A Grateful Childhood

Lord, thank You for today. I started out slowly, just couldn’t seem to get any traction. Took my time this morning, simply because I could. Thank You for that too. Worked a bit, not a lot, just a bit. Spent a few minutes reveling in the afternoon light off the Duck boardwalk. Saw behavior of Canada Geese I have never seen before, such flapping and carrying on! So that was neat. Thought we might have a sunset, but the cloud cover overtook any color. But I came home relaxed and refreshed. I am amazed how even a few minutes outside is so restorative. I can still feel the calm, still hear the soft sounds of the geese and the swan. Oh, and the blast-off when the boat motored by, even though it was way off. Beautiful. So thank You.

Why do you thank Me for that?

Because I appreciated it, and because someone–Someone–ought to hear, thank You. Because…because You are an Artist, and I love Your handiwork! No, seriously, God. I mean it. Everywhere around I can find–as I did yesterday, and I am sorry for that–reasons to fear, or reasons to be in turmoil. And everywhere around I can find–as I did today, reasons to rejoice, reasons to be glad, reasons to be thankful. So if I am thankful, then it makes sense to me there must be a “You” to say, thank You, to.

You think you so quickly revert to fear, but the opposite is true. You so quickly revert to gratitude. I want you to think back, back as far as you can. I know there were reasons to fear, in your childhood, especially from older kids who bullied you. But when did you begin to learn to rejoice? When did you begin to learn gratitude?

I wouldn’t have termed it that way, Lord. I remember I loved nature early. The apple trees, the willow tree, the lilac forest of my very young childhood. Hi-Baby the goat, I loved her. She loved me and I loved her back. And Sammy, my first kitty. And before Sammy, the neighbor kitten that always followed me home. There was love all around me, God–not just from my folks, from critters, too. Even as a really young child, I loved being outside. I was much more at home outdoors than inside playing with dolls. Rocks, I loved rocks. Still do. Still love all those same things I loved as a little kid! I learned to say please and thank you out of politeness. Now I think I say it out of love.

Indeed you do. Those who love deeply cannot help overflowing with gratitude, for they see the world through a lens that first, looks for the good, the positive, in every situation, and second, that operates from a perspective of abundance, in which everyone may receive. What are the top ten gratitudes you would list from your childhood?

You want me to name them now?

Why not?

Uh, isn’t this supposed to be about You talking more than about me talking?

Trust Me. Go ahead.

Ok. Well. I think the first would have to be, Lord, I am grateful for my life. I was a miracle baby, I know that. The fact that I am here at all is amazing. Knowing that as a fact has definitely shaped the person I have become.

So my second gratitude is, Lord, I am grateful for my folks, for their love of me, for growing up in a home that was safe, and loving. I’m especially grateful for how close my Mom and I were, and even though this reaches far beyond childhood, I am glad I was able to grow closer to my Dad before he died.

My third gratitude is, I am grateful for all the animals I had growing up. They enriched my life in so many ways, and without siblings, were my first companions beyond my parents. 

My fourth gratitude is, I am grateful for the school I went to, though I wasn’t at all grateful for a long time, during those school days. I am grateful I was blessed with a good memory (and where did that go, by the way?) and that I am still in touch today with so many from my childhood and teen years.

My fifth gratitude is, I am grateful for those trees I mentioned–the apple tree I learned to climb, the apple tree I watched every summer for the largest apple, the apple tree with the swing Daddy built. And for the willow tree, my sanctuary spot when I needed to think. And the lilac bushes that truly were a forest when I was just learning to walk, such a magical place.

My sixth gratitude is, I am grateful to have grown up in a home with music and art, with warm wood furniture and handmade things, with a mom who painted and played the piano. I look at my life today and think how much my parents would have loved this, and the reason I love my life is a direct result of their love of the arts.

My seventh gratitude is, I am grateful that I was encouraged in my childhood interests and hobbies, from my first polaroid camera to an early guitar and drum set, to science encyclopedias for middle school and a geology kit in grade school. My folks scrimped, I know now, to provide all sorts of opportunities for me to grow.

My eighth gratitude is, I am grateful that when I got the courage up to tell my folks I did not want to study French in college (something I had said I wanted to do since early elementary school!) but I wanted to study English instead, and write, they were completely supportive. I felt such relief, I wasn’t letting them down at all.

My ninth gratitude is, I am grateful for the friends I made as a child, and as a teenager, as I said above. Many are still friends to this day.

And last but by no means least, God, I am so grateful for You. You began to draw me to yourself in grade school, and when I made a commitment to live my life in union with You, at 16 years old, You changed everything for me. So much teenage angst and beginning depression began to lift then. Not that it all went away overnight, but I owe the kind of life I get to live today to all those seeds planted in my early years. Thank You.

Now, why don’t you invite your readers to do the same exercise you just completed? As you said, everyone has memories of some sort of turmoil, and everyone can point to some turmoil around them right now. But everyone also has reasons to say thank you, to express gratitude, to enumerate blessings past and present.

Ok, Lord. Good idea. You heard God–take a few minutes. If you have some scrap paper, or a computer screen, jot down a list. 10 things. From your early years, things you may not have thought about for decades, if ever. 10 thank-you’s. 10 blessings. Go!

 

Keeping Peace

Lord, I want to talk to You tonight about amends. And about peacekeeping. Or peace-making. Actually, what I want to talk to you about is that verse in the Psalms, I forget where it is exactly, I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war. That is what I want to talk about, how to keep peace, how to maintain it.

The first place you have to maintain peace is within yourself. You be at peace. Be at peace with Me. If you are at peace with Me, part of what that means is, let My Peace prevail within you. Let My Peace permeate your being.

Lord, I got this sudden visual, of a hurricane, and that made me remember a line in my friend Judy’s poem, now for me comes the calm i of the storm…

Yes, you can live at peace even in the midst of a storm. You can be an oasis of calm.

But what if the people you care most about in the world are in that storm? What if they are trapped in that storm, or, worse yet, even causing the storm? Then what?

This is what turn the cheek means–sometimes you have to take a breath and turn aside. You have to decide that your peace is more important than their war. The hard truth is, you cannot argue them into peace, not within themselves, not between themselves. You cannot argue anyone else into peace with you. You can only extend your peace, extend your love, and hope and pray they listen.

What if they don’t? 

Love never gives up. That doesn’t mean you continue to fuel someone else’s fire, but it does mean you can continue to hold your peace, in hope they will find their own. Think about that phrase a minute: hold your peace. You use it to mean, keep quiet. Keep silent, don’t speak up, don’t speak out. But think about it literally–hold your peace. Keep  your peace close to your heart. Hold on to your peace, don’t give it away, don’t give it up.

It hurts, to want peace so badly and to feel in my spiritual bones that a storm is coming. I know a little bit what to do in the natural. I know how to remove objects that could become missiles, to prepare for the power to go out, to stockpile water, maybe even shutter windows against flying debris, and to make sure my vehicle is safe on high ground. But spiritually? I know about building your house, your life, on solid ground, on You. On Your Love. That’s my rock. But what else can I do?

Here is what you can’t do. You cannot accurately forecast the wind speed or direction, or anticipate every flying object that might be hurled in your direction. But you can rely on My Peace as a guidance system, to tell you in the moment how to react, what to do or not do, and how to keep yourself safe, and on an even keel, emotionally and physically and spiritually.

Lord, I just feel like a hurricane is coming. A tsunami, a great raging wall of anger and upset. I see it in our country and I see it in the family. And it frightens me.

And what have I promised you? I have promised you that you will not drown. You will neither drown in a sea of rage, nor die of thirst in drought. I have promised you will be safe, safe in Me, safe in My Love, safe in My Armor, safe in My Peace. You won’t have to fight to keep yourself safe. You won’t have to abandon who you are. It may be, once the initial storm passes, that you will look around and find your world is smaller, but it will be yours, and it will be beautiful. Why beautiful? Because it will reflect who you are at your core: loving, peaceful, grateful, joyful. So be at Peace now, little one. Do not sleep fearing a nightmare in your future. What have I said, over and over? Perfect Love casts out all fear. And where is perfect Love? Right here. Surrounding you. That is your spiritual safety–My Perfect Love.

Here is something else I can promise you. As I Am fully and completely Myself, you will remain fully and completely yourself. You will not snap, you will not break, you will not shatter. In fact, the power you possess, which is gentle strength, the strength to love in the midst of the storm, is a gift from Me, and no one can take that away from you.

Now I want you to relax, and let go. Let go of your angst and your anguish over anyone else’s choices. That is hard for you. But as I told you before, you can be compassionate without taking on responsibility for anyone else’s choices. You learned this once. You can learn this again.

So in answer to your question, how can you remain at peace if the world around you goes to war? Be a conscientious objector. You don’t have to be objectionable, or obnoxious. Just purpose in your heart to utter a Divine No. And how do you do that? You say Yes to Me. Just as darkness cannot exist where there is even the tiniest light, so war cannot exist in a life or heart, as yours, where there is a commitment to peace. Follow Me, your Prince of Peace, and within you, all shall be well.

The Parent-Child Connection

Well, today was…interesting. It rained on my parade–literally drove me off the beach and back indoors.

But you didn’t let the rain ruin your afternoon. You went out looking for hearts, and you found them.

Yes, and now I’m sitting trying to Connect, on the couch watching the Super Bowl with a husband whose team is losing. I reckon it’s a great time for me to, what? Not test what You say, but prove it true in my experience. Sort of, if I can manage to hear You here, in the middle of distractions, sounds emotions–then, then, it’s true that anyone can hear You anywhere. Right?

One of the unforeseen and unfortunate consequence of community worship has been to discourage the discovery of the Presence of God in all the other hours of the week, especially in the middle of messy real life days. Think of how you have heard prayer time described: Quiet Time. But what about all the rest of the time, when life is anything but quiet?

I want you to think back to your experiences deep in the pelican and tern rookeries. In all the chaos of birds flying and waddling, of biologists banding and then releasing, somehow all the baby birds managed to unite with their right parents. The connection was stronger than the chaos. Now, do you think the connection was stronger on the baby bird’s’ side or the parent’s side?

I would guess the parent’s side. The babies have need, and the parents are hard-wired to meet that need.

So it is with Me. The Connection between us is always maintained on My part, and as you are learning right this minute, you can actually hear, clearly, My Voice even in the middle of other voices. Even in the middle of other voices shouting. You have learned to recognize My Voice. I don’t have to shout, to make Myself heard. You know My Voice by now. So the Super Bowl lesson for you is, no matter how the game goes, no matter how loud life gets all around you, you can still hear and respond to My Voice within.

You can turn, answer your text, and talk to Me.

You can look up, respond to anyone in the room, and hear from Me.

This is what I mean by no separation. You don’t have to wait for Sunday, you don’t have to wait for your early morning quiet time, you don’t have to wait, period.

So I have a question. Why did it take so long, then? What about all those years I could barely hear You at all? Were You not talking just as much then?

For years, you were schooled to believe I speak in particular ways, at defined times, and often only through select people. You had to line up all the conditions, just so. Can you feel Me laughing? Can you see Me dismantling all those barriers to My Presence? Now that the River is flowing freely, you will never experience drought again. Even the rain will remind you of all the ways My Spirit waters your soul.

So for folks reading this now, who may be where I was, what can they do differently to find this kind of Connection, where You speak in the middle of busy days at work, or loud kids, or the TV blaring? What steps can they take?

The best way to begin is to expect I will speak into their heart. And the best place to begin is to find some quiet.

I thought You just said we don’t need quiet.

Quiet is a good place to start, so that you can move beyond it. Everyone uses the bathroom. Everyone takes a shower or a bath. These are great times to turn off any background noise and reach out to Me. Once people experience My Voice within, even one time, they will know what to listen for, like a mother who can recognize her child’s voice in a crowded classroom at the end of a day. Then, as happened with you, the experience of connecting with Me, however briefly, will create a Holy Hunger for more contact, more awareness of My Nearness. And very soon, they will be sharing with others of how their experience of Me has deepened and changed.

As for you, keep being open and honest. And now that you have been able to hear Me here, expect the particular timbre of My Voice to be even more evident all throughout your day.

Happy Birthday! See, you’re smiling. Now what would you say about your day?

Uh, how about Wow?

Wow is good. I like Wow. I specialize in Wow, in fact. And even before you can think it or take the time to write it out–since I know your thought beforehand–you are so welcome.

I Heart…

In less than an hour, it’s my birthday. Although, if I am being precise, I really turn 61 somewhere around 8 a.m., not at midnight. Last year was the landmark/decade birthday, but I can’t help wondering about the year ahead. In Narnia Aslan told Lucy, no one can know about what will happen, but—

That is not what I said.

What?

As Aslan, in Narnia. That is not what I said. What Aslan actually said was, no one is told what would have happened if…And then what did Aslan say? Anyone can find out what will happen…

Oh, yes. Right, by taking action, by moving forward. Part of me wishes I could look ahead, have some foreknowledge, and part of me is afraid to ask for even a glimpse.

Here is all you really need to know. You will love the love of your life, for all of your life. And he will love you. When the road gets bumpier, you will have the ability and the circumstances to slow down, so the bumps don’t cause you to crash, emotionally, spiritually or financially. Instead of racing over or through the bumpy parts, you will walk hand in hand, each of you leaning on the other, and each of you both giving and receiving strength and comfort. At some point, I will call everyone on the planet Home. You will live through many Homegoings before you hear Me calling your name, and when I do, the joy that will rise up inside you will be so great, so powerful, your human body will not be able to contain it. In that moment, which you have labeled “death” you will become fully and eternally Alive and forever united to My Love and Life. It is hard for you to fully appreciate the joy, completely understand the risen life that awaits all of you on the other side of the veil you call Time.

When the day inevitably comes for Pete to come Home, although you cannot envision this now, you both will know, and you both will rejoice; he will rejoice because Joy itself will come for him, and you will rejoice, because you will realize that not even death can separate those who love one another.

You have asked in your heart a question that doubters asked Me, although your puzzlement comes not out of doubt but out of a sadness born from an anticipated loneliness. On earth, Pete has loved both Pat and you. So in heaven, whom will he love? And the answer is Love is All. Love is All encompassing, Love is All surrounding, Love is All infilling. In heaven, Love. There will be no more need for rank-ordering. When the glass is always full, there is no need for measurement. You will fully love, then, and you will be fully loved. Here, you cannot live without air, without breath. Then, you cannot live without Love. So much love, so much joy, so much peace, awaits you. And even those words are inadequate, for much invites a comparison to less-than-much, to little. That is why I so often Name Myself simply Am. Being. Love. Peace. These are synonymous in eternity.

So what does your 61st year hold? Wonder. Blessing. Strength. Resilience. Joy. Opportunity. Tenderness. What will be your part, your response? Gratitude. Peace. Serenity. Faith. Hope. Compassion. And yes, Joy.

Rest easy, little one. You have chapters yet to live, chapters yet to write. And you and Pete have pages yet to live together. Determine to write on every single page, happily ever after—and live that assurance, starting now. Keep sowing seeds of love, keep reaping a crop of love. Your entire existence together has been a loving journey. That will never change between you—never fear that.

Thank You, Lord. That is the best present I could ask for, tender, loving days together, however many there are.

I have told you before, don’t grieve in advance; don’t mortgage today to try to prepare for tomorrow. Be Here Now. Love Now. That is all any of you can really do, anyway. So purpose in your heart to do that, every day, and this really will be the kind of year you are always asking for others, your best year yet, overflowing with blessings.

Shield of Time

Lord, the news, the nightly news, is so negative. And the underlying message is, not safe. Life’s not safe, streets aren’t safe, danger is everywhere, tragedy lies in wait. So how do I combat that? Look at my word choice: combat! Fight. How do I deal with that? I’m hearing, Praise. Makes me think of my lyric from all those years ago, the battle cry is praise…You ARE still God, You ARE still Love. Ok. So that makes me think of armor, the armor of God. All those pieces of armor in scripture: breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, shoes of peace, I have always loved that. Not the gospel of judgement; the gospel of peace. “Footprints like hearts through my day.” Walk in Peace, every step is Peace. Peace with God. “As much as it depends on you, you live in peace with all others.” That’s my part–and instead of making me vulnerable to stumbling or tripping up, that mindset, that commitment protects me on my path. My path is Peace–which also speaks to me about my stubborn believing there is abundance, enough for us all to do well. It is not me versus them. Then there is the shield of faith. So why do I need a breastplate and a shield both?

The shield is for your hands. It is for what you do, your outwards actions, outreach, all the tasks of your days. You’ve been laying down your shield in order to do your tasks. You still think you have to do this–all this–alone, without help. Specifically without My help. You’ve received miracles, miracles of healing, financial and supply miracles of multiplication, miracles of synchronicity and serendipity, being led, right place/right time. Now you need miracles of organization. Miracles of prioritization. Miracles of time-management, so you can do.

The shield of faith is like a timekeeper. The shield of faith for your wrist says, I have enough time. It says, time is my companion, not my enemy; that is why it is a shield. A shield can also be a badge, an ID. Think of a police shield. Your identity, your badge is your faith, is your relationship with Me. Wear your shield again. Don’t hide who I Am in you, and who you are in Me. I did come to show the world My Love and I Am Risen, I Am alive, everywhere–and also in you. Have blessing cards in the shop. Have angels, have beautiful created works. Seek out artists who, like you, love Me. Have music.

Continue to create an atmosphere that says welcome, take a deep breath, beauty and serenity live here. Believe that the choices you make for the shop are founded in your relationship with Me and you will not choose amiss. Why would I not continue to bless your working life? Continue to create sanctuary space, for both your artists and your customers, so that you can attract, create, and sell art and craft that beautify the spaces they occupy. Infuse your own work and everything in the shop with your own positive, peaceful, loving spirit and everyone who walks in your door will feel the peace and joy present there. They may not realize the source, they may not be able to name or quantify the feeling, but they will leave more refreshed than they entered, as if the rush of time slowed and meandered during their moments inside. That is precisely what needs to happen for you, too. You need to remember that I Am your Source, for all things–including your working life, including time itself.

 

Look for the Light

God, I want to talk to You about the dark night of the soul, when You leave us and–

I will never leave you.

But–

I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

But what about Jesus saying from the Cross, why have You forsaken Me?

Do you really think I would forsake My Own Son? You have a great fear of being left alone, being abandoned. Many humans do. Jesus was speaking out of His humanity, expressing honestly the feelings many humans have, especially when tragedies occur, of being left alone, separated or forsaken by God. But this is false–I Am. There is nowhere, no time, no circumstance, in which I Am not. That would negate My very Being. There is a difference in being Present to you in all things, and being the cause of all things. We have talked about this before.

So, then, what is this whole Dark Night experience, if it’s not some test, like a fast from your Presence?

That notion is a lie, a particularly insidious falsehood, because it sets in motion the thought that, when difficult circumstances happen, humans must muddle through on their own. The truth is, the human tendency at such times is to withdraw and turn inward. The clouds of circumstance appear to your thought and feeling to obscure the sun, but the sun has not changed its magnitude. You mistake the clouds of your circumstance for My deciding to withdraw from you. If your sun suddenly disappeared, so would life as you know it on planet earth. Similarly, you cannot live without My Love, without My Presence.

In the Genesis story, after all the spoken, it is good, what did I say was Not Good? Aloneness. Not Good for humans to be Alone.

Don’t fear an illusory Dark Night. You know what grief and loss feels like. I promise you, you will never face grief, never experience loss, apart from Me–or from many who love you and care for you. You have My Word on that.

So I need to…

Look for the light. Look for the Light of My Presence. Even in the seeming darkness, if you open your heart, open your mind, open your eyes, you will see. You know this photographically. You mount your camera so it is still, and you open your shutter. And what happens? What you cannot always see with one glance from your eyes, your shutter reveals. So it is with your heart. Be still, listen, look. You are never, nor have you ever been, Alone.