Not All Who Wander…

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This morning I had the exquisite treat of attending the Atlanta Hospitality Thirteenth Annual Prayer Breakfast with my friend, Beth. I have been her guest for these breakfasts for several years, and I always look forward to them. I have not been able to attend all of them, but Beth always includes me in her guest list, and if at all possible, I go. If my counting is correct, I think this one was my sixth. Each one has offered me something of value to take home with me to ponder, as well as something inspirational to strengthen me in my faith journey.

This morning’s program was no exception. In fact, it surpassed all of my expectations. I went in thinking, “How can this one be better than last year? Or the year before?” To be fair, I am not grading them. Each one has been the best. Each one has touched my heart. Each one has tugged at my soul. Each one has given me a special oomph I’ve needed at that particular time and place in my life.

I especially identified with Ken Mansfield’s presentation, or shall I be so bold as to say, testimony. Maybe it was The Beatles connection that caught my attention, as he shared with us about his business relationship with my all-time favorite rock and roll group when he was with Apple Records back in the day. That, at least, perked up my ears to listen more attentively. What struck me most, however, were his words as he described his faith journey. While I never experienced the prestige and the wealth that he had in the height of his career, there was something about his path that felt somehow like mine. I connected with him on a spiritual level and knew that God was talking to me through him.

Then, it was over. Beth and I drove back to her house where I picked my own car up to continue back home. Mulling over some of what I had heard this morning, my eyes were teary, and I had to keep brushing them with my hands in order to see where I was driving. My heart was full to overflowing with thoughts of God and God’s love, and I was thankful for this morning and the opportunity to reconnect and be re-filled.

When I stopped for a traffic light along my way, still thinking about what Ken had said in his talk, my attention focused on the vehicle in front of me. It was Jeep-like – I really can’t tell you what make or model it was. The only thing that I saw was the spare tire cover on its tailgate, which read, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.”  

Pow! It was a message meant for me. I have been a wanderer all of my life. I am a Christian, and have professed the Christian faith for as long as I can remember, but my life has been that of a wanderer, both physically and spiritually. I have questioned God, my faith, why things have happened to me the way they have in my life, and a myriad of other things that I just haven’t been able to understand. I have wandered in the desert of doubt, and have nearly drowned in the sea of fear

Yes, I, like Ken Mansfield, am a wanderer. Our life paths have taken us to the mountain top and to the dark valleys below. We both have been in the place where all we had in our possession were a few boxes of personal belongings, holding them and wondering what the next day would bring. But the sign, “Not All Who Wander are Lost” brought comfort to my heart, and I’m sure it would to him if he had seen it, too.

I think God kind of likes us wanderers. We are the ones who aren’t satisfied and content to sit in the same place our entire lives, neither geographically nor spiritually. We are the questioners, the seekers, the ones who ask a million questions and who are always eager to learn.

I may be a wanderer, but through the grace of God, He keeps His light on my path. God has a firm grip on my hand, to lead me and guide me, to pull me out of mud puddles as well as deep waters, and to jerk me up by the nape of my neck when I get myself into a really bad place. Ken’s talk this morning reminded me once again that God loves me wherever I may wander, and that I am a child of God. There is nowhere I can go that God isn’t there with me.

I may be a wanderer, but I am not lost.

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I Wish I Could Make Music

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I can make noise, and occasionally I can hit the right notes on a piano or on my baritone ukelele, but I am not a musician. I wish I were. As a child, I endured six years of piano lessons and two years of violin lessons. I never mastered the piano and failed miserably at the violin. Then, in my 30s I had to learn to play a plastic recorder as one of the requirements to become an elementary school teacher. I passed the test, but did not consider myself proficient on this instrument. However, as a teenager I became a pretty mean ukulele strummer at summer camp. But I was not a particularly good singer; hence, the idea of becoming a professional musician never even crossed my mind.

I recently attended a local jazz concert while visiting my cousin in North Carolina. The jazz group consisted of a pianist, a flutist, a bass player, and a drummer. It was wonderful. While the music washed over me and through me, I found myself focused on the hands and fingers of the musicians. How I wished I could play an instrument – any kind of instrument – with the passion and love that clearly radiated from their faces and the movement of their arms, hands, and bodies. Memories of all of the musical instruments I attempted to learn how to play in my past made me more keenly aware of the talent and gifts of this musical group.

As a teenager I loved to sing, and even tried out for a part in the musical “Oklahoma!” at my high school. I didn’t get the part. I was told my voice wasn’t strong enough and was too breathy. I sang in the chorus, but struggled through it. I was a second soprano and alto (never could hit those high notes), and found it difficult to find my part unless there were strong vocalists on either side of me singing into my ears. Later, I sang in various church choirs, but again, I had to be positioned near someone I could follow and drown out the melody in order to sing the harmony. I loved singing, but I simply didn’t have the gift, even though I had the desire to sing.

Now the only way I make music is to turn on Pandora on my computer or satellite radio in my car and listen. I especially appreciate listening to the musicians who are not only performers, but also composers. To be able to write a song, then figure out the music to go along with the words, and finally perform it while playing the piano or the guitar is something worthy of my deepest admiration. How I wish I could do it!

I sing along sometimes, especially if it’s an old favorite whose words come to me easily. And there are a few songs that I can actually pick up the harmony and pretend that I am a real musician while driving down the highway.

Music is the love song of the universe. I can’t imagine a world without it.

Someone once asked me if I believed in God. I answered that, yes, I do believe. This was followed by the follow-up question, why? My simple answer was:

Because I believe in music.

Does God Need an Invitation?

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Every now and then I run upon something on Facebook that causes me to back up and take another look. The following, with the name edited out, was posted this morning, finding its way somehow to my Facebook Timeline.

“I’ve invited God over to my house to spend the day. Today will be a continuous day of prayers. My son’s brain surgery is this morning. I know all our family and friends have [my son] in their prayers.”

I wonder if anyone else thinks this is an odd statement. While it received a long list of comments of “Praying”, and other similar comments and statements of love and support from this person’s Facebook friends, I couldn’t just let it go without further thought and a comment on my blog.

I didn’t know the history of this beloved son’s brain problem. Is it a tumor that has been growing for some length of time? Is it an aneurism which requires immediate attention? Is it something malignant? Or benign? As I delved deeper into Facebook, I learned that this young man has cancer, so these questions were answered for me, after quite a few clicks into other people’s posts and timelines.

Now my questions are, “Where was God yesterday? Why was God only invited into the house today to spend the day? Why did God need to be invited in the first place? Will this person still need God tomorrow? Will God be asked to leave if things don’t go well?

I am sure that many prayers have found their way to God concerning this young man and his cancer. And I’m sure the parent who posted this has prayed many, many prayers for the health of her son. I feel confident that her home is filled today with prayers and petitions for her son’s recovery. What puzzles me is the phrasing of her Facebook post.

I don’t want to sound judgmental – I would be asking for prayers for my son should he ever face something like this in his life. My Facebook friend had her own way of letting her friends know of her need for support and prayers, and I know that God is listening and answering those prayers.

The statement did make me stop to think, however, about my own spirituality and beliefs about God. My knee jerk response upon reading this post – to myself, of course – was, why just for today? And why did God need an invitation? For me, God doesn’t need to be invited to my home. God IS my home, and God has invited ME to be part of God’s great home. I believe that God is with me in every breath that I take, wherever I am and wherever I go. Everyday. Not just when I need something from God. Not when something bad happens. Not only for today, but also for every minute of my life. God is as close to me as my own heartbeat.

I thank God for being there with – and guiding the hands of – the surgeons operating on this young man today, for being with the nursing staff that will be monitoring him as he begins the recovery process. I also thank God for the faith and strength of the parents, relatives, and friends. Most importantly, I thank God that an invitation isn’t necessary. God is with us even before we ever put out an invitation.

Always.