Sunday, October 30, 2011

To Mark Sacred Times

--
The seasons are changing, as much as they ever do in this part of Northern California. The changes are subtle here, slow, surreptitious, easy to miss if you're not paying attention. The light changes color before the leaves do; it slopes in at a different angle and whispers of changes to come. The overnight lows are lower, as are the daytime highs, climbing 'only' to the mid seventies, and the Californians hunch their shoulders and hug themselves for warmth. They start looking for their sweaters and dig out their supply of words like COLD and FREEZING! I chuckle at their hyperbole and tell them I'm just finally getting comfortable--I will allow the occasional use of COOL, perhaps even CHILLY if I'm feeling especially generous, but COLD?  Um, NO! I do not miss the high, flat, smoggy, metallic skies of our hot Contra Costa summers, and I always thrill to see the splashes of color the trees don in autumnal celebration of cooler weather.

The natural changes around me have been going by outside my car windows in a dizzying blur as I am caught in my own season of rapid changes and busy days. I keep feeling guilty for having so little of Sabbath rest in my weeks, but I know no help for it at the moment. Show me Lord! This is not the busyness of over-commitment, not the overfull schedule of one unwilling or incapable of saying 'no.' It is just WHAT IS right now. Each of our family of four is in a particularly busy season, and the combined force of our four overlapping and scattered schedules can be just a little crazy-making. I am not fluent in busy, and rush is not my native tongue--I'm not a city girl, remember?


"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.' And it was so . . . And God saw that it was good." [Emphasis mine] Genesis 1:14-15, 18b NIV

It almost startles me to notice that God made time before The Fall. He made the sun, not for the sun's sake or His own, but for ours. He made the lights in the sky to light our way, to be a chart to help us know where we are and a clock to tell us WHEN we are. Too often time wields the whip of the cruel slave driver and we think it MUST be part of the curse, but no, it was part of Creation, part of the gift, and approved as GOOD by God. The marking of time was a good thing at the beginning. Can it be again? Can I remember time as gift and glory even when, in it's fallen state, it can drive me to distraction?

I make a conscious effort to slow my breathing to counter the effects of my wheels churning out RPM's beneath me. I wonder at the sun lighting up our sky as we whirl through space around it. Wheels turning circles, earth spinning circles, a whole planet revolving circles around the circle of a glowing orb made expressly to serve, made "to mark sacred times."

SACRED TIMES . . .

Do I count my times as sacred? Do I handle my times like I know each hour, each day, each season is sacred and rarest gift? Or God forbid, do I wish some of them away looking forward to a different season, an easier season, a calmer season, a more plentiful season? What a foolish wish, when this season, this season of busy, this season of holding on for the rushing ride, is no less sacred than would be the idyllic seasons I'm dreaming about.

I thought I was going to write about how the sun and the seasons it marks off can remind me that "this too shall pass," and that would help me to manage the stress of a time too wild with busyness. Instead, the Logos breathes different words into me as His words change my view altogether. Yes, "this too shall pass," but "this" is sacred time right now and I must cherish it right now. "This too shall pass," and when it does won't I be glad I stopped to notice what was dazzling about it while it was here?!!

A breath of Sabbath comes in the reckoning-as-sacred something I almost wished away in my longing for rest. In the golden resplendence of a Sunday sunrise, the Son-made sunlight finds its way past the morning and into my longing heart, chasing away my forgetfulness and discontent.


"Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom."


I have heard the word busy on so many lips of late--are you feeling it too? I pray that Sabbath rest steals in to your heart this week in ways that surprise and refresh you. I pray too that you won't wish away even your craziest times and will be able to see them as sacred gifts from your Heavenly Father.
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#851-865 
851. Needing, and getting, a new Bible cover because the old one was worn out with use
852. Managing to finish The Tehran Initiative AND post my review on time for Tyndale's Blog Tour for it!
853. Sunrise colors
854. Opening prayer at the PBR World Finals that boldly names the name of Jesus on national TV in the heart of Las Vegas, and a whole stadium that says a loud, "Amen!"  Amen indeed!!
855. The arrival of my signed copy of Rumors of Water by L.L. Barkat!  (Thank you to her and Laura Boggess for making this giveaway possible--so delighted that I won!!  If the first few chapters are any indication, I have only just begun to know what a win it was!!)
856. Words that come without a struggle . . . AND words that fight me every step of the way.
857. A little stolen window of time to spend with Hero Husband--I'm crazy about that guy!!
858. Drummer Boy's new job, even if it did cost me a morning of sleeping in =)
859. Nooks and crannies on English muffins
860. The smell of breakfast cooking when I'm too tired to feel awake
861. Pickles on hamburgers
862. The "good proud" way I felt when She So Sweet handled a disappointment with grace and turned it into energy to accomplish so much in such a short time!!  You go girl!!
863. Visionaries
864. Stories that make a sermon stick with me
865. A call to live with eyes wide open!

   Beauty in His Grip Button

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Monday, October 24, 2011

When Your Heart Is Overwhelmed

--
McIntyre Bluff and Vaseux Lake, British Columbia, Canada

                                   " . . . When my heart is overwhelmed; 
                                  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

A peaceful hush fell over the room. Each of us bowed heads and hearts, eyes closed so souls could open, filling with the blissful quiet. The young pastor who offered this moment of reflection before the service began, said it had been a hectic week for him too, and I nodded agreement. Oh, so hectic! A barely perceptible murmur, not quite a sound, but a soft stirring, told me the rest of the closed-eye, open-souled sojourners in the room had endured hectic weeks too. I don't know why I thought it was just us, and I don't know why it helped so much to know it wasn't, but it did. For you too perhaps?

Sometimes it all feels so out of control, and the fear sneaks in unbidden, but you're so busy trying to hold on, you don't even realize it's there. In the frenzy of the day-to-day, too much noise, too much traffic, too many places to be all at once, too many considerations and assignments and requirements, it's so easy to get overwhelmed.

Where do you go when the world feels like a tilt-a-whirl ride run amok? What do you grab ahold of when all you see are slippery, smooth walls and someone has cranked the speed to maximum?

When my days are fraught and frenzied, I grab ahold of a few of God's best gifts and trust Him to meet me in the midst of it allhere are my favorite things to do to help me through crazy days:

 SING! 

Singing is one of the best ways I know to lift a heavy heart, sometimes by expressing what's in it, sometimes by expressing the opposite of what's in it. However it works for you, SING!! I mean windows down, volume up, at the top of your lungs, SING!! Singing is both a physical endeavor AND an emotional release. It's so good for you, and music has a way of transmitting things you know intellectually to the deeper knowing of your heart and mind and soul.

 LAUGH! 

Keeping an easy sense of humor about the zaniness and all the unexpected twists and turns our days take us through will help it all to flow over the rough spots more easily. Laughing in the face of the stress can help us go through our days in a spirit of togetherness rather than allowing it to tear us apart. We really do have the choice, every time, whether to laugh along good naturedly or to tense up even furthercan you guess which one feels better?? I'll bet you can!!

 PRAY! 


Prayer, right in the middle of the adrenaline rush, can do wonders to calm your jangled nerves. Talking to God, out loud if you can, is the best way I know to get connected to His wonderful, peace-giving Presence. Imagine Him sitting next to you in the car, or hurrying along with you to that appointment you're running late for, or with His arm around your shoulder holding you together when you think you just might fly apart. He really IS doing all those things!! Talk to Him like you know He is!!


 BREATHE! 


In the mad rush to keep up with all our scheduled and unscheduled commitments each day, I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself holding my breath. All of the sudden my body will demand a deep breath because I've been unconsciously depriving myself of my most basic need for sufficient oxygen. Lately I have been trying to remind myself beforehand to breathe deeply, to slow my internal pace, even if I have to rush on the outside.


Back in church this morning, in those few brief moments of quiet, I experienced such a feeling of calm and such a refreshing sense of peace. Silence really can be golden! When my heart is overwhelmed, Jesus is the Rock that is higher than I. He is my reason to sing, the source of joy that bubbles up in laughter, the One I can talk to about anything, and the very breath that sustains my life. May you know Him as your peace and walk (or run) with Him in joy this week dear friends!

How do you sort out your emotions when you're feeling overwhelmed?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#821-850
821. That when my plan was altered and I was tempted to chafe and grump, the Holy Spirit took ahold of my heart and helped me choose to stay flexible. 
822. Laundry baskets that empty of dirty clothes and fill up with clean ones
823. A clean car
824. She So Sweet's excitement and enjoyment of her new job
825. Late night quiet
826. The moment you can close your eyes and let sleep envelope you
827. Hopeful hearts
828. That any football field, under Friday night lights, feels like home.
829. Helium balloons
830. Cheerleaders' pom poms
831. Homecoming win!
832. Early Sunday morning at Panera
833. Drummer Boy, doing what Drummer Boy does best!  It had been too long!
834. Walking through the doors at church, eager to be there!
835. Fresh peaches that are ACTUALLY juice-dripping-off-your-elbows ripe and that look like sliced sunrise.
836. The perfect dress!
837. Getting a same day appointment
838. Drummer Boy's comedy in an unlikely place
839. Relief
840. Playing the same song over and over to learn all the words (because they're so fun), and finally singing them all correctly, at the top of my lungs with the windows down and the sun roof open! (In case you're curious, it was Lauren Alaina's "One of Those Boys" from her new album, "Wildflower")
841. New battery in my car thanks to Hero Husband.
842. Arriving at Peet's with a headache and discovering that the smell of the coffee alone was enough to chase the headache away.
843. Shopping with She So Sweet and finding all she needed to complete her outfit for Homecoming.  Knockout red shoes!!
844. Fighting through the fatigue together and helping She So Sweet with her Algebra homework until 1:00 in the morning after the marathon shopping session.
845. New Friday Dreaming Christmas card design, done and posted for sale--the one shining accomplishment in a day otherwise spent on the road accomplishing only pickups and deliveries.
846. Impromptu piano concert by Drummer Boy that had people stopping in their tracks to listen to the beautiful music he played--it soothes the troubled soul.
847. The way the weight of the day lifted with a talk with my mommy on the phone and a late night breakfast cooked by my amazing children.
848. The way she looked on the way to Homecoming and the way he looked at her--memories are made of this!
849. The uncrowded expanse of an early Sunday morning freeway
850. Hero Husband and how far out of his comfort zone he went out of love for his family

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hope on a Sunday Morning



  In Oakland, California, in a park called Fairyland,
  dwells this beautiful little church, where the main thing is still the main thing.
  These pictures were taken in 2002, and it had been almost that long since we felt this good in church.  
We visited a new church on Sunday.

I won't even tell you (because I can't remember them all) how many first time visits to new churches we've made over the last eight years. That all those visits were necessary is tremendously sad to me and if it could have been otherwise, we would have found that far preferable. Lest you think we must be chronically dissatisfied, critical, fickle and flighty, let me add that before these eight years of moving from church to church, we were at the same church for over thirteen years, and tried like crazy not to have to leave that one.

I am also not going to tell you all the reasons for leaving the churches we've left after attending for periods of months and sometimes for years. Even after the passage of time, I still believe each departure was necessary. Each one was different, and each one was painful. In each place we had formed relationships, and only a few of them have survived the leaving (how thankful we are for those few that have!) That isn't how it should be if we are truly the family of God, but that has been our experience.

It was purely out of obedience that we got dressed on Sunday morning, gathered our Bibles both tangible and electronic, and made a point to find the address on Google maps, put the car in gear and go. None of us wanted to go through this process again, and it would, in some ways, be so much easier to just carry on our Christian lives, loving God and loving people outside the walls of a particular church. After all, I have all my favorite worship music in my computer, in my car, in my iPod, and I have access to sermons from some of the best preachers and teachers from around the world at my fingertips . . . yes, it would be easier to do church that way.

Easier? Yes.

Better? God says no.

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."  Hebrews 10:25 NLT

So we obeyed, and we tucked one more thing into the car with us as we drove off to put our faith in action . . . HOPE. We all hoped that somehow this would be the place, the place different from all the rest, not a perfect place (we know there's no such thing when people are involved), but a healthy place, a loving place, a place to call home and to settle down into Kingdom life and love and work.

It was scary to hope again--we've been disappointed so many times. It was tempting to have no hope at all, just a resigned assumption that the healthy church we've been looking for doesn't exist and that we shouldn't look for more than the least bad church closest to home. Somehow that didn't sound like what we should look for from the abundant-life-giving God we know, so we did give hope a place, way in the back of the car, and said it could go with us as long as it didn't make us feel stupid or embarrassed when the morning was done. There's nothing like a little misplaced hope to leave you feeling foolish in the extreme--no, none of that please!

The good news is, we were all pleasantly surprised! It was a VERY good morning to be at church, especially this one. We worshiped with joy and enthusiasm, we were fed from the Word, and we enjoyed fellowship with warm and friendly people. We don't want to get overly excited or to get ahead of ourselves or place impossible expectations, but this church made a wonderful first impression, enough so that we want to go back and give it a chance as a possible place to call our church home. We will take our time with this, but the hope that went home with us was not the timid, uncertain, apologetic type that was barely allowed to make the trip in the first place. It actually sat up straight and looked out the window at the beautiful Sunday in October.

We did too.
Has it ever been difficult for you to obey the instruction in Hebrews 10:25?
What part do you think hope plays in obedience?
________________________________

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Our Solid Rock in Crashing Waters

--



In a jubilant rush from the steep slopes of Mount Sir Donald and the glaciers in the surrounding crown of peaks, come the spectacular liquid jade waters of the Illecillewaet River and Asulkan Brook in my beloved British Columbia.  The two rushing flows come together in a veritable cacophony of sparkle and sound at a place picturesquely called "The Meeting of the Waters."


It is a place of contrasts, at once ancient and permanent as well as endlessly new and changing, both a crashing cymbal and a love-tender lullaby. It is a place both exhilarating and hypnotic, thrilling and stilling, wild and loud and boisterous while simultaneously a place of deep peace and heart-quiet. I have a feeling I could spend many months there with terabytes of memory cards and still not capture all its moods and secrets and longings.

I perpetually frame pictures, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.  On a bright September day I looked around this magical place, and true to my photographer's habit, I spent time mentally framing rectangles to see how I might convey to all of you, or to someone who's never been there, the essence of the contrasts of the collision-turned-collaboration of the Illecillewaet and the Asulkan Meeting of the Waters.

This place has not been far from my thoughts since the glorious day I spent there, maybe because I am in a season of hustle-bustle, go-go-go, get-him-there-in-time-to-pick-her-up-from-there, hard-to-keep-up-with-it-all days. God knew I would need a picture (He always gives me a picture!) to help me keep my balance.



No matter how fast the water moves, the rocks stay perfectly still.

Our lives are so like those flowing, rushing, crashing, colliding waters, keeping a pace we hardly know how to manage, and yet, despite how it sometimes feels, we are not abandoned to the uncontrollable movement of this life we so clearly cannot control. We have One who with utter stillness and solidity, perfect constancy and immovability, gives us a stable place to stand through all of life's mad rush--He is our rock, our firm place to put our feet, our safe place to rest . . . in Him.

     "Everything I hope for comes from him, . . .

He's solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
I'm set for life."



How has God proven Himself rock solid in your crashing-water life?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#806-820
806. Very nice man in Permissions at Tyndale!
807. New Scotty McCreery CD where the cross he wears is right at home in the music he sings
808. The soft pat, pat, pat of the first raindrops
809. The free-flowing and sparkling personality of a girl named LaRhonda who loves her job
810. The technology that allows me to take Amy Grant, Bon Jovi, Adele, Big and Rich,  and Bryan Duncan on my walk with me!
811. Wild weather!
812. The way truth shines bright in a very dark world
813. Shopping with She So Sweet, laughing, and finding just what she needed . . . finally!
814. Fun times with a dog named Sparky
815. Seeing She So Sweet's eyes light up with excitement over her new job!
816. Getting to share a burrito with Hero Husband
817. An evening for the whole family to dress up and go out to a fancy restaurant thanks to a very nice gift certificate from a generous friend
818. The decadent deliciousness of scallops
819. A church service that was a breath of fresh air in so many ways
820. A very memorable Raider win, and all that is good about the game of football (so much!)

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

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Joining Laura Boggess for:

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Name Above All Names

--

"Splendor and majesty are before him; 

   strength and joy are in his dwelling place.
Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, 
   ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; 
   bring an offering and come before him. 
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness."

I like knowing the names of mountains.

I still remember the names of mountains I only saw as a little girl. Not only do I enjoy knowing what the mountains are called, but the stories of how they came to wear the names they do, whether named for a person or for something about the appearance or history of the mountain. For example, the striking home of Angel Glacier (and poetically named) Mount Edith Cavell, was named for a WWI nurse known for giving medical care to all, regardless of which army they served and who was executed by the Germans for  helping over 200 Allied soldiers to escape.  The stunning and distinctive Mount Rundle was named after a well-respected English missionary named Robert Rundle who spent years ministering to the people, both First Nations people and settlers in Western Canada. Some of the most photographed mountains in Colorado, the Maroon Bells, were named for the reddish hue of the rugged rocks that form them.

Since I have returned from my trip to BC I have been poring over national and provincial park maps and Google Earth, sorting through mountain ranges with names like the Monashees, the Selkirks, the Canadian Rockies, the Purcells and the Kootenays, to find the names of some of the majestic peaks that will now live in my memory forever since meeting them up close for the first time, or getting reacquainted after long separation.  Let me introduce you to a few of them:

Standing sentry over the town of Revelstoke in triune glory is Mount Begbie,
named foSir Matthew Baillie Begbie, who was the first Chief Justice of British Columbia. 
Keeping watch over the other side of Revelstoke stands Mount Mackenzie, glowing softly under an autumn moonrise.  This peak takes its name from The Right Honourable Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who was the second Prime Minister of Canada.
This is Mount Sir Donald, and I can't for the life of me imagine why it isn't as famous as the Matterhorn!  It's name comes from Sir Donald Smith who was instrumental in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad that crosses these mountains in an incredible feat of engineering.  Sir Donald had the honor of driving the last spike to complete its construction on November 7, 1885.
No matter what their names are, they were all signed first and forever by the Artist who formed them. They wear His majesty, His telltale splendor, and His flare for the breathtaking. They proclaim His Name on the heights of a land of impossibly high places, a place once described as "50 Switzerlands" for the sheer size and numbers of towering peaks spread farther than you could see, even from the top of the highest ones! He who is big enough and powerful enough to craft these glorious giants in the palm of His hand, plainly speaks to all with ears to hear, and out there it's quiet enough to hear Him.

He paints in the countless shades of blue and green . . .

He speaks in the contrast of the magnitudinous and the miniature . . .

He sings in the splash and tumble of the waterfall . . .

He plays in the high alpine meadows fragrant with wildflowers . . .

He loves in the heavenly aroma of pine that fills your lungs
as if you're breathing for the first time . . .

He etches His wonderful, matchless Name in every crag and crevasse, every peak and valley and every glistening glacier . . .

I will go back to these mountains again and again in my memory and hopefully again in person someday, but it is because of how close I feel to Him there that I am a mountain girl forever and always. His is the Name I can never forget!

Where do you find His name written for you to find?
___________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Mondays
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


#791-805
791. New Joel Rosenberg book to read!
792. Flexibility
793. Photoshop CS5--my digital darkroom and artistic playground
794. See You at the Pole and She So Sweet's excitement over the opportunity to be a leader!
795. Word of the safe and healthy arrival of my new nephew, Cooper Keith Allen!!
796. Street Pitas at Daphne's on Wednesdays--it's become a tradition!
797. Fresh Alaska salmon and corn on the cob for dinner
798. Diminishing pounds
799. Homemade dark chocolate orange mocha
800. Clouds
801. Chili & cornbread
802. Job opportunities for Drummer Boy and She So Sweet
803. It's official--I am a college student!
804. Finding one lost thing while looking for another lost thing
805. Sunday morning breakfast, the four of us, together

Joining Michelle DeRusha for:

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
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Joining Laura Boggess for:

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:


A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
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