Finding a Rhythm…

When our children were young, one of the books my husband and I used to read to them was Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! by Lloyd Moss with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman. The storyline introduced, with a flair that was intriguing, ten instruments that make up a chamber group. The words and illustrations used to describe each instrument with its different look, sound, and feel, awakened the imagination and the senses. By the end, one could easily envision being in the audience, attending the performance.

Each instrument is capable of creating sound on its own; acceptable maybe even wonderful, but one-dimensional. When together, embraced and celebrated along with the others, different as they may look, sound and feel they are so much more. They are enhanced not only by the existence of the others, but also by the cooperation and co-laboring with them. The brass, string, and woodwind instruments are all necessary parts to create the movement, the music…the melody and harmony of the chamber group.

While there is a conductor “running the show,” he or she is not the one who brought the group of musicians together. It was love of music that brought the entire group, conductor included, together. It all started with Love…it all started with a Word.

It is what binds the group together and propels them forward. It is what enables them to sit side-by-side, working together with respect, courtesy, and dignity, listening to each other, adjusting to each other, and allowing each other to play their individual instruments together, making music instead of cacophony…Taking all that came before and making a bridge from the past to the present as they move toward the future…Taking all that they have learned and experienced, making room for the new and/or different that each has to offer, becoming stronger, better, and richer in sound, and in character.

Any one musician can use his or her instrument to make noise, but for the chamber group to make music everyone in the group needs to be in sync with each other. Everyone in the group needs to be guided more by their love of music than their love of their particular instrument.

“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.”
– John 1:1

A Time To Change…

A few weeks ago, I collected some chestnuts. They were ones that had fallen to the ground prematurely and were still in their green, prickly burl or shell. Initially I thought I would use shellac to preserve them. That did not work though. The shells still turned brown and the chestnut within, which was not yet fully developed, shrunk so that it rattles inside upon shaking the shell.

I went back to the same spot more recently and there was a windfall of fully developed beautiful, smooth, brown chestnuts on the grass all around these two chestnut trees. In addition, there were some green, prickly shells, bigger than the ones I had picked earlier. “A-ha!” I thought as I picked up as many chestnuts as I could hold as well as some of the shells. This time I would refrigerate them to try to preserve them.

Well, the chestnuts were preserved, but the green shells continued to ripen and eventually cracked open. Overall, it seemed that there was nothing that I could do to preserve the chestnut shells as I found them—green and prickly.

ChetsnutBurlsOnTree

However, each day as I looked in the refrigerator, I could see the green prickly shell gradually changing to brown. The prickles remained, but seams formed along the shell and eventually began to split open, revealing a smooth, beautiful chestnut inside. Looking back over the journey, I cannot help but think how cool it was to see what was waiting for me each day as I opened the refrigerator.                ChestnutShellBrnOpening

ChestnutShellGrnOpening

In the end, I had chestnuts and shells exactly as they were meant to be. Not in my time, or exactly my way (preserved—green and prickly), but in God’s time and in God’s way. No sooner…no later…but perfect. How Divine!

Chestnuts1

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Not All Flowers Are Red…That’s Intentional

Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and he started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

And the teacher said, “What you doin’ young man?”
“I’m paintin’ flowers” he said
She said, “It’s not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red”

“There’s a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You’ve got to show concern for everyone else
For you’re not the only one”

And she said, “Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

Well the teacher said, “You’re sassy
There’s ways that things should be
And you’ll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me”

And she said, “Flowers are red, young man
And green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

But the little boy said
“There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

The teacher put him in a corner
She said, “It’s for your own good
And you won’t come out ’til you get it right
And are responding like you should”

Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found

The teacher there was smilin’
She said, “Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let’s use every one”

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and red
And when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said

And he said
“Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There’s no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen”

The longer I live, the more I see that fewer and fewer things are black and white, and that when I am truly focused on, and acting out of love, whatever the situation may be, color, shape or form have very little bearing at all.

Imagine what it might be like to be in a world, where encouragement toward discovering and using one’s God-given gifts was the norm, and where love was the driving force of each word and each action. If society let God be God…If religion, instead of being used at times and/or seen by some as a tool for “fixing” each other, so we can all be the “same,” focused more heavily on love and relationship…relationship with God and with each other. What might it be like, if the need to be “right” were dismissed?

Somehow, I cannot help but think and feel that if God wanted everyone to be, to think, and to feel the exact same, God would have made that happen. God didn’t though. However, God did inscribe the same law, the law of love, on all of our hearts. God also inspired Scripture that is full of examples of love, mercy, and compassion across all kinds of situations and “would be” societal barriers.

While it may seem hard to live in and out of love, day in and day out, it is not impossible. All we have to do is try…and keep on trying. God will make it happen…if we ask (and keep on asking), and then let go and let God be in charge.

“The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.” ― St. Teresa of Ávila

First Or Last, What Difference Does It Make?

At times, it can be hard to accept the instances in which the “good guy” finishes last. When I have played by the golden rules and held myself to moral and ethical standards, only to be stomped on, passed over, or finishing last to one who has not. In moments like that, it can be very tempting to let go of the higher road, to seek revenge and/or to set out to play, from now on, by the very rules that go against my grain.

While I could shift to a lower gear, possibly squash anyone along the path and “win” the next situation, I have to stop and ask myself, at what cost would I be doing so? When I ask myself, “Is it really worth it to me to become something other than my true self in order to ‘win?’ ” without fail, I find that it is not. The end does not justify the means; at least not for me.

Sometimes I wonder, what does winning even really mean? To some, it seems to mean having or achieving more than others do and being the king or queen of the jungle, even if it requires words and actions that are ruthless and that cut down others. To some, it seems to mean striving to live life well, to be compassionate and loving, to be honest and to have integrity with oneself and others.

“We don’t have to be superstars or win championships….
All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort,
and make those around us better as we do it.” — John Wooden

Although there is an “i” (actually two of them) in the word winning, when “I” is at the center of the way in which one operates, chances are that those around that person are not being made better. Instead, they are being driven away or encouraged in ways that are self-serving and that pave the way toward the decay of genuine character.

So what am I to do when the unjust occurs? If it is within me, and the words and actions arise into consciousness, stand up and speak up for what is just and honorable with love and care, as much as is possible. Then, perhaps, step away. To some, walking away or surrendering may seem like defeat, but it is not. Sometimes, it is the honorable thing to do.

We are called to love even those whom may not be so loving and kind to us. However, we are not called to bend to their will, to be under their thumb, or to dwell with them, possibly becoming like them. Hard as it may be, sometimes severing the ties and walking away, trusting that God will provide to those who are faithful to God, is the only way. While there may be temptation to see surrender as weakness, it depends on to whom the surrender is. When one surrenders, and clings, to God in such situations, there is freedom, peace, strength and courage.

“Basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison
to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins,
and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that
is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes
nowhere.”   – John Wooden

“Good guys” do not always finish last. Keep the faith!