Waiting for normal

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In every crisis situation there is a paradigm shift. You look around at your world and it’s different. The birds are still singing, flowers are still in bloom. The hummingbirds still come to the feeder and the geese still honk their way through the sky. Nature never stops. But we’ve stopped. That is, what we always thought of normal has stopped.

I’m sitting here waiting for the 7 o clock train, “Soft Hands” we call the conductor, because he does soft little puffs on the horn. I wait with an over-exaggerated impatience. It feels a little bit like panic, which I know is ridiculous but I want to hear it because that feels normal. But he doesn’t come. It’s 7:32 and I wonder where he is.

I feel a sense of unreality like the day after 9/11 when there were no planes overheard. Trying to describe it to my Aunt, I said, “I feel like the rapture came and we were left behind, but I know that’s not true.

It’s like a Stephen King novel that we’re all playing a part in. The other day we stood in the Geezer line at Costco to get supplies for my folks and Aunt Mayvis and it was like the zombie apocalypse. Gloved, masked elders (us among them) shuffled forward, hundreds of us towards the door. We waited over an hour.

A local nurse has passed away from the virus and now his wife tested positive. And an employee of one of our favorite wineries also tested positive.

And no one knows quite what to do. Our homes have become bunkers. The downtown area is quiet. Schools are closed for the rest of the year. They made that announcement yesterday. And yet, people are finding creative ways to stay in touch.

Writing letters, notes, leaving food on porches. And speaking of porches…..I have seen actually seen people sitting on their porches again. There will be some good to come out of this. Never again will I take hugs for granted. I will hug a little harder after this. Maybe we all will. I believe good always comes during times like this. Even as my heart aches to physically hold my folks and family close. 

Maybe when we finally leave this new normal behind, our old normal will feel like new again. Once more my friends, we will stand close, breathe each other’s air without fear, enjoy each other’s company, have community. It will be a little like being born again. And the sooner we do what we have to now, the sooner we can get back to that.

Easter will be different this year but one thing is for sure. Nothing can stop the King from coming, again and again into our lives.

As I drove Downtown these past few weeks I’ve been thinking lately of the words to that old Gaither song, The King is Coming:

The Marketplace is empty

No more traffic in the streets

All the builders tools are silent

No more time to harvest wheat

Busy housewives cease their labor

In the courtroom no debate

Work on earth has been suspended

As the King comes thro’ the gate…..

Even so come Lord Jesus…….we need you, our world needs you.

 

Songwriters: Charles Millhuff, Gloria Gaither, Bill Gaither

 

 

 

It’s still Lent

One good thing about all this rushing about, worrying about this virus, being selective about where we go and listening for new updates is that sooner or later we get tired of all that. We settle in, we tune out, we get creative about the things we can do instead of what we can’t.

And when we stop, something very Holy happens. We start paying attention to other things. We start talking more, we find closeness of a different kind. It looks like calling people. We are checking on each other more. We are remembering what it looks like to be a true neighbor.

Nothing like a pandemic to bring us closer. To make us realize we are all really one big family across the globe. 

The most important things are still ours. It’s still Lent. Just underneath all the hubbub is a Spiritual pulse that beats stronger than ever. It’s the 25th Day of Lent. We are still leading up to the horrible awful (Good Friday) and the unbelievably wonderful (Easter).

And the best thing of all, is that in every challenge, every crisis we hear the thunderous echo of His last words. Those last words that changed everything, made restoration between God and man possible again. “It is Finished.”

That means everything is still possible. God is with us. I think the phrase I love most in the 139th Psalm is:

Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. That one wiggles me every time.

Use this time my friends, for the good. Get outside where we can still go, marvel at nature. Learn something new. I was challenged with Suduko. I was always afraid of it but Elaine was patient. She kept telling me I could do it and now I find it extremely relaxing. She did scold me when I was talking out loud trying to figure it out. She said the rule of Suduko is the silent working of numbers. I laughed.

This morning I walked down to the river and watched the tops of the trees fill with light. I also saw the two wood ducks greeting each other. Two “V”s in the water merging as they traveled together.

And God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning–the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8:22

Peace, I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

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So yesterday was the first day of my two weeks off school. And it was one of those “perfect” days. My mood was buoyant, like a ship sail catching the wind. I read “Before We Were Yours” through 3 cups of coffee and then took a walk through the nearby neighborhood. Only a very few walkers were about. 

There was a gentle rain that started later in the day and that made everyone happy because it’s so needed. It was one of those magical March days I remember from growing up here. All of the fruit trees around town are in flower. Popcorn in shades of pink and white. Then the wind comes and it rains blossoms and you feel like you are inside a Haiku. The real rain comes and the poor daffodils try so very hard not to bow to the ground with the weight of the water.

Good News! We finally found an elliptical that was in really good shape not too far away so we put all the seats down in the car and drove to get it. Once there we wrangled it into the back with one bungy cord and packing tape. I climbed in the back and held onto it the whole way home. It wasn’t going anywhere.

I felt like we really pulled something off and we did. This thing sells new for $600-$800 and we got this one barely used for $200. I feel 15 pounds lighter already.

Now it’s the next evening, Sunday. I have felt off all day. Not like the “Golden Yesterday” But it’s still good. Part of what happens in this life. Some days you just feel off, like the stillness before an earthquake or a tornado. You brace yourself for something but you don’t know what it is. 

But this is the wonderful and weird thing. All day, and I mean literally ALL day, this Mockingbird has been singing and I feel like it is trying to sing me through the day. And this is what God does. He tells us that we will always be okay by giving us little signs. If this bird can sing all day, then I figure he must be right.

There is something to sing about, always.

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This is the mysterious thing about prayer.  It often happens even when you’re not intentionally trying to pray. It’s like riding a bike. If you thought about everything that goes into it you would probably not get yourself down the road. It’s like the other morning, wide awake at 2:00 AM. “I should pray,” I thought. “Why can’t I be more like those “Holy” people who get up and pray and seek God in the middle of the night instead of finding something to eat or drink or read?”

And this is the crazy thing. I got up and started talking to God about just that. Sometimes the best prayer sessions start when you’re not even trying. You’re just talking to the God who created you. Who knows us better than we know ourselves.

It’s reawakening to the knowledge that as believers, we stand saturated by Grace.  And that Grace never leaves us. Not even when we feel undeserving of it. We know we are undeserving and that leaves us breathless with thanksgiving once again.

This is the intimacy the Psalmists knew:

In the morning O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5

For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” Psalm 116:8

And my favorite:

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thought from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with ALL my ways. Psalm 139:1-3

I like to think prayer is what happens while we’re making plans to pray. You don’t have to have just the right setting or the right moment. The time is right now, today. In every moment; every time we thank Him for the weather, the birds, our health. Prayer is giving words to our very breath, as Acts 17 says: “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and it feels good. If I can only move one person closer to knowing God with my words, then it’s all worth it.

I Choose Happy

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That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: A farmer went out to sow his seed……” Matt. 13: 1-3

There is a little kitchen towel I have. It used to be very bright orange and sunny yellow. Because of my old bug yellow will always be a happy color for me. On it are printed the words, “Choose Happy.” Lately there have been things pressing in on me. School starting again, the future, the transitory nature of where we are living, Mom’s illness.

And currently we are facing a homeless/drug element in our town. Transients are camping by the river and there are pictures of feces and you name it on the shore. They clean it up periodically and then they all come back. That has made me extremely upset and restricted my activities on the river this summer. I’ve been wondering why the environmentalists so prevalent in our state are not coming out of the woodwork on this issue. I feel robbed. Cheated.

The thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they (we) may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Everything in this world was set in motion and created by God. Perfectly in balance. The effects of sin have tarnished it. The evidence is all around us. Jesus came to counteract the eternal result of that destruction.  He also makes it possible to supersede all the negativity around us and still embrace life, and beauty, and hope and joy. We don’t have to let the world steal it. It is a choice we have.

It was with that attitude I awoke yesterday morning with a defiant stubbornness to  “Choose Happy.” I shook out the towel from the cabinet, hung it up and claimed Jesus promise. I took it into my heart and prayed it as a mantra all day. And you know what? My attitude changed.

This morning I walked down to the river and saw the magnificent beauty that was there all along. A gift of joy returned. I choose life. I choose gratitude for where we are now. I choose thankfulness for the beautiful message my Mom left me on the phone. That she loves me and glad that I am her daughter.

You see, when I read the parable of the sower and the soil today I realized that while the seed started out good, it was the conditions of the ground it fell into that varied. Each day we are given a choice and each day we live for Christ the choice can only be life. Because He died and rose again to give it to us.

It’s an old old story, but one I never get tired of telling.

Be at peace with your life my friends. He’s got this. He’s got you.

Of Dads and Grandpas

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“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it–we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who He is or what He is up to.” 1 John 3:1 MSG

God loves families. That’s why He found it necessary and important to start one. He certainly didn’t need us. It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like before the creation, but we know it was a perfect union. Father, Son and Holy Spirit…..They could have gone on that way forever.

But because God is such a creator and a giver, He decided to spin out galaxies, and planets and stars and angels in the blackness of eternal space. And then, out of His vast storehouse of love He created all the animals and this home of ours, and us. I wonder…….I’ve always wondered, how much time passed in that perfect fellowship.

How many walks and talks were taken in the cool of the evening before it all went south? Before we decided to listen to the cleverly woven lies that turned God-perfection on its ear. I wonder.

Families are messy and God knew that. Even the angels argued amongst themselves about who was greatest. He created us at great risk, but He felt the risk was worth it. We were worth it. And we fell, as He knew we would in time. Since that time we have never stopped falling. Thankfully, He has never stopped trying to get us back.

When my Dad was a kid, my Grandpa left the family. After my Grandma passed away he remarried. My Dad and Grandpa did some bridge building through the years. As a result I have good memories of him. I passed the house on my walk just the other day. I remembered Christmas at the Elks Lodge and going through his box of rocks and staring at his geodes in the lit up cabinet. And ice-cream socials at the Methodist Church and picnics at the lake. 

I never knew my Grandpa on my Mom’s side but I hope he is one of the first people I meet in Heaven. We lost him to cancer when I was only two. I have a dim memory of him holding me up to his grapevines. He loved roses, and he had a cat named Fritz and he called me his “blond-haired angel” in German. I always wonder if when he held me he was thinking of Annie, his 4 year old daughter who was accidentally shot and killed by a neighbor boy. My Grandma never built that bridge of forgiveness back to him for leaving the gun out. My Mom heard him say quietly one day, “She has never forgiven me.”

I like to think of the three of them together in Heaven, all forgiven, all forgotten.

Sometimes the most important thing in life and also the hardest is to build a bridge back to someone who has hurt us. It’s a huge risk, and it’s scary and most times we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s exactly what God did with Jesus. It cost Him everything, but to get us back he felt it was worth it.

It’s what good Dads do. 

Peace Be Still

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I’m sitting here hunkered down in the Motorhome nervously watching the tops of the trees blow and roar. I used to love lying in bed listening to storms with the wind whipping through the trees but that was before we had 3 trees topple in the February of 2017. They were 50-year-old trees and one hit the house, thankfully no one hurt. But it takes its toll. Now we joke and say we have PTSD whenever we hear of the winds picking up. 

I am sitting and praying for Jesus to please hold up the trees. I tell him, “All it would take is “Peace be still” from you and it would all be over. Then I thought of all the other storms we are facing and tears immediately sprang to my eyes. I worry about our stuff in the trailer…..all the stuff that used to fill our home and I don’t even know what shape it’s in.

I think of my car, still wrecked in the car port, undrivable. I think how nothing really has worked out the way I thought it would here. I thought of the world situation and that it just really too much. 

But then in almost the same breath I thanked God for keeping us all safe. I thanked him for this place of beauty and that these storms, none of them will last forever.

I thanked Him that I got over this cold extremely fast. I thanked Him for my Tax return coming in just in time. I thanked Him for a friend who takes care of everything here while I am at work, or visiting my folks, or wherever…..and her positive and hopeful attitude and uplifting spirit.

I thought for the umpteenth time, there is always more to be grateful for than to fear. 

And I thanked Him for who He is. The Master and Commander who still has everything, including me in His capable hands. I think of how scared the Disciples must have been that night on the sea, how scared. And there was Jesus sound asleep. I think He was just testing them to see how long it would take before they woke HIm. 

I think of how long it takes me sometimes. When all I have to do is call His name. 

Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.

― Frederick Buechner

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