"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Monday, January 23, 2017

Clanging Cymbals vs. Windchimes

As I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians 13 several weeks ago and read the first verse, my mind immediately took me to an incident that occurred at the local post office back before Christmas. The line was long and I was about 12 people deep before my turn to mail my package. A cake. In front of me was a woman with her boxes and in front of her a man who was obviously very suspicious of the government. His loud tirade began with cell phone tapping through the towers in Alabama and digressed quickly, moving from our then current president to the incoming incumbent. He was definitely not happy with the first and already trashing the second. Fortunate for me, the woman between us was taking most of the brunt from the storm. She would look at me from time to time and I could see the letters HELP written across her eyelids when she blinked. But all I could do was just give her a pathetic grin that said, "I am so sorry. I feel your pain." And this was just the beginning. It was Christmas after all, and fodder for more, as the advocate for "truth" moved from politics to peace -- and that there would be none until the Prince of Peace Himself comes. True. I could agree with that statement, and so I gave my sheepish grin again and nodded carefully. But then we moved on to the great white throne judgment where God would separate the sheep from the goats. And on it went, louder and louder, until we, he, had finally made his way to the customer service desk. I'm not sure, but I think I heard a collective sigh throughout the lobby.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1). I had my word picture. And it has stuck to me like white on rice. Why? Because I know that I have been that individual.

If there is any one particular material possession that brings me great joy, it would be the chimes my husband gave me for Christmas so many years ago now. Just this morning, I sat in the darkness and listened as one lone tube was struck, leaving its sound in the air until every vibration was dissipated throughout the neighborhood. And then another. Finely turned. Rich. Deep. Beautiful. Just one tone, the same each time, reaching to the depth of my soul.

As the wind began to stir, all the chimes were touched and the one note turned into a melody, a song, until the whole yard was filled with the very tones that when played in order sing "Amazing grace." I let them wash over me and I found great healing ... and peace.

As I picked up my morning reading, I was directed of all things to 1 Corinthians 13 again and was instructed to read the entire passage multiple times. I was asked to become a part of it and to see what images it brought to my mind. To see what phrases resonated within me and to meditate on those shreds of revelation. I was to let the the words come crashing into my spirit like waves on a shore. And to be aware of any memories or experience it kindled.

The word picture of earlier came to mind, but this time it was coupled with the sounds of my chimes that hung just outside my window on the eave of the house. The chimes that were now alive with dance and were singing joyously.

Yes, the world is full of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. If anything, the last weeks have certainly proven that to be true. And so my thoughts turned to earnest prayer. "O God, may I not be among their number. Rather, let me be one who is moved by the wind of Your Spirit, Your holy Breath, and in doing so, peals forth Love."

Then and only then is there any hope for true Peace in this world.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; 
and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NRSV)

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thin Places

Thin places. Those places of awakening when God is especially close. They are porous. Permeable. Where the boundary between what is and what isn't becomes soft. Where the walls become thin. Where we can glimpse the realm of the eternal. And where the eternal can seep through and touch us.

A friend told me recently that when she walked into the chapel at Sancturio de Chamayo, she burst into tears. It was a thin place for her. But it doesn't have to be a place.

Like beautiful music and good poetry.

Like the sacraments of holy communion and baptism where we are awakened to mystery. Or like  a common meal around a dinner table when we realize that every meal is communion.

Like when you hold your first grandchild.

Like when the sun begins its ascent in the east -- and God begins pouring out new mercies. Yes, the stillness of God -- presented Tuesday morning in a white woolen blanket of fog. Not to put down paper and pen would have been a sin. An affront to the One who was coming close. Is this how Elijah felt? It was not a time for dancing or singing or even prophesying.

No. Moments like these are for awareness. For being silent. For beholding. For just being.

Thin places. They are everywhere. Let's all ask for the grace to have eyes to see.

The Lord your God is in your midst...
He will rejoice over you with His gladness,
He will renew you in His love...
Zephaniah 3:17a

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking for Lovely in 2016

A friend sent me an email last week stating that I needed to write one more blog for 2016 in order to get off of 13. Yes, I have only blogged 13 times this year. I quickly typed, "Challenge accepted," and hit the send button. So I've been thinking a lot about what I could write that might be more than just words on a page and I was completely "blogged" down (please forgive the pun). In fact, as of this time yesterday morning, I had totally given up. After all, who wants to read, "2016: A Year of Heartbreak"?  And quite frankly, it was just too hard to look at. But three days ago, I picked up Annie F. Downs book, Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter," and after completing it, my mind has been transformed to a new way of thinking.

As I read back through my 2016 journal earlier this week, over and over I had written, "My heart is just so broken this morning." So, yes, the original title, "2016: A Year of Heartbreak," could have worked and been very appropriate. For example, in the first quarter of 2016, my oldest son went through an unexpected divorce. On the Richter scale of my heart, it was a full blown 10. The 2nd quarter saw the return of my brother's brain tumor. Once again, our lives were shaken. August revealed yet another breakup when our daughter did the bravest thing she's ever done and left her husband. And then, October landed my husband in the hospital for several days with what we thought to be a stroke or TIA as he lost his memory. Like it was here one minute and, ZAP, gone the next. I thought I had lost him, too. 

Large heartbreaks with a thousand smaller ones wrapped up inside of each. Not to mention all the other things that go along with just living. Rough stuff. All things that can break one's heart. 

But in reading Annie's book, I discovered that I could either let 2016 be defined by these heartbreaks, or I could do as she has done and look for lovely and collect the moments that mattered. And what I have discovered is that lovely shows up as hope where there's despair; as faith where there's darkness; as love where there's hate; as joy where all else is crying. It shows up in siblings gathering around each other to laugh and support. As friends coming together in grief to encourage and cry. As prayers lifted to heaven -- with numerous tears. As meals given, as meals received and as meals shared. Lovely is found when you are seen; when I am seen. 

One of my journal entries I came across read, "We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our responses." And so as the year draws to a close, I have chosen the latter, for, indeed, there is so much lovely to be seen. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. For Lovely.

Just an ordinary moment...


Monday, November 14, 2016

Would You Like to Dance?

I have always loved to dance, despite the fact that I've never been particularly good at it. For those of you from my area, you might can appreciate that at only 3 years of age, I was one of Sally Stanley's very first students. Whereas I loved it, I also wanted to take piano; and seeing that my body shape was probably more conducive to the latter, the summer I was entering 2nd grade, my uncle Bernie bought me my first piano and my parents signed me up for lessons with Mrs. Bedingfield. But I still loved to dance. 

On several occasions, neighborhood friends and I would hold shows on my parents' front porch or in the carport. We performed skits (my friend Jeannie received a pie in the face) and told jokes, but there was always singing and dancing involved in the midst of it all. In fact, I specifically remember doing a dance number to Doris Day's "Que Sera, Sera." And on one such occurrence, "Miss Sally" herself was sitting in the crowd. I was very young. She was very gracious. 

As time waned, so did the shows, but never my love for dancing. Unfortunately, my dance card never filled up. It seems I was always the last to be invited to the school dances, and even then it was often by the guy who had depleted all of his other choices. I even went with a distant cousin one time. I caught some grief for that one. Then my future husband came on the scene and not only did I have dates to the proms but I also got to go to his college dances! We still laugh at our different dance styles. And, yes, after I married him, we joined a local square dance club and literally danced circles around everyone else.

Today, most of my dancing is done through my fingers at the keyboard. Or vicariously through Dancing With the Stars which is the only show I have set to record on my DVR. And if truth be known, I can be caught twirling through the kitchen while I'm baking. Like I said, I have always loved to dance. My body tends to want to move when I hear a good beat. 

Throughout the Scriptures we are told to "rejoice." The Psalms are particularly filled with such charges. But if we delve a little deeper into the true meaning of the word, we will see that it's more than just to be glad. The Hebrew is gyil which means "to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion)." Wow, that's a lot different than just smiling and clapping our hands. Sounds a little bit like dancing to me.

But here's the cool part: whereas we are told over and over to "gyil in the Lord," there is a Scripture where God says HE gyils over us. Zephaniah 3:17 -- The LORD, your God ... will rejoice (gyil) over you with gladness..." Do you hear that? Our God twirls around over us in violent emotion. In other words, He passionately DANCES over us. How can we not get caught up in that kind of rejoicing? How can we not enter in to such a divine dance? 

Yes, we are invited. Not as a 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice, but as His first. His desire is for you. For me. All of us. Fully accepted in the Beloved, with His name written on every line of our dance card. Why not accept the invitation to join in? Kick up your heels. Tap a toe or two. Move back and forth in rhythm. Or swirl violently. But know that regardless if you choose to or not, He's still dancing over YOU with much joy ... and a whole lot of wildness.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bread Given

The light tap on the door revealed my darling, young friend standing there with a warm loaf of bread in her hands. Laura Carroll. It's what she does. It's one of the many ways she loves me. She informed me that it goes stale fast; that I might want to slice and freeze it. But no need for that. Bread disappears quickly around here; especially hot, homemade bread. In fact, I had already had two slices before the dinner hour arrived -- and then another with my meal. 

But by far my favorite partaking has been at breakfast. These last 2 mornings I have sliced, buttered and toasted a couple of small slices and brought them out here to my sunroom where I could enjoy them in the quietness of the breaking day. A candle is lit -- and breakfast becomes communion.

What grace. What gift. A young mother TAKES some wheat and mills it herself; BREAKING it. The BLESSING comes in her act of mixing, forming and baking. It's her spiritual act of worship. Her spiritual practice. Baking bread. And then she GIVES it, which just might be the hardest part of all. Sounds an awfully lot like Jesus to me. Like God. 

Henri Nouwen wrote, "As the Beloved of God, my greatest fulfillment lies in being bread for the world. I am chosen, blessed and broken so that I might be given." Yes, that's my young friend.

Toast and coffee. Bread and wine. Communion. Just me and Jesus -- and Laura.

Just an ordinary moment...