Prayer of Gratitude

Father, I thank You. You have blessed my life in ways that were unimaginable. You bless this earth with abundance.

The weather is under Your word. Father, please be with those who are suffering still from the effects of the hurricane. Supply what they need for their lives, for their homes, for their families. Let them see what all You are doing. Bless the workers who have given up time to be a help during this time.

For our country dear Lord, You established this glorious country. You have guided leaders to follow after You and You alone. Allow the vision of our Founding Fathers to be established once more in the hearts of Your people.

Oh Lord, How I praise You! The earth sings of Your glory. The sun shines brightly, illuminating the artistry of Your right hand. Revive our eyes to see the beauty of your palette. Let us rejoice in Your creation.

Today, especially, as we enter our houses of worship, let us hear Your word and respond. I am so thankful for all of this Lord. I am grateful for this life You have given me, Amen.

Looking at the Same Things

“They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:23 (NKJV)

I have found out from living in various places that you can become accustomed to a place.

Growing up in Oil City, PA, I took for granted the Allegheny River and Oil Creek flowing through our town. The hills and the change of seasons were things that just happened, like clock work. They had always been there, so they would always be there.

When I married and moved to VA, I was amazed at seeing the Atlantic daily. I was in awe of the vastness of the ocean. It was an adventure, but I missed the hills of Oil City. I missed knowing where everything was. I missed home.

Eventually we left Virginia and moved to Japan. A foreign country with such a vast history was fascinating to me. The noise, the crowds, the trains, the language and the writing, each so unique and incredible to me. We eventually moved to our permanent quarters which looked out to Mt Fuji in the distance. I thought I would never tire of seeing this sight. Yet, after a few weeks I would open my blinds and continue on my day. Yes, we lived on a plateau overlooking Sagami Bay with Fuji looming behind that, but, it was home and life went on.

A few years later, we moved to the coast of Maine. Again, magnificence out our door. Lobster boats, the rock bound coast that challenged the Atlantic ocean in a different way than Virginia. The absolute cold and snow, the boundless beauty of this area. It was breathtaking and yet, during the summer I would be frustrated with tourist as they slowly made their way around the loop road. I would sigh, and say, yes, those are rocks, those are waves crashing, but I am on my way to the base, keep moving. I was accustomed to the sights.

I did the same with the view from our house in San Diego. The Coronado bridge, the bay, Point Loma, the sunsets painted by our Lord. Yet, it was home, dishes were done, meals cooked, laundry done.

It finally occurred to me that although sights capture your attention and are new when you first arrive, they become commonplace when you see them daily.

I thought of this today as I drove home from the store. The leaves on the trees lining a driveway for a farm shined brightly in the cold sunlight. It caught my attention and I asked forgiveness for taking such a beautiful view for granted.

Each day with our Lord is new. Each day is filled with fresh mercy and grace and forgiveness. How sad that our Creator wakes the world up, each place painted in a new way for a new day and we just drive down a road thinking about something entirely different.

This world was created for us. For our habitation, for our enjoyment, for our adventures and we grouse about so much.

Lord, let me see each day with Your eyes. Refresh my sight to see Your glory. Amen.

Refrigerators and Dreams

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Today was our day for our monthly Costco trip. Because of this, today I cleaned out my refrigerator, which sadly, I have neglected for a couple of weeks.

As I opened the fridge, I went for anything expired. Milk, lemonade, we are not huge milk drinkers, so that is a usual toss for us. The lemonade was pushed to the back and forgotten. It was past it’s prime, let’s say. Next the wilted celery was tossed, and bits and pieces of some other vegetables. After this, leftovers.

Cleaning the refrigerator is a job no one likes. I try to keep mine up to date, and use everything that is put in there.

As I tossed things I thought to myself, oh yeh, I was going to make this, or use this for (fill in the blanks). We all do this. We put things leftover from dinners, pledging to ourselves that we will make soup, or make a hash, but that we will promise to use what is left.

When I took my trash out to the can, it occurred to me that we do the same with our dreams. We feel prompted to do something or make something or bless someone. After the initial excitement, dreams are pushed to the back. Sometimes they are forgotten or just put on hold.

Often, out of fear, our dreams stagnate and evaporate into a distant thought. How sad this is. I believe that our Lord places within us dreams for our future, for our present and for our ministry. We initially have a rush of thoughts and plans only to panic and place those ideas into the back dusty closet of our hearts and minds.

Our Lord tells us in His word several times, to be courageous, to be strong, and to trust that He is going to be with us each step of the way. He will not leave us, He will walk along side of us, leading and directing us. He promises this. Lean on Him for He will give us strength and courage.

At the beginning of this year I revived a dream to write a book. This has been a year for me of roadblocks. Thinking about it, every couple of months I have faced a challenge. I sometimes get a thought to toss that dream back into the closet. Fortunately, I have a group of women who have committed to be there for me. To challenge me, to encourage me, to pray for me. I cherish these women. Because of them, that dream is as fresh today as it was in January when I retrieved it from that dark closet of my heart. I had hoped to have it roughly finished by November. Although that is not going to happen, I know that it will be done. I am facing my fears of inadequacy and seeing the hand of my Savior reaching towards me to continue this journey.

What journey have you been afraid to start? “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Join me in my journey of seeing dreams being fulfilled.

Flying Towards a Reflection

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27 (NLT)

This morning I was in the kitchen and out of the corner of my eye I saw something hit the window. I stopped what I was doing and looked out the window. What I saw confirmed what I thought, a bird had flown into the window.

As I looked outside I saw the bird laying on the ground, it’s talons twitching and then stopping. My heart sank.

I finished what I was doing and went outside to check on the bird. It lay motionless on the ground. I was hoping there was something I could have done. Figuring it might just be passed out, I prayed asking the Lord to restore this bird.

I looked at the window and saw the reflection of the sky and the trees on the opposite side of the driveway. It actually looked like it was part of the sky. The poor bird thought it was going to continue flying freely in the air. Instead, it hit the reflection in the window.

I know that birds have shorter life spans and the circle of life, and so on, but I felt so bad for this little creature. I finished up my chores inside and walked out the door to do my morning walk. I glanced on the ground, thinking that I would somehow at least bury this bird.

The bird was gone. I looked everywhere. No bird. The bird recovered from it’s shock and flew away without my notice.

How often do we look at a reflection of something we want, or somewhere we think we should go? Often times we are looking at a reflection, not the real thing. I thought of all the times I thought I needed something and saw a reflection only to reach out and grasp it and hitting what it was reflected on.

I return to the scripture above in Matthew. I may worry and fret and ponder about the next few days, weeks, months. But our Lord, knows exactly what is going to happen. He is there in my tomorrows. Today I had a tangible lesson. I saw a bird hurling itself into a reflection. It was stunned. It lay on the ground with the wind knocked out of it. But, our Lord cares for the birds of the air, how much more is He going to care for us?

External Scars

We all carry scars on our body. I have several. One is where I fell on a sickle cut branch and broke a stick off in my leg. It ended up circling around my leg and coming out the same hole it went in. But, that’s another story.

Another scar is from when I slipped in a parking lot area and fell on a spike laying on the side of the road.

Later on I received a scar after cutting some bread and cut my finger instead.

Yes, we all carry scars. Each scar has a story behind it. Some of the stories make you grimace and some are just wonderfully funny stories. Scars show a life well lived.

External scars can be talked about for the most part. They are noticeable and can become conversation starters.

There is another type of scar though. These scars are the ones not seen. Looking at a person you can never tell what internal scars they have. Broken hearts are not readily visible, nor are trauma scars, emotional scars, scars from grief or scars of rejection. Each of us also carry those scars. It’s just that we hide them, tucked away in our inner being.

What if those internal scars revealed themselves? Somehow showing the slight bump or thinner skin like the ones I talked about? How would we deal with them?

I have heard that I have great insight. Ha! I think any insight I may have is first of all, from the Lord. Secondly, any insight comes from internal scars that I carry with me. Sometimes it is referred to as the school of hard knocks, I personally refer to it as life.

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 139:14, “14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” (NKJV)

Each one of us was created in our Mother’s womb. Carefully knit together by the hand of God. He lovingly created our lives, knowing that the form developing in the womb would one day be scarred, internally and externally. It’s not what He desires, but, we are in this world. We fall down, we get hurt, people hurt us. With each bump and bruise we recover, but we are not the same.

Some external wounds take time to heal, and leave a reminder of what happened. Some internal wounds do the same, taking a season to heal and leaving a tender area in us. Since the internal wounds are hidden, they sometimes are never fully healed.

Isaiah 53:3-5 talks about our Lord and how He came to heal us, externally and internally. “He was despised and rejected—  a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (NLT)

Sometimes it’s easier to believe that outer injuries can be easily taken to the Lord. It’s easier to say, I believe, and wait to see a healing done to our bodies. It’s the internal that we keep hidden that is harder to believe for. We hide that broken heart, that broken spirit, the trauma, the emotional abuse, it’s not something we can talk about. Nonetheless, we need to take that to our Lord. His stripes that He bore for us, heal our entire person, inside and out.

I encourage you, if there is something in the recesses of your heart that is hard on you, take that first little step and let our Lord look at it. He can and will heal you.

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 (NLT)

If Only My Legs would Move

I love music. I love dancing, but, my feet do not move and so I stand stationary with a slight sway and sporadic hip movements. I have always longed to dance freely and I think, as a child, I did.

Somewhere a switch turned off and since then, I sway.

Each St. Patrick’s day there is a yearning deep within me to do a jig. I can feel it rising up and yet, nothing. I sway, longing to move and dreaming of someday being in Ireland. I have thought if I could get to Ireland and get in touch with my heritage, I could jig.

There was a year in our family where we celebrated many weddings. My sisters danced and had a wonderful time. I watched, aching to join in. But, my legs would not move.

In worship, I see people moving, dancing before our Lord. Again, I sway. I have actually prayed that the Lord would loosen my feet, loosen my legs and let the joy I have deep inside overflow into dance. It must be one of those prayers whose answer is Wait.

So, wait I do. I imagine when I get to heaven I will hit the gates dancing. I will be filled with such joy that I will not stop dancing. I will do a jig with my parents, I will do a dance with my child who is there, I will joyfully bounce with David, and do jazz hands with the apostles. With Jesus, I will do a waltz, allowing Him to lead me sweep across heaven, swirling and twirling. I wonder if Joshua would do a tango?

We took a dance course. It was fun, but like higher math, it did not sink into me. So, I remain a swayer yearning to explode joyfully before the Lord. Until then, I will wait and ponder on this scripture.

“Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. For the Lord delights in his people;  he crowns the humble with victory.” Psalm 149:3-4 (NLT)

Be Quiet

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

Each Sunday morning our church is open for prayer before the service. Since Dale is on the worship team, and they practice before church, I naturally participate in the prayer time. It isn’t a structured prayer time, we have some of the classrooms open to use as a prayer room, or you can pray sitting in the sanctuary and listen to the practice at the same time.

I like to walk and pray. I need the movement and it keeps my mind alert. I was about to go my normal route today when I was stopped. Not by anyone, but by the voice I felt in my heart.

I felt like I was being told to sit down, and be quiet. Don’t say anything (that’s hard for me), but sit. I found a corner of one of my favorite rooms and sat still.

In the quiet a peace flowed over me. I had no great revelation. No angelic visitor. No thundering voice of God. Nothing dramatic. I sat in a chair in a corner of the room. I was still and I felt peace.

As I have mentioned before, and as anyone who knows me, it’s hard for me to be still. To just sit. I would love to say that I succeeded in being still for an hour just absorbing the quiet and peace, I would love to admit that, but I can’t. I think I sat for about 5 minutes. Those five minutes, though, exactly what I needed.

What God can accomplish in five minutes with someone who is willing to stop and listen is more than what any seminar or counselor can do in months. Sometimes we need to be told to “Be Quiet”.

In the Message the above scripture includes verses 8-10, as I read it, I knew what I needed today was to truly be quiet. Here it is,“Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Psalm 46:8-10 (MSG)

Sometimes we need to stop, not long, just long enough to be quiet before God.

Humble

I have heard this word all my life in different connotations. He/She is very humble. They had humble beginnings. They need to be humble(d). Each means something different. Each the same word, no difference in spelling or pronunciation.

Today, I read in 2 Chronicles 12:5-7 the following, Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah, who were gathered together in Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord: ‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak.’ ” So the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, “The Lord is righteous.” Now when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, “They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.” (NKJV)

Because the king humbled themselves and acknowledged the Lord, they were spared.

After reading this, I thought of 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NKJV)

The verse about the Lord healing our land is a common one. People use this scripture often. I have often said that prayer in this scripture is not enough, we must turn from our wicked ways. Today, I saw it in a different light. We must humble ourselves first. Synonyms for humble include, gentle, polite, respectful, deferential, and supplicatory. Then we pray, seeking God and turning from our wicked ways. If we do these things then God will act.

I was amazed at how the term humble spoke to me today. I see it often when I read, but it does not catch my attention as it this morning.

I have spent the past few minutes finding scriptures about humility, being humble and just the word humble. Below are some of the things I have found, which I will try to absorb deep within me. Ephesians 4:2, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (NLT)

Micah 6:8, “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (NLT)

Colossians 3:12, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (NLT)

I Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” (NLT)

So, as I woke up as a grumpy bear, I will now spend the rest of the day pondering the word humble. I know there is a lesson in here for me.

Stupid Cat

To those cat lovers of the world, please do not get offended. These are purely my opinions and thoughts. There is a point to all of this.

I do not like cats. Kittens are great, so cute, fluffy and playful. Harmless even. But kittens grow up to be cats. I used to think I loved cats. In fact, I wanted one. I then went to work for the Army Veterinary Corp while we lived in Japan. I was hired as a receptionist, and became a scrub nurse to the vets. I loved that job, except for the cats. I was bitten at least six or seven times a day by cats. After doing that for eighteen months, you can understand my dislike of cats. It’s just not fun to be bitten by them daily, plus, they make my eyes water and I sneeze.

A year ago we were quasi adopted by a cat. Living in the ‘country’ it’s great to have one to kill off the mice and the snakes. Dale had wanted an outdoor cat, so he was thrilled. Me? Not so much.

But we fed him and made certain there was an outdoor feeding station for when we were not home. We have a creek running through our property, so water is readily available.

He has never officially been named. After all, he has only quasi adopted us. A friend of mine named him Thaddeus after the role on The Chosen played by Giavani Cairo . On the show he is sometimes referred to by the cast and crew as Rad Thad (so I have read). I consider this cat to be Mad Thad. He also was named Sassy by our granddaughter this summer. Of course the cat nipped at our sweet granddaughter, did not break the skin, but caused a slight bruise. That in itself was enough for me to send the cat into the next country. But, not our granddaughter. A couple hours after being nipped, she drew him pictures and made a present to the cat. We overheard her tell the cat that she understood why she was nipped at, his paw got stuck in her dress and although she was trying to help him, the cat, in panic, nipped at her. Of course, that melted my heart.

We recently came back from visiting our granddaughter and there was no cat to be found. Dale was upset, me, I thought well, at least I don’t have to buy cat food. I am just being honest here, folks.

The cat was gone for a couple of weeks. Yes, I actually did pray for it. Last week as we were heading into town we were at a stop sign and I glanced across a busy road and mentioned to Dale that it looked like the cat. He rolled the window down and gave his usual call. The cat looked up and responded. I thought, he has found a home.

A little sadness crept in. Yes, I am not that hard hearted. For the next few days I looked in every ditch and in every yard to see if I saw him again. Yes, I did pray for his safety.

After a few days, there on our doorstep was the cat. We gave him food and water and I went and bought more food. The storm from hurricane Ian was approaching and supposed to hit us hard. We broke down, went to Target and bought a new cat bed, and a litter box for him. The day of the storm we got him on our screen porch so he could be out of harms way. He ignored the bed and curled up on our porch chairs and slept through the night. The next day was a beautiful day and once we figured out that it was okay to be out, we let the cat out.

The cat walked out of the screen porch and disappeared, not to be seen. We looked at each other and decided the cat was not be owned, or indebted to us.

Tonight, the cat reappeared, hungry. We fed him and he is now sleeping on our front porch like he owns the place.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that we often treat God in a quasi fashion. He died on the cross for our sins. He suffered. He redeemed us. He feeds us through our pastors. He provides safety in storms. He gives us shelter. He gives us love and care when we let Him.

We are no different than Stupid Cat. He yearns for our love, our affection and meanwhile we lick our paws, sidle up to Him and then nip at Him when He tries to help us. The difference is, that although I could give up on the cat, the Lord will never give up on me.

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;  I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Others were given in exchange for you.  I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:1-4 (NLT)

A Mother grows up

Mothers nurture, it’s an instinctive trait in most women. I know it was for me. When mothers are born, it is an unbelievable event. You look at the little baby in your arms and all of a sudden you are a mother badger. That has always been my animal of choice in describing my need to defend and protect my daughters.

As the children grow, which they do quickly, mothers lag behind. I know personally I have straggled behind, not willing to catch up. I have dragged my feet, declaring that I still need to be there for my daughters in all areas. Not necessary, really.

Yes, I know that I will always be Mom to them. I will be available for them if they truly need me.

This week as I started to send our youngest daughter an anniversary card I looked at the card. On the front is a lasso type rope around the words Happy Anniversary. I picked out the card because their wedding had sort of a cowboy theme underneath the southwestern beauty of their wedding. Mentally I looked at the card and knew it just happened a few months ago.

No, fourteen years ago this evening (October 2nd) we watched as our daughter went from Miss to Mrs.. It happened quickly and yet I could see the moment that she was no longer just ours, but his.

When I realized that it was their 14th anniversary I retrieved Dale’s and mine wedding book. Inside I have what we did for the first 20 anniversaries. I wrote just a few words each years as reminders. Under the year 14 for us, I wrote, Dale in Rhode Island, Cathi in San Diego. Dale and I recounted the events around our 14th anniversary. His Dad had passed away in early January that year. We went to Pennsylvania and hours after the funeral we drove Dale to Pittsburgh so he could fly to Rhode Island for a school for the Navy. I stayed with his Mom for a couple of days and flew home to our girls.

Looking on the list I noticed how many anniversaries he was somewhere and not together. Such is life as a Navy couple.

As Dale and I talked about our fourteenth anniversary, we talked about how old, wise and mature we were. Without noticing the proverbial brick landed on my head. A Mother grew up.

It hit me. The young woman that we watched 14 years ago is not the same woman she is now. She is a wife, a mother herself, half of a couple who have been through and survived much in this short time. My baby is grown up. It is now time for me to grow up.

I no longer need to fret over her. Yes, I can always love her and worry, but I no longer need to be that helicopter, wondering how she is, and what is going on. I can watch from a distance knowing she has this.

I once bemoaned the fact that the girls did not call daily. Dale looked at me as only a father and husband can and simply said, “Didn’t you raise them to be strong, independent women?” I answered that I did. He then said to me, “Then what’s the problem? You did well.”

So, as I start on this path of a grown up Mom, I look to our Lord. I have known their whole lives that I have only been blessed for a season with them, but our Lord is their Lord. He will be the One to guide and direct them. He provided strong men of God for my girls. He has blessed them in many ways. Now, this foot-dragging Mom is now getting out of the way, but not completely.