Monday, November 26, 2012

behold the beauty

One evening just a few weeks ago, our three children and I drove through the streets of our gracious city, beneath the ancient oaks draped with Spanish moss, past sparkling fountains in peaceful squares, and by whimsical gates guarding hidden gardens tucked behind stately homes. We eventually reached the church, where our children hopped out and headed for youth group while I parked and greeted the welcoming faces of old friends and entered with them into the church where they had come to choir practice for the coming Sunday.

Instead of joining the choir, I turned into a quiet sitting room with tasteful decor, and an antique divan where I settled down with my Bible and my journal to wait for our children.

My attention was riveted by the beautiful reflected light of the setting sun through the picture windows as it melted the room into a mellow gold.  A blended harmony of voices rose across the hall, mounting in crescendo, as the choir sang a victorious hymn of faith.  

My heart filled with wonder and awe at all of this beauty.  After being out of the country for so long, I felt dry, thirsty to drink it all in; all this natural beauty, the architectural beauty, the beauty of familiar faces and of this glorious music.  But at the same time, my wonder was mixed with sadness.  I began to pour out my grief to God.  It was sadness at the thought of soon leaving again all of this beauty that I love so dearly to return to our work in the Philippines. 

It was at that moment that the choir began to sing the immortal lines from the great hymn of the Reformation, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: Let goods and kindred go!and, His kingdom is forever!  My heart just about stood still, marveling at the timing.  And before I could even sort out what it all meant, the director brought the practice to a halt, instructing the choir to sing those exact lines over again.  “Let goods and kindred go…”  “His kingdom is forever!” 

God knew that I needed to hear those very words, and to hear them repeated.  I needed the reminder that I wasn’t created just to soak up and enjoy the beauties of this earth.  I was created first to glorify God, to praise Him for His great beauty.  And I’ve been entrusted with this honored commission to share the beauty of the Lord with others, so that they too can glorify Him forever.   

All this earthly good that I’ve been enjoying during our six months back here in the US is very good; it is worthy of my notice and my heart-felt thanksgiving!  But each one of these beautiful things I enjoy is really just a pale reflection of the infinitely greater beauty of our Savior.

Tolstoy once wrote, "It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness." Maybe God's greater goodness does not always take the form of beautiful earthly things.

I want to be sincerely willing to let these goods and my kindred go, in order that more people on earth might see more of God’s great beauty, and that they might be able to worship Him as He is due, and enjoy Him forever. He alone is worthy. 

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.
Psalm 27:4

Thursday, November 22, 2012

bounty of thanks

 There's nothing quite like being in America
for this American holiday of Thanksgiving,
and we're excited to be able to enjoy again
an old Thanksgiving tradition
of celebrating it with dear friends.

There are certain foods which, in our family,
are essential to making it really Thanksgiving.
One of those is the pie.
Last year I shared my mom's amazing pie crust recipe.

Another essential Thanksgiving food is fresh, homemade rolls.
This year I'd like to share a bread dough recipe I've used for years 
that just might result in the easiest and best holiday rolls you've ever made.

Right in the nick of time to make some terrific leftover turkey sandwiches!

Yeasty Once-Rising Rolls

1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup canola oil
2 c. buttermilk  
(or if you don't have buttermilk, just combine 2 Tablespoons of vinegar, plus enough milk to make 2 cups – let sit for a few minutes to ferment)                                                                                                
1/2 cup sugar (or a tad less if you like a less-sweet bread)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt (or more, if you like a salty bread!)

5+ cups all-purpose flour (I always use closer to 7 cups) 

Dissolve yeast in water with 1T sugar. Add all the remaining ingredients except for the flour.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes, til foamy.  

Add flour. Mix well.  Form into rolls immediately**, cover, and let rise for an hour. 

Bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes.  If you wish, brush with soft butter and sprinkle with a little extra salt when hot out of the oven.

**For a more yeasty roll, leave the dough to rise in your refrigerator overnight before forming the rolls, rising and baking.

This roll dough will keep in the fridge for up to a week.  It also makes great cinnamon roll dough!  

with all our wishes for a very  
Happy Thanksgiving!

The photos in this post are courtesy of The Church Cook,
my dear friend (with whom we'll be celebrating today!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

another kind of thanksgiving prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry; 
hungry for the Word in their own language
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless; 
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all; 

When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer, 
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
A Thanksgiving Prayer by Samuel F. Pugh

Saturday, November 17, 2012

glimpse of goodness

 The last month or so has seemed very full of good things!
The photos below give a glimpse into some of the goodness...
October 31st - at the Family Fun Night...dressing up and helping serve others!  Amy went Filipino and Elise Indonesian. :)
 Exploring Savannah, care group gatherings, a visit from my sister (more on that later!) and historic Fort McAllister
Amy and Elise join in praise with the youth choir
Opportunities to speak and share...this week at the lovely Oglethorpe Club.  Thank you, Tuesday Morning Circle!

 Elise and Amy  join in to cook for the youth group...sure smelled good!  And Michael with friends..

How very much we have to give thanks for!  
For all the beauties of friendship,
of family,
of nature,
of architectural beauty,
of worship.

Gratitude takes nothing for granted, 
it is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder, 
and to praise of the goodness of God.  
~Thomas Merton 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

the little things

"We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us,
because we do not give thanks for daily gifts...

We pray for the big things
and forget to give thanks for the ordinary,
small (and yet really not small) gifts.

How can God entrust great things to one
who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?"
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Oh God, give us hearts brimming with thankfulness.

Monday, November 12, 2012


He was just a small boy. Perhaps eleven years old. Our car was stopped at a traffic light, where he made his way to our open window. One hand was raised in supplication; the other led a middle-aged man. A blind man.

The boy was quiet with dark serious eyes. I reached down to the floor of the car and pulled up a small bag of kiat-kiat, satsuma-type oranges. They were the remains of a snack we had brought for our day’s outing. Leftovers.
I handed the bag to the small boy. “Oranges for you,” I said. And I smiled. At first he looked confused. Then he took the bag from my hand and turned. Gently he guided the blind man through the traffic to the side of the road. There I watched as the boy raised the bag to his nose, inhaling. He then lifted it higher, to the nose of the blind man, so that he too could breathe in the sweet fragrance.

Oranges. Not just food. Food that no beggar would use money on. A luxury food.

I wished that we hadn’t eaten any.

The traffic light turned green. Our car began to edge through the intersection. I looked back one more time, and the eyes of the boy caught mine. His chin and eyebrows lifted in greeting. His face washed over in a smile.  And I smiled. And I think God smiled.

 *edited from the archives

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thine is the Kingdom and the Power

Thanks to my brother, Carl Grant for the following guest post:

I’m thankful to live in the Western world and to be the recipient of the many blessings entailed. But there are some things about me as an Anglo Christian that I’d rather ignore. 

I’d rather not think about the privilege and power that come with being an Anglo in this culture. I’d rather ignore that reality and pretend that my Hispanic, African-American, Filipino and Arabic (that’s just a small sample) sisters and brothers in this culture are full partakers in what privilege and power that I possess, ignoring the fact that my privilege and power are purely a function of the historical military and economic dominance of the Anglo race.

I’d rather not deal with the fact that in addition, my culture rewards my role as a Christian with privilege and power historically granted to no other faith. I’m more comfortable seeing Christianity as rightfully and even divinely ordained to be the dominant, controlling faith. That way I can feel justified in taking vehement umbrage whenever I fear that Christians are losing the upper hand in our culture. 

I easily forget that until Constantine, Christians had none of the privilege and power that I so blithely take for granted. Only when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire and was spread by the sword did Christians gain privilege and power. These prerogatives were bought at a terrible price; the marriage of Christianity and military/economic power was not a marriage of equals. Consequently Christianity has been in many ways co-opted, corrupted and prostituted. Its close alignment with political, social and economic power structures has blinded us to the force of Jesus’ repeated warnings against seeking power. 

So what do I do with the privilege and power I’ve been handed? Do I use it to exploit others or do I use it to empower others? Do I truly bring the Good News of Jesus to others, or is my message delivered in the wrapper of cultural imperialism? Will I perpetuate and confirm the stereotype of Christianity as a Western ideology, or will I die to my cultural pride and admit that my sense of privilege and power is an impediment, not a virtue? Will I allow God to cure my power addiction and allow God’s Spirit to invite others into the freedom of the people of God?

Dear God, 
help me to remember that all power is legitimately yours, not mine. 
Help my life to tell the truth about your Good News!
-Carl Grant