This verse resonated with me in January, and I knew it was the one for the twelve months to follow. Throughout the year, the Spirit has been the ever gracious teacher, reminding me, "Do not despise the day of small beginnings..." 2015 is losing its breath and nearing the finish line, but this verse is still at work in me.
Side Notes: *This photo from a recent family trip to Williamsburg, VA, was taken from the steps of the oldest building on the campus of William & Mary College, the Wren Building, 1695. (1695!!!)
** Family vacations still belong to our original five: my husband, myself, and our three mostly-grown, unmarried sons. To our yearly surprise, they look forward to this tradition. Lots of quality free food may be a contributing factor. Vacationing with these adult-ish versions of the children we raised, sharing memories and making new ones, is an unexpected and cherished blessing.
When we go on vacation, dreams are spun. The unusual conversational freedom is an absolute highlight for me, and this trip was no exception. Miles flew by as we hashed out plans for an entrepreneurial adventure inspired by an expressway billboard. The structure of a niche business was built over a plate of chili cheese fries. In addition to frisbees on the beach, plots were tossed to attend William & Mary, get coordinating degrees, and relocate to lovely Virginia.
*** I keep a brief record of what happens on each day of vacation, including the funny quotes, favorite meals, and activities. Over breakfast or in the car on the way to the next stop, I scribble short notes in a cheap notebook, asking the group for contributions. Sometime soon, I'll show you how to use what you bring home to make a super-shortcut memory book.
Many years ago, someone taught me that our Bibles are not intended to be
decorative pieces, merely part of a holier-than-thou tablescape. He said our
Bibles should be WORKBOOKS. Well, you know every teacher can appreciate
a good workbook, so that's how I've used mine over the years of my walk with Christ.
So mine is a well-marked workbook, showing where I've struggled and where I've found joy. It's easy to locate the verses that have called me back again and again. Sky verses are special to me, so I mark them in my Bible with
a very lightly-drawn, completely reverent, puffy cloud. Whenever I come across one of these in the
When I'm writing, it's usually completely quiet in the house. I need the quiet, or my thoughts skitter and scatter like the shyest birds-never to be captured. But lately, I've needed some background music to help me along. This is perfect accompaniment for working, but this song has stayed on my mind, and on my lips, these past few weeks, to remind me of my truest purpose.
We visited an old church in an old town recently. Some helpful soul felt led to instruct the
congregation in various ways via the magic of the computer printer.
STACK CHAIRS HERE
KEEP DOOR CLOSED AT ALL TIMES
CHURCH KITCHEN CLOSES AT 8 PM
I think we can all conjure a pretty vivid image of the person who plastered the church
building with instructional missives held fast by folded masking tape bundles.
But wait - look at this one:
This one caught me by the arm.
This instruction, LISTEN, rung a bell in my spirit.
Do you know what I mean when I say that?
Have you ever had one of those YES! moments? When something someone says,
or something you read, grabs you by the lapel and gives you a shake? And you know, you know for sure, a message has been sent especially for you?
Or maybe that's just me.
I don't know about you, friends, but LISTENING is not at the top of my list when
I enter the church sanctuary. You can be pretty sure that I've made a reasonable effort
that my clothes match. It's a reliable fact that I'll have coffee and a bulletin in hand.
And you can bet I'm thinking of who might already be waiting for me
inside, what we'll say, and how we'll laugh.
Yes, it's for sure - I do not enter the sanctuary LISTENING.
But I think there might be more for all of us than coffee, announcements,
and churchy chuckles when we come together. There's probably more to be heard than our own vain voices, if we just took a moment to enter listening.
I'm going to make this a priority for the next few Sundays and see what happens. Whoever printed that page will have one more obedient parishioner than she (or he) hoped for. Or maybe more than one - would you like to join me? We could Enter Listening in our respective church sanctuaries wherever we attend, all over the globe. Who knows what might happen...
I have a copy of A. W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God. This small, worn book was published in the late 1940s and belonged to one of the great mentors of my life. She passed it on to me years ago, and I have to admit that I kept it as a memento, and cherished it mostly because she wrote her name inside the front cover.
When I was a younger me, the emotion my elders expressed over the handwriting of their elders seemed a little excessive to me. I remember my mom saying, "Look at this - that's Dad's handwriting!" I just smiled and nodded, never sensing anything unusual. Now, here I am at the end of my forties, and I get it. I'm not sure if I inherited it or if I'm just finally old enough to understand it,but seeing my friend's name, written in bold ownership on that cover, causes emotion to wash over, or maybe through, me.
Running my finger over the faded blue lettering is irresistible; a way to touch the tiniest bit of the person she was when she made that signature. Someone who defied the conventions of her own times to live a peculiar life, one that included reading difficult books such as this one. She let her light shine brightly, and sometimes I had to sort of squint in her company.
Ten years ago, if you had asked me who among my older friends would finish well, I would've said her name without hesitation and added a fist pump or two. She would've laughed and refused to give me a high-five.
But age can be cruel, dear friends, even to the best and brightest among us, and we all know it. Even the most fervent followers in our company may, in their last years, mourn aloud the darkness of their own heart.
I know her Savior is near, that she is never alone, and that He is faithful. I tell myself these things and focus my thoughts on these TRUTHS when her present condition becomes overwhelming.
Her younger self, the one that signed Tozer's thin volume when it was brand new, would tell me to read the book and stop being so silly and sentimental. She would remind me of this and tell me to trust this. So that's what I've been doing.
She would encourage you to do the same.
Read some of the hard stuff - rock solid theology from the last century's midpoint. Get a copy of anything by A. W. Tozer in your hands, hunker down and, in the words of a wise friend of mine - CHEW.
I found this tiny bride and groom at a yardsale last weekend.
With only one dollar bill and some change in my pocket, I was happy to find
a few treasures to take home. The homeowner tucked this clingy pair in a tiny
cigar box, and they made the ride home without incident.
Right away, I took them to the kitchen sink for a gentle washing.
The worst of the dust and grime came off with a damp cloth, but the hem of the bride's gown would not come completely clean.
There wasn't anything to be done about their hair - it's just worn away.
And they both have some lumps in unflattering places.
In fact, the more closely you examine this couple, the more flaws become evident -
those lips ... the hands ... some pretty smug eyebrow action ...
Give too much attention to these detracting details, and you'll miss the really good stuff :
Don't you just want to stare, and drink in the quiet intimacy of their proximity? She tucks her hand into the small triangle of his arm, and he crooks his arm to hold it securely to his side. They lean toward each other instead of away, allowing selective magnetism to draw them closer. In light of this, her nose blob seems much smaller, doesn't it?
Perseverance Clearly they've been a couple for a long, long time. All the evidence points to the fact that they've been used, maybe many times. According to the layers of dirt (mold?), they spent some years in the basement. There's no doubt that they're mostly unappreciated, unpopular, even among those they've served in the past. Available for pocket change, right next to random Tupperware lids.
But they are still together. Together at the wedding celebrations. Together during the dark basement years. Together on the discard table. Don't muddy hems and awkward trousers seem completely beside the point now?
Determination Look at their faces again - those are game-faces if I've ever seen any. They take their marriage seriously and seem to know that their relationship is worth fighting for; worth the courage it takes to go the distance. Perhaps the smug eyebrow this groom wears is not one of arrogance, but more along the lines of, "Bring it on!"
When confronted with such a heroic expression, concerns about hair-or the lack of it-disappear. Poof!
The conclusion of my kitchen sink thoughts, for what it's worth:
In the micro-examination of negative, often trivial details, the most
valuable features of a mature marriage are often overlooked. Disappointments take center stage while treasures go unnoticed and unappreciated. *** Tools for further thought HERE.