Saturday, July 21, 2012

Psalm 124

The LORD blessed me during my morning devotions in a special way. He always blesses me, but sometimes it's a notch higher than the usual, if you know what I mean. This time I decided to share what He showed me with you so here are my notes.

Because God is on my side . . .
     I have not been swallowed alive.
     I have not been engulfed by the flood.
     I have not been swept over by the torrent.
     I have not been swept away by raging waters.
     I have not been torn by 'their' teeth.

     I have escaped like a bird from a snare.
     I have escaped.

My HELP = the Name of the LORD.
My HELP = the Maker of heaven and earth.

O HALLELUJAH, I am not abandoned.
My Protector is but a breath away as I speak His Name.
My Defender is The Creator of ALL things.
My God, The God, is ALL-sufficient.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shining Silver

It's early morning and I'm praising God for this day. Birds are singing outside my open balcony door and their songs are carried to my ears by the soft breeze wafting through it. The music and coolness join together to make me feel as if I'm sitting by a country meadow instead of in a flat on the outskirts of a major European capitol. At times like these it's easy to join David in Psalm 134:1. "I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips."

The truth is that though many days start out in such a peaceful state it doesn't take long for the pace and pressure of the world to creep in and set a new tone. I'm thankful for a dear friend who, no matter what's going on around her, always manages to find "the silver lining". To be truthful, it's one of the aspects of her character that drew me to her. No matter the pain or confusion, the fear or uncertainty, the disappointment or heartache Doris manages to find some detail about which to praise the Lord.

Since we moved to Prague I've been making a collection of silver lining points. The list jumped out at me today and lifted my eyes along with the birds and the breeze. (No comments on that almost cliché please.) I'll share a few entries with you.

There's a load of light color clothes running in the washing machine. It will take almost two hours to complete the cycle. Too long you say? Well, the longer time prevents me from keeping my eye on the clock as I concentrate pushing one load after the other through the process. Instead I just work along on other tasks until I can't hear the sloshing noises any more.

When I realize the wash cycle is complete I pull the clothes out, dropping them into a plastic basket. Since there isn't a clothes dryer here, I head over to the drying rack. "No dryer!?!?!" you exclaim. (I can hear you, you know.) That's right. We don't have a clothes dryer. I have to hang up all of our clothes to dry on racks made for that purpose. They were probably around long before electric or gas dryers and mine are of a fancy metal, folding type - quite modern and stylish.

"But how do you function without a dryer?" you ask. (I got used to my dryer too.) Actually we're doing really well. It's been a treat to have Curt's jeans and trousers (a word chosen in honor of our UK friends) retain their length after several washings. I haven't had to set aside any of my blouses for modesty reasons after being laundered. As a matter of fact, in the last nine months there haven't been any shrinkage issues at all. Hallelujah!

For that matter, I've come to realize that arranging our laundry on the drying racks is something of an art. I need to pay attention to how the items are positioned so that they'll all fit and in a way that will promote the drying process. (One day I loaded too much on one side and had to catch the rack before it fell over.) I also need to pay attention to the weather more than just if it's sunny. If it's windy I need to use clothes pins to hold things in place. Then there's a certain amount of tending I need to apply; bringing the rack inside if rain seems imminent, checking for dryness to get things folded and put away.

"That sure sounds like a lot of more work than just throwing things into a machine and pulling them out dry and ready to wear." (I'm still hearing you.) Yes, I suppose doing laundry without a dryer does take more physical labor and intellectual attention. That's probably true. But I've noticed that there's something about making my way through the laundry process that I find calming. (Yes, I meant what I wrote.) I've pondered this response and I think the reason for it is that doing laundry is one of those tasks that connect me to the basics of life.

When I was simply moving fabric through two machines and putting it all back in its place I was feeling as if I too were a machine. Now that more of my inner self is required I actually give myself more fully to the process. I think the need to keep my focus on the fundamentals of life silences the distractions of the world. Whatever the reason, if you decide to come by for a visit, please don't be upset if I decline your offer to help with the laundry. I want to hang onto the blessings.

I've shared before about the 'inconveniences' we've encountered at the stores. Once we thought the label said butter and discovered, after a taste on toast, that we'd bought lard. Sometimes we can't find our favorite brand or type of staple, such as milk, for weeks or months at a time. We've learned that there's no use asking if there might be another size of a clothing item or more stock 'in the back'. There doesn't seem to be any such thing as inventory here. Purchasing needed items can be a stretch, but there's a silver lining here as well.

You see, it's a lot more difficult to take things for granted when we can't be sure we'll have them. We've settled into the routine of grocery shopping, but there's always a sense of uncertainty. Will they have it? Will we find it? What could we do instead? I confess that at first it was disturbing to not have things right where and when we wanted them. Maybe we've simply adjusted to our new situation. The benefit I'm seeing though is that we take less for granted than we used to and we need to trust God far more in our day to day experiences.

I find myself praying that we'll find the milk I prefer, that we'll find the fruits and vegetables we want, and so on. Then there are the SOS prayers that go up when I have to use the scale to get a price sticker. We never check out without prayer. We have to interact with the cashier and I have to get our purchases all packed into our wheeled tote bag before Curt receives the change. Each shopping trip is an adventure that we simply must commit to the Lord. We find ourselves praising Him for every successful trip home.

Old Age
I approach this topic with a few jitters. I've been taken to task for calling myself 'old' with a reminder that we are only as old as we feel. Well, some days I do feel kind of old, but I've taken the comments to heart and want to be realistic. We are not ancient by any means and we relish the energy the Lord gives us to accomplish the Ephesians 2:10 tasks He has laid out for us. I trust I can talk about my gray hair though with impunity. After all, it is gray or, as my Dad would always answer when questioned about his hair color, "Silver." :-D

Two big benefits fit this category.
1. Younger people get up and give us their seats on the bus, tram, and metro lines here in Prague. We deeply appreciate the respect this behavior shows for older people in this culture. It's also nice to rest our weary legs. For that matter, we were able to purchase our transportation cards at a highly reduced rate because of our senior level of maturity. (How was that for a sensitive euphemism?)
2. As retirees we are not seen as being in competition with Czechs for employment.  Our elder status is making it easier for us to make our way through the visa process; another major point for which to praise God.

These are only a few of the many ways that God is working in my life to make Himself and His ways known to me. He's constantly lifting my eyes toward heaven and building a habit of seeing His hand in the midst of whatever circumstances surround me. Perhaps our cross-Atlantic relocation was the impetus I needed to develop these skills. I wonder what it would take for you to follow the counsel of the writer of Hebrews in verse 13:15, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name."

To God be all glory, honor, and praise both now and forever more. Amen