Sunday, February 24, 2013

He Loves Me. He Loves Me.

The mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end, so says the Lord who loves you. Isaiah 54:10 (TEV)

How does He do it? How does He love us anyway? For some of us that anyway, that in-spite-of, can be unimaginable when viewed along side of our sin.

If I turned in a paper as my own but "borrowed" someone else's work from the Internet, I can see how God might be disappointed in me but still manage to care for me in-spite-of myself. If I got so upset with my child that I put a hot iron against his face where is His affection? Where is redemption?

Remember, we are the ones whose life is a vapor, whose days are grass. Not so with God. He is eternal and substantial and He loves from the same stuff He is made of so we might as well just give up trying to understand it and accept it. The hills may come to dust. The unthinkable in life may happen. His love is still standing when the dust clears.

If His love is unshakable, immovable; if it won't blush, won't run- then maybe we can trust it. Maybe this Lenten season of self examination we can unclothe our secret selves and stand naked in His presence and survive.

Love is the covering that lets grace do its work.

What needs to be stripped away, washed away, finished? What needs to be laid down, set aside, buried in an unmarked grave? What thoughts need to be captured?

The One whose love is made out of the same stuff as Eternity is looking right at you and He isn't walking away. There is no "He loves me not" spoken over any daisy in Heaven.-kl

"Forgive me my sins, O Lord; forgive me the sins of my youth and the sins of my age, the sins of my soul and the sins of my body, my secret and my whispering sins, the sins I have done to please myself and the sins I have done to please others. Forgive those sins which I know, and the sins which I know not; forgive them, O Lord, forgive them all because of your great goodness and the sacrifice of Christ."  Beliefnet

“Sometimes, O God, my thirst for you is pushed aside, ignored, or simply quenched by something other—something reasonable, something more popular—than you. But you never go away, never stop, never leave the depths of me. Like an underground spring, you are fresh and free, breaking through. Help me prepare a place for you in the caverns of my soul. Amen.”

- Pamela Hawkins, The Awkward Season: Prayers for Lent

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Opposites To Perfection

"Maybe it’s because you’re so proper. Your necktie is never crooked, and your shoes are always shiny. And your shirts are so starchy. Sometimes when I look at you, I want to tear off all your buttons. Or set your trousers on fire." from It Happened One Autumn.

You hang up your shirts all facing one way, all the white shirts together, the same with blue and black. All your pants are color coded. You put trees in your shoes. Your socks are rolled up together and in rows in your dresser. Your cash is in ascending denominations, face forward, in your wallet.

Two of my socks go into the dryer and one comes out. I wear mismatched socks otherwise I would not wear any socks at all. I select my outfits for the day based on what is "on top" (of the pile on the cedar chest). I cannot put my clothes in the closet because it is full of your clothes. I cannot put my mismatched socks in the dresser because my drawers are full of rocks and shells and other interesting stuff given to me by children who have befriended me. I have dollar bills in every pocket and change everywhere.

You write music. I write poetry. You kiss with your eyes shut. Mine are open. You want black coffee for breakfast and I want cold left over meatballs. You will take my screw-ups to your grave. I publish yours on my blog or use them as sermon illustrations.

You would give me the last morsel of food left on earth and I would make you eat half. You would offer me your coat in a snowstorm and I would button it around both of us.

You give me your first prayer of the day and I give you my last prayer before sleep.

God gives us everything in between now and forever.

How blessed we are.

Happy Valentine's Day to my noble, wonderful and very neat husband.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Light On The Music

I wanted to be a trumpet
split the air with a piercing cry
I wanted to be a tympani
calling thunder from the sky
I wanted to be a cello
with a song so sweet you'd sigh
None of those apply-
I was the light on the music.

-by Kat Cavanaugh LaMantia

Forty years. A full biblical generation. The length of the trek in the wilderness. Forty. A number Heaven takes seriously. Forty. The number of my married years. Forty winters and forty springs. Buds and frosts, rocks and rivers, desert seasons and lands of promise. Forty years of a God-partnership.

My answer is still yes.

Forty years of unpacking a saved up love. Forty years of kisses gentle and fierce. Forty years of a house filled with music and small gifts on pillows. Forty years of soft looks across a room. Forty years of prayers and tears and celebrations when the African violets bloom.

My answer is still yes.

Forty years of dreams. Forty years of reality. Forty years of love made of steel and rose petals. Forty years of prayers of desperation and gratitude and thanksgiving. Forty years of tracing your face with my fingers, of binding my life soul-to-soul to one person. Forty years of grace. Forty years of mercy. Forty years and a wish for forty more.

My answer is still yes.

Happy, Blessed 40th Anniversary to my husband and friend of a lifetime.  I am the light on your music as you are the light on mine. You have a soundness as a husband that shelters me. 

My answer will always be yes!

Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. Songs 8:7 

"The book of love has music in it. In fact that's where music comes from..." -Peter Gabriel

Theme from Our Town by Aaron Copeland, the first record John bought for me. It became and remains our song.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Flare Up Like Flame

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

-Let Everything Happen, Rainer Maria Rilke

I could get crafty with every line of that poem. I have been enjoying Rilke for a few weeks now. The line that is tap dancing in front of me, begging for attention is that "Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in," goodie.

I hear Jesus saying for us to be the candle on a hill, flickering, dancing, casting His shadow. The wind will try to blow us over, blow us out. The rain may dampen our wicks. Our matches puddle at our feet. But there is that urging, Flare up like flame!

How? How? Wet wood may smoke but not burn. Really? Try telling that to the 450 prophets of Baal.

It is that "Embody me" encouragement. When Christ is at the center, when He is our core; fire lives as He lives. He is the Resurrection and wet wood is below His weight class.

Some days my spirit suffers oxygen debt. I am afflicted with too much of all the things that smother me. Work, bills, the demands of life. If I turn my thoughts toward Jesus, even for a moment, a window opens and His freshness slips in over the sill bringing His radiance with it. Life is full of resurrections.

It is up to me to do the turning. When I let myself be drawn to Him, the atmosphere around His Presence supports combustion and I am a flame dancer casting shadows for Him to move in- even if I am sitting still.

Is He up to it? Can His Presence really consume all the dead wood that drains us?

You call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God. 1Kings18:24

and a river of fire was pouring out, flowing from his presence. Millions of angels ministered to him; many millions stood to attend him. Daniel 7:10

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Still Dancing!

His hair is wavy
and black as a raven.
His eyes are like doves
by the water streams,
His mouth is sweetness itself;
he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, 
this is my friend
Songs 5 

He had thick Afro-like hair, blue eyes, a black shirt with burn-out stripes and peach colored pearl buttons, gold velvet bell bottoms and black suede boots with heels. I was 18 years old and he had just had his 21st birthday when that Sicilian asked this Irish girl to dance.

That was 43 years ago today.

John was the quiet type but we talked for hours. That has not changed. The bell bottoms are history so is that shirt except in memory. But here we are still magic for each other from across a room or a continent.

God has done it. He has thrown the weight of His love and grace into the three way covenant of our marriage. It has made all the difference. You might expect that the One "in whom all things consist" the One who flung the stars, moons and planets out into the void and told them to stay put, that One could govern and protect two souls locked in a love-orbit. 

I found out fast that John was not much of a dancer. We remedied that little deficiency some years later. He was, however, the stuff legendary husbands are made of when Christ is the example being imitated.

We are blessed beyond a language to express it.
Our Father is still throwing us a banquet.

We are still dancing

Still friends. 

(Afro is no longer with us either)


Monday, February 4, 2013

His Passionate Embrace Within You

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, How bones (are breathed to life) in the womb of the full one, So thou knowest not the work of God who maketh the whole. Ecclesiastes 11:15 (Emphasis mine)

Not long after I married John I began to be pregnant in my thoughts and dreams. One night over spaghetti I burst into tears because I wanted a son. It freaked out my husband of eight weeks something major. Me too, if the truth be told. I had not been fond of children.

It would be two years before we would meet John David who would come disguised as the flu and at the most inconvenient and "broke" time. But he lived in me all the while even when he was only a promise, a desire.

In all the different ways women have of being "pregnant" we are favored of God. His delight. The ones chosen to demonstrate His life, colors, words, gifts, feelings, intentions. We let them grow inside of us. We fed them with our own substance and call them to life with a scream.

Convenient, inconvenient. God has the time planned out. He knows what is needed and when it needs to come and who needs to bring it. Just as surely as a young girl growing up in obscurity and poverty was the one to raise the Son of God, you have a call on your life. I have one on mine. God planned and planted.

I have friends whose horizons God is stretching. I feel Him moving my own mental furniture. It is terrifying and exciting all at once. We don't know (understand) the work of God who makes the whole. We don't understand how that life was breathed into us but it is there understood or not.

So we pick up a baby, a book, a paintbrush, a camera, a Sunday School teacher's guide. We enroll in a class, we volunteer, we buy tap shoes, we become a foster parent, we make Paella. We become the ones full of His goodness and glory. We let the world see that "He has placed His passionate embrace" within us. That we are transformed.

God has plans for us. He knows what maketh the whole.

I behold you,
noble, glorious and whole woman...
O lovely and tender one,
how greatly has God delighted in you.
For He has placed His passionate embrace within you...
like grass upon which dew falls,
pouring its life-green into it,
and so it is true in you also...

From Ave Generosa by Hildegard of Bingen

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mercies In Disguise by Rebecca Jeter

 Have you ever asked, 
"Does God really take the 
hard (bad, messy) things 
and turn them into 

Does he understand my pain? Does he care? I know that
I have asked. I am sure  many others have had the same questions or doubts. Do you want to know the truth of it?  He understands!  


My questions started coming around the time we had our second child. The day that I gave  birth to my son (not an easy delivery) my two year old daughter, Christian, was in the hospital on IVs. So things started out pretty rough. 

Six weeks later she came down with the stomach flu again and was held overnight in the hospital. While our daughter was in the hospital, the doctor took a look at our son and said she suspected something was wrong. She recommended that he have a CAT scan.

A week later the results of the CAT scan confirmed her suspicion -  his skull was fused together. A condition called Craniosynostosis. We were told that he would need surgery to correct the problem. 

This surgery came with a 100% chance it would necessitate a  blood transfusion. I did not like the idea that he would lose so much blood they would need to put more back into him. Of course I was praying that God would please just heal him so he wouldn’t need to have surgery.

During this time I was getting VERY little sleep and our two year old daughter was having a lot of behavior problems ( 9 months ago she was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum). I was asking God, 
“ Why was this all happening?” I didn’t understand and was even getting angry about it. I was tired, stressed and confused that life was so hard.

When our son was five months old we flew down to Children’s Hospital in Seattle for him to have the surgery. This surgery required his skull to be cut into 19  pieces, reshaped, and rebuilt. It took two doctors, a plastic surgeon and a neurosurgeon. Cade's was the worst case of this kind they had experienced in a long time.

It was a very emotional time when the hour came to surrender our son to the doctors and wait.  Wait and pray we did.  Three hours later we got the call to come see him.  As soon as I saw him I had to sit down. I don't do well with blood, cuts, etc.  His incision was from one side of his head to the other and not pretty looking at all. He also had a tube of blood still draining from his head.  It was so hard seeing him like this.

Around 11: 00 pm my husband left to go back to the Ronald McDonald house (they only let one parent stay over night in ICU). Forty-five minutes after Tim left, our son stopped breathing. 

All the nurses and doctors rushed into his ICU room. I remember my prayer was only, "Jesus help him" and "this is not suppose to happen." After what seemed like forever (it might have been a minute) Cade started breathing on his own.  They said it was the pain medication and if he hadn't started breathing on his own again they would have had to give him something that would take the pain medicine out of his system. He would then wake up in a lot of pain.

Within 24 hours his head swelled so big that he could not open his eyes.  I hated seeing him suffering and started to ask God "WHY?" again. Why does he have to go through this? Why couldn’t you have just healed him? Then God whispered to me, “My only son suffered, too!” 

That's when I knew that God understood exactly what I was going through.  I knew he cared. I didn’t have to ask why any more. God later gave me this poem.
When the pain is real
And the pain is deep
And you think your all alone

That's when the Father
Holds us close
And comfort to us is shown
This truth I hold
To me is clear
For He whispered in my ear
I Gave My Only Son
For I know just how you feel
Eighteen months later, as I was out running, I was thinking and talking to God about all that had happened. I realized that I would have never really understood how much God himself understands about our pain and suffering if he would have simply healed our son. It was then I heard him say to me, “That was all to prepare you for what is to come.”

A month later I found out I was expecting our third child. It was actually a bit scary after having one with difficulties (later diagnosed as autism) and another that was born with a birth defect. But even with fears we were very excited. Two weeks later I miscarried. I was 6 ½ weeks along. 

I like to be open about my miscarriage in the hope God can use it to help others.  He has! A year ago I discovered a friend had just suffered a miscarriage. I felt her pain like it was mine and I prayed for her healing. Shortly afterwards I happened to find a teardrop necklace. I knew when I saw it  I was to give it to her. It came with this verse.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalms 56:8 NLT

I later found out that on the day my sister took my friend the necklace, God did a wonderful thing. He healed her, but not just from the pain of a miscarriage, but also from past hurts that would not go away. God did it! He took my pain and her pain and turned it into something good. And he did it because he DOES understand and he DOES care! HE REALLY DOES! It even says it in the bible.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASV

Miscarrying had been a very sad time for me but I remembered throughout the experience what God told me and I did not have to ask him why. I even knew he prepared me beforehand. He had already used something that was hard and turned it into something good. 

Of course there were many things that I had to work through, but in time he took my tears of pain and turned them to tears of Joy. One way was the birth of our youngest, Ivy, which in Hebrew means 'God’s Gift.' And she truly has been a gift (that is another story I will write another time).

Now I see how God has taken us through each of the trails that we faced these past 8 years. He used each one to bring us closer to him and to reach others. And as I look back to the time of the miscarriage and our son's surgery, I now see how it was all a blessing in disguise. Laura Story says it well in her song, Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if the thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

I drew a picture and wrote a poem in honor of our little Cara Sue ( which means Beloved Lily).  February 3rd is what could have been her birth date.  

This would have been her 4th Birthday. 

There are tears of Joy
And there are tears of pain
Both are healing Both are gain!

Even though tears may
Fall for a season
It is only a SEASON
And during that season
He is always by your side

Understanding more,
More than anyone I know
He is the Healing
He is the Comfort
He is the Reason
To want to face another day

And with His Grace
It slowly turns
Turns to hope
Hope of more-
More than what you knew before

And in time it comes-
His Love, His Joy, His Peace
Like a fragrant rain
Washing away the tears
And making you New again! 

What if the trials of this life are just
                    Your mercies in disguise?

Posted by Rebecca Steel Jeter and hosted by Calling Shotgun!

(Original art and photos by the author and/or family)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wake Up, Soul!

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.-Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke's the Book of Hours

It was a locked psychiatric unit and a young soldier from our church who had been depressed was there. I was on staff and on duty and we were speaking about the love of Jesus intruding into all the walled off places that keep us separated from God and His goodness. Often keeping us separated from our authentic selves.

There was another soldier in the same room with us who was in a catatonic state. Little did I realize our conversation was penetrating his dense mental fog and awakening hope. The next morning he was alert and responsive, claiming he did not know what was going on or what had happened to him but that he did know God loved him and had a plan for him. The living Word of God had simply been alive and did what living things do- it took a breath, moved and woke him up.

Some days I do not see the wisdom of all I will become. I have lived a long time but I have not run out the clock. The Word of God is still breathing on my life and imagination. I may yet be "a falcon, a storm or a great song"...or all three!

There are days Christ is saying to me of the hungry, "You give them something to eat." Of the naked, "Give them your coat." Of the empty canvas, "Fill it." Of sin, "Forgive it." Of the catatonic, "Wake up!"

Life and opportunity are on high alert. They are waiting for us to shout out our intentions. To breathe out the Glory.

I’m ready, God, so ready, ready from head to toe. Ready to sing, ready to raise a God-song: “Wake, soul! Wake, lute! Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!” I’m thanking you, God, out in the streets, singing your praises in town and country. The deeper your love, the higher it goes; every cloud’s a flag to your faithfulness. Psalm 108 MSG

Is there something God is asking you to do or fill or be?

Wake up soul!

(Beauty From Leftovers, Garage-Art original painting by Kat Genovese)