Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are You Still Asking?

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:5-7 NIV)

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. (Luke 1:11-13 NIV)

"Your prayers have been answered," said the angel. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both very old. At what point do you think they had stopped praying for a child? In their thirties? Forties? Certainly menopause would have made them give up their hope. Well, I would have lost hope by then...maybe long before.

What took so long? We're they unworthy of the answer?
No. The verses above state clearly that Zechariah and Elizabeth both were blameless before the Lord.
I don't know that that could be said of me.

So, why now? Did God forget about them, then make up for it by sending an angel? No. Our God doesn't roll like that. He knew all along. 

He was waiting. Patience, my daughter and son. It isn't time yet.

Time for what? 
For all things to be ready.

All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. (Luke 1:65, 66 NIV)

The Lord loves to come through after all things point to the impossibility, and dramatically reveal the miracle!

He puts it all together...
John the Baptist
Mary and Joseph
Caesar on the throne, and the census
The new star, the wise men
The choir of angels

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How Not to Let Your Heart Break

I flew across the country on my birthday. Leaving behind all that is familiar and comfortable, I knew this would be wonderful and terrible all at once.

I have been here before, to the City by the Bay. I always say, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." Truth be told, my flesh spirit would not want to live there.

When the lights go down in this city, and the sun shines on the Bay, if you are out on the streets you will see sleeping bags stirring on the sidewalks and hotels hosing off the debris from the night. Thousands live without conveniences, and call it a simple life. Many choose to call the sidewalks their homes, staking out claims on public property with no mail boxes. Arguments ensue if you are close enough and late enough to overhear...this is MY spot...I've been here for all this time..

If you are coming home from work, or a conference, or may see a girl on Fourth Street, tangled hair, looking down, sitting on the walk by the street facing toward pedestrians with a white Guinea pig and white cup at her crossed legs.

If you are having a happy conversation with colleagues, recounting the day behind, planning the time may be approached by a large black man, knuckles outstretched, singing a song for you to join in...fist-bumps ensue, then hand turns palm upward. "Have ya got a dolla' for me?" And seeing a wallet full, he will ask for a second dollar. Then a third.

What can one person do? Thousands sleep in open air, beg for the next ten cents, fifty cents, dollar. An Asian lady crushes water bottles so as to fit more into her meager bag, using a reaching tool to pull back one that rolls out of reach. I want to pick it up for her.

I want to look that girl in the face - the one with the white Guinea pig - and ask her, "What are you doing here?" Doesn't she have a mother who cares? A grandmother? What if she does not?

What am I to do?

I rationalize...if you feed one, he will tell his friends. Next thing you know, there are a dozen. Like the sea gulls at the park.

I ask my soul what Jesus would do.
At the pool of Bethesda, he healed only one.
But at other homes and in the wilderness, he fed and healed all.

This isn't working.

It is a complicated issue, I counter with myself.

I am only here for five days.

In the end, what do I do? I fill my thoughts with what I need to do next...the t-shirts for the children in my life...the Park I haven't seen yet...the new friend waiting for today's adventure. This is how I cover my heart.

This is how I keep my heart from falling at my feet, shattered, broken, spent...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Foldable shopping bag project -- part 1

Last year, before our trip to San Francisco, I bought some foldable shopping bags to keep in my purse to whip out when shopping. It's a good thing, too, since they had just begun charging extra for bags at stores.

Unfortunately, these bags were not as durable as I expected.

As you can see, the seams on the handles came unstitched. This was from normal use.

So, recently I began searching online for do-it-myself folding tote bags. After some careful studying and comparing of different patterns and styles, I dove in today and made one of my own. I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with it!

I started with some fabrics I had on hand. The beige linen is left over from a skirt I made a few years ago, and the floral print from a vest. I went to JoAnn Fabrics to pick up the snaps, button, and bias binding.

Pictures coming tomorrow...stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Faithful Friends

Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9.2)

Then Jesus healed the man. Jesus healed many, many times. John tells us in chapter 21 of the Gospel he wrote:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

For some reason, there are particular events that the disciples chose to relate to us. This one touched me especially this morning, because there are times and seasons when my faith is weak. I believe God can heal, but will he? Does he really want to do this for me right now?

In Matthew 9, it was their faith - the combined faith of the man and his friends - which caught Jesus' attention. Do you see it, too? It was not dependent on the paralyzed man's faith alone. I love this!

I love the way the Word of God meets my needs, tells me God can touch me, heal me, speak to me right where I am. I do not need to get to a better place - have more faith, get my act together, stop sinning, or understand it all - before God will listen to me. He takes me right where I am today, with all my weakness, faithlessness, and stumbling ways.

He is good. May I learn to be good like Him.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Just in case you want to follow me...

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I recently learned of a new blog feed that some are using to replace Google Reader, which is disappearing soon. Seriously, if Google Reader had done this, they wouldn't have to go away, but I am really loving Bloglovin'!

Try it out! It's free, and if you have blogs you like to read, this is a great way to follow them. You don't have to read them all -- you can mark them "read" without reading more than the first paragraph. (Don't worry, nobody but you will know!) You won't have to keep all your blogger bookmarks together, or subscribe to a ton of e-mails telling you when a blog has been updated. It's freedom for your day, I tell ya!

Have fun!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Wrong Right to be Right

Simply this:

The desire to be right is strong in a Virgo. I need to learn to lay it down. This is the lesson God is leading me through in this season.

I could tell you that I was right in two different debates with my husband. I could tell you that he doesn't think I was right. There goes my pride again - wanting everyone to know how right I was.

One month from now, will it matter?
Three months from now, will I even remember that we disagreed - let alone on what subject?
Of course not.

One month from now, we will be enjoying a vacation in Lake George, walking along with the kiddos, taking them on rides, giving their Daddy and Mommy time together, driving, walking, riding, laughing, playing, and fully enjoying the present moment.

Three months from now, the night will draw dark sooner, the skies starry-eyed, barbecue, tossing rocks in the water, strolling along the river, working days, sleeping nights, maybe a few more drive-in picture shows, many more hugs and laughter-filled days and nights. Enjoying this very moment.

Never mind the debates. Be love. Be honest. Be Jesus to the world - but first off to the man who is the world to me. Never mind being right.

Self-talk over.
Good night moon.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Worthy Waiting

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Today's devotional stated that today's generation believes in nothing. They are reportedly suspicious of everything from government to business to the church. But who can blame them? Media gives us daily examples of corruption, scheming, fraud, and predatory practices. Even marriage, states the devotion, can mean a lifetime of slavery in their eyes.

The marriage part grabbed me this morning. Is my marriage proving or excepting the point? We have all seen the elder couples bickering playfully (or sarcastically) and thought it humorous. But my marriage should be more than that. It should be an example of two become one. We have had 28 years of practice, and should be getting pretty good at knowing each other. Will we use this knowledge to divide, or unify? It can go either way. It must go one way or the other.

In another 10...15...20 years, I would like our marriage to look like something far from slavery. I want it to be an example of what marriage can and should be: two lives so entwined that everything is done with the other in the center. Haven't you seen it once in a while? That sweet, elder couple holding hands in the park, or looking into each others' eyes like they were still 19 over dinner. Not a bickering word uttered in public. A shining example of two become one, of a team that is 100 times stronger together than either could ever be alone.

So, back to the knowing each other, and the use of this information. I shall give an example from my own marriage. I (very nearly) always bring a bottle of cold water up to the bedroom for our use. My husband doesn't think of the water. Perhaps because I can be depended upon, he doesn't have to remember. I could decide to resent this (as could be a temptation upon coming home late occasionally from volunteer work), and grumble that he never thinks of this, and it's always on me to do. Or, I could choose to think of it as a way he has learned that I am dependable, consistent, and loving.

I know there are certain things which he does consistently, dependably, and lovingly. With that side of the coin, how do I respond to his acts of service? Do I complain about how or when they get done, if I think there is a better or more convenient way? Or do I gratefully acknowledge that he nearly never leaves this task for me to do (be it taking the trash to the dump, keeping the car's gas tank filled, or folding the towels), freeing my time for other things.

So, while some may think that playful bickering is humorous -- and TV sitcoms have poked fun at such things, making them appear normal -- is such thinking harmful? Aren't we called to a higher standard? With the help of our Lord, are we not well able to raise the bar on what a faithful, successful marriage can look like? Can we give such shining examples that the younger generation wants to be like us? I dare say we can, and we should.

Merely pointing out that one thing is wrong is not enough. We must go further and put forth the right example for a target to hit. We must -- if we truly believe one is better -- go out of our way to help those who are struggling with the concept of healthy, desirable marriage, to aspire and attain to that wonderful relationship of lifetime love. We need to make it delicious!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Forward again

Sometimes I just feel like giving up. After struggling with something for so long - even years - I just get weary. It doesn't seem like I have made any progress, and sometimes it looks like things have gotten worse. I just want to give it up and let it go, lay down my sword and shield. Chalk it up to another something that I just cannot overcome, finish, conquer.

Then in my devotional today I read this:
And I think if we're honest, we would admit to being vulnerable to Satan's whisperings that our faith is a fraud and that there is no God and no help as we struggle to survive.
That snapped in me. My fighter instinct came alive, telling me this is not just a game - I have a real enemy out there who wants nothing more than to disarm me and make me feel powerless. The very fact that he tries so hard tells me that my power (in Christ) is very real, very strong, and influential.

The devotional did not leave it there.
14 God says, "I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord. 15 When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them. I will rescue them and honor them."
Psalm 91:14-15
So, with renewed vigor and a sense of His presence by my side (isn't it amazing what a little worship of the King of Kings can do?), I again take up my sword and shield.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:10-18

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1
Word for the year: 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dripping Hope

The silent roar of winter is broken not with a blow, but bit by dripping bit, with the radiant sun creeping closer...closer...warmer. 
The sky unzips with wings, floating, calling the sun from its shadows.

The earth releases its iron grip on the white blanket that fails to warm, and I dream of the fragrant peony and the tall and wild hollyhock, and wonder if the berry bushes boxed up in the club store will grow well in my yard, if it would be worth the space on my little postage stamp of the City on the River in the North.

Eyes strain to see the firsts: first tulip sprouts, first robin, first groundhog.
Check. Check, and check. Five robins this weekend.
The sparrows and starlings have been back, and I heard a jay last week, although it defied my eyes.

Soon my eyes will see the trees slowly open their fingers to reveal the hat trick they do every year. It always delights, and every year I think, "I should take a picture of this road every day from first bud to full leaf." Maybe this year I will. Does everyone know the color of the first leaf? It is not the color of summer--it is the color of new.
Very nearly transparent, tender to the touch...

Yes, in hope and the most ancient of wisdom the trees make leaf every year without fail.
Is my hope that wise? That confident? That brash?
To live out loud even though the sky is gray, the earth sepia, and white blankets threaten to suffocate again?
To know and not care that the leaf will once again turn russet, wither, and die?

Yet we must, or we shall die. One year's crop is meant to take us through the suffocating winter. One summer's fruit--oh, how sweet!--made for us to yearn for, work for, protect, and savor.

How is it that we can hope over and over again? When last year's crop rots, our flesh pales, and all is sepia--what do we long for but life and warmth and color?
When it is too long in the coming, do we give up hope? Do we stay under our blanket of loneliness, remembering only the weight of cares? Even then, do we not wish for hope, however out of reach it seems?

If you are stuck in bed, unable to move, listen as Jesus says to you, "Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven!" (Matthew 9:2)
Look him in the eyes, let hope ring in your ears.
Reach out your tired hand for his.
Believe that he gives you the strength that comes from remembering your sins no more

He stretched his hands as far as they could go
LET the nails dig in deep, crushing bone on their way through
His feet lifted up from the ground
The suffocating pull of limbs tied to a tree
He felt everything, refusing the offer of relief (Mark 15:23)

He who was perfect
became the perfect lamb
so I could know the perfect lover
and live
after dying
because he is alive.
Three Marys at the Tomb, by Bouguereau
 And adding hope to hope
He is coming back for me.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The New Reality

She says it here. This lady named Ann who found her voice in giving thanks for 1,000 gifts.
radical has to be the Christian’s new normal, that radical isn’t radical but the regular to the disciple of Christ
 And I keep reading about her trip to Haiti, the boys, the Bibles, the thirsty land. I've heard of this thirsty land before. One of our pastors took his family there to live for a while, to bring living water to this dry and thirsty land, a land of thanks-givers who have nothing compared to us, and yet everything.

And her words cut me right through. No, the Holy Spirit cuts through the deception, the self-serving, the thick skin that I put on to keep from hurting. And I see myself a little more clearly, and I don't like what I see. I could turn away, forgetting what I look like. But I keep reading.
...and who is ready to have less so we all have something, or do we all want everything so most get nothing?
We’ve got all of God. Why not share the rest?
Or maybe we don’t — because we don’t really have Him at all?
And I know how I hold back from giving of myself. I hear myself saying, "I want to be there. I want to get for a while."

I am so tired of plowing and sowing, plowing and sowing, plowing and sowing...and just when it looks like there might be a harvest, another pastor leaves from shame or sheer exhaustion. We have seen seven come, six go, and finally we left. Tired, hungry, wounded...and I no longer blame any of those who have gone before, over the 27+ years, while we stayed, plowing and sowing, plowing and sowing. When comes the rejoicing? When comes the carrying the sheaves?

And I just want to sit a while. I am thirsty now, and want to soak it up from others for a while. I want to be there.

And we were asked to be here again. To have meetings once a week. No, I say. I want. I want to be there. Once or twice a month will still give me time to be there without here being too inconvenient.

And there is thirst.

And I read on...
I read about the boy begging for food or drink and receiving the Bread of Life and his huge grin.
And I know what it is about, and what it is about is not me.

In tears, I cry "uncle!" Tell him we will do it here, in our home. Yes. Every week, if that is what is wanted, needed. I give.

I have been thirsty. And in my thirst, I've kept the water for myself, and the fountain has stopped.

John 4:13-14

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
When I give again, it is promised that my water will turn into a well for those around me in need.

I give.

 A Holy Experience