life: acoustic & amplified

poetry, quotes & thoughts about life

Archive for the category “Songs from the Valley”



Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.
—Romans 12.1

Because it is holy,
God’s gift to you,
molded from God’s clay,
and not some bad thing,
root of sin, vessel of shame—
holy, every part of it,
even though you could lose a few
or cut your hair different,
it is what God gave you,
it is all you have.
Because it’s how you sacrifice yourself,
giving it to God and not getting it back,
every moment, every step,
every gesture a prayer.
Because it’s wonderful,
the webbing between your thumb and finger,
the landscape of your palm
and its memories,
the stories around your eyes.
Because it is your wisdom,
the muscle memory of faith,
like the lobsterman whose legs know
the sea and the boat and the weight,
how you know the weight
of the water you take the plants,
the food you’ve given,
the feel of bowing in gratitude or humility,
the rush of singing poorly, joyfully,
head back, eyes closed,
the heat in your chest when you risk
some love or forgiveness.
Because it is how you move in the world,
what and how you eat,
your nearness to others,
your breathing in and out, so faithfully.
Because how else will God know
what it is like
to walk on this earth?
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light


sometimes memories sound like a melody










permission granted by David Allen Sullivan

You do not have to choose the bruised peach0315c81fd0c0611caf80ae4ba38bdb3a
or misshapen pepper others pass over.
You don’t have to bury
your grandmother’s keys underneath
her camellia bush as the will states.

You don’t need to write a poem about
your grandfather coughing up his lung
into that plastic tube—the machine’s wheezing
almost masking the kvetching sisters
in their Brooklyn kitchen.

You can let the crows amaze your son
without your translation of their cries.
You can lie so long under this
summer shower your imprint
will be left when you rise.

You can be stupid and simple as a heifer.ff27f07deb00adb5433bdd4ad7b760eb
Cook plum and apple turnovers in the nude.
Revel in the flight of birds without
dreaming of flight. Remember the taste of
raw dough in your mouth as you edged a pie.

Feel the skin on things vibrate. Attune
yourself. Close your eyes. Hum.
Each beat of the world’s pulse demands
only that you feel it. No thoughts.
Just the single syllable: Yes

See the homeless woman following
the tunings of a dead composer?
She closes her eyes and sways
with the subways. Follow her down,
inside, where the singing resides.

the unlikely pilgrimage

25cd1018826805f27026154c6535aa9923 years ago I began, what I have recently begun to understand, is a pilgrimage. I didn’t know it was a pilgrimage – in fact words like pilgrimage and manifesto make me a bit uncomfortable. Radical people with more than a little crazy mixed in seem to be the ones who go around using those words. That’s certainly not me…right? 🙂

I feel like I am the most unlikely ‘pilgrim’ you will happen across (you’ll know me because I will have on cute shoes…no matter what). Yet here I am all these years later recognizing that when I stepped off the edge of all I had ever been taught and then decided (with more than a few ways ‘out’ for myself – it was a very doubtful and conditional experiment) that I would try to live like Jesus taught in Matthew chapters 5-7. Not knowing the consequences of my decision, I decided I would stay as close to those chapters as possible (btw, I knew it would be impossible – the only way to choose any of those counter cultural and unnatural ways to live was with the help of a very Holy Spirit that was ‘other’ than my own natural ego  – I was very materialistic and wanted desperately to be popular and beautiful – Truthfully, I had little clue about who God really was, and really believed it would be all about me getting what I wanted.) and so I began to live a secret life – internally. I began to think about my decisions. I began to be purposeful in my choices. I began to build a new house for myself.

I certainly had no idea it would take me through years of devastating loss and pain, poverty and hardship, broken relationships and darkness. Years of paying attention and making choices towards healing. Years of learning to be honest about where I veered off the path and to learn the warning signs that would lead me there. Years of discovering the truth and difference between the shadow of what the world calls love, beauty and intimacy and what God offers so freely to us. I had no idea my house would become a traveling one, and I would dwell in tents and followed the cloud and the fire for 16 years. No idea that there wouldn’t be an instant miracle lightening strike and everything would ‘be fine’ for me. No, I didn’t have a clue that it would take me 21 years to realize that I was on a pilgrimage and to realize that 99.99999% commitment is no commitment at all and, when I did realize it, that I would make that choice to step ALL in and commit 100% to such a path.  I had no idea that God wouldn’t just fix everything as I WANTED IT, but if He had, I would never have learned these lessons which are so very valuable.

Maybe I’m a slow learner, but it has taken me all of this time to learn, little by little, to  trust and to walk in faith and I am so blessed to know this path and here I am, still following this glorious path where every bush is blazing holy. I realize maybe I am going so slow because every other step I have to take off my very cute shoes and bow in thanks for all that has been done, but then I have come to enjoy this path very much and have no wish to run ahead…

Check out the new issue of the Songs from the Valley Newsletter on faith:

let us count gifts today

New Newsletter up on the website!

We are given many gifts
over our lifetimes.
Gifts are heaped upon us.
Every day we receive.
The way we acknowledge these gifts,
the way we receive,
the counting of gifts,
awareness in each moment,
is our most important choice.
This one insight brings us life as
grace or prison.
Heaven or hell
is bound up in gratitude.
I have had many strange and wonderful gifts
received over my life,
so far,
this knowledge,
the ability to see,
to choose to see
the good in all I receive,
has been the best gift
of all.
My cup runs over.
My path is lined with diamonds.
My sky is bright with twinkling stars.

AL 7/26/1335b21034a277a5d90d8e23d892524060

the painter

these clouds of5
pink and blue cotton candy
all mixed and fluffy
the sky is
heart stopping
I lose my ability to concentrate on driving
pull my car over so I can stare
breathe it in
this full bloom
colors so
intense across the massive sky
extravagantly piled onto
this extreme canvas
this moving masterpiece
with oranges and burgundies
moving into a living pallet
night slowly absorbing the colors
leaving diamonds in
the shifting colors of blue
leaving me full
even wordless for a while
absorbing this masterpiece
in awe of this painter
of the world
the glory so displayed
for our moments
if we will just take a moment in return
to receive
to breathe
to give thanks
to feel glory
for the extravagant and luscious gifts
from the painter of the sky
so beyond our scope
the one who creates beauty
of such magnitude
it drives to my knees
in gratitude for being able to see it
on a July evening
as I pay tribute with a few
of these words
I have been given
to that something so magical
the miracle
which we have named
in our language:

AL 7/5/13
photo by Matt Halverson aka The Storm, Cincinnati, OH

And then I woke up to this from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience












New newsletter posted on my website


poetry is a gift

Last issue of the year – Songs from the Valley newletter (a gift for you) over at


This World Is Not Conclusion
Emily Dickinson.

this world is not conclusion
a species stands beyond –
invisible, as music –
but positive as sound –

it beckons, and it baffles
philosophy – don’t know –
and through a riddle, at the last –
sagacity must go –

to guess it, puzzles scholars –
to gain it, men have borne
contempt of generations
and crucifixion, shown –

faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
blushes, if any see –
plucks at a twig of evidence –
and asks a vane, the way –

much gesture, from the pulpit –
strong hallelujahs roll –
narcotics cannot still the tooth
that nibbles at the soul –
Public Domain

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night. –Steve Martin


The Winter Solstice
This year Winter will start on December 21 at 6:12 – the earliest since 1896!

Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can’t wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather.

The word solstice comes from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still.” In the Northern Hemisphere, as summer advances to winter, the points on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets advance southward each day; the high point in the1a Sun’s daily path across the sky, which occurs at local noon, also moves southward each day. At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward. However, a few days before and after the winter solstice, the change is so slight that the Sun’s path seems to stay the same, or stand still. The Sun is directly overhead at “high-noon” on Winter Solstice at the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice days are the days with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year.

New Newsletter issue on Winter over on the website, to get you in the Holiday mood!!! –

Forgiveness is a perfectly selfish act. It sets you free from the past. – Brian Tracy

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
– Ephesians 4:32

Forgiveness. It’s not an easy word for many of us. Ok, I don’t really know about others, but I know my own stubborn self and how hard it is for me to forgive, and then, rest in my forgiveness. I work through painful, difficult issues, I let go, and I think I have won the battle, but all the sudden I round a corner and, it seems, outta no-where, BAM – there it is again, and I realize I haven’t quite reached as far into that forgiveness force field as I had intended to go, and so I start again. I am so glad that I realize that life, and this forgiveness thing, is a process, and that I have made progress, and so that encourages me to work through it again…and again…and…!

One day I think I fine, and then the next, unexpectedly, I can plunge down hard – just by driving past a house, having a conversation, getting a glimpse of a something, hearing a song, or melling a familiar smell. I filled with pain, loss, anger, sadness, grief, regret and longing. I get overloaded with these feelings today, additionally I have can also experince anxiety, exhaustion, overwhelm and the battle with the demons inside my head which say things like, ‘I can’t sing, am ugly, fat and undesirable, and I’m just too stupid, vain and like attention too much to know it. That everything that has ever gone wrong in my life is because of me, and that I will never find anyone who can stand being with me because I am weird and unloveable.’

All of this is mixed up and complicated in my head and I have to sort it all out and begin to let go of one layer at a time, as I work to identify the lies and change the story. Then I work at forgiveness, first for myself, others, and the ‘house’ in question. It’s not easy, and I many times, and hours, I just pray, with Anne Lamont, “help me, help me, help me” until the pain eases and I can move forward in a measure of peace.

Like a baby learning to walk, each time I get up from being ‘stuck’, I gain ground, I get a little farther, a little stronger on my feet, and I pray that some day I will have arrived at the goal and will run freely in the yard of freedom! I want to live in the Land of the Free and Forgiven, and in order to do so I know I must let go of any resentment and anger I am still holding to and just breathe love. Just breathe. Just love. I know I am loved and forgiven and so I am called to forgive. I try very hard to be easy on myself, because I realize I will probably be in heaven when that finally occurs completely, and that’s ok! I will run through the golden streets with children and puppies at my heels yelling, ‘wooo hooo! Thank you!!!! I have learned the way of forgiveness!’ Until then I continue to hold myself accountable and keep doing the work!

New issue of the newsletter on this subject of Forgiveness at

Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t. ~ Jerry Rice

For the past 5 years I have published a newsletter called Songs from the Valley. I really had no idea how to do it, or what the result would be, I just enjoyed creating the first issue so much I committed to creating it for one year.

The first year was a time of figuring out what this publication would become. In March, of 2008, I featured my first artist, in April, I decided to publish two issues a month. By May, it began to take shape around a subject, rather than putting in random hodge-podge inspiration and in December, I decided that I would continue to create and publish it – that it truly was one of the best things I had ever done in my life. In 2010 I started a website and on March 18, 2011, I started this daily, poetry and quotes blog, to go along with the 2 issues a month.

I have been asked many times how I do it, how I find time. As I look back over the past five years, I see the actions that are reflected in the quote above. I made it happen by living my life in a way that others haven’t. It’s not about me being right or wrong, it’s just about what you want. I want to be all I can be and not aim low. When I started the newsletter, I wanted to create something good that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, could find one day, and know who I am, what I loved, how I live my life, what I stood for and what I learned about life. As I look back over the body of work, I am so blessed by how I have spent my time, the hours were well worth the effort! I am extremely grateful for what I have accomplished.

As this year of 2012 comes quickly to a close, I feel the time for something new is happening. It is time for things to shift and I am not sure the newsletter will continue to be the same. There are new things being born, and I feel the end of this particular publication may be ending, to make way for something new and exciting. I am not sure exactly what it will be, as of yet, but I feel things stirring around in my heart, in my imagination. Inspiration is bubbling and brewing and my music is coming to the forefront of this next phase of life upcoming. It is exciting and feels important. I ask for your prayers as I figure these things out and begin to incorporate new areas of discipline into my going, and begin to accomplish my highest calling from a heart of love. for current issue on Place featuring artist  Beverly Erschell

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