The Halls of Heaven

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God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging……Psalm 46:1-3

Sometimes Jesus sneaks a quiet thought in when you aren’t expecting it. He does that a lot. I always know when they come from Him because they just make so much sense, and most of the time, I don’t have that much. This is the kernel of wisdom He gave me:

I never asked you to do or be everything, I only asked you to follow me.

I have been racing around, trying to learn a new job and run over and do things for my folks which is part of why I came. There hasn’t been much quiet time, but as my other wise friend said, “You have to make the quiet time, it doesn’t come and find you.”

This world has really turned up the noise lately. I am so done with politics. Really, it means so very little. In ten or so years (or maybe one month) we will have forgotten why we got so upset about it all. There are a few things that come with a guarantee in this life. One of them is that as I grow older the halls of Heaven are getting more crowded. This world in my circle is shrinking as it will continue to do until such time as I join them.

A death of a friend will bring that home quicker than anything. We lost a dear friend shortly after we moved here. We passed their house on the way out of town and it haunts us both that we didn’t stop. I first met Ruby when I ran out of Mary Kay, back when we lived in Payson. I called the number because I ran out of Mauve Elegance lipstick. She and her husband Ron lived in a big house at the top of the hill. When she answered the door what struck me were her green eyes and striking smile. Her last name was Green. As was the carpet in their beautiful home.

She became like a surrogate Mom to us both. We were invited to home cooked meals and always laughter, always laughter. She was one of those people who could be working out in the yard without a stitch of makeup, sweat rolling down her face and then disappear in the bathroom for an hour and come out looking like Fifth Avenue. And she loved the Lord. Years would pass sometimes between the time we would see them again, but it never mattered. It was always like old times when we met again.

I miss you Ruby. Our loss is indeed Heaven’s gain.

This world can stomp us into the ground if we let it. Sometimes I just want to shrink myself down until I all but disappear. But the problem with that is, you disappear for those who need you. Who are counting on you. It’s all about balance. Jesus had to retreat to quiet places time and time again.

And so do we. And what a place I have now to do just that. We all have a challenge to keep that spark from blowing out. Each day we have a choice to fan that little spark. I think of when Ruby and I used to sit at the piano, “C’mon and let’s sing!”she used to say. She loved that song, “Pass it on.” She loved the lyrics, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around will warm up to its glowing…..”

This world is increasingly not my home. The time we have down here is precious. No doubt about it, this world is enough to make us rock back on our heels with our hands in our faces, but it can also make our hearts split in two with the joy of it.

Today I opened my devotional with Numbers……..‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

I got a flashback because that’s the verse my Mom used to pray over my niece, Lauryn before she left for school back when she reached down to put her loving hands on her head. Now she would have to reach up……they don’t take her to school anymore, but the prayer is always there, will always be there.

Both down here, and ringing in the Halls of Heaven.

The Lord bless us all. We sure do need it right now.

A future of hope from Isaiah

The Wildness of God

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

God Wants You

You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.

The One True Light...

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

The little lambs that were lost to us this week, are safe in the Good Shepherd’s arms today…….that is how I derive some measure of peace about what happened….please join me in ongoing prayer for the families, especially the parents.

Lori

Photos from google images

Are you ready?

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69

I had just finished reading John chapter 6 during my prayer time a few mornings ago. I closed my eyes as I digested all I had read……this chapter is swirling with action. I needed to reflect for a moment on all I had read. It was just getting light out and I heard a dove calling from a few houses away. My little candle was flickering away silently casting a reflection in the little shop window.

I was surprised by a question that was breathed into my heart…..I had just read that saddest of verses, the one where many of Jesus disciples hit the road. It was another instance where Jesus had just finished confounding people with the truth, and it wasn’t want they wanted to hear.

“Are you ready to be my Disciple?” that was the question I heard.

I sat there conflicted. “Of course I am,” I thought. But then I remembered how many of them ended up.

And what was required. Am I ready to take a plunge off a 500 foot drop? Am I ready to commit the rest of my life to a God who commands the wind and the rain? Who can speak the world into existence? Who is many times unpredictable and scary? Am I ready to go wherever He asks? Wherever He leads?

Then I thought about life itself. If someone would have asked me when I came into this world, knowing what I know now, all I would go through, would I have so been quick to say, “Bring it on?”  I most likely would  have said no, I am not ready. Who is ever ready? 

But do I want to do it anyway, also knowing what I know now? And has it been worth it thus far?

To that I can give a resounding, and emphatical “Yes.”

God, in His great wisdom, chooses to bring us through a bit at a time. He allows some pain for growth, but also baptizes us with joy and wraps us in His love and comfort through His Holy Spirit.

That is where I stand today and rejoice along with the 12, for as Peter so rightly said,  “To where would we go?”

Indeed.

Thank you Lord, for giving me the chance at this wonderful adventure of following you. Everything this world has to offer pales in comparison to what You have to give. Amen

I love you God, but…….

“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God…….Exodus 3:1

“I love you, God…..” But after I said it, I could hear how it sounded to my own ears. What must it have sounded like to God’s? I was weary of myself so I could understand how He could be weary of me. Of my same prayers…….my same requests. I was feeling like a bad actor before a Holy God. And the act of sitting out there felt like a charade this morning.

Here I am Lord, again. Don’t you get tired of me Lord? I would if I were you. It was a prayer, but there was a “but” behind my “I love you” that didn’t belong.

If I knew how Holy the ground was beneath my feet, these Teva sandals would be off my feet in a New York minute. The truth is, sometimes it is just hard to feel the Holy when we are down here on what feels right now like a grubby little planet. The dirt and debris has piled up near the door from yesterday’s dust storm and I stepped through it to make my way to Him, to the place of our morning meeting.

I’m still the same old me. I have not lost the ten pounds I wanted to lose by the trip to California in July and the month is half over. I will shock everyone with the blinding white of my skin when I put on my bathing suit. I also need to dye my roots.

And today my prayers sounded more like exasperated sighs than reverence for you.

I wasn’t feeling it today. But I know better now. I have learned you can’t always trust feelings. I am, however haltingly, learning to trust Him.

I turned where He directed, to the story of Moses. I wanted to read about the bush that God lit with Holy fire and it didn’t burn up. And then God taught this slow learner another lesson. He showed me that Moses was a big bundle of inadequacy and nerves and fear just like me…..

The words were truth…..leaping out through the pages. Moses was just like me. Over and over again, he tried to convince God of all that he wasn’t.

But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” 

God answered, “I will be with you.”

And later on……after God explained all the wondrous signs and miracles He would do, Moses protests once again……“What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?”

Lesson number two came when God told Moses to grab his staff which has now turned into a snake.

Sometimes you have to grab hold of that snake before God produces the miracle.

Moses then proceeds to work on God’s last nerve, and boy don’t I do that every single day?

Yet God is so full of love for Moses that he produces some help in the form of Aaron. Then the tears came and once again my love for God was as real as the flame in that bush. And there was my prayer, and this time it was real…..

And no buts about it.

The Foolish Cross

Cross at Canaan in the Desert, Phoenix Arizona
 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“ I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for [p]signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,  but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

All of our technology and all of our human intellect has done nothing to improve the moral climate of this world. It seems the more educated we are, the worse we mess things up. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for higher learning and education. But lets say we offer up the most brilliant thinkers of all time, even if we could combine them all into one person, we would only be left with one very intelligent person.

If in fact, there is such a thing as intellect and reason, and there is, it follows that there is a source behind it all that is infinitely and vastly superior.

What kind of language would that intelligent being have to use, to bridge the intellectual and moral chasm that lies between us?

Something almost too foolish for us to understand.

Something confounding, something almost too simple to be believed. Something preposterous.

Something like the cross.

Something that really messes with our intellectual pride. Picture a human being going to live in the ant world. And God would have to shrink Himself down much further than that……

He would have to make Himself look like Jesus did. Totally non-threatening. Gentle as a lamb, but with all the power of the universe at His disposal. Able to tell a raging storm to pipe down. Able to command death itself to go back where it came from and bring Lazarus out of the tomb alive.

And able to raise Himself from the dead, in order that we could be raised too.

God has proven that there is nothing He won’t do to make Himself accessible to you.

He loves you that much.

Remembering…….

It is close of day……..Maundy Thursday evening. The evening He gathered with His friends for the last time. Work is done and the events of the day settle around me…floating down like dust moats in my mind. Every Easter week that comes around I wish once again that I had it off…..not just Sunday, the whole week.

I look up services on Maundy Thursday and I lament the days gone by, where businesses really did close on Good Friday. It seemed right and it felt good to live in such a world, such a town, such a time that did this. Things seem different now. People rush around as if they don’t know what day it is, and sometimes I get caught right along with them, stupified about what I thought I needed at Walgreens.

But as I work all the way up to Sunday, I will exchange the upper room for some quiet moments in my prayer closet, and tomorrow, that darkest of days,  I will take a quiet walk on my break and thank Him again for doing such a monumental thing for this world. For me. For you.

I wonder how in the world He thought we were worth it, but I am so glad He thought we were.

I will wish for clouds to cover the sun tomorrow because that seems right too.  But this is Arizona after all, and the sun will most likely be shining brightly overhead. And that will be right too, somehow. Events will unfold and we will be distracted as we go from one thing to another.

More than likely we won’t have enough time to reflect on what it all means. We are in the thick of life, work, kids, traffic, deadlines and bills. But this is what really matters. That in those moments when we pause and thank Him, we will feel Him close. We carry our upper room right along with us and He is there. Right there in the midst of us.

Tomorrow I will carry Him with me, and He will carry me mostly.

In my moments of remembering, I will picture the silhouette of a lonely cross against a stormy sky and a earth that quaked in revolt at such an impossible event……..the creator and Lord of the universe on that same lonely cross. And a small band of very sad followers at the foot of it.

And John pulling Mary close as Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son…..”

In every thing I have to do, in between all those things, in between my every breath, every step…..He will be there with me. And I will rejoice because the reality of Easter is this,

He lives!

Childlike Faith

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Mark 10:12,13
When Jesus heard the disciples rebuke those parents, He in turn rebuked them. He really upset about it, in fact. I like coming back to this picture of Jesus again and again, because it is clear how much He valued the childlike faith of children.
Why is it so easy for children to believe…..to have faith in something they can’t see? Not only do they have the faith, they act on it. It is no problem for them to grasp the concept of knowing in order for something to really work, they have to put it into practice. They leave money under the pillow for the tooth fairy…..and lo and behold, the money is there when they wake up. It doesn’t really matter to them how it works, they just take it in faith that it will because their parents told them it will.
And somehow it happens just that way. That is, until they find out it was their parents all along hiding the money under the pillow and putting the cookies out for Santa.  
We forget what was once so easy…..so natural. We get too smart to put our faith in something we can’t see. Like God. But the problem is that God says that unless we do just that, we will never see Him. We will never enter His kingdom…..
So we spend the rest of our Christian walk trying to get back to that place of faith.
I miss my childlike faith. I too have cashed in on the world system. Let’s face it, it’s easier. I go to work, I get paid. I buy what I need. I get sick, I go to the doctor. Then if I don’t get better I pray.
It’s a process of going back, all our lives. Of letting go, unclenching our fists to give back to God what was His all along. I miss my childlike faith.
My Mom tells me that when I was first saved at aged 14, I was the one who really gave her the faith to give when she didn’t have it. I remember praying together for a refrigerator when ours went out. My Mom had no idea where the money would come from. There was certainly not enough for one of those. Then, God answered our prayer of faith by supplying one that was almost new…..for 25 dollars!
I remember that refrigerator lasted for years and years.
I love to watch my niece at the beach. It is no problem for her to believe she can build a castle fit for a queen out of water and sand. The water washes it away and she starts all over again……
She has faith that whatever she believes can happen.
Lord, give me that kind again.

A Free Gift

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8,9
News leaves me cold these days. We are, all of us, inundated with information…..most of it useless. How did we get to be a society, a people, so influenced by culture and what it says. I don’t care about any of it so I scan over the headlines as quickly as I can. It makes me weary, nothing changes, only the faces of the latest celebrity of the minute, the hour, the week.  
I skim past them, glancing at headlines, stopping every now and again as I shiver at the violence, destruction, loss that is now part of our normal. At what shouldn’t be, but is.
I stay just long enough to know what is going on in the world. And I am reminded of one thing:
 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9
But faith is one thing that never gets old. It gets renewed again and again. Increases in power, with constant use. It is stretched but never can be broken beyond repair. It stays gleaming and shiny new as that moment when we first grabbed onto it. Whether it was out of desperation or hope as slim as a spider’s thread……it was real.
The other day in a book I was reading one of the characters said, “I just can’t believe, I don’t have that gift of faith.” That is when I remembered again what a gift it really is. To believe. To have faith in what we can’t see.
It is something we could never do on our own…..for even the act of believing comes from God Himself. Otherwise we could never do it. But He holds it out to us each day. And I believe, I really believe that though He will never force it on us, He holds out hope that we will accept it.
And I don’t believe it is too late until we take that last breath.
Thank you Father for such a wonderful gift. 

The LORD is my light and my salvation;Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 21:1

 
Sometimes when words are few…..
A few pictures say some things in a different way……

A stroll around back can give a different perspective…..
A look above can make the heart sigh……
when words are few.
Lately I have found words difficult. They are all swirling around inside me but none will come out the right way. Be still, says the Lord…..And wait on Him. So until He brings the words, waiting is what I am doing.
Maybe we can wait together?
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalm 27:13,14

He is more than enough

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I got home the other night and she was outside on the patio. My best friend of the endless positive attitude…the natural born fixer, the supervisor and mediator of people and situations, cannot fix her Mom. There is no fix for Alzheimer’s…..yet. The look on her face said it all. She was done….spent. Finished. “She drove me nuts today,” she said. “I prayed all day and it didn’t work.” I said, “Yes it did, she is still alive and so are you.” Sometimes it is all you can do to get through the day with your mind and body intact.
Everything she tried to do for her Mom ended in complete and utter frustration.
A woman who used to scream at them for getting in the kitchen while she was cooking, now stands in the middle of the kitchen as her daughter cooks, staring a hole through her. It is disconcerting to say the least.
And then the endless pacing….up and down, back and forth. In her squeaky shoes. Suggestions are met with hostility and you never know when…..It is like walking in two worlds. The regular world and the Alzheimer’s world. Applying the normal rules doesn’t work in an abnormal world.
Harder still, is when you have no good memory bank to pull from because your Mom was never emotionally available to you or for you……never nurturing. What do you do when your own supply of love and devotion is not enough, and when you feel like the sun has gone down and taken every scrap of your strength with it?
When the last thing you want is another thing you have to do.
You rest in the knowledge that
you know…… that you know…… that you know
He is more than enough
His love takes over when ours runs out
He will never, ever ignore His child who prays
Know that the power that raised Him from the grave is enough to raise you…….Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20