Down to the River to Pray

Settled. The Prayer Closet found its new resting place here down by the river. I haven’t been able to find the peace to pray or write at all it’s been such a whirlwind of activity since we got here. We are comfortably settled in the RV (3 things broke soon after we got here but those have been fixed thankfully.) Helps so much to have a very handy best friend!

I am so thankful we have such a wonderful opportunity to stay here on my Aunt’s beautiful property. However long this season lasts I will be thankful to her for generosity. It’s good to be able to help her out with some things too. God is good.

Here I can feel and see nature all around me and hear the sounds of trains which I have always loved. I have missed the trains of my childhood, it’s good to have them back. There is something Holy about a train whistle….they bring with them (to me) a sense of longing and promise, and a bit of sadness to.

This morning I was treated to the sight of a white heron on the very top of a tree across the river. And our second day here I was greeted by the resident robin (Mrs. or Mr. I couldn’t tell). That of course was very important since robins have always held signs of promise to me.

The presence of the river is strong. Rivers always are. They carry things like dreams and hopes. We had our maiden voyage with the kayaks which was something we wanted to do since we got here. Coming back in was a sight to see. We laughed so hard we couldn’t catch our breath. Now we have a rope affixed to the tree to help pull us in!

Until next time, keep my Mom in your prayers, she is still struggling after her thyroid surgery several months ago. It hurts to see her not doing all the things she loves, but her attitude remains thankful and hopeful.

Also, pray for my friend Ron Green, who lost his wife, our dear friend Ruby. She is safe in the arms of Jesus now but he will need the strength of the Holy Spirit to keep going.

Blessings and peace to you all.

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!

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.

The Reluctant Prophet

 

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It was one of those mornings…….the dawn was bursting over the Superstitions and the birds kicked up their chorus a notch as those rays touched earth.  We had some rain recently and they were celebrating what the earth had brought forth. God always births new days and each one is miraculous. Yet some come and go with little celebration, or I am too busy or overwhelmed to notice. Others however, like this one are like the hosts of Heaven are all raising their glasses in a toast to the new day.

At every turn in this life there are moments that breathe life and death. They reside side by side like the wheat and the tares growing in the field together waiting for harvest at the last day. God in His grace and mercy raises us up to resurrection after sleepless nights of worry, out of those times of deep disappointment in ourselves and others, times where it takes all we have just to get out of bed. Sometimes that’s the greatest miracle of all.

But today, this morning, God’s mercy and love take my breath away. When I opened to the words in Jeremiah tears immediately sprang to my eyes.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

I read the words again and again………”Before I formed you, before, before……….” the words echoed and lodged deep in my soul. I know this verse refers to the prophet Jeremiah, but it also applies to us. Those of us who know Him. There is something of the ancient in that verse. Almost as if I can imagine what it must have been like in the dawn of Creation when the morning stars sang together.

This world and the people in it can do its best to steal our joy, but the joy God gives is eternal. It springs up from somewhere deeper and older than we can imagine. Circumstances might snatch it away momentarily, but this joy that springs up at unexpected places and times is God giving us back what has always been ours. In those moments of extraordinary grace we experience our Redemption all over again.

They called Jeremiah the reluctant prophet. He said he was too young and couldn’t speak well. Aren’t we all just as full of excuses? But God stood by his side and protected him when the news was anything but good.

Like Jeremiah, God wants to use us. He speaks out of the deep eternal today. He says, “Tell others of My joy, give them a reason for the hope that lives in your heart. Be my love for them and my mouthpiece not so much in your words, but in your actions.”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Choosing life again and again

It’s been three days and at night I can still hear, “Move your arms like Henry….” and “Dorothy, Dorothy…..would you like to dance with me.” And that’s okay because at 13 she still loves the Wiggles. I love that they are not afraid to include “Away in a Manger” and call it Christmas. She has a mad crush on Murray Wiggle who she says is her boyfriend. He might be a Grandpa by now in real life and no longer on the show, but she doesn’t know and I would never tell her. I want to cry when I hear the songs because I miss her.

We got to celebrate my Mom’s 87th Birthday wearing clown noses during the Birthday song and lit a cake made from scratch by a dear friend who whispered “Do you think she would mind the Dinosaurs on it?” I said no, she’d love it. She did.

We also got to attend church, Mom and Dad and my brother and I on Palm Sunday, something we hadn’t done together in a long while. That was a blessing.

As with every family visit, there are people left out and things that go awry. Some things don’t go as planned. Mom’s heartbeat was erratic and she was not feeling well some of the time. Dad’s knee was flaring up and I went with him to the Doctor to get a shot and it was better by the end of the week.

There was talk of a “last trip” here or there. They talked too much like the best of their life is over and at 86 and 87 I guess that’s normal but I’m not ready to lose them. There was a moment when my Dad and I walked into Barnes and Noble together where it felt like old times and I wanted to sit there in that moment for a while.

Earlier today in the laundry room, I folded the gloves I took to the snow. I remembered her laughter as she threw snowballs at me and at her Dad. And I remembered my Dad and I, wedged in the backseat started laughing at my seatbelt that was stuck. That was like old times too. We always got in trouble in church for laughing. It strikes me that laughter is one of the things that has kept us all from losing our sanity over deaths and goodbyes and sickness and aging and everything in between. Laughter is one of the things in this life that will follow us to the next, thankfully.

As I write this, I hear it come down just now. The thing I was praying for this morning when I saw the cloudy skies. Just a little sprinkle, I said. Just a little pitter-patter on the roof. And now I have it. Healing for me, rain is. It says that God is still in control, He still cares enough to water the earth and so I have renewed assurance He still cares for us all.

Each day gives us a choice. At every turn in this life there are moments that breathe life and moments that have the foul smell of death. They reside side by side like the wheat and the tares. Each day there are moments bursting with life and moments that threaten to choke it right out of us.

The Bible says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” I want to continue to choose life.

I also want to choose love. “Help me Lord to try to see beyond what’s on the surface. Help me to see people how You see them so I can love them better.”

People (and life) will try to steal our joy, but the joy God gives us is eternal and comes from somewhere deeper and older than we know or understand. It was there before all things were set in the act of creation. That joy is real and it’s our gift at redemption. He gives us back what was always meant for us in the first place.

Thank you God for the brief time at the beach. When I am there somehow I get the assurance that things will be okay. They really will.

 

 

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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Advent: The Best Gift

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“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 

This morning we were surprised by rain yet again. I heard it as I huddled in the candlelight of my increasingly cramped closet. Bags of unwrapped presents are stuffed in corners here and there, but I was snug there in the light of my little tabletop tree. I marveled at the wonderful gift I have had, the past three days off work have been peaceful and stress free. I still have two more left.

Outside, there is a world full of war and by the look of the people in the mall yesterday and the day before, a world full of stress, and expectation, and some debt to go along with it. There is strife and rushing to meet a deadline…..deadlines for decisions, deadlines at work, deadlines to meet Christmas.

But here in this quiet place, I cup my coffee in my hands and I thank Jesus for always bringing me joy in the morning, whatever doubts and worry might visit me in the wee hours of the dark. He always brings me fresh hope. The same hope that was born in that stable so long ago.

He came quietly into the night and settled into our world almost unnoticed, kind of like this little snowflake. There are so many, you see. It’s easy to plow through them when they are all stuck together, but when they separate you notice the hand of the grand Artist at work. The brushstrokes of His genius are everywhere.

But they came embodied all in one little human that night in the stable.

He’s all grown up and back at Home now.

But still giving me all the Hope I need still my time on this earth is finished and He calls me home.

Outside there is a lot going on.

Here not much, just a little hollowed out place He can call His own. Just for a little while longer, I will watch my candle flicker and wait.

A few of my favorite things......