Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Keeping His Vows

Friday at the doctor, when the appointment was all over but the bloodletting, I stood at the nurse's counter waiting for my prescriptions. I cracked a joke, and she laughed and said it was good to see me smiling. It's comforting to see the same nurse and receptionist at every appointment for nearly a decade. Safe. Known.

"Things are better than they were," I said. "Still not pain-free, but better. We're trying one more medication change. It would be really nice if that took me the rest of the way, but..." I shrugged. "Rest is good, too."

"Plus, God has blessed me with a husband who is committed to taking care of me, even when that means doing the things I can't."

She noticed the smile wobbling, looked into my eyes, and quietly said, "He's keeping his vows, Christina. That's what he's doing; he's keeping his vows."

Yes. Yes, he is. That's the kind of man he is, the kind of family which raised him.

It is humbling to receive such faithful love. I neither take it for granted nor deserve it. That's how grace is.

My closest friend from high school has a different chronic illness from mine. Years before I had even met Allen, I stood beside her at her wedding. The vows I witnessed, the "in sickness and in health," grew burdensome on her husband's shoulders. Now she carries the burden of earning a living in addition to that of her health problems. It is humbling to remember that Allen's faithfulness is a choice, a daily decision, and not always the easy one.

There is humility in the keeping of the vows, as well, in the placing of God's will before self, in the living sacrifice of "as You wish"--as the Lord wishes, first; as the beloved wishes, second. I recognize humility in the way Allen helps with the laundry, the errands, the dishes; the accepting extra weekend duties without complaint; the submission of his vocational dreams to my need for stability and health insurance; the relinquishing of vacations and peregrinations until I can go, too. He hasn't yet been required literally to wash my feet, yet he does so every day through his service to me.

He will shrug off these words, echo the nurse, "Just keeping my vows," but that "just" reminds me of Jesus.

Considering the practice of humility today with the community at Ann's...
P.S. You might like this post on the place of love in living your best life.

...and redemption with the community at Emily's...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Make Us Your Sunflowers, Lord

"Dear Jesus,
help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me
that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up, and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You;
none of it will be mine.
It will be You, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You in the way You love best,
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching,
not by words but by example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for You.
~Mother Teresa, from a note in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, p.391

Thank You, gracious Lord, for
~thwarting our attempts to find satisfaction or security anywhere but in You
~the grace amidst the dismal record of the kings of Judah and Israel
~Isaiah 12
~mysterious resurgence of interest in a January post, reminding me that "the wind blows where it [He] will" in the blogosphere
~you delightful readers!
~eating humble pie for breakfast
~gentle, if uncomfortable, reminder to trust the Giver, not the gift
~confession of sins
~forgiveness and grace
~spilling an entire Earl Grey latte on the floor of the car
~car wash next door to the corner coffee shop
~more grace
~themes of stillness and God's fullness for our emptiness weaving themselves through my reading this week
~2.5" needed rain
~Speed Racer bringing his whole family to the feeder (first time we've seen more than one at once)
~professional encouragement for a sister
~another medication adjustment, working toward better pain management
~lupus stabilized except for the costochondritis factor
~God's sovereignty over efficacy, side effects, and interactions
~pharmacy and medical staff who know me well
~morning with Mom going to lupus doc and back, her help pushing the grocery cart and loading/unloading purchases
~healthy, happy Ebony dog
~sharing book recommendations with the other sister
(from the gratitude journal #641-63)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Elegy for a Friend

for Steinway, 10/22/2009

Steinway Leone Moore (5/1/1993-6/22/2011)
Four months ago you left me.
The memories of the pain we lived,
Those last shadow-vale days,
Remain as fresh as this morning’s paper cut.

Your intoxicating, dream-sweet scent
Has all but faded
From last pillow
Left unwashed,
Unsoiled by death’s indignities.

How I longed,
In those months of fading light,
To distill your fragrant essence—
Favorite anodyne—
In a bottle
Against emptiness to come,

But the only elixir left me now
Is my own tears,
Distilled in Another’s bottle,
Against the Day they all
Are wiped away,
For what purpose
I know not yet,
But set my face
Toward trust.

Soon the only remnant
Of your tangibility,
Relics of sixteen-year
Habits of the heart,
Will be your small casket
Of ashes, fur clipped
From final bath,
A lost tooth,
Drawer of wee sweaters,
Cast-off toys,
All too likely, too, to fade—
Merciful agony—
Like your scent
On this last cushion.

If this finds you grieving today, the keen sharpness of fresh grief, in my experience, does dull in time. I do not promise it departs, but the intensity does soften a bit so one can move forward again. The second anniversary of Steinway's death was much better than the first, which was somewhat better than the four-month mark described in the poem above.

More importantly, the grief itself opens the way to know our Lord in a deeper way as the Holy Spirit Jesus promised in John 14-16 comes alongside us and the Father of mercies comforts our afflictions so that we in turn are better able to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1). Ultimately, comfort is not a thing or a feeling but a Person, the Lord God Himself indwelling His children. May this loving Lord make His comfort real in your experience as He has in mine.

Grief resources I have found helpful in various losses:
GriefShare e-mail service (free, no collateral spam)
Rain on Me book, by Holley Gerth (40-day devotional)
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
God in the Dark: Through Grief and Beyond, Fourth Edition by Luci Shaw

If you seem to be stuck in your grief and it is not getting better at all with time, please know there is no shame in seeking help from a guide equipped to provide it. In her book listed above, Holley Gerth recommends this site for information and referrals:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Dog Who Helped Me Become Real

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand" (The Skin Horse, from The Velveteen Rabbit).

The summer of 1993 marked the middle of the most difficult season of my life to that point. Two years prior, a difficult decision I believed to be right and obedient had proved even more costly than I had imagined. Some of the cost was inherent to the decision, but I no doubt increased it by my lack of skills, maturity, and courage to handle the ensuing conflicts.
I sought comfort for my grief and shame in food, sleep, Scripture, spiritual reading, and desperate prayer (sometimes in that order), even while trying to reassemble the shattered dreams with duct tape and ingenuity.

By that summer, I was almost out of duct tape and ideas, and I decided with my parents' support that the next step was to buy a dog. At the time I was living in my old room at their house, no longer enrolled in college, and working at temporary clerical jobs and babysitting, yet somehow it seemed perfectly reasonable to spend more than a week's wages on a purebred Lhasa Apso. A male one, to breed with my sister's dog, Muffin.

After weeks of scanning classified advertisements and making phone calls from the breakroom at lunch, just before July Fourth we found a good prospect in Oak Cliff, a good drive southwest of us. The one snag was that I already had a childcare commitment after work that night, there were only two males in the litter, and we had learned from experience that the males sold most quickly.

My kind and longsuffering parents agreed to drive out to the breeder's house with check in hand, examine the candidates, and act on my behalf.

The babysitting evening is a blur in my memory, as all I could think about was whether my parents were meeting and picking up my dog. When I arrived back home, the lights were still on and the kitchen was full of my parents, youngest sister, her dog, and a tiny brown ball of fur who fit in my two hands.

First meeting 
He nestled in my lap immediately, and I was so smitten I hardly even minded the flea bites. After much deliberation, I named him Steinway.

For sixteen years, he was my most constant creaturely companion. Friends came and went; my sisters moved into their own places and one married; I met and married Allen and exchanged my parents' roof for his; but Steinway loved me without reserve or qualification through it all. He had no job to take him away during the day or move him to another city, no competing interests except the squirrels on the lawn or the occasional Nylabone.

Story time, ca 2002
From him I learned the power of presence, the importance of "with." As I put aside the salvage attempts and sat among the shards, he let me cry into his fur and didn't even seem to mind. He curled up on the dining room chair next to mine, whether I was up at 4 am or midnight studying. When I left, he waited for me at the front window or atop the back of the sofa, from which perch he could see both entrances. When illness woke me in the night, he found me and kept me company, and I did the same for him. He was my Velcro dog, sticking by me through whatever came. Throughout his life he made visible to me in an almost sacramental way the invisible, constant, loving presence of Christ.

I did not always love him wisely, but I hope I loved him well. His companionship and puppy needs were a gift from God to turn my focus outward again, and God brought his affection to begin to heal my hurting heart and give me many years of joy before his departure broke it again. The memory of his fur and weight is still imprinted on my arms.

He helped me live through the brokenness, rubbed off some of my sharp edges, and taught me that Real is more beautiful than "carefully kept." For sixteen years we loved the fur off each other; because of Steinway I am that much closer to Real.

Steinway Leone Moore (May 1, 1993-June 22, 2009)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Delightful? Not So Much

Yesterday's post on a happy encounter with a young neighbor was already written and scheduled when we, along with the rest in the crowded pews, received the unexpected and rather traumatic news of the departure of a long-serving pastor.

Then I read Jonah's story from my daily portion yesterday and realized being swallowed by the big fish at the end of chapter 1 was the best thing that happened to Jonah that day. Normally, ending up in the belly of a fish would be bad news, yes? In Jonah's case, however, the fish rescued him from drowning (see his prayer in chapter 2) and provided a needed course correction, namely express delivery to God's chosen destination with none of those pesky weather delays or security lines.

Consequently, I'm pondering the dark side of delight, i.e., the other "D" word: discipline. (By "discipline" here, I do not mean punitive consequences for wrongdoing, but the more general parental training up of a child to maturity and in this case Christlikeness.)
Do not despise the LORD's instruction, my son,
and do not loathe His discipline;

for the LORD disciplines the one He loves,
just as a father, the son he delights in
(Proverbs 3:11-12, HCSB).
Like it or not (mostly not, to be honest), even the unpleasantness of life--the apparently unanswered prayers, the radical course corrections, the being allowed to face the consequences of our sin, the times God does in fact tell us to go weed the garden--equally signifies His love and delight in us. He only trains up and lays down the law, so to speak, for His own kids.

When those not-so-delightful seasons come, I can easily begin to view my Father as my enemy, to let the pain keep me from Him who could have prevented it. If I hold fast instead to His promise that even these "waves and billows" are marks of His love, that trust opens my hands and heart to begin to recognize His presence in the trials. He never forsakes His children; He has promised that (Deut. 31:6; Hebrews 13:5), but only trust has eyes to see the answer to the promise.

The currently popular song "Blessings" (from the album of the same name) puts that trust into words:
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
The story behind the song lends even more authority. Only two years after the songwriter's wedding, her husband was hospitalized with a brain tumor. That was in 2006, and five years later they are still working through the consequences of that cancer and its treatment. In her own words,
“The song shows that we still have more questions than answers,” Laura confesses. “But there’s a decision that I find God is asking us to make: whether we are going to choose to interpret our circumstances based on what we hold to be true about God, or whether we’re going to judge what we hold to be true about God based on our circumstances.”
In the book George Müller of Bristol And His Witness to a Prayer-Hearing God, A.T. Pierson comments not on trials generally but specifically on the suffering of earnest prayers which seem unanswered:
God's real answers to prayer are often seeming denials. Beneath the outward request He hears the voice of inward desire, and He responds to the mind of the Spirit rather than to the imperfect and perhaps mistaken words in which the yearning seeks expression. Moreover, His infinite wisdom sees that a larger blessing may be ours only by the withholding of the lesser good which we seek; and so all true prayer trusts Him to give His own answer, not in our way or time, or even to our own expressed desire, but rather to His own unutterable groaning within us which He can interpret better than we.
Dear Crumble, if you are in the belly of the fish, in a time of affliction and prayers that seem to fall on deaf ears, if perhaps you read yesterday's post and felt like it wasn't meant for you, I pray that this "strengthen[s] your tired hands and weakened knees" just a little bit. I'm truly sorry that you are not feeling delight in God's delight in you, but yesterday's words are no less true. If you are a child of God through Christ,
Your Father delights in you.
May He open your hands and heart, and mine also, to receive His delight by faith when we don't feel it in experience.

Sharing this today with Jen's community:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Revisiting "Delight"

One evening last week, Allen and I returned from a brief outing at the same time as our neighbor returned from work. We exchanged greetings and let him know we'd referred a family member to his business. Then he asked if we wanted to see his toddler, "Olivia," who was in the truck, too. Of course, we did.

We stepped across to their driveway while he lifted her out and set her down. As she found her balance, he said, "Livvy, do you want to say hi to Allen and Christina?"

She sized us up and then focused on me, down on one knee, and began trotting toward us. Given the slope of the driveway, she picked up speed along the way until finally throwing herself into my arms.

"What a good hug, Livvy. Did you have a good day at school today?"


"Actually, she went to her grandma's today," her dad amended.

I relaxed my arms, but she was still holding fast, so I relaxed into the moment instead, stroking her back and memorizing the vaguely fruity scent of her tousled curls. What's that feeling tugging at the corners of my mouth? Oh, yes, I remember. It's delight.

"What did you do at grandma's? Did you dance? I know what a good dancer you are."


"What else...did you take a nap for grandma?"

"Nap," she nodded.

"Did outside? Kind of hot for that, though."

"Pay outside."

"Are you really answering my questions, or are you parroting everything I say?"

"Pehting ehveeting you say." (Somebody give that girl a rim shot.)

She kept hugging my neck a few minutes longer, then sat on the drive and on my lap while her dad talked with us about the city's basketball celebration. After high fives all around, she decided to swing, and her dad decided it was time to go inside where her mother was waiting. The spell was broken.

This small person gave me the gift of a few minutes of concentrated, spontaneous affection, and with it came joy. I had no candy or presents to offer her; she was not, as far as I know, trying to escape an unpleasant chore; she wasn't even sad and seeking comfort. She simply wanted to give and receive love.

How did I respond? I didn't push her away, saying, "Livvy, this is not the time. Can't you see those weeds around the live oak? Get to work." Her affection pleased me to receive as much as it pleased her, evidently, to give.

In my mind's ear afterward, I heard the word of the Lord saying, "If you, then, being evil... how much more your Father in heaven...?"

Can it be that my heavenly Father, just like my earthly one, doesn't care as much about my lists of duties and reading and prayer requests and getting stuff done as I do? as He does my spending time with Him, in His Word, prayer, and worship, without an agenda, but just for the pleasure of each other's company? Can it be that the God of the universe even takes pleasure in my company? Can it be that the commands to learn and keep His Word and to pray are not only good for me in an eat-your-vegetables kind of way but as a means of being close to each other?

Apparently so:
The LORD your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will bring [you] quietness with His love.
He will delight in you with shouts of joy (Zeph. 3:17, HCSB).
He brought me out to a wide-open place; He rescued me because He delighted in me (Ps. 18:19, HCSB).
You will be a glorious crown in the LORD's hand,and a royal diadem in the palm of your God.You will no longer be called Deserted,and your land will not be called Desolate;instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her,and your land Married;for the LORD delights in you,and your land will be married (Isaiah 62:3-5, HCSB).
Jesus answered, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:23, HCSB). 
If you are a child of God through Christ, beloved, your Father delights in you; He delights in me. Let me say that again, in case you missed it the first time:

Your Father delights in you.

This week I personally need to revisit the practice of delight and celebration and reorient my practice of spiritual disciplines (which are primary means of experiencing His love and delight) around the starting principle that He loves me and wants me more than my agenda, even if it's an agenda I thought I'd received from Him.

May the Lord grant us grace this week to rest, even if only for minutes stolen from pressing responsibilities, in His loving embrace. May His delight in us strengthen and sustain all our obedience by adorning it with joy.

Thank You, Father, for
~Your delight and love for this first-class sinner
~sugar-and-spice hugs
~an optimistic report from the sinus doctor that a second surgery may not be needed
~one dawn making a grand entrance, complete with pink feather boa clouds

~lovely, affirming reader comments and mail
~learning from you all and the insights God gives you
~broken hearts with the courage to reach out
~the Lord's grace in blessing broken, fragmented lives offered to Him and in using that very brokenness to nourish others.
~a surprising encouragement that God is working through this blog
~a friend bringing her infant son to meet me and for us (the mom and me) to catch up
~yummy summer salads for lunch with Mom
~Mom bringing a load of groceries so I wouldn't be tempted to go myself
~two of the lowest pain days this week since this flare started
~some high pain mornings, too
~the little red rose blooming out a bit

~prayers not granted: "Did God sometimes not withhold in mercy what we ask, we should be ruined at our own request" (Hannah More, via
~husband's working weekends (see preceding item)
~grace to thank You for things when I can't see the blessing in them yet
~freedom to stay indoors
~in air conditioning in nearly a week of consecutive 100F days
~celebrating with my dad on Father's Day
~husband to lean on in unexpectedly difficult church service
(from the gratitude list, #527-548)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

If Father's Day Is Hard

Two of my closest friends have lost their fathers in recent years, and three other women immediately come to mind whose fathers have died in the last year. Many more, some I know and most I don't, have damaged or broken relationships with their earthly dads.

If for whatever reason this Father's Day is marked by more pain than celebration for you, our heavenly Father, the One who counts stars, hairs, fallen sparrows, and tears, knows your grief. May the Father of mercies comfort your sorrow with reminders of His love today.

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word" (2 Thess. 2:16-17. ESV).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Psalmist's Prayer

In honor of the Christian feast of Pentecost, which in 2011 was Sunday, June 12

Come, Spirit, come – in Thee I muse;
Illuminate my heart to choose
The words, the matter, rhythm, rhyme;
To draw men to Thy thoughts sublime.

Come, Spirit, come – O sacred flame,
Purge all that’s hostile to Thy Name,
The thorns and brambles, burn away;
Leave only roses for Thy Day.

Come, Spirit, come – O living stream,
Quench Thou my thirst till, like a dream,
Through desert heart a river flows
To water others as it goes.

Come, Spirit, come – Thou rushing wind,
Whose breath is life – Thy pure gust send
To vivify these dusty words
With the sharp strength of Thine own sword.

Come, Spirit, come – Thy holy song
Sound forth.  It is Thy tune I long
To sing to make Thy mercies known.
Minstrel and lay* – be all Thine own.

*tune, melody, or song

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When the Honeycomb Words Won't Stick

Last week a reader asked, "What do you do when you hear those [encouraging] words – but they go right through you as if they were never said – that would be my question – when you can't hear the positive what do you do?"

When a girl grows up with schoolmates calling her, "Dog," by which they mean ugly; "Bugs," as in the cartoon character, because of her severe overbite; "Brain," which in the strange world of elementary school is an insult, especially when targeted at a female...

When respected ballet teachers tell her she's not thin enough, straight enough, limber enough,...

When illness thins her hair, rounds her face, changes her husband's career path, keeps her from serving and loving her family in the way she's been accustomed...

Lies start digging trenches in her mind,*

Ruts so deep even kind words fall in.

The hairdresser calls her beautiful, and she thinks, "She's just saying that so she'll get a better tip."

Her husband tells her she looks pretty, and she thinks, "He knows how much time I spent on my makeup and hair and that I changed clothes six or seven times. He's afraid I'll be in a bad mood for our date."

Deep inside, those lies keep digging:

"Your appearance determines your worth."

"If you let them into your thoughts, they won't like you."

"You're not good enough."

"You don't measure up."

And do you know what? Those last two are true, but they are only part of the truth. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, HCSB). The very next sentence continues, "They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).




The sins and shortcomings that the father of lies says disqualify her actually are actually the prerequisites for God's grace (see Romans 5:6-8).

Every time the girl chooses to believe the truth instead of the lie, another shovelful of dirt is scooped out of a new rut and the old one fills in just a little bit more.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). One.

"You are loved with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). Two.

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14). Three.

One shovelful at a time, minds are transformed and renewed through Word and Spirit. 

*The rut image comes from Holley Gerth.

If the sweet, honeycomb words go right through us with no apparent effect, that could indicate we are believing lies that have become so ingrained in our thinking that they taint even true, kind, and beautiful words. From one struggler to another, here are some principles I am finding helpful:
  • Recognize the lies I'm believing. Vague feelings of accusation, rejection, and worthlessness are never from God. They are contrary to His character as revealed in Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ.

    The Holy Spirit does convict His people of sin, but He rebukes specifically, with a view to correction, repentance, and growth in Christlikeness. Angry, blanket condemnation of who we are is the devil's strategy. Other Christians, like the mentor who first told me this, can be of great help in this process
  • Reject those thoughts as the lies they are.
  • Replace them with God's truth and ruminate on it. Some Bibles have a topical index that can help in finding applicable verses for particular needs. Sites like have key word search options. Asking an older Christian is also a tremendous resource to help locate the truth opposite to the lies.

    This is one more benefit to practicing Scripture memory; every repetition of truth digs the new mental rut a little deeper and fills in the old one just a little more.

    It's also the reason I firmly believe that sticky notes and index cards are (can be) a means of grace: truth on the cabinet, truth on the mirror, truth in the handbag, truth on the fridge,... Shhh! Don't tell the decorating police! (That reminds me of another whopper, that I am a failure as a housewife because my space doesn't look like the magazine, the neighbors', the relative's, the television show, etc.)
  • Rely on the truth. At some point, when I have recognized the lies and located the opposite truths, I must choose which to believe and which to act upon.

    If I have been withdrawing from Christian community because of lies I have believed, I need to repent of that behavior as well as the false belief that prompted it.  The same goes for making faces and sarcastic quips to deflect compliments, but maybe I'm the only one here who does that.

    Again, Christian family and/or friends can support us in this process. When Allen catches me shrugging off his kind words, he sometimes calls me on it, gently but firmly: "I said, 'You look pretty.' Are you calling me a liar?" Without that kind of accountability, lasting change is even more difficult.
[There is a level of wounding and depression so deep that even the first step of recognition is impossible without help. If that describes you, I'm so very sorry and pray that the Lord who loves you would bring to you or lead you to the person best fitted to begin restoration in your life. Seeking help is not a sign of further weakness or failure.]
    Other helpful resources I'm aware of include the following:
    Happy digging, Crumbles!

    Post script: Some commenters have contributed additional insights and helpful resources. If it has not been your habit to follow the comments, I encourage you to take a moment longer to do so today.

    Considering how to walk in Christ who is Truth and whose Word is truth...

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011


    When even the wealth of books to read feels overwhelming,
    When the clutter threatens to take over the living room and overflows the closets,
    When the to-do list exceeds a single sticky note,
    When the creative juices boil over the sides of the days onto a hot burner and add one more thing and it all just seems too much,...

    In better moments, I remember Elisabeth Elliot's voice speaking into the mess that is me, saying simply,
    Do the next thing.
    And I remember that I don't have to have the whole week planned out, or even the whole day. I remember all the times I thought I knew the plan, and God laughed and tore it up and gave something better (maybe harder, but by faith I will say better).

    Taking a deep breath, I scan the list and ask my Master, "Okay, what's next?" I do that one thing, and ask again, and do the next thing, and ask again, and do the next next thing, and so forth until the next thing is bed and sleep.

    It doesn't all get done, but all He wants is done, and His grace is sufficient for the done and the undone alike. Besides, the Lord God doesn't desire my productivity as much as He desires me, my trust, and my abiding moment-by-moment in Him.

    Elisabeth's byword came to her by means of a poem which she would often read on her radio program, "Gateway to Joy." Often that one sentence is enough for me, but here is the complete poem for those who would like it.
    From an old English parsonage, down by the sea
    There came in the twilight a message to me;
    Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
    Hath, as it seems to me teaching from Heaven.
    And on through the hours the quiet words ring
    Like a low inspiration--

    Many a questioning, many a fear,
    Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
    Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
    Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
    Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
    Trust them with Jesus,

    Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
    Do it reliantly, casting all care;
    Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand
    Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
    Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
    Leave all resultings,

    Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
    (Working or suffering) be thy demeanor,
    In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
    The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
    Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,
    Then, as He beckons thee
    -author unknown

    Sharing for the first time today with the Soli Deo Gloria community. Thanks to Jen for hosting and to Brandee for introducing me to Jen!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Glimpses of Gratitude {June 13, 2011}

    For the beauty of the earth,
    For the glory of the skies,
    For the love which from our birth
    Over and around us lies,
    Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
    This our hymn of grateful praise.

    Today I'm raising my grateful hymn to the Lord of all for the following and more:
    ~lavender just beginning to bloom out

    ~blackberries from the bush to the faucet to the mouth
    ~giving and receiving prayers in comments
    ~answered prayer for a loved one
    ~happy tears
    ~lovely, encouraging encounter with a neighbor I hadn't seen in a while
    ~beautiful, delicate sunrise like waves of apricot light sweeping over a cloud archipelago
    ~A. taking a personal day today and using part of it to accompany me to the doctor at the university hospital downtown

     ~more roses in jam jars

    ~tomatoes getting sun
    ~wonderful, helpful information from the "Kick Out the Lies" Webinar offered by Holley Gerth and Denise Martin last week

    "Lift up your face to God and find delight in Him."
    ~honest stranger returning my dropped cash envelope to customer service

    ~celebrating the home team with family. Way to go, Mavs!

    from the gratitude list, #445-458

    Giving thanks to God in community today...

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    My Little Chickadee

    “Speed Racer,” I call him,
    His black helmet
    Striped with white,
    His body sleek and compact
    Like a sportscar.

    “Chi-chi-chi-chee!” he chortles
    As he skids in for a pit stop
    At the feeder.

    Faster than a photo finish,
    He zips off to the races again:
    No time to stop,
    No time to spare,
    Chasing that checkered flag.

    Cheeky bird can't even be still long enough to eat!

    Getting acquainted with the diverse and unique birds just on our small property has increased my appreciation of God's beautiful creation. If that's not a playdate with God, I'm not sure what is. :) Sharing this with Laura's community...

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    When the Giants Loom Large

    Today has been one of those embattled days with no fresh crises or tragedies but lots of harassments and temptations to fear. Do you know the type, when all the problems are nine feet tall and I'm just this scrawny shepherd with a pocketful of rocks?

    Reinforcing thoughts have arrived this afternoon, so I'm jotting them down lest I forget:

    • Any enemy who comes against me is my Father's enemy, too.
    • Oh, and did I mention that my Dad is the Lord of hosts, the God of the angelic armies?
    • The problems and enemies may be too big for me, but He is too big for them. My strength, wisdom, and adequacy are not the determining factors in this battle. (Thanks, Lisa!)
    • With His help, five smooth stones are four more than I need.
    • "The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Sam. 17:37, HCSB).  Remembering His grace and victory in the past gives me courage for the present.
    David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel's armies— you have defied Him. Today, the LORD will hand you over to me....  Then all the world will know that Israel has a God, and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the LORD saves, for the battle is the LORD's.  He will hand you over to us" (1 Sam. 17:45-47, HCSB).
    Yes, this is a second post in a single day, but perhaps someone out there needed it as much as I did?  Y'all are a blessing to me. Thank you for sharing your day with me.

    Hope of Glory

    God wanted to make known to those among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
    Colossians 1:27, HCSB

    Strengthen us by Your Spirit, Lord,
    To know the love of Christ;
    To trust Your faithful mercies,
    In the darkness and the light.

    Empower us with Your presence, Lord,
    To pray, “Your will, not mine;”
    To forgive when we are wounded;
    To find strength for every thorn.

    Dependent on Your grace, we come;
    Father, fill us with Your life.
    May Your Holy Spirit make us more like You.

    For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV1984).

    In response to Ann's invitation to contribute thoughts on a Christ-centered life, it seems good to begin by remembering that only a Christ-filled life, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, can be a Christ-centered life. For other contributions to the discussion, please click below:

    ...and keeping company with the folks at Emily's:

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Storm Cellars

    In this unusually severe tornado season, tales of storm cellars abound.

    One of A.'s colleagues was sheltering in hers while high winds blew the side off her barn. She lives farther north in our own county.

    A news story reported an entire neighborhood's 14 people and six pets finding refuge in the sole storm cellar on the block.

    Another story featured a company which constructs storm cellars and steel-reinforced safe rooms in homes.  In this region where basements are few and far between, the proprietors have more business than they can handle. Plus a waiting list.

    When I hear these things and the severe weather season is far from over, I am tempted to envy, to covet those secure hiding places for when the lightning cracks and wind howls in the middle of the night. I think to myself, "If we ever build a custom home, we should have one of those."

    "If we had a storm cellar, we would be safe from tornadoes."

    At times like these, I am grateful for the swift and sure correction that often comes from the passage the calendar tells me to read in God's Word.  Checking the chart, opening journal and Bible, I read this:
    The name of Yahweh is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected (Proverbs 18:10, HCSB).
    The HCSB Study Bible informs me that cities in the ancient Near East often included a tall tower like a fortress in the center of town. When enemies threatened, the whole town would throng to the tower and shut themselves inside. It was a storm shelter of sorts, for a different kind of storm.

    The study notes also remind me that "name" in ancient times denoted a person's whole character, his essential nature.

    So why would the name of Yahweh, Israel's covenant God (and the Christian's), why would His "name" provide safety from danger?

    To answer that, we need to know His name. He Himself proclaimed it before Moses after He gave the second set of tablets inscribed with the law:
    Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation" (Exodus 34:5-7, NIV).
    Compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin: if the mighty God, Creator of the ends of the earth, is also all of these things, surely He is a safe place for us.

    The last bit makes me squirm a little, but when I am the one under attack, when someone is guilty of sinning against me, God's promise to punish the guilty gives comfort. By the same token, when I'm the guilty party, as is more often the case, it cautions me to revere and respect God and flee back to Him to receive the grace and forgiveness He promises. It should also teach me to pray for those who sin against me, that they also would seek and find His grace and forgiveness.

    A dugout shelter or steel-reinforced room are not ultimately what will give me the safety I long for. The LORD God is my only real security, and He can keep me safe with or without those means. If He provides them one day, by all means I will thank Him and use them, but for now it is that revelation of His character which I will wrap around myself in the middle of the night.

    By the same token, if He wishes, He can allow the storms to strip me of everything but Jesus, and He can do that with or without a storm cellar close at hand.  May He protect you and me both, dear Crumble, from such a test, but if He asks it of us, even there He will be our strong tower. Only the certainty that He is compassionate and gracious, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving, altogether good, only that truth will be the refuge to keep us safe through the valley of shadow.

    Lord, I believe; help my unbelief, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

    Thank You, Father,
    ~that You are a strong tower available for our protection
    ~for Your name: merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin
    ~for storm cellars when You provide them
    ~for lightning and strong winds to drive us to Your throne of grace
    ~for a quiet Saturday morning to read Your Word
    ~for a husband who sacrifices sleep to walk the Ebony dog while I cannot
    ~for lovely readers who show God's love in their comments and notes
    ~for two encouraging interviews for an unemployed loved one
    ~for working appliances and air conditioner
    ~for veterinary help for Ebony's itchy skin (just allergies like the rest of Texas)
    ~for cheering the home team on together
    ~for laying burdens down
    ~for a lightened heart
    ~for finding out she and I were memorizing the same verses at the same time
    ~for good reads on my Kindle
    ~for turning on the radio and hearing song after song speaking directly to my heart
    ~our excellent (award-winning!) local Christian radio station
    ~a lovely just-because card from a dear friend
    (from the gratitude list #375-392)

    Celebrating God's goodness with the community at Ann's:

    ...and sharing one of my playdates with God with the friends at Laura's beautiful spot:

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Honeycomb Words

    An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up (Proverbs 12:25, NIV1984).

    Earlier this spring, I was feeling hungry:  hungry for approval. This is not so unusual for me, and the temptation actively to seek validation from others is one of the concerns I had about blogging. It's tantalizing but ultimately empty to chase page view numbers, comments, and the like.

    On this particular day, however, that was not the focus. I was hungry for positive feedback from Important People, authority figures. Ebony and I are alike that way: highly motivated by yummy treats praise. Not being a student who would receive that from teachers or a professional who would (ideally) receive it from a manager or boss, I wanted it from doctors, who these days are the most numerous and frequently encountered authority figures in my life.

    (Some might protest that doctors are service providers and I am the customer, but for a recovering people pleaser like me, that is not how it feels.)

    In my journal and prayer time, God and I had a chat about this, or rather I talked and He listened. "I am working so hard at taking and keeping track of my medicines, adding and subtracting activities, making more appointments with more specialists when they say to, maintaining precise records of symptoms, medicines, and activities to provide them the data they need to help me... I'm worn out trying to get well. But it seems like the harder I try, the more new issues keep popping up.  The medicines aren't making as big or as fast a difference as the doctors expect, and when that happens it feels like I'm the one who's the failure and not the medicines or the treatment approach. I just want one of them to notice how hard I'm working at getting better and to tell me I'm doing a good job at being a patient. That's all.  I just want to hear from them that I'm doing this right."

    Silence. I thought I heard a cricket chirp nearby.

    So I did what any God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian in her third decade of walking with Christ would do. I went to my husband and repeated the whole pathetic litany to him.

    Smile, nod, "Sweetie, God is in control of the results." Granted, he was on his way to the garage for something from his toolbox, and he was right, but that was still not the reaction I was hoping for.

    Two weeks passed, and the urgency of the craving for Approval from Important People faded somewhat in the wee distractions of a bigger health crisis for a family member and an upcoming dental surgery.

    A few days before the procedure, I met with my asthma doctor for a routine (as much as anything is with me) check. This wise doctor treats me with kindness, gentleness, respect, and personal attention as though I'm the only patient he will see that day. Although he is retirement age or fast approaching it, he continues to practice medicine and study the journals to improve his craft. He is a gifted physician skilled in the art as well as the science of medicine.

    At this visit, he talked with me about any changes in my overall health picture and offered some suggestions for adapting my breathing and activities to decrease costochondritis pain. After supplying me with prescriptions and samples, he turned to leave and then turned back toward me.

    "You know," he said, "I think this every time you come in here, but I'm not sure if I've ever actually said it to you. You are the kind of patient that reminds me why I keep doing this. You're caring, you're smart, and you...not everything is something we can make better, want to be better. Patients like you are the reason we--doctors, nurses--do what we do."

    He paused a moment, nodded for emphasis, turned again, and left the room.

    Gathering my belongings and composure, I swallowed hard, blinked back tears, and followed suit, both happy and deeply moved. After a stop at the front desk to pay and schedule the next appointment, I went to the car and sat in stunned silence a moment before turning toward home. A girl can live a long time on words like that.

    God had seen. He had heard. He answered through this good physician in His due time. Through the words of my doctor, He let me know, "I have called you by your name; you are Mine."

    Since then, when a positive observation or insight into someone around me has crossed my mind or path, I am seeking to follow my doctor's example by not only thinking it but saying or writing it to the person before life rushes on. We can never know this side of heaven whom around us might be starving for just such a sweet, healing word, but that is one case in which I believe from experience it is better to speak than to remain silent.

    Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24, NIV1984).

    Just wondering: What about you? Has anyone given you "honeycomb words" recently that you'd like to share? If not, is that something I could pray for you?

    Joining Bonnie's Faith Jam today...