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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It'll Be Alright

“Lord, all I ask is that Your presence be there.” For days and even weeks leading up to my daughter’s wedding, that was my prayer. “No matter what happens, as long as You show up, everything else will be alright.”

I woke up early on Saturday to 24 degree weather. But not even the frigid temperature could keep me bedded down. It was my daughter’s wedding day. I got up and let the dogs out before heading across the street at 7:00 to have waffles with the bridesmaids. I went in to tell my husband goodbye, but at the same time had to tell him Gabe (our beagle/lab) had run off. Let’s just say he wasn’t happy – but I had a date to keep and was out the door. I told myself, “It’ll be alright.”

When I got to the church about 8:00 to begin preparing for the reception, I found that the sprinklers had come on during the night time hours and the walkway was completely frozen over. So as I carefully skated my way to the door with boxes of food, I thought, “It’ll be alright.”

The photographer arrived as did the beautiful bride and her bridesmaids at 10:30. But after two phone calls to the florist who was suppose to be there at 11:00 and had not yet shown up, I knew the photo scheduling was about to go out the door. I told myself, “It’ll be alright.” When the florist did arrive 30 minutes late, had my order wrong, and left half of the things at the shop 15 miles away and had to return to get them, I began to get a little irritated. I put my good friend Marcilla in charge of him lest I say something I shouldn’t, and calmed myself by telling her, “It’ll be alright.”

When I called Sandy at Publix to see what was taking so long with the bridal party’s food trays, he said they had not even begun making them. Knowing that we would now be an hour behind – as neither of us had dressed yet for the wedding – and that we would miss the photo shoot with our daughter, I remembered my prayer, and said, “It’ll be alright.”

Upon arriving back at the church at 1:00, I found the darling little photographer in a panic because she couldn’t empty her camera of the pictures she had taken – and now there was no more space on her chip. I put my hand on her arm and told her not to stress, that it would be alright. I immediately called my dad and said, “Please bring your camera!”

In the meantime, my sister-in-law had received a phone call that her brother had had a massive heart attack, and she and my brother were on the way to Atlanta. (It was not nearly as severe as they had been told.) And my precious daughter-in-law lay on the floor in a dark Sunday school room suffering from a major migraine. I grabbed a friend from the already filling sanctuary and asked her to please come pray for Kristin. Vicki got on her hands and knees and prayed and sang over her. I knew it would be alright.

At 1:40, I entered the sanctuary and took my place on a comfortable seat – the piano bench, where I was able to worship and share in my daughter’s wedding in a special way. At 2:00, my husband escorted me down the aisle to “My Jesus, I Love Thee;” my oldest son accompanied his beautiful wife as he played and she sweetly sang, “Take My Life and Let it Be;” and then my daughter walked down the aisle with her daddy to “Wash Me With the Water of Your Word.” He gave her away with a kiss and an embrace with them both and took his place beside me. The vows were new but very Biblical in nature, and the service ended with my middle child praying a blessing over them that will resound through the generations. And the bride and groom displayed a confidence of assurance I’d never witnessed in a couple that this was right.

Yes, God had answered my prayer: “All I ask is that Your presence be there.” I know that as the mother of the bride it’s my prerogative to feel such, but I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a sweeter, simpler, and more worshipful wedding ceremony in my life. God was there. And everything was alright.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
The bride making herself ready.

A tender moment with the older brother.

The sister-in-loves.
More to come...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In the blink of an eye

Some 25 years ago when I moved my firstborn's baby mattress down a notch, I prayed, "Lord, enable me to meet each milestone of my child's life with grace." Tonight, I entered my baby girl's bedroom and told her goodnight for the last time as my "baby." Tomorrow night she will spend the night gathered with her bridesmaids and then Saturday, she will belong to another. How many times I have prayed with and over her in her bed -- that she would be a handmaiden of the Lord. God has been so faithful in answering both prayers. She has indeed become His maid servant and His grace in my life, though filled with tears only a mother could understand, has and always will be sufficient.

Tonight was no ordinary moment. It was nothing short of sacred and precious.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Rubato Kind of Life

My Harvard Dictionary of Music describes rubato this way: “An elastic, flexible tempo involving slight accelerados and ritardandos that alternate according to the requirements of musical expression.” In other words, it’s a “give and take" that complement one another, so that, after several measures in this free tempo, the player arrives at exactly the same moment in time that he would have reached had he played in a strict tempo. The only difference is that there has been an expression of unforced rhythm that has produced a texture of musical freedom.

When I think of rubato, I think of Liszt’s Concert Etude in Db Major which I played for my entrance into college. I loved playing Bach and Mozart and the exact tempo of both. I still do; and quite frankly, it probably has to do with just that: the precision that is required. The clarity of everything being in its place, the order. But there’s nothing like the free expression of Liszt, Chopin, and Debussy that allows me to articulate the workings of my own heart which creates a balance and relationship between the artist and the student.

Matthew 11:28-30 records Jesus as saying, “Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (The Message).

As a Christ follower, I am to live a balanced life, not in the sense of everything being constant or steady, rather in the sense of “rubato,” – an “unforced rhythm of grace.” I am in a season of my life that is hectic right now; in two weeks that will probably be different – at least for a few days. There will be highs and there will be lows. There will be periods of stress and seasons of rest. The question is will I meet the demands with strict determination (religion) or will I walk with Christ in an unforced rhythm of grace (relationship) where the workings of His heart are expressed through the workings of mine. One is burdensome, the other light.

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Why not make that your goal, too?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Press and Seal

I had gathered everything I thought I needed at Sam’s: the cups and plates for the reception, the fresh chicken tenders, the twice-baked potatoes, and a huge block of cheese, and was on my way to check out when I remembered the forks. I had to get forks for the wedding cake. So I turned the buggy around and headed back. When I got to the aisle and located the utensils, there was an elderly black lady sitting in her mobile chair looking upward. So I asked, “Is there something I might reach for you?”

With huge gratitude she responded, “Yes, yes there is. I need that box of Press and Seal.” I turned around and reached for it, and when I did, I heard her say, “God is so good.”

Handing her the box, I replied, “Oh, indeed He is. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No. God is just so good. God bless you. God bless you.”

By this time I had moved around to her rear, but not wanting to miss a blessing, I shifted to where I could look her in the face. “God bless you, too.” And for a moment we shared the goodness of God. I ended with, “Let’s pass it on.”

It’s Election Day, and you know, this precious lady and I probably didn’t share the same choice in candidates. But it really didn’t matter. Our common denominator was Jesus. And He was and is enough.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Veil is Thin

One of my most favorite Sundays of the year is All Saints Day which is celebrated the first Sunday of November. During this morning’s service, there came a point when people began calling out the names of loved ones who had died in the past year. It’s always such a profound and solemn moment. What was different about this morning, however, was the activity going on next door in the fellowship hall in our children’s worship service. Normally, their singing and dancing takes place about the same time ours does and so there’s little distraction. But today was different. Just as we finished praying and it got quiet, readying people to call out names, the music in the next room began. I thought to myself, “Oh, no. Why now? This is really going to be distracting and ruin the mood of the moment.” But as I sat there, my own mood began to change.

A number of years ago, my pastor at the time preached on the thin veil that separated those of us here and those who had gone on ahead. He gave the analogy of two tables; maybe one in the breakfast room and the other in the dining room. The people at the two tables are out of sight of each other, but they can hear the laughter and talk going on at the other table in the next room. That image was rich as well as comforting to me at the time for I had just lost my own great aunt to death. I could imagine her laughing around the table with her parents, brothers and their wives – my great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Though I knew it was the children next door worshiping, as I sat there this morning with name after name being called out by those whose lives have been touched by death in the past year, for a moment I believed it just might be the saints gathered around the throne who I heard. It was a powerful moment for me, and so I just listened – and worshiped.