Redeeming the Time

 

image

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

One thing I’m sure of

img_6716

“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

 

While you were away

Snowflake

I checked “find friends” on my phone while you were away and it said you were “home.” That wiggled me because in many ways I still think of Arizona as our home. A chunk of your heart stays places. I gazed at the screen that still said home and I retraced all those streets, all those places I knew so well. I think about the things I miss and constantly compare. This was cheaper, this was cleaner, this was nicer. I miss my Mall. I miss my mountain. Of course it wasn’t my mountain at all, any more than this river is mine.

I am still finding my way. Like this little snowflake hurtling from Heaven to earth, isn’t that what we’re all doing? God breathes life into us, incredible beauty and potential right from the start, and even as we are hurled down to earth, we start losing sight of the One who created us. The light of Heaven grows dim and circumstances threaten to melt us.

Our home sold and it feels strange. I close my eyes to sleep and I can still see where everything was in my room. I think of everything piled in storage and I hope it’s okay. I know God says to lay up treasure in Heaven but I admit I have a few things I really like down here. Home is a place we carve out. But more than a physical place, it is the place we started out and the one we are going back to. We are all just about as temporary as this little snowflake. I think that’s why my heart lurches a little when I see it.

What did the Angels talk about when Jesus vacated the throne to fill up a manger? What did they talk about while He was away? I wonder.

This journey we’re on will one day lead us to our final destination. I can’t tell you how glad I am that Jesus made the journey here for us so that we could be together with Him in our forever home. That thought makes the whole thing worthwhile.

That thought led me to say absolutely nothing in prayer this morning. I sat in silence and one quiet thought dropped in, as quietly as a pin.

Seek peace and pursue it. This is the whole verse from Psalm 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”

It’s time to drop our weapons folks. It’s the season for love, and forgiveness and an innocent little baby who made Himself nothing so that we might live. It’s time to lay down our verbal assault rifles against each other.

It’s time to seek peace and pursue it. It’s time to look forward to going home and taking as many others with us as we can.

Coming Home to Gratitude

1653913231_ea52dd0e6a_o

“God reveals Himself in rear view mirrors. And I’ve an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror. Maybe sometimes about as far as Heaven–that kind of distance.” Ann Voskamp

This afternoon, I remembered something I used to do back in Arizona. It was a wonderful habit of counting out my blessings along with the community that Ann Voskamp started with her wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts. Oh, I remember those Monday posts, sitting there in my cozy home counting out my “thankfuls”fondly.

I have been struggling, really struggling to get words out. Before they used to pour out like an offering……..liquid words splashing like a drink offering on my altar to God. The well seems to have dried up but I have learned as a writer that these times are often as valuable as when words flow freely.

The move we wrestled with for so long is behind us. The stress of me starting a brand new job that I almost drove myself into despair over, behind us. I have arrived at a kind of comfort zone where the blackness now is a gray with a tinge of hope at the edges. We are settled in a beautiful spot by a river where we hear trains often, always a favorite of mine. I missed those in Arizona.

So I wondered. Why can’t I write? Where did the words go? Why, with all this beauty around me does my soul feel dampened? Where is that deep peace I had in the desert?

Could part of it be that I have brought too many other things to the foot of the cross and forgotten my gratitude? Could it be that simple?

So here in this place, on this Veteran’s Day, I will forget all about the craziness going on in the world and concentrate on counting my gifts again, for they are many: 

Little leaves floating down from Heaven, resting circles on the water.

The owl I heard the other morning

The three river otters I saw playing, mouth agape as I tried to run for my camera on Saturday morning

Cherished time spend with a dear friend and laughter that went along with it, and Kayaking on the river. 

My health…..my health…..my health. 

This new job that I wrestled with and at last come to a place of a somewhat uneasy comfort zone. 

A best friend who never stops finding ways to make living in an RV better and more comfortable, and thankful that it didn’t sell so we could live here in this incredible beauty. 

Family who is close, who I can drive or bike to see. 

Friends who have expressed joy and gladness that we are here now. 

God, who has never left me, and never will.

Thank you Ann, for starting this with your wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts. I pray that the Lord continue to bless and keep you and your family.

The Halls of Heaven

IMG_6069

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging……Psalm 46:1-3

Sometimes Jesus sneaks a quiet thought in when you aren’t expecting it. He does that a lot. I always know when they come from Him because they just make so much sense, and most of the time, I don’t have that much. This is the kernel of wisdom He gave me:

I never asked you to do or be everything, I only asked you to follow me.

I have been racing around, trying to learn a new job and run over and do things for my folks which is part of why I came. There hasn’t been much quiet time, but as my other wise friend said, “You have to make the quiet time, it doesn’t come and find you.”

This world has really turned up the noise lately. I am so done with politics. Really, it means so very little. In ten or so years (or maybe one month) we will have forgotten why we got so upset about it all. There are a few things that come with a guarantee in this life. One of them is that as I grow older the halls of Heaven are getting more crowded. This world in my circle is shrinking as it will continue to do until such time as I join them.

A death of a friend will bring that home quicker than anything. We lost a dear friend shortly after we moved here. We passed their house on the way out of town and it haunts us both that we didn’t stop. I first met Ruby when I ran out of Mary Kay, back when we lived in Payson. I called the number because I ran out of Mauve Elegance lipstick. She and her husband Ron lived in a big house at the top of the hill. When she answered the door what struck me were her green eyes and striking smile. Her last name was Green. As was the carpet in their beautiful home.

She became like a surrogate Mom to us both. We were invited to home cooked meals and always laughter, always laughter. She was one of those people who could be working out in the yard without a stitch of makeup, sweat rolling down her face and then disappear in the bathroom for an hour and come out looking like Fifth Avenue. And she loved the Lord. Years would pass sometimes between the time we would see them again, but it never mattered. It was always like old times when we met again.

I miss you Ruby. Our loss is indeed Heaven’s gain.

This world can stomp us into the ground if we let it. Sometimes I just want to shrink myself down until I all but disappear. But the problem with that is, you disappear for those who need you. Who are counting on you. It’s all about balance. Jesus had to retreat to quiet places time and time again.

And so do we. And what a place I have now to do just that. We all have a challenge to keep that spark from blowing out. Each day we have a choice to fan that little spark. I think of when Ruby and I used to sit at the piano, “C’mon and let’s sing!”she used to say. She loved that song, “Pass it on.” She loved the lyrics, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around will warm up to its glowing…..”

This world is increasingly not my home. The time we have down here is precious. No doubt about it, this world is enough to make us rock back on our heels with our hands in our faces, but it can also make our hearts split in two with the joy of it.

Today I opened my devotional with Numbers……..‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

I got a flashback because that’s the verse my Mom used to pray over my niece, Lauryn before she left for school back when she reached down to put her loving hands on her head. Now she would have to reach up……they don’t take her to school anymore, but the prayer is always there, will always be there.

Both down here, and ringing in the Halls of Heaven.

The Lord bless us all. We sure do need it right now.

The Still Small Voice

 

14142061_10206911059236978_5951114380666405910_nIs anxiety threatening to run over you like a steam roller today?  Don’t claim it. I prayed this morning for Jesus to take “my anxiety” but then I realized that I was using the wrong words. It’s not “my anxiety.” Anxiety doesn’t belong to you or me. That is not to say we don’t feel it, some of us more than others. The truth is, there are many things in the world today that cause us our stomachs to churn. Just turning on the news does it for me. Some days it seems all we can do to keep tamping it down. I used to feel it as soon as I got on the freeway in the mornings, the hum.

Going, doing, being. It sometimes gets overwhelming. But the still small voice of Jesus reminded me today that He never asked me to do or be everything. He only asked me to follow Him.

One step at a time.

When I think of all the events that have transpired just the past 5 months along, I am staggered by the fact that He brought us through it all.

Retirement. Big Anxiety.

A move to another State. More anxiety.

Getting my Mom through two surgeries and recovery.

Dealing with terrible movers.

The loss of my fur baby before we moved.

And then it seemed like everything was too much and all my words stopped flowing. Who can figure it out? When I lived in the desert, the words seemed to flow effortlessly, then I move on the banks of a beautiful river and my words seemed to flow out along with the tide. But sometimes it’s okay to be still.

And that is what I have done.

I am not the same girl who left this town many years ago. I have done tremendous things with God’s help. And in many ways I am the same, but I have also grown.

No, it’s not my anxiety. And it’s not yours either.

I am taking a step with Jesus today. Together we will walk on water. This is where I am meant to be.

 

Heart is where the Home is…….

IMG_5593

I flew in last night from spending a wonderful weekend at my cousin and his wife’s beautiful home in Sonoma, the heart of the wine country. The scenery was breathtaking, just as I remembered it when I was there too long ago at their wedding. More than that it was the faces I hadn’t seen, the greetings, the laughter, the joy of surprising everyone by showing up unexpectedly. The look on the faces of my family as they got out of the car and saw me were worth any amount to get there.

As wonderful as it all was, it was tiring. After the planes, shuttles, and rental cars it’s always good to get home. I have always thought being homeless would be the worst, having no place to belong, no place to get out of the storm, no place to call your own.

Scripture has much to say about home. Jesus had no physical dwelling place on this earth. About Himself he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” He knew His true home was Heaven, and so do we, if we belong to Him.

As I was meditating on the whole concept of home this morning at 2:30 AM when I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking that as believers, we carry “Home” around in the form of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us. And since Heaven is our real permanent home, and Jesus continually said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, right here and now, then it logically follows that our “real” home can never be snatched away. It’s here, it’s there it’s everywhere, kind of like the Beatles song of the same name. (Look it up those of you under 50)

As wonderful as it is to have a physical home right here and now, I know that if I lost it today it would be nothing compared to not having that home that never leaves me. there are few promises in Scripture better than the one that says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

Our future home in Heaven is more real than you can imagine. It’s not a figurative idea, it is a concrete place where nothing ever dies or rusts or wears out. While we are bound to this earth,  we are severely limited in what we can see and touch and feel. Our hope is in that better place. And yet Jesus said in many different ways, don’t just wander around dreaming of Heaven, but instead store up treasure there by helping those in need here. Look for opportunities to show God’s great love for humanity by being a conduit for His love yourself.

I guess you could say, we are all like the prodigal son who finally came to his senses and went back home. As wonderful as this world was to him at first, sooner or later it chewed him up and spit him out. He knew where he had to go. To His father’s waiting arms.

And while he expected to be treated like a servant, His Father ended up treating him like a prince. Listen to what the Bible says about how our Heavenly Father views us, friends:

“So he got up and went to His Father, “But while He was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Kind of like the greeting I got from my family as they saw me and gasped and then held out their arms open wide.

That kind of love is our real home. That’s the kind of love the Father’s has for us, and all we have to do is turn to Him and receive Him. That’s our hope. No matter how wonderful this world is, we have a better one coming.

You might feel like you are a long way off from God right now. Maybe it’s been years since you darkened the door of a church. Maybe you never have. But all it involves is one small step toward him, and like the father gazing out the window looking for his son (or daughter) He’s waiting.

IMG_5599

Photos from the home and property of John and Jean Painter………I sincerely hope they don’t mind.