The Way Home

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“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home” Matsuo Basho

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

“The beauty of inviting Jesus into our heart and life means we carry Him with us into every circumstance of our lives, essentially He becomes our home wherever home is. Knowing Jesus is returning to our original home.” Me

It was hot out and I had been cooped up since I got home, moldering in my cave/chair with a book and my phone. Finally I had to take a break from the inside and step outside. You know how when you’ve been in a building for too long and you go out and it feels a bit like Narnia just to be out? I used to feel like that at work. We had no windows to look out. I would go out and feed the sparrows in the patio and reset my compass.

I was met by my the feline comedy duo who zigzagged across my path vying for attention. They followed me to the feeding station and then I was surprised by a dash of pink behind the shrubbery. My Aunt informed me they called these lilies naked ladies. (Come to find out, Elaine has been watering it)

I have come to realize in this place we have carved out here, that you can have a little piece of domesticity and it can feel like home, even when you are between homes. I sat with a glass of wine as I watched the cats roll in their own little piece of heaven and felt peace settle around my shoulders. I breathed deep…….it was a welcome feeling and I felt gratitude fall around me as I  aimed my camera and clicked away.

When you know who Home is and that every step you take is leading back to Him, you can rest assured that all will be well wherever you land. Basho was somewhat right, the journey can be home when you know where you’ll end up.

And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. Jesus…….John 14:3

Peace be with your weekend friends………enjoy your journey.

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A highway in the desert

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“The spiritual function of fierce terrain…is to bring us to the end of ourselves, to the abandonment of language and the relinquishment of ego. A vast expanse of jagged stone, desert sand, and towering thunderheads has a way of challenging all the mental constructs in which we are tempted to take comfort and pride, thinking we have captured the divine. The things that ignore us save us in the end.”~ Belden Lane in THE SOLACE OF FIERCE LANDSCAPES (buy it on Amazon,  it’s worth it)

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

“Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word “glory” a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one.” C.S. Lewis

A person can have a profound encounter with God anywhere, because God is everywhere; but my time in the desert taught me something I don’t think I could have learned any other way. There is a quiet majesty and power there that speaks in the silence. There is a holiness in the sudden rain that comes after the merciless scorching heat of the summer. That rain feels like grace.

The extremity of its character alone simutaneously punishes and rewards like the pillar of smoke and fire God showed up in while guiding the Israelites through the desert. It says, like God, “Keep your eyes on me and you will get through this and reach the promised land. Take your eyes off the trail to your own destruction.”

The desert is just that drastic and following the rules leads to life or death too. In order to live in the desert, you have to obey some very simple rules:

Never find yourself without water.

Know which snakes and insects are poisonous and which ones are harmless.

If you get stuck in the middle of a dust storm while driving turn your headlights off.

The vastness and stark beauty of it makes one feel very small and vulnerable in a way similar to being in the ocean where you can’t see land. Or caught in a thunderstorm in the Sierras.  You wonder how any species could survive, plant or animal, yet somehow they do. The quail lead their microscopic chicks straight out of the nest and along the rocky ground. Sometimes they start with ten and end up with three.

And in the summer it feels like a place of death. You run from one building to the next, you look for the one shady spot someone just pulled out of. And summer seems to last forever. And then one morning in November you are rewarded with coolness and it’s like being born again.

I believe there is a reason for the wandering in the desert and not anywhere else. The harsh landscape makes it easier to know you depend solely on Him, and that goes for physical wandering and also the other kind; when you’re wandering in the “dry spells and deserts of life.”

But there is always hope in every kind of desert you may find yourself in. That in time, He will bring you to the other side. The cactus wil bloom again, life will appear where there was none. You will feel the cool breeze once again and know that you have made it through.

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Under the Grace

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“Grace is free only because the Giver himself has borne the cost” Philip Yancey

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in 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

Sometimes grace slips in unannounced, quietly without fanfare. The thing about Grace is, it’s always there, just like God is always there.  As believers we know we are steeped in God’s grace through Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross. It can also be hard to get a handle on. How can we really fathom the grace that showers down on us even while we are sleeping. Grace is active and living. It’s an offshoot of God’s great love and mercy. Sometimes it’s so big it’s hard to get a handle on.

Years ago I used to listen to a radio commentator named Barry Farber. He had some sayings, one I never forget: “It’s like trying to hit a phantom with a cream pie.” Grace is kind of like that to me sometimes. It’s invisible but always there. And as soon as I take it for granted, it slips away again. Yet it’s still there waiting in the wings, waiting for me to actively acknowledge it.

When we say about someone, “There but for the grace of God go I” we are acknowledging that we could at any given time, find ourselves in circumstances like whoever we were talking about. While we are correct in that assumption, we are also a little misguided because we are kind of implying that person must not have grace in their life, or they must not have as much as we have. See what I am saying?

God made it possible to never lose sight of the grace we are standing under by looking to Calvary. Then it all makes perfect sense.

On my playlist is a song called, “Under the Grace” by Phil Keaggy. I had heard it first about 25 years ago and I scoured the internet until I found it. Certain music just brings you back from the brink, and his was one of the recordings that did it for me long ago. He is known as a brilliant guitarist but it was his voice and the words to this song that brought grace home to me again this morning. (You can find it on YouTube)

I am humbled by Grace this morning. How about you?

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith–and this is not from yourselves , it is the gift of God –not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

A New Season

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For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11,12

The last time I wrote (if I remember correctly) I was in a bit of a funk. I was missing the doves that were a regular background noise of my prayer/meditation times in Arizona.  I had seen them in the area and wondered why I never heard them. I discounted it as part of a necessary season I was going through along with everything else. Now, it seems I hear one several times a day. God has given them back to me, along with Spring and flowers everywhere. The sun has touched down and the earth is truly full of His glory. As I write a Mockingbird is singing its heart out, so loud it almost comical.

I am happy to say, my heart feels lighter. Maybe it’s as simple as the weather. We walked to the lake today. That even sounds amazing doesn’t it? As much as I have whined and groused about all the things that bugged me about my home state since moving back, to be surrounded by all this beauty (and of course being close to my family) balances things out quite nicely. When weather permits I go down to the little river shack to pray. My old faithful LL Bean robe gave up the ghost and I had to throw it out. That’s what I would bundle up and walk down in, but my friend found another online and surprised me with it. I think it must have cost her a bundle, it weighs 5 pounds!

Now that the weather is warming up, I will go down more mornings before work. We have had some BBQs here lately and that is a very welcome change, to be able to cook outdoors is something we missed so much. Here is what Elaine made for my Aunt, her old sink washstand was rotting so she rebuild a frame and added a little cooking space which works great. The old wood is in the wheelbarrow!

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There is something Holy about creating something, isn’t there? It is truly a blessing to be able to work with your hands and make something better, give it a new life. After all, we are created in His image and God is the ultimate Creator. During Lent, we remember God’s great work of redemption, His greatest and most awful gift. Awful because it cost Him everything, great because it was the greatest act of Love He ever did and will ever do again.

He is our hope, our joy…..now and for all eternity. Nature reflects this, especially at the turn of the Seasons.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Henry David Thoreau

Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking. Frederick Buechner

 

 

One thing I’m sure of

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“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” Quotes by Thomas Merton

I thought it fitting to start the New Year with quotes by one of my favorites, Thomas Merton. The second quote echoes what I was feeling as I walked down to prayer this morning. The thought that wouldn’t let itself go was this:

Whatever I do this year or any other, without God it’s a wasted trip.

I was thinking of Merton as I always do when I am close to nature. This morning as I sat down by the little river shack, I thought I heard the owl. I don’t hear it often and when I do I make myself completely still so I can hear it. What it is about nature that makes one lean in and listen? I guess that’s how I stay in touch with the Holiness of God. There is a purity in nature that this artificial world just cannot duplicate.

“Help me to love better this year,” was my prayer as I read over 1 Corinthians 13. It was a deeply humbling experience when my Pastor friend once encouraged me to lead the Bible study on these verses once. I never forgot it. We’ve all read those words so much they’ve become like a nursery rhyme. Just about every Christian wedding we hear it. But when I studied it, I saw how incompletely I really do love.

I see Jesus staggering with the cross up the hill. That is 1 Corinthians 13 personified. I saw Him forgive the mockers. I saw Him return from the dead and ask Peter if He still loved Him. I saw true love. And someday, I will see it radiating from His eyes when He looks at me. How can I not try to love better?

I see this past year and it’s staggering how far we’ve come, what we’ve been through. How I struggled with this move and now we are on the other side. It’s been a year of joys and turmoil. Equal parts fear and faith. Equal parts stress and anxiety, but also resounding love because we know who is on the trail ahead of us. We carry our home with us, in more ways than one. He is our true North. This year, and every other.

So it’s on to 2017 with Jesus. We are heading to the coast to bring in the New Year. I see hope ahead.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

Day is done…….

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It’s growing late….earlier I watched stars shyly make their sequined appearance one by one in the cobalt sky. Humans and animals alike have settled into deep breathing for the rhythm of the night has caught us all. The house creaks, and the events of the day flutter, collect, and float down and gather at my feet coming to greet me again here in my quiet chair. I smile, for it was a good day. Soon all the lights will go out for me and I will say a prayer and talk to God unless I fall asleep first. Later, in the deep dark when it’s morning but not quite morning, worry will come to find me. But I am ready for it. I have the 23rd Psalm.

Times like these I reach for Merton’s hours. So now I look for Monday and it’s here:

Let us live in this love and this happiness, you and I and all of us, in the love of Christ and in contemplation, for this is where we find ourselves and one another as we truly are. It is only in this love that we at last become real. For it is here that we most truly share the life of One God in three Persons.

Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours.

Usually, you just don’t need that many words……..I am finding that out. The more I write, the more I realize that to be a good writer, you need to be an even better editor.

(Re)acknowleging my Desperation

Today, Lord I acknowledge my desperate state before you. Anything less means I am walking around in a state of delusion. When things are going well, it is so easy for me to think I have things under control. That I don’t need you quite as bad as when circumstances are:
unpleasant, painful, spiraling out of control………….But the truth is, I need you just as much and in just the same measure every single day.
Sometimes I act like a person holding up a golf club in the middle of a lightning storm. I flirt with the world, I skate on the edge, I get too close to swinging the doors wide open that should remain closed.
And I shouldn’t. Forgive me, precious Lord. Thank you for remembering my dust. Help me to never take advantage of your good grace. I acknowledge again that though you are completely Holy, you are not waiting up there to strike me down when I fail, but waiting with an arms open kind of love.
And forgive me for asking you once again to deliver me from things you have already set me free from. Sometimes I have amnesia. You are infinite Love. I remember again and again the great length you went to save me.
All the way from Heaven to earth.
Goin back to the foot of the cross today.