Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

Chasing Grace

OneWord2014

This is the year I look for God’s grace abounding to me.

And I meant to write about it much more than I have.

Have I not been looking?

Or seeing and not thanking?

Thanking and not writing?

Wasting my time?

There have been so many ways God has poured out grace to me. What kind of work is better than writing it down? What other kind of work keeps my perspective clear, my heart light, my mind engaged? What have I been thinking? What has distracted me?

I have a long list (of graces, not distractions!).

Since I cannot go back in time, I can only walk forward.

The son who said, “No,” to his father but then obeyed, that’s the one the Father commends. So talking about what we did wrong is fine but turning around to do right is what is important. I will thank and praise the Lord while I have time, while I have breath.

One distraction came up rather suddenly. I was asked to teach a Composition course at Westmont, and had only one week to get things ready. I’ve been busy with that, more than you can imagine. But it doesn’t completely take over my days.

I still teach middle school homeschoolers, American Literature and History this year. Our history is more of a history club; a chance for watching related movies, for making food, drawing art, learning about each others’ historical reading and about paintings by major American artists. I enjoy the kids and enjoy the things we do together but there again the planning is what takes time and where I fret.

Oh to count it a grace instead.

My dad is doing fairly well. He is packing his own pills for his Parkinson’s, usually has three meals a day, one of which I cook and the first I contribute to by preparing a yogurt/banana shake and the granola he will eat with it, whenever he is awake enough to do so. It is so encouraging to see Dad up and active again. I thank God for his improved health and his good routine. He has a project too, changing his Greek primer into an interactive, online program. But he doesn’t get to work on it very often because of the irregularity of his sleep needs.

Recently I was reading Genesis 3 again, in a Bible study (I think) and the supplemental text was pointing out God’s grace to Adam and Eve after the fall. It was God’s grace to forbid them to eat from the tree of life since they’d already sinned: if they ate would they not have been able to be redeemed? I had been familiar with that thought, but as I read, “I will put enmity between” the seed of the woman and the serpent, I thought, this too is grace. Not that there was enmity between the singular seed (Jesus) but in the plural of seed (all of us) and the serpent (Satan). Can you imagine if there were no enmity between us and Satan? If there were no restlessness which caused us to yearn for something better? Our true home? Our loving wise Father? Thank you, God, for the dissatisfaction that comes when I sin!

I’ve kept a gratitude list, and I’m working on a grace journal.

Where have you seen God’s grace in your life?

Thank and praise the Lord with me!

Begin Again

After about a two month hiatus, I am here again. Happy August to you all! I have much to write, and I’ll start with the Five Minute Friday on Begin because I’m beginning to write here again. I’ll start with a reflection I told my husband:

I remember a lady in our church in Boston asking me, “Why did the Greeks forsake their gods? They seemed to do well for them.”

“Because they met the one true God, I guess,” I had replied.

It struck me, first that her question was so illiterate and then second that it was a good, an absolutely good question for us today. The assumption of God’s supremacy can’t be taken anymore.

First I had to realize what was good about the Greeks’ gods. They told stories that explained things. Stories that told truth about the human heart. Self knowledge is good, and I especially resonated with one particular story which gave words to what I was going through.

Stories of the Greek gods are like philosophy and psychology intwined. There’s a certain helpful wisdom in them. But they aren’t enough to change me. They can describe and make me feel comfortable with what is, or excuse the bad things but they cannot change the bad ways or make me good. Only God can.

He does.

He loves to change us, to give us chances to begin again.

Second is to ponder on how God is really a God and not just a super-human representative. It is we who are in the image of God, and it takes all of us not one of us to image forth and idea which even still I think he surpasses! Keep thinking about God.

All thanks and praise to him!

Five Minute Friday

Whitespace Travel

IMGP6420

Tomorrow morning we fly out. Are we packed yet?

Of course not.

There is much to do each day, classes held on campus, and in order to get things done I dropped one of the two classes. I’m sitting in on the Christian Imagination of C.S. Lewis class. There’s so much that could be done, I pray for wisdom to do the important things and let the lesser go.

Last Thursday I got a massage. Clearly a right choice! I hear crackles when I roll my shoulders but I believe it’s much less painful and I’m strong enough for the journey because they were worked on.

Tuesday I got a prayer session. Also a right choice, as I now feel I have a clean heart and a right perspective, trusting the Heavenly Father!

I will probably post on FaceBook more than on this blog, but I wanted to write here about how we need down time when traveling.

Sitting at the gate waiting can be whitespace. Can be clear for imagining. Can be people watching. Can be silent prayer.

Sitting in the plane forever can be whitespace also. There are things I have packed to do in that space, and if I don’t get to them they can be presents for friends I will be meeting in a month! The time is a bubble between places, a flight of hours instead of travel of months. It is important to have time between places, to settle my thoughts about the life I live in the place I leave and then to think forward to the place I will be entering.

Whether busy or stopped, I can look to God. Whether winning the battle of light or not, I can look to God.

I have started a new memory project with Ravinia, and one of the things we will be doing on the plane is writing out our verses:

1 John 1:1-5

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at, and our hands have touched–this we proclaim about the word of life. The life appeared: we have seen it and we testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the father and with his son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

(How’d I do? That was from memory, but I had worked on the first two chapters back in the 90s, so it’s not quite fair. Before that I had spent a summer in the 80s reading through the book of 1 John every day–it only takes 15 minutes. So yes, I could easily say it is my favorite book…if it weren’t for James, or 1 Peter, or 1 Thessalonians, or Titus, or…!)

Praise and Thanks to God!
for travel,
for learning,
for you.

IMG_3030

Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!

May you know his love deep in your hearts, may your face radiate his glory as you celebrate the resurrection today and may the glory keep shining out from you throughout the year.

Last night we celebrated with an Easter Vigil. It started at 7:30 and ended at 9:30, and so it was an early vigil. Imagine us keeping time with the East Coast and you’ve got the right time, and since I talked with my Greek Orthodox aunts yesterday, I thought of them exactly at 9:00 (I checked) when I turned on the lights at Deane Chapel after everyone said, “Christ is Risen, Alleluia!” and it was indeed midnight there, in New Hampshire, where they were celebrating most likely in Greek, “Christos Anesti!”

Maurice preached and you can read the sermon on the Prince of Peace blog (click here). After hearing the sermon (which I had the privilege to read beforehand) and seeing him wave his hands expressively, during the rest of the service when glory was mentioned, I had new insight, new thrill for the glory of God. So I commend the sermon to your reading.

We came home and Ravinia reminded me that we had to make Resurrection cookies. What are they, you ask? Click here for a lovely and well written post giving not only the recipe with pictures but also scriptures. They are the best meringue cookies I’ve ever made (possibly because of the vinegar), although Ravinia hasn’t unsealed the oven yet.

Then we also made some butterflies to decorate the church this morning, and I brought in our Easter gift of mugs. We have been drinking only water for Lent, in remembrance of those who have no clean water, and we today will send money for a well. So we thought it appropriate to celebrate with new mugs from Dayspring.
IMG_3036

How will you celebrate today?

What is a favorite hymn, and will you sing it in church?

Oh, and guess what: my mug, the blue one? It’s named the Grace mug!
OneWord2014

All thanks and praise to Jesus Christ our Lord!
Amen

Holy Week 2014

IMG_3033

Holy week, a most special time of the year. So it’s a half holiday from school all week. (A compromise between school expectations and homeschooling freedom: we are just about done with science and history anyway so only doing Bible, Math, and Greek)

Palm Sunday, standing outside church with palms, and waving them, coming in. Before that, decorating the chapel with palms, with a high heart. And then, after we come in and the service proceeds, we read the passion story from Matthew. I think every one of the 13 people there had a part to read in the passion story. I was Pilate, and part of the Rulers. Somehow, drama brings the story alive.

Monday Ravinia had a teeth cleaning appointment, and since we got there early we went for sorbet at the wonderful little shop, Scoop. It’s in the same block. We joked about freezing our teeth, but truth to tell, my molar slated for a root canal ached. Sitting waiting, I read recipes and Hope, looking up from her work on Ravinia’s teeth, offered to photocopy them for me. What I really wanted was the recipe for wilted spinach (fry garlic in olive oil, add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, cook spinach 5 minutes). I used it that night!

In the evening we had a Passover Seder. Now, there are two times to have Seder, if you are a Christian. You can look up when the Jews are doing it, according to their calendar, on the 14th day of Nissan, or you can do it when the Christians are celebrating Maundy Thursday and remembering Jesus’ words of consecration of his last supper. Last year we had it on Thursday and then rushed out to our church service which included the foot washing. Ravinia said that made sense, eating the passover with some sense of rushing out. But I’d decided this year to join the Jews largely because it made for a very exhausting Thursday!! We had a Christian Seder with 12 people, and I’d edited the format from Celebrating Biblical Feasts (free haggadah here)

Tuesday we did our bit of school work, piano lesson, and prepared for college students to come to the house for class (they loved the matzah left out for them, because after Passover starts a week of eating unleavened bread) and went to meet other homeschoolers at the park. The house was amazingly clean early (it’s a wonder what time you find when you only do half the school work) and we had a good evening.

Wednesday was the day for the root canal, 2pm. I also had to shop at Costco, and pay for a group ticket at Amtrak. In the morning we went to campus to help move the gigantic cross from the chapel service to our chapel where we will use it this weekend. It had red slips of paper nailed to it (they wrote confessions?) and we are leaving them on. We plan to drape a black cloth over them all on Friday, then for Saturday night’s Easter Vigil to replace the red slips with white paper. On Sunday it will be covered with flowers, Lord willing!

So, root canal. I’m sitting there on the chair and the specialist very kindly asks me if my nerves are okay (not the one in the tooth, I think first and then, oh nervous about the job? Nah!) and I respond that I’ve got music on my phone. “Did you bring earphones?” he asks, “Because I will need to be listening to my instruments.”

He numbed me up (good job, too) and gave me 10 minutes to wait, so I went out to the car to grab the earbuds in the glove compartment. Yes! Turned on The Messiah.

Can I just recommend you listen to the Messiah this week?

If you don’t have time, listen to the second half (of course).

Imagine, drilling noises drowned out by He Shall Lead His Flock. I worshiped.

I remembered Ann Voskamp’s (and others) messages of gratitude, and gave thanks for the specialist. Overflowed with gratitude. When he asked, how am I doing, feeling pain? For the most part I did not. When I did, he put in more numbing (do they still use novocaine?).

My mouth seriously being worked on, I thought of Jesus, dying. (yeah, gratitude!)

My pain almost nothing but feeling the push, knowing the drilling out of three roots in the one tooth, anxiety kept at bay by the beautiful words and music, I worshiped. I loved the specialist. Is that odd? Not in any romantic way but in a deeper thankful and perhaps godly way. I trusted him, and I was so thankful by his manner both of work and of kindness to me that he was worthy of that trust. Perhaps my love for him flowed out of my love and worship for God?

Today is a lighter day. Again the 3 subjects of school work, and I have to go back to Amtrak to let them reprint the ticket because they called about a mistake they made. I’m still taking the ibuprofen the specialist gave me, but about every 8 hours instead of 4-6, and still thankful. Tonight we have a special service that I can prepare for, and need to clean out and prepare for the rest of the weekend as well.

But in it all I live to thank and praise the Lord. Join me?

IMG_3030

Linking up with Bonnie Gray
Whitespace Community Linkup @ faithbarista.com

and Jennifer Dukes Lee

What I’m Learning

Bonnie asked us to be bold,
to write about what we’re learning about ourselves
these days.

It’s a bit like whistling in the dark, to write
about right
now.

Because what if I write about it and then fail?

When I really yearn to nail it?

But we are writing in community

So let me start with yesterday (really recent!)

It rained.

I sat in the rain in my car with my friend
talking
about what we’ve been learning
about ourselves.

My friend is my neighbor across the street.
She has brought me food, dinner just hours ago.
She has sent me emails, “I’m praying for you.”
She has been there for me through thick and thin.

It rained, perhaps ending our drought conditions.

We had a drought in our usual rainy season,
while friends out east had much snow.
Visits postponed because of airports shutting down.

We had a drought.

Sometimes it’s like that in my heart.
A drought when everyone else is receiving.

I pray each morning for God’s love.
“Lord, give me your love for my people;
I can’t love them on my own, my love falls short.”

This is what I’ve been learning about myself.

I was always told how loving I am, how warm.
(Is it just having had a Greek mom?)
How people learned the value of a hug from me.
(Is it because I’d received so many hugs?)
So I thought I was good at loving.
But I’ve learned about myself.

I only can give love I’ve received.
John the baptist said it, when they asked him about his ministry:
“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27)
and I’d memorized it, in James (1:16-17):
Do not be deceived my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

So the truth about me?
I fail. I fall short so often. But sometimes…

Sometimes, when people see God’s work in me and they tell me about it, I can praise God, thank him for showing himself to them, for passing on what he’s given to me.
I can be genuinely glad for the times I don’t fail because I’ve received.

That love I beg for each morning?
It doesn’t feel like he’s answered.
I don’t feel an onrush of heart stirring goodness.
Nothing changes when I pray it.
Only, the day is changed as I go about it.
And, when I forget to pray,
The day is awful and I go about resentful.
Yes, me the loving warm hugger!

OneWord2014

So, the grace of God is poured out.
I pray for God’s love in the morning,
and I depend on it through the day
to flow when needed:
his heart love and his wisdom
like a vine giving sap to the branch.

I’m learning not to think of myself as good or bad.
I’m learning how much I need prayer…

Martin Sanders once asked, “Who is praying for you?”

It’s a comfort, to know someone is praying for you.
I know of three ladies who regularly pray for me,
as do my daughter, my husband and my 3 parents.
I am so thankful, and I praise God for them.

Who is praying for you?

Music for Lent

Do you have something that inspires and encourages you?

Music? I love hymns, Rich Mullens, classical, and other Christian contemporary music (in about that order, yes).

So, here comes coffee-shop style hymns for Lent, from PageCXVI (Aslan singing the world into being. Did you ever catch that the cabby sings a thanksgiving hymn in the dark before Aslan’s voice starts? I never, but Ann Voskamp knows it: thanksgiving precedes the miracle.)

An album due to release on March 4, Mardi Gras!

Check out a video with footage of their recording: click here.

Lent To Maundy Thursday Cover

I was given a pre-release digital copy to try to stream some songs for you to hear…I haven’t figured out how to do that.

I really like these songs, the sound, the words. Once the cd comes out I’ll get one for my car, it’s great driving music, and my car’s so twentieth century that way!

It’s a step toward liturgy from the cool end of Christianity.

Thanks be to God!

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers