Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Whatever We Do

My oldest daughter and her family traveled from Cleveland to visit us this past week.  It was a jumble of great fun and the joy of just being together.

One chilly afternoon when there was the bustle of activity in the kitchen, I noticed my two year old granddaughter in an adjacent room, playing on my mother’s old piano.  I tiptoed out of the kitchen behind her to see what she was doing.  She was not banging away on the piano keys, as you would expect a toddler to do, but carefully plunking each one as if following a sheet of music.  She had an old hymnal opened before her, and she occasionally stood up on the piano bench and turned its pages.  And in her sweet little voice, she sang Joy to the World, over and over again.  Her passion was of one unaware of the concept of performance, and deep in the purity of one unencumbered by the limitations of others.  She sang with amazing joy.

I stood there silent behind her, afraid of disrupting this precious moment of a little one worshiping God in her own profound way and giving Him glory.  She was singing from the bottom of her heart, enunciating every syllable with great feeling.  And I could feel His delight in the room.

But Jesus said,

“Let the children come to Me,

and do not hinder them,

for to such belongs the kingdom

of heaven.”

            Matthew 19.14

Christmas 2011 097

Thursday, December 8, 2011

And What Do We Miss?

Whenever we go to the mountains, I am overwhelmed by the hand of God in His creation.  Each time as we drive through the cathedrals of trees, no matter the season, each time I run through the woods, no matter the weather, I hear and smell and see something new.  Sometimes it is the mist through which trees seem to float eerily, sometimes it is the grandeur of snow clinging to rocks in a rushing creek or the branches of trees that engrave the sky with dark lace, sometimes it is the deep smell of pine needles carpeting the autumn floor of the forest.

But my favorite is the sighting of a black bear, which happens more often than not.  I always watch from a safe distance, I know to respect their space, but the opportunity each time takes my breath away by the majesty of these creatures, so integrated into their environment that even a dark rock, a shadow, the hollow blackness of a fallen tree become phantoms in the wild. 

Once while driving through the mountains and watching out the window like an excited little kid, I prayed silently, “O God, just one, give us a glimpse of just one bear walking through the woods.”  And in my silliness, I stopped short.  Because I realized very suddenly to Whom I was praying, the Creator of the Universe, the LORD of all creation.  And I knew that if He chose, it would take nothing at all for Him to send out a hundred bears dancing a jig.

What am I praying for today?  Do I realize what God is capable of doing?

May the bears dance, O LORD.

William Holbrook Beard and his painting 'The Bear Dance

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From whence does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

Maker of heaven and earth.

                          Psalm 121.1

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Littlest Angel

When I was three and so shy that I was mostly invisible, I was designated by the choir director to participate in the church’s annual reenactment of the Christmas story.  I was given the part of an angel.  All I had to do was stand behind the manger which held a rough-looking plastic baby doll wrapped in an old towel.  It was not necessary for me to attend the rehearsals as I did not have a speaking part.  I just had to stand there and look, I guess, angelic.

My grandmother Mammy, who lived with us, toiled over my costume.  An old white bedsheet was sewn into a small robe and around my waist was tied a golden metallic cord, leftover from a previous Christmas.  A strand of dime-store tinsel was bobby-pinned into a halo of sorts in my unruly curly hair.

The evening of the event, my grandmother took me backstage.  Suddenly, this didn’t seem like such a fun thing to me anymore.  I was surrounded by giants dressed like characters in my little Bible.  And there were people out there, lots of people, staring at the stage.

When it came time for Jesus to be born, this little angel PANICKED.  And with the tenderness that only a grandmother can have in a moment of pandemonium, Mammy just gently took my hand.  On cue, as if it were the most natural thing for me to do, I stood on stage with my arms held out, just like I was supposed to.  Behind the curtain and out of sight sat Mammy on a folding chair, holding the tiny little hand of a terrified angel on stage.  Even though I could not see her, I knew she was there.  I could feel the warmth of her hand.  And it was ok.  I could do this very hard thing.

Quite frankly, we all are faced with situations when inside we are terrified three-year-olds wearing adult costumes on the outside.  And with shaking knees we have to put on a game face and big girl panties and get out there.  But we can KNOW we are not alone.  “Be not afraid.  I am with you,” the LORD says.  Those are not just words but promises woven repeatedly throughout the entire Bible.  His Presence surrounds us.  No matter what role we may be called to play.  He is there.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you,

I have called you by name, you are Mine.

When you pass through the waters

I will be with you,

and through the rivers,

they shall not overwhelm you,

when you walk through fire

you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

…Because you are precious in My eyes,

and honored, and I love you…

Fear not, for I am with you.

                    Isaiah 43. 1-5