Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eden Restored

"Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds it's rest in Thee." St. Augustine
Everything the world is seeking so desperately can be found in the person of Jesus. Finding Him is like finding our forever home......
Drinking from the river of life is possible right here and now. I can stand on it's shore, cup my hand under the crystalline waters and drink deep. Because of Him and what He made possible.
He is my quiet country lane I seek when I want cool breeze in the sweltering heat of a desert summer. My bridge to Eden......My everything I have ever longed for, every desire of my deepest longing, even the ones I don't know about, is satisfied in Him and through Him.
But without Him I am never satisfied.
I could ache like I do, for the pines or for the ocean swells and go to that quiet place, a closet even, and find that I have come out just as refreshed as if I had just spent time watching the waves upon the shore or hearing the wind making the pines sigh.
It is part of my oldest memory, this earth. Part of me and I cannot ever separate myself from it, nor do I want to, for He grew me out of it, this soil, this earth, and to it I will return one day.

Until such time as I reach that Eternal shore where will meet me......Restored.

 He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.
 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:8,9

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Three Little Words

"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." 2 Peter 1-3

When I read this today I immediately thought of Harold Camping and his ridiculous time-stamp for Christ's return. I thought about how much damage has been done over the 2000+ years of the church by people taking a truth and twisting it, either to make a buck or get some notoriety for themselves. This is no surprise. Jesus talked about it, so did all the apostles.

The problem with partial truths is that a half truth holds the power of the truth, but either adds something or leaves something out so that facts are confused and distorted. That was our downfall from the very beginning. Our separation from God started with three little words........

"Did God say?"

I think an out and out lie is easier to deal with because it can be exposed for what it is. A partial truth has the power to mangle and deceive and leaves a wake of destruction in its path. Yet the light of truth will continue to shine through the darkness of every deception. Two things we know from Scripture:

There will be a time when Christ will most definitely come back, we just don't know when.

He will come when we are not expecting it.

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming......"2 Peter 3:10,11

Two other things we know....
The time is closer now that it was before.

There will be people that don't believe it.

"Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

But here is the best part of the story, if you are living and breathing, you still have time.

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

We serve a truly awesome God!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Blogging across the fence

I like to think of blogging as meeting for coffee, or over the back fence. People used to do that, and in some places they still do. Recently my Mom was over at my Aunt's house and she saw a gathering of people in the front yard playing dominoes. Yes, in the front....almost scandalous nowadays. They were laughing and carrying on and having a great old time. It was a good thing to see. Of course my Mom, never having met a stranger, had to go talk to them.

They exchanged information.....greeting.....fellowship. A bit of bringing Heaven down to earth. All because they made themselves available. Open.

I have lived before in neighborhoods where every evening a symphony of garage doors would open with big yawns and swallow up the cars and the people in them and that was the last you saw of your neighbor. One time my Mom was visiting and she got so starved for people she flagged someone down who was driving by just for someone to talk to.

In these days of mobility and technology we often lose that sense of community. It gets to be a challenge to get back in touch with it. That's why I like blogging. I feel like we are virtual neighbors meeting over the back fence. A little solitude is a very good thing, but too much is not good, we tend to make ourselves crazy.
God knew that too.

Sharing beliefs, joys and sorrows, snippets of our lives makes us feel like we are not alone. We join hands across the aisles, finding common ground in all sorts of things. We see how we are the same and how we are different.

And how wonderful to be able to pray for someone I have never actually met!

So pull up a chair, gather around, pour yourself a cup.

You don't even have to call before you come by.

".......and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24, 25 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Fear Factor

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ “Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. Isaiah 41:10,11

If we could see God's grace all around us.......just imagine. I envision something like these Palo Verde tree blossoms which fall everywhere here a certain time of year......we would see it everywhere we walked, for He has promised to hem us in on all sides with His love and protection.

That doesn't mean that our path will be trouble free and easy. In fact, Jesus promised that in the world we would have trouble. But right after that He tells us to take heart because He has already overcome it. That means, if we belong to Him, so have we! Whatever the world dishes out, we can take it my friends.

And I love what He says right before that......"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace."  

We can rest in the hollow of His hand. Of that we can be certain.

And when we close our eyes at night, can't you just feel His grace keeping you? For He neither slumbers nor sleeps.

There is much fear and uncertainty in our world today, but we don't need to pay attention to it. We don't have to worry about the economy......

our health

our jobs or lack thereof

or anything else that keeps us up at night.

Our Heavenly Father knows we need all these things. So, whatever you are worried about today, give it to Him, He can handle it!

"Who did this? Who made it happen? Who always gets things started? I did. God. I'm first on the scene. I'm also the last to leave. Isaiah 41:4
The Message

And a special prayer for Elaine, my best of friends. You take care of everyone else, but today and every day He will take care of you! He walks behind you and before you today..... May He keep you in perfect peace today and cast away all fear! Me

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

He is near you.....

Ours is a day when people feel a sense of the absence of God. We see no burning bushes, no pillars of fire, no incarnate Christ walking in our midst. We feel abandoned, thrown to the waters of a hostile or even worse, indifferent universe. We seem locked into a world from which there is no exit, no stairway to the stars. RC Sproul, The Holiness of God

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

In his classic book, which I am reading now. Dr. Sproul talks about the life of Jacob. If ever anyone should have his eyes open to the things of God it is the Grandson of Abraham. But it seems that much of Jacob's life was spent concentrating on the things of the world, he was pretty indifferent to God for the most part.....until the night he spent that night in the desert and had that dream. God became real to Him then. Did he just all of a sudden appear? No, He had been there all the time.

"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not even aware of it." Genesis 28:16

Sproul says: He was not remote from Jacob, but Jacob had missed him all his life. Jacob was unaware of the presence of God. This tragic ignorance of God's presence is played out in our culture every day in the lives of millions of people. God is here, but we are unaware. The moment awareness of His divine presence begins, the deepest personal struggle a person can experience begins as well.

Once we are made aware of Him, a decision has to be made. It is testimony of God's great mercy and love for us that we have those "Jacob's Ladder" moments.
He further states, and I love this one: "People in awe never complain that church is boring."

There are times when I wandered around like Jacob in my life, unaware and disconnected from God......but thankfully, I had my moment in the desert like Jacob. It was nothing I did.....but something God did. I didn't deserve it, I still don't.....After that time I was never the same, though I wandered at times, I always knew that He was there.

Is there. For always and forever.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Counting the Gifts

"Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." James1:16-18

Between last night and this morning we have had some wonderful artwork in the sky. Though we suffer through these stifling summers, who a Pastor last week very aptly described as being hit with a blow-torch, this time of year yields the most wonderful skies with the afternoon rains we sometimes get.

This morning I went out in my usual spot in the corner of the yard, where I get a bit of a crosswind, and watched the world wake up as I awoke with it. There was a puddle the rain left behind and I watched as a group of birds ingeniously dunked their bits of food in the water and alternately was quite a show......

Then I went around back and caught Mama and Papa quail and their little one on the wall....

I am thankful today for my camera, which allows me to stop and take a second look at the world and all of God's good gifts.....
For God who provided me with the money to buy it......
For my best friend who forced me to buy something for myself even though I walked around and around Costco before I did it......
All these things which remind us that God is good, and so is the world He created.
For His word, our compass to show us where to go......
What path to take.
And the Holy Spirit who helps us do those impossible things that we could never do on our own.
For the people who love and encourage us every day.

Celebrating Multitude Mondays along with many others in the gratitude community today........

(sorry, the little graphic for Ann's website wouldn't download today)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lead me to the cross

Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemption's Hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss

As I was walking and meditating on this song this morning, I thought, this is what it always comes down to at the beginning and end of every day......We come back when we lay down to sleep and we do quiet our souls. We lay down and then we lay it down too. Then, at the beginning of the day we look up, we return, we say......."It all comes back to You Lord and what You did, every decision we make, we hold up to the cross, in the light of Your grace."

We are humbled because we know that no matter what happens, that is where it all leads....and ends. Everything in this life will ultimately come down to One Thing. What we did with the cross,
what we did with Jesus. No other decision in this life matters really unless we settle that one first. 

Lead me to the cross
Where your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to you

Oh Lead me, lead me to the cross 

Brooke Fraser, Hillsong United

Image from google 

Saturday, July 23, 2011


When I read Susan Fletcher's first book, Eve Green I was carried away by her lyrical poetic style. I was captivated by it. I put her on my list of authors to watch for, so I was very excited when her second book, Oystercatchers came out. I was greatly disappointed, not so much in the writing style, but just bogged down with the depressing theme of the story. I really couldn't wait for it to be over. It was with a but of trepidation but also hope that I picked up her latest, Corrag. Susan Fletcher, in my view has knocked one out of the park once again with her newest historical novel.

The story is narrated by Corrag, an accused witch who is in chains awaiting death by burning in the town square. Outside the door as the winter gives way to spring's thaw, she hears preparation for her own execution. In reality, Corrag is a young girl who has never hurt a soul. She is traumatized by her own mother's death at the hands of an angry village mob, also branded with the "witch" title. On the night they come for her Mom, she wakes Corrag and tells her to flee...."Go North and West..." where she felt her daughter would find safety in the Highlands of Scotland.

She rides her beloved mare, her only companion, for many miles until she finds an enchanting mountain valley called Glencoe. She settles quietly there where she builds a small shelter for herself in that rugged but beautiful place. Unbeknownst to her, it is also the home of the MacDonald clan, a wild bunch of highlanders who actually treat her better than anyone else has up until then. Due to her knowledge of herbs and healing arts, she is summoned one night to save the leader of the clan who has suffered a nasty head wound. If not for her skill, he would have died. She becomes part of their community and finds a welcome there she has never known before.

Susan Fletcher then weaves more history into this tale for during the time that Corrag is living on MacDonald land, the infamous slaughter of the MacDonalds of Glencoe happens and Corrag seems to be the only eyewitness. She gets caught up in the tragic events because she leads some of the MacDonalds to safety, which makes her an enemy of the government, which lands her in prison.

We see the world through the eyes of Corrag, as she tells her own story to her only visitor while she waits to die, a young "man of God" who has his own reasons for finding out what really happened the night of the massacre. Before we get to the night in question, Corrag tells us her own personal story. At first our young preacher is repulsed by this supposed witch, his mind has already prejudged her. But once he gets to know her, he becomes enchanted by her and the wonderful way she sees the world.

By the end, he is deeply disturbed by her impending death, which he now knows is unjust. He sees her as she really is, a scared young girl, so small most people mistake her for a child. Someone who is compassionate and full of life, though in chains. Someone who has transformed his life because she shows him a world of beauty such as he has never seen before.

I am immersed in this book and I don't want it to end. I have enjoyed my time in Corrag's little hut with her.....transfixed by the beauty of the wilds of highland Scotland. I found many lessons in this book. It made me think about how quick we are to prejudge and condemn with little or no evidence, even those in our own churches and communities. I thought of the times I have been prejudged and prejudged others.

I don't know how this story will end. I could wish the the young Pastor would tell Corrag of Jesus and that she would know that the church and its members are about love and compassion instead of condemnation. I wish for an angel of the Lord to release her from her dank cell. I fear that I may not get the "Christian fiction" ending I hope for. No matter, I love this book regardless.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Beauty all around us

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:10

Imagine, that we can know the originator of all beauty, truth and everything good. Imagine standing in His eternal presence. Imagine the best of everything we have experienced in this life........ magnified way beyond anything we can dream. Sometimes it is enough to burn a hole clear through my brain, if I think of it too much!

I think of everything I have seen, what a gift memory is, a reliving of every most beautiful moment in my life. To think that of all these things I look back on, there is so much more to come.

Things like the hushed, hallowed quiet of standing in a snowfall, how it's almost Holy.

Those times when you feel like all is right with the world for a brief moment.....when you have felt so happy you want to break into song, and you do.

All this beauty, and we have only experienced a very small fraction of it.......of what's to come.

Every sigh of the wind through the trees....woven together as a chorus of praise to Him.

Look around next time you are surrounded by loved ones, and everyone is laughing. Who but God could invent something like laughter?

I remember a Christmas service that was just the right amount of joy and holy.

The world is magic, and if you don't think it is, you haven't opened your eyes yet. Just think of the way a small child's eyes light up when they see bubbles. In their eyes you can see the light of Heaven if you look.

There is a spark there that the world has not yet put out.

So many moments of such grand and wondrous beauty, I think in those best of times....what else can possibly be better than this. And yet God says.....

Just wait.....

picture credit: public domain pictures, Anna Cervova

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Feelin on the fringe today.......

"Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.  Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way." Luke 19:1-5

I have always loved this story. Maybe because I am short too. I was always on the end in choir. I was always one of the shortest in my class at school. Sometimes it made me feel marginalized, on the fringe. I also didn't like that song by Randy Newman about "short people."

What I love about this story is that Jesus noticed Zacchaeus up in that tree. He knew he was there beforehand because he paused right at the very spot where he was, perched there on the branch. Then he did something nobody expected......he invited him to dinner.
Jesus refused to let people feel marginalized. He noticed them......put them center stage. He got flack for it too, but He didn't care. He wasn't afraid to do the unpopular thing when it meant lifting someone else up, making them shine.

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” 5-7

If you are feeling somewhat on the fringe today, the outer limits of life.......remember that Jesus notices you.

He sees you on the sidelines.
With your back against the wall.
The one that doesn't want to be center stage.
The one watching from a distance.

The one watching from the tree.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Upside down justice

“Can anyone teach God knowledge to God, Since He judges even the highest? One man dies in his full strength, being wholly at ease and secure; his body is well-nourished, his bones rich with marrow. Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having enjoyed anything good." Job 21:22-25

Does it ever seem like we are living in an upside down world? Evil acts go unpunished. Something in us wants, craves justice. Sometimes we feel like taking matters into our own hands. There have been several movies that portray someone doing just that. The other night I happened upon one. I was over at someone's house and a movie started. There was a heartfelt scene with a Dad and his daughter lovingly interacting. Then it all went terribly wrong. A home invasion. Three men burst in, killed the wife, kidnapped and later killed the daughter. The father barely survived. It was merciless, they killed without remorse. I left after the first scene.  

I later found out what happened. The "perps" got off, so the Dad ended up finding all three and ingeniously divising each one's torturous death. He ended up terrorizing the whole town and in the end, he was blown up. Death by napalm. It wasn't a satisfactory end for anyone. No one got justice, and nothing he did gave him any satisfaction in the end. He died clinging to a necklace his daughter made for him. It was hopeless.

We may say about someone, why is this person still taking up air? They do no good for anyone, they are miserable and life seems like a chore to them. There is no joy in their days, and they weigh others down with their bleak outlook. Why, we wonder, can't they just die peacefully in their sleep? But thankfully, that is not up to me to decide. I am sure I would get it all wrong.

When my thoughts meander in that direction, the only way I know to get peace is to give God back His sovereignty. At times like that, it is tempting to wrestle it away from Him. But He alone has control of how many breaths, years, months, anyone has. We must give back to God's what is God's. When I let it rest with Him, He blesses me with the peace and strength I so desperately seek.

My thoughts calm.

I don't have to worry about justice. I know that belongs to God. All that is wrong will one day be made right. And in the meantime, I will rest in Him. I remember how mercifully He has dealt with me.

The Word is a tremendous comfort in times like these. When I read these words in Job today, I was reassured. Others have felt the same way down through the ages. But God doesn't change. And one thing is for sure. I can rest in His justice, and mercy. For really, what does any of us deserve?

It is because of His great love and mercy He has saved us from what we all deserve.

Because of His love for me, I get what I don't deserve.

Monday, July 18, 2011

All Creatures Great and Small

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” Saint Francis of Assisi

Today I honor our animal friends with a photo essay of "Briggs." I am so thankful for the joy and the laughter our pets bring to our lives, and for the comfort they so unreservedly give, expecting nothing in return. They leave their footprints across our hearts and change us for the better. I am thankful for all those who volunteer in shelters, giving their love and time and extending their compassion to all God's creatures who have been left behind and abandoned.

"Oh, no she has that black thing out again that clicks and flashes the bright light.........must you do that nooowwww?"

"Okay, if you insist on doing that, I will just do my best to ignore you and take a bath......"

"Doing my best to look thoughtful and am I doing?"

"This is all so very tiring.....I think I will just lay here and guard my mouse."

"A cat's work is never done......"

Thankful today for all the ones I have held and known, run and played with throughout my life. Thankful for a loving God who saw fit to create them for us as wonderful companions in the journey of life.

Briggs is the king of the house and loves everyone.....Sydney adopted me as his own and follows me everywhere, flopping upside down in my lap every night.....

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Cecil Frances Alexander

holy experience

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Morning Journal

When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When you begin the day, O never fail to say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

German hymn, author unknown

The birds were busy this morning,  as they crisscrossed staccato clouds. Roused from their nightime secrets places of slumber, they now have places to go, things to do.

Bunny is busy too, zig-zagging further down the street. It was a gilded sunrise, everything washed in peach......I had a great night's sleep and I feel rested, first time in four days.

The moon still hangs lazily above the cloud bank to my right. I guess she is not ready to wake up on the other side of the world just yet.

What a luxury it is to sit here and watch the world wake up.

In my memory, I see myself, my Dad, a group of us standing in a circle holding hands on a green lawn, still damp with dew. We are singing the song, "Morning Has Broken." Celebration in the air......

It is Easter sunrise.

Today I had another.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Just today.....

"In the days before his death,his Aunt Louisa asked him if he had made his peace with God.
His answer was "I did not know we had ever quarrelled, Aunt." Attributed to Henry David Thoreau

The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Thank you God for placing me here in this world you have created. I could have been born anywhere or not at all, and I thank you that I was. Each day holds a glimpse of Your Heaven. Help me not fail to notice the small moments of wonder happening all around me. Too many days have passed when I haven't.

Consider just one bird....the cactus wren, so busy, so industrious is this couple that they build not one nest, but as a backup, or maybe a decoy to fool predators?

And when I consider the full moon hanging there just so, its own presence daring us not to believe. I wonder how anyone can deny that kind of majesty and say that it was not created.....

that..... it..... just..... happened

We are all born with a spark of Grace.....made for eternity.

No matter how bad I think things are, there is always so much to thank you for. Sometimes it helps to do just that.

So today, I pause.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Because God is Real

photo of clouds behind my house

People may ask, what does it matter what you do? What you watch? What you listen to? Does anyone really care? In this age of anything goes, does it matter anymore? It matters greatly because we greatly matter to God! It matters more than ever.

Not only is God alive to us, He wants to be involved in everything we do. He has a personal investment in us! It is the difference between feeling like a latchkey kid, always having to let yourself in the door at night, and being a kid whose parents want to know where you are and who you are hanging with. Not because they are busybodies, or nosy, or want to rule your life....but because they care and want the best for you.

Not only that, but He comes alongside and helps me back up when I fail miserably. He understands that I will, but because He looks on my heart, He knows my motive. He can see if love is what drives me or something else.

This morning I was tossing and turning......It was three o' clock and I had to get up at four. I rolled over after looking at the clock, and was glad I had another hour. But I couldn't go back to sleep. I tried the 23rd Psalm, that usually works to lull me back to slumber. But this morning I got stuck on lines. The first one actually.....

"The Lord is my Shepherd......the Lord is my Shepherd.......the Lord is my Shepherd".....Thoughts crash in like ocean waves......I wonder how much time I left with my parents, Dad is turning 83 this week.....what will I do if I get a phone call saying they are gone and I didn't get to say goodbye.....What is our President doing with our money? Will we have anything left to call our own after he gets done playing monopoly with it? Maybe I should sell everything and move into the RV and put my money in a coffee can.

I shall not want, I shall not want, I shall not want.......He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside still waters.....

In Him, I have everything I need, and yet I toss and turn some more. I never go back to sleep. 3:10.....3:20.....3:50......

This morning, my first cup of coffee having cleared my head, I was thinking about Psalm 23 again. This image stayed with me. I pictured My Shepherd, His body laying down across the sheep gate in the night, the sheep gate of my life, my heart...... protecting the sheep (me) from preditors in the night.....

thoughts that go astray.......worries that won't sleep.

He says: "Don't worry, I got you covered."

Picture credit of sheep: Google images

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Final Frontier

One sings in her wheelchair as she is pushed along the halls, mostly Que Sara, Que Sara, sometimes Amazing Grace. She has an amazingly strong voice. We try to meet all their faces as we pass, and say hello and smile. You have the sense of wanting to give them back their humanity in this land of the seemingly lonely and forgotten.

When I first started to do the nursing home thing again, I recoiled. It felt like the Land of the Lost. My friend calls it the Roach Motel. You check in but you don't check out.

Where my Uncle is staying there is a gentleman there who insists that he will get to Heaven by train. When my Aunt sees him, he makes the announcement, "I have my ticket, I am leaving today at three o'clock." Hey I kind of like that idea, like going to Heaven on the Hogwart's Express! One lady, mutters constantly...."I don't know what the hell I am doing in this place." Once she never stepped out of her house looking anything less than dressed to the nines with hair perfectly styled. Now my Aunt says she looks like a street person. Unrecognizable as the woman she once was.

They give these places fancy sounding names like "Rehabilitation Center" "Care Centers" "Guest Homes."

I have to say, now that I have been "doing the circuit" again, there is something else that is clear to me. It is not all hopeless. I walk past rooms that are decorated in pictures from home, their pets, Scripture verses, shelves of books, colorful quilts in bright colors.

All in all, I have made up my mind that you die the way you lived.

If you are positive when you were young, you will be positive all the way to the end. Unless you don't have your mind, that is. Then it's different.

I walk along the halls and see signs of life and hope, and see signs up giving up.

It all comes down to life and death in the end.

I am determined that I will choose life no matter what. That is the hope I have in Jesus. That is the hope that Henry has. Elaine met him walking the halls. They got to talking and he told her he comes from a long line of ministers. He told her with a sparkle in his eye, "Today I am reading the book of Numbers!"

If I ever end up in one of these places I want to be like Henry.

Or the guy waiting for my three o clock train to Heaven.

And honestly, sometimes it doesn't sound too bad. No responsibilies, a shelf full of books, three square meals....I just really hope that I can keep my eyesight and my mind.

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love." Romans 8:38

Monday, July 11, 2011

Even while we sleep......

Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped....Psalm 16:3,5

I was tossing and turning over a situation. It was a fitful night, but this morning I awoke to the sound of rain....welcome rain on the rooftop. I heard the gentle patter of it off and on while it was still dark, and though my sleep was not totally restful I was somehow always lulled back to sleep.
I needed the comfort of the Psalms this morning and so I opened my Bible to my old friends that never fail to give me the peace I need in every situation.

Imagine, even while we are sleeping, God is working for us........"I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Psalm 16:7,8

I am praising and thanking the Lord today, for Godly counsel. For the wisdom I find in His word and for those He has lovingly placed in my life who say just the right thing at the right time.

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I am giving thanks for my Mom today, who said just the right thing this morning when I needed it. What a solid rock you are! I can always find the right perspective when I talk to you. I thank God for you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

God sees behind our windows

With all your science - can you tell how it is, and whence it is, that light comes into the soul? ~Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes I like to imagine the life behind the window......who it is that lives there, what it is they do. I imagine all kinds of scenes. I see someone rising early before the world awakes, moving soundlessly on stockinged feet to start the coffee or tea. Arising to enjoy some solace, maybe praying, maybe writing in a journal and sitting behind this window watching passersby like me walk by.

Or maybe they are old and alone, hoping for a knock on the door. A visitor to swap stories with.

Maybe they wonder about me, the walker.......

God knows all of our stories, everything behind our windows.

He wants to open the window of your soul and let some light in. He wants to open the windows of Heaven and fill your heart to overflowing.

Jesus is that visitor who wants to come in and hear your story. He is knocking, oh so softly.

If you open the door, I promise you will never be the same......

"Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." Revelation 3:20

Saturday, July 9, 2011

When we all get to Heaven

If I could write a book, that would be the title. It's one of the songs that my family used to sing when we got together. We used to call them "sings." I guess you could call them jam sessions to use a more modern term. My Uncle played the sax but not very well. Uncle Bill played the banjo very well, having been self taught. One of Mom's sisters Aunt Mayvis or Esther would be on piano or organ, and  singing Alto, and my Dad would play what we used to call the "gut bucket," also known as the "washtub bass." (As barefoot Larry illustrates above) He played his alternating two notes right on time. My Mom would do lead soprano and Aunt Lois and all of us kids would round out vocals, when we weren't holding our ears in mock horror.

Those choruses roll over in my mind and I love hearing them. They are part of the fabric of my being. Uncle Bill and Aunt Esther have been gone several years now. Aunt Mayvis is sorting through my Uncle's things now, since he won't be coming home again. Aunt Lois has been alone for years now, and my cousin was home last weekend helping her out at the house. My Mom and Dad, thankfully are going strong.

But we are all getting closer and closer to "that time." Even me. It gives me pause.

It also gives me strength to honor all their memories by taking care of well....and keeping their stories alive.

I want my niece to know what kind of people she comes from, how strong they were and how proud I am of them all. For their stories are all of our stories. Their lives were marked with sacrifice and hardship and they never gave up. They were thinking of the future, theirs and ours.  

So every now and again I resurrect the stories honor them.

I find myself wishing I could have been there when my Aunt and Uncle and two friends all got perms when they came to California in the late 1930's in their old Ford piled with everything they could put on top. The relatives thoughtfully had a place ready for them to the chicken coop. But they didn't know that then.

Or seen my Grandmother and Grandfather rescue the baby chicks that didn't drown in the rainstorm, bringing them in by the wood stove to dry.

I think I can almost see them looking back as they left their farm behind in North Dakota to move to California.... I know they shed many tears for the little girl they left behind, her small 2 year old body marked with a lamb on the stone......and all their animal friends, each one of whom were named. They were their working partners through several harsh winters.

And I wish I could have seen my Mom win my Dad back after they had a fight in high school, she in her black dress and gold lame shoes, singing a love song on stage at the school talent show. She and my Dad reconciled that night.

I remember them all today. Their lives encourage me to take care of myself and do my best to make them proud, and to cherish every year God gives me, and to never ever give up.

Always keeping their stories living, breathing, with me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Dinner Dance

Dinner has become very interesting at our house. The full execution of it from preparation to cleanup resembles something like a military operation, or an episode of Amazing Race. When her Mom moved in, we knew there would be some major adjustments, and dinner is one of those that has changed. We are still trying to learn the rules. This stems partially from the Alzheimer's and partly from the fact that her approach to dinner and mealtimes in general, drastically differs from ours.

Ours is relaxation, appreciation of the food, fellowship and conversation.

Hers is put it on the table so we can get it over and go back to watching TV.

From what I understand, cooking food was always a chore for her. She always hated it. It was never a labor of love. They called her cooking burnt offerings. Mealtime was something to get through, in survival mode....and the table was a form of controlled chaos.

Some days it almost seems like we are settling into some kind of rhythm, then the next day everything is crazy again and the rules change.

Dinner has become like a strategic operation. Kind of like a race against time. You do what you can on the sly so that you can get to it before she does. I know, I know, it doesn't sound very kind, but believe me. It is necessary. Otherwise it would never happen at all.

If you start too early, she comes and stands in the middle of the kitchen and watches every move you make, not saying a word......just staring, glaring really. So you want to minimize the amount of time that happens. Other times, she watches over your shoulder asking, "What's that?" and "What are you doing now?" You have to dance around her.

Sometimes she will take a seat where she can watch, stony faced and silent. It is unnerving. You start to do everything faster so you can get it done and get out. If you've ever watched an episode of "Keeping Up Appearances" and know what happens when neighbor Elizabeth comes for coffee at Hyacinth's, you will know just about how it looks in the kitchen right before dinner goes on the table. It's worth a look up on You Tube.

And she will not....... absolutely not sit down until everyone else is seated.

She treats everything on her plate with a certain amount of disdain and suspicion. That part is just personality, nothing to do with the disease. She does the same thing in restaurants, it's as if she is just daring the food to be edible.

You cringe inwardly, waiting for the comment, "There is a taste in here that I don't care for....." or "I'm still trying to decide if I like it," when it is something a bit different than meat and potatoes. Sometimes, but only if we ask first mind you, there will be an affirmative response to "How do you like it, Mom?" But that is risky territory. Mostly we cook what we know is safe.

The TV stays on to cover the loud sniffing while dining.

Clean up resembles a Chinese fire-drill. By the time it is done we are all mentally exhausted.

I remember all the times I prayed for God to make me more loving, to turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh.......I so want to respond the way Jesus would. To have the patience to let her help. We give her tasks so that she can feel useful and feel like she has a place of welcome in our home, her home too now......but it's very hard sometimes.

There is a part of me that is stubborn enough to make this work without any of us going crazy, and for that I am grateful.

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:9,10

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Finding beauty when and where you can

There are times when you simply no longer recognize your life..........It happens slowly sometimes, gradually. You look up and find yourself surrounded and in the mire, you feel stuck. You wonder what happened.
Other times it happens with life events, all of a sudden. Leaving no time to prepare, "to lock and load" against the barrage coming at you.

Right now it seems that everywhere I the lives of those I hold dear, major adjustments are having to be made. My Aunt is packing up some of my Uncle's things since he has had to go to the nursing home. She is living in a strange land now. The land of dementia......She told me, "He is here, but he's not here. I am grieving him and he is still alive." Tears come easily for her. She is packing his shop, and I am sure all the memories along with it.

She struggles with false guilt. She thinks that because she is a Christian she should be handling it better. But what prepares you for this?

Still she has held onto her humor, her eyes still find the beauty in her life.
She still thanks God for all the time she had with him. She has hope in her Savior.
The joy of the Spirit has not left her.

Because of who she is, she still sees the beauty in each new day. She still has her marvelous sense of humor. She called my Mom and asked on a particularly hot day...."Do you want to lay out?" She and my Mom used to sunbathe until they were black....baking for hours. Now they each have standing appointments at the dermatologist as a result.......Laying out in the sun at 80 years of age is now laughable...

And laugh they did.

One friend has a wayward adult child living at home once again......he has suffered many setbacks and can't seem to get back on track. He has made bad choices, and now this Mom and Dad are being dragged along for the ride. They love him so much it hurts.

There is one thing, one BIG common denominator in all these people's lives........they know Jesus. I refute those studies that say there is no marked difference in the lives of believers and unbelievers, the things they do or don't do. Frankly, they can stick those studies where the sun don't shine. They really make me mad, can you tell? I know better. I have seen it with my own eyes.

In my best friend, my own parents, my Aunt, my dear friend and her husband, and many others.

Since I started in a caretaking role myself, there are so many things I understand now, better than I did before. And I am thankful for that. God saw fit to "learn me a lesson." He does that mostly through other people. My life has changed very much over that past year or so. I am still adjusting.

I hope I can grow to be like the heroes I see around me. Still finding the beauty and not losing my sense of humor. I feel that many times lately I have missed the mark. I have become kind of a grumbler.....but inside where no one can see. But God sees my heart, and He knows I don't want to be a grumbler inside or outside.

Sometimes just finding that quiet place for a few moments is difficult, but necessary. To regroup.

How does your faith help you in your everyday life? Does it make things easier? I welcome any and all thoughts....

All photos taken by me at the Disney Grand Hotel

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Buggy thoughts......

I saw it as I wiped the cleaning rag over my bathroom counter. It was so small I almost thought it was a microscopic particle of dirt or something else, until it moved. Something made me look closer. It was so very, very small. How very large my counter top must look, as big as a whole world! I wondered how it even knew where it was going, for it certainly seemed to have a destination. There was something about the way it was just there. Any other day I may have just scrunched it up in a towel, because, after was so very small.

It moved me, watching that little bug. I could have smashed it without a second thought....sent it to a watery grave, and yet it didn't know that. That's what got to me, I guess. How many people are walking around just like that little bug, clueless that the God who created them has the power to stop their breath in an instant. And His great mercy keeps them going, because He loves them so much.

Loves all of us so much.

It humbled me, thinking of that little bug. So unaware of my bigness and its smallness....So unaware of what I could do. What I might have done another day. I think it was that thought alone that made me take it outside to a safe place. It was just too small to survive indoors. This morning, something in me needed to save it. At first it balked at my efforts to help it, it didn't know what I wanted to do. I coaxed it onto a tissue and carried it outside and set it tenderly at the base of a shady plant.

Safe for one more day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Remembering my gratitude

Psalm 26:7 “That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,and tell of all Your wondrous works.”

I momentarily lost my gratitude this morning, I awoke under a cloud. The heat is oppressive, and it has only just begun. But my desire to be thankful drove me outside......I needed to feel the air, however stifling. To be outdoors, to know that life was still good, very good. In fact, to feel a certain way is so much a choice. I chose again and will choose again and again......Gratitude.
I walked along and like a whispered breeze it flew through my soul as if through an open window......I thought of vacation just passed. The walk we took along the beach, peering through little alleyways. Feeling the ocean rush over my toes......It already seems so far away. Reality rushes in so fast. But I remember moments frozen in time. Held close.

It fog lifted once again. A bit of the gloom melted off and I could see the sun peeking out once more.

This freedom we celebrate today is born of many people making a stand......sacrificing so that we could, as a country, as a people be unoppressed by others. Freedom is an incredible luxury that must never be taken for granted. Sometimes I still do though......

I forget what Christ did for me........what He set me free from. So today, I remember the many ways I can celebrate and be thankful for freedom.
Time spent away.....relief from the heat of an Arizona summer for a little enjoy open windows for a few days.....I am thankful for the freedom to feel, think and be a certain way, knowing that others have severe limitations on their choices......Freedom of the road, the joy of the journey.....Time together with friends and family, making memories......Thankful for a special person who took care of everything while we were gone.......Thankful always, for God who bestows so many undeserved blessings, even when I grumble and complain when I shouldn't.

 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God.....1 John 1:3

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Happy Fourth of July everyone! We are free indeed.........

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In the Morning.......

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope. 
       Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. 
     They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:21-23

I was thinking about how no matter how tired, worn out, exhausted mentally and physically we sometimes get, there is always a new supply of energy that comes with morning. Our hope is renewed during the night when thoughts are stilled and all is quiet.........we are restored once more.

I remember when my Sister in law found the "morning" of her life. She was at the very brink of death when she found it. Really, none of us knows how much time we have. We think we do. But those who are terminally ill have no such illusions. Cancer had made it plain that barring a miracle, she would soon be with Jesus.
She knew what all of us need to know sooner rather than later. Knowing Jesus is all that matters. In Him she found the peace and joy that people travel the world to find. They come up empty, but she was filled to overflowing.
Her favorite song towards the end of her life was "Give Me Jesus."
The halls of Heaven have been ringing with her most magical laugh since 1998, and sometimes I still can't believe she is gone. I know if she were here, she would wish for every single person on this planet to know her Jesus.
The time is so short........
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone
Give me Jesus

And when I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die
Give me Jesus
This song, according to internet sources, comes from an old Spiritual sung by slaves. Also, this more modern version has been attributed to both Fernando Ortega and Fanny Crosby.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What's Your Heritage?

I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 2 Timothy 1:3-6

If you had someone in your life who taught you about God, you are blessed. Maybe it wasn't your parents. Maybe it was an Aunt or Uncle, or maybe a Grandmother, Grandfather, a Sunday school teacher or friend......Somebody who came before you thought it was important for you to know about God.

I wonder if that is going away? I can't say how many times those old hymns that I learned have come back into my mind at the most unexpected times.....have given comfort when I needed it most.

There is a reason why even hardened criminals or people who have been away from the church for many years tear up when they hear the strains of "How Great Thou Art" or "Great is thy Faithfulness." Or a Christmas carol........It is the power behind the words.

So many parents would never dream of telling their children that there is no God, and yet they live as if He doesn't exist. He doesn't figure into any of their hopes and dreams. He may be out there somewhere, yet He never comes up in conversation.....Never is He factored into any of their plans. They are unknowingly withholding the greatest most valuable thing they could ever give their children.

A Godly heritage.

If there is someone whose image popped into your mind just now, please keep them in your prayers today and every day.

And if there was someone in your life that gave you that, thank God for them today.