Friday, September 30, 2011

A God Gift


I get to go on a CRUISE!

We are going to this place........I had no idea where Belize was until a couple of days ago. I must admit when I first saw where it was on the map, my fatalistic overactive imagination conjured images of drug lords and kidnappings and assault rifles. Immediately I got on the travel website to get some facts. So far it sounds very intriguing, especially for someone like me who loves history. It has been featured many times on the Travel Channel and also House Hunters International. Two people I told at work immediately started gushing about it....yes, they actually gushed. I feel safer now.

So, how it all got started.........I saw an ad in the paper asking for writing submissions. Well, all I saw at first were the words: WRITE and CRUISE. Contest was sponsored by the good people at  Home Instead Senior Care. They wanted stories about caregivers sacrificing to care for loved ones at home and the winning submission would send the worthy caregiver on a cruise.....I could think of no one more worthy or in need of a cruise than my best friend who has been through so much the past several years with her folks. I tip-tapped my entry in the space....then I had to cut, and cut again.

I whittled it down to two words under the limit and hit "send."

I didn't hear anything for a few months so I figured it was already done, then lo and behold, I got an email day before yesterday. My essay was one of the winners of the caregiver cruise for two so Elaine (and I) will be headed for Belize in January. Wheeeee! I still can't quite believe it. It's a God thing. Sometimes He just gives one of those completely unexpected gifts, God gifts I call them.

And what is so wonderful is that my very generous and humble friend would hand this trip right over to someone else if she thought they were more deserving than she. No, no no, I will not let her.


Of course, when I read my submission again, the first thing I see is a big whopping error that I can't believe I let slip by. But when I think about it, isn't that just the way God works?  If I had sent off a perfectly polished copy my ego would have had every opportunity to get all puffed up, as the Apostle Paul put it so well.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to see more of God's good creation with someone so deserving of this. Someone who has missed so many vacations and left her dreams of another cruise somewhere far in the future, if at all. God had other ideas. I feel like He gift-wrapped it just for her.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Finding God in Unexpected Places


An Atlanta slum. A pod of whales off the coast of Alaska. The prisons of Peru and Chile. The plays of Shakespeare. A health club in Chicago. For those with eyes to see, traces of God can be found in the most unexpected places. Yet many Christians have not only missed seeing God, they've overlooked opportunities to make him visible to those most in need of hope. Excerpt from inside flap, front cover.

Philip Yancey hits another one out of the ballpark for me with this one. I recently picked up a copy on my last trip (literally last trip) to Borders before they closed. I was introduced to his books years ago, the first being, The Jesus I Never Knew. What I love about Philip Yancey's writing is that he takes me places I will most likely never go and meet people I would never ordinarily have the chance to meet.

More importantly, he opens me up to the possibility that right next to me may be one of those ordinary and yet extraordinary people quietly doing what Jesus did......meeting the world with love and compassion.

With his strong journalism background, he has an insatiable drive to go to those far reaching places and ask the tough questions others are afraid to ask, yet he never pretends to have all the answers. Instead, he leads the reader on an investigation for the answers in light of the truth of Scripture.

In this book, He takes us to Ground Zero where he interviewed a Chaplain with the Salvation Army. He met with Prison Fellowship leaders in Peru, Chile, and Africa, and attended underground Church services in China. He presents us with a God who is very much alive and working in this world through His people. He tells us the stories we wish we heard on the news.

There is a balance and humility to his writing that I really appreciate, and what I love most about all his books is that while not backing away from the faults of the church and its people down through history, his love for the church always comes through clearly.

Through his writing and the lessons he has learned from his own experience and others he has written about,  there is always the gentle reminder that walking softly through the world with love and compassion has the power to change in a way that slashing our way through it with legalism and dogma never will.

If you love to read about the powerful ways the Holy Spirit is working through His people, you will love this book. I'm glad there are authors out there like Philip Yancey who don't shy away from the journey.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And it was very good.


Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

noun /ˈnərCHər/
1.The process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something
- the nurture of ethics and integrity

verb /ˈnərCHər/ 
1.Care for and encourage the growth or development of

I was thinking about the word and process of nuturing this morning when I went out to collect the daily offering of okra from the garden. What is it that makes this one little task so satisfying? Because I was there in the beginning. I saw the little seeds when they came in the mail. The little seedlings even had to be taken on a vacation when they first came up. They were coddled, protected, nutured.....and even so some didn't make it. That made me sad.....I had invested in them.

They had attached themselves to me in a way, or I had attached myself to them.

The ones that did make it were tenderly transferred to the ground that stood ready to recieve.......all spring and part of the summer we waited......watered......spoke encouraging words to.

Oh, the excitement when they began to grow taller and straighter......almost as if to defy the odds, their small heads reaching for the sun......soon they were strong enough to withstand the elements of wind and the pounding summer rain.

The whole process gave me a sensitivity for those who depend on their crops for survival. Those who look to the skies to study their signs and signals; who read the Farmer's Almanac and study the weather report. The heartbreak of the ruined crops. I was upset over a few little plants, but imagine someone watching their livelihood dry up?

Now as tall as me, they have been producing like crazy for the past 3 months. Sometimes I just go out there and sit. I swear you can almost watch them grow. These plants have been one of the most satisfying joys of this long hot summer.

In the beginning God created.........and then He nurtured. I am so glad He didn't stop at the creating part. I am so glad He didn't create us and back away.

Well, our work here is done......hope they make it.
He knew it wouldn't work with plants or people.

And I am so glad.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Multitudes on Monday


“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”   


 
“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.”   

 

 
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. 

 


 
You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. 




Giving thanks today for these wonderful quotes by G.H. Chesterton, and people like Ann Voskamp who got me started with all these thankful Mondays, Tuesdays and every other day of the week.....Gratitude as a way of life, a way of living each day as if it might very well be the last......And taking that further, we give the Ultimate Gratitude to our Father, who says it doesn't have to end only begin with Him......It means that when we take our last breath here, we take our first real breath the way we were truly meant to live all along.......I am grateful for all the people this past Sunday who came up out of the waters of Baptism to new life, and a way beginning again.......Blessings #736-746

Grace and peace to you today, in Jesus wonderful name.......... Lori

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Till we meet again


Since I am at work on a computer all day Saturday, I manage to get some free time to go visiting. In Blogland that is. Don't worry, I am not doing anything unethical.......In our 12 hour shift, we get two free hours to spend however we want. It is one benefit to working when much of the world is off doing fun things like going to Costco and yard sales and picnics in the park.

Growing up, Saturday was a day for visiting. That's what my Mom and I did together. Oftentimes we would visit Mom's friend Rosie. Rosie was a tiny spark of a woman, from a big Sicilian family. Rosie liked flowers and decorating, refinishing her own furniture, and all things feminine. It wasn't easy in a house with a husband and four boys.

Going there was like visiting little Italy in a war zone. I never knew anyone who could be all sweetness and soft voice one minute, and screaming at the top of her lungs at one of her four boys the next. She turned on a dime. She had to with all those boys in the house. They were always doing something to get on her last nerve. But she loved them with all her heart, and they all loved her.

One morning when we stopped by she was making Bisquick pancakes. She had to send Steven to the store twice. Once for milk and once for something else. She made the first one and promptly threw it in the trash.When my Mom asked her why, she said, "Oh, none of them will eat the first one because of the oil." When she had run out of syrup, another son straggled in, miffed that he had missed breakfast. She proceeded to make him waffles, telling my Mom that they didn't use syrup with waffles.

She loved working with figures and hated paying taxes. She did our taxes for years, as well as her brothers and sisters and all their families. She knew the state of California's tax laws backwards and forwards. She would sit at her kitchen table and throw down Italian curses on the Government.

It got really interesting when her brothers and sisters were visiting. None of them agreed on politics and they regularly got into screaming matches over it. Then they would hug and kiss when they got ready to leave like nothing happened. Visiting Rosie's house was better than a movie for me, being raised in a quiet family. My Dad was raised in angry shouts, so we simply didn't shout.

Rosie was the queen of improvisation. They had a family dog who I think was equal parts German shepard and coyote. One day we were there when she had run out of dog food and hadn't been to the store yet. We watched incredulously as she poured ketchup over a bowl filled with chicken bones and leftover stew. Snoopy lapped it up like it was high quality pate. Anyone else would have worried about the bones, not Rosie.

Many times she invited all the pop warner parents and kids out to her house when they lived in the country and she never had all the ingredients for anything. One time she had a huge salad and nothing to put on it but an industrial size can of olive oil.

She was one of the most unique individuals with one of the best hearts, and I miss her.

Rosie never gave much thought to religion or God. She believed in the goodness of humanity. Her youngest son Steven became a born-again Christian. He and His Mom had many talks after that, and he never stopped praying for her. When he got married, his wife prayed too. At one point between all those conversations and the time she died of cancer, Rosie met the Lord.
 
She has been gone for years now and sometimes I still can't believe it. It's funny.....I didn't set out to do a post about Rosie, but I am glad it turned out that way. Our words and stories about people is what keep them alive in our hearts. Many times I have said a prayer of thanks to God that I will see her again.
 
I called my Mom this morning to see if she remembered about the pancakes, and she couldn't believe it. On the way home just about two hours ago she had passed some kids in football uniforms and thought about all those dinners at Rosie's house. She said she hadn't thought about her in some time.
 
One life, twice remembered in one day.

Till we meet again Rosie!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The problem of forgiveness



 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14, 15


Bryan Stow can speak again.

And he wants to see his kids.
Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was brutally beaten outside of Dodger Stadium on opening night of the season recently uttered his first words since awakening from a medically induced coma.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A criminal complaint against two new suspects describes in graphic detail the injuries suffered by a San Francisco Giants fan who was beaten nearly to death outside Dodger Stadium — including cuts to the victim's face and tongue.

As I looked at the photo in the paper of beating victim Bryan Stow and his two kids, I struggled. Then when I saw the photo of the two suspects who were charged, I struggled again, big time. How to forgive something that horrific? Could I forgive someone who did that? What if it was my Dad....brother....friend.....husband that was beaten almost to death. His only crime? Wearing a Giants Jersey to a Dodgers game.

Forgiveness is a big issue, one of the toughest. Peter struggled with it......he asked Jesus how many times he needed to forgive someone who had wronged him. I don't think he liked Jesus answer any better than I would.

It seems there are so many things in our society that are so hard to forgive. Our justice system too often fails us....lets killers and drug dealers, pedophiles back out on the streets only to have them do the same things they did before. We send children into the arms of parents that have no right to have them. As an animal lover I am distraught at the amount of cruelty inflicted on them.

We scream for justice, and we wouldn't be wrong in that.

But forgiveness is the bedrock of our faith. Christianity was founded on forgiveness.....How God Himself pardoned us. The painful fact is, each one of us has turned away from Christ at some point or other. It's what put Him on the cross, after all.

I sometimes think of forgiveness in terms of degree. I could forgive this but not that....never that. I think I could forgive something done to me easier than something done to someone I care about.

But I stand here in a state of grace, knowing that Christ forgave me everything.....wiped my slate clean. I also know that Jesus expects me to forgive everything wronged me, not just what I choose. I remember that the same Holy Spirit that made it possible for Jesus to forgive the world lives in me.

His forgiveness flowing through the Holy Spirit, flowing through me. God doing the forgiveness for me.

That is the only way I can reconcile it in a way that makes sense. Even then it would be an agonizing wrestling match between my will and what I know God expects. Yet as I stand here forgiven, looking forward to a future filled with hope, could I rationalize the right to withhold that same forgiveness to someone who wronged me?

I think of the road to Calvary Jesus walked for me once again and I already know the answer.

Though I sincerely hope I will never be put to the test, I know that it is the one thing that would make my Christianity more real to the world than anything my words could ever say.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Evening Prayer


 

Lord our God,if I have sinned this day in word, deed or thought,
forgive me all, as the good and loving God You are.
Grant me peaceful and untroubled sleep,
and deliver me from every attack and design of the evil one.
Raise me in due time to give You glory;
for blessed are You, with Your only-begotten Son and all-holy Spirit,
now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

One of my favorite moments of the day is when I lay my head on my pillow, give a sigh and say a prayer of thanks. Thanks for what I did right, and maybe what I did not so right, that I have another chance to do it all over again tomorrow, by His grace.

This morning was a tough one. I felt as if everything I have been going through lately caught up with me at once. Tears flowed effortlessly as I stumbled around in the early morning hours getting ready........I wanted, needed to have a confirmation that God heard my prayer. Knew how I felt.

Sometimes we just need that as humans. We feel far from the angels, even though we know they are there. We need a touch. Sometimes we get the answer throughout the day......little assurances we feel.

Sometimes, He uses others to lift us up and over.....a smile here, and hand on the shoulder there.

And sometimes, like this morning. He shows us right away. It was as if a strong hand.....His, lifted me up and sent me on my way, and I was a little bewildered and amazed by it all..... awestruck that He would do that for me. But He did. Of that I have no doubt.

Thank you, loving Father, for knowing just what I need at the time I need it. I give you my days and my nights, for they all belong to You.

Your love for me is something I will spend my whole life trying to understand.


Prayer at top from source: http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/Evening_Prayers.htm

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Holding out hope


“Come now, let’s settle this,”says the Lord.“Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18

Isn't it wonderful to know that we have a reasonable God? One who wants to know the deepest desires of our hearts? One who wants and seeks a relationship with us?

We serve a God of reconciliation. One who wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. One who already knows our thoughts but wants to hear them from us in our own words. He delights in that.

People everywhere are seeking something, but too often they are asking the world to supply something it never can. Real Peace. But not the kind the world offers. The kind only God can give. Real and lasting peace. The kind of peace that comes despite every circumstance life throws at us.

Too often we look to the world for answers......we think the best and brightest humanity has to offer is good enough. It reminds me of that old song, "Looking for love in all the wrong places." When we look to the world for our answers we will come up empty every time.

Only when we begin to entertain the possibility of something bigger than ourselves, hope blooms like the crack of the dawn spilling over a mountain.

This is our future, and it is indeed, a future filled with hope. The world doesn't have the answers or the hope we need for our future, but God does. This is the future God has for us......

People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
his word will go out from Jerusalem.
The Lord will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:3,4

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied exactly to the letter all the facts concerning the birth of Jesus.


The rest is history.

God has always had hope for the world.......and that hope came through Jesus.

I wish you a day filled with His peace today wherever your path takes you and that you have a real sense of His presence.......


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Evening walk

An evening walk among giants......


Cicadas were the symphony backdrop, with an occasional bullfrog and the sound of ducks splashing across the pond and dragonfly wings whirring overhead.....


Fall in the desert is a bit different......no evening chill yet, the heat of the day leaves reluctantly....it hangs on until the morning hours.


Two ducks heading to communal evening bath time


Still, we know that summer is coming to an end at long last. It is slow going, and yet when we get up and are greeted with the cool air that greets the morning,
we are graced with new life....

new hope.

By the time we headed back to the car, the mosquitoes were out in force.......
but we know that soon summer will lose it's grip for good. Soon we will have the desert chill, and
fires in the firepit.........hot drinks and

everything fall.

Monday, September 19, 2011

More than conquerers


  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,  that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

I can't think of a better way to celebrate with the gratitude community than with this verse. There is so much to be thankful for when we reflect on everything  this verse really means. We are a people who have been brought from death to life! This is our eternal hope! I think sometimes we forget what we have been freed from. We tend to remember on Sundays in worship......when we see someone baptised into new life or celebrate communion, but our everyday reality is this: Every moment of our waking lives, we live with the reality of the resurrection. A living hope.

That changes our whole outlook on life. The law was given to show us how desperately we needed a Savior. God knew that it was a physical and spiritual impossibility for anyone to actually keep the Ten Commandments, but He had to show us the expectations. Of course, He never would have done that without giving us a solution to our desperate situation. The solution was and is and always will be Jesus!

He was the lamb without spot or wrinkle......our sacrifice. Being God, He was fully able to fulfill every commandment, not only that He was the Commandment.

I think, no I know, that sometimes God puts us in places that show us our complete and utter inadequacy in a situation without Him. He does it so that we will lean on Him and let His Holy Spirit do that work through us. I know that He has done that for me here lately.

And I am thankful for it. Sometimes we need to have things revealed in our character that need changing. Those things would never come out unless they were forced out. Being in a caretaker role I have learned some things about myself that I never knew. I am not nearly as nice as I thought I was. Can anyone identify with that?

The Holy Spirit can do a much better job than I could ever hope to do. Getting out of the way is the hard part. The letting go and letting God.

Each day is a chance to make room for Him, and in making room for Him, we realize there is a bigger space in our hearts for others. We learn to be easier on ourselves too. "No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us." Romans 8:37

Count thanks with me today........Blessedly cooler weather......days off to enjoy them......a good dinner last night with good neighbors......friends who pray.......scones in the morning........a walk around the park......my health......a good job.......A God who is not content to leave me as I am.......a good nights rest.......#725-#735

Sorry, I couldn't get Ann's button to show up today but you can get her here

Saturday, September 17, 2011

He is more than enough


And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I got home the other night and she was outside on the patio. My best friend of the endless positive attitude...the natural born fixer, the supervisor and mediator of people and situations, cannot fix her Mom. There is no fix for Alzheimer's.....yet. The look on her face said it all. She was done....spent. Finished. "She drove me nuts today," she said. "I prayed all day and it didn't work." I said, "Yes it did, she is still alive and so are you." Sometimes it is all you can do to get through the day with your mind and body intact.

Everything she tried to do for her Mom ended in complete and utter frustration.

A woman who used to scream at them for getting in the kitchen while she was cooking, now stands in the middle of the kitchen as her daughter cooks, staring a hole through her. It is disconcerting to say the least.

And then the endless pacing....up and down, back and forth. In her squeaky shoes. Suggestions are met with hostility and you never know when.....It is like walking in two worlds. The regular world and the Alzheimer's world. Applying the normal rules doesn't work in an abnormal world.

Harder still, is when you have no good memory bank to pull from because your Mom was never emotionally available to you or for you......never nurturing. What do you do when your own supply of love and devotion is not enough, and when you feel like the sun has gone down and taken every scrap of your strength with it?

When the last thing you want is another thing you have to do.

You rest in the knowledge that
you know...... that you know...... that you know

He is more than enough

His love takes over when ours runs out

He will never, ever ignore His child who prays

Know that the power that raised Him from the grave is enough to raise you......."Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Ephesians 3:20

Friday, September 16, 2011

Along came a spider


I was driving home a couple of weeks ago when it finally happened. The thing I always dreaded. The "what would I do if this happened scenario." I was talking to my Dad on the commute home when I noticed something in my peripheral vision......a movement. Say it isn't so. But there it was, skittering across the dash like it owned the place. A spider. Everyone who knows me knows how I feel about them.

I know they are God's creatures. I know they are good to have around.....as long as they remember their place.....outside. I know they eat flies and other pests, and that their webs are works of art, especially when hit with morning dew. I really can see the beauty in that. But where there's a web there's an occupant. There it is, smack dab in the middle of that glorious creation.......along with all eight creepy legs that I imagine crawling across my face in the middle of the night.

That actually happened to me once and I never forgot it.

Surprisingly, Charlotte's Web was my favorite book growing up, but no matter how my Dad tried to tell me to "let Charlotte live"  it didn't matter. It only pulled on my heartstrings for a second.....right before I switched on the vacuum cleaner and sucked Charlotte right into her new forever home.

There it was, dangerously close, on my side of the dash. I held my breath and leaned over as far as I could toward the passenger side. Then it leisurely went across to the other side....I released my breath. It was tortuous. I thought it would help if I stayed on the phone and so I did, never letting the panic hit my voice. I was extremely proud of myself for exercising such supreme discipline and control.

That is, until it started to crawl, in that fast creepy way they have, right over to where I was sitting. Trapped. My hands gripped the wheel and did the only thing I could do.

I sped up.

Then the worst happened, it disappeared! I lost track of the sucker. Any minute I expected it to float down right in front of my face. The not knowing was worse than actually seeing it.

It appeared again by my left shoulder. That's when all my self control and discipline went out the window. By the time I approached the Wal-Mart off-ramp I was approaching 80 MPH. I was in complete control of course, my hands never left the wheel except for once.

I barrelled around the corner and screeched to a stop in the garden center parking lot. By that time it had managed to make it all the way to the backseat floorboards. I should have let it go but I didn't. I got a towel from the trunk and smashed it good.

I feel bad for killing one of God's creatures....

If it just hadn't been in my car.

Later I told my Dad about it. After the laughter subsided he told me he was impressed by my tremendous display of self discipline.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rest......


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26 

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings." Psalm 61:1

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2

 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28- 31

I am having a bit of rest today on this little bench.......come and join me. If you don't see me, that means I am doing some blog-hopping today. Doing a little visiting, neighbor to neighbor, blog to blog.

Get the coffee ready, I like it strong!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Song around the throne


Don't you wonder where it comes from? That hymn that you almost forgot? It shows up when you are tired, or anxious, or fearful. Or maybe it's a verse that comes just when you need it. They float in and out. Sometimes they are like a little whisper deep in your soul.

That's the Holy Spirit. He can't keep from singing....and in the quiet places in my soul, I join in. I may be anxious, or scared, or worried. But when I hear His song, my own spirit sings along. The arrow of truth sinks deep. It's His way of reminding me.

Jesus is all I need. Jesus is all I need. That's the one I kept hearing this morning. Yes, I know He is. My mind and all my past experiences and logic tell me so and I know it to be true. He is more than enough. It's my heart that falters, slow to get the message.

I was worried about my Mom yesterday. They had to give her a new medication because her heart was beating too fast. The Doctor mentioned stroke. I realized again that someday, sooner than later, I will have to live without her, and I don't want to.

Jesus is enough, yes. But I want her here too. I can't think that she won't be here as long as I will.

I was so distracted and worried that it took someone with Alzheimer's in the passenger seat to tell me that I had the green arrow....that was right after I heard the loud honking behind me.

Then I got irritated at them because they were impatient and I honked back.

As my cousin would say, Onward Christian Soldiers.

Sometimes it does feel like a war.

Inside me He is singing and I am doing my best to sing along. There is an endless song around the throne of God that I like to imagine. And it never stops.

That's the one the Holy Spirit sings....and its the one we will all sing one day, by and by.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When the Desert Loves


As a pilot calls on winds and a storm-tossed mariner looks
homeward, so the times call on you to win your way to God. As
God's athlete, be sober; the stake is immortality and eternal
life. St. Ignatius the God-bearer
I have never read much of the desert fathers (and mothers) but I understand the appeal the desert held for them. The desert has a way of calling to you after awhile. I never would have believed this, having been raised with weekends on the Pacific coast and the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range. These call too, very loudly........it is easy to see God there because the grandeur of that beauty speaks with a megaphone.

The desert is big sky.........and filled with remote and lonely places that only the cry of the coyotes fill.

And the desert is fierce and moody and relentless. At once brutal, so hot you can feel it in your eyeballs, and powerful and violent as the thunder rolls, the lightening flashes against the backdrop of eerie sky sending both human and animal alike running for cover as the hardened ground fails to contain the water that pours out of the sky in sheets. The wind blows and the dust swallows everything in its path. I challenge anyone to doubt God in a desert thunderstorm.

You feel the fierceness of the relentless heat like the Old Testament's descriptions of God's wrath in the summer time. You think you will never get through its oppressive agony. It is merciless, the way it beats down on you, month after month.Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God....... Then just when you think you can't stand one more minute.......that He may exalt you at the proper time.....1 Peter 5:6

And then.......miraculously.

It cools. You feel the release of its grip like the whisper of God's mercy. You walk outside and you realize something monumental has happened, something wondrous. It is the desert waking up.....The hope of that awakening is something a non-desert dweller could never understand.

We rejoice because we have made it through to the other side. It's a bit like rebirth......Doors and windows are once again thrown open, and new life begins once more.

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:12 

I open the screen door for the first time today....Hallelujah!


Monday, September 12, 2011

When resentments cloud our prayers


"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth cannot sustain itself forever, ultimately both parties end up blind and toothless." Gandhi

Yesterday morning prayer time was wonderful......I went outside and instead of being greeted with stifling heat I was met with a blessedly cool 75 degrees, something that is a distant memory between the months of May through early September here. And something else I have longed for, prayers accompanied by a little sprinkling of raindrops on the roof.

Afterwards, I went to look for my patriotic flag to hang for September 11 and remembered that it was a bit weather worn and I had thrown it out. I decided I needed to fly a real flag, so off I went to Walmart at 6:30 in the morning. Not many people there then. I drove home with my precious commodity and proudly hung it out.....red white and blue......glory against the backdrop of Arizona sky.

Today's prayer didn't go quite so well. It was clouded by a resentful thought that I could not dislodge. It came about halfway through prayer and stuck there.....

Instead of praying about it, as I should have done, I decided to keep it for awhile.....mull it over. It started me asking questions. Those irritating whys.....Forgiveness is good and right and Godly........yet so difficult when you have to live it out day in and day out.

How do you forgive someone when they have hurt someone you love?

When you are the caretaker for someone who has never cared for you, never treated you well, wounded you emotionally?

When you don't have to live with them it's easy. Out of sight, out of mind. But what if they are never out of sight? What then? It's like reopening old wounds every day.

Living out the Christian faith is easy when it's never tested. Our faith doesn't grow if it's not challenged. That's when we grow closer to Him. When we're tested. The challenge is proof that He loves us.

It's our love for God that motivates us to leave behind those things in us that are not Godly. Those things in me He wants me to change. The Holy Spirit does not deserve to live in a body and mind steeped in resentment....fear....anger. It helps to remember the sacrifice.

The terrible price that was paid for us. The ultimate price"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." 1 Corinthians 6: 19, 20

As I sat in a beautiful church service yesterday, remembering the sacrifice of all those people running into those burning buildings, and saw all the names of those who died streaming down the wall.......my eyes streamed too. Four candles lit, one for each plane down.

They paid with their lives for the evil someone else did. He paid with His life, for what He didn't do.

"For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Could it be that sometimes God's blessing comes from those who have been our biggest challenge in life? Could it be that He is heaping treasure in Heaven for us through this very person, these very circumstances that are the source of so much pain?

Is the very act of forgiveness the thing that will bring about the salvation for us all?

This one thing I know to be true.......God is building something eternal in us right here and now. It is something so big and so great we can scarcely imagine it. Everything we do with His help and by His power changes us forever.

Thankfulness wells up again, and again as I remember this.......

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering



September 11, 2001 was my first what I call, "Where were you moment" I thought it fitting to quote from a piece of Gordon MacDonald's journal. He was a Pastor who volunteered as a chaplain for the Salvation Army as soon as the events unfolded that day. Here is what he wrote.....

"And more than once I asked myself--as everyone asks--is God here? And I decided that He is closer to this place than any other place I've ever visited. The strange irony is that, amidst this absolute catastrophe of unspeakable proportions, there is a beauty in the way human beings are acting that defies the imagination. Everyone--underscore, everyone--is every else's brother or sister. There are no strangers among the thousands at the work site. Everyone talks; everyone cooperates; everyone does the next thing that has to be done. No job is too small, too humble, or, on the other hands, too large. Tears ran freely, affection was exchanged openly, exhaustion was defied. We all stopped caring about ourselves. The words "it's not about me" were never more true."

No church service, no sanctuary, no religiously inspiring service has spoken so deeply into my soul and witnessed to the presence of God as those hours last night at the crash site.

In all my years of Christian ministry, I never felt more alive that I felt last night. The only other time I can remember a similar feeling was the week that Gail and I (his wife) worked on a Habitat for Humanity project in Hungary. As much as I love preaching the Bible and all the other things that I have been privileged to do over the years, being on that street, giving cold water to workmen, praying and weeping with them, listening to their stories was the closest I have ever felt to God. Even though it sounds melodramatic; I kept finding myself saying, "This is the place where Jesus most wants to be."

George MacDonald, volunteer Chaplain for the Salvation Army on 9/11/2001

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A morning for tea......

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me. C.S. Lewis

I knew that if I "google searched" C.S. Lewis quotes that something having to do with tea would pop up.....lo and behold it did! This photo was taken by Elaine when she surprised me the other day by taking me to Ms. Thomas Tea House. It's me doing my best to be ladylike without spilling tea all over. I only spilled a little.

It really was a sweet thing for her to do. She knows I like to get in touch with my English heritage once in a while..... My Dad's side hails from Lincolnshire, near the Sherwood Forest in Nottingham. I love the little tea cups, the lace on the table, the little fancy sandwiches. However, I can be dignified and "pinkies up" only so long. I have a track record for dropping things and clanging the lid too loud, and laughing when I am not supposed to.

I have a feeling if I ever met the Royal Highness herself, something would set me off......it would probably be me tripping over the red carpet. I can see it now, me coming down with a hopeless case of the giggles in the assembly line, right before I was supposed to curtsy and shake her white gloved hand.

If you make the photo bigger you will notice that though my pinkie is up, it is a bit bent......that just about sums it up for me. A bit of serious and a bit of silly.....well, maybe a lot silly.

I have vague memories of singing a solo in first or second grade with Carlyn Willie. Now, she was a lot serious and never silly. I got a terrible case of the giggles. I think she thought she was trying out for the opera. It was bad, and to top it off, we were singing Silent Night. My Mom was there, and she wasn't too happy.
Just goes to show, you shouldn't ask a kid to do such solemn things.

If sidelong looks and elbow jabs could have killed, I never would have made it out alive that day.....

To celebrate......We had a bit of rain in the desert last night and when I walked out to get in the car it was a glorious 75 degrees! That was enough to put me in a good mood for the rest of the day....

God is good, cooler temperatures are coming....I have faith!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book of Kindness


It's time for counting kindness......


An interesting thing happened when I started to count the gifts of gratitude one by one......that counting the good things became even more a part of who I am.

They slipped in quietly, but they surprised me by their insistence, even when I was worried, or stressed, or angry, or scared.....they came alongside and made their presence known, and didn't back down.

And now I find myself wanting to count other things. That is what started my book of kindnesses.....


It is for keeping track of the things my friends and family have done for me or others......all those little things it's so easy to lose track of. It's so important to know that there is still much kindness left in the world.


My Mom in her childhood watches.....I think she likes the idea

And hopefully, this counting will inspire me to practice kindness on myself and others, because I know there is much room for me to grow. These I don't count, for God Himself keeps track of each one done
In Jesus name......."And (A)whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these [a]little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

First entry: Diane (who bought me this little book) goes with my Mom to the Doctor during a scary checkup

Second entry: Just about every time Elaine makes an ice-cream cone for our household, she makes three extra and takes them next door to Bob, Eileen and Estelle

Third entry: Bob and Eileen take Elaine to get her car from the shop

I often like to imagine all the many things that Jesus must have done that we have never heard about.....

"And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen." John 21:25

I have a feeling they ended up in the Father's own book of kindness

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When God Speaks


I was going to write about something entirely different today, but then I read Duane Scott's post over at Michelle's place. I remembered something my Dad told me when I was back home this last time......As I read about what Duane so rightly calls, the hard hallelujah, 24 years fell away and I thought about my own period of deep grief and all the events that threatened to swallow my family whole.

Dad told me about the night that God spoke.......It was a Tuesday evening and he was getting ready for a prayer meeting he usually attended. Something kept holding him back. He chalked it up as laziness and continued getting ready. But there was a weight, a heaviness that seemed to be holding him back.

He went but didn't participate in the prayer......He sat quietly in the back, trying to pray, but feeling like he wasn't supposed to be there.

Oppressed by a darkness he couldn't explain.

He says it was as if a strong undertow was pulling him back home. The voice, the Holy Spirit within him was growing louder and more insistent as the night wore on. "Go home and go quickly."

It wasn't audible, it didn't have to be.
Right after he got home the phone rang. It was me calling from Mexico and to this day I don't remember either calling, or the conversation. What my Dad did understand was that the man I had just married three days before had died in an accident and I was left alone.....in a country not my own.

On what was supposed to be my honeymoon.......

If my Dad had not heeded God's voice, my Mom would have had to take that call alone. I don't think she could have handled it.

So while the glow of the wedding was still bright and fresh, the bouquet still in bloom....while relatives had barely had time to get home, they had to come back for a memorial.

And I had to figure out what to do with a future I had all planned out.
The grief was so deep I thought I would never get out. It affected us all. God watched me mess up, veer wildly off the path at times. He watched me deal with the grief all wrong, and that must have been painful for Him to watch.....But in all that time, He never left me.

There are no words for sadness that goes so deep. I remember we all said, "How can the birds still be singing?" In all of our hard hallelujahs no words of comfort ever sound right. But now that I am so far on the other side of that grief, I can comfort others in a way someone else can't and I know it.

But how to comfort when there are no words? The best thing can be just your presence, a hug....shared tears. A listening ear........Stopping by after everyone else goes away.

You might ask the question, "Well, if God spoke once, why didn't He speak another warning? Why didn't He intervene in the big thing that happened.....Why didn't He prevent it?"

There is an answer that comforts me, and I know it to be true. I know my God. There is a reason He didn't intervene, but I don't know what it is. Maybe it was because He was saving me or someone else from an even greater grief further down the road. That is what I choose to believe....it's how I find comfort.

I didn't always have peace about it, but I do now. All these years later, the "why" question matters less and less. Heaven is not nearly as far as we think. The joy that springs up in the heart even in the midst of unbearable sorrow is proof. For we know where they are.......

Though He didn't keep the awful event from happening, I know He loves me more than anything, and I know He was with me every step of the way.

The death of a child is much harder for me to understand. I can't imagine that kind of grief.

All I know is that He loves us so very much, even more than we can imagine, and He loves our loved one even more than we do.

Whoever reads this, please whisper a prayer for Duane, the grieving parents of his nephew and all the family. Thank you Duane, for such a beautiful and real post today and thank you Michelle for sharing it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Prayer for Texas


A resident evacuates his home
 
 
These pictures tell the story.......1000 homes burned and thousands having to evacuate due to wildfires that are out of control. Please pray for everyone involved and for those fighting these fires. I pray for a day with little or no wind......These people have had no rain for months and conditions are so dry.....


A patio table and chair is all that is left

Father, I just pray that there will be no more deaths and that You calm the winds and comfort those who have lost their homes. Thank you for those who got out with their lives intact. I pray that they may be restored in body and spirit.


A cat rescued
May Your Holy Spirit grant them strength and help during this difficult time...............

Elaine just got off the phone with her cousin who lives in La Grange, Texas and they are ready to leave on a moments notice. There are fires surrounding them on all sides. Her two pet carriers are already by the front door, one for her cat and one for her Mom's.  Her husband found it humorous that  she grabbed a stuffed gorilla she had given her Dad that he had kept for years, and also the military flag she recieved after his memorial service.

It's funny, the things we reach for, what we value when all is threatened. It's not the china or the figurines, but the things that are attached to the ones we love, the memories and pictures.

Despite it all, Sandra is still in good spirits and hoping for the best. Her Mom was at the beauty shop getting her hair and nails done. Sandra says: "I guess she wants to look good in case they have to evacuate!"

Thank you my blogging buddies, in advance for your prayers!

all photos courtesy of the LA times

Monday, September 5, 2011

Counting the Gifts


In that day— “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. Isaiah 27:2, 3

I just finished a marvelous book called, "Halfway to Each Other," by Susan Pohlman. It chronicles one family's incredible life-changing experience after leaving their fast paced and stressful LA lifestyle behind and moving to Italy for a year. On the brink of a divorce, while walking along an Italian beach on a business trip husband Tim ventures that maybe they should move there for a year. At first the notion seems ridiculous and illogical. But at the brink of desperation to save their marriage, they do just that.

At times funny, sad, always heartfelt, this book will inspire you and lift you to the heights, and make you think about some of the ways the American lifestyle is extremely unhealthy for both mind, body and spirit. It made me think of what I already really knew. That the magic and memories come when you slow down enough to really get to know each other and God.

The good news is, while we can't all move to Italy for a year, there are changes we can make right here and right now that will have a big impact on our lives. Slowing down......turning off the noise that constantly barrages our ears, our senses, our lives.

Cutting out activities, the running here and there. Keeping up with the Jones'es or in LA, The Kardashians! Taking little walks together, noticing things, taking the headphones off.

I will never forget one Christmas Eve when we lost all the electricity. We still talk about it...we lit candles and a fire in the fireplace, sang songs, laughed.....and we were all a bit disappointed when the lights came back on. We had captured a bit of magic that we weren't ready to give up yet.

I was reminded of the joy of games on my recent trip up to the mountains. There in the living room of the cabin we rented, a little shelf was overflowing with board games and my niece's eyes just lit up like she had just hit the mother load. Of course, she wanted to get them all out at once.

She decided on monopoly. With a special needs kid you don't go by rules.....you improvise. I think that made it even better. Then I realized to my utter disbelief, that I had no clue what the rules were anyway? How could I have forgotten this game that I had played for so many hours growing up? My brother recalled how he and our cousins would play with a vendetta......sometimes holding games over for the entire weekend after falling asleep at the board.
That weekend, I felt like I had a gift......I will never forget Lauryn and I playing that game, and how she borrowed money "from the bank" to buy Park Place. I can still see her beautiful face lit up with excitement, and hear our conversations that night.

That's what life is about......celebrating being together. Recapturing what we thought was lost forever......Simple moments that can't ever be replaced.

Returning a bit of Eden to our lives......Celebrating thankfully today for all those, little/big moments.......

rediscovering games and conversation, drinking in nature, September which leads to October, which leads to cool weather, days off, laughter in the midst of stressful moments, clean sheets, furry ones that love no matter what, discovering a new restaurant yesterday, answered prayers for the end of a challenging week, beautiful Arizona sunrises, a bit of rain last night......#713-#724

Join the gratitude community here to count along with Ann and many others.......

Sunday, September 4, 2011

God keeps a journal


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-5
I thought of this verse this morning as I rushed over to the golf course to get this shot minus the power lines that continuously block my view. Because I love the written word and everything about it, this verse holds special meaning to me.

The written word has power, tremendous power. It has power to start revolutions and wars, forge relationships, mend hearts and lives, and with the right person behind them, words can become laws.

Words can open up a whole new universe of ideas to someone who never knew such a universe existed. Philip Yancey, in his book "Finding God in Unexpected Places, tells of reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," among other books, and discovering a whole different world and thought......ideas that were previously foreign to him, being raised in a very racist church. His world was changed.

There is one word though, that set this whole thing in motion.............God's Word. It started it all, and it will continue throughout eternity. God's Word is the final word. What is more, the Word is living breathing flesh. The living Word is Jesus.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

The more you read this verse, the more there is to wrap your mind around.

Before God even uttered one word, the Word was already there.........

When we write, we take part in the creative process of capturing thought and bringing it to life on a page.......we have the privilege of joining together with God and doing something really good.

Words can bring life or death. They can be life affirming or spirit killing.......and the words you believe will make a difference in where you spend eternity.

"Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name." Malachi 3:16

Who'd have thought that God kept a journal?