How to Find a Slice of Peace

True confession: I am not a contemplative person by nature. I am an extrovert that is energized by giving life away to other people, interacting, listening, pouring out.

But I do need my down time, away-from-the-madding-crowd time.  (In my day job as an elementary school substitute, it is often a very madding crowd. Not only do I need time away from the crowd, I quite often need a nap.)

It is in these stopping and stilling times when I’m filled up by God’s presence, where I connect with the Source of all that I need, where I’m refreshed to give out again.
I’ve written about the discipline of listening and the power of taking a ‘Sabbath on the Page’ here and here

I’m passionate about the practice; it’s a message I will never tire of spreading because of the discoveries I made as I stopped to listen. 

However, finding the space and time for these mini-Sabbaths has become more and more difficult the last year or so.
I think it is the age we live in.
I think it is MY age.
I think there’s just.too.much of everything.

But when I’ve got a lot on my plate, Holy Spirit says, “step away from the table and take a walk outside.” The more I have to do in a day or a week, the more I need a time out, away. Even if it’s just to walk down the street or out in the backyard.
I heard a ‘sacred echo’ of that call when I read Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter #17,An Exercise in Disconnection. (Would you like to subscribe? Here’s the link.)

Seth’s book ‘Coming Clean’ was released last week (my review is here.You would think if you’d gone through the agonizing process of writing a book, spent hours and miles to talk about the book, then looked forward to the day it would be launched into the world, you wouldn’t take an entire week away from the world and go fishing.

But that’s exactly what he did. As he shares in his Tiny Letter, it was definitely the right decision.

Why? He met God there in the middle of the river and the sky and gained a new perspective about what really matters.
This is not a practice of ‘getting back to nature and becoming one with the earth.’
Trees and sky and rivers are not God.  But they speak of God. 
And we need to slow down to listen.

A line from my favorite book, ‘God in the Yard’ (L.L.Barkat), “Smallness permits attention” echoed in my brain.

“Yes! Yes!” I cried inside as I read Seth’s words.

I cried outside, too, weeping tears from the beauty on the page, God’s voice confirming, “This is still my message. When you’re too busy and it doesn’t make sense
take an intentional Sabbath and rest. Truly, my upside down ways are best.

So what did I do?
Turned my back on my disheveled Sunday house and the chores ahead piled up from a busy weekend, put on my boots and garden gloves, and walked outside to the deck and the yard.

I felt like I hadn’t been out there for months. I’ve admired the view and remarked about the birds, glanced at the changing colors of the trees as I glanced through the kitchen window. But I hadn’t actually had my feet on the muddy ground and saturated lawn for weeks.

It’s amazing what I found. 
Johnny jump ups in the garden, next to the blue borage.

A nasturtium that was still threatening to take over the flower bed.

A crumbling log turning to cold chocolate cinders,hiding behind the rhubarb.

 The parsley was still producing(exploding)

the chocolate cosmos still blooming.                                            

I pulled out spent plants and tossed them into the compost heap, trimmed back the licorice-colored stalks of the peonies, stacked rusted, wiry tomato frames.  True, this wasn’t a do-nothing, sit still kind of rest, but to me it was medicine for my soul. 

You don’t have to be resting to be restored–sometimes it means getting dirt under your fingers and mud on your boots.

I clipped the last few zinnias for a small bouquet, breathing in the fresh, rain-dampened air, slowly reviving my tired lungs and frazzled brain.

Making the steps back to our patio, I noticed spent flowers from an old bouquet that had missed the garbage can.

Mindful to ask God what he wanted me to hear (or see) I was immediately drawn to the flutter of fallen alstromeria petals that lay on the ground, speckling the rain-darkened concrete.

Bending down to inspect more closely, I noticed the delicate streaks on the petals, shocks of magenta against pale white. Laying them out in alternate up/down patterns, I took a stray yellow mum that had been tossed aside and placed it at 12 o’clock above the flowery row.

Green and yellow birch leaves were scattered in piles alongside the house and layered like decals on the concrete.  I picked up a few and set them around the petals in a kind of sunburst (leaf burst?) pattern, constructing a collage of flora fragments.

It wasn’t anything breathtaking, just artwork from cast off debris. 
A bit of beauty and order from disorder. 
Color on a cold and dreary November day….

I smiled and thought,
Look what I’d found.
(No, look what God enabled me to see because I was looking.)
Look what I made.
(this was fun! partnering in a bit of creating from God’s own Creation.)
Look what I gained.
A respite in the rain, with a view to life and beauty right under my nose (and my feet).

A God-made slice of peace in my own backyard that wasn’t buzzing or glowing or humming or Plugged Into Something.

A slice of peace….

If I can’t have the whole pie—a day or an hour—I’ll take the minutes I have—and pause to be refreshed in God’s presence whenever I can, however I can.  

Even if it makes no sense to do so.

Especially when it makes no sense.

How about you?

When Blogging is a Bridge not a Book

Log house, Plain, WA
When I christened this blog ‘Three Way Light’ almost four years ago I had a phrase in mind from Phyllis Theroux. She was discussing her newest book “The Journal Keeper”, recounting how she’d chronicled her life via journaling. (Poets and Writers, Mar/April 2010.) Theroux explained she didn’t write about everything…. but rather, used her journals as “a place to collect the light.”
It was my goal to do the same—for this little interweb space to be a place to collect the light. I wrote her an email to use the phrase in my blog header and surprise! she emailed back with a very kind ‘yes.’ Giving her credit, of course.

‘Collecting the Light’ didn’t work as a website at the time; taken I guess. So Three Way Light was born—shining, reflecting and revealing God’s light.
I poured all my wisdom and knowledge into copious posts over the months, longing to dazzle with, I don’t know, how much I knew?  So you’d all be impressed.  And want to read more.
I posted three times a week, tried to make deadlines for all the right link ups. I read blog after blog and tried to keep up.
But after a while I began to see myself drowning, flooded in All Those Words. I’m an all or nothing kinda gal—if I was part of a link up, I felt obligated to ready everyone else’s posts.  I’m all about relationships–I don’t want to go wide, I want to go deep, and it was wearing me out.
Six months into the process, I decided to whittle down my entries to once a week. (In 2012 I wrote 143 blog posts. As of this month–October–I’ve written 70–almost exactly half that many.) 

I limited myself to small, welcoming communities that would read and share and encourage each other.   I began to find a balance between living out the Gospel instead of talking about it. I worked on ‘preaching them thirsty’ as my Pastor friend Parris would say, leaving readers with a reason to come back rather than feeling doused with a Gatorade-sized Bible blast.
Somewhere along the way, the words of Mother Theresa came to mind, “Jody, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
In other words—build a bridge with your words—tell stories, find beauty, share truth. And write about what you love. What connects you to people?  What are the things you have in common? What stories are similar, what bedrock do you share? Write about that.
Yes, as I’ve journeyed through over 400 blog posts lo, these many years, God has refined the original vision I had and clarified my heart’s cry—to connect, communicate and encourage others.
My goal is not a book publishing deal—I’ve seen my name in print before—but to cheer others on to walk in their own gifts, to point others to the only Light that matters, to give them a reason to be hopeful and encouraged.
So my blog is still called “Three Way Light” but the tagline has changed to “Words.Beauty.Books.”

I found my passions had changed over time, refined from my beginning focus to what I truly loved the most.  My desire is to share words that uplift, convey beautiful passages from authors and poets you may not know and most of all, writing about books, the older the better. 

My role had changed from ‘microscope’–showing you an up close, intense, look at the world through a Bible-sized lens, to ‘telescope’–handing folks their own lens to look at the world through a God-sized view, revealing truth, beauty, good words.  

Less words–deeper friends. THAT is the bridge.
How has God changed your writing or your journey over the last few years?
Care to share? I’d love to hear in The Comments.

Pointer–Where to Find Beauty

I am on day four of a 5 day teaching position in Special Ed (3rd-6th grade) and there aren’t too many spare moments to sit at my desk and write (although the ideas are scribbled in little journals about my house).

I feel anchored while I’m sailing, but the seas have been fast and deep.

I long to keep this space one that rings of beauty and truth that point to my Jesus and to that end I would like to introduce you to Lanier Ivester She writes a remarkable piece, part one of “Creativity–Spiritual Battle and Spiritual Discipline,” about the process of writing (and all the arts, really).

Lanier’s words have stunned me silent–literally left me speechless–especially this piece, “Songless” with their glorious, creative spark of our Creator. She writes primarily online at The Rabbit Room and also has her own online place, Lanier’s Books.

Take some time to read this when  you can.

You will want to be a better writer.

You will want to be a better person.

You will want to be like Jesus.  I promise.

Lost in a Painting

     The fibrous swish, swish, swish sound of denim on denim accompanies my ears on this quiet morning. Squirrels balance lithe-like along the fences, stopping with their bounty, munching morsels in their tiny rodent hands.

     The birds are waking up, calling to one another with tree songs high up in the branches while I make my way through the woods.

     The thwap, thwap, thwap of small weeds tap-tap-tap against my shoes as they slap on canvas and rubber while I step back onto the path.  The way here is only 12 inches wide, a people-made foot path worn well on summer mornings such as this.  No grass grows in the small span, just a gravelly crunch and occasional buried pebbles provide percussion for my soles.
     I take off my glasses to rest my eyes, tucking them shirt-wise at my neck.  I can see only what’s right in front of me at my feet—bright blue laces, double-tied, gray on gray lines across the canvas accentuate the design. Up ahead is a blur, trees and shrubs, grass and flowers all mottled and muted edge, like walking into Janet Archer’s “Village Games”, a painting I recently saw.
     I’ve been thinking about calling lately—my calling in particular—and agonizing at the time available to pour into what I love—writing and ministry and connection with women. When we think about ‘calling’, God’s call on our lives, perhaps we imagine it as an ‘out there in the future….something Big and Amazing.”


There is a tension between the want-to’s and the reality of life that is just so daily. Alas, I do not live in a mansion with servants who will bring me a cup of tea when I want, holed up in my writing room with my candles and books and paper. 
     No, I live in a real world where the deck must be painted and the floors cleaned and the grandchildren tended to, the one where the garbage must be taken out and the leaves from yesterday’s storm need raking.
     Instead of lamenting the fact that “life is so daily”, I’m reminded of a quote I read about calling the other day, “Just do whatever is in your hand to do today. That is your calling.”
     I envision the world of The Painter, His strokes dabbing my presence into His World, allowing me to see the beauty and share in morning walks in his world. I also remember—I can only see what’s right in front of me today—the world at my feet. 
     The future ahead isn’t clear, hasn’t come into view, because I’m not there yet.
     So today I’ll do what’s in my hand to do, which includes domesticity of every kind, and dream of the beautiful days not just ahead, but right now, thankful for eyes to see, even with my glasses off, ears to hear and a heart that is ever bending towards truth.
What do you see?
Linking with Jen and the SDG Sisters
and Jennifer for

Art Matters-To Family

stained glass piece by my daughter Leah M Johnson
Thirty years ago when my mother was dying from cancer, she called my siblings and I together to give us some direction about her possessions.
They were few, very few.  My parents hadn’t been together for years, they’d never owned a home, there was no family silver or china, no secret savings accounts. 
However, my mother had definite plans for what few possessions she counted dear to her heart.

My sister Linda now has my mother’s sorority pin, a small silver spoon.  I believe someone got the vacuum cleaner, probably one of my brothers.

To me–the oldest–she passed on a framed original pencil sketch of a young boy holding a flower. 

She’d purchased it at a swap meet a few years after my son was born (1976) because she said it reminded her of him.

I remember the print on the wall in my mother’s Southern California apartment when we visited over the years; it now hangs in our home, as it always will, especially because of the sentiments behind it.

Art matters–to families.

In fact, art can save lives.

Adele Bloch-Bauer was the real life Austrian woman depicted in Gustav Klimt’s famous gold-flecked portrait painted between 1903 and 1907. Klimt was a frequent guest in the home of this prominent family and admired Adele’s striking beauty.
But Adele’s family was Jewish.  When the Nazis took over Austria in 1938, the wealthy Bloch-Bauers were stripped of their private art collection, including the Adele portrait and four other original Klimt works.

A year earlier Adele’s niece Maria had married Fritz Altmann, a Polish-Jewish opera singer. Maria had grown up with the massive gold portrait on the wall of their family salon, admiring it along with the rest of Austrian society. The painting was like part of the family.

After the Nazis looting, Maria and her husband Fritz were able to escape Vienna, making it to America safely and settling eventually in Los Angeles. Adele Bloch-Bauer died a few years later.

When World War II was over, Austria came under increasing international pressure to return or compensate its former Jewish citizens for their stolen art.  Over one hundred thousand families had their private collections confiscated.

Fifty years later the Austrian Parliament passed a Restitution Act which included compensation for stolen art.

When Maria heard of the new law, she asked a close friend, also an Austrian, if her young son the attorney might be able to help her. Aunt Adele had been hanging in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna; it was time to bring her home.

The 32 year old unknown was E. Randol Schoenberg, also a descendant of Viennese society royalty, grandson of well known composer  Arnold Schoenberg. Against everyone’s advice to hire a more high-profile lawyer, Maria stuck with Randy. 
The two traveled to Austria, a country she said she would never revisit. Although it was painful, she visited the building of her family’s home, reliving her moments as a child and recalling conversations with Aunt Adele.

Maria’s endeavors to bring Aunt Adele back to the family spanned a period of eight years and more than one trip to Vienna. Randy’s young life was changed forever after a visit to the Holocaust Memorial on one of these trips.
The suffering and injustice against the Jewish people pierced his own heart as well; he, too, wanted to see this family’s most precious gifts returned to their rightful owners.

Maria’s suit went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and in the end an Austrian arbitration committee, against all odds, ruled in Maria’s favor. Adele was being returned to the family.

Maria’s one stipulation for the Adele painting–dubbed “Woman in Gold” by the Austrians–was that she be hung in a place where the rest of the world would be able to see her.  Her wishes were honored when a private party purchased the painting for $135 million dollars and Adele was hung in the owner’s gallery.

Randy Schoenberg was rewarded for his tireless efforts–he’d quit his job in a large Los Angeles firm to take on Maria’s case, asking only for compensation if they won. The remuneration was so generous he was able to open his own law firm in Los Angeles, specializing in representing families whose art and personal collections had been confiscated during the Nazi occupation.

Randy’s salvation has brought life to many hundreds of clients over the years and he is still practicing law today in Los Angeles, bringing lost family members home where they belong.

Art matters–especially to families.
My husband and I saw the film ‘Woman in Gold’ last weekend (Weinstein pictures, March 2015) starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. I highly recommend it.

A good deal of my information came from this article about Randy Schoenberg.

This post is part of the High Calling Theme