This summer I asked my dear friend Ava Lancaster if she would consider writing a piece for our Monday Musings Devotional blog. She is a such a beautiful writer, a kindred spirit and I am so thrilled and blessed to bring you her words and reflections today. We have sung, laughed and cried together, savored God's Word and great Louisiana food and parties together. Recently, we had the privilege of serving together in the relief efforts of the historic flood of 2016 in the Baton Rouge community. I was encouraged and challenged by her inspiring thoughts on the tumultuous season we have experienced in our community during recent months. We have been in the national headlines throughout the summer, but the greatest lessons we have learned you have not seen on the news.
They now live in our hearts.
Enjoy - Serving Humbly...Building Community
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I worked summers on the staff of a youth leadership camp in eastern Michigan, 360 acres chosen almost a century ago for their incredible beauty. Surrounded on three sides by water — Lake Michigan, Stony Lake, and Stony Creek — the grounds were named Miniwanca, or “many waters.” To this day I cannot name just one favorite spot in this place of wonder … towering wooded sand dunes running along the shore of the great lake, glorious sunsets looking west across the water, and a star-blanketed night sky that still takes my breath away. There, with my toes in the sand, I discovered new constellations, saw the Northern Lights, made lifelong friends, and felt my soul connect deeply to God’s creation. For me, the majestic dunes and woodland trails of Miniwanca are sacred ground.
But beyond the call of its natural beauty, this place dared me to seek my “best self.” Drawing inspiration from Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,” the camp’s Christian founders designed programs that would “increase” each participant mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. Every day was a challenge to “aspire nobly, adventure daringly, and serve humbly.”
This “Monday Musing” began months ago with other thoughts and in a different direction. Then came the series of events no one in Baton Rouge and south Louisiana could have imagined. Our normal flow of life was interrupted first by the tragedy of gun violence and racial division, then by the suffering and uncertainty of an historic flood, all in the span of six weeks. Collecting thoughts on paper gave way to more urgent callings — standing along Airline Highway in tribute to a fallen policeman, pulling wet sheetrock from a flooded home, taking meals to displaced friends, praying for the very fabric of the communities affected by these life-altering events. If ever there were a time God was calling us to aspire nobly and serve humbly …
And praise God, that’s exactly what has happened! Following the July tragedies came a thousand-year natural disaster, so they say — and an opportunity to reach out and begin to rebuild, not just physical structures but the relationships that define true community. We’ve seen neighbor helping neighbor, church helping church, and people from other states and countries taking up temporary residence in Louisiana to become the extra hands and energy we need. And yes, we watched with pride as our own unofficial volunteer branch of the military, the Cajun Navy, rescued hundreds from rapidly rising water.
In this unique season, God gave us — and continues to give us — the grit and grace, the heart and hope to move forward from a place of trial to a place of testimony. Every family now has a story of help and heroism to pass down through its generations — stories of God’s love in action. We bear witness to this portrait of community and must remember it, hold onto it tightly. It is a picture of how God calls us to live EVERY day, not just in times of crisis — to be His hands and feet and a reflection of His mercy — to aspire nobly and serve with Christ-like humility.
Last week I was re-reading Ken Gire’s Windows of the Soul. It is a beautifully written book that especially speaks to my “visual” perspective. Each time I read it, I uncover new insight into my relationship with God, usually something I need to work on, and I’m inspired once again to seek my best self in that area. Gire encourages us to be aware of God’s voice speaking in those moments (windows) when our lives unexpectedly intersect the world around us. He describes two of his own encounters with people in need, one in which he physically intervenes and the other which he only observes at a distance. Then he offers this inspiring and relevant passage and scripture:
“There is more to windows of the soul than what WE receive there. Something is also required. Sometimes it is a very small thing. Sometimes it is our very life. What is it God expects from us at those intersecting moments …?”
Is not this what I require of you as a fast:
to loose the fetters of injustice,
to untie the knots of the yoke,
to snap every yoke?
and set free those who have been crushed?
Is it not sharing your food with the hungry,
taking the homeless poor into your house,
clothing the naked when you meet them,
and never evading a duty to your kinfolk?
(Isaiah 58:6-7 NEB)
“It is how the Word of God dwelt among us. And how He dwells among us still.
Except now, it is our flesh He slips into.
What else could it mean to be called the Body of Christ,
if it is not His feet we are becoming. His hands?
If it is not going where His feet went and doing what His hands did, what is it?
“…the very least we should do is look. …And why? Why should we look? Why should we enter the picture?
Because it is what Jesus did. And what He would do if He were here. It is to those people He came.
And to those people He wants to come again. But He is in heaven.
And if He is to come to them at all, it must be through us.”
August and September are often the hottest months in south Louisiana, a time of year when we are more likely than not to retreat to the cool indoors. But this summer, we “entered the picture.” We stood as one community along Airline Highway as funeral processions passed. And either because of floodwater or the desire to help those who flooded, we came out of our houses and into encounters with friends and strangers. What meaningful and God-ordained steps forward in restoring our communities!
Like so many in south Louisiana right now, I continue to ask God to direct me — to use my gifts, my hands, and my words to comfort, help, and rebuild. Many days I fall short, feel helpless, and wish my 61-year-old body could do the things it once did. But God reminds me every day that I am able to do something, and all of us doing something in His name can and will make the difference.
Back in June in anticipation of the Olympics, an old friend and fellow sports enthusiast loaned me Daniel Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat. No, it’s not about the Cajun Navy, but its real-life characters reflect the same self-sacrifice, determination and devotion to team/community. These “boys in the boat” were blue-collar University of Washington students who, against tremendous odds, beat out all the elite crews from our East Coast colleges and then won gold for the U.S. in the 8-oar crew at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Their success was found not in each man rowing as hard as he could individually, but in how well each man’s efforts harmonized with those of the other seven. We might call it “being in the zone,” but oarsmen refer to that high level of team harmony as “finding your swing.” I love that expression!
But getting there, describes the author, requires more than strength, technique, or endurance: “A man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing, but also his crewmates that he had to give himself up to…” Each man had to humble himself and become dependent upon his teammates —his community — to help him row.
One of the crew members, whose life had been filled with rejection, is understandably struggling to make that commitment. In a key moment, a UW staff mentor explains, “Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.”
Father, help us deeply trust in you and “find our swing” in our daily walk with you.
Remind us that our best selves develop only through knowing you intimately.
Enable us to hear Your voice more clearly so that we might enter the pictures around us
and become Your hands and feet. Give us strength and wisdom to live as Christ did,
aspiring nobly and serving humbly, so that we become leaders
in restoring our communities and building Your kingdom.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In Christ love and service,
Register Today for the next "Feast for Your Soul" Event coming Saturday, Nov. 12th!!!
Spiritual intimacy is beautifully portrayed for us in the theme of Bridehood seen throughout the Scriptures.
We are the Bride of Christ, pursued by our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Come take a journey with us through God's Word as we discover the beauty and power of genuine bridal devotion.
Join Restore Ministries for a day away at Solomon Conference Center, November 12
as we explore the position, Divine passion and purpose we celebrate as His beloved.
This “Feast for your Soul” Event includes lunch, prayer on the beautiful grounds and Chapel,
Biblical teaching and glorious worship of Jesus, our Bridegroom.
“....Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!...”
May we draw near and bow in worship as we wait in the hope of His coming!
Limited spaces available!
Registration expires November 1st.
We welcome you back to our Monday Musings. Since we took a short break mid-July, much has taken place in our part of the state. Kathy and I have been working to help many in our community to re-build their lives after the disastrous flood. We ask that you continue to pray for those who have lost their homes, cars, possessions, and jobs. We also ask that you continue to pray for those of us who are providing refuge, help, and restoration. Our usual weekly blogs will become bi-monthly as we continue to minister into the lives of those physically around us and as we prepare for our Day-Away Event scheduled for November. Your prayers are greatly appreciated.
Please Note: The blog you are about to read has taken a turn toward a lengthy one. Sorry! I suggest that you find a quiet time to read and let the Lord speak into your life HIS words and thoughts for you as you read His words for me. Please click the title above and read from our webpage. I want you to be sure and see the video and pics. If you choose to listen to the music, it is a piece written by B.Smetana - The Moldau, a symphonic poem about a river with it's winding way and gentle to rapid flowing of its water. I thought it was fitting!
The Music of Life
There is a certain stream of notes and rhythms that flow together against the background of our lives. The melodic structure and mode is ever changing as we find ourselves in various seasons of life. The people of south Louisiana are known for two things, their food and their music! Unfortunately, we can now add a third to the list. Our storms…specifically hurricane Katrina and the now historic 1,000 Year Flood!
August 12, 2016 will be a date for many that will not soon be forgotten. It was the beginning of constant rain, grey skies, rising rivers, anxious hearts, watchful eyes, lingering fear, stacking heavy wet sandbags, the hum of running pumps, worry, strife, helplessness, questions, a racing against the clock, panic, sinking spirits, anger and disbelief. Five months earlier, we faced the same, but not to the extent of this particular Friday. The trauma of March still lingers and leaves daunting emotions. Blood pressure rises with every thought of that horrific experience. Suppression of that distress seems the best solution during this particular time of rising floodwaters. Just writing this paragraph and recalling 4 weeks ago makes my heart beat more rapidly and tenses my muscles. These are the thoughts from one whom has not suffered personal loss or damage, but has lived through it with my family.
Saturday morning, August 13th - It was evident that holding back the waters was a losing battle. The Amite River was rising to 46 feet. Flood stage is 26. Soon, tributaries would swell and water would cover the interstate, my best route to rescue my parents who stayed behind to fight the water and attempt to preserve all that they had spent a lifetime building. Now, ages of mid-seventies, no boat, no life-vest, swift current, snakes, fragile bodies caring the weight of bags with a few personal belongings, left them facing a more difficult situation. With a strong trust in the Lord and a prayer for the best, they locked their doors finally decided to evacuate.
My niece’s schoolteacher lives down the road from my parents and my sister was able to contact him and ask him to boat them out from the house to the top of the road. This was a huge request (and dangerous), but a necessary one. We were on our way, praying every minute that we would make it across the many bridges and that the interstate would not close. I depended on prayer and the kindness of a stranger to get my folks safely to higher ground. My sister and I raced to the top of Hwy. 441 where we would wait. Shortly, a large truck met us with our parents and a few bags of their personal belongings. Once out of the boat, still wading in water, they hitched a ride with more strangers to the top of the hill, dry ground, where we were waiting. Smiles of relief danced on their weary face. Their bodies were slumped, exhausted from stacking furniture and a sleepless night of fighting the waters. Upon the site of them, I felt myself release a sigh. I think I had been holding my breath or breathing very shallow with anticipation for two days! With no time to wait, we needed to quickly thank the strangers, exit the scene, and try to make our way back across the bridges and down the interstate, which was now beginning to flood. Turning onto the interstate entrance ramp, we met our first bout of water. My sister’s eyes glanced at mine with the hidden message of “uh-oh!” My jaws clamped against one another and my shoulders began to lift with tension. This was just the beginning. I will not go into full disclosure of the ride back to Baton Rouge, but I will tell you that Gods angels were on our bumpers. We drove along the 35-mile stretch of interstate and through three places with high water before we were able to drive no longer. At the point in which we realized we could drive no further, my sister parked her car on the highest place possible. The interstate looked like a flooded parking lot. People were wading through with their belongings as though they thought they could walk across the Amite River Bridge. There were thousands of people trapped…stranded. I was determined to get home! With bold eagerness, I flagged down a large truck and requested passage with my family across the quickly rising and swift waters. It was the fourth section and hopefully the last. (You will have to watch the video by turning your device...I couldn't get it to download vertical!)
Let me tell you of the working of God’s wondrous hand…
Moments before I flagged down the truck, my husband Brian, made a phone call to a friend (Dennis) with whom he was supposed to sing with for a special event on Sunday (the next day.) Dennis had been out and about helping others during the rising waters and realized he needed to head home to BR before it was too late to get through. His route, the interstate! During the course of their conversation, Brian realized that Dennis was less than ½ mile in front of me on the interstate and linked us together with 3-way calling. Dennis became our eyes ahead as he forged the waters himself telling us what to look out for and whether or not he thought we could make it. When I talked with the man in the truck and asked him if he was going to attempt driving through the waters, I shared that my friend was just ahead in his truck and was making it through. I believe God was doubly at work, not only for us, but also for this sweet man; for I had information that he needed to move forward and he had a means to get us through. God provided for us both! Five minutes later, it would have been impassible as we could already begin to feel the truck lift and float from the current and ever deepening river. I called upon many of my prayer warriors to “PRAY NOW!” We barely made it through! But praise God, we did!!!
He was kind enough to drive us to my doorstep. My eyes still fill with tears as I recall all of us spilling out of that truck, in which my sister and niece had to ride in the truck bed in the wind and rain. My small home was now a place of rest and refuge for my family. I later discovered that thousands had been stranded on the interstate for over 36 hours. We could have easily been in that number. God answered many of your prayers! I am forever thankful.
For me, these events and all of life’s seasons, create a type of symphonic poem or tone poem. A symphonic poem is a musical term for an orchestral piece of music that contains a single continuous movement. It illustrates through music the contents of a story, painting, landscape, or other non-musical sources. Franz Liszt created this genre during the Romantic period and the musical form is free but is akin to sonata form (exposition, development, & recapitulation) used in the first movement of symphonies. Through listening, one can visualize and experience the scenes or emotions in which the composer is trying to convey.
The Lord awakened me during the night to write this story to you. He has entitled it The Music of Life. My job is to explain the difference between rhythm and steady beat and to compare and contrast it with the Christian life. So in these few more sentences, comprehend well. Seek to deeply understand; you don’t need a music degree to help you grasp what He wants to speak.
A steady beat is referred to as the heart beat of music. It is a constant pulsing that maintains order, is used in measuring time, and is not always heard or seen, but always sensed or felt. That is my best definition!
Rhythm is totally different. Rhythm consists of a combination of long and short pulses or sounds. It is the combination of steady beat and rhythm, along with melody and harmony that makes melodious music. Music then may be played with many different instruments or sung. Music can be played without a steady beat, but its unpredictable path can bring about feelings of confusion and frustration, leaving the listener in a state of anxious anticipation and unrest.
In our walk as Christians, God is the source of our steady beat. He’s the heartbeat of our life! He is constant. God maintains a certain order for all things, and He is the true measure of time. He is not always seen and oft we choose not to hear His voice, but if we search deep within our spirit, as believers, He is always sensed and His presence is felt. It is when we are not walking in step with Him that He seems distant. Our lives loose order and are exchanged for chaos. Our spiritual eyes are blind and our ears become deaf to His promptings and leading. Our life seems unpredictable and filled with feelings of confusion and frustration. It leaves us anxious and our spirit is full of unrest.
Rhythm represents His chosen children who step into our lives. Some are there for long periods of time, others short. They are the ones with whom God has entrusted to encourage us, admonish us, walk with us, and live life. Our long-term people are the friends and family who love us for who we are despite our shortcomings and failures. They love us and pray for us. They are our first responders during times of difficulty. They are the ones upon whom we call to share prayer requests or tell of wonderful news! They are dependable, for their repeated motif (musical term for pattern) has been one of the driving forces that help move us forward. These are the people whom God has chosen…for us! Sometimes they are the least likely ones you would have thought about or even chosen for yourself. God is that way…He has His best in mind for you!
The short-term people whom God sends your way are often seasonal or perhaps only show up once in your life! I like to call the one-timers “grace notes!“ Their punctuated occurrence is surely from the Lord. They pop in, just in the nick of time! A type of angel, much like the man driving the truck that took us through the rising waters. They make an impact, satisfy a need, and then disappear. The running eighth-note types of people are quick to your aid and keep a continuous supply of movement or push forward, enabling you to reach the completion of your so-called song, destination, or season of life.
The melody (a single sequence of notes-musically satisfying) is your life song. It is created by the Master Composer and is full of climax, tension, risings and descending, repeats, modulations, and accents! There are times when we live out loud – forte (f). There are times when life is quiet and reflective – piano (p). The melody of our life may at times be playful, somber, or moderate and move through major and minor progressions. These notes strung together help to determine the mode (major, minor, or the 7 Greek modes).
Harmony occurs when two or more notes are joined together. Harmony can be dissonant (notes combined that are in conflict with one another, causing friction). There are times when they work well together amidst other notes, but grouped alone they just don’t mix! Harmony also takes place when notes are in agreement or sound pleasing. Together they form a consistent whole…like the body of Christ working together with different gifts! When harmonic tones are grouped, they produce chords. Those chords are strung along into progressions and all have a particular function and a unique sound. (ie. jazz/blues) Harmony adds flavor to a melody. It does what a melody cannot do alone. Other people, when grouped with us, add flavor to our life and the music produced can cause others to take notice!
My dear friend Gina (my eighth notes and grace notes) whom I haven't seen in a year! She was the sweet fragrance of Christ as she kept us fed & watered! She provided chairs of rest and hands & heart of service as we hauled salvaged items to storage! She was my happy smile in the midst of so much gross! Love you G!
The citizens of south Louisiana have made beautiful music together these past four weeks. The music of their lives has produced everything from emotional tear jerking ballads to songs of praise! Each melodic phrase has been formed with questions & answers, risings & swellings, climaxes, and descents. The rhythmic lilt of their song has been rich with running eighth notes and grace notes. An underlying drone of the Spirit of God has added cohesion, harmony, and fullness to the Master’s composition. We hope that the melody will have no repeats!
Each life is a type of symphonic poem. Remember? It is a genre of music that causes the listener to “see” or “experience an emotion” that the composer is trying to convey. As born-again believers in Christ, we know the importance and the impact of His constant steady beat in our lives. Our life song is rich with many elements of music and will develop into a symphony of powerful, moving, and aesthetic refrains.
My flood story is small in comparison to the thousands who experienced this disaster. The emotions, concerns, and trauma are very real for all of us. My God continues to provide and faithfully amazes us with never-ending mercy, grace, and strength. Almighty God is sovereign and His will is good and perfect. His musical composition has produced and continues to produce a score that is rich with captivating love, power, and blessings. It is the Music of Life!
In His Strength & for His Song,
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