I hope it bombs (but it probably won’t)

Gratitude for Grace

I’m talking about that movie that’s coming out in a few days. You’ve seen the previews. Maybe you’ve read the book. I won’t even post the name here or use any image from it because I don’t want to highlight it in any way. I am using it as an opener because it’s movies like this that are a barometer of just how morally sick our society has become. Last night I was at the gym and I was parked on the elliptical catty-corner to one of those shows where men and women were doing all sorts of things with very little clothing. There were all kinds of sexual situations, some of which were women with other women. And this was in a public place at six o’ clock in the evening.

I remember when Ricky and Lucy had to have separate beds, and they were married! (I think that is a little extreme, especially since they were really married)

You might wonder why my views are so extreme. Well, I guess because God has some pretty extreme views about when sex is appropriate. When two people: (one man, one woman) are married. This is what I believe: God is the creator of sex. Part of his purpose in creating sex was for our pleasure. But God also set limits for the enjoyment of sex, for our protection. When we go outside those boundaries, we enter into sexual sin. God even goes one step further than that, He says that sex between a married couple is actually Holy.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4

People say, “God is love, He wants you to be happy, well no not really. Mostly He wants me to be Holy, and that in turn brings something far deeper than happiness. It brings lasting joy and peace of mind. I believe that as a Christian, God calls me to sacrifice a few things, because Jesus sacrificed everything. I was bought with a price, the Bible says. And that price tag was hefty. So if God tells me no to something I know it’s for my own good. All I have to do is look to the Word to find out what He expects.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Ephesians 5:3

Here’s where we are today:

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. Ephesians 4:19

And God is not a cruel God, He is a loving God. He would never expect us to do something that wasn’t entirely possible for us to do, with His help.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

The best way I can describe the Christian life is how a Pastor illustrated it one Sunday. He stood in front of us with a long rope spread out across the stage. About 2 inches worth on the end was painted bright red. That represented our life on earth. The rest represented eternity, well the rope would have had to be endless, but we got the point. This life is short, friends and if you believe in Jesus and trusted Him for your eternal salvation then you have a future filled with hope. If not, there is still hope.

There is nothing we can ever do under the sun that could cause God to withdraw His offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. There in no place we could ever go where His love could not reach us. We have all fallen short, we all sin, yet each day there is a fresh supply of Grace manna, at every point during the day He stands ready to forgive and forget.

Finding our place in the Son

 IMG_3740

New Year’s weekend was spent at the beach. It was 4 glorious days of chilly evenings and mornings and brilliant sunshine during the day. We didn’t want to leave so four days turned into five. It was walking for miles looking for sea glass and eating seafood fresh off the boat. It was breathing sea air facing the surf and letting go of 2014. It was putting off stress and anxiety for another day.

Before that,  we had all gathered around a table and celebrated my folks 63rd wedding Anniversary. It was a week of celebrations.

2015 hit me full force on the morning of January 4th. The night before we had pulled into Bakersfield RV park where we have always had a wonderful stay. It was dark. I chose the backside of the park thinking it would be quieter, but it was a bad spot and the hookups were situated in an awkward place. We were both irritable and hungry. We had dinner and missed the season premiere of Downton Abbey because of bad cable in the park.

I tossed and turned all night and awoke with a feeling of dread such as I hadn’t had in a long time. It surrounded me like a cloak. Happy New Year.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

That feeling stayed with me off and on for the entire week. I prayed, I did battle. I also kept thanking God for each new day, which is always a gift we don’t deserve, no matter how we may be feeling. I also spent some sleepless nights trying to map out the coming year. I solved unsolvable puzzles in my mind at 2:00 AM awaiting the alarm at 4:00 AM. Finally, the last part of my week ended. I felt like Jacob after he wrestled with the angel of God all night.

The truth is, all of us are walking around with our hips out of joint. All of us are in a battle of some kind or another.

Sunday January 10th, I decided to put dread and fear on hold. It was a wonderful day. E had rigged up an ingenious antenna so that we could get all four PBS stations and I watched them off and on all day just because I could. We had a wonderful dinner and I made scones for dessert which we ate with lemon curd and blackcurrant jam. We lifted our glasses as we watched two episodes of Downton, the one we missed and the new one.

This morning the dread threatened to come back, I was awake at 2 again and prayed for merciless sleep. I envisioned the still pond, the diamonds on the water, I recalled the sounds of the waves, and the foghorn in the night. I asked Jesus to send me some sleep and after about an hour He did.

This morning I beat back the darkness by opening the Word. For God has given us a promise, that if we open His word with expectation of receiving what it has the power to give; He will provide us with light on our path, if only just for the few steps we must walk today.

I remembered Lady Galadriel’s parting gift to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, the glass vial filled with the light from the star of Earendil. She tells him, ” I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” There will be days in this life when we wake filled with fear, dread, even despair, but we can always take hope and take heart, if we are believers.

Do you see it? It’s right there just off the trail. A sunny spot with a log perfect for sitting so that we can turn our faces to the Son and the sun, so we can warm enough to go on again.

This morning I have already laughed and cried reading Anne Lamott’s new book “Small Victories.” She is one of my little patches of sun today. In her book I read these lines by Wendell Berry:

“it may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”

Take heart and take hope today with me friends. I have never done this before on my blog, though other bloggers do it each year. My word for this year which the Holy Spirit dropped into my heart this morning is “Stand.” Because before you walk or run, you need to stand. And stand strongly.

 

 

Time to wake up.

IMG_3214

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.……Romans 13:11

And each day we wake up it will be even closer. It’s so easy to be filled with dread looking at the news. Looking around, it might be easy to forget that Jesus already won the victory over this place, but He did. Each day we wake up we have another opportunity to wake up in the newness of remembering that victory, or wallowing in the defeat we see in the world. No doubt, events in the world are daunting today. Sometimes we get numb in the face of it all. Desensitized. How else can we deal with it? We can’t stop living after all.

But there is one thing we can do. We can wake up to our victory.

Sometimes awakening to the victory around us is as simple as fighting the battle in our own minds. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting on some Praise music with great lyrics…..before we know it we are moving about, going forward with our day, brimming with the joy we found elusive just an hour ago. You see, we are in the daily Presence of a King who sits on the throne. The one in our hearts, and the one in Heaven. We don’t serve a dead King but a risen Savior. When we take in His words, He rejoices with us!

While Easter is all about remembering that victory and looking forward to a glorious future. Christmas is about remembering how He came to an earth riddled with strife, violence and political unrest, just like it is today. He came as Prince of Peace. He came as what the world needed most, but most didn’t recognize Him then either. That didn’t stop Him from doing what He came to do.

One of the best scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (in my opinion) was when Gandalf, Aragorn and company arrive in Edoras to summon help from King Theoden. They find him slumped on his throne, a shadow of the King he has once been due to listening to the dark words of defeat whispered by Grima Wormtongue.

Gandalf faces down ‘ol Wormtongue and, then a spiritual battle ensues where Gandalf throws the spirit of Saruman out of King Theoden. In the film, you see the battle take place in the heart and mind of the King and the resulting transformation  as he rises to answer the summons for help. Gandalf helped him remember who he was.

It’s a stunning piece of work.

The hour is late. Over and over again the Bible tells us to wake up from our slumber.

The hour is late, but it’s still not too late.

“But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5: 13,14

 

Listening to my life…….

IMG_4741

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. Isaiah 42:3

I have abstained from writing about all the current events because I wanted to let my thoughts settle. Listening to all the recent events my mind has felt like an unsettled pond and at the end of a long work week I feel like I can finally take a deep breath and let it settle somewhat. Between the horrific events involving the Islamic militants, Robin Williams, and Ferguson, Mo. it was like my mind just couldn’t keep up. There were plenty of other better writers and bloggers editorializing and I didn’t feel like I wanted to throw my voice into the ring. The ring was noisy and crowded and so was my mind.

Sometimes a writer has to know when it’s right to jump into the ring of fire or stay on the perimeter looking in for a while.

Last night we had one of our summer storms that are common for Arizona but never common for me. Storms are natures way of breaking loose, of showing us we are not in control. I went out to the freeway just before it hit and took a few shots and felt rewarded. I found the Superstitions veiled in a cloak of dust and clouds and God’s promise.

On the other side of the overpass, the sun was making her exit amidst the backdrop of clouds………

IMG_4732

When I got home my Dad called, “I was reading Listening to Your Life, he said, do you have it?” I said yes……..then he paused and said, “I wonder if any of us really understands the Bible? We think we do, but sometimes I don’t think we have a clue what it means.” He went on the describe the passage he had read from the entry on February 8 and when I hung up I read it. Here is a partial reading:

When you find something in a human face that calls out to you, not just for help but in some sense for yourself, how far do you go in answering that call, how far can you go, seeing that you have your own life to get on with as much as he has his?

I thought of the sermon by Charles Stanley that I listened to that morning. He was talking about missed opportunities and how many pass us by each day. Then he went on to talk about Peter and how he could easily have said no thank you to Jesus offer to follow Him. After all, he had a livelihood, he had a life, he had a family to support. But something about Jesus made him realize that this offer was not like any other. As a result, Peter is one we recognize as being one of Jesus closest friends and followers. The rock on which the Church was built.

Parallel his life to that of the rich young ruler who had everything. He clung to his life and turned down Jesus’ offer. We never hear what happened to him but the Bible never says anything more about his life.

I believe it pays to listen to those closest to Heaven, children and old people. It pays to listen to your life and those around you. I am listening to mine today as I ask myself how far I am willing to go for Jesus. I give my allotted time and money and sometimes not even that. I don’t always focus on Him while I pray, I miss the Holy moments far too often and I tend to avoid people if I have a choice.

I am that weakest reed, that flickering candle. But my prayer today is “Thank you God, for not letting me go.”

Despite everything, He loves me. He strives with me. He sees me, the girl who gazes on His world with wonder and it makes Him smile that I notice.

God keeps a tally, the scales of justice are in His hands. He’s the one who will set things right ultimately, and that’s a promise. It doesn’t mean we stand back and do nothing, but it does mean that we can’t fix everything. Maybe we just fight the injustice in our own little corners for a start.

As for me, I went as far as that windy street corner up around 120th street and Broadway, and I can see him standing there as in some way he is standing there still. He is alone and making the best of it with his thin, church rummage overcoat flapping around his legs. His one free hand is raised in the air to wave goodbye. It was the last time. “Here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves,” Tillich said, “is a new Creation.” This side of glory, maybe that is the best we can hope for. Frederich Buechner, Listening to Your Life.

God speaks……….

IMG_4007

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens; By His knowledge the depths were broken up, And clouds drop down the dew.” Proverbs 3:

IMG_3239

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; Acts 17:24

 

IMG_4716

 

“He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth, The LORD is His name.” Amos 5:8

 

IMG_2953

 

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. “Who among all these does not know That the hand of the LORD has done this, read more.In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?” Job 12: 7-10

 

IMG_4729

 

God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one bloodevery nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Acts 17:24-28

 

What a wonder that this God should want to know me personally, and wants us all to know Him the same way. He is the God who walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening……and who came to this earth as a man, walked where we walk, had conversations, ate food, had dust on His sandals and went back into Heaven where He intercedes for us to this day. His Spirit rests with us here and now, giving us strength and empowering us to do beyond what we ask or think…….the fact that we can experience Him here and now and say with confidence as we pray in a little quiet room or in our car, on the way somewhere, “I am with God and He is with me”……that is the miracle of the Christian life and experience. That is our reality. Who in the world would not want that?

 

How many is too many?

IMG_4370

When I opened up Facebook this morning there was a wonderful array of posts on my Newsfeed. In fact, there were so many that I thought maybe I wouldn’t include mine. Sometimes I must admit, it feels a little bit like tossing a pebble on a pile of rocks. But I seem to be afflicted with the disease of words and a core belief that I think is common to all writers. What keeps me going is an idea that on the surface would seem almost absurd and almost egocentric.

That my words matter, and so do yours.

And not only that, they matter to God. He said, “In the beginning, was the Word.” And that Word was God. Words have always mattered, since the beginning of time. That comforts me, because even though sometimes it may feel futile to add mine to the burgeoning sea of words already out there, it isn’t.

We must all keep adding them, because behind all those words stands an individual who is unique in all creation.

I liken it to this field of flowers. Not one of us would ever dream to say, “There are far too many flowers out there.” What an absurd statement. In fact, everyone was pulled over to the side of the road with their cameras out. They just had to capture it. At first glance, all those flowers might have seemed alike, but when viewed collectively, it was breathtaking.

Conversely, when viewed close up, each one of those flowers would take our breath away with the intricacies of its beauty; just as a single bird call heard in the afterglow of a sunset can fill us with a melancholy sweetness, so the chorus of hundreds of birds at the rising of the sun fill us with joy. Collectively, or on our own, we are a perfect work of art, as the result of an act of love by our Creator.

IMG_4484

So write on, I say. Capture the unique beauty and individuality that belongs to you alone. And together, we will be a stunning picture of praise to our Creator.

Along the hard road to Jerusalem, Jesus looked at His disciples and said that if the people were kept from crying out in praise, the stones along the roadside would have had no choice but to cry out. I tell you, how many words are too many for a God who loved so much that He gave us everything He had?

I don’t know about you, but there will never be enough words to praise a God like that. He deserves all the words I have to my last breath, and when I have breathed my last and I find myself at His feet, I will have the beginning of an eternity to start all over again.

When everything gets loud

bloedelreserve

 

When everything gets loud and you can’t hear yourself think…….go to the Word. It will always lead you back home.

Let the voices within and without go dim.

Hear His voice only, and you will notice the clamouring voice of the world will be silenced into submission.

IMG_2763

The clouds will part.

And the sunrise you feel will be the one in your heart.

When it breaks free.

Nothing matters except His giant presence filling your soul.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:1-5

The Word started it all, and when it’s all over, the Word will still be standing.

IMG_3461

Calling a Truce

IMG_2449 reflection

I tugged at my hair and frowned in the mirror. Then I remembered I couldn’t frown because that’s bad for the furrow between my eyes. I lift my eyebrows as if to iron it out. I can’t look too close at the things that are changing more with each passing year.

I apply makeup furiously and with a vendetta against the things I am trying to cover up. I do my usual squint in the mirror, my usual way of addressing mirrors ever since I was in fifth grade when my Mom let me start using pancake makeup to cover up my early acne.

In many ways, I am still the girl behind the curtain of hair on my first visit to the dermatologist office, all these years later. I look for the seat against the window, not facing it. Those visits lasted years and took me to some dark places.

I thought I could make myself disappear if I lost enough weight.

When I finally emerged at 25, by God’s grace and healing and my parent’s prayers, I entered into a foreign and wonderful place I had never been before. It was my own personal Woodstock. I waded in at first, then I plunged in with both feet. I exulted, I danced, I splashed, I reveled in my new-found joy and freedom.

I got my hair cut and looked out at a new and wonderful world.  I ran my fingers over my face and down my neck where there were no more lumps. Praise God. For the first time in my life I felt beautiful.

It was a pretty good run from then on. Until lately that is.

At 50 I was all confident and unafraid, ready to take on the next phase of life. At 53  I am entering into a peculiar stage. It’s not so much fun anymore. Gravity and years are tugging at me.  Simple tasks result in stupid injuries.

But from today on, I am calling a truce with myself and my body.  I will forgive it for aging.  I am going to fall in love all over again. With myself. Cause God said I could.

This….day….I….will….remember.

Each time I get angry at the  extra pounds pressing at my clothes, I will remember this post.  I will not think of it as my body betraying me, but reminding  me that I have to work a little bit harder. When I look at my upper arms I won’t pinch angrily at the extra flesh, remembering how firm and muscular my arms used to be.

And when I look at the wrinkles on my skin, which to me are looking more like trenches,  I will try not to dream of winning a trip to the plastic surgeon or running to get laser treatments. I will not hate my extra sun spots and think of them as defects but friendly freckles, and  I will let my arms go free from sleeves and I will wear shorts and enjoy it.

I will love my legs, knowing that underneath they are the same legs as when I could point a toe and see muscles pop like a ballet dancer. I can still use them to walk fast and even run when my back doesn’t give out.

I will not dread the swimsuit season. I will not allow it to give myself permission to hate my body or berate myself for how lazy I have gotten over the winter, I will use it as extra motivation to improve and make better food choices.

I will remember my re-birth, both of them. And live the truth that God has called me wonderfully made, and good, and yes, beautiful. And when I love myself, I am not only praising what He made, I am praising Him too.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

I will from this time forward, look to my beautiful older sisters who dress young and act young. I will see their radiant faces in my mind when I am tempted to pick up the barbed chains of self-flagellation.

And last but not least I will let my inner beauty shine so bright it’s the first thing people notice about me.

And starting today, I will hug myself in the mirror instead of frowning or squinting.

Because I love the me God created.

247059_4743042975999_29772967_n

How I quit my Bible plan and started reading the Bible

IMG_1167

Recently I started a Bible reading plane via the You Version app on my phone.  At first I was doing great. I had the best of intentions. I wanted to read it cover to cover in a year and I chose the version I thought would give me a good balance, a section from the Old and a section from the New Testament each day.

I cruised through Genesis……then came Exodus. I started to lag behind with the book of Numbers. And I got really, really bored. Oh, the endless rules and regulations, the sacrifices. It was just too much.

I started to skip over whole sections. I thought….”I have read all this before.”

Then I got behind for days at a time.

I found the section called “Catch me up.” You task-oriented folks will know what I am talking about. I hated to have “unchecked boxes” and unfinished sections.

You all probably know where I am heading with this already.

Yup, I had succeeded in making my daily Bible routine into nothing more than a religious ritual.

I made it just another thing on the To Do list

I had succeeded in virtually squeezing the life right out of the Word. I had made it as dry as the toast of all the rules and laws that had bored me to tears in the Old Testament.

It started out as a Spiritual discipline and ended up being something that made me feel fatigued and like a failure.

So I quit my Bible plan, and now I am back to reading the life back into the Word. I feel the fresh stream flowing with life infused with the Holy Spirit again.

I think the reading plans are great, mind you, and I love the You Version on my phone. I just felt the Lord asking me why I was making it something He never meant it to be.

An obligation

So now I am back to reading for the right reasons, out of a sincere love for God and wanting Him to know how I value the words He penned just for me, for you, for all of us.

And I feel the difference.

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?
Who holds the wind in his fists?
Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?
Who has created the whole wide world?

What is his name—and his son’s name?
Tell me if you know! Every word of God proves true.
 He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Proverbs 30:4,5

The Suffering Servant

isaiah

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;

IMG_3597

He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,

jesus_of_nazareth-5

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Isaiah 53:1-3

700 years before Jesus walked the earth…..

Images: Google, me, and Laurence Olivier playing the role of Nicodemus in Jesus of Nazareth directed by Franco Zeffirelli circa 1977