Full bodied praise

I love them that love me………and those that seek me early shall find me. Proverbs 8:17
This is when the rubber meets the road…..summer is digging in it’s heels and we are no longer greeted with cool mornings. We have to dig in too. And it’s not all bad. The desert makes you tough. It’s already hot and sticky in my prayer closet this morning.
As I finish my prayer time, I am ready. I live the words as I put on my shoes to make my trek around the park. “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:27
As I walk, feel my body move, I am so thankful I can do this. I think of dear Briley and Kathryn whom I sit with when I volunteer in the Extrordinary Life kids group, bound to wheelchairs. I think they are the real heroes, they, and their dear parents.
I pick up my pace and think of an old Glen Frey song I played a lot when I worked out……..for those of you under 40, he was one of the Eagles……the words come back and the years fall away:
I’m outside runnin’ in the mornin’ sun
No matter what it takes, I know I’m gonna get it done
I’m pushin’ up the hill, fightin’ through the pain
Everything to lose, everything to gain
I know I’m on my way, I’m on my way to number one

Feelin’ good, gettin’ tight
‘Cause I’m livin’ right, livin’ right
Up in the mornin’, asleep at night
I’m livin’ right, livin’ right

Out of the darkness, into the light and I’m
livin right, livin right.
I thought of the worship leader yesterday and what he said, why he wears no shoes when he is up there leading the music. He says it reminds him that it’s Holy ground he stands on, and it is a way of keeping his focus on the Lord and not on all the people. He said he sees the ones sleeping, and the ones playing games on their Iphones, the halfhearted worshippers.
“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20
He is right, the ground is Holy.
The sweat is pouring down now, and I hear the words of Mercy Me singing…….
Separated until the veil was torn.
The moment that hope was born
and guilt was pardoned once and for all.
Captivated but no longer bound by chains
left at an empty grave
the sinner and the sacred resolved

And this is it, this is full bodied praise, right here and now. How right he is, the ground here is Holy. I think, this is what keeps me going. He keeps us, day after day. We have the strength to get up and do it again somehow, carried along by His Spirit.

This is the promise I cling to, and its true: “The Lord preserves all who love Him…..” Psalm 145:20

Counting the gifts and the promises today, with these fine folks…….

Will there be horses in Heaven?

There is one prayer I have had that was never answered…..From my earliest memory, from the time I actually believed there was a God and that I could pray to Him I prayed that one morning I would wake up and there would be a horse in the front yard. From the time I first saw one, I was instantly in awe. I held them in reverence that was almost godlike.

It started with the pony rides. I didn’t care about anything else at the carnival, if there were ponies going around a ring I was there. My Dad would shell out the two bits. And in Yosemite there was what I would classify as a deluxe pony ride. We got to ride on a track, all around the stables….oh they were pure wonder. Which one would I get? I didn’t care, to me they were all as magical as unicorns.

We used to camp in old Camp 7……and just on the border ran the horse trail. My favorite part of the day was when they would come through. I can still hear my Dad announce, “Here come the horses!”

Oh, I would hear the footfall of those wondrous creatures as they walked through the carpet of dry pine needles that fell across the trail. The sound of them, blowing and breathing and neighing. I would stand stock still as we watched every last one pass.

And when finally the day came that I myself could go……….I was on top of the world. I was taller than anything. My big gentle brown quarter horse with a butt as big as a house was my new best friend. I could have cried as I bent down to hug his neck as he carried me into a place I had never been before, but only dreamed of.

Then, as what happens so often, we grow up and put away our dreams and convince ourselves those joys may be for someone else, but not for us.

And still, as I see them, even now. I remember that magic. And I wonder, will there be horses in Heaven? I think that if God created animals in the first place, he must want them there.

The Bible says He will be riding in on a white horse, after all.

Maybe I will be riding with Him? Maybe we all will…….

I am posting this today because sometimes just remembering something magical is miracle enough.  the joy of living, the joy of memory carries us through.

And it’s all a gift from God.

Joining in with these wonderful folks today just because I want to, not because this post necessarily has anything to do with promises or counting blessings. But then again, maybe it has everything to do with it!


The Lord will hear…….

But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly;
The Lord will hear when I call to Him.
Psalm 4:3

I pulled out of the driveway a bit late for church. I was thinking that I might miss the music, and that was okay. Certain days, it’s all I want to hear, and other days I would be content to just sit in the silence for awhile. Just to be in church…..

As I sped along the freeway another thought came. What if, instead of doing church, I went and passed out bottled water to the homeless. Went to serve in the foodbank. Went to the rest home and spent the church hour sitting with him. Praying with him. It was a radical thought. That’s what made me think it might be a God thought.

Instead, I felt my tires go the familiar groove, the safe way. Into the doors I went, into the safety of the church. It’s what I need, I thought. This is how I get ready for the rest of the week. This is what keeps me going all week.

And I was glad I went. But at service’s end, I found myself going the back way home. The way that passed the rest home where he was, Curtis, my best friend’s Dad. He has wreaked such havoc over the last few years, well, longer than that. And though he provided for the family, he was an absent father.

Now everyone is absent from his life, well just about everyone.

Though the choices that have led to this result at the end of his life have been his, it makes it no less tragic how he has ended up.

As I drove past, I felt God whisper for me to pull in. And He might have said that I should go in the room, too. But I wrestled with that, and put it aside.

What if he’s in a grouchy mood, what if he’s just gotten his lunch, he stops eating if someone is there…..what if there is a mess all over and soiled clothes piled high in the hamper, like there has been before. The smell reached all the way down the hall. Sometimes he refuses to let the aides pick up his laundry.

I think of him how he looks now. So frail, so weak, a shadow of the man he was before.

I pulled into a space and my swirling thoughts quieted down like snow at the bottom of a snowglobe.

I bowed my head, and prayed for him right there in the parking lot. For his life, for the rest of his life, however much is left. For him to remember what he heard in church all his younger years, he and his sister, still vibrant and full of life at 88. She chose the better path, the path of faith, of life. Of Jesus.

I pray for a miracle before the end.

Then, like that while feather that floated from the sky in Forrest Gump, I realized that a miracle had happened, the anger I had before was gone. It had left like a wisp of smoke and I hadn’t realized it before then,  and I know just when it happened.

Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the Lord
Psalm 4:4,5

Tomorrow, I will write more…..until then I join with the gratitude community and with the ones who are unwrapping his promises.

Okra reaching for the sky, how my story touched some hearts, and how I made some new friends, completed projects and a clean shop, friends across the miles who text, another chips and salsa timeout yesterday, freedom to gather together in worship one more Sunday, a new friend for my brother, my nieces Mom who takes Lauryn everywhere with her and doesn’t leave her behind, and facebook for keeping in touch. #933-943

How we can still have hope

“Friends, Jesus come down to a place where every last man, woman, and child is living on death row. You’d think the least thing we could do was draw close and comfort each other, but no. Except for a few loved ones, we close the doors of our hearts and bolt them tight on each other.” Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life devotional

As born again believers, we have our feet firmly planted in two worlds. This idea of the Kingdom coming to earth was a theme that Jesus spoke about again and again. Everybody always tried to figure out what in the world He was talking about. He said, it is here, it is now. And they scratched their heads, and so do we. Because as we look around we see a world in a state of disrepair…….a world wounded and cursed.

They were probably thinking, “What world is He living in?”

And yet, there is still so much beauty shining through it. We can see glimpses of how God meant it to be in the very beginning when it was unmarred, perfect…..and so were we.

And all around us, people are on their way to one of two places. There are no other choices. This earth is as close to in between as it gets.

The miracle is that, even as we asks ourselves how we can still have hope, even when friends and family scurry like cockroaches when the light is flipped on. We know the answer.

When we look around and everyone we put our hope in has gone and we are as alone as the woman caught in adultery. We wait for the stones to strike our flesh and to our relief, we hear the thud as they strike the ground instead. And then the miraculous part…..Jesus is there. And with a smile in His voice He says, “Where are your accusers?”

We feel her freedom as she walks away, forgiven and on her way to a new life. That same freedom is ours. And that’s why we can still hope. He is here, He is now, and we aren’t in Heaven yet, but we can see the shore.

And even in the halls of the rest home, where the antiseptic rises up to meet us, and we smell the chaser smells after, the ones the soap and cleanser tries to hide. We feel it here too. The hope in the midst of fear……the Heaven in the midst of hell. In that place, in all places, people are on their way to Heaven.

We hear and sing the songs in church, and we remember the times when they were just nice songs. And then we remember when the inner light was flipped on. When the Holy Spirit collided with ours. Now we sing and the words spring to life.

Thankful today, so thankful for the One who never leaves, and the one who keeps count of our deeds Himself……..#922-932

water that refreshes like nothing else does, garden reaching up to sky, quiet talks that unburden souls, new friends, living water that never runs dry, good medical news for my Mom, courage to put one step in front of the other…again, birds in the fountain, safe trip home for Elaine’s brother, sauce made from home grown tomatoes bubbling on the stove.


 

Everyday Miracles

By your words I can see where I’m going, they throw a beam of light on my dark path. I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order. Everything’s falling apart on me, God, put me together again with your Word…….Psalm 119:105-107 The Message
I went out to pray at first light…….my coffee and communion, I call it. My favorite part of the day. But I felt somewhat flat, like someone blew out my insides with a straw. But I was okay with that. I have learned not to trust how I feel so much, but to trust God instead. So I waited in the quiet.
Sometimes, in order to get the miracle, you have to go through the obedience part first. It’s kind of like exercise really. I know the more I think about it, the less likely I will do it. But I have an expectation that when I go out, put on the shoes, turn up my Ipod, start walking, I will feel better.
So, still feeling a bit hollow, I did just that. I cranked up the music and felt the air push through my lungs. My feet picked up the pace, hearing the words Casting Crowns were singing…..”Jesus can you show me just how far the east is from the west, cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been, keep rising up in me again……in the arms of your mercy I find rest.
And I thought of miracles, and how God has been with me through it all, been with my family, my friends. I can talk of miracles, all right…..and big ones. Like when my Dad was in a prayer meeting and the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let him rest until he went home, and that’s when the phone rang and he got the terrible awful news……
And another time, when my Mom and Dad were in prayer for my sister-in-law who was dying of cancer, praying on their knees in the bedroom, when a snow white dove came to rest on the window sill and it never left, the whole time they were praying. They never saw it again. And she has been with Jesus 14 years now.
And as I pick up my pace even more. I feel it. The miracle…….life pumping into my heart, my soul. The Spirit leaping joy within me as I hear Chris Tomlin sing about how water was turned into wine and He opened the eyes of the blind. And right then, He was opening my eyes too. Faster, and faster I walked, and now ran a bit too.
Our God is greater our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other……There’s no one like You……None like You.
The daily miracle is this, that every day He opens our blind eyes.
The Spirit was bursting joy inside me now.
And then Francesca Battistelli sang……Savior I come, quiet my soul…..remember. Your blood was spilled for my ransom, everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss….Lead me to the Cross where your love poured out. This is it. The everyday miracle that is ours as believers.
I looked up to see a dove with a branch in her mouth and I thought of Noah, waiting for land. This is our inheritance, our history. This right to expect from God is ours every day and that is a miracle in itself!
By the time my walk was over, I didn’t want it to end, so I walked a bit further and thought again of my former Pastor and what he used to say. It’s Jesus plus nothing.
Jesus plus nothing. That is the pure and simple truth. He is everything and in all and through all. I listened as the next song came on. Don’t know how it is you looked at me, and saw the person that I could be…..awakening my heart, breaking through the dark, suddenly Your grace……
Like sunlight burning at midnight, making my life something so beautiful beautiful, mercy reaching to save me…..And as I finished my walk, run…..I was filled to the brim in the knowledge that Jesus is indeed, everything.
He is my Lord, my God, my husband, me being part of the church, my savior, my friend, my all in all. Everything starts and ends with Him.
And it’s all an everyday miracle. Please join me and some special friends, Ann and Duane on their sites to celebrate our faith and count His blessings on a Monday.
Walking and praying with God in the morning, a new job opportunity for Elaine’s nephew and family, being revived in the Spirit, a new garden springing to life, fresh tomatoes on the counter, communion with the Saints yesterday, the joy of seeing life spring from Your word, staying sane, (just barely) dealing someone on a daily basis with a mental illness, projects that keep hands busy and mind neutral, a few days off after a tough week, and last but not least.
I am thankful today for those who continue to risk their lives for our Freedoms which we hold so dear. Keep them safe in Your hands, Lord. #911-921


Songs I listened to today:

Francesca Battistelli: Lead me to the cross, Beautiful Beautiful
Casting Crowns: East to West
Chris Tomlin: Our God
Matt Redman: You Never Let Go

Multitudes on Monday

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Isaiah 58:11

This morning I slept in until 7. I must have needed it. It has been a touch two weeks……And it’s amazing what I can do with an extra hour. I pray and collect my thoughts, read some verses, reflect on the day before and hope that something wonderful and inspirational flows out through the keyboard despite me.

 

It is important to create a space of quiet before the clatter of the day……..before everything starts. But today I slept away that extra hour. Now I have a cat that is resting on my arm as I type. He is usually settled at the foot of my bed by now. Right before he came in, he rushed in through the cat door meowing loudly….that was my signal to check the catboxes. Elaine had just cleaned them 5 minutes before. I stepped out to poop on the rug. I cleaned that up and settled once again in front of the keyboard.
 
 
Then Elaine’s Mom got up. She got her first halfcup of coffee. She has a routine. It goes something like this. She pours a cup (which is already warm) she scalds it in microwave then has to cool it down. I hear tap go on and half of the cup goes down the sink. She pours more coffee in because now it is not hot enough.
 
 
Peace be still…….The irritation that rises up is tempered by His grace. I feel it like a cloak that wraps around me. That is a big reason to give thanks.
 
 
This whole routine is repeated sometimes 2-3 times.
 
 
I hear the cat again out in the kitty box room. I go out and he has pooped on the rug again, he must have got inturrupted the first time, because he is still out there. That’s when I startle him and he kicks poop over the threshold. I clean it up for the second time. You have to understand, this is my cat’s only fault, he is perfect other than that. I love him dearly so it doesn’t bother me to clean it up.
 
 
I don’t remember where I was going with this post, but I do remember that it is Monday and that is a day to count my thanks. And I am thankful, because despite everything going on around me, there is a peace. I can still hear the praise of the church body from yesterday………I still feel it, He is near. The peace that passes all understanding. Once again, I experience the miraculous power that is an everyday part of a believer’s life.
 
 
Peace be still. So I count my blessings that continue to flow……..A Mom and Dad that love what I do, and tell me so. A God who loves us and brings us through……friends who support with their prayers…….One more summer out of this air-conditioner, already it is past due being replaced……Little big moments of laughter in the midst of craziness…….Sanity despite insane circumstances……A best friend to worship with, pray with, share life with…….Fresh tomatoes starting to produce, and okra and watermelon reaching for the sky…….Godly teaching from a Pastor who is not afraid to preach right out of the Bible……#900-910
And another stopping place for today, please join Duane Scott as he unwraps the promises of God……Please join me, joining him there as well……You will be blessed, I promise!

The Wonderful Sameness of God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
From my prayer journal:
The wonderful “sameness” of God. It is quite a thing to contemplate. While the conversion experience itself may vary from person to person, but the end result is the same…….we are born anew, fused with a Holy God for eternity. At one point in our lives we had a crisis of soul. We had to answer the question once and for all. Am I going to walk God’s way or my way? Once we are faced with the facts, we must do something with them.
We can read the words of St. Augustine from AD 386 as he reels under the weight of his soul struggle in a garden long ago, and it resonates with us because it happened to us too and it speaks to the wonderful sameness of our God. Where it actually happens doesn’t matter, but what does matter is this……..Once the Holy Spirit taps you on the shoulder, there is no doubt about who it is that is speaking to you.
Change is now so much a part of our daily life that we think of it as normal. At any given time at work I have to be ready to change, do something different, learn something new, or train someone else on what I already know. But I can count on one thing to not ever change……God.
He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And so are His standards. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to count on.
Then you called me and cried to me and broke through my deafness! You sent forth your beam, the light of your magnificently beautiful presence. You shone your Self upon me to drive away my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me….and in astonishment I drew my breath…..now I pant for you! I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you……You touched me, and I burn to live within your peace. Augustine, Confessions 10
Collecting thanks today with the body of believers everywhere……..the wonderful sameness of our God, that He always hears the cries of the heart and is quick to deliver……cool morning breezes and being to still sit outside……small moments of peace that make it easier to go on…..being so thankful for being able to tell my Mom how grateful I am for her yesterday……watching little seedling reach for the sky……a fresh batch of library books, oh joy…….stories with happy endings…….being a listening ear for someone who needs it……..the surprise rainstorm we got……..the grace of being thankful when the road gets hard because God is worthy of it. #888-899

Chasing God’s Reflection

And the happy life is this: To rejoice in You. To rejoice for you. To rejoice because of you. I say it again: Life is joy in You, who are the truth, O my God, the light of my soul, health of my body!

Those who think there is a different way to find a happy life are pursuing something quite different from happiness–how sad that they do not even realize it. It is true they will find some reflection of joy. But they will not find the true thing, and in the end they will be sadly disappointed, as I once was. Augustine, Confessions 10
I was thinking of the truth and beauty of Augustine’s words yesterday as I sat in the quiet. I was remembering Saturday night and how Elaine and I raced all over the golf course across the street looking for that perfect shot of the Big Moon……She was my human tripod. She calls herself my camera caddy. And she doesn’t mind a bit……As darkness closed in she said, “Let’s go and find the water so we can get a shot of the reflection.”
A bit further, and we found it. I balanced the camera on her shoulder and she clicked away on her IPhone……it was magnificent, and yet, it wasn’t the reflection itself that held us captive, it was what it was reflecting that continued to turn our eyes upward.
We can get so caught up in the reflection of God through all the wonderful things He has made that we can actually miss God Himself. Augustine was right. And yet, as Elaine pointed out, the fact that someone created all this times doesn’t factor in to many folks pattern of thought. Their minds don’t go there.
Why did I? Why did she? Why do any of us?
Therein lies the whole miracle of the conversion experience…….And how could I not be bursting with Gratitude each and every day. It humbles me to the point of silence…..
And He did it all for us, “See, what I made you……” Everything we see around us is a reflection of His love for us. His hope is that we will look just a bit further. To lift our eyes to Him so that we may not only know Him, but be One with Him through Jesus…..
My list continues……..Big beautiful moons that take the breath away……a garden springing to life……still cool mornings for which I am oh so grateful……a great follow-up conversation with our girl Heather…..another week to worship with the fellowship of believers…….another great lunch after church…..watching Mama feed her baby bird while taking a break at work……answered prayers as I looked back on my journal of two years ago……another day off! #877-887

Multitudes on Monday

I love that we started out in a garden…….And I also love that Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener when she first saw him after He rose again. Somehow the garden holds great significance for God and for us. I don’t think it is any accident that it was also a garden where He suffered either.

There is something supernatural about a little patch of earth. Something of Heaven. I always feel closer to God next to the earth. I love how you can make a garden anywhere. You don’t have to have a lot of space and you don’t even have to live in a part of the world where the weather is cooperative or mild. No matter if the dirt is like clay, you can buy good dirt where plants will thrive.

And then, there are all the wonderful analogies about seeds, planting, and harvest the Bible uses. It just seems right to have a little place where you can sit and meditate on all these things……and here is the magic part. It can even happen on a little window sill of a 16th floor apartment, that’s the beauty of it.

My illustrious friend puts in gardens and landscaping and watering systems the way others arrange furniture….I always tell her she missed her calling, then again maybe she didn’t. She has build a little oasis right here in the desert. A place where all but the very hardiest refuse to grow. Who would think to do it?

Dreamers, and life-givers, and gardeners that’s who……people who don’t mind getting a little dirt under their fingernails, people who love the seeing results, people who love to see things grow, and someone who loves to bring something out of nothing……who coaxes a green shoot out of a small seed.

Bringing life out of something dormant.

Someone who doesn’t see the impossible, but someone who has a vision and carries it out, who says, “I could plant a garden there…..”

Kinda like God did once upon a time.

Blessings in number…….#867-877

A new place to dream……..tomatoes coming……promise of new life in the desert……evenings to eat outside…..days that are warm, but not too warm yet…….friends to sit and dream with…….family that binds us all together……good hard work that gives satisfaction…….gathering with the saints in worship, one more Sunday…..answered prayer for my brother

In our shoes

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it……..

That Word had a name and His name was……is……Jesus. That same eternal Word at one point became flesh and dwelt among us, left His perfect world so He could walk for awhile in our shoes…..On our shores.

There is so much mystery in this that we can scarcely contain it. But we believe it, and somehow it all makes perfect sense. And once again we are walking Jesus last steps on this earth as we remember what He did for us. Once again, we try to grasp  what it must have been like to be there in person. To listen to those words, hear the crowds, feel the same dust between my toes that He did.

I put myself in the disciples place and know within my heart of hearts that I would have scattered too. I would have watched dumbfounded and horror-stricken in the garden as my best friend, one who knew me inside and out, more than anyone ever had was led away like a common criminal. Knowing I did nothing to stop it because I was frozen in place by fear.

With the newfound knowledge still pulsing in my veins, singing through my soul……remembering how He broke the bread, how I felt the burning in my heart, the knowledge that here was God in the same room with me, with us. Still feeling that as the torchlight retreated and the garden was swallowed in darkness.

As night closed around us, we had no idea that Easter was only two days away.

Today and everyday we remember with Gratitude that our Easter did happen. Each and every day, we feel it again as we rise to new life in Him.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy……1 Peter 1:8

Knowing that my one little life is of immense importance to Him……..He cared so much about you and I that He would die the worst of deaths and suffer separation from His own Father…….Knowing that no matter what, I never have to be alone again…….He prays for me even now before our Father in Heaven……I have been pardoned and am free from condemnation……..Knowing that everything I do interests Him…….I have the freedom to read my Bible and attend church without fear……When we talk about the word, Heaven is opened He writes it down…….He is preparing a place even now…….and though so many things we see and experience may not be fair, one the day He shows up, all will be made right in an instant. #856-866