“I’m Right Here”…….God.

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“I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” aid Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?”

Morning Prayer:

Lord, I’m so tired of trying to figure things out in my own head. I want to work on your time-table not my own. Drop it in quietly like a feather–drop it in like a pin on a wood floor. Let me hear it like Elijah heard Your still small voice in the mouth of the cave. That voice that came after the fire. And let me not ignore it. I wonder, how many times in my life have I heard it and brushed it aside?

These quiet times in the morning are rewarded by your great mercy just about bowls me over. Each time I end up praising You. Oh God, how you have blessed us through the years. I look back and am amazed at how far we’ve come, how far you’ve brought us. We are rich…..blessed beyond measure because we are acquainted with Your ways.

Even in the midst of anxiety and turmoil, you reward us with joy and laughter. You’ve even provided us with the answer to the question of pain and suffering. You answered it from the cross. Oh Jesus, you were “unfairness personified” dying a death meant for us, the worst kind of death. I can never say anything in my life is unfair, because each time the thought wells up, I hear Your voice from the cross saying, “It is finished.”

Everything that has ever been unfair or will ever be unfair in this life is null and void.

Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. Colossians 2:14 The Message

I begin and end my days with praise for you, always for you, because we can always have hope. Thank you Lord, for your life-giving word. And for your Living Water that never fails to quench the deepest thirst of our greedy soul.

Thank you for these morning times of quiet spent with You………they are precious to me. Like any parent, you are honored when we want to sit in your Presence. What a thought.

 

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.

 

 

Trust in the gray areas

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“Uncompromising trust in the love of God inspires us to thank God for the spiritual darkness that envelops us, for the loss of income, for the nagging arthritis that is so painful, and to pray from the heart, “Abba, into your hands I entrust my body, mind, and spirit and this entire day—morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Whatever you want of me, I want of me, falling into you and trusting in you in the midst of my life. Into your heart I entrust my heart, feeble, distracted, insecure, uncertain. Abba, unto you I abandon myself in Jesus our Lord. Amen.” Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God. 

Faith is not only the belief that God is waiting on the other side of the foggy shore of whatever murky stuff we are going through, it’s the certain knowledge that He is there, and will be there walking through it with us. Forever. Unless He takes us through those times where the path is obscured and the way seems blocked, we won’t experience the stretching of our faith whereby we can encourage others.

I find that when things are exceedingly dark, it can sometimes be easier to trust Him. It’s a natural reaction to grope for a comforting hand in the dark. And when things are going well, it’s also easy to trust Him, why shouldn’t we?

For me, its those gray areas that get to me. When I can’t see the road ahead. I like to see what I am getting into so I can mentally prepare. I don’t like being blindsided.

I remember the fog in California, when it would last for days. People would head to the foothills just to get out from under it and see the sun. But some of the most beautiful views are found in the fog. I got a picture of these roses taking the family dog to the vet one morning. And on the way out I got a cool picture of a turkey perched on a fence, his body outlined through the mist.

In fact, now that I think about it, three of the most powerful and comforting Spiritual experiences of my life occurred on foggy days.

Lately I have been grasping onto the familiar, the known. With both hands. And digging in with my feet. I am a person who burrows like a hermit crab into predictability and security. I like to see exactly where I am going and the year ahead will be a year of uncertainty, a year of change. Yet in this fog I am learning to trust Him with each day.

And here is one thing I know to be more true than anything else. That on the other side of anything and everything this life has to offer, Jesus offers life more abundantly. Whatever we give up for Him will be replaced by something better, something only He can give. I also know that my true security rests in Him alone. He is my provider. There is not one time I can look back on and see that He has failed to supply my needs.

Joy starts when we thank Him in advance for what we know He’s gonna do.

Grab onto the abundant life Jesus offers today, right now. Especially you there, standing in the gray areas of uncertainty. The way may not be easy, tears may have soaked the pillow the night before, but ours is the hope of joy in the morning. The joy of the Resurrection, His and ours.

The Son is coming out.

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A morning like this…….

My future belongs to Him

Sitting in the dark this morning, I imagine what it might have been like; a morning much like this one. Maybe the stars were still out as they started on their way to the garden tomb, moving quietly with their little bundles of materials and spices up the path.

We all start the day a little like them, don’t we? With a mix of trepidation and grief and a little hope mixed in that what He said was really true. I sat in the quiet this morning, in the dark, the stars still visible and the Holy pink of dawn just starting to color the sky.

Sitting there, I imagined the little Holy processional……I heard the crunch of feet on the rocky pathway. I saw each head bowed down in sadness, watching the path as pink dawn just began to touch the earth with Holy light.

I imagine they heard the first bird too, just as I did, singing of hope despite everything. He always does. I continued to sit, and wait. I needed to start my day, I needed to get going. Still I sat. Some things are more important. I think of this world as it is today, the Miracle has already happened.  Still only part of the world has truly grasped it.

The women rounded the corner and as they did, the earth rumbled and shook. The guards struck dumb as beings of impossible light sat on the stone and said those words that lit Heaven and Earth with all the hope we will ever need:

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.

In fear and trembling and joy, they ran back to tell the others. Their little bundles were useless, for now they carried something far more important, tangible hope. And we’ve been running back to try to tell the others ever since. Sometimes we don’t tell it right, and sometimes we don’t live it right, but we’re still trying.

Some still don’t want to hear it. And there are times we fall prey ourselves to the same conspiracies that started way back then. We get sucked under by everything we see and hear and forget the living hope we still have. But it’s still there. Because He’s still here.

At that very hour after His resurrection the stories swirled, and conspiracies were cooked up. The stories have been swirling ever since except now they swirl faster and even more furiously. Back then they invented a big lie and as the Bible puts it, “a very large sum of money” was changed hands and the rest is history.

Stories, lies and large amounts of money. Sounds like our modern politics. Some things just never change.

As for me, I know the truth. I’m throwing my useless bundle of death to the side and embracing Hope. Time to get this day going.

 

 

 

Days when you feel stuck

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Sometimes, when we are in the darkness or someone we love is, we feel paralyzed. We wonder what to do. When it’s someone we love, we reach back into the wellspring of our own memories and remember how it felt being in the bottom of that well. It’s not a good place, we don’t want to go back there.

I remember that a miracle started my walk back to the Lord, and I also remember that even though He provided that huge first step I needed, He taught me that I needed to keep on walking toward Him, no matter how I felt. In my case, I needed to heal my mind before I could cooperate with God in healing my body. I needed to get up and take a courageous first step.

I remember those early days, exercising in the dark of the morning so no one would see me. Faithfully, I went out, day after day. Finally, my body started to reward me by showing me results. My mood improved, my confidence increased, and I started to attend classes with other people. I traded in my baggy clothes for bright colored leotards (and leg warmers, yes forgive me…….after all, it was the 80’s!)

God has never let me forget how it felt to be in that place of darkness and I am grateful for that, for now I can be empathetic to those who are there now. My advice might seem meager and overly simplistic, but there is great power in it. Because I’ve been on the road, I know the road out.

These days when I feel paralyzed, I stop and seek the Lord. I pray. The beauty of prayer is that you can stop and pray anytime and anywhere.

Then I thank God for the new day and I thank Him simply because He is with me in it. It’s a process of reaching for the light, sometimes over and over again throughout the day. That process alone is a conscious effort of choosing joy. Light over darkness. There is plenty on any given day to feel hopeless about, all we have to do is watch the news.

After I pray, I open the Word and ask God to reveal the power and hope in its pages. I always find what I need there. Satan will try his best to keep me from doing that, because he knows once I start giving God gratitude in the midst of my circumstances and opening the Word, he knows he has lost the battle.

Then, I just start moving around in the day, starting with little tasks like cleaning the cat box, starting the laundry, emptying the dishwasher. I have found that Holiness resides in little tasks when it costs you an act of faith just to take that first step.

Then I start looking for the light. In every little thing I can find…….from the frozen bird bath, to the sun shining through Mr. Briggs whiskers……….

There is a darkness called depression and it’s very very real to many people. When you are there in that place, there is nothing anyone can say that will make a difference. Those easy platitudes will only make a depressed person feel worse, almost like its their fault. Believe me, they are usually kicking themselves around the block and back, wondering what is wrong with them.

In those instances, it may be that medication is needed, or counseling, or both. But in all those situations, God is there ready to meet you. If someone you love is in a dark place, pray and keep praying. If you are that someone, know that hope is near. And it’s for you, not for everyone else.

Look to the Light today, take just one step forward and I will stand with you. Together we can walk out of the land of the shadows.

Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us   from Heaven…..Luke 1:78

 

 

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......