Wordless Wednesday: Shadow


I love shadow art. Doesn't this look like the Cookie Monster has come to call in my Little Woods?

Shadow photo by L.L. Barkat.



Meandering into Life


This past week, I began trying the advice I gave myself in The Gift of Sadness: spend more time in God's presence, with his creation and with people.

I spent time reading my bible out in my Secret Place. I started reading every day to my kids, a poignant and humorous chapter book called The Chicken Dance. Reading this book is a form of being with my kids (how they love to snuggle and laugh together!). It's also part of my effort to mix it up with regards to what I read (I tend towards serious things and this can get overwhelming after a while).

Also, I initiated a hike on Sunday. How beautiful is God's world, even in winter. And since I took the hike with my family, I got to watch my kids in their awe over a simple stream. They put sticks in it. Squatted beside it looking at reflections. Stepped on rocks to feel courageous. I closed my eyes and listened to the water gurgling, trickling. It was the most beautiful sound. Peace, on a winter's day.

Stream photo by J Barkat. Used with permission.

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The Gift of Sadness

Wet Ivy

Once I did a post on the emotion anger. To this day (with the exception of a blogjacked post), it holds the record for the most comments. People had strong feelings about anger. They also demonstrated fear, confusion and guilt.

From the way our culture deals similarly with sadness, I'd say we're a people who haven't embraced the gift of emotions. Instead, we're tempted to distract ourselves or medicate.

Alternately, we could see our anger, sadness, fear and so forth as gifts— signs that show us where we need to walk. Often these emotions speak most strongly to us in dreams. Pay attention, they say. I've got something important to tell you.

Yesterday I was still feeling sad. So when I went out to my Secret Place, I took my bible with me. The Psalmist, after all, says, "My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word." (119:25)

First I prayed about my sadness. "Show me what I need to know, Lord," I asked. Then I opened to Proverbs, a favorite place, to meditate on a section I've been mulling anyway...

Proverbs 8:22-32 shows us the partnership that Wisdom had with God at the time of Creation. Wisdom ends the section by saying, "Happy are those who keep my ways."

Happy are those. Happy, if we keep Wisdom's ways. I couldn't help but notice that promise. A small devotion, tucked in near this scripture, from Carole Mayhall, further expressed, "Three things will bring rejoicing to our souls: 1) God's very presence, 2) his world around us and 3) people."

Right now, I'm not completely sure what to do with this charge. But I'm embracing the sadness as a sign... that I need to find my way more deeply into God's presence, or his created world, or people. We'll see where I go.

For now I'm simply content with the gift of sadness— a sign, a fragile cone bearing seeds I need to grow.

Pine Cones in the Ivy photo, by L.L. Barkat.


This really cheered me tonight. From Blue Mountain Mama's new music space.

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Wordless Wednesday: Simple Things

Pine Needle Tracks

I love simple things, like pine needles that make little tracks in the snow. And sun that pokes through clouds to warm their path.

Needles in the Snow photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Eden Lost

Ivy up the Trunk

In Lost Mountain, Erik Reece tells a story of Eden lost. It's the story of Inez, Kentucky, a place that was literally called "Eden," but was later renamed "Inez" due to some mail routing problems.

As Reece points out, the important piece here is that the founders of Inez-formerly-known-as-Eden were inspired by its beauty, enough to name it after the idyllic, biblical Eden. Prior to this observation, he explained that Appalachia's forests are almost identical to southern China's. "Two-thirds of all the wild orchids in Appalachia are cousins to those in China," he says. Likewise, the two ecosystems share tulip poplars, mayapple, jack-in-the-pulpit, ginseng and ferns.

Today, the U.S. cousin is in demise in places like Inez. Mountains have been sheared off. Streams are dirty. In October of 2000, a sludge river came rolling down the hills like lava, burying gardens, destroying bridges. The disaster was thirty times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster but, Reece notes, the New York Times "didn't print one word about it" for months.

One resident concluded, "We're just not quite as cute as those otters."

I'm not sure why the Times didn't step right in and say something. I know that until I met Blue Mountain Mama, I didn't realize that Appalachia was being trespassed.

Some people blame the greed of coal companies, but I think it must reach further than that. We're in this together, I should think. Now the question is, who is "we"? And how do we get out?

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Comfort and Care

mourning doves chatting

Last January, I made the commitment to go outside for a little while each day. I can't believe it has already been almost a whole year since that decision. This journey into solitude, by pretty much going nowhere (just to my own back yard), has been truly life-giving.

Of solitude, Ruth Haley Barton says...

In the quiet listening and noticing that solitude affords, I am able to monitor the ways I allow [my body] to become a bit run down so it is not quite up to the rigors of meeting with the living God. When I am able to open up to that reality in God's presence, it becomes an opportunity to work together with God on fashioning a life where the needs of the body are cared for as a part of my commitment to the spiritual journey. (p.67-68)

I have always been a person who's fairly attuned to my body and its needs, but I realize that Barton is right. In going outside almost daily, lying back and looking at the sky, I've become even more willing to take moments of rest, to seek silence, and to accept that caring for my body's needs are part of the spiritual journey.

Indeed, I recently started running again, after almost twenty years of being away from it. Somehow, the urge to run got all wrapped up in the new things I'd begun to feel in my spiritual journey in my own back yard. This too has been life-giving. A great comfort and another level of opening up. Often, after I run, I find myself writing in my journal or over at Love Notes to Yahweh.

So the running then became a way back to another part of my spirit and the Spirit, thus beginning a new experience of prayer and worship. Who knows where this will take me? Next January I'll be back here to think it through. In the meantime, I pray for you: a renewed sense of finding comfort and growth in taking care of your own body and spirit.

Oh, and for the road, here's a little comfort food. Simple and nutritious.

Cowboy Hotpot

Cowboy Hotpot

Layer and bake about 1 hour or until tender, covered, at 400 degrees...

- a 1 to 1/2 inch layer of baked beans (your favorite canned, or using recipe below)
- Tofu pups (soy dogs) cut into rounds and put in baked beans
- a layer of parboiled sliced potatoes (parboil 4 or 5 potatoes about 10 minutes)
- salt and pepper to taste over top

Finish by broiling briefly, after adding...
- some cheddar, shredded, over potatoes
- bread crumbs over cheese, if desired
- a few pours olive oil

Serve with garlic bread, sauerkraut and a salad or broccoli.

Baked Beans

Cook stovetop, for about an hour or until tender...

- 2 to 2 1/2 cups soaked dry great northern beans in enough water to cover

Add and cook until thick...

- 1 TB Frontier brand "bacuns"
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 tsp dried mustard
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- salt to taste
- 2 TB worcestershire sauce


LL's Taking Care

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