The Weary World Rejoices

 

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“The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…..” O Holy Night (circa 1847)

Maybe this morning you are reaching for the hope of that “new and glorious morn” the song speaks about. Maybe for you it is nothing but a song lyric, or a hope so distant you can barely see it through the weight of your present circumstances. The world Jesus came into was certainly weary, no different than today. I see just how weary as I pass the homeless each day, making camps wherever they can out in the cold. I even see it in the eyes of shoppers who get to go back to their warm houses after the mall. I see it in the gratefulness of the elderly whom I deliver meals to each day.

I slogged and shivered my way down to the river this morning juggling cups and a spare tank of propane for the heater. I settled in my chair and my breath puffed out warm into the cold air and I promptly spilled hot coffee all over my robe. I barely felt it. My morning prayer routine here is a bit different. Used to be, I took about 5 steps out the front door into my little shop. Here it’s a little walk and I bump into several things getting ready in the motorhome before I head out the door. The neighbor cat greets me at the end of the step. We have started feeding she and her brother since he is seldom home.

Walking along, I was pondering several things. There are many things I don’t know the answer to. I don’t know why I thought I would feel perfectly settled here, since I don’t feel any more settled here than I did in Arizona. I thought I would be able to make things better for my folks, but it turns out I can’t fix the fact that they are growing older. I can’t make them young again and able to do all the things they did before.

I also don’t know why it is that I am smack dap in the middle of all this beauty and it doesn’t seem to penetrate my heart. Nature has always been somewhat of a cure for me, and the fact that it’s not the healing balm it usually is has me unsettled. But here’s the thing about God, Christmas, Advent and the hope that it brings. I don’t need to know all the answers. I really don’t need to know any answers except Christ and Him crucified.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2

So, turns out I can’t fix broken situations or people, or even myself, but I can hope and trust in the One who can. This is what real faith is. It means that someday I will know the answers to these questions if God in His own good time reveals them to me. And if He doesn’t, that’s okay too. I hope in the One who does know all the answers. Who wasn’t afraid to come down in the weakest form imaginable, and start out knowing nothing. That’s enough for me.

We all have our seasons, the important thing is to keep walking through them with our eyes and our hearts lifted up toward Heaven. Peace be with you all.  I will leave you with another bit of comfort I read down by the river today:

“When the Time Is Right: December 7

There are times when we simply do not know what to do, or where to go, next. Sometimes these periods are brief, sometimes lingering. We can get through these times. We can rely on our program and the disciplines of recovery. We can cope by using our faith, other people, and our resources. Accept uncertainty. We do not always have to know what to do or where to go next. We do not always have clear direction. Refusing to accept the inaction and limbo makes things worse. It is okay to temporarily be without direction. Say “I don’t know,” and be comfortable with that. We do not have to try to force wisdom, knowledge, or clarity when there is none. While waiting for direction, we do not have to put our life on hold. Let go of anxiety and enjoy life. Relax. Do something fun. Enjoy the love and beauty in your life. Accomplish small tasks. They may have nothing to do with solving the problem, or finding direction, but this is what we can do in the interim. Clarity will come. The next step will present itself. Indecision, inactivity, and lack of direction will not last forever. Today, I will accept my circumstances even if I lack direction and insight. I will remember to do things that make myself and others feel good during those times. I will trust that clarity will come of its own accord.” Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go.

Going Deep

 

Let your light so shine....

Usually that refers to a football move, but each Advent that rolls around I think of it. When everything starts to turn crazy and drivers honk and jockey for parking spaces and people turn ungracious my thought is to “go deeper.” Jesus was born into a world filled with pushing and shoving and strife. He was also born into a world with a deep chasm between the ruling Superpowers in Rome and the common people just trying to get by.

Yesterday morning I sat huddled with my first cup of coffee, and gazed blearily at my phone for a connection, a signal of life out there. The little candle flickered from where it sat on the Motor-home console (we call it the fireplace).

Lately I have been feeling like part of my creative soul has been snuffed out. The words that used to flow freely have fled and I have missed them. Earlier I had fallen asleep and dreamed of buried things. I awoke feeling smothered.

As I rested there in the pre-dawn hour, I heard a ping from my phone and saw a friends post and as I read the words, tears came along with them. You can read it here.

Do you ever feel as if God answers prayer through someone else’s words? I felt as if someone had just leaned toward me in church, holding out their advent candle to light mine.

I wasn’t happy about the sorrow in his message, but I did identify with it. No, it was the hope he held out. The light that came along with it. His words reached across several states and touched a chord in me. “He feels it too.” And just at the precise moment I needed to hear it. Jesus said that only an adulterous generation needs a sign, but He also knew a sign was necessary. “Behold, a virgin will conceive…….”

This to me is the hope of Advent. That somewhere in the cloisters of our hearts there is the reality of deep peace. That is the reason Jesus came. Reconciliation and the promise of peace. The Holy Spirit resides in each of us as believers, but I believe it is possible to stifle Him with the residual refuse in our minds and hearts.

Advent is cutting through all that and clinging to the miracle. Throw the trash out! Lay it at the curb, better yet the cross! God is doing a work in each one of us. He has taught me this year that prayer is not the prescription that insures circumstances in my day will all fall together perfectly. In fact, sometimes the days where I have prayed most earnestly I have had the worst days on record.

The more important thing is that prayer has a bigger effect on the long term. It goes beyond the surface where we can’t always see, digging trenches in our hearts that change us for eternity. God doesn’t wait around to answer our prayer so that events conspire to work out for our benefit, but rather, He hears our every prayer even before we pray it. Even the ones as small as a breath.

When Jesus came, He was the universal “I understand and hear you” answer for all time, for all of us. He came almost unnoticed into this world yet Heaven couldn’t keep from a birth accouncement puncuated by miracles. This Christmas I pray we can set aside the stress and clamor of the world in the quiet moments and remember the miracle.

Let every heart prepare Him room, for He made room for us.

“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26,27

No time to say goodbye

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Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Ephesians 1:10

It’s a snapshot in my mind that will never go away…….a pickup driving by, a friendly average, innocent wave, nothing more. He was the guy, a friend of a mutual friend, who did some work on my brother’s rental house. For one holiday we parked the Motorhome there in the driveway. We talked and visited, and he volunteered to put our new vents on the roof, since neither one of us was eager to climb up there. So he did it, and he and Elaine talked and visited, and she volunteered to pay him, and he refused. Finally he accepted money for lunch.

He smiled and waved from his truck later that day.

Shortly after we got back to Arizona the phone rang and it was my Mom telling me that he had taken his life. Our friend went to pick him up for church and he found him. And last night we got another call, another person, also a Dad, reached the unthinkable place where it seemed the only option. Elaine and I talked to him on the porch for 20 minutes or so on Halloween night when he brought his young son Trick-or-treating.

And all I keep thinking about, praying about, are the kids, the wife, the people left behind. And I also keep thinking that we are all so breakable. We can only take so much.

I couldn’t really pray this morning, I just went out by the river and listened until the sounds of humanity started to intersect with the sounds of nature as God intended. I listened hard for any answers when I first went out, and all I heard was the owl. I heard the “Whoooo-whoo-whooing”……I thought I heard it repeat “Why……” instead.

Seemed the only think we could do this morning was head out on the river to see if it had any answers. It didn’t. But there’s something about being on the water that stills the soul. Seeing trees and clouds upside down changes your perspective. We paddled slow, meandered, both of us lost in thought.

The harsh reality is that there is no guarantee in this life that we will get a chance to say goodbye. I know that more than most. Another reality is that try as you might, some people, some situations just aren’t fixable. Not in this lifetime anyway. Life is short, we say. But why don’t we live as though we really believe it is? We waste so much time on anger, worry, little irritations that won’t matter a hill of beans in eternity.

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadth, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! Psalm 39:5,6

I need to get dressed……the day is already slipping away. Looking up, I see the bright red stickers that Mike left on our vents before he installed them, and I never want to take them off. I don’t want to forget his life. Because his life mattered to God and to his family. He left an indelible snapshot in my mind and now I have another, of someone else I exchanged words with however briefly. My Mom tells me that he was the only neighbor to ask how she was when she was sick, to tell her how happy he was that she was outside again.

And yes, you can say the most selfish thing in the world you can do is take your own life and I believe that. But I also believe that like the sticker says, we are not “guaranteed unbreakable.” Even God Himself had to be breakable for a time. Shortly before the cross He said, “This is my body, broken for you……..” Thankfullythe difference was and is, He had the power to put Himself back together which allows Him able to put us back together as well.

Please join me in praying for this dear family who is broken right now beyond my imagination.

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Coming Home to Gratitude

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“God reveals Himself in rear view mirrors. And I’ve an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror. Maybe sometimes about as far as Heaven–that kind of distance.” Ann Voskamp

This afternoon, I remembered something I used to do back in Arizona. It was a wonderful habit of counting out my blessings along with the community that Ann Voskamp started with her wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts. Oh, I remember those Monday posts, sitting there in my cozy home counting out my “thankfuls”fondly.

I have been struggling, really struggling to get words out. Before they used to pour out like an offering……..liquid words splashing like a drink offering on my altar to God. The well seems to have dried up but I have learned as a writer that these times are often as valuable as when words flow freely.

The move we wrestled with for so long is behind us. The stress of me starting a brand new job that I almost drove myself into despair over, behind us. I have arrived at a kind of comfort zone where the blackness now is a gray with a tinge of hope at the edges. We are settled in a beautiful spot by a river where we hear trains often, always a favorite of mine. I missed those in Arizona.

So I wondered. Why can’t I write? Where did the words go? Why, with all this beauty around me does my soul feel dampened? Where is that deep peace I had in the desert?

Could part of it be that I have brought too many other things to the foot of the cross and forgotten my gratitude? Could it be that simple?

So here in this place, on this Veteran’s Day, I will forget all about the craziness going on in the world and concentrate on counting my gifts again, for they are many: 

Little leaves floating down from Heaven, resting circles on the water.

The owl I heard the other morning

The three river otters I saw playing, mouth agape as I tried to run for my camera on Saturday morning

Cherished time spend with a dear friend and laughter that went along with it, and Kayaking on the river. 

My health…..my health…..my health. 

This new job that I wrestled with and at last come to a place of a somewhat uneasy comfort zone. 

A best friend who never stops finding ways to make living in an RV better and more comfortable, and thankful that it didn’t sell so we could live here in this incredible beauty. 

Family who is close, who I can drive or bike to see. 

Friends who have expressed joy and gladness that we are here now. 

God, who has never left me, and never will.

Thank you Ann, for starting this with your wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts. I pray that the Lord continue to bless and keep you and your family.

It’s Friday but Monday’s coming….

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Philippians 4:6-7  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Last night was Friday and now I join the throngs saying, “TGIF.” After having spent years doing 12 hour shifts and enjoying a string of 3 and 4 day weekends at the end, I am now working a five-day week. I do have to qualify that by saying it’s only a four-hour day. Before you laugh yourself silly at my puny four hours, let me tell you that I lost sleep, cried, prayed, and worried myself sick for the first two weeks I was there.

There is a truth about me that surprises some people because I can come off as being very mellow, relaxed and easy-going. The truth is that I can tie myself up in knots over things that someone else may not spend even two minutes worrying over. Even things some people consider fun, I can turn into a turmoil of gut wrenching anxiety. It can be crippling.

It has taken me 57 years to realize that the only thing (person) big enough to handle my anxiety is God Himself. Trying to smother it or medicate it doesn’t work for me, it just comes back bigger than life after the haze wears off. For those of you taking medication prescibed for anxiety or depression, this does not mean you. There are times when this is needed.

This is what I think…….That we are all of us in recovery in some form or another, and I think it starts at birth. From the moment we are pushed into this life, it starts.

What are you in recovery over today? I have learned to embrace my need for help with this thing. I got help. I had five free sessions of counseling when I left Intel and it’s the best thing I ever did. That lady “got me” the very first session. I think God sent her.

Please don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s weak to get help. It’s the strong who realize when they need it and take the hand of support that’s offered.

I am learning not to live for the weekend, but live for the day because sure as anything,  I know that these two days will fly by and I will be set down smack dab in the middle of Monday before I know it. And God will meet me there too. That is what He’s been trying to tell me for 57 years now, and I have made some progress. There was a time in my life when I would have walked, no……run away from anything that put me way out of my comfort zone.

But God waits outside your and my comfort zone. And He’s here on a beautiful Saturday too. Live in the here and now, where Jesus tells us He is.

Forgive me, Father for putting other things on the throne of my life. Things like worrying about my own failure. You have already given me the tools to complete the tasks I need to do. Reel me back in from myself. You are all I ever need. Thank you for a friend who looks out for my good. (Elaine) Everyone needs someone they can spill their worries to without fear. Now I do the same to You, Lord.

Thank you for this good day that You have made. How dare I look at how you hung the moon, placed the stars, keep everything in motion and still not trust you! 

And thank you, Marty Unruh for your artwork, my friend. We did pick the right verse!

Resting in Jesus Peace

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The weekend is here. A time to regroup and recharge. I find I have had to work harder to get peace here. I am wondering now, how much of my peace in Arizona came from circumstance? It seems now that we lived a perfectly ordered life. I had a schedule, a workout routine, an uninterrupted prayer life, four days off at a time and a big mountain to remind me that God is always there. It was like the physical manifestation of a Spiritual compass. Who couldn’t be peaceful with that?

I was reminded this morning that peace is not found in perfectly ordered circumstances, but in Christ alone. Here there is static in my peace, I have to work harder to get it, but maybe the answer lies in not working at it at all. Just in resting in Him.

Here, in my new old home, I drive and walk roads I remember. There is a comfort in that. And here in this spot of incredible beauty, nature abounds. Everywhere I look there is a cause to thank God for creating such a world. Yet I confess, I have let my stress overwhelm my spirit with all these new changes.

I have forgotten to appreciate that the world is strewn with God’s wonder. I really get into trouble when I forget that everyday is a miracle and we are not guaranteed another. I was pondering the word circumstance as linked together with peace today and in the first sentence of “Jesus Calling” there it was. The word “circumstance” rested on the page for me to find. Here is what it said:

No matter the what your circumstances may be, you can find joy (or peace, my word there) in my Presence.

Last night we sat by the river and witnessed the miracle of Eventide.

There were little splashes of water, fish jumping.  There were little squeaks, chortles and squawks and I wondered at what creatures were making the little mysterious sounds. There was a squadron of several flyovers of geese, 3 different “V” formations that were amazing. We saw leaves free-falling like sporadic rain and landing on the water gracefully creating their own individual ripple. We caught birds first in the reflection of the water and followed our gaze up to where they took flight. We saw the buzzards stretching their huge wings to catch the last rays of sunlight.

The current changes like magic, like time. Unstoppable and ever-changing. Unlike God, who rests behind it all. Our best hope is to rest behind Him. The One who never changes.

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The Halls of Heaven

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God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging……Psalm 46:1-3

Sometimes Jesus sneaks a quiet thought in when you aren’t expecting it. He does that a lot. I always know when they come from Him because they just make so much sense, and most of the time, I don’t have that much. This is the kernel of wisdom He gave me:

I never asked you to do or be everything, I only asked you to follow me.

I have been racing around, trying to learn a new job and run over and do things for my folks which is part of why I came. There hasn’t been much quiet time, but as my other wise friend said, “You have to make the quiet time, it doesn’t come and find you.”

This world has really turned up the noise lately. I am so done with politics. Really, it means so very little. In ten or so years (or maybe one month) we will have forgotten why we got so upset about it all. There are a few things that come with a guarantee in this life. One of them is that as I grow older the halls of Heaven are getting more crowded. This world in my circle is shrinking as it will continue to do until such time as I join them.

A death of a friend will bring that home quicker than anything. We lost a dear friend shortly after we moved here. We passed their house on the way out of town and it haunts us both that we didn’t stop. I first met Ruby when I ran out of Mary Kay, back when we lived in Payson. I called the number because I ran out of Mauve Elegance lipstick. She and her husband Ron lived in a big house at the top of the hill. When she answered the door what struck me were her green eyes and striking smile. Her last name was Green. As was the carpet in their beautiful home.

She became like a surrogate Mom to us both. We were invited to home cooked meals and always laughter, always laughter. She was one of those people who could be working out in the yard without a stitch of makeup, sweat rolling down her face and then disappear in the bathroom for an hour and come out looking like Fifth Avenue. And she loved the Lord. Years would pass sometimes between the time we would see them again, but it never mattered. It was always like old times when we met again.

I miss you Ruby. Our loss is indeed Heaven’s gain.

This world can stomp us into the ground if we let it. Sometimes I just want to shrink myself down until I all but disappear. But the problem with that is, you disappear for those who need you. Who are counting on you. It’s all about balance. Jesus had to retreat to quiet places time and time again.

And so do we. And what a place I have now to do just that. We all have a challenge to keep that spark from blowing out. Each day we have a choice to fan that little spark. I think of when Ruby and I used to sit at the piano, “C’mon and let’s sing!”she used to say. She loved that song, “Pass it on.” She loved the lyrics, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around will warm up to its glowing…..”

This world is increasingly not my home. The time we have down here is precious. No doubt about it, this world is enough to make us rock back on our heels with our hands in our faces, but it can also make our hearts split in two with the joy of it.

Today I opened my devotional with Numbers……..‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

I got a flashback because that’s the verse my Mom used to pray over my niece, Lauryn before she left for school back when she reached down to put her loving hands on her head. Now she would have to reach up……they don’t take her to school anymore, but the prayer is always there, will always be there.

Both down here, and ringing in the Halls of Heaven.

The Lord bless us all. We sure do need it right now.