Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

Whitespace Travel

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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.

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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.
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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!
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All thanks and praise to Jesus Christ our Lord!
Amen

Holy Week 2014

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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?

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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!

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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!

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A Heart Like His

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I’ve been thinking of this story I read with Ravinia in second grade and then again in seventh. It’s about a man who drew close to God and had to go to war.

Write about war in a link-up on love?

Bonnie said to share your thoughts on love, for this link up before Valentine’s day.

So, if my thoughts are wild, you can click on the button above and read others’ thoughts!

He was raised in the mountains of Tennessee, very poor. When his father died he went a bit wild. Okay, he went very wild. Drinking matches, sharpshooting matches. But his mom kept praying for him, praying faithfully for her boys. He came back to church, back to the pretty girl there, came back to God and studied his Bible earnestly.

Then he got drafted for World War 1. He could shoot, yes, but he’d never killed a man, and didn’t think it right, couldn’t in all conscience go. But his church wasn’t one of those that automatically gave him conscientious objector status, and his commanders at boot camp sat down with him. A level or two up, a commander sat down with him and the Bible and they looked together at war, reasons for war, why it could be necessary to wage war.

He got a leave of absence and went home to his church, to his hills, and somehow during that time God let him know that he would be all right. That he could go forward, honoring God, and God would take care of him. So, he went back, submitting himself to the army.

He got over to France, had his share of suffering in the trenches, read his Bible, encouraged other men, stayed firm in his faith.

Then the day came when his group was to try to knock out a machine gun station of Germans. They were to circle round behind them, if possible. They came upon a few Germans unexpectedly who led them back to the German camp below the ridge the machine guns were on, and the small group took the German camp unawares. But the surrendering Germans in the camp called out to their comrades on the ridge, who turned the machine guns around. The Germans in the camp dropped, and the Americans dove for cover in the trees, some including the leader of the group hurt.

He, Alvin York, dove behind a bush and maybe a rock. Bullets flying everywhere, he picked out a head on a ridge and put a bullet between the eyes, calling out for the Germans to surrender. He said it was like shooting a turkey in the shooting matches.

But it broke his heart, to kill a man.

He pleaded with them to surrender so he wouldn’t have to kill them.

Because he knew he could.

Seven men came over the ridge.

Seven, to get one gunner in their camp.

He called out to them to surrender, and shot them all, last to first. That’s what you do with a flock of turkeys, so the leader doesn’t know the others are falling.

What could the Germans do?

Finally a superior officer asked in English if he should call them men to surrender. Alvin York said yes please.

He picked up another gun, had plenty of bullets, and organized his men to lead the Germans out.

Walking out they came upon another group of Germans, who, seeing many of their soldiers being guarded by few Americans, started to try to free their men. He put a bullet through the shooter and told the German commander to tell them all to surrender and join the line.

Did he have enough backup to do that? the German commander wanted to know.

Alvin York patted his bullet cache and said yes.

Single handed, he knew he had enough bullets to kill all the Germans.

He didn’t want to kill even one of them.

Because they were men.

Because God loved them, and Jesus died for them. Even though they were the enemy on this battlefield and must be stopped.

The German commander gave the order, and Alvin and his group of less than a dozen walked back to the American base with 150 German soldiers.

At base they weren’t prepared for that many prisoners, so he had to walk them further behind American lines!

“Surrender so I don’t have to kill you!” his words keep echoing.

Now, I dislike warfare, don’t get me wrong.

I don’t want to have an enemy, to engage in battle.

But I find in scripture that we are in a spiritual war. Whether I like it or not, willy-nilly I must fight or lose ground.

I’d rather stay the child, watched over by the fighting parents praying hard for me, loving me. I remember then how I freely loved others.

But God showed me how Alvin York had a heart like God’s.

Surrender, so I don’t have to kill you.

It’s a cry of love.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9

I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6

God’s heart for people is never without love. Wrath, I read recently in The Good and Beautiful God, by Jim Smith, the wrath of God is not an attribute of God but a sign of his love in this fallen world. It’s a parent stopping their child in no uncertain terms from running out in the road in front of an oncoming car. It will end when the new heavens and the new earth have no oncoming cars.

It’s not loving for me to go around as if people aren’t in danger, aren’t caught up in the spiritual warfare, aren’t blind to it.

It’s not loving for me to give them a shallow concept of the love of God.

The verses above talk of people coming to repentence, of knowledge of the truth.

Dismissive love, “It’s okay, God loves you no matter what you do,” is not the whole knowledge of the truth. For while God loves you no matter what you do, he also is sitting there with his gun calling, yearning, “Surrender so I don’t have to kill you!” Better even is the image, trust Christ, my way of salvation so the death you are living doesn’t end up holding on to you.

It don’t do.

It don’t do to act loving if I don’t share the love of Christ.

It don’t do to give love if I don’t give the whole story.

It don’t do to love out of my resources without staying in Jesus’ love.

So I’ve been thinking about my part in the war.

About how Christians fight with real love.

About how love causes us to lay down fear.

About how we must wrestle with God, wrestle through our weakness to his strength made perfect. To show his love, not my own. To get beyond the point where affection runs out and only God’s love can keep me in the fray.

Do I have enough backup for that? I pat my Bible, yes.

This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son as a redeeming sacrifice for us.

For me, for you.

All thanks and praise to God!

(This was a long post. Thanks for reading. Please comment if you wish; I’d love to hear from you.)

Grace Remains

The beautiful gardenia I was given at Christmas time was dying for lack of proper care. Sad about that, I thought, why not try to put it in the ground, even though you’re supposed to wait to transplant them until all the buds are done?

But my ground is horrible. Either dry dirt pocked with gopher holes or weeds running rampant where the sprinkler system is brokenly leaking or something I haven’t figured out yet. I plunked it in a gopher hole among the weeds and it lives!

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Going to check on it one day, my eye was caught by a flash of red, further up. I didn’t take a picture, but it was at the end of this vine:

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I couldn’t believe my eyes at first! There, on either side at the end of the vine, were two little ripe tomatoes. Fruit out of season! I plucked them and marvelled. No bugs had come to them, no birds pecked at them (as had so often happened through the summer). They were just about fully ripe. I brought them in.

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They waited a day or two in a teacup, and then we had them for dinner.

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They were so sweet!

We have been in John this year, and this was the week of John 15.

I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

Remain in me. The silly tomato plant remained because I didn’t get arond to cleaning up the yard! It remained and it bore fruit out of season!

I got to thinking of a branch of the vine

How she was nicked, and weary.

Her connection to the vine wasn’t always strong, the rains didn’t always keep the ground moist. There were times of dryness.

But the conneciton remained.

Like a very small wire, it connected the vine and the branch at the heart of things although the branch looked troubled.

The gardener brought mulch around the plant, knowing the rainy season was coming.

The branch didn’t know how long she had to wait.

She didn’t know if she was good for fruit at all.

Was all that she did good for anything? Would the bugs eat it? Would buds wither before they could even bloom?

Here and there, in the core of her, she felt stirrings of grace.

Like lifeblood she remembered the important things.

She held on to hope through the hard time.

She remembered the promises of God:
Always kept.
In his time.

So she waits and she prays.
She looks and she ponders
She rejoices at glimpses of grace.
She longs for that fruit that remains.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have oeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:9-17

Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with your love. I need your love. My love is inadequate. I keep coming to the end of it, snapping back when irritated, interrupted. Feeling pressured to do or be or say or get somewhere on time! Fill me with your love to give to my people that you have given me, and be in charge of my day today I pray, Amen.

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