Sunday, February 26, 2012

Surprise Me!

Do you love surprises as much as I do?  They can be words, events, gifts, discoveries...; all unexpected. Bursting in on thoughts or interrupting normal routine, the good surprises of life are welcome visitors.

Valentines Day is always special, but the last few years my wonderful spouse presented me with the usual roses and candy.  The roses were set in the same vase in the same spot on the counter, like guards smartly dressed in red, standing at attention to greet me upon entering the kitchen in the morning.  The candy box from the local confectionary downtown held the chocolates that used to be my favorite kind.  At least the card could always be counted on as something new and filled with sweet sentiments penned in my sweetheart's own handwriting.  It was meaningful to be remembered and there's something quieting and secure in the familiar, comfortable bestowals.  Much like our long-lasting relationship, I suppose.

Early in the morning of two fourteen twelve, after my hubby had left for work, I shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee.   Sure enough, there stood the beautiful sentinels waiting for me.  I will never tire of the cheery presence of red roses-- their sweet fragrance, deep hue and velvety petal finery make me happy.

I opened the card propped up against the vase.  What? The greeting was in Spanish! I smiled at the absurdity.  High school Spanish class, taken years ago, wasn't aiding me in interpreting the message .  I read the thoughts he had written in a bottom corner of the card. "Once you figure out what this says, you will know how I feel about you...".  How does he know?  He knows even less of the language than I do.  Later, I call him with my thanks and find out the card has English translation on the backside.  He has taped over these words so I will have to decipher the inside message.  Knowing I am currently enrolled in a Spanish class at the college where I work, he thought I might like the challenge.  It was truly a hallmark of surprise!

Doesn't it feel like a suprise every time a familiar passage of Scripture makes a new impression on our thoughts or delivers a message in a brand new way?  This week I read Ps. 44 and received one of these discoveries.  The Psalm starts by looking back on generations before and how God had defeated enemies for their forefathers and made their ancestors flourish.  Verse 3 says,

"It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them." 

Because we know God hasn't changed in character or nature, we have assurance that this sovereign God will work in our battles with his right hand(denotes authority), his arm (strength) and, I love this part, the light of his face, for he loves us.  His love shows in his face.  His face glows with love for us.  What a lovely image to carry with us, especially in times when we are engaged in battle, in conflicts of life.

The week brought more unexpected treats; a gift book in the mail, dark chocolate dropped off at my desk at work while I was away for lunch, an early morning call from my son and granddaughters on their way to school and an expected text from a brother far away.

By the way, there were chocolates under my pillow when I went to bed on Valentine's Day.  And surprise! The box held a new variety of sweets.  Thank you, Father, for the blessing of a good and Godly husband and for your demonstrations of love in so many different forms and fashions.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Carried to the Table

David and Mephibosheth-I Samuel 9, NIV

The following story blesses me every time I read it.  The kindness of David amazes me, and I can only imagine the joy and change of circumstances that rocked Mephibosheth's world. The story further captivates me when I listen to the song by Leeland entitled "Carried to the Table".  I'll share the link at the end of this post.  How like our God to remember with kindness those who are forgotten by society. As I contemplate the goodness demonstrated to Mephibosheth, my heart responds with desire to share God's kindness--to whomever.  For we all need kindness and blessing along the way.

1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”
“At your service,” he replied.
3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
4 “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” 5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“At your service,” he replied. 7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” 8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons.

12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.

-Leeland's Song-  Carried to the Table

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Random or Tandem?

The dream seemed real. Faces I knew interacted with me, the house was my house, I responded with familiar emotions, but the story line made no sense. As the dream world faded and consciousness awoke I tried vainly to make some connection with the dream to the present, but already the memories were fading like smoke disappearing into the air.  My heartbeat, still in pace with the emotions I experienced in the dream, was last to make the switch to the present.  Bits and pieces of the dream lingered, enough to know the scenes and characters had come and gone in random bits of action and episodes.

In a similar way, real life seemed chunked into disconnected snapshots this week.  One day I liked my job and the opportunities that came my way were fulfilling.  The next day routine was back and I struggled to find meaning in what I was doing.  I forgot what time a social event started and got there late.  Midweek I stayed up late, engrossed in an exciting phone conversation.  The next night sleep didn't come until an early hour of morning. 

One morning was a blessed -be -your -name -when -the sun's -shining -down -on -me moment and the next morning I woke up with sneezes and a nose faucet that wouldn't turn off.  It's amazing how  condemnation and regret flourish in the soil of illness and weakness. 

So what's a girl to do in the midst of life's spitting out randomness?  How about riding tandem?  Taking the back seat and letting the Alpha rider do the peddaling. He promised his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He said not to let my heart be troubled or afraid. In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. He'll lead me to quiet waters.  I'll let him be my shepherd and carry me forever. I'll listen to him and let him keep my heart on the right path. He will make known to me the path of life and fill me with joy in his presence. He will lead me on a level path where I will not stumble. He will show me the way I should go, as I lift up my soul to him. He will guide me in the way of wisdom and lead me along straight paths. (Matt. 11:30, Jn. 14:1, 2 Cor. 2:14, Ps. 23: 2, Ps. 28:9, Pr. 23:19, Ps. 16:11, Jer. 31:9, Ps 143:8, Pr. 4:11)

With promises like these, I am encouraged. My head is lifted and my hope restored. Let the snippets  of life happen; my Driver is dependable and knows the way.  It's in submitting to his leading and allowing him to bear the load with me, that I am more than conquorer over random acts of life.

May your peddaling be tandem to his as you move into the new week.  He loves you and has great plans for his chosen ones. Enjoy the ride!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Surprised by Laughter (Book Review)

Surprised by LaughterI’m not sure what I expected when I received Surprised by Laughter; the Comic World of C.S. Lewis, written by Terry Lindvall. If looking for a light- hearted encounter with Lewis’ humor sprinkled throughout much of his writings, you may be disappointed. For light would not describe the intellectual style of the book. The author thoroughly examines how Lewis understood humor, what formed his sense of humor and how he wanted to affect his readers through using humor. If you thought of comic relief and laughter as primarily funniness and jokes, you will discover a bigger purpose for comedy in this book. Linovall says that laughter offers the value of changing and even correcting one’s perspective.

As I plowed through the introduction and first couple of chapters I had to readjust my expectations of hoping to enjoy the book with chuckles and gaining a more endearing love for Lewis. Instead I found a study guide on the subject of laughter, as Linovall dissects the humor he extracts from Lewis’ writings. He outlines the book according to four categories of laughter that he pulls from a list in Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. They are Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper and Flippancy.
Lewis was inspired towards humor by finding comic relief in a difficult relationship with his father; such as his father’s fumbling expressions of communication. His father introduced him to humorous authors and modeled enjoyment of laughter.
Lewis was also inspired and influenced by contemporary writers as well as those who preceded him. G. K. Chesterton is quoted almost as often as Lewis in this book and Linovall acknowledges that Chesterton was Lewis’ greatest source of comic inspiration. From this close association comes Lewis’ British humor and an infection of joy and humor.

In the first category of Joy, joy is defined as “a deep yearning or poignant desire for something agonizingly elusive”. Lewis found that joy contained a longing that couldn’t be consoled and there was great satisfaction in this dissatisfaction. It was ultimately joy that drew Lewis from an atheist into the Kingdom of God.

Subsequent chapters focus on how closely joy and suffering are related, how joy is ordered by obedience and rule; more like a dance than a drill, the joy in music, the gift of laughter as thanksgiving and praise, and Lewis’ thoughts on the joy of heaven. When heavenly imagery such as harps and crowns are mocked and taken literally, Lewis wrote, [One] “might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.”

In the category of Fun, Linovall chides us to see it in everything we do, including the mundane. Perhaps God likes monotony and wants us more like children who like repeated stories and things done over in the same way. Highlights in this section include enjoying the simple and not trying to control our experiences, humility is needed to appreciate Fun, there is gravity in levity, (you have to acknowledge the seriousness of life to appreciate hilarity), and how playing games brings laughter and a sense of God’s pleasure. The section ends with a look at Lewis’ fun in enjoying animals, the fun in his love of literature and how he used word play in his writings.

The Joke Proper category examines how Lewis saw incongruities of life as a source for good jokes. It was expressed in the unexpected. In the chapters, Wit and Word Made Play and Comic Techniques and Topics, Linovall highlights Lewis’ love of the pun and how he could make language funny by using words that are not meant to be taken literally.

Some jokes might be considered taboo, as laughing at death. Only from a Christian perspective can there be laughter in the darkest times because of what is known of the good on the other side. Other chapters in this section deal with vulgarity, women as the brunt of jokes, and sex and marriage. Lewis was annoyed with dirty stories. Humor in subjects of women and sex was possible when both were honored and celebrated as what they were meant to be.

In the final section, Linovall explains how Lewis uses Satire and Flippancy. Where satire can be a weapon, Lewis used it for sport and fun, not blood. Satire is a style of writing that pierces while at the same time brings relief or stirs up anger for a good cause. Flippancy is laughter that puts you above others and morality. Lewis was given to flippancy in his youthfulness, but later offers help to others for curing this tendency. To change, takes a taste for better things to laugh at, learning the art of silence, or making a soft argument about what is said for the purpose of inviting productive discussion.
The book concludes with a warning to enjoy laughter along our way of life but not make it our destination. Laughter and love need to bloom together and as with a good garden constant weeding and pruning is needed to keep it from becoming overgrown. Our laughter will increase when it’s in its proper place. Lewis had God as his first love and because our joy and humor is given by him, we are only stewards of laughter, to use for him. To know God’s mirth we must first know him and his love.

I received this book free of charge from the program in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Draw Me, Lord!

Psalm 119:32 (AMP)
I will [not merely walk, but] run the way of Your commandments, when You give me a heart that is willing.

John 6:44
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

A childhood book that still evokes fond memories and warm smiles is, Heidi.  How majestic the mountains she lived on, how cantankerous and ill-mannered her grandfather, and how enchanting her relationship with Peter, the goat herder/ playmate.  When forced to move and live with relatives in an urban setting, Heidi, takes to sleepwalking during her difficult adjustment.  All eventually fares well for her, but for some reason the sleepwalking incidents always come to mind when I think of this story.  Maybe it was my first introduction to this disturbing condition and I remember the danger it brought to Heidi's life.

I don't sleepwalk, but I do dissociate in other ways.  How many times have I auto-piloted through my daily morning routine of fixing breakfast, gathering keys and purse, walking out the door, backing the car from the garage, driving away and then not being able to remember if I had pressed the garage door remote and made sure the door had scored it's touchdown to the driveway?  So instead of taking the turn to exit the subdivision I circle back through the neighborhood just to drive by the old homestead and make sure the hatch is indeed buttoned down. I wave again at the kids still waiting for the school bus as I head out for the second time.

You know, that happens with my relationship with God at times.  I'm not taking him for granted or bored with a routine, I just find myself distracted and my mind elsewhere.  It shows up when I read verses from my Bible and realize I have no idea what I've just read.  Or  I say words in prayer but don't remember who I had started out praying for.  I go through the motions because it's habitual, but I'm not heart -engaged.  Or it's like my lips kissing back my husband's kiss, but my eyes never leaving the book I'm so engrossed in reading.

I know it's true.  Without the Father drawing me, stirring up my willingness, I will merely walk the way of his commandments; missing out on running.  Running is intense, heart quickening.  It's eagerness to get to the prize and commitment to keep reaching for more.  A phrase from an hymn comes to mind, "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love".

Keep nudging me, Holy Spirit.  Wake me up when I'm spiritually sleeping and may I fix my thoughts on Jesus, ever more intently. Heb. 3:1 NIV
(From the Strong's NIV Concordance: Fix- to pay attention, notice, observe; consider, contemplate; this word has a strong implication that the attention paid is intense, and the contemplation is broad and thorough, resuting in complete understanding)