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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Word of the Day

Each morning there arrives to my inbox a "Word of the Day." Most of these expressions I've never heard or remember reading, which probably has more to do with my lack of vocabulary prowess than with the novelty of the word. Today's term was "billingsgate," and as usual, I looked at the definition and then read a couple of example sentences that employed the word. Billingsgate is a noun which means "coarsely abusive, foul, or profane language." It was no surprise that both examples related it closely to a sailor's vocabulary. Or more specifically, a "marine drill instructor" and "Mr. Mailer's soldiers."

As usual, I read it, tried to remember it, and then promptly forgot it. Until that is, I had to run a little errand this afternoon.

I've been a little dry with my blog topics lately. They're just not coming as fast as I'd like, so I asked the Lord this morning for a new post. Also, my computer has been on the defective side for several months now, making it less easy to post anything. So I took my electronic brain in last week and today they called to say it was ready. I left the glitch guys and was heading home. There I was stopped at a red light when the worst language I'd heard in a long time came blasting through my open car window on the passenger side. Some woman with a high pitched voice was calling somebody else a terribly inappropriate name. And it didn't stop there, she kept at it. I thought to myself, "Those poor children in that car. That must be so embarrassing." And then it hit me. She's yelling at me!!! Evidently, the woman was trying to back out of her parking space and I had pulled up and blocked her in. I was completely innocent -- for the moment. And so I just sat there, letting her rant and rave without daring to give her the satisfaction that I could hear what she was saying. Lands! Of course I could hear her. The entire inside of my car was filling up with odious language! And so I started getting tickled about it. I actually could have pulled up another space, and at the same time block another vehicle, but I figured the Lord might be wanting to work some patience in this woman, and who was I to stand in His way. So I just sat there in hers.

Oh, I know I should be branded for such wrongdoing, but it was just too funny once I realized I was the force behind her BILLINGSGATE!

I did deduce a couple of things though from this situation. One, she probably wasn't local because a local girl would have known not to park in that space. Traffic alone makes it difficult to back out. And secondly, she probably hadn't doused herself in the Word this morning or her else her words wouldn't have been quite so "billingsgating."

Yes, I can almost hear the apostle Paul now. Let no billingsgate 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 (Eph. 4:29).

Now that's a good word for the day.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

#100 and a Little Reflection

Well, here it is: my one-hundreth post. It has taken me right at a year and a half to get to this place. Honestly, I really didn't know if blogging would be something I would enjoy or not -- or even be able to do on a consistent basis. And like I said in my first entry, I couldn't imagine anybody reading it other than my own mother. But nonetheless, here I am.

I heard it said tonight on TV (NCIS to be exact) that blogging is a personal journal. Not sure how "personal" it can be when there are potentionally thousands of readers out there who can click on it at random. We've certainly come a long way from the old lock and key diaries that we hid between the mattress and box springs. But as I look back on my entries, it is indeed personal. It tells some of my journey over the last 18 months. Some entries more personal than others.

So as I thought about this 100th entry, I couldn't help but remember certain individuals from my past who have been instrumental in my personal faith journey. My spiritual guides, if you will. All pastors in their own right; men cloaked by God. So in honor of #100, here's my short list.

Dr. Billy Key. When I was a wee tot, Brother Billy would stand with his arms open wide at the front of the sanctuary and invite "all who would come" to receive Jesus. Because I was so young, my parents would literally hold me back each Sunday, until one day Brother Billy just plain told them, "If she wants to come, let her come." And they did. Thank you, Brother Billy, for opening your arms each Sunday morning at the end of the service and welcoming little children. Those few feet from the 2nd row to the altar was actually one huge step in my faith journey.

My daddy. He isn't an ordained minister, but he could have been. In fact, I use to travel with him on occasion when he did some lay preaching around south Georgia, so it's perfectly within my right to include him in this list. In fact, I couldn't tell my story without him. When I hit the age of accountability and sin became real to me, it was to my earthly daddy's lap I went and confessed every wrong I had ever done. (I've often said I sure was glad it happened when I was 10 and not 20!) I think God knew I needed flesh that night and so He let my dad sit in as proxy. Thanks, Daddy, for having a lap big enough to hold me and a heart large enough to forgive me. You made coming to my heavenly Father easy.

The Rev. Jim McIlrath. Jim invested in me as my youth pastor. He was educated enough to be called a minister; young enough to still be crazy. Jim called me Nance, still does, and he made me feel accepted in a climate where it was difficult for a young (over-weight) teenage girl to fit in. I knew I was always safe with him. Thanks, Jim, for picking me up and carrying me across the wet floor in the basement. It meant more than you'll ever know.

The Rev. Bill Kierce. Bill came to Vidalia to preach several revivals, and it was he who introduced me to the power of the Holy Spirit. Up until then, my spiritual walk had been anything but victorious. But Bill preached one night on forgiveness and the next evening on the baptism of the Spirit. A wall fell for me that warm April night in 1986. Thanks, Bill, for introducing me to this portion of the Godhead. My life was never the same again.

The Rev. Mark Nysewander. Several years later, Mark also came and preached a couple of revivals for us at Grace UMC. It was at the altar one night that Mark spoke over my musical ability, praying anointing on my hands. From that moment on, I felt something was different -- though unexplainable. Thanks, Mark, for being "out there," and for stirring the gifting in me by the laying on of hands.

The Rev. Bill Strickland. If anyone has ever held a crown over my head and encouraged me to grow into it, Bill has. For years, he has answered my endless questions with more questions making me search out answers and solutions for myself, and in the meantime, teaching me I don't have to have all the answers. He has expounded Scripture to me, has taught me the necessity of prayer, the virtue of patience and the power of corporate worship, and he was the first to help me see the holy in the ordinary. Thank you, Bill, for holding that crown above me. Your impact is beyond measure.

Dr. Leonard Sweet. While sitting in a pizza joint last year, this is the man who encouraged me to begin blogging in the first place -- and thus, here I am. But more than that, Len has expanded my thinking about ministry and about incarnating Christ in the world. God also uses him to edify me in a particular personal ministry in ways that no other has. Thanks, Len, for accepting this obnoxious lunch date and incarnating Jesus in my life. His love is shed abroad in you mightily.

Of course, there are more; so many more who do not wear the title of Reverend or pastor but who have made a huge impact on my spiritual life. My husband, for one. God is constantly tightening my spiritual braces and bringing me into alignment through him. My first women's Bible study leader, a particular Sunday School teacher, fellow choir directors, dear friends through the years, and the list goes on. Maybe that can be the topic of another post some day. But for now, these are among the top when it comes to milestones in my personal faith journey. We all have them, including you. Let's not forget to thank God for them, for it is through them, we have been shaped.

Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Firm Foundation

We bowed our heads, closed our eyes, folded our hands and sang: God our Father, God our Father, we give thanks, we give thanks, for our many blessings, for our many blessings, Amen. Amen. What warranted this outburst of song was my 4-year-old nephew singing the blessing before we ate our lunch at Chick-fil-a last week. Or "Chick-a-lay," as he calls it. It was probably the longest moment he sat still during the entire hour or so we were there, for as soon as the last note of the "Amen" stopped resounding, he immediately scoffed down a chicken nugget and a waffle fry and headed to the play area.

Childhood prayers -- they are the foundation on which our present prayer life rests. Somewhere in our history, most of us were taught to pray. Maybe it was from a grandmother as we watched her rock back and forth in her rocking chair with her Bible open in her lap. Maybe it was from a Sunday School teacher who made prayers so simple or a pastor who used large words in long monologues. Or maybe like me, from my Daddy kneeling beside me at my bed. Everyone has a story, even if that story is not being able to remember.

Many of us who learned to pray as children memorized prayers. For me personally, it went like this: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless ... and I would begin to name off everybody I knew. Mommy, Daddy, Chip, Thomas, Louis, Muh, and Gra, Mea and Bernie... and the list would go on.

As I continued to grow and attend worship services, the Lord's Prayer was added to my repertoire. I'm sure many of the words were mumbled at first and I certainly didn't understand every thing I was saying, but it made me feel like a part of the group. I became a part of the community. I belonged.

Sure, memorized prayers can become rote. They can become routinely uttered in a mindless act. But they can also give us something on which to hang in times of pain, struggle, and grief. When words cannot be formed nor thoughts composed, a memorized prayer can say much. Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

But as we move beyond our early teachings to discover a more personal prayer life and more "intelligent" utterings, we must not forget or minimize those lessons we learned while young. Lessons of faith, of trust, of simplicity. And so once again I found myself laying in bed last night with these words on my lips and a deep sense of gratitude in my heart: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take. God bless... And somewhere in the blessing, I drifted off to sleep grateful for such a firm foundation.

Just an ordinary moment...