I Stand Amazed

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Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6, The Message 

As I write this, a bit of the disbelief and wonder still surrounds me at the circumstances which brought about my sudden retirement from the company where I had spent the last 20 years. If you would have told me a month ago I would be sitting here writing this with my career at Intel behind me, I would have said you were crazy. I had been thinking about it, praying about it, wrestling with it seriously over for the past year, and had even set a date for December or January of this year. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

And so many times, I had held this verse in my heart and tried to live it, asking God for a definitive Yes or No, Yea or Nay, some kind of deciding factor that would push me one way or another and let me have the confidence I wanted to know I had made the right decision. And then, this……

We had all heard rumors about the layoffs and cuts at Intel, but of course we had weathered all these before. Yet this time, soon after the announcement was made, the roll-out was swift. Suddenly, people we had worked with for years were gone. Everyone was a bit shell-shocked. And then I got the enhanced retirement offer and I knew it was what I had been praying for just a month before. And it was more than I could have hoped for.

And I stand amazed at how good God is. And not because it worked out for me, but because God is always good. Yet sometimes, He does something that so flat-out astounds you with His timing and how perfect it is you know without a doubt it came from Him. I want to stress that it’s nothing I did. There is no formula ever, to guarantee things will fall in line with how we pray. I don’t believe in that kind of gospel.

What I do believe is that sometimes God rewards the one who clings to His word and hangs on for dear life even when there is no evidence whatsoever that an answer lies just beyond the bend.

Here is what I wrote in my prayer journal today:

Thank you God. You fill me with wonder. You became a flesh and blood God well acquainted with suffering and grief and tears and yet still vast and unknowable and full of mystery; able to create this whole universe with a word. I stand amazed that you died because you wanted to save my life and you thought that maybe if you did that, we could have a chance to be together forever. You removed the intimidation factor that might have kept us apart and you brought me near at the foot of the cross. You confounded the minds of the best and the brightest in your short time on earth and shattered their hearts because when they came face to face with you, they knew what they lacked was not intelligence or religion but love. You made them see that all their efforts were worthless because they were blinded by the pride that didn’t let them see you for who you were. Forgive me Lord for those times when love gets left out of my own actions. You have led me with patience and love and picked me up when I could go no further so many times. Thank you for loving me even in my great weakness and failure and for your grace that is greater than all my sin. I stand amazed.

So now I am on this different path and it’s scary at times, but I know He’s got us. It’s a new chapter and I find comfort in the fact that He will be in this next one as well. He was gracious enough to let me make my personal goal of 20 years with the company and reward me at the end.

I stand amazed.

Pressing Pause

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I’m here marveling that yet another work week has come and gone, here standing on the shore of another 4 days off and the first prayer out of my lips when I awoke in the early dawn was, “Where are you Jesus?” And this is the miracle of it all. He spent the next hour announcing His presence in a myriad of little ways.

My God is an action word. I guess you could say if God were a state He would be Missouri. God is a “show me” God. I puzzle at people who ask for proof. The proof was in the sky last night and the moon this morning. It was peeking out at me from between the palms, all yellow and present.

The God of the old Testament was bigger than life, I don’t think anyone could deny that. And Jesus……I don’t think you can get bigger than coming out of the grave and revealing yourself for 40 days. And the Holy Spirit transformed a handful of cowering men and women into a church that changed the world.

And God hasn’t changed. He took my question seriously this morning and proceeded to take pleasure in cracking little doors of joy open everywhere I turned. He is the God of undoing just as much as He is the God of doing.

You can get up slogging in your slippers toward the coffee pot, with only the whisper of hope on your lips but God can do something with that. He rewards an attitude of expectation however small, and hopelessness can turn into hope when it runs in tandem with gratitude.

God holds all of time in His hand. I was thinking a lot about time this morning. How it seemed like just yesterday I was staring down the tunnel of a 48 hour work week and now I’m looking at 48 hours of me time. How will I use it?

I’m thinking of my Dad who is facing time in much more of a monumental sense in the beating of his own heart. Nothing makes you more aware of the ticking of time than a heart that is fluttering out of control. Right now he is aware of little else than slowing his wildly beating heart down. He has a procedure tomorrow to do just that. Because of him, we are all just a little more aware of time today than usual. His and ours.

The thing about time is that it has a beginning and an end. We are never not conscious of it. It never speeds up or slows down and yet it seems to. It rolls out wildly out of control like a spool of yarn rolling down a flight of stairs, and sometimes it sits like a car tire stuck in the mud, spinning madly but going nowhere.

There are wild exultant joys in life and there are times that are so low we don’t see how we will ever get out the other side. And there are stretches of time where there are no big joys just lots of little joys and that’s okay. Some might call that complacency or settling but I call it contentment of the kind the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

The other thing about time is that we have a choice as to how to use it. We can squander it, waste it, use it wisely, cherish it, or use it up until we look around and it’s all gone. I believe the best way to honor the time God has given us is to be fully present in it. Sometimes I succeed at that but many more times I fail.

But when you realize just how precious of a commodity it is, it changes how you live. You learn to look for the little things.

This morning one of the little things was pausing to watch a hummingbird take a bath. It’s not everyday you see that. He was only there for about 30 seconds, but if I hadn’t been staring at the fountain right at that moment I would have missed it. But I think God wanted me to see it. He likes giving us little surprises that make us smile.

He is after all, a “show me” kind of God.

A Soul at Rest

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O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

Psalm 131

It’s a wonderful thing to think about isn’t it? That our soul can be completely quieted by resting in the Lord, as rested as a weaned child. I love when I stumble on a verse I either haven’t read in a long time, or don’t remember reading at all. It’s like it opens up a brand new vista just when I need it most. This morning, I asked for a word because I had nothing and then after prayer the words flowed out without me even trying.

Jesus said,  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?

Yes, indeed. This morning was a gift, as I sat outside in the breeze I quieted my soul by noticing little things……a dried leaf skittering across the ground. The sound of the little bee wind chime which has a delicate sound that the big clanging buoy bell tries its best to drown out. A hummingbird chirp was coming from somewhere but I never saw it. When the world is turned down and the soul is quieted, you can hear these things.

Last night I went out and gazed at the bright wedge of moon and thought that faith in God is very much like that moon without anything shining on it. We know it’s up there but only when the sun is shining on it do we see it. Every day I see faith living itself out in the land where the shadow of death hangs.

I see the man who comes preaching and singing to Joyce’s care home. What a tough crowd, half of them have their heads down on the table. But He is doing what God calls him to do, and I don’t know how he does it week after week but he does. And with joy too.

I see Elaine having to change her Mom’s clothes, a thing that horrifies them both but they do what they have to do. And I don’t know how she does it, but she does. Faith living itself out no matter what, because like that moon, we can’t see Him but we know He’s there and there is hope because He lives and He’s with us, every step we take however painful.

Right now I am reading a wonderful book I  found called “The Green Desert” a silent retreat. It’s written by Rita Winters. She quit her high stress advertising job and went on a 3 week retreat in the Sonoran desert. I highly recommend it. As I read her descriptions of the desert I know so well, I thought how blessed I have been to have lived here in this Hermitage I call my home for 8 years now.

The desert speaks to you if you let it. It teaches you what no other place can, it speaks of lonely sun-scorched places and turns the quiet up in your soul. The death in the landscape all around you, the severity of it all makes it that much more beautiful when it surprises you with life. Powerful resurrected life that has the power to take your breath away.

And it gives you the sense at night when you look up at all those stars amidst the shadow of those towering sentinels, the Saquaros, that they are bearing witness to something older and bigger than you.

You recognize there is another side to it all and you can sense it. Beyond the blackness, beyond space there is a ring of light so brilliant we aren’t prepared to see it yet. Our eyes are still too attuned to this world, but just the same they are there. The crowd of witnesses the Bible talks about is there. And just today I realized I didn’t have to question if they can see us, because a witness sees who and what it’s witnessing.

And like the moon, like God, just because we can’t see them unless the light is shining on them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

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Let me Introduce you………

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The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said. Exodus 24:15

I love living by the Superstition mountains because they remind me of when God met Moses on the mountain. It reminds me of how He meets me, every single day. A few years ago there was a song called Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones. Well, I have none for him, but as I thought of writing this post, one of the lines went over and over in my head.

So, Let me introduce you……………..to my approachable God.

How you view God, if you believe in Him, has the power to shape your whole life. For many of us, the way we view Him was set in stone from what we heard sitting in the church pew. Maybe you had a Pastor who bored you to tears and made sitting in church for an hour or so an excruciating experience.

Maybe you heard fire and brimstone, sermons stripped of any love at all and walked away condemned, bereft of hope. You came away empty, thinking that kind of God was nobody you would want to know, or would want to know you. Maybe experiences you had with God’s people left you out in the cold. Maybe you went to them with nowhere else to turn seeking a kind heart and a listening ear but got pelted with stones instead.

All those things have made you reject even the idea of God. Or maybe you have manufactured your own version of a warm and fuzzy God who is only love and nothing else. Benign God. Let me introduce you to the real God. The up close and personal version. The one who longs to know you, to hear from you. The one who wants to be a part of your every day life, until your final breath.

This is what His book says about Him:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (That means, God wants to dine with you, and he wants to dine with you in a very intimate way, the way you dine with close friends or family.)

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

From the very beginning, He was with us. Yet it was always us who drew away from Him and went our own way. But the God who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, wants to walk with you too. At work, in line at the grocery store, on the subway, at your job, at home with your family. God was never satisfied to let us go our own way, He has always created a way for us to get home.

The cross is our way home.

Because Jesus bridged the gap between God and man, we have restored fellowship. That is the message I would like every single person on earth to know. Really, it’s the only thing in this life that matters. All the other stuff is just stuff unless we know Him.

Let me tell you, that when you have that relationship? Nothing compares to it. The God of the universe wants to walk alongside you in this life. I don’t know what could be better news than that. I can only tell you how it plays out in my own life. It means I will never, ever have to go it alone. It means His own Spirit lives within me. It plays out in joy unspeakable and full of glory on an ordinary day. It means that sometimes I feel so much gratitude that I want to shout it out to all who will hear.

It means that even in the midst of sorrow and heartbreak I don’t have to be overwhelmed, because He has promised to be with me. And He has been faithful. Since I said yes to Him all those years ago He has never left me, even though at times I have walked away from Him.

Never again. I am here to stay.

And you can be too.

Throw away all your previous notions and ideas of God. Open His word today and get to know the God who’s willing to fight for you. Who longs to be as close as your next breath. Open the windows of your soul and let the wind of His Spirit flow through. He is big enough to keep this whole thing in motion and yet small enough to fit in your heart.

It’s the one thing in life you will never regret. And the thing you will most regret if you don’t.

Prayer changes things

Why I Believe

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I guess because I’m lazy. You see, when I look at light like this, I am absolutely certain it has a source other than the setting sun. For me, it takes more faith not to believe……..I like to think that nature is God’s looking-glass, others gaze at a sunset, I see His canvas.

And who can fail to see a reflection of Heaven in a newborn’s eyes?

I can explain God in a thousand different ways and yet, even this beauty is but a dim reflection. I guess the best way to explain God is in the unexplainable mysteries we still haven’t figured out. Tell me if you know who holds up the moon? The earth in place? Who could see this moon and not utter a prayer?

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How can I count the ways He speaks? He speaks in the quiet of a church pew, at Holy light filtering through the windows on a Christmas Eve. On a snow filled forest when it’s hushed and the silence is filled with His presence. He speaks in the hope of a loved one’s smile on before death, because they know they are standing on the threshold of Heaven and there is nothing to fear. I have seen it.

And once, He even spoke to me through a painting. When I stood stock-still and speechless before El Greco’s painting “The Tears of St. Peter” and tears sprang from my own eyes because suddenly I understood how it was to see how Holiness could spring from a canvas.

He speaks in the poetry of the way a coyote springs as he walks. And in Chopin’s Concerto number 2 right as the sun comes though the clouds.

And when I open His book I see how it lives and works in the lives of people like you and me. Here, and now.

One thing that puzzles me is how someone who normally doesn’t give God a thought can blame Him for the worst of humanity’s ills. I guess they forget that He gave us clear directions on how to treat one another. We own that. Not Him.

I am thankful because it’s something I don’t struggle with, belief that He is. Though many do.

My prayer today and for all time is to be a conduit of His grace here in my own quiet way. To point the way of Hope, and that this is not all there is. May you be touched by His light today.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.

The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat. The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Psalm 19:1-8

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Ushering in Advent

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It is December first and I wake early, in the dark. Still trying to shake off remnants of the work week, I get up for a couple of Advil and head back to bed, breathing a still prayer in the silence. The last three hours of work were stressful yesterday and the shadows of it still crouched in my mind, refusing to dislodge. And yet, I have three days off and I am aglow with the ushering in of Advent.

Be still my soul. Prepare ye the way of the Lord, for though He has already come, and gone and come again with the gift of His Spirit, (He never went away) I celebrate His coming all over again.

In these still hours, my mind feels close to You.

Heal it Lord, wrap it in Your balm of peace.

Erase the cares and worries of the week

with Your healing touch.

Prepare me for Your Advent…….

It’s God with us, still.

Always and forever.

Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:51

Today is a gift. Let the celebrations begin, for it’s time to light the house, play Handel’s Messiah, and do all the things we only do this time of year. For He is worthy of a party. And the miracle just never, ever gets old.

God and the Brandenburg Concerto

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This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope…….It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:21-26

Ever feel like the ground has suddenly shifted beneath your feet?

Like a great seismic shift happened somewhere and everyone got the memo but you and you feel like you’re free-falling through your own life?

Trying to walk backwards on a moving sidewalk?

You feel attacked by the “never wills…..” All of a sudden you know that some things in this life “never will” happen again……the train left and took your youth with it.

One minute you had your feet firmly planted on those sands of time and while you weren’t looking the tide came and took it out from under your feet and swept most of it out to sea.

Don’t be alarmed. This is a normal part of being human. Of living in an ever-changing culture, a time-stamped world.

When I feel that out of control falling feeling……..the one thing that helps me the most is to be reminded that God will never, ever change. When God is your anchor, you don’t have to be devastated by things that change in this life. And when He says, “I got this.” You know He really really really does.

This morning the Brandenburg Concerto came on the classical station I listen to on the way to work. I remembered a time when my Mom and I were much younger and I used to listen to this in my old room when the leaves rained yellow in the fall. She used to tell me it made her nervous, and she called it the “nervous music.” It was a sweet memory and I was smiling yet I wanted to cry too.

It comforted me to know that God and the Brandenburg concerto will never change, even if everything else does. And wouldn’t you know that God worked it out that the last note played as I coasted to a stop in the parking lot.

The best way we can honor today is by being fully present in the moment God gives us and by cherishing the people in our lives right now, we shape our memories tomorrow. We can tell time who’s boss because we don’t have to regret it when it’s gone.