Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Songbird's Year

It’s been one year since A Songbird in Your Court went live. Can you believe it?  Happy Blogiversary!

It all started when I read Mindy’s blog to keep updated on her pregnancy with twins since she was on bed rest. Then I fell in love with Siestaville. Soon after I discovered that my friend Brigetta blogged, as did her BFF Krista whom I also know and love. It started, this teeny little dream to have my own space on the internet, my own little nest. But I didn’t have an angle, a story, or even a name. All I had was me.

Then I was driving to a vocal lesson one night. I was going to be singing in front of a few people who make me nervous so I was practicing and praying. I was trying to surrender my jitters and my need to be impressive when I heard that beloved whisper, “you are a songbird in My court.” And my blog was born.

I opened with this question which no one responded to, so I guess I’m the only one. But I can live with that. I came to accept my weirdness long ago. I began to chronicle spring days and my own struggles. Some of those early posts were lo-o-o-ng. But then so are some of my Late to Lent posts. I like to talk, big surprise. It may be why I have my own blog. I’ve cooked with you (ok I’ve mixed liquids but more cooking is coming. I can cook! I made that cake in the first pic from scratch.) I’ve dragged invited you to show and tell. And even begun to share (albeit very sporadically) some of the books I love. Together we’ve traveled  to New England, Florida and of course, Big Sur, in the process conquering my fear of flying.

I got to introduce you to the furry keeper of my heart. And you all loved on me as I had to say goodbye. Man, that still hurts to write.

I’ve shared my hopes, my dreams, my fears and my heartaches. And you have listened. In return I’ve found the most wonderful, supportive community. You all rock! Really you do. You make me cry, gasp, giggle and sometimes even snort with laughter. So I think the only fitting response is a giveaway.

Allow me to introduce you to my friend Jessica Ripka. The first time I heard Jess sing, (6-7 yrs ago yikes! Jess is that right?) I was blown away. Girl has some pipes. She also has style. I mean she was rocking tights and cute galoshes 6 years ago. Way ahead of trend. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching her unfurl her wings and learn to fly as an artist. Now check her out.

Isn’t she awesome? I am offering Jessica’s album Don’t Listen to My Face to one randomly chosen commenter. If she is in town (Jess has some gypsy blood in her so you really can’t predict how long she’ll be around) I’ll even get her to autograph it to you.

The rules (like almost every other giveaway out there) are as follows.

1. Leave a comment to this post. Any old random thing that you want to say. I’m listening. This will give you one entry.
2. If you want a second entry become a follower and leave me a comment stating that you are a follower. If you already are a follower please still leave an extra comment stating that you are already a follower! That is two entries.
3. If you want a third entry, post about my giveaway on your blog, Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment telling me that you are posting about my giveaway and which site you posted to. That is three entries.
Important: You need to leave a separate comment for each entry!!!
The give-away ends Saturday April 9th at 12:00 pm Pacific Time.

Have fun and thanks for making this last year so memorable.
big hugs,
Blog Med Sig 4

Late to Lent: Days 17-18

*Today marks the one year blogiversary of A Songbird in His Court. I'm celebrating with a giveaway.  I'd love it if you joined me.

follow this journey from the beginning

Day Seventeen
Trust. It’s such a small word and such a big task. I’ve seen God show up, come through for me so many times and yet I often return that point where I have to lay down my expectations, my understanding, even my perception of the world around me and trust Him. Trust that He sees more than I do, knows more than I do and this is the crucial one, loves more than I do. He loves me more than I even love myself.  Yet He knows me better too, my strengths and weaknesses, and will stretch me further than I would. It says that He has prepared good works for me long ago. These deeds have the power to change the world, in ways large and in small. But in order to complete this quest I must walk a far more difficult road, this road that He has mapped out for me, than the one I would choose. In fact I would probably choose to simply build my own cozy hobbit hole and tend to the woes  of the world only as they happened
to cross my garden path, never venturing out, never building endurance, never gathering resources of character or experience; having a story that is uninspiring and useless to anyone in need. Having no adventures I would never tackle challenges far larger than I can face alone; never find the hidden wounded, the lost and the neglected. If I wrote my own story I would be respectably wasted. But I don’t write it. I follow not a script, but a Beautiful Author, tucking my hand into His and walking alongside Him. That is, on my good days. There are the other days when I drop His hand and stomp my feet in the dust.  Sometimes I just sit down in the middle of the road and cry. For the  road is too steep, too long and I see no curves on the horizon and I am tired and seem to be getting nowhere and so often new sights just mean new difficulties. In my anger joy flees and the foggy despair sets in, blinding and paralyzing me. I think I get angry because His plan is hard and I can’t stop thinking of the warm hobbit hole life I imagined. In those moments I can see I haven’t fully surrendered and I trust my own understanding over His heart. So what will my life journey look like if I decide to lay down my anger not only for Lent, but after? What if I continue this seeking to have my sight transformed rather than hungering to only change my views? Will I see joy and beauty even in the painful, parched or barren stretches of my path?

Day Eighteen
The start of my day again finds me quietly reading. The Holy Spirit nudges me, brightening my eyes, bolding print and I read “Thanks is what builds trust.” Yesterday comes flooding back, the echo of a melody, how often trusting God came up in what I read, what I said, what I heard and what I wrote. Especially clear is the conversation with a friend, asking how I was, knowing I had been struggling but not knowing why. As I shared in generalities the words from my heart surprise me, though I know they have been gently growing there. “I don’t understand this situation and it’s painful. But I believe that however I ended up here, through my mistake, someone else’s, or no mistake at all, God has this for me, this difficulty and this pain. He wants to do something in me here. This spot is not accidental. He is in it, He is here.” Is this trust soaked declaration a fruit of thankfulness; a result of laying down anger and picking up a journal to record beauty in the midst of my heartbreak? For I have been joining Ann in recording one thousand gifts. But contrary to my normally open nature I have been writing privately in a small journal, just for God and me. Ann writes that my memory of how God has acted assures me of what He is doing and will do. The stones I build, collected from the middle of the rushing Jordan remind me of the God who can make a bridge of dry land for me to cross the impossible into the promised. So when I find myself crouching in fear or spinning in frustration is thankfulness the way out? Or more to the point is it the way in; the way in to joy and peace and courage and trust? I hope so. I hope so.

hoping and quietly counting,
Blog Med Sig 4

Hoping with friends, never alone...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 15-16

read the beginning of the journey here

Day Fifteen
I went down a rabbit hole today. (The internet is full of them.) Now I’m not asking anyone to fall in after me. And I’m not going to describe Wonderland or what drew me in. But a hookah smoking caterpillar made a statement that sparked my interest and I want to talk it through.

The contention is that how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes. Many will immediately claim that we need both or that orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. Most in the emerging movement agree we need both, but they contest the second claim: Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things live the right way. No matter how much sense the traditional connection makes, it does not necessarily work itself out in practice. 


This is a really strong statement. And it has me thinking, especially in light of a Lenten fast of both an attitude and actions. Is what I do more important that what I believe? How are they connected? Straight off I’m going to admit I have a strong opinion. My own experience says that what I do comes out of what I believe. My actions don’t come out of nowhere. My mind formulates ideas; my heart gives me the permission to carry them out. Good or bad starts there. What I believe in my heart, my will, determines what thoughts I will allow to blossom into actions. For example, yesterday I stood on a bridge overlooking a torrential stream, brimming over with recent storms. The thought crossed my mind, what would it be like to fall in that water? My will spoke up and said, I could die in the fall or drown and I do not want to die. My belief about the likely consequences of that possible action, tied with my belief that I desire to live pair together to stop that thought from turning into reckless action.

I have spent the last four years partnering with God to recover from some habits I used to cope with early hurts. Examining not only those painful events but also the lessons I learned from them-truths and lies- led me to discover or admit behaviors that flowed out of those beliefs. Pain led to belief led to protective actions led to more problems. My behavior is changing only as God heals my wounded heart and changes what I believe about myself, the people around me and most importantly, Him.

I know that my natural inclination to sin is a factor in this discussion, too. I’m not a computer that can simply run the right equation to get the right action. Even Apostle Paul said, I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Romans 7:19 But if I’m being honest when I choose sin, I usually think I'm justified or I can get away with it.
Next I consider acting as if; the practice of acting as I wish to, even if my feelings don't match up. Isn't this a perfect example of what I do being more more important than what I believe? I don’t think so. Acting as if contains a belief that some actions are healthier, nobler, more worthy, more desirable than others, even if they clash with my own instincts. So I can choose to pursue healthy actions rather than follow unhealthy (or sinful) instincts.

 So how does this relate to Lent and my fast? God asked me to give up my anger at Him and all the actions and words it fuels. And to follow His Son. How can I lay down the anger without choosing to change how I look at the situation? When I let angry words fly, or sink into despair, my heart is crying out I do not believe You, God. You are not good to me. You are not fair. You are not truthful. You are not trustworthy. Your Word is not true. I’m not saying that is the root of all anger, or your anger (if you have any) but right now, it is the subtext of mine. And that is really painful to write. God knew what He was asking me to give up. He’s asking me to lay down my treacherous beliefs. And then what did His Son say about this? A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

Whichever way I look at it I just can’t get away from the notion that what I do stems from what I believe and not the other way around. So I can’t change my actions without first changing my beliefs. Now this isn’t to say my actions aren’t important. They’re vital. In fact they are the only reliable evidence of what I believe. But they have a source, my beliefs. Orthopraxy follows orthodoxy, to use caterpillar speak.

Day Sixteen
Yesterday was pretty head driven. So today I’m just going to offer you a picture of my heart.  This is hard to write. It may be some of the most vulnerable sentences I have put into my blog, so much so that I’m closing the comments for this post. I spent my first 9 months as a blogger with a random comment here or there but mostly I published in silence. That began to change with joining Imperfect Prose. As I began to reach out numbers grew some, comments poured in and I love it. But then I started this Lent series and it has been just plain awkward. At first I journaled every day but only published once a week. The posts became so long that they were hard to absorb in a blog format. Kind of overwhelming, is what I was hearing. Then I tried posting daily. It only took two days to see that was overwhelming in a whole different way. I like some time in between my posts. To let them sit and breathe a little. Now, the comments on the Lent posts seem to be drying up. And with 40 days to write there will be a lot of them. So it stings a bit. I love that feedback. I miss it.  But then I heard that small voice in the breeze.

Why did you start this journal?
For Lent
Why are you observing Lent?
To die to me, to draw close to You. To lay it down and surrender so that this Easter I can feel the resurrection I so desperately need, inside.

And isn’t this that moment? The laying it down.  When I continue this practice, this fast and the journaling discipline I chose to accompany it even when it doesn’t feel good. When in fact I fear that I’m becoming so boring or dour that soon I may again publish to silence. Isn’t this when the rubber hits the road? And maybe the reason I chose to blog this experience was for this day; the day when I die to comments, to compliments, to encouragement and (again) to the vain pursuit of popularity. The day I choose (again) to surrender, to follow without stopping to double check the price.
Blog Med Sig 4

Friday, March 25, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 13-14

So I didn’t like posting every day either. Let’s see if I can find a happy medium. Thanks for sticking with me as I muddle through. Read this journey from the beginning here.

Day Thirteen
Bits and pieces, that’s what I have today.

  • I read these lines and they strike a chord deep in my heart, reverberating through my bones. “For God is happiest of all. Joy is God’s life.” Is this echoing gong agreement or challenge? Do I really believe that God is happy, that joy is His life? I look around and see so much pain and remember that Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and I wonder. But is God not the maker of all I find satisfying and beautiful? Can I not imagine that in the pain He sees the grace, the mercy, the healing He has planned? That the Ancient of Days, who sees the beginning and the end at the same time knows that there is more to rejoice in than to mourn.

  • Starting to read Mark, I notice that Jesus calls Simon (we know him as Peter) and his brother Andrew a few yards before he call James and his brother John. I wonder if this means that Simon Peter and Andrew knew James and John before they all followed Jesus? It was probably a small community and they were working in the same occupation on the same beach, so I think it’s likely. But here’s my real question. Do you think they liked each other? James and John were known as the Sons of Thunder (sounds like tag team wrestlers.) They don’t sound like naturally peace & love dudes. And then there’s Peter (love Peter!), the ADHD disciple. Seriously, look up the indicators of ADHD and then look at Peter, ding ding ding. So Peter is a leader and mouthy, impetuous, no filter, and quick to anger. Do you think he naturally got along with the Sons of Thunder? Hee hee. I don’t know why but the idea of them all suddenly thrown together on rollercoaster Jesus makes me giggle.

  • In the first chapter a leper (sick and outcast) throws himself at Jesus and says, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.” Mark 1:40 My eyes tear up for the nakedness of this man’s need. It’s so raw and exposes my own heart, for see the implied doubt, the subtle lie confessed. “If you want to,” the fear that perhaps God does not want me healed but sidelined by pain. I remember reading last week of the two blind men who would not leave Jesus alone, but followed Him in undeterred desperation. When Jesus asked, “What do you want from me?” They said, “Master, we want our eyes opened. We want to see!” Matthew 20:32-33 The bare plea in that line, We want to see! In each case Jesus responded the same way. It’s some long Greek word that begins with an “s” (ok, splagchnizomai, told ya) and it translates moved with compassion. But when I read the definition it means to move from the bowels, which is where the ancients believed pity and love came from. That picture is so clear to me. When I am in deep pain my stomach feels like a bowling ball and I’m tied up in knots. When I am yearning to comfort, fix someone’s pain, deep inside it’s as if some anxiety is longing to be freed to release love. And this is how Jesus felt when confronted with the ravages of pain and disease and naked pleas for rescue. He is not disgusted or interrupted but moved so deep His body hurts with them…with me. And it doesn’t stop with His feelings. He moves on those feelings by healing and transforming forever, broken lives.

Last thought. Jesus compared walking with Him to being present at a feast Mark 1:18-19. I wonder, do I consider my life in Christ a feast or a fast? Kind of depends on my perspective, huh?

Day Fourteen
Instead of reading this morning I decided to take a walk; to worship with my senses.

I risked the rain

and instead found glorious sunshine,

light glinting off of snow-kissed peaks,

and dollops of meringue impossibly large floating in a sea of blue.

Wind dancing a jig with my pony tail,

whirling a herd of leaves across the street like skittish colts,

soaring remote control airplanes to dizzying heights

and carrying a surprise whiff of orange blossoms.

I gulp lungfuls of crisp air as I walk

ignoring whining muscles, slower than normal to warm up .

I gaze around me, all eyes and sometimes cell phone.

Sunlight warms my skin and freckles my face.

A squirrel glares at me suspiciously before scrambling to find his winter hoard.

I practice smiling

and like it.

I risked the rain and instead found

glorious Sonshine.
Blog Med Sig 4

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Yay, a blog award!  Thanks Mountain Mama.  (And is that how to spell yay?  I've been spelling it that way for the last month because y-e-a-h looks like yeah as in a slangy yes.  But I may have made up this spelling.)  Here's how this meme works.  I tell you seven things you probably don't know about me if you only know me through my blog and introduce you to 15 recently discovered blogs (I love referrals) to whom I will pass this award.  So here goes:

7 Random facts or anecdotes you may not know about me

1)  I have a very sensitive sense of smell.

2)  My first job (outside of family or babysitting) was a photographer for Santa at the mall.  (We all wore these horrible Laura Ashley corduroy jumpers so we looked like Santa and his pregnant teenage elves.)  One evening I could have sworn I smelled rubber or wires burning. (See #1) I told my manager who blew me off.  Later that night the set burned down due to an electrical fire.
See, looks like Santa and his pregnant teenage elf.
3)  I had family living in America while we were still British Colonies. On the other hand, my Great-grandmère Camille immigrated here from France as a 15 year old war bride during World War I.
Ok, so these aren't really my ancestors, but you get the idea.
4)  In the middle of my first year at UCSD I became the mouthpiece of a student led political movement to regain monies to remodel our dance studios.  I helped organize the protest, spent the day educating students and asking them to join the dance in, spoke at numerous meetings both public and private, contacted all of our sister UC dance programs and spammed the chancellor,  all while having taken only one and a half dance classes. (Thank God for the more knowledgeable juniors and seniors who educated me and sacrificially fought for a building that would never directly benefit them.) We won 3 million dollars to build a new facility!  I sat on the building committee overseeing its construction  and eventually had the privilege to dance in the beautiful new studios.


5)  I've personally seen three U.S. Presidents speak.

6)  Throughout college I spent my summers and holidays working at Disneyland. While I can't officially tell you what I did, I can say that I worked very, very closely with a certain big cheese and his similarly sized pals. (wink wink)

A couple who look suspiciously like my parents with Mickey...uhmm...they're big fans.

7)  God told my parents at about the same time, in separate rooms (Bull Gator was in the chapel & Mom was in her hospital bed) what name I was to be given.  So really, God named me. 

And a blogger is born.

15 Some (fairly) recently discovered blogs that I name as Stylish Bloggers
(if they so choose to accept which of course they are under no obligation to do)

1)  Elk Farmer's Blog - exactly what it sounds like, an Oregon Elk Farmer's blog. Completely fascinating. my fav post: Flying Squirrel

2)  Bflatminor's Blog - the adventures of an itinerant singer & songwriter discovering what it means to live Occupation: artist. Also Jess is a wonderful friend. my fav post: Tiny Pop Dancer

3)  Learning - April is coming later to marriage and motherhood than she planned and traveled there via a few years in Romania working with at risk children.  There is just something about her heart in her writing that draws me. my fav post: Romania II

4)  Albatross Fables - Arnab is a dreamer in New Delhi.  I love getting glimpses of his world, beautiful and heartbreaking, like all of our worlds. my fav post: A Grand Relationship

5)  The Simple Things in Life - a tender view into the everyday life of a family in New Zealand.  I've always loved this country and something about this young family reminds me a bit of my own childhood. my fav post: Weekend

6)  WayStationOne - Brian's words are strong, like cappuccino, some days they can almost crush my soul other days he just plays ping pong with them. my fav post: exorcising demons

7)  The Screaming Kettle at Home - David, too, loves his words.  He can craft a story with power and while we don't always see the world in the same way I trust his heart.  Plus his daughter Yosi, is a crack up. my fav post: I don't like the juice of beetles.

8)  Ostriches Look Funny - profound and clever insights from the sometimes mundane sometimes ludicrous world of a mom to pre-schoolers.  my fav post: A Mother's Prayer vs. The Dark Side

9)  60Piggies - Nic's photo's are gorgeous, her heart is so open and to top it off, she's just really encouraging.  This artist-mother also sells gorgeous jewelry to raise funds to bring their youngest, who currently resides in Ethiopia, home. my fav post: a recipe for antifreeze

10)  12 Tribes - Cindy is a thinker and an artist who can get into the Word.  I means she breaks down the meanings of the words in the Word and then sees them weaving through her life. my fav post: Celebrate-with Zephaniah 3:17

11)  Olsonomics: Old Ollie is the kind of storyteller that makes me think of a warm fire after a hard day's work.  His tales of Bruce Fish, French and Pancake breathe.  They are short and alive. my fav post: looking into French's notebook

12)  Finding Serendipity -  Patty's photography is stun-ning.  You have to go look.  Of course I love landscape and macro nature shots and she is very good. Go be inspired. my fav post: Photo a la {M}ode {5} :: sure signs of spring

13)  A Thousand Words - Kati is a world traveler and beautifully chronicles the people and places around her.  Her words can bring a land I've never stepped foot on to life in my head.   And she's also pretty a pretty honest questioner of life; one who is not always satisfied with simple answers to complex issues.  my fav post: Hope...Women on Display

14)  Hope Whispers - When I first visited Carrie I was rapt with attention.  From her header to the quotes sprinkled around the page I loved it. Then her poetry sealed the deal.  my fav post: The Callused Knees of Mercy

15)  Being Happy -   happygirl is new to blogging and has hit the web with unbridled enthusiasm. You know what I like about her?  She is honest.  She doesn't hide her feelings and I admire that.  my fav post: I can still perform an act of love

16)  The Curious AcornJodi lives in the USA but there is something distinctly British about her in my opinion.  She is an artist and I love the way she looks at the world. Her illustrated journals are amazing. my fav post: As We Sing

17)  Little Moth - totally cool design blog showcasing creative and interesting children's rooms.  So inspiring. my fav post: Just Because 

18)  Love WinsEloraNicole goes deep but writes so clearly you can follow her path.  And I want to follow her path.  I want to see where she ends up.  She also wrote a great series of notes from Idea Camp: Orphan Care. my fav post: He Knows

19)  Rista-ree's Mysteries - I love Rista's contradictions.  She loves Jesus with a pure heart and loves dark gothic fantasy.  We bonded over George McDonald. my fav post: After the Happily Ever After...

Have fun checking out these cool blogs, including Mountain Mama, and tell me what you think!
Blog Med Sig 4

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Late to Lent: Day 12

Start from the beginning here.

Day Twelve
I get up and start the day right, yesterday’s lesson not lost on me. And through all of my morning reading the theme's so clear it may have well been titled Eyes to See. First one book discusses the Holiness of God, how it cannot be separated from His Grace. Without seeing His Holiness I can not properly value His Grace. It tells of Isaiah who saw a vision of God in His throne room splendor, immediately understood his own baseness and craven nature and then received forgiveness. Seeing God allowed Isaiah to properly see his own need for forgiveness. Ann, too, meditates on the eyes, the eyes to see His Glory around her, the hunger it creates to see more to know more deeply. And again the awareness that the more the Holy Spirit enables her to see God, the more clearly she sees that only grace affords her this privilege. On her own she can not become worthy.  I see that in the light of holiness all good in me and my life is grace.

So I pray, give me eyes to see more of who you are. And I open Matthew. I hear Jesus warning his friends that he'll be arrested at anytime now and they will flee. Even after walking with the Son of God for 3 years they argue with Him. (But then how long have I walked with Him and petulance is still so often my first response.) They are determined that they would never desert Jesus. I wonder, what gives them their confidence? Could it be that like the proverbial plank, they loom so large in their own eyes that they can’t rightly see who they’re arguing with?

Then the priests discuss what to do with the blood money a remorseful Judas flung back at them. The callousness of their words floors me. “It wouldn’t be right to give this –a payment for murder!-as an offering in the Temple.” Matthew 27:6  They are so focused on the legality of where the money goes they miss that they are the ones who paid for MURDER! Their complicity is never addressed as if they are somehow at arms length from this transaction. How large do they loom in their own eyes to miss this broken commandment?

My Lord dies; and the earth splits open, graves spill open, the veil separating the Holy of Holies tears open. What is hidden revealed. And the soldiers who pounded the nails, saw, truly saw, exclaiming, "This has to be the Son of God." Matthew 27:54  Next I read of the women, Jesus's friends, coming to the grave. In Matthew it says they were keeping vigil, eyes open and still loving when the angel appeared to them, announcing Jesus's ressurection. They had eyes to see and so glory was displayed.

My time following Jesus in Matthew ends with a post resurrection reunion between Jesus and his friends. The moment they saw Him they worshiped Him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Matthew 28:17 MSG After all of that, after all that time seeing, some still held back from worship because they were afraid to risk themselves totally. Is it possible that they somehow still loomed too large in their own eyes to fully see Him, the risen Jesus? What about me? How well am I seeing? It depends. Twelve days into Lent and I do believe this, when I am focused on my own disappointments and my own seemingly hopeless dreams my anger at God blinds me. It lodges like a great big stone in my eye and I can’t see around it. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you.
Blog Med Sig 4

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Late to Lent: Day 11

I tried posting these journals once a week but they have already become pretty dense and unwieldy. So I'm going to try posting each day this week, on top of anything else I want to write, and see how that goes. Read the rest of the journey here.

Day Eleven
It’s midnight and I didn’t have a quiet time today and you know what, I feel it. I feel as if my heart is gunked up. Usually I read some sort of devotional book, scripture, practice my memory verses, listen to the Daily Audio Bible, add to my gratitude journal and try to apply. Today, I just got up and went. Hours later I feel like my heart has been running on fumes. I am amazed at how this discipline which confounded me for years (perhaps due to having to be at work early added to my deep distaste of rising before nine at the very earliest) feeds me. This simple time of study, reflection, prayer and worship changes my day. I mean, nothing huge happened today, in fact it was a nice day, but somehow I feel as if I was munching on McDonalds all day, kind of greasy inside. Like I’ve had a low grade crankiness. And now I’m tired. So I’ll probably read a short scripture, maybe finish Matthew and then go to bed. I’ll let you know if anything interesting comes up in my reading.

So I’m reading in Matthew 26, it is a few days before Passover, when Jesus and his friends were eating and a woman comes in and pours her nest egg, her treasure, an expensive jar of perfume on Jesus. Giving Him her very best, worshipping Him without shame in front of the critical eyes and grumbling mouths of a room full of men. They felt she should have sold the perfume and given them the money to give to the poor. Jesus protects her, and corrects His friends. In fact He says that where ever His story is told, this woman’s actions will be remembered as beautiful. It is so precious, her risk and His honoring of her. Yet what struck me was the way these verses flow together: You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.” That is when one of the Twelve, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the cabal of high priests and said, “What will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” Matthew 26:13-14a MSG I wonder what it was that set Judas off. Clearly something in this situation was the last straw for him. Was it just the loss of the money the perfume would have brought (Judas was embezzling funds) or was it something more? Was it how Jesus esteemed this woman, declaring she had a prestigious place in His story? Was he jealous of that recognition? Scandalized that Jesus would so elevate a woman? Appalled at how Jesus allowed her to sacrifice in her worship of Him? Or is greed really the answer?  After all his first words to the high priests were "what will you give me."  I don’t know. I just thought it interesting that witnessing this extravagant act of worship sparked betrayal in Judas’ heart.  I wonder what it would have sparked in mine?
Blog Med Sig 4

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Late to Lent: Days 5-10

I am late to Lent in more ways than one.  In this time I was asked to give up my anger against God and all of the words and actions fueled by that anger.  And to follow Jesus.  So I'm journaling through this, my first ever Lenten season.  You are welcome to start the journey with me here.

Day Five
I am still on a high from last night’s gift. It’s hard to come down to enter into Lent, but maybe that’s a wrong hearted idea of Lent. I believe Jesus embraced His moments walking here, our Emmanuel, God with us. So I can embrace the joy along with the pain. Yesterday in church, as I once again sang with our worship team, we belted the Revelation Song. I saw a picture of Jesus, leading me into a throne room to see our Father. I found comfort there, some things were said to me that I don’t quite understand, and I brought Him my grief, my shattered dreams and was cherished. So this morning with a thankful spirit I wanted to start on the ‘do’ part of my Lent: the part about following Jesus.

While I wait for the devotional delayed by shipping, I decide to read through the gospels; to trail Jesus as He left footprints in our dust. I start by reading the first two chapters of Matthew and I’m struck by Joseph. I don’t often think about him-Baby Jesus, Mary and oh, yeah, Joseph. It seems to me that Joseph’s dreams were shattered by God’s plan. Who dreams of marrying a pregnant fiancé carrying someone else’s baby when (almost) everyone around you thinks you a liar or a fool? I can only imagine that he dreamt of looking into his first son’s face and searching for his own eyes or a familiar wrinkle of the nose. And he didn’t get that. Yes, he was given something far greater, far more majestic, but first he had to surrender his dream. And Joseph was given a choice as to whether he would join in God’s plan, but no one asked him to give up his own hopes. They were wrenched from him by force. He had no say.

Then I read about Joseph being warned in a dream to flee to Egypt in order to protect Jesus and the enormity of his responsibility flattens me. Joseph was the guardian, the shield, the earthly protector of Jesus! He provided food, shelter, affection, social status to the One through whom the universe was created. God became vulnerable and put Himself into Joseph’s care. Who was this man that he would be given such a momentous task? What if he had decided the angel’s dream warning was just bad fish? How could Father God entrust Joseph with so much?

As I type this, the words I heard Him say to me Sunday, which I did not understand, come floating back across my mind, “I trust you.” Awe, reverence and I don’t mind saying a little bit of fear.

Day Six
Stones and bread. The refrain repeats before I leave my bed. (Hey, that rhymes...kind of) I’m still reading Ann, savoring her gift sharing, and she writes, “it’s the Word of God that turns the gravel in the mouth to loaves on the tongue.” Memory stirs.

Truth, I asked Him. Truth is what I need from you. I do not want to open my heart, invest my emotions into something that I created. I have no desire to spend time on crazy train. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?...If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9, 11  And I rested, only to awake several years later to a backpack full of stones and broken teeth.

I turn back to Matthew and find myself in the desert with Jesus, hungry, tired, tested. Immediately, the enemy begins with taunts, temptations of stones and bread. The Word allows God’s Word to respond.  It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth. Matthew 4:4  Is Ann right?  Is it not whether something in my life began as a stone but what I allowed Him to do with it? Do His words turn my stones into bread?

Next, Matthew 5 should ring familiar. I recite these verses every Friday night with friends, trying to walk in health. But the translation is different enough to hit me anew, soothing balm.
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
 You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you... You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
Matthew 5: 3-5, 6

Day Seven
Devotions for Lent arrives and in it I find this poem.
Great and Holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy-
neither the “Great and Powerful Oz” nor the “man upstairs.”
Help us
to want what we need…
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
Your visitation

-Frederick Ohler
Devotions for Lent from the Mosaic Bible page 9
Yes, God, forgive me for slouching into your presence, so sullen, and help me to want what I need…You.

Day Eight
I’m not sure what to write today. I feel empty, dry but not parched. I read of kabod, usually translated glory also meaning heaviness and a chase to catch the moon to feel His glory and it moved me but today I do not share in the experience, just observe. I read but I am quiet. I am not angry; I don’t think I'm protecting my heart, just quietly uncomfortable. 213 on my list of everyday gifts reads unsatisfied heart-keeps on seeking but what does that even mean? I had thought of a search for beauty, a longing to understand, a desire to go deeper in His embrace but a mere ten minutes later I feel all muzzy, wrapped up in cotton and I wonder, are these just empty words? Perhaps I will write more later. When the fog lifts from the mountains, perhaps it will lift off of me as well.

I read offerings of Imperfect Prose, that community of artists and seeker and followers, and while the fog still shrouds the mountains in a thin haze, daylight begins to stream into my heart. When I finally read SuzyQ’s words “Embrace your journey. It won’t look like most journeys.” the light falls, illuminating another layer of shadow. I have said these words or something like them often recently, with great bravado. But in my heart have they rung true? Or was I just acting as if? Is this anger towards Him another volley in a long standing war against my own difference? Why, why can’t it be easy for me what seems to be so straightforward to all whom I see? My heart has cried this complaint in one situation after another for thirty years. Why did You make me and my story different when what I longed for was to be the same? My different has not even seemed brilliant or outstanding but, in my eyes marked, by failure. And I blame Him. Light falls on the ugly truth crouching in the shadows. I blame Him rather than accept, embrace my journey. It doesn’t look like most journeys.

Day Nine
Today I visit my hometown, Disneyland. I simply let the day unfold, relaxing in the generous love of a friend, and the ecstasy of a 5 year old at the Happiest Place on Earth. Late in the evening, my friend asks the question that leads to the tale that is the source of this anger He has asked me to lay down. I find I am able to share without fiery heat rising. Even when I share the feelings and perceptions I first had, I am trying to be careful that the angry words are not used; the accusations against Holy God are couched in a historical context, not as how I choose to see or speak now. But for the most part my heart is at peace, today, embracing His gifts to me.

Day Ten
if i do not worship You i will worship emptiness
and come up empty every time

if i do not worship You desert winds will overtake my heart
until the rock of it crumbles into dust

if i do not worship You poisonous bitterness, rage and resentment will steep in my life
leaving pools of deep death

if i do not worship You i will breathe my last
having never breathed at all

if i do not worship You

Today I want to see, serve and worship.

That was this morning. By the time I left the house in early afternoon to run errands a squall of frustration left me spent with salty tracks running down my face. This discontent bubbles up over something small, starting with missing items, seethes at a packed garage full of my house in boxes, a tiny room from which I run my full sized adult life and soon boils over into self-loathing and anger at God. I break my fast.

Oh His mercy in the midst of my failure. My final errand before meeting up with a friend (to borrow her dog) finds the two of us serendipitously at the same library. I join her and her kids to watch a puppet show. Witnessing a room full of children bursting with delight and fully entering into the joy of the moment, the storm clouds in my heart begin to break up. My eyes begin to clear.

Then tonight, as I choose and edit the picture for this week, I hear Brian pray “and so may we do our part well. May we be very conscious of what it is our role and our part is. May we have a deep understanding of the season of life that we’re in; of our current assignment in life, knowing that even if we are unsatisfied right now, there is work to accomplish before You will bring us into the new season. And so rather than focusing on the things that we don’t have, may we focus on the things that we do. And one of the things we do have is Your precious Holy Spirit to guide us. So we invite You, Holy Spirit, to come, lead us.  I agree and a downy blanket of peace settles on me. He sees, He knows my frailty; He still loves me and has purpose and use for me …now. May my focus shift onto the largeness of that truth and there remain.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Brave Girl

I usually spend my birthday with my Mom. After all we began my birth day that way so it just seems appropriate. This year I wanted to take a long hike on this trail we’d recently discovered only this time I wanted to make it all the way to the end. The day before the weather was a balmy 68 and there was some nice cloud cover when we left the house. So it should have been enjoyable. Half a mile out the clouds blew away and it got hot. But I was determined and as my tummy hurt because my heart was pounding (I don’t like aerobic exercise) I kept telling myself that this was good for me. At a stream crossing we saw a mountain lion paw print in the mud. Honestly, it didn’t freak me out at all. Finally, we hit the point in the trail that was new to us

and here it got really tough: switchbacks with a steep incline that clearly hadn’t been groomed in a while.

The run off from winter storms had etched deep gullies in the trail, sometimes on either side, at others down the middle. But still we keep marching. The plan was to have a peanut butter picnic at some point and then come home. I hear a whirring noise, look up and quickly shout a warning to my mom while clearing the way for a mountain biker racing downhill. I spot a point that may not be the end but looks like a nice stopping place about 15 feet or so above us. I turn the corner, determinedly climbing, when I hear it, the noise I have dreaded ever since my parents moved to this neighborhood 12 years ago. The fierce rattle of a rattlesnake ricochets off of the hard mountain walls like gun fire. Instinct kicks in and I run, screaming, up hill. Then I stop and look back to see that the snake is now coiled under a bush between my Mom and I and I just want to cry.

Now please understand I’m not just squeamish. From the age of 5 until I was 23 I had recurring nightmares featuring snakes. I really, really don’t like snakes. Especially snakes that I know are poisonous and are a little hacked off at me. You can tell me that it was more frightened of me than I was of it. I just don’t buy it. In my case at least, that’s not true.

So here I am 2 miles up a mountain with my worst nightmare sitting in between me and my mom and the way home. My mom’s carrying a walking stick so she feels some sense of protection and she offers to walk past the rattlesnake to come to me, because that ladies and gentlemen, is my mom: the woman who will brave deadly creatures to come to her little girl’s aid. But my rational side has not completely shut down. I still have to get home. I don’t have enough cell service to call 911 and ask the rangers to send a helicopter to fly me out. I’m also not sure they would actually come. (The fire department would but that is a story for another day.) I’m trying to figure a way out and it’s not easy. One way or another I have to get past where that snake is coiled in order to get down the mountain. At least now I can tell where he is. Through all of this the snake is frantically shaking a tail that sounds like a rain bird sprinkler in a microphone. And it doesn’t help that my mom who is still offering to hop on over is telling me how huge this snake is.

I can only see one way out. I fix my eyes on the bush where it is hiding until I spot the whirring tale. Keeping my eye on the rattle, fighting back tears and desperately praying for protection I slowly come down the path. As soon as I am safely past the snake, I dash down the hill. Half a mile I run gullies or no. We come to flat corner with some shade and stop to recover.

I try to eat but it turns out that adrenaline and appetite don’t mix for me.

Actually, I think I already knew that. But we do catch our breath

before hiking the next mile and a half out which was fairly uneventful although the lizards made me a little jumpy. And I love lizards.

Anyway, that is my brave girl birthday moment. I think that was seriously the biggest pair of big girl panties I have ever had to pull on. Am I grateful God protected me?  Absolutely.  Am I a little proud of myself? Yeah. Have I conquered my fear of snakes? Uhhhm…no. Will I hike that trail again? That would be a no…at least not until, say, November, when all good snakes go to sleep.

Have you pulled on your big girl panties and faced any fears lately?

I wanna know,
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Joanne and ...

perhaps someone else you know whose name begins with a “J.”

Who is Joanne you may ask? She is a wife, a mother, a writer and a Follower who suffered a massive stroke two months ago. Read about this ordinary blogger facing an extraordinary challenge here and at her blog, The Simple Wife. Joanne has a charm bracelet that she loves so much it is the header on her blog. As usual with charm bracelets each charm has a special story or meaning. I’m not a charm bracelet gal, but like Joanne I’m sentimental. Trinkets can be imbued with emotion when they represent people I love or memories that are dear. In her honor I am going to share with you three of my favorite charms. (Disclaimer: Please excuse the freckled, pasty white skin. I am a Western European mutt living in Southern California. Freckles happen.)

I’ve had this Tink charm since my college days when I worked at Disneyland in the Entertainment Department. I love Tinkerbell. I’ve always related to her feistiness and her determination as well as her stature, body type and insecurities. But more on my love for Tink another day.

This Aquamarine heart charm was a thank you gift from a friend for helping to throw her daughter’s birthday party. It’s my birthstone and I absolutely love it.

Finally my black pearl was inherited from another friend. I was given some of her jewelry at the same time as I was given her precious pooch.

It’s amazing how valuable the simplest object can become when it reminds me of my own history and the friends who have scrawled across the pages of my life. I can only imagine that Joanne may feel something similar when she looks at her bracelet. Please drop by The Simple Wife to wish Joanne a Happy Birthday and PRAY, please, please pray today for her complete healing.

With much love,
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