Friday, May 30, 2014

In The Sky Above (Chino Hills).

Acts 2:19a "And I will grant wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath."  

I decided to go.  No, I did not know her personally.  CommUnity-Unity.  I come, united in purpose, to mourn, remember, pray, light a candle. 

The flame keeps going out, the wind a hindrance. 

Yet that stranger persisted. He handed me another candle, protected by a plastic cup. 

I scootched it up so the wick was below the top of the cup, protected and the flame remained. 


Guitar strums plunked and a voice sang out.  An Irish dialect read scriptures; Parish Priest of the Holy, of the Redeemed, of those left to do the dialoging, listened as CommUnity. 

And I prayed, asking, why God, is this really happening again? Words reminded us, "Tragedy brings us closer to the Lord or it pushes us farther away. I pray you make the right choice. She would want that from you today." 

 I stopped asking, for I know that to be true. 

I stood behind, on the hill above the valley of the green basketball court designated for the stage, the candle-holding crowd wrapped around in a U, a Unity of honor and support for the family.  

I saw, from my perspective, the whole of the gathering, the trees, the earth below, the sky.  I could take it all in. 

And I did. 

The hummingbird did not flit and zoom, did not do a fly by.  

She hovered. Right in the middle of it all. 

Not for a few seconds, but for many minutes. 

Word-filled, comfort-giving, scripture-reading, candle-lighting, Amazing Grace singing, minutes.  

She moved, a few inches this way, a few inches that way.  I'm sure, a nest waited somewhere for her, a nectar-filled feeder beckoned for her, her mate lingered somewhere.  

Yet, she had business to do. She needed to do something very important. She needed to watch over the Unity gathering, She needed to declare His glory. She received her assignment that day, and she obeyed her Creator. 

Apparently, she was witnessed by more than just myself. 

Then we become His witness, testifying of the Sweet Nectar that is life-giving.  

I believe in the supernatural works of the Lord. I believe in the Creator of Nature doing something Super. 

A hummingbird sign, a wonder, a Wonder-filled glimpse of His love. 

The song continues, "when we've been there, ten-thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days, to sing God's praise, then when we've first begun." 

I felt the presence of the Lord, for He is a Light that never burns out and a giver of peace. He manifests within nature, in a tiny hummingbird above a grieving crowd, a soaring eagle above a soldier's brave duty, a ladybug on a headstone in the dead of winter, a rainbow of promise, or in a rabble of Swallowtail butterflies guiding me on the path of His plan.  Today, this hummingbird moment comforted.  For those who made the connection, we will crave the sight again, crave the God-wonder-sign who fills our hearts with hope. 

Thank you lady hummingbird for giving us hope in such a broken, sorrow-filled world. We are grateful Lord for showing us a glimpse of Your Glory through our tears. Lord, You created us to be Your ultimate sign of wonder, to be super-natural in an un-natural world bent on blocking You from our view, snuffing out our light.  I pray for the broken-hearted from yet another senseless tragedy. May we hover close to Your desire for us and walk in a path that gives hope and healing, lighting candles in the darkness. May many hummingbirds (Your Spirit) hover for many days to come and heal the broken hearts of Isla Vista, Chino Hills, the World. Amen.  

Written in memory of Chino Hills own, Katherine Cooper and the other victims of the UCSB tragedy.

Blessing: WestCoast magazine published this story in their July issue.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Because of the Brave

Psalm 91:1  He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 

What does 'BRAVE' look like?  Does it have a face, a reflection, a Wikipedia page?  To be brave is an adjective, bravery is an abstract noun.  Is bravery something you want to be known for?

Crime, disrespect, inhuman acts of disregard for basic human rights bombard our news and media in a stream of tumult every waking minute of our day. We watch it, discuss it, analyze it, create video games to mimic it. When we've thought we've heard it all, something else rises, something else terrorizes, something else slanders, something else steals away dreams. Cowards get the headlines.

In contrast, we search for the stories, the connection to human kindness, the rescues, the pay-it-forward moments to help us remove the ugly reality of our world. In those stories, bravery usually resides and heroes walk among us.

They don't know they are brave, but I see bravery everyday in the special ed kids I work with.

I know of a little boy in Ireland named Jayden who is 5 years old. All his life he has traveled twice a week into the big city to have protein infusions (I.V.) for his kidney disease.  It's an all day thing.

I know a young woman suffering with chronic CF. She registers each semester for school, achieving 6 AA degrees and a certificate in photography, even though she is frequently hospitilized.  Recently, she received the news that she's been waiting to hear,  listed on not one, but two transplant lists at two major L.A. area hospitals.  The plan is for a double transplant, her lungs and her liver.

We all know first responders, teachers, missionaries, mothers of teenagers...all of them, BRAVE.

In light of this weekend, tonight I ask you...Do you know a soldier? Can we set aside some time to share human stories of service, of brotherhood, of loyalty, of sacrifice this Memorial Day weekend? Can we honor them, say a prayer, make a phone call, write a note, put out our flags?

I know a special mom of a soldier. Her name is Tammie. Her son, Sgt. Josh Ashley was killed July 19th, 2012 by an IED in Afghanistan.  THIS IS WHAT BRAVERY LOOKS LIKE.

Everyone needs courage to face the day, to conquer our fears. to step into the unknown, to move ahead in life. I know in my own life, I do not "hide out" in God's shelter, do not cower behind my beliefs, my convictions, my morals, but ask God to help me soldier on and be victorious. He asks us to DWELL, to live the light of His promises, knowing that His Shadow is a result of His reflection in us. He empowers us to be brave in this ugly world and to inspire bravery in others. The gatekeepers of His Hope and Guidance lead us through in the Holy Spirit. I cannot begin to compare any brave thing I have done to what our soldiers endure everyday, to what sacrifices have been made throughout our history to allow me the freedom to write this blog and post it. I am grateful. God bless our fallen heroes, our troops everywhere in the world.

Father God, thank you for our troops!  I especially pray for the moms and dads, the brothers and sisters of those soldiers who gave their all, who came home broken, wounded, who are missing in action. Lord, thank you for their service, their willingness to fight for freedom. Thank you and bless their families with Your goodness and mercy and peace. May bravery be found in all of us and may we call upon you as we dwell in the shelter of your saving grace and in the shadow of your enduring love. Amen.

In memory of a brave soldier, Sgt. Josh Ashley and his soldier partner, Sirius

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Shower Invitation, Please R.S.V.P.

Ezekiel 34:26 "And I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessings." 

Reading in the Old Testamant, in Ezekiel, we know that the prophet was speaking for the Lord, for God's Chosen People, Israel. God promised His people "showers of blessings."

Today, I attended a mini-wedding shower at my school for one of our young special-ed teachers planning a wedding as soon as school gets out.  Tomorrow, I set out to attend another shower for my second cousin, expecting a son this July.  A wedding nuptial, and a precious newborn: reasons, occasions to "shower someone" with blessings.

We do that. We buy lots of gifts, practical and cute. We check off the registry and ask the color of the nursery. We might stock the bride's shelf with spices and unique kitchen gadgets or get the mom-to-be a year's supply of diapers.  Maybe it's just a card with cash stuffed in it or several gift cards.  I always appreciate the hand-made items, the crocheted blankets, the monogrammed towels, pictures set in special frames.

When Christ, the Messiah came, Israel's Redeemer, God sent His Son, not just for the Israelites to  receive the blessing, but the Gentiles too.  In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Gospel is for the Jews first and then the "Greeks." When we become one with the Bride of Christ, when we are conceived in His grace, born again as Believers, it's like getting an invitation to a shower given by the Lord for us, everyday.

He has a banquet waiting for us. Fellowship with others makes us feel connected, loved, appreciated. He gives us special gifts, practical things, gifts we can use for others, tools to help us love one another and serve. Others come, invited as well, to help us,  teach us and we learn together how to use our gifts. He gives us personal blessings, monogrammed with His love. He encourages us to capture everything for memory, to continue to share and encourage ourselves and others when sometimes only a deflated balloon lingers and confetti seems like an annoyance. The Lord is quick to send the Holy Spirit to get our lives cleaned up. "Come, He says, blessings await."

When we RSVP,  Recognize the Son, a Validation of us in His Providential plan of forgiveness, what a soiree is held in Heaven!  Showers of blessings arrive at the right time and place. Many times we are surprised, delighted really, for God is so good to pick the perfect shower gifts. Heaven, yes some do think it is going to Hobby Lobby, but those angels in Heaven?  They are the Supreme Party Planners!  Can you give us a Pinterest Page?!

Lord, Thank you for your many blessings. Thank you for the promise of new love in both a marriage and in becoming a mother. Thank you for the blessing of fellowship and friendship that help us celebrate these milestones, these sacred occassions in our lives. When we receive Your blessings, help us to recognize all that we have, not what we don't and help us to use our gifts to Your Glory. May each day we have with You Lord, be a reason to celebrate. Help us Lord to shower others as well with Your goodness and promises.  Amen.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Prayers, Smiles and Praises

Proverbs 31:30  "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." 

It's Mother's Day weekend, a day when the role of mothers is appreciated and generations gather to bestow gifts of flowers and jewelry, chocolate covered strawberries and possibly breakfast in bed. It's a day we pamper, spoil, and love on our moms a little extra.

For most moms, this is a proud day, reflecting and cherishing her brood, or her own mother; the perfect sentiments displayed on a beautifully designed flowery card.

Mother's Day is my hardest holiday, still.  It shouldn't be, but it is.

I tread in those inviting waters of expectation only to slip in the slime of dissapointment.

Time does heal. There are those parts of my Mother's Day picture that no longer are tangible with one son and my own mother in the Lord's presence. I always will miss both of them, thoughts frequently towards memories.

What does the scripture tell us?

A promise of praise awaits the mother who gives respect and honor to the Lord, the giver of her salvation, and exemplifies that in her unselfish deeds and unconditional love for her children, for her family.  I know I still need to work on attitude, and there are days I am emotionally drained. I need to  remember what it says in an earlier verse, "she smiles at the future," (v.25).

The flowers petals will fall, jewelry discarded, the strawberries gobbled up and the bed will be remade every morning, hospital corners and all, by us moms for the next 364 days. I'm not saying that I--you,  are not loved, that these gifts are not sincere.  Tradition and a love language in gifts are important. It's fun to receive a thoughtful gift, but charm fades.

Youth and vigor, active relationships with adult children and the elderly, aging gracefully, (with our sunscreen and moisturizers and trips to the hair salon); becoming a grandmother;  the beauty in motherhood takes on variety of colors and textures, a different aesthetic value.  Let's recognize the beauty within ourselves, for God continues to sculpt us towards His purpose. Vanity is a multi-billion dollar industry. Taking care of our "temple" is biblical, and I know God doesn't mind a little lipstick and mascara.

I focus on the last part of this verse. God hears the prayers of a mother.

From the first time a newborn is held in her arms, as her head hits the pillow every night and as she rises to complete her chores and routines, go to work, mend the tears, bandage the knees, cook and clean, entertain, a mother prays for her children. She prays for her friend's children, she prays for her extended family.

In God's timing, not for the world's eyes and economy, but for God's economy, she shall be praised, promises the Lord.

I know my mother prayed for me.

I prayed for her.

I pray not to receive praise myself,  but to see my children give praise to their Maker.

But, there are words I would like to hear said one day...

"My mother prayed for me, and I pray for her."

Father, thank you for the gift of being a mom. It is a blessing through every good day and every hard day.  I know that You have a plan. Help me to bring You praise in this role. Be with me Lord and give me Your mercies as I miss my mother and my first born. You are not impressed with charm and outward beauty, but Lord, You look on our hearts and see our desire for our children. Help us to trust in You for the continued "raising up;"  that their paths will lead to honoring You in their own walk. May heaven rejoice in the faith of moms. Thank you Father, for Your strength and for Your promise. Amen.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Happy Ordination Day!

Psalms 139:16 "Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."

Happy Birthday to me!  Tomorrow, the BIG 6-0!  

A well-formed,  full-figure shape, I am made with girlie substance!  I'm not quite ready for the freezer yet, nor the kiln.  God, the Potter, lovingly shapes me, this lump of clay, into His purpose.  I think He's made me into a few different vessels from time to time. Don't throw me out with the garage sale stuff. I am not ready to be labled an antiquity. I am climbing, but not quite over the hill yet!  

"In the Book, they were written...ALL the days."  Yes, God keeps a journal on me, but instead of filling the pages with my humaness, He writes the things He sees that bring Him glory. He knows the pages where I've struggled, written down the number of tears I've cried and inserted happy faces and heart doodles when His glory is captured.  It's not the word "days" I am looking at when I read this verse. Each day is a day to give Him praise and seek Him in all His goodness. In my sixty years, I have not used every day to my full potential. My share of crummy, bad attitude, "oops God, I am so sorry" days, I know fill several books, outnumber my "righteous" days.  All those days though, are torn from the book and replaced with golden insert pages, one word written by the blood of Jesus on them  Do you know what that word says?  


The word I like in this verse?  ..."Ordained."  I looked it up in Strong's Concordance (In the original Hebrew). It means:  formed, framed, fashioned.  

I like that this birthday girl is still "fashioned" by God.  I've got Soul-Style!  

His grace leaves a marked pattern in my life that I am "ordained" to trace onto others.  

How Vogue is that!  

My thoughts wander to many things as I turn the clock, flip the calendar, blow out the candles...

(wait, another breath please...). 

I am thinking of both my parents who passed away in their sixties.  I think of Heaven a lot anyways but this week I saw the movie, "Heaven is For Real," and my friend asked me an interesting question: 

"What age do you think Timmy is in Heaven?" 

He'll be a little bit of the cute 4 year old, the precocious 10 year old, the entertaining 15 year old, the idealist 20 year old and the passionate 26 year old. What he won't be is the fearful, pain-riddled, scarred, angry young adult.  He'll be the man God intended him to be.  

And I'll strive to do the what God intended me to be, with each new candle I may add.  Oh, trust me, more pages will be torn out and more inserts added with that golden word, GRACE and for that I can only try to live out my days, surrendered and in Thanksgiving.  

And isn't that the ultimate birthday present!  

Thank you Lord for birthdays, both physical and spiritual. May each numbered day ordained for me be a sunrise to your Glory as I await a final sunset. Whatever lies ahead, teach me to continue to trust You in ALL things, and reflect and celebrate Your Amazing Grace in my life, now and forever. Amen.