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.

Every Moment Counts

He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the 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;  for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Acts 17:26-28
God is waiting for us to invite Him into every moment of our day, and in every aspect of our lives. Just imagine…….He is already there and ready to make every single moment a Holy moment. That is something that is entirely possible when you realize just how close He really is.
Just imagine, every moment a sacrament…..walking to work, stopping for coffee, waiting for the bus, sitting down to your desk……imagine Him there, just before the phone starts ringing.
In every real moment of our lives. He is.
I often think of those moments right before September 11, 2001. If those people had known what was about to hit?
How incredibly Holy and precious each moment would have become.
But none of us really knows at any given time what is about to happen. That is why each and every moment matters.
Each one counts……savor the day.


And the thunder rolled……

“Thus says the Lord……Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

As I read the words of Jeremiah this morning, reflecting on the wrath of God poured out on a disobediant people, I felt a chill crawl up my spine. Jeremiah had the unpleasant task to be the mouthpiece of God to Israel.

“My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding within me. Because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war!”

Just then, as if ordered by God himself to put a little emphasis on His own words there was a terrible clap of thunder and I almost jumped out of my seat! The anger of God is something I never want to experience personally.

It is easy to feel a little “puffed up” as the Apostle Paul put it, when we read about all those rebellious things the Israelites did, how they strayed from God to worship foreign idols, statues that could neither talk walk or breathe.

How could they, we wonder? After God himself came down in a visual form…..a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day? After all He had done for them? And all along, there is a loving Father who wants His people back. He longs to love and cherish them and yet they push Him away.

There was another loud clap and in my mind I remembered all those times when I myself have push God away, thinking I knew better….thinking the plan I had for myself was better than the one He had for me. And yet, His mercy and love have pulled me back, over and over again. Not once has He ever refused me.

Oh how He loves us…….His mercy calls us back, new every morning.

As with all things of nature, it thrilled me no end, that clear and powerful reminder. It reminded me this morning who is in control, and it is most definitely not me.

To watch a lightning storm is to watch the finger of God touching down on the earth, and to hear His voice in the thunder a gift, a marvelous thing.

His power, my weakness.

When we forget where our help comes from

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.
Psalm 121

It’s easy to forget where our help comes from sometimes. As I prayed yesterday, my face to the carpet, in whispers of desperation, “My shoulders are not big enough, Jesus, they are so small…..” as tears threatened, “not nearly big enough to carry the sorrows and heartaches of loved ones back home, loved ones here, as well as my own, I can’t do it.”

And I realized my foolishness when His quiet reply came to my heart, “You were never meant to carry them, child, but I can, and not only that, I want to!”

I am so sorry Jesus……I kept you on the back shelf, again.

Why do we try to carry what we never meant to, I wonder? Sometimes we Christians think we are supposed to be strong enough, as people of faith. We tell ourselves things like we shouldn’t be stressed because we have the Lord, after all.

I got up after my very short prayer and went outside. The morning was cool and beautiful……Elaine came out with me, already awake. She knew how hard my first day back would be, she knew the burdens I carried, because people already carrying big burdens recognize when others are buckling under the load.

We sat at the patio table as God colored the sky an impossible shade of violet and pink. She told me of a radio program she liked listening to from 5-6:00 in the morning, about stocks and bonds and finance. I loved that she wanted to share it. It was like a gift exchange sitting there, she and I in the quiet morning.

It was so peaceful, that little conversation, Heaven touching earth, because He was there too.

As she talked, light filled the sky and I kept on sitting. As I rose from my chair I said, “I better make a call.”

I didn’t go in, I couldn’t go in, not yesterday.

And it was okay. Because sometimes the truth is that though you may not feel physically sick, you feel sick at heart, sick from stress. But sick is sick, and it’s okay to be weak sometimes.

As long as we remember who it is that is strong.

I want to wish a very Happy Birthday to my Dad, who is 84 years young today!
Today’s picture is for you, Dad. Almost 40 years ago we climbed this mountain together, what a time we had!

No words needed

Sometimes it’s good to just imagine yourself in a quiet comfortable place…..

No words needed…….just a glance up every now and then, a nod, a smile……

Just simple enjoyment of being together in that moment, knowing that all is right in your world, because you have God and each other and that is all you need.
“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…..”
Isaiah 30:15