I Choose Happy

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That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: A farmer went out to sow his seed……” Matt. 13: 1-3

There is a little kitchen towel I have. It used to be very bright orange and sunny yellow. Because of my old bug yellow will always be a happy color for me. On it are printed the words, “Choose Happy.” Lately there have been things pressing in on me. School starting again, the future, the transitory nature of where we are living, Mom’s illness.

And currently we are facing a homeless/drug element in our town. Transients are camping by the river and there are pictures of feces and you name it on the shore. They clean it up periodically and then they all come back. That has made me extremely upset and restricted my activities on the river this summer. I’ve been wondering why the environmentalists so prevalent in our state are not coming out of the woodwork on this issue. I feel robbed. Cheated.

The thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they (we) may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Everything in this world was set in motion and created by God. Perfectly in balance. The effects of sin have tarnished it. The evidence is all around us. Jesus came to counteract the eternal result of that destruction.  He also makes it possible to supersede all the negativity around us and still embrace life, and beauty, and hope and joy. We don’t have to let the world steal it. It is a choice we have.

It was with that attitude I awoke yesterday morning with a defiant stubbornness to  “Choose Happy.” I shook out the towel from the cabinet, hung it up and claimed Jesus promise. I took it into my heart and prayed it as a mantra all day. And you know what? My attitude changed.

This morning I walked down to the river and saw the magnificent beauty that was there all along. A gift of joy returned. I choose life. I choose gratitude for where we are now. I choose thankfulness for the beautiful message my Mom left me on the phone. That she loves me and glad that I am her daughter.

You see, when I read the parable of the sower and the soil today I realized that while the seed started out good, it was the conditions of the ground it fell into that varied. Each day we are given a choice and each day we live for Christ the choice can only be life. Because He died and rose again to give it to us.

It’s an old old story, but one I never get tired of telling.

Be at peace with your life my friends. He’s got this. He’s got you.

Of Dads and Grandpas

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“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it–we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who He is or what He is up to.” 1 John 3:1 MSG

God loves families. That’s why He found it necessary and important to start one. He certainly didn’t need us. It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like before the creation, but we know it was a perfect union. Father, Son and Holy Spirit…..They could have gone on that way forever.

But because God is such a creator and a giver, He decided to spin out galaxies, and planets and stars and angels in the blackness of eternal space. And then, out of His vast storehouse of love He created all the animals and this home of ours, and us. I wonder…….I’ve always wondered, how much time passed in that perfect fellowship.

How many walks and talks were taken in the cool of the evening before it all went south? Before we decided to listen to the cleverly woven lies that turned God-perfection on its ear. I wonder.

Families are messy and God knew that. Even the angels argued amongst themselves about who was greatest. He created us at great risk, but He felt the risk was worth it. We were worth it. And we fell, as He knew we would in time. Since that time we have never stopped falling. Thankfully, He has never stopped trying to get us back.

When my Dad was a kid, my Grandpa left the family. After my Grandma passed away he remarried. My Dad and Grandpa did some bridge building through the years. As a result I have good memories of him. I passed the house on my walk just the other day. I remembered Christmas at the Elks Lodge and going through his box of rocks and staring at his geodes in the lit up cabinet. And ice-cream socials at the Methodist Church and picnics at the lake. 

I never knew my Grandpa on my Mom’s side but I hope he is one of the first people I meet in Heaven. We lost him to cancer when I was only two. I have a dim memory of him holding me up to his grapevines. He loved roses, and he had a cat named Fritz and he called me his “blond-haired angel” in German. I always wonder if when he held me he was thinking of Annie, his 4 year old daughter who was accidentally shot and killed by a neighbor boy. My Grandma never built that bridge of forgiveness back to him for leaving the gun out. My Mom heard him say quietly one day, “She has never forgiven me.”

I like to think of the three of them together in Heaven, all forgiven, all forgotten.

Sometimes the most important thing in life and also the hardest is to build a bridge back to someone who has hurt us. It’s a huge risk, and it’s scary and most times we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s exactly what God did with Jesus. It cost Him everything, but to get us back he felt it was worth it.

It’s what good Dads do. 

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 “Luxury” of Letting Go

 

I felt the river calling on this particular day. It was hot and I was stressed and mentally wrestling with many things. I needed to float…….I tethered myself to the tree in case I drifted off and ended up at the Lake about 5 miles away (Like that would be a terrible thing.

I closed my eyes and let the sounds fill my ears. I heard voices every now and again, kayakers paddling by. The sound of the wind in the trees wooed me and made me think of how I used to miss that sound in the desert. Water bugs chased each other and alighted on my legs. I remembered a song by John Denver called “Cool and Green and Shady.”

He was so intuned to nature and the depth of our need of it. I miss the wisdom of his words. Here is just how I felt:

                                        “Find yourself a piece of grassy ground,
Lay down close your eyes…….find yourself
and maybe lose yourself while your free spirit flies.
August skies, and lullabies, promises to keep
Dan-de-lions and twisting vines clover at your feet.
Mem-o-ries of Aspen leaves, tremblin’ on the wind.
Honey bees and fantasies, where to start again,
Someplace cool an’ green an’ shady……”

Amidst the birds and the lapping of waves against the cement the sound of a harmonica drifted across the water. A lone kayaker in a hat was serenading the turtles sunning themselves on a nearby log. It sounded a little bit like magic. It brought me back to my childhood when my Uncle Bruce would play “Red River Valley” around the campfire.

Then I thought, amidst everything that I think is so difficult in this season of my life, there is this. This bit of paradise I can latch onto. What a luxury. I think of so many living in places torn by poverty and war and noting but fleeing from one place to another. Never having peace.

Where is their escape? Whatever I think is so difficult would be a joke in someone else’s life and perspective. This causes me to sigh and pray and thank God.

I stare up lazily at the trees and they wave lazily back. I take some of my burdens with me when I go but enough are left behind.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken……Psalm 62: 1,2

 

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

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Everyone knows me knows that I have a long running vendetta against spiders, (except Charlotte). The first time I read Charlotte’s Web was the first time ever I was exposed to a heroine that was a creature that I had loathed all my young life. And I saw her as pretty with eyelashes, that’s how the artists portrayed her anyway. As the story unfolded I saw Charlotte as good, saw her spinning away prettily in her web the words that would save Wilbur.

This one was small, almost microscopically as he brazenly walked across my robe. I must have collected him (or her) outside and they hitched a ride. Because it was so small I deemed it worth saving. What is it about something shrunk down to a minimal size that renders it helpless. Had it been enlarged by about 10 times I would have called for its destruction in haste. But it was so small, and so vulnerable.

It was trying to spin a little web, away out of its trouble maybe. Maybe it sensed disaster looming. It sunk down into my pocket and I tried to get it to attach itself to the Kleenex I offered as a lifeline. No go. Then I got a straw and poked it down towards it and it climbed aboard. Victory!

I took it outside where I thought it might flourish, left it on the tomato plant outside. I felt I had done what God would have me do. I guess maybe I felt like maybe He feels about us. My heart was moved by a creature so small that it needed my help to get it back to where it truly belonged.

I don’t know about you but I need help each and every day to get back to where I once belonged. In my heart, in my soul, in my mind. All of us feels the loneliness that rocks us to the core at times. It’s the inborn sense that things just aren’t right and we need Someone bigger to reach down and help restore that feeling that we are truly on our way Home. Or at the very least, stumbling in the right direction.

You see, no matter how shattered we may feel today, God is in the process of making all things new. We serve a God of restoration. Everything we are going through right now will someday make sense. In the forest of Mirkwood it’s so dark you can’t see the sky but that doesn’t mean the sky isn’t there. (Read Chapter 8 of the Hobbit) It is, you just have to climb a little higher to see it. Look up my friends. Look for the shaft of light in your particular forest today. It’s Hope, and it’s always there. He’s always there.

Problems, like spiders,  can all be shrunk down to minimal size in the light of God’s Presence in our lives. He is in the process of putting all the pieces back together again. Everything in this whole crazy mixed up, messed up world. That includes me and you and everyone we care about.

Hope for the Mustard Seed Prayers

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Recently we traveled back to where this blog started, where my prayer was most alive. It was good to be there. The downside was the mustard was blooming, it was beautiful but I think it was really wreaking havoc with my sinuses. I wasn’t acclimated to it as I used to be. As my Grandmother used to say in German, “With beauty comes suffering” or some such thing. The mustard plants made me think of what Jesus said about having faith as small as a mustard seed:

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, ‘ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matt. 17:20

I don’t know about you but that verse has always made me feel a little doomed. Who actually expects that they could move a mountain with a prayer? What did Jesus mean? I can imagine the disciples being a little exasperated. And yet when He sent them out two by two, they came back exhilarated…….the lame walked, demons cast out, hearings occurred right and left.

And later, when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost they found that their prayers did indeed produced great miracles. In fact, people had only to grab their garments and they were healed!

What does this mean for us today? Does this mean that we shouldn’t even pray? No indeed. It means that we should always pray for God to help our unbelief and increase our faith. Prayer transforms us from the inside out. There are so many people I know whose prayers began with: “If you are there Lord…….” Or just plain, “Help me, Lord!”

It means that God blesses even little scraps of faith. He takes those tiny seeds of hope and prayer that we send up and answers us with an assurance that He does indeed hear. In fact, He loves it when we acknowledge Him, however insignificant our words may seem. He can take that mustard seed and change a heart, change a life, and yes, move mountains in our lives. I have seen way too many lives changed (including my own) to not believe in prayer, however small and weak my faith might be.

Keep on praying. I can assure you that you will be blessed by God opening up a canyon in your heart. I love these quotes from Frederick Buechner:

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images He uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again.

Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29)

May your day be peaceful. Talk to God today, even if you are not sure He’s there or even listening. You will be blessed!

Easy like Sunday morning

 

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The Arizona desert opened a space in my soul that I haven’t quite been able to capture here. After two years (can it be that long?) I am still trying to find my prayer “sweet spot.” But it’s okay. I have learned there is a reason for everything on God’s good earth.

It is beautiful here, no doubt. And today as I stood by the banks of the river I saw the little “V” in the water that signifies something is swimming. He was on the opposite bank, my little river otter. He was without his friends, and I wonder where they are. There was usually a pack of three or four. I watched as he climbed the bank opposite me and took a luxurious roll in the dirt. The whiteness of his chest gleamed against his brown body. Then he padded over to the bank and swam away. The cat we call Weigumina saw him and perked up. (We call her that because a man named Vern Weigum parked his old 1955 Belair here and she used to sun underneath it) Weigumina seemed to fit her.

We have been settled now at my Aunt’s property by the Mokelumne River since we moved here in September of 2016. The river has been low and is filling up once again with Spring coming. This place has become home for us. The Motorhome now is graced with a beautifully crafted wood table (made by Elaine). She has resurrected my Uncle’s shop and is using her God gifts all kinds of ways here. It has been a very good thing for her and for those of us blessed enough to be the recipients of her talents.

And God found me a job. I have no doubt about that since He uttered those words to me in prayer that I wrote about in an earlier post. Those words were:

Be still and rest easy in my Grace.

I am now working with preschoolers in my old Elementary school. I confess I never thought that would be my retirement job. It has been so surreal working there, at the place where all my formative years happened. And the very same place where my Aunt was school secretary all those years ago.

Life is good. I occasionally cry and feel sad about all our stuff in storage. I miss it. I miss the home we had, and this month when we travel back there for a few days, I will see that old home and I don’t know how I will handle it. I know I won’t want to go in. But I also know that it will be good to see old friends who will welcome us with open arms and food and drinks, and there will be stories and laughter.

But I also know our place is here right now. And it really has been a blessing. So that’s my story today. God is here, and He is working in our lives and until He calls us Home like He did Billy Graham recently we will keep looking to Him for direction. He has never left us and never will. That’s the hope I give you today.

Give Him your life, I guarantee you will never be bored. God can open up an expanse in your soul as big as the sky that holds all the stars in the Arizona sky. Drink from the well that never runs dry. Jesus is that well.

The world has so much to offer, but without God those things will always fall short of filling up a withered and starving soul.

Signing off for now……..peace from the river.