Between the Doubt and the Wonder

   Many times in my life I have stood in a place, perplexed, frustrated and afraid, thinking to myself that surely something was wrong with me, or with the manner in which I was praying, for surely the way things were headed could not possible be the way God intended them to be. They certainty were not going in the way that I imagined they would.

   This morning, as I stood on a high bluff overlooking the Albuquerque valley awaiting the sunrise, with the sounds of the song "Mary Did You Know' playing softly on the car radio, my thoughts were drawn from Mary, the subject of the song, to her husband Joseph. Not much is known about Joseph and I thought of him and how he may have felt and what he might have experienced on that long ago day.

 Joseph was a man, in a man's world, a member of a religious society with a long set of moral rules. Here he was married to his beloved and her pregnant well before the wedding date. Scandalous for such a time as his regardless of whether society deemed him the father or not. According to societies rules he was well within his rights to put her aside publically, to shame and humiliate her. Now it is said that he, being a fair man, did not want to do this, and he had determined that he would put her aside privately. But then Joseph had a dream, and in his dream an angel told him ""Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.".........so he did just that.

 Now I imagine that he must have thought that since this child was from God that everything would be okay. God would work it all out in some glorious and amazing way. There was nothing to worry about and no need for concern. God has this.  

 And then the Roman governor called a census and Joseph now has to figure out how to get his heavily pregnant wife to a town 90 miles away, because the census requires him and his family to be counted in the town of his birth. Bethlehem, in Judea. Surely God couldn't intend for him to take his young, pregnant wife on such a difficult journey? How can this be happening? A 90 mile journey was no easy task in that time, and was for sure not something you wanted to do when pregnant. I had difficulty waddling to the mailbox with both my pregnancies and I cannot imagine the stress my husband would have gone through had he been tasked with getting me across 90 miles of ancient roads with probably nothing more than a donkey for me to sit on.

 What a sigh of relief Joseph must have breathed out when they finally arrived safely to the gates of Bethlehem. Mary was probably already exhibiting signs that the babe was coming and he would have most likely been desperate to find a safe place for her..........but there was no place. Every room was full. The place was packed. Nobody cared. Here he was with his young wife about to give birth in the street! God? Are You sure this is right? You said this baby was special? You said this baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit? And yet here I am in Bethlehem, with a bunch of other people and there is no place for me to take her! No place for her to bear this child! Surely this isn't what you intended?

  Hours later I imagine Joseph, on his knees inside the stable, with the stain of manure upon his garments and the smell of animal waste heavy in the air. There he is on the straw, perhaps holding the hand of his young wife as she labors and sweats and bleeds to expel this child. Surely this is not the way it was supposed to be! I wonder if he knew, as the child at last was delivered, as they wrapped Him and lay him in a manger, as he squeezed the hand of young Mary, I wonder if he knew that just a few miles away, the heavens had split open and angels were serenading a group of shepherds?  That the glory of it all had lit up the night sky and struck these hardened shepherds with such an awe and wonder that they would leave their flocks and come and see the babe that the angel chorus sang about. Joseph....did you know?

    Or was he sitting there exhausted and afraid,  stuck between doubt and wonder, the doubt picking at his soul because surely, if he had heard that angel right, the one he had dreamed about, then surely things would have gone down differently than he and her, and the newborn babe, stuck in a stable 90 miles from home. Did he hover, as I so often do, between doubt and wonder? Did he question himself regarding the dream? Did he question Mary's sanity? Did he ask himself if perhaps he had gotten it all wrong? Maybe the dream was just some crazy dream......maybe he misheard.... 

   I wonder what he thought when the shepherds showed up, there at the stable, kneeling at the feet of the child, their faces all aglow with the wonder of it all as they recounted the story of the angels singing "Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!" I wonder what he thought when the shepherds told him the messge the angel had proclaimed of "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” I imagine that he must have been pretty awe struck by that. If he had harbored doubts, if he was afraid and wondering how in the world all this was going down like it was, I imagine that put a stop to it all and left him in awe of the wonder of it all.

  My thoughts are speculation. Not much is said about Joseph. Nothing is said about what he thought about it all, whether he ever doubted, whether he was ever afraid. I expect he was. He was human. We humans are often afraid, we often doubt, especially when we are caught in the hard places.

  I have been there. In that place where I could not see what God was doing, or even know if He was doing anything at all about the situation I was so desperate for Him to change, so desperate for Him to make an appearance, to make it stop, to deliver, to save, to redeem............and yet in looking back through these things I find that He was always doing, He was always right there in the thick of it with me, He was always in the business of delivering, or saving, of redeeming. He always will be.

  The Christmas story is a wonderful story, a glorious and miraculous and amazing story that leaves us in awe and wonder of the way God planned all that out. But we know the end of the story. At the time that the story was unfolding they did not know all that we know. Sort of like our stories. We cannot see the end of it yet, and we often get scared at the way things appear to be unfolding, how they seem to be unfair, how it all seems just a little too hard sometimes. We should take comfort in knowing that our God is great at unfolding glorious stories, full of awe and wonder, an awe and wonder that is sometimes difficult to see when you are in the story and the end hasn't played out yet.

 'Do not be afraid.......step away from the doubt and into the wonder of it all.


 

 

Walking on Water

  Here I stand in a swirling ocean, a dark and terrible storm blowing all around me, the water is icy cold, and the howling wind and the churning waters are overpowering.  My footing is uncertain, at times my feet sink deep and it seems I will surely drown. The voices of darkness can be heard, through the howling wind, they laugh, they mock and they gleefully announce my defeat. Like the voice of Job's wife they call out "curse God and die".

 Step by laborious step, slowly I move forward. The waves splash over me and sweep away my breath as the darkness calls out its constant taunting. I hear voices in the wind  laughing and crying out, "you are done, you are finished, you have nothing left to give."  And I acknowledge the truth of their words.......and laugh....I am done, but He is alive! I am finished, but He fights for me!, I have nothing left to give, but He holds ALL things! 

  There's an ocean of turmoil all around me, cold dark waves sweeping over my head, my tired feet stepping across the waves, sometimes with sure and certain footing, sometimes sinking right up to my thighs. And slowly, ever so slowly, I raise my hands to the King of Glory, to my Father who sits on high, to my Savior who has bought me with His blood, to my Redeemer who holds me, to the One who can tell the waves to "be still" and to the One who has already defeated the taunting voices screaming out through the wind. Yes........Yes....... I raise my hands and I laugh out loud, in praise and thanksgiving, for I am His and He is mine and no matter what comes, no matter how hard the winds might blow, no matter how tall the waves become, no matter whether I sink or swim or walk right through it all........I AM OKAY, for I am His.

  All that comes through the terrible storms, every bit of wind and rain and every wave that sweeps me off my feet is in His power and has been allowed. Nothing can touch me, nor the ones I love, apart from His allowing it, and if He allows it, He will bring us through it, for His great glory and for our ultimate good. Whether I have only today, or a thousand tomorrows, whether all that I have is swept away or whether it is kept. None of it matters. All that matters is that I am His and He is mine. All that matters is the knowledge that He has me and He has the ones I love. We are safe.

 So I raise my hands in the storm, and I dance upon the churning water, and I sing at the top of my lungs, "it is well with my soul, it is well! IT IS WELL! WITH MY SOUL!

  And the voices cease and I hear the song of grace........

  So here I stand, with waves all around, with the icy water sweeping over my head and my breath swept away. Here I stand in the midst of the storm, here I stand in the darkness and cold......here I stand, safe and secure.......for He is with me and He is enough.

"

The wind is strong, the water is deep
My heart is heavy and my mind won't sleep
Oh can you heal, my fear it breathes
I need to know if You're the shadow I can see
I wanna run to You when the waves break through
I wanna run to You and not turn back
There's no turning back
Nothing in the past
My eyes on You again
Can't see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water
The ocean's singing, the song of grace
But if I'm honest with myself, I am still afraid
I wanna run to You when the waves break through
I'm gonna run to You and not turn back
There's no turning back
Nothing in the past
My eyes on You again
Can't see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got…
There's no turning back
Nothing in the past
My eyes on You again
Can't see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water
I was sinking like a stone again
I was halfway in the grave and then
I looked up and saw Your face again
You pulled me out of the water, water, water
There's no turning back
Nothing in the past
My eyes on You again
Can't see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water
Though I falter
You got me walking on water, water, water
You got me walking on water, water, water, water"


Broken Hallelujah's

   Preaching gospel to myself, as I do my best to walk by faith and not by sight. Trying with all my might to see the beauty and to hold on to hope. In doing so, I am so very grateful for music, which touches the soul, like a fresh rain on a hot day.

  And as I drove home today,....with the icy hand of anxiety slowly squeezing my heart, a song began to play on the radio and the words cut through the ice and the tears fall like rain..... And I lifted up my voice up and sang with everything in me. 

 You are my joy, You are my song

You are the well, the One I'm drawing from
You are my refuge, my whole life long
Where else would I go?

Surely my God is the strength of my soul
Your love defends me, Your love defends me
And when I feel like I'm all alone
Your love defends me, Your love defends me

Day after day, night after night
I will remember, You're with me in this fight
Although the battle, it rages on
The war already won
I know the war is already won


Surely my God is the strength of my soul
Your love defends me, Your love defends me
And when I feel like I'm all alone
Your love defends me, Your love defends me


You're my portion
My salvation
Hallelujah
You're my portion
My salvation

  And then comes another song and I sing my Halleluiahs, my broken, but beautiful Halleluiahs!

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain

Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design

May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

Your love is like radiant diamonds
Bursting inside us we cannot contain

Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design

May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design

May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

These Halleluiahs be multiplied
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name


Little Blue Dog........The Cry of a Shattered Heart

 

  About three weeks ago I took on the challenge of one little female pit-bull. Her rescue name is Appie but we call her Little Blue Dog.

  She came up from a shelter down south where a kind, soft spoken lady who is excellent with dogs had been unable to reach her. For some weird reason (I think it was meant to be this way) when she arrived at the rescue she came out of her kennel, wagged her tail and took a treat, ensuring her adoptability. That was the first and last time that she did so.

 After arriving she began to shut down. She would not leave the dog house and was terrified of everyone.  The rescue kennels are a very active place with a lot of dogs and a lot of noise. We assumed she was just having a hard time adjusting to it all and decided to move her to my house.

 I wrongly assumed that this would be just like all the other fearful dogs I have worked with, a little love, a little kindness and everything would be fine..... but it wasn’t. Nothing broke through her barriers. I was kind, I moved slow, I was patient. Chicken liver and black forest ham rained from the sky whenever I was around. I practiced appeasement and calming gestures that have worked well with fearful dogs in the past.  I would sit in her kennel and read just to get her used to me, never looking at her and always speaking soft yet confident. After three weeks although we had made some small progress it really wasn’t much.

 If she is loose she will run, she always runs at my approach, at anyone’s approach. If in her kennel or crate she hovers in the back and will only come out when the leash is attached to her collar. If inside she typically will hide inside her crate. Only one day, out of all the days did she come out and chew on a toy and just lay on the carpet. If you stand or move in any way she cringes and runs, if flight is not an option she goes down low, real low and awaits the displeasure that she is certain is coming.

   Once she is on a leash she will follow you, but she cringes at every move and seems to just be resigned to her fate and certain that you intend her harm.

 At certain points along the way she has been so shut down that she squints her eyes shut and just lays there as you touch her to put the leash on. Soft and gentle touch offers her no comfort and she just tenses up and allows it, certain that it is all a lie and harm is sure to follow.

 From time to time, and for only a fleeting moment, I see hope in her eyes, or something that I cannot quite put my finger on. If I sit down sometimes she will approach me, and if I walk about the yard sometimes she will follow and on occasion come up behind to sniff me, quickly fleeing if my head turns or I give any indication that I know she is there.

 She loves Patronus, my amazing Dog Whisperer dog. Through him I have been able to see a portion of her true self, as she greets him in the morning and dances in delight. For him her tail wags, for him she rains kisses, for him she bows and entices him to play. These moments are precious and beautiful to behold, for they show her as she was meant to be, as she was created to be, before some unknown sorrow broke her heart and spirit into fractured pieces.

 Working with her is heartbreaking. I have so much to offer her. Peace, rest, provision and a lot of love. I think of how it would be to have her in my lap and give her cuddles and rub her tummy….but to her this would be torturous. She simply cannot see all that I have to offer her for fear of some cruelty. I know not what she has endured in her short life, but whatever it was it has scarred her terribly.

 The lessons she teaches me are painful ones, not the normal happy and uplifting ones that other foster dogs have taught. She teaches me of sorrow, fears, hopelessness and brokenness, a tormented creature lost in the darkness. I see in her my own plight at certain times of my life, when God wooed me with His grace and mercy but I was so broken, so angry and fearful that I could not accept His wooing. Yet He never stopped pursuing me. I, like her ate crumbs from the ground when a feast beyond measure was there for the taking. I was just too broken to see it, and too disillusioned to believe it was real.

 Sometimes broken cannot be fixed, sometimes broken just will not come to the table offered. Yet God in His great mercy never stops asking, never stops pursuing, and never stops loving. I will do my very best to do the same, for the Little Blue Dog and in so doing, I will hope with all my heart that she will reach a place of trust where she will decide to eat from the bountiful table that is offered and know the peace of companionship with a caring human.

 Your prayers for her are greatly appreciated.

 

Little Blue Dog

I watch you huddled in the corner

Your eyes carefully watching my every move

Your body is tense, your tail tucked tightly

You are ready to flee…always ready to flee

Softness does not break through

Kindness and soft words do not penetrate

Tasty food has no appeal

You are convinced that nothing good comes from humans

Goodness and humans are a lie

I think you once believed that such things could be

I think your heart wanted it so very much

But someone trampled upon all that

And left you shattered and broken

Let me show you that beautiful is possible

Let me show you what grace can do.

Trust me little one…..trust me just a little bit

And we will behold the miracle of love.

 

 

 “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life” (Psalm 23:6a, The Message)

 

 

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT)


A Dog's Purpose

This Saturday, the 16th of September I took my dear friend Quasimodo, AKA QuasiBoBo, AKA the Joy and Peace Dog, to his new family. It was a bittersweet experience. This dear dog, whom I have poured heart and soul into, whom I have wept and prayed a thousand prayers and tears, this dear dog who has brought me such laughter and joy, even in the middle of tears and frustration was finally spreading his wings and flying away.

 The night before his big event we celebrated. He danced in the yard with his favorite flower pot, he chased balls and ropes and then we came inside and he had ice cream. The look on his face is always so delightful when he has ice cream.

 Many of my friends who have followed the saga of Quasimodo on my Facebook page or here on my blog have urged me to keep him. I wanted to. I really did, but always when I considered it there was that still small voice telling me that he was not made for me. He has a different purpose. He is simply with me, to teach me some lessons and to heal up and be prepared for where he is supposed to be. So in truth I have always know this day was coming.

 Once Quasi was cleared for adoption the process began of introducing him to folks interested in adopting him. We had several that seemed perfect for him. People with tons of land and horses, which I thought would be wonderful for him. Yet for whatever reason they did not work out. I was a little sad about this, but I should not have been. Things went as they went because although those homes were perfect for any dog, they did not fulfil the purpose of Quasimodo.

 Quasi adores children. He always made me laugh with his intense desire to be with children. Mine are grown but a corner neighbor has kids and they often played in the swimming pool. An eight foot brick wall separates us, and you cannot see in, but you can hear the children laughing. Each time this occurred Quasi would run to the corner and stand there, hopping into the air on all fours and trying desperately to see the children.

 Well his new family do CYFD foster care. They provide a safe and loving place for children who are abused and neglected. A safe place for broken children. How beautiful that is and how wonderful that Quasimodo will be participating in something he delights in, making children laugh and not only that but making children who may not have much reason to laugh, laugh.

 He has only been with his new family a few days and already he has befriended a child in the CYFD program. I am told that child “delights” in Quasi.

  To all of you who came along side me as I fostered this very special dog and nursed him through his recover, to the ones who prayed, to the ones who laughed and loved…..thank you. Thank you for participating in this glorious unfolding as we laughed and cried and prayed and watched this big, goofy looking dog struggle to break free of the limitations placed upon him by circumstances beyond his control. Through it all he was a trooper. He danced wearing multiple cones, with drainage tubes and bandages, he ran and frolicked wearing a plastic helmet, and he displayed joy and hope throughout it all.

  He would look at me perplexed as I sat on the ground weeping, trying to figure out why I was so sad, after all the mud and dirt is fun! “Look ma!, I am covered in mud! It is so much fun!” and never understanding that my tears were for the probable dirt that had now contaminated his head.

    Here’s to you Quasimodo, the Joy and Peace dog! Every second was worth it and what a glorious unfolding is has been! But it’s not over yet, in fact it has just begun. And it’s going to be wonderful watching from a distance as your forever Auntie Donna, as you fulfil your purpose.

 

 


From the Least of These

 I sit on the porch relaxing and watch as a young boy walks down the dirt road carrying a chicken. I find this sight very interesting as I do not recall ever seeing a young boy, walking down a dirt road, carrying a chicken.

 He goes by and I ponder what he might be doing and why does the boy have a chicken in his arms? A few moments later I see this same boy walking up the hill to the street above us and he no longer has a chicken. My first thought is that perhaps this chicken is following him, like a dog, so I stand and walk out into the yard to better view this amazing scene, but alas, there is no chicken.

 So I walk out into the street and there, standing in the dust and the dirt, is a bedraggled rooster, feathers limp, tail feathers entirely gone and looking rather lost and confused.

 I would like to say that my first thought was to rescue this poor fellow, but it wasn’t. Instead I told myself “it is just a chicken”, “it is not my chicken”, and “Donna, what will you do with a chicken? What are you thinking?”

  So I walked back inside my home and left the chicken where he was.

 A little while later I went back outside and there he was, in my yard, probably drawn by the water in the bird bath and the quail block on the ground. I watched him as he tried to eat, and then he would just lay down, as if he were exhausted. At that point I knew I could not just leave him there. He would not last the night with the coyotes.

 So I got out one of the dog crates and begin to entice the rooster with bird seed. He was so hungry and was gobbling it up as fast as I could throw it upon the ground. In the end I herded him into a corner and picked him up. He looked so sad, huddled in the corner, trying desperately to make himself small and invisible because he just had nowhere else to run to. As I picked him up he surrendered himself to me, although I could feel him trembling in my hands.

 I gently placed him in the dog crate, got him some water and some food and set him up in the shade. For whatever reason the song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” went through my head and I christened him Leroy.

 

 He was afraid each time I came outside to sit with him, and would huddle in the corner as if he expected me to harm him, but slowly over the course of our three days together, he began to trust me just a little. He would come right out and eat the food in his dish, instead of waiting for me to disappear, and he would look at me, where before he huddled and tried to make himself small and invisible.

 I sent out a neighborhood message to see if anyone had lost a rooster, and I started networking with folks on Facebook and eventually this led me to a New Mexico monk, named Father Joshua, who runs a hermitage up in the foothills of the Monzano Mountains. He declared that he was willing to take Leroy in and give him a home at his monastery.

  What lessons can be learned in three days’ time from the rescue of one bedraggled rooster?

   Leroy had nothing to offer me, nothing I needed, no endearing quality to call me to his rescue, he was just a worn out bird, lost and confused and rather hopeless. Much like me in comparison to the rescue that I experienced when Christ called my name and declared me His.

 To rescue should have nothing to do with endearing qualities, such as beauty, or appeal, or what the rescued can do for me, but instead should be done for the glory of God, because He created and said it was good, and because I, like Leroy, had nothing to bring to Him but filthy rags, and yet He rescued me, clothed me in His robes of white, declared me precious and beloved.

  And I learned another lesson as I drove Leroy across town to meet up with his new benefactor Father Joshua. I learned that my faith is weak and I have miles to go and that sometimes I am a disappointment to myself.

 As I arrived on the other side of town I pulled into a huge empty lot and sat to wait for Father Joshua. A young man, wearing only a pair of black shorts stumbled about the parking lot, appearing disoriented and perhaps drunk or on drugs. As I watched he fell to the ground and rolled over on his back and was just lying there talking to the sky. I was concerned. I recognized that this was not a coincidence that I was sitting in this parking lot while a young man struggled, and yet I did nothing……well I did do something. I locked my doors. I whispered a prayer but was immediately convicted that a prayer was not what was needed, yet still I sat, arguing with myself and with God.

 “This is the South Valley Lord, I am a woman alone in a car. This guy is not right in his head. He could try and rob me or take my vehicle. You should bring somebody else to minister to his needs.”

  And a white car pulled into the parking lot and a young man got out and knelt down, talking to the incapacitated one. He went back to his car and returned with water. The incapacitated young man drained the bottle of water and I watched as the two men talked. The incapacitated one waved his arms about as they talked and then stood up. The two shook hands, the rescuer opened the door of his car and the young man got in…….and they drove away.

 And I sat asking myself why I was afraid to intervene.

  So thank you Leroy, for the lessons. I pray that you have a long and healthy life living at the St. Cornelius Orthodox Christian Hermitage. I was told last night your new name is Mr. Red. It suits you. And thank you Father Joshua for taking him in. You and your vision for a place in the wilderness to help our veterans suffering from PTS and TBI are in my most fervent prayers. God be with you.

 

 

http://thehermitagenm.org/

Note: As it turned out the young boy carrying the chicken had found him on the street above us, and had walked that entire street and most of ours asking if anyone had lost a rooster. When he could find no one he let the chicken go as his parents had told him he could not bring it home with him.

Glorious Unfolding.....

    I sit and watch the big Rottweiler as he leaps and twirls about the backyard in his dance of joy and I reflect on the experience of the last couple of months caring for him through his recovery, and of things I have been reading and of a song I just listened to on the radio.

   This joyful dog was born somewhere down south in New Mexico, a little over a year ago, and at the young age of 9 weeks he was attacked by another dog and severely injured, suffering damage to his head, crushing of one nasal cavity and giving him a misshapen face where his eyes don’t quite line up, and his jaw is off-center. We found out recently through a search of his medical records that he was bitten by a snake a little while after his first injury. This too in the face.

  So the dog grew up and as he grew his body overcompensated and created a huge bony growth on the left side of his head, a growth with bony fingers pressing down into his left eye and a growth that filled up with nasty infection and created a constant pressure, probably must like a severe sinus infection to us.

  Much of that story was told in a previous blog post. But today my thoughts are drawn to how things unfold in life, and how although bad times can seem unsurmountable and more than we can endure, the story is not over yet.

  The dog zooms about the yard, leaping like some kind of heavy weight sumo wrestler trying to do ballet. He is both graceful and clumsy. He is exuberant! He feels so darn good and life, in his opinion, just doesn’t get any better. But it wasn’t always so for him. There was a time when all he knew was the dull ache and pressure in his head, an ache that dulled life for him, prevented a good fast frolic from being enjoyable, and I cannot but marvel at the glorious unfolding that I have been able to witness as I have watched this dog go from the misshapen Quasimodo, to the exuberant and joyful QuasiBoBo.

  As I watch him frolic in the yard, I ponder the story that I read recently in the book of Ruth, a Bible book I have read frequently over the years and yet this time something else jumped out at me in the story. Naomi, the mother in law of Ruth, a woman who left the land of her birth and followed her husband into Moab. She bore him two fine sons, and watched them marry Moabite women and somewhere along the way everything went wrong. Her husband died, leaving her alone, and then both her sons died, leaving her bereft and broken.

  Naomi must have had some wonderful character traits, because both of her daughter in laws wept at the thought of losing her, as she informed them of her intention to return to the land of her birth. So much so that Ruth decides to follow her and declares those famous lines; “entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, whether thou goest I will go, thy people will be my people and thy God my God.” There must be something that shined out of Naomi’s life to have created such a bond that the daughter in law is now willing to follow her into a land where Moabites are not too popular, and to do so as a young widow.

  I think of Naomi. Of how totally lost and broken she must have been. Dead husband. Dead sons. Nobody to provide for her and probably not much to live for. She tells her people to stop calling her Naomi and to call her Mara “for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me”. I can’t say I blame her for that, she for sure endured a terrible loss, and carried a heavy burden.

 Yet I imagine this woman as she took her final breath and then stepped into the presence of the God that she had always believed in, when she at last could see how everything turned out in her story, when she could behold from beginning to end the glorious unfolding of the most wonderful story ever told, and one that she had played a part in. The look on her face as she realized that from the line of her daughter in law Ruth, and her kinsman redeemer Boaz, had come the Savior of the world! When she realized that the hard life she had lived, and the witness she had made to her young daughter in law, the witness that drew that young woman to follow her home, and thus meet Boaz and marry him, and have a child, who had a child, who had a child and one day, in a stable in Bethlehem a babe was born to a young virgin……..what a glorious unfolding of grace that came straight out of the broken, heartrending trials of a woman named Naomi.

 And as I rise to get ready to leave for work my thoughts drift to my father, a man who suffered a lot of hardship and disappointment in life and I imagine his face, as he took that final breath and stepped into eternity, and as the Savior whom he had served most of his life unfolded the glorious story of all the lives impacted by his faithfulness. And I pause for a moment and look up, and imagine hearing my dad, from that great cloud of witnesses whisper “run, daughter”……”run your race…..the story is far from over….and what a glorious unfolding it will be!”.

 

 

 

 Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing love
And the story has only begun

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise god has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

We were made to run through fields of forever
singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Of this glorious unfolding
We will watch and see and we will be amazed
If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over
And hold on to every promise god has made to us
We’ll see the glorious unfolding

Just watch and see (unfolding)
This is just the beginning of the beginning (unfolding)

 



New Life and Second Chances….Lessons I Have Learned From Dogs

    A couple of months ago I met a Rottweiler named Quasimodo. A rather quiet and gentle soul. Quasi was attacked by another dog when he was just a few weeks old, and his nasal cavity was crushed. As he grew and matured his body compensated for the injury and grew an enormous mass of bone on the left side of his head. So Quasi, now one year old, has this huge domed hump on the top of his head, a mass so large that is caused his left eye to be squeezed shut and thus giving him his name.

 Quasi has known no other life, all his days have been spent with the burden and the pressure of his injury. This is his life, this is as good as it gets for Quasi. Sure, he has had some good times, some tasty bones, naps in the sun and interactions with others, but all took place with the burden and the pressure of the old injury, squeezing shut his eye and causing pain, sort of like having a permanent sinus infection.

 I immediately fell in love with this dog, with his grossly misshapen head and his quiet and kind brown eye. You could just feel the “very special” radiating off this dog. On that first day that we met, I was only able to spend a few minutes with him, on a quick walk around the park, but he captivated me from the moment I first saw him.

 The next week Quasi went in for surgery, to remove all that extra skull from his dome. When they cut into him they found this hardened bony dome was filled with nasty pus and gore. The vet was brilliant in her work and worked diligently to remove all the infection and once the surgery was over, Quasi’s head was more normal shaped.

 He arrived back to the rescue that evening, and the dog that had been quiet and gentle was now dancing. He danced and he lept and he was so darn happy. Although he had a huge cone on his head, and gauze packed into his surgery wound, with a drain hanging out the top of his head, and he looked a frightful hot mess, but he didn’t care. All Quasi knew was that the burden, and the pressure were gone! And he felt wonderful! He felt alive! And he wanted nothing more than to dance and to run and to leap, not caring at all that he was slinging blood and gore all about him, plastering it upon the walls and the people. For the first time since his injury, Quasimodo was dancing!

 Sadly I did not get to see this wonderful sight, but I had it described to me, and it filled my heart with joy for this beautiful very special dog!

   A few weeks later I got to spend some time with Quasi. What a different dog from when we first met. His head was filled with stitches and somewhat misshapen, and he had a bit of a Frankenstein appearance now, he was wearing his huge cone, but he had such joy in his eyes. He was a new dog. The same and yet not the same. He was alive, he was joyful, and looking at him all I could see was beautiful hope and redemption.

 Quasimodo reminds me of myself. Of how I lived my life, up until my high twenties, with a burden and a pressure upon it that I could not describe, nor understand, nor get rid of. There were good times, and great experiences, but all were somewhat marred by that pressure and yearning that spoke to my soul saying “surely this is not everything?” “Surely there is something more?”

 And somewhere into all that mess that was me, and my life, God reached down and called my name, and something inside me awoke, and something I had always carried, not even realizing the full weight of it, fell away, and I was free and I was changed. Jesus, the one who touched lepers, had touched me and I would never again be the same. All that stuff mucking up my life, all that weight pressing down upon me, all that yearning for “something more”, was gone and I was new and different.

  I know how Quasimodo must feel, I know why he dances, he has been given a new life, totally and completely different from the life he once had. He didn’t even know that such a thing was possible. All of his days of memory had been filled with that pressure, that big ugly puss filled burden on the top of his head. It had marred everything. Even the good moments of life, the tasty bones, the time spent with the people he loved, all of that marred by that steady pressure of pain, that steady burden of infection. He is a new dog now.

    I have since been blessed to be able to foster Quasimodo for a bit and currently he is entertaining us with his antics and teaching me the lessons I need to learn from him, before he moves on into his special forever home.

    He has already shown me how there is always hope, even when you can't feel it, can't see it, can't even contemplate the possibility of it. He has found a new life, a second chance, and its like nothing he could ever dream. He will get to be all that he was created to be, he will dance, he will frolic and he will bring love and companionship to his special human. Quasi has joy now, an unbridled joy, he feels good, he feels so good that he can hardly contain himself.

   He has already shown me the art of dancing, even if you have ugly stitches and a huge cone on your head. And just watching him, seeing the joy in his face reminds me of redemption. Something that I too rejoice in and am greatly thankful for.

    Quasi has been redeemed. His redemption was bought for him by someone else, an act of total grace and one for which he cannot repay. And he is overjoyed by this new wonderful life he has been given. There is so much more to come for him, but right now its a lot of times in crates, and wearing a giant cone on his head but still he dances. He is the very picture of joy personified. It's as if he can now see the hope in front of him.

 He is a hoot to watch, and already I see that God has much to teach me through the antics of this very special dog.

     God bless you Quasimodo, and grant you long life, peace, people who adore you, tasty bones, naps in the sun, long walks by the river and all the other good things that every dog should have. Until then…………teach me His ways and His lessons as I watch you heal up.

   


 

You're shattered
Like you've never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you're never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It's alright now
Love's healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
'Cause your story's far from over
And your journey's just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
'Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven's working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Oh, so tell your heart to beat again

 

 


Walking By Faith

    This morning, as I sat looking out over a dreary, wet landscape and gray, rainy sky I meditated upon the morning's reading, Numbers 12 and 13. I pondered Caleb, a leader of his people and a man of great faith.

     Caleb and eleven  other leaders were sent into the promised land, to spy out the land, to see if it were fruitful and to see if it could be taken. These twelve men found a fruitful land, abundant with crops, fertile and lush. But eleven men came back with tales of woe and terror. They saw an impossible task. They saw the fear of tomorrow, they dwelled upon the "what ifs" and in so doing they reported back that it was impossible to go forward. Victory was impossible. Going forward was certain death and destruction. They had gone in, and spied out with earthly eyes.

   Not so with Caleb. He saw a future bold and bright. He saw victory. He saw a land promised to him and he saw the God of glory marching forward before him as he marched to take it.

  Can you imagine how difficult that was? Here he stands with eleven men, all leaders of the people, all, presumably men he respected, and every last one of them is reporting that this land they just returned from was impossible to take. Everyone of them spoke against going forward, and everyone of them promised certain destruction if their words were not heeded.

  Have you ever stood alone? Stood believing on a course of action when everyone else was opposed? In times like that you start second guessing yourself. You begin to falter, you begin to think maybe they are right.

   Not so Caleb. He stood firm, he believed in the God who had gone before him every time past, the God who had delivered, the God who had sustained, the God of the impossible, the glorious, amazing, terrifying God of glory. And God had said this land would be given to them. So Caleb didn't see fortified cities and mighty warrior's with earthly eyes. Instead he looked upon this promised land with eyes of faith.

  Walking by faith and not by sight isn't easy. Everyone around you will often be clamoring about the certain destruction that is coming, how the situation before you is an impossible one, and without meaning to they will encourage you to be cautious, to stay put, to accept the lesser and to stop dreaming about the impossible.

  How do we walk by faith? Personally I believe we learn to walk by faith when we keep our eyes on Jesus. The God man, the One who left glory and majesty and took on flesh, the One who walked on water, the One who quieted the storm with a word, the One who said "Lazarus come forth!", the One who touched lepers, the One who freed captive souls, the One who's touch caused the blind to see and the lame to jump up and dance. 

  God's promises are sure. Caleb knew this truth. Caleb was willing to stake his very life on that truth. He did not allow the fears of the other eleven to discourage him. He knew the God of glory, he remembered the amazing feats of deliverance, strength and provision that had come from the very hand of that God of glory. 

  We can learn much from Caleb.

.

The Last Time

 I was reading some Buechner today, and he spoke of the Last Supper and how we too have last moments with loved ones, but we do not often recognize they are last moments. I wonder if we thought of this more often, perhaps it would help us to be at peace with things and to see what is truly important instead of the trivial things we often focus on.

  One day I will sit down for my last meal, but I probably won’t realize it. Often I go home after a workday, and I fret, and even feel a bit sorry for myself because now I must prepare something for us all to eat. I’m easy to please, a peanut butter sandwich works great for me, but my family prefer cooked meals. This can be irritating to me, tiring, and a drain on my dwindling energy. But when I think about that last meal, it changes everything.

What if tonight’s dinner is the last dinner I ever prepare for my husband….or my son? What if sometime between the eating of it, and tomorrow’s meal, God decided to call one of them home?

  When you start to ponder this, you begin to think of many “lasts”. The last hug, the last kiss, the last words……..we just don’t know what tomorrow holds. This past Sunday, in Cairo, Coptic Christians rose from their sleep, they got dressed, they fretted with dressing squirmy children, and they made breakfast. Perhaps they felt rushed, perhaps they were tired and stressed, perhaps they even felt drained by the constant need of their families. Eventually they completed these unrecognized “lasts” and headed out to church…..for the last time.

While sitting in their pews, perhaps singing, or praying or listening to the day’s reading, a bomb went off and 28 souls went home to Jesus. Did the ones left behind agonize over that morning’s lasts? Did the husband wish he had been kinder, did the mother wish that she had not so scolded the child for his exuberance? Perhaps they had breakfast together while watching the television, and there was little or no talking. Perhaps she read a book as they drove to church. How different it probably would have been had they all known that that morning contained all those lasts.

 This morning, a Facebook friend requested prayer for a man who's son died last night in an auto accident. There's a man out there somewhere, heartbroken, shattered, faced with burying a son.....a man who experienced a last and did not know it. I pray their last moment was a good one. That there was grace, love and compassion.

 I too have experienced lasts that I did not know were lasts. How I wish I could live them over again, more mindfully. My last phone conversation with my dad, my last phone conversation with Mel, even the last time I made lunch for my sons to take to school, and the last time I helped them with homework. The last piece of artwork that they brought home, excited to show me......so many lasts.

 Buechner went on to speak of how limited our time really is, and how sad it is that we do not see that every supper with our loved ones is "precious beyond all telling because the day will come beyond which there will be no other supper with them ever again". He states that "every one of our suppers points to the preciousness of life and also to the certainty of death, which makes life even more precious still and is precious in itself because under its shadow we tend to search harder and harder for light".

 Reflecting upon these things brings a strong desire to live more mindfully, to embrace the moments, to live as if each one is a last. To live those moments with my eyes wide open to the people and things around me, to the opportunities God daily places in front of me. To live those moments so that any unsuspecting lasts are the best lasts they can be. To recognize that each moment is holy, and that each task in life is important and worthwhile to God, be it doing the laundry or cooking a daily meal.God is present in every moment. I desire to be more aware of His presence in those moments.

 Can you imagine the difference we can all make daily, were we to live each moment, each greeting, each goodbye, each daily mundane task taken on for our children or our spouses as if it were the last time we would see that person? The last task we ever do for them? Our love for one another would grow, our relationships would strengthen, our compassion would increase and I believe we would have a lot more peace in our lives.

 Moments........that's all we have for certain.....this moment right here and now....nothing else is promised. Let's live them well, let's live them with love and compassion. Let's error on the side of grace and mercy. Let's endeavor to let others know that they matter. Let's stop and smell the roses, gaze upon the sunrise, acknowledge and feel the breeze as it brushes through your hair. Hold the hand of the one you love. Be thankful, take time to listen, reflect on what you are about to say......you just never know....this might be the last time.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

Quotes are from Secrets in the Dark by Frederick Buechner