From The Wide Open Spaces

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Thank God because he’s good,
because his love never quits.
Tell the world, Israel,
“His love never quits.”
And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world,
“His love never quits.”
And you who fear God, join in,
“His love never quits.”

Pushed to the wall, I called to God;
from the wide open spaces, he answered.
God’s now at my side and I’m not afraid;
who would dare lay a hand on me?
God’s my strong champion.

(from Psalm 118 The Message)

Change comes slowly with me. I need time to consider, to examine, to go deep. It’s like my mind is like a big ole truck with a wide turning radius. Fast sports car people wonder why it takes me so long to move in another direction.

Some of the hardest times in my life have occurred when people I trusted said they were tired of trying to fix me. (And I do need some fixing.) They had no more grace for someone who ruminated and pondered and repeated themselves and hesitated at every new direction – over and over.

They quit.

But in the midst of my sorrow and frustration with myself God gently reminds me: His love doesn’t quit.

God is love and love is patient. Love is kind. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. God is therefore patient and kind. God bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. God never quits.

Sure, I should be further along in maturity than I am. But I’m further along than I was. My steps, though slow and plodding, are moving on down the road with more confidence than before. I am learning to respond more quickly, less fearfully. Every year I can speak of His love with more assurance and say, “My God, You are relentless. You never quit.”

Thank You.

 

 

 

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When You Walk Through a Storm

 

 

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I was terrified of the pain of childbirth. I suppose, in the way people in the medical field are aware of everything that could possibly go wrong with a “simple procedure” I also knew. I overheard the rehearsal of a horror story of labour and delivery since I was a young child. My mother did have a complicated birth experience and besides permanent physical consequences I think it left her with some PTSD. But listening to the story of my traumatic birth being told over and over also left me with a lot of fear of having children.

Fear magnifies pain. Fear teaches us to watch for the first signs of pain, like we are keeping an eye on the street for an expected, but unwelcome guest to arrive. Fear motivates us to prepare defensive tactics in our heads for attacks that may never occur. Fear teaches us to see pain as a monster that cannot be contained by any device at our disposal. The only thing we can do is evade it or outrun it – or try to.

Here’s the thing. I had never asked myself, “If the pain of childbirth is so overwhelming, why do women intentionally have a second or third or even more children?

What I didn’t know about pain was that I could have a kind of peace in the middle of it. I was working. I was accomplishing something magnificent. When I had my second son there was no time for epidurals or any form of medication like the first time. All of a sudden it hit me that pain was not my master. I hated it, but I could defy it. I growled and pushed right into the center of it it knowing that joy was about to burst forth. Joy was set before me.

When I held my son in my arms I was filled with a golden euphoria of joy on the other side like I had never known before.

I hate to see anyone suffer. I am a sensitive mercy-motivated person. I feel other people’s pain. If someone near to me injures a leg I limp. I would rather trade places than to see one of my children or grandchildren in pain, and yet I will fail them if I don’t tell them that they are stronger than both physical and mental pain. Learning to push through opens a pathway to more richness of experience than we have known before.

One of the passages of scripture that continues to free me from the fear of unpleasant circumstances, from the dentist’s needles to opening my heart to grieve with those who grieve deeply, is this one:

The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One. (Philippians 4:5b-7 The Voice)

The peace of God is, like God, wholy other, supernatural, beyond expected human experience. His peace is not dependent on living a life free of discomfort. His peace is beyond human understanding – which means we can give up the need to try to understand it.

When you realize that you live in his love as his much-adored child you don’t need to cry out and demand that every negative situation be immediately relieved. When you hear the voice of your Lord say, “I will never leave you,” you can choose to walk deliberately into the storm before you.

Jesus says, “I’ve got this. Trust me,” and somehow, even though it is not logical, you do.

Whether the storm is a chance for him to demonstrate divine healing or deliverance through a miracle or to first prove to you that you are more capable of relying on his strength than you thought, remembering and thanking him for grace that has brought you safe thus far will continue to bring you through to the gold on the other side.

Even my mother chose to have another baby.

My fourth grade teacher, who taught me the beauty of songs of lament, sang this one for me. I have never forgotten how it touched my heart.

Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.

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A Way of Seeing

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This way of seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart, and, more than that, a gayety of spirit, that is unspeakable.

– Hannah Whitall Smith

 

Photography as art is a way of seeing. A photographer’s outlook is revealed in the way she or he chooses to frame a photo, and which aspect of the scene before them they choose to focus upon. The position they take when capturing an image influences what others will see later.

Sometimes, when I am aware of being in deep shadow in my life I realize I need to get up and change my perspective before I will perceive the light. Intentional focus on aspects for which to be thankful and intentional praise for blessings past, present and future is a way of changing the angle and re-framing circumstances. Yes, there is shadow, but ah, the light!

“On another occasion, Jesus spoke to the crowds again.

Jesus: I am the light that shines through the cosmos; if you walk with Me, you will thrive in the nourishing light that gives life and will not know darkness.”

(John 8:12 The Voice)

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If I Ride the Wings of Morning

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Well, this was unexpected. Who knew I would spend my 63rd number-changing day (as my little granddaughter calls it) in the throes of puberty, or reverse menopause (I’m not sure what to call it).

I’m on short-term intense hormonal therapy to try to fix a girl problem, well, okay, an older lady problem. And that’s all I have to say about that (which is probably too much.)

The result is a person, already subject to strong emotions, now awash in feelings. Irritability is the most … irritating. Having giggle fits with my adolescent granddaughter (also awash in hormonal emotion) may be the most fun.

It’s temporary and I can hang on for a few more weeks as long as I avoid political bait and debate and my husband doesn’t do anything worthy of inciting a riot, like chewing his popcorn too loud at the movies or humming The Marseillaise in a minor key.

I’ve been thinking about emotion and it’s place in our lives. I wonder if emotion is the response our soul makes when its nerve endings are touched. Some areas of our souls seem to be more sensitive than others. Some people just seem to feel emotion more intensely than others. It’s like having a high or low pain/pleasure threshold.

Some emotional stimulation feels wonderful and some feels absolutely horrid. The temptation is to either become addicted to “feel-good” triggers, wallow in the feel-bad triggers, or shut them all off as much as possible.

Alas, in the way people without pain receptors tend to lose limbs, people without emotion receptors tend to lose chunks of their souls. Compassion is often the first to go.

I love the Psalms because they are full of intense emotion, yet grounded in the reality of God’s sovereignty. David and the other writers shamelessly express feelings, yet they eventually submit them to God’s perspective and will.

Emotions are like scouts who bring reports back to headquarters. They are vital, but don’t let them make the final decisions. They tend not to see the entire picture.

David writes about highs and lows and our tendency to lose sight of God in our running about.

Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?
Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?

If I go up into heaven, You are there.
If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there.

If I ride on the wings of morning,
if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean,

Even then You will be there to guide me;
Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there.

Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me,
the light around me will soon be turned to night,”

You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.
For You the night is just as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.

For You shaped me, inside and out.
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.

I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.

You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You

(Psalm 139: 7-15 The Voice)

Anyway, I just want to say on this day, that for all the pain and all the joy feeling intense emotion has brought me, thank You, Lord. You surround me and You ground me and You lift me up. Best of all You like what you created when You made me. Today, on my birthday, I celebrate You.

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