“Oh, Mystery of Life…”

“Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

I was recovering from COVID last month. COVID was kinda scary. I was sick last fall – non-COVID – and wasn’t worried about recovering. But with COVID, I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I was pretty sick for a few days, and slowly, got my strength and health back. But I did get somewhat depressed. I was holed up in my room for days, couldn’t really go anywhere and got bored of watching TV. I began to feel despairing. I felt that there wasn’t anything left to do. Hopeless, if you will.

Then there has been some domestic turbulence since we landed into our new house, and that grieved me. And maybe some subsequent grief from my parents’ passing still tugged at my heart. You know when you’re sick, your mother is the only one who can take care of you, who wants to take care of you. And, possibly, the fact that my youngest turned 18 last year, and she and the others no longer needed me. Probably all of these combined with being sick had me feeling down in the dumps. I mean “depths of despair” dumps.

On top of all that, I’m the kind of person that looks forward to things. I had been looking forward to buying a house for a long time. I spent a lot of time browsing through Redfin. And then the big moment came when I took the plunge and bought a nice house. And now that I’ve committed to staying in one place for awhile, all that energy I expended looking and dreaming for the next thing (which, of course, was greener grass syndrome) needs to be redirected because the next thing is here. And now I have to deal with the reality of these choices. And that’s not a bad thing, but it is an uncomfortable thing. It is a different thing, a thing I’m not used to. I always liked feeling that I had an exit plan. Even though I’m not going anywhere soon, Lord willing, I am still feeling Unmoored.

So here I am in this funk when I hear David Crosby died two weeks ago. I wasn’t a big fan of his, I don’t think I even liked him. I heard he was a difficult kind of character. But I did like CSN and CSN&Y, had most of their albums, and listened often when I was young. I was too young to be a real hippie, but, in the ’70’s, I did appreciate the folk music of the ’60’s. “Teach Your Children” was my graduating class song. I, eventually, became a real Neil Young fan. All my kids know “Four Strong Winds”.

From this great music that I listened to in my youth, a branch broke out which became the Contemporary Christian Music movement. A natural by-product of the Jesus Revolution of the ’60’s and ’70’s. So significant was this movement that even the great Bob Dylan dabbled in it for a time. Many of the artists at that time became Christians.

So while I was down the CSN and David Crosby rabbit hole, I remembered the music I listened to when I was a new Christian. I remembered Barry McGuire. He had been entrenched in the whole ’60’s scene and was famous for his songs “Green, Green” (which I learned in my favorite Sixth Grade class) and “Eve of Destruction”. Although I was faintly familiar with his folk music, it was his music after he became a Christian that impacted my life…even to this day. His “Cosmic Cowboy” album was one of my first Christian music records along with Don Francisco’s “He’s Alive” and John Michael Talbot’s “Come to the Quiet”. This music was so much a part of a happy time of my life. I loved most of the songs on “Cosmic Cowboy”. I remembered particularly “Mystery of Life”. Folky, beautiful and filled with Christian truths that compels one to worship.

So, I switched over to his music and relistened to some of these old favorites of mine. And guess what? While I remembered those fun times as a young Christian adult, I remembered the joy and excitement of having found Christ. Even though I was raised in a Christian household, no one exhibited the joy I found as a young woman. This relationship with Christ has been the living constant of my life for the past 43 years.

Oh, Mystery of Life
I’ve seen Your rivers flowin’
Rollin’ through the windows
Out along the edge of time
Looms of living light
Your solar winds come blowin’
Weavin’ through the patterns
Scattered here within my mind

Behind the brush, the Master Painter
Picks the colors that He uses
Red and gold, green and blue
Colors just for me an’ you
Why, every pattern has a meanin’
That the Pattern Maker chooses
Every line is so revealing
Givin’ us a special clue.

Oh, Mystеry of Life
I’ve seen Your rivers flowin’
Rollin’ through thе windows
Out along the edge of time
Looms of living light
Your solar winds come blowin’
Weavin’ through the patterns
Scattered here within my mind

Everywhere His hand has written
Everywhere I see His name
Through the skies across the mountains
Thunderin’ lightnin’ fallin’ rain
From His hand all life is molded
In His breath a livin’ flame
He lit the stars and gave His Son
Through Him all life has come

Writers: Barry McGuire, Mike Deasy

I listened and listened to these old songs, and I remembered the woman I was in those years, before I was married, before I had kids, before the waves of difficulties swept over me. And I began to hope again, I began to feel that joy again as I remembered Him Who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Like being reintroduced to my First Love.

The point is, is that through difficult times, through unknown times and times of uncertainty when our anchor feels wobbly or untethered, there are devices, there are tools to help us get through.

There are the Scriptures, of course, which always re-anchor us to our foundation. And then there’s our music, the soundtrack of our individual lives, before and after Christ. And those songs that somehow, in that wonderful power of art that taught us about ourselves and revealed ourselves to ourselves, they can renew us during dark times, hopeless times and unsettled times.

A Sober Thanksgiving


The blog below was written in 2013. Even five years later, there is much to be thankful for. Although this Thanksgiving is a somber one for me personally, and for our state due to the immeasurable trauma from the fires, there is some room for thanksgiving.

November 2013

Wow, Halloween came and went. October came and went. What a whisking whirlwind the beginning of fall was. I was driving up Skyline Drive just two nights ago….early November…and I saw a Christmas tree in someone’s window.  Whaaat?? Already. There is a special holiday that sometimes gets drowned between the ghosts and goblins, and the tinsel and trees. My mom is saddened that Thanksgiving is overlooked. Well, this next column is dedicated to the sentiment, the emotion, which has its own holiday, a sentiment that I hope my children cultivate, and an emotion that Henry Ward Beecher so delightfully expresses:

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

I’ve strove to be grateful and appreciate all that has come my way. I know I take much for granted, but there is much for which I am deeply and truly grateful. Here are a few things.

Over five years ago, I had to go on assistance. This was a hard decision to make and I had to swallow a lot of pride, but it was necessary for me and my family. Actually, I should have done it much sooner. I want to say thank you to the taxpayers who support this government that provides this service to those who are in need.  I am slowly weaning myself off assistance and am glad to be working and paying taxes to replenish at least a fraction of what I used. Nonetheless, I am thankful to have had this resource available, and I thank the community for supporting this program.

I am thankful for the many friends I have in my life. To those who have given me emotional and prayer support as I raise these kids on my own, I thank you. My Facebook friends have encouraged me in my writing. Thank you. I am thankful to my family and all the help they have given me. And, of course, my ten children and one son-in-law. In countless ways, great and small, they bless me, they love me, they honor me and they are my greatest gifts.

Finally, and supremely, I am grateful to the God who is. I am grateful for his creation that I thoroughly enjoy. In Pacifica, we are beyond spoiled with natural beauty. The ocean with her perpetual pounding, peridot-colored waves is but an earthly example of an eternal entity. I am grateful to a church that has been entrusted with the Gospel, the good news, and its noble and transcendent themes: redemption, reconciliation, eternal life and love. All I can do is echo the psalmist’s declaration: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Even in my trials and afflictions, I can be thankful, I stumbled on this verse from Psalm 119 during a dark time of my life: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.” (v. 71) As difficult as it was to be thankful for the trials in my life, I have learned that those times have yielded the precious fruit of patience, trust and an increased faith.

I hope my children learn to be grateful and be thankful for all the benefits, as well as the difficulties, that come their way each day.

“For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Guest Blog: David’s Sunrise – The Story of a Photo, by Wendy DeRaud

 After God perfected the sunrise, he created photographers, artists, and poets to ensure his feat remained immortal.     – Terri Guillemets

Rarely does Mark get a commission to do a landscape from a photograph, but my old friend Donna had taken a photo that had a profound meaning to her, and she wanted Mark to paint it. When she explained the story behind it, I understood why.

On Feb 19th of this year, Donna’s daughter found out that David, the young man she was seeing, had OD’ed. They were all devastated.

A few days later, on Feb 21, Donna went to work early and decided to take a route she rarely takes. The sunrise was brilliant, so she pulled over on a residential street in South San Francisco, to take this picture.

Later, when her photo was posted on the Everything South City site, someone commented on it, saying that it was very meaningful to her. Not the bird flying above, but where it was taken. It was David’s mother who told her that the photo was the exact location where David had died.

Donna had no idea where David had died when she was inspired to take that sunrise shot, but now this image has become more of a significant landmark to everyone involved.

And for you, the reader, this image becomes one more example of how art can imitate life, and how an unseen God can intervene in the world, making Himself known through an art form, captured at an intersection of time and space, inserting His presence where He is needed most, to help in the process of grief, honoring a young man taken too soon.

Because of Donna’s keen eye for finding beauty in her surroundings, stopping from her everyday routine to appreciate it, she now can bless David’s mom with the gift of this painting.

Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.  
Vladimir Nabokov

Mark also gets to be a part of this story. By Donna commissioning him to paint this photo, Mark can now extend his brush to communicate more of God’s beauty and love, to give a little more comfort to a family still hurting from this loss. What a privilege.

You can find out more from Donna on her blog, “From the Shoe,” and her post, “Why I Hate Drugs.”And stay tuned here as I follow the progress of Mark’s painting, “David’s Sunrise.”

Mark working on, “David’s Sunrise,” in his Fresno studio.
P.S. from the Shoelady: David’s mom, Karin Cunningham, was featured on San Francisco’s KRON Channel 4 sharing her story of loss and her determination to warn kids and their parents about this epidemic and to eradicate this danger from her community. Fentanyl laced drug overdoses have increased hundreds fold. Below is the link to her story on Channel 4. See her interview below.
Also, you can visit Mark and Wendy’s site for more blogs and artwork:
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