Thursday, February 27, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
My four year old granddaughter returns from morning pre-school, ready to share not just what she did that day, but what she learned. As she munched on her cheese-and-crackers lunch today, she talked about synonyms, words that mean the same thing.
And opposites, she pointed out, are those things that are not the same. Wet and dry. Day and night. And then, she folded her hands. "Praying," she said. And as she took her hands apart, she said, "And not praying. Those are opposites too."
From the mouths of babes.
A choice we make,
praying or not praying,
about all that we face.
How radically different the outcome,
how deeply impacted our hearts,
how transformed our vision,
when we take it to the LORD
The prayer of a righteous man
has great power in its effects.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Last week I was caught in a tight spot, a decision without an obvious right or wrong. I was stuck.
This way... or that?
And as in the past,
wallowing in the miry bog,
that sticky place where the world says,
What do I do?
Take one step. And God will reveal the next.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
Psalm 40. 1-2
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Early this morning, I was telling our four-year-old granddaughter about someone who was sick.
"We need to remember to pray for her," I said.
She took my hand and replied,
"Well, why don't we just pray for her right now?"
And we did.
Stop talking about it,
drop what we are doing,
and pray right away.
Have no anxiety about anything,
but in everything
by prayer and supplication
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God
which passes all understanding,
will keep your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4. 6-7
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Our two year old grandson wants to be wherever you are. He wants to "Go wif," just so he doesn't miss out on anything.
And the same applies to us. When we follow the LORD fully into everything we do, we don't miss out.
LORD, reveal Your day for me. I want to "go wif" You.
We don't know what to do
but our eyes are on You.
2 Chronicles 20.12
Friday, February 21, 2014
When our girls were young, they made up a game of hide and seek where instead of the children hiding, a stuffed animal was hidden from view. Sometimes they found it under a cushion or the couch, behind a chair or on the bookshelf. The room was familiar and ordinary, but as they entered the space, they viewed it differently.
God gives us a heart to see the extraordinary
right in the middle of what may appear
as the most familiar and common of all.
We have only to look,
seek Him in it,
and serve God through it.
There is nothing ordinary
in His eyes,
no ordinary days,
no ordinary ways.
You will seek Me
and find Me;
when you seek Me with all your heart,
I will be found by you,
says the LORD...
Jeremiah 29. 13-14
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I struggled with a worrisome situation
and it felt a bit like
driving on unplowed roads,
snow completely covering the highway
and no lane lines apparent at all.
What direction do I take with this?
And finally at home,
that unwieldy situation
tried to squeeze into bed with me
to rob me blind
of whatever sleep I could get.
How do I handle this?
When I got up this morning,
there it was,
waiting like a pair of slippers
at the side of the bed.
I grabbed my coffee
and headed into God's Word,
wondering as I read,
how to know what to do.
And just a few verses into my reading,
there was my answer,
in Leviticus of all places,
point blank amidst the sacrifices.
...and offer it for a pleasing odor to the LORD.
I can treat this situation my way,
or let God redeem it as an offering to Him.
We all want to do big stuff for God
and be faithful to Him.
That would include
even this struggle that most would
not consider much at all,
a letting go of a hurtful action,
even the grip of my own pride.
My intentional offering on the altar
manifests itself in whatever I do,
and think today,
even my attitude in an unpleasant situation.
In every way
-- always --
words and deeds of grace
are most fragrant of all
Even in this.
"Just offer it to Me."
Commit your way to the LORD,
trust also in Him,
and He will act.
This too is a form of worship
and a different direction.
Bless the LORD,
O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless His holy name.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Drinking a cup of nightly tea became a habit among the girls and I, when they were in high school, wedged even in the midst of their busy school schedules. At some point during their evening homework, we would all somehow end up in the kitchen about the same time for a bit of refreshment. That became our time for "nightly tea," indulging in a brief cup of hot tea and musing for a few minutes about our day.
Even after the girls all left home for college and beyond, the custom often continues over the distances, a cup of hot tea and a few minutes to ponder.
One of the tricks of making a good cup of tea is to be mindful of the water temperature. When the tea is steeped in hot-enough water, the full flavor is extracted.
And for us, well, we often find ourselves in hot water -- difficult situations that call for creative responses. Sometimes I just need to stop for just a minute or two in order to respond instead of instantly react. Those instant reactions are most often accompanied by instant regrets. A cup of tea, so to speak, slows me down enough to think through what I need to do in word and deed, that which is gracious and kind, and as theologian Jonathan Edwards resolved in 1722, "to shun anything that is not of Christlike character."
"Hot water" may be my difficult situation, but what changes everything is what I am steeping in it. What am I choosing to steep? Bitter herbs or joy? On what am I dwelling? What "flavor" do I seek in this, yes, even in this?
Yesterday as I made a cup of hot tea, I selected one that a sweet friend had given to me. As the bag steeped in the steaming water, its full flavor infusing every drop, I noticed what the tag on the teabag said, "Joy."
If that is what I want in my life, that is what I need to infuse in my heart, soul and mind. This is not the artificial sweetening of happy, positive thoughts, but the reality of what only God can do. Joy is not a feeling, but a strength that comes from God, that which is not dependent on circumstances at all.
What am I choosing to steep? Am I complaining about "hot water?" Or letting God redeem it? Tuck a passage of Scripture in your heart today, and let God's Word "steep" all day long, infusing, enhancing, and changing how you see everything and everyone. Abide in Him.
...that My joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be full.
O taste and see that the LORD is good!
Sunday, February 16, 2014
It starts with just balancing on a level surface, getting one's bearings in an unnatural place. And then, taking just a single step outside one's comfort zone.
Those baby steps are followed always by some kind of fall, not in defeat, but in learning how to navigate in unfamiliar places. It progresses to sliding forward and then --"look Mom, I can go backwards too!" A little hop, a partial spin, all over the course of years of training. Those are the parts that we do not see, the long obedience, the repeated falls, the getting back up and trying again. And again. And again. Tired, hungry, sore, and going home in sweatpants and a hoodie to homework yet undone.
But what we do see in prime time every four years are the Olympic skaters as they jump, dance and spin their way to medals, sometimes rotating so fast that the skater disappears into a blurry image. Each one adds another level of difficulty, approaching what appears to be impossible. That is why we enjoy watching them, doing what we cannot imagine.
How do they master the spins? How do they come through without dizziness?
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Training every day.
And as I have learned, they are no different than any of us, but the twirling skater maintains his equilibrium coming out of the spin only by focusing his sight on a fixed spot. When he sets his vision, the dizziness cannot prevail. It has nothing to hold onto.
The past few days, I have struggled with writing this blog. The words have not come. I have worked on my writing, but right now, everything going on around me is spinning a little too fast. I sit down to my desk to write and my brain is doing a quadruple lutz, spinning and leaping at the same time, and trying to figure out how to land upright.
Sometimes for reasons we do not know, sometimes for reasons too many to count, our worlds spin, not part of a dance on ice, but traversing the slippery places in life, outside our control.
And how do we train for this,
even for what we don't see coming?
not in our own abilities
or despite our own disabilities,
but trusting God
one spin at a time,
even on the ordinary days,
learning to focus on that fixed spot
and that would be God.
He will not just bring you through it,
but will bring through it something new.
Keep my eyes on You, O LORD.
Set my vision on Your purposes.
My situation may not change,
the level of difficulty may even get harder,
but God empowers me
not just to see the things around me differently,
but to see Him
and Him alone.
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the LORD for ever,
for the LORD GOD
is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26. 3-4
Friday, February 14, 2014
Today is a repeat of a Nightly Tea posting from Valentine's Day 2011.
For the record: St. Valentine is not the patron saint of greeting cards, Dove chocolates, or restaurant dinners. Indeed, there are probably very few young people who even associate Valentines Day with a saint, let alone a “religious” holiday.
Valentine, known as Valentinus, was a priest who lived in Rome in the mid-200s AD when being a Christian meant certain death. He aided Christian martyrs during their persecution, and as a result was arrested and imprisoned. He survived in jail for a year before he was brought before the emperor Claudius the Second who offered Valentinus to save his life if he worshipped the Roman gods. Valentinus refused. He was condemned and martyred on February 14, 270 AD, beaten by clubs, stoned and beheaded. Hardly a Hallmark moment.
Legend tells that before his death, Valentinus fell in love with the blind daughter of the jailer, who along with her father had converted to Christianity. As a way of saying good-bye on the eve of his death, he wrote her a message and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” The jailer and his daughter were also later sentenced to death by the emperor. Chocolate and soft music did not enter the picture until centuries later.
And it seems very appropriate that a holiday that is associated with love is also associated with God. Valentinus risked his life and died a martyr’s death not to earn God’s favor or gain points with God. Valentinus did it because he loved God. He knew what God’s love meant. It was not something he deserved or earned, but because that is how God revealed Himself to us.
But God shows His love for us
in that while we were yet sinners
Christ died for us.
Red is the color of sacrifice. And there is no one who loves you more.
Recently I read about a family who fostered a little boy who had come from a horrific background. Not knowing how long they would be able to nurture and love this little one, they cared for him deeply. Every night when they tucked him in bed, they would ask him, “What does God say when he sees you?” They taught him to say, “I sure do love that little boy!”
God loves you that much too. Don’t ever forget it.
Happy Valentines Day, sweet friends.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
No matter where we lived,
no matter the climate
or how short the growing season,
no matter how many rocks,
big or small,
my grandmother worked the soil
and created beauty in its place.
She shouldn't have done it,
such a vast amount of energy expended
at her advanced age.
She shouldn't have been able to do it,
struggling with rheumatoid arthritis
for forty-five years.
She did not walk;
When we even insinuated
for her to sit down,
she would give us a look that
would cause an army to surrender.
This pioneer-strong woman did not wake up
moaning and a-groaning every morning
with arthritic knees and stiff hands,
saying, "O my LORD,
how am I going to face today?"
But she welcomed each dawn
with a prayer and an attitude,
what do we conquer today?"
She followed Him
into His day for her.
She didn't see big rocks blocking her way,
or even the need to maneuver around them,
or pretend they weren't there,
but she embraced her difficulties as they came
and let Him redeem them.
They weren't a hazard to her,
nor a hardship,
nor a "Woe is me!"
"Wow, what can I do with that?"
She knew that her strength was too limited
and challenges too overwhelming
to carry along a burden of anxious thoughts
or the chains of despair,
those things that siphon one's strength
and stifle the very breath out of creativity.
She saw the big rocks of life with different eyes,
because she knew what God can do.
She also knew as she hobbled along
that everyone struggles with something,
hers just a little more obvious than others.
The difference is
what you let God do with it.
Let God redeem the hard stuff.
Ah Lord GOD!
It is You
who made the heavens and the earth
by Your great power
and by Your outstretched arm!
Nothing is too hard for You...
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The desire for fashion has succumbed to the sheer need to be warm. What is trendy is buried somewhere under bulky coats hidden in the back of the closets, layer upon layer underneath. Yesterday, the air actually felt warmer as I walked across a parking lot. It was 12 degrees, the "high temperature" for the day. It is 9 below zero right now, even as I write this.
The meteorologist these days is not just telling the temperature, the expected precipitation for the day (snow again?!?), and the teeth-chattering wind chill, but he also indicates what is appropriate apparel for the day and what not to wear. He points to a visual chart that ranges from shirt sleeves or a light jacket, all the way down to a heavy coat, hat and gloves, the category he has been emphasizing day after day. This winter, it has not been a matter of what is fashionable nor even practical but what is necessary to prevent frostbite and even death.
What is appropriate for today?
What are you pulling out of your closet
to put on for the day?
It is by what God's people should be known.
Praise befits the upright.
Not a insensitive and indifferent
"Praise the LORD!,"
but an indwelling heart condition,
grateful, loving, gracious
and responsive to where we are,
what we are doing,
and amidst difficulty,
knowing that God is good.
Praise is not just a verbal response,
but how I see
what I feel,
how I approach the situation at hand
and respond to it,
not just when things are going my way.
Praise to God
is the antidote to despair.
Praise to God
reveals our trust in Him.
"But I can't praise Him for this."
that is how He strengthens us through it.
I just have to put on that coat
and zip it all the way up.
It is what is appropriate and necessary.
A mantle of praise is not a fashionable accessory
but what is needful.
...a garment of praise
instead of a faint spirit.
What I choose to wear
doesn't just get me through the day
but acknowledges the Almighty
and the reality of His Presence
in all things.
God protects, provides, and guides us
through the bitter winds
not just on sunny warm days
when life meets with my approval.
A heart of praise
unveils the reality
of His hope within.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Every woman knows the tsunami of emotions that rise up out of nowhere, create havoc in our hearts, and take captive our common sense. Where did that come from?
And what if when we felt that surge of feelings emerge within us, we replaced them with grace. Just as I recently took physical therapy for my injured foot, what if we took up grace therapy for our hearts.
In physics, Newton's third law of motion states, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Forces always come in pairs. What if I replaced my usual passionate reaction with an intentional Christ-like response?
Replace a criticism
with an equally potent praise.
with verbal thanks.
Replace the grip of anxiety
with fervent prayer.
Replace chains of fear
with the power of memorized Scripture.
Replace depressed thoughts
with actively serving others.
Replace a bad attitude
with His vision for the situation.
And see with different eyes
and a changed heart.
Therapy is not a magic pill,
but a long change within.
Let's not forget that small emotions
are the great captains of our lives.
--Vincent van Gogh 1889
The other day, I put on a new pair of running shoes that I had been storing in my closet for when I can run again. I was surprised at how good they felt. I had no idea the difference they would make.
Choose to put on the new nature of Christ,
no matter how comfortable the old has become.
You may surprise someone.
...and that may even be yourself.
Slow repeated actions create changes within.
Let me choose that
which honors God.
Whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
I was walking down the stairs late last week when I happened to glance out the window onto the frozen terrain of a February winter day. And there, quite suddenly before my eyes, was a red fox in the wild, sniffing about the vacant lot next door, totally oblivious that he was being watched.
I snapped a picture with my phone just to document his existence. Before I could zoom in to snap another closer up, the coppery red creature darted away on his little sneaky feet, his fluffy tail flowing behind him, like a bushy scarf which belonged to a much larger animal. Within seconds, he was out of sight, invisible to me amidst the line of trees and brush. And yet, I knew he was still there, beyond my limited vision.
How much are we surrounded by the extraordinary work of God that we never even see? He is there. He is working all around us. He is working all within us. And we are not aware.
Sometimes I don't happen to look up
from my busy-ness
to notice anything at all,
I am embraced on all sides
with what would take my breath away.
O LORD, our LORD,
how majestic is Your name
in all the earth.
Friday, February 7, 2014
It doesn't matter what is happening around her.
It doesn't matter where she is.
It doesn't even matter the music
...or a lack entirely.
Sometimes she even breaks into leaps
across the kitchen floor.
She cannot help but respond
to the joy that wells up within her.
And in her movements,
she is learning new ways
to dance upon circumstances,
to praise Him
no matter what is swirling around her.
Her eyes are lifted up
to the One who brings joy.
You have turned for me
You have loosed my sackcloth
and girded me with gladness,
that my soul may praise You
and not be silent.
O LORD my God,
I will give thanks to You for ever.
Psalm 30. 11-12
Thursday, February 6, 2014
A few days ago my friend Barb, a professional harpist by trade, responded to my posting An Afternoon Filled To The Brim (February 2, 2014) with a few poignant memories of her own. I hope her words trigger memories in your heart and mind. The people who have influenced you the most probably have no idea the impact they have had. May you be encouraged as God blesses others through you.
You might be surprised what she'll remember.
I was four years old the first time I heard a harp. I think I remember everything from that day, the colors in the costumes of the dancers, the concert hall, where exactly we sat, the weather. It was magical. The memories still are beautiful.
I was 2 1/2 when we moved from Detroit to Akron, when my dad's military service ended. I remember the house we lived in there. I remember the day the moving trucks came and what the house looked like all packed up, boxes piled around my bed and in the living room of our military housing. I remember our favorite babysitter coming to say goodbye. I remember living in the cottage here while the house was being built. None of that felt traumatic, I just remember for some reason.
I remember visiting my grandparents in Akron and how soft their cocker spaniel was. Timmy (the dog) died before I turned three. It's a very early memory. Grandma would give me a snack in the breakfast room then, always in a chair, never walking around. I can't remember how old I was when I was trusted to "eat on my feet" in her house.
Wait and see. She could easily have memories of some of these special times with you. Maybe not in detail like I have, but emotions and snippets enough that she'll remember the times you spent focused only on each other. The times I had focused one on one with my grandparents are the times etched in my memory, much more so than the family gatherings. It's the quiet times with my grandparents that I remember well, not the loud, shared events.
Not all of it will evaporate with time. I hope that some day you'll be writing a blog post about this granddaughter asking you to "remember when..." and you'll talk about those special days together, bridging the miles in a way that keeps hearts close.
You are as far from your grandchildren as my parents were from (my son) Augie. They managed to be very close in spite of the distance. So much so that Augie called last week asking how we could get together for his birthday. He turned 27 on Friday. "I know that Grandma and Grandpa have only missed being with me for my birthday one time" he said, "and I know how important it is to them." It is important to them, but I know it is also important to him. We drove to Pittsburgh and celebrated in their new home with soup and muffins for lunch, simple food, quiet conversation and happy hearts.
Mom sent him postcards weekly when he was very young, beginning when he could hold them and chew on them. She'd write short notes, reminding him of their time together or telling about ducks she saw on the lake. I think that habit helped in their closeness and now he writes two postcards a week to her.
Wait and see. You are building memories and while she won't keep all, I think you might be surprised at the events that etch themselves in her memory.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
One day soon,
this will all be gone.
And we will be glad,
left only with unraveling memories
of long sleeves and itchy wool sweaters,
and fingers red and aching
from the cold.
One day soon,
this will all be gone.
The bushes will grow taller,
birds will build nests in the branches
singing what they practiced all winter,
and my husband's favorite knit hat
will be found,
sodden on the side of the driveway
where it spent its winter vacation,
blown away by the wind.
One day soon,
this will all be gone.
And God will restore the earth
with every color blazing,
the mountains will sing,
and all the trees of the field
will give a standing ovation,
accompanied by the laughter of children,
playing in the streets.
One day soon,
this will all be gone.
And everything will be right again.
And He will reign for ever and ever.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning
nor pain any more,
for the former things
have passed away.
And He who sat upon the throne said,
I make all things new."
Revelation 21. 4-5
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Many in our culture sing a tune of
"True for you,
but not for me,"
when it comes to religion,
and public opinion.
But when politics enter the picture,
watch your step,
because quite suddenly,
in this world "without absolutes,"
truth is still undeniably an absolute.
or didn't he?
One little lie,
one thin deception,
and the truth will bring you down.
... or the truth
will vindicate you.
The most shocking headlines
and the most popular crime shows on television
are based on the absolute of truth.
It doesn't matter how believable the story,
how persuasive the opinion,
how compelling the appearances,
the truth dismantles it all
and sets it right again.
Truth will spring up from the earth,
and righteousness will look down from heaven.
The Hebrew word for truth in that verse
can also be translated as faithfulness.
Because what is true
can be trusted.
the reality of "truth,"
came from God,
whether you believe in Him or not.
Someone did not just make it up.
The desire for truth is wired within us.
The bizillionth exhibit of this
is being played out once again.
...be sure your sin will find you out.
I hope, Mr. Christie,
that you are telling the truth,
and that apologies are in order.
Because if not,
you have just dug your own pit,
ensnared by your words,
and trapped by a web of your own choosing
over a little traffic jam.
What "doesn't matter,"
what "no one will notice,"
always trips us up.
All of us.
Truthful lips endure for ever,
but a lying tongue
is but for a moment.
Caught in a web,
or set free by the truth.
He who walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who perverts his ways
will be found out.
Live above reproach
... and not just if you are running for office.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Sunday, February 2, 2014
I spent an afternoon a few weeks ago with my four year old grand daughter, just the two of us, times like that far too rare because of the long miles between our homes. We pulled ingredients out of the pantry and mixed together cookie dough of her own choosing, oatmeal chocolate chip. With a little help on measuring, she poured the ingredients in a big pink bowl, turned on the mixer, and watched the big paddle blade whirring around and around.
We talked about snow and pre-school and God. We also listened for her little brother who was taking a nap. The house was silent except for the whirring of the mixer, our voices, and the furnace clicking on and off. It was like we were far away from the ordinary.
She scooped cookie dough onto the big flat pans. The baking sheets went into the oven, one after another.
And when it was all the baking was done, we colored a white piece of construction paper with every crayon in her cup, alternating colors, staying mostly outside of the lines, and discovering the Spanish names on the wrappers for colors that we had known only in English.
The counter was littered with bowls and spoons and pans. She pulled up the step stool and washed the bowls with a little scrubby thing, her sleeves pulled up, warm soapy water puddling in the sink. I rinsed and dried. And I think she enjoyed that part the best.
The afternoon slid by. And the word hurry was banished for awhile. No rushing, no one right way to do things, the cookies differed in shape and size. The sun poured in the window on that cold January day. And for a little while, we could enjoy being just a little girl and her gramma.
The next day, I had to drive six hours home, all too aware that each mile separated us. I know that at four years old, she is unlikely to remember that quiet afternoon at all. But she will know a little bit more what love looks like.
And this gramma will never forget.
...my cup runneth over.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
A friend of mine writes for a domestically-oriented blog called Little House In The Suburbs I love reading it because it instructs me in creative, organic, and joyful homemaking skills. The women who write this blog view "problems" as opportunities for creating something new.
Today, one of the postings made me smile: the repurposing of old drawers. How do people even imagine these things? Very simply. They think differently.
And as I examine what is all around me.
What is that doing in my life?
Or even what is that still doing in my life?
Remove it, O LORD!
a tough relationship,
a broken piece that doesn't belong,
that which was stored away
in the attic of my heart.
I stand in need,
surrounded by irrelevant junk,
tattered, worn out, paint peeling,
and what do I do with that?
help me to see it as You do,
to visualize it redeemed,
I see what doesn't belong,
what is broken and forlorn,
what has no relevance to my needs.
And You see purpose
that which only You can transform.
Even in me,
You are still the Creator.
You are my Redeemer.
Now to Him who is able
to do far more abundantly
than all that we ask or think,
according to the power at work
Don't just look at things differently.
Look at God differently.