Love and Lent

15 02 2018

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

20180214_202241_002.jpg

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?”

Advertisements




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.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 13, morning coffee with Beth Chamberlain, morning Yoga with Ali Jo, and lunch at Auntie Em’s Kitchen with Vicki Schmidt

19 07 2016

“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” — Helen Keller

Tuesday was packed to the brim with goodness: the goodness of beautiful lady mentors, beautiful Yoga, and delicious food and drink!

I jetted out the house earlier than usual so that I could meet Dr. Beth Chamberlain at Peet’s Coffee in Pasadena’s South Lake area. Beth is the wife of Pastor Scott Chamberlain, the campus pastor at Montrose Church Pasadena-Bresee. She is a very beautiful soul, with the most gorgeous eyes that drip with awareness and compassion. She is the type of person that I would like to be: someone who has such an incredible weight and presence that you are content to just be around them. I also admire her and Scott because, like Hermione and Samuel, they adopted two children that were not their own. The Chamberlains pastored in Skid Row for many years, and took on the care of two African-American boys connected to their mission, and raised them along with their own two children. That really does take a special kind of heart, and speaks volumes of who Beth and Scott are as people of God, and humans in general.

I wanted to ask Beth some insightful questions to get to know her better, but like the skilled counselor that she is, she turned it around and asked me some very deep and thought-provoking ones. So I talked about everything from my childhood in Chicago to my best and worst birthdays to date.

It was all too short for me, but Beth had to get to her office. So we hugged, took a selfie, and she was off to the rest of her day. It’s been six years since I’ve had a traditional job, and I’m always reminded how blessed I am that I don’t have to do that any more.

Since I was already in Pasadena and had to teach at noon, it only made sense to get in a 9:00 a.m. C-2 with Miss Alexandra Johansen!

Ali Jo is our beautiful, Amazonian, North Los Angeles Lead for several of the CorePower studios, and another exceptional human. I had the opportunity to be a coach in one of the Teacher Trainings she led, and it was one of the best experiences all around. I greatly enjoy Ali Jo’s classes for their complex simplicity, and her phenomenal cues. She is a young lady with a lovely presence and a generous heart. I used to throw an annual tree trimming party around Christmastime, and I asked people to bring an ornament for the tree. Ali Jo not only brought an ornament, but gifts for my dogs! How cool is that?! She is blessed with a gorgeous beau named Dana (of whom I greatly approve—not that it matters) and a cool bulldog named Joe who I would love to steal from her for a play date with my fur babies… One day.

As usual, Ali Jo set my morning off right, and my noon class was exceptionally sweet with focused students and good energy. Then it was off to my afternoon break, where I met Vicki Schmidt at Auntie Em’s Kitchen in Eagle Rock!

I only know Auntie Em’s because they have some slammin’ coffee and great bakery items. I had never sampled their lunch items, but I was happy to have the opportunity to do so with Ms. Vicki.

As I said in Day 16, Vicki has a special needs son named Jimmy. He is actually an adult, but still needs round the clock care for a variety of ailments. So when Vicki is not working, and able to get nursing help, she finds time to be with her friends, of which I am glad to be counted among them.

Vicki attended CCN long before Lynn and I came, but due to needing to care for Jimmy, and her daughter Traci’s illness, she didn’t attend often, so I hadn’t formally met her. For about two years I would hear about this woman named Vicki and her daughter Traci; Traci was often on the prayer list, because she had undergone a bone marrow transplant for a rare lymphoma, and was currently in remission. In my mind, I assumed Vicki was this 30-something mother, and Traci was a little girl. When I finally met Vicki and Traci, I was surprised to find Vicki to be a mature woman in her late 50s, and Traci was the 30-something mother—with kids to boot! We had a good laugh over that.

Vicki has been going through a painful and energy-sucking divorce; yet despite that, and the constant ups and downs with Jimmy’s care, she always bears a beautiful smile, a ready hug, and like Dr. Beth, an exceptional listening ear. She’s also incredibly fun and funny, bearing the cutest giggle when something strikes her as humorous.

Thankfully the ugly heat wave predicted this week had not hit yet, so we sat outside and knoshed on Quiche and a Pulled Pork Sandwich. It was obvious that we were both exceptionally hungry, as neither one of us took a food picture. In between bites of the really good food, we caught up on our lives and mutually encouraged each other. Vicki is also part of that group of CCN friends who have seen Lynn and I through hell and high water, and she is always faithful to check in on how we are really doing, instead of  assuming that just because we don’t have any crises going on that we must be fine.

When we decided to split a Strawberry Creme Bread pudding, and the waitress brought it out, it was a sight to behold—so a picture was not only required, it was an imperative!

20160719_152532

Of course, we smashed that too. Auntie Em’s did not disappoint!

Vicki had to get home to Jimmy, and I had to get back to the studio to teach my 5:30 p.m. class; but it was a wonderful completion to a day rich with women of exceptional gifting and generous spirit. A person is fortunate to have one of those in their life, and I am blessed with three.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 14, Bea Bea’s Brunch with Dave and Meegan

18 07 2016

“Happiness is time spent with a friend and looking forward to sharing time with them again.” — Lee Wilkinson

20160718_124435

The bunch at Bea Bea’s in Burbank really know how to do breakfast. They offer the usual breakfast fare, but with specialties like “Thai Tea Pancakes” or “Green Tea Monster”, and their menu items have fun names like, “Jumpin’ Jacks”, “Pooh’s Sunrise”, and “Chocolate Tuxedo”. Unbeknownst to me, Meegan had fallen in love with the place when she had to go out to Burbank for her hand therapy. So when we were deciding on where to meet for this 50 Days to 50 Years challenge, and I mentioned Bea Beas, her eyes lit up. Score!

An added bonus: I got to see the Weilands on Saturday, and on Monday—so blessed!

Lynn and I met the Weilands at Congregational Church of Northridge, and we all hit it off right away. We are in the same age wheelhouse, although Dave, Meegan, and Lynn have already crossed over to the 50 club. Lynn and Dave are both Valley boys born and raised, but with parents of Midwest stock; so they share lots of similar growing up experiences and values. Dave is a sound engineer by trade, and Lynn is an electronics geek, so they can talk ad infinitum about esoteric minutiae that would bore the rest of us to tears.

Meegan is the baby girl of a large family, and so am I; so our growing up experiences also paralleled. She is a creative genius, who can craft or crochet anything. There was a time when I had a baby shower to go to, and wanted a unique present. Meegan went into her stash and pulled out the most beautiful baby caps and blankets—stuff that she had on hand, just in case someone needed it. That’s the kind of people they both are: committed, prepared, and generous beyond measure.

We barely knew them when they helped out at our wedding. And as our friendship has grown, they have been our supports and encouragement through some toxic years. From taking care of our dogs when Lynn was in the emergency room, to letting us hang at their house when we were in between situations.

206463_6273591667_4806_n

The New Living Translation of Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” When you find people who are constant through the highs and lows, treasure them, because they are rare.

The Weilands are such treasure, and I am thankful they choose to call us friends.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 17, Craft Burgers at Morrison with Bob McNelis

15 07 2016

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis

20160715_152420

You’ve heard the phrase, “The family that prays together stays together.” Well I believe, “The friends that sing together become lifelong friends.”

Lynn and I met Bob as part of the worship team at the Congregational Church of Northridge, and we all sang together the better part of the 8 years that we attended. Bob is a mellifluous tenor that I loved harmonizing with. He has an equally delightful laugh; and as you can see, we do that a lot when we get together, and it always serves to brighten my day.

Bob is a gem of a human being. Mostly raised in the South, he has the sensibilities of a southern gentleman. He also has a deeply compassionate heart, and truly cares for people. In a multitude of ways, he has been a true friend to Lynn and me.

Bob is also a talented actor. Brent Spiner, “Data” of Star Trek The Next Generation  is his doppelganger. If Brent’s name was still household, he could probably milk it, especially in this age of social media… but that’s not Bob’s style.

Bob is also a gifted conversationalist. We talk about everything from politics, to pop culture, to books, psychology, to film and television. He is a genuine listener, who truly looks for insight and ideas from others, not just ways to refute your opinion if he feels it is wrong. This makes him a pleasant presence to be around, especially with more bombastic types.

So of course, there could be no way that I could celebrate the people who have shaped and transformed my life without including Bob. And in his always-game-for-an-adventure fashion, he came along for the ride.

Morrison is a fairly new local haunt in Atwater Village, and I just love it. Not only is the food the bomb diggy, but the drinks are top shelf. They have a $6.00 Happy Hour which I have frequented more than a few times; so it seemed the perfect place to spend a Friday afternoon.

For the second day in a row I ordered a Classic Burger with all the fixings (eggs and all), and we shared Cheese Fries with Bacon Jam (Hello!). And it wouldn’t be a visit to Morrison without ordering my favorite Moscow Mule. Bob ordered a Filet Mignon Burger and a diet coke. All types of ironies with that one, but we’ll leave it at that.

We decided to split a Key Lime Pie for dessert. I was expecting a sliver of green with some lime slices and whipped cream. So glad I was disappointed! What we got was a gastronomical delight: a cheesecake consistency surrounded by whipped cream and drizzled with caramel, with a side of vanilla ice cream with a sprig of mint. Morrison now has the reputation not only for great drinks, but great desserts!

Bob started attending another church around the same time we moved on to Montrose, so we don’t see each other as often. But he always reaches out to us and continues to stay in touch. There are so many people who simply allow the drift to happen once the social unit that first formed the friendship is gone.

I appreciate that he honors us as his friends and continues to include us in his life. Thank you, Bob for being a valuable part of our survival.

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 19, Hope for the next Generation

13 07 2016

“We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in. And we’ll put you in your neighborhood, and we will help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.” — Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown

David-Brown-1024x688

I do not have any children of my own, but I do have grand nieces and nephews; and I mourn for the world we are making for them. Just looking at our two presidential choices lets you know that we lack integrous leaders who can speak to the tragedies we have been facing, and offer an example for our children to look toward.

Like cream, Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown has risen to the top. With the recent murders of four Dallas police officers, his handling of the ongoing situation, as well as his honest and forthright assessment of the role of police in society, and being a black man in uniform has been refreshing, transforming, and has set a much needed tone in the conversation of police brutality and urban violence.

A New York Times article said, “He was hurting, self-effacing and, as he put it, a little fried. At a news conference on Monday, he spoke about the crisis facing law enforcement, his experience as a black man in Texas, guns and division, and what kept him going — ‘God’s grace and his sweet, tender mercies, just to be quite honest with you.'”

Another refreshing thing: someone who speaks of God and actually means it.

I believe Chief Brown will be a voice in these days of unrest. My prayer is that more leaders like him begin to rise; our nation, and the next generation, desperately needs them.





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 23, Griffith Observatory with the Velas!

9 07 2016

“Beautiful memories are like old friends. They may not always be on your mind, but they are forever in your heart.” — Susan Gale

20160709_195700

Hermione and Samuel Vela are longtime and lifetime friends. Hermione and I met at The Church on the Way back in the mid-90s. While we knew each other, our relationship was mostly seeing each other on Sundays and at college and single’s group activities. I started attending a particular single’s group at the megachurch, and met a unique and stellar young man named Kelly Rivers. He invited me to his “Breakfast Club” early on Thursday mornings, and I discovered that Hermione and several other friends I knew were a part of it. That helped to change the nature of our relationship, and we started building a friendship outside of the group. However, when she asked if I wanted to meet one-on-one for accountability and prayer, well that pretty transformed us individually and corporately.

1273292_10151850730556749_1050385369_o

Charles Finney said, “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.”

He is right. Hermione is a sister of my heart, as well as my family, and much of that is a result of the time we have spent together in prayer. The older I get, the more I understand how rare and how precious this bond is, and I am grateful to have it.

Hermione has seen and prayed me through depression, family reconciliation, loneliness, financial stress, faith struggles—the highs and the lows over two decades. I saw her come together with Samuel, and she and Samuel saw my coming together with Lynn.

215834_6293306667_4335_n

She was there to welcome my sister June and niece Gabi to California, and she was there to support me as June battled illness after illness, left to go back to Chicago, then returned to ultimately pass away. Hermione and Samuel grieved with us when June went to glory, and was there to support us as we navigated that grief.

Through upheavals, moves, and times of inertia we have maintained a quality friendship and a prayer partnership, and I am thankful and blessed that the quality of the friendship gets richer as we advance in years.

20160709_203649

One of the great privileges of lifelong friendship is to see the growth of family and relationships. Over the last several years, Samuel and Hermione have chosen to foster and then adopt two children: Jaxin and Yolanda. They are brother and sister, and as is the plight of many foster children, their lives have not been easy and their hurdles are often high. It takes a special heart to not only welcome these children into your family, but to work and fight to help them leap those hurdles and become who God created them to be; not what hard circumstances deformed them to be. Samuel and Hermione have those beautiful hearts, and I admire and revere them for this.

20160709_201848

Juggling schedules with children takes a certain type of art, but we were able to get together to celebrate their contribution to my 50 Days to 50 Years. We spent the evening at Griffith Observatory for their “Star Party”. Once a month, the observatory encourages amateur astronomers to bring their telescopes, and the staff have their own set up to assist interested parties in seeing constellations, the moon, and even some of the planets.

I brought a picnic of hot dogs, potato salad, vegetarian casserole, tacos, and brownies, and we knoshed, talked and watched all the buzz around the telescopes. We got a few views through telescopes of the moon, but for the most part we just spent time enjoying each other’s company and getting to know Jaxin and Yolanda a bit better.

Griffith Observatory is awesome for 360 degree views of Los Angeles, from Pasadena to the beach. We were able to take in the entire city from sun up to sunset, and enjoy the lights of the city that make Los Angeles look stunning.








%d bloggers like this: