Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Clinging OR Hold Fast by Barb Walker

I sit on the deck as summer fades to fall and eagerly await its arrival. Cooler temperatures. Bright colored leaves. The smell of them in the air. The childish pleasure of kicking through piles that have fallen to the ground, enjoying their crackle and crunch underfoot. The smell of woodsmoke. Cool evenings snuggled under a blanket on the sofa. Fall is lovely. It brings joy to my heart simply to think of it. Thoughts of fall and God mingle in my mind, the two getting mixed up with each other as feelings of home, a deep breath of peace, and a surging sense of joy.

As I anticipate the arrival of my favorite season I look about me and see the last of the summer’s flowers. I gaze at the vegetable garden I’ve been tending for many months. I know that soon both will be gone. I won’t sit on the deck and look at the pink bouncing heads of my cleome, or say good morning to the Portulaca that makes me think of my mom and grandfather. The last of the vegetables will soon be harvested, the plants pulled up and the ground left to rest until next spring. As I think of these things I realize my feelings of joy and contentment are swiftly being replaced. I’m saddened by the passing of these sights of summer, fearful of their loss. And I realize I’m clinging.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life clinging. To things. To people. To places. To ideas and ideals. Flowers fade. Seasons change. Anticipated events come and go. People leave. As a matter of fact, often in my clinging I’ve forced people away. I think of the fear inherent in my desire to hold on to something. I wonder at my need to cling. My clinging has stemmed from the fear of pain and emptiness, disappointment, confusion, the need to belong and feel loved. As I think of these things I realize that not once in any of these situations has my clinging been helpful.

As thoughts of clinging flow through my mind I realize I’m learning to cling less to people, places and things and more to something that, in clinging, offers positive returns for my efforts. As I think of that thing the joy of clinging blossoms inside of me. The possibilities available in this clinging fill me with hope. To God--my Father, Creator, Protector, Comforter, Savior and Lord--I can cling without worry or fear of loss or negative repercussion.

At times my clinging, even to my Father, is driven by the same old fears, the same old pain, but that’s okay. God can heal those things, whereas people, places, and things offer only a band-aid. Clinging to my Father doesn’t cause him to panic and push me away in fear, nor does he draw me in only to misuse me for selfish purposes. I can bring him everything I have to offer and cling to him for everything I need and it serves only to strengthen my relationship with him. He quiets me and comforts me because he has infinite resources of love, patience, tenderness, wisdom, and peace to offer me. He transforms my thinking so I can learn to understand my unhealthy behaviors and replace them with healthy ones, to think healthy thoughts. In the process, I cling to him more and find that fears and pain subside, discover that the clinging is also at times driven by a positive desire to enjoy this relationship--to seek the peace, hope, and love, to cherish and praise the one who makes these feelings possible.

I’ve found the one thing, the only thing, worth clinging to, the only thing to which I’m meant to cling. And the most beautiful thing is that, in clinging to my great God, no matter the reason, the fear central to my need to cling to my old targets slips away. The emptiness is filled. The fears relieved. The disappointment and pain soothed. The confusion made clear. I find the place I truly belong, where I’m loved beyond measure.

Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. – Deuteronomy 10:20-21

Friday, August 17, 2018

Santorini Surprise by Kim Lawrence-Breuer

“We’re not in Kansas anymore” came to mind when we first laid eyes on Santorini, Greece, so different from anything back home, with its white washed buildings clinging to cliffs perched high above the Agean Sea. After a ten hour flight, followed by a two hour layover in Athens to catch our small plane to the Island, we at last arrived to the quaint, boutique hotel. Despite our exhaustion we were eager to explore, not wanting to waste a minute of our 48 hours. Before heading out I sought out Maria the friendly villa manager, “Is it too early for dinner”, I asked, my preconceived notion late afternoon was siesta time.  She assured us everything on the Island was open from early until late.  The steep street out front took us to the main plaza of Fira, Santorini’s capital. Suddenly a frantic rush of traffic came at us from all directions with little regard for our lives, as we jumped back in the nick of time.  I was also on my way to breaking my neck with these ridiculous, platform sandals, that had no business being on uneven, cobblestoned streets.  Soon however we discovered a delightful taverna, making everything fade away. “Good evening Mademoiselles” our hostess warmly greeted us, who seemed to anticipate just what was needed as she led us to a quiet corner. Here was our first taste of Greece where we fell hard, especially for the unusual white eggplant, so sweet it melts in your mouth, only cultivated on the island with its volcanic soil. A double scoop of gelato cooled our palates, making for a great first impression of what Santorini will offer.

The next morning we took Maria’s sage advice to get right up with the alarm, even though our jet lagged bodies believed it was 1:00 am back home on EST. Fueled by a hearty breakfast of eggs with tomatoes and feta, followed by Greek yogurt with toasted walnuts, drizzled with the most heavenly honey. This was no ordinary tasting honey. That’s because Greeks have taken their honey seriously for 3,000 years. Fueled by a hearty breakfast and strong coffee, we made our way up winding steps far above the streets, where a shopping paradise existed. Here expensive goods mingled with touristy souvenirs. Boutiques abounded and we weighed in on the trendiest styles, observing women wearing loose, gauzy pants and flowing blouses, in sharp contrast to the guys who sport super tight pants with fitted tops. Which they pulled off nicely to our eyes. Speaking of eyes, everywhere we went the big blue eye stared back at us. It was embedded in jewelry, clothing, even furniture and is believed to ward off sudden bad luck caused by the evil eye. Apparently the gaze of blue eyed people are thought to project the evil eye best.  Careful not to stare too long at others, my blue eyed daughter and I did not want to be accused of casting any spells.  At the end of a long, day our bags were filled with all things Greek; olive oil soaps, sea coral bracelets and painted ornaments and coasters with island scenes.

A breathtaking path took us to bars and restaurants lining the cliff’s edge where we went in search of more Greek food and views of the famous, fiery sunsets. Here friendly but never pushy staff stood outside toting the virtues of their establishments. We settled on one based on the scope of its menu. The moussaka layered potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes topped with melted feta, and spanakopita, a flakey feta filled spinach pie, didn’t disappoint. The service was what we had become accustomed to, efficient but never rushed, for the Greeks pride themselves on being gracious hosts.  As headed back, we stopped to watch patrons have their feet nibbled smooth by tiny, garra rufa fish. Although tempted to dangle our tired dogs in the giant fish tank, we were anticipating a glass of home grown Retsina wine from our quiet patio, with the moon rising low in the sky over darkened waters.

Copyright © 2018, Kim Lawrence-Breuer. Material may be reprinted or distributed only with author permission

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Toxic Tea by Carol Creswell

It was hot and noisy on the surgical ward at twilight in the summer of 1958. New patients had been admitted for the next a.m. surgery and the young externs were making rounds and taking verbal histories of their patients for medical records and the next day’s procedures.

The young head nurse felt sorry for the would-be doctors who had been assigned to this obscure hospital in a small college town. They were working slowly and carefully, conducting their interviews and going room to room, dealing with clients. Some patients were hard-of-hearing, some were apprehensive, and most were just plain hostile and stone-faced and resented intrusion of their privacy with the questions about bowel habits and sex partners.

Nurse Annie decided she would make some nice fresh iced tea to refresh the docs a little. They were a cute gang of guys and she wanted to make a good impression.

Finishing her medication distributions to the patients, she got busy in the tiny kitchen on the ward.

Teabags? Check.   Ice water? Check.  Sugar? Check.  Lemon?  OH OH. No lemon ANYWHERE and the main kitchen was undoubtedly closed at this late hour.  Hmmm…what to substitute? Jelly pack? Nope. Milk or cream?  Gosh, no.

Aha! What about this bottle of G.I. prep for a colonoscopy? It was strongly lemon-flavored and just a little bit wouldn’t hurt. She mixed and measured and prepared a tray with tea and ice and a few stale cookies from a glass bin of sweets. She carried it all down the hall and with her brightest smile and cutest wiggle she went to each room and offered the externs a drink. MOST OF THE PATIENTS WERE N.P.O.—meaning nothing per os or mouth—and couldn’t partake. THAT TURNED OUT TO BE A BLESSING.

Nurse Annie was complimented and thanked and received a few winks and hugs that made her heart skip a beat. Feeling very self-satisfied, she clocked off duty and left for her apartment at 10 p.m.

7 a.m.

Nurse Annie came on duty to chaos. Externs had all been seen in the ER—emergency room—for unexplained diarrhea. Was there a new Virus on the ward?

Do we cancel surgery?


Blood studies of the externs proved negative, and the diarrhea crisis passed by 11 a.m.

Annie didn’t have the ’chops’ to explain what every guy had been drinking on the hospital ward the previous night.

Some had gone out for a beer at 10 that night and blamed it on ‘that bar we went to.’


The End

Copyright © 2018, Carol Creswell

My Teacher by Mimi Benson

My teacher wears workman’s shoes with heavy laces

that could take him places no one else would dare to go,

over rocks and streams

over dangerous ice and snow.

His shirt is a friendly one, faded from many washings.

I hope it is his favorite, but I don’t know.

Sometimes he wears a crisp, new shirt that means business

like a sharpened pencil

or a clean, white page.

But now, in his faded shirt he seems to say

bring me your poems.

I care what you dreamed today.

Copyright © 1986, Mimi Benson
Material may be reprinted or distributed only with author permission.

Quotation #4 by Mimi Benson

There is a Japanese legend:
“If you can’t sleep at night, it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream.”

Here in my room, the clock nears midnight

I want to be asleep.

But I am captive in someone’s dream,

walking through his left-over thoughts, in the

room of his imagination.

And there I do his bidding, meet his friends,

get up to dance.

The clock moves on and pale light will begin

to creep nearer my bed.

Another day

and I am tired from dancing the night away.

Copyright © 2018, Mimi Benson

Material may be reprinted or distributed only with author permission.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Storms by Barb Walker

The sky darkens. Low rumbles follow gentle flickers of light. The storm is still distant. My skin tingles. I hate to waste a good storm. Today I won't have to. I race to the window to watch the show, ready to greet this storm with all the joy I feel at its arrival. Eyes on the sky my pulse quickens. Grinning, I wait. I give myself over to the surge of power as the first rain drops hit. In moments the house is enveloped and rain saturates the parched lawn. My shoulders relax. Worries fade. I draw a deep breath as my mind drifts to the past.

My sister and I lie awake in our shared double bed on a hot summer night. Thick, muggy air surrounds our limbs and faces, making sleep impossible. We sneak to the window of our second story room and watch the flash of “heat lightning” in the distance, hoping the storm will last long enough to bring cooler air so we can sleep. We count seconds between flash and rumble, distracted from our discomfort by the display.

Love of thunderstorms is a heritage from my mother, just as hers was a heritage from her mother, though we came by it in different ways. As the story goes, my great grandmother was petrified of thunder and lightning. During a storm, as her children lay in their beds, she would pace the hallway outside their rooms, praying the rosary. This had a profound effect on my grandmother as a girl. Somewhere between accepting the mantle of fear and raising her own children she vowed not to pass the damage along. Awake and fearful if a storm came in the night, she would accept the comfort offered by my grandfather, successfully hiding her dread from their children, the youngest of whom would grow up to be my mom.  Shielded from her mother's anxiety my mom grew up loving thunderstorms. Just as my grandmother absorbed her mother's fear I absorbed my mother's joy.

I sit, enthralled by the storm and enveloped, not by fear but with gratitude...for memories that link me to a woman I loved dearly, a girl I knew only as an old woman, and another who died before I was born. And I’m filled with gratitude for fear strong enough to create the courage to make a change.