What Matters Most

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This week at work was a challenge. People had emergencies and had to leave midweek, and some were on vacations. All told, we were stretched thin. Another lady and myself toiled at our workstations for three 12 hour shifts with only a few short breaks. By the time I finished last night, my mind was still spinning like a top. I was so eager to get out I left my scarf behind which I never do.

I was so locked into myself at work I barely talked, barely joked. I felt more robot than human. But on the way home last night……There was sky, and cool breeze, and a hint of rain. I drove by restaurants and people were spilling out onto the sidewalks and patios, seated at tables with their drinks and food, casually talking, laughing. Being people.

One of the moments I was able to step out in the fresh air during the week, one of the things I thought about was that life is tragically unbalanced. We have slivers of time outside, in God’s beautiful creation and big chunks of time in artificial surroundings with artificial light and artificial air sucking the life out of us. And I think if we were honest, somehow we all sense we are under a curse. That things are not as they should be.

And the thing is? I can’t get the previous 36 hours back. But I can change how I do things. I can redeem the time I have left, however much of it there is. We say life is short, but do we believe it? Yesterday a card was circulated for a man we work with who lost his year old Grandson to drowning. Time………moments, years we always think we will have more of.

The older I get, the more I realize that there are only a couple of things we really need to learn before we leave this place, and none of the schools of higher learning can teach it. It’s that behind every beautiful mountain vista, every glorious sunset on the beach, every bend in the road, there have been the people standing next to me that matter even more.  As I look back on all the most wonderful moments of my life, there was someone standing next to me with eyes alight, saying, “Will you look at that!” And if it happened that there was no one standing right next to me, I always knew God was.

Even in tragedy and deepest sadness there were moments of hope against hope, laughter  that leaked through. Right after I lost my husband and we were all gathered together at my brother’s house doling out Xanax so we could sleep. Someone said they had more than someone else and we all had a giggling fit through our tears.

Of all the lessons God wants us to get before we leave this place is that the people matter more than anything. And even before that, that God is a people too. and if we get Him wrong, nothing else matters. I guess another way to say it, since God is love is that if we get Love wrong, we get everything else wrong.

Ultimately, how we perceive Him will determine where we spend the rest of eternity in that place where the curse is lifted forever. And sorrow and sighing are only a distant memory.

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Lent Day 44: Hope beyond Maundy Thursday

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It was just a spot of yellow I saw from a distance. It drew me into the clearing and I paused, admiring it for blooming there all alone, with no crowd to see it, no fellow companions like those I saw earlier planted in huge clusters along the path. But it bloomed anyway and it made me feel like I was witnessing something tragic and brave and heroic. But I saw it. It showed me that it’s never a waste to bloom no matter where you are.

It’s the last day of Lent and I will never forget these posts. When I prayed, and waited, He never failed to supply the words. Every….. single……time.

But now it’s Maundy Thursday and I am empty. And sad. I feel like I am in that dark little room with Jesus and the disciples right after it all went sour. Right after Judas left and Jesus just informed them that they would all leave Him before the night was out.

Sometimes it’s hard to hope in Heaven when it seems so far away. Sometimes there are just days where you’re stuck in the sadness of Maundy Thursday and life seems like a big tangled ball of twine that’s impossible to manage. I ache for everyone I care about and I can do nothing to make all their situations better. And yet I know this too shall pass.

The sun will rise tomorrow and we will be one day closer to Resurrection. And God fixing everyone and everything once and for all. But until then, there are plenty of things to be thankful for.

I hear my Mom’s voice in my head telling me, “The birds are still singing, Lori” and that makes me want to cry.

I remember the old Indian man in the movie, “Little Big Man” who decided that it was a good day to die.He goes up to the mountain, spreads his blanket and lays down and closes his eyes, face to the sky. You think maybe he did die, but then rain starts to fall and his eyes blink.

He rolls up his blanket and goes home. It may not be a good day to die, but somedays, it’s okay to cry for awhile, then roll up your blanket and go home.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 62:5

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Lent Day 37#: Waiting for our Salvation

 

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I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:24-26

When I started this Lent writing it was with the distinct purpose of not writing anything without first having a quiet time in prayer focused on seeking the Lord with an attitude of expectation of what words He would give me. It has been a richly rewarding experience I won’t soon forget. Many times I struggled and heard nothing until very late in the day, but I always received something. 

I have written before how this blog was birthed when I start having these times alone with God in the mornings out in the little shop. Those times have become an integral part of my life. I guess you could say they’ve become a necessary habit. It’s important though, that it doesn’t become something stale, or just something I do to check off my list. Instead, God has rewarded my small faithfulness with something completely different.

Those times have become treasured moments spent with a Friend who longs to hear from me.

Sometimes, however, there are no quiet times to be had. That makes it all the more cherished when I do get it. When I was in California, there was little quiet time, instead there was lots of noise and activity. But in between all that there were little snatches of quiet time here and there.

There was my Mom asking me to come with her to see some trees she thought were incredible.

There was time spent at the park with my Dad and my niece, swinging on the swings.

There was my niece screaming my name over and over in excitement when she saw me at her swim practice.

There was the joyful expression on my Mom’s face when she saw her clean car.

I find that now that those quiet times have been permanently sewn into the fabric of my being, that they sometimes happen even when I don’t expect them to, even in the times that are anything but quiet.

Today I looked forward to spending a little time outside on my break where I could pray and meditate in the beautiful Arizona weather. But the landscapers had a different idea. In Between the birdsong and soft music I heard the chainsaw trimming the giant Palm trees at the entrance to our building. Thankfully it was sporadic.

It’s Spring-time here in the desert and right now it’s easy to glory in God’s creation. The thorn-yielding cacti are giving way to blooms that scream “notice me!!!” in brilliant prisms of color. The cactus wrens, doves and red-tailed hawks are all courting and building nests. Like the palm waving crowd lining the road when Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, the desert is crying out in praise to its Creator.

Picture yourself as this butterfly resting on the lilac branch. Life, work, family, and the world are all hovering around you but everything you need is right there on that flower.

You won’t go far without it.

Photo taken by my brother: Ron L. Cook

Lent Day 24: The Wall of Waiting

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Lamentations 3:25   The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

We all seem to be waiting on something, and as the world moves faster we just seem to wait for more things. Waiting isn’t all bad. I tend to think of waiting as a wall to get over, something to be done with so I can get where I want to be. Sometimes things flow along smoothly and even the waiting seems effortless. Then there are times the waiting seems agonizing. As I grow older, God has taught me the beauty in the waiting.

Instead of a wall to get over, I think of it as a wall to sit next to and take in the view. This Lenten writing has taught me a think or two about waiting. There are different kinds of waiting for one thing. At first I was waiting with certain expectation that the words would come, and they did.  Waiting with expectation doesn’t seem nearly as painful.

Then like a brick wall, in the middle of this process I lost the sense of expectation. I groped around to find it, then I stopped trying to find it altogether. I wandered. And I guess that might be a little of what Jesus went through in the desert. But that’s the time when you find a quiet shady place to rest and surrender it up all over again. That’s why there are times when we are expressly commanded to wait. And instead of trying to scramble over the wall and figure things out on our own, we sit down, look around and enjoy the view.

Tomorrow I will go and see my niece who is beside herself with expectation that “Aunt Nori” is coming. Waiting for her is a painful and agonizing process. It’s hard for special needs kids, though she is getting much better; even so, she’s still on pins and needles. It’s not that we do anything extreme like go to theme parks. She doesn’t care nearly as much about that as just spending time with me doing the little things she loves to do because she loves me. She loves it because I enter her world.

And that my friends is what God wants from us too. He wants to enter our world and loves it when we enter His.

Because He loves us. Happy Waiting!

Isaiah 40:31   but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 30:18   Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.

Lent day 3: For the overworked and underwhelmed.

My future belongs to Him

 

My post today is for all the “doers” out there. You know who you are.

While the rest of us are sitting around scratching our heads trying to figure out which direction to go, you’ve already finished the task and finished it well. For you, there is a line drawn out for every day, and each day you put yourself at the end of it while propelling others forward.

While we ruminate, pontificate, busily arranging our words by the light of the blue screen or the bedside table, you “doers” are working behind the scenes and on the front lines, doing all the stuff that wouldn’t get done otherwise.

And they aren’t just meaningless tasks to you, for love is the force that motivates each one.

You might think what you do isn’t noticed.The world may not applaud you for it seeks the loud, the brash, the flashy. And though your glory sings as bright as the sun, too much of the time it reverberates against empty walls. It can be a lonely place. You make it look so easy and effortless that when you finally collapse against the burden everyone around you is shocked into silence.

You find yourself identifying with the Psalmist when he questions, wondering where your help is coming from. You long for the times when life was simple. You crave that rest for the body, mind, soul and spirit that Jesus talked about.

Know that He understands. In fact, He was one of those “doers” while He was on earth. There were times when He longed to get away from the demands of life, the press of the crowds. And He did. He knew the value of hiding Himself away for a time to be with His Father.

I don’t know about you, but I can really identify with that Jesus. As much as I like the group I work with, there are times when I would much rather work with a roomful of cats or dogs. I don’t think Jesus ever felt like that.

But He did feel like you. Right now where you sit, stand, or work. Sit idle for just a moment. Take a breath and expect that peace to come. He will hollow out a little place of peace in your soul so that you can go on. He has promised it, and He never breaks His promises.

And take heart, for everything you do has the weight of eternity behind it, God says it will last forever.

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42

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Can I get a witness?

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Devotional: “Hold my hand in childlike trust, and the way before you will open up step by step.” Sarah Young, “Jesus Calling.”

This morning prayer time was something of a miracle. Well, they all are really, but some more than others. Sometimes I just go out there and sit. I know He is there, He just doesn’t make Himself known. It still amazes me how I can come out here with all my junk, all my worries and fears and He reveals Himself to me. And for just a little awhile, it’s just Him and me. I recognize Him and I feel a little bit like Mary Magdalene in the garden…….as she gasps, “Rabboni!”

Or John as he turns to Peter and says, “It is the Lord!” And there’s Jesus on the shore stoking a campfire asking if they’ve caught any fish. And sitting there in prayer, it feels a little bit like Easter.

There is something Holy in being present when dawn colors the sky. Being a witness to it is beholding His Glory here on earth. As if to second that, from the rooftop a mourning dove coos. That doesn’t always happen but today it did.

I am learning that even things like despair have a purpose, God never wastes anything. For in it, there is no denying that those sparks of joy are coming directly from You Lord.

It was a good prayer time today, well they all are really.

And after months of not attending church, of having my own church where and when I can have it, I need to hear the words……I need to hear the songs.

“As for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds.” Psalm 73:28

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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.