Tag Archives: God

Youth and Age: Better With God

I’ve been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes. What a great book.

The poetry is amazing. I love the author’s metaphors in chapter 12 for the aging process (something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately).

How about this?:

“When the keepers of the house tremble and the the strong men stoop.” Yes, at the age of 63 I’m beginning to understand this. It annoys me that I can’t bounce up the stairs like I used to. It bothers me that my back hurts after an hour of yard work.

My dad had been a strong, capable Army Air Corps pilot during World War two. But the years (here he is at the age of 92 at our daughter’s wedding) stole his vitality.

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“When men rise up at the sound of birds.” Yep, I awake at about 4:30. I remember my grandmother getting up at the crack of dawn, and I wondered, how does she do that?

“When men are afraid of heights.” As a child, I used to climb trees and perform gymnastic feats. Now, my balance isn’t as good as it used to be, and I worry that I’ll trip and fall down my own steps (like I did last year and almost broke my knees.)

Here’s me, going carefully down the steps near Lake Evergreen, CO. Bruce is holding Little Kira’s hand. I’m gripping the handrail.

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Age continues to surprise me. With every new ache or strain, I have to remind myself, “Oh, yes, you’re an older woman now.”

I bristle at the thought. In my mind I’m still 22, even though the mirror and the camera shock me with their harsh reality.

But I wouldn’t go back to that age. Even though I was in the thick of performing in shows, singing concerts and recitals, learning opera roles, finishing up my music degree, with wattage to burn at both ends of the day, I wouldn’t go back.

At that age, I hardly gave God a nod. Life was too much about me all the time.

I had a vague feeling that I was missing out spiritually, but I couldn’t jump off the merry-go-round. It was going too fast.

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Ecclesiastes says, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come…”

Oh, how well the author understood our frailty, our brief days of vitality.

Thank God, He intervened and communicated this message to me: Don’t waste your years only thinking about acquiring wealth, knowledge, degrees, fame. It only lasts a very short time.

Let Me order your days. Then what I call you to do will be something that will last beyond your brief time on earth.

Youth and age: better with God.

I Delight In People

The other day, I decided that it was just too good a day to write indoors.

I packed up my laptop and other stuff and headed for Marine Park, in south Bellingham.

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On my way, I stopped off at the Amtrak station and got a coffee and watched travelers, tried to take a selfie—which I’ve never done— all the while feeling terrified self-conscious, and hoping no one smirked at the sight of an old woman taking a selfie.

The sun was bright so I’m squinting like crazy in this photo.

After about 500 words, I moved on to the park itself.

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I love to watch children at the beach. They find “treasures” most of us would plug our noses at.

Like this cute little boy who found a dead crab. He’s so excited, and on his way to show and tell his parents and siblings all about crabs. Oh, how I remember those days of innocent exploration and exuberance over tiny creatures, and rocks, and waves.

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I did 500 more words, and, as if God were sending me a bonus for my productivity, a freight train rolled through on the tracks adjacent to the park.

I love trains. And apparently, others do, too, because about twenty of us lined up along the iron fence to count the railroad cars as they lumbered and screeched around the bend.

115 cars.

What skill, what knowledge to build a freight train! And how does the conductor safely move that long vehicle through miles and miles of track? The massiveness of the train, the blast of its ear-shattering horn, the squeal of metal on metal, the rush of air as it passes, the places it’s been and the places it will go: I love trains!

Close by, a young man also watched the train.

I returned to my shady picnic bench under a huge—and I do mean huge—maple tree.

Later, a shadow made me look up at the tree. The same young man who had watched the train had climbed into the lowest branches of the maple. Carrying a long, nylon strap, he wound it, logger style, around branches to help him climb higher.

He moved confidently among the branches, like a modern-day Tarzan.

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He kept exploring the largest branches. What was he doing?

But when he wrapped that nylon strap around one of the branches that extended horizontally, I got a horrible thought.

I shouted up to him in a friendly voice, “You’re not planning to hang yourself, are you?”

He laughed and said no. Then he turned and smiled, his handsome face radiant. “How’s your day going?”

I said “Wonderful, it’s beautiful day and I’m being very productive with my writing.”

“That’s what I’m planning to do in a few minutes.”

In another five minutes, he had hauled up a hammock and strapped it between the inside boughs of the maple tree. Wow, what a great idea. Now, if only I could be twenty-two again and have the agility to climb like that athletic young man.

I didn’t have the nerve to ask him what he was writing. Kind of wish I had, now.

My writing, the little boy’s exploration,

mothers watching their children, sailboats slicing through the cold waters of the Sound,

couples kayaking, people—childlike—watching a train,

the young tree-climber, preparing his writing studio for the day.

Thinking, expressing, exploring, observing, building.

I came home refreshed and filled with thankfulness for everyday human activity, and for God, Who has given us so many capabilities, among the chief: the capacity for enjoyment.

 

 

 

Ten Reasons We Pray

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Prayer is perhaps the most worshipful thing we do.

It says to God:

  1. “I look to You because I am Your child.”
  2. “I recognize that I am spiritually poor, unable to make a change in my heart, or the heart of another.”
  3. “I recognize my human physical frailty.”
  4. “You are the God who cares.”
  5. “You are great and good.”
  6. “You are all powerful, much more powerful than my enemies.”
  7. “You have a plan that is eternal, Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts.
  8. “I trust  You.”
  9. “I can approach You with my intercessions because of what Jesus did for me on the cross.”
  10. “I love You.”

We can depend on our Heavenly Father for His …

Provision

Protection

Power

Plan

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I love the Psalms. Many of them, written by King David, begin with a complaint or a plea for God’s help.

I love the Psalmist’s honesty. He does not couch his words with false piety. He states his problem, then calls on God to bring about justice.

I hope you read the following Psalm and reflect on it today. The key phrase for Psalm 43 is “put your hope in God.”

Psalm 43 (from the NIV Bible):

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men. You are God my stronghold. Have You rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, 0ppressed by the enemy?

Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.

I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed with me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

If that’s not worship, I don’t know what is!

Christianity=Agreeableness

 

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Yes, I know that title engenders controversy.

What?!!! Being agreeable? I thought we Christians were supposed to be counter to the culture. We’re supposed to be set apart from the world.

When some secular voice states that we should not pray in public, we don’t agree.

When strident atheists scream that we Christians are haters, or bigots, or intolerant, we don’t agree.

So what’s this “Christianity=Agreeableness” ???

It’s this:

The Christian life is essentially about agreeing with God.

Because just about everything Jesus Christ calls us to requires a mind and heart attitude of agreeableness:

  1. Agreeing that God exists (Heb. 11:6)
  2. Agreeing that I am a sinner
  3. Agreeing that Jesus Christ is the only way to a relationship with God
  4. Agreeing to place my trust in Him
  5. Agreeing to listen to and obey the Word of God
  6. Agreeing to His prompting to do Kingdom work
  7. Agreeing to confess my sin and embrace God’s definition (not mine) of holiness
  8. Agreeing to believe by faith and not what my natural mind and eyes determine
  9. Agreeing to pursue Him above all other attractive things and philosophies
  10. Agreeing to live in love and unity with other Believers

And at any point along this continuum of the Christian walk that I don’t agree with God, I erect a stumbling block that hinders my journey with Him.

 

It’s a strange little word: agree.

Because it denotes both the passive and the active.

“Agree” can mean that one concurs or assents. Passive.

But “agree” can also mean to grant, as in, signing an agreement, or to work to harmonize with others. Active.

Kind of like a marriage agreement, don’t you think?

What a great little word!

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Retreats

Years ago, in college, I developed the practice of going for long, solitary walks to clear my mind of all the stresses of classes, assignments, exams, and performances.

Later, as a busy mother, church volunteer, and music teacher, the only quiet and truly private spot I could find for my rare moments of retreat was—think the old Calgon commercials—the bathroom. Not really a retreat, but it was the most I could manage at that time.

Remember Maria from The Sound of Music? She hiked into the Austrian Alps to be alone with God and her thoughts. Wouldn’t that be great?

Nowadays, most of my mini-retreats are solitary places. So this past weekend’s Front Range Christian Fiction Writer’s Retreat at Estes Park was a new thing for me. At our resort, I met and socialized with my writer friends. Networked. Learned about writing opportunities. Listened. Shared. Ate and snacked with friends.

Then we all retreated to our separate rooms to write. No pressure to follow any specific agenda. No expectations for what and how much to write. Just do what you want for an entire weekend.

Sound great? You bet.

I did not turn on the TV. I didn’t listen to music. The quiet of the hotel room sometimes startled me, as if something were wrong. Until I reminded myself that it was okay to have silence.

But I’m learning that a Retreat isn’t necessarily about getting alone.

A Retreat is about leaving your usual set of daily activities and chores.

Letting the change in environment, the change in weather, in light or dark, in waking and sleeping, in your usual set of friends… shake your brain free. And asking God to accomplish his purpose during this time.

Nov 03 2010 057By Sunday, I felt fully into the mind-set of Retreat. I had finished editing my latest novel, and had formulated a plan for the next six months of my writing career. My mind felt clearer. Thank You, God!

Jesus went on Retreat. His were very short. But, being the Master, He knew how to get the most out of His jaunts up into the hills where he met His Father.

“With the crowd dispersed, He, (Jesus) climbed the mountain so He could be by Himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.” (Matt. 14:23 The Message)

Not Just Idle Words

The summer after my sophomore year in high school I took Driver’s Education. In class, after watching graphic videos of the aftermath of terrible auto accidents, I was almost obsessively convinced to learn the rules of the road. Those real-life awful images of dead and torn up people stuck with me. Today, they still haunt me.

The instructors’ purpose in Continue reading Not Just Idle Words

Look Back

I found a couple of my old prayer journals while I was reorganizing. They were dated from the mid-eighties. I was about to toss them in the trash, but then stopped at the last second.

I opened one of the journals and read some of my entries. Names of people I hadn’t thought of for years filled the journal’s lines. Amy, Nicole, Myra, Jess, etc. Some of the prayer requests were about health struggles. Some financial challenges. Some concerned problems in their marriages.

Also in this section of the journal was the name of my husband, and my children—tiny tots at this time. And last, my own personal requests.

I turned some more pages and found my favorite category: “Letters to God.”

Some of these entries expressed my yearning for a greater maturity in my faith. Some were about challenges with people where I worked and how I needed to grow in love for each of these co-workers. Some letters simply expressed my praise and thankfulness.

I remember feeling, way back then, that many of these prayer requests seemed to never be answered. Especially the ones for my loved ones. Why does God take such a long time to answer those prayer requests that are most near and dear?

But, sitting on my bed, reading through the journal, through the perspective of thirty years, I saw that almost every one of my prayers had been met. These specific requests usually required an attitude adjustment in me. About my friends, goals, my husband, my children.

Attitude adjustments take time. The Lord rarely zaps us with instant emotional healing. He uses hardship, coupled with time to teach us to submit to His wonderful ways, to lead us to greater dependence on His strength, to produce wisdom and patience.

But He does answer prayers.

If you’re like me and you tend to forget the Lord’s faithfulness to answer prayers, keep a prayer journal. You’ll be amazed as you read older journal entries IMG_2383when you see His footprints all over your life.

It’s great to look forward, to press onward toward your goals.

But every once in a while, it’s also good to look back and see how far the Lord has brought you.

“Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds.” (Psalm 77: 10-12 NIV Bible)