Hope for a weary world

I hadn’t planned on writing a blog post this morning. I lingered over my second cup of coffee and looked out on a fog-draped weary world. Something moved me  to grab a jacket and venture out. I put some “ready whip” on top of my steaming mug (I call it whoop-ass) and suddenly felt like a little party had started in my soul. I have come to recognize that moments like this are the whisperings of God. I paid attention to it walked out into a wonderland. 

Someone had evidently told the birds that spring was coming or was maybe already here. I saw the little gate we painted was holding up well except for a few faded colors. I filmed a little video for Mom since she doesn’t venture out on days like this, but I know she will love to hear the birds.

I found hope out there. It’s so easy to despair and just give up isn’t it? Life presses down and wants to push the life (and hope) right out of you. But this……this world that I walked into this morning was not the news, or politics, or anger or anything else but pure beauty that God had set before me. 

And now I am joyously typing away with a forbidden third cup. Something about the earth after Christmas always makes me feel like this. Like hope has come and left a Heavenly bundle and now we have to figure out what to do with Him. 

And the earth waits with hope because deep inside, she knows renewal is coming. And this is our own hope with each new day. A new opportunity to sing the song of the Redeemed. My favorite line of O Holy Night says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” I like the way the New Living translation puts 1 Corinthians 15:58: 

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

I heard about a Christian woman yesterday, a modern-day Joan of Arc who willingly gave herself up for a number of her brothers and sisters held in prison for their belief in Jesus. I don’t remember what the number was, but I can’t stop thinking about her. She will probably face years of prison or death. In light of a faith like that, why do we waste so much time on things that really don’t matter? 

Yesterday I ran into a dear friend and as we stood in the aisle and talked I felt a Holy Communion between us because don’t you just need to know that someone really does understand? The tears that she wiped from her eyes were real. And as we parted and hugged I think we both felt a little renewed. 

This my friends, is what it’s all about………I wish you peace today, and opened eyes for all the little big moments that may never come again. 

Hope is real. And it’s here to stay. May it reach you today. 

The Shroud of Grace

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Yesterday I awoke to a gloriously foggy morning. I am one of those that can’t resist bundling up and chasing it as it shrouds and swallows up everything and fills the air with silence. I joyfully walked down to the river to find 3 misty ghost like figures floating on top of the water; their fishing poles angled hopefully. Every now and again I would hear the plop as they recasted their lines, their hushed voices echoing across the water,

Further down I saw 2 ducks making a v-line barely visible through the misty air. I only heard a flock of Canadian geese honking above. I shot a few pictures with my camera and then decided to venture on down to the lake. My Sunday peace was only disturbed when my camera wouldn’t focus on a particular shot and I had to ask forgiveness for my foul words.

I wasn’t enjoying communion with fellow believers and yet I was at church. I have always found God in the fog, for two very emotional moments of my life happened in the fog long ago. The first was when I was driving around grief-stricken, my eyes blurred with tears after the loss of my husband.  I turned a corner and through the fog, I saw hopeful little candles in each window of a charming little cottage. Something about it gripped me and at once my spirit was calmed and brightened. It was God’s  way of letting me know I was going to make it.

The other time, I was alone in my room. Everyone had left and “Oh Holy Night” was playing on my record player (yes, it was that long ago) All I can say is that the Holy Spirit came to me in that room and I can remember every detail. In that room God came to me and revealed the awful, beautiful truth of what Jesus did to save me, us.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas let me tell you that there is hope. I can say this with perfect confidence and clarity because there is simply nothing you or I are going through that is bigger than God. I know this. Jesus came so that we could always have real hope to fall back on in the darkest times of our lives.

Allow me to close with a quote from a wonderful book I read by Beldan C. Lane as he went through his own journey through the valley of the Shadow of Alzheimer’s in the nursing home with his Mom:

I met a woman by the elevator each day whose mouth was always open wide, as if uttering a silent scream. In a bed down the hall lay a scarcely recognizable body, twisted by crippling arthritis–a man or woman I’d never met. Another woman cried out every few moments, desperately calling for help in an “emergency” that never ebbed. Who were these people?

They represented the God from whom I repeatedly flee. Hidden in the grave-clothes of death, this God remains unavailable to me in my anxious denial of aging and pain. He is good news only to those who are broken. But to them he’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, lurking in the shadows beyond the nurses desk, promising life in the presence of death. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, Beldan C. Lane

This is the paradox of the message of Christmas. Innocent life with a bitter twist at the end but that ultimately gives us Glorious freedom from that same death. Sometimes I think this is why we rush to buy and give during this season. We know there is something about Christmas that is joy but we can’t quite place our finger on it. We do our hopeful best to be cheerful and join in only to find ourselves worn out from the effort.

That’s because the Gift He gives us is so much bigger than everything else in this world. It’s Himself. We are free, all of us this Christmas. We have to only reach out and accept the gracious offer He gives.

Merry Christmas from my Prayer Closet. May His peace find you today, and every day.

Redemption

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Dawn: It’s easy to find God in the pre-human hour. All of nature starts to stir and do naturally and perfectly what they do. The first bird speaks out and I am always amazed there’s just one. The morning stars are there in place and everything seems totally in control. Then the world wakes and I hear loneliness and the desperate absence of God in all the clamor of a people who have lost their place in the cosmos. Into this world a Savior is born……

It’s been cold and I haven’t spent as much time down my the river. And I need to. It’s so easy to slip and let the world and the news, (what they say is news anyway) bog you down. I was rushing somewhere yesterday and heard a birds cry and I thought, “It’s down there, it’s all happening down there and I could be sitting on the bench watching God’s show” but then the moment passed.

I confess, it’s kind of a difficult season right now. Events are happening that I really can’t write about, except in my own private journals. That hurts, because as a writer you want to write about the real stuff and when you can’t it’s like an amputation. A limb is missing and writing makes the parts grow back.

Anyway, as I walked down to the river this morning I saw it just as I rounded the bend. The neighbor had lit a little Christmas tree in the room they are redesigning. My breath caught…….”There it is, a little bit of Christmas when I least expected it!” It reminded me of the time after my husband died and I was driving around town one foggy night in a stupor when I saw this little cottage on the corner all lit up with candles in each window and white lights all around and it cheered me.  I never forgot it.

And every year I say this because at some point in the Christmas season I realize it again, “Because of Jesus, we have Christmas every day.”

My reality is that this year, like last, all our decorations are in storage. There is no big tree, no office tree, no miniature Victorian on my dresser (which is also in storage), no Nativities (of which I have four). Yet, my Savior lives in my heart. He’s all grown up and out of the manger, has been for quite a few earthly years. And wonder of wonder, He is still interceding from Heaven, still has never grown tired of the sameness of my prayers:

Here I am again, Lord. I am so scared, and worried even through you tell me with exasperation that you’ve got this, that there is nothing to fear or worry about ever. Even as He shakes His head in exasperation I can hear Him say: “My daughter, I love you. Haven’t I proved myself over and over in your life by now?”

It’s His joy I celebrate, even now. His joy I saw in the faces of the Watoto Children’s Choir that we had the pleasure of hearing and seeing the other night. (You must look them up on You Tube)

I may not have everything I think I need in my perfect Hallmark view of Christmas this year, but I have more that I could ever want and surely more than I deserve. I have love all around me with family and friends here and a place to live that most people only dream of and a best friend who has stuck by me through everything.

In C.S. Lewis’s world of Narnia, it’s always Winter and never Christmas. In my world and hopefully yours too, it may not always be Christmas but it’s always Jesus, and that means there always hope with a capital “H.”

I pray you find the Hope of Jesus today in everything you do, in everyone you meet. May He fix what’s broken in your life and mine today, Amen. 

Nature’s Hymn

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Most mornings now when I walk down, the river has taken to wearing a silky wrap as if to ward off the cold. The temperature drops just before the sun makes a welcome appearance. The buzzards are holding court up high in the trees, waiting for the sun to warm their wings. Sometimes if it’s dark and they haven’t yet taken their place in the trees, the white egrets are there. All I can usually see is their white shape against the pre-dawn foliage.

Sometimes hymns have words and sometimes they don’t.

It strikes me that Nature is something we can all get behind. In this world of war and argument and discord, we can all still stop in wonder for an eclipse. I capitalize nature because to me it’s synonymous with God. However you explain it or Him away, the beauty disarms us just the same.

David Nevue fills the background as I settle into the warmth to tap these words out. “How Great Thou Art” comes on and I sing tangible words of worship and I feel again the wonder and miracle of what we celebrate this season. He……came……for……us. Count them all with me:

Heavens opening to the Shepherds watching their flocks in the dark

A baby announcement that came in the form of a sign in the Heavens that wise men followed for months.

A baby named John filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth.

Animals blowing frost in a sub-zero stable and a young girl giving birth to God.

I could go on and on and on………..what’s your particular miracle today? Each day does have several if we only stop and reflect in the quiet pauses that God wants us to take. Each moment can become a “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Moment upon moment until we reach Eternity that’s within our grasp right now today.

I know your seasons may be hard, but know this today: Jesus went through the hardest one of all so that ours might be more bearable. He is praying for you even now my friend. And so am I. This world needs Him more than ever.

 

Someday

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As in every year leading up to Christmas, I don’t take nearly enough time for reflection. Somehow even when I don’t mean to, it gets swept away by all the other things that we have made Christmas into. And yet, and yet. Jesus is born once again in our hearts and in our remembrances. Despite our best efforts we can never ruin it as the great Frederick Buechner says:

Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed – as a matter of cold, hard fact – all it’s cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading. Whistling in the Dark

Dear Lord:

I am a deeply flawed and it’s not a stretch to say that I am sometimes a dark-hearted, selfish and sarcastic individual. I spend money on things I don’t need and toss my leftovers into the collection plate. I pray to be more like you but too often I’m not willing to do what it takes to make that happen. I pass what could be angels (or maybe even you) in disguise on the street, dirty disheveled, shopping cart piled high. Too often I fail miserably, and yet you continue to pile mercy on my plate. I need to love better.

I wonder if all of us knew each other’s insides like you do, what would happen. I think the world would be transformed by love. We would see each other the way you see us. This I believe is possible since as believers we have your Holy Spirit inside us. So if I have any goal at all in the coming year, it should be to walk not in someone else’s shoes, but to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal how someone else might be hurting, or alone, or joyful. And then show me how I can enter other’s lives the way Jesus would. That’s what you talked about the Kingdom of Heaven being here and now. That’s what Scripture means when it says that someday we will fully know you and each other. That’s how we will know we are in Heaven.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Thank you to those who have been patient with me this year. Thank you, Elaine for bearing with me as I went psycho over this job and for all you’ve done to keep everything running while I go different directions. I love you.

Thank you to my family, who I am very grateful to be with this year. I love you.

Thank you dear readers, those who are still hanging in with me and this blog. I love you too.

Thank you Jesus, for never loving halfway. You proved that with the Manger and the Cross. You are still proving your great love to me each and every day you crack joy into my heart in all the little everyday moments. I am trying to love You better.

Merry Christmas all, in Jesus name.

The Thrill of Hope

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I made my way down to the river even though I knew I wouldn’t be there long. It was early morning, still dark as it usually is when I go. I didn’t need to see it as much as I needed to feel it. Kind of like I feel about God. I needed to thank Him for the good day I had. A big gold star was shining overhead and the crescent moon was on the other side, peeking through the bare branches with a star right next to it. There was a Holiness to it.

There in the little river shack, I knelt and thanked God for the good day. Lately I have felt something like Plexiglas around my heart, or maybe teflon. Nothing has quite reached me, call it a form of depression or unease. Whatever it is, I felt the platelets shift yesterday and it felt really good to feel some joy leaking in. It was that thing with feathers that Emily Dickinson so eloquently wrote about:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
I had a good day at work the day before, and later that night we went to a local place, the place where I got married so long ago. It’s changed greatly, now it is a full fledged spa, with a vintners room and additional rooms. When I was married there almost 40 years ago now,  it was a little old Victorian country house with a garden and that part of it is where we listened to a three piece ensemble. I distinctly remember the day Mom and I went there to discuss the ceremony. It was a fall day and windy, and I remember how the leaves looked coming down. It was a special memory between she and I. I will remind her of that when I see her.
We sat and sipped wine and met some lovely people, one of whom auditioned for the voice. The other two, a couple sat down next to me and the lady explained she was an author and historian and they were there to interview an owner of the Inn and write his life story. So we talked about different authors and she said she liked my hat. We exchange cards, I dug my homemade crumpled Staples version, and she her crisp eloquently done one.
As we stepped outside I heard a commotion, which was Santa’s firetruck all decorated with lights. I wrote another story about this on Dan King’s “Bible Dude”blog which you can read here. I jumped up and down like a kid and cried…….”Santa, Santa!!!” They drove right past us and we waved and they honked and we all shouted our Merry Christmases.
What are the odds, that it would be coming by right then? Does God mind when we indulge in a little fantasy about Santa? I don’t think so. I actually think he sent it for us because we needed it.
Just like we always need Him.

While you were away

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I checked “find friends” on my phone while you were away and it said you were “home.” That wiggled me because in many ways I still think of Arizona as our home. A chunk of your heart stays places. I gazed at the screen that still said home and I retraced all those streets, all those places I knew so well. I think about the things I miss and constantly compare. This was cheaper, this was cleaner, this was nicer. I miss my Mall. I miss my mountain. Of course it wasn’t my mountain at all, any more than this river is mine.

I am still finding my way. Like this little snowflake hurtling from Heaven to earth, isn’t that what we’re all doing? God breathes life into us, incredible beauty and potential right from the start, and even as we are hurled down to earth, we start losing sight of the One who created us. The light of Heaven grows dim and circumstances threaten to melt us.

Our home sold and it feels strange. I close my eyes to sleep and I can still see where everything was in my room. I think of everything piled in storage and I hope it’s okay. I know God says to lay up treasure in Heaven but I admit I have a few things I really like down here. Home is a place we carve out. But more than a physical place, it is the place we started out and the one we are going back to. We are all just about as temporary as this little snowflake. I think that’s why my heart lurches a little when I see it.

What did the Angels talk about when Jesus vacated the throne to fill up a manger? What did they talk about while He was away? I wonder.

This journey we’re on will one day lead us to our final destination. I can’t tell you how glad I am that Jesus made the journey here for us so that we could be together with Him in our forever home. That thought makes the whole thing worthwhile.

That thought led me to say absolutely nothing in prayer this morning. I sat in silence and one quiet thought dropped in, as quietly as a pin.

Seek peace and pursue it. This is the whole verse from Psalm 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”

It’s time to drop our weapons folks. It’s the season for love, and forgiveness and an innocent little baby who made Himself nothing so that we might live. It’s time to lay down our verbal assault rifles against each other.

It’s time to seek peace and pursue it. It’s time to look forward to going home and taking as many others with us as we can.