Monday, September 30, 2013

September Psalm

O where is a blue butterfly when you want one!
I hate to have it leave, this month of round yellow light that settles lazily over my body, of blue butterflies lingering on lantana and birds calling each other for October journeys.

September. Its departure is as decked out in splendor as was its arrival here in South Carolina.  I pause to soak in the beauty, but the paucity of words to burst through the glory and touch the Creator frustrates me. I identify with that “agony of prayerlessness,” that Dietrich Bonhoeffer says drove the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them to pray.

In his little book, Psalms: the Prayer Book of the Bible, Bonhoeffer makes his case for praying God’s words back to him because, “The words which come from God become  . . .  the steps on which we find our way to God.”  And: “The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.”

And so I let the laundry wait. Dinner will emerge in some form or other, and life will carry on into the October morning.  But today, this last glorious day of September, I offer the words of what Bonhoeffer classifies as the creation psalms back to the One who first spoke them.

Care to join me in a meditation of Psalms 8, 19? (Bonhoeffer also includes  Psalms 29, and 104, which you might consider on your own.)

Psalm 8
O LORD, our Lord, / how majestic is your name in all the earth! O Jehovah Lord, I acknowledge you as Creator God. I praise your name and proclaim your glory. Glory that is above the heavens, uncontainable, unfathomable. (v.1, 2)

How can it be that when I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, /the moon and the stars, which you/have set in place, that you are mindful of me and that you care for me! (v.3,4) I bow down and thank you. I thank you that you have made a way for me know you and that you have crowned me with glory and honor. (v. 3)

O LORD, our Lord, / how majestic is your name in all the earth! (v.9)
Hallowed be your name.

************

1980. I am flying in to NYC, a new Christian about to embark on a new journey. The sunrise explodes above the clouds and I turn in my spanking new Bible to Psalm 19. Your profound declaration of how you have revealed yourself through your creation fills me with awe, and your spoken Word of revelation leaves me no excuse.

The heavens declare the glory of God, / And the sky above proclaims his handiwork. / Day to day pours forth speech/ And night to night reveals knowledge. (v.1, 2) O Father, try as we will to make sense of all the mysteries that surround us, try as we will to inform and contain, there is no way to explain the undeniable grandeur that is revealed both night and day. –even the stars “sing” (as scientists have seen). I praise you for the mystery, the beauty, the grandeur of your creation.

What a great image you have given us to delight in . . . The sun,/ which comes out like a bridegroom/ leaving his chamber/ and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. (v.5)

And in case we miss it—the face of you in this creation—you have left us your Law which is perfect and revives our souls (v.7), your sure testimony which makes the simple wise, your right precepts which rejoice the heart, and your pure commandments which enlighten the eyes . . .(v.7,8)

O God, may I not exchange your glory for my man-made idols. (Romans 1:23) May I not chase after emptiness and become empty. (Jer.2:5)

But let the words of my mouth and the /meditation of my heart/be acceptable in your sight, /O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (v. 14)


Blessings friends, as we leave September behind and face fall-ward,
Marcia


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tickets to Alcatraz

My father didn’t think he should bother God with little everyday problems and requests. Said he’d wait until he needed something important. I wasn’t sure if he was worried God would think he was a nuisance and ignore him when it really mattered, or if God was just too busy answering prayers about starving children and warring countries to be concerned with our growing grocery tab at the neighborhood market.

And so I outsourced most of my childhood concerns. Various saints were delegated the task of helping me find missing items and being safe in the car. Santa Claus got the big-item-once-a-year wish list while crossed fingers and first stars of the night got my lesser daily desires. I did pray to God every day, but I kept to things I was certain He was interested in—like forgiving my misbehavior and helping me to be better.

Years later, when “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight,” Santa Claus, and crossed fingers were as distant a memory as my teddy bear, I floundered about seeking something on which to pin my daily concerns.


That’s when God stepped in and showed me nothing was too insignificant for Him to handle. The same God of the universe and all things incomprehensibly infinite was also the God of my minutia. (Care to tweet this?)

                                                           Tickets to Alcatraz


Alcatraz Island

I had moved across the country to try out life In San Francisco, but nothing was working out as I hoped. Plus, the strain of having to stay alone in an apartment in a strange city while I pieced together enough temp jobs to feed us was taking its toll on my young son. So one sunny afternoon we decided to have fun and take in the city sights.

Making our way to the bay, we joined a group of tourists in line for the ferry tour around Alcatraz. I stood at the edge of the crowd and debated whether or not to spend my last few dollars on something so irresponsible.

 I agonized. It seemed too insignificant a request to warrant the attention of heaven.

It would have been easier if my son had whined and begged. Then I could have felt justified in squelching a tantrum. But the silent hope in his eyes as he looked from me to the diminishing line melted my resolve.

“Lord, please forgive me if I'm being frivolous. It’s been a tough time for him, and he needs to have some fun.” With that, we took our place at the end of the line.

As the last person reached the booth, I faltered. My son looked at me with a desperate glance of hope.

“Psst. Psst.”

Standing at the side of the ticket booth, two little ladies, each with a head full of bluish curls, were gesturing to get my attention. I eyed them warily as they held something out to me.

“Here,” one said, her face awash in delight. “We have two tickets we don’t need. Go ahead. Take them.”

I can’t say for sure, but I suspect, no two people ever felt so gifted by God for a trip to Alcatraz.


The final whistle blew as we hurried up the gangplank. 

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.--Psalm 34:8


Blessings Friends,
Marcia


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Something to Consider this glorious September day

From frivolous (Talk Like a Pirate Day, 9/19) to serious (National POW/MIA Recognition Day, 9/21) the calendar is full of things to celebrate or consider.  

 I enjoy the silliness and humor of some of these designated days (although my family would probably be astounded to see humor and silliness in the same sentence as my name). But as anyone who has poked around here knows, I have a heart for missions.

Previously I told the story about the time I followed up on a Google alert of my book, Call of a Coward, and was led to a blog post of a woman who had just finished reading it. The long and short is—it ministered to her because she was going through the breaking away period, the counting the cost time, to pack up her family and move to Hogar de Vida in Costa Rica to team up with the same people we had been involved with in my story!

I’ve since followed her journey as she and her family untied from all things familiar and made the move to Costa Rica. If their arrival is any indication of things to come, this family can rest assured in the mighty hand of God.

 Imagine the bustle at the airport as you settle your family into the transport, stash your bags and your kids, and then just as you start to relax twenty minutes down the road, you realize you’ve left the backpacks containing all your most valuable paperwork, cash, cameras, and computers on the sidewalk at the airport!


Which brings me back to the calendar days. This month is also Blog Month for Compassion International. Their goal is to get sponsors for 3, 160 children. My friend, Susan Stilwell, a blogger over at I Hope 4 Him invites us to find the story behind this picture:


And so my offering to you, this so-beautiful-I-want-absorb-it day in September is this—please consider the abused and abandoned children here, there, or anywhere and the people who sacrifice to help them. The opportunities to impact lives are plentiful—without even leaving your homes. 

Blessings in the joy of the Lord,
Marcia

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sharing September Sunshine with Spiders


Some Septembers days are so delicious my mind fills with silly celebrations, “O frabjous day ! Callooh! Callay!” 

I love to linger in the hazy light or walk the dog in the brisk morning breeze. It seems I share my fondness for this season with another creature, one for which I have great admiration but don’t want to come anywhere near.

Exhibiting marvelous feats of engineering—bridge lines that span twelve-foot gaps, invisible orbs strong enough to trap large insects (to say nothing of triggering a frantic frenzy when you walk full-face into them), spiders, large, small, furry, striped, and spotted are everywhere. 

I'm not sure whether they are mating, moving, or out on holiday, but they've got their anchor lines and hammocks slung and strung between every upright blade of grass and porch post on my half-acre.

Now, I'm not an arachnophobe, but let’s admit it, unless you are of that rare breed, like my friend Matt, who thinks his fist-size tarantula is a real beauty, it’s downright difficult to warm up to a spider.


Imagine—public speaking and spiders neck and neck on the phobia chart! Which makes me wonder how I would rate my phobias. Free-falling in a elevator and driving off a cliff are biggies. Having a spider walk around my head or face rates pretty high too. (Care to share yours?)

I'm not sure why spiders trigger such violent reactions, (although I suspect it has something to do with having eight legs and a head full of eyes) because for the most part they are quite amazing. For me, learning about them helps me to spare the population. (And they do eat a terrific amount of insects.)

For example the harmless, yet fearsome writing spider who took up housekeeping on my porch was spared because I learned she is harmless, spins a story web, which she takes down every night and puts up again the next day.  See my previous post, The writing spider spins a psalm.

And I was humored by the messy spider strung out on the fence line next to a tidy one. Lessons from a filament-flinging spider.

And I delighted in seeing and learning about ballooning spiders, What response do ballooning spiders and Women of Faith elicit?

But I have to admit, clever as she was to drop a fishing line in the pool skimmer, the black widow with her belly full of progeny crossed my tolerance line. Bob admired her ingenuity so much he was reluctant to get rid of her, but I would have none of it. She was a goner.


Yes, education can certainly help gain a healthy respect for these creeping  creatures, but for the true arachnophobe for whom even the spoken word, spider, elicits a scream, there ‘s help of a different sort. 

How about this virtual reality program that has spiders crawl all over your desk:


And if that’s not your forte, well, I hope you still can delight in these balmy September days; may they not be spider filled, but full of marvel!

Blessings abundant,
Marcia

Friday, September 6, 2013

One Word September Check-up

At the beginning of every year there is a lot of hoopla about choosing One Word, a one-word theme that resonates with your particular stage of life, and that you determine to focus on. Many Christians seek that word from the Lord, but plenty of non-believers choose to reduce their ambitious New Year’s resolution list to one word also. 

It’s easier to remember one word and therefore easier to do. Or is it? I'm wondering how it’s going for those of you who chose/received a word this year.

Are you still praising? Resting? Seeking? Serving? Chilling? Are you still experiencing beauty? Faith? Freedom? Joy? Loveliness? Silliness? Serenity? Serendipity?

For the thirty or so years I have been a Christian, I have sought the Lord on New Year’s Day for a key scripture. I still did that this year, but I also asked the Lord for a one-word lesson or theme He wanted me to be attentive to.

 I immediately knew what it was, and I didn't particularly like it. In fact, I was kind of envious of the people who had fun words like adventure and light, or mysterious words like hidden and key, or just downright peaceable words like tranquil and secure.

My word was anathema to the “me-generation” of which I was such a part.  

It conjured up images of the recalcitrant kid sitting in the corner but standing in his heart.

Like cans tied to a newly-weds  car, misconceived ideas of legalism, suffering, submission, and resignation rattled after it, distracting and deterring a pursuit of it.

And yet I knew that it was only through the practice of this that I would draw closer to the heart of the Father.

Obedience.

“From Paradise lost to Paradise gained, it is obedience that gives access to God.”—Andrew Murray

Obedience acknowledges a higher authority, and if that authority is God, I would like to think sheer love for him would make me willing. And often it has.

But there have been times when although I've done what I knew should, my attitude stunk. The Lord didn't have to wither up a shade-plant in order for me to see that my Jonah heart needed a dose of grace.

And that’s what I am learning about obedience this year—I'm getting the form down but the Lord wants the heart.

I know He is sticking close with me on this because just when I start patting myself on the back about how well I am learning servanthood, I am confronted with an even more demanding situation.

But obedience is not about resignation. Resignation “lies down quietly in the dust of a universe from which God seems to have fled”—Catherine Marshall.  As someone told me this week, her hopes and dreams were like shattered glass. Her attitude was: “It is what it is.”

No. Obedience doesn't resign, it relinquishes, open handedly those dreams to a good, loving, gracious God, confident that He can pick up those shattered stained glass pieces and form a masterpiece.
I would love to hear how you are doing with your theme for the year. And if yours was “happy” or “joyful” do tell! But if you are walking through a trial of a time, may grace tie you securely to the hope you have in the One who relinquished his will, knowing resurrection triumphs over crucifixion.