Thursday, February 23, 2012

What to give up?

Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Joel 2:12,13

As one not being raised in the Catholic tradition, I never gave Lent much thought. I gave Easter much thought. I always loved celebrating the whole week of Easter and I used to love when Good Friday was more a part of our culture in America. I remember businesses closing at noon and many gathered for service, either at their own church or a multi-church community service. I used to love it when the day was cloudy on Good Friday. It somehow seemed right.

In past years, I have given more thought to the period leading up to Easter known as Lent. It has become more important for me to reflect longer on all the events leading up to the Resurrection.

Every year I hear people talk about what they will be "giving up" for Lent, sometimes jokingly, sometimes not. In fact, it happened just this morning. Every year I ask myself, or rather God, what He would have me give up. Almost at once, I go through the list of things, and they are usually always the same ones. Sugar, chocolate, meat, There they are, not necessarily in order of importance. But what about the really hard ones?

Not trusting, being fearful, worrying. Taking matters into my own hands that should be resting safely in Gods hands. 

And this year, the answer came back.

Just give me your whole self.

To me, it is not so much what things I give up, but that I give my whole heart. And if He asks me, each and every one of those other things I listed. At whatever time He says, knowing that sometimes, at different times, it is important to give up something for someone else, in order to not make them stumble.

Monday, February 20, 2012

We don't get to choose

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

She asked me one simple question......."Would you put your Mother there?" Sadly, emphatically, I shook my head and breathed out an emphatic, no. We had just come out of the "home" that Elaine was considering for her Mom. It was recommended by her Dad's case worker. A place where they put Alzheimer's patients when they are in danger of hurting themselves or others, and long past caring for themselves. One lady was licking ice-cream out of a bowl. Another man wanted a laxative. We took it all in, the peeling paint, dirty baseboards. The lady that was attending to the patients was kind, but she had her hands full.

It is a terrible decision to have riding on your shoulders. Especially when everyone else in the family says you should, that you have every right to.

Would you leave your Mom there? Her question haunted me........ and several thoughts were set in motion that I didn't expect. Of course I wouldn't leave my Mom there. She has put in the Mom time. Done all those things a good Mom does, all through the years. And she still is. We have always been friends as well as Mom and Daughter, so of course I wouldn't leave her in a place like that. No, never.

But is it fair for me or anyone else to expect her to leave her own Mom there? Is it fair for us to ask her to do something she is not emotionally prepared to do? And is it fair to be judge, jury and executioner and sentence her Mom accordingly? Give her what we feel she deserves? It is true, she has always been negative and sour, always looked at the dark side of things, never gone out of her way to show any sort of love or affection for her children, or even her grandchildren. She is difficult, she is all those things.

But is it up to me to withhold God's grace to her? The truth is, as Christians, we don't get to decide who gets grace and who doesn't. That was the thought that slammed full force into my heart. The Holy Spirit placed it there, soft as a whisper and loud as a gong reverberating through my ears.

While we were yet sinners, Christ died.......for me. For you. That thought sunk deep. I thought of every worst moment of my life. The ones I would be most ashamed of if they were put on a big screen in Times Square. God saw those, and He still died for me.

What right do I have to withhold Grace from anyone? Which one of us has been given what we truly deserve by God? The promised land of Grace is open to everyone, and He will never leave anyone out, because He didn't leave me out.

I got a living lesson on Grace, and it seems I really needed it. Thank you Elaine, for asking me that question and making me see again what God did for me, and reminding me of the Grace that I walk in each and every day.

Please join me today in Celebrating the Multitudes on Monday........#824-834

Clean sheets, God lessons in grace, cool mornings and warm days, the light of a candle flickering in the dark, new friends at work, new shoots coming up in the garden, a new comedian I heard yesterday in church, wisdom from the Word, finding a wonderful new show, Downton Abbey.......finding new authors, a clean house......

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When God stops teaching you, you better worry

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--Ephesians 2:8

Driving home from work last night I breathed a prayer......"thank you Lord, for getting me through the day." And then another thought, right on the heels of my prayer. Is getting through enough? Is it not dimishing the capacity of wonder in a day to pray that kind of prayer. I do understand it....... I understand that sometimes it is a real accomplishment to do just that, but too often I don't set my sights high enough, I catch myself settling for less, when God wants to give me more.  

I had to apologize......Then I started to count the beauty moments, the grace moments in the day.....I remembered the conversation I had with a brother believer, and in those moments that we sat and shared, a window of Heaven was opened. He reminded me that everything we do, everywhere we are can be a ministry. A moment of opportunity. You see, every month he flies to Houston for his cancer treatments. And though he wouldn't have chosen his present circumstances, he shared how so many times God has placed someone in the seat beside him that needed to hear about what God is going in his life.

Eternity moments. Reflected in each of our days, each one precious, each one a gift.

How can I pray to just get through the day when I know that almost certainly, the sky wasn't just this color yesterday? How can I pray to just get through the day when there is someone waiting to hear what God is doing in my life, what He could do in theirs.

Every conversation has the possibility in it of changing someones life, someones eternity. Of opening a window of Heaven and letting the light spill out.

I do believe that when you are suffering, getting through the day in one piece is quite an accomplishment, but that wasn't the case for me yesterday.

Thank you God, for reminding me of this. For loving me enough to teach me yet another lesson. Thank you for the grace that I walk in each and every moment.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

God's Valentine

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

God gave us a very unique and wonderful Valentine, the best thing He could ever gift us, His Son! Just imagine, a Valentine send straight from Heaven just for us. God didn't want us to ever doubt His love for us. And this Valentine is for everyone to open.....

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name......John 1:12

He stands ready to receive you right now.....just as you are. You don't even have to clean up, He will do that for you. Just come with an open heart, and He will never turn you away.

"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 NLT

Embrace the greatest Valentine you will ever receive today.......God loves you!

Jesus gave Himself so that we might be with Him in Heaven forever.

The Holy Spirit comes to live within us and guide us so that we never have to be alone again.....

So as you celebrate with a special dinner with a loved one today, or unwrap those special gifts, may your joy overflow for that One Valentine that we can keep opening up again and again.

Happy Valentine's Day from the Prayer Closet to you...........

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Celebrating firsts, letting go of lasts....

Your skin like dawn
Mine like musk
One paints the beginning
of a certain end.
The other, the end of a
sure beginning.
Passing Time by Maya Angelou

When you have a child, it is important to celebrate the "firsts." They are such milestones and so very important. They carve themselves in your heart and memory forever. And then there are the lasts.....the last time they will let you hug public, or at all! The last time they blow you a kiss or return your wave as enthusiastically as you give it. The last time you read them a story and feel them lean against you as if they will always need you this much. 

Sometimes they slip by unnoticed, but not because they aren't just as monumental as the others.

My wonderfully stalwart and soft-hearted best friend has realized there are other types of losses and last things when your parents have Dementia and Alzheimer's. She has had a whole year of "lasts" with her Mom and her Dad.

There was the last drive in the car, the last trip in the Motor home, the last time to pay a bill or run to the store. She has been with them through it all.

Yesterday was still another. Last time to take your Mom to the movies. First, she got lost. She said she didn't have to "go" but changed her mind and went into a stall. Since she has the habit of wandering off, Elaine circled the theatre area, and then the parking lot. A lady said, "She went that way....." Then, out loud during the movie her Mom kept saying, "This movie is weird."

And she ate one kernel of popcorn at a time and then picked her teeth....and you don't want to know what she did with what she found in her teeth. Imagine what a small child would do if they didn't know any better. Alzheimer's is ugly. And mean spirited. It has no mercy.

It was another last of many lasts. And the strain of it all makes her wonder if she is living her lasts as do you grieve what never was in the first place? Part of the sorrow is knowing how it could have been And will you know the right time to say, "when?" Can you trust someone else to give you permission to lay it down?

And all the relatives wonder why she keeps trying. Why she can't just put her in a home somewhere. Why she can't let go. Everyone else has cut them loose. After all, their parents never really invested in their lives, or the lives of their Grand kids. You don't grieve what was never there, after all. You just live your life as if they don't exist.

And the time and memories are like water rushing under a bridge.....sometimes, regrettably, not nearly fast enough. And that time is getting closer every day.

And sometimes the saddest thing we can learn from others is how not to live a life.......

And when the end does come, she will have known she did all she could with the help of her Savior who knows and sees all. She is doing what she must do, right now, one day, one moment at a time, and trusting Him to let her heart know when it is time to let go.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written,The days fashioned for me,when as yet there were none of them..........Psalm 139:16

Friday, February 10, 2012


These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

I am learning you have to work for peace. You can't just settle back and say, "I am just going to sit here and be peaceful." To get peace you have to seek it, desire it. Be intentional about staying that way.......Jesus was peace, and yet everywhere He went there was commotion. Upheaval. And in the middle of it all, He had the Father's peace. That kind of peace is what we need in the middle of our world, in the middle of ourselves.

And it is reachable, because of Jesus.

And it is a battle. Sometimes in order to get that peace you have to fight for it. Sometimes as soon as you have set your mind on that peace, all of life conspires against your getting it. But you can get it. Actually, you already have it as a believer.

That peace is what attracts the world. That peace is what attracted them to Jesus.

They watched Him as the Sanhedrin tried their best to ruffle His feathers, but they never could. And they walked away shaking their heads, confounded.


Even though Jesus was peace, and we have that same peace, there are times when He needed to find a quiet place. I love to think of Him sitting by the lapping shores of the lake, or climbing up onto a mountain where He could see His creation for miles.....Finding a little place to sit where he could pray.....far from the crowd, where He could hear the birds, listen to the wind in the trees, hear His Father's voice.

I like to envision a well in my soul. It's the one I draw from, the one with the living water in it. Unlike every other well built by man, this one has no bottom.....

It's source is eternal. And it never fails to quench the thirst in my soul.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23......

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Peace is my word for this year. Did God give you a word for 2012?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Childlike Faith

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Mark 10:12,13

When Jesus heard the disciples rebuke those parents, He in turn rebuked them. He really upset about it, in fact. I like coming back to this picture of Jesus again and again, because it is clear how much He valued the childlike faith of children.

Why is it so easy for children to have faith in something they can't see? Not only do they have the faith, they act on it. It is no problem for them to grasp the concept of knowing in order for something to really work, they have to put it into practice. They leave money under the pillow for the tooth fairy.....and lo and behold, the money is there when they wake up. It doesn't really matter to them how it works, they just take it in faith that it will because their parents told them it will.

And somehow it happens just that way. That is, until they find out it was their parents all along hiding the money under the pillow and putting the cookies out for Santa.  

We forget what was once so natural. We get too smart to put our faith in something we can't see. Like God. But the problem is that God says that unless we do just that, we will never see Him. We will never enter His kingdom.....

So we spend the rest of our Christian walk trying to get back to that place of faith.

I miss my childlike faith. I too have cashed in on the world system. Let's face it, it's easier. I go to work, I get paid. I buy what I need. I get sick, I go to the doctor. Then if I don't get better I pray.

It's a process of going back, all our lives. Of letting go, unclenching our fists to give back to God what was His all along. I miss my childlike faith.

My Mom tells me that when I was first saved at aged 14, I was the one who really gave her the faith to give when she didn't have it. I remember praying together for a refrigerator when ours went out. My Mom had no idea where the money would come from. There was certainly not enough for one of those. Then, God answered our prayer of faith by supplying one that was almost new.....for 25 dollars!

I remember that refrigerator lasted for years and years.

I love to watch my niece at the beach. It is no problem for her to believe she can build a castle fit for a queen out of water and sand. The water washes it away and she starts all over again......

She has faith that whatever she believes can happen.

Lord, give me that kind again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Multitudes on Monday

California Dreamin....... 

As we walked by this bus, which was covered front to back in everything under the sun, the tune that went through my head was the one by the Mamas and the Papas. Those of you under aged 50 may not remember them. You really never know what you might see in California, especially along the coast. It is nice to know that Jesus is in the center of the bus. I had to zoom in on that.

Well, even after 4 days of work and being back home, I still feel a bit of an afterglow from our trip to San Diego. This visit was sweeter than the last one. I remember being a little discouraged and even bored that last time. "Too many foreigners," I thought, "Not enough people speaking English," "Too crowded." It was good but not great.

This time, however, I saw it the way I saw it first. The beauty leaped out at me with full force. It's funny how you get spoiled. Things lose their luster when you see them again and again. This time was rich.

This time was sweet. I appreciated every single drop, every single morsel, every second. I felt as if I were breathing free air after being in prison for months.

I am so thankful for it.

So today I celebrate Multitudes on Monday. The one that I missed last Monday when I was actually there.

Sound of the seals across the bay......balmy breezes to heal dry hair and skin.......boat bobbing in the bay, sails tipping......shrimp salad by the water.....precious free time.....and the health to enjoy that take the breath away......having fun with my camera......watching artists create their art.....and most of all knowing that God created it all with us in mind.....such a world of beauty!

I leave with one thought from Pastor Kevin today......

"We only believe the parts of the Bible we practice" I am still mulling over that one........

Saturday, February 4, 2012

God's Language is Love


In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26, 27

So many times I search for the right words....I falter. No words express what I am trying to say. It's frustrating! But we need not ever search for the right words.....The Holy Spirit always knows the perfect words. It is as if He is laying out my heart before the Father, in the Father's own language!

At one point in my Christian walk, I was almost obsessed with having a "prayer language." I wanted to know everything I could about speaking in tongues. I read books, I talked to other Christians, I prayed for the gift. I wanted the "experience." A pastor friend I know says he prayed for the gift and months later he was driving down the road and was so overcome with emotion he had to pull over. Then he spoke in tongues for the first time.

At one point, I went so far as going to a church meeting and having the pastor pray for me to "get it" right then and there. Nothing came forth.......not one utterance. He prayed.......I waited. And waited. Not one Holy peep. He told me, "Just praise God out loud." I did, well, not really loud, in English.

Me and another lady were ushered off to the side where we were prayed for again, to no avail. She seemed somewhat upset. I mumbled something out loud and they thought they had success, "Glory to God!" I went and sat down just so they could stop praying.

Looking back, parts of this meeting now seem very humorous, although not in an irreverent way. It was an evening spent with people who loved God gathering together for one purpose, to praise Him. The motive in my heart was pure. That's what God saw. My prayer may not have been answered the way I wanted it that night, but not because of what anyone did or didn't do. Not the Pastor, not me, not anyone....certainly not God.

One day, many months after that night while I was vacuuming I started singing and praising another language. It came quietly and unannounced, like a gentle dove. I didn't lose control, I didn't black out or fall to the floor. I was completely coherent and rational. And that is how its been every time since. It is my prayer language and only God hears it. It is His gift to me and it is precious.

And it came in His timing. And whatever you believe about this particular topic, the Holy Spirit is very much alive and working in the hearts of men and women today.

I know there are some denominations who teach that without this gift, you aren't saved. I have never read that in the Bible. I also know some denominations that say it's not for today, it only happened once on the day of Pentecost. All I know is it happened to me. Regardless, we never have to worry about either having a prayer language or not having one, God always hears the cry of our heart.

Not only do we have Jesus actively interceding before the Throne of the Father, we have the Holy Spirit interceding for us in our prayers! That unspoken request that is in your heart today? Be assured, it has already been communicated in the best language....God's language! And His language is always


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sanity Restored


What a wonderful time away in beautiful San Diego. God is so good. He has created such beauty in the world for us to enjoy. The balmy breezes you hear about? All true. I felt them, every one! It was such a blessing to have this change of scenery that I love so much.

Best of all, I got to watch my best friend become her carefree self once again.

When you are a full time caretaker, your needs go on the back burner and you actually morph into the person you are care giving. Your own self disappears. That is when despair settles in because you really don't see an end. It is as your view is distorted and you can no longer see clearly. It is a sad and curious phenomenon that everyone who has done this knows very well.

But for four wonderful days, all that was left behind. Sanity was restored.

We stayed in a place where it was easy to forget......they even had two resident parrots who rested on a perch right outside our room. We could hear them screech from time to time, and the seagulls crying overhead made us sigh.....

And far away, the magical sound of the foghorn drifting across the water.

It was all so very good.

A big thank you to Elaine's Nephew Mark who stayed with his Grandma so she could have a few days rest. God bless you!

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17