I am just back from the NSRA Street Rod gathering in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the memories I am bringing with me is a conversation I had with a woman whom I saw almost speeding down the aisle on one of the many scooters folks of all sizes and ages rent to get around. On her hat with blue spangles was the word "Love." On the front of her scooter she had posted a sign that said, "Whatever." 

I got her to stop by asking, "Whatever?" Because her response was almost listless and monotone, I think it is safe to think that she was having a hard day: "Yeah, whatever." I mentioned that her hat said, "Love" then commented that the two really did go together. That picqued her interest.

Yes, Love...Love doesn't demand criteria to be giving itself; it just gives. Friendship, appreciation, honor ~ all those things have certain markers that need to be fulfilled before they are given. But, the point of Love is that it is given and flows freely. She paused after I gave my little "ferverino." She went immediately to Scripture and Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13. And, as she did, her spirits seemed to be lifting. That makes for a good day and her smile was a gift back to me. She stopped by on the last day, still on the scooter, but without "Whatever."

"What do you do?"

This was the question the young man in my exhibit booth in Grand Rapids asked me. He had purchased a slate tile (before all things), and we had begun an interesting discussion about his hopes and dreams and intentions with his life. Before I could even think of an answer, these words popped out of my mouth, "I learn new things." We both laughed and he asked me to explain.

On my mind were the polymer clays that were sitting in my work room at home...rectangles with gorgeous colors and cubes of metallic clays and the little oven I had not yet turned on. I was also looking forward to the two books that I had purchased from "Mother Amazon" so that I could learn what this business with clay was all about. Then there was the torch and the enamel powders that were waiting their turn.

I'm getting ready for a series of conferences and exhibits in June...making around 500 notecards that I hope will last through the remainder of the year, creating around 30 metal stamped pieces, finishing up some mother of pearl sets and slate tiles, and ordering some other items. But the clays are sitting there tantalizing me, beckoning me forward on a new adventure. However, since I have not been given the 36 hour days I had asked for (24 to create and 12 for other business), they have to wait while I create new things in my mind's eye.

There is only gratitude for this nagging thing that catches my interest and keeps me engaged in an ever unfolding story. Therese of Lisieux promised that in heaven she would continue to aid those on earth...I hope that I get to keep learning and offering encouragement to those whose inner psyche keeps them moving onto "new things" and new adventures.

 before all things slate tile

before all things slate tile

working with hands

I came across an article on the relationship between working with one's hands and brain chemistry: "How busy hands can alter brain chemistry."  Because I have fallen irretrievably "in love" with metal-stamping, I was intrigued with the gist of the article that working with one's hands changes the chemistry in the brain so that one is more calm, happier, and in tune with reality. It's the same whether it is baking (shout out to my sister here with her bakery, Harvest Bakery, in Terre Haute, IN...find it on Facebook), sewing, woodworking, or mechanics. One of the individuals interviewed, Matthew Crawford, is the author of a book, "Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work." As I think about the title (have not read it), I can feel the cylinders in my brain firing and my spirit responding to this deeper reality that seeks to express itself in the work of my hands. I am also reminded of the text in Psalm 90:17: "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!" (NRSV). Ignatius of Loyola urges us to think about how we might labor with Christ, how we might cooperate in the work of God given our gifts, our opportunities. In turn, our hands allow us to reach for something, to express solidarity with another, to welcome with a handshake, and, I think with a profound sense of gratitude, what a gift we are given. Deo gratias.

chrocet fingers baby stripes.png

ash wednesday

My standard "snark" line: today, we get to make ashes of ourselves....which, of course, we already are as the words are spoken: "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."

I sent out a lovely little book, "Mary Oliver: Poetry for Lent", to all the folks who have subscribed to the Newsletter associated with the website. Her reflection for today is on "unburdening."  Some might call it "simplifying." There are practical ways to do this which include cleaning out the closets, making the "good will" run, and modifying diet. So it is not an "up in the air" kind of thing, but one right down on the earth.

The more basic question seems to be, though, "What weighs me down? What is heavy in my life?" And the necessary question..."Why do I hold onto it?" One can ask these questions in a psycholgoical setting which offers a valid place to explore the possibilities. In addition, one can take them to prayer, whatever that terms means for each individual...but some sense of letting the questions sit there in the Presence of the Holy. In that context for myself, it becomes clear that I am created for something else, called to something else. In that awareness, my perspective changes from self-preoccupation and examination to wonder with an openness for the reality in front of me that discloses itself and calls forth a generosity of spirit.

Happy Ashing, then!




For Mark 7: 34

A lingering sign or outright groan,

issuing from eternity and arcing

over time? Surely, it was the groan.

They had brought him to you expecting

that you would puncture his deafness

and untwist his muddling tongue.

Your imperative, Ephphatha,

released the imprisoning ache

of his constraining isolation.

The reverberation of your groan

trembles through my deafness,

shaping sounds quivering in speech.

(c) Margaret Lois Jansen


new adventures

I have really enjoyed starting metal stamping. The process allows me to approach each piece in a new frame of mind so that every piece is unique and not repeated. As folks in one Facebook page I am connected to says, "Welcome to the addiction." My credit card agrees. This is going to require more self-discipline than I had anticipated. A highlight this week was the discovery of some gold-toned bars  (pewter alloy) that are as soft as butter to stamp. After my two pound hammer (it's a beauty) came in this week, I pulled out one of the bars not realizing it was a pewter alloy with gold tone. I had thought it was a much stronger metal and would require the full weight of the two-pounder (I am going to have to give it a name, really). "Smash" would be an appropriate word. On the next try, the word "trust" was most appropriate!

I think what I enjoy is that this is not production work (although there is a time and place for that and when I have a fund-raising order or I am getting ready for a's all production). The metal in front of me and I have a small dialogue as I look over my stamps. Sometimes I sketch it out while in others I let my hands choose in concert with the metal itself. I'll be merging some of the previous work I do on the other items (mother of pearl, glass, slate and so forth) and metal stamping of phrases on some aluminum cuffs. It's always an adventure and when these ideas dance in my head at night...well, then I dream.

piece 5

the details in Mark and finding all things new

This evening I finished the Study Notes for the classes on the Gospel of Mark that I will be teaching at St. Christopher this coming (almost here) year. While I've read and worked with this Gospel numerous times over the last thirty some years, there are always small details that suddenly pop off the page that cause me to think and re-think my assumptions about the Text.

I've been asked how I can teach material over and over and watched with curiosity the response of the questioner when I comment that it is always new to me. And, yet, I think, this is true about relationships, jobs, reading material, creative it is that one can engage and see fresh someone or some thing. I think it is grace in the way Anne Lamont understands the mystery of it: I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. 

The new year begins in a few days. New...and yet it will be the familiar in a first-time context. Even as the "big picture" gives a horizon against which to gain a perspective, the daily details offer insight and invitation. I hope to see them new.

My challenge to myself is to create some ink drawings to interpret some of the pericopes in whether that really occurs or whether I'm comfortable sharing them ~ that may be another question!

...the Act of Hope

The Associate Pastor of my Parish, St. Christopher Community in Speedway, Indiana, offered a reflection the other day at a morning Mass...he was exploring the virture of hope as something needed in this world. With the current news and the divisions and sufferings that the media presents to us daily, the sense of hope is, I think, vital for keeping one's eyes on the larger picture or one's spirit open to Spirit. As Fr. Matt continued, he said, "Prayer is the Act of Hope." 

I noted that he did not say "an act" but "The Act."

When I think about prayer, I think about communion with the Divine, coming into awareness of the Presence that is always there, always within me seeking to radiate out beyond me. It is an expression of trust that there is something more. It is not passive but engagement...."The Act of Hope" that Something, Someone holds us and invites us to relationship and communion, even though the immediate and tangible evidence eludes us.

It is a commonplace saying that what prayer changes is the one who prays. The one who prays enters into hope, becomes more open to the reality at hand, so that there is space for compassion for the self and the other and room for the Divine.

"mother amazon" and "father google"

"Mother Amazon" is the name that I've given to that giant that provides opportunity for any and every need one might have...including "free shipping." Amazon does not have dibs on everything. While I have toyed with the idea of moving selections of my art to the special section that Amazon has for original hand-craft, when it comes to collecting the info to meet the requirements, something within shuts down. I would love the exposure and the possibility of sales. But while sales are important for a viable business, they are not the last word. There are other questions as to whether I am in tune with the Divine Desire for me. At this point, it just does not connect right with my inner spirit. It might someday, but not yet. It is a matter of discernment and the move within is simply not there.

On the other hand, Mother Amazon does enable me to find what I need for different projects. I needed to buy diamond cut drills for my next project...and there they were along with information on their use and the other items that would be helpful to use them correctly. Had I walked into a Lowe's or Menards, I might have found the drills (with some help), but whether I would have learned about the other necessary info is a question. So, in its proper place...Mother Amazon.

And then, there is "Father Google" providing information and direction on how to proceed. Hence, the directions, the videos are helpful in learning.

All of it is a matter of using rightly what is available...and it is so easy to get sucked into hours of search and fascination and the planting of "want." Yes, hours....

exhibiting at a conference

I'm just back from exhibiting at a Health Care Ministries Conference in Erlanger, Kentucky. The folks who were participating in the conference were mostly women, although there were a few men sprinkled in there. These were parish nurses, chaplains, folks who work at the edge of living. Because that kind of work requires a spiritual depth that permits the practitioner to enter into the lives of others with freedom and respect, spending time with them was a great delight. They had done the hard work that provided them with a great amount of self-knowledge and interior freedom which results in having "no front," no affectation or need to impress.

I always learn something from each exhibiting experience. Sometimes it is just about how to display, how to arrange; other times, it is a journey into interior discovery prompted by the individual stories of the folks who come to my table and offer a reflection on the art that they see as well as sharing their own journeys. 

It's not about busines; it's about the discovery of liminal space, about relationship, and about a great depth of gratitude for our common and graced humanity.


the addiction of genealogy

All it took was doing that DNA test. While I blew off doing the "spit-in-the-tube-and-mail" for a month or two...or three, maybe, I finally did it and did not think more about it. Two days ago, the email came that the results were in. The real surprise for me was that I seemed to have inherited my Dad's side of the family in my DNA. For those of you who know about such things, maybe that is pretty normal or that female descendents get the dad's profile.

There was evidence in my great grandmother's maiden name (Koogle) that the origins were in part from the Netherlands. In addition, that was one of the things my Dad had told me...Dutch. There was also that little conversation at an exhibit where one of the participants in the conference asked me if I were from the United States. Re: she ministered mostly among families that were Dutch immigrants, and she noted that I looked like I would fit in that scenario. So the around 2/3s that showed I had descended from Northern Europe (meaning, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and so forth) was not really a surprise.

The around 25% from Ireland (including Scotland and Wales) was not a surprise either as my great grandfather's name was Cole and his mother's name, Mason, and there was some strange story about a slate chalkboard (in my possession) that had come from Ireland because the owner (some distant relative) had smacked a teacher and he had to flee on the first boat over, slate in hand. This is proably apocryphal. My maiden name shows itself to be English in origin, though. Maybe that's the Wales connection or something near the Scottish border, or maybe that is my Mom's contribution as her birth name is definitely English and traceable to the Ark and the Dove, an unregistered ship from England that had arrived on these shores prior to the Revolutionary War (meaning here: undocumented ancestors).

The 6% Scandinavian...well, maybe that also is from my Mom. Diligent and time-consuming internet trolling (and finally a purchase at connected me to a 5th direct descendant individual who had landed in Nova Scotia.

The amount of time I have sat at the computer doing these searches is beyond belief. Before I know it, it is 1:37 a.m. or later, and I'm still glued. It's a new insight to that phenomena called addiction...reason and brain are wiped out in pursuit of something.

Cool part of this...I now have names for the folks in some pictures I have from my Dad. The next step will be scanning and loading some of these shots for the family tree...addicted.

Wonderful Dogs

Every day I work in my office or work room, my dog, Freddie comes in and plops himself on the floor and keeps an eye on me and what I am doing. When I leave for a trip, my last view of him is with his head over the couch looking at me with longing and sad eyes. Then when I return, the doggie dance of joy is one of a spinning dervish.

Freddie came into our lives on a day in October back in 2006. It was the day I launched my first website and I was celebrating with friends at a Panera. A phone call came in from my youngest son that he had brought this dog home...please note, the son had recently blessed us with another dog and two cats and some bizarre stories of how he had acquired them. One more dog - really?!? To say the least, I was not happy about this and had given him instructions that he had to take the pup to Animal Control...except that he couldn't. Freddie had a broken leg from being hit by a car. My hero son had rescued him and brought him home.

When I got home - this is Friday afternoon around 4:00 p.m. - the son is gone and this doggie face peered out at me from around the corner of the house in the back yard. I took one look to assess the situation, went in and called our vet, sobbing, of course. I was asked if I were a client. Answer, "Yes, we have three." I'm thinking to myself, "Now four." Friday, late afternoon, and they tell me to bring him on out.

I put a leash around his neck and started to walk him to the open door at my car in the driveway. At that point, he plopped down and wouldn't move. Instinctively, I bent down to pick him up and paused mid-way as the thought raced across my head, "Are you nuts? You don't know this dog. He's hurt." Swallowing hard, I continued and got him to the car.

He's been with us since that time, devoted and loyal, and downright ornery at points (he is the most stubborn dog about some things); in short, a wonderful dog.


travel and folks along the way

One of the great privileges we have as Americans is, I think, the privilege of travel. Even taking a day trip can offer opportunity and challenge that both expand how I see the world. I just got back from exhibiting at a "We Are the Church" conference in Macomb County, MI, and thinking about the time. For one, my friend, Helen, and I wanted to see Lake St. Clair and ventured off east on 23 Mile Road. To our surprise, the entire lake appears to be bordered by private properties which meant we could only catch snatches of the water between the houses. We finally ended up at a delightful restaurant with a parking lot at the water's edge (Bobby Mac's in Chesterfield, in case you go up that way). The salad was a work of art...truly. Gathered friends and families filled the restaurant with verbal enthusiasm.

The return trip...."Do you want to go to a casino?" and the great answer, "Sure, why not!" and off we went. Please know, anyone who thinks they are going to win on those slot machines...that is generally a "Not." However, and I have no idea of exactly what the combination was, but, yes, I actually won some. We enjoyed a lunch at Lake Pokagon State Park...that's a place to go with its beautiful lake and trails...and were on our way until...until that little orange light popped on in the dashboard. The instruction manual indicated there was not an emergency until the light began to blink, and blink, it did. With help (as my phone had also died in the interim) at an Auto Collision shop in Ft. Wayne, I got directions to a Dodge dealership (O'Daniels) where the consideration, the promptness, and the humor were outstanding.

Just regular stuff to expect on any trip, maybe. Yet, it is the clerks at the gas stops, the wait staff at restaurants, the clerk at Krogers, the personnel at a dealership that provided the "ease" along the way that enriched the delightful experiences and calmed the anxious moments, thereby making memories that journey with me on the next travel date. Thank you all

minor prophets...

The Minor Prophets are a fascinating group of folks. In doing the sketches, one of the recurring images I was aware of is that of fire. Burning words, burning hearts, burning drive to speak...their words evoke a focus on issues of crisis. Some of their words comfort and warm our hearts ~ others burn deeply and cause a stirring of conscience in daily living, whether one is a believer or not. 

The joy of setting up a website

I'm not sure I would call it joy this that I managed to delete the original blog page (that actually had some content already!). The thumbnail image I chose for this post is a tile (saturated color) I photographed near the Garden of Gethsemane, Israel; I had titled it, "Jesus wept." However,...

The Genesis Prints are up. I was not sure I wanted to post them, but the response I had to them at the last exhibit, We Are the Church, motivated me to make that decision. I hope you enjoy them. Click on the "Abram and the Unknown" and the prints come up individually so that one can scroll through the series (otherwise, too much color when seeing them all at once next to each other).

Working on photographing some more of the jewelry today and tomorrow...and maybe working on a new "whimsey" design. If you see the items, those ambitions were fulfilled.