Monday, December 15, 2014

Shepherds Approaching the Manger

I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, 
declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 34:15).

The Lord, as our shepherd, is prevalent in Scripture. Old Testament passages share of shepherds tending their flocks. David was but a shepherd boy when anointed to be a future king in the line of lineage for the Messiah.
I have been pondering “shepherds” as we approach 
the celebration of the Incarnation. 

Christ’s first earthly bed was a manger among animals and Mary and Joseph in awe. How could such a humble birthing place and its surroundings hold the Messiah?
Those first told of His birth - yes - shepherds tending their flocks, were heralded right into Bethlehem and to the One who, himself, would grow to be the Shepherd to all.

Humble beginnings are not indicative of what is to come. 

Often we  find ourselves with feelings and questions for our Shepherd concerning some of the harsh and hard to understand events and their impact in our lives. They once had a birthing time but are not indicators of a life of lesser worth any more than Christ’s beginnings were.
They are not of lesser worth than the privilege given those shepherds of long ago who were the first in line to see the Glory of his coming. We have Him daily to give us strength and care.
What can we see this year as we come to the manger?  Jesus’ humbleness eventually led to another wooden place where he was not lain peacefully but nailed in agony. In between these two events, we come to know what he came to teach us as members of his flock.
We are saved by his grace and mercy. Tending to each of us with care is not only a joy for Him, but we, too, can come alongside others to see that each is tended to with his love - no matter how we feel or what we find impossible to understand.
 The first shepherds saw his Glory and we can too if we bow at the manger and let Him give us eyes to see and hearts to follow.

Prayer

 Oh, Lord! 
May we ponder the spirit of Christmas in ways anew this year
 and find You there in splendor. Amen.

Mark Schultz - "When Love Was Born"

Saint James Cathedral - Seattle, Washington 


To see this devotional as formatted by Rest Ministries Director, Lisa Copen, posted on their website, and sent out via subscription -  Click Here

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Just A Feather Will Do *

A short phrase in a song lyric that a friend sent to me years ago caught my imagination: just a feather will do. 

In a world where other more ostentatious items fill our wish lists - this simple phrase got me to thinking of how “less can be more”. I need but the eyes to see and a change of direction in my heart to seek. 

Feathers. Some are so light that they are but wisps. Some are heavier and help eagles take flight. 

For those of us who embraced the film, Forrest Gump, we watched a feather wend its way down to Forrest’s feet. His awe in accepting it became a metaphor for his taking flight into the adventures that became the fabric of his life.

 In my contemplations, I can get focused on the heavier wings that fill my life - wondering if I may ever take flight. Contemplation can be helpful but I don’t want to miss the moments when God has wisps of grace right before my eyes. He wants me to rest in such moments and find contentment in what he holds within them as they are his step-builders to my ordained future.

I want just a feather to do

a teardrop that brings the fruits of restoration, 
the rests that are part of a musical score and make 
it complete because they are needed there, 
a smile, 
a hug that comforts, 
a friend who understands.

As feathers  were filling my thoughts, I asked my cousin, Teri, if I could share about the feathers that God brought into her life and into our family’s lives through her sharing of them.


 I will weave my comments amidst her story

Jan. 5th 2011, I received a call at work from John [her husband] who was very distraught and said there had been a bad accident and I must come to the hospital. I was at the Express Lane at work with customers and he said, “Come quick, it isn’t good.”

Aaron [ their 28 year old son ] had called me the night before and asked me if I could take Ashley [Aaron's wife] to work the next day. He needed the truck she usually drove to work. So, of course, I said, “Yes”,  and he responded with the most emotion I had ever heard in his voice, “THANKS MAMA, I LOVE YOU!” Those would be the last words I ever heard from him.

[The family runs a tree service business in a rural area. Aaron was high up on a crane, all safety measures in place, preparing a tree to be felled, high enough to see the eagles swooping by in the freedom they have, as if owning the skies.]

What must go through a mother’s heart at such a time? What must have gone through Aaron’s young wife’s mind as Teri swooped her up with the urgency in the call and they took to the road. Surely, she and Aaron’s one-year old daughter, Abigail, filled some of her thoughts. 

Feathers of grace fell into place without hesitation.


We cried and prayed the whole way to the hospital. We drove not knowing if Aaron was alive or dead. We held hands and prayed and prayed and prayed. We reached the road near where John was raised. 

At that moment, and on that particular spot in the highway, a large eagle actually swooped over our windshield and flew over the bay and towards the horizon upward. 

I knew within my mother’s heart that at that very moment, Aaron was being lifted to heaven on eagles wings. To me an eagle has always represented God! I knew that God was lifting Aaron Home. When we finally arrived at the hospital, we found that the moment the eagle had swooped our car was the exact minute that they had declared Aaron dead on arrival. I choose to declare him resurrected!

When I received the news later that day and sat in disbelief of the accident and all that it may have entailed, feathered thoughts were upon me -- a mantle of God’s presence. 

In my mind’s eye I saw Aaron falling from his spot high above the road. As he fell, God swooped in. Cradling Aaron in his arms to soften the fall and holding him close, He whispered, 

“It is okay, son. I’ve got you. I am taking you Home.” 

It was months later that I found out that the place where Aaron came to rest was softened as I had seen. He lie as if in sleep, no evidence of what one would think the scene could be. His father and brother rushed to administer CPR as they awaited the paramedics. 

Those moments of unbelief, pain, horror 
co-existed with God’s hands of grace to help them.

Life became a blur for the week or two before Aaron’s life celebration. The day before the service, I felt led to speak for our family to those who gathered. I went up to the 100 year old homestead where Aaron and Ashley had been married. I wanted to hear the words from God that  I was to share. It was 8p.m. and already dark. As I turned on the  porch light at the house where I would write God’s message, there on the doorstep of the old farmhouse was a young eagle feather -- God’s signature to me that He was with us in all of this. Aaron was secure with Him. He had lived his ordained earthly days. 

Teri came to know, as others of us have experienced, too, that God wants to gift us with assurances of what can bring us comfort in the deepest times of despair. 

It will not be literal feathers for everyone, although young Abigail now knows that her Daddy may wing some feathers down from above, signs that he walks alongside her as she steps into the days and adventures of her life. 

For some it could be the promise seen in the appearance of an unexpected rainbow or a timely word in a note or phone call. 

I am often blessed hearing  a song that brings tears of recognition that God understands the depths of what I am feeling, notes of grace for me. 

Such signs will always be of personal encouragement as that is how God loves us. His Word is filled with exhortations of how He wants us to rest in the shelter of his wings. 

There, He can give us the gift of himself and the assurance that He, who is mighty, can honor us with a feather of help pulled forth from his abundance. 

Such a feather will do just fine.

Composer: Patrick Doyle
Lyrics: Beth Nielsen Chapman
Performed by Beth Nielsen Chapman


This mourning dove feather was a timely, and unexpected gift from my friend, Margie Scott - a perfect image to accompany this text.

Thank you, Margie!

* revision from an earlier posting






Sunday, September 28, 2014

Finding Gardens in Unexpected Places *


“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” 
     ----Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

I was hoping I’d be able to physically handle a ride via a DART  (Dial a Ride Transport ) bus to downtown Seattle, usually a twenty to thirty  minute drive during non-rush hour traffic from where I live. 

Stops and starts, unexpected turns, and wide scopes of peripheral vision compromise my vertigo condition pretty fast if I am not grounded and doing the driving. 

Nonetheless, a dear friend had invited me out to lunch and wanted to try out the DART bus. She had signed up for this service should she need it.

The hospital where she was undergoing extensive chemotherapy treatments post her ovarian cancer surgery, was featuring an offer - an offer too good to refuse. 

Professional photographers were donating their time and talents over the course of  two days, a time to pamper cancer patients. They’d experience the joy of an attentive team for a portrait sitting. 

The outcome would be a treasured image to cherish.

I had been accompanying my friend to some of her treatments, but this was to be a day of fun. I took my camera to photograph her through the process leading up to her completed portrait. 

First, we had to get to Seattle via the DART bus ride! 

There were other riders to pick up. Bus drivers patiently offered help to those needing assistance getting onto the bus and settled inside. After many twists-twisted, turns navigated, speed bumps bumped and others taken to their destinations, we arrived at ours two hours from the time we stepped onto the bus.

So when did I notice a garden?  

The awareness came slowly as I had been very focused on my own body’s needs, the time with my friend,  and the interactions on the bus. It took my soul a while to recognize the blooms God wanted me to see. That recognition came as I was reflecting a few days after the bus ride.


Here is what emerged! 

With each stop the bus made, a woman brought herself and parts of her life story along with her as she came inside the vehicle. On this particular day, only women were passengers on our buses. 


S. came on her scooter, unable to walk even a few steps without her oxygen. She was going to town to shop at some bargain stores. 

D. arrived in her wheelchair, sporting an artificial leg, an outgoing and cheerful spirit, and was able to transfer to a regular seat on the bus. She was grateful and bubbled over sharing with us her anticipation of soon getting to a specialized yoga class that helps her stay limber. She lives with MS and other neurological challenges.

The bus,  still bumping and twisting along,  was filled with the chatter of these women, wanting to know what my friend and I  were up to and where we were going. 

One by one, after stories were shared, each got dropped off at her destination. 

When our time in town was completed, my friend and I  were delighted to have S. and D. both get back on the same bus during our return trip home.  

Joys were expressed. 

S. showed us the special bargain outfit she got for summer wear. D. was so appreciative of the relaxation and care she had received at her yoga class.  We arrived at a church in north Seattle and welcomed N. who was able to transfer to a bus seat once she and her wheelchair were on board.

She had come about as far geographically as my friend and I had come, to attend a social support group. She was abuzz telling of the fun her group had experienced. 

Blind since birth and dealing with cerebral palsy, N. had a smile that lit up the already sunny day. She told me that she lived in an adult home. 

I asked her if she had made close friends there. She said that she had only one close friend as the other residents were unable to communicate clearly. I realized she had come to where some joy was present, where support and friendship was a given. 

I hugged her as she went to the transfer bus, wondering if she ever got hugs and knowing that she could not see me beaming at her and her tenacity.


I had not expected a garden to show up in a bus!

But the fruits of the Holy Spirit unfolded right before my eyes: 
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, 
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. 
(Galatians 5:22-23) 

The garden emerged as I saw women choosing to thrive where they found themselves, using the means they could to get out, to socialize, to meet their challenges with a gusto that left me -  less encumbered - humbly inspired. 

Bus drivers were patient with the logistics of getting the riders onto the bus. 

I observed my friend, courageously confronting cancer with faith and fervor.

S. took in breaths with the help of an oxygen tank and exhaled an acceptance of where life has brought her.

N., having never seen a sunny sky, gave off beams via her beautiful smile that would rival any sunflower.

 D.,  apologized  that she was not good with names yet remembered what had been said during the morning ride and wanted to know all about our individual experiences of the day. 

This garden was alive!

Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of the Bible, describes my experience this way.

“God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. . . . Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 The Message).

I had not expected a garden to show up in a bus,  
but it showed up nonetheless and its fragrance lingers! 





* revised from an earlier posting

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Perhaps Love Is . . . !


 Some Thoughts On Love 

My mother used to tell the story of my toddler days and nap times. 

I’d  never awaken crying but lie or sit contentedly singing until she came to get me. One song, popular to her generation in the 40s, poured out of my young lungs.

“I don’t know why I love you like I do. . . I don’t know why, I just do.”

Through my mother’s influence, all kinds of music became an important part of my growing up years. When my brothers and I reached our teen years and beyond, she flowed with interest into the music we loved. 


Music. Such a key love in my life.

In my late 20s, I learned to play the guitar and loved having its ready access for use in my classroom. I passed along many notes from my songbook to my students. Among them were songs made popular by John Denver.

He knew his way with many a song that mirrored the human condition. He promoted the need to honor God’s creation. How far we have roamed from the original Garden and all it contained for us in relating to God and the blooms of his pure Love. In our original Home, love was a known.

“Perhaps Love”  ranks high on my list of John Denver’s songs. 

To listen to its lyrics one gets the impression that 
he was confused about love. Well, aren’t we all? 

I am led to another John, the Apostle who walked with Christ and wrote Gospel accounts of that time. In John 17, we read a communion of words that Christ offers to his Father. 

In the chapter’s context it is placed prior to the day leading to Christ’s Crucifixion, the completion of his earthly mission, and his return Home. He prays from his heart of love on our behalf. 

I compiled a duet between the words of the two men named, John, and within lie some answers about love.  


Introduction 


“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone” (John 1: 1-4 NLT).

The Duet

Perhaps love is like a resting place, a shelter from the storm.
It exists to give you comfort; it is there to keep you warm.
And in those times of trouble when you are most alone, the 
memory of love will bring you home.

“Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began” (John 17: 24 NLT).

Perhaps love is like a window, perhaps an open door.
It invites you to come closer, it wants to show you more
And even if you lose yourself and don't know what to do.
The memory of love will see you thru.

“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them” (verses 25-26 ).

O love to some is like a cloud; to some as strong as steel.
For some a way of living, for some a way to feel.
And some say love is holding on and some say letting go
And some say love is everything;some say they don't know

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” ( verses 22-23).

Perhaps love is like the oceanfull of conflict full of change; 
Like a fire when it is  cold outside, a thunder when it rains,
If I should live forever and all my dreams come true,
my memories of love will be of you.

"Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth” ( verses 17-19).

If I should live forever and all my dreams come true,
my memories of love will be of you.

Bridge

And what of that toddler in her crib, singing, 
“I don’t know why I love you like I do. . . 
I don’t know why, I just do”? 

That song remains deep in my heart of memories and 
was pulled out a bit over a decade ago.

 I sat on the bed in a hospice room where my Mom lie in a deep sleep - a nap of a kind -  one from which she would awaken and know the perfection of Love, choruses of love promised because of the Love the Father sent, not a “perhaps love”.  
I sang to her. 
I sang my toddler song but I was able to add on “the whys”. During this rendition of the song, both tears and words fell out of my heart. 

Perhaps love is simply that -- all the pieces in our hearts that cannot be contained but need to flow out and become known. 

It  is the “why of God “ poured into us, his defining of us, his gift to us of himself to extravagantly lavish on those we meet. In following His lead, we come to understand many of the whys and the ways that love becomes real.

If I should live forever and all my dreams come true,
my memories of love will be of you.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”
 (John 15: 12-13 NLT).


Listen to John Denver’s song

Silver Lining Heart
Mixed Media
by my friend, Mary Peterson

Friday, September 12, 2014

Serendipity Moments - A Giving Sampler

A Giving Sampler


When I posted my first Serendipity Moments, I was going through a box marked: “Lynn’s Writings and Art Designs”. Today I am sharing another item found during that time. 

I simply loved creating it and it was joyous to watch God guide me in the process!

First, here is the background.

The end of January, 1993, the  women’s ministry at the church I attended was to have a weekend retreat. I had been retired for 6 months from teaching. I no longer had the outlet for creating all those bulletin boards and others joy-filled items for my elementary aged students! I longed to stay active in these artistic ways.

I offered to make the gifts given at junctures during the upcoming two day retreat - favors at tables and “something” after each of the talks. 

The challenge was that the woman heading the retreat had no real direction from the Lord what the retreat theme would be as these preparations had to be begun. Her only nudging was that it would be on  Forgiveness

Others had offered to speak and we all went on faith and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and later watched it all flow together perfectly - as if we had conferred with each other! 


The Gift of Forgiveness is in the Giving

As I contemplated forgiveness, I wanted to zoom in on the outcome of forgiveness .  I loved doing counted-cross stitch so a "paper sampler" seemed a given to prepare as one of the gifts. 

All creating was done with paper, pens, rulers, scissors, and an electric typewriter. Next  came Kinko’s for copying onto very pale gray toned card stock paper ( that color not evident in how my camera caught the images below) and then individually pinking the edges of the  5”x7” paper copies, coloring, punching holes, and tying each sampler with a pink ribbon ( x 50, the number of women who were to attend our retreat - maybe it was 100?? - there were LOTS of copies that had to be made!)




When the need for forgiveness comes into my life, it becomes a heart issue and a spiritual issue. My heart is affected and my emotions can go all kinds of ways. The place I need to run is to God’s heart - the One whose heart suffered taking on all my sins with his death and suffering on the Cross - so that I am forgiven and, with Him, I am able to forgive another. 


Hearts. The Cross. 

Those are the core needs.  But first, surrounding that freedom I seek, are hearts and crosses askew ( the outer border of the sampler ). A pure heart is one blob of a circle. The cross it more an X - a cross not quite set straight. This is where I dwell while I live in un-forgiveness. 




Seek and Find

The Scriptures I chose to center within the sampler are ones that speak to what I have been given because of God’s forgiving grace.They are within the inner border where his heart and my heart are flowing together. They are reminders of where I want to try and keep living - and where I want to return when I realize that forgiveness is once more a need in my life.



The back of the sampler is one for acknowledgements to those who made our women’s retreat all that it came to be. 




However, I chose to change the outer border from the front of the sampler, to words that are the transforming gifts Christ’s work on the Cross completed so that, as I am forgiven, I can team with Him in offering grace to others.




Heartened.
Faith-Filled.
Released.
Surrendered.
Healed.
Graced.
Redeemed.
Covenanted.
Unburdened.
Forgiven.
Ransomed.
Humbled.   Compassioned.   Tender-Hearted.  Saviored.  Reconciled.   Transformed.   Loved.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fan Mail for Father Abraham

Faithful Mentors

There are many who have made this journey in life before us and encountered the same emotions, if not always the same experiences each of us has encountered. 

Hebrews 11’s  “Hall of Faith” records those worthy of mention from the Old Testament for their lives can encourage us in ours. Was each of them perfect in the ways they served the Lord? No. But each of them was faithful in learning how to serve Him better - which makes them credible mentors.

Abel. Enoch. Noah. Abraham. Sarah. Issac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. Joshua. 
Rahab. Gideon. Barak, Samson. Jephthah. David. Samuel.

These are the ones called by name though others are alluded to in the context of what is recorded. 

In reacting to these faithful ones’ stories, I relate most to Abraham: a man who spent time in the wilderness, who believed in God’s promises with no tangible evidence except that God had promised, was willing to go into foreign lands not knowing what he would encounter, and was willing to surrender what God asked of him: dreams, family, even a beloved son.

Because of the encouragement that Abraham’s life gives to me, I decided to write him a letter.



Dear Abe,

It is the year, 2014 A.D...many millenniums past the days you were here on earth and leading your life with faithfulness and trust in God. 

So much has happened since then and among the best of things is that we now have God’s Word written down. Yes, there are still many wonderings and wanderings but a lot is set down in words - no guessing and lots of accountability is spelled out for certain. And you and much of what you experienced in your life is right in that book. It is how I have come to know and admire you. I decided to write you a letter and tell you why.

Well, maybe I should explain the new name I’ve given to you. 

One custom in my day is that folks who are good friends often give each other what is called, “nicknames”. They are often shorter versions of a longer name or a chosen name of endearment. 

Since you are acquainted with having your name changed, 
I did not think you would mind my boldness in giving you this one. 

I think we are kindred souls. That  might just help you smile as you wander up there in the heavens enjoying your eternal reward and understanding more fully all of the trials you faced here on earth.

 One of the things I admire about you, Abe, is that you were called a friend of God. 

God, Himself, told you that! 

 He spoke to you and you listened. Those of us who follow Him all these years later are also called his friends. But I think you were the first to hear Him say that word, “freind”, right to you as He called you into a personal relationship.

I am so grateful that He blessed you and called you righteous just because you believed in Him. You trusted Him, learned to hear His voice, and were willing to follow His guidance as best you could. 

I also love that you did not always get it right. I don’t either. 

But you persevered and walked into many foreign lands not knowing what awaited  you and your family but just because God said to go.  He knew His plan. He trusted you.

 I, too, have wandered through many mysterious times and lands. I  have also learned that God’s grace is present to sustain me and that his actual presence strengthens, as well.

I can view your life looking back upon it. You had to live your life moving forward and, as you know, it was not so clear to see the outcome. 

I know that you sacrificed your son, Ishmael, by sending him away. God brought good out of that and an Arab nation was formed.

I know that you were willing to sacrifice the son of your heart, Isaac, but God intervened, honored your obedience, and spared Isaac. All those descendants He promised you. . . the ones that would number more than the stars He showed you in the sky. . . well, we are here. Jews, Christians, and those descended from Ishmael and all members of these faiths grow day by day. 

I am one of your spiritual descendants. 

So, Abe, fits just fine as far as I am concerned! 

Many, many years after you lived, God Himself sacrificed His only  Son. . . only this was a completed sacrifice and we, His followers, are  now called righteous because of that sacrifice.

That does not make my journey any easier than yours, but both of us have the experience of God’s Presence helping us to listen and learn. 

You have been a good mentor. 

 Thank you for helping me remember the value of believing in God’s promises, of trusting Him, of waiting even when my eyes cannot see and my heart aches for what seems impossible.

Well, Abe, I can be a gabby one when writing to a friend. It is best I get this flung up to the stars so you can read it. You may still be counting them just to try and prove you can number them! 

But I want to end with a little piece of  writing done by another one of God’s friends. I think that he must have also been a kindred soul of yours. He expresses so well more of what I have learned by reading about you. Here is what he said:

“It is your future,
Don’t back into it.
Don’t grope into its mists blindfolded.
Put the hand of your faith into the Hand of God.
Get used to His voice.
He warns you of dangers and strangers.
He leads you to experience His prepared future.
He does not disappoint.
There is always more for those who walk with Him.
He straightens question marks into exclamation points.”*

Okay, Abe, watch those stars. 
Here  comes a letter from one of your fans! 

Find Us Faithful

music/lyrics: Jon Mohr, recorded by: Steve Green
Watercolor Sketch by Dave Peterson

*To the best of my remembrance, the quote I cited can be attributed to Chuck Swindoll. It is on a scrap of paper from a church bulletin I cut out 25+ years ago and keep in my bible ( and heart ).

revised from an earlier posting (5/12)