Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Merry-Go-Rounds and Roads

Looff Carousel 1911, Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Many summer weekends were spent at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk when I was a kid in California. Disneyland had nothing on it as far as I was concerned. It was pure magic. Oh, the memories of that Boardwalk! Corn dogs, called Pronto Pups that seemed a foot high, entering the Fun house through the clown's mouth, riding the train and anticipating when that roaring dinosaur was going to rise up from the lake, standing at the fudge shop window watching the taffy pulling machine, mesmerized as it pulled and pulled and never broke. And the beach.....

Holding it all together in the middle of that magic, the piece De resistance was the Carousel. All I had to do was hear that organ music and I was over the top. Keep in mind, I camped growing up. We didn't stay in fancy hotels. We didn't have the money and also, my folks thought is was important to teach us about nature. I'm so glad they did. So this Merry-Go-Round was for me, the highlight of our visit. I had my favorite horses, always the ones with head reared back, teeth bared. (I must've thought those went faster)

I am happy to say that my niece has inherited my love of this Merry Go Round as well. I got to go on it with her one of my trips back home and I felt the same rapturous joy as I did all those years ago. My brother even caught the ring!

What started this whole memory was that my friend and I were talking after church Sunday and I asked her if she got excited about that Merry Go Round as well, since she used to go there as a kid too. I expected her to light up with the same memory I had. "No," she said, "I never really saw the purpose, you just go round and round and never get anywhere." Well, yeah, there is that.....Instead, she shared a special memory of her own with me. She said one of the highlights of her childhood was when she and her brother got a quarter a-piece and went to the store and each picked out a matchbox car. Back then they came in a little box. Her job was to build the roads.

They would come home and she would build elaborate structures out of mud, complete with bridges with support beams underneath, freeways, overpasses, and tunnels. Even back then, she had the mind of an engineer. Her parents never even knew it. When she went to high school and tested extremely high in math and engineering, the counselor told her she better think of something else to do with her life, "because girls just don't do these things." After that she pretty much lost interest in the whole educational system.

But God doesn't care about what some counselor says. Years later she ended up doing engineering work anyway at Intel, Corp. And she is still building things. She can visualize anything and build it, she is a project queen and should definitely have her own show on HGTV. She is a bridge builder between people, in every job she has ever had, she has been asked to be a mediator when situations needed smoothing out.

When God creates you to do a certain thing, it glorifies Him when you are doing those things!

I have always felt a compulsion to write, and I know that comes from God. That is how He created me. Sometimes I have no idea if anything I write makes sense but I still do it because I feel it's one of the things God made me to do. Sometimes I feel my prayers go round in circles because I still see so many things in me that need changing. But as I look back at all these quiet times of prayer, I see a closeness I have with the Lord now that I didn't have before. It is a beautiful sculpture that I can only see glimpses of, but when I close my eyes it comes into focus. I see and hear the music, the colors, the joy....and God behind it all. Sometimes life does seem like one big circle, but we can say, victoriously, this is a circle that has purpose. It has no end, and it only gets better!

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12,13

Monday, August 30, 2010

Prayer for the Orphans

Painting by Thomas Kennington

Lord, I pray for your dear ones waiting for loving arms to surround them and for the fear and hopelessness that comes when no one arrives....Every child deserves to know that they have a place in someone's heart, that they are worthy of love, that they don't have to go through a hard life alone. I pray that we, your church would swallow up every last orphan, Lord until there are none left to wonder if they are loved, if they are worthy.

I pray for the courageous ones who have already stepped up, been obedient to Your word, sometimes at their own personal sacrifice. They are storing up treasure in Heaven as they care for Your own little treasures here on earth. I know Lord, that there are many different kinds of orphans and I pray for these too. These orphans of divorce, who sometimes wonder where they belong or who they belong too as they are passed back and forth from home to home to home, and I pray for the guilt that comes for all involved, and for Your healing touch for everyone in this kind of heartache today.

I pray also for those orphans who have two parents, but absent ones, indifferent ones, ones who know nothing about their own children as they run around doing everything else, but spending time with them, nurturing them, caring for them, knowing what they like to do, what little joys they hold dear.

I am humbled and so grateful Lord that I had parents who loved me and a home, a place. Everyone needs and deserves this, Lord. And remind me that to whom much is given, much is required....

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Go here, here and here to see some wonderful people who are making a difference.

Celebrating my praise and thanksgiving today with hopes that others can know, #442 the feelings of belonging that come with a father's loving touch, #443 a mother's arm around the shoulders, #444 a brother's gentle teasing and the love that is behind it, #445 a home to run to in the rain, #446 a mother's call for dinner, #447 knowledge that you have people behind you when life gets tough, #448 a knowledge of a Father in heaven who loves them, #449 knowing even when you are far away, that place remains in your heart, #450 knowing someone cares about what matters to you.

holy experience

Sunday, August 29, 2010

God speaks.....

Continuing along the lines of yesterday......

The clouds and thunderstorms have been so magnificent lately I seemed to be stuck on the theme of nature and finding God's power in it. In reading parts of Job this morning, I was struck again by the immense and beauty and perfection of God and His creation.

Elihu speaks to Job:

"He loads the clouds with moisture; He scatters His lightning through them. At His direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever He commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water the earth with His love....Listen to this Job; stop and consider God's wonders." Job 37:11-14

Imagine Job, who had suffered more than any man on earth. His losses were incomprehensible. Then he had to sit and listen to his friend rattle on about God's mighty attributes, as he was scraping his terrible sores with pottery shards. Job could have given Elihu the speech himself, being the righteous man that he was. Job was a man that had a great relationship with God, although he had to wonder where God was at that point....but then God shocks them both with showing up!

God talks, Job listens:

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm, He said: Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earths foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!" Job 38:1-5

God is not beyond using a little sarcasm to prove His point here, can you hear it behind the words?

Nearly every argument on the problem of pain appears somewhere in the book of Job, but the arguing never seems to help poor Job. He is suffering a crisis of relationship more than a crisis of intellectual doubt. Through it all, Job steadfastly refuses to turn his back on God. He has only one request: to hear from God in person. He wants an explanation right from the source.

At last Job gets his wish. God answers Job with a speech often quoted for its majesty and beauty. In a touch of sweet irony, God makes His entrance just as Elihu is explaining why Job cannot expect a direct answer from God. Job has saved a long list of questions, but it is God who asks the questions, not Job.....brushing aside 35 Chapters worth of debates on the problem of pain, God plunges instead into a dazzling poem on the wonders of the natural world.

Astonishingly, the question of suffering itself does not even come up in God's speech. Yet somehow Job seems satisfied--humiliated actually.
(Taken from Student Bible Commentary notes, by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford)

"I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.....Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." And then I love how this ends, "After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and and gave him twice as much as he had before." Job 42:2,3,10

God is not immune to our suffering. He is there in the midst of it, even when it seems He is nowhere to be found.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I'm listening, God.

God has a way of making us sit up and pay attention. He does this many different ways. Life events, accidents, close calls, His word, other people. There are some things you just shouldn't ignore. We hear the warning bells and we just keep plodding ahead anyway, as we straighten our blinders. All the while God is saying, "I really wouldn't do that if I were you."

Sometimes nature gets our attention too. I love nature because God has left His imprints everywhere in it. In the calm of the sea after a storm, in the beauty and hush of a snowfall, in the roar of the waves and the warmth of the sun...... Sometimes people get so caught up in nature they start to worship it instead of God.

Nature certainly got our attention the other night. We were sitting at the neighbor's house calmly talking, when we heard a "Woosh!" of wind and then a loud bang. We thought someone crashed into the carport! It is very interesting what happens in a situation like that. Not one of us sat and thought about whether we would get up and investigate, we all just sprang into action. The only one that didn't is on oxygen and very elderly, but she was on her way out of her chair too, calling out for us all to be careful!

It was a summer storm, a microburst that came through, bringing with it high winds, rain, and thunder and lightning that was very close. Not unusual for Arizona this time of year. It was a rubbermaid chair exchange, Bob's chairs flew across the street and Larry's chairs came over to Bob's house! Nobody was hurt and no property damaged, luckily. It did set our hearts to pounding though.

It is good to pay attention; to nature and to God. Mostly God. Sometimes nature reminds us that He is ultimately in control of everything. I like that reminder.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3,7

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Finding grace along the path

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." Book of John

I think this is the wisest thing Peter ever said. I have wondered about this passage many times. I wonder how these disciples could have been with Jesus, witnessed miracles, and still turned away? To me it is one of the saddest passages in Scripture. Sadder still because I think of my own times of turning away. Moments, years, where I went my own way, did my own thing. Keeping Jesus in the background was my own form of turning away.

But God in His great mercy, pulled me back in, as He did Peter...."But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32

The more I experience His grace, the less I look back. Like Peter, I can echo, "Where would I go Lord?" There is nothing in the world that I would trade for my relationship with the Lord. Each day that goes by gives me another opportunity and reason to say, "Yes, Lord, I am staying on Your path because it is the only one worth walking down, even when the way is rocky and I can't see my way around the next bend in the road, because You are on it with me."

With His Grace, we get the strength to keep walking!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Heaven at the water park

Weber Point Park, Stockton, California

My brother took my little niece to a park last weekend where they had an interactive water feature. My Mom and Dad went along too, although my Mom was not going to go at first. Sitting at a park is not really her idea of fun at 81 years of age, with two knee replacements behind her. She says they never have enough benches. But she ended up going anyway and had a great time.

Lauryn is slightly Autistic, so they weren't really sure how she would handle it, since there were so many kids of all different ages. Usually, if Lauryn sees water anywhere there is no way to keep her out of it, but there was this multitude of kids factor, so they decided to just wait and let her watch for awhile.

For a time, she crept around the outskirts. She watched all the activity and battling within herself, she started to circle closer and closer. Slowly the lure of the water overcame her trepidation of all the other kids and she plunged in. Oh what joy! She played for two hours nonstop. My Mom, always with her Spiritual eyes and ears open, sensed that she was witnessing something that held an important lesson for all of us.

Here they were, all different kids, all different races, all different ages, and all of them so caught up in the joy, the glee of playing, that the thought never occurred to them not to get along. Kids have no clue, no awareness of their differences until we make them aware of it. That is, they see the differences, but it doesn't really matter to them.

At one point, Lauryn and another kid, a bigger kid, were running to the same rock to sit down on when the water stopped. My Mom wasn't sure what would happen, but the kid happily gave up the rock for Lauryn. Yes, a bit of Heaven right there.

It was, she said, "a bit like Heaven will be." That was Jesus prayer when He said, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." Are we there yet? Is it possible? Absolutely it is. We see it happen everyday, in worship centers, at sports events, at movies, restaurants. Different people getting along. We see it in catastrophes too, (think 9/11).

So I think our next team builder at work should be at a water park, and everybody has to go in and get wet!

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9,10

Monday, August 23, 2010

Prayers with no words....

Windows at St. Mary's Church, Google Images

Forever O Lord, Thy Word is settled in Heaven......Psalm 119:89

This morning I let my prayer be silence. I meditated on everything I have prayed for before. God has them, I know it. Safe in His golden bowl, He keeps them. This morning it seemed right to just give Him a silent offering. I made a blank canvas, as blank as I could anyway, thoughts always seem to crowd in, and carved out an empty place for God to fill.

Today I rest in who He is, I meditate of His power, glory, omnipotence, love....

Sometimes you just need to see what comes back in the silence, so I made my soul as still as an empty church. Sometimes you just need to make yourself a living Psalm, fill yourself up with your need for God, your need for answers, your need to know He is listening. So today I sat in the hush of His peace, silence of no words. The mourning dove cooing on the eaves of the neighbor's roof prayed eloquently for me today.

In meditating on His strength, I become acutely aware of my weakness and utter inability to do anything apart from Him. That is a good place to start the day.

After all, as the Psalmist says.....Forever O Lord, Thy Word is settled in Heaven......Psalm 119:89Whatever happens and however out of control you feel, God remains in control. This is a comforting thought.

Thankful today for the peace that only He can give......#411 doves gentle call, #412 prayers in silence, #413 soft music that soothes, #414 the wisdom of His word spoken through wise friends, #415 cats soft purr, #416 real hugs, #417 laughter that heals the soul, #418 much needed rain in the desert, #419 family that taught me His love, #420, the Holy Spirit who puts our soul at rest.....
holy experience

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Morning Prayer

Sea of Galilee, Google Images

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

There must be some time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all. There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent. And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning?

There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life that he had ever prayed, when teh man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all benn broken, and he learns a different wisdom:

Distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill. Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Thank you Lord for the quiet hours of dawn, when the world is just beginning to stir and wake. There is nothing quite like the early morning prayer. I feel a closeness with You, knowing You felt the need too, to rise early and meet Your Father. Before the day begins, we come in faith and hope, not knowing for sure what the day will bring, but knowing that You will be in it and through it. And in my mind I see others too, bringing their own offering. I feel a kinship with them, Lord, in these quiet moments, as I add my prayers to other voices, as You set the earth, the planets, this place of beauty in motion once again.....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Filled to the brim

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."

In reading this passage over again today and reading some commentary along with it, I felt more and more like I was watching a very intimate moment between mother and Son. Certain versions of these verses almost make it sound like Jesus was being harsh or abrupt with Mary, but I don't think this is the case at all. Jesus and his mother undoubtedly had a very close relationship, He being her oldest son, and she knowing who He was from the beginning. She was probably used to taking problems to Jesus and He was always adept at fixing them. When the wine ran out, she knew where to go. Another possibility, maybe this was Mary's way of gently nudging Jesus into the limelight, like a stage mother urging her charge to "get out there on stage, and show them who you are already."

Mary was a strong woman with just the right characteristics to handle everything that went along with being the mother of God's Son. She wasn't a lightweight. From the first dire warning from Simeon in the temple, this was a woman who was told that her heart would be pierced by a sword of great sorrow. But she also had great faith in her Son. That is why she brushed over His comment and went to the servants anyway......His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

I liked this commentary I found by John Reed:

It is important to understand the response Jesus made to his mother's indirect request. The Authorised Version conveys the sense better than any other version I know. Jesus replied: Woman what have I to do with thee." v4. This can be read with the emphasis on the 'do' which sounds as if Jesus is saying, "Woman I haven't got anything to do with you." In other words Jesus told Mary the shortage of wine was nothing to do with him - it was her problem.

I am pretty sure that Jesus would not speak to his mother like that. Jesus probably used an idiomatic expression in Aramaic. It would be difficult to translate this into the Greek. We use many idiomatic expressions in English like, 'put that in your pipe and smoke it.' It is not easy to convey the belligerence of that phrase in Japanese. Mary would hardly have asked him to assist if that was the sort of son he was.

Jesus spoke to his mother, as he had done many times in the past, in an amused, jocular fashion. He had a twinkle in his eye. He addressed her with a tolerant smile and Mary knew that he would do something to rescue the situation. Jesus had a sweet, easy and affectionate relationship with Mary. It is no bad thing to treat our parents with good humour and consideration and to do our best to please them.

"Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim." John 2:7 And the rest is history.....

God, please remove obstructions in my life that prevent You from filling me completely and then spilling that love onto others. Amen

Friday, August 20, 2010

Let the Fire Fall!

Photo provided by Google
Ann Peterson Bedard wrote at 2006-07-03
Yosemite Fire Falls & Elmer History:

First in 1996 I brought my grandkids to visit Yosemite. Standing at the ampitheatre in Camp Curry,looking up to the top of Glacier Point. The towerinig 3000 foot of the granite wall forces heads to leaned all the way backwards. My grandkids asked:
"What's that white strip? Was that a waterfall a long time ago or something?"

"No that was where the Firefall was"

"Firefall? What is a Firefall?"

"Well, it's kinda hard to explain. It certainly was not a natural phenomenon.
It actually dates back to 1874 when a James McCauley built a Hotel up there.
Business was pretty sparce. He got this brillant idea of shooting off fireworks to get people's attention, something to make them look up.

It worked. Then he began to make fires and push them over the cliff. Campers 3000 feet below were awe-struck at the display: "Do it again" the people clamered, "do it again". Hence it grew into a tradition.

It stopped after he died but was brought back by Mr Curry in 1894.

"How did they do it?"

Well,every morning a Ranger would gather a pick-up truck load of redwood bark, pine cones, dead firewood. They they would back the truck to about 12 feet from the edge.
I was up there once when they did that and I am here to tell you that was the scarriest thing to watch. My stomach turned for fear they would back right off the cliff. But of course they never did.

Then they would shovel it off the truck making a mound about four feet tall and say 12ft. wide. They would light the fire at about 4pm allowing the entire huge pile of bark to burn down to glowing cinders. Then at 9pm every night some brave guy with a long wide steel rake would slowly begin to push these glowing ambers over the edge.
Okay, that's the why and how of it.

But the magic it produced for those enchanting 15-20 minutes every night almost defies words. If I were to put it into a word, I would I have say it was the:


Because it was an unwritten law that everything and everyone in the valley STOPPED at 9pm. Mainly so you could hear the guy up from Glacier Point.

You see, there was one guy posted at the top of Glacier Point with a mega phone and one guy posted 3000 ft below at Camp Curry with a mega phone.

The guy below would yell up:
The guy up top would slowly yell down:
The guy in Camp Curry returns the call:
Then the muffled voiced from Glacier Point could actually be heard if it were real quiet:

And every night the entire valley of campers was awe struck as these magificnet fire specks gracfully glided down the granite wall. Plunging down like a 1000 foot ribbon of fire specks. Then slowly they would disappear, falling on to the narrow ledge 1000feet below, burn out and fade away until the next night.

Doing that every night for years and years etched the surface of the granite to leave that 1000 ft white strip.

Sweet reminder of a time passed.

"Okay, so what does Elmer have to do with the Fire Falls?"

Well that story was old as the hills when I was a kid in the 50's.
As I heard it:

It was maybe sometime in the 30'S or early 40'S that a kid named Elmer would drift off with his friends or something to their own place to watch the Firefall and every night after the Firefall his mother could have to call him back to camp:


And that my dears is the history of the Firefall and Elmer as I know it."

As told to her Grandkids by Ann Peterson Bedard

I found this story on a Yosemite website and I can personally verify that this is exactly how it happened. I had the joy of experiencing this bit of magic myself growing up. I can still remember laying on a huge tree stump waiting with baited breath for the fire to fall....I also remember going out in the meadow at nightfall and hollering "ELLLMERRR." And waiting for the answering call which was always returned. I recently found that the tradition is live and well in Yosemite to this day, see FB page here.

A bit of a departure from the usual subject matter, but thought I would share it with you as a wonderful memory from my childhood. May you sense God's presence and peace today wherever you go....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Need a touch today?

"A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering."

If I just touch His clothes....
Jesus knew that someone had touched Him specifically for healing. This wasn't just someone in the crowd jostling against Him. This was someone who had touched Him in faith. Someone who took a risk, someone who had tried everything, and now was ready to try Jesus.

Ever feel like that? I think about this woman and know that she was shunned from her community. If she was bleeding she was ceremonially unclean and therefore could not join in to any aspect of life in her community. I imagine her hiding in the crowd, pushing her way through, and finally getting a glimpse of the back of his hem dragging the ground. Almost there....

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "

She probably just wanted to disappear from the crowd but Jesus wanted to make sure that she was recognized. He wanted to make contact with her, see her face, let her know that He appreciated her act of faith...

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

She didn't seek Jesus out because he was a good teacher, a good role model, a person with high moral standards, or a charismatic preacher, she sought Him out because she believed that He was the one person who could do what nobody else had been able to do for her. Heal her. What she found was the One who could not only heal her body, but her soul as well.

What we believe about Jesus can make all the difference in life here and now and for all eternity.......

Scripture selections taken from Mark 5

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The glory of being human

It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a common realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstakes.

I have the immense joy of being a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. Meditation from Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours

As awoke this morning at 4:00 AM I wasn't exactly glorying at being human. I would much rather have slept and gloried a bit later, but just the same, somewhere in my spirit I echoed these thoughts of Merton. What a miracle to be able to get up, live another day healthy enough to work, to praise God for the fact that I am even here....every minute we have on this earth is a treasure and a blessing because God holds us in His mighty palm. Whatever comes my way today, Jesus be my strength!

In spite of my weakness, my frailty and failures, help me be a blessing to someone today, Lord. Amen

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Prayer Thoughts.....

Greer, Arizona

The thought sunk like a stone in my being during prayer this morning. It was out of the blue, I was sitting there in quiet meditation and this thought came: "God is not all that concerned about your happiness." What?? Where did that come from? The thought hit like a minor chord and stuck in my brain. I stopped praying and asked God what He meant by that. I waited......

"I am not here for you, you are here for Me."

"But God," I thought, "I am an American, you know, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all that."

"Yes, well that isn't in my Book anywhere, go read about my Disciples."


What does God want from me, from any of us? He deserves my whole self. A heart that is completely His. Undivided with the world. A world that everyday clamors for attention. It shouts, it screams, it jumps up and down and waves its hands wildly.

God whispers.

He cares deeply about me, but He cares even more about His lost sheep, those who aren't His yet. Today I got a lesson that I wasn't expecting. A thought that snuck up on me unawares. It made me stop, re-evaluate myself, pay attention to what God was trying to tell me.

I seek happiness. God says lose your life so you can find it. He wants me to be a light in the darkness around me, even if it means doing something that makes me uncomfortable. To my way of thinking God seems to do things backwards. But then I remember how much higher His thoughts are than mine. I seek happiness, and in the end I get something much better. When I seek His kingdom first, I get showered with the fruits of the spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22,23

Thank you Lord, for helping me to realize again that you have already given me everything I could possible need, want or desire in the person of Jesus Christ!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Gift of Memory

Remembering, we settle into the rocker on the front porch, the front porch of our minds, and gaze out at the view. Sorting through, we pull up the pleasant memories and settle in for awhile. The view is great, and it's good to remember. Memory is one of God's best gifts. Practicing selective memory we can even edit out the ones that weren't so great and go on to the ones that were. Or if there weren't any, we can even manufacture our own version of the past.

My friend and her brother had an interesting conversation with their Mom once. Their memory was decidedly much different than hers was. You see she worked all the time, wasn't home, they signed their own report cards and what they heard most of the time growing up amidst the chaos was, "Get out of the house, I need to sleep!" She was saying that she made them cookies growing up. They both looked at each other incredulously, for she had never made a cookie in all their childhood. She didn't like desserts, so they didn't get them either. But they do remember making macaroni and cheese together in the middle of the night, that's one memory they hold onto.

Ask yourself what your child will remember of their childhood. What sights, sounds, smells, images will take them back, and will it be good? Will they remember laughter, or stony silence? Animated dinner conversation or the crackling air of irritation, impatience, anger. Will they remember trips taken as a family with pleasure or will they associate those trips with a sense of anxiety?

The wonderful thing about all memories good, bad or indifferent, is that they can draw us closer if we let them. Even the bad times have a wonderful way of bonding us together when we have traveled down the road a bit. We just have to let them do their work.

God has a memory book called the Bible. It is His Book of Remembrance. If we keep it close we will always remember who He is and who we are. It is His way of saying, "This is what happened, and it is a part of you too, it is your heritage, filled with stories of My people and yours. Read it, live it, and it will become part of you. Most importantly, it will carry you into eternity with Me."

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deuteronomy 11:18

Not only that, the Bible is a living book, just like we are all living memories of what has come before and what will come after....

Keeping memories alive today with the counting......#401 opening tent flap disheveled to first heavenly cup of coffee, #402 a juice bar at the end of a hike, #403 rain on tent roof, #404 Mom's hands curling my hair for picture day, #405 brother and I getting in trouble for laughing at Grandma's table, #406 warm fronts, cold backs around campfire, #407 getting inside inner tube and rolling down Aunt's hill, #408 something baked from scratch waiting on counter after school, #409 the sound of metal skates on cement, #410, watching Dad sketch and make a beautiful drawing from nothing.....

holy experience

Saturday, August 14, 2010

God Wants You

We can say that God is love and we would be speaking the truth. But in order to fully understand His love, we must grasp His holiness as well. I hear many messages of God's love and it is good to be reminded of it, but if we preach love only and leave out His holiness, we make God less than what He is. We diminish His character. We leave out what makes His love so perfect and complete. When we understand how Holy God is, and how completely hopeless our situation is apart from Christ, we begin to see the depth of His sacrifice and love. He didn't want us to be shut out from His presence, it grieved Him so much that He sacrificed a part of Himself, His Son. "I and the Father are One" John 10:30 Only an unimaginably terrible parent would be unaffected by the suffering of their child.

God has not left one thing undone, and there is now absolutely nothing to prevent us from drawing close, being ushered into His presence as His very own sons and daughters. This is what He has always wanted. Don't we all want a love like that? A love that says, no matter how far you stray, I will do everything I can to get you back, even if it means inflicting pain on Myself! Not only that, He gives us a new identity. You never have to feel misplaced again, unwanted, stranded on the island of misfit toys, without a place to belong.

We serve a God who does not sit on His hands, idly disinterested in the events of the world. Even now He fights for us......"Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Romans 8:34

That means we never have to go through anything alone again....

God is in the thunder that rolls, and the lightning that splits the sky, but He is also in the gentle breeze that whispers our name. The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Father's love.....

"So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

This is such a perfect picture of God's love for us. "While he was still a long way off...." I think of two fathers waiting. God, and the father in this parable. God has been waiting for us to come back since the beginning, and this father, ever since his son flew out the door with high hopes and full pockets. I think of a father's broken heart. I think of him going about his daily work, with always one eye cast toward that road....I think he held out hope that someday the vision that he carried in his heart, of a lone figure walking toward home would come true.

And then it did, and that was all that mattered. It didn't matter how long he'd been gone, or how many foolish things he had done, or even how much he'd sinned. His father didn't make him feel worse for coming home, heap guilt on him. The son did that all by himself and the father knew it. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." Luke 15:21
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the other son too. The faithful one. But I wonder, was he really all that faithful? Maybe there was some hidden resentment there all along. Resentment that gave birth to full bloom anger when he saw how overjoyed the father was at his brother's returning.

My Dad and I were talking about this just the other night when I was home.....he said something I had never thought of concerning the son that stayed. He said, "You know, that is just the attitude we have for people who come back to the church sometimes,"But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends." Luke 15:29 It's true. While God welcomes the prodigal with open arms, we sometimes are not as welcoming as we could be; we hold back just a little bit because, after all, we want to see if it is really genuine!

Thank you God, for loving us with an open arms kind of love. A God who waits.....and help me to never forget all the times you have welcomed me back without reservation.

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light." Micah 7:7,8

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thankful for another Birthday!

Lord, I stand before you today so very grateful to have had fifty one years of life. I think of all You have brought me through and I can only stand in awe of how You have loved me. It brings me to tears in quiet times of contemplation when I think of the many times I have turned away from You.....

You remained steadfast, and knew that I would come back. How can I contemplate such a love? A love that does not move, does not budge even with all the meanderings of my heart.

With every passing year, I pray that I bring you more and more of myself and cling to less of everything else.

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios. Suddenly we have come to our senses. We are sorry and ask You to forgive us. Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.

Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love. Amen
Brennan Manning "The Ragamuffin Gospel

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Compliment

I want to suggest a new Beatitude: "Blessed are the sincere who pay compliments." I have just had a compliment, and it has changed my day.

I was irritated. Tired. Discouraged. Nothing seemed much use. Now suddenly all this is changed. I feel a spurt of enthusiasm, of energy and joy. I am filled with hope. I like the whole world better, and myself, and even you.

Lord, bless the person who did this for me. He probably hasn't the faintest idea how his few words affected me. But wherever he is, whatever he's doing, bless him. Let him too feel this sense of fulfillment, the recharge of fire and faith and joy.

Thank you, God, for this simple miracle so available to all of us. And that we don't have to be saints to employ it's power. Remind me to use it more often to heal and lift and fortify others' lives: a compliment! Marjorie Holmes

On the drive out here we stopped at a Denny's. After 8 hours on the road, the sign was like an Oasis in the Desert. It looked pretty new. It was nice and clean. The waitress came right away to ask what we wanted.....she smiled. The managers were walking around asking if everything was okay. And the bathrooms were clean too!

Have you ever asked for a manager at a place of business for a good reason? Nine times out of ten, they automatically assume the worst. That you want to complain. I think that is very sad. So now I really try to give compliments when I get good service.

When I paid for the meal at Denny's I made sure to tell her how great everything was, and left her a big tip. She was smiling when we left. So were we.

Ephesians 6:7 - With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Taking a little trip......

"Friends, they cherish one another's hopes, they are kind to one another's dreams." Henry D. Thoreau

Since I don't have a picture of myself anywhere on this blog I thought I would post this one. In it is the wonderful lady I talked about yesterday, Pat. (In red) Sorry, couldn't find one of both of us looking into the camera! My best friend and I are heading to California today bright and early to surprise my folks with a visit to celebrate my Birthday. I am sure I will see Pat too because as soon as she hears I am in town she will want to come see me and give me one of her lingering hugs. When she hugs you, she is never the first to let go!

It's always good to touch bases with family and friends, and sometimes you just have to do something spontaneous! I am not really a spontaneous person, I like things planned and scheduled. That is where I am comfortable. But this will be great fun and I can't wait to see the shock and surprise on their faces when we walk up the driveway.

Aren't we a jolly bunch? Best friend Elaine on left, another dear friend Diane, and myself at my Mom's 80th! I picked this one because even though my eyes are closed, this photo makes me smile. We all had a great time that day.....

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Making peace with my spots

My Mom and her dear friend Pat were conversing over coffee, when something in the conversation prompted Pat to say, "I have never liked myself." She said it softly, looking down at the table. I must preface this to say that Pat is one of the most giving, loving people that I have ever met. When Pat says "I will pray for you," it is no trite statement, she says it from the depths of her innermost being.

My Mom had her Bible on the table, so she opened it to Psalm 139 and started reading aloud. Then she got to this part:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139: 13-16

Great tears slid down her cheeks, for she was convicted. Pat loves God with a depth that knows no bounds. When she read those lines she knew that she had failed Him and it crushed her.

Since that day her whole countenance has changed. She feels differently about herself now and it shows. Even her daughter noticed the difference! Now she is sharing the message with others. Her new found freedom is infectious. Her enthusiasm has infected me to pass it along.....and learn.

So today I am taking a lesson from Pat, and my Mom. I have never liked my skin. It has given me problems since I was twelve years old. Severe acne plagued me up until such time as they invented Accutane. That drug was a miracle for me....I also have large pores and freckles. I have always coveted beautiful skin. You know the kind, no pores at all, looks like porcelain. My dear friend always leads me around the cosmetics section at Dillard's and Macy's. She knows how I feel.

I am making peace with my "spots" as they call them in the UK. All of them. Instead of saying or thinking, "I hate my spots," I am going to say, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and my skin has made me the person I am today."

God created my spots, and He created Yours too, whatever they are! I am praying that God will help me to wear them beautifully and with grace. For I am His little spotted lamb!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Redemption and Conversion

"Oswald Chambers said that conversion is a human act -- turning away from sin, and a sinful lifestyle. Redemption, however, is something that is received. God does it for us. He wrote that too many so-called Christians have not gotten beyond conversion -- they have joined a church, and given up some old habits, but they have not yet received anything from God, and are satisfied as they are.

Conversion is a gift and an achievement. It is the act of a moment and the work of a lifetime. You cannot attain salvation by disciplines—it is the gift of God. But you cannot retain it without disciplines. If you try to attain salvation by disciplines, you will be trying to discipline an unsurrendered self. You will be sitting on a lid. The result will be tenseness instead of trust. “You will wrestle instead of nestle.” While salvation cannot be attained by discipline around an unsurrendered self, nevertheless when the self is surrendered to Christ and a new center formed, then you can discipline your life around that new center—Christ. Discipline is the fruit of conversion—not the root." E. Stanley Jones

A further illustration of God's love and grace is demonstrated by the fact that we can't even willfully turn from sin and turn to Christ without God's initiation, so the whole thing is one huge act of Grace from start to finish....."No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:44
To watch the conversion and redemption process in someones life is to witness a true miracle of our modern day. When you begin to see changes in your own life that you know deep down could only come with the help of God, that's a miracle. When you look back at where you started and see how far you have come....that's Gods Grace. When you realize how far you still have to go, that's Grace again. Jesus did the hard part, but now we follow in His steps, however haltingly, yet we have the assurance of victory at the end of the race.

"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:21-25

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Moving Box

I put it out by the curb, this perfectly good moving box. I tried to throw it away but I couldn't. I took about two steps away from it and then turned and retrieved it and put it back on the shelf. If I had left it out on the curb, that would have meant I was totally committed to six more years here until my retirement. This way, I have a small hope that it will happen sooner.

Sometimes we hold onto something small because it represents something bigger.

The box represents a dream. Of moving back to my hometown. A place of permanence. No more moving. Of spending some good years with my folks before they pass on....of building a relationship with my 7 year old niece, of being a real Auntie instead of a bit player in her life. Of buying a little home with a shelf for African violets, and maybe a garden.

Around the time I thought maybe I heard the call to go back, my home was sold at an unbelievable price, right before the bottom dropped out. God sold that home, not the realtor. Then things happened that made thinking of a move more difficult. The economy took a dive. California, my home state, is now in financial ruin. Everyday I hear the reports of friends there who have lost their jobs. And my job is secure, I have great benefits.

When I started with this company I never dreamed that God would place me in the job I have now. He literally placed me here, of that I have no doubt. I have no college degree, and yet He has given me success here for fourteen years!

Even so, for about 7 years now I have felt like one of the virgins with the lamp stand, ready for the knock at the door. I thought I heard the Bridegroom coming, several times. Maybe I did, and maybe I ignored Him. I get these thoughts:
But if he got me this job, couldn't He get me another? Is my faith too weak? Is my God too small? Has my job become my god? All these questions run around in my head and I know God is tired of them, I know I am.

I wonder, did I miss the window of opportunity? Did I get the timing wrong? Did I not recognize His voice? Does that mean that He has balled up the master plan and thrown it into the throne fire? No more chances for me? Or is there a possibility that this is all part of the plan itself and I am right where He wants me to be for now? Are you tired, because I sure am.

Softly His voice speaks to my heart, "As I was with the Israelites in the desert so am I with you. I led them with my Presence as I will continue to lead you. I love you with an everlasting love that will never cease and nothing will ever change that."

Maybe you feel like you missed a window of opportunity. Maybe it was a big one. God was not surprised by that. He is an expert at creating new windows.

"To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:1-3

God cares about our dreams, and longs to give us the desires of our heart. Right now the desire of my heart, even more than my dream is Him. His ways, His path is what matters most. It is the only sure place to step. So I will keep walking, keep lighting the lamp of His word. Keep praying. He has given me tremendous peace at times when I least expected it. And He will do the same for you.

Was there ever a time when you feel like you missed His plan? Did He work it out for good anyway?

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

Monday, August 2, 2010

Facing Death with Christ

Had a post in mind today but something I read superceded everything else I was feeling and my perspective has changed, for the moment anyway. Perspectives have a way of changing on a dime, sometimes. It's God's way of reminding us what is really important. I could almost hear God saying, "Take that!" He threw the windows of my soul open and I could feel the stale air being replaced by the fresh air of His Spirit.

The story was called "Facing Death with Christ", (On my way to Heaven) by Reverend Mark Ashton vicar of Saint Andrew the Great in Cambridge, England. As Author and friend Tal Brooke writes, "Mark was from the generation of Oxford men following that of John Stott and Dick Lucas, who were determined to bring back the gospel to the Church of England. Over 700 strong from Cambridge University swelled the pews of this church that occupied so critical a crossroads. It was packed everytime I went."

In December 2008 Mark had a routine gallbladder surgery and cancer was found. It was past the point of surgical removal or any kind of treatment. He remembers telling the surgeon after he had been told the news that, "what he had just told me was, for a Christian believer, not bad news but good; it was not the end of the story, but the beginning."

Following are some of the quotes from the article, which is very long and unfortunately I couldn't get an online version. However, you can order the booklet here at Amazon UK.

"We all die as great sinners saved by the great grace of a far greater God. Funeral eulogies rarely present an honest picture of a person's life. The good is magnified, the bad excluded. But when Christians are remembered as they really were: including their failures and follies, their bad moods and intolerance, their moments of harshness and unkindness, then Christ is made more glorious. For He is the one who has saved us despite our sin; who has loved us even more in their weakness."

"While physical things spoil and go dim, spiritual things grow brighter and clearer."

"I can now see that much of what I have striven for and much of what I have allowed to fill my life these 40 years have been of dubious value, I am not now going to gain any further reputation of achieve anything more of significance, and I realize how little that matters."

"I need to keep short accounts now, because I may never have time to make amends or apology in this life. The Bible speaks to me about this with every great authority and relevance. Each day as I open it, God speaks straight into my heart by his Word. And it tells me what lies beyond this life, I can see the end of life. It looms over the horizon.....I know that it is God's work and not mine that will get me there."

It's unfortunate that it takes something of this magnitude to make our perspective so clear, but most of the time it does.

Mark Ashton went to be with the Lord on Easter Saturday, April 3, surrounded by his family. His last words were, "I am nearly home."

"For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." 1 Corinthians 15:16-19

Keeping count in my heart today......
holy experience