Sunday, September 11, 2016

Whisper in My Ear One More Time

He woos me to His side and I listen carefully to clues I hear about His direction for me in the coming year.  I love September.  It is a special time for me.  I look for Him in a word or phrase; He speaks in the quiet hours.  He weaves my life’s days together in such a way that I see a glimpse of him in everything.  I look at my simple days and that word pops up like a revelation and I know He is near.

The fall Jewish feast days explode with meaning for me as a Christ follower pursuing my Jewish roots.  The forty days of Teshuvah, or time of return, depict God calling us back to Him spiritually for a deeper relationship.  The sound of the shofar every morning, a wake-up call warns me not to miss what God is about to do.  That shofar blast scatters my enemies releasing breakthrough where needed.  Then comes Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a brand new start.   Yom Kippur follows, a time of deep repentance and fasting.  It then leads into the Feast of Tabernacles depicting how God cares for us and we celebrate His provision usually looking for an opportunity to bless someone.  The season is about blessings.

I remember last fall, 2015.  I am Creator He whispers.  I wonder to myself “Am I not aware enough of His wonderful creation?  Have I taken for granted His beauty around me?”  He impresses upon me Wait until you see what I am going to create in the coming days!

He has done so much more than create oceans and mountains and the countryside I admire in my ordinary days.  He tells me He is God who creates new hearts and attitudes.  Nothing is impossible.

I look back with our good friends, Lori & Brian and thank Him for healing Brian of cancer last year.  The doctors told us Brian needs a new kidney and we waited for the donor with the proper fit.  Our faith stretched!  During spring, the operation succeeded.  Brian recovered fast!  Recently, Lori bought Brian a new Harley Sportster because he’s been through so much, “He deserves it,” she said.  

I ponder my own life this past year and realize only God can create a bridge where a thick brick wall once stood.  I shook my head negatively five years ago refusing to believe I could ever forgive Sookie’s dad.  I know God’s word is true when He says He can create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.  Our amazing daughter, whose name means strength, took the high road and forgave because she believes in the supernatural power of unconditional love.  I will never forget when my husband followed her lead and proclaimed over our family “We have all suffered enough.”

God released angels on our behalf to bring healing where strife once made its home.  I sat back in amazement this summer in restaurants or at my dinner table as Sookie and her dad shared not only meals with us but life and goals too.  Only God can heal like that with absence of tension.  Healing takes time as forgiveness works its way in our hearts.

September is here and He’ll do it again.  He’ll lead believers to Himself.  Draw close to me, Beloved, He beckons.

Time of Refreshment
I’m sensing the need to pause, to seek hiatus from the internet for the rest of the month to listen to the sound of the shofar inviting me to draw near to Him, to listen and to observe once again.

And then…I’ll be back.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Black Sand of Bitterness

Tom and I shared a leisure breakfast with friends at the outdoor cafĂ© in Hawaii one Sunday morning.  We stayed in a resort on the beautiful ocean shore.   On the stroll back to our rooms after breakfast, my girlfriend, whom I nicknamed Sherona, mentioned she wanted to go to a church service.  The guys declined but I took her up on it and changed into my skirt.  We got into her rented convertible acting like Thelma and Louise, two liberated women on a mission.

But things turned sour.

Sherona and I talked too much on that highway and missed our turn off to the Catholic Church just down the road.

“Keep driving east about 25 miles, Sherona, and we’ll come to a park in the next town over with a bunch of churches on one block,” I said.

I knew it well since I took a tour of the island a day before.

We arrived and parked the car.  Sherona insisted that we choose a new experience and attend the Hawaiian service.  I tried to persuade her to consider the Baptist Church just three churches down with a big sign out front “Jesus Loves You and So Do We.”  Sherona held her own for a more native type of service and I followed her into the Hawaiian Church but I had a bad feeling about it.

They spoke a language foreign to us.  They refused to acknowledge us.  We spoke to congregants but they ignored us.  They did, however, allow us to toss our money in the basket when it passed.  We were ostracized.  Everyone received a blessing at the altar as the service closed except us.

We spent the afternoon in that little town going to lunch and cheering ourselves up eating ice cream and trying on clothes in the boutique.

When we got back to our hotel, we dressed for the party on the lawn at the resort.  We found our husbands and told them all about our experience at church that morning.

Sherona’s funny husband quipped:  “It’s a good thing they didn’t sacrifice you gals in the fire on that altar.”

I recognized the spirit in that little church and told my friends about my experience.

I toured the island just the day before.  My guide, a native to the Big Island, talked a lot telling stories of the missionary’s years ago who took away beloved customs of Hawaiians in the name of Christianity.  My guide confessed he’s a brother in Christ struggling with bitterness.  He explained his fears and prejudice of white people.  I spent eight hours with him, listening and gleaning insight.  Clearly, I felt the wall.  I didn’t imagine it.  Fear feels heavy and cumbersome.

Here’s your tip; goodbye.
When we said goodbye, I shoved a big bill in his hand and gave him a hug.  He deserved it not only for a five-star tour but for his honesty to be real and humble.

The disdain we experienced at church that Sunday morning demonstrated a lesson taught without a pulpit. 

Hawaii gave me many new experiences:  scooping up lava from erupted volcano ash, black sand beaches, wild orchids, Kona coffee at the coffee plantation, a picturesque waterfall that took my breath away.  I must admit I saw, too, the ugliness of prejudice and its effect.

It’s funny.  To this day, I’ve still never been to a Baptist Service!  Something tells me I would be loved.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Let's Live Together

I took a Ziploc bag of frozen pork chops out of the freezer and set them in the refrigerator to thaw.  I decided to make one of my favorite crock pot recipes with them.  I threatened the husband with a black eye if he ate the last of the sour cream because I needed it for that simple recipe.

The next day, I carried my crock pot to my island in the kitchen and mixed the sour cream with an envelope of onion soup mix and decided to rinse the defrosted meat at the sink before adding to my recipe.  Then I noticed something.

They weren’t pork chops.  To my surprise, I witnessed defrosted chicken thighs.  Very big chicken thighs; it must have been a hippy chicken.  The freezer bag’s label read Dec. ’15 in the husband’s writing.  I assumed it contained pork chops.  I was wrong.

Write it like a man.
Thinking like a man would think, he probably guessed that any fool could see these are chicken thighs when he placed them in a clear gallon freezer bag and put them in the freezer for later use.  No need to spell it out on a label.

What’s funny to me, he even asked me the day before:  “What are you going to do with the chicken in the refrigerator?”

I corrected him and told him “It’s for my slow cooker and its pork chops, not chicken.”

I felt sorry for him because, typical man, he loves pork chops.  And he wasn’t getting any.

Similarly, miscommunication results when we assume things about others.  I have a friend whom I’ve known for a few years.  When we first met she asked me if I had an open door policy in my home and could she drop in anytime for chats and doing life together.  I discouraged that immediately because I’m quietly productive and respectful of my husband’s space too since we are retired and live in the same house. 

However, the boundary I set in place was ignored.  The woman dropped in often.  So then, I asked her to give me a call first before showing up.  She ignored that boundary, too.

In discussing my irritation recently, it amazed me when she responded that she didn’t know I am a private person.  She then instructed me as a private person to set boundaries.

I conclude that there is a hefty surprise in store for us when we refuse to hear what the other person is saying whether its pork chops, chicken or friendship.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Days of Vines and Prayers

I moved to the Verde Valley in Arizona over twenty years ago and I got it in my head right away that I wanted a prayer garden.

We chose the spot, planted bushes, filled containers with flowers, laid the patio stones and even found a comfortable outdoor chair.  It took me several tries to communicate to the husband the picture in my mind of how it should look right behind my chair.  We agreed that the trellis arch in my vision would be a lattice effect supporting a grape vine.  It turned out better than my imagination! 

My prayer garden thrives not only because I meet my creator there, but I have harvested white and purple grapes every August for over 15 years!

A local TV channel featured Arizona vineyards recently.  The documentary points out that the Verde Valley in Arizona has the widest temperature range between early morning lows and late day high temperatures of almost a 41 to 44 degree difference which allow the grapes to thrive.

I like to stroll through the beautiful vineyards five miles down the road from my house which attracts tourists to their wine tasting rooms.  The grounds host a lovely wedding venue as well. 

We laughed that we were cool before it was cool to grow grapes here in the Verde.  For me, it started with a prayer garden!  Someday I will know the fruit of that too.

King David’s son, Solomon, built a lavish temple for the Lord.  I read in 1 Kings about the extensive details describing the foundation and all the precise tools used by talented workers to create the special house of God.

It took him 20 years to finish it!  Then on that great and glorious day, King Solomon gave a speech.

The king gathered the community of Israel together and lifted his hands in front of the altar proclaiming the greatness of our God who keeps covenant with his people.  "How can anything made with human hands contain such a great and mighty God?" Solomon asked.

He went on to pray petitioning God:

Lord, be with us and never abandon us.
 Give us the desire to do Your will.
 Let us be obedient to Your commands.

Solomon declared:  “The people all over the earth will know there is no other like our God!  May we always be faithful to Our Lord.”

Solomon’s words are beautiful to me to consider not only for dedicating a temple or prayer garden to Father God.  I inhale them in the inner part of my soul.  How humbling to reflect that we are temples of the Living God.  He is only a prayer away!

Can you feel Him?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Who Says?

Simon says “wiggle your toes!”  Simon says “raise your left hand!”  Put your hands on your head!  A-ha!  Simon didn’t say to put your hands on your head.  You lose.

We played Simon Says with the little ones on our weekend family reunion at the Hampton.  It cracked me up to watch little two-year old Amy follow every command whether Simon said it or not.  Her big sister would point and yell Amy, don’t do it unless Simon says!  And lil Amy would clap her hands and giggle in glee showing us all her teeth.  You know why?  Amy didn’t realize she was the loser in the game; she saw herself as the winner.

A devotional arrived in my email today.  “Look around you and you will learn an important life lesson from a child,” the writer declared.

This doesn’t pertain to me since I’m not in the company of little kids, I thought.  But the Holy Spirit reminded me about playing with Amy and observing a winner reaction to a loser label someone puts on you.

I can react like a winner when my back-seat driving husband criticizes my lack of talent when I park in tight spaces.  I smile and say, I’m going to back out and do it again knowing I’m a better driver than him any day even if it does take me a few tries!  No argument follows.

I can react like a winner at the Rec Center when the woman exercising next to me shouts me down for cleaning the equipment before (as well as after) I use it.  I never know if some big sweaty guy just ran off.   I see it all the time, I say with a big smile before I step on the treadmill!  No argument follows.

I don’t have to berate myself when scrutinized by anyone because, like Amy, I know I’m a winner even if I did it wrong in their eyes.  I belong to Jesus, the God of second, third and many more chances in order to get it right.

That’s the lesson I learned from a child today.  The enemy would love to take us down in the small things as well as the big.  Don’t let him.  Remember who created you.  Just smile and keep looking cute, okay?  Simon Says!