Wednesday, November 26, 2008

happy gratitude day

I'm on a quest today to cross off as many items from my "to do" list as possible. So while I get on that, here's one from a few years back ...

If you ask any woman this morning what the happiest noise on earth is, she'll tell you it's the sound of the oven door shutting just after she put put the turkey in. I never fail to sigh at that sound, which signals that "I did it."

This year, I almost didn't. My first attempt at enclosing that 24-pound bird in my Reynolds Oven Bag sent us both dancing across the kitchen floor. He didn't want to go in. Still slippery, and heavier than I was ready for, he tried his hardest to elude my grip. But I prevailed. I managed to clutch all 24-pounds while simultaneously opening the edge of the bag with one wing tip and a fervant prayer. Got him inside, adjusted him awkwardly over the four, fat onion slices I'd previously arranged on the bottom of the bag, and started oiling him up. But just after the last of the olive oil had been spread and rubbed, I pushed just a bit too hard and ripped the bottom edge of the bag. I stood for a good minute, gawking and trying to grasp the situation. I could hope the turkey juices didn't rise as high as that rip. I could pretend I hadn't noticed and just hope for the best. Or I could start over with the second Reynolds bag. It was the thought of all that potentially wasted juice that made me reach for the Reynolds box and unfold the second bag.

We danced again, that turkey and I--only this time, he was oily.

So maybe you understand now why I say that the sound of a shutting oven door is the happiest sound ever. You slump, and sigh, and wipe your brow. And before you tackle the kitchen, and wipe up all the stuffing residue--the errant bits of onion and celery and sausage and bread crumbs--you allow yourself a cup of coffee. And maybe you blog for a bit.

I'll get to the kitchen. But first, I want to say, "Happy Thanksgiving." I hope you spend this day in the presence of people who love and appreciate you, and people you thoroughly enjoy. And I hope you take a moment to realize that there's nothing good in your life that wasn't given to you. James 1:16, 17 says this: Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. That's an awesome truth. I realized just what that meant one Wednesday night this summer.

I was sitting in a holy place--one of two that I know of. Both happen to be benches. And both are holy, in my estimation, because every time I sit on one of them, I hear something from God. One of them is Dave's prayer bench (which I borrow periodically), centered in a cleared spot in the woods behind our house. The second--which is where I happened to find myself on that Wednesday night--is the bench in front of our church office.

I was sitting out there about an hour before our midweek service was to begin, and I was reading a book by Chuck Smith. He was talking about blessing, and how we sometimes errantly believe that if we just act a certain way or do a lot of God-pleasing activity, God will have to bless us. I was nodding and agreeing with Pastor Chuck, and right when my eye landed again on the word "blessing," three things happened simultaneously. The wind picked up and brushed my cheek with a warm caress; I heard the neighbor's wind chimes begin to tinkle; and the sun broke free of a lone white cloud and blanketed the lawn directly in front of my vision, lighting the grass in a brilliant, emerald path that extended from the fence straight to my bench. And I suddenly saw the truth James tried to convey. I understood in that warm, tinkly, green moment that God was blessing me, then and there. I understood that He did that all day, every day. I realized that every time I breathe deeply in delight, or return a smile, or taste a just-ripe nectarine, or gasp at the sunset, or receive love, God is the One who sent the blessing.

Scripture says that the rain falls on both the just and the unjust. The opposite is true, too. The sun shines on both those who love God and those who don't. It's stunning to me to realize that God's heart is so big and His love is so vast, that He pours blessings out even on those He knows will never turn to Him. He sends sunshine and music and good food and loving relationships and happy dreams even to those who will never turn and say, "Thank You."

Today, when you hear the sounds of music or laughter (or a shutting oven door) remember the One who sent the sound. When you taste that turkey (or tofu :) and you ask for seconds of the green bean casserole ... and potatoes ... and pie ... remember the One who provided. When you look at faces across the table who are dear to you, remember Who planted you in those lives. Take a moment to remember ... and offer thanks to God--the passionate, lavish Lover of your soul.



Monday, November 10, 2008

lovely monday

After the hubbub of Sunday, filled with a lot of talking and laughing and praying, a lot of gearing up and catching up and meeting and greeting, we spend Monday mornings in the quietest ways we can find.

Today, we're keeping an eye on the wood stove.

Dave watches from the couch where, at 10:18, he sits still clad in his black and gray plaid robe. I'm in the low-to-the-ground legless rocker scooched right up next to the fire. My robe is green, and I intend to stay in it as long as possible.

Fernando Ortega sings in the background, a soothing accompaniment to our laziness. We hum along here and there. At other points, his words blend in with the Psalms I'm reading. When his "Give Me Jesus" begins, I leave off reading and let him voice my prayer.

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

More coffee is poured. Another moss-cloaked log joins the pulsing embers in the stove. We talk briefly about putting on real clothes and taking a walk in the mist, but those murmurs die away quickly. Why walk when there are more words to read, more music to hear?

Fernando's songs give way to Glory Revealed. And song number two, as it always does, makes me lean back in wonder and close my eyes. I'm aware in an all-over-again way that every blessing in my life--this lovely Monday, this man, this warmth, my cleansing and healing and hope--has come to me because of the wounding of One.

Give me Jesus.



Thursday, November 06, 2008


Last night was my turn at serving in the church nursery. But "served," I must say, seems a far cry from what actually transpired. I was blessed to sit in that corner rocker, holding that beautiful new boy. Sean and I spent a quiet hour doing little more than rocking and staring. I don't know what thoughts went through his little mind, but here are mine.

He's less than three months old. His eyes have yet to focus on injustice; his heart hasn't yet felt pain. All his needs are tended to by his mother--a girl I love like my own--and by his father, who still has that "What has happened here?" look on his face. When he's in the building, Grandpa (John) elbows Grandma (Laurie) out of the way for a chance at touching and talking and tending. The rest of us, so very aware of our lesser-than positions, accept our Sean-crumbs with gratitude. This boy is loved. He knows nothing less.

But tonight, as I hold him close and watch his slender, almost-not-there fingers curling around mine, I think of the freshness of his slate and the span of his possibilities. Who will this child be when he emerges from this infant-fog, when he steps into the world and claims his spot? Will he be thinker ... doer ... leader ... poet? Will the echoes of our worship build into a crescendo and lift his thoughts above himself? Will he offer all his maybes on the altar of devotion? Will he speak to his generation? Will he obey the One who fashioned him?

I don't know any of that. I know only that this moment, in this place, those eyes see me, and those fingers curl about mine for anchor.

Lord God, keep me on my knees on his behalf. Keep me watching on his wall. Help me love him toward You.

And make him Yours ... fully Yours.



Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I didn't vote for Barak Obama. But I couldn't help but tear up last night when I saw a collage on TV of all 43 of our past presidents, and then, Obama's face was there--ten times larger than the rest, and centered right in the middle of all that history. The ceiling is broken ... and it's long overdue.

I wrote to my very good friend, Sonya, this morning to try to express what I'm feeling. She wrote back and told me about a time when one of her boys said he wanted to be president when he grew up, and Sonya and her husband just smiled and patted his head. As she wrote to me today, "Now it's not a pipe dream."

I am rejoicing at that reality. History was made last night and now, hopefully, some of the wounds of our past might begin to heal.

I'm also proud of John McCain and the humble, gracious, peace-seeking way he conceded the election. Everything I already liked about him was magnified in those few short moments.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us that "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases." I am relying on that verse today and resting in God's sovereignty. And I'm praying that Barak Obama will not only seek God's help in fulfilling all he promised last night, but that he will depend fully on Him. I'm praying too that his eyes will be opened to a few unalterable truths: the unborn matter greatly to the One who created them; and Israel will always be the apple of His eye.

May God bless our country.