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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Forgotten Art Remembered

My husband took me to a new restaurant this week while we were on the Carolina coast. Persimmons overlooks the Trent River right at the point where the Neuse River dumps its waters into it. Persimmons prides itself on using local farmers and harvesters. It was somewhat upscale from our normal choice of establishments, but that doesn't mean I had any trouble finding something to eat. In fact, at the suggestion of my man, I ordered the Sauteed Carolina Black Grouper with Ginger and Green Onion Risotto, Sauteed Local Tatsoi and Soy Brown Butter Glaze. Oh, my goodness! I'm not sure when I'd had anything so delicious! To the horror of my husband, I snapped a shot before I completely consumed it. And, yes, my friends, that is seaweed on top!
For dessert, we shared the chef's creation of the evening: fried french toast with ice cream and maple syrup. I'm sorry to say I did not get a picture of that, because if I had put my spoon down to pick up my camera, I'm afraid it would have all been consumed by my partner in crime.

But food is really not the point of this particular blog entry. As we were sitting there waiting on our fare, I asked a simple question that any 5th grader would have known. In fact, it's too embarrassing to even publish. But when my husband was unsure of the answer himself, he suggested I look it up on my phone. Later, when our meal came out, we both were doubtful of what "tatsoi" was, and so, you guessed it, I pulled out my handy cell and Googled that.

No doubt the ability to access such information is a wonderful gift. If we want to know something, we can just Google it. If all we can remember is one line or even a few words of a favorite song, then we can just put those select words into a little rectangular box, and voila, we have the entire thing at our disposal. If we like a poem by a certain author or want to know who the Amalekites were, we type it in and have it in a heartbeat.

For thousands of years, committing things to memory was the foundation for religious, political and educational instruction. Memorization was known to have staying power. Stories and prayers known "by heart" were stored deep in the mind. And at any given time, they could pop up and amuse, comfort or educate. Somewhere along the line of printing presses and the World Wide Web, we have lost the discipline of memorization. Today, we simply pull out a phone or open up a laptop. And we're the less for it. Memorization provides us with a store of learning which can be accessed anywhere and anytime -- with or without cell phone or computer. It gives the mind somewhere to go when everything else is turned off. If there's nothing lodged there, then our soul is left at the mercy of the last mental image that took our fancy.

And so I've begun some intentional memorization. I've joined Beth Moore and about 9,000 other women across the globe as we memorize 2 Scriptures a month this year. I'm including verses that encourage, that exhort, that exalt. But I'm not limiting my discipline to just Bible passages. I've also pulled out an old hymn book and have found certain songs that I love and am committing them to memory. Great Is Thy Faithfulness was the first to be remembered. I'm also embarrassed to admit I no longer can say all the books of the Bible in order. I stumble when I get to the minor prophets; therefore, I'm committing the 66 books in the correct order.

Yes, I still might have to pull out my Ally to find out about tatsoi or to refresh my memory on all the oceans of the world. But hopefully, other more pertinent and important data will be stored not only in my mind but in my heart as I develop a habit of remembering that anchors my life in biblical truth.

I have hidden Your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you
(Psalm 119.11).

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Love You More

My daughter and I have this thing that we do. We've done it for years, and it happened again as recently as this past week. Sometimes it's a verbal exchange, often times it's a text, but last week it was via facebook. For all our cyber friends to see, my 22-year-old baby merely wrote, "I love you, Mommy!" And my response was the same as before. "I love you more!" Yep. It's a simple and maybe silly little thing we do -- but it's our thing. And for as long as she tells me she loves me, my response will always be, "I love you more."

Sitting this morning in my "garden enclosed" (my sun room) watching the day rise up to meet the sun, I turned to Job 11:7-9. Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens -- what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave -- what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea."

There is no limit to God's existence. He's infinite in all directions. He is boundless in every aspect of His character -- including His love. And so as I sat there, I thought of the message I had received from my daughter, and I breathed, "I love You, Lord." And in that voice that stretches to eternity past forward to eternity beyond, I heard that familiar response, "Oh, yes. But I love you more."

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Confessions of a Bibliophile

I remember a few years ago when I first heard of a Kindle -- an electronic book. My response today has not changed from my response then: no thanks. There's just something about holding a book in one's hands, fingering its leaves, whether worn or new, and yes, to my mother's great horror and shame, even turning down corners on a favorite page. I really should be embarrassed at the number of periodicals that line my shelves; but I make no apologies. I love books.

A friend at the gym last week told me of a book that he thought I would enjoy and told me he had a couple of copies and would bring me one. I was really excited until he told me I would have to return it. I said, "Maybe I ought to get my own, because I love to underline and make notes in my books." To which he responded, "Oh, you can do that with this one; it's already marked up as it is." "But you want me to return it?" "Yea, but I'm in no rush to get it back." I swear I thought I was going to hyperventilate. I confess. I have a serious problem. I'm a bibliophile -- not in the sense of being an educated person but in that of being a book lover.

Of course, I do have standards. I don't read just anything and everything that comes along. I can't say I've read a lot of Oprah's Picks nor much on the New York Times Best Seller's List. But I most certainly have my most favorite authors and themes. I also have a Top 10 list, but if truth be known, there are probably more than 10 on my list. And lately, I've added 2 more.

The first was Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. I don't think I've ever read a book (excluding the Bible) that exalts Christ more. In fact, the subtitle says just that: "Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ." Over and over, I found myself engaged in worship as I worked my way through it. And when I turned the last page, I found myself wanting to turn back to chapter 1 and read it again immediately. But more importantly, I was challenged to return to my first Love. Which was the perfect time to pick up my next book: Passion for Jesus.

I read this particular book 9 years ago when a friend gave it to me for my birthday. I loved it then and just had a desire to read again. But since Mike Bickle had given it a face lift, updating and expanding it with new chapters, I purchased a new copy. Herein lies a book that will sweep you off your feet and leave you breathless as you discover your true passion. Jesus. There are 4 chapters devoted to The Song of Songs and another to "gazing upon the throne." Hardly a page is left without a pencil notation or a tear stain.

I can honestly say that both of these books left me loving Jesus even more.

So what's next? Actually, this time it is a New York Times Bestseller, and I've already purchased it. It's Radical by David Platt. Wess Stafford, president and CEO of Compassion International writes: "David Platt challenges Christians to wake up, trade in false values rooted in the American dream, and embrace the notion that each of us is blessed by God for a global purpose .... This is a much read for every believer!" When I told my husband my plans to wait until after Christmas to read Radical, because I was afraid it would ruin the "joy of shopping," he responded: "Or is it because it's too convicting?" Guilty. But Christmas is now over....

There are others that are waiting in the wings -- and some I've already begun. The publishers sent me Dale Cramer's newest release, Paradise Valley, and so I'm well into the pages of this Amish fiction. I've picked up Frederick Buechner's Secrets in the Dark, which is 37 of his sermons. (Wow, does he ever have a way with words.) A personal goal for 2011 is to work through some spiritual disciplines, so The Sacred Way is waiting patiently for me to begin the first one: the journey of solitude and silence. And lastly, Len Sweet's book, Nudge, is ordered and on it's way here.

That ought to keep my book bag filled for awhile -- and my mind moving forward. But really, all this is just fluff and for puff. There's only one Word worth reading. It's the one that became flesh. It's the one that separates bone from marrow. And it's the only one that can truly change a life.

Just an ordinary moment...