Love letter to Jesus

 

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We love because He first loved us…….1 John 4:19

I thought of all these different titles for this post and none was right. Because this really is a love letter to Jesus. I am speaking to Him now out of the gratitude and the knowledge that He has not forgotten His daughter and never will. Never has.

Dear precious Lord:

Forgive me for forgetting at times how much you really love me. This morning I sat as my David Nevue spun peace into the morning, in the quiet. I wondered how it is that it’s become harder for me to pray. Could be I am just trying too hard? Sometimes all it takes is some remembering. Or maybe I just need to sit and listen. 

I read the story of the prodigal son and I watched some of the Jesus Film project where you walked by the Sea of Galilee and called your disciples and saw your face light up as you called Simon and Nathaniel, John and all the rest, and I remembered that you called me too.

And like Nathaniel, you saw me under all the fig trees of my life. Isn’t that what we all really need? To know that we are seen and known by a God who loves us. Nothing I really worry about in this life will amount to a hill of beans in eternity. All that will matter is how I loved. And how you love me. Through every day, every joy and deepest heartache and mistake of my life, you’ve seen me and you still love me: 

I heard John the Baptist quoting Isaiah saying, “Make straight a highway in the desert for our God”…..And I thought of my own time in the desert. That verse always makes me cry because I have stood where only cactus grew and felt the scorching heat and I have imagined I heard that lone voice……You are no less a Presence here. Like the Israelites in the desert, your Holy Spirit goes wherever I go. I may not always feel you the way I think I should, but I know you are here. The same Presence that has lifted David soul out of the mire has delivered mine more times that I can count. 

Thank you for the assurance of knowing that every little thing that concerns me concerns You too. Sometimes I forget. I guess what I am trying to tell you is that all I really need to do is fall in love with you all over again, every day. And by that I don’t mean in a husband way like some of those praise songs say, because you are God after all. 

The thing is, You still have the cure for whatever ails us. You are still the Healer. Thank you for giving strength to my weary bones and filling all the hurting places with your gentle Presence. Help me to do what is in my power to love my neighbor but also remember that with that comes the first part of the command, to love myself as well.

Love always, your girl down here.

Redeeming the Time

 

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“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.

 

Looking Up in 2017

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Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self-pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to Heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus you are lightened. Heaviness is not of My Kingdom. Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

As Jesus and His disciples were walking by the temple one day, one of them remarked on how beautiful it was. I can see Jesus glancing at it, maybe nodding in agreement, then saying (Message version) “All this you’re admiring so much–the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.” Then He goes on to explain just how bad things will get before He comes back and sets everything to rights. At first glance that might seem like a real joy-killer, but then He says at the end of Luke 21, “Look up, for your redemption draws near.”

It’s easy to despair looking at the events of the world around us. And I’m only thinking of the things that happened this past week! It’s easy to forget how to look at the world through the lens of  wonder, filtering out all the anxiety and dread about what will happen next. But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to buck up, or think beautiful thoughts. He points us to Himself. He is our ultimate hope and the hope of the world.

Sometimes He reminds us of this in the simplest of ways. The other morning I took a walk down by the river and the neighbor cat decided to tag along. I watched as she sprang ahead, leaping with a wild joy as she chased blowing leaves. She high-stepped it, and shaking her feet at the wet grass she almost tripped me by running across my feet. I have to admit, I got caught up in her playfulness.

Why do we humans complicate everything so much? Why do we eat ourselves up with worry? On Friday night I lamented that I was worried about finding a new stop on my route. My wise friend said, “You’re not driving it today.” Then I said something else and she repeated, “You’re not driving it tomorrow either, or Sunday.” I was robbing my moments of peace which I do repeatedly.

As I continued my walk, camera in hand, I got several cute shots of the cat comedienne. I laughed and caught the wonder again through my camera lens. I looked up at the sky peeking through the trees. I need to do more of this, I thought. I walked back up and then smiled all over again when I downloaded the pictures to the computer.

This quote by Frederick Buechner kind of sums up my thoughts today:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and the pain of it, no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

I plan on re-doubling my efforts to keep looking up during the course of the coming year. I plan to remember how to live in wonder at the world around me, and letting Jesus be my filter. I will fail sometimes, of that I have no doubt. But sometimes I will succeed.

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.

Going Deep

 

Let your light so shine....

Usually that refers to a football move, but each Advent that rolls around I think of it. When everything starts to turn crazy and drivers honk and jockey for parking spaces and people turn ungracious my thought is to “go deeper.” Jesus was born into a world filled with pushing and shoving and strife. He was also born into a world with a deep chasm between the ruling Superpowers in Rome and the common people just trying to get by.

Yesterday morning I sat huddled with my first cup of coffee, and gazed blearily at my phone for a connection, a signal of life out there. The little candle flickered from where it sat on the Motor-home console (we call it the fireplace).

Lately I have been feeling like part of my creative soul has been snuffed out. The words that used to flow freely have fled and I have missed them. Earlier I had fallen asleep and dreamed of buried things. I awoke feeling smothered.

As I rested there in the pre-dawn hour, I heard a ping from my phone and saw a friends post and as I read the words, tears came along with them. You can read it here.

Do you ever feel as if God answers prayer through someone else’s words? I felt as if someone had just leaned toward me in church, holding out their advent candle to light mine.

I wasn’t happy about the sorrow in his message, but I did identify with it. No, it was the hope he held out. The light that came along with it. His words reached across several states and touched a chord in me. “He feels it too.” And just at the precise moment I needed to hear it. Jesus said that only an adulterous generation needs a sign, but He also knew a sign was necessary. “Behold, a virgin will conceive…….”

This to me is the hope of Advent. That somewhere in the cloisters of our hearts there is the reality of deep peace. That is the reason Jesus came. Reconciliation and the promise of peace. The Holy Spirit resides in each of us as believers, but I believe it is possible to stifle Him with the residual refuse in our minds and hearts.

Advent is cutting through all that and clinging to the miracle. Throw the trash out! Lay it at the curb, better yet the cross! God is doing a work in each one of us. He has taught me this year that prayer is not the prescription that insures circumstances in my day will all fall together perfectly. In fact, sometimes the days where I have prayed most earnestly I have had the worst days on record.

The more important thing is that prayer has a bigger effect on the long term. It goes beyond the surface where we can’t always see, digging trenches in our hearts that change us for eternity. God doesn’t wait around to answer our prayer so that events conspire to work out for our benefit, but rather, He hears our every prayer even before we pray it. Even the ones as small as a breath.

When Jesus came, He was the universal “I understand and hear you” answer for all time, for all of us. He came almost unnoticed into this world yet Heaven couldn’t keep from a birth accouncement puncuated by miracles. This Christmas I pray we can set aside the stress and clamor of the world in the quiet moments and remember the miracle.

Let every heart prepare Him room, for He made room for us.

“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26,27

God in the Silence

 
 
 
 
Sometimes everything quiets down and we step out into the freshly laundered world, gingerly so as not to break the silence because we know it’s sacred……
 
Sometimes, we get the grace to see everything as new as when it was first created.
And in that sacred silence that is part of the eternal, we feel the pulse of life.
 
He gives us the same wonder He feels.
 
Heaven and earth meet, and it is peace.
 
God lifts the veil.
 
 
The woods are lovely, dark and deep and I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep……Robert Frost
 
Photos by Carolyn Fulton
 

Remembering the bread

In the midst of my “not so good” day, I saw when I opened my lunch.
And I remembered……
Yesterday didn’t start out so good. Shortly after I got to work, my supervisor came up and questioned me about “an incident.”
It seems there is one who has it out for us and this morning she left another nugget behind. It was a treasure she mined from somewhere, and then sent it out to her OM and ours. She wanted to share the wealth. We launched our own investigation and could find nothing out of the ordinary.
No doubt about it, sometimes the stress at work can be toxic. In every area I hear the same thing:
“So and so won’t do their job so I can’t take a break”
“So and so made me feel like an idiot last time she trained me”
“So and so wouldn’t even answer my phone, while I ran downstairs to get some food”
In every case, the complaints are valid and true. I know the people in question.
At certain workstations you can almost feel the tension crackling in the air, and yesterday, after “the episode” I was on edge. 
I have heard that the lady in question does this wherever she goes. We have notes left at our station. Nasty grams I call them. I haven’t had to deal with a personality quite like her before at work, so this is new to me, but I am determined to win her over.
I feel sad that someone is that determined to catch others in the wrong. Makes me wonder what she is hiding. Or what is missing in her life that she feels the need to do this. I am determined to be a peace maker in this situation.
And then I worried all day about my car. Something is wrong and it may be major. And I didn’t know whether it was still under warranty. Big dollar signs if it’s not.
I go downstairs and see the huddled masses crouched over their lunches, talking, eating…..some in meetings, some catching a break before they go back to work. All of them treasured by God, every last one. I am thinking of getting out of this crowd…….sitting in my warm quiet car sounds so good.
It is when I am unwrapping my sandwich that I see it. And suddenly just for that moment, God breaks through. I see the homemade bread and it conjures a sweet and precious memory. I think of the first time we made it together this year. Elaine had never made bread from scratch.
Oh how she laughed at me, getting all involved in the dough. Memories washed over me, of my Grandma in the kitchen. Of walking in and seeing every size and shape of dough creation piled on the counter. I thought of crisp fall days and bread just out of the oven.
She watched me knead…….”You gotta feel this,” I said. And as I felt that familiar texture when it’s still a little sticky but it’s just the right kind of elastic, I said….”Yeah, baby!” and then gave a huge sigh. She asked if I wanted a cigarette. Honestly it felt a little naughty. I never realized how much I missed it!
My heart lightens like it has been suddenly been caught by a helium balloon lifted into the clouds and a smile stretches across my face right there in front of the microwave at work.
It was a God moment.
And that evening I prayed as my relief came in. I was calm. And so was she. I brought up the issue. Turns out she was resending the same report she sent out a few weeks ago. There was no “new incident.”
I was a peacemaker, and it felt good.
Not only that, I found out my car is still under warranty.
God is good…….all the time.