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For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain……..The Apostle Paul, Philippians 1:21

Almost from the time we are born, our hearts and souls are acutely aware of a sense of loss and the fear that stems from it. Life, at its most painful becomes synonymous with loss. Loss of a job we loved, loss of a loved one, death of a marriage, physical loss, loss of a home. Sometimes one loss turns into another. Such as when a deep loss turns into a bad habit. Then we have to kick the bad habit and we have that loss to deal with too.

But here is the big hope rests within and through all this. Here is where the story gets happy. That at the other end of this spectrum of loss, there is gain, without which we wouldn’t know loss at all. And that little word, gain, is what God is, and has always been concerned with.

That when we were determined to ruin ourselves and each other, God said, “No, I won’t let the story end this way.” He didn’t just write a happy ending. He came in physical form to become our happy ending. He came to fill that, as C.S. Lewis so rightly said, “God sized vacuum” in our hearts.

On a final note, I wanted to address those who seem to think the California fires are the result of God’s judgment due to the fact that sin is so rampant in this state. My God doesn’t go around setting fires and starting earthquakes and floods. That’s Satan’s job (if you believe in him and I do because Jesus certainly did).

To some, California may be an example of what they feel is wrong with the world, but no state or geography has cornered the market on evil; that territory starts within the heart of us all and there is only one cure:

Jesus himself. He’s our only prescription with a permanent cure for heart trouble:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have not told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1,2

Please join me in praying for all those who have lost homes, businesses, and lives in this beautiful state I call home now.

When even the ocean is not big enough……..

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Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

I stood at the shore and waited for that feeling……..that eraser, elixir that would make all the present circumstances melt away. But it occurred to me that sometimes even the ocean is not big enough to do that. Even if it were fresh water and we were dying of thirst, it could save us but we would still thirst again, just as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

………but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.

But nature has always had a way of making God close for me, and I relaxed and let it do that. I looked hard at everything, and we ate good food and had some wine too. I foraged for shells and saw some magnificent patterns in some sand dollars and drew them in my book. For me, the ocean is God’s way of saying, “Here you go……explain this one.” And all I can say is that He is bigger than everything, even anyone’s problems including my own.

Even when it feels like the small things you do are like dumping a cup of water into an ocean of grief, God is the multiplier. When it’s all you can do, He makes it more than enough.

I am finished with my one year commitment to LOEL center and this weekend is the start of a little break before I begin the next phase of retirement. I am still a little ways off from Social Security and so I work for at least three and a half (counting) more years.

Sometimes I close my eyes and remember how my room looked from the right, and from the left. When I felt like everything in my life was secure and I had the umbrella of a big company over me. But maybe that was an illusion. I still have God over me, over us.

And this place by the river is truly a tremendous blessing. It is feeling like home  I am learning here to take one day at a time and receive it with a grateful heart. Maybe that’s what God is trying to tell me, that I don’t have to have everything mapped out and planned. How many people can walk down to a river in the morning after all?

The four days at the beach did its magic. I will remember the boat ride through the slough and our walks and so many birds this year, more than we’ve ever seen.

For a little time we were suspended:

It’s easy to think that at 3:19 AM it’s just us here alone in this place and I want to remember the peace of this moment. The staccato seal barking on the pier, the seagull I just heard. Even though it’s chilly I always crack the window to stay in touch with the ocean so big and still out there like God. Each drop of time is precious. An engine starts nearby, a night fisherman going out or coming in. You fighting off a cold nearby, fighting for breath and Briggs purring in my ear with his paw on my shoulder. Just is just us down here God, don’t forget us. Just beyond, over the bridge is where we left some of E’s parents ashes. The ocean breathe in and out, until God says “No more.”

And when we pulled back into town we put everything back on like a heavy pack and I have to remember Jesus other words, just before He went to the cross:

I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

And I think of Him on that terrible cross taking on my sin and the sin of the whole world and I know I can trust Him.

 

Hard Stop

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Funny how things can come into focus when you’re still. When you’re quiet enough to let that stillness wrap itself around you and you start to believe that it really will be okay. There are those today reeling from loss, whose homes are no longer a reality, but only a reflection. I identify a little bit. I miss my home and the security that went with it every day. And yet I know that my true security lies in God and nothing else. Homes will come and go but He stays forever.

Last Friday I sat by the river and thought great and wondrous things. At least five of them. Later when I tried to capture them I couldn’t remember one, but the feeling of peace stayed behind. I was so grateful for that because there have been times this year when scenes of great beauty bounced off my soul like teflon and that troubled me. For I’ve always been able to find my way back to God through His beauty in creation.

We slip and fall headlong into our worries and problems and then He wakes our soul once again and I think it’s because He wants us to feel the gift of Gratefulness again.

All around us, nature is enfolded in a great drama and it never stops. She invites us to partake and be more than a bit player, and the rules are simple. We have to do a “hard stop”

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A hard stop is when we allow our worries and cares drift away like this leaf who fell twisting in the wind. It didn’t think of falling, it didn’t even try to fall, it just fell. And in that simple act it had a power it didn’t even know it had. Its little presence announced that a change is coming, the first of many reds and golds and browns that will rain down in the coming months.

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Psalm 55:6 says: “Oh that I had wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”

I have a friend who used to say that when he flew, his problems seemed smaller. They weren’t really, but from the air his perspective changed. My flying usually involves driving to the beach. We all need a place where we can see clearer, feel calmer. But we can do that from anywhere with prayer.  Jesus has the peace we so deeply crave. It’s His free gift…….though it cost Him plenty He was happy to do it.

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And when we accept it by stopping our striving and wrestling and open our hearts to His love He is honored. When we do that, It makes Him feel like it was all worth it. Like a parent who has had to sacrifice so many times they feel their battered ripped to shreds heart may just give way this time. Then the child realises he or she is not the only one in the world, that someone loved until it hurt for them. When that love is released, hearts can start to mend.

Do you see a heart here, or just a dead tree?

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Accept the invitation that God sends through His nature friends. I can assure you of a reward. A wise man named John Muir said this:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

Sacred Moments

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In the light of all that is happening in Texas, I sit here in the quiet; I realize again that the Sacred comes many times in the ordinariness of the start of the day.

I see the flooded homes, see the panicked people and animals clinging to each other and it doesn’t seem real. Too terrible to watch and yet I owe it to them to not turn away.

It’s the first communion-like pour of the steaming cup.  The old faithful senior cat who has been through so much with us, resting on his post after his breakfast. If I lost everything in this Motorhome and had him safe in a carrier I could be okay.

I see the two dogs in the row-boat, and them trying to save the horses, and I see 5 cats shivering in a basket with 4 strong heroes carrying them to safety.

David Nevue’s peace floats through this little space we call home this morning and I am praying for the flooded people, and thankful that someone I care about is safe in the other little room playing with her phone, I hear a video and it’s comforting. And that my family is too across town. This is the sacred part:

It’s in these little moments before the day starts to crash through my brain and everything starts all over again that I feel that just maybe everything really will be okay because He said it will. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

Be with them all Father. Bring your comfort to the shelters and the roads and the rooftops where people are hunkered down, waiting for rescue, for the next step. I pray for all the organizations going over to help, all the individuals and groups taking boats and supplies and love. May your grace wrap itself around them all. Amen

And be with us too, Father, because some of us have disasters right here.

A new day has dawned, and as long as we have Him, we have hope.

Be still my soul

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But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices. Psalm 37:7

My prayer this morning:

It’s been too long, Lord since I have prayed like this……. walked down intentionally and lit my little candle and sat in this stillness. I have missed it, missed You. You deserve my praise in the morning, because you are Love first and foremost. And out of that great love comes your justice. Whatever happens out in the world is something that doesn’t have to make our soul turbulent. This time is precious.

You have created all this beauty and each day, you sustain it and make it all happen again because of your great love. You keep it going and no one else. You create the storms that seem to come from nowhere, the thunder that crashes and lightning that touches down to scorch the earth. I sit here and watch little things make ripples under the water and I wonder at your creative power and imagination……I watch the  fish jump up to catch the water bugs, confidant and totally at ease in their world.

Everyone is gathering Lord, ready to watch a spectacular event in the heavens soon, but I watch awestruck at what you do every single day just by leaning in close to Your marvelous works of creation.

Here by the still waters, where you give rest to my soul.

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A Balm for the Scorched Soul

Watch out for this peeled door light! Here without rain, without shame my noonday dusk made spots upon the walk: Tall drops pelted the concrete with their jewelry belonging to the old world’s bones.

Owning this view, in the air of a hermit’s weather, I count the fragmentary in drops as blue as coal until I plumb the shadows full of thunder. My prayers supervise the atmosphere till storms call the hounds home. Thomas Merton, “In the Rain and the Sun”

Last evening as I alternated between nodding off and cradling my phone by the blue glow of “Blue Bloods” on TV, I was following the weather. Waiting for when to turn the air off and open everything up. I held it up, “Look, it says possible thunderstorms!” She then went to her satellite weather ap which did indeed show a small front moving through.

I have been missing all the Arizona monsoon action, all the crashing and brilliant skies that are part of every July-August there. The one thing I most looked forward to over the course of the relentless heat of summer. It was always like a balm for the scorched soul.

And we were treated last night to a light sprinkling of blessed rain. I ran outside to feel the sweet little cold needles pelt my skin. And later, after this side of the world had fallen asleep, the flash of lightning and rolling thunder came. It was nothing like the ferocity and power of Arizona storms which can leave you breathless with simultaneous wonder and fear, but God’s hand was in it just the same.

It was a gift. And here and now I am listening to the earth’s noises in the quiet of morning which is really the same as a prayer without actually speaking the words. A nearby train is rolling through and the dust is settled. I breathe thanks for the doxology of coffee…….”Praise God from whom all blessings flow……..”

Whatever happens in my life I have been given the best possible gift, or I guess I have been able to receive it. We’ve all been given the gift, everyone who has ever taken a Heavenly breath, for all breath does come from Heaven. It’s just that knowledge alone, that God is here and I never remember not knowing that. For some reason in my mind and heart it was settled long ago.

And yes, there have been many times I have wondered at His methods, even as I felt the world as I knew it drop out from under me. Even when I was too tired to believe or pray. And it’s not about simply putting on a happy face, it’s about knowing that something was carved into your soul that was there even before you were born.  And that someone is a God who loves much more than we can possible imagine. Enough to sacrifice Himself to win us back.

This is the whole crux of the Christian Faith:

It’s simply this: I was born, and that alone proves I was meant to be here. And if I was meant to be here, that proves the bigger thing, that God wanted me here. I am here because He was here first. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

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The Way Home

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“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home” Matsuo Basho

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

“The beauty of inviting Jesus into our heart and life means we carry Him with us into every circumstance of our lives, essentially He becomes our home wherever home is. Knowing Jesus is returning to our original home.” Me

It was hot out and I had been cooped up since I got home, moldering in my cave/chair with a book and my phone. Finally I had to take a break from the inside and step outside. You know how when you’ve been in a building for too long and you go out and it feels a bit like Narnia just to be out? I used to feel like that at work. We had no windows to look out. I would go out and feed the sparrows in the patio and reset my compass.

I was met by my the feline comedy duo who zigzagged across my path vying for attention. They followed me to the feeding station and then I was surprised by a dash of pink behind the shrubbery. My Aunt informed me they called these lilies naked ladies. (Come to find out, Elaine has been watering it)

I have come to realize in this place we have carved out here, that you can have a little piece of domesticity and it can feel like home, even when you are between homes. I sat with a glass of wine as I watched the cats roll in their own little piece of heaven and felt peace settle around my shoulders. I breathed deep…….it was a welcome feeling and I felt gratitude fall around me as I  aimed my camera and clicked away.

When you know who Home is and that every step you take is leading back to Him, you can rest assured that all will be well wherever you land. Basho was somewhat right, the journey can be home when you know where you’ll end up.

And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. Jesus…….John 14:3

Peace be with your weekend friends………enjoy your journey.

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