Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sigh. I'm Doing It Again....

For those of you who aren't familiar with living with chronic pain, here's the Spoon Theory.

I hate when I do it.

Or when it does it to me.

When pain burrows deep, tentacles reaching past sinews into marrow, I burrow myself deep, too.

I don't mean to. It just happens.

Fingers ache redly, so I don't write. Head spins sickly, so I don't read.

I don't want to talk, so I hide shyly, not wanting to heft my burdens on shoulders of others.

So I isolate, not blogging, not Facebooking, not Tweeting, not Wattpadding. I fold in on myself, reluctantly.

I hope to push through these days of pain and exhaustion, come out of my proverbial shell, and live well again.

Tomorrow I'll be pushing myself out there--attending Morning Prayer and the Holy Communion Healing Service at Victoria Chapel with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, followed by J's guitar lesson with Father Acker, part of the Free Teen Guitar Class outreach. Then home to bake cookies to sell at our annual town festival where I'll be helping at the Pine Valley Community Garden booth after the town parade--Pine Valley Days is always a day of fun!

After dropping J off at the monthly Guitar Jam in Alpine, I'll drive to my dear friend's house where I'll spend the night and enjoy a girl-gab fest (with much poetry and literary discussion). I'll drive back up the mountain early Saturday morning to participate in Pine Valley Days.

And on Sunday, Lake Murray is hosting a Missions Conference since all of our missionaries are stateside. Two of our favorite missionaries cannot attend, but most will be here for a wonderful conference encompassing work in West Africa, North Africa, East Asia, and the former Soviet republics, as well as missionary training in Wisconsin, outreach to migrant farm workers in Wyoming/Idaho, plus hospital chaplaincy and homeless ministries here in San Diego.

So I have a busy few days ahead as I come out of this painful shell--pushing, emerging, and, I pray, blooming where I am planted.

Emerging from my hidey-hole, I pray,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quotation of the Week

I've had a very difficult week physically--pain just won't let up; it's blinding now as I type. So I won't preface this quotation with much except to say that it stood out to me as if it were written in crimson ink right in the middle of Ann's blog:
"Now is not an emergency to rip through, but a moment to embrace with gratitude."

--Ann Voskamp, on

I not only jotted this sentence into my Quotation Journal; I also copied it onto my Shakespeare Post-Its and placed it at eye-level on the wall in front of my desk.

An important reminder, that.

How easy it is to hurry; how difficult it is to slow down, see what is in front of us right now, and give thanks. It's something I need to learn--desperately need to learn.

Learning to slow down and embrace the "now" with gratitude,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saint Mary the Magdalene

Saint Mary the Magdalene is, after Christ's mother Mary, the most important woman in the Bible. She was a great supporter of Jesus' ministry, thankful for the freedom she experienced from demonic possession as a result of Christ's power.

This morning, July 22, I attended the usual Friday morning Anglican services alone; usually I have at least one, if not more, of the kids with me. But it was a quiet day--no bells rung, a day of contemplation, of prayer, of reading and praying God's Word, of celebrating the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion. And it was a day to remember this Biblical saint, Mary of Magdala.

The Book of Common Prayer 2011 contains a Collect to celebrate this day in the life of the Church:

Almighty God, whose only Son restored your servant Mary Magdalene to health of mind and body, and made her a witness to his resurrection; By your grace may we mercifully be healed of all our weaknesses and serve you in the power of his risen life; Who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and rules, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

The prayer regarding Mary Magdalene from Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime reads:

Almighty God, you have surrounded me with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that I, encouraged by the good example of your servant Mary Magdalene, may persevere in running the race that is set before me, until at last I may with her attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I always think of Mary as the woman who first saw our resurrected Lord outside the tomb on that very special Sunday morning. With what sorrow did she approach the tomb, and with what joy did she depart from it to tell the Eleven what had happened! Mary must have been so very well-beloved of our Lord to be given the first glimpse of Him after the Resurrection. And before she recognizes him, she questions him about the missing body, believing Him to be the gardener, until He said simply, "Mary."

At that moment she realized several things: 1) Jesus was indeed alive; 2) Jesus had fulfilled His promises of rising again the third day; 3) God does miracles--He is indeed a God of grace and might, with power over Death itself.

Here is what the Saint-A-Day e-mail from stated today regarding Mary Magdalene and the misinformation about her that I heard even from my pastor on Sunday:

Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women. Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not...the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.” She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.

Mary Magdalene is also one of the greatesy subjects of painters through the ages. If you would like to see an assortment, search "Mary Magdalene" in Google Images and see all of the amazing paintings that come up. The painting above is by John Rogers Herbert and is dated 1859. I debated about posting Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting as I saw it a year ago at the San Diego Museum of Art's PreRaphaelite exhibit, but I liked this one better; she's calmer, more "normal" which agrees with the above opinion that Mary Magdalene was not the same Mary who was a prostitute, nor was she the mother of Jesus' child (and thus the "real Holy Grail", as presented in Dan Brown's fictional book, The Da Vinci Code.

May we all follow Mary Magdalene's example of love and devotion to Christ and support of His ministry as He gifted us with eternal Life and Love. Mary loved Jesus with all she had and with all she was--which is the hope and prayer of every Christian as we sojourn through this life and look to the Next.

Walking in the example of Mary and the Love of Christ,

(Edited from the Archives, one of the five most popular posts ever on this blog)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Wee Bit Late, But Still Trudging Onward....

One of my summer projects is to recopy my Gratitude Journal, now just a stack of pages printed from my blog over the eighteen months I've been on this journey. As I can only handwrite ten or so entries at a time because of my rheumatic hands, even with my favorite fountain pen, it's been slow going. But it's also good that it's been slow--I've had time to re-thank God for each item on my list as I recopy, to ponder each entry's significance and to remember my frame of mind when I jotted it down, pinning gratitude to paper, creating permanence out of what can feel like nebulous prayers that slip from mind, never to return.

And it's also been wonderful reading Ann's book this summer. It's the only book I've purchased all year, and after being a fan of her blog for the past two years, it's nice to settle into her writing, experiencing bigger chunks of it at a time.

But it's not easy reading--not because of her beautiful, poetic style; no, not that at all--but because she challenges our ungratefulness, our un-seeing of what God has placed before us as gifts, the ones right under our noses that we see each day but don't actually SEE. And she challenges us to thankfulness for the seemingly bad things--and Ann's life has seen heart-wrenching grief. She calls it the "hard eucharisteo"--the difficult thanks, the ones we can't see for the longest time but thank on faith that there's beauty underneath the ugliness, grace underneath the sin.

But such eucharisteo (thankful) living does not come easy to us, even to us Christ-followers. The Christian life lived for His glory requires much effort, much willingness to examine our own motivations and deeply-hidden sinful ways, a willingness to take the time to look and truly, truly SEE.

And seeing cannot be rushed.

Our "nows" cannot be rushed through--and this is something that I must learn, I who sprint through my days always looking toward "the next thing" that needs doing and neglecting to focus on "the now thing" right under my nose. I who watch wristwatch and measure minutes, pushing children through homeschooling assignments, tapping toes impatiently at undone chores, and not truly seeing the grace that inhabits my days, simply because I'm too busy mind-organizing the upcoming three tasks that "need" to be done.

And this rushing ingratitude is why I decided nineteen months ago to slow down and count the graces, journeying toward One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at Ann's beautiful blog, A Holy Experience.

So although I'm posting a few days late because of headache and everything-ache, because strength flags as mercury rises, I did jot these on Monday, thanking God this week for:
571. ...the rustle of squirrels in branches hanging heavy to the ground with Pippins

572. ...praying in morning warm on our front porch, a church service of one

573. ...sweetness of mango steeped in black tea, deepest brown in blue ceramic

574. ...drone of neighbor's mower, tidying nature's summer abundance

575. ...bright emerald of summer Locust tree leaves, reaching toward noonday sun

576. ...warm breezes caressing, mountain-scented and pure

577. ...antique lamps born in 1926 gracing our yard, hugging them close in thanks as need trumps beauty before buyers arrive

578. ...laughter rippling from county park, child-joy wafting on weekend breezes across sun-browned meadow

579. ...pen glazing blue ink across paper as Gifts are remembered, rethanked, recopied

580. ...deep age-grooves, stung with sap, in vanilla-scented Jeffrey pines, stout with its decades

And thus the journey continues ever onward, as the truth of the old adage seeps into brain, remaining and remaining: seeing is believing.

Seeing all things anew in His grace,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quotation of the Week: On Harry Potter

Yes, Elizabeth and I sat expectantly in the nearest movie theatre Thursday night, awaiting the 12:01 AM showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. It was our first and only midnight viewing of the Potter series; for the other films, we usually took the premiere day off from school to see the first matinee, usually while everyone else was holed up in their school classrooms.

I will write a review of Deathly Hallows Part 2, but we're taking the boys and Keith to see the early ($6) matinee tomorrow morning, so I'll write about it after I've seen the film for a second time. The experience was thrilling, although I wish they'd stuck closer to the book in a few places.

But I still find many Christians opposed to the Potter books and films, and I really don't see why. JK Rowling is a professing Christian whose literary heroes include Christian novelists CS Lewis and JR Tolkien, and I believe that her series will be seen by later generations as equal to theirs in both overall scope and quality as well as Christian content.

If Christians remain leery of the series, I encourage them to read John Granger's excellent book Looking for God in Harry Potter in which Granger, a homeschooling dad of seven, outlines the Christian origin of character names as well as the Christian themes and imagery of the series. Written before the publication of the final book, which contains by far the most blatant Christian content, this book totally changed my mind about the Potter series. Granger also has a short article on the Christian themes in the Potter series, specifically the second book, here: "Harry Potter and the Inklings."

As I browsed several film reviews by Christian authors, especially by Frederica Mathewes-Green called "Holy Harry," I came across a wonderful article on the Christian themes in the series called "Deeper Magic, Deeper Meanings" by Baylor literature professor Greg Garrett that contained a quotation so powerful that I had to jot it into my quotation journal:

"I felt that Rowling's 4100-page epic was the best and the most powerful contemporary retelling of the gospel narrative I'd encountered."
--Greg Garrett, Professor of Literature at Baylor University

I think this quotation puts the Potter series in its proper context as truly Christian fiction. And I'll post my review of the final film probably on Tuesday.

Happy movie watching!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A "Deal"

One of the lovely things about Facebook is finding old friends. Not long ago an old friend from grade school (we've known each other since 1974--second grade, I believe) contacted me, and although we moved in different social circles in junior high and high school (i.e., he was a popular football player while I was working on the yearbook and literary magazine), we've become friends once again.

And mostly over books.

He went back to school, starting college at age 40, and has become as voracious a reader as I am. But he was shocked that I hadn't read one of his favorite books, and I was equally taken aback that he had not read any of the Harry Potter series.

Thus our "deal" was born.

The Deal: If I start reading Stephen King's Under the Dome, he'll start reading the Harry Potter series.

So today I picked up my copy of Under the Dome from our town's library. Elizabeth even snapped a photo of me at my desk holding my copy as proof that I now have a copy in my hot little hands.

It may seem unfair for me to read one book for this deal while he has to read seven, but Under the Dome is truly a TOME! It weighs 3 pounds, 12 ounces, and is 1, 072 pages long. So although the Harry Potter series is technically more pages by far, this print is smaller.

I feel it's an even deal. Well, fairly even, anyway.

So the deal is on, dear friend: Where's your copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone?

Reading, reading, reading,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Praying by the Book

Some Christians either look down upon or simply don't understand why other Christians find value in praying from a prayer book. Whether that book is a Book of Common Prayer from the 1540's or Baillie's classic Diary of Private Prayer from the 1940's or Stormie O'Martian's more recent Power of a Praying Wife, etc., praying from a book, or "by the book" can express the soul-language of our hearts.

I had never prayed from any book, except the Scriptures of course, until about ten years ago. Yes, I started with Stormie O'Martian's books which have been accepted almost without question in evangelical circles, but then online friends encouraged me to try Baillie's slim volume of prayers.

And I fell in love with praying all over again.

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with extemporaneous praying--it's what we do all the time. And praying "by the book" should never totally replace praying on our own--Baillie even writes in his book that "These prayers are to be regarded as aids; they are not intended to form the whole of morning's or evening's devotions or to take the place of more individual prayers for oneself and others."

But adding such written prayers to our prayer times has totally revolutionized my own prayer life.

For me, written prayers often express my heart more thoroughly and deeply than I can in extemporaneous prayer. I find this especially true in using the Book of Common Prayer and Baillie's Diary of Private Prayer. Baillie's little book presents page-long prayers for Morning and Evening for thirty-one days, plus Morning and Evening prayers for Sundays; thus, each prayer is prayed once per month. The prayers become familiar over the years (and I've been using Baillie's book off and on for well over a decade), but for me, they are never rote. Nope, never ever rote.

Instead, they become beautiful expressions of the love and faith in my heart, expressed far better and with a more global outlook than my own private prayers.

One of my favorite prayers is the Twelfth Day, Evening:

O Thou in whose boundless being are laid up all treasures of wisdom and truth and holiness, grant that through constant fellowship with Thee the true graces of Christian character may more and more take shape within my soul:
The grace of a thankful and uncomplaining heart:
The grace to await Thy leisure patiently and to answer Thy call promptly:
The grace of courage, whether in suffering or in danger:
The grace to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ:
The grace of boldness in standing for what is right:
The grace of preparedness, lest I enter into temptation:
The grace of bodily discipline:
The grace of strict truthfulness:
The grace to treat others as I would have others treat me:
The grace of charity, that I may refrain from hasty judgement:
The grace of silence, that I may refrain from hasty speech:
The grace of forgiveness towards all who have wronged me:
The grace of tenderness towards all who are weaker than myself:
The grace of steadfastness in continuing to desire that Thou wilt do as now I pray.
And now, O God, give me a quiet mind, as I lie down to rest. Dwell in my thoughts until sleep overtake me. Let me rejoice in the knowledge that, whether awake or asleep, I am still with Thee. Let me not be fretted by any anxiety over the lesser interests of life. Let no troubled dreams disturb me, so that I may awake refreshed and ready for the tasks of another day. And to Thy Name be all the glory. Amen.

So I pray, with words not wholly mine, but with a heart that, I pray, is wholly His.

And I find great comfort in praying in this way, especially when the exhaustion and brain-fog and pain of my illness makes praying extemporaneously a challenge.

For me, my private prayers were becoming rote. I felt as though I were praying the same things each day, almost as if I were ticking off a grocery list of requests. So the prayers I pray from books have been more heart-felt than my private, extemporaneous prayers.

I think that God doesn't look at our words in prayer so much as at the heart attitude behind the prayer.

"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,(B) but the LORD looks on the heart." --1 Samuel 16:7, ESV

With God, it's always the heart that counts.

Praying by the book with heart,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Page: Book of Common Prayer 2011

I just put together a page above on the Book of Common Prayer 2011 that I spent the last year editing with Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. It's been a labor of love for all involved: for Bishop Boyce who supported the project, for Father Acker who invested two years of 40-hour weeks into the project, for his wife, Alice, who did much of the format editing, and for myself, who helped edit for clarity, correctness, and flow of language.

Copies of the Book of Common Prayer 2011 may be ordered here: Ordering Information

And here is the link to the page I just drew up: BCP 2011 Page, or you can just click on the page below the Meditative Meanderings header.

Praying God's Word with you,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing the Gratitude

This week I started the project I have longed to do since January. I finally cracked open the navy blue journal, pages crisp, unsullied. I lifted my favorite fountain pen, sloshing with blue Waterman ink--sea blue, bright with promise.

And so I began. I touch shining brass nib to the pure whiteness, following sepia lines that keep me straight. And I wrote the thanks, committing each numbered expression of gratitude to the page in my own penmanship.

Since I started this journey, I've dutifully copied and pasted each Monday's thanks to a Word document, then printed all, stark black against glaring white. When I saw Ann's own journal, written by hand, I wanted my thanks to be in my own writing as well. I wanted to take that final step of ownership--making these thanks even more mine.

Because of arthritic hands, I can only recopy ten thanks per day--or hands swell, ache, throb. The work will be slow, spread over many, many warm, summery days. But each time I sit to write, I focus, remember, thank again...gratitude rebirthed, reborn, all anew in royal blue as I nod my thanks, knees bent, to the ultimate Royalty, the King of kings.

So here continue the thanks, the gratitude written into journal as well as electronically inscribed in blog and Word doc. On the page, it takes a breath, truly lives, in slanting hand, pain-worn and rightly earned.

The price can never be paid, but it can be acknowledged.

Joining again with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, over halfway along the journey to One Thousand Gifts....

Thankful to God this day for:

561. ...slanting rain, nearly three-quarters of an inch, suffusing thirsty ground

562. ...flash and crash of lightning and thunder, shaking windows in their frames and forking gray, electric skies

563. ...the quiet of writing in vacant house, silent with neighbors on vacation, creativity flowing in tranquil coolness as their cat rubs against my legs

564. ...snapdragons bright, reseeded from past years, always reborn without gardener's effort--every bloom an unexpected gift

565. ...returning to 365 photo-blogging, marking days by truly seeing gifts through small, point-n-shoot lens

566. ...beloved dachshund healing at last after winter paralysis from ruptured disc; sheer delight in Dashwood's bright-eyed wellness

567. ...whirr of stationary bicycle as I read from Kindle--strengthening legs and improving health while engrossed in new stories

568. ...chime of cell phone, reminding me to pray Divine Hours four times daily: in rising morning, in heated noon, in cooling evening, in drowsy night.

569. ...giggle of kids over sheer silliness, laughter enveloping the family at dinner table

570. ...the jotting of gifts in blue-bound journal, thanks in slanting script, ink staining white pages with cerulean words ruled straight

So I continue to write thanks in my own penmanship, making gratitude all-the-more personal, all the more mine. I own this journey, this journey that brings me ever closer to the heart of the Giver of Gifts.

Writing the Gratitude,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Quotations of the Week: On Writing

This week ahead will be a writing week; I hope. I need to really buckle myself down after resting (or attempting to rest--my sleep patterns have been wonky, to say the least) for the past few weeks and force my fingers to dance among the keys and produce some decent writing.

I'm still working on my teen novella--I have thirty-seven chapters completed and will probably end up with fifty or so when I'm done. They're short chapters, though--only 2500 words or so, which seems to work best for the main venue I'm posting them. I'm churning out a new chapter every 4-5 days; I was hoping for twice a week but that isn't happening yet.

And I want to keep up with this blog and the other blogs I write for; I have some major work to do on our community garden blog. I need to design a new header, write some new posts, and update photographs. I also have some blog posts I need to write here that I've jotted down in my Kindle Notes as the ideas have struck.

But my major project, the main one I want to make considerable progress upon this summer, is to complete at least a full rough draft of the MLA Research Essay book I'm writing for Brave Writer. I'm writing it directly to high school students, guiding them through the entire process of planning, researching, drafting, and producing a 5-10 page college-level research essay according to the newest MLA (Modern Language Association) format.

I also have a meeting on Tuesday night with our local Writers' Workshop. We'll meet to share a couple of pages of our work, giving and receiving comments, suggestions, and encouragement to one another as we seek to hone our craft, becoming more effective communicators of the written word.

So with much writing ahead of me this week, I thought I'd post a few of my favorite writing quotations. The first two of these I've posted in the past, but they're so wonderful that I simply couldn't resist!

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."
--Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

"Easy reading is damn hard writing."
--Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."
--William Wordsworth

"Don't tell me the moon in shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
--Anton Chekov

So as I go forth to write my little fingers raw, I hope for a productive week ahead for me, and for you all as well!

On the writing journey with you,

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hope and Praise

Each morning this gem of a devotion arrives in my inbox, and I look forward to quieting mind and spirit in order to read, learn, ponder, and pray.

The High Calling website is a favorite of mine, and I've posted several poems in response to their monthly writing challenges, receiving constructive feedback from some of the best Christian poets of our time. It's a blessing in so many ways.

Unfortunately, in the melee that this last semester turned into, I have fallen out of the habit of checking the website and writing in response to their prompts and challenges. However, this daily gem has spoken to me in wonderful ways, and I have at times posted comments to Mark Roberts, the author of these daily ponderings and prayers.

Today's offering spoke precisely to where Keith and I are. With the economy in its present state, Keith's home design work has been extremely slow, and he's taken to doing anything and everything he can, especially handyman-type work. He's done landscaping, bathroom remodelings, kitchen repair and renovation, furniture repair and refinishing, fence repair, front door refinishing, and he even installed an elevator in my parents' home. He has also received several stained glass commissions which is his forte, although the pay isn't much when compared to handyman or drafting.

I've been doing my part. While continuing to educate the kids at home, I've picked up tutoring jobs where I can, offered online grading of essays, and have taken on teaching additional classes at Brave Writer.

But financially it's been tight, and sometimes downright scary. We scrabble each week to buy groceries and pay bills which we keep as low as possible--necessities only.

So as we wait on the Lord, today's devotional spoke especially to my heart; I reproduce it in its entirety.

You may read it online here.

Hope and Praise
by Mark D. Roberts
Psalm 71:1-24

But I will keep on hoping for your help;
I will praise you more and more.
--Psalm 71:14

Psalm 71 is a prayer for deliverance offered by an unnamed poet who has repeatedly experienced God’s help throughout his long life. Now he needs the Lord to protect and save him once again.

In verse 14 this psalmist writes, “But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more.” The verb translated here as “to hope” has a basic sense of “to wait.” It implies an extended time of looking to God and God alone for deliverance. The second line of verse 14 literally translates, “I will add on to all of your praise.” “I will praise you more and more” captures the sense of the original.

Notice closely the relationship between hope and praise in this verse. The psalmist does not say, “I will praise you more and more after you answer my prayers, when my hope is fulfilled,” though this would surely be true. Rather, his growing praise comes in the midst of hoping, as he is still looking to God to save him. His praise, in fact, strengthens his hope, because it helps the psalmist to remember God’s greatness and glory. When he praises the Lord for all he has done, the psalmist is inspired to hope in God more faithfully and earnestly.

When we are in difficult situations, when our desperation drags upon our hearts, it is sometimes difficult to praise God. Yet if we focus more on him and less on ourselves, if we remember his goodness to his people, including us, if we meditate upon his character, we will be stirred to praise the Lord even in hard times. Our praise will, in turn, help us to keep on hoping, because it makes the reality of God even more real to us.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How have you experienced the relationship between hope and praise? What helps you to praise God even in the midst of difficult times?

PRAYER: I praise you today, O Lord, because you are the all-powerful creator of heaven and earth.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have created beauty and given me the ability to delight in it.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have been ever faithful to your people, including me.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you give me not what I deserve, but so much better.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have delivered me from all measure of snares in this life.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you are sovereign over heaven and earth and are working out your design for the cosmos even today.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have chosen me, of all people to be part of your kingdom effort.

I praise you today, O Lord, because you have saved me through Jesus Christ, that I might belong to you and serve you with all my life.

I praise you today, O Lord, because in you I experience a hope that will not disappoint me.

I praise you today, O Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior. Amen.

So today we indeed praise the Lord, thanking Him for His good gifts. The difficulties we are in draw us to Him, and He opens our eyes to His workings in our lives. He brings people to us to help and comfort us, and we see the Body of Christ actively at work, bringing His glory to the Kingdom.

And thus I pray one of the verses I cling to, Psalm 27:14:
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!"
So we wait, hoping and praying and praising, depending on the One Who loves us more that we can ever conceive or imagine.

Hoping, praying, praising, this day and always,

Friday, July 8, 2011

Storms of Life

When the summer storms descended upon our small mountain town earlier this week, we rejoiced. Rain is a rare commodity in Southern California, and we look forward to our summer storms with unparalleled anticipation.

When the storm clouds folded atop one another after lunch, Keith peered at the darkening skies and decided to work from home for the remainder of the day so that he wouldn't miss the spectacle.

And what a spectacle it was...for us Californians at least. Those of you who live where summer storms are an ordinary occurrence do not realize the joy we desert-dwellers find in a simple summer storm.

The flashes of lightning, the roars of thunder, the winds whipping tree branches this way and that, the sheeting rain, and even the occasional bloom of hailstones--these events occur once or twice per year here in San Diego County, albeit a little more commonly in our mountains.

Really, it's akin to a fireworks display--a free one, courtesy of Mama Nature.

We thrill to each rumble and roar and flash the way kids hype themselves up for a trip to Disneyland. Everything in our household stops, and we gather on the porch to watch the large drops cascade down the roof, puddling in our front yard, watching with wide eyes and ooohing and aaahing over each flash from sky and rumble that shakes the porch boards under our feet.

After the first thrill waned and the kids returned to their common activities, Keith and I curled up on the wicker sofa on the porch, shoulder to shoulder, and watched the rain and the flashes of lightning in silence.

It's the kind of comfortable silence borne of over a quarter of a century of marriage...almost sixty percent of my life. We did chat a little about his almost-completed stained glass window, about the newest handyman job he's doing, about the kids and their quirks and habits and plans for future.

But in the lulls between the conversation settled the comfort of his arm resting behind my shoulders along the top of the sofa, of our bodies turned toward one another. It's the same comfort as his casual touch on my hair as he walks behind my chair in the kitchen, or my ruffling his gray head as I move behind his desk chair.

So we find comfort in one another while skies darken and winds buffet and rains sheet and thunder crashes.

And we know that the comfort we give one another through the storms has a Source beyond us.

Comfort in the storms--isn't that how life should be?

"Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted." --Isaiah 49:13, ESV

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." --2 Corinthians 1:3-7, ESV

Seeking and finding God's comfort in the storms of life,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Glorious Afternoon

This afternoon I settled on our front porch to read and write a little.

First I read and prayed from the Book of Common Prayer 2011, even though it was technically afternoon and I was praying Morning Prayer. One of my favorite prayers in the BCP is the Te Deum, a prayer dating from the fifth century, and I'd love to share it with you here:
The Great Hymn of Praise (Te Deum Laudamus)
WE praise you, O God; We acknowledge you to be Lord.
All creation worships you--the eternal Father.
To you all the angels proclaim,
To you all creatures of heaven proclaim,
To you Cherubim and Seraphim proclaim aloud,
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.
Heaven and earth are filled with the brightness of your glory."
To you the glorious company of apostles sing praise;
To you the worthy company of prophets sing praise;
To you the white-robed army of martyrs sing praise;
Throughout the world, your holy Church sings praise to you:
The Father, whose glory is never-ending;
Your true and only Son, who deserves our worship;
With the Holy Spirit, our help and our comfort.

O Christ, you are the King of Glory.
You are the Father's Son from the beginning.
When you became man to set humanity free,
You did not refuse a human birth.
When you overcame the power of death,
You opened heaven to all believers.
Now you sit at God's right hand, in the Father's glory;
You will come again to be our Judge.
So come, Lord Jesus, to help your people,
Whom you have redeemed with your precious Blood.
May we be counted with your saints in everlasting glory.

O Lord, save your people and bless your heritage.
Direct them, and raise them up forever.
O Lord, day by day we glorify you;
We worship your Name always, forever and ever.
O Lord, by the help of your grace, keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let your mercy be upon us, even as we trust in you.
O Lord, in you have I trusted and will never be ashamed.

(Is6.2-3; Rev4.4-11; Jn1.14;5.20;14.26; Ps24.10;28.9;145.2;123.3;33.22;31.1; Jam2.1)

After I finished my time of prayer and Scripture reading, I wrote in my journal about the happenings of the past week, pen gliding slowly across pages as thoughts are pinned down, wriggling a bit in protest.

There is something so relaxing, for me at least, in writing in a beautiful journal with a beautiful instrument--the ebb and flow of ink filling the thick pages, the slowing down of thought to match the pace of penmanship. The simple act of writing brings me such peace...which could be why I have kept journals off and on since 1980. I still possess my journals from high school; I've been thinking that I need to hunt those down from our attic storage area this summer. The handwriting is poor, the thoughts pedestrian, but the attempts at journaling will evoke many memories long forgotten, and for that reason, I would like to revisit them.

After writing in my journal, which I do on a weekly basis rather than daily, I finished the fifth chapter of Ann Voskamp's wonderful book One Thousand Gifts. Her writing is so beautiful and poignant, poetic yet stark in a way. Perfectly trimmed. And she writes from a place of transparency, of true humility and reality, not afraid to bare her soul and expose the ugliness we all attempt to mask. The main premise of the book is gratitude, an element of life I am attempting to grasp and apply to my own life on my own journey to 1000 Gifts with the Gratitude Community at Ann's blog, A Holy Experience. Her writing needs to be read slowly, thoughtfully, meditatively--it needs time to sink in, to take root and grow deep.

Next I tackled one of my few summer projects: copying my Gratitude List into a regular journal. Over the eighteen months that I've been keeping my list of Gifts, I've been copying and pasting the lists from this blog into a Word document which I then printed to copy into a leather-bound journal so that I can jot down more Gifts throughout my weeks rather than merely on Mondays. I want to be able to pin down gifts as they come to me rather than wrack brain for them because blank blog window demands each Monday.

With my swollen, painful hands, I can only copy ten to twenty entries per day even with my beloved, comfortable fountain pen. So this project will take a good portion of my summer.

So this is how I spent my afternoon--a lazy summer afternoon with no demands, no needs as boys were working with Keith and Elizabeth was watching something in her room. The house behind me was quiet, and the summer-browned meadow spread silent before me, only the turn of page or the scratch of pen marring the stillness...along with the occasional stellar jay call and breezes making their music through the reaching tree branches.

On a lazy, lovely summer's day,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gratitude Never Arrives Too Late....

Family on my parents' rooftop deck on 4th of July

With the 4th of July holidays, I am posting my contribution to the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience a couple of days late. But can gratitude ever arrive too tardy?

It's a deceptively simple concept, this gratitude. This journey to One Thousand Gifts that Ann started and many of us have joined is a blessing that never comes too late.

It's not for God's benefit that we thank Him for the little (and large) gifts He sprinkles through our days...if we but see them. He is giving us opportunities to "Practice the Presence of God," as Brother Lawrence teaches us through his little book of the same title. And if a 17th century dishwashing monk can teach us so much about seeing God in the little, common, ordinary things of this life, how much more does God Himself teach us if we are simply willing to "taste and see that the Lord is good"!

Noting the ordinary, day-to-day blessings heightens our senses, grants us word and phrase to express them, and brings us into a fresh mindset, is eager to discover the next blessing under our proverbial noses, and then the next blessing, and the next...

...until we realize that all life is blessing.

Even those things that don't seem to be blessing, are blessing indeed...if we but open eyes beyond the tangible and see eternity glimmering through pain and loss.

The hard things, like illness exhausting and children lost and work too slow and bills teetering and quarrels rife--these seemingly sorrowful, hurtful parts of our lives can indeed birth blessings if our eyes remain fixed on eternity.

When pain becomes too much to bear...when mere ache become shooting flames blazing joints and marrow...when hurt delves too deep for tears...we find the One who always waits, always listens, always comforts. He became pain for us, so that He could save us from the ultimate suffering of eternity without Him...eternity without Love.

So with thanks I continue on, jotting the journey to One Thousand Gifts, thanking God this day for:

551. ...blistering heat of beach sunshine warming to marrow of my always-cold bones

552. ..."And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free, and I won't forget the men [and women] who died to give that right to me..." as we celebrate 235 of independence

553. gathered to celebrate nation's birth, telling old stories of escapades and family foibles, singing to patriotic music as fireworks blaze in the distance

554. ...the sapphire of ocean, crashing beneath our feet, as we walked to the end of Crystal Pier where Pacific melts into horizon, a sea of blues 

555. of beach walking with boys, crunching sand underfoot, despite cane in hand and price of pain to be paid in hours to come

556. ...quiet glory of praying His Psalms, peace and comfort and grace suffusing my heart, mind, and soul as Word washes weariness, replacing anxiety with joy

557. ...blessing of summer storms, with lightning brightening dark skies; thunder crackling and crashing overhead, shaking windows; rain, blessed rain, pattering on rooftop, drip-dropping from pointed oak leaves, saturating thirsty earth

558. ...the coolness and relief the summer rains bring, temperatures plummeting twenty degrees in fifteen minutes as dark clouds billow overhead, tumbling over each other in stiff winds

559. ...the sweetness of homegrown peaches, juice dripping from smiling mouths and sticky chins

560. ...the grace of touch as he walks behind my chair, placing his hand on my shoulder--love filling, overflowing all

Gratitude hides in the dark shadows, grace peeking through pain...when we see with His Eyes.

Rejoicing as summer rains pitter-patter down from dark skies,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Belated Saturday Evening Blog Post

Each first Saturday of the month Elizabeth Esther asks us to join her Saturday Evening Blog Post by posting a link to our favorite post of the preceding month.

I've missed a few postings this spring, but now that I'm picking up blogging again, I will join EE's groupies and share my favorite post for the month of June.

Since I really started posting in the second half of the month, I didn't have that many posts from which to choose. But one stood out in its quirky stream-of-consciousness style, and that's the one I've decided to share:

A Meandering Meditation

I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, first into my journal by hand, then typed into this blog post.

Meandering more than usual,

Quotations on America's Birthday

Flag fluttering over Pacific Beach to Bird Rock

With our country's 235th birthday looming tomorrow, I embarked upon a quest for some quotations on America. As I've been collecting quotations in my journal for nearly ten years, any excuse to scroll through quotation websites with pen in hand is a welcome diversion.

The kids and I will be heading to Pacific Beach to celebrate the 4th with my family at my parents' place half a block from the ocean. It's wild and crazy at the beach on the 4th, but it's a true celebration; we can watch at least three fireworks displays from my parents' rooftop deck where we gather for grilled burgers and all the "fixins" after a day on the beach. The weather is supposed to be postcard perfect tomorrow, and the kids and I are leaving our small mountain town at 7:00 a.m. in order to obtain parking near my parents' place; I'm hoping for the handicapped spot right on Mission Blvd. just half a block from my parents' house.

So with Independence Day in mind, here is a quotation I unearthed with which to celebrate this 4th of July, even if I'm not a great fan of his novels:

"We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it."
--William Faulkner

So, to my American readers, I wish you a wonderful celebration of America's 235th birthday, and to my non-US friends, I wish a blessed week for you all. I'll be back late Tuesday after spending the night at the beach Monday and helping my parents clean up after the party on Tuesday. Keith is staying home to take care of our dog and to work on his stained glass and other projects.

Wishing you all a joyous 4th,


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