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Archive for July, 2012

In many ways, this was a rough week for me. My cold that I thought I’d finally defeated came back and hit sorta hard again for a couple of days and I kept having bits and pieces of all my main fibro symptoms cropping up.

But the hardest part of the week was saying good-bye to tea.

Again.

I discovered I’m still grieving the loss.

See, I had my very good friend Jessica here for a visit (I often call her mei mei, a term of endearment, though the literal Chinese translation is “little sister”). We thought it would be fun for her to cook us an authentic Chinese meal (or at least more authentic than the Americanized “Oriental Buffets” which are so normal here stateside). And one just cannot have a Chinese meal without green tea. So I made a small pot. We used the set Jessica had just brought me back from overseas and I had two small cups. Authentic cups. So we’re talking under 2 oz per filling. Later that night I introduced her to lavender tea which I’d been talking about for months and had a few more cups.

And that was cool. No problem. Simple. Over and done with.

Then the next day I replayed for her the Gung Fu Tea Ceremony we had done at the seminar last October using a wonderful Formosa Oolong. It was really cool because she’d been to a tea ceremony while in Asia and the pot and tray for my set (see photo) were similar to what had been used. We were connecting. It was lovely.

Then she left to return to her sister’s from where she would then return home several states away from where she will soon galavant off to Asia for the next couple of years. And as I was in the kitchen, my “Asiabeat Radio” still playing on Pandora, cleaning up after our tea, it hit me…

I want more tea.

I miss tea. I think it didn’t hit me the night before because those were just small, regular cups of tea. But with our Formosa Oolong that afternoon there was ceremony. It is focused, contemplative, intimate, shared… It takes time. It takes attentiveness. It is calm and peaceful. The water needs brought to the proper temperature. The pot needs warmed. The tea leaves are looked upon and smelled. Then there is the washing – or awakening – of the leaves. The waiting. The pouring into the pitcher. The pouring into the sniffers. The dumping. The smelling. The sipping. Then adding more water and waiting and pouring and sniffing and sipping again.

The waiting periods were not filled with other tasks such as finishing to set the table or turn off the stove or find a good bowl for the fried green beans. There was no prepping for breakfast or getting ready for bed in between heating and steeping. Just time and a friend. Each movement intentional.

I think that’s what I love most about tea. How it begs of you to slow down, focus, minimize movement; watch, wait and discover. So many colors, smells, tastes and textures. So much to explore and enjoy. It is this elusive “way of tea” which I have yet to find a way to implement – to live out – when not actually drinking any tea.

And it took me awhile to figure out, but I am certain now that is what sent me into a two-day funk, grieving again the loss of tea.

I remember during that funk, trying to process it. Why was I so moody? Why did it hit me so hard again? Would this happen after every time I choose to block my medication by going to a tea? (I had figured if I went to a tea up to every other month, that blocking for those 24-hour periods wouldn’t hurt me in the long run.) And, really, how could I ever go into a tea business, serving tea and introducing others to its finer aspects, when I can’t drink it? The latter question was perhaps most daunting. And in many ways it still is…

Yet all this time I was pondering, after I made the initial realization that it was the ceremony, the pause, the seeing, smelling and tasting that got to me, this random bit of scripture kept popping up in the back of my mind:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Taste and see.

Thursday’s devotional time was out of Psalm 48. I blogged about it here. And what I took away from my time with God that morning was descriptor words of a deepening relationship with my Lord. See. Discover. Know. Consider. Experience. Share. And again later that morning as I was headed to work, one little line kept coming to mind:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

On Friday my Lectio verses came from Song of Songs. And though I’m not one to totally or solely allegorize the book, with this single state that I am now in, the verses I read pulled my heart and my mind to my relationship with Jesus. In the second chapter, verse fourteen mentions a cleft, a form and a voice and my mind drew correlation to Moses. How he asked to see God’s glory. How God placed him in the cleft of the rock, removing His hand for Moses to see “God’s back” – God’s form – even as the voice of God proclaimed the Name. And I found within myself a deep desire to also say with the bride, “Let me see your form, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your form is lovely.”

And again that day, over and over, resounding again and again, was this one line:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Today I accompanied Mom to the “Scoop-a-palooza” at the high school. It’s a fundraiser for the school and basically involves paying a small sum of money to be handed a ticket book (for voting) and a spoon. Then you wander around the half-dozen or so venders trying each of their half-dozen or so selections of ice creams (and some custard and even a couple Italian ices). Now, since I’m not supposed to have sugar, I tagged along to keep Mom company. I figured I’d take a small bite of whichever ones she sampled. But that didn’t last long. There were so many wonderful ice creams there! And the more one tastes, the more one wants.

I came home and settled down for my time with God (after a whirlwind and non-stop morning and afternoon). I wrote in my gift list. I opened my Bible. I looked at my bookmark that lists my current set of Lectio verses. I opened my Bible to Psalms and began to read Psalm 34:8-10. The very first line?

O, taste and see that the Lord is good!

I actually laughed. I laughed hard. And then I spent a long time pondering how that verse wove through my week and through all these otherwise disconnected thoughts and experiences.

I still am not sure how to handle this tea thing. I don’t know if I’ll be able to take running a tea business without being able to drink tea on a regular basis.

But this I do know: I have tasted and I have seen that the Lord is good.

The funk has dissipated now. The sharp edge of the grief has again faded. There is hope and there is within me an even deeper desire to continue to see, know, discover and experience God. For his voice is sweet and his form is lovely. And just one taste is not enough. The more you taste of God’s goodness, the more you want. And the more you see.

The #2334 items on my gift list are proof of that.

Taste and see that the Lord is good!

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For Such Is God…

Today’s lectio was Psalm 48:12-14. It was one of those where I read it again and again (well, one is supposed to do that for lectio anyhow, but this was unusually so, over and over and over). Then I read the whole Psalm. Twice. Then I read my verses a few more times.

Walk about Zion and go around her;
Count her towers;
Consider her ramparts;
Go through her palaces,
That you may tell it to the next generation.
For such is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will guide us until death.

What kept getting me was where it says, “for such is God.”

And I would wonder, “for what such is God?”

I read through the entire Psalm again, picking out the descriptors (some of which were speaking of Zion) that were or could be applied to God. (ie. great, to be praised, beautiful, joy of the earth, a stronghold, etc)

Then I got to verse 14 again.

For such is God.

So again I went back, this time focusing on verses 12 & 13. For in these verses we have imperative verbs.

Walk about and go around.

Count.

Consider.

Go through.

that you may tell it

That’s what leads up to “for such is God!” It’s speaking of Zion. Walking about Zion: seeing, discovering, knowing, considering, experiencing and then telling.

For such is God.

For such is God!

Seeing God, discovering God, knowing God, considering God, experiencing God and then telling others about God!

It’s quite likely that connection wasn’t intended in the original Hebrew. Yet that’s the connection that was made to me today. What they could do, what they were told to do for Zion, is often how God works with us.

Isn’t that what the pattern has been in my life? Discovering more about God, knowing God more fully, considering God and God’s ways, experiencing God in my life – working in me, changing me? And doesn’t that lead me to want to tell others? Yes!

For such is God.

Our God – forever and ever!

He will guide us. He does guide.

He will guide us until death.

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Be Thou My Vision

“This is nothing profound,” I wrote in my lectio journal Tuesday morning, “or maybe it is… but it’s not my normal entry.”

I wrote it out because I wanted a record. A written record. Of what God had done for me that morning.

I woke confused. I was disoriented, hot and sickly. Alarms were missed and I felt groggy, feverish and all out of sorts, not to mention running just a tad late. I managed 5 minutes of my stretching and praise time before jumping into the shower. At that point one thing became very clear: I needed to focus. I was simply too scattered, too physically icky and too mentally bogged.

What I’ve recently discovered as the best way for me to clear out and focus my mind is by humming. Humming songs with words. Because if I sing songs I know by heart then I can do so mindlessly and the nether parts of my brain take to their usual wanderings. But if I hum a song and “sing” the lyrics in my head, my mind is quite occupied.

So I began to hum “Be Thou My Vision.” The choice of songs seemed obvious. I needed to focus and I wanted my focus to be Jesus. So I hummed this ready prayer, letting the words take up all my mind’s ability. And as I, falteringly, played the words in my head – mixing up parts of verses and getting them out of order – the well-known phrases came to life. So much of this song hints at or fully encapsulates what God has been showing me – and doing in my life – these past several months.

When I sat down to lectio, then, I began (as always) by writing in my gift list. I listed each connection made in the song, for each was a gift, a grace:

  • Lord of my heart – God is ruler, ruler of my heart, Prince of Peace
  • Naught be all else to me – nothing has any value compared to you, Lord!
  • Thou my best thought – What do I think on? My best thoughts are on or return to Jesus
  • Waking (well or poorly) or sleeping (well or poorly)
  • Thy presence my light! – God is present. God is faithful. God’s presence gives us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow!
  • Thou my true word – Listen to that Voice of Truth!
  • Thou mine inheritance – Psalm 16:6! Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me!
  • First in my heart – You won’t take second place. (note Plaid’s song Beautiful)
  • My breastplate – my protection – my sword for the fight – the enemy doesn’t stand a chance!
  • Be thou my might – my might. my strength. my Dunamis!
  • My victory won – I am Victorious Grace!
  • Heart of my own heart – HA! And aren’t these words I’ve been thinking of with my book and Prince Alexandar and Princess Anatolé? Yet God is the “heart of my own heart” even more so than they are to each other!
  • Whatever befall – whatever. even fibromyalgia. even not being able to drink tea. even bad, painful days. whatever.

And that is simply a small taste of the connection and images going through my head. It was a review of what God has done and is doing in my heart, in my life. And it pulled me through the chaos, focused my thoughts on Jesus and gave me hope.

Then I opened my Bible to my lectio verses. Psalm 85:8-9:

I will hear what God the Lord will say;
For He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones;
But let them not turn back to folly.
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land.

HA! How true was verse 8 that morning! I did hear. I heard what God the Lord had to say. And he did speak peace. He spoke peace to me.

Writing that out in my journal, verse 12 of the Psalm also caught my eye.

Indeed, the Lord will give what is good,
And our land will yield its produce.

Indeed, the Lord gives what is good! It was given that morning.

Thank you, Lord.

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Sometimes when reading the Bible something strikes you as different… it stands out. Like my reading in Isaiah this morning. The lectio verses were 26:9-10. But I ended up reading 7-10.

And it seemed to me there were two different trains of thought here. Or two different inks. Or two different styles. Or two different ways of thinking.

The beginning and the end seemed to me to be reminiscent of wisdom literature. Of Proverbs. It speaks about judgment and righteousness and the righteous versus the wicked. And the way is speaks seems to be from the third person… and somewhat detached. Here we find phrases like:

  • The way of the righteous is smooth
  • For when the earth experiences Your judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness
  • Though the wicked is shown favor, He does not learn righteousness

Then there’s the second half of verse 8 and the first half of verse 9. They seem oddly placed in here and straddling the two verses only makes it more awkward (which sort of makes me wonder who versified it). These lines read more like a psalm. These words are deeper, earnest, personal.

So I wrote them in my lectio journal and as I wrote them out I noticed a pattern:

“We have waited for you eagerly;
          Your name, even your memory
                    is the desire of our souls.
                    At night my soul longs for you,
          Indeed, my spirit within me,
seeks you diligently.”

It seemed natural write it out in my journal with each line, each breath like this. I added the indentation to help emphasize what I noticed later on…

There seems to be a pattern.

At the core of these 6 lines are synonymous thoughts: desiring and longing.

It begins with waiting eagerly and it ends with seeking diligently.

And desiring God is at the center.

Now where this got personal is in the waiting and seeking. See, since early on in the year, when my mei mei was overseas in a special discipleship program where they focused on growing closer to God, “waiting” was a potent and recurrent theme for us. God was teaching her amazing things and me amazing things and they wove together so intricately and we were spurred on by each other. Not to mention being able to speak into each other’s lives, encouraging each other, holding each other accountable and praying for each other on the same themes and thoughts and areas of our lives.

And for weeks and months the idea of “qavah” – of waiting – was woven through what God was showing us.

I knew from the outset that we each had an advantage and disadvantage. Though God was teaching me things here, her time there was more focused and centered and much of what we learned actually stemmed from that (being helped and spurred on by what God was showing me during our talks). My advantage was that as I was learning and experiencing these things, I was applying them to my “normal” life, not a specially devoted (perhaps “cloistered” if you will) life.

Now in the past few weeks a new theme has cropped up in my times with God and (in part because we keep to the same lectio schedule) in her life as well. Now the key word seems to be “seeking”.

When I looked at this morning’s verses, it finally occurred to me that this represents the shift that’s taking place in our lives now. Mei mei is back home (and preparing for the next adventure God has for her) and so we’re not as readily immersed in this mode of worship, prayer and discovering God like we were when she was at the discipleship training.

Now both our day to day lives look fairly “normal” and, because God is still here, still present, still pursuing relationship with us, we both must be more aware, more active, more diligent in seeking.

My pastor is currently preaching a series called “hide and seek.” He’s done many sermons so far and each comes from one of four different perspectives: we hide from God, we seek God, God appears to hide from us, God seeks us…

So it is in our lives.

First waiting eagerly.

Now seeking diligently.

Why? Because at the core of the matter, at the core of our hearts and minds and wills and lives – God is our desire and we long for Him!

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the simple profound

I think sometimes rather than something “new” or revelatory or convicting or profound, God simply reminds me of comforting truth that I need to hear. Or maybe that is profound and I haven’t yet grasped my true desperation for those words at that time…

Now in order for you to see this as I did, I have to give a little background into the past 16 hours of my life. Yesterday my fibro cycling sent me into a severe back spasm while driving that forced me to pull off the side of the road. This is the same spot in my back that has these issues from time to time and is right about the area of my right shoulder blade, so the issues there also affect my breathing and the use of my right arm (and sometimes, like yesterday, even limit range of motion on my left arm and hips). The rest of the evening was spent in severe pain as well as some other un-delightful fibro symptoms. I had to prop myself into a funny position to sleep without sending myself into more spasms, it was a rough night and I woke in as much pain, plus stiffness. Still, as I had determined the night before as my eyelids were closing, I would get up, put on my praise and worship music and go about my morning routine to the best of my ability. Instead of doing my usual “wake-up” movement to the worship music, I simply did as much mild stretching as I could  handle (knowing it would be helpful in the long run). The first song on was “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Much needed.

The other thing you should know is that when I sit down for my time with God, the first thing I do is write in my gift list. I want to start with gratitude. It is especially important on days like today. Here’s my list from this morning:

  • morning still comes
  • made it out of bed! [this was actually quite a physical feat today]
  • 1-armed praise & “turn your eyes upon Jesus”
  • humming praise songs to focus
  • shower loosens
  • gradually attain more movement [my range of motion has increased a few inches]
  • able to do a form of all “getting ready” things [with one hand]
  • constant companion

Constant companion. Because all morning long through the pain and limitations and trying to think ahead for how to work around tasks that need done today, I could sense the presence of God. There. Present. Sustaining. And in acknowledging this gift, this grace, my last entry before turning to my lectio was “constant companion.”

Then I opened my Bible to today’s verses and read Psalm 73:23:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you.

HA! Yes! Indeed and truly…

I continued down through verse 26, which also struck a chord:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

My flesh and my heart do fail, actually. And today I am more keenly aware of the failure, the brokenness, the weakness. Yet God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

My portion forever.

A bit reminiscent of the idea in Psalm 16:6

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

Psalm 16:6.

You know, the theme verse for my gift list.

And we’ve come full circle.

With a simple yet profound and desperately needed truth.

And I wrote this all down in my lectio journal and I closed it up and reached for my Bible to close it and my eye fell to verse 28 (which was not part of today’s reading):

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.

Indeed.

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10,000 Reasons

A recounting of my gratitude journey. Here are my three journal entries describing this amazing journey and how it has played out in my life. (of note: The journal I began with had been used before and I started my gift list about 1/3 of the way back)

Monday 20 February 2012

This is a funny sort of journal. Capturing particular phases, studies and special times in my life. Sometimes it’ll sit on the shelf for awhile. Then I’ll get it down and use it again. I’m hoping to keep it out for awhile now. Which has been helped along by the new thought for it the I had last night.

See, I’m reading this book – One Thousand Gifts – for ladies’ Bible study. And we’re just on chapter 3. But that’s where she introduced her list. A challenge – by a friend – to write down one thousand things for which she is thankful, thus, ultimately, seeing them as gifts. I have a feeling that we as readers will be challenged to do the same. But here’s the thing – last week Jessica told me she is praying Psalm 16:6 for me. And my first reaction was, “but I already see its truth in my life.” But she felt God-led so I decided that this week my lectio every day would be Psalm 16. Especially verse 6. And thinking on that last night, I realized how that verse went hand in hand with this idea of eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Gifts. So I, too, will begin this journey…

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” (Psalm 16:6)

Sunday 6 May 2012

Here begins the next chapter. It took me just two and a half months to get to “one thousand gifts.” But I don’t really want to stop there. I want to keep up the habit. The awareness. The eucharisteo. “Eucharisteo precedes the miracle,” she said time and again – and haven’t I seen it? At work? At Eagle’s Mere? And now here at the “end”? Isn’t it fitting – and isn’t it divinely appointed – that I would reach 1,000 – that I would reach “peace” at this time and in this place?

Eucharisteo has changed me. Or, perhaps more rightly, the practice of eucharisteo has allowed God to work in me and deepened my trust in Him. Without eucharisteo there would have been no singing “I have been blessed” on that chaotic Tuesday and committing to it on Friday. So Friday there would have been no “I have been blessed” going through my head even as I cried and no answering “Yes” when God asked me over dinner “do you trust me?”

I can still say “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful for me.”

And so I continue…

Monday 5 July 2012

On Monday the 20th of February I began my list of gifts. Things I have been given, things I have been granted, things for which I am thankful. And when I am thankful I see it as a gift, then I see it for what it really is: a grace.

Big and small things have made the list and in the course of this I have been changed. Not only more grateful, but the gratitude has opened my eyes to see more gifts, more graces, more blessings, more of God’s heart, more of God’s moving in my life, in others’ lives and all around. There have even been notable times when the practice of this gratitude has turned around my attitude- whether from anxiety or simply being sour.

It began as a challenge. A challenge to list 1,000 gifts, issued by a book of that name in our ladies’ Bible study. I reached 1,000 on May 5th and the next day recounted the change and my commitment to continue. An hour or so later I was sitting in church with Stef hearing the song “10,000 reasons” for the first time. Indeed, I have 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord and they are all gifts, all graces.

48 pages and 2115 gifts later and I reached the bottom of the last page of that first journal. So here begins a new one. Fresh, blank pages to recount gifts and graces. After all, I do have 10,000 reasons. And indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me!

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Not so silly

It was Sunday morning.

I was in the shower, chatting with God about how grateful I was to be up and about on a Sunday and how excited I was to be finally getting to church as well as bringing up concerns and prayers I have regarding friends and family. Again, it was one of those informal sort of chats often interrupted by the myriad of random thoughts that often flutter through my brain.

At one point I realized our conversation was at a lull. I suddenly felt silly, for I had been distracted by hanging my washcloth back upon its holder. The wash cloth, you see, has a design along one side and reverse coloring on the back. I found myself folding the wash cloth so that the design fell vertically to the side and was highlighted by the darker back color on an offset fold. Apparently, I had been so involved with this that I stopped in the middle of our conversation.

Which is why I felt so silly when I realized it.

“I like to make things beautiful,” I said to God, somewhat apologetically.

“I know,” came the simple reply. “I made you that way.”

I looked up to see God smiling at me.

Made me that way… a dozen new thoughts went through my head.

Knowing full well what those dozen thoughts were, my Maker continued, “I made you to see and call out beauty.”

“Like at the tea?” I asked, the image of the ladies’ tea where I had spoken on beauty in the broken filling my mind’s eye.

“Yes. And in many other ways.”

I couldn’t help but smile as more images passed through my mind. Seeking beauty, seeing beauty, naming beauty, encouraging others. In big ways and in little ways. Little ways like being mindful of how I hang my washcloth in a shower that no one else ever sees.

Perhaps it’s not so silly.

For that’s how my Maker has wired me.

To see and call out beauty.

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