ADVENT 2017 – HOPE #3

It has been one of those nights when all I’ve done is find one podcast after another (and should I  mention that I really don’t like to listen to them at all .  I am a visual learner who does much better watching body cues and facial expression while I listen). Podcasts that popped up in various ways and yet – all related – tied together by theme and content. And now, they are all tumbling around in my head as I am watching seasonal, up-lifting movies, praying off and on, working on a Christmas stocking, and enjoying the colorful lights that decorate my house.

I am blessed. Blessed beyond time. Blessed with unending HOPE.

And yet – I yearn for more.  Yearn to understand more.  Yearn to peek over the balcony in my own world. I can see my cover picture on FB. It is entitled, “Heaven’s balcony” by Ron DiCianni. When I first saw it, it struck me that this has always been the way I pictured angels and my loved ones as they look down from heaven at the rest of us – – – a time of peeking over the rails of clouds into the murky world below.

Can you imagine what Heaven’s balcony looked like when Zechariah was in the temple? At the annunciation to a young girl? At the moment when John leapt in Elizabeth’s belly? On the night of Yeshua’s birth?

Can you imagine them seeing the HOPE that shown in the eyes of a weary couple – in a place – a place they had never envisioned as the perfect spot to birth a babe – let alone – their baby?

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”~Lk 2:6-7

HOPE.

Whether it is a balcony full of angels blowing golden trumpets – – – a choir of heavenly voices – – – a multitude of candles forming a humongous star – – – on that blessed night, there was HOPE. A gathering of notes. An accumulation of lights. A stairway of prayers from heaven to earth. “…a kingdom come…”

HOPE.

“And the word of our God stands for eternities. And this is that word by which you have been evangelized.”~1 Pt 1:25

This is not at all what I was going to write about tonight. As it often is the case, the pictures change in my head, and the words change with them. We celebrate the memory of HOPE during this season, but the great news is – HOPE remains in this murky world. Scary as it seems at times. Frightful as the world turns upside down. Humbling as the knees fold.

But for those “poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering/thirsting, merciful, pure of heart, peacemakers, persecuted” – – – HOPE remains in this world and I yearn – yearn for even more HOPE.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”~Rm 8:24-25 [google images/Ron DiCianni art]heaven's balcony

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ADVENT 2017 HOPE #1

“This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.”

“I don’t like to say, God, Grandma.” (I think my jaw had started to drop to the steering wheel before she added) “I like to say, G – O – D.”

I wish I could have seen her face when the Granddaughter said those two sentences – I wish I could have seen mine. Then Grandson asked, “Why?”

“I just thinks it sounds better. More like G – O – D.” Grandson then spelled out the name G – O – D.

I think I kinda chuckled and responded, “You know, G – O – D agrees with you. Although He used the letters, Y – H – W – H.”

“Well, how do you say that?” Grandson asked.

“In English, Yahweh or Jehovah.”

Kidlets then said each of those names until Granddaughter finally added that she still liked G – O – D best. Grandson and I agreed, and the conversation moved on to the Snow White play that Granddaughter had been a part of in her class that day.

Simple conversations in a car on an ordinary day. Ordinary days have strange turns when we open the door and allow His Hand to work in our lives. “…thy kingdom come…”~Lk 11:2 takes on a whole new understanding. HOPE appears.

“I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”

Christmas decorations are up. Furbabies are all healthy. The first Sunday of Advent 2017 has arrived with a Super Moon. The Holy Spirit was moving in church today. Cold weather is on its way from the North. I guess Christmas season is officially here.

What I really treasure about how God works is that He always sends signs and prophets and messengers before He moves His hand in our world – in our ordinary days – in our “hopeless” days. Sometimes we just don’t see so well, just don’t listen so well and just try to cower under our beds when it is bigger than we want to think about right now. Well – – at least – – that is how I re-act. I’m very good at cowering, but I am trying to be much braver.

HOPE.

This is the month, that we tend to remember those things that send us cowering under the bed – burying our heads in our hands – wishing it was tomorrow already – sticking our fingers in our ears and singing our favorite song. If we have faith, that is when HOPE lights a tiny dot in our brain, and we manage to inch our way closer to the edge of the bed, take our fingers out of our ears, open our eyes to peek out into that darkened room.

HOPE.

Maybe we can handle it. The dot grows larger. Maybe the messenger wasn’t so scary in all its brightness. The darkened room is bathed in twilight. Maybe the prophets were right with all their yakety-yak. Did you know that the elbows work really well to pull the body further out into the room? Maybe the stars, the sun, the moon were all sending out a message that we needed to hear after all.

HOPE.

HOPE changes the world. HOPE changes the paths we walk. HOPE leads to conversations. HOPE brings even more light. HOPE is the beginning of re-birth.

HOPE.

“No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”~Heb 8:10-12 [google images]

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #30

Another month of memories is almost in the treasure chest. Some of those memories were regular stones – precious because of their shape or texture or beauty. So regular that I sometimes tripped over them. Others were gems – ranked precious because of the clarity of their composition, the hues of wisdom they radiate, and their rareness on my path. Obviously, I don’t trip over these instead, I usually have to mine them . . . very carefully.

The blessed healing of a sick furbaby.

The joy of writing my Gratitude – day after day throughout the month.

A Daughter-in-law and son living in a wintry state (you know – that state up North that must go un-named to anyone from OH) who remember to send us a picture of our Grands who are growing up so far away from us.

Laughter and singing with the Grands on our trips home from school. Serious conversations, too, that sparkle with their hints of what blessings they will bring to the world.

Another son who sends me a song he is listening to because he knows I will love it. Then I cry a little bit as I listen, missing him even more than usual since he too is far away.

Laughing days and activities spent with the daughter and her family. Sitting on patios, watching a fire or a OSU/MI game, sharing a meal, plotting the next adventure together.

Long conversations with the other daughter who is following her dream and who, so much like her mama and yet so different, likes living in such a big city like NYC.

Moments spent in the war room. Looking at answers to prayer, praying for those in need, absorbing the quiet that comes deep in my heart and reading over and over the verses given to me for this month – finding something new each time.

Gratitude is a garden. Growing exponentially as manna and living water are applied. Blossoming, bearing fruit, and adding even more shine to the memories circling in my treasure chest.

So as we enter the last month of the year, I will carry my Gratitude Attitude forward with me. I may not write about it every day, but it will be there. Shining in my eyes, sparkling in my words, hitting the high notes of my song. That is the real Gratitude Attitude – one that travels with me every day of my life.

“…be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…”~Ep 5:18-20 [google images]henrywardbeecher1

 
 

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #29

So THANKFUL for truth of this prophecy and the gift it brought to the world.

A new name.

A new path home.

A new covenant.

Time for Gratitude Attitude.

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past … And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace…”~Micah 5:2-5 (NLT) [personal image]nov 29 2017d (2)

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #28

I love, love, love Christmas decorations. When I am home, it takes all my strength of will not to run around the house turning on every decorated window and story land corners. There’s something about tiny lights twinkling amid pine boughs that still – even after 66 and a half years – tickles me.

Gratitude Attitude kicks in and I smile. Smile at the memories cruising around in my head. Playing under the tree with my brother’s train and my plastic horses. Melting endless candles and crayons on an old pottery jug. Making decorations with mom and dad. Daddy reading Luke 2 on Christmas Eve by the tree. Caroling outside seniors’ and shut-ins’ homes on cold, snowy nights with my choir and friends.

Did I happen to mention, I LOVE Christmas decorations?

I even love driving by homes with those twinkling lights shining through the windows. But mostly – I love mine. Sitting in a darkened room after Hubby is snoring in his chair. Dogs under my feet. Cat on the back of my chair. It is still special. ‘Course, now days, most of those lights are blinks in wires and not real bulbs and fragrant pine boughs have been replaced by plastic.

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”~Jn 8:12

These days it is hard to tell the “fake” from the “real”….the “lies” from the “truth”… the “faithful” from the “charlatans”. Since I believe the Bible is the WORD of God, I know the world has been here before. Many times. It has puffed up on its own knowledge – – – fallen on its own sword – – – and brought back from the eve of destruction by a few strong Jewish prophets and the faithful remnant who listened.

Tonight, I walked the dogs outside and looked at our house from the outside. Last year at an end of season sale, we got one of those outside laser lights. We don’t shine it on our house though. Instead, we shine it into the trees on the side of our house. The dots chase each other – collide – bounce and explode into even more dots on the trees, the ground, the outbuildings and even up in the darkness of the sky where they catch a reflecting particle of something.

“But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”~Jn 9:5

And I guess that is the real Gratitude Attitude tonight. Every tiny red and green dot that caught my fascinated eye – bouncing off the physicalities of this world in crazy randomness – is really there to remind me of the LIGHT of TRUTH that it represents.

Dots of Light. 
No as big as the original. 
Not as steady as the original. 
Not as shiny or bright as the original.
But –
all the same –
Light.

Dots of Light bouncing in joy and trying their hardest to reflect the LIGHT that was manifested to us so many years ago. LIGHT that chose to come to a dirty, muddy ball of darkness that there might be bouncing dots and – maybe someday soon – if we reflect a little harder and a just a little more and more and more – the full LIGHT will come once again and bring the sunrise with it.

Gratitude Attitude #28 is just a bouncing dot – but it means the world to me. Wanna bounce? [personal images]

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #27

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening…”

Quiet day – – Jingle Bells happy!

Koayah – – – finally ate a normal supper and begged for more – – – Jingle Bess thankful!

Christmas 2017 update started – — Jingle Bells dancing.

House completely decorated – – – Jingle Bells attitude!!!

Eyes lids drooping – – – Jingle Bells sleepy!!

It is time says my Gratitude Attitude to: “Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.”~Roy Rogers.

Blessings!Be! Sweet dreams! Dreaming of a winter wonderland and jingle bells ringing softly in the distance.

“In that day there will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “HOLY TO THE LORD ” ~Zech 14:20a

[google images]

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #26

Gratitude is precious. I know because my heart is bubbling over with Gratitude Attitude.
 
Our 3 year old choc lab was sick on Thanksgiving. Not bad sick, just off her feed. By Saturday, I was cuddled on the floor beside her non-moving body and destroying the full box of tissue beside me. Needless to say, trying to sleep on a cold wooden floor – not to mention trying to get up and down from said flooring – or being awakened by a barfing dog tends to disrupt the sleep patterns of any senior citizen. 
 
By last night – not only was my sleep disrupted – I was off my feed and praying – – or maybe I should say crying and groaning – – a lot.
 
“In this way also The Spirit helps our weakness. We do not know what we should pray for, whenever it is necessary, but that Spirit prays in our place with groaning which is unspoken.”~Rm. 8:26
 
The power of prayer is far beyond my understanding. When I was young, I saw my parents in deep prayer a few times. Twice with my dad. Three times with my mom. Prayer changes people who pray. It changes those around them. It changed me.
 
While being mentioned over 260+ times in the New Testament, the name of the Holy Spirit is only mentioned 3 times in the Old Testament; instead it is commonly referred to as the Spirit of God over 88 times. However, it is interesting to note that King David, after being chastised by the Prophet Nathan and becoming “poor in spirit”, says, “Do not banish me from Your presence, and don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Ps 51:11
 
When we are shattered into shards of our former self, when we look around us and see the ugliness we have created, when our heart aches so deeply that the world spins into darkness, when no words seem adequate – let alone coherent or effective, that is when the Holy Spirit speaks for us – – to us – – replacing the ravages of the storm with the Peace of the Father.
 
I’m not sure how this whole pet thing works in the scheme of the spiritual realm. Who has eternal souls and who doesn’t. What I do know is that we are all created to glorify Our Father. From the tiniest particle of matter to the complex forms of humans, we are handcrafted in love and heard – – – even if the answer isn’t what we wanted to hear when we started the conversation.
 
Last night, after I had moved Koay’s body close to the couch so I could still pet her and lay on the couch, I had peace (and not just because I was more comfortable on the couch). Somewhere in the midst of sniffling and ranting and groaning, His Peace encircled me and my eyes were able to drift shut.
 
Our Father doesn’t send bad things to us. He is all goodness and love. It is our world that is “crap full” (as mom used to say) of bad apple choices and the resulting mutations of creation. What He does promise is to weave bad things, good things, even the mediocre, minor-things-we-don’t-even-notice together for the good of those who love Him.
 
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”~Rm 8:28
 
We were blessed today and our Gratitude Attitude grew 10 times larger. At 3 AM, Koay lifted her head for the first time in a very long afternoon-evening of darkness. She drank some water that I held for her, then her head fell back on the blanket with a plop. When next she woke me at 6 AM, it was because she had squirmed her body even closer to my hand and curled her head my palm. I got up and offered her some food that I had been trying to feed her for 24 hours. 
 
She ate.
She has been eating, drinking all day.
Better yet – no barfing.
But best of all? She wagged her tail. She had not wagged it for 3 days.
 
We are still keeping her close. Feeding her small portions throughout the day. Making sure she has plenty of water. And – we find that in all things, we see a blessing. The illness had kept her off her torn ACL leg, and now she is putting a little more weight on it.
 
So before I go to bed and try to catch up on all the sleep I have missed over the past two nights, I will take her outside and sing my own song of praise and Gratitude that we get to walk together one more day, find more new life that continues to blossom in the NC sunshine, and hopefully – walk a little further every day after that.
 
God is good and worthy to be praised. [personal photos]

 

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #24

When I was growing up, the day after Thanksgiving was always one of the best. My dad and one of his friends planted three acres of pine trees on a north facing hill. The plan was that one day mom and dad would build their dream home in the middle of those pine trees.

“O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches.”

As life happens, those house plans stayed in that cardboard tube and never grew at all. Ahhh..but those pine trees? They grew and grew and grew, and after Thanksgiving, the phone rang and rang and rang.

Lucky for me, Dad and I (probably my big brother too, but I was to self-involved to log that into my memory banks) would walk through that towering green forest (at least it was to me) to find the perfect tree to tag just for us. By the time we returned, Mom would have hot chocolate waiting with plenty of marshmallows.

“Your boughs so green in summertime
Stay bravely green in wintertime.”

As the first weeks of December began, Mom would have some kind of Christmas craft for us to do together. Sometimes they were for us; but most of the time, we would give them away. Sometimes to relatives. Sometimes to friends. Sometimes dropped off in secret as a Christmas miracle.

Nighttimes were devoted to watching mom sit at the cardboard table, writing card after card while Dad and I watched TV, read, or individually – a nap for Dad and homework for me. Friends, Relatives, Dad’s Army buddies, Business acquaintances. I still don’t know how she ever managed to work a full time job, put up with me, care for a husband who had his first of three heart attacks when I was 10, and write L-O-N-G greetings to each person on the list.

“Let us all remember
In our gift giving and our merriment
With our family and friends and loved ones
The real and true meaning of Christmas
The birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ”

That Gratitude Attitude kicked in today as I finished up my own tradition of decorating around the house by the end of Thanksgiving weekend. My furbaby who tore her ACL now is sick and not eating. We are praying it is a passing thing, but the worry is still lurking as I sit on the floor with her and look at the decorations around the house.

Traditions are treasures to hold close to the heart. However, those traditions tend to change as one family member morphs their traditions with a spouse’s traditions.

There is only one constant. One very precious constant.

While I am thankful for traditions, I am more thankful for the birth of a baby. A baby who brought us more than traditions. He brought us a new covenant – – – a new chance to return to the Garden – – – a new chance to see Him face-to-face.

Grace.

“O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum
How lovely are, are thy branches.”~”O Tannenbaum”, 1824  [personal image]christmas 2017 d

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #22

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”~President John F. Kennedy

54 years ago today my future was being shaped. I was sitting in a 7th grade study hall. At that time our new high school was almost finished – but not quite. So a mixture of 7th through 12th graders were spread throughout an auditorium.

A rustling of papers. 
A note being slid onto a desk as someone went to the restroom.
A brave soul walking up on stage to ask the study hall teacher a question.

“A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.”~ JFK, 1957, Profiles in Courage

The ticking of the wall clock. The big hand loudly clicking into place. Marking time in our lives until we could talk in the hallways on our way to the next class. I know it was loud because I had spent lots of time in that auditorium – boy scout meetings with the active dad and brother, minstrel practices every winter I can remember in this life, a joint Easter sunrise services, dance recitals, choir concerts, band concerts, fair activities…… That auditorium was one of the hubs of our community.

But on this particular day, the clock stopped. The everyday noise that a group of people make while going about their business, stopped as well. Where I sat, the color of the wall, the dark curtains that hung on the windows, the utter silence of the room frozen in place. 
An announcement. 
A voice that cracked as it spoke.

“In whatever area in life one may meet the challenges of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.” ~JFK, Profiles in Courage

l don’t remember the words our principal used that day. I remember the import. And somehow – in that 7th grade developing brain – I realized life would be changed forever. When you grow up in Camelot and see a hole shot through the garden wall, the ground shakes beneath the feet – the sun dims – the birds stop their song – the world holds its breath.

It is a strange thing to write a Gratitude Attitude about a tragedy on the Thanksgiving Eve, and yet – every year as this date rolls around, I remember that 7th grade study hall. I remember reading the president’s books after this day. Listening to his speeches. Starting a new questing path.

Seventeen days before he died, President Kennedy issued his Thanksgiving proclamation. He wrote, “Today we give our thanks [to Providence], most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers–for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate.”

Gratitude Attitude is not always for the easy things, the common things. Sometimes it is being thankful for the hard things – the scary things – the things that make us sit in front of a small TV black-an-white screen to watch a riderless horse with the stirrups turned backwards – a small girl kneeling in front of a casket – a smaller boy saluting a casket – the pictorial book as the torch was passed.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them. Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings–let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals–and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.”~Nov 5, 1963, JFK,Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Tomorrow is a day for family, parades, football and card games, but most of all, it is time to give thanks to God – to Providence – to the God of Nature – to the Great Spirit for all these blessings. Remembering the past, enjoying the present and walking forward into the future.

“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christus Yeshua. our LORD…”~1 Tim 1:12 [google/personal images]

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GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2017 #21

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Eve. Today is the 325th day of the year. 40 more days, and it will be 2018.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?

And here I sit. Struggling with my Gratitude. Struggling with my Attitude. Struggling with my frailties.

There are just days when life seems to be full of prickly, poking, painful slashes. Days when you want to curl up and go home. Days when you want what was and those who know you best. Days when depression isn’t a big enough word.

Holidays seem to bring two bags when they move into our lives. One bag full of joy. The other bag – not so much. What ever the name of the cat that is in that second bag, it is sure to be the meanest cat who knows exactly how to reach out and draw blood on tender skin.

Break a favorite ornament. Drop a whole bottle of cleaner all over the floor. Arthritis – sinuses – loneliness – loss – the list of causes is long and tedious. Seen before. Known by name. But the cat in the bag is just a symptom.

It is really the snake that is in heart of his garden on these days.

“Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!”~Ps 96:11

It is on apple-biting days when I have to dig deeper – with one of those heavy duty construction shovels – deeper and deeper until I find my Gratitude Attitude. Drag my feet to the war room. Force the mind into obedience of choice instead of wallowing in emotion. Choosing to sew the hole in the bag. Choosing to bite the snake instead of the apple. Choosing to re-claim this garden of life.

“Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise
before the LORD, for he is coming!”~Ps 96:12-13

My Gratitude Attitude on the 21st day of November 2017 is for my frailties. These are the days when I fight to reclaim the precious Joy of the LORD. Find my roots and stand with the trees of the forest who sing His praise. And know – know deeply – that the LORD is coming – is coming soon. [google images]