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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 681-700

A couple of years ago, I came across a writing from the pen of David Sluyter that touched a spot within me.  I copied it down and have gone back to it again and again.  Maybe you might enjoy it, too.

I awoke to the confusion of a new day,

The scraps of dreams, memories of yesterday, and new cravings creeping into awareness,

The sun spilling its light over all but the shadows and a cacophony of sound

From outside and in.

What to make order of? What to let go?

And who makes the choice?

I think I will go down to the river and just watch it flow,

It's been a long time since I have done something really important.

Care to come down to the river with me and watch it flow?  I'll count...

#681  the singers, artists and poets of the world -- and for the way they bring beauty and prepare us for heaven

#682  a student/nephew using his talent for the glory of God

#683  the best blackberry pie I have ever put in my mouth

#684  wild onions ... and the way they smell

#685  kamikaze flights -- baby birds leaving their nest

#686  Thomas the Train sunglasses

#687  "Nemos" galore

#688  one generation to another ... to another

#689  the hunter instinct in every male

#690  "What's that?" asked for the 100th time

#691  a fisherman and his "Fred"

#692  smelly goats

#693  chasing chickens

#694  old barns and simple tire swings

#695  hanging with the big boys -- and becoming one

#696  celebrating Mom and 82 years

#697  sitting on Louis' back porch with the family until after sunset -- I have a feeling Mu and Gra look down from heaven and smile

#698  the best [grand] mother's day card I've ever received: complete with action figure stickers

#699  a tired body and an aching back that says I played hard

#700  celebrating #700 on Mother's Day with a very full heart

Could there be anything more important than slowing down and enjoying the small stuff?  I don't think so.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 661-680

Question: do you pray with your eyes closed in concentration or with them wide open in wonderment?  While they seem to run counter to one another, one narrowing the field and the other expanding it, both are essential in this thing we call prayer.

Won't you open your eyes with me?

#661  a new great-nephew and a family name extended -- Hank Cannon

#662  bloom in the desert

#663  men and women who dedicate their lives to the development and advancement of medicine

#664  that God has delivered me from the dominion of sin and death and brought me into the kingdom of His Son -- EVEN when my actions don't line up with it

#665  a downy woodpecker on the pine outside my window

#666  strawberry fields

#667  a praying mayor

#668  baby birds in the wreath at the front door

#669  a husband's joy

#670  that God is present in our ordinary human experiences

#671  the first cardinal of the morning -- bright red

#672  the momentary breakthrough of a sun ray after days and days of rain and cloud cover

#673  an older gentleman bowing his head and saying grace at Burger King ... alone

#674  lone cornstalk flower's morning worship

#675  home remedies passed down through the generations -- like buttered and toasted soda crackers

#676  a sweet daughter-in-love's overnight stay = JOY

#677  an unexpected spring return

#678  one squawky protective mother bird

#679  lingering rain drops

#680  "Nannypoo" -- a daughter's love language that makes this mother smile


Monday, July 29, 2013


On the way home, I had noticed the sky.  The departing sun was shining through the clouds and the blue and white ripples in the heavens caught my attention ... and I commented: "What a pretty sunset."  

We pulled into the garage, unloaded the car of the shopping bags and I proceeded to "get busy" in the kitchen making a frozen German chocolate pie.  I picked up some recyclable bags and boxes and ran outside to toss them in the bin, and there it was -- the most beautiful orange sunset literally ablaze with the grandeur of God!  I could almost see Him shouting from His throne with his holy hands clasped around his mouth, "Surprise!!!"  I stood there in awe for a moment, my heart swelling, and then I thought, "Get your camera, you fool!" 

Surprise.  A beginning of that fullness we call gratefulness.  

I was grateful for that sunset that evening for more reasons than one.  For some time, I had been wondering just how many times I could count "birds at my feeder" as gift -- because they really do bless me.  The sunset helped me to settle my answer.  Would you not agree that evening after evening after evening -- ever since God created the moon and stars, there has been a daily sunset?  And this particular night it surprised me afresh.  But it wasn't the first time it had done so.  I am constantly "taken," surprised, by the outpouring of His glory in the skies.  I think, too, of a particular spot of road when I go to the beach.  I know when I get there, I will see the expanse of the ocean, and yet, every single time, I'm surprised by it.  My breath is taken away.  It's fresh again.  And what about rainbows?  Do we ever tire of those surprises?  Thus far, I have found no one who does.  So why should the birds at the feeder each morning not do the same thing for me?  Is it not fresh?  Is it not new?

No, our sense of surprise is triggered not only by the extraordinary, but, above all, by the ordinary -- like birds at a feeder and spiders with "crowns."  Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "Nature is never spent," and how right he was.  The surprise of that "dearest freshness" is present in the most ordinary things.  

After a lengthy stay of just watching the sun slip slowly behind the horizon, I returned to the kitchen ... full and grateful.


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Woman of Firehouse Subs

I grabbed my book and entered Firehouse Subs for a quick lunch while out running some errands last week. After placing my order and stressing out at the drink machine (however I am getting more proficient at the 120+ selection -- you can read about that here), I found a table by the window.  The woman who stood behind and ordered after me took the table directly in front of me.

As I waited for my chili to arrive, I took out God's Favorite Place on Earth, which is not Firehouse Subs, mind you, (though I do think Jesus might enjoy a good "Hook and Ladder,") but Bethany ... and the title of the book.  I turned to the page where I had left off and began reading.  But what happened next disturbed me so that I had a hard time concentrating.  The lady I mentioned earlier, who was probably a few years older than I, pulled out a book, too!  The only difference was that she was sitting with her husband and I was alone.  At first I thought she might be sharing something with him out of the book.  But, no, she starting reading, and all I could think of was, "How rude!"  I kept watching just knowing, hoping really, that any minute she would put it down and give him her attention.  But she didn't.  Her nose remain buried.

And the amazing thing?  He sat there perfectly content.  No disgruntled look.  No exasperation on his face.  No heavy sighs.  He wasn't even watching the television in the far corner.  He just gazed on her with pure contentment. Yeah, every now and then he would say something and she might look up and answer, but for the most part, she was totally engrossed in the suspense novel she was reading, completely oblivious to the man at the table.  Her husband.

I finished my chili before their food ever arrived and left the eatery with my book  -- along with a hardened feeling toward the woman who was being so callous toward her husband.  How, indeed, could she treat him with such insensitivity?


Until the next morning when I came into my sun room, my "sacred space," to meet with the Lord and He reminded me of my own indifference.  My own carelessness in OUR relationship.  For how often have I lit my candle to signify this hallowed time -- but instead of talking with Him, picked up a "book" to read. It may have been in the form of checking messages on my phone ... or seeing what was posted on Facebook the night before or what pictures had been added in Instagram.  A return email may have gotten first dibs of the morning.  Or it may have been a book with real pages just like the lady at Firehouse.  The point is, how in the world could I throw such jagged stones when I, myself, have done the same thing time and time again to the Lover of my soul?  

Ironically, as much as I am that woman of Firehouse Subs, I also saw the Lord in the face and attitude of her husband.  Indeed, God looks at me like her spouse looked upon her.  With no judgment.  No annoyance.  No irritation.  None of these things.

No, He looks upon me with persistent love and patient longing ... just waiting for me, like the woman's bridegroom, to turn my gaze toward Him and acknowledge His presence.

And so I do.  I put down my book ... and my stone.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Cup Overflowing, 641-660

Count the way He loves.  1...2...3...4...5...

#641  tranquil settings

#642  shades and shades of green

#643  winding roads and rolling pastures

#644  experiencing God's presence at unlikely places among unlikely partners -- The Gourd Place

#645  the spray in my face -- Duke Creek Falls

#646  the journey up

#647  turquoise ... and a reminder to pray, pray, pray

#648  last minute detours 

#649  a Sunday afternoon happy place -- filling newly purchased pottery with gifts from my yard

#650  the crimson veins of Swiss chard

#651  the freshness that comes from spending time with special friends
Bill and Lynn Strickland

#652  wild verbena -- one man's weeds is another man's wildflowers

#653  bounty

#654  quiet mornings at home

#655  pecan-orchard green

#656  country rides and barn-roof red

#657  circles of prayer

#658  a communion anthem
Bread of the world, in mercy broken
Wine of the world, in mercy shed,
By whom the words of life were spoken,
And in whose death our sins are dead.
Reginald Heber
#659  for an old, rugged cross -- the very heart of the gospel

#660  God's spectacularly beautiful creation

Oh, yes, how He loves.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Find Us Faithful

How we got from here to there I don't know.  One minute we were discussing the Boy Scout house that is long gone, giving way to weeds and overgrowth years ago, and the next thing I knew we had "the book" out.  No, not the Bible.  The Harper genealogy.  Surely the hump in the conversation was when I asked how we were related to Wayne.  I had thought all these years it was just by marriage ... not by blood.  But come to find out, my great-grandmother was related to her husband's first wife whose child by her first husband was Wayne's grandmother.  I think.  But like I said, one thing led to another until I finally pulled out the family book that my mom wrote for us a decade ago.

I agree, it's not always "safe" to go digging into family past.  One never knows what one might find.  And boy, did she ever find!  Let's just say we are rarely surprised anymore when something "new" shows up.  It is what it is and there's usually not a thing we can do about it.  But it has made for some lively conversations.

Yes, it is interesting to flip through the pages of family histories and discover something of the lives of those gone before.  For example, I just learned that I had a great-great uncle who was the mayor of Homestead, FL.  His life was cut short in 1937, however, when he and his 19 year old daughter Katherine were killed in an accident involving an ambulance on their way home from the horse races in Miami.  (They had left early to "beat the traffic.")

Something else I didn't know.  My great-uncle, R.E. Harper, was among the very first trustees of the Perry School System.  He also spent his last days in Milledgeville at the mental hospital.  Surely there was no direct correlation between the two.

And then there was that "little incident' of "Who Shot the Sheriff of Jones County."  No one can say for sure, but the three Harper boys did go a-missin' after that.  And such is how we ended up in "these parts."

I imagine every family has a story or two they can tell if they're brave enough to look.

But what overwhelms me the most each time I fan the pages of our family history are the obituaries.  And one in particular: that of my great-grandfather, Bright Harper.
"Papa" Harper
I remember reading the article years ago and it striking the same chord then as it does now.

August 14, 1913, 100 years ago, the Houston Home Journal obituary read: "After being in declining health more than two years, Mr. Bright Harper, one of the most highly esteemed citizens of Houston County, died at his home near Providence Church last Sunday. ... Upright and true in all walks of life, Mr. Harper held the absolute confidence of all who knew him. ... There never lived a more steadfast friend, a more excellent neighbor, and his home life was kind and true to his high ideals of morality and Christian duty. ... A truly good man...."

Four months later on Dec. 18 of the same year, another article appeared -- this one written by "A Former Pastor."  In it, I read, "As a citizen this good man ranked as the best, as a neighbor he was all that could be desired.  He was very tender and loving as husband and father, and his children rise up and call him blessed.  ... For years he was a member of the Methodist Church, having his membership at Providence church ... and the hands of many a pastor were made stronger from the faithfulness of this good man.  His home was the place of rest for many a weary preacher, as he made them the objects of his hospitality. ... He was true to God, sympathetic in the afflictions that came to others, liberal in all things pertaining to the church of God, one of its most faithful members and to his family a loving father and husband.  He was a follower of Jesus in whom was no guile.  May the mantle of the father descend upon the sons."

"May the mantle of the father descend upon the sons."  Even as I read and type those words again, fresh tears run down my cheeks and I want to fall to my knees in enormous gratitude to a God who has been so faithful to these generations.  At once I want to shout to those in the grave a loud "THANK YOU!!!!, all the while my heart bursting open toward the heavens knowing it is God who has done this thing for us.

Before me each morning as I sit in my "sacred space" is a picture of our family: my husband and me, our children and their spouses and our grandson.  

No doubt, it is very often the central focus of my prayer time.  And this is what I am learning:  to pray that the mantle of the father descend upon the sons (and daughters).  Don't just take it for granted.

Many months ago, I jotted "Psalm 112" on a piece of paper, tore it off, and placed it in the corner of the frame.

It became my prayer.  It begins:
Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in His commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous...

This week as I flipped through the pages of the Harper genealogy, I came to the front of the book where my mother had penned a personal message to me.  My breath caught when I saw it.

Though certainly not perfect, I cannot be more thankful for the generations that have gone before me ... of both my parents, their parents and the ones before them.

A number of years ago, Steve Green wrote and sang a song that still rings within me today as I flip the pages of personal history.  A portion reads,

We're pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road
And those who've gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

So what if you don't have that kind of heritage: "the heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives"?  Beloved, you start it right now ... with your very own life of faithfulness.

Yes, may those who come behind us find US faithful.  And may the mantle of the father -- and the mother -- descend upon the children.  Let it be, Lord!

Just an ordinary moment...