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Friday, December 23, 2016

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
(reprint from 2015)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fire Glory All Around

Crazy heights. 
Nutty hunger. 
Leaves spin and twirl, pecan nuts plummet, squirrels race and the shadows on the fence do too. I watch as if it's an old black and white animated film. 
A leaf strokes the pool water, and swims. The water ripples slightly, and I choose to watch it ripple across the rough surface of the fence in shadow form. If shadows made noise, this would sound like a stringed instrument. Water shadows ripple over fence boards as strings might vibrate over the sound board of the guitar my daughter plays.
Harmonious shadows play rippling strings as if plucked for song.
And why not? All is spinning, twirling, leaping, chattering, feasting, praising
Morning sun projects the activity onto the fence where it's played out in shadows. 
I had hoped for this in August heat. And now it's here, autumn song. It's here, clear and colorful. It fits both praise and fire.
Color explodes. 
Trees flame bright as fire yellow, orange, and red. 
Leaves fly off like sparks.
Pecans hit the ground, pop-pop-popping in autumn flame. I see it in the fire that tries it.

And what about soul fire? 
I felt it earlier on the staircase when morning sun shot flames through the upstairs window and ran down the stairs and skidded gold across the wood floor. Sparks splayed there, and I stood in them bravely. I felt them glance off the glass of framed photos on the wall.
The photos are wedding day photos. 
My oldest son stands tall and suited and with a smile unlike any other I’ve ever seen him wear. 
There’s a photo of his bride, too, in the bridal dressing room just before the ceremony.
There's also a photo of his brother and himself. The two grin into the camera, arms slung over each others’ shoulders. 
I look into their faces. 
One is smiling like a young man, moments from becoming a married man; the other is smiling like a young man, waiting to propose to his girl. 
She’s in a photo on this wall, too. The image captures delight in her eyes because she caught the bridal bouquet tightly in her hands. When she caught the bouquet, maybe she got to feel what it's like to catch faith. To catch, and hold tight, to her own marriage hopes as she grins at my son. I know there's a ring; but she doesn't. 
I squint against the sparkling glass frames. Today I do feel singe. I won’t say I don’t. God knows the depths of my heart right now and hears my thoughts-
 When a groom buys a wedding ring for his bride, she rejoices in the hope of seeing it when he slips it on her finger. She anticipates the ring, the wedding, the marriage, the new life. Her hope is active and rejoicing as she prepares for the glory of new life. When trials come as she waits in hope, she glories in them and rejoices proudly because he has poured out into her heart his love for her. She rejoices proudly because he is her hope.
“Thank You, Lord. Yes. Amen.” I know Him well enough to recognize in my thoughts things He Himself has said. 
His words are ointment, and here in autumn flame and staircase sparks, my “If this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few” moan is gone. St. Theresa of Avila said it. Saints do moan sometimes. But today I do not. 
Today I think, You must love me a lot to keep me in the flame so long
I recognize God in the thought, but I don’t recognize myself in it. It's because He's changing the way I think. 
I’m being changed somehow in this fire. 
Silversmith over autumn fire means to see His image in me.
I hope for it. I burn for it. I endure for it.
It’s hope, plain and simple and splotchy, too, except for the shadow strings strumming harmoniously across the wood fence. 
And across my soul’s walls.
There are so many hope shadows moving across my soul’s walls. “Show me faith, and, Jesus, help me get this straight!”
He does. “Look around you.”
I do. I approach the fence slats and touch the shadows there; and they break over the uneven surface of my knuckles. I lean my back against the fence and shadows play across my front. Face the right way and see hints of hope. 
I watch a squirrel stuff its cheeks with pecan and pumpkin seeds and feast on autumn as sun's watery rays cast long shadows toward the season coming. A season of sharing food, warmth, den and isn't that something to look forward to? I find myself hoping for this on the scale of heaven. 

Do I now nourish my soul with what I will feast on in heaven? 
The things I do, desire, think about, talk about, have an appetite for-do they take on a different form while retaining the same Spirit when the Light of the World shines on them? 
Are they more than illuminated when the Light shines on them? 
Does the Light add another dimension to these things? 
Are they cross-sectioned by the Light? 
Light does this. It cross-sections, and the cross-section of a shadow casts the object into another dimension. 
Seems to me a two-dimensional silhouette on this side of eternity hints at a shadow of things to come on the other side where the only light will be God Himself. 
Maybe it's as impossible to lean on hope as it is to lean on a shadow-yet lean on the evidence which is and watch how the Light of the World adumbrates what is to come while shining on what is.
Crazy heights, nutty hunger, autumn glory-I praise the Light Himself, here
Faith is my entrance. 

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(adapted from my book, PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Glimmer of Faith

A comment made, a question asked, a tone interpreted, a misunderstanding or maybe not, I'm reminded of a past offense, and I feel the sting of tears and the bite of fear. “God, I thought I buried this all a long time ago,” I say as I wave my garden spade at Him.
I stand outside weeding among dry stalks fading in fall yellow. 
A web is tangled in the stalks. I look at it clinging to what is dead and should be buried, but isn’t., and I feel how it looks-tangled tenacity, a wild weave. 
I'm hanging tightly to life familiar; or maybe I'm caught in it. Sometimes life is sticky like that. 
I understand the suffering in the web. I don’t know why troubles stick so hard; contention without, fears within, and crippling memories still cripple.

What is this web? 
It clings to rambunctious disorder. 
It clings to weedy, stalky life just twisted around itself in the wild and I feel the offense.
The web, it catches what stings and I'd like to sever it with my spade, wad it up, and bury it deep with the same spade that I waved at God. I would, except right at this moment I can't
I can't, because how can I when sunshine catches the web in a cling of light? I see it happen. the strand the color of air. I see sunlight run up and down a thread of web the color of air like the spider that wove it. Sunlight spins on the web like that and I watch till I see what I didn’t know I was looking for. 
Faith. That's what I'm looking for; and I know it when I see it.
The web, it catches the sunlight, too. And I hear God say something like, “This is what faith looks like."

I drop my spade to the ground. 
I don’t want the weapon anymore, and I don’t want to bury anything. 
I want to see more faith, to capture that run of glinting light, to wrap the faith web around that light and drink it in—to just drink light.
The strands of the web are invisible except where the sun runs a slender finger over the strands and points them out. Faith is like that. It goes unnoticed until God points it out. 
Faith is a webby substance tested by sorrows. I don’t like it, but I know it must be this way. 
I see it this way right in front of me. 
Gold glint of light on gossamer strands shows me that faith is there. 
It's substance.
Light drapes the jasmine vine which grows along my patio wall. The jasmine drapes flower and fragrance over patio brick. 
Light cannot be touched, except by the soul. That's where I feel it real, and I'm certain my soul has fingers. 
Surely the Holy Ghost-Spirit of Light-drapes white fragrance. 
Surely His threads are gold as morning sunshine and may they drape me till I'm wrapped. 
Doesn't the holy tangle with life and death just as surely as web is both lifeline and death row?
“You are lifeline and Redeemer for those on death row,” I say in wonder and truth and marvel. 
I’ve been caught in webs before, just stuck in the sticky and unable to disentangle. Webs are too strong for me, but not too strong for light. Light conquers the web. And more. Light uses web to conduct more light-mercy of mercies!
It's been discovered that spider silk can not only propagate light but can also direct light. 
I'ts been discovered that spider silk can carry light into the body for medical imaging. I have no idea how that works, but when I read it I felt as if I’d just uncovered one of God’s secrets tucked away in His creation.
I could have said, “Conquer the web!” and knocked it down with my spade. But if I did that, I would have messed with the Light which uses what tangles me up to shine into my soul. 
Similar to medical imaging, the Light is the healer too, and web to a healed soul is a lifeline, not death row.

I Google “web.” How strong is it? 
I read that spider silk is five times as strong as steel and that if a single strand of web breaks, the strength of the web actually increases. Also, web stretches 30 percent longer than its spun length without breaking. It vibrates an unheard frequency when an insect flies into it, and the alliterating poet in me thinks-a suffering struggle strums strands, resulting in strange hum in stretch.
I need tangible evidence to help me to believe. To trust. 
Isn’t this what faith means? 
Doesn't it mean death and resurrection evidence of hope for salvation? 
Ark evidence of hope for deliverance? 
Tent evidence of hope for a heavenly country? 
Sacrificial evidence to gain testimony? To endure? 
A lifetime of things hoped for? 
Don’t trials show that faith is there just as surely as God points it out in a hallelujah glimmer? 
May I look for faith everyday! 
It will be found.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(adapted from my book, PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Frame Which Is

Sunlight is wrapped in sunlight. It lays down, tired at summer’s end. I’m standing in it as if framed by sunlight itself.
Maybe it's a mystery, but light frames light just as surely as light frames the One who wraps Himself in it, and as the Son of God is the Light of the world, and as I am wrapped in Him. Light frames light like that and somehow my life becomes a frame through which others see Him.

Light Frame

A gust of wind gathers leaves, and I think it’s odd that they are gathered and not scattered.
It’s a holy moment, somehow.
Leaves roll out a red carpet for autumn’s fame.
God is in this moment. 
His presence frames my heart.
There is a holy language that comes as a breath, and gathers what is naturally prone to scatter within me. His language, it frames the prayers that escape my language. Sometimes words whisper like leaves rustle, and right now that's how I hear it. 
God is present in this leafy moment, and in the words. Something about standing in the presence of the one true Light-framed by Him-redeems time till a moment seems to stand still because God is and I Am is the name of Light.
Stand in the Light and redeem time. 
Is there any other way? Doesn't the Lord say it, something like "Walk as children of light. Have nothing to do with darkness. See then, and redeem the time because the days are dark"? He does say something like this in Ephesians 5:8-16. 
So I'm redeeming time, standing in the light. Walking in it. Saving up moments, to know more God in them. 
More God moments-that's what I want.
I want to see more God in my husband striding through the front door on long legs to kiss me in the kitchen. 
More God in my daughter making me nervous behind the wheel with a driver’s permit in her pocket. 
More God in my daughter becoming a college girl and framing words between laughter over the latest news. 
More God in my son being husband for six months and still sitting so comfortably and familiarly at the kitchen table that I nearly forget he has a place of his own and won’t be staying for dinner.
I want to see light-framed moments.
This is the frame. 
He is the frame. 
There is nothing outside Him that I want. I want only what He frames. Nothing else is worth giving the time of day to, because isn’t He the only frame that can frame time and life and days and eternity? And everything good? 
He is. 
He is eternal and life and good. 
He is good, and I need more moments wrapped in good.
I'm trying to redeem time because God is good, and how else will I know He is good than in the framework of moments wrapped up in Him? And by Him?

Saving up moments, it's a wide-awake on-purpose sort of thing to attempt. I don't know how much time I loose, or moments I miss. Really, I don't want to know. What I do know, and want to know more, is that redeeming time is something only the Redeemer can do.
It's also something I can take an active part in doing. Thing is, when I take part in this mystery-when I do what He tells me to do, like take my run-away thoughts captive and tame my tongue-it begins to happen. I feel it.
I've hammered nails and pulled nails and hammered again till my hand's frozen to the hammer when life's shaken me up too much to aim right but I'm near desperate to nail something down and hope it looks like a frame of reference when I shake like a leaf in a gust of wind because, guess what? The days are evil and that's why it's important to redeem time as God says to. "Redeem time, for the days are evil," He says in Ephesians 5:6.
I practice. 
It's what I call active faith because a living faith is active just like anything living is active. 
My faith is stronger for the practice, and my hope is surer, too; but even better is this-while I'm swinging the hammer, God is showing me that the frame is. 
The frame is. Period.
The frame of God in the flesh of His Son was nailed and hung up on the cross and somehow I'm in Him and His Spirit's in me and together we make a complete picture in this framework. 
His frame is the only frame, the only reference for life and time and redemption of both-and for me. 
The holy frame, framed by sin and nailed by it, fit joy right into Himself when nails pierced into Him. Somehow He saw joy.  
He saw joy! It was set before Him. He didn't look away from it, but endured because of it, while time itself was redeemed and He gave up His Spirit before His body had the time to die.
Somehow joy redeems time.

I’ve heard it said that when we look down, we can’t see anything in the upward peripheral, but when we look up, we see everything in our peripheral. maybe joy is seen like that, in the searching upward look when the world is calling out, “Save yourself, not time! Come down to earth and forget eternity!" And things like, "Remember, you’re mortal. Let that be the framework of your life!" That's because the world doesn’t know this joy which redeems time. I know of it,a little. I want to know more. 
I had an unexpected moment today—well, not unexpected exactly. It was a hoped-for moment: a hummingbird, blue-gray. It’s silly, but I admit asking God for a hummingbird. I did—last week. I did not ask because I have some sort of hummingbird fascination. I don’t. But hummingbirds, they flap winged blur, yet remain still in the middle of air as if seventy wing-beats racing against one second actually save enough time to sip the sweet from the red. 
I asked for a hummingbird, "It would just be nice, God. That's all." The request perched, fragile on delicate feet. I wanted to see it happen-to see what it looks like to drink the sweetness right out of Him, nectar of strength.
He cares, God does. I wanted to see it happen. 
And I did. I saw it, the hummingbird. She flitted not in June sun, but through fifty-five-degree October morning mist. She darted between peach tree leaves turning yellow. I saw her twice again, as I stood at kitchen sink. She hovered and sipped from a single rose on a cane of rebel blossoms that have turned wild. 
She sips from the wild, my eyes smile in holy prayer. 
Sip long the sweet nectar of God.
Light is frame for this. 

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig 
(adapted from my book, PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Glory Like Spilt Milk

Matter heaves beneath the Milky Way, slides a white-hot burn down black sky and skids along the horizon at water’s edge and, just like that, bits of dust and rock flame beautiful and win a grander name for themselves-shooting stars.
It happens fast, the slide and the skid. Silently, too.
I wonder at the silence, “How, Lord? This glory, how is it silent? How is there not sonic boom? How do the humming stars not open their mouths and shout something like, ‘Praise God, all creatures below! See how He makes fallen dust beautiful!’”
I know He’s watching the sky with me. I feel Him beside me, “They don’t because they don’t need to.”
“Because I am?” I remember when He once said that the rocks will shout praises to Him-Peace in heaven and glory in the highest-if His disciples kept quiet.
“M-hmm,” His reply is hum and silence fits awe.
Brilliant trails of debris are made beautiful in the burn. It’s the most awe-full silence without even a gasp.
I watch debris exit from the heavens and leave a trail of glory behind because God is utterly committed to His glory and, something else.
Isn’t He also committed to this grace which consumes in victory all that would otherwise burn out?
And maybe trails of glory in the heavens are as glimpses of the train of His robe, longer than the combined robes of every king ever to rule on earth.
Victory Robe
Doesn’t the length of a king’s robe show how many battles he’s won?
And hasn’t the God of heaven and earth won the war waged by sin and death? Won every battle till even what falls from the battles against powers and principalities in the heavenly places just vaporizes in mid-fall flash?
He has. And that’s a glory my heart’s mapped for.
May my heart be charted by the Word by God, light years high and fathoms deep-while I bob, stern side, on the surface of Lake Texoma feeling as if tucked between the heights and the depths as Moses himself was tucked intot he cleft of a rock where he, too, saw the backside of God’s glory.
“It’s breathtaking, Your glory!” I breathe the words and know that it’s the back side.
Lake water gently slaps the hull of Living Water; and the living Word rises from the wet depths of my heart.
I think back to the beginning, when God thought light before He spoke the word and before darkness knew what would pierce it.
And I think of when love came down from heaven and was seared white hot through with nails to know what sears through me and be able to sympathize.
There is a mighty heave of heart, His and mine. Mine heaves broken trust, deferred hope, and scattered faith—at least, it tries to. Rocky debris is all massed in my heart. But His heaves whole—just all whole.
How do I stop this spin that makes my heart so heavy, this cyclical reminder of why trust, hope, and faith are so scattered in me?
I don’t. I can’t.
I lay back on the seat and light from stars that burned out before I was born leans over me.
     My heart reaches for Heaven itself, just to hold on and never let go of serenity-no matter what burns.
And what does burn? Maybe just whatever doesn’t burn.
Glory. Glory in God’s heart doesn’t burn up or burn out.
Sometimes my heart is heavy with matters-with debris. “If I let go, just let the matters fall, would I see Your victory blaze?” I know I would. And I have.
The Milky Way spills white across the galaxy floor above me. Messy. Marvelous. Wild. Quiet.
Might I remember this-glory is like spilt milk.
God’s glory, it just spills out when He moves till the story of His victories sweeps through my heart and what spills out isn’t for me to cry over, but for God to make beautiful in a blaze of glory.
Milky Way
The sky is draped in a string of silver stars and wears them like a necklace of glory. I recall reading something about silver and glory. I google the key words on my iPhone and find it in Proverbs 25:1, “Take away the dross from silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.”
“Ah.” I amaze, because I just saw dross so fresh from the fire that flame followed it’s decent to horizon. It was a glimpse of true glory. “You don’t scrape the dross and then splat it onto the ground in disgust, do You?” It’s more amazement than question.
“I’ve taken your shame way,” He reminds me.
“But dross is so ugly.” I say it because I’ve seen my own sin; and I’ve been ashamed.
His eyes tell me He knows what that feels like, and I remember the scars He bears. “Let no one who waits on Me be ashamed” He says with conviction.
The starry veil above me flutters soft light through the thin atmosphere. 
Wasn’t there another veil? A woven veil violently halved in the thick atmosphere when Christ took the shame of sin to the cross and died to take away sin and shame? There was.
“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed;” (Psalm 25:1-2). His word is my prayer and sometimes prayer burns like a fire that tears cannot quench when body and soul are tried in the furnace till the dross rises to the top.
 I spill, but that’s okay.
His glory is His, and His victory is mine.
He fingers a necklace that is not dross dull, but radiant as if His glory was somehow a part of the dross and then woven into the necklace. “Wear this as an ornament of grace.” He slips it over my head. The jewelry drapes grace around my neck.
“I am not ashamed.” I look into His holy eyes that reflect the fire that purifies-and touch dross turned to grace.
I no longer wear shame.
The Milky Way disappears in moonlight. There are no more fire skids across the sky, but glory is blazing a trail across my soul tonight.

Serenity hums somewhere at the backside of my soul. 

written and illustrated by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(adapted from my book PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yellow Therapy Dog

Something about the perfectly still leaves above me this evening. It’s a late night for the yellow dog and me. I brought her home from the pound four months ago as a therapy dog, not for me.

Not for me? No. I’m just the one who has trained her to sit, lie, stay, heel, and come. I’ve curbed her retriever enthusiasm enough that she now walks ladylike through the back door after adrenaline-pumping squirrel chases. I also taught her to greet guests at the front door politely with no jumping and romping as if they were a litter of puppies come to visit her.

I'm also the one who greets her in the morning and waits for her beneath limb and leaf, living canopy and fluttering veil.
Together we breathe in morning air fresh and night air charged.
I feel on my skin first light and night light, air breathing sleepy or panting fast in a windy chase.
Pieces of moon are framed tonight by twiggy and leafy fragments.
Yellow dog disappears in shadows on the far side of the fence.
I squint through the darkness to find her, then find the moon in the dark sky.
I’m not sure why, but my heart is responding to something. I want to know, before God and moon, what it is.
What is the empty frame inside me? I hold my breath and talk to God. Is He holding His breath too? He who is so full?

Moonlight fractions above me, quilts the lawn at my feet, and shadows stitch as night threads itself quietly and just pulls moon-glow through leaves which whisper among themselves, toss then turn till they sleep. 
It’s bedtime, but I’m not ready to pull the covers up.
Something inside me is waking up.

Still as all is, the air vibrates as if it is alive.
Katydids sing burry, wings strumming and shaking out a ch-ch-ch-ch rhythm. Frogs thrum a whirring song from bulging throats and then swallow loud before starting again. I close my eyes and let the whole serenade and peace song wash over me.

A pastor once overlaid soundtracks of stars humming, trees clapping, insect song, and whale song. My youngest daughter heard it on YouTube after school. Amazed, I had wanted to listen to it myself. And I am, right now.
All is orchestra praise beneath my tree.

I fill my lungs with air and sound and stillness and vibration.
Pieces of moon fit my heart-a fragmented mural. Frames. Scenes from the past. Thoughts. Memories. Feelings.

Thing is, shadows have been stitched into a quilt fit for my soul to rest beneath. But it doesn't come easy, the rest.
Maybe soul rest has something to do with what I choose to remember. And how I choose to remember.
"I choose to remember trials as what frames light," I barely breathe the choice; but I remember how the Light of the World was framed.

Do my nerve endings remember the searing shocks of adrenaline shooting fire and jitter through my veins? Yeah, but that doesn't mean I can't choose to remember everything I can think of that's good and right, trustworthy, praiseworthy, and honest. The choice is to remember light.
Do my emotions still pound discordant and race erratic pulse in my ears before I can think straight enough to remember what the leaves sound like tonight and hear God whisper like that to me in my dark? They do, yet still I choose to remember what He has whispered, and proved.
Does a dis-eased past infect the present? It wants to, but the thing is that there is balm in Gilead and maybe this balm is nothing but the blood of Jesus shed for every reason having to do with a glory just feisty enough to outshine the shadows that frame it. 
My heart beats cacophonous loud before it remembers melodious whisper. But that's changing.
It's what happens when I remember what to forget and what to remember.
It's what's happening right here behind my house and beneath the moon. I hear it, the long thrumming and rhythmic strumming. Hush, burr, and vibration.
And I will my heart to memorize this song.
“Help me, God,” I whisper low as I stand on paved patio where I hear the song- “Help me to remember what to remember and what to forget.

His answer comes as the question falls up into the night praise—in pieces. “Remember," He says, "to count whenever and whatever trials as frames of joy." He translates for me what He's showing me right here-the way shadows frame light and night sky frames the moon's face. He continues, "Remember, count it all joy where you thought there was none-and give thanks at the remembrance of My holy name. Thanksgiving, as moonlight, reaches long across the counting.

It doesn’t come easy, this remembering-but it comes steady on, right now while moonlight and shadows spread as quilt over backyard grass and I think, If I lay down on the grass, this moon-cast quilt would cover me. I don't, but I don't need to.
I'm already covered.
Yellow dog comes and we go inside, she to her bed and I to mine and I don't know about her, but I'll fall asleep to a whisper till I wake and there will be shadows and light come morning just hanging as a quilt hung out to dry in the sun after laying over dewy grass all night.
I'll watch them flutter in the wind as if clipped to a clothesline. It’s the same quilt: light patches stitched together with shadow.

I've hung my heart out on the line before.
I've clipped it there till pain that's cried like nighttime dew dries. I let it flutter its rhythm there till damp shadows pull back and become nothing more than a stitch in time-a morning of joy, marked- and a reference for light.
Isn’t that what shadows are? Reference to light?
Wasn’t the cross a wooden frame displaying the Light of the World?
Doesn’t the cross shadow-stitch together mourning and dancing? Weeping and joy? Pain and healing? Trials and faith? Past and present? Death and life?
I’m seeing it everywhere now-the pattern. It spreads over all earth from heaven, all time from eternity, all galaxy-spun universe from the quilter’s hand.
The quilt flutters and billows over me-kind. It's kind, and is kind soul therapy for me.
The moon is kind light in darkness. 
 My heart hanging out to dry, sun-cast shadows, quilts, frames. Kind.
I pray the word, “Kind.” Repentant-like.
I climb beneath a quilt beside my husband.
My heart is full of kindness toward him. And repentance.
And as I fall asleep, my heart finds a frame for these things.
I choose tonight to remember the song and discover that somehow kind is shadow-stitched to joy. It comes in the morning, joy does, after light has found reference as moon light has pressed out the frame called dark night and found reference. It's therapeutic, kind. And joy, too.
It can’t be helped. Joy is the canvas and music of God’s kind heart.
I reach long across His therapeutic heart.
All of God’s heart is framed in the cross.
Light was nailed down, and the cross was shadow.
Long quilting stitches run through the past, needling and pricking through to the present.
Stitching needle. Piercing nail. Quilt. Frame. I reach for His heart. I want to cover myself in His heart as I would cover myself with a quilt given to me.
I settle here remembering to give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
I might forget tomorrow. I probably will.
But the quilt is always outside my window and beneath my tree.
And the cross has never stopped framing the Light.
And, yes, the yellow therapy dog is for me after all.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig
(adapted from my book PISTEUO! Connecting with God's Heart)