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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Written Into ALL Things

I can't help but love it when an old passage becomes new.  You know what I'm talking about.  That Scripture you've read over and over and over for years and years and years -- and all of a sudden, BAM!, it's fresh.  For me this morning, it was John 1:1-3.  

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  ALL things came into being through him, and without him NOT ONE thing came into being.

It sounds a little bit like Colossians 1:16, doesn't it?  For in him ALL things in heaven and on earth were created ... ALL things have been created through him and for him.

ALL things?  Do ALL things have the stamp of Christ upon them?  Is His nature inherent in ALL things?  Is His will written into the very structure of it ALL?  Are we "predestined" by the very nature of things to be Christ's?

Is sounds to me like a big fat Yes!  That there is both a Christ touch and a Christ purpose in creation.  That ALL is made not only BY Him -- touch; but FOR Him -- purpose.  In other words, there is a destiny written into not only the God-created order of nature but into my blood, my relationships, my life.  Into ALL.  

It's also the very make-up of YOUR being.

Therefore, may we ALL live according to the Divine design written within each of us.  And may God extend His mercy when we choose otherwise.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Counting: the Pathway to Music

Little Will sat at the piano yesterday.  The music lay in his lap and a pencil in his hand.  He wrote: 1 and (+) 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and ....  Over and over he scribbled above every note and beat.  You see, Will absolutely LOVES playing the piano.  The only problem is that he has refused to count the rhythm.  But he's a little boy.  He wants to play everything at lightning speed, regardless if the note value warrants half a beat, 2 beats or 4.  

Counting.  It's one of the first things a mother does when she holds her newborn in her arms.  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.  And then again, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.  Then we teach THEM to count.  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.  And what a thrill to now hear my own grandson learning his numbers and counting to 10 -- on his toes!  But there are other ways we count.  Just yesterday, my daughter said, "It only has 60 calories."  She was counting.  This morning I received a text from my friend that said 2nd chemo treatment is behind her.  Counting.  And just moments ago, I deducted an entry in my check book and determined how much is left to payday.  Counting.  We count how many Facebook friends we have.  Or how many have unfriended us.  We count how many times we have been hurt by a certain individual.  Or by life in general.  

Many years ago, I sat with an elderly woman in her bedroom.  Whereas she once roamed her large house with a strong body, she now was confined to this one room housing her bed, a portable toilet, a dresser, and 2 chairs which were pulled right up to her television where she "watched" the Braves play.  She did more listening actually, because she couldn't see them.  This was her barren life.  Or so it appeared to me.  But you see, directly across the street sat the United Methodist Church and every day at noon the carillon bells would begin playing.  In her own words, she told me, "One day the bells started playing Count Your Many Blessings, and so I did.  But when I got to 100, I got tired and had to quit."  Mrs. Aurelia died a few years later, but her story has stuck with me for almost 20 years.  She had found the music.

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Johnson Oatman, Jr.

Yes, my friend knew the HOPE and LIFE and POWER found in counting her blessings and naming the good gifts of God.

As for Will, he's finally getting it.  Like Mrs. Aurelia, he too is realizing that to count means music and the painstaking discipline of numbering the beats is now starting to pay off as Will is finding playing to be even more fun and enjoyable.  After all, to play the notes is just sound.  But to number the beats is what makes it music.  

And you know what?  It brings a lot of joy to this teacher as well.

Hmm...  Could it be our gift counting also delights the heart of the Father?  

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Love Birthdays

Since I was young enough to remember, I have always loved birthdays.  Mine and everybody else's.  Cakes, candles, presents, singing.  
And games.  Whereas our parties weren't as extravagant as children's parties are nowadays, they were memorable.  Am I the only one who remembers "Thimble, thimble, who's got the thimble?"  That was the year I turned 6.  

There was also the year my brother had the chicken pox and we could only invite children who had already had the same.  Bummer...  
What's with the little sombreros???
And my mom ALWAYS baked the cake, topping it with a delicate figurine that is now displayed in my  own china cabinet.  

As I got older, my birthday was often celebrated in conjunction with the basketball tournaments.  When we were in the finals and doing well, the parties were a little more celebratory.  

I'm grown now, but I still like a good party.  Of course, this is one of my favorite people to celebrate.

But there is another birthday I like celebrating.  The year was somewhere around 30 A.D.  It was a morning late in the month of May.  The Judean sun was already high on the horizon, the clouds were burned away, and the heat was beginning to have its way.  Morning worship was concluding; trumpets were blasting and worshipers were praying.  Thousands of Jewish men had traveled miles to celebrate this feast: the Feast of Pentecost.  In fact, they were commanded to come.

But this year would be different, as suddenly, from high overhead, the roar of a violent windstorm was heard.  Heads began to turn trying to discover the source.  Listen to a true eyewitness account:  

... they [the disciples] were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit... (Acts 2:1-4a).

Yes, just as it had been foretold in Jer. 31:31, God initiated a new covenant with Israel.  On that morning, He poured out His Holy Spirit just as He had promised.  And, happy birthday: the church was born.  

Today is the day that is celebrated.  Pentecost Sunday.  50 days after Easter.  And so I celebrate, not with cake and candles, but by asking God to come again ... to breathe His Holy Spirit and birth anew in me the life-giving presence of His Son.

As for the singing, this morning I used Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend's Holy Spirit.  Won't you join me?

Holy Spirit living Breath of God
Breathe new life into my willing soul
Let the presence of the risen Lord
Come renew my heart and make me whole
Cause Your word to come alive in me
Give me faith for what I cannot see
Give me passion for Your purity
Holy Spirit breathe new life in me

Holy Spirit come abide within
May Your joy be seen in all I do
Love enough to cover ev'ry sin
In each thought and deed and attitude
Kindness to the greatest and the least
Gentleness that sows the path of peace
Turn my strivings into works of grace
Breath of God show Christ in all I do

Holy Spirit from creation's birth
Giving life to all that God has made
Show Your power once again on earth
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways
Let the fragrance of our pray'rs arise
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ
May be clear for all the world to see

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 561-580

I'm still counting.  Whereas the following only lists 561-580, I actually hit #700 today.  No doubt it's easier to write them down in my thanksgiving journal than to get them here on the blog.    

However, one of the things I'm learning through this discipline of recording my gifts is that a life of faith is a life of gratitude.  Henri Nouwen wrote, "A truly eucharistic life means always saying thanks to God, always praising God, and always being more surprised by the abundance of God's goodness and love.  How can such a life not also be a joyful life? It is the truly converted life in which God has become the center of all.  There gratitude is joy and joy is gratitude and everything becomes a surprising sign of God's presence."  Yes...

#561  Vicki and 2 hearts stitched 32 years ago

#562  seeing the zoo through the eyes of a 2 year old

#563  celebrating 2 years of living and loving

#564  that God delights in and loves color

#565  sipping afternoon coffee with a daughter-in-love

#566  sleepless nights and 91 psalms

#567  the 4th Sunday in Lent and finding the journey different from what I anticipated

#568  cereal and fresh strawberries

#569  extravagance versus simplicity

#570  the snow white belly of a squirrel

#571  late night phone conversations with my oldest son

#572  for God's great mercy in my life

#573  going to Starbucks for a little quiet reading and finding it full of military wives and their preschool children.  Bless them, Lord.

#574  cold, clear water rushing over a dam

#575  Keith Newberry  I just love it when God brings childhood friends back into my life!  Here's to LOTS of great memories, Keke!

#576  season's first slice of fresh homemade strawberry pie

#577  camellias from a neighbor's yard

#578  the last of this year's holly berries -- Christmas in March

#579  namesakes

#580  the rattling of a lid on the stove and the smell of fresh peas for dinner

Yes, "gratitude is joy and joy is gratitude and everything becomes a surprising sign of God's presence."

Just ordinary moments...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Want to Live Like That

As I sat in a booth at a fast-food chain Sunday while my husband waited at the counter for our food, I couldn't help but overhear the lady several tables over.  My attention had already been drawn to her earlier as we ordered our meal.  Let's just say she was loud ... and demanded attention.  While I waited, she continued.  First she complained about the lemonade.  It tasted horrible and obviously had come out of a tin can.  I heard that at least 3 times.  Next it was the food.  Or lack of it.  What was taking so long?  Oh, well, "As long as I get MY sweet potato poppers," her voice grated, "that's ALL that matters."  And she meant it.  No joviality here.

Ironically, she and her family had just come from church.  I could read it in the way they were dressed.  You know, Sunday clothes.  It didn't hurt that I could also hear comments about the service and the upcoming revival.  How sad, I thought. Shouldn't this woman be HAPPIER, less grumbling; after all, she just left church?  Shouldn't her attitude be more gracious and her mouth at least a little more tame after having worshiped the God of all creation?  With people like that, no wonder non-believers want nothing to do with "church" and believers will have nothing to do with organized religion.  

But before I get too smug ....

Yes, while sitting there executing my own judgment toward the woman, the Holy Spirit reminded me of MY recent attitude.  Just moments earlier, minutes really, I had stood at that counter and, just short of rolling my eyes, sighed with great exasperation when the trainee told me that they were (once again) out of the item I ordered.  "Are you kidding me?  Do you ever plan to have it?  If not, then you need to take it off the menu.  (Another sigh.)  Just give me a grilled chicken," (which opened up another whole can of worms because "grilled chicken" is not listed on the register anywhere).  Yep, real Godly, I know.  And, yes, I, too, was donned in "Sunday clothes."  No getting around it.  I had just been to church.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I MAKE MYSELF SO SICK SOMETIMES!!!! The only thing I could have done to make it worse was to ask her if she had a church somewhere, and if not, invite her to mine.  UGH!

As I stood at the kitchen sink this afternoon hulling strawberries for tonight's dinner, I pushed the play button to the radio.  As if on cue, Sidewalk Prophets' I Want to Live Like That began playing.  With thoughts of Sunday still weighing on me, that stainless basin suddenly became an altar. (You can click on the title above to hear it.)

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me 
When I'm only just a memory
When I'm home where my soul belongs 

Was I love when no one else would show up 
Was I Jesus to the least of those 
Was my worship more than just a song 

I want to live like that 
And give it all I have 
So that everything I say and do 
Points to You 

If love is who I am 
Then this is where I'll stand 
Recklessly abandoned 
Never holding back 

I want to live like that 
I want to live like that 

Am I proof 
That You are who you say You are 
That grace can really change a heart 
Do I live like Your love is true 

People pass 
And even if they don't know my name 
Is there evidence that I've been changed 
When they see me, do they see You 

I want to live like that 
And give it all I have 
So that everything I say and do 
Points to You 

If love is who I am 
Then this is where I'll stand 
Recklessly abandoned 
Never holding back 

I want to live like that 
I want to live like that 

I want to show the world the love You gave for me 
I'm longing for the world to know the glory of the King 

I want to live like that 
And give it all I have 
So that everything I say and do 
Points to You 

If love is who I am 
Then this is where I'll stand 
Recklessly abandoned 
Never holding back 

I want to live like that 
I want to live like that

Yes, I want to LIVE like that!  Not just dress like it.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Man On His Knees

Honestly, one of the earliest visual memories I have of my daddy is of him on his knees by his bed ... praying.  It's not that he spent hours and hours there, but every night right before he retired to sleep, he would kneel on the floor, prop his forearms on the bedside, clasp his hands and bow his head.  I really don't know anything about the dialogue that went on between him and God, but I imagine it incorporated the Lord's Prayer coupled with prayers for my mother, my siblings and me ... among other things.

A man on his knees.  

Then there was the pastor that came to our little church back in the early 90's.  Honestly, I can't recall a word he ever preached.  But what I do remember is that every time he led us in the pastoral prayer, he hit the floor right there next to the pulpit.

A man on his knees. 

Another preacher/pastor I was privileged to sit under would walk down the aisle at the beginning of the service, and before entering the chancel area, would stop at the altar rail, go to his knees and pray.  For all we knew, he could have been saying his ABC's, but his life told us he was asking God to fill that place with His presence.  (I'm so reminded here of the high priests who went into the Holy place in the Temple, carrying the people of Israel on his heart before God.)  

A man on his knees.  

More recently, I sat in church with one of my sons, and while others received communion, watched him bow with his wife on the steps leading up to the platform.  This mother's heart swelled, I must admit.   

A man on his knees.  

And just weeks ago, while making a last minute copy in the workroom before the worship service, I caught a glimpse of the pastor, a very large man in body, alone in his office -- down on his knees before God.  Powerful imagery once again.

A man on his knees.

The physical act of prayer.  Is it important? 

No doubt we hear a lot about body language.  Interrogators watch the body language of those they are questioning.  Employers watch the body language of those they are interviewing.  And don't think for a second a young man (and old) doesn't read the body language of a flirting female.  Or vice versa.  So often, we say more with our bodies that we do with our mouths.  But what about in prayer?

I'm afraid I might do a lot more talking than reverent submission, evidenced by my own body stance not to mention verbosity. 

Have you ever considered that the disciples rarely heard Jesus pray?  At least there's very little recorded in Scripture.  Yes, we see Him "raising His eyes toward heaven" and giving thanks.  And we have the High Priestly prayer recorded for us in John 17.  But were His friends privy to that prayer or did John write it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit along with the prayer in the garden before His arrest?

Regardless, sometime before both of those events, we have it recorded in Luke 11 that the disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray."  Could it be that they asked, not because of what they had heard Him say, but because of what they had seen Him do?  And it took their breath away?  They desired THAT kind of intimacy with their God.  

A Man on His knees. 

There are no rules when it comes to such language.  We are given no blueprint that says, "This is the way you pray.  Bow ye in it."  But, personally, I am thankful for and encouraged by these men of whom I have seen kneel in prayer.  Could there be a lesson in it for me?

He was bowing in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1)

Just an ordinary moment...