August 21, 2019

If I Hadn't ...

Photo from PublicDomainPictures @ Pixabay
If I hadn’t gone through years of domestic violence, a rough divorce, and buried two husbands, would I appreciate my current husband and happy marriage as much as I do?

If I hadn’t suffered several life-threatening illnesses, would I be as thankful for my present good health?

If I hadn’t struggled with years of financial difficulties, would I appreciate my current financial stability?

If I hadn’t worked at several stressful jobs, would I appreciate and enjoy my retirement as much?

Without God’s compassion and support, could I see the world as a wonderful place filled with miracles?

Rainbows come after a storm. Silence is more noticeable after loud noises. Joy is more recognizable after sorrow, health after illness, wealth after poverty.

Through these, God has taught me where true happiness lies — in the simple things: coffee at sunrise with my devotions, chatting with my husband, walking with Cooper in the early morning and at sunset, keeping in touch with friends and family, and the time and ability to pursue my passions.

I think of Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole’s hit song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. He combines Somewhere Over the Rainbow with What a Wonderful World, two of my favorite songs. They represent every blessing God has given me — the things most precious in this life.

As Melanie Rigny wrote in Living Faith, “What do you want to present when you face the Lord: a list of what you owed, or a list of whom you loved?”

I am included in that list. Have I forgiven myself as I have forgiven others? Have I cared for my needs? Have I allowed myself to rest?  Have I given myself permission to be happy?  

Thank you, Lord, for leading me through life's difficulties toward true happiness, which includes loving myself. My joy overflows and spreads out to others, enveloping them in the same love you give me. Amen.



August 10, 2019

Difficult, But Worth the Effort



Photo by SplitShire from Pixabay
A recent conversation with a friend was echoed in my morning devotions. In Living Faith Terri Mefik wrote, “I may want to dictate to others how people should think or behave but if I put the relationship above forcing my will on others, I inevitably experience greater peace and joy.”

Life is much easier when I’m not worrying about someone else’s sin.

It isn’t that I am so good-natured that I’m never tempted to judge. My own drama keeps me too busy to worry about someone else’s behavior. I don’t have the energy or the desire to add any more. Besides, only God knows what is in the heart of another.

I have been harshly judged myself without my judges knowing the whole truth and I don’t want to do that to someone else. Their behavior (unless criminal), is between them and God. He is their final judge and the one they will have to answer to someday, just like I will.

If I want the benefit of the doubt, shouldn’t I give it to others as well?

Richard Rohr in his meditation on the Loving Gaze took this idea a step further. “The Christ in me sees the Christ in you.”

Christ in everyone.

Those words brought up a powerful image from my past.  

After seven years of domestic abuse and an ugly divorce, I needed therapy. A psychiatrist gave me the tools to deal with the nightmares and panic attacks, and he encouraged me to forgive. He emphasized that without forgiving the violence, the hatred and anger would destroy the rest of my life.

A friend recommended a Christian counselor specializing in abuse victims.

At the end of a long session, the counselor asked me to visualize Jesus on the cross. After a moment she asked me if He had come down and was he holding me?

What I saw was far more powerful.

My ex-husband stood behind the cross. As I watched, Jesus transposed his face over my ex-husband’s.

In that instant, I forgave and let all the anger and hate go. My world changed. Gone were the panic attacks and nightmares. The heavy weight I carried for so many years lifted. Colors were brighter, my steps lighter. I found peace.

That powerful moment taught me to look at others differently, to offer the benefit of the doubt first and to forgive instead of judging and holding a grudge. The Christ in me now sees the Christ in others.

Thank you, Lord, for that powerful message. It changed my life.

 




July 31, 2019

Sometimes I Envy Moses

Photo by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

God has answered my prayers many times, but rarely in the way I hoped or expected. He knows where the true blessings lie and asks that I dig a little deeper to see what he sees.

Those times I wish I could talk to him like Moses, face to face, and receive a direct answer back. Life would be so much simpler, wouldn’t it?

I often envy the Israelites too. Imagine seeing the miracles they experienced during the Exodus: the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, water from a rock, manna. I want to think I’d never complain or doubt like they did, but is that true?

God has given me so many miracles and yet I still tend to worry with each crisis, wondering if God will rescue me this time.

As hard as it is, I must recognize that I am often just as stiff-necked as the Israelites in the desert, complaining and doubting when I don’t get the answers I want when I want them. 

But I must also remember these are the steppingstones God uses to lead me toward the fulfillment of his plan for my life, and regardless of where the path leads, what sorrows I will endure, I can be sure the path will also be filled with great joy.




July 16, 2019

It's Finally Happened


Photo by RitaE from Pixabay
This week I realized I can no longer remember when I last changed the sheets on the bed or descaled the coffee pot. I used to keep all that straight without writing having to write it down. Is it age related or the result of being retired and no longer adhering to any kind of schedule?

My self-control has gone the same way as my memory, particularly with my diet. In that regard I need accountability, so back to the old-fashioned food log. Experts say that is the most reliable way to watch the calories. I know they are right, but I didn’t want to bother. My last weigh-in tells me I’d better do something.

In some ways, this is the best time of my life, and yet other things have slipped. But I guess that’s life. It’s never perfect.

Armed with my check lists and food log I’ve gained some control. Keeping it simple ensures I’ll stick to it. I like the fact I no longer need to commit everything to memory and worry about forgetting something, but I miss the days when it was all automatic, with no effort involved.

I also miss being able to marathon house or yardwork and afterward do anything else I wanted. Now, I need to parcel out my tasks or deal with exhaustion and low blood sugar.

But since I’ll never see twenty again, or even sixty for that matter, I must adjust, adapt, and go on. That’s okay because I still have a life, one not complicated at the moment by anything other than a failing memory and a lack of self-control.

Could be much worse, and I’ve been there.

So, no complaints, just the hard admission that age is catching up, and I have no control over it, except how I react.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving me life, and help me come to terms with its flaws and challenges. Amen.








July 09, 2019

The Power of One

I’ve been on this merry-go-round many times, unable to come to terms with the needs of so many and my limited resources. I can’t seem to get passed the guilt of having so much while others have little, and yet what I have to share is barely a drop compared to the numbers of people needing help.

The old saying that charity begins at home means to start with my husband and family, and then spread out to others, but the number is so small. Is helping one person, or a few, enough?

As if in response to my question, this scripture verse flashed through my thoughts. “If a man has a hundred sheep, and one goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains and seek that which has gone astray?” Matthew 18:12.

Photo by Pexels from Pixabay
There is my answer. If God cares for enough for one to leave the rest and search for one lost soul, then yes, even just one matters.

That thought spiraled to the story of the starfish.

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”
Original story by Loren Eisley

The devil wants me to be overwhelmed with the sheer number of needy souls, stymied into inaction. He doesn’t want me to know that although I may not help thousands of souls like Mother Teresa, I can make a difference — even if it is just one.  

Thank you, Lord, for showing me the power of one. 

July 02, 2019

Why Me and Not Others?

Original Photo by Cecilia Marie Pulliam
I am sitting on the front porch looking out over the canyon, listening to the creek and songbirds, quail and dove. The tangy scents of pine, sage and wet grass tinge the air. Sunlight and shadows dance among the trees and along the lawn. No human noise mars the peacefulness. I can stay for as long as my heart desires. There is no early morning commute or a long list of chores.

I’ve dreamed of this all my life.

But one thought clouds the moment. I don’t deserve it. Any of it.

Why me? Why has God given me visions and dreams, promising the last half of my life would be better than the first? What have I done to deserve these wonderful gifts?

Yes, I have known deep sorrow, but who hasn’t?

My devotions this morning stated God sends sanctuaries to the weary, giving them rest. Is that what this is? My sanctuary after a lifetime of struggle?

Perhaps I am to use this quiet time for art, writing and prayer. But will sharing those make any difference to anyone else?

I may never know the answers, at least not in this life, but I can be thankful and not question His judgment. Many others have asked the question,“Why me?”, and I must remember God sees things differently than us, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

“The Lord rules me: and I shall want nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:1-2.

Amen.


June 22, 2019

Strength from Weakness Despite the Devil


Photo by Prettysleepy2 @ Pixabay
Once again I considered unpublishing the first book in my series. I’ve struggled with this story from its conception and have re-edited and re-published it too many times to count. But before I jumped in and did something I might regret, I skimmed the manuscript. Maybe I could salvage it if I did one more edit even though doing so would mean another long delay in finishing book five. Was that what the devil wanted, to keep me mired down with doubts and fears and stop me from writing?

It turned out the book wasn’t as bad as I remembered. The last edit improved the writing enough to leave it as it is — for now. Doubts and fear will creep back, and I’ll march down this same path again unless I can find some way of getting off that merry-go-round.  

Matthew 6:24-34, one of my favorite scriptures, popped up in my devotions. Consider the lilies, don’t worry, don’t be afraid. God knows what we need. Trust him.

Trust...

That reminded me of the book I’m reading. It is a savage fight between good and evil, and I expect the worst outcome with each new peril the characters face. I almost put the book down until I realized the author intends to get the heroine out of trouble, and I should read out of curiosity rather than fear.

The same goes with everything else in my life, especially my writing. If I can’t trust the ultimate Author to come up with a solution to whatever I'm facing, who can I trust?

So, I press on, pushing past those emotions the devil throws at me and take courage from St. Paul’s words in Corinthians 2:7-10.

“And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.”




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