Christmas 2018: Dispelling the Shadows

24 12 2018

 

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“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honor the Way to the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.[…]

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:1-2; 6-7

“Distress”, and “The shadow of Death” have been constants this year. It’s been a pivotal and life-changing year on a number of levels, with some great blessings and opportunities. But I am quite confident that part of the busyness and rush has been God’s way of buoying me up from distress, and helping me to navigate the shadow.

Things slowed down a week ago, right around the one-year anniversary of my sister Joan’s death, and the emotional distress fell heavy, while Death’s shadow grew more looming. My late Uncle Charles said it well, “Death always comes as a stranger,” and it is true. No way to prepare for it, and it is never familiar, but an intrusive presence that always appears at the wrong time.

Which is why this Christmas season has been the hardest in a number of years, and each moment has been a choice to embrace the Christ child afresh. At a Christmas concert I attended on Saturday, the pastor’s words were very profound. He pointed out how messy and imperfect the actual Nativity was. Full of difficult journeys, imminent danger, stench (a stable—yes), and great inconvenience. 

From Isaiah’s prophecy to Zechariah’s song, the darkness, distress, and shadow of Death is never glossed over or minimized. What is maximized is the Light that has come because Christ is born. That Light which transforms the darkness, and dispels every shadow. So from the bright lights of my Christmas tree, to the brightness of friends and family, I turn my eyes and embrace the Light, embrace the promise of Hope, embrace what is, and cling to what is good. 

God is good, and he has shown his goodness, and his zeal to bring Light into our darkness, and be with us no matter what our state, in the promise of the Christ child. Each season, and especially each Christmas season, gives us opportunity to embrace and allow the Light to shine on us.

[B]ecause of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will visit us from on high, to shine on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

 

 

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All the Things…

28 02 2018

“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”
– Josiah Gilbert Holland

Ain’t it the truth, Josiah. Last week and this week have been crammed full of all the things, in a good way. I have the privilege of leading another Teacher Training with CorePower Yoga Pasadena, and my team of coaches and our faithful instructors has recruited a really awesome group of Yogis that are diverse, mature, and hungry to give and receive knowledge. We are heading into Week 2, and I am so looking forward to what I will learn from them, while presenting all that I know (sometimes, not much!)

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We are also moving. Moving is an evil word for me. Since leaving my childhood home at 19, I have probably moved about 40 times in my 51 years. Various circumstances: finances, bad roommate situations, roommates getting married or moving, the list goes on. My heart has always longed to settle and lay down roots in one place, and I thought with my marriage in 2007 and actually buying a house, that I was finally at that place where I wouldn’t have to move again for a long time.

As John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re making plans. Suffice to say, we lost that house, and ended up moving two times before being plopped in Atwater Village in 2011. The actual city of Los Angeles was the last place we thought we would find ourselves, and we both assumed it was a “make do” place, just a place where we could—hopefully quickly—get back on our feet.

Quickly didn’t happen. We have been here almost 7 years; but despite the hardships, fits and starts, and living among boxes and toxicity (a blog post for another day), something was being built. We loved the new Northeast Los Angeles community and all the fun haunts, events, and eating places that made this city seem less plastic and more human and community-oriented. We found a wonderful new church where we could get to know others more regularly and let them get to know us. Thanks to CorePower Yoga opening a studio in Pasadena, I found a location close to home where I didn’t have to hop a freeway to practice Yoga or to teach. So lots of wins in the midst of what was a hard season of waiting and testing.

So now, we get to move again. Another place where we never saw ourselves: the city of Pasadena! Our address is on Wesley; named after the theologian Charles Wesley, but also the name of one of my favorite nephews—so that’s a good sign.

We are further east from all that we have known in the past, but still close to some of the things that we hold dear: our church, my work, and new adventures in a new community.  It is a place of blessing, from the way it was delivered to us, to the favor we have received from the landlord, to our church communities and friends rallying around to help us in a multitude of ways, financial and physical.

It is a place that we can hopefully settle for a spell. I have no idea how long that spell will be—I learned to stop putting time frames on things after the horrors of 2008-2011. But what is true, and what I can count on, is that it is a place of space (two bedrooms and storage–whoo hoo!); a place of ease (4 miles to my Yoga studio, less than 2 blocks from the Pasadena campus of our church); and a place where we can find peace and quiet in our surroundings, yet still have the hum of community, events, and some city amenities. In the two weeks that we have been packing and moving, I am quickly falling in love with Hastings Ranch, since we’ve spent so much time there finding the things we need for the new home, as well as some of our favorite casual dining haunts.

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What I am enjoying now as we move boxes, paint the new house, and close out the old, is this view. The San Gabriel mountains are right at my backyard. My friend Joyce wrote on her Facebook page: “The mountains can teach us so much about our lives, our faith, ourselves. Think on what you’ve learned from your mountain adventures and feel free to share. Ready? Go!”

I replied to her post, not about a mountain adventure, but a mountain focus from Psalm 121-1-4:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

There are no coincidences in our lives. The fact that I have a mountain view is part and parcel of God’s reminder for me to continue to look to him for help. It is also a comfort that he will keep our footing in this new territory and watch over us here, no matter how long or short the spell will last.

We still have some odds and ends and large furniture to move, and I am knackered beyond belief. Week 2 of Teacher Training begins today, so I am still on and working hard to ensure these great Yogis are set up for success. But I am grateful for God’s hand in all the things; and that despite my desire for speed and efficiency, he is building something more enduring than I could imagine.





Love and Lent

15 02 2018

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Go in Peace.”

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Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

It was curious to have Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday happen in the same frame, but apropos, since the greatest gift of love was Christ’s road to suffering, which commences with Ash Wednesday.

Husband is neither a romantic nor a planner, so this day passes by like any other. I taught my two Yoga classes at CorePower Sherman Oaks, and did my own body love and maintenance by taking a special “Love” themed class featuring Beatles music at CorePower Pasadena. Sweet Brit, the assistant studio manager at Pasadena ably led the class, and sang a beautiful rendition of “Let it Be” while we were in Savasana. I got a rose and some delicious juice treats from KoJuice. The rose is stunning, and blooming happily on my kitchen table.

Then the husband and I attended Ash Wednesday service at the Montrose Church Pasadena-Bresee campus, and received our imposition of ashes. I never feel as though I am very focused during this season because life always seems to be whooshing by at a pace that doesn’t seem to encourage stillness and reflection. I am gearing up to lead another Teacher Training in a week, and we are also moving (finally) to a new home at the end of the month. Sad to say, I feel divided, and consumed with everything else but Lent.

Which is why I love the devotionals I get from Rick Savage, one of the care pastors at Montrose Church. Starting with Ash Wednesday and going through Easter, each day gives a minute focus for the day, and a global focus for the season in bite-sized portions to which I can commit. I figure this Lent I can work on taking on a more spiritual focus rather than giving up something tangible; so I’m committing to more time with devotionals, and more time in the word. Believe it or not, I am a horrible devotional person. People give them to me as gifts, I start one, and after a couple of months, never pick it up again. It’s a rhythm that has never stuck well; so I figure it is a worthy goal in which to commit to help me to turn inward and delve more deeply.

Pastor Rick’s Ash Wednesday’s devotional encouraged that the path of Lent is a journey inward, and turning our eye and ear to what God is doing is pivotal to being a part of it.

  “What shall we do on the journey? “Blow the trumpet in Zion.” Stir up the ranks. Get the good word out. God is on the move. The times, for now, might be difficult, but these times are in the hands of God. “Rend your heart” so that you will be in tune with what God is doing.”

Today’s devotional, addressed my feelings or overwhelm and chaos, even with just simply doing my job and maintaining life.

“We live in a noisy world. Lent is a gift to us in that noise. (emphasis mine) Perhaps that’s why God said in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Every follower of Jesus is helped when they find a way, in the noise, to “Be still” and draw near to God. Lent is set apart each year for a purposeful being still, quieting our hearts in the busyness, and listening to the Spirit of God speak into our lives…

“We may not be able to stop the noise but we can come to Jesus. We can listen to the Spirit and have our hearts cleared of clutter, and learn again the ways and paths of God.”

Listen and learn. Makes it seem less difficult than this season sometimes appears; makes me feel less guilty about my own inability to jump into the season with both feet. It’s okay to dip a toe, or wade, as long as I come to the water consistently and get wet.

Along with the Lenten devotionals, I was also invited by an online friend on the Bible app to do a 31-day devotional on Wisdom, taken from the book of Proverbs. Accountability is a good motivator for me to stay consistent, along with the fact that it’s nice to be chosen to be included in something. So I accepted, and dipped in.

Today’s devotional talked about the teammates of Wisdom: Love, Faith, and Trust. I was struck by how it expressed Love’s role in partnering with Wisdom.

“Love gives wisdom a playground in which to play – because honestly if we have no love for God, why would we listen to His wisdom?”





Coincidences versus Divine Appointments 

8 01 2018

“There is no such thing as chance; and what seems to us mere
accident springs form the deepest source of destiny.” 

Friedrich Schiller

It was a gorgeous, steely morning in the Crescenta Valley. Los Angeles is experiencing its first rain of the season, so it added to the mellowness of this Monday morning.

Our Montrose Church Women’s Coffee group was meeting at Panera Bread. I don’t really like Panera, and don’t quite understand what makes it so popular. Because we are again flat broke after having to travel to Chicago, the last thing I wanted was to go someplace where I had to spend money; so between that and the rain, I could have had a convenient excuse just to stay home. But the goal, particularly during this new year and time of grieving, is to connect as much as I can—especially on mornings when I really just want to curl into a ball—and this was one of these mornings.

For a change, I left right after my voice lesson. Normally I dither around a bit, but I wasn’t sure what the 2 Freeway would look like with this first rain, and since I haven’t been firing on all cylinders lately, I wanted to take my sweet time and not feel rushed. So I arrived at Panera exactly at 9 a.m., and Jana, Sandy, Carolyn, and several other women were already in line, ordering their food. I gave them hugs, and then looked at the menu to see if there was anything I wanted to get. I decided to try a pastry (cheap), and had my eye on a pecan roll, when I heard a male voice say, “Hello!” behind me.

I turned around to see my friend Robert, with his gorgeous smile, opening his arms for a hug, which I gladly took. Robert and his wife Gina have been one of the great friendships we’ve developed since coming to Montrose Church, and they knew about Joan’s passing. He asked how I was doing, and I said I was hanging in. He said something distinctive: “You have a certain grace about you that makes you appear that you are handling the situation.” I took that as a positive. We chatted a bit more, then I got back in line to order my pecan roll.

I was happy that the pecan roll did not disappoint, and I was happy with my decision to get out the house. We had great conversation around the table about a variety of things, including movies, and the Faith & Film class a lot of us were attending. Our time together was winding to a close, and most of the women had left. My emotional bank was depleting, so I went to restroom, and then prepared to make my exit.

I came back from the restroom, and was saying my goodbyes to the remaining ladies, when I sensed a pair of eyes upon me. I looked in the direction of the gaze, and saw the beautiful face of Darlene Perry smiling at me! I knew Darlene from The Church on the Way, where we sang together in the New Song Gospel Choir. Darlene and her sisters are also recording artists, as part of the talented Peri Sisters. On top of that, Darlene is an incredible baker and chef, and her cupcakes are simply divine.

I walked over and gave her a big hug, and we caught up a bit on each other’s lives. She was in La Crescenta (all the way from Lancaster) to frequent a local bakery supply shop! She popped into Panera for a quick bite before heading back to the Antelope Valley. I introduced her to the remaining ladies, and then she collected her food and jetted off. We made a commitment to reconnect on Facebook.

Some people would think that both of those unexpected meetings of a new friend and an old friend were coincidence; I choose to believe otherwise. For whatever reason, God knew I needed those bookends to my morning in order to shore up my soul for the rest of my day. Pastor Dave talked yesterday about God hovering over the void that is the chaos in our life, and those divine appointments were most definitely from his hand.





In My Orbit…

16 04 2012

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s been so much floating in my universe, that it has been hard to know where to begin to write. Of course, that results in not writing about anything, which is no solution either. So I have decided to begin categorizing all of my happenings under certain headings within “In My Orbit” (borrowing shamelessly from Douglas Adams, one of my favorite authors). It gives me an excuse to write more, and not feel torn about what to include and/or exclude.

Life

“We have no control over when or how we die, but we do have control over how we live.” — from Fried Chicken and Sympathy

My world has recently been impacted by the death of two dear people: a wonderful man named Jack Gilbert, and my cousin, Ricky Morgan.

Jack Gilbert, 2011

They say dogs know a good person, and dogs and cats loved Jack. Captured by his good friend and mine, Sarah Lucy Beach.

I met Jack Gilbert through Premise, an entertainment industry prayer fellowship. He was one of its leaders, both in role, and in example. I left Premise for a time, and it was due to Jack’s encouragement that I chose to return. Jack shaped lives through his deep commitment to Jesus Christ, and his teaching of screenplay writing at places like Warner Bros., Act One, Azusa Pacific University, and Columbia College Hollywood, among others. But he impacted through his quiet presence, his wisdom, and his delight of the arts, literature, and especially Casablanca! He delighted in bringing people together, whether it was a prayer group, writer’s group, book salon, or a movie. Jack was a great listener, a solid mentor, and from my relationships with others who were his friends, an excellent person. He embodied a life well lived, and his passing has left a huge void not only in the entertainment world, but many lives.

I didn’t know him half as well as others did, but he left a great impression by the weight of his presence and his life. Jack was always a man of grace, nobility, and gentle strength. What I would describe as “Meekness”. Matthew 5:5 says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Jack did inherit the earth, not through a powerhouse position or personality, but by just being, Jack. Now, he has received his ultimate inheritance! It’s bittersweet. He is in Heaven, which is awesome for Him, but the world has lost a tremendous presence and talent. But like all who leave a legacy of righteousness, their work and worth continues, long after they have left this earth. I know that will be the case with Jack.

His close friends and family held a private funeral service, but because of the wealth of his life through his investment in people and the community, there will be a more public memorial in May, that I plan to attend. The older I get, the more deaths I face, the greater importance I place on honoring those who have passed on.

My cousin Ricky died suddenly on Good Friday, and it broke my heart. He was a favorite, and more like another brother than a cousin. Ricky lived with us for a time when I was younger, and he and my brother Theodore were constant companions and running buddies. I probably heard more than a six-year-old should hear about the misadventures of young adult men, but I enjoyed being the mascot. Unlike my sisters, Theodore and Ricky liked my company, and they treated me like a person, rather than a kid who was underfoot.

Mike (left), Aunt Allene (middle), and Ricky at the Foxx Family Reunion, 2005. R.I.P. my cousin.

Ricky was hilarious. He had a sharp wit, a great laugh, and a radiant smile that charmed everyone. Ricky, his mother (my aunt) Allene, and his brother Mike moved on to Northern California, and his absence left a huge hole in my young life. When I moved to California in my adult years, I was able to reconnect with him. He had since moved to Southern California, and with my sister June and her daughter Gabi, we went to visit him and his then-wife. I was writing Fried Chicken and Sympathy during that time, and he was able to share stories, give insight, and piece together some family history that had been missing.

The last time I saw him was at our Foxx Family Reunion in 2005. He looked rested and happy, was his usual chipper and hilarious self, warm, welcoming and loving, as always.  I still cannot believe he is gone, and it is still up in the air about whether there will be a service or memorial where the rest of the family and friends can mourn his loss.

Whether that happens or not, Ricky knew Jesus too, so I will see him again in Heaven, where we can laugh together.

I am thankful for the personal impact of both these men, and that through their death, as well as in their life, they continue to instruct. As Psalm 90:12 states, “So teach us to number our days,that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I am more attuned to counting the cost of my life.

The Universe

Part of the counting of my days is my work with job seekers and career transitioners. One of the ways I do this is my participation (and sometimes chairmanship) of CareerCamp events in Southern California.

CareerCampLA is coming up this Friday, April 20 from 9 am to 12 pm, at Los Angeles Southwest College, 1600 West Imperial Highway, Los Angeles, CA 90044.  Do I need to say it is well worth your time? Trust me, it is.

The day is geared toward “Building the Career That You Deserve” through workshops, seminars and breakout sessions. The agenda is set by the attendees, so you get your most burning questions answered. CareerCamp is a positive event focused on you and your needs in developing your career.

What I love about CareerCamp is that it’s NOT a job fair, but a workshop designed to hone your skills and give you the information you need to make the next step in your career. That next step may be starting your own business, or changing careers–it’s less about enabling and more about empowerment. If you want to be empowered to make the changes necessary to discover your career direction and life’s passion, then register here.

Everything

My world has been transformed by Yoga, and now I am able to lead others through its transformative work. I teach classes at CorePower Yoga in Sherman Oaks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I also teach a Soul Flow class in Northridge on Thursday nights. The Monday 12:00 pm class, and the Soul Flow class are only $10–you can’t get out of Starbucks that cheaply, and its positive effects are better and last longer!

Like the CareerCamps, it is a privilege to help others on a journey of discovery that moves someone closer to their authentic self, and offer inspiration that helps them get a better handle on their purpose in life.

Speaking of that… time to rocket off to CorePower for my Monday classes. Hope to see you around my universe.

 





In My Orbit…

29 10 2011

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s the weekend of All Hallow’s Eve. For you 99 percenters, that’s Halloween.

For certain Christians, this holiday is anathema, while others celebrate, preferring not to toss out good clean fun and fond memories of Halloween’s past for superstition and misplaced hysteria. Thanks to a friend, I got to thinking about those past Halloweens, and how they made a positive impact in my life. So I decided to reclaim the day in my own way. Read about it on my Examiner page: My return to All Hallow’s Eve.

I get to spend the rest of today hobnobbing with women professionals for At The Helm: Women in Biz 2011. Alaia Williams of the Entrepreneur Connection has created an event that will be the talk of the town! A full day of networking with entrepreneurs and industry leaders, engaging in panel discussions geared toward the business person, and a host of speakers from all across the spectrum.

At the top of my list: my friend Susan M. Baker (The Escape Hatcher), Lizzy Shaw (Lizzy Shaw PR), Nailah Blades (Polka Dot Coaching), and Lisa Steadman. But I am particularly excited about the energy and ideas generated when like-minded people come together. You’ll be hearing more about this when it’s all said and done.

Happy Saturday, and Happy Halloween!





In My Orbit…

15 10 2010

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday evening finds me circling the globes of religion and politics.

I have written a review of the fine documentary God in America for my Examiner column this week.  After you read it, I recommend seeing the documentary for yourself.  It has already aired in Los Angeles, and probably other major outlets, but you can still view it on the PBS.org website or purchase the DVDs. This is one series that is worth the price of admission, not only for its educational value, but because it puts the conversation about Religion back into the public square–where it should have remained.  “God in America”–the review.

And the Washington Post, no less hosts an opinion piece by Matthew Continetti entitled,  Five myths about Sarah Palin. Continetti lays out facts that dispel much of the rants and the chatter I get subjected to here on the Left Coast.  Whether she runs for President in 2012 or not, she daily debunks all the predictions and prognostications about her influence and viability as a political presence–I can appreciate that.

And also courtesy of WaPo, living proof the seemingly stuffy Charles Krauthammer has a sense of humor.  Your pre-election Post Mortem is both prescient and snarky!  He riffs on the unalterably damaged Carl Palladino, and gives deserved weight (and long overdue credit to Sarah Palin) to the rise of  Conservative Women.  Candidates from Sharron Angle of Nevada to Nikki Haley of South Carolina are giving the establishment, and their opponents a run for their money.  Girl Power–whoo hoo!

My favorite pull quote:

Most irresistible political name. New Hampshire Republican and Senate primary candidate Ovide Lamontagne. Sounds like a French-Greek poet declaiming in the streets of Nashua. Tragically, he lost.

Ovide, we hardly knew ye.”








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