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Posts Tagged ‘St. Augustine’

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(The little foxes don’t stop tearing at us, do they! I wrote this in 2012 – and they haven’t stopped trying to ruin. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that makes the difference, why the vine of whom I am doesn’t break, doesn’t ruin. Challenges don’t go away, but faith, God and the Holy Spirit – they make the difference in how I live through those challenges. I wanted to remind myself today about letting the Holy Spirit wash over me and through me, cleaning me out and filling me up with things of Him.)

The little foxes had torn at the vines of my heart, nipping, trying to ruin the vines, to break the roots. Those little foxes, I am familiar with them. I recognize them for what they are, and though I know them, am prepared to deter them, they weary me. Yesterday evening found me battle fatigued, bruised, smudged by the dirty tactics, needing a Holy Spirit Rain to wash out these little foxes.

As I stepped outside into the Tennessee heat, the hotness touched me tangibly as though I had slipped on a fine kid merino shrug. My husband joined me to watch the sunset with its pinks, oranges hedged with billowing whiteness. Dark clouds encroached. Sunsets delight us both, drawing us close, this shared sensibility that restores much.

Lightening grew, grumbling bouncing in the North, sliding south. My jaded faith doubted it would dip our way. Usually, our rain was a southerly rain. We walked outside, talking about our crowded hydrangea, dwarfed rose bush, untangling the morning glory from the overgrown butterfly bush. Our garden had changed – and we needed to tackle those changes.

We stopped briefly, looking at the growth behind a burning bush. Surprised, my husband said, “Grape Vine.” His Dad grew grape vines – it was as though he somehow crept into our garden and planted it. But he couldn’t have, though. Another change, a sorrow change for us, during our journey, the loss of my father-in-law. Yet, there was a sweet reminder, wrapped around our bird feeder.

As the lightening bullied its way closer, we retreated inside – and inside, lightning cracked, silencing the katydids and tree frogs.  Lightening is bold where we live.

As bedtime arrived, so did the buckets of rain. “Come and smell it,” I called to the boys, the 2 little guys. The littlest showed up, giving me his 10-year-old incredulous-look followed by the “My-mom-is-nuts” look, but he stood with me sniffing the sweet scent of rain washing the dusty worn air of hotness. He decided to sleep on the floor of his room. “It would be safer,” he reasoned with 10-year-old logic.

I joined my husband on the porch, my pausing place, my favorite place to sit, to knit, to read, to grade essays when I taught, to listen, to watch, to be. . .  and the rain poured, in sheets, wave after wave of sheets.

I thought of an afternoon rain 23 years ago, during a heavy summer drought that stymied my cucumbers for my bread and butter pickles. That afternoon, it rained a downpour – and my first born, freshly 2, danced with me outside, in the rain, faces pressed upward, mouths wide open.

Today, in the darkness, my driveway shimmered like a pond, the water shifting in the breeze, in the pummeling sheets. And the lightening – it wasn’t just jagged bolts. It was like watching God draw in the sky with a thin pen over and over and over.

I thought of the Holy Spirit, the unsung member of the Trinity – and I wanted it to wash through my soul, like rainwater washed the dust, the heat from the air.

“And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain” (Job 29:23)

I wanted to be filled, filled like Peter with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, filled so much he never faltered again in his mission.

Sitting in my rocking chair, pushed toward the edge of porch, the rain misted over my legs and arms, cooling, chilling – and I laughed – relishing the moment, the blessing, the washing away.

The rain moved south, and I sighed, wanting more. Like an encore, the clouds backed up, pouring a double portion over our patch of living.

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

I wanted the Holy Spirit to fill me like that, to fill me with crucifixion courage, overflowing with mountain-moving faith, drawing me closer to the Father, to hear His words to me, His comfort, His power to vanquish the little foxes.

“You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly”
(9a).

I am not alone, Father. You care for me, your creation, sending me living water, The Holy Spirit, to grow me more than I think I am, that I am not what the little foxes taunt; I am precious to you, valuable to you, like land that overflows abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it”
(9b).

You provide nourishment for my spirit, The Word and The Holy Spirit, enabling me to fight off spirit colds, weaknesses and tormenting situations that wear me out like the dusty, hotness of a relentless summer day. Empower my will to seek Your Holy Spirit Provision; let it not be the little foxes nipping and tearing at me that send me running to you. I want to be stronger than that, more faithful than that.

“You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops” (Psalm 65: 9-10).

Holy Spirit, rain on me, filling the hidden places, the high and lows of my soul, softening the soil of my spirit, allowing the gifts my Father planted before I was born to grow, producing abundant fruit, and sharing the seed of that fruit with others – and if that fruit is not taken as given, let it not become a wily fox to my vine.

Let the rain come. Let it come softly or in a downpour – and let me be like an eager child who runs outside, mouth wide open, to receive the living water, a Holy Spirit Rain.

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams” (St. Augustine).

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updated February 24, 2013

lemonade
A few years ago, when one son, whom we call “Bear” got in the car after soccer practice all cold and shivering, I asked him,” What’s the saddest sight in the whole wide world?”

“I don’t know. Your cooking?” he answered. I almost forgot my joke.

“A hairless bear shivering with cold,” I answered.

Now readers,

stop a minute.

Visualize

A hairless bear shivering with cold

I was right!

There really is nothing sadder in the world

than a hairless bear

shivering with cold

if you group all the sadder-in-the-world things that are truly freaky, scary funny

but not truly sad

like

a newborn baby who needs its stomach, which is pushed up into its lung area, put back

or the loss of life, homes, andjobs in Manilla after tropical cyclones wreaked havoc,

or the loneliness and hopelessness without God

lemonsAfter I’d dropped the two youngest brothers off at school, this bear teen and I set off to the high school. He didn’t look happy – and I’d always said growing up his first name should have been Joyful. He wasn’t joyful now.

I dove into my unabashed Q&A – there is something to be said for being one eye more awake than your children in the morning. Yes, only one eye more awake and driving. My Qs resulted in As that bemoaned sitting through classes with students who really didn’t want to be there, who spent their class time just irritating other students or whining.

“Choose Joy,” I said.

“You just can’t make joy,” he answered, only one eye awake.

“Joy is a choice,” I persisted. “It’s like lemons. What do you do when life gives you lemons? Make Lemonade.”

“Bam!” I thought! Grand slam. I was wide awake then. Kind of proud of myself.

“I don’t like lemonade,” he said, sliding his eyes toward me, his lips quirking in a quiet gotcha-smile.

When he got out of the car, reached back in to pull out his backpack, I smiled, “Make some lemonade today!”

Because each of my sons needs to learn that contentment, happiness, joy – requires choice to find the good in hard situations, when life just plain stinks, when it feels prayers aren’t answered and friends aren’t true. Sometimes only through sheer determination, keen look-out – can we make joy where none really exists.

I cried out to God to show me – and I have found joy in a flock of crows, in squirrels nests, in a quirky smile trying to be held back, in 5 acorns on a path.

St. Augustine said that the only difference between the pagan and the Christian, who suffer the same challenges, the only difference is how they handle those challenges. Because we have a God who loves, He provides an opportunity to turn those lemons into lemonade joy.

Choose Joy.

Make Joy.

I texted this son later, “What’s the saddest sight in the world?”

“Your cooking,” he texted back.

 “The Joy of the Lord is our Strength” (Neh 8:10)

That joy and laughter strengthen!  God is so detail-oriented that He not only invented awe-inspiring joy, but tiny pockets of joy, release-valve joy, decreasing pressure and stress  – the invention of unusual places to find moments of laughter that cause joyfulness to bubble up inside, bubbling into a smile, a funny, joyful moment- an indecisive squirrel in the middle of the road, a headless turtle, or a collie carrying the neighbor’s Christmas wreathes – and – yes, even in a hairless bear shivering with cold.

“Life is what you make it; Always has been. Always will be” (Grandma Moses)

Make Lemonade out of Lemons!

Make Lemonade Joy!

I pray you find joy and laughter today, not just in the sentimental, but in the unexpected. I pray that you make lemonade joy out of lemons. What are some unusual places you have found a burst of laughter and a spot of joy? What’s your recipe for Lemonade Joy?

Since a post on Lemonade Joy would be incomplete without some real lemonade, I thought I’d include my recipe. It’s a recipe that tastes better when shared:

6 Lemons
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Quart Water
Grenade
Crushed Ice
Lemon Slices and Blood Orange Slices

lemonade

 


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This week last year, my granddaughter was born. In celebration and remembrance of blessing born into our lives, I am reposting 2 of the posts from her coming. Wishing each of you blessings this week!
“If she doesn’t turn in an hour, we’ll have to do a c-section,” my son explained to us, 2 sets of grandparents-in-waiting, a great grandmother, and a gaggle of friends.

He was exhausted – labor had been long, even before they’d come to the hospital.

So we circled around him and prayed. He returned to his wife.

Her mother and I both took a walk, separately. We didn’t say anything – but we were both praying. I wound my way to the chapel and knelt – the bible was open to Psalm 20

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!” (Psalm 20: 1-2)

And I prayed for baby girl, for an uncomplicated, safe entrance into the world. For our Lord to protect her in this moment of trouble. To send help and support to her and her mother and father.

“May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!” (3)

And, I thought of their faith, trying to set their feet towards their Lord, seeking Him in each step of their relationship, honoring each other and the Father.

Then St. Augustine’s words came to mind: both the pagan and the Christian face the same challenges – the only difference is how they handle those challenges (City of God, St. Augustine, Chapter 8).

For a moment, I almost faltered. The same challenges . . . . 2 people wanting a natural birth, 2 people getting a c-section – and how they handle the disappointment of not having the natural birth.

. . . . . the only difference is how they handle those challenges as though the challenge wins in some way, the challenge rolls on and over us and we just have to deal with it, no overcoming the challenge, just dealing with the aftermath of the challenge.

God made me back up

the only difference is how they handle those challenges

The unbeliever has not God

The believer has God

who has the power, desire and love to either lift the challenge or lift the challenged out . . . .

“May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!”(4,5)

Babygirl’s other grandmother-in-waiting and I met in our walking, reached out, hand-to-hand, praying, setting up our banners in His name, praying that He grant these parent’s their heart’s desire.

And babygirl turned, turned and was pushed into the world, healthy, whole with thick, dark hair an inch long.

Standing, lining the hallway outside the waiting area, grandmothers and grandfather’s-in-waiting, fraunts and fruncles, a great grandmother, their cell phones beeped, and opened, revealing a picture of baby girl – and joyful shouts were heard from the corridor to the delivery room. Joy over her deliverance because of Him.

God is never late. Maybe sometimes He is uninvited, but never late.

The Little Blessings fell like snowflakes in the midst of the Big Blessing this week:

27) hiding places, like the space behind book-shelve books where you can tuck a few diet dr. peppers.
28) words like, “All is forgotten” said by my son when he walked through the doors to tell us about the delivery.
30) a salted caramel mocha from Starbucks to take to the hospital
31) Poetry by John Keats read in the waiting
32) a bible turned to Psalms 20
33) listening to my littlest’s bedtime prayers, asking God to bless baby girl
34) a husband who made the boy’s school lunch when I went to the hospital at 6 a.m. because that’s when my son and daughter-in-law went.
35) opening my phone to see a picture of a beautiful, newborn babygirl.
36) homemade pepperoni roles for after school
37) my mother-in-law teaching me to cut out material for a quilt.
38) fiskas rotary cutters that make my sewing skill look better than it really is.
39) sharing a quilt on the couch while watching a movie with the little guy.
40) making coffee every morning for my sweet mother-in-law while she was here – I usually don’t manage to achieve that
41) homemade bread turned into pepperoni rolls for after school
42) a texted picture showing us the wait was over
43) sitting in a hospital lobby because the waiting room had been turned to a nursery. Waiting not alone.
44) a clean, straight laundry room, compliments of my mother-in-law who came for the week to meet baby girl.
45) buckets of rain morphing into snow on a late afternoon
46) that nature isn’t always girly flowers, that God created nature to do things for boys, too, like making an ice-like stalactite that broke in the shape of a gun.
47) directions are true and the quilt pieces do fit together
48) antibiotics and meds healing my soldier son of double pneumonia
49) a friend who turned to me after church, took my hands and prayed that a Holy Spirit bubble would encase my son when he entered his mold-infested barracks, protecting his lungs, keeping them free from contamination.
50) 2 new lemons on my counter for my water
51) ingredients for a Taco Soup recipe
52) thawed out pumpkin for chocolate chip pumpkin bread
53) hot chocolate cups filled with my special Hot Chocolate
54) waiting, not wigging out, believing that God is never late for what we need.
55) a bouquet of flowers for becoming a grandmother, from a friend I bumped into at the grocery store.

“Wherefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor.”(City of God, St. Augustine, Chapter 8)

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