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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GIFTS


The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."  Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"  The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God..." Luke 1:30-35 [NASB]
"For nothing will be impossible with God."   And Mary said, "behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." Luke 1:37, 38 [NASB]

     With those last words, Mary, being true to her word, just had agreed to forego a normal daily life.  She let go and totally gave up the power to control her future because of her perfect trust and faith in God.  She placed her reputation and relationships in jeopardy just to obey His call.  
     The prophecy now brought closer the reality of the unbelief and suspicious minds of her neighbors, childhood friends, and the religious leaders who watched over this community.  She, just recently engaged, wondered as any young woman, 'What will Joseph think of me now?  Will he believe me when I tell him about the angel visitation?'
     So, the holiest Presence to walk the Earth was coming and the world would not receive him because God's plan was to use a simple virgin, a commoner.  God saw her faith and knew she could stand the cynicism and would not fail to raise her son with the love and upbringing needed for the great destiny before Him.
     Then go forward more than thirty years to the last supper that Jesus shared with his close friends, his disciples.  After sharing his heart and openly telling him that this was the last food and drink that he would eat before his suffering, after asking them to remember him with the bread that represented his body broken for them, and the cup of wine which represented the new covenant, they turned around and started vying for positions and even argued about who was the greatest among them in Heaven. 
     How weak is mankind in our own power.  We are given priceless jewels to behold and honor, and we fail to see the cost, or the great expression of love.
     Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."  Luke 22:42 [NASB]  He prayed so fervently and in such agony at the fate that he faced, that his sweat dripped with blood down from His face onto the ground.
     Hours later, after Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, the scribes and the priests held him for questioning.  They asked him bluntly if he was the Christ.
     "If You are the Christ, tell us."  But He said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God."  And they all said, "Are You the Son of God, then?"  And He said to them, "Yes, I am."  Luke 22:67-70 [NASB]
     With those three words, "Yes, I am," he had sealed his fate on earth.  He would be scourged with whips full of metal until the skin on his back was in ribbons.  He would have his beard plucked and his face beaten in until it was unrecognizable.  Then, he suffered the most horrible of deaths, saved for the worst criminals.  He surrendered to the will of God and would be the perfect peace offering that would end all need for sacrifices.  The kingdom of Heaven, come to earth was soon going to invade earthen vessels.
     So, waiting, fifty days after Jesus left them, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The world will never be the same as long as believers are available and courageous enough to say, "Yes, Lord.  Use me to bring your kingdom to earth."
     So, in the light of such a mighty history of love, sacrifice, honor, and deliverance, can I merely conjure up a lovely Christmas reverie, or shall I stop and count the cost the Prince of Peace paid.  The Flawless One.  The Complete One.  
     I must offer up all that I have to give for such a love as this.  I wait on you Most High.  I recognize that wherever I go, your kingdom is present, through your Holy Spirit in me.  So, I will tread softly and lovingly.  Give me the courage and the strength to make a difference everyday.  Lord, I give you myself.  

           



Sunday, November 9, 2014

CHICO AND THE CHOCOYO






Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5

       I sat in the wooden chair on the red tiled veranda.  Jerry finished his SKYPE session and all was quiet.  Able to concentrate again, I began to write.
     No sooner had I started then I heard the sound of cheerful whistling coming our way.  That was Chico’s way of letting us know that he was walking into an area close to our cabin.  

    The elderly caretaker was very helpful.  He's been a good sport and has not been a bit worried that the gringos on his finca are not fluent in Spanish. 
     I greeted him with, “Hola!”  He scampered like a ten year old up the steep outdoor staircase to our place.  I looked up from my lap top to see what he came up for.  

     On his arm he hung a  yellow plastic bag of fresh oranges and mangoes for us.  
    
Just last night he gave us a handful of limes and lemons, and earlier this morning while we ate our bagels, he brought us more bananas.  This area is rich in fresh fruit.


     Jerry was eating a cookie and motioned to it and asked Chico, “Muy bueno?”  That was his way of asking Chico if he enjoyed the oatmeal cookies we gave him for helping us carry in our bags after going to la feria, the outdoor market.
     “Si, bueno, bueno!”  As Chico scampered back down the stairs to head home, Jerry hollered out, “Chico!  Mi amigo!”
     Chico chuckled and when he got to the driveway, he must have seen something.  He ran back up and asked me to come and look and he motioned for me to hurry and to bring my camera.


     Curious, I told him to wait just a minute. As soon as the lens cap was off, I rushed out to see what he wanted me to photograph.
     He pointed up to several holes in the stone retaining wall.  There were pipes in the holes, but I couldn’t see anything else.
     He kept saying, “un chocoyo esta alla”, or a chocoyo is up there, and he told me it was an animal, but I had no idea what I was going to see.
     Chico set a rickety ladder up against the wall.  He climbed a few steps and started slapping right next to a hole.  He said he could see the chocoyo and wondered if I could.  Since I couldn’t, he motioned for me to climb this feeble ladder leaning against the wall, so that I could see better.
     Carefully, one step at a time I felt my way up with my feet.  One hand held onto my camera, and then watching where my other hand grasped the ladder, I peered at the hole, so I wouldn’t miss this creature’s grand entrance.
     The caretaker encouraged me again to slap the wall, so I slapped and wondered what kind of little animal was going to come out toward me, and then, what would I do?  

     I waited, but did not see anything, so I climbed back down.  But Chico was determined that I was going to see this chocoyo, so he stepped up toward the hole again and started slapping.  He asked if I could see anything, again I shook my head, "No."
      Chico motioned to my camera and said to get ready for a picture.  He got even higher up and then blew gently inside the hole.  Suddenly with a burst of green feathers, I heard the flurry of its wings and just barely caught a blurry photo of this beautiful green tropical bird.
     I showed the photos to Chico.  He teased that if I printed photos of this bird, we could sell tickets for people to come and see them.  We laughed and I thanked him again for pointing it out to me so that I could get a photograph.  Next time I would be prepared with a zoom lens on my camera.
    
     The chocoyo landed on a power line with a tree in the background, so it was a bit hard to distinguish, but I snapped away, knowing that I could crop  the photo and enlarge it later to see it better, if only I could get a good shot in.

     Just a small detail from one morning in Costa Rica, but daily my walk with God is refreshing.  I never quite know how the day will turn out, so I just hang on and enjoy the ride.  Gently living and loving and being who he created me to be.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

THIN SPACES

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.  Joshua 1:3
 
Deposit made.  Event added to the calendar.  Great.  Now to move down my list of other bills to pay.  This was over one month ago.  

As the date drew closer, a bit of dread filled the pit of my stomach that we were not going to be able to keep our commitment to join our new friends for a short retreat along the Frio River.  

I sat and crunched the figures for the upcoming bills and there was just enough to take care of our immediate needs, but the extra amount for the one bedroom cabin in the hill country was not there.

Knowing that I needed to let the owner know ahead of time for bookings, I sat in the love seat/recliner and broached the subject with my husband.  This was all he had been talking about for quite some time and I didn't look forward to being the realist again, but after some discussion, we both agreed that we did not want to force things if all was not working out.

After canceling the cabin, I emailed our friends.  I knew they would understand.  I expressed my regrets and ended by telling them that we trusted God's timing and, "It is what it is."

The next day a young couple asked us to go with them to minister on a land mission for a seven acre property.  This was a first for us to experience one of these together, and as it is with all ministry, you pray, prepare your heart, and get ready for anything.

I woke up with a dream, which is very unusual for me.  I got up and wrote some notes so I wouldn't forget what I heard and saw in it, especially some of the lyrics of the song that I heard.  Then I sat quietly and other words came to my mind that I wrote down to share.

I knew in my heart, that this was the divine appointment for us to participate in this weekend.  Praying over that property, binding curses, and opening gates of blessing was a very healing experience for the owner.  All members of the team shared tidbits of what they heard God telling them and the pieces of the puzzle came together as four of us walked the property, and the rest prayed, sent words and pictures, as they waited on God in the house.

Thin spaces today.  

The Celtics believed that Heaven and Earth were located just three feet apart, but in some places, during certain times, there are thin spaces where you can feel His presence and perhaps you may see the face of God.  

I walked from that property today feeling as though I'd experienced one of these moments in space and time.  Close to God.  Close to who I was meant to be.

Deep peace of the running wave
Deep peace of the flowing air
Deep peace of the quiet earth
Deep peace of the shining stars
Deep peace of the Son of Peace.

(A Celtic blessing wishing the hearers to experience the presence of God.)

 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

CLOAKED IN BLACK


 Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure. Psalm 24:4 (MSG)
     
     Contented, I listened to the bantering of my young children while I prepared then cleaned up from breakfast.
     This morning, after Jennie and Nathan left with their dad for school, I was left with my youngest daughter, age three.  Audrey stood watching me as I blow dried my hair. She waited patiently for me to finish.  When the whine of the dryer came to an end she followed me around as I made the beds.  Without missing a beat, my preschooler told me about her experience with a visitor in the night that I will never forget.
     Audrey and Jennie shared a double bed in the back of our rental house.  Nathan had the bedroom in between their room and ours, down a long hallway.
     It was our custom at bedtime to read to the kids and pray for them.  The girls and Nathan always begged me to sit with them until they fell asleep, so I compromised. Each night after prayers, I sat outside their rooms in the hallway.  Their doors stayed cracked open slightly so that a little light would  shine in.
     Some nights I played soft music on the cassette player and sing along, or other times, I sang from a book of lullabies by Nancy Honeytree, without guitar or piano to accompany me.
     Usually, I heard their even breathing before the third or fourth song and I could tip toe away.  
     Audrey excitedly told me that during the night she woke up.  No one else was awake.  All the lights inside the house were off.  Only the street lamp along the sidewalk outside sent a filmy streak of light through a crack between the curtains.  
     A dark shadow appeared to be standing in the doorway of the room. She blinked her eyes and looked again, because she thought that she saw a this dark figure moving closer to her bed.  
     Sure enough, as this dark figure moved closer, it appeared to be clothed in a long cloak with a hood that covered most of her face.  She stopped, then slowly moved closer.  
     Audrey wanted to scream, but she was too scared to make a peep.  Instead, Audrey squeezed her eyes tight to shut out the image and pulled the comforter over her head.
     After describing all of this all in great detail.  She went on to tell me that she didn't want to go back into to the bedroom alone to get her dolls.  Later, she asked to take a nap on the couch, instead of sleeping in her bed.  I could see that she was still scared and so I hugged her close.  
     I prayed over her and commanded fear to leave her right then and there.  I assured her that she could go back into the room whenever she wanted, but she stayed beside me the rest of the day.
     At bedtime, I had a long talk with her again.  I explained that there were times when my husband and I had sensed a different presence in our room.  We prayed and every time, God removed it.
     Also, I silently remembered a time in Japan when Nathan, our very sound sleeping baby, woke up,  doubling up from pain.  He screamed for about 45 minutes.  We walked him, fed him, and burped him, but he was not himself at all.
     I remembered a story we heard Clem's brother, tell us about witches visiting some churches in California.  When there were disruptions, the pastors pled the blood of Jesus. They commanded spirits to be silent and to leave quietly.
     Again Nathan woke up and screamed in the night. This time I commanded, "I plead the blood of Jesus over us and demand any evil spirits to take their hands off of our baby and to leave all of us alone.  In the name of Jesus, leave and never come back."
    
     Not wanting to alarm my already nervous little one, I softly encouraged her to call out as loud as she could, "Jesus!" and that when any bad spirit heard her say his name, they would have to leave her room.  I also encouraged her to call us and that we would come right away.
     At six the next morning after the alarm went off,  I laid there a minute and was surprised that our night went uninterrupted.  
     Curious, I woke up Jennie for school, and then while she was off in the bathroom, I gently shook Audrey awake to hear if she had slept well.
     At first still groggy, she wanted to stay under the covers, then suddenly she bolted up with her eyes wide open and a big grin on her face.  I couldn't wait for a full report.
     Just as the other night, Audrey awoke and did not want to open her eyes.  Finally when she felt something close to her side of the bed, she peeked.  This same hunched over woman cloaked in black  stood near her bed, then lifting her arm, she beckoned for her to come out of her bed and follow her. 
     Audrey admitted that she was afraid to talk again, but in order to make the shadowy lady leave the room she stated, "Jesus is here with me and you have to go."  
     Immediately, the woman in black disappeared from sight.  My daughter said she didn't feel scared anymore, so she went back to sleep.
     Wow!  I admired this little tyke. She displayed faith and courage to deal with this on her own.     
     From that day on, Audrey always had an uncanny way of talking about God and writing him letters throughout her childhood.  
     Since she was very honest and never made up stories, I know this is the way it happened to her.  She never begged me to stay outside her door at night, but I continued my routine.  
     She gained a special confidence that night. She felt secure with the Shepherd at her side.
     
     

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FERRET OUT JOY

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen.  Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God.  I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.  Counting on God’s rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.  I run like a deer.  I feel like I’m king of the mountain. Habubbuk 3:17-19 (MSG)
     

     The dim light of the early hours peeked through the shutters as if a bit hesitant to disturb me.  My head throbbed and my joints ached as in sympathy to my torn emotions.

     So much to cheer me the day before with the fresh mowed lawn, a revitalizing rain, and fresh peanut butter cookies for the grands.  Two sweet children spent the first part of the weekend cheering us.  A birthday party with my family.


     My youngest son shared words of encouragement as doors opened for him, he stepped confidently through and now glowed from the favor shown and his success.  My husband had a very promising week and proudly handed me the funds in crisp hundred dollar bills to make our house payment, just in time.

     All week I’d noticed the small things.  I rejoiced in them as they chimed in to remind me that God is good. 

     Yet when some undue complaints reached my ears, a sudden chill swept in to steal the warmth of my heart. 

     Hanging baskets of delicate pink flowers around the patio to cheer my daughter's lovely cottage did a little to wipe away the memory.  Children’s laughter, and their shining eyes filled with excitement  returned.  Cozy conversations lingered until hunger pangs reminded us to prepare for supper.

     Then off for home again.  Down I laid to read and quiet my mind before going to sleep.  But, there were more negative words before bed.  We were soon exhausted from the flurry.

     When I awoke this morning to overcast skies, they mirrored my mood.  I was tempted to turn over and ignore the Spirit’s call to walk higher than the low that I found myself in.
     

     I wrestled back and forth until my best self won.  I showered, dressed and willed myself to rise up and defeat this spirit of gloom that wanted to steal my passion for my family and to keep me absent from the presence of our congregation.

     “Go on,” prodded the Holy Spirit.  “Come and delight in me.  Remember, your family situation will turn around when you all do your part to remember who you are and who you are meant to be.”

     Such a petty battle, as I look back on it today.  I mostly just wanted to pout and wallow in self pity a bit more.  Then, how much better I felt, just with a change of heart.  Cheerfulness quietly crept in and this heart of mine thrilled at the opportunity to worship and to walk into the King’s presence as a conquering warrior.

     This is what I might have missed.  This synergy of hearts yielded up and extolling God’s character in the midst of a variety of ups and downs we all experience in life.  It was like I had come in blindly and then put on the perfect prescription that allowed me to look up into the glorious heavens to comprehend God’s infinite might and beauty.

     Adjust my posture oh Lord.  Keep my lowered head facing forward and turned up with the expectancy of a birthday girl looking over all of the decorations, the lit cake, and table piled high with a colorful assortment of gifts.  Just as the family members come from near and far to express to her that she is very dear, you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit surround me in celebration.

     “All of creation I made for you to enjoy.”  I soaked up these love words whispered into my heart.

     “All of my love I extend in forgiveness that allows fresh starts.”  Oh, how I've needed to wipe the slate clean--time after time.

     “So, remove the stopper from your soul and let my love splash all over and around you.  Don’t be flustered anymore.  Rather, expel Trouble and be free of his tricks that spoil your play.”

     I understood and gazed up into His eyes.  My face relaxed into a soft smile.

     “You see what power you have within you?” he continued. “Simply by refuting a lie with the simple truth that I am always here with you, look at the transformation.  I care about your concerns and I will prevail...so can you.” 
     

     A quiet breeze drifted in and softly caressed my cheek as if to say, “There you go.  That’s my girl.”

     I sat and took it all in, not wanting to break the enchantment of this tryst.  The sweetness of His peace and contentment is where I wanted to reside.

     “I take heart and gain strength.  I run like a deer.  I feel like I’m king of the mountain”...again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

WHY BLOG?

      
     No matter what your vocation, no matter where you are located, you can reach the world by "speaking out" and letting others in on meditations.  Write down the thoughts that have passed between you and God in your quiet time. 

     

     I started in 2010, writing some poems, then short little stories of everyday happenings and the response at first was just from family, then some acquaintances and friends. Now, I have a readership in over a dozen countries. I talk to people on airplanes, in airports, shopping, churches, and on travels. Many times, they want my blog address and I hand them my card with the Blogspot link as well as the link to our Tumblr newsletter for Mission Costa Rica.

     
      From an unknown teacher who retired to write a few books, I have now evolved into an author of a blog with over 11,000 hits.    
     I pray that God will take my message of a loving God and Father to hearts that need to hear that He is real and cares for them in the midst of their circumstances. 
     I am thankful that though my budget does not allow me to travel all over the world, and my language is limited to English with a bit of Spanish, that my God can use the technology today so that readers can translate my stories into their own languages in order to hear how God interacts in my life and can in anyone else's as well.

     
     Use your voice. Reach out to the multitudes parched for a grain of hope and truth that they can rely on to get them through one more day. 
     Yes, pray for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted, but also speak to them and to their tormentors as well and throw them a rope with a life ring attached.  They are all God's children.

     
     Share your stories with others.  Tell who God is to you in your daily life. The wonders, the miracles, and His words spoken to you. Share these treasures with your family, your friends, your congregation, your acquaintances, and also cast your jewels out to the world. Don't hoard it where they will collect dust, or will rust, but scatter them out there to be useful and to lift up the spirits of others in the kingdom of God.


     I don't want to wait until my death for my loved ones to search out and discover a few scribbled notes in my Bible as they try to figure out what the meaning of my life was to share at a memorial service. I want to shout it at the rooftops! And today, the rooftops are found on the web.

Monday, August 18, 2014

JUST LUCKY?

If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.  The hardworking farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. II Timothy 2:5, 6 (NASB)

Winding through the valleys our train left Durango, Colorado. Progressing slowly but surely around treacherous curves with drop offs into canyons, then up, up, up to about ten thousand feet to reach the former silver mining town of Silverton, Colorado.

Sitting inside the passenger car, as I admired the beautiful scenery, I tried to imagine what life must have been like a century ago.  What different types of adventures and challenges I might have faced.

Back then, a woman might have chosen to stay out East, in a civilized town or bustling city.  Apprenticing to a printer, a hat maker, or a baker, if I was so fortunate, would lead to a life of plenty.

Maybe if my family had a ranch, that might be an option to carry on the family business by working alongside my father, mother, uncle, or aunt to learn all there was to learn in agribusiness.

Or I might leave the beaten path and the security of the people who have known me since I was in diapers and go off to find new places, people, and begin with my skills to set up a life all my own.  Maybe I would have been a mail order bride.

There were so many choices in life.  What kind of talents do I have?  Do I start up a business?  Should I go to college, to trade school, or join the military?  Who should I marry?  Who should I trust and befriend? Where do I settle down? 

Many of our issues are more or less self-imposed.  They are a result of our choices, our attitudes, and our character.  When there are outside factors that come to wreak havoc on our peace, like hazardous weather, sickness, animal attacks, war, or disturbing killings or maiming, it is our response to those sufferings that defines us and our particular way of reacting is of our own choosing and determines outcomes.

Free will to choose is the biggest option in the whole game of life.

The great Conductor wrote love letters to explain the pitfalls of bad decisions.  He encourages me to stay out of debt, to give to the poor, to work so that I can eat, to be gentle and kind when others go through tough times.  How to have good relationships.   The directions are plain as day and not just moral, but practical.  The Bible is a track to steer me clear of disasters that I could bring upon myself.  

I continue to enjoy the ride as well as the people I've come to know and share experiences with along the way.  The freedom to choose each day from all of the options before me boggles my mind at the calculated outcomes we could end up with in a week alone.  So many yeses compared to the few warnings and prohibitions for my protection.

I gaze and admire the majestic beauty of His creation all around me, the simple pleasures reach my senses daily.


I am grateful oh God for sharing the wealth of your wisdom, so that when I have crossroads, I can reflect, find counsel, and choose wisely.  I am grateful that when I mess up, forgiveness is available.  So much is gained from errors.  God's wisdom just shines that much clearer.  Then another opportunity waits for me and I begin again.

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.  The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those in opposition. II Timothy 2:22-25a (NASB)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

ALOFT

Matthew 17:20-21 (MSG)  "Because you're not yet taking God seriously," said Jesus.  "The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move.  There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle."

Late at night, the online reservations were finalized for my son, granddaughter, and I to take a hot air balloon flight from Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  Both kids sounded excited at the prospect.  I couldn't wait either.

They fell asleep and had faith that since I'd promised a balloon ride the night before, that meant that I would wake them early enough to arrive on time. Payment for the ride and the shirts was not an issue for them either.  
But early the next morning, out on the lawn with the sight of the flames, flimsy material, and the small basket, I noted some looks of concern on Madee's face.  She was sizing up the situation.  It certainly appeared a bit more challenging than when we had admired the pictures last night on the website.

The air was crisp, the sky was clear blue except for wisps of smoke filtering in from forest fires fifty or so miles away.

We eyed the controlled flames shooting from the burner. They shot into the envelope to heat the inside air.  

Slowly, over a half an hour later, the inflated craft lifted the gondola with it's wide-eyed passengers high above the tree tops and off on our adventure.

After all of the explanations of the pilot concerning procedures and safety precautions, grins started appearing.  The anticipation returned for this voyage and perks like bragging rights when this was over. 

Both kids hopped into the wicker basket with ease, locating their spot next the rim. 

Me, well, my hopping involved a little pulling of my arms by my son, Philip, but I soon stood in the middle of the basket, close to my kids, where I had a good view over their heads.

As a true blue member of the Mom's Club, I started  thinking of all that might go wrong, and what would I do to protect these two precious kids in the event of a malfunction.

This Mom's Club point of view often gets in the way of me totally enjoying events.  This time was no different.

It interested me to note the landmarks as our pilot pointed out several formations used to steer by.  Silently, we floated overhead with just the blast of the burners with spurts and snorts akin to a dragon spouting fire every once in a while to retain our altitude.
Silence, other than the soft utterances of the awed passengers seemed to sanctify this flight.

The pilot pointed out our final destination not too far off of the highway on some vacant lots.  We watched in amazement at the accuracy of his landing.

It all seemed over too soon, even though the set up and tear down alone, took forty five minutes.

I think back now on how much freer Madee and Philip were on that ride than me.  They had no one else to be concerned for.  


My take away is that no matter how much I might have planned or worried, there was nothing I could personally do to insure our safety up there.  I only distracted myself from thoroughly taking in the magic of the moment.

Kids are to be imitated.  Their faith in the experience of the pilot, the engineering of the companies that made all of the equipment was just there.  They believed that I would only take them somewhere safe and enjoyable.  They asked questions, got answers, and relished the moment.

Faith the size of a tiny grain of mustard seed is all I need to move mountains, Jesus said.  So if I abandon obstacles like fear and its cousins, doubt and worry, then imagine the difference. This life of freedom is exactly what a child in its innocence experiences everyday.  And this same offer is sitting on the table before each of us, when we receive God's gift of forgiveness.  

Freedom to walk with Him always at our side.  The Creator of the universe, who set all laws of physics into motion, is the one who paid the price to give this to me.  So, I am picking up this gift of faith and innocence from the table and taking God seriously.  I intend to enjoy my ride through life like I never have before.









 

Friday, August 8, 2014

FIRST THINGS FIRST



Romans 4:20 (NIV) Yet he (speaking of Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.


My preconceived ideas concerning the idyllic life of a writer and what that involves evolve daily.  

Originally, when I left Texas had a goal of completing my book in a month and a half.  I pictured myself rising in the cool morning with ideas percolating in my mind and ready to spill out through my fingers to the keys of my computer.  Once printed to paper, I would save these in my documents.  The chapters set aside would be reopened for editing and revision after a week, so that I could pull them out to reread with fresher more objective eyes.

After thirty-three days, I do see quite a bit of progress.  I just never anticipated so many activities to fill our schedules.

My days here in the tropics have been filled with appointments galore: dental, attorney, bank, church and ministry related.

Visits to see friends and then the busyness of cleaning, baking, boiling chicken in preparation for returning the favor.

Then letters, email, newsletter and blog to keep in touch with loved ones and friends here and abroad.

I stand here this morning, smiling as I converse with God over my busy mop. Yes, and there are chores around the house. 

"I know this book is a priority, Lord.  Thank you for prodding me to enter this place of concentrated  effort.  But things come along and keep me too busy to write as much as I would like."  Smiling though, for it is funny how much still happens, or how many necessary trips we need to make into San Jose or Atenas, even from this small remote cabin.

I am learning to fully embrace the moment, right now, and still keep the promise of this book that is strong in my heart.
Today began in the shower, not at a writer's desk.  Then during my breakfast which was lovingly prepared by my husband, we enjoyed small talk.  I ate scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and drank hot cammomile tea, while he sipped his rich Costa Rican coffee.
My chair scraped as I took our plates to the sink.  Wetting the sponge and then dipping it in Axion, I scrubbed, rinsed, and placed each utensil and pan in the drainer to drip dry.


Now my eyes automatically scanned the terra cotta tile as I took a couple steps to arm myself with my trusty broom.  Crumbs, dust, and dead flying insects swooshed out the back door and off of the terrace.

Sorting clothes came next.  The sun strutted brightly accompanied by a slight breeze.  What a perfect combination for washing and hanging up a couple loads to dry before the early afternoon when the weather tends to shift this time of year.

The mop waited patiently for me, near the washer, to remind me about the dogs with muddy feet that came to greet Jerry early this morning.  I wet it with cleaner and water to erase their prints.  And now here I stand.  Breathing in the freshness of the lemon scent.

Okay!  One more stop.  I plump up the pillows on my bed, which is my favorite spot for meditation and prayer.  My iPad opens up to the Bible app and away I go.

When I finally find myself sitting at my computer, ready to look over my work from the day before, I hear the engine of our Expedition coming up our drive and then a light honk that asks me to climb down our steep cement stairway to lift and carry the precious groceries that Jerry has purchased.

Now, my husband is a little out of breath, but he cheerfully banters about all that he saw along the way as well as all that transpired and who he ran into as he took care of business in Atenas.

Interested to hear the news, I listened intently. 

With a sigh and a look of accomplishment, this man of mine, sat on the couch to pick up his computer and begin practicing his Spanish from YOUTUBE.  

Quiet.

First things first.

The dream is still real within my mind.  The promise will be fulfilled.  My book is unfolding and soon will be a tangible accomplishment, but for now... I will enjoy each pleasant moment.  After all, this is exactly what my book is about: to live in the now, as a child.  I want to fully appreciate this time I am holding in my grateful hands.


 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

BLIND FOLDED



Proverbs 3:5  (MSG)  Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. 

I remember in my sophomore year at Marion High School, coming into class for a small group English session.  I had Mr. Menges on my schedule, and as I entered I noticed his glasses, perched part way down his nose, as he greeted us. 

Right away, he began telling us that we would never know what was going to happen in his class.  To emphasize this point, he whipped out different colored paisley blindfolds.
 
“Ta daa!” he grinned.  




Hmmmm.  Weird...I thought.  Now what?



First, we introduced ourselves by answering a few questions about ourselves.



“Hi, I am Chris. I am a sophomore.  I am in choir.  I am taking French and Spanish and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, but I love to travel, read, ride bikes and play tennis.”  The rest of the students followed suit.



“Next,” he explained, “we are going to work together in pairs or in groups and share some experiences.  The first one will begin today.”



The next thing I know, I am walking around being led by a girl I’ve never set eyes on before, while I sport a red bandana covering my forehead and eyes. 
 

Now this is just the way I wanted to make an impression, if anyone saw me, right?  Wrong!  



High self esteem was not something that I “suffered” from.  I was well aware that I ranked low on the status bar.  In my freshman year, I turned down pledge invitations from two sororities, and at this high school, that was my one chance to be part of the “in crowd”. 
 

So, going around looking goofy and having this blindfold mash my mascara into my face, make a crease in my long straight auburn hair, and probably pull my hair up in the back into a crazy poof, did nothing to make me feel any better.

 

What were we doing this crazy thing for in English class, anyway?  All I ever experienced in English class was to open a book and do grammar exercises, listen to boring lectures, or read literature and answer questions.  This was off the wall!

 

After ascending stairs and roaming outside along walkways, my pilot led me through the parking lot.  Next, I was steered through the gym.  We stopped beside the pool, then past the music hall until we all met outside of the library.



Now it was my turn to lead her around.  I chose a different route and tried to be creative.  After about a ten minute walk, we met back in the classroom for our debriefing.

 

To begin with, this was only a trust exercise, but now Mr. Menges told us to write down anything we remembered about our experience. 



Seemingly a little eccentric at first, this teacher became one of my favorite teachers.  

Not only did I learn to trust a fellow student while blindfolded, but I found that all his activities that at first seemed zany, actually were meant to trigger my thinking.  

Pleasantly surprised, I found myself examining ideas that never would have crossed my mind before.

 

Fifth period stretched and challenged me.  I know this class helped to influence my techniques for mothering and teaching as well as in writing.



Then, I remember a time when I held my oldest son, Nathan, in front of me as he stood and leaned out to look over the edge of a drop of several hundred feet.  He didn’t hesitate for a moment and seemed content in knowing that there was no way that I would let go of my hold on him, or ever harm him by pushing him off the ledge.  



He completely trusted me and this belief enabled him to glimpse views from vantage points that I still do not dare to look from myself.



An adult now, he thrills at climbing fourteeners in Colorado.  He goes after some extreme challenges and enjoys looking down from peaks to view his progress up the mountain.



Here I am still learning to trust God.  These days, I find that there are new tasks that He invites me to face which appear insurmountable.  



“Why did you pick me for this?  How can I go so far?” I wonder aloud.



I have elderly parents that are nearing an era when they may need more from me than just an email or a phone call to stay in touch and six beloved children with spouses.  I have two daughters of Jerry’s and their hubbies that I am still getting to know better each visit. 
 

Then there are our eleven grandchildren who want to hop on Grandpa Jerry and gobble Nana’s cookies and snacks in between play that I dearly love to observe and converse with.



Lord, my youngest son is still in high school.  He is just a sophomore and he needs me and my youngest daughter is in the middle of her studies toward nursing.  I want her to know how proud I am of her for persevering to pursue her education even with obstacles and limitations.



Is there ever a convenient time to answer a call to the mission field?  

 

During that blindfolded walk in tenth grade, I learned as I listened along the way.  No one could tell me ahead of time what to expect.  I just had to go in order to find out.    



Now, my walk in God is changing my view of where life will lead me.  My husband and I are in Costa Rica, on a vision quest, to hear God affirm and prod us forward.  Our vehicle is here from Texas.  We have signed our applications for temporary residency and are fingerprinted.  Pinch me.  This is real.
 

“Trust me,” he urges.  “I am always with you.  I will be with your loved ones as well.  Come with Me to Central America.”
   


Like my toddler who hung over the precipice in total abandon and trust, I thrust myself forward, to embrace this new culture, language, and mission; here I am Costa Rica.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

GOT YOU COVERED

He will cover you with his feathers.  He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.  Psalm 91:4 (NLT)

There...I heard it again.  There was someone outside my bedroom window.  I heard the squeak squeak squeak of the outdoor spigot and then the steady flow of water running out.

It was the middle of the night.  I was the only adult home tonight with our four children.  My husband was away at summer school taking courses to complete his teaching requirements.  

We lived about four miles out of Raymondville, surrounded by sugar cane fields on a caliche road in the country.  Not more than a mile from us was an old abandoned house that I always suspected was part of a route used for travelers entering the United States from Mexico.  

Many stories circulated from households within thirty miles of the border of outdoor faucets being used for thirsty travelers at night.  We even came home from work many times and found the shower still wet that was off of our back porch.  How the word got around, I don't know, but somehow people would find their way here.

I usually was a sound sleeper, but this starry night I awoke and laid awake, imagining a family outside who needed to stop for water to drink on their long journey north.  Perhaps they hoped that no one would come out and shoo them away, or sic their dogs on them. 

Not wishing to stir too much, I fought off fear and prayed for the sojourners.  My panic of the unknown, was replaced with a warmth that flooded my room: perfect peace.

Many times provisions arrived when we needed them.  Other times, there were healing miracles.  

Still, even at this point in my life I was learning to put everything in God's hands, knowing that it is much more fruitful to remain  relaxed and to trust Him to care for any situation that is out of my control; even those that are.

Just knowing that his everlasting arms of protection surrounded me,  I slept soundly.  His protective feathers sheltered me from any impending storm. 

When I awoke, I looked outside for any trace of visitors, but nothing looked out of place. 

After all of these years, I still have to remind myself to calm down when circumstances throw me for a loop.

Last month, my dear husband took a long journey to Costa Rica from our home in Texas.  He drove our vehicle down for our mission work there.  The way he traveled is not always safe, so we  prayed a covering over him as he left and as we knew he crossed each border.  

One prayer warrior prayed over Jerry the night before he left and asked that God would make him invisible to anyone wanting to do him harm.  Even our little four year old granddaughter prayed that God would send the angel mermaids to make him invisible.  She had no idea what brother James had already prayed.  It was like a confirmation.  

Those wings of protection followed him through all of the border crossings, stops at hotels, drives in the dark before daylight, and round hills and up the mountains as he finally drove into the beautiful country of Costa Rica, where we plan to live out our dreams in service to God. 

Now, no matter which direction I walk, as the future unfolds, it is bristling with hope.  I am convinced of the love, goodness, and presence of our loving God wherever we go.   He is faithful to perform his promises.  If only I can remember to call on Him and remember who goes before me.

Deuteronomy 33:27 "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."


"Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms,
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms."  
(lyrics and music by Anthony Showalter and Elisha Hoffman) 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

BANKRUPT WITHOUT LOVE

Last month, April 21st, marked our 7th anniversary.  Seven is a number for complete.  Seven is also statistically a number of years when many couples bail out of their marriages.  The seven-year itch, they call it.

“Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.” Tom Mullen

We started out like two love birds going through our honeymoon phase with stars in our eyes that blinded us to our differences. Offenses rolled off, so easily ignored; we were so hopeful.  Nothing it seemed could change the way we felt about each other.  People just shook their heads and grinned, thinking that soon the day would dawn when we would hit the wall.

“Marriage is not just spiritual communion, it is also remembering to take out the trash.” Joyce Brothers

So, the day came when I found a note on the bed and heard through his scrawled penmanship, the things he could not say to my face.  Things that rubbed him the wrong way.  Pop went the bubble of my dream world.  Just a few days before our first anniversary, too.

Finally, after a while of talking things over, we saw each other in a new light.  No longer the crystalline glow, but a dull ache of somber tenderness and hurt.  I had asked not to be put on some pedestal.  I am only human like he.  He always looked up, but now he looked down.  We both felt like new cars after 5,000 miles with scratches and dings.

It took some time to get over our initial disillusionment, but the sooner the better.  Floating on clouds can only last so long, and then the real ride begins with honesty, forgiveness, and starting to seriously get on with the business of getting to know this other person that I pledged myself to.  One day the saint, the next the fallen, then nervous laughter together as we realized the false paintings we'd created of each other.  We stood back and began taking long looks at each other; interwoven with lots of conversation, and we came to the realization that there was more to this marriage package than either of us had bargained for.

“A relationship is like a house. When a light bulb burns out you don’t go and buy a new house, you change the light bulb.” Unknown

After previous failed marriages, temptation crept up to whisper, "Bolt and run!"  It would be so much simpler to be off alone without the complications, the misunderstandings, or the grief of the death of our honeymoon.

 Lacing up our hiking boots we stomped and climbed then descended through the years. Up and down, around and over we climbed a dangerous trail.  Drop offs on both sides, forests of problems that seemed to increase, rather than to go away or get solved.  Until... we realized that neither of us needed to be fired from our union.  Instead, we desperately yearned to band together.  The area of weakness that we each saw in the other was enough reason to hold on and hold out. I saw what I needed in him and he saw in me the very thing that would set him free as well.

When we refused to throw in the towel over the useless squabbles that got nowhere,  we bent to pick up discarded pieces that when we took the time, found that they fit into stunning new designs that delighted us both.  Our original pledge to become one is a promise we still honor.     

“To keep the fire burning brightly there’s one easy rule: Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart – about a finger’s breadth – for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule.” Marnie Reed Crowell

Now, here we are, two uniquely gifted individuals.  We have reclaimed our team.  We understand the value of each others' strengths, but now we respect the need to take the time to stretch or venture out at our own pace.  Sometimes we work at it alone, and sometimes we join up for joint endeavors.

I have a new regard for him and he for me.  The glow is here, warming our hearts.  A clearer insight allows us to anticipate promising adventures ahead. 

Hope fills the sails of our emotions.  Faith is the sturdy rudder that keeps us on course.  Love, well, love is the ocean we skim across, the breeze that stirs around us, and the joy that fills us as we finish our story.

I Corinthians 13:4-8A (MSG) Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.  Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always "me first," doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.  Love never dies. 

Listen to a beautiful duet, SOMOS NOVIOS (We Are Lovers), sung in Spanish by Katherine McPhee and Andrea Bocelli.
 

#love  #love story  #anniversary  #together #love chapter  #I Corinthians 13

Sunday, May 25, 2014

AN EXTRAVAGANT GIFT

I Corinthians 13:12-13 (MSG) We don't yet see things clearly.  We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.  But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!  We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:  Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.

I remember a time when my daughter, Audrey, had a birthday in Rio Hondo, TX.   Friends and family came to join us for the special occasion at my big old two story home there.  Balloons were blown up, streamers, a beautiful store bought cake, and a home cooked meal was steaming and ready to serve.

The only problem was that the little seven year old guest of honor was running a fever and I knew she did not really feel like getting out of bed.  Being in elementary school still, I knew how hard it was for her to be upstairs in her room while everyone else was downstairs mingling and catching up.  Audrey loved a social get together.  She was more the type that would watch all the goings on as though she was soaking it up to reproduce it all in a painting or a news article.  She engaged in conversations when she saw an opportunity, but she really just enjoyed standing back and taking in every expression, every detail.

Tonight though, she huddled under her covers and ate a small plate of food (probably to be polite),  since she really did not have an appetite at all.  Laughter and conversations were muffled.  She could hear the thud of glasses placed back on the tables.  The clinking of silverware against the plates carried upstairs to her ears, but none of this enticed her to join us. 

Until, it was time for cake and the gifts.  Now that was a different story.  I called and asked if she felt up to opening her gifts and a weak little, "Yes..." answered back.  Jennie ran up the stairs to help her down.  She was greeted by all and several brave ones came up and gave her a birthday hug. 

Audrey's eyes opened wide and so did her mouth at all of the gifts awaiting her.  She could hardly wait to open them, but I knew in her heart, she was just as excited that so many came and wanted to share in her birthday.  The love is what she enjoyed in that moment.

This week and last, I have been studying the gifts of the Spirit again.  As I read in I Corinthians 12 where in verses 4-11 the gifts are described, and then turn to chapter 14 where we are encouraged to desire spiritual gifts to strengthen and encourage those we encounter, I looked back again at the chapter in between.

I often wondered why it was that the love chapter, I Corinthians 13, which is read in so many weddings, was plopped right in the middle of these two.  I think of this as one of my favorite and most reread chapters as I walk through life, but I thought it was an interruption when I studied these spiritual gifts.

Tonight, as I looked these three over again, and ask God, "Why?" I suddenly saw chapter 13 in a new light in context to these other two chapters.  I now see that chapters 12 and 14 are merely the bread and chapter 13 is the meat.  They are the intro and conclusion, but the love chapter is the main story in a book for us to live by.  I see that the author wants to say that without love, all that I attempt to do all day is a waste of time.

The greatest gift that my little daughter those years back received was a gift of love from so many who cared to take the time for a little girl's birthday.  Her favorite food, the presence of loved ones, the hugs, all told her just how special she was. 

The greatest gifts of love rarely have a big monetary price tag on them.  It might mean a back rub or walking downstairs to get a drink for someone at bedtime.  It might mean that I rearrange my schedule, or it might mean for me to take a risk by reaching out to someone I ordinarily would not come in contact with or speak to.  By acknowledging the down and out, or a neighbor going through a tragedy, a simple act can bring honor to them and emphasize to them the truth, that they matter, someone notices them: They have worth.

I desire to follow the ways of love each day.  I ask God to lead me and open my eyes to be more present in the moment.  Let me see those opportunities each day, and then boldly act on them.  I plan to smile more.  Look into people's eyes and say, "Hi".  When I see a mother with a baby, I will tell her how precious her new babe is.  I will simply encourage her.  You get my drift. 

Looking at people through the eyes of love not only enlarges their own hope, faith, and happiness, when I interact with them, but it will enlarge my own heart as well and increase my sense of well being. 

LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY: THIS IS THE GREATEST GIFT DESIRED BY ALL



#gifts  #love  #birthdays  #time  #birthdaygirl  #presents  #presence  #lovechapter  #spiritualgifts


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

STRETCHING

Isaiah 56:3a  Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely exclude me from his people." Isaiah 56:6-7 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  (NIV)

One minute we are all gathered around tables to celebrate all the wonderful mothers in the family that live here in the San Antonio area, then the next I find us packing up items intended for a summer missions group in Honduras, a medical ministry in Guatemala, and my dear husband accompanying his friend, Lanny, as they drive through dangerous territory to their various destinations.

My husband bravely states, "Don't let anyone threaten me with Heaven!  I'll take them up on their promise!"

As we eat our last meal before our two week separation, I remember the first conversations we had when we first started dating.  Jerry was in Central America on a mission trip.  He was on cloud nine as he shared about the church property they were able to raise funds for in order to pay it off.

Since we married seven years ago, it has not been very safe to travel back and forth and so Jerry took up insurance sales to take care of us after our honeymoon.  He labored hard and excelled in sales.  He worked long hours and drove all over Texas and surrounding states to provide for our family.

Yet, it has not been until the past year, after we decided to survey and travel to Costa Rica, that I have seen that sparkle in his eyes and heard the passion and excitement in his voice like our earlier days.  

Traveling over two thousand three hundred miles through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and then into Costa Rica is really stretching it.  He will be covering a lot of territory and taking ground for our vision for our ministry in Costa Rica.

Several years ago I heard God tell me that our home would be a house of prayer.  I have had small groups come and pray and study, but now I know that it will also mean that we will be interceding in prayer and others will be drawn to join us as they seek truth and walk in faith through Jesus Christ.

Yet, now God has challenged us to take our house of prayer to Costa Rica.  We have accepted the call and are willing to go no matter what.

Now, we are stretching our tent stakes and by Jerry taking our vehicle down we are solidifying our commitment to take up our suitcases and to follow God's leading for good works and to see people set free.

Isaiah 58:6-10  Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

Stretching, yes, and much more.  We are running into a life of purpose; ready to experience God in new ways: new beginnings.   


#new beginnings, #Costa Rica, Central America, #challenges, #moving to Costa Rica