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.

The Perfect Day

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Ever feel like you think you know how God felt when He created everything and said that it was good? Despite everything, hope is that one eternal thing that God put in the backdrop of His creation that will never go away. It’s the thing that keeps us going even though we know that this world is broken and innumerable bad things will happen on every given day, but so will (even more) good things.

It’s that little chink of light that seeps through the soul when everything feels black and you’re feeling your lowest but still decide to go on a walk or clean the garage and somehow when it’s done you feel better. And it even applies to nature. The other day I noticed this little teeny tiny spiderweb. It was a perfect creation only about 3 inches wide. That day it was windy and when I looked again it was gone. Yet, the next morning I looked again and it was back, perfectly formed once again.

Saturdays now are my golden days full of promise. Not having to go anywhere in the morning is a treasured luxury. I can read in the mornings with a third cup of coffee from the Keurig which feels almost forbidden. This Saturday was one of those days that I agreed with God that everything was very good. The air was clear and the trees were waving their leaves across the sky and the river was high and it was calling me. It seemed better than a walk. So we went and it was like a hike and I was soaked. It felt so good. We made it to the trestle and waited for the train to cross.

We met a nice lady and talked all the way downstream back home. And of course the World Series is on and the fact that we can watch Baseball is something that just made everything better. It was a perfect day. Mom came over for a bit and that was good, I think she enjoyed a change of scenery.

While we were out on the river I pulled up an old John Denver song that always bubbles up through my soul on these green nature days. I sang along and Elaine recorded me. I still haven’t listened to it. But I just had to sing. It was that kind of a day.

Susan Boyle did a song awhile back on her first CD. A perfect day. Give it a listen. And it was. A perfect day. I can honestly appreciate these days when they come because I remember when I felt myself at the bottom of a black hole, an abyss of depression that I never thought would lift. But it did, eventually. And it was a miracle. And if you want to know if they still happen, look at me friends.

I’m not sure how to wrap this up so I won’t. I’ll just leave it here. Know that it’s worth it. Everything is. Because He said it was good, and it still is. No matter the circumstance you are facing. My God already went the distance. Knew the grief none of us will ever know. Left Heaven to come here so that we might grab his Hand and find hope and Home.

 

 

God wants to “friend” you

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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 no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his masters business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

This morning I was sitting in the half-light of dawn when I said a simple prayer:

Thank you Lord for being the kind of God who wants to know his people, his creation intimately. Thank you for being the kind of God who wants to walk with His people in the cool of the day. Amen

We made these packets for the kids last year to take home. Each one was filled with the things they had done throughout the year. I imagine God making a book like that for me, cause that’s the kind of God He is. Sometimes I ask Him if He still loves me despite the fact that I know I disappoint Him in some way every day. The answer always whispers back quietly in the dark, “Yes, I do.”

Jesus stepped up to step down for us and all we have to do is say yes to His sacrifice. To give Him back our lives for better or worse. Jesus was the One who said the yes to who will give this woman, this man in marriage for life. The One whose yes involved the most unspeakable and wonderful sacrifice.

A good parent never stops loving their kid no matter what they do. Yes, their hearts are crushed and broken when they disappoint, but only because they love them so much and they don’t want them to go through the same mistakes and heartache they went through.

I have been reading and rereading Psalm 139 and I don’t think there is any clearer picture in Scripture of how God loves us and longs to know us and have us know Him. It gives me great comfort to know that God’s love goes the distance with us to the end.

That’s what I have today folks. It’s my gift to you from God.

Your eyes saw my unformed body…..All the days ordained for me were written in your book before even one of them came to be……Psalm 139:

When you’ve kinda lost your Way

 

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“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Psalm 139:1-3

I draw tremendous comfort from this Psalm. It’s almost like God is saying, “Relax, nothing you could ever do would surprise me. And nothing you could ever do could make me love you less.” It means I can rest easy and stop trying to perform. Ever feel like you just disappoint people at every turn? Lately I have been transposing those feelings onto God. I am not sure when it started, but somewhere along the way I got the idea that God was like 96% percent unhappy with me. Why do we do that? Where does that come from, that performance based conditional love thing?

I am here to remind you and myself. God doesn’t work like that! That is a lie we manufacture all on our own. Satan loves it when we get to feeling like we can’t even pray. Here is the real truth. We can always pray. And here is another thing:

There is a very important thing about you (and me) that belongs to you and you alone. Everyone who has ever lived and died has one, it’s your story. And God, from the very beginning has been center stage, even if you never thought about or believed in Him.

You see, if you have drawn breath, it’s because He wanted you here. And He has a purpose and plan that you will get to know Him. That you’ll come home. Recently I have just finished a book called “The Edge of Over There” by Shawn Smucker. It’s a great book. These people were trying to reach Heaven by themselves. They were stranded on the Edge trying to get “Over There” which they could see in the distance. They were trying to build a bridge of their own making. Kinda like what we do.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I need assurance that God still loves me. Thankfully all I have to do is remember Jesus. It cost God everything to win us back. We’re all on the “Edge of Over There”  but the wondrous, marvelous thing is that once we say yes to Jesus, even if it’s a whisper, He hears us, and Heaven becomes a reality we can see and feel.

Lately, I have been remembering my own story and each time I look back and see all that God has saved me from, the tears flow freely. All the prayers He has heard and answered. All the times I’ve been delivered and never been turned away. Each time I come back, He receives me with open arms. He has been with me from the beginning and He has promised to never leave me or forsake me and He never has.

Sometimes I go down to the river and just watch it flow.  There is something redeeming about watching water flow. I guess it’s like a visual of time. That it’s always moving. The things that cause so much pain today will someday be a memory. Friends, redeem the time! Live right here in the present because though there are sorrows, there is tremendous joy and beauty. God has given us nature so we can get a glimpse of Him.

I leave you with peace today. Look back at your path and remember all He’s brought you through. And say a prayer of thanks with me, will you?

 

The way Home

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Words are so very hard to come by these days. There are things I am going through right now that I can’t write freely about, maybe that’s why. But there are still plenty of things to say. I have struggled with prayer the past two years like I never have. In the desert, my prayers and words seemed to flow.  That place of dust and cactus and mysterious beauty was like a foreign land at first, but it turned into a place that folded itself around us. Comforted us through the loss of both Elaine’s parents and all we went through with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the grief that went with it.

My blog was born there in the little shop, against the backdrop of monsoon rains and the cooing of doves that never seemed to stop. I don’t miss the heat but I miss many other things about our life there. Looking back can sometimes paint memories with a rosy hue and that’s good. Like I said, I don’t miss the endless relentless summers.

Here, mercifully, it cools off at night and in the morning we are always surprised to find sometimes even chilly air coming through the windows. Coming back to my hometown has felt like simultaneously fitting into an old slipper and wrangling my foot into a stiletto heel two sizes too small. I feel at home sometimes and lost sometimes. Maybe a bit of both at all times. But that’s okay, thankfully Jesus goes with us wherever we go.

The most important things are still intact. Despite the fact that I don’t have the “feelings” I used to have, the prayer life that once felt so rich, I know this silence of His must be part of the journey. That’s where faith comes in. The Bible says He keeps our prayers in a bowl, so I know they’re safe in His keeping.

Sometimes the plan is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other over and over again. Maybe it’s all about setting things right one at a time, the things that are right in front of you. This place has brought about tremendous creativity and new experiences for both of us. And we are very grateful to be in this place of beauty.

The mile marker always starts with gratitude. That’s the way Home with a capital H. Heaven that is. The most important thing is to find people with the light of eternity in their eyes and hang with them. Those are the ones you laugh with, and pray with, and are at ease with. You don’t have to worry about everything you say. I feel like something close to Supernatural can happen with a simple gathering on a front porch somewhere. It’s something you just feel. You know.

None of us knows when we’ll take our last breaths here but the most important thing to me is knowing I will take my next gasp on the shores of Heaven. I will gaze in wonder like the kids from Narnia I know I will be at a loss for words.

Until then I will keep my eyes on the mile markers for direction. I look back at each place God has allowed me to set foot and I know it’s all been Holy ground. Because He’s been there.

Every step.

 

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Writing in the Sand

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Where are your accusers? That was the question Jesus asked the woman who was caught in adultery. I’ve wondered all kinds of things when I’ve read and reread this story. This time it became more alive to me. I could see Jesus there……hear the stones thudding against the ground……..one, then one after another. I saw the dust fly up in my mind when they hit. I put myself in the woman’s place. I wondered where the man was?

We wonder don’t we, what Jesus wrote in the dirt. He did it twice kind of bending down almost as if He was pretending He didn’t hear the question. We’ve all done this from time to time. Someone asks you something and you don’t want to answer right away or maybe at all. You look off into the distance, look down at your hands…..sigh heavily. I think maybe Jesus did sigh heavily as He stared at the ground and moved his finger through the dust.

Where are you today? What guilt are you dragging around that you long to let go of? Where do you fall short in your accusers eyes and who are they? Is it a parent? An adult child? Yourself? The Church? A world that has dashed you into the rocks one too many times, one too many waves of grief……pain……loss.

The week is over and where are your accusers? Maybe it’s you telling yourself how you just don’t measure up against some standard you put on yourself. God doesn’t see us as failed experiments, friend, and neither should you. If it was you they dragged in front of Jesus that day with their fingers of blame the result would be the same.

The writing in the dirt, that line in the sand is for all of us who fall short, and we all do, everyday. Romans 3:23 kind of gives me hope: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Maybe on this Mother’s Day you are remembering a Mom who made you feel like you never measured up. Maybe you aren’t a Mom and others made you feel less than because of it. Maybe they even made you feel that because you never were a parent you don’t have the capacity to love fully. Don’t let that lie sink in. The stones of your accusers are falling like rain.

Here is a truth: there is a little mother in all of us. It’s how we’re designed. We are made in the very image of Who birthed the world itself. That is not to minimize the importance of good Mothers everywhere, but to bring us all up to where and how God sees us as individuals.

Embrace this simple truth today: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” It’s a good day to be released today. To forgive and be forgiven. The air of freedom is there. Take a deep breath and remember that there is room at the base of the cross for all.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6