Friday, May 29, 2015

I Want to Dance!



Psalm 149:3
Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

Music has been dubbed the universal language.  I believe it.  There is nothing like music to make the heart soar, the voice rise in joyful song, and feet to move in blissful rhythm.  No matter our station in life, no matter our age, no matter our background, music unites us all under one happy umbrella.

No wonder, then, that music is such an integral part of Christian worship.  Whether traditional or contemporary, instruments play, voices sing, and our prayers take on manifold meaning as the lyrics are lifted up to heaven.

But what about dancing?  My husband, Danny, and I help lead contemporary worship each Sunday at Kennesaw United Methodist Church.  While the music rocks and the congregation willingly and happily sings along, the lack of any rhythmic accompaniment, i.e., dancing (even swaying, for crying out loud), is sorely lacking.  Now I'll be the first to admit, being raised Episcopalian, the seriously liturgical church from which Methodism has its roots, dancing has never been an acceptable nor encouraged form of worship.  So I'm not surprised at the dearth of movement among the congregants.  But I find myself longing for it.  Honestly, I can't sing a praise song and not wish I could dance like no one's watching.  However, if I wish to hold my pitch, my physical being has to focus on the singing and be satisfied with limited foot motion.

Children, though, have a very different take on what's "appropriate" for worship.  Several weeks ago at our service, there are several graduates of our church's preschool who, under the guidance of a teacher, are going to tell us about the great start they have been given in their education, and to ask support from the congregation to help grow the school.  Like a breath of fresh air, the moment our band cranks up, these sweet girls leap out of their pew and break into a celebratory dance which words fail to adequately describe.  Their teacher is beside herself until I meet her gaze and give her an enthusiastic thumbs-up.  Her relief is immediate, and the girls dance on until the very end of the song.

Our grandchildren, Virginia Rose and Savannah Jane, emphasize the joy of worship through dance.  "Play Gammie and Papa songs from church!"  Virginia begs Danny when the family recently visits.  "I want to dance!"

Do they get into it?  Oh, yes!











I rest my case . . .

~

What are your feelings about dancing in church?

Prayer:  Father, may we remember King David who danced in the streets in celebration of Your name when we are moved in worship to do the same.  May we become as guileless as little children when we pray to and honor You in all the ways we possibly can.  Remind us that we come before You in worship, not before others.  All this we pray in Jesus' name.  Amen

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Planting the Seeds


Matthew 13:1-9
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.  Then he told them many things in parables, saying, "A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  I sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  Whoever has ears, let them hear."

As our home is nestled in the woods and shade during the summer months, there are few plants and flowers we can nurture and grow to add life and color to our deck.  But every spring my husband, Danny, does his best to bring home prospective cheer-makers from our local big-box store fro me to plant in pots which we trust will encourage their growth, and make our summer relaxation times on our deck one of endless surprise and delight.











We purposefully place the plants in good soil, Miracle-Gro to be exact.  But shortly after these photos are snapped, the Foxglove sags and requires pruning.  One of the impatiens shows no sign of new and swelling buds.  The daisies, a Mother's Day gift, wilt and fade, leaving us to wonder, even though we have judiciously removed the dying blossoms, if they will bloom once more this season.

More questions than answers.

More doubts than faith.

We do our best, don't we?  In all the challenges laid before us, we rise up and strive to do and be the best we can be for God's sake.  But there are times when we simply have to sit back and take stock, knowing our efforts have been exercised in great faith, but that the outcome of such is beyond our control.

Times when we remember:  Everything is in God's hands.

May it be His will that the flowers bloom and the plants thrive!

~

Do you have a "green thumb" when it comes to gardening?  Would love to hear how you are planting the seeds in this world for Christ Jesus.

Prayer:  Father, may we plant seed of love and healing in Your name wherever we go.  Let us nurture those in need, water them with prayer, and be the sunshine in their lives.  All this we ask in Jesus' name.  Amen.




Friday, May 22, 2015

In His Image


Genesis 1: 26-27
Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."  So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

For every work of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.
First, there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning:  and this is the image of the Father.
Second, there is the Creative Energy begotten of that idea, working in time from beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter:  and this is the image of the Word.
Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul:  and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit. 
~Dorothy L. Sayers - The Mind of the Maker


"Let us . . ."


Here in Genesis, at the beginning, the very beginning of all human life and consciousness, the Trinity is revealed.  And as I enter the final editing stages of the second novel in Adventures in The Glade, I cannot agree more with Dorothy Sayers' summation of the process.  I can only speak from a writer's perspective, though I would love hearing from those of you who create anything and everything from original art, music, recipes, clothing designs, you name it!

The Creative Idea:  When the idea for The Glade Series begins to gel in my mind, I know the whole story.  I know where I want to go with it and where I wish it to end.  My outline is etched in both head and heart.  Do I have every detail mapped out?  Not by a long shot!  That's where the second part of the earthly trinity comes into play.

The Creative Energy:  Sweat and passion?  Oh, dear Lord, how I can identify with these words!  While it is ever a joy to write, these novel encourage me to work harder at them than at anything else I have ever pursued in my life, and to work with an unbridled passion.  I want my words, more than anything, to reflect the inspiration I daily feel from God.  In this process, characters take unexpected shapes, and scenarios crop up which move the story along, but which I could never have predicted happening, and wouldn't have, if I only allowed the limits of my human brain to guide the tale.  I long for my words to speak for and attest to His Word.

The Creative Power:  It is when I write that I can say, unequivocally, I feel closest to God through His Holy Spirit.  I feel His presence moving through me and in me, inspiring, leading, guiding.  It is His energy that transforms would-be static characters into "lively soul(s)" dancing on the pages.  If I had ever harbored any doubts about the potency and authority of the third person of the Trinity, the act of writing has dispelled them all.

We are all made in the image and likeness of God.  And I believe we are never closer to Him, the Creator of all things, than when we're engaged in the creative process.

~
What is your take on the process of human creativity being threefold, "an earthly trinity to match the heavenly"?

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for every creative gift You have given us.  May we faithfully use those gifts to honor and glorify You, our Creator, Christ Jesus, the Word and our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit, our Guide and Comforter.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Quite Simple



Micah 6:8
But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It's quite simple:  Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don't take yourself too seriously -
take God seriously.  (MSG)

Each time I autograph one of my novels, I write not only my name, but also the inscription Micah 6:8.  Why?  There are three reasons:
  • I want the reader to know my books are biblically-themed.
  • I hope the unchurched will be curious enough about what this verse contains to open a Bible (maybe for the first time in their lives) and be inspired to read more, and to be led to the Lord.
  • Micah 6:8 is my "life verse."
What the prophet is saying here sums up in a nutshell what living the Christian life should look like:  Love your neighbor as yourself; show mercy as God has shown you mercy, and most importantly, place God first in your life.  And it foreshadows perfectly the lessons Jesus would teach His disciples, lessons which we, as Christians today, still follow.  As Jesus reiterated anew:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Straightforward.

Unencumbered.

Uncomplicated.

Quite simple, isn't it?

~

Do you have a "life verse"?  Please share in the comments.

Prayer:  Father, let us remember daily in our hearts and minds the Great Commandments Christ Jesus has given to us.  May our words and actions always reflect Your endless love and grace.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, May 8, 2015

For the Least of These


Matthew 25:40
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

On the days my husband, Danny, works at his office in downtown Atlanta, he always takes the commuter bus from our local park/ride.  This Wednesday past, as the bus approaches his stop, Danny notices an elderly man in a wheelchair feebly wending his way through the crosswalk to reach the other side of the street.  The poor fellow isn't half way there before the light changes to green and car drivers, stressed by the rush hour commute, honk their rude protests at this hapless and helpless man who can't manage to move any faster.

Before Danny departs the bus, he sees that the man has reached the curb and has landed his wheelchair there, but is unable to conquer it in order to reach the McDonald's which appears to be his destination.  Danny watches in disbelief as passerby after passerby witnesses this man's plight, yet ignores it, choosing to do nothing but pursue the goal of arriving to work on time.

Danny is determined to set things to right from the first glance of this older, grey-haired man.  He carefully crosses the street and approaches him confidently.  "It looks like you could use some help," he says with a smile.

"I sure could, " the man says gratefully.  "I'll take your bag if it will make it easier for you; put your gym bag in my lap with my belongings."

Danny gladly does so and heaves the front wheels of the chair onto the crosswalk with difficulty, coaxing the rear ones to follow.  "Are you headed for McDonald's?" Danny inquires.  

"Yes, do you have  a few dollars?" 

"I think I have five, would that help?" 

"Absolutely; I would really love some breakfast."  

"I'll take care of you then," Danny says.

"I sure would appreciate that," the man admits, "but don't feel you have to."

"I don't have to," Danny assures him.  "I want to."

Danny orders a generous platter of a steak and egg biscuit, hash browns, and coffee for the elderly gentleman whom he notes struggles painfully to remove himself from his wheelchair to establish his body less than comfortably onto a seat at a booth. It is only when Danny returns to the table with feast in hand that he notices the man has several teeth missing; teeth necessary for chewing the steak properly. He suffers a momentary pang of remorse for not having been more observant.  The gentleman, as he further notes, also wears a wrist band from the hospital from which he was no doubt just released, but is gratified to see how  he graciously dives into the hash browns.

"Thank you so much," the man says, his mouth full,  and although hesitant for a moment, bows his head and utters a prayer before taking another bite.  After he's eaten for a bit, the man reaches into his rucksack.  "I'd like to give you something for your trouble," he tells Danny, and pulls out a fresh, clean pair of athletic socks from a just opened bag.  Danny is reluctant to take anything from this poor man, but realizes this gesture means the world to him.  He accepts the socks with a heart-felt "thank you" and then excuses himself as he is already late for work.

When he arrives at his cubicle, Danny removes the new socks from a side pocket on his gym bag and places them in a desk drawer.  He works until lunch time when he routinely heads for the gym.  In the locker room, Danny opens his gym bag only to discover that he has forgotten to pack any athletic socks for his workout.  Instantly, he recalls the old man's gift; if only he had kept those socks in the gym bag pocket!

Danny has to smile.  That gift offered to him this morning which seemed so insignificant at the time now looms large and meaningfully.  The mystery man had held his bag and God had placed this gift before him to satisfy a need unknown. Danny is reminded that God provides always, even when we fail, at times, to see His hand at work in our lives.

And it is sometimes, in the least of these acts of kindness, when God's light and love shine the brightest.


~

Have you ever had an experience similar to Danny's?  Please share in the comments!

Prayer:  Father, let us remember that there is no act of kindness too small that it cannot reflect Your amazing love and generosity.  May we do to others, even the seemingly least of these, as we would have them do to us.  Bless that elder gentleman, surround him with Your love, and grant him Your peace.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Meditations of My Heart will be on hiatus next week.  I hope to see you back here on Tuesday, May 19, for the next post.  God bless and Happy Mothers' Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Which Pan Are You?


2 Peter 1:5-9
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

My husband, Danny, being the foremost cook in our household, has been gravitating toward cast iron pans in lieu of Teflon and stainless steel ones.  Mind you, this has not been a knee-jerk transformation; he has given the choice of pans much thought, and the changes to our kitchen hardware have gradually evolved over the last two years.

As the chief "bottle washer" in the "Orlando Cafe," the name we fondly give our kitchen, any pan that doesn't give me fits, i.e., overnight soaking or a strenuous scouring with Brillo to restore it to a healthy state of cleanliness and shine, is all right by me.  Our one remaining Teflon pan, the one I always default to when frying bacon, is, by far, the easiest one to clean.  But if you're thinking stainless steel is the next contestant in the ease department, think again!  Those rascals cling to residual oils and food particles as if they were hard-earned trophies from the culinary contests they have just been subjected to.  One time, I recall, a stainless pan is rendered so indelibly scarred by its encounter with cooking oil, two days of soaking and scrubbing fail to restore it.  Consequently, this most unfortunate of pans meets its demise in the yawning jaws of the trash bin.

Gun-shy me!  I think, when Danny brings the first cast iron pan into our house, the cleaning nightmare will continue.  Boy, do I have egg on my face!  (Thank goodness, I clean up pretty well.)  It's utter simplicity!  Steaming hot water, a minimal effort with a Scotch-Brite scouring pad, rinse, towel-dry, and season with cooking oil:  I find my bliss!

~

In the Scripture cited above, Peter is urging and encouraging the followers of The Way to develop and maintain the qualities that will produce good fruit for Christ's kingdom.  If we practice adding these things to our lives on a daily basis, we are like the Teflon or cast iron pans:  Easy to be set to rights should we go astray, because we are aware we have been cleansed of our past sins and know Jesus will be faithful to forgive us anew.  But those who choose not to nurture these qualities are like the stainless steel pans:  Clinging to the stained remnants of sin which mar and disfigure.  Nearsighted and blind, not seeing that Christ's forgiveness, once and for all, has washed and scrubbed them clean.  Hanging on to the sullied past instead of trusting in the bright, sparkling future into which Jesus lovingly invites us.

~

So I ask you, my friends, which pan are you?

Prayer:  Father, work with us through Your Holy Spirit to cultivate and practice the impeccable virtues which St. Peter espouses to help us be the heralds of Your kingdom in this world.  May we never forget that Your beloved Son, Christ Jesus, has forgiven our sins, once and forever, through His sacrifice on the cross.  Let us be farsighted and focused on the eternal life promised to us because we are Your children, reconciled to You through Jesus.  It is in His precious name, we pray.  Amen.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Princesses!



Romans 8:17
Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory.

Last Sunday, we celebrate Savannah Jane's first birthday, and what a festive time it is!







Although Savanna doesn't understand the concept of a birthday just yet, the joy of simply being with family and enjoying some good food is enough for her.



Of course, Virginia Rose grasps the concept of birthday parties and is wholeheartedly into the celebration, especially when it comes to the chocolate birthday cupcakes we have for dessert.



She declares Savannah's birthday to be the "yummiest birthday ever," and raising her sippy cup, says, "A toast to chocolate!"



No, I have no idea where Virginia learned about toasting, but it surely makes for laughter all around!





It goes without saying that Savannah and Virginia are Gammie's and Papa's perfect princesses!

~

As children of God, we are all heirs to the throne of the Almighty where Christ Jesus, the King of Kings, sits at the right hand of the Father.  Does that not make all of us princes and princesses in His sight?  Yes!  We are royalty in His Kingdom.  And as we struggle through sufferings in helping bring God's Kingdom here on earth, let us never forget that we are destined to share in His glory one day in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Princess Martha . . .

I like the sound of that!

~

What would this world look like if we treated everyone we meet as royalty?

Prayer:  Father, let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  May we, Your children, remember always that we are princes and princesses in Your precious sight.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Big Plans for Big Play

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to gi...