God Reviving Me One Morning

A photo I took on one of my walks on the river trail not far from my office.

Stressed, working hard to prepare books for publication in the midst of several life adjustments, one morning I knew I had to attend to my soul. I drank my coffee and read a devotional article that said: “Am I willing to continue yielding my life wholly to God? If so, there is power for me…. God promises help to accomplish the task toward which His Spirit points me.”

I wrote a list of the things on my heart that had become burdens, which I then prayed about and gave to God, again.

Then I read: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph.3:20-21,NIV) I prayed this scripture, inserting my name and then the names of our family members and generations. Assurance came.

Then, because I find solace and renewal in nature, I drove down to the nearby river trail. There my senses were immediately overwhelmed and filled with the sights and sounds and smells and textures of that lush spot where grassy farmland meets the river that flows down from the Rocky Mountains. Nature was burgeoning with life.

One thing my husband and I are learning as we live in this high place of Colorado—We are learning to appreciate and “seize” the moment. There is such constant change. Here on the river trail, if you don’t come down here for a couple of weeks, you hardly recognize the place next time. All summer, layer upon layer of grasses and flowering plants keep coming up, replacing the last layer, each a little higher than the last, reaching for the intense sunshine which often gives way to evening thunder clouds. In the early summer, wild roses were blooming under the giant cottonwoods. Later they had dried up and purple thistle had risen 5 to 6 feet tall, bright and stately. You might think them renegade weeds in your garden, but out here, they’re royalty. Clouds of foamy yellow flower heads will grow here and there, and every shade of foliage.

Bird songs abound! I recognize the sounds of killdeer, red-winged blackbirds, and others. I see the orchard oriole that was here last time, and the bullock’s oriole, the eastern kingbird, and many others. A rabbit hops near the river’s edge. Farmers are irrigating today, obviously, because the wet river banks and shallow water indicate most of the river’s flow here has been diverted to the canals. I watch several huge river-bottom fish, and their backs often rise above the water’s surface and I can see the golden eye high on their foreheads. They glisten in the sunshine and are too big for the six snowy egrets nearby to tackle. But if a bald eagle happened by, they’d be easy prey, so visible in the shallow waters. In a clearing on the other side I see prairie dogs with their young. They stand up straight above their holes and suckle their little ones who then lick their mothers faces. They’re cute. And they supply food for the many hawks and owls around here.

In the shady places under the heavy cottonwoods, myriads of butterflies float and flutter. I see one group that fly this way and that and round and round in sync as if propelled by a little twister wind. How do they synchronize their flight in milliseconds like that? The hot sun intensifies the scents of grasses mingled with damp river smells. Several cyclists ride by me, calling out “on your left.” Two lark sparrows perch on the fence and stay there watching me, showing off their harlequin faces, feathers glowing like polished bronze in the sun.

I’m thankful for this day, and this place, and God’s glory all around.

Back at my car, I give thanks to God. As I walk into the house, a CD is playing and I hear the words of a gospel song, “Morning by morning new mercies I see….Great is thy faithfulness.” Tears smart my eyes but I “seize the moment” and find joy in it, and in knowing God is in it!

Don’t Settle for Dormancy—Live Abundantly

Are you settling in to dormancy?

In November I’m reminded of nature’s cycles of dormancy and productivity. Here in Colorado, many trees have lost their leaves. Grass is gradually going dormant and turning brown.

Trees and shrubs have produced seed pods and cones; flower heads have released seeds that may sprout and surprise us in the garden next spring. Pumpkins have been cut open and seeds scooped out and roasted.

Author / scientist Carol O’Casey unwraps the wonder of seeds—using biology, literature, personal experience, and scripture—and applies this to the believer’s life of faith. In her book, Unwrapping Wonder, she writes, “Often times, in order for us to blossom into the abundant life God has in store for us, we must accept our own spiritual brokenness—just as germination requires the seed coat to be broken.”

Don’t settle into dormancy and stay there.

“Are you lacking the life-giving water necessary to initiate the germination process? Do you long for an abundant, seed-coat-busting life? Abandon your dry and routine life to [God]. Risk heat. Risk exposure. Risk growth. And take heart. Jesus tells us, ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds’ (John 12:24).

Even during the dormant season of winter, life is waiting in the seeds. Some plants will sprout surprisingly early, as soon as daylight hours start increasing. Meanwhile, wait in hope and expectancy.

“Allow God to unleash his power in your life. Dream big. Grow great.” Be ready to “sprout where you are planted. And live. Abundantly.”¹


1. The quotations above are taken from the book, Unwrapping Wonder: Finding Hope in the Gift of Nature by Carol O’Casey.

Wonder-cover-sm


Credit for photo of seed capsules of Strelitzia nicolai: Tatters/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/62938898@N00/4745843554

As the Leaves their Glory Hurl

Leafy Lament

I’m raking leaves and raking leaves,
scrape, scrape, scraping leaves;
reds and oranges, greens and yellows,
all the crispy, crunchy fellows
in soft piles under the big
Mulberry trees.

Leaves are falling all around me,
on my head, before, behind me,
making mockery of my raking,
all my nice green lawn o’ertaking.

It’s a leafy, leafy world
as the trees their glory hurl.
Oh, I need a vacuum sweeper
or a giant tree-leaf eater.

–Catherine Lawton

(Written a number of years ago before our neighborhood had leaf blowers. Extracted here from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems)
Photo © Can Stock Photo, BackyardProduct

Animals in the Fires

Many pets were found with burnt feet and singed whiskers like this kitty.

Watching reports of the disastrous Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa, California (our old hometown), last week, our first thoughts were for the people and their homes. Then I began to wonder about the pets, livestock, and wildlife of the area.

My sister went to bed unsuspecting, then a few hours later woke with a neighbor pounding on her door and yelling “fire.” The neighbor later told her they had pounded and yelled a long time. Her dog’s barking finally woke her. She hadn’t heard the police earlier who drove through the neighborhood with a bull horn telling everyone to get out now!

I thank God her dog barked and woke her up.

A friend was living alone in a house on the edge of the city. From her back bedroom, she didn’t hear the first responders ring her doorbell, and they assumed no one was home. What finally woke her was an annoying sound of scratching on the wood siding of the house outside her bedroom. She got up and looked out the window and saw racoons desperately trying to find shelter to get away from … fire! Fire just outside! The barn had already burned. She got out just in time but lost everything.

Did God encourage those raccoons to scratch there and wake her up?

Another friend lived high on a mountain road above Santa Rosa on a ranch where my son used to go exploring with friends when he was a boy. From his high vantage point this friend could see the fire moving closer. He chose to stay up there, alone, and worked hard through the night and day to save his home and some nearby structures as well. As he worked at the edge of the fire in the darkness, he says he felt wild animals brushing against him as they fled the burning areas. But he didn’t stop and neither did they.

The Forestry Department urged people, who lived near, but not in, the wildfire areas, to bring their domestic animals indoors at night and let the wild ones pass through. “Please put out buckets of water for them—they are scared, exhausted, and have also lost their homes—they need to refuel,” came the request.

Many people had to flee within minutes and had no time to find their cats. One woman said she was surprised that “leaving my cat was almost the thing that hit me the hardest.”

Some dogs panicked and ran and their owners had to evacuate and flee the flames without them. One report said someone tried to get their horses into a trailer but the frightened horses refused; so the people had to leave their horses.

Online, evacuees posted such announcements as: “We are looking for two donkeys that we had to leave. Do you know their whereabouts?” “Lost Dog: While her family was evacuating, she jumped out of their truck. They love this dog so much and are devastated.” “54 horses in dire need of transportation off a ranch.” “Cat found hiding under car. Whiskers burnt but she’s okay.” “Our husky slipped out of her collar while we were evacuating and ran off. Heartbroken.”

The re-uniting of people and animals brought mutual comfort and joy.

One person had left buckets of water out for the deer and birds that came by her front yard. When she was allowed to return briefly to her home she found a dozen turkey vultures and other birds resting on her lawn together. They didn’t even move when she went up to her door. They looked exhausted, she said.

All this reminds me of the stories of animals left behind in World War II Europe when Holocaust victims were forced from their homes. Jewish people had to leave behind beloved family pets to fend for themselves in hostile and harsh environments. Susan Bulanda collected many of the stories from men and women who were children during the Holocaust. The stories are told in the book Faithful Friends.

They tell how their dogs and cats suffered also, and how they provided comfort and courage, an emotional connection to happier times, and the encouragement to never give up hope.

 

Even Under a Cloud of Smoke

 

Under the blanket of smoke in this NASA photo, and right by one of those red dots, was our home for 30 years and the place where we took the humble first steps of founding Cladach Publishing. Many roots and memories. Many beloved people and places. Much trauma and loss this week.

It all happened so fast. My sister was awakened at 1:00 Sunday night and told to get out immediately. She grabbed her dog, purse, a few clothes and ran out to her vehicle. Smoke everywhere. A wall of fire on the hill above her neighborhood. She drove out to the highway and sat in her vehicle dazed, not knowing what to do. She decided to drive to a friend’s house. With all the cars trying to get out of the area, it took her 1 1/2 hours to drive about 5 miles. Soon after she arrived there, her friend was also evacuated. They fled to the friend’s brother’s home in another town west of there. My sister, grateful for a home to stay in, has been there all week, sleeping on the living room couch, and doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed back into her home. Though the fire devastated—wiped out—the entire neighborhood just two streets away from her home … her house and street have remained intact. Several of our friends in Sonoma County have lost their homes.

But how beautiful to see people set aside their differences and come together in the face of a common enemy, to support and help and encourage each other.

One Cladach author, Dean Davis*, lives in Sonoma County. When the fire hit, he was recovering from surgery just three days prior. His wife, Linda, shared this encouraging update on Facebook. I share her words here with her permission:

~~~~~

Today, Friday Oct. 13, is a new day. Old things are passed away. I don’t think we’ll ever be the same.

The Santa Rosa fires have died down and though they still flame up here and there, we believe the worst is over. There is no wind this morning. The area is just filled with firefighters, police, national guard, and volunteers (and smoke!). People are tender and in shock…. This is such a season for reflection.

On the first day of the fire, I went through the house asking myself what I really needed to take with us. There was very little. Photos, tax records, and our cat. And even when the evacuation came, I had to leave the cat. Now that the danger has passed (at least for the moment) we will move ahead with a new perspective of what is really important.

God was very good to provide volunteers to come get our horses the first day. To have them safe and away allowed me to focus on keeping Dad safe and healthy. God knows the little things that show us his kindness and mercy. We are all back at the house (except for the horses) and we feel we will most likely be able to stay put.

We have been told to wait another 36 hours before resuming life as usual because high winds are expected again tonight and everything could change again.

We are numb. But at peace.

A week before the fire a little scripture put to tune came to me every day, all day. “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” I couldn’t get these words out of my mind. Little did I know they were preparing me for these days. I think this experience has taught us to take nothing for granted. We have no rights, just mercy and grace. The only ‘right’ we have is our righteousness through Christ, who has given it as His free gift….  We feel vulnerable yet under the shadow of His wings at the same time. We are reminded that this life and this world are just temporary yet very important. Each day is a gift because He is with us. And our gift back to Him is a life of service, faith and gratitude. God is good…all the time!

~~~~~

Thank you, Linda. God protect you and yours. We pray for your safety and for continued peace… and for Dean’s full recovery.

The one good thing about these horrendous trials is that we become more acutely aware—though often not until after the crisis—that God Is With Us … always, even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Even under an ominous cloud of smoke with erratic fires erupting all around.

——–

*Dean Davis is the author of The Dangerous Journey of Sherman the Sheep. (My ten-year-old grandson loves the story of Sherman who encountered many trials on his dangerous journey and finally learned that the Good Shepherd was always with him.)
Photo: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team, Jeff Schmaltz

 

Horrors, Trauma, and Healing

Sunday night my husband and I got around to watching, for the first time, the excellent and important movie, Hotel Rwanda. It was harder to watch than I expected. I’m glad the portrayal of genocide wasn’t as graphic as it could’ve been. The true story and the acting were gripping.

What broke my heart was seeing those Rwandan people—children, adults, a whole nation—traumatized by the violence, hate, death, and evil. I went to bed disturbed in my soul. But rather than seeing images of the movie in my mind … I saw images and felt the awful panic of the time as a 4-year-old when I was trapped in, and barely escaped from, a burning house in the middle of the night.

I know a little of what trauma is and how it stays with you. Enough to cause my heart to “go out” to the millions of war-, genocide-, disaster-, and massacre-traumatized people of our world.

Then on Monday morning we woke to news of a shooting massacre in our own country, this time in Las Vegas.

I find myself praying, “O, Lord, send the balm of your healing Spirit to these loved-ones of yours who are emotionally wounded and stuck in ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ mode. Wake us up and fill us with your love and somehow use us to bring the hope and healing you offer.”

Perhaps I will write more in this space about the emotional and spiritual healing I have received. My story was touched on in Journeys to Mother Love. Through Cladach I have also published other people’s experiences of horrors, trauma and healing: A People Tall and Smooth, Hostage In Taipei, No More Fear, Paper Poppies.

Similar to Rwanda, South Sudan experienced horrors of genocide. One Sudanese survivor/refugee named Yien told author Judith Galblum Pex, “We have suffered too much and are still suffering. In our twenty-one years of war, two million people have died. Some people look to the SPLA (the South Sudanese army) to take care of [us], but I turn to God.” (quoted on p. 151 of A People Tall and Smooth)

May this be true of the countless survivors of recent disasters, massacres, and wars—In the aftermath of these horrors and traumas, may people turn to the God … the God who does not cause such evil, but who is with us and is love.

This is a subject to be continued …

TAKING RISKS: An Interview with author Jeanie Flierl

Since her novel is launching in early October, I want to introduce you to Jeanie. My questions are in bold. Jeanie’s answers will give you a glimpse of the heart of this warm, talented woman. Enjoy!

Welcome, Jeanie. Thank you for the opportunity to ask you a few questions. First, I’d like to know: In your novel, the main character, Tatum, is a Colorado native. Are you a native also?

No. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I moved to Colorado in my twenties because of my love for the mountains. I worked for Safeway for eleven years and met my husband, Denis, there. After home-schooling our three girls, I put all my energy into a retail store in Evergreen, Colorado. My store sells quality chocolates, nuts, and candies.

Sounds yummy. No wonder the retail shop in your novel feels so real! In fact, there’s a lot of realism in your story. What real needs do you think readers may have that your book addresses, that makes it a “must read”?

As the story unfolds, Tatum’s reactions and prayers in moments of happiness or pain reflect real feelings toward God and toward other people. She finds it’s OK to be mad at God, but she doesn’t stay there. In the end, she realizes God was with her all along, in the good and the bad. I think many people, like myself, need to learn that kind of open-hearted honesty before a loving God.

The characters in To Conquer A Mountain definitely come across as authentic. Besides your own daughters, what experience have you had with young adults in their twenties and thirties that helped you envision your book’s characters and conflicts?

Denis and I have worked together in the marriage ministry for more than twenty-five years, teaching communication skills. We have spoken at small conferences and MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) groups on related subjects.

What got you interested in Mountain Rescue? And how did you conduct your research?

I was in awe of  Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen. Their Facebook posts were so exciting that I started reading anything I could get my hands on about mountain rescues.  It is mind boggling that these mountaineers, here in Colorado, and elsewhere for that matter, are so selfless in going into the mountains, rain, shine, snow, and cold, to help people having a very bad day in the mountains. And they don’t charge anything!

I had the opportunity to visit Alpine Rescue Team and see the vehicles and equipment they use for rescues, which they purchase with donations. Later, my husband and I took a member of ART to dinner, and he regaled us with real-life incidents. I took those actual rescue stories, jumbled them together, and came up with the fictional rescues described in my novel.

What other circumstances in your life played a role in your conception of this story?

The settings of the book—in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains—have always interested me. And my point-of-view character—to whom I gave many triumphs and tragedies—has traits that I find in myself. For instance, I had to learn to take risk in my own life. That didn’t come as naturally to me as it does to some people.

Tatum learns to trust God more as she lets herself take risks. How important is faith to you?

I grew up in a Christian home and prayed to receive Jesus as my personal savior at the age of four after listening to a children’s program on Christian radio. But my faith became my own, not just what I grew up with, when I moved to Colorado. Through the ups and downs of living, the fun times and hard times of parenting, Christ has been woven into the fabric of our marriage, our children and our home life.

Tell us about your journey to become a published novelist.

My parents never had a TV in our house until I was a junior in high school. Maybe that played a role in my love of reading. Writing intrigued me, too, but I thought I could never write like the authors I loved to read. Seven years ago I decided that I would stop talking about writing a novel and finally do it. I just dove in, not realizing there was a craft to novel writing. Each writers conference I attended gave me more direction, and I’d apply what I learned. I had great encouragement and editing help along the way.

Where can your readers connect with you online?:

I look forward to interacting with my readers. I have recently started author pages:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JeanieFlierlAuthor

Twitter: @Jeanie_author

Thank you, Jeanie, for your time. I hope many readers find themselves engrossed in your story, To Conquer A Mountain. And I hope they come away from it with more desire to take the risks of living in the unique adventures and opportunities that God offers to them.

 

Exploring the Love of God

If you believe, as I do, that God’s essential nature is Love, then you would enjoy reading this book. Cladach didn’t publish it. But I contributed an essay to it entitled, “Opening to God Through Prayer.”

After reading the 80+ essays in the book, I’d like to share with you my review:

Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God is a treasure trove of diverse viewpoints looking at many aspects of life in light of God’s love being non-coercive. You may not agree with all of the essayists (I agree with most, not all). But they will stretch your thinking and challenge your heart. That’s part of the beauty of a collaborative project like this. Here are quotes from the contributors who especially spoke to me:

Will Albright: “I wonder if God isn’t instead this great music maker, teaching all creation to play and sing along to the melody of love.”

Rick Barr: “In a sense, to be is to be known and to be loved.”

Justin Heinzekehr: “The non-coercive God is not hovering over us with a specific set of directions but is encouraging us to tap into our own creativity without knowing where it will lead.”

Tim Reddish: “Prayer makes a difference, but so do the necessary regularity of the world and every free choice humans and angels make…. It is quite legitimate to say that the Christian and the Spirit are ‘co-praying’.”

Scott Nelson Foster: “It is when we respond to God’s call to love that God’s will is done.”

Sarah Lancaster: “One advantage of thinking about God as uncontrolling is that it allows and impels us to look for God in the regular events in our lives.”

Bob Luhn: “It is the non-coercive, others-empowering love of God that sets a person free to be fully human–capable of loving God with one’s whole being and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.”

Simon Hall: “If we are spiritual beings, just as much as we are physical, then our prayers matter just as much as our actions. Prayers that attune us to the heart of God. Prayers that lend our voice to God’s voice…”

A BOOK TO READ SLOWLY AND SAVOR. Allow your thinking to be infused and inspired with the truth, beauty, and power of God’s uncontrolling love.

You can find the book on Amazon.

Antidote to Hate, Fear, Disgust, and Vexation

This poem* is a testimony and affirmation of my faith in:

  • God’s love that changes hearts.

  • God’s power that calms storms.

  • Jesus’ victory that delivers from evil.

  • The Holy Spirit’s presence that offers soul rest.

 

*”Antidote” from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems  by Catherine Lawton © 2016

 

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