A Measured Step

“There are more important things to do than hurry.”

Robert Farrar Capon in The Supper of the Lamb

I can’t recall taking a more leisurely stroll through a book than I have with The Supper of the Lamb. Of course I haven’t finished it, but the reason isn’t lack of reading time. It’s more like I’m giving myself time to digest some of the great truths he has hidden in his cookbook.

Capon’s sentiment on hurrying coincides with a scripture I’ve been pondering.  Isaiah 52:12 says,

For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rearguard.

marching bandIt brought back images of my marching band days from high school, when our band instructor had us march at different tempos.  Double-time was practically running, but we also practiced a slow ceremonial pace which was deliberate and controlled.

Years ago, we attended a Scottish games.  There we watched pipe bands march with slow and measured step.  It was beautiful. (The backdrop of the Rocky Mountains didn’t hurt either.)

pipe band

The holidays are upon us, a time of year I absolutely dread because of the pace.  Our culture wants us to go double-time. I’m thankful for the reminder to go slowly.

Have a measured step.

Be intentional.

God will go before and behind, if we but walk with Him.

There are, indeed, more important things to do than hurry.

For that I am thankful.

Published in: on November 25, 2013 at 8:41 AM  Comments (3)  
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The Political Process

The most freeing thing I have ever done in regards to politics is to begin praying for our political leaders.  By name.  Every day.

It started with elections, when, more and more often, the person for whom I voted didn’t get elected.  It surprised even me — the ease with which I could accept that once I had placed the outcome in bigger hands than mine.

IMG_2747[1]I found a prayer for our country in The Book of Common Prayer, and, as is my wont, adapted it by adding to it. Below is the current version.

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage;

I humbly beseech Thee that we, as a people, may always prove ourselves mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will.  Let me never forget that You give this land to whomever seems right to You. (Jer. 27:5)

Bless this land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogancy,
and from every evil way.

Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.

Endue with a spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy Name we entrust the authority of government — namely,

  • Barack Obama, our president
  • Joe Biden, our vice president
  • The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court — Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan
  • Our governor, Andrew Cuomo
  • Our senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Our representative, Richard Hanna
  • Our school superintendent, Jonathon Retz
  • Our mayor, Phil Brown
  • And the many others, whose names I know not, but whom You know intimately –

that there may be justice and peace at home,
and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.

In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail.

All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Yesterday, when Harry Reid (for whom I have prayed quite a bit lately because God keeps bringing his name to my thoughts) invoked the “nuclear option” and my friends were a-buzz, I felt the pit in my stomach only briefly before God reminded me that He’s got this. Yes, He’s got this under control.

I’m not sure what He’s doing in Washington, any more than the people of Judah knew what He was doing, when, in Jeremiah, He kept telling His people — His chosen people — to surrender to the king of Babylon. God doesn’t always make sense.  But He is always good.

Until they come up with a law that says that I can’t pray in my kitchen, I’ll keep praying for our government.  Heck, even if they do come up with such a law, I’ll keep doing it.

I don’t know if my prayers change God.  I do know that they change me.

Published in: on November 22, 2013 at 8:40 AM  Comments (3)  
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Loaves and Fishes

I grew up attending an old clapboard church, built in 1805, with stained glass windows, a pipe organ, and steeple with a bell.  My memories of church mostly consist of playing tic-tac-toe with the minister’s son on the velvet cushions during services and being allowed to ring the bell on New Year’s Eve.

One day, when I was a teenager, somebody not from my church asked me if I had ever accepted Christ. “I don’t even know what that means,” I told him.

I tried paying more attention in church, but knew that I was totally missing the point.  We had sermons about Jonathon Livingston Seagull, and butterflies, and the color purple.  The Bible lay open on the lectern but was rarely referenced.

Again, someone asked me about my relationship with Christ.  “I don’t know what that is,” I told them, because I didn’t.  It didn’t fit with the mold of churchianity with which I was familiar.

I met more and more people who talked about the Bible.  No, they breathed the Bible; they lived the Bible; it was an integral part of their being.  They didn’t go to my church.

One day, I asked the minister about what these other people were saying. “They talk about miracles,” I said.

He answered, “There are no miracles.  The Bible is to teach us how to live. Jesus was a good teacher, and we can learn from him.”

My mind was racing.  I can still remember the feeling I had, desperately looking for something to grab hold of, and I blurted out the first miracle that came to my mind.  “What about when Jesus fed the five thousand?” I asked, feeling triumphant, because I knew a miracle when I read one.

“That’s a story about sharing,” he said. “The little boy shared what he had, and then IMG_2737[1]everyone else followed his good example.  It’s a story that teaches us to share.”

That conversation took place almost forty years ago, but, because it is so pivotal to my faith journey, I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was in that moment that I had to decide whether or not God could work miracles.  Did I want to trust God?  Or man?

I walked away from that church that day, literally and figuratively.

I figured out that accepting Christ meant believing in his miracles, like the fact that He could feed five thousand people with just a few loaves and fishes.

Having a relationship with Christ meant eating of the bounty He provides daily, loaves and fish, scripture and prayer.

The story of the Jesus feeding the five thousand speaks to the deity of Christ.

Until modern theologians come up with an alternative.

Because they find it easier to trust man than God.

I’m so glad I know otherwise.

Published in: on November 18, 2013 at 5:58 PM  Comments (2)  
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Old Rags and Worn-out Clothes

Filthy-RagsOld rags and warn-out clothes.
Who knew what a blessing they could be?

The immediate need was life and death.

Jeremiah was at the bottom of the cistern,
Sinking in the mire.

The immediate need was rescue.

His enemies wanted him dead.
They lowered him there with ropes,
For a slow sinking into the mud,
Or an even slower starvation.

The immediate need was safety.

But Ebed-melech stopped on his way to the cistern.
He didn’t go directly there.

Sometimes the little things we do can make the biggest difference.

Ebed-melech got some old rags.
He found some worn-out clothes,
Softened from use,
Discarded from wear.

The immediate need could met without them.

But they were the icing on the cake.
The extra mile.
The little something that we don’t really need.

“Put these old rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.”

Jeremiah did.
He was pulled to safety.

No more is said of that small kindness.

Yet it was enough to be mentioned.

God noticed.

Small things with great love.

Sometimes the things we do feel small.
But God sees.
He notices them all.

And sometimes God gives us that something extra,
Beyond the immediate need.
Just because He loves us.

Published in: on November 17, 2013 at 3:30 PM  Comments (3)  
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Father. Water. Love.

The Philippines have been devastated by a typhoon.  The pleas from the people there are heartrending. They need food, water, medical supplies.

So why am I sick at heart, not about the Philippines, but about my father having no water?

Yesterday, we went to visit.  He told us how he had been without water the day before.  He called his go-to fix-it people.  They didn’t get out there until the afternoon.

“It was terrible,” he said. “All morning I was without water.  It’s a good thing your mother had the foresight to bottle up some water for emergencies.”

IMG_2725[1]Yes, my mother had stocked our basement with jugs full of water.  One of them was sitting in the bathroom yesterday, proof that my father had tapped into this reserve.

My mother was always prepared for any emergency.  She had a purse that would have won prizes on Let’s Make a Deal.  I looked at the jugs of water and wondered what imminent danger had led her to preparing them all.  The date, though somewhat smudged, looks like 6-98.

The good news, as my father relayed his story, was that when they came to fix it, it took them less than a minute.  The bad news, as unfolded in the events that followed, was that whatever they fixed, it was only temporary.

Within a few hours of our being there, the water pressure dropped to nothing.  Bud investigated and found a blown fuse.  When he replaced it, it immediately blew again.  Time to call the fix-it guys.

When they came — this time quicker than the day before — they determined that it was probably something in the well itself, possibly the pump.  The well had been dug in 1967.  I guess pumps don’t last 50 years.

The man with the excavator couldn’t come until today.  That meant that my father would be without water yesterday afternoon and evening, and probably most of today.

“I have all this water that your mother bottled,” he said when I expressed concern about his situation.

“You can’t drink water that’s 15 years old,” I told him.

“I did yesterday and it didn’t kill me,” he replied.

I called my brother before I left.  He lives next door.  I asked him to bring some water.

And then I worried all the way home.  It’s just not right.  Water is important.  I don’t want my father to be without good clean water even for a day.

But who knows how long the people in the Philippines will have to make do with far less than 15 year old jugs of water?  And, why am I so hard-hearted that I don’t lose sleep over the Philippines?  I lose sleep over a man who will get his water repaired comparatively quickly, and who has grocery store access to a water supply that could last another 15 years.

The difference is relationship.  I love my dad.  I don’t want to see him suffer in any way.  I don’t want to see the people in the Philippines suffer either, but somehow it’s different.

I think that’s why Jesus came to earth.  To touch one leper at a time.  To talk face to face with a Samaritan woman.  To choose twelve men with whom he could spend intimate time.

I think it was to show us that when the Bible says, “For God so loved the world,” He wasn’t saying that His love for the world is the same as our concern for the Philippines, faceless and nameless.  He was saying it like I say I’m concerned about my father.  It’s a profound and personal love.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that.

Published in: on November 13, 2013 at 9:45 AM  Comments (3)  
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Surrounded by Holiness

I’m in an on-line book group reading Robert Capon’s book, The Supper of the Lamb.  Ostensibly, it’s a cookbook. He tells us how to cook “lamb for eight persons four times.”

The book is subtitled “A Culinary Reflection.”  That may be more accurate.

Truth be told, I don’t even like lamb.  My mother used to fix it on occasion as leg of lamb, or try to trick us into eating it by making lamb-burgers.  No matter what trick she used, I could always taste and didn’t like it.

You might think it was the fact that I watched the sheep loaded into a truck on four hooves and come back in white paper packages destined for the freezer.  A good-sized animal fit in a rather small box.  But knowing the animal before and after never stopped me from liking chicken, and those were dispensed of right at home.

My father once had a box in his office of newspaper clippers and other assorted papers.  I asked him about it and he said, “This is what’s left of a man’s life,” because they were the essential papers saved by my grandfather.  That box and the box that the lamb would come home in were about the same size. I still don’t quite know what to make of that.

I’m only half-way through The Supper of the Lamb.  The book is not really about cooking lamb.

He spends a chapter on cutting an onion, but it is not so that we will, in the end, cut our onions differently, but that we will see our onions differently.

The fit, the colors, the smell, the tensions, the tastes, the textures, the lines, the shapes are a response, not to some forgotten decree that there may as well be onions as turnips, but to His present delight — His intimate and immediate joy in all you have seen, and in the thousand other wonders you do not even suspect.  With Peter, the onion says, Lord, it is good for us to be here.  Yes, says God. Tov.  Very good.

I wondered, after reading that chapter, if I would ever be able to quickly cut an onion again.

IMG_2715[1]Then yesterday I read his chapter on knives.  I had a lot of cooking to do yesterday. My two favorite knives both have plastic handles, and would probably not come anywhere near his description of fine cutlery.  Yet, for me, they suffice.

It hit me, purple knife in hand, the book really isn’t about cooking lamb, or cutting onions, or the importance of good knives. It’s about the holiness that surrounds us.  It’s in everything we do.

Early on, our moderator had asked this:

What do I know about (because I care about) to this degree of detail/expertise? What does “knowing” to that degree require?

That question has been at the back of my mind for weeks.

God has given each of us a passion for something or things.  He who is the God of the Onion, is also the God of the Water, something I think about each time I slide into the pool to teach swim lessons.

“In Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28)  Just as I teach children how to move and breathe in the water, God calls us to move and breathe in Him, in a new way.  It’s a spiritual concept that would have been lost on me had I not looked for the holiness in a swim lesson.

Holiness surrounds every day.  In onions.  In knives.  In swimming pools. In birthdays, and adoptions, and challenging jobs, and folding laundry.

The world may be broken, but it is also holy.

Look for it today.

Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 8:52 AM  Comments (2)  
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Beauty in the Storm

Several years ago I left a comment on someone’s blog about Alzheimer’s being a gift. It led to a flurry of comments about how awful a disease like Alzheimer’s is and how it cannot possible be perceived as a gift.  Alzheimer’s is indeed a horrible devastating illness that whittles a person in so many painful little knife-nicks.  Slowly the person you love disappears.

Yet I stand with my original assertion. Alzheimer’s was a gift to me.  It gave me the opportunity to love my mother in a complete way, forgiving any little hurts and rifts that may have existed between us.  It gave my father the opportunity to proclaim to anyone watching, “This is love.”  He did it — no, he does it –  not with words, but with actions.  It is a beautiful thing to behold.  A gift.

This morning, when I looked at the news, I saw a picture of the typhoon hitting the Philippines.  It was one of those satellite images, color-coded to show wind strength. It was beautiful.  TYPHOON-HAIYANI shook my head at myself.  It seemed wrong to think of a destructive typhoon as something beautiful.

But there is a strange wild beauty all around us.  It is in the storm, and it is the rebirth after the storm.  It is in the ravages of illness, and it is in the healing that comes, in this life or the next.  It is in the struggles and the contentious relationships in our lives, and it is in the working through of those very relationships.

It is God, the not-tame Lion, who gives, not always what we want, but always what we need.

If we look for Him, He is there.

Published in: on November 8, 2013 at 8:57 AM  Comments (3)  
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The Whole World in His Hands

Sometimes, when you spend a long time trying to memorize something, you come up with hand motions.  I finally finished memorizing Isaiah 51.  Here are the motions for Isaiah 51:16.

And I have put my words in your mouth

eat

And covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens

IMG_2652[1]

And laying the foundations of the earth,

IMG_2654[1]

And saying to Zion, “You are my people.”

We are God’s people.

We are in His hands.

 

Published in: on November 7, 2013 at 9:47 AM  Comments (1)  
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That Person (part 2)

I can remember it like it was yesterday.  Two years ago, I woke with a start.  My heart was pounding. It wasn’t a bad dream.  It was the realization that I had done an unkind thing.

Sometimes I amaze even myself when I do certain stupid things.

Like the time I parked at the grocery, squeezing into a narrow spot, not noticing that the driver of the car to my right couldn’t possibly open her door.  Yes, I was that person.  She had to wait for me to finish my shopping and return to my car so that she could get in and leave.

Usually I just saying incredibly stupid or heartless things.  Sometimes it’s ten minutes, sometimes it’s ten days later when I realize that what I said was awful.  There are probably a lot of times when I never reach that realization.

This was along those lines, but it was an email.  I was that person writing stupid unkind things in an email.

Third-World-Symphony-Cover-542pxIt all started with a CD I had gotten through Kickstarter from an artist named Shaun Groves.  Two years ago, I even wrote a blog post about it.  I really liked Third World Symphony.  So much so, that when he announced a blog tour with his CD launch, I sent an inquiry.  His peeps responded with something like, “Send him three questions relating to the CD and he’ll answer them.  Use them in a blog post to help promote the CD.”

None of that is verbatim because I deleted everything relating to it shortly after my middle-of-the-night guilt trip.  Everything.  My initial email, their response, my questions. I even stopped listening to the music because I felt so awful.  I pushed it all to that little garbage heap in my mind where the icky stuff that I don’t want to think about goes.

You’re probably wondering what the question was that I asked.  I do remember that. But I won’t tell. Nope.

It came from a heart that was puffed up and self-righteous.  I was thinking myself the amateur music critic, writing witty words, thinking everybody wanted to know my opinion.

The truth is that I know nothing about the music industry.  I know what I like to listen to and that’s about it.

When we are critical of others — and, my goodness, we are a critical lot — it’s important that our criticism comes from a tender heart that seeks the best in others.  Lists like “The Worst Christian Bookcovers of 2013” may be funny, but imagine the person who created some of those bookcovers.  They may be bad, but maybe they’re on their way to being good. We shoot them down, and laugh while doing so.

Shaun Groves has survived, despite me being that person. I learned a valuable lesson from him.

Don’t be that person.  You may find yourself in a cold sweat with heart palpitations in the middle of the night.

Or, worse, you may never realize.  You may squash an artist in their infancy and deprive us all of something we need.

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 8:37 AM  Comments (3)  
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That Person

I don’t want to be that person.

You know what I mean.  The one who complains about everything.

Or maybe not everything, but just enough things that others want to avoid them.

The one who rolls their eyes.  Yes, our actions speak louder than our words sometimes.

The one who criticizes and never compliments.

pigpenThe one whose negativity is a visible black cloud surrounding them, almost like Pigpen’s dust.

The one who belittles.

The one who is always looking out for #1 and nobody else.

The one who feels entitled to receive and yet never give.

Today, I will not be that person.

Jacob's camera Williamsburg 391Instead, I will be this person.

The one who smiles.

The one who hugs.

The one who holds the door open for another.

The one who compliments, even if it is only a silly small thing.

The one who reaches out.

The one who gives.

And gives.

And gives.

It is the least I can do.

Little things matter.

Published in: on October 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM  Comments (3)  
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