Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The South Wind

This morning it was cold in the house. Colder when I got out of the shower but I had a treat. The dryer was going and I decided to wear what had just finished drying. Ahhhh...warm pants and a soft warm sweater plus the lovely fragrance infused by a dryer sheet! (Sometimes it's the small luxuries that make my day.)

I had just been reading about the South Wind in the scriptures and I had been calling to it in prayer. Calling as in petitioning God to send it. "How thy garments are warm when He quieteth the earth by the south wind." Job 37:17

"Quieteth the earth... when He quieteth the earth..." That found a place in me. The way that phrase settled into my soul was like a warm embrace.

A devotional I was reading refers to the south wind as the spring wind of growth following the winter of cleansing. The spring wind smells like newly dug ground, like green buds and spring blossoms. The earth is active but peaceful.

I want the Lord to quiet my ground. I want my ground to be at peace with God, to be in agreement with His plan for it like the relationship between the Spouse-Bride and the Husbandman-Bridegroom. "Awake,O north wind; and come thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out..." Songs 4:16

We have a scent the world needs. A scent that delights our own hearts. It is the scent upon us of the Bridegroom's garments. That is what the south wind is meant to carry over the wall and into the world. That scent heals, encourages and awakens dreams. That scent transports us into the Presence.

When John moved to Amarillo to minister he went 6 mos before I could join him. I used to go stand in his closet and smell some of the jackets he left behind. One really lonely night I slept in one of them. I mean I REALLY SLEPT in one of them as in the warmth and comfort of John quieted my heart and I slept without the fitfulness that characterized his absence.(Now when he is gone I sleep with a gun, and while it makes me feel safe, it does not rise to the standard of that long ago jacket.)

The south wind is the strong, warm, lovingly devoted embrace of Christ, ripe with the promise of His fruitful intentions toward us; something wonderful to fall asleep in and wake up to.

Be Thou my vision O Lord of my heart

Be all else naught to me save that Thou art

Be Thou my best thought by day or by night

Both waking and sleeping, Thy Presence, my light
(Irish hymn)

Come thou south wind...

(Offered today in honor of Jan Collins and Sue Taylor, special women, whose friendships lavished upon me have always been as welcome breezes in a stuffy world. Many thanks. kl)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Heaven Calling

"The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works" (Psalm 33: 13-15).

Yesterday as I was dialing John’s cell number from my office his number came up on my caller ID. He was dialing me up at the same time I was calling him. Coincidence? Not with us. It is a daily occurrence regardless of the time of day.

Once when John David was a kid he was sleeping over at a friend’s. I was awakened in the middle of the night but waited until 7:30 to call the friend’s house. He had been up to no good and told the friend I would be calling. His friend told him he was paranoid. JD told him he had been caught. He was. Mothers have skills in the “I know what you did” department.

Once I smelled my mother’s perfume. I was in Texas and she was in Ohio. I told a co-worker she would be calling…ring. I wasn’t in trouble. She was just thinking of me. I’m older so the list is long and I’m sure I am not alone here. People with a connection do this all the time. Casual acquaintances seldom do.

I found a lovely picture of a fig tree today and it made me think of the moment in scripture when Philip brought his friend Nathanael to Christ : "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." (John 1:48) Nathanael was amazed and believed. He found his Messiah. He found the God of Hagar come in the flesh.

Hagar’s God was this same seeing God. El Roi, “The God who sees me.” Not just looking but seeing. A God who is cognizant of us, aware of us, knows us down to the last atom. But He isn’t just seeing. He is reaching. "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His" (2 Chronicles)

We are not just drifting around down here. Christ’s strong current of love is pulling us in His direction, turning our thoughts toward Him. Christ saw Nathanael under the fig tree because Christ was under the fig tree with him all along. In the beginning, like Nathanael, we may not be aware of it. Like him we may be standing in the shade with this very Heart-Knowing God right next to us and be completely unaware of His Presence.

God will reveal Himself. He will ask us to step out of the shade and into the light. He will call us to love Him publicly and out loud as He loves us. To let our hearts become completely His as His eyes search for every opportunity to support us and demonstrate His reciprocal, all surpassing, all seeing love.

The next time you are otherwise occupied and you find your thoughts drifting in His direction maybe it is because He is on the other line dialing your number. If you smell His perfume and perceive His sacred scent then savor the moment. Heaven will be calling.

Let your heart answer.

Monday, March 22, 2010

O' Say Can You See

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Who has not read those old lines? They have appeared so often everywhere that I have them memorized. We almost consider them trite.

"Don’t quit!"

My Grandfather Cavanaugh (who called me "Peach") would have had a tattoo that said it if he was an ink man. He wasn’t. He was the kind of guy who sold burial plots on Christmas Eve and would not head for home until he closed a deal. A self made man who finished the 4th grade, he began his day by marching his way to the bathroom with maracas in his hands to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner.

I kid you not at all. It was quite a sight. I was only a child but the lesson stuck. A few years back when John hit a slump I bought him a pair of maracas and pushed him out of bed.

Here in Alaska we have been following the 2010 Iditarod. The winner broke a record by coming in first for the 4th year in a row. No small accomplishment considering the hardships of the race. He crossed the finish line almost a week ago.

Just this morning I learned on the radio that the very last racer made it to Nome and also crossed the finish line. He was dead last. The tail end. The caboose. I wondered who was left at the finish to cheer him across? Didn’t everyone go home last week? Probably. He crossed anyway. Good for him!

Just as I was considering his last place finish, the announcer said that he had set a new Iditarod record. He had made the fastest last place finish in Iditarod history! Now I am really laughing! The Fastest Last Place Finish. What an accomplishment. Really, what an accomplishment! How many people in the world can say they finished such a race?


Funny how our minds work. We look at Peter who sank like a stone and had to be pulled out of the sea and we only see him going under. We fail to focus on the fact that he defied gravity in his haste to get to Christ.

We do the same thing with ourselves. We fail to see that the race itself is an accomplishment. Getting back up off the mat before the ten count (or after it) and getting back in the game is obedience, love and grit. I am convinced that Angels love us for it and give us unseen encouragement to keep going.

I have seen injured people sweat through twelve more inches of putting one foot in front of the other in physical therapy. I have heard mothers pray one more prayer for the salvation of a disobedient child. I have seen alcoholics struggle with one more day of sobriety. I have seen pastors get up one more Sunday in the face of declining numbers and preach through their doubt and pain. I have watched children with learning disorders struggle to sound out a single word. We can’t worry about the pace. Just finish the race. Who cares how many people who never tried it themselves laugh at our efforts?

Saint Paul, who often attracted catastrophe, said it so well in 2 Timothy 4: “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

“I have finished the race.” I can feel Paul’s satisfaction when I read that. “It is finished.” I feel in my soul Jesus great sigh that carried salvation into the world.

I am going to keep running even when I look like I am standing still. I am going to keep running even if I get rundown. I am going to keep running even if I fall down. I am going to keep running even if I am the fastest last place finish in the Kingdom. He has promised to renew my strength. He has promised me a crown if I love the finish line. He has promised the last will be first.

You will know when Pop Cavanaugh's "Peach" is rounding the last turn and heading for the lights of that City. The sound of my maracas and the Star Spangled Banner will be carried over its walls right into the Throne Room!

“…for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

Dedicated to a wonderful birthday girl who brings grace and perseverance to her life each day, Haley Canfield, age 11 on 3/23/10. You Go Girl! You have friends in high places.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Banquet of Esther

John and I were married in the middle of a northeastern winter. Our families were from different states and travel was difficult especially for his older relatives. The solution was two receptions.

There was the Cavanaugh reception complete with a tipsy grandmother dancing on a table. There was the LaMantia reception with secret recipes handed down from mother to daughter and lots of advice about how to “handle” ones husband. I never learned the secret of what goes into the cannoli and that husband handling thing didn’t work out so well either.

My favorite banquet was a private feast. Husband and wife stuff. It took place after all the guests were gone and all our good-byes were said. I hugged my parents for the last time as just their daughter and stepped into married life with a complete stranger I had known for three years.

I am the plan ahead type and I had packed a honeymoon picnic to take to the hotel. I knew it would be too late for room service and we hardly got to eat at the reception for greetings and photos. I came prepared. It would not be a lie if I said those were the most delicious ham sandwiches we have ever eaten. It would however, be a work of fiction if I said eating those sandwiches was the first thing we did as man and wife. Suffice it to say that when we said grace over our boudoir banquet we were truly thankful.

How wonderful it felt to be married to the love of my life. How intensely we felt the approval of Heaven. How celebratory an event. How joyful! I looked into John’s face and his smile put a crown on my head. Across from me was a Husband-Priest-Soul Mate eating a ham sandwich and toasting our love with a Grape Crush!

How funny that must sound and I admit I am smiling at the remembrance of it. I have not had a Grape Crush since. I am probably thinking of it now because I have unmarried friends who are prayerfully (and maybe a little impatiently) in preparation for God to bring them husbands.

I am drawn to the story of Esther with so many possible lessons. One stands out. Leaps off the page with possibilities and hopefulness.

8 When the king's order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king's palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9 The girl pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king's palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem…

12 Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. 13 And this is how she would go to the king: Anything she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace…

15 When the turn came for Esther to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.

17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 And the king gave a great banquet, Esther's banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality. Esther 2

Hegai seems a sort of Holy Spirit. Favoring the good hearted woman and teaching her what pleased the King. Teaching her patience as she is beautified. Sharing with her what would be attractive to her husband, what would make him choose her.

This process went on for a solid year. One scented bath followed another as Hadassah truly became Esther, a Star. When she looked like a Queen and smelled like a Queen and felt like a Queen she became one. What followed was what the scripture calls, “The Banquet of Esther.” The banquet where she is celebrated as the one who has won the heart of the King.

There is an inscription on a painting by da Vinci, “Virtue shapes beauty.” My lovely friends are in that wonderful anticipatory time where the Spirit is bathing, perfuming, refining and teaching them what will be attractive and helpful to the one He will bring.

It is not unlike the Holy Spirit's larger role in all of our lives as we look toward the return of our King and the marriage supper of the Lamb. I want to be what Christ finds attractive, what moves His heart, a virtuous beauty. Like Esther, I want to impact the Kingdom for His glory.

Tonight I am praying and setting the table in faith for an Esther Banquet for each one of you, My Dear Friends, who have such a hope. In the mean time enjoy the spices and the perfume as you wait for answered prayer. May there be a God-chosen someone searching for you even at this moment.

(You might recognize him by the Grape Crush in his hand.)

William Hallmark's The Bride of Christ available @ Cafepress
I ordered cards with this picture. They were lovely.

Monday, March 8, 2010

He Is All I Need

Majestic, praise abounds in our God-city! His sacred mountain, breathtaking in its heights—earth's joy. Zion’s mountain looms in the North, city of the world-King. God in his citadel peaks impregnable… In God's city of Angel Armies, in the city our God set on firm foundations, firm forever. We pondered your love-in-action, God… Circle Zion, take her measure, count her fortress peaks… climb her citadel heights. Then you can tell the next generation detail by detail the story of God, Our God forever, who guides us till the end of time. Psalm 48 (Message)

Alaska can be a scary place to live. Wild animals, earthquakes, avalanches. But if you watch the news you have to ask yourself is there any place safe? Hurricanes, floods, rogue waves, volcanoes, earthquakes that destroy almost entire cultures, out of work men with guns who collect their own twisted version of unemployment. In 2010 there seems to be no where safe especially in a mother’s womb. Sometimes our emotional landscape is more frightening or desolate than anything nature can create or science fiction invent.

The scriptures assure us that the Lord “is our very present help in troubled times.” This is a word I need. The help I need. Present help as in it shows up now! I covet demon avoiding donkeys, the raven version of meals-on-wheels, manna, fish with tax payments inside, baskets of bread, bottomless oil bottles and lights that burn for eight days.I also need a bush that burns without being consumed, a God who controls the weather and angels who show up at all the "right" moments. Or do I?

Well, I would be lying if I said I didn't want what would make my life easier. But easy isn't always enough for me. There is a part of my soul that hungers for something heroic, epic, something only God Himself, God face to face can satisfy.

It is such a temptation to seek the things God can do, the helps He can bring and miss God Himself. The city of God mentioned above I believe, is in reality God Himself. That secret place where He hides us is in His own heart. Inside all that He is, all that He intends, all that He has planned for, all that is His very essence.

In Psalm 91 it says that “because we are bound to Him in love He will deliver us.” The Hebrew for this implies that because we cling to Him, He will take us to an inaccessibly high place, an unassailable place of complete safety both figuratively and literally.

That high place is the place where we trust God. Where we hang on for life to the one who is Life itself. It is the place where God shows us things, reveals secrets, bestows gifts, rights wrongs. The place where the smell of His garments wrapped around us is enough to satisfy every longing and cover any insufficiency. What is fair is no longer an issue. We have Christ.

Our hearts are fixed, we are dug into Him and fastened on tighter than ticks. (...when I found the one my heart loves; I held him and would not let him go. Songs) When He ascends to the High Places we go right along. He carries us as precious cargo who are bound to Him by love.

The miracles happen. How can they not? They follow Him as surely as a tail follows a comet. His love and desire for us is the most amazing miracle of all. The miracle that before we call His heart responds. His love is a secure, lofty, unassailable stronghold of gleaming assurance no matter what the news or the weather man says. No matter how hard the rains come or the ground shakes. Regardless of what political party is in office. No matter if the wheels have fallen off our emotional wagons.

His plan is to rescue us, put a floor under us and to bring us to a place of honor and satisfaction. The place salvation made possible.

Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him;* I will protect him, because he knows my Name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;* I am with him in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him to honor. With long life will I satisfy him,* and show him my salvation. Psalm 91:14–16

The old hymn that promises, “He is all I need,” was telling the truth of it. Whisper it to Him and hold on tight. He will hold you right back even "to the end of time."

(Dedicated to His "Thoughtful Daughter" and our good friend, Kim Lorentzen, on the occasion of her birthday. Never stop asking the hard questions. He is full of answers.)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fighter of the Night

March 7, 2002. I always remember this day with fondness and pride. There is a trophy in my home that attests to the fact that John David was indeed The Fighter of the Night on that date.

The mother in me detested watching him fight. The other guy landed a few lucky punches as well as some calculated ones. But the mother in me also just ate it up when he won. I will never forget the victory dance he did in the ring with a thousand people watching.

The real show, however was taking place right next to me where his father was saying, "YES! YES! YES! Well done, John David!" among other things. The grin was so wide you could count all of his teeth. There was absolutely, positively no question of paternity as John openly declared to everyone within ear shot that his son had just won.

I was proud of John David for fighting a fair fight and being a gracious winner, for not getting too bloodied up. The things that count for mothers. John was proud of him for getting in the ring and throwing a punch. Proud of him for openly declaring that he belonged to Christ in the hearing of the audience before that first punch was thrown. And, you bet, also for being the last man standing.

We have a Father in Heaven who watches our daily battles with many enemies great and small. When has He failed to cheer us on from the sidelines? He brags about us. Think not? How about His reference to Job? "Have you considered my servant, Job? There is no one on earth like him!" Job 1. Even better of Jesus, "This is my beloved son. In him I am well pleased." Luke 3.

Our Father has given us victory and opportunity for victory. He has openly declared paternity! He is the most solidly "For us" person in the room and He is not shy about yelling that sentiment down to Hell or up to Heaven. Win or lose we are His from the first punch to the last. He loves us when we win. He loves us when all we can do is try. He loves us.

Like the 3/7/02 Fighter of the Night parents, it is God who is saving our trophies. John David always moved on to the next thing and carried his win with him in his heart but his dad and I would not take silver of gold for the plastic trophy with his name inscribed on it. Treasure I assure you of the most precious kind, as is the black hoodie with red lettering that referenced the words from Jeremiah,"Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"

John David, "THE HAMMER" has treasure in Heaven. So do we. So do you. Our proud and loving Father keeps many things about us in His treasure room and close to His heart. Kindnesses and acts of unselfishness, heroic action, bravery, moments of greatness we have long forgotten have been engraved for Eternity. One day we shall see what all the excitement was about. One day we will hear that coveted, "Well done, Well Loved!"

There are wonderful times to look forward to. Today I celebrate and remember a moment when I got the first sweaty hug from the Fighter of the Night.

John David you are always and forever our Best Day.


Just Take Me

"...When I found the one my heart loves I held him and would not let him go..."
Songs 3

Several days ago I was on an upper floor of a tall building overlooking downtown. I had an unobstructed view of much of the city and surrounding area. As I stood there a thought formed based upon the lateness of the hour in terms of Christ's return, the news of the day and maybe also, in no small measure, prompted by a friend's divorce proceedings about to occur.

I found myself making God an offer I thought He could not refuse. "Lord, show me the way and I will take this city for you." How could He resist such a tempting offer? Didn't the scriptures lament the lack of workers in relationship to the readiness of the harvest? Here I was ready, willing and just waiting for Heaven to install the divine equivalent of a GPS on my spiritual dashboard.

God did not hesitate. His response was swift. "Just take me. If you have me everything is possible. Can you just take me for yourself?"

Energy, focus and a good work ethic are helpful adjuncts to ministry but love surpasses everything. God wants us to desire Him. To be called to His side by a love void of distractions.

Ministry a distraction? Too often. Works will follow but love leads. "When I found the one my heart loves..."

There is a writing by Hugh Prather that says it:

"Brush aside all shrines to the future, all altars to the past. Give me Your golden present, a home in You, unmovable and eternal. Still all voices within me. Fill me with the hush of Your peace. Now You are my thoughts, my purpose and my way. All I need and all I am is You."

Is my city still in my sights? You bet it is, but when I come to claim it for Christ, I will come on the arm of the one my soul loves and I won't be letting go!

Neither will He!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

God's Business

If God participated in Take Your Son/Daughter To Work Day can you just imagine what we might see? Our Father planning new star nurseries, inventing new strains of helpful bacteria, "Loosing the bands of Orion." I could go on overload thinking about it.

He is in everything, about everything and everything, all things, are about Him. How we sometimes fail to remember that is equally mystifying.

Several days ago John and I were talking about a situation in our life that was inconvenient and bothersome. We really needed something to change but we could not effect that change needed. We had made all the corrections and suggestions we could and the problem persisted. It involved other people whose behaviors we could not influence.

After talking about it for some time and feeling frustrated there came that voice saying, "It is what it is but just invite me into the situation anyway." So we did. "Lord, we have hit a wall here. We do not know how this can change. It seems impossible. We have tried everything. We are inviting you into this situation."

As Forrest Gump said, "Then GOD showed up!"

The grace He gave us and the helps He brought made all the difference. Not everything changed at once but the gears were greased, the friction eased and our joy returned.

Psalm 54:4 God is my helper. It is the Lord who sustains me.

Luke 2:49 Reminds us of the lesson the boy-Christ taught a frantic Mary and Joseph,"...Don't you know I must be about My Father's business?"

The part we so easily forget but our wonderful Lord does not is that the Father's business is us.