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Friday, November 30, 2012

GIVE ME MORE STUFF

Proverbs 25:21-22 If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he's thirsty, bring him a drink.  Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you.

Do I give to get?  Do I get too much stuff?

Think of it.  The clothes bought, the trees trimmed, the bargains, the books shared, our children's appearance, and their activities.

Do I parade new clothes for fun or praise?  Are they merely an expression of my tastes or am I reaching for approval and honor?

Do I adorn my home to add to its comfort, to please my eye, and how it suits me, or is it a status symbol? (Don't get me wrong... my eyes delight in beauty and labors of love, but still I wonder.)

I think of these things when I walk down the aisles and see so much abundance.  I enjoy the beauty of lush rugs, new colors of fabrics for windows or bedspreads.  I feel the silkiness of a plush toy cat and smile thinking of a child hugging this while lost in her dreams.

I love the smell of spice laden candles that send their fragrance on ahead to meet me.  French bread hot out of the oven woos me as I roll my basket near the cashier at the grocery.

But, then I think of children who sleep on the street huddled close to their mother for the night.  What do I really need and why am I drawn to so many things?  Why do I have to have so much when I cannot share these things with many outside of my circle of family and friends?  What am I thinking?  One more towel, or dish, or pans when there are families who want just a clear handful of germ free water to quench their thirst?  What could I do instead that would make a difference to someone else?

Honestly, I really do love to give.  I enjoy seeing pleasure in the eyes of my family when something specially thought of gift was given to them.

I often think that is an insight to the ways of my Heavenly father.  He is delighted to dream up new things for me to enjoy.  He delights in me as he watches me discover new ideas, try new recipes, and cultivate relationships.

God has bestowed many gifts upon me in my lifetime, yet so many more are waiting for recognition and discovery.  Most of gifts from God are actually mine for the sharing, not just for me to horde.

The reason I say this is more than just because of the obvious need that is out there, but because I think when we are in tune with a passion for life that is God given, we have a witness inside that is pure joy.

Musicians know the fullness of joy as they sing or play their hearts out.  This joy spreads out beyond them to me who is within their hearing.  They bubble over and it trickles down to me so that I too am warmed by it.

Artists stroke, chisel, weave, invent, shape, and in the midst they are lost in the imagination of the endeavor.  Deep in the recesses of profound contentment.  Lost to us as they find their center. 

This is the spirit of the giver.  This desire to give out and express.  The random ideas for kindness that pop into the mind.  Then when the giver takes a risk to follow through, they seemingly have lost all reason, but find and experience of deep joy.

A couple years ago, I waited in line at the grocery.  My mind emptied itself of the list of ingredients I needed with my basket filled, so I scanned and observed the people around me.  An elderly woman dressed nicely was in front of me.  An idea suddenly came to me.  I hesitated at first, then I decided to follow the urging.  "I am paying for this woman's bill," I declared to the checker.

A little embarrassed, the shopper explained to me that she could manage her own bill and that she had plenty of money to pay for it.  I smiled, "No problem, it's just a little gift for you."

As I went to my car, I noticed this tiny woman I'd helped as she  loaded small bags into her trunk.  She looked up at me, then waved.  I walked over to her.

"God just wants you to know that he loves you and that you are not alone.  Can I give you a little hug?"  She opened her arms with misty eyes and indulged.

I left with a smile on my heart that the Cheshire Cat would envy.  This was not me... believe it or not,  I am more reserved than this and quite shy.  The warmth and joy I experienced was unexpected.  I would have been content with the giving, that was all I wanted, but as I drove out of the parking lot, I felt that I was the recipient of the greatest gift... it was a rare moment.

I still get caught up when I am searching through shops... I love to browse like you, but I also stop and wonder how different my life would be if I would open my heart up more often to these giving moments.
The best gifts in my book are times spent together talking about dreams, a soft pat on the back, a nod when something is well done, cooking from scratch when there is time, energy, and inspiration.  Going over homework and taking the time to reteach in an encouraging way, stopping words of criticism, thinking first then doling out long overdue compliments.

Handmade gifts can be enjoyable to receive like granola, hot cocoa mix, dried soup mix, or just painting a ceramic mug.  I spend more time thinking about the person while the project gives me needed therapy throughout the process.

So, when the rush and the crush of the crowds get me down, I stop and try to gain a better perspective.  Meditating, I consider whether or not I am just getting stuff, or sending a true love message.

Give a back rub, ruffle the hair of your little darlin', offer unasked for assistance.  Just be involved and attempt to be more present in the lives nearby.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?

Revelation 5:12 "Then I heard every creature in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power,  forever and ever!'

Excitedly I applied my makeup.  A part of the worship team was traveling to a little church in another Valley town and I was one of them.  A Hawaiian worship team member, Lyle, was stretching his wings and had been tapped to lead us.  Lyle sang melody and played guitar.  I sang harmony, with just a couple more vocalists.  Then there was a drummer and bass player.

My home church at that time filled with more than 1,500 on Sundays, so we looked forward to minister to this smaller congregation.

We pulled up.  Hmmm.  It was a store front and not a very wide store front.  Well, many good churches have started this way.  What difference does it all make?  Whether a teeming meeting center, a prison chapel, a modest living room, or this rented business space, our mission was to elevate the King of Kings and to come into the presence of God.

Still, as we unloaded the sound equipment, instruments, and the music stands I could not help but wonder about the people who came here to seek solace within these walls each week.

We warmed up and found that the acoustics were not really the best, but everything was calibrated to sound as pleasing as possible.



A few people started to arrive while we were worshiping and praying over the service.  They received us with hugs and grinned as they thanked us for taking the time and trouble to drive so far.

I didn't feel anything special about our pre-prayer time or the practice.  I even felt a little sleepy after the ride over, but on the way we all were preparing our hearts and praying over the people who would arrive and join us.

I can remember hearing us sing, and though our sound was down some from what we were used to, I had difficulty hearing many from the 12 or so there.  I also remember thinking how small the group was and that the church looked empty with so many more vacant chairs staring at us than those that were occupied.



I breathed in and focused on the messages we were singing and I prayed that we would bless and encourage these faithful souls.  I was praying silently as I was singing and enjoying the serenity of weaving the voices as we harmonized by ear.

Then I heard it.  It was so distinct that I turned my head to look to my left.  I was expecting to see a new group of worshipers on the other side of the room.  But no one was there.  Yet I could hear clearly... other voices singing beautifully, passionately intertwining their melodies with ours.

I looked around to see if anyone else recognized the extra voices.  No one else seemed to be experiencing anything different.  Could I be imagining things?  No, as I closed my eyes and fervently sang on as if I was just singing alone to God himself I felt my body warm and then the smell of vanilla began to faintly stir around me.  Again, I heard the additional voices.  This time a little softer than before, but still very clearly not just from our group and the church members.



Those precious moments could not last long enough, but the chorus came to an end.  My heart stirred.  My whole being energized from the presence of God, but a little grin crept from one corner of my mouth to the other and I just had to chuckle aloud.  Praise God!

Sometimes, when I am asked how I know God exists and why I am so sure of my faith, I just have to let the grin roll out and chuckle.  Uh huh.  He reminds me ever so often that I am his own and that he is mine.  Just little glimpses here and there that solidify my faith in what he says in his word.

Some day I will hear heavenly beings worship and praise with no holds barred.  What a glorious experience that will be!  I will never tire of it.



There in that barren, folding chair adorned room,  I tasted a bit of the glory of holy beings without guile, without wrong motivation, with all eyes on Jesus, with all their might joining along with our humble little ragtag group, and turning it into royalty.



Remember who you are.  We are only here for a while and then we return home.
                                


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

DARK NIGHT FLIGHT



Proverbs 14:26  "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."  

"Frank!  Frank!" my Mom screamed!  When my normally quiet mother broke out of her calm, controlled self, fear gripping her heart... my eyes stared gaping wide into my sister's.  Our jaws simultaneously dropped open.  The sudden realization that my family and I might not be alive much longer was wordlessly communicated in that glance.

Just then, our four-passenger Cessna aircraft entered some clouds near the Marion Airport where we were to land.  On our flight from Dayton, Ohio to Indiana we enjoyed fair skies so far and no bad weather showed up in the forecast when the flight plan was filed.

But now, our visibility had changed.  Dad was puzzled.  He was about to begin our approach for the landing strip, when unfriendly clouds enveloped us.  Immediately the wind tossed our plane.  Down drafts and updrafts unnerved us all.

When Mom yelled, she had seen a hole in the clouds and could tell that we were diving toward the ground.  Dad, a VFR pilot (visual frequency rating), had both eyes glued to the instrument panel.

I clenched my hands and began breathing a prayer for our safety.  I asked for dad to know what to do next.   Suddenly, I was aware that my priorities in life were way off.  My thoughts raced.  I asked forgiveness and for God to take over the plane, my life, and my future.  Now, I felt ready for anything.

In a matter of seconds, our rapid descent halted and we shot up like a careening car racing along a roller coaster.  Higher and higher we climbed... this was the second time the wind yo-yoed us up. 

Wisely, Dad said, "We're going south to land in Indianapolis.  We'll rent a car and drive home from there."

Grim-faced, we peered out the windows.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we soared into a clear night sky sprinkled with starlight.  My heart beat loudly.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

I know angelic beings transported us to safety that night.  In that harrowing experience, my shallow self-concern and independence was exposed... man, I was so full of myself.   Before now, I was caught up in my new found freedoms and intellectual exercises that made me feel superior to my simple faith in God.  But, I rediscovered the emptiness of my self-sufficiency.   

The next day, I returned to work a little before noon at Crossroads restaurant.  As I entered the kitchen, a girl who lived up on the hill near the airport excitedly told my boss this story.

"Last night, my family heard a plane diving right over our house!" she grabbed Millie's arm, "We ran out the front door to get a better look and there was this airplane only about a hundred feet from our house!  We screamed our heads off and then suddenly, it just disappeared up in the clouds." 

She began to shriek.  "We were that close to being killed!"

Howard gaped at her while the frying breaded tenderloins sizzled.  Millie's brow wrinkled in disbelief.  The dishwasher stood staring, a plate held still in mid-air.

Tucking my order pad and pen into my apron pocket before heading out to wait tables I chimed in, "Her story is definitely true, because I am an eye witness.   I was on the inside that airplane!  Two families were saved last night!" 

As I think about that night, I want to pray again, "Lord, open my heart.  I need to be guided and filled with more of you, everyday."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

THE BEGINNING



Proverbs 8:33  "Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it."

I am sure you can think of narrow scrapes in your life.  Just like you, I have several that stand out.  The memory of many of these is so vivid it seems like they happened only yesterday.

For the past two months I have been laid up and on my back quite a bit during daylight hours.  I find this frustrating because it limits the amount of sitting time that I have to write.  The plan was for me to write this fall and winter, after our seasonal business closed in September.  Yet, on my last day of working in our shaved ice stand, I hurriedly did an inventory of our leftover supplies.  In my haste, I moved several heavy boxes so that I could have a complete list for the buyer, who was coming over the next day.  Yes believe me, haste makes waste.

Well, as you can imagine, this is how I hurt my lower back.  A couple days after the inventory, I found myself in terrible pain.  This particular "interruption" in my daily life seems to go on and on without mercy.  Finally, after nine weeks, I can appreciate this time on my back.  I know now that is a gift for reflection and revelation.  Come to think of it, the other intrusions in my life have been much the same.

I just have to finally trust and wait it out to see exactly what God is up to this time.  The realization is starting to dawn on me.  I am such a doer.  I go-go-go like a wind-up doll that does not know how to shut off the switch.  This summer I worked so hard to help my husband with our business and keeping up with all at home as well.  Then all the errands involved with a new school year to help my son, in eighth grade, get clothes and supplies.  Then, my youngest daughter is starting into college and I gave her advice along the way. Finally, during this hectic time in July and August, I had no energy or mind left for much else.

I asked for healing prayer for my lower back and I have seen my chiropractor so often that we have become fast friends.  Though there is some improvement, it is slow.

Dr. Bob gently pointed out one day that it might help if I slowed down a little.  I was not moderating any of my activity at home.  I would get an adjustment then go home and do laundry, clean the house, go out and trim the flower beds, drive 80 miles some days running back and forth for school events that my son was involved in.  He asked me to try to lay down last week and stay on my back as much as possible to give it a chance to stay in place.  Imagine that.

This seemed like a reasonable request, yet I didn't know how trying it would be for me to lay still.  I read quite a bit, but became bored and so I gave in to sleep.  Then I found that even though I had slept all day,  I was still ready for bed in the evening.  My body was tired, but my mind was the thing that truly needed rest.  I realized that God was trying to slow me down and getting me to a point where I was in a frame of mind to meditate and rest.

Fast and furious has always been the story of my life.  As a teacher, mother of six, taxi driver with several kids in sports, a wife, and part of the time a single mom, I stayed super busy.  I volunteer and am active in music, and writing.  It's no wonder my heavenly father has had to shake things up a bit every once in a while to get my attention.

Today I reflect upon God's ability to reach in through my circumstances or the interruptions in my daily routine to speak a special word to me.  I wanted to share a few of these turning points when God spoke into my life.  Sometimes he gave me a word of wisdom, at other times more courage to continue on.  At the end, I found myself filled with an uncanny joy or peace that would have been impossible to conjure up.  This peace I experience is his fingerprint of mercy and love.  For I am his child.  He guards me with a father's love.