Help. Thanks. Wow.

Anne Lamott, or as others call her, St. Anne, claims that the Essential Prayers sound this simple:
Help.
Thanks.
Wow.

I have prayed many, many words over many, many years, but I’m not sure I could come up with a prayer, petition, or praise that wouldn’t fit those three categories: help, thanks, wow.

Other than Tween staying home to vomit all day – and yes, this almost feels normal in a skin-crawling, crazy-making kind of way – today had been a good day: gym time, coffee with a friend, productive meetings; a friend brought her kids over to help Tween with homework (read: play), which meant moms also had time together.

Too much of an almost-good day? Teen locked his jaws on a potential outing to which I’ve said a solid, emphatic “NO!” I know he wants freedom, and I get that I represent his jailer, but I can’t say yes to this one. But ADHD hyper-focus shuts down his compassion and he bites hard, and long, and it’s all I can do to breathe and answer in a whisper so as not to provoke him further.

Interruption: the splash of Tween being violently ill.

Breathe. Pray. Breathe. Pray.

I made dinner and left it on the stove. I mentally went back to work to avoid my life’s chaos. When I thought I’d heard the end of Guy and Teen hashing out the same conversation I’d endured earlier, I cautiously emerged. Also, Tween was feeling better and able to eat.

I ate a few bites. Teen apologized and hugged me harder than ever. Even so, I spied my little eye into the liquor cabinet (Mexican food = margarita, right?) before Guy mentioned he’d chilled chardonnay. And then I noticed the pinkish light through our windows.

I poured two glasses of wine and invited Guy outside. Glasses clinked, we stood silently and watched as blue became grey became pink, peach, plum, dusky purple. The horizon lit orange, fire colors. Hot and intense, casting now yellow, autumnal light. We followed the light from front yard to back, where we sat to watch the colors change through our tree-silhouetted skyline. I thought, “This is what I needed. I am putting myself in the way of beauty (my “word” for 2015). This beauty, this WOW, will help me breathe.”sunset

Help: Help us make it through this abdominal migraine cycle. Help Doctors discover a way out of future cycles. Help Tween persevere through this mountain of work. Help Teachers respond with grace and kindness. Help Teen put his focus on Needs rather than Wants. Help Guy and I to stay on the same page in this whole parenting deal. Help maintain my sanity!

Thanks: Thanks for these three fantastic men you’ve put in my life. Thanks for Friends who surround us – with prayer, moral support, offers to cook and shop and even tutor, pop-in work and play dates, even tangible gifts (Homemade feed corn ice-heat packs? Awesome! Essential oils? Escential!). Thanks for killing our blender just as Guy was in Costco, and Big Thanks for the VitaMix he brought home to replace it. Thanks for holding us safe in Your Great Big Hands.

Wow: Seriously, this gorgeous sunset? WOW! The picture doesn’t do it justice. That these vibrant colors came from smog, sure, but I am wowed that you continually choose to bring beauty from bad, redemption from our rubbage. Tonight, I am wowed that you are an ever-present Help; that you are the source of any good thing for which I can say Thanks; that you are our WOW.

And just in case I sound too precious, Teen demonstrated his love for me – his goofy-kid way of saying sorry yet again – by trusting me with his beauties just as I finished writing (evidence that I’m growing in love for him, too, that I let these two crawl around on my lap).snakes

Marvelous Monday

Not Moaning Monday, as I appreciate a fresh start.

And no Meatless Monday recipe, either. The schools had Teacher In-Service Days so we took our kids and friends to San Francisco for the day – hooray for flexible jobs that allow such freedom! We started at the California Academy of Sciences, walked through Golden Gate Park to lunch at a creperie, drove through Chinatown (no parking meant we didn’t get out), and finally made our way home again. We’re still full from lunch so dinner, when we get around to it, will likely be a light salad.

Marvelous Monday. Understatement of the day: God makes marvelous beauty!

We watched the new planetarium show, Habitat Earth, which emphasized the connections between species and habitats and humanity. I am reminded that the way we live makes a difference for good or ill, and that we are all of us more connected than we realize.

We wandered the rainforest biosphere, which feels and smells like a shade of Costa Rica. I miss cicada-song! The snakes, the geckos, the spiders in terrariums, familiar and foreign, intricate and inspiring.

Such brilliant color

Such brilliant color

Same gecko, different view

Same gecko, different view

The butterflies and birds flutter overhead, landing at impossible angles and impossibly willing to be ‘held’ as Guy gently offered his finger as a resting spot.

Why makes butterflies so enchanting?

What makes butterflies so enchanting?

This travel-worn blue morpho looks like he needs a rest...

This travel-worn blue morpho looks like he needs a rest…

The biosphere exits into the aquarium, from beauty overhead to beauty underwater.

Toes, and eyes!

Toes, and eyes!

Little fingers touching marvelous creation

Little fingers touching marvelous creation

God creates beauty for His own pleasure, even if most of us will never see it

God creates beauty for His own pleasure, even if most of us will never see it

From the aquarium, one emerges to visit Claude, the albino alligator and Cal Academy’s mascot.

Hello again, Claude!

Hello again, Claude!

We took a quick walk through Africa Hall to visit the penguins. We pet a leopard pelt (poor leopard!) and examined the difference between leopard and cheetah skulls and pelt markings (cheetahs have simple spots while leopards have florets). My kids are the scientists in this family, but I asked a question the docent couldn’t answer:

Q: What would a full-size leopard weigh?
A: About 140 pounds.
That’s a lot of weight on big paws leaping out of a tree at you. See, I learned a few things!

The deYoung Museum faces Cal Academy and currently has a Keith Haring exhibit, including a fun statue outside. I led the troops through the forest of trimmed trees to the deYoung so I could take pictures. They posed in imitation but you get to see the statue dancing with palms:

Joyful art makes me want to dance!

Joyful art makes me want to dance!

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Today we could add:

Praise God for his land creatures, sea creatures, air and African creatures.
Praise God for His children-creatures, playing, laughing, exploring, learning.
Praise God for connections between all His creatures.
Praise God for His beauty reflected in beautiful creatures.
Let all God’s creatures, with every breath, praise the Lord!

Until next time, San Francisco!

Until next time, San Francisco!

Glorify

The kids and I didn’t make it to church today. Despite my “Church Professional” status, despite our family commitment to make worship attendance the best of all possible habits, life happens. Today, life happened to this family and we skipped corporate worship. Sigh.

Ironically, the topic for today’s sermon was “Glorifying God.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man (humankind) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We were created – and blessed, loved, chosen, predestined, adopted, forgiven, redeemed – to worship our Creator.

Thank God that His presence isn’t limited to the church sanctuary, that the whole world is, in fact, His Sanctuary. Thank God that we have been united with Christ, that He is with us all the time, everywhere, that everything we are and do can be worship-filled.

Today that has looked like praying aloud with the kids in the car; running errands; prepping healthy breakfasts and lunches for the school/work week ahead; cleaning house; and caring for the kids. And reading Scripture, praying, and blogging about it. A balance of sacred and what we call “secular” but is just as sacred, the mundane, in the company of Christ.

Ephesians 1:1-14 is a beautiful hymn of praise to God. The study questions can help you wrap your head around Paul’s message of God’s glory, but don’t miss the experience of God’s glory as you read and meditate on this passage.

While I am all in favor of emphasizing our corporate identity as God’s people (and aware of the potential dangers in overemphasizing the personal), I also recommend inserting yourself into the reading – “my” for “our” and “me” for “us” – in order to own and live into the glorious truth of what God has done for you.

As you read, look for what this passage says about who God is and what He has done. Also look for what it says about God’s people, who they are and how they should live. Read it through at least twice, listening for what God would impress on your heart.

The first time I read it, the words in the NIV’s verse 12 – that we might “be for the praise of his glory” – grabbed me. What does it mean to simply “be” for God’s glory? How is that different from anything I might do as a result of His love and grace?

The next time I read it the word “lavish” (again NIV) stuck with me. God lavishes the riches of His grace on us. That sounds so delicious, so decadent, so extreme – and God is!

Today, reading from the NLT, the phrase “united with Christ” stands out. Perhaps I need those words today more than usual because I was unable to unite with Christ’s body, the Church.

Whoever you are and whatever you do – individually or corporately – may you revel in the lavish blessings of God’s grace as you spend time with God in His Word.

Connect
When have you experienced the glory of God, and what was that like?

Study
Read Ephesians 1:1-14.
What stands out to you from this passage?
List the blessings Paul describes that every Christian has as our inheritance in Christ.
For what purposes has God chosen and predestined us?
What might it mean that we are to be “the praise of his glory” (vv. 6, 12, 14)?

Live
Since we were created for the praise of God’s glory, what does it look like to glorify God in your everyday responsibilities and relationships?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Offer to God in prayer words and phrases from this Scripture. Close by praying that God will be glorified in your life, your home and neighborhood, and in the world as He works through your worshiping community.