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not a clue, as usual


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a fair question

5096_1197313732195_1677986_nO LORD, what is man that you care for him,

The son of man that you think of him?

Psalm 144:3

A fair question.

Why does God care about us? I know that theologians can (and have) gone on and on about this but the answer is simply that He loves us. I wish I could state it more eloquently. I wish I had the beautifully poetic words that would make the notion of such a love come to life for you. But, honestly, there is no need to complicate things. God is love and He loves his creation.

That’s it – a pure simple truth.

Man is like a breath

His days are like a fleeting shadow

Psalm 144:4

Compared to God’s greatness, we are nothing

He loves us anyway

Our time on earth is momentary

He notices us anyway

Our foolish waywardness has to be frustrating

He shows us a true Way

Our speeches and written words (like this) must be entertaining

He listens anyway

And responds by pointing us to the Word – His Son

Why does He care?

He simply does.

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Dancing in the Waves

beach-2A storm had blown up the coast a few days before and the ocean was still reeling from the power of that wind. The surf was rough and the waves could knock a grown man down. From my sand chair, I watched a little girl of about 5 or 6 as she jumped in delight as the water came close to her toes. Her mom was keeping a close watch on her as she danced at the water’s edge. She reminded me of the sandpipers who scratch about as the tail end of a wave thins out on the sand. They follow the wave as it retreats. Then, just as the water p1020687regroups and slams another wave upon the sand, the little birds scatter before the water only to follow the waves retreat in an endless cycle. I find myself chasing down memories of my own children playing in the surf. I can reach back even further to my own childhood spent on a New Jersey beach. It was a little game of “You Can’t Catch Me!” that we played with the waves, running in just enough to get our toes wet and then scampering back to the safety of dry sand. What we really wanted was to ride those waves but we were too small to risk it, especially if the waves were rougher than normal. So this little girl flung her arms above her head and spun her feet into the sand and jumped high just as the edge of the wave crept close.

beachAs we get older and learn the art of keeping our balance and diving through the waves, we forget about that childhood dance that had kept us entertained for hours. But I was watching this child and remembering how it felt, a curious thought struck me. We still love to tempt fate. We still get a thrill out of leaning into risky behavior just enough to get our feet wet and pull out just in time. Why else would we gather round to watch a schoolyard fight before stepping in to stop it? Even something as innocent as window shopping takes us dangerously close to coveting. Most of us consider speed limits to be suggestions rather than a law and have no trouble driving just fast enough to still be under the radar.

Why, O Lord, do you put up with us? Why do you continue to love us when we are so reckless? You offer shelter and we turn our back, wanting to feel the exhilaration of the storm right up to the moment that the lighting gets too close and we are forced to run for cover. And still you will hold your arms out to gather your wayward children in. As we dance before the waves, You love us. As we grow into other, more dangerous thrills, You still love us. You provided us with questioning minds that always wonder, “What if I do that? What would happen?” And in this way scientists have invented, artists have dreamed and explorers have crashed forth into adventures that expanded the boundaries of our knowledge. Guide us, O Lord, as we continue to dance at the water’s edge and never let a wave go by unchallenged.

Dance on, little one! Your time will come.

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That Day

windy-day-dog

Windy Days

 

Yesterday the weather was dangerously hot. One of those late summer days that make you long for a cool fall breeze. The weather report was forecasting a change overnight. We could expect the temperatures to drop nearly 20 degrees with a brisk wind. Sure enough, when I awoke this morning, I could feel the difference. We quickly opened the windows to let the coolness inside. I stood in my backyard buffeted by a wind that sent leaves and small branches skittering across the grass and blew my hair all over my face.

Today is September 11th. A day of sadness for the loss our country endured fifteen years ago. A day to remember the courage of those who rushed in to help. A day to pray for those who have carried on without loved ones. The images and emotions of 9/11/2001 are permanently etched in my mind. Our nation pauses on this day each year to remember, to reflect and to look forward. But, this morning, because of that crazy weather front and its wind coming on the heels of such a hot day, I found myself remembering not 15 years ago but 14 years ago on the one year anniversary of the worst terror attack in our nation’s history. Here’s a bit of what I wrote that day:

I’m not a meteorologist, but if I understand it correctly, it was a combination of a hurricane named pooh-windy-dayGustav and a high-pressure front that set up an unusual weather pattern over the New York area that day. It had been oppressively hot and humid for two days prior, like something was coming, something big. On the third day the wind started to pick up. I wondered if God, who like to show His glory on third days, was up to something. My daughter commented that it seemed a little chilly that morning with the slight wind playing around her ankles as we waited for her 8am school bus. By noontime, as my son and I waited for his afternoon kindergarten bus, the wind was so strong that windy-day-snoopywe had to move from the open driveway to the protective cover of the east side of the house. By this time, the wind was whipping in from the west and knocking over anything and everything in its path, there would be stories the next day of trees and power line down, even a tragic fatality caused by a falling branch. That day the wind was the fiercest and strongest wind that I had ever seen come howling out of a clear, bright, blue sky. That day there was no rain or even a dark cloud on the horizon. That day the sky was an incredible turquoise color with puffy white clouds racing across it.

The powerful wind reminded me of God’s power and I imagined that He was protectively wrappingwindy-day-leaves Himself around the entire tristate area, letting His children know that He was still there. From the beginning, when God breathed life into Adam, He has used the illustration of either wind or breath to describe life in the Holy Spirit. Job talked of the breath of God as not only life-giving, but as life sustaining (Job 34:14-15). The resurrected Christ breathed His spirit into his apostles as He sent them out (John 20:22). Paul describes the very breath of Jesus as defeating enemies (2 Thessalonians2:8). The word used in these verses is either “neshamah” or “ruwach” in Hebrew and “pneuma” in the Greek. All three words mean literally a breath or wind, sometimes even a “violent exhalation or wind”. Jesus, Himself, used the term translated as wind in the third chapter of John.

blue-sky-w-rainbowPerhaps God was making a visible show of his constant presence that day fourteen years ago. Perhaps he was doing that again this morning. Maybe God just wanted us to know that He was with us then and He is still here now. We need only to look up to His impossibly blue skies to feel the breath of His Spirit in the wind and know that our God is with us – always and forever.


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All Things (and a little guy named Troy)

 

IMG_20140822_0001I remember this day well. Our son, Troy, had an extreme form of Marfan’s syndrome. One way that it manifested was in hypotonia, in other words, extreme weakness in all soft tissue including muscles. But this day, he was able to lift his head up while lying on my husband’s chest. We were so happy and excited to finally be seeing some progress. Sadly, that excitement would give way to sorrow a few short weeks later as his little heart was not strong enough to keep him going. It’s been 20 years since that summer when we lost our little Troy-boy. I’ll always hold his memory in my heart and long to be reunited with him.

bbf8b7e73279f6eb29072f6012a28070“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Romans 8:28

Let’s be honest, don’t you just hate this verse? Doesn’t it make you clench your teeth when someone throws this one out in an effort to comfort you (and someone always will).  I’ve had to listen to this verse so many times over the years. I smile and say “Thanks” because at the core, I know the person is truly sincere in wanting to help me. I can’t possible expect them to understand what that verse means to me.

But at some point through the long years, things happen. The pain starts to shift around in your brain and a softness creeps in. Edges aren’t quite so sharp after a while and memories become more like favorite dog-eared photographs that you can pull out and linger over. And now the darkness inside is more grays than deep blacks and light peeks through the cracks that He has gently set in place.

I have learned a thing or two over the past 20 years. I have learned the meaning of this verse. God puts all things into our lives. The good, the bad and the ugly things. He places events in our lives for His purposes and then He holds our hands, carries our limp grieving bodies, and pushes us to the next level. When we look back, we can see not only His footprints (as that great old poem goes), but we can see our drag marks gradually return to solid footprints again. We can see how we have changed – hardened in some ways and stripped bare in others ways. And always, always God has been there for me.

Have you ever read that romantic classic, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte? Yes, I am a hopeless romantic and that book will always be my favorite. But my favorite quote from that book is not the one you might think. It was something that struck me when I first read it as a teen and so many years later I still resonate to its truth.

wuthering heights

Yes, the things that we go through, the dreams we live through “alter the color of our mind” and we will never be the same again. I have thought of that line at each time of crises in my life. But what I can say, from the bottom of my heart, is that each crises did two things to me. It made me stronger and helped me to believe in myself. But, most importantly, each crises played an important role in forging my relationship with God. I’ve been repeatedly forced to redefine my feelings towards God which have ranged from turning my back on Him in anger, full rejection of Him and finally, to full acceptance of His sovereignty and grace.

In the words of Jerry Garcia, “What a long, strange trip it’s been”. Though I haven’t been too thrilled with a lot of the things that have happened to me, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Now, that is not an easy statement to make. Let me assure you that my fingers hovered over the keyboard for a while before typing that. Maybe, I can clarify it. There are things that I wish hadn’t happened, decisions that I wish I hadn’t made, babies I wish I hadn’t fallen in love with. I swear, sometimes I think that it is nothing more than bandaids that images (2)hold my broken heart together. But then I realize that there aren’t enough bandaids in the world for that. And that is the start of acknowledging that there is something much stronger in this world and His name is Wonderful, Everlasting, Holy One. He is my Savior and He saves me from myself.

He has worked all things together for good. I don’t always see it at the time but I have hit that age where I can appreciate what a blessing hindsight is. And I can see what some of those “good” things are.

He has made words like “trust” and “follow Me” come alive.

He has allowed me to experience joy that is so much sweeter because of sorrow.

He has taught me love in all things.

justice

Walk in love, as Christ loved us…

Ephesians 5:2


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Small things done with great love

images (4Our neighborhood supermarket closed a few months ago and I had to find a new one. There is a great market one town over but it is very busy and always crowded. I’ve had to make some adjustments, which is never easy but it seems to be working. One thing that I struggle with at this new store is probably the most trivial, yet I drives me crazy. They lock up their shopping carts and you need a quarter to unlock it. All the carts have a chain with a lock on them that inserts into the next cart in the line to keep them together, but a quarter inserted into the slot will unchain one. When you are through shopping, you return the cart and as you lock it to the other carts, your quarter is released. I like the concept. It keeps the parking lot free of stray carts. My problem is remembering to take a quarter with me. I keep a few spare coins in the cup holder of the car just for this purpose but it doesn’t help me if I always have to return to my car to retrieve the quarter that I so consistently forget.

Yesterday, as I went to insert my quarter, I saw that someone had left their quarter and not locked the cart. I’ve seen this before, some kind soul who understands the frustration of not having change on hand had left the coin to make someone’s day a bit easier. I resolved to leave the quarter in place and so pass on the act of kindness to the next person so they don’t have to fumble in their bag or reach into empty pockets in search of elusive quarters.

I felt good as I left my unlocked cart, passing on the caring gesture to the next shopper. I returned to my car and saw the spare change sitting in the cup holder and suddenly realized what an empty gesture that stupid quarter really was. It didn’t cost me anything. That 25 cents wasn’t going to break the bank. I had no right to be so pleased with myself for doing something so trivial.

And then I remembered a quote from Mother Teresa:

images (4)

or perhaps this quote that I read:

“There are no great things, only small things done with great love.”

Think of all the little unimportant things that you can do each day to brighten another one’s life. Saying “Thank You”, holding a door open or sharing a simple smile. images (5)We may not get an opportunity to make dramatic difference in someone else’s life every day but we if we keep our eyes open we will find a hundred little “nothing” things that we can do each day to lighten someone’s load.images (6)

Lord, I ask you to help me to see the needs that are all around me. Give me the courage to reach out and help even if it may cost me dearly. But help me also to see the value of the little things. Help me to see the beauty of that particular shade of green that you chose for the grass outside my window right now. Show me how to be grateful for all you give me, including that soft heart that caused someone to leave a quarter in the cart lock so I didn’t have to trudge back to my car for change. Help me to see the beauty in all the “small things done with great love” that have been done for me. And help me to do the same for others every day.   Amen


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Waterfalls

 

 

13319715_10209866861127389_6162260163033324150_nA short easy hike brought us to the top of this beautiful waterfall. The steep descent to the bottom, aided by trees to hold onto and roots to secure our steps, was fun. And then this magnificent view. It’s a pretty small waterfall as such things go, but for us –it was wonderful to find and enjoy. My husband climbed up the rock and sat down to watch the water cascading over well- worn stones. “Strange”, he mused. “It’s the same water going over the same stones, yet it looks different all the time.” I thought about that for a moment. The water is always the same yet seems to change depending on how the sun glints upon it or what color is the sky that is being reflected. The words “living water” came to mind.

 

 

 

 

Jesus Answered her, ” If you know the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water”. Jesus answered, ” Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:10 and 13-14

 

Christ is always the same and yet as our awareness of need for Him grows, He seems to change to fit whatever stage of life we are in. Of course, the whole illusion is that He never changes, only our perception of Him does. As we lean into Him more and more, we drink of that living water He offers us. The drink that will quench all thirst. Later in the same passage, Jesus also talks of “food” as “to do the will of him who sent me”. All of my basic needs (and oh, so much more) are fulfilled in Christ. What He offers us is beyond our comprehension and yet we are in such desperate need of. He offers life. He offers freedom from pain, fears, hurts, guilt and worries. He offers true security. He offers eternity.

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I am always reminded of this when I spend some time outdoors. When I can wander under his trees, or rest beside a stream, or feel his sun on my face, then I remember who gives me each day.  I remember who makes the sun rise and the stars shine and living water to tumble down from heights to tranquil pools below so I can dip my toes in the cool water– living water.

 

hebrews


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Didn’t we just go over this?

 

 

family feetHere we are in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. In May we honor our mom’s and June we look up to our dad’s. Such beautiful traditions that help us to remember both where we came from and look forward to where we are going. I think a lot about my parents, now both crossed over. I’ve tried to draw from the lessons that they taught me as I venture into the realms of parenthood myself. It’s been a rocky road for me and my kids. Many lessons (both parents and child lessons) must be repeated over and over until sheer repetition works its way into the intricacies of our brains. Often the same lesson must be approached from multiple angles until it clicks.

I’ve tried to follow the patterns the Jesus laid out when teaching his disciples. He would tell stories over and over again – different stories but with similar meanings to help hisfather child hands followers understand. In the fourth chapter of Mark, I found a striking example of this. The chapter starts with the Parable of the Sower, a beautiful story which explores the whole range of human angst and joy in just a few short verses. Jesus explains how the Gospel can be outright rejected, accepted with reservations or embraced wholeheartedly and allowed to grow. Some of us have experienced one of these approaches; others, like myself, have run the gamut. I have a note in my Bible in the margin of this passage that reads, “the simplicity of a complicated gospel”. It is a crazy, complex idea that a perfect God would be willing to reach out to the likes of sinful mankind, yet it is very simple when we realize that it can be wrapped up in three words – “God is love” (1John 4:16).

To paraphrase scripture, Jesus is basically saying. “Listen up guys, this is easy, don’t try to complicate it” in verses 1-20 of chapter 4. Then he adds in the image of a lamp on a stand images (3in verses 21-25 for a little extra clarity (God knows, quite literally, that I always need that extra clarity). But the boys are still confused. So He says, (excuse the paraphrase again) “Didn’t we just go over this? No problem, let me give you another example”. In verses 26-29, He tells the Parable of the Growing Seed. Still, it is not enough. Like the patient father that He is, He says, “Didn’t we just go over this? Alright, one more time.” Jesus adds in the Parable of the Mustard Seed. He has been telling them that understanding requires faith and this story drives that home. Verse 34 tells us that He knows the disciples will still need continual explanations of His parables and Jesus is more than willing to teach them with patience and love as any good parent would.

Now comes the test. Verses 35 -41 finds them out on the water when a storm comes up. They wake up Jesus and accuse Him of not caring about their safety. His answer is the classic parental response, “Didn’t we just go over this? Don’t you know yet that you can trust me?” Can’t you just see him shaking his head with a tired half smile as he prepares to smooth out the waves with a mere gesture of his hand?

family love

It’s a familiar scene from a parental point of view. My parents did it for me and I try to do the same for my kids.

“Didn’t we just go over this? Alright let me show you again how to fold your t-shirts.”

“Didn’t we just go over this? Come here and let me help you make your bed.”

“Didn’t we just go over this? Bring the water to a boil, throw in the pasta, and add a sauce and cheese. There you go! I knew you could do it!”

And sometimes we have to yell things like “how many times do I have to tell you to clean the hair out of the sink!” But it’s all the same. Teaching lessons over and over because that is how we are wired to learn things. We’ll never learn without patient teachers. Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart but Jesus set us a great example. He says again and again, “Didn’t we just go over this? My Father is Love. Now stop trying to complicate it.”

father and child feet