Monday, July 30, 2012

In the Refiner's Fire

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:11,12

Thank you Lord, for my devotion time this morning. Thank you for Your Loving Presence today. Your Spirit holds my sins up to the light exposing them for what they are, so that I can confess them before you honestly and draw near to you once again.

Thank you for knowing the real me and loving me anyway.  Sometimes I don't know how your Spirit, your Holy and perfect Spirit can tolerate living with mine, still so filled with the world and all its griefs, cares and worries.

Help my fears diminish, Lord, so I can be filled with your perfect love that your peace may take its rightful place in my heart.

And help me to see the small trials I go through in this life as Your refiner's fire of love burning away all my impurities. In all the things we could ever hope to accomplish in this life, there is only this one thing that counts.

That we know you

and in knowing you, we find our true purpose in this life.

I lift the gifts to you today Lord, in gratitude of all you give and keep giving.........The wonderful rain that poured down in this dry desert.......worship that comes in little spontaneous moments throughout the day.......a little extra money this month.......God's continued protection when I don't even know it......melons and okra sprouting like wildfire in the garden........a good day yesterday.......seeing old friends that upliftts and burns hot in the soul in praise to God......answered prayer for a first day of school......a good walk this morning......911-921

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The heart of a writer

When can you call yourself a writer?

When you simply have to write.

There was a time not so long ago when I didn't feel I was worthy to be called one, not a real one anyway.

fake, imposter, wannabe, dreamer....that was what I called myself.

But that wasn't right.

I felt others deserved the title because of the beauty of their words and the wisdom with which they were written.

I read writing that made me ache from the longing of wanting to string words together that good.

But here's the thing:

Even though the transformation from the heart to the page sometimes falls completely flat,

I still have to keep writing.
I still have to keep doing it.
Even if no one reads it.

Writing was the one thing in my life that I always started up again.
After so many other things that I had quit.
........because I was simply compelled to do it.

The words were fighting to get out and I had no choice but to set them free.

Even if I wasn't always happy with how I expressed it.

Even if I felt others did a much better job of it.

Even if I never got another comment.

Because God gave me permission.

And He takes pleasure in every word I write.

And because everytime I do it, I feel like I am the person He created me to be.

And because I simply have to.

 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Big Red

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I hold it to my chest, knowing what it contains……..all the mystery and words of life. I felt the power it held as I pressed it close. I would open it, but not yet.

Content in the weight of memory within, I hold it close and feel all the years behind it. It was my first real study Bible, one I bought during a Walk through the Prophets study at my church. It was the most beautiful book I had ever seen. The day I carried it home was April 19,1980.

When I first got it, I devoured it. I read it for hours. I loved the delicate rattle of the pages and the gilded edges when they caught the light of the lamp.

All these years, it has been by my side, though there were years when I left it untouched on the shelf. Even so, I knew the words of life that it contained. I had felt that lifeblood of its pulse flowing through my life. I could never deny it.

For these words are alive with the very breath and Spirit of God.

I have other versions now, but when I need to feel the hope of all that God has brought me through, the Red Bible, “Big Red” I call it, comes out. It is the best prescription I can think of for a heavy heart. It's amazing really, how I can feel better just by holding it. The words within hold the healing, the hope. I know that without cracking the cover.

It holds memory, it holds life, it holds me.

The verses highlighted in yellow, the ones I clung to when I did my first solo in church, the personal notes I scrawled in the back on special days, things I never want to forget are there.

This old friend is in me and I am in it, I feel it as I hold it close. Tears have spilled on its pages and they do now too, as I remember the times it brought me back from darkness, death. Notes of mine are co-mingled with my Mom’s from when she borrowed it. That makes it even more precious.

I think of all the promises held in the Bible, and how each and every one is true. It is the one thing we can always count on. What in the world gives us that kind of hope? In the beginning was the word……and the word was God……and even beyond eternity it will still be there.

Last year it came unglued from the spine and I had to glue it back on…….and the leather cover is more pliable with every passing year. But its still the most beautiful book on my shelf.

I am celebrating His promises today, won't you join me?

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

And the thunder rolled......

"Thus says the Lord......Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' Jeremiah 6:16

As I read the words of Jeremiah this morning, reflecting on the wrath of God poured out on a disobediant people, I felt a chill crawl up my spine. Jeremiah had the unpleasant task to be the mouthpiece of God to Israel.

"My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding within me. Because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war!"

Just then, as if ordered by God himself to put a little emphasis on His own words there was a terrible clap of thunder and I almost jumped out of my seat! The anger of God is something I never want to experience personally.

It is easy to feel a little "puffed up" as the Apostle Paul put it, when we read about all those rebellious things the Israelites did, how they strayed from God to worship foreign idols, statues that could neither talk walk or breathe.

How could they, we wonder? After God himself came down in a visual form.....a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day? After all He had done for them? And all along, there is a loving Father who wants His people back. He longs to love and cherish them and yet they push Him away.

There was another loud clap and in my mind I remembered all those times when I myself have push God away, thinking I knew better....thinking the plan I had for myself was better than the one He had for me. And yet, His mercy and love have pulled me back, over and over again. Not once has He ever refused me.

Oh how He loves us.......His mercy calls us back, new every morning.

As with all things of nature, it thrilled me no end, that clear and powerful reminder. It reminded me this morning who is in control, and it is most definitely not me.

To watch a lightning storm is to watch the finger of God touching down on the earth, and to hear His voice in the thunder a gift, a marvelous thing.

His power, my weakness.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stewards of His word.....

Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me.......

See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.......

And the word of the Lord came to me saying, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" And I said, "I see a rod of almond tree."

Then the Lord said to me........"You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it." Jeremiah 1:9-12

As I read these passages the thought came to me, "All of us who are writers are stewards of God's words are we not?" It is extremely humbling. As I read these passages, it hit me. Those of us who write about the things of God need to be accountable for those words, not only what we say but how we say them.....

Today I am linking up with Duane Scott. He has some powerful and timely words that I wanted to share.......

Blessings and peace for your Monday, counting my Gratitude as well.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Coming and Going

"Love doesn't hide. It stays and fights. It goes the distance, that's why love is so strong. So it can carry you home." Unknown

Somewhere in between longing and joy, regret and hardship, tears and laughter, there is a place we call home. When we go back we run into all that history, all those feelings, and in turn they run smack into everything that's going on now. That's why going home evokes so many powerful emotions for so many.

It's the place and people you grew up with, the place you learned to sink or swim, or survive and thrive.

Somewhere in between the place we always seek to recreate and romanticize and the place we never want to see again lies that place we call home.

I go back to the place I spent all of my growing up years, so lots of memories come with it. The sorrows and the joys live there within its walls, along with those things that never seem to change.

The squeak in the porch step, the way the screen door sounds when it Mom's dryer that will never die, the one that never stops, all day long.......and that keeps spinning no matter if the door is open or not. I am convinced that God keeps all her appliances going.

And this time, the garage talked. The first time I heard it, it scared the daylights out of me. "Oh," my Mom said, "Lauryn has a couple dolls out there that talk and it must be the motion that makes them go off." I felt like I was in a horror movie where Chuckie the doll comes to life.

Everytime I go home I fry something. This time it was my Mom's favorite hair dryer. I think it was going on its twentieth year. I looked up and the connection in the outlet was smoking. I caught it just in time.

My Mom constantly complains about not having enough electrical outlets, and it is a valid complaint. Back in the early sixties, they didn't put outlets in every six feet, about two per bedroom was enough.

There was a new hood over the stove this time. I went to reach for something up in the cupboard and I almost needed a ladder. The new hood extended much further over the cupboard than the last one, but neither my Mom or Dad thought it was a problem when they bought it, they were just happy to have a new one.

The cat still loves to hang out in the sink. The first one liked it there, and so does the new one, amazingly enough!

My Mom still gives me the best of whatever she has. She insisted I have her new fan, not the one that rattles, and having body wash and lotion for me when I didn't even think she heard me say I needed it. At eighty three she still seems to have everything everyone needs.

My Dad still says, "Everything is better when you're here....."

And when I close my eyes I still hear, "Watch me, Nori!" and it makes me happy but sad all at the same time.

My niece still has a problem saying her "L's." She was so thrilled that her Auntie was there with her, watching her swim. And she laughed and laughed at the video I made of her kitties getting into a tussle. Her favorite thing to do now is make videos of us when she thinks we aren't watching and then laugh uproariously when we catch her at it.

I have found that going home teaches me lessons all over again. I learn things about myself and some of them don't make me happy, yet I am thankful for them because without the realization, the change wouldn't be possible.

Going home is made up of little hard and soft moments all strung out together.

I realized this, as Mom and I sat hand in hand watching Franklin Graham evangelize India. We each shed tears because how could you not, watching people who have nothing, suddenly gain everything? Part of mine were shed because everytime I am near them, I feel the weight of time pressing heavy.

We are a family in crisis mode, and aren't we all? And sometimes, most times, I just don't know to help.

One thing I do know to be true, the faith that has kept us together through so much still stands, will always stand. And always.....He keeps us.

And going home and coming home are both very good.

"The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." Psalm 121:8

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When we forget where our help comes from

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

Psalm 121

It's easy to forget where our help comes from sometimes. As I prayed yesterday, my face to the carpet, in whispers of desperation, "My shoulders are not big enough, Jesus, they are so small....." as tears threatened, "not nearly big enough to carry the sorrows and heartaches of loved ones back home, loved ones here, as well as my own, I can't do it."

And I realized my foolishness when His quiet reply came to my heart, "You were never meant to carry them, child, but I can, and not only that, I want to!"

I am so sorry Jesus......I kept you on the back shelf, again.

Why do we try to carry what we never meant to, I wonder? Sometimes we Christians think we are supposed to be strong enough, as people of faith. We tell ourselves things like we shouldn't be stressed because we have the Lord, after all.

I got up after my very short prayer and went outside. The morning was cool and beautiful......Elaine came out with me, already awake. She knew how hard my first day back would be, she knew the burdens I carried, because people already carrying big burdens recognize when others are buckling under the load.

We sat at the patio table as God colored the sky an impossible shade of violet and pink. She told me of a radio program she liked listening to from 5-6:00 in the morning, about stocks and bonds and finance. I loved that she wanted to share it. It was like a gift exchange sitting there, she and I in the quiet morning.

It was so peaceful, that little conversation, Heaven touching earth, because He was there too.

As she talked, light filled the sky and I kept on sitting. As I rose from my chair I said, "I better make a call."

I didn't go in, I couldn't go in, not yesterday.

And it was okay. Because sometimes the truth is that though you may not feel physically sick, you feel sick at heart, sick from stress. But sick is sick, and it's okay to be weak sometimes.

As long as we remember who it is that is strong.

I want to wish a very Happy Birthday to my Dad, who is 84 years young today!

Today's picture is for you, Dad. Almost 40 years ago we climbed this mountain together, what a time we had!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why aren't we working at our passion?

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before......1 Thessalonians 4:11

Maybe it is the line of work I am in, but everywhere I go I hear it, "If I won the lottery I would do such and such......" most of the time, they would not be doing what they are doing now. What they are doing now is putting in time, just like me. They work at something that is not their passion and yet due to economic reasons they can't quit.

All over the world, there are hoards of us going to work already mentally exhausted. We want to get to the end of the week.....and why?  Because we are not working at something that gives us any true satisfaction. For that we have the weekend. We do the things we love on our days off.

Tomorrow, a co-worker and I will both return to work after being on vacation. I can speak for myself and I think for her as well when I say that we would both rather be somewhere else. We work in a highly competitive field, that of technology. The entire culture is built around being better, faster and cheaper than our competitors. And that ideology trickles down to us, the employees.

We feel we have lost our value. Our identity.

We can never be satisfied with what we were last year, last month, last week. That can really wreak havoc on your mental state. This is not to say that we don't appreciate our jobs, we do. Each day I thank God for the job He has given me, and yet each day I ask myself,  how can I glorify God in my workplace when I am in the midst of burnout?

And why do so many work all their lives to retirement in jobs that they feel passionless about?

What is it about the American dream that is so alluring, so compelling, that we are willing to sacrifice what we love on its altar in order to get it? I have owned very beautiful homes, one of them in a pine forest on a custom lot with three stories reaching to the sky. But the truth is, this little two bedroom place has felt more like home.

I have learned to be content with less. I have grown close to the Lord here, it is a happy, peaceful place.

This week I will spend 48 hours of my life at work. It is 48 hours I will never get back. I think about all the people I have heard who have quit their day jobs and followed their passions. I remember the story of the big CEO who lost his job, went to work at Starbucks, found his life, and wrote a bestselling book about it.

By writing this post I am acting on my passion, but the challenge remains, how do I put that same passion into what I will be doing for 12 hours tomorrow?

Again I think, we were made for more than this.

We were made for abundant life................Jesus promised it.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Home Again

Sometimes the wellspring of thoughts and words dries up. The swirl of thoughts and words are there but they just wont settle and make any kind of sense. That's when you wait.....and let a few pictures do the talking.

Going home is wonderful but so is coming home.....

I came home to a clean house and a clean car thanks to my dear friend who I know I don't appreciate nearly enough.....thank you, Elaine.

Today I am enjoying a day off and trying to make the mental adjustment to go back to work.

It is hard trying to fit yourself back into something that feels so unnatural, something that's not your passion. I haven't yet figured out how to turn my work into passion, instead of just a means to an end.  

But God has given me this job so I know that somehow He will help me do it.

Just as He does every day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What He said

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37

I had a rough start this morning. I was feeling under the weather, but I successfully made it out the door. I have one more day and then I get on a plane to go see friends and family and one little girl who has been very excited that I am coming. Every day for a month she has been asking....."Lori come today?"  It is somewhat is hard to leave when I know how difficult it will be without me here. But I have a very gracious friend, and she knows how important it is for me to be there too.

I gave out a relieved sigh as I got in the car and buckled in. I slid the CD into the player, the one I picked somewhat blindly since I didn't have my glasses on. As the notes filled the car I felt the beauty played by Phil Keaggy flow through my soul. Healing.....incredible, the power that music has to heal.

As I watched the light fill the sky and turn it every different shade of violet, I remembered what I heard last night from Ellen Johnson, president of the American Atheists,  as interviewed by Barbara Walters.

"Heaven doesn't exist, hell doesn't exist. We weren't alive before we were born and we're not going to exist after we die. I'm not happy about the fact that that's the end of life, but I can accept that and make my life more fulfilling now, because this is the only chance I have," she tells Walters.

No, I thought, I don't accept it, absolutely not.  And everything I see and hear and feel around me tells me otherwise. This is the tip of the iceberg, my friends. And to me, this morning, Heaven felt more real than anything else. And besides, as Elaine said, if we are wrong, then we have simply lived a good life, but if she is wrong......I said, "Yeah, it's gonna be a very long eternity."

I have seen people die with Christ, and I have seen people die without Him, and I can tell you this for sure. The ones with Christ have the lights of Heaven reflected in their eyes when they go, I have seen it myself.

I believe the proof I see all around me, and I take Jesus at His word that Heaven is very real indeed. When people ask me what I believe about Heaven, all I need to do is point to Jesus and say..."What He said."

This is only the beginning.
"But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,”What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:7-9

Friday, July 6, 2012

No words needed

Sometimes it's good to just imagine yourself in a quiet comfortable place.....

No words needed.......just a glance up every now and then, a nod, a smile......

Just simple enjoyment of being together in that moment, knowing that all is right in your world, because you have God and each other and that is all you need.

"This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength....."
Isaiah 30:15

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Okay God, I'm Listening

 “Hurry is not ‘of the devil,’ it is the devil.” Carl Jung

I am guilty, I confess. Everyday I am in violation of the law. I go over the speed limit, and then I make excuses as to why. But really, I rationalize, who goes the speed limit? If you do the speed limit anywhere in the general metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona, you are in danger of being a victim of road rage, which could result in death, and that would be bad for your health. "I want to live,"  I rationalize.

After all, this is someone else's idea of what is safe, not mine. 

Why do I feel I am except from following the established rules of the road. Why do I obey the other rules? Why not throw those out too? I think it boils down to a couple of issues, pride and rebellion. After all, I think I should be the one to judge what is safe for me. I know my driving ability.  I pick and choose which rules I think are important and let the rest slide. 

I treat them like suggestions, not laws.

I, I and I.

And, I wonder, what if I applied that rational of thinking to what God tells me to do in His word?  Do I treat those as suggestions too?  Or do I trust God and obey without question?

What actually started all this self evaluation this morning?

I was late for work. And I was mad that the back security gate was broken.....again. So this means I have to use the main gate which causes me to pull out onto a busy road which causes me to wait. I was distracted.  As I accelerated....just a bit,  and rounded the corner I was met head on by two early morning bicyclists.

The wife was riding on the side of the road, but he was in the middle and had to swerve out of my way. I saw irritation on both their faces. I was going slow, mind you, I was only 200 feet from my front door. But I was guilty as sin. My habit of speeding had convicted me, because I know what I do just about every day. And it's wrong.

And what surprised me even more was how quickly I wanted to find a way to blame them. Just like Eve.

By the time I got to work, my conscience was as out of control as a raging fire. I felt as guilty as if I had fled the scene of a hit and run accident. I had put myself in prison and thrown away the key.

Then when I got to work, a co-worker described an accident they had to detour around. It was a fatality. A driver of a Toyota pickup, due to excessive speed had lost control and had been thrown from his vehicle.

And now someone had to plan a funeral.

Okay, God. You got my attention, I am slowing down now.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Free Indeed

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Today I got to enjoy something not everybody does.
In fact, many people in the world could only dream of what I got to do. 
I got to get up free from fear.
I didn't have to worry about someone taking my life.
Or the life of someone I care about.
And last night as I went to sleep,
I didn't have to fear someone coming in and taking what was mine,
or harming those I love.
I got to sleep in safety and security.
I got to get in my car and enjoy knowing it would start.
Because I have a job that allows me to take care of it.
Put gas in it.
And I got to drive to work.
Many people now don't have that luxury,
that freedom.
And I got to do all these things feeling good.
Not sick.
Some people have to work sick or in pain
because they are afraid they will lose
their jobs if they don't go in.
Then next week, I will get on a plane
and fly away to see family.
When some people have so many responsibilies
they can't ever take time off.
But the biggest thing I am grateful for,
that is, next to living in this great country.......
is the freedom that Jesus gives me each and every day.
The freedom that He bought for me
with His very own light of that great fact,
there is always something to be grateful for.
"Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace." Romans 6:1

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Gift of Laughter

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

Have you ever seen someone sitting together in a restaurant and they look like they never ever laugh? I was blessed enough to have been raised in a household where laughter was always present. I truly believe it is one of the best gifts a parent can pass onto a child.

My Dad and I got in trouble for laughing when we weren't supposed to. My Mom used to separate us in church. Invariably we would see the same exact thing and that would start an avalanche of uncontrollable laughter. We went to a very somber Baptist church. I think they really thought laughter was a sin, and especially laughing in church.

The church I attend now, actually sometimes uses props and videos from comedians.

Sure there is plenty to be serious about these days. But there are plenty of things to laugh at as well, just look around!

My best friend and I laugh at something just about every day, though we disagree just a bit on what is funny, and I admit, my humor could be considered sick by some. I think it's funny when people fall down or trip over carpets. But only if someone doesn't get hurt. I figure if someone is doing a stunt on their own volition, then I have the right to laugh at them. Hey, I laugh when I fall down too.
Let's face it, Charlie Chaplin didn’t get to be a star because he shot out one liners, but because he fell a lot.
Humor is one of the greatest gifts God gave us. To be able to laugh at ourselves means you can shrug off the stuff that you shouldn’t waste time on, so that you can take the really big stuff that happens seriously enough to be able to get through it with grace and God’s help.
My folks have been married for 62 years are are still laughing.
I called them from work the other day and they were just coming home from having the car fixed. Instead of their Minivan they were in the old Bronco. My Mom had nothing to hold onto to get in the car so my Dad was trying to push her from behind. He was laughing, and I could hear her in the background, “just get your hands off me, I can get in just fine.” Then I heard her start to laugh. They both started laughing so hard they had to hang up.

This is why I love them, and one of the reasons they have been together so long. Young couples starting out could learn a lot from them.
Many people in the Bible laughed, and there are references about God laughing. I think Jesus must have found humor in many things on this earth. I love to think what His laughter sounded like.
Laughter is the best gift.......Share it with someone today.
Then pass it on. Counting the gifts and the promises today.......

#933-945......Laughter, birds out back in the fountain, a new artichoke, okra reaching toward sky, peace in the garden, cloudy arizona skies, watching wimbledon on a lazy morning, fresh coffee brewing, full-bodied praise, upcoming trip to see family, technology that allows face to face conversation, all my blogger friends.....