Lent Day 24: The Wall of Waiting

Blessings in disguise

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

Image from Google

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.

There remains a Sabbath rest……….

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“There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the One who has entered His rest has Himself also rested from His works, as God did from His.” Hebrews 4:9,10

The chair creaked as I settled into it in the dim light of early morning. The first line of my prayer was a grateful sigh. There are times when sighs can be prayers. The end of the week once more and I wondered again at how I got here so fast. Settling into sabbath…..I gazed down the trail of years, wondered and wandered along the halls of my memories.

As I wandered, images and sounds came softly, floating over and through and then emotions along with them following close behind. “A Mighty Fortress” was the theme song of the little claymation cartoon I used to watch on Sunday mornings before church, Davy and Goliath.

I hear the echo of our voices in the upper room where we had children’s church and then after, Sunday lunch at Helwigs, Chicken on a Bun. And my Grandma sighing out loud and crinkling her Reeds wrappers while the Pastor is speaking, and my Mom being so embarrassed.

I remembered the way the light slanted the shadows as we walked to Sunday evening service on warm summer nights. And there was choir practice and the rustle of robes coming off hangers and the silence right after we all stood as one and waited for those first notes from the piano.

Service upon service……all through the years. All through the denominations, each one I loved in different ways. I hear the rustling of onion-skin pages as we all found our places as one. I find myself sometimes missing those days before iPads and iPhones in church.

As the candle flickers in the corner, these are the Holy gifts I unwrap one by one.

And someday, I will unwrap these days too.

This is Sabbath rest right here and now.

Enter into Sabbath rest

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And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. Acts 16:13-15

I love the imagery of this verse……I like to think of Paul and Timothy and that group of women praying by the river. And Lydia, a well to do successful business woman, who was receiving those words into her heart. I think of how the Holy Spirit forbade Paul and Timothy to go all those other places but that He sent them there, to Macedonia. And that He chose a woman, Lydia, to be the first convert in Europe.

This morning as my fingers fly over the keyboards…….I pause every now and again to meditate and let my words fall where they may.

Pandora is playing Holy, Holy, Holy by David Nevue in the background. And it is Holy here in this place.

In my quiet place today, I read of where Elijah was taken up to Heaven in the Chariots of Fire, and Elisha, the farmer who took his place performing miracles, healing the Shunammite woman’s son. The son she never thought she would have. She was a wealthy woman too, and offered Elijah food whenever he passed by there. She even went to far as to fix him up a little guest room.

Can you imagine fixing up a guest room for Elijah??

We are rich, my friends. We have all these people, these heroes of the faith. They are all our relatives. These are our heritage, our Heavenly family. And someday in the future, we will all sit by the River of Life basking in the glow of the Lamb, looking forward to a future we could scarcely imagine while here on earth.

I leave you to your own meditation now…………and wherever your feet may take you today, I hope you take your Sabbath rest along with you. Thank God for the week you just passed through, knowing those burdens are behind you. Breathe deep, take in the Peace that passes understanding. We rest in Grace my friends.

I leave you with this little poem by Hafiz, which I just discovered in my travels along the internet.

Once a young woman said to me, “Hafiz, what

is the sign of someone who knows God?”

I became very quiet, and looked deep into her

eyes, then replied

“My dear, they have dropped the knife. Someone

who knows God has dropped the cruel knife

that most so often use upon their tender self

and others.”

Deep calls to deep

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Some people think nature calls in a soft voice. I think it shouts quietly. There’s a difference.

What’s it shouting you say?

Things aren’t always what they seem…….like this bloom from a lowly thistle we know as the artichoke plant.

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Do you see the bee? I almost missed it, and I took the picture a year ago.

There is a whole universe wrapped up in your back yard.

Just step out the door and open your eyes.

And you will see God.

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He is waiting to fill us……so that we may never thirst for anything else. He calls us to the deep end.

It’s easy to tread water when you know you can touch bottom.

He’s calling us to swim further out.

Better yet, just jump.

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He has never once failed to catch me.

Tired of treading water in the cesspool of worry?

Stop treading and float, my friends.

I took my troubles to the LORD; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. Psalm 120:1

And it was morning…….

 

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And it was morning……..the 3rd day of my 4 days off. I took my mug of coffee out to the patio because it was actually bearable outside. Wonderful actually. It is gray over the Superstitions and there is a wonderful breeze just now. The clouds are moving slowly, languishing, and birds are crisscrossing the sky. Clouds might not always have silver linings, but they did today.

When I opened the umbrella I smiled because some of my Birthday fell out. The cactus wren and the woodpecker both like to stash little treasures in there to find later and in this case it was some my leftover cake that was thrown out in the yard.

The sun is rising behind those clouds and its casting a glow……the two doves were just catching a bit of that light on their breasts shining from the rooftop next door.

The buoy bell wind chimes are clanging out front……wind is picking up now and we just might get some sprinkles. The okra has now reached over my head. Each year, it’s a marvel. To think those little seeds could produce such a plant laden with such a misunderstood delightful vegetable.

I understand not everyone likes okra. I feel bad for you, I truly do. This Yankee had never had any until about 10 years ago when E offered me some. At first I was suspicious. I might have curled my lip. Now I can’t get enough. I put it in stews, casseroles, and of course fried with a little dusting of cornmeal. I am like the Bubba Gump spokesperson for okra…….boiled okra, fried okra, okra stew, okra salad…..well maybe not salad.

Just now the rain which had started as a little drop here and there has become a gentle continuous patter. As I feel the little cold drops hit my neck it feels like answered prayer as it always does in the desert.

I close my eyes and I am taken back to camping years in the big red tent. We used to hear one drop and another hit the tent it was a magical sound, but also one of dread because we were never sure how long it would last, and rain meant inactivity and plastic tarp and sending runners out for food. But sometimes it also meant adventure.

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 And it was morning……the 3rd day of my 4 days off. And God and I agreed that it was good……………..

 

Listening to my life…….

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He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. Isaiah 42:3

I have abstained from writing about all the current events because I wanted to let my thoughts settle. Listening to all the recent events my mind has felt like an unsettled pond and at the end of a long work week I feel like I can finally take a deep breath and let it settle somewhat. Between the horrific events involving the Islamic militants, Robin Williams, and Ferguson, Mo. it was like my mind just couldn’t keep up. There were plenty of other better writers and bloggers editorializing and I didn’t feel like I wanted to throw my voice into the ring. The ring was noisy and crowded and so was my mind.

Sometimes a writer has to know when it’s right to jump into the ring of fire or stay on the perimeter looking in for a while.

Last night we had one of our summer storms that are common for Arizona but never common for me. Storms are natures way of breaking loose, of showing us we are not in control. I went out to the freeway just before it hit and took a few shots and felt rewarded. I found the Superstitions veiled in a cloak of dust and clouds and God’s promise.

On the other side of the overpass, the sun was making her exit amidst the backdrop of clouds………

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When I got home my Dad called, “I was reading Listening to Your Life, he said, do you have it?” I said yes……..then he paused and said, “I wonder if any of us really understands the Bible? We think we do, but sometimes I don’t think we have a clue what it means.” He went on the describe the passage he had read from the entry on February 8 and when I hung up I read it. Here is a partial reading:

When you find something in a human face that calls out to you, not just for help but in some sense for yourself, how far do you go in answering that call, how far can you go, seeing that you have your own life to get on with as much as he has his?

I thought of the sermon by Charles Stanley that I listened to that morning. He was talking about missed opportunities and how many pass us by each day. Then he went on to talk about Peter and how he could easily have said no thank you to Jesus offer to follow Him. After all, he had a livelihood, he had a life, he had a family to support. But something about Jesus made him realize that this offer was not like any other. As a result, Peter is one we recognize as being one of Jesus closest friends and followers. The rock on which the Church was built.

Parallel his life to that of the rich young ruler who had everything. He clung to his life and turned down Jesus’ offer. We never hear what happened to him but the Bible never says anything more about his life.

I believe it pays to listen to those closest to Heaven, children and old people. It pays to listen to your life and those around you. I am listening to mine today as I ask myself how far I am willing to go for Jesus. I give my allotted time and money and sometimes not even that. I don’t always focus on Him while I pray, I miss the Holy moments far too often and I tend to avoid people if I have a choice.

I am that weakest reed, that flickering candle. But my prayer today is “Thank you God, for not letting me go.”

Despite everything, He loves me. He strives with me. He sees me, the girl who gazes on His world with wonder and it makes Him smile that I notice.

God keeps a tally, the scales of justice are in His hands. He’s the one who will set things right ultimately, and that’s a promise. It doesn’t mean we stand back and do nothing, but it does mean that we can’t fix everything. Maybe we just fight the injustice in our own little corners for a start.

As for me, I went as far as that windy street corner up around 120th street and Broadway, and I can see him standing there as in some way he is standing there still. He is alone and making the best of it with his thin, church rummage overcoat flapping around his legs. His one free hand is raised in the air to wave goodbye. It was the last time. “Here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves,” Tillich said, “is a new Creation.” This side of glory, maybe that is the best we can hope for. Frederich Buechner, Listening to Your Life.

When its still waters you seek………..

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 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul……”

The other day I awoke with a feeling of disquiet, of unrest. I felt like a rubix’s cube that someone had tried to fit back together wrong. Or that maybe there was a piece missing. I carried the feeling around that whole day. I was craving peace and still waters but I wasn’t sure how to go about getting it, I just knew I wanted it…..needed it.

Living the Christian life, we know those days will come. The best part however, is that we know they won’t last. We carry a living hope that refuses to let us despair, for we carry Christ wherever we go. The Holy Spirit rests deep within our soul. He is the still water we seek, and though at times the turbulence of this world rocks us, sends uneasy ripples in any number of ways, we need not worry.

Yesterday in prayer as I opened the Word, I felt those ripples begin to quiet as I read the words, fingered through those pages in the early hours. After awhile, I felt their calm assurance slowly begin to fit the pieces back together. I sensed a hope as I closed my eyes and once again meditated on those quiet waters. I felt Him start to restore my soul.

Because we need that, each day, don’t we?

The world rips us at the seams. People do it too, with hurtful words or actions tossed carelessly in our direction. The world is full of unrest, but here in this calm, in the eye of the storm, He restores us. He lets us know that no matter what happens outside.

He will be here with us on the inside. Where the still waters lie.

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He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

Photos: Gilbert Riparian Preserve, Gilbert Arizona, and The Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, Washington