Seeking God in the chaos

Psalm 63:1 “O God, You are my God, Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You, In a dry and thirsty land, Where there is no water.”

Many words have been written about the noise of this current age.

“When I get home, I want it absolutely quiet,” said a woman I knew years ago.

“Quiet,” I said, “as in no music even?”

And she said that yes, silence is what she sought.

It seems to me that worship can be musical, loud, cheerful, mournful, patiently waiting, shouting, quietly meditating, dancing, art, cooking dinner and more.

Our world is moving at such a fast pace. Cars get angry when they have to wait in line, or traffic slows. Everyone is moving fast and the wheel of life seems to be speeding up with the pace of the pack, so to speak.

Then you draw into your quiet place at the end of the day, and “chill.”

Or do you?

When my kids were little, such quiet time only occurred at 5 a.m. It was hard to sit in the glow of the kitchen stove light with a cup of coffee and try to read my Bible and pray. Some days it lasted a whole hour. Other days, five minutes or a half hour.

What does your life look like?

Everyone serves someone. There are those you are either responsible for (moms and dads take care of kids, older children care for aging parents and so forth) or to whom you provide a mentorship. Maybe you have a job, community or church responsibilities.

But are you “on” once you are “up” in the morning, or does that take time?

As social a person as I am once the sun comes up, I admit that until I see that golden orb peek above the horizon, I am not truly “up.”

Or I might be up, just not ready to be social 🙂

Why is that?

The more you pour out in a day to the world and your family, the more you need to be filled up with the benefits of prayer and positivity before you head out to face the world.

There are some who tell me, no ma’am, I have my quiet time at night before I go to bed. And they give all their concerns to God so they can sleep.

Another tells me that for them it is a constant conversation with God throughout the day. Not a set time.

Whatever it is for you or me, or anyone else, the important thing is to somehow carve out time to seek God.

I find that when I hit a dry period, a thirsty period of my life, I ask myself when was the last time that I truly eliminated distractions so I could seek God.

In the mountains of West Virginia are a million little streams of crisp, clear rushing water. Just the sound of it soothes the frazzled nerves, rejuvenates the weary.

The streams beckon our souls. In the midst of our day, we are seeking God.

Swimming in the sea of humanity

As the sea gulls chirped at each other and hopped around on the sand, the beach started to fill up with people, it seemed, from all over the world.

Beach umbrellas and chairs, towels and coolers dotted the shore for as far as the eye could see. Listening to chatter in other languages, someone turned on some Latin music, and the celebration began.

Families gathered to smear sunscreen on each other, talk about their trips thus far, and sprawled across the sand here and there, some even taking naps in the middle of the day, while others enjoyed beverages and still others bobbed up and down in the waves.

This truly is the sea of humanity, I thought.

And I am in it, like a grain of sand among other specks on the sea shore.

The white sand clung to my legs that I had carefully smothered in sunscreen (to no avail, I still am red as a lobster.)

So instead of trying to brush it off, I played in the sand with my hands.

It was like sugar.

How it reminded me of baking as a kid. And how I loved equally making sand castles.

Somehow I must make more time to go to the beach. My happy place, indeed.

The salty air is good for all things that need healing.

Tonight, I will sleep, knowing I swam a little in the ocean.

“Vitamin Sea,” my youngest daughter calls it.

Time with God

An antique lamp illuminated the bedside table where my great grandmother’s Bible rested. But she did not rest at night until she had, as she said, her “time with God.”

Every night, she read the Bible, and prayed for her family, and thanked God for the day. She was widowed many years prior, and she slept in a twin size, adjustable, hospital bed because she had numerous heart conditions.

She was active in her church, and Saturday night was a busy evening, preparing Sunday dinner for an after church spread, ironing church clothes and setting the table.

Prayer was folded around her day, every day, from sun up to sundown.

Her kitchen table was a welcome sight in the morning as she drank her coffee and read the paper and her edition of My Daily Bread, a free devotion book that churches distribute to their masses in order to help guide their quiet time.

It would be decades before I would come to see the fruit of a dedicated quiet time in my own life.

I was pregnant with my second son, Aaron, when I started having those times with God, and it is interesting that he is also the child who has been actively, non stop, working in the church in some capacity since he was a teenager.

Presently, I have two devotions a day.

After listening to an online devotion by Rick Warren, I put on contemporary worship to listen to and use to praise God as I get ready for work.

Night time devotions are shorter.

Everyone has a different approach to their time with God. One lady I know says she prays in the shower because that is the only time she is alone. Another goes for a walk with worship music in her headphones and that is when she prays, as she takes care of a husband whose health is failing.

Anyway, today was a great day. Had some fellowship time after work with one of my spiritual mentors.

Also took some time to get a haircut and get my nails done. Vain? No. I just like feeling put together. Then my head is free to deal with the other parts of my life.

On another whole side note (and yes I changed the subject three times), I feel grateful tonight for life, and my senses of sight, sound and smell. These are all things we take for granted, right?

May you be blessed as you explore your own quiet time with God.

The children grow up

“I can’t believe you have kids in their thirties,” a precious lady said to me tonight.

I laughed and said yes indeed, I am blessed.

And my mind wanders this evening.

How the babies grow up, make their own lives, and call sometimes. Once in a while, they visit. As life has it, most families are scattered all across the globe and only get together on holidays. Or special events.

I am so thankful this year, that I was able to visit my baby who moved away, and she was able to bring her sweet hubby to be and youngest baby to Florida to meet the rest of the family. I do miss her so much. But we talk. And always have a connection even though we are miles away.

I am thankful that my other little granddaughter who lives with her dad keeps up with me on Instagram. I have not seen her face in three years in person. She left as a little girl and is now a young lady. So fast.

I am thankful for all the rest of my babies who still live in Polk County, and their families, so I cannot complain lol, that I never get to see them. My boys call me often. It is a cool thing to hear their voices and know they still love their mama. And my youngest is up for a tea party, or a nail day, any day. She came running with flowers, groceries and a card a few months ago when I was sick with covid.

Time marches on. And sometimes I wish we just all lived on a large piece of property (wouldn’t that be cool, a homestead), but unless you inherit the farm so to speak, that is sometimes rare.

One of my aunts is a widow. Watching her deal with my uncle’s death has impressed on me the value of your family connections and friendships. She has a rich social life. The one who remembered birthdays. The one who went to Tupperware parties, bought wedding gifts, and always sent me the coolest little things when I was a kid. She loves literature, especially children’s literature. And all things up and bright. Another aunt of mine is likewise joyous. Neither of them live near me. We talk when we can. Or when I can. And I realize that sometimes when we feel like life is speeding by, we are the ones who seem to be moving that hand of the proverbial clock.

My parents each live in other places. Mama dwells in my home state of Indiana. My Dad lives in Florida. Each are aging as gracefully as they can. I think to myself, my goodness where did time go. It is getting away from me. And yet they each chose to live where they do. And have their own lives. I am heavily involved with Mama. Daddy prefers to talk once in a while. He likes to read and watch the news, and when we do talk, he is an expert on all sides of politics. I love my parents and wish I knew when I was younger how valuable the lessons were they imparted to me. Maybe I would have been a more kind and attentive child. Or maybe I was and am not giving myself enough credit.

Time.

I guess that seeing my friend Roslow’s old obit (my former editor at The Polk Sun) who passed away two years ago today, made me think of time and what all I want to do.

And let me not forget my bestie. She has walked through some tough stuff with me. She is the only person who ever met my sister (or rather, my sister’s grave), met my perpetrator (his grave), my great grands and great great grands, and grands (their graves.) She has met all of my family and loved them all. She bought teddy bears, diapers, holiday gifts for my kids’ children. She motivated me to finish college when I felt like giving up. She taught me how to be bold, or rather, how to tap into the inner boldness she said I already had. She helps me consider what others are going through when they are brutally unkind (sometimes life is like that, and that is well, just life, right?) Because of her, I have learned much about life and people, and how just because something does not work out the first time, it might work out at another time.

“It just wasn’t God’s timing,” she says.

She was the one who read the Bible to me when I had a faith crisis. She played Christian music, showed me funny skits with cats and dogs, and in countless ways, showed me and shows me that goodness still exists in this world.

I am so grateful.

No, I am not sad as I write this blog. But making my lists of goals and dreams.

And I am not going to give up on my writing. Sometimes it terrifies me to be transparent with people. Like maybe if I am, they will think I am too much.

Too loud. Too cheery. Too bouncy. Too analytical. Too creative. Too wordy.

So here I end with this thought .. that life is precious, family and friends are everything, and yes, you can aim for and reach the stars if you keep trying.

And if Roslow were here, he would tell me I changed my topic three times and should end with an offer of food. If he wrote it, it would read “and there will be hot dogs.”

Teetering on the edgy of edge

The sunrise was beautiful and jet trails scribbled their journey across the horizon as I haphazardly dumped all my work gear on the driveway to search for my keys.

Seriously?

I have a certain routine, and usually place all of my work stuff in one place, and place my ID badge, keys, belt and work phone all in my “go” bag. And my uniform and shoes are laid out. Lunch is a cinch because I have in mind what I am taking.

But this morning, I woke up and all morning felt like I just could not get one thing right lol.

Couldn’t find just basic stuff. Had my quiet time before work, but this morning I sat in the living room, snuggled with my coffee and stared like a bug eyed squirrel into open space as the sun came up.

Sweetness, the coffee finally kicked in and I thought hey I got this day handled forthwith.

Seize the day, they say. It will be fun, they say.

I dropped things I was holding. (My peanut butter crackers wrapper in the elevator. Thanks to the kind soul who retrieved it for me.)

Have you been there? The one day out of a thousand where it seems like you cannot get it together.

Later in the day, I met a sweet lady who makes teddy bears. She is known as the “teddy bear boss” in her teddy bear making group. How adorable is that? How she chooses to spend her time, helping others.

And all of a sudden, my day got better.

Peppermint.

You might wonder why I chose peppermint candy canes as the photo for this blog today.

Peppermint is a smell that soothes me when my nerves are frazzled. Just being real here. Everyone has a frazzled day or two here and there, and mine was fuzzy indeed.

So I thought the visual of candy canes might do the trick.

Aromatherapy, they say.

Anyway.

My day got a lot better and I thought about various things going through my head. And how there is nothing wrong with hope and positivity, and how healthy that is, even, to pursue such things. How it is good to encourage yourself and believe in yourself and also to believe in God and His power to hold you when you feel like all the crackers are crumbling, even if they really are not.

Side note here. Someone said there was some sort of solar flare or solar storm.

Well there you go.

The keys buried in the bottom of my bag seemed almost relieved to be rescued thereof.

Tomorrow is Tuesday, and I have already decided it shall be a Happy Tuesday. How shall we celebrate just being alive?

Let me know what you do to celebrate your ordinary day tomorrow.

Maybe by all of us sharing a little light, the world will be a brighter place.

Is God Relevant?

“When kids come to our church youth room, they find a place where they can kick back and fellowship, enjoy a soft drink, some snacks, play games and listen to music.”

I was stunned as a large mega-church youth and college leader showed me their enormous youth room. Much larger than the youth rooms I visited elsewhere in my own teen years. (You know, back when dinosaurs walked the earth. Lol.)

Yet the concept was still the same. Keep up with trends .. we are at this blessed place in history. Technology, transportation, fashion, entertainment, even occupations have changed drastically in the last two hundred years.

It has been said that trains of thought have polarized greatly. Many studies and statistics say that while there are a large number of Believers in the United States, not all of them are gathering to fellowship, while pastors and youth leaders wonder why this is occurring, the pandemic beside.

Church attendance and participation in service clubs has wained over the past twenty years, I am told, by those who manage those organizations.

Is God still relevant?

Is He relevant to me? Is He relevant to you?

Relevant .. relatable, necessary.

Surrounded on all sides by a Jesus believing family, I memorized scriptures as a kid.

And I craved a relationship with the Lord. My prayers were full of the God blesses, etc.

The “be with” prayers. Be with those who are suffering. Be with those who have lost their way. Be with those who feel empty and don’t know why.

Why is God Relevant?

It seems that those who believe in God really, really believe, and those who don’t, really, really don’t.

A long time ago, someone told me that trying to win the world by admonishment or accusation would never work.

“But your testimony, your story, no one can dispute. And when they see the light in your eyes, they will know.”

They have seen God. The God of all creation, the Almighty Author, the fantastic Painter of all things beautiful. The Creative Musician Who sings over us as we sleep.

Lord, we seek You. Right here, wherever we are. There is no place on earth where You cannot be found. We love you so much, and seek Your Presence in our lives.

Psalm 104:1-2 (New King James Version) “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.”

The Coffeehouse Jesus and Blue Jeans Rock

The chilly drive on the Indianapolis interstate dumped us out in inner city Indy, where my Dad found a parking spot amid spaces covered by hard packed snow outside a storefront coffee house usually frequented by the homeless and those just seeking a touch from God.

Already dark outside, the trunk of the car was almost a welcome sight, as Mama unloaded her guitar, Dad grabbed his bass, and together, they made a second trip for the amplifier and microphone.

Mama was in the house.

The Watch Night service, as it was called in those days, started around 7 o’clock, with supper around 8.

As congregants waited for the midnight hour, to pray in the New Year, one person or group after another would bring special music, share testimony, or pray.

Dressed in my blue corduroy jumper dress and tights with a striped turtleneck, I wrapped my winter coat a little tighter because it seemed to be colder at times.

Then it was our turn to sing.

Shedding the long coat, I followed my parents to the front of the room, surrounded by maybe thirty people, seated on barrels and metal folding chairs, drinking coffee and leaning on wagon wheel tables.

This was my first time singing with Mama and Daddy, and I was so nervous.

“Throw Out the Lifeline,” was the song we sang. My voice was sometimes strong, yet I struggled.

Applause and cheers loudly followed and I found my eight-year-old self questioning whether my “performance” warranted that.

Hours stretched on, with songs and hymns, and bursts of encouragement, and soon the midnight hour was upon us, where we prayed in the New Year, asking God for His blessing.

Jesus met us in the worn down coffeehouse, a Haven for the searching, comfort for the weary, light and warmth for the distressed.

I often wonder what Jesus would look like if He came to us now? Would He have long hair and ride a skateboard? “Hit me up on Facebook,” He might say. “Send me a text, day or night, I mean it. I am here for you.”

I like to think that He would be as relevant and approachable to us now as He was then, even though “our God dwells in inexplicable light.”

A lifetime has passed since that night.

I went on to join an adult church choir at nine years old and continued singing in some form or fashion even to my life now.

The performance has changed to worship and seeking that familiar Presence, Who moved with grace among the group who sought, some with tears in their eyes, their Savior.

I am so grateful for His love. He sees past all my shortcomings. He holds me when I can’t see my way. He gives me a hand through difficult days. He scatters His glory across the sky to show me there is hope, yes, in this life and beyond.

Selah.

Lord, You are our hope, and we love You so much.

When the storm rolls in …

Sometimes there are no words.

When the cancer has grown.

When your mother has flown to be with Jesus. Or your brother. Or sister or friend or coworker.

When all the news seems to be a steady replay of death, controversy, suffering and pain.

When the money is not enough.

It won’t buy health, it won’t buy time, it won’t replace the years lost.

When you feel so defeated and wonder why even the good you try to do for others seems to go nowhere.

A song on the radio plays and you find yourself in tears.

Having bottled up your pain, the cup finally tips and you let it gush.

It would not be good for your friends or family to know you cried, you think.

Because why not, society only admires strength and this is not that.

A voice comes over the radio.

A paper thin female voice, wispy and soft and comforting.

“Give it all to Jesus,” she says.

She talks about prayer and how God loves you and how your life will never be the same when you let Him in.

Nine years old, eight years old, six years old, you remember the baptismal waters .. A crowd of Christians and Sunday morning dresses …

Spearmint chewing gum your Grandmother handed you from a thirty year old purse that smelled like old roses and held one Kleenex and a lipstick ..

The preacher and the cross and the music.

Maybe the question isn’t “Have you let Him in?” but “Have you let Him back in?”

Not wanting to be vulnerable, you go on a number of months, even years, and admire the people you see and how they smile as they share their faith and wonder why isn’t it like that for me?

The God of the fancy is the God of the every day person, not a pick and choose God that some would paint Him to be.

The Godhead with muscles. The Ancient of Days Who Gets It.

The One you can talk to about anything without fearing society’s pilfering opinions or judgment of man.

The tears, the fears, the concerns overwhelm you and suddenly it becomes clear.

This God thing is a relationship thing and not a religion thing and is something quite tangible.

God is Bigger than the cross around our necks.

He is Bigger than the altar at our church.

He is Vast and Omnipotent, Unchangeable, Ever Present and yet loving enough to pull up a chair in our hearts and have coffee with us as we dish on the day and all its cares.

Selah.

Lord, come sit with me in the quiet of this time. Walk through the corridors of my soul. Fill me with Your love and healing. Hold me close and give my bones strength for another day. Let me be a blessing, Lord.

Sparkle just because

As long as I can remember, the light and shine of glitter, sequins, and foil star stickers has given me hope.

For me, it goes to that “Let there be light” that God said in the beginning of time.

Tonight, am keeping this short as I want to see the opening Olympic ceremonies.

What makes your heart light?

Share that with someone.

Maybe if we all let our “sparkle” sparkle it will brighten someone’s day.

The God connection

The Sunshine State did not disappoint today.

After church and a quick run to the grocery for a few lunch items for next week, came home and jumped in the pool for a while.

Swirling the water around with my toes and doggy paddling, I’m not a real picturesque swimmer, but I make do. Most of all, I just floated and paddled, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the scent of freshly mowed grass.

As I looked up at a few white billowy clouds, I thought of their beauty and thought also, hey this is really cool.

Floating weightless, and observing the clouds do the same, it occurred to me that most people have some kind of God connection, and whether they acknowledge it or not, it is still there, I believe.

I have never been one to get into deep religious arguments or skirmishes about the status of things.

Quietly go and do, hopefully live in such a way that I am a blessing.

Grandma always said don’t talk religion nor politics, and that is safe.

Yet I admire when folks are real with me because proverbial smokescreens of relation seem so shallow at times.

So when I write about God, or a muse, or something I have pondered, it is my way of sharing a part of me that blooms because of seeds others have planted.

Girl, get to the point.

Our pastor shared something today that I found very thought provoking. It went along the lines of “Are you showing up” for God?

And I thought you know, I have always felt the need for God, for His Presence in my life. I have always, even as a child, thought how on earth am I going to be good enough to get into heaven?

This might have something to do with me spending years of my childhood grounded, lol, for either sassing my parents, or foraging my own way instead of following instructions (for the last time, button your coat, turn the faucet so it does not drip, do not bring home C’s on your report card, as we already know you are a minimum B).

I laugh now when I look back, really, because as an adult I am such a rule follower.

So salvation to me has presented many challenges, as I thought to myself you have to be more than perfect to get to heaven.

Youth group changed all that for me, as our youth leaders glowed with the love of Jesus and were not hypocritical. They knew they would never win any of us by beating us over the head with a Bible, but by living it out before us, Christ in jeans.

Jeans. Opposite of a conservative Baptist church I attended in my early childhood years, the Southern Baptists reached into my heart and home and slowly, showed me their faith in action. My parents were impressed with the preacher who owned one suit and used to be a rock musician. Amazing Grace was really something when that man played the piano.

One half of my family was Baptist. The other side of my family were Church of Christ (non-musical.) And of course, that was one of the grounding occasions of my teen years, having an interesting discussion with one of my grandmothers over church history and music, and how music is so a part of worship.

After attending a number of Baptist churches, I came to the non-denomination Christian fellowships (i.e. the Alexander Campbell movement, not the only Christians, but Christians only.)

I raised my kids in those churches, and returned to the Baptist denomination after my first marriage ended.

Eventually, I came to the Assemblies of God, drawn by the open worship concept, and the warm and inviting church, who helped me through some of the worst parts of my adult life.

I also attended jeans and Jesus churches, which reminded me of my youth group.

In my second marriage, I went to a charismatic church and also joined a Jewish synagogue (by marriage, it was obvious I could not sing in Hebrew, though I did try!)

By the end of that decade, my marriage ended. So I was like wow, in church circles, this does not look good. But sometimes it is not meant to be and you have to move on.

I found I also began a heavy spiritual search. Who are you anyway? Every church I visited had a little pamphlet, a small handheld cross, a religious coin, a pen or a church coffee cup. I enjoyed the fellowship of many churches before I finally landed at my current church, Episcopal (Anglican.)

There are several of us who attend who came from different denominations. Some confirmed, some did not.

A Jewish friend of mine, who is a dear friend, to whom I still owe an Indiana pot roast, said once to me, how did you go from Baptist to Charismatic/Pentecostal to Episcopal/Catholic, so I thought I would share.

The God connection.

I feel like we all have a place for God in our hearts that only He can fill. Every nation on earth has some aspect of religion or relationship, worship or tradition.

I still feel drawn to Him because I have seen Him in others, and in nature – the works of His hand – in day to day things like sunrises and a child’s laugh, and the light of a candle on a stormy day.

Have a splendid evening, all. I was thinking of doing my spiritual writing on Sunday, then creative and life encouragement the other days.

Molly, my cat, sends her regards.

Prayers for all, for a safe and beautiful week.