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.

 

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

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Everyone knows me knows that I have a long running vendetta against spiders, (except Charlotte). The first time I read Charlotte’s Web was the first time ever I was exposed to a heroine that was a creature that I had loathed all my young life. And I saw her as pretty with eyelashes, that’s how the artists portrayed her anyway. As the story unfolded I saw Charlotte as good, saw her spinning away prettily in her web the words that would save Wilbur.

This one was small, almost microscopically as he brazenly walked across my robe. I must have collected him (or her) outside and they hitched a ride. Because it was so small I deemed it worth saving. What is it about something shrunk down to a minimal size that renders it helpless. Had it been enlarged by about 10 times I would have called for its destruction in haste. But it was so small, and so vulnerable.

It was trying to spin a little web, away out of its trouble maybe. Maybe it sensed disaster looming. It sunk down into my pocket and I tried to get it to attach itself to the Kleenex I offered as a lifeline. No go. Then I got a straw and poked it down towards it and it climbed aboard. Victory!

I took it outside where I thought it might flourish, left it on the tomato plant outside. I felt I had done what God would have me do. I guess maybe I felt like maybe He feels about us. My heart was moved by a creature so small that it needed my help to get it back to where it truly belonged.

I don’t know about you but I need help each and every day to get back to where I once belonged. In my heart, in my soul, in my mind. All of us feels the loneliness that rocks us to the core at times. It’s the inborn sense that things just aren’t right and we need Someone bigger to reach down and help restore that feeling that we are truly on our way Home. Or at the very least, stumbling in the right direction.

You see, no matter how shattered we may feel today, God is in the process of making all things new. We serve a God of restoration. Everything we are going through right now will someday make sense. In the forest of Mirkwood it’s so dark you can’t see the sky but that doesn’t mean the sky isn’t there. (Read Chapter 8 of the Hobbit) It is, you just have to climb a little higher to see it. Look up my friends. Look for the shaft of light in your particular forest today. It’s Hope, and it’s always there. He’s always there.

Problems, like spiders,  can all be shrunk down to minimal size in the light of God’s Presence in our lives. He is in the process of putting all the pieces back together again. Everything in this whole crazy mixed up, messed up world. That includes me and you and everyone we care about.

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.

Hope for the Mustard Seed Prayers

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Recently we traveled back to where this blog started, where my prayer was most alive. It was good to be there. The downside was the mustard was blooming, it was beautiful but I think it was really wreaking havoc with my sinuses. I wasn’t acclimated to it as I used to be. As my Grandmother used to say in German, “With beauty comes suffering” or some such thing. The mustard plants made me think of what Jesus said about having faith as small as a mustard seed:

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, ‘ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matt. 17:20

I don’t know about you but that verse has always made me feel a little doomed. Who actually expects that they could move a mountain with a prayer? What did Jesus mean? I can imagine the disciples being a little exasperated. And yet when He sent them out two by two, they came back exhilarated…….the lame walked, demons cast out, hearings occurred right and left.

And later, when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost they found that their prayers did indeed produced great miracles. In fact, people had only to grab their garments and they were healed!

What does this mean for us today? Does this mean that we shouldn’t even pray? No indeed. It means that we should always pray for God to help our unbelief and increase our faith. Prayer transforms us from the inside out. There are so many people I know whose prayers began with: “If you are there Lord…….” Or just plain, “Help me, Lord!”

It means that God blesses even little scraps of faith. He takes those tiny seeds of hope and prayer that we send up and answers us with an assurance that He does indeed hear. In fact, He loves it when we acknowledge Him, however insignificant our words may seem. He can take that mustard seed and change a heart, change a life, and yes, move mountains in our lives. I have seen way too many lives changed (including my own) to not believe in prayer, however small and weak my faith might be.

Keep on praying. I can assure you that you will be blessed by God opening up a canyon in your heart. I love these quotes from Frederick Buechner:

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images He uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again.

Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29)

May your day be peaceful. Talk to God today, even if you are not sure He’s there or even listening. You will be blessed!

The Refiner’s Fire

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You may have heard the story about the woman who attended a Bible study and wanted to know about the process of refining silver after she read Malachi 3:3. She writes of her visit to a local silversmith:

“As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’”

As I meditated on this story and passage I also thought of our part in it. How we must willingly stay in that fire. How many times have I been through something painful and sought only to relieve the pain not thinking or caring about the end result. It’s humbling. And it’s what I leave you with today. If you’re in that “refiners fire” today, know that He is surely with you. Right where you are today, know that He will never leave you or forsake you!

 

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.