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.

Of Dads and Grandpas

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“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it–we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who He is or what He is up to.” 1 John 3:1 MSG

God loves families. That’s why He found it necessary and important to start one. He certainly didn’t need us. It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like before the creation, but we know it was a perfect union. Father, Son and Holy Spirit…..They could have gone on that way forever.

But because God is such a creator and a giver, He decided to spin out galaxies, and planets and stars and angels in the blackness of eternal space. And then, out of His vast storehouse of love He created all the animals and this home of ours, and us. I wonder…….I’ve always wondered, how much time passed in that perfect fellowship.

How many walks and talks were taken in the cool of the evening before it all went south? Before we decided to listen to the cleverly woven lies that turned God-perfection on its ear. I wonder.

Families are messy and God knew that. Even the angels argued amongst themselves about who was greatest. He created us at great risk, but He felt the risk was worth it. We were worth it. And we fell, as He knew we would in time. Since that time we have never stopped falling. Thankfully, He has never stopped trying to get us back.

When my Dad was a kid, my Grandpa left the family. After my Grandma passed away he remarried. My Dad and Grandpa did some bridge building through the years. As a result I have good memories of him. I passed the house on my walk just the other day. I remembered Christmas at the Elks Lodge and going through his box of rocks and staring at his geodes in the lit up cabinet. And ice-cream socials at the Methodist Church and picnics at the lake. 

I never knew my Grandpa on my Mom’s side but I hope he is one of the first people I meet in Heaven. We lost him to cancer when I was only two. I have a dim memory of him holding me up to his grapevines. He loved roses, and he had a cat named Fritz and he called me his “blond-haired angel” in German. I always wonder if when he held me he was thinking of Annie, his 4 year old daughter who was accidentally shot and killed by a neighbor boy. My Grandma never built that bridge of forgiveness back to him for leaving the gun out. My Mom heard him say quietly one day, “She has never forgiven me.”

I like to think of the three of them together in Heaven, all forgiven, all forgotten.

Sometimes the most important thing in life and also the hardest is to build a bridge back to someone who has hurt us. It’s a huge risk, and it’s scary and most times we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s exactly what God did with Jesus. It cost Him everything, but to get us back he felt it was worth it.

It’s what good Dads do. 

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.