Lifting hearts to God in thanks and praise.

A Friend and a Book

My college friend came to visit us Friday with her family: watching The Wrinkle in Time movie with us, having a corned beef dinner, sleeping over, exploring Lompoc in the morning and Avila Beach for a late lunch on their way home. It was a good time. As we drove out to Avila, she in the car with me and the kids together in the car with her husband, she said that it was good to see me sitting with Maurice late at night on the couch; it reminded her of our college days, and she was happy to see her old friends as they used to be.

“Yes,” I replied, “We’ve had our hard times in almost 30 years of marriage, but it feels like we’re winning our way back, and circling round to where we started from.” Only deeper, I thought, our love made sure by the hard times we’ve come through, by the grace of God.

I had bought a new book this week and haven’t gotten as far in it as I would have liked to be in order to write a review, but I think already it is giving me rich food for thought, and help in living well. The book is Reframing the Soul: How Words Transform Our Faith, by Greg Spencer. I was interested in it for several reasons: it is written by someone I know; it deals with words and may be useful for my work as an adjunct professor of English (composition) at Westmont College; and it seems to have the goal of faith transformation…which I hope means renewal or encouragement or betterment in some way. I’m only in chapter 2, but the events of the weekend connect to this lovely book.

The reflection, both the picture my friend connected of my sitting on a couch with Maurice as I used to do when our love was young and vibrant, and now when our love is old and growing full again, was a gift. My acceptance and acknowledgment was a reframing of those hard times, for surely all marriages have their hard times?

Reframing, as I am starting to understand it from Dr. Greg Spencer’s book, is choosing how to tell a story of my life that maybe used to be told one way (where things hurt me) but can be told from a vantage point of truth and grace. I’m not far along, remember, so I look forward to learning more and applying it.

But I made one more connection with the book on Friday when I wasn’t even reading it, that I’d like to share here: we went to see Wrinkle in Time, and Reframing made me remember an incident in one of the sequels where the main character, Meg, must choose the real Mr. Jenkins (the principal with whom she has a difficult relationship). She is shown several carbon copies, and is distracted until she remembers that her friend Calvin told her of Mr. Jenkins offering him a new pair of shoes that were scuffed up on purpose to look old so that he would accept them. She shut her eyes and named the real Mr. Jenkins on that story, not on the conflicts and confusion she felt with him in her own relationship. She reframed who he was to her, I think Dr. Spencer would say.

I like that every chapter ends with a poem. I think Dr. Spencer was brave to include poetry but also encouraging, because poetry should be something that all of us write, not just the best, paid poets. But he’s amazing in that the poems connect with and summarize (so far, I’m only in chapter 2, remember) what he has said in the chapter they conclude.

Perhaps this quote gives the best taste of the book I can offer here:

Years ago, astronomer Johannes Kepler inspired scientific work by calling it “thinking God’s thoughts after him,” encouraging researchers to follow the logic of God’s mind. Perhaps the inspired goal of good framing is “speaking God’s words after him,” encouraging communicators to pattern their language decisions after God’s choices. Both can lead to restoration or reformation, even resurrection. (p. 30)

Thanking and praising God tonight for friends and books!


what God said

This morning in my daily routine, after listening to the book of 1Peter while making coffee and my dad’s breakfast shake, I read a for bit, although I was distracted. But I finally felt ready to answer the questions in chapter 4 of Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life. Do you do that, stall out when you get to a series of questions you can’t face and lay the book aside until you are ready to answer them?

For a good month now I had stalled out on the first question, the one about placing your dreams, plans, and stewardship of your life into His hands, but today I realized, I do have old dreams, and God is working even though I don’t always know what the next step is, let alone what the future holds.

So I went on to answer the question about skills (giving, serving, encouraging, writing, teaching, cooking, hospitality, mercy, compassion for the lost) and then was intrigued by  the question about the circumstances of my life. It was as I was listing these:

  • Cross culturally married
  • Homeschooling a single child
  • Home caring for aging father
  • Travel agent/traveler

that the insistent thought came: Stop wishing for someone else’s life!

Immediately I thought of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Stop wishing for someone else’s life! Yes, Lord, for thy sweet love remembered, such wealth brings that then I scorn to change my state with kings, or movie stars, or wealthy friends, or happy-go-lucky ones…You have given me good, and not evil. You, Lord, are with me and lead me or recall me to the right, the good, the beautiful, and the true.

All thanks and praise to God!

Resurrection takes Love

This blog has been sleeping for a while, and I’ve been doing other things: Facebook, teaching Eng-002 (Composition) at Westmont College, directing the Villette Musical that Ravinia wrote in 2016 and a group of her friends performed in May 2017, and taking an RV trip across America (dreams come true).

But the theme of this blog: Lifting Hearts to God in Thanks and Praise, that’s always timely, and the freedom of content here beckons me once again. I have some writing projects in mind for 2018, and so I thought, I should resurrect Highheartedly.

It turns out resurrecting a blog is a big deal to me. I spent the month of February not doing it! Many good things happened in February that could have been written about, pictured, reflected on…and the month of Love went by. “What I learned in February” comes out tomorrow on some of the blogs I read, and on this last day of the month I am thankful for the whole month, the building up of love, the work of God behind the scenes and holding me so that I can come back to this quiet place on the internet and write again.

It wasn’t enough to write about Amy’s visit and our Saturday jaunt to the beach where we were blessed to see whales and be reminded how nature soothes our souls.

It wasn’t enough to write about how I was getting to preach a sermon on Sunday and how nervousness made me speak faster than I should have, but how people responded and Ravinia’s eyes glowed…but how while there is not unity on this issue I do not personally wish to become a female pastor.

It wasn’t enough to write about my mom’s birthday, the 11th since she died.

It wasn’t enough to write about how Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday coincided and we ate a marvelous meal on Mardi Gras and had two Valentine’s parties before an evening Ash Wednesday service for which I am grateful. The season of Epiphany was 40 days this year, making a satisfying similarity to Lent in the church calendar.

It wasn’t enough to write about lunch at Jeannine’s on Coast Village Road and how we returned there, finally, after the fire and the mudslide damage to be greeted by the hostess who offered me a slice of birthday cake which we’d missed in December.

It wasn’t enough to write about going to see The Crucible at the PCPA last Wednesday and getting to be interviewed afterwards, feeling vulnerable as we walked away but then relieved when we saw the video on Facebook and how the editing was well done.

It wasn’t enough to write about the Winter Ball that got delayed to February 24 (so now what theme will it have?) and my uncertainties and fears and ineptitude but God’s provision and reassurance both from people who came and helped and enjoyed the time, and from the remembrance that this is a gift I am giving to my daughter who asked for a ball, and the money I spent was certainly within the gift budget, after all!

It wasn’t enough to write about Dad’s decline in Parkinson’s related issues and my need to step up nursing him: attentiveness, almost bullying him into taking a shower after all…and God’s grace in an upswing for Dad’s condition and an upswing in family relationships too.

But all these things together are enough. In all these things, God is to be thanked and praised.

So here I am again, loving God and loving the people he gives me.

All thanks and praise to God!

Telling Secrets #1

This is going to be a ten minute writing series where I post in ten minutes something that’s been on my heart, or a story of how I learned something for which we can all thank and praise God.

Why are kids so sarcastic around here? Self-deprecating? What?

“Beth, you’re a turkey,” Joe Smith* said to me when I was new in town: middle school, Dallas, TX, coming¬†from the middle of PA. I didn’t know how to interpret him! Was it good or bad? I had no clue, no clue at all! We’d been over to his house for dinner, our whole family, and it was near the end of our visit, and he said it with a smile. That’s all I remember.

As we drove home though, I thought of Joe. He wasn’t my pick for best looking boy in my new class (I can still recall two or three I preferred), but he was fairly popular. Why is that? Maybe his outgoing ways trumped his odd looks? Nothing wrong with his looks, sure, but he had more self-assurance than the nicer looking boys that were his friends.

He was friendly and kind, I figured. He didn’t worry about himself, and maybe that was the secret?

Maybe everybody, no matter how odd overall, has some good qualities about their appearance, and I can look for them, like this boy modeled for me.

Maybe I don’t have to worry about my looks if I’m discouraged but can show kindness to others and encourage them? Since then, I have found that the best times were when I didn’t know at all what I looked like, but was enjoying the other(s) I was with and felt free.

Maybe the sarcasm and self-deprecation is a cover for the pretty ones not feeling sure of themselves? Needing someone to tell them how beautiful, how loved they are? To free them to be their happy selves?

That’s what I learned from being called a turkey. I still don’t know how it was meant! But I think God used it for good in my life.

All thanks and praise to God.

*Name changed because I fell out of touch and so can’t ask his permission to tell the story.

Sunday morning

I was fearful about many things.

Sunday morning: Stung.
You know the Sting?
Someone acts like they care, and then halfway through the conversation you realize it was really about them, to get themselves something or to stop something that bothered them.

And I had anxieties.
Cast your cares on the Lord.
Well, I did.
Picture me throwing (I have bad aim)
To Jesus (he’s an amazing catcher)
Naming just first names of my cares, people for whom I care, or situations in a word.

But it was odd:
The more I threw the cares,
And he caught them, and that care was lifted,
More cares came up.

It was like seeping in through cracks.
I have cracks?
Well yes.

Like a tire with a nail in it,

Like a sinking rowboat I was bailing while water seeped in.
You know that feeling?
Can I bail fast enough for long enough just to reach shore?

But God…But GOD!
Gave me time out.
I sat in my car during choir practice.

I wrote my heart to Jesus:
I am way too anxious, Lord.
Forgive me?
Hold me?

My heart lightened.
I felt I should read my email, and there was this post:
The Only True Antidote to Worry.

I read it and I soaked in her answer.
“Thy will be done.”
I knew it by heart, for I recite the Lord’s prayer more often than weekly.

Thy will be done.

Thy will be done in each of those things I threw to you!

That tire with the puncture image comes nearest to what happened next.
There’s this stuff you can squirt into a tire instead of air and the air pressure pushes the stuff to the leak so that it fills the leak, sealing the tire again, and then you can put air in to fill the tire up.

I prayed deeply, thy will be done in everything, and the Holy Spirit was that sealant. It was at that point that I realized there were cracks that had been letting in worry, fear, and doubt.

Sealed with the Holy Spirit is a biblical promise from Jesus.
I never thought of it being a sealant effect from the inside out to make me strong against the temptation to disbelief!

I hope it lasts.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to worry about it lasting because He will last: He will keep his promises to me. All of them are yes in Christ.

All praise and thanks to him!

Linking up with Holley and Arabah Joy:



I need…rest

In Finding Spiritual Whitespace, chapter 1, Bonnie Gray ends with a question:

What is your heart’s desire for whitespace most reflected in?

a blank page

a white canvas

a quiet silence

a cool, dark night

an open field

an intimate corner of a cafe


I sat for a timeless moment drinking in the beauty of each of these suggested things, testing them against a very quiet voice, my voice (not God’s still small voice), and waited. Finally it came, “those are all good, but what I crave is an open day with no structure.”

The funny thing was, I was writing this on such a day. Sabbath Saturday. I suppose it was affirming, but the thing that shocked me was how deeply I felt the need. I’m craving a year of Sabbath Saturdays. Should I block them off? Maybe, sundown Friday to sundown Saturday: make no plans ahead?

A space for whatever comes. No stress. Creative time, serendipitous time, family time, down time, free…

Then I remembered.

Back in 2004, I discovered Thin Within in the window of a storefront that boasted free books to swap, encouraging literacy in New Haven, CT. Subtitled A Grace Based Approach to Lasting Weight-loss, it drew me like a magnet. I flipped through and saw Bible verses on every page. I was still in the baby focused (okay, she was 4) stage where I spent no money on myself, but this was free! I took it home.

I’d been trying for a week to follow what a friend at Bible study had told me about the South Beach diet: you can eat chocolate covered almonds! But when we got back together and I asked her, like how many? She said oh, 6 or so and I realized I’d scarfed 20. That’s when I realized I had a problem.

This book? It was a God-send. It was grace, for my need. I lost 40 pounds that fall, delightfully. I didn’t stress to follow rules, I read when I felt the need to read more, half a chapter, a bit at a time. Listening to my body, listening to God. Most of the 40 has stayed off, but I do forget to listen, let stress or anxiety overwhelm me. So, the need for stress-less unplanned days.

When I was reading Thin Within, I got to a chapter that asked what lies I was believing and how that affected me. There was a blank chart for me to fill in. As if? Okay, so I did. There was a space for three things (which now makes me wonder if there’d been space for more would I have filled in more?), and one of the things I wrote was:

“There’s no time for me.”

After all, I was constantly watching over a baby, then a toddler, now a preschooler. A single child. That means no ready playmate at home, so mom is called in to play and she, being a late thirty-something, has forgotten how to play, has to relearn play, has to follow the child’s direction…at least that was how my situation was tending. I was laying down my life, right?

The consequence of the lie that there was no time for me was that I didn’t recognize and plan for me time when it came. I had filled up any free time with non-helpful things. I didn’t have a plan for when my free time came.

So then I resolved to grab my little journal, the one with a quote and a margin to write in.

The free time came and I recognized it and for ten minutes while she played by herself I sat nearby and read and wrote my own thoughts. Pretty soon the ten minutes grew. I was getting a half hour to read and write and pray!

I started to realize that I didn’t recognize the time because I couldn’t schedule it, but God could provide the free time I needed, and I could thankfully receive it. I could rest in his provision. I could trust God to be in control, even of my time and things that happened in my day.

It’s been ten years since that blinding insight and I’ve apparently had to relearn it many times, had to see the consequence of forgetting (I snap something ugly at my loved ones when I’m under the clock and unable to control them. I hate that. My only way out, as I see it, is to remember that God can be in control, better than me. His strength is so much better than my weakness!), and had to pray daily for God’s love to fill me so that I could love my people with his love.

Provision of time.

God will provide.

God will meet me in my need, and will restore my soul.

All praise and thanks to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!


Linking up with Bonnie for the book club here.

Feed my Soul

Linking up with Bonnie today about “what I love to do that feeds my soul” only my writing turned introspective and hearkened back to some of the highlights of my life in terms of soul feeding…so I’m not sure it fits in easily, but it’s where I went with the prompt. Boldly sharing:

“When I run I feel his pleasure!” Eric Liddell said.
What is it, when you do, you feel the pleasure of God?
A few nights ago we watched a tightrope walker across Chicago’s river. He gave thanks to God and he said, “I was made for this.”
How wonderful that feeling is, that joy!
I have sometimes felt it.
I think so, anyway.
What do you think?
A long time ago I sat alone in prayer and realized that lust can’t have any power over dead people. “Do you not know you have died with Christ?” I heard it echoing in my mind from our Colossians study a few days previously. I praised the Lord, and have not struggled with lust since. (If you never heard that women can struggle with lust we can discuss it.)
Another time I returned to my one bedroom apartment, the bedroom set aside for the baby we were trying to teach to sleep through the night alone (that’s another story) and cried to God about the friend’s house I had just helped clean to show for sale. I had forgotten it was in the ten commandments: thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. But once it was applied by the Holy Spirit to my heart, I could confess and have not had one bit of house envy since.
When people speak of never really being freed from sin this side of heaven, I do have to speak up. I don’t know about being freed from all sin and never sinning again in this life in any way, but I do know the freedom from temptation in particular areas that God’s healing forgiveness has given to me.
James said it was our own evil desire that entices us. Not God. Not even the advertisements. (Who that has a brand new car is tempted by a different new car ad?) It’s my sin-broken heart that leads me astray. It’s God’s work through his Word combined with the power of the Holy Spirit that has freed me, heart and soul.
One more story. I was going to be going to England for a month last May, so about a year ago now I asked God, “Could you please heal my milk allergy? It sure would be fun to drink milk in England, to be free to eat whatever.” I asked it in a sort of little girl crawling into Daddy’s lap to ask a favor, confident he could do it but fine if he decided it was not good. He did heal me, (I think two things factored into the process but I didn’t make the connection at the time) and I can’t deny it but must give him praise.
Three stories.
Not really directly answering the question of what is it that when I do, I feel his pleasure. But let me try to draw out a common theme. Listening to the word of God and responding to it, humbly depending on the Holy Spirit to work what I cannot do. Then praising him, remembering and celebrating his gift.
I most feel his pleasure when I realize he is with me, loves me, is healing me. Something like, when I know I am on the right road in this life.

A love relationship with God, no matter what I’m doing.

I’m so excited to start the Finding Spiritual Whitespace bookclub; to journal through the book that Bonnie wrote in context of this community, as if leading this community, and now is leading those who opt in! I invite you along: like her FaceBook page and join us with a copy of the book and a journal (I’ll be using my Christmas gift journal).

More answers to the question from other bloggers are at Bonnie’s (click here to read).