FEBRUARY LOVE

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s a shift in the cosmos coming. Why reserve the goodness of love for only Cupid when humans have 365 days to mirror billions of light to warm every corner of the planet?

A relational truism may be divinity’s will for the heart: congruent energy radiates only positive, uplifting and affirming thoughts, words, and actions.

When congruent energy manifests in human connections, it fuels forward motion. Conversely, non-congruent energy puts on the skids.

Relational energy charges move things forward or backwards. The truth of that energy reveals the heart’s condition.

The soul of the human heart often battles with ego - Edging God Out, stirring chaos and toxicity. Knowing the Creator’s identity within keeps ego in check - a game changer.

Trust God’s goodness, build bridges, and spread the love.

GIFTS THAT JINGLE

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“Talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that's a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you'll never know. That's just the truth.”

Jackson Maine, Country-Rock Star, “A Star Is Born”

When Bradley Cooper was handed the reins to direct “A Star Is Born”, he was way over his head and he knew it.  While an accomplished actor for 20 years, he had never directed a film.  As Jackson Maine, he portrayed a country-rock star.  Even as the screenplay was being co-written by Bradley Cooper several years before production started, he incredulously didn’t know how to play a guitar much less sing.

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What he lacked in bringing this enigmatic love story to the silver screen, he substituted with his gifts of authentic passion, creativity and boundless energy.  Since its release, “A Star Is Born” has had rave reviews from critics and audiences.  Oscar buzz has Bradley Cooper favored to be nominated for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and contributing to Lady Gaga’s Best Original Song (Shallow).  His gifts may jingle all the way on Oscar night.

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Unless there’s a barking gift under my Christmas tree, the holidays will be a bust again.  Although it’s always possible that Santa’s GPS may have malfunctioned again.  I’ve been writing to his North Pole address for many years for a puppy with sloppy kisses!         

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A few years ago the weather even cooperated with a “White Christmas”, but still no barking Santa gift.  Someday, when I’ve been especially good throughout the year, Santa may surprise me.  Wise men counsel that all things come in the right time.

When I think about the Christmas presents throughout my lifetime, how many were special enough to remember the jingle? 

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I do recall my first “big boy” bicycle.  Santa had to find me in Bermuda that Christmas.  It had a leather pack behind the seat and a jingle bell on the handle bars.  No kidding!  That bike was my first glimpse of what freedom felt like.  I rode that bicycle all over the neighborhood, proud to show it off to my envious buddies.  Even rode my wheels to the beach, a mile or so away from the house. 

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While living in Bermuda during childhood, our home was reached through Khyber Pass, between Middle Road in Warwick and the South Shore.  Every school day, my brothers and I walked alone to the bus stop through Khyber Pass.  No parental escort in those days.  When I pause to reflect on those years growing up in Bermuda with my family, it was idyllic.  We even had a German Shepherd dog named King.  My memory may be stretching the fantasy slightly, but I recall King’s collar had a jingle! 

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Christmas has always been a favorite time of year for me.  My parents were Noel’s joy, sowing magic snowflakes, even in those seasons when there was no “white stuff” to be seen.  Dad was the master Christmas decorator outside and inside the house.  He treasured a set of large silver globes that were carefully hung on the lower bough of the tree.  Even with the most careful of handling over many decades, the number of prized ornaments diminished every year.  It’s possible my sister or brothers have at least a sole survivor.  Mom’s cooking and generosity was well known by her family and local community.  Throughout the years, especially at Christmas and Easter, she would volunteer as an organist, choir director, and take a musical leadership role with special church productions.  Dad’s physical strength and adroit activities were obvious in the maintenance of the house and yard, and several vegetable gardens.  His reputation was chiseled through decorated service in federal fire protection and a healthy productive retirement - nobody outworked Fireman Jim.  Mother's subtle spirit was understated.  Her distinctly sweet fragrance and constant moral strength were like whispers straight from God's very own heart to mine.  Now, during every holiday season, there's a sudden child-like moment of wonder when I hear a jingle in the Christmas air -- and I feel the warm gift of my parents.  Surely they must be nearby.

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While not as flashy as Bradley Cooper, I also have many talents and gifts that jingle now and then.  Blogging, for example. Throughout high school and college I struggled with creative writing.  During the past three years a series of emotionally painful events in my personal life prompted me to launch my website, LovesIntention.  For the website’s content, I began channeling my angst into volunteer service and blogging.  The writing style flourished through the search of my vulnerable truth.  I have far to go in my therapeutic journey of well-being, but I’m moving forward to rediscover my place.  Lately, especially during the writing of this holiday greeting, I’ve heard a familiar jingle and comforting whisper of the Christ Child in the Silent Night. 

SANTA MUSING

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“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six.  Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”

-      Shirley Temple

A child’s natural curiosity is eventually the undoing of Santa Claus.  As a six year old, I still fondly remember opening my parents’ bedroom closet to see the many wrapped gifts waiting to be placed under the boughs of the fir tree.  But, it was those “From Santa to Jimmy” gift tags that raised my skeptical eyebrows and mouth-opened disbelief that dismantled my fairy-tale innocence.  This discovery was several weeks before Santa made his way down my chimney to enjoy the milk and cookies I dutifully placed on the fireplace hearth.  Even with that jolting revelation that Santa Claus was actually a cheerful muse wrapped in red ‘n white fur, I don’t recall an emotional breakdown or sudden on-set of depression.  This escape from despondency may have been averted because like most kids that stumble into pulling Santa’s curtain back, I was more preoccupied with how I would perpetuate my belief to my parents so the Santa presents keep coming on December 25th!    

With the yuletide mood on the upswing in late November, the whole Noel season comes as a sentimental journey for me.  While my focus is the Christ Child’s story and special holiday events featuring music and food with friends, the continuity of family Christmas has been lost through divorce three years ago.  Healing takes time, as they say.  But, as the optimist that embraces life’s moment, my heart finds the “Wonderful Time of the Year” is laden with people’s faith to connect with kindness and goodwill.  To emboss in a framework of levity, the magic of Christmas re-captures my imagination somewhere between the Macy’s parade, NFL football and Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie. 

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I have been writing to Santa’s North Pole the past few years.  Well, in spirit at least.  In a male’s uncharacteristically vulnerable state of mind, my Christmas wish was for new love.  Affectionate roots and desire for feminine connection don’t fade as seasons of life change.  Even in this time of loss and learning to let go, I fortified a faith of God’s love-identity in me.  Through this laser-focused mirror of grace and gratitude, a light of generosity was released to serve others through my time, talents, and resources.  A tapestry of spiritual connectivity was cultivated through intentions of a pure heart.  In the course of these activities of service, new friendships formed, including talented, lovely, and strong-willed women.  There was something uniquely different in these new feminine relationships.  For quite a while, I was not sure what I was feeling or even what to do about the ambiguity.  I surfed this wave of connection, dismissing the shore that was ahead.     

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In retrospect, the Universe knew exactly what it was doing.  Recently a clarification gift arrived.  In mystical fashion, Santa had delivered an early Christmas gift, with the name tag, “love without attachment, Jimmy.”   

Dr. Wayne Dyer, an American self-help author and motivational speaker has taught, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  In the past when I would be attracted to a woman’s energy, my selfish ego would take charge, shaping the relationship as an attachment.  The gift’s lesson has taught me to delight in all of God’s creation without attachment.  To align relationships with God’s view is to gain spiritual insight, accented with charity and the longing to share your gifts.

GRACE GOT ME

“Don’t grab hurtful comments and pull them close to you by rereading them and ruminating on them.  Don’t play with them by rehearsing your badass comeback.  And whatever you do, don’t pull hatefulness close to your heart.”

Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW Author, Dare to Lead

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Much of the world’s humanity is swimming in a toxic word bath. If not carefully rooted in kindness and goodwill, unbridled words easily form fiery darts to inflict human pain.  Intended or not.  Once undisciplined thoughts not anchored in authentic love leave the mouth, they simply swirl with existing pools of verbal trash. 

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Not much unlike the garbage patches of the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian oceans.  Countless small and microscopic pieces of floating plastic.  While plastics were made from inexpensive fossil fuels, the idea was first formed with a spoken word.

An amusing scene from the 1967 film, The Graduate, but foreshadowed dire consequences of a human waste culture that has polluted the oceans.  Fortunately, fresh new words are being spoken by humans around the planet to remedy the plastic plague.

A more serious threat for the Earth’s demise is embedded in the human’s tongue, languishing in a tarnished heart.  Words carry energy and spirit to shape good or evil.  History bears the marks of orators that have wreaked destruction or inspired healing from the ashes.  It’s always a choice.  On a single day there are ubiquitous word reports from corners around the globe that lean towards hope or despair. 

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Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   - Victor Frankl

Victor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor during the Holocaust. For most of his life following the horrific trauma, he chose to help others navigate a path of light and purpose. He taught the lesson of space-intention. By resisting the instinct of fight or flight in the midst of unspeakable circumstances, there’s a space to learn. That space is the opportunity to grow, change, and carve an intentional response filled with goodness, grace, and gratitude.

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While the circumstances were between serious and comical, I found myself in that learning space recently.  During a Costco gas-up experience to be exact.  Stay with me.  It’s my new grandkid’s story!

While I live in Roseburg, Oregon, that Saturday, October 6, 2018 I was in Eugene preparing for the drive to the Oregon coast for a Boys & Girls Club benefit at the Florence Events Center.  I had purchased a $75 donation ticket several weeks before solely because the Halie Loren Quartet was the event’s musical performer.  As a huge fan of her jazz/pop music, I attend all of Halie’s performances in Oregon.  With anticipation for the event later that evening, I headed over to Costco to fill-up my 2005 Honda Element’s tank. 

Costco is my default gasoline station in Roseburg and Eugene because I’ve come to trust it’s the lowest cost.  After getting my gas tank filled, I turned the ignition key, but only heard the engine grunting.  I immediately knew what that meant.  For several months I had occasionally heard that sound, but even replacing the battery wasn’t the answer.  Just a few days earlier, I had pinpointed the problem as a worn-out starter.  Even made an appointment with Brian’s Import Auto in Roseburg to replace it.  However, the earliest Brian could schedule the repair was the following Wednesday, October 10th.  To my chagrin, it was obvious to everyone at the Costco gas pump station I had a problem.  After several more attempts, I knew the starter had “bit the dust”.  Within a few minutes of my panic, the gas station manager had my vehicle pushed forward out of line to a vacant parking spot.   

While the manager offered that the tire department had a battery-jump-box, I knew that wasn’t going to remedy the problem. But, avoiding the thought of an expensive tow truck, I took him up on the offer anyway. AJ Bianchi, tire technician showed up within a minute. His calm demeanor was helpful from the start. He explained how he’d helped other customers with a battery jump. After an unsuccessful jump, he confidently went to the next step, “let’s let the battery trickle a bit and try again in 20 minutes.” Sounded better than towing to the Eugene Honda dealer for a starter replacement two days later, plus the expense of a hotel and car rental. With those expenses ramping up my anxiety, AJ’s confidence renewed hope the engine would start one-more-time so I could drive home to Roseburg for the repair. Sorry, Halie, better wisdom was guiding me to pass on your performance.

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With that decision made, I took a deep, long breath, and consciously summoned my “Band of Angels.” With an optimistic mindset, I tried to start the engine.  Nothing.  Not a sound.  I was about to be resigned to my fate when AJ offered another idea.  “Put the gear in neutral so I can push the car to gain momentum, then turn the key to start the engine.”  He apparently had success with this method before.  Even with an automatic?  I had doubts going into his plan, but AJ was resilient.  With me in the driver’s seat, AJ pushed my vehicle several hundred feet on a level surface.  During that span of time I turned the key switch several times with no ignition.  At the moment of resignation I saw AJ in the rearview mirror, still pushing with all his strength, expecting the engine to start.  That’s when it did.  Halleluiah!

“When hope’s candlelight may seem to flicker, speak bravely for your Band of Angels.” The fragrance of grace was palpable!

TRANSITIONS

By Catherine Thomas

“Enjoy the experience and get to the finish line”

I have never been an athlete, I left that to my brothers growing up. The closest I ever got was a high school powder puff game and later in my 20’s becoming a scuba instructor, but neither required being an athlete. For years I abused my physical health with smoking and a couch potato attitude.

So how did I become a triathlete? It all started when I quit smoking. Was that after both parents and several relatives died from cancer, …. no. It should have been but with such a strong family history of cancer I figured I would get it anyway so why give up something I enjoyed. I also vowed to never “live sick”.

It was the death of a friend who had horrible COPD and spent the last years of her life coughing and hacking. She suffocated in her sleep from not being able to breath. That’s when I realized I was starting to cough too much. I would wake up with that heavy chest feeling, not being able to take a deep breath without causing a coughing spell. After so many failed attempts in the past, I knew I was on the verge of doing what I vowed I would not do, and that was “living sick”.

Catherine’s Gold Medal for Her Age Group

Catherine’s Gold Medal for Her Age Group

I woke up one morning and instead of coffee and cigarettes, I got on my old huffy bicycle and went for a little ride around the neighborhood. I knew I had to change my routine and this seemed like a fun way to do it. Everyday I went a little further and eventually found my way down to the Blvd de Bahia (a bayside road in Chetumal, Mexico). There are breaks in the four lane divided road for turning around, so I used those to gauge my progress. I would go “just one more” every few days. Pretty soon I was biking to downtown Chetumal. It was there I came into contact with serious cyclists. The ones that would whiz past me! I got a speedometer and every little progress was encouraging, but they still whizzed past me.

I knew I needed to be stronger, so I joined a gym. The great thing about Mexico is how affordable things are. My monthly fee for the gym $10USD and it came with a trainer who spoke English! Every morning I would ride my bike then go to the gym. I also came across an online fitness guru named Debra Akinson who specializes in women over 50. She was a Godsend: https://www.flippingfifty.com

One day on a bike ride one of the serious cyclists rode up along side and in Spanish proceeded to tell me to get a helmet. In what I could understand he was telling me the cars have no respect for cyclists and would I PLEASE get a helmet. So I did and that cyclist and his wife are what I consider good friends today and they both continue to encourage me athletically.

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The following year a friend from Belize came to participate in a triathlon near where I lived. I went to cheer her on and thought, I wonder if I could do that? I pondered it as I made progress increasing my distance and speed, …….. on my old Huffy Bike! Still my health was improving. I could take a deep breath without triggering a cough. I was thinking more seriously about this triathlon thing. Hmmmm ok so I have been a swimmer and diver, but I never learned to swim the crawl effectively and that is the stroke of choice for triathlons. Need to learn that. I will need a better bike, ... put that on a Christmas list. Finally there is the run, … well that’s never going to happen, best I can do is a power walk. That I can do!

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I watched video after video of triathlons. I observed the serious cyclists on the Bahia, two of which were women. I really admired how well they rode but I could never catch up to them. I did get a new bike for Christmas the following year. It had gears and I could go much faster, but still could not catch up with the girls.

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Finally one day they were stopped having finished their ride. I got up the nerve and stopped to talk to them. First I apologized for not being able to speak very good Spanish to Josianny and Charis. Charis was kind and said, “I speak English”. I explained I wanted to compete in a triathlon and did she know of a coach to help me train? She said, “yes, he is right here” and proceeded to introduce me to Coach Joaquin. Another Godsend. We exchanged phone numbers and a few weeks later I got a message, “can you come to the pool to train?” That was April 2018. I registered to compete in a triathlon in the nearby town of Bacalar set for September 9, 2018. He said he could get me there. Five months, ... 20 +weeks, … 150 days, oh my what have I done?

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I quickly realized I was not a strong swimmer, that I lacked stamina or skill set and wondered if Coach was going to politely bow out of training me. I guess he likes a challenge and pushed me, encouraged me, taught me until over time even I felt that I might pull this off after all. I went from hardly being able to swim one length (25 meters) to swimming continuously anywhere from 400 to 800 meters. The next concern was, can I swim 750 meters within the time limit required during the triathlon? Every afternoon 5-6 days a week I was at the pool, … it was worth it.

Mornings were spent either biking or running. The MTB bike I got for Christmas was not going to work for the triathlon. Too heavy. A friend sold me a road bike that indeed was faster but as it turned out was not built for road races where you might have to change a tire. When I found the bike I needed it was then a matter of selling the 2 bikes in order to afford what I really needed. We did finally sell both bikes and a generous donation from my brother Jetman made it possible to buy a Tricats Mojo (name I gave it), an Alumbike (brand name) that had previous triathlon experience! The distance was never a concern, doing it in the required time was. If my swim went long, I would need to make up for it on the bike AND gain a bit more time to cushion my run time. Sure I would be happy to just finish, and an early mantra was, “it’s not about the race, it’s about the finish” or “I’m not in it to win it, just finish” but neither of those were reality. Reality was if I want to finish there is a maximum time limit.

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That brings me to training for the run. My thoughts of power walking went right out the window once coach got involved. Made me think of Tom Hanks in “A League Of Their Own”, THERE IS NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! As well, “ there is no walking in a triathlon.” I have come a long way from not being able to even jog 100 meters without panting for air to a continuous paced jog for up to 6 km without stopping or walking.  Remember the couple I talked about earlier, well Adriadne has inspired me soooooo much, always offering tips to improve my running. She is an incredible athlete. She gave me the mantra I carried with me to the triathlon, “enjoy the experience and get to the finish line”.

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Coach Joaquin has the patience of Job. I’ve seen the videos of me swimming, it’s painful to watch. He persistently has instructed me to improve my swimming, my bike my run and finally the day came to put it all together. I was so grateful my brother from Oregon traveled so far to support me, our friends from Belize came to cheer me on, still brings mist to my eyes their belief in me.

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My husband who quietly in the background being my biggest supporter, managing logistics, always the arms that cradled me in victory and defeat. A couple weeks before the triathlon, I came home several days in a row in tears wondering what was I thinking. My times were off, my stroke off, my running a crawl, and he was always there to reassure me all would be fine. “You are just hitting a wall, everyone does.” Ok, time to hurdle that wall!

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I was the first one in the transition zone to set up my bike. They painted my race number on my arm and legs. I was as ready as I could be. People asked, “are you ready”, my answer was “of course, there is no choice, it’s do or don’t and I plan to DO IT!” Enjoy the experience kept rolling through my head. The swim I started with a breast stroke, getting my bearings, controlling my breathing then into the crawl. As I rounded the first buoy and sighted for the second, there was the most beautiful rainbow straight ahead. Thank you Lord, I see your promise it’s all going to be ok! I made good progress on that stretch passing even some of the men that started ahead of me. I rounded the last large buoy and headed for the pier, only there were 3 piers, so into the breast stroke again until I had strong bearings and made it to the stairs.

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Once I started running down the pier toward the transition zone some 300 meters away, I was amazed how good I felt. I checked my Garmin about the time I heard Coach and Colleen say “Good Time” and saw 22 mins, yahoo! On with helmet, socks shoes, bib belt, grab bike and trot to the start point. Once on the bike, I was in a comfort zone, … until I got to the highway. The road was pebbly and it had just rained, so instead of full speed I went with caution until I had good confidence, then waaahoo got some speed! Checked my watch, looking good, finishing strong.  Back to transition zone, parked my bike, off with helmet, and hit the road running. Well, for the first kilometer I was busy getting my land legs back, after biking they feel heavy and stiff. I fell into my pace. It’s never a fast pace but it’s a consistent pace with a few spikes of pick up here and there. This is when I felt all the support of attendees. Strong with love of the sport, friends, team mates, even other athletes encouragement was heart warming. Cuau, a fellow that also trains on the Bahia has been so encouraging to me. He was running up the opposite side, I heard him yell, “I am so happy to see you!”

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And we high fived. I did not realize it til long after the race but he had finished his 10 km (he was racing the Olympic distance) and was coming into the finish line right behind me, but held back a bit so I could have the finish photo all by myself. What a wonderful spirit!

It was an hour or so before I knew for sure I came in within the time limit making me an official finisher. It was a little sweeter that they gave me first place in my category. Hey, not my fault there were no other 60+ women in the race. I still accepted that medal with pride.

So what is next? Why another triathlon of course. In the meantime, more training to get stronger and improve my times. A few foot and bike races, and much more swimming! Wow, what an experience!!! I thank God everyday I wake up and am healthy enough and strong enough to do what I do!! I swim, I bike, I run, I TRI.

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SUZI'S RELEASE LESSON

You know when you know to let go

-  Jimmy Manser

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Only the present moment has the vitality of a fertile existence. Whether through fires, floods, insect infestation, or man’s destruction of their habitat, nature adapts to changes while savoring the “here and now.”  Humans not so much.  It’s taken most of my adult life to embrace “everything with love and gratitude.”  To grasp the moment requires more than focus, especially a consciousness to detach from life’s rear view mirror and future wishful thinking.  While this fresh perspective has been formed from diverse sources of wisdom, it was a dog that really revealed the joy of squeezing life’s moments.  Not just any canine.  Suzi was the unequivocal love of my life.  In remembrance, this blog is published on the eighth anniversary of Suzi crossing the rainbow bridge.   

Suzi was a black and white female Shih Tzu.  Her breed’s origins are from Tibet, that exotic place between China and India in the Himalaya Mountains.  Though, Suzi’s angelic personality and loveliness made me think of the “southern edge of Heaven.”  Like a best friend, our uncanny connection was mystical.  There were countless incidents when Suzi’s energy would radiate comfort and protection.  No doubt, she was more than a companion.  More than a dog.

Suzi and I had many rituals - playtime, ice cream tasting, and those tender pre-sleep snuggles in bed, but our evening walks were what I cherished most.  Whether on a country road or city sidewalk, she would keep pace alongside me, only inches away from my heels. 

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The walks always started with Suzi on a leash.  After the pace reached a recognizable rhythm, a subtle, repeated, and persistent “Suzi Smile” would message me it was time to release her from the tether.  This ritual included sitting down with Suzi, nuzzling her in my lap, and speaking gently into her eyes.  “Stay near my heels, Suzi.”  She always did.  Many years after her passing, Suzi’s lesson to release her shaped my thinking about letting go.

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A pattern had emerged in Suzi’s behavior in the summer of 2010.  Her movements were erratic, reduced appetite, and occasional seizures.  Most pronounced was a chronic labored breathing.  She’d no interest in treats, walks or even cuddling.  Her days were spent sleeping in a quiet spot alone.  While letting her outside to do her morning business on Tuesday, August 31st, she stumbled down the porch steps.  It was clear, Suzi’s seizures now signaled a neurological impairment.  She walked in circles.  When I called Suzi’s name, she glanced at me, but trembled as she slowly laid down on the soft, familiar grass.  She was telling me to release her.

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That afternoon, the compassionate staff at the Companion Animal Clinic relieved Suzi’s suffering with grace and mercy.  The prayerful thought “all dogs go to heaven” gave me solace as I visualized Suzi frolicking on the “forever green grass” with other beloved pets.  She was 12 years old, an average lifespan for a Shih Tzu.  That evening I was sitting on the porch when a bright star appeared suddenly in the western twilight sky, just above the Cascade Mountain Range.  In that magical moment I christened the celestial body as “Suzi’s Star.” 

I would learn later that illuminating body was Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, brightest planet in our solar system, and closest planetary neighbor.  Now, when that evening star appears in the west, the moment is treasured in remembrance of Suzi and the release lesson she gave me.    

Let Go

Words and Music by Aodhan King, Ben Tan & Laura Toggs

© 2018 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7108455

Published on May 25, 2018

VERSE

I close my eyes and colours fly

There’s no hiding from Your grace

I can’t deny Your heart for mine

And its unrelenting chase

PRE-CHORUS

I was on the edge of deception

Caught up in my own hesitation

Until Your love took over me

CHORUS

So I let go and I let love

Show me life like it’s supposed to be

An oasis here awaits us

All the freedom I’ll ever need

Now I’m alive

When I let go then I find life

VERSE

The higher way is calling me

To a life unlike before

The Father’s heart is beckoning

And I can’t resist no more

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Lead me in the ways of devotion

I don’t want to get caught in the motions

My heart is only for You Lord

RUN FROM FEAR OR STAND IN LOVE?

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There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life”.

- John Lennon

Disney’s animated film Frozen tells a story of two sister princesses.  Elsa is the older of the two and has a magical gift.  Early in the film Elsa has an accident, giving her pause to ever use this gift.  She also becomes a recluse.  Has a tragic event in your life caused you to recoil?

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Life’s curveballs can cause us to hide away too.  We sometimes shrink to avoid conflict, rather than let the spotlight reveal our natural strengths and wonders.  Frozen’s theme is “love conquers fear.”  Not once, but twice in the film, the message comes across in the character’s voice, “only an act of true love thaws a frozen heart”.  The film’s redemptive expression is the selfless love and generosity that heals the frozen heart of Hannah, the younger princess.

Have relational traumas driven you to an emotional heart transplant registry?  Has your spirit closed due to insidious injustices, a litany of lies, or torn trust?   CAUTION:  we can’t close our heart selectively without reducing the full spectrum of love’s truth to everyone in life’s camp.  When we close down, we diminish our empathy flame.

Emotional wounds that seep through the most sterile of human dressings can’t heal.  Silent cries seek help and comfort, but where’s the refuge for peace and reconciliation?  Where’s the buoy of hope in a turbulent ocean of pain and uncertainty? 

Not unlike most people, I protect my deepest, gut-wrenching fears from public view.  Blogging has been a vehicle for crouching from the dark pits.  It has revealed a vulnerable side that has usually led to an illuminating place that feels healthy, warm, and safe.  Only recently did a new friend label the core of a recurring, hidden fear, locked away from my own consciousness.  Abandonment.   

While my parents raised three boys and a girl in a secure home of acceptance and support, this framework of unconditional love didn’t transition to my adult family life.  Far too often marital strife was marked by abandonment.  Traumatic through most of the marriage, subsequent years of reflection about the family’s brokenness have been distilled with understanding and compassion.  Most importantly, in this life-changing lesson through struggle and suffering is the freedom to bare all things in love.

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Within a few months, my house of 15 years will be sold, launching another major event.  While I’ve been preparing for this eventual change for several years, the actual move will come with a mix of emotions, and the tug-of-war between fear and love will rear its head again. 

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For daily exercise and meditation, I hike alone on my 22 acre hilly property (topographical map lists as Red Hill), lush with colorful wild flowers and native scrubs; oak, fir, and madrone trees; and an abundance of wildlife, including the reticent white and black tailed deer, fox, possum, reclusive bobcat (seen a few), cougar (never seen) and black bear (never seen).  These serene walks in nature are always reassuring of God’s majesty and provision.  Fear has no place in this solitude with nature.  I don’t even carry a weapon.  

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On occasion I invite friends to walk the mountain with me.  There’s amusement to recount memories of living in my own private preserve.  It’s also rewarding to share stories of faith, including my favorite, “Confronting Cat”, an imaginative tale of crossing with a hungry cougar on an evening hike.  If that’s God’s time and place for my departure, I’m good with being a tasty treat.  Just make it quick, Cat! 

It’s been clear in recent years that God’s got everything covered for me.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  There’s comfort and assurance that fear has no hold on me.  When Angels summon me to take my place in Heaven, I’ll be smiling and singing, “I walked fearless, expecting, and mirrored the love of abundance Christ breathed into my being”.

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Displacing fear with stalwart love is a soul’s journey to harmony. Abandonment issues, unresolved relationships, and trenching through the human’s torrential torments can burrow a life.  Prayer releases these energies to a higher sphere of enlightenment. Leaning into Papa God’s agape heart is the sacred practice of letting go.  Walking faithfully in the Father’s love is the way and truth for rest now and for all eternity.

WHO AM I?

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“Things can be really empty in this world, and I don't just mean the music world. It can become a very meaningless place if you don't really understand: 'Who am I? Why am I here? What am I doing?' To feel fulfillment and have a deeper level of understanding, personally, that is the most important thing”.

Alicia Keys                                                                                                                            American Singer-Songwriter

 

To the disbelief of a Nation, American fashion designer Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, chef and storyteller died of suicide in the same week.  Only days prior to their death, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that highlighted a steep increase in United States’ suicide rates.  The mental health community is concerned these high profile cases may create a suicide contagion - a process in which the suicide of one person or multiple people can contribute to a rise in suicidal behaviors among others. 

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Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.  Paid professionals and trained volunteers in crisis and suicide intervention are available 24/7.  All conversations are confidential.  To help friends and loved ones that may be a suicide risk, know the warning signs:  

With suicide becoming a major public health issue, the CDC conducted a comprehensive study of suicides from 1999 to 2016. 

"Suicide in this country really is a problem that is impacted by so many factors. It's not just a mental health concern," says Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the CDC and the lead author of the new study. "There are many different circumstances and factors that contribute to suicide. And so that's one of the things that this study really shows us. It points to the need for a comprehensive approach to prevention."

The report further revealed that 54 percent of the people who died by suicide didn't have a previously known mental health issue. "Instead, these folks were suffering from other issues, such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems, and recent crises or things that were coming up in their lives that they were anticipating," says Stone.  Obviously, more mental health resources are required for prevention and treatment.  But, what can we do? 

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The Beatles song title “Come Together” may be the call for action.  To watch over one another – to come to each other’s aid with a willingness to care and serve.  The Biblical verse to “love one another” may ring true – appearing eleven times in the New Testament.  My sister and two brothers, all younger than me, applied this great commandment several years ago when they stepped away from their lives to travel long distances to mentor me through a perilous and dark place – depression, precipitated by divorce.  They came not for a day or weekend, but two weeks.  Their gentle support of instruction and prayers, kindness and nonjudgmental understanding gave me the time and space to find a path forward. 

Months prior to their visit, the shadow of suicide swirled in the chaotic mind.  The fog and confusion of depression descended with a cascade of toxic emotions that perpetuated a sudden loss of trust and control, doubts of love-worthiness, finances, retirement planning, and a fractured family.  Toughing it out on my own was a faulty construct.  Isolation is not part of the survival instructions for this arduous life we strive to conquer.  God designed us naturally for connection with a circle of unconditional love.   “Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

While there are many factors that contribute to the rising prevalence of suicide and mental illness, the social stigma of shame and embarrassment deters many people from seeking professional therapy and confiding with family and friends.  I remember getting lost in that dark, downward spiraling vortex.  Initial breakout came from my local church pastors and the worship song leader.  From there, family and a few close friends embraced me with their support and comfort.  I wasn’t alone anymore. 

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For anyone caught in an isolated struggle, reach out to share your feelings and circumstances with people who care about you.  No matter how dark life may currently feel, there’s the light of hope around the corner.  It gets better with faith, family, and friends.  It just does. 

Who am I?   

I am loved (1 John 3:3)

I am accepted (Ephesians 1:6)

I am a child of God (John 1:12)

CONFESSION TO REIMAGINE A WOMAN

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Ever since biting that forbidden but tasty fruit, a man just didn’t have a chance.  Imagine God’s humorous nature when creating a woman’s curvaceous body to attract the male’s seed to populate the earth?  All by design - with 7.3 billion humans to date.  With carnal impulses of insatiable appetite for sexual prowess, man’s planting role has ruled the planet.    

Through 68 years of escalating, multi-media blitz, led by the pillars of film and music, combined by the Internet’s ubiquitous marketing platform, the modern dynamics between the sexes has radically changed.  While recent changes have emerged from the #MeToo Movement, media moguls have been carefully crafting the characterization of a woman in the mainstream for decades.  This scene in the 1988 film, “Roger Rabbit” is an intentional caricature.  It is a mirror in the height of the sexual liberation - a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior.

A woman across the room is seen with a magnetism that lures a man’s senses, like Sirens of Greek mythology.  As if in a trance, a voluptuous vixen takes hostage of that part of the man’s brain behind the forehead that controls moral judgement.  A woman can simply walk toward a man on a common street with a stride that leaves him awestruck. These women possess the power of the feminine, a mystical radiance anchored within their body, mind, and soul.  A woman’s sensual energy commands without saying a word.

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I’m humbled to acknowledge a robust season of romantic love, attesting to the unrelenting sensuality of stunning women.  By the grace of God, I was protected through that period of taking chances without dire consequences.  Prayer was my hope for rescue from the impetuousness of my youth.   Surely continued adventures on my amorous ship would have led to wreckage along a jagged shoreline were it not for the blessing of marriage.  “Because sexual immorality is so rampant, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2).

Whether in a marital partnership or the dating rites of passage, sexual experiences are most impressionable on the human’s emotional life scale.  Often these highly charged memorable events combine with lessons about letting go for healthy transition on the joy continuum.  It all comes back around to the realization that self-love is the sanctuary of harmony within.  It’s a mirage and delusion that only a woman can fill the void of longing, heartbreak and suffering.  Peace and healing is a “solo-inside-job”.

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Post-divorce has been painful for me at times, but new perspectives have emerged where I am rediscovering “me”, and healthier ways to connect with women.  The courage to bring these lessons forward has restored innate skills from hibernation, an awareness to prize gratitude in everything, and self-love for how God created me in His image, breathing a unique spiritual identity into my being-ness. 

If there’s been an epiphany in this enlightened path, it’s that I have reimagined a woman as created by God in His own image to be simply loved and respected as an equal.  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34). 

In this freshly cultivated realm of genuine feminine friendship, where gems sparkle through honesty, understanding, and compassion, “isn’t it romantic!”   

SMILE IN THE MESSY MUDDLE OF STRUGGLE

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Often when we're going through hard times, we want to "fast forward" for relief, and return to the dream of living life in a cabin on a lake. But, in the mystery of this life, there are lessons to learn, which may appear out of nowhere, unjustified, and perceived as an attack on a self-righteous view, "how dare this happen to me?" I get it. This past April 16th was the 42nd anniversary of when a man failed to yield in an intersection, causing my motorcycle to collide with the rear bumper of his pick-up truck. Instant right arm paralysis. Permanent, life changing event at 26 years old. A wealth of subsequent lessons to earn my doctorate-in-life-degree. Then, 18 years later, stage four oral cancer reared its ugly head, with a 50/50 survival rate after surgery and radiation. More lessons.  Ugh! 

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Don't wish away life's detours. Pray for God's mercy and will to discern the lighted path forward. Embrace the mud bathes with a zest to love it all, and along the way cultivate a heart of gratitude.

Just like this courageous woman, let the journey of survival, redemption, and victory mirror the hope everyone clings to believe.  By doing so, we connect with a hurting world in a search for healing of body, mind, and spirit.

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When we were kids playing in the mud puddles after a rain, it never occurred to us that getting “down and dirty” was anything but fun.  Remember?  Perhaps it’s that childhood memory of smiling with a caked-up face that may get us through our adult struggles.  Let it go, smile, and move on.