Monday, August 8, 2011

Give Me Liberty

Through this wonderful organization that I am involved with, called One Spirit, I was able to access a list of families on the Pine Ridge Reservation and see exactly what they needed. It's called The Okini List. Okini. Lakota for sharing. You know in times of crisis certain organizations will say in general what it is they need at the moment...and this is a good thing...vague sometimes...but gets the job done. The Okini list is different and it immediately impacted me. This is a list of people with names and descriptions of situations and pretty specific needs. Delbert, an elder, needs fishing poles so he can give young boys something to do and keep them out of trouble. A grandmother with 8 children under the roof of her 2 bedroom trailer that doesn't have electricity is asking for cleaning supplies, toiletries and books for the kids. Oh and shoes...there is always a need for shoes. I scanned the list and could determine by the items in it that these were folks who lived and asked for just the very basics.

Then I came upon an entry that stopped me in my tracks. Charlie Yellow Bird was asking for help. He only has one child...just him and his nine year old daughter. Liberty. It was an unusual entry as it was the only one where a father was raising a child. But more than the comment section it said this: THEY HAVE NOTHING. In capital letters and all. They have nothing. Compared to what! To an entire community who has nothing? How desperate must their situation be?
Immediately I contacted Kari, the facilitator of the Okini List and made arrangements to get some things to Charlie and Liberty. One of the rewarding things about this whole experience (and there have been many) is how directly you can deal with a family...should you choose to do that. I was given their address, so I know my boxes were going straight to them and not a distribution center. I like that. So when a family has nothing...your options for what to send them are wide open. And if you are like have two of lots of things in your house. Heck, when I went looking I had 5 irons! I filled up 7 boxes of stuff with some good household staples and my cupboards and closets didn't look like anything was gone. As I packed them up, I kept thinking how freeing this was. My spirit was lighter from being obedient to the call to follow Christ in how I lived and loved, things that were not being used were being given to a family WHO HAD NOTHING, and I felt the beginnings of being liberated from the selfish materialism of my life as an American consumer. I had found Liberty.

I thought about her all the time. What did a nine year old girl like? After all I had never had one....I had been one...I think. I started looking at little girl stuff when I was at yard sales. Then three days after I sent the boxes I got an e-mail from the reservation coordinator, Mavis. Charlie had temporary access to a cell phone (they pass them around) and could I call him? Wow...this I hadn't expected. I called right away.

Charlie Yellow Bird was so sweet and so appreciative. He said Liberty said it was just like Christmas...Charlie said it wasn't exactly, because they have very little at Christmas. Liberty, he said, insisted on opening all the boxes herself. I asked him if she was too big for the teddy bear I sent. He laughed and said she was carrying it right then. When I asked him what else he might need, I opened up the door for him to ask for a DVD player or a boom-box....but Charlie Yellow Bird asked for Pinesol. Charlie Yellow Bird who takes odd jobs repairing cars on The Rez (even though he doesn't own a wrench set) told me he just wants to take care of his little girl. I told him I would help him do that. And when I told him that it felt like God made their name leap off the Okini List. He said very excitedly..."God! God did that? Liberty loves Jesus! Can you get her some Bible story books? I can read to her."  (Uh-yeah Charlie I think I can do that.)  I asked him how he had managed up 'til now. He said his neighbors helped out. They shared. He explained that even though they have very little...they share. He assured me the good fortune he found in seven boxes would find homes other than his.

Then I had the precious opportunity to talk to Liberty. Soft spoken, shy, giggled when I said something funny. I told her I was going to come visit her in the next month or two. I asked her what were some of the things she liked. And the little girl who lives smack dab in the middle of the poorest place in America, a place where almost 40% of the residents don't have electricity, where trash is piled up because pick up is sporadic, where teen suicide is an epidemic and apathy is a disease....said she likes to play princess. That's because she is one.

So at the end of the conversation with Charlie, I asked him to give Liberty a hug for me.

"Bird! Bird!"  He called to her to tell her he was to give her a hug.

Bird. Liberty's daddy calls her Bird...and if I have anything to say about it she will have wings.

For more info visit

Thursday, August 4, 2011

God Positioning System....My GPS

I travel a lot. Interestingly enough...I rarely get lost out on the road. I put 4100 miles on my car in May and was successful in finding my way through rain, wind, dust and even a blizzard in the High Sierras.  Then I get home and I lose my way...can't find the road that will lead me to this blog and to save my life. So 53 days later I finally turn on my God Positioning System and God leads me right back here. "What do you want me to say?" I asked him in a panic. And he said the same thing to me I like to imagine he said to Moses, who had stone in his hand and not a Mac, "Sheesh! Just write already!"

So here we are again, my friends. These past weeks have cemented many things in my life...and I don't mean the throw-me-in-the-river kind-of cement, although now that I think of it, I have been drinking from a very cool stream I like to call Living Water...but I digress.  For many months now I have known that there was a call upon my life to something of service for the God who dealt me the Grace Card, knows all about everything I have done in my life...and wants to use me anyway. I really tried to tell him he had the wrong girl, but then in his Word he kept showing me that it is exactly ragamuffins like me that he has a propensity for.  Moses stuttered so badly that Aaron had to speak for him, Paul held the coats of guys while they stoned Christians, ( OK his name was Saul then...but still), David murdered a man, Peter denied knowing Christ, Rahab was a prostitute....I mean come on now. A flawed bunch to be sure.  So I said bring it me what it is you want me to like 'em flawed? I'm your girl.

That's when he gave me a bad bout of insomnia.

So night after night I was having trouble sleeping. Now trouble sleeping used to mean tossing and turning until 1 in the morning. But this was a super-strain of insomnia that liked to show me that 5 o'clock came twice a day. I fought it at first and then I started doing something I did last year when the same bug bit me. When I couldn't sleep I didn't wrestle with my pillow in a Jacob-and-an-angel-kind-of-way....Instead I would get up, go into the living room, turn on the lights and say out loud..."Speak Lord for your servant hears."  It's's what Samuel said...and it somehow sounds better than looking up at God and in the middle of the night and shouting " WHAAAAAT? (although I have been known to do that.) Seriously...I'm listening and I want him to know I am listening, 'cause it's the darndest thing...if you listen...he will often speak to you. So one of those nights I spoke those words, sat on the sofa, picked up a spiral notebook that was on the coffee table and the next thing I know I am writing.

Now...let me explain...I love the Word, I read it and study it daily, but I am no Bible scholar. I can tell you stories from it and suggest how they mean something to our lives today and quote scriptures that mean a lot to me, but rarely can I tell you the address where it can be found...although in my studies I am working on that. So when I picked up a pen and wrote "See how Jesus of Nazareth filled with the Holy Spirit and power went about doing good." No one was more surprised than me when I ended it with "Acts 10:38."  Holy gasp Batman...she knows the book and verse!

I read the verse over and over. Jesus. Holy Spirit. Power. Doing good. My mind was racing (not a good thing when it's the middle of the night) and everything I had been reading and praying about, not to mention taking copious notes I searched for what it was I was to do...began to clarify in my mind. I longed to follow the Christ of the Bible, not the Jesus who has been Americanized in order to satisfy our re-writing of the gospel that makes him the Grand Marshall of the prosperity parade. I had seen first-hand the glaring absence of the Holy Spirit, which goes hand-in-hand with many Believers leading powerless lives. And I knew God meant that love they neighbor thing.  I could almost see it...but I needed it to not be another one of my creative ideas...of which I have been known to have a few. "Come Spirit come."  I whispered. And he did.

The next thing I wrote (writing is where I go in these kinds of moments) and I have the paper right next to me as I write this.

The 10:38 Project:

A small community coming together regularly to study the life of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the power found in a life of doing good for the least of them. Jesus didn't stay in Nazareth and do a coat drive. He met the poor where they were. Get involved. Get messy. Stop thinking we ascend to reality it is when we descend to help our brothers and sisters...that real joy, true greatness is found. Come Spirit Come.

And as I lay in bed a half hour later with the words The 10:38 Project repeating themselves in my head...I asked God to show me if this was what I was supposed to do. And with the fragrance of those words still lingering in the air I heard an awful sound from the street below. A drunk driver had hit our car...totaled it in fact...and sped off. Immediately all thoughts of The 10:38 Project disappeared and I knew God has just given me the confirmation that I had asked for....

The drunk driver hit our car so hard that it pushed it up the street onto the sidewalk in front of our neighbor's house. It also hit it so hard that his bumper stayed attached to our vehicle. So he sped off drunk and bumperless. And oh yea, did I mention his license tag was still attached to said bumper. God has a cool sense of humor sometimes. Cops come, neighbors are out in the street, bumper is peeled away and hauled off by our helpful Longmont police officer and our sad, little Saturn spends the night at the neighbor's.

And as things start to settle down, we all return to what we were doing...which for most everyone was sleeping. But if you recall, at the moment of impact I was rolling The 10:38 Project around in my head....when I got terribly distracted. As soon as I began to think about it again, it occurred to me that I just been bamboozled by the Great Distractor himself. The door to 10:38 had been opened...and with it many adversaries. That one's in the Bible...somewhere. And as soon as I recalled that scripture I realized that The 10:38 Project had just been blessed and confirmed. Satan wouldn't have bothered with me and my little idea...but he would do whatever he could to stop the work of the Spirit. So I got up and made pages and pages of notes and thoughts just to aggravate him. I could just see the little demon of distraction reporting back. "Sorry, sir...but she's writing again."  I'm sure he'll come after me again on a regular basis. But I don't pray to be safe....I pray to be dangerous. When my feet hit the floor in the morning I want Hell to say "Oh crap, she's up."

So one of the first things I did was re-read a few of the books that started me down this road in the first place...the first being Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Let me digress once again. I took a road trip to Southern California in February.  Before I left I wanted to get this book, but decided I had a bunch of Joyce Meyer Bible teachings I needed to listen to this trip and I needed to watch my dollars. So I left without Crazy Love...the book. I did however travel two thousand miles with a God who loves me like crazy, but that's for another blog. When I arrived at the home of my friend Davi in Encinitas and she showed me to my room...guess what was on the nightstand? Yep...ain't that crazy? I asked her if I could read it while I was there and she told me she had bought it for me. All righty then. Now to find the time to read it in between teaching. Before the day was up almost every single person who had signed up for my Friday class called and said they were sick. So now not only did I have this book that I sensed was going to be important...I now had an entire day to sit on a hill overlooking the ocean and read my book.

So here's the genealogy of how I got to what's happening today. I read Crazy Love. Rocked my world...a definite 8 on the Richter scale.  In that book he mentions Shane Claiborne and a book called Irresistible Revolution. Read that book. Made me wanna dance and sell everything I own. In his book he talks about one of his mentors, Rich Mullins, an amazing singer/songwriter from the 80's who rarely wore shoes and taught music to kids on the Navajo Reservation. (Rich was killed in a car accident in the early 90's). In a thrift store, not long after I first read about Rich, I came across a biography with his name on it. This extraordinary life and the poetic power of his songs and writing took my breath away. When I went to Rich's website they had links to wonderful organizations that do work on Indian Reservations around the west. My heart started to race.

Ever since reading about the crazy kind of love that was involved in living a life devoted to the poorest among us I had been asking God to show me where the people were I was to serve. I researched the homeless shelters here, the organizations that helped single mothers and women leaving violent homes, at-risk teens...I looked into them all. And honestly, and happily, I can say that Longmont is fully behind all of these things. They seemed like they had it covered. I wanted to deal with the needs of people who had nothing. NOTHING.

One of the organizations on the Rich Mullins site was a place called One Spirit. Their site and their work is devoted to the third world conditions found on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. 35% of the residents don't have running water or electricity, teen suicide is the highest in the nation, the average life expectancy is the same as Somalia. What the heck!

I am a western artist, in fact my work reflects the history of the west in particular. I honor Native American women in my art. Pine Ridge is only 5 hours from my home. I Googled the reservation, wanting to see images for myself. The first video I clicked on showed me what I feared I would see. The soundtrack over the slide show was a haunting song repeating the words "Everywhere I go I see You." When the video was over I noticed the song credit at the bottom of the screen. Rich Mullins.

So now... I am involved up to my eyeballs with the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Lakota people The same eyeballs that see the conditions there and can not stand it. I am working with them on setting up art classes which will be held at one of the new youth centers being built, I will be involved over the next weeks in collecting furniture and household items for a Safe House opening in September and I will be telling you regularly about what the needs are at the moment. I am sponsoring a nine year old girl named Liberty and her father, Charles Yellow Bird. When I talked to them the other day and asked them what they needed....Charles asked for toilet paper and light bulbs...and he was almost apologetic.

So The 10:38 Project meets on Tuesday nights at 7 (when I am in town) at The Firehouse Art Center in downtown Longmont. We will delve into the Word, studying the life of Christ, finding power for our lives in the Holy Spirit and helping others. The Pine Ridge Reservation is our universal project, but we are seeking local folks we can help, as well. We will always be working on projects for the Lakota families we work with, but we will visit the elderly in our community and help those who are brought to our attention in whatever way we can.

The website version of all this, where you, my friends who live far away can still be involved in the studies and with Pine Ridge, can be found at KC Willis Ministries.

On Sunday....join me as I tell you about a little girl. A little girl whose mattress sits on cinder blocks, who doesn't have a sofa, shoes that fit or any toys...a little girl who said she loves to play princess and she loves Jesus.  A little girl named Liberty Yellow Bird. Liberty. She has set me free.

If you enjoyed this post please use the buttons to share on Facebook and Twitter. xxoo

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Hear Ya

Many times the world of a trailer park can be a microcosm of society as a whole. One of the trailer parks we lived in when I was growing up was exceptional in its sheer numbers of interesting characters. Back then I felt like I lived in a really strange I am quite sure I did.

Two of my favorites in this cast that even Hollywood couldn't have made up...was a couple I would babysit for occasionally who had four children...every single one of them was born deaf. He was a policeman who worked nights and she was an overwhelmed woman who pulled her hair out by day...well come to think of it she did that by day and by night. Her voice was loud and shrill and I always assumed that the day she was born, when the doctor smacked the bottom of her feet...or whatever...and she began to cry, everyone in the delivery room plugged their ears and went "Whoa! What the heck!" Her children were rambunctious and happy...probably because they were blissfully unaware of the sounds of nails on chalkboards or their mother's voice. Perhaps very few others noticed, but I have always been strangely sensitive to the audio of life. Loud noises will sometimes make me burst into tears, which makes those around me say "Whoa! What the heck!" So perhaps Marilyn the Mom and I were just opposite ends of some weird spectrum.

Their family was known all over the trailer park. Mostly because it was unusual for one family to have hearing parents and four totally deaf children...and because the parents fought...alot...with the windows open. They seemed to think that because their children couldn't hear them fight....neither could we. I remember many times showing up at the trailer to babysit and now I see clearly the kids not looking at their parents unless they were being spoken to with flying, manic fingers. In the wisdom of years that I now possess...I do believe, that while they couldn't hear the discord, they could see it and feel it and tried their best to ignore it. Many years later someone sent me a newspaper article showing where the dad had pulled someone from a burning building. If only he had seen the smoke pouring from his own home. I learned just enough sign language to say "don't do that,"  "thank you" and  "yes, I promise I'll come back."

In my own life I have lived close to God from time to time, but honestly, mostly lived my life as if he was speaking sign language and I hadn't learned the Alpha-bet. Best excuse in the world when you want to ignore something God is saying is just to admit " Sorry, no hable Trinity". When I would get in trouble, however, it was a whole nutha story...then and only then would I scream for Him at the top of my lungs. He knows that language, but he's not impressed...nor is he deaf. I would shout (in my very best Marilyn imitation) "WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU??!!" To which He responded calmly and probably sadly..."Right where you put me...on the outside of the trailer listening through the windows." 

I don't do that anymore. I don't fight with the world, fight with my short-comings and my problems and hope the neighbors don't hear. I just worry about God being able to hear me, whether I speak the language of despair, guilt, or doubt. And I leave the door open, not just the window, by offering up thanks and offering up myself..especially when I have messed up. God always tries to correct us lovingly (and often creatively) in private....and if we don't get it...He will correct us in public. He will let the people in our lives see us fail and hear us fight with ourselves...screaming that can be heard all over the trailer park...loud noises of failure that make me cry. But when all is said and done and He sees the words written on my heart, He comes to my home, whether it's mobile or not and says..."don't do that"..."thank you"..."yes, I promise I'll come back."

A language I totally understand.

If you are enjoying The Trinity and The Trailer Park please leave a comment and let me know and do share with your friends. We need to all share encouraging words more often.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Random Facts of Kindness

Blogging the Baptist Hymnal....Page 7..."Let All on Earth Their Voices Raise"

Joplin. In my world, the world of the American west of old...Joplin was the famous "jumping off" place for wagon trains full of cowboys, pioneers and home-grown adventurers. If you were from the east...wanted to go went to Joplin come springtime. This springtime the thing that has made Joplin famous went from west to east...a 13-mile reverse order of devastation and grief . It is the jumping-off point for all our compassion and confusion.

When things like this happen....and they've been happening way too often these past few years...we definitely catch a glimpse of our better angels...the best of what is inside of us. For a few days we are them and they need us. We post prayers on Facebook, tweet our support, and text to have a donation to the Red Cross put on our phone bill. In other words...we love our neighbor. But then other things that don't require any compassion on our part, like politics or the Kardashians, take over the airwaves for a few days and we forget. Actually we might even be a little relieved. Anderson Cooper goes home and we are free to not look at the devastated area any again to focus on the landscape in our own interior lives; insides that perhaps have had the bark stripped right off our dream trees. We tell ourselves we will rebuild better than ever.

But what if we never forgot these desperate times? Think about what we do when things are desperate. We comfort one another, we hear they need diapers and food and we scramble to provide those essentials. Prayers are sent up for the boy whose mother can not find him...for the elderly who are perhaps wandering the rubble alone. In times like these we just can not stand to see our brothers and sisters suffer so. Joplin drove us to our knees, to our wallets, to sort through our extra household goods and for just a few days the focus was not on our problems. I am going to ask you to pretend that things are still desperate...right where you live...because they are.

I know as I write this blog that there are folks here in Longmont, CO that don't know where the next box of diapers are going to come from or would love to have more food in their cupboards for their family. Right now there is a mother who can't find her son and a forgotten senior marks off the days of their life in despair. Yes, there are agencies in place to help, but when we hear of the challenges and needs in our community and we say somebody should really do something about that....well guess what? We are somebody. I read somewhere recently where the writer said he was afraid to ask God why He won't help the suffering people out there, because he was afraid God would ask him the same question.

OK so maybe you need to work your way up to gathering up food or visiting a nursing home, but here's a fact...seed is connected to harvest. Plant a seed everyday of even the smallest gesture of love (or even like) and see what happens. Bless and you will be blessed. Smile at people, hold a door open, be polite. You may be the brightest spot in a mighty bleak day. You may be smiling at the mother whose son has vanished. Treat everyone with gentleness for we are all fighting a battle. We are all desperate. Jesus said whatever we do for the least we are doing for Him. I would smile and hold a door open for him. Just as He opened a door for me.

I challenge you to be aware of being good to someone every day for the next 40 days and watch what comes back to you. Little things, big things, unseen things.  I have found one of the things I love to do the most is what I call pray in passing. See a homeless person on the street as you drive by in traffic....say out loud...."Show yourself to Him God. Let him know you are there. Bless him."  See someone sitting by themselves at a bus stop...pray for him. Just a quick blessing. You can feel the power of your words putting things in motion for them and the lifting of your spirits...and you in turn are blessed. Get this please. You in turn are blessed.

In my travels across America I pass many prisons. I used to think wow people actually live in there. Now I understand that people actually live in there and as I pass I will raise my hand toward the place and bless the barbed wire asking God to please show His love to someone in there today. I drive away KNOWING I have opened a door for God to work and I totally believe he is touching someone as I speak.

It is time for people who say they love God and especially those who say they are followers of the grab hold of the lesson he most often taught. Love. This a new commandment I give to you. Love your neighbor as yourself.  And remember the worst thing you can do is feel bad because you are just not there yet...with the whole love walk thing. Be determined that you will try and not condemned if you don't. But I promise you...if you will ever get the hang of it and make it a part of your will want it over and over again. You might even will become desperate for it.

If this blog has meant something to you....please share.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Family That Praise Together...

Blogging the Baptist Hymnal…Page 6…”Praise to the Lord the Almighty”

Recently I came across a sheet of paper I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years.  My family had gone back to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s funeral and it had been such an eventful few days that my sister and I had made some notes on things we wanted to be sure and remember. I’m glad we did that. And looking at the list all these years later I was taken right back to those sad and interesting days.  Raise your hand if you find it to be endlessly interesting anytime you get say, oh, forty members of your extended family all in one place.  Grandma would have loved it.
We lived in another state and had missed much of my sweet grandma’s fight with the wretched worm called cancer. The family that had been right there until the end had countless stories praising her desire to live, her strength, and the sacrifices made by the daughters who tried their best to take care of her.  We cried together and we laughed through our tears together. They told the story of how Grandma was mostly in a coma-like state toward the end, but when no one could locate her great-grand-daughter, Shenai,  in the big hospital and they whispered their concerns in her room…Grandma opened her eyes and spoke in a clear, strong voice…”Shenai is missing?”  Always the one concerned for someone else.
 And when she left the big hospital in Madison for the quiet of a small hospice setting, my aunt Midge laid down and made snow angels outside her window.  She would have loved that too. Then when the time came for her to leave the pain of this world, my cousin Lorri stood in for my mom, who was trying to get there as quickly as she could. She died with 5 girls near here…as she had lived all those early years…with 5 girls near her. 
I will never forget all her daughters gathered around her just before the lid was closed that would take her from their sight (in this life). We all stepped into the other room to give them privacy and we held each other with many tears on many shoulders as their voices filled the other room with praise and love for their mother. Then my cousin, Travis, in his desire to share with all the grand-kids his innermost thoughts…told us all with tear-filled eyes and trembling bottom lip…”She was the best Grandma ever! And she was so proud of us! Thirteen grandchildren and not a convict in the bunch!”    
Praise indeed.
Grandma would have loved it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adoration Nation

Blogging the Baptist Hymnal….Page 5…”God Our Father We Adore Thee”

If you’ve been wondering where I am…well I have been in my car since May 8th, driving all over this beautiful country known as The American West. From Colorado to Montana to Oregon an now in Nevada on a beautiful horse ranch. Along the way I have spent days on a farm in Oregon, visited Facebook friends all over Montana, and on Thursday will head to Northern California for a workshop in San Jose and a visit with some amazing women I met while teaching my Collage Camp. I am hoping to see Utah on my way home.
What an amazing country we have in the Rockies and in the Sierras. America is indeed a wonderous place. So picture this…me and God driving thousands of miles together. I talk to Him…He talks to me…and in the lush green mountains of Oregon I stand on the edge of cliff atop a high mountain pass…and I spend a few minutes adoring God in a place where I can feel Him adoring voice bouncing off the mountainsides...the sweet song of a lone high country bird joining mine. I can feel the joy God must have felt in creating a spot such as this and I feel the joy He has in calling me His Beloved. If there was ever a moment to adore Him…this is it. An isolated mountain road where I truly feel alone with Him and a moment to cast my cares on him and thank Him for loving me. I forget to do that sometimes…actually I forget to do that a whole bunch. But in this moment of telling Him he rocks my world and I adore Him…he reminds me that I can adore Him no matter where I am…in my kitchen, in my studio, in the lonliness of my midnight hour and the fresh promise of my time spent with Him in the morning.  The Bible says that He WILL be adored and honored and praised. If we don’t do it the rocks will cry out. I have decided to give the rocks a permanent holiday. Adore Him? I got this one covered.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A McAngel on the Menu

I know there are angels worshipping God 24/7 and that their knees bend and tongues praise at the mere mention of His Son's name. I am privy to this info because of this very cool book I read every day. But I also know as surely as I am sitting in front of my fireplace writing this (yes, it's May but it's also Colorado) that angels bless us here on earth all the time. I believe they are dispensed to be the many fingers on the hands of God, doing what he needs them to do to show Himself to us regularly.

Personally I have seen them do some pretty cool stuff in just the past few months. Big things. Little things. Winged things.  I have been wrapped in their arms driving down a snow packed isolated road in the middle of New Mexico after dark, their angelic GPS (God Positioning System) saw to it that I accidentally headed down the wrong country road in Colorado and drove in the opposite direction I wanted to go...which also turned out to be the opposite direction of a severe storm. Oh and then there's my McAngel.

When you are on the road as much as I have been this past year you learn to depend on a few things. Like small town diners with lots of pick up trucks parked out front will have excellent biscuits and gravy...that trash barrels at rest stops will have rusted bottle caps scattered about (important in my world)....that a Winnebago with Texas tags will house really friendly folks and that McDonald's will have clean rest rooms and lattes with enough caffeine to keep you going 600 miles a day.

So several times a day I look for the Golden Arches and have been known to say "Ah ha!" out loud when spotting them. So on a day that had seen lattes appear whenever I needed one (and no that is not because of angels blessing me...but now that I think about it...) I found myself really needing one, wanting one, jonesing for one and ultimately praying for one. At lovely Raton, New Mexico my McHabit was about to be taken care of. But as soon as I pulled into the parking lot I saw a super long line in the drive-thru mostly because no one wanted to get out of their car and brave the inside of the place. I swear there were 200 teenagers in there. Probably occupants of the eight million yellow buses in the lot. It's OK, KC, I said to myself...Trinidad is only twenty minutes away.

In Trinidad, there were no buses, no teenagers and no long lines. There were no lattes either. They were cleaning the machines. It would be 20 minutes. KC no happy.

So what's a girl to do, but say thank you (which came right after "What the heck!") and head the many miles to the next spot voted most likely to succeed in making me a latte...Pueblo, Colorado...which was a long way off, but I was headed that way anyway. So here I am, smile on my face as I saw the tell-tale McCafe sign on the window and I pulled up to the faceless voice box. "Hi! I would love the biggest, iced vanilla latte you have."  To which they responded..."I'm sorry we are cleaning the machines. It'll be 15 minutes."

Now here is where all the Joyce Meyer Cd's I had been listening to on my trip...paid off. Instead of really getting myself in a tizzy, I felt a weird peace come over me (Joyce is big on peace and resting in God) and said "I'm going to come in and wait."

OK here's where an angel comes in....

When I entered the McDonald's I walked up to the counter. There was no one in a matter of fact there wasn't another person in the place but me. A McDonald's...on a busy street in a busy town...empty. Behind the counter this big, beautiful, black woman approached, smiled the kind of smile that lights up the room and makes you think you wouldn't need lattes if you could plug into it and said..."Hello, baby. What can I get for you?"  I felt instantly energized and the weariness of the road faded away.

So while the young man who didn't light up finished cleaning the machine...and since not another soul came up to the counter in the 15 minutes it took me to get my latte....Virginia and I chatted. She told me she was an out-of-work preacher. I told her I wanted to be one. We talked of God's love, his mercies, his grace and his goodness. By the time they handed me my latte...I didn't even want it. I saw then that it wasn't the real reason I was there. Did the encounter change my life? No. Was it a blessing. Yes. Was it God showing me his goodness can be seen anywhere if we are seeing with spirit eyes? Yes.  Was I thankful. Most definitely.

Virginia told me that day that angels blessed her everywhere she went.  I am smiling right now as I think of her. Me too, too.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Heart Dogs

Blogging the Baptist Hymnal...Page 3..."All Creatures of Our God and King"

It seems that everywhere I turn the past week, friends are excited about new dogs or cats in their lives, posting about dogs that need to be rescued or saying good-bye to a beloved child with fur. So when I saw that today's hymn was the one mentioned above I knew I had to write about animals. But no matter where my thoughts led me I couldn't get past writing anything I liked better than the blog I wrote last year about my Buster and Josie. So if you have read this one in the past, forgive me for the repeat or perhaps even read it again. If you haven't read it....this is my love story regarding the beautiful spirits I was entrusted with by our God and King.  Dedicated to Joanna and her Bailey.

I was never much of an animal person. Not intentionally....just never had all. My folks weren't keen on animals in the house...or how expensive they could be. So we just never owned so much as a hamster. My lack of interaction with dogs became sort of a fear of them later in life as much as an "I don't really like dogs" sort of attitude. I recall a friend of a roommate coming to spend the night and she brought her small dog. I used the no-dogs-allowed in our apartment building as an excuse to send her over to another friend's house. Sheesh. I just didn't like dogs.

Then I married a man who from the get-go dreamed of having a dog...a Labrador in particular...a Yellow Lab to be exact. For the first ten years of our marriage, whenever he saw a Lab, this usually reserved- to-the-point-of-being-boring-man would say "Woof!" No matter where he was or who was listening. I sensed that a dog might bring out the best in him.

I'm not even sure what happened to make it finally seem like I couldn't put it off any longer. Maybe if was the fact that I realized he would never want children. I didn't either...if truth be told, so I thought a dog might fill the gap I felt existed in our marriage. I said ok...get a dog...have your Lab...but he's got to stay out in the yard...and no dogs on the bed! I regretted the ok as soon as I said it.

In June of 1992...something amazing happened in my life and I would never even come close to being the same again. He was 8 weeks old, weighed not much... And chewed on everything in sight. He got into the trash, ate my shoes, piddled on the carpet and was a general handful. His name was Buster and he changed my life. I was referred to as Mommy and I was never alone again. It took me a few months to open up my heart to this little, yellow guy, after all I had never loved an animal before... but when it happened the world was a different place from that point on. And limit him to the yard and no getting on the bed? Fahgettaboutit. Never happened.
My first husband was a well-known jazz musician and he was gone 6 months out of the year. I loved my time alone....but I didn't like being lonely. Now that I think about it...even when he was home I was lonely. But Buster was always by my side in a way that only a dog can be....and he taught me how to be a better person. With him came patience, humor, sweetness, unconditional love and puppy breath. I was hooked. I was completely and totally in love with a much younger guy who never kept score, never judged me and who lived for the moment I walked in the door. A year later we got his Chocolate female counterpart and I had a family. Buster and Josie...oh yeah...and what's his name.

With the addition of Josie it was very different experience. I had a year as a dog-mom and I knew what that meant. When we picked up this little brown girl I was in love immediately. Buster had taught me how to do that. I named her after the feisty heroine in the novel I was writing and she proceeded to rule the roost. She was 10 weeks old and she took sticks right out of Buster's mouth, hid his toys (or at least it looked like that's what she was doing) and in general told him how it was gonna be. The sweet, gentle guy that he was....let her have her way. He never got rough with her. The first time we put her in "Buster's Pool" he sat beside it and looked at me as if to say..."'ve GOT to be kidding." They slept next to each other for 11 years. She would whine and look out the window if he went somewhere without her, and years later when she lost her sight, he would get between her and any other dog we passed. Buster and Josie....those 3 words were really one word.

When what's-his-name ran off with what's-her-name I said give me the television and the dogs and be on your merry way. He left for Barcelona and I left the t.v. on for the dogs. During the emotional few months that followed the end of a 20 year marriage...I had my dogs. They slept with me, got me outside when I would have preferred to stay behind closed blinds, smiled at me when I used my Mommy voice and when I cried Buster would actually worry. Even if he was in the other room or sound asleep, if he heard me crying he would literally get in my face. More than once he wiped my tears away....with a big Labrador tongue, his tail wagging telling me it was okay. He was the man in my life now and he seemed to know it. I can't even begin to imagine going through what I did without these amazing creatures by my side. Josie began to lose her sight when she was nine and for the next six years keeping her safe and secure was one of my main goals in life. Even completely blind she was such a happy dog...she was my girl.
Two years later I met Logan and he and the boys opened up their hearts and their home to me and my two dog-kids. You know a man loves you when he takes in you, a slowing, aging old boy and a completely blind girl. He understood they were my children, he understood they were where all my maternal instincts had been devoted for many years...he understood these two were my heart dogs.

Five years ago I lost Buster suddenly. On Sunday evening he was Thursday he was gone. I was there with him at the Vet and I stayed with him almost until the end and then I got overwhelmed...and scared. I had never experienced anything like this before. Logan took my place. I couldn't do it. Needless to say I came to regret that decision, but it was done and Buster Man had a guy who loved him very much seeing him through to the end...his head on Logan's lap. Josie looked for him for days. My big yellow guy was gone. A week later, on my birthday, I received his ashes. No finer gift.

And just a little over two years ago, Josie, who lived to be 15 years old, told me she had had enough. I knew I would know when it was time and I did. This time I stayed to the end. Logan, Tate and I sat on the floor with her and she went on to the Rainbow Bridge with all three of us touching her and telling her we loved her. That's exactly how I want to go, thank you.

So now I know. Now I know what it's like to receive pure love. Pure. Love. And I know what it's like to be devoted to an animal. To have a place inside me come so alive that it never dies...even when they do. What an amazing gift God has given us with these beautiful, warm creatures we are privileged to spend our lives with. And still they are here with me. Not in some weird, macabre way, but in that way that you are not the same because they were here. Their collars hang casually at the end of our balustrade and once in awhile I touch them and am reminded of the amazing personalities that once wore them. I am so thankful for them. In the last couple years of Josie's life she would find her way to the bedroom at night and search out her blanket. I would sometimes say out loud "Good night, Miss Josie, Mommy loves you" so she would know I was there. Now I say it out loud once in awhile to remind me that she is there.

And so life goes on. I have had moments, though, when I am sad about one thing or another and thoughts of these two come to me and I feel a moment of surprise that I have actually been able to go on without them. But I honor them even today when I teach. In Collage Camp quite a few members chose to do a piece with an image of the dog or cat (or horse) they had loved and lost as their theme image. Such beautiful work was done. And when I teach my "Beloved Book" class we get a chance to create a 6-8 page fabric collage book during a two-day therapeutic workshop. This is an amazing two days that have made a difference in people's lives. And so their legacy lives on.

Thank you Buster and Josie for all you have done for me. I will never stop loving you. And one day when my Father in Heaven welcomes me home and all my family is there to greet me...they will have to wait for their embrace, because Buster and Josie will get to me first. Happy Dogs. Healthy Dogs. Heart Dogs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Excelling at Love

Blogging the Baptist Hymnal... "Love Divine, All Love's Excelling"   Page 2

I don't know if you've noticed lately, but there is a bit of a quiet revolution going on in the world of Believers who are not satisfied with what is being done today in the name of Christianity. It's a simmering stew of folks from all walks of life who are looking at this whole thing a little differently. And when I say simmering, I don't mean as about to boil into an angry mob, I mean simmering as in slow-cooking, great smells in the air all day, ready for a feast when it's ready-type simmering. It's a Love Stew and it's on the menu in cities big and small all over the country.

Way back in the late 60's, I was part of an amazing thing that moved across America. Hippies found Jesus and suddenly The Way of the Master was a cool thing and the Jesus Movement somehow made its way into even my little Southern Baptist church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I was about 14-ish when I heard my first message by a groovy guy with hair long enough to give Moses a run for his manna...and being a girl who never in her life had the word cool attached to a sentence with her name in it...well I was hooked. Here was a way....One we groovy people called love me some Jesus and be accepted all in one fell swoop.

But a revolution, as this surely was, by definition means turning the people around to a whole new way of life and leaving the old behind. The Jesus Movement didn't go over so well with the old guard who wanted things to stay the same. We had a new American Revolution on the that took the words of Jesus seriously. ("The Red Letters are coming! The Red Letters are coming!") Some didn't like these young up-starts telling them how to love their neighbor. They knew perfectly well how to do long as neighbor was defined as someone who looked like you, talked like you and didn't rock the boat you had built.  They were not so big on melding a family out of just an old material. The Anointed Groovy Ones tried to show them a different way....a way of accepting all peoples and reaching out to the least of these...not just bringing things to the poor every Christmas, but asking the poor to join them every day of the year. The Elders (those Non-Melders) didn't want those words pointed out to all. They stuck to their preferred passages and ignored the ones about loving your neighbor and giving your coat to the cold. I think they were just a little more comfy with a God who was angry and cast people out...their kind of guy.

I see it happening again....this 21st century version of the Jesus Movement...complete with Jesus Freaks and enough Love to sink an Ark. It's happening and I am old enough now to dig feeling groovy about this new revolution in a way I couldn't at 14. This time I get the love-thing in a way that you can only get when you have spent your life looking out for with a capital M. Suddenly there is an answer to the dreariness that long ago took over your interior weather patterns because YOU have been the only cloud in the sky.  Love 'em like Jesus. That's what's in my forecast...and it doesn't even have to be hard! Just set out everyday to be kind to those who cross your path. To help someone when you have the means to help them. There are soooo many hurting people in the world. 

When books like "Crazy Love", "Love Revolution" and "Irresistible Revolution" (three books that changed my life) are bestsellers...then I'm feelin' the winds of change and I'm praying for a big ol' storm. When you see it coming....don't run for the basement. Stand on the roof and say "Here! Over Here!"  I for one am truly welcoming this revolution that is sick and tired of things being done in the name of Jesus that don't have anything to do with the life he gave us as an example. Love. He was all about the love.

"God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power...and he went about doing good..." Acts 10:38


Monday, April 25, 2011

Holy Times Three

Blogging my way through the Baptist Hymnal...Page 1..."Holy, Holy, Holy."

I think it's kinda interesting that the first song in the songbook that I am using to get blog ideas for for the next say, oh 500 entries or so (hope you're not doing anything for the next 3 years) is about the Trinity. Fitting, I would say for The Trinity and the Trailer Park. Holy, Holy, for each of Them.

In February they were all three in the car with me when I headed out for a road trip to Arizona in the middle of historic cold temps here in Colorado. It was fifteen BELOW in the daylight hours when I headed south. I had left a day later than I wanted to because we had had snow and the cold temps were making it stay put and the roads weren't safe. I waited for the danger to pass....or so I thought.

One of the things that I always do when I head out on these solo road trips in a ten-year-old Saturn is to pray for, what they call in the south, travelin' mercies. I pray days ahead of time for God to begin clearing the roads of anything that could bring me harm. The too-tired driver that will be heading my way...keep him at home. The deer that would dart out in the highway....let him find a salt-lick far from the roads. I don't know what potential dangers there are...but Holy, Holy and Holy do...and I pray for them to move into action. I put an angel on the roof of my car and one in the road ahead of me. I apologize to my winged-warriors for the frigid temps. And I literally say out loud (I talk out loud a lot) "Angels on the car, Lord. Angels on the car."

So I head out on the road this bitterly cold day, with angel wings clearing the roads, knowing the end result will be Scottsdale and sunshine. With the exception of a scary few minutes driving over a high-elevation pass that was still getting snow...the roads were clear and dry and I zipped right along. At the Colorado/New Mexico border the sun came out. Leave it to New Mexico to give me bright blue skies...still cold as heck, but blue skies make you feel the worst is over.

Dang tricky blue skies.

So I made a decision going over Raton Pass. I would make up lost time and get to Las Vegas, New Mexico. This was my best shot at making it to Phoenix by Friday night...seeing as how this was Thursday night and I had a class beginning Saturday morning in a Phoenix suburb. But you see....once you make a decision to leave Raton in your rear view mirror there is no turning back. It's 100 miles of beautiful, but barren land with exits that like to proudly proclaim that they have No Services. Las Vegas is the oasis (if you can call it that) at the end of this stretch in no man's land. Now I knew this would put me on this stretch of road for about a half hour after dark. After dark is something I don't do when I am traveling by myself...but I thought 30 minutes was doable and worth it to get me further down the road. I knew of a lovely little cheap motel in LV that had my name written on the door

Funny thing about those rural New Mexico roads after a snowstorm.....some are plowed and some not so in haven't been touched. And as soon as darkness fell guess which kind I ran into?  Yep. Not so plowed. And it gets better! The roads were so snow-packed that you couldn't see the center line, or the side of the road. My cell phone was close to being dead and I didn't know where my car-charger was AND it was now waaaay below zero. The good news was that no vehicles were flying up behind me on the road....and the bad news vehicles were flying up behind me on the road. Can you say desolate? Oh I did have one or two semi's pass me and the reality of how cold it was was pretty clear. Even with the heat vents blowing heat up onto the windshield...their icy spray was freezing onto my windshield immediately. If I went off the road the cold would be more dangerous eventually than anything.

Angels on the car, Lord. Angels on the car.

Now I could have spent my time telling myself what big trouble I was in and berating myself for making this decision or I could come up with a plan. Deep breath. Four way flashers on. Take it down to 35 and do NOT think of the 50 miles that still lay ahead. Take it one mile at a time. Heck take it one minute at a time. Inch by inch. That was my plan. Oh and singing...I decided to sing out loud in the car. I asked the angels to join me...but they said they were a little preoccupied with keeping me alive. So the only harmony in the car was the one I felt between me and God.

I sang at the top of my lungs and the song that seemed to calm me the most was a contemporary Christian song called "Holy, Holy, Holy"   I decided to do this rather than feeling panic and gripping the steering wheel (ok I was gripping the steering wheel) and crying in fear. If I concentrated on praise....the Great Distractor would not know what to do with me and would find another night-traveler to pick on. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Two hours later I was on an exit ramp that HAD services and that little hotel was right where I remembered it to be. And let me tell you something....a suite at the Plaza Hotel wouldn't have felt any more wonderful than that little motel room. The heat was on, it was toasty AND it  had a microwave. And since me and my angels travel with a gallon of apple cider (that's just how we roll)...well I felt truly blessed. And don't think for a minute that I didn't spend the better part of that evening snuggled in bed with The Word and my apple cider, thanking God and relishing being off that crazy highway. It felt miraculous.

Now this would be a good place for me to say "Wasn't that awesome?" and say thanks for reading my first blog as I blog the Baptist Hymnal....but that's not the end of the story.

The next morning I woke up, anxious to hit the road. Phoenix was still a very long way off. But when I looked out my window I couldn't believe what I saw. It had snowed in the night...several inches of new snow on top of roads that were already a mess. Not good. In my little budget motel I had a budget motel remote and a broken channel knob. I could get one station, but they didn't seem to be interested in talking about the 72 miles of road between where I was and Santa Fe. So I prayed. I asked God to tell me if I should head out or stay put. The sub-text of my prayer (if prayers can actually have sub-texts) was "Man oh man I wish I knew what the roads were like."  God gets sub-texts I do believe. Because in my on-again-off-again wireless connection at said motel I was trying to get on my laptop and find the site for New Mexico road conditions. Somewhere in there I also managed to jump on Facebook, post a picture of my snow covered car and say "Man oh man I wish I knew what the roads are like between here and Santa Fe."

Now here's where I had one of those ok-God-you're-freaking-me-out-here moments. Two minutes after I posted this I got a Facebook reply. "Hi there! We are snowed in in Las Vegas, New Mexico too. We drove in from Santa Fe last night. The roads are ok after about 10 miles outside of Las Vegas."

You have got to be kidding me! What are the odds of that? But it gets even more bizarre. The lovely couple who were e-mailing me were the former sister and brother-in-law of MY sister Julie.  Her ex-husband's sister! I hadn't seen Laurie and Tim in 23 years...since my niece, Meghan, was born. I gave them my cell phone number, they called me, we determined that we were in motels on the same block, we caught up a bit and we agreed that our God was an amazing God...and sometimes a little freaky.

So three days later when I was sitting outside in 85 degree weather having lunch in Scottsdale, Arizona, I knew that being there at all was a grace-gift and I was thankful. I hugged my new Arizona friends good-bye and headed off to hug my new San Diego friends hello. But I wasn't alone as drove across the Arizona desert. I had Holy, Holy and Holy with me...Father, Son and the Spirit I feel even as I write this. And oh yes...Angels on the Car.