Friday, April 26, 2013

Nothing {The Widow's Jar of Oil}

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest” (2 Kings 4:1-7, ESV).

Your servant has nothing in the house.
The interest on this threadbare tent of my sojourning is high,
Too high.
It has emptied everything I have and more,
And now there’s nothing in the house to pay my debts,
Debts of duty,
Debts of love.
My dearest bear the cost of this indebtedness.

            Tell me, daughter. What have you in the house?

Nothing, Master. Nothing,
Except this little jar,
This little jar of promises,
            Of truth,
            Of help for one more day.
So little.
It might as well be empty.

            Go, He says. Borrow empty vessels from your neighbors.

I go.
I beg.
I borrow.
I pour.

And—oh, the grace—their nothing
Plus my nothing
Is everything we need.

With gratitude for the friends from whom I “borrowed vessels” of encouragement and prayer Thursday morning

Monday, April 22, 2013

Creation's Song

Yahweh, our Lord,
how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth!
You have covered the heavens with Your majesty.
Psalm 8:1, HCSB

No parsley, but sage (far right), rosemary (back), and thyme

Mexican yucca

Pink evening primroses

Incipient blackberries

First larkspur

New herbs and vegetables and a wisteria bush
Some fragrance and cheer inside, too
{"Creation Song" by Fernando Ortega; to view and listen on the Web, please visit the actual post at crumbs}

Creation sings God's praise
Day and night, though cities quake,
Though the strongest fall.

Breathe in His beauty.
Lean on His steadfast mercies.
Cry to God. He hears.

He shares our sorrows.
He shelters beneath His wings.
He fails not His own.

Grace and faithfulness
Turn mourning into dancing;
Our Lord holds out hope.

Thank You, Lord, for eucharisteos pleasant and painful:
for a doctor willing to come in before office hours to accommodate a loved one's needs
for Mom's shoulder pain not requiring surgery
for stories on screen of Christian faith in action
for the courageous first-responders in Boston and West, Texas
for a friend's surgery success
for a brief visit to her home
for leaning on each other for prayer in hard times
for lunch with another friend
for text message grace
for a photo of two dear faces together
for roses blooming
for blackberries' sweet promises
for masses of pink primroses
for favorable weather this weekend
for Amore's satisfaction in dirt and growing things
for a better response to acupuncture than last week
for an evening visit from our neighbor, who came demanding chocolate and roses (She's 4.)
for kisses blown
for winged visitors to watch and hear
for starting over in a new journal and on a new One Thousand Gifts
for happy new things: cousin's daughter, Kate's adoption, Teagirl's puppy
for His hand holding me fast (Isaiah 41:10)
 for the pressures that drive me to You
for songs in the night (Ps. 42:8)
for memorial stones
(Joy Dare, #60-84)

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8:1, ESV

linking to the Playdates with God community and the Monday Multitudes gratitude community today

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On This Day in April

For April 18, 2013:

Outside my window...
It's damp and uncharacteristically chilly. 46F after a high of 87F yesterday! I'm not complaining, though. This is Texas. Hundred-degree days are not that far away.

I am thinking...
about a friend whose grandmother is in hospice, another friend who had surgery this morning, and my youngest sister on crutches for her ankle injury that just won't heal.

I am thankful...
for the gift of 26 years of walking with the Lord, and He with me.

In the kitchen...
not much is happening, but the first few small roses of the season sit in bud vases on the table.

I am wearing...
a long-sleeved shirt, cardigan, sweatshirt, and jeans, with the constant of tennis shoes and orthotics.

I am creating...
a new gratitude list, starting over at #1 yesterday.

I am going...
to take photos of the bluebonnets this year, Lord willing, when they finally bloom out. 

I am wondering...
whether acupuncture will really give the extra pain relief I desire and whether my ankle will end up in a cast like my sister's before long.

I am reading...
The True Jewel of Christian Contentment, still and slowly; 1 Kings and Luke; and Jane Eyre and The House at Riverton in audio format.

I am hoping...
my mom's shoulder injury is not as serious as the ER doc believed last night.

I am looking forward to...
beginning the new memoir Joni and Ken soon.

I am learning...
to trust my loved ones to God's providence and care, especially when that doesn't turn out as I'd like.

Around the house...
laundry is in process, candles need replacing, the heater and air conditioner both rest quietly, Ebony naps in "my" chair, and my Bible study things are spread out all over the kitchen table.

I am pondering...
the tragedy of King David's household and Solomon's divided love for the Lord, which we are reading about in Bible study. O Lord, unite my heart to fear Thy name!
I need to be pondering my new memory verses, Ephesians 4:11-13:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (ESV here, but I'm trying to learn the NIV1984 version).
A favorite quote for today...

One of my favorite things...
meeting with my ladies' Bible study Wednesday morning. We are a small group this session, and my introverted self is loving that.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
nothing exciting or out of the ordinary (Lord willing) until a date with my Amore this weekend, church, and potluck afterward. Earlier in the week, I had an acupuncture session, grieved with everyone else over the terrible events in Boston, went to Bible study and lunch with one of those ladies, and celebrated my spiritual birthday with extra quiet and solitude yesterday afternoon.

A peek into my day...
Ebony chasing his lunch in his treat ball

Sharing with Peggy Hostetler's The Simple Woman's Daybook today

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Something about the latest chapter in My Life, the Science Project, specifically the new adventure of seeking acupuncture therapy for my chronic pain issues, has brought out the punniness in my family. In case that word is unfamiliar to you, that's probably because I might have just invented it. Here's a working definition:
punniness: noun, a quality or tendency to attempt humor by way of plays on words, poss. eliciting laughter from the punner and groans from the hearers
To save you having to ask,
punner: noun, one who makes puns
Don't say you weren't warned. Read on at your own risk.

Truth be told, I started the pun-fest with this text message:
Taking a stab at acupuncture Fri @ 10.  More to the point, acupuncture is taking a stab at me.
Allen continued it by greeting me after my second appointment with the words, "So I'm on pins and needles. How did acupuncture go?"

My dad may win the prize for creative acupuncture jokes so far with this text message last week:
I tried to water our bushes earlier but the hose had several leaks which made me think of you. How did appt go today? :)
So what's my point, you may ask. First of all, I have neglected to give you an update, and curiosity and concern may have been needling a few of you kind friends. The first two sessions went well. No dramatic change occurred after the first appointment, but for most of last week my pain, especially the back pain, was noticeably better. Correlation does not always indicate causation, but for now we are sticking with this new line of treatment. In fact, I'm minutes away from leaving for the next point-appointment as I write this. We must be punctual. [Update: Appointment number three went fine. It didn't seem to help my ankle this time, but my back hurts less than before the treatment.] Thank you for your continued prayers.

Secondly, the last week has been challenging in ways not pertaining to my health. At such times, laughter is more valuable than ever. In that light, feel free to sharpen up your sense of humor and share your best acupuncture pun or joke in the comments. It's ok to poke a little fun at me. Take your best shot. The funniest clean joke or real-life humor you've encountered lately is also welcome. (It's probably not necessary to ask, but please make a point to be respectful and courteous to any other people or groups involved in your joke or story. I reserve the right to moderate comments.)

More importantly even than laughter, let me begin the week with gratitude to God, the Author of laughter and joy. Thank You, Lord,

for laughter
for joy mingled together with the sorrows You allow for our good
for hugs from friends
for a small but perfectly chosen Bible study group Wednesday
for lunch with a friend from there afterward
for whole wheat pancakes and scrambled eggs
for the Lord's nearness to the brokenhearted
for hymns of Christ and the Cross on Sunday
for the kind, gentle acupuncturist
for e-mails from friends
for friends who act in parallel and find out later
for new butterfly bookmarks

for horsing around with Allen at a nearby retail/restaurant/residential development

for Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal having breakfast together on our back porch and not minding my camera behind the glass

for a phone visit with Nonni this afternoon
for hearing my youngest sister's voice on the phone three times in four days, a rarity
for an hour's visit with a friend before her surgery later this week
for a birthday package happily surprising its recipient
for bluebonnets in waiting (still!) at the park where I enjoyed them last year
for wild, crazy temperature swings reminding us that this is Texas, after all
for frozen whole wheat pizza dough easily prepared
for "blessings all mine, and ten thousand beside"
(gratitude journal #10,036-10,057 over two years; starting again at #1 on Wednesday)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Prayers for Boston

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18, ESV

A lighter post was in the works for today, but now it doesn't seem appropriate. Some "sparrows" fell in Boston this afternoon, and more lost their wings. May the Lord bring comfort and peace to all present and to all whose loved ones were killed or injured in this bombing. May He direct and give wisdom to the law enforcement officials trying to sort out the truth in this sad event. He is near to the brokenhearted, so very near. If your heart is broken for whatever reason today, your spirit crushed, may you know His nearness in a special, personalized way through the mercies of the Eternal Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The sparrow reference is from the post, Beneath God's Gaze, from last week.
Other posts on God's nearness and compassion include these:
Wounded Monarch
Midnight Cry
The Wiper of Our Tears

Saturday, April 13, 2013

If You're in Need of Courage Today

{If you're reading this by e-mail or RSS feed reader, you may need to view the post at the actual blog post.}

Dear crumbles, if this day finds you in need of courage to press on through adversity, pain, or discouragement, please find 41 minutes soon to watch this beautiful, vulnerable message from Joni Eareckson Tada. She speaks of her battles with depression, pain, and breast cancer and of how her suffering has affected her marriage. I adore the way she intersperses bits of hymns throughout her talk. She says, "I sing because I have to," and I know a little of what she means.

May the Lord strengthen her and Ken to keep leaning hard into Himself. May He be glorified in the way He uses her testimony in many, many lives. May He give you courage and hope for whatever your day holds, friend. May He put a new song in your mouth, a song of praise to our God (Psalm 40:3). For He is our strength and our song, and He has become our salvation in Jesus (Isaiah 12:2), in whom we pray. Amen.

Other ways to watch and listen:
Here is the two-part audio from Revive Our Hearts:

Here is the video link directly at YouTube:

Here is a link to her new book, to which she refers in this talk:
Joni & Ken, from the Joni and Friends ministry Website
or from Amazon, Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story (affiliate link)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beneath God's Gaze

One of "our" most definitely uncaged sparrows

When we lived in Bangkok, one of the many curious things we observed was tiny twig cages of sparrows here and there along the sidewalk. They were inevitably attended by a person or two, who would sit in a plastic lawn chair or on their haunches, as a toddler does but I cannot. Occasionally, a passerby would hand a baht coin or two to the attendant, pick up a cage, and open the door for the sparrows to fly out. This struck my American self as odd, since to all appearances the "purchaser" just abandoned all hope of taking his or her new pet home.

Somehow it never occurred to me to ask what was going on, perhaps because of a proud desire to appear to know what was going on. (It would have been better to heed Prof's advice, "It's better to ask a question and appear stupid than to keep your mouth shut and remain so.") As it happens, however, our language teachers described this very phenomenon in a class one day about Thai superstitions.

As they explained it (and if I understood correctly), a person going through a period of bad "luck" had an opportunity of reversing the situation by doing good deeds like buying a cage of captive sparrows and setting them free. The teachers also explained with some cynicism that such businesses were, in American parlance, a racket. These particular sparrows were trained to fly back to their cages, which they considered home, so the "freedom" purchased was merely an illusion.

I identify with those sparrows in recognizing my own tendency to view my cages of sin habits, self-imposed limitations, or even my comfort zone as "home" and flying back to them instead of living in the scary freedom of the Spirit's power and direction.

Today, though, my heart is a bit heavy, and I remember the sparrows for another reason. Heavy for troubled families and young people on the church prayer list. Heavy for a loved one over her head in sorrows for which I can do nothing but pray, and that not well, it seems. Heavy for the neglected dog down the street who has taken himself for a walk more than once and who followed Amore home this morning but had to be returned to his owner by Animal Services. Heavy for some beloved children feeling confused about Mama's tears and Daddy's yelling. Heavy for families who have recently lost a child at the child's own hand. Heavy for two local church families whose sons have brain surgery today, surgery on which their lives depend. Heavy for an American pastor unjustly imprisoned in a land hostile to Christianity.

This creation groans with sorrow under the weight of human sin, and some days it only seems right to groan along with it.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:20-23, ESV).
Taking my Eeyored self to the piano to track down a certain hymn whose first line was stuck on repeat in my brain, I saw the nearby title "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" and played through that as well. This hymn provokes mixed emotions in me. Sometimes I find it deeply comforting; other times I groan at the saccharine sentimentality of the performances one usually seems to hear. (When I feel that way, I ought to remember the story behind the song, which like this blog was born out of physical infirmity.)

This day it comforted, and I remembered Jesus' words to His disciples about fearful days coming:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matt. 10:29-31, ESV; see also a similar statement in Luke).
An art quilt created by a lovely friend
And I remembered Bangkok, and the sparrows "sold" for a baht. Not one of them can fall to a cat's claw or child's stone but that the Father knows and sees. Therefore, fear not. We are of more value than many sparrows, those tiny, common, abundant birds. Those for whom my heart is heavy are of more value than many sparrows. The Father's gaze is upon each one of them, and He is good. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He watches over you and over me in love.

Yet the sparrows do fall, don't they? With heartbreaking regularity, they fall.

How shall I respond then? What am I to think of such a God, who watches the sparrows fall?

The song's third verse offers one suggestion:
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free...
"I draw the closer to Him." Yes, that's the key. Like David, I can cry out,
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by (Psalm 57:1, ESV).
As a sparrow myself, I can flee to the God who entered our sparrow bondage to redeem us from it. I can snuggle up under the wings of my Creator who causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him that we might be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28).

I can cast myself at the feet of the weeping Savior, so deeply moved at the tomb of the friend He loved even though He knew He was Resurrection and Life. That Savior tarried until death claimed Lazarus whom He loved that the glory of God might be revealed through his resurrection (John 11).

I can take comfort in the Holy Spirit's groaned intercessions mingled with mine (Romans 8:26-27).
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27, ESV).
Sparrows fall because this world is not what it was meant to be. Human sin--Adam's and ours who are in his image--has vandalized it. However, neither is this world what it shall be. Resurrection is coming, beloved. Death is not the end. Our bodies and the bodies of all Christ's fallen sparrows will be redeemed, as the first Romans 8 passage quoted here says. In that great day, in Paul's reckoning, "...the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18, ESV). Thanks be to God!

Until then, may we find comfort in the knowledge that our pains and joys alike are beneath His loving gaze.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
(Civilla Martin, "His Eye Is on the Sparrow")

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
(Psalm 57:5 and also 11, ESV)

{In case some of you have never heard this song, below is the best recording I could find available at no charge on YouTube. If you cannot view it in your e-mail or RSS reader, please visit the blog post to view.}

P.S. This post was mostly written Monday but not completed then due to time constraints. The heaviness did not last long, although all the reasons remain. The two sons of church members did survive their surgeries, although they both have long journeys ahead toward healing in this world or the next. Today the sun shines in my heart despite the grey, damp day outside, so that is no cause for you to worry. Thank you for loving me with God's love!

Sharing with Laura and Ann today:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Prayer and Thanksgiving on Easter Tuesday

I do not cease to give thanks for you,
remembering you in my prayers,
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,
what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,
according to the working of his great might
that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:16-21, ESV

Hallelujah! What a Savior! Crumbles, whatever faces you this week, may you find hope in knowing that the same power by which Christ was raised from the dead is at work toward us who believe. More than that, may the Father of glory enable you to know Him better. That will keep us going even when the "immeasurable greatness of His power" is veiled to our sight.

Thanks be to God for His kind gifts. His love endures forever!
~The Resurrection of Christ! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
~A lovely, energetic visit from our young neighbor, who played hide and seek with Ebony's bone and told me how Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again on Easter. When asked if she learned that in Sunday school, she said, "No, at dance class!"
~Her display of her frog hops down the length of my physical therapy mat
~Lovely fellowship again at ladies' Bible study, even though we were talking about the not-so-loverly book of Judges
~A huge sigh of relief this week in studying Ruth

~Empathy and hugs from my primary care physician at my annual "well" (ha!) check-up
~Waiting for test results
~Mezzo's success on oral exams
~First poem of 2013
~Easter worship and hymns
~"And then one day... I'll fight life's final war with pain" from "Because He Lives"
~Starbucks with my Amore after church

~Boisterous, happy family time Easter afternoon
~Three small pairs of cowboy boots

~Rain Easter morning
~Blue sky and sunshine Easter afternoon
~Dad's birthday cake for dessert
My mother's and her mother's coconut cake

~Lunch with Nonni and my parents Monday the real dessert
~First bluebonnet sightings of 2013 on the way
~Courage to travel across town for the day despite pain
~Easy supper afterward (Trader Joe's Chana Masala and whole-wheat naan, yum!)

~The life, writings, and example of the late Edith Schaeffer (also here:
~An opportunity to meet her at a conference and have a book inscribed by her
~Her grace in kissing me on the cheek when I impulsively hugged her at that one and only meeting
~My first acupuncture appointment this Friday to see if Dr. Al can help me heal
(Still counting God's gifts, #9888-9912)