Sunday, June 25, 2017

Be still and still moving.

Let Your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
   Your salvation according to Your promise;
then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
    for I trust in Your word.
and I shall walk in a wide place,
    for I have sought Your precepts.
I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings
   and shall not be put to shame. Psalm 119:41, 45-46

 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. Ezekiel 34:15-15
When Barnabas came to Antioch and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. Acts 11:23

The question is always the same: How do you feel about your big adventure?

And I always reply that I am full of peace and steadfast purpose.

I am not at all afraid.

I do not know where the path will lead. But I know that I am following The Shepherd, who is seeking the lost, bringing back the strayed, binding up the injured, and strengthening the weakened.

And now my long dropping nets to do list is almost done. I made yet one more trip to Verizon. Scott now has power of attorney. I handed the keys back to the landlord, and I gotta admit the place was spotless. Heather and Dustin’s plants are now hanging drenched in momma’s carport. I bought travel insurance in case I need to be airlifted out of somewhere. It turns out Wen Xei does wants the chairs and couch so I am going to pull them out of storage. I still have to mess around with the USAA accounts and change the oil in the orange truck.


It is still now.

Let me rest in His promises of plans, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

The quiet ticking of the clock. The gentle sounds of momma making bread for family dinner. The boisterous finches battling it out over the seed bag. The promised rain clouds pile over the Tucson mountains full of the long-awaited refreshment for those who wait in the blistering desert heat. A slight breeze stirs the wind chimes.

May I be steadfast, O Lord, Let Your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
   Your salvation according to Your promise.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Our challenge is to find the light through shadows of violence and oppression, pain and loss. Psalm 108:1-4,

My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
   I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 108:1-4

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon.  I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” Ruth 4:10

During my free moments, I am reading In the Land of the Blue Burqas, written by a Christian woman who left her nice settled quiet life in the United States to start an NGO to serve the suffering women of Afghanistan. And she shares gently told stories of Jesus in a harsh and unforgiving land to people who have lived the headlines that we read from the comfort of our own homes and have lived more painful injustice than we can possibly imagine. And again and again she connects the Holy books that come from Allah: the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Holy Quran. The chapter titles read like this: “How do we respond when evil is done to us?” “How do we respond to insult?” and Who can judge?”

Yeah, and pretty much the accepted cultural norms, the way things are done, are a continuous stream. Continuous that is until Jesus steps into history and smashes them all to bits. Again and again she recounts the peace and the joy and the love He offers to a broken world.

The anonymous author was not always a Christian; in fact she was a thoughtful, basically existentialist agnostic. But she took up an exasperated gauntlet challenge to read the Bible for herself. And she started in Genesis and waded through it. It took several months for me to read the book, but the results were cataclysmic in my life. In the pages of the Old Testament, I met the god of the universe and found Him beautiful. I was astonished, first, by how honest the Old Testament is about the nature of people. We’re always running off in the wrong directions. I suppose I expected the Bible to make all those Jewish heroes look perfect, but it didn’t. Every one of them seemed to put his foot down in his own throat, and that was a thing I recognized. What really captivated my attention was God’s unremitting love, His patience and willingness to continuously forgive and restore.

And today I am packing up all of my stuff into cooler boxes pulled out of the recycle bin behind Big 5 Sporting Goods on my way home from dropping my bicycle at Cameron’s and dropping by an extra bicycle seat at Anglie’s to take to Dustin next week when they all land in Naples and dropping by Costco to pick up a year’s worth of contact lenses and dropping by yet another super big black trash bag of clothes at the Salvation Army. Then I sorted through the pile on my bed yesterday, and picked out just enough clothing to easily fit into that black backpack, along with my hammock and an international electrical plug and my passport, with a few extra modest things I slid into the Erbil suitcase of Wali’s gifts for refugees. I threw away my two favorite pairs of shoes, my brown Birkenstocks and my black Keens that have made it through the last three summer adventures, because really, they both had deep holes worn all the way through the soles.

And tomorrow Zach is coming over to help me haul it all into the storage shed.

It sure was a long slow drop-my-nets-and-follow-Him process, but may the LORD God fill me with a steadfast heart. A steadfast that will give thanks, a steadfast heart that will sing songs of praise, all day long.

If the salt has lost its savor it is good for nothing.

 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!  Psalm 104: 33-35

Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, or giving generously in the service of others. Our spirit should long for God and call Him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe. -John Chrysostom

Lord, we know that You will come again in glory to raise the living and the dead. Resurrect us now from the death of comfort, complacency, sloth, and shallowness that we might witness to Your love in life and death. Amen

I stood in the dusty alley and watched the little Rabbit roll out of sight. The little Rabbit holding 39 Vikingish post-apocalyptic outfits: armor, swords, boots, masks, helmets, capes, elastic-waisted britches, sequined and beaded gowns, all sorts of craziness crafted from thrift store bargains and the imagination of Miss Nicole.

I turned, and then scraped up and shoveled up and folded fairly tidily the heaps of leftovers and first unloaded the fifth and last bin of Nicole’s worldly possessions and the three Calvary Missionary Press tables at 220 South Country Club, then dropped off big boxes and a big black garbage bag at Arizona Baptist Family Services on my way to the family homestead on the eastside, where the Coverdales and countless guests have been based for nearly forty-five years. I wandered through the bare-walled and neatly vacuumed shell. Voices–lots of laughter, quiet rustling pages, and of course crackling fireplace sparks echoed back and forth. Smiling refugee men loaded up the floral couches, the cardboard boxes of mismatched glasses and cups and lots of framed pictures of Jesus into a great big truck and we filled it all the way up and they promised to come back for the pieces left sitting in the curving driveway, including mom’s desk. I remember how all we kids squeezed up close to the big picture window and watched with excitement when an equally big truck rolled into view, parked in the driveway and unloaded the gleaming gold gilt edged, leather inset desk into our waiting living room so many years ago.

I hugged my mama goodbye. As I was driving away, I passed a childhood neighbor friend walking rather wearily down the street. Obviously wearily. Tucson is breaking all-time temperatures this week, and I am drinking down seven and eight liters of chilled water and still thirsty. I pulled over, “Tony Redhouse?” His whole face lit up. “Those were the days, weren’t they? The band, the carpooling, neighbor stuff! And now no band, no job, nothing. What’s new with you?

What is new with me, the woman who is scrapping every last bit of the past into neatly labeled storage bins?

The beat goes on. Pack up a truckload of stuff and haul it over to the storage shed… stacking it all the way up to top of the tin roof after first finding a replacement seat for the bicycle that didn’t do so well in the rain. Wipe off the backyard furniture, scraping off some of the spilled paint with my fingernail, and take them and the fancy spices and sauces and over to a friend’s. No one really wants the adorable tiny cactus gardens though. Sift through the papers and pictures and tax returns and slide them into my school bag with a box of colored pencils and the Romeo and Juliet video. Make an appointment to get the Tacoma’s 3,000 mile tune-up. Wen Xie is moving in a week and maybe she will take the couch and two chairs.

I was talking to a swim buddy as we kicked back and forth in the pool today. She is packing up too, after her husband passed away after twenty years of debilitating illness. Twenty years of he couldn’t even leave the house debilitating. And all we have ever done is chit-chat about back spasms, her killer breaststroke and that she is a real estate agent. Who knew?

Every day I pass the same long white-bearded guy with a small sign on the corner of Sixth and Speedway. Every day.

Every evening I pass the same three lumps of blankets spread out on the sidewalk downtown right under the gaze of Pancho Villa. Lumps of blankets with real live people under them. Twice a week a guy passes out breakfast and reads the Bible in a loud voice.

Dear LORD, as I rock through these endless to-do lists, check check, may my spirit look to You, that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe.

Because in the long run, and actually, as I am very very very very aware, in the short run too, none of this really matters except Your weary children.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul.
And all that is within me.

Bless His holy name.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

And they recognized them that they had been with Jesus.

The sun comes up; a new day is dawning.
Bless the Lord O my soul; worship His holy name.

Therefore my heart is comforted and my glory is exalted; even my body shall rest in hope. Psalm 2:26

Once again, I find myself on a mini-sabbatical from the caldron of Tucson far, far below the light breezes jostling the pine needles. And this time I read The Acts of the Apostles; my life has done several flip turns since those days of The Journeys of Paul coloring sheets in Sunday School. Now Antioch and Athens and Syracuse and Damascus have faces and stories that grip my soul.

And my takeaway points were unexpected.

Well, the first one, not so much.

Christian community has been a yearning for ever so long: And all the believers were together and had all things in common; and those who had possessions sold them and divided to each man according to his need. And they went to the temple together every day with one accord;; and at home they broke bread and received it with joy and with a pure heart. Praising God and finding favor with all the people.

Oddly enough I am getting picked up at the Prague airport to be welcomed into a Christian community living in an old monastery who serves refugees in Greece and Turkey. No clear specifics yet, but my first door of welcoming after the net dropping.

…all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the world of God boldly… I am not such a bold speaker. Rather I hedge and stumble and never finish my sentences. But may the Lord’s Spirit speak through me with courage and clarity on this next journey. And maybe, just maybe that thing of tongues… I have only received this gift once actually, back in Barrio Nuesta Esfuerza in La Republica Dominicana. I was leading a Bible study of sorts, and then suddenly my pronunciation and vocabulary and context exploded, and I didn’t even understand what I was really saying, it was so clear and polished, and five women accepted the Lord as Savior, and my friend Ramona was dumbfounded because it was crazy obvious. So dear God, bless me with the gift of tongues.

Now there was in Damascus a disciple named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, my Lord…then Ananias went. And even though fear was a reasonable response, he went out the door, and who could have even begun to imagine where that simple step of faith led?

and He has appointed seasons by His command… The last two weeks has been a transition of seasons, crunching through the dry, fallen leaves, whispering goodbye to the past. I tug at my coat collar to keep out the biting winter wind cutting through to my heart as I lock old doors one last time and turn away.

But just as year after year I have witnessed the beautiful rhythms that declare to mankind that they should seek and search after God, and find Him by means of His creations, because He is not far from any one of us, I know that after the quiet fallow rest there comes a time of hope-full planting, of refreshing rains growth and of glorious harvest once more. He is faithful to will and to work His good purposes in His time.

I sit curled up on a mossy granite boulder and watched the little stream with skating water bugs bubble through Marshall Gulch.  So much goodness and delight and grace. Thank you, Father in heaven. Can I not rest in Your faithfulness? Yes.

Be not afraid, but speak and be not silent. For I am with you.

Therefore, I echo the words of Paul as he turned to Rome: But to me my life is nothing; I am not afraid. I desire only that I may finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received from our Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Amen. May it be so.

And the Sunday before I leave on this journey, I will become a full member of good standing at Prince Chapel African American Methodist Episcopalian Church, and they are going to lay hands on me and send me out in love and joy. And we spent the entirety of one of our membership classes reviewing the lives of the Wesley brothers, founders of the Methodist Church.

And today, the Common Prayer for today was John’s prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what Thou wilt, rank my with whom Thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for Thee or laid aside for Thee, exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, though art  mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Amen. May it be so.