Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I am intrigued by all things surrounding the Magi. Who they were, where they came from, how the gifts were selected, the preparation for the journey, their star gazing activities, how they associated celestial events with kingship, their escape from Herod's plan to use them to destroy the object of their quest. They fascinate me.
What caught my attention today was not the Epiphany of the wise ones to Jesus but their expedient selection of a new way, a new road to travel, once they had found Him.
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. Matthew 2:12
Finding Christ we too turn aside and travel in a different direction. For us it is along a narrow way leading to eternal life. There is always a redrawing of the map of our life and journeys other than we ourselves would have selected or others would select for us.
An evil king did not get the last word here. The Magi traveled by a way that took Herod off the map for them. So should it be for us. Taking the God road will always take us farther away from those things that steal our hope, joy and usefulness.
Let us allow the Word to warn us, guide us, point the way and make course corrections should we stray.
If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, here is the road. Follow it. Isaiah 30:21
May the approaching new year be filled with ways that take us deeper into Kingdom territory and God's many promises.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Remember the one night that burns all the darkness away
Remember the one peace that dissolves all worry and fear
That light and peace are asleep in the hay
That light and peace are asleep in the boat
That light and peace are deep, deep within
where all is calm and all is bright
Luminous Night by Christina Rogers
It is the day after Christmas. For some there will be an emotional letdown. For others the distress of overspending financial resources and overextending physical resources is just beginning to make itself felt.
Just after Thanksgiving I landed a dreadful cough and cold that slowed me down and drained off much of the energy I would have extended over the Christmas season. The cough kept me up and upright. I couldn't sleep lying down so I spent many nights sleeping (or not) in a chair in the living room.
I read through several devotional blogs I follow, started a new book by Eugene Peterson (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places) and haunted the Psalms, all from my coughing chair. I was tired but inspired. The result was that I slid into Christmas in slow motion this year.
There were no Christmas lights on our house but a candle was burning sweetly in my heart. The stable was swept clean and fresh straw was waiting in my manger-heart. Jesus settled in where He had been made welcome. Peace on the hay.
That peace settled nicely around me on Christmas eve. Midnight Mass has always been a favorite holiday event for me and this year I went with a friend. (John was to preach at the jail on Christmas day so he was home tuning up his message.) We went early to listen to the carols sung before Mass. There was an entire row right in front of the altar, in front of the manger, waiting for us.
The service was lovely, the music beautiful, but then there was the incense. Always my favorite part of High Mass, this evening it was special. There was so much more room in me for it to fill. The priest stood directly in front to us and waved the censer over us. Fragrant sacred incense swirled out and up and around us. We breathed it in and it filled lung and bone and soul.
It is all about making room. That is why the innkeeper is important to the Christmas story. How had I minimized him all these years? There he was hiding in the shadow of the angels and the Magi. Even a little room, a lowly room, is enough room to begin to go from hay to boat to deep, deep within where all is calm, all is bright.
John had given me roses earlier that day. (We were engaged 39 years ago on Christmas eve.) I had brought one with me to Mass-to the stable. As my friend and I went to the car that first hour into Christmas morning, Kim handed me the rose. I took the red rose petals and threw them up into the falling snow right there in the church parking lot.
I am the rose of Sharon...(Songs 2:1)
Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow....(Isaiah 1:18)
Mary took...an expensive perfume...poured it on Jesus’ feet...and the house was filled with the fragrance...(John 12:3)
We wasted that Christmas rose on Jesus then we drove home in the snow with just the faintest hint of incense clinging to our clothes but- with souls richly perfumed.
The snow has ceased falling but I suspect the rose petals have not. It is my prayer that they will drop daily into our lives, into your life, into the the deep, deep places within. Onto Holy ground.
This has been a luminous Christmas I will long treasure as I treasure the friends, the family and the Savior who have enriched my life.
With a deep gratitude.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Come midnight we had censers
and Come All Ye Faithful
the manger was full
so were the pews
trumpet, organ and flute
greeted each other
with the sign of peace
and Heaven poured snow
anointing us with glory falling gentle
swirling round us as sacred incense breathed in
filled lungs and cells and bones
God's goodness had come
His beating heart pumping love
through us with every organ pedal and key
Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison
Christmas had come!
future blessings slumber down below
eye cannot see nor can hands hold
tomorrows daisy, rose or marigold
but Heaven smells the petals yet to form
and stores up fragrance released
when it is warm
my heart is like the barest branch
that longs for apples to appear
and sun to warm my frozen roots
like toes escaping icy boots
CHRIST has come to sit awhile
through all these days both bleak and dark
He tells me stories of the spring
of scented earth and song of lark
of life set free and buzzing bees
and love beneath the apple trees-
I am His apple tree.
By Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia
A word for God's sleeping seed, safe with love coiled around you, "Flourish!"
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:12
God has night vision. He sees just everything. Daylight. Night light. No light. Thick inky blackness. All clear vision to love gone searching.
We can hide behind the thick walls we built brick by brick, sin by sin, offense by offense. We can disguise ourselves with arrogance, false laughter, religious banter. We can wrap ourselves in silence and live hushed as the grave. The Almighty One who sees to the other side of the universe stays locked on. He is not impressed by the elaborateness of our disguise or otherwise, nor is He distressed by the true dark-heart of it.
Shepherds under the dark Bethlehem sky saw the web between this world and the realm of Glory peeled back. Heaven was always there throughout all the long years of looking for the promise and despairing of it ever coming. What made that night different? Jesus was in the world.
There are accounts of people seeing to the other side before that Bethlehem night. Ezekiel saw some heart stopping things. But this night was different. The One worth seeing, who made everything there was to see, parted the curtain, wrapped Himself in skin like ours and took His place among us.
Christ brought the light with Him. He brought the Father with Him. He would later promise to be with us to the end of the age. That same light is all round us, looking for a way in, looking to let us in. To swallow up our personal darkness in Glory. The utter amazement the shepherds felt is ours the moment we let His grace fill us and burn all else from our vision.
"Too dark" you say? There is no such thing. Jesus is Light itself, love at its best and brightest. Where He is invited there is no unyielding darkness.
He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. Daniel 2:22
It is the eve of Christmas. Time to make Jesus welcome. Time to "Be" the place where light dwells. We are the night skies His Glory longs to fill.
Light shining out of darkness:
Monday, December 19, 2011
MAY GOD’S GRACIOUS PRESENCE wrap around and protect you.
May the promise of the holy Christ child
forever rest in the curve of your life.
May the sweet, fearless song of the Holy Spirit
sing you to sleep
and waken you in Advent dawns.
May you, and those you love and serve,
expect the good news,
- Pamela C. Hawkins
From page 28 of Behold!: Cultivating Attentiveness in the Season of Advent by Pamela C. Hawkins. Copyright © 2011 by Pamela C. Hawkins. All rights reserved.
" May...Christ...forever rest in the curve of your life." Let it be so Lord! This is more than a lovely poetic line I wish I had written. It is forming itself into a missive my heart is issuing back to me. That Jesus, our beautiful Jesus, lie softly in the cupped places of my life. That He be poured into all the spiritual pools which replenish my made-in-His-image self.
May His sweetness and goodness drench your last Advent week spilling its wonder into every open place.
(Sonogram of our then unborn grandson. Unborn but not unknown.)
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Every family has its traditions. They comfort us, delight us, and call to us to remember things too significant to forget. At least they are supposed to accomplish that. Sometimes the significance is lost over time and a ritual is all that remains. Christmas can be like that. We remember presents and forget Presence. We make a gift list but forget God gave and why...maybe even what that gift really was.
The remembering part was always a big deal to God. We are encouraged so often in the scriptures to remember. The events God feels are important to remember are usually important because they are good for us, the ones whom He loves.
Remembering connects us in a sense of community with all of Heaven as well as to believers here on Earth. It says we belong to something, to one another. Those connections are immortal, eternal, love framed and hung in our hearts to be cherished. To be written about and talked about. To be played and painted and sung.
I am asking the Lord to encourage in me a grateful heart this Christmas. To make gratitude my tradition, my way of life. To cause me to remember every kindness, every favor, every mercy, every generous act ever done to me. To reach for the wonders He and others have cast into my life. To allow them do adorn my life and brighten my holiday and to be as gifts opened for the first time.
Gratitude is expansive. It always overwhelms its less desirable neighbors. It cultivates and plants and produces fruit. It makes room for God-stuff. Gratitude, affection, remembrance. These are the wise-hearted Magi gifts I lay at His feet and receive back as grace upon my own life.
I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. Psalm 89:1-2
Sunday, December 11, 2011
God fills my being to the brim
with floods of His immensity.
I drown within a drop of Him
whose sea-bed is infinity.
The Son is never far away from me
for presence is what love compels.
Divinely and incarnately
He draws me where His mercy dwells.
Praise to the Father and the Son
and to the Spirit! May I be,
O Water, Wave and Tide in One,
Thine animate doxology.
By Jessica Powers
"...incarnately He draws me where His mercy dwells." Isn't that just the way of it? You know it is. Consider how He drew you. Out in the channel of His love, current moving, drawing you closer. His Presence reaches out to take hold of you. "Turn in here. Let the journey bring you here. What you seek is here. What seeks you is here."
A tiny king resides in a manger but His Kingdom is vast, infinite.
It is like the sea and all that is in it and below and above.
You cannot know it all but you can know Him.
Reach down and lift this child to yourself.
He smells of straw and Mary's milk.
Tiny fingers curl around your heart.
Newly opened eyes just begin to focus.
Watch you under sleepy lids.
The flutter in your chest tells you He is looking.
He defines you this soft bit of womb-fruit.
He had no equal.
He has become this squirmy bundle to touch you palm to palm.
He has called you to Himself.
You are in the current now.
Like the undersea cave
where moonlight shimmers on the unbroken surface
and sunlight carves a path to the very depth,
His warmth penetrates all your cold darkness
with golden welcome.
You arrive at journey's end fully loved.
Christ is where the mercy dwells.
He dwells in you.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
It is well past sundown. The beginning of a new day. Shepherds fill the surrounding hills. It is lambing time. Ewes labor under the stars to bring their young to life on the grass in the soft hours of the first watch of the night.
Not far away a young woman, just a bit of a girl really, squats above the dirt and straw floor of a stable, teeth gritted, captured in labor's vice-like grasp. Wave upon wave comes to finally cast her up, exhausted, upon motherhood's shore.
A working man's rough hands clean the child and put him swiftly to his mother's breast. God's Lamb and the world have come face to face. The lethal glory from which the hand of God shielded Moses is out in the open and looking upon the world...and the world is looking back.
Soon shepherds will peer into the birth chamber of the One who rode upon the wings of the wind, who opened the doors of the morning and entered the storehouse of the snow...and they will live and not die. God and man will now love each other face to face. God has made His goodness a bed in a stable.
God's destination was always the hearts of men. My heart. Yours. When He comes, His goodness comes also. Christ was the perfect gift that came down from the Father of Lights. Heaven's goodness on display. Jesus still looks out upon this world's harsh landscape but He looks through our eyes and handles men with our hands and loves the lost through our manger-hearts.
I have a young friend who made a special card for me which I received today. There was an unusual v-shaped cut out on the border. When the card was opened it formed a larger diamond shape. It was labeled The Tornado of God's Goodness. A child's imagination caught God perfectly.
Moses huddled in the crack of a rock and hid his face as that fierce tornado passed by. You and I are pursued by it's more benevolent intent. Christmas changed everything. Heaven opened Mary's womb and goodness spilled out like a flood into the darkness.
Today I wish for you Asa's vision. The goodness of God in your hands, looking you in the face as your friend. Your own Tornado of God's Goodness flooding this Season with light. The card opened reveals the mystery:
Love's open faces.
Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6
(Dedicated to Bob Collins on the occasion of his birthday which was a fortunate event for this world and for these two friends and also to Asa whose art work and friendship inspired this post. Blessings Kat and John)
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Not too soft.
Not too firm.
Stem still attached.
Red pears are for wishing.
I learned a long time ago that you could wish on a red pear then eat it. The wish would lie inside of you among the sweet pear goodness and grow until its seeds sprouted roots that wrapped themselves around heart and soul...until you believed. (You never heard this?)
The right word dropped into a life is like that. You may be seeding someone else's life or your own. While you can't always avoid it, try words without bruises. They are sometimes the best for growing things worth having. And remember believing is seeing, not the other way around.*
I may have made a story up once upon time to get a little boy to eat his fruit but all that aside, we are in a season of wishing, of hoping, of looking forward to something.
As Christ-lovers, for us it is not so much about finding a package under the tree but of becoming that package. To secure the ground He paid for. To work the works He did. To have a well lived life to offer Him. To hold within ourselves an exquisite treasure. We can do all He has ordained but it's first the treasure then the wishing.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7
May you find a wishing pear (lots of them) as you journey toward Christmas.
*Faith is the very first thing you should pack in a hope chest. (Sarah Ban Breathnach)
Monday, December 5, 2011
What were Mary's thoughts? Amazement, surely. Terror, maybe. Wonder, absolutely. Mary had a baby and one day He would save her but in that season before she would follow Him to His cross, He was hers to keep by. To keep safe.
There is a piece of music based on a poem by Kipling, The Seal Lullaby. Creation sings her babies to sleep no matter whose babies they are. This lovely piece of music finds a mama seal singing of sleep and safety.
Oh! hush thee, my baby,
The night is behind us,
And black are the waters
That sparkled so green.
The moon, o'er the wave curls,
Looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows
That rustle between.
Where billow meets billow,
Then soft by thy pillow;
Ah, weary wee flipperling,
Curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee,
Nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms
Of the slow-swinging seas.
One day Mary would look into the ravaged face of her sweet boy and think of the now dark waters that once sparkled so green. She would wait as his life ebbed away and then receive Him back into her aching arms. He had been hers to love and protect and give up. That day is coming but for now He will stay where she puts Him. He will not touch lepers or corpses or prostitutes. He will not sleep in a field and eat corn from the stalk. He will not be mocked.
Now He is wrapped tight in her love. Her heart is filling along with her breasts. Joseph, the good man, stands on guard. Donkey, cow and sheep warm the stable. God, His Father, has lighted a lamp and placed it high in the night sky. Trouble is for another day, another far away night. Tonight is a soft night just made for a lullaby.
"He has filled the hungry with good things...He has remembered His promise of mercy." Mary's Song.
Link offered to The Seal Lullaby. A thoughtful and tender place to sit in His Presence while we prepare our hearts in this season.
(Photo from a site I do not have a link to. It was of photos that spoke of the wonder of God in Creation.)
Sunday, December 4, 2011
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly,
that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul,
to the deep emotional self
and the wounds to the soul take a long long time,
only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance,
long, difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake,
and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.
Our bodies do heal quickly compared to our souls which possess frighteningly long memories. I am convinced, however, that Christ is a soul healer as well as possessing many other skills and titles.
You can trust Him with your wounds. You can trust a God who as been wounded. He is inviting you into His life, His peace, His healing. He is in this life with you for as long as it takes for you to be OK.
You may not be able to free yourself from those things that cast your life in the gray dawn of winter's colors but for such times we have Jesus. The two of you can do together what you cannot do alone.
Come closer. Look long into the stable. A good place to begin. This God understands baby steps. Glory often begins smaller than a pinpoint of light or a single cell. Come along. If we could have done it alone, He need not have come. But Christ did come. He will show you how the journey home begins.
This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss...He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you're named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls. 1 Peter 2 The Message
(A Bethel Christmas, Photo and table setting by Jane Malnoske)
Thursday, December 1, 2011
THIS YEAR NEEDS ADVENT
needs a keeping space of silence and of darkness nearing down,
Someplace where all that can be still is stilled
And everything but hope...(is) gone,
Where there is less of me and more of grace.
There in the waiting moments you have willed
Lies healing for an often-wounded soul,
The deep recovery of who I am
Where every whispered longing to be whole
I ever breathed is finally fulfilled.
- Jennifer Lynn Woodruff
Just in case I am not the only one who needs this past year and the one ahead to receive, "Peace. Be still."
Blessings of the Season,
(Sue Blackshear Oil)
Monday, November 28, 2011
There's a ship out
on the ocean
at the mercy of the sea
it's been tossed about
lost and broken
God somehow you know
that ship is me
'Cause there's a lighthouse
in the harbor
pouring its light out
across the water...*
The last few lines of this swaddle me in soft blankets and pull me in close. I can smell the myrrh and cassia of His robe, the aloe in His hair, spice and salt mingled. Strong arms wrap around me holding tight. I am weightless. He bears it all. I need do nothing else but be here in this moment of silence as His chest rises and falls.
I am the baby otter floating peacefully on mother otter's belly. Baby possum safe on mother possum's furry back. Downy gosling snuggled under goose wing. Be it done on earth.
He is light pouring out across the water- lonely, cold, dark, forbidding water. He is light and shore and hope. He is warmth and buoyancy and direction. Pouring. Pouring. As the wine poured in Cana. As the water poured in the foot basin at Supper. As love poured forgiveness, grace, at Golgotha. Dark waters shot through with the heart life of God. Sorrow transformed into the best of wine.
His heart contains all the oceans of this world, of my world, your world. Arms stretched full out- all that exists fits from palm to palm. Our world and all it consists of is baby otter floating on God's heart. "Surely, He bore our sorrows..." He holds us and all that is about us with gentle strength.
Psalm 144 has David wondering, "...why you care, God— why do you bother with us at all? All we are is a puff of air; we're like shadows in a campfire." That is us. Smoke and black water.
I'm with David. I don't know why He cares when I have often given Him reason to do otherwise. I only know He does. His Word promises it. His love is the white of the snow against a dark mountain sky. His seabed is love without end. Its depths beyond reckoning.
So tonight as I need the height and depth of His light and love poured out, it is poured out. Not squeezed out in stingy drops but in waves flooding up from that seabed of love. Shimmering and alive and mine. It is grace falling and falling faster, as snowflakes on my tongue, tasting God. My Father's affection is unrestrained in the embrace of Christ.
I weep a sweetness only known in Him.
(This posting is my heart at His feet. No strings offering.)
*Until You Come Back To Me by Garth Brooks
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Advent is from the Latin word for "Coming." Christ is coming. This is the season we open our hearts to a tired couple and their faithful donkey, wise men, shepherds, angels and the Gift of The Father.
We prepare with Mary the clothing in which the Son of God will be received. He is not looking for silks. He is looking for souls.
Will your soul be His adornment this Christmas? Not fine enough? Let Jesus be the judge of that.
I offer you some places to rest and think in this season of busyness.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelations 22:20)
Rev. Norman Lindsay Thoughts on Christmas:
(Floral art from the Upper Room site)
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I found you under the apricot tree, and woke you up to love.
Song of Solomon Chapter 8
I found God.
God found me a lover.
He gave me one of His sons to hold my heart.
To whisper to its unspoken gifts.
To tease me out into society.
To shave down my tearing teeth.
To make my heart quiet.
He gave me someone to cradle my secrets
not forge them into weapons for use against me.
He gave me someone who would embrace me unveiled.
Who would keep a record of my victories
but would bury my mistakes in unmarked graves.
He gave me someone to satisfy love's thirst
and make our bed a grassland.
He gave me a man who offers friendship, honor and preference.
God made me a promise and John has kept it.
I am so glad God woke me up to love. I plan to stay awake forever.
Monday, November 21, 2011
The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined...They rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest... Isaiah 9:2-3
I have a friend who has been chasing the moon. Sneaking out of bed to see moonlight and shadow, snow falling over the mooncast landscape outside her window; pulling on boots to crunch her way through to a good spot to cast her net. Her pictures are winter jewels as are her words and a link follows.
She knows I am a moon lover as well. I love everything God flung out into space and commanded to stay put. I love the light He made to rule the day and the one He fashioned as a nightlight.
I love the time just before dawn when the birds are up and calling. I love the moments at sunset when bugs are buzzing and fireflies are blinking. I love in between times full of expectancy.
We are approaching one such season. Just past Thanksgiving, Advent. A forward looking time of preparation. Advent and Lent are treasures I savor. Looking to the time of planting or harvest, Easter or Christmas. The rising and the reigning. The miracle that follows the cleansing and the giving of thanks. A transition time.
Transition times can be wicked hard in life and dangerous. Some people liken them to desert seasons. Maybe so but I see it with different eyes.
Many years ago John wrote a piece of instrumental music and named it Penumbra. It means the shadow of a shadow, sort of. I add the definition here.
- A partial shadow, as in an eclipse, between regions of complete shadow and complete illumination.
- An area in which something exists to a lesser or uncertain degree.
- An outlying surrounding region; a periphery
Doesn't that sound like our transition time? The holiday season on the small scale and Christ's return on the larger. What a thrilling time it can be this time in our lives between complete shadow and complete illumination. Between salvation from sin and rapture. This time of lighting lamps and putting them out and relighting them a day closer. These are our days. Our warm hours. Our work hours. Followed by a celebration.
As I look to the days of holidays and holy days, I have cleaned the kitchen and swept my heart. I have set the bread to rise and let hope also leaven my spirits. Our King is coming and our reward is in His hand. This sad old world will change under the full sun of the Illuminator of universes beyond imagination. Blinding love in full gaze. Jesus! The Son to rule a nightless day.
Our praise and thanksgiving has the power to alter the course of rivers of sin and wretchedness. The scripture gives us a wonderful imperative:"Let us arise and be doing!" Let's do that very thing with all the thoughtful preparation and heart we can lend to the task in these middle hours.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him, purifleth himself even as He is pure. I John 3:2-3.
A Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to all of our friends and family. A candle lighting ceremony in your hearts each day of Advent. A mystery wrapped in swaddling clothes to be discovered anew. You are loved by these two people who pray the richness of Christ's affection upon your lives.
John and Kathy
(PS to The Berry, Glad you can read this because you are above ground.)
Picture is Moonlightning from APOD web site
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Follow the link and let God convince you.
I see you in there, that loved person.
lives close or far apart, words find a home
in shared hearts.
Special Thanksgiving wishes
to the folks following our
blog and to those of you I
follow. You pour oil on my
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
2 Peter 1:2-3
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Poor, thirsty, cast out Hagar; poor mother empty of resources, feet bleeding, lips cracked, heart-sore. I embrace her. I have been her.
This exact time of year in 1978, I sat upon my bed in a strange city with a pantry nearly as empty as my checking, away from family, with a homesick, hungry little boy sleeping in the next room.
I sat with an infection and a fever burning me up. I sat and listened to the most sorrowful of sounds...I heard my own soul cry. Open mouthed and soundless at first, like the ocean drawing back into one tremendous wall of hope-crashing destruction...then came such bowel-deep animal sounds of suffering, wave upon endless wave smothered in a soaked pillow never meant to hold such grief.
One word. Only one word cast up out of the bile of my soul, "Father."
One word and arms came to hold me, to hold such pain and share it. When I looked for Him, God was there holding a shaking, desperate woman with such tender strength.
I will never forget His coming or the comfort of His Presence. I also have long remembered the provision that followed. Like Hagar I had found "The God Who Sees Me." This seeing God became a journey companion who walked with me through the valley and up and out of it over time.
Whatever you are in need of there is a well of water at hand. God Himself will draw it up and bathe your lips.
Look for Him.
The Lord is my shepherd and nothing is wanting to me. In green pastures He hath settled me. Psalm 23
(Rhonda, if you are reading this, you mailed the money you received from your wedding shower to me and I receive it right after I called on my Father 33 yrs ago. Thank you. A friend loves at all times.)
Friday, November 18, 2011
This has always been a favorite scripture describing the faith of Abraham and the Almightiness of Abraham's God. The God who likes to do the calling. "Light, BE!" A really breathtaking example of His creative utterances comes immediately to mind.
He is a plan ahead Sovereign. The Plan is the reality. When He plans a thing it exists from that very second, seen or unseen. How wonderful then to consider Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Feeling less that prosperous, hardly hopeful? Me too sometimes but The Plan is the reality. Let's not let our feelings convince us otherwise. God's world is brimming over with creative utterances about us. All of His Kingdom is coming into agreement with His Plan for those who are "the called." Those whose surname is "καλέω" Called. Isn't that an awe inspiring thought? No matter what names you have given yourself or other have named you, flattering or otherwise, your family name, your surname is Called.
It is below zero today. Way, way below in some parts of Alaska. Snow and ice dominate the landscape but underground spring is waiting for her call. The coldest winter will not prevent her welcome arrival. It cannot come soon enough for me.
I found a lovely poem in my wanderings. It spoke to me of hope underground, of calling those things that are not as though they absolutely are. I offer it here as an encouragement to myself and to you.
The Tendril's Faith
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Under the snow in the dark and the cold,
A pale little sprout was humming;
Sweetly it sang,'neath the frozen mold,
Of the beautiful days that were coming.
"How foolish your songs," said a lump of clay,
"What is there, I ask, to prove them?
Just look at the walls between you and the day,
Now, have you the strength to move them?"
But under the ice and under the snow
The pale little sprout kept singing,
"I cannot tell how, but I know, I know,
I know what the days are bringing."
"Birds, and blossoms, and buzzing bees,
Blue, blue skies above me,
Bloom on the meadows and buds on the trees,
And the great glad sun to love me."
A pebble spoke next: "You are quite absurd."
it said, "with your song's insistence;
For I never saw a tree or a bird,
So of course there are none in existence."
"But I know, I know," the tendril cried,
In beautiful sweet unreason;
Till lo! from its prison, glorified,
It burst in the glad spring season.
I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD
(Is that you humming?)
Thursday, November 17, 2011
that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt,
only more love.
"Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies..." *
I am such a little seed but I cling to life with such tenacity. I have embraced that falling and dying part on one level...that part of my brain that thinks it is a great idea for everyone else.
That part of me that wants an offended friend to cut me some slack when my behaviors and opinions don't line up with the Word and I am hanging on tight. That part that begs a put out spouse to believe I was only kidding when I laid the sharp edge of my tongue against his unwalled heart. That part that will do anything for Christ if He will let me have my way. The part that loves Him in the beauty of holiness but the holiness is my own.
What a stinker you might say and I could cringe and get all self protective and hang on and do everything else except die. I will not go gentle. I will not go at all. Not if left to my own way. I am not alone here. Neither would you. Surrender does not have a large sales force for a good reason. It lacks sufficient popularity.
It takes a God who is the essence of love itself to love people through us while we struggle to get out of His way. It takes a God who laid His own life down to show us the way to the surrendering place. The place where life and death trade places. The place where loving until it hurts, heals. That place will always and forever be Calvary.
Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Galatians 2:20 Message
It seems to me that living a surrendered life is really about living surrendered seconds. It is Christ living as Lord within us moment to moment throughout our lifetime. Years of walking with Him are really days of coming into agreement with His will. Mary's terrifyingly obedient, "Be it done unto me according to Thy word," was the result of her Godward leanings over the years of her young life up to that point. Paul's Galatians declaration, "I am not going back," was a matter of daily renewal or as he put it, "dying daily."
So there are people I could nurse a spite over and I would, but I would have to look away from Calvary to do so. There are people I could serve for duty sake but there is Christ washing all those dirty feet and putting His heart into it. There are people I could love until it gets uncomfortable but there is Christ urging me past the pain to the joy. There is always Christ showing me how to please the Father in the moment. "The life lived by faith in the Son of God." A daily walk to Calvary and renewed surrender. It all passes through Him.
I am seed made willing.
I have not come gently
but I have come.
* Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal. John 12:24 Message
Monday, November 14, 2011
spoken they ignite tongue and imagination;
light the way for you to find my overheated bonfire-heart
fuel heaped upon already burning affection.
Can they see this love-fire from space?
Is it visible from across the supper table?
Palm to palm does the world feel its warmth?
I will not bank this fire for the night or a thousand nights.
Tell me this will burn sure and clean and forever
until I see your pierced heart, the first drawing fire,
that spilled its red-gold goodness upon my cold love.
I am wick and wax and yours.
Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia
But [his word] is inside me like a burning fire shut up in my bones. I wear myself out holding it in, but I can't do it any longer. Jeremiah 20:9
Pentecost, Acrylic on canvas board by Don A. Schooler
(Ardere from the Latin "to be on fire")
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Love risks our pride being wounded.
Love looks into dark places and calls to the Light.
Love gets what it asks for.
1 That day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:
2 When they let down their hair in Israel,
they let it blow wild in the wind.
The people volunteered with abandon,
3 Hear O kings! Listen O princes!
To God, yes to God, I'll sing,
Make music to God,
to the God of Israel.
4-5 God, when you left Seir,
and marched across the fields of Edom,
The Earth quaked, yes, the skies poured rain,
oh, the clouds made rivers!
Judges 5 (The Message)
When the ancient Irish went to war they terrified their enemies because they let out their very long hair, colored it, spiked it all over, painted their naked bodies and carried a war club. They also had a battle cry that would wake the dead. They were impossible to miss. Impossible to ignore. They definitely got their enemies attention. (Not acceptable church attire but I focus more on fearless than naked.)
When JD was in Iraq the epicenter of my prayer life was in my downstairs family room. When I was home alone I would put on my most rhythmic Celtic music and my most flowing skirt. I would do up my make up, spike my hair all three inches of it and put on my best perfume. I always put on earrings that had bells... and I would begin to welcome the Spirit. I held a picture of JD in uniform on a Humvee in one hand and a pre-war picture of him on his bicycle in the other. I would ask God to protect and deliver the soldier and allow him to keep the good heart of the man on the bike.
Since in the days of Herod a woman belonged to the man she danced for, I decided to belong to Christ in the dance. I would dance and be His and He would extend the scepter to His Beloved and grant every desire of my heart for my family.
I let the Spirit order my steps. They were beautiful even violent. I waved the pictures as I danced, spoke, sang and prophesied as the Holy Ghost released Himself into my worship. I felt the shields and weapons forged in Hell crack and break before my steps. Borders were secured, protection was appropriated, the future was provisioned.
All my spiritual hair blew wild and free in the wind. I was a River Making Cloud and Iraq was the desert that drank in my worship and washed my son beyond its borders to home and wholeness.
How can we fear to dance? It is Hell that fears our dance and our wild free flowing unbound hair. It is Hell that sits stunned by our cloudburst of uninhibited praise, unfettered joy. Heaven turns on such worship. Its engines are powered up by the fuel created by such surrender and confidence and it will match us stroke for stroke.
I will dance and be His! I will dance and be His!
Christ will not make us ashamed or leave us feeling foolish. He will come and dance with us to the delight of the Father. And He will hear our prayer and answer to the cheers of Heaven.
I am a contemplative prayer who Prays the Hours and can worship in High Church Latin but I am also a full on Pentecostal holy dancer unashamed of the power of freedom.
Can't dance? Don't know any steps? Let it be as Abraham answered his son, "The Lord will provide..."
How long will you gather moisture and not release it?
It is time, and past it really, for God's daughters to unbind their hair.
Fire Dancer by Stephen Sawyer @ Art for God purchase link:
Afro Celt Sound System
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Last summer we cleaned the garage and discovered boxes that came up the Alcan Highway to Alaska with us many years ago but remained unopened. In one of them was a beautiful clock. My heart pounded as I lifted it out of the newspaper protecting it for two decades. (It went from Dallas to Amarillo unwrapped before beginning the journey north.) This clock has history.
A new bride and her horn player husband had just arrived in their military home of Nuremberg, Germany with wedding money in their pockets. Thrilled with eachother and Europe they went exploring in the cold German winter.
They bought black bread and cheesecake at the bakery, sausage at the butcher and then they found the clocks. Clocks everywhere in so many different styles. Clocks with birds, with deer, with carved horns and leaves, with alpine scenes, with dancers, with cuckoos and chimes and playing the Emperor waltz. One had most all of the above and the wedding money flew out of their pockets as fast as the cuckoo announcing the noon hour.
That clock graced the wall of our first home together almost forty years ago. Now it again ticks by the seconds and hours of young love ripened into something really wonderful.
There was a season the clock was hidden, forgotten. When rediscovered we needed the help of a European watchmaker to restart it. You know me, there is a story in everything, Jesus in all things. I thought of how constant Christ's love for us is. How unfailing, dependable, timely. I considered how His intervention in our lives is like the watchmaker whose patient, skilled hands brought the silent pendulum back to life.
Constancy: The quality of being faithful and dependable.
The quality of being enduring and unchanging.
Freedom from variation. Steadfastness of mind.
How precious to love and serve a God whose affection for us is a set mark. Established forever, unchangeable. Nothing can uproot it or wash it away. It cannot be lost, broken or tarnished. It keeps time forever. "Loved. Loved. Loved. Loved." Hear it. Feel it. Know it for the truth.
I'm absolutely convinced that nothing, nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:37
Because of the way Jesus has embraced us.
So here I sit listening to a cuckoo clock announce another hour in my life in Christ where I am loved, and the "emperor" of my married life is awake now and waltzing toward me from the bedroom in flannel pjs with reindeer on them.
Faithful, dependable, enduring and unchangeable.
Should love ever be anything less?
In this grateful season my heart and my cup overflow with it.
May Christ restart all of our silent clocks in need of His special care.
May they chime all the hours of our lives until His Kingdom comes.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow. James 1:17
Dedicated to Casey and Adam on the occasion of their 1st anniversary. Blessings and many more to come.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
what darkness would be mine if I could see
the ruin I wrought in every place I wandered
and if I could not be
aware of One who follows after me.
Whom do I love, O God, when I love Thee?
The great Undoer who has torn apart
the walls I built against a human heart,
the Mender who has sewn together the hedges
through which I broke when I went seeking ill,
the Love who follows and forgives me still.
Fumbler and fool that I am, with things around me
and of fragile make like souls, how I am blessed
and to hear behind me footsteps of a Savior!
I sing to the east; I sing to the lighted west:
God is my repairer of fences, turning my paths into rest.
Jessica Powers in Repairer of Fences
When John David was young it was not uncommon for John to be out late playing sax, especially if it was New Years Eve. That is the best paying night of the year for most musicians. One such Eve I promised JD he could stay up to watch the first sunrise of the new year.
We pulled out the sofa bed, made popcorn, watched old movies, played GI Joe and tried to stay awake. Although I tried my best, sleep overtook me just before dawn. I woke to find a disappointed little boy sitting in a west facing window. The next gift I purchased for him was a compass.
Jessica Powers, who is a favorite writer of mine, so beautifully describes someone who has been given back the directionality of her life. She can stare the close of the day in the face and just as transparently embrace the dawn. Christ is found on every point of her compass. Nothing hidden. Grace embraced has breached her walls, cleaned house and left an open human heart behind. A heart open, not naked, radiant and unashamed to meet the morning.
When was the last time you sang to the east?
If the morning holds some dread is there something that would be awkward if seen in the light of day? A body you forgot to bury, an old sin, maybe a cancelled sin disinterred, a friend unforgiven, an obedience not yet embraced, a vow unpaid, too much of yesterday allowed to stay up late? Are you sure you are looking in the right direction?
The Holy Spirit can help you with that. Our guide and compass, He will help us find our way to our song. To a full life in Christ worth singing about. A song about rebuilding north, south, east or west in the Kingdom.
Begin in the morning. Sing to the east and hear her harmonize with you. She has been saving up her song and waiting at the window just for you. Give yourself and the day to Christ with enthusiasm. It may be the first day of a New Year after all.
See what Isaiah 58 tells us in the Message:
"If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
You will have firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins...
I sing to the east; I sing to the lighted west:
God is my repairer of fences, turning my paths into rest.
The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. Psalm 19 The Message