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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Conviction

Sometimes God just gets into my space; and never more than today during my "sacred space" on this Christmas eve morning.  And not once, but twice did He intervene. It began when I read my friend's blog.  He's been posting an Advent devotional daily since the season began back on Dec. 1 and I have anticipated each one. They have all been good and thought provoking, but today's "did its work in me." 

He writes, Most of the nativity scenes we see put up before Christmas have all the characters standing except for one.  The last character to arrive in the contemporary manger scene portrayals is the main character.  The last one to arrive is traditionally placed in the scene on Christmas Eve.  Jesus. The child.  The One whose purpose was to save you and me and everyone else from their sin.  The One whose purpose was to change the world.  Jesus.  How strange it is that above all the names we know, His name is the name we are least likely to use in the normal conversations of our day.     http://billjourneynotes.blogspot.com/2013/12/advent-xxiv.html

And I wondered, how many times have I shared the name of Jesus during this holiday season.  Yes, I have wished many people "Merry Christmas," but have I shared the Christ of that Christmas? Have I shared the WHY of His coming?

I then turned in Ann Voskamp's book, The Greatest Gift, and read her writing for this 24th day of Advent. Whereas I'm a true Voskamp fan, I must say she outdid herself with this one. Pulling from Luke 2:1-7, Ann camps on the words, "And the time came." Time came for all the glory to be left in heaven. Her words are graphic. "And the face of God turns one last time in the waters of the womb, and the membrane breaks and the amniotic fluid leaks and the skin of God slips naked and small and holy into hands He made.

"The birth of God -- who can find words? This defies words."

She continues: "Love had to come back for you.  Love had to get to you.  The Love that has been coming for you since the beginning -- He slays dragons for you.  This is the truest love story of history, and it's His-story, and it's for you."

How can we NOT use His name in "the normal conversations of our day" as my friend wrote? How can we NOT tell people about this Christ who loves them so much? In fact, Ann challenges her readers to do exactly that: "Go into all of the world and tell one person about the greatest Gift and how He loves."

And so I purposed to do so this morning. Anyone who wished me a merry Christmas, I purposed to tell them how much they are loved. And so I did, and I have been nothing short of amazed at the responses. The young man sitting behind the counter of the Honeybaked Ham store with a blanket wrapped around him to stay warm wished me a merry Christmas. I returned the wish, then reached out and touched his arm, and said, "I just want to tell you that the Christ in Christmas loves you so very much." His eyes widened, his smile grew larger, his shoulders relaxed, and he said, "Thank you, ma'am.  Thank you very much." 

Later, I sat across the desk from a bank official while she issued me a new bank card because mine had been "compromised" in the latest Target scam. When we finished our business, she reached across the barrier to shake my hand, and she said, "I hope you have a merry Christmas, Mrs. McLendon." Again, while still clasping her hand, I looked her in the eyes and responded, "Merry Christmas to you. And I just want you to know how much the Christ in Christmas loves you." But this time, not only did her eyes widen, they filled to the brim with tears as she said, "You don't know how badly I needed to hear that today. Thank you so very much."

Why, dear ones, do we refrain from letting that precious name depart from our lips? Why do we withhold the source of love when people so desperately "needed to hear that today"? I don't know either. But won't you purpose with me, not only this Christmas season but throughout this new year, to tell one person, and then another, and then another about the greatest Gift, as Ann says, and how He loves.

At least that's MY Christmas eve conviction.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dear Abby, You Got it Right

The headline caught my attention: "Widower dreading Christmas will feel better if he reaches out".  

"Miserable in Massachusetts" had written in with concerns of not being able to buy gifts for his brother's family due to his limited income -- a Social Security disability.  And it was Abby's response that proved so powerful smack-dab here in the middle of the gift buying season and giving frenzy.  "You have something to give to your relatives." She writes. "It's the gift of your presence." Oh, how right you are, Dear Abby!

You see, for the several weeks following my recent surgery, apart from my sweet husband who was with me 24/7 for two solid weeks, there were 4 people who really stood out to me. As much as I truly appreciated all the food, all the cards and phone calls, and certainly all the prayers, what I call to mind as the most precious were the ones who came with no gift in hand and just stood or sat by my bed. Their presence WAS their gift, whether they realized it or not. 

My experience as of late has made me aware of just how poor I am in this ministry department. How often have I NOT gone to visit someone because I didn't have anything to take? Or even more so, how many times have I actually taken food yet just dropped it off at the door and NOT gone into visit, because I was in a hurry to make it to the next thing? Again, the food is wonderful -- much needed, in fact, and I am so grateful and indebted to those who supplied such, but how much more are people healed because we take the time to offer our very presence which says, "You are worth it."

But here's the paradox ... the mystery of it all. It is in the giving that we, too, receive healing. You see, Miserable in Massachusetts lost his wife this past year, and so he writes, "I feel alone. There's just me and my dog now. The holidays hurt." I think his answer and ours might lie in Isaiah 58 where we are told that as we "start giving ourselves," THEN our lives will begin to "dawn in the darkness" and "break forth like the morning." Then, THEN, our "healing shall spring forth speedily." Yes, it's in the giving of ourselves that we ourselves are healed.

Dear Abby, you got it right. The gift of presence. It could just be the most powerful thing we have to offer anybody, including ourselves, this Christmas -- or any day of the year for that matter. So, in this season of gift gifting, why not forgo the wrapping paper, tie a bow around your neck, and make a house call.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Turn on Your Lights!

When I was a little girl, people didn't decorate the outside of their houses like they do now.  Oh, there was the wreath on the front door and maybe a Santa Claus on the porch checking his list,

but rarely did one see multi-colored lights strung around the shrubbery or white icicles hanging from the eaves. It just didn't happen; and on the very rare occasion someone might dare put a string of lights around the roof, it was because they weren't from around here.  As my daddy would quickly point out as we drove by, "Those people are Yankees." Now before that last statement makes your toes curl, please hear his reasoning.  The lights were beautiful reflected in the snow they were so used to up north.  But this is middle Georgia and snow and Christmas just don't mix. Therefore, the lights just set them apart as ... different. 

Of course, now there is hardly a yard that doesn't have some kind of outdoor lighting or decor. Everything from nativities to big blow up Frostys. And many times both in the same yard. 'Tis the season! Whereas my husband and children have at times hung colored lights from my 4-poster bed, complete with reindeer antlers dangling from the ceiling fan when I asked them to put up the lights for me, I have refrained from all the tiny bulbs on the outside. Maybe I just can't get that whole "northern" thing out of my head, but it probably has more to do with pure laziness. However, for the last several years, I have slowly made my way onto the bandwagon by deciding to do a little outside decorating that stretched me passed just a wreath on the front door. So now each year, my sweet (yet sometimes reluctant) husband spends a Saturday morning hanging wreaths, setting up a nativity, buying hay, and placing spot lights in just the perfect locations.  And I'm from the south, y'all!

But isn't that exactly what we are celebrating? What we are shouting every time we flip that switch?  That the Light has come? Yes, most are probably even unaware of the part they play in the testimony of God sending His Son to earth to bring light. In fact, it may never even enter their hearts or minds. But with spotlights shining, and candles set in windows, and thousands of bulbs encircling rooftops, flagpoles and trees, they all are announcing the Good News: THE LIGHT HAS COME! 

And without a doubt, the glory of the Lord creeps across the landscape worldwide and the darkness can never be the same. 

So turn on your lights. Be set apart as different. And announce the Good News. 


In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1:4

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, December 6, 2013


The pre-op instructions from the surgical unit said to remove contacts and to leave all jewelry at home as well as any personal items. And so I did. When I finally walked into the Coliseum Day Surgery building, I basically did so with nothing but the clothes on my back, the shoes on my feet, and my glasses. I have to admit that it was a little bit daunting. After all, except for my husband and daughters by my side, there was nothing that identified me. No wedding band to say I belonged to someone. No jewelry to claim any social status or express myself as an individual. And certainly no money to provide for any physical need that might arise.  

I checked in and before I could even get comfortable, my name was being called by the nurse who would be by my side for the next couple of hours. And so I handed my husband the last two things that gave me any identity: my glasses which afforded me sight and my driver's license which gave me a name and a number. I was immediately asked to take a pregnancy test, which I did with great joviality and unbelief, and then given my new wardrobe. I stripped of what was left of my own clothes and donned the hospital attire of that gosh-awful, colorless gown that ties in the back. I wished a hundred times for my daughters, not because I couldn't do it myself, but because it was so dang funny and I felt silly laughing out loud by myself in that little room with only a curtain separating me from all the other patients. They also gave me a delightful blue paper robe (that tied in the front) and the proverbial gray socks with skidders on the bottom, which I brought home for future use on cold mornings. I was finally completely stripped of anything and everything that gave me my uniqueness. And it felt strange.

When the nurse took me back to my little cubby hole, the first thing I noticed was that there was no bed in it. Just 2 chairs. I don't know a lot about hospitals, but I do know that they put you on a bed, hook you up to a line, and roll you out to the operating room.  And I assumed my bed would be appearing shortly. Yet it never came. Whereas I had visions of sweeping gestures of hugs and kisses from my family gathered around me as the attendants whisked me away, no such thing happened.  Rather, the nurse pulled back the curtain and said, "You ready?" and with a couple of waves and "See you later's" to my family, I WALKED myself to the operating room, pulling my rolling "drip" with me. I pushed the door opened unto bright lights and sterile conditions, and it was only then that I climbed onto the table. My last remembrance was talking of caramel cakes with the nurse anesthetist before I gave into the anesthesia and trusted myself completely into the surgeon's hands. 

Since that day almost 4 weeks ago now, I've thought a lot about that whole scenario; because isn't that exactly the way we should come before the Father? Completely stripped of anything and everything that attempts to give us our identity apart from Christ? Sure, we are to bring our struggles and issues, but that's not what I'm referring to here. I'm talking about coming to God on His terms and not my own.  Of abandoning any image of myself that is not from Him.  Of not accepting what others have said about me, how others have labeled and defined me and, instead, believing what God says about me. Of trying to impress Him with my own accolades and tasks I have performed for Him.

In reality, you and I are not defined anymore by our feelings, opinions, circumstances, successes or failures than we are by the clothes we wear, the jewelry we put on, the house we live in, and certainly not the size of our bank account. But "by His Spirit He has stamped us" (2 Cor. 1:22).  THAT is what gives us our identity. THAT is how we are defined. No one else has a vote in it. Our job is just to come. To walk ourselves into the operating room of God where He waits to do His complete and healing work in us. 

Yes, Jesus' invitation to an ill-weary world is simply to come. No one else can do it for us.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Do You Have a Religious Preference?

I was going along just fine answering all the questions the sweet girl behind the computer screen was asking so I could have my pre-op lab work done. My name, my address, my social, and on and on.  No blink from either one of us.  She asked.  I answered. Until ...  

"Do you have a religious preference?"  

I have to admit, the quick response in my head was, "No."  After all, I don't think it really matters if you're United Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian or Church of God.  I've known some might fine Godly people in all those circuits and more.  But I quickly surmised that was not what she was asking.  Which led me to my next dilemma. What IS my religious preference? Well, I enjoy liturgical and contemporary, but I don't think that's what she meant either. Then there's the fact that I spent the first 40+ years in a United Methodist church, so I'm very "Wesleyan" in my doctrine, but I now belong to a non-denominational church yet spend every Sunday morning leading in worship at a Presbyterian church.  

I figured the girl behind the desk really didn't care about all that ... and so I just smile and said, "Christian." (Of course, I couldn't just leave it at that, I had to add Protestant Christian -- as opposed to Catholic.) She just smiled and said, "We've heard it all."  And I bet she has.

I don't know why that whole "religious preference" thing threw me so. If she had only asked if I had a Savior preference, then my answer would have been immediate and sure.  "Yes, Jesus Christ." 

Thank goodness she could just LOOK at me and see what "race" I belong to.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

Just an ordinary moment...

A Cup Overflowing, 861-880

It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, 
and to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High;
To tell of Your loving-kindness early in the morning 
and of Your faithfulness in the night season;
For as it was in the beginning, it is now and evermore shall be.
Psalm 92:1-2, Gloria

#861  homemade strawberry and cream pie

#862  fresh pears picked from a tree my grandfather planted decades ago

#863  fig season ... and bugs

#864  summer's last attempt with green sprigs

#865  rays of hope in difficult seasons

#866  rain streaks lit by the sun

#867  a spider's catch

#868  that God's grace is always enough and His power fulfilled

#869  for the consolation God brings through nature's waking -- the sun, the birds' songs, the cicadas, squirrels at play, the green of the trees

#870  a reuniting after a season apart

#871  a small sparrow's breakfast in the rain

#872  a beautifully woven spiderweb glistening in the sun just outside my window

#873  random outdoor church service under the shade of an oak

#874  living in a small town

#875  experiencing much needed community while standing in line at Subway

#876  morning light high in the pines

#877  that I said "Yes" 35 years ago

#878  hearing "G-Nan!" again after such a long span

#879  little boys at play

#880  sun peaking through


Friday, November 8, 2013

Upping my Fool Quotient at the Gym

Several weeks ago when I stepped on the treadmill at Anytime Fitness, I placed my bluetooth bud in my left ear and touched "start" on my Couch to 5K app and then placed another plug in my right ear to connect to the TV in front of me.  The Andy Griffeth Show is a wonderful way to pass those minutes of torture for me. But when I pressed the button, nothing happened, and so I called the manager Bob to come over and I asked him if there was anything wrong with the TV, and he confirmed that indeed there was and the repairman would be in later that week.  So I just replaced the bud in my right ear with the other bluetooth ear piece and cranked up my music.  I have an assortment of artists on my lists, but this particular morning Daniel Bashta was singing loud and clear.

Praise the Invisible, praise the Immortal One
Praise God Incarnate, praise Father, Spirit, Son
For He is God, for He is holy
For He holds the keys to the grave
And forever He will reign

We lift our hands up higher
We raise our voice louder
To the Only Wise, Eternal King...

About 20 minutes into my "run" (I walk faster than I run), the gentleman next to me got off his treadmill and motioned to me.  I unplugged my ear piece and he said, "I'm finished here if you want to get on this one.  The TV works."  I thanked him and said, "No, but thank you.  I'm okay."  And then he said, "I like to pray when I walk, too."  

I thought, "Dang it.  Have I been singing out loud?" for as loudly as I was singing in my head, I was SURE I was not singing with my voice.  Or was I?  I don't know.

Of course, I just had to laugh at myself and chalk up another one for looking foolish to those about me.  Or rather SOUNDING foolish.

But isn't that what the Word says we sojourners are going to look like to the world.  Spectacles?  Fools?  However, I don't think it's talking about singing or praying out loud on the treadmill. I think it's saying that God's way of thinking and doing is not the world's way. Like

  • loving your enemies
  • praying for those who persecute you
  • giving up your life in order to save it
  • being last in order to be first
  • forgiving someone who doesn't ask for forgiveness
  • being kind to someone who doesn't deserve it

Just try doing one of those things and I can promise, you will look foolish to the world. But here's the upswing, you will be mighty wise in the eyes of the Lord.

Oh, you can also just pop in your earbuds, crank up the music and sing your little heart out. It worked for me.

Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools.  
1 Corinthians 4:10

So what's your fool quotient?

Just an ordinary moment...

A Cup Overflowing, 841-860

Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips...
Psalm 119:108a

#841  reconnecting with Diane after 20+ years and being able to express my gratitude for the way she walked and cared for my firstborn when he was an infant in the church nursery

#842  seeing the little things through the eyes of Adrianne

#843  a gift in the mail from a daughter-in-love -- Bread and Wine -- and the sweet note inscribed

#844  evening sky set ablaze
#845  the way the female cardinal tosses her crested head back and forth as if to get attention

#846  the sound of early morning rain

#847  frozen yogurt -- for supper! but only when the men are out of town ...

#848  making it through week 3 on Couch to 5K

#849  that He wakes me early so we can take care of some unfinished business

#850  the buzz of the bee just outside my window

#851  a much needed ride on the water

#852  meeting Louis and his family at Johnny's Pizza and just visiting for awhile

#853  prayer resources

#854  a daughter leading in worship

#855  that God called me to a more disciplined prayer life BEFORE the waves broke over me

#856  morning Scripture that delivers hope

#857  the sound of approaching wind

#858  that moment of realizing that the song singing in my head is a Beatles classic: "We all live in a yellow submarine..." -- at 5:08 a.m.!!!  and just having to laugh

#859  little ones in church: worship can be wearing

#860  evening Mexican and morning Campesino spent with these two


Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 821-840

"The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!"
Henry Ward Beecher

#821  a rainbow after a rain

#822  safe passage of a middle child across an ocean

#823  a lit candle ushering in sacred space

#824  one feeder -- a dozen finches

#825  longing for the Way

#826  the smell of fresh green bell peppers being chopped

#827  a red-headed woodpecker on the pole and a red-bellied and downy woodpecker on the tree -- all foraging for insects

#828  peacock wall decor that brings me joy 

#829  a powerful foot-washing moment and a time of blessing with my "summer read" ladies

#830  that God reveals His presence in not one but TWO crosses
Can you see them?
#831  a mother and her toddler and infant in Kroger

#832  morning silhouette

#833  a good night's rest after nights of restlessness

#834  fresh revelations into prayer ... we are seated in the heavenlies

#835  God's amazing mercy

#836  fresh corn on the cob -- I'll have to admit to some disappointment if this one isn't included in the heavenly banquet

#837  "In the Garden" offertory and voices singing softly along

#838  10 banana spiders under the water oak -- one wearing a crown

#839  running into an old friend downtown and just connecting again

#840  a daddy safely home and the arms waiting on him

Thank You, God! Your mercy abounds...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 801-820

If it's true that "the Kingdom of God is NOW," (and it is), then let's give thanks for this present moment ... for this is where God abides.

#801  interruptions that keep me from falling into sin

#802  the Carolina wren that allows itself to be heard and seen (normally they stay hidden in the brush, but this little fellow perched itself on an open space in the tree)

#803  a 2-year old singing

#804  an Elijah sermon -- "they worshiped" ... and giving it time to settle on me

#805  a hard Eucharisteo -- a friend calling to say she has cancer

#806  sitting with a friend in interior design shop, holding hands, and unburdening our hearts

#807  for lifelong companions on the Way

#808  God's protection through the storm

#809  for an unshakable Kingdom -- Rev. 1:9

#810  for remissions

#811  picking blueberries while an impending storm bears down

#812  growth charts

An old louvered door where my brothers and I were measured each year on our birthdays

#813  for the first breakthrough of the sun in days

#814  family genealogies -- and God's faithfulness

#815  the Eastern Phoebe that lit just outside my window this morning

#816  rocking my "baby" and the big eyes that look up at me ... and smile

#817  for the Kingdom that is above me, around me, within me

#818  for broken places -- because it's in the brokenness that the fragrance of God is released

#819  a granddaddy's sense of humor in dress code

#820  four little birds learning to fly

May you sense His presence with you today.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 781-800

What will it be this season of Thanksgiving?  An attitude of grumbling or an attitude of gratitude?  It's your choice ... and mine.

#781  a song in the shower as sung by a husband

#782  a neighbor taking to her bike on a beautiful summer morning

#783  holding hands with Lynn

#784  summer solstice and a very full moon

#785  fields of healthy summer corn

#786  purple-grape sweet

#787  the lonely catbird that comes at mealtime

#788  faces that greet me on Sunday morning

#789 real Sabbath afternoon rest

#790  running through the rain with Marynan -- complete with squeals

#791  frozen yogurt and uncontrollable tears of laughter

#792  the sound of crickets after a rain

#793  a squirrel's acrobatics on a hummingbird feeder

#794  the break in morning quietude by the neighborhood red bloodhound ... Jethro

#795  that my daughter enjoys spending time with her mother

#796  first firefly of the season

#797  morning prayer

#798  the body known as Grace Church

#799  a phone call that says, "I love you"

#800  my parents

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 761--780

A few years ago, Don Moen wrote a song entitled "Think About His Love" that quickly became one of my favorites.  I have used it often in worship.

Think about His love, think about His goodness,
Think about His grace that's brought us through.
For as high as the heavens above,
So great is the measure of our Father's love.

How could I forget His love
And how could I forget His mercies?
He satisfies, He satisfies, He satisfies my desires.

Yes, that's what this gift list is all about: thinking about and upon His love and goodness. No doubt this pleases Him -- and it profits my own soul as well.

#761  reunions

#762  a night of Buster (SF Giants), Braves, and lifelong buddies

#763  an early morning renewal at a well -- a.k.a. Cathy and Dick's deck

#764  the tinge of pink in morning clouds

#765  discontent that reveals an ungrateful heart which leads to repentance

#766  legs that ache from staying up too late

#767  a midst the sounds of morning, a buzzing bee just outside the window 

#768  my daddy -- and for the way he still makes it easy for me to love the Father God

#769  new light-green growth on the water oak extending itself from the seasoned branches

#770  my funny, funny daughter-in-love

#771  a kind morning disposition reflected in the voice

#772  the vibrant "gold" on a goldfinch

#773  chocolate cupcakes and sticky icing on the fingers

#774  winds of Pentecost that blew through our summer "book read" this morning bringing much needed healing

#775  the pause in the music

#776  a peacock by the side of the road ... and then another!

#777  the smell of morning

#778  the sound of a small critter that has made its way into my house ... and hidden

#779  for a son-in-law who seeks to follow his dreams

#780  my mom ... and homemade cookies in the freezer -- "You are amazing!"

He satisfies ....

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 741-760

I read this earlier today: we give thanks to God not because of how we feel, but because of who He is.  And He is all good and He is all benevolent.  All the time.

#741  that my heart has been fashioned to long after God (and so has yours)

#742  a neighbor's freshly homemade blueberry jam delivered to my front door

#743  a tiny ladybug in a small hand

#744  watching a great-granddaddy teach a great-grandson to prune

#745  for advanced technology that allows 2 people on different places on the globe to connect

#746  for a little boy who sleeps well through the night allowing his grandmother to do the same

#747  the gift of rejection -- it allows the opportunity to enter into the suffering of Christ and to extend grace

#748  that I was raised in a home that taught Christ and not some other world religion ... or no religion at all

#749  for cowboys waiting to be let out of the stall

#750  season's first freezing

#751  a morning of planes and discovery

#752  getting on the floor and "playing cars" for the umpteenth time of the day with my favorite little meister

#753  kneeling in prayer with a 2-year old

#754  the way God undeniably speaks to me -- prodding me in a certain direction

#755  yet another nest of baby birds on my front door making 2 this season

#756  the sound of women's pencils scrawling gifts across a lined page

#757  a plate of goodies, cookies and strawberries, set out by a hostess

#758  hugging a friend

#759  two baby kittens playing just outside my window

#760  a father and son reunion