Dawn: I only have time for Eternity

IMG_4813

“Praises and canticles anticipate each day the singing bells that wake the sun. Open the secret eye of faith and drink these deeps of invisible light”……Thomas Merton 

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I knew this would be hard, packing up this place has been like packing up part of myself. How do you go about doing that? This little home, the most humble of all the homes God has blessed us with has felt more like home than any of them. It’s been a place of tremendous comfort and joy.

So I packed some and I cried some. By the end of the day I was worn out. But this morning I may have turned a corner into the new Chapter. Maybe I did. It was slight, like a chord change that takes place somewhere deep in your soul. The Holy Spirit speaks in a whisper.

It was hard to walk out into the shop yesterday and see a whole wall blank, but this morning I went out and it was like it’s always been. Today I needed some Thomas Merton so I took his little “Book of Hours” with me. His words breathed life and freshness through my soul like the wind through the pines.

Today, if you are reading this, do this one thing. Go easy on yourself. It’s what I have needed to do and you need it too. Life is hard. Give yourself time to adjust to the winds of change that sometimes blow more fiercely than you anticipated. Get help from an outside source if you need it. Sometimes the body is fine but the weary heart and mind need a physician.

Here is a partial reading for the Sunday Chapter:

“Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to “be” once again, as it did on that first morning that ever was. 

All wisdom seeks to collect and manifest itself at that blind sweet point. Man’s wisdom does not succeed, for we have fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone. We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose. 

We know the time and dictate the terms. We know what time is. 

For the birds, there is not a time that they tell. But he virgin point between darkness and light. Between being and non-being. 

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it. We are off “one to his farm and one to his merchandise.” 

Lights on, clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves cooking. Electric shavers filling the radio with static. Wisdom, cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend.”  Book of Hours, page 46

I for one, will be present today. Help me to do that, Lord. You have given birth to a new day and that is always a gift. I thank you for today and whatever it brings. Because whatever it is, you will meet me there.

I Stand Amazed

IMG_6054

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6, The Message 

As I write this, a bit of the disbelief and wonder still surrounds me at the circumstances which brought about my sudden retirement from the company where I had spent the last 20 years. If you would have told me a month ago I would be sitting here writing this with my career at Intel behind me, I would have said you were crazy. I had been thinking about it, praying about it, wrestling with it seriously over for the past year, and had even set a date for December or January of this year. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

And so many times, I had held this verse in my heart and tried to live it, asking God for a definitive Yes or No, Yea or Nay, some kind of deciding factor that would push me one way or another and let me have the confidence I wanted to know I had made the right decision. And then, this……

We had all heard rumors about the layoffs and cuts at Intel, but of course we had weathered all these before. Yet this time, soon after the announcement was made, the roll-out was swift. Suddenly, people we had worked with for years were gone. Everyone was a bit shell-shocked. And then I got the enhanced retirement offer and I knew it was what I had been praying for just a month before. And it was more than I could have hoped for.

And I stand amazed at how good God is. And not because it worked out for me, but because God is always good. Yet sometimes, He does something that so flat-out astounds you with His timing and how perfect it is you know without a doubt it came from Him. I want to stress that it’s nothing I did. There is no formula ever, to guarantee things will fall in line with how we pray. I don’t believe in that kind of gospel.

What I do believe is that sometimes God rewards the one who clings to His word and hangs on for dear life even when there is no evidence whatsoever that an answer lies just beyond the bend.

Here is what I wrote in my prayer journal today:

Thank you God. You fill me with wonder. You became a flesh and blood God well acquainted with suffering and grief and tears and yet still vast and unknowable and full of mystery; able to create this whole universe with a word. I stand amazed that you died because you wanted to save my life and you thought that maybe if you did that, we could have a chance to be together forever. You removed the intimidation factor that might have kept us apart and you brought me near at the foot of the cross. You confounded the minds of the best and the brightest in your short time on earth and shattered their hearts because when they came face to face with you, they knew what they lacked was not intelligence or religion but love. You made them see that all their efforts were worthless because they were blinded by the pride that didn’t let them see you for who you were. Forgive me Lord for those times when love gets left out of my own actions. You have led me with patience and love and picked me up when I could go no further so many times. Thank you for loving me even in my great weakness and failure and for your grace that is greater than all my sin. I stand amazed.

So now I am on this different path and it’s scary at times, but I know He’s got us. It’s a new chapter and I find comfort in the fact that He will be in this next one as well. He was gracious enough to let me make my personal goal of 20 years with the company and reward me at the end.

I stand amazed.

Prayer: A way to set the world right.

IMG_4838

 Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Prayer is the one thing that ties this world to eternity and prayer is the one thing that can set the world right. What I mean by that is at the end of a prayer session, everything may be just as messed up as when I went in, but what has happened is a seismic shift between the world outside that I observe, everything I see that’s so out of control, to the reality of knowing that God still and always holds everything perfectly in place.

An active prayer life has also taught me that prayer is not always primarily for changing my own circumstances or that of someone else, though many times that is what drives me to pray. Sometimes God does intervene and change the circumstance, but sometimes He doesn’t. So why pray?

I pray because prayer moves the mountains in my own heart. That’s where God does His best work with all of us. Ultimately that is where it has to start with each one of us.

It’s so easy to throw up our hands in resignation isn’t it? Especially when we look at the chaos swirling around in the world just outside our doors. Maybe there is even chaos inside your own doors too. But seeking His face in prayer reminds us of who is ultimately in control. Just the simple act of prayer is giving God the glory that belongs to Him alone. And here’s what happens…….when we get alone and in the deep quiet, we remember. We remember who He is and how far He’s brought us. And when we turn the pages of God-breathed words in Scripture we see how far He’s brought everyone else. He’s not about to stop now.

Prayer is the simple acknowledgment that God is in control when every circumstance around us makes us think otherwise.

And when we do that, when we give Him the control we tried to wrestle out of His hands, something miraculous happens. We get so lost in His magnificence we forget the chaos swirling around outside and in. For just a little while, the madness stops. The voices are silenced. The images stilled.

When we see Him as He is, that’s when it blooms forth into a wellspring of Thanksgiving and Gratitude…….and Thanksgiving leads to prayer and praise. So it’s an endless circle that begins and ends at the Throne of Grace.

This Thanksgiving, I pray for everyone in my circle and out. I pray for each follower of this blog, whether you are a faithful reader or a casual one. Whether you followed at one time but haven’t read it in months or years, I pray for you. God sees you, friend. He sees your heartache, and your joy and follows your steps.

I pray you would feel Him near.

And now, from my house to yours………

May the Lord bless you
    and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

IMG_1847

El Roi: The God who Sees you.

IMG_5221

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Hagar, who fled Sarai’s wrath and left with her son to die in the desert. 

I lift my Thanks today for a God who sees. The God who leaves no stone unturned and no situation without a remedy.

Whose eyes travel to and fro over all creation quietly gazing and not missing a thing.

Who sees everyone, all the way into the darkest recesses of their hearts and still is not surprised by anything we do.

He thinks of us long after we stop believing and never stops seeking us, for His heart is for His creation.

You see the little burrowing owl in his home and the ant carrying triple his weight.

You see the persecuted who are now scattered and homeless,  along with the Chinese believers who cry over their Bibles.

You see the one who is clinging onto the world afraid to lose what they never had.

And those who have sold out and become rich.

You see those in the American church who still trust in their possessions and their comforts and their religion.

As well as those in the American church who have recognized the need in their communities, their families, themselves.

And come back stronger in You.

Thank you God, for seeing Hagar in her time of need.

For seeing Elijah under the broom tree when he was ready to quit.

For seeing little ol me, here in my place of prayer.

Not only are you the God who sees, you are the God who will one day restore all things.

There is no evil or good thing that happens now that will not be rewarded in the end.

For not only are you the God who sees, you are a God who is fiercely active and working all things to the good.

It’s been a tough week, but you have been here.

I have seen You.

The Thankful In-Betweens

img_2089.jpg

“I call out to the Lord and He answers from His Holy mountain. I lay down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.”  Psalm 3:4,5

Sometimes God gives you a little reset button. This morning I had one of those tossing and turning times. For two hours I worried about every possible thing for about 30 years down the road. That always helps so much doesn’t it. Worrying? It’s a useless action. It saps you of strength and leaves you drained. But this morning after I tossed and turned, God whispered a little thought through my cat. No God does not speak through my cat, I am not that crazy, although sometimes I do think they understand what I say.

Here’s the thought that God brought to me as I gazed at Sydney whose face was inches away from mine, (we were fighting over the pillow, you see). As I was worrying my way through the future, God said…..(through the cat) “Look at how safe you’ve kept me all these years. Fourteen of them to be exact. You have taken me to the vet when I have been sick, and you kept me safe through the last move. You made sure I didn’t get out when the movers were coming and going. You stuffed me in that box when I didn’t want to go in, and I fought you all the way because I was scared and didn’t realize you were doing it to keep me safe. But here I am, all these years later, still happy and healthy. I have soft things to sleep on and I have never had to sleep out in the cold like some of my counterparts.

“When I used to go out, you kept me safe too from those neighbor cat bullies. And I never have to worry about where my next meal is coming from because there is always food in the dish. I can relax and sleep because I have total trust in you. I never have to worry about anyone or anything hurting me because you and I have built up that trust. Day in and day out for 14 years you have watched over me, and loved me. Even now, here I am purring with contentment as you stroke my fur.”

And then God whispered, “Yeah, kind of like how I have taken care of you now for what……all these 56 years.”

And you know what happened after I had those thoughts? I fell back asleep in the deepest sleep, and I awoke refreshed. God gave me a reset button.

But here’s another reset button you can use for your fretful mind.  It’s the best antidote I have found to put worry in its place and you can use it throughout the whole day. It’s prayer and gratitude.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 says:

 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

There will always be another reason to worry, but there will also be more reasons not to, when you think of how faithful God has been over the years. Start counting thanks and see what happens. Thankfulness is real and it’s tangible, because God has really been there, every single time.

Yesterday was a tough day for Elaine. Her Mom hasn’t been doing well for a few days. Yet, in the midst of all the hard questions, the wondering just how much longer she will have to live in this state she never wanted to be in, there were a few times we had to laugh despite the disparity of the situation. Through this whole Alzheimer’s nightmare, we have managed to keep our sense of humor, at least a shred of it, against all odds. And that is a kind of miracle.

After Joyce had all she wanted of the Chinese food Elaine brought, two other ladies circled the wagons and came in to see what it was. One bellied up to the bar and pulled the takeout container over. Elaine fished around for a fork in the kitchen and gave her one. Instead of the fork, she dug in with her fingers. Elaine tried to get her to smile but she wasn’t having any of it. Her Mom sat there looking part disgusted and part, “get me out of here.” We took her back to her room. More happened after that, but that part is better left unsaid. It’s why we had to go to Wal-Mart, which is another bit of crazy on a Sunday.

Ever feel like you are in a little band of crazy and you want to leave the band but you can’t?

We found new flip-flops for 98 cents and took them back over to the Carehome. (The others were no longer fit to wear.) These are the only shoes she seems to keep on now. I was thankful I could go with her to do that, I am always thankful to do it because I know she does many of these things alone when I am at work.

Despite all this, we sat outside the other night after Elaine cooked a meal worthy of a five-star resort and ate. And just as I was about to say the prayer we looked up and saw after effects of the rocket that was launched in Southern California. That was cool. It’s a mixed bag this life, full of equal parts pain and beauty, until we reach the shores of Heaven that is.

And today, now that the weather is blessedly cool, that is always something to be very thankful for here in the desert.

He remembered us in our low estate:

His love endures forever.

and freed us from our enemies:

His love endures forever.

He gives food to every creature:

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of Heaven:

His love endures forever.

Psalm 136: 23-26

 

25 Days of Thankful Day #2: Freedom

10599349_10202525007148417_2971259069793279532_n

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;  that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Colossians 4:2-4

I am most thankful today for the freedom that many courageous people over the years have fought and died for. The freedom to walk around in my own home in safety and peace. To do all the simple chores around the house that I do take for granted. The freedom to pray without fear of someone pounding on the door waiting to arrest me. Freedom to go to work….drive my car…..go to the gym.

Freedom from fear of being kicked out of my homeland.

All over the world there are people who were living and working and enjoying freedom just like me. They were prospering in all kinds of different jobs for which they were trained. They educated themselves to better their community. They enjoyed success. They were raising families. Today they are in refugee camps. Their homeland was wrestled away from them violently, their old freedoms are only a memory. They watched their churches and homes be bombed or torn down and some of their Pastors arrested or killed.

My blogger friend David Rupert answered God’s call and went over to those camps. He went into the danger zone and interviewed many of these people. You can read their stories here on his blog. What they have been through, I can scarcely imagine. And yet, in their eyes you can still see joy, and you can see the bond that can never be broken. Because even though they have lost everything, they have their faith and they have their God and each other.

I so appreciate his courage for going over there to bring back their stories because now when I am going about my day doing what I am still so free to do, I think of them. And I pray for them.

Now it’s not just something that is happening somewhere else, it’s something that’s happening to my brothers and sisters in Christ who someday I will meet in Heaven. I can only hope and pray I would be as courageous and strong as they have been if I were put in the same position.

I truly hope I never have to find out.

IMG_9720-1024x682

25 Days of Thankful: Day #1

Flag

“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

I have decided to start listing thanks again. I was thinking about when I used to do that as part of Ann Voskamp’s celebration of One Thousand Gifts on our blogs. Each Monday we would list our gifts of gratitude and I miss it. So today, I thought it fitting being the month of thanks and all that I would do this. Feel free to join in with your own list, either by way of commenting on this blog or FB or just write down your own list.

Each day all the way up until Thanksgiving, I will list my simple thanks. The Bible says we are to give thanks continually and in any and every circumstance. I find that a little bit of looking up and giving thanks is a lot more powerful than we give it credit for. You see, when we start giving thanks we give credit where credit is due. Being thankful gives honor and glory to God because when we thank Him for things both great and small, we recognize that all things come from Him.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

Thankful

I got this comforter out the other day, now that the desert heat has departed I can enjoy this bit of fluff on my bed. I had forgotten just how fluffy and soft it was and the first night I covered up it was like sleeping under a cloud. It was a little bit of heaven…….

This morning, I awoke remembering my collage of dreams. I always dream big and in color and last night was no exception. I dreamed I had an accident in my car and the driver door was dented in. The door wouldn’t latch so I knew I had to take it in…..I was thankful it was only a dream. I also got to see my Grandmother’s sister Aunt Ella and my Aunt Esther. I got to hear them both talk and laugh for just a brief moment, but it was enough, it was enough that I will remember it throughout the day.

I also went swimming with my niece Lauryn and got to go to this big banquet buffet thing where perfect strangers were handing me a plate, showing me where all the food was. It was a bit like I imagine Heaven will be. Mom, Dad, my brother and Elaine also came to me in dreams last night. Dreams are so powerful and sometimes can be very comforting. It was quite a gathering of souls.

Speaking of souls, a friend reminded me that it is All Souls Day today. I had no idea.

It’s easy for us desert dwellers to be thankful this time of year, now that the temperatures are below the 100’s we can start to enjoy the outdoors again. I am so thankful for that, each time we make it through another summer we really feel like we have accomplished something.

So how about you? What things are you thankful for today?

Garland