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

No road-kill on the golden streets of Heaven

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It was laying there feet up by the fountain when I got home. E had called and said there was a dead pigeon in the garden and for some reason she couldn’t deal with it. This is the bravest woman I know. She wrapped up my foot when it was sliced all the way to the tendon and told me, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” She’d lived out in the patio room at 100 plus degrees so her Alzheimer’s stricken Mom could have her room. She’s also never met a vehicle she couldn’t operate no matter how big.

But from a young age, her Grandmother instilled in her a deep-seated reticence about touching birds: “They all have lice,” she remembers her saying.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized she must have meant a dove and not a pigeon; she gets them mixed up. She knows how I love doves, how I appreciate the backdrop of their cooing when I pray out in my shed. That’s why it made her sad.

I said, “I hope at least it was single…..not old enough to have a mate.” I have read they are one of the few animal species that mate for life; I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a romantic notion anyway and one that makes me appreciate the fact that you hardly ever see one dove without another by its side.

“Use the shovel!” she said. I didn’t listen. It was surprisingly weightless as picked it up. I wrapped in lovingly in a paper towel, much like my own Grandmother did when my parakeet Peppy died on her watch. She saved it for us for when we got back from vacation; lovingly preserved in a strawberry crate coffin covered with a paper towel for its burial shroud.

I can’t imagine what my Mom thought about that………..

As I gathered the little form in my palms, I said a prayer of thanks to God for its short but meaningful sojourn on the earth; for the joy that it gave with its song in the morning, and at the peaceful close of day. And again I marveled that there will be no death at all in Heaven, not any. You won’t find any road-kill on the golden streets of Heaven.

As I said the prayer, I thought of how I have always loved the Native American’s deep-seated appreciation and gratitude for animal life, and the humility with which they took a life, knowing that the animal had made a sacrifice to sustain their own preservation. They never took more than they needed and nothing was ever wasted.

God created all life, and it’s through His grace that we all live and move and have our being. By His word the Heavens and Earth and all living things came into existence. Let Heaven and nature sing His praise:

He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.

Psalms 104:19-21

I leave you with this Lakota prayer I found today……it’s a good meditation for it shows us how small we really are in the realm of creation, but also, how very loved we are. How thought of by God himself. Not a sparrow (or dove) falls to the ground without Him knowing…….

Oh, Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life
to all the world, hear me.

I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.

Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes,
so when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit will come to you without shame.

– Chief Yellow Lark, Lakota, 1887

The grace that leads us home

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Every now and then, when I think that maybe I’ve come to the end of my words; where I think I might even quit blogging, I have a morning like I had yesterday. For no particular circumstance or reason I could think of, I felt bouyant. I didn’t walk, I floated. I said, “Good Morning” to most everyone I saw and I really felt it. I looked in their eyes and I saw that my joy ignited something in them. It was infectious.

I call this feeling resting in God’s sweet spot. The Bible defines it as the “Hope” that lies within us. Hope with a capital “H.” He gives me those days, those moments when I least expect them, and that’s when I know that there is no possible way I could ever stop writing about it. The Bible says always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. This hope is what the world needs more than ever “………but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 1 Peter 3:15

When you are awash in gratitude you want to tell everyone why; so much so that you can’t keep it from flowing through your fingertips. It’s a natural reaction of the hope that comes from the assurance of knowing that ultimately, it’s Grace that will lead you home. Nothing can replace that sweetness. That hope gives way to torrents of gratitude that become the backdrop of a life walking hand in hand with our Savior.

As I went down to get coffee I thought, here I am all these years later in this good job where God has placed me when I had no clue what to do with my future. A small town girl with no degree who long ago had her life drastically rearranged by sorrow has now been here 18 years. All those times when I had to duck into the bathroom stall to pray, to even get in the door, he heard me.

It’s amazing how He’s provided for me. Even when I made bad decisions……veered wildly off His path, given way to fear, despair and worry. All along the way, He has been by my side. He has taken those little seeds of faith and watered them with my tears along His own mixed in and grown a garden path thats vibrant and rich.

It’s only with a little bit of distance that we can see that our road has truly been paved with grace. And it’s that grace that will lead us Home.

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It’s the fruit that the Apostle Paul talked about, the fruit we reap if we don’t weary and the knowledge that none of heartaches were in vain and that to your surprise is the knowledge that you’ve overcome the world right along with Jesus.

And He’s given me a best friend to laugh with, share with, walk along this path so I don’t have to go it alone. Someone whose own life has been paved with grace as well. The Bible places a high value on Godly friendship:

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (or sister). Proverbs 18:24

I am feeling this grace today, friends and I want to share it with you. Call upon the Lord today, and begin your day with gratitude. Before you know it, the counting with become a way of life that will stay with you no matter the circumstance.

 

Blooming thanks today

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So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
 
I had made a potato salad for Easter the night before. Then I got up the next morning sick. Bad sick. Sicker than I have been in about 6 years. E had gotten it before me and she was still down too. Easter came and went, and so did the day after. By the third day I felt a little bit like I had been in a tomb right along with Jesus. Well, not really but I felt like it.
 
I can’t say I was grateful to be sick, but I do remember thinking that I was grateful that it fell on my weekend and that I had three days to just lay down and be sick. Many people get sick and have young children to take care of, or their elderly parents. Or a job that they just can’t leave. And I remember being grateful for the fact that I had a nice soft bed to be sick in.
 
There was one night, however, where I didn’t feel very grateful. At…..all. I couldn’t sleep and the devil was really stoking up my fire in the ‘ol hot flash furnace, as well as chills from the flu and to top it off a headache right behind my eyes. I was whining, complaining to God. I….just….wanted…..sleep.
 
I recited the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm repeatedly, in between trips to the freezer for frozen water bottles. I tried visualization of still waters and green pastures dotted with sheep peacefully grazing. They blinked at me and went back to grazing.
 
As the hours ticked by I got mad. My prayers turned to whining as I lay there thinking about the coming summer heat and wondered how in the world I will ever get through five months of it. Sometime around 4:30 I fell asleep.
 
When I awoke I felt human again and filled with the kind of joy that feels almost impossible after feeling so bad just a few short hours before. Despite all my nighttime grumbling, God put His stamp of blessing on me for no good reason other than that fact that He loves me.
 
And now I am staring back down the week reflecting joyfully that I have reached my weekend once again. This weekend will be Easter for me, and really, isn’t every new day? As I stepped out to the car in the early dark the birds were already starting to sing, and as I drove down the freeway I was singing too.
 
I strolled through the big glass double doors with a spring in my step this morning because it’s the last day of my work week and once again, He has brought me through every challenge.
 
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
 
I’ve never thought much about the word “continue” in the verse above, but in the final analysis, continuing is what matters most of all. Especially when you are continuing with Jesus, not just as friend but Lord and God.
 
Depending on what you are going through, continuing can be a really hefty word. Sometimes just continuing feels nothing short of impossible. But when we take one step forward with hope in His strength. All things are truly possible.
 
Continue……in peace. With your hope firmly rooted in Him. In due time, He will reward you with joy.
 

No Soup for You!

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Seinfeld reigns supreme as king of comedies in my house. E and I recite lines from the show often, and anyone who has watched it for any length of time knows about the classic “Soup Nazi” episodes. We use the familiar line to describe just about anything, from parking spaces to disappearing leftovers, and various other missed opportunities.

It was especially apropos yesterday when we both realized the leftover turkey carcass had spent the night in the oven. It was one of those, “I thought you put it away,” moments. Suffice it to say, there will be no homemade turkey soup for me. Not from that turkey, anyway.

When you have animals in the house, cats that can jump anywhere, or very tall dogs that can reach to the back of the counter, you just learn you have to put things up. Ovens and microwaves are handy temporary places of storage, however, there is a reason someone coined the term, “out of sight, out of mind.”

There have been many food casualties down through the years, many of them made famous by Tyler, our family dog. I can’t count the leftover roasts, steaks, and turkey carcasses he has stealthily made off with, both at my folk’s and my brother’s house. He is an equal opportunist, that dog.

And If the leftovers didn’t find their way to his stomach, they perished by being left in the microwave or oven, trying to keep them away from him.

My brother brought Tyler home as a pup, an adorable mix of border collie and something else very, very tall.

His only flaw is his begging and extreme love of people food. He will go to any lengths to get it. He used to follow my niece around for hours, waiting for a single cheerio to drop. He has been such a very good dog in every other way though we tend to overlook it. Most of the time.

One of his claims to fame was the Christmas he waited for us all to leave the room so he could get at the cheese ball. We were only gone for less than five minutes and in that time, he had snatched it off the plate and consumed it whole without ever disrupting the perfectly arranged circle of crackers in the middle.

He only missed out on the crackers because we came back in the room.

Opportunity knocked for him a second holiday when he consumed the entire Thanksgiving turkey carcass that was left cooling on the counter. The entire carcass. Bones and all. They were scheduled to leave on vacation the next day and they were terrified the bones would tear his insides to pieces. The vet said to leave him there overnight and see what happened. He was fine. I am convinced his digestive system could handle anything.

That was pretty much verified when he consumed the entire box of baby laxative. And it didn’t faze him. Went right through without a hitch, not even a loose BM.

Food issues aside, he is a very good and loyal dog. You could ask him to do anything and he would do it if he possibly could. He chases the neighbor’s cats, but is a perfect gentlemen with all others in the family. He knows the difference. And like the rest of us, he is getting older. He’s pretty stiff and he hesitates awhile before he gets in the car, sometimes we have to help him in.

When I stay the night at my brothers, he is my morning partner. He goes with me out to the back forty where I drink in the first sounds of the morning with my first cup of coffee.

And when I go for a walk in the orchard across the street, he waits faithfully at the edge of the driveway until I am safely back.

This Christmas we will all spoil him with treats.

Because like us, he isn’t getting any younger and he won’t be around forever.

 

The Thankful Apostle

Christ our Passover.....

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

Part of my devotional reading was Paul’s conversion today, which I meditated on for the remainder of my prayer time, because once again, I was struck with the power of his story. Paul did not have an easy life once he started following Christ. In fact, Jesus pretty much promised that he wouldn’t as told to Ananias:

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15,16

And yet, with all that he indeed did suffer for the sake of the Gospel, the thing that stands out to me about the character of Paul is his overwhelming thankfulness. More verses are attributed to him regarding thankfulness and giving thanks than any other person in the Bible. Anyway, that’s how it seemed to me when I started counting them. Here are just a few:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 2 Colossians 2:6,7

…….always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

…….and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, Colossians 1:12,13

When I think about the life of Paul, I am overwhelmed at his capacity to abound in thanksgiving knowing all he had to go through. He never forgot what Jesus had saved him from. He had personally experienced God’s great mercy in sparing him. He never lost that. I hope I never do.

Lord, in the midst of all that I have, I am thankful first and foremost for the cross.

Without it, I would have nothing. Without what Jesus did none of this would mean anything.

You have given me a future and a hope. Help me to be a light to others.

Remove the scales from my heart and eyes so that I can love the way you love.

Amen

Job Changes: Moving out of comfort

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It was the year 2003 and I was sitting comfortably at my workstation up on the factory floor at the company where I had worked since 1996. I had settled into a somewhat comfortable groove having been at my current position for a year, but it was pretty stressful so I thought maybe I’d put in for a change.

There was an interest form floating around inviting people to transfer over to the neighboring site to work on a ramp up for a new technology. I thought maybe I’d fill it out.

After all, it was only an interest form, not a transfer. I filled it out and pushed “send” and off it sailed to the appropriate website for review. I had a momentary sense of unease which I shrugged off…….read the rest of story over here at Devoted Conversations where I have the privilege of sharing today!