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

Monday, December 22, 2014

Joseph: "Righteous" or Right?

I've been thinking of Joseph lately. And why not? It's Christmas. And whereas his name is mentioned many times over in the Gospel narratives, his voice is never heard. However, I'm sure he had his say when his betrothed came to him and told him she was pregnant -- and he knew beyond of a shadow of a doubt he was not the father. Yes, Joseph. The most underrated, under-celebrated cast member of the entire Christmas story. And yet one of the most powerful in my mind. If you were to ask me this morning which Biblical person I would like to meet when I get to heaven, my answer just might be Joseph, the earthly father of our Lord Jesus.

Honestly, I think I already have an example right now in my husband. I think he may be a lot like Joseph, He's honest. He's real. He's quiet ... doesn't say a lot. He is steady strength. And when God speaks to him, he listens and he does the right thing, even when it's hard. 

That's Joseph. His story tells us that sometimes what seems to be righteous may not always be right.

Hear that again. Sometimes what seems to be righteous may not always be right.

Yeah. That stings me, too.

Joseph had every right under the sun to divorce Mary. He could have publicly shamed her and it would have been within the law. He could have had her stoned, for crying out loud. That would have seemed righteous. But he chose the hard thing and did what was right. He took her as his wife and subjected himself to every kind of gossip and slander that could come from the "righteous" of his day and that would follow him the rest of his life.

Sometimes what seems to be righteous may not always be right. And Joseph chose what was right.

What about you? What about me? Do we choose to be seemingly "righteous" or do we choose to do right. I think of the woman who circled the liquor store with a bottle of wine every night praying the evils therein would be cast out. And I kid you not, the store burned down. But then there's the woman who blessed the owners of the new bar in town every time she drove by, praying that God would enter their hearts. "Righteous" or right.

Then there's the woman who judges her neighbors because they are cohabitating and therefore won't have anything to do with them, while the neighbors on the other side form a relationship. "Righteous" or right?

And what about the woman who is at church every time the doors are open ... and comes home and serves roasted preacher to her family for Sunday dinner because he can't keep his son under control. While another young woman stays at home with her unchurched husband because he just wants a little time with her alone. "Righteous" or right?

And while we're thick into the "Merry Christmas" or "Happy holidays" quibble, do we get mad and hold to our guns that "Jesus is the reason for the season"? Or do we recover the reason and just DO the season?

"Righteous" or right?

Yep. Joseph might not have a voice in the story, but he sure isn't silent. He has a lot to say to each of us.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

NOT From a Distance

I stood at the kitchen sink stirring the caramel icing to its correct consistency while the under-the-counter radio next to me played the season's songs. Not giving much thought to what was coming through the speakers, I quietly hummed along to the words being sung.

From a distance the world looks blue and green,
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream,
and the eagle takes to flight.

From a distance, there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace,
it's the voice of every man.

Yes, it was Bette Midler singing Julie Gold's, "From a Distance."Granted, much of the song's popularity coincided with Desert Storm. I get that. You can hear it in the 3rd verse.

And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
no hungry mouths to feed.

And the 5th:

From a distance you look like my friend,
even though we are at war.
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
what all this fighting is for.

I've heard and even sung this popular song for years, but every time it strikes a dissonant chord with me. Whereas the music industry throws darts at its lyrical content, its stiff rhythms and drums, I always cringe when Ms. Midler gets to the chorus. 

God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.

I don't know, but that just seems to go against everything we are celebrating during this season of Advent and Christmas. After all, didn't the angel say to Joseph His name was to be Emmanuel? The With-Us God? Indeed, he did.

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1:23).

To say that God is watching us from a distance undermines the entire Christmas narrative of which this season shouts. The whole Gospel story for that matter. 

"And the Word became flesh and lived AMONG us...." (John 1:14). NOT from a distance.

"[He] emptied himself, ... being born in human likeness..." (Philippians 2:7). NOT from a distance.

And even as Jesus Himself says when praying to His Father just prior to His betrayal and arrest, "I IN them" (John 17:23). NOT from a distance.

In all fairness, Ms. Gold, the writer of the lyrics, says she believes in an immanent and beneficent God and that the song is about the difference between how things appear to be and how they really are.

So, yes, at times it appears that "God is watching us from a distance." But NOTHING, my friends, could be more untrue. Let's celebrate this season in truth: Emmanuel. God is with us!!!

Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Cup Overflowing, 981-1000

Today's blog marks a sacred moment as the whole idea of counting, based upon Ann Voskamp's challenge in her bestseller, One Thousand Gifts, was to reach 1000. As you will see, I made my goal. It was a solemn juncture on December 15, 2013 as I carefully wrote "1000" in my journal. I waited to pen anything on the line because I wanted what came next to sum it all up. It had to be special. It had to capture my life. .... And, what I thought would be the most difficult journal entry to date, was actually the easiest thing I have ever written.

#981  favorite books and getting to read them over and over and over again

#982  a daughter-in-love's offer to help get a Christmas tree

#983  a first duet with my grandson

#984  the beginning of Advent -- and the anticipation that precedes it

#985  a grandmother's first drawing by her first grandchild

#986  Advent prayer

#987  for my comfy recliner that has become a sanctuary (post surgery)

#988  a daughter-in-love who gives up a Saturday to help me decorate for Christmas

#989  White Santa Christmas ice cream

#990  a huddle of praying "Tigers"

#991  running into my dearest friend Vicki at Barnes and Noble on a Sunday afternoon ... such "a happy place" for us both

#992  Christmas candles that speak of the Light of the World

#993  staying in my pajamas until noon ... and not feeling guilty about it

#994  a UPS order waiting for me at the door first thing -- and the books within

#995  a cat crouched in wait

#996  bare trees and exposed nests

#997  fruit from Mrs. Ann ... Mrs. Ann Smith was the pianist at the Presbyterian Church for decades. Now blind, she sits on the 5th row and blesses this pianist with her encouragement in the form of fresh oranges and grapefruits 

#998  a Chick-fil-a peppermint chocolate-chip milkshake and my husband who made it happen    

#999  the peace and presence of Christ on this 3rd Sunday in Advent

#1000  GOD'S GRACE ... Yes, I swim in it

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Cup Overflowing, 961-980

I'm still counting. In fact, my gratitude journal says "1366." But as I look over the following list, I realize that I'm almost a year behind in blogging them. However, as I approach that year mark, I'm reminded once again of God's faithfulness and presence during those days of surgery, recuperation, and wholeness. I remain so thankful for ...

#961  peace that passes understanding

#962  my daddy's gift of presence ... yes, in the day's following my surgery, I would awake to find my daddy just sitting in the chair in my bedroom

#963  a husband committed to the "for better or worse" ... and I do mean worse

#964  a strong leg to hang on to

#965  a mother's touch

#966  meals unending and friends and family who don't let us go hungry

#967  God's presence in the hard places

#968  His manifold grace

#969  the first walk outside -- all the way to the privet and back

#970  the chimes that have played music and the feeling that I'm being sung over

#971  plumbing that works

#972  silence

#973  my mom's whole wheat biscuits -- buttered and toasted for breakfast

#974  two weeks post surgery and a good post-op visit complete with color

#975  a daddy's phone call

#976  Gabe's gift of presence ... he found his place right next to my bed and held vigilance

#977  a cold November morning and the ability -- luxury -- to stay inside and go slow

#978  simplistic beauty -- wheat in an earthen vessel

#979  Cathy and Dick's visit 

#980  having all my children home at one time and the 22 feet under the Thanksgiving table

I count it all joy ...

G-Nan, Sing Me Your Song

All children know how to do it: extend bedtime. 

"Can I have a drink of water?" 

"I didn't kiss daddy goodnight." 

"I have to go potty." 

And so when my grandson was with me a few weeks ago, his method of "extension" didn't take this grandmother by surprise. 

"G-Nan, will you rock me?" 

Our bedtime ritual is quite a lengthy one. First there's the bath (complete with bubbles and monster trucks), followed by a naked run to the den to see his Geezer before the Batman pajamas are donned. After which, he climbs up into the lap of his granddaddy where they share some chips and dip. From there, it's back to the bathroom to brush the teeth with the Spiderman toothbrush before heading to the bedroom for bedtime stories and prayers. I allow 4 books of choice before the lights go out. Lately it has been The Little Red Caboose, Casey the Cowboy, a selected story from his Bible, and always ending with Night Night Blessings. Then the little fellow is tucked into his junior bed (that his great-grandfather made), the night light turtle is turned on transforming the ceiling into a night sky, prayers are said, and I stand to leave the room ... when I hear, "G-Nan, will you rock me?"

Ah, it may be a ploy to stay up later, but what grandmother in her rightful mind could turn down such a request? Rock her baby one more time? Especially one that is growing up right before her eyes? And so, off come the covers, out of the bed and into my lap he climbs with ALL of his "lovies." And then in that starlit ceiling darkness, he looks up at me with those big brown eyes and says, "G-Nan, sing me your song." 

And so I begin, "Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so." 

"No, no," he says, as he sits up straight and looks at me. "That's my song. Sing me your song." And then he nestles back into my lap holding tightly to his lovies waiting for me to begin anew.

I have to admit, it takes me a little by surprise. I have never given much thought to what my song might be. And so I begin singing what I consider a favorite of mine.

My Jesus I love Thee; I know Thou art mine.
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign...
My gracious Redeemer, My Savior art Thou,
If ever I loved Thee, My Jesus, 'tis now.

He seems content with that. And then asks for another.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thou compassions they fail not;
As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be.

And as long as he is willing to rock and listen, I am willing to rock and sing.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...

O Lord, My God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made...

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses...

Holy Spirit, living breath of God, breathe new life into this willing soul...

Every now and again, I try to throw in Jesus Loves Me or Jesus Loves the Little Children, but it is always the same thing, "No, no. That's MY song. Sing YOUR song."

Here's the truth in my grandson's request: our lives sing. Whether we are participating in a church choir, feeding the poor, sitting in front of a computer screen, washing dishes or rocking a grand baby, our lives sing something that is unique and individual to each of us. The question is, what kind of song is it? Do our lives sing songs of joy or sorrow? Of faith or fear? Of praise or complaint? Of life or lament? 

One thing I noticed while rocking and singing to my grandson was that he was humming while I softly sang. My song was pouring over into him and he, too, was singing. He took up my song.

Yes, every life has a song. Every life sings. And regardless of what it is, it's a catchy tune.  The question is, what is YOUR life singing? What is MY life singing? And is it worth another's humming it?

"G-Nan, sing me your song." Oh, yes, my little boy. Indeed I will.

Just an ordinary moment...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

And He Died

The world lost a giant of a man this week. Truett Cathy. You may have heard some pre-recordings that have been airing on different radio stations. One such interview was with NPR. When Mr. Cathy was asked about his future involvement with Chick-fil-a, he jestingly said, "Well, I plan on living forever. But just in case, I'm handing the reins over to my sons." And then he ended the interview with, "Eat more chicken!"Truett Cathy knew that day would come. And it did in the wee hours of Monday morning with his loving family beside him.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in the memorial service for Chief George Potter here in my town. When the bagpipes began playing for the family's procession, I knew immediately I had made a mistake by not wearing water-proof mascara. 

The ceremony ended with the Honor Guard folding the flag that had been draped over the casket -- followed by a very slow salute. The doors to the sanctuary had been thrown open and we were able to both hear and see (via the video screen) the 21-gun salute, after which a lone bugler blew taps. There was the flag presentation to Chief Potter's wife, Connie, by the mayor and a long silence while he offered private words of comfort and appreciation, I'm sure. And then over the church speakers came the Last Call. The most powerful and solemn moment in a memorial service I have ever experienced. Three times we heard the voice from a live 911 dispatch operator calling out George Potter's radio number and name, requesting his response ... and each time she waited for him to answer. On the truly last call, the operator announced that George Potter was no longer in service.

It was a stark reminder of ... well, the finality of death as we know it here on earth -- especially to those who are left to mourn and live without.

The truth is death is tacked on to every life story. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 5. "Adam lived 930 years; and he died." His son Seth "lived 912 years; and he died." His son "Enosh was 905 years; and he died." "Kenan was 910 years; and he died." "All the days of Mahalalel were 895 years; and he died." "Jared ... 962 years; and he died." Ah, but then there's Enosh. We are told he WALKED with God; but "then he was no more." Methusaleh was "969 years, and he died." Lamech, "777." Guess what? "And he died." And so it has gone throughout the ages to anyone who has taken a first breath.

So what do we do with that? What do we do with our little blip on the radar?

Truett Cathy knew what to do.  He knew he could change any life by the way he treated people. And he did just that. He treated each person he met with respect and kindness. To him, everyone was part of the extended family.

Chief Potter knew what to do. He knew he could make people's lives better by being a public servant who wore a smile and who gave young men opportunities they would not have had otherwise.

There is a tombstone in Christ's Episcopal Church cemetery that dates back to 1850. 

It reads:
Endowed with a fine intellect
a cheerful and amiable disposition
and most liberal
and benevolent feelings,
his long life was devoted
to the duty of rendering himself
most acceptable
to his Creator
by doing most good to His creatures.

Maybe that's the key: "rendering ourselves most acceptable to our Creator by doing most good to His creatures." Hmm. Sounds to me like "and he died" is a daily thing -- not something just tacked on to the end of one's life.

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Recycle Day

Today is both trash day and recycle day. In other words, it's when everyone in my town puts their bin out on the road for the trucks to pick up. It's also a day for finding out a whole lot about my neighbors ... and them me. For example, just this morning in less than a 40 minutes span, I learned:

who of my neighbors drink diet Coke versus the real thing; 
who consumes bottled versus tap;
what kind of juice they prefer -- apple or grape:
what type of laundry detergent they use; 
who buys their pizza from the store and who has it delivered; 
how big their babies are due to diaper sizes;
who drinks whole, 2%, skim or soy milk;
who the campers are as well as those who grill;
who has spent a great deal of time this week cleaning their house;
what ice creams are the favorites;
who is more health conscious;
who is not;
what kind of magazines are read;
who eats take-out ... often;
what kind of oatmeal, beer and snacks they enjoy;
even who has been to the Atlanta Apparel Mart recently.

Yes, one can even tell if the contributor is OCD by the way the bin is "organized." 

Recycling is different from the trash. When we recycle, we are changing waste material into something new and useful. Trash, on the other hand, is just that; and it's to be discarded. That's why not everything goes into the recycle bin. Some things are not meant to last. 

The same can be said of our lives. Some things are meant to be done away with completely. Like sinful habits. Other things ... just need to be transformed. Like broken lives. 

I wonder if Jesus were physically present here today if He might liken the Kingdom of heaven to a recycle center. After all, doesn't He receive this refuse of a life and make it into "something new and useful"?

Yes, I think He does. And Recycle Day is a good reminder to be thankful.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Horse Reining ... and More

I am very fortunate to live in a small town that hosts a big arena full of opportunities for (very often, free) entertainment. But I'm ashamed to admit that except for the GA National Fair, my husband and I rarely take advantage of those happenings. However, a couple of weeks ago, we were invited by one of his friends to attend a horse reining event in which her brother had a horse competing. 

Horse shows are nothing new for me. In fact, I was still cutting my teeth when I would go see my uncle Bobba compete in Hawkinsville with his horse. My brother and I even had a pony of our own, Peanut, when we were tykes. So you might say it's in my blood. However, I had never been to a reining competition. Shoot, I didn't even know what one was. But I was quickly going to find out.

When we entered the arena this hot August afternoon, the competition was in full swing. A horse and his rider were not merely circling the arena, they were practically flying around it ... and with such fluidity that I was immediately mesmerized.

As the next trainer entered with his horse at a slow gait and began the routine, I noticed it was exactly like the one I had just witnessed. And so it went for the next 3 hours that we were there. As far as the routines went, nothing changed. The horse would perform 2 large, fast circles at a near gallop and then a smaller, slow circle at a lope. After that was completed, the rider would bring the horse to a standstill in the center of the arena before instructing the horse to dizzingly spin three 360 degree rotations. The horse would do this in place, pivoting on its stationary inside hind leg, stopping in the designated place -- or be penalized.

The horse then stood still for a few seconds to "settle." I later learned that pauses are not judged, but a horse that is ill mannered or impatient will, again, be penalized. At this point, the whole procedure was repeated but on the other half of the arena with the horse travelling in a different direction.  

The rider then led the horse on a figure eight type of movement. It is here the animal demonstrated his ability to do a flying lead change which simply put means that the horse changed its leading front and hind legs mid-stride -- without breaking gait or changing speed, of course. And if he did, the horse and rider were penalized.

Then came the rundown and sliding stop, which is exactly what it sounds like ... and quite the crowd pleaser.

The horse took off down the side of the arena at a very fast gallop and then suddenly planted his hind feet in the dirt while its front feet ran forward, sliding to a stop -- continuing in a straight line, or it was penalized. And as quickly as it stopped, he BACKED up quickly for at least 10 feet.

Like I said, every routine was exactly the same. Nothing changed. Nothing, that is, but the performance of each horse.

So what was so captivating about all of this horse reining? The fact that there didn't seem to be any "reining" going on. In fact, a major part of the competition was that the rider held the horse's reins very loosely with only one hand. To use both hands meant disqualification. You see, "reining" requires that the horse be responsive and so in tune with the rider that there is no VISIBLE means of communication. The horse is WILLINGLY guided with little resistance. And the judges know how to see that, too. If the horse pins his ears, conveying a threat to his rider, or refuses to go forward, or runs sideways, or bounces his rear, or wrings his tail in irritation or displays a poor attitude ... all of these show that the horse is ... shall, we say, rebellious.

Hmm. It's purely amazing what one can learn at a horse reining event.

Come, Holy Spirit, and rein.

Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Walking the Dog

This morning when I donned my gym shorts, tee shirt and running shoes (and I use that term "running" VERY loosely), I had all intentions of going to Anytime Fitness and getting my exercise via the treadmill. But when I stepped outside, I noticed that the storm to the south of us had brought not only some cloud cover but an unusually nice Autumn breeze. And so instead of grabbing my keys, at my husband's suggestion, I grabbed the leash and hooked it on my dog's collar. Rusti is our red heeler, and bless her heart, in worse shape than her mistress, so I thought the walk might do her good. And, oh, was she ever excited. In fact, it was everything I could do not to step on or fall over her as she bounced around my feet and in my path. And the whole time she was dancing, she was looking me in the eye and grinning .. as if to be saying, "I"m so excited! Am I doing okay? YES, I'm sooooo excited! Am I doing okay? Can you tell I'm excited? Are you sure I'm doing okay?" What can I say? My dog has some "people-pleasing" issues. I finally had to shorten the leash and pull her to my side and MAKE her walk beside me instead of dance in front of and under my feet. 

Before long, the sweet little red head had figured out who she was, a heeler, and she began doing just that, heeling on my left side. And for the first time, the walk became pleasant. Oh, every now and again when I would loosen the leash, she would step in it somehow and get a little caught up. But I would just bend down and gently untangle her mess and on our way we'd be again. By the time we arrived back at the house, our stride was one and we had accomplished not one, but two laps around the neighborhood.

It really didn't take me long to see the correlation. How often in my excitement to please God do I, too, get "under His feet" and "in His way" until He has to shorten my leash to bring me into stride? It is only then that I come into my true self, the person He created me to be, and my walk ... my life ... becomes more in tune with His. Yes, I still get myself into trouble at times, but rather than taking a stick and beating me, He gently bends down and unravels the mess and sets me free so we can continue to walk this journey together.

It's really quite simple. Sort of like walking the dog.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Want to Pray Like That

I sat with a friend last week over lunch, and after he said the blessing, I recalled just how much I want to pray like him when I grow up. His prayers are honest. They are real. And more times than I can account, it has been as if I were sitting in on a private and intimate conversation ... sometimes to the point of almost feeling embarrassed about it. 

Me? I have a tendency to be concerned about my words. Are they the right ones? Are they eloquent enough? Do they sound spiritual? And heaven forbid I leave out something or don't cover all the bases, "just in case," when praying for someone, so I pray ad nauseum. (Lord, help me!)

In the early days of our friendship, I would bow my head for my friend to pray ... and there would be nothing. I would finally raise my head a bit and peek open an eye just to see what he was doing ... or see if he was still even in the room. But, no, he was right there. Head bowed. Eyes closed. And I remember thinking, "This is odd. Maybe he prays silently for people." But as I learned, he was not praying, he was listening. Here was a man who knew and knows what intercessory prayer really is.

He knows that prayer is not asking God for what WE think that person needs. Nor is prayer trying to pry an answer out of His hands by using loud or large words. Rather, it is listening to the prayer the Holy Spirit is praying for that person and then joining Him in it. Ruth Haley Barton puts it this way, "It's being present to God on another's behalf." 

And so my friend would enter the stillness of prayer ... and just listen. Only then would he begin to pray out loud. Only then would he begin to speak those things he thought were on the Father's heart. Only then would he begin to hold me or whoever else he was praying for in the love and care and grace of God.

Just think how much freedom there would be in such praying. Freedom to not have to perform. Freedom to not have to manipulate God (as if we could). Freedom to not have to fix things in prayer. Freedom to be silent, for goodness sake, should we NOT hear anything. Freedom to speak what we DO hear. Freedom to just hold another in the grace of God before His throne. Words or not.

People need ... want .... our prayers. And we need to rightly give that to them. But how much more profitable those prayers would be if we would just be silent for a moment, like my friend, and listen.

Yep, when I grow up, I want to pray like that.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Power of Scent

I was standing in Wal-Mart yesterday selecting a photo album to use as a "Color" prayer journal (more about that another time) when my head and eyes jerked up in response to a smell. I really can't tell you what or who it was other than the aroma itself was sweet -- and strong. Obviously, someone had passed by that was wearing a fragrance that lingered long after they were gone. I learned quickly that smell cuts through thoughts, because one minute I was deeply engrossed in my purchase and the next, it wasn't even in my radar.

The power of scent. 

Did you know that smell is the most sensitive of the senses? According to Mirror e-magazine, we can remember with 65% accuracy what we smell after a year, but can recall with only 50% accuracy what we see after 3 months. But our noses are just as easily bored. Have you ever entered a florist or bakery that nearly took your breath away with the aroma, but by the time you left, you no longer smelled it?

Here are some more facts for those who might be interested. Typically, a woman's sense of smell is much stronger than a man's. (I heard just recently via John Tesh that the #1 turn-off for a woman is a man's body odor. I had to concur as I had just been on the treadmill at the gym next to man who had been working out for an hour.)

Speaking of exercise, our sense of smell is stronger after a physical workout. We can also smell things better in the spring and summer, due to the added moister in the air. We humans have 5-6 million odor detecting cells. But that's nothing compared to a dog who has about 220 million.

It is now not enough to go to a museum just to see the past come to life, you can now smell it, too. At the Jorvik Viking Centre, a stench is pumped inside to give visitors a true simulation of what the Viking era would have smelled like. Yes, you can experience the smell not only of a Viking village but a Viking toilet as well. Now that's something I've always longed to do.

The human brain can process roughly 10,000 smells in an area the size of a postage stamp. That's a lot of processing.

And have you ever put a new pair of shoes or leather jacket to your nose? So have I. Well, those particular smells make everyone happy. As does the new car smell ... which is why my friend Julie got disturbed when I brought french fries into her new sedan. (Again, Julie, I am SO sorry.) 

When we sleep, our sense of smell shuts down. We only smell the coffee or the bread baking AFTER we have woken up. And if we can't taste that bread, it's probably because our sense of smell is lacking and not our sense of taste as our smell sensor accounts for 75-95% of the impact a flavor has. Which leads me to share that people who cannot smell have a condition called anosmia.

And here's something for your next trip: Sheraton hotels smell like fig, clove and jasmine; Westin lobbies go for white tea while the Four Points venues smell of cinnamon.

And the most universally liked fragrance? Vanilla, of course ... because of its "calming properties."

But we don't have to know all that trivial information to know that the gift of smell is powerful. In a split second, through the venue of a hand or body soap, a flowering shrub, cigar smoke, even mildew, we can be transported to another time in space ... sometimes not even knowing how we got there or why that particular smell evoked some a powerful emotional response.

We all have them. There is a particular odor that sends me immediately back to 1969 when my house caught on fire. To this day, it still startles me as I feel a sickness rise in my stomach. When I smell a magnolia bloom, I am whisked away to my piano lessons in Macon. Just last week, I embraced someone and their fragrance stayed with me long through the night and caused me to remember them with much love and care. Recently, a young wife whose husband has been deployed since February told me that his clothes were beginning to lose their smell. I knew what she was talking about.

So let's embrace our sense of smell. It has the power to take us back to our childhood and closer to far-away loved ones, whether separated by distance or death. It can make us feel happy and comforted, keep us from danger or make bile rise in our throat. Yes, the power of scent cuts to the chase. It reaches down deep in us and tells us something.

Therefore, the next time your smell sensory talks to you, hear what it has to say. Bring whatever it is to this present moment, hold it, let it linger if necessary, thank God for it and then bless it. For in the making of that, our whole lives begin to be consecrated and take on a fragrance of their own. And sometimes, we just might find a little freedom from something that has bound us.

The power of scent. What an awesome gift we have been given.

Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Cup Overflowing, 941-960

"The man who forgets to be thankful 
has fallen asleep in life." 
Robert Louis Stevenson

#941  a caring and kind nurse-practitioner: Julie Conway

#942  homemade applesauce made just for me by my #1 girl

#943  Debra Willis and the way she is always so thoughtful in the small stuff -- which really isn't small at all

#944  the sun bearing down on my face on a cool November afternoon

#945  a skittish squirrel with a large acorn in his mouth

#946  that Jesus welcomes sinners (Luke 15)

#947  my pastor Don Caulley calling to pray 

#948  both a husband and a friend driving me to get haircuts

#949  a surrogate daughter cleaning my house for me

#950  for Hope, Ruby and Tara -- pre-op angels

#951  a day slap-filled with gifts from my Father

#952  warm milk and honey ... at midnight

#953  silence

#954  a restful night

#955  that I can actually FEEL the prayers of the saints

#956  for all that God is teaching me about the Body of Christ

#957  for the skill of a surgeon's hands
Prepped and ready to go
#958  a prayer list -- and each request ultimately answered

#959  a daughter's care and joy

#960  and Adrianne -- the best little nursemaid God could have sent
Entertaining those in the waiting room, I'm sure,
with a shameless selfie on MY phone
Wake up! Laugh! And count...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Who's to Blame Now?

When my husband left for a 2 week mission trip to Scotland, I knew there would be a lot of things I would miss about him. But one thing for sure: I would NOT miss the dirt tracked in across my kitchen floor and the pieces of trash from the yard in our bathroom. I kid him that he will pass 2 outdoor mats in the garage, a boot brush at the steps, a floor mat inside the kitchen door and a small woven rug just before stepping from the breakfast room into the den whereupon he will wipe his boots. Yep. That's my man and after 35 years of marriage, I've discovered that there are some things you just can't teach a man to do. (Seriously, if wiping his feet is his worst vice, I really have nothing to complain about.) 

But I was looking forward to a little less .... maintenance.

And then it happened. This ...

How did this birdseed get into my bathroom? And there was not just one, but two! Surely I am not the guilty party! But who is? 

And then I started noticing the kitchen floor. Over a period of time: the pieces of diced celery I dropped while making the chicken salad. The small piece of spinach. The water spots I dripped on the floor and then I stepped in leaving a grimy soil. The chocolate morsel from MY brownie. And when I swept, just WHO brought in all that dirt? Tell me!

You know. And so do I. And it was not my husband. Leave me alone long enough with no one else to blame, and sooner or later, I'm either going to have to be deemed crazy saying the infamous Christmas Elf on the Shelf did it or I'm going to have to own up to my own shortcomings and issues.

I was not shocked last week when I read the Washington Post article that said "many prefer electric shocks to solitary thoughts." Saddened, yes. Surprised, no. It went on to say, "People, especially men, hate being alone with their thoughts so much that they'd rather be in pain. ... When it became clear that people were desperate for distractions, the researchers gave them access to a device that would provide a small electric shock. Six of the 24 women shocked themselves, and 12 of the 18 men did so." 

We are not talking about a long period of time here, people. They were only to sit with their thoughts for 6-15 minutes! 

If I can get spiritual a minute, I think this is why we don't like to practice the discipline of solitude and silence -- the practice of just being with God and our self alone. Because when we get alone, distractions are eliminated and He begins to show us our true self. Mercifully so, I might add. Alone with God, we start becoming aware of who we are. And when it's just God and us, we have no one else to blame. Everyone else is on leave and out of the picture -- sort of like my husband for those 2 weeks. I could blame him, of course, but I would just be lying to myself and everyone for that matter.

This solitude starts out simple enough, but at a certain time, it begins to heat up a little bit. God starts getting in our business. Things that we have forgotten or suppressed, painful hurts and rejections, things that affect the way we do life today, begin to surface. Things for which you and I have blamed others for years. And the only recourse is to press that shock button or take responsibility.

And so here is what I want to say. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, husband, for all the times I have blamed you ... and it wasn't your fault. I'm sorry, friends, for all the times I acted childishly because I was stuck in my childish ways. And to You, God, I'm sorry that I do not take the time to be alone with you and to allow you to awaken Your presence in me so that I might be free.

Who are you going to blame?

Just an ordinary moment...

A Cup Overflowing, 921-940

When I look back over my life's journey, I can now see that things I once thought hindrances were actually gifts. Those things and situations (people included) which I thought inhibited my growth often turned out to be avenues to press me in closer. Is there any recourse other than thanksgiving?

#921  a cool night ride on the Agri-Lift with my man

#922  clouds ... and their amazing pattern and beauty

#923  that God is expressed through the whole realm of nature as witnessed at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Atlanta -- including a bald eagle circling overhead

#924  hayride with my favorite little man
Burt's Pumpkin Farm
#925  apple season and a trip to Merciers

#926  the way little boys love trains 

#927  learning to live "slow"
Blue Ridge, GA
#928  162 years of friendship
Jeannie, Cathy (mother of the bride), me
#929  bed linens fresh from the dryer

#930  a long-awaited phone call

#931  cutest little Spiderman this side of Comic Con

#932  a cross in a doctor's office window that says, "I've gone before you."

#933  a husband by my side

#934  warm water and a good soak

#935  the journey and the gift of pain

#936  cookies left at the door that lets me know someone is thinking of me ... and cares -- this someone being Mary Ann Weik

#937  a groom's face when he kisses his bride for the first time ... sweeter than honey

#938  grace to make it through

#939  accompanying my brother Thomas singing The Lord's Prayer

#940  leg massages

Pure grace....

We All Came

I stood last night in a line that, with time, only grew longer. We were there all for the same purpose. We all came to offer something, anything, to the grieving family.

To express hearts of sorrow.
To convey words of encouragement. Of affirmation.
To voice messages of hope.
To share a story.
To offer an embrace.
To laugh a moment.
To shed a tear.
To speak a word of life and healing ... for broken hearts, for painful images.

Whichever and whatever was the most appropriate and natural for each individual, we all came.

We came with our own hurts, our own stories, our own griefs, our own painful lives and experiences. But we all came, bringing nothing but ourselves. Our own lives. Our presence. And for a short time, we were all united in a common cause. To join in the mourning. But also to celebrate in the life. 

We all came. And for a moment, midst all the multiple differences, we were the Body.

It's my prayer that the grieving family walked away last night as full of God's presence as I did ... all because we came.

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sacred Murmurings

It used to be that I was annoyed by the whispering one often hears in church. You know, those moments that are supposed to be times of quiet reflection, of stillness, of thinking and contemplating but instead quite often turn into occasions to talk to one's neighbor.  And quite honestly, I like the reverence of the silence. It seems such quiet moments are profitable and appropriate.  But what I've come to expect and even anticipate is the talk that goes on during communion. The bread is passed -- and the whispering is heard. The cup is taken -- and the sound of mother's voices elevate. Yes, what one recognizes is the holy murmur of parents reverently and faithfully instructing their children about the bread ... the wine ... the body ... the blood.

Is there a more powerful sound in the sacred hour? Is there a more beautiful song that arises in that place? I'd be hard-pressed to fine one.

Just an ordinary moment...

A Cup Overflowing, 901-920

It has been said that when we give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, we make a place for God to grow within us. Isn't that a lovely thought?

#901  the creaking of a boat tied to the harbor

#902  a canine companion

#903  morning breakthrough

#904  blue

#905  thousands of birds taking to the morning sky above the Trent River -- and then there were none

#906  mid-morning snack ... the best carrot-raisin muffin ever

#907  moss-laden branches

#908  the weight of God felt on the grounds of Christ Episcopal Church in New Bern, NC

#909  new friends

#910  3 days of Sabbath

#911  one shaded parking space -- and it was available

#912  a big, fat cardinal sitting on my deck rail announcing that winter is coming

#913  that God controls the present, uncontrollable moments

#914  pine "helicopters" spiraling downward through the air

#915  sirens that break morning's symphony

#916  unexpected joys -- getting to take Jude (and his parents) to the parade and the GA National Fair!

#917  Sunday morning evidence that a little boy was here the night before

#918  my Daddy (83 years old today -- Oct. 8)

#919  that God is in the business of tearing down idols

#920  an evening spent with my favorite daughter = pure joy

Ordinary moments turned holy because the heart took notice...

A Cup Overflowing, 881-900

It has been months since I've posted my gratitude list. But I'm still counting. These particular numberings go all the way back to September of 2013. But in order to stay faithful to the task of counting to 1000 -- and recording them -- I list them now.

#881 early morning propped up in bed with a cup of coffee in my hand and the first sounds of the day awakening outside my window

#882  that God directs us in our praying

#883  a little boy re-united with his Fred (Yes, Fred was misplaced in Wal-Mart. How could we have ever had another nap time? But after much searching and a lot of prayer, we found him tucked safely on an end shelf. Whew!)

#884 the sound of geese on an early Friday morning

#885  long conversations with my middle child while the rest of the house sleeps ... and the way God gifts him with wisdom

#886  "at home" in Bible study once again with 29 wonderful women

#887  Jude's first boat ride

#888  a tinge of fall in the air that allows me to open the window to early morning

#889  bedtime and a new book: David and Goliath!

#890  quality time spent with my best girl

#891  finding a "broom fairy" had come and gone (undercover), leaving my front porch clear of cobwebs

#892  a hand on the back

#893  a new screened door

#894  a shade opened

#895  a Tinker Bell piano student

#896  first cotton of the season

#897  my husband next to me in church

#898  a steeple-dotted horizon

#899  morning quiet places

#900  an evening walk ... and a host of ducks

Just ordinary moments turned holy because the heart noticed ...