Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stone Pillows and The Dream Stretch

Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran. He came to a certain place and camped for the night since the sun had set. He took one of the stones there, set it under his head and lay down to sleep. And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground and it reached all the way to the sky; angels of God were going up and going down on it. Genesis 28:9-11

For two years now I have been practicing a gentle art that I call Dream Stretching. What you are reading, this small blog with its limited readership, is a stretch mark.

When I was a little girl I used to sit on the sink in my grandmother's bathroom and address the United Nations. I would wax eloquent on a variety of topics. I loved hearing the sound of my own voice. (Sounds awful but true.) In high school I took speech, joined the team, debated and recited and sometimes won.

When I fell in love with the magnificent Son of God I really had something worth talking about.

Ten years ago this month we had paid off any debt we owed, padded our savings and I took a leap of faith and cut my hours to half. If you know my workaholic leanings you will get my resolve. I did all this while putting together a study for mothers of problem kids and drafting several classes so I could teach more in the church where John had been serving and partner with the Women's Ministry.

There were books on the drawing board. I had even gone to see an orthodontist to have some teeth strengthened so I would look better when I represented Him more widely. John encouraged me. My dream was wearing track shoes.

I was at the jumping off place when John returned home from burying his father out of state to find he had lost his job and that all changed. I returned to full time (and overtime) employment while we struggled to recover emotionally and financially.

My teeth are still crooked but my outlook is straight and so is my faith. "I know whom I have believed in." (Did I mention our only child went to war twice during that time?) I sometimes think I should have just kept writing no matter what but it seemed easier at the time to go down to Egypt.

In a moment of personal revelation, Christ spoke wisdom to me, "Time and accomplishment are in my hand." So they are. Christ is the wild card in all of our lives. Age, woundedness, the faithlessness of friends or relatives, our troubles, issues with our children, lack of resources, our mistakes or hesitation are not limiting factors for the Owner of the treasures of the snow, the cattle on a thousand hills. His own existence and good intentions toward us weighs out on the full side of the scales.

Jacob was getting out of Dodge. He had picked his brother's pocket for the last time and his mother was sending him to safety and a wife. He lays down to rest, a stone his only pillow, he dreams. God promises him the land he occupies. He sees angels and a ladder to Heaven. He had to go years in the strength of that dream. As life unfolds there is love, betrayal and disappointment, also faith and recovery but time passes and passes and passes. Jacob is on God-Time and that can be an exasperatingly long time to wait.

Waiting is often bitter and frustrating for us or just plain forgetful. Sometimes our dreams gestate over-long it seems and sometimes they die. Sometimes they are just set aside for a greater good or a bigger dream. Like the talent that steps out of the limelight when a hand lays a paint brush down to rock a cradle.

The nice thing about dreams is that they often reoccur or can be triggered by memory. One day I picked up a pomegranate and after 40 years of drawing nothing, I snatched up a pencil and began to peel open ripe fruit in short strokes across the white surface of the stiff cardboard that came in a new shirt I bought for John. Seeds of hope burst out all over the 8X10 dreamscape.

I bought paper and fresh colored pencils by day and slept on stone pillows by night. I brought things to life and God whispering into the work. Soon words followed the colors and cards were birthed. No great Pulitzer prize winning works. Not yet. There was a scent of rain and joy spun for friends and family, ripe fruit dropping, nourishing...LIFE!

I learned that I can work within my limitations while I wait on God for full recovery or for all the pieces to be rediscovered. I can Dream Stretch. Having it "all" doesn't have to come this minute or even at 9AM tomorrow but that does not mean I can't have something now. So I am having it.

I blog when my cup runs over. I draw when friends need to celebrate. I blow on the embers of fellow dreamers and bless their dreams. Sometimes I throw gas on their fires and dance around the flames! I bought a wonderful treasure box and John is helping me save for a trip to France. My dreams went wounded and silent to a place of forgetting but they did not die. Maybe yours have not either.

All they need is a little stretching like unused muscles need before race training. If you can't do it all, do what you can. Do it now and do it a little but often. Do it for the One who dreamed it first for you. With Jacob's head on a stone pillow, God swore to him, "I'll stick with you until I've done everything I promised you."

You may be someone with dreams all dented, someone with dreams denied out of obligation or someone with dreams happily delayed out of love. Are you looking for a second career? Time is in His hand. It is not too late for a do or a do-over.

Have you stayed too long in Egypt? Have you tried to outrun a hurt? Have your other talents waited for children to be raised or sick parents tended to? Stone pillows are hard times but also dream times. Open your heart and create the beauty you were born for, the glory seeded into you for just this very lifetime. Small starts are OK.

I have a friend who is moving due to retirement but is beginning to help an evangelist. She just took her first trip out of the country a few months ago. She has wanted to plant on a grand scale and that desire just grew legs. Another friend is making jewelry and praise items after a full career as a musician and educator. Yet another friend rediscovered her artistic and literary voice while drawing with her daughter.

A son home from war studies to be a healer. A dear friend follows her dream of pouring grace into the lives of the dying and being His hand extended. Not to be forgotten, still another friend and mother is following the stars with a new camera. Dreamers all and they have made a discovery...dreams wake up hungry.

No fear. Christ will do everything He promised. He works wonders with bread and fish and wine. He will feed your dreams and maybe even multiply them.

"The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams." Matthew 13:22-24


Raven Necklace by Alma Krause @ Prayzworks

Sunset at the Confluence by Kimberly Lorentzen @ Ambushed by God

Rev. Janice Collins ministering in Kuala Lumpur with David Newberry Ministries

Rebecca's Warbler by Rebecca Jeter marathon runner ADN June 2011

Rev. Cheryl Haley, Director of Spiritual Care @ A Servant's Heart Hospice

Faith Hope and Figs by Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia, Dream Stretcher

Are you a dreamer? Then join us. Try Dream Stretching and may the Glory be His!

Be inspired:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Mighty Throng-Yeah Baby!

The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng. Psalm 68:11

What a picturesque scripture! I am not alone! I am a mighty throng! Heads up Deborah, Mary and Miriam...there's a song in there girls! Women who declare God's word are a force to be reckoned with. No lie. We are absolutely mighty- and not just because some of us accessorize with Smith & Wesson.

When my son went to war some scary things happened to him that could have had a fatal outcome but somehow did not. The protection he enjoyed began to call attention to itself and he found himself explaining to fellow soldiers that his deliverance was due to his mother's "psycho-prayer-warrior-friends." I have sisters who own that.

We are mighty and there are a mess of us.

I am fortunate to have the love and friendship of many strong and lovely women of all ages. That friendship is a living, breathing force that inhabits my world for good and forever. You all know who you are. The devil knows you too and not a one of you is his favorite.

My friends are as different as they are wonderful. I have friends who have houses so immaculate you could have a tubal ligation on their kitchen table. Friends who love canary diamonds the size of real canaries. Friends who cook like Martha Stewart and friends who should go to jail for their meatloaf.

Friends who are artistic and friends who are color blind. Friends who will eat Ramen noodles for a month to take me out to eat someplace nice. Friends who help themselves to anything in my house and friends who would never dream of dropping in without a call. Friends who ignore my faults. Friends who correct my faults. Friends who have run most of that last group off.

I have star-gazer friends and periodic table friends. Friends with hats...and friends with cats! Friends who like honey and friends who make honeycombs in my heart. I have friends who knew me when and keep my secrets. Friends who are just now sorting through my stuff. Friends with husbands and friends with hope. Friends who have more shoes than there are feet on the planet. Friends who cannot pass a tanning booth. Friends with such courage. Friends of such grace. Friends who would come at two in the morning. All color my life. All are gifts.

A mighty throng! A mighty, mighty throng!

I am blessed by them. Humbled by them. Proud of them. I pray they would say the same of me. Christ has seeded us into each others lives and what a good thing. To all those strange and wonderfully different, powerful, thoughtful women- I love you forever and a mile past that. Thank you for loving me back with your graceful strength. Thank you for loving Christ with me. Thank you for your perfume.

If you are reading this and you are a woman who speaks life into the world in the name of Jesus then you are that mighty throng and in the company of those whose faith is precious.

May the circle be has to be that way because women don't do duck tape.

Keep on proclaiming Him and may your heart be blessed- mightily!


The painting is The King Bird and may be viewed by following this link to the artist. It takes a minute for the page to completely load.


(Happy Birthday, Sherry & Cheryl)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Cannot Do This Alone

Late that day he said to them, "Let's go across to the other side." They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, "Teacher, is it nothing to you that we're going down?"

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, "Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: "Why are you such cowards? Don't you have any faith at all?"

They were in absolute awe, staggered. "Who is this, anyway?" they asked. "Wind and sea at his beck and call!" Mark 4:35-41The Message (Matthew 8:23-27 cross reference)

No small sum has been spent to determine if there is life on other planets. You can Google SETI to get a sample of our efforts to prove we are not alone. The answer seems simple enough to me. We are not and we never were even if it sometimes, on a personal level, seems to be so.

A spouse, our family, our friends don't "get" us. We feel we are toting our tally of bricks in lonely, unloved silence. Ours is the only marriage having problems and we are the ones teaching the Marriage Renewal class. It's Mother's Day and my child didn't come home last night so there I sit (alone) in the pew trying to ignore the stinging behind my eyelids.

A co-worker I supervise can't wait to show me her new car but I have to take care to park my junker where I can pull out because my reverse gear is gone and there is no money to fix it. (I won't even go into having to make a fan belt out of my pantyhose.) We have all felt we faced the day and a bad medial report alone. But we didn't.

Not only is there life out there, The Almighty and Eternal One filling the expanse of unseen space; but there is life in here, in this tiny space between the ribs. Sometimes it just feels as if He is asleep in the boat and we row alone.

The disciples had just had a day full of mustard seeds and cured lepers, of the servant of the Centurion being healed from a distance and Peter's own family being healed up close. It had been a day full of faith and the lessons of faith. Now an unexpected storm arises and God has His eyes closed. The first thing tossed overboard was faith. I would have fit right in.

Notice where Jesus was sleeping. The stern. The helm. The tiller. The rudder. The place of control. The place that determines the direction of the boat. From that place He awoke and ordered the storm to shut up but first He made fear do the same.

I have a sleeping God in my boat. Sleeping as in resting. Resting is a God thing I need to learn about. I can not do life alone and Jesus never intended that I should. Faith is in the boat. Hope is in the boat. Peace is in the boat with its hand on the tiller. Love is waking up. The sun will warm its way through. God will send us a raven. He will bring us to shore. The one thing He will never do is leave us alone. He promised.

I Cannot Do This Alone

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised…Amen

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And the wind ran out of breath and the sea became as smooth as glass.

Please enjoy the link below to a painting of the boats in the storm. If you look you will see the light on the water is Jesus with arms outstretched. Listen to the song that accompanies it and toss fear and exhaustion overboard. Christ will restore your liberty.


Monday, January 2, 2012

In Celebration of John

through the gates of biting frost
hard packed earth unwelcoming greets
naked feet

bare of leaf and all fruit lost
empty branches fail to keep
something sweet


love warms all
and charms gray skies
and your touch
heals cold Paradise!

Cold Paradise by Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia

Once upon a time I had a freeze dried heart. Then I went to a dance (the first time the nuns let the freshmen out past 8PM) and the sun came out and thawed out the well frozen bits. I don't know how much the world needed John LaMantia to ask it to dance (a considerable amount I expect) but I certainly needed him.

Christ opened Paradise to us. I love it that He gave me a husband who is so like Him.

You were sun on frosty windows and I saw love! You still melt my heart, John.

I wish you the happiest of birthdays it is in my power to wish for or collaborate with.

You are a most treasured gift to me from our Father who has a good eye for such enduring things. I will love you when there are enough candles on your cake to see their light from outer space.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

God Gets It All in 2012!

I'm singing my heart out to God—what a victory!...God is my strength, God is my song, and, yes! God is my salvation. This is the kind of God I have and I'm telling the world! This is the God of my father— I'm spreading the news far and wide! God is a fighter, pure God, through and through...Your strong right hand, God, shimmers with power...Who compares with you in power, in holy majesty, In awesome praises, wonder-working God?...

The people you redeemed you led in merciful love; You guided them under your protection to your holy pasture...You brought them and planted them on the mountain of your heritage, the place where you live, the place you made, Your sanctuary, Master, that you established with your own hands. Let God rule forever, for eternity! (Exodus 15 Song of Victory following the Red Sea Deliverance)

God led Israel. Delivered Israel. Established Israel. May His protection cover Israel now and forever more. May He rule the nations from Jerusalem. Those who pray for her peace are beloved of God. Those who love her prosper. Those who do not better learn to swim.

Our fate is irrevocably tied to the fate of Israel. America was birthed to be her ally. Without this relationship we risk becoming irrelevant to the plan of God. May the year ahead hold fast the bonds of friendship and comradeship between Israel and the United States. Our own prosperity depends upon it.

May His hand "shimmer with power" on behalf of those His heart loves. Those who are called by His name. On our behalf and yours. On behalf of our churches and families. May He show Himself strong in our generation.

We are "singing (our) heart(s) out to God" in 2012! God gets it all! Fruits, gifts, talents, music, money. His all His. We worship a GOD who exists in capital letters and our life in Him this year is going to be written in upper case.

We have those quiet moments the replenish our souls but we have an affirmation that this is a year for the Church to drive her sheep to market! To make a sling from her veil, pick up a smooth stone and sight in the enemy!

May 2012 be a watershed year for the Bride.

"Let God rule forever."

Wherever He is going we are calling, "Shotgun!"

May your New Year be ferociously blessed!

John and Kathy LaMantia