Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Wonder What Those Changing Lovers Do....

David and I got to have some quiet hours together, just the two of us, yesterday on Christmas, and we spent some of it in each others arms talking about our 35 years of marriage (our anniversary is today), thinking about how much we've learned from one another and changed because of each other's influence.

We wondered what the percentage would be of American couples of our generation who, at 35 years of marriage, still love AND LIKE each other (though I might have to resort to violence if we spent all our waking hours together :-).   I told David I would marry him all over again, even knowing now all the challenges and conflict we would struggle through and David told me, as he has before, that if he had it to do over he would have married me several years sooner - precluding some of our challenges and no doubt substituting others.  We emphatically agreed that we were NOT willing to start all over with someone else.

So anyway, I thought I might attempt to use posts on this and The View From Here over the next several weeks to give thanks for my husband, reflect on marriage, and share several poems by others.

Two years before David and I married, before we were even dating, I read a poem for my Oral Interpretation class written by Archibald McLeish, in which he reflected on a photograph of himself and his wife early in marriage and on their many years of sharing life together.  I remember telling the class that the poem demonstrated his positive view of life-long marriage and mutual commitments to choose to love.  I told them that I liked the poem because it reminded me of the marriage my parents modeled for me, even though they had not traveled the world like the McLeish's.  I told them I hoped one day, to look back on my own marriage with the same positive view point.

A portion of the poem was available online.  McLeish is looking at the young wife before him in the photograph:

          Do you think of waking in the all-night train,
          The curtains drawn, the Mediterranean
          Blue, blue, and the sellers of oranges
          Holding heapedup morning toward you?

          Do you think of Kumomoto-Ken
          Do you think how Santiago stands at
          Night under its stars, under its Andes:
          Its bells like heavy birds that climb
          Widening circles out of time?

          I saw them too.  I know those places.
          There are no mountains - scarcely a face 
         Of all the faces you have seen,
         Or a town or a room, but I have seen it.
         Even at dusk in the deep chair
         Letting the long past take you, bear you -
         Even then you never leave me, never can
         Your eyes close, your small hands
         Keep their secrets in your lap;
         Wherever you are we two were happy.

          I wonder what those changing lovers do,
         Watching each other in the darkening room,
         Whose world together is the nights they've shared;
         Whose past is parting:  strangers side by side.

I'm very grateful that both David and I had parents who modeled commitment, kindness, fidelity and truly caring for one another in marriage.  And I'm so thankful that David and I have both determined over and over again to also choose those life disciplines and to forgive each other as often as we have hurt each other in our 35 years together.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The crunch of dried berries, hard, underfoot, 
on my walk to the park after days of no rain.

The sharp POP of acorn shot from its cap
by the wind, in the night, on the hood of my car.

The whispering rustle of palm fronds in wind,
greet me during day, croon lullaby at night.

Startled cry of moorhen 
when long neck of crane, 
motoring submerged, periscopes from water
surveying the shore.

Infant chatter in stroller and car seat, 
rolling bright sounds through throat, tongue and teeth.

Raucous shouts and laughter of young boys making chase
on hard tiled floor with wagon and cart.

Snatches of conversation, overheard on the trail,
injecting mystery and story and marvel
that love endures at all.

Quiet chats with daughters-in-law,
across lunch table, in back of car, 
punctuated always with children sounds, life noise.

The laughter of Brunit, unfettered, free,
her hope now found in crossbar of tree.

For this Multitude Monday I thank God for sounds of life and joy from my week.

holy experience

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

This hope I hold and celebrate this Christmas:

God, the Lamb, 
born in barn, 
stretched on tree,
judges all 
with love forged 

I will trust His heart.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog Flux

I am a very slow decision maker.


I rue the hours that have mounted up over the years standing in a store aisle trying to decide between gifts for a loved one, or sitting THINKING for way too long about which task on my list has the highest priority NOW!   I can see a couple benefits of this personality characteristic, but mostly, in my culture, its a liability I struggle with continually.

I recently started another blog with similar content, in order to escape the box of the "sandystrugglestospeak" URL I chose several years ago, in favor of an URL that is simply my name.

I am still deciding what each blog will grow up to be and how to share and divide content between them, but for now I am posting to both.

So you may also find me at:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Take Two on BJ's Protein Muffins

An intriguing picture from the October 2010 Triathlete magazine of a dumbbell baked into a giant muffin caught my eye, but the recipe from BJ Gumkowski, a five time Ironman, intrigued me even more, since I've been on the lookout for a low fat, high protein, low sugar, high fiber muffin that actually tastes good and doesn't resemble cardboard when you chew it.  I've made my own variation of the recipe twice now, and the results have been good enough to call this recipe a definite keeper.  I'll post the recipe for the way I made it yesterday.  They won't really rise, but thanks to the egg whites, they are surprisingly "light".  I will continue to try this recipe with many variations.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray muffin tin with cooking oil (or grease with coconut oil).  I used a medium size non-stick muffin tin for 12 muffins using about 1/3 cup mix in each.

Mix together in the order listed:
     1 cup of dry oatmeal (I used quick oats for this recipe, but old fashioned would work also)
     1/4 cup ground flax seed
     1/4 cup wheat germ
     1/3 cup all bran cereal (the twig type)*
     1 cup egg whites
     1 ripe pear, diced or grated  (the original recipe called for unsweetened cinnamon applesauce)
     1/2 cup pumpkin (just pumpkin, not the pie mix)
     1/4 cup non-fat plain yogurt (use mashed cottage cheese and/or milk if you don't have yogurt)
     1 Tablespoon almond nut butter (peanut butter is fine)
     1 full banana, sliced, diced, or mushed**
     2 Tablespoons of agave nectar or honey (listed as optional on the original recipe)

Mix ingredients until all are wet and evenly distributed, then add the blueberries.
     1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries***

Bake 25 minutes at 350.  Leave the muffins in the pan for a while after so they can finish cooking - they are very moist.  I turned mine in the pan after 5-10 minutes, so the bottoms wouldn't get soggy, and I think I popped them back in the already cooling oven for a big longer before removing.
*  I used this combination of grains in place of 1 and 1/2 cup of oat bran called for in the original recipe.

**I like to throw my over-ripe bananas in their skin in the freezer, then I microwave for 1 minute at high power, cut the stalk end off and squeeze the banana like a toothpaste tube, starting at the end opposite the cut.  The banana will goosh nicely out of the skin, usually with no mess whatsoever.

***I used frozen blueberries both times I made this recipe.  The first time I tossed them in frozen, but this time my berries were tiny and covered in freezer frost, so I thawed enough (drink the juice, don't toss it:-) to make a cup.

The next time I make this version, I'll add some cinnamon and some almond extract.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gratitude Walk

133.  I had a brief, unanticipated meeting with an old friend as I walked in the park Sunday morning.

134.  Though I smiled inwardly at this friend's ready assertion to me of personal attendance at a worship service earlier that morning and wondered if a smile might come to his face if he knew how few corporate worship services I'd taken part in these past few years

136.  I greatly appreciated his transparent admission of entering world view quandaries and theological struggles similar to some of mine

137.  and the few moments of empathic conversation.

138.  I returned to photographing the water lilies before hurrying home to dinner with my husband and son and his always lively family.

139.  The intentional "gratitude walk" with camera in hand, had succeeded, as it almost always does, in turning my thoughts to thankfulness to God for the beauty that surrounds me

140.  and for the gifts of a safe community in which to walk

141.  and the awe and inner relaxing and reordering of thoughts that awaits when I step outside.

141.  Thank you, God, for healthy grandsons and a morning at the park staging "zoo animals" for photos

142.  and for missing the small "no swimming" logo on a nearby sign even though I searched for it before allowing

143.  the boys to play in "the river" fountain for many fun-filled minutes

144.  feeling like a community trouble-maker when parents walked past refusing water access to their young'uns

145.  and for those boys' quick obedience to end the water play once I spotted the prohibition...sigh...the threat of litigation spoiling fun once again...

146.  for noisy, tiring, but happy family meals together

147.  where babies can get baths in the kitchen sink

148.  and attentive cousins can get a sink-side tutorial

149.  and hang together when the bath is done.

150.  For generous friends to lay-out and form and family to help pour the footer for the new family house on the old family lot

151.  for the blessing of grand-parenting

152.  and afternoons of working together

153.  while listening to the Rays CLINCH the American League East

My apologies to Ann Voskamp of "Holy Experience".  I continue to experience difficulties getting her link button for Multitude Monday to copy and display properly.  But clicking on the box below will take you to her blog, even though it appears empty.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Experiencing God's Goodness Through People

Seven years ago I was preparing to host an open house to celebrate Kyle and Michelle's wedding with all our Florida friends.  Kyle had been serving with Word Made Flesh in Kolkata for a couple years, and had met and fallen in love with Michelle when she had volunteered there the previous summer.  They'd been courting long distance most of the year and had gotten married in Wisconsin in July.   We wanted to host an open house for our many friends in Florida to meet Michelle and visit with Kyle who had been away - at school and then India - for so long.  Our house is plenty large enough for David and myself, but rather compact when considering having 100-150 people over.

My friends helped me plan the menu and spent hours helping me prepare a number of the dishes.  One made several desserts and spent the hours during the open house plating hors d'oeuvres and cleaning up.   One friend ran a food pick-up for me, and one friend with mad scrapbooking skills took an hour or two to lead me through making wedding photo posters - a process that would have taken me days by myself.

One friend even helped me clean out and organize my garage a couple weeks prior to the event (a mountainous task that had been overwhelming to me) to gain much needed storage and prep space for the party supplies and food.  On the two nights of the open house, because my friends had been so good to me, sharing their time and expertise, I was able to fully relax and enjoy all our friends and Kyle and Michelle.

I experienced the same kind of goodness in getting set up for Sam and Amber's wedding rehearsal dinner.  Family and friends helped us prepare food, set up tables, displays and games and made short work of the clean-up at the end of the evening.

Over the years I've learned to know myself, in part, by noticing how I differ from the motivations that drive us, the ways we work and communicate, our skill sets and preferences for doing things together or by ourselves, etc.  Though I've spent waaay too much time moaning about my dismal rate of productivity over the years, I've worked to exchange moaning about my weaknesses for a willingness to ask for help and gratitude for the people in my life with the skills, gifts and willingness to help me bring about the plan I've envisioned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Counting Blessings

holy experience

101.  While taking Prema to school in the mornings this fall, I've seen the pastor who served as Kyle and Sam's middle school pastor.

102.  He's still at it - caring about kids at one of their most awkward stages, investing in their lives with prayer, fun activities, group Bible studies, and opportunities to serve.

103.  One of Kyle's and Sam's high school teachers stopped by the lot where the new house will be going up when he saw David and Kyle working the other day.  He too, invested himself in the students way beyond the requirementsof his paycheck...he cared...and it showed.

104.  These two have made me think of many other men and women who served as teachers and pastors and coaches during our sons growing up years...who served, who cared, who invested in my children.

105.  Amber's posts about people who encouraged/influenced her made me think about all the "everyday folks" who gave of themselves in the small church in which I grew up...

106.  the older gentleman who cut out wood parts for our VBS projects

107.  and his wife who taught us girls some hand sewing skills

108.  who together offered their acreage for the annual sunday school picnic

109.  and who served corn picked fresh from their garden and cooked in massive quantities

110.  the pastor's wife who always seemed glad to see me no matter how much I was interrupting her day
(she never let on, but now when I look back I shudder at how often I barged in to "parsonage"

111.  and who cleaned the church sanctuary every week  (did we pay her?)

112.  and could keep us kids interested in the flannel graph stories she wove

113.  in a voice so quiet we listened intently to hear her

114.  and the three pastors who served during my growing up years at that small neighborhood church

115.  who knew me personally

116.  and visited my family

117.  sometimes just to connect

118.  and sometimes to comfort

119.  who never seeemed to mind my interruptions of their study time to ask them questions

120.  who never made much money, but kept caring about people, investing in lives.

121.  I'm grateful to live in a neighborhood where I know and like my neighbors

122.  and their dogs

123.  and a spirit of helpfulness and cooperation is the norm.

124.  I'm grateful we got to see the incredible, full rainbow

125.  seemingly springing out of the water by the boat ramp at thelake

126.  during our casual family bike ride late Sunday that turned into

127.  a rainy biking adventure

128.  where the shower refreshed us with its drenching

129.  and brought cooler temperatures this morning.

130.  I'm grateful for my husband who shows his love for his family by acts of service

131.  and provision

132.  and for two sons who do the same.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Gifts

holy experience

This week I give God thanks:

101.  for honey bees

102.  that have lived within our walls for more than a year 

after they first came to visit "the homestead"

103.  with their gentle nature 

104.  and their daily work

104.  of harvesting and making (in addition to pollinating plants)

105.  honey....its distinct taste.

106.  for the hope and inclination to find a skilled beekeeper

107.  willing to give instruction and move the hive to a better location in our back yard 

108. for sitting on the curb with my 3 year old grandson

109.  on a hot sun-drenched morning

110.  after he finished explaining the A/C system of the John Deere tractor (riding toy) to me

111.  listening together to the squirrels quarrel

112. and the birds sound

113.  and seeing three honey bees fall to the ground

114.  and two different butterflies dance for us.

115.  for brushes and paint

116.  for glorious color

117.  for little boys who love stories and books

118.  and moms and dads who wisely feed that hunger and stoke that fire

119.  for the satisfaction of long-distance bike rides that our sons are doing together

120.  and the physical and emotional benefits

121.  for the privilege of getting to know our sons as adults

122.  and watching our daughters in law "build" their lives, their homes, their families

123.  for the gift of music

124.  and David's pleasure in playing trombone

125.   and in the "community" that takes place in band and orchestra rehearsals and performances

126.  for "family/community dinner" nights at our house

127.  the discipline and joy of planning and preparing house and meals

128.  for the connection and conversation and deepening friendships

129.  for C.S. Lewis 

130.  and his "Chronicles of Narnia"

131.  and David's enjoyment of the same 

132.  for Leanne Payne's knowledge and perspective of the writings of Lewis

133.   and her sharing her marvelous intellect and insights with us through books and lectures

134.  for delicious conversations with good friends

135.  and paintings that make my heart sing 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Only One Savior

I had already practiced the much-needed discipline of telling myself, "I am not the junior holy spirit!" regarding insights or changes I thought might benefit my husband, when I discovered Leanne Payne's wonderful intelligence and insight and her passionate knowledge and experience of Jesus.  Either Listening Prayer or Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer introduced me to Leanne's writings, and very quickly I devoured every book by Leanne that I could get my hands on.   I have read most of her books at least twice and have given away numerous copies to others.  I currently have Listening Prayer, The Broken Image, Real Presence, and Healing Presence on my bookshelf.

I came across Leanne's writings about 15-20 years ago when I had been getting my toes wet in the waters of intercessory prayer, bringing hurting people to God's throne, asking for His grace and mercy for them. Influencing others is one of my strong personality traits and since I had been barred from teaching at my church and I hadn't developed the necessary disciplines and skills to write and publish on a regular basis, I moved toward the next best thing for someone not allowed the use of manipulation tactics or holy spirit status - prayer on behalf of others.  I felt like God had done so much renovation work in my own life and I was hungry to see Him use my prayers to help others.

Leanne Payne's understanding of the psychological and spiritual processes at work in our lives, and her teachings about the presence of God in our lives - incarnational reality, the role of forgiveness in healing prayer, the writings of C. S. Lewis, the dangers of inviting gnosticism and Jungian symbolism into our thought lives and Christian communities has been a skillfully sharp sword in my life, and I could quote many passages that have helped me over the years.  

I am choosing a passage from Listening Prayer that confronts and exposes a type of "prayer" that has been around for centuries: substitution.   A quick scan may not yield its treasure,  so I encourage you, if you spend any time at all helping, praying for or mentoring others, to read it again when you have the time and focus to read it fully and use the very specific prayers.

"When we receive the gift of tears and strong crying out to God in intercession, we are not given special merit.  Rather it is a gracious "work" of God's Spirit.  We should be grateful and thank God for it. Trying to duplicate this grace is folly and gets in the way of intercession.  Much of our best work of prayer will be done without sensible knowledge of this grace.  When it comes, we simply give thanks for it.

Having said this, there are bona fide ascetic practices that, when absent from our lives, pretty well guarantee that we will not do much interceding.  We are powerless when fasting, solitude, silence, and the classic ways of training our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit - as we see in our Lord, those He taught, and the early church - are missing in our lives.  Dallas Willard's book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, should be read by all who are serious about true ascetics as applied to prayer and the Christian walk.

Besides the matter of false ascetics with its misbegotten ideas about God or ourselves, two other practices that hinder us in prayer are widespread today.  One involves the practice of substitution.  This occurs when we pray to take someone else's pain, illness, fear, or sorrow into or upon ourselves.  In such a case, we do not intercede to God for them,but try to substitute for them.  Rather than looking to Christ as the One who died to take their pain, sin, or darkness into Himself, we ask to take it upon and into ourselves.  Rather than looking to the Savior, we attempt to be one.  Instead of helping someone carry their burden of guilt, pain, sickness, or whatever to God in prayer, we ourselves fail to trust God.  We attempt to carry the person's need in our own strength.

Substitution occurs, then, when we blur the distinction between being a savior-redeemer --something only Jesus could ever be and do -- and being His disciple, a sacramental channel through whom His life is to flow.  To substitute is to attempt to do the work Christ has already finished, while simultaneously missing our own proper work.  To take upon or into ourselves as mediators the darkness of others is at best based in ignorance, at worst based in pride.  Either way, we fall into a messiah or savior complex and will have to confess pride to get out of it.

One of the great dangers in substitution lies in the fact that spiritual forces we do not understand or fail to discern can be directly involved in sickness of spirit, soul, and body.  In the case of demonic presences, these are quite amenable to  "transferring" themselves from the sick person to the one who asks to "substitute." Such a person unwittingly opens his or her soul and body to darkness, saying to the enemy "Come in" while simultaneously sending messages to his or her own mind and body, "Disintegrate, I give you full permission."

This action, of course, is not rooted in looking to and trusting God -- that is, in true prayer.  The well-publicized movie The Exorcist did not feature an exorcism at all, but a substitution.  A priest, failing to pray to God and exercise the authority of his office, instead took into himself the demonic force afflicting a child.  The movie ends with the priest leaping from a window to his death.  This illustrates most graphically the price to pay in substitutions.  This price is not one connected with legitimate Christian suffering.

An interesting sidelight here:  in PCM conferences, we bring the gospel to bear on the healing of souls.  Since we are psychomatic unities--body and soul--our bodies begin to heal as a natural course and sometimes even instantly.  Near the end of each conference, we are often led to pray for physical healings, especially those connected to the emotional and spiritual healings received by the people.  Invariably, however, when people have the opportunity to renounce their substitutions, we see dramatic and instantaneous physical healings--as well as mental and emotional.  There have been miraculous healings of cancer, emphysema, and others from these renunciations.  Healings, such as those connected to the practice of substitution, do not seem to occur apart from specific teaching and opportunities to pray for them.  Our grief is that there is never enough time in these meetings to get all the teaching and healing prayer exercises in.

If after reading the above, you know or even think that "maybe" there has been a substitution of this kind, now is the moment to name it, repent of it, and renounce it.  You can look straight up to God and pray as follows:

"Lord, I asked to take on [so and so's] pain, disease, or darkness of [name the spiritual darkness, physical disease such as blindness, crippling condition, or mental and emotional depression or darkness of whatever kind].  I name my foolishness and pride before  You right now.  You alone are Savior-Redeemer.  My faith in you was lacking, and I asked to do what You have already done--You carried our sicknesses, our sins, our sorrows.  Forgive me, Lord, even as I renounce this substitution."

The substitution is then renounced, specifically:

"Lord, I have confessed as sin the pride and unbelief that was in this substitution.  I now renounce it before You.  [Renounce as specifically as possible the substitution you made, for instance, 'Lord, I asked to take on so and so's blindness, I renounce that substitution, confessing as sin the pride and unbelief that was in it.']  I look directly to You for [so and so's] health and wholeness, and thank you for removing from me, as far as the East is from the West, this malady I've suffered due to this wrongful practice.'

This prayer ends in praise and thanksgiving to God for His forgiveness, for His release from the substitution, and for all the healing that accrues from it."
Leanne Payne, Listening Prayer,  copyright 1994, pp 58-60,  Hamewith Books, a divsion of Baker Book House Co., Grand Rapids, MI 49516

Though I cannot remember wanting to take on another's physical or mental illness, I have definitely, on occasion, fallen into a "savior complex", which really only, in my experience, impedes or delays the true work of God.  

I have been able to steer myself away from commitments and entanglements motivated by the "be the savior" temptation many times by reminding myself:  There is only one Savior, and I am NOT Him.

Monday, September 6, 2010


holy experience

I'm grateful:

71.  for the discipline and public "accountability" of  of multitude monday

72.  for the "nuggets of joy" that seem to eventually come to the person looking for them

73.  for my husband's faithfulness to love me, day in and day out, over 35 years

74.  for gorgeous sunsets

75.  that happen over and over and over

76.  for living in a place where I get to watch pelicans fish on a regular basis

77.  for children who help waken their napping infant cousin with kisses

78.  and parents who allow and encourage it

79.  for grandchildren bursting in through the front door with hearty greetings and tales of the latest adventure

80.  for David's flexibility in welcoming my mom on our trip to Alaska

81.  and chauffeuring us all over the place

82.  freeing me to drink in the scenery

83.  for the joy of reading books for learning and pleasure

84.  for the musician at "our beach" playing a xylophone last night just before sunset

85.  for Eli's interest and joy as he danced in the water to the jamaican beat

86.  that I could see his mom in his dance

87.  for the fiercely strong waves

88.  so far out, yet still shallow enough for the little ones to make it all the way on foot

89.  and have so much fun trying to body surf and withstand the pummeling

90.  for ground broken and work begun on preparing the land for the "construction shed" and future home for Kyle and Michelle's family

91.  that the children will be able to watch and help throughout the process, building knowledge and good stewardship that comes from helping to build it

92.  for my two daughters-in-law

93.  who are very different in so many ways

94.  but who each contribute so much to who our family is becoming

95.  and also to their friends and communities

96.  for the many varied ways I get to witness our sons loving their wives

97.  and children

98.  for all the young adults we've had live with us for a season...and all the new life and perspective they have brought to David and me:

99.  Kyle and Michelle, Joanna, Sam and Amber, Amy

100.  for abundant health and the ability to work

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where in the World...? Two

While these posts designed for a game of observation and memory will be geared mostly for my immediate and local family, any others may join in guessing.  I live in Pinellas County, Florida and travel between Largo and Tampa for most of my weeks, with occasional trips farther north to Brooksville and Floral City (mothers).  

Most recent vacation trips have been to Alaska, Minneapolis, and Seattle, with older pics from Chicago and maybe even Boston and Baltimore if I get around to loading older photo cd's.

At times I will post pictures already featured on this or other blogs to which I contribute .  I will try to post a variety of "easy" and "harder" pics, to encourage the kids in their observation and deduction skills.

Have fun, and be as specific as possible when you post your guesses, please.

Friday, September 3, 2010

God Will

I don't remember now what the conflict was.  But I do remember it was a seemingly unscalable, impassable mountain in my relationship with my husband.  I'm guessing that conflict took place somewhere in the 15th-25th year of our marriage.  It wasn't even close to being the first conflict of that level, intensity, and insurmountability.  It certainly wouldn't be the last.  Or the longest.  Or the worst.  But I was undone -- completely.

I saw no way out, around or through.  My husband exited the room -- or the house --and I slid down the wall in a heap on the floor, weeping, flinging my broken heart and intractable husband at the feet of God, crying out for grace.

Quietly, from a still place deep within/beyond me, came words and music, and I began to sing:

"God will make a way where there seems to be no way.  
He works in ways we cannot see---He will make a way for me.   
He will be my guide, Hold me closely to His side.  
With love and strength for each new day 
He will make a way, He will make a way."

I sang the lyrics once, twice, four times, then stood to my feet in that spot with a quieted heart.  I knew that God had seen, heard, and answered.   I would wait with a heart that trusted Him, to see what He would do.
All the rest of that day, and throughout the several days that followed, I sang and hummed that song.  No matter what other activity I was involved in, I could hear the words and melody:

"God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see -- He will make a way for me.."

God did make a way where there seemed to be no way.  As He had done many times before and would do many times again in my relationship with my husband.

Thank You, Don Moen and Integrity Music for giving me -- and multitudes of other people over the past three? decades -- so many songs that have taught us how to praise God through song, have ushered us into God's presence and embedded His truths in our heart.

So MANY songs have so greatly enriched my walk with God over the years...bringing hope, healing, thanksgiving, praise, intercession and joy -- more stories to tell later.  I am so grateful for the ability to hear and to sing, so grateful for the wonderful gift of music.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Surrender My Demand For Life on My Terms?

I was a little glad when I got back to civilization/internet access, and saw that I had missed Amber's assignment of writing about surrender.  After 45 years of relationship with the God of the universe I had  many experiences which I had characterized as surrender, but the last five years held so much skepticism and unbelief on my part that I doubted my ability to remember and separate just one example from my tangled ball of experience.  "Whew!  I can excuse myself from that assignment", I thought.

But promises I'd made to myself and years of placing my heart's desires before God joined to become a quietly insistent voice that I discipline myself to add another, older perspective to the fresh accounts  already told in and attached to Amber's blog.  I went to my bookshelves to pull Catherine Marshall'sbooks and find where she had written about relinquishment in a way that had imprinted inself into both my daily experience and long term memory.

You young women have likely heard of Catherine Marshall only, if at all, as the author of Christy, a winsome story of a young teacher's first years living and teaching in a southern Appalachian mountain community which was made into a movie decades ago.  Those of you who are enjoying "Redeeming Love" will probably enjoy Christy.  Catherine Marshall has written numerous easy to read non-fiction books, which I heartily recommend to you, detailing her "own search for a meaningful life, a practical faith, and a closer relationship with God."  I have on my shelves: To Live AgainBeyond OurselvesSomething MoreMeeting God at Every TurnThe Helper, and Mr. Jones Meet the Master (this last book was Catherine's first, a written compilation of some of her first husband's sermons, published after his death.)

In Beyond Ourselves, Catherine writes about the Prayer of Relinquishment:

"I got my first glimpse of it in the fall of 1943.  The illness that I have mentioned before... had kept me in bed for many months.  A bevy of specialists seemed unable to help.  Persistent prayer, using all the faith I could muster, had resulted in -- nothing.

One afternoon a pamphlet was put in my hand.  It was the story of a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years.  Constantly she had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do His work.  Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, 'All right.  I give up.  If you want me to be an invalid for the rest of my days, that's Your business.  Anyway, I've discovered that I want You even more than I want health.  You decide.'  The pamphlet said that within two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.

This made no sense to me.  It seemed too pat.  Yet I could not forget the story.....I came to the same point of abject acceptance.  'I'm tired of asking' was the burden of my prayer.  'I'm beaten, finished.  God You decide what you want for me the rest of my life...'  Tears flowed.  I had no faith as I understood faith.  I expected nothing.  The gift of my sick self was made with no trace of graciousness.

The result was as if windows had opened in heaven; as if some dynamo of heavenly power had begun flowing, flowing into me.  From that moment my recovery began.

Through this incident and others...God was trying to teach me something important about prayer.... I got only part of the message.  I saw that the demanding spirit - 'God, I must have thus and so; God this is what I want you to do for me' - is not real prayer and hence receives no answer.  I understood that the reason for this is that God absolutely refuses to violate our free will and ...unless self-will is voluntarily given up, even God cannot move to answer prayer."

Catherine Marshall relates two more accounts of a prayer of relinquishment from the lives of others, then writes:

"Larry's story and Una's have several points in common.  In each case, the mother wanted the same thing desperately -- life and health for her child.  Each mother commanded God to answer her prayer.  While the demanding spirit had the upper hand, God seemed remote, uapproachable

Then, through a combination of the obvious futility of the demanding prayer plus weariness of body and spirit, the mother surrendered to the possibility of what she feared most.  At that instant there came a turning point.  Suddenly and inexplicably fear left and the feeling of lightness ad joy that had nothing to do with outer circumstances.  This marked the turning point.  From that moment the prayer began to be answered.  

...We know that fear blocks prayer.  Fear is a barrier erected between us and God, so that His power cannot get through to us.  So -- how does one get rid of fear?

This is not easy when the life of someone dear hangs in the balance, or when what we want most in all the world seems to be slipping away.  At such times, every emotion, every passion, is tied up in the dread that what we fear most is about to come upon us.  Obviously only strong measures can deal with such a powerful fear.  My experience has been that trying to overcome it by turning one's thoughts to the positive or by repeating affirmations is not potent enough.

...Jesus is saying: 'Admit the possibility of what you fear most.  And lo, as you stop fleeing, as you force yourself to walk up to the fear, as you look it full in the face, never forgetting that God and His power are still the supreme reality, the fear evaporates.'  Drastic? Yes.  But effective.

One point about the Prayer of Relinquishment puzzled me for many years.  There seemed to be a contradiction between the Prayer of Faith and that of relinquishment.  If relinquishment is real, the one praying must be willing to receive or not receive his heart's desire.  But that state of mind scarcely seems to exhibit the faith that knows that one's request will be granted...

Now I believe I have the explanation...Once I thought that faith was believing this or that specific thing in my mind with never a doubt.  Now I know that faith is nothing more or less than actively trusting God...."

Actively trusting God - and being willing to have my understanding of who He is corrected in the process -  is still a curriculum that challenges me greatly even after 45 years.  I have, at various times, surrendered my children, my husband, my life, my marriage, my possessions, my lifestyle, my time and our future to the GOD whom I had found to be GOODNESS and LOVE through and through.  I have practiced on a regular basis the voluntary surrender of my rights modeled by Jesus and described in Philippians 2.  But I have also strongly resisted surrendering MY DEMAND FOR LIFE ON MY TERMS many  times - and the older I am the more I recognize the undercover resistance movement in my actions and choices of the past.  

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Unpacked, Falling Asleep, and Grateful

David, Mom and I took a red eye flight from Anchorage to Houston to Tampa last night after spending 10 days exploring Alaska, enjoying the scenery and wildlife and COOLNESS and many great meals.  As ususal, I took bunches of photos - until I inadvertently smashed our camera against a table and bent the lens.   This  sunset view is from our lodge, north of Talkeetna.

We took a flight seeing Mt. McKinley tour with Sheldon Air Service and landed on Eldridge or Etheridge glacier for a few minutes of taking it all in.  A real treat.

Mom and I stopped to examine so many different kinds of lichen and mushrooms whenever we were out walking.  I have no idea what this type is or even if it IS lichen or mushroom...these were like flexible rubber cups.

These guys/gals were really enjoying their lazy afternoon of sunning in Resurrection Bay/Kenai Fjords.

I'll try to post some more photos on the Temple site later.  No sleep last night...must turn in soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Multitude Monday: Tasting Joy

holy experience

The overcast morning with periodic sprinkles, spits, and spasms of rain made me reconsider a solitary bike ride to the beach.  While the gray sky and light rain part are perfect for the soul that is drying around the edges and feeling the need for outdoor solitude, the spasms of rain are not only uncomfortable but also downright dangerous to a cyclist on a road where drivers are already often more engrossed with the scenery than the bike lane occupant on their right.  

So instead, after a brief survey of the back yard I grabbed garden gloves and branch cutters, climbed the ladder and tackled the overgrown bougainvillea.  A few minutes of battling physical thorns should provide the space my mind needed to unkink and stretch....and savor gratitude moments, tasting the joy once again :

36.  for the empty, lid-less plastic jar near the front door. signalling much recent bug and lizard catching activity

37.  for the 3 year old suddenly dashing out the front door and who, when questioned, announces "I'm going to let the lizard go so he won't die"....

38.  for the sunset so wide both in color range and height that I had difficulty keeping my eyes facing forward, eastward on the road in front of me, instead of staring in my rear view mirror

39.  for the gift of a morning walk in the park accompanied by sunlight AND a gentle rain

40.  for the 5 year old boy so entranced by the stories and people of The Chronicles of Narnia that he peppers his conversation with character exploits and Narnia trivia questions

41.  for the severely raw throat I garnered as consequence of screaming in rage at my husband of 35 years (I am all for mining the gold of natural consequences - in my life or others)

42. for a reliable, safe, "kiwi green" car to drive 

43.  with effective A/C 

44.  and a bike rack on top

45.  and flexible seating and storage 

46.  and plastic, not carpeted floors, 

47.  for vacuuming out sand from the beach that stuck to small feet

47.  after a morning of play at beach and park

48.  for the playground merry-go-round - an "old-time" treasure 

49.  amidst challenging play structures

50.  and climbing rocks

51.  on a playground shaded by moss-covered oaks

52.  peopled by active day-campers playing capture the flag

53.  and kind middle school girls who don't retreat from the "social strange-ness" of P,

54.  who invite her to conversation and a moment of inclusion.

55.  for sauteed spinach 

56.  and portobello mushrooms

57.  and onions and ham

58.  folded into egg and white omelet 

59.  with swiss and fat-free feta cheese

60.  for a "savor every bite"  sunday morning breakfast

61.  for 4 month old boy who now snuggles up close, wrapping his arms so his hands grip the sides of my chest 

62.  and who stays quietly content wrapped just so, while I sway on the couch or sit on the chair

63.  his eyes open, peacefully gazing at mother and father

64.  or eyelids drooping, heavy with sleep

65.  the coos, chortles, and quiet "conversation" of this same boy with his mother and father

66.  his mimicry of their speech so obvious, so intent

67.  for this repeated miracle lesson about the development of speech

68.  and how we are all formed and shaped by our relationships, within family

69.  for the wonderfully consistent love and provision and nurture my parents gave me

70.  and its doorway to healthy personality and trust in a God who Loves