Walnuts and other stuff

I have a thing for walnuts. I can hardly walk by the walnut bin at the grocery store without digging in with both hands. I love how they sound and the texture. I know I would love how they smell too, but due to a genetic weakness inherited from my Grandfather, I have never been able to smell. That’s just one more thing in a long list that will get fixed in Heaven.
I had a walnut adventure yesterday, well the cats and I did.
It all started with a package of store-bought cookies. They were mexican wedding cookies, the ones that I decided I wasn’t going to make this year. They were okay. In fact, I am ashamed to say, I ate every single one of them. But they were nothing like mine. Now I had an unrequitted craving that wasn’t about to go away. I had no choice but to make them.  
I had pecans but I really wanted walnuts. My funny friend knows about my walnut fetish so last Christmas she gave me a sack in the shell, and they were still there in the cupboard. I dug out my nutcracker from wayyyy under the cabinet, since now I mostly buy nuts that Costco has already cracked and packaged very nicely.  It was too cold to go outside so I spread a sheet in my room and let the shells fly!
The cats thought it was a great adventure. They interrupted their morning naps and sprang off the bed like kittens: “What have we here? We don’t recognize this thing you are doing on our floor.” Somehow a rogue pecan had made its way into the bag so I rolled it their way. They batted it back and forth, but then Sydney smelled food like substance coming from the cracked nuts, so he stayed close by. His begging could put any dog to shame.
It was great fun. It only took me about 20 minutes and I had a nice little pile. I was surprised how I remembered some things. My Mom and I cracking walnuts on the cold garage floor on fall days. And going out to my Aunt’s little country house and picking them off her trees. I closed my eyes and heard the sounds, the voices…..it seemed so far away.
I heard the squawking of the blue jays, and the flutter of their wings as they swooped down. I remembered the brick wall in her kitchen and how she had See’s candy in the fridge. And how her sunny yellow bathroom curtains had fuzzy balls on the ends that I liked to touch.
And I remember all those years of Christmas baking and all the smiles of joy as they got their basket of homemade goodies. All of the trips to the store for a forgotten ingredient. And it surprised me how memories of those walnuts hurt. Hurt for those years gone and that they went so fast.
But there is more to be thankful for…….I still have my Mom, and I still have my Aunt. Though many years have passed, there is hope in every moment we all have right now, together.
This morning I broke the rules. I didn’t eat a sensible breakfast, I had two Mexican Wedding cookies with my coffee at 4:30 AM, and they were just as good as I thought they would be.
I have not one regret.

We are all invited

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2

For four hundred years, the voice of God was silent……The Holy Spirit stirred no prophet. No one came forth. Israel waited. They waited for redemption, for hope. Rescue. But they didn’t expect it the way it came, the way He came.

The light of the world

They knew the prophecies concerning the One who would come…..they studied Isaiah, Micah and all the rest even from birth, and yet when He came, exactly as it was prophesied, many missed him.

Jesus, our hope……the hope of the Gentiles and the Jews, the hope of the whole world.

His heart breaks even now, when He remembers how many missed Him then, and how many will continue to miss him now. For He is not willing that any should perish.

The fact that I have not missed Him is proof of His great mercy. I ask myself why? But then I remember that His mercy extents to everyone. He holds this invitation out to the whole world…….still.

This alone is reason enough reason to live thankfulness in my heart every moment. One lifetime does not hold enough time for the amount of gratitude He deserves, so I am glad He has given me all eternity to thank Him….

Along with the angels.

For now, I will continue my list of small miracles in the every day: #754-764

For the joy that still flows as I decorate this year, even through the difficulties and challenges. The Spirit still flows and circumstances can’t stop it…..Halleluiah.

The silly moments of laughter with a best friend who is silly along with me, as we join in spontaneous song driving down the road.

The evening fires, and being to eat outside once again….

The incredible sunrise this morning.

The glided pages of my favorite old Bible, “big red” I call it. I had thought the gold had all worn off the pages, but as the light hit it this morning, it caught the edge of the pages and I discovered it was still there.

Small escapes, little vacations in the midst of chaos that bring back a bit of sanity.

And a big surprise last night. Elaine’s Mom joining me in decorating the Christmas tree, the first normal thing she has done in a very long time, and the first time she has decorated a tree in about 20 years…..

Cloud covered Superstitions……(see photo blog today, here)

Birdsong cutting through the chill of the morning.

Cold weather in Arizona……that makes it feel more like Christmas!

photo credit: google images

When all other lights go out

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4, 5

There is no darkness so deep that the light of Christ cannot penetrate it. He is the light, in fact. Light originated with Him. There is nothing in our lives that is so dark, so powerful, so strong, that it is beyond His reach. There is nothing in me that He can’t fix!

At times I tend to forget my greatest resource, especially when the darkness closes in around me. In times past my first instinct was to panic or try to figure a way out. Sometimes it still is. I am a bit quicker now to pray first, but many times I still get the order mixed up, panic, escape, with prayer coming last.

Love is patient.

One of the most memorable scenes for me in the  Lord of the Rings  was when Frodo was in that terrible dark cave with that awful giant spider. Let me tell you, as someone with a lifelong fear of spiders there could be no worse scenario for me.

I tried to force myself to watch it on the big screen. Oh, those awful eyes and creepy legs and then coming after him with that awful stinger! My favorite part was when good old faithful Sam came to the rescue with the light of Galadriel, which they had all along. I loved her line:

“May it be a light for you when all other lights go out.”

Jesus is that light for us. He is the light of the whole world. In Him is no darkness. When Christ came, His light threw the shadows back on this old world forever. That is the hope of Christmas.

I think of this as I look at my lights out front, on the tree.

All of them symbols of the One and only true light.

And even though Jesus’ cousin John was chronologically born first, John knew that Jesus existed long before he did. Was there, in fact at the very beginning of all things.

John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John 1:15

“I thank you Lord, for being my One true light. You are my sanity, my healing, my joy, my everything. With You I have everything I need, without You I have nothing. Because of You my future is full of hope, never dread. And thank you for reminding me that nothing bad lasts forever, but only for a season, and even that, you are working out for my good.”

Love with a Capital "L"

“Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” Isaiah 8:12,13

In other words, don’t fear what the world fears, make sure you are right with God instead. It is good for us to pause and remember, when the world seems full of unrest and chaos…..when has it not been after all?……who is really in control, that what we see on the news doesn’t have to fill us with dread.

Isaiah goes on to say that consulting with people who we feel have an inside track on future events is like asking a blind person for a way out of a dark tunnel. Only God holds the future in His hands.

“When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” Isaiah 8:19, 20

If we were standing before the Lord himself, the events of this world would dissolve into nothingness. We would be blinded by the splendor of His majesty, struck as Isaiah was by everything he saw and felt. No doubt we would be speechless, as he was. God knew that He must do something to tear down that wall of separation so that we could approach Him without fear…….So at this time of year, we peer into that manger, that lowly straw-filled cradle that held God. We know that it was for our benefit, not His.

After all, Who would fear a baby in a manger?

Imagine a God who wanted so badly to reconcile with His children that He would appear in a lowly stable……it’s the old, old story that never gets old.

That’s what I call love with a Capital “L”

I pray for you quiet moments this Christmas, to reflect on just how much He loves us. In the midst of the rushing around this month, pull up a chair and grab a hot drink and watch the crowds rush by.

Smile at the peace that reigns in your heart……..smile at the fact that you carry His peace wherever you go, always.

photo credit: google images

With a Grateful Heart

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder…G.K. Chesterton

Because of my dear sister in law who lost her battle with cancer, (but won the war, for she waits for us in Heaven) I always give thanks for my health. This morning something reminded me of a bad flu I had and I realized that there are many this Thanksgiving who would give anything to feel good.
I can’t imagine waking up day after day feeling sick, but there are many who do. I thought this the other day on my walk/run. The air was clear and cold. That particular day I felt like I needed to hear life and not the IPOD. Sometimes you just have to. I felt the blast of cold air through my nose, the tingle that makes the nose run…..I felt my lungs about to burst, pushing air through, my heart beating faster and faster.
It was life and life was good.
And I am so thankful for things and people who are life-givers and not life-takers. People who are quick to laugh, to bolster me up with their faith, who speak life and joy. Who build up and not tear down…..how I thank God for you!
I am thankful for the Christian music that uplifts……turns me towards God and makes me lift my hands, my heart, my eyes towards Him.
And I am thankful for realizing that despite some fleeting thoughts earlier this month, I could never pass the holidays by. For the first time in my life though, I do understand those who fly far away, or at least want to. And then the thought, maybe that was a gift too, because I didn’t understand before. 
With people living in different places, it seems like someone close is always getting left behind. I was tired of the heartache. I still am. I don’t want to wait for Heaven to have everyone in one place, my heart rebels against it. And then there is work. I always have to pick which holiday I want off. But then my heart wells with thanks because I have a choice, and a job. So many right now don’t.
Thankfulness bloomed then in my heart and I realized that I could never really be one of those that ignored Thanksgiving or passed on Christmas. They are lodged too deep in my heart and I can’t let either one pass without a celebration, for there is so much to celebrate and be thankful for this year……
as every year by God’s wonderful grace.
Also, be sure to check out my new blog, Lori’s Views. It’s more photos and less words. I am really excited about it!  I am still tweaking things up a bit so thank you in advance for your patience…. 
image of cabin  from google images

Walking in His light…….

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

I awoke in a cycle of worry this morning. Some days start like that. It is the same worry loop my mind runs through, has been running through for several years now. It is familiar to me like an old song. In the days of phonographs and records sometimes there used to be a skip in a record and you would have to go over and reset it back into the right groove or else start it all over again from the beginning. I realise that I have to explain that, and it is funny to me having grown up before the era of CD’s.

Sometimes worry is like that old song, that groove in the record. But I am tired of that song. I made a decision this morning to reset the record. I got up and got dressed in the dark and went out and walked. I put my IPOD on “Praise” and as I listened to songs like….”All of Creation” by Mercy Me, and watched the sky fill up with glorious color, the color of the Master Artist. By the second time around the park, I noticed something start to happen. My spirits were lifting. I was not so worried anymore.

They were being choked out by the praise!

When you fill up your mind with praise to Him, it tends to crowd everything else out. My circumstances didn’t change, the worries are still there, but God is covering them now with promises from His word. Instead of listening the recording in my head, I listen to what God says. He says: “Don’t worry!” He said it often because He knew we would be a recurring problem for us.

I thought another thing this morning too. During Christmas, I tend to put worry and stress on hold and just focus on Christmas and the wonder and joy of it all. Christmas is for me a timeout from all that, a chance to focus on something else. When it is over I tend to go back to my worrisome ways. But why can’t I adapt a Christmas attitude all year long? Well, God says I can!

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27

Jesus had to walk a lonely road to Calvary for us. Sometimes its the small calvaries in life that get to us. But when we look to Him and keep walking, He will reward us with His hope, His joy, His victory.

If the world is threatening to choke out the Word in your life today, don’t despair. He will come, He will see you through, one step at a time!

photo from my iphone

Christmas behind, Christ Ahead…….

As I begin to pack away the decorations, I am aware of the deeper reality that lies all around me. It was in the service yesterday, as we lifted our hands in worship. The power that cuts through time and eternity. The reality that the Christ whose birth we just celebrated is very much alive. That is the true nature of Christmas. The other is just “stuff.” I was aware of it as I heard the reality of an answered prayer just yesterday as I talked with my Mom on the phone. That is what we can celebrate……and keep celebrating, all year long. Immanuel, God is with us.

This living Christ, who was born, lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and rose from the grave so that we might find redemption, this living Christ is working in my life. He is the reason we can look to the coming year with joy and hope. No matter what the economy does, no matter what the government does, no matter what happens in the life of each and every one who confesses Him as Lord.

Halleluiah. I can put everything away, knowing it is anything but over.

What do you put your trust in today? I pray that it is Him.

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us, He did not intend to.” C.S. Lewis

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8:29 

I am continuing the count today with a vast community of others who know the reality of Him who lives within us today and always……this list of thankfulness for the blessings of this Christmas: Unexpected answer to prayer when we needed it most, the kindness and hospitality of good neighbors and friends, a little excited voice on the phone telling me all about her Christmas, fellowship of other believers, joy despite having to work part of Christmas, freedom to worship in His house, good food, my family who though we are apart, we know we are knit together in His love which keeps us close, His Holy Spirit who helps us and guides us in His truth, being able to bless others with what He has given me……….#574-584

holy experience

Let Heaven and Nature Sing…..

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth. Psalm 19:1-6
Many times I pray on the way to work, but this morning was different. I started out praying but as I prayed I felt like I had to lift my voice, so I did. I cried out for my family, my friends, and then I just lifted my voice in praise to the Lord…….Sometimes a quiet prayer just doesn’t get it. I had my own min-revival there in the car. I thought of all that this season means and all that God has done for me and my spirit collided with His Spirit in one voice……How many times do we raise our voices for other things, a shout-out at a sporting event, a “whoop-whoop” for everything under the sun these days. God deserves it more than anyone.
Our very creation does its own version of a shout-out if we open our eyes long enough to see it.
The animals cry and sing just for the joy of singing…….they sing their own praises to the Lord, for they know who created them!
Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth recieve her King,
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing!

Isaac Watts, 1719
A very Merry Christmas to all…..

Just Believe……

You have everything you need, if you just believe…… “Believe,” from Polar Express
I have never watched Polar Express all the way through until last night. I stayed up longer than I should have just to see the little boy find the bell. I think I watched it partly for my Dad since he has confessed that this is his favorite movie. Even at 82, when he watches it you can see the glimmer of childhood innocence in his eyes. He told me last time I was home that, “I am that boy in the movie……” Dad’s was a childhood of lost and broken dreams with both parents alcoholics. He says that every Christmas started out great and ended up with both parents in a screaming match. He says every year he hoped that it would be different but it never was.
This leaves a permanent scar on a soul; and to his credit, he made our childhood everything his wasn’t. Our Christmases were filled with magic and promise. He made sure that we had all the security he never had. There were two promises he made to us and to himself. There would never be shouting in our home and there wasn’t, and that we would never see him drunk and we never did.  I have wonderful memories of my childhood because of choices my Dad and my Mom made. 
We can choose to build and repair what is broken or leave it behind us and create a new mess. We can also create something good and watch beauty emerge from a pile of rubble. We can also choose to open the windows and let the bad out, and keep it out. God never expects us to hitch our wagon  to someone else’s negativity and darkness and go over the cliff with them.
As I watched last night, through my Dad’s eyes, I imagined some things about how it must have been for him when Grandpa took off when he was five. How scared he probably was. I was remembering how good it was for me as a child. I thought of an ocean of children out there waiting for the Polar Express to show up for them, the adults who were still waiting. As I watched, I rooted for that little boy.
There is something in a child that God loves. Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

God longs to take the lost little child within you into His arms and give you back everything that was stolen from you as a child. He longs to restore you……Even those of us with happy childhoods long to go back to that time when things seemed so simple, when belief was easy and everything was within the realm of possibility.

My Dad’s Mom died young as a result of her drinking, but my Grandfather got married again and quit drinking. He was a part of my life when I was a kid. My Dad had to make another choice to let him back into his life. He saw the benefit of that, and we had some good times together. Sometimes burned bridges can be rebuilt to a certain extent. My Dad and he were never really close, but Grandpa in his later years was a kind man, and he loved us. He took my brother and I to the Elks Lodge every Christmas. I remember the one year I really thought I heard Santa’s Sleigh outside the building.

There is a whole army of people out there that have been brave enough to make something good out of the wreckage of their past. To create wonder for someone else, and magic out of mayhem. To believe that Love is the most powerful thing of all….I was remembering as I slipped into slumber last night. Remembering my own time of magic, when I used to sit by the Christmas tree at night all by myself, lost in wonder.
In the remembering, I felt a tear make its way down the corner of my eye…….
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Fellowship with the King

 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.”
What a great time of prayer I had this morning……..a time of precious communion with the Lord in the quiet hours. I got to watch His dawn once more, filling the sky with color. As I opened the door to see the sunrise, I scared a couple of doves that had settled on the rooftop next door, their whistling wings rustling as they took off. 
He has given me 51 years on this earth and I am grateful, more and more, for every minute He gives me. Each one is an offering to Him. Sometimes I confess the offering is frightfully meager but He accepts them anyway. He has given me a great gift, appreciation for each moment, because each one holds an opportunity to tell others what great things He wants to do for us, and what He has already done….
Thank you Father, for your precious Spirit who lives within me and every one who confesses You as Lord. I don’t deserve such a gift! You didn’t think it was beneath You to come and live in this inadequate imperfect bundle of flesh that is me!
Makes me identify a bit with Mary this morning….

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1