Extraordinary Grace


This is a thankful post on a day we celebrate things like that. It’s about a regular day, yesterday, which was just about perfect. To start, I was off work and the anticipation of having five days off contributed to a general feeling of well being. That in itself is something to give thanks for. In addition we had a real honest to goodness storm with rain and wind. It wreaked havoc with leaves, branches and debris in its wake, but the air was fresh and clean and I took deep life-giving breaths as I stood on the river bank.

The river rolled by looking so smooth and pure I had to stop and say what I call an “awe” prayer. It’s the kind of prayer that is more just an exclamation of exultant joy at the beauty that God has given us. The yard was a mess. I dragged a few big branches to the river’s edge and threw them in. I took a few photos and then went back up our little hill to the Motorhome.

The floor Elaine put in looks fantastic, gives it a whole new look. It was a real pleasure to see that ugly linoleum gone. I found a classical Christmas station which was very pretty but was a bit melancholy so I switched it to Smooth Jazz Christmas and that added to the general feeling of well-being.

After we got ready to tackle items on our list, we went to breakfast at the Hollywood cafe and as usual the staff was wonderful and the food was excellent. We had Joe’s special which was scrambled eggs with hamburger, cheese, fresh spinach with hash browns and toast. We stopped by the Animal Shelter to measure the shelf for the carpet for Coco. Last time I was there he had a terrible trying to get a grip on the slick shelf.

After that we got all the stuff on our list including baseboards to finish off the floor. We had a great time getting everything on our list. I saw some truly miserable people at the grocery store which made me sad for them. I have been where they are.

There was a time not so long ago where I was unmoved by everything. It was a tough time. I didn’t care about reading, nature, anything that usually lifted my spirits. If not for Elaine (and lots of prayer) I don’t know what I would have done. She patiently told me to snap out of it and that made me laugh despite myself. Seriously though, it took lots of prayer, counseling and “motoring” through it. And the Doctor put me on a low dose of Zoloft, which I still take. There may be a time when it’s right to go off of it, but for now it’s working for me.

I guess that’s why I am so grateful for the good days. I remember the despair. There are many more good days now and I enjoy going to the library once again. People wonder why I go every week, but it’s like a tonic to me, even with all the homeless hanging around there. I am happy books make me happy again.

The end of the day had a bit of drama but nothing that tarnished the day for me. The opportunity presented itself to give Mom a hug and that was appreciated. We ended the day with a bit of Amaretto, a yearly Christmas treat. I fell asleep to the sound of rain again. It was marvelous.

It put me in mind of another day a long time ago when Mom and I had a good day together and we were listening to Susan Boyle sing “A Perfect Day.” Mom said, “This was a perfect day.” I told her, yes indeed, it was. 

It lives in my memory, and so will this day. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving from my humble Prayer Closet.

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. Rainer Maria Rilke

A breath between life

 

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How long we wait,  with minds as quiet as time…..Thomas Merton 

It took half a day or so to work its magic, the sea. I tossed and turned the first night, rolling thoughts over and over like the waves themselves. The next morning I let the beach release me from all that was troubling. I let myself fall under the spell of the sound of the surf, rolling, crashing and thunderous. 

I marvel once again at a Creator who would put so many mile markers right in front of us for us to find Him, thankful that He reveals Himself to me this way.

I remember when I was a kid, how that first glimpse of the straight blue line of that body of water against the horizon filled me with an excitement I could barely contain. Like an old friend it beckoned. Then, it was all the other stuff mixed in too. The Boardwalk, the Merry Go Round, the Taffy window. Now, I need only the sand under my feet and that pounding relentless surf.

Some say it’s just gravity that keeps it from flowing onto the earth, but I know the voice, the power behind it all. There was a time Job had questions and God had answers. All of us at some point have questions attached to our grief, our suffering. I ask why my Mom has to navigate her way through this betrayal of her memories. She remembers when remembering brought comfort.  Now her memories have turned against her; reminding her of all she has misplaced.

But the most important thing is she still knows the answers and so do I. Some things we just won’t understand this side of Heaven. She still knows her God and that He is supremely good and that never wavers for her. As she told me yesterday, “She still belongs to God. He still holds her.”

I walk and walk. And I let the surf wash over my inner soul. The deep place where the Holy Spirit rests in the quiet. I hear God’s reply with each step. And it’s all the answers I need. 

Who enclosed the sea with doors when bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop? Job 38:8-11

Yes, the sea has worked its magic once again. We are blessed to be able to come back to this place. This peaceful place that has come to seem like home. Doubly blessed to have someone to share this leg of my journey with. 

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

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

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

This is the intimacy the Psalmists knew:

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

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

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

And my favorite:

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

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

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

Just One More

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Just one more moment of quiet as light fills the sky
One more to feel Your Presence, to know that You have never left
Never will.

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One more moment of Gratitude in this place not only feel Your peace
But know it.
Every “thank you” we breathe reaches you as Praise.

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In the quiet of the morning.
Piano hymns softly round out sharp edges to the harshness of life
Before it fully arrives.

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I step gingerly so as not to disturb the pond of worries that never quite
Go away.

One more cup of coffee, Oh to make it last.
Ready for the day.

Blessed beyond measure.

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I Choose Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer 2019

 

It’s been awhile…….words continue to be elusive, just out of reach. I try to relax and realize that this is just another season and to let it go. And yet, I miss the release that comes with letting words and feelings go and maybe send a little healing out to you readers, if any of you are still there. If you are, thank you for your tenacity in believing I still might have something to say. 

Briggs is still with us. We enjoyed a trip to the beach not long after summer vacation started and he had a rough go of it on the way. He was fine after we got the Motorhome settled and brought him some shrimp from Phil’s which he loves.

Moss Landing was a blessing as always. I went on my usual quest for sea glass and was not disappointed. I was breathing out a prayer of thanks for the treasure I was finding one morning and shortly after that He rewarded me with a very special piece. A color I’d never found before.

Not long ago I did something I have wanted to do ever since we moved here. I bought myself a little one person tent from Amazon and dragged it and the mattress down by the river. The inflatable mattress was a little too fat and that didn’t leave much breathing room for me but I was very comfortable all night. I left the door flap open and a whisper of air came in. I even got a little chilly which was wonderful. I was serenaded by an owl which was like a dream. It held magic, that night. 

I want to do it again, but poor Elaine hardly slept. Briggs didn’t know where I was and he yowled and was up and down all night. Poor guy. He has slept on my bed for 18 years and he didn’t know what was going on.

Lately I have been treasuring my time with Mom. She is lost in her own life and not doing really well. We have entered yet another phase with the memory loss. Dad is her anchor right now and she wants to be wherever he is which is extremely hard on him being the solitary person he is. She asks me questions now like “Why aren’t you at work?” “Where do you live now?” But it is easy to do things for her because she is so very sweet.

Dear readers, hopefully someday the tap will be turned on once again and words will flow freely as they once did. I try and think why it was so different in Arizona and I can’t come up with anything. Maybe I felt freer there. Maybe it was because I felt more secure. Maybe I miss our home. Maybe it’s all of the above.

Books continue to be a joy and for that I am grateful. I look for excuses to go the library. I mingle with the homeless and the other odd library people and I feel at home in between the shelves. I remember when they built that library and when I close my eyes I can still hear the wooden card catalog draws slide in and out.

There is something to be said for having a history with a place. I wish you grace, mercy and peace from our Lord Jesus my friends. 

Peace Be Still

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

― Frederick Buechner

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Hope for a weary world

I hadn’t planned on writing a blog post this morning. I lingered over my second cup of coffee and looked out on a fog-draped weary world. Something moved me  to grab a jacket and venture out. I put some “ready whip” on top of my steaming mug (I call it whoop-ass) and suddenly felt like a little party had started in my soul. I have come to recognize that moments like this are the whisperings of God. I paid attention to it walked out into a wonderland. 

Someone had evidently told the birds that spring was coming or was maybe already here. I saw the little gate we painted was holding up well except for a few faded colors. I filmed a little video for Mom since she doesn’t venture out on days like this, but I know she will love to hear the birds.

I found hope out there. It’s so easy to despair and just give up isn’t it? Life presses down and wants to push the life (and hope) right out of you. But this……this world that I walked into this morning was not the news, or politics, or anger or anything else but pure beauty that God had set before me. 

And now I am joyously typing away with a forbidden third cup. Something about the earth after Christmas always makes me feel like this. Like hope has come and left a Heavenly bundle and now we have to figure out what to do with Him. 

And the earth waits with hope because deep inside, she knows renewal is coming. And this is our own hope with each new day. A new opportunity to sing the song of the Redeemed. My favorite line of O Holy Night says, “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” I like the way the New Living translation puts 1 Corinthians 15:58: 

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

I heard about a Christian woman yesterday, a modern-day Joan of Arc who willingly gave herself up for a number of her brothers and sisters held in prison for their belief in Jesus. I don’t remember what the number was, but I can’t stop thinking about her. She will probably face years of prison or death. In light of a faith like that, why do we waste so much time on things that really don’t matter? 

Yesterday I ran into a dear friend and as we stood in the aisle and talked I felt a Holy Communion between us because don’t you just need to know that someone really does understand? The tears that she wiped from her eyes were real. And as we parted and hugged I think we both felt a little renewed. 

This my friends, is what it’s all about………I wish you peace today, and opened eyes for all the little big moments that may never come again. 

Hope is real. And it’s here to stay. May it reach you today. 

Where Were You?

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I walked down to the river’s edge this morning and quietly marveled as I watched the world wake up once again. I thought of other times, other places. The sky aflame in the Arizona desert, the forest floor at the bottom of towering granite monoliths of Yosemite, the call of jays echoing from tree to tree. And of course, waking up to see the Pacific Ocean in all its vastness. Nature calls us to God like nothing else.

Over and over again I have found a place for my faith to rest in what I observe all around me in the backdrop of nature. When we do that we are basically agreeing with God that what He made was indeed good. It’s praise without words, when all others fail.

Job had a lot of questions after all he lost and suffered. I would have too. And God had a lot of answers. When He finally answered Iyov (Job), the Creator Himself drew upon the world He created:

Then Adonai answered Iyov out of the storm: “Who is this, darkening my plans with his ignorant words? Stand up like a man, and brace yourself; I will ask questions; and you give the answers!

“Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me if you know so much. Do you know who determined its dimensions or who stretched the measuring line across it?”

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“Who shut up the sea behind closed doors when it gushed forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its blanket and dense fog its swaddling cloth…..

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when I made the breakers its boundary set its gates and bars, and said, “You may come this far, but no farther; here your proud waves must stop.”

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Have you ever in your life called up the dawn and made the morning know its place so that it could take hold of the edges of the earth and shake the wicked out of it?

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Which way leads to where light has its home? And darkness, where does it dwell? If you knew, you could take each to its place and set it on its homeward path. You know, of course, because you were born then; by now you must be very old!!!

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When it’s all said and done, Job replies basically “I will zip my lips now, I had no clue what I was talking about. There is nothing more I can say, other than to repent in dust and ashes.”

And when I look deeply into the night sky and realize I can only see a small fraction of what’s out there, there is nothing more I can say except:

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Thank you……I get it.

The Shroud of Grace

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Yesterday I awoke to a gloriously foggy morning. I am one of those that can’t resist bundling up and chasing it as it shrouds and swallows up everything and fills the air with silence. I joyfully walked down to the river to find 3 misty ghost like figures floating on top of the water; their fishing poles angled hopefully. Every now and again I would hear the plop as they recasted their lines, their hushed voices echoing across the water,

Further down I saw 2 ducks making a v-line barely visible through the misty air. I only heard a flock of Canadian geese honking above. I shot a few pictures with my camera and then decided to venture on down to the lake. My Sunday peace was only disturbed when my camera wouldn’t focus on a particular shot and I had to ask forgiveness for my foul words.

I wasn’t enjoying communion with fellow believers and yet I was at church. I have always found God in the fog, for two very emotional moments of my life happened in the fog long ago. The first was when I was driving around grief-stricken, my eyes blurred with tears after the loss of my husband.  I turned a corner and through the fog, I saw hopeful little candles in each window of a charming little cottage. Something about it gripped me and at once my spirit was calmed and brightened. It was God’s  way of letting me know I was going to make it.

The other time, I was alone in my room. Everyone had left and “Oh Holy Night” was playing on my record player (yes, it was that long ago) All I can say is that the Holy Spirit came to me in that room and I can remember every detail. In that room God came to me and revealed the awful, beautiful truth of what Jesus did to save me, us.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas let me tell you that there is hope. I can say this with perfect confidence and clarity because there is simply nothing you or I are going through that is bigger than God. I know this. Jesus came so that we could always have real hope to fall back on in the darkest times of our lives.

Allow me to close with a quote from a wonderful book I read by Beldan C. Lane as he went through his own journey through the valley of the Shadow of Alzheimer’s in the nursing home with his Mom:

I met a woman by the elevator each day whose mouth was always open wide, as if uttering a silent scream. In a bed down the hall lay a scarcely recognizable body, twisted by crippling arthritis–a man or woman I’d never met. Another woman cried out every few moments, desperately calling for help in an “emergency” that never ebbed. Who were these people?

They represented the God from whom I repeatedly flee. Hidden in the grave-clothes of death, this God remains unavailable to me in my anxious denial of aging and pain. He is good news only to those who are broken. But to them he’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, lurking in the shadows beyond the nurses desk, promising life in the presence of death. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, Beldan C. Lane

This is the paradox of the message of Christmas. Innocent life with a bitter twist at the end but that ultimately gives us Glorious freedom from that same death. Sometimes I think this is why we rush to buy and give during this season. We know there is something about Christmas that is joy but we can’t quite place our finger on it. We do our hopeful best to be cheerful and join in only to find ourselves worn out from the effort.

That’s because the Gift He gives us is so much bigger than everything else in this world. It’s Himself. We are free, all of us this Christmas. We have to only reach out and accept the gracious offer He gives.

Merry Christmas from my Prayer Closet. May His peace find you today, and every day.