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.

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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Love is always the right answer

Weighing in on the side of Love

“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” 1 John 4:7 The MSG

4:00 AM Prayer:

What a mess I am, God. I don’t love nearly enough or nearly the right way. I let petty things get in the way far too often. I miss way too many opportunities. I’m too critical of people and I am tired of it, I just want to love. I want to build people up instead of tearing them down because tearing down can become a habit. But so can building up. Can it be that simple? Help me to have peace and let me get a glimpse of You in this still hour while everyone else is asleep. Help me to fall asleep for just a while. Stop these thoughts, quiet my mind. Jesus……Jesus……Jesus.

Right after I prayed that prayer I allowed my mind to fill with a vision of what life would be like if we all truly lived by the Spirit and allowed Him to control our words, our deeds, our plans. And while I was still pondering that I fell asleep. About an hour later I awoke with an indescribable feeling of what could only be described as a “golden peace.” It was as if my heart was lit from the inside out, and I felt the peace that I recognized as the one only God can give.

I write this as if it happened just this morning but it didn’t. It happened as I lay awake on my brother’s couch last week the 17th of May. And I am still trying to piece together just what I dreamed because I can’t remember a thing, only that wonderful peace when I awoke. We get those gifts sometimes and when we do we are always amazed. I am anyway.

I never got a WWJD bracelet when they came out, but in any given situation should we not ask ourselves that question? More importantly maybe we should ask: “How would Jesus love in this situation?” This culture we are in, it’s not a culture of love. All we have to do is look at the headlines. Really, has any culture ever been about love?

Peter sliced a guy’s ear off when they came to arrest Jesus. But somewhere between that time and when he died (tradition says by crucifixion upside down) he learned how to love like Jesus did. I can’t even get my mind wrapped around that kind of love. I have a very long way to go.

But that peace I experienced that morning, and the joy and wonder and grace I experience so often tell me that Jesus still loves me this I know.

We’re all broken and in need of healing. If only we would let down our walls long enough to turn towards each other and help each other mend. That’s the Spirit of reconciliation God wants and desires for each one of us. Especially in the church.

Too much of what we take part in here in our modern world is unnatural–that’s why we don’t have peace. We don’t even know how to get it. In reading the Psalms, praying in the quiet hours and spending time outdoors we can begin to relearn what we have forgotten.

Teach me to love, God. Teach me to love. And thank you for loving me.

To those for whom Mother’s Day is painful

Something Worth Singing About

This is for those who for one reason or another, can’t wait for Mother’s Day to be over. I am not saying Mothers shouldn’t be honored, what I am saying is that Mothers everywhere, well good Mothers anyway, should be honored every single day. I also believe non-Mothers and those who wish to be Mothers, and those who may not have their own kids, but are Mothers to other Mother’s kids every single day should be honored every single day.

Don’t get me wrong. My own Mom made celebrating it easy, but I believe I am in the minority. My Grandmother, on the other hand, made my Mom dread Mother’s Day. Picking a card was always a nightmare. It’s all so complicated, this relationship we have right from the beginning. My Grandma lost a child and something makes me think that marked her for life. Maybe she felt that if she showed affection to her other kids that meant she was forgetting Annie.

Here is something you should never say to a woman who has not physically borne a child. “You don’t understand, you’ve never had children.” This is a barb that sinks deep, for it makes someone feel diminished, less than. It seeks to lift oneself over another, even if it’s unintentional. That very same woman you just wounded may just be the first to step out in front of a car for your child. That very same woman may have put herself in the path of physical jeopardy for the sake of saving a child, you just never know. I have seen women literally shrink, fold into themselves after comments such as these, I know, I have felt it myself.

This, of course, is not to minimize the importance of parenting. I believe it’s one of the hardest jobs anyone will ever do. Believe me, I believe good Moms and Dads are the hallmark of a healthy society. All of us single and childless people, divorced people, widowed people support you, we really do.

Last night, we were sitting around the fire and out of the blue Elaine looked at me pointedly and said,”I am not going to go to church tomorrow and watch all the Mothers be recognized and parade around like peacocks.” This will be her first Mother’s Day without her Mom.

To this I said jokingly, “Maybe they should have whips in the corners of the church for us non-Mothers who wish to self-flagellate.” Well, actually I got it wrong the first time, I said self-flatulate. We had a little laugh about that, after I explained the history of self-flagellation in the church.

Anyway, all this to say, be mindful and pray for all those who may be hurting this Mother’s Dad. And celebrate, yes……go out to lunch, make the most of you, let yourself be honored. I sent my Mom flowers and wish I could have seen her face when they came.

I will pray for all the Mothers (and Dads) out there, for your job is hard and it never really ends. I will also pray for those who prayed and cried and wished for kids who never came. And those who raised Nephews or took on Foster kids and never were honored enough.

I pray for those who lived through the unspeakable pain of having a child take their own life. I pray for special strength and grace for that, for it’s the worst thing I can imagine.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Treasure her if you still have her. If you are a Mom, bask in your day. And know this, that even neglectful, careless, disconnected, emotionally unavailable Mom’s may have been doing the very best they knew how to do at the time.

Today is an opportunity for us all to extend Grace to each other.

 

We are all One in Christ Jesus

Love one another

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:26-29

I remember when the Berlin wall came down. It was a historical moment. Here is a little snippet of Reagan’s infamous “tear down that wall” speech:

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent– and I pledge to you my country’s efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides.

Jesus was the original “wall leveler.” He smashed walls right and left, and it got Him into a lot of trouble. He addressed women, as equals, he ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. He mingled with the rich and poor and he approached lepers and the outcasts of society. He never refused anyone who came to Him.

It’s been said that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and I believe that. There are no levels in Christianity, you either are or you aren’t. We are all clinging to the cross each and every day if we are to be honest with ourselves. I don’t know why, but we tend to grade each other and ourselves, but Jesus never does. God really doesn’t care how many times a week we go to church. He cares about the motives of our hearts. This needs to be said.

Paul spoke about walls and divisions when people in the church were starting to break themselves up in different “camps.” And we tend to do the same thing with our Pastors and each other. It’s just human nature I guess.

But this is the truth…….we are all in just as much of a dire and desperate need of Jesus as when we first believed. If we think differently, then we are deceiving ourselves. Most of the time, we fall somewhere between Billy Graham and Mother Theresa and the prodigal son and Peter when he hacked off the Roman’s ear. They were all in different places in their journey throughout their lives and so are we.

Christianity is simply this, that each day we come anew to the cross. Each day we celebrate a new Resurrection from death to life. Each day we try our best and admit our utter failure in ourselves and our utter belief in Jesus.

Jesus is praying for unity. He is praying that we love, and forgive. We are all on a journey to meet Jesus face to face someday. This means you, if you have ever said yes to Him. Look around, there are no “Super-Christians” here. Just people who have humbled themselves and responded to the Invitation.

In the quiet of night when only God saw.

In the middle of a church service.

With your arms around a fellow believer.

Even after you said you never would.

You get up, and you go. Against the odds, with all eyes upon you.

This means you, if you’ve ever felt the lump in your throat and tears spill over at Amazing Grace, or How Great Thou Art.

If you’ve ever known the unmistakable tug of the Spirit in the middle of the day.

This means you, even if you haven’t darkened the door of a church in a while. He knows you’re His and there is nothing you can do to change that.

You, who no longer have to be judge jury executioner of your own life, that’s so exhausting isn’t it?

I love how the Message puts Romans 3:21-24:

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

I like to think of it like this. When you are out on a hike, there is a kind of rule. It’s unspoken but it’s there. I like to call it the grace of the trail. We are all on different levels, but we respect each other just for being out there under God’s blue sky. We give each other grace, we step aside so the faster ones can pass. Always, we try to greet each other with a smile of encouragement.

This is what we need to do as for each other as believers.

So grab a walking stick and come along with me. Extending a hand of Grace is a lot easier at the foot of the cross, the trail-head always starts there.

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The Sweetest Gift

Prayer Closet project

It was tempting for me to show the “after” first because the “before” though functional, is not the prettiest to look at. It stood in Elaine’s Mom’s room to hold adult diapers and miscellaneous stuff while she was in the care-home. Her name, which you can still see the shadow of, had to be kept on it because she forgot that it was hers to from time to time. When Joyce passed two weeks before Christmas this year, Elaine just couldn’t part with it. Then a vision began to take shape.

These are her own words on the Facebook post she made when she posted the pictures of the finished product, my incredible Christmas gift:

Lori has used my little shop for her prayer closet for years. When I go to do a project I have to clear Bible’s candles, pens, reading glasses, little pieces of paper with names on them. I never say a word. Well maybe once, for I am sure she has prayed and shed many a tear there for me. When my Mom passed I had her little chest of drawers to take home. Lori said just donate it. I said no!. I have a plan for that… And here it is. Took me many hours in the little shop.

I had an inkling of what she was doing, because she had mentioned seeing “Prayer Cabinets” online and on Pinterest. I was ordered to stay out of the shop until it was done.
Finally, the day before Christmas Eve it was complete. That night, a sheet covered dolly was wheeled in from outside by Elaine, looking much like one of Santa’s mischievous elves. She could hardly contain her excitement, she said……”You are gonna cry.”
Cry, I did……and you can see why:
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It was beyond my expectations. Standing before me was a labor of love born out of the deepest kind of sorrow. That was why it meant so much. She could have chosen any old chest to refurbish but she wanted this one. Now when I go out to pray, I see a vision of someone who looked inside her heart and refused to cave in to despair, but instead made an unspeakable thing of beauty for someone else…….and I got to be the recipient. I will cherish it the rest of my days, because I know what it took to make it.
I had stood in her Mom’s room and seen those drawers slide in and out, her looking for socks that her Mom had stashed in her purse, and marking the backs of “Depends” with permanent markers. I love that those drawer liners weren’t wasted. And the crosses……those crosses were made out of driftwood we collected from Moss Landing, one of our favorite places to go in California. It’s personal through and through.
I see it, and I think of how so many times in life God brings hope and beauty after our deepest times of despair. I think of that Psalm that talks about joy in the morning.
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And God looks at us “castoffs” by the side of the road and sees what He will make us into, because He sees what we can’t. And He’s determined to make a thing of incredible beauty out of us, even when we can no longer believe in ourselves.
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And He says:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6,7
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And someday, when we are on the other side……..He will nod approvingly and say, “I do good work.” Come inside now and see what I have prepared for you…….

River of life or stagnant pool?

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Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'” John 7:38

Those who live in the desert especially know how crucial fresh water is for survival. Right now California is experiencing a drought. Growing up there, I lived through one back in the seventies and I’ll never forget it. Every drop was precious then and now. Can you imagine being lost in the desert, your last drop emptied from your canteen a day ago and coming upon what you thought was a fresh body of water, only to find it stagnant and undrinkable?

How about the kind of water Jesus was talking about? If you know Him, you have that living water. It’s a fresh and inexhaustible supply flowing out of your heart that’s available to anyone who asks. Can someone expect to come to you and hold out their cup and be refreshed or do they find water as bitter as the water of Marah?

When the Israelites came upon Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

They were extremely disappointed after being in the desert 3 days, that the water they finally did find was undrinkable. After Moses cried out to God, He directed Moses to a stick on the ground. When Moses threw it in the water it became fresh. I was thinking about that…….one commentary said that the piece of wood represents the Cross. I would agree, since it’s Christ’s work on the cross that makes those rivers of living water flow out of our hearts.

So the question remains. What about you? What about me? Can someone hold out their cup expecting to receive words that will give life? Can they expect refreshment or after tasting what you have to offer will they turn away in disappointment. Do your words edify and lift up or do they tear down? Are people drawn to you because they see the living water flow out through your easy laughter, soft words, humility of spirit and all around likeability?

Are you easy to be around or do people have to watch everything they say around you for fear of being judged or condemned?

Are you a good listener or are you already forming your own words even as the person across from you is still speaking?

I think Jesus was incredibly easy to be around, that’s why crowds followed Him everywhere He went. Of course we aren’t Jesus. We aren’t perfect. But He does expect us to display the fruits of His Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23)

How willing are you to be a peacemaker? Are you willing to sacrifice your need to be right in order to make peace?

Are you willing to apologize even when you and everyone else in the room knows you had your facts right because it’s what God would have you do? My precious friend did this the other day and I am not so sure I would have been obedient to the Holy Spirit like she was in this instance. Nobody could understand why she was doing it but she said, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

She was being nudged by the Holy Spirit to make peace in a situation even when she and everyone else in the room knew that she had been in the right and the other person clearly in the wrong. It reminded me of the scene in “War Room” when Tony gives back those drugs to the company even after he’d already lost his job. As Christians we are asked to do certain things that just don’t make sense to the world. Those are the hard things.

Being that living water isn’t easy. Being that living water means you have to be readily available for those who are thirsty. It means you are a peacemaker and think of others as better than yourself. It means you have to love the unlovable in your workplaces, homes, in the parking lot. It means you can’t put a stopper on your own supply because you’re afraid you’ll run out.

Jesus invitation stands open.

Someone is thirsty for what we have today.

Please Lord:

Help me to be a fountain of cool clear

refreshing water to offer hope and help

to the thirsty wanderer.

Help me not be a stagnant pool but a living supply

of what Jesus gave to me freely.

Help me be easy to be around.

And help me be available and ready

to give an answer for the hope

and joy that lives within me.

And help me always strive to do the right thing.

No matter what.

Amen.