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.

What a Special Needs Classroom Taught Me

 

 

 

The job of Paraeducator had in its description many things, mostly categorizing what I would do to help out the teacher in the classroom and on the playground, and in turn the kids. What it left out was something it couldn’t possibly know or prepare me for. That was how those kids opened up a whole new place in my heart for love.

What it also left out was how I learned even more about grace working and playing with them for these past 4 months. That is, grace with a capital “G” as in God’s grace.

At first I had a hard time learning all their names. I got so and so mixed up with so and so. But then I got to know them as individuals. That was when my heart opened up. I found that I even came to love the ones who got on my last nerve and had to put in time out. Even when they looked right at me and did exactly what I told them not to!

How can you prepare your heart for how you’ll feel when they call your name and run to you with arms outstretched? How can you know what a good feeling it is when they give you a spontaneous kiss and hug even after you’ve had to scold them? That’s when I heard the Spirit whisper, “That is how God loves you, my child.”

I can honestly say that I loved each and every one of them in different ways. (Around 25 in all) I found myself calling them “my kids” more and more as the weeks wore on. As another school shooting happened and I found myself in a classroom, I couldn’t imagine someone threatening these little ones, so vulnerable between the ages of three and five.

They even found their way into my dreams.

Even now, almost a week later the songs that were part of the daily repertoire are still running through my head. “Chickarocka chickaboom” “Ladybug, ladybug” “Great White Shark” “The Jellybean Counting song” all still there.

I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to say goodbye the last day of school. They left so soon, each in different directions. And I wasn’t ready. Their faces, their voices, everything that is uniquely them, all gathered together in a string of memories I won’t let go of. I will miss reading to you Jonathan. I will miss you catching me when I miss a page. I will even miss your tantrums.

I will miss you Christopher and the impossibly cute way you talked, and the funny noises you made running on the playground. I know you all by name now. We are no longer strangers and I will wonder about you all my life.

You were my first class. And you taught me so much more than I could ever teach you. I will hold you in my heart and my prayers, and wonder about what you will grow up to be. Thank you for teaching me about how God loves us all. Each in our own uniqueness; each with our own bundle of idiosyncrasies and problems, insecurities and hangups.

Thank you God for shining down on me through those little ones. To show me how you love me. Even when I look right at you and defiantly insist on doing things my own way. I know now……I know more about how deep Your love really is and how much you thrill over my victories. And I know how you feel when I run to you with arms open wide and how you long for that.

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

 

Hope for the Mustard Seed Prayers

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Recently we traveled back to where this blog started, where my prayer was most alive. It was good to be there. The downside was the mustard was blooming, it was beautiful but I think it was really wreaking havoc with my sinuses. I wasn’t acclimated to it as I used to be. As my Grandmother used to say in German, “With beauty comes suffering” or some such thing. The mustard plants made me think of what Jesus said about having faith as small as a mustard seed:

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there, ‘ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matt. 17:20

I don’t know about you but that verse has always made me feel a little doomed. Who actually expects that they could move a mountain with a prayer? What did Jesus mean? I can imagine the disciples being a little exasperated. And yet when He sent them out two by two, they came back exhilarated…….the lame walked, demons cast out, hearings occurred right and left.

And later, when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost they found that their prayers did indeed produced great miracles. In fact, people had only to grab their garments and they were healed!

What does this mean for us today? Does this mean that we shouldn’t even pray? No indeed. It means that we should always pray for God to help our unbelief and increase our faith. Prayer transforms us from the inside out. There are so many people I know whose prayers began with: “If you are there Lord…….” Or just plain, “Help me, Lord!”

It means that God blesses even little scraps of faith. He takes those tiny seeds of hope and prayer that we send up and answers us with an assurance that He does indeed hear. In fact, He loves it when we acknowledge Him, however insignificant our words may seem. He can take that mustard seed and change a heart, change a life, and yes, move mountains in our lives. I have seen way too many lives changed (including my own) to not believe in prayer, however small and weak my faith might be.

Keep on praying. I can assure you that you will be blessed by God opening up a canyon in your heart. I love these quotes from Frederick Buechner:

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images He uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again.

Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29)

May your day be peaceful. Talk to God today, even if you are not sure He’s there or even listening. You will be blessed!

The Refiner’s Fire

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You may have heard the story about the woman who attended a Bible study and wanted to know about the process of refining silver after she read Malachi 3:3. She writes of her visit to a local silversmith:

“As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’”

As I meditated on this story and passage I also thought of our part in it. How we must willingly stay in that fire. How many times have I been through something painful and sought only to relieve the pain not thinking or caring about the end result. It’s humbling. And it’s what I leave you with today. If you’re in that “refiners fire” today, know that He is surely with you. Right where you are today, know that He will never leave you or forsake you!

 

Happy Dust Day

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It’s Ash Wednesday which is the starting of Lent, the day we remember we are eventually all going the way of “dust in the wind” (to paraphrase an old Kansas song). It’s also Valentine’s Day, the day of love. It seems at first glance that those two things are at odds with each other. As I sit here watching a blue jay drink from the fountain and color fill the sky, I think of God’s great love. How at the dawn of Creation He was thinking of me, of all of us.

God is the sustainer of all things, our breath, our life and yes even our death. He was there at the first and He will be there to catch our soul when we breathe our last on this earth. Only one small curtain between this life and our reclaimed life with Him forever.

For those of us who are aging, the dust part is easy to believe. We get ready to face the day and we notice more lines, it’s a little harder to cover the wrinkles, the discoloration. I find myself lingering at the Spanx aisle. Gravity has started take its inevitable toll on my body. I have to work all that much harder at the gym. Beating back the effects of time gets so tiring.

Sometimes it’s a relief to wipe everything off at the end of the day, throw the bra in the corner, or if you’re a guy at the office, take off the suit and tie. Coming home is where we can take all the junk off and be real. Or it should be.

All too soon this day will start. Maybe for you it already has. As I write this the train roars through town and it reminds me of my mind, already racing ahead and clouded over with what I have to do later. But one thing will remain. God loved me first, loves me still. And He wants us to pass that love on.

Even if you don’t have a sweetheart today, you can still give gifts. Drop someone a card that least expects it. Stop by your local shelter with an armload of blankets for the animals. Call a shut in. Maybe just smile more.

Thank God for loving you first and last.

Today I used the picture of the Dogwood flower to illustrate Jesus love. You can read about it here.

May peace be yours today.

Lori