Monday, November 30, 2009

Profound Eloquence of Silence

Some words have great power, orators present their speeches and presentations.  But at times, it is in the silence that God is moving and preparing. 
Have you ever felt that your prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling?  I have.  Where are you God?  That may be a cry that your heart knows all too well.  When I feel that way, I find myself reaching for my Bible and seeking out the story of Hannah and the story of Esther.  Hannah poured out her heart to God, grief to the point of sickness.  Esther was a woman who’s people faced execution and she herself would have been included in that terrible act.  In the days between when God clearly communicated and when the problem was found out, there was quiet. 
How Hannah and Esther must have felt when God was working behind the scenes to prepare them and everyone else for the next step. 
Another heart that heard quiet was Mary.  After the angel made the announcement that she would become pregnant with the son of God, she had approximately nine months of quiet time from God.  What did Mary think of in the quiet, did she ever question, worry, anticipate, hope, etc….?  Yet, in the silence, God was there – Mary, Hannah, Esther, they were never alone.  God was not being absent or forgetful.  He was moving behind the scenes, quietly preparing, speaking; whispering hope and peace in each moment. 
If you are wondering where God is, if the silence is achingly loud – take comfort that God is not absent.  He is working to prepare you for what is coming next.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

“Don’t Fool With Those Cows”

In her eighties, a great aunt passed on some words of wisdom, if I had it to do all over again – “I wouldn’t fool with those cows.”  She had spent most of her adult life working as a helpmate, wife, and dairy farmer.  As an owner of dairy cows, she would have helped move the cows to the pasture, to the barn, fed, watered, cleaned up after, and of course – milked.  Then, looking back over life, she passes along that she wouldn’t have fooled with those cows, they were such a large amount of work.
What is it in my life that are the cows?  Do I have things that I will look back on and wish I hadn’t done, that had taken my time and resources?  There have been times when I have been so busy working on a project that I am eager to find the end, so I can resume my normal life.  But, what is it in my normal daily life that I could look back on as the cows? 
As Christmas approaches, I’m going to keep focusing on my priorities that will help to avoid the times of cows being something I look back on and think – I wouldn’t have fooled with that if given the chance again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Layers in Words



I love words, how they form, move, and the power they hold.  Powerful words of recognition, of hope, of disappointment, of anger, of peace; they move from thoughts to lips and then are composed in sound, riding out in waves upon our ears.

Words in the hands and mouth of the right people can bring out layers of meaning, words which build us up and inspire us to think and learn.  Tolkien is one of these word smiths, a user of words that contain layers of meaning.  One of my favorites is: “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king,” (Tolkien).

Let’s take it layer by layer……
All that is gold does not glitter
Now obviously there is a top layer reference, there are some metals that look like gold.  In reality, they are covering something which will tarnish in a very short time.  Other things can be that way as well.  I’ve been around people who can appear like gold for a while, charming and present a wonderful cover.  Then, they tarnish before my eyes.  They don’t turn green physically, though sometimes it might be better if they did to warn the rest of us.  But, they do have the capability to turn us a sort of green, rubbing off the fake gold onto us.  Perhaps a situation is showing itself to be fools gold, it looks like it is something valuable: an opportunity, a promotion, a new move, or a new challenge.  Everything looks wonderful and then we find out that it is not what we thought.  No, not all that is gold glitters or is of worth.

not all those who wander are lost
I love this one!  I have been a wanderer so many times, seeking out new ideas and new truths.  Just because I seek constantly or want to learn new and at times rather obtuse topics does not mean I am lost.  Also, there is real physical wandering, sometimes I can wander about in a new place to see what is there, taking a different route, or going exploring.  This doesn’t mean that I am lost.  So, lost as in without direction or just plain lost does not always go hand in hand with wandering. 

the old that is strong does not wither…
Take time to examine a giant old tree, looking at how the bark sits upon the core of wood protecting it.  The branches lean out, holding life giving leaves.  The age of the tree being great does not mean necessarily that it is weak.  Those great trees in our lives, surrounded by wisdom and experience have much to offer us through the sheltering branches.  Age and wisdom, not in themselves synonymous, in the hands of the old soul who is gifted with prayerfully received insight are powerful.  Their lessons do not dim over time, with physical aging, or as the body ages and slows down.

deep roots are not reached by the frost…
Oh the frost - I have experienced this before.  Let’s take this again one layer at a time.  The frost comes during the winter beginnings; the grass is coated with an icy layer and if you step on it crunches underfoot.  The plants above ground or those which are lightly rooted will droop as a result, starting their cycle of dying off for the winter.  Next year, new seeds will come back.  But, sometimes we have deep frosts and the plants do not come back in the spring.  Other plants will have leaves drop, flowers and whither as the frost comes.  In spring however, they will come back with new growth.  Their roots are deep enough to be protected in the frost.  Note that it is the roots that are not reached by the frost.  Have you ever had a frost moment, a moment when part of you is withered and dies?  Plant the roots deeply, they will be protected from frost.  The leaves will drop or at least be withered, which may come in the form of hurt feelings, pains, or the groaning of a spirit.  The blooms that were our shining moments, our great accomplishments dim and may even be stripped from us.  During these times it can be so difficult to understand that the roots are safe.  

from the ashes a fire shall be woken
In the winter, I love the feel of a wood fire, producing heat different than the central heat in the house, richer and more deeply permeating through my skin.  The wood fire produces ashes, coating the wood stove and settling slowly into the bottom.  At the same time, they hold coals and gather the heat.   Stir up the ashes containing these coals, put in some kindling, open up the stove to allow the movement of fresh air, and a fire can be rekindled.  Ashes in our life are much the same way.  We can have a fire in our life, some sort of tragedy that burns everything down around us.  But, God can rekindle the fire in our lives, repairing and relighting.  Rebuilding occurs with work, materials, and the flow of air.  God provides the materials and the air.  We must provide the work.  

a light from the shadows shall spring…
In the early morning when it is still dark out go and wait, facing the east.  Slowly you will see light spread out over the sky and then the earth.  Shadows will grow longer, then lessen, finally spilling light which will cover the land.  Light can come from the most unlikely of places and even a little light can dispel the darkness.  Sometimes, it is an unexpected word or touch that brings light.  The word of God is referred to as light.  In the darkest span of life, there can be light that comes as you discover how God is working in your life.

renewed shall be blade that was broken…
A blade that is broken, a sword that is shattered must be put through a smith’s forge to be renewed.  The metal needs to be tempered and folded carefully to renew the blade.  If you have ever been broken or shattered, it is the forge of faith, the forge of God that renews.  A forge heats the material, removing impurities and making it malleable in the hands of an expert smith.  The difficulties in life are renewing, rebuilding even when it does not seem possible at the time.  God is the expert smith who renews the blade, purposing our hurts into something good for His purpose.

the crownless again shall be king…
A king is typically thought of as having a crown, something regal and official looking, decked out in precious metals.  A crownless king is someone who presumably has lost power.  I think of Christ who appeared to have been without power, without sovereign control.  In those moments when this appeared the most; right before and during the crucifixion.  This was really a time when the King – the true King was reigning in his great majesty.  But, the actions he took were beyond our understanding. And the crownless Christ was crowned by His father, and returned to heaven.

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king,” (Tolkien).

The words are just a few stanzas in one book, just a few phrasing of thought strung together in words.  Yet, they contain meaning that is in depth, in layers of depth.  Search for the depth in your words and make sure that they are really what you intend.  

Friday, November 27, 2009

Foreigners and Aliens

I’m not from Iowa; I am a transplant several times over.  Having moved through several states, I have discovered that my own culture is distinctive and different than many of the other cultures I have lived in.  Though I never would have realized it, without moving there and lived for a while, very different and distinct cultures within the United States. 
Moving away from your home culture, that which is most comfortable and familiar to you can be a difficult thing.  People can seem very strange, and react to you as if you are weird or out of place.  One example was moving to the pan-handle of Florida during my high school years.  I grew up with Sir or Ma’am being a surly back handed response, tipped with sarcasm and was told by my own mother to never call her ma’am!  When I moved to Florida, I was surprised to hear everyone enforcing the sir and ma’am rule in common conversation.  Not that that was wrong, just different than what I was used to. 
Most of the time, that doesn’t bother me – at least not enough that I spend a lot of time thinking about it or pondering the differences.  But every once in a while, there is a lingering thought as an awareness of difference sinks in.  Feeling that difference, I can also feel very alone in a place that feels foreign to me. 
In Ephesians, we who are followers of Christ are told that we are no longer “foreigners and aliens” in a strange land.  Instead, we belong as citizens in God’s house as part of God’s people.  Citizens, what a great word of belonging!  Not only is it a legal integration, it is also a blending of the overall culture, that we would fit someplace.   As citizens in God’s household, we are also part of a structure.  There is a solid foundation put in place by the “apostles and prophets and Christ as the chief cornerstone.”  The pieces all come together to form a holy temple.  Imagine that, no really – stop and imagine that! As a citizen, you are a piece of something larger, and you are unique in your role.  One piece cannot replace another, cannot serve multiple purposes and unique dual duties at one time.
Citizenship also comes with responsibilities.   It is as if you are coming from another country, we are in reality as we enter into Christ’s nation.  To become a citizen in the US, there are forms, tests, years required of living, speak the language, and show the ability to read, write, and a basic knowledge of civics.  To become citizens in the house of God, we must accept Christ.  The Christ that died for us, passed the test for us, spoke the language with limitless knowledge and wisdom.  Next time I feel that difference, that separation of culture, I can remember that I am a citizen in God’s house.  What a wonderful belonging!
(Ephesians 2: 19-22) 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Wishes

Open the door of many homes today and you will be embraced with the aroma of turkey, stuffing, green beans, and pie.  People will gather around tables, pull out extra tables, arrange pumpkins and turn on TV to watch parades and football.  Family far and near gets in their car or van, put the pies in the back seat and head to someone’s home. 
Tomorrow will be a time when some people, far too many, who will look into their refrigerator and not see the many trimmings of a great feast.  It may be a day of fish sticks or bean soup.  The decorations may be something much simpler and inexpensive,
Today is a day when many will be caught up in the feast, digging through the papers for Friday’s sales, Turkey, pie, cranberries, cake, vegetables, rolls, sales, four am openings, five am openings, six am openings, football, parades, floats, etc… 
On this day, let us remember the reason of our thanks.  Enjoy what you have, be thankful, be grateful for the many blessings within each day.  A heart of thanksgiving is a beautiful thing.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and be full of the choice to be thankful each and every day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I’m Thankful For A God Not Bound By ….

I’m thankful for a God that is not bound by land.  I was reading my devotions the other night and came across the end of Proverbs 2, talking about … For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land,”  (Proverbs 2: 21-22).  I read that and thought – okay, I know this might be literal, but surely there is more behind it than just land. 
My pastor (thank you!) was a big help as I tossed that question out the next day in a quick e-mail.  I had forgotten that God was thought of as being polytheistic in the Old Testament.   Polytheism is a big strange sound word, but pull it apart and you have poly (many) theism (god) – or many gods.  People at the time attached the belief that God or the gods could only be found in a certain land.
So, if you think about it like that – Proverbs 21 and 22 takes on a whole new meaning.  A blessing would be to remain in the land, to remain with God.  While it would truly be a terrible penance to be removed from the land where God was.  Now of course, we know that God is not really stuck behind man made boundaries.  But, how thankful I am to have a God that is not bound by those lines.  Instead, He has made the very dirt, mountains, rivers, and plains that are divided out on the maps. 
I’m thankful for a God that is not bound by my lack of understanding.  Even when the ancient peoples thought that they could not take their gods away from certain lands, God was already there – in all of them.  I don’t really understand how it all works.  But, I’m thankful that I don’t have to understand to make it work, to pull it all together.  Instead, I can rely and trust on a God that is not bound by my lack of understanding. 
I’m thankful for a God that is not bound by those man made maps.  There is no sign, no line, no No Trespassing sign that can turn God from entry.  I’m thankful for a God that does not turn back when the signs don’t look inviting, when the hospitality is not gracious but cold instead.  I’m thankful for a God that is not bound by the warmth of an entry, the crossing of lines on a map.
I’m thankful for a God that is not bound by the little petty, man made boxes, or the lack of understanding.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thermometers and Thermostats

First let me say I cannot claim the origination of this idea – it is from a beautiful book by Evelyn Christenson, Lord Change Me. 

Thermometers are useful tools; measuring the temperature at a given moment.  Put the glass into the sunlight and watch the liquid rise, degree by degree.  Move it into the shade and the falling liquid shows the lowering temperatures.  A thermostat measures instead the temperature and then works to change the temperature around it, matching a pre-programmed temperature.  The place is too hot; it’s time for colder air to be used.  Is it too cold, then it’s time for heat to flow through the air vents.

People can be like thermometers and thermostats.  I’m not referring to getting hotter or cooler by standing in the sun or shade.  But, our attitudes are a bit like temperature gauges.  After all, we refer to a temper as being hot headed and fiery.  Attitudes can also be cold, icy in fact as someone turns from caring into completely ignoring another person or simply not being aware enough to care. 

Yesterday was Monday.  Though I’m not really one of those people who believe that Mondays are just going to be terrible just because they are Mondays, it was a classic Monday.  I had physical therapy and that part went fine.  But, I forgot the card for a co-worker at home – oh well, bring it tomorrow.  I got to work and again, it wasn’t bad, just busy.  Before I knew it, it was eleven o’clock.  Where had the morning gone?  It seemed like I just couldn’t move fast enough to both catch up and move ahead.  I really prefer to have every thing organized and act proactively rather than just react to the daily oddities that occur.  A webinar during lunch led to a short time to get some work done before heading to another meeting, and then rolling into another meeting.  I looked out the window – when did it get dark?  There were moments of frustration, when I could feel myself getting annoyed.  Please don’t try and talk to me when I’m on the phone.  Please just listen to my answer and go do your thing.  Please – I’m off limits for just thirty minutes….  If I were a thermometer today, my attitude would have been room temperature.  Then, it slowly would have climbed, cooled, climbed, cooled, etc…  How exhausting! 

Instead, I chose to be a thermostat.  There will be more work to do tomorrow, there will be phone calls to answer, problems to solve, research to do, and e-mails to read.  But, it is my choice to have a good attitude through the stressful moments.  And when I have a good attitude, I do not contribute to a thermometer moment someone else might be having.  Instead, I can help change the temperature around me.  It is work, just like changing my attitude to match that pre-set temperature, and then making sure my actions, words, and reactions are matching where they should be. 

Follow God’s thermostat, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,”  (Ephesians 4:20-24).  Can you imagine what it would be like if God were a thermometer and not a thermostat?  If you haven’t figured it out yet – just go look at the ashes next time you have a bonfire – yep – that would be me and you down there, dust and ash.  Instead, we have a Father who loves us to keep close to Him and reflect His temperature.  This is the part that is so exciting – we don’t have to set the temperature!  That part is already done for us.  Instead, we must work to maintain that temperature.  

Monday, November 23, 2009

Often Forgotten Thanks

As Thanksgiving approaches, more than discussion of stuffing and turkey is heard.  This phrase is also often heard, I am thankful for….   I can fill in the blank with a list of my own.  I am thankful for my Savior, my family, friendship, laughter, a home, the dogs, a good job, insurance, my health, a car that runs, etc….  My list is quite long.  But, there are some other things in this list which I do not often express thanks for and wanted to take a moment to do so.
I am thankful for dishes to do, though not my favorite chore, it means that I have had food to eat and something to eat them on, as well as soap and hot water to clean them with.  I am also thankful when the sink is full of plates, I have had many to share and visit with.
I am thankful for mucking about farm boots.  The farm boots slosh about on my feet, but protect me from the water, mud, snow, and ice through different seasons.  Wearing these boots means that I have two puppy dogs that are going out to run, where I can enjoy walking with them and watching them run.  It means that I have protection against the elements.
I am thankful for laundry to fold.  Though preferring warm laundry when folding needs to occur, even cold will do in a pinch.  This means that I have clothing that I can wear to work in an office, to work in the yard, to visits with friends, to sleep in, to relax in.   This also means that there is soap to clean the clothes, and a washer and dryer to wash and dry them. 
I am thankful for a sore ankle.  My ankle has healed enough that when I am sore now, I am feeling the pain of muscles being rebuilt.  I am thankful for those who have and do support me, encourage, and challenge me to progress in my rehabilitation.  But, the aches now me to me that those muscles, tendons, and ligaments are being used and rebuilt. 
I am thankful for a mechanical pencil whose lead continues to run out.  At work, I keep a variety of writing media handy – ink, lead, marker, highlighter, but I prefer my pencil.  And when the lead runs out, it means that I have to stop and go and find more.  It also means that there is work to do and that I have been busy. 
I am thankful for friends who live far away.  I would love for them to live closer, to be able to get together much more often.  We stay in touch through phone calls, e-mails, facebook, and these tools are wonderful – but do not replace the moment of a hug, actually talking in person, or sharing both wonderful and difficult times together.   However, the distance makes me work harder on my friendship and I am thankful for that.  I am also thankful that there are so many tools available now that allow me to stay in touch.  This means I have resources that I can call into use and a good reason to use them.
I am thankful for my car.  It’s not glamorous and is getting rather old for a car – fourteen years.  But, it continues to run and plug along.  I don’t really trust it anymore for longer trips, but I am thankful that it can get me from point A to point L.  And, when it does not – I have AAA to call on.  I am thankful that this means that I have somewhere to go, places to go, and am able to continue to keep gas in the car and maintenance up on it.
I am thankful for…  I thank God for…  My heart is overwhelmingly blessed by…  Stop and ponder for a few minutes.  Before grumbling, what are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Priorities ~ Putting First Things First

What is the most important thing?  Now take a moment and think – what is the most important thing?  Family, home, job, faith, hope, future, budget, kids, pets – the list goes on and on.  But, what is the most important thing? 
Jesus was talking to the teachers of the law and they asked a similar question, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Matthew 12:28).  Jesus responded by telling them quite clearly that the “most important one was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  So, the most important thing is to love God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  To love with my heart strikes me as loving with my emotions, my compassion, empathy, hope, and joy.  To love with my soul is to love with my inmost being, my complete self.  To love with my mind is to love with my intellect, searching out and learning about God.  To love with my strength is loving even when I don’t feel like it, basing my choices on faith – not just emotion. 
There was another command that followed this one, a second one that followed, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Oh that one is not always easy!  How do I love my neighbor as myself?  After making a daily choice to follow the first command, the second one needs to be looked at.  When I love someone as myself, I need to help provide nourishment, structure, encouragement, discipline, strength, and forgiveness.  No, not always easy – but much easier if the most important thing is being treated as the most important thing.
Check out the priorities you have set – what is your most important thing?  

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cinnamon & Evergreen Strung Street Posts

Holiday smells and sights are starting to become more common as Thanksgiving and Christmas draw closer.  This weekend, I’m spending time helping to clean and decorate for the holidays.  The deep cleaning that the house demands before trees, ornaments, little villages, and strings upon strings of lights come out of the basement must occur first.  Then, there will be a lot of work heading up and down the stairs, up and down and through the basement, then up and down hauling boxes, cartons, tubs, and bags.  This nativity will go just this way, that star placed in the special spot, a Christmas book placed on the table, a Thanksgiving book placed on a bookshelf.  This is a time of wonderful smells, nutmeg and pumpkin, cinnamon and chocolate swirled through the air.  Walking into the house, I am greeted with the warmth of a fire in the stove and the smells wafting in gently.  Sights of street posts have been hung with evergreen, red bows, and giant white light bulbs.  They will look so beautiful with a fresh coat of snow.
Preparing for these wonderful days ahead requires preparation.  This is just like a time of preparation to prepare for the celebration and blessing God has prepared for us.  First, we have to be deep cleaned.  More than just knocking off a layer of dust, we need to pull out the Lysol, bleach, and scrubby bubbles to be thoroughly scoured (metaphorically speaking). Then, English Oil needs to be used to put moisture in, I need to be nourished and cared for, allowing God to restore me.  Then – it’s time for the work to really begin.  There will be hauling up and down the stairs to bring up the things to come, sort through what needs to be put away, and prepare.  Tangled light strings need to be carefully unknotted, and the knots in my life also need to be released by God.  He is much better at untangling than I am.  Finally, decorating can begin!  Plans God has made, items and people He wants to place in my life are carefully arranged.  Then, I sit and enjoy the quiet of the white lights reflecting on the tree.  I quiet my self and seek to praise the one who prepared all of this for me.  

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Christmas Trees are Coming Out!!

The Christmas Trees are coming out for the season.  I will have my bag of chocolate and vanilla yogurt covered pretzels ready for snacking, hot chocolate for sipping, and a pine candle burning in the background.  Please note that I did say trees!  I love Christmas decorations.

I think that it is the ornaments that are some of my favorite part of the d├ęcor.  I pull one out of a box, wrapped in tissue paper and bubble wrap, wrapped in memories.  I will put it at that one branch, the perfect spot where the lights on the tree will catch the shape perfectly.  Evergreen branches that are shaped into wreathes hold bright colored bows, hanging on doors and posts.  Grocery store fronts where the trees are gathered smells so good!

The fire in the wood burning stove warms the house, and cards start gathering on the shelves.  They sit next to the nativity scenes, little symbolic reminders of the celebration reasons.

It is the beginning of a preparation for a wonderful celebration.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do you want to be healed?



There was a man who was hurt, his body malfunctioning.  When presented with a chance to be cured he was asked if he wanted to be healed.  What a question that is, it seems like the answer is so self-evident.  Of course!  Then, the plan for repair and restoration is presented.  The wound needs to be cleansed, scar tissues removed, steps taken to prevent infection, and then the rebuilding can occur.  Strengthening can be a sore process, and a slow one as well.  It takes time and work to knit the sinews back together, to rebuild the muscles from emotional stretches and tears. 
Do you want to be healed?  Do you want to work at getting better?  Do you want to spend the time it takes to get better?  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Prayer Closet


For me, it is the time in my bath tub, tucked away from the noises and TV, phone, and distractions when I can feel myself getting quieter.  Then, tucked in again and wrapped in blankets as I snuggle into bed, is again my set aside time with God.  That is my prayer closet time, something I have come to cherish.  It wasn’t always that way – there have been times when devotional study was feeling more like school study, a means to an end.  But slowly over time, it has become a time with someone whose relationship I cherish. 
Prayer, “going into your room, closing the door and praying to your Father, who is unseen,” is a quiet and personal time.  It is not a time to parade, to babble, to show off with prayer.  Instead, we are told in Matthew that we should “go into our room, and close the door”. 
Then, how do we pray?  How do we converse with God? 
"This, then, is how you should pray: 
   " 'Our Father in heaven, 
   hallowed be your name, 
 your kingdom come, 
   your will be done 
      on earth as it is in heaven. 
 Give us today our daily bread. 
 Forgive us our debts, 
      as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
 And lead us not into temptation, 
   but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
(Matthew 6: 9-15)
Praise, submitting, requesting, forgiving, guidance, protection – they are all there in these few lines.   Praising God for His amazing grace, His love, and for His very presence is mentioned first with hallowed.  Something that is hallowed is holy, sacred, revered, and consecrated.  Hallow also means that it is something that is not only set apart, but set apart for holy use and great respect.  So, this is the first part and is a reminder of how very special this time is as the holy and set apart Lord makes time for me and you, desiring a personal relationship and conversation. 
Your kingdom come, your will be done – it takes tremendous trust or simple and complete desperation often to drive me to this spot.  As someone who likes details, likes to know what is planned next, I find quite often that I am either gripped by a problem or taking a leap of faith for this next part.  Your will be done – your wish, command, action, or insistence God – that is what I’m seeking.  If you have ever relinquished this you will know scary a thing it can really be.  What if I don’t like where God leads me?  That is where the trusting relationship comes in and this becomes a little easier.  When the relationship is strong, it grows easier to trust God’s will.  On earth as it is in heaven, reflecting the kingdom of God on earth.
There are requests, not a wish list, but a request for needs.  Daily bread is sustenance for our physical bodies, which we need to function.  Then, it is sustenance of our soul, healing of the wounds with two part forgiveness.  We forgive and are forgiven.  It’s not an easy thing to let go of the hurt and anger, or frustration and disillusionment, which may be directed towards ourselves or others.  Yet, we are told here quite clearly to forgive and be forgiven.  It is a wonderful extension of grace, and as we are extended grace we are to pass it along. 
Delivery from the evil ones would be delivery from Satan and request for protection from the temptations that come along.  Like a roaring lion or a subtle serpent, the enemy comes in with an attack.  We request protection from the true enemy who weaves lies subtly, or attacks boldly leading us to assail each other in the confusion of the battlefield. 
Prayer, speaking to God, basically is spending some time with a friend whom you love dearly.  With total honesty, grace, and love the conversation occurs.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You Can’t Decide to be Invited, But You Can Decide to Accept


This past weekend I spent at the Great Banquet, a movement of the Christian community, was an amazing and overwhelming experience.  I will skip on passing the details along in such a public forum, as I would not want to ruin the beautiful surprises for those who may receive an invitation in the future.  What I will share are one of the most prominent thoughts  in my mind as the experience is still being sorted out.
So, journey with me for a few minutes as I recount how my path was taken away from the daily movement and noise of the world.  First of all, you will need to turn off the TV, the cell phone, and put away your watch.  Those times of quiet seclusion, tucked away from the business and noise of the world, were actually quite refreshing, and a bit disconcerting.  I found myself ready to grow quiet, and now I am still clinging to it, hesitant to turn on the radio in the car, the TV in the house. 
I think one of the things that comes most clearly to me are words from one of the women speakers,  in a quiet, clear, and gentle voice – the women sitting in this room were told that “We can not choose to be invited, but we did choose to come.”  Those words washed into my mind and my thoughts, like a wave that crashes in slow motion onto a beach.   Along with the choice of being invited and the choice to come, there were hours and hours of choices made by others to provide this weekend.   There were choices of others to serve, to pray, to cook, to clean, to give of themselves so sweetly.  Sweetly, with a purity of Christian community, moving with a purpose, joy, hope, and strength.  In gentle hands, I was held and hugged through tears and laughter as truth was celebrated, grace was resounding, and God was truly the head of the community. 
I met women whom I have shared a unique experience with, who I will forever be bound with in some way.  We have shared moments of insight, prayer, hope, peace, humbleness, laughter, tears, joy, and oh – the food!   But mostly, as God has joined our paths to walk together, we have worshipped together, held each other in prayer and joined hands and hearts together against the lies, fears, failures, sins, and defeats of ourselves and the world, refocusing our sight on God and His grace.
The parable of the Great Banquet is where a man has a great feast prepared (did I mention that we ate really well this weekend).  But, those who had originally told the host that they would come started to make excuses of why they could not come.  So, the host of the feast sent out his servant to fetch the blind, the dumb, the lame, and the maimed; with strict instructions to bring them back to fill his table.  The first group was gathered, but still did not fill the table.  So, the servant was sent out again – this time to the country roads to fetch those there and bring them back. 
As I think of those who were at the Great Banquet this weekend, it moves me again as to how strong this parable is.  Each of those invited to that feast were brought by a servant of the Master.  We were brought in, blind, dumb, lame, maimed, lost, seeking, wandering, and hopeful.  Through the human condition of our frailties and our failures, we are incredible messy creations – and just like that we were welcomed to the Master’s Banquet table.  And there are others working in the background to prepare the Masters banquet.  If you have ever felt invisible, lost, or just missing God’s presence, I urge you to quiet your life and seek God.  Wait for the invitation that the true Master will extend, and then it is up to you to decide.  If you have ever felt useless or not capable, I urge you to quiet yourself again and seek the Master to find out where you are needed.  There will be some that turn down the invitation, too busy, too imperfect, too this and too that.  You can’t decide to be invited – but when you are invited, choose your response well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Potential

A young man stood at an open area, looking at the two paths lying ahead.  He stood there, pondering his direction, holding off a decision until the last possible moment.   A wide, well worn track lay to one side.  He could see how it was fairly flat or most of the way, or at least appeared to be, from where he was standing.  There were signs planted along the way that were bright and easy to read.  They held a variety of messages: Just Be Nice and You’ll be Okay; Have it Your Way along This Way; The Easy Road.  Many people were walking on to this roadway.  They would pass under the banner that reads – the Life Road, Now in Highway Form.  They all looked okay; the young man couldn’t see anything really bad happening to him from where he stood. 
The young man now let his gaze wander the other direction and saw a narrow footpath leading past a sign that said, The Narrow Way – The Way of Truth.  He couldn’t see much past that gate, it took a twist amongst the trees and was lost from his view.  Some people were going that way, but it didn’t look as if it were a path that was as well traveled. 
Standing at the opening of the two paths, the young man stood and stood, shifting his weight back from one foot to another – first leaning one direction and then the other.  Helpers came along and encouraged him to take one path or the other, but in the end it was his decision.  And the young man started realizing that not only was it his decision to make as to which path to take, but what the consequences would be that followed that choice. 
A salesman came and told the young man that he would have to make a decision soon, here are some travel brochures that can provide you with information about your journey – would you just look at those beautiful pictures!  But the young man knew that the salesman could not force him down one road or another.  It was his decision, but which to choose?  The choice was paralyzing and difficulty – maybe no choice would be better than the wrong one.   A friend came and stood with the young man for a while, but finally became impatient and took the road of their choosing.  What if, the words clouded in his mind, what if I go the wrong way?  What do I do then?  Maybe I should just stand here, it seems easier, safer.   A teacher came by and told the young man the known history of the two roads.  It was all interesting, but didn’t really make the decision any easier.  The teacher, after imparting his knowledge, left the pupil and made his own individual choice and entered a road.  Standing there the young man felt mired and stuck.  Did he have the skills required to make his way on that path that was less traveled?  The ground looked like it was going to be a quite a climb up and down some hills, most likely that path was going to follow that.  The other road looked like it was better, easier, but there was something about it which gave him some misgivings.  It just seemed too easy; surely there would be unmarked pitfalls up ahead.  A coach stopped and tried to give the young man practice exercises which might help him feel prepared for either road.  The young man tried to follow the exercises, but felt a little silly doing calisthenics while everyone else just walked past. 
Then the young man felt another stop beside him, seeing a shadow of another traveler stopping.  Expecting a new lecture or some other type of gadget, task, or exercise – the young man tensed and asked who it was that belonged to that shadow.  The one who had stopped looked over and said simply – I’m here to shepherd you, to be your guide.  You can take that narrow path and you will not walk it alone.  I will go before you in every step.  I can wait here with you until you make a decision, but the decision is yours and it must be made.  
I have seen someone stop at that waiting area, holding off making a decision until the last possible moment.  And the potential that the individual carried was being wasted, just sitting there – not being used.  One path, easy it seems but with unmarked pitfalls along the way.  And the farther you got along the road, the more you would realize that it was just taking you in circles.  The other path, it was well marked with caution signs, signs of encouragement, signs showing resources.  But it did follow a much rougher route through valleys and up steep mountains.  The choice made the difference in his life, marking out the way it would go.  I’ve had to make that decision myself, choosing my own path.  It’s not always easy and I think at times I have to wipe the tears from the signs so I can read them more carefully.  But, the view from the mountain tops – it cannot be paralleled with anything else. 
And which way did the young man go?    That was his decision and he took a step and then another through a gate and onto a path. I'm coming back from the Great Banquet.  I can't wait to share with you the new paths that I will be waiting on God for.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Dual Church




I can imagine, with the knowledge that angels are sent to us, God’s children, what it must look like when two of these spirit beings come into contact.  When a brother or sister in Christ meets another, there is joy in the spirit in the meeting.  What must the joy be for the angels who also meet one another.  Do they pass messages along to each other – I just came from seeing our most magnificent Lord and He wanted me to pass along the message that He Loves You.  And that meeting, hopefully one joyful with this small exchange – can it not be imagined magnified in the body of believers?  Just imagine, walking through the doors of your local church and imagine an angel with each follower of Christ there.  If we could only hear the hymns being sung, the prayers being prayed with this duality being visible – how we might view the worship differently.  Sitting in the pew this Sunday, I will endeavor to imagine the dual church. 
How small is that glory when compared to knowing that our Heavenly Father is with us every moment.  Imagine sitting in His presence, worshipping Him, learning, seeking, talking, listening, and being in the presence of love.  The reality is that we live in a Mary and Martha conflicted world.  These two sisters, Mary and Martha, were typical sisters, they had things in common, they had differences, they argued, they got on each others nerves; they worked together on common goals.  Linked as family, each was her own person.  Now imagine that God, the form of the son showed up at their house.  Jesus seemed to like this family, and there he was one day – visiting.  Martha looks around the house and mentally tabulates the to-dos that need done.  Wash, cook, clean, serve, prepare – first this, then that.  Next steps to follow followed by the other things which come after.  Clean up after the mess, fold laundry, sweep the floor, and make sure your guests feel welcomed.  Preparing for guests often can leave the hostess or host wondering where the evening went, as it flurries by in a flood of preparation.  Tending to the needs of others in this way is admirable; it makes an impact on others when they feel welcomed and cared for.  Then there was Mary, Mary who didn’t jump in, but who went and sat at the feet of Jesus, soaking up his words.  What a moment of pure joy that must have been for her as she gathered the folds of her robe around her, tucking her feet under her.  Did she hold her breath, holding herself so still so that  someone else might not send her away – send her to help Martha.
I’m having some Mary time right now.  I hope you can put aside some time as well to draw nearer to God.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Connections & Foot Washing





Oh, the Calcaneus is connected to the Talus and the Talus is connected to the Navicular and the Navicular is connected to a bunch of other bones that form the frame work for the foot.   Sing along! 
The foot really is an amazing thing, it can twist and bend, point and flex.  Stand on those feet all day long, walking and moving along the ground and they can gather the dust of the day.  Just imagine walking around on dusty roads all day, or perhaps muddy roads in sandals.  The dirt would creep into the crevices, staining in the skin and would be hard to wash out.  Just like the bones are connected in the foot, the dirt tries to connect to the skin.  At the end of the day, put those dirty tired feet into a warm pool of water.  The dirt slowly soaks off with a gentle movement of hand over foot. 
There is a gentle act of serving in washing someone’s feet.  It requires you to humble yourself, to take time, and remove the dirt.  But, what it does not always require are feet and water.  Washing may mean that there is an act of service that occurs, something that is done to care for another. 
There was a man who washed a fellow walker’s feet.  Jesus was the man, he bent over and washed Simon Peter’s feet.  Imagine the moment – a basin is picked up and water is poured in, the clay would have darkened with the touch of the water.  With a towel wrapped around his waist, Jesus approached Simon Peter.  The awkwardness and hope of the moment must have filled Simon Peter when he realized what was going on in the room. 
John 13: 6-11
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
 Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
“No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
      Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

Simon Peter wasn’t just dirty with the dirt of the day, but was about to betray Jesus as well.  Yet, here was the Savior washing the grime off of all of those interconnected foot parts! 

Keep reading John 13 and realize that the example was being set.  An example to serve each other. 

 I am leaving at the Great Banquet today and my feet are being washed.  I am so honored and hope that the woman who has washed my feet through the sponsorship and her family will be blessed many many times over.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Great Banquet

There is a story, a parable in Luke that goes like this….  
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."
Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'
"Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'
"Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'
"The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'
" 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'
"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "(Luke 14: 15-24)

Today I am heading to a retreat that has the name of The Great Banquet.  I will be tucking myself away from the business of the world for a few days with a group of other women as we all seek God.  Spending these moments in worship, learning, and quiet – I am looking forward to the time. 

Driving home from work tonight, I noticed the lights in the windows.  It is getting darker so much earlier and it makes the lights stand out.  I love the look of lights behind curtains or a framed window, softly shining out and glowing into the yard.  It is easy to imagine families gathering around tables, chairs scooting up to the table, calling for that last straggling family member.  But, how many of those meals are interrupted by those who are torn away from the table by the business of daily life?  The phone rings, the new show is on, going to go see a friend, work, errands, commitments….

Imagine that God is sitting at that table, how often do we push away from the table, away from God because of the urgent rather than spending time with the important?  This weekend, I am deciding to pull up to the table and partake in the banquet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Polka Dot Seeds

Turn in my Bible to Luke 13, look very closely. No, look even closer!  Look, in the crevice in the bend of the book.  There, stuck between the two pages are three little yellowish shaped spheres.  Inside each of these little dots, there is a hidden plant that can grow in a wild green array to around two and a half feet tall.  From those three little seeds, if three whole plants grow and there could be thousands of seeds to come.  From tip of the roots to the top of the beautiful yellow flowers, this plant has many functions.  A versatile producer of vitamins, which can be used as a vegetable, and of course the condiment we all know and love (personally I like it best when it’s subtle).   What could they be seeds of?  Mustard of course!

Mustard has tiny little seeds, like the size of a large freckle or the head of a ball point pen – a polka dot seed.  And from there grows the plant.  People talk about having the faith of a mustard seed, it is mentioned in the Bible (yes, Luke 13 was a hint earlier).   But, what could that little seed have to do with a belief in something? 
Well, I think the obvious answer is to look at the seed itself.  I mean it’s really a very little seed, a little round dot – the miniature polka dot of seeds.  And yet, from inside of that seed there comes a plant that grows quite tall with many uses.  Faith, even when small, like a little polka dot, can hold the beginning of something much bigger and can see you through many different things.

When I put the mustard seed in the ground, I have faith that there is something that will tell it to grow, and for the roots to grow down and the stem to seek out the sun.  I can’t make it do that.  But, again, that’s like faith.  I seek, ask, grow with God in faith – but I don’t really have the power to make myself grow or change or find what I’m seeking.   The secret in that polka dot mustard seed is that it is more the seed, just like it more than just my wish or hope , there is a whole power source that is behind it.   The roots go down, soaking in the nutrients in the soil, and the plant grows up, growing strong in the wind and sun.  In faith, I must be planted deep, where the nutritional needs are met through learning and prayer.  Stretching tall, the worship, fellowship, and blessings all help me grow and spread the seeds of faith.  But, just a little seed sitting in a vacuum won’t grow – it’s cut off from it’s power source.  

I leave tomorrow for the Great Banquet.  I have spent time in preparation to not be cut off from my Power Source, but to be planted deep and watered.  Through this time, and continuing on through this weekend and on and on, I can continue to grow.  It is not because of my own power that I can do this.  It is because of the Power Source, the ultimate Power that continues to cultivate me, all the way from a polka dot seed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet Hour of Drawing Nearer Prayer


If you have been following the last few weeks, I have been focusing on preparing for a retreat time with God.  But, a week from tonight there will be a group gathering in the third of three prayer sessions praying about breaking chains.
Prayer time is so sweet, and so important.  Yet, it seems to be so easily filled with the noise of a busy life.  I wake up and hear an alarm clock, then the sound of the door unlocking so the dog can go out.  The coffee pot makes the nice percolating dripping sound, while there are teeth brushing, hair brushing, good mornings, and getting ready for the day sounds.  The fridge opens, I grab a yogurt.  The car starts, feet on the pavement and then the sounds of work.  Phones, clicking of a keyboard, voices, and filing drawers opening and closing fill the day.  The car again, dinner sounds, TV, family, and more doggy sounds.  My day is full of noise!  Even right now, there is a dog whining (sharing her opinion) and Creole music playing in the background. 

In all of the noise, in all of the busy time, it can be easy for the still small voice of God to be lost in the shuffle.    None of the things I mentioned above are bad.  They are a product of my life, in being where God wishes me to be, in serving and ministering where I am placed.  There is also an important part which needs the balance between the noise and the quiet time.  I can tell that I have not balanced it well when I start feeling beat up by life, bruised by the pace.

When that happens, I am reminded to dig in deeper to my quiet time with God.  It doesn’t come by forcing myself into some strange new practice of prayer.  Instead, it is in the quiet time that I retreat to sit at God’s feet.  Just imagine what that would be like, to sit at the feet of Jesus.  What would his voice sound like, what emotions would stir in his eyes, and my spirit would breathe in his words and love like a breath of fresh air.  Oh, and he would exchange my bruises for his healing, my tiredness for his strength and energy.  What an amazing thing!

I am only three days away from this retreat and how appropriate to be spending time tonight in prayer, drawing near.  I look forward to the time of quiet that is coming to pulling in tighter to Jesus’ feet.  And in that time, God moves – He answers sincere prayers that seek out His will!  He Answers!! 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mozart, the Silmarillion, and Night Songs

Mozart had an extraordinary gift to write themes in his music.  One idea, expressed musically would start, then another would weave in.  It would stand on it’s own as a melody line, yet fit with perfect precision with the first theme.  Then, another independent musical thought adds into the melody, woven into the movement that is already occurring and still fits like a matching puzzle piece.  Building the thoughts until they reach the stories pinnacle, that moment when you have to know how the plot will wind up.  Then, the themes start winding toward the resolution and the eventual conclusion of the score.  Listening to one or two of those musical lines is pleasurable, but learn to pick out the different themes within the sounds themselves lets the listener hear the sound of art which also mimics life.

One line is joyful, bubbling along with purpose and speed.  Another adds a new personality, something richer and with greater depth.  A darker voice joins the song; minors add the new tone of tension, suspense, perhaps even angst.  Life is something like that at times.  We start off our day, the tone is established and then new voices are added in based on where we go, who we speak to, what actions we take, or the opposites of those.  Sometimes, these are things we can control and other times they are far away from our reach. 
 
Many have asked about that minor voice, why does it need to be there?  Named diabolus in musica or the Devil in music several hundred years ago, the tritone is a dissonance within chord structure.  Or, speaking in broader terms, why is there evil in this world?  If you are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve that may be where you point.  There were people, fruit, a tree, a snake, bad choices, and wah-lah entry of sin.  Well, yes that is true.  However, by the very fact that the serpent already existed there was previously sin in existence though not yet in humans.  Why would God allow that to change?

I think one of the most beautiful metaphorical descriptions I have heard of why there is an allowance of sin with all of its disastrous effects is from Tolkien’s Silmarillion.  I won’t quote it directly, though I do recommend reading it.  To give you the gist; the Supreme Creator is leading all of the lesser beings in a song, resulting in the creation of the world.  This is a wonderful thought by the way – wouldn’t you love to hear the song that might result in the creation of a tree or a cloud, even a waterfall or rain?  Anyway, the music was being created, multiple strong threads woven together to form a complete world.  They are rejoicing, as their music is guided by the Leader, and reflects His glory in the creation.  But, then another joins in, putting in discords with such fire and destruction the others are silenced in disbelief.  But, the Creator of the Music comforts them that the minor and threat filled music is something that He knew was coming, already knowing the phrases and melody turns it will take.  And, though they cannot understand it – He has a plan for it and this provides a gentle comfort.

In life, we have songs in the night, times when we don’t know which way to turn or why something happens.   You are going along and then some new melody line weaves into the music.  It may bring hope, anger, joy, hurt, love, or despair.  But, the comfort is that the melody line is not unknown to our God, our Creator.  Instead, He takes the phrase and blends it into the music – making it fit perfectly.  In my own orchestral section I may not be able to see how it fits, but there it is fitting perfectly into the score nonetheless.  There have been so many tragedies this last week alone, the shooting at Fort Hood, in Orlando, and many other catastrophes.  It is so easy, so human, to ask why and be angry at God.  Comfortingly enough, God is big enough for both our anger and all of our questions.  Now that these terrible things have occurred, we must rally in prayer asking God to weave this discord, this diabolus in musica, back into His perfect melody as only He can.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Members Belonging to Members

I’ve been pretty much couch bound for the last few days, with a side table full of cold and flu accessories to prove it.  With my head a bit swimmy from the left-over effects of night time cold medicine or the non-drowsy effects of day-time cold medicine, this uncomfortable time of coughing and sneezing has been a really important reminder to me of the body’s members belonging to each other.
When I cough (I promise not to be gross), the lungs work, the muscles in the chest work, and dozens other instantaneous reactions occur.  The lungs trying to rid themselves of something that shouldn’t be there, do not act on their own.  Instead, it is the entire body acting together. 
I recently had a conversation with a friend on the “we” and the “they” of church.  The “they” were acting like a “they” and not a “we.”  Now, if that sounds like it’s written in some code, let me try and decode it for you.   How many times have you looked around in a group of people and thought – they should do… they shouldn’t do…. they did….they didn’t….they being the operative word. Then, think about the same group and same instances, but substitute the word we. 
In a church body, the thought must be we and not they.  Now, by body I do not mean denomination, location, specific church, age group, worship style preference, etc…instead, I mean the entirety of believers as one body.  And members are the cells, the molecules that make up a body.  In Romans 12: 4-5.  “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others
So, when we have a body behaving like a “they” instead of a “we” then, we have a malfunctioning body.  Whose responsibility is it to fix that?  Well, Paul tells us in Romans that each member belongs to all the others.  So, if you are reading this and you are part of the body of Christ, you belong to me and me to you as members of a body, one cell – one molecule each to the other.  But, again – that question comes up – who has to wade in and fix this?
The answer is two parts.  And I love how God’s mind works, so opposite of a human mind, so much bigger and better. 
The first part is that we have to wade in, roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.  And – we will be equipped for this task.  Because, the very next lines in Romans 12 tell us – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
So, we are given gifts, therefore some are cell membranes, some are primary or secondary cell walls, others are cytoplasm, pectin, or enzymes.  Changing the thought process to “we” requires the We to learn about, seek God over, and grow in our gifts.  And then, apply them with much prayer. 
This is only a part of it though, and many times I think that the body gets stuck here.  We may learn about our gifts, try to apply the, and even try apply them with prayer.  But, the second part is to understand our limitations as cell membranes or cytoplasm in the body and to ask for the Lord to change us individually to make what he wants us to be and to pray for the other members.  It is not my job to change someone in the body, but it is my duty to pray for them.  And to pray for them with understanding that they are God’s servant, someone who has been accepted by God.   (Romans 14:1-4) “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Oh, that is such a statement to bring me to humility!  Such a way to say – WE are the Lord’s, not we versus they.  Who am I indeed to judge?  I am just as human, just as prone to sin and failure.  The Lord will work with me, to help me stand.  Instead of passing judgment, I need to pray for those around me to stand.
As I prepare for the Great Banquet, only 5 days away, I will be meeting other members of the body.  They will also be packing their bags, telling their families bye for the weekend, and leaving for the retreat.  I don’t know these other women, but I do know that God knows them. So, they are a part of the “we” if they are believers. 
Knowing that…. Lord, please prepare the hearts of these women for this weekend.  Please let this be a time of refreshing for each of them, restoring them from all of the hurry and frustrations of their days.  Please let Your Voice speak clearly this weekend.  Let the speakers be healthy, anointed by your Spirit and listening to your words as they prepare.  Let your will be clearly shown this upcoming weekend.  May those who host this time be blessed by our presence as they bless us by their time, their serving, and their effort.  We cannot bring peace, healing, guidance, or hope to any that might need it – but you can.  Please prepare us for a powerful weekend, where you are free to move and be heard, and where we are free to act and obey.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Taking a day off for sickness

In a cold medicine induced haze and still having coughing spells - I'm taking today off for extra rest.  Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Postures of Prayer




I love sitting down with close friends, the kind where you all talk at once and still manage to figure out what’s going on.  You laugh and cry, are free to be yourself, be goofy, and be honest.  Movies, pizza, hands sticky in bread dough, sweating on workouts, romps through fountains, celebrations, mourning - it is all easier and better with a good friend by your side.  The talk isn’t always heavy, but it is meaningful. 
When I spend time in prayer, I feel like I’m having my friend time with my Abba Father.  Just like any friendship, I need to do my part to keep it strong and healthy.  If we have a disagreement, I need to go to my friend and make it right.  It’s important for communication to stay open, both listening and talking.  This precious time with God, is spent time in prayer and I love the idea of a prayer closet.  For me, it is under the covers tucked in bed and my Bible resting on my knees.  It is the quiet time, away from the hustle of the day when I can spend time in prayer.  You know, the thing about prayer postures is there are so many ways that I can stand, kneel, sit, and supplicate myself, listening and sharing with God.  But, wonderfully enough, and as much as I love my prayer closet time, I can also spend time with God in the midst of the store, at work, on a walk, or even preparing for a retreat. 
How wonderful it is to have time with the Almighty God!  How amazing that He would spend time with me!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Aside

I’m home sick today, the creepy crud that has been going around finally came to land on me.  My head is hot, my coughing is too frequent for my comfort, my feet are cold, and my nose seems to be stuck in the drip position.
But, in the midst of this – let me tell you that my family is taking care of me.  There is a fire in the stove, slowly spreading it’s heat through the room.  Pancakes (my personal comfort food when ever I’m sick) are being made in the other room.  I’m not thrilled about being sick, but I’m very thankful for those around me that care so much.

The Perfect Time

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5:6.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:14.  “But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time." 1 Kings 8:61.  “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Luke 21:27.

Over and over, God shows us that his timing is perfect.  I was reading a devotional last night and it was talking about the value of waiting in prayer.  It is so easy to ask God – please do this, please don’t do that.  And these may be perfectly fine requests.  However, the hard part comes in the waiting.  I have asked, asked with the intent to prepare my heart to go to this retreat, the Great Banquet.  My job is to request, to seek, and to wait.  I cannot cleanse myself with hyssop, cannot heal my wounds, cannot fathom the strength and greatness of God.  But, He can and right at his own, perfect time.   

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Running the Race

I’m not much of a runner. I never have liked to run, but I do like to walk and when my ankle and knee are working as they should, I like to walk quickly.  In great shoes, with the dogs, by the river, down the street, in the yard – quickly and slowly as the need and mood hits. But, the thing about walking is really getting to where you are trying to go and “finishing the race.” 
One of the reasons I never liked running is because of the classic stitch in my side.  That is that pain in your abdomen that you get when you are running.  And, really the thing about the race is that it is not always a pain free trip.  Instead, we hear from God’s word about “rejoicing in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Rejoice in my sufferings?  Wouldn’t that belike cheering because my side hurts if I’m running?  That picture seems so so wrong!  And yet, this is my limited human view that doesn’t really understand.
The thing is, is that as you have a chance to look back on a life serving and seeking God, you will most likely start seeing a pattern.  The difficult times, those stitches in our sides, they strengthen us and provide us depth.  God’s perfect gifts are not disappointments, “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Have I experienced some stitches in my side?  Yes.  Of course! It’s life.  But, look at the chain of things that are coming about.  Suffering (that would be the unpleasant part), leads to perseverance.  In other words, the stitch in my side, teaches me to work through it.  This learning to work through things leads me to character.  Learning to stick out a task until it’s done, and to do my best at it – regardless of if it’s for public consumption or not. When I have character, then hope comes next.  Hope!  A precious flower of a word that both fills us and blooms in us. 
Eight days away from the retreat, and I’m thinking about stitches that I’ve experienced, along with learning perseverance.  Yes, those character building moments have come as well and so has hope.  I don’t always understand the stitches in my side, but I’m focusing on having deep down joy through the circumstances.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Masquerade

Imagine a small mask, shaped to cover your face from mid-forehead to your nose, shaped to fit your face.  Then, attached are brightly colored feathers of blue and green, beading in black and silver.  Velvety ribbon dangles over the rod used to hold the mask up to your face, delicately fringed in silver thread.  If I am holding up the mask, all you can see is a bit of my forehead, tip of my nose, and from about lips down.  The mask can be beautiful, but what does it cover? 
Imagine another mask, this one is a soft cloth, woven together. Pulled over your head, it will leave a spot for my eyes to show and look out.  Everything else is enveloped in a warm comfort.  The mask is functional, what does it protect?
There are many different kinds of masks.  Toy ones at Halloween, sports helmets can serve as a sort of mask, party masks, and others are all available.  We can also wear masks that serve to protect us, like the ski mask from the severe cold or scuba mask providing air underneath the water.  Other times we where masks of hiding who we are.  Wanting to keep everyone’s perception this way or that, we can wear a mask to enforce those ideas.  The problem with that kind of mask is that over time, it can be glued into our personality, making the removal difficult and painful. 
As there are nine days left before the Great Banquet, I’m praying that my masks will be gone and that instead, I can present my whole-souled self to God in our time together.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Sheep in the Yard on the way to a Halfway Visit

A few days ago my mother and I pulled out the driveway in Iowa at about the same time my dear friend and little boy were pulling out of her driveway in Ohio.  We were both heading to a meeting spot, about halfway between our two places, in Champaign, Illinois.  Starting out with coffee cups full, yogurts packed for breakfast a little later, we turned up the Mandisa CD and started down the road.
Following the highway, it was a great time to take in the scenery and enjoy the season.  One of the spots I enjoyed the most was the house with sheep in the yard.  There is a house, on the right side of 74 heading East, that has a fenced in yard.  In the yard, there are several sheep.  They lay around a pond,  standing by the driveway, nibbling on the grass behind the house.  Part of me loves the idea of stepping out in the morning and being greeted by the baaah’s of black and white wooly creatures.  Oh, I know that they would have to be cleaned up after, and would certainly mess up the grass.  But, wouldn’t it be fun to see! 
As I said, we were headed to Champaign for a halfway visit.  There are times when even a short visit can be a refreshing time.  Even a few hours to laugh and relax with someone you can be yourself with, can be warming and soothing.  Just ten days before the retreat.  I will hold on to the eclectic joy of sheep in the yard and the joy of a friend’s hugs and laughter.  I make a choice to continue to work to maintain the realization of the important, not just the urgent.