Perception and Breathing New Life



February has always been a month of contrasts for me. The magic of the first snowfall is long gone, and the once flourishing garden is a tangle of gray, dormant branches and stems. And that lingering fatigue from the latest flu strain is getting old. On the other hand, it’s time for seed catalogs, late winter pruning, and first glimpses of crocuses. I think of my Star Word of the year, “perception,” and how one scene can trigger contrasting emotions — depending on one’s perception.

Here in Boise, the temperature has been in the 60s for the past few days, so my husband John and I picked up the pruning shears and headed for the patio and garden. Later, my mom and I savored the sunlight in our front yard. I’ve seen enough winters to know that spring always returns, but I admit I am relieved when I see those first shoots emerge in late winter.


“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22

As we approach Lent and then Easter, I am keenly aware of God’s fierce and renewing love for His creation: a love that repeatedly breathes new life into our cloudy, icy mornings, and refuses to give up on any of us. It’s a love so fierce that it will lay down its life to give new life. A love that says “I forgive you” before it hears the words “I’m sorry.” A love that says “I love you where you are right now, because I can see past the dry, dead brambles and anticipate tender new growth.”

“Where man sees but withered leaves,
God sees sweet flowers growing.”
~Albert Laighton

I pray for sharpened perception as the Creator breathes new life into our dreams. What new perspective will He show us in a cherished but stale goal? What refreshed perception will we have of ourselves? What new beginnings will he create — as only He can create — out of what looks like ashes?

I hope that wherever you are, whatever your circumstances at this moment, that you sense the promise of renewal and rebirth in the coming seasons!


Taking Part in the #WomensLives Campaign!


You may have been noticing a lot of social media posts from me with the hashtag #womenslives. I am pleased to be taking part in the #WomensLives media initiative by Public Radio International (PRI) and SheKnows media, the parent company of BlogHer. For years, I have enjoyed listening to The World and other programs produced by PRI, and I have found a great blogging community at BlogHer.

Beginning this month, the #womenslives campaign will highlight issues that affect women, including health, education, domestic violence and climate change. This initiative resonates with me in a personal way: about ten years ago, my mother and I lived in — and eventually worked at — a shelter for women and children. I found the closest friendships of my life at this shelter, and experienced the value of listening to women’s stories. I saw and experienced the economic, social and personal toll of poverty, inequality and domestic violence — but I also witnessed over and over again the strength and courage of women.

You can participate in this media initiative in several ways. You can share stories from PRI with the #womenslives hashtag on social media, for example. Why not write a blog post of your own and add your voice? It’s a wonderful opportunity to share your story in a powerful international media campaign. Bloggers who are participating in the campaign have added this badge to their blog:



Stay tuned for more posts from this blog, and keep an eye out for posts and discussions on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. See you there!

A Bunker Hill Commemoration

I hope you’l read this poem and its reflections on history from John Evans.


Ah, but the fragrance of love in the night

A gentle sweeping curve of ardor

A love gently returned, softly, sweetly

The thrill so joyous as to savor each moment

Your eyes of grateful expression, light up

As your sensitivity embedded upon my palate

Leaves me no choice but to love you so much more!

Reminiscing of the night before

A journey we embarked upon decades ago

Together, in the spirit of the great American Revolution

Boston lives because of courage, we know this!

And out from the cover of darkness, we rise

This city, all that the spirit of freedom desires, is

To be free.

To others, we marvel, and to the questions of “why?”

Have we forgotten this siege?

And Bunker Hill just fades into our oblique memories

No! I shall not let her go!

For the fear, the courage, the bravery

The victories, and loss…

Shall not…

View original post 139 more words

Climate Change: Add Your Voice



The facts about climate change can seem overwhelming and even discouraging. We see severe storms, droughts and record temperatures on the news more frequently. 2014 was the warmest year on record for the earth and its oceans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since the 1800’s, scientists have warned of the “greenhouse effect” caused by excess levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of CO2 was 150 parts per million (ppm); today it is 400 ppm.

But there is good news! A grassroots organization called Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) gives individuals a voice as advocates for addressing climate change. I recently signed up with CCL and am impressed with the in-depth knowledge they provide to citizens who are concerned about climate change. After listening to an introductory phone call, I was able to connect with local members and learn about opportunities for advocacy.


CCL advocates a carbon fee and dividend plan, which is a market-based approach to dealing with CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. The fee would help provide a truer picture of the costs of carbon-based fuels, and encourage the use of solar power and other non-carbon energy sources. Simply put, companies would pay a fee on the amount of carbon in fossil fuels, and the fees would be given back to households.  Countries that do not have a carbon fee plan would face import fees, and American industries that export to these countries would receive rebates.

According to a study by Regional Economic Models, Inc.,  the carbon fee and dividend could reduce CO2 emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels in 20 years. Air quality improvements could prevent over 200,000 premature deaths in 20 years. The study also found that the dividend would stimulate the US economy and help produce 2.8 million jobs in 20 years.

Yes, there is cause for concern, and yes, the forecasts are dire. But once again, the voices of ordinary citizens add up to a force for meaningful, positive change. If you are looking for a way to connect with like-minded people and add your voice to finding real solutions to climate change, CCL is a great place to start.

Perception: Who Says I Can’t Have Two Words for 2015?

Perception: My Star Word for 2015
Perception: My Star Word for 2015

Since we moved into our new home in Boise, Idaho last March, so many things have been new. I was introduced to a lovely new tradition at church this Sunday, as we celebrated the Epiphany, or the day that the Magi visited the Christ child.

After we received communion this Sunday, we each received a Star Word for the year 2015. As I turned over the star-shaped paper, I read my word: perception. In my previous blog post, I wrote about my focus on the word “mercy” for 2015. As a lover of words, I will gladly ponder, pray and learn from my Star Word, too!

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

At first glance, the word “perception” brings to my mind the age-old question, “do you perceive the glass as half empty or half full?”


Merriam Webster tells us that perception is

  • the way you think about or understand someone or something
  • the ability to understand or notice something easily
  • the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses

To perceive can also mean to discern, realize, recognize. The word “recognize” reminds me of the walk to Emmaus after the crucifixion, when the disciples did not realize that the stranger who was walking with them was the risen Jesus.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Luke 24:13 (NIV)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

Will 2015 be a year of sharpened perception for me? Will it open the eyes of my heart and bring the word mercy into clearer focus? Will I see Jesus in places I didn’t expect to see Him?

Mercy and perception: so I’m starting the new year with two powerful words. Stay tuned to see what these words teach me this year!

My Word for 2015: Mercy


At first I resisted the idea of choosing a focus word for this year. I was tired of resolutions, tired of words, tired of thinking, just plain tired. But one word kept showing up, whether I was listening to the radio, knitting, meditating, or watching the news. It ran through my fingers as I washed dishes and got under my nails as I repotted our new poinsettia. There it stayed, just below the surface of my thoughts.

So that is how the word MERCY insisted on becoming my word for 2015.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

The word mercy is kind and gentle, but it is not passive or easily overrun. It searches out the most difficult situations and places on earth. It teaches us to step out of our comfort zone without the need for recognition or applause.

If you have the spiritual gift of mercy, you may be drawn toward helping people who are suffering. You may enjoy volunteering with a ministry to the homeless, or you may be the person others turn to when they are troubled.

For centuries, people have pondered the word mercy:

The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalms 145:9

For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you. Psalm 86:5

Where mercy, love, and pity dwell, there God is dwelling too. William Blake

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. Abraham Lincoln

I hope that in 2015, this word will keep returning my focus to my relationship with God. I pray that it reminds me that my sensitivity to others is not a weakness. Let it encourage me to encourage others, whether I am cooking for my family, listening to a friend, or writing articles about wellness or sustainability.

As a writer, I know that words choose me as often as I choose the words. I am grateful that mercy got my attention these past few weeks, and can’t wait to see what it teaches me!


Compassion Bloggers: Precious Gifts

Image by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, on Flickr

The Christmas season can trigger a variety of memories and emotions — some bittersweet.  As we anticipate the joyful arrival of the infant Jesus into our homes, we are surprised when the shorter days darken our moods. We are disappointed to find ourselves feeling exhausted just when we are supposed to feel cheerful and inspired. We avoid much needed rest because we want to go the extra mile to make the season “perfect” for our families, our friends, ourselves.

I tend to find comfort and inspiration from nature — especially plants and flowers. I am encouraged when I remember a few facts about the poinsettia, one of the most popular symbols of the Christmas season. Its showy, red petal-like leaves or bracts decorate homes, offices and churches between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those brilliant colors are only possible if the plant gets enough hours of rest — total darkness, in fact — from September through at least mid-November.  The uninterrupted hours of darkness trigger the colorful bract formation and turn the poinsettia into the familiar holiday symbol.

I remember the poinsettia when I catch myself postponing much needed rest, solitude or quiet. I remember to honor the cues that tell me to look within, to close my eyes and retreat from the lights, the trimmings and the to-do lists. I realize that rest and regeneration — the good stuff — sometimes need darkness to carry out their work.

Advents kranz
Image by Pete Jeliffe, on Flickr


When I look within, I remember the quiet joy that comes with the first dawn of Christmas. I remember that the glory of Christmas began with a child in the humblest of circumstances. I think fondly of the child I sponsor through Compassion International and pray that the light from the Christ child will greet her early, before the sun rises on Christmas morning.

The beauty of nature brings many gifts, whether they are life lessons, pretty colors, or a bountiful harvest. Garden seeds, for example, can save a family from hunger or provide an income from crops. You can share this and other precious gifts from the Compassion International Gift Catalog with a child or family in the poorest areas of the world. I hope you’ll consider looking over the catalog.

Wishing you the light and love of the Christmas season!