Sanctuary

“Mom, I really hate for you to keep driving clear down here.”

That’s the voice of my 33 week pregnant daughter, who not only is the mama of three rambunctious boys 6, 4, and 2, but she is carrying precious cargo of twin boys. Twin boys stubbornly insistent on not missing Christmas with the rest of the family. To insure they stay put farther down the road than the 7 weeks early they would be if they came today, the restrictions put on her are growing faster than her gloriously expanding belly. While the Rodeo Clowns, as we lovingly call the boys, are generally as sweet as doubly loaded fudge to their mama, they are still rowdy balls of ingenuity and energy. The most recent of their reindeer games was inventing “Roller coaster,” where the oldest got a running start and with all his might pushed the middle brother in a cardboard box to fly down the stairs with the thrilling ride’s end smashing into their steel front door. Even though Daddy is working a mere 10 minutes away on base at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, this grandma does not mind one bit traveling the four hours one way to keep things from escalating to a scene from Lord of the Flies Visits Call the Midwife. 

My goodness, aren’t these the times grandparents were created for?

Still, Robin feels bad and uber responsible for my missed work and coming down so often grooves may start wearing into the highway. What she doesn’t realize, the byproduct of behind the wheel time is far from being a burden. Absolutely, far from it.

Welcome to my ruby red F-150 4 door sanctuary, complete with heated seat and cup holder. 

Years ago, a pastor I worked with almost lived on the road, running and jumping to visit hospitalized church family 90 miles away without a thought. His heart was pulled to minister, but I stood constantly amazed at the peaceful spring in his step when he popped out of his old suburban that surely had racked up more miles than a trip to Mars and back.

“Aren’t you sick of driving? You’ve been to Wichita several times this week.”

“Not at all. That’s my sanctuary time.”

From then on, Boredom is no longer allowed to ride shotgun. The time alone has become precious and sacred, not merely a requirement to get from point A to point B.  

Seriously, how often does one get four solid hours to pray and bask in the presence of the One who lays out the road before us?  Often I enter with burdens, confusions, and frustrations that need released into the air. Miraculously, the blizzard of scattered thoughts fall into place, the heart calms, and peace drifts to like flurries on a snow globe floor.

As the various landscapes slide by, the rich sunsets paint a glory no earthly hand could begin to craft. A swelling of the heart brings forth an impromptu worship service in a completely different nature experienced in a pew. God’s creation inspires reverence and adoration that can not be contained. 

For example, I sing! Loud and clear. This is truly a voice only God delights in. No disclaimer is required to whatever innocent soul sits in the pew in front of me. Since the only audience I’m to care about is God, I know I’m supposed to cut loose in church, still these are my family and would like to keep in that way. 

Another benefit is the prime opportunity to lift people up near and dear to my heart, and honestly some who aren’t so much, but I know they are to Him. Most of the time that is the only thing I can truly do to help or start to grow a heart for….well, those folks.

If a prayer break is needed, here is rare uninterrupted time to chew on a spirit challenging sermon podcast. Likewise, this unique year poses the trade off of being home snuggled down in my chair with a twinkling tree to a radio dial full of old Christmas hymns. Their words link this exciting, yet anxious anticipation of dual births guaranteed to rock our family’s lives to the one of the kind Baby who nailed down salvation for the entire world.

What if we viewed every solitary location as a sanctuary to process the past and prepare our wills for the mysteries lying ahead? Even the preschool mom, who knows she may only have milliseconds before grubby fingers wiggle under the bathroom door or her eyelids are pulled open to be asked “are you awake,” can grasp a sliver of grace to get her through the day, if she looks at those moments with new eyes.  

Sanctuary. It’s not just a place, but an opportunity. An opportunity not to be missed.

“When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.” Psalm 73:16-17

Where are your most precious sanctuaries? What secret benefits have you discovered about them? 

*Please add Robin and the twins to your prayers. Everyone is fine; just very early for them to be showing up on the scene. I can never thank you enough so I’m asking God to.

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When You Are Helpless to Stop the Train From Derailing

You can see it coming.  Foreseen situations accelerate in front of  you, promising an inevitable crash.  You can try to say something, but the words are powerless. Critical choices are being made by loved ones or even arm’s-length people, who have randomly waltzed across your path and crept into your heart.  How it will end has all the precursors of an epic disaster, strewn with carnage as grisly as your imagination can create. 

And you can do nothing, but watch.

A few months ago, my heart was deeply burdened over some very dramatic situations. It ached due to precious hearts breaking while intimate dramas charged off unimaginable cliffs.  Tragic outcomes were imminent.  

As I cried out to God, he put two things on my heart.

 1.)  Little Miss Fix-It (me) was to sit still. I could be a listener, but my job was to…

 2.) pray a specific scripture over these cases.  Since then, I have not only continued with the original subjects, but I pray it over others caught in the midst of impossible issues.

The passage is Colossians 1:9-14.  Go check it out. When praying it, insert the actual names for ‘you’.  Pray it directly to God, instead of referring to him in the way it is written.

Make it the cry of your heart.  Since, it is haunting you, you will have no problem. Don’t forget to  include a plea for salvation, if applicable.

Don’t get discouraged if things aren’t abracadabra fixed in an instant.  Patience and perseverance are key.  Knowing we were in for a haul with no known time frame, I wrote the verses on a fluorescent 3×5 card and laminated it. Every morning, it jolts my memory when I open my Bible.  Or why not stick it on the fridge, in the car, etc?   Just somewhere it can’t be miss it.

Ask God how involved he wants you.  So, how in the world do you know?  A natural bent is to jump in and save the day, but his desired role may be to be stay on the ol’ knees-the hardest job in the world when one’s itching jump into action. Ask him to be crystal clear and not allow you to muddle things up.  For instance, one weekend we would have been right smack dab in the middle of the fireworks—sure to douse gasoline on the blazing Roman candles— but since God could handle it just fine without us, he totally removed his from the area.  Whew!

Since then, time has marched on, with several circumstances seeming to get increasingly worse.  Honestly, the temptation to wring hands or to simply give up has knocked loudly. 

But, on one recent instance, He intervened in such an unconventional way, that we’re still trying to wrap our minds around how brilliant his workings are. Just like I’ve seen him faithfully pull off many times over. 

Things aren’t abracadabra fixed, but there is hope—hope of healings and new beginnings as the train chugs safely into the station.

 

 

When the Prayed for Answer Breaks Your Heart

Our family’s prayer was simply for ‘definite direction’ in regards to family member’s issue.  ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ would have sufficed. When the answer came it was swift, harsh, and with a creative twist no soap opera collaborative team could cook-up.  One of our own’s heart was brutally yanked from the body and lay weakly pulsing in a mess on the floor.  

This was not the way I had in mind on how God should answer my prayer—nor the rest of my family’s.  Or the hideous timing.  Company was staying at our house,  and we were moments from appearing at a very public event in honor of other family members.  All six of us huddled in the bathroom, breathless and injured with our wounded warrior before facing the world.   By the grace of God, we survived—even the devastated one , who will be nominated for an Oscar with a stunning performance in Everything is Just Swell in My Life

At one point our entire family, including our normally warring cat and grand-dog, camped on Cliff and my bed as we tried to comfort and work through the confusion. 

In our passion to try to right a wrong that is not our responsibility to fix, we have done some things right and some things we have done wrong.  The gambit of  dramatic feelings, advice, and actions have clattered noisily on a continuous roller coaster track.

 Helping with Vacation Bible School this week has helped jerk me up to back off of how I think God should move in this.  I had been delving deep, searching Scripture for the perfect scenario and revelation to back up my Holy Spirit Jr. attitude.  Instead, Flash Skyrunner, the bumbling wannabe pilot, shared a profoundly simple message:

No matter what happens, TRUST GOD. 

No matter what people do, TRUST GOD.

No matter how you feel, TRUST GOD.

Of course, I knew this.  Who doesn’t?  I toss this truth around as casually as a sprinkling of salt at supper.  But it’s another thing to put it in action when all you see  are the shreds of your loved one bleeding in front of you.   

Trusting God means letting him pick up that pulverized heart and heal it.  Trusting God means stepping back and allowing him to do a new thing in that life, even if starts with the swing of a demolition ball.  Trusting God means I’m required to lay the responsibility that he gave me for a season that started with the first introductory wave of morning sickness twenty something years ago on his altar.

In the trusting, he has equipped me an invaluable gift.  As long as I have breath, an unseverable umbilical cord of prayer is there, connecting the three of us.  Although, this incident is sticky with new questions to the end result, through the bonds of prayer, our faith dependent isn’t on the outcome, but only the goodness of God.  Our baby was his baby first, and he has promised good to his children–especially the brokenhearted.

I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait and for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:13-14.

 

Getting Caught Up in the Ringtone

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Have you come to learn that the proper ringtone sends out a message alerting people to who the person is that carries it?  For example, we were in a cafe in Mullinville, KS when “Bad boys, bad boys–whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” startedplaying.  Immediately, we felt much safer because a cop was protecting us while his stomach was taking a chicken fried steak prisoner.  The person with old-fashioned telephone ring probably is a cut to chase person.  Their ringtone is more about actually hearing that a call is coming in than wishing everyone a Merry Christmas in techno-rap.

I am not one of those basic people.  Shockingly, neither is my husband.  The man, whose favorite color is tan, (yes, really. You may join me at yawning on this color choice)  has surprised us all with the trumpet blasts which traditionally send horses racing around a track. Currently Cliff’s life in the oilfield can mirrors this ringtone.  Who needs to go to the Kentucky Derby when he’s around?  He has set my incoming calls on his phone with the Pink Panther theme, which is very fun to us.

It took me awhile, but found the perfect one that would get my attention.   It is jive-y and reminds me of what I need to do more of.  It’s the old Soul song from 1967 Say a Little Prayer.  Here’s a bit of the lyrics:

The moment I wake up

 Before I put on my makeup

 I say a little prayer for you

Yes, absolutely!  It’s jazzy.  It’s snappy.  It’s sweet. It’s fun.

BUT, I have found it problematic.  It is so irresistable!  When people call, I get so into the song and don’t want to answer it!  In fact, I have had to call people back due to sheer captivation!  I get to grooving and have to get to the part where Aretha sings “forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart…”  I can’t help it. The music invades my spirit.

Suddenly grocery stores or doctor’s offices are instantly converted into a discos. While kind of awkward at first, I have noticed, most people smile when they hear it.  Joy jumps from this silly phone, grabbing unsuspecting wall flowers for a whirl.   Really unique conversations waltz their way into existence because of it.  How brilliant God is in what He uses to introduce Himself to others!

Unbeknownst to whoever is calling me, they are spreading the love as well!  Sean, the Amazon techy, with a report on why my Kindle is having problems.  He’s on the night shift in South Africa.  Mom’s Care Center.  My cowboy dad, who the only song he knows all the words to is Home on the Range, is singing like a Supreme !  Can I hear an ‘Amen!?’

So while I wait for my Captain Cliff Sparrow’s ring from Pirates of the Caribbean or a ‘I need to talk to you, Mom” call from Darth Vadar Cole or Rockin’ Robin Ann, something thrills my soul when ‘my’ soul song comes through those speakers.

I just pray that I don’t get so caught up in the music that I forget to answer the call whenever or wherever it happens to find me.

“Dear Lord: Help me to spread you fragrance wherever I go.  Flood my soul with your spirit and life.  Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all y life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul.  Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul.  Let them look up and see no long me, but only you, O’Lord.”  an excerpt of a prayer by John Henry Newman.  One of Mother’s Teresa’s favs.

photo credit: http://fordesigner.com

Feeling the Burn

Have you ever had something just sneak up on you and shock the daylights out of you?  I had one of those ‘oh, that will never happen to me’  humbling moments this week.  Oh my!

Due to Cliff’s recent knee surgery, a borrowed exercise bike has been added to my dining room decor.  He goes in and whirrs away on it a couple of times a day.  The other day, I started to wonder when was the last time I did anything to ‘feel the burn’.  I have never been a consistent exerciser.  I like to get out and move if I am working  hauling off tree limbs or something that the kids rope me into doing with them, but to say I seek it out, forget it.  Thoughts of enrolling at the Wellness Center are great dreams, but I know I would never be able to talk myself into going early on cold mornings nor would I in the evenings when I am beat.  I would feel guilty and whine, so it isn’t worth it to try.  In nice weather, I had dreams of going running with our new puppy a couple of summers ago.  Jiggerbean was great at first, but the german short hair turned into a tornado on a leash.  Even Cliff has a hard time handling the beast and has to run him five miles before they hunt.  When Casey was living with us, we would pitch in the Leslie Sansone DVD and power walk those three miles.  She got bored with it, but did it to humor me.  She began to add kick boxing moves that would make Leslie pale at the thought.  I just smiled with Leslie and her studio girls and soaked up the time with my daughter.  When she left, my discipline packed up and moved to Wichita with her.   Last summer Mom kept me fit with running the stairs to her apartment when she hit her Lifeline or lifting her in and out of her wheelchair to the car.  Calling it the ‘Myrlee Moore Work Out System” I turned into Muscles Linguine overnight.  Once she went into the nursing home, I was shocked at how depleted I was in every area.  I gave myself permission to just heal from 6 months of a nightmare.

So on Monday morning I hatched a great plan.  Starting my day I would set up my laptop to listen to one of my favorite radio shows and ride like the wind.  It usually runs 25-30 minutes, which would be perfect to get the heart rate going.  I would be multi-tasking my way to fitness.

The regular host was on vacation, but her regular fill-in was taking the microphone.  He usually opens the show with a good chunk of time to catch you up on world events, etc.  Sometimes he will go for as much as half the show.  On the website is a time counter, so I could glance over at any moment to see who much longer I had when I started to break into glistening or feel a little flushed.

So I hit play on the laptop and hop on the stationery velocipede.  I take off at a good clip and decide I need to kick it up a notch.  As I half-listened to Brannon went on about some government issues I wasn’t too interested in, I pictured myself racing Lance Armstrong in the Tour De Dining Room.  I rode like the wind, I tell you and was about to catch him when—

—I started feeling my muscles go to jelly and my lungs began to convince me that I was equivalent to a 2 pack a day smoker.  They were the ones ‘feeling the burn’.

So maybe a 30 minute goal was a little lofty I think to myself.  10 minutes would be just dandy and my, Brannon is windy today with this intro.  Will the man not move on?  He has had to been yapping non-stop for ages.

Suddenly my heart sent a memo to me that it was on the verge of exploding.  I took a gander over at the time counter.

2 minutes and 50 seconds!  What!  Then it went in to spasms, not from exercise but from humility and shock!

How can this be?  I have never been an athlete, but I was the one all the ribbon ropers fought over to get me to run for them.  I could slice through the fresh plowed ground of an arena to pull the ribbon off the calf’s tail and run to the finish line like a knife through butter.  Being deceivingly stronger than my size and quite ‘wiry’ as the Scottish kicker on the  football movie The Replacements would say, I have can hold my own with the best of them.  I have helped Cliff load washing machines, wrangle furniture upstairs for college move-in days, and have taught many a kid at the church how to do all the actions at the same time Making Melodies in My Heart without breaking a sweatMy build has been one I have had pride in when others have tried to give me a few pounds of theirs.  “Oh I have good genes to thank for that” I have said with a chuckle and blush when people have commented on my muscle definition.  (I know I don’t have much wrapped around these bones, but what I have is defined, ok?)  I have never ever had to work at it, and I don’t like the thought of having to start one bit!

Now the shock is over.  I have accepted that I have to kick it up a notch and add another thing in my daily schedule.   I am noticing my breathing getting smoother and my heart is rather enjoying the ride since I set my pace a little more realistically.  It’s turning into just God and I having some great prayer time that consists of more than me thinking I am physically going to meet my maker at any moment.  It is beginning to become a rich time where  God is molding me and shaping me once again.

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”  Romans 12:1.   (Suppose He might mean more than in a just physical sense as well?  Hmm…….more to blog about some day, huh?)

Unintentions

One of my favorite cartoon sketches is one that deals with New Years.  Calvin and Hobbs are on a walk.  Hobbs asks Calvin what his New Years Resolution is going to be.  Calvin says very seriously after much thought, “Well, this year I have resolved to just wing it.”

How I love it, and the temptation that goes with it!  After years and years of failed attempts, doesn’t everyone want to throw their hands in the air and just ‘wing it?”   Just ride the surf on the tides of life.

While that sounds divine, and I know that every day is a new day and a new start in Christ, I still need a starting point ever so often.  A conscious get-on-your-mark-get-set-go of sorts.  So today I ponder all those failed solid-steel resolutions to put away some bad habit or start a new life-changing step in the right direction that no one or nothing can stand in my way.  No way. No how. Not ever.  I would vow to get up before the butt-crack of dawn (a Cliff-ism) and  I would feel the burn of muscles being toned with dedicated exercise no matter what weather force may come against me.  I would spend hours in intense bible study and rattle the heavens with huge chunks of time in prayer.  Nary a cent or a second be mispent in my new and perfect world.  And, that would last until maybe the next day….if I was lucky.  Some would survive a few weeks. If things were really rolling I would make it to Leviticus with my Read Thru The Bible in a year program.  Nevertheless, I would get to bed a little too late to bound out from under the warm covers the next morning, the same way my bank balance would never seemed to jump any higher than EEEEEKKKK!.  Argghhhhh!!!!  Why do I set myself up for this every time?

But, wait!  As I look back, through beating my head against a wall on a yearly basis, I have improved from where I once was.  Through the years I have fallen in love with the magic of the Bible.  I actual spend time with God instead of the day being gone and me totally forgetting to check in.   Prayer may not always be in a chunk, but more of an unending conversation.  When did this transformation happen?  I guess it has kind of snuck up on me while I was beating myself up.  I may not be Leslie Sansone yet, but I am better physically and we don’t fry absolutely EVERYTHING in every food group.    Money and time management may always be a challenge, but it’s not as undaunting as it has been.   The intentionality is the key.  The ongoing failed attempts are part of a refining process that is God’s job.  Mine is to try my best and depend on Him.

So this year I have some intentional things to work on, but I’m not going to beat up on myself if something goes ary.  After all on this side of heaven, I am going to embrace the process of being a ‘masterpiece in the works.”

Have a happy and blessed New Year from the Long Family!