Sunday, January 29, 2012

This Good Day

Jesus called out to them, "Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" Matthew 4:19

We have had a couple days away from everything. And it has been much needed.......the best part?
No plan........No schedule......No worries
Yesterday I walked along the beach and caught the sun coming up over the city of San Diego....what a gift!
Elaine left her Mom with Nephew Mark and to his credit there have been no calls or texts. I know that is because he knows how much stress his Aunty is under and wants her around for a long long time.
It is amazing what just a few days can do. So far the whole weekend has felt something like this:
Morning sun, morning glories
Pouring down the hill
Through my window I can feel the ocean breeze
Noisy sparrows fill the oak trees
Swallows can't stay still
And in the glad commotion, Lord, You speak to me
If rain clouds come
Or the cold winds blow

You're the One Who goes before me
And in my heart I know
That this good day
It is a gift from You
The world is turning in its place
Because You made it to
I lift my voice to sing a song of praise
On this good day

Fernando Ortega, partial lyric This Good Day

San Diego, California is only 6 hours from Phoenix but it feels half a world away........I thank you God for this marvelous gift and all the beauty you created for us to enjoy.....
One more day left.....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Next Room of Prayer

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Let us firmly resolve not to lost the battle we fight. For if the devil sees that we are willing to lose our life and our peace, and that nothing can entice us back to the first room (first stage of prayer), he will soon cease from troubling us. But we must be resolute, for we fight with devils, and thus, there is no better weapon than the cross. Theresa of Avila

I tend to blame a lot of the way I feel on external things, people, life.......circumstances around me. But at the heart of it all, is my own response to all those things. My own internal struggle, the one that wages on in my soul, that old spiritual battle we have fought since the beginning. That is what keeps me in prayer. If Satan can convince us that the battle is lost, like we are failures at our faith. He has won.

Sometimes it doesn't seem like we are getting any closer to our goal.....but the truth may be that we are closer than we think. It may be that we have moved up a level, into the next room of our prayer life. Lately I have felt much like a hollowed out gourd. Writing about anything has been hard. I have a person living in my home who has exposed me to myself.......made me see the reality of just how weak my faith is. Can it be that is what God has wanted me to see all along?

How can I ever fully understand His strength unless I am met face to face with the stark reality of my weakness? My inability to do anything on my own?

It is no wonder I am exhausted. I have been wielding my own sword and not His.

It is this act of laying down my very ineffective sword again and again.........that is where the real battle comes in. Like Peter, I want to take matters into my own hands and slice off the ear of the guard. I so identify with Peter. He sees chaos coming and wants to defend, to fight, to fix, to right the wrong on his own.

But Jesus says no.

Jesus walks right through the middle of it, knowing that in order to win the war you have to pick your battles.

And for the joy set before Him endured the cross.............."Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close

I don't often recommend movies, but sometimes Hollywood messes up and does something right. I know the critics weren't kind to this movie, but I loved it. I usually go straight to Christianity Today for my movie reviews and most of the time I agree with their reviewer. They aren't biased and even if a film has an R rating they will rate it honestly by the film's  creative merits with a full warning about what you might be offended at.

I sometimes think we have forgotten all about what happened on 9/11, that "Worst Day" as the film's lead character describes it. What I most love about this film is how the story weaves this one boy's struggle to cope with the lost of his father with all the other characters throughout the film. We get lost in his journey to hang onto his Dad by trying to search all over New York for something he felt his Dad wanted him to find.

In his search, we find out that what we all need is a little healing. Everyone he meets along the way, he finds, has lost something, and most of them embrace his search. We see our own healing, our own journey, and we remember the healing that our country went through back then.

This movie made me remember what is most important......we all need each other. We are all on a journey of healing of some kind, and we are rooting for this boy to find his all the way through the movie.

And another thought.....what would it be like if we all stopped to turn and give that healing to one another.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What matters most

Above all powers
Above all kings
Above all nature
And all created things
Above all wisdom
And all the ways of man
You were here
Before the world began......

This was the week Elaine and I were supposed to go on a cruise to Belize. Caretaking took that away as it has taken many things away this past year.....

But somehow, sitting in church yesterday listening to the sermon and, most of all,  having Elaine's Nephew Mark sitting right beside us. The cruise didn't matter as much anymore. Not if it meant having an eternal impact on someone dear. None of our travels matter much in the long run.

What I heard yesterday reminded me. Knowing God matters more. Reaching the halls of Heaven matter. Hearing the gospel and having a chance to respond? That matters more than anything.

When the Pastor took the long black rope representing our whole life plus eternity.....when he held up the piece with the knot about 4 inches away from the end, and how we pour everything we have into that four inches representing our very short time on earth.....

Our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions to make money, have a successful career, a family.....all on that very tiny end with the knot.

And we fail to think, to plan. For the rest of the rope that represents eternity. Stretching on and on.

We fail to count the cost.

Fail to plan for eternity and where we will spend it.

As he said the words, I felt the chill.......Saying "maybe tomorrow" is the same as saying no to God.

Later today is also a refusal.

With all that life hanging in the balance, 

A little cruise didn't matter so much anymore. 

Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders
The world has ever known
Above all wealth
And treasures of the earth
There's no way to measure
What You're worth

Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me

Above all
 Michael W. Smith

the blessings keep coming, as well as the grace.......Awesome church service yesterday, just when it was needed most.....warm beds at for the new fridge.....and for the new coffeepot when the other gave to soothe rumpled souls.....praise that lifts the tired and poor of spirit......God's Spirit that helps us through it all.....warmed up oatmeal maple scone......walking in the mornings chill.....time off work, even when I am not going anywhere......#802-812

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wishing you a bit of grace

Not much going on around here.....just hanging out waiting to see if there is anything good coming out of the fridge!

Actually, I am at work. Briggs is the one just hanging out. More than likely right now he is dreaming of chasing mice or catnip.....

Until I can get a bit of time to post, I am at my desk.

Hope your Saturday is going wonderfully......

To all in Rome (and the rest of the world) who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7

The other morning before I left for work I grabbed a Bible CD from my bookshelf. I saw that it was Romans so I put it back, (I thought) since I had just read that. When I got in the car, I heard "Romans Chapter 1"

And I was glad, because you can never read the book of Romans too often.

Happy Saturday fellow bloggers and readers!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We are smart, but God's smarter

We do things in this building, and all others on our campus....fantastical things. Things never thought possible even 60 years ago. We create all sorts of wild imaginings and then put them into form. We think, "what if....." And then we do it. That is, at least the creative brains do that. I am just a small cog in the wheel of technology....but I do my part.

And it all changes and grows so fast, that by the time a new process comes out, it is already outdated....
Considered obsolete.

People are creators because God made us that way....

All of us have that God spark that seeks to create because He put it in us.

But, with all this human achievement and rushing around, what we call progress; we still can't even come close to making a moon or setting the stars in place.

Or calming the sea with a word.

We aren't so smart.......

And as long as we have been alive, there is a danger, a temptation in worshiping that "created thing" instead of the One who put it all in motion to begin with. "And they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen." Romans 1:25

Don't get me wrong, I love technology! It has been my bread and butter for 16 years now and the industry has treated me well. I don't feel as my Mom does, that computers are the Antichrist. But ever since the golden calf and before that, we have been tempted to put things in place of God.

The idols may change over the centuries, but the temptation is the same.

This whole train of thought started with the radio this morning. There was a discussion about our gadgets. The female commentator had left her IPhone home and was feeling a bit lost. I can relate to that. I never felt that way about a phone before I got mine. She further stated a quote attributed to Steve Jobs that said something like:

"When people can put their wedding pictures on their phone, they will be emotionally attached." Or something like that.

She was saying that it troubled her a bit that she felt an emotion, an attachment, like something was missing because she didn't have her phone. I can relate. I am ashamed to say I feel the same way.

She said all her friends were having a great time playing "Words with Friends." She didn't start it. She didn't want to feel like she had to respond every time the phone dinged.

Well, I succumbed.

I started......I am addicted. And now I have to go.

It's my move.

Maybe it's time for a gadget fast.

Just after I play this word.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When in doubt, wait on the Lord

I had a whole post done when I realized I had no idea what I was trying to say....It seemed to be going in two different directions and I couldn't make up my mind which path to go down...kind of like one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost......So in lieu of my own words, here are some of his.
I am waiting on the Lord today, and waiting can be just the right thing sometimes.....

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wishing for a rooftop

 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:3

The houses of the Jews, as well as those of the ancient Greeks and Romans, were flat-roofed, and had stairs on the outside, by which persons might ascend and descend without coming into the house. In the eastern walled cities, these flat-roofed houses usually formed continued terraces from one end of the city to the other. Clarkes Commentary of the Bible

I have wished for a place on the rooftop more than once. Even more so since I have started to get into photography more. The Arizona sky never ceases to surprise me. This particular night I rounded the corner not expecting anything......instead I was treated to this stunning view.

The ancient cultures were very intuned to the sky. They were sky watchers. They had to be, that is how they knew what time it was and what direction to go. In our modern culture, we barely ever have to look up. We have digital clocks everywhere and satellites to tell us everything we need to know. But I think we are missing something very important......

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. Acts 10:9

When you stop looking up, it is easy to forget God. When you read the Bible, it is apparent much time was spent on the roof. In David's case it lead to trouble.....

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful....2 Samuel 11:2

As Paul Harvey would say: you know the rest of that story.

I do wish I had a rooftop to sit on, to gaze at the stars, to dream, to pray.

And there must be a reason why, in every romantic movie there is a scene where somebody surprises somebody with a beautiful rooftop spread. Complete with candles sparkling wine, flowers  and market lights.

Yes, there is something to this rooftop idea.

I pause to continue the count......#791-801

Rain rain, blessed rain on our dry desert valley......half price book sale at our local library, cheap books are always a cause for from a special friend across the miles.....another end of a week....chores I can do because I am healthy.......a wonderful time of meeting together at church once again......sharing a pot of tea......time at Barnes and Noble......enjoying a bowl of chili-mac to warm the bones on a cool evening......answered prayer for my sickly cat who feels much better now.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bloomin joy

"I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!" John 15:11

Ever have one of those days where for some inexplicable reason you feel like bubbling over with joy? No particular circumstance has caused may be on your way to work, or on your way to the Dentist (this is for other people, not me) I am one of those people who have dreams about my teeth falling out, or losing crowns. No, I am talking about joy for no external reason at all. This particular kind of joy is described in many places throughout Scripture......

"You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence." Acts 2:28

"With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!" Isaiah 12:3

"When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven's Armies." Jeremiah 15:16

It is a sing at the top of your lungs kind of joy! Everyone at some point in life has experienced this joy. It is a by-product of life, my friends. You don't have to know the source of the stream for your thirst to be quenched or to feel its refreshment, but oh how much more satisfying it is when you do!  

It is a natural result of a supernatural event......the Holy Spirit taking up residence in us! Kind of like these little flowers, they don't think about whether to bloom, they bloom because they have to! While the actual joy "feeling" comes and goes, just knowing we never have to be alone again is why it's possible to have hope in every circumstance. Why we can "bloom" no matter what is around us.

"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all." 2 Thessalonians 3:16

I pray that whatever your circumstance today that you feel the breath of His Spirit.............and the fruit of the Spirit filled to overflowing.

And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22

Friday, January 13, 2012

Next time I'll sing

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16

As far back as I can remember, the sound of my Mom's singing is woven into the background of my memories. I have talked about it before somewhere in earlier posts. Can you imagine how it must have been to hear her wonderful Soprano drifing through the windows as I walked up the driveway from school?

Of course, I didn't appreciate it then, not nearly as much as I do now.

Last time I was back home she started singing in the car and I really wanted to sing along. The words were right on the edge....oh, I knew them, all right.  But something stopped me and I don't even know what. Who knows, maybe someone was in the car and I was self-conscious. And ever since I got home it has bothered me that I didn't join in. She was singing an old song.......maybe you know it.

"This world is not my home, I'm just a passin through
If Heaven's not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
and I don't feel at home in this world anymore...."

She stopped singing and asked me, "Do you know that song?" I said, "Yes, of course." Memories washed over me when she said that. We used to all get together and sing these songs and many others. Hour were spent, singing and laughing. No one cared how anyone else sounded, but really, I can remember it sounding pretty good. It sounded like joy.

I was ashamed at myself for not singing with her, for not joining in.

For not keeping the memory alive with her.

She said, "Why didn't you sing?"
Indeed. I wish I had.

I know there will come a day when I won't be able to sing with her, and it will make me sad beyond words. Sad that I didn't sing with her every chance I got. But that time is, thankfully, not yet.

It strikes me that I may be the last generation to know those songs. Kids today know many things, they know Miley, and Justin.......

and Beyonce, and JLo....but they don't know these songs about Heaven.

And it's wrong to let them die, just because it may not be "cool" to sing them.

So the next time Mom, I will join you.

I will sing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beside the still waters

For the Scripture says: "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed".........Romans 10:11

Last night I stayed up most of the night to take care of a sick little cat. He has been coughing and hiding under the bed. I really thought that today he would be the day to take him in. I know many people, even Christians who make light of the sickness or death of a beloved pet. "It's not the same," they say, "as when a human dies." They make light of the grief.....

But one thing I know. Death feels like death, and grief feels like grief.......It's the same blackness, the same hell we escaped from....just barely.  It's the same tears spilling's comfort that is needed, and to do anything less is to ignore Holy Scripture.....for this is the truth of it:

"Now we who are strong ought to bare the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification." Romans 15:1, 2

And, also:

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

And you just don't know, there may be an ocean of events leading up to this one thing that brakes the back of the camel......

As I tossed and turned last night, all I could think of was all the other grief, from all the other times. Funerals, memorials, big ugly flower arrangements and holes in the dark cold earth. They all mean the same thing. The thing that should never have been. But the thing we must live with every day until Jesus comes again.

I thought again how very unnatural illness is, how foreign death was when the world was new. And how very wrong.

But on the opposite corner stands Jesus and He is our life......Thanks be to God!

I recited the 23rd Psalm as I waited for sleep to come. I thought of a little white cat lying down beside me in green pastures......I pictured us sitting on the shore, watching the quiet waters lap upon the shore.

I am happy to say, this morning Sydney is still with us. He sat on my lap for awhile this morning and ate and drank water. He is back under the bed but the coughing has subsided for now.

And with the morning came grace for awhile yet.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Multitudes on Monday

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV

Counting the gifts today........#776-790

The return of gorgeous sunny hike trails, take walks

Chilly desert nights spent once again around the fire, deep conversations......

New hiking shoes that will hold the rocky trail

Breakfast after church......and important reconnections

Mini vacations when you can't get the real thing.....sometimes just a few hours makes a difference.

Looks that say, "I understand...."

The joy of library books waiting to be cracked open.......

My ever positive Mom.....

Instant messaging with my brother across the miles

A brand new bathroom thanks to my wonderful and creative best friend (I really think she could teach Martha a thing or two)

Gathering together with other there and everywhere!

Good things that don't end......always another photo

always another book

always another chance to start again with each new day......always another chance to pray!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wisdom from Ecclesiastes

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--Ecclesiastes 3:1

Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!
It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it.
Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.
I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt!  I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.”
I guess they felt the same way about their system of justice back then too!

After reading Ecclesiastes, it would be easy to imagine that this writer, "the teacher" as he is called, suffered from severe depression.....and yet, if you can get through the weariness in its pages, there is much wisdom here. Though at first glance it seems to be filled with the ultimate futility of life, behind the words there is shining evidence of hope. Hope in God that is.

And there is even some very sound financial advice.....what investor would disagree with this?

Send your grain across the seas,and in time, profits will flow back to you. But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead.

And this is some really good advice for people who tend to be worriers, like me.

When clouds are heavy, the rains come down. Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls.Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

The man who had everything was indeed very wise, he realized that when all was said and done, even with all his wealth, all his stuff, all his palaces, and women, and vacations, that without God, it was pretty much worthless. And that even enjoyable stuff is much more enjoyable when you acknowledge your gratefulness to the God who gave it all to you.

all verses from the New Living Translation of the Bible

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I will carry you....

I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. Isaiah 46:4

Caretaking can suck the life out of you. It has the ability to sap you of all strength, make you believe that it will never end. Like this is your lot in life. You feel alone.......unappreciated for all you do. You may even deal with hostility from the one you are trying to take care of.

I have heard it over and over again. Health care professionals will verify it. For some strange reason, many times the caretaker becomes the focus of abuse by the very ones who are being taken care of.

When you are most tired and vulnerable, that is when Satan attacks. He does his best to make you feel singled out and alone. That's his specialty. That's what he did to Jesus too.

He also loves to make you feel as if you are undeserving of any other kind of life. He whispers things like "this is what you were meant to do until they end, or you do. But one thing we must never, ever forget.

He is and always will be A Big Fat Liar. Sometimes he even gets us to believe that God did it to us. After all, he says, God could have prevented the circumstance.

He is a tricky one, he is. He knows what we believe about God, because he makes it a point to know which ones belong to Jesus. We are his target. But He knows he can't have us for eternity, but that doesn't stop him from messing with us now.

But this is the truth:

Whatever you are going through will not be forever. It will end. It is temporary. You won't die from it, God has you. He has promised to carry you along and save you. He wants good things for you. And, in the end, you will have the peace that others seek but cannot find. You are doing what is right and what will cause you to have peace ultimately. God will work it out for your good.

Be assured.......He will bring back all that time you thought was lost forever....pressed down and shaken together. You will have years, you will have vacations again, the sun will shine brilliantly in your life once again, even brighter than before.

Be assured. He will bring it to pass.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The blessings of small town living

I knew I had seen her before, I thought...."Could it be?" As they sang, I was convinced. Her posture was just the same, and her expressions. It was one of my high school gym teachers there before me, one member of a female barbershop quartet singing Christmas carols as part of the special music at the Christian Women's Club event we were attending.

They regularly share their gift of song to local churches and nursing homes. How they must love it when they come....

As they finished their performance, which everyone loved, they went into the foyer and were chatting away quietly amongst themselves when I realized I just had to go talk to her before she left. I walked up and she beamed......I said, "I just wanted to introduce myself, I had you for gym, Tokay High." Imagine my surprise when she popped right back, "Lori Cook," she said with a smile. Mind you, it has been 34 years since I wore that ugly orange gym suit. "Wow," I said flabbergasted, "You are good!"

When we were in High School she was single, but before we graduated she married a coach. It was all very romantic to us girls back then. Ann Ganzer became Ann Braden. I remember one specific day we were all in a circle and she put this funky music on. We were supposed to be learning folk dancing. We were changing all the words, and laughing hysterically. And she scolded us for it.

As I sat back down, my Aunt mentioned that her husband had been in her Graduating class in High School. Such a small world.

There was another lady at our table who I was also trying to place. Then my Mom introduced us...."Ah, Gladys Fever!" We were in choir together at Temple Baptist Church. She was always in a different section, being a tall Soprano. As a short Alto, I was always placed at the end parallel to Marge Jones, the shortest Soprano.

The last time I was back in Lodi, I ran into my Sixth Grade teacher. She knew me too! Before I flatter myself too much I remember that they all know my family and have kept in touch over the years, going to the same grocery stores and running into one another in town.

There is something to this connectedness. I think everyone needs a place where they have been known, and known a long time. It keeps you a bit grounded. Going back is good.

And going forward is very good.

Happy New Year! 2012