Monday, 23 May 2005

Connecting with God

Yesterday, most churches in the UK celebrated Trinity Sunday. It came one day after I drove down to Southborough to attend ‘It’s Your Calling’. I was actually driving to a new locale by myself. Of course, it had to be a dark cerulean day, complete with overweight rainy clouds. 'It's Your Calling' was the place for me to discover the ‘authorised’ ministries the Rochester Diocese has on offer for training and equipping its members. It is the next step for me to take as I seek how to serve the Lord and His church in this country with the talents He has gifted me. He blessed me with nature art on the way home when the sun burst out and the biggest rainbow ever splashed its colours all over the beautiful green downs and valley! What a message!!

Trinity Sunday also came one day before I read a blog entry from my friend, Mary Lou (click above on title). I met Mary Lou and her Christian high school sweetheart, Kim, years ago on a youth mission bus from Baytown, Texas. The occasion was a summer campaign for Christ in St. Louis, Missouri, organised by my uncle, Stanley Shipp, a dynamic-and-in-your-life evangelist. Mary Lou, now a master English-language teacher, writes that she started off her blog with Sunday and Church, relating both as synonyms. She ends with a thought posed by her Sunday school teacher: that worship and service are also synonymous.

My blog entry today is, besides being long (go get a cuppa!), a bit of reflection on all of the above, and a rather poor commentary on Mary Lou’s blog. We are both researchers on this quest.

Hmmmm ... service for God and worship to God are synonymous ...

I’m quibbling with the prepositions. What if we did a switch, and said 'service to God and worship for God'? Did God quibble with prepositions when He was creating the world?

I'm chewing on this one, too. The first word that pops into my mind when I think of 'service' is 'sacrifice'. That word is so weighty, like those rain clouds I had to contend with on the way to Southborough! Could it be residual leftovers from a CofC upbringing? I've been told by several religious pundits: God does not need you, but He does want your love.

Throughout my lifetime in a variety of churches, godly men and women have informed me God would be displeased by my not serving others (like them, or doing things they would rather supervise but not do). They implied that I would not be allowed to enter honest worship if I did not comply with the needs of the church.

I think about 'sacrifice', and am reminded of sacrifices studied in the OT. The very first sacrifice seems to be a hot contest of offerings between two brothers. One offering missed the mark, and did not please God (who obviously is not a total Vegan). Professional jealousy, pride and murder emerged – oh, excuse me! -- materialised, from that sacrifice. I understand ‘emerge’ is now being used as a new buzzword for American evangelicals, as in ‘emergent church’?

Sacrifices were brutal and bloody, ugly and humbling, and smelly with incense. (My family related to the visceral experience of those OT sacrifices when we lived in Afghanistan and Egypt, and watched our Muslim friends make their animal sacrifices.) They are gut wrenching to observe. But they were to give God glory, and that is what He wants us to do. Today we have the searing image of Christ and His sacrifice for our sins upon the Cross. He tries to tell His disciples, those who would be leading a new ‘emergent church’, what it’s all about in John 14:15-30.

We had two fabulous readings yesterday: one was doom and gloom – Isaiah 40:12-17 and 21-31 – with an upbeat reminder that our God never grows tired or weary (so maybe there’s hope for some of the new worship songs where the same one-to-two line verse gets repeated over and over for 15-minutes). The other reading was Psalm 8, which is so powerful in its descriptions of God’s awesome and majestic nature. (Anyone remember singing Tom Fettke’s ‘Majesty and Glory of Your Name’? I still love this choral piece!)

I guess all three of those scriptures converge at some point to say that we give glory to God when we love and obey Him, and those acts produce our worship to God. Not to mention the Trinitarian concepts found within.

I love my running conversations with God. These are parts of my continual worship with Him. Not everyone knows about all the times God and I are in conversation. It’s none of their business, and is not a tick in the box for them to keep an accountability score. (Kind of like the 40 days of Lent, when people want to know what everyone else is sacrificing, like it's a game, but that’s another rabbit trail.) I guess when I go about the mundane, every-day tasks and I keep God present in those, God will speak to others, as He desires. If I glorify God in the smallest daily event or object, a natural consequence of that private worship will be to edify others as they see Christ in me. At that point, the Holy Spirit will take over.

I wonder if today’s idea of corporate worship is still in concert with what the Apostles had in mind when they were helping the first churches to ‘emerge’?

Did Jesus address the idea of corporate worship? If so, then how? In His ministry time, what did He do? But what makes me even more curious is wanting to know how He worshipped prior to age 30. Somewhere in there He developed a knowing presence of God. Well, He was perfect, so perhaps He did not need to develop, like you and me. I know He participated in worship at the Temple. The thought of worshipping with Jesus -- wow! Did He sing out when He sang the hymns? Did He close His eyes during the Readings (OT, of course!), or was He on the Temple Rota-to-Read? What was His 'preferred worship style'? Did He play the harp or have a go at the shofar? Did He enjoy singing in the a cappella Temple choir, or did He teach the youth? Did He get a choice of worship styles when He went to Temple, or is that a modern-day convenience a lot of us demand and enjoy? We all know that He openly questioned the leaders a lot. Now there's a thought!

When Jesus left to be with our Father in Heaven, He promised a paraclete (Greek), a Comforter, Encourager, Counselor, Advocate: the Holy Spirit. God is always with us. For the moment, when I look at each of those English definitions of the Greek word, I see Christ's body. As a group of Believers come together as one, I just want to be a part of a group that can be each of those things to one another. By the power of the Holy Spirit.

This weekend at 'It's Your Calling' I read some inspiring words by St Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours, no feet but yours;
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
And see Christ's compassion to the world,
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good,

And yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

love ... obedience ... sacrifice ... honour ... glory ...

Friday, 20 May 2005


Today's post comes direct from the Doggy Desk of our beloved pet, DEE-OH'-GEE, to her new Puppy Friend, ASA ...

My Dear Asa -

Arf! Welcome to the Wonderful World of People!

My People Parents thought I might like to share some of my treats with you. Anything to help you adjust!

So please find enclosed, with my compliments, a couple of Bones (the non-Human variety -- those are so disgusting -- yechhhh!!) that have helped me tremendously in trying to get along with People. These Bones are a special variety of leather hide. With teeth like ours, the layers are easy-peasy to handle (if you know what I mean ... jaw strength rules!!). Enjoy chewing them as a much better alternative to People things, such as ladies knickers, furniture, and shoes. I know there will be times when temptation will hover. But People get really upset if we Canines chew their shoes, because their paws are not like anything we've ever seen! One great Bone benefit both you and your People Parents will enjoy: you will keep Doggy halitosis at BAY. Not only will this help you will feel much better, the People will also enjoy getting into your space more (learn to deal with that).

There are so many things I wish I could impart, but you are already undoubtedly feeling overwhelmed. A small word of advice, though: You will understand the needs and language of your People Parents a lot sooner than they will understand you. Sorry, Pups, but that's a Dog's life. Take it from me, I know. It's been almost 8 years, and my People Parents, God love 'em (and He does!), are still trying to decode and translate every bark, nudge, and look I give them. If you're ever in doubt, just go with what we call the 'hang-dog' look. You'll figure it out soon enough if you haven't already. It's in our Doggy DNA. That look gets 'em everytime!

Enjoy dem bones ... ARF ARF!

Monday, 16 May 2005

ACW, Regent Hall, and the Four Rings

Oxford Circus was a fun four-ring affair this past Saturday. It was an overcast day, typical for May -- cool and windy. On most Saturdays in the Spring, Oxford Circus is steaming with tourists, and this day was no different.

I was there under the auspices of 'helping' my friend Penny with an event hosted by the Association of Christian Writers (ACW) here in the UK. 'A Word to the Wise' was a special conference where successful Christian writers from America gave of their time to come over and share their craft for writing and publishing with British Christian writers. As the market for Christian literature in the UK is extremely weak, writers need to learn how best to get their works published in the American market. The speakers Penny sought out to come are successful and informed. They blessed everyone with the gift of encouragement, which is needed in great doses as, sadly, Christian publishers like Zondervan are pulling out of the UK market. The conference was very well attended, and the speakers just excellent. I was so happy for Penny -- her prayers were answered in abundance!

Am not quite sure exactly how I helped Penny, because I was having way too much fun sitting in on the lectures and networking with some absolutely awesome people who have a passion for the Lord and for writing. Yet in the midst of it all, God gave me a few small adventures to remind me that He wants to keep my writing grounded in music.

ACW holds its meetings and events in London's Regent Hall, the historic site for the Salvation Army ( ). In the US we mainly think of the Salvation Army as those uniformed people who ring bells in front of grocery stores at Christmastime, asking people to put their monetary donations into a black kettle. In the UK, the Salvation Army is a vital spiritual presence, and their churches seem to do better than most in getting the message of Christ out to more than just the disenfranchised.

Regent Hall, for me this past Saturday, was a calm in the middle of the three-ring circus on Oxford Street. I arrived 45-minutes before Penny or any of the others from ACW. I met the diligent staff, who run a lovely cafe and small Christian bookstore, in addition to taking care of the rest of the church. The cafe was not yet opened, so I debated walking down to Starbucks for a cuppa. But I noticed the large hall was empty, and sitting up on the stage in front of the 'choir loft' was a Steinway concert grand piano. All alone. No one was about. Everything around, so still and quiet. I had to play that piano! So for about 30-minutes, I did. God was sitting beside me, just singing in my ear, and each tone from that Steinway was wrapped by angels.

After lunch, I needed to raid a cash machine to purchase some of the books the authors had brought with them. ACW was not ready for credit card purchases. So out the door I traipsed and onto the crowded walk to strike it rich. The first two cash machines I made it to were out of cash (tourists!). By the time I finally crawled to one that was loaded, I had ventured off Oxford Street and all the way down Bond Street. Due to recent knee surgery, I desperately needed a break. Clinging to my newly acquired pounds (in more ways than one), my eyes focused on a store sign across the street. Chappell of Bond Street. My favourite music store! I usually order from them online. Their staff can find any piece of music one needs, no matter how obscure the manuscript. They have been my heroes on more than one panic-stricken occasion. Have always wanted to go into the store and just browse. So God carried me across the street, and as I slid joyfully down the stairs to the sheet music room, a corner of Heaven full of great music awaited. This place is so old, the mould has been lovingly framed (a favourite past-time here).

Found a new Urtext edition of Chopin Preludes, Op 28, and Op 45. Op 45 is one I would like to add to my repertoire. Also finally acquired some music composed by Clara Schumann, a phenomenal pianist, wife, mother, and friend to an unlovable Brahms. Then, a contemporary urge told me to buy the Shostakovich Preludes, Op 34.

Upon returning to Regent Hall, there were handbills announcing a piano recital that would be performed on that awesome Steinway that very evening, with the proceeds going to UNICEF. Perhaps in the future, the Lord will lead me to perform a recital at Regent Hall that includes some of the jewels just mentioned above. The proceeds could go to help so many needful efforts.

The last lecture of the day was in none other than Regent Hall's famous Band Hall, which is just dripping with history ( The mould is so old that frames have difficulty containing it. Attendees were packed in to a fabulous lecture by Davis Bunn. I loved learning from Davis, but I must admit the ENFP in me had my eyes continually straying to all the historic pictures of band members and events that are etched in time. The many ways God has used the Regent Hall Band to witness for His Kingdom are legendary in these parts. What a tremendous ministry!

Inspiring and humbling. A combination only our God could craft!


Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Flowers of the heart

Well, it's the end of Monday. Actually, I just looked at the clock and Tuesday has been lurking about. This season, evening stays light so late, that when darkness falls, I feel I need to be up longer just to absorb and enjoy the new colour(s).

I was going to meet my pillow much sooner, but there's a lot to think about. I am still very new to this blogging sport, and anticipate the times I can spend indulging in it. Is it easy to get bogged down blogging? We'll see.

I shrink with horror when I re-read the bit I originally wrote underneath 'About Me'. My American buddies will not notice anything too unusual in the wording of 'I just have to figure out which way He's pulling!' Of course, when I use the term 'pulling', I am trying to imply that God is there to drag, or haul, me out of the muck. And I did not think twice when I wrote and posted that (big mistake). But my English buddies are so going to laugh and go 'tsk, tsk', because to them, when someone is 'pulling' another person, that means they are kissing the other person in a grotesque manner. Someone is doing a serious heave-ho on the lips of another, Hoovering away in passion. I am just so mortified, and MAJOR apologies to my British buddies. BUT, I have tried several times now to correct and re-edit the wording to be less offensive, and is not being very cooperative. Of course, I think a kiss from God is absolutely wonderful, but the actual image of 'pulling' is somewhat revolting (you would have to see some telly adverts over here to understand where I'm coming from on this), and totally messes with the beautiful imagery I have ever had of God kissing me or any of His other children.

Now, on to other thoughts that are more deserving ...

Mother's Day USA has just passed. Here in the UK, we call it Mothering Sunday. I thought that unusual when I moved here a few years ago, and also found out it takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which comes a lot earlier than Mother's Day USA. According to the BBC Religion and Ethics site:
' ... Traditionally, it was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family.'

If you would like to read more interesting theological notes on Mothering Sunday in the UK it's all in the link above. Enjoy!

I have been fortunate to have three mothers. One I have never met. For some blessed reason, she had me, and decided it would be best to give me to a beautiful young Christian lady named Lorna. Together with my father, LL, Lorna loved me, nurtured me, and showed me God's presence through an abundance of adventures during my childhood and through young adulthood. When I was aged 27, this lovely mother left to experience God's healing presence for eternity. She was so young, but her spirit was eager to see God. It wasn't long before the Lord ushered in another lovely Christian woman, Peggy. For the past 23 years, Peggy has mentored me through adulthood as a single woman. Through recent years, as I've married and become a stepmother myself, Peggy has been the perfect role model. If I can but be as gracious and loving to my stepdaughters as Peggy has been to me all these years, then I will have served a worthy purpose!

Isn't it grand how God knows who to place in our path at crucial times in our lives? I think of how Naomi was given to Ruth, and how Elizabeth loved Mary with so much grace. God lovingly fills in gaps that were once so very painful, and makes them incredibly whole.

There are some daughters I know of who are presently experiencing the pain and loss of their dear, sweet mothers. One mother was much too young to leave. Two other mothers who lived long and remarkable lives knew, peacefully, that it was time to go. Their daughters know a sweet sorrow, and for the most part, rejoiced at the merciful release into a new life with our Heavenly Father.

For the teenage daughter I know who recently lost her wonderful young mother, aged 48, I want her to know this: Your mom is with you now. I pray you will always be wrapped by the fragrance of your mother's presence, even as she now sings in God's glorious throne room. You will feel her close by. The pain and sorrow will be a journey to endure for a while. Tears will flow, and that's okay ... allow them to water the flowers of your heart. Remember that some flowers will need more nourishment than others, and you can set your own time for endurance. When your dear mother was ill, she worried that you would not understand the path she was on, and was concerned for you. Now she no longer has to worry about you! Know that your mother has the best seat in the house when it comes to watching you grow into a beautiful young woman. (You began that transformation as you learned how to pray for your mother to be healed, and took care of her on the days when it meant so much to her.) That was her wish, as it was my own mother's who left me at almost the same age. She will walk side by side with God as you take your steps into adulthood and travel the journeys He places before you. And as time goes by, and the flowers of your heart take root, you will feel the sweetest strength imaginable. You will find your own faith in Him, and yet you will recognise beautiful images of your mother as you turn special corners in your own journeys with God. There is no shame in mourning ... your father and brother will partner with you as God hugs you all with His strength. The edges of pain will eventually soften, and you will begin to understand how wonderful it is to know Heaven is that much closer.

For now the nighttime grows its darkest, just before day begins to break and the birdsong lifts its tune to wake me up for another day. The night is short, indeed.


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