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Archive for January, 2009

Have you had the experience of seeing new possibilities one day, when the day before they were nowhere in sight?  That happened to me this week, through an entirely serendipitous circumstance.  The thing that is amazing is that the pivotal point involved going out on a limb, taking a chance, risking. 

When I reread that last sentence, I realize that quite possibly that “going out on a limb, taking a chance, risking” was, in reality, listening to that Still Small Voice within–obeying the Holy Spirit, as we talk about it in my church. 

A friend recently remarked to me that she is just learning–or perhaps relearning–to live in recognition of the fact that God is with her in, and wants to be part of, every detail in her life.  It has made a world of difference in how she approaches loss, need, confusion, and loneliness.  She has begun to “watch, look, and listen”–something we are taught to do as children for our physical safety when we cross streets.  Does anyone ever tell us how needful those practices are for our spiritual wellbeing? 

My 3 words for 2009 are “delight, see, and listen” based loosely on Psalm 37:4 and–I can’t recall right this second where it is found in the Bible–but another verse from the Psalms that tells me to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  One thing so far that I am finding is that the focus brought by those three words opens me up to new possibilities–in my own life and in those of others.

Today as I was playing through a section of my Christmas present hymn book–thank you, Michael!– I came upon a song that was new to me several years ago at Easter time.  With thanks to my friend Susi Jones who first shared it with me, I pass it along here for any who might be bogged down by winter, by discouragement, by confusion, or loss…with the prayer that it will serve to lift your eyes and open your ears to possibilities that await.

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise:  butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
                                                                     —
Natalie Sleeth, 1986

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Ta-da!

Thursday mornings are Melanie and Grandma time this semester.

My favorite son-in-law (in case you’re not already in on the joke, he’s my only one, and always will be, since I have only one daughter) wears several hats and one of the current ones is student (final semester–yay!). So, in order to give him a nice block of study time on Thursday mornings (he is normally Mr. Mom in the mornings while the lovely Ellen is at work), I drop “the boys’ (Zach and Michael) off at school and work respectively, then swing by the Klaus haus to pick up still-pajama-clad-but-always-smiling, 15 1/2 -month-old Melanie.

After commenting on school buses and red lights en route to Gramma’s, we have a little routine once we get there. Thursdays are laundry day here, so we usually head to the basement to put the first load in the washer. Then we come back upstairs and find Melanie some breakfast; the current favorite is Cheerios with peaches, and milk served with a straw in the snowman glass.

After breakfast, Melanie is ready for books–she is usually ready for books the second she sets foot in the house!–but I can generally persuade her to bring some out in the kitchen and “read” by herself on the rug while I swish up the breakfast dishes. Dishes done, bathtime arrrives.

When Zach was little, I found it easier and quicker to bathe him in the kitchen sink for his first year+; Melanie still fits, so that’s where she has her baths at Gramma’s–for now. (The first time we tried this, she was too afraid and I didn’t force it–just sponged her off standing in the sinkful of suds and got it over with. Last week I got smart and, with the introduction of the yellow duck, she happily sits in the sink and enjoys it all.)

This morning, after she was all dried off from the bath and we were getting her dressed, I pronounced “Ta-da!” as each hand and each foot emerged from its respective sleeve and pantleg. Well, I started something! Melanie’s every move for the next few minutes was accompanied by a toddler-initiated “Ta-da!”

Not being one to introduce sloppy use of vocabulary, I set about refining her understanding of the word. When she was putting blocks in her shape sorter block can and tried to use that word, I told her she needed to put the block through the hole first. When we were playing a new game–Find the Frogs (I have a jar of eight plastic frogs of various colors that I place about the living room and she finds them and brings them back to their jar home.)–we did not use “Ta-da!” until each found frog was being placed in the jar.

I could say something here about the importance of context, but I will leave it to you to ponder the point if you wish.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see when/where that new vocabulary word turns up in the days to come!

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Read Aloud of My Life

“You carry your story with you everywhere you go, and I don’t believe God puts you in the company of anyone who doesn’t need a bit of your story for some need in their own life.”

I just wrote that in an email to a friend who expressed some doubts about an anticipated social setting which she finds intimidating. Immediately after hitting “send”, I asked myself, “But…do I really believe it?”

That is my question of the day…for myself.

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Our family sits in the balcony during Sunday morning worship at church.  My voice stops and my eyes wander during one of the songs being sung.  Around and below me I see

  • A couple who will soon be relocating from the town where they’ve spent the bulk of their married years, spending their last Sundays at the church where they’ve embraced friendship, leaned on those friends during a wife’s bout with cancer, and raised their children–leaving for another job because the husband’s place of employment has announced it is closing
  • Two parents whose sons have plucked their heart strings gutwrenchingly in the past couple of years by the choices they have made
  • A young couple who has spent a year in the ups and downs of unemployment and juggling the alternatives for keeping a pay check coming and keeping the family on an even keel
  • A family home for a year from a mission to university students in Spain’s Canary Islands.  They have to spend many hours and miles on the road sharing what they do with the prayer that people will think it is worthwhile enough to invest in it  financially.
  • A single mom
  • A faithful senior couple who have dealt with the uncertainties of a cancer diagnosis in the past year
  • Junior year college students who are engaged to be married after graduation, but who have had to majorly adjust life plans for the next year because their university is closing
  • An elderly couple who have physical mobility problems and are wondering how much longer they can remain in the house which they’ve lovingly made their home for over thirty years
  • Parents of a troubled teen who has been separated from them by many miles for close to a year in order to be in a place where he can receive help
  • A grad student who isn’t sure what life holds for him when he finishes his degree this spring
  • My own dear husband standing beside me, who celebrates a birthday this week and doesn’t know what his job will be after May 31st, when his will end

I come back to the song we are singing and, fresh from taking in the circumstances of the people around me, I feel tears coming, for the words they–we–are singing proclaim

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my Light, my Strength, my Song;
This Cornerstone, this Solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All-in-all–
Here in the life of Christ I stand.

I pay attention in my neighborhood and at Wal-Mart, I turn on the radio, I catch the late-night news–and the story is the same all around:  there are a lot of people living in shades of gray to black these days.  And there are a lot of talking heads countering the articulation of the bleakness with words like “change” and “hope”.  But there is this that is not being said:  When the curtains are pulled back to reveal the plans for that change and hope, the same gray cloud appears. 

There is no politician’s plan, no legislative action, no peace accord signed with the best pen money can buy, that can offer the change and hope people seek–need– in times like these.  My tears in the middle of the song were for longing met, for the singers were describing what appears when their curtains of gray and black are pulled back.  It is indeed a sight to behold.

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Magnetic Poetry

“an egg is tiny”
“we never chant or read”
“must sleep for I am behind in two languages”
“puppy drool is a gift”

These are just some of the creative(?) arrangements of words currently displayed on my refrigerator as a result of various family members’ manipulation of the magnetic poetry pieces that live there. (Can you tell my family “poets” are mainly male?) There have been times that lines a bit more poetic have appeared–the current collection must be the result of too much sugar and too much caffeine over the holidays.

The box that holds the magnetically-backed words that aren’t being used on the fridge–there’s not enough room for the whole set; judging from the current offerings, I think it’s time to rotate some of the current vocabulary off the refrigerator door!–resides on top of a movable kitchen cabinet. When that box got knocked off the back of the cabinet day before yesterday, I dreaded the sight that surely awaited me when I pulled the cabinet away from the wall to pick up the spilled pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to find only a few scattered poetry pieces on the floor behind the cabinet–the rest of the pieces, true to their magnetic qualities, had stuck together during the spill.

As I collected the fallen pieces, I was struck with an analogy: Doesn’t something like that happen in the family of God? At least five times this past week, a heart cry for help, either in the form of a prayer request or a statement of the “this is a hard time” variety on Facebook, has appeared on my computer. Almost immediately, the responses of “I’m praying for you” or some other expression of “I’m standing with you in this” started to appear. In some of the situations, positive change came about rather immediately; in at least one of those situations I know of, the pain is ongoing, but the hurting one has been strengthened because her faith family has stuck with her in this time when life feels spilled out and messed up.

I want to be “magnetic” for my brothers and sisters, to have the drawing power of being a pray-er and an encourager that will help steady and hold and lift up in times of upset. I can’t do it on my own, but I can do it in Jesus’ name.

Here’s one refrigerator poetry offering that didn’t make my first citation above: “beauty of eternity”…Can that start here and now? I think it does when we hold tight to one another through caring and prayer in the face of life’s messy places.

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My horseback experience is limited to riding the ponies at the zoo or at the county fair of my childhood and maybe a time or two of trail riding somewhere.  I’m a little timid when it comes to animals that are taller than I am.  Nevertheless, I’ve been around long enough to have heard it said that if you fall off or get tossed off an equine back, the best means for conquering the fear of a repeat episode is to get right back in the saddle. 

(I hope I’m not turning a corner here, now, so fast as to give you mental whiplash… hang on…)  I’ve noticed something on the weather reports in the past week.  Whenever there has been a threat of “freezing rain” or a “wintry mix” in the prediction, the weather guy has been quick to say that there is no threat to limbs or power lines in this weather event–just the possibility of travel hazards.  Odd as it may sound, those are soothing words to a city that is still recovering from a pretty heavy-duty ice storm that left tornado-like tree damage and days-long power outages the week before Christmas.  Kindly so, the weather man anticipated our fears in light of our recent past experience, and did something to ease them. 

When I heard those words–“no damage to trees or power lines anticipated”–in today’s winter weather advisory, it did calm me…and set me thinking.  I thought about the “get back on the horse” theory.  I also thought about people who have had other negative experiences and are now paralyzed by fear of further hurt or damage to the point where they are unable to move beyond their past experiences.  What if someone is too afraid to get past a bad experience–in relationships, in a new endeavor, in the church? 

Sometimes–I would venture to guess in nearly all but the most traumatic experiences–maybe all it takes is a little hand holding or a few soothing words.  That requires someone who is in the know–of the situation and of the person–to anticipate fears in light of past experiences and to offer the supportive hand or the calming words. 

It only took the weather man a few extra seconds.  It may require a little more investment on my part to be the hand holder or the soothing word speaker, but…

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Whoda Thunkit?

Sometimes an impulse purchase can be pure gold. 

So it has been this past year with a little last-minute, on-a-whim item I purchased for Michael’s Christmas stocking in 2007.  I usually view those little Hallmark books that are out there with all the greeting cards in the drugstore as last resort purchases for those with little time or creativity.  Maybe that was me at that point in my stocking shopping last year.  Anyway, as I leafed through the book, Bedtime Blessings by Chuck Swindoll, it seemed better than most and I made the purchase.  I even marked a few selections with red stars before wrapping it and giving it. 

As it turns out,  this little gem has launched a number of our family’s days in a positive, hopeful direction. (I know–the title says Bedtime Blessings…but a blessing is a blessing, no matter the time of day.)  Right about the time school started last fall, Michael decided that so many of the short devotional thoughts capped off by a Bible verse had been meaningful to him that he chose to share them with Zach and me at breakfast.  I will always remember how the reading that came up on Zach’s first day at South Side High School was so seemingly hand-picked for my mother’s heart that morning that it made me cry tears of joy that God would care so well for me.  There have been many of those mornings–when the reading for that day seemed to be heaven-timed–since then.  

Well, today was another one of those days.  The reading and Scripture seemed so perfect for this first day back to school/work after Christmas break.  It is so right for what we know will be a one-of-a-kind semester for us, since Michael’s 24 years of employment at Fort Wayne Bible College/Summit Christian College/TUFW (all the same institution of higher education, just different incarnations of it) will cease when the campus closes on May 31. 

So, I share, in the hope that it might “hit the spot” for you as well.  You just never know about those impulse purchases.

January 5 – How wonderful that God personally cares about those things that worry us and prey upon our thoughts.  He cares about them more than we care about them.  Not a single nagging, aching, worrisome, stomach-tensing, blood-pressure-raising thought escapes His notice.  “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him, for you are His personal concern.”  (I Peter 5:7, Phillips translation)

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