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In the desert for a few days

Sweet William and I have been in the desert for almost five days. Here in mid August, our central air conditioner gave up the ghost.

It happened on a Thursday evening while I was in the midst of piano lessons. I fanned vigorously and apologized to students coming into the house. The prognosis: We need a new unit which will cost a lot, and it cannot be installed until Monday.

My students where glad to be going home.

The heat rose in our normally climate-controlled house, rising to 85 degrees quickly. Even the August picture on our wall calendar looks hot.

By Friday, Sweet William and I were sweltering. And I wonder why air conditioners break down in the middle of summer? We kept looking at the thermometers placed throughout the house as the temperatures went higher. Fans were running everywhere and especially in our faces.

And for once it was too hot for coffee.Wendys

By the afternoon, with outdoor temperature soaring to 91 degrees and not much better indoors, we had enough. We got in the car where the air conditioner worked great, turning it down to 65 degrees and letting the cold winds blow. A cheeseburger at Wendy’s was our destination because if you can’t stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen.

We ate our burger in the car with the air running full blast. Then we went to Dairy Queen for Blizzards because we deserved it.

I don’t know when ice cream tasted so good. I ate until chill bumps formed on my arms.

One small window unit upstairs and a portable unit left by the heating/air company were our only means of survival. At night we closed the bedroom door, the portable unit blowing cold air into the room. We slept like it was winter, pulling a quilt over us. But upon waking and opening the door to the rest of the house, the heat hit me, and I really wondered whether morning coffee was worth it.

On Saturday, the cloud cover lowered the house temperature a small bit. We experimented with blankets and quilts in doorways hoping to keep the coolness in a smaller area of the house where it could be manageable and somewhat livable.

I was glad we had not invited anyone for brunch or dinner. They would not have wanted to come.

Each morning we emerged from the igloo of our bedroom only to be faced with the heat wave in the rest of the house. The blanketed-off living area had to cool down again by opening up the bedroom door. We lived in the desert of hot air blowing around us during the day.

We went to the deck because sometimes it felt better in fresh air. We watched dark clouds roll in a few times and hoped for rain to change the weather. Maisie lay stretched out on the cool floor more often than curled up in her bed.

We drank cold drinks and fixed sandwiches. I didn’t dare turn on the oven. The goal was to stay calm, cool, and collected as possible.

It seemed each time I went outside and returned to the house, the same words came out of my mouth. “It’s cooler outside than it is in here.”

I’m sure if we had asked friends, someone would have let us come stay with them. But when you have a dog, the equation gets complicated. And Maisie was in this with us.

As the days went by, the outdoor temperature cooled a little, and I think we began adjusting to our situation. We were going to tough this one out while we counted down the days until the new unit could be installed.

Sweet William and I prayed that we would not let our tempers flare with the flare of our heated conditions. We found ways to entertain ourselves because TV was in the hot rooms of the house. We talked more, and we laughed. I read a book aloud.

We have come through this experience with much thanksgiving and hopefully some wisdom.

While we were hot and miserable physically, what we lacked were only creature comforts. There are others on our prayer list who are suffering more. Ours was a temporary discomfort lasting a few days. It is not so for some we know and love.

Life is complicated. Minor irritations and major trauma are assured to come along in this life. We are destined for tribulation. Sometimes we have to walk through a desert, and sometimes we must weather a storm.

But we also look with hope toward an end of the trial. We want to understand the lesson to be learned and grow in endurance. We come through the trouble with a few more of our rough places sanded smooth. The chisel and hammer are brutal to the marble. But what begins to take shape is the image the creator planned.

We are like the marble. God is the artist who continues to do His good work in us, though it be painful, until the image of His Son is revealed more and more.

This short desert trip was not on my schedule; I would not have chosen it. But having made the journey, the oasis is deliciously refreshing.

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new years

100_1778 Already well into January and I still ponder 2014.

When I was a girl, too young to know better, I made a list of resolutions and expected to keep them.  Mostly they were simple things like keeping a daily diary or some other such worthy project.

I gave up resolutions when I grew up.

In the 1990’s I began making goals, listing them by categories like career, financial, health, home.  Some I accomplished, some just went to the next year . . . and the next year . . . and the next. Some went backwards, like my weight.  One year it was “maintain weight,” then went to “lose 10 pounds,” until it now becomes “don’t get any fatter.”  Yikes.

The past several years have been such roller coaster rides of being in and out of the hospital with Sweet William, and care-giving was what I did and what took all my energy. I have anticipated many a January 1 hoping for something different from the year before.  But sometimes it just becomes the next day.  My first journal entry of 2012 went something like this: “Another new year, another new day.  It just continues from what was.  A new year does not suddenly change all of our circumstances.  They follow us into 2012, almost like a ball and chain.”

I was having a bad day.  A bad year.

Today begins a new journey for me, one I’ve anticipated for a while. Today is my last day as director of the Academy of Arts at Little Flock Baptist Church where I have spent almost seven wonderful and adventurous years.  I could not have asked for a better job during my silver season.  Challenging work.  Great boss.  Fun co-workers.  Happy environment (most days anyway).  Music everywhere.  A piano just a stroll away.

I have absolutely loved my work at the Academy.  Watching young and older students learn to play an instrument and hearing them show off at recitals twice a year has just been marvelous. I will miss it.

Yet, I feel the guiding hand of the Lord closing one door and opening another.

My pastor’s sermon Sunday challenged me to think about the days ahead.  And I pray that God will guide these next days of my life.  What does He have in store for me?  What does He want 2014 to look like?  What gifts will He daily give?  What challenges will face Sweet William and me as we fall into the Father’s arm and trust Him for sufficient grace?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I only know there will be fresh mercies for each new day of the rest of my life.

Psalm 16 speaks truth to me today.

“I have set the Lord always before me.   Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure.  You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”  (verses 8, 9, 11)

My life is in His hand.  My days are His to use as He sees fit.  He has preserved me in my past.  He is with me in my present.  He will guide my future and will keep me in the palm of His hand.

Amen.  So be it.

Reinventing myself

I read an article last year called “Reinventing Yourself: What you should know before setting out in search of a new career.”*

It made me think of all the different hats and titles I’ve worn during my adult years. Here are a few of them.

  • Stay at home mom and domestic engineer
  • Older adult college student
  • Secretary and Paralegal
  • Drama team co-leader
  • Office manager
  • Member services director
  • Professional organizer
  • Referring travel agent
  • Mary Kay consultant
  • Music teacher
  • Caregiver
  • Administrator

As I look at that list, I perceive that life keeps changing. Duh! It’s so easy to see that looking backward but not so easy moving forward into it at a new turn in the road.

Sometimes a dead-end forced me to branch off toward the unfamiliar and scary. At other times the prospect was a dream I had never dared to pursue.

All of them took courage I didn’t think I possessed. Many times I felt I was drowning because I didn’t know what I was doing. Often I prayed for wisdom and to learn quickly.

And I found that courage comes when we do what we fear.

I’ve learned more from the journey than I ever did in the classroom. Some things can’t be taught, only experienced.

Each hat I wore brought knowledge I would not trade, though some I certainly would not want to relive.

As an old commercial reverberates, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” And I guess I have.

I expect, and rightly so, that there will be more roadblocks, more dead ends, more Ys in the road, more choices and hats to try on, more days to learn and grow.

The fact is, I never invented or re-invented myself at all. I am a project in the making, a vessel of clay that is continually being molded and conformed, mended and repaired.

God’s hand moves the wheel of my forming, using the good, the bad, and the ugly to make me more and more into the image He wants.

It is the model of Jesus He is pressing for.

I am His project and He is committed to complete it.

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, HCS)

At this place on my journey, I am confident of this: God will do what God will do. He is the sovereign Lord in charge of all of creation. If I try to resist His remaking of me, I will find myself kicking against His plan, not a place I want to be.

There is surrender in this process. A daily call to crucify my flesh and its desires. A continual seeking to know His will and the courage to walk in it even when I am afraid.

What kind of hats have your worn?  Which hat are you wearing now?

How is your journey going?

* Kentucky Living, February 2011

Life’s a journey

Life’s a journey.  Enjoy the ride” was a commercial slogan from a Toyota campaign a number of years ago. It appealed to me so much that I have made it a life motto of sorts.

I guess I was born with a personality type that tends to look at the glass half full, trying to glean the sunshine from experiences, even when it is raining.

Please don’t think I am a practically perfect Pollyanna who has mastered the Glad Game she played to deal with her disappointments.  I have had my mully-grubs, my bought with depression, my pity parties, and my “gloom, despair, and agony on me” days.

Still, the journey has been strewn with a vast array of joy, beauty, and friendships; an abundance of love coming from so many directions; and most of all the knowledge of the ever-present God.

This year, our road has taken some detours. I’ve been sidetracked and had to re-calculate my map.  There was no use trying to turn around and go a different way.  We cannot go back, can we?  Only forward.

The journey Sweet William and I have been on lately has been rocky and rugged at times, to say the least. The mountains have looked impassable and the waters too deep to cross over.  But God . . . (I love that phrase!) . . . but God has poured grace upon grace and so often given the oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness.

Now we face yet another recovery process after yet another surgery this year. Complications have already threatened my plan and upset my apple cart.

While on a road trip today, taking Bill to an appointment for a medical procedure, I considered the hard journey this year.  With those thoughts begging for my attention, the Spirit turned  them and I began counting the blessings and the beauty in spite of the problems.  And so I list some of them:

The splendor of fall still glowing.

The yellow carpet of Maple leaves underneath the front-yard swing.

Our Bradford Pear tree that stands strong and tall after so many years whose leave just now turn red and are waiting to be enjoyed.

The orange berries on the shrub that grows by the garage, some of its branches cut and gracing a vase on the kitchen counter.

Roses stubornly blooming in the front yard.

Friends who call, send cards, and express their love in so many ways.

Strength in my own body.

Laughter.

A warm house and food to eat.

A washing machine that just keeps washing.

Our Maltese Buddy who greets me when I return home with the enthusiasm only matched by my grandchildren.

The newest member of the household, Gus the cat, whose purring machine turns on as soon as I reach out to touch him.

Sweet William who smiles through the pain and thanks me for all I do.

Kind, efficient, and knowledgeable medical professionals.

Family close by I can call when I am in need.

The distraction of work I enjoy.

Piano students who brighten an otherwise cloudy day.

A really good cup of coffee with half and half cream.

Hearing my Dad say he’s praying for Bill and me throughout the day.

The assurance of my salvation, that nothing or no one can ever separate me from the love of God because of Christ Jesus.

A good Word from Holy Writ, God’s personal message to me.

Being able to cry my tears, knowing my Father understands.

I could count more, and I do for they are always falling down to earth from God’s hand, mercies that are new every morning, just waiting to be noticed and appreciated.

Life will present me with more rough roads, places under construction, warnings to slow down and be cautions because danger lies ahead. Such is man’s destiny in a world longing for its own deliverance.

But the journey is not to be dreaded or faced with fear. It is journey God promises to walk with me, a journey Jesus himself paved for me. It will be filled with trials and temptations.  But it will also be filled with blessings untold.

It is a ride of a lifetime, one to be enjoyed and savored.  I don’t want to miss it.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father . . . (James 1:17)

Passover approaches

 All four of the Gospels report that Passover was approaching as their stories lead us to the eventful days preceding Jesus’ crucifixion. The feast of Passover was and is significant to the entire account.

 We associate Passover with the Israelites’ departure from Egyptian slavery found in Exodus 12.  The Lord appointed this time to be the beginning of a new year for His people.  On the tenth day of this month, they were to take a lamb, separate it from the flock, and designate it as their Passover lamb.  From the 10th day until the 14th day, the lamb would be examined for any blemish or defect, because the lamb to be slain had to be perfect.

On the 14th day, guided by very specific instructions, the people prepared a meal on the night they would be granted their freedom. The Pascal (Passover) lamb was a central element in that meal, and its blood was put on the door frame and lintel of each Jewish dwelling so that the death angel would “pass over” them.

Passover continued to be a major feast throughout the Old Testament and was very much a part of Jesus’ heritage.

As this particular Passover approached, Jesus life was about to climax.  We know from Scripture that Jesus “earnestly desired to eat this Passover” with his disciples (Luke 12:15).

As the days led up to this celebration, Jesus told His disciples that he would suffer and die. He tried to prepare them, but they would hear none of it. They protested the very thought. Jesus knew this Passover would be His last one on earth. He knew He would complete this festival through his death. The shadow of things from the Old Testament was about to be fulfilled in Him.

There were other thoughts about this Passover, thoughts from those who sought to arrest Jesus. They wanted Him off the streets and out of their hair. They were making plans how they could take Him, but they said, “It must not be during the Feast” of Passover for fear the people might riot (Mark 14:2 emphasis mine).

But the One who overrules all other thoughts and plans had a destiny for this Passover. God the Father was about to provide the Lamb that Abraham spoke about as he journeyed to Mt. Moriah to offer up as a sacrifice his only son. Isaac asked his father “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham spoke prophetically and replied, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for the burnt offering,” (Genesis 22:8 KJV)

To fully comprehend the significance of the Passover holiday as it relates to our season of Easter’s resurrection, we must see in it the picture of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.

While we don’t know the exact date of Jesus birth, we can know with certainty that His death was during Passover as the gospel writers give us the detail of the time and the season. 

We will celebrate Palm Sunday tomorrow, April 17, commemorating the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and proclaimed “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

That sacred journey almost 2000 years ago would have been the 10th day of the first month of the Jewish new year, the day each family picked out a lamb for their Passover supper.  On that day, Jesus allowed Himself to be proclaimed as the Messiah that was to come.  He essentially was “picked out” to be the Passover Lamb.

He would be examined, accused, and tried.  But Pilate’s voice still echos the truth, “I find no fault in Him.”    

Christ, our Passover, a Lamb without blemish, would be sacrificed in just a few days, a sacrific that woud ultimately “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,” (Isaiah 61) 

This is the first in a series on the Passover.  I hope you will come again.  I would love to hear your comments.

Lent, a journey to the cross

This past week on March 9, many Christians recognized Ash Wednesday as the beginning of the season of Lent.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t really know what Lent was all about.  In 2005, I took a position as pianist at a Methodist church.  During my year and a half with that congregation, I was introduced to Lent along with many other worship experiences.

The Methodist services were filled with traditional symbols, prayers and songs. I determined to participate with a worshiper’s heart.

I found the Lenten season quite meaningful.  From Ash Wednesday to the weekend of Good Friday and Easter, we were admonished to prepare for and walk toward the cross, the place of Jesus’ death.

As I understand it, the main point of Lent is for Christians to examine their own hearts and lives in light of the work of grace completed in and for us.  Are there sins we are committing that need to be confessed and eliminated?  Are there sins of omission, commands left undone, that we need to start doing?  It is not a time to point fingers at others; rather I am to look deeply at myself.

During Lent it is a practice to give up something enjoyable as a way of denying earthly desires and so draw closer to God by crucifying the flesh.

The 40 days represent the duration of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Please understand, there is no means of us being saved by participating in Lent or by giving up something pleasurable.  Salvation is only by God’s grace, a free gift to each individual willing to receive it.

What I appreciated about Lent was the continual reminder of what we are looking toward, and that is Jesus Christ crucified for us sinners.  How often I have planned for my new Easter outfit, matching the shoes to the dress, without every really considering the cost of my soul’s freedom from the debt of sin?

I place a challenge before us with six weeks until Good Friday. Let each of us give thought to God’s unusual and magnificent plan for our salvation. Can we think of more than just a new outfit, getting a fresh haircut, filling an Easter basket with candy, or dying eggs?

Seek to know the love of God that surpasses earthly knowledge.  It is vast beyond measure.  It is lavish and pure.  It is worthy of our meditation and a reason for thanksgiving.

 How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

 How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One bring many sons to glory

 Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life.  I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom

by Stewart Townend

 

Will you join me on my journey?  Please leave a comment.  Let’s travel together. 

The gift of worship

 

Today, January 6, is Epiphany, a holiday celebrated by Christians in remembrance of the wise men’s visit to the child Jesus. History tells us Jesus may have been about a year old at the time. Because the wise men, or Magi, were not of the Jewish faith, Epiphany holds significance for Gentiles. Jesus came to the Jewish people first, but we Gentiles were included in the glorious manifestation of God coming to earth.

The word epiphany has come to mean an insight into the meaning of something, a moment of revelation, usually as a result of a simple or commonplace event.

You remember the story of the wise men who traveled a long distance to find this Child who would be king. They searched the heavens for clues about His location. They eventually arrived in Jerusalem and asked the reigning king, Herod, if he could help them find the child. Guided by the star, they found Jesus with Mary and Joseph, and their joy was over flowing.

We have assumed the Magi found him on the same night the shepherds came to see the baby in the manager.  At least, that is the way our Christmas programs portray the scene, isn’t it? 

We have also assumed there were three of them because Matthew 2 mentions three gifts presented to the Christ Child, gold, frankenstein, and myrrh. It was a surprise to me when I actually searched the Scriptures to find there is no mention of how many wise men there really were.

There is something else we might overlook in the story of this strange visitation. Did you ever stop to think that there were not three gifts but four?

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11, emphasis mine) 

The first gift the Magi offered was their worship.

 The Jewish law instructed the people to come into Jehovah’s presence with an offering or a gift. I read in places like Exodus 23:15 and 34:20 how God said they should not come empty-handed.

As a child of God under the new covenant, I no longer have to bring the blood of bulls and goats.  A complete offering was made for me at the cross of Calvary.

Yet, when I come to God, my Father, I must not come empty-handed either.  The gift, the offering I bring is my sacrifice of praise. 

 Just like the wise men of old, I bow down and I worship.

 

Leave a comment.  I love hearing from you.