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

Friday, April 10, 2020

An Eternal Offering

One of the earliest memories I have of my father is that of him kneeling beside his bed praying. Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize what a gift that was — both the prayers and the imagery. Today I am overwhelmed by it. 

I have always been grateful for my parents’ prayers for us children. Whereas I recall Daddy saying our nightly prayers with us, I think Mom did most of her praying in the bathroom where things were quieter. In later years, she has kept a running list of all the family members in her little prayer book by her chair in the den.

Through the last decade, we have watched as my dad’s mind has been given over to dementia. And with that has come the loss of things which he used to do with ease. All who have any dealings with this disease know the many things of which one is robbed. It has also made me wonder what my life would look like without my daddy’s prayers. 

But then there’s this:

The angel said, “All of your prayers ... have ascended before God as an eternal offering.”
Acts 10:4

What an amazing and encouraging word! To know that my daddy’s prayers were not limited to time and space but have found an ETERNAL presence before God to be answered in His timing and good will.

When my children were young, I would often use prayers written by others. Today I have a full shelf of prayer books with dated pages and the child’s name for that particular day I prayed. And then there are the spiral notebooks filled with prayers for my children ... as well as my husband. After all, isn’t it a wife and mother’s duty to pray?

But my children are all grown now. Full-fledged adults. Living their lives all in separate cities. And sometimes I don’t know what to pray. Or how to pray. I just feel “prayed out”.

But in such times, it is verses like this that gives me such hope. 

Indeed, I have been known to stand in front of that book shelf, open my arms and pray: “God, thank You that every prayer I have ever prayed still lives before You. That on the days I prayed them, they became an eternal offering. And that on these days when I have no words, You recall not only my words, but you see my posture and hear my heart.”

Rest today in a God who is faithful and ever-mindful.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, April 6, 2020

A Different Kind of Palm Sunday

Yesterday was no different in that I still found myself on the way to church to participate as pianist in the morning worship service. What WAS different, however, is that there were only 6 of us there, keeping the 6-foot protocol between us. What WAS different is that the service was live-streamed instead of just “live.” And what was also different is that on this particular Palm Sunday, there was no pomp and circumstance, no loud hosannas, no palm branches, and certainly no children marching down the aisle waving them.  It was a different kind of Palm Sunday, for sure.  

But there was something else different about this particular Sunday of shouting hosannas. My path to church leads me by the local Episcopal church. In fact, it sits adjacent to the corner where I turn, so I am always aware of its presence. On a normal Sunday morning, there are cars in the parking lot, overflowing into the next. And on a normal Palm Sunday morning, there is a crowd gathered outside its front doors, with each congregant holding a branch. And each year, I would take such delight in the image of joy it presented.

But this Palm Sunday was different. Instead of many cars, there was only one. A white one. And out of it was getting a man of many years who I could tell was approaching being crippled with age. His trek was so slow as he made his way around the front of the vehicle. And in his hand was one lone palm branch. The powerful image took my breath. I turned the corner and continued to watch through the rear-view mirror. Tears welling in my eyes. My own heart shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

I went on inside carrying with me the image, even sharing it with some there. But as I left, I knew I wanted to see where the worshiper had placed his branch. And there it was, resting on the stone altar that sits in the partially enclosed garden between the sanctuary and the educational building. 

No, there weren’t any crowds gathered outside of churches. There weren’t any loud organs piping “All Glory, Laud and Honor.” There weren’t any crowds. And there certainly weren’t any children marching down aisles waving branches. But there was one elderly gentleman with a single palm slowly making his way to the stone altar. After all, if he had not, we might have heard the rocks crying out.

“As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice ... “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 

He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.””
Luke 19:37-40 NRSV


Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Gas Station Encounter

As I stepped out of my Ford Escape last week to gas up before heading out of town, there was a small car next to me doing the same. But what I noticed most was the young woman in the back seat glued to her phone, filling the entire space with her body. It grieves me so to admit that my mental judgment was swift and severe. 

I made my way around to the gas pump and, thankfully, it only took seconds before I recalled some of my recent readings and certainly the most current prayer of my heart. One doesn’t have to get very far in the Scriptures to come upon that verse that reads, “God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). IN HIS IMAGE. As George MacDonald interprets that, “We are created, not out of nothing ... but out of God’s own endless glory.” And according to Philip Newell, if God’s essence was extracted from our life, we would cease to exist. So why would I look at that young woman and see flesh? And worse yet, pass judgment on one who bears the image of God? 

As I finished filling my tank and was walking into the store to retrieve my receipt, I looked at her again, and there she continued to sit looking at her phone waiting for her male companion to return. But this time I saw her as one made in the image of God; one who carried His essence. And my heart shifted. I was also reminded of the prayer that has become my mantra of these last weeks and months: I want to love people. All people.

As I returned to my car, I took one more look. This time she was looking up from her phone and directly at me. And with the grandest smile one could imagine, she raised her hand and gave me a gleeful wave. How could my own heart not be full as I smiled and waved back with the same joy? I pulled away having sensed a holy encounter and sacred moment.

Maybe one day my first reaction will be love. Of early recognition. How I pray that day will come soon. But for now, I rest in His grace of slow transformation.


Just an ordinary moment...

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

My Morning Walk

I wish I could say that I am a faithful gym goer. I try, but any old excuse has the potential to keep me away. My neighbor asked me last week if I enjoyed going to the gym, and my answer was a quick and emphatic, “No!” However, I did commit to walking 50 Miles in March and I succeeded with 10 extra miles to spare. I also committed with Anytime Fitness to 100 Days in 2019, and thus far have completed 83 of them. Surely I can get those 17 in before the New Year. 

Yet there is a walk I take every morning from my Keurig in the kitchen to the sofa in the sunroom. I have been doing it so long now that even if my head hurts or my heart is too heavy to mouth the words, I know the rhythm of it and I believe God sees my prayer even when it is not spoken aloud. It looks like this.

With coffee in hand, I open the squeaky dining room door, walk to the window and twist the blind. Looking toward the east, the sky is beginning to show its hope of a new day. I slip off my flip flops and let my knees and elbows touch the carpet. 

Praise be to the Father,
Praise be to the Son,
Praise be to the Spirit,
The Three in One.

I rise, slip on my shoes, and looking out the window, sing:

I say to this day you are blessed,
And I declare I serve a mighty God
Who today will do exceedingly abundantly more
Than I could ever ask or think.
I say You are a good, good God,
And I eagerly anticipate Your goodness today.

I make my way to the foyer where I turn on the first lamp.

I kindle my lamps this morning 
in the presence of the Holy Trinity.

I open the blinds on each side of the front door.

Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without resentment or anger,

I switch on the lamp on the other side of the door.

Without fear, without terror of any living thing under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.

I step into the den and light the lamp on my husband’s grandmother’s secretary.

God, kindle within my heart a flame of love
To my neighbor, to my foe, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall.
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the Name that is highest of all,
Kindle within my heart a flame of love.

And then as I walk across the den, there are 9 intentional steps as I bless my house with 

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Gentleness
Faithfulness
Self-control

I step into the sunroom and beseech the Spirit for His

Wisdom, 
Understanding, 
Counsel, 
Might, 
Knowledge

I raise the window just a bit so I can hear creation waking, and I pray:

Open the windows of heaven, O God,
And pour out Your blessing upon us.
                 
It’s my morning walk.  An exercise of the heart.


Just an ordinary moment...

Sunday, February 24, 2019

An Ode to the Wind

It came quickly — the wind behind the weather system that pushed its way through early this morning. I could hear its approach through the neighbors’ trees. I could see its arrival as our own pines and oaks began to dance and bend and bow. Seemingly oblivious to the swing and sway, the birds hung tightly to the feeders. The chimes hanging from the eave played to match the strength of this invisible force. I opened my windows to be nearer to this element called wind. I opened my soul to be nearer to a God I cannot predict — yet Who comes.

The wind died as quickly as it came. All that was left was the slow rise and fall of my own chest — and the quiet sense of God’s abiding presence.


AN ODE TO THE WIND

You are invisible
but make all else come alive
You were at creation
brooding over the waters
You are air in motion
measured only by movement
the bowing of branches
the billowing of sails
the rise and fall of a baby’s chest
You are the medium of sound
of thunder, music, and sweet whispers of love
You are the current
supporting a bird’s flight
You are the metaphor of understanding God —
as life, as breath
as inspiration, as enlivened
as directional guide, as powerful force
Therefore, “come, wind, you that awaken love
and blow upon my garden.”*


Everything You have made will praise You,
fulfilling its purpose.
And all Your godly lovers will be found
bowing before you.
Psalm 145:10 (TPT)

Just an ordinary moment...


* Quote from St John of the Cross