Friday, February 25, 2011

Visualize It

Ever have the experience of the same Scripture verse being presented to you possibly two or three times in one day or one week but in different ways? Of course many or should I say - most of us who walk closely with the Lord understand this method God uses to get our attention. As we mature in our faith it doesn't take too many of these repetitions before we take notice to that which is being presented to us.

This week, several "visual" Scripture verses caught my eye and stuck with me. These visuals mentioned dust, grass, a flower of the field, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, mist. I also could not let go of a verse with sounds which supported the vision (wordless sighs and aching groans).

The verses:
Psalm 103:13-16 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

Isaiah 42:1-4 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."

James 4:14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

And the cherry on top, a quote from Jack London “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

Amen. And Amen. What does this mean God? What do I need to learn from these words which create sentences which lead to thoughts which describe something I am supposed to understand? 

"To keep a lamp burning one needs to put oil in it."
"Visualize it."

And so back to Psalm 103:13-16 . Dust. We all have dusted our homes. Have seen dust fly through a sunlit room and swatted it just to create more dust. However, this verse is referring to the dust of the earth. See


A man's (and woman's) days are like grass. He flourishes, then in comes the wind and it is gone. Forgotten. Of course I am paraphrasing! I remember growing up in New Jersey and we would travel through cornfields on the way to get to the ocean. I will never forget the rows of dirt every few seconds that had been trod and rutted by machinery and men in the cornfield. Whir. Whizz. Shoosh. Seemed the corn and dirt went on for miles.

However, if a slow-moving farmer in a tractor-trailer pulled onto the road, we would slow to a snail pace. During the slow part of the drive, I looked up and watched the tall grasses as they subtly swayed in the almost non-existent breeze. The grasses mingled with the corn in many places. It was beautiful. Sometimes the sun would glisten behind the green and gold grassy spikes. and a prismatic effect would blind my pre-tween eyes.

Sadly though, I was never prepared for the fall harvest. The corn seemingly overnight husked and so much of the field burned to a sooty mess. Then tilled and left to the hands of time to once again be healthy soil fit for a field of grassy corn. One day grassy green goodness - the next darkly burned brown lifeless earth. When I think of "the dust of the earth" this is the image I visualize. I cannot help seeing this image without having the stench of burning brush in my nostrils.
Isaiah 42:1-4 A bruised reed he will not break. A smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

"Visualize it!"

The burning candle is easy. I looked up the definition of smoldering. My mother-in-law bought me a candle snuffer. Bright shiny brass with a long handle. Did the trick! I could snuff many candles in no time! Some of us believers are just slightly on fire for God. We are still smoldering, but secretly hoping to get snuffed out so we won't need to keep pretending God is our priority. But no - God will not be the candle snuffer in our lives. He will be there always (Hebrews 13:5) to softly blow inspiration into our lives so as to re-kindle the passion for Him that He intially celebrated when we first came to know Him personally.

My husband often uses a tool to saw the palm fronds from high up in the Queen Palm trees in our front yard. He bought this sickle from a very knowledgeable landscaper who grew up in Mexico hacking away at palm fronds. This man promised it would slice anything instantly. Well it did slice well before my husband left it in the front yard to rust (he doesn't maintain his tools very well - lol).

Oh the sickle still slices but he has to hack away very hard at the fronds now. Often he will yank and pull and the fronds will hang by several threads of palm fibers. My well-intentioned husband then goes to Tool #2 (some type of cutters) to cut the fronds away from the fibers before falling to the ground.

Sometimes he gets distracted between the "sickleing" (word?) and final cutting from the tree. Days later we will see the frond dangling from the tree no longer in its former greenness. It becomes dry and brown. 

In the same way, we all sadly sometimes become disconnected from the group. We detach - but not fully. God allows us to lose some of our radiance but does not cut off those who are truly His. In this way, others see our sad state and hopefully will be obedient to come to our aid and help us become the vibrant fruitful branch we were intended to be.

Hopefully we haven't been too badly sickled and we will mend and become useful again. Sadly, we may cut ourselves loose from the group on purpose or we may enlist their aid to chop us. Even more sad, well-intentioned Christians may disconnect us merely because we asked them to just "keep it all a secret." But God would never do that to us. No, not God. (Hebrews 13:5). He wants us to win the battle.
Romans 8:26 Groans. Yes, Lord I can visualize it with my ears. A groan is very hard to hear. It is painful to experience let alone have to sit idly back and listen to a groan. However, when the Holy Spirit groans for us no doubt the Heavens open up and action instantly begins on our behalf. No doubt it is a groan that has a guttural resonance. Amazing.

Lastly, from Jack London “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

Visualize it. Have you ever had something dry-rot? I am embarrassed to say that I kept a pair of support pantyhose in my drawer (ten years after I moved to Florida from New Jersey - - I know I know that is pathetic). I kept those pantyhose and never wore them but I kept them because just in case I needed a pair of nearly nude support pantyhose" one day they would be there for me. Not! They had dry-rotted and left a tiny mound of dry-rotted pantyhose dust in my panty drawer. Their only destination - the garbage. I cannot visualize a candle wick dry-rotting. Especially because it sits in a base of oil.

"To keep a lamp burning one needs to put oil in it."
Oh yeah God. I am still trying to figure out why you said that in the first place while I blogged today.

Matthew 25:1-13 "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.

The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.

The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' " 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Ahhh. I get it now. To keep a lamp burning one must put oil in it. God's Word.

Visualize it. No, do not focus on the actual image of a book. The Bible is so much more. It is a life ring. It is a light not just unto your feet but a light for your path. Visualize it. Pure utter darkness. Have you ever seen it? God's Word is not only essential for seeing but it is essential for surviving.

I don't know about you but I don't want to be dust, without light, but instead a burning candle in a bowl full of oil. I want to be there when my bridegroom arrives.
Until then, we shall faithfully fill our lamps with oil for that one day. Until then I will continue to imagine the vision of Your glory through your Word.

Dust, grass, a flower of the field, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, mist, wordless sighs and aching groans.  Hard to visualize? Not when you have the Creator to teach, guide and direct you.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man,
his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more. - Psalm 103:13-16

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Make Mine Lumpy!

Drat! The pea soup that simmered all day in the slow cooker was devoid of lumps after I blended it with my handy dandy candy apple red immersion blender (if you read my previous entry you would know how special that immersion blender was in my kitchen arsenal! see it here: But, I did not gauge the amount of water I had added to the lentils at the beginning of the slow cooker process, so now I had perfectly pureed lentil soup!!!

By now you may be scratching your head wondering why I would not want lumps in my pea soup. After all, this perfectly blended pea soup would be divine in a formal setting, in white bone china soup bowls on a Frenchman's table for four. Yes, it would be the perfect accompaniment with a croustade or a mushroom crostini plank.

However, I had aimed at lumpy pea soup because I love lumps in my soup. My mother makes the most homey, smell-good comforting pea soup this side of Heaven! And it seems every time I try to emulate her recipe, I get fancy no lump soup and it frustrates me to no end.

Speaking of taking your lumps (or not) - my husband Vinnie will not eat my mashed potatoes any more because of the lumps that I have tried for ten years to eliminate. I mash and I mash and I mash some more. But no matter how hard I try - homemade mashed potatoes Christina-style are never lumpless. Well that was until I started buying Betty Crocker boxed variety. He loves the boxed mash! Not a lump in the box.

Forget about it when we go to my Mom and Dad's for dinner. No one has to ask if she will be serving Vinnie's favorite lumpless mashed potatoes! Of course they are homemade sans lumps.

And so, knowing my wonderful husband will not eat a bean unless it is hidden in a meatball - today I once again tried to recreate my Mom's pea soup. For me. For me alone. I confess I selfishly made a whole crockpot full of pea soup for the three of us - me, myself and I.

Lumps. You try to eliminate them and you get them. You try to keep them and you come up short.

And I got to thinking. Yes, God-style. What is that phrase? "Like it or lump it?" So of course I looked it up! Click here for some explanations
Apparently Charles Dickens said in 1864,  'If you don't like it, it's open to you to lump it.'

(Then my brain which often goes in bunny trails) I remember receiving the Desiderata Poem from someone once. I cut it and tucked it into a book. I found it one day in my bookcase recently and I smiled. Because it is really is all about taking the "lumps" in life in stride! I hope you like it!


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be
greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career
however humble;
it is a real possession in the
changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you
to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit
to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham,
drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

by Max Ehrmann
©1927 by Max Ehrmann, all rights reserved. © renewed 1954 by Bertha Ehrmann.
Reprinted by permission Robert L. Bell.

And as God is always right there telling me what I need to hear, I remember His small, still strong voice talking to me the other day. I had just walked in the front door and as I hung my key on the peg, I heard him say to me, "Just love people. Love them."

Unmistakably God. Unmistakably His message to me that day. And so, today I dedicate this blog entry to all of you out there who are not liking it but lumping it - or taking your lumps in stride - or trying to make lumps out of something smooth - whatever your mission in life today I pray you are successful most of all in making the God of the Universe smile. I pray you are at peace. I pray you take a step closer to the Lord Jesus Christ who did everything perfectly (Deuteronomy 32:4)- so you and I don't have to....

Excuse me now, I need to call my Mom and get her recipe - pea soup and lumpless mashed potatoes. Make mine lumpy - lumpless for my hubby....

Lots of lumps, less lumps. No matter - make sure all you do is made with love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

No Wonder: Music Without God Hurts The Ears

Day One. Moved the Bose radio into my bedroom, set it atop my bureau and plugged it in after a year of being retired to the office closet. I decided I needed a radio instead of cds that often needed changing. Scanned through the stations and settled on easy 93.1 FM.

Day Two. Bopped around to the easy listening station which brought back blasts from my past. I was in easy listening heaven: Peter, Paul and Mary were leaving on a jet plane, Art Garfunkel reminded me that, "I only have eyes for you." Who could resist the charms of Dan Hill in "Sometimes When We Touch?" Ahh..romance at its core...

Sweet Grease star Olivia Newton-John twice that day belted out "Hopelessly Devoted to You." I kept the radio on continuously. Silence no more. I was not alone! All day long from the hallway before I entered my bedroom I listened to each stanza, danced into the room and sang each word loudly (because I could). Amazed I remembered each and every verse, chorus and word. I felt empowered as if the songs were long lost friends in which I had just reunited.

Old sweater comfortable. No, old sweater comfortable on a cold, crisp winter morning. One more try. Old sweater comfortable on a cold, crisp winter morning with a blazing fire in the fireplace, a cat on my lap and a cup of cocoa in my hand.

Day Three. Suddenly, I became more finely tuned in to the actual sentences. No longer were my ears tickled with the memories, sounds and voices of the past. I was actually listening to the words. Suprisingly, I was disturbed by the theme throughout each song. Darkness, hell, being alone, holding in feelings of fear, dust in the wind, if only you believed in miracles baby - - so would I, saying goodbye, rainy day people, breaking up is hard to do....

The filter on my Christian "lens" in which I process all things in life brought the hopelessness of this genre of songs into focus. The songs I had considered "friendly blasts from the past" offended me.

And no wonder. God was not in those songs. I sat on my bed and wept. How many hours of wasted time did I invest in singing those songs? I could have learned Bible songs, verses, meaningful wisdom and thought-provoking proverbs!

Just like Dr. Suess's Sam I am I could have substitute the green eggs and ham for "I won't learn those songs...on a train, in a car, in a house, with a mouse, with a fox, in a box, with a goat, in a tree..." Unlike Sam, I wish I never gave in to singing those songs and wasting time allowing the lyrics to etch themselves into my brain.

No wonder right in the middle of Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up is Hard To Do" I sobbed. For so many years of my childhood I had heard and memorized these songs and so many more. Like the Catholic mass, I can repeat them backwards, forwards, patting my belly, hiking a mountain, upside down - you name it. Those words are etched in my brain. They were my green eggs and ham. My steady diet of music. And now I hated it. No wonder. Music without God hurts the ears.

Until then I never realized how sad, empty and hopeless those songs were. No wonder I rebelled, searched and sought to fill the empty spaces in my soul that always were reserved for God.

The Bible teaches parents to train up a child in the way that he/she should go and he/she will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6) . Well now. I thank my parents for raising me with a foundation of faith. We were raised in the Catholic church. We did know right from wrong. We did pray before meals. We did attend church as a family and my parents did instill forgiveness and unconditional love in us always.

However, we did not have the Bible as our rulebook and guidebook for right living according to God. And so I thank God for His mercies in opening my eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4) just as Paul had the blinders come off after he lost his vision on the Road to Damascus. As John Newton's song "Amazing Grace" reminds me, "I once was lost and now I see." Better yet, see and hear....
Grace. Unconditional love God-style.

Lord Jesus, "Thank you for opening my ears today, for opening my eyes one day so that I could see and taste of Your Goodness (Psalm 34:8). Your Amazing Grace is open and available for all (John 3:16). Help me not to just be a hearer of Your Word, but a doer as well."

Yes, every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. No wonder they call Him Savior.

James the Lord's "Brother" (I.e., Cousin) had it right when he wrote under the Power of the Holy Spirit in the Book of James:

"He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:17-27 NIV)

Forget Neil Sedaka. We aren't only Dust in the Wind. The Continous Soft and Easy Favorites have it all wrong. The backbone of my musical existence was always God. No wonder. He sang to me when I was sleeping (Zephaniah 3:17), when I was in the shower, even when I was singing solely secular songs and didn't know Him. I didn't hear Him serenading me until that day the blinders came off.

No wonder Whitney Houston questions, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" She forgot her first love. She lost her way. Amazing Grace. Come on back. No wonder she lost her way. GoSister, God is singing. He always was. Always will be. He waits for your sonata. Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound.

No wonder. He has never been just a blast from your past (Hebrews 13:5).

Now, that's something to sing about...even if you can't sing a tune in a tin can ~ He smiles and sings right back (Zephaniah 3:17) to you. And your ears will never be the same again.