Our Wonderland of Clouds

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Noah got a telescope for Christmas—a beautiful white Christmas it was; magical, like those you see in a shaken snow globe. But those clouds wouldn’t lift, and it wasn’t until a week later that we had a clear night in which to gaze at the moon.

The kids pressed their faces to the eye piece, the moon pulling the corners of their mouths up in smiles like the coming tide. Bumpy spots and rocks and stuff, cool!

But those clouds, they hid the moon again, so we wait longer to see oursnow-1022667_1280 mysterious moon.

Underneath those gray clouds, I’m reading the Bible, trying to wrap the Miracle phenomenon around my brain. Healings, signs and wonders; a pause for the sun. We see things today, but I sure wish God would lead me as a pillar of cloud for the confusing days and a pillar of fire for those dark nights. I’ve heard of missionaries experiencing wonders, but…not so many in the United States of Comfort.

I come to Acts, where Peter and John are released from prison. This when Christians are so harshly persecuted that many leave Jerusalem. But when the two men gather with their fellow believers, Peter and John don’t pray for safety—they pray for boldness.

I pray for safety all the time—for my family, my friends. I also pray for good health and deliverance for those suffering. Sometimes I pray for boldness, but I include in the same prayers for safekeeping.

In our snow-globe wonderland, we live under a protective bubble… perhaps that’s what keeps us from seeing many things far beyond what we could imagine. Feel welcome to post your theories in the comments.

To all Davids

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My daughter recently reminded me of something about the heart muscle. A few months ago, she started band, equipped with the flute my dad bought me in High School–solid silver second-hand beauty with as many problems as a third-hand car. While a very nice instrument, it needs some very expensive repairs. Sometimes it won’t grab a note, and because all the pads need replaced, the tone is airy.

Practice only discouraged Chloe because her efforts were thwarted by the $350 worth of hiccups in the keys, so she often put it away after five minutes of frustration. (Did I mention we were anticipating our insurance deductible roll over where one of our son’s three medications cost $1,000 a bottle?)push-ups-888024_1280 But she wanted to perform a duet at her years-end concert, in which she had to audition with a handicapped flute, so she called her partner, and together they practiced over speaker phone with a few asthmatic notes. Chloe just decided she would make it–and she did.

So I’m thinking about this as John and I watch the trillionth season of Survivor, and there’s this really skinny guy, David, who looks like he lifts no more than a pencil each day, and is an anxious sort, kind of like our Chloe. He was afraid of bugs and loud noises. The first time I saw him attempt a challenge among several muscled men and women, I thought something jerkified like, “pffft.” But this guy, he started to make friends and somewhere along the way he finds confidence. Then he decides he’s going to succeed.

He doesn’t win, but he comes very close, and even wins a few challenges–yes, even those that require strength, endurance, and, well–I think it boils down to sheer will power. He started to outlast the walking muscles and the born-to-live-outdoors types.

The reason he didn’t win (although I would call his evolution a success)? The other players voted him off because he was the biggest threat out there. The guy who once trembled at the sight of a bird.

What is your Goliath? Exercise that heart muscle.

What Matters

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Once upon a time, I journeyed east where I met up with Christian writers from various patches of this earth who liked to write extraordinary fiction—fiction containing more than ladies in floral sleeves gathered around Amish quilts. Fiction that emulates realms as colorful as the one God made for us.

Some of us think the world has forgotten how extraordinary God is.

In the cafeteria, between classes, I met a man wearing a sign on his back that said, “Ask me about short stories.”

Initially, I thought I didn’t have time for that—I was mid-novel, juggling minions and two jobs on my kids’ summer vacation.

But my friend, Louise, beckoned him over and we talked.

Back home, I decided to scratch out a new story anyway—but would it matter?

I work part time at a retirement resort—despite the reactions I get from people when I tell them what I do, a retirement place can be a fascinating place to work, especially at night when things quiet down. Residents have shared their stories with me, their advice, regrets. It’s also the point where many pass from this life to the next; a portal to the Great Beyond, if you will. I’ve seen stuff…so I threw bits of this “stuff” into a short story and it’s mythic-orbits-covernow published in an anthology released today.

How thrilled was I when I found out I’d be in a book with such a great group of talents, and that New York Times Bestselling Author Tosca Lee read an advanced copy and gave us the words, “A truly enjoyable and impressive anthology.”

Sometimes, everyone needs encouragement like this to know that their efforts matter. That our time is not wasted when we veer away from our normal course to grab hold of something new. Maybe the opportunities God puts in our paths can look like time-suckers, or inconveniences, but are really the very thing we’ve been asking for. What if, before we did/said anything–or didn’t, we tell ourselves, “maybe this will matter.”

The Perfect Gift

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What’s to be found on the day after Christmas? The things we received are nice, maybe even needed, but they don’t satisfy–and that’s what we’re really looking for isn’t it? That thing that fills the empty/hurting places.

My greatest gift this year was the ability to attend my kids’ Christmas performances (all 5 of them) without any conflict with my mysteriously increasing hours at work or the stomach bug that resides with us this month. Jesus hears every prayer, every longing.

We were also blessed with a white Christmas–such winter magic is a raritysnow-xmas in Arizona.

And finally, the reminder that Jesus showers us with such abundant grace when we keep our eyes on his star, and not on our disappointments. What’s a disappointment when we have unconditional Love?

Up

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Sometimes when the sky fills with a gray storm flurry
pelting me with hail and fail and impossibilities,
I slide from behind my laptop,
stiff from laboring in my seat,

storm
My body chilled, but hands hot from pounding out words that find no purchase,
and throw on some spandex.
Then I face the floor and push it away,
arms burning,two, six, ten
begin again.
The floor appears to be a wall that won’t move
but I keep pushing it away
soon, my arms have developed enough strength to lift
me
Up.
Back straight, eyes ahead
looking beyond that storm which is not
strong enough to hold me down.

P Is For Purpose

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I once witnessed two people in the professional writing industry have a full-scale discussion with bbq dripping from their cheeks. Yeah…pros loving that grilled and sauced chicken, chewing with mouths wide open, discussing their latest writing/editing projects.

Eewwww. Normally, a quick comment with a bit of lunch in between the molars bothers me not, but bbq slipping between teeth and out the front door—no.

How could I concentrate? Am I a manners snob? I don’t think so, I mean I do the elbows-on-the-table move all the time, but let’s edit the meal, shall we?

But being unable to get passed a pet peeve born of pretension is oftentexture-1362879_1920 more annoying than the peeve itself. I’ve heard more than a few peeve experts say that if they see a sentence fragment or a typo on the first page of a book, they quit reading the story on principle. I’m not sure which principle they’re referring too, I’m mean one of my favorite books had messed up formatting in a few pages of the book (not due to author error), but the story was AwEsOme–and a skilled author can pull off a sentence fragment like it’s a work of art. Formatting blips forgiven. I say if the peeved aren’t reading for the story, what are they reading for (this is not to say that writers shouldn’t strive for excellence)? Jesus chose fisherman to teach the world, after all, he didn’t choose the teachers of the time…maybe because they focused on the rules rather than Jesus.

What a difference that would have made in their lives. That’s okay, though, we got a great world-changing story out of twelve unexperts, grammar errors and all.

 

What do you think? Where do you draw the line?

 

Note to storytellers: Do you have a great faith story? Consider submitting here.

 

 

Cataclysm

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My daughter, mesmerized by a novel that kept her under its spell late into the night resisted all forces outside her blanket the next morning.

Unsuccessful in several attempts to awaken that sweet thing from her literary comatose state, my six-year-old son pushed aside his breakfast, turned to me in Hulk stance and said, “I got this, Mommy.”

A few screams peeled from Chloe’s room, then rounded into snort-induced giggles.

I sprang.

Noah, several pounds & inches smaller than Big Sis had pulled Chloe from her bed, and was dragging her across the room when I arrived. Unsure of when to stop dragging, Noah finally released Chloe when the wall and the shoe pile stopped him from going further. Explosions of laughter began our morning.

It was as if God had dipped his finger into multi-colored glitter and blew it across the room, “surprise.”morning-photo

Chloe rarely smiles on awakening; I can only determine that the pure shock of morning-person colliding with night-owl produced a phenomenon in such rare contrast that only joy could survive the moment.

I knew then that it would be a good day.

On a different note: Along with my writer’s group (a project of the real Cataclysm Missions) I’m accepting true stories for a Christian Anthology. Click here for details.

A Bouquet For You

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The day after Thanksgiving, two tired men dropped five large bags of flowers behind my desk at work.

“We didn’t have many takers for these,” they said, departing for their flower shop as quickly as they had come.

The sight of those bags, those colorful blooms, illuminated the eyes of many. “Flowers for the taking,” I called over the radio, and to people passing by.rose

A retiree held up a wilted bouquet, and ran her fingers over the petals. “They’re on their last leg, just like me. I’ll take these.”

One ninety-something resident said she was the only one around who never received flowers from a loved one. She took two bouquets, smiling thanks-crinkles next to the shines of her eyes.

A few co-workers gathered some flowers for ailing aunts and wives…most took a bouquet for the chance to look at something lovely for a day or two.

One generous act blossomed into many, providing me with a little magic to work in that day. Giving is a great place to find God if He seems far away this Monday.

From the Chair

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I often think of my Grandpa when I sit in his chair we inherited. Dilapidated-looking as it is, it still rocks; the cushions are still soft and its kind like he was. If he could hear the creaks it makes now, he would probably grin and make a good joke about it. He might even pull out his harmonica and play us a tune while rocking and creaking in his chair. Life was simple and good with Grandpa.

Like Martin Crane, another connoisseur of old chairs, I love meaningful things; not necessarily new things, or things with fancy titles, but good things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h30gtsx9Z_0 No, I don’t mind an ugly chair.

A news anchor or two recently commented on how small town people are

Note the halos

Note the halos

generally uneducated and uninformed about the ways of the world…you know how some journalists speak in various shades of yellow…and when they start using words like folksy,  I usually tune them out. I just wonder if they had sat in my small town Grandpa’s chair for a while, looked at all the small town houses (and big city bridges) he designed over the years and considered the foxholes he spent time in– if they would have learned something about small town people with old chairs. Not everyone can get comfortable in furniture marred with duct tape and cracks —old surfaces are a distraction to some who have trouble seeing their worth.

Maybe those journalists don’t know how many old chair owners listened to their statements and wondered if the education that put them in their anchor’s chair was a lot like how many products are made today—built to break?

I’m all for education of all kinds: formal, self-education—many of us are a combination of the two. But there’s no replacing wisdom.

The Healing Room

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I’ve been debating about writing this here, as our true story is not finished, but I don’t believe we have to know everything to share the hope we’ve been given.

You may know our son, Noah, has been diagnosed with Indeterminate Colitis, an autoimmune disease that may or may not be Crohn’s Disease. The mystery of this disease, and all the terrible things it can lead to has wrapped our hearts in a vice; squeezing ever so tight with worry. Impossible to predict, impossible to know if he’ll have it another year or forever. The financial strain is enough to make us wonder if we’ll make it another year without ruin, but God has proved Himself faithful in the areas of finance: a generous family member or friend, a random check in the mail, a surprise discount from the hospital.

My husband heard about this place called The Healing Room. Believers from local churches join together inside a medical clinic one evening a week to pray for those in need of miracles.

We read of Jesus healing those who believe in Him. We grow up being told this…we may even know someone who has miraculously recovered from an illness, but two thousand years of Jesus making footprints in the sands of this Earth is a long way from our cynical culture today. And even though some of us know him and know He can, we wonder if He will. Why some, but not all? Will we be like Paul, forever inflicted with a thorn in the flesh to remind us of where to fix our eyes?

Maybe our faith is too full of questions and not enough belief. But how do we help our six-year-old understand the complexities? I prayed about this, worried that if we took Noah for prayer and he wasn’t healed that he would lose his faith.

John and I explained to him about healing…that miracles do happen, but sometimes God lets people stay sick. They become God’s heroes.

Noah was unsure, nervous about doing something so foreign. He said he’d think about it. I asked God for confirmation that we were doing the right thing, and if so, would he encourage Noah?

Over the next week as I drove my kids to school, a few people called in to our local radio station to report miraculous healings. I leaned in. Is that you, God?

Shortly after, we visited with our neighbors during their fall yard sale. Noah loves looking for new treasures and was delighted to join me. A beautiful, state of the art electric wheelchair was displayed in their driveway. Something compelled me to ask why they were selling such a nice piece of equipment—people don’t buy those for temporary problems–and they both walked very well. So I asked.

“He had MS, but doesn’t anymore. He was healed,” said Mrs. Neighbor.

“What happened?” I asked, Noah at my side listening.

“Prayer, I guess.”

I turned to Noah, repeated what she said, like he didn’t hear it the first time.

“I’ll do it.” He smiled. Wide.

Later, when the kids were at school, I dropped to my knees and requested a special favor from God. I believe those signs were from You. Thank you. If you 100_4125don’t heal him, please give him a “God moment” so he doesn’t lose his faith.

When the sun had left the city in darkness a few Thursday nights later, Noah and I walked into The Healing Room. I could feel the prayer as soon as we entered; I felt embraced by it the whole time we were there. We filled out some paperwork about us and our specific prayer request: Healing from the colitis, healing from the pain.

Before they brought us into the room, they prayed. Over us, over the problem, over any special word from God.

Noah and I stood against a wall underneath a sign reminding us that miracles come from God, not from the people praying. His light-up shoes blinked off as he stopped; my breath came quick as they anointed us both with oil. As soon as the Prayer Man touched Noah’s right wrist, Noah’s right shoe lit up—his foot hadn’t budged. Noah beamed.

When we prayed, they repeated 1 Peter 2:24 where Jesus says, “…By His stripes you are healed.” As soon as they said the words, a picture of Jesus on the cross, taking the wounds of the world upon Himself filled my mind’s eye. Wearing a crown of blood, his head fell forward and tipped toward me—and then, gone. That was enough for me–no matter what happened, God is good. God is Love.

They prayed over Noah for a second time, then invited us to come back again. Some battles take more prayer than others, they said.

His pain was less that night. By the next day, it was completely gone. A few symptoms remain, but we came away with three things. One shoe light (Noah’s God moment), partial healing (no more pain), and a few scriptures impressed upon the prayer warriors, one of them being…And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus Philippians 4:19.

That leaves us at the unfinished part of our story. We will go back on another Thursday night in the hopes that Noah’s healing will be complete. Will the other shoe light for my boy, giving us another miracle, or will he be one of God’s heroes?

The Healing Room is nationwide, my friends. I suspect some of you may need to go. Please check out this link to find one closest to you. http://healingrooms.com/