Tag Archives: sunrises

Love=Noticing

It’s Valentines Week, the time of year when we become Love focused for a bit. Some people feel sad during this time if romance isn’t in the picture. That’s unfortunate and it seems far more productive to focus on just upping our love game in general.

Lately I’ve been writing and speaking about the art of noticing.  I’ve declared that in my new life part of my job description now is be a noticer.

I started with creation. I noted that the sun rises and sets daily and maybe I should just watch and notice that more.

Then I realized all of creation is filled with beautiful and stunning things worth noting. I read somewhere that when we pause notice any part of creation it is as if we are worshipping God.

In a devotional reading this week, Oswald Chambers wrote The prophet Isaiah made people look up at the heavens in order to use their imagination properly. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that it is holy and sacred. We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, and every leaf that fades. My Utmost for His Highest

Spiritual people are called to see with imagination what cannot quite be seen.  What if nature is infused with God’s unseen presence and signs? What if our job was simply to notice?

I imagine the call to notice extends to other living creatures as well. When my dog wants a pet she rolls onto her back, hoping I’ll notice. People crave being noticed and seen. Jesus was particularly good at seeing people.

Maya Angelou once said, Your eyes should light up when your child enters the room. I wonder what would happen if our eyes lit up when anyone entered the room?

I see you sunrise, sky, flower and tree.  I see you daughter, son, spouse and grandchild. I see you, dog needing a pet and hungry family struggling to make ends meet.

I see you person sitting alone or clenching your teeth in the grocery store line.  I see you person with hands and plate full.

Love doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It begins with noticing.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller, breast cancer survivor and noticer.

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Your Face is Shining

I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it. (Jack Handey, American Humorist) I agree with Jack, I don’t get it. The older I get, the more I don’t understand…like politics, plumbing or why bad things happen or even why good things happen.

I’m home today with a plumber and he’s helping me see how much I don’t know about my home’s plumbing needs. He’s telling me in big long paragraphs about water minerals and I’m wanting him to condense it to 140 characters or less. Finally,  I ordered a new toilet and he seemed excited about that and stopped trying to teach me things. Clearly,  some things I’m not meant to understand.

But, I’ve never stopped trying to learn more about faith, life and our purpose here. I don’t believe at all that life is a big joke. I do believe it is a fleeting gift. I believe some people squander it and some people savor it.

I believe the key to it all is light. Yes, light. It’s why I’m slightly obsessed with sunrises and sunsets. That whole twice a day phenomenon is about light. Sometimes I’m watching a sunrise that seems unspectacular when something tells me to wait for it and all glory breaks out. Sometimes a sunset is plain and then you look at the sky all around it in a panoramic view and that’s somehow where the color has gone. I like light through the trees, seasonal light changes, candlelight, starlight, moonlight.

Scripture is full of light images too, like it’s trying to tell us some truth we need to know. Do a Biblical word study on light and you will see. My favorite images are the ones that try to tell us about God’s light glory. Arise, shine; for the glory of God has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1 I love scripture about God’s radiance rubbing off on us like this blessing, May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you….Numbers 6:24. Read the 34th chapter of Exodus where Moses comes down the mountain after talking to God but doesn’t realize his face has changed because of God’s light.

Once upon a time, as a very young pastor working in a small west Texas town where female clergy were unheard of, I visited a local nursing home for the first time. I do not wear a clerical collar, carry a big Bible or wear giant crosses. Nothing about me says “pastor”. As I entered the facility there was a collection of residents dozing in wheelchairs near the door. One woman woke up when I entered and called me over. She said, “You are one of God’s pastors.” I was blown away. “How did you know that?” I asked. She said simply, “Your face is shining.”

Later, I was told she had dementia and not to make too much of what she said. I disregarded that advice and consider it to be one of the highest pastoral comments I’ve ever received. Twenty eight years later I remember everything about that encounter.

I don’t know the meaning of life. But I think it is about light. God is light and we are to reflect that. Whenever there is darkness we are to be light. Watch the light places and you will see God. Watch the light faces and you will see God. Watch what God does with light every day. Study it in nature and in scripture and in the ways people love each other. If life is confusing or hard or bewildering for you right now, my advice is to go toward the light. Look at it. Bask in it. Fill your heart with it. Do light affirming activities.

I’m clearly not good at plumbing, but light I can do.

Cultivating Attentiveness

I write about some things over and over. I know this. I’m writing to myself, of course. I do the same thing when I’m preaching, speaking or telling stories. I absolutely know that I have recurring themes. Cultivating attentiveness is one of my favorites. The reason I re-visit it so often is that I have not at all mastered it.

It is a spiritual discipline to attend to something. It is a sign of spiritual maturity to be awake, alert and mindful of the present moment. Being attentive and mindful also decreases anxiety, cultivates gratitude and wonder and enhances trust. Being truly “in” a moment releases good endorphins into our system which heal us and bring us peace. Who wouldn’t want that?

In my new, slower life, with my no driving, no walking too far broken ankle limitations, you’d think I’d be able to just be attentive.  I do have moments. At the beginning of the summer I declared I would now be a watcher of sunrises and sunsets. Our Creator has not disappointed me once when I sat still and watched. I didn’t know how many colors were possible in the morning and evening sky. I didn’t know when you think the sunrise or sunset is at its peak, if you just wait, it will get even better.  I’m learning.

The problem, honestly, is technology. My phone is a big problem. It’s just so temptingly distracting. It’s even good for documenting what I’m paying attention to, a sunrise, a meal, a baby… Except once you start documenting, you miss something of the essence of what you were trying to attend to.

Yesterday morning, I was on my son-in-law and daughter’s porch.  The sun was rising spectacularly. I could tell it was going to be one of those pink, blue and yellow sunrises where the sun comes up behind the clouds and outlines them in shimmering silver and gold. At the exact moment, I would normally snap a picture of it, my son-in-law brought my three-week old grandson out to me. So imagine, baby on my lap: sweet noises and stretches and precious expressions. Sun, rising spectacularly.

I was aware, and this seems very sad, of feeling anxious because I could not reach my phone for a picture of any of it. I had to actually talk to myself and say “Stop it. Just take it in.  Just be here for this. That’s enough.”

What is wrong with me/us? (I’m including you in on this too, just in case you must have a phone in your hands at all times.)

Are we so connected that we are missing life? Do we not even know how to attend to creation, people and holy moments anymore?

I’m reading a book called “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in Digital Age” by MIT Professor, Sherry Turkle.  She studies the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. The bottom line of her work is this: because of our over-connectedness through technology, we are losing the art of connecting in real ways.

She writes, “Studies show that the mere presence of a phone on the table (even a phone turned off) changes what people talk about….Even a silent phone disconnects us.”  She has more to say about solitude, relationships, education, work and parenting in relation to technology. And thankfully, she offers solutions and assures us we are not too far gone. This whole technology phenomena is relatively new, we can still correct our course.

So, I’m starting with me. I’m bringing up this issue yet again. I’m crying out for more attentiveness in my own life. I’ve designated a portion of my day to be phone-free. I’m working towards a technology Sabbath each week. I’m going to pay more attention to babies,  sunrises and the person sitting across from me. I really prefer real life and real moments, don’t you? I honestly believe that’s where God’s grace breaks through.

 

Savoring

In the wee hours of June 28, our 31st wedding anniversary, the home phone rang. With the birth of our grandson approaching, I answered it on the second ring, broken ankle and all. My daughter said, “Happy Anniversary, Mom…I think we are going to have a big present for you.” In a pure excitement fog, we packed up, and headed out of town as fast as we could; monitoring her labor all the way.  Of course, of course, of course there was a tire issue about two hours into the five hour drive.  We told the man at the tire place that we had a grand baby on the way.  His had been born the day before. “My baby had a baby yesterday, I know how you feel. We are going to get you all on the road.” He hurried his workers for us and we were back on the road in 30 minutes.

We arrived at the hospital at just the right time, about 5 hours ahead of little Keller’s birth.  We had pre-arranged that my daughter would have both her husband and myself with her during labor.  We made a fabulous team. I forgot how hard the pushing was and found myself in a full body sweat, pushing with her all the way. I have no words for how it felt to see my daughter’s strength and stamina; her husband’s love and encouragement; the wonderful work of a physician and team of nurses; the birth; the laughing and tears all mingled together; a slightly scary part where the baby had to go to the nursery for 30 minutes to be monitored at first; and his return to them, all pink and healthy.

They live in a place where every sunrise and sunset is more gorgeous than the next. I broke my ankle trying to capture a sunset  with my camera. And now, in between my sunrise and sunset pictures; this baby, picture after picture. I wanted to capture his littleness, his softness, his faces, his stretches. I wished I could take a picture of his sweet smell. At the same time,  I wanted to capture those sunrises, the pinks, the corals, the  yellows. I wanted to drink it all in because what I know now, that I didn’t use to know, is that that these moments are fleeting and so unspeakably beautiful.

Two days after his birth, I found my daughter in tears. She said, “He’s growing too fast.” I had no words of wisdom. None. I was looking at a grown young woman, a mom, who I just gave birth to myself. Our tears mingled as I said, “I know.”

I know we are to savor. I know we are to be grateful and in the moment. I know real moments are better than I-phone ones. But, wouldn’t it be so sweet if we could just pause  on the beautiful holy moments just a little bit longer than all the others? God is so good.

Twists, Turns and Fractures

The last two weeks and two days have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions, transitions and unexpected events for me; one right after the other. 16 days ago, my siblings, dad, nieces and I sat with my mom as a team of medical professionals officially diagnosed my mom with Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve never had expected news hit me so hard. After my family left, I sat in the lobby, taking in that news. As the tears flowed, a very nice stranger/angel comforted me.

A few days after that I preached my last sermon in a church I have served since 1996. That afternoon, as thunder rumbled and rain poured, I packed up my office and moved out. When I left my keys, I realized that I was down to only a car key now. Leaving was my choice. I am acutely aware that my mom needs me; our daughter is expecting her first baby 5 plus hours away; our son is about to be a high school senior. It is a season of family.

I escaped to friend’s empty lake house for a few days. A couple of days into that, my daughter called and said there were some signs the baby would be here earlier than his due date. I packed up my journals, books, magazines and lake wear and headed home. A day after that she called again and said, “Yes, I think it will be soon.”  I packed up again and headed to her home.

Earlier in the week, at the lake, I had decided that part of my new life would be to be someone who paid more attention to sunrises and sunsets.  Once I started noticing them, each one was more  beautiful than the next.  At her home, Sunday night, I stepped off the porch to take a picture of a pink and coral sunset…my step landed in a small hole and I went down; my ankle twisting and turning in a most unfortunate way.

At the ER, the doctor delivered the news; it is fractured.  As I cried, my daughter reassured me “Someday this will be funny.  It will be funny.” More stranger/angels comforted me. For five days I was unable to bear weight on it; rendered helpless where I was supposed to be helping. My 9 months pregnant daughter picking up prescriptions and feeding me.

In between all this, the tragedies in Orlando; the news from Great Britain…all too much to take.

This morning, back home because now it seems baby will not come before his due date about 10 days away, I melted.  I cried for my mom. I grieved my job and my one key. I sobbed over my new state of immobility and helplessness. I worried aloud that the baby would come before I could be helpful.

Later, a specialist looked at the fracture and delivered several pieces of good news: no surgery! I could wear a boot and bear weight! I could travel! I could have stronger pain meds!

What have I learned in the last 16 days? It is okay to grieve the twists, turns and fractures of life as they are unfolding. Sunsets and sunrises are still worth noting. Life can change on a dime. We should all appreciate when our two feet work.  Watch out for small holes. Let stranger/angels comfort you. Let others help you. And, thank God for a baby who is sweet enough to stay right where he is until his Mimosa (that’s my grandma name) can heal a bit.