Redeeming the Time

 

image

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

The Thrill of Hope

img_0982.jpg

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.

The Still Small Voice

 

14142061_10206911059236978_5951114380666405910_nIs anxiety threatening to run over you like a steam roller today?  Don’t claim it. I prayed this morning for Jesus to take “my anxiety” but then I realized that I was using the wrong words. It’s not “my anxiety.” Anxiety doesn’t belong to you or me. That is not to say we don’t feel it, some of us more than others. The truth is, there are many things in the world today that cause us our stomachs to churn. Just turning on the news does it for me. Some days it seems all we can do to keep tamping it down. I used to feel it as soon as I got on the freeway in the mornings, the hum.

Going, doing, being. It sometimes gets overwhelming. But the still small voice of Jesus reminded me today that He never asked me to do or be everything. He only asked me to follow Him.

One step at a time.

When I think of all the events that have transpired just the past 5 months along, I am staggered by the fact that He brought us through it all.

Retirement. Big Anxiety.

A move to another State. More anxiety.

Getting my Mom through two surgeries and recovery.

Dealing with terrible movers.

The loss of my fur baby before we moved.

And then it seemed like everything was too much and all my words stopped flowing. Who can figure it out? When I lived in the desert, the words seemed to flow effortlessly, then I move on the banks of a beautiful river and my words seemed to flow out along with the tide. But sometimes it’s okay to be still.

And that is what I have done.

I am not the same girl who left this town many years ago. I have done tremendous things with God’s help. And in many ways I am the same, but I have also grown.

No, it’s not my anxiety. And it’s not yours either.

I am taking a step with Jesus today. Together we will walk on water. This is where I am meant to be.

 

Choosing life again and again

It’s been three days and at night I can still hear, “Move your arms like Henry….” and “Dorothy, Dorothy…..would you like to dance with me.” And that’s okay because at 13 she still loves the Wiggles. I love that they are not afraid to include “Away in a Manger” and call it Christmas. She has a mad crush on Murray Wiggle who she says is her boyfriend. He might be a Grandpa by now in real life and no longer on the show, but she doesn’t know and I would never tell her. I want to cry when I hear the songs because I miss her.

We got to celebrate my Mom’s 87th Birthday wearing clown noses during the Birthday song and lit a cake made from scratch by a dear friend who whispered “Do you think she would mind the Dinosaurs on it?” I said no, she’d love it. She did.

We also got to attend church, Mom and Dad and my brother and I on Palm Sunday, something we hadn’t done together in a long while. That was a blessing.

As with every family visit, there are people left out and things that go awry. Some things don’t go as planned. Mom’s heartbeat was erratic and she was not feeling well some of the time. Dad’s knee was flaring up and I went with him to the Doctor to get a shot and it was better by the end of the week.

There was talk of a “last trip” here or there. They talked too much like the best of their life is over and at 86 and 87 I guess that’s normal but I’m not ready to lose them. There was a moment when my Dad and I walked into Barnes and Noble together where it felt like old times and I wanted to sit there in that moment for a while.

Earlier today in the laundry room, I folded the gloves I took to the snow. I remembered her laughter as she threw snowballs at me and at her Dad. And I remembered my Dad and I, wedged in the backseat started laughing at my seatbelt that was stuck. That was like old times too. We always got in trouble in church for laughing. It strikes me that laughter is one of the things that has kept us all from losing our sanity over deaths and goodbyes and sickness and aging and everything in between. Laughter is one of the things in this life that will follow us to the next, thankfully.

As I write this, I hear it come down just now. The thing I was praying for this morning when I saw the cloudy skies. Just a little sprinkle, I said. Just a little pitter-patter on the roof. And now I have it. Healing for me, rain is. It says that God is still in control, He still cares enough to water the earth and so I have renewed assurance He still cares for us all.

Each day gives us a choice. At every turn in this life there are moments that breathe life and moments that have the foul smell of death. They reside side by side like the wheat and the tares. Each day there are moments bursting with life and moments that threaten to choke it right out of us.

The Bible says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” I want to continue to choose life.

I also want to choose love. “Help me Lord to try to see beyond what’s on the surface. Help me to see people how You see them so I can love them better.”

People (and life) will try to steal our joy, but the joy God gives us is eternal and comes from somewhere deeper and older than we know or understand. It was there before all things were set in the act of creation. That joy is real and it’s our gift at redemption. He gives us back what was always meant for us in the first place.

Thank you God for the brief time at the beach. When I am there somehow I get the assurance that things will be okay. They really will.

 

 

Heart is where the Home is…….

IMG_5593

I flew in last night from spending a wonderful weekend at my cousin and his wife’s beautiful home in Sonoma, the heart of the wine country. The scenery was breathtaking, just as I remembered it when I was there too long ago at their wedding. More than that it was the faces I hadn’t seen, the greetings, the laughter, the joy of surprising everyone by showing up unexpectedly. The look on the faces of my family as they got out of the car and saw me were worth any amount to get there.

As wonderful as it all was, it was tiring. After the planes, shuttles, and rental cars it’s always good to get home. I have always thought being homeless would be the worst, having no place to belong, no place to get out of the storm, no place to call your own.

Scripture has much to say about home. Jesus had no physical dwelling place on this earth. About Himself he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” He knew His true home was Heaven, and so do we, if we belong to Him.

As I was meditating on the whole concept of home this morning at 2:30 AM when I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking that as believers, we carry “Home” around in the form of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us. And since Heaven is our real permanent home, and Jesus continually said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, right here and now, then it logically follows that our “real” home can never be snatched away. It’s here, it’s there it’s everywhere, kind of like the Beatles song of the same name. (Look it up those of you under 50)

As wonderful as it is to have a physical home right here and now, I know that if I lost it today it would be nothing compared to not having that home that never leaves me. there are few promises in Scripture better than the one that says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

Our future home in Heaven is more real than you can imagine. It’s not a figurative idea, it is a concrete place where nothing ever dies or rusts or wears out. While we are bound to this earth,  we are severely limited in what we can see and touch and feel. Our hope is in that better place. And yet Jesus said in many different ways, don’t just wander around dreaming of Heaven, but instead store up treasure there by helping those in need here. Look for opportunities to show God’s great love for humanity by being a conduit for His love yourself.

I guess you could say, we are all like the prodigal son who finally came to his senses and went back home. As wonderful as this world was to him at first, sooner or later it chewed him up and spit him out. He knew where he had to go. To His father’s waiting arms.

And while he expected to be treated like a servant, His Father ended up treating him like a prince. Listen to what the Bible says about how our Heavenly Father views us, friends:

“So he got up and went to His Father, “But while He was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Kind of like the greeting I got from my family as they saw me and gasped and then held out their arms open wide.

That kind of love is our real home. That’s the kind of love the Father’s has for us, and all we have to do is turn to Him and receive Him. That’s our hope. No matter how wonderful this world is, we have a better one coming.

You might feel like you are a long way off from God right now. Maybe it’s been years since you darkened the door of a church. Maybe you never have. But all it involves is one small step toward him, and like the father gazing out the window looking for his son (or daughter) He’s waiting.

IMG_5599

Photos from the home and property of John and Jean Painter………I sincerely hope they don’t mind.

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……….

Unwrapping Christmas

Lodi lake

Each year at Christmastime we exchange things………..gifts. Excitement builds as we eagerly present them to those we love in anticipation of their joy in receiving what we have so carefully and thoughtfully chosen.

Just for them.

But I believe, the real unwrapping doesn’t end, until every last memory is opened and reopened once again.

Those that memory leaves behind are what we take out through the years and cherish. Long after each purchased gift is worn out. So today, in the quiet of year’s end. This is what I do. As these I hold dear take their own gifts out as we all hold them up to the Light.

A walk by the lake with my Dad. Enjoying the nature and the snap of morning’s cold. Talking about this flower another walker guided us to…….and the detail hidden within, and about the God who loves detail, even in a little flower. We never would have found it hidden along the fence from our path. We were turned away at the gate because the nature trail was closed that day. But we found nature anyway, because we were looking.

Lodi Lake 3

All these moments held in the grip of eternity. To be shared by each other, and the Lord. Each and every one I count as jewels……..and as we walked along, it looked like others wanted to do the same. A little table arrangement left behind for someone else to find…….we are all creators.

Lodi Lake 4

Just like our Father…..

This year, as I unwrap Christmas again.

Count some more memories with me won’t you? And then add your own…………

Last year the baby Jesus flickered and went out, and this year the whole scene went dark, so Mom and Dad let one of Lauryn’s spare dolls stand in for Jesus and put a spotlight on the whole scene. My Mom said it was more beautiful than ever.

Everyone I hold most dear together on Christmas Eve, that was my best gift.

Playing rounds of Candy Land with Lauryn and seeing her so excited to see me.

Elaine, Heather and Me at breakfast at Denny’s Christmas morning before we all went our separate ways for the week.

My brother and I baking in the kitchen for the first time ever.

Mom and I bunking together and giggling like teenagers before we went to sleep, then later hearing her whispered prayers when she couldn’t sleep. I heard her say, “Jesus” about 10 times.

The road trip from Arizona to California, where Elaine and I talked all the way and didn’t miss any turns.

And this one is bittersweet, Elaine’s Mom last road trip before she goes into a care home.

The last is what I will hold onto for the coming year…….Mom combining both of her Nativity’s together on the coffee table like one big happy family. And of those, one lamb had a broken leg and one had a missing ear, but they were both still standing. And like those sheep, we all come to Jesus with all of our baggage and missing limbs dragging behind.

We bring them to the stable, and He heals every wound, every heartache, wipes every tear.

Every Christmas brings its own unique challenges and this year was no exception, yet when we have Jesus, we have everything.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Hopeful New Year from my Prayercloset to yours!

Nativity missing leg 2