A Tale of Two Creeks

The two creeks I have in mind don’t surge or produce whitewater. In fact, much of the year, they trickle…through prairie and grassland, over rises and around bends…ever moving, ever adjusting, fed by waters originating in the heights of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, bringing life and sustenance to more remote, insignificant places.

Neither of these creeks flows through prime real estate attracting big-name land speculators and developers. Yet each has a story to tell of life and death, and of refuge seekers. Each has reflected the faces of generations as they laughed and cried, worked and prayed. And each of these creeks has received the blood, sweat, and tears shed there.

What stories these creeks could—and do—tell:  of community…of clashing and contrasting worldviews, lifestyles, and civilizations…of promises and lies, of seeking and finding, of celebrating and mourning.

Big Sandy Creek is noted for being the location of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 in southeastern Colorado. These days, long stretches of this creek appear dry on the surface, but water still flows underground. (A good reminder to us that some things may seem lost or forgotten, but their presence and effects still linger.) John Buzzard’s novel, That Day by the Creek, portrays the hopes and dreams, clashes and conflicts that culminated in the Sand Creek Massacre. There, the tragic, wrongful deaths of a remnant of oppressed human beings surely caused the life-giving Spirit of God to weep. One can imagine that God’s tears mingled with Cheyenne and Arapaho blood flowing into the shores and waters of Sand Creek.

Little Kitten Creek, which flows near Manhattan Kansas, is the namesake of the country road on which Nancy Swihart and her husband, Judd, settled and founded a life-affirming, loving community. Nancy’s memoir, On Kitten Creek, paints the picture of their migration from L.A. “in search of the sacred” in their daily lives, guided by the desire to live simply and Christ-centered. They creatively consecrated and used the land, the farm animals, and the buildings, including a big barn that hosted concerts, conferences and a dramatized Nativity. There, on what had been a dilapidated old farm straddling Kitten Creek, life-giving waters have flowed from the Spirit of God and touched thousands of lives through the years.

A tale of two creeks, two stories of the land, the people, the times—reminding us that God is with us, working in seen and unseen ways to bring good out of rocks and ruins.

Even though the Waters of Life seem at times to flow only in a trickle, or hidden underground, they will never stop until the day finally comes when all things are made new.

 

 


Photo by Nashwan guherzi on Pexels.com

This Wide and Wonderful Land Needs a Rebirth of Soul

We are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants.

Today, on the 4th of July, the passionate words of the poem below express the heart of a woman who grew up on a “far-flung” island of Scotland and immigrated to America as an adult, with her husband and young family. Author and poet, Alice Scott-Ferguson, writes:

“In a land of deep class divides, my parents were not from the nobility, elite or formally educated. They were people of the land and sea in the farthest reaches of the United Kingdom, the Shetland Islands, where the sun never sets in summer and the aurora borealis dances in the long, dark winter skies.”*

Many of my ancestors also came from Scotland (and Ireland)—but way back during Colonial times of the 1600s. They crossed the Atlantic to the New World for economic opportunity (survival?) and for religious and personal liberty. They settled in and around Virginia and Kentucky, and each generation moved steadily across the expanding frontier, seeking new beginnings and opportunities, until they reached the Pacific Ocean. And now some of us have moved back toward the east. My ancestors include farmers, preachers, teachers, homesteaders, soldiers, and transient laborers. Many generations of blood, sweat, and tears have soaked into this land from shore to shore.

We are America. “This Land is My Land …” we have sung with gusto. Does our subjectivity make it hard—even impossible—for us to take an objective look at our country, our land, our nation? Have we become full of “hubris,” as Alice has penned (below)?

I think the voices of immigrants, who continue to choose to come to “America the Beautiful” to seek life and opportunity and freedom, are voices we need to hear and heed, if we want to “trade our hubris for humility,” as Alice Scott-Ferguson expresses in this poem:

America the Beautiful*

Pilgrim from a more restricted place
to America, the parent
of my progression
land of my adoption.

Country of limitless opportunity
for me and my progeny,
ever grateful
sometimes sad
land divided
in agony
in greed
in need
of a re-birth of soul
into a vibrant whole
not of uniformity
but of unity
in our differences
in our sameness
with the world
though still we hold
that glorious space
of being
a framework
of freedom.

Wide and wonderful land
open your arms of welcome
let us love one another
let us not fear one another
let us harness the love
and discover fire again.

Let us trade our hubris for humility,
thee and me.

~Alice Scott Ferguson

*(excerpted from Alice’s forthcoming book of poetry, Pausing in the Passing Places.)


Photo credit: Original Oil Painting by Amy Whitehouse © 2018

Hunting for Agates on the Beach

We look down on Agate Beach before descending the steep, winding trail at Patrick’s Point in Northern California.

On the pebbly-sand beach as the fog clears and tide ebbs.

Larry searches for agates in the sand.

One of my happy places, finding semi-precious, polished-by-the-waves agates glowing in the sand.

See any agates among these pebbles?

Some agates found through the years and polished in a rock tumbler.

Looking for agates on the beach is what it’s like for me, as a poet, to dig into my heart and come up with poems shaped by experiences and observations.

And this is what it’s like for me as a publisher to discover stand-out poets and their glowing poetry to share with our readers. So far, we have searched for, found, and polished a few collections of gems, which you can discover at Agates Poetry.

 

He Restores My Soul

Photo of the Pawnee National Grasslands

Vast solitude under changing skies

On the first day of June we decided to get clear away from office, computers, books, and other projects. My husband and I felt a hankering for bird watching and wildflower viewing. So we drove out to the Pawnee National Grassland, bringing our dog, Jasper, with us. This mile-high, protected habitat on the prairie of Northern Colorado provides nesting ground to a colorful variety of migratory birds.

Some years the grassland—a vast solitude under changing skies—is hot and dry. This time. after a wet spring, we found it cool and green. Wildflowers dotted the native grasses. Prickly Pear had started opening their blooms. And the birds! They foraged in the grasses, perched on fence posts, did aerial gymnastics to catch flying insects, scratched in the sandy roadside, hunted from the sky, and paddled on small ponds.

We walked a little ways on a trail through the grasses. Larry took a picture of Jasper and me:

Pawnee-May30-CandJasper

We identified 25 bird species, including Vesper Sparrow, Prairie Falcon, and Loggerhead Shrike. At one point along the gravel road we spotted a bird that looked like a miniature roadrunner. It ran on the ground with its tail held high. We watched it through binoculars and checked our bird guide (and the birding app on my cell phone, the only technology we used that day). It appeared to be a Sage Thrasher. Then the bird lifted into the air and we thought our chance to observe it was over. But it landed on a fence post just ahead of where we had stopped our car on the narrow road (The occasional approaching car or pickup could be seen miles away, in plenty of time to pull over).

As the breeze ruffled its feathers, the Sage Thrasher lifted its head and sang! And sang and sang. What a show. It felt like a gift to have this bird—uncommon in our area—perch and sing for us. I took a picture the best I could with my smart phone:

102_0790

Here’s a clearer photo of a Sage Thrasher singing:

A Sage Thrasher

Used with permission of sagegrouseinitiative.com

In the wonder of this bird perching and singing so close to us, we felt even more connected with nature around us.

Connection is important. We connect with people, share ideas, express creativity, and conduct business through keyboard, screen, digital images and sounds, artificial light and wifi. This virtual world is full of potential and offers fascination. But experiencing life through technology can gradually drain our souls. One way I know this soul drain is happening is, when I go to bed, close my eyes and, instead of drifting to a peaceful sleep, I see images and text, web pages and video flashing across the screen of my mind. (This is why I generally turn off my computer by 9:30 p.m.)

King David said, “He leads me in green pastures and beside still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23).

Once in a while we need to unplug, go out into a world that engages all the senses, and let our souls be restored. Nature and the rediscovery of wonder offer a gateway to a restored soul. Carol O’Casey, author of Unwrapping Wonder, writes, “I escape expectations … and take a walk on the wild side. Whether exploring field or forest, marsh or meadow, or the edge of the sea, in the natural world I am transformed. There, in the solitude of nature I experience God’s presence.”

That night, after a day of birding on the prairie, when I lay my head on the pillow, I began to realize what a gift I had brought home with me from the grassland. When I closed my eyes, my mind wasn’t filled with a screen through which virtual images came at me. No. Instead, I was still among the Lark Buntings, Horned Larks, and Longspurs winging, swooping, twirling in the air. I was still surrounded by the songs of Meadow Larks, Brown Thrashers, and Mountain Plovers. I was still watching Swainson’s Hawks soar on high and kite in the breezes. I was still enjoying the yellow, blue, and red wildflowers and smelling the sweet grasses. With these images, sounds and smells came a peaceful, delighted and deep sense of Presence—the presence of our Creator, the Restorer of our souls.

Gifts are always better when shared. To my surprise, when Larry got in bed and turned off the light, after just a few moments he remarked, “I’m still seeing birds.” Lying side by side in the darkness, we compared notes and agreed that it had been a wonderful day.

A special sense of attunement and restoration has stayed with me—even as I type this at my computer.

Grace to Mothers and Fathers Grieving Aborted Babies

Sunset sky

Mother’s Day is painful for many people, for the bereaved, the childless, and those who suffer from post-abortion grief.

Not long so, my husband and I visited a friend in his home. Though he’s been married more than once, he has no children. Speaking of that fact, he got a little misty-eyed. Then he pointed to a memento sitting atop his TV: a ceramic baby booty. He said it represents a baby he fathered that the mother didn’t allow to come to birth.

I saw the tear in our friend’s eye. And I heard the wistfulness in his voice when he told me he believed this child of his would meet in Heaven.

I was touched by the emotions of this man, over something that happened decades ago.

If you believe, as many Christians do, that babies and young children who die before the age of accountability go to Heaven; and if you believe that unborn babies are persons with eternal souls; then you believe as I do that all those aborted babies will be in Heaven. Perhaps they’ve been growing and developing in the nurture of Jesus and loving saints. Then, what a host of beloved children are waiting there.

Our friend obviously believes and hopes to meet his one child someday in the heavenly realms.

One of the contributors to Journeys to Mother Love, Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton, has written movingly about her post-abortion experiences and healing. To our friend and to Kyleen, and to the many women and men who chose abortion when they felt trapped, hopeless, and helpless … the Lord of mercy and grace has healing, hope, and restoration for you. And He is taking care of your child. May that thought give you comfort this Mother’s Day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The emotions that can lead to—and result from—the choice of an abortion, are expressed in this video trailer for the novel Katie’s Choice, by Tracy Langford:

Flowering and Flourishing on May Day

May Day Baskets

Not as many May first flowers here—

Not as many kind words and smiles—

as times and places I lived as a child.

Then, roses burst, clambered, and climbed already,

enough garden posies to revel in—make chains

for garlands and necklaces, plenty to fill

baskets to take and surprise the neighbors.

Now I could fill baskets with a few dandelions,

chokecherry and crab apple blossoms.

Or I can let my cup overflow with gracious responses,

pick loving words to give as lavish surprises.

~Catherine Lawton

 

Many of my poems are published in Remembering Softly: A Life in Poems,.


Photo by Enis Yavuz on Unsplash

 

Healing and Resilience after Trauma

A radio interview yesterday with Janyne McConnaughey proved to be a lively and profound conversation worth the listening time. The show is posted online.

Janyne McConnaughey, author of BRAVE, and Patti Shene, host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Step Into the Light”, discussed topics especially helpful for anyone who has experienced childhood trauma, anyone who has children in their life, or anyone who works with children.

I jotted down these two quotes from Janyne as Patti interviewed her:

“We not only pass down our genetics, but we also pass down our pain to our children.”

“For a child to be resilient, it takes one person to be there for that child. We need to be that person.”

You can listen to the radio show interview HERE.


*Janyne McConnaughey, PhD is the author of BRAVE:A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma.

**Patti Shene’s program, called “Step Into the Light” has an “INTERVIEW FORMAT SHOW WHERE GUESTS SHARE THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD’S LOVE AND GRACE HAS TOUCHED THEIR LIVES. WE ALL EXPERIENCE DARK TIMES AT SOME POINT, AND THESE TESTIMONIES WILL HELP LISTENERS STRENGTHEN THEIR FAITH AND REACH OUT TOWARD THE LIGHT THAT RADIATES FROM A GOD WHO CARES, WHO HEALS, AND WHO LOVES US UNCONDITIONALLY.”

Photo by Thomas Jay Oord

Experiencing the People and Places of the Stories

I love hearing from our authors about their interactions with their readers.

Judith Galblum Pex (Judy) often forwards emails and vignettes to me.

Judy is an American-born Israeli Jewish Christian. From their home and ministry in Eilat, Israel, she and her husband, John, have a unique perspective on the Middle East—and the world—especially because thousands of travelers stay in their hostel (The Shelter) each year. And because the Pexes are “Trail Angels” who help people who are walking the 600-mile Israel National Trail. Judy wrote a book (Walk the Land) about her and John’s experience of walking the famous and challenging Trail from one end of Israel to the other.

Here’s one experience Judy shared in a recent update:

“Last night John and I slept out at a camp site on the Israel Trail. In the morning we met a group with 50 participants called ‘Walk about Love.’ They enable people to do the Trail by providing meals and taking their bags from camp to camp. One of the women, a Reform Jewish rabbi, from New York City [in the picture above with Judy] immediately recognized me from Walk the Land, and very excitedly told me she had read my book and wanted a picture with me. Another woman was eager to have a copy in Hebrew. The organizers of the group knew the Shelter. … In preparing for her trip she came across my book on one of the sites and ordered it on Amazon. She used a Yiddish word to mean “preordained” when she realized she was meeting the author.”

And here’s another recent experience Judy had, this time at The Shelter:

“A tour group with 25 people from New Zealand led by a couple we know and guided by a friend of ours came to the Shelter today to hear about the work here and we sold fourteen books, a mixture of all three books.”


Judy receives emails from readers all over the world who have read her book(s). Here are examples of recent messages she has received and shared with me:

“I have just enjoyed reading your book “Walk the Land.”  It was lent to me by Astrid and Craig who are friends at our church and who met at your Hostel and were saved through your ministry.  Like Astrid I am Jewish, in fact I am a child survivor of the holocaust.”

–(a reader in Australia)

“Shalom Judy. I am currently reading your book Come Stay Celebrate. I’m only on chapter 9 and I can’t put it down. Your stories have reminded me of when I first believed in Jesus in 1986. How my life changed and how exciting it was to learn and grow. It’s created a hunger in me to keep learning and growing! Thank you for writing this book and sharing your faith and leading so many to Jesus!!”

–(a reader in Las Vegas Nevada)


Judy often shares experiences like these on her Facebook author page. You can follow her there: https://www.facebook.com/Judith-Pex-author-280669071951952/

Judy’s books:

A Child’s Poetic Expression of Faith on Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

As we say, as

we sing, Glory to

the King almighty.

Glory.

Let us sing, let

us say Christ

has risen from

the grave! The

Lord is great,

the Lord is

good!

He forgave us

of our sins!!

 

—Written by one of my granddaughters (age 10 or 11 at the time) during an Easter Sunday church service as we celebrated Christ’s resurrection. I found this joyful verse written on the back of a bulletin I brought home in my purse. She gave me permission to share it but asked to remain anonymous. This child’s spontaneous expression of faith inspires me anew to praise the One who is risen indeed!

 

The Wounded Who Heals

 

Worthy to Receive Glory

Made to honor, we give fealty,

We seek true north like a needle.

But to look for your king

   in a pulpit, disappoints;

   in a government, fails;

   in the mirror, distorts.

Look instead with the eyes of your heart

   to the Wounded who heals;

   to the Throne that is true;

   to the Lamb who was slain,

       Christ the King.

–Catherine Lawton

© 2018
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