A New Chapter

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“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland……” Isaiah 43:19

Just over 10 years ago, lots of people thought we were crazy to buy a manufactured home in a retirement community. But sometimes doing the crazy thing can be right. Living here close to the Superstition mountains gave me an experience I never could have gotten any other way. This place taught me to listen to the desert and what it whispers in the wild. It gave me my blog and it gave a voice to my writing. I will always be grateful for that.

At this phase of life, most people might be easing into retirement. Maybe settling into the home where they will finish out their years on this planet, winding down. We are doing the opposite, uprooting ourselves to start over yet again. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But I firmly believe that God rewards crazy if the motive is love. In fact, I know He does. I can find example after example in the Bible where God did this.

Not long ago a statement was made to someone else that “People just don’t move back to California!” My answer is the same as his, with an addition “Yes I can, I can do whatever I want to do.” My very important addition to that statement is that I believe in a big God of impossibilities who loves it when we believe Him enough to step out in obedience and do something out of their comfort zone for the right reasons.

And I can’t wait to see what He will do. He has never let us down. He has always provided for our needs, and He isn’t about to stop now.

So today the for sale sign went up. I always wondered how I would feel when it finally happened, but I think I have cried all my tears already. We will leave good friends and great neighbors and how many times can you say that anymore? But I know that God has a great plan and that it is coming together already.

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And we will be back to visit. I never did like goodbyes, in fact, I hate them. I think I am looking forward to Heaven most of all for that reason alone. No more goodbyes….ever.

So as I have said before, this magical place by the mountain has changed me for the good. It’s carved out a place in my heart that will stay. And a Grand adventure awaits. We are going back to where we started, and to family who will love having us there.

I have a good feeling.

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Prayer Journal: August 11

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Rain slammed down hard last night, awakening me from sleep. It was a welcome sound…..something I had been hoping and praying for. And in between the silences thunder rolls this morning.

Here amidst the boxes in the shop, the Trinity and I are having our coffee communion. There are different types of communion you know. There’s the church kind and then there is this kind. Where we invoke and invite the Presence of God into our moments.

Thunder amplifies the Holiness of the hour, and I think about that Day.

When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. Mark 15:33

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27: 51-54

Some standing around finally got that they had killed not only a completely innocent man, but God Himself. Even nature reeled from it, punctuated the awful truth of it with darkness and an earthquake. The prophet Amos predicted it in 750 BC……

It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon And make the earth dark in broad daylight. Amos 8:9

We, all of us want to know we’re going in the right direction. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, all the signs along the way, we get lost. Or feel lost. Ever made a mistake of epic proportions or feel like you did something irrevocable?

Few things can’t be reversed, forgiven or undone. That’s the Good News I bring today. And some paths you have to turn into on faith, knowing that the only way is to walk it for a while to know if it’s right.

With God there are no blind corners, He knows exactly where we are and what’s beyond the next bend. I just have to pick up my walking stick and follow.

Know this for sure, that uncertainty…..the dread of what might happen……the icy fear that slips in during the night? None of that came from God. 

I can assure you that if you are wondering where your happiness went? It wasn’t God who stole it. But I do know that He can bring it back.

Let the life-giving Holy Spirit breathe fresh life into your weary heart and soul today. And know that if you are living and breathing, that it’s a good day.

God’s Speed Bumps

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“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”  Thomas Merton

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

Last night we watched the storm come in, the skies filling with every shade of pink, peach and amber, then the screen of dust came and diffused the light. The trees bent unnaturally this way and that. And finally, healing rain beating it all down, flickers of lightning here and there like God’s flash bulbs. Easy to believe in God during these kinds of storms.

There are times throughout our lives that stand out. And I’m not talking about the usual Big Moments like births and weddings. I am talking about those little everyday miracles you just can’t explain that won’t go away. I call them God’s Speed Bumps. I believe sometimes He has to stop us in our tracks to remind us He’s still there, still loves us enough to nudge us with something unexplained. A gift that removes all doubt of its source.

I keep a journal of these……answered prayers and moments that stand out no matter how many years pass by. I never want to forget. Maybe you have some too. Here are some in my collection:

The white dove that wouldn’t leave, resting on the flower box as my parents left the house after praying when my sister-in-law was so sick. 

The unmistakable presence of the Holy Spirit that enveloped me like the fog that covered our house as I listened to “Oh, Holy Night” in my little room so long ago now.

The mother duck and her ducklings walking along the side of the road as the sky turned peach all around us, as we drove to Church on an Easter morning. 

The letters found in the parking lot as if dropped straight from Heaven at Elaine’s Dad’s nursing home on a day when hope was desperately needed. (You can read about that here.) 

The Holy Spirit taking over as I sang my first solo in church. Each time after as well, and not one missed lyric, except the time I crashed and burn when I got a little cocky and forgot to pray. 

The supernatural evening touched with grace as I prayed and asked for help while watching the sunset with Tux my little stray yard cat. 

Elaine and I finding the song by Jessye Norman for Lori’s memorial service, truly a needle in a haystack. 

And this one at the end of a particularly hard day, Elaine glancing over to the side of the road at the precise moment a little round squirrel stood up on his hind legs while holding a flower between his two front paws. She said it was like he was posing for a greeting card. 

The robin in the yard at dawn just when my Mom needed to see it after those dark days after my husband died. 

The bright and long shooting star Elaine and I both saw walking out of the restaurant at Moss Landing. 

There are so many, friends that I could never count them all. And yes, I believe in a God who doles out parking spots sometimes because it’s His good pleasure to give us good gifts. The truth is, He does these things for all of us but we don’t all take time to notice or thank Him.

And no, my God is not a Genie…..my wish is not His command. But I believe He reveals Himself in a myriad of little ways to those who pay attention. For those who ask to notice and keep their Spiritual ears and eyes open…..He waits.

Today, open your eyes to what He has surrounded us with. And start counting!

Letting God

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“My little story, which was like a fairy-tale, has turned into a prayer.” St. Therese

It’s nine thirty and by now I should be fully immersed in the business of life and ticking things off my to-do list. Nothing on my mental or physical list is done, unless you count morning prayer and devotion time and you can’t really check that off as a task. The whole point of prayer seems to be to never, ever have it completed. It’s an impossible task anyway, for I find that no sooner do I get off my knees, either figuratively or literally, that my next breath becomes a prayer again. Lately, it seems I need it to move from one thing to the next.

I ask God for the thousandth time to direct my path. Right now I am a stubborn leaf clinging to a rock in a fast flowing current. This home has been my monastery, my hermitage…….my refuge and place of peace for the past 10 or so years and part of me is fighting leaving. I look around and see everything placed just so, I see all the work, all the love, all the things we’ve done to make it home. So much life is in these walls. So many battles, joys, heartaches, sorrows, and always at the end of the day a sweet place of light and welcome.

It’s been a place to wipe the grime of the world off our feet and leave it behind on the other side of the threshold.

Each time I think of packing, taking anything down off the walls a little voice of rebellion screams, no. It’s change, and change is what I have always fought. At my job I was forced into it, and it was good for me. And I know change is necessary and healthy. Do I have the strength to start new?

I sit quiet, acutely aware of every little sound, not wanting to leave the peace of this moment. I hear the scratch of the pen, Briggs soft snore, Pandora filtering David Nevue’s piano as my backdrop. I hold my breath and it feels Holy.

My tears fall as I read once more from The Cloister Walk, a favorite I read long ago. This little home has been my Cloister like no other home has ever been. Do I have the courage to leave? Do I have what it takes to beat back the fear of the unknown?

I think of that little leaf, I see it as red somehow, scarlet against the gray stone. Something about it is fierce and brave and I admire it, I want to tell it to hold on and yet I know the current is part of the big picture and it has its place in the universe too.

Maybe, when it all comes down to it, this is why writers write, painters paint, restorers restore. It’s all about freezing time and a process of letting go again and again. We push words out like breath in order to keep from being overwhelmed and pulled under the current.

It’s a way of saying “this little moment is important” and the moment that comes after is just as important.

To God, time doesn’t matter. To us, it is everything. It’s all we have, right here and right now. It’s what we are guaranteed. There are really only two things in life that are guaranteed.

The here and now. And eternity. 

And I understand more the older I get that those two things are what Jesus meant when He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” By His coming, He made the here and now collide with Heaven. And ultimately, it’s why I can step forward even with trembling knees and shaky feet.

It’s why I can step into the future and whatever it holds with hope. Because after all, “Letting Go” is only one letter away from “Letting God.”

Why we can’t ever stop loving

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken……..” C.S. Lewis

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

It’s been a hard week, friends. First there was the call from my Dad. I could hear the panic in his voice: “There’s something wrong with your Mom,” he said, “I’m not sure what to do……” Then the texts and reports came back from my brother and my concern grew. I heard the word, “Sepsis” and alarm bells rang inside my head. Elaine’s Mom was in the hospital 14 days due to that condition. That pretty much ended the “should I stay or go” battle.

It was the spur of the moment and the weekend……..flights were few. Elaine said, “I’ll drive you, let’s just get in the car and go. We’ll drive as far as we can and stop and sleep, then keep going.” So we did. We called our faithful friends who have watched the cats for years and they said of course they would. Sydney had not quite been himself but he was still eating and drinking. He was in good hands.

When we got there 16 hours later Mom was just out of the hospital. (One day and one night too long in her words) She was shaky and disoriented and not looking good. After a week’s worth of antibiotics at home due to some pneumonia setting in, she was on the mend and I felt I could leave.

Elaine had turned around and left the same day we got there after having dinner with her brother in a nearby town. She was scheduled to train on Monday at work and she was also worried about Sydney. (She may not have a cape but she’s the closest thing to “Wonder Woman” I know)

She had asked me before we left, “If something happens to Sydney, if he gets really sick, do you want me to tell you or wait until you get back?” I told her to wait until I got back.

When she got back he was still eating and drinking but hiding under the bed which wasn’t at all like him. And all that week, while I was in California nursing Mom, she was nursing my cat. (she loved him every bit as much as I did) Two days before I got back he had some kind of a seizure and it scared her to death. She brought him back from the brink but after that he wasn’t the same.

We had decided after the last vet visit two years prior, no more vet visits for him. It was just too traumatic.

And she never let on how bad he was, how scared she was, because she had made that promise, you see. That’s what best friends do, they keep their promises even if it hurts.

When she picked me up at the airport I still had no clue. I breezily suggested we go to dinner. She didn’t answer right away and then she told me between tears and sobbing……”It’s Sydney……” Then panic ensued and all I could think of was getting home.

Sydney has been my baby right from the start, you see. He chose me fifteen years ago, back when I desperately needed something of my own. I had lost the cat who had brought joy back into my life after great sorrow, and my arms felt empty.

Of all the kittens in those two rooms, Sydney (Sammy then) kept coming up to me. He was God’s gift, an answer to my prayer, I know it. Later, when my niece was born, I remember lamenting that she was so far away in California. Sydney helped me with that by insisting that I hold him. I had never ever had a cat that turned on his back and insisted I hold him like an infant, but he did.

And now he needed me. With shaky hands I filled out the online form to have the vet come to the house the next day.

All that evening I stroked him where he lay under the bed, and held his paws. He was quiet, and he was never ever quiet. I was so grateful I made it back in time. Elaine had been holding such secret sorrow and so afraid he would die before I got back. Unbeknownst to me, she had made all the calls and had already checked out the websites for vets that would come to the house.

That night I made a bed on the floor so he could feel me near; he always slept right by my side or preferably on my pillow, he loved stealing my pillow. And he actually loved to cuddle, remarkable for a cat.

Sydney was my faithful and loyal friend. For 15 years of his life, each time I left for California he would look towards the door and cry and mourn for days. It was so bad that Elaine would have to leave to get some peace. After a few days he would settle down and allow her to be surrogate Mom.

The vet responded the next morning and said she would be in the area the next day, but there was no way I could let him suffer another day so I pleaded our case for haste and she came through. She said she would be here within the hour.

I waited and prayed for strength at my bedroom window and when her van pulled up I jumped.

We had already gotten Briggs out of the room. And she was so kind, so compassionate. I knew we had made the right call. She got everything ready beforehand and we comforted him as she gave the sedative. I held him close for what seemed like forever. Time stopped and I was strong for him as I knew I had to be. I owed him that.

She suggested wisely that Briggs be brought in to say goodbye, for they had never been apart. Elaine brought him in and they touched noses for the last time. “If you don’t,” she said, “he will always be looking for him.” I guess animals need closure too.

I was okay until I put his little body in the box with the shell blanket. I didn’t want to let him go and the dam burst as I pressed my face to his fur, the softest I had ever felt.

I recovered enough to go hug the vet. Soon I will go pick up his ashes so that where we go, he can go. I happen to believe he is pestering Jesus right now with his loud Siamese meow and insistence on lap time. My Mom said she thought that too.

So again, I feel how hard and unnatural it all is. We were never meant for this kind of sorrow. And though Jesus has removed the lethal stinger that reaches beyond death to redemption, we still feel the raw pain of it.

But there’s something else that reaches beyond it. Softly and insistently it flutters its way into our heart. It says with promise. This is not the end. There’s Hope.

So my question is, “Why do we keep opening ourselves up to love?” Over and over again.

The answer is simple, we keep loving because it’s in our DNA because it’s in God’s DNA and we are His children. He loves us and has loved us from the beginning with an everlasting love, even when it hurts.

We love because He first loved us. And despite the pain, we keep giving. He keeps giving. Because without love, life has no real meaning. With every loss, no matter how painful, we are better people for having risked and loved.

And God has a happy ending for us, folks.

It’s all arranged.

Looking for a little Narnia

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Lucy and Aslan

I remember a time when the world felt safe. Oh, I know it has never been totally safe, but in my reality it was. Every kid needs to feel safe so that when they grow up and find they have lost their way and everything looks dark and scary they will be able to pull that memory out. Lately the world doesn’t feel safe or kind. I scrolled through my Facebook news feed today and I swear I could hear it screaming.

I heard from the Anti-guns, Anti-gays, Anti-Gods, Anti-Religions, and Anti-Governments, and Anti-Muslims, and Anti-Christians and mostly everyone sounded angry. I looked around for home and reached back to a time before death and sorrow and misunderstandings and hurt feelings and sadness.

I remembered a world brimming with hope. There are so many things I don’t understand. I wish for a little Narnia, a little Middle Earth. In those worlds everything is cut and dried. Forces of evil are fought by forces of good and good prevails. End of story.

Too often in this world we don’t even know who the real enemy is. Everything is twisted and confused and misconstrued. We look for justice and we don’t see it coming any time soon. Sometimes we even turn on each other out of frustration. We wish for a world where everyone is on the same side. We wish there weren’t any sides.

I don’t understand why evil is allowed to flourish. Yesterday I heard someone ridicule a Christian believer for believing in talking snakes, well I happen to believe that impossible things can happen in God’s world because nothing is impossible with Him. I believe that if He has to use a talking donkey  to scare some sense into Balaam, then that’s exactly what He will do.

Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.

I happen to believe God wants justice for donkeys and humans alike. You see, the donkey saw an angel which Balaam was too thick-headed to see. Sometimes animals are smarter than humans. I happen to believe in a world where sometimes God produces miracles out of madness.

And the world is more than a little mad right now. We have known terrorists on our FBI most wanted lists planning attacks yet we can do nothing until they kill scores of people. Instead our authorities choose to go after a little boy who shared some Scripture to his school friends. It’s an upside down world. A world where you can easily lose your way.

Jesus asks us to do just one thing each day. To take the hand He offers and find the courage to get up and start walking on wobbly knees just like those He healed. I don’t know about you, but something in me needs healing every day. And the older I get, the more things need healing.

Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (Note that Jesus first asked the man to get up. Sometimes just getting up is the hardest thing to do.) John 16:33

I remember what Elaine always said when she was going through the Alzheimer’s with her Mom, “I just keep going forward,” she would tell me, “Because if I stopped I may never want to get up again.” Because she knew where her help came from she was able to do what seemed impossible at the time.

Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” The Message

There is an end to this race we’re on and the good news is that He’s already won it for us.

Take a step of healing with me won’t you?

Spiritual Amnesia

My favorite Bible

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. James 1:22-25

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. Thomas Merton

I decided I needed me some Thomas Merton today. He brings me close to nature and seems to have his finger on the pulse of what really matters. Because don’t we all suffer a little bit from Spiritual amnesia? That’s why church, that’s why Scripture, that’s why going out into the yard, gazing up at the moon at night. This ‘ol world just gets too noisy, too outlandish, too filled with things that really don’t matter.

You see, I am guilty. I am guilty of putting myself, my problems, my train wreck, my dysfunction on the throne where God belongs. And in doing so, I steal the joy that resides in every day, the joy that is rightfully mine as His child, the joy that the Holy Spirit longs to lavish on us. I am guilty of making myself God every time I am overwhelmed by my circumstances and give in to fear.

So for this day, I will remember how big God is. I will remember how He holds the moon and the stars and me. And in each and every little thing I do, I will bring Him into it. He’ll be there when I’m washing my car, and going to Costco. What a thought! At work when we wanted to get down to the heart of a problem we used the term “drilling down to the root cause.” Well, when we drill down to the root cause of discontent it’s because we’ve lost sight of how big God is.

I challenge you today to open the Scripture and see where it leads. I can guarantee that it always leads to life, just give a listen:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Psalm 46: 1-3

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2,3

Lord, I pray for all those today who are overwhelmed with the world, with the mess outside and in, I pray for peace for turbulent hearts, peace in dysfunctional families, and the assurance that God is still in control of everything and that He has a plan and it’s a good one. Amen

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. Jesus

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