Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to be Blessed

Matt 6:34
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes”( Matt 6:34, THE MESSAGE).

early morning mist
I goofed. I know, no small surprise. And you ask, “What did you do now, Carol?” And I answer.  

 Remember, you asked, so it’s your problem when I unwind a long tale of writing woes: a mistyped title in a query, a header that’s wrong, spelling comma as coma, forgetting my pitch, getting rejected because no one’s seen my genius.

Have I told you? I’m the next great Hemingway. Of the female persuasion. I know it, but I haven’t been able to convince anyone else.

Lately, I’ve been bemoaning the three new rejections I haven’t received yet. (Believe me,  they’re coming).


Maybe not.

But Matthew 6: 34 tells me I’ve got to stop my merry-go-round worrying about tomorrow. I’ve got to see and hear and taste all the good God has done in my life today.

I've seen:

·         Starlight on a black lake
·         Mist dancing on water
·         The diamond glint of frost
·         Encouragement in a good friend's eyes

I've heard: 
·         The whirr of partridge wings
·         The call of geese
·         The bark of a happy Springer spaniel chasing rabbits
·         The cry of a healthy newborn

I've tasted 
·         Pumpkin-spice coffee
·         Farm-fresh eggs
·         Dark chocolate
·         The lips of a doting husband

To worry about tomorrow only destroys today. What blessing have you been given today?

Monday, July 20, 2015

You can beat injustice: #chattanoogastrong

Our world's run amok. Hatred dominates. Freddie Gray and Michael Brown die at the hands of the police and Baltimore and Ferguson erupt in riots. People loot and burn the property of their neighbors. They turn on their community and make it safe for no one. They create a wasteland that will only promulgate more crime.

What is gained? We learn about police brutality. Arrests are made. Investigations begun. Meanwhile, communities become devastated.

Then we have the Mother Emmanuel murders. Pure hate crime, motivated only because of the color of the victims' skin. 

And most recently--Chattanooga. Five young men who dedicated their lives for our freedom were gunned down by a crazed youth who believed he was doing Allah's will.

In these last two murders, the reactions of those connected to the communities were diametrically opposite Baltimore and Ferguson. Those in Charleston begged for no riots. Flowers, balloons, candles and messages of peace were left at the scene. People of all faiths fell to their knees and prayed for their community. People of all color and all faiths packed Emmanuel AME Church for prayer services.

So, too, in Chattanooga. No riots arose from the despicable act done out of hatred. Vigils, prayers and a community bound by their love helped one another grieve and heal. The city didn't rob from others. Instead, donations pour in for the victims' families. The end result is a community stronger and more allied than before the heinous crimes.

Four horrible acts done in the last year--and two distinct ways of handling them.

For most of us, this kind of injustice is witnessed only on TV. Yet daily, we face inequity and maltreatment, and it cuts to our core.

I am divorced. My ex-husband cheated and eventually married his girlfriend. Our marriage, from the start was fraught with difficulty. I was told by one pastor, that even though the divorce happened prior to my salvation, I could never marry again. That was it. Cut off when even Jesus recognized infidelity as a permissible reason to dissolve a marriage. How should I have reacted? Refused Christianity? Turn from God? Or as Jesus did when others maligned him throughout history?

A dear friend suffers from serious health issues. She's had consistent surgeries, and each one creates a new issue that must be addressed. How does the church treat her? Some assume she's a hypochondriac. Some avoid her. How should she react?

How to face injustice:


This is not to excuse injustice. Jesus did not condone his crucifixion. Instead, he said "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23: 34 , NASB).

How does one forgive?

  1. Desire to forgive. If it's too hard to even desire, for many people have faced situations that are brutal, ask God for the desire to desire to forgive.
  2. Do not dwell on the injustice. Every time you recall the wrong doing, pray simply, "Father, I forgive." You may not mean it. You may repeat this 60 times an hour. However, I know from experience, it works.
  3. Eliminate the phrase, "I may forgive, but I'll never forget." That means you haven't forgiven. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrator. It has everything to do with you. Once healed, the memory of the abuse/inequity/trials will fade, and your healing will arise.

"Yet those who [wait for the Lord/ Will gain new strength;/ They will [b]mount up with [wings like eagles,/ They will run and not get tired,/ They will walk and not become weary" (Is. 40: 31, NASB).

What works for you? What do you struggle with? Leave a comment. You need not struggle alone. I will talk, and I will pray.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Majesty from Ruins: We Are the Basilica Santa Maria Degli Angeli--Rome

 Rome--no place on earth exists with the glory of Rome. Ruins rise from ruins and bloom into glorious works of art. No other place exhibits this more than the Basilica Santa Maria Degli Angeli.

And no place on earth exhibits this more than your own life.

Neil, my husband, and I scoured the Termini section of Rome looking for a church that housed Bernini's great sculpture "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa," an exquisite Baroque sculpture surrounded by gold beams, I had to see it. We wandered past the Diocletian Baths--fallen bricks and red stone walled off from the busy terminal. Unimpressive.

We found the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, sat on the steps and waited for it to awaken from its afternoon Roman siesta only to discover "The Ecstasy" was being restored and completely hidden from view.

Everything we wanted to see was closed that day. So we trudged back toward the Termini. We approached the Baths and knew we neared our destination when I noticed the facade of the Baths cloaked the entrance of a church.

You need to take note when traveling in Italy that houses of worship contain outstanding history in places like the Parthenon, and extraordinary works of art, such as Bernini's "Ecstasy." Most churches are free--so nothing is ever lost by exploring them.

However, nothing will prepare you for what this basilica holds.

English: Interier of Basilica Santa Maria degl...
 Interior of Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli
 e dei Martiri, Rome, Italy  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We pushed through drab metal door in the the plain brick exterior of what had once been a cove to the thermae. We entered a world that is guaranteed to drop you to your knees.

The basilica is essentially a Greek cross (arms of equal length). The end of each arm encloses an altar. The walls are adorned in gold and art, the vaulted ceilings force your eyes upward. Light streams through windows recreating a piece of heaven.

Sadly, my camera wouldn't capture the interior. It's a site you must see should you be fortunate enoughtto get to Rome.

Each step made me tremble in awe.

At last I arrived at the main altar. Only those who wished to pray could enter. I had to go. This place commands one think of God.

Plenty of places online can give you detailed descriptions of the basilica. They offer extraordinary images of the interior and  can tell you in greater detail all the points of art and architecture, about Michelangelo, and about Rome.

What I can say is this: we are like the basilica. God raises us from ruins. He doesn't take away our past. Yet, as we are transformed by His gifts, by His love, by His salvation, we shine with a glory that defies our lives.

Monday, July 6, 2015

We're Just Like Michelangelo

Before the victory
We should be like David
You are like Michelangelo.

And my husband has the traits of Michelangelo's famous sculpture, David.

We had finally made it to Florence, and Neil had orders. We would not leave Italy until we'd seen Michelangelo's David. I'd seen the Pieta, and thought seeing it again, although desired, would not thrill me like David.

Indeed, the David is superb. Created from a block of marble other sculptor's had rejected as too flawed, the twenty-six year old sculptor took on the commission with gusto. No one expected anything revolutionary from the tired subject of David and Goliath. Artistic greats like Donatello and Ghiberti  created their Davids after the battle. Michelangelo sculpted him prior. He's relaxed, but alert, his slingshot barely discernible. This fact showed David's victory was more from cleverness than force.

Michelangelo worked in secrecy in a courtyard, exposed to the elements--rain, heat, cold. For two years he labored, skipped meals and sleep. The end result was too monumental to be used in the setting the commissioners had wanted, the Duomo.

If you'd ever seen the Duomo, you'd be amazed to know this sculpture was too grand to be placed high on a pedestal in the beautiful cathedral. They convened a committee of thirty artists and dignitaries, among the Leonardo da Vinci. They decided to place the monument in the political heart of Florence, the Piazza della Signoria.

the David was too exquisite for the Duomo
Lessons from the marble
  • It was flawed and rejected
  • In the master's hand, it became one of the greatest masterpieces
  • God's given us victory--relax. Enjoy the ride.
Lessons from Michelangelo

Having a modicum of artistic talent, I could never create anything close to the the magnificence of David. God did not give me the gift.

Even Michelangelo could not have created it himself without the effort, the work, the practice, the experimenting he did.

God, truly, had given him a gift. As a baby, he never asked to be the greatest sculptor ever. It was freely given.

So, we now come to my opening comments--how is Neil like David? How should we be like this statue?

My husband is relaxed. He doesn't worry about the battle, but he doesn't ignore it, either. He's prepared, attentive and gets the victory. We know the battle is God's. Why worry?

How are you like Michelangelo?

Salvation is a gift--given freely. Nothing we do can alter the fact that God has freely given us our grace. However, if we do not use the gift of God. If we do not work out our salvation, or recognize that faith without works does nothing, we have wasted our lives.

How else are you like Michelangelo or his masterpiece David?

Notice the ribs and the veins.
Michelangelo's detail is exquisite.