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i am

Asleep, I lie oblivious, unaware. Dawn opens the curtain of today and I am teased  awake. Now I know. Now i am. . . because of I AM.

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Christianity/Religion Grief Religion

You’re Still Standing

For many of you, A rough year may describe the one just past: For some, I know such to be true, as I have heard your wails and I have seen your tears. Though un-shed may have been your soul-fountain, and though you were of the notion that none could see or feel the lashing rain, I knew. I weep now as I recall your blanched face and the dimming of your glistening vision, though well you rallied and held up splinters of hope for us to see. Of others, I know none of your grief, yet reel in the conviction of its being so, for the passage of years have attuned me to life and I know of its disappointments and acknowledge its raw pain.

The past months have been ragged, startling in their happenings and outcomes, laying shadows of uncertainty over your bearing line so that your future is greyed, and the clarity that was before is now muted and ill-focused. Strange, for your intentions were good, and though imperfection is acknowledged, trial and ordeal of such degree were unexpected. They seem unfair.

So often and so glibly their telling rolls from our tongues that I fear we may forget the adventure and passion involved in Biblical accounts. Think of Noah. God was so angry with the very people He had created that He planned to drown them every one, along with every other creature that inhabited the earth. Noah, however, was so different from the wicked around him that he found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and God spoke a plan to save Noah and his family. Build an ark, God said, and following God’s explicit plan, Noah did just that. When he was 600 years old, the ark was finished, his loved ones were safely aboard, and the rain began.

It was a strange experience for Noah. Never before had rain fallen. Lightening and thunder were no doubt unknown. Now came savage, pouring water that never stopped for 40 days and for 40 nights. The heavens opened. The fountains of the deep were broken up. Wild waters rose, and that wooden ark was flung about, heaving up and down among the seething fury of God. Dead animal bodies and human bodies with streaming hair and sightless eyes floated and were cast about . . . and Noah endured the dark, the unknown, the treacherous. Having found grace with God, Noah suffered and endured.

Jump to chapter 8, verse 1 of Genesis.

And God remembered Noah…

. . . and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged.

God had not abandoned Noah. He was not forsaken. God remembered; knew to  infinite degree His plan for Noah. Verse 15 tells that after a time of the waters receding, God spoke to Noah and told him to leave the ark.

Gathering his family, Noah left the wretched vessel. In the doorway of the ark, he no doubt stood and surveyed the earth that had been wrenched apart by nature, by God. One thing was clear, though: Noah was still standing. Despite the rubble about him, despite the stench and disarray, Noah was still standing. The storm had been fearful, the screams of those dying around him would forever ring in his ears, the heaving and breaking of the earth beneath him were indescribable. Yet, he and his family had survived. They were alive to go forth, to deal with their world.

You, also, are still standing. You have endured. Your disappointments may be midnight black and of such degree that no one may ever know their depth. Yet, you stand. You survive. You live.

I suspect that you are of the nature of Noah, and that you will follow his example as he led his family to an earthen spot, where of the debris and the wreckage he found what he needed and there built an altar to God. Selecting clean animals, Noah burned sacrifices to his God.

God watched, and it was sweetness to Him.

____________________

I have been writing this blog for several years now, and it astounds me that this site has been viewed more than one million times. I’m humbled and grateful for your interest.

In recent months, though, there have been substantially less visits here, and very little interaction–few comments. I’m thinking a couple of reasons account for this: First, I have been posting less here and more frequently on Facebook, often with a link to a post here. I like Facebook, quickly hear what my friends are doing some days, and have made connection with people I hadn’t heard from in years. That’s all nice, but there is a lack of depth to Facebook, and not frequently do persons engage in thoughtful and a bit deeper conversations. Also, when comments are made on Facebook about a blog post here, they feel “lost” to me. They are not posted with the article in question, and take lots of scrolling around to find them.

So, because I enjoy writing, and because I especially enjoy your interaction, I’ve decided to no longer routinely link my articles to Facebook, and am hoping to increase traffic here. I may pop over to your place with a link every now and then as an invitation to come visit me here. Remember that you can subscribe to this blog so that you will be notified when I make a new post.

I want to hear from you. Please comment when you have interest about something I’ve written.

Blessings always…and a wonderful new year!

 

Categories
Christianity/Religion God Life Photography Religion

To See. To Hear.

Said so often that the trappings of cliche have been attached, is march to the beat of a different drummer. While admittedly a hackneyed phrase, its meaning is vividly spoken; so well said that its becoming overused is understandable, as actually is the case with most cliches.

Henry David Thoreau’s exact words are:

If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.

The different people are found in every echelon, guild, and in every level of society; in every socioeconomic strata. Every discipline has a share of such people; such people as stagger our understanding. Amazed, we learn that Beethoven wrote his Ninth Symphony when he was totally deaf, and that Louis Braille, because he had been blinded by accident when he was three years old, and because he wanted to read so badly, invented the Braille system. In slave quarters at Diamond Grove, Mo. near the end of the Civil War, George Washington Carver was born. When but an infant, he and his mother were kidnapped by Confederate night raiders. But because of his inner vision and rare drive, he fought upward and became a renown agricultural chemist.

I have a thought that even among us who as a group are rather centered on having found the right way of life–perhaps smug in the knowing at times–there are you who have an elusive sense of distinctness, and who, as you sit with us on benches or stand by lecterns on Sundays, in some ways know you are foreigners. Perhaps you struggle to understand the different slant of your framing as the undeniable glints in your eye and the otherworldly sets your jaw. Try telling your vision to another and a blank face may be turned or a pat on the head, a knowing (though unknowing) smile, an indulging of your quirkiness.

Life entangles you. Work and family, a game in the street, a bite of cheese, gaiety, a quart of milk, but never is it gone, and on an instant is the faraway gaze,  Explain? Impossible. You wander the street of your city, aloof, or the roads of the country. You clap your hands in worship, disconnected. You preach. You worship. You sing Happy Birthday, Jesus, and you say Happy New Year and blow whistles and squeeze shoulders, but you’re alone, not there, for it is but a motion, a time in transition, a passageway.

My plea to you on this first day of the year 2012 is that you be true to your vision, to your calling, to your gift. Though none may understand, though you may never understand yourself, I urge you to eye The Vision, to hear The Voice.

_______________________________

I have been writing this blog for several years now, and it astounds me that this site has been viewed more than one million times. I’m humbled and grateful for your interest.

In recent months, though, there have been substantially less visits here, and very little interaction–few comments. I’m thinking a couple of reasons account for this: First, I have been posting less here and more frequently on Facebook, often with a link to a post here. I like Facebook, quickly hear what my friends are doing some days, and have made connection with people I hadn’t heard from in years. That’s all nice, but there is a lack of depth to Facebook, and not frequently do persons engage in thoughtful and a bit deeper conversations. Also, when comments are made on Facebook about a blog post here, they feel “lost” to me. They are not posted with the article in question, and take lots of scrolling around to find them.

So, because I enjoy writing, and because I especially enjoy your interaction, I’ve decided to no longer routinely link my articles to Facebook, and am hoping to increase traffic here. I may pop over to your place with a link every now and then as an invitation to come visit me here. Remember that you can subscribe to this blog so that you will be notified when I make a new post.

I want to hear from you. Please comment when you have interest about something I’ve written.

Blessings always…and a wonderful new year!

_______________

New blog post on my devotional site.

Categories
Religion

Of Trivia and of the Eternal

I write of crystal and china and napkin rings and apple pie; of candles and pictures and little boats on water and Tinkertoys and cold and heat; of accomplishment and the search for pleasure and, perhaps, of fulfillment and satisfaction. Trivia, all. Beautiful trivia, harmless trivia, yet, trivia.

…..for

…my  friends die, and in a few days is the funeral. Others stand at the brink, and in short hours Jerry and I will go to his bed, where we will discreetly–or not discreetly– cry, and where we will hug and kiss…and where we will pray…for a safe passage…and for eternal security, for him and for us.

…one of my sons called this morning–the one who for long years foolishly bowed to the god of this world–called to say he would this morning be teaching his first Sunday school class, and how nervous he was, and how excited. He told again of functions he attended “before” and where on occasion, he gathers yet, and of his changed role, and of his transformed image. While there, he looks about. He smiles. He is no judge, except for gratitude.

…”how do you respond to the Word of God?” asked the preacher, where, here in Phoenix yesterday afternoon, we attended a church dedication. How indeed? How do I respond?

…sad, we are, Jerry and I, here in our hotel room this morning. For slashed as a silver sword through a dark world is the life of our friend, and then he is gone, and then, so are we.

“…It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27

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Food My Home Photography Religion

Friends and Food

Scripture is chockablock with talk of food, not infrequently connected with Jesus Himself: The bread multiplying in His hands with tasty fish wriggling right along in growth, wine at the wedding, and dipping into the sop with Judas. Recall, too, that once after Peter and his friends had been fishing all night, from a distance Jesus hailed them, inviting them to come to shore. There, smoking away on a grill,  were fish and bread. That morning those disciples ate breakfast with Jesus!

There’s something satisfying about sharing meals with friends; it’s comforting, and peaceful. We slow down, we listen, we hear, we enjoy.

Yesterday we were blessed to have the Aune family visit in our home for a few hours, and eat an afternoon meal with us. Ezra and Yvonne live in the San Diego area with their three boys; Joshua, who is a handsome quiet 10 year-old, Josiah and Judah, who are handsome, exuberant 5-year-old twins–identical twins. (I haven’t been around them enough to be able to tell them apart.) Although I have known Yvonne since she was a teenager, and have been around her and Ezra a bit since they were married, I have never had the chance to just sit and visit with this family as we did yesterday. It was such a pleasure and I value their friendship even more today than I did before. I admire their obvious love for God and for His work. They are planting a church in Bonita (a San Diego suburb); a hard job, one not for the faint of heart, nor one of a lazy temperament. Rather, the establishing of a church calls for courage, dedication and grit!

This is a brilliant couple. Recently, while working full time, pastoring the church, and fulfilling all the duties of a husband and father, Ezra earned his Master’s degree. In our after-dinner conversation, I was impressed by his discussion of the Bible, his insight into difficult subjects, and his passion for the Work of God. I’m always personally encouraged as I consider my advancing years to know there are such exceptional young people coming behind me, people with vision, talent, and integrity.

Joshua

Josiah or Judah 🙂

Josiah or Judah 🙂

An extra benefit of having the Aune family in our home yesterday were the art pieces that were presented to me. This one and a couple more are residing on my refrigerator door at this moment.

Let me encourage you to have meals with your friends–preferably in your home. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a plate of tacos, a bowl of stew or a round of spaghetti will do. Paper plates will work. Or you may choose to prepare a gourmet meal, polish your silver, and set the table with your finest. All that matters little. What really counts is that you call up a friend or two, and about your table and in your living room have a real and meaningful conversation, look deeply into their eyes and come to know them better. You will be rich…as am I.

Categories
Christianity/Religion Courage Death Family God Goodness of man Pentecostal Religion

Janiver Brown and Heaven

I can’t recall when in such a brief period so many people who are significant to me have gone to meet Jesus. This morning the final call came to my beautiful, longtime friend, Jan Brown. With certain peace, she left this world, and now occupies a timeless, invisible place. She rests in eternity with Jesus.

Jan was a preacher’s wife; her husband, Clayton, is the pastor of a United Pentecostal church in Napa, CA. It is impossible to imagine a sweeter, more godly person than was Jan. Truly I feel exceedingly blessed to have been in her circle of acquaintances. She was an exceptional person. And now she is gone, leaving a wonderful family; two sons, two daughters, and her dear husband.

Her husband briefly writes of the conclusion of her earthly life in this way:

“Janiver laid down her cares and took the hand of Jesus this morning at 3:00am. She passed very peacefully with no struggle. I can only image the glories she is experiencing now and for eternity. I know it will be a challenge for us to redefine “normal” now. The larger someone is in your life, the bigger the hole they leave when they are gone. But God will see us through. Love to each of you! Clayton”

A song rings in my ears tonight as I consider Heaven, its glory, its mystery.  Many who are dear to me are gathered there tonight.

“What a day that will be when my Jesus I will see

When I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace.

When He takes me by the hand, leads me through the Promised Land.

What a day, glorious day that will be.”

For sure I don’t know how it all works, but I just wonder…is Jesus showing Janiver around tonight? Has she talked with Sister Freeman and Brother Hyde who just arrived there last week? Has she dipped a toe in the River of Life or  bent down to rub her hand across a golden street? Has she met up with the Patriarchs, the Apostles, or David…who was a man after God’s own heart? Has she paused to gaze in awe at the splendor of Heaven? Can she peer down and see a million galaxies…or the precisely ordered spin of our planet–the one we call earth?

We don’t know. But of this I am sure; Jan is safe with Jesus, freed at last from the terrors of this earth, from her cancer riddled body, from fear, from pain, from dread and uncertainty.

Categories
Christianity/Religion Death Devotionals Family Integrity Life Religion

As I Lie Dying

Because of daily word of her tenuous grip on life, and the hearing of warm remarks from around the world concerning our dear Nona Freeman, I have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days considering my own death bed. I have deliberated long, and such reflection has given me a tighter grip on reality. Oh, not the reality of this steel and mortar which surrounds me, nor the dirt on which I stand, nor the constant scroll of  sky which shields my troubled head. No, I muse these long moments on authentic reality–that of the soul, of eternity–incomprehensible eternity–, and of God..of whom I live in awe, and before whom I stand in abysmal unworthiness when I even utter His name, or acknowledge His existence.

So, as I lie dying, I hope those who huddle about my bed will speak of God, and that I loved Him, and that I loved people, and that as pitiful and inconsequential were my efforts, I did expend my life in loving God and in sharing the Word of His Being. As I lie dying, I hope someone mutters that once I thrust a crumb of bread into her waiting hand, that one evening I mouthed a heartening word, that one hot afternoon I placed my hand on a weary shoulder and that one dark day I pressed a coin into an empty pocket. As I lie dying, I hope those who shiver by my bed will be secure when thinking of my destination, and that the Almighty Presence of God fills the room; that Scripture is spoken, and that hymns of the church are sung.

As I lie dying may there be little joy in those few trinkets I will leave behind; rather triumphant rapture at the thought of the Joy that I will soon, then, apprehend.

(Please. This post is not intended to gather positive comments concerning me. Rather I hope it will serve as a touchstone, urging each of us to examine our true reality. And I do want to hear from you in this vein, any thoughts you are willing to share.)

Categories
Children Christianity/Religion Family Home Integrity Life love Religion

Tough Love and Jesus

“But what would Jesus do?” the man challenged.

In recent days I spoke with a parent who many times past the first has taken the “tough love” approach with his young adult child. He grieved as we spoke, was quiet and pale. I tried to console him by validating his actions, “You did the right thing, though.” I know this man well, am privy to all the sordid, long-lasting actions; know of his love and kindness and care of his now adult child. He has been more than fair, long-suffering, loving and supportive.

He stared at me. “Did I? I’m not sure.”

Seems that at the last encounter with his child, someone else was there, and that person castigated the father for not continually taking back into his home his adult child. It does not matter what actions have taken place; the blatant disrespect does not count, nor does the lying, drunkenness, disregard for others, disappearance for months on end, laziness, lack of dependability…“None of it matters,” in essence said the man. “This is your child, and no matter what he does, you should always provide a place for him.”

The man concluded his argument by looking straight into the father’s eyes and saying, “What would Jesus do?”

And now the hurting father looked into my eyes and said, “I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. What would Jesus do?”

What would Jesus do? How would He respond? What steps would He take?

The Bible gives us at least two hints.

One.        He left the safe flock of sheep, went into the night, and brought home the wandering one.

Two.     He plaited a whip and drove from the temple the money changers who were disrespecting God’s house, who were making it a den of thieves.

Since my conversation with the troubled father a day or so ago, I have thought much about this subject, and, trying to be objective and fair have considered: “What would Jesus do?”

I believe He would do as did my friend, for He is a loving, kind Father. But He is not a wimp, and although His teachings include “turning the other cheek,” and “giving away a coat,” it also encompasses driving cheats from the temple, and saying to the rich young ruler. Give away your riches, or you can’t walk with me. And when the young man could not make that dedication, he walked away–sorrowfully, yes–but he walked away. Nowhere in scripture do we find that Jesus ran after the young man, saying, Oh now I’ve changed my mind. If you find my sayings too hard, just ignore what I previously said. Just do what you can. Come on now and walk with me.

It’s a grievous subject, one that causes deep inside weeping as I write. I know we have spoken of this before, but today it weighs heavily on me.

What do you think? What would Jesus do?

Categories
Addiction Alcoholism Arizona Bible Christianity/Religion Church Courage Culture Family Grief Lake Havasu Life Photography Religion Social

The Ugly of Sin

“Mom, you need to call Marcine. She’s in some kind of trouble.” I recognized it to be Michael who had left the message on my phone. I promptly called the woman. (Marcine is a pseudonym.)

She was crying so that I could hardly understand her. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong, Marcine?”

I could not understand her words, and pressed her to speak more plainly. “Tell me. Tell me what is wrong.”

At last I could understand her and knew what needed to be done. We worked through the necessary details so that finally we were all at the church–Jerry, Marcine and I. She sobbed and trembled as she told us the story, a story whose details I cannot divulge, but whose details really do not matter, and whose knowing or not knowing changes not at all the impact of the tale. For the story is identical. The story is unchanged. The story is of sin and fallen man and wretched ugliness; the ugliness of sin; the hopelessness of life without Jesus Christ.

We sat in the lobby of the church as she sobbed and eked out the words–words which later we found to be lacking in veracity and completeness. “I need a cigarette,” at one point she said.

“Well you know we can’t help you with that, Marcine,” I said.

“I know. I know…I have one cigarette; the rest are at the house. I”ll smoke half of it.” We watched as from her purse she drew a leather holder, clicked it open and removed the single cigarette.  Through the glass that stretches across the front of the church we saw her walk across the blacktop area, and respecting our plea with our CIP students not to smoke on our property, she trudged into the rocky lot next to ours. She slumped, then sat flat among the scattered stone and sand. She lighted half a cigarette. My aching heart bled.

We took her into the sanctuary after she had smoked, seating her on the edge of the platform; she wept and sobbed. Gently we talked with her; inquired and soothed, then I knelt beside her and grasped her hand as she bent forward into a position of black despair.

“Do you know how to pray, Marcine?” Jerry asked.

“Yes.” And so…we prayed and wept and mourned.

Later she called her probation officer, who advised her to call the police and surrender herself. Marcine wanted to do it at home, but just as she positioned herself in herDSC_0001_2 friend’s car for the ride home, two police cars pulled onto our parking lot…and then after more weeping and hugging and whispering words of courage into her ears, the officers handcuffed her and led her away.

I’ve written before, and no doubt will do so again, concerning the ghastly and mistaken thought that serving God and abiding by His law is a form of bondage. Bondage, you say? Bondage it is to live in a holy and godly way? Bondage to refrain from stealing and promiscuity and drunken brawls and hideous addiction? Bondage, you claim? Bondage to dress in a modest way, to erect a family altar, to read often the Word of God? Bondage to attend church, to give generously, to minister to the less fortunate, to be kind and caring? This is bondage? No friend, let me tell you of bondage.

“I wonder if they might have a cigarette,” Marcine said at one point yesterday, as she stood looking across the street where two men stood on a parking lot.

“They tried to force me to join a gang,” Eric told my husband a few minutes ago. Eric received the Holy Ghost four weeks ago, and the next day had to go to jail. He was released only yesterday.

“There was every kind of drug you can imagine in the jail,” Eric continued.

“How do they get it in there?” Jerry asked.

“Pastor…by hiding it in body orifices.”

“The gang leaders tried to force me to shave my head,” Eric said.

“We were introduced to hard drugs by our parents,” the trio told Michael. One at 12, one at 13, one at 14.

“My mother left us when I was a child to go live with a lesbian,” said one of our CIP students who looks about 13, but who is actually 19. “I’ve been to about 30 psychologists and psychiatrists,” he added. He pled with me as I enrolled him some months ago. “I have to smoke marijuana. It’s the only thing that calms me down.”

“Have you been drinking?” Michael asked the student as he attempted to enter the class. “No, but she has,” he said, pointing to his female companion.

“I’m sorry, but she can’t be here,” Michael explained.

“Okay, I understand,” said the student, and he led his staggering friend away and seated her in his truck on the parking lot.

Relapse, jail time again. Prison. Visiting hours, books, magazines.

I sat in a court room and watched one of our students–shackled hand and foot–as she shuffled to her spot.

Excuses, embarrassment, cries, troubled children, community service. High on drugs, dropped from class, re-enrolled. Teeth rotted from methamphetamine. Emergency dental calls. Pain. Disappearance. Broken promises. Fines. Failure to pay. Failure to appear. License revoked. Eight siblings–all different fathers. Violations. Probation officer. Judges. DSC_0005Chains. Bars. Cigarettes, beer, cheap wine, hard liquor. Stagger. Divorce, mistrust, broken windows, unmarried mother unmarried daughter–both pregnant–due two months apart. Emergency room visits, stomach pumps, prescription pills. Little boy killed by drunk driver, his father and friend nearly killed, still having surgeries, not able to work. Sleep into the afternoon. Violated. Nightmares. Sleeping pills.

Speak not to me of bondage associated with serving Jesus Christ my Lord. Say no such thing to me. For it is only through Jesus that Freedom and Peace can envelop the human soul, can straighten the twisted life, can right dreadful wrongs, and can apply the sweet balm of Gilead.

I’ve told of yesterday’s grisly afternoon at Christ Alive. Compare it please with yesterday’s evening Bible study where we worshipped, prayed for friends and relatives, rejoiced that in the past few hours Eric had been released from jail and that he was eager to be in church Sunday, studied God’s word, sang a great hymn of the Church and laughed; where new converts testified, finally having to declare they just couldn’t explain how wonderful they felt, and where after church we just hung out for awhile, admiring the moon and the beautiful sky…and loving each other.

No. Do not speak of bondage in the same breath with which you speak of God’s church. You have come too late, you have come to the wrong person. Positively I affirm that it is the grip of satan that chains the human soul and that  drags him into everlasting, hideous bondage and torment. But in Jesus, my Saviour, my Lord,  is absolute and glorious Freedom, whose glittering highway leads into Life everlasting, where we will forever to be in the presence of God.

Categories
Christianity/Religion Church Culture God Goodness of man Internet Life Religion The World

Tweet God?

twitter.com/thekotel is the site, Reuters reports.

Just never thought of Tweeting God or Facebooking Him for that matter, I suppose. Never occurred to any of us. Oh, we have prayer in our services, of course, and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 7:00 we open the building for early morning prayer. These meetings are available for everyone, and we believe they are of great benefit to those who attend. But we just never thought of the Tweeting angle.

Alon Nir did. He is an Israeli, a resident of Tel Aviv,  a university student, and he has made available what many may feel is a direct line to God. He has established a Twitter site where prayers can be sent, and where he then will print them out, drive to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and insert the prayer papers into the crevices of the walls of this Jewish holy site that the “faithful believe provides a direct line to the Almighty.” (Reuters)

I’ve never seen that Wailing Wall, but Jerry has, and he says the reverence shown there is remarkable, and indeed the wall is festooned with rolled up scraps of paper inscribed with prayers. The men begin praying, bending low and lower with each prayer, so that finally they are nearly touching the ground with their heads as they sincerely pray.

Tucked into the Western Wall of Jerusalem tonight are Tweeted prayers. It’s a different way of praying from any I’ve ever heard, but who knows…? I suspect God hears our sincere prayers whether we whisper them, shout them, weep them or Twitter them. The main thing is that we talk with Him, communicate, let Him know our needs.