Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whirlwinds and Starry Skies

Friends, it has been a whirlwind two weeks!

We had our Christmas production at church on Friday and Sunday. I played one of the focal characters, a woman named Jade who has become “trapped in the trappings” of Christmas to the point where she cannot even find its true meaning anymore.

Does that sound familiar? I know I can become so distracted that I can pass by the Nativity scene in my dining room and not even look in on the Baby Jesus. I am guilty of passing Him without a glance here in my home. What does that say for my heart?

I read in the Bible this week about the Wise Men. They noticed something in the sky to alert them of that a King of all kings was born. Did you even notice the sky last night? Can you tell me, without running to the window, what the sky looks like today? How much do we miss because we aren’t paying attention? How much do we take for granted? How complacent have we become?

When the Wise Men went to Herod, he asked the religious leaders about where the Messiah would be born. They answered, “Bethlehem”. But did they get excited about the possibility that the Messiah had been born? Did they marvel at the Magi’s quest and go hurriedly to investigate? We have no report or evidence that they even were interested. They knew it all… and still missed it all.

I know the story by heart. I have read the prophecies. All around me is celebration and decoration. But am I still missing it? Am I trapped in the trappings? Are you?

Please, God, help us! Calm the whirlwind around us and in us, as Jesus did the storm on the Lake of Galilee, saying, “Peace! Be still!” Let us investigate with wonder the birth of our Savior. Let us experience Immanuel, even now!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick Update

I returned from my visit with the Duke neurologist today.

Let me tell you, it was a good thing we sent God ahead of us, because God was the only thing that arrived in advance.

Neither my records from my neurologist nor the letter I sent were received by the doctor. I called the neurologist's office earlier this week to make sure they'd been sent. They claimed to have sent them. (Hmmm. All these blunders by that office have me convinced that it's time to find a new neurologist!)

But it's OK. The Holy Spirit nudged me this week to copy some of the files I had at home. I brought those few pages, which included bloodwork results, and the copies of the MRIs I've had.

An exam and consult later, the Duke neuro noticed something in that bloodwork that my neurologist's office had not. Then we talked about results of a liver screening I'd had done about ten years ago that had showed problems. He connected a few dots and recommended that I have a full liver screening done. Funny, no one else had ever thought to dig that far.

If the liver is not functioning properly, the toxins it is supposed to filter out end up in the blood and can affect the whole body... including the nervous system. Presto! Enter my symptoms.

So Monday we will draw some blood at my primary care doctor and I will be asking a friend at church for her neurologist's name (local).

I'll keep you posted.

But for now, thank you for your prayers and for sending God ahead. God imparted wisdom to a doctor who was flying in the dark. He had it under control. No surprise there. :)

Onward,
Lisa

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Divine Appointment

Y’all, I am just not writing enough! Do you feel neglected?

I’ve had another neuro-episode and I’ve been doing more resting than anything else. It is about the only thing that seems to help when my nervous system decides to take a spin on the merry-go-round! Plus, my computer has had a few neuro-issues of its own, poor thing!

My episodes make writing more difficult because my coordination is challenged, even down to fine motor skills. I encounter fat-fingering (when I hit two keys together) as well as a sort of typing dyslexia: my fingers get out of order when I hit the keys. It can be frustrating but occasionally amusing: changing the order of two letters can give an entirely different (and strikingly inappropriate or hilarious) word, like playing MadLibs!

But I do have good news and a God story.

I am scheduled for an appointment at Duke University Medical. YAY!

We had discussed Mayo Clinic, but Mayo discontinued its association with my insurance company as of October 1. Mayo recommended Duke. My appointment was scheduled for March 5, but when I went online to research the doctor I was to meet, I found out she was a stroke specialist. Curious. I have not had a stroke, nor do my symptoms match pre-stroke signs. I backed up one page on the website.

Before me were twenty-plus pictures of Duke neurologists. I asked God to show me the one He wanted me to see. Two faces immediately stood out. I clicked on their profiles and found experience with my symptoms. Perfect! I called Duke. The receptionist was a little testy when I told her I’d been scheduled with the wrong doctor.

“Well,” she snipped, “what doctor do you want?”
I smiled. I had a confident answer.

Don’t you know I was able to schedule an appointment with my second-choice doc for November 26! And when Duke called the next day to confirm, I found I was actually scheduled with the doctor who was my first choice! Now that’s God intervention!

So now we send God on ahead of me.

It is the most effective way to get an answer: send God ahead. I’m asking God to permeate the place I will be going. I’m asking Him to solve the riddle. I’m asking Him to shower wisdom on the doctor, even today. I’m begging Him to supernaturally intervene and let this be a fruitful visit. And I submit myself to His plan.

Friends, will you join me? Send God ahead. Send Him ahead of my appointment. Send Him ahead of whatever you are facing, especially with Thanksgiving and its opportunity to be with family and friends who may not know Him. Let Him prepare the hearts. Ask Him to begin to marinate a few minds. Ask Him to guide you into what He would have you say and do. Ask Him to make it very, very clear. Then submit to His plan. Trust. Obey.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Snoopy and Bellydancing

What?????

There’s actually something posted on Lisa’s blog?

Catch me before I faint!!!

OK, y’all I have heard you. I shall bring before you Standard Excuse # 16: I’ve been busy.

Honestly.

I have not put my tush in the seat and written ANYTHING in weeks. Not even scripts for church. And, no, this is not because I now have a Facebook page, though that could easily swallow hours.

Have y’all been on Facebook yet? I got a page so I could keep up with my three children and two stepchildren in their far-flung reaches of the country and, yea, the planet. I found relatives and long-lost friends and people whom I do not know who seem to want to be my friend if for no other reason than to increase the number of people they claim to know. And then there are the invitations to play all sorts of games: I can “grow” plants to save the rainforest; get bought, sold, or kidnapped; accept and arrange “flair” and find out which Peanuts character I am most like. I am Snoopy, by the way.

But I truly have not spent much time on the thing. I’ve been spending time reading and studying. I’m taking this awesome Precepts class that is exploring “covenant”, and let me tell you, my eyes are being opened in ways I cannot even explain. Scripture is woven with such beauty and depth! Covenant language and symbolism are abundant in so many traditions, from the custom of the handshake to the way we exchange food at drink at our wedding receptions! I’ll write more about that later.

But for now…

I have an article to finish for the newsletter our Worship Department publishes. And I need to practice my choreography for my bellydance class. Yeah, you read that correctly.

Doing the Egyptian basic,
Lisa

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lighten Up

The bed in my daughter’s old room is covered with blankets and pillows. And curtains and bedspreads and lengths of fabric and silk plants.

It all started about six weeks ago when I was cleaning out closets in preparation of storing my son’s belongings during his exchange-student year in Japan. I found more than I remembered being there.

Then twice in two days I’ve come across stories of people who decided to clean their homes of excess. I sat down to my Scripture-of-the-day calendar this morning: it was about offering back to God so that He can re-offer it to others. When there’s a subject God hits that often in that short a period, I’ve learned to take heed.

Here in Charlotte, there’s a place called The Butterfly Bin. (Actually, they are in the process of moving to a new warehouse in Huntersville.) It’s a place where we can donate all the things it takes to set up house: furniture, bedding, linens, dishes, kitchen essentials, small appliances, curtains, d├ęcor items, etc. People who are setting up their homes and are in need (for example: young folk who have aged out of the foster care system, women emerging from prison, homeless families getting back on their feet- all pre-screened by various organizations) are given vouchers to “shop” for free there.

What better place to donate my good-but-unused-and-doing-no-good-in-the-closet stuff? Here, it’s just taking up space. There, it can warm a home and a heart.

How about your cabinets and closets? Are they like mine, crammed full of things you can let go of? I found a pretty set of dishes and three mixing bowls to add to my pile. And I’m going back in.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Update

Hi, y'all.

I haven't been posting much. It has been a busy season:

All three of my children moved within days of each other. One went back to college, one went back to Georgia and the other is now in Japan. Yes, Japan, as in halfway around the world (or thirteen hours ahead). Helping your children move can make muscles ache- and hearts, too!

I've gone back to work part-time as I have been relatively asymptomatic. It's crazy there, since I've taken off so much time due to illness. I am still not caught up. Plus, I'm the administrator for our group chiropractic booth at the Southern Women's Show (this weekend)and have spent mucho hours on that. Try getting eight doctors' offices and schedules into one cohesive format! My head hurts. Good thing I know a chiropractor... or eight. Wait. That's WHY my head hurts. :)

I've been writing, but it's mostly been scripts. Our church has a drama team that performs short (2-4 minute) sketches on some Sundays, generally to reinforce a sermon topic or series. We've needed fresh scripts and God has been sitting me down to give them to me. Sometimes it's during my "designated" writing time. Sometimes He gets me out of bed in the middle of the night. (As if He's on Japanese time!)

Then there's my ongoing search for answers to my health issues. My immunologist agreed that Mayo Clinic is a good "next step". However, as of October 1, Mayo is not participating with my primary insurance. They have suggested Duke instead. Duke does accept my insurance. So all the necessary referrals and pre-certs are in the works. It's waiting time again.

We did find out that my illness is NOT related to my high Epstein-Barr virus titers. There was no DNA evidence in my blood that EBV was active. There is also no blood evidence of lymph system cancer. So we ARE ruling things out and narrowing the possibilities. Of course, it's gotta be something quirky and unusual. That's just par for my course! :) Good thing my blood type is B+ (be positive!)!!!

OK, consider yourself updated. Now I have to finish reading about tomorrow's Sunday School lesson, write in my FAITH journal, do my Precepts homework, mop the bathroom, do a load of laundry, make out the grocery list, skin some tomatoes and chop the rest of the salsa ingredients, prepare and can the salsa...

Oh, and whadda ya know... another train just blew its whistle and flew on by! I'm taking that as a reminder to pray!

Y'all got your tickets?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Can You Hear the Whistle?

It’s 1:00 am.

I had been asleep for about two hours, but God woke me. I could hear the approach of one of the forty-nine freight trains that pass our house every day. It sounded angry and out-of-control, as if it were heading for the house. The whistle blew and it passed on by, but I was left with the thought of what would happen if a train derailed nearby. We live within 100 yards of the tracks. Rail cars could easily buckle into our home and our lives would end instantly. I shook off the image and returned to sleep.

I dreamt that I had been stung by a bee and my throat was swelling closed. It was so vivid that I awakened coughing, alarmed that my tongue was thickening. It was not so, but it was enough to understand that God was getting my attention.

The message? Our perch on this planet is precarious. It could be over in a second.

I could not go back to sleep. When God wakes me, I have learned that I need to get up and go to the computer and write. This time has an urgency I cannot ignore.

Am I sitting here in the middle of the night because there is someone searching in the middle of the night?

Do you know Him?


So much of my life I thought I did, but it was a superficial relationship. He had to bring me through heartache to show me that I needed Him, to alert me that, yes, I had accepted Him but had not allowed Him into the control room. I was still trying to run my own life. It was like driving with my eyes closed.

Do you know Jesus? Are you prepared to meet Him?

Life could be over in the next ten minutes for any of us. It is only by the grace of God that we have breath in our lungs. We cannot take the risk of not knowing Him. Death comes at its appointed time and waits for no one. Not you. Not me.

It begins with the knowledge that we cannot reach Heaven on our own. Good deeds won’t get us there. Every one of us has missed the mark, has messed up. We might not think it fair, but God demands perfection from us in order for us to come into His presence. We are without hope… condemned. The price for our sin is death. The price must be paid. And that’s where Jesus comes in.

When Jesus died, He paid the price for our sin. And He didn't stop there. He conquered death and left that grave. What hope that is for us!

Now we can come into God’s presence. All we have to do is accept that gift that He paid for with His own life. We come to believe in Him, His death and His resurrection. We acknowledge our need for a Savior because we understand that we cannot save ourselves. We ask Him to do that for us. We confess that we’ve made a mess of things trying to run our lives without His direction and we ask Him to take over. We stop going down the path we were traveling, stop doing the things we already know in our hearts are not pleasing to Him, turn around and allow Him to lead. We step out in faith.

And that’s the first step, but it’s a big one.

That’s the step that keeps you from having an eternal address in Hell, where there is no God, where there is no Savior, where there is no hope, where continual torment has no relief. You think things are bad right now? At least there is hope while you still live. There is no light within the black jaws of Hell. No torch to keep evil at bay. No Indiana Jones. No one, no thing to save you, forever.

Are you ready? Or are you on the path towards destruction?

Accept Jesus. That’s all I can say to you. Do it now. I may not be here tomorrow to tell you again. You may not be here tomorrow to hear it again. And when you’ve finally given up and given in and given it to God, tell someone. Did a person just now come to your mind? That’s the Holy Spirit telling you who to tell. That’s the person who’s been praying for YOU, specifically, by name. And tell me, too. That’s why I’m writing to you. That’s why I’m now sitting here at 2:00am.

I’m awake, and I hear another train.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Neuro News

Good morning, all.

Test results are in. I had my follow-up visit with the neurologist this morning.

Good news: He doesn’t believe it is MS or an MS spectrum disorder. YAY!

Other news: He doesn’t know what it is.

Next step: He is referring me to an immunologist/specialist for further study.

OK, so we’ve got one hurdle cleared! Now for the next one.

My track coach in high school taught me about hurdles. She said that in most sports, you focus on the ball so you will hit it. In hurdles, you do NOT focus on the hurdle, or you WILL hit it. You focus on the space above the hurdle. Miss Pinyan did not know she was teaching me a spiritual lesson as well.

The space above the hurdle is where God is.

So, y’all, focus with me on the space above the hurdle.

Day 19, symptom-free,
Onward,
Lisa

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weekend harvest



The garden has been producing, folks!

Today I made salsa and canned five pints of it.

And then I canned some peach preserves and blackberry jelly, from a recent visit to a peach orchard!

I'm sure there will be a spiritual tie-in later, but for now, it's time to get ready for bed.

Sweet dreams!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free

She was not my first choice.

The other horses- the beautiful, the gentle, the named, the favorite, the strong one- had already been spoken for. She stood there, without saddle, without bridle or reins. Stood there, waiting for me.

This was all that was left? A naked, non-descript Shetland pony?

She had a reputation, that pony. She was known to be temperamental. She’d throw you if she didn’t like you, they said. She was uncontrollable. Wild.

The camp counselor gave me an ultimatum: Ride this horse back to the base- or walk the long, hot stretch of Kansas prairie. Reluctantly, fearfully, I mounted. Everyone else had already left.

My knobby twelve-year-old knees hugged her bare back and my hands grasped the generous tufts at the base of her neck. As soon as she felt me settle, she took off after the others. I gasped and dove forward, forcing myself as close to her as I could get, clamping my elbows tight to her neck. My body jolted each time her hooves struck. My eyes pinched shut to block as much sensation as possible.

And then something amazing happened. The pony and I began to move as one.

My waist-length brown hair and her long flaxen mane galloped together, rising and falling in waves behind me as I pressed my cheek against her neck. We flew, powerful and liberated, parting the grass ocean, sailing through the wind and the sun, leaving behind my fear and her reputation.

It was the most natural, freeing experience I have ever known. It was a gift, a moment in time when an awkward, skinny girl could imagine that anything was possible. Horses could fly! And if gravity could be overcome, then problems could be, too. Hope rose from under the hooves of a plain Plains pony. My heart risked to believe: the ones who were always last to be picked could be chosen, could be loved. Each just needed the chance to prove herself.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Have Some Fun!

My new prayer buddy, Diane, (www.dianeapplewhite.blogspot.com) that I met on Renee Swope's blog after the She Speaks Conference, has invited me to join a little game of tag.

I was never very good at tag, but I will play, especially since I have had four (count 'em, FOUR!)good days in a row. I haven't had to even use my cane! Not that it matters, since this is cyber tag! :)

OK, this is how it works:
1-Diane tagged me.
2-I have to post 6 random things about myself on my blog.
3-I also need to post these rules. These. You're reading them.
4-Then I tag six buddies, by posting the invite on their blogs, and by posting their blog addresses at the end of mine, so you can read about them, too, if you want!
5-They get to play, too! (and send it on to six others)
6-Then I let Diane know I did it!

This is a fun way to get to know random things about each other that just wouldn't come up in "normal" conversation. Plus, the one tagged gets a little extra traffic to her blog, which is always an encouraging thing.

Read and be humored!

1. I have a crazy “talent”: I can talk like a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz- without helium. It began when I was a child, imitating the Twiddlebugs from Sesame Street. It has progressed to being able to sing the Star-Spangled Banner as a combination of Porky Pig, Whitney Houston and a munchkin. Priceless. My children will confirm its five-star embarrassment potential.

2. In college, I completed preliminary testing to qualify to join Mensa. Yeah, the high IQ club. People who know me now are probably pretty shocked to read that. That was when I had changed my major from Art to Biology, Pre-med. Then I birthed three children. Suddenly, it didn’t seem all that important!

3. I can sing songs in Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, French, Spanish and, of course, English (including that strange Star-Spangled banner). I even know what I’m singing! However, I am strictly amateur. Many people are nodding in agreement.

4. I’m only 45, but I’ve got parenting experience beyond my years: add together the ages of my three children (after their birthdays this week), their cumulative total is 64. SIXTY-FOUR! Add in my stepkids and you get 93. My husband’s and my ages together equal 94. This will be the last year we stay one step ahead of them!

5. I was born in a hospital so brand-new that I was only the third baby born there, and the first girl. When South Fulton Hospital in East Point (Atlanta), Georgia has its 50th birthday party in 2013, I’d better be invited. Or I’ll just show up and sing the Star-Spangled Banner. For real, y’all.

6. I share my birthday with the Ayatollah Khomeni. (Hopefully you are old enough to know who that was. Or Google it.) I take this to mean that I am destined to be a world leader. Or crazy. Perhaps that’s redundant. I also share the date with Sugar Ray Leonard. This means I have knockout potential. I just need a visit from Stacey and Clinton and Carmindy and Nick from “What Not to Wear”. And a personal trainer.

NOW...Whom shall I choose to tag?

1) My daughter, Sarah. www.developinhim.blogspot.com
2) My writer friend, Renee. www.reneemotley.blogspot.com
3) A sweet encourager, B. www.walkingbyfaithdownaisle15.blogspot.com
4) A fellow She-Speaker, pinkshoelady.blogspot.com
5) A fellow Lisa, who posted on my blog before. www.lisaperdue.blogspot.com
6) Hmmm. I don't have a six. Guess I'm still pretty new at this!

Y'all enjoy each other. Encourage each other daily, as our Lord directs! I can't wait to read your six random things!

And if I didn't link to you above, but you just want to reveal your random six, just leave me a comment! I'd love to get to know you!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wandering Jew and accompanying Gentile

I was roaming around the house on the phone (cell phones are so cool!) with my daughter yesterday, and found myself in the sunroom. We were discussing our morning quiet times (having a Christian “adult” daughter is so cool!) when I noticed that one of the plants had decided to jump its pot. I don’t know where it thought it was going, but lengths of the vine had severed themselves from the momma plant and landed on the carpet.

“What craziness!” I thought. Closer inspection revealed that the vines had “dampened off”- the stems had rotted an inch or so above the soil. So I rescued the still-living (that is so cool!) escapees and pinched off the dead ends and set them in a glass of water to re-root. I exiled them to another part of the room, where they could be protected until they were ready to re-plant.

The name of the plant? Wandering Jew.
My quiet time study earlier that morning? The return of the exiles to Jerusalem.

Tell me God doesn’t have both impeccable timing and a keen sense of humor.

I’ve never considered myself to be much of an Old Testament scholar. But recent Sunday School lessons have had me digging into history to try to put it all together. Basically, I’m trying to gain some chronological understanding of the prophets, the exile, the return to Jerusalem and all the kings involved. Stuff that I’ve “historically” (smile) found boring has now piqued my interest. (Tell me God doesn’t work miracles! Next thing you know, he’ll have me fascinated with numbers. Hear that sound? My husband and children are laughing uncontrollably. One day I will tell you the story of The Fit of Rage and The Algebra Book, by Lisa Roszler.)

Did you know that not all the Jews returned when they were allowed? Nope. Some just stayed behind in Babylon. “Y’all go on ahead! Be safe! I’m happy for you!”

Maybe they’d been there so long that it felt like home. Their children were born there, their new homes were comfortable. Perhaps they had no need of the old ways, couldn’t identify with the homeland, had lost their religion? Forgotten what it was all about? Maybe they had become so assimilated that they were unrecognizable, even to themselves, as being a different, chosen people.

Then a profound thought hit me.

I am a modern-day exile. Where is my Babylon? America? This planet? Am I so enamored (see that root “amor”-love?) with this present life that I have failed to remember where I truly belong? Am I trying to make my heaven on earth? Have I forgotten what my life is to be about? Am I recognizable as being a citizen of Heaven, Zion, New Jerusalem? Do I long to return?

Those sprigs of vine will soon grow roots, but they can’t live forever in a glass of water. They need soil. They need home soil. Just like this Wandering Gentile. Praise God He gives us His Word, His Living Water to remain in until He takes us home!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not to goad you, but...

It has been reported that before the Indonesian tsunami hit, the wildlife started heading for higher ground, even before the humans were aware it was coming. Scientists call it “instinct”.

What is instinct? It’s a prompting. In comes from a Latin root word that means “prick or goad”.

Goad. That word makes me smile, because a scripture I never understood comes to mind. I remember reading in Acts 26:14 when Saul was blinded on the road to Damascus. Jesus said to him, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Do what?

Evidently, “kicking against the goads” is old Greek-speak for “useless resistance”. Ever seen a child throwing a (non-public) temper tantrum in the presence of a patient mother? She’ll let him wear himself out, because she’s not giving in.

Hmmm. So instinct has to do with a pricking or goading. Seems to me it comes from our patient Father. He prompts. He waits out the temper tantrum. Maybe we get wise and listen and follow His lead. Maybe we continue to kick against Him.

There’s another scripture with “goad” in it: “The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails- given by one Shepherd.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11) What colorful imagery! Lest your imagination lead you astray, those nails are not the Shepherd’s fingernails in your arm, pulling you along! My Bible references the term back to Ezra, who speaks of God’s grace in giving the remnant of Israel a “firm place”, literally a nail or peg, in His sanctuary.

I like the thought of having a peg in His sanctuary, a place to hang my coat and stay awhile. In my mind I see a row of personalized nursery school cubbies: there’s even a place for my shoes- but baggage is left curbside.

Do I hear God prompting me? He’s singing Newsboys- again:

“It’s just a Spirit thing, it’s just a Holy nudge,
It’s like a circuit judge in the brain.
It’s just a Spirit thing, it’s here to guard my heart,
It’s just a little hard to explain.
It pushes when I quit, it smells a counterfeit,
And it works a bit like a teleprompter.
When it’s teleprompting you, I pray you let it through…”


And the Spirit whispers, “Travel light, go in haste! Head for higher ground!”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy




This will not be a long post. It will also be my only post this week.

I am packing to go out of town (to Charleston and Georgetown, SC) for our 13th anniversary. We are celebrating a marriage that almost didn't make it past the shaky 8th anniversary. I spent the 8th (July 03) packing up my kids' stuff to take to them when they'd had to move in with their biological dad after our lives fell apart in June of 03.

Now, with God's grace, we not only celebrate our anniversary, but will also soon celebrate a year of being back in the same house together! I will have to post more about that later.

For now, I am posting pictures of my garden.

During those four years of separation, I clung to Isaiah 51:3.

"The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins: he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing."


My wasteland has become a garden. You can often find me there, because it brings me great joy. Sometimes I am hidden among the plants as I weed or tend, but all you have to do to locate me is listen for the sound of singing.

May God put a song in your heart today!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Get the Point

Remember how your mama told you not to point your finger at anyone because you’ll have three pointing back at you? Go ahead, try it. Point your finger. See your other three fingers pointing right back to you? Hmmm. Guess that old saying had some truth.

Today, I pointed someone to a scripture. And guess what? God pointed it right back at me! But, hey, this was a good thing!

I sent a new friend to Psalm 63:7: “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” (NIV) I just love that scripture. It was the one I put in my pocket last year at our Christmas production when the character I played had to sing. I’m a nervous one when it comes to being on stage in the first place and singing compounded that nervousness by about six hundred times. But I knew I had that affirmation right there in my pocket and, ladies and gentlemen, the show went on! It was in my pocket again on Mother’s Day, when I sang Anita Renfroe’s “Mom Song” before our congregation.

Scripture is powerful, my friends!

Well, today I was doing my quiet time. I usually do it before getting on the computer and checking on my bloggy friends, but today, I did it after pointing the new friend to Psalm 63. That was still on my heart, so I decided to read it for myself again. And then I looked across the table to the books I was reading yesterday. There sat The Message, which is a modern Bible translation.

Here’s how The Message translates Psalm 63:7:
“Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play. I hold onto you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post.”

Steady. Not exactly my physical state right now. My husband calls me his “Weeble Wife”. According to the old commercial, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Why? Because they have heavy, rounded bottoms. Yep. OK, while I do acknowledge the similarities and admit that this baby do got back, that would not be the reason why this particular Weeble Woman does not fall down.

I am holding onto my Jesus for dear life and He holds me steady as a post.

And that part about being “free to run”? Did I just not sing those very words in a Newsboys song?

What a fantastic thing to find! An old favorite scripture has fresh meaning! Are not God’s mercies new every morning? Hallelujah!

OK, now I just gotta go inquire of old King James and the Living Bible and…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ode to Beautiful Feet


Cute shoes are climbing up my list of life’s good things.

It’s because I find myself looking at my own feet a lot lately. I have to watch where they are going so that I don’t a) fall in my “disequilibrium”, or b) step in an ant hill, after last month’s allergic reaction episode. (Read the June 9 post entitled “Kiss My Grits!”)

Now, generally I do not pay much attention to feet. I have not considered them to be worthy of noting. I mean, c’mon- how many famous pieces of artwork have been devoted to them? Can you even think of any? In fact, many artists say feet are the most difficult body part to accurately render. Feet are utilitarian. Mundane. They are (forgive me) pedestrian.

I was watching TV the other day and a commercial came on for this egg-shaped callous remover thingy. The women were shown scrubbing it all over their scaly feet. Then they demonstrated the effectiveness of the device by (GAG!) emptying the reservoir onto a cloth…in full view of the audience! Boy, talk about an appetite suppressant! I ran into the bathroom (well, “ran” is probably an exaggeration considering the fact that I can’t even walk fast right now) and soaked my feet in the tub as a preventative measure.

Nobody wants scaly feet. We want beautiful feet.

God has something to say about that.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,” He says in Isaiah 52:7. And in Psalm 121:1, He talks about lifting our eyes to look to the hills, to search for help. That help, the psalmist says, comes from God, who made the mountain. Put it together and you’ve got a vision of one coming from God with good news. That one is Christ. And then, because we are to be His hands and feet, it becomes our legacy. We are to have the beautiful feet that bring the Good News, to help others.

He enables us to go on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19) That’s where we are empowered.

He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23:4) That’s where the lost are.

He will not let our foot slip.(Psalm 121:3) That’s His protection.

Jesus had the most beautiful feet in the whole world and I can inherit them!

Gotta go, y’all. My feet (and my spirit) need a little soak in preparation of some mountain climbing and valley searching. I’ve got the added benefit of Old Navy’s black and white scrollwork satin flats on clearance for $15. But as for that TV scrubby thing...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In His Hands

Hey, y’all! I am still here, though not able to sit and type too much at this point!

I had a lumbar puncture/spinal tap a week ago, in hopes of uncovering clues as to what disease/condition I am “experiencing”. Then I had a “blood patch” to take care of a complication of the lumbar puncture. Now I am having residual effects from the blood patch, as well as the symptoms of the disease/condition we’re trying to diagnose! So, I am on my back a lot.

But God is good. I’ve seen Him at work. I’ve cried and He’s comforted. I’ve asked and He’s provided. I’ve heard Him singing to me when I’ve been unable to rise or turn over in the bed, when I’ve been physically unable to read or watch TV or do anything but lie on my back for hours upon hours. Mostly, He sings Newsboys songs and old hymns! Hey, God has eclectic tastes!

I cried like a baby about having to go for the blood patch. I did not want any more needles injecting or removing anything from my body, spine in particular! I knew God could just heal me, so why wouldn’t He? WHY??? I already knew the answer, but that did not make it easier to accept: He had a bigger purpose. He was going to use the experience for something good. Yet, I cried and cried. I even cried on the phone to several good ministry friends, who prayed for me on the spot. (Lisa does not generally cry on the phone, y’all!)

Desperate for evidence from Him, I called out, “God, I know that You should be enough for me. I know You really are enough, but, please forgive me, I can’t feel that right now. I am scared and I’ll be alone in a strange place with people I don’t know and I’ll have to trust them and I am terrified! Is it too much to ask for an angel to be there with me? Will you send me an angel? Please? And please guide the doctor’s hands as he injects the blood into my spine. Please just help me feel Your touch in his hands.”

I finally gave in and accepted the peace that my friends asked to be given me and rested until time came to go.

I was lying on the bed in the pain clinic when the door opened and the nurse walked in. It was Kira, from our church! God immediately opened my eyes to see that this was the angel I’d asked for, someone I could trust who would be with me every step of the procedure. An image came to mind of our Christmas play in which the praise/dance team representing angels surrounded me and escorted me. Kira used to be on that team, but had been unable to take part at Christmas due to her pregnancy. God was now allowing her to play the angel’s part! I broke down sobbing again. How good is our Lord? How perfect in plan? How merciful and loving?!

That’s just one story from this adventure. There are others. In fact, I know God is calling me to write to the doctor that performed the blood patch, to thank him for helping me- and to share with him about the God who used his hands.

Stay tuned! God is living and active!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Of Bedpans and Ice Cream Trucks

Ah, yes, new doctors.

I mean really new. Like “ink still wet on the diploma” new.

Yes, my new neurologist is a young one. Board certified in 2005.

But I didn’t ask him what flavor of ice cream he would be, as I intimated in my last post. He seemed much too serious for that.

As I thought we would, we rehashed my medical history of the past twenty years. (Twenty years ago he was probably running after the ice cream truck!) Same ol’ tests. “Follow my finger with your eyes.” “Walk for me.” “Can you feel this?”

Guess what we get to do next? That’s right! More tests! Lumbar puncture, anyone?

So pray for me on July 8. That’s when they draw spinal fluid and I get to lie flat for 24 hours. Hey, do I need a bedpan? Oh, the lovely thoughts!

Submit, Lisa, submit.

I heard a preacher on the radio Sunday. He was talking about feeling the “chains of our flesh”. That’s quite a visceral punch. And accurate, I must say. It’s no wonder that I’ve been having dreams about being able to fly, diving upwards into the sky, like jumping off a diving board but it being a springboard instead! Be gone, chains of gravity! Be dismissed, laws of physics!

For now, I guess I’ll have to stay earthbound. At least bodily.

My spirit? It stays up most of the time. It’s free!

(cue Newsboys' “I Am Free”)


I am free to run! Hmmm. Physically, not so much. Got that cane, remember? Couldn’t chase the ice cream truck if I wanted to. But I am running the race set before me.

I am free to dance! Oh, most certainly, cane or no cane. It ain’t pretty, but God doesn’t care! And my husband is here to hold me. I couldn’t say that last year at this time!

I am free to live for You! Christian and American. There’s nothing freer than that.

I am free! Hear me praise God! Sing it with me, friend!

I think I’ll go decorate my cane with red, white and blue ribbons! :)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Lady in Waiting

I’m not in much of a writing mood today. I want rest. I want answers. I want a diagnosis. I want to run screaming until this “thing” leaves my body. Except that I can’t run. Have you ever seen anyone run with a cane? Didn’t think so! :)

I have an appointment tomorrow with a new neurologist.

This is like some weird “dating game”. “Bachelor, er, Neurologist #3, if you were an ice cream flavor…” Hey, I don’t want some kind of nutty one, you know!

So tomorrow, I’ll just have to rehash twenty-some-odd years of on-again-off-again neurological symptoms and explain my life-on-hold-since-February whale of a time. He’ll prick the bottoms of my feet and make me touch my finger to my nose. He’ll look over old blood work and MRIs. And maybe, just maybe, Lord-willing-and-the-creek-don’t-rise, he’ll have something different to say. He’ll see something that he wants to investigate. Maybe he’ll have just come back from a conference and has just learned about something new. Hey, that happened to me just last week! I just gotta wait until tomorrow. (cue song from Annie…)

I have this fascinating job. It’s called Lady in Waiting.

According to Wikipedia, Ladies in Waiting were ladies “of a royal court appointed to serve or attend a Queen, Princess, or high ranking noblewoman. A Lady in Waiting was not quite a servant. Ladies in Waiting were considered 'noble companions' who, by their status and nobility, could better advise a woman of high station.” OK, so I need to write a new job description.

Lady in Waiting: A servant of the royal court, anointed for the King's service and appointed by the King to encourage other women.

It goes with the dream I had Saturday night: a man resembling a cross between Ed Begley, Jr. and my Uncle Larry was leading our Sunday School class and told me I was being commissioned to teach other women about who they are in Christ. OK. So then I got to Sunday School for real the next day and the lesson was about finding one’s life purpose. I opened my Bible to find a paper I’d stuck there months ago. It was about who we are in Christ. The teacher (not our usual teacher) wrote several words on the board. Among them: Consecrated. That’s what my name means. I looked at the teacher and suddenly recognized him as the man in my dream.

God’s pretty cool, huh?

I’ve gotta go. It’s time for the Lady to take her nap. I’ll let you know what the new neurologist says. Until then, sweet dreams! May God speak to you in yours!

Friday, June 27, 2008

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Always


Just a little daisy bouquet for anyone stopping by today. This is the beauty I see when I look out my kitchen window: daisies and window boxes and herbs!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Magnanimous

It’s a word I saw today on our desktop fliptop devotional. It’s not an everyday kind of word, so I looked it up.

Magnanimous: generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness; proceeding from or revealing generosity or nobility of mind or character.

Another source described it as “a heart big enough to hold no grudges”.

That got me to thinking. A heart like that must have a lot of room. It must get cleaned out on a regular basis.

Grudges are a lot like clutter. You just get used to having them around. You don’t even realize they take up so much room. Maybe they seem comforting somehow. And what if someone suggests you get rid of clutter? “Why, I’ve had that forever!” or “I might need that someday!” “Aunt Martha gave that to me!” Hmmm.

The Bible speaks of a root of bitterness. That’s a grudge. Hebrews 12:15 specifically tells us to get rid of it: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” It’s toxic. It strangles the heart.

Didn't we just discuss forgiveness yesterday? God must want us to explore!

How does one begin to unclutter the heart, to uproot bitterness? One must get past the paralysis of “I don’t know where to start!” Sister, let me help you.

Picture Jesus. Yes, close your eyes and imagine Him. He’s marvelous and strong. He’s glowing with love. He even appears real, not just a flat image. See Him in color and brightness. He takes up the whole view! How peaceful! You might even be aware of fragrance and sweetness. Rest here a few minutes and soak Him in.

Now, you’re going to want to rebel against this next part. Think of a person who really gets under your skin. When you close your eyes, do you see them in black and white, boxed in a stagnant little snapshot, maybe down in just a corner of your vision?

Bring them to Jesus. Imagine moving that little photo into the image you saw of Jesus. Make it color. Make it living. I know, you are wanting to rebel even now, to stop the exercise. Don't. It can't hurt.

Move that person into the center of your vision, and let Jesus give them a big hug. See them relax. See that angry, bitter, mean, cold, unholy, vile, senseless, insensitive person give in to Jesus' warmth. See them break into an actual smile, or cry. Feel your own heart soften. Allow it! Stay here a little while, too. Cry if you need to. And the next time you think of that person, remember that you gave them to Jesus. See it again.

When the writer of Hebrews said that no one should miss God’s grace, He was talking about YOU, too! Forgiveness multiplies grace. Don’t miss it! And don’t strangle it with a bitter root! See to it that no one misses that grace- including the object of your grudge.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:10) Lord, help me to be magnanimous.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anointed

I just looked up the meaning of the word “anointed”.

The word was on a card I picked up at the She Speaks conference. We had all written our “doubts” on another card and had taken them to the foot of a cross that was set up at the front of the room. There, we symbolically laid them, giving them to God. In exchange for our doubts, we picked up a card with scripture and a special word. I thought everyone got the same one, but found out later that there were many different cards.

Mine said “anointed”.

Something that is anointed has been set apart or consecrated for God’s service. Amazingly, my name actually means “Consecrated to God”. How’s that for confirmation?

The scripture passage on my card was Luke 4:18-19. This is the scene in which Jesus, in His hometown, read from Isaiah and then announced that He was fulfilling the prophecy written there. At first, the people marveled. Then He said a word of truth that they didn’t want to hear, and the people promptly drove Him away.

People don’t always respond well to the truth, do they?

It’s a little scary to think about. God has given us His word to proclaim and yet we’re not always going to be received well. The “special emphasis” God has given me, for which He has set me apart, for which I am anointed, is especially rejected. It’s called forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a precious gift: everybody wants to receive it. Ask them to give it away, and they act as if they cannot afford to do so.

Why do we act that way? We hold on to hate. We point fingers. We keep our wounds open and bloody, as if doing so punishes the one who inflicted them. All it really does is keep us from healing.

What do you do when you cut your finger? You allow it to bleed just a little to cleanse it from the inside. Then you wash it under water. Next you apply ointment to keep it from getting infected. You bandage it to protect it from filth. And it heals.

When we accepted Christ, His blood cleansed us. We were baptized with water. We were anointed with the Holy Spirit. God covered us. So we should be healing.

Are we? That blood represented forgiveness and came at great cost for Jesus. He gave it freely. We accepted it. Now we need to pass it on. Freely. For our own healing and for the healing of others. They won’t believe it truly exists until they see it in us.

The wounded are waiting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Doing Good!

Every now and then, someone will ask me, “Lisa, how are you doing?” My reply is “I’m doing good!”

Yes, I know that the grammatically correct response is “I’m doing well”- if you are talking about health. But that’s not what I’m talking about, though it may appear so. I say it that way because I want to secretly remind myself that I am supposed to “do good”, to not do harm. I am supposed to be God’s ambassador.

Good deeds, however, are not the complete picture.

Have you ever heard of King Josiah?

He was the boy who became King of Judah at the age of eight, after his father was assassinated. He did enormous good. Josiah wiped out all signs of idol worship. When the Book of the Law was found in the temple, he ordered that it be followed. He reinstituted Passover. He did marvelous things for God. He was sincere. He was ruthless in obedience to the Law. He found rules and he followed them.

Except that he forgot to talk to God about it. He was so busy doing that he neglected the One for whom he was doing. He ended up missing the point. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. Busy, busy, busy and scrupulously clean on the outside, but hollow.

Like you. Like me.

Isn’t that what we tend to do? We busy ourselves with Christian work, doing good for our King. We’re sincere! We write our hearts out for Jesus. We spend time reading each other’s blogs. But did we pray first? Did we have our quiet time first? Did God really get put first this morning? Not just the talking about Him, but the sitting with Him.

Faith without deeds is dead, yes. But I think deeds can be empty, too.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to be a “human doing” instead of a “human being”. And right now, I’m getting pretty convicted. I’m going to post this and go sit, go be at my King’s feet for awhile and make sure I’ve consulted Him. His battle plan is the one I need to be following.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Here's One for George

Man, oh man, what a weekend!

How does one describe the She Speaks conference? It was like finding God around every corner. He showed up in the phenomenal details. He showed up in the women who were seeking hard after Him. He showed up in the speakers and even in the servers at dinner. It was like standing under a waterfall of blessings. I’m still trying to soak it all in, but it’s going to take months.

And that was just from Friday and Saturday. I couldn’t go on Sunday. My mysterious malady (not yet been diagnosed, but appears to be related to multiple sclerosis) reared its despicable head on Sunday morning, leaving me so off-balance that I had to get out my cane again. Practical application: I couldn’t drive. So, to all my She Speaks sisters, I apologize. I did not intend to leave without saying goodbye!

Wow, wow, wow! I now know “Without A Shadow of a Doubt” (thank you, Renee, for Saturday night’s message) that I am supposed to carry forward this dream of being a writer and a speaker. And speaking of dreams, I had one last night that still has me reeling a bit. God tends to speak to me when I am asleep because He can get me when I’m still. (I need to work on being still when I am awake, too. Those are my fish belly experiences- see previous two posts.)

Last night’s dream found me visiting a place I used to work. There among the ladies (who for some reason were all wearing blue scrubs) was George Carlin. No, I have never worked with George Carlin. From what I know of him, we probably would not see eye-to-eye! (Any of you who have stumbled across his material, except for a brief stint as Mr. Conductor for Thomas the Tank Engine, know what I’m talking about.) But this was a kinder, gentler George. And he told me that I needed to be up there on the stage because people needed to hear my message. Then he disappeared into the back room. OK, George.

So I get up this morning to find out that George Carlin died last night.

What am I supposed to do with that? God has spoken to me before through Boy George songs, but through an urgent George Carlin? Maybe I need to look up the meaning of the name “George”.

George, I hope you met Jesus. I really, really hope you know Him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fish Belly Again

First, God prompts writing on a certain topic.
Then, He gives an experience to keep it fresh.
He is just the Master of timing!

So, after Monday’s post about Jonah, here I sit in the belly of the fish.

What’s up, God? Can we get this lesson over so I can move on?

God’s mental note: Add another day in the fish belly to teach patience.

Tuesday started out pretty well. I was just a little tired. I went down for my daily nap and woke two hours later with the inability to focus my eyes and an unsettling perception that horizontal surfaces are actually vertical and vice-versa. I recognize these as symptoms of my as-of-yet undiagnosed condition, so I am not terribly alarmed. I just pretend I’m Spiderwoman climbing the walls when I’m actually crawling on the floor.

Oh, except that after a few minutes, I get tired and then I’m just mad.

OK, so I have to call my boss and tell him I’m not coming in. Great. Love that, especially the blubbery part where I break down into tears on the phone. Super.

And did I mention that there’s a man in my backyard, digging a new septic field? It means I cannot flush the toilet for the next several hours. Lovely. Oh, and he just hit the cable line, which means my TV is useless and my internet down. Until the cable guy can come and repair it, scheduled between 10am and noon- TOMORROW!

I can still type, right? But my coordination is so off that I accidentally invent new words. Nto os muhc frun.

Happy times, y’all!

A few hours later, my husband (who took the day off to supervise the septic event) is dozing. I must have talked his ears into the buzzing range. I realize that my vision has improved when the six paintings over the fireplace have returned to their usual three. Great! Now I can at least read! What do I have to read? There’s the latest issue of my Martha Stewart magazine on the end table.

Then God draws my eye to the Bible sitting on the coffee table in the sunroom. Oh.

I am drawn into a world of Old Testament kings and warriors and the servant girls who point them to God for healing. My heart relaxes, my eyes behave and I read until bedtime.

In the middle of the night, God whispers for me to get up and write. I protest, and then realize that He has given me a topic for an article that I need to write. The fat-finger syndrome is gone and typing is normal. Praise God! And how amazing to find that He put a computer in the fish belly. He thinks of everything, doesn’t He?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kiss My Grits!

I’m a nature lover. Put me in a garden and I’m happy. I love plants, I love animals, I love all of God’s creatures. Well, most of them.

There are a few for whom my wrath does rise, namely cockroaches and flying, stinging insects. And now, ants as well.

I think anyone can understand my disgust for cockroaches. Even the movie, “Enchanted” couldn’t make me change my mind with all its choreographed cleaning (cleaning! What???) bugs. The stinging insects are another no-brainer. I like them fine if they’re pollinating my squash, but don’t let one fly near me. They are like little loaded guns- a sting sends me to the ER, if I make it that far.

Friday, I found out that ants are also members of the send-Lisa-to-the-ER club. I was watering the hydrangea when I stepped on an ant hill. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t paying attention to my feet, until I felt a burn on my ankle. I smashed the offender, brushed off his buddies and went back to watering. My hand started to tingle and I realized that it was from the venom I’d encountered from crushing the ant. I knew then that I might be in trouble. I rushed into the house, took an antihistamine and my husband drove me immediately to the ER. My heart pounded, my lungs closed.

An IV and several drugs later, ants had joined my list of enemies. They were to be annihilated! I formulated my plan.

Did I tell you that I am an organic gardener? No chemicals for me. But I do have a powerful, good-old Southern weapon: grits. Yes, grits.

Saturday morning found me feeding the ants, sprinkling the dry uncooked grits onto the ant hills. “Kiss my grits!” I whispered, lest the neighbors hear me. The ants came out, picked up the tasty flakes and took them back in the hill. I felt a little guilty at their joy over “manna” raining from heaven; I knew that once they had eaten, they’d be drinking some water and the grits would swell up in their little bellies. Then they would expand beyond capacity: exploding ants! Take that, you vermin!

By Saturday afternoon, the ant population in my yard had significantly declined. (And here I thought my husband didn’t eat grits because he was born outside of grits territory!)

I’m sure somewhere in all of this, God has a spiritual lesson for me. I keep hearing one of those songs we sang in VBS: “Oh, be careful little feet where you walk…” It was an admonition to keep ourselves on the path, to not stray, to stay out of trouble. It is a reminder to me today to do a heart check, to check where my spiritual feet are planted and to remember that every breath comes from God.

Friday, June 6, 2008

God and the Mac

My daughter, Sarah, recently referred to her MacIntosh laptop by the name she gave it: Jehovah Jireh.

The reference brought a smile to my heart and to my face.

Last August, Sarah was preparing to go away to college to study photography. She needed a Mac. She had to wait until her financial aid was finalized before she could place the order, so by the time she’d done so, it was getting ominously close to the day she would be leaving. And the package couldn’t be delivered to her college P.O. Box.

We were dismayed to find out that the scheduled delivery date was on Monday- AFTER her Saturday move. It was coming all the way from China. There was nothing we could do to speed up its arrival- or was there? We decided to pray. It seemed a silly thing at the time to pray that a computer would miraculously arrive days before scheduled (who ever heard of a package coming EARLY?), but we decided God was big enough. The question was: would He really be that concerned, that involved in day-to-day details in the life of an everyday 18-year-old girl, even if she was a new Christian? (That salvation story is a miracle story for another post! Whew- wait till you read THAT one!)

Sarah checked the web every day, sometimes more that once, to track her package. It seemed to be stuck in China forever. Finally, on the night before she was to leave, it arrived in the Midwest. The delivery date stubbornly stared back at her, refusing to budge from its Monday slot. Sarah went to bed heartbroken.

The next morning, we packed the car. I was closing up the house when I noticed that the plants in the sunroom were wilted in the heat. I decided to water them immediately. Sarah took the opportunity to look online “just one more time”. What she saw shocked us both: the Mac was on the truck, scheduled for delivery before noon- THAT MORNING!

Unfortunately, we could not wait around the house any longer due to the length of the drive and her scheduled check-in time. But it was SO CLOSE! What could be done? Perhaps we could intercept the truck somewhere on our way out of town. God was big enough, right? I quickly called the delivery service to find out where the truck was.

Moments later, I was on the phone with customer service when I happened to look out our dining room window. There was the FedEx truck, parked in our driveway!

Sarah and I ran out to meet the driver. He was unprepared for such a joyous reception! We told him of our prayer. We announced that he was witnessing a miracle and that God had used him to pull it off. He smiled. (I hope it encouraged him and built his faith!)

We climbed into the over-packed car and set off, amazed at God’s timing and provision, of His love and care for such a small detail in the great scheme of things.

And thus came the name: Jehovah Jireh, “God Will Provide”. The Mac is proof! How often do you get tangible evidence like that? And here’s a funny little God-bonus: “MacIntosh” is Scottish for “son of Thane”- and Thane means "Lord"! Tell me God isn’t involved in details! Can I get an “Amen!”?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fruits of labor

You can get away with things when it’s your birthday. You can even make phone calls to your deeply-sleeping college-aged children at nine-thirty on a Saturday morning to ask them if they want to go strawberry picking even when it’s something neither they nor you have ever done.

Here I am, “halfway to ninety” (as my “halfway to forty” son sweetly pointed out) and I’ve never picked strawberries- blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, yes; but never strawberries. So I thought: what better thing to do on your birthday than something you’ve never done?

The three children acquiesced, as one might humor a little old lady. They showed not even a hint of insincerity. (Have they been taking acting lessons alongside Algebra and Physics?) I picked them up at the apartment they share just off campus, and off we went. The four of us aren’t often in the same place at the same time, so that in itself was a little treat for me.

Saturday was a beautiful day, a take-your-sweater-on-and-off kind of day; warm but not too hot, stirred with an occasional, casual breeze. The strawberry fields were amazing, stretching to the edge of vision, bountiful and fragrant. Oh, and muddy. And populated with young families trying to artificially manufacture sweet memories.

To my left I could hear a father chiding his daughter for not moving fast enough and berating his son for playing in the mud. The mother complained about wearing the wrong shoes. Grandma worked ahead, gathering quietly. I wondered if she was thinking the same thing I was. I wanted to go tell them to relax and enjoy each other. They were too close to the mundane, too preoccupied with regulation to see that childhood is fleeting. They were missing the joy. Been there, done that, I’m afraid.

I’d had my head down, busily investigating the plants and the raised beds and the watering system, as is my horticultural nature. My two daughters and son had moved to “greener pastures”, to the more distant, less-picked rows in search of the prime of all berries. I stood up and caught sight of all three of my children a few rows over. It was one of those sudden, poignant, observant moments, when God pulls back the curtain and blesses us by allowing us to see the fruits of parenting labor.

There they were, working and talking, just beyond my hearing. They moved without hurry or worry, intent on finding the best. I could detect no arguments, no strife. I realized they were happy. Their baskets and mine were full. As was my heart. Such sweet fruit!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Present


I have a piece of jewelry that my husband bought for me as a gift last August when our four-year separation was over. It’s a slide that goes on a necklace chain, a silver tree and stream on a background of abalone. I loved it immediately because it reminded me of one of the scriptures I clung to during those difficult, wilderness years:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes: its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

The necklace is a beautiful aide memoire to me of God’s faithfulness amid our human-ness. It is physically symbolic of Solomon’s plea (Proverbs 3:3) to bind love and faithfulness around our necks. It bespeaks a stunning and poignant testimony.

The unusual beauty and artistry of the necklace never fails to garner attention. It has become a means of witness for me because I am able to share the story and scripture behind it. Just last week, it opened the door for a waitress to share that she was separated from her husband. It gave my husband and me the opportunity to pray for her. It blessed her to literally see and hear evidence that God can work miracles, that He also hears her cries. It completely blessed me to be used by God to give her hope.

All that from silver on a piece of abalone.

Silver? The word comes from a root that means “to refine”. As in, removing impurities through the application of heat. My husband and I spent four years in the very center of the Refiner’s fire. Spiritual refining is no easy thing to undergo; I still must constantly have to remember that the tree in Jeremiah does not fear when heat comes!

Abalone is a shell. Webster’s says it is found “clinging to the rock” on the coastlines. How appropriate is that? I spent those four years clinging to the Rock, listening for God’s instruction. Abalone’s other name? Sea ear. As in “listen”.

How involved and interwoven God is in our lives, even into the meanings of random words! What amazing power He has! He can use a husband’s present to his wife to demonstrate and illustrate that He is real and active. That He is present. Indeed, He is The Present.

The Unpredictable

It is cold again this morning. Are we having another blackberry winter? Does that mean double the blackberries this summer?

Weather is just unpredictable! Just when you think you have it figured out, it changes!

One of life’s mysteries to me is that God never changes, yet He is not predictable. He is faithful, He is steadfast, He is unwavering, unstoppable, and unfaltering; yet He is still unpredictable.

I do not know where I will see Him next. I do not know when He will whisper in my ear. I do not know what He has in store for me next year or next month or this afternoon. He is full of the best kinds of surprises!

But I do know that He is near, always, whether watching me discover a hidden treasure or whether standing behind me to catch me should I stumble over a hidden land mine. There is a comforting feeling of His presence through it all that gives me confidence to step out even when I cannot see where my foot will land. Not that I have this trust issue down perfectly, because I don’t. But He is patient with me.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Those words were written by Daniel Towner after hearing a young man share his testimony. It was said that the young man obviously knew little doctrine, but knew enough that he was going to just trust and obey.

That’s stepping out in faith. That’s understanding that God’s ways are higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9). That’s obedience. That’s what we are called to, regardless of what our short-sighted eyes tell us, or our culturally-tuned ears hear or our self-preserving flesh fears. It is remembering that, even though we have no trail map, even though we cannot predict what lies ahead, we are being led by the One who laid the path down and has traversed it already.

Lead on, Lord!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wind advisory

I love wind chimes, especially the capiz shell ones found at all the little shops at the beach. I have a set that hangs from the corner of our carport. There’s something calming about their tinkling sound. A gentle breeze sets the strings of translucent shell-circles in motion, sweetly touching them together. They whisper with a delicate chatter. It is one of my favorite sounds, something reminiscent of childhood and lazy summer days, before life stormed in with all its troubles.

Today, it was a different sound, still dainty but unnerving, like a thousand little crystal glasses crashing to the floor. It was not calming. The chimes were clamorous, twisting wildly in a strong wind. Young trees were tossing about. My newly-bloomed peonies bowed and the delphinium tilted.

There are many scriptures that speak of wind. Sometimes the reference is to cleansing, to the blowing away of chaff and rubble. Sometimes the wind is a reminder of God’s power. Sometimes it is an example of things that cannot be grasped or understood. But my thoughts today centered on Ephesians 4:14, which teaches us that maturity in Christ will give us the strength to not be tossed about by the wind, which here represents false and wayward teachings.

Our culture today is full of false teaching and secret formulas. I cannot even watch Oprah anymore. I think of all the twisting around that’s going on, and how those who are not fully rooted in Christ can be swayed by the popular. The thought deeply distresses me. And I think of my wind chime.

There was an urgency to its clamor, as if to forewarn. And I wonder: is that what I am to do as well? Stand, secure in Jesus, in the face of the wind and sound the alarm? Will I be heard over the noise of the TV?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

For the birds

I’ve been thinking today about God’s provision.

The thought started with Elijah and those ravens. I think I would have to be extremely hungry (ravenous!) to accept food from birds, even if God told me that’s how He was going to take care of me. Carrion? Worms? Garbage? Left-overs? (Well, maybe left-overs.) I can hear me now: “The Raven Ravine diet? Sorry, God, I’m just not into extreme fad dieting.”

Maybe it’s because ravens are just not my favorite bird.

Ravens and crows are in the same family. They are big bullies. They sometimes eat the eggs and young of other birds. I think they are… well… ugly: clothed in black and greasy looking. Like the mafia of the avian world. Sorry, but I like my pretty little songbirds. I like to watch the cardinals and finches in my birdbath. I like to throw out breadcrumbs for them.

Inevitably, the black birds come. They swoop in and greedily devour the breadcrumbs on the sidewalk. They invade and splash in the birdbath with glee, claiming it as their own. Just yesterday, as I sat in my sunroom looking out the window, I saw one in action, tossing water around like there’s no drought. I started to go out to shoo it away. It looked me square in the eye. And then I remembered Elijah.

God provided for Elijah through ravens. God reminds us that He provides even for the birds. Even for ravens, dirty and mean as they are. He provided for me, dirty and mean as I was before Christ. And He shows me that He is using me to provide for the ravens. After all, He teases, “Wouldn’t you rather have it that way? I could always have the ravens provide for you instead!”

Thanks, God, but no. Let me go grab some bread crumbs and refill that birdbath!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Under R in the Dictionary

Musings of a Word Geek

I’ve been reading about Elijah. He just shows up suddenly in I Kings 17, telling old King Ahab that there’s going to be a drought. Then he has to run and hide. Literally.

God tells him to go hide out in a ravine and He will send ravens to feed him. Does anyone else see how those two “r” words seem strangely related?

OK, Lisa, so what?

So, God is beautiful and lyrical and linguistically profound. How special! He thinks so thoroughly that He builds puzzles and connections into our language as it develops!

Ravine/raven. Their common Latin root means “devour”. There is a secondary theme of violence, of rushing. Further digging into the roots and other (less used) words they have spawned (such as ravin) turns up phrases such as, “greedily searching for prey” and “anything captured; prey or plunder”.

Ahab was coming after Elijah. Hide and seek. Hunter and prey. God provided a hiding place, one carved out of the hills by violent rushing water: a ravine. He provided food, brought by “unclean” birds of prey: ravens. Elijah would be hungry. Perhaps he was ravenous.

OK, so I am a word geek. I’ll admit it.

But isn’t it fun to chase down a word and find out that it connects like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle? Or is it just me? You do not have to answer that!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fruit and cake

It’s been a hard morning. I’ve had a relapse of some of the neurological symptoms that I was healing from. It is frustrating, to say the least. I react with tears.

I will say, though, that God got me smiling this morning anyway.

I had been crying, reclining on the wicker love seat in my sunroom, looking up at the overhanging branches of my Ficus Benjamina, when I started thinking of Sir Isaac Newton and how the apple fell from the tree he was sitting under, leading him to develop the idea of gravity. (Physics, at eight o’ clock in the morning. Mercy!) I lay there and wondered about what idea God might give me, lying under my tree, and thought about how no apples would be falling on my head. If anything, it would be a fig, because this ficus is also called “Weeping Fig”. Quite appropriate, since I was crying.

Then of course my strange brain put two and two together and came up with Fig Newton. Oh, I laughed. You might not think it was funny, but God and I did. He really has to work on me sometimes and develops these special little moments just for me. He’s good.

But wait, there’s more. He didn’t stop there.

Remember the old commercial where the little British boy is sitting in bed, eating a Fig Newton? His mum comes in and sees him and says something like, “What have I told you about eating cookies in bed?” And he says, “But mummy, this isn’t a cookie. It’s fruit and cake!”

Fruit and cake. Fruit and bread. Bethlehem. (If you’re lost, look a few posts ago! House of Bread, Name It)

How great is our God that He can bring a brain like mine full circle and focus me again on Jesus?

I have to go now. I need to put Fig Newtons on the grocery list.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

NDP

It's May 1st!

One third of the year is officially past.

I look back and think about how I spent that third of a year. Was I productive? Did I grow? Is the world any better because of any action I might have taken?

One action I don't take often enough is prayer. Today is the National Day of Prayer, a day of great opportunity for Christians to be visible, a day for us to come together in unity- a trait for which we are, unfortunately, not too famous.

So that's what I'm thinking about and praying for today: that the "world" see a body of believers unified and visible, seeking the will and mind and power of God.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coming to my senses

It’s cold this morning in Charlotte, NC! My daughter, Sarah, up at Appalachian State in Boone said that she saw snow flurries yesterday. I’m really not that surprised.

We old-timers call this “Blackberry Winter”. It happens every year in the South, when the blackberries are blooming. So consider yourself warned for next year and watch for the blackberries to finish blooming before you reset the thermostat or put away your jackets and heavy bedcovers!

Do you know what blooming blackberries look like? (That picture right here isn't them. Those are forget-me-nots.) You’ve likely passed by them every day this week. They are the white, arching plants along every roadside this time of year in our geo-zone. Come the Fourth of July, they’ll be covered in plump berries.

That makes me think about how much we miss because we are so far removed from living “near the land”. How many of us can we look up at the sky and tell by the cloud formations alone what kind of weather to expect in the next few hours? Can you tell a tomato seedling from that of a zucchini? Can you differentiate the call of a cardinal from that of robin? How many of us can tell which direction is North by looking at the shadows on the ground? Can you estimate the time of day by the position of the sun?

What kind of a culture are we living in that we are desensitized not only to violence in the media but also to the beauty of the natural world? What is left, but middle-nothingness? We speak of blandness as being “vanilla”, but how long has it been since we paid attention to what vanilla really tastes like?

Today, I am going to pay attention to my senses. Maybe it’s because of my illness and the realization that my eyes are failing, but I feel deeply convicted that I am missing so much of the beauty that God has placed within my reach. Today, I will count the number of petals on the forget-me-nots that bloom in my herb garden. I will “forget-me-not” who created them. I will marvel that only a scant handful of people will ever see this particular flower, and that God is gracious enough to allow me to be one of them.

Quick update from yesterday's appointment: no definite diagnosis, but much information found in the blood! I have Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) like 95% (literally!) of the US population, and it could have infected my nervous system in a reawakening of the virus. There are no heavy metal/toxins in my blood, so my house and well water are fine and no one is trying to poison me. :) Devic's (neuromyelitis optica) is not yet ruled out. We wait for the next flare-up and test more, likely with a spinal MRI, lumbar puncture (yeeouch!) and repeated blood work. At this point, symptoms are still slowly improving. (YAY!)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Name It

I’m sitting here on Tuesday morning, in the midst of my quiet time. In a little over an hour, I will be sitting at the neurologist’s office, waiting to hear the results of the blood tests. Six weeks ago, they took fifteen vials of blood to test for various diseases and conditions as a method of ruling out several things and in the hopes of diagnosing.

The answer is in the blood. I’m waiting for a name.

Names are significant. I love discovering their hidden or lost meanings. I think it’s important for prospective parent to really search out what the name means that they are giving their child. Me? I was named after a soap opera character. (Does anyone else see that as a set up? Y’all, please don’t name your kids after soap opera characters!) But I take delight in my name’s true meanings. (Yes, my name has two meanings, depending on where you derive it from. Does that explain my split personality?) If you take my name from Elizabeth, it means “consecrated to God”. From Melissa: “honeybee”.

Yesterday, I found out that the name “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”. Today, I discovered that Bethlehem used to be called Ephrath. That means “Fruitful land”. That made me smile. Maybe I dig too deep and read in too much, but I think that’s a perfect “other name” for the birthplace of Christ.

How many times did Jesus use fruit in His parables and illustrations? There are all the mentions of vineyards and vines and fruit and figs and farmers. And we are called to be fruitful. But most important and significant and poignant to me is that fruit is used to make wine, which symbolizes the blood poured out for us.

The answer is in the blood. Really, that’s all I need to know.

Monday, April 28, 2008

House of Bread

Bread. Mmmmmm! Just the thought of hot, fresh bread makes me a little hungry. How about you? I cut bread out of my diet during the recent low-carb craze. It’s nice to know that the nutritional pendulum is now swinging back to recognize that bread can be part of a healthy diet! The hunt is on for a good bakery!

“House of Bread” sounds like a well-stocked gourmet bakery, doesn’t it? I imagine loaves of all sorts: rye, pumpernickel, asiago and rosemary, sourdough, white, wheat. It’s all good and it all has one thing in common. It’s all bread, no matter how you slice it.

Here’s the thing. House of Bread isn’t a new Charlotte bakery. It is the actual meaning of the word, “Bethlehem”.

You know, Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus. Isn’t that interesting?

Jesus, Bread of Life, was born in Bethlehem, House of Bread. How amazing is that? God is such a master of detail! Can you see Him sitting there, waiting for us to find these little morsels of linguistic treasure?

Jesus was the in the lineage of David. David’s great-grandmother was Ruth. Ruth came to Bethlehem and gleaned wheat (which is used to make bread) from the fields of Boaz, who became her kinsman-redeemer and married her. Boaz owned a threshing floor.

David built an altar near Bethlehem on a threshing floor (where grain is threshed to separate kernel from chaff). That floor became a site of worship: Solomon’s temple. It is the same location, the same place where Abraham had prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

It all points in the same direction: Jesus is the Bread of Life, our Kinsman-Redeemer, God’s Son who was sacrificed for us, whom we now worship.

It makes me want to get out my Bible dictionary and look up some more town names!

Hmmm…. Jerusalem…

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pass the Torch

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I sit here exhausted and excited and ecstatic (and probably half a dozen other wonderful e-words that my brain can’t access this minute) all at the same time. And I have a question: Who is this God, who stands at the intersection of life present and future, and cheers me on?

There He stands. He’s waving a banner. He’s got my name written on the palm of His hand. “Time to go, Lisa! Get out there and make me proud!”

I have been sitting on the launch pad for two years. Houston, we have ignition.

I just spent the most amazing weekend at a conference. No, I can’t call it a conference. That’s too sterile. It was more like a reunion.

God showed up. He brought along about a thousand friends. He’s building an army. Recruiting volunteers. I signed up. Tour of duty starts today. Mission: set fire to the hearts of women across the planet.

What? Set fires? I spent much of my life “putting out fires”. Appease here. Calm there. Don’t let it get too hot. Don’t stir up the coals. Play nice. Don’t play with matches. Stay out of the fire. Don’t get too close!

Funny, how we are conditioned to think of fire as destructive. But scripture tells us all over the Bible that God is like a fire. He’s the cleansing fire, the refining fire, the consuming fire. He’s the fire that can ignite the heart. We just have to come close.

Here’s the truly wonderful part: drawing close to Him not only lights our torch, but it draws us closer to each other. And then He allows us the privilege of taking that fire and spreading it, torch to torch, heart to heart.

I hold out my flame to you.