Happy Dust Day

Dogwood 2

It’s Ash Wednesday which is the starting of Lent, the day we remember we are eventually all going the way of “dust in the wind” (to paraphrase an old Kansas song). It’s also Valentine’s Day, the day of love. It seems at first glance that those two things are at odds with each other. As I sit here watching a blue jay drink from the fountain and color fill the sky, I think of God’s great love. How at the dawn of Creation He was thinking of me, of all of us.

God is the sustainer of all things, our breath, our life and yes even our death. He was there at the first and He will be there to catch our soul when we breathe our last on this earth. Only one small curtain between this life and our reclaimed life with Him forever.

For those of us who are aging, the dust part is easy to believe. We get ready to face the day and we notice more lines, it’s a little harder to cover the wrinkles, the discoloration. I find myself lingering at the Spanx aisle. Gravity has started take its inevitable toll on my body. I have to work all that much harder at the gym. Beating back the effects of time gets so tiring.

Sometimes it’s a relief to wipe everything off at the end of the day, throw the bra in the corner, or if you’re a guy at the office, take off the suit and tie. Coming home is where we can take all the junk off and be real. Or it should be.

All too soon this day will start. Maybe for you it already has. As I write this the train roars through town and it reminds me of my mind, already racing ahead and clouded over with what I have to do later. But one thing will remain. God loved me first, loves me still. And He wants us to pass that love on.

Even if you don’t have a sweetheart today, you can still give gifts. Drop someone a card that least expects it. Stop by your local shelter with an armload of blankets for the animals. Call a shut in. Maybe just smile more.

Thank God for loving you first and last.

Today I used the picture of the Dogwood flower to illustrate Jesus love. You can read about it here.

May peace be yours today.



No time to say goodbye


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.


Lent Day 19: I could never capture it all……

San Angelo

How can I ever capture what today was? It was joy, tears, memories, laughter and stories all wrapped up in a wonderful day that I can’t fully capture here. Bobby and I took a walk along the Concho River this morning that runs by the Hotel and got a little snatch of nature while listening to the birds. Elaine, Bobby (Elaine’s brother) and I picked up their cousin Gerry…..after that the laughter just kind of continued throughout the day. I won’t even try to explain it. I don’t think I could fully do it justice, maybe someday I will try for now I am simply played out.

We did end up visiting Mt. Carmel Hermitage Monastery and also Our Lady of Grace Monastery, both courtesy of Gerry Dupree. The day started with own ceremony of bringing Vernon Curtis Dupree back to his homeland and beloved Texas which he loved. It was a privilege to be able to take part in this journey and final stop for him until that final Resurrection Day of the Lord which is our hope.

All in all, it was a day that will live in all of our memories because it was full of some of the very best this life has to offer, a few tears, many memories and much more laughter to hold it all together.

My words are few tonight, I am still full of voices and stories that are far too colorful for me to capture here…………but I leave you with a few words from the vestibule at Our Lady of Grace Monastery:

God of Love, through this Lenten journey, purify my desires to serve you. Free me from an temptations to judge others, to place myself above others. Please let me surrender even my impatience with others, that with your love and your grace, I might be less and less absorbed with myself, and more and more full of the desire to follow you. in laying down my life according to Your purpose.

And thank you Lord, for the dear lady who came graciously out when she saw our car and let me in to see the beautiful church……I felt an immediate kinship.

Thank you Bobby (who walked the stations of the cross with me) and Elaine who drove us miles to get there, and to Gerry for showing us these treasures. I love you all……….

The veil has holes

My walk in the woods

Last night was a very strange night. I cried almost all the way home and didn’t know why. I had a sense of foreboding I couldn’t shake. This school shooting has weighed heavy on my soul. Just too much heartache there for one incident. Too much sorrow for one town to carry. So I thought it was maybe that.

Then I thought about Elaine’s folks. I remembered the times when they were healthier and they would go to church with us. I still remember the day we almost dropped our teeth when her Dad unfolded his wallet and put money in the plate. We have both heard them say many times that “churches are only after your money.” Her Mom was even talking Baptism.

I asked God how it is that somebody can get so close to seeing a better way of life and turning away. To stepping all the way up to the river of life and then turning back around….leaving thirsty. 

Then I remembered how many times I had done just that.

When I came through the door Elaine was teary-eyed as well. “I think Mom’s having a heart attack…..what should I do?” She has been through this with her Mom already years ago. And she knew what to do, she just needed someone else to help her carry the load.

“Nothing,” I said….we do nothing because that’s what she said she wanted.

Her Mom’s own words were: “I don’t want to be cut on anymore.” And I can see why. She has been through cancer twice, including a mastectomy, chemo and radiation, 2 heart attacks, and a triple bypass. As a nurse, she diagnosed herself with Alzheimer’s around 10 years ago.

She is done with treatments. And hospitals.

But when you are the one standing there with life and death hanging in the balance, it’s not that easy. Our first instinct is always to do something. But sometimes the right choice is to let nature and God choose. Giving someone what they have chosen is the hardest thing to do because it’s right.

The reason Elaine knew that there was really something wrong was because her Mom didn’t fight her on anything getting ready for bed, and lately that has been the norm.

She went on to tell me that both cats acted strangely all evening. As if they knew something was wrong. Briggs wouldn’t let her Mom alone, he kept following her to her room and jumping on the bed. She finally had to close the door.

So we watched TV and prayed. Elaine had asked her Mom if when the time came, that she would ask God to take her soul. Her Mom said yes. There was no need for a big theological discussion. She knows where salvation comes from, she was raised on it.

And all the while, I remembered how last Christmas was spent in the hospital with her Mom, alone…and I vowed it would never happen again.

Today when I called at lunch she said they were at Subway and her Mom was eating and felt okay, with no recollection of ever feeling bad.

And today, I am feeling how just thin that veil between life and death can be.  Any one of us could be instantly on the other side, and not necessarily who you might expect.

The most important thing I may never tell you

To everyone I care about and even those I don’t know or love:

I want you to go. To Heaven that is. And no matter what you may have been taught or believe. It exists……..and believe me, you will very much want to go there. You will not come back here again as something else, this is your one chance.

Behind every moment eternity rests. Eternity awaits…….

I am telling you this because I care. And as I was praying this morning, and thanking God for the assurance that I am going there, as will most of the people I love, I thought of you. And I knew that right now if something happened, you wouldn’t.

And more than anything else? I want you to understand that it is not for anything I have done that I go to that wonderful place, that place of unapproachable light, but only for what Jesus did.

For me…..For you.

And that other place? You really don’t want to go there. No comfort from friends waits for you there. There is only the absence of everything good, everything you ever loved. And forever is a very long time to gamble on. I hate writing this……hate to think that people are dying right now and will miss out on something eternally good, because no one told them.

Because they ignored the voice that spoke in the quiet.

Day after day.

Because they never got a letter like this.

Please know, that it doesn’t have to be. You have an incredible opportunity to be with the God who created you for all eternity. He wants you with Him…….

And no, we won’t be floating around on clouds playing harps. It will be as real a place as you can possible imagine. In fact, the Bible says we don’t even have the capacity to know just how good it will be, only that it will exceed our wildest imaginations.

That light that you see every morning and every evening? Those planets? Those were set there just so. As reminders of where we come from and where we are going back to someday.

And it may be very soon. The tragedy is that you will never see this letter. It will most likely remain right here, because you see, I don’t want to offend you. The truth is, I would rather see you go to hell than offend you, because I really like you……

I just don’t love you enough.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8, proof that He loves you.
Still counting the gifts, every day, every Monday too……

The race worth running

I sometimes think of her when I see a little girl of four or five. She was my Grandma and Grandpa’s first child. I have her name in between my own first and last, and maybe that’s why I wonder after so many years, who and what she would have become.

That day must have started out like any other. Rising early, they would have had their chores. My Grandmother had given Annie a task, to put the wood on the stove and dry it out. Annie forgot about it, as a five year old will and Grandma had scolded her. After that she went outside to play with the little boy, a foster child they had taken in.

And propped up against the building was the shotgun my Grandfather had left out. Back in those days you needed guns handy then, kept loaded for coyotes, wolves…..predators that would attack your cows, horses, chickens.

The boy picked it up meaning no harm, they just were playing after all. And he was so young himself, he couldn’t have known what he was doing. He pointed, and the gun went off, hitting Annie in the stomach and I can’t even think of what my Grandfather thought as the shot rang out. I can scarely imagine the horror of what they found.

Back then, there were no ambulances, no 911, no cell phones, no help.

My Grandmother, held her as she suffered and died. And my Grandfather, grief stricken, went after the boy and couldn’t find him. And oh how he must have suffered a lifetime of guilt after that, for leaving that gun out. I am not sure my Grandmother ever forgave him.

He died when he was only 64, of stomach cancer when I was only two. He loved me, I know this for sure. He called me his “Blonden Engel,” that’s blonde-haired angel in German and I hope that when he looked in my eyes, he saw a bit of her. I hope that I eased his pain just a little bit, this good and Godly man who always asked strangers if they knew the Lord.

And I think of my Grandmother, and how she must have felt holding her little girl and knowing there was nothing at all she could do to save her. And of the guilt she must have felt the rest of her life for scolding her that day. And I wonder about that poor boy who fled. How his life turned out……he was never found or heard from again to my knowledge.

I think of the current battle over gun ownership and gun control, and how passing laws and restricting gun ownership will never keep accidents from happening, or madmen from going on shooting sprees. The criminals will still have them.

And in the final analysis, it’s not guns or gun control that will ever save us, it’s Jesus.

Always Jesus. And no matter how hard or crazy things get in this world? He assures me it’s worth it. Because of Annie, because of my Grandpa, because of so many others.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1

What He said

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37

I had a rough start this morning. I was feeling under the weather, but I successfully made it out the door. I have one more day and then I get on a plane to go see friends and family and one little girl who has been very excited that I am coming. Every day for a month she has been asking…..”Lori come today?”  It is somewhat bittersweet……it is hard to leave when I know how difficult it will be without me here. But I have a very gracious friend, and she knows how important it is for me to be there too.

I gave out a relieved sigh as I got in the car and buckled in. I slid the CD into the player, the one I picked somewhat blindly since I didn’t have my glasses on. As the notes filled the car I felt the beauty played by Phil Keaggy flow through my soul. Healing…..incredible, the power that music has to heal.

As I watched the light fill the sky and turn it every different shade of violet, I remembered what I heard last night from Ellen Johnson, president of the American Atheists,  as interviewed by Barbara Walters.

“Heaven doesn’t exist, hell doesn’t exist. We weren’t alive before we were born and we’re not going to exist after we die. I’m not happy about the fact that that’s the end of life, but I can accept that and make my life more fulfilling now, because this is the only chance I have,” she tells Walters.

No, I thought, I don’t accept it, absolutely not.  And everything I see and hear and feel around me tells me otherwise. This is the tip of the iceberg, my friends. And to me, this morning, Heaven felt more real than anything else. And besides, as Elaine said, if we are wrong, then we have simply lived a good life, but if she is wrong……I said, “Yeah, it’s gonna be a very long eternity.”

I have seen people die with Christ, and I have seen people die without Him, and I can tell you this for sure. The ones with Christ have the lights of Heaven reflected in their eyes when they go, I have seen it myself.

I believe the proof I see all around me, and I take Jesus at His word that Heaven is very real indeed. When people ask me what I believe about Heaven, all I need to do is point to Jesus and say…”What He said.”

This is only the beginning.
“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,”What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:7-9