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

Friday, April 26, 2013

He Knows Your Name

The blood pooled large at her head.

Her breathing was labored.

The Red Cross volunteer placed her hand on the woman willing her to lay still.

I stayed with the baby.

"What's the woman's name?" I asked.

"I don't know," the sister-of-mercy responded.

She continued to breathe.  Loudly.  Laboriously.  So did we.

The paramedics arrived.  They rolled her out.

I bowed my head again and cried: "God, I don't even know her name to call it to You!"

"It's okay," I seemed to hear.  "I do." 

The Lord called me before my birth; 
from within the womb He called me by name.
Isaiah 49:1 (NLT)

[Not] Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Breathing Space

My husband and I just returned from a quick get-away to the north GA mountains.  There was nothing special about the occasion other than I had bought a Groupon several months ago and we had to cash it in before the end of April.  And, well, we're almost to the end of April.  But the timing was good.  I have just come off a season of teaching Bible study which, if I'm to be honest, always adds a little weight to my life, and I could use some REFRESHMENT in both my mind and spirit.

Refreshment: Webster's says, "something that provides new vigor and energy ... that makes fresh again."  Dictionary.com reads, "the act of invigorating."  But here's the one that RINGS my bell.  In the Greek, refreshment means breathing space.  Yes!   I could use some of that!

The weather forecast for Friday and our trip up was for rain, wind, and strong thunderstorms.  And indeed, the weatherman was right in his prediction.  But it was never severe and became for me a prelude to His gift of refreshing.  After all, don't you feel better after a bath?  I do.

Lunch was at Cafe International in downtown Helen.  The rain was only falling lightly and the temperature hadn't dropped so much that we couldn't sit on the porch and enjoy the calming view and sound of the Chattahoochee River while eating our sandwiches.  BREATHE ....

A planned breathing space was The Mark of the Potter situated on the Soque River.  Built in 1931, it was once home to Grandpa Watts' Grist Mill, which you can still see, and is literally filled with earthen treasures. 

Shop front
Mark of the Potter

I bought these.

A wine goblet ... for communion.  I chose this particular one because of its outward simplicity and its crimson interior.  

A miniature vase for miniature wildflowers

A tea cup ... already being used as you can see
One of the interesting things about north GA is all the little shops and working studios stuck here and there throughout the countryside.  One such is Hickory Flat Pottery owned by Cindy Angliss and located on Hwy. 197.  I wish I had gotten a picture of the house itself, an historic 112 year-old homestead complete with tin roof, but when I got out of the vehicle, I was too taken with this little fellow.  A couple of clicks with my tongue, and I had his attention. BREATHE....

I bought several pieces once again, but this time, I had the artisan sign them: Cody Trautnor is his name.

Not only is he as cute as a button, he's going to be famous one day...

I found my happy place when I was filling them up.
Unicoi State Park is a wonderful place to "camp."  The view is great, the food is delicious, and there's a coffee maker in every room!  Not to mention this ....
Yep.  I spotted him when he stuck his little head out from under the bedspread on the floor.  I told my husband it was him (the lizard) or me, but one of us was going.

He chose wisely...

I have a feeling HE was breathing a prayer of thanksgiving at this point...

After dinner and before the sun set, we took a little hike down to the lake.  Sunsets are always nice.  BREATHE ...

On Saturday morning, due to the unseasonably cool temps, we opted for indoor entertainment and went to the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia.  It was so interesting to see a vessel made literally from ground up.  How richer the Word became as I watched a potter take clay from the ground, grind it, mix it, beat it, form it, and, yes, put it through the fire.  Indeed, He is the Potter; we are the clay.  Masterpieces, the work of His hands, according to Isaiah 64:8.

Our next stop was to The Gourd Place.  With Simon and Garfunkel playing on the CD player and freshly picked wildflowers labeled and placed on the mantel, it was nothing short of a sanctuary.  Both Priscilla and Janice bring their artistic flair and love for the "Creative Force" to those who enter.  This will be one of those places to which I will return again and again. I breathed so deeply there ...
Priscilla has developed and patented stoneware pottery molded in gourds.  Absolutely beautiful!
And what trip to the mountains is complete without a hike?  While at High Country Turquoise, where I found these 2 treasures:
Chalcopyrite (a sulfide mineral) -- you should see it in the sun!

Made by the Navajo 
... the owner suggested we walk the trail to Dukes Creek Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest.  
It was just over a mile down ... which if calculated correctly means just over a mile back up.

But so worth it!

It had been a long time since I had stood in the spray of a water fall.  Refreshment in the full sense of the word! BREATHE....

One last stop before dinner was to The Willows Pottery, "nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians."  It, too, is a working studio and gallery.  And as an early Mother's Day gift, my husband purchased this pitcher for me.
I can't help but just love the "accident" that happened while firing.  It's my favorite piece!
"And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do." Jeremiah 18:4
The day ended with a trip down Scenic Highway 197 to Lake Burton and a breathing space at La Prada's  Chophouse where we sat on the porch overlooking the river and watched all the prom dates decked in gowns and tuxes ... being thankful we are on THIS side of that social calendar.

Yes.  Respites all along the way.  Wild turkeys, cattle among dogwoods, the sound of raindrops on tin roofs, a lizard, horses, experiencing God in odd places, and more shades of green than I could count.  My lungs were full and my spirit invigorated.

We left the following morning with one more impromptu stop ... and probably the biggest refreshment of all.
I got to eat lunch and play cars with this little man!
How grateful I am for this special weekend of refreshment.  A breathing space.  But as I sat with a friend this morning in a pain clinic, I was made all too aware of the need of so many not to just have a breathing space, but to take just one breath without pain.  And not just the physical kind.  Pain, after all, comes in all sorts of sizes and fashions.  But for so many, the pain is too much, the grief too great.  And a place to breathe must be found in something more than waterfalls and wild turkeys.  A lasting time of refreshment must be based on something greater than a piece of pottery or rolling green pastures, for one will eventually break and the other turn brown.  The promise is that the Lord Himself will give times of refreshing because He Himself is the Living Water and He Himself gives the Spray of the Holy Spirit.  

I love what Fleming Rutledge writes: "He [God] will send unexpected signs of His mercy and sudden surprises of His grace." He certainly did that for me this weekend.  Could it be that He will use you or me to do just that for another who is only looking for a little breathing space?

To whom can you be a breath of fresh air?

He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.  
Proverbs 11:25

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Sunday after Easter

I joked with the pastor before the service on the Sunday following Easter.  I said, "Well, we find out today just how many listened to and believed last week's sermon."  We both laughed, but, honestly, there's some truth to that.  There's something intentional about going to church the Sunday after Easter.  I mean, really, if we truly believed that Christ rose from the dead, wouldn't we WANT to come back for more?  

Here are a few statistics in my area of how the numbers added up with Easter being the first and what many in the church have come to call "Slump Sunday" being the second.  (The decline percentage follows in parenthesis.  Beware: it's startling.)

201/130  (35%)
255/169  (34%)
554/260  (53%)
546/243  (55%)
842/351  (58%)
161/143  (11%)  An Hispanic church!

I don't know about you, but I find a couple of those numbers a little more than startling.  Why do we have to pull out folding chairs on Easter morning and then have to blush embarrassingly when a visitor returns the next week and finds the sanctuary is not even half full?  Do we not truly believe that Jesus REALLY rose from the dead?  That Satan REALLY was defeated?  That we REALLY have been given eternal life and can now live with Christ in heaven for "eternity ever"? Shouldn't our churches be overflowing even MORE on the 2nd Sunday of the resurrection because we have staked our lives on what we heard and have gone out and told everyone we know, "HE IS RISEN!"?  Those who saw Him that first resurrection morning certainly couldn't contain it.  Why should we do less?

Listen, I'm not throwing any stones here, and I'm certainly not talking legalism.  I'm a church musician.  I HAVE to go to church every week.  I've rarely had the choice not to.  But I've also asked myself on several occasions that if I were not paid to go, would I?  And I can honestly say there were times when I would have opted to stay in bed.

So where is MY enthusiasm?  Where is MY shout of joy? Have I lived in the aftermath of that glorious event for so long that I'm completely numb to and unaffected by it?  I don't know, but when I read the accounts of the disciples, they NEVER EVER got over it.  In fact, it literally killed all but one of them, and even he was exiled.  

But just like the day after Christmas when we take down the decorations and carry the tree to the recycle center, the day after Easter, we put away the pretty colored eggs and pick up life as usual forgetting that anything spectacular has ever happened.  And how tragic that is when the Lord Himself has busted the gates of hell wide open ... 

FOR you and FOR me.

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?  
He is not here, but has risen." (Luke 24:5)

He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!!!

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 541-560

The question was posed to me recently: How much time do you invest praising and thanking God, focusing on all the good gifts and blessings He has bestowed -- versus the time you spend grumbling and complaining, focusing on all that is wrong and not what you imagine it should be?

That will get you thinking...

Let's look for opportunities to be grateful and to show  or, rather, EXPRESS gratitude, leaving our grumbling to a minimum.  One way is by counting.

#541  favorite play areas
No water...

#542  seeing things, like elephants and monkeys, I would have otherwise missed

#543  pain that resurfaces again ... and again ... and again

#544  and learning to embrace it as mine

#545  love birds at my feeder
A pair of doves

#546  "Garden variety"

#547  Lime-a-ritas ... to good health and a long life

#548  "Here I Am, Lord" and a moment of presence at Bible study

#549  a portal that speaks of hiddenness

#550  a giving heart expressed through Laura Carroll

#551  my sweet, sweet friend who calls when I am sick and literally blows the breath of God's healing Spirit on me

#552  my heated "throw" (small blanket) on an early chilly morning

#553  grace ... again and again and again

#554  a last minute "breath" before morning worship service

#555  Sunday morning sacredness

#556  calls from my daddy to just check up on me

#557  the hiddenness of God

#558  the paradox of adoration -- silence seems best, but if I don't cry out, the rocks themselves will

#559  the season's first pair of bluebirds seeking a home

#560  the anticipation of what's inside

Stay alert, with your eyes wide open to gratitude!  Colossians 4:2 (The Message)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Strengthen My Heart, O Lord

My plans were to get back on track at the gym this week.  I've been a little lax lately; no one's fault but my own.  And so I slipped on my shorts and pulled the tie-dyed shirt over my head, laced my shoes and readied to head out the door.  And then the thought occurred to me: it's a beautiful day, girlfriend.  Take to the streets. Actually, my allergies have been so bad this season with all the pollen that I've hardly been outside at all except to go to the mailbox.  But something was drawing me.  And I gave in.

I had just read in my Prevention magazine the night before that 3 swift 10 minute walks a day do as much or more for you as a 30 minute walk taken just once a day.  And so I was off for my first heart-healthy trek of the day.  And as I rounded the end of the driveway and started moving forward at a swift pace, I prayed, "Lord, strengthen my heart."  

In no time at all, I saw this little fellow and, of course, had to stop and talk to him.  Peter is his name.

Then there was this bird sitting high in the tree singing his little heart out.  Who couldn't help but stop and listen and maybe whistle a tune with him?

Oh, and one neighbor has this most beautiful and relaxing waterfall respite in her front yard.  So wish I had brought a book...

And then there was "happy."  Really, doesn't this make you smile?

Perry is so beautiful in the spring time.  The trees are blooming just at the perfect time for The Dogwood Festival this weekend.

And this one has a nest!  I had to try to peak in to see if there were any eggs yet...

The crepe myrtles clipped severely during the winter are now producing new life.

The camellias are gifting their last.

And how often I miss color!  Not today.  Both in the big...

... and the small.

As I rounded the corner to take the last leg of the journey, I noticed my young neighbor was outside and so I walked across the street to chat a minute with her.  Life is hard.  We hugged.  She cried.  I prayed.

And, yes, my 10 minutes had turned into 40.  So much for "strengthening my heart."

Or did He do exactly as I asked?

Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 521-540

Have you ever noticed how Jesus wondered at small, ordinary realities?  A grain of wheat, for example.  Lilies of the field and birds of the air.  Mustard seeds.  A child.  Should I not also take time to notice what is about me and let my surroundings speak to me of where God may be moving in my life?

#521  praying ... and certain God hears and will answer in His time

#522  a broken heart

#523  watching a red-shouldered hawk move from perch to perch in search of prey in my backyard

#524  sunshine after rain -- Show us the light of Your countenance, O God, and come to us  (Based on Psalm 67:1)

#525  celebrating 30 years with my oldest son

#526  a holy encounter with a stroke victim

#527  a small victory of learning to trust the silence when the words are not there

#528  broken hips and broken hearts

#529  cold and windy celebrations spent with ones I love

#530  a husband's catering

#531  a daughter and son-in-law safely home

#532  the retelling of God's faithfulness and a tender heart's response as evidenced by tears

#533 birthday face-time
#534  that God knows our names

#535  shy little Valentines
Can you spot the gift he left?
Here it is
#536  that resurrections follow crucifixions

#537  20 feet placed under my kitchen table and 10 Bibles laid open on it

#538  for the settling of my soul when I take the time to sit with Him

#539  the smell of soup cooking on the stove

#540  a little boy and his granddaddy ... sharing

Open my eyes to your presence, Lord, that I may see...