We don’t get to choose

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

She asked me one simple question…….”Would you put your Mother there?” Sadly, emphatically, I shook my head and breathed out an emphatic, no. We had just come out of the “home” that Elaine was considering for her Mom. It was recommended by her Dad’s case worker. A place where they put Alzheimer’s patients when they are in danger of hurting themselves or others, and long past caring for themselves. One lady was licking ice-cream out of a bowl. Another man wanted a laxative. We took it all in, the peeling paint, dirty baseboards. The lady that was attending to the patients was kind, but she had her hands full.

It is a terrible decision to have riding on your shoulders. Especially when everyone else in the family says you should, that you have every right to.

Would you leave your Mom there? Her question haunted me…….. and several thoughts were set in motion that I didn’t expect. Of course I wouldn’t leave my Mom there. She has put in the Mom time. Done all those things a good Mom does, all through the years. And she still is. We have always been friends as well as Mom and Daughter, so of course I wouldn’t leave her in a place like that. No, never.

But is it fair for me or anyone else to expect her to leave her own Mom there? Is it fair for us to ask her to do something she is not emotionally prepared to do? And is it fair to be judge, jury and executioner and sentence her Mom accordingly? Give her what we feel she deserves? It is true, she has always been negative and sour, always looked at the dark side of things, never gone out of her way to show any sort of love or affection for her children, or even her grandchildren. She is difficult, she is all those things.

But is it up to me to withhold God’s grace to her? The truth is, as Christians, we don’t get to decide who gets grace and who doesn’t. That was the thought that slammed full force into my heart. The Holy Spirit placed it there, soft as a whisper and loud as a gong reverberating through my ears.

While we were yet sinners, Christ died…….for me. For you. That thought sunk deep. I thought of every worst moment of my life. The ones I would be most ashamed of if they were put on a big screen in Times Square. God saw those, and He still died for me.

What right do I have to withhold Grace from anyone? Which one of us has been given what we truly deserve by God? The promised land of Grace is open to everyone, and He will never leave anyone out, because He didn’t leave me out.

I got a living lesson on Grace, and it seems I really needed it. Thank you Elaine, for asking me that question and making me see again what God did for me, and reminding me of the Grace that I walk in each and every day.

Please join me today in Celebrating the Multitudes on Monday……..#824-834

Clean sheets, God lessons in grace, cool mornings and warm days, the light of a candle flickering in the dark, new friends at work, new shoots coming up in the garden, a new comedian I heard yesterday in church, wisdom from the Word, finding a wonderful new show, Downton Abbey…….finding new authors, a clean house……

Multitudes on Monday

California Dreamin……. 
As we walked by this bus, which was covered front to back in everything under the sun, the tune that went through my head was the one by the Mamas and the Papas. Those of you under aged 50 may not remember them. You really never know what you might see in California, especially along the coast. It is nice to know that Jesus is in the center of the bus. I had to zoom in on that.
Well, even after 4 days of work and being back home, I still feel a bit of an afterglow from our trip to San Diego. This visit was sweeter than the last one. I remember being a little discouraged and even bored that last time. “Too many foreigners,” I thought, “Not enough people speaking English,” “Too crowded.” It was good but not great.
This time, however, I saw it the way I saw it first. The beauty leaped out at me with full force. It’s funny how you get spoiled. Things lose their luster when you see them again and again. This time was rich.
This time was sweet. I appreciated every single drop, every single morsel, every second. I felt as if I were breathing free air after being in prison for months.
I am so thankful for it.
So today I celebrate Multitudes on Monday. The one that I missed last Monday when I was actually there.



#813-823
Sound of the seals across the bay……balmy breezes to heal dry hair and skin…….boat bobbing in the bay, sails tipping……shrimp salad by the water…..precious free time…..and the health to enjoy it…..flowers that take the breath away……having fun with my camera……watching artists create their art…..and most of all knowing that God created it all with us in mind…..such a world of beauty!

I leave with one thought from Pastor Kevin today……

“We only believe the parts of the Bible we practice” I am still mulling over that one……..

What matters most

Above all powers
Above all kings
Above all nature
And all created things
Above all wisdom
And all the ways of man
You were here
Before the world began……
This was the week Elaine and I were supposed to go on a cruise to Belize. Caretaking took that away as it has taken many things away this past year…..
But somehow, sitting in church yesterday listening to the sermon and, most of all,  having Elaine’s Nephew Mark sitting right beside us. The cruise didn’t matter as much anymore. Not if it meant having an eternal impact on someone dear. None of our travels matter much in the long run.
What I heard yesterday reminded me. Knowing God matters more. Reaching the halls of Heaven matter. Hearing the gospel and having a chance to respond? That matters more than anything.
When the Pastor took the long black rope representing our whole life plus eternity…..when he held up the piece with the knot about 4 inches away from the end, and how we pour everything we have into that four inches representing our very short time on earth…..
Our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions to make money, have a successful career, a family…..all on that very tiny end with the knot.
And we fail to think, to plan. For the rest of the rope that represents eternity. Stretching on and on.
We fail to count the cost.
Fail to plan for eternity and where we will spend it.
As he said the words, I felt the chill…….Saying “maybe tomorrow” is the same as saying no to God.
Later today is also a refusal.
With all that life hanging in the balance, 
A little cruise didn’t matter so much anymore. 
Above all kingdoms
Above all thrones
Above all wonders
The world has ever known
Above all wealth
And treasures of the earth
There’s no way to measure
What You’re worth
Crucified
Laid behind a stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all
 Michael W. Smith
the blessings keep coming, as well as the grace…….Awesome church service yesterday, just when it was needed most…..warm beds at night…..money for the new fridge…..and for the new coffeepot when the other gave out……music to soothe rumpled souls…..praise that lifts the tired and poor of spirit……God’s Spirit that helps us through it all…..warmed up oatmeal maple scone……walking in the mornings chill…..time off work, even when I am not going anywhere……#802-812

Wishing for a rooftop

 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:3

The houses of the Jews, as well as those of the ancient Greeks and Romans, were flat-roofed, and had stairs on the outside, by which persons might ascend and descend without coming into the house. In the eastern walled cities, these flat-roofed houses usually formed continued terraces from one end of the city to the other. Clarkes Commentary of the Bible

I have wished for a place on the rooftop more than once. Even more so since I have started to get into photography more. The Arizona sky never ceases to surprise me. This particular night I rounded the corner not expecting anything……instead I was treated to this stunning view.
The ancient cultures were very intuned to the sky. They were sky watchers. They had to be, that is how they knew what time it was and what direction to go. In our modern culture, we barely ever have to look up. We have digital clocks everywhere and satellites to tell us everything we need to know. But I think we are missing something very important……
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. Acts 10:9
When you stop looking up, it is easy to forget God. When you read the Bible, it is apparent much time was spent on the roof. In David’s case it lead to trouble…..
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful….2 Samuel 11:2
As Paul Harvey would say: you know the rest of that story.

I do wish I had a rooftop to sit on, to gaze at the stars, to dream, to pray.
And there must be a reason why, in every romantic movie there is a scene where somebody surprises somebody with a beautiful rooftop spread. Complete with candles sparkling wine, flowers  and market lights.
Yes, there is something to this rooftop idea.
I pause to continue the count……#791-801
Rain rain, blessed rain on our dry desert valley……half price book sale at our local library, cheap books are always a cause for celebration……call from a special friend across the miles…..another end of a week….chores I can do because I am healthy…….a wonderful time of meeting together at church once again……sharing a pot of tea……time at Barnes and Noble……enjoying a bowl of chili-mac to warm the bones on a cool evening……answered prayer for my sickly cat who feels much better now.

Multitudes on Monday

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV

Counting the gifts today……..#776-790

The return of gorgeous sunny weather…..to hike trails, take walks

Chilly desert nights spent once again around the fire, deep conversations……

New hiking shoes that will hold the rocky trail

Breakfast after church……and important reconnections

Mini vacations when you can’t get the real thing…..sometimes just a few hours makes a difference.

Looks that say, “I understand….”

The joy of library books waiting to be cracked open…….

My ever positive Mom…..

Instant messaging with my brother across the miles

A brand new bathroom thanks to my wonderful and creative best friend (I really think she could teach Martha a thing or two)

Gathering together with other believers….here there and everywhere!

Good things that don’t end……always another photo

always another book

always another chance to start again with each new day……always another chance to pray!

That’s my Jesus!

This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. John 21:24,25

Sometimes it is a good idea to let religion go and just meditate on the person of Jesus…….Yeshua. I prefer the Hebrew way of saying Jesus, Yeshua or Y’Shua because it flows. It is soft and yet strong. And when you say it aloud it sounds like a rushing river.

Then there is that wonderful song with words by Bill and Gloria Gaither…..There’s Something About That Name:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away
But there’s something about that name.

Has someone you love ever asked you what you love about them? Do you see the sparkle in their eyes when you tell them? How happy it makes them? That look on their face is worth more than any amount of riches.

Yesterday I decided to simply meditate on the things I love about Jesus. So, as I settled into the dim morning light…….and my little heater hissed to life, and with the lights of the little shop Christmas tree sparkling in the corner, and my lantern lit, the words of gratitude flowed. This is my unedited list as I wrote it. #754-775

He loves reconciliation and never likes it when people are at odds with one another
He loves bringing diverse groups of people together
He was never at a loss for words while on this earth
He always said just the right thing
He stumped the best and brightest scholarly minds
He always did the right thing, even if it hurt
He always spoke the truth and never backed down from it
He is the way, the truth and the life, all three!
He has a sense of humor, (illustration about straining out a knat and swallowing a camel)
His great love for people
His great compassion
He never turns anyone away with an open heart, not then, not now
He wasn’t afraid to let those close to Him see Him cry, yet…….He survived a beating that would have killed any other man, even before going to the cross
He is filled with passion, never boring
He was and is always in complete control every moment.
He caused a stir wherever He went, He was never afraid to shake up the status quo
He loves animals and nature
He appreciates fine craftsmanship
He wasn’t afraid to step outside the cultural norms of the day, like taking time for women and children and people outside of His own ethnic and religious group
He took time for individuals, even though crowds pressed Him at all sides, He never lost His temper with those seeking help.
He saw the need and value of quiet time by the water, or up on the mountain in prayer, time alone with His Father.
That’s my Jesus.
Thats my Savior!

picture credit: google images

We are all invited

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2

For four hundred years, the voice of God was silent……The Holy Spirit stirred no prophet. No one came forth. Israel waited. They waited for redemption, for hope. Rescue. But they didn’t expect it the way it came, the way He came.

The light of the world

They knew the prophecies concerning the One who would come…..they studied Isaiah, Micah and all the rest even from birth, and yet when He came, exactly as it was prophesied, many missed him.

Jesus, our hope……the hope of the Gentiles and the Jews, the hope of the whole world.

His heart breaks even now, when He remembers how many missed Him then, and how many will continue to miss him now. For He is not willing that any should perish.

The fact that I have not missed Him is proof of His great mercy. I ask myself why? But then I remember that His mercy extents to everyone. He holds this invitation out to the whole world…….still.

This alone is reason enough reason to live thankfulness in my heart every moment. One lifetime does not hold enough time for the amount of gratitude He deserves, so I am glad He has given me all eternity to thank Him….

Along with the angels.

For now, I will continue my list of small miracles in the every day: #754-764

For the joy that still flows as I decorate this year, even through the difficulties and challenges. The Spirit still flows and circumstances can’t stop it…..Halleluiah.

The silly moments of laughter with a best friend who is silly along with me, as we join in spontaneous song driving down the road.

The evening fires, and being to eat outside once again….

The incredible sunrise this morning.

The glided pages of my favorite old Bible, “big red” I call it. I had thought the gold had all worn off the pages, but as the light hit it this morning, it caught the edge of the pages and I discovered it was still there.

Small escapes, little vacations in the midst of chaos that bring back a bit of sanity.

And a big surprise last night. Elaine’s Mom joining me in decorating the Christmas tree, the first normal thing she has done in a very long time, and the first time she has decorated a tree in about 20 years…..

Cloud covered Superstitions……(see photo blog today, here)

Birdsong cutting through the chill of the morning.

Cold weather in Arizona……that makes it feel more like Christmas!

photo credit: google images

Showdown in the Desert

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

I struggle with this post today. How to get into words what I feel this year? This particular advent? Each year I ask myself the same questions. What did it mean then, and what does it mean today? How can anyone truly understand the wonder of the Living God coming down to earth as a baby? This is why we are celebrating, after all.
Yesterday I saw a sign at a Scottsdale shopping mall describing Santa as “The man of the Season.” Really? I guess for some he is the man of the season, but not for me.
Sometimes…..many times, in our walk of faith we come to a place of decision. That is where I was yesterday. It was difficult to pray. I sat in silence, my heart feeling like a stone. I was struggling. It was a battle I was facing and I had to ask myself a serious question. It was a showdown in the desert. I
Jesus had one too. And He won.
After prayer I came back inside, pacing. Lately I have noticed anger…..resentment bubbling underneath my surface, ready to flare at little meaningless things. I know where it comes from. And I also know that it was a Spiritual battle not a physical one I had to fight.
I know Satan’s tactics. It was between him and me now. I was determined that he would not win. Can I just say to anyone who thinks that Satan isn’t real, that he isn’t absolutely bent on our destruction, just look at our world today. That my friends, is not the work of God.
What He created was and is perfect. Take the human element out of this world and you would be left with the same perfection as in the day of creation. Still and always, good. But thankfully, there is a good human element in play as well. All around us there are those who hold back the tide. And let’s just call it what it is…..evil.
I realized yesterday morning, that if I can’t handle one old, stinky bad tempered woman, yes I did say stinky. We are going on week six of no shower. She gets absolutely hostile and angry when Elaine suggests she take one. So we just keep spraying air freshener and lighting candles throughout the house.
If I can’t handle this situation, then my faith means nothing. I am a fraud as a Christian. I may as not sing one Christmas carol. You see, that was and is the battle. Yours might be different, but we are all in one once we claim the name of Christ. It is not about flesh and blood at all. 
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 
It is an old battle and nothing new. Yesterday I determined that God and I together would win it. Peace will reign in this home, in my heart. I will lay my struggle down at the feet of Jesus. I will let the Spirit take over instead of trying to fight it on my own.


“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12

Once I made up my mind……peace flooded into my heart. That is what advent means to me this year. It means peace, it means victory, it means we may have battles, but Jesus has won the war for us!
I continue my count today with renewed gratitude……..Decorating with joy for the season…….A best friend who understands and shares my burdens in prayer and conversation…..Christmas lights that work…..Snowman doormat….new heater in prayer room…….talks by the firelight……Morning chill……a call from my Aunt last night…..laughter when all else fails……Sleigh with stuffed Christmas babies that always make me smile…..#743-#753

I dreamt of snow flurries…….


I have always said, snow can make a scene of beauty out of a dumping ground. It transforms what it touches, like God’s Grace when it reaches us. In Isaiah, the book I have always thought of as the Christmas book God says: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. – Isaiah 1:18

While I didn’t wake to snow flurries, I did awake to the patter of raindrops……..I sighed and rolled over, “no watering today.” Always a concern in the desert.

As I went out for my morning walk/run the streets were wet with wonderful puddles. Another thing to thank Him for. As I passed by the gate I saw the cars already lined up at 6:30, a stream of cars jostling for position in queue.

I thought of myself, since I will be one of those later on this week.

I thought of the people in those cars…….have they felt the touch of God’s snow white Grace?

As the world is gearing up for the Holidays, I pray that we might slow down instead. Downshift our lives. I pray more than anything for peace during this Thanksgiving, and throughout the Christmas season. That our lives and hearts and souls will be knit together in love.

That we may love each other as One in Him.

I am thankful first of all today for Ann’s calling it to my attention. The counting of the gifts. As I read more from her wonderful book: One Thousand Gifts, and I thought of a few people who I know that would embrace and live the message…..who just may find one tucked under their tree this year.

And I prayed thanks for:

#732-742: The joy of taking pictures……raindrops in the night…..fresh coffee to get me started……fires at night, along with conversation that goes with it…….visits with old friends…….dreams of snow flurries……warm clothes when wind bites…..warm oatmeal cookies……people who believe in me.

photo from google images

Encouragement from a prison cell

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:9,10

The whole book of Ephesians reads like a prayer of Thanksgiving. Paul is writing from a prison cell, yet this book is enfused with so much joy and hope it is impossible to read it without your spirits lifting. No longer going from place to place putting out fires and encouraging the church, he has endless time in which to write about a future filled with hope in Christ.

It’s all about knocking down the barriers that once separated us from God and each other. Jews and Gentiles, once the most segregated and divided of peoples, now are brought together as one in Christ Jesus……

“But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Ephesians 2: 13,14

Sometimes our circumstances can lead us to feel like we are in a prison cell of our own. And we see no end to it. My best friend sees no end to her caretaking responsibilities right now. She feels as if she has been robbed of her life. She told me yesterday all she keeps hearing is my Aunt’s voice saying, “The caretakers end up dying”……and now it haunts her like a refrain she can’t get rid of……..The caretakers die……the caretakers die, the caretakers die. I do my best to comfort her, encourage her.

The truth is, the hope Paul holds out is real. Present circumstances are just that. They will not last forever. We must grab every scrap of joy we can, and yesterday we had a good day. With Christ, each day is enfused with hope. Without Him, we have no hope at all.

So I am thankful for the good moments we had yesterday, and looking forward to more today, holding each one up to the light and giving thanks to Our Father, who has given His Holy Spirit in generous measure, to do above all we can ask or think.

Going to see the movie Puss in Boots yesterday, it was truly delightful. I was surprised at the amount of adults in the theater without kids, and everyone was laughing. Sorting through old slides of camping days, I volunteered to do this for my Dad…such wonderful memories. Being able to gather with the Body of Believers yesterday, to remember what it all means and celebrate what Jesus did for us. Being able to take our neighbor, who turned 88 to lunch yesterday, and then gathering later for cake and enjoying some laughs. Being able to enjoy some rain, and getting back into my exercise routine…….#726-731