29 May 2011

Armory Birds

Here’s a story: Lee and I recently moved to a hundred-year-old house in the Old Mechanicsville neighborhood, so we have some new things to get used to…like roaches.  (We actually had roaches in the last place we lived but there weren’t as many cracks and crannies for them to escape into!!!)
We returned home from a movie late on Thursday night.  There was a roach in the kitchen.  We attempted to squash it.  It escaped into a crack (of course!).  Then we heard a rushing, rustling sound from the living room.   Lee though intruder; I thought giant rat.  We were both wrong.  It was birds, three of them.  They had come in through the fireplace in our living room.  They were flying around our living room and foyer, somewhat inexpertly, I quickly noticed, as if they were not quite fully-fledged.  The other thing I noticed immediately was that I had no idea what kind of birds they were.  Lee and I both thought they looked like bats.  They were mostly black or very dark gray, with pointed wings, which they held open when they clung to our curtains. 
            I’m not very good with animals.  I had no intention of touching the birds with my bare hands but they didn’t find their way to the door on their own, so I caught them in a hat and put them outside.  I was really sad that these young birds didn’t seem to be good flyers yet and releasing them might be a bad thing.  But I didn’t know what else to do.

            I kept thinking about our avian intruders.  I kept wondering what type of birds they were.  I left for the beach.  (Incidentally, after I had departed, ANOTHER bird came down the chimney and Lee had to catch it and release it!  He couldn’t just hide under a trashcan this time and leave me to the bird-catching!) I googled “birds in your chimney” and immediately found out that we had chimney swifts.  I learned several facts about chimney swifts:

  • Chimney swifts roost in holes like hollow logs, building nests that cling to the vertical sides, but the reduction of their habitats forced them to find alternative nesting places – chimneys.
  • Chimney swifts prefer stone or brick chimneys.  New homes with metal flues and chimney caps are unusable for swifts.
  • Chimney swifts only reside in North America in the summer (April – July).  They are migratory, spending the winter in eastern Peru.  (Wow, that’s crazy!)  They have also been found in Europe.
  • They are insectivores; a family of swifts may devour up to 12,000 insects per day.
  • They are incredibly difficult to raise in captivity and are on endangered species lists.
  • Keeping your chimney clean, which you should probably do anyway, is the best way to ensure that chimney swifts can build a good nest.  If the chimney is sooty, the nest will not adhere to the side and might fall into your fireplace, spilling baby birds.

I’m excited about hosting chimney swifts!!!  I’m sad that I wasn’t able to help the first family of swifts but if they hadn’t ended up in my living room, I might not have ever learned about them!  It has been fun to let God teach me about Armory Birds! 

26 May 2011

New Poem

Buzz [5.25.11]

Drink a cup of coffee
Strong coffee.
Wake up the body
The mind and heart are waiting
For everything else to
Catch up.
Leave room inside,
Vast and spacious
Montana soul.
Wide sky of blue
For flying,
For falling,
For shouting out the Name.
No space for
The Spirit of Lightness.
Gravity makes things heavy.
Heaviness makes things light.
Eternity is clapping,
For the runner
Is running his course.

The Word is weighty.
Teaching the steps
To the elusive dance.
Speaking out the movement
One by one by one
Wooden legs waiting
Stone feet tapping
An all-new rhythm.

The Word
Is not whatever.
It comes
And when it comes
It makes its home
And dwells.

13 April 2011

Little Love Stories

In my Fiction Writing class we've been talking about short-short stories, otherwise known as flash-fiction or whatever.  Basically, it's a really short story.  No big deal, right?  Well, actually, for story-tellers, it can be a challenge to tell an entire story in less than a thousand words!!!  So, here's a couple of little love stories.  The first one was inspired by words from Parke Cottrell and a game called Buzz Words.  

Little Love Story #1:
On the oncology floor of the hospital, the sterile surfaces were disguised with plastic grapes and fake flowers.  The kids would pull off the leaves and write love notes to each other. 
On more than one occasion, these secret communiqu├ęs had fallen into the wrong hands, causing nurses to loose entire nights of sleep to bouts of weeping.
There was a file box behind the desk at the nurse’s station jammed with memorabilia; things the children had left behind when they moved on.  Photographs, colored-in pictures, tiny caps for bald heads.  The nurses tried not to open it too often.
On Thursday, poor emaciated Johnny succumbed.  They removed a green scrap from his clutching, lifeless hand.  "I love you," was all it said.  Sister Lilac burst into tears.  Only a week ago, she had retrieved a similar artifact from the cold grip of little Estelle.  "I love you too," was the simple message inscribed in Johnny’s enfeebled script on the artificial foliage.
Little Love Story #2:
“You know I would give my life for you,” Jimmy told her on a regular basis.  “Clearly not,” said Maggie, as the screen door slammed behind him yet again.  “Dying for someone and living for them are two very different things,” she always told the cuckoo clock in the hall.  When Maggie heard that old Jimmy’s been run down by a drunken driver outside a bar in Reno, she sighed and shrugged.  “At least I know he finally did something for me.”
Little Love Story #3:
She had cried all night; she was gone in the morning. She’d left only her handkerchief. He hadn’t known what to say to her, though now many options came to him. He held the hankie to his heart and cursed himself for driving her away with his silence. She needed words the way a flower needs water. But he’d never had a green thumb. It was just his way, to let things die. They’d had weeks and weeks of beautiful springtime but summer heat always follows, drying up the lush growth and scorching the ground. This kind of movement was confusing. Just when he’d gotten used to a season, it moved on. The world was always moving on and he was always struggling to catch up.
Write her a letter, said a tiny voice.
It’s too late, he said in response. But the paper was there and a pen on the desk in the kitchen. He opened toe drawer and found a single stamp among the litter of bills and papers.
“She’ll never get it,” he said aloud. He wanted her there, with him. Tangible. To trust his words to go out into the wide world and, somehow, to find their way to her seemed a leap of faith impossible for him to make. But it was the only way for him to tell her what she desperately needed to hear and what, he now realized, he desperately needed to say.
There you go!!!  All that story goodness in less than 500 words!

Laura Cottrell 

27 August 2010

Altered Books

This is a quick introduction to the world of Altered Books:

Begin with an ordinary book (preferably one you don't want to read, since you will be "altering" it quite a bit!).  

Rip out some of the pages.

Using your trusty Glue Stick, glue some of the pages together.
Hardback books are nice and sturdy!!!

Next, get out your Sharpie markers, crayons, photos, magazine clippings, stamps, paint, etc...and just have fun!  You can choose a theme for your Altered Book (such as "My Summer") or just use your Altered book for experimentation!

Here are some photos of pages from some of my Altered Books:  This one was done with paint chips, foam letter stamps, and acrylic paint.

This page was made with magazine clippings and cardboard letter stickers.

This page is a paper and magazine clipping collage on the theme of Psalm 130.

You can even cut out a space in your book and glue larger things inside it, like these shells.

17 August 2010

The Book of Luke - Laura

So…the book of Luke.  I like Luke because he’s authentic.  He was a doctor and the only non-Jew to pen one of the gospels.  I think that’s important because he is writing to his Greek friends, people who don’t necessarily know all about the Jewish religion, people who are probably skeptical about the whole thing.  And he just tells it like it happened.  I love that Luke doesn’t pull punches; he doesn’t leave out or gloss over the hard and crazy things Jesus said.  (Check out Luke chapter 11 where Jesus curses the religious leaders with six woes for being “like unmarked graves which men walk over without knowing it”!!!) 

Jesus is inviting us to take off our masks!
In twenty-first century America, we are used to having everything sold to us.  We expect everything, including our breakfast cereal and toilet paper, to come to us in neat packages with brightly-colored pictures on the front.  I am bothered by the fact that we want Jesus to come the same way.  We want a story from the Bible that goes down easy, that we can pour milk over and eat with a spoon.  But Jesus doesn’t need a PR representative.  Jesus isn’t selling.  He told some rich religious people, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable to God.” (Luke 16: 14-15)  Jesus sees through the masks and invites us into the kingdom of God where we learn to play by different rules and value the things that God values.  There are a lot of lessons from Jesus about taking off masks.  We can’t hide our hearts from God.  He knows how messy and needy we are.  Jesus words are heavy; they don’t go down easy.  So, whether we are “expert witnesses” who’ve been following along with Jesus for years or, like Luke’s Greek friends—new to the whole thing, we’ve got to peel off the masks of self-justification and cynicism and recognize Jesus.  In Luke chapter 4, a demon recognizes Jesus, saying, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”  It’s pretty crazy that demons know the truth that religious people are blind to. 

            God, give us eyes to see and ears to hear you, and hearts that are courageous enough to follow you into the radical life you call us to!

Laura Cottrell

12 May 2010

Haggai - Laura

The Book of Haggai is about building houses.  It's about priorities.  God tells his people that he wants them to rebuild his house, the Temple, and to stop being so focused on building up their own houses.  He spends chapter 1 reminding them of this discrepancy; he even reminds them that the work they are doing isn't satisfying them (Haggai 1:6).  They need to check their priorities.  They need to see the bigger picture:  God's house is more important than my little house; God's kingdom is more important than the little kingdom I spend so much time trying to build.  Through the prophet Haggai, God is reminding his people that his kingdom is a big deal.  He chose them (2:23), he was with them (1:13 - so huge!!!), and he even went so far as to stir their hearts to motivate them to do what he was asking (1:14).  

God says: 
"I will shake the heavens and the earth.  I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms."  And so he does.  


Picture: "The Kingdom" by Laura Cottrell, pencil on paper

03 May 2010

Jude - Laura

The book of Jude doesn’t get quoted all that often; it’s only a page long and some of it is fairly obtuse (see verse 9 about the archangel Michael disputing with the devil over the body of Moses…sometimes I’m surprised by what I find in the Bible! Isn’t God mysterious?!). However, the last section, entitled “Doxology” in my NIV, is epic. The word Doxology is a Greek word which literally means “glory word”. I think that’s a fitting title for Jude’s last section, which invokes God’s blessing on the reader in a powerful way. As you read this “glory word,” may the glory of God be spoken over you:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Photo: The Gloria Patri - Traditional Latin Doxology