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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Collecting Treasures

It's not unusual for me to provide music for funerals. I've done it for years; some have been for dear friends and others people I've never met. What is unusual is for me to come away so stirred by the life of the one lived and now passed. I've played for 2 funerals lately -- both ladies I really didn't know that well even though they both had been staples of this community for decades. But one thing is for sure: they both left legacies -- and a challenge for me.

After Mrs. Betty's funeral, I came away thinking, "I want the pastor to be able to say those kind of things at my funeral." And within days, I could feel parts of my life adjusting to those honorable areas of her life and her positive example.

Yesterday's service was no different. Once again, I came away challenged. The pastor spoke of how Mrs. Bonnie accumulated treasures -- but not the kind of which you and I would think. She collected twinkles in an eye, wrinkles in a smile, and inflections in a voice. She didn't invest her time in facebook, but rather entrusted her life book to "face-time." She was about joyful relationship and about encouraging the ones in her presence or on the other end of the line.

It's so easy to get caught up in "safe" relationships, isn't it. It's as quick as a text message, an email, or a post. But what are we giving up in lieu? What treasures, if any, are we collecting?

As I got to the middle of the 3rd paragraph of this post, my friend Phillip came to mind. But this time, instead of writing a note on his facebook page, I didn't wait but picked up my cell phone and dialed. It had been such a long time since we talked. To hear his voice brought a warmth that a cold page was incapable of producing. When I softly said, "How's my Texas friend?" he responded, "Not good; today's actually a dark day for me," as days often are after experiencing a severe loss of someone we love. I wouldn't give anything for the moments that transpired during our conversation. I now have a treasure tucked into the pocket of my heart that was not there earlier.
Chris, me, and Phillip -- 1995 My two Georgia buddies both gone Texan.

My Scripture this morning was from 2 Cor. 5:15 -- He died for everyone, that those who live might no longer live just for themselves... Oh, that He would open my heart and give me the gift of a generous spirit so that others might know life and live -- and so that I might have a few treasures to lay at His feet.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Idol Worshiper

Well, I did it. I joined the 50+ million and cast my vote last night for the next American Idol. Embarrassed to admit it? Yea, a little. After all, my husband says I need to be careful to whom I admit my obsession, and then a dear friend virtually laughed in my face when I told him last week I watched it. But it is what it is -- and I'm hooked.

If you must know, all these final contestants are worthy winners and each one of these young people has found a little place in my heart; but I voted for James Durbin last night. I remember James' first audition with AI and was touched by his hard-knock story. He's a young father, just 22 years old, from Santa Cruz, CA, who grew up barely knowing his own bass-playing dad who was always on the road, and then was raised by his mother after his father died of a drug overdose. James was later diagnosed with both Tourette's and Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and found himself turning to music to help calm his rattled nerves. Subsequently, a job was hard to come by, and at the time of his audition, he and his wife and very young son were living in a tiny apartment with not even the means to buy diapers.

For those of you less informed, this year's competition has it all. Country, blues, gospel, jazz. But James is the rocker in the group, and last night's performance of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" was over the top. The purity of his voice shined brightly as he began a cappella before going instrumental. There's no doubt this boy can sing as well as perform. And whether James realizes it or not, God's Spirit rests heavily on him and His plans for the boy are good.

Actually, this is not the way I meant for this particular entry to go. I had another whole direction planned. But I think I'll leave it at this and let James have his day. Take a look at the 3 links I've highlighted, and be blessed by a God who gives beauty for ashes, is called the Repairer of Broken Walls, and who turns our mourning into dancing.

Yes, James, may you become a TRUE worshiper of Him who gifted you so mightily and who calls forth the deep places in you so that you might lead your generation forward in praise of the One who is worthy of it all.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I called my pastor first thing this morning and exclaimed, "I learned something new just now, and I've just got to regurgitate it! And I choose you on whom to do it!" He was quick to point out that he has 3 small boys and therefore it wouldn't be the first time he had been vomited on and therefore gave me the go ahead to share.

Today is Maundy Thursday and I had been reading in my early morning devotion the gospels' accounts of the Last Supper. Up until then, I really had never noticed how many times the word "betray" was included in the text. I discovered it was too many times for my comfort anyway. Shortly afterwards, I picked up a book called "Facing the Wall" by Don Potter. Its subtitle reads, "A book for praise leaders and those who love to worship." In it he speaks of oil and its being a symbol of God's power manifested through the Holy Spirit. He also mentions that the oil that was used at the last supper was for dipping bread to soften it and "make it more palatable." (Don't you just love that word "palatable"? It even feels good on the tongue.) Of course, oil was used for other purposes as well including anointing for healing, for setting someone or some thing apart for holy service, and even embalming.

But in Matthew 26:23 Jesus said, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me." Notice it does not say "bread" but "hand." You see, the oil was in a communal bowl that sat in the middle of the table in which all dipped. Therefore anyone who dipped his bread in the oil was to do so without letting his finger touch the oil else the oil become contaminated or defiled. But here's the interesting part. The Greek word translated "hand" in this particular verse is cheir, which means "literally or figuratively power .... grasping". It wasn't so much that Jesus' betrayer was going to dip, it was that he was going to defile the oil by putting his hand in it. In other words, he was going to grasp (or attempt to) the power of the anointing and make it his own. How dangerous can that be!

This got me to thinking. How often does the Lord anoint you or me with some special something? It could be a number of different ways. Teaching, preaching, ministering to the poor, sick or lonely, leading in worship, wise counseling, just to name a handful. But what happens is that when we take that anointing as our own -- grasp it as our own -- we attempt to take the power for ourselves, therefore becoming the betrayer. Just like Judas. The name Judas is a form of Judah which means, "He (God) shall be praised." Yes, it is possible to betray the Lord even when our intention is to praise Him. How does this happen? When we begin to think that because of our praise, we have earned the right to use Him.

You might says it begins when we dip our hand in the bowl. Betrayal. Anybody but me?

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday: A Wrenching Paradox

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a church girl, and with that comes loving to celebrate certain days on the church calendar. One such day was today: Palm Sunday. Very often it is celebrated with the children walking down the aisles of the church waving their palms high in the air while the choir or congregation sings "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna." I remember one particular occasion when my small nephew passed close by the piano where I was playing, but out of the corner of my eye, I was able to catch his swift pop of the palm on the head of the little boy in front of him.

This morning was a sweet processional as 10 little preschoolers walked down the center aisle with small branches in their hands as my brother accompanied his oldest daughter while she sang in her sweet little voice, "Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest."

After the children processed down and placed their palms at the front of the altar table, they sang a couple of songs themselves.

Is there anything more precious than children worshiping? (When, pray tell, do we learn to be so "sophisticated" in our worship?)

But Palm Sunday processionals don't have to be for children only. I remember a former pastor gathering us outside on the steps and lawn, and after a Gospel reading, opening the doors for us ALL to enter singing and waving our branches. It was a joyous celebration. And being one who has the propensity to be somewhat "demonstrative" in worship, I tend to wave my palm high and hard. But what always compelled me to wonder were the half dozen or so people who refused to join in the pageantry but rather sat comfortably in their designated seats watching as the rest of us paraded by. After all, weren't we reenacting a glorious and momentous event?

Truth is how many of us really have a clue as to what Palm Sunday is all about? Some, of course. But my suspicion is that if a passerby saw such a crowd standing outside the church as we were that day, they'd wonder if the custodian had forgotten to unlock the doors. But even those of us who try to re-enact such an event fall horribly short. We sing "Hosanna!" and wave our palm branches and most of us even do it with joy, but what we fail to remember is that this One of whom we praise was not entering as just the King but as the approaching Sacrifice. This King who entered on the back of a donkey arrayed with fishermen's coats because there was no royal accoutrement. This King whose entourage consisted of street people, of the mentally deranged, of questionable women -- and the like. This King who entered in disgraceful poverty. No, it was no common parade that day. In fact, Matthew 21:10 tells us, "the whole city was shaken." Yet, Jesus entered and He did so in complete control -- which only makes the scene all the more scandalous, for He knew the end of this peculiar parade was the cross.

But isn't that what was stated just a few weeks ago when we began this journey of Lent? Did Jesus not steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) ... to die?

And so, yes, I sang my hosanna's this morning as those precious sweet ones marched in with their palm branches. But this particular Palm Sunday found me not only in greater awareness of the day's activity but my heart shaken due to the wrenching paradox of this King who rode in to lay Himself down.

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Dusting and writing can wait 'til tomorrow,
For babies grow up -- we've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; blogs, go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby 'cause babies don't keep.

Just an ordinary moment... (NOT!)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Gun Show

Very rarely do I go somewhere that when I walk through the door I'm asked by an officer of the law wearing a side arm, "Do you have a weapon on you?" But that's where I found myself this morning. Normally, it is I who leads the pack when it comes to a shopping trip, but today I was trailing behind my husband at Eastman's Gun and Knife Show at the Ag Center. Somehow I've always managed to stay clear of this yearly event, but not this time. (Even now I'm sporting a reentry stamp on the back of my left hand of a pistol with an "explosion" coming out the end of it.) I somewhat jokingly asked the attendant if I had to pay the $8 if I promised not to look at any merchandise, but he told me that there was a lady in the back corner selling earrings, so he knew he had me. And indeed she was: earrings made out of recycled shotgun shells. She said it was a vision from the Lord she had received in church. Who would have thought?

It probably comes as no surprise that I was outnumbered. For every one female, there were at least 50 males. Men: all sizes, all shapes, all ages. I'd venture to say there was more testosterone in that one room than all the Bass Pro Shops and Home Depots this side of the Mississippi combined. Yep, it's what a man does. It's what he likes to do. And maybe, just maybe, it's what he was created to do. Protect and provide. And whereas I'm pretty decent when it comes to hitting a bull's eye, quite frankly, I prefer the difference in roles.

As I made my way up and down the aisles, lagging just behind my husband, my mind was drawn to a particular passage of the book, "Heaven is for Real," where little Colton tells of being given a glimpse of the battle of Armageddon during his short stay on "the other side. " Strangely enough, he says that the women and children stood back and watched while only the men fought. And while I'd never thought of such, somehow being in the setting in which I found myself, I could imagine it. At least it gave me some interesting food for thought.

So did my particular man leave the show having made any purchases? No. He never does-- though I'm sure he would have liked to have done so. But maybe coming away with a new sense of personal awareness of who he was created to be was all he was looking for anyway.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Different Perspectives -- Same Answer

One of the staples of Lent for me is John Piper's book The Passion of Jesus Christ. Previously, the book was entitled 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, and that is exactly what the book is about. (Mrs. Harrison, my high school English teacher would die that I just ended a sentence with a preposition, but it just didn't fit the correct way.) This book walks me through this season of reflection like none other as each day's reading begins, "Christ suffered and died..." and then offers 50 reasons why. Day 1's reason: To Absorb the Wrath of God. Day 19: To Give Eternal Life to All Who believe on Him. Day 22: To Bring Us to God. Day 41: To Secure Our Resurrection from the Dead. And thus each day offers another reason, with heavily supported Scripture. It is nothing short of rich reading. I love absorbing each day's "reason," thinking about it through the day and worshiping Christ for His absolute right to be worshiped.

This past weekend, I picked up yet another book to add to my collection: Heaven is for Real. I had heard about it via an email I had received the week prior that had an attachment of a news segment interviewing the author and its subject. The little boy's name is Colton Burpo, and he has been to heaven and back. It was a fascinating account and so when I saw the book, I picked it up. It probably took all of an hour and a half to read, but nothing has offered my mind such play about heaven since I read Randy Alcorn's book several years ago entitled just that: Heaven.

Colton's dad, Todd Burpo, along with Lynn Vincent, wrote this fascinating story after Colton suffered a severe case of appendicitis that left him quite literally at death's door. What is so absolutely warming about this story is the simple way Colton expresses incident after incident of his time in heaven. He tells of seeing his great-grandfather, who had died a quarter of century before Colton had even been born; of meeting a sister who had died in her mother's womb, again before Colton's birth; and even of sitting in Jesus' lap. While I always read such accounts with caution, I have no reason to disqualify any of what is written within these pages.

At one point in the book, Todd Burpo, a pastor himself, writes about a conversation he had with Colton and his older sister Cassie on a Good Friday. He simply asked the question, "Do you know what Good Friday is?" Colton said he didn't know, but his sister emphatically and excitedly answered, "That's the day Jesus died on the cross." Moving to the next question, he asked, "Do you know why Jesus died on the cross?" When Cassie couldn't come up with an answer, Colton nodded he knew. "Okay, why?" asked his father. "Well, Jesus told me he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad."

Here's how Todd Burpo relates the rest of the story. "In my mind's eye, I saw Jesus, with Colton on his lap, brushing past all the seminary degrees, knocking down theological treatises stacked high as skyscrapers, and boiling down fancy words like propitiation and soteriology to something a child could understand: 'I had to die on the cross so that people on earth could come see my Dad.' Colton's answer to my question was the simplest and sweetest declaration of the gospel I had ever heard. I thought again about the difference between grown-up and childlike faith."

And so, while each morning between now and Easter, I will continue to pick up Piper's book and read yet another reason Jesus came to die, and yes, even be blessed by it, the most profound reason has already been uttered -- by a 4 year old: "He died on the cross so we could go see His Dad."

Christ also suffered once for sins,
the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.
1 Peter 3:18

Hear the invitation ... and come.

Just an ordinary moment...

"The gospel of Christ is the good news that at the cost of His Son's life, God has done everything necessary to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and ever-increasingly happy, namely, Himself."
--John Piper