Unwrapping His Promises

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

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
 “And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Isaiah 58:10-12

 
My time in the desert has taught me much. When the heat stretches on and you see no end, you long to escape it. You drive up north, you go to the coast, or you go to the theater or the mall. You learn to adjust what you do. You learn from the little creatures you see that somehow thrive, and it inspires you too to go on. This imagery is easy for us desert dwellers. But here, God is trying to teach a different kind of lesson.

A lesson for when the soul is parched and needs refreshing.

He is trying to teach us a new way of living for when life burns you out. We say, “I need a trip to the Spa,” But He tells us we need to give to those who have less. New life, new energy, new hope is found when we do for others, and when we lean on Him in the doing. In a way, God is saying, “Get your mind off yourself and you will feel better.”

But unless we also harness the power of the Holy Spirit, we will quickly be burned out. It’s only when we join hands with the Creator that this regeneration and refreshment happen. The body might be beat, but inside the Spirit leaps.

In caretaking I have found this to be true. As soon as I stop harnessing God’s power, I find my anger flaring up at all those little moments….a shirt getting stuck on the hanger, her pacing back and forth, her opening and closing the door 10 times.

I focus on a Motorhome that sits idle in storage for the lack of freedom to just get up and go. I lament the loss of freedom and say it’s not fair. What is fair? People in Haiti are living in tents and have no clean water.

It wasn’t fair the Jesus had to go to the cross but He did. And now despite everything I deserve, I get Heaven here and now. And for eternity. With that in view, I can be more than a conqueror.

Whatever we are going through here and now, it is only for a season. And there are blessings everywhere we turn when we have the Lord to refresh us in all those scorched places in life.

Let’s unwrap His promises today, the basket is overflowing……..

Prayer for the Haiti Bloggers

“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room,I was shivering and you gave me clothes,I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” Jesus
 
 
As I eagerly read the posts coming in from the Haiti bloggers, I read their words and it felt like they were my words too, even though I am worlds away. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be there. Last night I looked up at the stars, the same ones they were looking at  and I wondered what they were doing, what they were seeing and feeling.
 
I know I would never be the same.
 
As I unwrap His promises today I am assured of one thing, if we call ourselves born again believers, we don’t have the luxury of not doing anything. Fear is one of the things that holds me back. I send my money to World Vision every month, happy to at least be doing something. I bring my bag of used clothes to the Hope Closet at church and I feel a nod from God. A small, warm quickening in my Spirit. And yet…….
 
If I were there? I know that all the words I thought I would have would be sucked right up inside me.
 
I pray for these who are there, seeing, feeling, touching…..being God’s own hands and feet. It is the next best thing to being there.
 
I lift my small offering today.
 
Please join me.
 
Photo courtesy of Facebook/World Vision

A Mama’s Prayers

See, I will bring them from the land of the north
    and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
    expectant mothers and women in labor;
a great throng will return.
They will come with weeping;
    they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
    on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn son.
 
Jeremiah 31:8,9
 
Ever feel like you’re in exile? I think we all do at some point in life. Maybe you are in a job you hate but you know you need to stay there until retirement. Maybe you are in school and you feel like that is exile. Maybe, God forbid, you are in jail or prison. Wherever or whatever that exile is, you are not where you want to be yet.
 
As I have been reading through Jeremiah, I have wanted to get to the “good part.” Israel rebelled as a nation, adopted other religious practices that went against everything God and everything He stands for, even going as far as sacrificing their own children on altars to foreign gods. It is painful to read, knowing what’s coming.
 
Knowing they will be exiled from their homeland, expelled, taken into captivity. Again.
 
And yet, when I read these words, I thought about Israel today. I think about all they have had to go through as a nation and how God was faithful to His word. None of the powerful nations that went against them are around anymore, and Israel is still standing as a nation, as a people.
 
Flash forward to my life right now. And my life up to this point. How like Israel I have been, ignoring God, thinking I knew best, thinking I didn’t need church, breaking my Mom and Dad’s heart when I decided to give up food. And yet……
 
God was so merciful. He never left me. He brought me out of exile, back home where I belong.
 
I am at a crossroads at work right now, and as I was praying this morning, I knew that I had to once again, give it up to the Lord. I am burned out. There is no spark left in this fire.
 
And yet in other parts of my life the fire is blazing.
 
And anytime someone invites me to write or says what I wrote helped them? I am saved a little bit more.
 
There was a time long ago. God brought it to me again as I was praying this morning, like a sweet balm to my soul. All at once I was back home in front of the fire with my Mom. Tears sprang to my eyes as I remembered how she would get up in the morning before I got ready for High School and start a fire. She and I would watch 700 Club together, just the two of us.
 
And she would take my hand in hers, voice trembling, and pray for me.
 
She knew High School was my exile. It was so hard for me in so many ways. My Dad would have prayed too, but he was in his own exile at that time. A job he hated. And yet God brought him out of that too. Because of his never taking sick leave, he was able to retire at 62. A free man.
 
And because of my Mama’s prayers, I graduated and was removed from my exile too. Through it all God taught me the lesson of faithfulness, and never giving up because someone else is believing in you. And that God is with me wherever I go. And He caused some good things to happen in those four years too.
 
I wrote a poem for my favorite teacher back then, my music teacher Wylie Moffat. Even then words were longing to break free in me. He had it framed and it hung in his house up until he died. And my words were used on the cover of his memorial service bulletin.
 
Today, I am thankful for fireside prayers. They are still working.
 
Thank you Mom, for being so faithful.
 

A bus filled with blessing

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:3

She had almost forgotten about the application she had filled out for the bus driving position……almost but not quite. She was sitting by the computer when the phone lit up with an incoming call. The phone is turned all the way down so her Mom won’t run and answer it. In the past she had agreed to things over the phone “Oh, yes, you can come and service the air conditioner….” It has happened before.

It was the Apache Junction school district calling. She couldn’t believe her ears when he said, “How soon can you come in and see us?” For years, every now and then we would pass a bus and I would hear her say, “I would love to do that.”

For the past year and a half, her Mom has been her full time job, and it has been hard, especially for someone who has worked all their life.

So she went, and of course they loved her. Especially when they found out about her driving experience. They wanted her so badly they even pulled strings to get her in the August session of training.

And the schedule is such that she can come home between routes to check on her Mom……..and, it’s only just around the corner!

“This,” she said, “Is the first job that I have felt in a long time that is from God.”

I have waited for this, I have prayed for this…..for my dear friend who lives her whole life for others.

Whose hands are still partially numb from her last project for someone else.

Last night we sat at a restaurant as pictures came through my phone……there were two completed Mr. Potato heads, one my brother did and one my niece did. I smiled as I read the texts. “Sometimes, you just have to take time out to play Mr. Potato head with your girl,” he says.

As I scroll through, the phone rings in my hand and it’s my Mom.

“I was just having a glass of wine and thinking of you,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” she said, and she laughed. “Well,” I said, “I happen to think it’s a good thing, since I am having one too.” And we laughed together and she told me about her day. And I told her about Elaine’s new job…..

She whooped and hollered over the phone………”Oh, that is so great! She is just right for that job.”

Later I get a text from my brother. My Mom must have told him…..”CONGRATULATIONS to Elaine, Wooooooohooooooo. Bus driver for kids? Perfect. I am so happy.”

This, I think, is what it’s all about.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice. And I think of what a cornucopia is life. Some days so full of hardship you just want to sit in a corner and never come out, and then, blessings so rich that all you can do is lift your hands skyward.

Praise God from who all blessings flow.

Big Red

For the word of God <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>is alive <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>and active. <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>Sharper than any double-edged sword, <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I hold it to my chest, knowing what it contains……..all the mystery and words of life. I felt the power it held as I pressed it close. I would open it, but not yet.

Content in the weight of memory within, I hold it close and feel all the years behind it. It was my first real study Bible, one I bought during a Walk through the Prophets study at my church. It was the most beautiful book I had ever seen. The day I carried it home was April 19,1980.

When I first got it, I devoured it. I read it for hours. I loved the delicate rattle of the pages and the gilded edges when they caught the light of the lamp.

All these years, it has been by my side, though there were years when I left it untouched on the shelf. Even so, I knew the words of life that it contained. I had felt that lifeblood of its pulse flowing through my life. I could never deny it.

For these words are alive with the very breath and Spirit of God.

I have other versions now, but when I need to feel the hope of all that God has brought me through, the Red Bible, “Big Red” I call it, comes out. It is the best prescription I can think of for a heavy heart. It’s amazing really, how I can feel better just by holding it. The words within hold the healing, the hope. I know that without cracking the cover.

It holds memory, it holds life, it holds me.

The verses highlighted in yellow, the ones I clung to when I did my first solo in church, the personal notes I scrawled in the back on special days, things I never want to forget are there.

This old friend is in me and I am in it, I feel it as I hold it close. Tears have spilled on its pages and they do now too, as I remember the times it brought me back from darkness, death. Notes of mine are co-mingled with my Mom’s from when she borrowed it. That makes it even more precious.

I think of all the promises held in the Bible, and how each and every one is true. It is the one thing we can always count on. What in the world gives us that kind of hope? In the beginning was the word……and the word was God……and even beyond eternity it will still be there.

Last year it came unglued from the spine and I had to glue it back on…….and the leather cover is more pliable with every passing year. But its still the most beautiful book on my shelf.

I am celebrating His promises today, won’t you join me?

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

Why aren’t we working at our passion?

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before……1 Thessalonians 4:11

Maybe it is the line of work I am in, but everywhere I go I hear it, “If I won the lottery I would do such and such……” most of the time, they would not be doing what they are doing now. What they are doing now is putting in time, just like me. They work at something that is not their passion and yet due to economic reasons they can’t quit.

All over the world, there are hoards of us going to work already mentally exhausted. We want to get to the end of the week…..and why?  Because we are not working at something that gives us any true satisfaction. For that we have the weekend. We do the things we love on our days off.

Tomorrow, a co-worker and I will both return to work after being on vacation. I can speak for myself and I think for her as well when I say that we would both rather be somewhere else. We work in a highly competitive field, that of technology. The entire culture is built around being better, faster and cheaper than our competitors. And that ideology trickles down to us, the employees.

We feel we have lost our value. Our identity.

We can never be satisfied with what we were last year, last month, last week. That can really wreak havoc on your mental state. This is not to say that we don’t appreciate our jobs, we do. Each day I thank God for the job He has given me, and yet each day I ask myself,  how can I glorify God in my workplace when I am in the midst of burnout?

And why do so many work all their lives to retirement in jobs that they feel passionless about?

What is it about the American dream that is so alluring, so compelling, that we are willing to sacrifice what we love on its altar in order to get it? I have owned very beautiful homes, one of them in a pine forest on a custom lot with three stories reaching to the sky. But the truth is, this little two bedroom place has felt more like home.

I have learned to be content with less. I have grown close to the Lord here, it is a happy, peaceful place.

This week I will spend 48 hours of my life at work. It is 48 hours I will never get back. I think about all the people I have heard who have quit their day jobs and followed their passions. I remember the story of the big CEO who lost his job, went to work at Starbucks, found his life, and wrote a bestselling book about it.

By writing this post I am acting on my passion, but the challenge remains, how do I put that same passion into what I will be doing for 12 hours tomorrow?

Again I think, we were made for more than this.

We were made for abundant life…………….Jesus promised it.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

The Gift of Laughter

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

Have you ever seen someone sitting together in a restaurant and they look like they never ever laugh? I was blessed enough to have been raised in a household where laughter was always present. I truly believe it is one of the best gifts a parent can pass onto a child.

My Dad and I got in trouble for laughing when we weren’t supposed to. My Mom used to separate us in church. Invariably we would see the same exact thing and that would start an avalanche of uncontrollable laughter. We went to a very somber Baptist church. I think they really thought laughter was a sin, and especially laughing in church.

The church I attend now, actually sometimes uses props and videos from comedians.

Sure there is plenty to be serious about these days. But there are plenty of things to laugh at as well, just look around!

My best friend and I laugh at something just about every day, though we disagree just a bit on what is funny, and I admit, my humor could be considered sick by some. I think it’s funny when people fall down or trip over carpets. But only if someone doesn’t get hurt. I figure if someone is doing a stunt on their own volition, then I have the right to laugh at them. Hey, I laugh when I fall down too.
Let’s face it, Charlie Chaplin didn’t get to be a star because he shot out one liners, but because he fell a lot.
Humor is one of the greatest gifts God gave us. To be able to laugh at ourselves means you can shrug off the stuff that you shouldn’t waste time on, so that you can take the really big stuff that happens seriously enough to be able to get through it with grace and God’s help.
My folks have been married for 62 years are are still laughing.
I called them from work the other day and they were just coming home from having the car fixed. Instead of their Minivan they were in the old Bronco. My Mom had nothing to hold onto to get in the car so my Dad was trying to push her from behind. He was laughing, and I could hear her in the background, “just get your hands off me, I can get in just fine.” Then I heard her start to laugh. They both started laughing so hard they had to hang up.

This is why I love them, and one of the reasons they have been together so long. Young couples starting out could learn a lot from them.

Many people in the Bible laughed, and there are references about God laughing. I think Jesus must have found humor in many things on this earth. I love to think what His laughter sounded like.
Laughter is the best gift…….Share it with someone today.
Then pass it on. Counting the gifts and the promises today…….

#933-945……Laughter, birds out back in the fountain, a new artichoke, okra reaching toward sky, peace in the garden, cloudy arizona skies, watching wimbledon on a lazy morning, fresh coffee brewing, full-bodied praise, upcoming trip to see family, technology that allows face to face conversation, all my blogger friends…..