Thank You for the Sun

…which I tend to think of as mine and here for me. An overlooked servant, I ignore it, or curse it when it’s not there, or too much there. Or bless when the wind bites but it gives hope. Or wish on when it seems so cold and distant over a frozen tundra. And thanks for the moon, another gift just to me, to add to the magic of a garden of stars for an enchanting night.

Always there, whether seen or unseen, the sun and moon do Your bidding whether I like the day’s orders or not. They are Your created beings to rule the day and the night that will go on with or without me and have since before the dust that became Eve.

And though I fuss and cuss and pout and groan, and sing and dance and delight and swim and sled and sleep and eat and work with little thought to the perfectly spaced, massive ball of consuming fire above that is the reason I can live at all, I thank You now for its example, daily, of Your hope and faithfulness and sovereign plan which I can neither thwart nor hurry. I need that reminder.

And though the scientists tell me this sun will burn out and turn cold like it feels on an Alaskan January day, foreign and impotent, that is far beyond my ability to be concerned about. I can be content with that.

And so, thank You.

***In the spirit of Brian Doyle’s “Book of Uncommon Prayer” and with continuing praise to the Creator, Amen.

Daisy and the new home

Alone, Together

Somewhere deep inside my head, static crackled me out of a trance. The miles of Western Texas had lulled me to semi-comatose, and the roar of the high-warning winds left me isolated in my brain, even though I was wrapped around my husband on the back of his BMW motorcycle.

California

His voice coming over the headset inside my helmet might as well have been aliens—which I seriously wondered about, thinking I was hearing a crossed frequency in this empty, foreign land.

‘You good?’ his voice finally rooted me back to this reality. We tried to converse a bit about the moon-like landscape, the wind making us lean into it at a 20 degree angle. We attempted answers to ‘who would live here?’ when we passed the occasional old camper dropped in the middle of nothing. But when the wind covered even our speaker-to-ear connection, with the volume at the highest level, he would tap his helmet off, I’d hear the beep, and descend again into my alone world.

Except I wasn’t alone. Seven hours of silent retreat, I decided. I could pray. I could try this being quiet before God thing. Maybe I would hear His voice over the wind.

New Mexico
California

My husband and I enjoy road trips together. He’s my road warrior, doing most of our long distance driving, usually in a car. We found over the years a mutual enjoyment of the long periods of quiet. After going through the radio options, saying what needs to be said, we’d settle into our own thoughts in quiet content. Alone, together. A pause in the conversation that didn’t have to be filled out of insecurity, or lack of knowledge. A communication on a different level, beyond words. Sure, when we first met we’d talk for hours. But at times we love comfort of contentedness that doesn’t need anything.

My silent retreat with God didn’t start with my silence. Rather, like any child exposed to new, my words to Him flitted about to everything: awe of the massive sky, started prayers for each of my loved ones until I’d get distracted by one lone cow and I wondered how God kept her alive out here, thanks for the adventurous trip we got to go on, punctuated by panic prayers for protection as my man accelerated to pass, whisps of worship songs or memorized verses. But it all lapsed into forgetfulness.

It took a long time to get tired of myself and finally quit talking. I stilled. Did I listen, or just zone out? I know there was no voice coming through the statics. No reward stickers for having sat quietly. But there was the sense of peace. Joy, even, of being alone, together, as He watched me delight in a different part of His creativity. I felt the warmth of being in relationship where nothing has to be said.

They say people need quality time together. But I believe quality time is a myth. It can’t be forced, scheduled, pushed onto stage on cue. It has to be coaxed, earned, through quantity of time. One isn’t allowed the precious deep secrets till one has built up the trust of listening through all the labyrinth of thought. One can know much about a person, but it takes time and only time to know them.

And it is time we are most selfish with, for it is our life. We want to bill every moment spent; to set it on the scales and weigh it—time spent versus outcome—to judge its worth. But the value of relationship rarely shows on the scale when demanded. It frequently refuses to show its hand until the final call, when its most needed. It takes a lot of faith to keep dropping points into the opaque piggy bank. 

But drop in we must. See the hidden value we must.

‘Invest in what you love. Love what you invest in.’ The principle continues to ring true. The Lord spoke of our investment of our treasure, knowing we love where we place our money. If time is money, then it too can be a down payment. 

So, no. I didn’t receive any great revelation in the desert. But I want to do it again. 

Arizona

Is It A Happy Day?

“Mommy!” toddler breath hit my face and I swam to consciousness. “Mommy! Is it a happy day?!” I opened my eyes to see their expectant ones. My twin toddler boys had padded in on footed-pajamas feet and waited for my response. There were kingdoms to build (of legos), mountains to climb (on the couch), wild beasts to tame (if the puppy didn’t nip too much), maybe even a damsel to save (because otherwise baby sister screamed too loud).

We implemented the rule when they were waking too early: come check with us before unleashing their hooah holler. Somehow, ‘ask us if it is morning yet’ morphed in their brains to “Mommy! Is it a happy day?”

Many a morning during that time, the question gave me pause. Their dad was deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Osama bin Laden was still on the loose, and my husband’s stryker brigade was on the hunt for him in ‘cowboy country.’ Daily news brought scenes of IED destruction, plumes of smoke and dust, planes coming home with flag-draped coffins, tickers counting the wounded.

We wouldn’t hear from our soldiers but once in a while back then, so we recited the mantra ‘no news is good news.’ Mail came sporadically. No cell phones. Static drenched phone calls lasted a couple of minutes with mostly ‘I love you’s’ communicated. Bread crumbs of hope.

Rolling over in bed, declaring it not a happy day, and wallowing in fear and sorrow felt the most right those days. But the bouncing brown eyes under the Lyle Lovett curls were waiting. Their question asked so much more:

Is there reason for hope today, Mommy?

Are His mercies new again this morning?

Can we trust Him now?

Is the Lord still good?

I struggled to find a smile. Not a fake-it-till-you-make-it one. Not a riding the denial river smile. A thread of a smile that recognized the hard in the midst of a good God. One who brought hope and faithful promises and new mercies with happy days.

I struggle to find it now. The events in Afghanistan bring up concern for tomorrow, fear for today, grief from the last twenty years of yesterdays for the military family. My older friends mourn losses again. My younger friends are kissing their husbands good bye, and waking to expectant children’s eyes. 

I am working again to learn the lessons. I try to turn off the news and turn to my God. I work to shut down the voices of worry and shout them out with the words of His voice. I struggle to learn to trust not in the strength of men or equipment or intelligence but in the One who gives all of it.

I am working again to see what my children helped me see back then: the good in the here and now, the sun waking the world, the fun to be had with things as simple as water and dirt, the gifts still given in a dandelion, a lightning bug, a puppy’s lick. I need to feel the Presence in the present.

The question comes again: ‘Is it a happy day Mommy?’ 

Yes—with Jesus. Oh, yes. 

Verses I’m holding onto today: Romans 15:13, Psalms 42-44, Job 13:15

Love Anyways

A Devotional Given for PWOC Women’s Bible Study, January 2021

My friend was talking with her teenage son when he shrugged, “Yeah, when I turn 18 I’ll leave and probably won’t come back. I mean, I don’t really have anything in common with you.”

These words seared my friend’s heart, though they weren’t a surprise. She had actually suffered a thousand little cuts like this over the last dozen years. She and her husband had traveled to another continent, picked this 4 year old little boy, rescued him from the abuse and dangers of street life. They brought him home, gave him their name, met his every need and many desires, held him, encouraged him, played with him, taught him, called him their very own. They loved him.

But their love was met again and again with stiff-armed resistance, calloused indifference, a lifetime of mistrust.

Perhaps it can be blamed on bonding issues since the day he was born. Maybe the PTSD brain that continues to be uneasy with peace. Or is it the cultural difference that was never broken through?

We adopted him, my friend said, but he never adopted us. 

Our verse in I Cor 13:7, tells us “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We are in a time of great turmoil. Even if you don’t believe we’re in the end times, you have to admit we are getting closer to them every day. The war is stirring all around us and the final battle is coming—of good versus evil, of love versus hate. We need this love that protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres now more than ever.

But like my friend’s child, we find ourselves incapable of love. We barely know how to define it and when we do with I Corinthians 13, we are unable to truly do it.

Perhaps we have bonding issues.

Perhaps our brain has been hardwired to never trust the peace and always be drawn to the chaos.

Perhaps it’s our culture—we rarely see examples of true love.

Yet the God who IS love cries, “Come!”

And sometimes He rages and threatens 

sometimes He begs and flirts

Or He beckons and reminds

and ultimately He goes, He seeks,

He hunts down

and He crushes His very own Son to pay the ransom.

Sisters this world is dying for love. The Covid-lonely long for it. This divided country demands it. Fort Polk is suffocating without it.

And we are incapable of it.

Without God.

He keeps calling Come. We have to have His love. We have to have His filling. We have to be His daughters. His empty vessels.

How?

He holds out the adoption papers. We have to accept.

This isn’t an invitation to the lovely ladies society. This is giving up everything you hold dear, being completely emptied, so He can fill it.

And fill it.

And fill it.

It is impossible for us to spread love and truly love even those most dear to us without loving Him. But Romans 5:5 tells us, “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So we are on this lifelong quest to love the Lord. We pray. We hear His words. We spend time with Him. We seek out time with fellow believers who show us more of Him. We look all around us for His love letters—the beauty He gives for our enjoyment and to remind us of Him. Even the hard things are reminders to run into His arms.

Let’s do that.

As we pray this morning, will you turn your palms down to let drop the things you are holding onto, the things you need to have gone from your life.

Palms up, open hands, help us consider what the Lord wants to give us, what He will fill us up with. With hands cupped and open to Him, ask Him to show you the love He has for you, that He has surrounded you with. 

Waiting for Delivery

I sat in the Ob/Gyn lobby in front of a painting of a baby wrapped in a quilt, unable to see the other happy mothers through my tears. “I just want my babies!” my heart begged the God of life. The joy of an ultrasound and hearing the gushing heartbeats of our boys crashed with the doctor’s analyses of the grainy pictures and meticulous measurements. Our 5-month grown little ones had twin-to-twin transfusion, and both were in jeopardy.

My husband checked me into the hospital that day and got me settled in for the night, for the foreseeable future. I had left work in the morning for the appointment, my lunch still in the break room refrigerator. Within a couple of hours, my entire life had changed.

It was early December, 1999. Christmas was quickly coming. The news was full of Y2K analyses: Would the computers be able to flip the date to 1/1/2000? Would all our systems shut down and throw us into chaos? Should we be prepping? Then the theorists began: The new millennium would bring the return of Christ. Several mountain tops had people watching the skies.

Would my babies have a world to be born into?

My worries focused inside the room as the doctors considered amniotic fluid levels, heart rates, oxygenation. It’s amazing how quickly you can adjust to a new schedule of not much. I’d try to wake before breakfast. The cleaning lady came at 9:30. Docs made rounds at 10. The highlight of each day was the ultrasounds. Lunch. Nap. Read. Evening news and supper. Talk to Darrick on the phone if he couldn’t come. Repeat.

I wore heart rate monitors across my expanse and a series of people checked every heart beat on the printed tapes. I saw the Christmas lights turn on in the street below, and off. I force-fed myself as much as I could eat for the little guys. Darrick and I and the staff watched the calendar flip to the new millenium, and the hospital lights and computers and heat stayed on. 

I wrestled with God. I talked to the chaplain. I prayed.

I sat in that hospital room for 2 months before the great birthday came. What seemed like a forever long haul became a tiny, almost forgotten blip on the screen of my whole life. The quiet wait burst into joy and activity and hope fulfilled.

There’s a lot of waiting on the birthing of dreams going on in our house right now. My preemie babies are young men figuring out how to get back to college, along with their baby sister. I’m trying to grow a writing career. My husband and I are working on a God-sized vision of a brand new church. And outside, our world is laboring its hopes for a cure for a virus and hate. 

And I remind myself:

Watch and wait

Feed your dream

Get your wrestling with God done

Pray and pray and pray some more

Listen for every heartbeat. The Lord grows beautiful miracles in the unseen darkness. 

Abandoned

She spoke quietly, dry-eyed, of being molested by uncles, beaten by a live-in boyfriend, of living on the edge of poverty on the edge of the world. Each story revealed another reason her too-tiny body was aged beyond her years, leaving her like a mangled wild flower clinging to life in a shallow crack. But none of the stories seemed to upset her. It was all she knew.

Until she reached down to the bottom of her years, and pulled up the memory from when she was 6, when the world should have still been a playground. She described the day the carving of her life slipped and the chisel nearly broke her. It was the day her mother said, “I am going,” and she turned and walked away, never to return.

Abandoned.

‘Can a mother forget the child at her breast?’ the ancient words ask. Yes, she can, is the destroying answer.

It was the story of when she was 6 that melted this tough woman and brought tears out of the flat eyes because there’s no sting like being left behind, rejected.

IMG_1151“I feel so…abandoned…” texts another friend when her husband separates. The screen silence screams the void. What is the answer? How does one fill this terrible black hole that touches all of us at one point or another? How do we keep on living…alone?

‘Men will always fail,’ I type back, breath held. 

‘Always. People will always fail us.’ I remember my pastor looking directly into my eyes at a young age and telling this truth so I would know it. Because divorce or death, fatigue of patience or painful words, forgetfully or accidentally or purposefully—people will fail. We are all broken and we all break others.

‘But Jesus…’ I start to text back but hesitate. Can a story change by the arrival of the Hero? Can the curse of the ages of humanity be solved by one Man’s appearance? Can that black hole of the soul—the one that is eternally alone—be filled?

DSC_0321‘He’s the only One who will never leave. Never fail. 

The only One who can truly love,’ I hit send.

The Jesus of John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much He gave His only Son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.” That’s the only One who has conquered death and outright selfish sin so He’s the only One who can love and love and love—without fail.

I suddenly can’t type fast enough. It sounds trite—too easy of a solution—yet I’ve seen it and I’ve known it. 

And it wasn’t an easy solution for Jesus. In a cosmic clash of the powers of the universe, God gave Himself up as the sacrifice. Justice demanded punishment for all the hurt, the evil, the sins. Mercy gave Himself to take the punishment. Jesus gave up all the glory and power of the throne of all the world, to become a human baby. 

He came to be with us. But he was hated, hunted down, rejected, despised, disrespected, misunderstood, wrongly accused—and crucified. 

He lived a life that was always loving, always self-less, always perfect, but then took on the sin of all. He died for all. He loves you. He chose you. He wants to be with you in everything.

“But God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans 5:8

The only response required is acceptance. He is offering a place in the family. We have to decide if we are willing to be adopted. We have to be willing to let go of our filthy rags, and He will help us put on new clothes. 

It’s that simple. 

It’s that hard.

I continue to pray for my abandoned friends. I continue to pray for all of us to rest in the unfailing love of God, no matter how abandoned we feel.

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5 Minutes in the Life of Piper

A puppy’s days are busy…

  1. Be taken outside to go potty. Don’t go potty.  Chase leaves, bite leash, roll in something suspicious and smelly. Eat a stick. This is the ticket back inside. thumbnail
  2. Run to Christmas tree. Pull off ornament. Play chase until they catch you and take it away. Run to the backside of tree. Drink water from the bucket. Get pulled out by tail. Snatch light string on way out and tip entire tree until someone shrieks. Get told no and sent away.
  3. Come back to steal bow off package.
  4. Wake up old dog by jumping on him. Start him barking and chasing you.
  5. Sit down for one–blessed–minute–to fool everyone.
  6. Jump into person’s lap, simultaneously spilling tea, ripping book, and proving you can jump that high.DSC_0127
  7. Run to door. They have to take you out.
  8. Don’t go potty. Pad through puddles to get really wet. Find dry worms and eat them. Person will get grossed out and take you back inside.
  9. Go to Christmas tree and pee on presents.
  10. Repeat.

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