“And Peace Came Back Again.”

I have been reading Mrs. Loretta Cowman’s devotionals for many years now. I finally bought two new used ones from Amazon recently. My first copy of “Springs in the Valley” had fallen into the bathtub so many times it was turning to pulp. I am on my second copy of “Streams in the Desert” with a third copy stashed away (I’ll probably give it away before I need it) when that one finally bites the dust.

I have read these individual devotions at least a dozen times each. I have dog-eared my favorite ones, the ones that have fallen on special dates. Even though I have read these every year, every year I receive a new message, a new encouragement, and a new insight.

This past year was very difficult at home and at work. Severe personality clashes on top of hormonal upheaval made peace scarce and chaos king. At work, personality dynamics changed and I found myself in an uncomfortable work environment that I was unable to fix or escape from.

As each situation escalated, I was perplexed how to relieve the stress at home and at work. I am non-confrontational and going to my boss regarding an issue was very hard for me. Mrs. Cowman included Dr. Pardington’s admonition in her “Springs in the Valley” October 7 devotion:

“….When you run into a spiritual fog bank, don’t tear ahead; slow down the machinery of your life if necessary, anchor your bark or let it swing at its moorings. We are to simply trust God. While we trust, God can work. Worry prevents Him from doing anything for us. If our minds are distracted and our hearts distressed; if the darkness that overshadows us strikes terror to us; if we run hither and yon in a vain effort to find some way of escape out of a dark place of trial, where Divine providence has put us, the Lord can do nothing for us.

The peace of God must quiet our minds and rest our hearts. We must put our hand in the hand of God like a little child, and let Him lead us out into the bright sunshine of His love. He knows the way out of the woods. Let us climb up into His arms, and trust Him to take us out by the shortest and surest road.”

I printed out this quote and read it nearly everyday at work. I eventually spoke with my boss, but the atmosphere did not change. So I began to learn to trust God. It took awhile, but by the beginning of the year, I was learning to let it all go. Things had not changed, and, in fact, got much worse for a month or two. I made some difficult decisions regarding one of the kids, which turned out to everyone’s benefit. My boss ended up leaving his position and the difficult employee was in charge for a short season. But he abruptly quit.

When the Lord does a work, it is mysterious how the transformation takes place. I am the typical hare…the one who “runs hither and yon in a vain effort to find some way of escape”, but the Lord has taught me to “simply trust” Him. My work and home environment has completely changed; perfect, no, manageable, yes. I know where to go when I “run into a spiritual fog.” Below is a poem from today’s devotion from “Streams in the Desert”.

“There was a scar on yonder mountainside,

Gashed out where once the cruel storm had trod;

A barren, desolate chasm, reaching wide

Across the soft green sod.

But years crept by beneath the purple pines,

And veiled the scar with grass and moss once more,

And left it fairer now with flowers and vines

Than it had been before.

There was a wound once in a gentle heart,

Whence all life’s sweetness seemed to ebb and die;

And love’s confiding changed to bitter smart,

While slow, sad years went by.

Yet as they passed, unseen an angel stole

And laid a balm of healing on the pain,

Till love grew purer in the heart made whole,

And peace came back again.”

Don’t Rain on Our Parade

Twitter/Daniel Bru

Northern California has been experiencing a drought for several years now, so a little real precipitation would be welcome by the celebrants in Oakland this morning. That would be the icing on the cake. But, good news, we might be having an El Niño winter, so hopefully that drought will become history like the basketball drought that ended on June 16, 2015 when the Golden State Warriors knocked down the Cleveland Cavaliers in an exciting NBA Finals jousting match that went to game six.

Props to the Cavaliers for being a tough and resilient competitor, the Warriors certainly had to work for their title. However, there are a few naysayers out in cyber world that are diminishing the Warriors’ victory. Really….what’s with these folks that can’t just say, “Congratulations!”. Come on. The Warriors have played great – and I mean great – record-breaking basketball all year. Steph broke a couple records, Klay had that super-sized quarter where he scored 37 points – 37 frickin’ points – in a 12 minute span. It takes me about 12 years to hit that many baskets. They have had a great season. Listening to these sourpusses, you’d think the Warriors stole the title from an eighth grade girls CYO team; now if they played my daughter’s 6th grade CYO Blazers, they’d have some work to do.

Anyway, you gonna tell Conley and the Grizzlies they didn’t play their hearts out. They did, I saw those games. Oh, and Harden. He just tiptoed through the tulips, huh; he wasn’t being serious. Yeah, right, he was one fierce contender, he wasn’t MVP runner up for nothing. The playoffs were brutal. Each of those teams played hard to stop the Warriors. The Finals were just plain painful.

Not only did the Warriors have to stop LeBron James, the greatest player in the known and inhabitable world, but they had to contend with a group of hungry players that wanted the title just as much as they did. Cleveland’s drought has been longer, and they were really thirsty. Yeah, Love was out, and Kyrie got sidelined in Game 1, I was bummed because he is a great player to watch. But, other players stepped in and made the Warriors work for that title. It was no picnic, it was physical, ugly and draining. You’ve got to give the Cav’s credit for finding the Warriors’ Achilles heel by neutralizing Curry and Thompson. After Game 3, I was worried. Will the Warriors get their groove back? Will Achilles fall? Nope, because the Warriors aren’t just Curry and Thompson, they are also Livingston, Igoudala, Lee, Bogut, the Brazilian Blur – Barbosa, Hannah’s Harrison, Draymond Green, Ezeli, Holiday, Kuzmic, McAdoo, Rush and Mo Speights, all thirsty guys too, with a coaching staff led by Steve Kerr. They were able to adjust to the brilliant coaching of David Blatt, wear down the greatest player in the known and inhabitable world, and win the series.

Don’t rain on our parade. They do deserve it, not just a happenstance win, or a lucky season, but a crown to an awesome and record breaking year. Is this the beginning of a dynasty? Who knows? Let’s enjoy today. Omar Khayyam wrote, “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Let’s enjoy this wonderful moment and leave tomorrow’s moments for another time. Congratulations!!

Sports Writer?

typewriter

Last week, I had my first post published on an online Golden State Warriors-related website. It was very exciting, and very “trippy” according to Ellie how the hook up was made. A few weeks ago, I sent a couple of my CYO articles to a coworker who actually coaches basketball on the side. He wrote: You are a terrific writer! Why aren’t you doing work for ESPN or some other well-known media outlet? You are missing your calling. Be a sports writer.”  I was pleasantly amused.

The next day – I swear – Ellie called me to let me know the website Warrior Nation was looking for unpaid writers with the possibility of being paid in the future. Really? Especially in light of my coworker’s email, I felt a door opening for accelerating my writing. With the Finals going on, there was plenty to write about. So I sent in a sample of my Warrior-related work, and they have taken me on.

Sports writing? Really? In 2006, before I was officially divorced and when I was worried about how I was going to support and take care of ten kids, a friend said to write. Also, often at that time, I would daydream while washing dishes, maybe that was my coping mechanism to get through that tough time. But, I remember praying, “telling” the Lord, it would be great to find a way to capitalize on this daydreaming habit, since I did it so well. Funny, years later, I began to write screenplays, a direct piece of fruit from my daydreaming. I also prayed a Gideon prayer, if the Lord wanted me to write,  I would have to get published within the next year. It was the summer of 2006 when I prayed. I had written some children’s stories in the past and had tried to get them published, lots of rejection notices. No publication.

I did some writing that fall. During Christmas time, my dad wanted me to help him persuade my writer godfather to write a piece about their 1948 St. Ignatius football squad, but Phil was not responding. I told my dad, I would write it. He gave me some great prompts and over a weekend I wrote “The Boys of Autumn”. My dad liked it, and even my godfather, Phil O’Connor, liked it. I reached out to St. Ignatius’ Genesis magazine’s editor and sent him the article. It was published in it’s Spring 2007 edition. The dew was on the fleece. This article was also published (and I was paid) in the Catholic San Francisco in August 2007, a year after I prayed the prayer. The fleece was dry.

Maybe I have come full circle. I started with sports writing and here I am again writing about sports. Just so you don’t think I’m not competent in the field, I am the daughter of a Little League baseball, CYO basketball and Pop Warner football coach. I grew up playing many different sports, and I’ve been to tons of football and basketball games. I may not be up to snuff on all the players’ stats, but I like to look at sports with a different eye, and I hope my writing will reflect that. Below is “The Boys of Autumn”, cut and pasted, old school, from SI Genesis Spring 2007. :)

SI 1948

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Thank You, Steve Kerr

Cover photo

Yesterday, I appealed to you in my blog to spare me a Game Seven. The past two months of playoffs and finals have taken a toll on me. I was getting too emotionally involved, and getting pasty looking from so many Tums. So, in the wake of the Warriors win last night, I want to thank you from the bottom of my stomach.

Last night’s game started off well, you guys were hitting on all eights. No need to grab the Tums. It was time to bring the hammer down. Curry’s flow was nice and smooth, Andre was  hitting the J’s and Klay, Draymond and Harrison were all in sync. You guys were looking good. Up 11 at the end of the first, and my blood pressure was stable.

Enter second quarter, we just couldn’t gain that 50 point lead I wanted to feel secure. Those Cavaliers, lead by the greatest player in the known and inhabited world, perked up and snuffed our lead to 2 by end of the first half. I thought I made it clear in my blog that I was very comfortable with a good 10 point lead. I guess you didn’t get the memo. I can’t do a game seven, Steve. So, I went for a ride. I needed some ocean air and time to put the NBA Finals in perspective. It’s only a game…I think they can…it’s only a game…I think they can, like the Little Blue {and Yellow} Engine.

The third quarter was underway when I returned. The Dubs were up by ten. The memo must’ve gone through. The momentum began to increase and so did our lead. We were relaxing over here, it was looking good. We might win it tonight. We just needed to hold the lead.

The Cavs were getting tired in the fourth, and all the Dubs needed to do was maintain the status quo of a 10 point lead or more. But, wait, LeBron, the greatest player in the known and inhabited world, grabbed a pass and sailed down the court and violently slam dunked a two. No big hoopla, but the wind was changing and the Cavs got a whiff of possible victory. J.R. Smith plunked down a couple three balls. The Tums were tumbling out of the stupid, new plastic container. NO GAME SEVEN, PLEASE!!

But, just as the wind appeared to change in favor of the Cavs, it was a fickle wind, and Steph and Andre responded with a plethora of baskets. Shaun Livingston was making critical plays that enabled Steph to control the momentum to victory.

Today I was excited about the win. Last night, I was exhausted. I felt like I played those games against the Pelicans, the Grizzlies, the Rockets and finally, Cleveland’s Cavaliers. I hope you all enjoy your victory, and continue to give the Bay Area great playing basketball. Thank you, again, for eliminating game seven.

Dear Steve Kerr

steve kerr

Hey…hi, I just want to thank you for bringing our team to the Finals. They’ve had an extraordinary year. I’m sticking around until the end, which I hope will be tonight. Let the guys know, no game seven, please. I’m not really a basketball fan, or even a bandwagoneer, but with two daughters that love the game, I’ve gotten swept up in the excitement.

And the Finals have been very exciting…no, wait, sorry, I lied…they have been very excruciating. I haven’t felt this much anxiety since Joe Montana played football, and I was much younger then. My daughter banishes me from the front room to the downstairs room because of my verbal expressions of anxiety.

That first game was way too close for my comfort zone, thrilling, but too much so, there ought to be a doctor’s warning. The next two games, the Cavaliers played like warriors, and it seemed like the Warriors were a little cavalier about the Finals. But, apparently, you picked up on my telepathic advice to change up the game plan, and came back with some great wins in the last two games. And I thank you for winning by a comfortable margin that enabled me to sleep those nights.

I don’t know why basketball doesn’t just have a Super Basketball Bowl, and we can freak out all in one day. But, no, the NBA stretches the torture over the course of a couple weeks. I am just too old for this. So I appeal to you, as a fellow middle-ager, win this one for the quipper. So, let the guys know, no game seven, please. Thank you.

Your friend,

Donna Fentanes

A Fragment from Fenelon

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The shiny fragment I want to share today is a quote from Dr. McGee’s sermon, “How to have Fellowship with God”, which broadcast this morning. His sermons have been my mainstay every Sunday for decades like Mrs. Cowman’s devotionals have encouraged my heart nearly everyday. Here is the quote from Francois Fenelon, a French Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer, who encouraged the church back in the 17th century and continues to do so even today.

“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, it’s pleasures, and it’s pains, to a dear friend.

Tell him your troubles, that he may comfort you; tell him your joys, that he may sober them; tell him your longings, that he may purify them; tell him your dislikes, that he may help you conquer them; talk to him of your temptations, that he may shield you from them; show him the wounds of your heart, that he may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.

If you thus pour out your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of their heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved (conversation) with God.”

I hope you all have a great week.

 

The Return of the Blog

diamond_sparkle2This past week, I sent some of my columns to a friend, he suggested I resurrect my “From the Shoe” blog and write a little each day. I am taking his advice, and putting a Lebron-Iso effort at blogging each day, and pushing myself to the laptop, to the paint, if you will.

Today was a slow day, only two kids pretty much at home. It’s freezing on the coast, which I like, so I ended up watching movies with one of the kids and messing around with the blog.

While I was playing around with different templates, I was watching “Bullitt”. The car chase scene came on and, of course, I stopped what I was doing and watched every minute of that breathtaking piece of film history. Those were some cool cars being driven through a cool city. Even Bullitt’s girlfriend’s car was cool, I don’t know if it was a Porsche or a Karman-Ghia though.

When I watch old movies or even listen to songs from when I was growing up, I get lost in those times. I remember being a kid, what it felt like, how much I liked Steve McQueen, how much I wanted my own Karman-Ghia, and I get stuck, stuck in some nostalgic funk and lose focus on the present tasks.

I get that way a lot, and I want to – not learn to focus – but stay focused, especially when it comes to writing. My friend, Scott Aughtmon, recently posted an article about the 19th century violinist, Paganini. Of course, I read it immediately since I love stories about this great artist. But Scott hit the nail on the head pertaining to not only his genius, but to his greatness, and that was his focused time and concentration to his craft. Scott relates this to business and the need to delegate responsibilities to others in order to focus on the talents and gifts that need to blossom.

I think that is part of what I need to do to bring my blog, my writing, back to life. Not only do I need to delegate some of the things I do with the kids, like transportation and chores; but, I think I need to focus on the things I want to say, not what I think the world wants to hear or even what the church wants hear. But, the thoughts and impressions that come my way. Not a full discourse of theology, not the right answers even, just the shiny fragments like the little stones Much Afraid gleaned on her journey to the High Places of the Shepherd. Thanks for reading.

Here’s the link to Scott’s LinkedIn article:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/legendary-violinist-surprising-reason-you-should-scott-aughtmon?trk=prof-post