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Monday, June 23, 2014

When What Matters Knuckles Under All That Matters

I checked the tomatoes and zucchini and bell peppers growing beneath open-wide morning sun yawning across sky and stretching down warm ‘til it touched earth toes. But that was before my own bend to backyard grass because yesterday’s mirth was left there all night and rain laughed down ‘til mirth was soaked all in it when morning opened fresh. I bend to retrieve wet mirth and I hear it beginning to play again. And feel the laughter drops on my skin. Right here beneath summer green awning that plays flirtatious back at sky. Rain skitter trips across foliage yawning overhead, and rain-soaked stuffed bunny dangles by sopped ear from one hand and towel weighted heavy wet from other.

I close my eyes and open my ears because I hear better when I’m not looking. And sometimes I see better that way, too. See better with my eyes closed. I am right now. Seeing better like this. And I worship. Now. With soaked bunny and dripping towel and head tilted back to listen upward beneath shelter green and happy tap dance.
Sopping Wet Stuffed Bunny

 My daughters come to mind. Maybe because they laugh and sing in harmony so often I hear it in the song tripping over its own laughter right now. Maybe it’s because I’m nearly leaning against living pillar, tree trunk, upholding the green joy that it grows and is protected beneath.

“That our daughters shall be as pillars, God.” I’ve uttered His own Psalm one-hundred forty-five word back to Him probably one-thousand forty-five times. It’s what I pray. That they may be as pillars standing beneath the protection of God truth, righteousness, peace, faith , and salvation and grow it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Really, that they may stand beneath the protection of what they uphold.
The cloud above must have just belly laughed because it comes tumbling down riotous for a moment. I’m listening. Just hearing. Holding my breath because I’m letting it sink in; and I’m sinking into it. It’s absorbing me.
Let God wash like rain right over you His truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. Let it sink in ‘til you’re sopped in it. Let it move like green joy and give it wide-open welcome no matter what. Especially then, when matters are such that what matters must knuckle under all that matters. When what matters must defer to the only One that matters.

Close your eyes and open your ears and watch the relentless stare of matters soaked heavy with weighty burden and even sopped heavy with hard rain pelting from beneath lids, blink. Close your eyes and see the hard stare blink. It will blink, because all things must defer to the One who matters most over everything.

He matters most over everything.

Do you believe it?

Close your eyes and open your ears and be still as pillar. And know the One who matters most and before whom every matter must blink. Be still and know Him. Know that nothing can stare Him down.

Close your eyes and let that sink in and sink into it. Close your eyes and sink into His. Open your ears like that and you will be practicing “Be still and know that I am God.”

Let Him absorb you; and be absorbed by Him.

I want this. Want to do this. Want to know what it means. And in the downpour and the wet drip and the sound of rushed rain breathing fast in exhilaration and tumble, I hear it with my eyes closed. And I know what it means for the first time. “Be still,” means “Be highly aware.”

“Be highly aware that I am God.” He says it like this to me now.

“Be highly aware that I am God.” He says it and it feels like the free tumble of wet joy falling from the large belly of some jovial cloud that chose to be absorbed not in its own darkness or by the darkness surrounding it, but to be absorbed by the rain of the reigning God who washes and pours and who matters most over everything.

The heightened state of awareness doesn’t just come easy. It comes with practice, so that it can come when it has to. I practice it and I’ll make a pink pajama pom-pom spectacle of myself if it comes to that. And this morning it does come to that because this morning if it’s not “Be highly aware and know that I am God,” then I’m left standing not beneath green joy and laughing rain, but beneath hardwood branches that may fall and fell me.

Pink Pajamas
Be highly aware that He is God and be on alert to hear the snap.

Be highly aware that He is God and nothing can sneak up on you, fall and fell or slap and slay you unaware; or capture your eyes ‘til trust wavers and hope shrinks.

And, now, I must close my eyes to see that the hard and harrowing, bleak and inclement can’t stare me down. Simply must shut my eyes to open my ears to hear hope and listen to faith and be highly aware that He is God over everything. That He is God over me just as surely as the pavilion of pecan leaves shelters me even now.

“You waited while I picked two ripe tomatoes and fingered zucchini leaves and touched baby green pepper. You waited while I lifted fingers to nose and breathed in the spicy scent of those leaves. Waited while the morning sun stretched yawn as clouds filled their bellies.” I awe, arms dangling stuffed bunny and towel drip and sop. And I whisper a laugh back at Him. “I know! I look like a little girl in pink cotton pajama bottoms with hearts all over and pink t-shirt and fuzzy white bathrobe with pom-poms dangling from hood.” I laugh at myself and I know He’s laughing with me.

And did you know He is absorbed with you? Oh, be absorbed by Him.

It’s gentle morning hilarity and muffled laughter and whispers beneath pecan awning. I stay like this ‘til the laughter inside sighs out happy and the out-burst above quiets.

It’s time to call Yellow Dog. By the laugh lines around her mouth I know she had her own hilarity. She takes stuffed bunny leg between teeth and together we carry it to patio. But she’s not ready to go in.

I wait. Because didn’t God just wait for me? Yeah, He did. So, yeah, I wait and she laps up more laughter. Just laps it up because it’s pooled on leaves and in tiny valleys where tall grass blades fold “V” shape. And she eats the green. Swallows life and laughter and even the weed growing between patio slabs where there is crack. “Even bitter weeds go down easier when God’s happy tender pools there,” I think to myself as I wait for her.

She looks up. I smile at those wrinkly folds of laughter around her mouth. “Let’s go in, happy dog.”

I drop bunny and towel in laundry basket she follows me to kitchen. Dog biscuit. Dog brush. And “Raw hide!” Yeah, this is Texas born and bred dog. She knows the drill. “Sit!” She sits. Or lays down a tad belligerent. “Or lay down,” I shake my head and walk away. “Come!”

She runs and skids on wood floor. I toss the leather strip and she knows I have bad aim. I throw like a girl, but she catches like one.

“Let’s go pray.” And what else do we need when there’s been laughter lapped up and life swallowed green and raw-hide leather and leather bound Bible for this raw hide of my own. Nothing more. She’ll chew and I’ll chew and she’ll close her eyes and I’m not sure I’ve opened mine ever since I heard the rain skitter. Because I’m still listening.

“You are my daughter.” I hear Him repeat His word to me.

“Absorb me, God. Absorb me.”

“Be highly aware that I am God.” He rains grace upon grace. I’m soaking it up and it's all that matters.

written by: Carolyn Elizabeth Reohrig





























Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sometimes There’s Just a Snake in the Garden

Sometimes there’s mayhem.
Sometimes my world splits open and rattles my bones and ghosts from the past rise up.

And sometimes there’s just a snake in the garden.

There was snake this morning. Not the nice garden snake, but viper so much the color of dirt that I didn’t see it ‘til silent movement slithered down corner crack in garden bed. It’s there undercover hidden and in camouflage.

Brave me wanted to take spade in hand and chop off its head, but queasy me couldn’t. I’ve seen it done before when I’ve cried, “Snake!’ and the German has beheaded a few for me with shovel. After that, the garage was all man cave as far as I was concerned.

But this snake. Spade size. I just stood there with the tomatoes and watched it go down by the zucchinis.

“There’s a snake in the garden.” Where have I heard that before? I know exactly where. It’s in Genesis. Eden birthplace. Earthen womb where Father hands reached in and pulled out. Man.. Where intents and thoughts of heart and head were part of the same cord inwoven by Spirit.
I’m not a great warrior. The only reason for victory is that God is my great warrior. He’s already dealt with the serpent Satan. But I‘m still living on this earthen ground in this dusty body and I still see snakes. See the forked tongue sensing my presence. Here the hiss. It sounds like the “s-s-s-p,s-s-s-p” scraping together in gloved hands leaves and dirt and thorny canes and dried mud balls. I capture them in hand and dump them in leaf bag for recycling pick up. In suburbia we can’t just burn it. We have to handle it. Scoop it up. Bag it and drag it to alley.
Leaf Bag
And, may I do the same inside my head? May I capture in gloves thick the dead leaf flutter that crinkles in mental cracks? The dried mud-balls that clod my thoughts? Scrape it together and not hear the “s-s-s-p,s-s-s-p” rebel hiss as gloved thoughts complain against those who have bitten me, left scars? May I do the work just quietly and just straight on, one gloved handful at a time?

I’m practicing being mindful of what’s in my mind. Thoughtful toward my thoughts.

 It’s done on hands and knees and my right index finger, the one that points, is infected; and my right knee is bruised and, yeah, I get the message. I’m trying to capture the thoughts of my mind like that. Trying to stand up and dump them into leaf bag and not touch them again. Unless, as has happened before, the contents spill out the bottom because I have let the bag sit on damp ground for days when I should have completed the whole process and dragged the lot straight to alley, closed the gate, removed gloves, and only then showered.

I’m learning. Scraping it together handful by handful. Oddly, the snake motivated me because if I can’t behead the snake, I can behead a thought or two before they slither down into some cranial crack and blend in camouflaged and coiled to strike. Yeah, I’m motivated.

 How do they, the leaf bag makers, envision the likes of me opening the bag? My arms aren’t long enough to reach inside and slap the brown paper sides open. I could lie down and crawl inside. No. I decide to wear the bag. I pull it over my head like a dress ‘til it skirts around knees, reach straight up and wave my arms around inside the bag. I do this behind a tree. Privately. Because, truthfully, I’ve never seen a neighbor open a leaf bag and I don’t want to be seen opening one

It opens. And I swan-dive graceful bend at waist, and “If possible, keep your spine straight. Breathe from your throat, if possible, and extend out long stretch and bend from hip only, if possible, and pull your chest to the knees. Exhale deeper into your stretch, if possible,” I can hear my gentle yoga instructor while I asphyxiate upside down and wriggle out of bag because it’s not possible today. Not like this.

Capturing thoughts and dragging bags. And I’m always surprised at how much I can crush into those bags because I conveniently forget how many thoughts are worth bagging. Well, it’s because thoughts worth bagging are worth ignoring, except that ignored thoughts are still there. Just camouflaged snake waiting to strike. I remember them when I start hearing them hiss just while I get grumpy. Or they are remembered right when I’m digging into holy scripture ground and wanting to transplant and transform. Dig too deep and find snake in some corner.

I want to dig and transplant like that. It’s just that sometimes there’s a snake in the garden, but I’m learning how to get that in the bag too.

It’s sweaty hot work. It’s bruising. It’s humbling. It’s messy and dirty and “Why can’t someone else see that this needs to be done! Why is it always me doing it?!?” Oh, yeah. Lots of “s-s-s-p” thoughts to dump. It’d be so much easier to simply put a lit match to the whole mess and keep my knees off the clumpy dirt and watch it go up in flame

But, no. That’s for another Day. And on that Day I hope the work I’ve done on earth, the thoughts I’ve dumped and the mind I’ve battled for in this brain, will leave very little left to burn as I enter Heaven gate.

Some will enter as through fire, I’m told in First Corinthians chapter thirteen and verse three. And I really don’t want to enter Heaven gate through way of hellish fire. I’d rather nothing more than flicker flame on wick, thank you very much.

I’d rather scrape up my thoughts and silence the “s-s-s-p” hiss so I can hear God whisper and hear myself think enough to ask myself, “What on earth am I thinking?” and to say to God who knows my thoughts, “Bag them and change them! Drag them out to alley and close the gate and make highway to Your gate.” I wave my garden gloves all carried away,“Hallelujah! Onward! To. Your. Gate! Amen!”

“Ahem.”It’s God. “You just keep those gloves on and keep bagging.”

 “Oh.”I clear my throat. “Clear my mind. Remove the mud-clod thinking. Shut snake up. Oh, just shut up the snake! The “s-s-s-p” hiss!” Because it’s a fork in the way and rebel tongue and rubble that is in the way.” I put gloves back on and my finger hurts.

Garden Glove
Istand quiet after my outburst. And hear whisper. Just wonderful whisper so different from hiss. “Be transformed by the renewing of you mind.” It’s God. Whispering His own word to me. I know the word. It’s Romans chapter twelve verse two word that we hear a lot but how often do we feed on it because it’s life cord all Father, Son and Holy Spirit and body, soul and spirit die if we cut loose.
“I’m trying.” I whisper back all sweaty and hot and I don’t care that there’s dirt on my glove when I swipe tear.

“Think on whatever things are true,” He starts and I join in by heart, “whatever things are noble, just, pure,” our voices whisper together, “lovely, of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
If I see that snake again, I might just grab spade and toss the silenced hiss in the bag. Maybe I’ll string it up to dry first. All I can say is, there’s power in this three-stranded cord, ‘cause this woman is cutting off snake heads and silencing hiss in her own head; and scraping up “s-s-s-p” thoughts and is marked tan by fire in the sky and refined beneath it, too. So that on delivery Day, when I push through Heaven’s gate into new life, literally, it will not be like passing through fire, but flicker.

That’s the grace I pray for as I try live it out in a million little ways.

written by:Carolyn Elizabeth Roehrig





Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pouring Out All Magnolia

Blessings from my garden this morning!

Magnolia Cup
"My cup runs over," runs through my mind.
I watch it. The rain fill the cup just through kitchen window.

"Living  Water pour Yourself," I say silent. "Your glory. Your fragrant. Your pure. From Your Kingdom and Your Heaven. Spill and fill my cup."

I snap up camera and great Aunt Dottie's pitcher. Rain just spills over me and I offer pitcher on patio beneath rainspout. It fills quick and, "May I be open pitcher beneath heaven spout and fill quick up, too? No lid. No umbrella. No hood pulled down. Just open?"

I am. Right here. Open. Wanting His refreshing pour so bad I open my mouth and swallow drops of pour from the heavens.

The Pour
It's full. Great Aunt Dottie's pitcher. And I pour out 'til magnolia cup runs over and spill over what's in heart full this morning, "Just may my cup run over today. Like this!"

And the fragrance released in the pour! Surely Heaven will be magnolia scented. Surely some of the prayers of the saints fill Heaven with magnolia incense. And surely the tears pouring right out of praying hearts release such fragrance. Surely.

My Cup Runs Over
May your cup run over all magnolia fragrant and water fresh from God and heart and prayer, today!

Carolyn Elizabeth Roehrig
(because I've discovered my full. my full name. and i'm going to use the whole name . because it means what i want to be. carolyn elizabeth-joyful song set apart for the Lord. yeah, I want to live up to that name.)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Just Exactly How Does That Go?

Fifty years ago I was in womb and in some ways not much has changed. I’m still solely reliant on the life of the One I’m growing in. Soul-reliant on the Life.

Mother of four. I should know in my head and by heart what kept all four of their heads and hearts alive in me. But I guess I just accepted the miracle and was simply so pregnant happy that I had no questions. No need to read about the miracle, because it just was. And is it okay to say that about a miracle? Say, “It just is and I don’t need to know the details?” It seems to me it is okay. Because something’s lost when everything is found out.

Doesn’t faith thrive a bit on the mystery of the unknown? The unseen?

Sometimes the happiest faith is the faith that just accepts because the hope is sure.
Seventeen years ago my youngest was in womb, and now the question comes!  “Just exactly how does that go? How exactly does a baby eat in the womb?” I’m curious.

Curious because the miracle is still happening. To me. In Christ. And that’s a whole other realm of mystery that I don’t understand. He’s begotten Son of Father. He’s my oldest Brother. He’s my Savior. His Spirit lives in me. His life is being reproduced in me and I am being formed in Him. All I can say about that is that He is my All in All and all my hope, and may my faith grow large and obvious because of it.

 I google it right out, “Exactly how does a baby eat in the womb?’I’m the queasy type. This isn’t the sort of thing I ask. But here I am and here it is, “The umbilical cord contains two arteries and a vein.”

“Ah!” I stop right there. “It’s a three-stranded cord!”

It kind of takes my breath away because isn’t this how all of creation was made and how I’m being formed even now? By the Father, Son and Holy Spirit three-in-one mystery that secures me to Him and grows my faith by His love, blood and breath? It’s cord! It is.

I am attached to this cord and have been for my entire born-again life. Thirty-six years and I’m still getting things backward and upside down. No wonder. I was born the first time that way. Upside down, head first, and slapped on the backside.
I’ve been thinking about endurance and strength and joy. Because it’s needed for labor. Especially the joy. And needed desperate for the mother who labors and knows a pain consuming more than body and breath but that consumes love into itself because her baby is still. To the mother who felt baby in womb and saw beautiful form but never got to give milk. Her heart cries beneath breast ache, full and dripping sweet milk.

“Am I not better to you than ten sons?” Elkanah breathed to Hannah, and doesn’t Jesus ask the same? “Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

The question hurts. It even angers. And it’s not reserved for women delivering, but it’s for everyone who labors all hope and heart strength for life. And then grieves. For anyone who has just folded in half over themselves and air has pressed out in the fold and joy rolls out flat ‘til it’s deflated when we need to be filled with it, and love’s been roughed so bad it’s not recognizable.

But maybe the question is cleansing. Maybe it’s cotter mill for keyways to heart. Maybe the question pries where it’s not wanted, but maybe it pries where it’s needed. Because maybe the question itself induces labor ‘til soul womb births into the light what’s been in the dark. Pushes out grievance against God ‘til, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?’ can be answered with honest, “Yes.”
So how does that go? Is there any way to hope for joy outside of believing how the Father endured when cord of flesh was cut from His Son’s baby soft belly knowing that He would labor ‘til Love was unrecognizable? Is there any way to hope for joy beyond a thousand dead soul-beats because the soul life has bled right out of soul heart?

It seems a backward way to joy, the way through suffering.
 Mother and Baby
The cord makes all the difference. The cord of flesh feeds the flesh and it must be cut if we are to have any hope at all of living; but Spirit cord feeds spirit ‘til joy grows through labor, and unfolds open right before us when heart curls up to die. There is no easy way to this joy. No otherway than this joy. Because this joy is reserved miracle for those hanging.   
I need it. All of it. No, I have not suffered still-born delivery, but there are other lives that I labor for who are still just so, well, just so still. And sometimes I’m too plumb wore out to appear full of joy. I labor and they are so still and my heart is folding up because of it. Until I get it right side up.
I don’t need strength for joy, but joy for strength.
Jesus suffered, endured, had strength. At the cross. On the cross. Had strength because of the joy set before Him. It was witnessed by those standing afar. The suffering, strength, and did they see shades of hope when they heard “Father, forgive them?”

I’m thinking of it. I don’t really know why, but I am. Thinking of what the Lord’s strength was when He had no strength left. And the only way I can wrap my mind around this is that He is everything to Himself. And must be everything to me, too.

He who was scorned, scorned its shame; and He who was shamed, shamed shame.
Was there anything that looked joyful about the crucifixion? About the physical appearance of Jesus? About how the sun disappeared, and did the moon and stars cry? About how the earth shook and rattled bones and split open rocks and gave up its buried? Gave up the saints long dead and they came out of the earth? Did anyone look around and feel it and say, “Oh, joy!”

Probably not. More like, “Oh no!” And “Uh-oh! Big trouble, because truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:51-54).

But Jesus saw something beyond. Saw joy. It was set right there before Him. And what strength does it take to give up your own life? Not take it? Not rescue it? Not let it be taken? But to give it?

I’m thinking it’s hard.
It’s hard to give myself up. And harder to give myself up when everything in me wants to scream, “No! This is wrong! What did I ever do to deserve suffering for everything that’s wrong in your life?” Hard to nip the thoughts and bite the tongue. Hard to work repentance by working to deny myself that “No!” Because in the “No!” I’m shouting my pride out and it's all upside down, “I’ve stuck through this. Stuck by you. Prayed endless hours for you.”  But the “No!”  devalues whatever it touches and cuts cord.

Cut the cord and be born the first time in sin. But fell pride and be born again drawing life from Life all Father love, Son blood and Holy Spirit breath. It’s two arteries and a vein three-stranded cord. Draw on Life from here and grow strong because draw on Life and draw up joy. It starts with Him.

And nothing but extreme joy for extreme need is enough joy.

May I give myself even now? Because of now? I may. Who says we need to make our own joy? Everyone who was born upside down and slapped on the backside, that's who.
Sometimes I’m just hanging there somewhere between right side up and upside down. I’ve had a lot of practice because I’ve been born both ways. But something is getting right side up in me. Because when I was born-again it was right side up in the Righteous One and no one slapped my backside  but just breathed living breath right into soul lungs. And I’m spending time lately practicing the right side up that doesn’t make much sense when upside down on head.

Like, where can I stand when mayhem turns my world upside down? Sometimes it’s not at the foot of the cross. Oh, that sounds so backward I flinch to say it. But I do. Because I read it in God’s word. Read, “And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar” (Matthew 27:55). And I know that the word “ministering” means “mothering.” It’s in the dictionary.

Looking on from Afar
I’m learning when to look in from afar. Learning where to stand in mayhem. Learning where to take position to minister to Jesus with the kind of percipience that only womb and cord can know. Because His life is being formed in me through this Three-Strand Cord.

I’m learning the right side up of putting myself last because God promises the last will be first and I’m counting on it. Ways to be last? Slow down. Fold my clothes and put them away last. Be last in line. Set my place at table last. Put other’s needs and wants at the top of my list, and that places mine last by default. And something very right side up happens then. I don’t miss what’s dropped down to the bottom of the list because I’m focused on what’s at the top. And I know that Jesus says the last will be first and it all has to do with where I’m standing. In what Kingdom? In who’s line of sight?

I’m just learning to stand afar, like those women I read about who followed Jesus and ministered to Him. They stood afar at the crucifixion. Behind the others. And in Jesus' line of sight.

Could it be that when we stand behind others, Jesus sees us consecrated and consecrates us further for blessing?  Sets us apart? When the sky is falling and the ground is opening and everything is deflating? Sets us apart even, and especially, then? For His joy? I’m hoping for it and planning on it.

Maybe I’m starting to get it. To get that God’s joy, not just my joy in Him, but the joy He owns. His joy. That His joy is my strength no matter what’s going down.
Is there anything more consecrating than pain? Anything more necessary for life than holy Three-Strand Cord all Father, Son and Holy Spirit that nothing on earth can cut ‘til the Day of deliverance and resurrected body? Is there anything too hard for His joy? I don’t think so.

Can’t you just hear Him say, “Look on from afar and look to Me. I am your Joy. Look on from afar and see the presence of the Lord.”

I hear it. “I have set the Lord always before me. Therefore my heart is glad, my whole being rejoices, my body rests in hope. In your presence is fullness of joy.” May I breath Psalm sixteen verse nine kind of “Yes.”

Because this is, I’m convinced, just exactly how that goes.

written by: Carolyn Roehrig