Words

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The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they pour forth knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

There is a time when silence has its own magnificent language, you can’t adequately explain a sunrise, or a full moon rising over the earth. You have to see it, and once you see it you have to answer the question: “Who did this?”

I love words. I love the art of crafting them on paper. I love reading what talented writers write. I use them to try to capture my feelings which are much of the time tangled and twisted inside me.

Writing is my way of making sense of my world and the world around me. They are necessary to use them to have good relationships with people, especially the ones we care about. But sometimes I wish we could just read each other’s hearts and know each other’s pain and struggles without all the words because sometimes words just aren’t adequate.

We could just sit in the silence like you do with a dear friend watching a sunrise. You know that feeling when at the same time you have that sharp little intake of breath when you see it…..”Oh…..” “Wow….” “Will you look at that?”

I could receive your heart and you could receive mine and all would be clear, nothing confused, like a sunrise. And we would say….”Oh….” “Yes…..” I see you clearly now. I understand.

And all would be well.

When we pray, something kind of like that happens. It’s something miraculous. As Christians, we reach out to the Holy Spirit of the God of the universe. We reach out on behalf of each other when we don’t know what else to say because the Holy Spirit knows the canvas written on each of our hearts.

He speaks with groanings too deep for words to the Father about us. He knows we don’t have the right words, but He does. He always does.

Prayer for today:

“Lord, I give you everyone in my circle today. Give us all the peace that passes understanding. Give us new strength for this good day, for they’re all good days because you are here with us. Help us to help each other in the right ways. Get the clutter out of our hearts so that we can see you and each other more clearly. Help us to love one another with Your love. Thank you for words and thank you for sunrises and sunsets and all this beauty around us. Help us never forget to notice it. Tamp out the worry and fear that threatens to overwhelm us at times. And help us always to know the future is in your hands not ours.” In your Son’s matchless name, Amen.

 

 

A peaceful morning

Last Saturday I had one of those undefinable moments of peace that come which I have been trying to recreate ever since. Every now and again all those factors come together to create a memory burned in your soul. Those are the ones that remain long after years pass.

It was like this. I was deciding whether to go out on a morning walk, but then I decided to stay in and make Elaine breakfast since she has done that for me innumerable times. (She was fast asleep in the back) Living in an RV you are pretty much camping all the time, so I did what I needed to do with the stove. (Moved the Keurig so I could use the front burner) Then I rustled around for the lid to the pan, trying not to make too much noise.

Alexa remembered my David Nevue mix on Pandora and it was filling in the quiet softly in the background. As sausages sizzled in the pan, I scrambled eggs as a golden light filled the kitchen. When they were done I took them out and cooked the eggs in the remnants and after I sprinkled a little grated cheese over the top I put the lid back on and poured myself another cup of Don Francisco breakfast blend.

It was sublime. Isn’t it sometimes the simplest tasks you do for someone else that bring the most joy and peace? When Elaine got up I shared how I was feeling and said, “What if these days in the Motorhome turned out to be some of our best and sweetest memories?”

These days of transition that have been a sacrifice and a struggle.

These days that have put a much bigger financial dent in our lives then we ever dreamed.

These days we longed for our old stability, security and rest.

But…….could it possibly be that these moments must might be some of the sweetest when we look back through the clouds of eternity? Jesus is still here. He hasn’t left us, this I know. And though I haven’t had the rich prayer life I had in Arizona, I have had other things, other blessings.

I have been able to walk and drive along these streets again awash with memories, and walk up my parents drive, knowing they are still in their house together. I can help where I can and leave when I can’t. I have that choice.

I have been able to get to know my Aunt in a way I never would have if we hadn’t lived here in all this beauty.

Jesus said, seek peace and pursue it. Pursuing it means you have to do certain things in order to get it. Recovery teaches that. You have to own what’s yours and not borrow other people’s responsibilities and trouble.

There is a time to step in, but you have to know when to step out for your own sake and theirs too. That is the most difficult thing to get right. All any of us can do is our best and pray we are going the right direction.

I wish Peace, His Peace for you and for me my friends.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27 (KJV)

The unchanging nature of God

 

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God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today. Hebrews 13:8

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. James 1:17

I don’t know about you, but I draw tremendous comfort from a God who never changes. People and relationships will change. Circumstances change. Life is all about change and frankly, I am tired of it. I want a settled life.

But the fact that I am tired of it won’t change it. Change won’t stop until we take our final breath and part of what it means to be well-adjusted is to make peace with that.  I am learning to breathe and find peace in the moments. I have spent way too much time mired in anxiety since we moved and it has stolen too much of my joy.

I remember going out in the early morning dark when I was trying to make this big decision and praying while gazing at the moon. It’s kind of like God’s face. I made the decision to leave my comfort zone, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My life is open-ended, there are no conclusions, no end results yet. But here is the line of the song that just came through my headphones:

But He’s alive and there’s an empty grave……my redeemer lives.

And when He said, “It is finished,” He meant it. What that means for all of us that believe His words are true is that the biggest conclusion of our lives is all wrapped up. The struggles and questions we have down here, well, He is totally equipped to help us with those too.

So until the dust settles, I am thanking Him for all those moments when I surrender my anxiety and exchange it for His peace. And when my time here runs out and it will for all of us, I will be able to say with Him. It is finished, and the end result will be very, very good.

Redeeming the Time

 

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“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray………” Luke 5:16

“Our conditioning as members of a consumer society prevents us from abandoning hope that, with sufficient planning, we might yet be able to see and do everything. To move slowly and deliberately through the world, attending to one thing at a time, strikes us as radically subversive, even un-American. We cringe from the idea of relinquishing, in any moment, all but one of the infinite possibilities offered us by our culture. Plagued by a highly diffused attention, we give ourselves to everything lightly. That is our poverty. In saying yes to everything, we attend to nothing. One only can love what one stops to observe. “Nothing is more essential to prayer,” said Evagrius, “than attentiveness.”
― Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert

I read this wonderful book years ago and it has remained with me ever since. I believe it holds a very important message for our times as the world and the people in it seem to be moving at a faster and noisier pace than ever before. What does it mean to be fully in the moment of our lives? Do we skim over our days not fully touching down until we collapse in bed and wonder where the time went?

Do I treat people like things to check off my to-do list or do I give them my undivided attention?  I don’t know much but there are certain things I am absolutely sure of. I know that one day, I will give absolutely anything to hear a story I have heard a million times before and the voice I love telling it. I will hear the silence where they used to be and maybe my heart won’t be able to take it.

Listen to the stories, look into their eyes. Hear what they are saying, the desperation and earnestness behind it. Slow down long enough to honor them as individuals the way we would like someone to do for us. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy, God says we all are. That’s what real love looks like.

What makes a good day for you? For me it means that I was able to keep my finger firmly on the pulse of the day most of the time. I felt it from the time the sun came up until it went down. It made for a happy day, a fulfilled day. I rode my bike over ground I covered in childhood. I felt the bumps in the streets, I saw things, beautiful things. I took pictures so I wouldn’t forget.

I took care of Elaine who is recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It was a joy to return a gift she has given to me many times. I got to go to the store with Mom and Dad both, one to the grocery and one to the pharmacy. I went to Lowe’s to look at flowers with my Aunt.

I was in the moment most of the day. I  wish I  could say I have this  down, but too many times I  fail miserably.  But that’s why God knew we needed  days.  They are strung out like pearls until this life ends and eternity begins. The thing is, we can  never be sure when one ends and the other starts.

I like how the King James Bible puts it here:

Walk  in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming  the time.  Colossians 4:5

And this one:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

And just maybe I can try to repeat today what I did yesterday.

 

A New Season

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

The last time I wrote (if I remember correctly) I was in a bit of a funk. I was missing the doves that were a regular background noise of my prayer/meditation times in Arizona.  I had seen them in the area and wondered why I never heard them. I discounted it as part of a necessary season I was going through along with everything else. Now, it seems I hear one several times a day. God has given them back to me, along with Spring and flowers everywhere. The sun has touched down and the earth is truly full of His glory. As I write a Mockingbird is singing its heart out, so loud it almost comical.

I am happy to say, my heart feels lighter. Maybe it’s as simple as the weather. We walked to the lake today. That even sounds amazing doesn’t it? As much as I have whined and groused about all the things that bugged me about my home state since moving back, to be surrounded by all this beauty (and of course being close to my family) balances things out quite nicely. When weather permits I go down to the little river shack to pray. My old faithful LL Bean robe gave up the ghost and I had to throw it out. That’s what I would bundle up and walk down in, but my friend found another online and surprised me with it. I think it must have cost her a bundle, it weighs 5 pounds!

Now that the weather is warming up, I will go down more mornings before work. We have had some BBQs here lately and that is a very welcome change, to be able to cook outdoors is something we missed so much. Here is what Elaine made for my Aunt, her old sink washstand was rotting so she rebuild a frame and added a little cooking space which works great. The old wood is in the wheelbarrow!

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There is something Holy about creating something, isn’t there? It is truly a blessing to be able to work with your hands and make something better, give it a new life. After all, we are created in His image and God is the ultimate Creator. During Lent, we remember God’s great work of redemption, His greatest and most awful gift. Awful because it cost Him everything, great because it was the greatest act of Love He ever did and will ever do again.

He is our hope, our joy…..now and for all eternity. Nature reflects this, especially at the turn of the Seasons.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Henry David Thoreau

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

 

 

Longing for peace in a fractured world

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“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.” John 14:27

I am afraid I don’t have much in the way of encouragement today. I can’t give you the peace I don’t have. I seem to have lost it. Maybe I left it in Arizona. Or the beach. My soul feels like someone scoured it out with a scruffy pad. My joy has been elusive and I have not posted nearly as much because I have followed the old “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say it at all” adage.

I can however, give you Jesus peace. Jesus peace transcends feelings and that is what I offer you today. There are hard times in life when you have to lean on what you know, not on what you feel. Too many times I have looked at peace like an equation. “If I do thus and so and pray enough, read my Bible enough, make the right decisions, then I will have peace.”

“Then my anxiety will go away.”

“Then I will have joy”

“Then my fears will melt away”

“Then everything will fall into place”

I think maybe Jesus is trying to get me to let go and simply take Him at His word. To stop trying so hard. I feel like I have been spiritually wrestling with God and I am very tired. Tired of wondering if I made the right decision to move. Tired of wondering where my peace went. My peace is found in Jesus and nothing else. Like my old Pastor used to say, “It’s Jesus plus nothing”

So I give you Jesus today. At these words only, tears which have also been elusive come forth like Lazarus from the tomb. Lent is coming and it is with renewed joy that I write these words. I am relieved. Sometimes I just need to write myself out of the box I’ve stuffed myself in.

Maybe you are on the same kind of journey I am. Or maybe your life is going just the way you want it to. Maybe you, like me are tired of the second guessing about everything and you just want to let go and enjoy the peace of right here and right now.

Today, you can. Whatever decision you have made in life you can believe God led you there. I know that all steps have led me here, because I am here. Maybe it’s just as simple as that.

We’ll rest together you and I. And Jesus.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

 

Looking Up in 2017

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Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self-pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to Heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus you are lightened. Heaviness is not of My Kingdom. Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

As Jesus and His disciples were walking by the temple one day, one of them remarked on how beautiful it was. I can see Jesus glancing at it, maybe nodding in agreement, then saying (Message version) “All this you’re admiring so much–the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.” Then He goes on to explain just how bad things will get before He comes back and sets everything to rights. At first glance that might seem like a real joy-killer, but then He says at the end of Luke 21, “Look up, for your redemption draws near.”

It’s easy to despair looking at the events of the world around us. And I’m only thinking of the things that happened this past week! It’s easy to forget how to look at the world through the lens of  wonder, filtering out all the anxiety and dread about what will happen next. But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to buck up, or think beautiful thoughts. He points us to Himself. He is our ultimate hope and the hope of the world.

Sometimes He reminds us of this in the simplest of ways. The other morning I took a walk down by the river and the neighbor cat decided to tag along. I watched as she sprang ahead, leaping with a wild joy as she chased blowing leaves. She high-stepped it, and shaking her feet at the wet grass she almost tripped me by running across my feet. I have to admit, I got caught up in her playfulness.

Why do we humans complicate everything so much? Why do we eat ourselves up with worry? On Friday night I lamented that I was worried about finding a new stop on my route. My wise friend said, “You’re not driving it today.” Then I said something else and she repeated, “You’re not driving it tomorrow either, or Sunday.” I was robbing my moments of peace which I do repeatedly.

As I continued my walk, camera in hand, I got several cute shots of the cat comedienne. I laughed and caught the wonder again through my camera lens. I looked up at the sky peeking through the trees. I need to do more of this, I thought. I walked back up and then smiled all over again when I downloaded the pictures to the computer.

This quote by Frederick Buechner kind of sums up my thoughts today:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and the pain of it, no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

I plan on re-doubling my efforts to keep looking up during the course of the coming year. I plan to remember how to live in wonder at the world around me, and letting Jesus be my filter. I will fail sometimes, of that I have no doubt. But sometimes I will succeed.