Poolside Spider

(For The High Calling writing prompt: Best Vacation Stories. Write your own and share it!)

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We went a mile down the hill to Wilson Ranch Pool. All three boys splashed into their forty-minute swim lessons. A white plastic lounge chair welcomed me poolside, and I accepted its invitation.

When my sons take swim lessons, for me it means two weeks of sunbathing by the pool with a book, or with pen and paper. Each day, forty minutes of enforced relaxation.

I settled down to read but couldn’t, for a jealous spider on the arm rest caught my eye. (“Look at me, not that book!”)

Because the tiny spider was ochre-gold and seemed translucent, I wondered if it was young—a spiderling. I continued my sunbathing but closed the book, for this spider already had claim to a heartstring or two.

The spider was playing! The spider was dancing! (Would it have put on such a display if I had not watched but kept reading?)

Two legs spread much longer than the others. I thought this varying leg length made it pretty. It must have thought so, too, for she (let me say it was a girl spider) put on a fast-strutting fashion show. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the grace and versatility of these eight slenders! Notice her cephalothorax in perfect position, the sun glowing gold through her abdomen …

She spread her legs all the way flat to maximize her top-view diameter. She turned, ran, and in delicate balance stood all eight “on tiptoe” in complete opposite of her previous position, this time maximizing her height.

As if to say, “See all the things I can do?”

She turned again, ran again, and faced me head down, bottom up. She looked like a puppy teasing and inviting me to play—or a threatening wolf, I couldn’t tell which. Probably a bit of both, and laughing, too. I backed off a little, just in case.

With more varied and repeated displays of legs out and up, abdomen at every angle between zero and eighty degrees, she captivated me.

By now I had put my book back in the bag. The spider’s front was low and her rear higher than ever in a position she had not assumed before.

Was this the finale?

She remained almost vertical, very still to freeze time for me, as if waiting for a drum roll. Then—delight!—she released a fine thread and ballooned away, though I felt no breeze.

Bravo! Bravo! I almost stood in ovation.

Though she would give no encore, my heart-applause sustained. She left something behind for me: her playfulness, joy, and exuberance.

Most awesome of all, she left in me a desire to praise and thank and exult in the One who created her … and me.

Father, you have used one of all Your creation—one smaller than a raindrop and light enough to fly on a non-breeze—to draw myself to You and to bring me to worship of You, Creator of the heavens and the earth, and Owner of all that is in them. Can You use me, too, that others would see You and worship?

———-

(Photo credit: rene de paula jr, via Creative Commons)

A Crown Like That

ti leaf head lei by lanietuu

With this crown
how can I not
but dance

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion.

(Psalm 103:2-4)

(Photo credit: lanietuu)

What to Pack for Evacuation

With short notice and the fire a mile away, what should we pack for evacuation, assuming we may never return?

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We tell our sons to bring only what is irreplaceable. I choose two out-of-print Bibles (one of which wears the Bible cover my husband leathercrafted for me) and a book full of handwritten notes for a writing project. I also pack a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries.

The fire gets close, and I think our house will surely burn down. It doesn’t. After about a week, officials lift our mandatory evacuation status, and we return home.

The day after, I check my Bible reading plan to see what to read next. Exodus 15–17. God had just parted the Red Sea so Moses and his people could cross on dry land. Then God closed the waters over the pursuing Egyptian army hot on their tails. The first thing Moses and the people do (how chapter 15 opens) is praise God. Miriam takes her timbrel, she dances, she sings. Seeing this, the other women likewise get their timbrels, sing the song, and shake a timbrel rhythm.

Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them,

“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”

(Exodus 15:20-21)

Something in verse 20 jars and startles me. I go back to read it again.

Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.

The women had timbrels.

The realization strikes (would I have noticed it if I had not just had an evacuation of my own?): these women had just permanently left their homes in Egypt, and they had their timbrels with them. They counted their timbrels among their most important possessions.

When these women packed for evacuation, they made sure to bring their instruments of praise.

During the Waldo Canyon fire, officials advise evacuees to bring “the P’s”:

People
Pets
Prescriptions
Papers (financial records, etc.)
Photos

…but, following Miriam and the women’s example, I would add another P:

Praise.

Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

(Psalm 108:2-5)

(Photos taken from our car as we drove away from home to evacuate.)

Linking with dear Jennifer Lee today:

Like the Sequoias (What Fire Can Do)

Eleven days before the wildfire crested
the ridge I see from my front door,
we were tourists at Sequoia
National Park and learned
that when fires were suppressed,
the Sequoias stopped reproducing.
But when fire spread,
so did the seeds. Those giants
of the forest would die
without the heat
of fire that dried their cones
to open and drop thousands
of seeds that can only take root
on fire-cleared ground made fertile
by the ashes. For the
generations of giants
to multiply and thrive, fire
is required.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(James 1:2-4)

Prayer suggestions for evacuees of the Waldo Canyon Fire:
Safety of firefighters and emergency workers.
Peace, protection, provision for evacuees (currently about 32,500).
Followers of Jesus in the area to shine His light and seek His guidance.
Many to draw near to God.
Unity and service in the Body of Christ.
Love one another and our neighbors as ourselves.
God’s glory in all things.
Rain.
Less wind.
Not my will but Yours, O Lord.

Family update:
We are safe and housed. Status of our home is unknown but suspected to be unburned at this point.
*THURSDAY UPDATE*
The city released a list of streets where houses have been burned, and our street is not on that list. Thank you again for your love and prayers.

If you have seen in the media photos/videos how high the flames and smoke plumes have been, know that God’s unfailing love and faithfulness are ever higher (see Psalm 108:4). Thank you for your love and prayers. We believe God will bring great good, much good, out of this tragedy. God loves you. Turn to Him.

Clapping Aspen

(For T.S. Poetry’s theme for June: Trees. Visit the Every Day Poems and T.S. Poetry Facebook pages for more!)

clapping aspen in the wind

In the rising wind of a coming dust storm
a mini-stand of aspen planted between

the heron pond and the stucco home
made some noise; they say it’s

“quaking.” But that name makes one
think of timid fear. Listen like

a musician, with the psalter’s ear,
and hear, instead, the sound of applause.

For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field
shall clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:12)

The Sanctuary of Worship

This is the spectacular
attraction that drew us

crowdinawe

onto a canvas of awe. We saw a doe
in her completion of days, a mother swollen

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with the willingness to fill,
and her twin fawns, duplicate

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blessings still damp with the dew
of birth. That God made me

one of the hushed and hushing
witnesses was a gift. I marveled

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that when this mother sought a place
of safe refuge for the labor that brings

new life, she chose the very
sanctuary where we worship.

Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
(Psalm 96:9)

On In Around button

Photos taken the morning of Sunday, June 3, 2012. This mama deer chose to birth her twin babies into sunshine right there at our church, perhaps just an hour before we got there.

Articulate Thunder and Waves

Can you imagine putting words
to the tune of thunder’s crashes

or the ocean waves’ roars?
Can thunder and waves have

sufficient diction to articulate
songs of consonants and diphthongs,

inflections that make understandable
language? Yes, I can imagine thunder

speaking clearly, “Praise the Lord!”
I think I can hear the ocean’s mighty

crashing on the shore, and it says
in salt-seasoned, dependable repetition,

“The Almighty reigns!” And the sound
of a crowd, no longer indistinct, speaks—

no, shouts—as with one roaring voice,
“Let us be glad and rejoice!
Let us give honor to the Lord!”

The I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder.

“Praise the Lord!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honor to him…”

(Revelation 19:6)

How to Sing Christmas Carols

“Glorious, now, behold Him arise!
King and God and Sacrifice!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

We hear it every Christmas—praises, singing, lifting up His holy name.
WORSHIP.

“O Come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!”

From blended voices in the choir loft, beautiful music reaches every corner of the sanctuary and halls. During Christmas in particular, the celebration seems incomplete without worshipful songs. Bows on string instruments pull their parts, and the orchestra bows together in the genuflection of notes and dynamics and a perfect execution of Handel’s “Messiah.”

In our home, before lighting Advent candles for four Sundays before Christmas, we sing.

As the music multiplies during this holiday, I consider a prophet’s words:

“Then I will purify the speech of all people,
so that everyone can worship the LORD together.”

– Zephaniah 3:9

If our speech is not pure—if we are not living Ephesians 4:29, how can we worship the Lord together?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

– Ephesians 4:29

We need pure speech for corporate worship.

In all my Christmas worship, with songs coming from our lips, our stereo, our church choir and my own voice, I must consider:

How is my speech?

How do I speak? Would the Lord call it pure?

What is my tone of voice when I tell the children to do their chores? Do I choose good, pure words when I try to disentangle a miscommunication with my husband or a friend? When I hang up the phone after an annoying conversation, what are my words behind the caller’s back? After a worship service, how do I speak with my brothers and sisters in these pews—the same people with whom I sang in unison, “He rules the world with truth and grace” and other God-exalting carols?

Father, as I worship this Christmas, may I also speak with purity, grace, encouragement and every word pleasing to You.

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(This week Ann Voskamp hosts a community of those who share about The Advent Practice of Preparation. Click on the Holy Experience badge below to read more community posts on Preparation!)

(Also linking with Bonnie Gray this week. Click on the FaithBarista badge below to read more community posts on Unwrapping Jesus!)

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Singing with Yasuko

Yasuko came like a song from across the Pacific. On the road coming out of the airport, she saw the view of the Rocky Mountain Front Range and worshiped in song, declaring her hosanna to the One who made the mountains. As I turned northward onto Powers Boulevard, Yasuko sang right there in the passenger seat. What else could she do, this woman who exudes praise?

We arrived at my home. Before her feet crossed the threshold I heard her say behind me, “God bless this home.” I received the blessing.

She brought, instead of phone or iPod, sheets and sheets of worship music in her red carry-on. (This woman carries worship wherever she goes.) I looked at the sheets. Below the chords were lyrics in English—and lyrics in Japanese! I learned some Japanese in college. Ever since I heard of Yasuko, I wanted to sing with her. Could this be the day?

She sat at the piano. I picked up the guitar, and we began.

sisters singing

“Father of lights . . .”

The harmonies came easily as we sang.

. . . You delight . . .

We sound good together, I thought, and I think God thought so, too, for ours were harmonized voices bound by the same song.

“. . . in Your children . . .” Yasuko and I, two of His children, felt His delight.

We sang of His good and perfect gifts. Hungry and weary, we sang of trusting in and waiting for God. We sang of His steady and unchanging love, first a verse in my language, then a verse in hers.

But when we got to the chorus, the Hallelujahs were the same.

Praise needs no translation. It is our common language. The Hallelujahs are always the same.

Praise the LORD, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
(Psalm 117:1)

This week Bonnie Gray hosts a community of those who share about a gift we’ve received from God lately. Click on the Faith Barista badge below to read more about gifts from God!


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Also liking with Ann Voskamp: