Monday, March 12, 2012

Daddy's Girl

I've always been a Daddy's girl.  I miss my dad more and more every day.  That may sound odd since he's been gone for nearly 41 years.  


Today I've been thinking about how much I still want to be a Daddy's girl.  No, I can't climb on his lap anymore and ride the horsey on his foot while hearing Rida Rida Runka.  I can't snuggle in his arms and hear him say Lille Venn.  I can't beg for the extra piece of lump sugar while having my Biblical knowledge tested with the story of Naaman.


I want to be a Daddy's girl by being like my dad.  

I have a very eclectic group of friends both in real life and on Facebook.  My scroll on Facebook fills up with all sorts of things - mostly nonsense.  I see things about how to love your pets and why dogs are wonderful.  I see things about politicians.  Unfortunately, I see a lot of hate stuff about people who are different or those who are perceived as enemies.  I see calls to action to repair a fire station or to vote for someone to be the next model.  I see Bible verses used AND twisted to suit an agenda.  And of course, what would Facebook be without a YouTube video.


It was YouTube video that caught my attention today and made me think about my dad. It was a video criticizing a popular Televangelist.  Now if you know me, you know that I don't really care for any of them.  I just don't care at all for big name preachers, teacher, prophets, etc. because most of them have egos bigger than their names.  I don't see a lot of Jesus in that.  Oh yeah, I know they build a well in Africa at times to try to get more money from you and pull on your heartstrings (I know, cynical) - but overall, they live in big houses, fly in private jets, and live a celebrity lifestyle expecting people to think they are God's only messenger.


You get the picture - I just don't care for any of them.  A YouTube video telling me that this one said that and the other said this - and how it isn't Biblical is not big surprise to me.  The person doing this "exposé" usually isn't Biblical either.  A quick scan through YouTube's similar offerings looks like the dual on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal but without Elijah.  Everyone is right!  Everyone KNOWS exactly what God wants, thinks, says - they have TRUTH.  Here is the most ridiculous example I've found so far:


Here's where my Daddy comes in.  My Dad was one of those rare individuals that never said anything about anyone unless he could say something good.  Seriously!  He really was like that.  He wasn't stupid or naive - he just didn't say things.  If he could find even the smallest thing good to say about them, he would.  If not, he kept silent.


And I always knew who my Dad admired.  He would tell me he had a lot of respect for this one or that one.  He demonstrated a strength of character that I want to have.  I want to not be looking to expose someone, but to cover them.


There is a story in the Bible that we usually don't find in the children's coloring books about Noah.  In fact, we rarely hear it from the pulpit either.  It's found in Genesis 9:20-23.  Noah our hero plants a vineyard after all that time on the stinky Ark with the animals tossing around on the flooded earth.  He makes wine.  He gets drunk.  He lays naked in his tent.  One son sees him and does nothing.  The other two walk in backwards so as NOT to see their father's "shame" and cover him.  The son who does nothing is cursed.


So what's the lesson?  The lesson is we need to be careful how we "expose" people.  We need to keep our mouths silent, turn off the video cameras, and live by the scriptures:


By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

I want to be Daddy's girl.  I want to focus on the positive, love, and speak kindly with mercy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lent

Why Lent?  I’ve been ask this question a lot this year.  How does a born and bred Pentecostal decide to observe Lent?  Maybe because I am in contact with more and more people from my past and present who have never considered Lent.  This is not my first year to consider Lenten practices.

Several years ago now – probably at least five – I decided to in a small way practice the ancient Christian practice of observing Lent.  I didn’t go for ashes that year nor did fast.  I wasn’t quite ready for that “Catholic” of an experience.  Nor did I understand enough to consider it.


That year I had picked up a book at Goodwill.  It was a book by Phyllis Tickle: Eastertide Prayers for Lent through Easter with the Divine Hours.  Five times a day (well, most days) I'd open the book, recite the reading, pray the prayers, etc. Often it was rote; I would read with mind elsewhere.  However, just as often, the Holy Spirit would move in and the time with the book expanded long past the reading on the page.  Often while sitting on an early spring morning alone on my deck, the written prayers turned into heartfelt prayers of praise, worship, petition, repentance, and longing.  As a Pentecostal, I would say these times were times of "praying through" an issue - usually a heart issue.  I grew spiritual in ways that I hadn't expected. I have returned to the ancient practice of Divine Hours and find the discipline always a spur to my spiritual growth.


My first experience with Ash Wednesday and the imposition of ashes came surprisingly at a Nazarene church.  Small, meeting in a shopping plaza, for a short time I joined in regular worship with this Nazarene church.  Much to my surprise, on a Wednesday night in that place I had my first experience with the imposition of ashes.  Part of me thought perhaps I'd be struck with lightening for becoming "Catholic."  The other part of me was struck with the symbolism and profound meaning of the ritual.

In 2010, during our sojourn to South Dakota, I was home for an interview for the doctoral program at Trevecca.  I had this urgency in my spirit to go find a church and receive ashes again.  It was odd.  I couldn't shake it.  I thought how ridiculous and yet... it compelled me.  I recommend you read these two of my previous blogs to understand:  I am Dust and Suddenly.  As you read, you'll understand that urgency I felt for the ashes was God's way of preparing me for the death of my mother.  Her death vigil started the day after I received ashes reminding me that I am dust and to dust I will return.

My "record" with Lent is spotty.  Last year I received the imposition of ashes at the Catholic church with my daughter. It was a rather routine experience and not particularly profound.  We shared fish sandwiches after.  That was about it for Lent last year except for failed attempts to not eat meat on Friday.

This year I have once again felt the need to attend to my spiritual disciples.  While I know I don't need to follow Lent.  It's not in the Bible; it's not a command.  However, I do believe that ancient Christians developed these practices for spiritual benefit.  I can testify that they have benefited me.  If you would like a short version of the history of Lent in ancient Christianity, go here.

This year I have a church home.  As I pulled up to the church on Ash Wednesday my sense were alive as I smelled the palms burning in preparation for ashes.  I ate a bread and water supper with my brothers and sisters.  I received ashes on my forehead once again.  I purposed to fast meat on Fridays this year.  I cheated already.  I had a turkey sandwich last Friday and feel no particular guilt about it. However, the intention of trying to fast is a good one and one I will continue to strive to practice this year during the Lenten season.  


Most importantly, I am drawing closer to God through this season.  I have humbled myself and asked for prayer.  I have seen answers to those prayers already.  I am aware of the Holy Spirit working in my heart.  Changes are coming. I have purposed to not be negative in my speech and outlook and to be grateful and express gratitude.  I am dust.  I am nothing except for God.  Lent reminds me of that.  Lent helps me focus on my heart and soul to self-discipline and repentance.


I've learned that God can speak to me in infinite ways.  I only have to listen.  Just yesterday I watched a video sent to me by an intercessor.  It's a video of a Jewish Rabbi teaching on Esther.  It pierced my heart and brought both tears of conviction and tears of hope.  You can see it here.


I would never discount or discredit my Pentecostal heritage.  I love it.  I cherish it.  I embrace it.  I practice it. Sometimes I long for it as one does your favorite meal from childhood.  My heritage taught me to pray through, to see God, to fast, and to pray.  For me, that's what Lent is all about.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Heart Strangely Warmed

These are the words of John Wesley.  The full quote from his journal of May 24, 1738 is:

In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.  

I heard this phrase, my heart strangely warmed, numerous times this weekend at the Wesleyan Theological Society annual meeting on the Trevecca Nazarene University campus in Nashville TN.  It is an oft repeated phrase in Wesleyan circles.  Thousands, if not millions of words, have been written about Wesley’s Aldersgate experience.

My heart was strangely warmed this weekend at the conference.  I found a warm welcome by most of the people in attendance.  My husband, who also attended, felt likewise.  While not always the case in Nazarene circles, this time it seemed that someone said let’s move over and make room for one more.  I desired to be part of this group in increasing ways.  Time will tell if they will move over and make room for me again. 

I am particularly grateful to Dr. Michael Lodahl.  Others had turned our presentation down but he made room for us.  What I have seen of the man personifies grace.  His openness, as well as others, to my husband seemed to me as a means of grace exhibiting a sacramental show of hospitality.  Further grace extended through the celebration of Eucharist at the end of the proceedings.  Together my husband and I received the sacrament.  Thanks be to God.

I suppose one could wonder if God was attempting another Pentecost during this meeting.  There was a sound of a rushing mighty wind swirling through Nashville and the surrounding areas while we feasted on scholarly presentations.  All day Nashvillians had “tarried and waited” for the storm.  It came.  A tornado touched down in the tiny town where I live while I listened to hail and wind inside the walls of familiar classrooms at Trevecca.

My daughter was in a shelter at the mall where she works.  My son’s studying was interrupted to go to the basement of the medical library.  My husband with no sense of direction was driving back to the conference as hail beat his car.  He did arrive safely.

Yesterday was the first time we had a chance to assess damage.  We toured in sorrow the center of our tiny town.  The church I belong to had significant damage.  The siding on the city hall building looks like Swiss cheese.  Large trees were uprooted awaiting a chain saw.  Our own house has minimal damage.  Our cars show signs of hail damage. 
Stained-glass window destroyed


Notice the two stained-glass windows in the back of the sanctuary

Airing and drying the Bibles and Hymnals


Siding on buildings all over Kingston Springs look like Swiss cheese

My heart was strangely warmed in the midst of the storm.  Numerous calls from our youngest daughter to assure we were safe warmed my heart.  Facebook messages from friends near and far – are you okay? -- warmed my heart. 

Today I am thinking about those whose hearts were broken by this storm.  I am thinking about those whose families are forever changed by this devastation.  I am praying that God Himself will come and envelop them and that their hearts will be strangely warmed by His comfort and love. 

Heartwarming doesn’t just come from God. As marvelous, miraculous, and needful as that is, heartwarming also comes from the words, are you okay?