Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God Meets Us Where We Are...

It’s funny how God can just stop us in our tracks. I had been woken early by Tiamo who’d knocked over the glass of water beside my bed, and first thing I was on my knees drying off all the precious books and notebooks that I keep at arm’s length. You know, the ones that mark your spiritual journey and the outpourings of your heart. The ones that are your recent companions.

As I opened the blinds downstairs, I picked up a couple of magazines and letters found in a neat little stack by the window. Oh, there’s a letter from a friend last year. I carried it to the kitchen table, punched in a CD to start my morning off with some inspiration, slipped open the envelope.

Bagpipes began playing as I stood there reading the card.

“Dearest Dayle, Thank you again so much for so many good memories, Love Laura”

Now tears are streaming down my face as these become the bagpipes in the field as we all gathered to sprinkle Bill’s ashes, and I remember Laura’s friendship that started in our little medieval village in Italy. The gratefulness as she recognized the pain in my heart, then later the delight she experienced in the spirit of love and peace that permeates our beloved Ghost Gums on the Ridge.

Yes, God knows how to meet us right where we are. He catches us in those unguarded moments. The work’s done, the deadlines are met, and even though a little tired after the late hours to achieve it, now it’s a sense of lightness. And in these moments of abandonment to him he slides his hand right inside our cloak. Softly holds our beating heart. Brushes the tears on our cheek with the other.

Where do I go today, Lord? I fall on my knees before you.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Golden Nuggets from Nashville Film Festival

Nashville’s 43rd Film Festival, rated one of the 10 best film festivals in the country, is currently playing in town, so I enjoyed a media pass with photo op to visit one of the top panel discussions today. Nicole Kidman joined actors-turned-directors Famke Janssen, Beth Grant and Carrie Preston to discuss The Evolution of Women Behind the Camera.

These four talented women expressed some wonderful gems, and gave an honest look at life as actor/producer/director in an industry where men have traditionally held the top positions. As a fellow Aussie, I share a kindred spirit with Kidman, who also now resides in Nashville with her country music star husband, Keith Urban.

Their credits are impressive. Nicole Kidman (producer and Academy Award winning actor); Famke Janssen (“Golden Eye,” “X-Men” Trilogy); Beth Grant (“Sordid Lives,” “The Artist,” “A Time to Kill,” “Speed”); Carrie Preston (“True Blood,” “Doubt,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding”).

Let me share some of their golden nuggets…

Nicole Kidman:

“I want (to work with) someone who is sensitive, so I can feel brave.”

“Find mentors. Find people who believe in you, to help you through the tough times.”

“You’ve just got to try stuff. Just keep going – it’s your story.”

“I want to play women who push the boundaries, whose stories otherwise wouldn’t be told.”

Carrie Preston:

“The margin of error is very small when you’re a woman.”

“Don’t give your power away to anybody. Now, more than ever, people can create their own thing. Just start doing it (filmmaking or whatever).”

Famke Janssen:

“I encourage everyone to explore every part of themselves. In Indie films the only thing we can do is let actors play roles they would normally never get to do.”

“Everything is an opportunity. What you do with that opportunity is up to you. Don’t let people box you in.”

“It’s really important to stay true to yourself. You have to be highly creative all the time. There is no one path to anything.”

Beth Grant:

“I try to get my ego out of the way, and seek to serve others and bless them. How can I help this actor, producer, crew tell their story today?”

Yes, and…is a better philosophy than arguing.”

“As artists we have so much energy, we can’t just have an ordinary career. We need to do so much more!”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Invitation to Live!

Easter morning is always filled with an air of expectancy. The sun’s first rays bring life to limestone walls covered in a riotous tumble of crimson bougainvillea.

At the command of his heavenly Father, the Son of Man bursts forth from the grave, fully alive. He steps into the garden, vibrant, illuminated with the brilliance of God himself, victorious!

The world changed forever in that instant. Man no longer doomed to die, but offered a joyous eternity with his Creator who expressed His love in the most unbelievable way.

The darkness of separation now fled in the light of this glorious new morning, Jesus fulfills his promise to show us the way. The only response is to follow…

As evening falls, catch a glimpse of him on that road to Emmaus, falling in step with two believers. Unrecognized, even as he explained the Scriptures, leading them through every prophecy and psalm that foretold his coming. I too have walked that dusty road, plucked ripe figs from overhanging branches, heard birds singing in the trees. Touched the ancient stones in this long-forgotten village. Entreated to stay, he breaks bread at their meal, and in that moment they see him!

Broken bread, poured out wine – his life given so that we might step with him now into that new day. Irresistible love calling us forth…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When Heaven Weeps...

When the blackness of night covers us in its mantle, hiding the myriad details that fill our waking world, only then is our soul bared.
What pains and unexpressed sorrows drift to the surface uninvited?
What demons haunt, laughing at our feeble efforts, deriding our small victories and leaving us accused and found wanting?
Do we ever really know ourselves? Have we plumbed the depths of our characters, followed the twists and turns into the labyrinth of our own soul?

A few short weeks ago my friend took her own life, and I am struggling to make sense of it. It was so completely out of character. None of the usual warning signs. A sweet and beautiful girl, with a gentle-hearted husband, and two adorable children. Her seven-year-old daughter is a dancing sunbeam, full of light and effervescence. Her three-year-old son a grinning cherub of mischief. I hear her cheery voice and see her smiling face before me. I’ve watched her grow into womanhood, strong, resilient, warm, vibrant, beautiful. Life often takes us over rough roads, and for some the rocky patches lead through dark valleys. As she stood there that night, did the demon of abandonment return in a sudden chill swish of black wings, the sharp spear of her own mother’s rejection thrust again into her heart, killing reason? Or did an emotional threat go horribly wrong?

Oh, God, how did Satan seduce her away from your love, and so convince her of her worthlessness that your soft voice wooing her heart was blotted out by darkness for one terrible moment? When heaven weeps, my heart weeps too, Lord. And how it breaks for the torment her husband must live with daily, and the loss those two sweet children will feel every day of their lives.

I received a message from God the morning after the tragedy, when reading My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. “God is making us spell out our own souls. It is slow work, so slow that it takes God all time and eternity to make a man and woman after His own purpose...It is astounding how ignorant we are about ourselves...We have to get rid of the idea that we know ourselves...The only One Who understands us is God.”

What depths there are to each of us that we cannot plumb or even fathom. We don't really know our extremities or our possibilities. We barely know ourselves. Just as He did with His disciples, when Jesus takes us alone He begins to reveal the truths about ourselves, and we discover our desperate need for understanding and redemption.

Perhaps one of the most amazing passages in the Bible is Psalm 139, where God reveals that He has loved us even before the foundation of the earth, and laid His hand upon us.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.”

A misty rain began falling the morning after the tragedy, as heaven’s tears washed away all traces of the night’s tragedy from the blood-stained earth.

By nightfall, the ground was covered in a white mantle of snow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

On the Edge of Time

New Year’s Eve holds our lives on tiptoe, breath sucked in, waiting…expectantly. Just what is coming next? We look up into the starry heavens. Perhaps we can read our future in the stars flashing like diamonds, secrets tucked in folds of black velvet vanishing into the depths of space and eternity.

Reflecting back we study the imprint of our personal history, clues to the meaning of our very existence. Lives intersected, experiences remembered, lessons learned, hearts broken and recreated by love. If we take the time to slip off alone, meditate on years past, ponder on where we are, and the journey to this moment, we may hear God’s voice whisper to us in the stillness. He is calling us to step forward bravely into the unknown, willing to leave our safety zone. How else will we experience the adventure of life?

But let’s hesitate a moment, and savor the tapestry of New Year’s Eves past, rolling the flavor on our tongue, dancing around the memories like shadowy nymphs circling a bonfire. Take your own journey back through time, and enjoy revisiting each treasure hidden in the recesses of your heart.

In my late teens, I remember the Christmas Beach Mission Coffee Shops in Australia. A week at Torquay, one of Victoria’s ocean beach resorts. During the day we played on the beaches, connecting with summer holidaymakers. In the evenings the coffee shop became a favorite hang out for young people. Music, free coffee and refreshments, friendly people offering a listening ear, and a message of hope and acceptance with spiritual significance. And then there was the drummer… I have to admit to a personal distraction! My girlfriends and I became instant groupies!

Despite the years of New Year’s Eve parties, I liked best the times we saw the New Year in quietly, giving time to look back over the year just past, souls bared, precious moments spent talking with God about the year ahead. One year several of us sat on the sandy cliffs at Black Rock beach, slightly apart as midnight approached. Personal time gazing up at the starry Southern sky. Reflecting on our path taken, lessons staked in the sand, relationships, dreams still waiting. Then resolutions made, asking God to hold us accountable.

The wedding of my best friend, Liz, was another NYE memory. Although I was a camp leader at Bairnsdale, 300 miles away on the Gippsland Lakes, I obtained dispensation to be gone for 24 hours. She and Dick pledged their vows as the sun set on Liz’s family farm, sheep quietly grazing on the hillsides. We were all college friends, destined to share many significant moments in our future. Champagne corks shot into the sky at midnight to celebrate the start of their life together.

Many years later, on one of my trips back to Australia, life’s pendulum had swung almost 360 degrees. Bill had sent me back to visit family, staying behind in Tennessee to take care of our responsibilities. Liz, Dick and I spent New Year’s Eve together, camping at Beechworth, one of Victoria’s old gold mining towns. We hiked into town to see the New Year in, and joined the Main Street throng. I bought a bottle of champagne, and we all signed the cork after drinking our toast “To Whatever Comes Next,” desperately missing Bill’s presence; once more separated by oceans and continents. Little did I know, that it would be the last time I would see Dick. He was killed in a helicopter crash the following December.

Bill and I collected our corks in a barrel in our Wine Room at Ghost Gums in Tennessee. Years later, at a party when Liz was staying with us, a curious young friend emptied out the barrel of corks and began reading them. I couldn’t believe it when Nick pulled out the very cork that Liz, Dick and I had signed on Dick’s final New Year’s Eve. I quietly handed it to Liz, the words unspoken as tears pricked her eyes.

I could speak of other New Year’s Eves, but the most memorable of all was New Year’s Eve at the Gliding Club in Benalla, when the dial clicked over to 1981. We had spent a week flying the Christmas Competition, sharing turns in our single seat glider on triangular cross-country tasks. Just before midnight Bill took me out of the dancing merriment in the theatre of the old World War II barracks for a breath of fresh air. I sat on the curb in the moonlight, Bill at my side, when he totally surprised me and asked me to marry him. I hesitated, just briefly enough to tease him. The strains of Old Lang Syne called us back inside to our friends, and we returned, most not realizing that our future had irrevocably changed in that moment. One of our pilot friends looked at us quizzically when we rejoined the party. "Is there something you should tell me?" he asked. How on earth did he know!

These are different days now. My soulmate has gone on ahead, and I am left to find my way alone. So how do I see New Year’s Eve now? The stars still rotate across the sky, the seasons still change, and life continues. Deep loss demands that we find the meaning of our individual imprint. A half moon hangs suspended in the winter sky. Its beauty now lies in the curve of its half crescent. Not full, yet perfect in its altered form. I know instinctively that God is telling me I am complete, because I am created in His image. It’s hard when all my friends have their partners to share all those treasured moments of life with, while I stand alone. But my memories remind me that I have been loved to the depths of my being, and I can be content because of that treasure I hold in my heart forever. Bill gave me a glimpse into the very heart of God.

                                 God calls,
                                 Starlight beckons.
                                 Stretch beyond your limits.
                                 Mysteries await those willing
                                 To fly

*Leave a post of your own New Year's Eve memories

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pilots and Pioneers of Dreams

I came across a fascinating admission today in a favorite poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

My thoughts are right now with my dear and close friend, Lia, who tragically lost her husband David just four weeks ago to a massive and sudden heart attack. We are kindred spirits in many ways, and I grieve with her, not only in her loss, but for all the moments and experiences that lie ahead for her, shadows that surprise with their sharp stabs, unwitting wounds, and raw encounters with the deepest emotions, tears that never seem to stop, a loss that never fully goes away.

But life is filled with serendipities, and the toast Bill and I celebrated with every breath, “Here’s to whatever comes next!” was our open-hearted embrace of the true adventure of life.

As I read the words of the poem, I realized for perhaps the first time, that I am more in love with Bill now, even than when he was alive on this earth. Crazy? Imagination? Not at all. Elizabeth Barrett sums up her soliloquy on love with this conclusion

“…and, if God choose, I shall but love thee
better after death.”

How can that be? It’s simpler than you might imagine. Now the freedom in loving is limitless. No longer distracted with human frailties and failings, or the notches etched on those superficial goalposts of worldly achievement, we are free to love our man as he truly is. The intrinsic Bill, glowing and alive with all the qualities I loved and admired so much. Dancing and fully alive in the presence of God, exploring the universes with Jesus as his guide. Courageous, sensitive, creative, spontaneous, exuberant, warm, and loving. Freed from the restraints of this earth life.

I can’t answer for those with different eyes of faith, but Lia and I both know where our guys are. Blazing new trails in the spirit life, beckoning us onward and upward. Will we be reunited in marriage? Not at all. That is but a shadow of the life to come, a glimpse of the sacred romance that God is calling us to. But the communion of soulmates and like-minded spirits may well continue in God’s eternal kingdom. What we experience here is a mere foreshadowing of what’s to come.

So I think more these days of the lessons Bill patiently tried to teach me. I was often a stubborn student. Inclined to be rebellious to instruction and discipline. I’m beginning to appreciate the finer points of his gentle coaching, his living example, quietly fulfilling his God-assigned mission to train me up to fly solo and launch off into the wild blue with confidence and the ability to make wise decisions.

The October copy of Sport Aviation magazine has an article on the 'Pilot Personality.'

Bill was the advanced version of all their descriptions. His internal clock could tell you the time, night or day, to within a few minutes. Reading the weather was second nature, and he could explain weather systems and clouds and ground fog better than most meteorologists. While filled with dreams and a continual quest for adventure, he always faced the reality of life, with a contingency plan for every “What If” situation.

‘Pilots scan people as if they were instruments; they draw conclusions at a glance, rather than relying on long and emotion-laden conversations.’ Yes, he was astute at summing people up, giving more attention to those who were genuine, regardless of their station in life.

People who talked about themselves a lot were his pet peeve, and he was never impressed with those who self-promoted. He could relate equally to a housekeeper as to a President of a foreign country. Perhaps because he treated each of them as a person of value. Where else do we read about that example?? No wonder God figured he was ready to move on to the next level.

And so I think about Lia’s husband, David. Humble, self-effacing, modest. He was a quiet doer of the Word with a heart of gold, willing to help anyone without ever asking for anything in return, and never counting the cost. I don’t know anyone who worked as hard as David, sacrificing all for his family and the dreams of his two sons.

He quietly believed in them, never demanding the moon, but always encouraging them to strive for excellence with patience and diligence. And their individual accomplishments to date have been nothing short of astonishing.

Mentoring others is a quiet calling. God whispers His wisdom in the secret places, choosing those who love to watch others grow and take flight. “Trust the wings you have been given,” Bill’s words echo in my heart. “You do know how to fly.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Stolen Regatta

I glance at the scary Halloween face in the mirror. Who invited you? – and you’re way too early, too. Puffy balloon eye, looking out through a mere slit. Frankenstein would be proud.

Let’s back up to a prettier scene. Early morning fog hovering over a glassy lake. Canadian geese drift past boats rocking gently at anchor. Trees illuminated with fall colors glow with an inner light, hinting of stories to be told around evening firesides.

The crisp air is moist and sensuous. The Wanderin’ Star strains at her mooring, eager to slip away and cut a quiet wake through the dark water on a new voyage of discovery.

Charlie and I swab the decks, easy teamwork. The white fiberglass gleams as duck poop is washed off, splashing overboard. Charlie pulls on the motor start cord, and we find the first challenge of the day. No compression on the first half of the pull. The cord still seems to be attached, but we can’t get it to start. Fortunately we’re early, way ahead of our crew. We hike to the yacht club for some advice. Rick Smith, Vice Commodore, has seen this before, and tells us what to try next. We register, grab a cup of coffee and a donut, and return to the boat. We are blessed. Rick’s advice works like a charm, and the Wanderin’ Star is soon sliding across the foggy water and ties up at the yacht club, in a good position to start the regatta. Just one of the many reasons I am so glad to have joined the yacht club. They are a great bunch of people, and offer a wonderful support network.

The new JaM fleet at the Harbor Island Yacht Club – for novices to racing and those looking for more laid back fun – has an enthusiastic turnout of 10 boats. The two other fleets of seasoned racers are asked to treat us kindly!

Dayle, with crew Cam, Diedrick, and Charlie on the Wanderin' Star
Not much wind today, but we’re all eager to get out on the lake. My first regatta in eons, a new adventure in my role as captain without Bill. Many years ago, son James had flown out from California regularly to help us race our Hobie 16 on Percy Priest Lake, but in those days I was just crew, not strategist. I had corralled a keen crew of three young guys in their twenties – Cam Cook, Charlie Huling, and Diedrick Woodard. All willing to learn and have fun together.

I put Charlie, the most experienced, at the helm so I could train Cam and Diedrick to run the sails, and we cast off. Still cold, the sleepy motor took a notion to quit as we slid past boats at anchor. Instinctively, Charlie pulled hard on the cord, and in one of those moments of bad timing, I found myself too close as his long arm extended backwards. Pop! His elbow cracked me fair and square in the left eye.

Never one to wimp out, I wasn’t about to cancel our day’s sailing for a black eye.

I iced it to stop any swelling, but a short time later, when I blew my nose, the picture changed. My eye felt sudden pressure, moved in the socket and instantly swelled shut. Not so good! Hmm, sorry guys. I think I should get this checked out. From many years as a Vet Tech, I knew that eye problems should be addressed quickly to avoid permanent damage. I needed perfect vision for all the adventures that lay ahead in life. How could I fly with only one eye?

Charlie turned the boat around, and the guys were wonderful, willing to do whatever I needed. Maybe I could go to a walk-in clinic, and be back on the lake in time to start our race. About that time the boat slid to a halt. “Oh!” Charlie said. “I think we’ve run aground.” While I hadn’t been paying attention, on entering the harbor he had missed going between the red and green markers. Certain death on this harbor entrance. I knew that only too well.

I called Gene Lovelace, our JaM Fleet Captain, on my cell phone.

“Gene. I have two problems. I’ve injured my eye and need to get it looked at. And we just ran aground and need a tow!”

This was turning into quite a day! Novice indeed. How many years had I been sailing??

Frazier soon showed up in the Committee Boat and towed us all the way back to our own dock. God bless this club! Bill and I never had this luxury in all the years we sailed the Wanderin’ Star and ran our boat charters. Frazier took one look at my eye, and declared I should go to the emergency room at Summit immediately.

My crew has a sense of humor!
So here I am at the hospital, chaperoned by Cam and Diedrick, while Charlie stayed behind to pack up the sails and the boat. I tell you, these guys are keepers. The best crew and the best friends you could find anywhere. I just hate it that they had to miss sailing in the regatta on this picture perfect fall day. Sadly, this would be no quick fix and a return to the lake. Perforated sinus, slight abrasion to the cornea, and an eye now puffed up with air like a blow fish.

The best news (in a twisted sort of way!), when we returned to the Wanderin’ Star three hours later, was that a complete lack of wind had caused the Race Committee to cancel the regatta. No-one got to race that day. We hadn’t missed a thing. A disappointment for all – but it did absolve my guilt for my keen crew. Fellow JaM fleeter, and New Member Liaison Judy Netherton, in her brand new Catalina 22, complete with her hot shot race crew and a boat load of champagne, was reportedly still out on the lake, catching the light airs regardless. Can’t say as I would do any different!

So…to another day…and to whatever comes next – if you dare!