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.

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......

In His Own Words

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When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.

John Muir “My First Summer in the Sierra”

Photo credit, Half Dome: Troy Baker

How often I have stood in the sun drenched meadow and gazed at this face? It is familiar to me as my own, having spent so many summers and falls there growing up. I went to the top once and I would like to do it again before I die. We’ll see. Not too long ago my Dad called all excited. He had been cleaning out his drawers when he found some of his old camping journals from Yosemite. I though maybe I would share a few of his own words today……..in quotes.

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Tuesday morning:

Got careless last night and left ice chest on table. Bear came and ripped it off. Consider Nytol next year, nights are long and better beds are a must! Leg really bothered me (knee). Started to take a walk to Yosemite Village and saw a campsite we really liked “96” so we moved. Proved we could pick up the tent without taking it down and move it anywhere. Entire move took about 40 min max and was simple. So, 3 campsites this year, surprisingly, site was away from meadow toward back, and really sunny, by the river.

Included in Dad’s commentaries were always a running status of how many motorhomes were in the area. They were the bane of his existence, especially when the generators started up. Now I own one and love it; probably it disappoints him. But I believe it is possible to be both a tent girl and a motorhome girl though he might disagree. I guess you could say I am a bit of a fair weather camper these days, but I have no doubt I could “tent” it again, that never goes away.

I don’t think Dad ever settled for the first spot they gave him. It became a game a kind of contest to get the best possible spot. He knew them all and jotted down all his favorites from year to year:

Dad journal

November 1990

Thought: It just occurred to me that you really have to make an adjustment from your home life to camping in the fall. The psychological adjustment in its analysis can be a very interesting study and observation. At times it’s a very uncomfortable feeling, with your thoughts and worries all crashing in on you.

I’m thinking it takes a few days of mental acclimation, but I have to think the variety of beauty up here has to quiet your mind, if you allow it. Thinking back on other times I have been up here, I remember getting pretty comfortable with the uninterrupted solitude. The ringing of the telephone at home triggers a flash or a flood of mental pictures in your mind as you walk to answer it. That can happen 10 times a day at home whether the call is for you or not.

Wed afternoon and evening:

Light rain most of the afternoon. Went to Curry Lounge and spent 3 wonderful hours of total relaxation.  Prayed that we would have dinner and do dishes without rain. Rain did stop and we had a fire and fixed dinner, all without rain. Wonderful.

Thurs. morn:

Woke up to breaks in sky, no rain, patches of sunlight, great morning. still very happy with new campsite. Heard rock slide echoing across valley floor. It was dramatic and a little scary. Over very quickly but really got our attention. Good weather all day, another great dinner by the fire. Stars started to pop out all over, and during dinner we saw the full moon come up over Half Dome. At first it lit up all the clouds and then it appeared over the top, beautiful sight!

This trip everything worked for us like clockwork. Lanterns, stove, beds ok, campfires were easy, bought kindling up here and had fire going in seconds. Great one pot dinners, still thinking how foolish we were about the bear incident, but also how lucky we came home when we did. He was going for seconds when we arrived.

These memories live on and they come alive when I read these precious commentaries. I wish for those days again. Now Yosemite is even crowded in the fall, whereas before you could shoot a cannon through the campsite and no need for reservations. So much has changed and yet, the beauty remains unchanged.

Thank you Dad, for preserving your thoughts. And just for you…..we never run the generator while camping. That  would just be wrong.

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A Soul at Rest

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O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

Psalm 131

It’s a wonderful thing to think about isn’t it? That our soul can be completely quieted by resting in the Lord, as rested as a weaned child. I love when I stumble on a verse I either haven’t read in a long time, or don’t remember reading at all. It’s like it opens up a brand new vista just when I need it most. This morning, I asked for a word because I had nothing and then after prayer the words flowed out without me even trying.

Jesus said,  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?

Yes, indeed. This morning was a gift, as I sat outside in the breeze I quieted my soul by noticing little things……a dried leaf skittering across the ground. The sound of the little bee wind chime which has a delicate sound that the big clanging buoy bell tries its best to drown out. A hummingbird chirp was coming from somewhere but I never saw it. When the world is turned down and the soul is quieted, you can hear these things.

Last night I went out and gazed at the bright wedge of moon and thought that faith in God is very much like that moon without anything shining on it. We know it’s up there but only when the sun is shining on it do we see it. Every day I see faith living itself out in the land where the shadow of death hangs.

I see the man who comes preaching and singing to Joyce’s care home. What a tough crowd, half of them have their heads down on the table. But He is doing what God calls him to do, and I don’t know how he does it week after week but he does. And with joy too.

I see Elaine having to change her Mom’s clothes, a thing that horrifies them both but they do what they have to do. And I don’t know how she does it, but she does. Faith living itself out no matter what, because like that moon, we can’t see Him but we know He’s there and there is hope because He lives and He’s with us, every step we take however painful.

Right now I am reading a wonderful book I  found called “The Green Desert” a silent retreat. It’s written by Rita Winters. She quit her high stress advertising job and went on a 3 week retreat in the Sonoran desert. I highly recommend it. As I read her descriptions of the desert I know so well, I thought how blessed I have been to have lived here in this Hermitage I call my home for 8 years now.

The desert speaks to you if you let it. It teaches you what no other place can, it speaks of lonely sun-scorched places and turns the quiet up in your soul. The death in the landscape all around you, the severity of it all makes it that much more beautiful when it surprises you with life. Powerful resurrected life that has the power to take your breath away.

And it gives you the sense at night when you look up at all those stars amidst the shadow of those towering sentinels, the Saquaros, that they are bearing witness to something older and bigger than you.

You recognize there is another side to it all and you can sense it. Beyond the blackness, beyond space there is a ring of light so brilliant we aren’t prepared to see it yet. Our eyes are still too attuned to this world, but just the same they are there. The crowd of witnesses the Bible talks about is there. And just today I realized I didn’t have to question if they can see us, because a witness sees who and what it’s witnessing.

And like the moon, like God, just because we can’t see them unless the light is shining on them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

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Wholly Holy

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This morning, I found it impossible to go to my usual place of prayer. I had to go out and greet the day, be there before the sun crested the Superstitions. I was on the search for a whisper of air and I needed to be physically present when the day began. I crumbled up some bread and left it in the usual spot. The grackles were the first to find it.

I wandered out front and swept the area in front of the doorways, part of my Holy ritual….I would have been a good little oriental shopkeeper, part of the morning should always be spent setting things aright…..making the bed, sweeping the porch. After I did that, I cleaned the cat box, not so Holy but just as necessary.

I went inside then, and grabbed my mug of coffee and three little books, journal, Jesus Calling, and Frederick Buechner’s Sacred Journey. When I went to go outside I noticed that around 20 assorted quail and dove had found the bread. Being me, I couldn’t disturb them so I quietly took the “prayer chair” from the shop and brought it around the other side so I could be outside and see them but they wouldn’t see me.

I finished Sacred Journey……I heartily recommend it. I highlighted many places in the book that I know I will go back to. As I sat there listening to quail and dove cry, I watched the clouds turn pink from the blush of the sunrise.

An hour of worship outside, though it’s not a substitute for church, I find it just as meaningful and just as necessary a part of our walk with Christ. And as I sat there, another Holy thing happened. A hummingbird came to the red yucca I was sitting right next to and took his time going from bloom to bloom, even stopping the beat of his wings to light on the branch as he drank. As I looked at his little curled feet as he hovered there, I thought what a little gem of a bird he was.

And I thought, if I had been in my usual spot, I would’ve missed him.

How incredible are God’s works; how wondrous His eye for detail in every little thing. It’s the day before my 56th Birthday and I can say that out loud. In reverence, praise and gratitude I thank Him for bringing me thus far on the journey.

Wholly Holy.

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Top of the Morning

 

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I think the closest we get to Heaven is right before the sun comes up. Before everything starts to stir, before the mind goes into overdrive. The start to the day is Holy for me anyway. Maybe for you it’s different.

I love the padding around in the quiet, hearing the coffee maker as it sputters to life brewing promise. Even the pop of the cat food tin and four bright eyes looking up, the mad dash across my feet as I open the door, its always Sydney.

I know just a tiny bit of how God must have felt after Creation, because the calm order of everything is good. As of yet, no one and nothing comes pounding at the door of my heart or mind. If I had a porch I would be on it.

No decisions have to be made yet, this is coasting time. The lead bird calls the morning to order only one, it’s the Mockingbird at four, then a different bird takes the later shift at six.

My soul still feels the hope of newness to it. I may not know where I will be in 1 year or 3 or five, but the steadiness of right here right now makes me think I could go on right here indefinitely. Right here in the dark quiet of early morning, it’s possible to think so anyway.

I lay my heart open to God who knows everything in it but loves to hear me tell it anyway. As any good parent should. Here, before everything goes into motion.

The candle on the roll-around flickers as I whisper my worries and hopes and dreams into the air, against the background rumble of traffic going in fits and starts out on the road.

To the One who still and always has everything under control.

As light fills the sky, a little panic hits. I open my devotional and read these words…….”Do not fear, for I am with you. Hear me saying, “Peace be still, to your restless heart.” Tears sting and from nearby a dove calls, heart calms a little and…….

I gasp, “How, did you know?”

Craving some Peace today?

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You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:7

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

What would happen if we all just ceased striving for one day? Left our cars in the driveway. Let the stack of bills sit……let the dust bunnies roll around and settle in the corner. How quiet it would be if we didn’t hear the sound of the washer, if we didn’t hear one car on the street.

What if people put down their weapons of war for just one day and asked themselves what they are truly fighting for? It’s never happened yet but it’s something to think about. The Bible says that in the future there will be such a time, Isaiah’s vision for peace:

People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
    and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
    his word will go out from Jerusalem.
The Lord will mediate between nations
    and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
    nor train for war anymore.

We live in a time of continual striving. It’s become our normal, especially in America. Even if our bodies are relaxed and peaceful, our minds are going a million miles an hour. We have to train ourselves to relax because we don’t know how. We have all the drugs in the world to prove it. But only Jesus can give us the kind of peace we truly seek. The peace that satisfies. The peace that remains no matter the circumstance.

I often walk past this little dove. She is sitting in perfect peace amidst all these thorns in the crux of this huge cactus. We live in the world which has much turmoil right now, thorns everywhere we turn. But if we take a deep breath and slow down, peace is possible. We don’t have to fear the thorns. I have watched this Mama dove weather many summer storms but she peers out at me as if to say…..”See, not to worry, I am still here.”

I am praying for peace today, not the kind the world gives, the kind Jesus gives. The kind that settles deep in your heart and lodges there like a calm lake without one ripple. No matter what else is going on in your life, ask the Lord for that peace. He is generous with it. If you find yourself in turmoil today, slow down. Rest easy. Do one thing at a time and focus on only that one thing and then go on to the next. That way you won’t be overwhelmed.

Soon you will find that lake of peace that rests deep in your soul. I leave you with a little Psalm………….

He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46: 9,10

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