Will Dave Appear?

Tonight's Concert.
Our family is going to see Tim Reynolds at Colorado College this evening. He's a killer guitar player and studio musician. Tim also plays duo with Dave Matthews. They are old friends. We are very big Dave Fans. And even though we know better, Steve and I are secretly hoping that Dave will just show up at this little venue tonight, to play with his friend. And, in turn, I will freak out and be ecstatic because I've never seen Dave. Chances are not good. And we will have a blast with Ty, Lucas, and Isaac in any case. But... there's always a little room to hope. And I'll keep you posted.

Dave Matthews Band Site:

Video from V-Team

Hey, Look! It's the latest news from the other side of the world!
Ironically, the 'latest' video sends Christmas greetings, in January. But messages that come from far far away, sometimes take a long time to be heard. So be it.
Merry Christmas to you!
Check it out.

V-Team Blog

Must See

Every once in a while a rare gem of a story like this comes along.
An autistic boy's chance at basketball ...
Don't miss it. It's a winner.

Our Own Biggest Loser

"The Biggest Loser" has taken America by storm. NBC now claims 11 million viewers each Tuesday night, as contestants battle to drop weight and change their lives. Together, teams lose weight through customized fitness plans, nutrition guidance, and die-hard personal trainers, Bob and Jillian. Week after week, bodies morph and lives are changed. The contestant that ultimately loses the most weight in a season is the big winner or "The Biggest Loser." And, viewers are encouraged to participate via the web: http://www.blogger.com/www.thebigestloserclub.com This show has inspired many people to lose big on their own. And today, I want you to meet someone who has personally taken on this brave challenge.

My friend Cori entered a local Colorado "Biggest Loser" competition. She has changed her work schedule for 8 weeks so that she can focus on life change. I want you to have a chance to meet Cori and cheer her on. We will walk with her as she tries to lose big. Below, find and article from the local paper which profiles Cori's quest. And, since Cori is a faithful blog reader of "The Spill" you can cheer her on by leaving a comment for her!

Go Cori Freed!!! We're cheering you on ... thanks for the inspiration!

Cori Freed
From the Colorado Community Newspapers,
two weeks ago...

"Freed, a postal worker in Divide, said just the word “diabetic” was enough to motivate her into a lifelong change. At 37 years old, Freed stepped on a scale and saw the number 280 staring back.
Freed, in her application letter, wrote that she had always seen weight as an issue, even as a child.“I remember weighing over 100 pounds at age 11,” her letter to the Courier stated. “I was the last kid to get picked for games and sports in school, my friendships were few. Fried meat, potatoes, gravy, and maybe a vegetable and always a clean plate were meals. Cookies, candy and sugar always. I didn’t grow up in an active home. In middle school I played Volleyball for two years, but was forbidden to play in high school. I discovered Pepsi, sometimes drinking a six-pack a day. I was over 200 pounds on graduation day and already on medication for high blood pressure.”Freed said she spent so much time looking after the loved-ones in her life, her own well being took a backseat.“Until seven years ago, I have worked two jobs and been the caretaker for my Mom and Grandma. I took care of friends, family, etc, but not myself. I was a workaholic, mostly to stay busy and not wanting to deal with life. I ate between jobs and whatever I could buy or cook quickly.”Freed did have some success on her own. She joined Take Off Pounds Sensibly, lost about 20 pounds and began playing volleyball during lunch. Ten years ago she came within 5 pounds of her graduation weight.“I am now married with a 3-year-old son,” Freed wrote to the Courier. “Twelve months ago, my second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. The doctor mentioned diabetic and metabolic syndrome. I was shocked and devastated. Where did diabetes come in? … I am scared to death of “Diabetic.” After a thorough test, I am not diabetic, but a candidate for pre-diabetic. I changed my diet, making more healthy and sensible choices, and drinking diet soda. I have tried new healthier foods. This past summer, I completed two 5 K walks under my goal of 55 minutes. I have lost almost 30 pounds this year. But I seem to be stuck.”Freed said she wants “to be healthy and fit for the first time in my life. I dream of more children, running a 5 K and marrying my husband again, this time in a little white dress.”

And this is yesterday's newspaper clip about Cori:

As readers pick up this week’s Courier, participants in Resolution: Mass Control will be in the middle of their third week of training with Cord Prettyman of Absolute Fitness and Ann Bunge of Woodland Fitness. Cori Freed, set aside her initial nervousness along with 9.5 pounds. She said, even her 3-year-old son is seeing the example his mom has set.

“He went to preschool the other day and tried to round all the kids up and tell them they need to exercise,” she said. “The teachers couldn’t wait to tell me.”

The aerobic, stretching and weight-lifting regiment conducted by Prettyman and Bunge have all Mass-Controllers surprised by their performances. Freed is no exception. “It’s exceeding [expectations],” she said. “If I keep at this pace, I could lose close to 30 pounds by the time this is over, but I’m shooting for 25.”

Each day, Freed said, she’s able to go a little harder than the workout before. As to whether she can sustain this pace even after the trainers have left her side, Freed said that is her goal.
“I want [working out] to be a permanent fixture in my life,” she said. “But know I still have a whole lot to learn.” She said the trainers and her fellow participants take some of the edge off of the competitive environment; joking around isn’t uncommon, after all, laughter is a great way to burn calories.
Her least favorite part?
“Sore muscles,” Freed said. “But that’s getting better.”

Her trainers aren’t the only ones offering motivation, though.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from people who have read the story [in the Courier] who have come up to me in the gym or work and [encouraged] me. …This is an awesome opportunity.”


Cool. Watch for more progress ... and leave a comment for Cori!

Pawn Shop

Sometimes days and circumstances fall together in ways you couldn't possibly plan.
They are days that remind us that we aren't really the ones who are in charge.
They are the rare days when it's more clear than usual
that something invisible is at work, threading things together.
The following post was written last spring.
It was one of those days.

Pawn Shop
They are the reason I found myself in a pawn shop; a little girl, and the God who loves her. Her grandmother is my friend. Their family has been blended and broken many times over. Skilled at pulling two strings together, they make ends meet. They move from trailers, to low-income housing, to shelters for the abused. They are children and women-too-soon; victims and survivors. And, their occasional presence in my life forces me to see God’s heart for people, in achingly quiet and miraculous ways.

She came to my house last week, with her little sister, and my friend; ages 12, 10, and 53. She was holding her flute case, and a flute in need of repair. Her big easy smile and calf eyes break my heart. “Mary” is a 6th grader in flip-flops and jeans, with long tussled dark brown hair, and wide brown eyes. Those eyes have seen physical assault and her intimate violation at the hands of ‘trusted’ men. She chatters the happy words of a pre-teen and constantly moves to align herself with me; to gain my approval, and her safety. Everything about her has been trained to desperately seek acceptance. It is a learned skill of survival. For the sake of safety and acceptance, she has learned to be endearing. She has learned to stay under the radar of danger until she is forced to blow the whistle. She makes her life appear sweetly normal … unbroken.
Her Grandma tried to remember how to play chess with her little sister, while I tried to fix the flute. Mary tried to call me a few weeks ago, to tell me her flute was broken. I was too busy to call back. Eventually, I forgot. Too busy for a 12 year old? How can that be? What could possibly make me too busy for this… for her?
In the moment of crisis and repair, these things are obviously, critically, important. So how did this red-alert priority get foggy? Why was it so hard to choose to engage? Why did it take several weeks, and the news of crisis police intervention, emergency family relocation, and legal abuse proceedings for me to wake up and engage with this little girl? This family constantly reminds me of my own ugly tendencies toward sleepy comfort. God has used and re-used them to painfully wake and re-shape me. Through them, I am taught and re-taught. Through them I see how I am divinely called and called again, out of my wealth into the margins. Sometimes we’re mercifully doused with cold water to wake us to attend to holy moments of repair -- for flutes, or people. And, that day, I determined her flute could not be fixed.
The April sun reflected off the shiny flute and screwdriver in my hands. I listened to her tell me how the school year is almost over, and she has been sitting in the last chair of the flute section most of the year. That is the equivalent of sitting on an ‘F’ all year. But when she picked up my professional flute, I heard her send music through the tube. She can play. It’s not her ability that has her in last chair, it’s her flute. She hasn’t been able to create real music, because of the faulty instrument. We decided she’d return it to the school for repair. The band director had loaned it to her instead of rental, in order to save money. But, this repair would cost more than a year’s rental. She needed a new flute.
I’m trying to break the bad habit of promising what I can’t deliver. So I promised nothing and felt an empty tension in my gut. I told her to put her flute away in its old case. Then, I turned to quietly tell her Grandma I’d try to find something at a pawn shop. But, “No promises.” They left without my help. And when the loud old Jeep left my driveway, I sat and cried. I cried for the little girls who had seen so much, felt so much, locked so much damage away in their fragile cases. And I wrote the word ‘Flute’ on my weekly calendar. Just a word. No plan. No money.

Four days later, the warm weather sent me to the top shelf of my closet; time for a gardening and hiking. I needed to pull down my summer clothes. A pair of black pants came tumbling down on my head. I pulled them on, and my hands felt an oddly heavy pocket. Foraging to the bottom, I found lint, and $60.00! Three dormant twenty dollars bills came up with the lint. To me, it was flute money from God.
Pawn shops are usually dark on the inside and bright on the outside. And, there are deals to be had, if you’re careful. The pawn district on Platte Avenue has a half dozen stores and a lot of competition. Bold letters painted on the windows are like loud street vendors shouting for attention, “Checks Cashed! Payday Loans! Jewelry. Auto Trade. E-Z Money!.” At each shop, I kept close tabs on my cell phone, opened cases and tested instruments. Everything I saw was priced between $100 and $199. Everything exceeded my pants-pocket budget. Except one.

At “Mister Money” I pulled one flute off the shelf between dusty clarinet and saxophone cases. It had three stickers on it that said “1987 Southern California High School Band and Orchestra Association” and the word “Flute” and the name “Travis.” And dangling from the handle was a price tag which was marked “$59.99.” I’m not kidding. Over 20 years old, the silver was tarnished, but it was a functional gem. The old Armstrong flute is a classic model that is a long running work-horse of flutes. It was a real find, just one penny shy of my miraculous budget, not including tax.
The two middle-aged guys working the cashier had stopped and listened to me play. When I brought the flute up to the counter, they were curious, struck up conversation. “Are you buying this for yourself?” A frumpy older man with surprisingly cool square glasses was standing by the cash register, flipping through a phone book. He paused his search to hear my answer. With an audience of three men, I said, “Well, no. This flute isn’t for me. Here’s a story for you …” And they all listened intently. I briefly began to describe Mary, and her broken flute, and her abused life, all in need of repair. And, before I could even get to telling them about the money I’d found in my pocket, the guy with the telephone book pulled out his wallet and started to retrieve bills. He handed me 4 dollars as the cashier totaled the sale, with tax. Telephone Book Guy’s contribution perfectly paid the tax. The flute was purchased.
I finished the story with the part about mysterious ‘flute money from God’ in my pants pocket. That detail prompted him, even though the sale was done, to pull out his last 5 bucks, and hand it all to me. I’m not sure why. He just did. And, as I was walking toward the door, Telephone Book Guy said, “God Bless you,” then, he choked on his words and said, “And God bless that little girl. God bless her.” I got really teary and smiled at him. It was something strangely sacred happening right there in that pawn shop. There were better things to say. But, all I could muster was, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” And I cried all the way to the car.
Today, I will go deliver the newly polished flute to Mary’s Mom. I’m going to meet her as she gets off work at Subway down in the Springs. We talked for the first time on the phone yesterday. I’ve never met Mary’s Mom. But I know her Mom and daughter. And I know she did not escape what has been passed between those generations. Today, I expect to recognize in her, the same heartbreaking victim’s smile and survival skill that the other women possess, passed down. Because, none of us escape the bondage of generational sin; not without Supernatural help, not without Divine repair. Today I will give the flute to Mary’s Mom, for her to give to her daughter. And I will remember what I have seen.

This week, I saw a quiet miracle. I saw the heart of a loving God, revealed in a pawn shop. God put a shiny flute in the hand of a broken little girl. I watched Him accomplish it with His money in my pocket -- His Life in my soul. This week, I saw how the Spirit of a Living God relentlessly moves to wake us to love lost & innocent victims, on His behalf. I saw how He moves in personal and intimate ways that spill over and bless anybody who is listening. This week, I saw God’s compassionate pursuit and gently repairing ways. I saw it all, when I pulled His healing music out of my pocket for the giving, and I didn’t even know it was there -- tax included and five dollars to spare.
Post Script: Miracles are easily swallowed-up and buried in the quicksand of everyday life. This was true for the Pawn Shop experience. I wish I could say all of life changed for this family. But it didn't. The girls are still smiling survivors, struggling to function in school. Their Step Father is in jail and has no further rights to see them. I never did meet their Mom. She wasn't there when I went to deliver the flute. She's a Manager at that Subway now, which is a good thing. I saw my friend quite a bit last fall. Back at Christmas she came over and I gave this little miracle flute a check-up. And, I haven't seen her since. But experience tells me she'll be back around. If you're the type, go ahead and pray for this little family. Obviously, God will know who you're praying about :)

I Fixed the Comment Thing!

My sister Kim is the smart one.
She works for a brainy research company, Cutter Consortium, in the Boston area. (http://www.cutter.com/ ) More importantly, she's the Mom to Julie and John. And ever since Kim was really small she could read at, like, the speed of sound. And, she's like a living Google search engine. You need it? She'll find it. So naturally she's the one who helps me figure out things that don't even occur to me. This time, it benefits you!
It has been very tricky for a lot of you to leave 'Comments' on this blog. (Thank you to those of you who have gone around the system to communicate with me). But NOW, thanks to Kim, I pushed a couple buttons, and now anyone can comment!! So, feel free to participate in the conversation. I'd love to hear from you! Comment away...

Thanks, Kim.


Hey look, it's news from the other side of the world!
Below, find a short video of my son's adventure in Uganda. Andrew and V-Team have now moved on to India and you can check out their progress on their blog:

In the meantime, check out the Africa video. ( There won't be any audio. Sorry.)


This morning, I got an email from my Mom. She flew to the east coast this week with my Aunt Jean. They are visiting my 'Granny Pat and Grampa.' Their time turned into one of those unexpected crisis hospital visits. Two separate 911 calls landed both of my grandparents on the same floor at the same hospital for different health reasons. So, the two sisters have been caring for their parents. And they are glad for the timing, but tired.
It got me remembering how many times my Mom has ended up in unplanned crisis, and how she has always stepped in and made things happen; make the call, put pressure on the wound, find the paper, mop the tears, wipe the spill, zip the zipper, find the boot. It's what Moms do. And it's what she did for me, over and over again.
This past fall, my Bostonian sister, Kim Leonard, had a really great idea that became an immense gift for Mom's Birthday. She wrote a ton of people from all across Mom's walk of life, and asked them to write Mom a letter. She then collected the letters and pictures, from friends and schoolmates, children and grandchildren and bound them into a book to send as a 70th birthday surprise. It was a brilliant idea and a priceless gift.
So, this post is for my Mom who is in a hospital somewhere in Maryland, once again doing what needs to be done for people she loves. Today's post is the birthday book letter.


Kelley Jean Gay ~Delmar, New York ~ 1969

I came across an old picture the other day. It’s a square 4X4” color photo. You wrote “69?” as a question in pencil on the blank side. On the back, you had guessed what year the picture was taken; on the front, is me. Shadowy snow covers the backyard under the grapevine. Only a small part of our Bootsie’s wagging dog tail is visible as she is walking out of the frame toward you. You are taking this picture off the back-porch of 142 Orchard Street. I am standing in front of your clicking camera, no taller than any other 3 year old. My red winter coat is zipped tightly up under my chin. Hood up, my round face is framed with a little rim of white fur. I am looking directly at you. In the picture, it is clear, I need your help.

In my small left hand I am holding up a red pull-on boot for your inspection. My left foot is wearing the boot’s mate. My right foot is wearing only a small white tennis shoe with a muddy toe. The boot had come off… again.

They were the thin rubber sort of boot that have to be pulled or pushed over a pair of shoes, then fastened with one small useless button and loop at the top. Pull-on rubber boots were never easy to install. The receiving shoe would always fight and resist. Boot and shoe would inevitably jam when the foot was in its most unnatural position, kinked and pointed. We would work together, you and me, pushing and yanking until boot and shoe aligned. Sometimes it was a cheerful exchange; sometimes not. But I do remember that you would consistently and patiently help me with those pre-school red boots and their kindergarten brown predecessors, every time I needed to go out. And often, I returned to have you help me re-install one or the other over my shoe. It was not a process I could do alone.

On that day, I can’t recall what caused the boot to come off. I may have trekked out to the barn with Bootsie, and lost it there somehow. It may have dislodged when I jumped off the swing or stepped out of the chicken coop. I don’t know. The picture doesn’t tell us. In any case, the boot was off. Many times my boot has been off, and you have been needed.

This picture is my childhood. It is all the times that Kelley said, “Mom!” and waited for you to appear. It is all the times that I couldn’t manage without you; your love, your wisdom, your presence. My childhood is that little tiny girl looking to you for help. It is me, with you, in a life’s process of re-booting, countless times over, until adulthood -- and even then, now and again.

Thank you for putting on my boot in so many ways; for straining to make things fit, for helping me find the way, for showing me how to get up and set out to walk again … and again … and again.

As I write this, my hands type these words and they look like your hands typing. My same blue eyes look at this 39 year-old picture. It was taken by you. My ears need the same amplification that yours do. I think about my sons who share your genetics. Their identities are permanently imprinted by your deep & open love for them. Their lives came out of mine, the same way that my life came out of yours. The walk of my life is full of you, every day, in so many ways, even in your far-away state.

I thank our God for giving you to me, Mom. For your love on all those bootless days and so much more ... thank you.

I love you.

Lost Keys

What is it about keys?

Keys are like mice, scissors or tape. When you're looking for them, they are nowhere to be found. Then when they do show up, there are are always more than you even knew you had. A couple weeks ago, my forgotten set of keys showed up in my friend Renee's desk, at her office. They had been in that drawer six months. When she finally figured out that they were mine, suddenly, I had a key surplus! I don't even want to admit how many times in a week I get into my car and have to go back inside to retrieve my keys from where I left them. And, I really don't want to admit how many times I just completely lose them.
Keys are important. They provide entry, security, or transportation. Janitors and are powerful people mainly because of the amount of keys jangling on their rings. Closets, entryways, sheds, lockers, no door is truly locked to a janitor. They have unlimited access because of their master keys. And, then there are those tiny little mysterious keys that keep safe deposit secrets. They are small secure keys to strong boxes. I don't have very many keys. And, I can't get anywhere without my little key ring. Literally, the car won't start. I'm grounded without them. When they are lost, they must be found.

Yesterday, I read something that caused me to think about keys and lost things. This idea resonated with me, because lately I'm in a constant battle to stay focused and grounded. Maybe it's something about being 40ish. My mind has become even worse at focusing or remembering. My days have to be wrangled into submission, or else I meander away from the accomplishment of necessary goals. I am constantly trying to stay two steps ahead of a depression that can fall on me at any moment, and leave me feeling like I'm buried in a ton of sand, or drowned in a puddle of tears. I'm not sure what's up with all that. I've been pursuing physical and emotional helps like nutrition and excersise. But I do know, my rescue from any of those daily factors, is a spiritual one. In that place I need security and a strong box unlocked. I need to have mysterious contents revealed, and transport; access to a better place. Those are all God-sized key-like things. So, let's say God is the key. What do you do when you lose a key like THAT?
Charles Spurgeon had a good answer. I randomly pulled a leather-bound book off my shelf last night. "Morning and Evening Devotions" is a compilation of Spurgeon's writings from the mid-1800's. Spurgeon was a firey preacher in England and crowds of people came to hear him by the thousands because of his passion for 'God's Word'. He used antique words like "thy" and "blessed be" and "bretheren." And it takes a little mental recalibration to read, but there is gold to be found in the digging. In yesterday's reading, I found a simple explanation for lost keys -- be they brassy metal or spiritual. It was summed up in this simple quote: "Look for a thing where you dropped it, it is there."
Here's an excerpt of his explanation. Spurgeon says, this:
"Tell me where you lost the company of Christ, and I will tell you the most likely place to find Him. Have you lost Christ in the closet by restraining prayer? Then it is there you must seek and find Him. Did you lose Christ by sin? You will find him again in no other way but by the giving up of the sin ... Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures.
It is a true proverb, "Look for a thing where you dropped it, it is there." So look for Christ where you lost him, for He has not gone away. But it is hard work to go back for Christ ... Twenty miles onward is easier than to go one mile back for the lost evidence.
.Take care, then, when you find your Master, to cling close to Him. But how is it that you have lost Him? One would have thought you would never have parted with such a precious friend, whose presence is so sweet, whose words are so comforting, and whose company is so dear to you! How is it that you did not watch him every moment for fear of losing sight of Him? ... With thine whole heart seek Him, and He will be found of thee."
So, in modern day English, my take-away is pretty basic. Turns out, it's important to go back and look for the keys where they were lost. Maybe that means re-tracing my steps back to my metal keyring, so that my car will start, and I can get where I'm going. And, maybe that also means retracing my steps back to the place in my relationship with God, where I left my spiritual keys sitting lost and unattended. Usually that means I have to ask myself, "What's the last thing God said to me?" And sometimes that leads me to an inspiring song, or something a friend said, or direct words out of the Bible, or my journal, or a prayer, or a look on my son's face. Sometimes I find that key in a most unexpected and forgotten place. And, all that's demanded is to look for it. "Seek Him, and He will be found." Make the choice to go back and find it.
Sounds simple enough, but ... I've got to go start the car now ... and, um ... I'm just wondering ... 'anybody know where my car keys are?
-- Excerpt from,
"Morning and Evening Devotions", Complete and Unabridged, by Charles Spurgeon


Few words. Just a song today -- and Glory. I hope you get a moment to pause and listen.
It's always good to shift focus, shake off the day's weight, and remember something, Someone, so much bigger ...

There is a place we long to be
Face to face we long to see You, Lord
Majesty and power
Are Yours alone forever

Over us
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Glorious/Our God Reigns,
performed by Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockles, Passion Tour

Carie's Song

I met Carie several years ago. She remembers it as a time when we were exchanging our middle school sons – trading them between cars on the way to somewhere. My car was full of a ‘passel of children’ (her words). And I was extremely distracted by the commotion in my van. It wasn’t a memorable meeting. But who can really remember the moment a friendship is formed? One anonymous poet describes it as many drops of water filling a cup over time. At some point, with some final drop, there comes an overflow.

Carie’s son Evan, and my son Andrew formed a friendship long before we did. They are now in India together. They are traveling around the world as a team of three, with Christian. (http://www.worldboundmissions.blogspot.com/)

Evan came to embrace his faith and became a wildly passionate Christ Follower when he was in his early teens. Some people kind of ‘whisper’ their stories of faith when their lives change. Evan, is more the type to light explosive fireworks and say, “THIS WAY! Follow me!!” When he declared himself to be a Jesus Follower, it had community impact. And, in that time, Andrew suggested that I start praying for Evan’s mom. Because of that prompt, God gave me a quiet and unexplained love for Carie. It wasn’t anything visible. We never talked. I rarely saw her. But, some odd pressing weight set on my heart for her, because of our sons.

The moment of overflow happened later. A friendship was formed. And, as is true with most defining moments, it was born out of crisis. On July 19th 2006, lightning struck a soccer field, and I found myself standing outside a hospital Emergency Room door, next to Carie. Our sons had been on the soccer field with their friend Andrew Yarger. One moment they were kicking the ball. The next moment, they were trying to stand and recover from the bolt that had sent them all to the ground. But Andrew Y. didn’t get up. We stood together as Mom’s, watching with numb grief as our sons heard the news. We stood together as Moms, in the crowd outside the ER doors. We stood together and watched the Yargers file out of the hospital into their long white van. We stood and listened to Sibbi, speak the truth of her son’s death, and her concern for our living sons. We stood together in that moment. And that was the beginning …

After the funeral, Carie and I somehow ended up meeting at Dairy Queen. We weren’t friends yet, really. But we were willing, having just shared something too big to ignore. We talked about the loss, the funeral, our sons. And since death tends to drive thoughts in a deeper direction, we talked about spiritual things. It was there, that I started learning new things about God, from Carie. That day, she described the first of many instances to come, when God got her attention and tapped her on the shoulder. That day, she described the sky. Something about it had made her cry. She said it was clear only in some vague intuitive sense. But she was sure that God was trying to talk to her.

Since then, Carie and I have met weekly with a little group of women friends to talk about faith and discuss things like the Bible, Jesus, and Marriage. I have watched her move from being boisterous and argumentative to boisterous and receptive. She used to say things like, “What the *#! is 'redemption'?” She used to narrow her eyes, and purse her lips when we’d talk about ‘church’ and religious people. But she stayed in the conversation. She kept coming. And in the process she became much beloved in our little faith community.

Carie points out things I’ve never noticed. She has a propensity for finding parts of the Bible that stump people. After a group discussion with Pastor Bruce on the overall content of the Bible, she was interested to find out that the book contains history, prophecy, poetry … and sex. Apparently the women in Song of Solomon had round stomachs. This should be encouraging to all women with body-image issues, because Carie proved that plus-sizes were esteemed in the Bible:
“ Your navel is a round mixing bowl – may it never lack mixed wine!
Your belly is a mound of wheat, encircled by lilies."
(Song of Solomon 7:2)

No one could argue with that insight. Later, I asked for the group’s take on Jesus in a certain chapter in Mark. I remember that she was a bit taken aback by one story of Jesus. She summed him up as ‘mean.’ Her proof was his unprovoked curse and killing of an innocent fig tree. A lot of times, she’s right about theses things. And always, she is open to learning, and absorbing, and truly understanding.

The most profound lesson in my friendship with Carie, has been a lesson about God's heart. He has wooed Carie in very personal ways. He has shown himself to her through other people’s words. He has caught her attention in the hot tub, in her car, in a hospital chapel, or through sign language. And all the while, her son’s unmitigated passion has been a Jesus beacon, always on her horizon. It has become her compass in the midst of now-and-again God messages that show up in her life. They are experiences that she has called “God tapping me on the shoulder … "

I have watched a scale slowly tip in Carie’s life. Her ongoing debate of faith has looked like one of those justice or science scales -- where weights are placed on either side. A balanced scale hangs equal on both sides. An imbalanced scale has an over weighted side which hangs down low, while the lighter side dangles up high. The heavier side of Carie’s faith scale was loaded with issues of church baggage, hypocritical Christians, legalism, and much rational dispute of God-topics. The lighter side of her scale contained real-life experience with friends who had a faith that intrigued her; her son’s belief and passion, resonating moments of truth, and an accumulating collection of ‘shoulder taps’ from God.

Over time, I watched her scale begin to balance, then counter-balance. It’s her story to tell. But I will testify that the weight of God’s quiet revelations of himself to her, finally tipped her life. Somehow, at some point, after a series of many sacred drops in the cup of her soul, Carie’s relationship with Jesus overflowed.

And I continue to learn from her. Last week, at Fiesta Mexicana, while we were eating flan and talking about God, she described a real ‘a-ha!’ moment. She said that she had realized in one moment of clarity that this wasn’t just about her. She told me that so much of this journey has been hearing about how God is ‘pursuing’ her, personally. But she stopped and looked me right in the eye and said something roughly like, “Except it’s not just for me. It’s for everybody. He’s talking to everybody … it’s just about whether people will stop to listen to him … or not. But, this isn’t just for me. It’s for everybody .... everywhere. ”

This past Christmas, as her own quiet testament, Carie decided to stand in the congregation the she had formerly shunned. In the house where she used to tightly cross her arms, she chose to open them wide. She chose to step into the middle of a worshipping crowd of friends, and publicly speak her own. At the end of both Christmas Eve services at Community Church, Carie ‘sang’ the words of Silent Night, in sign language. Her Silent Night was indeed silent, but it was the loudest declaration I have experienced.

As she signed the words, I sang my own agreement with her on my flute. We were 'standing' together in another significant life moment. Except this one wasn't born of crisis, it was born of a savior. And, it wasn’t a moment of spoken language. We were speaking different languages; she, in sign, and me, in music. But we were singing the same song; the same truth about Jesus. Oddly, in the same way, our sons are now learning to speak the lyrics of worship and faith – except they are doing it across the globe, in the different languages of many human tribes. And as is true in matters of faith and belief, sometimes we are speaking different languages, experiencing different ‘shoulder taps’, seeing different aspects of God. But together, we speak with one Faith, that there is one body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. And to each one of us this grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Jesus Christ. And this gift is not just for one, but for all of us … for everybody, everywhere.


Perhaps the best way to describe Carie’s song of faith is for you to watch it for yourself. Please go ahead and watch this video clip (below) of Carie’s ‘Silent Night.’ And notice this: She starts out singing this song about a “Son of God, love's pure light.” She sings it, alone, in the spotlight. But after her silent testimony, she is joined by a host of light-bearers, singing her same song; visual evidence of infinite family and a redemptive gift only God could give.

“Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth. "

Thank you, Scott Stearman, for editing and posting this video.

A Bloggish Field Trip

Today, we're taking a little blog field trip. Let's pretend I'm Mr. Rogers and I've finished changing my shoes and sweater. The opening song is done. You've agreed to be my neighbor. The fish have been fed. And now, we're going to visit someone in the neighborhood.

My friend Laura Parker writes a blog called, "Cereal for Dinner." This week she wrote something that I highly recommend for you to read. The post is called "Fireproof: Slow Fade." It's about marriage, and sushi, and potentially cheesy movies that turn out to have meaning ... and what it means to fight the inevitable fade and atrophy that can happen in relationships, little by little, year by year. Because, "People never crumble in a day."

Let's go on a little blog walk. And while you're there, browse the whole site.

Click the link:
Cereal for Dinner

Sidewalk Chalk

Art Everywhere

There's something about open-space art. It's a shared experience. It's free beauty. And it comes from the type of artist that has a heart for community. I admire that type of generous artist. And, because I love finding art everywhere, it will regularly find it's way to this blog. Today: sidewalk chalk artists.

Heart Murmur & The Lunch Lady

I still haven't really made sense of it all yet. It happened after school the other day when Ty, me, Isaac, and Lucas were all in the kitchen getting a snack. And it all started with Ty saying something roughly like, "The lunch lady told me Isaac has a heart murmur."

Keep in mind, Tyler is an 11th grader in high school. He eats lunch at the High School. Isaac is in 7th grade at the middle school. He eats lunch at the middle school. So, it was puzzling for Ty to come home from an entirely different school and declare that Isaac has a heart murmur according to his lunch lady -- the "Sandwich Lady" to be specific. It was especially confusing 'since I have heard nothing of the so-called heart condition.

Apparently the Sandwich Lady is Kevin's Mom. Kevin and Isaac have known each other since pre-school. They are now studying the human heart in 7th Grade Health Class. This would not be a problem except that the lecture turned to heart diseases. That would not be a problem, except that Isaac is a hypochondriac.

Back in the fall, I went down to the Springs with Isaac to the Army Surplus Store. We were going to check out a military gas masks. He liked the look of them, and thought it would be very cool to get one, and wear it for Halloween. Most of the stuff at Army Surplus is used. So, the Russian gas mask that he got actually had some left-over sand in the eye sockets. It was safe to assume this gas mask had covered someone's face, in some sandy place, at some point. On the way back up Ute Pass, he was reading over the instructions, and testing out the strap. He put on the gas mask. Then, in a moment of wide-eyed fear, he whipped it off. "Could I have just caught something?" That conversation lasted the full 30 minute commute back up the mountain. It included every possible disease that may have been in the gas mask, and whether or not any of them were fatal. He got over it. We worked it out. And because he is who he is, the conversation was truly more funny than serious. But, point is, he's become hypochondriac. And it's new to him, this year. I think it's just a phase. But, I have no real explanation for it.
So, when in the course of Health Class, Isaac noted that he had some symptoms that lined up with a heart murmur, naturally he became concerned. So Kevin went with him to ask the teacher. Kevin overheard the whole Q & A between Isaac and the teacher. Apparently, Kevin became a bit concerned for Isaac and mentioned it to his Mom, who, also became concerned. So, Kevin is the key link to the Sandwich Lady who had talked to Ty at the High School. Viola! Mystery solved.
I came to find out later that Steve had already had a heart murmur conversation with Isaac. He tried to explain that it is not a contagious condition. In his most sensible way, he said, "Isaac, it's not something you can catch, it's a genetic deficiency."
To which Isaac replied, "But I'm tired. I have fatigue, and heart palpitations periodically ... those are definitely symptoms." They went around on the subject and landed in a saner place at the end.

By the time we were all talking about it over snacks in the kitchen, Isaac had already worked it out. He rolled his eyes and explained the whole thing. He's so totally over the heart murmur thing. Alrighty then. Good news.


Someday I hope to write a sketch and give you a better picture of Luann. Today, just a snapshot will have to do. When she got in Steve's car, my life changed. Junior year of college, St. Paul, Minnesota, I had just started dating Steve. He took me to meet his aunt. I remember her getting in the front seat of his Datsun B210. Then she cheerfully started talking up a storm. Most of it went by me in a blur. Sometimes you need an interpreter with Luann. But, that day, I was clear about one thing, she is her own person.
Luann is now 54 years old. This is unusual for people with Down's Syndrome, as they typically don't live long lives. She is an exception in many ways. She is all things pink. And, she is a woman of regimen. Low Fat Milk. Diet Pepsi. Salad. And a regular counting of daily Food Groups. She has lived in a group home for many years, taking the bus to 'work' and aerobics classes. Over the years her pace has slowed, and so has her ability to flex. Steve's sister, Sue, is Luann's legal guardian. And when they come to visit, via airplane, Sue says, "It takes a village" to travel with Luann. Security check is a particular problem as Luann hates taking off her shoes and will not be parted from her fanny pack or purse. But, once through Security (with the patient help of the entire Brooks family) it's free flying ... because there is free Diet Pepsi, after all!!
Isaac calls Luann's arrival "The Luann Factor" as we all have to start talking VERY loudly, and be ready at a moment's notice to put on boots, find a certain pink fuzzy-poster marker, or provide skim milk. When I was pregnant with Isaac, we received a false positive on a prenatal test. Up until the moment he was born, we had every reason to expect that he would be a Down's child. We had two names picked out for him; Gabriel, if he was Down's Syndrome-- Isaac, if he wasn't. Obviously, he is now Isaac. But, had he been Gabriel, we were ready and willing to embrace him -- because of Luann. We all love her like no one else on this planet. We are good with "The Luann Factor."
When her Mom, Ethyle Johnson, died a year or so ago, it was Luann's loss that impacted me the greatest. In a most heartbreaking way, she will still, out of nowhere, tearfully explain that 'my Mom and Dad died.' But, equally random, are her outbursts of utter joy at being a great-aunt to her niece and nephews. Wow, she loves my sons. She is a bubbly effervescence. And, yes, she can be grumpy. There is no knowing when you have landed yourself in the 'doghouse' with her. My father-in-law, Don, spent most of our Christmas break in the doghouse because his "Check Engine" light came on at Taco Bell, and they had to sit in the car and wait for him to read the Instruction Manual "when it was dark outside!" This Luann found to be a most grievous offense. But her grumpitude it far outweighed by her unadulterated moments of true happiness -- bowling, mini-golfing, sitting on the couch. It's no matter. There is much to learn from Luann's uncomplicated joy.
The one thing I remember about that first ride with her in Steve's college car was black olives. Somehow, in the middle of so many words that I couldn't understand, we struck up a conversation about black olives. Oddly, olives are something we both love, and occasionally both put them on the tips of our fingers like finger puppets. That day, in the little brown car, Steve's love and patience with her became one more reason to love him. And since then, Luann's sweet presence has been a gift in my life. We are all blessed to know and love her.


Sledding is the epitome of motherhood. The prep of mitten hunting, snowpants retrieval and unknotting bootlaces is better now that the sledders are older. That part used to make me really crabby. Especially when a small toddler son would get all stuffed in, buckled up and zipped, then needed to go to the bathroom. Now there is less prep, but there is prep, nonetheless. "Where's my hat?" "Mom, can I use your mittens?" And then, the event. Sometimes a sledding hill delivers uneventfully easy slow rides. Other times, there are bruises, frozen fingers, head lumps, and speedy crashes. You never know. And, that's motherhood in a nutshell. Pack 'em up, bring the First Aid kit, and hope for the best ...

There isn't much snow in the Front Range mountains of Colorado right now. Our front yard only has snow in shady spots. It's been a rather dry winter. But, there's just enough snow, to make a slick ice sledding hill up on Rampart Range Road --and plenty of scary rocky patches to avoid. Woo hoo!!
This sledding adventure was a mild one -- no major crashes, just one minor twisted wrist which was better by dinner time. Here's a short video clip as proof . No spectacular money-winning crash videos happened on this day. All good.

VIDEO: Click the triangle image to start the video (below).



This is a poem I wrote last year. I admit, it's kind of abstract and odd. It was made to be like a small monument -- erected to remember a time when I experienced reconciliation in a couple of deeply injured relationships.
The word "reconciled" describes something that is re-established, settled, resolved. I came to understand it as a gift which comes only with fearsome gut-level truth. Reconciliation is all about speaking 'this is what I stole from you.' It's about naming a betrayal, violation, or loss and allowing a healing grief to happen. It's all about speaking the specifics of our sin against brothers or sisters, or God, and finding forgiveness; release from debt. In true reconciliation is peace, freedom and a new redeemed state of relationship. And for me, at the core of it really, was a deeper understanding of Jesus, and his grace. I believe it's what he died and lives for. New life. A new song to sing. Grace's new song.

‘grace’s new song’

I have no more
old words
for you.

If the truth of my former condition be told,
my tears would speak it
in a river's flow
of baited hooks and
temptation common to man.

Sin and pain
flowing down a long
slow wash

No more.

Sin and tears swept down the river.
Washed away in

The wailing of my pride


the New Song
of Redeemed Condition.

With you,

No more tears of shame

No more words of rage,


There is a spilling abundance at Jesus feet
where He gave this grace to me
Baptized in His forgiving River of tears.
for me, for you
Come up
New Song.

His flowing love and grace
so others see, fear,
find their way
to His feet
to confess
to trust
in Him.

I have


for you,

only a
new song remains.
And may this singing of New Songs never end.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in God
Ps 40:3

k. leigh 12.07

"Who are you talking to?"

The Entourage

I’ve been walking away from God for several weeks. I hadn’t even realized my direction had changed. The crazy distractions of the holidays are only partly to blame. A slow slide of my own small lazy choices was what shifted my inner compass and landed me in inner chaos.

I lost a necessary morning routine that keeps me focused. My morning meditation, my daily 'time out' is a needed sanity in my life. That time reminds me about larger things like God's ability, and my dependence. That time reminds me to open my clenched fist and release things I have no business owning. That time reminds me I'm in a real relationship with an invisible Deity. But, sleep conquered my morning alarm, and stole that time away. My spiritual start of the day disappeared; day after day, no Bible meditation, no prayer, no journal. Losing that necessary anchor in my life, I stopped listening to sacred ancient Words, and started listening to myself. I stopped talking to God and started talking, and even worse, listening to my entourage.

I have an entourage. It’s not the same as the HBO series, Entourage. Mine doesn’t involve a hot on-the-rise New York actor surrounded by his childhood friends, navigating the unfamiliar terrain of Hollywood. My entourage is very different than the TV series. But in a small sense there’s a similarity. I’m like the actor who is walking an uncharted life with his ever-present group. I have uncharted territory. I have an ever-present group. Except, I need to ignore mine.

Not to sound too crazy, but my entourage isn’t real people. It is voices. Some people call the same thing “old tapes” that replay themselves. I have one friend who calls them “The Committee.” We're all talking about the same thing. These are the voices of self-lies, old patterns, past failures, temptations, and weaknesses. They are the remnants of life-events that God has used to let me fail, and bleed, and learn.

The members of my entourage are all ‘bad ju-ju’. They walk behind me, and always with me -- like Golum always behind Frodo, in Lord of the Rings, or John Nash's constant invisible companions in A Beautiful Mind.
They pretend to be allies, but they aren't. And if I chose to listen to them, or worse, to believe them, I end-up being mean, unfaithful, dishonest, paralyzed by fear, or driven by shame. Misdirected. It's the truth. Ask anybody who spend the first part of Christmas break with me. I was listening to the Entourage, and I was not pleasant to be around.

The good news is: They are conquered. They are all weaker than me, and silenced. I am no longer a slave to their voices. God’s Spirit has delivered me from the power of my entourage, one by one. But they have not disappeared. They still follow.

In strong times, they have no audience with me. They are silent and subdued companions. In weak times, they move in close. I liken it to second-hand smoke for a smoker. When a vulnerable moment shows itself, their lighters come out, and the pipes are lit with a sweet clove vanilla smoke. It floats under the locked doors in my mind, and I smell it. Usually I’m not lured to sit down, inhale, and start up a conversation with the smokers.

But, in disconnected times, when I stop talking to God, I forget. I forget why the entourage was banished from my attention. I forget that they are liars and they do their best to derail me. And if I forget, I am vulnerable. I smell the second-hand smoke and recognize the familiar voices, and invite them to join me as I walk. I start to inhale their poison.

In a biblical sense, my flesh starts getting my attention, my conversation, my heart. In reality, in a day, that means my walking conversation is with my entourage instead of God. Which is a heartbreaking reality, especially when I think about the fact that God’s Spirit – my companion and counselor -- is right there, listening to me talk to 'the guys', and not Him. And, the fallout is pretty nasty.

My focus, becomes my self. I start seeking my own counsel, and the counselors are warped. Family issues arise and I start working it all out in my head, playing out what needs to be done, on my own. I find myself rehearsing conversations in the shower. Or, hashing and re-hashing my past mistakes, as though they can be undone. The smoke I'm inhaling is shame, and I start listening to myself about how messed up I am. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not, not, not … blah, blah, blah. Sometimes, in response, like a sick and well-rehearsed play, the temptations light up and blow sweet smoke about how to escape from all this misery. My inner reality warps like a melting mirror and life starts to feel hopeless and chaotic. I start to feel far from God.

But He didn't move. I did.

In those times, my focus and direction it’s all about who I believe. And that's all about who I’m talking to, and listening to. And the answer is as simple.

So, when I finally sat down the other day, to "time out" myself and meditate, the simplest thing shook me. Somehow, inaudibly but clearly, I heard some voice ask me, "Who are you talking to?" It felt more like a thought than something spoken. And my answer was clear. I've been talking to my self ... to the entourage. And it was painfully clear, I have to start a different conversation.

So, at the kitchen sink, in the bathroom, in the car, outside in the yard, at my in-law's house, I've re-started the conversation in the right direction. I've stopped myself, and told the entourage to 'shut it' and 'talk to the hand.' My thoughts and words are headed to my higher Power, and it has been shocking to realize the difference. My heart feels softer somehow. I have more peace. And it's just about simple attention. It's just prayer. That's all.

An ancient writer named Brother Lawrence wrote this and it nutshells this whole idea:
"I keep myself by a simple attention ... or to put it another way, a habitual silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God."
I'm not an expert at this by any means. But given the change in my countenance, even with my clutsy attempts at consistent prayer, I highly recommend it. In everyday moments when there's an inner battle threatening to take you down, tell your 'entourage' to 'talk to the hand.' Redirect your inner conversation in a better direction.
"Who are you listening to?"
"Who are you talking to?"

Turns out, it matters.


"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down."
(The Bible 'the message' version -- phil 4:6-7)

"and the peace of God that transcends all understanding
will guard your heart and minds in Jesus."
(The Bible 'NIV' version phil 4:7)