But the Lord…….

IMG_4250So far this year has been a year of tremendous blessing and challenge, and letting go. I let go of the first big thing, the thing that had been my financial security for 20 years. My job. My career. My nickname for Intel was “Big Brother” because in a sense it was. It was an umbrella of protection in a way. And it had also become part of my identity I guess. For so long I had questioned, wondered when the right time would be to leave. 

I kept asking God, make me know. Help me to be sure. Then the retirement package rolled out and it was like God was saying, “You asked for it, you got it.”

Since then I have been traveling back and forth to California to help my Mom get through a couple of surgeries, of which she has come through tremendously well.

And on the heels of coming back from California the first time, I lost my best little good fur friend in the world, my Sydney. We lost I should say, because Elaine loved him just as much, and Briggs is still searching some days for his brother.

I haven’t had a lot of time to really reflect on my semi-retirement. I found I didn’t want to get out of bed, and for me that is unusual being a morning person. But I did. I fed Briggs and cheered him up. Made him a little high with a dose of catnip.

I wondered whether I should even write a post because I wasn’t in the best of moods. But then I thought of David, and how blessed I have been by the Psalms over the years. David had his bouts with great fear and depression.

I remembered how many times in the Psalms (and the Bible) where it says, “but God.”

I was ready to close the door and cower in fear……But God. I was ready to throw the covers over my head and not face the challenges of a new day…..But God. I was thinking I had no happy words…..But God. You see, no matter what we are facing today, God is bigger. God is the big But in whatever we face, always! It the most important thing He has taught me in my one little life.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
For He will receive me.” Psalm 49:15

No one has ever actually seen God, but, of course, his only Son has, for he is the companion of the Father and has told us all about him.” John 1:18

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8

So this morning, I got out of bed much later than usual. I figured maybe I needed the rest. And though I didn’t feel much like doing anything, much less writing, I found that when I started moving through the day, listening to music that sang His praises, my spirit lifted.

The best thing we have as Christians is a hope that is tangible and real because it’s found in the physical presence of a living God who wants and desires to meet our every need. That’s something concrete that we can pass on to others. And it’s the most powerful gift we can give in a world that needs hope more than ever before.

So the next big thing will be letting go of this home that has been our sweet refuge for several years now. It will be hard……maybe the hardest thing yet. But God…….But God……I rest in You.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Jesus

Shalom!

 

Why we can’t ever stop loving

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken……..” C.S. Lewis

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

It’s been a hard week, friends. First there was the call from my Dad. I could hear the panic in his voice: “There’s something wrong with your Mom,” he said, “I’m not sure what to do……” Then the texts and reports came back from my brother and my concern grew. I heard the word, “Sepsis” and alarm bells rang inside my head. Elaine’s Mom was in the hospital 14 days due to that condition. That pretty much ended the “should I stay or go” battle.

It was the spur of the moment and the weekend……..flights were few. Elaine said, “I’ll drive you, let’s just get in the car and go. We’ll drive as far as we can and stop and sleep, then keep going.” So we did. We called our faithful friends who have watched the cats for years and they said of course they would. Sydney had not quite been himself but he was still eating and drinking. He was in good hands.

When we got there 16 hours later Mom was just out of the hospital. (One day and one night too long in her words) She was shaky and disoriented and not looking good. After a week’s worth of antibiotics at home due to some pneumonia setting in, she was on the mend and I felt I could leave.

Elaine had turned around and left the same day we got there after having dinner with her brother in a nearby town. She was scheduled to train on Monday at work and she was also worried about Sydney. (She may not have a cape but she’s the closest thing to “Wonder Woman” I know)

She had asked me before we left, “If something happens to Sydney, if he gets really sick, do you want me to tell you or wait until you get back?” I told her to wait until I got back.

When she got back he was still eating and drinking but hiding under the bed which wasn’t at all like him. And all that week, while I was in California nursing Mom, she was nursing my cat. (she loved him every bit as much as I did) Two days before I got back he had some kind of a seizure and it scared her to death. She brought him back from the brink but after that he wasn’t the same.

We had decided after the last vet visit two years prior, no more vet visits for him. It was just too traumatic.

And she never let on how bad he was, how scared she was, because she had made that promise, you see. That’s what best friends do, they keep their promises even if it hurts.

When she picked me up at the airport I still had no clue. I breezily suggested we go to dinner. She didn’t answer right away and then she told me between tears and sobbing……”It’s Sydney……” Then panic ensued and all I could think of was getting home.

Sydney has been my baby right from the start, you see. He chose me fifteen years ago, back when I desperately needed something of my own. I had lost the cat who had brought joy back into my life after great sorrow, and my arms felt empty.

Of all the kittens in those two rooms, Sydney (Sammy then) kept coming up to me. He was God’s gift, an answer to my prayer, I know it. Later, when my niece was born, I remember lamenting that she was so far away in California. Sydney helped me with that by insisting that I hold him. I had never ever had a cat that turned on his back and insisted I hold him like an infant, but he did.

And now he needed me. With shaky hands I filled out the online form to have the vet come to the house the next day.

All that evening I stroked him where he lay under the bed, and held his paws. He was quiet, and he was never ever quiet. I was so grateful I made it back in time. Elaine had been holding such secret sorrow and so afraid he would die before I got back. Unbeknownst to me, she had made all the calls and had already checked out the websites for vets that would come to the house.

That night I made a bed on the floor so he could feel me near; he always slept right by my side or preferably on my pillow, he loved stealing my pillow. And he actually loved to cuddle, remarkable for a cat.

Sydney was my faithful and loyal friend. For 15 years of his life, each time I left for California he would look towards the door and cry and mourn for days. It was so bad that Elaine would have to leave to get some peace. After a few days he would settle down and allow her to be surrogate Mom.

The vet responded the next morning and said she would be in the area the next day, but there was no way I could let him suffer another day so I pleaded our case for haste and she came through. She said she would be here within the hour.

I waited and prayed for strength at my bedroom window and when her van pulled up I jumped.

We had already gotten Briggs out of the room. And she was so kind, so compassionate. I knew we had made the right call. She got everything ready beforehand and we comforted him as she gave the sedative. I held him close for what seemed like forever. Time stopped and I was strong for him as I knew I had to be. I owed him that.

She suggested wisely that Briggs be brought in to say goodbye, for they had never been apart. Elaine brought him in and they touched noses for the last time. “If you don’t,” she said, “he will always be looking for him.” I guess animals need closure too.

I was okay until I put his little body in the box with the shell blanket. I didn’t want to let him go and the dam burst as I pressed my face to his fur, the softest I had ever felt.

I recovered enough to go hug the vet. Soon I will go pick up his ashes so that where we go, he can go. I happen to believe he is pestering Jesus right now with his loud Siamese meow and insistence on lap time. My Mom said she thought that too.

So again, I feel how hard and unnatural it all is. We were never meant for this kind of sorrow. And though Jesus has removed the lethal stinger that reaches beyond death to redemption, we still feel the raw pain of it.

But there’s something else that reaches beyond it. Softly and insistently it flutters its way into our heart. It says with promise. This is not the end. There’s Hope.

So my question is, “Why do we keep opening ourselves up to love?” Over and over again.

The answer is simple, we keep loving because it’s in our DNA because it’s in God’s DNA and we are His children. He loves us and has loved us from the beginning with an everlasting love, even when it hurts.

We love because He first loved us. And despite the pain, we keep giving. He keeps giving. Because without love, life has no real meaning. With every loss, no matter how painful, we are better people for having risked and loved.

And God has a happy ending for us, folks.

It’s all arranged.

Hope in every morning.

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God is still in control, in case your’re wondering. The morning bird’s hopeful song ushers in the day, not questioning whether to sing. In joyful exultation, he sings because God made him to sing. He finds reason enough in the birth of the new day.

God put the song there so who am I to doubt? The evening bird assures me as well, with his solitary song at dusk. This small fact astounds me. One bird and one only to bring in the sunrise, and one only to close out the day.

The Master Creator unfurls His sunrise and sunset like a banner across the sky. Genesis repeats itself, it is finished and it is very good. Who am I to say God isn’t in control?

Who am I to say there is no hope?

Lori A. Heyd

And here is a little nugget of truth I found in Proverbs today, I don’t remember ever reading it before:

The believer replied, “Every promise of God proves true;
he protects everyone who runs to him for help.
So don’t second-guess him;
he might take you to task and show up your lies.”
And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things
before I die; don’t refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:5-9

“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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