31 December 2011

Sunshine in my Soul...and in the sky

(A few delights from our day.)

Last night when my bread wasn't rising fast enough for me to knead it and get it baked before sundown, I thought I would roll it out and make breadsticks. To that end, I had it all smoothed out on the largest of all my tiny counter spaces, olive oil and herbs sprinkled over the top.

Just moments before I started the slices that would make the whole into bread sticks, my husband came in the room and said,

"Oh, are you making pizza?"

Well, no. I wasn't. But why not? It sounded good to me, too. And it has been a delicious edition to two meals now. And I think next time we make beans in the crock pot, I'll plop in a few whole potatoes so that we can have "baked" potatoes with our beans.

This morning at church a woman approached us. "Which one of you plays the piano well?" she asked.

It has been a while since I've heard this question much, but I'm about as accustomed to it as I am to drinking water or going for a walk. We both play the piano well, in fact, and yes, one of us could easily step in since you don't have a pianist today. Oh, yes, I suppose the other of us would be willing to help lead the singing as well.

No, we don't begrudge anyone, or think how bad they must be at planning ahead. I've been that planner on many occasions, desperate for someone, anyone, who could play, and I know well not only the feeling of being asked to help at the last minute, but also the great feeling of relief when someone says that beautiful word, YES.

I looked over the notebook she handed me. Just hymns. No problem. Then there was the one praise song--a little more modern and a little less easily in my fingers. I've played every hymn in the hymnal (try it sometime--it's great fun), but some of the newer ones in newer books...well, they're composed a little differently than four-part hymns according to the voice leading rules in counterpoint or the common practice era. (Enough said.)

In my mind, I read the music, singing and playing it silently. I do this several times before I realize I've played it before. Ten to fifteen years ago. With the pastor's wife at the electronic keyboard next to me. It's a nice song, and it's still floating around in my mind this afternoon:

"Blessed be the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come."

I've never had anybody ask me to fill in for a sermon, although sometimes I feel like I learn enough from my Bible study during the week to do it if necessary. They ask me to play the piano quite often, though, and I'm glad I can do what my hand finds to do to be useful, to let the congregation praise and pray together to the God I serve and love.

This afternoon, we'll do as our friend songleader suggested--get out in the sunshine. The rest of the week may bring snow and cold, so we'll take our forty degrees while we can have them. For the rest of the winter (as always, whether the weather outside is rain or shine), we'll be relying on the Sunshine in our souls for light.


If you're looking for good reading, we haven't been able to put Escape from Death down. We're like a couple of little kids...maybe just one more chapter?

14 December 2011

Storage Issues

I just filled our thirty-sixth jar with applesauce. Do you know how many jars we had room for in our cupboard? Nine. We still have about a bushel to cook and sauce. I would be lying if I told you I knew where I was going to put them all. That applies to the wonderful half-gallon jars of apple juice we did several weeks ago, too.

Can you feel my dilemma?

04 December 2011

Until the Work is Finished

Yesterday morning, I woke up late. You see, I had been up late, and the surest result of being up late is waking up late. It had been the Christmas concert, and the choral instructor had invited his graduate assistants over afterwards to celebrate and visit. We were tired, but we were glowing.

I knew we would not be on time for Sabbath school, but I wanted to finish the reading for our class nonetheless. We've been studying what it really means to gain an education, and I was not about to miss the reading titled "The Lifework."

"Success in any line demands a definite aim," I read. "Such an aim is set before the youth of today. The heaven-appointed purpose of giving the gospel to the world in this generation is the noblest that can appeal to any human being. It opens a field of effort to everyone whose heart Christ has touched."

(White, Ellen G. Education. Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1903, 1952, p. 262.)

I continue on to read that no child, however unpromising he or she may appear, should be denied the best training and education that can be obtained, lest any would thus be prepared to do the work that God has set before them. However humble their work may seem, they may still reach many for the Savior.

I also read how to find the lifework. "To do our best in the work that lies nearest, to commit our ways to God, and to watch for the indications of His providence--these are rules that ensure safe guidance in the choice of an occupation." (White, 267.)

Later with our class, we discuss this most important endeavor of spreading the gospel. We see and say how we cannot share an experience in walking with God if we have not had it. We see that we have an urgent responsibility to all those around us. We see that those who have had experiences in sharing their faith need to train those who are new to the faith and new to the task to ensure success.

We see that when we are connected with the strength of God and filled with the Holy Spirit, we will never lose our strength. But if we do grow weary, we know where to turn for rest and renewal. (See Matthew 11:28-30, which also tells us that we renew our strength for renewed labor with Christ.)

When we go in to the sanctuary for the worship service, we see that our friend who led the discussion in Sabbath school will also be giving the sermon. And we are glad, for he is a deep thinker and a man of God.

He speaks of work, and how prior to being in the seminary, his job (not that of a pastor) was of the sort that you worked around the clock if necessary to get the job done on time. Maybe you even worked one hundred hours that week. Maybe you really enjoyed the company benefits, but the Blackberry they gave you also meant that you needed to reply to any e-mail that came through your phone within one or two minutes.

He took us to Isaiah chapter 6, where we read of Isaiah's calling. I've usually focused on Isaiah's willingness: "Here I am, send me." But this time he points out something that has NEVER sunk into my heart before. It's in verse 11. It's something Isaiah really wants to know. What has he really gotten into?

"Then said I, 'Lord, how long?' And He answered, 'Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.'"

In other words, until the work is DONE. You can't stop working until the work is finished. Christ doesn't stop working until His work is finished, either. He completed His work on the cross, and just before He comes, He will have completed His work in the heavenly sanctuary. (But that's a whole different study. Feel free to ask me if you have questions about that!)

It's like our friend's former job. And it's like canning peaches or making grape juice. When the fruit is ripe, you get up, stay up, labor over it until it's all canned. You don't go to the beach for a swim while there are still ripe peaches waiting to be processed. If you do that, they'll perish before you can get them preserved.

The fruits are like people who don't know Jesus. If we don't labor over them, they might perish before they know their Savior, too.

Perhaps more than ever, that sank in for me yesterday. There are people I pray for--people who I want to see come to know Jesus and His saving power in their lives. I want them to gain the victory over the sins that so easily beset them.

But praying isn't enough. Don't get me wrong. The work CANNOT happen without prayer. Prayer, however, is not the whole work. There are other kinds of labor that have to happen. How do I know?

Well, Jesus Himself said so.

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 'All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.' Amen." Matthew 28:18-20.

He sends all of us out to do this work. But He's not like the overbearing, demanding boss who's always looking over your shoulder. He promises to always be with us, and He assures us that He has all the power to accomplish the things He asks us to do.

Here I am, Lord, send me.

(There is more to share about these themes from my study and experience yesterday, which I hope to do soon. Now, however, I must eat breakfast and accomplish the last things on the list for this semester. May all my readers walk with the Lord today.)