Sunday, July 18, 2010

Heart-WRENching Worship

My first act of worship on a recent Sunday morning was to take a cup of coffee out on my back deck and sit in the quiet and relative coolness of the early morning hour. Peace beyond measure surrounded me, and I basked in it as a nearby wren poured its heart out in song, over and over again. Its countless repetitions intrigued me to the point that I began timing its bursts of beauty, and soon realized that it was sounding at the rate of fifteen times per minute, or once every four seconds! At that rate surely it was filling its lungs only to exhale in song.

I laughed as I looked down at the design on the old t-shirt I had pulled on that morning.On a white background was a picture of a coffee cup surrounded by the words from Psalm 5:3, "Morning by morning, You hear my voice." Clearly the wren was illustrating what God desired from me that day.

In the many years that I've sat on my back deck, I've learned to identify various bird species by their characteristic birdcalls. But the wren attracts my attention like none other. While other birds may call, when the wren opens its beak there's an explosion of sound too big to possibly emanate from the little bird that releases it. The bird seems to pour out its joy of living into that one long burst of melody, and then repeats it again and again as if incessantly prompted by a heart of gratitude and love.

Oh that God would hear that from me on such a regular basis! Morning by morning, he hears my voice alright... but it's not always such a delight to listen to. Sometimes I squawk my complaints or cry over an injustice or simply call for help to arrive in a hurry. On other mornings my prayers are as silent as the quiet grunts of the nuthatch that scrambles up and down the tree trunks in search of a few seeds spilled from the feeders. And God does want us to come to Him with whatever is on our hearts each day. But how it must please Him to hear something other than a whine or a plea of some kind on occasion! What if my mornings were filled with fewer birdcalls and more bird song... if I worshipped more than I asked for a change?

Not coincidentally I happened to pull a Casting Crowns CD from the storage compartment in my car this week and smiled as the lyrics to Lifesong joined with these thoughts floating around in my head, about living life in such a way that our words and actions sing a song that pleases the Father. Although I don't get to watch much evening television, I recently caught an episode of "America's Got Talent" that featured two girls out of a family of four siblings, all of whom suffer from cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease that among other things clogs the lungs with mucous and makes it hard to breathe, let alone sing. Yet that's what these two girls love to do. They know that even with recent medical advances the life expectancy for people with this disease is in the 30's , and yet they've vowed to use what time they have to inspire others to pursue their dreams despite the obstacles they face and to live life to the fullest as long as they possibly can. And so they sing. And their absolute joy in doing so combined with the simple beauty of their voices moved me to tears, the audience to its feet, and the judges to vote them on to the next round in the competition.

Coffee finished, I moved on with my morning that Sunday. I walked up the driveway to get the newspaper and heard the wren still singing away. I filled the birdfeeders accompanied by its song. I laughingly wondered to myself how that bird would have time to do all its budgie duties - catching bugs, building nests and raising its young. And suddenly I realized that singing its joy was its duty, and that it simply sang all day long as it lived out the life it's been given. Too often we think of "worship" as just the music portion of a church service. God doesn't. To Him the worship portion of our day never ends - our lives are singing something to Him as we pursue all of our daily activities.

The TV show title is right - we've all got talent of one type or another, because the Bible says that we've all been given giftings unique to our personalities, callings, and life situations. May we resolve to use them out of our love for God in such a way that makes a difference in the lives of others, moves the heart of the Judge, and sends us rejoicing into the next "Round"!

"Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard. "
(Psalm 66:8 NKJV)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Your Father's Day

"We need your list," I said to my husband as Father's Day approached, hoping he'd do his duty of providing a wish-list of gift ideas for his sons to choose from while they still had a little cash in their pockets to spend. His response surprised me, however, as it turned out he was more interested in the time on their hands than the bills in their wallets. He gave them a list of chores he needed done so he could take the weekend off.

As Father's Day rolls around again perhaps you, like me, spend time thinking about your spiritual Father and wondering what you could do to make this earthly holiday a happy one for Him, as well. It turns out that He, too, has a list for each of us, not of items to buy nor tasks to be completed...but simply of people to love.

A list of people to love. The thought stayed with me as my husband and I browsed through the mall the other day and I came across a wall clock that had slots at each hour position for a picture insert. Set out on the clearance table and marked down to half price, it was a good buy as a possible gift idea for someone. I picked it up in passing, as I still needed a Father's Day gift idea for Jim's dad, but set it down again quickly as I laughingly remembered that I have absolutely drowned this poor man in pictures of his grandkids since they first arrived on the scene. Each year the Hallmark store seems to come up with a new way to display their images, from coasters with photo inserts to wooden ladders with frames hung between each rung. I've bought and gited him with them all. I set the clock back on the table and moved on.

But good fathers have a passion for their progeny and delight in seeing their faces about them. God is no exception. He took me back in thought to that clock this morning and reminded me that time is ticking away, and that He has children who are still lost, faces that are dear to Him that are not yet in His fold. He's given me a list of people to love into His Kingdom, and surely He must wonder what I'm doing with it.

Unrelenting in His urgency to get this message across to me, He found me browsing on Facebook a little while later, reading random posts from people about what they were doing and what their friends had to say about it. As I scrolled down the page, my attention was caught by a photo of two young women who were smiling at a camera, their hands clasped and arms arranged in such a way that they formed a perfect heart shape between them.

I stopped and smiled, fascinated at the love between them that was captured so perfectly for all to see. Although I didn't know the girls in the shot, the picture pulled me in and absolutely captivated me. I tried to scroll on down the page, but I found myself returning to the photo again and again. Finally I hit the print button and filed the resultant paper with the photo on it in a folder until I understood why God was drawing me to is so strongly.

Today I get it. It's not really a picture of two people at all, but of God. Despite mankind's begging through ages past, nobody has actually seen God, although Moses was once given a glimpse of His backside when He passed by. And yet God's answered our plea repeatedly, if we only had eyes to see His face in the love we have for each other. The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). When we love one another, He suddenly becomes visible, and then those who have yet to experience that love can be drawn into a love relationship with Him of their own.

A list of people to love. Each of us has been given one, people that God has or will put in our path for the purpose of making Him known. It might be a long-standing relationship or an encounter so brief that you don't even have a chance to catch the other person's name. But God knows it, and He is blessed any time we put His desires above our own priorities in life and spend a little time loving on His kids in some way, be it with a smile and a kind word, a hug, a moment of prayer, or another activity of some kind.

The latter is important because love is more than a feeling. It has to be expressed in some way, as it was symbolically in that photo. What makes God visible is when we go to the effort of reaching out, grabbing the other person by some action on our part and drawing them into a heart-shaped relationship of some kind that has God at its core. That's easy to do with those who are easy to love, but so much more powerful (and visible) when we reach out to those who aren't...when the effort costs us something in terms of pride, patience, pain or time...when it's a sacrifice in some way. The the effort becomes visible to God, and suddenly it's a picture that He can't get past, but goes to again and again with a smile in His eyes and joy in His heart.

Talk about making your Father's day.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God..."
(1 John 4:7 MKJV)
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