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Sand in My Shoes, Fire in My Dreams


It was past midnight when I finished the post about cacti blooming and Moses encountering the burning bush in the desert.  I had been walking in a cold desert of my own, a time of little inspiration or spiritual insight.  I had no expectation of cactus blossoms or fiery bushes, but that night, to my surprise,

I dreamed a dream.

It was one of those dreams where I was a college student again, and things were not going well.  Perhaps you’ve had this kind of nightmare with variations on the theme of failing in college:  you forgot to study for the important test, you forgot there was a test, or (worst of all) you forgot you’d signed up for the class and had never attended.

In this version of the bad dream I was taking a class on the “Law,” and I wasn’t doing well.  I had neglected to complete assignments, had arrived late to classes, and had little comprehension of the subject.  I had a “skull full of mush.”  I was failing.

The man playing the role of the professor in my dream is an actor known for many Westerns in which he dourly dispenses justice with his gun.  I expected to be “shot down”  at any time.  I was terrified of the teacher.

The tenor of the dream changed when the professor came to visit me and saw my pathetic, college-student apartment.  He understood my struggles with his class and had compassion on me.  Before he left he kissed me on the cheek.  I was shocked and overwhelmed by his caring and tenderness.

By the time I arrived on campus for the next class (late again), the chairs were all filled.  Instead of rebuking me, the professor gave me his own seat.

That’s all I remember from the dream now, and the details are growing hazy.  I’m so grateful that

I dreamed a dream

of fear turned to love,

of a God who understands that I’m made of dust (Psalm 103:14), that I’m a pitiful failure at keeping the Law.


I dreamed a dream

of a God who comes to visit where I live and who shares his seat with me (Rev. 3:21).

Instead of justice, I received grace.  Instead of retribution, I received mercy.  (Luke 15:20)


I had no idea that the words I’d written Saturday would be fulfilled by the time the sun rose Sunday:

“It’s worth the wait, though, worth the desert walk to see a burning bush.”

Many people have chosen or listened to God’s prompting to choose a word of focus, inspiration, or challenge for 2014.  The word I chose (weeks before this dream) was “love.”  I want to understand and experience God’s love in new ways, and He was good to answer the desire of my heart before I even knew how to word it as a prayer.

I dreamed a dream

of a burning bush, and so I’ll take off my shoes, shake out the sand.  I’m in awe.  I’m on holy ground.


linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Coffee for Your Heart 150

linking with

Cacti and the Burning Bush

My eighth grade English teacher explained the assignment:  choose and research a topic of interest to the class, then present the information in a speech.  I chose “Cacti of the American Southwest,” but my grade suffered due to my choice of subject.  I learned that most thirteen-year-old boys would much rather hear about Volkswagen Beetles than saguaro cacti and that many of the girls were more interested in make-up than the range of the Joshua tree.  Who knew?


Cacti may have been an odd-ball choice, but I thought they were interesting. My grandmothers had cacti among their houseplants, and I had enjoyed seeing their infrequent blooms.  My father’s mother kept a very tall variety, moving it from hot, summer sun to their cold basement in  winter, trying to replicate the conditions of its desert origins and bring it into bloom.

I also learned that my assumption that all deserts were hot and that all cacti lived in dry climates were incorrect.  In simplest terms, a desert is a place with less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of precipitation per year, which includes Antarctica as well as the Sahara.  Deserts can be stark, wind-blown dunes or complex eco-systems with a variety of plants and animals.


The word “desert” comes from a Latin verb that means “to abandon or forsake.”  Deserts (unless man has intervened by bringing in water and electricity) are landscapes where few live.  They are forsaken by people.


In our life as a Christian, sometimes we walk through green valleys, where we sense God’s presence everywhere.  However, there are times when we’re in a spiritual desert, feeling disconnected from God.  We slog through the sand dunes or are raked by cactus spines.  The few inches of rainfall seem insufficient.

We may feel God has abandoned or forsaken us.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1   NIV

Don’t give up.  Have hope!  It might take a while to hike to the other side of the desert.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified . . . , for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.   Deuteronomy 31:6   NIV


As we walk, we have choices to make.

We can grumble,

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.   Exodus 16:2   NIV

or we can be patient, expectant, and after years of “tending sheep” . . . be amazed.

After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.   When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’   Acts 7:30,31   NIV


Sometimes we need to be in a dry place that will encourage buds to set (like my Thanksgiving cactus).  The places God leads us, they prepare us.

Sometimes we need a little time in the cold, dark basement to begin the blooming process.  The times that are difficult, they strengthen us.

It’s worth the wait, though, worth the desert walk to see a burning bush.


Take off your shoes.  Shake out the sand.  You’re on holy ground.


linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee  

Frost Like Ashes


Praise your God! . . .
He spreads snow like a white fleece,
he scatters frost like ashes, . . .

Psalm 147:16   MSG



And who do you think is the father of rain and dew,
the mother of ice and frost?

Job 38:28,29



You don’t for a minute imagine
these marvels of weather just happen, do you?

Job 38:30   MSG



You laid out the four corners of earth,
shaped the seasons of summer and winter.

Psalm 74:17   MSG



Then he gives the command and it all melts;
he breathes on winter—suddenly it’s spring!

Psalm 147:18

A Prophet’s Words

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The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows— light! sunbursts of light!   Isaiah 9:2   MSG


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.


And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6   NIV


Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


Behind the Christmas Tree

Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.    Isaiah 1:18   NIV


During the sermon last Sunday our pastor shared part of his family’s Christmas letter.

It was a different kind of letter, not chock full of their kids’ accomplishments, but full of their hearts’ desires.  This Christmas season they were struck by how much we need a Savior and acknowledged their failings.  They included these two scriptures about Jesus, instead of the usual story from the second chapter of Luke:

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.   Matthew 1:21   NIV

Jesus is the Greek form of the name we’re familiar with from the Old Testament, “Joshua,”  and it means

“God Saves.”

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.   1 Timothy 1:15   NIV


In his family Christmas letter our pastor wrote:

I am still selfish; I’d like to be better at sharing.

I still regret my lack of patience when parenting.

My children have come to me for mercy and found a mad man instead.

He came to save me from my sins.


The pastor’s wife added:

While in the privacy of my home, I yell at my kids and my husband.

I struggle to find contentment.

I struggle with self sacrifice for those who are truly in need.

He came to save me from my sins.


From the older children came these words:

Instead of responding to inquiries with openness and compassion, I respond with anger and then point out mistakes.

I could show more patience and caring to those that challenge me by speaking only words that are true, necessary, and kind.

I often treat others and myself poorly.  I put too much value on money, and I love worldly possessions.

I worry.  I always have to have something to worry about, which prevents me from truly enjoying the many blessings God has given me.

He came to save me from my sins.


The cross is often lost in the shadow of the Christmas tree.  The gift given at Christmas, boxed in a manger and tied with a bow of swaddling clothes is the present I least expected, but needed most.

Jesus came to be born as a tiny baby and to die on the cross to save me from my sins:  my impatience, my indifference, and my ingratitude.  My sins–more than mistakes, greater that mere errors, offenses of a self-centered heart–that are guilty blood drops on white, winter ground.  I need a Savior.

He came to save me from my sins.

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wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.   Psalm 51:7

  linked with Jennifer Lee Dukes

Running with Shepherds

When I saw the golden glow of light spilling in through the east windows of the house, I suspected the sunrise might be special.  Still in my pajamas and bathrobe, I threw on an extra pair of heavy socks and old slippers (with a split in the sole) and crossed the creaking boards of the front porch until I could see the southeastern sky.


Yes!  The colors were gorgeous, so I hurried back in the house, hung the camera around my neck, and poked my arms into the sleeves of a winter coat and my feet into my son’s several-sizes-too-big chore boots.  Early morning colors change so rapidly; time and sunrise wait for no woman.


If you drove past my house just before sunrise a few days ago and were startled to see a wild-haired woman, shuffling through the snow, bathrobe flapping under a down coat, I apologize for my appearance.


My predawn dash was motivated by excitement, anticipation, and awe–I didn’t want to miss any of this sunrise, so  I didn’t wait to get cleaned up and dressed.

Neither did the shepherds in the Christmas story.  They didn’t stop to make themselves “presentable.”  They hurried.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing.   Luke 2 :15-17  MSG


Don’t wait until you’re “presentable” before you hurry to Jesus.

Run with your broken sole/soul,

wind-blown hair,

mismatched life,

and unwashed heart.

Run to the manger to see what God has revealed.


But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’   Luke 2:10-12   NIV

God has invited you to a Christmas party, and it’s “come as you are.”  Hurry.  You don’t want to miss a thing.


Photos #4 and #6 by Barb Briggs

linked with Jennifer Dukes Lee

linked with Emily Wierenga

Coffee Shops, Frank Sinatra, and Immanuel

Christmas is a season of shining lights, glittery ornaments, and glowing candles.  We celebrate Jesus’ coming as the light of the world, but it can be a dark season, a time of tears for some whose hearts are still tender from a recent loss.  Even if we’re not feeling the “Christmas joy,”  God is right there with us.  Today I’m sharing a story about loss and comfort written by Brockie, one of the women in my prayer group.


Ever have those moments that come from nowhere. You know, those moments of grief and loss that are overwhelming, and you couldn’t have seen them coming from a hundred miles away?  I had one of those today in the coffee shop.  Frank Sinatra music was playing, and I found myself lost in my dad’s voice, singing with his quartet . . .

“and then I go and say something stupid like I love you.”

brockie and dad

I sat with my three-year-old daughter by my side, wishing Dad was here to hear her sing “Away in a Manger” a hundred times this season.  I kept thinking how much he would love to watch my high-school-aged daughter make that left handed lay up that looks so smooth in her basketball games.

How proud Dad would be of the older boys and their academic accomplishments, as well as the wonderful young men they have become (all the while wearing the great socks that he would give them at Christmas time).  So if this is your first Christmas without a loved one or your 50th, I pray you will find the words of Isaiah, repeated by Matthew to be comforting:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).   Matthew 1:23   NIV

May you find God’s presence near to you in the middle of your grief and sorrow, and may you know you are not alone.  Blessings!


Photos by Barb Briggs

Diamonds in the Mist


Another day of fog,

another day of cold mist

sliding down the creek beds.


Another day of peering into the vapor

at the end of the driveway,

watching for a truck or car to materialize.


Another day of hidden sun

and missing shadows,

Another day of dripping leaves and eaves

and soggy shoes and muddy boots.


The fog has hidden the horizon, and the landmarks that point the way home are lost to me.


Another day of that prayer–you know the one, Lord.  I’m asking you again today.

Another day of sending my request into the fog that has swallowed my hope and sense of direction,

praying but feeling cut off from you, Lord.


Then I remember that fog is a cloud come to earth, and I stand inside it, and God’s glory is here with me.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Exodus 40:34, 35   NIV


In the cloud dropped to earth I find small splendors:

emerald moss, bejeweled grasses,


diamond drops of condensed mist, miniature water beads pierced by fox tail grass,


reminding me I am in God’s presence, regardless of how far I can see.

Sometimes the cloud descends, as it has today,

and I walk with sodden shoes on holy ground

with the misty weight of his glory upon me.


And that prayer–you know the one, Lord.  I’m still asking even though I can’t understand how you will work it out, but I know that you will

as surely as sunny skies will follow these foggy days.


We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!   1 Corinthians 13:12   MSG

linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Thankful 30: Day 30–1952 Truck

I have joined Emily’s* 30 Day Challenge:

I’m challenging myself to post a picture every day during the month of November (30 Days To Be Thankful For) and to add a caption as to why I am thankful. — Emily

Day 30:  I’m thankful for a 1952 pickup truck.

2008 07 04 4th July parade 2

My father bought the blue International in 1953 and owned it until the year before he died.  In 1959 he drove the pickup a thousand miles, over mountain roads in the winter to move our family back to his hometown.  We squeezed into the cab–my parents, me (a preschooler), and my brother (barely a year old)–and packed all our belongings in the back of the truck.  My father had built a carrier/bed that attached above the seat by the back window of the cab, where my brother could sleep.  (This was before the days of seat belts or car seats for children.)


I asked my father why they moved back to his hometown.  He said that they thought the schools would be better here in the Midwest.  Parents will do a lot, sacrifice a lot for their children.


The International continued to be a work horse over the years.  Dad loaded bags of livestock feed,  carried carpentry tools, and hauled lumber in the bed of the truck.  It survived ice storms and hail, mud roads, and a collision with a steer.  One summer the back was enclosed and became a “camper” for overnight fishing trips.


Many people in our small Midwest town recognized Dad’s blue truck, even if they didn’t know my father.  When he retired, he continued working as a carpenter and handyman around town.  The passenger seat and floor were mounded with tools, and the truck bed rattled with lumber and saw horses.  People would tell me, “I see your dad’s working on Mrs. Smith’s house–saw the truck there.”


My father drove the truck less and less as he took fewer carpentry jobs, but he delighted in washing and decorating the International for 4th of July parades.

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When driving was no longer a safe option for my father, the truck was parked one last time.  He gave the truck to my brother the year before he died.


Last night we loaded (pushed, pulled, and pleaded) the blue International onto a car trailer.  My brother, the baby who rode 1000 miles in the cab of the truck (and is now married and the father of teenagers) will take the truck one final 500 mile trip to his home, where it will be stored and repaired.

My father was happiest when he was working, building or repairing. The International was his companion for the many decades of his working life.  Dad would be pleased to know the truck will be restored.

Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.   Hebrews 13:16   The Message.

I imagine the next verse refers to relationships rather than carpentry, but I think that Jesus might have a tender heart toward carpenters who keep things in repair.

And that’s about it, friends. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure.   2 Corinthians 13:11,12   The Message


See Thankful 30 page for every day’s entry.

* name changed

linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Thankful 30: Day 29–Readers

I have joined Emily’s* 30 Day Challenge:

I’m challenging myself to post a picture every day during the month of November (30 Days To Be Thankful For) and to add a caption as to why I am thankful. — Emily

Day 29:  I’m thankful for you readers who visit this blog.

I appreciate your kind and encouraging words.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

I Thessalonians 5:11

For those of you who have enjoyed and commented on the photos of sunrise and sunset, this is how the morning and evening sky was painted today.


Skies are blazing with his splendor,
his praises sounding through the earth,   Habakkuk 3:3


See Thankful 30 page for every day’s entry.

* name changed

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