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.

Words

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The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they pour forth knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

There is a time when silence has its own magnificent language, you can’t adequately explain a sunrise, or a full moon rising over the earth. You have to see it, and once you see it you have to answer the question: “Who did this?”

I love words. I love the art of crafting them on paper. I love reading what talented writers write. I use them to try to capture my feelings which are much of the time tangled and twisted inside me.

Writing is my way of making sense of my world and the world around me. They are necessary to use them to have good relationships with people, especially the ones we care about. But sometimes I wish we could just read each other’s hearts and know each other’s pain and struggles without all the words because sometimes words just aren’t adequate.

We could just sit in the silence like you do with a dear friend watching a sunrise. You know that feeling when at the same time you have that sharp little intake of breath when you see it…..”Oh…..” “Wow….” “Will you look at that?”

I could receive your heart and you could receive mine and all would be clear, nothing confused, like a sunrise. And we would say….”Oh….” “Yes…..” I see you clearly now. I understand.

And all would be well.

When we pray, something kind of like that happens. It’s something miraculous. As Christians, we reach out to the Holy Spirit of the God of the universe. We reach out on behalf of each other when we don’t know what else to say because the Holy Spirit knows the canvas written on each of our hearts.

He speaks with groanings too deep for words to the Father about us. He knows we don’t have the right words, but He does. He always does.

Prayer for today:

“Lord, I give you everyone in my circle today. Give us all the peace that passes understanding. Give us new strength for this good day, for they’re all good days because you are here with us. Help us to help each other in the right ways. Get the clutter out of our hearts so that we can see you and each other more clearly. Help us to love one another with Your love. Thank you for words and thank you for sunrises and sunsets and all this beauty around us. Help us never forget to notice it. Tamp out the worry and fear that threatens to overwhelm us at times. And help us always to know the future is in your hands not ours.” In your Son’s matchless name, Amen.

 

 

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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The unchanging nature of God

 

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God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today. Hebrews 13:8

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. James 1:17

I don’t know about you, but I draw tremendous comfort from a God who never changes. People and relationships will change. Circumstances change. Life is all about change and frankly, I am tired of it. I want a settled life.

But the fact that I am tired of it won’t change it. Change won’t stop until we take our final breath and part of what it means to be well-adjusted is to make peace with that.  I am learning to breathe and find peace in the moments. I have spent way too much time mired in anxiety since we moved and it has stolen too much of my joy.

I remember going out in the early morning dark when I was trying to make this big decision and praying while gazing at the moon. It’s kind of like God’s face. I made the decision to leave my comfort zone, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My life is open-ended, there are no conclusions, no end results yet. But here is the line of the song that just came through my headphones:

But He’s alive and there’s an empty grave……my redeemer lives.

And when He said, “It is finished,” He meant it. What that means for all of us that believe His words are true is that the biggest conclusion of our lives is all wrapped up. The struggles and questions we have down here, well, He is totally equipped to help us with those too.

So until the dust settles, I am thanking Him for all those moments when I surrender my anxiety and exchange it for His peace. And when my time here runs out and it will for all of us, I will be able to say with Him. It is finished, and the end result will be very, very good.

Down a dusty road

 

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Lest I forget:

“……..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ” Matthew 28:20 ESV

“And He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised us.” 2 Corinthians 1:22 NLT

It’s easy to get lost down here. Lately I have forgotten my place in God’s adopted family; that in fact I am God’s own, that I belong to Him. I guess I just haven’t felt like it. It’s like there is a mist between us, and yet I know from years of traveling this road of faith with Him that it’s never God that pulls away. The Holy Spirit has promised to go the distance with me until we are reunited with the Trinity on the last day.

And yet……I do believe sometimes God withdraws (as if behind a cloud) just enough to allow us to draw on our memories and assurances so that our faith has a chance to stretch and grow. This morning, as I felt that familiar emptiness that has enveloped me for months, I sensed Him telling me:

Look back along the dusty road we have walked together, you and I

“Remember me on that foggy morning right around Christmas long ago? Remember how I filled the room with my Presence and how it’s just as real today as it was all those years ago?”

I was with you then and I am with you now

“And remember when you took those first shaky steps down the aisle at church?”

I am just as real today as I was then

It’s true, He is…..(You are, Lord)

I have volumes and journals of our travels together, Jesus and I. Almost fifty-eight years full, and I can rest on faith even when I feel a distance, and that makes us all the closer in the long run.

I am so very thankful He has promised to go the distance with me.

Evening Falls

 

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Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul……..Thomas Merton

I am trying to learn this: When words are few, there is a reason and a purpose for it. At least that’s what I am telling myself. There was a time not so long ago that my words poured out almost effortlessly. Not anymore. I know it’s a season I am going through and I don’t know if it will last for another month or a year or even more. I am resting in His timing, trying not to force words that aren’t there.

This evening I told myself I would come out here and write whatever came, whatever sounds I heard. Just now, the sun is slipping away to another part of the world giving way to a cool evening and a colder night. I am drinking Tazo Zen tea, the kind I used to drink on my work afternoons with a drop of honey and milk. I thought that might spark something creative.

The Mockingbird has stopped singing and now I hear the drowsy growl of a small plane overhead. That makes me think of fishing when I was a kid, and BBQ potato chips and a rocking boat and water lapping against the side. I didn’t really fish I just went along. I remember the sky being so very blue.

It’s beautiful here now, like living inside a Haiku poem. California in Spring, especially in the foothills is very close to Tolkien’s Hobbiton. On our drive there the other day it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Bilbo and Gandalf on a stroll or sitting on the side of a hill blowing smoke rings as they puffed their pipe-weed.

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And the other day I found a perfect nest. I was walking up from the river and I saw a big dark object laying at the foot of the trees. I looked all over and didn’t see any baby birds or eggs, thankfully. I carried it like a trophy, it was such a marvel I didn’t know what to do with it. I wanted to preserve the miracle, for that’s what it was (is) to me. How a bird could design something so incredible and engineer something from nothing is beyond me. It’s just God, that’s all.

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So, my friends if you are still reading, “Good on ya!” I am thankful for anyone and everyone who has been keeping up with me on this blog. It’s a Grace journey we are all on. Along with Thomas Merton, I believe that everything we go through here serves some kind of purpose.

My tea has gone cold in the mug and the mosquito’s are out. I wish the bats would come and eat them all. It’s about time for them to come out. The birds have gone quiet now, all tucked away on their secure boughs. Time to go for now.

Evening falls once again…….It is well with my soul even when words don’t come.

Redeeming the Time

 

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“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.