Shawshank

"Hope is a good thing ... maybe the best of things."
Shawshank Redemption

My favorite actor/stage-director/writer/homeschooling-mom friend just reminded me about this film quote. And it's a fitting response to yesterday's post of perspectives about hope. This is a clip from the end of "Shawshank Redemption" (one of my Dad's favorite movies). If you haven't seen the movie yet, well, for pete's sake it's probably about time, and maybe you should skip this little segment because it'll tell you how it all ends up. But, this excerpt is a sweet reminder about the freedom that coincides with hope.
Thanks for the reminder, to Kellee S.
And Happy Father's Day, Dad.





None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.
Pearl S. Buck

Hope


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"Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will..."
From the film, 'Hope Floats'
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
Dale Carnegie
If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream. The Trumpet of Conscience, Martin Luther King Jr.

Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause. Hope is what led me here today -- with a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation ..." Barak Obama

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man. Victor Hugo

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let's live with hope. Henri Nouwen
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.
Anne Lamott

None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.
Pearl S. Buck

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.
George Iles

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
David, Ancient King of Israel

To this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Paul, Follower of Jesus
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(Thanks for the "Hope Floats' prompt, Laura.)

Maps & Shotgun








Shotgun. Not the weapon. The seat. You know what I'm talking about. It's the coveted passenger position in the car, next to the driver. Children jockey and argue for the privilege of sitting there. We have had many different ways of justly determining who gets shotgun. Finger shoot-outs like "Rock, Paper Scissors", or "Odds and Evens" seem most fair but take up a lot of time. "First One to the Car" can get dangerous as siblings rocket out of the house for the car. "Rotation" is a viable option. But it means keeping track.  And trading places each time we all get out and reload is a hassle because it's hard to remember who sat Shotgun last. The race for the seat comes and goes. Sometimes no one wants shotgun at all. But, long road trips create the greatest tension and demand. (Please tell me our family is not the only one to deal with this.)

For me, it's common to have a son in shotgun.  Over the course of many years of road trips we developed a functional system. Steve drives, and I sit in back, managing snacks, batteries, and books. My duties have changed as we have grown out of tiny people in car seats into regular large-sized people with long legs.  Regardless of what develops in the back seat, in the front there has always been a map. 

Since they were very small, Steve has expected his sons to navigate. I remember four year old Andrew, sitting in his car seat, holding a huge Atlas, charting the course between Minneapolis and Chicago. Steve would keep one hand on the steering wheel, and lean back to point out the route, patiently showing the correlation between the abstract lines on the page and the world speeding by outside the window.

Later, Ty gained a passionate love of maps and traded into the role. Last month, on our last backpacking trip, he was the navigator with a topographic trail map. Over the years, each boy has taken the “map seat,” shotgun next to Steve. And I chuckled to notice the passing of time, last summer, when Andrew was driving and Isaac had the map seat. As we honed in on the last miles of a long trip to Illinois, they bickered like an old couple. It was a delight to sit in back laughing, with full confidence that they’d work it out, and find our way.

They did work it out. We arrived at our destination because the boys know how to use a map. Steve has given them a love for knowing their course and direction --whether it is in a canoe on a river, on foot in the mountains, or in a car in the city. They enjoy seeing what water, terrain or exit we are about to encounter.  They value the map.

I'm not as much of a map fan.  But I respect them.  Maps are dogmatic and unyielding. A map contains abstract truth about very concrete reality. They assume a true north. They allow us a satellite’s view, a bigger picture of common road blocks and natural barriers in our path. They help us see, “You can’t get there from here.” They show us when we’re lost. And sometimes make us feel more lost then we were before we got the map. They help us find our way back to where we got off track, and get us headed back toward our destination. 

On trips over the years, the atlas has become rumpled, dog-eared and replaced many times over. My mind can quickly retrieve an image of any of the 4 boys sitting shotgun.  I can take that picture and morph it over many years of trips and navigation. Their growing sizes get larger and the map gets smaller in proportion. As they grow in the map seat their hands get bigger, legs grow to touch to floor, and the seat skootches back. Heads progressively get higher until they sit above broad shoulders and tower above the head rest. Always growing, always traveling beside Steve, always with a map. 

That's my picture of fatherhood.  Steve has invited each of his sons to ride next to him in life. Over the miles of our family's ride together, he has chosen to talk a little and listen a lot. I the process, he has handed them the tools of journey.  He has pointed to times when there is only a Dead End.  He has quietly redirected their course when they have been lost.  He has given them a compass for literal asphalt highways, and the less visible path of faith.   I have watched the very essence of Fatherhood happen because of the shotgun seat.  

We can't make our kids use a map.  We can't force them to choose the best course.  But, after a lot of miles of sticky seats, and travel, this I know for sure. Steve's sons have an understanding of life's True North, and the means to find their way. They will all continue to grow in the map seat until they step out on their own journeys and carry their own maps.  I'm confident, deep in their souls,  they'll always know their way home.  

And, for the record, when they all leave, I definitely get permanent dibs on shotgun. 


Backpacking


Lost Creek Wilderness, Colorado

Godspot

The Other Blog. Today's post is a shameless pitch for my other blog. I want you to go check it out and tell other people about it. 'Godspot' was dormant in May but is back up and running for the summer. It's geared to people who are looking for a fresh start with God. Godspot is about the bottom line beliefs of Jesus Following people. It's mainly a video-blog of a variety of great thinkers and authentic people of faith. It's got answers, but it also has questions, because both are important.

Sometimes it's really difficult, if not impossible, to find real answers about faith in a 'religious' setting. It's hard to step into a weekly culture that often has its own language and odd rules. Faith can be confusing. Hypocritical religious people can be infuriating. But it doesn't have to be that way. The first step is actual conversation with a friend that you trust. A friend who has a life that exhibits an honest faith worth pursuing. So, Godspot is a larger place to start the necessary conversation -- for people who don't have an available friend to ask.

A lot of my favorite time in a week is spent with friends who don't believe what I believe. I facilitate groups that are specifically for people who don't want to go to church, but do want to start a conversation about faith. I love those conversations. Because spiritually seeking people are looking for something deep and personal. My seeking friends challenge me about my own faith. And I learn a lot about God in the process. He really does pursue personal relationship with people. People matter to God. I've seen Him reveal Himself in wildly varied and intimate ways. There's a God quote in the Bible that says, "You will find me when you seek me with all your heart." It's true. It really is.

So, why "Godspot?" Some of my cool artist friends got to using the term to describe a certain kind of personal space. It's the kind of place you go when you're looking to get focused, or find answers in life. Since we live in the mountains, we'd choose a godspot with with a great view. But wherever it is, yours is a spot that you go alone, and return to; a place that leads you to think larger, to stop, breathe, and pray. That's the kind of place we named a "Godspot."

I've since come to find out, it's also a theater word. A "godspot" is a stage lighting effect. The effect is created using a powerful spotlight placed directly above the stage shining almost straight down. The light is bright white and is usually directed downwards to hit a single actor, or a huddled group, or nothing. Usually there is some mysterious dry-ice smoke swirling down on the stage and through the beams of light. The effect is meant to suggest that God is present and directly watching the scenes proceeding below.

I like to think the blog is a stage with a spotlight that suggests God is present and powerful. This Godspot is a place with a view to return to; a place to stop, breathe, and think larger... about real life faith, and the questions and struggles that come with it.


Go browse. Comment. Ask questions.
Most of all, spread the word.
Send along the link to some friends:

GodSpot http://www.godspot-entry.blogspot.com/

Today's Picture


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This watercolor artist expresses the filling of a broken vessel. The clay cracks prohibit the watery contents from being completely contained. The pouring continues and a dribbling leak becomes a cascading spill.
The spill causes the pot to fall into the water. The jar is no longer stable or upright. It begins to sink. The sinking appears to be the end of the clay jar. When, in fact, total submergence will mean its true filling. In submergence, cracks no longer have the power to cause a leak, or impede the jar's created purpose. When the process is complete, the jar is not only full, but inhabitted, surrounded, saturated with what it was made to contain.
This picture is a paradox. It expresses the uncomfortable tension that is rooted in my faith and belief: In order for a faulty physical vessel to contain something holy, something has to change. One life must be lost, before a truly filled life can be found. .
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"Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it. "
~Jesus
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Art Everywhere

When my friend Scott starts to tell a story, a chatty room gets quiet. His stories are witty, drawn out patiently, and worth hearing. He's like big ole' Grizzly Adams, Will Rogers, and your favorite cousin, all wrapped together. A few years ago, one of my sons described Scott as a "Santa in Summer." If that's true, then Santa lives in a big-timber log house in the mountains and does road trips on a huge yellow motorcycle with his wife Hermine.
People listen to Scott. And, Scott leans in to listen to people. That is probably why he's so outstanding at what he does. Scott Stearman is a sculptor. He tells his stories in bronze.

Bronze sculptures are timeless containers for our collective stories. What sculptures capture in the present, they continue to speak long into the ages. Bronzes outlive the generations that birth them. They preside over public places and whisper their history into the present. Like no other artform, they withstand the weather of time, and tirelessly ask the future to pause and remember.

Scott's studio and partner foundry are here in Colorado, but his work permanently stands and whispers in places like universities, city squares, military memorials, hospitals, financial institutions -- all over the country.

One of my favorite things about Scott's work is the layers of detailed symbolism he includes. It's like playing "I Spy" to find the embedded messages. For instance, one of his military sculpture includes details only a soldier will notice.
  • A wristwatch set to 9:11 as a nod to the New York terrorist attacks.
  • A picture of a soldier's fiance' tucked in a helmet.
  • A metal feather taken from Sadam Hussein's palace -- placed on the ground under a boot, in symbol of defeat.
  • A right shoulder empty of gear, and one knee-pad on a right-knee, for a rifleman's clear shot.
  • A wedding ring quietly speaking it's promise to someone back home.
  • And his memorial sculpture at US Central Command in FL, places a very real replica of Scott's Fort Carson model, Sgt. Amy Perkins strategically. She is now standing permanently, looking directly at the name of the fiance' she lost, killed in Afghanistan.
The stories embedded in his work are rich and varied. And he continues to cover new territory with his sculpture. We'll hear more about Scott as his next projects unfold and more stories are told.

This is what I wrote, in black Sharpie marker, on a locker door in Scott's studio.
"In this space, our friend shows us life. When he creates with clay, he makes something from nothing, truth from dirt, beauty from earth. He points us to our creator."

'True that.






















Scott Stearman Sculpture http://www.scottstearman.com/

Summer Wine




Bono and Cash.

The song, "Summer Wine," was originally recorded back in 1967. This 2002 version of the song is sung by celtic rock singer Andrea Corrs, and Bono. Bono sings it like Johnny Cash.

I've come to really like Johnny Cash. His life with June Carter Cash was a wild ride. John was the Man in Black. June was a singer songwriter. Both, were people of faith. Their marriage was a long hard walk out of the devastation of infidelity and addiction, into a tough and redeemed love. After a rich life together, they both died in 2003, just three months apart. And I'll probably write about them again sometime.

Anyhow, this isn't even a John & June Cash song. There's just something about the way the song is sung that just looks and feels like the romance of them ... only better ... in a Bono-fied kind of way. And I like it.

Heat Seeker


"The world is a lizard's furnace."
from Ellen Melloy, in "The Last Cheater's Waltz"

Now that the high-altitude weather is warming, it's pretty common to find quick little lizards basking and skittering away across rocks by our dirt hiking trails. Lizards are cold blooded. Grade school text books say so. But, reptiles don't actually have 'cold blood.' I just learned that experts use the word "ecothermic" instead. But both terms say the same thing and it all means a lizard's body temperature is not stabilized. Most of their heat has to be derived from their surroundings. Some get darker when it's cold and lighter when it's hot, in order to absorb or reflect the sun's rays. And, I find myself drawn to the lizard because sometimes I feel similarly ecothermic. I am a heat seeker.

If the world is my furnace then I am almost always trying to turn up the thermostat. I am usually cold. Even though my internal temperature runs pretty consistently at 98.6 degrees I am constantly managing heat. My friends know it and let me borrow socks and sweaters, or cover me with their throw blankets. I force my sweating children to wear extra layers because of my own inner chill. My menopausal friends offer me the hot-flash layers they have just shed and I offer to fan them in return. And, when it's overcast and rainy like today, a scalding hot shower or bath beckons me the same way a sun-baked rock calls a lizard.

Next week, our family is going backpacking for 4 days. We are all looking forward to it, even though there are times when it's really challenging work. The packing has to be intentional. The course has to be carefully mapped and chosen. Food has to be measured out and planned. And, keeping a positive attitude is perhaps the most difficult aspect of it all. Trekking out of civilization into the wilderness has taught me that the most radical and remote beauty in life is free, but hard won. And for me, the most difficult struggle in pursuing wild beauty isn't about food, or the trail ... it's about holding my heat. Nothing will ruins my attitude quicker than rain and cold. Cold is the enemy of the heat-seeker.

My current chill from the rain has me thinking about the other ways my life needs heat. I'm not talking about my body anymore. I mean the kind of inner heat that warms the life back into a soul. Lately I'm thinking about that type of inner lightness & heat. And lately I've been evaluating where I need to go to find it.
I'm the kind of person that needs to consistently time-out myself in order to be alone; "alone time" as my sons call it. After being with a lot of people, I need a battery re-charge. But there's a flip side. Too much alone time, turned into isolation, can make me feel depreesed, rainy and cold. When that cold sets in, it gets hard to move. My ability to find light slows down. I get sluggish and despondent. I lose perspective and don't choose what I need. I need 'heat.'

Practically speaking, it takes a while to figure out what small things help fan the warmth of life back into cold places. It means a watching for the places to bask ... the sun-baked rocks. These things are our personal hot spots. And, for me, they are the things of relationship. My warming places are deep conversations with friends, writing, time with my family, reading God words, and engaging God's Spirit with prayer or worship. These are things I have to choose to receive and engage. They are interactive gifts that reflect the Being who created them. My sun-baked rocks wake me up and point me back to the one big flaming Energy Source in my life. I just have to choose to be a little more lizard-like, find the rock, and soak in the heat.
So, what are your sun-baked rocks? What are the things that renew your energy, reheat your passion, and refuel your soul?

Today's thought fits into 5 words:
"Seek heat. Soak it in."


Blindsight



Eric Weihenmayer became the first blind man to summit Mount Everest back in 2001. Since then, he has gone on to climb the Seven Summits -- the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.

Last night, Steve and I watched the documentary of this man's quest to take a small group of blind children from Tibet on a life-changing journey up Everest. "Blindsight" is an honest and inspiring film. The stories of each child are captivating. And the trek leaves you wondering, "What's going to happen?" I highly recommend it. If you're a Netflix member, you can download and 'Watch it Now.' Or, put it on your list for the next time you're on your way to the library or video store and stumped about what movie to rent.

My biggest take-away from the film was Eric's description of 'the reach.' It is the time when we all, as blind travelers in our own ways, have to reach into dark and unknown places in life, in order to move to a higher place. At the point before the reach, we all have to make a choice. Is it a a point of paralyzation -- or a place of immense possibility? For everybody, functional eyeballs or not, there are inevitable times in life that feel like the only forward choice is a blind climb. Blindsight's got me thinking about it. What's 'the reach' in your life?

THE REACH

"One thing hasn't changed in the twenty years I've been rock climbing," he says. "That's the reach. We calculate and predict. We hope and pray. All our measurements lead us to believe we'll find what we are looking for, but we know there are no guarantees. It's that moment when we've committed to the reach, and we know it's almost impossible to turn back." He knows the reach can be paralyzing, but he also knows that "life is an ongoing, never-ending process of reaching into the darkness when we don't know what we will find. We're constantly reaching towards immense possibilities; they may be unseen yet they are sensed, while most people allow the darkness to paralyze them."

(excerpt from http://www.touchthetop.com/)

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Climbing Blind -- The web account of this 2004 climb is found at http://www.climbingblind.org/.

Braille Without Borders -- Tibet http://www.braillewithoutborders.org/ENGLISH/index.html

Touch the Top -- Eric Wiehenmayer's Site http://www.touchthetop.com/

Blooming

A few weeks ago, I was walking the perimeter of my gardens, peering down at brown twigs and dirt, hoping for growth. And sure enough, it happened. Green is slowly replacing brown. There is obvious life emerging in this space.

The small green explosion in my yard now leads me to repeat the blooming thought that whispered to me when the garden was only frost and cold earth. Today, if you're like me, and there is something in your life which desperately needs resurrection, the general revelation in my garden is beckoning us to believe: There is a Being who brings forth new life in old stems. It quietly repeats itself in nature as something trustworthy and faithful.

So, today I'll speak for the silent soil of a blooming garden. This I believe:
There is perennial reason to hope. God has to ability to resurrect lost beauty. He will bring life from the dirt; And this not an 'if', but a 'when.'

Happy June.