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Divine Interruptions…

Sometime in college, a friend and mentor introduced me to the concept of “Divine interruptions”. She noticed that I struggled with unpredictable interruptions into my very well-planned and predictable routine schedule, but counseled that I had to stay open to the idea that God was allowing these interruptions in my day and plans. They could, in fact, be what has been termed in “Christianese”, “Divine appointments.”  If I could learn to consider them Divine, I could remain inviting and open to what God wanted to show me, and how He wanted to use me.

 

This transformed my approach to life. It’s still a struggle, but over the years, space has often been created to see God do something that only He could do. Life would be a small fraction of the gift it has been if my heart had been closed. I’m so grateful for this lesson early in my adulthood. Life, indeed, is a series of interruptions that can affect and change our courses. I want to continue to see these as invitations into His space…as a surrender of the plans I cling to into His capable hands.
Henri Nouwen has invited, “Let us try to see the pain of our human and spiritual journey “from above.” The great art is to gradually trust that life’s interruptions are the places where God is molding you into the person you are called to be. Interruptions are not disruptions of your way to holiness, but rather are places where you are being formed into the unique person God calls you to be. You know you are living a grateful life when whatever happens is received as an invitation to deepen your heart, to strengthen your love, and to broaden your hope. You are living a grateful life when something is taken away from you that you thought was so important and you find yourself willing to say, ‘Maybe I’m being invited to a deeper way of living.’ ” I want to live in such gratefulness.

How Great Thou Art-

Consider, beloved of God, all the works His hands have made. “See the stars, hear the rolling thunder: [His] power throughout the universe displayed.” We are called to live in awe of our awesome Creator. What marvel exists that has not its foundation in His power? What vista stirs our soul that has not its roots in His creativity? What exists that owes not its existence & sustenance to His hand? And…not only does His power know no limits, nor His realm know no bounds, but His love & His goodness also know no end.  

 

He is not only great, but good, & He loves…you, as if there was no one else to love. This does not mean we will escape the trouble & toil of this adventurous life; we are, in fact, assured of it by our Saviour. It calls to mind C.S. Lewis’ story The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. There is a famous scene where the youngest girl Lucy inquires of  her friend Mr. Beaver after the character of the legendary lion Aslan, the absent king of Narnia: “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

 

And of this “problem of pain”, we can say with author Philip Yancey that we find comfort in a God who was willing “to take His own medicine.” The long-favored hymn How Great Thou Art says in its final verse:

And when I think, that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in

That on the Cross, my burdens gladly bearing, He bled & died, to take away my sin,

Then SINGS MY SOUL, my Saviour God to Thee, How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art.

 

So, beloved ones, let’s, take in the goodness & might of our great God, & let that soul of yours, let it SING.

***Photo Credits: Ann Voskamp

 There is None Like You:

One of my favorite worship songs has long been Hillsong United’s  There is None Like You.  I love to sing to the LORD:

 

There is none like You.

No one else can touch my heart like You do,

I can search for all eternity Lord

And find, there is none like You.

 

Your mercy flows like a river wide,

And healing comes from Your hand.

Suffering children are safe in Your arms,

There is none like You.

 

There is none like You, ( There is none like You, Lord)

There is none like You.

 

Once, as I was struggling deeply over the rejection of others, & sensing my own absolute worthiness to even sing this praise to my Holy God, He whispered to my heart: “Beloved, don’t you know I feel just the same way about you? I died so that would you know…so let me now sing this over you.” Desperately humbled & healed in the undeserved revelation of His grace., tears streamed down my face as He sang His song…this song… over me. For Him, there is no one else like me.  He made us all with special purposes, & fitted us all to sing His praises as only we can.  
Though the world rejects you, He never will. As He promised through His prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, & have no compassion on the child she has born? I tell you, though she may forget, I WILL NOT FORGET YOU.  See, I have ENGRAVED YOU on the PALMS OF MY HANDS. Your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:15-16). He waits to sing over YOU: “My beloved, ‘there is none like you.  NO ONE ELSE can touch MY heart like you do.  I could search for all eternity long, & find, there is none like you.’ ”  This is just as God spoke through Isaiah in chapter 43, verse 4: “Since YOU are precious & honored in my sight, & because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, & people in exchange for your life.”

 

***Photo Credits: Ann Voskamp***

“Hours of Innocence”: A Creative Writing Sample Introduction…

Two children, a boy of fourteen and a girl of twelve, casually climb the hills, embarking on adventure without any sense of hesitation. The arduous path to the Colorado mountain lake is steep and rocky, full of skree once they reach nine, then ten thousand feet in elevation.

Hundred foot pines flank each side of the trail. The smell of woods and clean mountain air drifts out to inundate their senses. Wild mule deer cross trails littered with haphazard sprinklings of gravel, grass and golden daisies.

Tall mountain pines encircle this piece of the western United States. The wind navigates through them to create a steady, gentle cadence as the children, Daniel and Grace, walk and talk.

As they crest the last ridge, they encounter a basin at the foot of reddish-orange, sloping mountains. Subconsciously, they both grow quiet and their breaths become deeper as they struggle to take it all in. Their destination is even lovelier than the journey.

Soft summer sun shines down on the perfect alpine meadow. Violet elephant head flowers carpet the spongy soil, surrounding the ice cold, midnight blue lake. The small lake is shoreless, level with the grassy ground surrounding it. Lines of snow visibly trace the downwardly sloping skeletons of the mountains, diagonally flowing into the water-soaked soil. Bright green aspen leaves quake in a gentle breeze.

The beauty stops the two friends. They’ve played and chatted along the way as children do, lighthearted, as children are. They surrender to the day and the moments it offers, including this one, this moment of arrival.

Accepting Joy…

Part of my very part-time employment at present is working with a woman who also has a severe neurological condition, though hers is far more severe. I model a few exercises and provide a little massage and stretching; she models so much more for me. She’s been sick for most of thirty years, and has spent thirteen of those paralyzed from the waist down and regulated to a wheelchair. And yet, she always has a smile on her face. When I asked her how she was able to be so upbeat and positive, she said that she wouldn’t want the husband who’s been her caretaker all those years to have to live with a grump. This made me smile; it almost seems like a casual and lighthearted approach to coping with illness, but it is most definitely far more. Long ago, she made a very intentional choice to live in acceptance, gratitude and joy, one I’m sure she has had to make that choice over and over again, but she has. Hers is a very cultivated positivity held perfectly in tension with practical surrender, and they end result is joy.

 

She calls it grace. It reminds me of what Ann Voskamp once wrote: “Grace is like the wind. It finds us as we are, but it does not leave us as we have been. All is grace.” Grace has met her anew each day in exactly the place she is; it continually shapes and molds her into the image of God. She’s a willing vessel in the hands of a skillful potter; anyone has only to look at my friend’s radiant countenance to be awestruck by its fragile strength. She’s a former elementary teacher, a mom and wife and daughter and sister and aunt and friend. She’s a quilter and a prayer warrior and a blessing to all who know her. I’m so very thankful: in a season of struggling to accept my own challenging circumstances, or perhaps simply arriving in the place where I actually have accepted them, God has given me this beautiful example. I want to accept the joy that fills and surrounds me and say with my friend and the saints of old, as voiced by the prophet Isaiah: “And yet LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter” (Isaiah 64:8).

 

*Photo by Ann Voskamp. 

An Iron Will: A Tribute to Georgine…

Tomorrow is Independence Day, a celebration of what it means to know free life. The Fourth of July marks not only that for me: it is both the anniversary of a friend’s spiritual birthday in 1950, as well as that of her “home-going” sixty-four years later. She’s been gone for three years now, and it still doesn’t seem possible that’s a reality; I can hear her voice as if it were yesterday. From the day I met her when I moved to this area in 2008, she said I was a kindred spirit and adopted me as a granddaughter. She called me her “Sweet Pea”; I called her my “Mama G”. She reminded me of the grandmother I lost when I was nine years old: Mama G’s quiet strength, obdurate determination, compassionate presence and vocal faith mirrored those of my Grandma Thelma. I was instantly at home with her.

 

Mama G was an example of the faith and perseverance of the saints to all who knew her. She modeled for me how one could live well with serious illness, something she coped with admirably for almost half her life: the chronic and inflammatory autoimmune disease Lupus targeted her as a young mother. Everything she did over the next decades came at a cost, but she counted it all worthy of the price she paid. She told me often with great sincerity that she counted it a true joy to share even a small bit of the suffering that was our Lord’s, and she lived out its truth. Her best friend says she had an “iron will”. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” She helped all her loved ones (in other words, everyone she knew) to be shaped into the mold of our Savior. In the spring of 2014, she contracted pancreatic cancer, the same disease took my Grandma Thelma’s life. They say it’s the most painful way to die: since the pancreas sits on a bundle of nerves that travel throughout the whole body, its sensations are akin to those of crucifixion. Though a nerve block relieved that pain for a while, in the end she suffered its fullness. Again, she counted it all joy and faced it with that iron will, her eyes on Jesus. A few short months later, she went Home to be with God. In life and in death, she celebrated free life that did not come without a cost; her soul at last found its final rest. 

 

I am only one who loved this precious woman of God, she was precious to many, but I remember and miss her every single day. As I face each new dawn and dusk, I hear the words to one of her favorite hymns Carolina Sandell Berg, modeling the acceptant trust with which she lived all the days of her life, Day by Day:

 

Help me then, in every tribulation,

So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,

That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,

Offered me within Thy holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,

E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,

One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,

Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Day By Day: Practicing His Presence (Brother Lawrence)…

Mindfulness is one of the buzzwords of our generation.  It’s ironic, considering that same generation is involved in such an incredible quantity & variety of things, at such a frenzied pace, that it seems we’re rarely mindful or truly present. Perhaps, however, that is an indicator of our hearts’ longings to be still, intentionally quiet enough to take in all we’re experiencing…at peace. There is much to be said for how our lives can be enriched by focusing on one thing at a time: this is the true meaning of meditation.

 

My own lessons in this practice have come not from any new or New-Age philosophies, but through the writings & lessons of Brother Lawrence, a Christian monk who lived hundreds of years ago. Frustrated with his own attitude of disgust towards the menial tasks that occupied much of the monks’ time, he decided that he would turn every action & moment into an opportunity for praise & prayer. In his journal writings collected in the book Practicing the Presence of God, he describes how using tasks like washing dishes in o prayerful worship & conversations with God transformed his thinking & life experience. As he continued this habit over many years, he became more & more aware of how real & personal God was…& IS…& always will be. He grew to know more & more of the goodness & heart of our God, & described God as real enough to take hold of his hand. Brother Lawrence’s experience is reminiscent of Isaiah voicing God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10 & 13:

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand & says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ ”

 

The Creator & Sustainer & Savior of the universe is always there, with us every step we take. He calls for us to seek His face always. As Peter exhorts & encourages us: “Draw near to God, & He will draw near to you.” We must intentionally pursue His presence, continually making it our habit to call our attention back to Him, & responding to the guidance of His Spirit.