Lisa Joy Samson

My Dog Makes Me Sick

Is there ever a gift to our afflictions?

Eyes rolling? I don’t blame you. I never understood any of that until today. Just a couple of hours ago, actually. And maybe only for a bit of time. I think we all know how that goes. You see, there’s so much I don’t understand here on earth no matter how much I try. I think I get “the answer” about some existential/theological/philosophical pondering and it’s good for a day, a week, maybe even a month or two, but the quandary comes back, usually through another door, another experience, another person. I look at it askance, like it’s some slimy old thing with warts and bulging eyes and a very weird hat, that, quite frankly, needs to GO, and I say, “What, for the love of all that’s holy, are YOU doing here again, you slimy old thing? And please get rid of that HAT, okay? I thought we’d already discussed all this, and you’re back? Go! Just, just get out of here already!”

The thing sits down. To set the stage please know the hat has a gigantic tennis-lady bill with dripping letters that spell out PHYSICAL AFFLICTION. Ugh. Nasty thing. Bodily suffering in general feels too hard to me. I know too many people with chronic pain, intense episodic pain, auto-immune disorders, cancer, and really hard, debilitating physical disabilities and ailments that put anything I deal with to shame.

But let me tell you about my thing because that’s all I can really speak to from personal experience.

Since the age of three, asthma has followed me around the planet. I was given a brief period of respite about three years ago and it was wonderful. For two years I didn’t renew my inhaler prescription and I finally experienced what it was like not to even carry one in my purse. I did a lot of intense physical activity around that time, too. I was even smoking my requisite 5 – 7 American Spirits a day. I thought doing tai chi and martial art was responsible, but when the asthma came rolling back, I still participated in those activities. What happened? Animals began collecting in our home. Miles my old cat had never bothered me, but then came Zeus, my dog. I’m allergic to dogs. Then, I kid you not, we ended up with SIX MORE CATS. Simply put, I was so tapped into the vibration of being rescued after my divorce, I rescued anything that I thought needed it. My body began to protest with seven animals under the roof of our 1,200 square foot dwelling. At one point, I could barely walk around. I remember one afternoon in particular at The Home Depot. I leaned on a cart and took my inhaler at least five times just to make it out with some trash bags, light bulbs, and who knows what else. Thank God I didn’t have a heart attack.

One night, my daughter was so worried, she urged me to go to a hotel room, which I did. I didn’t have health insurance and was too frightened of the future to spend my own money on healthcare. Fear will put you in quandaries you never knew existed until you look them in the eye.

My personal life was difficult at that point, too. After the devastation of a divorce, not knowing how to “adult” on my own, because I never had to, I was wide open for influence. I had so many opposing opinions as to who I should and shouldn’t be, I literally couldn’t breathe. There was no air I could claim. I sought God, told myself all the positive thinking things I could (my FB pictures are a really good record of my struggle because the more positive I was, the more I was actually struggling), and I shaved my head. Not all people who shave their heads are crazy, but some people shave their heads because they are heading in that direction and they’re crying out, “For God’s sake, help me!”

Consider Britney Spears. Unfortunately, most people at that point either think you’re bold and wonderful (bless ‘em, Lord, and I mean that!) or snicker behind your back and call you crazy.

So there I was, bald, breathless, and baffled. Great, huh?

Thankfully, God ripped me out of my regularly scheduled broadcast and my daughter and I hit the road in a leaky old RV. I learned so much, healed greatly, and realized who I am and what matters most, and yet, still, the asthma has hung on. As I write, it’s pretty bad. I’m praying for a windfall and good medical insurance so I can treat this bugger like it should be treated. But still, I have asked God, like the Apostle Paul, over and over again, to take this thorn from me.

Nope.

If you read any of the Mind, Body, Spirit kind of books like I do (I believe all truth is God’s truth) you may have come across the concept of manifestation, that our thoughts and beliefs manifest themselves physically in our lives. Many people have written about our physical ailments in ways that tell us we are holding onto various beliefs that bring us pain, and our bodies physically exhibit it. I know this is true in some cases. Like the person who refuses to quit smoking when they have emphysema, or those who refuse to modify their diet and exercise to help. Clearly they have a reason to keep themselves down. Perhaps they want the pity of others because it feels like love and affection; perhaps they don’t feel like they have anything to offer the world in and of themselves (most likely because someone who should have nurtured their wonderfulness told them they would never amount to anything) and their ailment is something to hide behind their own disbelief in their God-given gifts and talents. They may have manifested illnesses as a child to keep an abusive parent from hurting them even more. I don’t know. Seriously. I do not know and therefore I can’t judge any of it. We all have coping mechanisms and wounds upon wounds. I love others for who they are and any coping mechanism!they use that keeps them alive even one more day to find out how much God loves them, so be it. I will share that love by being honest about my own mechanisms and not pretending like a famous fitness guru known for “tough love” that I even begin to know where they have been or what they are going through. How can anybody know that for another unless they have been beside them from day one and have never left their side? Only God has done that. Do you see?

So I kept asking God to reveal to me why the asthma wouldn’t go away. I mean, I knew it could. I had already experienced it leaving, so clearly this wasn’t something that had no chance of being alleviated. It was my fault, my belief system, my inability to let go of it. I somehow needed it, right? It was protecting me, right? And all that manifestation legalism sat down next to the slimy old thing the hat. Because, friends, blame comes in all forms of spirituality, until we finally stand up and say, “God loves me just as I am!” But we seem to love burdening ourselves with extra burdens, do we not? I love that Jesus told us to cast all our cares on Him and baby, I am learning to do just that. Take it, Lord! Just, take it!

This morning, I was driving back from breakfast with my local soul buddy after talking about this very thing. At a red light I heard, “Take a drive through Garden of the Gods, I have something there for you.” God doesn’t need to tell me twice to drive through that magical place. As I was rolling through experiencing as usual the ethereal beauty of the place, the mystical qualities wrapped up in its ancient nature, I ended up at an overlook with the most precious view of Pikes Peak a lady could want. I walked out to an outcropping of red rock and sat beneath the pristine blue of the Colorado sky.

“Let’s talk about your asthma.”

Okay, Lord.

“It’s exactly like you said with your friend. This keeps you compassionate, Lisa. Your ailment makes it easy for you to have mercy and kindness on those who suffer.”

I’ll be honest with you. In the past, I have not had much time for people who complain all the time about their ailments. And when I was breathing free and clear, I was absolutely, 100%, the least compassionate I have ever been in my entire life. I was still all about my own inability to get my feet beneath me in a drastically new life and anybody else’s troubles had no room next to my own. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that healing isn’t a one way pathway, but two. Heal and be healed. Be healed and heal. Doing one without the other is like taking half a pill and wondering why you still have a headache.

“It hasn’t been taken from you because you are seeking to be the most loving person you can be. This helps you be that.”

Then, let it be, God, I thought. I accept this thing as a gift, and I will keep it if it means I can look upon others and grieve the losses their diseases, their disabilities, their discomforts give them, if I can look at them with kindness and compassion, not casting the finger, EVER, of judgment, condemnation and the words, “Well, if you would just _____.”

I looked out over the few houses in the valley beneath me, their second stories popping up between outcropping of giant red rocks and boulders and the deep green of evergreen trees. And for the first time in my life (I received this ailment at three years old), I said, ‘Thank you, God. Thank you for this asthma. If it gives me the gift of the compassion I want. I bless it.’

Because, dear friends, I never want to be that condescending lady again who sees others’ struggles only light of her victories. Jesus didn’t come to condemn, He came to heal. And while I’m not performing miracles of healing like He did, the very least I can do is sit by those who are suffering and say, “I love you. Just as you are. You are safe with me. Just as you are.”

What a gift is this life we are given. What a gift can be the infirmity that allows us to see, really see the people around us and love them utterly, exactly where they are. It doesn’t matter if they’re helping themselves or hurting themselves further, that’s not my place to judge. I can choose to release all of that because the truth is, I don’t know! I don’t know anything about why they are suffering, what that suffering feels like, and what it could possibly mean to them. But God knows, and knows in fullness and it’s a Holy business, an intimate journey between Creator and Child.

What do I want my business to be? I want to go about the business of loving God and loving my neighbor as myself. And if I can have compassion on myself for my infirmity that seems to keep me from being judgmental and cruel, I can certainly have compassion on others, for I do not know the interior gift their suffering might be bestowing on them in the development of their own loving nature, their own godliness.

Today, I’m simply grateful for being allowed to see why these old lungs of mine are a gift and welcome them into my life. What a day, eh? I pray yours is just as filled with wonder as mine.

Update:

As I read this now, three years later, I have come to see that the gift of my continued asthma is one I gave myself. Even in the reading of the loving conversation I had with my Creator, God never once said, “I gave this to you, Lisa.” I’m no longer of the opinion that God bestowed it on me, but that I took it back on to protect myself from my own inabilities to love. I took on a dog needing a home who has taught me unconditional love in a fur-covered, four-legged body, and from that I was given the gift of compassion. I still have Zeus. I still have asthma. And my compassion has grown as God has walked with me through the valley of airlessness, panic, and the coolness of a finally caught breath.

The truth is, my asthma would go away if my dog was rehomed. But I love him. I love having Zeus beside me, smiling, wagging his tail and giving me that kind of beautiful love only a dog can bestow. I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I choose steroid inhalers even though I’m an alternative health believer. I choose this way of living simply because I love my dog.

Isn’t that just lovely?

And in the realization of this, I still look upon others who struggle, and all their choices, and who am I to judge? There are many who would tell me to get rid of my dog, and to some degree they have a point. But what they don’t have is the love I hold in my heart for this beloved creature.

Love to you all. However you are experiencing your body and mind today. God loves us all, just as we are. And that, my friends, is the deep down, precious truth, no matter where we find ourselves and how we feel.

Sunday Drives

The Sunday drive, while not beginning until the 1920s or 30s, seems to me to have its roots in horse and buggy days. Laura Ingalls, this little white girl’s “every girl”, and Almanzo Wilder, dreamy and strong, would settle in behind his beautiful Morgans and they would sail over the prairies as she kept her sun bonnet from flying off even though it was tied under her chin. But that might have been from the television show. According to his sweetheart, the man could handle a fast and furious pair of horses. Mmm. That Almanzo.

I was in love with him for years.

In my own life, three threads lead to the patch of identity called Sunday Drives and Sunday Drivers, a patch I cherish and seek to maintain with my own stitching and appliqué. These threads are easy to ascertain. One belongs to my paternal grandparents. One belongs to their son, my uncle. And the other belongs to me, the granddaughter/the niece/the mother/the human.

Naturally, John and Lizzie laid down the first thread. Born in 1895 and 1894, respectively, I imagine as children they both experienced a Sunday drive or two with horses’ reins tucked inside the grip of their own Almanzo. Perhaps a cousin, a grandparent, or family friend. Lizzie grew up on a farm, the homeplace my family called “the shack”. My grandfather loved horses so much I would actually call him when the Budweiser Clydesdales cantered onto the TV screen and tell him what channel they were on. He was once a stable boy. Yes, to the horses, yes, to the buggies. I know this almost certainly because they took that aesthetic into their own drives.

Lizzie, after making a delicious, post-mass Sunday dinner—be it sauerbraten or crab cakes—would leave the dishes to her offspring. With a chiffon scarf tied under her chin to preserve Judy’s Friday hairdo and gloved hands because that’s what ladies did, she plucked a produce box off the back porch of their Baltimore City row house, ready to go before even a single, dripping, sparkling plate found its way to the drain board. John, feet in polished, long, thin leather boots with fine lacing and mildly decorative puncturing, felt hat tipped at an almost jaunty angle, but not too jaunty as he was the neighborhood eye doctor, would have the car heated up in the winter, or the windows already down and the interior heat driven away in summer. John always “brought the car around” in the most comfortable condition possible to pick up my grandmother at the door to the dark green wooden gate in the cinder block wall that cut off the cement yard from the cement back alley. He would escort her from the porch to the car.

It was lovely to behold.

Lizzie would hand John the box to be placed on the back seat, my memories always deferring to the light blue upholstery of his shining, black Chrysler Imperial. She slid into the front seat and allowed her husband and to tuck the black lap robe/shawl she always kept in the car tightly over her lap if it was cold enough for that.

They would drive to the country, mostly, for fresh produce for Lizzie’s dinners. She was serious about providing good food. My grandmother bought the best ingredients because they made for better tasting food and with quality fabric made fine clothing, suits included, that rivaled any seamstress or tailor. I wish I had learned from her. (Insert, if there is one, the jingle for Big Lots!)

The second thread was woven in by Uncle Lawrence, my father’s older brother, a WWII veteran stationed in the Philippines, who never married. Though I have written thousands and thousands of pages in this lifetime of mine, I am hard-pressed to describe how much I adored my uncle. As in love with cars as his father, my uncle’s go-to car in my memory is always his silver, 1968 Dodge Charger with a maroon interior. When my father’s family ventured out of Baltimore to our suburban split level for birthday meals or holiday celebrations, my uncle (and sometimes my grandfather) would load us kids up in the car and head out for a drive. Uncle Lawrence would invariably drive us down Pot Springs Road and over the series of humps that had us flying off of our seats, backsides in the air, because seatbelts were merely a suggestion in those days. Grandpop took those hills so fast he would sometimes scrape the undercarriage at touchdown. And we laughed and whoa-ed and begged them to do it again. They rarely did, by the way. Those cars could only take so much, I guess, and they knew how much. Uncle Lawrence and his sister, my Aunt Sis, who also never married, would take Sunday drives together as well to places like Valley View Farms for Christmas shopping or to meander through Baltimore County’s horse country.

The third thread, my own, continued, although maybe not as regularly, but just as much appreciated. I love to drive. I love to experience that black swath of asphalt and those yellow and white lines as they cut through fields and mountains and parallel rivers and creeks. Today is no different as I set out with my daughter. We’re not driving to another county to visit our favorite farm stand for produce or freshly baked pies and sticky buns, relishes, or jams. We’re headed into the Rocky Mountains with strong, drive-thru coffees in the cup holders.

Zeus, our Aussie Shepherd mix is smiling in the back seat, happy to be along for the ride.

*

Life sometimes affords us the experience of complete change. If there has been a theme to my life it has been that nothing stays the same. And while hindsight tells me God hasn’t changed in who God is, my ability to recognize the Divine most certainly has. That beautiful unveiling has shown God as more loving, more caring, and yet more prone to let me move about this life by my own series of choices. The Divine knows I will cast all sorts of blame on It’s shoulders and loves me anyway. God is either driving the Sunday car, having tucked the robe nice and snug, or is patiently along for the ride when my hands are on the wheel. I’ve come to see neither arrangement as a bad thing. I come to see a lot of life now as neither good nor bad if the eventual outcome is an awareness of who I am: a creative force created by the Creator to create, a loving being created by a Loving Being to love other loving beings whether or not they realize that is fundamentally what they are. Either it all works together for good, or it doesn’t. Imagine what the world would look like if all of us who truly espoused Romans 8:28* actually believed that? How much more peace? How much more acceptance? How much more faith? How much much more patience in the unfolding of life’s varied and sometimes precarious road? How much more would we believe that the good works we try to do on behalf of God, ourselves, and others, would actually mean something eventually?

It’s easier to trust that hardship will come and people will choose darkness rather than light. But I am daring to believe that goodness, kindness, and love is winning.

*

We drive into the mountains via the Ute Pass on Route 24, climbing, climbing in elevation. Colorado Springs recedes behind us, the great mixing bowl that it is easily recognized by its geographic features, its weather, and the heavy influence of a military population which hails from all over the country. Sometimes, Sunday drives are just as much about what we leave behind as what we are driving toward and we leave behind a few yellowing trees, rushed drivers**, and so may placard-wielding people it’s impossible to know who are vets, who are junkies, who are both, and God have mercy on us all.

We drive through terrain only rugged people with grit could pave and yet I am astounded and pleased at how little a mark mankind has made upon all this rock and soil in this pass the Ute tribe originally marked. As we climb higher, more is revealed in the distance. We had set out among cityscape, hard roads, hard buildings, hard folks seasoned by years in combat or decades on the streets, years in strict religion or years of trying to become powerful through crystals, magic, and the lines on their palms.

Thankfully, the mountains make room for us all.

*

The Creator says come, come, all of you. See the new. See the grandeur. See the scale of life, for I tell you, in the dimension of the universe of which you are a part, you are much closer in size to these mountains than you realize. In you lies such strength, and for you such strength exists. This very soil, this rock, this earth, supports you, gives you life and shows off her beauty to inspire your imagination and still your longings while you stop and give yourself enough time to be a part of all this glory. Be here now. As you are. Part of the scenery, part of nature, part of Me.

*

The glory is in the midst of change as we drive toward Cripple Creek a town of gold mines, gold seekers, and maybe a few gold diggers, but I’m just speculating about the gold diggers.

As we continue to increase in altitude we ride the tarmac snake as it winds up the mountain, one side a safe wall of rock, the other a deadly tumble down the mountain. Oh, the view from here on the line directly between safety and death, no guardrails, adrenaline oozing a little for those of us who wouldn’t do this sort of thing off-road.

Pikes Peak, now blue in the distance, other lesser peaks flowing like solid waves of sound, cool sounds of purple, violet and lo-fi blue, the ocean of matter before us ripples like a sea beneath the Colorado blue skies.

The aspens, about a third of them, have begun their transformation, the bright gold of their round leaves ready to spread to the next tree then the next in a downward flow that reflects the change in temperature quickly climbing altitude requires. Soon this road will be a pathway to a waltzing of gold and some orange, unlike east coast autumn. And the evergreens will remain, harmonizing, and the ground will support the song that Majesty likes to sing at this time each year.

*

Sunday drives, particularly this one, causes me to realize something afresh. God is right here, right now in all of this. God did not create and then abandon this earth. He made it of God stuff, the only beingness that truly exists. Today, in this car, we are participating in the working of God’s material substance, that inexplicable fabric in which we live, move and have our being.

For some, this would smack of pantheism. Perhaps it does. I don’t know a lot about pantheism. But have come to believe fully in what Saint Paul preached to the people of Athens and I believe he meant that we literally exist in God. Our bodies are in God. Our spirits are in God. Our souls are in God. God spoke and we were created. We are God’s words, God’s voice, so powerful, creative, and loving, it forms us with its own resonance.

I walk in God as a creation of the Divine.

It’s easier to believe that for the trees, though, isn’t it? Why do we have so much trouble accepting that fundamental truth about ourselves and about each other?

But I have asked a lot of questions on drives. Questions such us: How does God know all, even our very thoughts? How is God everywhere from the core of Earth, through us, and on into the outermost stretches of matter? Because God is all. God’s self-proclaimed name is the All in All.

All in you. All in me. All in that man over there, that woman next to you in line at the bank. All in those aspen trees, that mountain, that pizza, that heroin-laced needle by the trash dumpster.

God gave us Divine substance to be of, in, with, and with which to create what we will. For good, for bad. To tear down, to build up To heal, to kill. To love, to hate. The paints, the brushes, the canvases of life are all God. Yes, this makes us responsible, yes this gives us terrible and magnificent options, but no matter what we choose, God still is. How can it possibly be other?

But somewhere along the line we believed that we were torn asunder from our Creator. We were told that separation is the thing and reunification is the name of the game. And our perception of our world became our truth and feeling lost, frightened, and parted from our Creator feels very, very real.
Do you see?

But God feels it all, loved ones. God experiences more first-hand than we could ever dream of. God feels the slaps, the kicks, the angry spankings, the knives, the bullets, the cutting words, the disdainful glares, because we do. God feels not in order to judge us unworthy of him, but to experience the Love of all loves, in love with all things, no matter what.

This is what unconditional means.

This is what is true.

God surely must be feeling the joy in my heart as I witness creation in the clear sunshine as my daughter and I listen to Tyler Childers sing about the desperation of his people in the hollows of Eastern Kentucky. My eyes take in thousands upon thousands of trees as we drive, chit-chatting, pointing out especial loveliness.

And the message of this Sunday drive sings suddenly in a full-throated Godness as I hear the words:

You are just as much a part of this glory as those aspens, that peak, the creek. You walk with feet of flesh upon this jewel of a planet spinning amid stars and comets. Your are this stuff, too, dear one. You are the autumn change, the winter hush, the awakening springs, the summer growth. Do you see you? Do you see Me? Do you feel you? Do you feel Me? Do you hear you? Do you hear Me? Do you taste you? Do you taste Me? I Am here. I Am here. I Am here.

I’m here, too. So is my daughter. So are you.

Sunday drives teach me who I am. For make no mistake, I am.

And right now, I am invited to lose myself in golds, greens, browns, blues, and whites. In clouds and breezes, pine needles and rubble. In the road before me and my daughter’s voice as she sings to her music. In my sweet dog’s grin and the waves and waves and waves of my Creator’s, and your Creator’s, song.

There will be time to mourn, to grieve, to feel the loss of what I shattered, scorned, or gave away without thought to my own well-being or that of others. To recognize the pain and suffering that is real but can never be fully established in the Being of which we are a part. There’s always time for that.

But for now, right now on this Sunday drive, my heart soaks in the present beauty like a salve of healing, the medicine our beautiful planet is always offering to all who are a part of her, all who subsist off of her bounty.

I consciously sing the song of my soul that right now here in the pristine wilderness, the part that can only sing the eternal lyrics, “It is good, it is good, it is very, very good.”

_____________________________________________________________
*And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes.
**Lordy!

A Holy Coveting

Lisa Samson

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
A.W. Tozer

I don’t remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I can’t remember the woman’s name who said words that would change my life forever. What I am positive about is that she was the initial human spark compelling enough for me to seek true intimacy with my Creator.

I’m going to call her Mary.

Mary and I were sitting in her kitchen drinking coffee and going over her manuscript. She was a beautiful writer and at the time her words sang in a way mine weren’t quite able to even though I had been published. Around seven books, historical romances and one stand alone contemporary romance, sat in the realm of my writing accomplishments and though I still had so much to learn about virtually everything, Mary deemed my help valuable. The least I could do was show up and pretend to be helpful.

We veered onto the topic of God as always seems to happen around me and in one sentence a whole new world opened up to me. Mary said this.

“I love God so much.”

I’d heard all my life how we are to love God because God first loved us, how Jesus loved God as his Father. But in all my years of growing up in the church I had not once heard anybody express their love for God in such an intimate, heartfelt way.

“I love God so much.”

Right there in a humble kitchen, the aroma of coffee and the everyday hum of the refrigerator, not to mention the sunlight streaming through café curtains over the porcelain sink, heaven burst from inside of her and surrounded me with an almost too-good-to-believe possibility.

Oh, Mary. Such a simple sentence, such a profound expression, one that changed a thirty-something writer forever.

Mary voiced those words like she would have had she been talking about a husband, a mother, a friend, a child. She spoke in her warm and loving tones about Someone who was worthy of that kind of affection. Not trumpets and genuflection and prostration, but affection. I just love you, God. I really just do.

“I love God so much.”

Mary had found her Creator and her heart sang in response. I heard that song and I realized that day it was my song, too. Or rather, it was the only song I actually longed to sing in fullness and in truth. At that point, it wasn’t really true. I loved God because if I didn’t, heads would roll, and that head would be my own.

But now. Twenty years later, that little willingness to understand what Mary was actually saying and why she could has opened a passageway inside my heart.

I love God so much.

In my journey, this desire has been my personal torch that has lit the way through many a dark passage, burned through confusing mists, and continued to help me hang on despite the challenges of learning how to reflect God’s love for me back to the creation God so adores.

I do love because God first loved me. My love for God is my very proof that God loves me. God, I have found, loves to be loved just like we do. And in that simple communion of affection between the Creator and the created ones, lies a love beyond all telling, a love that overflows, spills down the sides, and lights the way. From the love I feel for my Creator, I experience the love God feels for all of Creation. All of it. Because God is All in All.

Love from Love flowing back and forth in and unto Itself.

I can’t explain it for this has nothing to do with apologetics or reason and everything to do with affection, adoration, and trust. Opening my heart to love the Creator as Mary did, changed me forever.

“I love,” is my creed, not “I believe.” For love is what belief aspires to someday become in the hearts that thirst for their Creator.

Thank you, Mary, for opening your heart and showing me that loving God can be as real as loving anything we can see with our eyes or touch with our hands.

There was no embarrassment, no fear in the proclamation of her heart, she was simply telling the truth without shame. I saw a heart that truly loved God, and I wanted in.

I look back on my journey of faith and wonder where the journey truly began when I decided I was all in, no matter what. I thought it was about fifteen years ago. Then about eighteen. But right there in Mary’s kitchen is the new “new beginning” for me. I suspect the beginning will keep moving backward until the day I was born and perhaps before.

God has proven to me over and over again that love isn’t wasted, that when I truly trust and allow my love for God full expression the world changes for I see it more and more as God does, little by little, each foot forward.

I just love you so much, God. Like Mary. And like Mary, I’m so filled with joy that You love me, too.

In kitchens and car rides, sitting alone in chairs or around a table, God shows up to love and be loved because God is love, and wherever love shows up, God is.

A Walk With God Through a Mountain Meadows

“You fill up my senses like a night in the forest, like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain.” John Denver

Friendly flowers, shrubby Black Eyed Susans, grow in a scraggly heap upon the berm. The valley, lush from a rainy summer so unusual here in the high desert, laps in a foam of green up to the Colorado shore upon which we sit, God and me. And God and you. And you and I. Together before a scene at once gentle, at once splendorous, at once LIFE, we breathe.

The breeze blows over the shell of our ears, singing gently, like an old woman gardening, planting bulbs in the early Autumn, already anticipating what Spring will bring but still listening to the music of fireside color around her. It all pulses, throbs, intones the song that should no one alight upon this view, it will be beautiful regardless. Mirroring the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I already know our question, “If no one is around to witness such beauty, is it beautiful?” To both questions, I raise a joyful, “Yes!” joining in the song of stars, planets, and all that bear witness to Creation but does not call itself Mankind.

Self-important creatures that many of us are, believing our witness is what verifies Creation itself, we miss the unalterable, highly evident fact that we are Creation. Not that God doesn’t enjoy the appreciation for a job well done. Our Creator isn’t like the writer who keeps her beautiful prose locked up in a journal to be destroyed at her passing. No. God is a bit of a show-off when it comes to Creation. And why not? Have any of us yet beaten that?

“Creating other humans is pretty amazing,” says God, looking out over the landscape. “I’m pretty impressed with the job you all do. I love what you’ve done with roses and some dog breeds, landscape, and don’t forget topiary.”

I suppose there is all that.

“And who doesn’t think the Taj Mahal isn’t breathtaking?”

So God doesn’t need all the glory, I suppose.

“You suppose right. In a backwards sort of way. The Creator of the created-creators still gets some of the credit, don’t you think?”

Well, yes.

“So why would I mind you taking your fair share?”

I can’t think of a good reason.

“What kind of being wants all the glory when there is an infinite amount to share?”

A puny one?

“People defend Me in ways I don’t need defending. They get jealous for me when I am more like Father Christmas than Scrooge. Do I seem like Scrooge to you?”
“No.”

God with us now defies description as usual but feels, today, like the flowers and the breeze with a little wolffish wildness thrown in for good measure.

“A well-fed wolf,” God assures me. “Shall we?” A Divine finger points down into the valley.

“Yes.”

I learned the hard way that when God invites you to walk to the beautiful places and you pass it up on the off-chance there’s something better, chances are, there isn’t. And God is that friend who always knows where the good stuff is. Right now. So yes, we shall. Every time.

Stepping from the berm onto the rough grasses at the valley’s lip, we begin now. Here. At the very pace at which we begin. Fast? Slow? Compared to what?
With God the wind feels like an embrace, the sights before us become the best homemade gifts, and everything smells as if it was cleaned by the most tender nursemaid, bathed in light, care, and hope that maybe, just now, life won’t be as hard as it seems the rest of the time.

“It’s like a bit of a holiday,” says God, and I agree.

Red rocks, white rocks poke up through the rolling valley floor and the path beneath our feet, terra cotta brown and finely graveled, serpentines through the brush, the long grasses, and the sparsely decorated evergreens. Some of the trees are babes, others have reached up to the sun for quite some time now.
I look behind us for a moment, unafraid. There’s no worry of being turned into a pillar of salt today, for God is by my side, and God made all of this. I am with the One Whose very Word brought this forth. My breath rushes in as my diaphragm makes way for it, pulling down, expanding my chest cavity for the cooling atmosphere of this jewel in space we inhabit. Oh, the beauty. Oh, the Beauty.

Behind us, bare trees, once full of needles and cones and wildlife, obviously endured a fire. Around their bases, plant life has returned, but the trees themselves point slender, naked, blackened fingers toward the sky or lay down upon the hills like the pick up sticks my grandmother kept by her plastic, Westinghouse radio when I was a little girl.

What I like most about walking with God is that sometimes God speaks, but not always, for conversation isn’t about words necessarily, although we have a hard time imagining it otherwise, you and I. When important men through the years have told me not to listen to my heart, I have often thought, you might just as well stop it beating, then, for all your good intentions. For it is there, in the core of me, I hear God; it is there I walk with God, it is there I am most true, trusting at times, pleading at others, yes. But it is there that I’m not worried about how much I know, but taking comfort in how much I am known.

And oh, how much we are known, are we not? How can we help but be known when inside us resides our Creator, our loving Creator who neither runs nor hides. The veils we perceive are self-manufactured, yes? Perhaps it is a sense of unworthiness or the harsh words and ideas of others that have hung these black-out draperies around our souls. And if there is a door to the Divine Image, do we think God is on the inside or the outside? The door is imaginary, I’ve come to realize. How do I know this? I live and somehow, despite my own ignorance, apathy, impatience, greed, self-consumption, and downright callousness at times, love is born from me and comes to me, particularly at those times when I stop trying so hard.

“You’re learning,” says God.

I look behind me at the remains of the fire, how the parrot green of newborn vegetation foams forth, how life, low to the ground and lush, becomes a promise and a fulfillment at one and the same time. It gives me comfort to know that death and decay are only a fertilizer of sorts, that much of what I now see was returned to carbon, reduced to it’s base element during the fire’s blessed heat, and that element with six electrons, six protons and eight neutrons still spun and kicked and sang with life. It still does as I watch those charred trees. Perhaps they echo the words of St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

It’s all well, I say to God. For what is now well, once shall have been well.

Time liquifies out here.

“Thank you,” says God.

I swivel my gaze back around and look before me at the small hills, turning into a flowing, jaunty ridge, and behind that, massive mountains shouldering their presence to the top of the view that is earth. The sky, as you know, is always another matter.

“I love each one of those flowers back there,” God says, indicating the yellow blooms that cheered us on at the outset. “We tend to think that scale means something, but, children, I tell you it does not. There is nothing too small to be cared for and nothing too large to leave on its own.”

I think I understand. Sometimes we deem ourselves of such little account we’re not really worthy of God’s time. Who am I? we wonder. I’m not going to save the world when I can’t even balance my checkbook. I mean that. I haven’t balanced my checkbook in years. How will God ever work through me when I don’t even know what I’m here for? Best to stay convenient and be low maintenance. That way God doesn’t even need to think twice about me.

“How about three times?” God asks.

And then some people don’t see themselves as flowers at all. I’m not going to ask a thing from God. I’m a weed, my family was weeds, and we’ll never be more than weeds.

“What’s wrong with weeds?” God says. “Look around you.”

Nothing wrong with weeds out here. It’s not like anybody’s going to plant a vegetable garden.

“So you’re saying this is a good place for weeds?” God asks.

Yes. And I can’t think of a better place, either. Look how gorgeous this is. So. Maybe the problem sometimes is we’re trying to grow in places we were never meant to?

God places a finger to the Divine nose and points at us.

We don’t have to be a plant for all seasons and all places?

“Does creation reflect that?”

Not even a little.

Speaking of scale, what about those mountains? How do you feel about them?

“Probably the same way you do.”

That’s so nice.

“I love it all.”

Me too.

“I like that about you,” God says. God gathers us to the sides of Being, squeezes us in and says, “Children, I want you to look at all of this and remember just how big I Am. You see that mountain and feel so small. You see that beetle and feel so large. On the true scale of the finite, each part is very little, and there’s so much empty space in between. Do you see how close in size you actually are to that mountain when compared to the Universe?”

I do.

“The biggest difference between you and the mountain is that the mountain doesn’t have a hard time being a mountain. Do you see that?”
I do, God. I’ve never felt comfortable anywhere except with the safest of people doing absolutely nothing but being together and eating good food. Don’t forget the food.

God smiles. “Comfortable now?”

Of course. I’m here with You.

“And I’m with you always.”

Oh! Oh! That’s a gamechanger right there. What if life is just being, not doing more and more and more to belong? What if we already belong? What if we’ve always belonged?

“Oh, you have,” says God. “You’ve just forgotten. But don’t be hard on yourself. So have most people.”

I don’t understand.

“How much time do you have?” asks God.

All the time in the world?

“Good answer.”

We move forward into the creation, walking amongst every little thing, all the big things, too, and enjoying existing for the very sake of it. I am, you are, we are all in this together, now, here, always, and in all ways.

The Proof Is in the Peacock

Lisa Samson

“The peacock jumped onto the hood of the Buick and once more spread its tail, sending the flashy Buick into oblivion.”
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

As a child I loved lying on my bed staring out of the window at the bare tree branches outside, dark extensions pointing to the winter blue sky. Laying my head upon forearms rested on my bedroom window’s sill, I would tilt my eyes to the heavens. Like a lot of children, I loved gazing out of the window, imagining myself flying upward and sitting on solid yet somehow soft-as-feathers clouds. It felt more like home up there. Frequently, birds silhouetted their elegant shapes between myself and the overhead expanse and I would think how lucky they were. Surely sparrows lived without worrying about whether or not there was a Creator God in charge of the universe. Surely not.

  • Omnipotent.
  • Omniscient.
  • Omnipresent.
  • One God, both now and forevermore, amen.
  • Did the birds and the trees just know that?

Though my heart began to thirst for its Maker early on, around the age of eight the resulting whisper of Duality showed up to do its job of making things harder than need be. “If it is possible for there to be a Maker, then is it also possible for there not to be a maker?” Duality asked more in feeling than verbiage. Unfortunately, it sounded plausible.

But a yearning in my soul seemed to prevail in the form of a hard-wired desire. Quite simply, I just wanted to be with God. I just wanted God to be with me. I just wanted to hear my Creator’s voice and feel the touch of the Divine hand. I wanted to know for sure that God was just as real as my mother and father. All this little soul truly longed for was a walk “in the cool of the evening,” to stroll in the purple tones of dusk, hand in hand with God in the garden, chatting about the day that has passed and planning for the day to come.

I didn’t think that was too much to ask, and I still don’t.

God showing up visibly in front of me? Please, God. I want nothing more.

I hear tales of people seeing God’s presence, usually just a portion of it. Many of us were taught as children that Moses watched Yaweh pass in front of him only able to see the back of the Deity that set up pillars of fire and clouds with the same ease a pepper mill is set upon the dinner table.

Where was my pillar of fire, my tower of clouds just showing up and leading the way?

Jesus told me, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.”

By that criteria, I was radically blessed. Nobody at my church saw visions, dreamed dreams, spoke in tongues or experienced the kiss of the supernatural upon their daily lot. The more overt, charismatic-style spiritual activities, including tongues, was handed over to Satan for credit by those who taught me what and what not constituted the “faith once delivered unto the saints”.

This constricting, limiting criteria of God’s possible workings among humans closed something off in me as a child, depositing a film of distrust over anything experiential yet unverifiable. God was a collection of words in a book. God was cerebral. God could be argued and won. But anything we experienced or felt was completely suspect, so don’t bother with all that “emotional stuff”.

God was so little back then. No wonder I couldn’t believe that a cagey, secretive Being so prickly about every little thing could have possibly thrown The Pleiades onto night’s wing or formed the eye of a baby in its first home of its mother’s body. Saturn spun with rings of ice and rock, comets flared, rivers ran, and trees grew out of sidewalks, but somehow bellicose humans could shake their fists as they marched into hell to defy the ultimate will of the Creator that all should come to reconciliation.

When I began allowing myself to question out loud what I had been taught someone said, “God’s grace sure has a geographical preference,” for according to the teachings of my youth, many would never return to their Creator but burn in eternal torment of flame instead because they had never heard the name of Jesus. Or, let’s face it, even if they had, stealing candy from the cut crystal jar atop the piano could land you there, too. Deep inside me that sounded unfair, over-reactionary, and (may I be honest?) psychopathic. How could clear teachings to forgive others and love our enemies be real if those were things God wasn’t even willing to do?

God sounded unreal.

Finally, I had enough of this whole “Where are you, God?” nonsense. God either had to put up or I was going to shut up, stop asking the branches and the birds and try my best to create a life without a creator that set up an extremely flawed system that, if God was ultimately sovereign, didn’t need to exist in the first place. If God was like the authorities claimed, I might have to take a pass.

And the thought of that broke my heart.

One day, when I was almost twenty seven, I looked at the barren winter branches, silent, flowing upward toward the sky hovering over Fairfax, Virginia. My eldest daughter was playing on the floor our apartment’s living room.

“I can’t take this anymore,” I said to whoever was listening, if there was anybody really listening. “I need a sign. If You are there, God, please show me.”

Not surprisingly, guilt for even asking spread like the blush of embarrassment. I knew the preachers told me that signs are for a perverse generation. Even Jesus said that. But I needed a sign, anyway. I needed God to step up for once in my life in a way that broke through time/space, the spiritual and the material, and make the Divine Presence unmistakably known. At least to me.

Let it stand, Lisa. Let the prayer stand and see what happens.

But I was looking for only one answer, only one answer would suffice.

I needed God to show up. I needed God to come through. I needed God to answer this prayer more than any I had prayed before.

At the time, my then husband, Will, and I were just three years married and living in an apartment complex surrounded by other apartment complexes. Making up the rest of the community of Cardinal Court, tiny postwar saltboxes with snaggle-toothed siding and exhausted gutters squatted in rental-house resignation on quarter acre lots. A block off the tired thoroughfare where tire stores, body shops, dry cleaners, an adult book store, and a Shoney’s provided commerce, our apartment rested at ground level, its boundary fence only ten feet from the back door at our patio. Traffic hummed, people were back-and-forthing all the time, sirens evolved into background noise.

My daughter played dolls on the living room floor as sourdough biscuits baked in the oven, the two inch rise l was so proud of almost complete and ready for lunch. Salmon salad, butter, raspberry jam, or honey if preferred were waiting for Will to spread on his biscuits when he returned home for lunch. For the remaining free time I had decided to hop on Compuserve. Yep, it was that long ago.

The modem screeched and scraped the air signaling with its jarring ring I was now entering the alternate universe of the newly explorable World Wide Web. I checked my AOL email, mindful of the minutes that were racking up a commensurate removal of cash from my bank account. (I’m so glad those days are over, aren’t you?) A movement caught the corner of my eye.

I swiveled around.

Then gasped.

In the small swath of lawn between my patio and the wooden boundary fence the most majestic of all the birds walked as though he was the king of everything. This was no little sparrow that stole my vision from the blue expanse I stared at longing for home. This bird made no sense whatsoever.

His tail, draped like a wedding gown behind him, followed his scaled feet and echoed the colors of his body, his head, and his feathered crown. This peacock was dazzling, yes, but he possessed the air of freedom, of being in charge of his own, precious little life on the outskirts of the District of Colombia. His posture spoke of disdain for things like farms, zoos and fences. His demeanor said beautiful beings should be allowed to go wherever they choose.

An ancient symbol for the resurrection, though I didn’t know it just yet, the peacock was also a symbol of immortality for the ancient Greeks who believed its flesh would not decay. Jesus, who overcame death and showed fearful humans there was nothing to fear about it, became associated with the peacock. It was found in many paintings that depicted the resurrection.

And it just so happened one of these creatures was walking in a ten-foot yard space outside my apartment’s sliders in a tired-out area of Northern Virginia not long after I asked for a sign.

You outdid yourself this time, God.

I stood from my desk, tapped Ty with my index finger to my lips and pointed out the window. If I look back to the one moment my faith became my own and God became a listener as well as a proclaimer, if I hearken to my heart for the watershed moments of my life in the Creator, this was the first moment that I believed without doubt that God was real and loved me. Nothing else God could have sent would have been as perfect. It needed to be a bird for I watched the birds. And the bird needed to come down from the sky for I needed a God who landed in the dust of which I was made. It needed to speak of Jesus and goodness, beauty and a universe where color and composition and light mattered.

“That is the work of an artist,” I said to my daughter, as we stood, stock-still, and watched the solitary parade work its utter miracle in front of us.

That blue. That green. Intense. Moving. Iridescent. Perfection.

But it was the crown that sealed it. “There’s no reason for it,” I whispered. “There’s no need for those little ball thingies.” They vibrated with each step of the clawed feet. They swayed with the proud blue head. They were delightfully silly and the needed balance for a tail that spoke of the cosmos.

I would like to tell you I never doubted the existence of God again for that is exactly what happened. Love came down in the form of a male peacock, who, I found out upon calling animal control, had been on the loose for several years. He traipsed through office lobbies, yards, parking lots, and had eluded rescue so far.

Well, I thought, he has a job to do. That peacock is walking around Fairfax telling people by his mere presence, his beauty and grandness, that a Creator is afoot, and that Creator is, perhaps, a bit of a show-off in design and implementation. And not only does that Creator care, but will show up whenever, wherever, and however an invitation is proffered.

That was twenty-seven years ago and since then not one doubt has crossed my mind. Many people of faith get offended when atheists make fun of them, calling them naïve, stupid, and blind. Not me. People can think whatever they want because I know that in the end God will send them a peacock, too. Maybe not a peacock, but what they need. All they have to do is ask, and my prayer for them is only that someday they will. Not for me. Not for anybody else. But purely for their own knowing that the Divine in and among and through us all loves to make Its presence known. And that presence is Love.

Fifteen years later, I read an article online telling of a peacock’s capture in Northern Virginia. “He just had a lot of people on his list,” I thought at the time.

Hopefully, there’s another one around to take his place for those of us in the world who need a peacock. I can’t believe I’m the only one.

(c)2020 Lisa Joy Samson 
https://lisajoysamson.com