Archive for April, 2013


26 Tuesdays: James Mattioli


Note: It is sad that, as we celebrate the lives of those lost at Sandy Hook Elementary, there are many more lives lost because of the tragedies in Boston and West. As we do acts of kindness for these victims, let us also do good in memory of those lost through these more recent events. And most of all, let us reach out to those who may be feeling left out or victimized by our society so that future tragedies like these stop happening. We must encourage better thinking!

Last week’s 26 Tuesdays honoree was Ana Marquez-Greene. Ana had a great voice and her brother played piano and her dad was a jazz musician. Music is a big part of our family life as well. So, this week I decided to make a contribution to one of my favorite schools and their jazz education program.

So, that puts our count at 30 so far. What did you do for your act of kindness this week? I hope to take our tally and submit it to the 26 acts FB page when we have featured all 26 victims here, so be sure to let me know that you participated.

Today’s honoree is James Mattioli. Here is what CNN had to say about James:

James Mattioli, 6
As he was quick to remind everyone, James was 6 and 3/4. “He loved to wear shorts and T-shirts in any weather and grab the gel to spike his hair,” his family said in a loving obituary. “He would often sing at the top of his lungs, and once asked, ‘How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?'” Indoors, he spent his time playing games on the iPad — especially the lawn mowing one. Outdoors, he loved to dive off the diving board, “swim like a fish” in his grandfather’s pool and ride his bike — without training wheels, mind you. “I need to go outside, Mom. I need fresh air,” he would often say. He was born 4 weeks early — because he was hungry, his family joked. James had a voracious appetite. His favorites? His dad’s egg omelets with bacon, and his mom’s French toast. He looked up to his older sister, wanting to do everything she could. “They were the best of friends, going to school together, playing games together, and making endless drawings and crafts together.” The boy, whose his family fondly called “J,” will be incredibly missed, they said.Tomorrow’s Post: Absolutely…


Word of the Week: bosky

Picture picture

Picture picture

Last week’s word was nepenthe. Can I just state, for the record, that it was darn hard to come up with definitions for nepenthe??? How about you? Did you think it was difficult, too?

The real definition of nepenthe is as follows: a potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow. Apparently, I need a nepenthe for my inability to define nepenthe. Maybe I just need more coffee? There’s always room for more coffee, right? (Kinda like that one dessert Bill Cosby used to promote!)

Today’s word is bosky. I chose it because we live near a river (In our town it more resembles a stream or brook.) with a similar name. I expect to see a lot of comments from my local readers on this one.

bosky: (ˈbäs-kē) 1. a brook or stream pretending to be a river. 2. an overfed duck that stalks walkers/runners as they train for the next long-distance run/walk beside a brook or stream pretending to be a river. 3. a key belonging to a boss

What are your guesses for bosky?

Tomorrow’s Post: How did you honor Ana?




When East Meets West…


Eighty miles to the east
Lies a little town named West
And it’s no longer known for kolaches
It’s been drastically put to the test.

A tragedy befell them
Two days after big bombs blast
So many looked eastward
While neighbors and friends stood fast.

Not because we had no mercy
For those suffering in the East
But because our neighbors were in danger
And that means provide a feast.

And bring in lots of blankets
And scores of other things, too
Because you never know what your neighbor needs
And you refuse to give the devil his due.

And if that means you need
To donate something red
You rush to the nearest bloodmobile
And wait while you scratch your head.

For sadness is just sadness
And tears are all just tears
When tragedy strikes your town
And “front-and-centers” all your fears.

So, as we help our Texans
May Bostonians realize this
We feel the pain of your losing
And are ready to regain patriotic bliss.

Not just for this tiny place in Texas
But for runners and doctors and volunteers
Who rushed forward into “battle”
When tragedy took our peers.

Tomorrow’s Post: I need a nepenthe…


It’s All About the Splash…

Water Punch


When I was a teen, I was fortunate to live in a condo complex. It had a rather nice pool where most of the complex’s teens hung out during our summer vacations. Every once in a while, we would collectively get a penchant to do cannonballs off the diving board until we could do them no longer (either that or the pool closed for the day). I was deceptively good at them, despite my small, slim profile, knowing that angle, speed and determination could yield a respectable splash. Our series of perfectly tanned, perfectly attractive lifeguards would warily eye the sizable guys preparing to unleash whale-sized splashes and I would sneak ahead of them and generally shock the distracted guard with a decent amount of chlorine-blue water. I have to say this little sneakiness delighted me, but probably irritated the stuffing out of our heated lifeguards….but, they needed cooling off (at least that was my excuse)!

That is often how I view the joy that comes from being a blessed Christian. If we are fully blessed by God, our joy should spill over, maybe even SPLASH over, into the lives of the people around us. It should come naturally, almost like breathing. If it isn’t, most likely something is amiss that needs addressing: grief, fear, fatigue, a really big “ouch”, anger, frustration or confusion.

Whatever it is, it boils down to one simple question: Do we recognize that God is there with us to direct us, heal us, encourage us, strengthen us and guide us back to that splashy kind of joy?  And then…we have to live in that trust and get on “the diving board” and take one huge running leap at God-directed, God-infused abandon and let that splash onto other people. Is that always easy at first? Nope. It takes a lot of practice, and sometimes we fail at the big splash. But, even practicing can be fun when done with those who enjoy jumping off the diving board with us.

So, as we go about our days, may we “jolt” others into knowing that God is all around us.  May we delight in when these others notice the “splash.”  Don’t forget your beach towel. Maybe bring two…for your favorite “life-guard”. 🙂

Tomorrow’s Post: West is eastward…


Slow Reader Thursday: Live!


I encountered Christal N. M. Jenkins (the author of Live!) at my first writer’s conference in Portland, OR. If you’re depressed, she is the “medication” that doesn’t require a glass of water or swallowing a pill. Christal’s smile, alone, will raise your spirits. It’s a smile that has known a lot of pain and hardship and yet, refuses to give into “the darkness.”

She taught a learning-loaded seminar for new writers and I learned a lot from her well-organized presentation. Even more impressive is that she didn’t refer to her notes (At least that’s how it appeared to me.). But, as she alluded to surviving some serious health issues, I felt myself identifying with her story more and more.

Thus, I purchased her 2nd book, Live! In Live! she recounts losing a job that gave her a fair amount of status and deciding that she would succumb to the call to preach. Even though she felt she was doing just that, she began having scary health difficulties. This was made even more difficult by her hectic schedule of traveling and speaking and volunteering. One is often at the mercy of others for transportation and not knowing where hospitals are while traveling.

Eventually, Christal was hospitalized and a diagnosis was found. And yes, I have suffered Christal’s illness. But, that is not the point of her story (or mine). The point is that we, as Christians, are to speak life to others and live. How does one speak “life”? Have you heard of the Bible? 🙂 I confess that I often don’t enjoy memorizing Scripture, but when I do force myself to do so, it usually comes in very handy when talking with others who need some encouragement.

Christal felt she was being directed to Ezekiel’s description of the “dry bones” during this period of her life. And on pages 49-54 she deftly lays out what the “dry bones” of our lives could look like: unemployment, fear, tragedy, etc. As she does so, she reminds us that God’s word can handle where we are in our lives and give new life to those “dry bones,” whatever they may be.

Point to Ponder Challenge: What are your “dry bones”? How can you speak “life” back into them and get moving again? Does someone else need you to speak “life” to them? What can you do today to help that process along for them?




Think You Don’t Have What It Takes to Change the World? Think Again…

dirty hands

Warning: Get 2 beverages first.

Last week our country suffered a number of “setbacks.” Honestly? We were besieged! Fortunately for me, I spent the weekend with some long-time friends for the first time in too long a time. A lot of laughter and fun times ensued that ministered to my beleaguered soul. But, this is no ordinary group of friends. Let me explain:

When the PH and I were newlyweds, we moved to Charlottesville, VA. Hungry for a church home where we could grow spiritually and serve joyfully, we “landed” at Trinity Presbyterian Church. Trinity is enormous–at that time there were 3 services on Sunday morning and two of them were Standing Room Only after the initial 1000 seats were occupied by the “early birds.” Thus, Trinity had a very good “plan” for how to help new members feel welcome and connected in their midst. Through their “plan” we met two other newlywed couples who invited us to be a part of a weekly Bible Study group.

This was no ordinary Bible study group–we made it a priority in our schedules and promised that what was shared in this group would remain in this group…forever. We studied Christian books, books of the Bible, gifts of the Spirit…you name it…we probably studied it. We openly prayed for each other’s specific prayer concerns at the end of each meeting. There was 1 other ingredient–we ate–a lot. 

Soon others asked to join us. We were honored to do so. We started putting together impromptu “potlucks” at each other’s homes after church (probably because we were all too broke to go out to dinner then). Then, we started renting VCR‘s and watching movies together periodically. Eventually, we even trekked to nearby ski lodges and Christian festivals to further our walk with the Lord and each other.

This all led to wanting our group to be a “force for good.” But, how do broke people do that, really? We did our best with what we had. We were young and energetic and so we volunteered to be “the muscle” for various people…when they moved…when they worked on projects at church, etc. We prayed that God would use us.

Soon, some of us were forced to move away from the Virginia area because of job changes. This was quite difficult for us since we knew God was at work in our group in a very real, Twilight-Zone kind of way. We thought of each other as family by this time. But, we made the transition faithfully.

As I sat around the dinner table with these friends this past weekend, all of us grayer, heavier, and wrinklier, I realized that God answered that decades-old prayer of ours–we have been a force for good and God has used us…each of us in his or her own unique way. I don’t know everything we’ve done over the years, but here’s a “smattering” of what has transpired since the early 1980s because of our little group:

1. Preaching in Africa

2. Sending medical supplies to places where governments don’t want that to happen

3. Training native preachers in other countries

4. Welcoming international students into our country

5. Helping those with small wedding budgets realize the wedding of their dreams

6. Helping disabled people get services in areas that are under-served

7. Designing new seminary buildings

8. Feeding local children who don’t have enough to eat

9. Spreading the word about hunger needs to other community groups

10. Teaching confirmation candidates and Sunday school

11. Singing/playing in praise bands and furnishing worship for youth retreats

12. Raising funds for medical research

13. Conducting medical research

14. Caring for our aging parents (sometimes the spouses, too!) and eulogizing them respectfully

15. Raising 17 energetic, spirited children and even grand-parenting them, in some cases

16. Counseling those who are struggling

And because we all have offspring now that are rapidly growing up and making their own path, they have:

1. Shared the Good News with those who haven’t ever heard it around the globe

2. Sung/Played/Run sound for praise and worship bands

3. Designed and led youth retreats based on popular movies and how they might tie to the Gospel

4. Helped those with communication problems communicate better

5. Ministered to disabled children while they attend camp

6. Become Christian camp counselors

7. Taught VBS creatively

All of this resulted from 12 people with a passion to help. Notice that it didn’t really happen until we had to “disband” and spread out across the country. We did it as individuals, couples and families.  And we used our individual talents to God’s advantage. We didn’t try to be something we’re not–we were ourselves as we did it. And it wasn’t all that difficult…we just responded to what God asked us to do as often as we could.

And we are not slowing down…in fact I think we’re only getting started.

So, when politics, poverty, violence and tragedy seem to permeate every part of your life, I want you to remember the prayer of 12 young adults back in 1984.  Permeate “darkness” with the light God has placed inside you. Be a force for good. What is God asking you to do today?



26 Tuesdays: Ana Marquez-Greene


Last week’s 26 Tuesdays honoree was Jesse Lewis who loved math and horses. My niece also loves math. So much so that she is majoring in math in college. She also has a tremendous heart and has already ventured to Russia to help at the plethora of orphanages in that country. This year she is venturing to the Middle East in the  hopes of making connections between her culture and the Muslim student culture there. Honestly, it scares me some. Things are rather volatile in the Middle East on a good day! But, since she’s my niece and since she’s trying to bring some “love” to a culture that often doesn’t love us, I have to be a supportive aunt. Yes, a check went towards her travel expenses to make this trip possible in memory of Jesse.

That puts our count at 27 acts of kindness to date. What did you do to honor Jesse?

This week we honor Ana Marquez-Greene. Here is what CNN had to say about her:

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
“One, two, three, ready and go,” Ana counts down in a homemade video provided to CNN affiliate WTIC.The girl in pigtails stands in front of a piano as her brother plays. Her voice is clear, bigger than her size. Ana smiles and waves.Her father, Jimmy Greene, is a jazz musician. His representative released a statement on Ana’s death, describing the little girl as “beautiful and vibrant.” 
Let me know if you participated this week. You can submit a comment below or send me an email. Thanks!

Word of the Week: nepenthe

Picture picture

Good morning, Word Lovers! Last week’s word was provenience and the PH knew this word and emailed me to guess it. (It’s so annoying when he’s right.)

Provenience means origin or source, particularly as it relates to the ownership of works of art. I knew it sounded familiar to me, but I just couldn’t retrieve the meaning from my rusty old brain. So, if you, like the PH, had it on the tip of your tongue, congratulations for not needing rust remover.

Today’s word is nepenthe. Let’s see if the PH can get 2 in a row. Here are my silly guesses:

nepenthe: (nə-ˈpen(t)-thē) 1. doing a pentathlon completely on your knees. 2. the repentance that comes when you deliberately lisp around someone who stutters 3. how one speaks after taking crystal meth (Sorry…the counseling background crept in here.)

What are yours? I love to hear what you think, so submit away. (No fair cheating!)

Tomorrow’s Post: What did you do to honor Jesse?





For Boston…


How do we put in words

The feelings in our gut

About the tragedy in Boston

Where runners usually strut?


How do we solve this illness

In the heart of so many minds

That thinks that violence

Is the best way to help mankind?


I cannot see the end

To terror on innocent lives.

The problem seems voluminous,

With too many forces and drives.


It doesn’t matter what the weapon

When young life’s blood is shed,

Evil is just evil

And something we all dread.


But one day Light will shine

Right down into all our hearts

And save us all from weakness

That causes disintegration into parts.


And Light knows no darkness

So none of us can hide

We’d better be ready to answer

For what we think is pride.


For Light only acknowledges

One simple little truth,

That Love is the only answer

That’s ultimately and completely  bomb-proof.


Monday’s Post: Is provenience related to convenience???


Lessons Learned Because of Kim…

woman's hat

Warning: Get 2 beverages first.

Special Note: Once again, I am editing this as I reel from the horror of what has happened to West, TX, just 81 miles from my home. Please pray for healing and all resources necessary to combat this tragedy.

Note: Today is a tough day for me. My good friend, Kim, used to celebrate her birthday on this day. Those of us who were privileged to know her and love her still miss her helpful presence in our lives. This was first written after her memorial service in early 2010, after Kim passed away from Stage IV breast cancer, at the age of 51 (It may help to read last Wednesday’s post first!):

You knew it was coming, so buck up, grab your hanky if you must, grab a beverage while you’re at it, and then read on…it’ll be okay.

1. 98% of women diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer survive for at least 5 years. That statistic went up 3% since Kim was diagnosed.

2. 15% of women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer survive for 5 years. The average length of time a Stage IV breast cancer patient lives following diagnosis is 2 years. Kim lived 2 years and 3 months after diagnosis at Stage IV.

3. The Susan G. Komen organization has funded nearly all of the studies that have led to huge breakthroughs in breast cancer research over the last 30 years.

4. 410,000 breast cancer patients will die this year and every year and yet, breast cancer is not the # 1 killer of women. Heart disease is, but even though I have a personal vendetta against heart disease, it never took my best friend away from me. In comparison over 200,000 people passed away one time from an earthquake in Haiti. Just sayin’.

5. A real friend tells you when you aren’t thinking correctly.

6. A real friend reminds you that you are worthy of respect, honor and love when it seems like the whole world is against you.

7. A real friend loves your kids even when you’d like to smack one of them upside the head and reminds you why you love them, too.

8. It is a privilege, an honor and a learning experience of the highest order to be Kim’s friend.

9. I can’t drive down or up Hwy. 281 (the highway that led to our certification classes) anymore without bursting into tears.

10. I’ve permanently lost my I-ness. (This is something only she and I understand—sorry—you had to be there!)

11. You can solve all the problems in the world on a round trip on a Saturday morning to work on your mutual certifications.

12. The PH is the one to consult for the perfect prom dress.

13. I cannot walk past the Engineering Technology building at our local university without looking for my Scottish stiff upper lip. Unfortunately, my assigned GA parking spots are right beside it. Thank you so much, University Police.

14. Do not take 2 helicopter moms to Texas Tech for new student orientation.

15. I will miss “I need therapy” distress IMs.

16. Roasted red pepper hummus dip should be its own food group, as should homemade guac and Texas caviar.

17. If you want some AD deviled eggs at Thanksgiving, get there early.

18. If you want AS Derby pie at Thanksgiving, do the dishes and stick close to the dessert table.

19. Never introduce 3 husbands to another fryer.

20. No food is safe from the fryer when the above 3 are in the same vicinity.

21. Normally uncommunicative males will yak more than women when deciding what to fry for Thanksgiving. Cell phone bills will be demonstrably higher and they will blame that on their teenagers.

22. A USA and a USDA has nothing to do with a government or a governmental operation.

23. Our little town lost their “hostess with the mostest” on January 26, 2010.

24. You don’t love your family and friends..…you lurve them.

25. I now know that the women that Kim loved were all uniquely special women.

26. There is no family like the Big Family.

27. I should not cough in the presence of my Big Family Children…unless I want to catch up with my doc soon.

28. Cookies are not something you eat, but they’re just as sweet.

29. Hydrocolloid Band-Aids are my friend.

30. Moleskin and a pair of scissors are better than chocolate. (Yes, I said that.)

31. Snoozing on a bed of acorns can actually be therapeutic.

32. There is no garage sale like a Kim’s Krew garage sale.

33. My buddy, Peggy, can hang clothes faster than Superman.

34. The real steel magnolias live in my town and there’s a slew of them.

35. Kim’s daughter is meant to be a nurse…all you had to do was watch her interact with her mom to know that.

36. No one loves a mom the way my AS loves his mom and she knew it and loved that.

37. No one loves a woman the way Kim’s husband loved his wife.

38. A wife and mom can reduce two seminary-trained ministers to “reaching for adequate words.”

39. No one loves youth the way our former youth director loves “her kids.”

40. No one loves a daughter the way my  adoptive parents loved their daughter.

41. Your biggest problem when a family member dies in in our town is how to deal with overwhelming expressions of love.

42. The tears at her funeral are enough to make me seriously think about investing in Kimberly Clarke.

43. The PH  does know how to cry after all.

44. The eldest DS has a very long memory.

45. The DD identifies with her sister all too well.

46. The youngest DS would rather go to a funeral home than play percussion.

47. I am very angry…but not at God, as some might think, but at a disease that has the temerity, the audacity, and the insolence to think that it can take my buddy away from us and think it will survive much longer on this planet.

48. I look like heqq after I’ve cried for 24 hours straight. Yes, 24 hours straight.

49. I now know the importance of telling my friends I love them and overcoming my stoic Scot side to give them a hug.

50. Her death does not go unnoticed. From now on there will be donations and other forms of support for those I know who continue to wage war on this vicious disease.

51. Breast Cancer: You’re gone…you just don’t know it yet. Do not mess with me or those she loves. Do not mess with our Big Family.

Tomorrow’s Post: Poetry Day!