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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Travelling on My Knees

As I sit down to write this blog entry, I am also awaiting a text message that tells me my son and his wife have made it safely to Costa Rica on a mission trip.  My dear daughter-in-love is the leader of this RiverStone Church team – something she does well.  It’s not their first adventure on such an excursion.  While my son has only been going for about 6 years now, she has been “missioning” far more than that.  But the number of times or years doesn’t matter.  That last time I talk with them before they board their plane, I can’t help but get a little choked up and somewhat teary. 

Seeing Mommy and Daddy off
My emotions are mixed.  Yes, there’s always the element of fear.  What mother wouldn’t?  After all, the first trip they took together, Kristin got terribly ill and spent most of the days in a third-world hospital while my then 19-year-old son took the reins.  And while in Honduras, their bus met an 18-wheeler on a curvy road.  Every person miraculously walked away.  (There were no seat belts.)

And then there’s the blessed factor.  I’m so grateful for children who heed God’s call to “go.”  Whether they travel halfway across the world to Scotland or take kids on winter retreats or walk across the street and lead worship and Bible study or just spend time with someone who’s lonely … they all have given care to the Voice that has urged them forward to be the hands and feet of Jesus to “the least of these.”

And so what does this mother do while she waits?  She travels with them on her knees.

Yes, she prays for their protection and that they would be equipped for every good work.  But she also prays that light would be dispensed everywhere they put their feet and that God would set up His kingdom in every place where satan reigns.  That language and cultural barriers would be broken down; that lives would be changed and hearts redeemed.  She asks for a great outpouring of God’s Spirit so that the blind would see and the deaf would hear; that the brokenhearted would be comforted, captives released and prisoners freed.  She prays that they would recognize Christ in the men, women, and children whom they serve, and would constantly see, hear, taste, touch and even smell the reality of God’s presence.

And that’s just tonight’s prayer.

Just an ordinary moment...

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Lighting of the Lamps

Like most adults, I have carried traditions of childhood into my adulthood.  Many good and some not so good.  But one common ritual I’ve recalled of late is the way my daddy would go into the living room each evening about dusk and turn on the “front lights.”  In our home, that meant a light on the front porch as well as a light on an ivy covered wrought iron post at the sidewalk where the brick walk leading to the front steps began.  It was an unwritten sign that said, “Welcome!” to any evening guests or passerbyers.    

I can remember our first years of marriage when my husband didn’t quite understand the custom, but now he’s the one who normally turns our front porch lights on, and he is the one who also flips the switch to say goodnight.

I guess I’m a little funny when it comes to lighting.  For example, on cold, winter mornings when it’s still dark, I turn on the lamps in my “front” rooms for those passing by hoping it will add some warmth to their early morning commute.  Just as God enjoys giving us a sunrise each morning, this is a gift I enjoy giving, whether anyone notices or not.

But lately my ritual has also been the lighting of the lamps in the evening.  It usually takes place after my last music student has departed, dinner is in the oven, the sun is rapidly dropping and evening is beginning to settle in.  For so many years of our lives, this part of the day was something that was missed altogether.  I think it had to do with raising 3 children and being involved in all their activities.  Yes, there are still duties, demands and deadlines; but for a moment, I choose to elongate time and celebrate sunset, and in doing so, experience the present moment.  It never proves anything less than holy.

It is said, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”  So walk with me a moment and let us light some lamps …

Holy Ghost, with love divine,
Shine upon this heart of mine:
Chase the shades of night away,
Turn my darkness into day.

Holy Ghost, with power divine,
Cleanse this guilty heart of mine:
Bid my many woes depart,
Heal my wounded,bleeding heart.

Holy Spirit, all divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine:
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme -- and reign alone.
                                                        - A. Reed

"Stay, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your angels charge over those who sleep."

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Christmas Pageantry

[Note: I found this 2-year old entry sitting in my "draft" box, and since I'm in the middle of reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, I think today is as good a time as any to publish it.]

I adore children's Christmas pageantry. Is there anything better than...

regal wisemen? Or ...

bored stiff Gabriels? Or ...

distracted shepherds? Or ...

... worshiping animals? Or

... darling angels?

Oh, wait a minute. What's this?

A fallen angel?  Heaven's no!  Just a good reminder than even saints wear their halos clumsily. At least I know I do.

Getting honest with ourselves does not make us unacceptable to God. 
It does not distance us from God, but draws us to Him
 -- as nothing else can --
and opens us anew to the flow of grace. 
While Jesus calls each of us to a more perfect life,
we cannot achieve it on our own. 
To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace. 
It is only through grace that any of us could dare to hope
that we could become more like Christ.
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, pg. 87
Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One Identifying Factor

Included in this quarter’s publication of The Log, the Alumni Association’s magazine for the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources of the University of Georgia, were three obituaries of men having all died within three months of each other, and all former professors of my husband. 

Dr. Klaus Steinbeck was Sandy’s silviculture professor.  But what I didn’t know was that Sandy actually worked for him in the “work program.” A German immigrant who later became a US citizen, Dr. Steinbeck pioneered research of short rotation woody crops which even after his death is still gaining interest as “biomass energy is once again attracting national attention.”  Little did I know my husband was a part of that effort even if it was just spraying weeds.

And because of Dr. Graham Brister’s mensuration course, my husband is one of the very few who takes the factor for determining the basal area of an individual tree or a timber stand to the ninth decimal opposed to the sixth: .005454154.  It was an absolute requirement of Dr. Brister that his students know and abide by this number.  And today, my husband still does.

But it seems wildlife professor Dr. Ernest Provost was one of Warnell’s most beloved and not to mention colorful teachers.  Known as an “ornery old cuss,” he pushed students to high levels of achievement.  He was professor through and through in the classroom – unless the students could get him sidetracked to talk about “the War,” where he served three years with the US Marine Corps in the South Pacific.  But it’s the legendary story behind Dr. Provost that is the topic of this blog.

While teaching his students bird identification, Dr. Provost would tell them there was one factor that separated each type of bird from the other.  But he wouldn’t tell what that was.  They had to figure it out themselves.  No doubt the students studied everything they could to identify their feathered friends.  The color, the plumage, the eye shape, the wings, etc.  But come test day when they walked into the classroom, it really didn’t matter.  Dr. Provost had covered every inch of the bird … except for the feet.  THAT was the one identifying factor.

Upon seeing what the “ornery old cuss” had done, one student slammed down his pencil and began to storm out the door.  Dr. Provost called him to a halt and said, “Son, what is your name?”  The quick-thinking young man turned around, reached down, pulled up his bell bottom pants, and said, “Sir, you tell me!” 

Now whether that story is true or just a fable that has followed this flavorful professor to his grave, you’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty good one. 

So what’s the one identifying factor as a disciple of Jesus Christ?  Is it church attendance?  Tithing? Giving to the poor?  Working the soup kitchen?  Not a one of those are bad, but you know where I’m going with this.  When the cloth is draped and only one identifying factor remains, it’s not where our feet have taken us or our hands have served.  John tells us it’s the shape of our heart. 

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35

And to think we had studied so hard.

Just an ordinary moment…