Our hope is in the Lord

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After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

I barely watch the news anymore. And the opening MSN page that I hastily retreat from on my way to Facebook? I barely give it a glance. I don’t care about the Kardashian’s latest escapade, or what happened to Lindsey Lohan’s Mom. I scan the headlines to see if there is something I really need to know. I put my foot in the pond of world events and stay there long enough to know what is going on and then I get out. Looking around at our world today, it would be easy to cave in, to despair. To forget that there is still so much good.

I got to prayer late this morning. I allowed myself the luxury of going back to bed. Not to sleep, to read. I grabbed my cup of coffee and propped myself up on my pillows with two cats settled on either side and read all the way through to the end of “Odd Hours,” the fourth installment of the Odd Thomas book series by Dean Koontz. I felt the pressures of the week closing in and I wanted to close them out. I wanted to beat back time. I needed fiction. I needed to know that the terrible events happening in the book were just that, fiction. And that just maybe I would get a happy ending out of it.

I wasn’t disappointed. The bad guys died. Every single one. I needed that. I wanted to close the book and feel some relief that things are not nearly as bad in the world as the events in the book I just read.

Because all too often in real life the bad guys don’t die, or get caught, they thrive. They prey, they get away with murder. They steal from innocent people who are just trying to get through the day and keep what they worked so hard for. They show up at a Navy Yard and kill an innocent custodian among many others, who never failed to show up for work.  He was only doing his job. Like they all were.

Soon, we will have Obama care going into effect. It is something rich people and the politicians who pushed it through will not have to worry about. They will all have their own plans. They will not be bowed down with extra taxes if they fail to commit to a government plan. It’s the working people who will. We will be punished if we don’t buy into it. None of us asked for it, but we are getting it just the same. I don’t usually comment on politics on my site, because my hope doesn’t lay in any politician or world leader. Thank God.

And today, it hit me like a thunderbolt as I was coming home. It’s like I really got it. I knew why the early persecuted church found so much comfort in each other.

Where there is more turmoil in the world, there should be more love, more strength, more unity in the church.

We need to be reminded that our hope is in Christ and there is nothing we need to dread as long as we keep our focus on Him. That’s pretty much what my devotional said today and I needed to hear it.

Here is the last paragraph:

You inhabit a fallen, disjointed world, where things are constantly unraveling around the edges. Only a vibrant relationship with Me can keep you from coming unraveled too. Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

May this give you hope today, it does me. There is so much good still in the world. As long as we keep our eyes on Him, He will bring those things into our path and we will once again be recharged, renewed, imbibed with hope.

“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. Revelation 22:12

Love your neighbor but cut yourself some slack too!

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Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

“Hey you, there.

Gripping the steering wheel on the way to work, I see you. You with the heavy sack on your shoulders. You, trying so hard to love your neighbor that you forget to cut yourself any slack at all. I see you.

I see all the worries you try so hard to press down. I see how valiantly you get up and go out the door while I have yet to touch the sky with My dawn’s light. I see how you pray on the way to work, trying to beat back the panic attacks that come like flocks of black crows beating their wings in your heart.

I know how you worry about everyone, both the ones near, and the ones far away. I know that each day you fear a phone call. One that tells you they are in the hospital or they fell, or worse. You feel like if you could corral everyone in one place, you could control circumstances…..keep them safe.

I see how you place them in my care and take them back again.

I see how you coast to a stop in the parking lot as you draw a breath and heave that bag and juggle that traveler’s mug full of courage.

Drink from My cup of peace.

My child, in your haste to do right by everyone else, don’t forget yourself.

Sometimes we try so hard to love our neighbor that we forget all about ourselves.

photo source: creative commons, some rights reserved by remittancegirl, on flickr

The One Thing

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One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:4,5

I tossed and turned last night. Even my dreams seemed disjointed, unfinished. I always think of the Psalms when I feel turbulent like that. I find comfort in the fact that the writers must have felt just like us, more often than not. Something was causing a wrinkle in my peace. It was just one thing overriding all the others. Isn’t that how it is so many times.

You think, “If it weren’t for that co-worker.”

“If it weren’t for the problems with my son……my daughter…….my Mom…….my Dad.”

“If it weren’t for this addiction.”

You think if you could just get over that one hill that’s standing in your way of perfect peace and happiness then it would all be okay. But I am here to assure you, that as soon as that one thing is gone, another will crop up. The good news is that God can handle that one thing, right now today.

He might not remove it, but He can give you perfect peace about it. I know that, because I just prayed about my one thing this morning and He did what He promised, He removed it from front and center and put it in its rightful place, somewhere in the back of my mind. I can’t speak for later. I may have to pray that prayer all over again and it’s okay. I can do that.

Mind you, I didn’t pray for Him to remove it, I just prayed that I could find my peace in the midst of it. And I prayed for peace in it, just for today because that is all He has promised. He knows my mind, how it tends to skip ahead to the next days troubles and the next.

But like the manna in the desert, He promises enough for today and that’s all I ask.

This morning, I want to make my one thing the same as David’s. He was beset by trouble from every side and yet he knew the value of keeping his gaze fixed on the Lord. He knew God was His only real hope. He knew that gazing on Him wouldn’t make His troubles dissolve, but he know if he filled his mind with a beautiful vision of the future that he could stand strong today.

I pray that’s your desire today. Put that one thing, whatever it may be, squarely in the Lord’s hands.

He won’t disappoint you.

A Pinterest Lesson

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I wasn’t calm last night on Pinterest. Not calm at all. And I usually am. It’s my new favorite thing, but last night it all went sour. Sitting at the computer in the dark, I was glad my Mom couldn’t see me, because it would have confirmed her belief that computers and all things that are spawned from computers are straight from the pit of hell.

I was obsessed, you see. With that little empty board on the left that is the first thing I see when I open my Pinterest page. It’s the one that says, “Create a board.” And I don’t want it there. I want the first thing I see to be all my beautiful boards, not that sad empty one. It mars the landscape. And last night, I sat there frazzled, already beyond tired.

I couldn’t even move it down to the bottom.

It……was…..something……I……couldn’t……control.

The worst thing was that on every single profile I looked at? They didn’t have it. Their pages were all nice and pretty. Only their wonderful pins were there. What did they know, that I didn’t know? That is what was mocking me.

And the truth was, that was the real problem. I felt like I was alone. Like I was the only one in the world of Pinterest that didn’t know.

I felt like I was back in first grade and I could see myself sitting at my desk, struggling with math, as usual. It seemed everyone got it but me. I can still remember it, that day a classmate sauntered by. I can still see her face as she shook her head at me as she went up to hand her finished paper in.

I can still remember the day I had to stay after, again with math problems. Again in first grade. A classmate’s sixth grade sister came by and she was mad that I was crying, mad at the teacher for making me stay after.

That’s how I felt last night at the computer. Alone. And the devil taunted me, everyone knows but you. Everyone has the answer but you. As I crept off to bed, unsuccessful in my endeavors, Elaine snickered at me. “I am the only one that has it….” my voice trailed away and she smiled and shook her head. She knows how weird I am.

This morning I woke up groggy, not a very happy camper. I felt kind like this guy:

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I found him on Pinterest, of course.  

Carrying my lifeblood cup of coffee back into my room, I opened my devotional for today and God brought me to tears through it. This is what it said:

July 18th, by Sarah Young”
 
I AM NEARER than you think, richly present in all your moments. you are connected to Me by Love-bonds that nothing can sever. however, you may sometimes feel alone, because your union with Me is invisible. Ask Me to open your eyes, so that you can find Me everywhere. The more aware you are of My Presence, the safer you feel. This is not some sort of escape from reality; it is tuning in to ultimate reality. I am far more real than the world you can see, hear, and touch. Faith is the confirmation of things we do not see and conviction of their reality, perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.” 
 
And then? When I got to work I had a co-worker pull up her Pinterest profile and she had the empty pin too. And I didn’t feel so alone anymore.
 
You see, the problem, or what I perceived to be a problem was still there, it was just that now I had someone to share the burden. To make me feel less alone.
 
Even enjoyable things can be marred sometimes because all we see is the thing we don’t like. Not the hundred things of wonder all around us.
 
Pinterest learned me.
 
And even if the empty board taunts me until Kingdom come. I will be okay with it. I will.
 
 I think.

Stop, look and listen

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Oh Lord, as I sat and watched You grab your paintbrush and color the domed ceiling of Heaven once again, I was mesmerized by your beauty. I watched how the clouds caught the light and It happens just the same way every morning and it’s always a miracle because You have placed us here. Apart from Your will we would never draw a single breath.

The birds glory in the light with chorus, each one unique to themselves. Yet we still try to sing another’s tune without mastering our own. You say, “Sing the one I made you to sing and sing it well. That bit of glory is the bit of Heaven you came to earth with.” As the wind blows on a cinder and it glows bright orange, that’s our life when He places His Spirit within us.

I think of my puny worries that rise up along with the sun and I say, Lord, what about this, what about that? You say to each one, “I got that, and yeah, I got that one too.” If I can make this sky each and every day, why do you worry?

Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Matthew 6:25

There is so much unrest in the world today and we all feel it. It’s as if we are all collectively bracing ourselves for the next calamity……..we hold our breath, breathing shallow and rushing here and there and then we let it out when something causes us to stop in our tracks……a sunset….a child playing in a fountain….flowers waving in the breeze. 

Those are God’s stop signs. So today Lord, I will try to remember you have it all under control. I will stop, look and listen.

For you.

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When everything is hanging by a thread

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When your Dad calls and says, “Can you pray for me? I am having pain in my knee and back, and my good eye is giving me problems……just pray, please.”

Be still……

When there is yet another shake up at work and you wonder if this is the time……time to move back home.

Be still and know…..

When people have haven’t been a part of chaos for two years decide they want to make trouble?

Be still know and know that I am God….

When sore throats just don’t go away and you have  a fever blister the size of Texas? (Poor Elaine)

Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations…..

When a troubled son won’t talk…..

Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations…..I will be exalted in the earth.

And this, always this:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

All selections from Psalm 46

Linking up with Sandra for Still Saturday

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Thankful for the thorns

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I felt the panic rise and the riptide of the day starting as I awoke. I tamped it back down as it beat against me,  my heartbeat quickening as I glanced at the clock which read 3:40. I layed back down and willed the clock back 8 hours or so.  I sliced at it with the sword of the Word kept in my heart.

My cat sensed my stirrings and came up to nestle and I put my face in his fur and felt his purr, silly as it was it calmed me. The thought came: I should be over this kind of thing. But do we ever get totally at ease and comfortable in this life? And if so, then what do I need Him for?

You’d think I would be over this by now, this fear about meeting the day, but it still happens from time to time and I have the feeling I am not the only one.

We are bound to this earth until such time as these cords are cut and we fly back to our maker. Our real home. The one that every day I seem to glimpse a little more of. I think if we could catch one true glimpse of that life, we would never fear again, but God has given us the gift of faith which pulls us through and fills us with hope.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness'” a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time….Titus 1:1,2

Paul called his sufferings light and momentary afflictions.

He was beaten, thrown over-board, bitten by snakes, thrown in prison…….

Yeah, I can do this.

As the words to the song fill my car, my hands gripped the wheel as I counted the years in my head that Jesus has been walking with me……40 years with Jesus now, and shouldn’t I have this down pat?

But the answer came: Will there ever be a time to stop trusting, to stop learning, to stop leaning?

I hope that time never comes this side of Heaven.

Thankful for the thorn of my weakness today. Because every day it draws me closer. Nearer.

The Snow Day

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Tuesday night my little corner of the desert took a cue from the rest of the country and got uncharacteristically cold and gray. When dawn drew aside her curtain we were treated to a view that was almost Holy.

Snow had dusted the top of the Superstition Mountains…..and all day long my camera beckoned from its place on the shelf.

I needed to get closer to that view…..closer to God. I drove through rain-soaked drizzle and felt the snap in the air as I waited for the heater to kick in.

My spirit was bogged down with an anchor that held my heart fast, kept it from sailing free.

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And in this life isn’t there almost always a pain, a heartache, an issue, “a thing” to weigh down our hearts?  But I have learned one very important bit of wisdom in my time on this earth.

Really, you could say that it is one of the most important lessons to learn.

God is always there too, and He’s always bigger than the thing, whatever that thing  is.

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Sometimes, we just need to know that He remembers us down here; that’s how I found myself praying that day, as I drove.

Remember me Lord…….remember me as You remembered Noah, Moses and Abraham.

See this woman down here; this woman driving around getting lost looking for the perfect view of the mountain, the perfect view of You. One who worries about her family. Remember me as my pain blooms to life once again by something I see that reminds me of what used to be.

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And then somehow, a miracle does happen because it’s not only God remembering me, but me remembering God, and all the big things He’s brought us through before and I know He will again.

On days when we’d rather throw the covers over our head, what we need to do is swing our feet over the side of the bed and ask God what kind of miracle you and He are going to pull off together. It’s what I had to do this morning……

I remember You, God. And today I will set my sights on Heaven.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4

Of Planks and Beams

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I wasn’t going to go out to the prayer shed today…..it was gray and a bit chilly and I just ran out of propane in my little heater yesterday, so I lit a candle in the living room. But it wasn’t the same. The light in the sky drew me out anyway,  that’s a sacred part of the day and I hate missing it.

It wasn’t really that cold once I got out there, so I grabbed my coffee, lit my little lantern and settled in my chair.

It felt right…….I need the separateness of my “closet.”

I thought about the conversation I was going to have soon. It is inevitable. I thought about all the ways it could go, what I will say, working it all out in my mind. It’s always so hard when it’s someone you love. But it’s for love’s sake that I must have it.

I will trust the Holy Spirit with my words. He speaks way better than I ever could.

I opened my Bible and it fell to the part where Jesus is talking about beams and specks and sawdust depending on which translation you read, and He’s not talking about construction. So today, I am working on my beam…..the one that gets lodged in my own eye from time to time. I am making sure it’s cleared out before I start looking for specks somewhere else.

I will post about Haiti tomorrow, but this was fighting its way out and it had to come first.

Until then, Jesus and I will be working on my beam together.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

Wearing ashes on my heart

Confession

I love the idea of getting “Ashed” for Ash Wednesday. I wish my protestant church would start doing it. I guess I could find a Catholic church on my break, but I probably won’t. If I were really honest I would have to say a bit of me would be embarrassed to wear that smudge all day. I am afraid people would be coming up to me all day saying I had something on my face. I guess that means I need to wear them more than anyone.

I am not going to give up anything specific, but I am going continue to try leaving more and more of myself at the foot of the cross.

I will willfully try not to be a ball of anxiety most of the time. At any given time, my left eye will start to twitch…..that is a sure sign that I need to improve in this area. As Elaine tells the kids on her bus over and over again, anger is a choice, so is anxiety.

I will continue to stumble along the Way carrying my own small cross to calvary. I will  fail and I will fall, and when I get there I will  leave things at its foot and then turn around and snatch them back up again. But I will most definitely keep on going, with my eyes on the hope of the empty tomb.

I have recently started reading the Bible through in a year. I am using the YouVersion on my IPhone, Old Testiment/New Testament plan. So far I like reading both side by side for the contrast. I am wading through Exodus…..endless sacrifices, endless rules, endless geneologies. I find myself skimming through it and yet I know it is all there for a reason. I am comforted by the human element in all the stories.

I love when Moses tries to get out of going to fetch back the Israelites from Egypt….I love the exchanges between He and God, how he tries to wear God down, and how God in his infinite love and mercy, finally gives Moses a concession by allowing Aaron to be his spokesman.

And then in Matthew, when Jesus tells Peter that He will be killed there and Peter recoils in horror. The thing that struck me about that was Peter was so focused on Jesus’ death that He doesn’t even take note of the fact that Jesus also said that in three days He will rise.

Just like all of us, focusing on the ashes of death, the big negative and completely skipping over positive, the happy ending to the story.

The Resurrection hope that belongs to us all.

Keep your ashes close today, wherever you wear them.

Blessings and peace to you today, Lori