactly.  but we are pretty enlightened (for the most part) and we kept laughing as susan said, “yeah, all these life lessons are great, but the tuition sucks.”  we hung up with promises to call again soon.  whether or not that happens right away, i know she is right there.

because here’s the thing we can count on – in the midst of the “tuition that sucks” is that our true relationships and the support we receive from them is endless.  the conversation never really stops.  it just hopscotches from one time to the next, a life-thread of lessons shared.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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maturity in season of life. [two artists tuesday]

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this came across my desk last week. “maturity in season of life.” part of a minister of music job description, i was struck by the unguarded language, the bow to what only time and experience can teach.  i have never seen this written as such before.  it was bracing in every GOOD way.  it was appreciatory.  it was a breath of fresh air.

in a society that seeks to remain youthful and puts less emphasis on maturity in season of life than on staying young, we need remember there’s a place for everyone.  some places require youth, fresh and breathing hard from the sprint.  other places recognize the need for the steadfast wisdom of the ages, a decision-maker-doer who brings a lifetime of positive and negative experiences and knows how to differentiate between them, has an intuition built on time and the ever-growing wealth of lessons.  the seesaw has room for both; the fulcrum can only balance with both.

as two artists living together, we are more than aware of the challenge of ageism, the challenge of time spent in our artistry and how that relates to value.  more than a thousand times we have each been admonished for thinking we need to be paid when we should be grateful for the “exposure” we are being “granted”.  more than a thousand times we have each been in a place where we have had to explain why our artistry needs to be financially rewarded just like anyone else’s work.

indeed, pay scales have been built to reflect time spent and job descriptions use verbiage like “pay is commensurate with experience.”  experience.  maturity:  “the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner.  being aware of the correct time and location to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society (read: job) one lives in (read: one works in).”

i recently was having a written messaging chat with a hard-working young adult whose job is in the arts.  with these challenges facing him every day, he said that people do not realize that “they’re paying me to know what to do if things don’t go well.”  intuition.  working on the fly based on training, knowledge and an ever-building bank of experiences.   he will continue to face that challenge; it will only deepen.  how is that maturity measured?  how will he be paid for that maturity, for that which he cannot describe and for which others cannot fathom?  for some reason, in this society, it is easier to answer that question if you are doing a numbers job, something seemingly more concrete, more measurable, more quantifiable.

but maturity in season of life touches others as well and we have dear friends who have been ‘let go’ from their jobs simply because of their age.  now, their companies would never testify to that and are careful to avoid such language – for that would set them up for all kinds of legal problems – but it has been clear to our friends, struggling to find a new way in later days of their lives.  few and far between are those who are able to benefit by pointing out the error of their ways to the company that is undervaluing a later human-on-this-earth season.  other friends are fortunate enough to be working somewhere that has deeply valued the long time they have spent in their work and these friends have retired with spoken words of gratitude and wishes of continued good living.  where is the fulcrum?

in this particular document that came across my desk, the whole phrase read, “maturity in season of life and maturity in ministry experience.”  shockingly, they are seeking this as a qualifier and they are willing to pay for it.  speaking directly to that qualifier that beautifully honors the wisdom of the ages, there are things that, as a minister of music at 19 i did not know.  there are things that, as a minister of music at 32 i did not know.  likewise, as a 30-years-as-a-minister-of-music at days-away-from-60, of course there are things i do not know.

what i DO know is that every experience i have had as a minister of music has built upon the last.  instead of a chasm where learnings have dropped rapid-fire into an abyss, i have learned what the important stuff is and how to attempt to keep those things foremost.

like anyone in any job, mastery is commensurate with time spent, with growth in that work, and yes, without exception, with maturity in season of life.

“take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” (desiderata)

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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LittleFreeLibrary [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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a legacy. todd bol has left a legacy in his wake.  and i can’t imagine one that doesn’t touch imaginations and creativity and limitlessness more.  todd built his initial little free library in 2009 in hudson, wisconsin, as a tribute to his mother, who was a teacher and a book-lover.  his first little free library was a replica of a one-room schoolhouse, which he secured on a post and filled with books that he invited his neighbors to borrow.  it caught on, as no one could have dreamed possible, and now these gems are across the united states and in more than 80 countries.

we read every day.  together.  we always have a book going and it is one of our greatest pleasures to read aloud to each other.  there is something magical about it – sitting close under a blanket, experiencing the book at the same time, reacting to it, talking about it.  sometimes a book is so engrossing it requires one of us to pull the other out of the book-world-reality that has consumed us.   such is the power of reading.

if you walk around our neighborhood, even without walking on every single street, you will encounter these little libraries.  there are five within just a few minutes, a few blocks of us.  todd bol died at age 62 on october 18.  but his legacy?  he has left behind “more than 75,000 little free library stewards around the world dedicated to literacy and community.”  an amazing – and ever-growing – gift to the world.  thank you, todd bol.

read DAVID’S thoughts about this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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and, speaking of legacy, happy would-be-68th birthday to my big brother wayne.  no matter what plane of existence you now grace, you live on in each of us.  i wish i could peapod or instacart or jet you gallons of coffee ice cream.  i love you and miss you.  always.

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lemon meringue pie

a few days ago it was official lemon meringue pie day. now i don’t know who decides these things, but a day (especially right now in our world) dedicated to confection doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  and, seeing that in the paper made me think of my momma.

photomy sweet momma loved lemon meringue pie. no, that’s too mild….she adored lemon meringue pie. in the days prior to chocolate ganache cake (thank you, publix!) she would, sometimes, allow herself to have a piece of this bright yellow unicorn/rainbow/bubble sort of dessert. now, to be fair to other fruits, she also loved all other fruit pies. a piece of blueberry pie and a cuppacoffee made her smile; a piece of lemon meringue could elicit giggles. i mean, really, when is the last time you had that whipped confectionery sugar stuff stuck to your chin and the sides of your lips? you can’t help but giggle. such joy.

the book next to our bed is titled ‘the book of joy’ and it is next up on our read-it-aloud-together list. maybe we’ll start it sitting in adirondack chairs out back. maybe we’ll start it on a blanket on the beach. maybe we’ll start it sitting in the breezes that cross our bedroom, filled with soft light and treasured mementos, our favorite quilt, dogdog and babycat snoozing sounds. just the thought of reading this aloud together brings me joy. joy.

where do we learn joy from? is it something that we are taught? is it something that is inherent in each person on this good earth? is it reachable even by those who are in distraught times, in times of darkness?   is it a right? is it a responsibility?FullSizeRender(1)

my sweet momma was one of those people who was filled with joy. she woke me up every morning with the bright words “good morning, merry sunshine!” or “good morning, my sweet potato!” even in my grouchiest mornings i found it hard to resist smiling to that. i have no idea what she might have been dealing with at those times – her own life stuff with her parents, financial woes, words with my dad, a leak in the basement, personal disappointments or victories, worries about something in our family, what to cook for dinner, menopause or physical challenges, or a plethora of big or little things that were happening. regardless of whatever was in the docket in her mind, she made an effort (without making it look like she was making an effort) to bring joy.

momma’s level of excitement was contagious. she definitely leaned toward full spectrum on the positive side of the emotion band. her reaction to plans you talked about with her always met with enthusiasm…and often glee. the way she met life has set the bar high for me, making me cringe when there are others around me who don’t enthuse or act excited. i remember how she could make a bike hike even just to the dairy barn to buy milk sound like an adventure. joy.IMG_2785

today i am grateful to my sweet momma for teaching me how to lean into joy. this doesn’t mean i am always joy-filled. like everyone, i have my moments when i can be a raving …ummm… or i can feel sadness or grief with every fiber or i can be worried or disgruntled or fed up or overwhelmed by the details of life. but i truly think it was my momma who showed me, by her lifelong demonstration, how to pluck a joyous moment from a day and memorize it. IMG_2784how to write it down or pick up a rock (or a feather or a stick or a leaf) to remember it. how to notice joy and how to save joy. how to be thready about joy. how to lead with joy…in anything. how to own joy. how to be. joy.

there are too few days, i now know, over and over again, for each day not to be find-the-joy-in-today day.  it may be the smallest of things in a ridiculously complex, sometimes-driving-you-to-your-knees challenging world, but it’s there somewhere. i know it’s so. my momma taught me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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kavanah.

ever since the evening we were guests in the synagogue the word ‘kavanah’ has been haunting me. the rabbi used this word several times.  i’m not one who always remembers new words in other languages – that must be a product of my age lol – but this one stayed with me. much like the way ‘bashert’ (a person’s soulmate; the person who will complete another perfectly) wrapped itself around my memory after helen told us about it, this hebrew word did the same. (not to mention that it sounds beautiful to your ears and feels good to say (try it.))   in looking it up i read that it refers to one’s intention, direction of the heart, the ability to refrain from distraction, to stay in that moment…”directing the mind to the meaning of words uttered or acts performed.” that sounds a lot like presence to me. intentional presence in a moment, whether that moment is acting on something or speaking something or quietly praying something. i read that there is an 11th century moral philosopher bahya ibn pakudah who has been quoted, “prayer without kavanah is like a body without a soul.”

we’ve been taking long walks. through the woods, along the lake, traipsing through meadows filled with a combination of snow and ice and mud.   he calls me a ‘scavenger’…each hike i come back with something found – feathers, a branch, rocks, woodsseed pods that have dried on the vine. they remind me of the hike…so grateful…the stepping from one moment to the next. on these hikes, i am so aware of the fact that these moments are the only things we are sure of. one at a time. we revel in the air, the sun on our faces, our hands in each other’s, the sound of our boots breaking through snow and ice.   we ponder on our own thoughts as we walk, and we talk about our ponderings. we are aware of the newness of life that will happen soon – when the sun warms the earth enough, when the rains nurture the seed, when the wind gently encourages new life, when the elements intend.

relationship offers us this chance too – intention – to be warm, to nurture, to encourage, to intend – love. we can think we are about goodness, but we must intend goodness. for goodness, we have to choose goodness. in the moment. without distraction. joan wrote, in an amazing poem she penned for our wedding, of the restorative power of life, even in the midst of chaos and what looks like destruction, an amazing intention of our universe to bring life.  always Life.

in each of our precious moments we have this chance, i realize, once again. always once again. i wonder how many lessons we get in our lives to learn this. i believe that it is repeated over and over, for, as humans, we forget. we get lost. we are the body, sometimes without the soul. we are the words without the meaning. we are the forest, yearning for spring, instead of reveling in winter. we are the seed pods, wishing we were still the flowers, instead of drinking in the possibility of new seed. we are prayer without kavanah.

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revel.