Tuesday, December 25, 2012


It is a few moments away from Christmas day as I write this.  The house is quiet - and she who lives under  the bed has come out for awhile to be sociable.  If the legend of the animals was true, where they can all speak at midnight on Christmas Eve, I would ask her what the deal is - but since I have  a normal average run of the mill cat, I will just guess.

I have been pondering my word for 2013.  It has become my custom to pick a word to govern my thoughts for the year.  Last year, 2012 was "teachable" - and I concentrated on learning all He laid before me, trying to see the lessons in my days.  I've been prayerfully considering my focus for 2013, and the winner is:

(drum roll, please)                               "to life!"

I want to concentrate on everything from the smallest of joys to the most gigantic of crises.  I want to see and experience Life with Him, noticing the smallest of lessons.  Making it through the pain in His grace, shouldering the sorrows that are inevitable, enjoying each day as it comes.

This past year was, for me, painful physically and emotionally.  Yet He was watching over me - and I learned that I needed to rest in His promises - to trust in His words to me - to live in the moment.

There are several physical problems that are worrying my doctor.  I think she takes it personally when my illness starts taking tolls she never foresaw - but how could she?  My life is not in her hands - it is in His hands.  And if He so chooses, things will get worse, or they will get better.  I am losing my hearing, and possibly my eyesight, and my kidneys are not up to snuff.  Some laser repairs on my eyes are on the horizon, and my hearing loss is very irritating to the people closest to me.  Happily, they laugh with me when I repeat what I think I heard - sometimes is it far from what was really said!  But I've noticed when I watch my church's services via Internet (ccgreenvalley.org) I hear every word.  And so I do have things to celebrate, thanks to His mercy.

I have been thinking about that first Christmas so long ago.  The town of Bethlehem was a dusty little hamlet in that day, packed to the gills with travelers for the census.  It is still a dusty little hamlet to this day, swollen from time to time with pilgrims come to see "the cave" - now with a silver star overlaying the place where Jesus was born (on white marble, no less).  I have to laugh to see the elaborate changes made in that cave - Mary wouldn't recognize it!

I prefer to imagine it as it was 2000 years ago.  How tired and in pain she must have been from the long travel on the back of a donkey! How desperate Joseph must have been to find a place to stay to give her relief!  How confusing was it for Messiah, the coming King, to apparently be birthed in a stable.  Was Mary's heart envisioning a palatial birth up to the last minute?  For money and warmth to suddenly spring forth, assistance at the birth, a place in a palace to rest up?  And then at the purification to hear that a sword would pierce her heart someday.  Was that a literal sword, she must have wondered?  Or symbolic of some great sorrow?  She didn't know - nobody ever explained details to her.  She just bowed her head and submitted to the Lord, keeping these things in her heart.

After giving birth in a stable she must have wondered what other surprises awaited her!

And what of the mighty Pharisees?  When the Magi arrived a couple of years later and shook up Herod, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  The Pharisees told him Bethlehem.  5 miles away.

Right next door.

Did they even bother to look?  Supposedly they were awaiting Messiah themselves.  If someone came asking where He was, and I was waiting for Him, I think I would have gone 5 measly miles to see Him.

They didn't stir a muscle.  That tells me their attitude was locked in already.  They had no intention of supporting any messianic disturbances that could take away their power.  Power and pomp was what they lived for - don't bother them with details.  They'll take care of any messiahs when they have to.

And so they did.

5 measly miles.

I ask myself, how far would I have gone?  Would I have ignored the news, afraid of Herod's revenge if he thought I was shifting my allegiance?  They used to say it was safer to be Herod's pig than his relative - the pig was unclean so he left it alone.  His family aroused his suspicions - and once suspicious of someone, they were goners.

I've always wondered what Jesus thought of the world He created - and when He realized Who He was.  His communication with His Father must have begun as soon as He was able to understand.  Was he 5? 10? 13 and ready to be Bar Mitzvahed?

Did He know the details?  Or was it slowly unfurled before Him with the passage of time - the form of death He would endure? The suffering it entailed?  The betrayal by a friend?  With a kiss, no less!

These are all questions without answers for the moment.  But they leave a lesson of sorts with me: do I put off going to find Him - when He is a heartbeat away, not 5 miles?  All I need to do is call that Name, and He is here.  How much effort do I put in to know Him better?

Those questions do have answers - and I will be using my new word-of-the-year to explore them.  Endeavoring to lead my Life in larger than life sized letters; trying to experience Him in any way possible.  Walking through Life with Messiah, the Creator, my Savior.

"To Life!" "L'Chaim!"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where was God?

The whole world mourns with Sandy Hook CT today.

The homes of the children and the adults who perished echo with their absences.  The heart will forever long to hear, just one more time, those voices - their laughter, their nonsense. The words "I love you."

Even  the endless questions little ones can come up with.

Just one more time.

Well, today, we are the ones left with the questions.

I wonder what horrors and inner torture could drive someone only 20 years of age to do something like this.

I do not, however, wonder who gave him the idea.

I have noticed, over and  over, how the evil one loves to harm children.

And then I think of my Lord Who said, "Suffer(allow) the little children unto Me."  His arms were - and still are - open to all little children.  And when faced with such horrors we all, regardless of chronological age, become little children.  I know I needed to crawl into my Poppa's arms and cry.

The words that came out surprised me in a way.

I was crying "O Lord, forgive us!"

Forgive us for shutting You out.  Forgive us for endlessly demanding our "rights" - our right to kill unborn babies.  Our right not to be responsible for ill parents.  Our right to ignore You, to push You away, to demand You leave our civil life. Our right to teach children "situational ethics" instead of right and wrong.  Our right to absolutely state there are no absolutes.  Our right to do as we please - even when we know it is morally questionable or outright wrong. Our right to hold other people's lives cheaply.  Our right to defame the One Who holds each breath in His hand.  Our right to blaspheme and ridicule the Creator of all things.  Our right not to be restricted by "religion" or - horror! - have to look upon a cross or a creche in a public place.

Our strident cries of "How dare you judge me!"  "I don't believe there is a God."  "Separation of church and state!" echo through the universe.  (The Amendment was  actually made to insure there would be no government interference with the practice of religion - like, say, forcing churches to provide money for abortions against their beliefs.)

But we can look upon pornography - even porn that destroys little children.  We can watch movies with explicit sex and language that would have caused our parents and grandparents to turn crimson with shame (but then, what did they know?  They were so dumb they believed God created them, not primordial slime and a lightning strike)

And then we demand with shrill voices (when a Sandy Hook or a 911 occurs,) "How could a loving God allow this to happen?  How can God be good if He allows people to do such evil things? Where was God?"

Well, I can tell you where God was.

God was right there, not infringing on your rights .

God was honoring your strident demand:  "Thou shalt not rule over me."

And He was crying.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The simple elegance of grace

Looked up the definition of grace and it is "simple elegance or refinement of movement".  This, of course is the "secular" definition.

But it fits the "unmerited favor" of the spiritual definition as well.

The movements of God in my life have, truthfully, always been movements of simple elegance.  He blasted His way into my life in a way that was elegantly simple.  The difference He made is the difference between unsullied Light and unenlightened darkness. Black and White.  Elegant. Crisp.  Refined.  And, may I add, vivid.

If is as if He took a black and white painting - simple elegance - and added color in delicate hues, now pastel, now gloriously iridescent, now distilled and pristine.  Nuances galore - that refinement of movement coming into play.

And all of it unmerited favor.

I have been meditating a lot on gratitude and being thankful - not just for things, but for people and places and everyday miracles - like eyes that see, lungs that work, a heart that beats.  I've been reading a 21 day gratitude challenge and it's been illuminating as well as spiritually edifying (there's that refinement of movement again).  The author maintains that our emotions follow what we purpose in our hearts to do.  If we maintain that we will be grateful, darkness lifts and self-pity can be conquered.  It's not a snap-your-fingers type of thing, but a spiritual battle - a simple elegance of the soul that rightfully proclaims that each beat of the heart is a gift of grace. Why 21 days?  That's how long it takes to form a habit. She suggests journaling gratitude in 3 areas : physical, spiritual, and relational - and suggests sending a thank you note via snail mail to one person each of the 21 days as ways to fight self-pity, discontent,  and - in my case - complaints about physical pain or aches.  To consciously fight the darkness with the light of His presence; as the Psalmists says, "We enter in with praise and thanksgiving".

Simple elegance.

I'm discovering that God's ways are just that.  Simple to grasp, elegant in their ease of understanding.  But my efforts at actually doing them are far from being refined movement.  More like fits and starts and falling over, getting up and dusting off the feeling of failure, and going at it again.

I was raised in a religion of fear - one mortal sin and the trap door to hell opened.  When Jesus bought me out of the slave market it took me awhile to realize all my future sins as well as past sins were already paid for.  Jesus taught me that He knew before He chose me exactly how much darkness and sinful ways lurked in the recesses of my soul - and still He chose me from before the foundation of the world.  All of my failures  and fits and starts and tripping in the mud, falling hither and yon were nailed to the cross.  What was important to Him was that I continue to get back up, confess it and repent, (washing off all the caked on mud,) and begin again on the narrow way.

Simple elegance.  Unmerited favor.  Refinement of movement.

Now, I cannot claim that "refinement of movement" stuff for my own yet, and  I think "simple elegance" will only be conferred upon me when I reach Home. But all three of those terms certainly fit my King.

So, I'm trying to form that new habit.  I have "thankfulness journaled" in fits and starts for awhile now, but not trying to hit all three categories every day.  I'm trying to be "present" with Him in the Word, in prayer, in gratitude.  To consciously realize that I am truly and actually in the Presence of the King of Kings, the Creator of the universe, the Savior of my soul.  And, for at least the next 21 days, I will journal with intent.

In a simply elegant refinement of movement, I will chronicle the unmerited favor in my life, one day at a time.

Care to join me?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

the first day of December

The first day of December always calls to me.

Time to sweep the stable clear of any impediments to the entry of the Child.  Am I harboring a grudge - unforgiveness towards someone?  Have I been judging anyone? Need to ask forgiveness?  Hiding some secret sin?  Allowing my heart to grow as cold as the bitter winds of winter?  Slacking off on the Word?  Skipping prayer?  Trying to clean myself up instead of bowing before Him and accepting His grace and forgiveness?  Allowing fear to rule me instead of faith.?

Someone shared a blurb on the web that brought me up short.  It said " Faith is the bridge between where I am and where God is leading me."

I found great wisdom in that little blurb.  As one who always seems to fight God's leading, leaving black heel marks on my Christian walk where He has had to drag me from one place to another, trust always seems hard for me.  Correction: recognizing God's hand in irritating places is more the problem.  Once I know He is in something (which should be recognized all the time!) I can take a deep breath and step off the cliff, trusting in the Everlasting Arms that are underneath me.  It's the recognizing part that throws me every time.

Why is it so hard for me to see His hand in the unpleasant/painful/irritating circumstance?  While I was still working, God moved my comfortable office to an uncomfortable office, working with a doctor I had difficulty relating to.

Hidden in that office was a Christian sister bereft of friends she trusted, in a hostile office environment.  We have been friends for over 20 years now.

Another time I had hurt my back and had to be on light duty.  I was moved to a tiny corner of an office worker's small office - and discovered not only another sister, but one who was a kindred spirit as well, and has been as close as an "official" sister to my heart for the last 30 years.

The only situation I recognized was my illness - and that probably because it was so serious I knew it was too big for me to handle!  I watched Seas galore part to allow me thru on dry ground, obstacle after obstacle removed from my path, blessing after blessing showered upon me.

So why haven't I learned?  Why do I still fret and gnash my teeth and froth at the mouth when something "small" disrupts my daily walk?

And why do I not recognize that with a God as Awesome as ours, they are all small?

This month will be full of hustle and bustle, hither and yon stuff.  For once, with my King;s help, I am purposing in my heart to lay it all at His feet - the small stuff as well as the gigantic stuff that immediately drops me face down before Him.  To take the irritation to Him. To take the daily hassles and arrows of hurt feelings and dark days to the One Who filtered each hurt feeling and hassle and arrow through loving hands.  It seems to me that our Papa loves to teach us through less than comfortable situations.  Somehow the pain seems to insure the lesson will be remembered.  And it reminds me that Jesus learned obedience "through the things He suffered."

After 20 years delivering babies, the Nativity holds great meaning for me.  I often think of the One Who cast aside His crown to be born a baby - to open His eyes for the first time not in a pampered palace nursery but in a cold stone trough, to get His first human-sized view of the world He had come to save.  A newborn is a sponge, soaking up every sound, every sight, learning from that first breath on, contrary to popular thought.  Newborns mimic facial expressions, begin babbling in vowel, accent and consonant sounds of their particular language, and come complete with behaviors designed to induce bonding: grasping fingers, focusing on black dots on white backgrounds so they establish eye contact immediately.   To facilitate this, they instinctively turn their heads to the right, whether they are right or left handed.  Since most people are right handed, they will most likely be held in the left arm - and when they turn their faces to the right, they will find eye contact.and, when combined with the rooting reflex, a source of nourishment.  All finely tuned behaviors our Father designed for His children.  Eye contact and touch are as necessary as food to the newborn,  Deprived of them they cannot process foods correctly. and find themselves swallowed by a syndrome known as, simply, " failure to thrive."

I think of how this birth-in-a-stable scenario must have confused Mary and Joseph - how could the Messiah not be born with pomp and fanfare?  How they must have wondered what the heck was going on - and felt shamed by how little they could give to this Amazing Child.  Did they miss a signal somewhere?  Surely God didn't mean for Messiah to be poor!  Why was life such a continual struggle when the King of all the earth had been entrusted to their care?  Their offering in the temple was two doves - a provision for the very poor to offer.  And soon there would be at least 6 more children - four brothers are named in Scripture, plus a mention of "sisters", plural, so there were more than one.  At least 7 children, including Jesus, would have to be provided for - plus a hasty trip into Egypt and then a move back to Israel.  The visit of the Magi (nowhere does it say three, nor does it call them "kings") provided an easily transported source of funds as well as prophetic gifts to the small family (Jesus is estimated to have been around two years old @ the time of their visit.) I can't imagine how confused they must have been - nothing would have made sense according tot the world's way of doing things.

And somehow, the world's way of doing things had gotten mixed up with the ways of the Israelites - so much so that rich people were considered to be special to God, no doubt holy.  By the same reasoning, the poor must be epic sinners or God would bless them with money.  So this Child King could not be the Messiah according to their thinking, He must be the child of some pretty horrible sinners (never ending whispers followed Him about how Mary got pregnant before she was married, thus the Pharisees would never lose their condescending attitude towards Jesus).

I have always wondered how the Pharisees could know Jesus had raised several folks from the dead and not recognize Someone with some pretty heavy credentials.  They couldn't deny the miracles - even the thugs they sent to arrest Him were thrown to their knees when Jesus answered their identification query with "I am"
And then He picks up the ear Peter chopped off and heals the guy - imagine it!  Blood spurting all over his tunic, one second screaming in pain, the next all healed up (I bet there wasn't even a scar!) - and still the guy roughly arrests Jesus!

I sit with open-mouthed amazement when I get to those parts in the Gospel.  How is it possible?

And then I look at those black heelmarks on my Christian walk.  How I so rarely recognize His hand while something is happening.  It's only when I have the distance of time and the Holy Spirit's ministering that I can make sense of what I see,  They didn't have the Holy Spirit leading, interpreting, guiding like I do.  And even with all that, I still miss the point so often in my life.  I truly depend on His mercies being new every morning. I draw great comfort in the fact that underneath are the everlasting Arms, and Romans 8:28 is a word I cling to.

And finally I connect the dots and realize that this is exactly why the Babe had to be born - and die for my sins, and the sins of the world.  Because we are so very dense when faced with circumstances not to our liking.  Because without the Holy Spirit living in us, leading and teaching us, opening our eyes, we would be without hope.

And hope is what that little Baby signified. "The hopes and fears of all the years."  They met in the little town of Bethlehem, one night long ago. And because of that, "whosoever will" may choose to actually meet the Creator of the universe, to be indwelt  by the Holy Spirit, and spend eternity in the presence of God.

Just think of it! What an Awesome God we serve!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hungry for more of Him

I have been in excruciating pain the last 2 days.  There were times when the only thing I could do was to say His Name over and over - and I believe in the power of that Name.

The pain has finally left me - with the knowledge that it will come again.  Someday.  Prayerfully, not soon.

There is something about physical pain that is exhausting.  It finally left me about 1 am - I fell on my bed so exhausted.  I could do nothing more than turn out the light - and awoke 3 hours later to find I was on top of the bedcovers, not underneath them.  I had thought to only rest for a bit before actually getting into sleeping position.

And yet, if given the choice, I would gladly choose the physical over the mental.

I have dear friends who suffer from the mental part.  One has bi-polar disease, and is often tempted by the lie of sweet oblivion with suicide - but His ownership of her body and life prevent that false solution.  Another friend battled for years to surface after a lifetime of verbal and physical abuse - the verbal from both of her parents, the combined ferocity of both from her husband.  Another is fraught with an uneasy feeling as fall approaches, as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) causes her to struggle through the depths of winter.  She once descibed it as wearing a sack over your head.  You know it's there; other people tell you it's there; but there is nothing you can do about it.

And another friend who recently found he could fight the sack no longer, and he ended it himself.  The crush of guilt and sadness he left behind for those who loved him is an unimagineable horror.

I have seen their suffering, doubts, pain and sadness up close and personal.  They come often to my prayers - and I rejoice to see their victories when they come.  But I'll take my physical extremities any day - and thank God He has not called me to mental anguish.

God has had me "stumble onto" a life-changing book recently.  It is called "Sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus" by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, both gentile.  They have studied the background of first century Judaism and place the words of Jesus in that setting - and a light turns on.

I have a great love for the Jewish people.  Having been blessed with a trip to Israel, it changed my life in a big way.  This book does the same.

To the observant Jew, God is everywhere.  Every moment of the day, from awakening to eating to working to sleeping has a blessing attached to it.  It makes Paul's admonition to pray without ceasing an interesting thought.  He may have been referring to this practice.

Seemingly a plethora of memorized prayers recited rote, it is nothing at all like that.  The prayers are memorized because they have seen and heard both mama and papa saying them from the time they can first remember.  But they are also taught that saying the blessings without being aware of Whom you are praying to is worse than useless; it is insult.

Each prayer begins with a reminder of Who He is:  "Baruch atah Adonai Eluheneu Melech ha'olam.." Blessed Art Thou, Lord God, King of the Universe... and they continue with something like "Who has caused grain to be grown on the Earth" to celebrate having food on their table.  The day begins with thanking the Creator for keeping their soul in their body for one more day, and continues with every opportunity.

I fear sometimes that Christianity has made us less aware of the Whom when we pray - the amazing privilege of praying to Someone Who bids us call Him "Papa" is sometimes, I fear, taken as license rather than privilege.  I pray I am never doing that.

I am trying to incorporate some of those blessings of every second into my life.  Certainly the relief of pain is high on my list - but so is waking up one more day on earth, having a roof over my head, even having flannel sheets as the weather cools is a blessing I don't take lightly.

I hunger for more of Him.  I have since the day He first blasted His way into my life.  The difference between "before" and "after" in my life was immediately evident.  I asked Him then to take me into the depths with Him, a prayer He is continually answering - not thru any holiness on my part - far from it - but through His willingness to answer prayers.  And still the hunger for more remains.  I expect that hunger will not cease until we are face-to-face with a Being so Immense and Powerful that He created an untold number of galaxies and star factories and planets - and then stooped to Earth to tenderly Hand-create mankind from the dust of the very earth He had created.  We have no idea Whom we are dealing with.  The "Jesus meek and mild" doesn't exist.  He is a Powerful, Omniscient God Who clothed Himself with the dust of the Earth so we could understand what Love is - so we would have a familiar Face, so to speak, on which to base our knowledge of the Father.  But Who He is, like the place He has prepared for us, is so far beyond whatever we could think or imagine, is beyond out abilitlies to discern.

And so our Heavenly Papa sent His Son, to help us grasp that Love focuses on the Beloved.  Everything Jesus said and did was to show us what Love really is - how much our Papa loves us, how much Love costs, how much we have to learn about Loving.  To sit at the feet of the rabbi Yeshua is a privilege granted to each of us that bear His Name - and, speaking for myself, how rarely I do it.  My prayers seem too full of requests and too little of thanksgiving.  And when I consciously spend time in thanksgiving, as soon as I start there come crowding into my mind those who need prayer - and so the time, inch by inch, is swallowed in petition.

If you, too, are struggling with this, with this hunger that slips from your fingers when you try to cultivate it, join me in emulating the observant Jew and his acknowledgement of his Creator in everything he does.  Begin   your day with thanksgiving - and seek every opportunity to thank Him for your cup of tea, your favorite pet, your earthly beloved.

Blessed art Thou, Lord God, King of the Universe, Who has given to man the secret of technology and computers, to allow us to praise You and to bring us knowledge and delight.  Bless each one who stumbles on this blog today and draw them closer to You.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What I learned from my cat...

I've been up all night again tonight.  After tossing and turning I finally got up to see how the new baby was doing  http://www.earthcam.com/usa/southcarolina/greenville/  Even she is trying to doze - her mom comes over and kissed her forehead every once in awhile, it's so cute to see them.  I never thought giraffes were that cute before - wow, was I wrong!

Last night was a horror.  The nausea and vomiting have come back with a vengeance - i spent the night close to the toilet, nauseated to the point of salivation but it wouldn't come up.

At one point I tried to lie down for a bit.

Now, if you've seen this blog before you know about Katrina (her pic at top)  She is a Wegie (pronounced Wee-gee) A Norwegian Forest Cat of large proportions - they run 20 to 25 lbs.  She is around 20,  I've had her since she was a kitten and she has never gotten past the idea that I wanted to kill her.  Her flight from Virginia was delayed and she stayed in Atlanta for almost 6 hrs before flying on to me in Nevada.  From the first, she avoided me.  Came out of the carrier and crawled under the bed - and stayed there for 3 months.  I knew she was eating because the food disappeared and the litter box had been used.

After she came out into the world, you could talk to her if you were sitting and she was  an inch beyond your farthest reach.  If you stood up, she was back under the bed.  I still can't catch her which makes vet visits a nightmare, and she despises grooming, so she gets mats and the groomer thinks I neglect her.  Of course, she sits perfectly still for the groomer, purrs  and cooperates so they don't believe me when I tell them that just trimming her nails is an ordeal because she hates to have her paws touched!

I would complain about her to God, and one day out of the blue He said to me, "She's just like you."


He said" You too hold me at arms length, and are leery of sitting with me in the silence for even a little while.  When you have something I know is bad for you in your mouth you run away instead of listening to my prompting to come to me and deal with it.  She's just like you."

Well, that made me sit up and take notice.

The one thing that comforted me was that at least she follows me around from one room to another, and has to be in my presence throughout the day.  I surely hope that that is how my walk with Him goes.

Now back to Barf, the sequel:

I laid down on the bed on my left side, my left arm stretched out a little, palm up , fingers slightly cupped.  I was exhausted and nauseated and on top of everything else I had one of my nuclear strength headaches. I closed my eyes.

All of a sudden I felt the bed move.

Katrina had come up on the bed - and she curled up next to me, leaning against my cupped fingers.

And then, I felt her place her huge, soft  furry paw-that-she-hates-to-have-touched gently in the palm of my hand - and leave it there.

Then the tears came.

 Partly because that was exceptional behavior from my standoffish cat - but every once in awhile she will do something that will just melt my heart.

And also because I knew God was saying to me, "I love you.  I am right here, by your side - and I am using Katrina to show you some tenderness tonight."

And it was enough.

Under neath are the Everlasting Arms.


Friday, October 12, 2012

The power of God in microcosim

It is late, I have been lying here thinking deep thoughts as the storm rages around me.  How I love living in the desert - I had never seen storms the way they occur here. Tonite the quiet evening suddenly became a potpourri of crashing thunder, flashing magnificent forks of lightning through the night sky.

Oh!  How I love thunderstorms.

The desert storms are unlike anything I'd experienced anywhere else. My brother just phoned to tell me his lawn was completely buried under pea sized hail.  Ours was smaller, not as much.  But the lightning forked and stretched and flashed like electric fingers reaching sideways, not touching the ground.  The winds roar, the thunder rattles the house, and the rain beats against the windows like the wings of a gigantic bird. Awesome!

Every thunderstorm displays the tiniest bit of His power - dramatic, dangerous, as if God is flexing His muscles.  I love how every aspect is finely controlled, how He releases just so much power and not an iota more.  This is how the judgement day will look - roaring thunder, flashes of His mighty arm's power - a display calculated to drop me face down before Him.  And it does.

And then, after all the dramatics, comes the pouring rain which slowly softens into a steady rain for a bit.  Then all is quiet....until, far off in the distance, a small grumble is heard.  Then another, louder this time.  Then the flash of light and the thunder happen almost @ the same time, the house shakes rattles and rolls and the sound seems to pass through ever cell in my body.


I read of a woman who, trying to calm her kiddies fears, told them the thunder was only "the angels making their beds."  A small voice said, "I don't mind them making the beds - but they keep turning the lights on and off."  I like that.  To this day, I like to think perhaps the angels are involved in thunderstorms, perhaps even making their beds or, as another mom told me, "the angels are bowling"  Both thoughts make me smile. But  I'd rather tell a child that God was showing His power so we would never have to doubt that something was too hard for Him - and to watch the displays with awe and wonder.

Like I do. <3 p="p">
So I thought I would share a little of the joy I find in thunder and lightning - of course, a necessary part of that is being safe and warm and have a place to watch, yet be removed from it.

It's how I feel about my CI sometimes - I watch God release His power when I need it, providing helpful parking places by the door or the endurance to last throughout the whole series of art classes and not have to leave early.

For me this most often takes place around the Christmas holidays - our church has an elegant tea for the ladies - and I'm talking a real tea, not a fake box of cookies on a tray.. Each table receives a tray filled with lovely finger sandwiches, the next tier up contains light, lovingly made scones, and last on the tippy top, are fancy schmancy deserts made by a premier chocolatier from one of our fancy hotel/casinos in Las Vegas.  All the hubbys and ushers put on black slacks and black bow ties with a white shirt and serve - while the ladies get to sit back and enjoy the keynote speaker while munching.  Oh - did I mention there are always several varieties of teas, and the most decadent topping for the scones (creme fresh, lemon curd, and strawberry jam.  The gents spend the evening running to and fro getting thermoses of hot water and refill the trays of sandwiches and extra deserts.
The fluorescent lights are dimmed, the candles are lit, and a string quartet of students from UNLV provide background music until the singer begins the worship carols, and later after the keynote speaker, a pianist "tickles the ivories" as we feast on the goodies.

Can anyone explain to me how a deviled egg sandwich you could make at home (but never do) tastes like a Top "Chef delight when it is nestled upon thin white bread with their crusts cut off and are served as a triangle?  To me that is a miracle right up there with the water-to-wine of the wedding at Cana!

During this hectic time, I sit in the church office in case some one's name is spelled wrong and calligraph a new one. I also host a table with my sil on one of the 3 nights of the tea.  But I must be there every night to fix name tags, and some nights there are many.

Because it is so important to me to be there (to myself, not to the church) and because it touches people to see "actual " calligraphy being done before their eyes - I can count on getting sicker or being in much more pain than usual. Last year I had sciatic nerve damage that lasted down to the wire - I couldn't sit without severe pain that my regular dose of pain medication didn't even touch!  It looked impossible.  But like the unleashed precision of the lightning, my King had it allllllllll under control.A few hours before I had to leave for church, the pain went away.  Poof!  Gone! And I could get to the church , get up and down from my chair to receive and return the corrected name tags, then scurry into the room when the carols began, and sit through the whole evening with nary a twinge.  And that happened 3 nights in a row!. To me, this is akin to the parting of the Red Sea.  I was so full of wonder and joy at His graciousness in allowing me to serve Him, doing something that I dearly love : calligraphy.

And experiencing the storm tonight brought it all back. When things look impossible to me, I now remember seeing His power released in my behalf in (to me) a mighty way - and carry a picture in my heart of lightning striking that obstacle and - POOF! - it is gone.  Of course, His timing is a bit different than ours.  I want it NOW! Instant gratification is my favorite mode of being answered.  But God deals from eternity, where there is no time - and tho He might not be as early as I would like, after 40 years of walking with Him I can tell you truthfully, He is never late.

So the next time you are privileged to view thunder and lightning, imagine each bolt of lightning striking that big obstacle in your way - and remind yourself that His arm is not shortened that He cannot save.

That's why we call Him the Savior!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Open heart, open hand

2Chronicles 21:18-30

Here we have the tale of David messing up again (bless his heart)- he wanted the people counted for selfish reasons - to feel like the important king of zillions of people.

God was not amused.

An avenging angel began striking his people - the very ones David had counted to puff himself up - with a plague.  Finally, the first real sign of repentance bursts from David's lips "what have these sheep done?  It was me, my sin - let your hand be against me and my house, not against the innocent !"(my rendering)

The moment this came from his lips, God stayed the angel's hand.

Right at the threshing floor of Ornan.

In 2 Samuel 24 he is called "Araunah" - the pre-Israelite/Canaanite name for the same thing.  Calling him "Ornan" implies that he has put himself under the care of the Hebrew God - perhaps between the writing of 2 Samuel and 1Chonicles.

I like this guy.

His 4 sons are with him threshing grain - when the avenging angel stops, right at his property!  The 4 sons hide.

Not Ornan. Our hero goes right on with his threshing.  Why wasn't he also afraid?

Perhaps he'd been to the temple that morning and offered sacrifices for himself and his sons, and knew that he was "prayed up".  Perhaps he was feeling the joy of the newly forgiven, content to continue his work until a) the angel took him to Abraham's bosom; b) the angel recognized his forgiven status and passed him by; or c) he wanted to model for his sons courage and trust in his new-found God.

Whatever the reason, David comes upon him and wants to buy his land to sacrifice to God.

Now, a little background.

This couldn't be Ornan's ancestral land, or it would go back to him @Jubilee, and this doesn't.  In fact, this becomes the land upon which the Temple is built.  So it must be part of the city land that Ornan had bought for the express purpose of threshing - the grain was tread upon by oxen, loosening it from its stalks and crushing the outer hard layer.  The grain was then tossed into the air and the wind blew away the chaff.  This land was on the top of Mt. Moriah, the winds would hit the top of the mount with unimpeded strength: perfect for a threshing floor.

This must have been a major purchase for Ornan - he was not a rich man, or he wouldn't be doing the threshing himself with his four sons. Servants/hirelings would be doing it. So this represented a step up for him, a smart purchase of valuable real estate. Which makes what happens next all the more amazing.

When David tells him he wants the land to sacrifice to God, Ornan doesn't miss a beat: he immediately responds "It's yours.  And look! How fortunate! Here's two oxen for the sacrifice - and oh! Wouldn't the yoke make great kindling?  Oh! and here is grain to complete the sacrificial offering.  Here - take it all.  I give it to you, free and clear." (My paraphrase)

In one translation it says, "...and Araunah, like a king, gives all he has to King David..." (2Sam 24:18-24) And God, in His delight over Ornan's open hand (and heart) -  over this ordinary, middle class worker bee, just going about his life ( and shining like gold in the eyes of God ) - God thinks so highly of Ornan that He records it for all posterity.

Because Ornan held back not a single, solitary thing - not an ox, not an expensive, custom made-so-they-don't-rub-the-shoulder-raw wooden yoke, not a single grain of wheat: not one thing.  I hear excitement in his offer, see shining eyes, a heart full of joy that something of his would be worthy to be offered to God in the name of his king!

But David knows that a sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it's free.  He would not offer to his God that which cost him nothing.

Lion heart to lion heart. Deep calling unto deep. Child of God giving to God from his heart, not just his pocket.

Every time I read this section, I am humbled by it.

As a CI, I don't have much.  And what little I have, truthfully, I have not always held with an open hand.  But if I really think about it, all of it belongs to Him in the first place.  What I "hold onto" (tightly) is an illusion - should God choose, like the chaff, He could blow it away with a single puff. He can also choose to provide more.

The challenge this presents to me is to consider this: Here I am, standing in front of my meager little pile of flotsam and jetsam, holding to my heart useless remnants of the world.  Do I continue in this stance?

Or do I have the courage to step aside, flinging my arms wide, fists open, palms facing up, in a glorious abandonment of self, and "like a king" give my all to Him, holding nothing back?

Do you?

Just a little something for both of us to ponder....

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Everlasting Arms

When I was a girl, my uncle had a home in a tiny town on the Wisconsin border.  It had 2 churches, 3 saloons and 4 feed stores,  and the population was something like 100.  Growing up in California, I had yet to be enchanted by fireflies and their magic spell, or the friendly sound of cricket choirs chirping in the soft darkness. I had never heard church bells ringing on a Sunday, or a sky so full of stars it took my breath away. It was the end of summer, and the nights were no longer full of mosquitoes or the oppressive humidity that left you turning over your pillow looking for the cool spot and shifting your position to catch the faintest of breezes through the open windows (no air conditioning in those days!)

I was given the privilege of sleeping on a cot in the basement, which also enchanted me - we didn't have basements or attics in California either, and the earthy smell and cool feel of the cement on my bare feet became the instantly recognizable scent and feel of summers in the Midwest. One whiff in the years to come, and I was instantly back in Stitzer.

I sat out front on the stairs while the adults chatted inside.  There were very few houses near the town, and the quiet intrigued me.  The air felt as soft as velvet, and all sound had a muted quality, so that when you spoke, you found yourself speaking in hushed, quiet tones. God's cricket choir serenaded the dew; somewhere a back screen door slapped against its wooden frame; a lonely dog gave a single bark as if to remind his owners that he was still there, in case anybody wanted to come and give him a pat.  It seemed to me I'd sat there for hours when I first heard it, faintly, in the distance: the aching, lonely sound of a train whistle nearing an intersection (the town only had one).  It seemed to capture everything I was feeling; all the pent up emotion that had been stuffed inside for the last year came bubbling to the surface:

For on the previous Christmas Eve morning I had awakened to the sound of my Grandmother's keening, calling my grandfather's name in Swedish (altho he'd been dead for 11 years) and my mother's counterpart crying of my father's name.  He was groaning, eyes open, staring into eternity, not conscious. My mother was begging him not to die.

But he did.

I was 16 years old.

I remember nothing else about that day except that nothing seemed real.  A neighborhood friend just recently filled in the blanks for me - how I'd come to her house and in a deadpan voice told her my father was dead.  It seemed all I wanted to do was walk around in the neighborhood, it didn't matter where, just walking.  She was a good enough friend to stay with me and let me talk - mostly about my dad.  We wound up eventually in my garage where I showed her the things my father had designed and built for the upcoming mandatory science fair. For me.

I remember none of it.

I had just begun to realize my dad was a man - I mean besides being father to four children and going to work every day.  Just beginning to know him as a person.  Just beginning to ask for advice - and listening earnestly to the answers.The summer before we had painted my bedroom together, and he had taught me the proper way to move the brush so no streaks showed; how careful to be cutting in, especially on windows; how to clean the brushes with turpentine, again and again and again, until all traces of paint were gone from the brushes.

And then he was gone from my life forever.

Jesus had not yet come into my life and I didn't know where to put my grief.  For the longest time I couldn't cry, couldn't put on a show for the relatives who had come from all points to the funeral, only to find the stunned Unfeeling Daughter Who Wouldn't Cry. The sound of the train's long, low, drawn out horn in Stitzer stirred it all up. From that day forward, the sound of the midnight train sounding its horn and its kindred spirit of the single, crooning bass note of the foghorn as it sounded warnings across the bay, settled over my shoulders with a warm sense of melancholy. I felt as if the sky itself had its arms around me, that at last I was understood, and, finally, I could cry.

I still miss him.

And then, in my 20's, I met Jesus, met my Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit filled me with the knowledge that He owns me forever, and nothing I can do will change that.

After 15 years of walking with Him I got sick.  Really sick.

Then God, in His graciousness, had my doctor go to a continuing education conference the night before I saw him - and could instantly diagnose me and send me on to a specialist, when a host of other CIs with the same illness took years.  Both doctors filled out endless paperwork to assure that I was provided benefits when most others were being turned down; God put it into their hearts to fight for me. At one point one of the docs said to me, "I think I lost your benefits - this guy called me and I got into a shouting match with him.  I'm so sorry."

The next day I was notified that my claim had been accepted.

From that day forward, God has walked before, behind, and beside me.  He provides parking places close to the door on days when I am particularly weak.  Parking places in the shade when here in the desert it is over 100 degrees and as dry as an oxen's skull.  A doctor I trust who studies whatever information I give her about my disease and frets with me that nothing cures it, and I take a zillion drugs that treat symptoms only - and take other drugs to counteract the side effects of the first ones. 

He has carried me through the deaths of 5 of the 7 of us that gathered round the kitchen table of my youth.  The latest was the death of my baby brother, 9 years younger. I had changed his diaper, helped him learn how to walk.  Kept his spirits up when he had an emergency appendectomy at age 6.  Mourned with him through a series of murders he had witnessed and narrowly escaped at age 15. He had grown up to be my caretaker, doing grocery shopping, picking up Rx's, carting me hither and yon. There was no warning.

I was at a retreat I had awaited with great anticipation when the directors found me and told me I needed to call home. I did, and my remaining brother told me he had died.

I thought this blow would be fatal. It felt like my child had died.

For weeks I felt as if I couldn't breathe.  I fretted constantly about his eternal address as I knew he hadn't been walking the walk.  I found myself crying and weeping as one who had no hope.

Then God said to me, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..."  

For that night I was fine.  The next day the fear returned, churning up my heart, tearing at my peace.  I began to sob, the pain so deep I thought my heart would burst. I remember I tried to muffle the sounds with the pillow, burying my head in it.

And into that furor came a resounding Voice that brooked no opposition.

With the most clarity I have ever heard God speak, He said, "It is impossible for Me to lie."

In the deep silence that followed, finally, I was able to rest - truly rest - in Him.

Why am I telling you this?

Because all of us, CI or AB, act sometimes as if Scripture isn't true. We don't say it, but our actions imply it. And I was one who, not meaning to, had called God a liar by my actions.

That doesn't mean I never cried again, or grieved over his absence; it means I never grieved without hope again.  And God is so gracious that He impressed a picture on my heart of my brother with hands upraised praising Him, then turning to me and winking.  Weeks later I found He had sent the same picture to my nephew. 

It sets me to wondering how many times I have called God a liar in my life - and I'm trying to reduce that number in the future.  When I fret over something - although His Word tells me He is in control.  When I silently fume that someone is stepping all over "my rights" or when someone "sins" against me and I hold onto anger instead of comparing that "slight" to the mountain of sins I have been forgiven. I am doing it when I have been left out, yet again, and gather the hurt to my heart - instead of choosing, as Amy Carmichael did, to "see in it a chance to die" [to self] and realize I must forgive and let God.

As a CI it is more difficult than ever to relinquish control (even though any control I try to wield is really an illusion).  Anything that messes up our carefully planned days is disconcerting, to say the least, when you know that that small thing can possibly have big consequences. 

The only way I have found to fight the "fear of the precipice" that lives in every CI, is to trust Him - with gritted teeth, if necessary - and remind myself that when the day comes for me to fall from that precipice (and it will)  the Everlasting Arms will be underneath me.

The word I have chosen to characterize this year was "teachable". One thing that I have learned is that trusting Him is the basic, essential ingredient of the Christian walk.  For those of you who are joining me on this journey, I pray that your deep knowledge of the eternal Arms underneath you will give you the courage and the joy to face each day - and even the precipice - with Him by your side.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Oh Danny Boy

Daniel 10:10
"O Daniel, man greatly beloved..."

That is how the angel in Daniel's last vision addressed him.

I'm so jealous.

I can't imagine the honor of being addressed in such a way - obviously this angel had heard God call Daniel this - and in my mind's eye (or mind's ear) I hear tenderness in the voice of God saying " Go tell my greatly beloved and faithful servant Daniel what will happen in the last days..."

I so much want to be a good and faithful servant.

I so rarely am either one.

How is it possible to be privileged to know the King of the universe, the Creator of all things, the One Who died rather than live without me - how is it possible to be distracted from that great Gift?  How can I possibly complain about anything in my life when the great mystery of my existence (that God chose me from before the foundation of the world - for reasons only He knows) is there, shining fiercely , radiating eternal Love?

I should be thanking Him for each breath, for the gift of eternal Life, reigning and ruling with Him for 1000 years in Jerusalem, and not going to hell, where I belong.

No, I am not a sinner of "big" sins - just an ordinary, everyday, garden variety sinner.  Yet in God's eyes, I was as black as night - or, rather, drenched in scarlet - and He made me white as snow.  How can it be that I am not face down before Him, thanking Him every single second of my life for paying my way into the Holy of Holies? [see April, "The Price He Paid"]  How is it that I am indifferent to His majesty, going about my grocery shopping in a more intent manner than I "practice the presence of God?" How am I not overwhelmed by the ability to call this Being, this Unfathomable One, "Papa"?


I have no answer. 

To my shame.

Papa, please light a torch inside of me, one that blazes through the universe with Love for You.  Place a compass inside my heart that always, always points me to You  (and as I pray that prayer, I realize He already has: He's called the Holy Spirit.) Teach me Your ways, that I might be always pleasing to You.

I saw a cartoon the other day, with a giant mosquito in it.

The caption read, "I want to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that when a mosquito bites me, he flies away singing "There's power in the Blood..."

Make it so, Papa, oh please, make it so.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is it worth it?

 In Thee do I put my trust. Psalm 7:1

The weekend of the 1st,  I got a treat.

Thanks to my sil, I was able to get out of the house and go to the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  We try to go every year.  I grew up in San Diego with the Old Globe Theater, and I thought when I moved to the desert that was all over.

But, surprisingly, we discovered that within a 3 hour drive, there was Shakespeare!

To get there, my sil drove both ways.  Usually we stay overnight there, but since the plays we wanted to see were 48 hours apart, we decided to drive home and then back again.

Bad move.

I didn't think twice about it - not realizing that that meant 16 straight hours from here to the play and back again, getting home about 130 am.

I was exhausted.

And 48 hours later I got to do it again!

By the end of the second marathon day I felt like a puddle on the floor with my eyes sticking out.  The next morning when I awakened, I was so dizzy I couldn't stand up.  I was severely nauseated and every muscle screamed. It was scary.  I haven't had a rebound that severe in a long time. I had to call my sil for help it was so bad.

Praise God, it only took less than 24 hours in bed - in fact, by that evening I could get up by myself and the anti-nausea drugs were working well.

And I started to think about what certain things are worth.

Had I known what the aftermath would be, what would I have chosen?  Well...I would have gone anyway.  The productions at USU are top notch - and Merry Wives of Windsor is a favorite play - with front row seats yet!  The theater is built to the specs of Shakespeare's theater in England, the acoustics wonderful, the open-air setting perfect for an end-of-summer night - in the low 80's, the feel of dew in the air, the fresh scent of new-mown grass, a million stars overhead, and a sweet, gentle zephyr of a breeze that wandered in and out of the theater.  Plus, a surprise show-stealing actor that made Falstaff, the usual buffoon of the comedy, pale in comparison.  It was a perfect Shakespearean evening.

Yes, I would have chosen to go.

As I look back over the 3+ decades of walking with my King, I see the difficulties and the setbacks, the pain and sorrow, the bleak days that seemed endless with some unknown disease stalking me, the loss of a profession I loved.

Had I known, would I have chosen Him?

My heart answers with an unequivocal, resounding YES!

The "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble..." (couldn't resist quoting Shakespeare!) of this life are nothing compared to the joy and comfort of His presence, the sure knowing that the One Who has chosen me to be His can be trusted, that the lessons woven into the pain are worth deciphering, that His presence in my life turned it from black and white into Living Color.

And the interesting thing, to me, is that when I look back over the years, it wasn't all that hard, really.  He made even the things I considered unbearable bearable.  When my heart had been rendered what I considered a fatal blow, He picked up the pieces and put me back together - the hole, to be sure, is still there, but it is no longer a jagged-edged crater.  The edges have healed into smoothness, the shrunken hole a testament to His faithfulness, the pang of remembrance no longer a twisting knife. He has taught me not to be afraid of the darkness, for He will always light a candle in that darkness to lead me Home.


He is worth more than anything this world can throw at me.

And that is why I can say with no reservation : "In Thee do I put my trust."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A bit of Daniel

"And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God Who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified."  Daniel 5:23b NKJB

This was a hard day.

With all the glorious monsoons (and one building today) all of my symptoms are kicked up a notch (or 2 or 3).  I awakened with my dreaded enemy, the headache, already well established.  So all of my muscles decided to declare mutiny and join my head.  I felt like I had a bad case of the flu and wanted to crawl under my covers and hibernate. I felt so befuddled it was hard to find words or the energy even for a shower.

But, alas, I had a doc appt , which, having already cancelled once, I had to go to today.  God bless my sil, she drove me as I would have been a menace on the road.  I downed some strong pain medication and an hour later was able to go.  My reaction when the meds kick in is always one of great relief.  They sometimes don't take the pain away, but they make it bearable.

On the way we saw the glorious monsoon clouds puffing and the winds starting to rise and the pouring collapse of a cloud over the mountains - a grey curtain of rain blotting out features in the landscape, gigantic bolts of lightning flashing through the black clouds.  It's one of my favorite things here - it's so enormous and wild with power it's awe-inspiring

After a long visit with my doc, a handful of new Rxs and orders for my yearly mammogram, I left - and while we were out we went to a local restaurant to eat.  We always say grace even when we are out - but today we forgot.

I wasn't able to do my quiet time or Bible reading this morning, so when we got home, I began to read - obviously I am now in the book of Daniel.  I prayed beforehand, asking Him to give me something to share with you - and instead He shared something with me.

I read the verse above and the Holy Spirit Spotlight hit me between the eyes.

I had spent my day praising the gods of wind and rain, the god of medicine and pain relief, even praising the food in the restaurant..

But I had not taken even a second to glorify the God Who holds my breath in His hands and owns all my ways.

So I stopped right then and glorified Him , repenting of giving the glory that belongs to Him to another, and meditating on how often I do it.

How many times have I listened to a song, or seen a movie, or read a book, or watched tv, or enjoyed a storm and never given Him a thought?  I think of all the kids, "good Christian kids" (among which are a cherished niece and nephew) who fall prey to secular music about the things forbidden to them by God - and they fill their minds and hearts with it. I see their standards corroding and satan's siren song wooing them inch by inch - the same way my heart is wooed.  And my heart breaks for them, for the needless sorrows and health problems and separation from the One Who holds their breath in His hands and owns all their ways.

And He owns my CI - one of those things included in the"all" as in "...owns all my ways".  And I ask myself, how often do I glorify Him in my CI, or bow before His ways in my life without that moment of whiny complaint :"My head hurts - groan- snivel -gripe"

I'm not advocating a cement-fortified upper lip here, I'm simply saying - mostly for myself - it's time to lay those hurts at His feet and thank Him for the medicine that helps, the storms that make the day glorious, the music or things that soothe and bring joy and laughter. Because He gives, along with the CI, ways to get through the day, small things to delight the soul, gigantic storms to revel "safely" in His magnificent power - a power so great the Word tell us we see but "the edges of His ways", the tiniest portion.  I think of the giant storms - the monsoons (tiny compared to the hurricanes now hitting the south - or the strength of a tornado) and it boggles the mind that this is His power carefully controlled - not yet unleashed in the inconceivable amounts judgement of this earth will require.

And that doesn't even begin the list of things that should drop me face down before Him each day - things like eyes that see, ears that hear, muscles and limbs that respond to my commands, the awesome envelope containing my flesh and blood I call "skin" - it would take all day to name them all.

To my shame, I rarely name any of them.

So, my Lord and King, I ask you to give me a heart so thankful that I glorify You every day.  Give me eyes that see each gift You slip into my days to give me joy - and a heart to see the Giver behind them.  Cause my ears to hear Your slightest whisper - and grant me a will that hastens to obey. Keep me close to You, Papa, don't let me slide away one inch at a time - give me a heart like Your servant Daniel's - faithful and true


Sunday, August 19, 2012

A little disobedience goes a long way

To all the heartbreaking sadness of the week I add 2 youngsters, ages 10 and 6, swept away over a waterfall at Yosemite while their parents watched helplessly - during a retreat @ a family camp.  One child's body is yet to be found, please include them in your prayers. The mother was injured trying to save her sons.

All of this put me into a rage @Adam.  (see the poem on the poetry page).  I've been meditating on this for a while now, thinking through the scenario and its aftermath.

Eve sinned too, yes.  But Eve was deceived. I don't think she tried to evade responsibility, as many seem to think.  She merely stated what happened: the serpent deceived her and she ate.  Why do I think this?  Because even though her pain was increased in childbirth, it wasn't a curse.

Adam, on the other hand, had the whole earth cursed for his sake - thorns, thistles, drought, marauding insects, and the biggie, death.  Why was he cursed?  Because he tried to point the finger at Eve ("The woman You gave me...") and, incidentally, at God.

But Adam went one further than disobedience.  Adam went into full blown idolatry.

He saw Eve, "his woman".  He saw she was naked - the implications of the Hebrew are that Adam and Eve were clothed with light, like their Father.  Without that clothing Adam knew she would die.  So now the question is, do I choose to love God more than Eve and obey?  Or do I choose to put Eve before God?

We know his choice.

Adam doesn't even pretend he didn't sin, he just tries to shift the blame, something Cain picked up to follow in dad's footsteps.

It boggles the mind to think of all the repercussions.  In one fell swoop, Adam unleashes sin in all its infamous forms - and the very next generation begins the manifestation : murder, lies, evasion, jealousy, and all beginning, again, with disobedience.

Cain knew that all sacrifices to God must include the shedding of blood: that was the consequence of sin, as God killed an animal to provide them with clothing.  He had to shed blood to "cover" their sin. So without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.  Cain knew this.

But Cain was a farmer.  His produce fed everyone - remember, this was before the flood so all - even animals - were vegetarians (which explains how Noah could have lions and sheep on the boat and enough food for everyone without slaughtering any other animals to feed the lions - but I digress) So Cain, proud of supplying all the food for his family, didn't mess with that untidy blood spilling, he just brought the best of his harvest, soooo much better than a dead sheep.

And better than that dumb Able, who raised sheep  which, yes, provided clothing too, but what good was clothing without food?  Cain's stuff was much more important than Able's stuff, wasn't it?

Well...no, in this case, it wasn't.  Without shedding of blood the sacrifice couldn't be acceptable. Once again, disobedience enters the picture.  Cain wanted to be accepted on his own terms.  Wasn't he as good as Able? (so here comes "Mom always liked you best.")  The problem was that his eyes weren't on God as much as they were on Able.  He wasn't sacrificing, he was showing off.

And God shot him down.

So instead of repenting, he got mad at Able- because at least he knew enough not to get mad at God, or blame Him like his dad , Adam did.  And envy did what it always does: it kills.  It colors situations and insinuates evil motives into the most innocent of occurrences.  And Cain did, literally, what envy always does in the heart. He killed that uppity Able.

While I was contemplating these beginnings of "the pride of life" that is so rampant in our culture, I stopped a moment to consider the One Who created these children, to love and nurture them, teach and guide them, and how heartbroken (understatement) He was, watching satan's evil permeate the hearts of His kids. Cain's cry of "unfair!" echoes down through the centuries, as satan begins to poison the heart of man against his Creator, camouflaging his own sinister attacks as being God's fault.

satan made Cain feel "less than" by his disobedience - and when God told him he would be accepted if he simply did it right, even warning him about satan waiting to devour him, Cain heard none of it. To him, it was a slap in the face.  His produce was perfect.  He was so proud of it.  That was a part of himself he brought to God, and God wouldn't take it.

Evil God.,

I find it really interesting that part of Cain's punishment was that he could never grown anything again - which, finally, broke through his sullen, silent rebelliousness against God as he cries "This is more than I can bear!"

Poor me.  Poor, poor me.

And the evil one has been so successful with this strategy that God is never thought of when abundance and mercy are overflowing - only when something horrific happens do we say "How could a merciful God allow this to happen?"

It happens because mankind has said, over and over, "Don't tell me what I can and can't do - who made you God?"

So God stepped back and said ,"Go for it."

And wept.

As the result of all this, dear Grandfather Adam opened the door for our CI as well.  And as I contemplated in anger all of the pain and sorrow and anguish he unleashed with his one act of disobedience, my Papa gently tapped me on the shoulder to show me my own - waaaaaaaaaaay more than one act of disobedience - and the pain I have caused others.

God says "I desire obedience more than sacrifice" - to clue us in.  His laws are meant to protect us, not hem us in or be a killjoy.  He wants us to have true joy, not satan's sated imitation.  He wants us to be unburdened by memories that make us cringe with guilt, embarrassment, anguish.  He wants us undeceived and in love with Him - not trying to see how much we can get away with.  He wants us filled with true peace, not simply an absence of discomfort.

He has given us free will - and taken His hands off, giving us the privilege of truly choosing which way we will go.

CI doesn't negate that gift of choice. From deep in the morass of CI, we can still choose - choose to honor Him from the midst of pain or restricted movement or solitary confinement.

I know this is not a simple thing.  And I am grateful that Blood was spilled for me to not only cover my sin, but wash it away - an incredibly amazing gift that could only be born of a Great Love.  A speaker at a women's retreat once said "We have noooo idea Who we are dealing with ."

And it's true - a Being so immeasurably powerful beyond our conception, Who created our immense Milky
Way - one of the tiniest in the solar system - and knows every single solitary star by name, and has placed them "just so."

But He knows our names too - and has placed us "just so," including our CI.  He asks us to trust, to endure, to bless, and to return the love He lavishes upon us - by being obedient.

As of old, we are given the choice to obey and live, or disobey - and die a little every time.

"Choose this day whom you will serve:  but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Rough Week

I was hit with sorrow after sorrow this week.

3 deaths from cancer, after heroic struggles, leaving behind the carnage of broken hearts and jagged craters of pain.

Then a premature baby, whose life we measured in hours instead of decades - the third such loss for the empty-armed, devastated parents.

Then the sudden blindside of a fatal heart attack.

And then a 6 year old boy on vacation with his family, wading with his Grampa - he stepped off of an unseen ledge and was swept away in a heartbeat.  They have searched 40 miles downstream and still have not found him.  An anticipated holiday with family gone excruciatingly awry. Heartbreak. Grief. Guilt. Please pray for this family.

"When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me..."

All I could do was crawl into my Papa's lap - and weep against His shoulder.

And deep in my spirit I knew.

He was weeping with me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I'm tired of this!

"I'm tired of this!" I said to my Lord, "tired of the pain and the canceling of plans and the doctor's offices and no energy to do anything - not chores, not even fun stuff! I'm sick of it!!!"

"Poop!" I thought,"My head is killing me, I'm cranky and peevish and I want to quit.  I've had it."

And what did my Lord say to me?


He waited. And waited.  And waited until my tantrum was over and I was silent.

In the deep peace of His silence, He brought these words to me: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect (Amplified: "builds a tent over you") in weakness" 2Cor 12:9

And it is.

His grace shelters me - like a tent - quiets me, protects me.

Is God big enough for my tantrums?

Yes, He is - and what's more, He loves me through them.  His tenderness has pitched a tent over me and kept me through 24 years and counting of illness, and 15 more before that.

He knows what my spirit needs to cause me to seek Him - to seek Him in my tantrums as well as my praise.

And He knows what your spirit needs as well.

Trust Him.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dark Places

Psalm 143:3-4 "For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in dark places...
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed."

That's sure how it feels some days, doesn't it?  

Dealing with CI day after day is wearing on the spirit.  Some days it is hard not to feel abandoned or isolated or discouraged or alone in the dark.  

And, you can be sure, the enemy of our soul is quick to take advantage of it. Innocent remarks by someone will seem sinister or accusatory - we start to get prickly or short-tempered - which, of course, we seek to excuse because we "are having a bad day".  It's all too easy to fall into self-pity or, on the other hand, snap at people "who can't possibly understand what it feels like."

I agree that most folks can't understand what it feels like - but God can.  He chose this path for us, whether we want to admit it or not.  In my case, CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome or ME/Myalgic Encephalitis in the UK) is just beginning to find acceptance and respect.  Many people say to me "Oh, I was soooo tired yesterday I didn't know what to do. I know how you feel."  

No, you don't know how I feel.  The fatigue I have is so deep it in itself is pain - and it doesn't go away after a good night's sleep - because I never get a good night's sleep.  If I'm fortunate I get a 4 hour block somewhere in the night, but mostly I awaken every hour or two.  My brain gets so muddled sometimes, I find myself lost on familiar streets that suddenly are no longer familiar.  My head pounds, feeling as if it exploded, or someone kicked me in the head - sometimes throbbing, sometimes as though my head is in a vise, slowly crushing me. It feels like an iron bar runs just behind my eyes, from temple to temple - and sometimes the sensation is so real I feel like I could reach up and grab it.  And fluorescent lights, which everybody from dentist to doctor has in their office, are guaranteed to ignite a headache in an instant. My muscles ache so deeply it's all I can do to climb the stairs to bed.  My bedroom is a mess because I climb those stairs carrying something and put it down "just for a second" until I'm strong enough to deal with it - and I'm never strong enough.  So layer after layer accumulates, like an archaeological dig!

It's overwhelming sometimes, isn't it? I know some of you deal with problems far more severe than mine - and my heart goes out to you. Many times I feel fortunate to have so little to deal with.

So, where is God in all of this?  

If He is the One Who chose this for each of us, knowing exactly how much we can bear, and not trying us more than we are able (1Cor 13:10) - and He is - where do we find the strength and courage we need to deal with it?

Just 2 Psalms over, in 145:14, God says to us, "The LORD upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down."  CI is certainly capable of causing us to be bowed down ( and the enemy of our soul is sure to grasp the situation and try to tempt us to fall).  

And again in Ps. 145:17-19  "The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.  The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth...  He will hear their cry and save them."

So here God is telling us that His way is righteous and His works are gracious - including His choice of paths for us, including CI.  How do I know this?  Because the Word of God tells me that all His ways are righteous, all His ways are gracious.

How many?


And all means "all". Not "some".  Not "all except for the ones I don't like" ( and I really don't like my CI - grin!)

It is not contingent upon my approval of His plans for me.  I, the leaky, cracked, dirty ol' pot cannot say to my Potter "Why have you made me thus?" or, in the colloquial, "Why me?"

God has a plan for our lives.  He has chosen for our plan to include CI - and He knows what He wants to accomplish with it.  CI affects not only us, but the ones who surround us, the doctors who treat us, the family who loves us, the friends who pray with us, the ones who watch us - and don't kid yourself, people watch us all the time to see how we handle adversity. Have you ever thought He might be using your illness to teach others, to do a work in their lives?

And these verses show us how God intends for us to bear it - He will uphold us, raise us up, be near us, hear our cry and save us. He is working in the lives of all who know us, and He is using our CI to do it!  Stop and think for a moment about how your CI has changed the lives of those around you.  I know those around me have learned patience (...ahem) and I have seen them become more generous, more compassionate, more giving - and I know they pray more. In His graciousness, He is blessing others through my path.
Just think about that for a moment.

So if the enemy is persecuting your soul these days, and you find yourself in one of those dark places, remember He is upholding you, and He is near enough to hear your cries and save you.  And always remember that, besides those who surround you on earth, Someone Else is watching you.  

This Someone is not watching to catch you slipping up, to criticize or judge you.  This Someone died in your place, paid for each sin  you have or will ever commit (and He knows them all.) 

When the enemy of your soul taunts God with accusations of His children, perhaps He is saying of you as He said of Job: "Have you considered my servant ______ (insert your name here)"  The CI that so haunts us and rules our days may be the very background upon which we shine for our Master, proving that we do not love Him for what He can give us; proving that we value His gifts less than we value the Giver; proving that even though we do stumble and mess up and fall flat on our faces, we get up, dust ourselves off, and continue on the narrow road for love of Him.

And how glorious that would be - to someday stand before Him and learn that all the while we thought the suffering endless and useless, He was glowing with joy that through the power of the Blood and the Holy Spirit, in His Name we became more than conquerors.

Press on, dear one, press on!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The first covenant of all

"And God said, ' This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember my covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.'"  Genesis 9:12-16

We've had cloud-filled skies for the last week, culminating in thrilling thunder rolling endlessly over the arroyos and mesas, off and on throughout the whole day yesterday. The welcome rain left behind an invigorating freshness, the lovely smell of newly-washed leaves and pavement, the plants standing a bit taller, looking shiny and new after all their dust had been washed off.

In the late afternoon around 6 pm, the low angle of the sun set me to looking for rainbows.  The clouds were so dark and still heavy with moisture, I kept looking, looking, looking, alas! to no avail.

And then, in the twinkling of an eye, it appeared, the whole glorious arc, as if God had swooped His arm over the earth and said                    "Ta Daaaaaah! "  And not just a portion of one, the whole glorious shebang, from one end                                                   

to the other!  Magnificent!I ran to grab my camera and started shooting.

Then, in awe, I realized I was actually seeing a covenant.  One announced to Noah and his family as they came out of the ark.  The first covenant God made with His creations - the people, the animals, the planet.  And He said, "My rainbow"  - speaking of the one that rises above His throne in heaven (see Ezekiel 1:28) So as the sign of the covenant, He took part of the rainbow over His throne and put it in the clouds to remind us of His promise.

I stood there with the fresh realization that I was seeing the actual rainbow that stands over God's throne in heaven, and He said He would "look on it to remember..." - and it came to me today that, at that very moment in time, He and I were both looking at the same thing - that glorious rainbow! Oooooooo - goose bumps galore!

So many times, as a CI, we miss out on things - a family get together or celebration, a picnic, or even just a night out at the movies, just being left out - again.  And yet - God, Who tenderly and individually knit us together in our mother's womb (see Psalm 139) knows every time that happens, and He shares it with us, asking us to give it to Him and let it go. And then, every once in awhile, He shares with us something glorious - like a part of His throne's rainbow, or Venus and Jupiter clustered around the moon in the deep blue velvet of a night sky - and gives to us something that will delight our hearts, and dust our lives with a bit of wonder. He remind us that no matter how alone in this cosmos we may feel, He is right there with us, hiding little delights in our day that come straight from Him to us - if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

So, keep an eye out, watch for His small treasures, generously given from a loving Father-heart to ours, individually tailored and dropped into a dismal day to give us hope - it could be something as simple as a rainbow on a rainy day.