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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mike's Jewel

There is a song that needs to be sung -- but I find there are no words to equal the strength and beauty of the melody. Deeply soulful and sometimes restrained and delicate, the notes are being hammered out in the day to day. In some places, it rings of broken hearts and shattered dreams, yet the overlying theme resounds of a love stronger than death itself.

Thing is it's not even my song to sing, yet one that has found cadence on the strings of my own heart and harmony within my own life's orchestration. It's the psalm of Mike and Julie.

I have known Mike all of my life. In fact, he and I shared a table in the back far corner in Mrs. Barfield's first grade class. My most vivid memory of those days is when I felt the need to align our little table for two with the one next to ours and, in doing so, pinched Mike's already scabbed elbow that was sitting directly in the place of juncture, thus reopening the wound. If I recall correctly, the entire class came to a halt from the screech of pain and while Mrs. Barfield applied a bandage.

The next 12 years swept along and Mike and I found each other in and out of homerooms together. Our senior year came and went, and quite sadly, so did Mike and I as we did not see each other for another 34 years. That is until Tuesday evening.

Actually, our reconnection took place a couple of years ago when we "found" each other through facebook. Mike had recently remarried and I delighted in looking at pictures of his and Julie's "redneck wedding," as he calls it -- a simple but beautiful ceremony in their backyard by the lake. Shortly thereafter, posts began appearing about Julie's condition: a large cyst on her brain stem, surgery, crossed eyes, more surgery, therapy, a set back, more surgery, pneumonia, paralysis on her right side, 135 days of continuous hospital stay. An orchestration filled with highs and lows, faith and fear. But after 18 months and 13 surgeries, Julie is home and Mike is right by her side. A duet of grace.

After a few messages back and forth, I called Mike and asked if I could come by to see him and meet his bride; he was more than gracious to my offer. He told me the therapist was there, but he'd leave the door open and for me to come on in. Much to my delight, he was waiting at the door when I arrived, and our first moments together reminded me why I have always had such an affinity for this fellow. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things," Matthew 12:35 says, and that's Mike.

My friend pointed me to the living area where Julie sat waiting in her wheelchair. Our introduction was an embrace. And for the next period of time, the 3 of us got acquainted and reacquainted, with lots of reminiscing and stories thrown in the mix. And as we did, my heart grew larger and fuller as this beautiful woman took her place within its posts.

Several times a week I seem to run into someone whose only response to life is to complain. It had happened the Saturday morning before and it happened immediately upon leaving Mike and Julie. Both from individuals I don't even know. But here sat a couple who have every right to curse and complain, yet choose to bless instead. Though Mike does not diminish his past, nor do he and Julie deny their situation, they attest to a God who is faithful to them in this present moment and speak nothing but life giving words.

Mike calls Julie "Jewels," and rightly so, for indeed she is his gem. He looks at her with an expression of love that would melt the hardest metal. And she responds in like manner. His voice is kind -- albeit stern like a father when she gets to going too fast in her wheelchair. And her face is playful when she cuts her eyes toward him and drops her jaw.

It has not come without cost, and yes, each day brings its own source of challenges, but these two are writing a melody that is eternal and one that resounds in the heavenlies. My heart is indeed blessed by its tune.

In the 9th grade, Mike and I once again shared homeroom in Mr. Kelly's class. But this time we're on the front row. I'm 3rd from left and he's far right.
Who would have ever guessed that 37 years later, he and I would once again be on our knees together -- this time with his beautiful Jewel and in the presence of a mighty God whose life pulses through her body to the tune of mercy and grace.
Oh, how I bless you two in the powerful name of Jesus! May the days ahead be filled with nothing short of love, wholeness, and miraculous wonders. Not to mention lots of music!

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

From Where I Sit, There is Happy

Last week I was showing a friend the potato vine I had rooting in a glass bottle that was sitting in my window here in my "garden enclosed." The green vine came out of the lip like it was springing into dance. I told my friend, "It makes me happy."
He then pointed out that I have a Christmas tree in my sunroom.
I told him that indeed I had used it on my front porch at Christmas last year and didn't have a place to store it after the season was over; and so I put it here. And then without thinking, those same words came out of my mouth: "It makes me happy."

Now my husband the forester will tell you that his whole life is geared to that one thing: to make me happy. But since making that statement myself twice within minutes of each other last week, I've been thinking about "happy."

I suspect happy often times gets a bad rap -- especially within the Christian community. For some reason, we think we are to be "joy-filled" and not "happy-filled." After all, "happy" is fleeting and joy is lasting, is it not? At least that's what we're told. But I beg to differ. I believe we're called to be happy Christians! In fact, I think the Scriptures give us license.

In James 5:13 we read, Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. That word happy means to be of good spirits, to be cheerful. In Psalms 68:3, David penned these words: But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy AND joyful. The very first time we read of "happy" in the Scriptures is in Gen.30:13. And Leah said, "Happy am I! For women have called me happy." So she called his name Asher. Which means HAPPY! Later, in Psalms 84:5, one of sons of Korah used that same word, Asher, though many translators have rendered it "blessed." Blessed [Happy] is the man whose strenth is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. We can be happy on this journey!

Quite frankly, I think we'd give the Christian community a big boost in the world's eye by not only being joyful, but adding a little happy to the mixture as well. Dare we take off our dour faces, put on such dancing shoes and take a hint from a potato vine -- and be happy?

Want you enjoy some of my "happy"? From where I sit each morning in my sunroom...

... a lone leaf waves in adoration
... an old blue bottle speaks revelation
... the morning sun rises on a wooden cross
... a grapevine reminds me of abiding
... a Pentecost candle burns on "ordinary days," begging God to "fill this pause"
... clasped hands remind me to pray for those I love
... wonder of hidden beauty is revealed
... a garden enclosed is my beloved
... portulaca blooms open to the sun
... Eucharist happens
... light rises with healing in its wings
... I commend the squirrels on their ability to reason
... I'm reminded me of His care
... I'm reminded of the sweet fragrance of dear friends
... St. Francis of Assisi calls me to holy living -- and peace
... my favorite devotionals beckon time spent in relationship and awareness
... light penetrates agatized coral
... beams make gold of citrine
... beauty is dispensedYes, from where I sit, there is happy. May I be faithful to take it into the world when I leave.

Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Left to Wonder

"I am amazed. I am absolutely amazed." These were the words I said over and over this morning at breakfast. The forester and I were discussing his new John Deere riding mower when he casually commented, "John Deere is what we used when I worked for the lawn service."

"When you did WHAT?" I queried.

"Worked for the lawn service."

"And exactly when did you do this?" After all, I've been married to the forester for over 32 years now and not one mention has ever been made of a lawn service.

"Back when I was in high school. The guy hired me because I could drive around the 15 year old kids who didn't have a license yet. How do you think I learned to back a trailer?" (I'm always telling him how impressed I am that he can maneuver and back a trailer with such ease and expertise.)

"I thought when you worked for Coca-Cola," I said. "So, when did you do this 'lawn service' bit?"

"Right before I went to work for Coke. Actually, it was right before I went to work for the grocery store." At least I knew about the whole grocery store stint; it had only lasted a day but was obviously worth mentioning.

"What was the name of this lawn service?"

"Albany Turf Masters." (That's pronounced "All-benny" for those of you not familiar with these parts.)

"Well, of course... But I'm still absolutely amazed. I knew about the grocery short-order, about delivering colas, and even the babysitting job for the colonel and his wife. But the lawn service? I'm just amazed." I wanted to ask, "What else have you got hidden up your sleeve that I don't know about?"

But that would ruin the element of surprise, would it not? Those moments of discovering something new about your spouse that you had never even imagined before. Good things. Worthy things. Things that leave some wonder in a marriage. Things as simple as a run-of-the-mill lawn service job.

But, you know, I believe that God has some "secrets" up His holy sleeve, too. After all, we're told in Ephesians that God can do anything -- in fact, far more than you and I could ever imagine or guess or request in our wildest dreams! That sounds like some divine mystery to me. Besides, if we knew everything about this One, would He be God? Hardly. Part of the wonder of it all is NOT knowing. Oh, but how amazing when He indeed does reveal something new of Himself. The exciting thing is that He is so huge, so large, so eternal, that we will never, no never, discover all there is to know about Him.

Honestly, when I discovered this new thing about my husband the forester, I got a kick out of it. In fact, it made me laugh out loud, but it also filled me with an amazement that I could live for so long with someone and not know that detail of his life, small as it was. May we be even more astounded, more astonished, more amazed as we discover the inexhaustible riches and wonder hidden in our magnificent God.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Strong Password

I was reading an article this morning that I had clipped from yesterday's paper. It's entitled, "Strong password more important than ever." The title alone is a dead giveaway to the topic: the admonition to be careful with the passwords we choose involving our website accounts. The writer, Shan U, of the Los Angeles Times, suggests a number of tips to protect oneself online.
  • Use mnemonics, which really is nothing more than a catchword or clue. An example might be picking a personal sentence and then "paraphrasing" it by using the first letter in each word to create the password. For example, "I live at the corner of Main and 1st Street" would be "ilatcoMa1s." And while this is a great suggestion, I personally think the word "mnemonics" would be password enough.
  • Longer is better, but not always. It's better to use a short group of irregular numbers and characters such as "4%k#9!" than a phrase such as "numberonemommy."
  • He also suggests we change our passwords to banking institutions frequently -- every few months. Fortunately, my bank makes me do this anyway.
  • Write down the passwords on a list without user names and keep it in a safe place. Okay, so I'm at that age where it's hard enough just to retain in my mind where I put something after I've told myself, "Remember, you've placed this here." Now I have to recall where I put my user names AND my passwords? Besides, I figure if someone is going to break into my home, they are not after my user name and passwords to my blog or MyPanera member card account.
And a few "Nevers."
  • Never use simple phrases -- even if you spell them backward and add a number. (Honestly, hackers have WAY to much time on their hands...)
  • Never have the same password for every account. I think this has something to do with sites "storing your credit card information." Which is another whole reason for concern.
  • Never email passwords to yourself. That's a no-brainer.
  • Never use personal information such as your address, birthday, etc. Another no-brainer.
  • Never share your password with family or friends.
The author ended with the uplifting news to remember that, even after following all the "rules," no password is completely immune from being cracked.

I found myself sighing and breathing the prayer, "Lord, please protect my identity." And as quickly as my next breath, I heard, "I have. And your password is spelled C-h-r--i-s-t."

Ah, yes. Christ! Does this mean no one will ever hack into my accounts or steal my credit card number? No. In fact, it has happened before. But the interchange did bring me home to what really matters in the end: my identity and the One who secures it. I don't have to worry about changing this Password every few months, I need not be concerned about hiding it, and I certainly don't have to add anything to it to make it more secure. This Password works for every "account" I have, it contains all my personal data, and I can share it with whomever I please. It's completely immune from being cracked. And as for strength, I won't find a mightier one.

Indeed, a strong Password is more important than ever.

Just an ordinary moment...