Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Clarity

It’s winter in Chicago, which doesn’t have the same connotations as, let’s say, winter in Yellowstone - a pristine snowy whiteness covering everything…no, it’s winter in Chicago which doesn't mean that things aren't covered, they are; the cars, the roads , the sidewalks and the signs, but they're not covered in snow, they're covered in a layer of salt.

Every car is the same grayish color as the car next to it with slight undertones of the color the car actually is, peeping through the salt.

For whatever reason, there is never windshield wiper fluid in the cars that I drive. I get this thin film of kicked up salt and gunk that dries on there and when the sun shines it’s even harder to see where you are going.

So, there are those times, that I finally stop at a gas station and clean off my windshield and I am always amazed at how bad it was once it’s clean.

Before it was bothersome but it wasn’t that bad, until I get it back to the way it’s supposed to be and then I realize how bad it really was.

It’s the same way in my life. Things are okay, they’re not bad; my attitudes and my actions and my responses. There's just that gunk that builds up from daily travel down the roads of life. But then I find that I'm having trouble seeing my way as clearly.

So finally I'll stop and be "washed by the cleansing of God's word" (Ephesians 5:26) and all of a sudden things are a lot clearer. I remember the way they should be.

So, as I will now endeavor to keep the windshield clean so that I can see my way, I will also be more conscious to take the time to stop and wipe away that which builds up day by day on my heart.

For Those Who Serve

I read a statistic that said the average person spends 16 months of their life in the bathroom.

I want to know how long one spends in the kitchen!

It must be measured in decades!

I am always in the kitchen, either stocking it, or preparing a meal, than cleaning up from that meal, than cooking again, cleaning, stocking, cooking. . .

Why is it that the sink always has dishes in it? Always! I go to bed at night and everything (sometimes) is bright and shiny and little gremlins come in and by the time everyone is off to school in the morning the kitchen looks like a war zone of breakfast bowls and juice boxes, trash pulled out of the lunch bags that was left from yesterday (are there no garbage cans at school?) and knives with smears of butter and jelly and peanut butter. It’s incredible how much food stuff goes on in the first hour of a school day. It’s intense.

For as much time I spend in preparing food for others, I spend little of that eating. While I will chop and grate and mix and sauté for you I tend to grab a bite for myself because I’m too busy cooking to stop and enjoy the food myself.

I found that true this morning with my Bible and journal. The feel of my Bible was not unfamiliar in the days that have passed but as I opened my prayer journal I realized it had been a while that I’d read the Bible for myself.

I’d been in God’s Word but much the same way I was in the kitchen this morning, preparing food for others, making it recognizable and palatable for a variety of appetites and tastes.

In a power point presentation to be visually inspiring,

in a discussion forum so as to introduce both seekers and young believers to the everyday relevance of the Scriptures,

through a children’s story to share the glory of an Everlasting God with those who do not even have the ability to reason abstractly.

I’ve made beautiful meals for everyone else yet I nibble on a verse here or there.

For us who serve, we must remember to also eat.

For we well know that if we do not eat, if we do not feed ourselves, we will soon find we will not have the strength to continue to prepare the Bread of Life for those who are hungry.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Startling Reflections

I do not like mirrors.

I hate mirrors.

Okay, not the mirror per sea, but what I see in the mirror. Does anyone ever look into a mirror and say “Wow!” well, anyone beside the Fonz?

Worse than what I see when I purposely look into a mirror is the revelation I get when I’m suddenly looking at a reflection that I didn’t seek out. The sudden illumination you get walking past store windows that reveal those jeans don’t look as great on you as you thought and that hairstyle really isn’t working.

I had a mirror thrust in front of my heart today in the form of a winter storm warning. The news came that a church a hundred miles to the north had cancelled its services because of the blizzard that was heading my direction.

Maybe our church would be cancelled too – wouldn’t that be great?!

Hello – what was that I just saw?

In the body of a faithful Christian and church attendee, Sunday school teacher and choir member was a heart that was hopeful that the snow would shut down the services and she’d have a “day off"...?

Is there an inconsistency here between the public and the private? The duty and the desire? Is this the heart that serves because it loves God?

So, I guess, as I would get out a brush after viewing my morning “fresh out of bed” reflection that now as I’ve glimpsed my heart, I know there is some work that needs to be done.

Monday, February 19, 2007

An Appointment

9:05 a.m: “I’d like to make an appointment.”

“Let me take your number, and we’ll call you back.”

By the end of the day, no phone call came to schedule the appointment, and I could only imagine how long it would be until the actual meeting.

A lesson to be learned well and early is this: If you want to have an appointment by September, you’d better call and schedule it in July.
My education came with my first call to the OB-Gyn. “I’d like to schedule a prenatal exam. I just found out I’m pregnant!”

“Is there any particular day that you’d like to see the doctor?”

“As soon as possible. I’m available at any time.” (Of course, I was available any time of any day; nothing would stand between me and the health of my baby.)

“Okay, let’s see . . . the earliest available appointment would be at 2 p.m., three weeks from Thursday.”

Three weeks from Thursday! How could they put me off for that long? I was pregnant. This was my first baby! Terrible things could happen in three weeks—didn’t they understand how important this was to me?

Routine appointment?—A couple of months.

Impacted tooth? Rising Fever? Wheezing Cough?—A couple of days.

Emergency services necessary?—Even then, a couple of hours.

Seldom does it seem that what is important to me is urgent to anyone else. The lack of availability to meet my needs reminds me again that I am one of
hundreds
thousands
millions
billions.

What about trying to make an appointment with a specialist or a person of great influence? How long of a wait would that be?

Are you seeking an audience with a boss, the CEO, or the President of the United States? If (and that is a very big IF) they will see you, it will be on their terms, whenever that would be.

I actually attempted to make two appointments today. I guess when the office opens tomorrow I’ll attempt to set up this first appointment again, and again wait for them to return my call.

For the second, I was ushered in immediately.

No hassle,

no waiting,

no other visitors but me.

I had an audience with the most powerful, knowledgeable, and influential Person in the universe.

When you pray, I will listen.
If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.
I will be found of you, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:12-14)


There is no greater physician or counselor. He is a specialist in all matters, and He had a wide-open space in His appointment book and was just waiting for my call.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Seeing Eye Friend

If you are blind, you need a Seeing Eye dog.

If you are breathing, you need a Seeing Eye friend: a friend who sees clearly where you are blind and one whom you trust enough to follow their lead.

I have many such friends, hopefully one for every blind spot I have and ones who not only make up for my deficiencies but who can see clearly what I can’t.

I’m in the forest; all I’m seeing are the trees.

I have one such friend, so if any of these words ever resonate with you, she is the reason they have been published for your eyes.

She’s my favorite “poofreader” and one of many with whom I’ve shared my writings.
I've chosen each person who has ever seen what I've written, selecting only those who know me and would be an understanding and safe place to share my thoughts: my friend had another idea. One day she presented me with a book that was a compilation of the writings I’d been sending her. Today she emailed me with the announcement that she’d set up a blog for my words because, as she says, “you should be read and proud of what you've written!"

I don’t see it.

She does.

I’m going to trust her judgment, for she is my Seeing Eye friend.

Never Alone

I was at a Thursday night rehearsal for some music we’d be doing in church in a couple weeks. This particular piece was beyond my usual frame of reference, a recitative from the Elijah.

Now, I’ve been singing my whole life it seems. I remember it driving my parents nuts from the backseat on long car trips. But this genre was going to be a stretch for me, both musically and vocally.

So I practiced. I got the CD and sang along with it for a week. I even loaded it on “repeat” in my MP3 player and worked around the house with the music next to me as I folded laundry. I listened and sang with it so often that one day as I was doing the dishes I found I had most of it memorized, so I felt ready.

But … when the rehearsal began, and I was to sing all by myself with an organ instead of the recorded orchestra, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t find the entrances or the pitches or the rhythm.

And worst of all, it seemed the more I tried to focus and count, the more lost I became;
so, not only was I embarrassed, I was disappointed.
I really had thought I could do this.

I couldn’t not do this. We were all there and this song had to be performed. The organist tried talking me through the rhythms. I was trying, but it was like something on the tip of your tongue–you know it’s there, but you can’t quite get it …

I started the song again and as I did the baritone beside me started to count, “123456, 123456 …” quietly keeping the rhythm under me: steady, foundational. And soon I found I was singing. As I “got it” he would get quieter, and when something tricky would come he’d be just a little louder, and when I was well on my way he dropped out all together.

That support changed everything: both my ability and my confidence in my ability.

So often we get into situations we think we can handle and find that we can’t. Or, there are times that something is thrust on us that we have had no preparation for, and we flounder. In either case, how invaluable is the support of a friend–not someone who stands aside and gives advice, but someone who comes along beside and says by their words or their actions, “You can do this. I know you can handle this. I’m here to help in whatever way you need me. I will be a steady place for you when everything else is tumultuous.”

In this experience my thoughts also turned to how sure a foundation we have in the faithfulness of God, this God who has said to us that His mercies are new each morning. That He will be our rock and fortress, a place of safety in time of trouble, a light and the lifter up of our heads. He has lifted us out of a pit of despair and set our feet on solid ground and steadies us as we walk along. (Psalms 40:2)

We are always in the presence of God.
Always.
We can never not be in God’s presence.
Every moment He knows where we are. (Psalms 139)
He has promised that He will never leave us, or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
He is always beside us.

So what?

So, know this, deep within your heart, when you’re in a situation you think you can handle, or one that has you in totally over your head, that you are never alone.
Never lost.
Never abandoned.
Never without hope or help.

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.” Psalms 16:8

Of Golden Leaves and Scattered Influence


I was thinking this glorious morning with the bright blue sky how we are like the tall oak trees I’m watching in my backyard- with branches lifted towards heaven and roots that have reached down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love: we are strong and established and are constantly nourished from deep inside ourselves. Now the winds of the Spirit and opportunity loosen and blow from us pieces of ourselves that scatter to cover many places, beyond the reach of where we are planted.

We send out our words and prayers and actions into the world, to make contact with others, to cover pain with love, hurt with compassion, offenses with forgiveness, to bring kindness into the routine, color and brightness into lives and our influence is blown far beyond our own little space in the world.

Hundreds of leaves are being blown off the trees
yet they are still filled with thousands more,
so much of ourselves there is to give. . .

Friday, February 16, 2007

Paper Cuts and Little Things

My Bible got coconut creamed today.

Just like anyone actively involved on a Sunday morning, I had been carrying a bag full of stuff: Bible, Sunday school lesson, speakers for the MP3 player, two flavored coffee creamers, assorted pens and pencils.

So somewhere along the way the coconut creamer met the pages of my Bible and my Bible got creamed! Augh!

Oh, that feeling, that sinking, shoulder slumping, disappointed feeling: where you just look and sigh.

And then the action to fix it, grabbing the paper towels and mopping up the sticky creaminess, separating all the pages and drying them off and as you're cleaning it up, at the same time realizing the extent of the damage.

Now this is not a big deal.
--To the rest of the world.

But it was my BIBLE.

MY Bible.

The one I use all the time.

It's not that there aren't a half-dozen other Bibles around the house, it's that it's my Bible, the one with all the notes in it, the one with all the verses underlined that have jumped right off the page and into my heart, the one that feels so familiar as I pick it up in the morning and sit down in my corner big blue chair wondering what I will find in it's pages today.

Again, this is a small thing. In a world filled with war and famine and conflict this is nothing. Even within my own circle of friends and their concerns, it's hardly worth mentioning in a passing conversation, but it affected me.

Our lives are filled with such things, aren't they? The little things that hurt--like a paper cut. You'd never need a bandage for that, but it feels like you do, it hurts a lot more than you want to give it credit for.

So where do we go with the paper cuts of our lives, with the creamed Bibles and the little disappointments that are like a slow leak out of the balloon of our happiness and contentment?

Take them to Jesus. To the same one to whom we take those big awful things in our lives, we can come with the small things that saddened only us. We come to the one who cares about us so much that He knows the number of hairs on our head. So for our little hurts--there's understanding there for them.


If someone loves you, really really loves you, they care about everything that concerns you.


I have loved you with an everlasting love.
I have called you by your name.
You are mine.