Lent day #12: The Weight of Time

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It’s the 12th day of Lent and I can’t shake the notion that stretching ahead of me are 28 more. Right now that seems like a lot. I wouldn’t normally give it a thought, but there is this writing thing, this faith project I have entered into. I could give it up right here and now except that it would be like saying that God has no more words to give me……and I know He does. He always does. That is if I am quiet long enough to hear.

I’m out in the shop attempting to wipe the slate of my mind as clear as the screen of the iPad balancing on my lap. It’s relaxing out here. As I sip my tea, I hear the plaintive cry of the quail making their way through between the houses. I have a strong sense that God is trying to get me to focus only on today and not look at how many days there are to go.

I am struck by the thought that before these days are through, this Lent lesson will have carved out an indelible place of importance in my walk with the Lord.

But still, I wonder if I will last. And I wonder how many readers will see this through along with me. But really, isn’t that the whole point of Lent? To travel this journey not on our own strength but on God’s alone. Anything we try to do or not do for 40 days is going to be a challenge.

Today I find myself preoccupied with thoughts of time. So immersed are we in the constraints of it that we feel it heavily, every waking moment. Well, I do anyway. I didn’t think much about time when I had a lot more of it ahead of me. I wonder how Jesus dealt with it?

He who was timeless was plunked down into the middle of this aging planet and immediately had to deal with the fact that He had only 33 short years to complete His mission. It boggles the mind to think that while Jesus was here, He was fully conscious of the timeless place He was going back to.

Everything we do here on earth from the time we get up until the time we go to bed deals with the passage of time. When I start my workweek I am already looking ahead to the end of the week, and I think I can speak for all my co-workers that they feel the same. We put in our time, but real life starts when we get home.

But what if we practiced being fully immersed in time here and now, but also fully immersed in Eternity like Jesus. Is that even possible? And how would we live differently? What would be expedient and what wouldn’t matter as much?

I think God wants us to be fully present in the here and now, and yet always keeping alive our hope of an eternity spent with Him. I think that’s the best way we can honor God. Jesus walked this earth handing out that hope and healing to everyone He encountered. In fact, He was that hope. And nothing would make Him happier to know that we were doing the same.

We put in our time here with the hope……………Knowing real life starts when we get home.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the Heavens and on earth. visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything………..For it was the Father’s good pleasure to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in Heaven. Colossians 1: 15-19
 

Imperfect Miracles

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Due to a shortage of headcount in my area, I found myself working on December 25th for the first time in my life. I have to confess, it just felt wrong to be there. And add to that, the area itself was a disaster. The lady I was relieving looked like she had been through a war and at the end of the 12 hours, I felt the same. But enough about me. Having to work on Christmas Day is by no means a hardship, but there was something about driving there on a nearly deserted freeway put me in mind of some people who are struggling this Christmas season.

One by one and then collectively they found their way into my prayers. I prayed that the Lord would give them strength and peace in the midst of everything. I thought of my Mom’s friend whose adult son is extremely ill. She can’t get to see him because she is recovering from a bad fall. She also takes care of her husband who has a bad back and Parkinson’s among other things.

I think of Elaine, who spent part of her Christmas at the Carehome giving her Mom over the counter meds for her flu since the staff can’t do it. Her Mom didn’t know it was Christmas and she kept asking who the robe belonged to, the one she had just unwrapped. What can prepare you for that kind of heartache?

I guess I was thinking about us all. About how the world was when the angels met the Shepherd’s there out in the fields. How when they met those Angels they were so Holy and beautiful they had them shaking in their boots. The world hasn’t really changed a whole lot since then.Not human nature anyway. I thought about how Jesus came to fix a broken world and us along with it. That is, inasmuch as we let Him. 

I thought about this little snowflake and how it almost makes me want to cry. Just the perfect beauty of it. I see where it looks like it’s starting to melt away. And how sometimes we feel like we are melting away too. Like that little snowflake, we are all imperfect, perfect miracles.

Jesus came to this earth so He could seek us out and make us into a miracle that will last for all eternity, but we can’t do it without Him. Nothing we go through down here on earth is ever overlooked or wasted. Even now, He is using everything we go through down here to make us into perfection fit for Heaven. God is never satisfied to leave us how He found us.

All of us are broken and will remain so until He says, “Rise up and walk into your new life with me.” We are all blind until He sticks His mud covered fingers into our eyes and says,”Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.”

Jesus was born for the broken, the lost, the left behind. He came for this reason, “To seek and save that which was lost.”

I love the story of how He went back to find the leper He had healed. Even now, He is seeking you my friends. He came into this world to find you. To find His lost lambs. Today, He wants to be with you in your heartache and bring you comfort.

‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20

Christmas might be over, but Christ never is. That right there, gives me hope and reason to rejoice in the coming year.

 

Image: Creative Commons. Attribution-NoDerivs License

What’s it like up there?

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Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5

What’s it like up there God? Down here as we are so affixed to the earth, held here trapped by gravity and time. This morning as I sat listening to the heater in the shop tick amidst the backdrop of freeway traffic I found my thoughts drifting toward Heaven. So much of this world seems dirty and rude and noisy, marred by the effects of sin and yet………parts just take my breath away. Those are the things that still hold a glimmer of what it must have been like when all things were new. The Bible says set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. So sometimes in my quiet moments like this morning, that’s what I do.

My mind wandered out beyond the borders of this earth, into the blackness of deep space. I looked back at the earth, aware of what I am leaving and it fills me with sadness, and yet something propels me forward. The excitement of what I am about to see. I am stunned by the brightness of the stars. Faster and faster I go, leaving the press of time behind. I see a distant light which is brighter than anything I have ever seen before but only because I finally have the eyes to see it.

It’s a place I recognize as home. I have glimpsed its borders sometimes between sleeping and waking. It’s a place unlike Narnia where it’s always winter but never Christmas. In this place it’s always Christmas and when it does snow, it’s like diamonds that settle on the green leaves yet it’s never ever cold.

All I want to do is stay here forever.

I see Jesus at the right hand of the Father who is impossible light. I am aware that I have never seen colors like this, never even knew they existed. I was lost but now am found.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory. At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

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Thoughts at week’s end

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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

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“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.

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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

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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