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

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Killing Worship

I've both heard and read recently that worship ought to kill us. But really now, how many of us truly experience that kind of worship on a normal Sunday morning?

I've been in need of a little different kind of worship lately myself -- not that I was looking for a death experience or anything, but just something that would stir me a little; fill a void maybe. And so I got up early Sunday morning and traveled up the road a piece to make an 8:45 service in another town. And what I discovered was far more than what I was expecting or anticipating. Now I must admit, the preaching was by far my favorite part. In fact, I was a blubbering fool throughout it. But the "preliminaries," for lack of a better term, started the whole ball of wax rolling.

The acolyte, for instance. If one was looking for decorum, he wouldn't discover it here. The little fellow swayed back and forth, jumped down the steps from the altar, and fidgeted the entire time he was standing. All I could think was, "O God, how You must delight in the activity of this child! I praise You!!!" And then I watched the face of Bob the Tomato as "she" swayed back and forth with her eyes closed entering into a worship that was far, far beyond her young years. And if that wasn't enough, they even sang my favorite hymn, just as if they knew I was going to be there! "Come, Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise..." The Gloria Patri, the Lord's prayer. I was even able to make a bold affirmation of my faith. Yes, it was just about to kill me.

And then the choir stood to sing and the knife was raised. Because this was the early service, the Genesis Choir -- a choir made up of mostly senior adults -- filled the loft , and with the first chords of the piano, I knew what was to follow. "Shackled by a heavy burden; 'neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the Hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same." Tears began welling even larger in my eyes, but nothing compared to when I looked and saw the very elderly gentleman seated to my left. I had noticed him earlier because of his inability to stand while the rest of us did. He just kept his place on the pew. But at this moment, his head was thrown back, his eyes were closed, and both of his feeble arms were raised to the sky. I heard the words of those singing but I could barely take my eyes off of him. It was pure, unadulterated worship. And when the choir sang its last note and silence fell upon the sanctuary, from the lips of that one whom Jesus had no doubt touched on so many occasions came the resplendent shout, "Glory to God!"

Yes! Just slay me.

An ordinary moment...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Early Morning Routine

Part of my normal morning routine is reading the obituaries. Actually, I don't really read all of them per se, I just see if there's anybody in there I know. I have often kidded that I turn to this section of the paper first thing because, one, if I find my name in there, I am NOT putting on my exercise shoes, and, two, I AM having a hot Krispey Kreme donut that has just come off the line.

But during this unusual practice, I often find myself saying things like, "Oh, Jesus, have mercy." Or, "Father, each name represents many hurting individuals. Comfort them." And sometimes, "Thank You, Lord, for a life well-lived." But this morning, something a little different happened as I scanned each listing. I think it was because there were some out-of-the-ordinary entries and so I tended to read a little more carefully. There was a well known octogenarian doctor from Macon as well as an unconventional lawyer who died way before her time. There was a middle-aged "caregiver," a school teacher, a nurse, and another who will be remembered in a service in the "Sanctuary of the Church of the Living God Gates of Heaven Full Gospel Ministries" by the "Overseer Apostle." Some listed a host of family members, two listed no one. Some "died," others "passed," one 96 year old "went home to be with her Lord," and one just plain "expired."

Some might say I'm morbid to begin my day with such. But am I really? Do we all not need to be reminded that we are immortal beings; that from ashes we come and to ashes we return? Do we all not need to be cautioned that there is an end to these days as we know it, so make the most of it. Do we all not need to be reminded that one day our names will also appear in bold above a column listing all of our achievements? And do we all not need to know that at the end of these days waits One who will either greet us with a "Well done, good and faithful servant," or a "Be gone for I never knew you." Quite honestly, when we stand before our Maker, it will not be because we had a list of achievements following our name nor because we were related to anybody special. It will be because we have personally put our complete faith and trust in the One and only One who matters. Jesus. Acts 4:12 says it this way, There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

I'm not so sure reading the obituaries as a morning routine is quite so bad after all.

Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sweet Daughter!!!

Twenty-one years ago today, the Lord blessed our family with a precious daughter/sister, and not one day has passed that we have not been thankful for His generous gift. She has brought such great joy as well as healing laughter to each one of us with her delightful sense of humor and playful spirit. Her wisdom and discernment in making sensible decisions has been beyond her years. She loves well and judges little, and her faith is marked by a testimony that lives itself out in the day-to-day.

Marynan, you are indeed that "fragrance of grace" which your name so beautifully implies. We have delighted in watching you grow to womanhood and evolve into a wife of noble character. But more than anything, we are grateful for the Godly woman you have become. Your love for Jesus is sincere and your praise of Him is real. It is our desire that you continue to make it your priority to seek and know your blessed Bridegroom, the Lover of your soul, for it is in doing so that He reveals Himself to you even more. Truly, "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him."

We are undeniably blessed to call you our daughter, and we love you so very much. Happy birthday, sweet one!

Mom and Dad

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised (Prov. 31:30).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Warming in the Sun

Wow, was anybody but me glad to see a little sunshine yesterday? I don't know what it's been like in your part of the world, but in mine, it has been rain, rain, and more rain. Even Saturday against all weather-related predictions of sun, it was ... rain. So you can imagine my delight yesterday morning on the way to church when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. And what if it was 40 degrees outside; the sun was out and it gave way to sheer pleasure on my part. Could I see the sun? Of course not. We all know to look at the sun is a dangerous thing. But feel it? You bet. Even amidst the sometimes blustery winds yesterday, I could sense the rays warming my body. And now as I sit here in my "sun room" and write, I can see streams of light coming through the paned glasses lighting up my chamber.

Just as we can no more look directly at the brilliance of the sun and retain our sight, neither can we look upon God and live. His glory is just too magnificent and holy for these earthly and immortal bodies to withstand. But the writer of Hebrews calls Christ the "radiance of God's glory." He was the ray that penetrated the earth's dark atmosphere and enables us to see and know something of the glory and splendor of God. In fact, He is the "express image of [God's] person." He is God's self-disclosure in every way.

So the next time you feel the warmth of the sun or see a ray of light breaking through the clouds, be thankful that God has chosen to make Himself known to you through His Son.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gasping for Breath

Have you ever noticed what a wordy world we live in? My husband and I took a quick road trip to Chattanooga this weekend for a family wedding and I felt like I would suffocate before we arrived home. No, it wasn't due to his verbosity. If there's anything my husband is not, it's a talker. What created this choking sensation were the signs along the way. Signs that told me where to eat, where to sleep, where to shop, and where to "drop." Improvised placards of Peaches! Pecans! And apple pie! Wherever there was a thought, there was a sign. Sides of 18-wheeler trailers, bumper stickers, logos, large advertisements, and small posts. Work signs, speed zones, HOV lanes. This exit, that exit. Words which flickered off and on, moved slowly, danced, jumped, wiggled. Some whispered; others screamed. I realized I could hardly have one original thought of my own for reading all the billboards and signs plastered along the 450 mile round trip. At times, it took everything in me to keep my eyes focused on the natural scenery and not read the words flashing by me. I felt strangled by all the ... words.

Actually, this thing of words is really a quite new phenomenon. Think about it. Just over a hundred years ago, there were very few road signs. There were certainly no bumper stickers, no signs announcing the newest shopping area or billboards telling us which lawyer to hire. There was a time without all the advertisements that now cover whole cities with words that tell us which candidate to vote for or which network to watch. (And does anyone even remember when our shopping bags were only brown paper sacks and didn't sport the retailer's fancy logo?)

Now don't get me wrong. I love words. In fact, did you know that the average person speaks 45,000 words a day? No doubt, we women make up the average for what men don't use. And since my husband only uses about 100 a day himself, I feel as if I have a whole lot of averaging out to do. Words are wonderful. And they can carry such power. Yet in all their excessiveness, in all their overload, could it be that they've lost much of their positive creative ability? That truly they do go in one ear and out the other? Or as in my case today, become strangling?

Honestly, there was only one road sign truly worth reading today. It said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me -- Phil. 4:13." Ah, now there's a true word. His name is Jesus. John said it this way. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). I believe that is word enough. It alone carries power and creative ability. After all, did this Word not speak and the worlds were brought into existence? Is it not living and breathing even today? Does this Word not still speak?

In the meantime, what a relief it was when we finally exited the interstate and took the very short drive to home where very few signs littered the way. I finally felt as if I could breathe again.

Just an ordinary moment...