Thoughts at week’s end

IMG_3946

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

There is a day set aside for all activity and clamor to cease. Sunday is a day to take a deep breath, look back on the week and breathe a prayer of thanks that God got you through it all. That’s what I did this morning. I think it’s important to have one day singled out where we: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

We live in a loud brash world, and each day it crashes in on us. Yet throughout the workweek there are those moments of peace that come. One night on my way home I was sitting at a stop light waiting for the green, when overhead there came a flock of Canadian geese. I watched as the lead goose took his place at the front. I watched their perfect flight formation and I marveled at how God has created them to do that. What is it about nature that makes us stare in astonishment at times? It’s as if the whole world stops for a moment.

Or maybe that’s just me. Nature has always brought me a strong sense of wonder, but that wonder only creates in me a powerful sense of God Himself. Some people just marvel at nature and stop there. While that is possible, I believe we miss something huge when we don’t then turn that marveling into Worship and Praise to the God who created it all.

How hard is it to imagine eternity when you are standing at the edge of the ocean? I believe God gives us these moments in order to point the way to something even bigger, even more perfect. I can just hear Him say, “If you think there is beauty here, just wait until you see what I have prepared for you in Heaven!

Now, all the noise, all the rushing, all the driving, all the phones are silent.

Today, I receive God again here in the place of pausing. Once again, He has brought me through another challenging week as He always does.

Selah.

Today I fly out to California to see my family. I am looking forward to the moment I see those faces, and one very excited girl……..her “Aunt Nori” is coming.

No more goodbyes

1653913231_ea52dd0e6a_o

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

When the girl at the airport hears the announcement that her plane is starting to board, she turns to the boy who is seeing her off. “I guess this is goodbye,” she says.

The noise of the traffic almost drowns out the sound of the word, but the shape of it lingers on the old man’s lips. He tries to look vigorous and resourceful as he holds out his hand to the other old man. “Goodbye.” This time they say it so nearly in unison that it makes them both smile.

The poignancy of “Goodbye.” Frederick Buechner captures the tragedy and sadness of it beautifully in today’s reading from “Listening to Your Life.” I remembered this one as soon as I flipped the page, because at some point I had circled the date on it. It always rocks me to the core, because this is the essence of what it means to feel the sorrow of the fall.

We were never meant for death or any kind of goodbyes for that matter. He never desired it or designed us for it. That all came when we presumed to know better  and went for that one forbidden thing He knew would separate ourselves from Him forever. And this of course, is the whole reason Jesus came. That we might be able to banish that word from our experience and vocabulary forever. In His great mercy, He has given us a second chance to trust His love.

The swift passage of time startles me into the realization that I don’t have much of it left. I am ready to be done with coming and going. Regularly, I have to board a plane and leave one home for another. I have done it for years now, and it only gets harder. I pray that God will grant me this one wish. Because goodbyes are like a little bit of hell, over and over again. Selfishly, I want everyone in one place. There, I said it.

And yet, it would be wrong to describe the sorrow of goodbye without the Heavenly joy of the greetings I cherish on arrival. If I never have to board a plane again, I will always remember the hopeful joy in their faces, the shriek of delight at seeing me grinning my way down that escalator jostling my luggage. The arms held open……..Yes, that right there is a little bit of the sweetness of Heaven.

And always someone on each end to welcome me home.

Finding peace begins when we stop trying to figure it all out.

IMG_1002

In the hushed silence bare light of morning, I kick the walnut Sydney loves to bat around and it skitters across the floor. The air outside is heavy with heat….too hot to pray out there, so I sit here reading Holy moments between the pages of Emily’s book. It’s here that He meets us. In the quiet, in the background of two cats snoring and my tailbone sore from sitting here on the floor by the bed.

Behind the peace, behind happy and content there are flickers of fear being tamped down. It seems to be a by-product of living this life, the wondering how long anything settled, sure and peaceful will last. But I have learned the secret of culling His peace here and now, for the Heaven on earth moments Jesus talked about are found in the miracles of each day. Real faith is found in between the everyday wrangling of trying to figure it all out; wondering how in the world the pieces are all going to come together.

Peace begins when we figure out God doesn’t expect us to figure it all out, but to trust that He already has.

My dreams are restless…..night before last, everyone was ready for the party except me, everybody lined up ready to go, polished and looking their best and I was late. I could find nothing to wear, even my underwear disappeared.

Last night it I was in my Grandmother’s old  house on 501 South Lee with a black panther, I was thankful for those two pocket doors between the kitchen and living room and the kitchen and the den. I slipped those closed as the panther prowled beyond them.

And then I threw a party where everyone wanted to leave early.

Across the 600 plus miles between here and there, I feel my Mom’s burdens as she struggles with things that are difficult and things she can’t do at all. The sand in the hour-glass I see in my mind is pouring through faster with each passing year. A daughter understands a Mother’s burdens more than anyone and we both know it.

I also see my Dad longing for the peace that comes from not being able to do as much, fix as much, be as much in his own eyes, but not in mine.

It’s these in between times where fear nips at our heels at the uncertainty of life that our faith grows. It learns to live and breathe when we swim to the surface and break free,  to stop thrashing about and see the ring God throws over the side of the boat.

I am so grateful for the peaceful rhythm that flows through these days. It’s what I have right now and I don’t want to miss anything by worrying about what will happen tomorrow. For God already has that.

He holds us all in His palm. He says: “Look behind you and see everything I have brought you through……..that’s your future!”

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it. Isaiah…..30:15

 

 

 

 

No road-kill on the golden streets of Heaven

 IMG_3856

It was laying there feet up by the fountain when I got home. E had called and said there was a dead pigeon in the garden and for some reason she couldn’t deal with it. This is the bravest woman I know. She wrapped up my foot when it was sliced all the way to the tendon and told me, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” She’d lived out in the patio room at 100 plus degrees so her Alzheimer’s stricken Mom could have her room. She’s also never met a vehicle she couldn’t operate no matter how big.

But from a young age, her Grandmother instilled in her a deep-seated reticence about touching birds: “They all have lice,” she remembers her saying.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized she must have meant a dove and not a pigeon; she gets them mixed up. She knows how I love doves, how I appreciate the backdrop of their cooing when I pray out in my shed. That’s why it made her sad.

I said, “I hope at least it was single…..not old enough to have a mate.” I have read they are one of the few animal species that mate for life; I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a romantic notion anyway and one that makes me appreciate the fact that you hardly ever see one dove without another by its side.

“Use the shovel!” she said. I didn’t listen. It was surprisingly weightless as picked it up. I wrapped in lovingly in a paper towel, much like my own Grandmother did when my parakeet Peppy died on her watch. She saved it for us for when we got back from vacation; lovingly preserved in a strawberry crate coffin covered with a paper towel for its burial shroud.

I can’t imagine what my Mom thought about that………..

As I gathered the little form in my palms, I said a prayer of thanks to God for its short but meaningful sojourn on the earth; for the joy that it gave with its song in the morning, and at the peaceful close of day. And again I marveled that there will be no death at all in Heaven, not any. You won’t find any road-kill on the golden streets of Heaven.

As I said the prayer, I thought of how I have always loved the Native American’s deep-seated appreciation and gratitude for animal life, and the humility with which they took a life, knowing that the animal had made a sacrifice to sustain their own preservation. They never took more than they needed and nothing was ever wasted.

God created all life, and it’s through His grace that we all live and move and have our being. By His word the Heavens and Earth and all living things came into existence. Let Heaven and nature sing His praise:

He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.

Psalms 104:19-21

I leave you with this Lakota prayer I found today……it’s a good meditation for it shows us how small we really are in the realm of creation, but also, how very loved we are. How thought of by God himself. Not a sparrow (or dove) falls to the ground without Him knowing…….

Oh, Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life
to all the world, hear me.

I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.

Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes,
so when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit will come to you without shame.

– Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota, 1887

Take me fishing!

RBFF_postcard1_08

What is it about fishing that stirs such romantic soulful nostalgia? If there is any activity that is more deeply ingrained into the heartbeat of American culture than fishing, I don’t know what it is. I blame Mark Twain. It’s not even possible to think of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn without a fishing pole. I dare you to try.

And who can ever hear the theme song to the Andy Griffith show without visualizing Andy and Opie strolling along that river bank with their tackle boxes?  Later that night they’d be gathering around the supper table eating “a mess of friend trout” cooked by Aunt Bee. For me, it just has to be trout, you see. I have my own memories attached to that.

Then there was that commercial with the little kids begging their parents to take them fishing. I could almost cry right now just thinking about it.

I remember this. I remember the garbage can full of water in the backyard for the boat motor. I remember my Dad cursing it when it wouldn’t start. And I remember the victory when it would. And the Saturdays when we would drive to the Delta, the four of us on a bright California day.

I don’t remember Mom ever getting in the boat, but she would pack the lunch. It was always sandwiches and barbecued chips. Always barbecued. Even now when I close my eyes I can see the brilliant sky overhead, and somehow attached to my memory is the sound of a plane lazily buzzing overhead, that, and the rhythmic melodious sound of the waves gently lapping against the boat. Sometimes we’d fish from the shore, looking for the magic spot, straining our eyes to watch for fish jumping.

As a squeamish girl, I wasn’t into the fishing much. It was mostly the anticipation and excitement of the possible tug on the line. I never could attach that worm to the merciless barb. I remember the bright pink plastic tub of salmon eggs and the debate about which was better. And there was always someone’s favorite lure. This is the rhyme my Dad taught me from long ago:

Fishy, fishy in the brook, Daddy catch em with a hook, Mama fry em in a pan, Baby eat em like a man.

As an animal lover, I hated to see anything suffer so I could never watch the fish flopping around gasping for air. I thought it was more merciful to toss them in a bucket. I was always secretly glad when a fish was deemed too small and felt a private thrill to see it released and swim off into the deep.

But I also remember that there was nothing better than fresh caught trout and crispy skin cooked over an open fire, and weather so cold the rubber souls of your shoes would smoke.

My Dad raised us all to have a deep and abiding respect for nature and all her gifts. I was glad that he never hunted. He always said he could never look a deer in the eye and kill it. He did enjoy fishing, and even more than that, he enjoyed us all being together under the sky. For me, it was never really about the fishing. It was about being together in that magic place, when the world seemed perfect.

When I close my eyes to this day, I am there all over again. I can hear our laughter across the water, calling me back to simpler times, times when we were all young and still had so much ahead of us. A line tossed out…..a line of hope that we would always be together, always just that way.

Many years later I would think of this, sitting in a Mexican resort in the middle of my own nightmare, one memory that never leaves me.  It was what my brother said through tears, “All I wanted to do was take Jody fishing.”

And it’s only a feeling I have that someday, on that great and wonderful shore, Jesus will bring out some fishing poles and Jody, my brother and my Dad will fish together. Maybe even Jesus too. That day it will be catch and release without the hooks. There will be no need of sun, because we will have the Son right there with us.

It’s how we’ll always be, forever.

 

999513_10200221674046529_1343406425_n

First photo, courtesy of www.wildlife.state.nh.us

On earth as it is in Heaven

 

dpp_0011

When I left the theater after seeing Heaven is for Real, it was as if some of the noise of the world had been turned down and was replaced with a quiet deep within my soul. It didn’t hit me full force the way some movies do, it was more like it settled itself around me gently. If it had been a butterfly it would have landed on my shoulder and fluttered there like grace.

I walked past the brilliant yellow of the Palo Verde trees splashed against a sapphire sky. I heard the melody of bird-song interrupted by horns blaring, aggressive drivers speeding past the busy street just outside the parking lot; people in a hurry, people stressed and angry.

People needing a touch of Heaven.

I passed two men having a conversation where “F bombs” shot out like verbal canons, just another instance, one of many sprinkled throughout an ordinary day that call for some kind of redemption. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to get home and settle on my patio by the garden with a tall glass of tea, savoring the quiet, harboring my reflection. 

Looking around, it’s easy to see that our world needs the hope of Heaven.

As I walked out through the parking lot, it was easy for me to imagine a purer, better place right alongside this one. Little four-year old Colton Burpo says he was there, and ten years later, he still hasn’t changed his story.

I guess I am one of the lucky ones. I’ve never not believed in Heaven. For me, this film just echoed what I already believe, rather, what I already know. Because I believe in God and a perfectly good God has to live in a perfectly good place.

The question then becomes a provocative one: If we say we believe that Heaven is real, are we living as though it is? And as Colton’s Dad asks his congregation in the movie: If we truly believed what we say we do, how would our lives look different?

I drove home reflecting on all those times in my life when God has ripped the fabric of my world apart just enough to let the rays of Heaven leak through. Just enough to show me that I didn’t have to despair. Things that I know that I know that I know, couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

And when you have seen someone die with eyes full of hope, already filled with the reflection of Heaven, it’s easy to believe.

When Jesus came to this earth, He brought Heaven with Him. That’s what He meant when He said “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Right here, right now. And when He left, He talked of going to a physical place, a place we can scarcely begin to imagine. A place He’s preparing for us!

It’s easy for children to believe in Heaven. All too often we undermine their simple faith with our own doubts. Sometimes I think we are almost afraid to really believe. I think one of the best things about the film is that it brings up some questions that we all must ask ourselves.

If we really believed as we say we do, how would our lives look different? I wonder.

DPP_0017

We dream of something better because……there is.

015e1a14843c7a1714e78b25539cf3c0

How perfect is that? Even a quote from Robert Frost on the porch!

Against the background of KBAQ classical I listened absently to the rhythmic sound of tires rolling over rubberized asphalt and relaxed into my 35 minute freeway commute this morning. With the moon peeking through clouds overhead, I imagined being in another place. Anywhere but on my way to work. I dreamed up a perfect Pinterest scene.

In my mind, I was carrying my mug of frothe topped coffee over to a perfect writing spot. A freshly baked scone was already there waiting. And Bach Suites played in the background. As I took that first life-giving sip of the day, I settled into a spot with a comfortable table and even more comfortable chair, facing low windows that opened out. You know the kind.

We all have those places we dream about. There is something inside each one of us that reaches for the heights of somewhere else. We were meant for more than this my friends. While we live in a world of wood, plaster, chipping concrete, and graffiti, and time that wears the years out of everything.

Deep inside we know we were meant for marbled halls and vaulted ceilings.

Personally, I’d like a bit of the beauty of Highclere Castle with the warmth of a cottage smack dap in the middle of Midford, right next to Happy Endings bookstore.

Thankfully, I love my home. When I walk in the door, it’s an oasis. It’s a little bit of how it will feel to finally reach those shores of Heaven. And it will never end.

Heaven is what we were all made for. We were made to last for eternity, and we will. But right now I can have a little bit here, for when I sit at home on a day off, I feel much like the scene I created before. And the beauty of it all is that no matter where I am, I carry Him with me.

That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said the kingdom of Heaven is within you. Right here, right now. We can’t manufacture it for ourselves. It’s God’s great gift.

And until I reach those eternal shores? It’s the next best thing.

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God begin?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs.You won’t be able to say, ‘It has begun here in this place or there in that part of the country.’ For the Kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20,21

Right now I am work. But at the same time, I am touching the edge of Heaven with my toes in the sand of its shore. Selah.

 

picture from my Pinterest board labeled “Dream Home.” via flickr

Why it’s good to take a break from the computer

2779005442_5cbed698f5_o

Trying to keep up with all the activities associated with blogging and social media sometimes makes me feel as worn out as this woman on the bench.  Sometimes I pull away voluntarily, but sometimes, like recently it’s a forced break due to circumstances beyond my control.

After disconnecting the land-line, we decided to have another more improved line installed for internet access only. It won’t be installed until Monday. So…….I have been sitting it out from the sidelines. I have posted a few times from work but at home I have only been dipping in and out, via my phone.

It all gets so exhausting. And sometimes I look at the Facebook ticker tape and it looks so darn loud and busy, almost as if it’s screaming at me.  That’s when I know I need to take a break.

So I have been doing some other things instead. I have been taking bike rides, and I even wrote out some note cards for people just because.

I have been observing, a lot. 

I talked to my Aunt last light instead of getting on the computer and we laughed over the phone about things going on in her life and mine. I could hear that she really appreciated the call, and I was blessed too. She amazes me. At 80 she sounds as young as she did at 60. She goes to the rest home three times a day to see her husband who will never come out. She calls it her part-time job and it makes her happy to be there for him.

She has a lot of courage. My Mom says when she was a girl she refused to ride the bus to school so my Grandpa bought her a Victory bike and she braved mean country dogs that chased her. She rode for miles to and from school. She had her tonsils out with no anesthesia, and she is a breast cancer survivor.

We talked of Heaven and how we will all be together once again, and whole……..and how He will wipe our tears away forever. No more cancer, no more dementia, or Alzheimer’s, or death.

Or computers, I guess.

Somehow I don’t think I will miss it then.

photo courtesy of creative commons, some rights reserved.

A one on one with Jesus

8084663243_ceeed2947e_o

At my workplace we have regular meetings with our OM (Operational Managers) called 1 on 1’s. Sometimes these are regarding serious issues, like disciplinary action, raises or reviews. Other times they are just informal chats. When a new manager comes into the area they are scheduled with each team member as a way of introduction. Sometimes we just shoot the breeze and talk about our last vacation, or what’s happening in the news.

I am one of God’s kids that spends a lot of time thinking about eternity and what it’ll be like.The Bible actually says to keep our minds focused on things above, so I guess I take that literally. I wasn’t one of those kids that daydreamed a lot, but I spent a fair amount of time with my nose in a book, immersed in some imaginary world that I had no problem stepping into.

I like to think that when we get to Heaven, Jesus will schedule a 1 on 1 with each of us. He spent a lot of His time in crowds here on earth, but I love that He also scheduled individual time with people. I have no problem believing that when He talked with you, He made you feel as if you were the only person on earth.

He did that with the Samaritan woman at the well. And Nicodemus and Mary and Martha, and Peter, who he had to admonish for being concerned with what would happen to the other disciples after Jesus was gone….I love Jesus answer to Peter on that one. I just know he had a loving look behind his reproof.

I like to imagine what we will talk about.

I can imagine Him saying, “I have waited a long time for this,” and He will call me by name and make me feel like I am the only person that matters right then. I can imagine how He will look into my eyes and see straight into my heart. He will tell me not to worry about all the things I didn’t do, instead He’ll put His arm around me and tell me to focus on the joy. And everything there is to come.

And I can’t wait to see His smile when He shows me around because He knows how I flip over things like flowers, and trees and animals. I imagine all the fear and longing and heartache melted away. And just……Jesus.

Just the rest of eternity to be with Him.

What do you imagine you will talk about?

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions;if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.” John 14:1-4

Photo from Creative Commons, Melanie Lukesh, some rights reserved.

The bridge between Heaven and earth

IMG_3214

The sky splashed a brilliant pink and KBAQ was playing a Bach concerto as I rolled to a stop between the white lines in the parking lot at 5:30. The scene in the sky turned my thoughts toward Heaven and I thought of the conversation my Mom and I had when I was back home just recently.

We were scanning the obits, and she was lamenting the latest passing of one of her friends. That got us to talking about people who have passed on, and her Dad, my Grandpa. I told her that he is one of the first people I want to meet in Heaven. Besides Jesus.

He held me in his arms and called me his blond angel in German. I wonder if he was thinking of his little Annie who was only about four when she died. He had left the shotgun out and a foster child who was staying with them shot her dead. He ran away after that and they never found him, though they searched. My Grandmother had to watch her little girl die and my Grandpa had to live with that guilt all his life.

I love him, though I never knew him. He went to see Annie when he was in his sixties after a battle with stomach cancer. Shortly before he died, he said the only thing he wanted to do one more time was see Yosemite. Each year he drove the family there, he watching everything but the road and my Grandmother, terrified of going over the cliff would promptly put herself to sleep in the passenger seat.

My Mom says that when she and my Aunt reached their teens they were secretly mortified because they knew as soon as they set up camp he would be over introducing himself and Jesus to the neighbors. He had no problem sharing His faith. He wanted others to know the reason for his hope and the joy of the Savior.

I wish I could be more like him.

Shortly before my sister-in-law died, also of cancer, she said she saw my Grandfather and that they talked of roses. He told her he liked white ones. I don’t doubt what she said. I believe people close to death see many different things on that fringe of eternity.

This being a blog centered around Christian belief and thought, I guess from time to time I feel a need to explain in a simple way what we actually believe and why for those who may not know.

The thing that makes the Christian faith different from any other religion on earth is that we have a living Savior. It’s God reaching down to us, not us reaching up to Him. It’s Him making the first move.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God gives us a future and a hope. We never have to worry about death as long as we know Jesus. He only asks us to do one thing, to acknowledge that we can’t save ourselves. That whatever we’ve done on our own is not good enough. God expects perfection, and the only perfect person who ever lived was Jesus.

With three little words, the doorway to Heaven was blown open:

“It is finished.”

Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation. Hebrews 9:27,28 The Message

I don’t know about you, but I am not doing this life again. I am going to meet my Grandpa.