Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cluster: A Number of Similar Things that Occur Together

I recently was sitting in my “thinking spot” bemoaning the fact that my winter break was coming to a close. It was time to get back to school and finish out this semester. And while I was excited about the new adventure of being stage manager for the school’s next play, I was reluctant to get back to the routine. I had enjoyed quite a bit of solitude over Christmas and the month break. I had more time to read, to journal, to plan for the next thing, to pray and to just sit.

On the couch next to me was a magazine I picked up at the checkout line because the main article heading was “Feel calmer now: 20 essential lists to organize your life”; it was going to help me with my new year plan to get organized. I read a few articles, and it has been sitting there now for a few weeks, since I started the hectic pace with the play and classes. I happened to glance over at it and read the quote on the spine; just the words to describe how I was feeling, and how to navigate through this season: “Life comes in clusters, clusters of solitude, then a cluster when there is hardly time to breathe.” (May Sarton)

One of my “goals” for writing this year was to blog Monday through Friday each week. As you can see I have already fallen short. So I will adjust my intention; I will write in clusters. I will write as often as my hectic schedule will allow. I will squeeze in some time to express myself in words, even if I am in a cluster of time where I barely have time to catch a breath.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6 NASB

Over lunch on Monday, some friends and I were talking about fasting. Have you ever fasted? Isn’t hard? Why do Christians fast? Good Questions. I have tried fasting at times and it is hard. I felt hungry and irritable, and it caused me to have to talk to God more than usual, except that I was talking to him about keeping me from feeling hungry, which then led to tirades about is this really necessary.

It is interesting that the topic of fasting came up while we were having a meal. And then later that day a book that I had forgot that I requested from the library came in. It is called Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. I “heard” about the book in my devotional reading. One book leads to another. Anyways, I found out by thumbing through the pages of Mudhouse that Lauren and I had the same struggle with fasting. She wrote a whole chapter about it. I like the conclusions that she, and a mentor of hers came to. Here are some quotes from her chapter; she says “Fasting is not meant to drag us down, but to still us. It is not meant to distract us from the really real, but rather to silence us so that we can hear things as they most truly are.” Her mentor said this: “When you are fasting and you feel hungry, you are to remember that you are really hungry for God.” So now when she fasts, she prays this simple phrase: “I am hungriest for God, my truest hunger is for God.”

So fasting is a means to remind me of my hunger for God. Hunger will always be part of my human experience, and God in his wisdom links it with the spiritual dimension of us to whet our appetite for him. No wonder Jesus talked so much about bread, and even provided miraculous bread two times that is recorded in the gospels, and had to make the spiritual connection for his stomach bound disciples. (See Matthew 16:5-12)

Eating is a great metaphor for our relationship with God. When we eat we are satisfied, when we are consumed with God we are truly satisfied.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I have adopted this new idea for journaling this year that I learned at a journaling workshop last November. It is called “Topic du Jour”. I wrote 31 topics that related to my life on little pieces of paper, then randomly picked one at a time and list them on a paper numbered 1 to 31. (Yet another indication of my affection for lists.) Then I pasted the list into the front of my journal for easy access. The idea is to journal about the topic that coincides with the date of the month. Today’s topic was "songs". I don’t even remember now why I chose that as one of my topics, but today I enjoyed just journaling about why I like songs and how they affect me, and I also listed 4 new CDs that I bought for the new year. It seems like the New Year has been a great excuse for a lot of my recent purchases.

Here’s an excerpt from my journal: “Songs are lifelines for me-they express my heart and touch my heart in ways no other media does.” Then I go on to describe what influenced my choice of the CDs, like the titles and the cover art, more than the music artist(s). My favorite of the four is called “The Bright Sadness” and had a very unique cover that drew me in. A silhouette of a girl’s profile and then bluish green water colors superimposed with purple black cutouts of a bouquet of wildflowers.

I did not really know what kind of songs would be on it, but it actually had one song titled, “New Year”. It is an upbeat tune, and became kind of an anthem for me as I listened to it in my Green Room.

Here is the refrain: “This is a new year, this is a new day to rise
Shine, lift up your eyes
This is a new year, this is a new day to rise
Shine and point the way to God’s great life

If you want to learn more about Charlie Hall’s music and spiritual journey check out http://www.charliehall.com/

He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be astounded.
They will put their trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3 NLT

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


‘Tis the season to make lists. We are not talking about Santa, as we all know, that season is over. I am talking about the lists that we pen to start the New Year fresh. Goals, resolutions, wish list; whatever you want to call them. And even if we haven’t written them down yet, we are mentally listing what we will do next or what we need to pick up at the grocery store. I sort of like and enjoy lists, so you won’t be surprised that while I was at the grocery store this past weekend I picked up the January edition of Real Simple, which headlined with “Feel calmer now: 20 essential lists to organize your life”. Lists tend to calm me down because I am afraid I will forget something. I do not totally know why I like lists so much, sure I get satisfaction after crossing an activity off that has been completed. They also can be a measuring tool to see how far I’ve progressed on my desired goals. I guess it is just fun to put a list together. I even bought a book once called “List Yourself”. It has categories and you just start listing until your mind is exhausted of ideas. I liked a couple lists that the magazine suggested: “The Not-To-Do List” and “The To-Do List You Can Actually Do”. On the second list, they had suggestions like “Forget to put laundry in the dryer. Clothes can be permanently pressed (whatever that means) tomorrow.” I love it.

A list can be a sort of an aphorism, which is a concise, memorable statement. A proverb comes to mind. Those witty sayings of Benjamin Franklin, such as “A penny saved, is a penny earned,” or from the Bible we get many of these memorable statements like “Pride comes before a fall.” Both sayings are potential items for our goals for 2009. You might be surprised how many lists are in the Bible. Genealogies, commandments, proverbs, a time table (see Ecclesiastes 3) and a list of benefits that we are not to forget, are all there in order to glean wisdom.

I will leave you with the benefits and a link to the Real Simple list page.

Praise the LORD, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits —
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103:2-5 NIV


Thursday, January 8, 2009


I read a church sign today that stated something to this effect: “Let God be the solution of your resolutions.” I had to drive a couple more miles before I realized that the word resolution has the word solution in it. Aha! Let God be the solution. Let God help me resolve or solve again the tendency toward waywardness and that lack of discipline I try overcome especially as a new year begins. Another church sign encouraged a similar sentiment: “Your resolutions will go better if you rely on God.” Truly a credo to live by and relying on God makes life so much easier in all ways. So since I haven’t made any particular resolutions yet for 2009, I feel better informed by these signs from God that I read today.

I resolve to "trust God with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I will acknowledge him in all my ways, and He will make my paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5,6) He always directs me back to this central principle of our relationship: He is trustworthy, and it is worth my while to trust Him completely.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Familiar: Frequently Seen or Experienced

“God uses the booboos, the blatant mess-ups and those old familiar moments to point the way to his grace and mercy.”
- Chonda Pierce

The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT

My friend sent me a New Year’s devotion written by Chonda Pierce, a comedian that keeps our relationship with God and ourselves in perspective. She talked about how familiar tended to be a negative word for her, conjuring up boredom and routine. Yet this year she began to realize how comforting the familiar can be. If you look at the definition of familiar as “an everyday occurrence”, it follows that my attitude about life could become indifferent. The old “been there done that”…yawn. But if you turn the word over and see another one of its definitions, it has the sense of intimacy.

This struggle with the value of familiar pervades all aspects of my life. One moment I can be longing for the familiar and the next I am bemoaning the fact that life is so unchanging and even boring. I get excited about the beginning of a new semester or a new season, then after awhile I get bogged down. I want a new outfit, but then I find myself wearing my worn jeans and a favorite sweater. I want routine, but I also want adventure.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Putting Christmas Back in the Boxes

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven… Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

I did not have an epiphany this year as I repacked the Christmas decorations and ornaments for the tree. But I did experience a bit of euphoria, as I realized how freeing it was to let go of some our Christmas trimmings. I finally did it; I put the decorations that have not seen the light of Christmas for many years into the donation pile. I feel more ready for next Christmas than any other year. I know what is in the boxes and it will be the stuff that I want to decorate with next year. Fewer boxes to haul back to the attic and new place to store the tree will make it a more pleasant experience for each of us. Usually I get all sad when it is time to put everything away, but I guess over the years I have finally learned the lesson there is a time for everything.

It was nice this year to turn on the Christmas music one more time, as I sorted through what I really wanted to keep, and then gently wrapped the ornaments placing them into two containers, instead of four. After I was done, I pulled out our photo album that contains pictures from past holiday seasons. It is amazing to see how far we have come. It was a relief to know that we have arrived in a new season. A time to let go. A time to seek new adventures. A time to be grateful for the rich family times we’ve celebrated in the past. A time to move forward. A time to wait upon the Lord and his purposeful plans for the new year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Breaking Bread Together

“Give us this day our daily bread.”
Matthew 6:11 NKJV

Eating a meal together, celebrating a holiday with food these are familiar patterns of our lives. And they also were common experiences during the time of the early church. This idea of eating together most likely dates back to the first family. Once they were banished from the Garden of Eden, man and woman had to begin toiling for their food. But over the years and through God’s provision meals had special meaning. Passover was one the main meals from the Old Testament, which was particularly planned by God to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from death and slavery. And in God’s wonderful way of washing everything with eternity, it also foreshadowed how Jesus would come to save the world from its sin. Jesus would even celebrate Passover with his disciples just before his death, and teach them the deeper meaning of the meal.

Today we take communion in remembrance of the deliverance from death and slavery that Jesus accomplished for each one of us. Sometimes at a meal or holiday we try to recreate past celebrations of the same event with the same emotion and authenticity of previous years. And I think somehow we have lost the feeling of what was happening in the early church when they celebrated communion. Sometimes I wish I could have been around when the disciples broke bread together after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.We can get a glimpse of how they celebrated in Acts 2:42-47.

Today as I read that familiar snippet of Scripture, I was marveling at the main result of their devotion to the teaching, fellowship, worship and breaking of bread together in remembrance of Jesus. The author summarizes with this revealing statement: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” God was saving people on a daily basis, as a result of their living out their lives for Christ. Eating bread together and recounting what the bread and the wine signified was enough evidence for many to put their faith in the Savior. Oh, that we would break more bread together this year, and speak of the sustenance that the Lord Jesus provided through his body and blood. Praying “Give us this day our daily bread” can take on a richer, deeper meaning.

Dear Heavenly Father- Add to our number daily those who are being saved.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Unfinished Business

2009 has arrived with little fanfare here. We went to bed at 10:30pm last night after sipping a glass of bubbly apple cider. Our kids were at their own party. After dinner I did go out to get a great draught of Spirit filled worship at a Lincoln Webster concert with my good friend at her church. Hallelujahs rose from our lips and many of the lyrics echoed the cry of my heart to trust God more.

This past week I was perusing some journal entries from 2008. In one I was talking in drama lingo with God, asking him what was the super objective of my life, and how could I fulfill that by following the simple objectives each day. I noticed that the Scripture in the margin was about trusting God. That was the answer for the super objective or the theme for my life: TRUST GOD!

Now on to the simple objective of doing those things which lend to the super objective, the activities and attitudes that demonstrate my faith and trust in God and God alone. This is the unfinished business of life.

I also found today that instead of my usual listing of what I hope to accomplish this year in different arenas of my life, I just got up and starting doing my mental "to-do" list. I gathered Christmas decorations to be sorted and put away. I went through some dishes and other knick knacks to get rid of. I sorted through some boxes in the basement. Tackled the laundry, even matched our socks. We usually just maintain a sock basket that we each dig through to find our daily socks. Crazy and lazy, but true!

So now here I am pursuing one of my other ambitions for 2009, to write something on this blog every day, except maybe not the weekends. So I hope someone out there is reading this, and if not I am happy to just express my thoughts in print.

As I ramble I also think I will throw out a question from this book I found- to encourage thinking in your own life, or just for grins. I will answer it here and would love to hear from you, too.

Question: Would you rather spend the day at the beach or on a snow-capped mountain?

I would rather spend the day at the beach. The sun, the surf, even the sand are welcome. The power of the waves overwhelm me, and I definitely think of God when I am at the beach.

The seas have lifted up, O LORD,the seas have lifted up their voice;the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,mightier than the breakers of the sea — the LORD on high is mighty.

Psalm 93:3-4 NIV