Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Listening Soul by Elizabeth Collins

As I listened to your description of the north wind, the words "possessing your soul in stillness and silence" came to me. The season of the north wind is indeed the season of winter, the season in which the soul learns the value of stillness and silence.

Hebrews 4:11 says that we are to labor to enter into rest. Learning to possess your soul in stillness and silence is one of the hardest things we have to do. Learning to rest in God, to wait upon Him while we put aside our own striving, takes effort.

You called the north wind "the whisperer". This is the season in which we learn to hear the still, small voice of God, to recognize the urges and promptings of the Holy Spirit, as we keep ourselves quiet before Him.

The wonderful thing about winter is that even though things look bleak and cold, there is still life and beauty to be found around you, there is never complete death in winter. The birds and animals are still there; they just move at a slower pace and some sleep. So it is with us. Though some things may lie dormant or hibernating within us, there is still life.

All of us face winter. Some have short winters, some have long, the question is, what do we do with them? Do we rail at God and hear only the echoes of our own complaints or do we learn to possess our souls in stillness and silence so that we can catch the whispers of the north wind?

It's up to us.

"Whispered" by Elizabeth Collins
Anchorage, Alaska

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Soul in Silence Waits

For God alone my soul in silence waits...truly, my hope is in him.
Psalm 62:6–9

I have always enjoyed the writings of Gibran but tonight I was reminded of his opinion of the North Wind. The Destroyer. He refers to the North Wind in one of his works as the one who "...lays waste to the garden."

The winds from all directions have been blowing upon my devotions for several days now and I admit to being attracted to the garden-fragrant South Wind at first glance. A shoe in for first place in almost any contest. However upon closer consideration I have to say that the chilly North Wind is wooing me.

The North Wind does indeed turn lush green stems to straw and velvet leaves to paper. But without the dry, cold breath of winter there would never be another apple on a tree. It is the North Wind that assures fertility.

This wind is the whisperer, the one who sings a lullaby to sleeping seeds. It is the one who "quiets our ground" as the scriptures says. When life needs to be recharged into seeds and bulbs, when energy is gathered into fruit producing strength, it is all underground. In the soul who waits in silence. The soul who listens to the gentle ticking of some internal clock moving by seconds closer to a fresh, fruitful emergence.

There is a part of my life that is underground. I have ceased to struggle with that. God is giving me a new prospective. Those unused parts of my calling are embracing the silence God fills with His Presence. Out of this great, solitary quiet, His word to me and through me will come even as the first daffodil of spring.

In this silent place I hear His heart beating. No dead silence but a silence that settles around me, swaddling me. Perfect stillness. Rest. Like a mother laying her hand on the baby sleeping within her so His hand covers me.

These underground areas will not always be hidden. At the appointed time another wind will break the spell of this silent, patient season and new gifts and wisdom will emerge. For now those areas of life wait and I am reminded of the words of Milton, "They also serve who stand and wait." God's own precious word to us says, "Those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind. Isaiah 40 The Message.

It is that fear of lagging behind that we dread. Lagging behind our peers, the rest of creation, having God walk so far out in front that we lose sight of Him. Lay that aside. He promises you will keep up. Not fall behind. He who created the Summer Wind also made the treasures of the snow.

Let our souls wait in hope. Listen to winter's lullaby. It sings to us not of itself but of Spring and of hope, of new opportunities and maybe for some a second chance.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
(Bookmark by Teresa of Avila)

To Elizabeth Regina

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nothing In His Appearance That We Should Desire Him

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:2-3

Nothing in His appearance that we should desire...Nothing to attract us to Him. Jesus did not become Everyman for our benefit. He became nobody. Think of it, a nobody who knew sorrow, who understood grief.

Christmas may have passed but I have been contemplating Christ coming to earth as a human being, as one of us. The more I read of His heavenly glory, His limitless power, the less I can imagine what it took for Him to do it. I couldn't get my mind around the concept because I could not see myself ever, let me say with emphasis, E-V-E-R doing such a thing.

It was not just the throne to manger thing that was a hindrance to my understanding. It was all the spit on, crowned with thorns, betrayed, stripped, whipped and crucified elements that filled the distance between Heaven and Earth. Isaiah says clearly that He became one of us but I challenge you to find such a person among us. Don't look at me and I won't look at you.

Still, I wanted to know His heart and I asked wisdom to grasp such sacrificial and determined love. The answer came on a whisper with the strength of a hurricane.

As I shared my thoughts with Jesus as to how He not only agreed to such a plan but was its coauthor, a comparison formed in my mind. I thought of who I am and what I know, what I am able to do and accomplish. I thought that to Christ, His renouncing His Glory, supremacy and authority and becoming a human man, would be somewhat like my renouncing my humanity to become a cow or a pig destined for the slaughterhouse. (A poor example considering the greater distance His comedown would have been).

Would I while retaining my human mind become a common, dirty animal, terrified, stunned and pressed onto the killing floor? I tried to project my thoughts and emotions into the animal. To become an animal. The thought made me awash in fear.

(You may be challenging this comparison since animals are not considered to be sentient beings but I think it holds water.)

I honestly and a little shamefully said, "Lord, I could NEVER make such an exchange. There is nothing inside of me that would allow me to relinquish myself so completely and give myself over, powerless, in to such cruel hands. Nothing." I thought that was a true assessment.

Silence...then a soft almost imperceptible question was spoken into my mind. "What if it would save John David?" Seven words and I was shattered. Shattered and informed. For John David I would do anything, suffer anything that he may live and have a good life. I imagined myself that powerless cow and knew I would embrace her fate for such a love and hope and not consider the cost. I would throw my life away for my child's security and safety.

Before I had time to fully consider my new knowledge another question came. "Would you do it for an enemy?" Now I am staring at the naked, stripped love of Almighty God who gave it up for those who despised Him, plotted against Him, would never acknowledge Him or appreciate His sacrifice. The God who, as man, tossed back His head and drained the cup of suffering until it was "Finished."

Now I begin to see such great salvation. A God who can be trusted to love me the best and plan for my life and forgive my sins to the uttermost. He did not go half way in the saving of this world and His affection towards me will be a full measure as well.

"Undesirable" no longer. He is the God of all my desire and affection. Through His willing poverty I have gained Eternity.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them." Revelation 21:3

Jesus, Thank you. Thank you my All Desirable Savior!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Living in Alaska we are accustomed to moose in the front yard and whales off of Beluga Point. Sadly we are also all too familiar with a roaming homeless population that spills over into the grocery store parking lots, the gas stations, outside of fast food restaurants, parks and playgrounds.

Many are homeless through the "ministry" of chronic alcoholism and untreated mental illness. Others cannot afford a home and fear a shelter. Still others are in hiding from the law or an abusive family. Some had a different life weeks before losing a job.

There is a convenience store where I stop daily for one thing or another. I always pass the homeless sitting on the curb outside the doors because the manager shoos them out. If I buy donuts for work, I share. If the breakfast burritos are warm we have those. Mostly they do not look at me but reach for the food. Some offer a "God bless," said as a reflex. My prayer is for them to be off the curb and back into life but they are hungry in the moment and so I receive their blessing on their terms.

This is not really a story about the homeless although they have my heart. It is a story about how we are know. Last year when it was miserable to be outside, I had a hood up over my head against the wind and was hurrying to get inside the store. As I passed two homeless men one of them spoke just one single word to the other, "Breakfast."

I was not Kat, Kathy, Honey, Mom or Grandma. One word defined me. I was "Breakfast."

This story could go in so many directions but it only went one place in me. I had been named. It is OK with me if the secret name carved in that Heavenly stone that is mine alone is "Breakfast." It is a powerful name of Servant-Love.

There is more to the storehouse than donuts and the Bread of Life died so He could be broken and shared. So He could warm and heal and nourish. So He could satisfy an endless hunger. We who are His are "Breakfast." We are the taste of Jesus in this lost world. When we step into a line at the store, a hospital room, a funeral home, at work, as we brush shoulders with the world may the world know us and be nourished by Him. No empty gestures that say, "I am doing this because I am glad I am not you." But real business of Heaven stuff, "If you eat this Bread you will be filled."

I bless those homeless men for speaking into my life and for watering the love seeds God had planted. It has to be about love and about the work of the Shepherd who came for all the homeless ones like us.

Charles Spurgeon had a beautiful thought on the subject:

"The master-motive of a good shepherd is love. We are to feed Christ's lambs out of love.

First, as a proof of love. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." "If ye love Me, feed My lambs." If you love Christ, show it, and show it by doing good to others, by laying yourself out to help others, that Jesus may have joy of them. (That Jesus may have joy!)

Next, as an inflowing of love. "Feed My lambs," for if you love Christ a little when you begin to do good, you will soon love Him more. Love grows by active exercise, It is like the blacksmith's arm, which increases its strength by wielding the hammer. Love loves till it loves more, and it loves more till it loves more; and it still loves more till it loves most of all, and then it is not satisfied, but aspires after enlargement of heart."

Lord, I do love you and I am inviting your world to breakfast with the Savior!

Dedicated with affection to my friend of many years, Oscar Self, whose life has fed so many including this one. Stay online, Oscar. We need your wisdom and God-Heart.

With gratitude to Catholic Social Services, Anchorage, AK for tirelessly and creatively sheltering and feeding the homeless and the refugees of Anchorage.

Please remember them in your giving year round.

Picture from Sonrise Church Shelter Hillsboro, OR

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Year Is Mine!

What are we waiting for? In deep winter surrounded by frozen fog it is easy to hunker down and slow down like those tiny frogs that bury themselves in the ground, their metabolism at near zero, waiting for the world to warm.

Why wait? Inside of us lives One who invented fire! He is the very element used to baptize us into a life of astonishing light and heat. At the beginning of the year a few years back I wrote something out I have declared each year since. It becomes more real every time I say it. Every time I dare to declare it.

Dare it:

The year is mine. I do not sleep. The eternal vaporous mystery that is my soul is refreshingly awake and expectant every moment, vigilant, aware of spiritual energies around me calling to me to embrace them and to feel His presence filling the high and low places, the hills and the valleys where my soul plays...and waits.

The year is mine. I take it and break it as bread. The year is ours. Everything belongs to us. All power, comfort* and success. Our soul knows this well and debates with our face to reflect a knowledge that He has given us everything we need to be whole, complete, to know the year is ours.

The sad songs were for other less better years. Those years were for them. The ones who instigated our sadness and now have no part in our joy. Hell can only look and never belong to anything tuned to the melody of Heaven.

The year is ours. If there were soul tattoos you would see it inked in blazing color across my soul's forehead. The year is ours if we say so because He has already said so and so and forever, incontrovertibly so!

The year is MINE!
God is MINE!


(LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. Psalm 16:5)

*as in the God of all comfort

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Breakfast With The Ravens 1/9/2011

The loveliest necklace is around my appreciative neck as I have tea and toast today. All of my friends know that I love many different elements of God's Creation. The great star nursery in Orion, smoldering Fernandina in the Galapagos, Bridal Veil Falls, South Dakota to name just a few and ravens.

Ravens are special to me because they remind me of the faithful provision of God in difficult times. They attended to God's prophet in hiding providing meat and company morning and evening. Whenever I see one flying overhead, wings outstretched in a spiral high above trees and buildings I take a moment to be grateful to the One who fashioned such perfection.

I do not know all 2011 holds but God is still in the business of providing for His people and is not beyond using every thing at His infinite disposal to do so. Miracle compounding miracle. His blessings are ours to bring in the Kingdom. I have only to look up at dark wings flying for His pleasure to be reminded of it.

Whatever you need it is at the ready. Grace and mercy, hope and provision, they will come when you call them..when you call out to Him. Such is His favor. His goodness. His careful planning.

I received a wonderful reminder of this all over again this week. John and I made an offering we felt so directed to make into the field of a friend. We purchased seed for him to plant here in Alaska in some of the darkest of places. Each seed a pinpoint of light. All throughout the week John and I felt God's favor in a dynamic and satisfying way after that offering was made.

Within a brief span of days the raven began to fly over our own field returning to us the grace we had given. Morning and evening. Financial blessing, personal recognition and last evening a special delight. A hand made necklace with a raven theme was placed around my neck by dear friends. The blessings just continue to fall at our feet. It was special because I love being reminded of God's provision but I also am reminded of the joy of friendship and creativity. The necklace was designed and crafted by another friend whose hands have held a violin and now have added other areas of accomplishment. God's gifts are perfect.

Consider that God has a raven in your future. Lovingly birthed and placed in the air with your address in its heart. Consider that you yourself may be such a raven to someone in need. The only things we get to keep are the things we give joyfully away. Spread your wings and take flight with something to refresh and remind another heart that God is God for them. Wonder of wonders!

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Special thanks to Bob, Jan and Elizabeth for extreme friendship. Admiration to Alma for her beautiful craftsmanship. kl

Breakfast With The Ravens
(1/1/2007 the back story)

I love to have breakfast with the Ravens in Alaska. I love it even at 20 below. What jokers they are. Five pry up the dumpster lid while five more do a fly in to remove pizza boxes. They are bigger than small dogs and smarter and they always remind me that I am living in a fascinating place. The Alaskan natives believe the Raven brought fire to man and is a symbol of good fortune. They have been my companions for going on four years now. I drive to my mid-town grocery for a coke and a bagel and never come out without something for “The Guys”.

I fed them on occasion for a number of the eleven years I have lived here. When someone would give me moose sausage, (which I cannot bring myself to eat after all five moose live in my back yard, have received names and have given birth to twins in my driveway) I would pitch it out into the snow and watch the mad dash the Ravens made from all corners of the neighborhood. Ravens love moose as sausage or, Heaven forbid, road kill. The Ravens aren't picky.

My Raven Feed, however, began in earnest in March 2003 when my son went to basic training. It was my way of bribing the Universe to take care of my only child. His father took to his knees. His grandfather made daily trips to the Shrine. The grandmas prayed, made fruitcake and sent nasty-grams to president Bush. I became meals on wheels for the Raven horde.

During John David's two tours with the 101st Airborne in Iraq , one in Mosul and the second one in the “Triangle of Death,” the Ravens ate like kings. I prayed and pitched food out of my car window. French bread, oatmeal cookies, egg rolls, chicken strips (a special favorite) deli beef, salmon and kielbasa. I approximated their calls and down they came. I always think I am saying, “Kathy’s here with the grub,” but since I don’t really speak Raven, for all I know I am telling them, ‘My aunt has a blue pen.”

There is Snaggle-tail and Big Man, The Joker and Miss Piggy and Fred and Ginger to name only a few of the dozens. All have their own personalities. Sometimes I think I see the same ones from year to year but it is hard to tell. They come with the first cold days, which in Alaska is September or October, and leave when it gets warm and the gulls and Canadian geese come to replace them. (As if anything could replace a Raven.) I want to imagine that my regulars return with the first cold days when light is scarce but Ravens are plentiful. My favorites are the Ravens who dance before they eat as a sort of primitive grace. We should be so grateful. When was the last time your anticipation of food made you hop into the air and dance around the table?

I have fed the Ravens when someone disappointed me, when something made me happy, when a friend died, when I got a raise, when I got good news or when I got bad news, when it was Christmas or Valentine’s or my anniversary. I fed them when JD called from a war zone to say, “I love you, Mom. Keep praying I can feel it working.” I found there is always an opportunity to connect to something bigger than ourselves.

My son knowing I was feeding the Ravens in Alaska started feeding the Ravens in Iraq when he could. In an odd way it made us feel connected. They slept on his humvee at night and in the morning he had breakfast with the larger, uber-Ravens of Baghdad . Sometimes they pried open the coolers the soldiers strapped to their vehicles and helped themselves. No matter how difficult the day had been, when he wasn’t on a night mission, the Ravens returned and an instrument of war became a simple roost. Ravens are just as much at home on a machine gun turret as a power line or a pine branch.

John David’s Iraqi interpreter was a bird watcher who introduced him to some of the many different and unusual birds that make the Mideast their home. When JD left Iraq in October he gave the interpreter the book on Ravens I had mailed for Christmas 2005. We are all of us connected in some ways that we have yet to discover.

Well, this Christmas and New Year’s my dear and only son came home. He has many good memories and many sorrows. We feed the Ravens together who fly to our feet when called and enjoy their company as our winged brothers, our dancing neighbors who share a meal with us and carry our thanks skyward with a whisper… “Remember our brothers in uniform and remember the Ravens on the other side of the world. Be Thou our shelter and allow us to shelter others.

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…


Link to Raven info and to their calls.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

May God Stand On Horeb

A lovely (powerful) freeing thought came out of an early morning devotion. I had been praying about the men John encountered last Sunday (he preached in jail on his birthday) and how he said some were so open to God and others so hardened. This scripture came to mind:

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord... at the presence of the God of Jacob, Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water...and flint-stone into a flowing spring. Psalm 114

Israel was wandering in the desert and in need of water and complaining. To make a long story short, God said he would stand on Horeb and provide water. He did just that. Out of a rock came a flowing stream.

Horeb (The Mountain of God) comes from a root word meaning dryness and desolation. I have Horeb in my life on occasion. Sometimes Horeb occupies more territory than others. The relief is the same. God will stand in the very place where nothing can live and surprise me with a miracle.

Wherever we have a hard dry place inside of us or in front of us, He is able and willing to make flint-stone into a flowing stream. Jail hardened, life hardened souls can be transformed. So can we. The hard way of cancer, divorce, loss and bitterness, every dusty, empty day is looking for God to stand in its middle and be the God of Horeb.

Pour forth, O God, into our expectant and needy lives, make the dry places bloom for your Glory. We give this day, this season, into your capable hands.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand. C.S. Lewis

I love and treasure first times. First time I saw John. First time I held John David. When I met John Sebastian and became "Grandma." First word in my prayer language, "Mahalo."(Thank you)

How it is that God loves each of us first and best is a mystery. How we each have the status of a firstborn son or daughter even more so. Some of us have never had our name called or seen it in print. Have not had any special recognition for our looks or our efforts, but that is coming. Our Father treasures us. He is a saver of all the mementos of our lives and one of these days we will get to hear about what He has been saving.

When my Grandmother Cavanaugh died we found a trunk she kept under her bed. It was full of handmade cards, locks of hair, report cards, baby teeth and one long forgotten smelly rubber baby doll. (More about that doll in a later blog) There were bits of the lives of my sisters, our father and myself lovingly kept and kept near.

God knows who we are and we are radiant in His eyes. That special place He is preparing will be filled with the best part of us. The part that grace has made sound and good and worth keeping. Make no mistake one day you will hear your name called. You will see it carved in stone. You matter. First. Last. Always.

So may this first day of a new year matter as well. Give it to the One who can best keep it. He needs it for His special treasure box.

May we greet each new day Heaven gives us in the year ahead with a robust gratitude for the One who esteems our life and affection. Each of those future days let our first and final word whispered to our Savior be, "Mahalo."

With thanks to the One who sees me. kl