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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Linger and Listen

I set the metronome to 88. The piece was in cut time (meaning there would be two beats per "click"). Immediately my student began trying to match the notes on the music to the beat of the small time-keeping device. I placed my hands on her hands to stop her, and said, "Listen for the beat." Once again, she jumped in; and once again, I stopped her mechanical approach of trying to make her hands align with the tick-tock of the metronome.

This time I said, "Don't play yet. Just listen to the beat. Let it become a part of you inside here," tapping my hand on my chest. I instructed her to let the music flow, not from her head to hands, but from her head to her hands through the beat inside." Thus she did. And thus was her success.

It's strange how God can use such a simple illustration to bring home a truth in my own life. For how many times have I done the same thing: just jumped into the hustle and bustle of the day, expecting full well to produce some kind of music in my life because I had the mechanics right? But the Lord says to me, "Linger in my Presence and hear My heartbeat." And so I rein in my impulses to jump into the day's activity, and I listen. And from there, when my beat melds with His, and the two become one, the true music begins.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Journey of Faith

I took my mom and dad on a little road trip last week as they had yet to see my son and his wife's home up in Kennesaw nor my cousin's place in Cumming. Considering the temperament of Atlanta traffic, the trip up was quite uneventful -- for which I was very grateful. And though I had on my GPS, it really wasn't needed. I knew the roads and the exits about like the back of my hand.

We had a great visit with the "kids." After a tour of their home, some lunch, and a few "ahs" of delight over the new baby furniture, they took us on a little excursion which consisted of a trip to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, a visit to their church where she works, and a stop at their favorite coffee shop, The Daily Grind.
Mom finally found a chair that's her size! It was in the nursery!!!

By then, it was time to hit the road again heading northeast -- in Atlanta on a Friday at 4:00. Not smart. But I called my cousin and she gave me some "easier" directions than what my GPS was instructing -- ones that would keep me off the REALLY busy highways. I followed them precisely and delivered mom and dad to cousin Billy's front door. [One thing that helped to make this portion of the trip more palatable was my new smart phone. Just the day before, I had downloaded Pandora radio and was able to tune in to Glenn Miller radio. Mom knew every song!]

We had a grand time with Billy and Michele in their beautiful home. Not to mention a great place for the grandchildren, Billy also has quite the man cave -- complete with a HUGE screen TV and a pool table. Gracing the walls are pictures and plaques of Billy's wrestling career that his wife Michele insists be displayed -- much to Billy's opposition. I especially enjoyed seeing the pictures of him when he wrestled for GA Tech back in the 60's. More recently, there's a plaque recognizing his induction into the National Wrestlers Hall of Fame. But you won't find a more gentle, humble and Godly man on earth. That's why he's my "FC" (favorite cousin).
I failed to get a picture while we were there -- so here's one from a family wedding a few weeks ago.

After a lot of great eating due to Michele's talents, a relaxing evening with dear family, and a good night's sleep to top it all off, Mom and Dad and I headed south -- but not before setting the GPS to 77 West Paces Ferry Road. But this time, I had absolutely no clue as how to get from point A to point B, and if ever I was dependent upon my navigational device, it was then. Completely dependent. At one point, a red truck pulled in front of us which blocked my view of everything but his tailgate. My daddy made the comment, "That's bad. Now you can't see where you are going." Truth is, though I didn't tell him, it really didn't matter, because I didn't know where I was going. I knew the destination point, but how to get there? It was only by listening to that voice instructing me where and when to turn that I pulled into the parking lot of Whole Foods. And the way I was praising Jesus, one would have thought I'd just entered the gates of heaven itself.

It was Mom and Dad's first trip to Whole Foods, one I thought was important for them to experience -- for more reasons than one. And I was right. They loved it. Mom more the food; Dad the people. We weren't in Kansas anymore, for sure. We even had lunch there! (I do regret not getting pictures.) But before heading home, I set my GPS one more time and headed to Fort McPherson, the place where my dad spent his first year in the army before being shipped out to Japan during the Korean War. This time the trip was a little more taxing. Traffic kept us backed up for a good 30 minutes as we attempted to exit onto the ramp, and then when we got to the destination, we found the gate had been blockaded and we could find no other entry. And so I did what no male but every female would do, I stopped a gentleman walking home from the grocery store and asked him for help. He sent me back the way I came, and said, "You're only two minutes from there."

After a few minutes of sitting inside the gates of the fort with Dad reminiscing a little bit -- after all, it has been almost 60 years since his dad and my mom dropped him off at those gates ...
This is what he looked like. Handsome, huh!

... we headed south one more time; the trip returned to its uneventful status and by God's grace, we arrived home safe and sound.

I've thought several times since then how that little road trip parallels life's journey. On some portions of the stretch, I know exactly where I'm going; no road map is really needed. It's almost as if God lets me see what's ahead. At other times, I need a little help along the way -- someone to counsel and guide me. Another to point me in the right direction. But on the particular leg I find myself these days, it's more like that stretch of GA 400. I can't see what's ahead. All I can do is listen to the Voice that says, "This is the way; walk ye in it." And then trust.

As I was up in the guest bedroom getting ready to come home Saturday morning, a Michael Card song came on the radio and I quickly committed the chorus to memory. As we were traveling down 400, I asked my dad to jot down the words for me because they suddenly became very real.

To hear with my heart
To see with my soul
To be guided by a hand I cannot hold
To trust in a way that I cannot see
That's what faith must be

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Fair Lesson in Evangelism

I took my annual trip to the fair last week with 3 of my girlfriends. We've been doing this day for a good 8 or 9 years now, and it's become a priority for all of us. Just a day to which we look forward. Basically, it's more of a progressive meal down the midway, and our first stop is always the fried cheese.
Traci had not made it yet; obviously we didn't wait on her to eat.

For lunch, which took place about 20 minutes after the fried cheese, we had a fried pork tenderloin sandwich, fried vegetables, and a corndog. Split 3 ways, of course. Kim wanted to go ahead and get a cinnamon roll but we said that it might be a good idea to wait on that for the time being.

But amidst all the talking and catching up, we were able to take in some attractions, too. The petting zoo, for one.
And the Tams concert.
Here's Traci adding a little color to the Slide.

The original "Tam" who played at my college dance in the 1978 is now 75 years old. His son carries on the legacy.

It was an absolutely beautiful day to ride the ferris wheel.
And, of course, there was the Sea Lion show.

Yes, these are real sea lions. And they stunk.

Somewhere in there we also ate soft ice cream on a cone, and before leaving, shared a funnel cake while watching the water ski show.

So what about the "ordinary moment"? It actually happened while we were taking a "break." I had plopped myself down on a bench outside the facilities to guard the water bottles while the other girls were doing their "breaking." And there I saw it. I took a couple of pictures, but out of respect decided not to post them. Truly, what I saw should have blessed me; rather it turned my stomach. It was a tent turned tabernacle; and outside were a young man and a woman "enticing" young people to come in and hear a story -- "It only takes 5 minutes" -- and after doing so, receive a free gift. Of course, the story was the story of salvation given in 5 easy steps. The free gift was a sucker. Please don't get me wrong. I esteem highly all those whose desire was to see people come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. What disturbed me so was the tactic. That young man standing outside the doors was more like a hawker peddling his goods, yelling mainly to unsupervised children and teenagers as they passed by. In fact, it reminded me even more of the "carnies" on the midway enticing fair-goers to toss a ring over a bottle or shoot a basketball through an undersized hoop all for a worthless trinket. It just didn't set well with me.

I sat and watched for quite awhile, even urging my girlfriends to sit a moment and take in what was happening. Most often what we saw were young people leaving the tent no different than when they went in; maybe just more eager to head to their next venture -- with sucker in hand. I made the comment to my friends that I wasn't sure this was the correct way to go about evangelism; however, if just one life was truly changed, then it was worth it. And so we moved on. And we came upon this:As we passed by this tent, an older gentle sitting just inside the awning and out of the sun said, "May I fill up that bottle for you with some ice water?" I thanked him and told him that would be nice. He filled it up just as he offered; we chatted a minute, and then in a very gentle voice he said, "I just have one question for you. Do you know the Living Water?"

"Yes, sir, I do."

As my friends and I departed the tent and headed toward the sea lions, I looked at them and said, "He got it right, girls." That was the Spirit of Jesus.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let's Do the Twist

There are few events to which the people of Perry look more forward than the Georgia National Fair which is held right here in our beautiful little city. All year, the community sign on Sam Nunn Blvd. counts down the weeks -- and then the days, until if finally reads, "Have fun at the fair!" And tonight was Sneak-a-Peak when everybody from Perry shows up. Everybody.

Twenty-eight of us from my own family -- amidst the thousands of people -- seemed to find each other in the crowd.

For the first hour, we moved and grooved to a local group called The Grapevine. And finally, at 8:30, the main attraction took center stage: Chubby Checker.

The legend himself.

When I had originally heard that Checker was to play the Fair's Sneak-a-Peek, I was thrilled. When I shared with my 22 year old daughter that "Chubby Checker is going to be this year's Sneak-a-Peek performer," she just looked at me quizzically and said, "Who?" So just thinking she didn't hear me, I reiterated, "Chubby Checker." And then, Lord have mercy, she said, "Who is that?" "WHO IS CHUBBY CHECKER???" Where, oh, where did I go wrong? For a moment I seriously thought I had failed miserably as a parent and considered turning in my mother button; but when I said, "You know, the Twist," praise God, she at least said, "Oh, yeah."

And so Checker began his show -- and for the next hour and fifteen minutes, it was American Bandstand all over again.
Our special cousin Lynn loves 60's music -- and Chubby Checker. She came all the way from Jacksonville, FL.

Granddaddy and granddaughter snuggle and wait.

My brother and his granddaughter take it in. (And he can still shake a leg.)

Yet another brother and his boy who was actually "dancing" on his daddy's shoulders.

From the youngest to the oldest, people just couldn't stand still. Babies jumped in their granddaddy's arms, youngsters bounced on their daddy's shoulders, teenagers acted as if they themselves had lived the 60s, and the 60+ year-olds danced knowing they really had. Even the most reserved could be seen shaking a little knee or swaying a might in the hips. And our friend standing behind me who is a few years my senior sang every single word to every single song! After all, it was Chubby Checker, the originator of the Twist. The Twist: the only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 twice. The Twist: voted the number one song for the entire decade of the '60s. The Twist: the first rock song to ever win a Grammy. The Twist: named the biggest chart hit of all time by Billboard magazine. The Twist: the grandfather of all the other "solo" dances (such as the Jerk, the Pony, the Watusi, the Mashed Potato, the Monkey, the Funky Chicken).

The performance was non-stop with Checker moving from one song to another with hardly a breath -- certainly no break in the music, when there finally came a crescendo to the evening and the moment for which we had all been anticipating: "Come on, baby, let's do the twist...." And for the next 20 minutes, we did just that. I have to say that in all my 21 years now of attending the Georgia National Fair, this was the most exhilarating and exciting time I've ever known: actually Twisting with Chubby Checker himself. My husband, my brothers, their wives and children and their children; my parents, my cousins, friends from church and friends from the community and, yes, even the governor himself with his family -- we threw caution and certainly all cares to the wind -- and we danced.

Oh, yes, we Twisted!

As the final note waned and the crowd continued applauding and celebrating the legend before us, I experienced a very uncanny and mysterious moment -- a sacred moment, if you will. I realized the gift the Lord gave to the world through this man at a time when our nation was experiencing such turmoil some 50 years ago. And the same was true tonight. It was a moment of coming together as family -- as community ... of forgetting heartaches ... of laying aside fears ... and just dancing.

And so amidst the accolades and ovations of the crowd, and with the same sincerity of gratitude when experiencing a beautiful autumn sunset, I lifted my eyes and raised my hand to heaven and thanked God for Chubby Checker.

And then the fireworks began.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday School Appreciation

Today on the way home from church, I witnessed a couple of children playing out in a neighbor's yard -- children I knew who had not been to church or Sunday School this morning (or any other time this week, for that matter). And it really broke my heart. It also reminded me of a question in my Bible study this week. The author put it this way: "Historically, have you seen God more as someone searching you out and eagerly awaiting an opportunity to give you a second chance or hiding from you?" And then, "What teachings or experiences have helped to shape your view in this regard?"

So what does that have to do with the children romping in the yard? Everything. I am who I am today because my parents thought it not only necessary but absolutely crucial to my spiritual upbringing that I be in Sunday School each week -- not for the attendance pin (my dad saw to it that I always missed at least one Sunday a year as not to receive it, because he didn't want a pin to be my goal) but because they knew the truths I learned there were foundational. And whereas I can't ever remember opposing that conviction, I'm so grateful they saw it as an important part of their parenting. Yes, I cut my teeth on the back of those little Sunday School chairs. I folded my hands in prayer and sang "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus..." each week. (And He did!) I learned that "Yes, Jesus loves me" as well as "all the little children of the world." Week after week, year after year, I viewed Jesus as a framed Shepherd -- a good Shepherd -- who seeks out that lost sheep and with joy brings him home resting over His shoulders. Experiences that helped me shape my view of a God who does not hide from me, but rather searches me out.

I am so thankful for those teachers who fed me the milk of His Word. "Little Nina," Mr. Boone (with his little bow-tie), Mrs. Hicks, and the list stretches on. If it weren't for them, and their saying "Yes" to serve in such a lowly but mighty way, I wonder where I would be today? Would I be struggling with issues of truth? Would I be questioning God's existence? Would I be following who knows what religion -- or just picking and choosing the part of each that works best for me?

Thanks also to you, Mom and Dad, for loving the four of us children enough to see that we were where we needed to be each Sunday morning. That you didn't take your parenting lightly when it came to that demand. That you knew Sunday School was an essential part of training us in righteousness. That we are who we are today because of the foundational truths that were implanted in us then.

The thing is this: if we needed it so desperately as children then -- some 50 years ago, how much more do children need it now in this generation? O Lord, have mercy.

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Poetic Worship

Poetically challenged. That describes me perfectly. Unless it has the lilt of a nursery rhyme, I've never been able to read it well, understand it, or certainly not write it. But Wednesday morning, I came across two poems in my early morning reading that spoke to me in a way uncommon to my poetic ability -- or lack thereof. So much so, that I returned yesterday morning to it and then again this morning.

Both poems were written by Gerard Manley Hopkins who was born in 1844 in Essex into a High Anglican family but later converted to Roman Catholicism when in college. He became a member of the Society of Jesus -- known at the Jesuits, where he involved himself in a life of intense prayer and spiritual discipline. Much to the world's loss, Hopkins died at a young age in 1889 of typhoid, but not before, as my friend Len related to me, he "destroyed a lot of his writings as proof of his 'commitment' to the Catholic church." How sad.

Personally, I'm so grateful these two made the cut. Read them out loud ... and worship.


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


Glory be to God for dappled things --
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscapes plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough;
All all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Now couple that with a heavy dose of Psalm 84 and it just doesn't get much better.

Just an ordinary moment...