Learning to think on your feet: Cymbal Kid, Autism, and the Family that Makes Us

Andrew "Cymbal Kid" Pawelvzck with our Son Nishanth
Andrew “Cymbal Kid” Pawelczyk with our Son Nishanth

A Friend of the Family, Andrew the Cymbal Kid

One week ago my son’s best friend Andrew Pawelczyk (Pa-Vel-check) was thrust onto an international stage–he is the YouTube sensation “Cymbal Kid”.  A month ago during the last middle school band performance, Andrew, an accomplished drummer who usually plays the “quad” 4 drums, was asked to play the cymbals.  I was sitting dead center with my husband and daughter while our son sat in the trumpet section at first chair.   Continue reading “Learning to think on your feet: Cymbal Kid, Autism, and the Family that Makes Us”

In the Presence of Giants– Neuqua Valley High School Baccalaureate Speech

This Redwood reminds us that we must learn from the Giants who have come before us.
This Redwood reminds us that we must learn from the Giants who have come before us.

Giants of Our Time

We are a people gathered together today, in this place, in this time, to reflect, to imagine, and to step forth into a new future where we are called to a greater purpose by a God under whose Divine eyes watch over us on this day.

This same Higher Power that has watched over, guided, inspired and led the Spiritual Giants of our faith Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Rama, Buddha, and the great Gurus, on whose shoulders we stand today—this same Higher Power watches over us.  That same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation lives and dwells in you, our graduates. Continue reading “In the Presence of Giants– Neuqua Valley High School Baccalaureate Speech”

My Blooming Garden (Part 2): The Fragrance of God

Lean in to smell the perfumed fragrance of this red rose.

The Garden is Ablaze with Color

These days my garden is blooming with color-reds, pinks, yellows, and especially purples.  These warm days of June bring such bountiful beauty I can sit in my rose garden for hours contemplating the mystery of God’s creation around me.  The tomatoes have not yet formed.  The eggplants and peppers are hopeful flowers blossoming on young plants in delightfully cool mornings awaiting the buzz of bees to bear their fruit in fall.  The basil is reaching upwards toward the sun, not yet ready for my Friday pizzas.  It is here with the sun on my face, sitting at my garden table, with the breeze dancing among leaves of the cottonwood trees that I feel at peace, a sense of ONENESS with God and the world.  This is sacred Sabbath time. Continue reading “My Blooming Garden (Part 2): The Fragrance of God”

My Blooming Garden (Part 1)–Thinning Seedlings & Making Space

After three years my blackberry bush is producing fruit.

The Garden Teaches us Life Lessons

The garden teaches us many things about life.  It teaches us about patience.  It takes time for a blackberry bush to grow, to flower and to produce fruit.  My blackberry bush is three years old and I think this year I may harvest 20-30 blackberries.  Last year we picked 4.  Another lesson the garden teaches us is discernment.  We must learn to distinguish between plants that will produce food, and plants that will not–of course I am referring to weeds!  If we allow the weeds to grow, they will choke out the young tomato and pepper plants.  These two lessons are fairly obvious.  The third lesson the garden teaches us is a much harder lesson. Continue reading “My Blooming Garden (Part 1)–Thinning Seedlings & Making Space”

Seeking God in Gardening

A large fragrant red rose was the first to bloom in my rose garden this year.

Come to the Garden Alone

How do you get in touch with God?  When do you experience the feeling that you are dwelling within a sacred moment?  There are many ways that we can access the Divine.  Some people experience the sacred in cathedrals and churches; others experience the holy in the smile of a newborn baby; still others in the quiet time of prayer.   For me, I experience God in the midst of ordinary every day experiences with my family at home, at the beach, and especially in my garden.  My granddaddy—my mother’s father—was a Wesleyan Methodist Minister back in the day.  As I am writing this post, in my mind I can hear his strong vibrato tenor singing the hymn, “Come to the garden alone.”

I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses.

 

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,


And He tells me I am His own;


And the joy we share as we tarry there,


None other has ever known.

A Morning Ritual 

What brings me to my garden every morning?  Continue reading “Seeking God in Gardening”

The Gift of Water: Every Drop Counts! 12 yr old raising $10,000

In honor of Earth Day and her 12th birthday, this week’s blog is written by our daughter Nandini.  Last April at 11 years old she began fundraising to build clean water wells for kids in remote villages.  This is her second year and today she shares her story of the Well India Project.

Nandini is on her way to raising $10,000 to build wells for kids who need it most.

Join me in giving the gift of clean water to people who need it most!

Hi!  My name is Nandini and I am celebrating my 12th birthday this month and you can help me give the gift of water.

Last spring, I had an epiphany.  Everyone wants to do something to help people, and I had just figured out what I wanted to do.  It felt like God was sending me a message, and it came in a funny way.  I got my message in a catalog. Continue reading “The Gift of Water: Every Drop Counts! 12 yr old raising $10,000”

Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.

A community of blossoms on a tree signal the beginning of spring.

Spring inspires us to take on new Adventures.

As the season of spring erupts all around me in the blooming tulips and blossoming trees, I am hearing about people starting new adventures as well.  Several of my pastor friends are starting new congregations, and others are teaching historic churches how to create new life.  I have friends who are beginning new jobs after long periods of unemployment, and others who are moving into new companies with new responsibilities of leadership.  Each of us at some point will enter into a new environment and begin the work of creating a community within.  Whether we are involved in new church starts, new jobs, or starting a new venture, I have been thinking about the questions,  “How do we create a new community?”  and “What makes a community sustainable?”

An experiment in creating a community: a tropical fish tank

Our daughter won a goldfish at a county fair two years ago and remarkably it was still alive at Christmas.  As her parents we decided that she was mature enough to have a tropical tank as her Christmas present.  For five months now my daughter and I have been hard at work creating a tropical fish tank of community fish.  In a very tangible way this experiment in creating a tropical tank has my daughter and I discussing how to start a community, what makes up a good community, and how it can sustain itself. Continue reading “Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.”

When Cancer Strikes the Family: Turning Adversity into an Adventure

What do we do when we hear the news "you have a tumor?"

Be strong, and let your heart take courage.

These are powerful words.  How do I let my heart take courage?  So often there are times when the news is so overwhelming that we are filled with fear and trembling especially when we hear the words, “You have a tumor.”  How can we take courage in those times?

Learning to Cultivate Hope

It has taken me some time to find my voice again.  Recently I became discouraged after I received some disappointing news and I stopped writing in my blog.  I am reminded of a time 6 years ago when we heard those words, “You have a tumor.”  As pastors we are to be cultivators of hope and promise–faith and joy.  But what happens when life seems to be filled with more downs than ups?  How can we learn to cultivate hope in the midst of adversity?   Continue reading “When Cancer Strikes the Family: Turning Adversity into an Adventure”

When the Principal Calls—Helping a Good Kid get Back on Track

When Good Kids Make Mistakes

The best toy in the toy store–a broom.

Last week I was standing in line at a toy store and I saw a little boy about three years old very excited about the present his dad was buying for him.  You might imagine it was a car or truck, maybe a building set, or even a sword or light saber.  Any of these would have been expected for a little boy to be excited about, but to my surprise this boy was delighted to have a kid sized broom and dustpan.  Like many kids, he wanted to hold his new toy while standing in line.  He took the broom and began sweeping the floor and singing…”Clean up, clean up, every body do you share. Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.”  I was amazed by the sheer enthusiasm this child had for doing his share and getting to work cleaning up messes on the floor.  Generally speaking kids and adults alike do not like cleaning up messes.

Give your kid the best chance for success and  plan for failure.

One of the best pieces of advice I got as a mom of toddlers was to give them the best chance of success and plan for failure.  What do I mean?  When we bought our new home the dining room was carpeted.  The highchair sat on carpet and three times a day our son would throw food on the floor and we would have to get down on our knees and dig the food and crumbs out of the fibers.  The carpet was never really clean and so we were upset every time our kid did what kids do, make messes.  We decided to pull up the carpet and put in a hardwood floor.

When the floor was installed, I was as excited as that little boy in the toy store was to sweep up the messes my kids made.  What once was a headache and chore became easier to manage and my attitude was much happier.  The broom was always close by.  We planned for failure when they were learning how to drink as well.  We gave our kids tiny steel cups to drink from and put about a tablespoon of liquid in the bottom.  If they spilled it, it was no big deal to wipe up.  If they drank it quickly, we would give them a refill.  When my son fought to hold the spoon I was feeding him with, I gave him his own spoon too.  Two spoons allowed for us to be successful.  Two spoons changed my relationship with my son.  No more fights…for now. Continue reading “When the Principal Calls—Helping a Good Kid get Back on Track”

Losing my Voice and Finding it Again

I lost my voice last week. It turned out to be bronchitis.

These past two weeks I have been battling bronchitis. 

One morning when I was very sick I woke up with no voice.  I had but a whisper to talk, and that too was strained.  The morning routine with our 13 year old and 11 year old is an intense schedule.  They each have to move through showers, breakfast, backpacks, packed lunches, and chores all in the space of 1 hour.  The last 10 minutes are especially rushed with me yelling, “don’t forget your lunch!” and “hurry up you’ll miss the bus!” or “practice piano before breakfast.”   Suddenly with no voice and no energy the “mom voice” did not exist and my children were on their own.  Fortunately they made it to school on time with all their stuff in tow.

The urgency of needing my voice back was compounded by the fact I had to teach a class on the book of Nehemiah that evening.  I was trying to imagine teaching the class without talking much.  It wasn’t going to work.  I realized that without my voice, I had no profession.  No voice meant no ministry.

For a brief moment I realized how dependent I was on my voice.  Without a voice pastors cannot provide counseling, we cannot teach, we certainly cannot preach.  Our work is based on the art of communication and building relationships.

Fortunately, my friend Swati came by and took me to the clinic where they gave me a breathing treatment and diagnosed me with bronchitis.  Within 5 minutes my voice returned.  I had thought that my voice was gone, but what was actually gone was my breath.

In Hebrew the word for “breath” ruah is the same word for “Spirit” (to learn more click here).  It is the Spirit of God who dwells within us that is found within our own breath.  We breathe in the breath of life and the Spirit of our Creator with each breath.  When our breath leaves us at the time of death, then we say that our Spirit is gone.  While I still could breathe, I had not the strength to speak.  My voice was weak because the breath flowing through me was not strong enough to speak.  My air pathways were constricted—too tight for the ruah to flow.  Thus, my spiritual power as I understood it was certainly weakened.

What about those who have no voice? Continue reading “Losing my Voice and Finding it Again”