Resurrection in the Desert

There was a chill in the air this morning that sparked a feeling of being awakened to new life. It conjured all kinds of memories of fall and the holidays and warm socks and pumpkin pie and sugar cookies at Christmas, and Bach playing while fire-colored leaves twist and fall like rain to the earth. There were a few days earlier this fall where it was chilly, but we knew those times were flukes fashioned to tease us, because we still had a few triple digits to come after.

Now, however, the chill and the hope are real because we know that the monstrous heat is gone, having released its death grip on us until next year.

While most of America turned their clocks back, our clocks remained steadfastly fixed where they were. Arizona is one of a few rebel states that doesn’t participate in daylight savings time. There is a little self-satisfied pride that comes with this I think. A kind of thumbing our nose at everyone else, because it’s the one little independence we still have to separate us from the status quo. Maybe that’s just me.

 This morning I walked in the dark with a sweatshirt, a welcome change. Fall here means that life begins again. Winter visitors come back and spruce up their yards and repairs are made to bicycles and fireplaces and BBQ’s alike spark to life. Everyone comes outside.

Advent feels closer. Even saying it conjures peace. Soon I will put my little Christmas tree in the shop so I can have my quiet time with its cheery brightness sparkling from the little shelf where it shines to remind me of when Christ came near, when He touched down on this earth so long ago. And how He prays for me from the depths of the unapproachable Light of Heaven even at this moment.

Yes. It’s good, this time of year.

We Arizonans know it maybe more than most.

I turned Christmas music on today but it felt like betraying Thanksgiving, so I settled for some David Nevue on Pandora. It fit.

Meet me at the Cross

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One of the most unifying factors of our Christian faith is the simple knowledge that we’re all failures at it. And directly on the heels of that thought comes another, that God loves me anyway. That failure, that weakness, after all is what drives us again and again to the cross. He has promised that He will never leave us. He’s there in the morning and He’s there at night when I whisper my thoughts before welcoming the great eraser that is sleep.

I am reading Madeline L’ Engle’s book, “The Irrational Season.” In it, she describes how against the backdrop of her faith there is doubt and anger at times at why God would seemingly direct and allow evil things to happen, and yet in the midst of that doubt and anger is the bright ring of hope and assurance that yes, God does know exactly what He is doing, even if she doesn’t always understand His ways.

God is not surprised or threatened by our doubt or our anger because it’s also that same doubt and anger that is also an expression of our faith, for you can’t doubt someone you don’t believe in in the first place. You can’t be mad at someone who is not there.

The fact that we are driven again and again to the cross allows no room in our faith for pride. You can know the Bible backwards and forwards, but until you find yourself driven to your knees in humility at the misery of our human weakness, you will be separated from the world, the people whom Jesus most wants us to help.

One of the most confounding and misunderstood paradoxes of our faith is that even though we fail, even though we are weak, God still considers us Holy. When He looks at us, He sees us washed in the robe of righteousness because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. That should not make us proud, it should make us more humble. That God would grant us with the stamp of His approval by indwelling us with His Holy Spirit is a staggering thought that must never get old. Our faith and the miracle of it, should never be old hat.

We should wake up each day in astonishment that He has forgiven us yet again. And yet, time after time, I have taken that fact for granted……stepped over it on my way to something I feel is more important. That is why I feel so strongly about giving God the first few moments of our day. It’s a way to say and acknowledge all over again that yes, I am grateful beyond measure for the grace I never deserved.

The Apostle Paul perfectly describes our imperfect weakness here: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24,25

Are you going through something today that is an extreme test of your faith? Right now, stop what you’re doing and hear God say: “What part of always do you not understand?” Remember when your parents used to say, “What part of no do you not understand?” God has promised never to leave or forsake us and He never will.

Love is in His limits, for He gives us exactly what we need to know in the Scriptures, the rest we must take on faith.

I get like the Israelites wandering in the desert, complaining and grousing despite the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night. Instead, all I can see are the hordes of people contentedly settled in the land He has already promised me. I used to blame them, I used to say, “I would have believed God if I had seen those signs.” God smiles and says, “No you wouldn’t.”

Because if I really and truly had a perfect faith, I would look back at all the times in my 56 years that He has provided for me and never failed to be there for me, and that fact would erase every last fear. And yet, I can truly say that I am getting closer to the goal than I was before.

“but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

A Simple Something

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We all want just one thing and it’s not a hard thing to give. It’s easy in fact. We all want to be remembered. Being remembered after we’re gone is okay, its good to honor those who have passed and keep their memory alive, but I think being remembered in the right here and now is even better. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just a simple “thank you” at the right moment can turn the tide of someone’s day.

While on several of my walks between here and the five states we visited I found several markers in different places. I always like to acknowledge these remembrances because someone took the trouble to remember and hope that we would too.

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This life is hard and many times we don’t remember and acknowledge the ones we should; we don’t have to look too far to see that there is someone pouring love into our days, a million little things add up. And a million little things that aren’t acknowledged or brushed aside adds up to a heavy weight of discouragement after a while.

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Remember someone today………

And know my friend that God is always remembering you. He remembered you while on the cross and He remembers you still, every waking minute of this life. You never need to feel alone, just turn towards Him and whisper a prayer, or just simply say His name. There is power in it.

 

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And remember, a simple something is all it takes, the grasp of a hand, a grasp around the shoulders slumped with fatigue of fighting battles, a thank you.

All of these are ways of saying, “I remember you and what you did……..and I will never forget.”

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Lent Day #6: Living with Loss

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Part of being human is actively living each and every day with a certain amount of loss. We carry it about like an anchor. It’s like paddling around in a boat that we know is leaking, taking on more water, more loss with each passing day. We look at that picture and it hurts to see the smile, we only feel the pang of passing years too many. More water, more loss.

We get so used to it we don’t realize just how much we are taking on until it gets to the alarming level and now it’s chilly and covering our legs.

It’s crucial now to do something.

At first glance it seems there are only two choices, we either bail faster or give up to despair. There is a third and best answer and that is to find the repair kit to fix the leak. God is the repair kit. Not only can He fix the leak that enables us to stay afloat, He can also repair the damage that was caused by the taking on excess water. He can take our pile of losses.

We don’t have to let our bad choices, past regrets, missed opportunities and the loss of so many people we held dear completely overwhelm us. Satan loves nothing better than to taunt us with all that. To get us to focus on how badly we screwed up, and how there is nothing we can ever do to fix it. To get us to dwell on everything we don’t have instead of everything we do have……right here and right now.

During this Lenten season, try to be still and listen to what God wants to say to you.  Let Him quiet your fears. The loss has happened and it will continue to happen, but the Holy Spirit can fill that sorrow flooding your heart and tearing down your soul.

And each day we live, He is actively working toward our healing. The culmination of which will be complete perfection when at last we stand before Him. Jesus lived His whole life in the shadow of the cross, yet He didn’t waste a single moment dwelling on it.

He loved, he laughed, he healed. He knew the end of the story. And it was the happiest ending this world has ever seen or will ever see. And we can be part of it!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Hallelujah, Anyhow!

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Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;

Tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;

Seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham. Psalm 105:1-6

Yesterday I wandered prayerfully throughout the day, I harbored a spirit of sadness, weighed down by sharing some burdens. All morning I prayed for the right words and they still somehow fell short. But I guess loving someone means you try anyway and hope they appreciate the love behind the words. When you are helpless to help someone, you have to rest in the notion that God loves them all more than you do.That’s why I can be grateful no matter what. And that doesn’t mean we never feel sad or angry, but it does mean that in our hearts we carry an inward attitude of gratitude, knowing each minute, each breath we take is loaded with grace.

If we say we are believers, we not only can, we must. The Israelites biggest failure as they wandered in the desert was failure to remember what God had done for them in the past. They grumbled about the manna, they missed the spices they had in Egypt. They forgot the miracles, astounding ones, that brought them there.

And don’t we do the same thing? We focus on what we don’t have. But the truth is, if we say we are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can’t afford to forget what He has done and continues to do for us, each and every day.

If we are a believer, gratitude must be sown into the very fabric of our soul for its the hallmark of our faith. Without gratitude, our faith lacks power. If we can’t have gratitude in any circumstance, we have forgotten how far God has already brought us.

Last night I put on my pajamas at 6:00. I was ready to close out the day. But I was grateful I could do that, some people don’t have that luxury. And today, I am coming down with a cold. Hallelujah Anyhow! I get to spend the day with E who is home today for Veteran’s Day. That’s a blessing right there.

This morning the hot coffee feels good on my throat. God has given us another beautiful day in the desert. I will continue to highlight lines in the book I got for 40 cents at the library, Brennan Manning’s “Ruthless Trust” (I know the Holy Spirit put this in my hands) Brennan says:

The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness. Gratitude arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all of life as grace–as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father’s hand.

This morning I walked out to empty the trash and the sky was brilliant blue. It’s the kind of morning where the weather itself makes you want to belt out that song from Oklahoma, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…….” I would only change one line in the song because in our yard, it’s not the corn that’s as high as an elephant’s eye, it’s the okra!”

Peace to you today, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Walk in gratitude with me today. Thinking of those who died to give you freedom, both on earth and in Heaven!

My Birthday is not about me, (not entirely anyway)

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People probably wonder why I make a big deal out of Birthdays. Mine and everyone else’s. It’s simple really. It’s because my birth along with everyone else’s on earth is a bit of a miracle. The fact that someone wanted me here kind of blows my mind every single day, and my enthusiasm mingled with wonder and a little bit of awe doesn’t seem to be waning as the years go by.

If you are here reading this post, it’s because first and foremost, God wanted you here. You are of great worth to Him, you and your life!

To let my Birthday slide by as just another day is simply not acceptable, and it bothers me a little when grown adults say they don’t celebrate their Birthdays. Celebrating the day of our birth is a way of honoring God; it’s our acknowledgment that we’re grateful to be here; that we’ve made it this far as the song says, “through many dangers toils and snares.” Yes, especially as the years roll on.

When I think of all the impossible beauty I would have missed if I’d never been born and what beauty I have left to see, it fills me with gratitude that I’ve been given so much; and eternity stretches before me like a vast wonderland I have yet to explore. Yes, this is a thing to celebrate. Apparently God thinks it’s a big deal too:

Psalm 71:6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.

Psalm 139:13
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 148:5
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created ……

Proverbs 4:10
Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.

Proverbs 9:11
For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

Ecclesiastes 11:8
However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.

Isaiah 46:4
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

1 Corinthians 11:12
For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

James 1:18
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

So today I will have cake and ice-cream and I will celebrate like a kid. And I won’t refuse any gifts. Celebrate with me today, won’t you? I give you permission. Join me in opening your eyes to the beauty all around us. If you have a porch, go out there with a bowl of ice-cream and enjoy the view. Share a coffee and dessert with someone you love. Eat that forbidden thing you never allow yourself to. Give someone a little unexpected gift. Unwrap the wonder with me today.

Because really, there is something to be thankful for every day.

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” Thomas Merton

Dear Reader: I prayed for you today……..

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“If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men–you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.”   Thomas Merton

I have found this to be somewhat true and the last sentence made me smile because that is classic Thomas Merton. In prayer this morning, I asked God what I should write about and I felt Him whisper that I needed to thank everyone who has ever taken an interest, read or followed my little blog at one time or another. So this is it. My thank you to you readers. It is extremely humbling to think someone takes interest enough to follow and it is my desire that in doing so, you will know the God I have come to love more.

That you will look in the mirror and see a wonderful reflection of Him, because if you are here, it’s because He wanted you here and He loves you and is interested in every detail of your waking and sleeping life. I also said a prayer for you, even if you don’t believe in prayer or have never prayed yourself. I think people like to know that someone is praying for them, even if they are not “prayers” themselves.

So please know today, as you board that commuter bus, train, car, as you take the first sip of your latte……someone is thinking of you. Praying for you.

And my prayer is that you might feel a little less burdened today.

Look up and feel God’s love rain down on you, and know that I appreciate you dear reader. Embrace your day today, see God wherever you turn, because He is there. See Him today as reflected in nature, the light and innocence of your child’s eyes, the sunrise, the birds that sing the day awake.

You are loved.

We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:19 NLT