Friday, June 24, 2011

Join the Applause

I first became a fan of the word applaud and its various forms in June of 1994. It was used in a sympathy note Lou received from our architect, Ed Kurtz, after Lou's mom died. I'll never forget the line, and I have actually written it in similar notes since then. About Lou's mom Ed wrote, "May she ever applaud your life from heaven."

That line does everything an encouraging sentence should do. It encourages you and it spurs you on to be your best self. It is a powerful word picture.

So when I saw a link to something called Join the Applause  on my twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, I had to investigate what was worth applauding and what I was being encouraged to join. It is described as "a movement of gratitude directed at our Creator." If there is any being worth applauding - any being where applauding is still woefully inadequate - it is our Creator. But applaud is something we can do. This isn't really about physically applauding with our hands, although I'm not opposed to that. I've certainly applauded lesser things. But it's more a mindset, an attitude of the heart, that we share with others because we love and we're grateful to the one who created us and all we see and experience. The founder of Join the Applause, Kennan Burch, further describes it's purpose:
To see people take time to pause, ponder, appreciate and appropriately respond to God for all his acts of creation. The end result is seeing people have a greater sense of awe, wonder, and sense of gratitude. And this sense of gratitude can change how people respond to all of life’s challenges. Gratitude Changes Everything.

I loved it, told my family about it, and said we were going to be mindful of "the day," this Saturday, June 25, 2011, at sunset. Since it's been in the back of my mind for a few days, this section of Acts 14 jumped out at me the other morning.

"Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." Acts 14:15-17

Our God is living. He made the heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them. He did good by giving us rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts...

He's the only one who can satisfy our hearts.

And He knew that pausing, pondering, and appreciating His creation would speak deeply to our souls. Not that we worship the creation, but the creator it points to.

I've spent some time of late in a couple of places particularly known for their beauty - Hawaii, and Aspen, Colorado. I have marveled at the ocean

 and the mountains.

In both those settings, I thought of a line I read in Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. It's on page 167 in the chapter entitled "go lower."

"Yet when I stand before immensity that heightens my smallness-I have never felt sadness. Only burgeoning wonder."

That is so true! I wonder, I marvel at our big God, who undoubtedly can "handle" me and my problems if he is the creator of immense things like oceans and mountains. And it's just as easy to marvel here at home. All we have to do is look up. Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaims the work of his hands." Is there anything more immense than the sky? Driving home tonight from a basketball shootout, my son, David, and I were remarking, marveling, over the sunset. What a beautiful, daily reminder of the bigness, the glory, of the one who made us.

He is worth applauding. And we can join the world for a part of a 24 hour applause tomorrow. But let's not stop there. Let's start there. Let's applaud the Creator and our Savior everyday.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Only Space

As I write this, I am 34,000 ft above the ground, winging my way to Denver and eventually, Aspen, CO.  I'm traveling with my 20 yr old daughter, Hannah, who is working there for 5 weeks this summer. Thanks to American miles, I will get to see where Hannah's living and maybe get a taste of what she'll be doing. For the two days I'm there, we get to tour around a bit, and hike the much praised Maroon Bells area.

So obviously, she and I are out of Bolivar this week - but we aren't the only ones of our clan on the move. Faith and Elizabeth left at 6 a.m. this morning (the 12th), for Toledo, Ohio. They are with the youth of our church on a mission trip to the inner city there. Mary Grace is not out of Bolivar, but she's out of the house, as she is at tennis camp at Southwest Baptist University until Friday. Luke left last week for his summer job in Fayetteville, AR. That leaves David and Lou to hold down the fort for a few days. They are, I'm sure, watching the Mavs-Heat game as I type.

As I've contemplated our being apart, even for this short time, I thought about a line I read in the book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Bonhoeffer's brother, Walter, is leaving home to fight in WWI. (Thankfully, nothing quite so dramatic with us.)

They took Walter to the station the next morning, and as the train was pulling away, Paula Bonhoeffer ran alongside it, telling her fresh-faced boy: "It's only space that separates us."

That thought speaks to me. It reminds me that the real ties that bind are not broken by great distances. It reminds me of the truth that there is no distance in prayer. And that prayer is no small thing.

So here, I'll virtually run beside their planes, trains, and automobiles as they are gone on their little trips (and eventually their big trips). I'll remind them (and me) with the words of Paula Bonhoeffer, "It's only space that separates us."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hawaii, Radar, and Rain

I should start at the beginning. But I'm not going to. I'm starting my posts about Hawaii with pictures taken toward the end of our trip. That's because a blog thought popped into my head at this time also - and all because of one word: Rain.

What do you do when what's on the radar is not on your radar?

When we were planning this trip, the thought that our planned activities might be interrupted by precipitation never entered my mind. Helloooo, Shelley. You vacationed in a lush, tropical climate. That kind of climate is made possible by abundant rain. When we started to experience this rain, we did read on the internet that if it was raining where you were on Oahu, just drive 10 minutes and you'll find the sun. Ok. No problem. Wasn't expecting this, but we'll just do a little extra driving - a little more time in the car than planned. But our car time, albeit crowded, was very good family time. Seeing the silver lining to this cloud.

But one night, more than just a little intermittent shower showed up. According to the Honolulu weather man, the big thunderstorm making noise above our heads was a the result of a very unusual weather pattern for Oahu. A couple of days after this, we visited with a couple who has lived on Oahu for 9 years. The woman explained that in those 9 years, they'd only experienced 5 thunderstorms. Electrical storms were incredibly rare for them.  Since we'd already had conversations about the unexpected rain showers prior to this, we just looked at each other and shook our heads. But then, God gave us eyes to see the beauty. This storm wasn't like the thunderstorms we have here. This was truly an electrical storm - and what a show it was putting on over the water in front of our house. Before the rain really started falling, the lights went out inside the house as the light show began outside the house. So everybody grabbed their camera and started throwing around words like aperture and shutter speed. In this picture, the electricity had just gone out. The lightening was illuminating the entire sky out the kitchen window.
Lou's Droid provided temporary light inside
Lou was able to capture the following strikes. As you can tell, there were a couple of trees and some wires in front of our house, but just past them - the Pacific.

These strikes were not just occurring every once in a while. We were "oohing and ahhing" every 5 seconds. Our guys couldn't take pictures fast enough. What a gift we were given, even though it wasn't the gift we would have chosen. God gave us eyes to see.

The rain came later that night, but I guess it cleaned the atmosphere of our weird weather pattern, because we saw improvement the next day.  After visiting Harbor Church in Honolulu, we hiked Diamond Head.
At the top of Diamond Head

We then headed to the beach and took a family picture.
Kailua Beach
And then a group picture with our dear friends, The Forristers, from Llano, Texas. It's tough to get a picture of 15 people with everybody looking just right. Sorry Heide.

Looking at these last couple of pictures, most would assume our trip was postcard perfect - that every expectation we I had of vacationing in Hawaii was met. There's that darn word again, "expectation." (See January 23 post, Young, Married, and Expecting, for more of my thoughts on expectations). It often kills the given, doesn't it?  Well, it tried to on this trip a couple of times. (Did I mention it rained some while we were in Hawaii?) But God helped me talk to myself about my expectations instead of listen to myself about them.

"Gratefully, take the given. See Me in the given. Joy is in the given."

No matter what's on the radar or our radar, God has our joy on his radar.