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 March that really matters

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There are many marches going on right now in the U.S. and all around the world. Down through history people have marched for different things. Some of those marches had impact and affected real change. Some marches will have little lasting impact.

Today, on Palm Sunday we celebrate a small band of marchers that changed not only history and time as we know it, but changed eternity as well. A small band of people including Jesus walked toward Jerusalem and as Jesus approached the city He wept because He saw hearts that needed to be changed. Just like today.

He knew that He and He alone had the only cure for a terminally heartsick humanity. Just like today.

However zealous today’s marchers might be, they can never affect real lasting change. Real change can only come when people’s hearts are transformed by Jesus. Palm Sunday has always affected me. There is just something about Easter week and everything that goes with it. It’s like everything in the world that we think is so important can just wait. It all pales in comparison with what happened on the world stage around 2000 years ago. And largely, people back then had no clue about what was really going on. Just like most people today.

Jesus came. He vacated His seat in Heaven for this lowly grungy stinky planet. Does that get your attention? It should. And if not, why not?

People threw their coats down on the road where Jesus came riding in on the donkey. For most people, it was their only coat. One week later those same people screamed for His death. This week among all weeks is when we remember what God’s love cost Him. Everything.

Today was kind of comical but not really. We were irritated and circling the parking lot once again. We were too late for early church and way too early for late church. We hung out in the parking lot and watched people until 10:00 service started trickling out.

When the service started, however, it no longer mattered. To sing, “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest” as little kids came down the aisles waving palm branches was enough to do me in. The world and everything in it melted away in those few minutes as it was just Jesus and me…….and us. An eternal family worshipping in church. A world away. A world together.

Later I got to decorate eggs with my niece and see my family……..later still, I worked in the yard with my bestie and it felt like Holy work. Something about working close to the earth reminds us of Eden I guess. Holy work for Holy Week.

I hope this week to remember to pause enough. Remember enough. Cherish enough.

Thank you Jesus. All to You I owe.

Good Day (of) Sunshine

image For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land…..Song of Solomon 2:11,12

I know winter is not over yet but all over there are whispers of hope. I saw bulbs coming up, maybe narcissus the other day. We have had consecutive gray days and this morning, after a patter of steady but light rain the sun came out and the birds were giving their exuberant assent back and forth across the sky. Blue sky changes things. Just a smattering of sun reminds us that things just might be okay after all.

I was feeling thankful that this could bring me joy because to some in their minds all days are alike. I know this, I have seen that heartbreak. The thing that makes Christianity stand out so starkly in the climate of our world is that no matter our circumstance, the Holy Spirit lives and breathes within us and fans that flame alive even when life around us points to the contrary.

Satan can fling his accusations at us all he wants, just daring us to hope. He tries in vain to pull the shutters down from inside because he knows his time is short. He will settle for a few moments of despair here and there. He has lost, my friends, and he knows it. He lost long ago on that hallowed ground where Jesus gave His Momma over to the care of Mark and forgave the world, forgave us.  His last breath here was only His reentrance back Home, just as it will be for us.

For those who have followed my journey here, you know I have moved back where home once was, the only home I knew. I feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins describing his “There and back again” journey. I have met my own little Smaugs. I have been job searching. Going on job interviews feels like first dates from what I can remember.

You go through that exultation that you got the interview (the date) then you have the instant regret and desperation…….(will they, won’t they call.) The anxiety, the waiting for the email, the phone call. Hoping they will, hoping they won’t (when you think you made the wrong choice)

I am proud of myself and my milestones lately. They haven’t found me employment yet, but they have brought me something else. A victory that has grafted into myself that no one can take away. It’s God’s and mine. And everyone that prayed for me.

There was the 3 hour assessment test which I passed. And the typing test just the other day. Both times E said, just take them! And I was hoping for 45 words a minute on the typing test and I got 46! God is so generous. It was kind of surreal. It was a beautiful office and I could see other people settled happily in their suites, an architect here, a real estate office there, an attorney farther down. It was like entering another world.

And I greeted the two gals at Blue Ribbon Personnel. They were well dressed and standing at their ergonomically correct workstations, like the one I had when I had a job. It was like old home week.

Thankfully there were no numbers or special characters on the test. As Elaine said, Angels wings were there on the keyboards.

God has birthed a new day and I am going to step out in it and see where He wants me to go next. I don’t think I plagiarized the Beatles because I added the “of.” The lyrics are how I feel right this moment.

Peace on your day.

Nature’s Hymn

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Most mornings now when I walk down, the river has taken to wearing a silky wrap as if to ward off the cold. The temperature drops just before the sun makes a welcome appearance. The buzzards are holding court up high in the trees, waiting for the sun to warm their wings. Sometimes if it’s dark and they haven’t yet taken their place in the trees, the white egrets are there. All I can usually see is their white shape against the pre-dawn foliage.

Sometimes hymns have words and sometimes they don’t.

It strikes me that Nature is something we can all get behind. In this world of war and argument and discord, we can all still stop in wonder for an eclipse. I capitalize nature because to me it’s synonymous with God. However you explain it or Him away, the beauty disarms us just the same.

David Nevue fills the background as I settle into the warmth to tap these words out. “How Great Thou Art” comes on and I sing tangible words of worship and I feel again the wonder and miracle of what we celebrate this season. He……came……for……us. Count them all with me:

Heavens opening to the Shepherds watching their flocks in the dark

A baby announcement that came in the form of a sign in the Heavens that wise men followed for months.

A baby named John filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth.

Animals blowing frost in a sub-zero stable and a young girl giving birth to God.

I could go on and on and on………..what’s your particular miracle today? Each day does have several if we only stop and reflect in the quiet pauses that God wants us to take. Each moment can become a “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Moment upon moment until we reach Eternity that’s within our grasp right now today.

I know your seasons may be hard, but know this today: Jesus went through the hardest one of all so that ours might be more bearable. He is praying for you even now my friend. And so am I. This world needs Him more than ever.

 

What Nabeel taught me

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“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday……” Isaiah 58:10

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

I read this book several years ago and since then I have followed Nabeel Qureshi’s podcasts and speeches via the RZIM website. (On the bottom is the tribute written by Ravi Zacharias who knew Nabeel very well).

I write this today because as many others who followed this young man via social media, I was deeply saddened to learn of his cancer and subsequent death earlier this year. Nabeel taught me something very important, and that is that a part of me needed healing. Through his actions of love toward everyone, including those who intended him harm and even rejoiced in his death, he reminded me of how Jesus wants us to love and that I needed more of that in my heart. Even love for the most radical, the most hateful.

The kind of love Jesus had even as He was being nailed to that ugly cross.

Nabeel taught me that as much as I might want to, I can’t use a wide brush to cover over a certain religion or people group. He loved until it hurt. He always debated eloquently but always answered hate with love. He met people on their terms, where they were. Nabeel allowed me to get past my hate of what Islam stands for and see the person behind the religion. The person as an individual.

There is a big old house that I used to pass by on my way to work. I am sure at one time it was a beautiful building, but now it houses a large group of Muslim men (I never see any women). Every now and then I see them gathered on the front porch. It’s a sad-looking building, neglected.

Usually the windows are closed, shades drawn. I found myself wondering what was being planned, talked about behind those walls. I found myself resenting their presence in our country. I thought of my Grandmother’s family who came here as immigrants with nothing. They asked for no healthcare or handouts, they just wanted to come here and make a positive contribution.

And then the day before I was going to post this, there was another incident. That kook in the truck yelling, “Allahu Akbar” mowing down innocent people on the bike path at the World Trade Center. I refrained from posting this. I couldn’t.

I returned to listening to Nabeel’s messages and then to his beautiful wife Michelle, who is carrying on his legacy since his death. I felt something break free in my mind and heart. I no longer felt the old ugly feelings. It’s no longer my battle who is supporting who. God is fair and just, and He is the one who blesses me so that I can pay my bills.

What Nabeel taught me is that there are hurting and lost among all people groups. What we all need is Jesus. Nabeel believed when it cost him his whole family. He believed and followed when the stakes were highest. And he never wavered.

Nabeel is missed by many people, including his wife and little girl. I don’t understand why such a bright shining star would blink out of this world so young. I don’t think God needed him in Heaven. I hate when people say that. But someday I know the picture will be complete and we will have to answers as to why some people leave this earth so soon. Until then, we can try to learn the lessons others teach us by their legacy of love and forgiveness.

Thank you Nabeel……….until we meet in Heaven.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/september-web-only/ravi-zacharias-nabeel-qureshi-apologist-rzim.html?start=1

******Further resources: I have recently finished another book called “Standing in the Fire: Courageous Christians Living in Frightening Times” by Tom Doyle. I feel it’s a must read for every Christian in America.

In the Quiet

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This morning I was surprised by a world cloaked in fog. It was ghostly as I walked down the little path that leads to the river’s edge. It was still dark and there was no sky that I could see, everything had been swallowed up. I loved it.

The crunch of the leaves underfoot was the only indicator I was walking on anything, it was a bit scary and comforting at the same time, an insulated world. I sat for a moment after reading my devotions and in between prayer I listened.

Sometimes I think a big part of prayer is just listening, don’t you?

The trees dripped as dawn came closer, and the little bamboo wind chime gave a clunk every now and then. An owl called nearby. The coffee steamed as I poured, the candle flickered in the corner and the heater warmed my feet. These are the Holy moments. These are the moments where anxiety is suspended momentarily. When we remember the promises. 

Maybe, just maybe it’s possible to just string these moments together and eliminate anxiety and fear all together?

I found this online this morning and it kind of fit what I was feeling. It’s from an old devotional dated October 18, 1956 and the prayer is by Ella Syfers Schneck, here’s a fragment:

“Lord, in the quiet of this morning hour I come to Thee for peace, for wisdom, power to view the world today through love-filled eyes. To be patient, understanding, gentle, wise. To see beyond what seems to be…….”

I wish peace for you this morning in all you do. Turn your heart inward to find that quiet place in the midst of your soul, even amidst the clamor of the world. And remember that joy belongs to us, not just for a moment but an eternity.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11

Thank you Father, for your marvelous works. Amen.

Kinda like Heaven

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My brother and I with Thunder, circa 1965 or so……

There used to be a row of houses on the next block over from where I lived. We knew every family that lived there very well. The houses were owned by the adjacent hospital but I never knew that.  About 10 or 15 years ago now, one by one all the current occupants moved out and the houses themselves were physically moved to a neighboring town.

Growing up, I spent hours inside every one of those houses. Some of them many, many hours. Starting from left to right, there were the Meier’s, then the Matsumoto’s, (whose kids were almost part of the family since my Mom watched Rhonda and Jeff when their Mom went to work.) Next to them were the Merry’s, then the Dillon’s. It was quite a spectacle to watch those houses be readied for a move.

I was reminded of all this yesterday when I took Mom to the store and saw Harriet and Sam Matsumoto. Sam has cancer now, on chemo. I can remember when he used to drive Rhonda and I to school sometimes, he would turn on the vents and stuff would fly out.

I was thinking of those houses, those people, this morning at 3:00 AM when I couldn’t sleep. In my memory I see every house, every family. I remember the night our dog got hit by a car and we mourned the loss sitting in Rhonda’s room. I remember the day I was swimming in the back yard of the Meier’s when the Dollinger boy came with a boa wrapped around his neck. I remember Todd Dillon running home when he cracked his chin in our driveway. So many memories.

I was thinking that in those days I could have knocked on any one of those doors and would have been welcomed. Offered a cooky or ice-cream bar. I would have listened and respected those parents like my own.

It struck me that must be a little of what Heaven is like. Being able to knock on any door and be welcomed. Now it seems few neighbors know each other. My folks just about have to flag the younger people down to talk to them before the garage swallows them up in the evenings. It’s sad.

I am not in John Lennon’s camp, even though I loved the Beatles back in the day.  I love to imagine Heaven because for me it’s just as real as this world, more real in fact. The Bible says in Heaven we will be fully known.

No worries about money, no mortgage, no war, no death, no homelessness, no crime, no pain or sadness. No loneliness or heartache for what might have been. No disease or any kind.

And God will wipe every tear. That sounds pretty darn good to me right now. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good still left in this world, and much to celebrate. But I don’t think anyone would argue that it needs some redeeming right about now.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him…….1 Corinthians 2:9