How To Personally Apply Scripture

AnnetteLook what I found!  Ken’s update of a wonderful tool our friends the Hegle’s shared year’s ago in our early days with the Navigators.  We still use this method today.

Knowing something is great and can draw me closer to God, but living out that knowledge can change my life, and sometimes others’ lives too.

The most valuable personal result of consistent Bible study is when others are seeing our lives enriched and changed through personal application of what we learn.

Here’s a sample of steps and an example of creating a specific plan from a single verse. When we ask God’s help to put this plan into practice we can be confident that God will be changing our lives and the lives of those we encounter.

1. Verse

Record the reference of the verse or passage which has impressed upon you about any need in your Christian life.

OS120582. Truth

Briefly state the truth of the verse or passage which has impressed you.

3. Need

State how you feel about the verse or passage and indicate how it relates to you. Does it show some spiritual need or lack in your life. Will a change in your life make you more pleas- ing to God.

4. My Intentions

State specifically what you intend to do toward having your life changed in this area of need. Keep the action simple. It should be a step toward improving your life in this area.

5. Checkup

State how you will make sure you accomplish the goal you have set. Maybe jot a note and keep it with you for a reminder until its completed. You may want to tell a friend, your husband or wife or relative what you intend to do. Have them check back with you to see how its going.

1375Approach personal application with confidence that God is conforming you to Christ’s im- age, and that He will complete what He has started. Let God use this tool in your life – Re- member this is not a self-effort project.

1. Verse – “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, Honor one another above yourselves” ( Romans 12:10 )

2. Truth – That God wants me to show devotion and honor to my brothers in Christ.

3. Need – I find I often take my closer relationships with other Christians for granted, not really thinking about way to honor them and be devoted to them. Dan is one person I particularly want to honor more.

83074. My Intentions – I will spend Saturday helping Dan to finish painting his house, and while we talk I will make a point of specifically complimenting him about two things I respect about him.

5. Checkup – I will place a check here Saturday night after I have done this.

You’ve got the tools – ready, set, GO!

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Out of Our Brokenness

SueBadeauSix days – eight roommates, and almost as many different rooms. You think the hotel staff was confused? At one point I had room cards for four different floors in my purse!

My white slacks are on their way back from Western Canada and a favorite necklace is returning from a brief visit to Pennsylvania.

 

The laughter and the prayers, the humility and the acceptance all were part of letting each of us newbies and mentees feel truly valued. The sisterhood of AWSA was amazing. But the most treasured thing we shared was what we all had in common – brokenness.

 

HearthurtsSome of us thought we were the only ones bringing pieces. Remnants of dreams, relationships, budgets, diets, hopes, longings. But prayers before conference began and the tables of materials for sharing among one another, revealed stories of every form of need – and of the One who united us all.

 

Instead of sermonettes or teachings there were testimonies of brokenness and deliverance. The theme that ran through all of our writing and speaking – the human need for wholeness found only in Christ.

BabbieetalSeveral of my new friends wrote for those like them who adopted children, some specifically called to love and adopt special needs children, another whose biological children were joined by 22 others, most old enough to be considered unadoptable. These women offer hope and compassion to others who adopt or have been adopted. Beautiful mosaics.

 

JoyanettaOther new friends told about the personal repercussion of huge changes in the publishing industry – one illustrating a 90% drop in income. Disease and financial stress were other common denominators, but there was not a single whiner.

We even had a joyologist!

 

Hope and respect and encouragement – leads, material, and follow-up contacts were freely offered. Those who experienced brokenness recognized, related, and respected others enduring similar turbulent waters.

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Tears of joy were also frequent as at one table where a guest unknown to an author across the eight-foot circle connected.

Are you?

AnitaBrooksNmeYes, I am.

Did you write?

Yes, I did.

Let me tell you how what you wrote changed my life.

Brokenness met broken and delivered.

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A number of these beautifully restored women spoke into my life spontaneously and generously, and others humbly rejoiced that God had also given me opportunity to share with them and others, through them.

 

There were no separations of status or fame.

We were all God’s girls.

 

Daughters, sisters wives, mothers, and grandmothers.

 

Enjoying one another.

 

 

 

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Some of these mothers had children and grandchildren  taken from them by death, and by life-choices and circumstances. They openly shared their shattered hearts and told how God brought hope into what they called their messes. Pain is messy.

I sometimes write of grieving after losing our child and was astonished several times by the sisterhood I felt. At the International Christian Retailer’s Show (over 1600 booths of publishers,distributors, marketers and producers of Christian products) a woman stopped me out of the crowds passing through.

She was signing a book for children and offered me a copy, then reached under her table to ask hesitatingly, if I might know of someone who would be interested to read this other book – on the loss of a child. Another time I was chatting generally with an editor about how readers want vulnerability about our brokenness so they know we understand theirs.

Agreeing, she turned and requeIMG_1462sted a worker to remove a sample book from their display and gave it to me – the book, she said, that helped her – after losing a child.

Perhaps, she said, I might find something to pass on to others.

 

 

At the banquet, a woman I’d not yet met called out my name across the room and came over, asking to share our writing topics. She gasped when I explained, as she’d recently lost an adIMG_1430ult child and felt she should co-write about it. We will be communicating. Perhaps…

IMG_1440Then our main speaker had to cancel at the last minute due to an unexpected event. Mark Lowry would have loved to have been there as Torry Martin pinch-hit a hilarious illustration of how God can use an ADHD driven personality!

What a joy to laugh through 99% of the entire banquet talk.  I hope it’s ok I taped some of it for when I need a pick-me-up.

Well, he will never know.

 

PatBooneandI I met Pat Boone and Ken Ham, was interviewed by HSBN TV, was encouraged to take up boxing, had one dinner with Babbie Mason and another paid for by a stranger who already had an impact in my life and my future.

My heart and my suitcase came home overflowing.

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The enemy did not like it. Some had to leave early due to tragedies and emergencies. The pictured text above was real – it arrived during my time in Cincinnati.

Others faced heartbreaking news shortly after arriving home. Yet, as we continue to uphold one another, there is still hope. I have every confidence that out of these new storms, new seeds will also take root, and grow. Eventually, we pray the fruits that arise from our brokenness will be talked about and written about so that others can know we are real.

We understand. We write our truth that others will also find hope.

 

Out of our brokenness.

 

 

*AWSA – Advanced Writer’s and Speakers Association – http://awsa.com/

– I am so honored to be included in their member directory among many who already touched my life.  IMG_1458

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Garbage Out!

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In many ways, it made perfect sense. You’ve probably heard the unlikely inspiration that resolved my insomnia—the email with the urban legend where New York garbage workers are on strike and a frustrated homeowner gift-wraps his garbage, places it in the backseat of his car which he parks, windows down, in front of a store a few blocks away.

 

It’s like the best part of a movie mystery – the bad guy ironically gets stiffed from his greed by clever deceit and the good guy (with whom most of us prefer to identify) gets to watch the set-up unfold as he cleverly gets rid of his very stinky problem.

 

Laughing at the unlikelihood of a New York thief only stealing the gift-wrap-disguised garbage and seeing the tail light blinking in the distance as he drove off with the unlocked car and the package, I moved the email to the “trash.” Ding! It was gone.

car-photo-rearlight-mI couldn’t help but reflect how nice it would be if life’s garbage could be erased that simply. Going beyond the digital definition of garbage (data which is no longer useful, but which is clogging up storage or memory) I was jolted with the truth about what was keeping me awake. Garbage. Unproductive, time-wasting, dead, putrid, non-life-giving thoughts.

 

Granted, I had a lot to think about, including family and friends’ situations, work pressures, economic fears and financial concerns. But worrying about a host of things wasn’t getting anything accomplished, and it could, I knew, ruin my health. I could feel it. I used to be able to stay up overnight, or several nights, to complete a project and be raring to go the next day with little or no sleep, but lately, I’ve noticed something odd. The less sleep I get, the more weight I gain, the more aches and pains I feel, and the slower I move. It was taking me days to recover from a single all-nighter. I was forced to see the results of wanting to fix everything and everyone weighing on my heart.

 

The chance I begged for, to conquer the all night tossing and turning without pills came with the how-to-get-rid-of-your-garbage email.

 

TrashchickenThe leftovers of my life, like stockpiled garbage, were not very attractive. Even if I hid food garbage in a clever cover up like the chicken trash bins, or wrapped my mental and emotional stuff in a new outfit and a fake smile –  it was all still trash.

Yech. I was actually hoarding every rotting worry, storing them like hundreds of useless emails, instead of properly disposing of them.

Not any more.

 

I grabbed the pen and pad for journaling that’s kept beside my bed, listing the concerns that had kept me awake. Three lines for columns next to the list of problems automatically filled the page. I didn’t have to write the headers, as goal planning had become automatic:

Column one—The Worry

Column two—WICD (What I can do about it,)

Column three—Who I could contact for assistance

Column four—Outcome.

 

OS12058My husband mumbled in semi-sleep at my chuckles over the lopsided list. More than 30 concerns, worries and fears filled the first column, but only one word answered the query of what I, personally, could DO about them – nothing.

 

Lying awake had never yet inspired a solution, which brought me to the third column where I wrote in God for the contact. The mind-picture was complete. Each individual all-nighter of worry, fear, or concern was now re-gift-wrapped, without the deceptive bow – instead, a transparent covering.

God could see the contents. Disguising them was useless. And I didn’t have to “trick” God to “steal” the unwanted parcel. The hands of God were extended eagerly, so in them I placed my worries saying, “Here – I think these are yours.” Sighing in relief, I felt the reality of the verse in Isaiah that says,

Don’t panic. I am with you. (41:10)

 

Days, weeks, and months later, the outcome column developed a pattern as it filled with details of what happened regarding each sleep-robbing fear. Over 90% of the time the recording was identical: NH – never happened. The rest had been resolved; some with the fresh perspective of a good night’s sleep and an attitude change, and others in unique ways, that only God could have done.DSC00184

 

Even though life still has stress (and produces garbage) when I delete them from my mind by  letting God deal with them a new thing happens. A confidence that the issues are being handled gives me rest.

 

Turns out my Worry-List is a lot shorter these days, and remarkably, I am getting more done—and sleeping better.

 

I can lay down with peace and rest. The difference: like the Psalm says, At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep, For you, GOD, have put my life back together….

 

And, I might add, taken my garbage out!

 

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Taking a Risk

img716 3Forget curiosity killed the cat – think curiosity discovered new wonders!

 

Risky living.

 

Embrace the fullness of life and just DO that something you have always wanted to do.

 

Each of us reading that last line might envision vastly different scenes.

Friends have zip-lined, jumped out of a plane, gone bat hunting (on purpose!) and other adventSS07100ures that have zero appeal for me.

Instead,

I considered a foodie risk (smile).

 

 

If it worked, it would be the first time for my lifelong love-affair with Greek food.

 

BaklavaBaklava, Spanakopita (Spinach and Cheese Pies), and stuffed grape leaves with lemon sauce – oh my. They all made my heart beat faster. I set out on a quest to discover the secrets so I could make them at home.

Sadly, I was rejected by a local Greek chef when I asked for a job in his kitchen. He said he knew what I was up to – I’d work till I learned the recipes and then I’d be gone – likely along with all of his lemon sauce!

Driving by upcoming Greek Fest signage brought mental images of prior years –people streaming into the church and its outbuildings days before the festival. Of course, they would have to be preparing for all their food fans for days before the festival.

Apron ready and armed with notebook and pen, I headed for the hall behind the Greek church. What is the worst that could happen? They could call the cops, I supposed, or toss me out.

But what is the best that could happen?

I wanted to find out!

GrapeleavesI walked into their hall waving my apron and cheerfully called out, “Room for one more?”

“Of course!” “Come on in!” “Grab a chair…” — instant welcome!

Women of all ages were seated in rows along long tables. Some were filling and rolling stuffed grape leaves, others created desserts. The first table had already made room for me, so stuffed grape leaves it was!

The International sound of laughter set the tone for Greek and English conversations all around me. It was a big happy family preparing for holiday! My teensy bit of Spanish knowledge was no help with the Greek, though I watched expressions and listened carefully, trying to catch any nuance of discussion. Thankfully, a woman named Penny leaned toward me confidingly. “I bet you are wondering what the Greek chat is about, hmmm?”

“Yes, I’d love to know.”

“Well the older women are talking about the scandalous clean shaved younger pastors, (in the past they all were required to grow beards) and the younger women are sighing over how handsome they think they are.”

 We laughed together.

3oldmenIt was age-old and worldwide I assumed, recalling el Centro – outdoor park-like community centers in Spain, where daytime I watched old men gather while the women did their marketing. Later asking the father of the home what the men talked about, his first answer was, “You women and the weather.”   When we laughed he tried to correct it to business and literary ideas, and everyone laughed more, because they’d talked about us, and as we’d walked from shop to shop we’d talked about the men!

The Greek lady, Penny, chuckled when I recounted the story, and shared Randy Travis’ lyrics from Forever and Ever, Amen “As long as old men sit n’ talk about the weather…As long as old women sit n’ talk about old men”

 

“For sure,” she laughed. “The same the world over.” She leaned in again asking about me and I confessed I’d come for their secret recipes. A take-care-of-business kind of person, she called over some ladies to dictate recipes for “our new friend.” After half-a-dozen

Fruit and Nut Bars Recipe

Fruit and Nut Bars Recipe

secrets filled the little notebook in my apron pocket (always come prepared), a younger woman leaned over from the other side and said it might be faster – and more legible – if I just bought their recipe book.

 

A new cookbook was not the only thing gained from my experience. Hugs all around and a love for the joy and camaraderie of another culture in my own community warmed my heart. It also led to another friendship when I brought the Greek treat Baklava for my next birthday at work. A sweet lady, Kay, came into the office inquiring who made one of her favorite treats, and left astonished that it was my first time using her recipe!

Coincidence?

Co-incidence means it takes more than one for it to happen. The risk taker, and the welcomer.

 

IMG_22451Pet. 5:14 Give holy embraces all around! Peace to you—to all who walk in Christ’s ways.

What welcomers might be waiting to embrace you and your dream?

What was a first time or favorite risk taking for you?

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A 25 Cent Lesson

Ferriswheel   “The carnival’s in town!”

“When are they leaving?”

It was not your usual response, but carnival for me was not about rides or games… it was about scanning grassy fields for lost coins after the crowd was gone. That’s why Daddy’s answer surprised me.

“Let’s go check it out.”

Now? Go to the carnival? Suddenly the lighted Ferris wheel transforming the edge of town had new intrigue. The closer we got, the more intense the symphony to our senses. Carousel music rose and fell, tiny multicolored lights blurred around the tilt-a-whirl, and the clink of rings against coke bottles sang out. Sweet scents of popcorn and cotton candy made our feet move faster.

“There,” I said, pointing. “Daddy, can we go there?”

He seemed surprised but agreed to ‘go watch’ the roulette wheel.

“Try your luck. Red, white, black.” A man pulled a stick that looked like the back of a rake across numbered squares edging the table. A little white ball bounced from number to number on the twirling wheel. Daddy only raised his eyebrows at my longing look, drew his hand from a pocket and silently offered me a quarter.

roulette-wheel            Twenty-five cents was a lot of money in 1950. Especially to a girl who had just learned that adding a one-cent tootsie-roll to the grocery bill without asking was considered stealing. Remembering the incident, I imagined how much candy I could buy with a quarter, but the chant “double your money” rapidly overcame the sweet temptation.

My father, leaning against a post, only shrugged his shoulders when I glanced at him and the quarter in my hand soon found its way to a square.

The wheel –– and my stomach –– spun wildly. What had I done! I’d risked the entire quarter. Oh, I was a fool. But, wait, I won!

I bet again, and again, caught up in the excitement of winning; forgetting the risk. Daddy watched, neither congratulating nor condemning. As the winnings grew, I counted: $1.00, $1.50, $2.00. His silent “it’s-your-choice” nonchalance left me to choose between instinct and audience. Heady from the cheers, I kept betting, until $5.00 lay before me! Then, one more spin.

youngdad003You guessed it. In a flash, the stick dragged away my entire winnings.

Gone. It was all gone.

Stunned, I looked to Dad who again shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “That’s the way it goes.” Surely he did not understand what had just occurred.

“Daddy!” I cried, amusing the other men. “I lost FIVE DOLLARS!”

“No you didn’t.”

Wasn’t he watching? Didn’t he hear the crowd gasp with me? I opened my mouth to refute his strange argument when he finished: “You’ve lost a quarter…but you gained something too.”

“I won?” “But I didn’t win,” I tearfully emphasized, “I lost…five dollars.”

“No,” he calmly repeated, bending so we were eye-to-eye. “You started with a quarter, and you lost a quarter. As soon as you put the money on the table it was not your money. When you left it there, it was their money.”

Whoa. I’d given the money away before I lost it?

“But… you said I won.”

“Gained,” he repeated gently.   “You gained a very grown-up understanding of how it feels to be greedy.”

My pouty and emphatic response, “Well, I don’t much like it!” drew chuckles from knowing customers around the wheel.

in His HandsDad offered his hand, and I silently accepted, glad to leave the experience behind.

Days later, my sister Marlene and I went to the empty field looking for lost coins. I pondered my handful, wondering if adults realized how much they gave away. Were they like me, unwilling to stop because of wanting more?

If there was a next time, I determined, I would first decide how much I wanted to give away and always keep the part I won.

Recently, Marlene, not knowing this story, brought me to a casino as a birthday gift. My stomach clenched in memory. For her sake I tried two machines; each promptly “swallowed” my dollar. Not wanting to reject her gift, I told her it would be more fun if she would demonstrate her favorite game, and she eagerly led me to “Flaming 7s” complete with stick controllers.

Honestly, I was having fun watching her scores rise… until I spotted the amounts of her investment and winnings and realized she was playing with ten dollars at a time! It must have been instinct to not relive my past… I only know it shocked us both when my hand reached out and slammed the cash-out button.

Her eyes grew wide and I took a step back, thinking she was going to deck me. “Wait,” I pleaded, quickly telling my story, and she sighed, “Well, it is your birthday. If that’s fun to you, go for it.”

It was hilarious fun startling her by cashing out every few minutes.

Hours later we’d garnered and redeemed a stack of coupons, winning more than flamingsevensdouble her investment. “Happy Birthday,” she crowed, shoving some bills in my hand, “and thanks – that was a pretty valuable lesson for only twenty-five cents!”

 

Happy Father’s day, Daddy.  Thanks for the memories.  (For more, just search “Daddy” on the blog).

How about you?  Got any lessons from your Daddy?

 

 

 

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Don’t Wait for the Big Moments in Life to Practice Praise

fireworksTREEoflifeBig Moments. How are they defined?

 

Dazzle? Fireworks? Notoriety? Or sweet and tender times that aren’t necessarily Facebook material? What are your Big Moments in life?

 

A friend who has since passed away lived most of the life I knew her believing she had not yet had Big Moments. Oh, she would admit, she had a husband who cared about her, she had children, a solid faith, but personally, you know – conversation was frequently a downer because it often began if only… Hair, body, clothing, house, furnishings, and on and on. If only. And she let those things – or lack of them – define her.

 

Until

 

She was dying.

 

Then…

 

Footprnts insandLooking back she realized she had been snake-charmed to gloss over many Big Moments in her life.

 

Moments more important than hair, high-school waistline, home, or any of those things that seemed so elusive.

 

Instead she noticed those little daily joys of use of our senses, the wonder of life, the feel of sunshine, the colors in a flower, freedom to run in the rain, a child’s hug or giggle, the hand of one who stayed by your side for decades, a moment of faith and the awe that God would speak to us through the Bible.

 

A sick-bed provided a realization that loss of striving for those if-onlies gave her time to rejoice in what she had. It was wonderful to see my friend’s amazement as she journaled all the Big Moments as she rediscovered multitudes from the past and new ones each day.

 

LWGHDSome would bemoan and regret the prior vacuum of joy, but she was so overflowing, that, she said, would be a waste of remaining time. Instead, she rejoiced – re-celebrated – every captured tidbit, feeling richer every day. How precious it was as she applied her search for beauty and joy to her Bible reading and to her daily experiences despite the new distractions of pain and disease. She was living 2 Corinthians 7:4 – I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles.

 

How much she taught me! Day to day living is full of heartache, grit under the nails, and struggling to get up. But the reminder that IN everything I can and will yet have moments being overwhelmed with joy is a like being wrapped in a warm blanket fresh from the dryer.

 

It is soothing to the jagged edges of my heart, to look about myself, to seek and to see beauty; to stop, reach out and touch a velvety petal, pet a soft kitten or feel the layers of a rock or seashell. It is energizing to really listen – just listen – and to seek and hear joy. IMG_0962And, instead of focusing on what I perhaps cannot or should not eat – to celebrate what I can – and to savor it. To not be so busy after a fresh rain and step outside a moment to take a deep breath and take in the fresh-washed air. If I journal but one thing each day – a beauty, a joy, a praise, it will turn my heart toward heaven.

 

In Isaiah 61, God is comforting his mourning people. One part of their comfort is “a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.”

 

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

 

I’m going on a praise hunt! A praising heart redefines the borders of the grief-changed life.

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Tossing and Turning

YesLordHankieI couldn’t sleep last night, and thought of two things – silly song lyrics from the 50s including “tossing and turning all night,” and a friend’s favorite quote – If you can’t sleep, don’t count the sheep – talk to the Shepherd.

So I got up to pray for her and others on my heart. I am surprised I don’t feel tired. I’ve been home several days from the WordGirls Retreat, and gratefully some of the effects still linger.

The peace.

arrowheaddayPeace of knowing I was in the right place at the right time.

Peace of having no other responsibilities to attend to, and no interruptions.

Peace of the setting – curling up in a chair by the lake with Bible, notebook, pen and a healthy dose of anticipation

Peace now – knowing I am back in the saddle so to speak, working but again in the right place, at the right time, and for the moment I have quiet, responsibility-free time, in my nice soft green office chair.

The rest.

arrowheadwildstrawberriesRest with long stretches of time to think, ponder, and process confirmation

Rest from fresh air and nature

Rest from mental detours, I awoke more refreshed each day than I have for awhile

 

Rest today in reflection and rest in the work I got done so I can let that go and move on

The freedom

Freed from the stress of trying to figure out some answers on my own, I was able to hear and receive direction from the Lord, and from others.

arrowheadwaterwhitegreenFreed from a jam-packed schedule, I was strengthened for the next round of life

Freed from trying to prove myself, I found new friends, lost some excuses and discovered a bit more of who I am in Christ.

 

Free today to celebrate daily direction, and strength as I head into the other goals set at retreat, remembering where God leads, He will have already prepared the fulfillmet

 

Mark 6:31 Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.

 

Matt. 11:28-29

arrowheadwhitesparkle“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

 

Matt. 11:30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

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Covered – A Memorial Day Memory

The grave is but a covered bridge Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness!”   Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

 Daddy’s red truck bumped along, edging into the woods where we would work. It was my truckposts001first day to help with the branches, and I was excited. My older sister and brother doubted that I would produce – even I knew that. I’d heard the chuckles and whispered words like dreamer – and worse – behind their hands. Though I knew some of it was deserved because I often disappeared into the truck to read and ponder things, I wondered if they were jealous of the freedom I felt in my secret thoughts.

The fragrance of the cedars that wafted through the slightly open window carried me high above reality enabling me to forget some cruelties of life. Well, not forget really, as my lowered eyes took in the metaphor provided by the myriad ground coverings beneath the trees. I would still know what lay below the layer everyone saw, but, in the safety of the forest, I could cover the memories with fragrant beauty and choose to look at that instead.

I’d seen adults refuse to forget the ugliness of anger and hurts. Returning pain for pain or going without speaking to one another for weeks or months. I did not know then that it was possible with God’s strength to release the bitterness that coated such unhappy hearts. For now, the possibility of covering the sad thoughts of my mind with a fresh layer brought hope. Inhaling the fresh scent revived my soul in the same way as when I saw a flower rise up in town – right out of a crack in the hard cement.

A God Moment

A God Moment

My older brother would go from tree to tree and chop branches, and my sister and I would gather the freshly cut cedar branches. We would set them on top of the form – a wide X-shaped wooden frame with sticks rising up at each of the corners like arms, raised in celebration of life. Four sticks for the four stages: birth, youth, maturity, and then death. The frame seemed to be reaching up to welcome the branches and to celebrate the completion of the journey.

These fragrant arms of love that God put here would be placed over cold graves, giving a final warm evergreen hug to the earth from which each soul had been made and covering with their beauty the life below it. I pictured our branches placed over the hearts of those in the grave, silently thanking God for His branches on my heart like a grave blanket, covering … protecting. Covering the secrets of a life that others might never know. There were good secrets, yes, but many more sad ones – all covered.

Hidden.

Except from God.

We stacked, turned and angled the layers until a soft green cascade was formed, then tightly bound them together with twine that got hidden among the branches. An older brother or sister’s strength was needed then, to pull up the finished grave covering, releasing it from its wooden cross-like container. With each one I released a sigh of satisfaction and the thought that I had helped create that beauty.

IMG_2700Other Memorial Day’s I’d marched with others down the rows of the cemetery, admiring the soft curves of the living greens that graced the hard flat place of death. I almost felt like part of the forest knowing that even in the tree’s death it had provided this gift of comfort, like a mother tenderly covering her sleeping child. Death, it seemed, was thus a natural part of our life, and in some ways appeared more peaceful and desirable than the ever-present scary realities of my life away from my green cathedral. How many dark thoughts I had released here in the forest! Released and traded for soaring hope that one day I could be like this fulfilled tree, finding my purpose by honoring those gone before, and feeling reunited with my ancestors who’d walked these paths before me.

A Native American prayer I heard later brought back these feelings as they invoked the Great Mystery – the creator of all things: “Who holds in Your right hand the years of our lives and in Your left the opportunities of each day. Brace us that we may not neglect our gifts nor lose in laziness the hopes of each day and the hopes of each year.”

If I was to embrace life as these branches embraced death, I must work hard to find the hope and opportunities in all of life – even the hard things. I’d experienced from my hero Daddy, and my big sister especially, that love covers a multitude of sins. Thinking of the soldiers who also gave themselves for me, I imagined their love of country and freedom crowded out the hate, filling our country’s heart with seeds of hope and new life to all that it touched. I soaked up the love I felt in the forest, believing if my heart filled with love it would have no room left for bitterness and hatred.

IMG_8469Layer after layer covered my heart, just as I’d learned that Indians covered themselves – especially in special battle array. I had not known that their preparation was the same for any imminent physical danger – not just in war, but illness or injury even in times of peace, in case the result of the conflict was death, so they could be ready to meet their maker with the best possible presentation. Perhaps, I thought, that God was showing me to focus on His goal for me, and not so much the path. Last things first.

I was determined to endure what I was sure was the work of honoring death amidst life– trimming the branches, properly stacking and holding them for tying into arrangements for the Memorial Day graves – and, to be honest, I was doing it as a means to visit my beloved forest again. What I did not know was that the forest with its lessons was waiting as eagerly for me – already prepared by Abba-Father.

So many questions to be answered yet, Daddy had counseled, and even the answers had questions, so I would always be learning. Black Elk, an Ogala Sioux, said to look for wisdom from those who are worthy of old age – who have seen their days and proven themselves with the help of the Great Spirit.

I loved to learn, and felt connected to God under the canopy of forest life. His trees, creatures and creations of the forest talked to me and taught me, as did the stories and history of my Daddy and our ancestors.

My heart squeezed with grief since then. Friends matured into soldiers and sailors – going off to wars. Some came home. Many I have loved have not. I’ve seen and felt the cost of freedom, and the smell of cedar makes me cry.  miltary3

My heart enlarged with respect and does so every Memorial Day for all those who stand in my place, securing a place of safety generations after themselves.

I salute and honor their courage and great sacrifice, grateful for their protection, and for the creator of those values and virtues who also gave His child for my eternal security.

 

Under His canopy I feel safe. Covered and tenderly held with an eternal hug.

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I want to be FAT!

Shhh.  I know it is unexpected, but it is true.  All humor aside, 1375

You KNOW I mean — I want to be

F aithful

A vailable

T eachable

F.A.T.

So here is my three-point goal for this week:

 

FaithfulIMG_3644

  • show up (devotions, meetings, writing, friend/spouse appointments, sleep)
  • strive to give before getting.  Be focused (make my goal about others first)
  • expect God to work

 

 

 

Available

  • IMG_3535listen – check their eye and body language response – am I making others comfortable?
  • strive to affirm others’ concerns without thinking about my own – single agenda – be available
  • expect God to work

 

 

 

People are always more important than things

People are always more important than things

Teachable

  • ask – get permission – don’t demand – to utilize their wisdom and experience (and then do what Florence Littauer told me – use it (with appropriate credit)
  • strive to build a relationship first (you will listen and learn more from someone you know and respect, and others are more likely to listen to you too.)
  • expect God to work

 

There it is.  A recipe for success – if that is, you want to be – you know

 

FAT!

Job 8:9 For we’re newcomers at this, with a lot to learn,

and not too long to learn it.

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Above Grief’s Cloud

I’ve been thinking about Gratitude… and the dark cloud of Grief – Evilovrland

Don’t get me wrong – I am not grateful to be grieving.

But I likely did not have to say that, for many of you have been there, or are there: still grieving the loss of someone dear to you.  The grief cloud is always there…

 

But I can’t stop thinking of that Scottish pastor’s comment about his friend who got to glory before him – “Every time I think of him, I have a wee party in my heart.”  I get that – I do celebrate every time I think of Laurie – we had a pretty wonderful relationship and I admired her ability to laugh and take life as it came.  She had that attitude of gratitude. Our daughter was comfortable in her own skin, and big on  praise and prayer. She told me shortly before she died, that some of her friends said they were not sure if prayer worked, but she was certain.

1-LaurieBowlShadowIt is odd to think of your child leaving you, the parent, a legacy of prayer and praise (including the partially checked off list from her Bible which she was meditating on). So, honoring that legacy and love, I am determined to look for and acknowledge gratitude and praise for the things that have not changed in my life: family, friends, faith, beauty and for those that constantly change, like the opportunity of choice of attitude.

Grace shown by family (past and present), a good memory and lots of photos make it easy to list pages of gratitudes and praises of the past. But new things are happening in my life and in the life of extended family. Poking through the cloud of grief to reveal present sunshine and glimmers of the future, take a bit more intentional action and dark-cloud skimming.

Without intentionally poking holes in the cloud, darkness obliterates the light that IS Lambcloudshining – the light that CONTINUES to shine, despite the cloud. It is just hard to see it when looking only at the cloud. Unless you look through the shape of the lamb.

I’ve found three things  that are lightening my grief cloud and revealing light:

  1. Facing the fact that the dark emotions of grief stir up regrets and bitterness. I’m sure the enemy has missile-seeking stir-spoons ready to encourage these to boil over, or catch on fire – if I let them. OR – I can list them, face them, and give them to the one who already conquered them.

Hard to do. It is “natural” to feel individuals should have to pay for actual or perceived action whether intentional or unintentional. I know I spend far too much time wondering if I could have or should have done or reacted to some situations or things differently. Will wondering and worrying over these issues change anything? Of course not, and that thought can either bring one to the edge of desperation, or to the place of release.

 

Our children quickly learned the consequence for owning up to any action with the release kidschristmasjpgof the truth (confession) and regret (desiring not to repeat) was far more healing than the pain of covering a thorn and trying to ignore it. They could co out with joy after receiving the gift of forgiveness. No more under the cloud, like Linus from Peanuts.

 

EaglecloudI too am still learning to open up to God and allowing him to apply his healing poultice to withdraw the poison of clinging to what has been forgiven.

Each time I acknowledge God’s presence and power over a feeling or a situation, it lightens the cloud,  and reminds me that despite the cloud, you can, you will again fly like an eagle for Him.

 

 

2) Also I am learning to care for my soul. Making daily choices toward health (which includes the body). I’ve read the verses – and taught them – on our body being God’s temple. It is so much easier to apply those concepts to others than it is for myself – particularly if I view my temple from under the cloud.

 

IMG_2231Too many times I have allowed my cloud to accept enemy shrapnel, leaving the “feeling” that I deserve it, so I need to slog through it.

But if I accept that lie, aren’t I saying Christ’s sacrifice was not enough?

 

So  that temple where Christ has come to reside- my soul, within my body – do I have a responsibility to care for it?

 

1Cor. 3:17 (The Message) – No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.

From GodI have light, knowledge, instruction and gifted people in my life that teach health to body and soul. I have no excuse to do otherwise.

I do not want to be guilty of vandalizing God’s temple!

 

3) Journal from Yesterday: I’ve found if I look at yesterday it gives me a better view of actual progress and more incentive to continue or improve for today. So yesterday: A) what did God teach me, cover for me, promise me; B) what did I do to care for my soul and C) was I able to bless others?

 

The cloud is thinning. It will always be there, but will, I believe, continue to become more transparent.

DSCF0723

1Th. 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.

 

I am grateful to have that hope.

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