Of Sacred Worth

enlight1

Jesus said that we are worth more than many sparrows. Perhaps he knew that knowing our worth would elude us. It truly is difficult to recognize our worth. It is even more difficult to recognize our sacred worth and to know that God deeply values the persons we are.

In 1904, songwriter Civilla Martin went to visit a bedridden friend in Elmira, New York. Mrs. Martin asked the woman if she ever got discouraged because of her physical condition. Her friend quickly responded: “Mrs. Martin, how can I be discouraged when my heavenly Father watches over each little sparrow and I know He loves and cares for me?”

On her journey back home, Mrs. Martin completed the writing of this new hymn text:

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, why should my heart be lonely and long for Heaven and home, when Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me…

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me…

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw still closer to Him; from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me…

The words of that hymn ring true for me as I recall the many times I have needed God’s protection and care. Based on several scriptures, this hymn and the scripture that inspired it has comforted many people in need over the years.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

– Matthew 10:29-31 New International Version (NIV)

I invite you to listen to the Mississippi Mass Children’s Choir singing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” at this link:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v1MPFyVek-U

As you listen, meditate on the truth that you are a person of sacred worth to God.

Remembering

img_4589

Today you are being handed a towel of servanthood with your name on it.

Those are words written by Nancy Hastings Sehested for my ordination service on March 29, 1992. From that day to this, the power of that towel has been a part of my life. I won’t lie. There have been times when I wanted to lay it aside, get out from under the high calling it symbolized.

In 1996, I was presented an actual towel of servanthood by my church family. That towel has remained with me, a reminder of God’s sacred call to ministry. I took it out of its box last week and contemplated the flood of memories it holds.

I thought of patients I encountered as a hospital chaplain. I remembered their pain and suffering as if it happened yesterday. I remembered baptizing a stillborn child as her parents held her close.

I remembered the mother who prayed for a miracle in the hospital chapel after her son was injured in a car accident and declared brain dead by the doctor. I remembered the very moment he miraculously woke up and started his path toward healing.

I remembered the funeral of one of my church members, also a dear friend. I remembered the sheer joy of living and working with the people of Uganda. I remembered the day I preached my first sermon as a pastor.

I am grateful that the Holy Spirit abides with me and reminds me of my call — the grief, the pain, the labor, and most of all the joys. Remembering inspires me.

The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you.

– John 14:26

Today, I placed my towel of servanthood in a visible place so that I would see it every day. That’s where it really needs to be, to help me remember.

Good Things Happen

image

Good things happen. Life is filled with them, but sometimes we hardly notice. My husband and I woke up this morning, ready to enjoy another day of life. The mockingbird in the neighborhood is still singing his ever-changing song. The hummingbirds are still buzzing around the feeders. The leaves are beginning to take on fall colors. The morning breeze has a new Autumn crispness.

Sure, life has its challenges. I am dealing with health issues every day. I worry about my husband. I worry about the future. I miss my grandchildren who live far away. Most of all, I feel a sense of dread about life changes.

But I don’t want to let those feelings overshadow the good things. Yes, most of us fear change. I like to remember, though, that every good thing that has happened in my life happened because something changed.

Maya Angelou wrote, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

So let the changes come, as inevitably they will, and I will embrace the good and beautiful things they bring my way. Good things happen!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.Β  Β  – James 1:17

Whimsy

image

Sometimes life needs a little whimsy. Too much seriousness is bad for the soul. Try blowing a dandelion into the wind. Watch celestial pictures form in the moving clouds. Paint colors randomly on a blank sheet of paper.

It’s a good thing to break up a serious life with some whimsical experiences. It lifts the spirits and makes magical things seem more possible. Plan diversions on a whim. Try some playful things. Do those fun things that are so hard to do for such serious-minded folk.

I love the words of Robert A. Heineken in “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.”

For millennia philosophers and saints have tried to reason out a logical scheme for the universe… until Hilda came along and demonstrated that the universe is not logical but whimsical, its structure depending solely on the dreams and nightmares of non-logical dreamers.

I think I’ll just drop the logical for a day or two. A little mirth and whimsy will do me good!

All Things Bright and Beautiful

A photo by Anders JildΓ©n. unsplash.com/photos/O85h02qZ24w

What a clear, bright day this is! Hot, yes, but still bright and beautiful. As I sit here with my morning coffee, I am struck at how grateful I am for my life. It does present its challenges, but for the most part, I am well, safe and loved beyond measure.

It is true that when I don’t feel well, I see the dimmer side of life. I worry and fret over my health. I wonder what the future holds. I entertain dark thoughts of fear and uncertainty. But those days come and go, leaving me in relative contentment and in gratitude for all the things I enjoy.

What a delightful sight to watch dozens of hummingbirds from my kitchen window! What a joy to hear from my grandchildren with a new photo! What fun it is to watch my flowers grow (or maybe wilt) in the sunlight! What a wonderful thing it is to be close to a loving family! What wonderment there is in enjoying all things bright and beautiful!

I love the hymn text written by Cecil F. Alexander and published in 1848:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,

The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Grateful today for all things bright and beautiful!

Listen to this hymn at this link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yZq8ZUE6GTU

Broken Crayons

image

I remember the sheer excitement of getting a brand new box of crayons. It was nice to get a box of eight crayons. At least they were new and I didn’t have to search through an old, ragged box of broken crayon pieces. When I got a new box of twenty-four, I knew it was a special day. But getting the jumbo box — sixty-four crayons and a crayon sharpener — left me ecstatic.

Getting that jumbo box never got old. I never lost my sense of excitement when I opened the box. Those crayons started my love of color and the sheer joy of putting colors on paper.

Those new-box days were rare. More often than not I searched through bits and pieces of crayons that had long since lost their points. They would still color, but coloring was not such a joy when all the crayons were broken.

Still, coloring with broken crayons was a reality of life. I made the best of it and even managed to create a few masterpieces. Once in a while, I would come up with a new way to use them, like melting the pieces between wax paper sheets and making “stained glass.”

Now that I’m grown, I realize that life is filled with broken crayons. I use them anyway and do the best I can with the pieces. The important thing is not to give up on your broken pieces. Use them. Create with them. Try to enjoy them. Marvel at your own colorful masterpieces. Don’t despair over broken crayons. Broken crayons still color!

I decided to be happy!

image

I simply decided to be happy again. It was my choice, after all. I had been through a grueling coup in my nonprofit organization. Friends and colleagues of many years betrayed me in very hurtful ways. I lost all that I had worked for in the previous ten years. The community lost a significant resource. I lost long time friends.

But that was several yesterday’s ago. I suffered a great loss, and grieved that loss for at least a year. I learned that the decision to be happy again is my own decision. The choice to hope again is my choice.

It was a good day when I made that choice. It was a good day when I made peace with the past, when I thanked God for the positive things I accomplished. It was a good day when I decided to be happy again!

The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and to have courage when things go wrong.
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thankfully, that’s where I am today. The painful yesterdays are but a slight mist. The tomorrows are bright with hope.

Life Itself Is Grace

image

Frederick Buechner says, “All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” So true! Every moment of life is full of astounding possibility. In just one moment, a butterfly can flit from one bloom to another, a cardinal can light on the bird feeder outside my kitchen window, my seven year old granddaughter can wrap her little arms around me.

Life can be whatever we make of it. It can be rife with grief or covered with chaos. But life can also be grace, pure and lovely grace. That was God’s plan for our lives from the first moment in Creation.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth… And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:1, 31)

And so on this bright, sunny day I plan to spend each moment with mindfulness, acknowledging that life it self is grace.

And for each of you I pray that grace and peace will be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)

Dancing All the Way

image

We can either stay bitter or we can get better. The choice belongs to each of us, to take what life has given us and allow it to make us a better person, or to allow it to defeat us and tear us down. The choice is that simple. No one escapes life without downturns and little devastations. People sometimes hurt and betray. And we have to respond to all of that by taking sure and certain steps beyond the hurt. Those steps could be called “the dance.”

We are on a journey of twists and turns, times of happiness and times of hurt. Between who we once were and who we are now becoming is where the dance of life really happens. I want to be wide open to the rhythm of the dance, open to its creative movement in my life, willing to embrace it with my entire being.

The dance demands that.

Either we fully join our hearts with the music or we sit it out and miss it altogether. Those are the choices. There are no other alternatives. Dance or sit! As for me, I want to take the journey dancing all the way!

My Dance

image

I love the lyrics of the song sung by Garth Brooks, “The Dance.”

“Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance.”

Yes, life is fraught with pain, but we take it along with the joy. The two go together, are inseparable. And if you choose to avoid the pain, you will miss the dance. Joy and sorrow come together, and those who know the greatest joy are those who also knew great sorrow.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The dance is filled with both joy and sorrow. Bishop Charleston describes the dance:

The dance is not over, even if the night grows long, even if others have left the floor, for as long as the band plays on, as long as music fills the air, the spirit within me will move, move in time to the sounds of life, to the rhythms of change. I age but I do not grow old. My dance goes on, and when I have no ground beneath me, I will dance on air.