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Monday, February 29, 2016

Connecting with God's Heart-A Backyard Devotion

I bought them in the garden section of the hardware store, the cement blocks. They're aged now; settled old and sunken into the earth where I laid them years ago.

Here on these blocks, I've aged, too. I've settled myself on these blocks and lain my heart flat-open vulnerable, as living sacrifice bleeding and still beating beneath the sharper-than-a-double-edged-sword living word of God.

I offer my heart on this altar where I lay it down. He's written His word on my heart, but not as ink on paper. No. He's written His word on my heart as He carved His commandments into stone tablets. Maybe that's why my heart beat and bleeds, "Keep Your word fresh in my heart, as if You carved it there this very morning." I don't want scar tissue hardening my heart where His word has been carved, so I offer my heart to Him everyday.

"I offer my heart as a living sacrifice;" I say on the blocks to the One who wields the double-edged sword with  holy skill and most profound lovingkindness.

It may seem insane to lay my heart open like this each morning, but it's not. It's reasonable. Insanity is to let the softest tissue of my heart-my soul-become hard and scarred.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, 
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, 
holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:1

The sky is gray this morning. I watch a hawk glide through the gray, and not once does she slap the air with her wings as if to demand more speed, height, power. 

I remember a quote from I don't know who-"In acceptance lieth peace."

Minutes pass and this hawk holds her wings out, steady, and leans into the currents of the wind. She circles and veers to the left, then to the right. She circles up higher and then spirals down; and never flaps.

Her silhouette serfs behind pecan branches and limbs, and momentarily disappears behind massive trunks.

I watch her till she disappears behind the roof top of a neighboring home.

"This, Lord, all of this!" I am at a loss for words. "It's holy!"

That's the only word that fits-holy.


Holy presses into me, as the weight of this type of altar on which I present myself presses into the earth. I present myself as a living sacrifice to the holy One, right here.


The sun parts the curtain of clouds and washes my feet in warm light. The sun warms the ground, fragrant.

A breeze rakes through the light, and lifts the fragrance as incense.

I feel as one who has entered into the holy of holies behind the curtain and wonder if this is how the Levite priests felt when they entered the inner room where the altar stood, and incense rose; fragrant worship.  Surely this is how they must have felt.

"Is this what it looks like, the holy process? I'm trying to ask God about the way of entry into a settled worship.

"Is it as rock solid as these cement blocks?" May my worship be solid; immovable. May the shape of my soul and the the words of my heart press into the heart and being of God as I worship wide open.

"Is it as effortless and non-demanding as the hawk which slapped her wings not once?" May my worship be this accepting; this trusting.

Trust. There's that word again.

This morning, I watched a hawk silently paint what trust looks like. Her feathers brushed damp on damp across grey light.

Trust is like that.

It's colors are calm and Payne's Grey simple, awash with God's mercies born new and damp every morning.

It's power is in quietness and confidence, and in the lean and surrender to ever shifting currents which can only be felt and heard, but not seen.

An Altar

"In quietness and confidence shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:15). God draws His word across my heart. I remain on the blocks in backyard worship.

Anxiety mounts when I lean on my own understanding.

"Don't take off on a swift horse when your heart stampedes wild." He knows how this works with me. He knows the the entire company of me will flee at the threat of one anxious thought till I find myself as a pole frantically waving, and as one breathing hard at the top of some crazy mountain I don't know how to get down from.

"Yeah, I know." I do know. "I don't want to be as Isaiah 30:16 people, Lord."

They said no to the quiet, confident source for strength. They mounted swift horses and I don't imagine they took the time to saddle up. No. I think they must have ridden bareback panic. That's what it looks like to get carried away on my own strength. It's a far cry from the hawk I watched this morning.

The hawk was silent. She didn't screech, as hawks often do. She just leaned into the wind and moved to some whisper behind her, saying, "Lean to the right; now lean to the left."

I watched her soar as I hope to trust.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

"May there be an imprintmy heart here when issues heavier than cement have pressed me

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I Keep Running Into Me

I want to be aware of the path Jesus has worn to the front door of my soul, the place where my thoughts and emotions hang out. I'd like Him to feel at home in my soul-just put your feet up on the coffee table kind of at home, and don't worry if there are holes in your socks.
This is how He makes me feel at home. He's seen a lot worse than holes in my socks. He's seen holes in my life. He's pulled me out of holes as deep as wells that I've dug and then fallen into.
"Look up," He says.
"Which way is that?" Is there such a thing as spiritual vertigo?
I practice awareness of God's presence. I keep my eyes open for Him. I don't always see Him, but I do practice; and I'm finding that I see Him more often when I get out of the line of my own sight.
Funny thing, that. It may seem, by some, odd to walk by faith. What's odd, to me, isn't that I walk by faith because of hope, but that I'm prone to walk toward hope with no more than a smaller-than-a-mustard-seed faith. I've walked like this, and when I have, I've run into myself.
I want to run into God, not me.
May I walk with my eyes on God, and receive more than a smidgen of the faith He offers me with wide open hands.

There's this stereotype about women the likes of me. It's been circulating for I don't know how long, but I dare say it's true for me. I'm a confusing creature. God's ways are above my ways, but they're not confusing; at least, not to Him. 

Bump into Him while trekking toward hope, and get a sound set of directions, like, "Look up," or "Go straight without turning to the left or the right," and "Keep your eyes on the prize."

I'm not the prize. So why do I follow my own directions to reach where I think God would have me go? That's as confusing as two different sets of directions given by two separate masters. 

"Ah!" I remember what He says about serving two masters. It can't be done. Oh, I try to make it work. Most people do. It's just in us to want to be the "masters of our destinies" as the saying goes, yet it's also in Christ followers to want His directions, too. 

I'm a slow learner. I still want two sets of directions, and what I really want is for God to consider my set of directions and say, "Hey! That's exactly what I was going to say! Turn right at the chalk rock formation, then turn right at the limestone hill, right again at the sand dune, and another right at the Red-Sapped Dragon's Blood Tree!" Not.

Maybe I forget that I don't value the getting there as much as God seems to. I'm like the kid in the back seat asking, "Are we there yet?" every five minutes. 

Maybe the Israelites did that for forty years. Maybe they started out asking how much longer every five minutes for the first decade, then stretched the question out as years went by till they got there and then changed their question to something like, "Whoa there! How are we going to take the land You're giving us?"

Put that way, I scratch my head a little bewildered because I hear the absurdity of the question, yet I've asked the same thing myself.

"What's that about, Lord?" I think I already know. "Did they walk for forty years getting to the Jordan the long way 'round, just to run into themselves on the bank?"

He's silent. He lets me think.

I know what happened to that generation, and I don't want it to happen to me. I'd like to know which way is up. I'd like to walk toward a hope with my eyes on the One gives me faith.

The Quilt
Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

I've written another book. As usual, I didn't start out to write one. It just happened. I've called it The Quilt. It'll be at Amazon soon, and I'll have it on my website, too. As for me? I'm standing on a river bank hanging out with God. He's led me here, and He's giving me directions. I confess, I've been confused here. I have. Yet, the longer I hang here, the more I get out of the line of my own vision. I'm seeing what He's got in His line of sight. 

I've been forcefully set aside before. It's no fun. But some of my clearest moments have come from those times. I've seen that I'm not the prize! I've learned, the way of confinement, that I'm not the one my household revolves around! I marveled how the laundry got done when I was set aside. It seemed like a bona-fide miracle! 

Same thing when the meals were made, and the dishes were washed, and there was peace in the home surpassed the peace I organized when I gave the marching orders. 

Thing is, I was ordered to bed for a couple weeks. When I emerged one evening with the strength to lay on the couch, my children, so young at the time, where peacefully playing a board game. The washing machine hummed happily, and my husband was under no illusion that this peace was because of his outstanding homemaking skills. He knew why. He knew it was God's peace, achieved His way under His direction.

So, I keep this front of mind, now, waiting on the river bank after a good romp across the thousand, or so, generations I wrote about in The Quilt. 

"So," the Lord says as He stirs the embers on the fire He likes to cook fish on. He did it for His disciples when they thought they had to make up their own next steps. They'd been casting nets for fish all night; and pulled them up empty.

I wonder if the empty nets, the unrequited efforts, matched how their spirits felt? Maybe they wondered, as they drew up empty, what was all that about? Tell me again why we dropped our nets and follow Jesus? And then the unavoidable, What do we do now? 

He knows my wondering thoughts. He knows I'm wondering, What's this writing books thing all about? He hears me wonder aloud, "Why is there so little return?," and "What do I do now?"

It's not that I have nothing to do, now that The Quilt is written. The question that has me going in circles is, "What would You, Lord, have me do now?" 

Prayer Stone

I'm sitting on my prayer stone in my backyard, asking these questions-again

I'm going in circles, but I'm thinking that circles are necessary. I wish they weren't, but on this side of eternity there will be circular thinking and paths wide enough to do spirals on; and God knows this. He doesn't clap His hand over His mouth and say, "Oh dear! The path is too wide! My people are walking in circles; thinking in circles!" No. I suspect it's all part of the way He leads His people. 

It could be that He values the jagged dizzy journey to the destination as the best way to get there. Time efficient? No. Confusion free? No.

"But wait!" I stop my thoughts. "I thought that God isn't the author of confusion; and if He's not, then I'm way off track, listening to enemy voices, when I get confused."

I've heard that reasoning so many times, but it's never made sense to me. Not really. 

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that while God isn't the author of confusion, He wrote a book that's all about the straight and narrow way. Yeah, the Bible. He wrote it because He knew that this spinning world goes in circles and His people living on it will think in circles till dizzy enough to call out, "Stop this merry-go-round, I want off!" 

That's a turning point. 

That's a desperation known only by desperation.

Isn't it necessary to get a bit turned around in order to want to get straightened out? Aren't the difficulties the very obstacles that promote diligent search for the cleared way? Isn't the wide road filled with more diversions, distractions, temptations than a narrow road; yet isn't the narrow way found while asking God for directions? 

I close my eyes and listen.

The Lord strums wide-open song across my heart strings. He did this yesterday morning, too. He strums now, as He did then, as a guitarist strums his instrument. I pray, again, that I might not press a finger on a fret; that I might not tie one string of my heart to a fret. 

I long to hear the fret-free song He strums.

I have frets. Worries. And when I press the strings of my heart to a fretful worry, it's to the tune of anxiety, fear, confusion, and the like. Really, to the tune of oppression, (o-press-ion). 

But this backyard morning I close my eyes and hear the songs sung by the birds that God watches. He watches them and says to me, "You are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31).

"Look at the birds," He says. 

I open my eyes. "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

He's asking me. It's not necessary a rhetorical question. It's a question for me to answer; to comprehend a little bit more how He values me even as I dart about dizzy as a sparrow and exclaiming loud and rough as a raven's caw.

Bird and Ambulance

I sit still and close my eyes again.

"Even the youths shall faint and be weary," He begins.

I join Him, and we finish together as united in prayer, "And the young men shall utterly fall, bu those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:30-31).

"Well, Lord," I tilt my head up, eyes open to the wide sky way, "I'm not young, and I've never had the strength of a young man, but I do wait on You and all the more as every year goes by."

How the wind must thrum a-rush through the quills of an eagle's wings. Feathers, spread open to the wind, and quills lined up as the strings on a harpsichord from shortest to longest to shortest, they must  release music into the sky that must inspire God to dance to till the train of His robe whips the universe into orbit.

The siren from an ambulance screams in the distance. "Oh, Lord!" The sound startles me from the heights where God dances in circles, to the pavement where people are thrown into circles; and red and blue lights rotate, dizzy, and hospital doors revolve and heart strings press, tight to the frets.

Birds sing. An ambulance shrills tension. I whisper, "Lord, hold me in Your lap as a guitarist cradles his instrument."

Is it right to pray so when an ambulance is racing down some street and I can hear it?

"Hold them, too, Lord." I pray. "Strum across their heart strings, and mine, as You strum the wind across the feathers of eagles with Your fingers."

The siren fades.

"Touch their hearts, and mine, like that; and may I press the strings of Your heart, rather than press the frets of mine?'

Sometimes I get too caught up in me, my life, my stuff to be caught up in Him, His life, His stuff. I'd like to be aware of His presence more.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

Monday, February 8, 2016

Still In Kindergarten

Do mom's ever graduate?

How come I'm still in Kindergarten, learning everything I ever needed to know, when my youngest is a high school senior? Something's a tad quacked about the math here.

Why haven't I learned everything I ever needed to know, yet?

When will I graduate already!? 

Will I ever figure out how to build a puzzle?

Or learn the ABC'S so I can read minds?

Or what about coloring? Pasting? Stacking blocks?

I seem to be missing some pieces to this puzzle of a girl who God assembled about eighteen years ago; and I think one or the other of us learned a different alphabet. Why don't we both think in the same language?

And why is her room a definite scribble to me, but a passable work of art to her?

How come, I ask, when I organize her stuff she doesn't know where anything is? We must have gone to two different kindergartens and somehow she graduated and I didn't.

Just once I'd like to sing The Eensy Weensy Spider song without relating to the poor critter. Will I ever get to the top of the water spout?

Oh, I keep trying. I tried today.

Building Blocks

Today I re-organized her room with a creativity foreign enough to me that I thought I must be thinking in her language. In her language, there isn't a word for dresser. Or maybe there is, but in my language, her dresser is my floor. Problem is that her floor has dog hair on it and her clothes do too.

So I remembered this word: folding chairs. I have some, and they've been folded for years leaning against the closet wall. I think I'm the only one in the house who remembers them. It's because I'm the only one in the house who cleans closets.

So, this word-folding chairs, (fohld-eeng chae-er-z); I looked it up. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines it as: "folding chair-a chair that can be collapsed flat for easy storage and transport." I interpret the definition to mean, "a chair that can be easily transported upstairs and unfolded for easy storage.

"Perfect!" I say. "This is a missing piece to the puzzle! This is a word we'll both understand! This is the word to replace dresser!"

Yeah, I emptied her dresser drawers. The clothes she wears weren't in it anyway. They were on the floor.

I dragged her dresser out of her room, and stored it in her sister's old room. Then I transported four folding chairs upstairs and arranged them against the wall just beneath the window where her clothes are organized, (I don't know how she pronounces that word), on the floor.

I picked up her clothes and artistically draped them over the chairs. This is easy storage. There's a folding chair for jeans, two for shirts, and one for sweaters and hoodies.

Then I vak-yoom-d.

Oh, I could hardly wait for her to come home from school!

I heard the van pull into the driveway. She came inside with a Starbucks coffee, we hugged, and the reason she was late getting home was because she's stayed after school to do homework in the library.

"That's great!" I cheered as I bounced excited inside me for her to go upstairs.

She grabbed a peanut butter cookie with chocolate in the center from the plate of cookies her sister had baked and left here after last night's Super Bowl gathering.

I tired to act nonchalant.

She didn't see me craning my neck to watch her go upstairs. She didn't see me holding my breath with a smile glued to my face while waiting for her to grin a thank you from the top of the stairs.

"Oh, wow!" I heard from her room.

Then, "Ohh." Just a flat Ohh.

Folding Chair

Once I read this job description. I looked it up.

  • Must be able to work 135+ hours a week
  • Willingness to forgo any breaks
  • Ph.D in psychology or real-life experience
  • Crisis management skills
  • Ability to manage a minimum of 10-15 projects at once
  • Ability to communicate as all levels
  • Degree in Cross-Cultural Communications
  • Excellent inter-personal skills
  • Demonstrate knowledge and experience in culinary arts
  • Unlimited patience
  • Understanding of social media, mobile devices, current affairs
  • P.A. Degree, or equivalent nursing experience
  • Certified Counselor, or equivalent 
  • Home Economics Degree, or demonstrate knowledge in money management
Thing is, I accepted the job before I read the description.

Well, here I sit. I haven't head a thing since that flat Ohh. Real-life experience in psychology is about to come in handy. I've got three other kiddos I practiced on.

I have a degree in Cross-Cultural Communications. I earned it in four years of college; back when I thought I'd graduated from kindergarten.

I'm reading the job description.

Excellent inter-personal skills. Really, does anyone get excellent at that?

Experience in culinary art. Yeah, I've learned Alaska trout, Mid-west casseroles and dishes, Colorado mountain mash, German goulash, Baby food, Comfort food, Slap-it-together-fast food, Teen food, Adult food, and I've got about twenty-years experience in Tex-Mex food. I'm not above dishing up Bribery food. I never was much for guilt-free cooking, anyway.

I'm an opportunist, and I figure I can combine the culinary arts with communication skills, demonstrate an understanding of mobile devices and practice money management right about now.

"So," I text upstairs, "how 'bout I pick up your favorite Chipotle meal for dinner tonight? It's on me!" I add a smiley face for good measure.

Ten seconds later I get her response, "Aww yes!" She adds a smiley face with hearts.

I'll wait till we're eating to teach her the word folding chairs.

written by Carolyn-Elizabeth