The Family of God…

Life often leaves us feeling empty and lost.  As the holiday season approaches, for many, those feelings are overwhelming and hard to cope with.  The holidays are a time filled with memories and traditions that are best when shared with loved ones.  But relationships can be complicated, and circumstances can be devastating.  In difficult times, we don’t always see clearly, we are vulnerable, and the worst thing we can do is isolate ourselves whether by silence or distance.images-5

God desires us to be in community.  He designed us to be relational and He blesses us through others.  When we don’t have this community, one where we are loved and accepted for who we are, where we feel safe to share our challenges and hurts, we feel disconnected.

There are times in life when the community we are in is broken and not as God intended.  One Christmas in particular stands out in my memory as especially difficult for me.  My family was broken.  I was just 18 and my parents had been divorced for a year.  The reality of two separate households was a revelation that unfolded slowly, like pulling stitches from a tender wound, one bleak insight at a time.

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It was Christmas Eve and being a devoted daughter, my game plan had been to do whatever I could to please both my parents (not much of a plan!).  With good intentions I headed to mom’s only to find that she was having her own struggles with our new reality that were coming out in odd and uncomfortable ways.  Despite my best efforts, when it came time for me to head to House #2, my mom was not ok.  I left on a sour note and found that it was not much better at dad’s; he was not in a good place mentally or emotionally so, despite our best efforts, Christmas unfolded that year like an unrehearsed melodrama staged by party clowns, strange and hard to watch. It wasn’t pretty, but hidden within the struggle was a purpose.

images-4As I got in my car to leave at the end of that cold winter night so long ago, I saw through an open window a family smiling and celebrating.  It was a family I’d known for many years, a family like ours used to be.  My heart hurt to think of the terrible loss of our once close and devoted family.  I knew on a deep level that it would never be like that again for us.  The sadness overwhelmed me.

In that moment, Christmas was all about my pain and my circumstances, Jesus was nowhere to be found.  I had pushed Him out; there was no room with so much pain and sadness swimming around in my heart and mind.

images-3I wish I had known then that if I had let Him in and kept Him the center of my world, Christmas would have looked very different!  I could have ministered to my hurting parents and my own suffering would have been diminished under the sheltering wing of God’s eternal love and peace.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

images-2More than 20 years later, I can testify to how God has restored our family and used our trials for instruction and a greater purpose.  In the moment, I could not see how anything good would come of our situation and the ugliness that surrounded us. We let our circumstance overshadow the Truth.

The truth is, the Family of God is Eternal and rooted in love.  The beautiful truth about our pain and suffering is that God can make beauty from ashes, he redeems our brokenness, and by His grace all we need is faith.

To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:3

images-6Dear God, Help us keep our eyes on you this Christmas!  The birth of Christ is a light into the darkness of our world.  Help us rejoice, even in our suffering, for the glorious gift of Jesus.! You came to heal the broken ,save the lost, and love the unlovely.  We stand in awe of you.  Fill us with your strength, peace, and holy joy so that we may overcome whatever difficulties we face in this world.  Bring us into community Lord, and help us to be more like you as we love the people in our lives in a way that reflects who you are and brings glory and honor to you, Father God.  We praise you and thank you, in Jesus’ name, amen!

 

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A Writer’s Prayer

I need to write something but I can’t flesh it out. It’s sitting there behind a landslide of pressure and expectation. Why is it so hard to get to? Words are a river ever flowing, moving too quickly to the sea, slipping through my desperate grasp; I need a reservoir, waiting, ever full.

Release me from this tomb of silent sludge,oh God. Fill me with Holy inspiration and artful expression. I am but a child in a world I do not understand, I cry out to you for my every need. You alone can fill this empty place.

Make me a servant of your will. Take away my plans and troubled intentions. Free me from the prison of my own agenda Father! You are the breath of life; I struggle apart from you. Turn my trial into triumph, oh God.

Your will be done on this writer’s page, for your glory alone, amen.

Angels and Guardians • Part 1

Every now and then the extraordinary happens; something, or someone, set apart, enters the world and lives are changed for the better.  For many years I was unaware of the miracle I was born into.  A story was unfolding in my family and I was an unknowing witness to events and circumstances that were being shaped by God for His greater purpose and glory.  Even today, I can only see the edges of His plan as I look back on the characters He cast…

One day on a trip to the grocery store I noticed a little girl staring at my aunt as we made our way through the parking lot.

“What is she looking at?” I wondered. I looked at my aunt and saw her for the first time, through someone else’s eyes…She was not tall, in fact short by most standards. Her back was curved which made her hunch forward. She did not walk like other people. She wore bulky metal braces on both her legs that went from her hips to her feet. Her strong hands gripped the handles of long metal crutches she used to propel her body in a forward motion by swinging her torso to move her legs forward, over and over again. She moved differently from every other person on the planet, her physical limitations and adaptations unique to her.

I understood for the first time that this is what some people saw when they looked at her, someone physically disabled, strange, different.

But this was not who she was.

I’d seen pictures of my aunt when she was little, before she contracted polio. She was unusually beautiful with perfectly placed features, a delicate nose, rosy red lips and big bright blue eyes. She had naturally curly brown hair and a contagious smile.

When she was 5 years old she became very ill. She would suffer the torment of doctors who did not understand how to treat polio, and who performed surgeries and procedures that left her crippled and in constant chronic pain.

But this was not who she was.

UnknownWhen my Aunt was diagnosed with Polio, they put her in a quarantine ward in Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California. At one point, no one, not her mom or dad or any family members were permitted to see her. She lay alone and frightened surrounded by strangers in contamination suits; nameless, faceless shadows that moved in and out, they could offer neither hope nor healing.

One night, alone in her sterile hospital room she wondered if anyone was coming to check on her. She wondered if she might die alone and what that would be like; and she wondered if there was a God and if He was watching.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:9

She was staring out the doorway of her empty room when an “angel” appeared on the edge of her bed. It did not speak, and yet she knew why it was there; God was letting her know she was not alone, that He was watching over her. She felt the full comfort and hope of a loving God in that moment of pain and loneliness, and it changed everything.

Fast forward 20 years and several miracles later, by the time I was born, Aunt Bonnie was the loving face that looked down at me, changing my diapers and holding me close. She was the warm hand that held mine when I stood close to her for comfort. She was the maker of many home cooked meals and special family gatherings. She was the one who picked me up after school when my parents could not. She was the one who sat with me when I was sad or discouraged and took my mind off my own troubles by effortlessly cheering me up.

She didn’t let me feel sorry for myself.  She showed me how to be grateful for what I have, and not waste time thinking about what I don’t have.

Aunt Bonnie knew what was important and what was not. She was a rock and a comfort to all who knew her.  Her family leaned on her, not the other way around.

This was who she was. Smiling in the face of pain.

Today, God speaks to me through my Aunt’s life. I realize this is how He sees us, the way I see my Aunt, through the eyes of love not the lense of brokenness.

The message of The Cross is love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

This was who she was. She was a child who saw an angel sent from God and found a hope and strength that few posses. She became a light to other children and families stricken with polio.

I often though of my Aunt as my guardian angel, never seeing her as anything less. I will forever be grateful that despite the doctors certainty that she could not possibly live past age 7 or 8, God had a different plan, a perfect plan…

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all 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! Amen. Ephesian 3: 14-21

Ephesians 3: 14-21 reminds me that the love of God is stronger than any disease. It reminds me of the extraordinary things He does through the weak and broken, and it reminds me that when we are firmly rooted in this love, miracles can happen.

Thank you God for the extraordinary people you raise up, for the angels and guardians you send to watch over and protect us. Give us eyes to see them among us so we may be blessed with hope and courage by your loving protection and provision. Thank you, that you love us and will never forsake us, that you go to prepare a place for us in Heaven.  Let our prayers intervene for those who can not call on you Lord, for you alone are mighty to save! In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.

Leaving Home

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I dropped my oldest daughter off at college recently and I feel like I am in the spin cycle of an industrial size washing machine. I can’t seem to slow down the myriad of emotions that keep steamrolling through my mind and body; I miss her, but I am excited for her, I am happy she is boldly following her dreams, but I am sad for the loss of her presence in our home, I am scared that I can’t protect her from so far away, but I am proud of her courage and independence. I know God is with her as the journey leading to this moment was marked by confirmation after confirmation that she is truly on the path He has set before her. This alone should give me transcendent joy and peace. I know this. I want to embrace it. But it is so hard to let go.

1901348_10152592136409842_2465773142710084956_n Where did the time go, I ask God? There were so many things I wanted to do as a mom over the course of her childhood. Here at the end it feels as though it was over just as it had begun. My heart aches with wanting more time; more time together for simple things like walks and talks in the park, sitting and listening to what is going on with her, brushing her hair, holding her close, putting everything else aside to just be with her.  I wanted to read her books that were magical in my childhood, sharing with her life lessons and beloved characters.

There were so many things I wanted to teach her that we simply never got to. I am shaken with fear over the things that I missed, the memories that were never made because I was too busy, or distracted, or just plain focused on myself, and my circumstances.

How much time did I lose with her, worrying about money, plans, errands, social agendas and other distractions that were inconsequential? There are things that need to be done in life, no question, but my regret lies in losing sight of what was most important. In the midst of busy life everything seems important at the time, but looking back, only one thing remains, love.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

God’s word reminds me that our relationship with Him is the same, nothing else will matter in the end. I know this but find myself being pulled by the world and it’s priorities. He gently reminds me in this season to keep my eyes on the prize, to refocus and choose with intention where my treasure lies.

 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  1 Peter 1,2

For this realization I am grateful in the midst of what feels like a terrible loss, the loss of a precious stage of life. I was not prepared for what this would feel like, perhaps we always feel cheated, like the time was not enough. But as I lean in to God He comforts and guides me.
The truth is, with Christ, it is all gain. I am gaining a young woman who I love no less and who needs me as much as ever. From this day on I will remember what this feels like and focus with intention on where and how I spend my time. How blessed I am to have the future with her ahead and time to make more precious memories. When the spin cycle ends, the truth is I don’t have to let go, I need to hold on. After all, in Christ, we have eternity.

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 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Thy Kingdom Come

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Thru the dark a steady drum

A distant low resounding hum

Knowledge buried in the deep

Awake the dreamer from her sleep

Ancient words like music ring

Soothes a soul that’s suffering

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Something lost can still be found

Seek the path on hallowed ground

Kingdom come as she cries out

Faith replace a heart of doubt

Give to God what He forgave

In the light will stand the brave

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Hallowed be the Holy name

That covers sin and hidden shame

Surrender ends in victory

The lame will walk the blind will see

A cross to bear a heavy load

The beauty in the story told

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Leave behind a starless night

Through grace appears Eternal Light

A Holy Treasure is received

The day the heart cries, “I Believe”.


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Life is a constant struggle to do what is right. Our schedules rule our worlds. Men and women both often find themselves overwhelmed, overwrought and overworked in our high-tech culture. The blessing of technology also means we have more options and opportunities than ever before. As a result, we are racing just to keep up.  God forbid an opportunity pass us by.  If you blink you might miss something!

Just this week I discovered the “Amazon Echo”. It’s a robot that looks like a tall speaker! It sits on your counter top and awaits your verbal command to execute almost anything an app can do; which today seems to be endless. I had to stop and pause for a long time to fully absorb the reality and ramifications of this new tech.. Once again, daily life has the potential to be drastically changed. From the era of smartphones and Google-Mania comes a mighty temptation to rush to keep up and forget what we are doing, and why.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

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As believers we desire to walk in the will of God. This is not some fairy tale ideal. Once we surrender our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit shows us where, and how, we have been blinded by incorrect thinking and beliefs. He gives us a spirit of discernment and wisdom that grows as we make choices in line with the Word of God. Despite our best efforts we often get off track.  It is harder than ever to focus in a world flooded with new and amazing distractions!

…you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Dueteronomy 13:3

God in His infinite patience and mercy walks us through our trials and missteps. He sets our feet upon a path that leads to Him if we remain faithful. Nothing apart from this is worth our time or energy. This is radical thinking when you are caught up in other things, but “other things” lead to sin. For Christians, sin is anything that separates us from our relationship with God or comes before Him. In my life, that means I have to be intentional about the amount of time I spend with “technology” compared to the amount of time I spend in prayer, in the Word, and seeking God in my daily choices. Let’s be honest, we could spend all day on our Smartphones if we aren’t careful and it doesn’t stop there…

If the Devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy…

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God gives us opportunities daily to know Him more.  What happens when we are too busy to slow down and act on those Godly opportunities? How many times have you gone from one thing to the other, and before you know it, the day is over and you have not thought about God for more than a fleeting moment?  How many days do we go without praying, acting in our own strength, making choices that do not honor God but distract us from our true purpose?  Most of us struggle with this regardless of how long we have been Christians, we are too easily distracted, and the Devil knows it.

We are called to simple acts of kindness and love, ministering to others in need. These meetings have Heavenly consequences. When we can slow down and listen to the prompting of the Holy spirit, we don’t miss out on divine appointments set by God.  It’s shocking to think that we could miss out because we are playing Mine Craft, Candy Crush, or some other equally addicting game.  They seem harmless in isolation, but we must ask ourselves if we have unconsciously shifted our attentions away from God’s calling on our lives and given up precious time.

A  famous Christian Pastor tells of how he was in a busy hotel when he was a young man and a bellman offered to help him with something. He felt that he really didn’t need help.  He was about to say “no thank you” as he was in a hurry to get back to his room and check his email. But years of walking with God had taught him the importance of listening to that voice inside, the God voice, asking him to do something against his better judgment or desire. That voice told him the boy needed to speak to him. The pastor chose to slow down and listen.  He was able to comfort the boy and minister to his needs.  The boy was blessed, but in the end that meeting blessed the pastor in a way he never expected. That divine appointment led to another meeting that led to the pastor publishing his first book. That book went on to be a best seller and impact thousands of lives for Christ.

Is there an app for God?  We are the God app.  He writes the code for our lives, He is the Master Designer.  He works through us and in us.  God has an infinite wireless connection to every soul He created, that never glitches, disconnects, or becomes obsolete.  Technology is amazing and we should embrace what is new, as long as we keep our eyes on the real prize…

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 18:30

Heavenly Father we praise you for the miracles and wonders in the world around us. Guide us in your ways.  Help us to choose wisely how and where we spend our time, resources, and money. Remind us who we are in you, and that you have a purpose for our lives. Let our identity be in you God. We are who you say we are; beloved children, created in your image for good works in your name so that more may come to know you God. Help us stay on course Father, make us intentional in putting you first above all else, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Is There an App for God?

Redemption

The Garden, the lie, the fall, the goodbye

The hiding, the shame, the sorrow, the blame

The truth, the cost, the foolish, the lost

The choice, the sin, the struggles within

The dark, the light, the power, the might

The path made clear, the birth of fear

The boy, the girl, their broken world

The Love that saves, the bond man craves

The Son, The Cross, the death, the loss

The Risen, The Lamb, The Savior of Man

The promise revealed, the broken now healed

The old, the new, The Gospel, The Truth!

Love, Honor, and Learn God’s Word…

joMy daughter recently shared with me one of her favorite parts of Romans. God has given her a heart for young girls her age and she looks for opportunities to mentor and disciple teenagers. She told me that some have asked her to share with them practical things about God that can help them in high school, so she’s been teaching them Romans 12: 9-12.

When she and I went through the verses together she said that she chose it because it helped her at a younger age when she really needed it. She said she would read it over and over again. I never knew this. I felt a deep sadness that I had not shared this with her myself, that when she needed it most, I did not have enough of God’s word in me to comfort her and guide her. I loved God for a long time and innocently thought as a young mother that was what mattered most. Looking back, I see how God was shepherding us both. I know that there is “no condemnation in Christ”. God is truly the Father of us all. I know He knows how much I love Him, and my children; and that He does not want me to regret but rejoice in my walk with Him secure in the knowledge He has had us both in the palm of His hand the entire way.

It’s not about our failures or mistakes as mothers, it’s about our faithfulness and obedience. That being said, I have learned that it is not enough to love God, if we do not have His word firmly planted in us we will not grow and we cannot fulfill our roles or minister to others in the way God intended. We are meant to lead our children, how can we lead them in ways we do not know?

This message is praise to God for giving this scripture to my child and growing in her a heart to share it with other girls whose mother’s truly love them, but like me, maybe did not have the words they needed when they needed them. Here is a short application of Romans 12: 9-12 that I am grateful I have now to share with whomever may need it, young or old.


It is important to know that this part of Romans is the author’s, (the apostle Paul,) instruction about how God desires us to live as Christians. †

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ROMANS 12: 9-12

VERSE BY VERSE:

 Verse 9: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”

In our relationships we are to love with a sincere heart, and further oppose cruelty by clinging to what God has said is good here. This is especially challenging for teenagers as their relationships begin to mature. There are very few good examples in the entertainment media of how human beings are to treat each other much less believers in Christ. So many negative messages bombard us on a daily basis. We live in a fallen world and must deal with evil, persecution, pain, suffering and more. When we trust and believe in what God has said we lean in to Him and this truly becomes a shelter in the storm. When we react to the negative or ungodly influences around us, and turn away from God, we lose that shelter and become entangled in battle. Contrary to what the world is telling us, God is telling us not to pretend to love people, but to love them as He does, because He does:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 JOHN 4:7-11

 Verse 10: “Be devoted to one another in loveHonor one another above yourselves.”

Pride is a killer, especially in a world where image is everything. Social rules demand we order ourselves into groups with some on top and even more on the bottom. This is directly against God’s word. He tells us to put others above ourselves. Forget the accolades, compliments and praises we crave, God says it is better to put others first. This is obviously not a popular way of thinking as we can see by the many competitions for awards, magazines, and pop culture icons that we are surrounded by. These things are not evil unless we put them before God. To obey God you must keep your eyes on Him and let go of what is popular.

Verse 11: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Keep your eyes on the prize. One of my favorite Bible teachers says often; “There is no high like the Most High.” God must be first. In everything we do we are to consider if our choice is pleasing to God. Does God want us to make sure we see every Hollywood blockbuster but rarely find time to read our Bibles? Do we make time for fun with friends and forget to pray because we are simply too busy? A wise man once said; “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Satan does not have to make us drug addicts or murderers to destroy our witness and our purpose, he simply has to encourage us to take our eyes off of God. No purpose we create for ourselves in the world will ever compare to the purpose God has for us. Do we crave recognition, power, money, and fame more than we desire God? If so, we are on a path to destruction.

Verse 12: “Be joyful in hopepatient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

God is in everything. He does not promise us a problem free life, He does promise to never leave us or forsake us. He promises us beauty for ashes, good from evil, if we believe and cling to hope:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1: 2-4

Finally I want to leave you with these additional scriptures to hold close to your heart. These have saved me from myself more times than I can count, never more so than when I am tired, stressed, or sick, God’s word does not fail to protect me from my foolish reactions, impulses and emotions! If your heart is struggling to love, obey these words, pray and ask God to change your heart:

 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10: 5


Thank you God that you love us so much that we cannot even begin to fathom the depth of your love, that you would give your son to die for us so that we may be reconciled to you! Help us to put others first, to honor them, to love them, because they are your children, not because we judge them worthy. Help us to be wise and give us words to lift others up. Give us strength to resist the temptations and attitudes of the world, give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and wisdom to choose the path you would have us walk so that we may lead others to you. Let us not grow weary but hold on to our fervent devotion and zeal for you. May we be joyful, patient, and faithful, oh Lord, in all our circumstances, secure in the knowledge that you are with us and you will work all things together for our good.   Do not let us lose hope but keep our eyes fixed on you. We love you Lord, in Jesus name, Amen.

† The following website is a good resource to use for in depth study of the Bible. For the purposes of this article it was used to confirm the author’s original intention and for Greek translations of key words in the text. http://www.blueletterbible.org/

Life After Death

broken, scattered by the wind

falling

falling

down again

what God has joined is more than us

fighting ashes turned to dust

I can not bear to see you go

I wish you’d stay, I love you so

my heart, my soul, my memory

too quickly shattered by this need

to keep this life the way it was

to feel no pain but hold to love

where shall I stand? I whisper now

how to move on? I know not how…

a journey’s end is left behind

another path now I must find

my hands reach out to grasp the Light

to keep the joy now I must fight.

an act of faith by force of will

I long for silence, soft and still

a quiet heart, a peaceful mind

a new day dawns and Hope we find

as rolling surf meets silken sand

He waits for one with outstretched hand…

I will guide you

Call my name

These are tides that never change

the Lord thy God is close to thee

He hears your cries across the sea

of time and space and desperate doubt

the Lord, He hears when we cry out

this grand design to carry on

memory echoes God’s great song…

and so I take you where I go

and know that I am not alone

through the mountains majesty

of falling leaves and evergreen,

through the desert long and dry

of fallen earth and endless sky,

through the waters wild and blue

of crashing waves and changing hue…

…lifted, carried on the wind

rising

rising

up   again…