Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sacred Echoes

I'm sorry I have been so quiet. I'm just weary. I've had a blog entry growing in my head for a week or two, so hopefully this won't be too long. I'm not making any promises.

A few weeks back I told you about the manna God was giving me, showing me little signs of his love on a daily basis. As I've begun to feel better, I haven't always needed daily reminders, but God has continued to lavish His love upon me on both the good days and the bad days.

One way He does that is through sacred echoes, Margaret Feinberg's term for how God speaks to us in a repetitive nature. I've always called those instances confirmations, but don't you think sacred echo sounds so much more... mysterious?

Don't know what I'm talking about? Let me give you some examples.

It so happens that Margaret Feinberg spoke at a ladies' retreat at our church weekend before last. On that Saturday morning, as I enjoyed my daily walk with Jesus, I suddenly thought of the Apostle John, and how he always called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. I remembered my strong connection with that sentiment. "Lord," I prayed, "please help me to remember that I am Sarah, the woman Jesus loves. Help me to really live like that."

Can you guess what Maraget spoke about just an hour or so later? Yep, it was John's assurance that he was the one Jesus loved. She said we need to live like John, so full of God's love that we're dripping with it, like when you step out of the shower and reach for a towel, and you fling water everywhere. Oh Lord, make it so!

I'd experienced another sacred echo just the day before, when I hosted a Moms in Prayer meeting for Allyson's school. Our group leader was late, and I thought maybe we should get started the way we normally do, by praising God for one of the attributes of His character. Since Elaine had the prayer sheets, I had no idea what was on the agenda for the meeting. The moment I started thinking about it, God's compassion popped into my mind. "Boy, am I thankful for compassion," I thought. I was just opening my mouth to suggest that theme when the doorbell rang. Elaine came in and set the prayer sheets on the table. Right there at the top of the sheet, in bold print, was "Compassion." Goosebumps rose on my arms, and I felt an extra sense of awe as I praised God with the other ladies.

Over the weeks before that, there were sacred echoes at each Sunday service. Whatever I prayed for most fervently in my morning prayers was echoed in the worship services. For example, I prayed, "Lord, please bring these dry bones to life. Let your spirit come alive in me." And the first worship song that morning was Bones, by Hillsong. The words sent shivers up my spine: "You can take my dry bones, Breathe life into this skin.... Oh, Jesus, Alive in me."

On another Sunday, I was struggling with remorse over past sins. Picturing myself at the foot of the cross, I knelt on the landing of my stairs (one of my oddest favorite places to pray) and prayed for Jesus's grace to wash over me. At church, we sang a song with the very same words, about a river of grace flowing down from the cross and washing over us.

I could go on and on, but I'll content myself with just two more examples. Earlier this week, my friend Fran sent me a devotional about coming boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). At the very moment I was thrilling to this promise, my ears tuned in to the song playing on the radio: "Take Me Into the Holy of Holies." How does He DO that?

And here's my favorite, because my sign took such an unexpected form. Last Wednesday I was watching Allyson's first gymnastics lesson--she loved it!--when a young man's tattoo caught my eye. Ever since I got my own tattoo, I've been noticing them everywhere, the way you get a new car and then notice the same model everywhere you look. This tattoo wrapped around the forearm in very ornate Old English script. The first letters were "Jo." I immediately thought of John's gospel. I craned my neck for a better look. The end was "33." Yes, a Scripture reference! After five minutes of shameless staring, I determined that his tattoo said, "John 16:33." Although I had no idea what that verse might be, I felt a flutter in my heart, as if this were a personal message for me.

Back at home later that evening, my fingers trembled as I looked up the reference. Yes, a message for me!

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

So are you thinking, "Yes, but where's the echo?" I'm getting to that. Yesterday Fran forwarded me another devotional, this one about God being our refuge in time of trouble. Nestled in that message was a reference to John 16:33. Even without the message from the tattoo, I would have been encouraged by that verse. But seeing it twice in less than a week really drove the message home.

While I Was Still Praying
I have to share one more story, the one dearest to my heart. One night last week after a hard day, I was feeling sorry for myself. As I knelt on the floor of my beloved prayer closet, I let the tears fall. "God, I just need you to hold me. Please hold me!"

Even as I made that plea, I thought, "Now how is God going to hold me? What I want is a real hug."

But thank God I was wrong! While I was still praying, I heard a faint voice behind me in the bedroom. "Mom?" It was Ethan. I guess he realized then that I was praying. "Just wanted to say good night," he said, turning for the door.

"No, wait!" I said, leaping to my feet and crossing to him. I pulled him into a hug. "Thank you for coming to tell me good night," I said. "I appreciate it."

He ducked his head and grinned. "You're welcome."

"Have a good sleep," I said. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

Back in my closet, I thanked God with wonder. It wasn't only that my 15-year-old boy sought me out to say good night, though that was surprising enough. What really amazed me was that Ethan had already said good night and shut his door, and I'd heard his box fan go on, which meant he really was in bed. I had the distinct impression that God told him to go look for his mama, because He knew I needed a hug. Who says God can't give you a real hug?

What made this story even more meaningful was a lesson I'd just completed in my Beth Moore Bible study on the book of Daniel. I had marveled at the story of the angel coming to Daniel with the answer to his prayer--while he was still praying (Daniel 9:20-21). So I guess this story was yet another example of a sacred echo.

How about you? Would you share examples of the sacred echoes in your own life?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Pirate's Fondest Wish

For Halloween this year, Bill helped Allyson pick out a pirate's costume, complete with a sword and a skull necklace with "ruby" eyes. I had jury duty that day, so I had the misfortune (or good fortune, perhaps) to miss the annual trip to Party City with its throngs of rambunctious children and grumpy adults. But I did get to share the fun when Allyson modeled her costume and props.

And I was there on that first day when she broke both the sword and the necklace. "Maybe Daddy can fix them," she said, her voice barely over a whisper.

"I bet he can," I agreed.

"But let's put everything back in the bag so you don't wreck anything else before Halloween," Bill said.

In the weeks that followed, Allyson often repeated her hope that she'd be able to wield the sword and wear the necklace on the big day. But her fondest wish was something that seemed much more iffy. Her front tooth had been loose for weeks, and she dearly hoped she would lose it before Halloween; she figured a missing tooth would give her pirate's costume a more authentic look.

"I don't know, sweetie," I said. "It's not that loose yet, and it takes a long time to lose a tooth."

She continued to wiggle her tooth morning and night, day in and day out, and hoped for a Halloween miracle.

Last Sunday, before we took Allyson to Trunk or Treat at our church, Bill managed to mend the sword with a bunch of clear Duck tape. Good as new! And then he broke out the hot glue gun and affixed the crossbones behind the skull pendant.

"I knew Daddy could fix them," I said.

Allyson grinned, but then she frowned. "I wish my tooth would fall out before we go."

"I don't think it's going to fall out in the next hour," I said.

Even with all her teeth, she made quite a convincing pirate:

And, for a one-eyed pirate, she did amazingly well at all the carnival games. There were beanbag tosses, soccer and basketball goals, and even a game where she threw rolls of toilet paper into a stuffed "toilet." Her favorite game by far was a big inflatable (like a bounce house) with holes to kick a soccer ball through. The holes were way over her head, but she came so close to scoring. She went back over and over, making more than 20 attempts. Despite her tenacity, she never quite got the ball through the holes. But she never got discouraged, and I was so proud of her spirit.

The day after Trunk or Treat, Allyson rushed in from school and greeted me with a huge, toothless grin!

That tooth had come loose during class, creating quite a commotion among the kids as it dangled wildly, blood trickling out. Her teacher waved her to the bathroom, where Allyson held a paper towel to her mouth. And then the tooth popped right out. Losing a tooth wasn't the only first that occurred that day; she also got to go to the nurse's office! The nurse put her tooth into a tiny tooth-shaped container and hung it around her neck.

That night, she wrote this note:

The Tooth "Fariy" left this reply that night, along with three whole dollars! (Bill explained that you get a bit more for the first tooth since it is so special.)
You will get it back one day.... T.F.

So all of our pirate's wishes came true. On Halloween night, she went trick or treating with a snaggle-toothed smile, an almost perfect taped sword, and a skull necklace-with crossbones. I think she was right. That missing tooth added just the right touch:

She had a glorious time, I'm told. I was in Las Vegas for a conference at the time, and believe me when I say, Halloween is craazy in Vegas. As for Allyson, would you believe she broke that sword again?

Jack O Lanterns
This year it was only Allyson and Bill who carved pumpkins as Ethan had decided to pass on that tradition this year (sigh). As usual, all I did was take pictures.

The cat was Allyson's own design. Pretty nice, huh?


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