The Shroud of Grace

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Yesterday I awoke to a gloriously foggy morning. I am one of those that can’t resist bundling up and chasing it as it shrouds and swallows up everything and fills the air with silence. I joyfully walked down to the river to find 3 misty ghost like figures floating on top of the water; their fishing poles angled hopefully. Every now and again I would hear the plop as they recasted their lines, their hushed voices echoing across the water,

Further down I saw 2 ducks making a v-line barely visible through the misty air. I only heard a flock of Canadian geese honking above. I shot a few pictures with my camera and then decided to venture on down to the lake. My Sunday peace was only disturbed when my camera wouldn’t focus on a particular shot and I had to ask forgiveness for my foul words.

I wasn’t enjoying communion with fellow believers and yet I was at church. I have always found God in the fog, for two very emotional moments of my life happened in the fog long ago. The first was when I was driving around grief-stricken, my eyes blurred with tears after the loss of my husband.  I turned a corner and through the fog, I saw hopeful little candles in each window of a charming little cottage. Something about it gripped me and at once my spirit was calmed and brightened. It was God’s  way of letting me know I was going to make it.

The other time, I was alone in my room. Everyone had left and “Oh Holy Night” was playing on my record player (yes, it was that long ago) All I can say is that the Holy Spirit came to me in that room and I can remember every detail. In that room God came to me and revealed the awful, beautiful truth of what Jesus did to save me, us.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas let me tell you that there is hope. I can say this with perfect confidence and clarity because there is simply nothing you or I are going through that is bigger than God. I know this. Jesus came so that we could always have real hope to fall back on in the darkest times of our lives.

Allow me to close with a quote from a wonderful book I read by Beldan C. Lane as he went through his own journey through the valley of the Shadow of Alzheimer’s in the nursing home with his Mom:

I met a woman by the elevator each day whose mouth was always open wide, as if uttering a silent scream. In a bed down the hall lay a scarcely recognizable body, twisted by crippling arthritis–a man or woman I’d never met. Another woman cried out every few moments, desperately calling for help in an “emergency” that never ebbed. Who were these people?

They represented the God from whom I repeatedly flee. Hidden in the grave-clothes of death, this God remains unavailable to me in my anxious denial of aging and pain. He is good news only to those who are broken. But to them he’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, lurking in the shadows beyond the nurses desk, promising life in the presence of death. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, Beldan C. Lane

This is the paradox of the message of Christmas. Innocent life with a bitter twist at the end but that ultimately gives us Glorious freedom from that same death. Sometimes I think this is why we rush to buy and give during this season. We know there is something about Christmas that is joy but we can’t quite place our finger on it. We do our hopeful best to be cheerful and join in only to find ourselves worn out from the effort.

That’s because the Gift He gives us is so much bigger than everything else in this world. It’s Himself. We are free, all of us this Christmas. We have to only reach out and accept the gracious offer He gives.

Merry Christmas from my Prayer Closet. May His peace find you today, and every day.

The Perfect Day

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Ever feel like you think you know how God felt when He created everything and said that it was good? Despite everything, hope is that one eternal thing that God put in the backdrop of His creation that will never go away. It’s the thing that keeps us going even though we know that this world is broken and innumerable bad things will happen on every given day, but so will (even more) good things.

It’s that little chink of light that seeps through the soul when everything feels black and you’re feeling your lowest but still decide to go on a walk or clean the garage and somehow when it’s done you feel better. And it even applies to nature. The other day I noticed this little teeny tiny spiderweb. It was a perfect creation only about 3 inches wide. That day it was windy and when I looked again it was gone. Yet, the next morning I looked again and it was back, perfectly formed once again.

Saturdays now are my golden days full of promise. Not having to go anywhere in the morning is a treasured luxury. I can read in the mornings with a third cup of coffee from the Keurig which feels almost forbidden. This Saturday was one of those days that I agreed with God that everything was very good. The air was clear and the trees were waving their leaves across the sky and the river was high and it was calling me. It seemed better than a walk. So we went and it was like a hike and I was soaked. It felt so good. We made it to the trestle and waited for the train to cross.

We met a nice lady and talked all the way downstream back home. And of course the World Series is on and the fact that we can watch Baseball is something that just made everything better. It was a perfect day. Mom came over for a bit and that was good, I think she enjoyed a change of scenery.

While we were out on the river I pulled up an old John Denver song that always bubbles up through my soul on these green nature days. I sang along and Elaine recorded me. I still haven’t listened to it. But I just had to sing. It was that kind of a day.

Susan Boyle did a song awhile back on her first CD. A perfect day. Give it a listen. And it was. A perfect day. I can honestly appreciate these days when they come because I remember when I felt myself at the bottom of a black hole, an abyss of depression that I never thought would lift. But it did, eventually. And it was a miracle. And if you want to know if they still happen, look at me friends.

I’m not sure how to wrap this up so I won’t. I’ll just leave it here. Know that it’s worth it. Everything is. Because He said it was good, and it still is. No matter the circumstance you are facing. My God already went the distance. Knew the grief none of us will ever know. Left Heaven to come here so that we might grab his Hand and find hope and Home.

 

 

The Morning He Spoke

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He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I was in early morning prayer and my mind was like a superhighway. I have been job hunting and determined to keep walking through doors, keep going forward. I have had the interviews, filled out the applications for anything and everything I think I could remotely like or do. I interviewed for two positions, each of them for a Paraeducator in the Special Education Department. I was waiting for word.

Then I saw the application for the typist/office job at the school. My niece’s school. I went and got my certification for 46 WAM. One more word than I needed. I floated out of there with a prayer of Thanksgiving on my lips. One more reward, one more door. One more piece of paper in my hand that says I can do something.

You see, when you have been at a company for 20 years and have to look for something else it can be daunting. I am not young. Smart as whips twenty somethings are out there looking for the same jobs I am.

So, I was in prayer and looking for direction. I applied for the office job. I got a rejection from the first place I interviewed, and secretly breathed a sigh of relief. I was uneasy about the interview, the place. Now I was waiting for word on the other.

And it was in that place of indecision and fog of mind that it came like a Heavenly beam slicing into my heart. It was quiet but it was insistent. And clear as a bell. That’s why I knew it was from the Holy Spirit.

Be still, rest easy in my Grace.

And like all things that you know are from God, I wanted to keep it to myself for awhile. To cherish it. Part of me was afraid if I shared it, it would pop like a bubble and go away. Lose its power. Kind of like a dream you want to fall back asleep for. But the words stuck fast in my soul. I felt calmed.

And then I got the call and was offered a job as a Paraeducator in the Special Education Department. A job for which I have no formal training or education but that for some reason God thinks I can do. Because in all my years at Intel, He proved to me that He would always find a place for me. That whatever He gave me, He would help me do.

I was a small town girl in a big corporation. I had no degree and I was working around people with Masters and more…….And I retired from there after twenty years. It was Gods and my success story.

And I am about to enter another one. Friends, I would appreciate your prayers. I feel a bit like Maria leaving the gates of the Abbey headed for the Von Trapp mansion.

But I have confidence. This belongs to God, this venture. Don’t they all?

I am resting in His Grace and Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

 

Nature’s Hymn

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Most mornings now when I walk down, the river has taken to wearing a silky wrap as if to ward off the cold. The temperature drops just before the sun makes a welcome appearance. The buzzards are holding court up high in the trees, waiting for the sun to warm their wings. Sometimes if it’s dark and they haven’t yet taken their place in the trees, the white egrets are there. All I can usually see is their white shape against the pre-dawn foliage.

Sometimes hymns have words and sometimes they don’t.

It strikes me that Nature is something we can all get behind. In this world of war and argument and discord, we can all still stop in wonder for an eclipse. I capitalize nature because to me it’s synonymous with God. However you explain it or Him away, the beauty disarms us just the same.

David Nevue fills the background as I settle into the warmth to tap these words out. “How Great Thou Art” comes on and I sing tangible words of worship and I feel again the wonder and miracle of what we celebrate this season. He……came……for……us. Count them all with me:

Heavens opening to the Shepherds watching their flocks in the dark

A baby announcement that came in the form of a sign in the Heavens that wise men followed for months.

A baby named John filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth.

Animals blowing frost in a sub-zero stable and a young girl giving birth to God.

I could go on and on and on………..what’s your particular miracle today? Each day does have several if we only stop and reflect in the quiet pauses that God wants us to take. Each moment can become a “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Moment upon moment until we reach Eternity that’s within our grasp right now today.

I know your seasons may be hard, but know this today: Jesus went through the hardest one of all so that ours might be more bearable. He is praying for you even now my friend. And so am I. This world needs Him more than ever.

 

In the Quiet

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This morning I was surprised by a world cloaked in fog. It was ghostly as I walked down the little path that leads to the river’s edge. It was still dark and there was no sky that I could see, everything had been swallowed up. I loved it.

The crunch of the leaves underfoot was the only indicator I was walking on anything, it was a bit scary and comforting at the same time, an insulated world. I sat for a moment after reading my devotions and in between prayer I listened.

Sometimes I think a big part of prayer is just listening, don’t you?

The trees dripped as dawn came closer, and the little bamboo wind chime gave a clunk every now and then. An owl called nearby. The coffee steamed as I poured, the candle flickered in the corner and the heater warmed my feet. These are the Holy moments. These are the moments where anxiety is suspended momentarily. When we remember the promises. 

Maybe, just maybe it’s possible to just string these moments together and eliminate anxiety and fear all together?

I found this online this morning and it kind of fit what I was feeling. It’s from an old devotional dated October 18, 1956 and the prayer is by Ella Syfers Schneck, here’s a fragment:

“Lord, in the quiet of this morning hour I come to Thee for peace, for wisdom, power to view the world today through love-filled eyes. To be patient, understanding, gentle, wise. To see beyond what seems to be…….”

I wish peace for you this morning in all you do. Turn your heart inward to find that quiet place in the midst of your soul, even amidst the clamor of the world. And remember that joy belongs to us, not just for a moment but an eternity.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11

Thank you Father, for your marvelous works. Amen.

Be still my soul

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But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices. Psalm 37:7

My prayer this morning:

It’s been too long, Lord since I have prayed like this……. walked down intentionally and lit my little candle and sat in this stillness. I have missed it, missed You. You deserve my praise in the morning, because you are Love first and foremost. And out of that great love comes your justice. Whatever happens out in the world is something that doesn’t have to make our soul turbulent. This time is precious.

You have created all this beauty and each day, you sustain it and make it all happen again because of your great love. You keep it going and no one else. You create the storms that seem to come from nowhere, the thunder that crashes and lightning that touches down to scorch the earth. I sit here and watch little things make ripples under the water and I wonder at your creative power and imagination……I watch the  fish jump up to catch the water bugs, confidant and totally at ease in their world.

Everyone is gathering Lord, ready to watch a spectacular event in the heavens soon, but I watch awestruck at what you do every single day just by leaning in close to Your marvelous works of creation.

Here by the still waters, where you give rest to my soul.

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Chess, old cars and a reunion

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Two things I don’t know much about: Classic car engines and chess. But yesterday I learned a little about both. I learned that it’s a common thing for chess players to set up a board and wait for an opponent to show up. I had no idea. That’s so cool.

I learned about these types of engines…..

 

A friend’s husband and son had a couple corvettes at the local Car Show downtown so we decided to go see what was what. I was staggered at the amount of classic cars buffed and polished, lining the street like artwork. I snapped way too many pictures. It was hard not to, they don’t make these beauties anymore. As we passed by the different engines, Elaine was explaining how they worked. (She inherited her Dad’s talent for engineering and making anything run.)

The one on the left in her words:

“Three two barrel carburetors which in the car world is called a six-pack (more power, hence more fuel to the engine) The 442 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a Dynaglide transmission which was patented by Oldsmobile.”

And the one on the right:

“A 496 cubic inch twelve-hundred horse power turbo charged engine.” Very fast. (Most cars today maybe push 200 horse power tops.)

We looked at cars in between ducking into some local antique shops for about two hours when we saw the little Cellar with tables that looked very inviting right on the street. It was a perfect place to rest awhile and another excuse celebrate my Birthday early. We sat there enjoying Champagne like rich people who don’t have a care in the world. (Is that ever not true!) I wondered out loud about the Cheese Shop next door, but they didn’t have anything ready-made, so Elaine ventured further down and brought back a wonderful appetizer plate with meats, cheese and crackers which was perfect. She was like an explorer coming back from an expedition.

So now for the story about the Chess guy. He was an older gentleman who came walking up to the table adjacent to ours with his duffel bag in tow. He proceeded to set up his chess board in preparation for a game, as if waiting for some competition.

While we were sipping and talking I asked Elaine if that was something chess people did and she said yes. Sometimes whole mini worlds open up to me that I never knew existed. I love when that happens.

We noticed a young couple walk by and make a comment to the elderly man, it sounded like a throw-down to me. I kinda thought it was all in jest, but by and by they came back and the young man sat down facing the elderly man on the “white” side of the chess board. He said with a smile, “Do you remember me?” Turns out, years ago the kid’s father thought it would be a good thing for him to get his hands dirty harvesting potatoes on this farmer’s land and this elderly gentlemen was that farmer!

Well, then he said his name and his eyes lit up in disbelief and ours did too. I was thinking that we were witnessing something really special. They commenced to play, but not before I snapped this photo. I will treasure it and the memory of that day.

When we had champagne and cheese in the middle of the afternoon. And for a little while, all was right with the world. We had witnessed a Divine connection, what can really happen when people choose to reconnect and remember a simpler time and bring it all back to the present.