Beginning of Lent
Golden heads nodding
They let us know in whispers
Beginning of Lent
Golden heads nodding
They let us know in whispers
……..the way is cleared, and we can go on……(a snatch from my journal)
And it’s February!!!! That means my daffodils will make an appearance soon. The ones I take a picture of every year are popping up and I can see little bits of yellow poking through the magnificent green. Also, a dear friend has passed, and I still can’t believe she is gone. None of us can. She was ninety-three and she was done with life, but we were not done with her. I know this life is just a vapor of time, a slice of eternity, but Annie, you were just so darn alive. Today would be the day you would have driven here in your Prius to visit my aunt. Your absence is felt keenly.
We miss you so……
Here is a picture of her (on the right) along with my aunt and another friend, all of them 90 or older.
I’ve been reading the book of Job in the Message version. I have always loved that particular book, but the Message expresses it in such a clear and simple way.
God answering Job:
“Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together Job! Up on your feet, stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! Who decided on its size? Certainly, you’ll know that. Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured, and who set the cornerstone, while the morning stars sang in chorus and all the angels shouted praise?
At first it seems like God is very hard on Job but in the end, God sides with Job and not his friends. So much so that God addresses Eliphaz (bad friend) in exasperation. He turns to him and says:
“I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me–not the way my friend Job has. So, here’s what you must do. Take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my friend Job. Sacrifice a burnt offering on your own behalf. My friend Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer.”
Thank you, Jesus, that we are done with THAT messy business.
Death swallowed up by triumphant Life! (Jesus) Who got the last word, oh Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? 1 Corinthians 15:55
That is if you let it. The world can swallow you whole. It gets to be too much sometimes. And at times there are just no words. They simply will not come. Dry as a desert inside, that’s what it feels like. The start of this year was one for the books. California made the news and not for the bizarre reasons it usually does. This state can be downright embarrassing sometimes for many political and other ridiculous reasons. Or maybe you love all those reasons.
This time it was a massive storm. Series of storms, rather. The rain just wouldn’t stop. Coming from the Pacific Ocean there were about 9 storms one right after the other, producing what is called a Bomb Cyclone. I had never heard of that term, but we are all too familiar with it now. Whole communities were flooded, and freeways were shut down. In this town alone, we had around 100 plus very large and very old trees fall causing massive damage and in some cases loss of homes and lives. When the sun finally came out it was like a miracle. We are safely on the other side now, but the fallout continues in the aftermath.
The neighbor lost a huge Cottonwood, and my aunt had a tree guy come and eliminate a possible catastrophe. This was a 50–60-year-old tree that we have watched bend and sway from our vantage point in the Motorhome with no small sense of dread and panic. Its two massive neighbors fell over the last historic storm in 2017. My brother’s house also flooded and so did a good friend of mine’s.
In other news, I got a call from the Dr. right before Christmas that the spot I had removed came back as Malignant Melanoma. I was in the aisle of Walmart when I got the call and my world just shifted like it does when you get unexpected news like that. I have since had the diseased part removed (I hope enough) I get stitches out Tuesday. We also got a call from Elaine’s brother that two of his friends had passed away. One of them in these recent storms. He wandered away from his cabin and they found his body the next day, frozen.
My Aunt also had a terrible fall on Christmas morning that she is still recovering from. Nothing broken, miraculously so, since she is 90 now. And my current student at school (I am subbing for another aid that is absent) has had two seizures since coming back from Christmas break. It’s very upsetting to watch but I am thankful for our school nurses who are wonderful and were there in minutes. She usually recovers pretty fast but it’s harrowing. I can’t imagine what her parents go through.
All this to say, that this world can be a very hard place sometimes. And it can swallow you whole if you don’t have something to anchor your soul. But this is the good part.
Everything can change in an instant and we can be surprised by joy and wonder even though our circumstances themselves haven’t changed much.
Take this morning, for instance. I had nothing, no words at all. But as I read my Scripture in the quiet of dawn, a candle lit in the middle of my heart. It felt like JOY. And also, we got a new laptop, and I can finally have the luxury of sitting at the table posting this blog instead of having to go out to the garage where the main computer is. Amazing what you can get used to if you have to. I almost can’t believe it’s the eighth year we’ve been living in this box. It’s been hard and we are ready to be done with it. Few people get how hard it is. They think we have been on some kind of vacation. Well, I would suggest that they try using the laundromat every week, along with dumping the “shitter” and worry about propane and a million other things.
But I digress……Back to JOY. It’s what I’m feeling right now, and I am so very thankful for the Lord and His words that are living and sharper than anything and able to beat back any darkness this world and Satan can throw at us. I wonder things. Being in a state of wonder is not a bad thing. It’s how we learn. Why do we capitalize Satan, anyway? I personally don’t think he should get that “billing.”
To change the subject, is anyone watching the Chosen? It seems to be a global phenomenon and I’m glad for it. It seems to be turning people’s hearts and thoughts to the REAL Jesus and that’s very good.
Finally, if you, dear reader, have stuck with me this far, I thank you! There is still so much beauty and goodness in the world, and I sincerely hope this day finds you seeking the miraculous in each moment.
The Lord bless you and keep you…….Lori
*****I call the bird in the picture “Chocolate.” He visits me on the fence.
He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14
I went to church but I didn’t go all the way in. To be honest, I just didn’t feel like hearing another sermon. I have heard it all before. I have sat and filled in the blanks dutifully, like one more task I have to check off. Done. On to the next thing.
I miss the interaction. I miss how at my old church they would ask if anyone had a burden, a need. And then others standing by would surround them, touch them, hands like gentle doves lighting on shoulders, backs…….. and the Pastor would pray. Sometimes they would cry and we would want to cry too. There is something powerful about the laying on of hands…..passing the Spirit from one to another.
It unifies us all.
Somehow I can’t escape the feeling that we are leaving with our burdens intact. There might be a burning need right next to me, and I would never know it. An inner cry for help like a dial tone unanswered.
We leave as the islands we are. Untouched. Still carrying the heavy load.
I wonder and not for the first time if the Spirit is not quenched with all our organization. Just one Sunday I wish the Pastor would stop and say, “Now everyone turn to your neighbor, not the one you came with, the one you don’t know, and pray for each other for 15 minutes.”
And I miss the altar call. Some say it’s just not needed anymore. It makes people feel embarrassed, singled out. But I disagree. I feel like it’s what draws us all in, and holds us together. Makes us remember when we were the one propelled out of our seat, and how that aisle looked impossibly long.
And when it was just you and the Lord, and no one else. And somehow, you know that this one thing, this one moment will change the course of your eternal destiny. What in the world matters more than that? I believe churches are robbing their congregations when they take this Holy moment away.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the church more than ever. When I miss it, something is wrong. But I also think that church happens more often than not after we leave the building.
As we sat yesterday with old friends, listening to all they have been through since we had last seen them I felt church happen with the exchange of tears. When she said she was finally getting help in dealing with the death of their little boy. That little boy who was their whole world and in some ways still is.
I can see how that little boy is so alive to them still. And how if he knew what a shadow his death made on their marriage, how sad he would be. I wish I would have told her that if he knew his Mommy was finally getting help, that he would smile from Heaven.
We talked of how it will never go away, he will never go away. But you learn to make some kind of peace with it. And go on for others who still need you.
Church happens when love happens, and not just on Sunday. But over coffee, in between classes, in parking lots, in school buses, everywhere God is.
It happens when we remember the Cross and what was done on it, for us. And that every single thing we bear in this life, He already dealt with.
It was nailed to the cross when He was.
In light of that, we stand at the edge of eternity every day. And with each day, no matter what we have to handle, our gratitude can’t help but grow.
We just can’t stop counting the gifts. Join me today? And Ann at Holy Experience here.
“I just heard “She’s gone” in my sleep”
“Mom passed on October 2nd, 2021, at 3:40 AM”
As I opened my iPad to write this post, these were the two statements I had recorded here 365 days ago yesterday. A whole year and millions of breaths since her soul passed into Heaven, taking a part of mine with it. I hadn’t remembered the day, but my sister-in-law did. For some odd reason I thought it was the 6th.
Maybe somewhere inside I knew. I had chosen the morning to finally box up her photo albums and clothes she had saved of mine that I had in my car partly because I didn’t know where else to put them or maybe I just wasn’t quite ready to turn them loose.
I’m still making a weekly pilgrimage to the cemetery to do the flowers and it’s weird because I never wanted or felt a need to do this with either Grandparents or even my husband. Then again, there are no rules in grieving and that’s okay. Even as I thoughtfully arrange my Hobby Lobby bouquet, I have to smile, because I can almost hear both of them say, “Give it a rest already……”
Life stops for some and keeps going for others. Inexplicably. This morning I came across a blog post someone else wrote that I had to share in the aftermath of hurricane Ivan, you can read it here. As I very well know, there are no guarantees we will get another day. That makes today the most important day. Inhale deeply, everyone!
Don’t just walk, see things when you walk. If you are in good health, thank God. If you aren’t, thank Him even more that He is with you in it. He once walked this earth and felt all the things you are feeling right now. If you are feeling despised and rejected, remember He was too.
I’ve been reading Ezekiel, talk about a crappy job assignment. None of us has the right to complain! Year after year, they didn’t listen to any of his warnings. I venture to say that none of our employers has ever had to lay on our left side for 390 days, and an additional 40 on our right (for the sin of Judah). And even when they finally did concede that he had been right all along in his prophecy, they still didn’t act on it.
There is a message there for all of us. Basically, we Christians are all little Ezekiels. We know there is Something and Someone better after we leave this place we call home, but too often we remain silent and distracted by the world. Ezekiel warned and obeyed until it hurt.
Sometimes I don’t know why or how I can keep a lid on my wonder at God and how good He is. But if these words can be a little leaking of hope and joy out into the world then there is redemption in that.
I leave you with these words from Paul.
“Finally, brethren (sistren too), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
What words could I add?
In light of all the suffering going on in the world right now, what words could I possibly add that would make any difference at all? It’s a question that writers everywhere ask. The answer, thankfully, always comes back the same, and has throughout history. Words matter a great deal because the written (or spoken) word will always have tremendous power to change. Even if that change is a barely detectable shift in the heart or soul. And there will always be readers. In my formative years, there were no computers, no iPhones. We had each other. Real faces, real places. And the things we read in books. We had no choice but to use our imagination.
Flash forward to 1996. I started work at Intel, Corp. For 20 years I worked alongside many others deep within the heartbeat of the technological age. Together, we built the chips that made it all go. I remember back then people said we would be living in a “paperless” world. And now, in 2022 we are drowning in more paper than ever before. And thankfully, bookstores have not become obsolete. Libraries are still being funded. All is not lost.
When you look around at our current world situation, it would be easy to lose hope. Character seems scarce. Crime is off the charts. And yet, we honor a beloved Monarch who has passed into glory. We honor and pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth because she embodied great character and values not readily seen much anymore. She had the role thrust upon her in her youth, and instead of resenting it, she rose to the challenge and continued to do so for 70 years. Splendidly.
Also as Americans, after 21 years we must pause, at least at some point in our waking moments today and remember 9/11. We all remember where we were that day.
On a more personal note, we have just gone through a massive heat wave here in California and yesterday we were released at last and out from under the 100 plus temps for the first time in several days and weeks. For quite a few days we have been hotter than Arizona which is very rare.
Just being able to take a walk without sweltering was like a miracle. There is something so redeeming in it. Getting out, off the phone, away from the barrage of voices that can so often cause unease and weariness of soul. Come away with Jesus on the mountain and pray. Even He, being God knew how important that was.
And read. If you haven’t read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” I wholeheartedly recommend it. It will restore you to all things good, worthwhile, precious and true. Most of all, read the Word that matters more than any others. His. Peace and Blessings, Lori
Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.Psalm 119:105
It’s the quiet of the morning and I think again of what Thomas Merton said about this time in the marvelous anthology “Book of Hours”
“The most wonderful moment of the day is that when Creation in all its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.”
This little book was brilliantly edited by Kathleen Deignan. Somehow, she managed to reduce the mountainous volumes of his writing to this perfect little gem. I reach for this book again and again when I feel the turbulence in my soul that comes from a prolonged absence of my morning quiet time when I think I’m too busy.
My soul tends to wither and fall prey to all kinds of clamor that our world can so effortlessly concoct. This small island of sacred space helps to remind me that:
My soul is big enough to hold eternity.
Big enough to hold Him.
Or, rather, He makes Himself small enough to fit inside me.
A humbling thought, one I have to make myself be silent enough to understand. Sometimes Alexa plays David Nevue quietly. Soft piano hymns fall like gentle rain and the words come from a place I remember.
Miracles never stopped happening.
The possibility is there, we just have to accept the Invitation.
Each morning, my coffee, my time, these conversations, become a kind of Holy communion.
Even more important than a good night’s slumber is this rest for my soul.
Here is a great verse to ponder that I found today in the Good Book:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
It’s now the close of the day. First week back to work and it’s Friday tomorrow. I’m calling that a victory.
It’s the day after we celebrated Independence Day as a nation. I took a walk, noticed things like you don’t notice in a car or even on a bike with the world flashing by. The reason I walk is not really for the exercise, but to be connected to our one humanity. To see people outside doing ordinary things. Puttering in their yards, digging up broken sprinklers, walking dogs. There is a wonder in that. E. followed me on the bike and due to tracker on these phones, caught up on California street where I paused.
I went by 615 West Locust where Grandma and Grandpa C lived. That’s how they always signed our Birthday and Christmas cards. I think about who lives there now. They don’t know or care what went on there before. They don’t care about the rock collection behind the garage that I liked to rummage through, or Mabel the solid gray cat of theirs, or the ancient stove in the kitchen. That’s as it should be, the way of life, I guess.
Walking along, I saw a kindred spirit taking photos of clouds, another cloud watcher, phone toward sky.
Last night the bombs were bursting everywhere. Neighbor cats were in one of their secret places tucked away. This morning they were both at the door ready for breakfast. It’s a blessedly cool and quiet morning. The last few years, I find myself almost enjoying the day after a holiday more than the holiday itself. The next day holds no obligation, just presents itself in all its glory, unmarred, unmoored.
I immediately walked down to the river because I had to capture this reflection in the water. On the path down, the wind held a whisper of fall. It happens sometimes in mid to late summer. I know there will be many days to swelter yet, but for now, I enjoyed the promise the universe had to offer. That another season will come.
Nature always helps me say, “Wake up!” Makes me think that maybe we can put away all the petty stuff and maybe find some common denominator. I think that’s why God gave us babies, and cute animals and sometimes a scene that is so majestic and magnificent that it takes your breath.
I pray today that maybe we all can find something to take our breath away. Just temporarily. Look to the left or right, maybe it’s the precious familiar person beside you. Maybe it’s just the sky. (And it’s never just sky.) Maybe it’s the promise that God said He will never leave us.
More than we need for our manna today.
It washes over me at unexpected times. That a chunk of my life is missing, E asks me if I want to go by my old home. (She knows I will say yes.) She goes by too after Walmart runs to see what’s what. What changes the new owners might be making. When I drive by it’s as if I’m gazing into the familiar face of a cherished old friend, not a place I once lived. No matter how it changes. I will remember…..
I remember little girl yellow and a record player on the floor. And ruffled chenille on the bed. My Mom so mad at the dog for lifting his leg right after she washed it. I remember backyard Birthdays, sheet thrown over the line and fishing for prizes which my brother and his friend fastened from the other side. Names of neighborhood crushes scrawled underneath the windowsills.
And sounds…..the funky doorbell I can hear so clearly. The particular slam of the screen door, the sound of my Mom singing and her voice telling me it was time to get up for school. My groan as I threw the covers over my head wishing for Saturday.
On the other side of town, I see a sad row of buildings on Main taken over by the homeless, now rampant with drugs and stolen piles of garbage. In my mind I remember the sound our shuffling feet climbing the stairs to the upper room of the Mandarin House Chinese restaurant. We thought we were in Chinatown. The gentle clink of teacups and saucers. Okazaki’s was somewhere downstairs, the Japanese shop where they made the best snow cones.
Memories can save us when everything around us is unfamiliar and changing. We walk about in a world we no longer recognize. We talk about it every day. Are we, (the sixty-somethings) the last to remember a world that was somewhat sane?
Of course human nature has always been the same but I truly believe we are just now beginning to see the harmful effects of endless social media. It can’t be healthy to have events plastered our faces at every turn. The mind reels from it. There is no time for the mind to recover from one tragedy when you’re presented with another.
But thankfully, some things will always remain the same. The important things. God knew there would come a day when we would need to derive comfort from looking up at the unchanging planets. He knew we would always need to gaze into the innocent eyes of a newborn to keep cynicism at bay. And to stand in wide-eyed wonder on the shore of an ocean which seems endless.
It is Sunday, June 5, 2022, the day of Pentecost. Fifty days after He rose. And God is still in control. And I remember one day long ago when the Holy Spirit touched down in my little world. On a cold, foggy, miraculous December day close to Christmas.
The Spirit will not always strive with men, but He was with me that day. And He’s with me still. I close my eyes and hear the peace murmured, the rustle of clothes and muffled kneelers leftover from Episcopalian days, and the Doxology from my Baptist days. And singing “Morning is Broken” on the dewy grass at a Methodist Sunrise Easter service.
Life is good. Because God is.
A motley crew. The rock band spelled it differently so I don’t think that will land me in copyright jail. It’s just really the perfect term for all of us. Jesus most trusted friends all scattered when He was arrested. Matthew 26:56 says: “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” Each of us is gets to rise up this morning; we have another chance at life and a myriad of choices in one 12 hour day.
Just getting up sometimes is hard, isn’t it? But we get to, today. And we will continue to have victories and failures, sometimes simultaneously. We will curse the driver in front of us and then apologize to God for our language and our anger flare ups. We will act like the disciples did when they gave up on Jesus.
I went to place fresh flowers on Mom and Dad’s grave yesterday and I saw people laying on the ground next to their loved ones resting place. I saw Easter eggs scattered around graves, bottles of adult beverages (which always seems strange to me) and food. I saw sorrow.
Then I thought of the words of the two Angels in Scripture here as described in Luke 24:
“While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee.”
Why do we seek the living among the dead? It’s human nature, I guess. Why do we as a human race continue to choose things like war, addictions that wage war on our bodies and souls, death instead of life?
But because of Jesus final victory over death, we too can rise to new life. PERMANENTLY. That is what makes Easter the most important event in human history. We have the victory because when Jesus rose from the grave He had the final word. Because of this, though our bodies may rest in the ground, our souls reside in eternal home with Jesus.
Until the time God says enough is enough, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 comes to pass, we rise. And because of Easter. We rise with hope!