Saturday, December 25, 2010

HHIEGT? (How Have I Encountered God Today?)

Oh my. Last night was definitely another encounter with you, Lord! You seem to abide in music just as much as anywhere else - or at least You reach out to touch my spirit through that medium just as often as You use other ways.

The children's chorus began the joy at last night's Downtown Christmas Eve service - sweet voices blending in praise and flowing from the balcony over those of us who listened below. Then we, the audience, had the privilege of lifting our voices to herald the moment when God chose to descend from heaven and enter the world through the womb of a teenage Jewish girl. What a thought!! What an event!

I thought my skin would not successfully hold in my heart when Kelly Neill sang "O Holy Night," looking down on newlyweds Beverly and Jonathan as they portrayed the little holy family. His pure voice, like liquid gold or silver, made my eyes wet and my soul explode as he reminded us again of the world pining in sin and darkness, until HE appeared and the soul felt its worth!

The darkened auditorium, glowing from myriads of tiny candles held by the worshipers, caused me to think of it as a sanctuary (a term our church doesn't use) rather than simply a sterile room for worship assemblies. The sheer warmth, love and reverence so palpable in that gathering reminded me that our God is our Sanctuary: our refuge, our shelter, our safe haven, our harbor - our Savior and Lord.

Glory be to God and on earth, peace among us all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

HHIEGT? (How Have I Encountered God Today?)

I met You, Father, at a holiday luncheon. Since a Christmas get-together with 20 plus excited women isn't usually the venue for serious conversations, I wasn't expecting for You to shiver my spirit, Lord.

I had refilled my tiny plate and wandered down into a sun-filled room where three or four sisters sat in a tight circle, perched on ottomans and chairs as they munched goodies. (Thank You for drawing me there.) How we landed on such a darkly complex subject I can't recall - but I'm so glad we veered in that direction! As we grieved together over the loss of a young woman from our church family, we collectively voiced our struggle to understand, to comprehend why, when illness strikes, that some are healed and other precious ones are not. I could see the confusion in the eyes of those in the circle as we silently pondered, and I knew I mirrored that bewilderment from my eyes. We continued to mull over the knotty subject; then someone recalled this scripture: "He himself bore our sins in his body ... By his wounds you have been healed" (1Pe 2:24). Someone proposed the idea that perhaps, as servants of Jesus and each other, God may call us to suffer for the sake of another's spiritual healing.

At that moment, one of the ladies thoughtfully said, "That happened with me." She then shared something of her long journey with cancer, which had begun many years previously. This was not a bleak and bitter recitation of an unjust difficulty she had endured; this lovely sister used each stage of her struggle to overflow with praises of the Lord! As she unfolded her passage through the valley, she punctuated her story over and over with thankfulness for the goodness of God even as she experienced apalling pain and sickness. It seemed that even when her body labored just to remain alive, her spirit remained alertly focused on her Master, and took note of and applauded each time God reached down in love.

Of all the amazing gifts the Lord gave during those weeks and months, even years, of calamity, certainly the most wonderful, awesome gift to this sister was the return of her prodigal brother to the Savior as a result of her battle with cancer! We raised our own heartfelt thanksgivings to Him as she concluded her testimony.

A worship assembly with hundreds of lovers of God could not have been more inspiring and uplifting as that little round assembly on that sunny porch. My spirit shivered as we encountered You, Lord.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dishonest Words

"Healing words give life, but dishonest words crush the spirit" (Prov. 15:4).

Dishonest words crush not only the spirit of another person, but also crush relationships - those between people, and those between a person and his or her God. Dishonesty is a poison. It makes for a toxic situation because fear, resentment and uncertainty are introduced into the relationship. Trust begins to wither, or even dies.

Intimacy cannot exist between two people when one or both refuse to be open and truthful with each other. Their relationship remains above ground; they are unable to send down strong roots to stabilize and grow their bond. The ground of their choices is too hard.

Dishonesty can be passive and silent also. Letting another think I believe something when I do not is deceptive. To entertain negative thoughts about or disagree with another's words or actions, then pretend the disagreement doesn't exist is deceptive also, is it not?

"You want me to be completely truthful, so teach me wisdom" (Psa 51:6).

"Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. You have begun to live the new life ... and are beginning to be like the One who made you" (Col 3:9, 10).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Encounter with God

I had an encounter with God last night.

A couple of days ago I decided to begin a new journal entitled: How Have I Encountered God Today? I felt I was drifting through some days, tending to trivia and not really watching for the working of the Lord. I want to be excited and enthralled by my Savior rather than yawning my way home!

However, my first entry was less than exciting; I finally, after several moments of tapping the pencil to my head, wrote down "shelter" and "food." Oh well, I thought, maybe some days I will yawn a little.

Later that evening we traveled to Conway to a Candlelight Carol Service by the Hendrix College Choir, of which our granddaughter, Meredith, is a member. (Invaluable member, I might add.) We've attended many Christmas concerts over the years, all good, usually presented in a regulation school auditorium. This one was different.

Arriving on campus we piled out of the car, tugging on coats, gloves and scarves before walking quickly through the chill wind and rustling dry leaves to a beautiful small chapel, snuggled among larger, stately red-brick buildings.

Greene Chapel, with its warmly intimate sanctuary, set the mood for the service. Dimly lit, the foyer seemed to beckon us in, greeting all with red poinsettias placed in nooks and on tables. Tall, slender black candle "posts" dotted the chapel, awaiting lighting.

As we settled in I admired the diminutive sanctuary. The polished wood ceiling soared upward to a peak, the various pieces forming a beautiful pattern. To the left and right of the front, massive bronze and silver-toned organ pipes stood straight and high, ready to perform. I began to feel as though I had flown back in time, to a scene right out of a Charles Dickens' novel. Perhaps this was a Christmas Eve service on a frigid night in a tiny village far away. Were those snow flurries the people were brushing off their cloaks? Were those really fur-trimmed bonnets the genteel ladies wore? Did I hear the jingle of bells from the sleighs outside, and did some of the gentlemen wear top hats and sport sideburns and mustaches?

I shook loose from my wild imagination and returned to the present.

As the strains of the hymn, Once in Royal David's City, drifted to our ears, the white-robed choir entered, walking single-file down the aisles, each holding a glowing candle. They looked and sounded like angels as they moved to their places, lighting the candle posts along the way.

And I commenced to Have an Encounter with God.

Nine of the choir presented nine different lessons at intervals during the service. All these lessons were pure scripture - no ad-libbing, no comments - just readings of the Word. The first concerned the fall of Adam and Eve, then several read from Isaiah's messianic prophecies, and the last few fed us with the story of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus. The final reader proclaimed the mind-bending truth from John 1 which says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." After each reading, the young man or woman lit a candle in the stand behind them, then turned, looked straight at the worshipers and said, "The Word of the LORD." We in the audience responded, "Thanks be to God!"

In and around the lessons flowed the magnificent music and words that lifted us to the throne. My heart overflowed with joy in God my Savior!

Later as I pondered over the evening I concluded that I had gotten a good dose of reverence for Almighty God in that place. Whether it came from the serene setting, the God-honoring carols and hymns, the prayers, the orderliness, the powerful, spoken Word - or all of these - I knew I had caught a glimpse of the Lord God eternal, all-powerful, immortal and glorious.

I had encountered my God.