January 26, 2012

Felt like a little poem today

A Handful of Quietness

Time drives toil.
Toil hastens time.
Life’s syncopated rhythm
Is hard to dance to.

Work determines worth.
Position yields power.
So we
Keep up to get by,
Chase fleeting passions,
Give a grand performance,
Desperate for the inner critic’s acclaim.

Sleep is fitful.
Night is short,
The day long.
Must not fall behind.
Just one more thing to do.

For the one who trusts,
Peace abides.
           Surrendered souls fly free.           
A handful of quietness[1]
Is what we need.
For He gives to His beloved
In sleep[2].

[1] Ecclesiastes 4:6
[2] Psalm 27:2

January 18, 2012

In the Valley

Don't be too quick to run up to the mountain.  Stay in the valley and sit by the waters.  Drink from the living water that flows in the low places and swishes amid the rocks and crags. Cup your hands and take big gulps.  Let it refresh you.

Don't rush or wish away this time.  Abide in the river.  Let it wash you clean.  Bask in the coolness of the waters and let them flow over you.  Be baptized in my grace!  Grace abounding and all-sufficient.

Vision is found in the valley[1].  In quietness and rest is your strength[2].  Don't be quick to escape.  This is your resting place: in the crook of my arm, in the warmth of my chest.  

I sing beneath the shadow of your wings[3] and it echoes through the canyon.  Deep calls to deep[4].  Whispers reverberate across the great expanse, and he calls my name.  Speak, Lord, your servant is listening[5]... 

[1] Ezekiel 8:4
[2] Isaiah 30:15
[3] Psalm 63:7
[4] Psalm 42:7
[5] I Samuel 3:10

January 15, 2012

Man does not live by bread alone

It happened nearly two weeks ago today.  I had spent the better part of 20 minutes going through the ritual of readying myself and my 14-month-old daughter to run errands, just to get out of the house.  I don’t even remember where to; that part seemed insignificant.  It was a particularly cold day for the mild Alabama winter we were having and I was feeling restless because it was too cold to go for a walk and I was getting “stay-at-home mom” stir crazy!  I had put on my coat and bundled Amelia up with an adorable new toboggan squeezed down over her tiny ears, when I heard someone on the other side of the door.  For a moment I was confused, not expecting my husband home from work until the evening, then half worried that an unwelcome stranger might be on the other side of the front door.  Before I could process these thoughts, I saw my husband’s face peek out from around the door wearing a pained, chagrined expression.  “I lost my job,” he said as his eyes met mine.  We hugged and I cried, but somehow I believed we would be okay.

Amelia looking adorable just before the bad news hit!  

With that single statement our lives have once again been shaken.  My husband and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary on January 10th and I must say that these few years have been filled with the unexpected: both joyful and painful.  I’ve learned that nothing is certain and nothing should be taken for granted, but our circumstances keep changing nonetheless so God must have something more to teach us.

The day Jeremy lost his job, the ground beneath my feet shifted and the only thing left to stand on was Jesus Christ himself, the only one who never changes.  I needed to DO SOMETHING in my helplessness.  So I decided it was the perfect time to try my hand at baking homemade bread.  There is something about taking a few simple ingredients and turning them into something warm, delicious, and life-sustaining that is quite satisfying.  And who doesn’t love the smell of fresh-baked bread?  I must admit that have always been intimidated by the idea of bread making.  I love baking in general, but bread made with yeast seemed out of my league.  But desperate times call for bold acts of baking!

For my first attempt, I used Jamie Oliver’s basic bread recipe (see page 236 of “Happy Days with the Naked Chef”) with a few tips from Alton Brown thrown in for good measure…and accuracy.  Jamie likes to use words like “bashing” and “squashing” and recommends tapping the bottom of the bread to tell if it’s done, while Alton recommends using a stand mixer with a hook attachment (which I don’t have) to knead the dough, cooking the bread on a terracotta bowl from the bottom of a planter (don’t have that either), and determines doneness using a thermometer (my meat thermometer didn’t really work).  I decided to take these juxtaposed methods and find my own happy medium; so I used my hands, basically went by appearance and tapping for doneness, and baked the bread on a pizza stone.  (Tip: definitely spray the bowl with some non-stick spray before you let the dough rise or the dough will stick to the bowl).

Before Rise
Ready? Drum roll…........ta da!          

After Baking
My results were less than aesthetically stellar, but very tasty!  I think my bread was a bit underdone, but that just made it moist and chewy, not bad at all.  After a few days, I took a few pieces and made an indulgent French toast breakfast for myself.

Over the past two weeks, God has been reminding me of his faithfulness and that He alone is my provider.  I have been meditating on Deuteronomy 8, which I highly recommend if you need to be reminded of God’s loving faithfulness to his children in times of trial.  The next time I bake bread (and there will be a next time) I’ll think back on the way the Lord comforted me and gave me peace as my hands worked the dough and how he met all of my needs during these days of uncertainty.

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  (Deuteronomy 8: 2-3)


January 8, 2012

Give Thanks

Oh Lord!  I thank you for my life and for the thousands of ways you show your goodness!  This is my song of praise to you, in the midnight hour when nothing seems quite right and everything off-balance.  I praise you because I can see your hidden smile as you watch me live and breathe and wrestle with the enormity of this life and all I can’t control.  Your hand on me is firm and gentle, never forceful, never weak.  I feel an amazing sense of peace.  The unexpected kind that comes like the silence after a storm---a long exhale.  Though I quake in the tenuousness of my humanity, you remind me that you are the God of the universe, my Savior, and my Father who loves me and suddenly, the Truth is so much bigger than my fear!  If God is for us, who can be against us?  What can separate us from the love of Christ?  For we are more than conquerors (see Romans 8:31-39)…and truly, what more do I need?  The Lord is my strength and my portion forever, and he will take care of me. 

Here is another truth I have come to know more deeply.  Many times I have failed to put it into practice and it rings true more now than ever!  Thanksgiving calls for an act of giving, not merely prayers of gratitude.  Prayers are good, but there is a greater principle to be learned here.  Give and it shall be given unto you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38).

Those who sow generously will reap generously (2 Cor. 9:6).  Not a “give so the Lord will give to me” attitude but give as an act of worship and thanksgiving.  Give because others have greater needs than myself.  Give because of all that the Lord has given me.  Give in faith that the LORD, Yahweh, He is my Provider and the Giver of All Good Things. 

Like Paul, I want to say that I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.  I have learned to be in plenty and in want.  In wealth and in poverty.  In gladness and in despair.  In joy and in pain.  In strength and in weakness.  In success and in failure.  In admiration and in humiliation.  For I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (see Phil. 4:11-13).

This is the gift of God.  True contentment.  Thank you, Father, for wanting to teach me this.  Please help me to live it out by your grace.  To give generously and with a joyful heart.  To give thanks in all circumstance, for this is your will for me in Christ Jesus.