Servant: From Head to Toe

     I could not help but compliment the bank manager on her beautiful manicure. I have seen some, let’s say, striking claws in my time but hers were tastefully painted and of a reasonable length to carry out most of life’s necessities without too much digital contortion.

     Hers probably stood out to me because mine were such a contrast. “Gloves!” She said, “When I am good and remember to put them on before housework, my nails reward me by looking gorgeous.” I agreed…somewhat. It only takes a few instances of glovelessness to decimate cuticles and send nails splitting, breaking or withdrawing, leaving hands looking like well, …a domestic’s.

     There, I admitted it. I did not want my hands looking like I ever did housework, Continue reading “Servant: From Head to Toe”

Tarantella at Sea, Pt 1 — Lent Reflections

capsize-184167_640The older woman sitting to my right was a leader in our church; her manner was pleasant and light-hearted, as usual.

“God gave me a picture as I prayed for you this morning,” she said. “You were like a small boat with its sails tangled.”

Once again I was struck by the wondrous realization that our Heavenly Father knows our heart language like no other.

I had been determined to not let my Lenten reflections drag me down the road of morbid introspection this year. So when nebulous fears and old emotional artifacts started surfacing, from what felt like my 40-year desert wanderings instead of 40-day journey to fresh empowering, I pursued a prayer counseling session with Pat.

The Lord had been speaking to me through nautical imagery since Christmas, so the recognition of His personal word to me through this praying saint, was immediate. I knew I had been somewhat in drift mode, needing to stop and ‘drop anchor’; to take a sounding; to find my bearings; to re-orient my soul …ok. I was letting myself get carried along, mildly discouraged that things were not going quite as I wished and time’s relentless drag, that I strained to row against, felt like it was over-taking me like a monsoon deluge.

My orienting Scripture, Hebrews 6:19-20, so inspiring at the onset of the New Year, now felt stale and irrelevant, “What was the hope anchoring my soul? – the certainty of God’s promise to the heirs of faith in the God of Abraham? What is Jesus my High Priest doing on my behalf in heaven’s inner sanctuary, behind that veil, that would bring me to my desired haven, my expected end?

Fears had been leaving me unnecessarily becalmed, caught in the doldrums, anxiously looking around at circumstances real and imagined. Thrown off-course and distracted from the things I knew God wanted me to do I languished adrift and, at times, wore myself out trying to make it to some port in the energy of the flesh, now rowing hard against God’s timing, then second-guessing my every decision as life’s pending storms loomed. ‘Tangled sails?’ The imagery could not have been more accurate in capturing my heart’s condition.

As I later pondered the way I had been plying my life’s course, the phrase “…chancing, glancing, backing and advancing” hovered on the fringes of my mind till I finally recognized them as a line from the Hillaire Belloc poem, ‘Tarantella’. The association took me further down memory lane as I relived my student-teacher days in Jamaica.

la-tarantella-napoletana-del-700I smiled, remembering younger, idealistic me, goatskin tambourine in hand, and my eager, reggae-steeped, students, ready to demonstrate their idea of the Italian Folk dance which the poet had so artfully portrayed in a Spanish setting — the slapping, clapping, rattling, side-to-side head-whipping, flashing glances here and there, twirling and eventual fall to the ground.

They were restrained only by the fact that I had not given them permission to leave their seats. I remember being somewhat torn — not wishing to lose classroom control but wanting to free their imaginations to explore and enjoy the magic of Poetry. But it wasn’t long before I realized that my students had not necessarily needed a lesson in rhythm, but one in the language, methods and purpose of the Poet. My job as Literature teacher was to help launch them on the journey and provide the navigation tools that would ensure not just safe arrival at the next harbor or port, but also the confidence and patience needed for fearless exploration and enjoyment of the journey.

Awaking from my reverie I realized I had stumbled onto a spiritual bridge, as I began to wonder how like my tarantella-mimicking students I was, as the Divine Paraclete has sought to launch me on another leg of my life adventure with Him. Thinking I know the way, I surge out ahead, “chancing” rather than charting my trip by the Book & the Divine North Star; then, when off-course, “glancing” furtively about at life’s circumstances, rather than focusing trustfully on the Father’s Face and obediently heeding the Voice of the only One who rules the waves.

The doubts and fears which ensue find me “backing and advancing” just as James tells us will be our state if we choose doubt as a shipmate — ‘double-minded…driven and tossed about by the wind’ we risk shipwreck or at least tangled sails. In that condition,, says James, we can receive nothing from the Lord, being ‘unstable in all our ways’. Again I saw myself in my dizzily staggering students, after their tarantella imitation, and the Holy Spirit in the role of roping me back into order, as I had to do for my girls, that they could come away equipped to appreciate Poetry for themselves long after the student teacher had left.

Recalling the Apostle Peter’s own maritime debacle when, sinking beneath the waves, he cried out to the Lord for help, I was comforted in realizing that I was not the only ‘chancer, glancer, backer and advancer’ on the high seas of life who has needed some rescuing. In Pat’s and her prayer counseling partner’s careful questions, discerning insight, inspired prayers and Scriptural counsel, I was reminded of my tools and lifelines and felt Strong Hands untangling my sails, steadying and anchoring my vessel, as I let go of my imperatives and let the Ruler of the waves handle that which to me is still mysterious, — work that only He can do, behind the veil.

2nd Podcast Interview with Aliyah Lauren Jacobs

Part 2, A Conversation About Mary and The Women at The Table


I know it is right during Lent to consider Jesus as we prepare to commemorate His atonement and resurrection.  But did you ever wonder what his mother, Mary, must have gone through – wondering what was going to happen to her perfect Son?  What must the ponderings of her heart have been, as it approached the piercing prophesied by Simeon.

Thank God that in the sobriety and even the sorrow of Lent we realize that we have a God who knows us in every human experience, even our pain.  Through Mary we observe how to bear patiently through our pain with faith and courage.

As Lent culminates we explore these themes through conversation, Scripture and poetry. Pull up a chair and join me in a lively conversation around Mary’s table with Aliyah Lauren Jacobs, author of the novel Yehudit and host of the South African podcast ‘Heart Beat’.

On a Hymn and a Prayer

The elegant relief engraved on the coin now dangling from a lamp in our home, is of praying hands on one side and spirit flames on the other. The tag attached reads ‘Spirit, bless the work of our hands.’

The clay token, given to us (Dwell Writers’ Retreat) by our hosts, the members of the Art & Faith community at Grunewald Guild in Plain, Leavenworth, WA, sparked the drive to hear Keith & Kristen Getty’s ‘Before You I Kneel’ (a worker’s prayer) from their Hymns for the Christian Life album.

The appropriateness of the gift was not wasted on my fledgling writer’s heart yearning for the discipline and diligence required to get to published status. This was the great motive behind my husband, Claude, and I arranging our 25th anniversary trip around this retreat all the way across the continent in Washington state.

At the retreat my desire distilled into one prayer,

‘Help me cease working with a slack hand’
– a worthy prayer for Lent.

I want to offer Jesus Christ, each day that I live, work well-researched, well-crafted and well-presented. Each piece that I write, each blog I post, each hour I spend preparing for my own or reading the writings of others, also a worshipful act — a pursuit of His Presence and purpose.

Keith & Kristen’s ‘a worker’s prayer’ captured the fullness of my prayer in word & tune – may it serve you similarly as you consider the way you take this Lent.

Before You I Kneel (A Worker’s Prayer) – YouTube

 

“Before you I kneel, my Master & Maker,

To offer the work of my hands.

For this is the day you’ve given your servant

I will rejoice and be glad

For the strength I have to live and breathe,

For each skill Your grace has given me,

For the needs and opportunities

That will glorify Your great name.

Before I kneel and ask for Your goodness

To cover the work of my hands.

For patience and peace to shape all my labor,

Your grace for thorns in my path.

Flow within me like a living stream,

Wear away the stones of pride and greed

‘Til Your ways are dwelling deep in me

And a harvest of life is grown.

Before You we kneel, our Master and Maker;

Establish the work of our hands.

And order our steps to seek first Your kingdom

In every small and great task.

May we live the gospel of Your grace,

Serve Your purpose in our fleeting days,

Then our lives will bring eternal praise

And all glory to Your great name.”

—Keith& Kristen Getty, Jeff Taylor & Stuart Townsend (c)

As we slow down this Lenten Season to consider the way our Lord prepared Himself for His great work, may we offer, along with the meditations of our hearts and the words of our mouths, the work of our hands.