Thursday, March 19, 2015

Do Lord... Do remember me

She sat still and sang loud, the little girl in Sunday School. The tune had a strong, easy flow. The kind of song that makes you feel like you're getting something done even sitting still. A tune that makes you smile from your toes up, and has a strength that lifts heaviness up and off weighed down shoulders... weighed down minds...weighed down hearts.

The teacher smiled as the children sang; singing in that uninhibited childhood abandon that doesn't worry what others might think or who might be critically watching the free flow of LIFE.

We grown ups worry though don't we?
Some do.
We hold ourselves carefully, move not too much, clap when others clap, sit when others sit. We don't want to “distract” those around us, we wouldn't dare want our LOVE FLOW towards the Lover of our Soul to “embarrass” anyone watching us. Once a friend who was dear to my heart failed to hide her critical eyes towards my arms-wide-open worship of the Savior. It embarrassed her, and her husband too. It drew too much attention.
Only took a few Sundays until the seats beside us were no longer filled by them.
It was a grievous thing to my heart, but then, so like God, those seats were filled by souls who wanted to know more about this One we loved so deeply. They wanted more of Him, they needed more of Him. And the criticism of one was replaced as the goodness of the Cross came near for another.
Too many of us grownups are too careful when we let LOVE FLOW through us.
Oh but not a child...

Sparks grow into flames as air passes over them.
A spark never grows larger, if air doesn't rush over it.
Blacksmiths can only forge metal on super heated flames. The horseshoe will never take good shape, the blade will never hold a good edge, and the temper will not set in the metal, unless the fire heats them deeply and the hammer lays them well. Air in lungs used sparingly lends no strength to whatever comes from them. Just as flames unfed by air will never give strength to the fire's forging ability.
My great grandfather was the town Blacksmith many by-gone years ago in the county where i grew up. His daily work involved fire and metal, air and water. I'm told he was a gregarious man who loved life, loved the Lord, and loved to work. He knew the importance of billows filled with air pressing strength into flames. From my Daddy's stories of him, it's most likely he also knew the importance of lungs filled deeply with that same strengthening air flow when lifting up his voice to the One who gave him both lung and air. It's just a strong guess, but it's safe to say those sitting near Pastor Porter on Sunday mornings knew how much he loved his Lord when he opened his mouth. In my mind i can imagine those walking past his blacksmith shop might had heard it through the week as well. Air from the billows heating the fire for the metal; air from his lungs pressing out worship while he hammered the metal into submission. I don't know this is true, but I'm allowed to indulge in the hope of it.

It's an odd sort of thing to ponder when singing to the Lord. Who thinks of billows in the long-lost days of Blacksmith shops when they're filling their lungs for another pressing out of love?
The little girl does. The one encouraged to sing it loud by the Sunday School teacher who smiled at the strength of the love flowing in the tiny block wall room in the basement of the little country church. And that little girl grew into a woman who navigated past the awkward teenage years of wondering who she was and why worship meant so much. She grew into a woman who came to realize worship is for the One being worshiped; worship is for Him alone. That woman knew the ONE she worshiped would carry her children from birth to death and hold them in all the hills and valleys in between their beginning and end. She knew the One to whom she let the air flow strong from her lungs and plink words of praise off her vibrating soul, was the Savior, the same One who had given all, so she could have all ---- all that was worth having, all that mattered. She was the trembling lady who knew her need, and found her peace when she closed her eyes and let the air flow strong against the soul-sparks the world had tried to doused again. And the rush of worship-air rose up to the air-Maker, and the flames were fanned and strengthened for another surge of life's forging.

What my much-loved-friend was missing was the simple, solid fact ------- worship is for Him. How it sounds, how it looks, what it says, how sincerely it's given ----- it's all only for Him. To pause long enough to even consider the others who are present, is allowing something else to be worshiped in His place. What? Seriously?
It's a soul-serious-thing.
When we think of what others might think, and we hold the free-flow of LOVE back, then we are worshiping the opinion of others more than the One who is jealous for our praise. Or it could be that we are worshiping ourselves and how we look or sound rather than
the One who truly did hang on a cross
after having the flesh peeled off him
never pausing in those painful moments to consider
how He looked or sounded.

He was too busy thinking of us.
What others thought of Him did not matter.

We get tricked into thinking it matters what we look like. What others will think, what others might whisper about us behind our backs.
And it's a lie.
What others think is only reflective of their soul.
What others say are words heard most loudly by the One who loves us.
And HE will defend us if we need to be defended.

But what our Savior thinks, what our Savior says, has the ring of eternity to it.

The faithful Sunday School teacher with her 60's stylish attire and her cat-eye fashionable glasses led the little warriors in tiny wooden chairs as they sang a tune first sung by slaves in fields crying out to be remembered by the Lord. The song was easy to remember, the words flowed just right:
“Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me,
Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me,
Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me,
Look a way, beyond, the blue.”

It rolled into verses like:
I've got a home in Glory land that outshines the sun...
I took Jesus as my Savior you take Him to...
and even, Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord...
(the lady who wrote Do Lord, also wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe)

If you knew the song as a child, and if you paused a bit to read over the lyrics above, i bet your foot is at least wanting to tap along to it again.

It's been years since the old song has curled through my mind. But then last week, in a bathroom stall in Nairobi, someone began humming it nearby.
I was sick. Had run to the bathroom, and thanked God during the sprint that there was a bathroom to run to. Forgive my transparency, but it's shared with good reason. You see it's when we are lowest that we hear best. When we're down we can see better. When we're sick, we feel our need and when we're sick on a toilet, we can't be distracted by other things (hopefully we're in there alone).
I'd been sick for a few days, off and on. It wasn't anything serious, but i was not well. I was alone. Hurting. And so, i began to pray. (Imagine the One i worship is also the One who will stay with me even when I'm confined to a restroom stall. He truly does not care how things look... He does not worry over what others might say.)
As i prayed, time passed by, and i began to wonder if i was ever going to be able to leave the unwanted seat i had been assigned.
Then the humming started. Not from me, from someone nearby.
Ever so faintly, almost distant in it's sound.
My mind began clicking trying to find the familiar tune from the files of my childhood.
Slowly the words formed.
Some sounded wrong, i struggled to correct them.
...look a way, beyond, the moon... no... it's not moon...
...look a way, beyond, the sun... no.. ah yes, it's the blue... look a way, beyond the blue... Lord, oh do Lord, ...remember me...

The quiet lady, whose job is to tend the bathroom, was humming in the gentlest of ways. A song from my childhood, in a toilet on the other side of the world.
My stomach slowly gave up its struggle, my head focused on the tune.
She never uttered a word, but just hummed as my mind sang along with her.

Day after day, she sits in the restroom, cleaning up messes left by others. No windows, no fresh air, just white tile floors to clean and toilet rolls to fill. But as she did her work, she hummed. What a humble position she has in this world.
But, she doesn't seem to care what people think of her.
She seemed thankful to have a job; she can feed her children.
What others think just doesn't measure up to that.

And this grown up little girl was taken back to the days of shiny black shoes and frilly socks when momma and daddy were just down the hall and sister and brother were polished up and sitting smart in their Sunday best too. Where everyone knew her and they'd cared when she knelt down on her skinny knees, struggling to believe, that the good One would remember her, that the kind One would want her.

And now she was thankful a second time for the tissue paper, this time it was was needed for her tears. For they flowed sweetly over the way the One who remembers us always, came flooding in again.
His Robes brushed by ------ even in a bathroom stall ---- you see His girl was there, and so He would be as well.

The song was originally sung by suffering slaves at work in the field.
(Oh God, how cruel this world can be.)
Then it came to children in pretty country churches in settings fit to be painted.
Now it's hummed by a dear, silent soul working in a tucked away public toilet.
And You use it again, to remind me that ----- YOU REMEMBER me.

You remember us in the fields, when fresh lashes glimmered wet blood.
You remember us in classrooms, where You were first introducing yourself to little ones.
You remember us in the places no one notices, where no one wants to stay for long.
You remember us when we're sick, and tired, and weak.

We are smaller than the tiniest fleck in the vastness of the worlds You have made.
But still, You remember us.

So God, i'll remember You when i'm in the field working. No blood glimmers on my back, but may it always sparkle in my soul.
I'll remember You when i'm in the classroom of this life, still getting to know You and Your ways.
I'll remember You in the places i find myself, where no one else is near, no one would want to be.
I'll remember You when i'm beside the sick ones, the tired ones, the weak ones ------ i'll remember You to them.
You're the only thing i have that's worth remembering to them.
You're the wonderful One i have, they need to know you remember them.

Gathering myself together, i emerged from the bathroom stall. No one was there, but i could hear the humming from the hallway outside. With hands washed and gratitude spoken in the mirror, as my reflection and me, thanked the One who met us in this unpleasant place, my footsteps went straight to her. She smiled, looked down, and waited for me to pass.
“Were you just humming a song?”
“M-hmm, i was.”
“What is the song called?”
So shyly, not sure of herself at all, “It was Do Lord”, do you know it?”
“Oh yes, i think i do, does it go like this...”
and i began to sing. Softly at first.
Her face lit up and quietly she sang as well.
Then i felt the billows blowing inside. My great-grandfather blacksmith would have smiled i'm sure, but more importantly, i could sense the nearness of white robes.
So i sang a bit more loudly.
Her smile grew as did her volume.
And by the time we reached the end, we were singing like Sunday School girls in frilly white socks, letting the flow of life echo off the cinder block walls around us. Our names, our jobs, our color, our pains ----- they didn't matter. The One who remembers us both ------- was the only thing on both our minds.

And we knew ------- He does remember us.
Perhaps that's what matters most.
Is that when others see us, when others talk about us, when others remember us ------
may they be stuck with nothing more to say than ------ “she loves that Lord of hers...”

©2015 Reaching for the Robe. Donna Taylor

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Changing-my-focus-and-thinking of you...

Are we getters or givers?
Do we wake up to bless or be blessed?
What's sitting at our bottom line?
Are we going through the motions of just another day? Silently working to get, do, have, become what we think matters most. 

Is today and tomorrow about us and ours?
Or ------- is it about Him and them?

Long ago a friend told me, “donna when you are struggling (over hurts of the heart) the best solution is to turn it outward. Turn your eyes and your heart to look in front of you and SEE someone else. Don't look in the mirror. Don't look inside yourself. Just fix the eyes of your heart on the someone God brings in front of you ----- and then do something about what He lets you see.”
It might look like a plate of cookies or a note, it might be an invitation to dinner, it might be a text or a call. It might be a prayer. A real, heartfelt, changing-my-focus-and-thinking-of-you prayer. It might be that the simple act of praying for someone is the best thing you can do for them (and oddly enough for yourself too). It's one of those “double portion things”; your giving-out gives a good splash back.

But it all revolves around what we choose to do with “self”.
Do we think more about ourselves and our wants than we do of the other person and theirs?

Do we even pause to honestly assess this part of our lives?

Jesus said we should consider the interests of others, their needs, their pain. We should also care for ourselves, we are not told to ignore our own selves. (Philippians 2:4)
But the order is crucial.
If we “look to our own interests” first, we are compelled to linger at that level. “I” is too powerful, it demands much and is rarely fully satisfied.
The One who made us knows. We are selfish and self-centered by nature. So He asks us to consider others, look to the interests of others, care-----for------others.

So do we?

In the mornings when we open our eyes, what are our first thoughts? Do they go to others? Or do they begin with “I”? What I need to accomplish, what I want to get, where I need to go?
Or are our first thoughts “help them Lord, help me Lord”... remembering that He knows the plans HE has for us in the day ahead. He knows what opportunities will stand in front of us. He also knows what hindrances will come. 
And sometimes we are our own greatest hindrance.

Our insides are so bare in those sunrise moments. We haven't had time to cover them up yet.

And if we don't choose well at the beginning, how can we imagine a good end?

Recently i asked someone, “Do you wake up to be a blessing or do you wake up looking to be blessed?”
...and the question sat long in the air between us.
Blessed by God yes, but i wasn't talking about that.
Do we wake up wondering in the corners of our minds who might do what for me today?
The old phrase, “What's in it for me”, becomes the wake up revelry for the person whose self has become too important.

Self wakes up wanting more.
It's appetite is insatiable.
New carpet today only leads to new drapes that then must have new a couch and then certainly a rug.
The new fishing pole needs a better tackle box, and if I'm going to do this right, a new boat...
Taking better care of myself means a gym membership which requires new gym clothes and then who could bear to look at those spider veins on my legs, so I might as well get those fixed, and while I'm at it shouldn't I just go ahead and get that tummy tucked too.(Ignoring the fact that the money spent on self-image alone could make a life-difference for those who will never need a tummy tuck because their stomachs stay empty day in and day out --- oh GOD!)
After all, we work hard right? We've earned it. You only live once and someday we'll wonder why we didn't get it while the gettin' was good.
Oh Lord ---
what are we thinking?!!!!

We forget that someday we will wonder about the choices we will make today.
We will --- wonder...
What of the mother whose daughter is watching, silently ---- learning from what she sees more than what she's told.
A dear friend recently shared her heartbreak after chauffeuring a group of young teen girls around for a weekend of church activities. The car fairly vibrated with giggles and chatter. One topic led to another until all were in the air. And my friend was grieved to hear the jibber-jabber over the recent release of a movie that twists and contorts intimacy. i don't even want to type the title here, but sadly most readers will know of the movie the girls were talking of. They were curious, they had heard others talk about it. Their mothers had talked with friends about it, in ways that didn't turn the girls from it, but instead drew them towards the dark mystery. Mothers speaking openly of their own fantasized intrigue only spoon fed their daughters an invitation to darkness. Mothers, thinking of themselves and their dissatisfaction, but forgetting the beautiful young eyes watching them and listening to every word.
Mothers who have perhaps slept with a self-absorbed husband who cared more about himself than the one in his arms, have perhaps responded with their own self-absorbed desires, and would consider reading a book or watching a movie to spice up their bedroom moments (with their husband or...) have too carelessly guided their girls to become curious to see something that is hell's best shot at self-consumption. The destroying of another in order to feed the beast of self.
Careless words spoken by mothers who are teaching those watching.

Someday we will realize the impact our choices had on those around us,
and on ourselves,
and on the work of Heaven.

'Cause yes, the work of Heaven or the work of hell ----- they are both watchful for moments to flow through us to those in front of us.

But we forget.
Jesus said it clear ---- “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is to come here, 
to be with us now, 
and that happens when the Father's will is being done ------- here ------- now.
I'm not speaking of the eternity we are promised in Heaven (for those of us who believe).
I'm speaking of the work of Heaven now ---- that opens hands/hearts towards the Heaven to come.

We are not actually wired to wake up thinking this way. If we were, it would be automatically accomplished in each of us, everyday, and life would be sweeter to drink.

Instead, it is a choice. It's something we are given the chance to do. We can open our eyes and choose to think of others, love God, live well, bring laughter, think with purpose on how to live today so that tomorrow is set up for beauty and goodness.
The enemy of our Lord knows this full well. Even if we choose to ignore or overlook it. He doesn't.
And his dark scheme is to distract us in any-every way possible. One of his favorite tools to distract us, is the “self” that we live with. If he can just keep us focused on ourselves, our wants, our “needs”, our desires, our image, our happiness, our sorrow, our emotions, our hurts... well then, he's got us beaten before we even get out of bed in the morning.
If we focus on self -------------------------- well then, Heaven won't be flowing through us that day.

But he knows we are clever enough to catch on to his dark plan eventually.
In those moments when we wonder why our friends (the real ones) aren't coming around anymore, or our kids don't linger once they're able to stand alone, or the one we are married to finds other places they need to be, or the earthly beauties around us seem lost and unfocused. Or when something is said or read or sung that gives us pause, and we begin to wonder... why do i feel so empty and alone?
It's then he will slide in the thoughts of “self” in another frame ----- “look at all you've done..., you're a good person, you do this and this and this..., you can't do 'that', don't feel badly, after all you can only do so much...”
-----and we are unknowingly pacified to not realize how self-absorbed we truly are and how much is being lost in that place of self-worship.

Erik Erikson speaks of the last stage of human development as being the time in life when we face either despair or ego-integrity. Ego-integrity means the acceptance of life at the approach of the winter of our lives. When we face the victories and the defeats and allow ourselves no excuses or explanations. We see the true value of what we have accomplished and the grave loss of what we have not. Those last days, those sunset years, when we no longer have the energy or time to blame others or give justification for what we did or did not do. Because in those last days, we know. We know what we've really lived for.
Those who have lived with integrity and life-giving ways, they can turn to the face of impending death and smile.
But those who have lived for “self”, know they've wasted the thousands of sunrises and overlooked the beautiful sunsets, and wrestled with life around them to give them what they wanted, and in the end, it wasn't enough and it only has left a shadow of failure. The money, the house, the clothes, the status ----- none of it matters when those last breathing moments come.

But what we've done for others ---- how we've loved others ---- why we've loved others ---- when and where and how often we've loved others ------ and the warmth of love-glow it showers back on us, those are the moments that will make us smile as we breathe our last earth-air.

If our outflow to others is rich from the Heaven-flow in us ----------- then God waters our garden so that others can have flowers aplenty on their tables. (and maybe food too)

Are we getters or givers?
Do we wake up to bless or be blessed?
What's sitting at our bottom line?
Are we living today in ways that will give us the ability to truly smile when our last words come and our last breath goes out of us?

We get to choose ---- today.
Self MUST decrease ----- He must increase ------ it's a choice ------
a choice that will bring more life, more satisfaction, more peace and good ---- 
than the self-inside could ever dream of.