… life is in the looking… back

I’ve thought much about looking today since my last blog… read here. I am not sure we can look at all in front of us today without a looking back.

We would never get very far driving down the highway if we didn’t occasionally take a glance in the rear view mirror. Tom says, “I want to see if there’s a cop back there!” Observing what is behind us lets us know if it’s safe to change directions, when to make a change, or to proceed in the same way. Lessons are learned as we look in the past.

Some say… don’t look back; you’re not going that way. But looking back, reflecting on positive memories is a good thing. Perhaps it is helpful, to reflect on the negatives, too— if we don’t stay there long.  Remembering gives pause to consider life in the Now. We need to make time for looking back…

Sometimes “your memories” show up on today’s Face Book… a year ago ‘today’, five years. Recently one surfaced on my page from 11 years ago.  What do you do when you see a memory? Smile… cry?

I cried two weeks ago  as I read a friend’s text. She shared the latest results from her husband’s MRI; she was bringing him home for the time he had left. I love this sweet couple—Tom and I married them! The laughter, the joys, the love shared. What a beautiful gift to look back into the wonders of life.

She had posted on Face Book this September 10 a repost of that same date in 2011 with the words to all of us: A sweet reminder to never take those simple moments for granted. Her post eleven years ago on September 10 … A beautiful cool morning on the porch with a cup of coffee, a blanket, and my sweet husband. So blessed!

At his celebration of life service this week, smiling with tears, “I am so full of gratitude for our years together.” She is looking back and will always look back on sweet memories.

Looking back on this journey, even  in regret, enables us to focus in reality for the tomorrows. Pausing to reflect can strengthen trust for today as we remember how we overcame difficult experiences.  A friend shared these words with me when I was overwhelmed with sadness in leaving Vienna. “Barb, don’t cry because you’re leaving; be thankful… smile because you came.” (Proverb attributed as an Indian proverb, a Spanish one and Dr. Seuss.)

When I look back, I see faces… from every church we have loved,  from every place, from many countries… in Vienna, Austria, in Copenhagen, Denmark. And I shout… “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” Philippians 1:3 This map is a daily reminder of beautiful people in our lives; each dark pin represents the country of someone we love.  I pass it a hundred times a day, smiling in thankfulness.  Looking back can be healthy when we remember the wonders. “Remember the wonders He has done.”(Psalm 105:5) “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you have planned for us no one can recount to you… there are so—o—oo many…” Psalm 40:5. I am thankful for the wonders… past ones, and those in the Now.

Forward living is the goal, but without a glance backwards every now and then, would we question which direction to take? Of course, we all have regrets, things we did, or should have done or didn’t do. Looking back allows gratitude in remembering the forgiveness we have been given for mistakes.

Looking backwards gives direction for today’s journey. Backward views of the wonders bring peace. Questions, mistakes, dreams shattered bring tears. Both are necessary to understand which direction to go.  We find contentment in looking backwards at the beautiful scenes in the rear view mirror. We gain strength as we accept the broken pieces in the mirror, stronger with each lesson.  I often struggle these days  looking too long at the broken pieces in family as I  ponder the ways and whys of looking back.

“You live life looking forward. You understand life looking backward.” – Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher’s comment on life.

We’ve all heard that elephants have excellent memory; this is because of their large brains… very large brains. Their highly developed hippocampus and cerebral cortex give them exceptional recall power, enabling them to survive in the wilderness. And to live long. Their episodic memory makes it possible for them to recall what happened during an event years before. Then, they are prepared for the Now. With all that amazing memory load, they have been known to remember kindnesses or mistreatment from people or other elephants for decades.

I don’t want to be like an old elephant; I only want to remember the goodness of others, the kindness and forgiveness given me.   As I glance backwards in gratitude for the wonders, I hear a whisper “… do not dwell (make your home) in the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43: 18

Something beautiful, something new is discovered when… looking back.

 

 

 

 

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… life is in the looking…

So, it’s early Monday morning, and I am walking down our country road; I see all the litter decorating the edge of the corn fields, tossed haphazardly by the happy weekend travelers. I moan. And fuss, wondering when I’ll have time to come back with my gloves and litter bag.

Focus… focus, Barb. Look at something besides the discarded pieces of the past.

… life is in the “looking”. I had been thinking on this phrase from my reading. (Eric Gilmour’s words) So where was I looking? What was I seeing?

What is the first thing you see in this scene?  Be honest, now.  I asked Tom, and he immediately said, “Why, the can, of course.”

After hearing a whisper to focus, I saw the morning glorys… those wild flowers that grow along country highways… you only see them in the morning. The mature corn stalks were ribbonned in blues, pinks and purples. How could I have missed beauty and focused on the trash?

Look is a simple word… how many times a day do we say it? And we look constantly… at what? But it is in looking… considering what I am seeing, what I am focusing on. It means to gaze, to wonder, to be surprised. To focus on the wonder. Where do I give my attention?

… life is in the looking… to stand in awe of what I see, to sense His very presence in the circumstances of daily life…

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God:                             But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. Elizabeth Barrett Browning  from Aurora Leigh

The Hebrew word yirah translates awe… respect, reverence, worship.  It is often translated fear, as well, depending on the context of Scripture.  Of course, there are times when we stand trembling in the presence of the Lord, but for me, I want to walk barefoot seeing life through the windows of awe.  “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” Psalm 27:4. Have you wondered how you are to gaze… how you are to see… Him? This God who is not flesh. Is not human.

Do you see the God of morning here?  I look into  the very Life of today, and  gaze into the very presence of a holy God. His protection, His nearness, His constancy shouts in this part of our yard.  For me, this moment… this photo embodies the very nature of a God who loves, who lives. … this is life lived in “looking”…

… walking barefoot…

(You might have another phrase for life is in the …                                                                       in the hearing, in the thinking, in the writing, in the loving… what would you say? )

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… finding beauty in the storm…

What a powerful storm we had one night this week.  Rain had been promised for days, but always evaded our area; we watched black skies circle around us and heard thunder rumble near us. Rain never fell.

We have been so very dry with a few sporadic showers (see… watered…) these extremely hot weeks while many of the southern states endure heavy downpours. I have been wishing for rain; I didn’t want a bad storm. Just rain.

But, finally, the storm came, waking me in the night. The brightness of constant zigzag lightning rolled with loud thunder as I watched and listened… in wonder. According to scienceabc.com some people see these high powered electrical charged strikes as majestic, while others  are utterly terrified at the bright bolts.

Some see the beauty of the storm… some fear the effects.

NWS Jet Stream estimate there are about 40,000 storms a day or almost 16 million a year. Now, that’s a powerful amount of wonder. Or terror. Though I have a deep respect for lightning and flooding, I see incredible beauty in a physical storm.

Is it possible to discover the beauty in a storm… a life storm?

Who wants a disturbance of power or a downpour of pain? We demand slow, gentle days filled with light breezes… you know, just enough of those to balance and encourage our growth. Can I/you delight in the high winds of fury, upsetting our well ordered lives?

Of course not.  Where… then, how… do we see the majesty in a storm?

When my children were little, even when they were teenagers, I made sure they would be home if a storm were forecast. I wanted to be sure they were safe. This weeknight when constant lightning and thunder caused anxiety (I snuggled real close to Tom), I knew some of my children were out in a storm. Unprotected, getting drenched.

I think God whispers…I want my children safe?

I read the story, again and again, in John 6:16-21(also in Matthew 14:22-27 and Mark 6:45-51).The disciples are in a major storm, and these seasoned fishermen are having great difficulty in keeping the boat together. The winds toss them to and fro, up and down.

It is His words that bring a smile. Can you see beauty as He crawls into the boat with the fearful fellows; I hear beauty as He speaks… and the words are comforting to their spirits. To my anxious heart. “It is I… don’t be afraid. Take courage.”

Tom and I have children and grandchildren out in a storm… one that can cause a storm to rage within us.  And these words, “Take courage. It is I”… holding you two together. Take my hand, and find beauty in this. (italics mine)

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you” Isaiah 54:10

It is not always easy or possible to find beauty in the storm, but I want to try. I am determined to “see” God in all of life, to hear His whisper of promise… It is I; don’t be afraid. I am here.

Tom and I were driving in a storm this week, and suddenly right before us was this brilliant rainbow. Seemed we could almost reach out and touch. I realize seeing a rainbow evokes various meanings, secular, mystical, spiritual. Some feel it denotes peace, a new beginning, or an inner awakening. I can never see one without thinking of the covenant the Lord made with Noah; it was a sign of promise.Beauty exploded on the highway, amid fast traffic and peppering rain.  God is involved in the details of life, giving peace and assurance… wherever and when we “see”…

“He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the Lord God is His name.” Amos 4:13

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… watered…

It has been a long dry spell… a very long dry spell.

It’s as if my bones are dry and brittle. We just need water. Well, I do. So one morning 16 days ago… it has been 16 days… I stood outside and let refreshing rain wash over me. I needed to know it could rain again; as it had not rained for three weeks before this night’s downpouring. As of today, July 23, it hasn’t rained since July 7. With daily temperatures soaring into the 90s.

Dryness… it’s much on my mind this summer. Our part of western Tennessee borders on drought conditions.  In fact, 40 of America’s 50 states are currently experiencing some form of dryness, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Contrary to the 1971 song by the Carpenters, Rainy Days and Mondays have never gotten me down. I love rainy days, especially on Mondays. I am sure there have been times I moaned at too much rain, but I promise to never again complain; now, I am thankful for each drop.

Would you believe there are some places much more dry than our own brown grasses. Aswan, Egypt, receives 0.0338 inches annually.  I cannot imagine living in the driest city on the planet… Arica, Chile. The Atacama Desert, north of Santiago, Chile, is the driest nonpolar desert on Earth, receiving less than a millimeter of rain every year. Or what about Dry Valleys, Antarctica, the world’s driest spot.

Then there’s the other extreme— rain most every day, all day.  A city in India… Mawsynram, receives 11, 871 mm or 467 inches of water falling on them every year. Oh me, those living there have devised full bodied umbrellas made from bamboo and banana leaves to work in the fields …

Too dry… too wet? Often it is our inner peace, in emotional areas where subtle dryness begins. As with weather patterns affecting the rains, so circumstances in life cause spiritual  dryness. And sometimes, we have no idea we are parched.

It has been a long dry spell…  very long, very dry. I long for God as I long for rain.

“O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

Events in June precipitated more dry places. Extra events added to current family heartaches. Tom and I finally were gifted with Covid! Two deaths, (one of a young friend and the other of a family member) evoked questions. Multiple reactions to strange unusual allergens, an effect of Covid (doctor believes), resulting in a strong infection requiring  strong antibiotics. (Which make me tired. Or dry!) Can I blame the month of June with its various adversities on the dryness of my soul?

Though rain is absent in our area, on our grass, the potted plants on my patio look beautiful and green; they are thriving. Why?  They are lovingly watered every day. Even as I know and understand this truth of continually being refreshed and watered, I have realized there are things I cannot “make happen”; I cannot fix life’s weather patterns. Dry happens to all of us. Everywhere.  And it’s OK… if you seek refreshing rain.

We watched the documentary of the 1930s’ Dust Bowl to understand the human toll of  dryness. The phrase, “if it rains” was the hope in those hard, dry times. Everything depended on the rain coming. And it didn’t… for years. Not any measurable, consistent rain for almost a decade.

“if it rains”… how often Tom and I have uttered these words lately; “if it rains…”  The Rainmaker  is often quiet; I listen. Faith is developed while we wait for the rain (written on a page in my Bible, well, it really says while we wait for the answer.)  So I wait.

For years, I have been confused about or have misunderstood Psalm 42:7 … “Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls…”  You know, it’s a verse we read and move past quickly.

“If you have shallow sorrows, you shall receive but shallow graces; but if you have deep afflictions, you shall obtain the deeper proofs of the faithfulness of God.”  Words spoken by Charles Haddon Spurgeon April 11, 1869.

Deep calls to deep…

In my younger years, I could not swim in deep waters. Yes, I had needs… the mundane needs of a happy family.  I floated in shallow waters. A deep need longs for a deep remedy; now, I find myself thirsty. My deep need… begs for God’s waterfalls.

One must be silent to hear the whispers in the roar. It is incredible when the thundered whispers of God’s love and graces are heard as you plunge into His deep. During these dry days of being watered, I do not want to sink, but to glide through His mighty waves.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV

“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11

(Thank you, my patient, caring readers, for staying connected . I pray you are swimming in His deep.)

I am being watered…

 

 

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… can I praise?… or will I praise?

“I think you seem quite despondent,” honest words floated over the ocean this week.  “Your last blog indicates you are not doing well.”

Who… me?  So I ran to check in with Mr. Webster. There was my picture beside the word… despondent… loss of hope. Don’t you love it when a friend tells you the truth, instead of  telling someone else.Most of you will understand the current low days. Help me know how you are getting through the days.  Just seems so difficult to keep all the music stations playing positive praise songs… all day, all night.  My station seems to find the sad songs… Where have all the flowers gone…

Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle multi-racial mega church addressed this very phenomenon in his sermon this Sunday.  I think he must have known I would be listening.  This man, 81 years old and pastor of this church for over 50 years, has had his share of difficulties  and discouragement as the church has grown from 30 people to well over 16,000 members. He told of a time when there was a cross roads and the church could go no further without six million dollars. Would you believe God provided almost immediately.  And we doubt. We cry.

When I was younger, when life seemed somehow more fixable, I danced in the storms. This Pollyanna sailed through Lyme Disease, Q Fever, Tom’s bout with cancer. After all, we could DO something about those things.  Now, I cannot do anything to fix the brokenness…

He had some funny remarks about the woes of Republicans and Democrats in the political issues of today… but  it was when Cymbala said, “I understand. I’ve been where you are, where many of you are… now. ” It was then I knew I could listen. He went on to tell of a time in his life a few years ago he wasn’t sure he could go on. “Every time the phone rang in my office, I would cry. I mean, I would just cry at the ring of the phone. My father-in- law literally carried me to the pulpit area one Sunday. I could not do it on my own.”

I trust authors and preachers who are so honest they let us cry with them. Or friends. Pastor Cymbala  mentioned the ways… all the many ways… we are discouraged  these days. I mean how many of us have known of a classroom of children murdered?  Or a grandfather with his four grandsons shot to death in his cabin. I so related to each one, but Cymbala kept coming back to the truth—did God bring you through the last battle, the last heartache?

I admit.  Sometimes it continues to be difficult even knowing God is here, He can fix life.  I  can’t…

I cried with the Brooklyn choir Sunday morning as they sang… and sang.  And sang again.  “With every breath I take, I will praise you Lord. With every breath I take, I will praise you, Lord.” You would laugh, well, maybe not, if you could hear me sing these words with tears.

Join me as we sing, mingling our tears with one another.

And a verse for me this morning, “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104: 33,34

 

 

 

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… ramblings in the rain…

I wish I were the only person rambling… unfocused, confused… saddened, a bit lost in these moments. But  there must be others.  I texted a friend this morning who walked through a major storm over the weekend, agreeing that life is more serious than I’ve ever thought possible.

Another friend texted last week with words her husband had gently told her, “You don’t laugh much anymore.”  Would you smile if you had endured pain most days for over a year, scheduled for multiple tests, scans, x rays? Over and over again?  Yes, there are days she is full of gratitude and praise when cancer doesn’t show a new face in a new area.  But laughing?

A dear friend texted this morning, “I am doing well these days, but Frank doesn’t know me now when I travel the hour to see him.” She visits him often, hoping to glimpse, just one glimpse,  of sweet recognition in those blue eyes that greeted her each morning for almost 60 years.

I’m a bit unsure of what to share. Tom and I have walked through many rains; our Umbrella has always held. As Longfellow said, “into every life some rain must fall.” We somehow trust the rainbow will appear; the sun will  brighten the dark skies, and you keep smiling. Continued, current family heartbreak shreds the protection you desperately hold to.

But how? and why did we survive the heavy rains?  And can I do it NOW?

A writer and writer’s mentor, I admire,  Cecil Murphey, opens his lectures with a question.  Why do you write?… Murphey knows.  As the author or co-author of more than 130 books, some best sellers, he knows. “I write to find out who I am. I’m a needy guy, and out of my need to feel appreciated, valued and affirmed, I write.” (Unleash the Writer Within)  Are we so honest?  I try… And so, I write to discover who I am and why I am. I write to answer the questions I ask of life.  I have not posted for a month, and I suffer from not sharing with you of my need, my deficiencies.

Friday morning was perfect, after all the heavy winds of the night before. I wanted to check on one of the many bird nests newly constructed in our bushes and trees.  I think we have ten currently inhabited.  I had been concerned over one new nest site as it set  precariously on a weak branch. Two days before I had  tried to  sturdy it further back. Now, as I reached the small evergreen, I moaned as  four small eggs were on the ground.  I gingerly placed them back in the disheveled nest; then noticed one on the other side of the tree.  Picking it up, I saw that it was cracked… then, in my  hand, the shell parted, and I saw a very tiny embryo of a bird.

“I know every bird in the mountain and in the Suiter’s gardens(italics mine!),  and the creatures of the field are mine.” Psalm 50:11.

I cried. It was like thick gelatin, but the form of a bird lay in my hand.   Why in the world would I cry over the loss of a potential bird. Tears came as I thought of all the embryos of the world aborted before the chance for life. Not birds, but human babies.

A few minutes later I received a call that my sister’s husband was near death. And I cried.  When life hurts too much…  when too many questions can’t be answered… when sadness explodes.

So I ask why am I sad? Why do I care over an aborted bird? Why do I cry with my sister, with friends? And then so quietly, I hear the whisper. “I am your Father, and you look a lot like me.” I smiled, no, I  think I laughed. What an affirming word for my today.  I know you, too, have cried these past days over a classroom of young children in Texas.

… because you look a lot like Jesus.

“As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” Luke 19: 41

I remember the words of a gentle white haired man spoken at a conference a few years ago.  “People mock me often and deride my beliefs as archaic. Why would you still believe in this Jesus?” Joyfully, he shared his answer.  “I would not change one thing. There is something powerful in knowing you are loved and have the privilege to love people as He loved; He has shown me how.  Should it not be true, I’ve had the awesome responsibility to love people on this journey.”

… even as I ramble in the rains, drenched, sobbing, broken, I pray I always look like my Father…

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… clinging…

A sweet friend blogger (I mean she is faithful to this… often 3 times a week, and then, alas, there is me!) began her post Monday of this past week, “Life has been crazy… I haven’t written in a couple of weeks.  I hope you enjoy this one…”

I voice the same sentiments…  life is in a tailspin. Tornadoes and hurricanes spin a tsunami of events, causing multiple waves of distractions.  I’m finding it difficult to swim against the current.

“How did you get up here?” I heard Tom ask, as I came around the garage.  I didn’t see anyone near, so I went to see who had gotten up where.

At first I thought someone had put a rock on the door knob, but knew there were no children nearby.  “Why would you put a rock there?” I asked.  Tom laughed and told me to look closer.

Google enlightened me as to how this frog climbed the slick surface of the garage door.  This species are masters at climbing and clinging. I learned they not only have the ability to climb and stick to smooth surfaces, they can do so at very steep angles. The degree of steepness or difficulty does not affect the ascent.

Researchers in several countries (can you imagine?) have discovered a thin layer of mucous is secreted and coats their soft toe pads, enabling the tree frogs to adjust their posture so they will not fall.  No matter how steep the angle.  In fact, the steeper they are, the frogs respond by almost flattening themselves to their physical limits.

Oh to be like a tree frog these days… climbing higher and higher, clinging like glue to the Father’s heart… never falling off.

What would happen if these frogs, made for scaling challenging heights, simply waited at the bottom to be lifted by another. Or coiled in a dark corner limiting them from succeeding… safe in the dark?

“The sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer (in this case, as a small tree frog, italics mine), able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:19 NLT

But there is a prerequisite, a most important one, in this ability to tread the heights.

“I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation…” Habakkuk 3:18

I will trust… This is no easy commitment these days: “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines, even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren, even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty… “

YET, I will cling…

I so often fail these days, succumbing to despair and fear…

As I studied the small tree frog’s determination, his resoluteness to keep going, despite the seemingly impossible steepness, the Lord whispered Habakkuk 3: 19.You can do this. I made you to soar…

“I wait quietly before God… for my victory comes from Him.  Psalm 62:1

… clinging…

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… on guard…

“Do you see those yellow weeds in that field?” Tom moaned one morning as we looked out the kitchen window. “Every single one contains millions of seeds, all headed in our direction. It is impossible to keep them from our yard.”

“Can’t we put up a fence or a net of some kind… a guard to protect the yard from all ugly weeds?” I jokingly asked.

Of course, there is no possible way to keep seeds from blowing into gardens. Just as there is no way of preventing unwanted, unhealthy ‘seeds’ finding a place in an unprotected heart.

“Guard your heart, Barb.” The whisper was so timely, so necessary… encouraging.

I have opened my heart lately to let bad seeds in. Seeds of fear, doubt and worry are flourishing in my former trusting heart.  So I didn’t need to ask why I was receiving such a reminder. I recognize my heart is in trouble; I clearly understood this gentle command. Tears sprang immediately as I looked at the weeds, listening to the quiet nudge to guard my heart. Why is it easier to focus on the obnoxious weeds in the fields beyond us rather than on the lovely spring flowers blooming near the window?

You see, I am much saddened and distracted by the pain portrayed on the media screen, by the anguished tears of an adult child, and my own health(heart)  issues*** (see personal note at end.) I have simply become hard of hearing God’s whispers. Negative seeds are springing up around me, squeezing all signs of peace and hope. I had forgotten how to protect my heart. Easter seems so far away… in heart and home.

“Above all else, guard your heart… for it determines the course of your life… everything you do flows from your heart.” Proverbs 4:23. Guard is used over 800 times in the Old Testament… 200 of those relate to our emotions, our thought life. It literally means to take care of, to treasure this (mind) that defines who we are.

I have lost my way these dark days. My heart­­­ — i.e., my life, suffers from worry and fear. So many intrusive seeds preventing me from tending carefully to my heart.

The heart is who we truly are. It is in the inner code. It can be wounded. It can also be healed. It can be strengthened, renewed, and even changed. J.B. Shreve

If we allow toxic seeds to find a home in the heart, the course of life changes. Suddenly fear, worry, anger  capture all of life.  One must be diligent to protect it from any danger that would keep us from listening to the very whispers from God’s heart.

How am I to take care of my heart? How do you care for yours? A difficult question in these days of massive pain plastered on the screens. How does one lovingly care for the intimate place from where all feelings, thoughts and actions flow? How do I treasure this most important gift?  Quiet praise music, truth of Scripture, slow walks, a spouse’s hug, a friend’s call… all can help in the vicious assault of ruthless seeds blowing near and taking root.  But I have the major responsibility…

These seeds have found a spot in our gardens and produced ugly weeds. Tom and I have literally pulled and dug hundreds to make way for the perennial flowers.  I mean, they will grow anywhere… even at the front door of our lives.

Years ago, I had these words posted near my desk… I must do what I can, and let God do what I can’t. I can pull the weeds…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will GUARD your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7.

This Maundy Thursday of Easter week, may we all be on guard, protecting our hearts from fear.  Let not your heart be troubled… trust.  John 14:1

*** I am in process of knowing what is causing some medical heart issues.  Physical symptoms of shortness of breath, unusual fatigue affect my mental acuity, as well.  If this blog is a bit disjointed… and late… you will know why. 🙂 

 

 

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… loving me, loving you…

“I hope you get IT and die.” I crumble in disbelief any human, a woman… could hiss these words through her mask to a complete stranger in a nearby grocery store. Why? Because the recipient of the hateful remark was maskless.

Are we really this ugly? Are we this unkind, this opinionated, this judgmental… spiteful… because we don’t love others? Or is it that we don’t love ourselves? I wonder…

Hearing whispers from the Creator Father allows me to remain focused and secure. Words of love, affirmation and encouragement settle around me, and I am able to joy in the NOW, even in the turmoil. But lately, I have heard the ugly more often.  Ugly words, shouted around me; I struggle to hear positive echos stirring my thoughts; I fret in the silence.  This  venom filled  comment  definitely  disturbed my spirit.

How can I love my neighbor as myself if I don’t love me? A friend shared her struggles of insecurity when she was a young wife and mother.  “I put myself and others down in order to show I was an okay person.  But I wasn’t.  I did not know how to love me”.  Jesus gave this answer as the second most important command. First, love the Lord with all your heart and then love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:29-30

How can I love you if I don’t love me? And is it even possible to love me?

I repost the following here from Cecil Murphrey’s February 2022 newsletter, author of multiple books (90 Minutes in Heaven is one) and leader of writers’ conferences.  (You will be privileged to good writing in his post.) This expresses so clearly the answer of accepting and loving oneself.

Last month I turned 89, and I’m still learning. For example, I’ve been reading about the Desert Fathers—monks and hermits who fled into the deserts of Egypt beginning in the third century. Feeling contaminated by their culture and seeking a purer relationship with God, those men (and later women as well) wrote of their insights.

One concept from my reading has stayed with me: passing judgment on others is a sign that we haven’t fully encountered ourselves. They point out that if we’re upset by the words or actions of others, we’re damning ourselves. Conversely, if we truly accept who we are, we don’t criticize anyone. “If anyone is bearing his [own] sins, he does not look on those of his neighbors.” Heaven Begins Within You by Anselm Gruen p.53

That has stayed with me because my judgmentalism reflects my own self-condemnation. One writer pointed out that while we’re disparaging another, we unconsciously sense that we too aren’t perfect. The Desert Fathers believed that renouncing judgment and condemnation was the direct path to inner peace.  

Or to state it differently, a wise teacher said, “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? . . . First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:3,5 NLT).

I wonder how many times I’ve read Jesus’ words and moved on; however, reading the same idea from a nonbiblical source challenged me. Each morning, I now pray, “God, help me fully accept myself as I am, so I can fully accept others as they are.”  

If you know me personally, you know I haven’t reached my goal. Instead of being downhearted, I remind myself that I’m still learning and growing. That adds excitement to my life. 

The more fully I love the person I am, the more able I am to love others. (Cecil Murphrey)

I need to read one sentence again: if we truly accept who we are, we don’t criticize anyone. Paul writes in Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ has accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

I learned to love me by listening to the One who loved me best; Scriptures reinforced His whispers. How beautiful to understand  I was loved. (Whispers on the Journey, available on Amazon, shares the path of this journey.)  I am still learning to listen and  to accept God’s words as personal.

And I am learning to fully LOVE… me and you!

 

 

 

 

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… can we dance?…

A heaviness of heart prevents my fingers from dancing over this keyboard in celebration for this day. For days I have pieced thoughts and memories to share in the hope you would celebrate with us. Fifty eight… 58 years, the beginning of a journey, March 14, 1964.

But I cannot… I cannot finish the initial post with true, but fun, frivolous thoughts.  In an insecure world, full of war and madness, today I am grateful for the security of ‘us’. Through tears, I bow in gratitude that the Lord, does indeed, honor obedience when two people commit ‘to love, honor and cherish each other from this day forward’.

“There is a time for everything… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… Ecclesiastes 3:4

These current days are so BIG with sorrow. How can I dance? We received a message from a pastor friend in Vienna yesterday telling of Jura, a Ukrainian driver who transported goods the church had collected to an orphanage in the war zone. “On the way back, he was detained and then brutally beaten by Russian soldiers. He is now missing.”

It was then I knew I could not finish my blog. For hours I prayed for this man’s safety and his heart. Vienna is 824 miles from Kiev— not so very far… and my heart is not so very far from Vienna. Imagine my joy this morning when we received this text, “Jura  just called! ‘I am thankful to be alive.’ He is driving back, bringing refugees with him. Thank you for praying.”

I can dance for this news.

This morning Tom gifted me with three pages of ‘reasons, ways and whys’ he loves me.  Perhaps my best gift ever!  As I hugged him, I whispered, “I could write a book…for you.” If I can say one thing about Tom Suiter, for these times— I am overflowing with massive gratitude and appreciation for this man, this incredibly strong man, who keeps me balanced. And who loves me perfectly when I can’t dance.

The verse below shouts the wonderful ways in which we are to love in a marriage relationship. Even though I have not elaborated the topic, I want to use it here.  Ephesians 5: 33 in the Amplified Bible defines clearly how a wife is to love her husband. Husbands seem to have only one way… the more difficult one!

“Let each man of you without exception, love his wife as being in a sense his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband—that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him, and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

Learning to love Tom Suiter as this verse instructs has kept me dancing these 58 years—

just not today.

 

 

 

 

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