Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I write day after day because I discover extraordinary lessons from ordinary life experiences. I record my visual portraits of everyday life filled with something sacred in hopes that my reflections might bring an insight that blesses my readers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday nights in Muncie

Sunday evening seems to be a time that my neighbor and I search for a special spiritual awakening. Last Sunday I asked her to go to a concert with me at a church where Joel would perform. I explained how Joel had led morning worship so well that he delivered us right into the throne room. My dear friend, Pixie, has gone along with my inklings and seeking for thirty seven years.

God just put us together as young moms , and we have weathered things together. We often question if He was sure this was the best for our neighbors and family. We have made our husbands laugh and snarl with our antics. We have embarrassed our kids and ourselves. Once we laughed so hard in church the minister asked us to leave. We have cried together, endured my mom's Alzheimer's, her husband's Huntington's disease, our children's teenage choices, ( some good , some bad), helped plan our kid's weddings, and we are still friends. We have planted and harvested gardens, sponsored many Christmas families, cooked for our neighbors, and cared and fed a lot of other people's children. Consistently, we have read the Bible and tried to figure out how it applied to us . This has been our main conversation throughout our friendship and walks. All this history and laughter has made us sisters.

So, off we go to hear Joel lead us in worship. When we get to the church, we are aware we are the oldest ones there. Nothing has really begun, so I encourage her and her granddaughter to sit with me in a pew midway back from the band. That is the only wise decision that I make that night. Soon the drummer strikes his drums which echo throughout the chapel. Next, the guitar players "get down". Joel sings some thumping songs but none about Jesus. My friend sits patiently through the " head banging melodies" as she put it.

She reaches over and pinches my leg and gives me that look. That look that clearly says, " Look what you have got us into now." We stay for the entire concert but leave quickly. We laugh loudly all the way to the car about our worshipful Sunday night service. She announces loudly, " You have lost your credibility , and I will not fall for any more invitations."

However, this Sunday on our walk number 9000, yep, we have been walking for over thirty years most every day. That is a lot of talking, bonding, sharing, and stepping . I tell her excitedly," I want to take you out to a very special Masterworks Chorale concert tonight. " She acknowledges that she read in the paper they would be singing psalms and hymns. So, we agree to leave about seven and dress up for the occasion.

As we are pulling into the Presbyterian parking lot, we comment that we are exceptionally early. We have no problem finding a parking place. We do have a problem opening the massive front door. It is locked! We peek through the window and see only darkness. Of course, we bend over with peals of laughter.

So, we decide to walk to the back of the church where we saw lights when we came into the parking lot. We discover young teens laughing and circle dancing and expressing a lot of pent up energy. Once again , we are the oldest there. The youth leader explains, "Oh, ladies, the concert was Saturday night , not Sunday. You missed it." As we left, we giggled as hysterically as the teens. This is our way of acknowledging that this isn't the first time we have missed something in our journey together. However, our solution is always to laugh.

Pixie said, " O.K., you tricked me once. Shame on you. You tricked me twice. Shame on me. Now, just don't think I will fall for this another Sunday night." With that we snicker and walk back to the car which was still parked in the front of the church.

We decide not to waste our gussying up and drive to the Ihop restaurant to have some coffee and a snack. Our choice is limited in Muncie on Sunday night because not many places are open at eight.

A petite ,dark haired gal directs us to a booth. I ask ," Do you always wear Payton Manning's jersey?" She rolls her big brown eyes and makes Pixie and I start laughing immediately. The waitress explains she is really a Bear's fan but has no place to buy a Bears' jersey. As she is taking our order , I announce, "Don't expect a big order from us. We are just all dressed up and there is nowhere else to go but here." She rolls those expressive eyes and makes a hilarious face. We love Velma because she is entertaining and so young.

"How long have you worked here?" She answers that she is "double shifting".

" I am trying to work two shifts any day next week that they will hire me." She continues, " I have two boys , age one and two. I am stir crazy from talking to them all day." We chuckle with her and say we understood. She shares she is twenty and newly divorced. " I caught my husband with another woman," she blurts. Then, she delivers our order, and pulls up all four feet eleven inches of her tiny body and says, " I am going to make it on my own. I really am."

Velma won our hearts , made us laugh, and tugged at our womanly bond to other struggling sisters. We gave her a generous tip and tried to encourage her. Maybe God just knew that we needed Velma and Velma needed us this Sunday night.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Changing Channels

Not often, but sometimes, I sit senseless in front of the television randomly changing channels. I listen to poor dialogue; change the channel. I watch sharks swarming, then, change the channel. I stop and listen to the vendor on the shopping station explain how great this product is. I almost want to buy it because she is so excited and persuasive. Then, I realize I have a camera, mixer, or jean jacket just like she is describing. I just didn't appreciate it quite as much as this sales person. I change the channel again to discover a snarling couple on Jerry Springer's program. I change immediately. After a few more clicks of the remote, I realize that I am not interested in viewing.

As I turn off the television, I wish I could have a remote for my family and friends. I would click on the "prosperity channel" and dial in and ask that my son's and many of my young friends' school loans would be paid, my neighbor's income increased incredibly, my friend's cancer bills paid.

Then, I would click again to the " common sense" channel. This call would ask that friends that are doing foolish things like diving into divorce, neglecting their children, depending on prescription drugs to make it through the day to be reinstated to sound thinking.

Yes, the "body channel" would be next. It would be easier than "The Greatest Loser" plan. All I need to do is call in and request a certain size, shape, and health fix and bingo, it is done. I could continue my fantasy , but I know after so many years on this earth that life just isn't that easy. I don't even understand why I have such unreasonable thoughts when I have seen God transcend all of the above problems.

"Abide in me ,and I in you." John 15:4 From moment to moment, and from hour to hour, the inner nature of man with all his problems and woes is to be continously sustained with the life of God. In other words, only when I am weak and empty can I constantly receive His fullness. He is the power source. He is every channel I could ever need, and He is the channel. Sometime when you are channel surfing, why not try to channel His words, His direction, His wisdom into your mind, heart, and spirit. This experience with God will be a reality show that gains you a little piece of eternity right now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sacred Rhythms

I am reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton. This book discusses arranging our lives for spiritual transformation. I have always hungered for a deeper more intimate walk with my Lord, but I have not always prioritized that desire. The business of our lives askews our soul's desires. Ruth Barton discusses how "being with what is" instead of always trying to fix the problem. She teaches us how to allow God to be with us in that place ,and how we become willing to wait for him to do what is needed. "In silence my soul waits for you and you alone, O God."

However, in our busy lives of sick kids, loss of jobs, hurting neighbors, public pressures to be all we can be physcially and mentally, our soul's needs get pushed back. Yes, even when I am doing healthy things like working out, Bible studies, raking leaves, planting flowers, cooking , entertaining, etc., my soul gets neglected. In Sacred Rhythms the author gives directions on how to go to that quiet place and stay. God is there waiting, but he is not instant rice. We must dwell in the place of the Almighty to hear his words and comfort. I think we all hunger to do that , but we must put aside some emails, phone calls, social times, holiday rushes to make that solitude happen.

I am very blessed to be retired and have time to meditate and seek. However, I still can make myself so busy with "doing "that I neglect" being." There is great peace in being. When I feel stretched, ancy, or hyped, these are flags of needing solitude. I need to sit at my Master's feet and just be. These are the significant moments in an otherwise routine day. Giving my entire attention to what God is doing right now takes so much practice. Isn't it strange that we are willing to practice golf, tennis, yoga, and art to become better? Yet, when was the last time you scheduled silence, being, and meditating on your weekly calendar? I encourage you to grab the moments you have and ask God to come and " let you see through his eyes." Sit, be still, and know that God is there and He will direct your vision. It just takes time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lunch with Howie

While I was in Upland, I decided to stop at the famous Taylor University hang out, Ivanhoes. At this restaurant, one can choose from a hundred different kinds of shakes and sundaes. I never have read their entire menu from one to one hundred. All are tempting and everyone seems to love their choice.

As I stood in line calculating how many calories one dip of chicken salad and one mini shake would cost me, I noticed the man ahead of me ordering. His body language was heavy and wilted. I heard him say his name was Snyder. That didn't register , but when he turned around , I realized it was Howie. Howie spoke at Midwest Writers Workshop and was Earl Conn's friend. At the workshop, they reminded me of two fifteen year old buds with secrets and plans. As I watched them laughing together last July, I immediately understood they were great friends.

I went to his booth, acknowledged that I knew him through the workshop, and he invited me to sit down with him. We immediately started talking about how the loss of Earl Conn created a void in the lives of so many people. Howie felt like Earl was happy now, but Howie was so lonesome. I watched his large brown eyes shed tears of love for his former friend. As he ate his tenderloin, , he told me of his and Earl's journeys around Indiana. He shared how much he respected him and cherished Earl as a friend. He said they were grieving the loss of their wives together. "Grieving together some how made it easier," Howie explained. As he continued to wipe his tears, he shared how much he and Earl laughed together. Howie told me Earl was a pensive and serious man at work, but on their trips in the last two years they laughed often and hard.

I asked if he came to Ivanhoes often. " No, not too much, but Earl and I loved to eat here," he explained. He said today he was visiting Earl's grave site in Marion. He murmured , "I just need to go talk to him this day." He was lonely and thought it was time to visit Earl. My heart went out to Howie. I know how it is to lose a close companion. There is such an emptiness that it feels like you are just flailing endlessly. Your heart hurts. Your head is confused. The grief just overcomes you at times. You realize you are not the same without your comrade.

I was grateful God allowed Howie and me to meet and share that day. It was a happenstance and a God thing. I enjoyed Howie's stories about Earl. I was touched by his sincere love for his friend. It was a day of reckoning and understanding.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Examining Art

Since I have begun oil painting classes, I am obsessed. I constantly study art works to discover how Manet made such beautiful hair, how Monet blended hundreds of colors , and how Klimt created such beautiful women. I found my dusty magnifying glass and have studied "close up" every chin, eye, nose, and mouth on familiar photos. I used to look at images as a whole. Suddenly, my world is finite. I need to see how the neck is connected to the head. I have just assumed it was attached. Now, I need to know how it is aligned. A smile is not a smile, it is a rhythm of color. It is a curve with a highlight. A mouth is an expansion of darkened flesh that is shadowed and highlighted in a unique pattern. I just didn't realize that taking up oil painting could give me such "detail" orientation.

Now, please don't misunderstand, I have a passion for painting. I can't wait to drink my coffee each morning and dive into those wonderful colors on my palette. I mix the paint with excitement. I am inspired by the smell of oil paints. The aroma is a new perfume to my senses. Each stroke must be precise and have a purpose. It reminds me of writing. Both are exhausting ,yet so enjoyable. I can see how God has painted me with His colors. He stroked and formed me in the womb of my mother. She birthed two girls. Each were creative and painted. She and my father were creative and painted. Both of our sons are creative and can draw, design, and appreciate the arts. In my mind, God has created a series of paintings of our family. We each have things in common such as art and creative energy. Yet, we have some different interest and priorities. Yet, we are still family when we differ or agree.

As I paint, each portrait is different , yet connected. They are connected by structure, similar poses, and an impressionistic style. The paintings differ in color, in highlights, and in shadows. I painted them all ; yet, they are different. For some reason, painting helps me understand how big God is. He created each one of us. I think it took time and work. I think he labored as I do creating just the right nose or eyes. I realize a key limitation in my creations and His. I cannot breathe life into my portraits. The people remain still .

Each time I see a new baby born, I marvel at that first breath. Suddenly,a babe is a small person that feels love, warmth, acceptance or rejection. As I sit with a dying friend or relative, I am amazed at how his last breath leaves ,and there is just a lifeless shell that remains. It is that breath that makes us in God's image and living ,caring human beings. Tonight I am stating the obvious, but it is still miraculous in my eyes. My paintings merely suggest life. God gives life today and offers us an everlasting existence with Him. I wonder if painting will be easier in the heavenly realm.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Thanksgiving Application

As I was coming home from Upland today, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said to go home and write a Thanksgiving application. I chuckled at that wording. First, He knows I don't want to fill out an application because I don't want to go to work again. Secondly, He knew I would understand that our little Ellis would be fine. Why else would he nudge me to be thankful this very time of Ellis's doctor appointment. Our youngest granddaughter, Ellis, has a lump under her arm. Her pediatrician sent her to a pediatric surgeon. Today was her appointment , and the doctor believes it is a swollen lymph gland, but he will take an ultrasound next Wednesday to be certain. That is my first item on my Thanksgiving application. So, having never written a Thanksgiving application, I think it might look like this.

Thanksgiving Application

Name: Sandra Baron

Date: October 6,2009

Years of service to the Lord: 60

References: Holy men such as Svend Orhvall, Myron Oyler, Ron Hoopingarner, Matt Carder, Rusty Clements, Greg Parris, and Randy Kroening.

Experience: I have learned to love Jesus more deeply each year. I have gained a deeper understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit each hour, each day. I have realized the sovereignty of God for sixty four years.

Reasons to be thankful include:

1. Ellis, our granddaughter, is divinely made and in a perfect state of health.

2. Adam , our son, has found a Christian soul mate who he loves.

3. Dennis , my husband , has been faithful and loving for forty three years.

4. John , our oldest son, chose a wife who helps me as willingly as Naomi of the Old Testament.

5. My son John keeps me grounded and organized as well as nurtures his daughters with love and affection.

6. Ava, our first granddaughter , has taught me to love reading, playing house , babies, and making crafts with the vigor I knew as a child.

7"I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you." Thank you, Jesus. I am redeemed.

8. Each day I see new things in the wonder world around me. Every day brings new discoveries of God's handiwork.

9. I have been made in His image, a creator. I so enjoy learning how to create His way with my paints and writing.

10. I am healthy and have the strength to serve others as God shows me their needs.

11. God promises even in my old age and gray hair, He will sustain me. " I have made you and I will carry you." Thank God I don't have to rely on medicare or man's plans.

12. God has healed our son from purthees and he has no limp.

13. God saved Adam in my womb even when the doctor said he would naturally abort.

14. God saved my husband at the age of 33 , and he has remained faithful to his Redeemer.

15. God sent both of our sons to college by opening the doors for full scholarship.

16. God has given me the opportunity to teach of His goodness for thirty-five years both here and abroad.

17. He has shown me miracles while I have been on mission trips.

18. He has done miracles and healed the sick here in Muncie.

19. His word is and breathing new understanding in me each day.

20. He allowed me to be born in a free country that allows me to worship as I choose.

21. He has known me since I was formed in my mother's womb. He chose my family just for me.

22. He has given me wonderful neighbors and dear and faithful friends.

23. He provided me with an education via the generosity of godly men.

24. He allowed me to teach , love, and help shape young people for thirty three years.

25. He has increased my boundaries of giving and serving.

The application might further read, " Share any times you have neglected to be thankful."

1. When I was sad and full of myself.

2. When I wished I had more and was not grateful for these things I have.

3. When I forgot to lean on God , who was standing right beside me all the time.

I think filling out a thanksgiving application helps build my faith, my confidence in God. It brings together His constant faithfulness. It makes note of His miraculous ways. It confirms His presence in my life. Maybe I need to fill out this application a few more times each year. I am grateful for the revelation of His mighty ways through simple obedience. Thank you, Lord.