Sunday, October 16, 2016

Broken Lives Matter

I spent the last days of summer in San Diego.  My daughter sent me a plane ticket and invited me to spend the week with her while her husband traveled on business.

Besides long talks over coffee, we cooked together and enjoyed family dinners at Chili’s and Panera Bread.  We soaked up the warm sun at Coronado Beach, worked out with a walk through Balboa Park, helped with homework and Girl Scout stuff and watched Netflix. 

Nothing like family! 

The highlight of my week that warms my heart and rates a ten on my vacation happiness scale happened when my daughter and I attended midweek Women’s Bible Study together.  It testified to what God can do with a broken heart. 

Six years ago, my daughter faced single motherhood, and lived alone without family or friends close by.  Desperate for help, she joined her church’s Women’s Group.  Sensitive women ministers helped her financially, taught God’s Word and filled her with hope.  Those dark days drained me too but on visits back then, I met the ladies and witnessed solid teaching and passionate caring.  I compared her new friends to a lifeline.

The Lord restored my daughter.  She married a Christian man and has another child.  They belong to a different church now.

When I spent the last days of summer with her, I learned my girl signed up for the fall Women’s study at the former church.  We attended together.

“Gather together gals!” The Bible teacher shouted.  “Look who is with us today!”

I wondered if balloons and confetti would fall from the sky as they embraced us when we arrived.  Hugs and squeezes and catch up talk of God’s faithfulness brought a deluge of tears.   These women witnessed how God heard their prayers and restored a broken life.

I think it’s important to let people know that their investment in our lives matter.  It strengthens our faith and recharges us.  Remember when Jesus healed ten lepers and only one came back to praise God?  He was a Samaritan and Jesus spoke:  “Didn’t I heal ten lepers?  Only this one foreigner returned to give glory to God.  Where are the other nine?”

I will never forget these women.  And I will proclaim God’s goodness all the days of my life.  I am thankful!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Cover Up

A restful nap may not be everyone’s forte’ but a skipped shower begs for a cover up of some kind.

After breakfast in Sedona, a highway sign advertised Farmer’s Market.  My husband, Tom, wanted to go.  He met a vendor earlier in the week that graced The Pantry, an outreach to the homeless, where he volunteers.  He tasted a free sample from a tray of Baklava she carried in for the staff to enjoy.  When Tom thanked her for her mouth watering sweet treat, she told him she’s in business to keep her house mortgage afloat.  She hoped to lure buyers to the upscale Sedona Farmer’s Market where she sells her secret recipe. 

The Taste of Baklava will lead a man anywhere.
I wanted to walk around the market too that Sunday morning but felt sick with an allergic reaction from breakfast food.  I agreed nonetheless.  Homemade cinnamon walnut bread smelled delicious in one booth, and we viewed colorful artwork in another.  We found the Baklava lady and purchased a few pieces.  Tom talked on and on.  I lost interest in Baklava and wandered off.  I’m not a fan of Native American art and sculpture but waved and smiled to the vendors along the way.  Then I saw her.  Nancy the Goat Lady reeled me in with about ten varieties of hand creams from Hawaiian, coconut mixtures to Lavender and several flowery scents.  I chose a scent unfamiliar to me and lathered it deep into my hands.

Have you heard of Patchouli?
I walked back to the parking lot with silky scented hands.  My waiting husband patiently leaned on the car but overreacted when he opened my door. 

“What’s that awful smell?  Can you wash it off?” 

On the drive home, I learned that Patchouli reminded him of the sixty’s.  He educated me about pot smoking hippies.  They chose Patchouli as a way to cover up their smoking habits and lack of bathing.

Who knew?  Not me.  I never hung with that crowd.  Too bad I didn’t choose Hawaiian Mist.

The strong smell in the car coupled with my allergic reaction overwhelmed me; I couldn't wait to get home.  I knew that when I overcame the pounding headache and nausea, my story would be funny one day.

I close with this lesson:  It’s not a good idea to cover up anything whether body odor, bad habits or secret sin.  It not only wounds one’s soul, but also those they pal around with!

God’s word is alive and working and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts.  Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God.  Everything is clear and lies open before Him, and to Him we must explain the way we have lived.  Hebrews 4:12-13

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Letting Go

My dialogue with God sounds like a plea.  “God, if I write about death, about dying to self, about the ultimate surrender, nobody will want to read my blog posts.  I will lose my friends.” 

It’s All About Exchange
He invites me to come alongside Him and receive a new revelation about death that describes it not gruesome but exhilarating.  He places a picture in my mind; you’ve probably seen the graphic.  A little girl clutches her shabby old teddy bear with Jesus kneeling across from her asking for it with his out stretched hand.  She doesn’t see his other hand holding a huge new bear with a big red heart on it behind his back. 

He whispered the word, “Death” and confirmed it to me by a blogger friend who challenged his readers to view worldly pursuits in light of eternity.  They become less and Jesus becomes more.

And in a Women’s Bible Study, eternal life rules the discussion group and I pay attention to many voices crying out for freedom to let go of those things that no longer hold His purpose and now feel like burdens.

“Death” may not excite me like whispered words of past years but I know better.  When God reveals a new direction, I pay attention.

Fall reveals color in the dead things.  The season that serviced me once with vibrant life dies and now a new season emerges.  It’s beautiful too.

It’s like that in my life.  Those good things in the past that fed me no longer hold the same value.  I’m done with hanging on to the old when God tells me He has something new and vibrant.

Join me in the challenge to die to self.  Awe c’mon…it will be fun.

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”  John 12:24

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.