Thursday, 30 June 2005

As Surely as the Morning's Dawn

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us search to know Him better.
As surely as the morning’s dawn
is His daily arrival and presence in our lives.
He comes to us as the showers,
as the autumn and spring rains that water the earth.
-- Hosea 6:3

We are finally getting some much-needed rain. What a relief! It has been hot here. Wimbledon hasn’t seen or smelled such sweat in a while, I reckon.

Rain is a huge reminder to me of Who is really in control. Rain is always in the conversation here, as in 'It rains too much!' But, believe it or not, we are in a drought year, and prayer requests include rain. That's probably why it has been hot so early in the year. Heat and drought -- one element and one condition the English are neither too familiar with!

Those of us from states such as Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, etc., might laugh at our predicament here. But just having flown back from Scotland, it was a shocker to look down from the sky and see so many shades of brown in the colour scheme of our earthen patchwork quilt. Our Kent does not quite resemble the dusty plains of West Texas, but …!

When it comes to weather, we whinge a lot. We all have our preferences. (Click on today's title.) John loves the heat. Getting off the plane from Inverness, where we were blessed with glorious sunny blue skies and breezy days, it actually felt like we were stepping off the plane in Majorca or Cyprus, not London. He was just revelling and loving the sweat!

Me? I like it cool, and I don’t mind the rain. I am spoilt by air-conditioning, because to survive in most of the places I’ve lived, it would be in the upper 80’s (Fahrenheit) to start off, but then languish between 94F and over 100F for six months out of the year. It was too hot to swim outdoors, because the water in the pool gets hot enough for tea. The pavement has been known to fry eggs. And no one drives with their soft-top down because they would be scorched. So everyone stays inside air-conditioned cocoons: homes, schools, cars, businesses, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and churches! All are designed to be equipped with cool air support.

In England, not much of every-day life is adjusted for air-conditioned cocoons. Things like ceiling fans are fashion statements, and if they are turned to operate on 'high' instead of low people are afraid their heads will get chopped off. They do not understand how to run them or how to even position basic pedestal fans in the places that will render the best airflow for a cool breeze. People in church stoically suffer through the heat. They would rather die fainting then seek aid from a cool breeze.

Not me! Give me one of those mini hand-held, battery-operated rotary fans with plastic blades any day!! But then, that is my natural inclination. To the Sun Worshippers in the UK, heat is a luxury to wallow in for two weeks on holiday in Spain or the Canary Islands. They are not used to the consistency of daily life with heat. And, until the last couple of years, they have not had to live with high temperatures. Air-conditioned cocoons would be an extremely expensive option for only a few days out of a year that is mostly cold and rainy. That’s why over 1,000 people died here of heat stroke last year.

Sometimes, God takes me to a place where my senses must re-learn to appreciate elements and conditions I have taken for granted. The zone has become too comfortable. Before Noah and the Ark, it never rained. It just misted. I guess Noah was more used to having umbrellas for shoes rather than for his head.

But mostly, God just wants to remind me that He is in control. He has so much to offer me, if only I will admit it, and come to Him for ‘relief’. He does not want me to faint or die when He provides life-sustaining resources.

God is in today’s breeze;

His breath gently caresses my face with loving coolness.
He soothes the affront of the day and restores confidence.

He is the shade of the willow tree
Under which I sit, captivated by our visit,
Knowing the conversation with Him does not ever have to end.

He flows through the streams
Where the waters ripple to lap at my ankles and tickle my feet;
His laughter holds my footing firm in the currents.

His is the gentle rain,
Its music and rhythms against my windowsill
Composing thoughts refreshed and inspired.

When God makes the clouds burst,
The torrent fills my well with emotion and surprise:
He invites me to drink and taste the goodness of Heaven on earth.

God wants to touch me and bring me into His presence:
How will I reach out to feel and accept Him?

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

My Heart's in the Highlands! --Part 1

Need to escape this London heat wave? Scotland is just the place, and the Moray Firth offers just the relief you need!

The last seven days, John and I saw some of God’s most glorious beauty in the Highlands near Cawdor, Nairn, and Inverness. (Click on today's title.) We felt the dampness and spray from the massive Loch Ness. ‘Nessie’ stayed out of sight – too many tourists! And we learned of the Jacobites, and the tragic story and ensuing consequences of the Battle of Culloden.

This was such a meaningful trip for me. Every holiday and its locale is special. But this journey into the Highlands, for me, was like a dream come true. My mind is so full of first impressions, and a re-ordering of life-long expectations. As I write, my darting mind is an indication that I will need to post this in two parts.

It has always been a childhood dream of mine to go to the Highlands of Scotland. I went to Edinburgh with my grandmother when I was 11. Granted, Edinburgh is not the Highlands, but at that age, what young lass would not be enchanted by the Castle when the sun is setting? Still, it whetted my appetite to reach higher someday.

I remember being only four years old when, while living in Carlsbad, New Mexico, my family went to the annual 4th of July parade. All the big bands, rodeo queens, grand horses, and clowns throwing miniature loaves of Rainbow Bread into the crowd passed by with their usual festivity. But what really enthralled this young girl was the pageantry and sounds of the bagpipe brigade that came down Main Street. With a crystal clear New Mexico sky above, the sounds in B-flat filled the horizon and beyond. I cried because I thought, next to the piano, those bagpipes played the most beautiful music I had ever heard!

Why this intense emotion for things Scottish I will never know. Being adopted, I figure perhaps it could be a DNA-thing. Pretty much everyone has some interest in where they came from, and for me Scotland is one of those places I feel some ancestral connection with. I lovingly adopted this myth myself when I was eight years old and was given a 6-week 3rd grade assignment to explore ‘where I came from’. Do teachers understand the implications for research this means to kids out there who are adopted and are not told anything?

My Mother, Lorna, took my histrionics in stride when I came home from school all gloom-faced, knowing I was doomed to fail this ‘project’. She sat me down at the kitchen table, and settled me down with a glass of milk and some cookies (ah, comfort food!). After hearing my dilemma, she said:

‘Oh, that shouldn’t be so difficult, and ought to be a lot of fun! Your dad’s family comes from England, Norway, and possibly France. On my side, you know we’re Scottish, from Clan Hunter, and English. You know how Grandmother Jewel always has milk in her tea. Oh, and Black Dutch.’

Black Dutch? That one threw me.

‘Yes, Black Dutch. People from Holland who are not blonde or blue-eyed, and have more of an olive complexion, like mine.’ (

Mother went on:
‘Now, you can either choose to be from any of those countries – put your dad’s countries together with mine. OR, you can choose to be from wherever you want to be from. How about that?’

Well, that was just the best news of the entire school year! At the time, some of my favourite piano pieces to play were by the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. But what really clinched the deal and gave me confidence in getting an A+-grade was the fact that I always teared up whenever I heard bagpipes. So then and there, I decided to be Scottish-Norwegian. That night, mother helped me design my own special tartan.

My mother was, I am certain, using wisdom endowed by her Scottish ancestry!

At age 12, when we moved to Kandahar, I learned that the bagpipes actually originated in India. Their journey through the ages to Scotland only made them more fascinating.

When we returned to the US from Afghanistan, the high school I attended in Los Angeles had a thriving drama department. I was hoping to land the role of Meg in Brigadoon (the stage version is much better than the naff movie). But after all the dance and diction prep, we moved again, and the role slipped away.

But not the dream!

John and I flew into Inverness Airport on a sunny day. The airport is actually about twenty minutes outside of Inverness. Its two runways are so close to the Moray Firth we thought Mohammed, our friendly EasyJet pilot, was about to land deep beneath the waves. The airport itself is about the size of the Abilene Regional Airport in Abilene, Texas.

As we waited with other travellers by the luggage carrel, John and I were expecting to hear some thick Scottish brogues as families came to greet and collect. John had been worried that we would not be able to understand anyone, because a thick Scottish accent can be very disorientating. We heard many accents: the usual array of English, some American, Asian, and Eastern European. So far, no confusion.

By the time we collected our hire car we understood every word. The people at Eurocar were extremely friendly, and had the softest of brogues, as did the kind lady at the till at Tesco’s, where we got our week’s supply of food. The couple that ran our self-catering cottage had lived in Australia for almost 30 years, and were not Scottish.

So, where were the thick Scottish brogues? Apparently, only in Hollywood, Glasgow, the Lowlands, and down at the Border. The Highlanders are known more for their softer brogue, as their words are derived from Gaelic.

Stay tuned for My Heart’s in the Highlands, Part Deux!

Monday, 20 June 2005

Forbidden Worship

I grew up in a church that, in essence, drew up strict guidelines as to what could constitute ‘worship’. Worship to God was a corporate duty, an act of reverence done within the walls of a church building. And within those strict guidelines imposed by church leadership, acts of worship were to be performed – oh, excuse me! – facilitated by men. Women near the alter during the time of corporate worship was a forbidden transgression.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was only mentioned during the Christmas season, depending upon whether or not the Church of Christ we were attending that year (adventurous relocation was a favourite family pastime) even believed in celebrating Christmas (possibly a topic for a future post, if I can summon up the energy for that discussion). Her magnificent prayer, the Magnificat, found in the Gospel of Luke, was barely breathed and rarely intoned, so sadly I was never made much aware of it. Certainly, this lovely piece of scripture was never called ‘the Magnificat’ in my childhood presence, as at the time, most of the adults around me seemed to be categorically incensed at all the Catholics nearby and around the world.

God has graciously shown me through the years how different friends have come to know Him. Their testimonies are tapestries vibrant with colour. Some are variations on a theme of mine, whilst others are miracles one can only marvel at. God creatively draws people into relationship with Himself. All the evangelistic ‘methodology’ brilliantly applied can go pear-shaped when God decides to become artistically active in ‘winning souls’ His way.

He has had lots of fun in reordering my own limited thinking on several occasions. My journey with Him began from birth and I felt The Road at a very early age. From the earliest recollections, I have always loved:

  1. Hymns, with their glorious message of Christ sung through meaningful poetry and prose;
  2. Singing a cappella with others, in close, inspired, spontaneous harmony;
  3. Pianos, and the many ways they can sound.

Now, if I had been enrolled as, say for example, a Baptist, this would have been icing on the church cake. And, initially, if I had been born a male, just stick little old me in my Moses basket in between the choir and the organist or church pianist, and let me sing my developing lungs out in rapture and ecstasy!

But, alas, God in His mysterious wisdom and ultimate creativity decided to make me a girl, then bonded me and my Moses basket to a pew several rows back from the alter. Far away from the men and that guy holding the ‘pitch pipe’ (another topic for a future post). Because, in a strange twist of divine intervention, the pews I was grounded on as a child were in churches where instrumental music was yet another major transgression.

The Forbidden Worship imposed upon the heart and mind of this child were three-fold:

  1. Worship as an uninhibited expression of my adoration and love to God and Christ;
  2. Full spiritual development as a person of God because He created me female;
  3. Using the piano or other instruments to:
  • glorify His wondrous power and might in creation;
  • evoke His love, joy, and peace;
  • bring His ageless stories to life!

Travelling beyond each new decade marker, the blessings of learning and experience are indeed profound. It becomes easier to identify the best of the good things I learned on those pews, and to realise that they are a pleasing part of the fabric God has woven into my own tapestry. Throughout the years in our journey together, His inexplicable grace and the life of Jesus have rescued me from that stark, uncomfortable pew set back at a glaring distance from the ‘alter’. He has used wide brush strokes to place me closer to that place of ultimate devotion and communion with Him, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

A reference to Myers-Briggs was made in an earlier post on this site (30th April). The MBTI is a very solid and successful tool used in many professions and amongst academics to assess one’s personality/psychological type. You can access the link to their site by clicking above on today's title.

I have taken the complete formal MBTI instrument three times: in 1987 as a requirement for Seminary studies; again in 1990 for post-graduate studies at a different university; and recently this year, an informal administration of this tool as a way of re-visiting my ‘type’ prior to spiritual development offered through the Rochester Diocese. In each decade the results have been the same: I am undoubtedly ENFP. My husband John is INTJ. (See below for our sample MB prayer types.)

I mention this because each one of us is a new creation designed especially by our loving God. The MBTI is one fascinating way of finding out what makes you tick. It only requires that you be totally honest with yourself. It is amazing to re-discover our inner child by uncovering all the layers of influence moulding our lives. It is an eye-opener to be made aware of which influences come from God, and which come from our fellow man.

When we get to the heart of the matter and find out what influences have forbidden worship in our lives, we feel God’s abiding presence to the fullest. What a joyous release! God created the INTJ with the same love and compassion He created the ENFP. When we are aware of each other’s types, we can appreciate and respect each other’s journey on the road to worship in a whole new light. We might even be able to help clear up the cluttering influences in each other’s paths if we know what to watch out for.

In his book, ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, Rick Warren reminds us that we were planned for God’s pleasure. This pleasure we bring God is worship. Warren writes: …’ the best style of worship is the one that most authentically represents your love for God.’

  • Have you misplaced your original and unique practice of pleasing God as certain influences have crowded around and invaded His space in your life?
  • What influences have forbidden worship in your life-time?
  • Have you noted God’s ingenious ways of ‘diversion’ to bring you back into His presence?
  • How do you influence worship in the hearts and minds of the children around you?

With Forbidden Worship, Part II, I’ll visit the journey of re-direct God performs in His desire to draw us ever nearer in our worship to Him.

What a relief that our Lord accepts all ‘types’! Prayer samples for two Myers-Briggs types:

INTJ: 'Lord, keep me open to others' ideas, wrong though they may be.'

(Introversion Intuiting Thinking Judgment)

‘Lord, help me to keep my mind on one th – look, a bird! – ing at a time.’

(Extroversion Intuiting Feeling Perception)

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Clogging and the Thought Process

Ever had a sinus infection so bad you realised later that your thoughts were not as coherent as you might have wished? When you needed your thoughts, your timing and balance were off?

That’s been my asymmetrical state of affairs for the past week. Last Wednesday, I went to take Snikkerz for her much needed grooming. The dear lady who lovingly grooms Snik was going through a tough time herself. So while she took care of Snikkerz, I had enough time, just, to go get her some flowers. I also wanted to make sure I had the correct amount of change to pay her. So I applied my fuzzy maths at the cash machine in our village square. By the time I went to get Snikkerz, I was armed with compassion and ready to pay £15.00. I wanted to add £1 for a little extra.

With two notes and a one-pound coin clutched in the palm of my hand, I gave the flower arrangements to the sweet lady, and collected Snikkerz. Once Snikkerz was settled in the car, I began to start the engines when I noticed that I was not only gripping the steering wheel, but the money still owed! So I got out of the car and sheepishly rang the groomer’s doorbell. She opened it before a sound could ring out, and laughed at my scatterbrained self. I gave her the money and made my weaving retreat back to the car. By now, my clogged head and dizzy body needed to hit the pillow, things were so foggy!

Three days later, I looked in my wallet only to discover with embarrased dismay that a £10-pound note was still present. Ms Groomer only got two fivers!

Too dizzy to take care of it immediately. The bank holiday is now over and the £10 is on its way.

THE PROMS! Just as my clogged mind views a clearing, more clogging appears in the distance. I requested tickets online today for this season’s musical offerings. After choosing several delectable concerts, I entered the requisite information, then clicked the ‘send’ button to pay for the glorious sounds.

As this was my first Proms ticket request, I called the Royal Albert Hall booking office to have any fears allayed by the ticket rep. A woman with a caring voice confirmed (boy, am I easily conned!) that my request had been received. It was ‘second in line to being processed’. Small comfort. This meant only that once the other 11,000+ requests pouring in before I rang had been filled, mine would be in fine standing. IF there are any seats left for the concerts I ‘booked’, the RAH ticket agent will ring and let me know which concerts I got lucky with. As they state online: ‘Applications will be processed from Monday 16 May and tickets will be allocated subject to availability.’

That’s a lot of people going to The Proms, and it’s not even 13 June, when the telephone booking officially opens. But, I did it during the ‘unofficial’ early period, and according to RAH booking: ‘This booking period represents the best chance of getting the seats you want.’

With over 11,000 applicants before the official booking opens, that’s a lot of cloggers on the promenade deck!

My timing and balance might still be off …

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