"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Way


We watched The Way (⇽link to trailer) last night.   This⇾ music played in the background of one of the many poignant scenes.  There is a flashback scene where the father is driving his son to the airport for his trip.  His son suggests they turn around so he can pack a bag and go with him.  The father says,  "Most people don't have the luxury of just picking up and leaving it all behind.  My life here might not seem like much to you, but it's the life I choose."  His son says, "You don't choose a life, Dad, you live one."


Today's "Our Daily Bread" devotional quotes Psalm 142:3 (NKJV):  "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path."  The writer went on to say, "Sometimes the path of life seems impossibly steep and lengthy.  I have no strength and no will for the journey.  Then I remember God knew this path long before I was called to walk it."  I find that very comforting--that God knows the path I'm called to walk. When I was younger I was so preoccupied with trying to make sense of my life that I often forgot to live it.  Like the son's words to his father, I didn't choose my life, but I am called to live it.  The more I trust God, the more I'll be able to live the life I've been given, taking joy in the journey even in the difficult spots because I know He's there, learning and growing along the way, helping others when I can, and eventually reaping the rewards of a life well-lived.  


Father, it takes courage to live a life fully, but I know by trusting in You it is possible.


Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/proverbs/3-5.htm


Take action:  Pilgrimages







Saturday, April 28, 2012

Discipline

I have a favorite potholder in my kitchen.  It was already old when I found it (in a yard sale).  Now it's in the state of needing to be discarded, but I don't.


I love that it's in the shape of a chicken (one of the "themes" in my kitchen) and that it folds so nicely around the pot handle.  But what good does that do if the stuffing is missing in strategic places.  The other day I grabbed a hot pan, again, and promptly dropped it as soon as the pain in my hand registered in my brain!


Caroline Stephen, a Quaker in 1890, wrote, "Before we can enter into an intimate and blessed communion with God which transfigures all life, two great conditions must be fulfilled:  everything, from the least to the greatest, is to be taken as His language [which] we must learn to interpret, and we must be willing to face all pain as His discipline (i.e. training)."   


I am being trained to get rid of my pot holder each time it causes me pain.  But have I done so?  Nooooo.  Why?  Because I love it!  And each time I tell myself next time I'll make sure I arrange the holder to make sure I'm gripping the hot pan with the padded part.  But do I?  Nooooo.  I forget every time.


If you are experiencing pain in your life, whether it's physical, mental, or emotional, perhaps it's time you wonder if there might be something you need to give up.  It might even be something you need to start doing.  Whatever it is, you will be surprised how quickly the pain stops.  But I can hear someone saying that the pain of giving up whatever "it" is will be too great.  If that's the case, then you have to choose, don't you.  Because, you do, afterall, have a choice.  This is the first part of Caroline Stephen's advice to "learn to interpret His language" because if you choose what God says is best for you it's going to be for your benefit even if there's some pain involved as you let go of the old thing.  As for me, I'm going in the kitchen right now and retire that potholder!  It no longer "works" for me.


Father, the first lesson I must learn is to want to do Your Will.  I am fully aware that my own stubbornness causes me most of my pain.  And yet, You do not give up on me!  Thank you for showing me there is still hope for me.


Link to scripture:  http://bible.cc/hebrews/12-11.htm


Take action: Facing History and Ourselves

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Exceptional Strength

That's the definition of titanic....exceptional strength.  Just recently we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titantic, the ocean liner thought to be impervious to sinking, and thus, the rather arrogant name.

Since the discovery of the wreckage 27 years ago, much has been investigated and speculated about the cause of the catastrophe.  It has been determined that the steel that was used was too brittle and therefore not flexible enough to withstand such a blow.  Another speculation concerns the moon's unusually close position in 1,400 years, causing the resulting tides to move the icebergs that normally broke away that time of year into the shipping lanes.    This was the result:


My grandfather noted the disaster in his journal with this one line: "I have been reading about the Titanic sinking which was a horrible affair."  He had enough problems in his own life to dwell further on it.


This made me think of another disaster in my own lifetime--the Challenger explosion.  


There was no school that day--January 28, 1986--because of the snow, and I was watching the launch on TV with my 6- and 3-year-old sons never expecting anything to go wrong right before our eyes.  


It was later determined man's sense of infallibility once again played a part in it's cause.  NASA had been warned by the manufacturer that the O-rings could shrink in low temperatures.  It was unusually cold that January day in Florida--another unplanned for natural phenomenon--and whether it was arrogance, greed, or a number of other motives, the launch went ahead.


It would seem mankind did/does not learn from its mistakes.  Whether it's arrogance--that could never happen to me....I would never make that mistake; greed--to fix the problem would cost too much money/time; or just pure laziness we not only endanger ourselves but others.


Marianne Williamson, in "A Return to Love", uses an iceberg analogy to talk about spiritual growth:  "What goes on externally is only the tip of the iceberg in any situation.  The lessons, the real changes, the opportunities to grow--these are things the body's eyes can't see.  They remain beneath the spiritual water line, but they are there.  And they represent a much more vast picture of the soul's journey than what we can see from the perspective of our physical senses.  Growth is not always about getting what we think we want."


No doubt many, many lives were changed after the Titanic and Challenger disasters.  Many people did not arrive at their destination, and those that were left behind suffered greatly for their loss, but if they learned anything from the mistakes made, or grew closer to God in their search for peace and understanding, then growth took place.  And that is a good thing.


Father, I seek Your exceptional strength to see me through life safely.  May I never put my trust in things that can wither or disintegrate, but instead trust only in Your Love which can see me safely through to my true Home.

Link to scripture:  http://mlbible.com/matthew/6-20.htm

Take action:  World Resources Institute

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lessons in the Garden

Last night we watched the 1979 movie "Being There" with Peter Sellers.  Here is a short clip where Seller's character, Chance, is talking about seasons in the garden while the President thinks he's speaking metaphorically:  Seasons

Gardens are a wealth of symbolism.  In 1822 a Quaker named John Wilbur made a case for the Quaker plainness:  "It is the good soil of the garden, well cultivated that bringeth forth the fruit, but it is the fenced wall of God's providence round about that keepeth it from being devoured by the creatures without."  He considered the "rising generation" to be as tender plants that needed protecting from the corruptions and vanities of the world.  He felt by being set apart by "peculiarities in language, manners, and appearance" they'd be less likely to "mix familiarly with others."   


These were the tulips in my front yard:


I say "were" because this is how they look after the deer got to them:


A fence would have protected them.


Here are some more pictures of my front yard garden I took today.  The plants in this first picture are on the outside of that fence so have no protection:
Lupines and pineapple mint are re-emerging as well as a host of other little plants.

All these plants died back to the ground last Fall but survived the winter cold by staying underground until it was warm enough to emerge above ground again:
Peonies, Spirea, False Asters and Coreopsis

These plants are deer food, too, but they tend not to come right up to the house:
And the Azaleas have started to bloom along with the Japaconia!

So far these plants have been spared by the deer, but I'm not going to take a chance.  We've found a way to inexpensively fence in the front yard which will also have the added benefit of giving Gabriel, our dog, a larger area in which to safely roam.  It'll keep the deer out and the dog in!


Father, You are still teaching us lessons in the garden.  We did not heed them in the first Garden.  Thank you for giving us another chance.


Link to:  In the Garden

Link to scripture:  http://bible.cc/matthew/11-29.htm


Take action: Give to a Garden, Nature Center, or Park in your area

Monday, April 16, 2012

Perfectionism

This is me:
Calling this black:
That's the imagery that came to me this morning as I wrote in my journal.  Just in case there is someone out there who's never heard the expression "that's like the pot calling the kettle black" I'll explain.  It's believed to first be used in a 1620 translation of "Don Quixote" and refers to a criticism that could apply to the person doing the criticizing.  I was journaling about some comments (ok, criticisms) I'd made to two of my adult sons this weekend and wondering why I'd done it.  I don't like the little subtle digs that escape my mouth sometimes and realized I had to get to the root of them if I was ever going to be free of voicing them.  So I continued writing down my thoughts and realized the things I was critical of were things I felt had been my duty to teach them and had obviously failed at doing so.  Then an incident came to mind where I'd also been critical of something someone else had failed to do.  Here I was criticizing this other person for their failure when I had just acknowledged my own failure.  Hence the pot and kettle popping into my mind.


Richard Cohen in "Deep Breath of Life" says we should not judge because we cannot judge...."When we hold a judgment about someone, we are focusing on one moment from one angle.  Focus on the good and let all else go."  This is what I don't do.  In fact, this reminds me of something else I recently read.  The writer thought himself a perfectionist because he was always finding flaws and errors that other people overlooked.  But he realized what he really was is an imperfectionist because if he were a perfectionist he'd find perfection everywhere he looked.  I've always thought myself to be a perfectionist, too, because of my ability to notice flaws and errors.  Perhaps what I need to do is not stop being a perfectionist, but instead change my definition of what it means to be a perfectionist.


Father, help me to focus on what is good so that I can build up rather than tear down the work You are doing in others.


Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/luke/6-41.htm


Take action: International Peace Institute

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Seeing

I've always thought my eyes were my best feature.

Eyes are sometimes referred to as the window to our souls.  Babies are attracted to our eyes.  Lovers gaze into each others eyes.  Dogs get upset if you look them directly in the eye.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  He's the apple of my eye.  In the twinkle of an eye......Well, you get the picture.  Our eyes are much more significant that just giving us a visual view of our world.  


I was struck by a statement I read in this week's Parade magazine.  The article was about a young mother who'd been burned over 80% of her body in a plane crash.  Her face was horribly disfigured and she feared her children would be frightened by the way her face looked.  Her doctor said she wouldn't be allowed to leave the hospital until she was able to look at herself in a mirror.  She moved the hand mirror slowly up to her scarred neck, her blotchy chin, her huge lips then to what was left of her nose, and she broke down and cried.  She was unrecognizable to herself.  But after a bit she tried again, picking the mirror up and moving it up to her eyes.  She writes, "My green eyes looked back at me, and hope rippled through my soul.  These were the green eyes I had inherited from my father, with golden flecks that Christian (her husband) loved.  I caught my breath.  I saw God in my eyes.  I saw reassurance.  I even saw a glimpse of triumph.  I was still me.  Those eyes were mine.  The life I saw in them came from God, and that gave me hope for the life of my body."


What do you see looking back at you when you look into a mirror at your own eyes?  Is there a sparkle there?  Or do you see contempt. Do you see hope?  Or just a blank stare.  


Now that I'm older and wear glasses I don't bother dressing my eyes up with mascara or eye shadow since they can't be seen as well behind the glasses.  The skin isn't as tight around them either.  But they still function well.  They allow me to read, watch movies, see where I'm going, but most of all they allow me to look into the eyes of other people.  And if I look carefully I'm confident I will be able to see God in the eyes of those people.


I came across this line in "The Solitary Summer", a story written in 1899: "I am quite ready to admit that though the fields and flowers are always ready to teach, I am not always in the mood to learn, and sometimes my eyes are incapable of seeing things that at other times are quite plain."


Father, I am not always ready to be taught and it is those times I am incapable of seeing You in others.  Help me to see with Your eyes because then I know I will find You in all the happenings of my life.


Link to scripture:  http://bible.cc/matthew/13-16.htm

Link to:  Open the Eyes of My Heart

Take action:  Helen Keller International

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Resurrection



I was looking for an appropriate song for today's post for Easter--Resurrection Day--and came across Keith Green's "Easter Song" which led me to investigate his short life further.  He and two of his three children, along with a missionary couple and their six children, died in a preventable airplane crash.  The pilot had not done a proper preflight inspection which, had he done so, would have shown the plane had too many occupants for proper take off.  Green left behind an infant and a wife who was expecting their fourth child, as well as a thriving ministry.  


As I thought about what I wanted to write today it seemed appropriate to write a "He has risen!  Victory over sin!" message--very upbeat.  That's what's expected on this very special Christian day after all.  But another message kept coming up instead.  A much darker one.  The lid on my pandora's box of fears was being lifted by Green's story.  His wife, Melody, survived the tragedy and has continued their ministry all these years, but could I?


Richard Cohen tells this story:  A young man came to a guru and asked him what he would need to do to become enlightened.  The master took the student to a lake and pushed his head under water for a long time.  Finally, the man became desperate for air and forced his way to the surface, shouting, "Are you trying to kill me?"  The guru calmly replied, "When you want God as much as you wanted air, you will find enlightenment."


This makes me think of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-28.  Jesus is basically telling him the same thing, only in reverse--you must want to follow me so badly that you'll give up everything for me.  This is one of those "hard sayings" that we want to gloss over so we can get on to the easier parts.  So, I was feeling rather discouraged.  Who am I, I told myself, to be a voice for God with this Blog when I've already admitted I feel like Peter half the time!  


But then I reminded myself to Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and I began to feel God's presence.  This is what I heard in my heart.....Cathy, I'll never ask more of you than I've already given you.  I died for you because you could not pay the price.  I'll give you what you need to live, too.  Just keep your eyes on me.  Don't look down--look straight ahead--keep your eyes on me.


Keith Green:  Easter Song


Father, He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  May we each experience our Risen Lord in our hearts today and every moment of every day You give us!


A documentary: Keith Green's Story


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/2_peter/3-9.htm


Take action: Have you decided?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Guarding the Tomb

This is a depiction of the soldiers guarding Jesus' tomb taken from the children's Bible my parents gave to me when I was three:

The chief priests and Pharisees didn't want the body of this "imposter" to be stolen so that his followers could claim he'd risen from the dead as he had said he would.  Scripture doesn't tell us what the disciples did or thought those hours between his burial and his eventual resurrection.  Peter had already made his denial of knowing Jesus--three times.  He was probably still feeling haunted by it since he'd earlier declared he'd never do such a thing.  


This morning I came back to bed as usual with my cup of coffee ready to read my devotionals and write in my journal.  I'd already turned on my computer and could see my Mail application on the screen across the room.  Something caught my eye in the area below the e-mails waiting to be opened where no text should appear.  Then it disappeared.  That was strange I told myself.  When it happened again I jumped out of bed to see what it was!  Was I receiving a "message" out of the ether?!  As it turns out I was, but not as I thought.  It was caused by my computer's cursor pointing at the number indicating how many e-mails were in that mail box...you know, how if you let the cursor hover over certain things it'll give you information about that feature.  The message appearing was "1 unread message," but the message for me was I mustn't let my imagination run away with me!  I must always first look for a logical explanation for things I don't understand.  


I'm sure this is what happened when Jesus' body was discovered missing.  People looked for a logical explanation, and there are people still who want to believe there is only a logical explanation.  For them it was/is only an excuse, though, because when proof was provided they still didn't/don't believe.  But.....even if you choose to go with the logical explanation concerning any unusual happening there always remains a greater message that mustn't be missed since God uses natural happenings to reveal Himself to us.  In my case, God took my experience this morning concerning the placement of the cursor and paired it with my devotional readings to open up a truth to me that I hadn't quite grasped yet.
He involved me in the lesson, you see, and now I finally understand!  The first devotional I read talked about loving others for the right reason--not in order to get love back.  This is something I've always struggled with, as I wrote in yesterday's post.  At any given moment some past hurt will surface and I'll feel anything but loving and that is even after I've forgiven them.  Every time this happens I feel like I'm Peter denying he knows Jesus. 


Then I read a quote from George Fox, the founder of Quakerism.  He wrote about his own struggles with his natural state, "And then the Lord did gently lead me along, and did let me see his love, which was endless and eternal, and surpasseth all the knowledge that men have in the natural state, or can get by history or books; and that love let me see myself as I was without him."  That was what I was to understand!  When my "cursor" is pointing at me I see myself as I am without God.  But when I point the "cursor" at Him, it is Him that I see.  Those unloving feelings I worry so much about are a part of every person--even George Fox--and they have the potential to always be there in the background waiting to pounce on me like a roaring lion.  Now I understand--they are left there, in fact, to remind me what I am without God.


The soldiers guarding the tomb are like my attempts to keep my humanness from escaping.  It won't work.  Even once I forgive I must still deal with my self-centeredness and to do that I must take my eyes off myself and put them on God because that is how He shows me the Way and gives me all I need to love even those who can't or won't reciprocate.  It's not about me.  Lord, It's All About You.  Like in yesterday's song, Unbounded Grace, "God's grace does not on me depend." 


Father, thank you for helping me understand that I need only take my eyes off myself, as well as the other person, and instead put them on You.


Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/galatians/2-20.htm


Take action: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Friday, April 6, 2012

Forgiveness

Since I'm a Protestant Christian the cross was always depicted as empty, so when my 3-year-old son came upon a Crucifix in a religious bookstore he picked it up and held it up to me with a horrified look on his face.  I'll never forget that look--innocence coming in contact with the cruelties of life.  Even now I cannot post a picture depicting Jesus nailed to a wooden beam.... 


When I was a child I listened in on adult conversations that blamed the Jews for Jesus' death.  Even then I could not understand how they could be "blamed" when God had intended it all along.  Right?  Jesus died for my sins because I needed to be saved.  That's why it was called Good Friday and not Bad Friday.  And why I accepted that gift of salvation and went before the congregation and was baptized when I was just 8.  It was a child's simple faith.  That afternoon we had dinner at our neighbor's and I helped dry her good dishes and when I almost dropped one, I just knew it was God who helped me catch it before it fell to the floor.  And two weeks later I took my best friend into her walk-in closet and sat on the floor under her dresses hanging above and witnessed to her from the little red book of John I'd been given.  And she went forward in her church.  


It took another 20 years, though, before I found out about the Holy Spirit--the rest of the story.  Until then I'd tried in vain to be good--to love in the way I knew I should because if I was to be a Christian I must love everybody.  But I didn't.  And least of all myself because I couldn't.  The next 20 years were spent growing in my knowledge of the Holy Spirit and how He worked....through Bible study and life experiences.  And then, finally, I began to experience the Holy Spirit in a way that made me realize that while I had accepted God's forgiveness I hadn't forgiven myself for not being able to love others unconditionally.  God used this song, Unbounded Grace, to reach into my heart and heal it.  


Unbounded grace, it reached to me, When hope was gone from view; 
In my despair, Christ came to me, as He alone could do.  
Grace was for me the only way my guilt could find relief; 
My destiny was changed that day I reached out in belief. 
God's grace does not on me depend, It's God who is my Stay; 
His love is offered without end, He walks with me each day. 
The universe with joy will ring when grace has won the day; 
As all creation joins to sing, "Praise God who paid man's way!" 


As long as we hold any unforgiveness in our hearts--even and especially of ourselves--we will live from a place of fear because we will feel we do not deserve love.  Good Friday is all about having that bondage broken--the bondage of feeling we're not good enough to be loved or to love.  God accepts you as you are, then sets about giving you all you need to be His beloved child.  His grace does not depend on you.  The work of Jesus Christ is finished.  You need only claim it.


Father, thank you for your Son who came to close the chasm between You and me that I might belong once again to You and partake of all You Are.


Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/john/19-30.htm


Take action: Forgiveness

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Submission

"Secret things belong unto God, and He only can reveal them according to His good pleasure.  Our concern is with those that are revealed; and we may trust we shall be sufficiently enlightened to pursue the right way.  Submission to the Divine Will in all things is our duty, and will prove the source of our greatest happiness...." --Margaret Woods, 1818


This past Saturday I attended a writer's workshop for writers who hope to have their stories for children published.   Here is my manuscript ready for submission:


One of the questions the speaker asked us was, "Why do you write for children?"  As I thought about it the first thing that came to mind was it's because I'm still a child at heart.  The speaker suggested that we might not think our stories are worthy of being read by adults and that is why we write for children.  She pointed out, however, that writing for children is not easy and we really should see it as a calling.  That is why we must examine our reasons for wanting to get published.  Is it because we have this need to write or because we have this need to be recognized as a published author?  Because if it's the latter, it will show in our writing.  She said the words "author" and "authentic" come from the same root.  If we are truly to be an author our writing must be from the heart and not from the desire to be recognized for having a published book.


Margaret Woods speaks of submission to the Divine Will.  It made me think of my manuscript submission to a publisher.  Once the contract is signed I give up my rights to my manuscript as far as it's publication goes.  They will choose the illustrator, the jacket cover, when the book comes out, and a host of other details will be their call.  There are even "submission guidelines" I must follow before they will even look at my manuscript.  


Is God showing me what it looks like to submit to Him?  There are guidelines for submitting to Him as well.  I must humble myself for starters.  And once He accepts my submission I must bow to His direction, as He edits my life--removing sections that do not move my story along and adding those that do, correcting my misspellings and grammar, adding words that show instead of just tell the story that is my life.  I must also be authentic if my life is to fulfill its purpose.  Then if I submit to God's "guidelines" in all things, it will be the source of my greatest happiness, as Margaret Woods says, whether or not I can ever call myself a published author.


Imagine being able to know Jesus feels this way about you.  Would it change your life? 


Father, thank you for the story that is my life.  May I live it authentically, showing others Your Love.


Take action: How to submit to God