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Thursday, December 24, 2015

When the "Where Are You, Christmas?" Question becomes a Blessing

The winter sun wears a crooked smile as it slants angle and warmly contrary through bare branches, across crunchy leaves, over my bare feet, and it grins wide open and as delighted as spring on my upturned face.

It's the day before Christmas.

Gingerbread Men are stacked on the kitchen counter. Thumbprint cookies rolled in toasted walnuts with dabs of fig preserves in the centers are wrapped in parchment and stored in the Christmas cookie jar painted all festive red poinsettias and green leaves on an ivory background. A neighbor friend gave it to me many Christmases ago when our children woke before the sun rose on Christmas morning. The cookie jar was filled with Christmas cookies then, and every Christmas since the jar has held a belly full of cookies.

The tree is lighted and decorated, and so is the house. Christmas music plays and gifts are arranged on the fireplace hearth.

"It doesn't feel like Christmas!" It 's not really a complaint, because who complains about Christmas. It's an observation. I've heard it many times this month from my own family and from the store clerk.

Songs like, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," and "We Need a Little Christmas, Right This Very Minute,"play.

Well, I'm sitting in by backyard just bathing my face in 70 degree crooked smile splayed oblivious across the face of the sun and, yeah, it doesn't feel like Christmas. It doesn't.

Crispy leaves lift and skitter in the sun. A bee bumbles inches above patio stones and a cricket is swimming in the pool and,"Praise God! It doesn't feel like Christmas!" My Bell Pepper plant is still green and roses blush like the rouged cheeks of a woman advanced in years who just learned that she is expecting her first child.

I open my Bible and gentle gusts of warm wind help me turn worn aged pages to the gospel of Luke. I read about a certain priest named Zacharias who was visited by the angel Gabrielle who told him, "Your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John" (Luke 1:11-13).

He said to the angel, "I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." I read it and I hear it the same way as I hear, "It doesn't feel like Christmas!"

"She's too old! I'm too old!" sounds like, "There's no snow! I'ts not cold!"

The angel Gabrielle muted Zacharias.

Elizabeth conceived, and what could Zacharias say? Nothing!

I decided to mute myself after hearing, "It doesn't feel like Christmas," one time too many, and agreeing one time too many.

"Christmas isn't a feeling," is how I choose to silently respond.

I'm feeling a warm sun and balmy breeze this morning, and "Praise God! Christmas isn't a feeling!" rustles through the likes of barefoot me.

Christmas Cookies

Elizabeth "Hid herself for five months," I read.

So, Zacharias is mute and Elizabeth is on retreat. How quiet! How quiet the preparation for the birth of the one named John who would prepare the way for the Savior. The very Prince of Peace!

"Thus the Lord has dealt with me," said Elizabeth in hiding, "in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."

"Oooh, Lord," I quietly amaze. "Haaa," my breath draws up long and it's whole sentence. "Elizabeth delivered the baby, son of Zacharias, whose birth would take away her reproach among people."

I think of the Babe who Mary would deliver; the Son of God, born to take away our, your and my, reproach.

Jesus, only Jesus, can take away our reproach; our sin and shame.

This feels like Christmas!

I continue to read that after five months in hiding, the "sixth month the angel Gabrielle was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary" (Luke 1:26-27). The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

"This feels like Christmas to me, Lord." It does. This is the quiet, hidden, holy Selah pause which mutes and slows the foundation of my soul. Snow mutes and slows things like traffic and busy noise; but not the soul.

Leaves rattle, birds sing, yellow dog nudges me for a biscuit. We, rather yellow dog, goes to patio door wagging and panting all happy anticipation.

But I stop half-way across the patio. I stop because the wind builds suddenly and loudly. It rushed forward till bare Pecan branches and the full Junipers wave madly and pant with the exertion. I watch, half expecting to see a dove fly all white overheard. Something holy in that rush.

"Is this what it sounded like when Gabrielle spoke?" I wonder about wind and angels' wings.

Yellow dog insists, and we go inside.

Christmas music is playing. My Bavarian German husband has Christmas in his genes. "Silent Night" is playing as I come inside on this soul silent morning.

I've done all the traditional Christmas things.

I've braved the traffic and stood in line at the post office.

I've gone a little over budget, just a little, because I keep wanting to give.

I wonder to this Prince of Peace, "What does the exchange of gifts, the decorated tree, the trimmed up house, the baking, and the needy desire for snow have to do with unfathomable gratefulness that You were born to gift me with eternal life?" I honestly don't know because these things seem far removed from Elizabeth's five month retreat to ponder the miracle of the babe in her elderly womb; and from muted doubts, and from the overlapping nine months on nine months, Elizabeth's and Mary's quiet pregnancies.

Two babies would be presented and loudest baby cries wouldn't be heard in a ranting, rushing world.

What's a baby's cry to anyone but the mother who drips milk at the sound?

What are trees that breathe furious fast in a sudden wind that raises every branch in it's wake to anyone except those who somehow hear something holy in it all?

Who hears and who responds except those who listen for such things and can tell the difference between voices and winds that blow?

Elizabeth and Mary

Joseph had to go to Bethlehem by Roman tax decree. Mary join him, full of the Son of God.

"Did they rush to Bethlehem?" I can't imagine rushing a pregnant woman on a donkey across the wilderness.

The world rushed. Even then. The boarding in Bethlehem would be first-come, first-served, and no one wanted to be sleeping on the street.

"Who noticed the star announcing the birth of My Son?" He asks me.

Truth is, bright as that star was, the only people mentioned in the Bible who noticed were those calm enough to notice. Slow enough to look up, and quiet enough to hear an angel,

"The shepherds." I begin to answer Him, "and the magi came later, right?"  They watched and waited, and knew when to come.

I pause.

"Why not most of the people in Bethlehem? They were right there!" I'm picturing it and really, weren't crowds the same then as they are now? Elbows out. Heads down. Looking out for number one. Crowds are competitive like that, I think.

I want to be as shepherd. And as Elizabeth; and Mary. I do.

"You are hidden in Me." I know that's what He says. "I've given you sheep to tend with a quiet and gentle spirit." This is also what He says.

I'm hidden. Set apart to care for sheep, and I'm grateful.

I 'm pondering these things in my heart, as Mary pondered and, I'm certain, as Elizabeth pondered while in retreat for five months.

I'm preparing and delivering the Prince of Peace to a rushing loud world.

I'm redeeming time like this in a world where the days are long and time is short and I'm learning spend the time I redeem on Jesus, the Redeemer.

I'm striving to enter peace in a world that doesn't understand that the purpose for striving is to enter stillness. I don't know how it's done, but I do know it happens somehow in the practice.

I'm practicing on purpose today. I'm busy, yeah, and hurl fast down the freeway in traffic; and then crawl in a congested construction zone. I'm practicing stillness at 65 mph, well, okay, 70 mph; and practicing stillness in the crawl. Somehow stillness and rest have little to do with the speed of rush or of standstill.

The cars on the exit ramp to a shopping center spill onto freeway lane. The ramp isn't long enough to hold them. Christmas shoppers, mostly.

Sometimes I feel like a stranger in a rushing world. I just don't fit in when I think things like, Why do we give gifts to everyone but the One whose birth we are celebrating?

Who does that? Who celebrates the birth of a loved one by giving gifts to one another and forgetting the one who the celebration is for? It's an elbows-out kind of question that jostles. The answer is that I know no one who celebrates birthday's like that; unless they're celebrating the birth of Christ. I know. It jostles kind of hard.

"It's not because we give gifts, or decorate, is it?" I ask God why we forget His Son when we celebrate His birth and the question makes me sad.

I think about this Son of God, Jesus, for whose birth Mary gave herself. She gave up so much. Her reputation, her hometown, her body, her lifestyle, her sense of security. I

I think about the presence of the Son of God. His presence, undeniable as Mary's belly swelled and divided her family, Joseph's heart, and the entire town of Nazareth before He was born.Divisions like these are awkward, and painful, ostracizing, and terrifying. Those who wanted to believe the best about Mary, wanted to believe that the Holy Spirit was the father, must have had a crisis of faith. Maybe they reasoned, "Mary is either highly favored of God, or Mary is lowest sinner deserving to be stoned to death."

Joseph woke from a dream with holy reassurance and direction.

Elizabeth believed. She carried Jesus' predecessor, John the Baptist.

Elizabeth and Mary, what a pair!

Elizabeth delivered a baby who grew into a man who ate locusts and honey and wore camel skin and lived a rag-a-muffin rough life in the wilderness. I can only imagine what he was like as a boy! "Mommy! Look!" And Elizabeth would gasp as little Johnny dipped a locust in honey and popped it into his mouth.

Mary delivered a Baby who would become a Man who was also God and who would save people from hell, and would raise people from the dead, and who would be raised from the grave and hell Himself. I imagine Him as a boy. "Mommy! Look!" And Mary would quietly ponder with maybe a worry wrinkle as little Jesus practiced carpentry with two-by-fours and nails and hammered together a crucifix. I don't imagine one of his sister's dolls hanging on it; no, I imagine it empty and His sister's grateful.

Mary yielded, and was freed from the confines of all she gave up. Isn't that what happens when we listen for, and prepare to yield to, the Spirit? I can't say Gabrielle has visited the likes of me, but the Holy Spirit has.

Isn't the breath of the Spirit, the holy exhale of everything all "God is Alive and God is Good" vapor between the choice of yielding to my will or to God's?

Maybe the breath of God is heard by those like Mary and Elizabeth and the likes of Zacharias who hears that his prayer has been heard and then doubts it because, "Surely God isn't that good; is He?" Isn't it a blessing when God just shuts our mouths mute?

Maybe the breath of God is heard by those who choose a quiet life tending sheep till they begin to look a bit wooly themselves, in a world that demeans the humble.

Maybe the breath of God is heard by those who lean in close enough to kiss His cheek; and close enough to hold Him.

Maybe His breath is felt by those who strive to enter rest in a world that strives restless.

And isn't there tension in breathing? In holding breath as thin as the surface tension of the water Jesus was baptized in by John the Baptizer? In the not-my-will, but-Yours matters as rough as Roman hewn wood, iron nails, thorns, whips, salve, and a hundred pounds of embalming ointment made from myrrh and aloes? In the matters of linen swaddling cloth and burial cloth, and of a large stone only angel strength can roll away?

Isn't there tension in the matter of preparing to celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus the Christ, the Prince of Peace who is Emmanuel-God with Us. Mary felt it for sure, and maybe it's still felt. Seems to me it is. Seems to me that's a good thing if it's the holy tension felt in striving for holy still all Selah pause because the birth of Christ stops the heart and soul and feet.

Manger and Cross

"Where are you, Christmas?" I may ask because some things are absent and I miss them this time of the year. Or some people are distant. Or gone. Or some circumstances are far too close to home for comfort at this time of the year.

I ask God, "Make my heart large enough to contain the holy matter which is the stuff of Your life, not mine." I don't know how else to put into words the blessing I'm experiencing by the absence of whatever things aren't the same as they were in Christmases past.

I ask, and somehow the "Where are you, Christmas?" question becomes a blessing felt for real and in real time, because the answer is free from what's absent. So I say, "Praise God! Christmas isn't a feeling! It's just an outrageously holy rush all joy and worship and cheer that has everything to do with recognizing the gift He is.

He who knew not the confines of skin and bones and flesh,was born and wore it.

He who wore glory, wore skin.

He who wore holiness, wore sin.

He who saved mankind, was Son of God, crucified.

He who slept in manger hay, is manger in whom I long to rest.

I pray and somehow the prayer which flows from my heart comes out in rhyme-

Son of man, God and flesh; Son of God, my righteousness. And sin more bitter than gall, is purposed that I would fall. Perhaps sin's calling is high;  what else is strong to fell my pride? And sin's condemning power, compelled me toward salvation's hour!

The stair rail is wrapped in lighted garland and red bows. White lights weave between red vases filled with red poinsettias and the nativity figurines youngest daughter made many years ago are arranged on the dining table with candles. Candles are everywhere.

Yeah, I like decorating for Christmas. But I do it differently now than I did in Christmases past. I stop decorating before I'm done. I stop when I hear in my spirit, "That's good. Stop." I strive to stop. It's not easy to stop before I'm done, because it's difficult to yield. But when I yield, something marvelous happens.

I am freed!

When I yield to the Spirit, I'm freed from my will.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dr. Seuss and Dr. Quantum and other Mysteries

The sun hasn't light-waved "good-bye," the moon hasn't rolled away or thudded to the ground, and the stars still answer roll call. People? Well, uh, people are a curious mystery. We are rambunctious humanity bent on being out of hand yet, God holds everything together and sometimes that's astounding to me. Sometimes I want to ask, "How do You do that??"  I know. He's God. I've heard said, "He does it because He can." Sorry, but lame. Surely there's more mystery to it than that.

I do all kinds of things which, if anyone was impressed enough to ask me "How do you do that," I could say, "Oh, well, I do it because I can." Really? What kind of answer is that? I know I'm mysterious, but not that mysterious. I'm woman. That's enough mystery to keep my straight-forward husband, Mr. Strong and Strapping, guessing how I do things like cry at comedies and get the giggles at serious moments. He doesn't ask. 
In Dr. Seuss's world, "whosit" and "whatsit" must be in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster has missed two wonderful words in the "wh-" column and, I think, legit words for a real world full of whos, and whats, and its in a splendor so mysterious that only words like whosit and whatstit can sort of describe the indescribable or at least what we have no words for. I put whatchamacallit in there, too. It works for me, anyway.

Isn't this real world so much more mysterious than we will ever know? And the One who created all the whos and whats and whatchamacallits is as mysterious as His I AM name is. I get how He can hold together what things I know a lot about. I even get how He can hold together what I know a small quantum about. But He holds together stuff that I know nothing about.

Seems to me the mystery of God is more than who He is. Doesn't the mystery of God have to do with the mysteries He's created, like time and dimension and matter and stuff about light and science that goes far beyond the high school biology I took? Forget dissecting frogs. What about dissecting dimensions? Yeah, that's all very mysterious. To really genius people, even. But it's child play to God.

And doesn't the mystery of God have to do with the stuff of heaven and heavenly beings and even the classic mystery about the trinity? There are countless analogies to describe the trinity. It's a perfect whosit.

Probably the mystery of God that gets closest to home is the, "Let's make man in our image" mystery. 

I can almost hear the Father, "Okay, Guys!" Jesus and the Holy Ghost have been waiting for this moment. "Time is divided up and organized, the dimensions are measured out, particles of matter and waves of light are working well together. Yep!"  The Father rubs His hand together in excited anticipation; "I think everything's ready for the people!"

"Okay, Dad!" Jesus must have grinned 'cause He knew He'd be a person one day. "Ready for this, Holy Ghost?"

"Let's do it!" And the three of Them, or rather the three-in-one of Them, made people in their own image.

That's mystery.

That's more than a how did You do that mystery.

He tells how. He breathed life into Adam's dusty nostrils and, voila! He breathed! And people breathed, and we're still breathing! And that's  how He did that.

He gave power to as many as received Him to become the sons of God, not born of flesh and blood but born of God. And people were, and still are, given the Spirit of God for eternal life! And that's how He did that. It's all explained in Genesis and John, and somehow the explanations add to the mystery.

Alright then. Maybe I won't ask how. But I have to ask something because my life mission is to connect with God's heart. To know Him really, really well. And that means asking Him questions and listening for His answers.

It takes time. Time I could spend doing other things that look a little more productive. Truth is, there's nothing more productive to me than paying attention to God, to know Him; and there's no greater reward on this earth than to know that I have God's attention because, guess what? He answers my questions, and so much more.

I don't need to ask how. He's already told me how. And I already know why. That answer has to do with love. So, "What do You mean when You say that You hold all things together?"

"Is that what I say?" He prompts me to go to His word.

I go and, "No, not exactly."

"What, then, exactly do I say?"

"You say that You are before all things, and in You all things hold together." I don't grasp the whole meaning, but I do know that I've been held together in Him and that's more meaningful than being held together by Him.

I'm Held

"Remember when you used to cross-stitch?" He asks and I wonder what that has to do with any of this.

"Yes." Of course I do. I just the other day re-tacked the cross-stitched quilts the church ladies made as baby shower gifts for my sons before they were born, and the quilts I cross-stitched for my daughters before they were born.

I think about His question, and it's uncanny that I should have re-tacked the cross-stitch quilts just days ago, after so many years of not really even seeing them because they've hung on the same wall for so long.

I think, tacks, threading needle eye with floss, cross-stitch needle finding every tiny hole in Aida cross-stitch fabric and pulling floss through, narrow openings requiring spot-on precision, and patterns.

I think further. Nails, Christ just stitched by nails to the cross. He is the narrow way, I continue stitching old news into a new pattern of thought. He is also the precision required for me to enter His pattern. "Oh, the thinks you can think!" (Dr. Seuss).

I visualize the theme I see in this unfolding conversation. I'm getting my answers.

"What do I mean?" He asks me what I asked Him and, as a former cross-stitcher, I know that the pattern is only as good as the stitches.

I hear myself, "You cross-stitched the past and the future into the pattern of the present. The Old Testament is flat out nailed to the New Testament, the one is inseparable from the other because Jesus Himself came to fulfill the Old Testament by the New. And," I continue, "Isn't that what the New Testament is? Isn't the New Testament the fulfillment of the Old Testament by the life, death, and resurrection of the One who was nailed to the cross and lives now and forever at the same time? Isn't this where Life intersects life, and where time is redeemed, and where present moments are complete in the I AM name in whom  'all things hold together?'" (Colossians 1:17)

I remember what He says. I say it back to Him. "You didn't come to destroy the law, or the prophets, but to fulfil. You have said, 'Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled'" It's written in Matthew 5:17-18; and it's answer. My answer comes from His word stored within me.

Isn't the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus the convergence of, I don't even know how many dimensions of time and space, into the present? And isn't where they intersect also where time stands still and, at the same time moves from present to present to present?

Well, obviously I have more questions than answers, but sometimes it seems questions are more answer than answers! I'm thinking that to stay in the presence of the One whose very name is all present tense I AM, is what the mysteries of God mean to me.

"Ah! That's what You mean! You mean for me to stay present in Your I AM presence where YOU  ARE. This is where all things are held together in You. Oh, yes, I AM," I say to Him, "gladly I will stay in Your presence. I'll turn up for roll call every day just as the stars do!"

He holds everything together. Just by being present. That's good news to the likes of me who practices redeeming time and connecting with God's heart moment by moment because I've learned the unraveling, painful, stitch-popping way that the most secure place is in the here and now presence of the all-present God; and because I'm convinced that every whatchamacallit would just break, shatter, splinter, explode, implode into a trazillion molecules, atoms, ashes, and dust and that light itself would divide into what? Photons? Something like that. And the molecules, atoms, ashes, dust, photons and everything else that I have no idea about would somehow fall apart into chaotic nonsense and nothingness.

 Controlled Chaos

 I passed high school science because the teacher took pity on me. Can you tell? But I have recently learned that I happen to know something about Quantum Physics. Yep! It's because I know something about the Creator. I know His name is quantum physics explained in two words- I AM. His name about covers it all. And I  know something of who He is-Omniscient; defined as "All-wise, all knowing, all seeing."  Merriam-Webster dictionary has awesome words in the "om-"  column!

I'm thinking about the power of the eyes of God. The power that His observation has on the world. Just because He's watching.

What if He wasn't all-seeing? I'm certain I'd lose my way if He wasn't watching.

I've never thought that the all-seeing part of Him might have more dimension to it than the generic, "I'm watching you."

He is watching overall like that, but what about an all-seeing dimension of watching that is interactive? What about, "I'm watching to look out for you"? What about, "I'm watching to guide you because you can't see beyond the next step"? Surely it's not all, "You better watch out, because God's watching every move you make." Just maybe He's watching because He can't take His eyes off His bride and the beautiful world He made. Maybe  He's watching, too, because snakes and scoundrels and slave drivers and sin also inhabit.

I've been reminded of an experiment my sons found on u-tube.

"You gotta see this, mom!" boyhood exuberance.  And this mom hadda see it 'cause I was, and still am, curious about what they wanna show me.

"What is it?" I crossed the kitchen and joined them at the main computer with, most likely, a saute spatula in hand, coated in something dinner-ish.

"Dr. Quantum!"

"Cool!" Never heard of him.

Dr. Quantum came to life and soon the whole half-dozen of us crowded around the computer screen and watched with a dozen wide eyes the Double Slit Experiment.

A cartoon eyeball represents whatever kind of machine physicists use to measure the behavior of  electrons. Thing is, when they weren't being watched, the electrons behaved as if they were what they are not. They behaved as light waves, not as the little particles of matter that they are. But when they were being watched, they behaved as the little particles that they are.

"Wha-a-a-t? How do they know they're being watched?!" Kind of reminds me of these boys of mine. A mother's humor.

Dr. Quantum leans into the camera and says, "The electron decided to act differently, " he lowers his voice to whisper all drama and continues, "as if it was aware it was being watched. "The observer collapsed the wave function, simply by observing." Oh, goose bumps! I shivered.

"Oh, the places you'll go!", says Dr. Seuss.

I never imagined I'd be going quantum in a Contemplations of a Christian Homemaker post. I go to Walmart, Costco, the kitchen, and the laundry room. That's the homemaking part. And I go to God all day long, asking Him questions, listening to His Spirit, contemplating Him. It's not exactly quantum physics, but maybe it's quantum something.

Maybe I can take the example given by Merriam-Webster for how to use the word "quantum," which means "quantity, amount," and tweak it from "the sum of human knowledge is now so immense that even a highly educated person can hope to absorb only a tiny quantum of it," to "the sum of the power of God's presence in my daily life is now so immense that even the likes of me can hope to absorb a tiny quantum of it."

I'm a Christian homemaker who understands Dr. Seuss's whatsits and whosits more than Dr. Quantum's physics. I'm a Christian homemaker who lives aware of being watched not by a powerful camera, but by the powerful eye of God. His presence, His observation, is interactive with His Spirit in me and that keeps me behaving as I truly am- Christian in the whole, "You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus" 2 Corinthians 5:21 sense.

Boy Wearing Blue T-Shirt

God is watching me; and that matters to me. It matters in this dimension, in this real time where what I think, say, and do are lived before this God who can't take His eyes off of me because He loves me. And methinks love is very quantum physics.

God is watching me. This is exhilaration and gladness as I kneel each morning with Bible open and God word on my tongue because He notices and His observation is powerful.

God is watching me. I want His eyes on me. I want to absorb even a mere quantum of His immense love.

So I kneel on this old bright yellow life preserver that preserves my knees as I seek the One who holds me together in Him. It's not the kind of preserver that goes over the head, but the square kind that has straps to slip arms through and hug real tight against chest where heart resides. That's what I kneel on.

I speak His words here; His Word as it's written because somehow in His presence my words aren't so very important.

I listen here, and He speaks His Word back to me.

I connect with His heart here, and He fills mine.

I sing to Him here and I venture to say that praise just all unpolished heart and soul and acapella unrehearsed gets God's attention in a good way.

And, to go quantum time, somehow singing praises to God, and psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to others, gives wide open-door entrance to this mysterious present dimension where I AM is. That's what time, under the gaze of the all present, I AM God, does. His gaze rearranges everything and redeems time itself.

I make my to-do list while on my life preserver. God is looking over my shoulder. He sees me, but even more, He notices me.

Noticing is different than seeing. Noticing is "taking notice of." And I want Him to take notice of me, so I take notice of Him. That's just how relationships work. I can't expect someone, even God, to be head-turningly interested in me if I show little notice of Him.

I show Him my list, and He crosses most things off because He'd rather I spend hours right here noticing Him rather than doing, doing, doing stuff, stuff, stuff. In a way, the double-slit experiment is conducted here every morning in the sense that I make my list of matters; He observes and measures the matters and under His observation they go neatly through the narrow slits and line up to make the pattern proving what they are. Matters. Simple matters.

God is the fancy mysterious light that goes way out there quantum all space and time multi-dimensional. Not me. I'm simply under His observation, noticing Him and being noticed by Him; and only like this am I able to live today as who I am. I am the righteousness of the One who calls Himself the great I AM, through Christ Jesus.

Here is where I go. It's a Dr. Seuss, "Oh, the places you will go" kind of place. It's a Dr. Quantum, "observation and measurement matter to behavior" kind of place.

It's a place where faith, evidence in this dimension of what is in another dimension called hope, is measured and lines up as it passes through the narrow slit called love.

Love is the whole point, isn't it Dr. Seuss? Dr. Quantum may or may not know the dimension of eternal love, but he's proving it nonetheless, I think.

Love passes through the narrow. And what's on the other side is miracle.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Morning Devotion-Take Time To Be Holy

My old red hymnal holds 628 hymns. I once determined that I was going to use these hymns to learn basic chording on the piano given to me over two decades ago and I play with it, but my daughters play it.

Six-hundred and twenty-eight hymns, beginning with "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," and ending with "Amens."

"Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife, joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life," go the last two measures of the opening hymn. And the closing hymn is just thirty amens sung sevenfold.

And then there's hymn 441, hidden treasure.

"Take Time To Be Holy."

I've never seen it before yesterday, I don't know what it sounds like. Yet. But I will, with advance apologies to my family because it ain't gonna sound pretty and yellow therapy dog, whose quirky nerves twang twingy when the piano is skillfully played, will need therapy for herself once I get started!

Well the hymn is, to me, straight path in a world that tilts on it's axis. It's right-side up calm in a racing world upset by those who dare to take time to be holy.

In a world filled with gadgets and industries to save time, this dearest and truest hymn sings out both joyful, joyful triumph song of life and "amens" sevenfold.

Fast Lane

In a world that spins faster than the spin cycle on my washing machine as it shimmies an unbalanced load across the linoleum, and wedges the laundry room door shut and so much for the saving time machine, 'cause by the time we, well, ehem, my strong and strapping German husband, maneuvers the door open, I could have hand washed the load and hung it out to dry; in a world like this I choose to take time to "be fitted for service above" where the only time saver is just all eternity straight up and holy. 

I'm not hand washing laundry, but dishes? Yeah, I am. Ever since a few weeks ago when the dishwasher whirred a speedy hum for one last steamy breathless time. I don't have the heart to tell Mr. Strong and Strapping that another appliance spun and slid right off the edge of this little world called home where, contrary to Columbus' discovery about the big world out there, things just do slip and slide and sorta spin into oblivion because, in here, the floors are flat and I don't know how to repair a spun out dishwasher, don't think it's worth the time to learn how, and I hope my husband doesn't read this post till Christmas break when he gets time to breathe between semesters.

Take Time To Be Holy
by: William D. Longstaff
Taking Time
1. Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God's children; help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
2.Take time to be holy,  the world rushes on;
Much time spend in secret with Jesus alone;
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
3. Take time to be holy, let Him be they guide,
And run not before Him whatever betide;
In joy or in sorrow still follow thy Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
4. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul;
Each thought and each motive beneath His control;
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Morning Devotion-Squash

Soggy leaves, pumpkin scraps somehow missed in the clean up from the carving party last week. And eight bell peppers hang heavy and fuller every day as if summer itself was ripe. And ten white blossoms swell all maternity promise of more peppers as if spring, too, was birthing ripe. Mishmash on patio this morning.

I stoop to pick up what looks like the remains of pumpkin lantern. A triangular eye? It's happy mush from oldest son's twenty-fifth birthday celebration.

My three married children with my two daughter-in-laws and brand new son-in-law sat in a circle on the driveway with youngest daughter, niece, nephew, life-long friends and pumpkins and orange carving tools and piles of whatever the slimy strings of pumpkin innards are called. The chiminea burned orange flames that danced as if to the music of laughter and the hum of conversation and so did this mamma's heart.

I'm at patio this morning. Remembering because I'm holding a now rotting chunk of squash in my palm. I shake my head at myself and smile and wonder if whoever thought to make squash lanterns felt as I felt that evening last week, 'cause I felt like I had a candle burning inside the likes of mushy me and it's light just flickered in my eyes and danced right out of my smile to the rhythm of joy on the driveway.

Oats, pecans, honey, sesame seeds, raisins, and pumpkin seeds.  I toasted them in a tossed together hodge-podge on a cookie sheet, and my kitchen smiled all warm and sweet and healthy because that's what pumpkin seed granola is and what it does. Place a tangle of pumpkin innards in the colander, wash the seeds free, and there's something about washing that is freeing; something about saving the seeds for granola that is redemptive.

Well. Fall, spring, and summer are damp on patio this morning. Three seasons at the same time and I think, So this is what it looks like to redeem time. 

It seems to be a fall thought for me. Maybe it's because winter's coming and I want to make the most of the days before the hard ice-storms.

I look up the exact words given about redeeming time, and find them in Ephesians 5, "So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do."

I munch my granola on damp patio stone, barefoot; and my heart is barefoot, too.

"Lord?" Leaves cling damp and thin to patio stone. "I want to be like that. Damp from the wash that bares my heart; thinned by the Word that reveals my true colors."

Fall leaves stick damp. They are bare of chlorophyll clothing all green. Damp leaves, washed by fall itself, bare true red, yellow, brown, and nearly white. It sounds like children's hymn to me; "Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."

I'm nearly white. I look at naked leaf skin all bare on patio and, "Ah, Lord" I exhale breath into the light fog, "I can see the colors of the patio stones and the bumpy pattern too, through the skins of these leaves."

He's silent somewhere beside me in the fog. His silence is naked and bares me.

"I want to stick as leaf sticks to patio stone. Ah," I inhale light fog, "I'm white-skinned, browned by summer sun; and may I be soaked by fall rain, washed bare till I'm clothed by a little color of me and a lot of the color of You; a little of the pattern of me and a lot of the pattern of You as I stick to You, my foundation Rock."

I guess it's an odd way 'round to prayer, but there it is. I want to be pressed as damp leaf to the Rock.

I take a picture. Maybe I'll paint it all water and color damp on canvas. It's a picture of what I long to be; spring, summer, and fall at the same time. Living in and out of season, at the same time. Redeeming time like this because winter is coming.

The bell pepper plants are oblivious to fall. They are summer deepest green, and maternal spring blossom. The tomatoes get it, though. They filled the colander last week and the are done. They are preparing for winter and I can almost hear them call from their beds to the bell peppers across the way, "Heads up! It's fall!"

So it is.

"Make the most of every opportunity," the Lord speaks as the fog lifts.

I set my empty bowl of pumpkin seed granola down.

"Be careful how you live," He continues. "Winter's coming."

I don't want to act thoughtlessly, but full of His thoughts. My thoughts are like tangled pumpkin innards with really good seeds enmeshed all through because the Word of God has planted them there.

"Wash my thoughts, Lord." I'm certain He's holding a colander.

"Separate my thoughts from Your seeds," I picture His hands instead of mine at my kitchen sink just preparing me as a pleasing aroma that will warm His senses like the fragrance of sweet granola.

"I want to understand what You want me to do," I request His command.

"Look at the picture you took." He nods toward my iPhone. "That's what I want you to do."

I get it.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Daughter Got Married Today

I tip-toed, easily dodging where the wood floor complains rheumatic and, I think, a tad dramatic, too. I know this aging floor like the back of my hand; and morning feet bare, except for the gold sparkley nail polish I brushed on yesterday even though no one would see my toes because they would be in festive and all-about-fun stiletto pumps covered in bright floral patterns, know the way to the cheery red coffee pot without waking the floor boards.

Coffee slurps and gurgles brew. I stack my Bible, journal, pad of paper, and iPhone. I balance my full cup of coffee on the stack, tuck iPhone under my chin so it doesn't slide off the top, and sort of two-step back to the bedroom, across bathroom tiles, and into my closet. I close the door and lean back into the chair wedged between a shoe rack and hanging clothes. "Here I am, God!"

God's love dances in the halo of His own light; and He invites me to dance with Him; in the arms of Love Himself.

His everlasting arms support me. He cradles the back of my head in His hand and I look up long. He cradles the back of my head in His left hand and wraps His right arm around me and I lean back and look up. He supports the lean. He supports my head; my neck doesn't fatigue. And looking up, supported like this, He whispers, "When you fill My arms, you feel My fullness."

It's what I need to hear, because sometimes I feel the full become empty. Or maybe just less full.

He knows my daughter. My first daughter.

She's getting married today and it's joyful and oh, so beautiful. It's full and, well, also a little empty and a little teary, too. But this God of mine knows her and knows me and knows us, and knew in the wee hours this morning that I would need to feel His fullness because last night I hugged my daughter at the foot of her bed and that was the last good-night hug in her bedroom.

She will fill her husband's arms and I know that his arms will support her so she may lean far back to look up long and see the halo of love in his eyes and she'll just dance in the halo.

Is there anything more full than love? The thought awes me

"Love fills the empty." It's a God thought, and He's sharing this thought with me.

"Sometimes empty feels, well, empty. And uncomfortable. And too quiet." I confess what I feel to Him.

"Look up," He says. "I've got you supported, so look up long."

So that's what I do. I look up and think thoughts of abundance. I do, because in His arms I can.


"Hm-m?" He answers content because maybe He just likes to hold me this way.

"I like a full moon and a halo around it." It's an abundance kind of a thought.

He knows what I'm not saying; and answers it, "The full round grows from the empty."

He's not really talking about the phases of the moon. I get it. The new moon isn't lit up, and my little universe of a home isn't as lit up full as it was when four children burned a hole in the electric bill.

"But I desire abundance," I say. "Well, maybe not an abundant electric bill."

"You." God tilts my head and there's adoration in His eyes. "You desire abundance and abundance is holding you."

He speaks with double meaning. He's saying, "I Am abundance. I am holding you. Don't be held by any other abundance."

Ah. He is the God who fills the empty. He filled the void with light, land, sky, rivers, oceans, seas, vegetation all alive; and then with man and woman.

Man and woman. Made in His image. With the same desire for abundance that He and His Son and His Spirit have.

Maybe the desire for abundance doesn't mean there's no place for empty. Maybe desiring abundance doesn't mean there's no desire for empty, because maybe empty and full aren't opposites, but parts of the same thing. Maybe the desire for abundance isn't just about fullness, but is also about what's beautiful and necessary about empty.

"Even You," I amaze with newness, "couldn't have full before there was empty."

"I gave My Son. My Son moved out and I was an empty-nester."

"And," I'm relating to this Father, "You couldn't give just-because hugs to Your Son, because He was embracing His bride."

"Hm-m, and gathering the church into His arms;" He continues. "And His bride will fill My home with so many children that I've been making plans and drawing up blue-prints for a holy city!"

"I've been thinking about down-sizing, myself," I respond. And I am thinking about down-sizing because I'm about to be down three children!

My daughter's going to get married today.

The wedding wasn't big; it was full.

Full of family. Full with grandparents, aunts, uncles cousins, siblings, and a few close friends.

Full of tender love that just spilt down groom cheeks when his bride came into view. Full of laughter that spilt joyous love straight out from bride heart as she repeated her vows and her eyes were misty, too.

"Thank You," I breathe tonight.

"Thank You for this morning." My feet survived the stilettos and I'm bare foot on the patio.

"Thank You," I look up long into the night. I'm grateful He is Father. Parent. He knows what I'm feeling. He knows what it's like to feel full and empty, and empty and full at the same time.

I think abundant thoughts as I look up. I think, Big and Little Dippers must scoop into the heavens and ladle out streams of stars.  I think, Great hunter Orion, must search out the empty spaces black between stars, and tip his arrow with star dust, pull the bow back taut, and ignite the night with star birth and blaze.

I sigh. "I want to dance with You, God, in the halo of Your full light."

I do.

My daughter got married today.

I watched her dance in the circle of her husband's arms and delighted at the kisses they shared.

They danced in the halo of love for one another.

"Let's dance, then;' God invites me.

"Right here? On the patio?" I feel like bride.

"Hm-m," He laughs soft. "You. Come. Feel My fullness in My arms."

I do.

And I guess this is why I painted my toe nails gold sparkle last night. It wasn't for the wedding, but for this moment.

And, did I mention, my daughter got married today?

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Morning Devotion-Get A Microscope,'cause He Is Magnificent!

"I will praise the name of God with a song, I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves" (Psalm 69:30-31).

May I meditate on the name of God, the name that calls Him who He is.

He is magnificent!

Heaven is in His name!

And yet, somehow, a song praising His name, and a word of thanks to Him, magnifies Him further. Is it because songs of praise and words of thanksgiving begin as meditation on His magnificence?

May I meditate on who God is with the curiosity and wonder of a child with a microscope and may I exclaim as child, "Wow! Cool! Look at this!" and then shove the microscope to anyone interested to share what I see with that child-like desire to say, "Look what I found!" and then, "Ok, your turn's over! Let me see it again! Go get your own microscope"? I may, and I am.

Me thinks this is music to His ears.

May I dissect His name? Just open up His name to see what's there? It's as easy as opening my Bible and reading what's there. Taking what's there at face value because I value face-to-face with God. I may, and I am.

And when I do, may I exclaim aloud, "Look at what I'm seeing! I never knew this is what  the cells of His character look like!" And "Look! Look at the nuclei of His love! His love is so big!" I may, and I am.

Me thinks this is music to His ears more pleasing than the holy hoopla of horns and trumpets, and hooves and sandaled feet gathered for the sacrificial slaughter of ox or bull in bloody dissection.

Call it dissection, or meditation. Meditation is a cleaner word. Both magnify. Either way, may I open up the name of God on the laboratory table in my heart. Could that be called an altar? I may, I am, and yeah, it's altar.

Praise God for the blood of Jesus Christ, the one true sacrifice.

Praise God that the only dissection pleasing to Him is-

To dissect His name,
And then to exclaim
The child-like "Wow!"
"Look what I've found!"

To magnify parts
Of God in my heart;
To open the Way
To further His praise.

And may I praise further?

What if I dissected God's heart, not my problems?

What if I saw up-close what's pressed between the spiritual viewing slides, what's pressed between His Spirit and mine, what's beneath spiritual microscope; not what presses me between a rock and a hard place because my problems are too, too up-close?

Well, I'd surely see the nuclei of His love, His joy, His peace, His presence. Magnified. Up-close and face to face; Spirit to spirit. And if my spirit has cells, then yeah, cell to cell.

And surely I'd sing as the song goes-

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace."

I'd just personalize it.

It's music to His ears.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Morning Devotion-Eyes Like That!

Nearly every morning, if I look for it, I can see the slanting sun catch on sticky strand of spider web; and my thoughts dance happy on this grace, " The light of the Son shows the way to Heaven!"

See His light, and see the way.

May I cling to it, not by my strength, but by the grace that makes me to stick to it.

May I look for the light of the Son every morning until I see the strand to walk on with soul feet that cling all holy stick to it.

The way is impossibly narrow. No way can I see it, or walk it, or stick to it with spider-like feet all tenatious and sure as truth is true that every hunger and thirst will be provided on the narrow; except that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

                                                                                       Spider Web

I've never seen a spider fall off the web. It is created to walk a narrow that, many times, only it can see.

But, wonder of light! And wonder of being made a new woman, created with sticky soul feet and holy hope that everything I need for life today will be provided on the narrow; and created also with holy fear of falling off the narrow because to fall off means to die. And that can mean only one thing; that what was thought to be salvation from death and grace for life has been nothing other than tenatious pride that believes, as pride does, my strength is sufficient.

Thing is, pride comes before the fall.

May I be humble creation,with eight very sticky soul feet, and with eight eyes that, as spider eyes, can only detect light and dark.

I want eyes like that!

written by Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Socks Be Darned! Souls Be Saved! And Laundry Room Miracles

I learned to sew on the old Singer sewing machine. The 1800's kind that looks like a piece of furniture and has a band wheel, a belt guide, a belt shifter and, uh-huh, a treadle.

My mother taught me; and over two decades ago she and I sewed my bridesmaids' dresses on that machine. I think she ended up doing most of the sewing. She was more skilled. Practiced. My mother sewed. Bell-bottom pants, costumes, curtains, and one year, the winter jackets my sister and I wore. They were hardy for Alaska, and girly for her girls.

She still sews. I have two sets of her quilted place mats, a watercolor stitch quilt I display from a decorative rod, and a large quilt she tagged "celebration quilt" that, when not folded at the foot of the bed, beckons from the rocking chair.

Sewing isn't really my thing. Patterns are too logical for the likes of me, and geometry wasn't my best subject. The maid-of-honor to her sister, the bride, knows such trivia about me, the mother of the bride. She hands me wedding decoration instructions scribbled in green pen ink on index card: "Burgundy Runner-10 Runners-8 ft. x 8 in. *needs to be hemmed, so cut a little extra for hemming room." A detailed visual with length, width, and hem allowance is drawn below the written instructions and I feel like I'm back in Geometry 101.

I gather measuring tape, sewing pins, and scissors. I drape the tape around my neck and hold the pins between my lips. I'm dressed for success. Now, I wonder, where is my sewing machine? I check the closet. I'ts not there. Is it upstairs? No. I check the laundry room and find it under a stack of folded clothes. Yeah, it's been awhile since I've noticed this machine. I practically live in the laundry room and I guess the machine's been there so long in plain view that I don't see it anymore.

It's dusty. I blow on it and the dust has been there so long it's nearly part of the machine.

I still think of this machine as new fangled. It's electric! It has levers and settings for zig-zag stitches, blind stitches, criss-cross stitches, and a button-hole setting. The last time I used this machine I left it out on the big table as if to say, "Look at my fancy sewing machine! I know how to use it!" My daughter-in-law saw it and, "Wow! Is this an antique? It's so solid!"

An antique? My sewing machine that my husband bought for me when I was a twenty-something young wife who was going to be the homemaker of homemakers and sew curtains, and mend shirts, and sew baby clothes, and extend my hand to the distaff, hold the spindle, reach out to the needy, and my household would be clothed in scarlet and I in fine linen and purple tapestry. I was going to be the Proverbs 31 homemaker with this modern machine. Well, daughter-in-law told me that today's machines would never last half the years that this old-timer has.

Treadle Sewing Machine
I drag a folding chair from the closet and sit down at sewing machine in the laundry room. The fabric is burgundy flutter and lightest-weight sparkle. I don't need to heft the electric antique to the table that seats twelve to have room enough to sew this fabric. Even eight feet of it.

The antique and I, older than the antique, hem yards of wedding table runners in this laundry room measuring about as wide as an ironing board is long, and as long as a washer and dryer are wide.

Washing machine sloshes and shakes. Sewing machine whines. Bobbin fills with thread. I snip it and attempt to thread the needle. Surely, I think all hopeful, the eye of the needle has gotten narrower; or maybe the thread is thicker and frayed at the end. I snip the thread, again, and dampen it between my lips. I successfully thread the needle. Another laundry room miracle. and I look up that bit about fitting through the eye of a needle.

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God'" (Matthew 19:23-24).

God speaks about miracles in my laundry room. And miracles happen in my laundry room.

Here is where dirt bedded in fabric is stirred awake and swished away without a trace.

Here is where clothing hangs damp because it's too feminine fragile for dryer tumble.

Here is where socks disappear and their mates wait in the single-sock box on the shelf till the wanderers return a little rumpled dusty. They are prodigal. I look for them every time I fold socks and sort through the single-sock box. Sometimes a prodigal returns to the laundry room, and sometimes folding socks gives me hope for a few prodigals I know.

They are sock-wearers.

Their socks have their feet in them; and if prodigal socks with no feet in them wander off and return, the surely socks with prodigal feet in them may return, too.

It's the hope I have for them.

I roll faith into sock balls.

Washing machine gasps and halts. Dryer is loaded and hums warmly. I hang delicates and hum, too, as I begin hemming. Sewing machine joins the hum and my foot taps out a rhythm at the sewing pedal all hem and hum, stop and re-pin, hem and hum, happy straight stitches, narrow hem, eight feet down, a short eight inch jaunt to the left, eight feet back, a jaunt to the right, and snip!

Maybe it's the snip, and the damp delicates hanging till dry, the straight stitches, and the narrow hem that stitch and hem long-running thoughts that hang delicate, too.

Folded Socks

How, I wonder aloud, to stitch up the edgy? The ragged fray? The unraveling? I'm thinking about a few prodigals. 

Can I just stitch them to the straight and narrow? I wish I could. I'd pin them down, lower the guiding foot, and show them the way stitch my stitch, eight feet by eight feet times ten 'cause better if their holed socks be darned than their worn souls.

Socks be darned; souls be saved! 

One mother asks, "Pray for my daughter." Another asks, "War for my daughter." I am. I know them. They are the wearers of the socks and of the clothes that tumble rough in the tossing hum; and of the clothes hanging silent on the line, too.

I pin and hem feet of runners so that they will not ravel or fray as they would; and I pray, "Make straight paths for them. Hem them in."

I pray as I lower the guide foot to the fabric, and press the pedal down, "Keep them from unraveling. Change them from the shape they're in, into the shape You created them to be." I stitch an eight foot prayer. "Transform them. Save them." Threaded needle sprints right off the bobbin. "Snip the fray from them, that they may slip through the eye of a needle;" I re-thread the bobbin and slip the freshly snipped thread through the needle eye.

The One who knows as much about cloth as He knows about clay, answers my prayers; "I hemmed the world with water and light before it wore anything."

I know what He means by that, because I read it this morning. "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2).

"The earth was water!" I exclaimed at bedside as the sun peered into the window. "It had to be!" I continued, "because water is without form!"

I'd never thought about this before. I guess it's obvious, but it was revelation to me as the sun stretched out and morning yawned across the bed I knelt at.

"Then God said, 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters'" (Genesis 1:6); and what, exactly, is firmament? I looked it up and found the beautiful.

Firmament means, "the vault of the sky."

The vault of the sky. It's marvelous poetry. "Your Spirit hovered over the face of the waters before there was a vault of the sky;" I marvel again.

I'm in large awe on this folding chair in my little laundry room.

Something about cloth edges all thready frayed, and straight stitches, and narrow hems; the socks and the clothes, the drying and the prayers for prodigals beneath the vault of the sky which is hemmed by formless water above and below it. Something spiritual here.

"Spirit of God," the electric sewing machine pauses, "bring the prodigals home. Save them."

"Do you know how all these clothes dry?" His answers puzzle me sometimes.

I never really thought about how they dry. They just do. "Uhm," my brilliant beginning, "by heat and dripping and, uh, hanging?"

"I divide waters," He prompts.

He's making me curious. I've said it before, and it's still true; God meets me in my laundry room. He chose the meeting place when rolling my husband's socks was thrilling and when I learned how to starch a shirt.

 I google, "How do clothes dry?"

Clothes on Clothesline

Evaporation. "When a wet object dries," says google, "it is because the liquid water that is on the object evaporates to water vapor;" and again, "Drying consists of individual water molecules breaking free of their bonds to each other and to the object, and the flying out into the air"

I want that for my mostly water self-flesh. "Evaporate me! Break the bonds on my flesh that keep my spirit from  flying!" And why not pray so? Well, honestly,  I can think of a reason not to. I might as well ask God to toss me in the dryer, or hang me out to dry, because that's how water evaporates away from cloth.

I pray, "Evaporate me" because I want to fit through the eye of a needle and that's not going to happen if my flesh is full and bound to itself and to this world that offers wells for every thirst the flesh can have.

I used to be bound to myself, and to suitcases of sin, freight boxes of fear, cardboard boxes of cares, and packs of pride that I hauled with me from well to well because living like that is thirsty work. But one day Jesus met me at a well and He didn't draw water up for me. Instead, He began telling me about a new way to live. He told me to walk away from sin, fear, cares, and pride.

I did. And I am. And guess what? I don't get as thirsty for the waters this world offers when I'm not bound to it as water to waters.

Flesh enlarged by natural water from worldly wells will not fit through the eye of a needle, I think to myself over the humming laundry room. I snip another thread.

Thing is, the Day is coming when I'm going to want nothing more than to fit through the eye of a needle. I'm going to want to be evaporated, in a spiritually molecular way, and unbound. So I'll tumble dry, hang dry, and become unbound in the process.

Evaporate, and be transformed. Transfer my form, is how I hear transformed. 

I pray that, too; "Transfer my form to fit through the eye of a needle. Hem me as straight runner for the narrow way. Stitch me to the way."

Maybe when I stand at His door I'll be bone dry.

Maybe I'll be little threaded with holes in my socks.

Maybe I'll be needing some freshening up. Yeah, I will.

And Heaven's the best place I know for that.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Children's Book! Coming Soon...

So, I've been playing. Been writing a catchy, rhymey children's book. And illustrating it with my watercolor paintings so happily that I catch myself smiling while painting something like a mouse and a firefly nose-to-nose, or a caterpillar snoring in her cocoon.

I'm calling the book I Can See God's Love for Me!

Children's Book
I'll let y'all know when it becomes available!
Hoping to be published in a few weeks!
And THANK YOU, MY BEAUTIFUL READERS!  I don't know who most of you are, but I look
forward to meeting each of you in Heaven, if not sooner!
Look up and smile at the One who's smiling at you!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

When You're Swallowed Whole and Life Gets Kinda Organic

Organic lemonade. Powdered greens in a canister boasting "25 Billion Probiotics." The list of ingredients is three columns long from brim to base in small print and I can nearly see the canister flex with health as I pump my arm back and forth because I can't read the label. I wonder if this powder will strengthen my eyes that just don't flex well anymore. Me thinks not.

I scoop 25 billion probiotics into a glass of anything flavorful enough to disguise the taste of green powder concentrate and, "Where are my reading glasses, anyway?" I'm too indifferent to search for them and, Really? How can I drink 25 billion probiotics and be near and far-sighted?

Oh, I also talk to myself. All the time. It helps me think when I listen to what I have to say.

"I can't figure out," I say, "if I should wear glasses or contact lenses for distance, because if I wear contact lenses then I really need reading glasses and enough vim to search for them every time I have something to read. And that's like, all the time."

Well. I'm trying to read this ingredient label written for people who must take 25 billion pro-eyeotics, and this seventeen year old sun-bleached, sun-tanned daughter who's registered with the Red Cross, has about five medical certifications, and guards lives at the outdoor pool saunters into the kitchen where I'm deliberating with myself and a canister of probiotics. "But if I wear glasses," I shift my attention to the one who makes life-saving decisions in split seconds, "then I can still see! Sort of."

She quirks her head at me.

"If the letters aren't too small." I finish in a small voice.

She laughs and knows better than to suggest bi-focals. Not happening. Not yet.

I grab my car keys. "I'll be back soon! I'm going to Walmart to, uh, pick up the pair of glasses I ordered. They're ready."

I hold my head up high and walk to the door with more dignity than someone who talks to a canister of probiotics.

Green bell peppers. They're organic. I planted them in a fire pit that finally rusted through and can't hold fire but can be lined with garden tarp to hold soil and greens. Thing is, a worm has stripped them. I thought I caught it, but there must be more of them because on my way to the driveway I noticed shreds and shreds of bell pepper stalks, leaves, and peppers littering the soil. Three bell peppers are half eaten, the leaves are chewed ragged, and the worms insult gravely by what they leave behind right smack on the leaves where they bowl. Tiny dark pies of everything organic. They know what they're doing.

Worm Stripped

I'm certain I've heard God, the Holy Author of the Book for holy living on this organic orb say things like, "E-hem, dear? You're walking in hope, again."

I hear Him now, and for the ump-teenth time I open my instruction Book for holy living to Hebrews 11:1 because I need to be reminded what faith is, and what hope is, and how they go together to order my steps.

"Now faith is," I read again, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

I'm getting it, slowly. Getting it down to my toes where the walking happens. "Since faith is substance and evidence, and hope isn't, then it's obvious that I must walk by faith."

"Obviously," He agrees.

"So why, Lord," I ask a tad confounded because I'm logistically challenged, "do I keep getting it backward?"

"Because," He's going to give it to me straight, "the reality of My hope, not yours, is the base for faith."

I read the footnote to His definition of faith and learn that it is living, making decisions, basing what I do on who He is.

"Ah!" I'm getting it. "You are my hope!"

He tells me to walk by faith. I try. It's hard remember the steps because I'm prone to elevate my way over His way, and my wishes over Him. It sounds ridiculous to say it. But there it is. It's the confusion that happens when I get faith and hope confused.

When I plant green peppers, I expect green peppers on my cutting board. Smug worms invisible to eyes the likes of mine are not part of my plan.

They fit nowhere in what I hope for.

Yet, they are there just gnawing at my hopes and, may I just say there are worms that gnaw life ragged sometimes.

They chew through savings accounts.

They crunch up cars till the wheels fall off.

They munch on houses till there are too many repairs.

And they gnaw at the reasons I have to believe for the things that I hope for till faith sort of gets a little ragged.

But I recall a worm, and a plant, and a prophet who was too angry to see straight. I get it. God asked him to do what he'd rather die than do.

He refused.

He invited sailors to throw him overboard into the churning sea and maybe he kind of hoped he'd escape doing what God was flat out going to have him do, by drowning instead. But no.

He was swallowed by a whale. A dubious rescue that surely did nothing to change his mind about preferring death. Maybe he sort of hoped he'd die by digestion. But no.

He became whale vomit. And I wonder if he didn't clean up after that because maybe no one in Nineveh would listen to a man who looked insane and smelled of whale vomit. But no.

They listened.

God had His way.

The Ninevites Jonah despised had the audacity to repent.

"Lorrrrd!" I can hear Jonah bellow his stress, "This is why I ran away to Tarshish!" I picture dramatic hand gestures. "I knew that You are a merciful God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love," he must have spit the words out.

It's a strange way to magnify God, but maybe it shouldn't seem as foreign as it does. It's actually kind of humorous, I think. I wonder if God wanted to laugh at the absurdity? Except, He doesn't laugh when His children are loosing it and can't hear what they're saying because all they can hear is what they're feeling.

Tomatoe Worm

How does this strange magnification of God work?

It works only after years of filling the belly of my soul with everything God reveals to me of Himself.

Forget organics, and billions of probiotics for digestive health, and garden greens. The really good stuff is the likes of what came out of Jonah's mouth after he was wrapped in the kind of seaweed that's conveniently dried and packaged in a canister of probiotics, was marinated three days in digestive juices, and a worm shredded the leaves off the only comfort he'd had in a long time.

What if, rather than venting, "Where are You, God? Do You see? Do You care? And did I miss something? Are You trying to teach me something here?" frustrations, because life is screaming and time is flying off the handle and really big things are swallowing me whole and worms are stripping off what I depend on for comfort and, honestly, what's the point in wondering if God is trying to teach me something? He's God. There's always something I can learn from Him. Maybe I should wonder, rather, that I'm not more teachable.

Well, what if the huffy vent was "Ach, Lord! You are so frustratingly calm. So irritatingly at peace! You are the beginning and the end while I'm stuck somewhere in the belly of something big and scary but You, dag-nabbit, You are bigger!" That's the really good stuff.

I'm a mom; and sometimes we mom's just listen to our little "Jonahs." Then we say something really frustrating like, "Is it right for you to behave like this?"

Well, I blame it on God. He asked the question of His precious little Jonah first. And Jonah stomped off to sit and watch what would happen. Yeah, he was mad; but also curious.

What mom hasn't seen this before? A child fills with self righteousness because the enemy, the pest in pajamas on the other side of the room, is shown mercy after super bad behavior. There's a stomping out, a huffing and puffing, but chances are there's a peeking through the door hing just to see what happens now.

Jonah sat just east of Nineveh to see what would happen.

God comforted him. He arranged for a fast growing plant with large leaves to shade him. And Jonah was grateful. Until God arranged for the worm.

The worm ate the stalk for breakfast. Just mowed the plant down by dawn and the sun burned hornet hot, the wind scorched like a blowtorch and, yeah, Jonah was blurry mad. Couldn't see straight. "Just kill me now, Lord!"

"Is it right," God said, "for you to be angry because the plant died?"

"Yes!" Jonah retorted. "Angry enough to die!"

I wonder if the worm was still there chomping happily? I wonder if Jonah swept up a fistful of organic green shreds and held them out at arms length, "Just look at this, Lord!" And then if the Lord held His hand out at arms length toward Nineveh and said, "Just look at that, Jonah."

Thing is, seems Jonah knew God so well that even in his anger he couldn't help confess who God is. Maybe that's because it's true, "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Lk. 6:45).

May I know Him like that. If I'm going to be angry with God, or blame Him for whatever's happened or hasn't, may I know Him so well that I accuse Him correctly. May I accuse Him of nothing less than who He is?

I may, only if my heart is His, not mine. Only if my desires are blurry because my heart is a 20/20 focus trained on Him.

So Jonah didn't want what God wanted; and he was spitting mad when God fulfilled His hope for the Ninevites, even though he knew He would. He knew it, because he knew God. Seems to me that Jonah must have been filled with faith in God's character, because the truth of God's character just spewed out of Jonah's mouth and landed all over Him.

Jonah went kicking and screaming to Nineveh, and pouted and stomped about, but when all was said and done he had obtained a testimony by faith because he testified of what he knew was true about God.

I think about the champions of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven. They died in faith. I read this and think, to die faith full, less hopes, isn't hopeless. But to die hope full, less faith, is hopeless; because hope must rely on faith to keep going, and faith must be as faith is and must do as faith does.

I hear myself taking and I need God to help me figure out what I'm saying. "So, what about that?" I ask Him.

"Let's take yellow dog out back," He suggests.

Light on Web
We stand at patio edge and He sees me catch my breath the moment the sun explodes open on a single strand of spider silk.

"Did you see that?" He knows I did.

"Oh, yes." My answer is reverent. I remember a desperate morning years ago. "Show me what faith looks like, Lord!" I begged. He showed me. He revealed a single strand of silken faith by a stream of sun light.

I'm waiting for light to catch web again. "There!" Sun sprints the length. "Ha! Now look!" And when the likes of me delights to see a spider, it's a God thing. Yep.

She's not scary ugly, but amber gold because she's walking in the light. Sun light wraps her as a garment. She wears the light. She's transformed by the light. She ascends steady where light just ran ahead of her, as if to show her the way.

"This is what it looks like to base your actions on the reality of who I am," God whispers over my shoulder.

We watch this spider, clothed in the light which illuminates the web, and there's something just so simple and profound about this walk, this web, this light; and what it is to this spider. It's life to her. She's simply entrusting her life to a strand of web silk so fine that it's nearly invisible. But watch a spider walk on light and know that there's a strand of faith under her feet.

"That's how I want to walk." I mean that I want my life-walk to testify just as confidently to God's character as this spider testifies to the strength and presence of the web.

I want to be transformed by light all amber gold.

I want to act on what God has revealed about Himself rather than on what isn't yet seen.

I think about this, and how many times have I confused faith and hope?

How many times have I stepped out in hope rather than in faith?

How many times have I based all kinds of decisions on a mirage that may or may not be true, rather than on the always true evidence of what is?

Well, on this faithless but hopeful orb it's easy for me to get confused.

I find myself doing ridiculous things, like watering green bell pepper plants that are worm stripped, rather than gearing up to go worm hunting. What can I say? I'm an optimistic hopeful; confused wearer of contact lenses, reading glasses, and distance glasses who is learning to walk by faith and seeing, yeah, seeing something that would be invisible except for the light which runs and dances and plays all over it.

I'm adjusting my eyes to see the character of God dance as the light of sun on this narrow strand I'm sticking to.

Sometimes it's as messy as Jonah was. He did some ridiculous things, too. But for all the mess, may my worst complaint be that God is a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love! Jonah got some stuff backwards, but not this.

Seems to me, Jonah the prophet really got it. I think he got the point, once he settled down and let God have the last word.

I wonder, did he excuse himself after God put things in perspective? "Uh, I'll be back soon. I'm going to the corner Walmart here on the east side of Nineveh to pick up the glasses You ordered for my soul."

May I become so filled with the reality of God's character,

that no matter what else,

even if a whale swallows me whole and spits me out,

and life gets pretty organic,

may I be heard saying something like,

"Dag-nabbit! You are just so good!"

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig