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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Ladies' Bible study began a couple of weeks ago, and to bring to the table, so to speak, my own private practice of lighting a candle, I place a single candle on each of the tables every week to signify "this time is different." It's sacred. And for some reason, as I've begun each session, I've reminded the women that we do not invite God to join us, He invites us into His presence. It is He who initiates this whole thing, and we're there at His beckoning.

So can you imagine my delight and shock, after having prepared the room and tables the night before, walking in this morning to an empty building and finding this?
Yes, all the candles were lit!

And in the deep place of my heart, I heard one word. "Welcome."

Just an ordinary moment...

This Time is Different

As I sat in my hotel room a few weeks ago with a balcony view overlooking two converging rivers on the eastern Carolina coast, I held my David study in my lap, and I thought, "I'm tired of doing Bible study just for the sake of doing Bible study." It was at that point that I determined to make it into something more. I decided to incorporate my study into something I have already been practicing for the last several months.

Since Thanksgiving, I've been getting up early and having tea with the Lord. For many mornings, this would include nothing more than just waiting on the sun to rise and then watching the birds as they came alive and fed at the feeders just outside my windows. It no doubt has been a time of sweet fellowship and presence.

It all started when I began celebrating Advent with my own private Advent wreath and candles. After Christmastide and with the beginning of Epiphany, I replaced the pine wreath and 4 candles with a colorful berry wreath, a carved "Jesus" cross my son brought back from Honduras, and one white candle -- for me, symbolizing Christ's presence. But as time developed, so did this sacred time; and now I light the candle each morning to say, "This time is different. This time is sacred."

And so as I sat in that hotel room, I raised my cup of tea to the heavens and belted a hearty "Cheers!" to the Lord and decided that I'm going to make this time of studying God's Word more than just a fill-in-in-the-blank experience. It's to be a place where friends meet. It's to be a sacred experience. After all, this is a sacred text -- not just an anthology of ancient writings; not just a tool to accomplish utilitarian purposes; not just to rein me in, tell me what to do, or coerce me into a way of thinking. It is to be a time to allow my heart and soul to be penetrated by an intimate word from God and to be captured by the Lover of my soul.

Maybe that's not such an ordinary moment after all....

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Good Soaking

What the meteorologists predicted as a warm and dry winter in the south has proven to be a cold and wet one. In fact, it has been raining cats and dogs here. I even stepped in a poodle last week. (I'm so sorry for that one; it was incredibly corny -- and old! My mouth refrained, but the overload just swept out of my fingers to the keypad!) Anyway, it had been raining -- a lot. But true to their motto, the postal service continues to deliver. The problem lies in retrieving the mail. I wait until the rain has subsided and then I dash to the mailbox. But here's the problem. There's a huge oak tree that stands between me and the box. There won't be a drop falling from the sky, but as soon as I enter into the heavy drapes of those large branches, I might as well be in the next shower. The leaves are holding so much water that they are literally dripping with the latest rain. So I pick up speed to make it the mailbox and then scurry back through the rain forest. But the truth is, on such days I can't pick up the mail without getting a good soaking.

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I'm memorizing Scripture this year as one of my spiritual disciplines. To start the new year, I committed Psalm 65:11 to memory. It reads, You crown the year with Your good blessings, and You leave abundance in Your wake. The NIV reads, Your carts overflow with abundance. But today I'm reminded of the NKJV: You crown the year with good blessings, and Your paths drip with abundance. Indeed they do.

And so as funny as it may sound, a trip to the mailbox on these cold and rainy days reminds me of the lavishness of God. That where He trods, His bounty overflows; and that His paths literally drip with abundance.

Sort of makes me look forward to tomorrow's mail truck.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Composer's Presence

What began as an ordinary moment in the church service this morning turned into an abnormal occasion before it was over. The choir was to sing "The Cup" by Jan McGuire. We had been practicing for months actually, just waiting for a communion Sunday when the piece would be most appropriate. Well, today was the day. We rehearsed as normal, and then before we headed out of the choir room, one of the altos said, "I emailed Jan McGuire and I think she is coming today." My first thought was, "How exciting!" My second: "Gee, I wished I had practiced more."

As is probably common with any musician playing another's work, one puts his or her own interpretation into it while still trying to remain true to the integrity of the artist. Notes are played as written and rhythms are left intact, but there's a certain amount of "heart" that is left to interpretation. But somehow knowing that Ms. McGuire might be sitting in the congregation, I became acutely aware of HER interpretation. As I played the lengthy introduction, I wondered if I was executing it according to the way she heard it when she first wrote it. Was the "give and take" of the rubato to her liking? Were the sixteenth notes played clearly? Regardless of whatever was happening in that moment, the awareness of the creator of the piece sitting and listening heightened my senses to the music.

My reaction to Ms. McGuire's potential presence surprised me and has left me thinking about it all day. Why would I be so concerned over the execution of a piece I had played dozens of times over the last months? What was it about having the composer in the room that all of a sudden changed the perspective for me? And then I got to thinking about all the other times I have played an anthem or an offertory. Or for that matter, all the times I have taught a Sunday School class or facilitated a woman's Bible study. Have I ever been as concerned about those executions? Why not? Was it because I truly wasn't aware of the watchful eye or listening ear of the Creator?

As it turns out, Ms. McGuire was indeed in the congregation, and when I spoke to her after the service, she was most gracious. Expressed through her tears, she was once again moved by the music and words that had shaken her soul so many years ago upon writing both.

The truth is that the great Creator of the cosmos is always present, too. And He is also most gracious. Yes, He desires excellence and that we play skillfully, and I believe He longs for our senses to be heightened to His presence. But He does not listen with a critical ear. He listens with a heart that loves His creation -- and is blessed by the offering.

Just an ordinary moment...