Where Were You?

Nest

I walked down to the river’s edge this morning and quietly marveled as I watched the world wake up once again. I thought of other times, other places. The sky aflame in the Arizona desert, the forest floor at the bottom of towering granite monoliths of Yosemite, the call of jays echoing from tree to tree. And of course, waking up to see the Pacific Ocean in all its vastness. Nature calls us to God like nothing else.

Over and over again I have found a place for my faith to rest in what I observe all around me in the backdrop of nature. When we do that we are basically agreeing with God that what He made was indeed good. It’s praise without words, when all others fail.

Job had a lot of questions after all he lost and suffered. I would have too. And God had a lot of answers. When He finally answered Iyov (Job), the Creator Himself drew upon the world He created:

Then Adonai answered Iyov out of the storm: “Who is this, darkening my plans with his ignorant words? Stand up like a man, and brace yourself; I will ask questions; and you give the answers!

“Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me if you know so much. Do you know who determined its dimensions or who stretched the measuring line across it?”

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“Who shut up the sea behind closed doors when it gushed forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its blanket and dense fog its swaddling cloth…..

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when I made the breakers its boundary set its gates and bars, and said, “You may come this far, but no farther; here your proud waves must stop.”

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Have you ever in your life called up the dawn and made the morning know its place so that it could take hold of the edges of the earth and shake the wicked out of it?

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Which way leads to where light has its home? And darkness, where does it dwell? If you knew, you could take each to its place and set it on its homeward path. You know, of course, because you were born then; by now you must be very old!!!

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When it’s all said and done, Job replies basically “I will zip my lips now, I had no clue what I was talking about. There is nothing more I can say, other than to repent in dust and ashes.”

And when I look deeply into the night sky and realize I can only see a small fraction of what’s out there, there is nothing more I can say except:

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Thank you……I get it.

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.

What a Day that will be

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(Photo credit, someone’s cat Google images) Gotta love that face.

One week until Christmas break and I can hardly believe it. Life continues to ebb and flow around us here. Elaine lost her favorite cousin. She found out last night as we were sitting having dinner and I was so glad she wasn’t alone when she heard the news. This was a man who had me in stitches when we visited him in the place of her birth, San Angelo, Texas. He could have had a career as a stand up comic. His comic timing was a gift and along with that Texas twang, he was a natural. The first time I met him he came to add a room on her folk’s house. We walked up dressed in our Arizona casual clothes and he turn from the ladder and said………”Well, I thought you were gonna work? How you gonna work in those golfin britches???” I may have not got that quite right but you get the gist.

Because of my interest in seeing the Monastery he knew of we drove and drove on miles of dusty road until we found it in the middle of nowhere. They waited until I wandered around and took pictures and met the Nun where I got a pamphlet and got to see the Sanctuary. Actually, I think it all started because I wanted to see his goats. We met his son there (who has also since passed on) and I also took many baby goat pictures. At the time we regretted a day spent driving for miles, but now I am so glad we did that. It will always be a precious memory.

Here today and in Heaven the next minute. I say that because Gerry knew his Savior and I am so thankful for that. “What a day that will be,” as my Mom’s Aunt was known to say. I was thinking of the lyrics to that song that was sung at her funeral and here are some of the words:

There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be……

What a day that will be when my Jesus I will see, and I look
Upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the Promised
Land, what a day, glorious day that will be…..

As for me. My writing has been minimal. The natural flow of words I once enjoyed has stopped. But I have learned there are all kinds of seasons. I just have to wait in my own advent of waiting. I do continue to pray in the wee hour before work.
Everyone who knew me at Desert Harbor knew that I prayed for the air conditioner to keep working. We were one of the last to have the original unit. When we left it was still running.

Now I pray for my car. The 12 year old bug’s windows sometimes don’t want to go up all the way. The lock that was on the glove box broke off. The other day the engine light went on and I prayed that it would go off and it did. I just keep saying, “You gotta keep this car running Jesus, it’s paid off!” It still looks good. In fact, the other day I found a note on the windshield wiper that said to give him a call if I want to sell it. My buggy is not for sale. We have a lot of miles between us, and I’m not ready to give it up.

Blessings and grace to you this Christmas from my prayer closet. Lori

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Here I go again…..I had a paragraph written when the iPad just shut down. It saved two words. We awoke once again to smoke-filled skies due to fires both North and South of us.  I found myself staring at the sun as it rose bright orange. How often do you get to stare at the sun? I was wishing for my blue skies while others were enduring the horror of watching what they’ve worked for go up in smoke. They were having to wake up this morning without homes, pets, even loved ones. Just goes to show that on any given day, someone else has it worse than you, though that is small comfort when it’s you going through it. We did find out that two good friends made it out safely but it doesn’t look good for their home.

Yesterday at school the teacher’s brother-in-law come in and give a little talk to the kids for Veteran’s Day. He brought in all kinds of equipment they could try on. It was so very cute and the teacher took pictures of all the kids trying on helmets. Of course they have no idea of the horrors of war, thankfully. Abraham ran by excitedly  saying, “I am ready to go! I was born ready!” Yesterday was his Birthday and we found out he want to be a Veterinarian when he grows up. Layla turned towards me with the huge helmet wobbling on her head and both teeth missing in front, “Look Miss Lori!” It gave me the warm fuzzy feeling that happens often with 5, 6 and soon to be 7 year olds.

I kept Jacob occupied with a video to keep him quiet. He and I had our moments this week as every week. I get lots of sympathetic looks from all the teachers, principal and staff as I try to get him to get off the floor and walk to class or as I am wrangling him up or down the stairs. He is six and Down’s syndrome. He is cute and endearing and I have grown attached to him despite how frustrated I feel much of the time. On the plus side, I got an outstanding review from the Principal this week. It was much-needed validation that they are happy with what I am doing. (thank you God) the prayers have helped!

Whatever you are walking through this season my friends know that you are not alone. Those words ring hollow except when you know the God that went through the worst this world can offer for us all. The end of the story is victory. Every one of us can have a happy ending because Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. And that is what we ultimately have to focus on when our world is caving in around us.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Casting our Care

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These morning moments alone with God are more important than they’ve ever been for me.  1 Peter 5:7 says that we can “cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us.” Another version says “cast our cares.” I particularly like the one that says anxiety because that’s my weakness. Just the fact that He cares lessens the anxiety.

I remember the day I was at my Grandmother’s house long ago and the calendar in the bedroom had that verse on it and I must have been feeling anxious then too, because I can still see the bedroom, the calendar with the verse on it and how comforting it was at that moment. So comforting that the scene has been frozen in my mind now for about 30 years.

This life is fragile. We can have the best day ever and then the next it can all fall to crap in a pile at our feet. It’s kind of like leaping from sunny patch to sunny patch with storms, fog, rain, sleet and snow in between. You just have to keep going. And keep the gratitude going because there are always many things to be thankful for. God knew we would need constant encouragement. The Bible is full of encouraging verses I cling to and simultaneously forget when my mind and heart are bogged down in earthly things.

I guess I so appreciate the good moments because I have walked through that deep darkness and came out the other side. I remember a time when I could barely lift my head. I will never forget that dark fog. I will also never forget when it finally lifted. If you are feeling that way today, here are a few verses that I hope will leak light into your heart and soul today.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. Philippians 4:6-7

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1,2

And my favorite…….

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Be at peace today, still your heart and live in the moment, because all moments, both good and bad will always come and go, but God’s Presence never leaves us…..

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.

 

 

When you’ve kinda lost your Way

 

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“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Psalm 139:1-3

I draw tremendous comfort from this Psalm. It’s almost like God is saying, “Relax, nothing you could ever do would surprise me. And nothing you could ever do could make me love you less.” It means I can rest easy and stop trying to perform. Ever feel like you just disappoint people at every turn? Lately I have been transposing those feelings onto God. I am not sure when it started, but somewhere along the way I got the idea that God was like 96% percent unhappy with me. Why do we do that? Where does that come from, that performance based conditional love thing?

I am here to remind you and myself. God doesn’t work like that! That is a lie we manufacture all on our own. Satan loves it when we get to feeling like we can’t even pray. Here is the real truth. We can always pray. And here is another thing:

There is a very important thing about you (and me) that belongs to you and you alone. Everyone who has ever lived and died has one, it’s your story. And God, from the very beginning has been center stage, even if you never thought about or believed in Him.

You see, if you have drawn breath, it’s because He wanted you here. And He has a purpose and plan that you will get to know Him. That you’ll come home. Recently I have just finished a book called “The Edge of Over There” by Shawn Smucker. It’s a great book. These people were trying to reach Heaven by themselves. They were stranded on the Edge trying to get “Over There” which they could see in the distance. They were trying to build a bridge of their own making. Kinda like what we do.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I need assurance that God still loves me. Thankfully all I have to do is remember Jesus. It cost God everything to win us back. We’re all on the “Edge of Over There”  but the wondrous, marvelous thing is that once we say yes to Jesus, even if it’s a whisper, He hears us, and Heaven becomes a reality we can see and feel.

Lately, I have been remembering my own story and each time I look back and see all that God has saved me from, the tears flow freely. All the prayers He has heard and answered. All the times I’ve been delivered and never been turned away. Each time I come back, He receives me with open arms. He has been with me from the beginning and He has promised to never leave me or forsake me and He never has.

Sometimes I go down to the river and just watch it flow.  There is something redeeming about watching water flow. I guess it’s like a visual of time. That it’s always moving. The things that cause so much pain today will someday be a memory. Friends, redeem the time! Live right here in the present because though there are sorrows, there is tremendous joy and beauty. God has given us nature so we can get a glimpse of Him.

I leave you with peace today. Look back at your path and remember all He’s brought you through. And say a prayer of thanks with me, will you?