Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Psalmist's Prayer

Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11, HCSB

Do you see the dove descending? Its beak is in the bottom right corner.

One reason I procrastinated ever creating a blog was the fear that it would just be a place of self-promotion, and that concern continues to flare up every now and again now in the midst of blogging. Pride and the desire for one's own glory and the approval of people are seductive and insidious temptations, able to taint even our best deeds. That recognition and the desire that this would be a place where God, not self, is glorified and where His church is edified move me almost daily to pray Ann Voskamp's prayer for upside-down blogging.

Last week after a sermon about James and John putting dibs on places of honor in Jesus' coming kingdom, I wondered again if that prayer and intention are enough or if seeking glory for oneself is inherent to the blogging (or even writing?) process. Is this still what I'm supposed to be doing? Is this still the right, best, most legitimate exercise of the writing gifts God's people affirm He has given?

It is frightening and humbling to put words and thoughts out there for the world to see. It is frightening because some of them will be wrong, and what was my private error of judgment risks influencing others along the same path, once it is shared on the screen. It is humbling because only God's Spirit gifting and guiding me in the writing and attracting and guiding you all in the reading can ever possibly effect the mysterious alchemy that occurs when the right word meets the right soul at the right moment. No matter how skillful or beautiful the writing, unless the fire of God falls on the offering, it's just so many words. Only His words always accomplish their intended purpose.

That same truth, however, gives me courage. No matter how clumsy or awkward the writing, if the Holy Spirit transforms it, it will be beautiful and glorious in God's sight. Every time I click "Publish," it is an act of faith.

Long before I even knew what a blog was, these thoughts and concerns about the writing process and writing ministry specifically shaped a prayer poem, my own upside-down blogging prayer, I suppose. In gratitude to and for the Holy Spirit whom we celebrate at Pentecost (just days ago on May 27, this year), in hope that He really can play His tune on this rinky-dink, five-note nursery piano, here it is.

Come, Spirit, come – in Thee I muse;
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.

In the comments: if you write, blog, or otherwise serve in artistic or creative ways, do you wrestle with these concerns? I'd love to learn from your thoughts.

Monday, May 28, 2012

When Your Feathers Are Ruffled

Not Maybelle's best look. I think she was actually upset with me for opening the curtain while she was eating lunch.
When your feathers are ruffled by difficulty, busyness, and changes, my friends, may you find refuge beneath the wings of the Lord of hosts. His feathers are never ruffled. He is not biting His nails in concern over how this situation will turn out. He has your life in His capable hands.

May we find grace to believe that, to remember all He has done in the past, and to find rest in His love, which He demonstrated beyond shadow of doubt in His Son's sacrifice for us when we were yet enemies. It's in the name of that one and only Son Jesus that we can present this and all other prayers with full confidence the Father hears and will answer for our good and His glory. Amen.

If your feathers are a bit ruffled today, dear crumble, you might find encouragement in Beth Moore's words in this post at the Living Proof blog and in this other prayer by Pastor Scotty Smith for casting anxieties on the Lord.

Last week was so full of good (and a bit of ruffled feathers, too). Where do I begin to give thanks to the Lord?
a date with the duck family and the summer wildflowers;

 string beans, blackberries, and tomatoes from Allen's garden;

Asiatic lilies blooming out, one by one

Ebony helping me with my knee exercises;

Allen taking time off to take me to a lupus second opinion appointment Wednesday;
butterflies on the nurse's scrubs;
revisiting 12 years of medical history (a bit of hard eucharisteo);
a doctor listening with compassion;
a medication change to try;
a skillful and kind phlebotomist who managed to take 9 vials without a hitch;
waiting for test results;
text message conversations with distant friends, love over the wireless networks;
ability to replace our geriatric dishwasher;
a husband working hard to mulch all the garden beds on his long weekend;
watching fireflies blink outside the window at night;
fun, impromptu supper from grill and garden with parents and sister;
watching TED talks together and laughing hard;
singing hymns on Sunday morning;
keeping company with Moses, Isaiah, and John in the mornings;
learning from Andrew Murray's wisdom about prayer;
celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit with Christians around the world this Pentecost Sunday
(from the gratitude journal, selected from 6044-6117)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wayside Pulpit {A Poem}

~an edited repost from the archives, a lesson I still need all too often to learn~

I went looking for grace—
    At a dot-com storefront
    (Books or yarn, today?);
    In a dressing-room mirror,
    Sighing over silk more pleasing on the rack;
    In red-gingham pastry paper
    From a neighborhood bakery;
    In romantic comedy,
    Players trying too hard to delight my discontent.

Grace fled in all these pursuits;
Or was it I myself fleeing grace,
Knowing without knowing, deeper,
Its wild autonomy,
Selecting as it wills,
To lavish or lament?

This savage grace apprehended me
With gentleness;
Penetrated windowless chamber, deadbolts,
Surprising me in duty’s dictated path—
    Blush-pink arms, laden with blossoms,
    Reaching heavenward from creekside litter,
    Lifting gratitude for spring;

       Sunset-pink roses aflame, aglow
       Against charred shell of home,
       A fiercer burning mere days past;

    Chalk-scrawled command,
    In after-dinner-mint pastels on pavement.

I found grace,
Insistent on tenacity of hope.

Monday, May 21, 2012


One afternoon last week, I took a field trip to the nearest shopping mall and paid good money for the opportunity to have poisonous insects crawl on me so I could take their portraits. Now before you go sending Allen concerned emails about my medication levels, let me clarify that they were a very particular sort of insects, specifically Dannaus plexippus, the monarch butterfly. (They're only poisonous if eaten.)

We in north Texas have the pleasure of hosting and watching the monarch population from the northeastern United States during both their fall migration to and their spring migration from their wintering grounds in Mexico. My nature-loving husband has intentionally filled our backyard with plants they find attractive or appetizing. (Thanks, Mom and Dad Moore.)

Last year I heard about an even better opportunity to see them, namely a festival sponsored by our Kiwanis Club. It's indoors in a mesh pavilion at least as big as our living room and lined with flowers butterflies like. Visitors receive a cotton swab soaked in a fruity sports drink to attract the desired attention and walk around gazing and snapping photos to their hearts' content. Last year I was not up to going, but this time determination and curiosity got the better of me.

The butterflies flocked in greatest numbers to the young children. Some little ones wore as many as 10 monarchs about their person at a time! These butterflies were not at all skittish of people. Some even settled on me for a bit. They may not be the latest must-have accessories, but I wasn't complaining.

This one rode around on my shirt for a quarter of an hour.

In addition to the simple joy of communing with these lovely creatures God saw fit to make beautiful as well as useful, the organizers also posted several educational posters about the habits and life cycle of the butterflies. Their lives are actually quite brief, which saddened me; an annual migration may encompass as many as six generations of butterflies.

One finally found my cotton swab. See the hairs on his back? The dark nodules on the rear wings near the body, as I understand, indicate this one is a male.

This was the only pipevine swallowtail I observed, and there were a smattering of moths in addition to the monarchs.

It was amazing to be close enough to see their faces and how the bodies are spotted like the wings.

Checking the time

The shadow is so birdlike here.
Butterflies have taken over our home while we were unaware. My thirty-ninth birthday was inadvertently the year of the butterfly. My mother gave me a Tervis tumbler marked with a purple butterfly and my sister gave me butterfly stationery as a gift. Then we realized that a birthday banner a friend had sent was also emblazoned with butterflies. Over the next few days at home, we found more and more of them about, on the window, on the table, in the china hutch, and we realized that butterflies had become "my thing."

Christian Easter symbolism often incorporates a butterfly as a symbol of hope and resurrection. Butterflies remind us that sometimes the darkness is not death but a drawn curtain setting the stage for a most glorious transformation. Like living icons, they illustrate the gospel truth that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17).  A purple butterfly also happens to be the symbol for lupus in the way a pink ribbon is the symbol for breast cancer. (One distinctive symptom of systemic lupus is a rash across the cheeks called a malar or butterfly rash.) It is fitting, I suppose, that butterflies have overrun us, reminding us that even in chronic illness there is hope of new life.

On that afternoon last week, I didn't mind being overrun one bit.

Thank You, Lord,
for all the glorious creatures You have made for our delight as well as survival,
for senses to appreciate Your handiwork,
for awakening me to its source in You,
for voices and images from the past, unearthed in the process of daily duty,
for reading my late grandparents' love for me in paper and ink,
for a chance to shed accumulated belongings and meet needs in the process,
for a weekday lunch with my love,
for strength to visit the butterflies this year,
for the frozen yogurt stand next door to the festival,
for a surprise package of tea and more butterflies from a friend,
for my parents' safe return from their vacation,
for Allen's enjoyment of his two-wheeled commute days,
for his protection when he lost a pedal,
for a family vehicle with enough cargo space for the ailing bike,
for gifts from the Carolinas saying, "We missed you,"
for two insurance snafus unsnarling at the end of the week,
for the helpful prayers of friends,
for freedom to give as well as receive,
for a long phone visit with a friend who has been entrusted with deep sufferings,
for laughter together over a movie and dinner,
for a good story, entrance to another world, another life,
for hands (and paws) held,
for the birds' enjoyment of the second feeder set up for them,
for honest, challenging sermon words about ambition's poisonous effects on souls and discipleship.
(still counting gifts, these #6008-6031)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

New Set of Wheels

It's not obvious in the photos, but he was only slightly less excited than my 5 year-old nephews receiving their first bikes earlier in the year.

What is going on here? Is that food?
The new job brings the possibility that Allen can commute on two wheels instead of four when he wishes. We share a single car, so this helps with logistics of errands and appointments as well as affording my love the outdoor time and activity he craves. Besides, cycling is good stewardship of health and the natural resources God has provided. Our town has a good system of jogging/biking trails and has recently worked at establishing bicycle routes on lower-traffic streets.

Decisive action is one thing I admire about my husband. I mentioned once that perhaps the new job might be close enough to bike to work, and he started mapping and researching. By the end of the week, he had brought home his new wheels. Two days later, he was riding off into the morning, whereas I would still have been turning over the idea in my mind, trying it on to see how it fit, what the negatives would be, whether they were worth it. And I would likely have missed out on the adventure.

Nope. Not food.

Aren't you done yet?

So far Allen has pedaled his way through three and a half commutes. Unhappily, a pedal broke halfway to work on the fourth day. He soldiered on the rest of the way but called for backup to get himself and the bike back home.

We have a replacement pedal in hand now, or rather in foot, so Allen is back in business for the week ahead. (The bicycle still remains nameless, but we're working on that. "Avalon" of course brings thoughts of Arthur, Merlin, and Camelot, but that's as far as I've gotten. Gwen, maybe? Are bicycles feminine like ships, do you think?)

It feels like it's been a quiet week on the blog but a fairly busy one otherwise. These photos have waited patiently to be shared to give you a peek into what's happening at Wits' End. You are not forgotten, dear crumbles; my limited concentration has simply been demanded elsewhere of late. You are nonetheless in my thoughts and prayers.

"May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:2)!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Content as a Weaned Child

In our worship service Sunday, we read Psalm 131 together:

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty; 
I do not concern myself with great matters 
or things too wonderful for me. 
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; 
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

For the ancient Israelite, this Psalm may have brought memories of pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the national feasts three times a year. The Hebrews would have sung this song, along with the other Psalms of Ascent, on their climb up to Jerusalem.

For me, though, whenever I hear or read that Psalm, three memories inevitably arise: Allen quoting it, his favorite Psalm at the time, after missions prayer one Thursday during our courtship or engagement; the behavior of Princess C., the girl I cared for during most of her first year while her mom worked outside the home; and an Amy Carmichael poem which I think I quoted in response to Allen's psalm recitation.

Here is that poem, entitled "Even as a Weaned Child":

And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my Father,
   Until it be according unto mine?
But no, Lord, no, that never shall be; rather,
   I pray Thee, blend my human will with Thine.

I pray Thee, hush the hurrying, eager longing;
   I pray Thee, soothe the pangs of keen desire;
See in my quiet places wishes thronging;
   Forbid them, Lord; purge, though it be with fire.

And work in me to will and do Thy pleasure;
   Let all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry, content my Well-beloved's leisure--
   At last, at last, even as a weaned child.

God gave many gifts last week in addition to the opportunity to celebrate the mother He gave, so I would be remiss not to share more thanksgivings with you.

For the surprise visit and cupcake from my sister Mezzo, thank You, Lord.
For the opportunity to record a practice accompaniment track for one of her voice students, thank You, Lord.
For leading me quickly to a metronome app for my Fire when my actual metronome broke, I thank You, Lord.
For Allen's two-wheeled commute three times now, thank You, Lord.
For my Nonni's voice on the phone, thank You, Lord.
For laughter about my leaving a message about our Easter lilies while she was outside photographing hers, thank You, Lord.
For a new morning quiet time arrangement that allows Ebony a bed next to my chair in the kitchen so we're both happier, thank You, Lord.
For uncomfortable conversations, thank You, Lord.
For time to adjust to one more big change, thank You, Lord.
For dinner for two from Central Market, thank You, Lord.
For text messages from vacationing loved ones, thank You, Lord.
For the surprise of half an hour with my youngest sister Supermom and her three boys, thank You, Lord.
For my cleaning helper, thank You, Lord.
For beautiful encouragement on a friend's blog, thank You, Lord.
For answered prayers for youngest nephew's fever to break, thank You, Lord.
For the way You hit it out of the park with the redemption stories You write, thank You, Lord.
For a pharmacist going the extra mile to solve the puzzle of a coupon not working, thank You, Lord.
For an acquaintance at church remembering my name and prayer need weeks after our one prior meeting, thank You, Lord.
For more than two thousand mothers thanked in the 1000 Moms Project, thank You, Lord.
For another cupcake Sunday with tea, thank You, Lord.
For Your gentle prodding to see and forsake idols, especially the approval of man, thank You, Lord.
from the gratitude journal last week, 5862-5941

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dear Mom {1,000 Moms Project}

Dear Mom,

It is strange not to celebrate with you this Mother's Day, but I'm glad you and Daddy have this opportunity to travel and explore a new part of our nation.

The author Ann Voskamp has unveiled an initiative this year called The 1,000 Moms Project. Her family is offering an opportunity for readers to thank their mothers publicly on Facebook or their blogs. For every reader who participates, they will make a donation to a needy mother and child in Haiti; if 1,000 mothers are thanked, the Voskamps will fund an entire Child Survival Center for a year. You have never been able to refuse help to someone in need, so this project will make you smile that big smile, I know.

The thing is, I've been procrastinating all week, undecided about what to write. "The greatest gift or the biggest sacrifice," the description said. How to choose from a life full of gifts and sacrifices? Nothing I could write seemed good enough.  Now tomorrow's Mother's Day, and there's a letter to write, so I'll just talk things out like I used to brainstorm research papers for school while you prepared supper.

Thanks, Mom. Thank you for all the time you poured into listening to those ideas and pretending to be interested in the topic du jour. You also proofread more than one draft of those same papers, as I recall. Thank you for talking through your own lessons learned when you started going to Bible Study Fellowship; that was really my first exposure to the idea of reading the Scriptures outside of church and Sunday school.

Thanks for the thousands of miles and hundreds of hours you drove to ballet studios and piano lessons and for your commitment to get me the best training you could find because you believed, whether I did or not, that God had given talent that needed to be cultivated. (I owe you more than one fill-up and oil change!)

Thanks for all the sleep you lost sewing impossible dress patterns for the first day of school or birthday or Christmas or Easter or confirmation or graduation or choir. I loved wearing the things you made and always felt prettier in those dresses. Well, maybe not the choir ones. Or the Dixie Strutters baton twirling costumes with the sequins. That was no fault of yours. You were following the same orders the other moms had.

Thank you for all the sick days you spent with me, all the trips to doctors and pharmacies, all the library books and homework fetched to keep me busy, all the plans canceled because one of us needed you at home. Thank you for not making fun of me when I fainted or nearly did because of needles and other people's gory medical tales. Thank you for understanding because you had once been the same way.

Thank you for all the arms wrapped around, sessions in the rocker, tears wiped away. Thank you for letting me cry and never telling me to stop because it wasn't worth crying over.

Thank you (and Daddy, too!) for all your support in innumerable ways through my circuitous education and to Bangkok and back. Thanks for the open door and warm welcome always. Thank you for loving and supporting my husband just as staunchly as you do me.

Thanks, Mom. Thank you for four decades of faithful love. I love you too!

Love always,
your Sonshine

P.S. Thank You, Lord, for the Mom You gave me (#5941).

It's not too late for you to participate, too. The linky list is still open all day Monday, May 14, 2012, and the morning of the 15th. Follow the linked button below to read more about how thanking your own mother on Facebook or in a blog can bless a needy family in Haiti:

1000 Moms Project
To reach the page directly where you may link up a blog post, click here:

Also sharing this with the Gratitude Community: