is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rose Among Thorns

In one of my spiritual journals is a story of a man in prison whose friend has a painting of a ruddy-faced, ragged clothed hobo. The hobo sits in the midst of rubbish, cans, and bottles, strewn everywhere.  His face displays the hint of a smile in an otherwise sad demeanor.  Among the shadows and grays, a snow white flower cupped ever so gently in the hobo's hand draws the eye to the center of the painting.  The hobo's tenderness protects the fragile beauty amid the devastation.  The message says:  "In the 20 years I have spent in prison amid the ruins of countless lives, that painting has often reminded me that God's beauty can never be diminished, no matter how large the dump.  I need only to look at an old man sitting on his bunk reading the Bible, or to hear the laughter of a young man talking on the phone to his family.  Beauty is everywhere, but we must put on the lens of love to truly appreciate it."

We can learn to look for God's beauty in ordinary settings. We can see God in the smile of a stranger or hear God in the song of a single sparrow.  To do so is to learn to live in God's presence daily. 

Sometimes, a rose will appear out of nowhere, and it is up to us to not only notice it, but inhale its gorgeous fragrance and thank our Creator for the beauty in everyday life.

Jessie and her foil rose - so sweet!
I have been unemployed now for over a month, but I am working several part time jobs that I simply adore. One of them is as a standardized patient at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. We portray patients with certain maladies, the medical students examine us and figure out what is supposedly wrong. We grade them not only on details of the examination, but on the larger picture -- for me, the most important image -- we test their patience, their ability to listen, their willingness to explore the cause of our "illnesses" to the fullest degree.  It's the best job I ever had, and I wish I could do it every day for the rest of my life, because I learn, and I grow, and I get paid for doing it.

Teacher's Pet, David Senatore!
Yesterday, I found a sweet blossom in the midst of chaos from someone whose middle name is "Rose."  Jessie Pennington is a multi-talented  superstar-to-be -- and a sweet lady who sings, dances, acts, plays piano and creates art wherever she goes, whether it is in music or by crafting together a rose from Reese cup foils.  

It was my first day back at the job, I was a little nervous, tried to act cool, but there was quite a bit of commotion going on, and in the midst of all the many people, students, SPs, administrators, schedules, timings, and so many other activities, Jessie (who, like me, was an alternate, a hall monitor/timer for the SP program) quietly and unobtrusively produced a flower out of the foils, the base was a binder clip, and the stem was a coffee stirrer.  It was so sweet, so delightfully distracting, we took photos and totally enjoyed it.  

Dave Dampier and I at the Green Lantern last night --
as soon as we got the fans turned on, it was a great gig!
Sometimes it takes a moment like that to re-center my thoughts and cause peace to settle in my heart. 

 Every small gesture we make in life that might brighten someone else's day is worth the effort.  That's the message I will carry in my soul throughout this week while I await Fate and Her kindness.  I'm grateful to have a job where I am surrounded by people who are generous and thoughtful.  I'm thankful to be part of a choir that is my family and keep me buoyed with the love of God.  I'm truly happy, however, for my new attitude of gratitude.  Like a mustard seed, all it took was a lovely gesture and a few days working with real people, people whose lives are dedicated to helping others to help me focus on what is good in this life, and to embrace that good, no matter how many bad days have passed. 

Sunny Montgomery& Kimmy when I got
my first uke, a birthday present 3 years ago.
Meanwhile, Sunny's picked up a ukulele,
too and she's learned
some wicked chords!  *so proud*
Finally, I would like to say a word or two about how my ukulele group nurtures my thankful spirit. We are a traveling band of musical trouble makers, no agenda, no ego, no electric instruments, just the sweet sound of the ukulele and voice joined together in unison and harmony.  We can gather at any restaurant that will allow us to gather (so far, Grey Goose, Blue Agave and Green Lantern have welcomed us, so we shall return thereto :) -- we can gather with only one ukulele being played by myself, or with other ukuleles of all shapes and sizes -- even pineapple!  My friends who attend the Uke-Fest enjoyed every Tuesday are truly good friends to show up and support my little hobby of uke-evangelism.  Being a self taught uke-aholic, I have to say that it is true, I believe that if everyone in the world had a ukulele, we would finally have peace on earth.  I didn't just make that up, either, someone wise once said that, too.  I think his name was George Harrison, ever heard of him?

I believe my calling is to show people how lovely the ukulele is to play, to spark their interest, to let them find the loveliness by exploring the songs in their heart and playing them on their own ukulele.  I teach free lessons every Tuesday in order to bring that joy to those who may not yet know how happy ukulele music can make them feel.  I tried to do that with a previous group, but their goals were different from mine, which is fine, I just want to spread the joy, not be competitive.    I don't need an electric uke, I don't need a loud sound, I just need the chords and lyrics and a few nice voices, that brings me peace.  After all, there are many rooms in my Father's house, and there's a room for that ukulele group as well; hopefully I sparked their interest before I went out on my own to share the happy with folks outside the proverbial 'box,' for folks who just want to sing along and don't necessarily want to play the instrument, for friends who enjoy the collaborative fellowship and selflessness that singing together brings to the soul.  

Thanks for letting me express how I feel, for today and yesterday and all the wonderful tomorrows to come -- I prefer the arrive in the key of C, but I'm learning new keys all the time. My chancel choir is singing the John Rutter Gloria! for Christmas this year, tomorrow night we'll return to regular rehearsal and dig into the work and start making it glorious.  Until next time, then, I shall leave you with this thought: 


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