Friday, April 30, 2010

Praise where praise is due

Psalmcat 51:4.30.10

For at least two days now, smiles have come easily. The song is back in my heart and often on my lips as I drive or even as I ride the elevator or walk down an otherwise vacant hallway.

So, what changed? I could say it's that my husband took my car to get some warranty work done (at 35,800 miles!), and a dealership's service department did it for him, while a different dealership's service department (where I bought the car) told me two weeks earlier there was nothing wrong with it.

I could say it's that something has changed in the atmosphere, and whatever was causing the really bad drainage, coughing, sneezing and ITCHING is gone, taking with it a cloud of frustration and misery.

I could say it's that I've adjusted to my bifocals, and they're no longer driving me nuts. But that would be a lie! The truth is, I still don't like my bifocals and haven't taken the next step to get that rectified. But these past two days, it hasn't been a problem just to reposition my head or view. The house is still a mess, I've got a ton of laundry waiting to be done and who knows what else that I've been putting off. But for this moment, those things are not stressing me out.

So, again, what's different?

I think the allergies/atmosphere may be the biggest physical factor, but just as important a fact is that even during many almost depressing days of April, I did not lose faith, quit praying or fail to look for the silver linings. Fleeting moments of peace and joy helped keep hope alive until some of the fog and confusion cleared.

For today -- this moment -- I'm singing, smiling and praising instead of whining, complaining and distressing. I never know how long the clarity will last, but I'm so grateful when I experience it. But I'm even more grateful to know and truly believe that God loves me and delights in me and is with me in those days that seem so dark and cloudy.

I'm thinking April's clouds were the seeds for showers (and maybe some storms) that will lead to a beautiful May filled with bouquets of blessings and a garden of grace-filled moments.

I pray to live in such a way that all the glory and praise always goes to God.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Itching for answers

Ever since the reaction to my allergies/sinusitis expanded early this week to include itching in addition to coughing, sniffling, sneezing and watery eyes, the thought of "itching for answers" has been lurking in my mind. I tried to ignore it, and finally, I just have to explore it.

First, I had to confirm the phrase involved a legitimate usage of the word. Yes, according to, "itch" can mean "to have a restless desire or hankering for something."

So, what are the questions for which I have a restless desire to find answers? Unfortunately, many are the same old questions that have plagued me for years, plus several that have emerged more recently but remain unanswered, despite what I think are my sincere efforts. I really don't want to list them again, but they include how to overcome my disorganization, what to do about the eyeglasses and how to just quit getting "stuck."

One thing I know about itching: Scratching doesn't help. But it's incredibly difficult for me to resist the urge. When I went to buy some non-Benadryl cream to relieve the itch, the store was out of it. (I was strangely satisfied to know I wasn't the only one itching.) Two days later, a stop at another store had better results. Now I have a somewhat effective alternative to scratching.

What is the parallel to scratching when it comes to itching for answers? Well, that's another question I can't think of an answer for right now. Maybe it's wondering or complaining (or blogging!) or trying to figure it out myself. Maybe I need outside help, a sort of Gold Bond cream for my confusion. Right now though, talking to others, even for guidance on finding a professional remedy, just adds to the confusion. And dare I even attempt to determine the source of the questions, the source of the itch?

Yesterday's Psalm reading was 90:1 - 91:16. Psalm 91 includes many of the passages from which the uplifting lyrics to "On Eagles' Wings" are taken. But before that was Psalm 90, "a prayer of Moses, the man of God," reminding me that I'm not the first to struggle and seek answers: "... But even the best years are filled with trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. ... Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grown in wisdom. ... Satisfy us each morning with Your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. ... And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful."

May I always remember, whether itching from allergies or to know answers, to look in the Bible for wisdom and comfort!

"This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety. He is my God, and I trust Him."
-- Psalm 91:2

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guessing again

Who would think it's easier to sing at church than to speak? Of course, by now I should realize that speaking publicly, at least for me, is not as easy at it looks when others do it.

On a recent church survey of areas where members would be interested in serving, I guess I indicated I'd be willing to serve as the lay liturgist on a Sunday morning. So, on Saturday night, I got my call. And guess what? I wanted to opt out. I let the pastor know my excuses: I've had sinus congestion, runny nose, watery eyes and sore or itchy throat all week; I didn't even know for sure whether I'd be able to talk in the morning. But I didn't hear him responding with understanding and sympathy. I guess I took that to mean he thought I could manage it. So, I said I would do it.

I know I tend to overthink things, but the tendency comes from vast experience. I can't count the times I've stood up to speak or lead -- to do something I've watched others do numerous times (and I thought I was paying attention and that it looked simple) -- but when it's my time to say the words, my mind goes blank. (This is funny to me: I originally, accidentally, typed "my mind goes bland." And I guess to me that would be about the worst thing. Who wants to be boring?) So I made sure I knew exactly what would be expected of me this time, and I wrote down notes for prompting. And, of course, I prayed to be of humble service to God. And it went fine. I didn't have a coughing or sneezing fit, nor did I have to blow my nose too loudly! I especially felt privileged to read the Gospel message, John 21:1-14. It was a good experience for me.

Between when the pastor called and when worship was over (followed by a brief coughing fit), I found myself thinking again about how I constantly second-guess and overthink my decisions. As I've written before, sometimes I'm not sure whether that is a blessing or a curse. But after worship today, I had a moment of clarity in which it seemed like a blessing. For now, I think there is purpose in my trying to consider all the angles before I proceed. The problem is when I let that keep me from taking action. As I get older, I know I won't always have a chance for a do-over if I let an opportunity slip by.

I guess maybe it's time to take a closer look at a growing list of things I've been thinking about and not acting on. If I can be a liturgist and sing in the choir when I didn't even know if I'd be able to talk, who knows what else might be possible? I guess I might as well try to find out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Moments to be cherished

Just a few of my favorite things that made the past weekend one to be cherished. Again, the list is varied, so if one topic isn't of interest, try the next:

Gene. (I love you! And, no, I probably didn't expect to start with that!)

Texas. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is at home in Texas, especially in the spring!

Family farmsteads. First stop was the Gilliland farm, grown up with the first weeds of spring. They might have been pretty had they not meant so much work ahead for Gene. He spent the afternoon mowing and trimming and making it all beautiful again, while I headed on to the Davidson farm, where Mom and Dad and Amy and Mike and Elaine and ALL THEIR GIRLS (Jen, Laura and Angela) and Kathy and Wade and Russell and Joslin awaited, along with cows, trees, cats, good food, laughter, catching up and a lot of love.

A country-style wedding at a ranch retreat. The bride arrived with her dad in a horse-drawn carriage. Brandi and Danny (my nephew) exchanged vows with the setting sun peeking through a hedge of trees behind them, then they rode off in the carriage. The reception was in a red-dirt-floored arena in the chilly damp air of an April evening. The setting and timing were the dream of the bride, with probably only one thing missing, and that was her brother, who is enlisted and at the last minute was not able to attend. Good food, plenty of beer for those who wanted it and music for dancing and listening were accompaniments for celebrating such a happy occasion with family and friends.

Sunday dinner for 24 or more at a favorite barbecue joint. Conversation and laughter. Unfortunately for Danny and Brandi, they were with us instead of on their honeymoon. Here's hoping it will be better than ever when they finally get to go. Lots of picture-taking, hugs, and then good-byes as various families headed toward homes, including in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

And the unexpected finale: Gospel singing at the tiny white wooden Methodist church in Sivells Bend. Despite all the work Gene had to do at the farm, he couldn't resist the lure of fishing on such a perfect day, so Mom came by our farm to pick me up and head on up the country highway past Moss Lake and toward the Red River. The pristine white church glistened against the late afternoon blue sky and the carpet of green grass, which quickly filled with cars. Inside, people from the Sivells Bend Methodist church, nearby Bear Creek (I think) Baptist and Whaley Methodist, some 20 miles or so away in Gainesville, scooted into the old wooden pews. Before long, folding chairs were being brought to lengthen the rows. And then the music began, starting with an old-time gospel trio and superb accompaniment, setting the perfect tone for a night of praising the Lord in robust harmony. What a sweet, sweet spirit! It was like a heavenly chorus on Earth. People who were there either loved to sing or loved to hear the singing. "Floods of joy o'er my soul like the sea billows roll since Jesus came into my heart ...," "Victory in Jesus ...," "Lily of the Valley" and so many favorites that just aren't sung enough anymore. Afterwards, sweet and savory treats were served along with something pink to drink. Topping it all off were more smiles and hugs and warm wishes to send people on their way, hearts singing, spirits renewed.

Life is good. Thank you, God!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Blame it on the bifocals

It's finally sunny, warm and springlike. I hoped by the time the weather caught up with the recent change of seasons, my vision and outlook also would be clear and bright. But that hasn't happened.

There's still a big, blurry line between what I see for the future and what I'm willing to look at now. I can see in the distance, and I can see up close. But much of what I'm interested in seems to be somewhere in between -- or on the periphery.

So, am I talking about my optical vision or my perceptive vision? Both seem in need of correction. I think what my attempt at wearing bifocals has made most clear is how hard it is for me to focus in all areas of my life. I'm easily distracted. It takes concentrated effort -- and patience -- for me to stay locked on the target, whether that means looking through the correct part of the lens to read a book or the computer or to see the image in a mirror, or not second-guessing a decision I've made about which task to tackle. Too often, the distractions win out, blurring my vision. And even when they don't win, they waste valuable time and effort.

Case in point: This is a day when I've gotten quite a lot done, things that really needed to be taken care of. I'm grateful for that. But my outlook is weighed down by the many other things I did not accomplish.

All I know to do is keep trying to stay focused. And if things do get out of kilter, I'll just blame it on the bifocals.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter joyous!

An afternoon walk in the sunshine on Easter isn't the same as an Easter sunrise service, but it has its fine points. I was serenaded by the sounds of birds, wind, ducks, water, kids and rustling leaves and grass, and soothed by the beauty of spring colors, including the pink, purple and yellow blossoms in trees and wildflowers! What an accompaniment for prayer, meditation and reflection on what Easter means to me. My soul is refreshed from communion with the Living Christ!

This followed a morning filled with worship. Compared to the days when the church choir sang for sunrise service at a park and the early and late services in the sanctuary, Easter Sundays now seem pretty simple. But maybe that's a good thing. As hard as it was to make it to church for the 8:30 service today to sing a requested solo, how did I ever make it to a 7 a.m. sunrise service? But I know I did, as did many other people, and I know the memories are precious.

As for the requested solo, I feel so humbled and grateful when I can share in the special music of Easter and Christmas and big moments in the life of Christ's church and its people. Today, it was "The Holy City." This is another of those songs I feel as if I've known forever, either from hearing it often as I've grown up, or because it's one of those songs that just adhered to my soul. Perhaps as a young girl I dreamed of someday being the one to sing such a beautiful song at my church. But there were many, many years it didn't seem possible. That was because God knows I don't want to sing at His special occasions unless I can sing to His glory. To me, that means singing on pitch, getting the words right (or at least most of them) and singing with joy but somehow not so much emotion as to detract from the message of the music. I know that's only possible for me by letting go and letting God. (And part of that process is trusting that if it's not on pitch or I mess up the words or get all shaky, somehow that fits into God's plan, too.) Today's joyous result was a reminder that truly all things are possible with God.

Another joyous part of Easter worship that I have to mention is that a couple who are longtime members of the church but haven't been able to attend for quite a while because of health issues were there today. It took great effort for them, but they made it. I cannot express how much that blessed me, and I could tell it was a blessing to many others, too.

The sermon was great -- a dramatic, first-person account from Peter's perspective about Christ's life, death and resurrection -- and the hymns included Easter favorites: "Up from the grave He arose! ... Hallelujah! Christ arose!" "Christ the Lord is Risen today, Alleluia." "I serve a risen Savior .... you ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart."

And so, what does Easter mean to me? It means I have hope. It means I am saved. It means nothing can separate me from the love of God. It means I am called to take up my cross and follow Jesus' example. It means even though I know and God knows I'll continue to fall short and never be perfect, He loves me and delights in me and offers me life forever with Him. It means He's with me as I strive to know and do His will, to His glory. And it means I have His joy and peace in my heart.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

No April foolishness here

After reading today's psalm from my four-Scripture-a-day plan, I had to come and share. Psalmists really wrote stuff like this? I know I've read Psalm 73 at least two other times in one version or another, but the words never spoke to me like they did tonight. These are excerpts from The New Living Translation (The Truth Made Clear), as recorded in God Sightings: The One Year Bible:

(2-7) But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don't have troubles like other people; they're not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! ....

(10-11) And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. "What does God know?" they ask. ....

(12-14) Look at these wicked people -- enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain. ....

(16-17) So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Then I went into Your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. ....

(21-22) Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant -- I must have seemed like a senseless animal to You.

(23-24) Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. ....

(26) My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever. ....

(28) But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do.