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For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain……..The Apostle Paul, Philippians 1:21

Almost from the time we are born, our hearts and souls are acutely aware of a sense of loss and the fear that stems from it. Life, at its most painful becomes synonymous with loss. Loss of a job we loved, loss of a loved one, death of a marriage, physical loss, loss of a home. Sometimes one loss turns into another. Such as when a deep loss turns into a bad habit. Then we have to kick the bad habit and we have that loss to deal with too.

But here is the big hope rests within and through all this. Here is where the story gets happy. That at the other end of this spectrum of loss, there is gain, without which we wouldn’t know loss at all. And that little word, gain, is what God is, and has always been concerned with.

That when we were determined to ruin ourselves and each other, God said, “No, I won’t let the story end this way.” He didn’t just write a happy ending. He came in physical form to become our happy ending. He came to fill that, as C.S. Lewis so rightly said, “God sized vacuum” in our hearts.

On a final note, I wanted to address those who seem to think the California fires are the result of God’s judgment due to the fact that sin is so rampant in this state. My God doesn’t go around setting fires and starting earthquakes and floods. That’s Satan’s job (if you believe in him and I do because Jesus certainly did).

To some, California may be an example of what they feel is wrong with the world, but no state or geography has cornered the market on evil; that territory starts within the heart of us all and there is only one cure:

Jesus himself. He’s our only prescription with a permanent cure for heart trouble:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have not told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1,2

Please join me in praying for all those who have lost homes, businesses, and lives in this beautiful state I call home now.

Hard Stop

house in reflection

Funny how things can come into focus when you’re still. When you’re quiet enough to let that stillness wrap itself around you and you start to believe that it really will be okay. There are those today reeling from loss, whose homes are no longer a reality, but only a reflection. I identify a little bit. I miss my home and the security that went with it every day. And yet I know that my true security lies in God and nothing else. Homes will come and go but He stays forever.

Last Friday I sat by the river and thought great and wondrous things. At least five of them. Later when I tried to capture them I couldn’t remember one, but the feeling of peace stayed behind. I was so grateful for that because there have been times this year when scenes of great beauty bounced off my soul like teflon and that troubled me. For I’ve always been able to find my way back to God through His beauty in creation.

We slip and fall headlong into our worries and problems and then He wakes our soul once again and I think it’s because He wants us to feel the gift of Gratefulness again.

All around us, nature is enfolded in a great drama and it never stops. She invites us to partake and be more than a bit player, and the rules are simple. We have to do a “hard stop”

curly leaf on water

A hard stop is when we allow our worries and cares drift away like this leaf who fell twisting in the wind. It didn’t think of falling, it didn’t even try to fall, it just fell. And in that simple act it had a power it didn’t even know it had. Its little presence announced that a change is coming, the first of many reds and golds and browns that will rain down in the coming months.

taking flight

Psalm 55:6 says: “Oh that I had wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”

I have a friend who used to say that when he flew, his problems seemed smaller. They weren’t really, but from the air his perspective changed. My flying usually involves driving to the beach. We all need a place where we can see clearer, feel calmer. But we can do that from anywhere with prayer.  Jesus has the peace we so deeply crave. It’s His free gift…….though it cost Him plenty He was happy to do it.

heart leaves

And when we accept it by stopping our striving and wrestling and open our hearts to His love He is honored. When we do that, It makes Him feel like it was all worth it. Like a parent who has had to sacrifice so many times they feel their battered ripped to shreds heart may just give way this time. Then the child realises he or she is not the only one in the world, that someone loved until it hurt for them. When that love is released, hearts can start to mend.

Do you see a heart here, or just a dead tree?

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Accept the invitation that God sends through His nature friends. I can assure you of a reward. A wise man named John Muir said this:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

A Balm for the Scorched Soul

Watch out for this peeled door light! Here without rain, without shame my noonday dusk made spots upon the walk: Tall drops pelted the concrete with their jewelry belonging to the old world’s bones.

Owning this view, in the air of a hermit’s weather, I count the fragmentary in drops as blue as coal until I plumb the shadows full of thunder. My prayers supervise the atmosphere till storms call the hounds home. Thomas Merton, “In the Rain and the Sun”

Last evening as I alternated between nodding off and cradling my phone by the blue glow of “Blue Bloods” on TV, I was following the weather. Waiting for when to turn the air off and open everything up. I held it up, “Look, it says possible thunderstorms!” She then went to her satellite weather ap which did indeed show a small front moving through.

I have been missing all the Arizona monsoon action, all the crashing and brilliant skies that are part of every July-August there. The one thing I most looked forward to over the course of the relentless heat of summer. It was always like a balm for the scorched soul.

And we were treated last night to a light sprinkling of blessed rain. I ran outside to feel the sweet little cold needles pelt my skin. And later, after this side of the world had fallen asleep, the flash of lightning and rolling thunder came. It was nothing like the ferocity and power of Arizona storms which can leave you breathless with simultaneous wonder and fear, but God’s hand was in it just the same.

It was a gift. And here and now I am listening to the earth’s noises in the quiet of morning which is really the same as a prayer without actually speaking the words. A nearby train is rolling through and the dust is settled. I breathe thanks for the doxology of coffee…….”Praise God from whom all blessings flow……..”

Whatever happens in my life I have been given the best possible gift, or I guess I have been able to receive it. We’ve all been given the gift, everyone who has ever taken a Heavenly breath, for all breath does come from Heaven. It’s just that knowledge alone, that God is here and I never remember not knowing that. For some reason in my mind and heart it was settled long ago.

And yes, there have been many times I have wondered at His methods, even as I felt the world as I knew it drop out from under me. Even when I was too tired to believe or pray. And it’s not about simply putting on a happy face, it’s about knowing that something was carved into your soul that was there even before you were born.  And that someone is a God who loves much more than we can possible imagine. Enough to sacrifice Himself to win us back.

This is the whole crux of the Christian Faith:

It’s simply this: I was born, and that alone proves I was meant to be here. And if I was meant to be here, that proves the bigger thing, that God wanted me here. I am here because He was here first. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

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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 Million Moments

 

Yet, you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  James 4:14

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Crowfoot

Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  Psalm 139:1-4

Each of us is a life that God has started, a perfect work of art and beauty and passion and creativity. A million sacred moments, one after another. And each of us is bound up and held together by something that pushes us forward and dares to say yes to the start of the new day.

What is that thing that makes most of us even in the worst circumstances choose to keep going?  It’s the hope that beyond everything we have a sense that what we do matters and that if nature itself can rise again each day then we can too.

I believe that when God breathed His Holy breath into us He breathed hope into us too. Oh how we cling to hope, and we try to keep it going like fanning a flame that has almost gone out. Like it’s something we have to work at. We pedal faster and more furiously when we lose sight of it.

Then we try putting our hope somewhere it doesn’t belong and blame God for taking it away. But Hope in God will never disappoint. Maybe what He is trying to teach us is that we don’t have to work at it, we just have to rest in it.

In Him.

We are all unique creations and expressions of His great hope and love. We are all at different stages in our journey, but ultimately He has hope in us! Maybe what each of us need to do is hold out some of that hope to each other.

Remember that each of us is His precious work of art that started out perfectly good. He sees us that way still. I remember when my Dad used to paint watercolors and my Mom would tell him how good it was. She saw perfection, but he saw the one flaw. The next day there would be a black “X” over it.

Sometimes we put black X’s on each other. Done……spoiled…..finished……no good. But God sees our beginning and our end.

He has hope in you and me.

“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5

 

 

Under the Grace

Green hills

Today I want to showcase two older songs I have on my playlist. The first, by Phil Keaggy I had to scour the Internet for. Phil is a world-renowned guitar player but in his early years he had a couple of albums where he sang. I went on a Phil Keaggy buying frenzy a few years back and bought about 5 of his guitar CDs…..what a tremendous talent.

The second is by Wayne Watson whose music I first had on cassette (so was Phil’s actually). His music and messages are timeless though. I hope you enjoy these lyrics and I encourage you to listen to the songs on the Internet. I have listened to them countless times when I feel like I’m grappling for answers and they always give me comfort. When you are homesick for Heaven and wishing you could make everything right.

Under the Grace

Phil Keaggy

I lie awake in the middle of the night again
I try to make some sense of it all rushing in
There’s so much I feel within this heart of mine
I well up inside and my eyes, they overflow
For I know it is grace.

The look of love in the shape of your face I have known
It speaks of this deep sacrifice you have shown
And the wonder of it all is I didn’t deserve this, I couldn’t have planned it so right
And so my eyes, they overflow, let it rain, let it pour, let it go
For I know this, yes, I know, it is grace.

And the hungry in heart seeks for its place and a home, mmm
But it may tear you apart when you see what this grace here has done
Fly, fly all you burdens, go fly away
It’s here I remain, under the grace, the grace.

It seems there’s so little time to make amends here
If not for you, well, then I’m without a friend here.

And the hungry in heart seeks for its place and a home
It may tear you apart when you see what this grace here has done
Fly, fly all you burdens, go fly away
It’s here I remain, under the grace, the grace.

I lie awake in the middle of the night again, again.

Home Free 

Wayne Watson
I’m trying hard not to think you unkind
But Heavenly Father
If you know my heart
Surely you can read my mind
Good people underneath the sea of grief
Some get up and walk away
Some will find ultimate relief

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be Home Free
Home Free, oh I’ve got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free

Out in the corridors we pray for life
A mother for her baby, A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It’s sad but true
And while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is with you

You know pain has little mercy
And suffering’s no respecter of age, of race or position
I know every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray is slow to come
Oh Lord, not mine, but Thy will be done

Let it be…

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing gonna be Home Free
Home Free, oh its more than a feeling
At the ultimate healing
Gonna be Home Free

 

A Resting Place

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“I need no other argument, I need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me……” My Faith has found a resting place, Eliza E. Hewitt, 1891

There is something in the old Hymns that cuts right to the core of that matter the way the modern songs just can’t. It’s like a chord is struck deep inside that reaches across all boundaries to reach some eternal understanding. It’s like putting the needle of the phonograph back to the first groove. (Youngsters will have to look this up) Or how about a reset on the computer?

A snatch of a chorus will come back when I’m going about my business and it will stay with me throughout the day. Eternal truth. When chaos ensues around me and there is nothing I can do to stop it I am reminded that “it is well with my soul” because God’s got me.

What’s your particular storm today? Jesus still commands the wind and the waves. Not only the ones outside but the more troubling ones in the heart and soul. The ones we carry with us everywhere. And yet, the still small voice speaks in between the everyday business of tasks and life. While I was driving to work the other day, I was filled overflowing with the joy of the Spirit. For 3 minutes I was high.

In a perfect world that joy would have met with others who recognize it but as with most days, I entered the doors to my current place of business and my light was stifled by the bushels around me. No fault of theirs, it’s me that pulls back. I only hope by some miracle a little light shows through. Have mercy of me Jesus. I am so imperfect.

Help me get out of the way so that Your light will shine and spill onto others in my path. I guess that’s about the best prayer we can pray on any given day.

My faith has found a resting place, Not in device or creed; I trust the every living One, His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me.

Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt; A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.

I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me.