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So yesterday was the first day of my two weeks off school. And it was one of those “perfect” days. My mood was buoyant, like a ship sail catching the wind. I read “Before We Were Yours” through 3 cups of coffee and then took a walk through the nearby neighborhood. Only a very few walkers were about. 

There was a gentle rain that started later in the day and that made everyone happy because it’s so needed. It was one of those magical March days I remember from growing up here. All of the fruit trees around town are in flower. Popcorn in shades of pink and white. Then the wind comes and it rains blossoms and you feel like you are inside a Haiku. The real rain comes and the poor daffodils try so very hard not to bow to the ground with the weight of the water.

Good News! We finally found an elliptical that was in really good shape not too far away so we put all the seats down in the car and drove to get it. Once there we wrangled it into the back with one bungy cord and packing tape. I climbed in the back and held onto it the whole way home. It wasn’t going anywhere.

I felt like we really pulled something off and we did. This thing sells new for $600-$800 and we got this one barely used for $200. I feel 15 pounds lighter already.

Now it’s the next evening, Sunday. I have felt off all day. Not like the “Golden Yesterday” But it’s still good. Part of what happens in this life. Some days you just feel off, like the stillness before an earthquake or a tornado. You brace yourself for something but you don’t know what it is. 

But this is the wonderful and weird thing. All day, and I mean literally ALL day, this Mockingbird has been singing and I feel like it is trying to sing me through the day. And this is what God does. He tells us that we will always be okay by giving us little signs. If this bird can sing all day, then I figure he must be right.

There is something to sing about, always.

Redeeming the Time

 

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“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

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 weather…..to 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 believers….here 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!

God Goes Where He’s Wanted

A modern day evangelist lamented, “Whenever the Apostle Paul visited a city, the residents started a riot; when I visit, they serve tea.”

The church in Thessalonica, like many of Paul’s churches, was born amid violent upheaval. An angry mob took offense at Paul’s work and chased him out of town, accusing him of causing “trouble all over the world.” (Acts 17:6) From my introduction to the book of Thessalonians, with notes by Tim Stafford and Philip Yancey.

The curious phenomenon of church growth during times of intense persecution is reflected in these quotes from Christians in different parts of the world.

From a believer in Malaysia:

“We are so blessed because in Indonesia they are killing Christians, but here we just have to put up with discrimination and restrictions on our activities.”

and from an Indonesian Christian….

“We’re very blessed because in Malaysia, they can’t freely publish the Gospel. Here we still can.”

Philip Yancey has an interesting observation from his travels and interviews around the world talking to believers in many different cultures and countries…….

As I travel and also read church history, I have observed a pattern, a strange phenomenon of God “moving” geographically from place to place: from the Middle East to Europe to North America to the developing world. My theory is this: God goes where He’s wanted.

Quotes and selections from the book, Finding God in Unexpected Places, I heartily recommend this book, what a blessing it was to read it.

I tend to agree with him.

But Jesus said, “A prophet is taken for granted in his hometown and his family.” He didn’t do many miracles there because of their hostile indifference. Matthew 13:58

Quotes and selections from the book, Finding God in Unexpected Places

Finding God in Unexpected Places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrag

When I read Susan Fletcher’s first book, Eve Green I was carried away by her lyrical poetic style. I was captivated by it. I put her on my list of authors to watch for, so I was very excited when her second book, Oystercatchers came out. I was greatly disappointed, not so much in the writing style, but just bogged down with the depressing theme of the story. I really couldn’t wait for it to be over. It was with a but of trepidation but also hope that I picked up her latest, Corrag. Susan Fletcher, in my view has knocked one out of the park once again with her newest historical novel.

The story is narrated by Corrag, an accused witch who is in chains awaiting death by burning in the town square. Outside the door as the winter gives way to spring’s thaw, she hears preparation for her own execution. In reality, Corrag is a young girl who has never hurt a soul. She is traumatized by her own mother’s death at the hands of an angry village mob, also branded with the “witch” title. On the night they come for her Mom, she wakes Corrag and tells her to flee….”Go North and West…” where she felt her daughter would find safety in the Highlands of Scotland.

She rides her beloved mare, her only companion, for many miles until she finds an enchanting mountain valley called Glencoe. She settles quietly there where she builds a small shelter for herself in that rugged but beautiful place. Unbeknownst to her, it is also the home of the MacDonald clan, a wild bunch of highlanders who actually treat her better than anyone else has up until then. Due to her knowledge of herbs and healing arts, she is summoned one night to save the leader of the clan who has suffered a nasty head wound. If not for her skill, he would have died. She becomes part of their community and finds a welcome there she has never known before.

Susan Fletcher then weaves more history into this tale for during the time that Corrag is living on MacDonald land, the infamous slaughter of the MacDonalds of Glencoe happens and Corrag seems to be the only eyewitness. She gets caught up in the tragic events because she leads some of the MacDonalds to safety, which makes her an enemy of the government, which lands her in prison.

We see the world through the eyes of Corrag, as she tells her own story to her only visitor while she waits to die, a young “man of God” who has his own reasons for finding out what really happened the night of the massacre. Before we get to the night in question, Corrag tells us her own personal story. At first our young preacher is repulsed by this supposed witch, his mind has already prejudged her. But once he gets to know her, he becomes enchanted by her and the wonderful way she sees the world.

By the end, he is deeply disturbed by her impending death, which he now knows is unjust. He sees her as she really is, a scared young girl, so small most people mistake her for a child. Someone who is compassionate and full of life, though in chains. Someone who has transformed his life because she shows him a world of beauty such as he has never seen before.

I am immersed in this book and I don’t want it to end. I have enjoyed my time in Corrag’s little hut with her…..transfixed by the beauty of the wilds of highland Scotland. I found many lessons in this book. It made me think about how quick we are to prejudge and condemn with little or no evidence, even those in our own churches and communities. I thought of the times I have been prejudged and prejudged others.

I don’t know how this story will end. I could wish the the young Pastor would tell Corrag of Jesus and that she would know that the church and its members are about love and compassion instead of condemnation. I wish for an angel of the Lord to release her from her dank cell. I fear that I may not get the “Christian fiction” ending I hope for. No matter, I love this book regardless.

Book recommendations…….

I thought I would post the two books that most impacted my Christian walk in 2010, so here is the first, Radical by David Platt. This book knocked my socks off. Several moments while I journeyed through this book it brought me to complete silence……sit in a corner and stare at the wall kind of silence. David points the way back to the heart of what Jesus said, what He meant, and it answers the important question: What does God expect from me? Many times we puzzle over God’s will and the answer is right there in front of us in Scripture…..we just don’t want to do what it says. This book will impact your life, your walk with God, and challenge you to think differently about your responsibility to people in need.

The second one I just finished. It is One Heartbeat Away by Mark Cahill. This book was a perfect one to read after “Radical.” The former took me outside the bounderies of my own comfortable little safe world, and this one took me back around to the person I meet right outside my door. The service person who works on your washer, the person on the plane next to you, your neighbor…..Mark brings us right to the heart of the big question: What lies on the other side of eternity and what happens when we die, and more importantly, if we know the answer to these questions, why aren’t we telling others? Both books rest on the solid foundation of Scripture.

Two books, two questions…..

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

What happens after we take our last breath?

Read them both with an open heart, and I believe they will have a great impact on your life and challenge you to grow, they did that for me! Happy reading……Lori