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?

 

The way Home

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Words are so very hard to come by these days. There are things I am going through right now that I can’t write freely about, maybe that’s why. But there are still plenty of things to say. I have struggled with prayer the past two years like I never have. In the desert, my prayers and words seemed to flow.  That place of dust and cactus and mysterious beauty was like a foreign land at first, but it turned into a place that folded itself around us. Comforted us through the loss of both Elaine’s parents and all we went through with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the grief that went with it.

My blog was born there in the little shop, against the backdrop of monsoon rains and the cooing of doves that never seemed to stop. I don’t miss the heat but I miss many other things about our life there. Looking back can sometimes paint memories with a rosy hue and that’s good. Like I said, I don’t miss the endless relentless summers.

Here, mercifully, it cools off at night and in the morning we are always surprised to find sometimes even chilly air coming through the windows. Coming back to my hometown has felt like simultaneously fitting into an old slipper and wrangling my foot into a stiletto heel two sizes too small. I feel at home sometimes and lost sometimes. Maybe a bit of both at all times. But that’s okay, thankfully Jesus goes with us wherever we go.

The most important things are still intact. Despite the fact that I don’t have the “feelings” I used to have, the prayer life that once felt so rich, I know this silence of His must be part of the journey. That’s where faith comes in. The Bible says He keeps our prayers in a bowl, so I know they’re safe in His keeping.

Sometimes the plan is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other over and over again. Maybe it’s all about setting things right one at a time, the things that are right in front of you. This place has brought about tremendous creativity and new experiences for both of us. And we are very grateful to be in this place of beauty.

The mile marker always starts with gratitude. That’s the way Home with a capital H. Heaven that is. The most important thing is to find people with the light of eternity in their eyes and hang with them. Those are the ones you laugh with, and pray with, and are at ease with. You don’t have to worry about everything you say. I feel like something close to Supernatural can happen with a simple gathering on a front porch somewhere. It’s something you just feel. You know.

None of us knows when we’ll take our last breaths here but the most important thing to me is knowing I will take my next gasp on the shores of Heaven. I will gaze in wonder like the kids from Narnia I know I will be at a loss for words.

Until then I will keep my eyes on the mile markers for direction. I look back at each place God has allowed me to set foot and I know it’s all been Holy ground. Because He’s been there.

Every step.

 

What a Special Needs Classroom Taught Me

 

 

 

The job of Paraeducator had in its description many things, mostly categorizing what I would do to help out the teacher in the classroom and on the playground, and in turn the kids. What it left out was something it couldn’t possibly know or prepare me for. That was how those kids opened up a whole new place in my heart for love.

What it also left out was how I learned even more about grace working and playing with them for these past 4 months. That is, grace with a capital “G” as in God’s grace.

At first I had a hard time learning all their names. I got so and so mixed up with so and so. But then I got to know them as individuals. That was when my heart opened up. I found that I even came to love the ones who got on my last nerve and had to put in time out. Even when they looked right at me and did exactly what I told them not to!

How can you prepare your heart for how you’ll feel when they call your name and run to you with arms outstretched? How can you know what a good feeling it is when they give you a spontaneous kiss and hug even after you’ve had to scold them? That’s when I heard the Spirit whisper, “That is how God loves you, my child.”

I can honestly say that I loved each and every one of them in different ways. (Around 25 in all) I found myself calling them “my kids” more and more as the weeks wore on. As another school shooting happened and I found myself in a classroom, I couldn’t imagine someone threatening these little ones, so vulnerable between the ages of three and five.

They even found their way into my dreams.

Even now, almost a week later the songs that were part of the daily repertoire are still running through my head. “Chickarocka chickaboom” “Ladybug, ladybug” “Great White Shark” “The Jellybean Counting song” all still there.

I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to say goodbye the last day of school. They left so soon, each in different directions. And I wasn’t ready. Their faces, their voices, everything that is uniquely them, all gathered together in a string of memories I won’t let go of. I will miss reading to you Jonathan. I will miss you catching me when I miss a page. I will even miss your tantrums.

I will miss you Christopher and the impossibly cute way you talked, and the funny noises you made running on the playground. I know you all by name now. We are no longer strangers and I will wonder about you all my life.

You were my first class. And you taught me so much more than I could ever teach you. I will hold you in my heart and my prayers, and wonder about what you will grow up to be. Thank you for teaching me about how God loves us all. Each in our own uniqueness; each with our own bundle of idiosyncrasies and problems, insecurities and hangups.

Thank you God for shining down on me through those little ones. To show me how you love me. Even when I look right at you and defiantly insist on doing things my own way. I know now……I know more about how deep Your love really is and how much you thrill over my victories. And I know how you feel when I run to you with arms open wide and how you long for that.

The Writing in the Sand

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Where are your accusers? That was the question Jesus asked the woman who was caught in adultery. I’ve wondered all kinds of things when I’ve read and reread this story. This time it became more alive to me. I could see Jesus there……hear the stones thudding against the ground……..one, then one after another. I saw the dust fly up in my mind when they hit. I put myself in the woman’s place. I wondered where the man was?

We wonder don’t we, what Jesus wrote in the dirt. He did it twice kind of bending down almost as if He was pretending He didn’t hear the question. We’ve all done this from time to time. Someone asks you something and you don’t want to answer right away or maybe at all. You look off into the distance, look down at your hands…..sigh heavily. I think maybe Jesus did sigh heavily as He stared at the ground and moved his finger through the dust.

Where are you today? What guilt are you dragging around that you long to let go of? Where do you fall short in your accusers eyes and who are they? Is it a parent? An adult child? Yourself? The Church? A world that has dashed you into the rocks one too many times, one too many waves of grief……pain……loss.

The week is over and where are your accusers? Maybe it’s you telling yourself how you just don’t measure up against some standard you put on yourself. God doesn’t see us as failed experiments, friend, and neither should you. If it was you they dragged in front of Jesus that day with their fingers of blame the result would be the same.

The writing in the dirt, that line in the sand is for all of us who fall short, and we all do, everyday. Romans 3:23 kind of gives me hope: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Maybe on this Mother’s Day you are remembering a Mom who made you feel like you never measured up. Maybe you aren’t a Mom and others made you feel less than because of it. Maybe they even made you feel that because you never were a parent you don’t have the capacity to love fully. Don’t let that lie sink in. The stones of your accusers are falling like rain.

Here is a truth: there is a little mother in all of us. It’s how we’re designed. We are made in the very image of Who birthed the world itself. That is not to minimize the importance of good Mothers everywhere, but to bring us all up to where and how God sees us as individuals.

Embrace this simple truth today: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” It’s a good day to be released today. To forgive and be forgiven. The air of freedom is there. Take a deep breath and remember that there is room at the base of the cross for all.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6

 

The March that really matters

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There are many marches going on right now in the U.S. and all around the world. Down through history people have marched for different things. Some of those marches had impact and affected real change. Some marches will have little lasting impact.

Today, on Palm Sunday we celebrate a small band of marchers that changed not only history and time as we know it, but changed eternity as well. A small band of people including Jesus walked toward Jerusalem and as Jesus approached the city He wept because He saw hearts that needed to be changed. Just like today.

He knew that He and He alone had the only cure for a terminally heartsick humanity. Just like today.

However zealous today’s marchers might be, they can never affect real lasting change. Real change can only come when people’s hearts are transformed by Jesus. Palm Sunday has always affected me. There is just something about Easter week and everything that goes with it. It’s like everything in the world that we think is so important can just wait. It all pales in comparison with what happened on the world stage around 2000 years ago. And largely, people back then had no clue about what was really going on. Just like most people today.

Jesus came. He vacated His seat in Heaven for this lowly grungy stinky planet. Does that get your attention? It should. And if not, why not?

People threw their coats down on the road where Jesus came riding in on the donkey. For most people, it was their only coat. One week later those same people screamed for His death. This week among all weeks is when we remember what God’s love cost Him. Everything.

Today was kind of comical but not really. We were irritated and circling the parking lot once again. We were too late for early church and way too early for late church. We hung out in the parking lot and watched people until 10:00 service started trickling out.

When the service started, however, it no longer mattered. To sing, “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest” as little kids came down the aisles waving palm branches was enough to do me in. The world and everything in it melted away in those few minutes as it was just Jesus and me…….and us. An eternal family worshipping in church. A world away. A world together.

Later I got to decorate eggs with my niece and see my family……..later still, I worked in the yard with my bestie and it felt like Holy work. Something about working close to the earth reminds us of Eden I guess. Holy work for Holy Week.

I hope this week to remember to pause enough. Remember enough. Cherish enough.

Thank you Jesus. All to You I owe.

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.

Happy Dust Day

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It’s Ash Wednesday which is the starting of Lent, the day we remember we are eventually all going the way of “dust in the wind” (to paraphrase an old Kansas song). It’s also Valentine’s Day, the day of love. It seems at first glance that those two things are at odds with each other. As I sit here watching a blue jay drink from the fountain and color fill the sky, I think of God’s great love. How at the dawn of Creation He was thinking of me, of all of us.

God is the sustainer of all things, our breath, our life and yes even our death. He was there at the first and He will be there to catch our soul when we breathe our last on this earth. Only one small curtain between this life and our reclaimed life with Him forever.

For those of us who are aging, the dust part is easy to believe. We get ready to face the day and we notice more lines, it’s a little harder to cover the wrinkles, the discoloration. I find myself lingering at the Spanx aisle. Gravity has started take its inevitable toll on my body. I have to work all that much harder at the gym. Beating back the effects of time gets so tiring.

Sometimes it’s a relief to wipe everything off at the end of the day, throw the bra in the corner, or if you’re a guy at the office, take off the suit and tie. Coming home is where we can take all the junk off and be real. Or it should be.

All too soon this day will start. Maybe for you it already has. As I write this the train roars through town and it reminds me of my mind, already racing ahead and clouded over with what I have to do later. But one thing will remain. God loved me first, loves me still. And He wants us to pass that love on.

Even if you don’t have a sweetheart today, you can still give gifts. Drop someone a card that least expects it. Stop by your local shelter with an armload of blankets for the animals. Call a shut in. Maybe just smile more.

Thank God for loving you first and last.

Today I used the picture of the Dogwood flower to illustrate Jesus love. You can read about it here.

May peace be yours today.

Lori