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it is well

Surrounded by wheelchairs and walkers, my dark-hair head bobbed with gray-hair, white-hair, and no hair heads. We tapped our feet; we clapped our hands. Putting aside aches, pains, and memory lapses, we sang together. We lifted our voices for an audience of One.

I accompanied my 89-year-old Aunt Dot to a gospel sing-along at her assisted living facility. One elderly couple held hands while another lady dozed off. Charlotte elevated her wrapped foot. Susie sang even when unsure of the words.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

With their worn and broken bodies, their forgetful and confused minds, they sang. It is well, it is well, with my soul. I believed they meant every word. Their pure worship honored God.  Blemished but beautiful.

The presenters offered the salvation message; straight and to the point. Have you asked Jesus into your heart? Raise your hand and we will pray with you. Wynita, who is 99-years old, raised her hand. With child-like faith, she accepted Christ as her Savior.

For there’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!
With my sins forgiven I am bound for Heaven, Never more to roam.
The heavenly choir sang through their ailments and loneliness. Every stanza gave  God the glory. Surrounded by wheelchairs and walkers, I discovered Holy ground and it was well with my soul.

white flag

Come get lost in the stalks. 

A local corn maze close to my house invites the brave to enter. Corn mazes frustrate me. I get lost on highways, why do I want to be lost in a corn field?

Yet, when my daughters were younger,  we decided to get lost in the stalks.  My husband led the charge, my daughters followed, and I carried the rescue flag. A white flag is issued just in case assistance is needed along the way.

In my opinion, one step into the maze  signaled surrender time. Up and down the rows , around and around we went. The deeper we went, the more lost we became much to the delight of my family.

My daughters didn’t complain, like me. They enjoyed the checkpoints and stamping stations along the way. My husband, savoring the challenge, continued marching deeper into the bowels of the never-ending rows.

Didn’t we just go down this row? Why does all the corn look the same? 

I gripped the white flag tighter. I knew I held the only lifeline for exiting this nightmare. I couldn’t see my rescuer but deep in the maze on a raised platform, he awaited. He scanned the acreage, waiting for a white flag to surface.  Then he radioed for a runner to rescue the lost.

Looking back on my time spent wandering amongst the stalks, I realize the maze mirrored my life. Sometimes I go the right direction, other times I head the wrong way. I spend a lot of time turning around and back tracking. I fail and fall. Frustration enters when I can’t get my bearings in this maze of life.

But I always have a faithful Rescuer. At anytime, I can raise my white flag and receive my Father’s help. A  loud cry or a soft whisper; He’s always listening. My Rescuer scans His Creation for white flags of His Beloved.

Gently and lovingly, He redirects me.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 (NIV) 

Getting lost in the stalks doesn’t sound so bad after all. I can step into this maze called life with my Rescuer always close by. No white flag is needed. 

 

 

dominoes

Domino Day 2009 broke a world record.  It took 89 builders to set up 4,491,863 dominoes and a single touch to topple them.

One tap produced a huge chain reaction. One action caused 4,491,853 dominoes to fall.

Sometimes,  a single act or a single gesture is all it takes to cause a chain reaction. Then step back and watch out. One act of kindness causes another. One deed of compassion leads to another. One step of faith invites the next.

The Graney family from Oklahoma initiated their own chain reaction by a single act.  Read about the power behind their single act of love and generosity towards  a family in Kenya. You’ll want to share The Marvelous Mud House by April Graney with your children and grandchildren.

http://www.aprilgraney.com/p/the-marvelous-mud-house.html

Read and then step into acts of kindness, compassion, love, and generosity. Remember it only takes one gesture to make the next domino fall.

Let’s keep the chain unbroken.

 

corralling cats

I live on a hill. During thunderstorms, water flows downhill taking my gravel driveway, stone by stone, with it. The powerful rush of water carves deep gullies. Recently, my husband attempted to force the water away from the driveway with a wall of rocks.  He hoped to divert the water from the driveway into a ditch.

Forcing water to change direction is like corralling cats. It’s impossible. My father, a fireman, battled Hurricane Agnes’ waters in 1972. I recall his wise words: “You can fight fire, but you can’t fight water. It goes where it wants to.” Those affected by the recent hurricanes understand this hard truth.

Water does what God designed it to do; it flows. Some days, my relationship with God functions how it was designed; it flows. On those days, I sit beside my best friend watching the sunset knowing my best friend created the sunset. Natural. Peaceful. Fully at ease. I talk; He listens. He talks; I listen. Back and forth. Give and take.

But on other days, frustration sets in from trying to corral cats. When I force my relationship with God, I respond and react with have to vs. want to. Forced time with God resembles a long distance relationship gone cold. But God didn’t move; I did. I stacked rocks and built a wall. I diverted His grace and mercy into rules and requirements.

I desire more flowing days.

Today, my husband invited me to explore a local waterfall. On this beautiful September afternoon, we walked the trail beside Mill Creek. I heard the flowing water before I saw it. It sounded natural and peaceful. The water flowed; doing what God created it to do.

Nothing forced, just flowing.

And there were no cats in sight.

 

 

 

dirty hands

I spent most of my childhood years dirty. My childhood farm offered many opportunities for play and work.

In the summertime, my sisters and I spent hours creating play houses in the cows’ pasture. We used shovels and rakes to assist with construction. The limestone rock outcroppings functioned as the foundation and we added misshapen tree branches or rocks as furniture. A flat rock served as a table or chair. A tree branch doubled as a coat rack. Our imaginations knew no limit.

Summertime also involved plenty of work. The sweet corn and potato fields required weeding and hoeing. The rows seemed to go on forever. Baling hay,  feeding cows, and picking vegetables kept us busy and dirty too.

Saturday evenings promised bath time. Time to get clean for Sunday church. The dirt from playing and working washed away leaving a brown ring around our cast iron bath tub. Washing allowed the clean to shine through.

Jesus, Creator of the Universe,  rolled up His sleeves and got His hands dirty too.

 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. John 9:6 NIV

Dirt plus spit equals mud. Messy and dirty mud. Jesus knew opening eyes and changing lives sometimes required dirt and spit.

Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:7 NIV

Washing removed the dirt allowing the True Light to shine through.

 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. John 9:38 NIV

Jesus’ dirty hands along with His bloodstained hands on the cross granted the man sight and eternal life. Eyes opened and sins forgiven.

My Saturday night bath began a 24-hour window of temporary cleanliness. A new adventure loomed for me on Monday morning. But this man found eternal cleanliness by uttering three words, “Lord, I believe.” 

All because Jesus loved and got His hands dirty.

 

 

 

 

 

mirror mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall…..

Looking at mirrors with my 4-month old grandson entertains both of us. We point and giggle as we discover who is looking back at us. We talk (Ok, I talk) about the cute little boy in the mirror. I see new life with fresh potential. All things are possible. Prayerfully, this little guy will grow into a Godly man as well as a kind and loving husband and father.  Endless possibilities stare back at us.  Mirrors offer hope of somedays full of what ifs. Mirrors are the launching pad of amazing dreams.

Last year in Tanzania, I stood in front of new mirrors with Neema and her two friends. (Neema is the girl on the left, smiling from her hoodie.) I snapped this picture at their Compassion Center as I toured the new sanitation project filled with flushing toilets, running water, and shiny mirrors. Was this the first time they saw their reflection? Possibly.

Walking through the facility with Neema and her friends, we paused in front of the new  mirrors. I encouraged them to see the beauty of the girls smiling back at us. Could they see how God created them, each so unique and precious? Could they see what I saw?

Were they able to see a bright future? Could they see into tomorrow or next month or next year? Could they see beyond the poverty of their surroundings? Whom did they see? A future teacher, pastor, or doctor?

Neema and I connected during my visit; she never left my side. At the end of the day, I left her with a big hug and a pack of colored pencils.  I also tried to leave her with a hope-infused vision. Keep looking in the mirror and seeing a brighter future. Keep looking and seeing God’s immense love.  I pray she sees herself for all she is to God; His wonderful and perfect creation!

Mirror, mirror on the wall,  Who is the fairest one of all?   Neema, my grandson, and all of God’s beautiful children

 

flashback

One year ago.

Flashback:  June 2, 2016       Karatu, Tanzania                 

How much love can a heart hold? When blessed with the opportunity to love deeper and wider, my heart expanded just like my elastic waistband pants.  As the youngest and poorest surrounded me in Karatu, Tanzania,  I freely loved and kept loving. As the Grinch’s heart grew 3 times bigger on Mt. Crumpit, mine enlarged with each wonderful encounter.

 While my husband and his Compassion International teammates climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I loved the children everywhere I went. Each day was a holy appointment with Jesus’ favorite people: children. Back from a trip to a squatty potty, I veered off the path to visit with  children gathered around a rusty swing set. I bent low,  lifted up a child, and loved. These children were not part of the Compassion program. They needed a bath and love. They were dressed in ragged clothing and were perfectly wonderful.  My heart shifted into overdrive.

Flashback: June 2, 2016       Karatu, Tanzania     

Surrounded by precious children; giggling and ready to be loved. I soaked in their love. I touched their faces and kissed their foreheads. We laughed together as I rubbed and rubbed convincing them my skin really is this color. Loving and laughing: what every childhood should be filled with.

Then they sang to me. Twinkle, Twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. These small twinkling stars standing in the dusty earth of Tanzania sang about far off shining lights. Worlds apart but the same twinkling lights. I clapped enthusiastically during my private concert; thrilled and honored to be here.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky. Do they know they are more precious than diamonds? Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. 

 

Flashback: June 4, 2016       Arusha, Tanzania                      

My husband enjoyed spectacular views from above the clouds, trekking to 19, 341 feet at the summit.  A step closer to Heaven, perhaps. But my eyes beheld beauty of a different sort, yet no less amazing. Beautiful faces dotted with bright and kind eyes. An offer to hold their small hands, to touch and to know love. I reached out and connected. A perfect fit. Love never lets go.

 

Flashbacks, always reminding me.  Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Pause

Sometimes God brings a pause into our lives. A quiet time to figure out the next step. My pause is now. May this pause draw me closer to my Heavenly Father as we commune together.

See you on the other side of my pause.

 

9 lives

Growing up on a farm, we had an abundance of cats. Most earned their keep by hunting mice. With corn in the corn crib and feed grain for the cattle, our farm offered a buffet to unwanted rodents and, in turn, a never-ending supply of food for the cats.  Our cats enjoyed several buildings to live and dine in: chicken house, hog pen, summer kitchen or wash-house, and barn.

Occasionally, some of the female cats ventured into the surrounding fields for privacy as they delivered a litter of kittens. Unfortunately, some encountered machinery such as a combine, tractor, or hay baler as they faithfully refused to abandon their kittens.  Some lived, though injured, and eventually returned to living a normal cat life.  They were living proof that cats really do enjoy nine lives.

Last week, 9 lives of a very different sort were celebrated. A 21 , a non-profit organization devoted to ending slavery around the world, rescued 9 lives. In Ukraine, two women were rescued and 2 men were rescued from labor exploitation.  In Thailand, two women and 3 children were rescued. Praise God! 

Nine lives freed from bondage. Nine lives starting over and free. Nine lives now hopeful of tomorrow.

Perhaps in time, smiles and laughter will come from those nine mouths. I won’t pretend to understand or comprehend the emotion associated with any of those nine rescues. But I can join in praising God for new beginnings and second chances. Nine lives coming out of the darkness and into the light. Nine lives free to continue to become whom God created them to be.

God is a God of second, third, and fourth chances. And, yes, even more than 9. God doesn’t keep track. Thankfully, He is always a God of another chance.

I don’t know if this applies to cats or not, but I am certain it applies to those 9 precious lives and to my life too.

Starting over and free.

  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

Photo credit: A21

give & get

Recently, a friend received a Facebook zinger. You know, the type of comment that leaves a heart scar. I imagine my bewildered friend mumbled a few choice words as she hit ‘unfriend’.  I read the unkind comment before my friend sent it and its author into cyber extinction. Scanning through Facebook, I found an interesting post by the offender, the same person who forgot to pause and think before posting. The offender posted how much she appreciated kind words from her co-workers following a difficult time in her life. Hmmm. Let me get this straight. The offender enjoys getting loving and kind words from others, but she doesn’t always give them to others?

Why does this sound so familiar? Because I am also guilty of engaging in the dangerous and hurtful disconnect between giving and getting. I know what I want to get from others (love, kindness, respect, honesty), but sometimes I am not very mindful about giving the same.

Give what I want to get. If I give my body more vegetables and less sugar, I get to inhale and exhale while wearing my jeans. If I give black oil sunflower seeds, I get to enjoy the splendid beauty of my feathered backyard friends.

Give what I want to get; a warm-hearted and humane life motto.  Always try to give to others what I want to get back. It is the abridged version of the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12,  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

I will give grace and mercy to someone who made a mistake on Facebook because I, too, need much grace and mercy to cover my thoughtless words and careless actions. I will give grace and mercy to those around me and in cyber world. For it is by His Blood that I can approach His Throne and receive His grace and mercy in my time of need including navigating Facebook.

 So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need. Hebrews 4: 16 (TLB)

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