in heaven I shall hear

in heaven I shall hear

Some historians believe Beethoven’s last words were, “In heaven I shall hear.”

Beethoven was close to deaf from a young age.  Ludwig van Beethoven wasn’t born hearing impaired.  The disability a gift from his father.  The result of a severe beating to his young head.  History tells the thrashing was the result of his father’s embarrassment of Ludwig’s creativity at the piano.  Instead of performing the more culturally accepted pieces of the time to the audience in the parlor, Beethoven played Beethoven.

Whereas Mozart’s notes appeared to flutter through the air; Beethoven’s haunting melodies brought to mind measures conjured in the dark.  The notes passionately chase one another as the sun disappears and moonlight settles.

The beating temporary; it’s pain fleeting.  The results permanent.

As time moved forward, Beethoven’s hearing ability diminished.   The beauty he created through the strings he felt as vibrations as he laid his head upon the piano keys.  A symphony imagined in his mind.   Not a sliver of sound slipping through.

The beating, though brutal, did not have the desired effect.  Ludwig did not curb his creativity.  He did not modify his style for popular convention.  If anything, Ludwig’s music became darker as his soul cried out through his melodies.

Whispers of violence peek past traces of pain.

Beethoven is rumored to have been a cantankerous man.   His disability a risk in his profession.  No one would pay a deaf maestro to conduct or create a symphony.    Ludwig had to scheme diligently to keep his deafness from his peers, detractors, colleagues – his musicians.   As a result, Beethoven was perceived rude, irascible, petulant as he walked past people calling out to him from behind.  Men whose lips he couldn’t read.

Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 – “Pathetique”.  Beethoven’s creation.  To hear it is to experience music dancing with your soul.    Something Beethoven never could.  Until he did.

Some historians believe Beethoven’s last words were, “In heaven I shall hear.”

 Focused on the GoalPhilippians 3:12-14

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.    (The Message translation)

 Pathetique

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My children are adopted. My son is not the same color as me. His birthparents are not the same color as each other. My son is a unique color of blended love.

That fact did not matter to me, my husband, our parents and most of our combined families and friends.

The potential color of his future skin didn’t matter. Not to me.

The color of his future skin, whether dark or light or any color in-between, didn’t impact how much I love his little soul. How grateful I am his birthparents wanted a better life for him than what they could provide young, newly dating and still in college.

I don’t care at all what color my son is. Not even a little bit.

And, it bothers me more than I can articulate when you do. Or when you hate people who look like him, or someone who looks nothing like him just because the person looks nothing like you. Sorting humanity by the colors of skin, size of waists, shape of eyes or size of bank account.

I have watched my son grow up in our family, with his sister, at his school, with his friends. The labeling doesn’t happen with children. The kids are all different variations of colors. Scotty calls himself brown because that is the color he sees in the mirror. The only reason why.

Scotty asked me one day why I was “clear” and Jessie was “peach”. To him and his friends color is a spectrum of beauty, not a label for equation of value.

Another day as he has become engaged with more adults, with competitive sports, as we traveled more, Scotty looked at me and asked, “Mommy, when will people start treating me differently and be mean to me because I am brown?”

I had to search deeply within myself for my reaction not to show on my face. I answered, “Sweetie, I hope that day never comes when people treat you differently because you’re brown. No one has to do that. You will always be Scotty. Everyone should treat you exactly the same as they do now, and as they do Jessie, Mommy or Daddy or anyone. Why do you say that?”

Scotty said, “Because I see it. Sometimes it happens until they see you that you’re my Mommy or when you’re not looking. I see it happen to my friends at gym when we are at a meet. When the man at Disney World wouldn’t let me play with the l Star Wars legos because I was brown and he told me I wouldn’t have any money. Then when you heard him and told him you were my Mom. Man, you got super mad at him for that. Remember, you talked to his boss for all the other little kids that happens to when he is in the Lego area. When does that mean stuff start happening more to me? “

“When do I get old enough that people think it’s ok to be mean to me?”

He was 7.

I told him he would never get that old.

There is no age that it is ok for anyone to be mean to him or anyone else. I told Scotty the truth that the problem was with the grown ups that looked at him that way without giving him a chance to show them how awesome, thoughtful, funny, kind and sweet he is. I told him there is never any age it is ever ok to be mean.  To anyone.

Shortly after, a friend from the Christian high school I graduated from posted a meme on Facebook celebrating the KKK and someone burning a cross in a front yard. It was meant to be funny. The KKK was not funny in the 60’s and had not gained any comedic value by 2010. I blocked the person. I sent him an inbox, told him I did and explained why with kindness and respect. Not in anger. In support of kids that look like Scotty and anyone else who looks different.   In support of each of us not exactly the same as each other.  Unique.

The person wrote back ” I didn’t mean Scotty. He’s yours. I know he’s ok.” I wanted to throw up. I never spoke to that person again. Truthfully, I’m ashamed I even know him.

We label kids. We teach kids to label each other.

Until that stops, until we look at each other as humans instead of colors the world outside is going to continue the same. I don’t want to be fit inside some box that got chosen for me by the color of my skin, my weight, my looks, my relationship with God and neither do you. No one does.

Kids have it right. It’s the adults that get this wrong. We can learn from them. We must. A person’s heart – visible through their actions – that’s what defines us. Not our colors. Not our size. Not our nationality.

America, we need to get this right.

How many more people have to die before we recognize it is time to throw away the labels. We talk about whether  our country is or isn’t great, and whether or not we can make it great again.

Without throwing away these labels, the answer is simple.

No; we can’t.

We will not be great again this way. Labels. Hatred. Street warfare. Terror. Malice is not the answer.

Love is.

Appearing in ways that look like acceptance, tolerance, discourse, compassion, understanding. America has never been more great than when we are united. My son and daughter they deserve way better than this world we adults have created.

So do yours.

Not Black or White

we are america

we are america

Freedom is purchased at a price.

Fees negotiated at a market called Power through a seller who goes by the name Dominance. Bargaining often vicious; terms cruel and language crude.

The currency difficult to carry; impossible to save and most recognized as single units:

War.

Blood.

Amputee.

Martyr.

Widow.

Bomb.

Veteran.

Nuclear.

Orphan.

Death.

Refugee.

Torture.

Surrender.

Battle.

PSD.

Massacre.

Zealot.

Combat.

Militia.

Airstrike.

Carnage.

Shelter.

Butchery.

Slaughter.

Hero.

The compensation demanded spelled out in heroes’ blood on foreign fields.   Children’s faces staring at flag draped caskets.  Bloated bodies of war weary refugees washed up on pristine beaches.   The hope of a better future erased from open vacant eyes.

Gettysburg, Benghazi, Bunker Hill, Vietnam, Nagasaki, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Dachau, Somme, Midway, Hiroshima, Bagdad.

We are taught to recite the names of distant lands, battle grounds, immortalized victorious generals.   We stand in quiet reverence at the war memorials.  Shrink from testimonies of human’s capacity to hate.   Americans respect the instinct to fight, to overcome; to demand freedom even when it’s from each other.   We fight for people who look like us; and we fight for everyone who doesn’t.   We fight for the right to live lives free of persecution for our beliefs even when the beliefs we are dying for do not match our own.

The cause is freedom; the fight is just.  We are Americans.   We are free.

This weekend the barbeque grills are lit.  Fireworks unleashed throughout skies filled with red, blue and white lights from the edge of the Atlantic to the shores of Pacific.   Panoramic bursts resounding like cannon fire across the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Oh say can you see our flag that still flies free.   Compensation waged from valiant humans who look just like you and me.   Men and women.  Moms and Dads.   Heroes each one.  Thank you for the price you paid.  For me.  For everyone I love.  For each of us.

Happy birthday, America.

She’s a grand, Old Flag.  She’s a high flying flag, and forever in peace may she wave.

grow

grow

Dirt.

An independent study of bored humans comparing the beauty of dirt to other elements in nature will result in dirt rating well below things like:  sunsets, waterfalls, snowbanks, mountains, wildflowers, trees.   Dirt gets a bad rap.

Dirt, pretty much, treated like, well, dirt.

It’s ironic.  If I was dirt, I imagine I’d get frustrated.     Without dirt wildflowers and those evergreens where all the snow drapes so beautifully on highly rated, majestic, mountains wouldn’t even exist. Not even a fat, squatty shrub.

Those apples I like – no can do.  No dirt for the apple trees.  Peaches – out of luck.  Tomatoes, corn, french fries – sayonara, potatoes don’t grow in a desert.

It is effortless to overlook the value in dirt.  Far from thinking dirt is beautiful, I actually equate dirt to ugly things.

Dirty.

Even toddlers will recognize dirty is not a nice word.  Something to avoid.  Dirt may be something that gets us into trouble.  Worse yet, getting dirty may result in that dreaded bath.

Here is the problem, I look at dirt at the surface level.

I don’t appreciate dirt’s depth, the nutrients in that dark clump of moist soil that provide the ability for food to grow; plants to thrive; flowers to bloom.

How like humans that is.   First impressions based upon the beauty of a surface.   Girls.  Cars.  Men.  Clothes.  House.  Wealth.

How much I miss when I fail to look deeper.  When I neglect to peer below the surface and recognize the value of riches lying just underneath.  Like dirt, impressions have a tendency to spread.   Influence more than I realize.   I don’t like it, but I may behave differently with someone based upon the outside view.

When is the last time I met a homeless person and invited them to coffee?  Never?

When was the last time I met someone at church, school, a friend’s house party and made plans to see each other again?  Much more frequently than never.

First impressions matter.  How much am I missing in life because I am not taking the time to dig a little deeper.  Know each other better.  Taking the time to invest in someone more.

I think about the many deserts in my life I could convert to fields of wildflowers if I invested a tiny bit more time.  If I looked at a person before glancing away.  Recognized their potential.   The value that person holds; the richness of life just below the surface she shares with the world.

Just maybe when I find myself taking that little bit of extra it takes to really get to know someone I will discover it’s not just them who are blossoming before my eyes, it’s also me discovering how wonderful it feels to grow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iue-ox63diE

open sea

open sea

This weekend I had the opportunity to meet a fascinating man.  Lazaro Ruda is a wildlife photographer.   Lazaro taught me ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau wrote, “People protect what they love.”   Lazaro loves the ocean and its creatures.   His art declares this love and, as a result, expands our appreciation of these gifts from the sea.

I met Lazaro at the South Miami Arts Festival on Sunday.  I was drawn to his booth by this photograph.   As my daughter and I gazed at the different pictures and creatures captured in time within all their splendor, Lazaro mentioned each photograph held its own story.  He’d be happy to relay their stories to us if we were interested.

Jessie and I were indeed.  Interested.

Lazaro and I share a love of sea turtles.   Sea turtles are hatched from eggs their mother lays buried deep in the sand on the beach where she was born.   Once hatched it can take up to a week for the little baby turtles to dig out of the nest of sand their mom has buried them under for protection.  Protection from the elements, and from all the creatures who roam the beach and are hungry.  Once the tiny turtles break through the sand barrier, there is no protection.  It’s a bee-line for the water where, maybe, he has a modicum of a chance to swim and reach some semblance of safety before someone bigger appreciates him as an appetizer.

Lazaro volunteers his time to patrol Palm Beach during hatching season.  As residents of South Florida, we know modern lights have become an unintentional destroyer of the sea turtle population.   Sea turtles hatch at night.  The hatchlings break through the sand and head toward the light which they sense is the sea.   Artificial light sets the babies off in the wrong direction.   They only have enough energy and moisture contained within their shells to last for several hours.  The hatchlings have to get to the sea soon to survive.

Lazaro is scheduled to volunteer once a week.  He goes every day.  Why he does it is for creatures like this pocket-sized guy pictured here.

hopeful future.jpg

Lazaro is convinced our friend is a guy because he found him lost.  Wrong side of the road.  Across A1A.  7-11 parking lot.  Palm Beach.

Wandering around on the asphalt.  Not asking for directions. Still dark with a peak at the sunrise.  Meandering along his way.  Hurrying.  Purposeful.  That’s when our guy met Lazaro.

Lazaro was on his way home when he saw the adventurer exactly where a turtle is not supposed to be.  Going completely in the wrong direction.  Everything going badly for our friend at this point.  Future bleak.

Lazaro saw the motion on the pavement.  Couldn’t believe his eyes.  How did this guy get way over here?  Lazaro picked up the small creature and realized there was still a lot of life left in this little guy.  Even after his arduous journey, the tiny turtle was raring to go.  Feet flapping. Swimming in air.  Lazaro cradled our new friend, walked back across the main street, through the beach sand and back to the shoreline.

Lazaro purposefully stopped a few feet short on the sand to let the turtle take his first steps towards home independently.   After the night this guy had, he deserved the victory lap into his ocean.

Lazaro dropped down with his camera on his belly to capture his shot.  With a different perspective, he grasped even more clearly the beauty of this moment.

Our friend was getting home just in time for a perfect sunrise.

As Lazaro focused his lens, he saw that the tiny turtle had all fins up and was just resting in the moment.  On pause.   Looking around.  Taking it all in.  Appreciating.   Taking a minute to breathe in the salt air.  Savoring that first, grateful glimpse of home.

Lazaro captured a perfect moment early that Palm Beach Morning.   He calls it The Hopeful Future.

For more on Lazaro Ruda and his art visit www.thelivingsea.com or email lazaro@thelivingsea.com.

chase joy

chase joy

When sorrow is your constant companion darkness has its own beauty.  Glimmers of light appreciated differently than can be experienced in a cloud free, cerulean sky.

We are taught to fear the dark.  To watch leery for dangers that lurk in the night.  Alone in darkness is frightening.   Fear we believe in.  We live in.   Strength something we strive for.

We turn our back to sorrow in others, in ourselves.  Sadness scares us; it may be catching.  We can’t get too close it may seep into our pores and invade the lawn of our well-manicured lives.

We gaze toward happiness as a destination.  That realm just out of reach where we disembark when everything is going just right.  We laugh, we sing out loud, giddy in the sunlit boulevard, yet are repeatedly surprised as we find ourselves tourists.  Just passing through.  Life happens and we’re plunging into a valley.  Somewhere in-between not at all ok and need to cry.

We watch joyful people with envy.   Certain sorrow has never touched that life.  The smile too genuine to be tarnished with misfortune.

Happiness happens to us.   It is fleeting.   It is dependent.

Joy, on the other hand, is a state of being.

We choose joy.  We live in joy.

Joy independent of circumstances.

Joyful people choose gratitude.  Joyful people choose thankfulness.  Joyful humans chase joy and catch her every single time.

Joy is in the Spirit.

If you’re looking for a reason to find God.   It’s joy.

Psalm 97:11 – Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people,  Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.  

blame God.

“First her feet were plunged into hot water, and her toenails clipped short.”*

A 10th century court dancer, Yao Yang, mesmerized China’s Emperor Li Yu by dancing on her toes inside a 6-foot golden lotus.  Yao Yang bound her feet into the shape of a new moon.    Emperor Li Yu smitten with Yang, the national fetish is unleashed.    Miniature, misshapen feet become a status symbol the wealthy embrace.

“Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape.  Next, her arch was strained as the foot was bend double.  Finally, the feet were bound in place using a silk strip measuring ten feet long and two inches wide.  These wrappings were briefly removed every two days to prevent blood and pus infecting the foot.”

Then tortuously reapplied.   By her mother.

A child’s marriage prospects expand as her feet shrink.   The child’s mother, aunt and/or wet-nurse ignore the cries, pleas for mercy.    In a culture controlled by men, it is evident their daughter’s future prospects multiply with each inch of growth averted.

“Sometimes excess flesh was cut away or encouraged to rot.”

“The girls were forced to walk long distances in order to hasten the breaking of their arches.”

The torturous process took two years.   When complete the girl was, more than likely, 8 years old.

“Over time the soles were crushed together.”

We look back seven centuries and feel nauseas.  The culprits simply identified.

Men.   Mothers.  Ruling Class.  Society.

The Emperor who let his erotic fantasy disease his homeland.  Yao Yong the erotic dancer who helped cripple China’s children.

One thousand years women brutally subjugated themselves to society’s torture.    Where is God when centuries of 6 year old girls are crying in China?

Did God go to sleep, go on vacation for a Millennium?

Come on, God!

I think about it.  What should God have done?  Strike Yao Yong before she meets the Emperor?  Erase her from existence.  Wipe out Emperor Li Yu before he feels the stroke of Ms. Yong’s feet?   Block the hand of every woman that binds her child’s toes?   Create a famine which leads to a shortage of binding materials, strikes all but a few good men?

When should He start?

More importantly, when should He stop?

Stop the binding of the small girl’s feet, but let the murder of baby girls follow in civilized society centuries later?  When society dictates only 1 child per household and boys are preferred.  Should He just step into China and say enough is enough.

What rules do we want Him to follow?  Hey, God.  What are you even doing?  You’re better than this.   What is going on?

Free will. My mind draws the parallel.

It is the same.  Here all these centuries later.

Free will.

A gift.  Precious.

Free will and consequence.  A marriage we comprehend.   We choose our actions, or they are chosen for us.  There are consequences.   Even for actions that were taken for us when we were too small to make our own choices; when we are powerless.  We touch a hot stove with our hand, our fingers are burned.  We get it.  We understand.

Yet, the child born addicted to heroin because her mother is an addict.  We blame God.  Where exactly should He have stepped in?  At what point is the mother’s free will void.

Slavery, Hitler, 911, cancer, disease, incest, rape – we blame God.  When does the gift of free will stop and He gets to intervene?

Free will, we want it.  We demand it.  We will do what we want to do, and no one can stop us.  It is our right.

Actually, it is how we are created.  We know nothing different.  Yet, we don’t want the repercussions.   When we err, we want the magic wand.  Erase the repercussions.  A magician enhancing the ride when our path is straight; teleporting us out of the road when the one we chose to wander is dangerous, deadly.

 “Once a foot had been crushed and bound the shape could not be reversed without a woman undergoing the same pain all over again.”    Some damage irreparable, the foot never the same……..Placed side by side, the shoes were the length of my iPhone and less than half-inch wider.”

Consequence.   Theoretically, we recognize the concept.  Practically, we don’t appreciate it very much.

We blame God.  It’s a whole lot easier.

 

*quotes taken from Bound by Tradition, Amanda Foreman, Siberian Tigers, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2016.