Thursday, December 17, 2015

A word (or two) about Christmas


Haven't been here for awhile - ummm...that's sort of obvious, tho,isn't it? Sorry folks! My illness waxes and wanes, and right now, it's waxin'.  Or, as those in the know describe it, it's in a "flare." That means that all my symptoms are doing a wax job on my body, too - I should be one shiny, slick human when this lets up. Plus, I've caught the local bug that's going around everywhere. It's been a week now, and shows no signs of letting go, especially the cough. Because my immune system took a hike 20 years ago, I get pneumonia a little faster than the population.

It's hard to be sick around the holidays, isn't it?

Since most of those who read this blog are chronically ill too, I think the LORD has us out in a lifeboat bailing water.  It's hard to see all the excitement and busy holiday fun stuff 3 feet away and know it's too far to go.  So many things I miss - making cookies, decking the halls , decorating a Christmas tree.  I miss having Munchkins crawling around and laughing and big family dinners and family jokes - you know the kind, the ones no one who didn't grow up with you has a clue about - and the not-so-polite-loudly-commented-upon things that kids say at the precise moment that everyone in the room falls silent, only to be stored in the family memory bank and brought out at the holidays.

And when that child grows big enough to blush, their indiscreet moments are resurrected with teasing twinkles and general laughter.

In my family, out of the 6 folks we started out with, we have dwindled down to two.

My one remaining brother and I have buried all the rest.

And all in December except the one in January.

So starting on December 24, in 1964, my father died. The 15th when my mom was called Home in 1996. December 31st, my oldest brother died in 1997. And then my baby brother in January of 2003 at the age of 45.

My sister in law, who has been my bestie since we were 14 years old, and I have taken to going out for dinner on the anniversary of their Home-going,when possible, and toasting the coronation of our family members with clinking glasses full of water.

The absence of those cherished souls, their voices muted until we, too, fall silent on earth and begin praising in the midst of the angels, still makes the heart ache.We celebrate the annual event as a coronation day.   It helps, but nothing can mend the hole in the heart upon their Home-going.

The sharp, jagged edges of the hole smooth out a bit, but nothing will mend it until we, too, wake up and breathe celestial air, no doubt to hear someone start laughing and telling all those stories of family folklore. Hmmm... I wonder if you can get embarassed in Heaven...

And, at this time of year especially,  I think our hearts grow lonely for those who beat us Home. We see windows as out of a Kinkade painting, the warmth and light streaming out beckons us. Oh my  - it looks so cozy in there... and snippets of laughter and joy slip from doors opened in welcome, of families safely in, of cold and loneliness kept out.

Then God had humans begin the tradition of  the lovely decorations of Christmas lights, to remind us of the One Who is Light, and in Him is no darkness At All.

At All. 

As the first night fell after my Mom went Home, 2 of my brothers drove me home from my 3rd brothers house.  I sat in the back seat, watching all the Christmas lights on homes.  It had been one of my mother's favorite things to do - driving around  to "see the lights."  It was something the two of us did every year.


Just she and I.

And at that moment, I almost couldn't bear it. I felt my heart tear.

So I said to Jesus, "Lord, she loved this so much, so very much. And I can't take her to see the lights, ever again, She'll never see them again."

Quick as a wink, His whisper came to me: "What your mother is looking at right now makes those lights so pale in comparison.  She is so full of joy, she cannot hold another drop."

So...if you, too, are seated at a table with empty chairs and missing voices, with a  fresh and jagged hole in your heart, or one smoothed out a bit, but a hole nonetheless, talk to Jesus about it.  He lost His earthly father - He knows what that feels like. And He had the added pain of knowing He had the ability to heal Joseph, but His Heavenly Father said, "no." I cannot imagine having that power, and being unable to use it as that one you love slips away. 

I have written a lot of Christmas poems - under the picture above is a link to the poetry page. The implications of that miracle are seldom talked about - how could God have slipped His great heart into a tiny baby? It always takes my breath away, to realize that Jesus put away all of His power, all of His ability to be omnipresent, not just for 33 years, but forever. In essence, Jesus gave away His  freedom, so that we could be free.

How all of heaven must have held their breath at the moment He was clothed with a body, to see the actual heart of the Living God, wrapped in human flesh.

It gives me the chills
.
 Which is why I write poetry, and why a lot of it is about Christmas.  Oh look!  Here's one:


I find within a longing to return,

To somehow crawl back

To the Christmases of my youth -

To smell again the straw-filled manger scene

And hear the child-known lowing of the stable cow,

To have my eyes stretched wonder-wide

By magic lights and sparkling beams

From tinselled, star-crowned pines.

But more, I long for a toddling, trusting faith

To sense the Spirit-hush of birthing Gift,

To hear the God-babe's newborn cry,

To join the threadbare, trembling shepherds

Kneeling at His feet.



I want to lead the Magi in,

See their delighted faces glow

And watch tears stream down weathered cheeks

To fall on shimmering cloaks.

Oh! Let me bow beside them there,

Prostrate before this Promised King

And worship, filled with awe,

While angels sing.
-------------


If I don't get back here again beforehand, I wish you a Christmas filled with awe and wonder.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I've not been around for awhile...my body decides to tank every once in awhile, and then God calms everything down for a bit. So I'm back from a recent calming, and enjoying just being here.

Autumn is showing signs of moving on in here in the desert.  Not fully yet, but hinting at it. 

I love this time of year.  At sundown the thermometer sinks below the 100 mark, making the out-of-doors area a pleasant place to be.  The sunsets are phenomenal, as if God were finger-painting in wild abandon.  The clouds seem iridescent as their gray-feet blush pink.  The hummingbirds take one last lingering sip and retire for the evening.

And then the bats come out to play.

At first they seem like just tinier birds - but no bird can stop on a dime and do a 180 to catch a moth who wandered into the wrong bit of air. They whirl and swirl and stop your breath with their acrobatics - I find myself whispering a "Yay!!" to the wheeling and diving dervishes.  I want to cheer them on, these maligned animals who are simply doing what God created them to do. Especially when I remember that they are responsible for  the removal from the air of my arch-enemy, the mosquito.  Makes me shiver just to think about it.  Go for it, guys, enjoy a great dinner tonight and suck those little guys up like a vacuum cleaner!

And then - poof! - all color is gone from the clouds - except the gray looks gray-er and the creeping deep blue of night begins to saturate the sky.  Lights come on in houses, windows glowing with that amber light that makes everything look cozy.

My favorite aunt loved this time of day too, and I often think of her - and miss her dreadfully. When my mother died, she called to offer her services if ever I felt the need for some mothering. We slowly lost her to Alzheimer's - a horrible disease that steals the comfort from relationships and leaves the victim befuddled and easily frightened.  She coped as long as she could, with a standard set of questions designed to carry a conversation as if she actually remembered who your were.  It broke my heart to hear of her decline - a breaking I had endured several times before as I lost family members, one by one, to age and death..

But this one was different. It was a brutal losing.  One inch at a time.

Her son cared for her to the last, as faithful a heart as ever was.  He itemized her life, page by page, until everything was numbered and discarded and the important things saved as much as possible.

I have always thought that newly owner less possessions were among the saddest things left on earth. Objects of most importance to someone are suddenly, once again, just "things." They drift in the cosmos and eventually vanish - unless someone remembers their importance and out of a sentimental moment, snatches them up and again assigns them value.

I am so grateful that in my time on this earth I have been so very blessed with my family members.  I have friends whose family ties are painful in the extreme.  In contrast, I have waltzed through my life with wonderful people, kind people, loving people, who taught me that others were more important than the bug you have under your saddle.  One half of my family were bitter and lonely - and heaven protected me from them by a few thousand miles, leaving all the warm, fuzzy ones to surround me with kindness, encouragement and love.

When my time comes to go Home and rejoin them, I hope what I leave behind will be a memory that cocoons the soul, perhaps a joyous laugh, an encouraging word in a difficult time.

The one Man Who ever said He'd rather die than live without us -and proved that by His death - with that death bought me as fearless an exit as is possible from this life. I am so grateful He found a way to push through my self-sufficient ego and fill me with Himself. He changed my life from black and white to color, changed my heart from having room for only me, to embracing Him and letting Him do any future driving to any destination He chose - and to my great surprise and delight, He chose joy.

In addition to which, He added hummers and bats and Quail and chipmunks and sunsets and cool evening zephyrs that dance in the branches of trees and swirl through your soul.

We serve an Awesome God.


Friday, August 7, 2015

For Those of us Afraid of the Dark.

I have been contemplating fear lately.

When I came to Christ - or, rather, when He busted His way into my heart, I was involved with the occult - and with an extreme sensitivity to fearful things. Movies, plays etc.  And in the after-occult season the fear of darkness - actual and imagined - became a factor in my life.

He took the darkness out of me, washed out the remaining stains, but the fear has come to be one I have never conquered.  I cannot sleep in the total darkness.  I need some tiny bit of light to be able to sleep.

As a nurse, I became interested in the hospice movement, and one of the things it taught me was that dying patients almost always want to be in light, sunlight or manufactured, ss they leave this world.

I have health conditions which have placed me in that position a few times.  And now a virtual friend is facing that challenge daily, as he fights a vigorous battle with lymphoma.  And moments of fear overwhelm him.

It is a fearful thing, death. 

Even though it is something we all will face, even though the One Who bought us with HIs blood has conquered it before us - and won!- even though we truly know, to the tiniest cell in our bodies, that we will be in His presence the millisecond we leave this earth.

Even though....

When I was standing on the edge of that cliff, gazing into the darkness of the unknown, the fear would not let me go.  Would not.

Oh, I could vanquish it for the moment - and always with His Name on my lips - but when the thought came round again, threw another harpoon into my heart, breathed in my ear, it was battle time again,

It still is.

I can think of it from a distance, as though it was a far off  event, but when it comes to REAL and TRULY, it takes awhile for me to call on His Name and claim His peace. And while I have made the provisions and protocols for this body my spirit dwells in, leaving this body - and thoughts of the actual process by which it will happen, are fearful. 

Corrie Ten Boom, another heroine of mine, said that, as a child, she told her father that it scared her, this death that would, eventually, end her life.

He asked her, "Corrie, when do I give you your ticket when we take the train.?"

"When it's time to get on it." she answered.

"That is when Jesus will take away your fear.  Right now, you don't need the courage to face it.  When the moment comes, Jesus will give you your ticket and you will not be afraid."

And so it was.

And I trust it will be the same for me.

I don't need that peace right now - because it isn't time, yet.

But I trust, like Corrie, that when the moment comes, His joy will fill my heart, and my spirit will take flight.

And there will never be another moment of fear of the dark.

Until that day, or moment, or second comes, I will leave it in His hands.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Howdy, stranger!

I've been offline off and on lately, sort of trying to get better and instead getting worse. So I haven't posted on this blog for a looong time. My apologies.

It's a funny animal, this chronic pain stuff.  Sometimes it makes me withdrawn, and other times it makes me seek out books of folks who have walked this road - with discouraging or encouraging results, the primary requirement is that they have walked it with Him.  

One woman I've been reading just recently lost her battle with breast cancer.  The breast is where it started.  She celebrated after she finished her first round of chemo and radiation, bilateral breast removal and reconstruction, followed by a total hysterectomy -  only to find another tumor in her bones, then her brain.  Round after round of pain and vomiting and pills and IVs and radiation, MRIs and chem panels, endlessly.  At diagnosis, her youngest was a 3 yr old little girl.  Her oldest a 13 year old..  And in between them, a boy and another girl. She lost her battle in March.  Her hubby, a pastor named Jason, after 17 years of marriage is on his own, with four children and a church to care for. Please, if you are reading this, please pray for him.

When I got the news, it gutted me.

Through it all, she had a radiant faith.

Absolutely radiant.

Not to say she didn't have tough times. But her peace shone through it all.

And I sit here with my hangnail (in comparison) whining and wailing because I hurt a little.

Another couple, friends of mine, after 20+ years married, were just diagnosed with lymphoma in the hubby's brain.

Thru their entire walk together, they have dealt constantly with his type 1 diabetes, insulin dependent, that destroyed his kidneys.  When the time came for a transplant, the wife discovered she was a perfect match, and instantly gave him one of hers, all the while raising their daughter and praising the Lord.  He started having a loss of energy a year ago, he finally had to stop working.  Then he began to lose his balance once in awhile.  Then he began to have headaches. Then his short term memory got funky. An MRI of the brain showed several tumors.  A brain biopsy, itself a dangerous measure, revealed the lymphoma, which has a notoriously bad prognosis.  They immediately began scheduling radiation therapy.

When told of the diagnosis, Phil said, "Whether He gives me 5 more minutes or 50 years, I stand on the Rock.  My life is in His hands."

They've had a lot of rough roads to follow throughout their marriage - this is nothing new to them.  And their reaction is the same it has always been: to live in a way that glorifies God.

Seems like so very much loss lately. My heart aches for the pain they are enduring - at the same time I am in awe of the way their lives of faith glorify Him. And for sure it has driven me closer to the Rock they live upon. I so very much want to glorify Him the same way - and I see my failures in such glaring red letters - capitals all, that seem  so obvious and avoidable.

Another recent loss was the author and missionary Elisabeth Elliot - a woman I have looked up to since I met the Rock for myself.  I think I have read almost every one of her many many books.  When faced with the loss of her husband in the middle of an Ecuadorian jungle, killed by cannibals he had come to befriend, she, too, stood on the Rock - with a 14 month old little girl in the midst of an alien land.  She survived on the verse "underneath are the everlasting arms" and handled her responsibilities with the motto "do the next thing".  And so she did.  When she died at 87 she had outlived 2 husbands (her second husband died of cancer 5 years after they were married) and was suffering from Alzheimer's at her death.  When she was diagnosed, she said, characteristically, "underneath are the Everlasting arms" and walked through her days doing the next thing.  She never lost the wealth of Scripture she had memorized since childhood, or the old Scriptural hymns that have been replaced by "modern worship" songs.  The old hymns taught doctrine to people that couldn't read, but could understand from the hymns what a life in Christ meant.

One of her heroines in the walk with the Rock was Amy Carmichael.

So, of course, her books are also part of my library. Another woman who lived as a missionary - in India for over 50 years, her main focus came to be saving the little girls who were sold to the temples to as sexual slaves of the multiple gods that are worshiped.  Eventually her mission began to include the little boys as well.  When faced with difficulties, Amy said, "See in it a chance to die."

And there is the heart of every difficulty we face on this earth: death to self.

Amy had an accident that left her in pain and mostly bed-ridden for the last 20+ years of her life - tho it was no accident to the One Who allowed it.  The work she began is flourishing still, in India, mostly staffed by the women who were once little girls that were saved and placed in the arms of Jesus. She was beloved of the girls she saved, because they knew her love for them was an overflow of the One she stood on - this same Rock that connects all my heroines to one another. Her poetry, like that of Annie Johnson  Flint - another chronic pain sufferer whose "little book of poems" have survived the years to still be nourishing to my soul and glorifying the same Rock.

So I trudge on.  I am trying now to "do the next thing" and trusting Him to take care of the rest.  He has kept me for 26 years of illness (and counting) and has never failed me, tho I have so very often failed Him.

My consolation is knowing that when He plucked me out of my black and white life to give me one of living color, He already knew about my future failures, and yet He still chose me. He's had to do all the giving,  because there is certainly nothing of value I can give Him - except that which He values the most : my battered, stained, unreliable heart.

And my feet, standing, on that same Rock - the Rock of Ages.

There's plenty of room up here. 

And He will welcome you, too, and help you to stand here, all with open Arms.

The Everlasting ones.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trusting in the Dark...or not....

How hard it is to trust in the dark!

Sometimes it seems like I'm finally getting the hang of this "trust" stuff..

And then....

When one of the nephews/nieces/family/friends has something going on in their lives that is harmful or hurtful, I pound on heaven's door, pleading continuously for God's will to be my will, when it should be the other way round

And that's the plain, unvarnished truth.

When it comes to them, it is so hard to put them where they belong: in His hands.

And then let go.

The "putting" is the easy part.

The "letting go," not so much.

I want them to be ok.  I want the crisis to be over with. I want them whole and happy and blessed.

And to pray "As You will" doesn't enter my head, let alone my heart.

I know that's not where He wants me, or how He wants me to pray.

Recently another crisis popped up.

I was beside myself with worry.

I felt beaten, like someone had punched me in the gut.  Hundreds of miles away and helpless - that's how I felt.  I contacted every prayer chain and every pray-er that I knew and stormed heaven's gates.

And God, in His mercy and power, stepped in.

But I find myself wondering:

What if He hadn't?

I knew at the time that it was a possibility. My education was in this specific area and each report gave mounting stress and fear to my heart. I knew too many ways for things to go wrong, and I should have intervened.

I didn't.

As the news grew more and more grim, I didn't want to push them to a decision they were reluctant to make.  I don't know what I would have done if He had chosen other than what my heart was pleading for.  I feel guilty enough now - I can't imagine how I will feel if something worse happens because of my reluctance - which is still a possibility.

So I pray.

And strain with every ounce that's in me to trust.

I have a plaque which says, "Faith means going to the edge of all you know - and taking one more step."

It is walking forward in the dark, knowing that the edge of the cliff is in front of me - and being willing to step off that cliff, trusting that He will catch me,,,

Or give me wings.

And being willing to do it.

I find I'm not there yet.  Every time I think I am, He shows me how far I have to go.

But this I know, with every cell in my body, I am His. He holds me in His hands in the dark as well as the light.

And though I still stumble around in the dark, and bump into walls and fall and bruise a knee here and there, He will never ever let me fall into the abyss.

For underneath are the Everlasting Arms.

His.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Remembering the fallen...

I have been thinking of Audie Murphy all day.  Someone shared the memory of this valiant man who received every medal the US has to offer including the Medal of Honor, plus medals from France and Belgium - and he was only 20 at the time - and he has been here, in my heart, all day.

I say again to every serviceman who has ever served: thank you.

I've learned that many servicemen resent this, who think it is a non-military's way to unload guilt.

Not from me.

I say thank you for every sleepless night you have spent remembering, wanting more than anything to forget. For the nightmares, for the screaming fits, for the black depressions.

I say thank you for leaving a safe bed and the love of family and risking it all.

For me.

I say thank you to and for every buddy you saw die that you wanted to save.

I say thank you to every medic who served in a hot zone, a cool  zone, a hospital ship, and remembers every GI your hands touched, who worked thru 36 hour and more shifts uncomplainingly, asleep on your feet with broken hearts, who still see faces and hear voices when they remember.

I say thank you to each heart that breaks when a car drives up to an anxious home and two men in full dress uniform step out.

I say thank you to each child that cries himself to sleep,  crying for a daddy or mommy they will never see again this side of heaven.

I say thank you for the respectful hands who fire the 21 gun salutes and  fold the flags with precision, respect, and sympathy. For the men who guard, thru summer heat and winter snow and driving rain, the tomb of some of the unknown who returned to the American soil they died for.

I don't say it lightly. I treasure one such flag.

So...

Sir, or Ma'am, I thank you for your service.  I pray the Lord will bless you with a warm home and a heart that never forgets, but has been able to let the memories have their way and be gone, visiting less and less often. 

We tell those who have left us to "rest in peace."  The living deserve no less.  Remember those who were lost.  Then honor them by living long and happily for them as well as yourself.

And if you can't banish the voices and the faces and the sounds and the smells, you are not weak.

It is recognized now as PTSD and there is treatment for it.  Please find some. There is no reason for your family to lose you, too. Audie Murphy never knew what he had was treatable.  He tried to silence the voices and faces and sounds and smells and began to be disrespected towards the end of his short life.  This to a man who fought off 250 of the enemy alone, atop a burning enemy tank loaded with explosives that could blow up any second - and he was seriously wounded at the time!  Sad to say, but true: People forget. I give you my solemn promise,  I will never forget as God lets me draw breath.

His wife and family were Christians - and, sadly, up until that last plane ride that crashed, he resisted opening his heart to God.  His wife asked the old preacher Vernon McGee to preach a salvation message at his funeral - he said a lot of Hollywood was there, and it seemed every eye was steely and defiant and full of hatred as he preached. I hope he was wrong.  I hope that souls were pierced and hearts broke open. And I pray that as the plane began it's fatal dive, Audie cried out to the God Who held him as he went to hell and back the first time, and kept him from going back to hell again.

And for anyone out there who is idiot enough to think it can't be that bad, get a copy of Audie Murphy's combat memories or watch the movie, "To Hell and Back" both of the same title - easily available on Amazon, even for Kindle. It will open your eyes and make the next time you thank a serviceman or vet come from the bottom of your safe little heart.If you would like a more in-depth telling, warts and all, of his struggles for the rest of his life, I highly recommend the book, "The Price of Valor", a well-researched and informative book, from his childhood on. To Hell and Back was written not as an autobiography, but as a way to remember his buddies that died - to the end of his days he said that the dead were the ones who deserved the medals, not him.

And so, I say again, I thank you for your service, from the bottom of my heart and tears streaming down my face. And if that offends you, I'm not sorry.

Because I will never stop saying it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

As I Was Saying...

What a shock! To discover I haven't been here in almost 2 months. 

I was stunned.

I knew it had been some time - as the body grows older, so do the opportunities for something to go wrong or be off kilter.  Mine has been kiltering along, off key, for the last 2 months.  Bronchitis used to be quickly treatable and then booted out of my body's kilter.

No longer.

This time, the bronchitis has been playing "Catch me if you can" and my doc has a catcher's mitt that has been growing larger and larger, to contain all the remedies we've tried.  Meanwhile the cough had banished sleep and increased pain and wavered on pneumonia...then it seemed to be on the downturn, only to abruptly about face towards pneumonia, threatening, threatening...

This last antibiotic was the strongest one yet.  After 4 days the cough has diminished in frequency and moistness and I've actually been sleeping - a lot.

And then, as all good things must come to an end, I hit a wall.  Again.

The drug was so strong my body can't tolerate it, which, as many may know, makes for a weakened response in the body and gives bacteria enough time to figure out how to become antibiotic resistant.  But my doc and I decided enough was enough. 

The side effects had become terrific.  I kept wondering why I had suddenly started experiencing very nasty new troubles.  I tried to figure out what I had done/not done and when they had started and, wouldn't you know it, they all started when I started this new drug.

So, I'm back to square one. I'm hoping my imagination is the reason my cough sounds juicier again.  It's still not as bad, I'm able to breathe between coughs and coughing spells that seemed to be without end are completely gone.

So far.

And it brought to mind again, the realization that at any moment I can be called into the presence of God - live and in Person - at any moment. 

Actually, I look forward to that moment.  For me, it will be the best Homecoming ever - I know my God, Who He is, How He operates, and He can be trusted.  He is the One Who holds my every breath, and knows - to the last one - when it will occur.  I am at peace about that.  If you are not, please keep reading, and I will tell you how to meet Him - and how I did.. He is the gentlest of all the gentlemen in the world or out of it, and He cherishes you, even now, even before you choose Him.  He has a wonderful plan for your life.

So you look at mine, and what is so wonderful?

All of it.

Yes, I've been in some sort of pain for most of it.  I've had narrow escapes. I became too sick to work at my chosen profession, which I loved. From the outside looking in, I can understand the question marks in your eyes. 

Doesn't look too full of adventure or happiness or excitement, does it?

Ahhh - but looks, as the proverb goes, are deceiving.

I was living a mundane life, get up, go to work, spend my time listening to music, hanging out, smoking dope.  An average life for the 60's and 70's.

But in the late 60's I had almost bled to death.

Exciting, no? (Grin)

I had blood going in both arms, an oxygen mask, and lying on the stretcher, every time I moved, blood and clots fell off of it onto the floor.

Listening to the blood pressure results being called out I realized that if something didn't happen pretty dang quickly, I would be facing a just and holy God with not a single excuse to keep me out of a very painful and terrifying place.

When shock sets in, the mind becomes very calm, and your thinking seems to clear out the garbage and you are left with a totaling of the marks for and against you in the sight of God, whom you will shortly be face to face with.

So, I 'fessed up.

I spoke to Him and said that I realized I had nothing of worth to offer Him.  It didn't seem like I could do anything, granted my condition, that would change that fact, and I told Him that I gave myself to Him, just the way I was, and hoped that was enough.

No, there was no light highlighting the person next to me, no confession that s/he was actually an angel, just a hurried consent to sign and a rush to the operating room.

I believe God accepted my paltry offering.

When I got thru all the mess and complications, I sort of forgot all that and went back to my totally secular existence and relegated God to storybook level, a fuzzy, friendly God with a white beard and grandfatherly heart.

Oh, I talked about Him a lot - with my friends, while high on marijuana, concocting theories galore - one friend came up with a computer in the sky, and it controlled everything you did, yada yada yada.  All very intellectual.

One  of my other friends said that kind of talk scared him, he didn't want any part of it.

And then a best bud was sent overseas and with nothing to do on the ship, fell in with a bunch of Bible thumpers and was drawn to a loving God that paid his way into heaven, and suddenly, life became complicated.

A complication I wanted no part of.

So, one evening, I sat down to write a letter, and intended it to be the last one.

Ever.

Meanwhile, my lifetime best bud's brother called.  His wife, it seems, had a desperate desire to learn guitar, and could they come over and maybe borrow one of mine and learn the rudiments?

Of course!

Unknown to me, they had recently had the same sort of experience my overseas friend had had. 

What a coincidence!!

If you are considering investigating this Christian thing, you will suddenly experience the same kind of coincidences.

You will suddenly be surrounded by Christians,

Everywhere.

At school.  At work.  The neighbor next door.  At the supermarket you will run into old friends who want to tell you this exciting thing that happened to them.

You will NOT believe it.  They will be everywhere. And you will fight it with every ounce of rebellion in you. You will pull out every dusty ol' excuse you have ever heard and none of it will be because you honestly researched it.

It will be because there is an evil presence in this world that wants people to believe he doesn't exist and he is the one reigning in your heart, and he doesn't want to give you up. And, so far, you're not unhappy with his reigning - yet- so you don't want anyone making you feel guilty or - how dare you! - a sinner, so you close your ears and cross your arms  and shake your head no, no,no.

And the coincidences keep coming.

And on this night, it took the shape of the brother and his wife.

They arrived and we started talking about how it had been too long, we needed to get together more often, standard stuff and I got the guitars out and they saw the letter writing stuff on the table and asked if they'd interrupted something.

I said no, and, of course, explained how my friend had been sucked into this cult thing and it was about Jesus and how fanatical he'd become, brainwashed, and I'd had enough. He had sent me a tape (in those days there were no iPhones or cellphones or instant anything. It was write or make a cassette tape, period.) 

So they said, naturally, that it was too bad, and, as a matter of fact, they had recently become Christians, although they were not fanatics or anything.

So, of course, I  pulled out the cassette player and said, "Listen to this stuff! I'm a Christian, but this is waaay out of my range!"

And as the words left my mouth, the God Who had accepted my bargaining ploy 15 years earlier said, "Gotcha!" And took me up on it.

He blasted me with the Holy Spirit, and it felt like my life had gone from black and white to Color, with a capital "C".

And everything on the tape made perfect sense.

Every. Single. Word.

I couldn't believe it.  I was stunned.

Deep in my heart, I knew I was forever changed.  Every Bible verse I'd ever read made sense.

 I fell in love at that moment.

Completely, head-over-heels, eternal love with the One Who had created me to know Him, because He had loved me when I wasn't even a twinkle in my daddy's eye.

I knew I was a sinner already. (and so do you, even though you don't want to admit it.) - and when they left, I knelt on the hard wooden floor and gave myself to Him again, lock stock and barrel, and thanked Him for saying yes to me.

Then I finished the letter, praising God and quoting Scriptures I had learned as a child and told my friend I too was a Christian.  Later I was told that, overseas mail being what it is, he got the letter a few weeks later and had spent the previous night in prayer for my soul.  His friend told me he came running down a hallway with tears streaming down his face.  He couldn't believe God answered his prayers so miraculously.

Jesus has perfect timing.

People remark that it's all coincidences.  But, you know what?  Those coincidences only happen when I pray.  And they fit, down to the last detail, what I prayed for.

And no, I'm not saying that God gives me everything I pray for.  He doesn't. Jesus knows what is His best, and Jesus gives me what fits His plans for me. And He's always teaching me.  I learn so much at His feet!

And for me, the best instrument for teaching happens to be pain, in the form of a chronic illness which is painful. I learn from the Teacher Who knows first hand what pain does to a Person, inside and outside. And how He lets darkness surround me sometimes - so I learn that even in the dark, His hand is there for me to grab. Jesus knows exactly what is right for me, and reveals His love through all of it.

Yeah, I know, I sound like a fanatic.  Same ol', same ol'.

But it has been a true adventure. Jesus has held me through some of the most painful moments of my life.  When He burst into my life, I asked Him to take me into the depths with Him. (Unfortunately, I didn't say "through the depths") I didn't want to be superficial.  I wanted to know He is real and know He is truly there, every second of every day.

And one day, I read the life's story of Solomon, the wisest man to ever live.  God told him one night to ask for whatever he wanted - anything.  And being God, He could make that offer.

Solomon asked for wisdom. The essence of what he asked for was actually a "hearing heart" - so he could hear the hearts of the people placed under his rule.  He wanted to follow his father's path (David, an man after God's own heart).

And then I read the line, "and it pleased God" - so I, in my hunger to please Him with my life, asked Him for the same thing.

I had no idea that the only way to hear some one's heart is to have gone through the same things.  So I began to walk the path of sorrow and pain, to learn how to hear, and He brought me people who needed someone with a hearing heart so very much. He taught me how to listen, and guides the words I say, and blesses them to others.  He uses the words that come out of my mouth to teach me as He lovingly reaches out to that hurting person. It's an amazing thing to walk with the Living God.

I highly recommend it.

If you've read this far, you may be wanting to know how to do this.  You don't have to go to a church to reach Him.  I do recommend that you kneel before Him, as He is the King of the Universe and there is no one else, no Being as powerful in all the Universe.  Think on that for a moment, then bow your head before Him. Tell Jesus you know you've sinned. You know He is holy and you aren't. And You know He became a Man and died on a cross in exchange for your soul - He bought you. Every ounce of His suffering on that cross was for you. He in reality died rather than live without you And you are asking Jesus to come in and take possession of your heart and all you are. Thank Him for His Holy Spirit and for answering His prayer and coming in.

What will happen?

Maybe nothing.  Maybe an explosion of joy inside you.  Maybe you will feel like everything is new and in living color. For others, it comes on gradually.

I highly recommend you get a Bible and read it. Daily. If you're a Shakespeare buff, get the New King James version, it is in Olde English.  Otherwise, get the New International Version, just ask for the NIV.
These both are interpretations by scholars who tried very very hard to present what the verses actually mean.  Some of the "New" translations that say they are simply easier to understand, are not sticklers for interpretation.  They paraphrase and add subtle bits of New Age thinking that turn your heart in those subtle ways to think of a New Age God, not the Living God.  Find a church that teaches verse-by-verse through the Bible - the Calvary Chapel Churches are good at this, to find one near you go to Calvarychapel.org. Wherever you are in the world, there is probably one near you - and meet with other Christians (yes, you are now "one of them") and learn the joy of fellowship as well as friendship. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them - click on the comment option, below (hold your mouse over the icons below and it will reveal a comment option.)

And welcome to the family of God!  Adventure awaits you!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Oh! How He loves you and me....

Still thinking about pain.

But not mine.

His.

I remember way back when I was in high school, I found an essay on the medical description of what Jesus endured on the cross.  I don't remember the details, but I remember the horrified impression they left.

Now, as we approach "Holy Week", the last 7 days before the crucifixion, I have been praying to understand more of what He went thru.

I am a nurse, so just thinking about the nerve endings tortured (there is no other word for it) for 6 hours on the cross, is daunting.

For most of my life, I thought He had spent only ("only?") three hours on the cross.  But if you read the time of crucifixion carefully, it occurred at 9 am, not noon. The last 3 hours, from 12 to 3pm, were in utter and complete darkness - of the soul as well as the body.

The first 3 hours were all the Father could bear to look at.

When He withdrew, He took the light with Him ("In Him is light, and no darkness at all",) and His presence as well.  In order for Jesus to actually become sin, Jesus had to do it with a totally human perspective.  He chose to be separated for the first time in all eternity (and the last) from the Father God.

I have thought of this quite a bit.

What a choice!

That means that He put aside every iota of knowledge He has as God.  He became like us - in the "dark night of the soul", where we don't have a clue what God is doing in our lives, and must choose, like Jesus, to trust in the darkness.

But not without pain.

Pain is an integral part of the process of faith.

IN spite of not having a clue, in spite of that feeling of "alone-ness", where the voice of God is silent and we feel abandoned in the universe, in spite of the pain and fear engendered by that feeling of wondering if we really do belong to God and if He really does love us, in spite of allll of that, we choose to believe He is Who He says He is.

And Jesus, "being tempted (tried) in all points, even as we are", chose this unimaginable separation from all that is holy, pure, and true.

Think of it!  He Who is light itself, chose to endure darkness, evil, the depths of depravity, so that He could redeem us.

Chose it.

As I mentioned in the last post, it is easier for me to endure physical pain than the pain where the soul itself is twisted and torn and stretched out of shape and tortured.  Physical pain, however it governs our physical bodies, will end with this body, this "tent," as Paul calls it.

Tents are temporary, fleeting.  They can be destroyed by a strong gust of wind, hail, fire, just about anything.  They are flimsy.  The strongest tent is still flimsy.  It is a very temporary entity - and we do not even expect it to stand the test of time.  It will wear out - day by day the elements will ravage it.  It is doomed from the start.

Altho heartache, if we accept His sacrifice, will also end with the body, it  is another animal completely.

I believe that is why, that last night in the garden, He sweat, as it were, "great drops of blood."

That, by the way, is a medically documented process caused by great suffering.

The pain of the cross, after all, was not an exclusive method of punishment.  Legions of felons experienced it.  So what made this particular crucifixion worthy of paying off our sin debt?

It was this separation, this contamination on a level we can only imagine!  A 100% pure soul (not 99% - 100%) Who had never contemplated committing a sin, Who lived - really lived - a life in the presence oF His Father - this pure soul would become, actually become, sin.  One by one.  Filling His being. Tasting of it.  Each breath, which was pain in itself, for He had to push up with His nailed feet and pull on His nailed hands to be able to breathe, each time, with His newly scourged back dragging on splintering wood, each nerve ending screaming with the physical pain, each breath He drew contaminated with evil thoughts and pictures and sensations until He reeked of it.  Every cell full of sin.

My sin.

Your sin.

Every angry thought.  Every rancid deed.  Every wish for someone else to be destroyed for what they did to you. And the doing itself. One by one. Coming at You. Sliding down Your throat. Filling You with bile. Every cruel deed, every perversion, every horrific act devised by man in conjunction with satan.

In the darkness. Alone.

No refuge. No cleansing.

No Father.

Filled to the very brim.

I believe it was the contemplation of this that made His very blood want to run away  - please Papa (the word is "Abba", used today in Israel, meaning "Daddy") if there is any way, any way, any way - three times He begged: don't abandon Me, Daddy! If there is any other way.  Please, Please, Please.

Until He wrestled Himself into submission. He "set His face like flint" and never wavered - altho the evil one would be whispering, enticing, trying every trick and seduction he could draw on to cause  Him to call legions of angels to free Him.

Even now, He said, Do you not think I could ask the Father to send legions of angels to rescue Me?

A legion was 1000 Roman soldiers.  And He had plural :legions at His disposal.

Even now.

Yet, with the picture of my eternity laid out before Him, He chose to endure.

We were in His heart.

He chose us over freedom from an experience so overwhelmingly painful that His very being shrank from it.

So during this last week of His time on earth, I think He was savoring those He loved, those Who loved Him.  Looking at them, His poor, confused, sheep, bleating on the precipice. And knowing - knowing beyond anything that we can even imagine - that He would still have to chose His answer.  Knowing that He would have to agree in every detail.  Whispers,whispers of safety surrounding Him as the time approached. You don't have to do this, You know.

All You have to do is say no.

And it was really that simple.

It was really all He had to do.

Just say, "no."

"Oh! How He loves you.  Oh! How He loves me.

"Oh! How He loves you and me."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

the never ending adventure...

I've been thinking about pain today.

No big surprise - it's pretty much my daily companion.

But today I've been thinking about the varieties that the evil one has devised for us.

God had pretty much safeguarded me from mental pain - for which I am deeply grateful!  I have dear ones who fight depression, Bi-polar and SAD, and the suffering they endure can not be called anything else but pain.  And it breaks my heart, because I fight with my heart, and their hearts are so battered and worn by the type of pain they experience, that they feel inadequate and weak.

And they are anything but.

I so admire them.  I've had my heart stabbed a few times (figuratively ) and I almost couldn't bear it.  I am not strong enough for that kind of pain.  And I so respect those who fight that battle - and I cheer their victories and the beauty that comes out of them.

Give me physical pain anyday.  (I mean, instead of mental/heart stuff)  Not that I'm asking for it.  I've just pretty much figured out it's gonna get me sooner or later in my daily life.

I was in a pain study once, and the cartographer asked me how I could laugh and still say I was in a high rate of pain.

He was probably thinking about sharp pain.  I am a wuss when the pain gets sharp.  I don't handle it well.  At all.

]But my pain is the deeeeeep ache that seems to settle in your bones and scream at you from just beyond your reach.  It's the kind of pain that sucks the energy out of you like a 5 year old with a straw and a root beer float.

I didn't know how to answer him that day. I'd only been sick for a few years, and didn't realize that I was starting to learn coping.

Coping is a big part of pain.  I feel like the pain wins if I let it dictate to me - something that has gotten me in trouble a few times.  So, after 26 years and counting of pain, I know the answer now.

Chronic pain is like no other.  When it's constant, day in, day out, and the only thing that varies is where/how strong, you can take pain meds and bear it.  You can focus on other things that are enjoyable and get those endorphins humming, and yes, even tho the ache is bone deep and the black hole of energy, you can laugh and make light remarks - often because it would be useless to do otherwise.

I routinely tell people I'm ok when they ask how I am.

It's not true.

But unless you have experienced pain in that way, for that long, you would have no clue what I was talking about anyway.  And worse, you wouldn't know what to say.  It's a guaranteed conversation killer.

Aren't you worried about addiction? that's a frequent question.  And my answer is no.

There is a light year's worth of difference between addiction and dependence.

Addiction seeks drugs for the high.  And because your body gets used to the dosage you are taking, to get that high, you need more and more as time goes on.  And to get that high, you would do anything. And that is what you think about and plot about and designed your day around

Dependence doesn't produce a high.  No weirdness or dizzyness or wiped out-ness.  Just a decrease, deeply welcomed, in the pain.  I've been at the same level of narcotic for almost 10 years. And one of my problems is, I completely forget about taking my pain meds.

So by the time I realize "Oh!  This is getting nasty!" my pain meds are less effective, and I mentally kick myself for it, and remember to take it the next time it is due.

I have partially gone into withdrawal twice.  And I do not want to go there again.  You cannot stay still. You feel like your legs will walk off without you if you stop moving.  You can't think.  Your pain becomes so obvious that suddenly you realize, "I'm in withdrawal!" and mentally try to figure out the last time you took your meds and promise yourself you will never ever do that again.

And yet I did.  One more time.

I've discovered I can't go longer than 24 hours without taking it.  In that respect, it has me bound.  But it still is not even a blip on my consciousness for most of my day. In addition to the regular, on going pain I have severe arthritis in my neck, which makes a lot of things difficult.

And yes, I can still talk and laugh with people, even when it's bad, even when there's no relief for hours after I take my meds, and I know it's because I'm not alone in this.

I serve a God Who has measured out my allotment to the last bit of dust there is in me.  He walks through it with me, and teaches me a lot about what I can do and what I can't - and Who holds each one of my breaths in His hands, and has measured them, too, down to the last O2 particle I will breathe out. He knows the kind of pain I can't tolerate - that sharp, suck the life out of you pain that comes with nails in your wrists and  heels and your back torn to ribbons and rubbing on the rough splintery wood each time you take a breath that in itself is agony.

And I am keenly aware that He did it for me.

And no, I don't know why He chose to give this to me. Or the mental agony He chose for some of those I love.

But this I know:

He can be trusted beyond my capacity to imagine, and His motive is love for me. And if I can submit it to Him day by day, it will be the greatest adventure of my life.

Selah


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our God is an Awesome God! He reigns from heaven above...

Another sleepless night last night.

I am prone to bowel obstructions (BI) due to several abdominal surgeries and the scar tissue they left behind.

So when my abdomen begins to hurt, that's the first thing that comes to mind.  And last night, it hurt.  Badly.

So then I take pain meds - which is another factor  in BI's - it hurts, you take meds, it slows the bowel moving things along in the intestine, which makes you at high risk for a BI and causes so much pain you have to take the pain meds, which slows things down yada yada yada - the most vicious of cycles begins, again, to steal my sleep and increase my fear.

But then again, it knocks my soul to its knees and draws me to prayer.

And so, off and on, thru the night, I prayed.  A lot.

Because today, no excuses, I HAD to drive a fur piece to Costco, one of those ginormous airplane-sized hangars stuffed to the gills with giant-sized packages of, well, just about anything. And on a Saturday, it was a mob scene, even bigger than the regular-sized daily mob scene. Even tho I was sleep-deprived, I had to go there.  Had to.

  Because I was completely out of a very necessary heart medication that can itself cause a heart attack if you stop it suddenly.

So I asked my Papa to please arrange for me to 1) find a parking space and 2) find one of those put-put thingys they have for those of us who are physically challenged to even contemplate walking the mile and a half way to the back of the said plane hangar to pick up my Rx.

Wellllll perhaps not a whole mile and a half.  Maybe just the half.  Altho, when I am walking it because all the put-puts are occupied, it sure feels like a mile and a half!

And both of those things that I prayed for?  They are few and far far between on a Saturday.

So I pulled into the ginormous parking lot and just (mentally) shook my head in defeat.  I gave up. Because cars were circling all around the parking lot like sharks, looking for a spot they could do battle over like a scene from Jaws.

So I turned into the handicapped section.

And there, smack dab in front of me was .....an empty parking space! Astonished, I told my Papa thank You.  And kicked myself for being astonished.

He does that frequently when I really need it - and every time I am astonished. Why is that?  He is the Creator of the universe and I don't think He can provide a puny parking space? In the handicapped section that never has an empty space? Close to the door?

Shame-faced, I am astonished every time.

So now I looked for a put-put - the place where they should be was, of course, empty.  And on top of that, the other kind of shopping cart was waaaay far away.

Then one of the shopping-cart-rounder-uppers came trundling towards the warehouse and left a line of shopping carts right by the entrance - and they sort of sat there in a flock as people came up and grabbed one. And front and center, camouflaged by all of the shopping carts was.....

Guess.

No, really Guess

Yup.

Good guess.

You are correct.

A put-put. 

Waiting. For. Me.

For me.  The astonished one. The I-can't-even-muster-the-faith-to-believe-You-can-find-me-a-parking-space one.

The help-me-I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up-one.

The one to whom God says, oh so gently, "Don't you know by now I love you anyway?"

And then (oh, come on!  You knew this wasn't over yet didn't you?)

And then...I stepped up put-putted to the Pharmacy and:

My med wasn't there.

"Not for two more days" said the lady.

"How can that be? I'm not just low on this med - I'm out of it. None. Nada. Nothing. And it's a must-have medication."

So she sent me to the drop off window and said to talk to them.

I did.

And the nice wonderful go-the-extra-mile-lady at the window said, "We can do this.  Come back in 30 minutes and it will be ready,."

So I came back in 25 minutes, 5 minutes early even - and there were no lines to wait for, nobody in front of me, step right up and there it was.

And my heart was face down on the floor worshipping the One Who holds my breath in His hands.

And I was astonished - and humbled and in awe and full of gratitude.

And, wonder of wonders of all wonders, He still loves me anyway.

Sigh. 

We worship an Awesome God.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

And then the Sky puts on a Show For Free...

I drove home from chores late this afternoon - and happened upon my favorite time of day.

The sun had begun its lingering slide down the sky,  stretching to kiss the mountaintops and move on to a morning in someone else's day.  The sharp blue shadows on the hills grew inch by inch, wrapping the cliffs and rocky outcroppings in a dusky blanket, tucking them in for the night.

Driving into the sun was at the perfect spot in time - high enough that my visor could block out the brightness so I could see, and low enough to outline the grey, dirty-footed clouds in silvery backlight - while in between was the deep turquoise sky of the Southwest.

My heart was face down in worship as I drove.  The spectacular colors and variegation splashed themselves on the walls of my soul and I felt something ease there, like a sore muscle with a healing warmth settling around it, in the exact spot to bring the greatest comfort. Thank You, Papa!

And again, not for the first time, I thought how sad it is for the people who depersonalize creation into a vague imaginary evolution - for which there is not a single fossil of verification, by the way.  (Surely there should be at least one.)

But I digress.

The One Who formed each and every ray of light, arranged for those rays to lengthen and bend each evening, turning the sky into wild splashes of orange and purple and flaming reds. They all  melt and blend into an ever-deepening dusky blue that settles on the dimming bits of gold with a kiss.

What glory and honor is due to such a magnificent Artist!

It is full night now - and yet the colors and swirling sensations are with me still.  I see the silver outlines, the lengthening shadows,  the steadily decreasing glimmer of the sun as it sets.

And, as always, in spite of the pollution and destruction and degrading of His crowning creation, I think to myself :"What must Eden have been?"


Selah.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The answer to the question is....

My reading today encompassed Numbers 9, and I have been contemplating the Shekinah glory, the cloud that led Israel for 40 years.

Including women and children, there were approximately 2 million people wandering in the desert for 40 years - and all of them had been slaves.  They had the slave mentality - they wanted everything provided for them, they wanted to be protected, they saw themselves as weak.  I often think that is a perfect picture of us as Christians - we have the slave mentality.  It is not for nothing that the Word tells us we were bought out of the slave market.  

We want clear direction from God, none of this trusting in the dark business.  We want to be provided for - our bodies well, our monetary needs taken c/o, protection in our weaknesses.  When we come to a place where we get thirsty, or hurting, or worried about money, we react the same way the Israelites did, altho we seldom put it into words: You brought me here to die of thirst?  Why couldn't You have left me alone?  I was doing well, feeling good, had my plan all set to go and then blam!  You threw a gigantic, overwhelming roadblock in my path?  Why, God? And we whine in our hearts and wonder what the heck is going on - as though God can't hear the murmuring going on in our hearts: I want meat.  I miss the garlic and onions.  This manna stuff is boring.  Same thing every day: manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna for dinner.  This stuff gets old....and on we go.

But the Israelites had the visible presence of God with them.

In the hot, dry, parched desert, they had a cloud covering that shielded them from the worst of the heat and burning sunshine.  A cloud big enough to cover 2 million people!  A personal appearance of the God that busted the Egyptians in the chops and opened the gates to set them free.  So out they went, following the 80 year old guy who says he hears God talk to him and give instructions.

This God is a new guy, too - they had gotten used to the Egyptian gods - a god for every animal, a god for your shoes and clothes and to give you money and keep you well and now they have just One God.  He showed them He was stronger than all the Egyptian gods rolled into one, but the only one who actually sees Him is this Moses guy.

So they whine to the Moses guy - every time they stub their toe, it's Moses' fault.  He takes too much on himself.  He doesn't let anyone else say anything - he's the big Kahuna and that's that.  "I'm just as smart as he is" they say to themselves.  "Why do we have to obey him - we can't do all the raucous promiscuous stuff the other gods let us do - if we mess with this One, He kills us outright.  It's Moses' fault.  He's the one that made us leave our safe homes and all that good food - we didn't know how good we had it."

And while we don't go that far, our bottom lip sticks itself out there when things are rough or our feelings are hurt by someone, or we get sick.

And we excuse ourselves, sometimes, because we have to walk by faith, and we don't get to see the One Who bought us.

But lets look at what the Israelites saw:

This ginormous cloud that shielded them - one day, our of the blue, it would rise up and the trumpet would blow, telling them to get ready to move out.

The first time, they had been in their spot by the mountain for a year and one month.  They had settled in: ready water supply, a place for their livestock, the tabernacle all set up,  their tents had accumulated stuff and now they had to pack it all up and get ready to trudge who knew how long before they could rest again.

"What's going to happen to us?  Where will we be going? Will someone attack us?  Granny will have a hard time keeping up.  So will my little ones." and so on, their hearts full of fear and wondering if that "horrible manna" would follow them as well.

And taking it for granted.

And then, at night, the cloud became fire.  The flickering lights were scary.  This was something they understood, the dangers of fire.  Only this fire was alive!

The flame must have been unbelievably high for the last of the 2 million on the fringes of camp to see it.  Just imagining setting up camp for the evening - when did the cloud begin to glow?  to turn from a hazy protector to this dancing, radiant tower of light and flame?  And that flame would call Moses into the tabernacle and when he came out,  he glowed with this same unearthly light.

Creepy.

So I wondered how that would translate to us, in our present state of walking by faith.

We do have a Shekinah glory, only this one is within us.  He shields us from seeking things to satisfy our thirst - and if we come to Him daily, He gives us manna.  We have to come to Him daily - the manna can't be left overnight or it rots and gets stinky.

Boy, is that a picture of backsliding!  When we expect Sunday's spoonful of preaching from the Pastor to last us all week, we can pretty well count on something rotten and stinky showing up in our hearts.  We quietly slip something that is not God onto the throne of our hearts, and think it's ok - and suddenly we find ourselves stuffed with garlic and onions and it's rotting and smelling and we wonder how on earth we ended up this way.

So God lets us stumble on our own for a bit - in a long, dark night where something hard blocks our way and we feel abandoned in the darkness.

If we come to our senses and let Him cover us with His wings, the Shekinah fire, which was there all the time, suddenly warms us and encourages us and helps us to humble ourselves before Him.  We may not have a Moses to blame, but if we don't bow before Him, we'll  begin blaming anything that moves. Our pride of life is always ready, eager and waiting for the chance to jump back on that throne and start ordering us around, and in our panic for something visible to follow, we welcome this chance to devise our own plans for getting out of this mess, and blam!  Another roadblock slams down right in front of our path - again.

We chafe and complain and want this over with - now! And it never occurs to our enslaved mind that perhaps, just perhaps, the hedges that have boxed us in are for our protection.  That plan we devised leads right over a cliff and yet we cannot comprehend why God won't let us implement it.

So we immediately bow before Him, confess and receive forgiveness, and get back on the narrow path immediately, right?

Perhaps you do.  I tend to mutter a bit and ask why and stumble around in the dark for awhile until, in His mercy, God nudges me in the right direction and I have an "Aha!" moment.

Because the simple fact I have come to discover is, we all have that slave mentality in our heart of hearts.

We want things clear, the path clear, the reason for the fly in our ointment clear, the pathway fulfilling and spiced correctly and provided for us with no muss or fuss.  We want to waltz out in front of the unbelievers and have water parted for us right in front of them and find our streets made of gold right now, thank you very much.  And most of all we want to have a simple concise answer to that question.

You know what question.

The one that everyone asks: "Where was God when...?" fill in the blank.

When all along, the answer is "right there".

He is shielding us by day, glowing in our hearts when the night is long and dark and the pain is fierce.

And we don't realize that trusting He is covering and glowing without the seeing is our privilege.  In all of mankind's history, the church is the only entity that has the Person of the Holy Spirit within us, sealing us, walking alongside of us,

And it is that very indwelling that is ready to take us out of slavery.

Because the only thing that enslaves a child of the Living God is the chains we forge ourselves.

Selah.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I love You Papa

My pastor is over in Cambodia, so our asst pastor preached on Wed night.

He shared how, throughout the day, his little 4 yr old granddaughter would come and find him, just to say "I love you Poppa." 

It really made his day.

And an arrow shot right into my heart.

Quietly, the question was asked, "How often do you do that?"

And with my head hanging low, I said, "Sorry Papa."

Because I knew that the answer was "Not very often."

How is that possible?

Here my Papa had given me everything - including eternal life in a kingdom where the streets are made of gold.

Gold!

And I blithely slither on my way, never taking the time to tell Him how much I love Him.

It's not as tho I don't talk to Him - every day I'm in the Word and learning and treasuring His often repeated sentiments of love and caring.  Yet seldom do I think of telling Him what's in my heart.

Since Wednesday I am trying to remember that little thing that means a lot.  I asked the Holy Spirit to remind me about it.

And what an amazing change it's made in my day-to-day doings. 

He is the reason for the season - in whatever season I am in at the moment.  We box that phrase up with the Christmas decorations and feel so righteous when we say it in December.  But He is the reason all year long, not for some misaligned date we've chosen and said, "Here You go, Lord.  This is when You were born." 

I don't know about you, but I didn't even say Happy Birthday on the 25th of Dec. 

Did you?

We talked the talk.  Where did the walk go?

Of course, it wasn't His birthday.  But where does it say we can't tell Him "I love You" because it's not Dec 25th?

And where did all the "Peace on earth, good will to men," and  "hosanna in the highest" go to? 

I want to unpack all those Christmas boxes and praise Him with love every day.  I don't want my heart to get packed away with those boxes and forget He is the reason for my heart beating.  I want Him to hear it, many times a day, from my heart remembering and being grateful and thanking Him for the roof over my head and the pillow I put said head down on to rest.

How hard is it to say those three words, anyway?

We know how it makes a difference in our own lives - how nice it is to hear, even a hurried "love you," as someone goes out the door on an errand.

How much more it must mean to the One Who died for the air we breathe and the food we put in our mouths( after a hurried "thanks for the chow" prayer that can quickly get so routine we don't even hear ourselves say it anymore.)

And all this after I chose "love:" for my one word this year.

Already it's an abysmal failure.

So, Papa, just for the books, I. Love. You.

Forever and and ever and ever and ever.

Amen.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pondering

The first day of the year.

Always a time for pondering.

What will this year hold?  Good or evil? Pain or joy?  Life or death?

I have reached an age where, even more than the usual, every day is a gift I dare not count on.  I have buried every immediate family member but one - out of the 7 that made my original family circle.

I am the child of 2nd generation immigrants.

My grandparents on both sides immigrated at the turn of the last century.

Their speech was thick with the accents of "the old country."  They spoke of it often - I can hear them still.  The lilt of Swedish is so musical, falling gently on the ears and alive with memories of growing up .

My paternal grandparents lived with us from the time of my 3rd year.  My grandfather was 6 feet tall, and our first meeting began with him snatching me up and tossing me in the air.

To say I was terrified would be an understatement.

I can still see through my 3 yr old eyes, can still feel like I was 20 stories up - and being thrown higher - by a stranger. And one who talked funny at that! Yikes!

Of course, we made friends.  I was only to know him for 2 more years before a stroke stole him away.  but I remember him well, and with affection.

He was a painter.

He painted houses to make ends meet.  And he painted his heart to keep his memories alive.  For my grandfather was a whaler.

This was back when the whales had a chance, and a whale run was 50/50 - the men were at as much of a risk of dying as the whales.

He sailed on windjammers - the many-sailed boats with 2 or 3 masts fitted with 3 large square sails.  Most of their down time was spent repairing said sails.  Or the nets used to catch fresh fish for food.  To the end of his life, his best times were on a charter, doing deep sea fishing and hopefully returning with a gargantuan tuna to feed us for a week.

He would clean the fish, which became my job as I grew up.  I loved to watch him, loved the process from start to finish - first the scaling.  Only when the skin was super smooth did he remove the head just below the gills, remove the tail - and here's where it got really interesting - slit the belly and remove the guts.  I remember asking him "what's that?" over and over - patiently he would point out the liver, the air sacs, the intestines, and, if we were lucky, the roe - the eggs a female carried hidden in her body.  I think this is where I became interested in nursing - by being a 5 yr old fascinated with guts!

My grandmother, 11 years younger than he, was made of spun sugar - and molten steel.  She cooked the tuna as a roast, basting it with butter and love.

She was from Sweden, my grandfather from Norway - at a time when the two countries were not exactly friendly.  Mostly, sons grew up to farm, in both countries, and daughters grew up to be farmer's wives - or nurses. She had 3 sisters, and all grew up to be nurses.  she herself was in nurse training when she left Sweden to marry my grandfather.  Sadly, she never was able to finish her training - in those days, married women did not become nurses.

Her home life had been rough.  She was the Cinderella of her family, with no fairy godmother in sight.  She never figured out why her parents used her as a drudge, to do all the cleaning and cooking.  Part of her task was to make cookies for her 7 siblings - and she was not allowed to sample even one.

So, at the tender age of 16, she and my grandfather had saved enough money for her to join him in America.  She bade her family  far vell (good bye) and set sail on the sister ship to the Lusitania.  The ship would be sunk during WWI, as well as the more famous Lusitania.

She was, of course, in steerage - the below decks accommodations of many immigrants in that day. - small rooms were fitted with 2 bunkbeds, leaving scarcely enough room to move between the beds. When they hit rough seas, people were too sick to run for the primitive WCs, and would simply vomit over the side of their beds. My steely grandmother, not seasick but getting sick on the smell, had brought lemons with her to fight off scurvy.  She took one of her lemons with her to suck on, and snuck out to the deck as the ship tossed and dived with the rough sea swells.  Water would flood the lower decks and she wrapped an arm around the railing and held on - she thought the danger preferable to the smell of the unventilated steerage quarters.

Only she found, as she hung on literally for dear life, that the fancy patrons above her hung onto their rails - and vomited over the side, which the wind blew backward to fall on her and the steerage deck, making it slicker than the blasts of ocean water did.  Yet still, she clung on, sucking her lemon to help control the nausea of being doused repeatedly with vomit.

She said she didn't know how long she'd been there when a crew member noticed her below.  He ran down to her deck and told her she couldn't be there - it was too dangerous, he said, she could be washed overboard.  And while she knew what he said was true, she couldn't stand being shut up with all the vomit in steerage.

But the steward pulled her arm from the railing and forced her back inside.

And she endured.

Eventually her baby sister Judith and husband John, also came to America and settled nearby.

Sweden is big on elves and trolls and folklore.  The deep snow and dark winters leave plenty of time for storytelling while the work is being done. Perhaps they  missed it.

Because one year my uncle John made a little house.

To my 6 yr old eyes it was enchanting.

Log walls with snow on the roof, dainty lace curtains - and through them, hazily visible elves at work could be seen.  Light glowed from the windows, and you could see the elves at their chores - and one was warming his backside at the blazing fire in the fireplace.  It was enthralling.

My 2 brothers (a third would come when I was 9) and 6 boy cousins were all mesmerized, too, and it was rare for the little house to be unattended for any length of time.

I found a photo of it when I was grown up and was shocked to find the walls were corrugated cardboard and the snow was rolled cotton.

I was astonished.

As a child at Christmastime, it had been pure magic. And in my memories, it has lost none of its authenticity - and never shall.

My memories of my grandparents are among my most precious - I look at kids today and feel sad that children are so isolated from the older generations.  I think God designed the nuclear family as a gift - for a child to know how to communicate with older generations, hear stories at their knee, be cared for when the parents are busy elsewhere, know there are open arms to run to, and learn that death eventually claims us all.  It taught me to cherish memories - and thank the God that built me with memories to store and savor.

My grandparents, uncles and aunts, brothers and parents - all are still in my heart.  I expect most of us wish we had paid more attention to them, made more time to listen and visit and love.  I wish I had written down every word, to better remember their wisdom.

But I look at the world today, and I am filled with gratitude.  My King and Lord blessed me with a life surrounded by caring and love - which, I suppose, makes it easier to know the love of my Father in heaven.

So, thank You, Papa. I'm so grateful for the love and the accents and strong faith that is my inheritance - thank you for the parents you gave me, and for their parents - and for Your plan for my life.  Every good gift, and every perfect gift, comes down from the Father of Lights, in Whom is no changeableness or shadow from turning. (James 1:17)

Thank You, Lord, from the bottom of my heart.

Happy New Year

It has officially been 2015 for 2 1/2 hours here. the house is quiet, the neighbors have stopped setting off fireworks ( a tradition here) and the snow flurries have all but disappeared.

The weatherman was wrong, once again.

We'd been promised 3-5 inches but nothing but flurries arrived - and with it, a biting cold air that seemed to turn coats into crepe paper. 

Brrrr.

We usually get snow about once every 5 years, and we're 2 years overdue.

Usually it's not an issue.  But this year, my nephew from California is living with us to go to school - and he has never, in all of his 21 years, seen it snow.  He's been in the snow before, but never while it was actually coming down, and he would love, just once, to see it.

So we will keep praying.

Meanwhile, I have been pondering my word for 2015.

Last year's  was "notice".  It kept my attention - here and there.  I must confess that certain periods of time were consumed by other avenues. 

This year I am praying my one word will be much more prevalent in my thoughts.

Because this year the word is "love"

And hopefully, it is of the agape variety.

I want to let my heart be a conduit for Jesus.  To notice the calculating stare of the person on the corner with the sign begging - and love him anyway.

To take the insults and demeaning comments and let them flow past me, not responding in kind.

To find ways to bless others with words, deeds and prayers.

To keep my heart and hands as open as I can manage. 

To make people feel loved - from my cat to anyone I bump into.

Yesterday, in the grocery store, several people went out of their way to offer assistance, as I was in the putt-putt the store offers to those of us with mobility issues.  One woman offered to help me reach something - out of the blue, because I wasn't even looking at anything - she just saw me and offered.  It left me feeling blessed and not handicapped.

And that's what I want to give others.  I want to be more aware of them and less of me.  I want to bless them.

I want my friends and family to feel loved and cared for and doted on.

When was the last time you doted on anyone?

I've been doting on my nephew today.  He and his friends gathered here tonight - which is a big relief, because here on the outskirts of Vegas, on New Year's Eve, the LVPD says that probably every other car is being driven by someone inebriated.  I really didn't want to think of him out there with his friends.  And so when he asked to have them here, it was a great relief.  Every one of the folks he hangs out with are kind, funny, good-hearted people.

I hope I made them feel welcomed and cared for - before I discreetly absented myself from their get-together. 

(And after I told them if there was no designated driver, they would be spending the night here.)  In capital letters I said, "NO ONE WHO IS EVEN SLIGHTLY IMPAIRED WILL LEAVE THIS HOUSE TONIGHT".

This is my nephew's first NYE of legal drinking age.  He bought some champagne to share with his friends.  He is a responsible guy, as are his friends. 

But sometimes, the law needs to be laid down, just in case.

And that brings me back to my word for the year.

Loving one another is, actually , the only new law that Jesus laid down.  Hopefully I've complied with it - but I know, to my great shame, I've never concentrated on it.

So I want to make 2015 the most loving year of my life heretofore.

In doing so, I want there to be less of me.

Less of me complaining.  Less of me getting irritated.  Totally less of me getting sarcastic, which happens in less than the blink of an eye, especially with store people and/or faulty merchandise.

So you can see why there needs to be less of me.  Cuz the me that's mostly in evidence is the sin-nature me.  And I want to boot her tush outta here.

And in her place,  perhaps, some shining little puddles of God's love flowing through me to bless and comfort  others.

So if anyone has taken the time to read alllll the way thru this entry : May God bless you with a knowledge of His loving kindness and delight in you this day. Not because you earned it, because you couldn't.  Not because you were "good" today because you weren't.

God loves you just because you are you.

The same way He loves me

Just imagine that!  It takes my breath away each time I think of it. The Creator and King of the entire universe actually loves us - He knows us by name, by DNA, by all those besetting sins we wish weren't part of us - He knows about each one - and loves us still.  And that love led Him to the cross - because He'd really rather die than live without us - sinful, surly, complaining ol' us.

And with His help this year (and hopefully every other year as well) I want to love you the exact same way.

Happy New Year!