Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Give us this day our daily bread

Being gluten free, I struggle to find affordable bread that I like.
Gluten free cornbread is more like normal cornbread
than most gluten free bread is like normal bread.




Bread nourishes.
It fills our mouths and our bellies.
"Filler," I've heard it called.
Bread lacks the protein of meat
and the vitamins of fruits and vegetables,
but it is packed with consolation.

Indeed, what is better
than a hunk of crusty fresh bread,
hot, tender in the middle and crisp of crust,
slathered with butter, melting--
or dipped into savory soup broth--
or sopping up a delicious marinara sauce
from the bottom of the plate?

Bread fills us, comforts us, and keeps us going.
It is gentle, settling to the stomach,
a buffer for acidic foods.
Toasted, with tea,
bread can be almost medicinal.

Jesus says that He is the Bread of Life.
He fills us, comforts us, sustains us.
He heals and feeds.
In love, He offered Himself for our benefit,
--a baby in a feeding trough--
that through the consumption of Christ
we would find life and fullness of joy.
(John 6:32-58)

Jesus promised that He would not leave us as orphans,
but that He would come to us,
that we would be in Him,
as He is in His Father,
and He would be in us.
(John 14:18-20)

Jesus is in us.
Like a lovely, thick slice of bread filling a formerly hungry stomach.

Give us this day our daily bread.

He fills us by His Spirit.

"I am the Lord your God
who brought you out of Egypt," He says,
"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."
(Psalm 81:10)

"If you know how to give good gifts of fish and eggs to your children,
how much more will I give the Holy Spirit to those who ask,"
He says.
(Luke 11:11-13)

The Holy Spirit is Christ in us, the hope of glory.
(Colossians 1:27)

Something about this temporal life
forces the need for constant refilling.
Physically, we need to eat every day.
Spiritually, we need the Holy Spirit every day.
I do not exactly understand this.
Faith brings believers into the new birth of spiritual life
just as birth brings a baby into physical life.
But as a baby needs food to live and grow,
so we need the Holy Spirit, daily,
for our spiritual life and development.

Daily, we need to come into His presence,
feast on the scripture He illuminates for us,
remember the gospel story, remember hope.
In remembering hope, we grow in gratitude--
for life, for love, for forgiveness,
for His great salvation and His gentle compassion.
Hope leads to gratitude which leads to joy
which leads to confidence and power.
The power of the Holy Spirit.
The fuel of the Bread of Life.

Daily, we pray that God, our source of hope,
will fill us with His peace and joy
because we trust in Him--
and then we begin to overflow with confident hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13)

Jesus, the Bread of Life,
in us by His Holy Spirit
which He pours out on us,
filling us.

Jesus, let us find joy in each new day.
Fill us with your Spirit, fill us with the bread of life.
Sustain us with your joy, which gives us strength.
Let us walk in step with your Spirit today, strong and confident.

Give us this day our daily bread.




This post is a sequel to this post.







Thursday, August 10, 2017

Welcome to my August

It is a fantasy, to imagine someone I love appearing, unannounced, on the doorstep for cake and tea.  Of course, if it were unannounced, the cake would not yet be made, but we could nip on chocolate while we waited for it; there's always a store of chocolate.  Or we could have a bonfire in the backyard, with hotdogs roasted over open flames.  And long, sweet conversation with lots of laughter.

I keep the beds made up with clean sheets, and I stock the guest bathroom with my favorite soap, moisturizer and shampoo.  There is even a stash of new toothbrushes in the bottom drawer!

Oh, the dream of a balm for loneliness.

August is so pretty, when the flowers finally reach their full bloom.

This is the walk to my front porch, crossing in front of my wild tangle of growing things.  Do you see the magnificent rosebush from our 30th anniversary?  There's another on the other side of the garage, but that one only has five or six blooms.  They make my heart overflow with gratitude.

Here is a closer shot of this fabulous bush in its prime.

And a close up of a gorgeous rose.

And another!

This is the bush as it stands today.  Each day, I tell myself, "Today I must deadhead it so it can go again."  And each day, I decide to wait one more day.

Just around the corner, my hummingbird feeder hangs nestled among red four o' clocks.  
The hummingbirds like the four o' clocks even better than the syrup. 
(1 cup boiled water plus 1/4 cup white sugar)

The cosmos are always slow, but hope springs eternal for these lovely blooms.

Further down the line, mini zinnias.  
Last year's zinnias were supposed to top out at 48 inches, 
but they surpassed 7 feet!  
Shawn doesn't like really tall flowers, so I got these minis.  
They offer me a precious surprise each day, 
tucked between four o' clocks and marigolds.

My front door in early morning light, 
while the four o' clocks are still mostly open.  
These flowers are at their best between 8 pm and 8 am. 
and they smell divine all night long.

A riot of four o' clocks

More four o' clocks

Pink four o' clocks at about 8:30 or 8:45 a.m. as they are closing up for the day.

This is how my front door looks most of the day, without early morning light or open flowers.

My front yard lamp-post island garden. Oy, have we worked to remake this!
We'll take a tour around the circle:

Luscious cleome winding in and out of pink coneflowers.  Coneflowers are perennials, and cleome self-seeds, so this is some low-maintenance joy for me.

Coneflowers are so photogenic, I can't stop myself photographing them.

Here we have coneflowers in front of purple salvia.  
I bought the salvia for super cheap this spring, because it had been frostbitten.  
I cut it back and planted it.  It's grown and bloomed like a champ ever since.  
Makes my heart swell a little.

More of my survivor salvia.

And a close up, just because I love this plant.

Here it is in context, between a lily and a daylily (which are both done), 
and in front of sedum (yet to bloom), yellow four o' clocks, and coneflowers.

Beyond the sedum, an obedient plant 
(the one with white flowers--it's also called false snapdragon) 
which I was thrilled to find at the nursery.  
I had one of these in NY and loved it.  
This time, I bought three!

Another view of the obedient plant.

Apricot coreopsis.  I also had coreopsis in NY, and it was a favorite.  
I always seem to plant this guy on the side of the bed 
that I have to walk around to see, but in this case it is also the street side, 
so I hope it does well and gets appreciated.

I adore these pink asters, and they are adding to the butterfly appeal of this garden.  
(This bed holds a collection of plants that attract butterflies, 
and the monarchs have already been visiting!) . 
Unfortunately, I am allergic to these beauties, 
and had a bit of a reaction after deadheading today.

 This is a new plant that I have no experience with.  Malva zebrina.  The literature says it is tough and easy to grow.  Almost invasive, says one source.  
I can only hope that such a pretty (and butterfly attracting) plant will be invasive!!

That's my front yard, my August joy.

When I'm lonely, I can putter in the dirt.
I suppose it is not a strange thing that older women 
turn to plants and pets 
when their children leave home.  
Something to fuss over and care for.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Purifying toxicity.



I've noticed a trend on social media: link after link to articles about purging the toxic people from your life.

The gist of the message is this:  You are important.  You are good.  You are too good and important to be weighed down by toxic people in your life.  So do yourself a favor and flush them away.  You deserve it!

Can I just point out?  This is entirely anti-Christian.  It makes me sad.

People.  Guys.  Please hear me.

We are all toxic.

We are all toxic.

It is only pride and self-righteousness that cause a person to think that the others are the toxic ones, and he, himself, is fine.  Remember Matthew 7:3-5, about taking the plank out of our own eye before we attack the splinter in our brother's eye?

Now, I'm not talking about abusive people.  There is a point at which people's sin can become dangerous to others, and when you are in a relationship with a dangerous, abusive person, it is good to set boundaries which will protect you and hopefully help the other person come to his senses.  I'm not talking about danger and abuse.  Notice: danger and abuse are not the terminology that is in popular use here.  The popular terminology is "toxic," which sounds really bad, but I warrant it might be a bit of a hyperbole, a ploy to gain credibility for actions that are selfish and prideful.

Also, be careful, because abuse is a term that we overuse these days.  You should not call it abuse--emotional abuse, verbal abuse--every time you have a disagreement with someone, ending up with an unsatisfying conclusion that hurts your feelings.  Did the other person label you as something you didn't like?  Are you tempted to call that abuse?  Can you honestly say that you've never labeled someone as something that he might not have liked?  Did you just call him an abuser?  But that was okay... why?  Because it was you, and you are a "good" person, and he shouldn't hurt your feelings?  Sorry.  No.  We all have disagreements, and we all slip and speak unkindly at certain times, particularly when we are feeling defensive.

The whole world is toxic.

We all need grace.

We all need to give grace.

The whole world is toxic, but for the purifying love of Jesus.

He's been hounding me about this, Jesus has.

It started about three years ago.  I was studying Matthew, which is the gospel that focuses most on Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law.  Matthew 5:18 tells us that Jesus came to fulfill every jot and tiddle of the Law, perfectly, so He would qualify as the perfect sacrifice to purchase our forgiveness.  Jesus loved and respected His Father's Law.  He came to complete it, not to undo it.

Yet, just a few pages further along, we read in Matthew 8 about how a leper came to Jesus for healing.  Jesus reached out, touched him (Matthew 8:3), and made him well.  Now, this is a beautiful, compassionate miracle.  However, it seems in direct opposition to what the Law says.  The Law warns that lepers are unclean and need to stay away from the people, outside the camp.  Lepers were not to be touched.

I cogitated on this for awhile.  Did Jesus disobey the Law, and sin?  I came to a realization.  God gave the Law for the people's protection.  The Law showed Israel how to live as safely and prosperously as possible in a sin-defiled world.  God taught His beloved people to recognize and avoid unclean things that could lead to sickness and death in their society.  He provided regulations for dealing with infectious diseases and biohazards.

It was all for their protection, but Jesus did not need any protection.

Jesus was God in human form, but fully God, with all the purifying power of the love of God surging through His flesh.  Jesus did not need protection from diseases.  Jesus was the healer!  When Jesus touched the leper, there was no risk of His contracting leprosy.  When Jesus touched the leper, He eradicated the leprosy.

This is beautiful.

The theme keeps recurring again and again.  In May, in Ohio, I heard a sermon on how Jesus healed Jairus' daughter and the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  Jesus had contact with a ceremonially unclean woman and a dead girl's body, abominations.  He touched what should not have been touched, and the result was healing, restoration, resurrection.

Two weeks ago, we studied the Gospel of Luke with Michael Card for a week.  I was about bowled over by how this precious gospel shows Jesus getting his hands dirty again and again, always with a triumphant result.  Fevers, leprosy, death, blood, prostitutes and demoniacs.  Jesus forges right on into each messy situation, bringing glorious healing and relief.  Michael Card calls it "reversing the flow."  I love that.

Jesus reverses the flow of corruption.  The ordinary flow says that if you touch something dirty, you become defiled (compare Haggai 2:12-13 with Zechariah 3:4-9).  But where Jesus goes, when He touches something dirty, He purifies it.  This is a miracle.

A miracle.

But wait, there's more!

Jesus lives in us, through His Holy Spirit.  Christ in you the Hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27).  Christ in us, in me, in you.  Christ dwells in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17), and He strengthens us with power through His Spirit in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16).  Jesus did not leave us as orphans when He went back to heaven.  He sent His Holy Spirit.  Through this precious Spirit, Jesus, who lives in God, also lives in us, and we live in Jesus (John 14:18-20).

In John 15, Jesus gave us a picture story to help us understand.  Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.  We are one organism with Christ, rooted and established in Him through faith (Colossians 2:6-7).  Jesus actually somehow forms the link, the bridge, the ladder between us and God the Father.  The Living Water of the Spirit of God flows from God into us because of the connection through the trunk that is Christ.

I do not exactly understand this, because it is spiritual truth and all of our physical analogies are imperfect.  I do not understand it completely, but I understand this much: the Spirit of Jesus lives in me, and because He does, I too can contribute to the coming of the Kingdom of God by reversing the flow.

By the Spirit of God in me, I can love.  I can speak peace.  I can walk in joy and thanksgiving.  I can bring hope where there was despair.  When I do these things, I produce fruit and medicinal leaves for the nourishment and healing of the nations (Ezekiel 47:6-12, Revelation 22:1-2).  I can get my hands dirty without fear of contamination.  I can walk in the power of God, bringing purification and healing to this battered world.

Satan doesn't want us to know this.  Satan wants us to live in fear of contamination.  Satan wants us to hide our lights under buckets.  Satan wants us to think that we are clean, better than others, but tenuously so, and insulate ourselves from "toxic" people.

Jesus has so much more for us.  Jesus came to give sight to the blind, to make the deaf hear and the lame walk, to set the captives free.

Jesus left us with the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit so we can continue the work.

Oh, dear ones, may that same sweet Holy Spirit grant us understanding, power and courage to go forth.  May the Lord God trample Satan under our feet (Psalm 60:12).  May we walk in victory, today, and may His Kingdom come!





Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sunrise

I may have written about this before.

I think about it fairly often these days.

I'm sorry.  I just don't have it in me to look through all the things I've written and check whether this is redundant.  Redundant.  Circling thoughts, unresolved issues.  Just writing.

(the sun at 8:00 am in my neighborhood this morning)

Sunrise.

Back in the day--
back when we all lived together on Sugar Pine Circle,
sleeping under the same roof,
eating lots of soup and homemade bread,
sloppy joes on Thursdays--
back when we were together,
laughing, fighting, apologizing,
sharing stories,
doing school projects,
driving to events and practices,
participating at church together,
praying,
memorizing Bible verses taped to the sliding glass door in the kitchen,
processing tons and tons of laundry
and practicing musical instruments for hours,
goodnight kisses and
scrambling not to miss the bus in the morning--
back in that day,
we used to go to the beach for a week in the summer.
Together.
The six of us.

Beach vacations were a blessing, salt and sand and a whole house to relish.  We combed the eastern tip of the island for ocean treasures, shook sand out of our beach towels, walked for miles in the edge of the surf.  We bobbed in the swells, our eyes and mouths filling with salt water when waves broke at unexpected moments.  We washed our feet with a hose underneath the house, rinsing toes and flip flops before going inside to air conditioning, showers, aloe gel, maybe even chili dogs and watermelon.

The weeks went Saturday to Saturday.  David and I developed a tradition of getting up while it was still dark one morning, and walking out to watch the sunrise, just the two of us.  We did this near the end of the week, usually Thursday.

Our alarms would go off, and we'd meet in the living room, pulling hoodies over our shorts and tanktops, stepping into flipflops awkwardly with the clumsiness of somnolence.

Sometimes we went out far too early.  5:30 am on the beach can take your breath away with its damp chill.  Cold, damp and dark, the early ocean aura elongated time, and our walk up the beach towards the east seemed interminable.  Yet, we walked on, sometimes asking one another, "How long do you think it will be?" or, "Can you see any light on the horizon yet?"

If it was low tide, we'd sit down on the cool, packed sand, its chill dampness seeping up our tailbones and into our spines.

And we would wait.

And wait.

And, the time I remember most clearly of all is the time when the sun never did come up.

David and I waited and watched, but never saw anything.  Eventually twilight lightened into day, but still we saw no sun.  Nevertheless, it was nearly 7:00, and the grandmothers were beginning to bring the early-rising toddlers out for their first romp.  Under indirect illumination, we reversed direction, walking west whence we'd come.

Upon reaching the boardwalk that would take us home, we turned and looked back to the east.  In the sky, well above the horizon, hung a half-sun, the top of a pale red circle.  Its bottom half, which also would have been well above the horizon by then, was invisible, cloaked in some kind of white mist or cloud that seemed to run all across the horizon and blend with the overcast sky.  Half a red sun, in the middle of the eastern sky, on an overcast day.

When I pray for a miracle to dawn in someone's heart, in my life, I want it to come up like a beautiful clear sunrise, gleaming golden rays exploding over the inky edge of the earth.  I want to see the periphery of that fiery yellow star peek over the curve of the sea's boundary, spreading its reflection in a glorious streaming line across the surface of the deep, as it grows bigger and bigger until it finally detaches and mounts triumphantly, blazing in the blue heavens above.

That's what I want, but it doesn't always happen that way.

Sometimes things happen slowly, imperceptibly.  Sometimes, even when we're watching carefully, we cannot see the changes, cannot perceive the progress.

That day of anticlimactic sunrise, the mists eventually burned off, and the sky was clear and bright by noon.  We ended up enjoying a perfectly lovely beach day.  It was fine.

It was fine.

You can't stop hoping, just because change is slow and hard to see.  I think about this often, this idea and this story, together.

I will not stop hoping.

Nothing is too hard for God.

He makes the sun rise.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Power to make me strong

A rocky path, with light shining up ahead.

What are you struggling with today?

We are all wounded.

I've met people who actually say, "Everything is good.  I don't need anything.  No prayer requests."  I figure they must be lying, whether or not they realize.  Maybe they just think the stones on their path are small enough for them to deal with on their own.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us.

We are wounded, and we struggle, writhing around in our pain and confusion, tripping, turning our ankles, limping along the path of life.

Jesus, forgive us our sins and give us joy.

Joy comes from hope, and hope comes from a solid faith that there is light ahead, that God's promises are true.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.
~Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV)

That has long been one of my favorite scriptures.  Today as I was reading, God highlighted what comes before it:

May you be strengthened with all power,
according to His glorious might,
for all endurance and patience
with joy,
giving thanks to the Father
who has qualified you
to share in the inheritance
of the saints in light.
~Colossians 1:11-12 (ESV)
Sometimes scripture is so beautiful, we don't need to explain it.  We only need to respond to it.



Dear Lord Jesus, 
Please strengthen me with your power --
for without you, I am hopelessly weak.
But you are mighty, and you are on my side.
So, please strengthen me with your power
and make me strong to endure and wait patiently,
rejoicing.
Yes, help me to rejoice as I wait.
Strengthen me with joy in the wilderness.
You are the Deliverer.
You are the Redeemer.
You are the one who forgives and rescues, 
the one who shares eternal life and light with your people.
Thank you, Jesus.
Amen



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Nature redeemed

Schubert in his natural habitat.  
Schubert is my kind of "wildlife." 
Thank you very much.

Raccoons have been excreting on my deck regularly.  This is so gross.  It makes me crazy.  They also dug in my potted roses, and trampled some of my nasturtiums.  Ugh.  I am no lover of raccoons.

The other day, though, there was a dead raccoon in our neighbor's front yard.  It was youngish, smallish, and the first time we saw it, it looked like it was taking a nap, right there in the sun next to the mailbox.  Realizing it was dead, I felt pangs of guilt for my hatred of the species, and I had to remind myself a number of times that though I may have thought I wished our raccoons were dead, I did not do anything to kill any of them.

Over time, the neighbor did not remove the carcass.  In our extreme heat, it looked worse and worse.  Yesterday I thought it was gone, and ventured back that way as I walked Schubert.  In the nick of time, I saw that its dismembered appendages still lay mouldering in the grass, but something had dragged its body to the sidewalk where it lay smeared and foamy, pummelled by the morning's gully-washer.  Nature certainly has an unsavory side.

Shawn and I have been watching a Netflix series of documentaries on extreme photography, "Tales by Light."

Many of the scenes are breathtakingly beautiful.

Recently, the episodes have centered on wildlife.  The show documents how wildlife adventure photographers journey into the wilderness to capture unique shots of animals in their natural habitats, living out their natural lives.  Sometimes it is frightening to see how close the photographers get to bears, lions, leopards and gorillas.

Often, the photographers seem thrilled to capture shots of huge feline predators stalking, chasing and slaying their prey: deer, wildebeests, and gazelles.  I have to avert my eyes from the screen when it shows a mother leopard strutting around with a limp but still graceful gazelle dangling from her mouth, and when the camera zooms in on a litter of cubs devouring their mother's bloody catch under the shade of a bush.  "What a wonderful mother she is," the photographers crow.  I gulp.

This is not the way God created the world to be.  This is fallenness, meted out on the beasts who have been cursed to make their way in a world where death rules.

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse, but with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.   ~Romans 8:20-22 (NLT)

The "circle of life" -- the dog-eat-dog -- the predator-prey system of survival will be changed and redeemed for all eternity, along with all of us who put our faith in the Lord who formed us and saved us.

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe from the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
The cow will graze near the bear.
The cub and the calf will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
for as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.
~Isaiah 11:6-9 (NLT)

This is our glorious hope.  God is going to change everything, make everything new.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.
~Revelation 21:4 (NLT)

No longer will there be a curse upon anything.  For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and His servants will worship him.
Revelation 22:3 (NLT)

And even the raccoons will not soil anybody's deck.  Everything made right.  Thank you, Lord.





Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Revisiting my words for the year, halfway through



My words for the year are:

or, alternately,

I use them interchangeably.  Admittedly, faith and trust may have more nuances of difference than gratitude and thanksgiving, but I'm not hung up about it.

You trust the object of your faith.  Perhaps faith is the inner condition that results in trust.  Faith is a noun, but trust can be either a noun or a verb.  When trust is used as a noun, I think it is essentially the same as faith.  However, when it is used as a verb, it becomes more in-the-moment and specific, as opposed to all-encompassing.

Maybe I can explain it this way:

When I have faith in God, I believe that there is a God, and that He has made many beautiful promises, which He will absolutely keep.  I believe that He has sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for sin, so I can be forgiven and have fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit now, and so I can have eternal life in the unveiled presence of God in all His glory in the age to come.

When I trust God, I trust Him to keep His promises.  Often when I use this word, the word trust, I mean that I am trusting in a specific promise at a specific time.  I trust Him to meet my needs, take care of me, be near me always, listen to my prayers, watch over the world, and bring His good will to pass.  I trust Him with my fears, my disappointments, my pain.  I trust Him to forgive me and clean me up after I've found myself sinning again.

Lately, I have been trusting in the goodness of God.  Goodness is not so much one of His promises as it is one of His attributes, but I believe that we can trust in God's attributes as well as His promises.

God is good.  Sometimes it is hard to remember this, when we see all that is wrong in the world.  But God is good.  Because He is good, He has a plan to fix everything, all the brokenness that sin has precipitated around us.  His goodness results in forgiveness, healing and restoration.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His love by dying for us while we were still captive to the blinding forces of sin, while we were blind and unappreciative.  He died so we could be forgiven, but now He takes His time before unveiling His full glory, so the many can be gathered in.  Pain runs rampant during the waiting, but we can bear it because He is with us.  He strengthens us.  He has good plans for us, and He gives us sure hope for a glorious inheritance in eternity.

Trusting in the goodness of God enables me to to be thankful for what He is going to do, before He does it.  This is something I've learned this year, and it's a big deal to me:  Faith is being thankful to God for what He will do, trusting that He will do the right thing, and the best thing, every time, because He is good, righteous, loving, wise and omniscient.

Let me try to boil it down:

Faith is being thankful in advance for what God will do, 
based on what we know of the character of God.

Additionally, thankfulness is the key to joyfulness.  Philippians 4:6 shows us this connection when it encourages us to rejoice in the Lord, praying and presenting our requests to Him with hearts full of thanksgiving.  In other words, thank Him as you ask Him, knowing that He hears, cares and knows exactly how to respond.  When we learn to bring things to the Lord this way, He fills us with confidence and joy. 

Here is something that I've been praying this year:

Thank you, Lord God, that I can trust You, 
because You are faithful and good.

What better to be thankful for, than a God who is faithful and good?  What better source of joy, than knowing that the Almighty Designer and Creator of the Universe is my own good Lord, who gave His life to save me from the consequences of sin, who faithfully promises to forgive me, to purify me, to be present with me always, to strengthen and uphold me, to anticipate my needs even before I ask, to bring me safely home to glory in heaven?

What a relief, that God is in control, and He knows exactly what to do.  I don't have to come up with a plan for Him to follow!  He's had all the plans figured out from eternity past!  What a relief, that all I have to do is surrender to Him and trust that He will do the right thing, and He always does the right thing, so it will be okay.  Everything is going to be okay, because God is God. Hallelujah!

I can pray, from the Lord's Prayer, "Your will be done," and I can rest in confidence and joy that He will do His will.  He says, "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please," (Isaiah 46:10).

Thank you, Lord God, that I can trust You, 
because You are faithful and good.
Your will be done.

That's enough.  That's all I need to pray.  I don't need an agenda.  I need to surrender, in faith and gratitude.  Trusting.  Giving thanks.

And that, I've been surprised to learn, is where I find the joy.

Generally, partway through a year, my word(s) for the year morph into other words.

In 2015, I started out with the word Peace, and halfway through it changed to Hope.

In 2016, I started out with Restoration, and halfway through it changed to Goodness, Mercy and Unfailing Love.

This year, 2017, I started out with Faith and Gratitude.  I wouldn't say they've changed, but they've grown to envelope the word Joy, which is a gift I never anticipated--more evidence of the stunning goodness of the Lord.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving me joy.

Joy goes hand in hand with gratitude, with thanksgiving.  But another word has been surfacing regularly, and this one goes with faith.  The word is Power.  I've been so thankful for the almighty power of God.  He is not only good, He is able to make good on all His goodness, because He is almighty, omnipotent, perfect in power.  He is trustworthy in every sense and from every direction, every perspective.  He is not only willing to do good, He is able to do good.  He can do it.  He can do anything.  He has the power.

Thank you, Lord God, that I can trust You, 
because You are faithful and good.
I look forward to seeing Your glory displayed as You handle my concerns.
Your will be done.
For Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen



(I also pray the Lord's Prayer a lot.  I pray it slow, from my heart.  I've been astounded to realize how complete it is, how it covers everything I need to bring to God.  I learn more about it all the time.  Someday I might share what I've discovered about, "Give us this day our daily bread.")



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Some diary-like musings

Well, just like that June is over and here is July 1, a hot Saturday leading into the Fourth of July, and even though I knew it was coming, it caught me off guard, and I haven't any plans.  Frankly, I'm a bit spent, even though it was Shawn who went to Hawaii and Europe in June, not me.  It was a big month:  Hawaii, Europe, a visit from Shannon, Laura and Matthew, some bonfires, a photo-shoot, a milestone anniversary.  

When Shawn is in distant time zones, it seems to mess with my biorhythms.  I suppose that's part of loving somebody.

The kids arrived two days before Shawn returned from Europe, and left the day before our anniversary.  The morning after they left, the morning of the Big Day, Shawn remarked, "I think we should buy a rose and plant it."  So we did; we bought two rose bushes, in fact, and they came laden with gorgeous blooms, which I harvested at once.




Thursday was hot, 90.  It was another bright, sunny day.  I'm trying to train my upper hydrangeas to send their roots deep for water, so I avoid watering them every day.  Thursday was a day I'd decided not to water.

Jon called at about 9:30 (a.m.), from the bus, on his way to English class, saying that he didn't have his wallet.  He said he'd forgotten it at home.  Of course, being me, I feared that he'd dropped it, or that it had been stolen. He told me he’d been able to cobble up $1 in loose change from his pockets to afford the bus ride to school, but then he would be stuck there, lacking both his monthly bus pass and his money, without his wallet.  He needed a ride back home at noon, after class.  This complicated my walking schedule with my friend, but in the end, Shawn (whose office is in the area) said he would get Jon, and everything worked out beautifully.  Shawn retrieved Jon, and they went to his apartment.  Jon’s wallet was there just as he had said, and then they had a nice lunch together.  All these things, cumulatively, made me very thankful.  Meanwhile, I walked, and went to Menard's, and stopped at Aldi for staples (food staples, not the kind you fasten papers with).

Eventually, I headed home, pretty late in the afternoon.  It was still hot, and still sunny, and the grass everywhere is turning white-yellow.  Driving, I prayed for rain, for gentle, soaking rain, for nourishment for our thirsty grass.  At home, I unloaded my purchases.  I'd bought top soil and a watermelon, among other things (those were the heaviest items).  I was tired!  I put away the cold food items, and tidied the kitchen a bit, and then I reclined with a book, One Thousand Gifts, to take a rest before Shawn arrived home for supper.  

Shawn came home, and we ate.  Then we headed outside to look over the yard.  Strolling out to the back garden, I noticed for the first time that my new hydrangeas, the ones in the lower terrace, the ones with the poofy blue blossoms, were dry, withered, and brown, the blossoms crisped, utterly spent.  My heart sank.  Those plants had never withered like the fragile upper hydrangeas.  It never even crossed my mind to check on them in the heat.  But there they were, shriveled.  Immediately, I positioned the sprinkler between them, and turned it on low, a small, private shower.  Then Shawn and I walked Shubert up to the end of the road to take a look at the sky beyond the cornfield, checking for any hope of rain.  Some dramatic clouds shone spectacularly in the bright sunset, but Shawn said none of them looked like they had potential to rain on us.

However, as we headed home, we heard low rumbles of thunder, and as we entered our yard, a few drops of moisture fell on us.  We sat down on our front porch, and a gentle downpour began, working its way up to a drenching rain that lasted about ten minutes.  We watched neighbors--who had been out walking--scramble to get home, some with dogs on leashes, a family with little girls in their jammies before bed, and a boy on a bike who rode figure eights in the deluge.  It rained, silver lines piercing the lawns and bouncing up, misty, from black roads and gray driveways.  Then it slowed, and stopped.  I felt the smile of God on me, telling me that yes, He hears and answers prayers, because He loves me.  The earth smells so good right after a rain, the fresh scent of life, wet dirt, wet plants, even wet asphalt and cement, and (of course) wet sky.  We lingered on the porch as long as that aroma hung in the air.  When we decided to go in, I remembered to run around to the back and turn the sprinkler off.  The hydrangeas were still limp and bedraggled.

I went to bed thinking about my hydrangeas.  I wondered if it would help if I cut off the wilted blossoms in the morning; maybe the plants would survive if I took the strain of those lush flowers away.

In the morning, the sun woke me at 6:50, and I stretched and was joyful for how beautiful it is simply to realize that you are awake, and not be awoken by an alarm.  I felt the sun on my face, and the cotton sheet, crumpled around my shoulders, and I patted Shawn's big, warm body slumbering next to me, and I remembered the hydrangeas.  I got out of bed and headed downstairs, even before Schubert was afoot.  From the sun porch, I looked out, and there were my two new, blue hydrangeas, fully re-hydrated, blooming in their terrace.  Not only the leaves, but also the blossoms had come back!  Again, I felt God's love, so strong, so full of grace.  Jon has his wallet, Shawn got to buy him lunch, a soft rain fell, and my hydrangeas are beautiful.  God would be good even if He did not do these things, but I am so thankful for when He gives us these tangible, easy to read messages of His grace and presence in our lives.



Friday I just went ahead and watered, after the sad (albeit redeemed) situation on Thursday.  I watered in the afternoon, sprinkling and puttering, trimming and weeding, just generally bombing around among my plants.  After the water had sufficiently soaked the garden, I turned off the spigot and went inside to write an email.

Sitting at my computer, facing into two corner windows that look out over the northwest view of our treed backyard, I heard a loud crack.  Looking up from my work, out the window I saw a large mound of foliage dip, sink and fall to the ground with another shattering crash.

Right on top of my garden.





Yes, a 37-foot tree limb with an 8 or 9-inch diameter spontaneously broke off its tree and landed in my back garden.   No storm.  No wind.  Just a loud crack and the descent of hundreds of pounds of lush green foliage. I was kind of bummed, until I realized how blessed I was to have finished working in the garden and gone inside shortly before it happened. God is good, and it looks like He might have saved my life on Friday afternoon, around 3 p.m. 

In the end, Shawn left work early and bought a chainsaw on his way home.  In approximately 2.5 hours, he had the whole thing cleaned up.



Today as I look out at my crushed Jacob's Ladder plants, I can only think how grateful I am that the blow that crushed them was not dealt to my body.  I did like those plants, but I am thankful to be alive and free from injuries.

God is good.

Last night, after we got the garden cleared, the branches dragged to the roadside, and the wood chopped and stacked, we stood on the sun porch and looked out, up the street that forms the artery of our neighborhood, running west to the main road.  It was about 8 p.m., which is when the sun, dipping low, casts a magical glow that literally turns the black road into a radiant golden surface.  The evening sunbeams cascaded in shafts between our tree trunks, and a squirrel cavorted in the gleaming light, his feathery gray tail turned as mysteriously golden as the road while he paused, illuminated, and his little chest stood outlined against the dark trees by a bright line of deep yellow.  Between the shafts of sunset, fireflies began to pulse, brightening the dark spots of deepening evening with their spiraling slow ons and offs.

We just stood there--watching, breathing, absorbing--thankful for life and light and beauty.  Thankful for God.

I lived to see July!