Monthly Archives: September 2013

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

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Why I collect feathers…

Yesterday I took the dog to the vet for a quick checkup, and as we were leaving, I spotted a beautiful, large bird feather on one of the shrubs outside the office.  With great joy I said, “Look, Roy!  It’s another feather for Mama!”  I am a collector, of objects and of memories.  I don’t remember exactly how my feather collection began, or even when, except that it was several years ago.  And it is not as though I have an organized system for keeping and viewing them, or for documenting when I found each one.  I tend mostly just to stick them in books or my Bible (along with the occasional pressed flower or leaf), although I have included a few in art projects and used some to make bookmarks.  Someday when I am long gone, others will inherit my books and find my collected feathers inside as a little surprise. I hope they will get a smile from them.

I know that these feathers come from birds, but I still like to imagine that they are dropped from the wings of some guardian angel that God has placed along my path.  A childlike notion, but a comforting one just the same.  God knows we all have moments when we need comfort, and I believe He sends us comforts that speak to us where we are, in a language we  can understand.

In telling his followers not to worry about the future or things they could not control, Jesus explained that God has numbered the very hairs on our heads, and not even a sparrow falls to the ground without The Father’s knowledge.  And He values us much more than many sparrows.Image

An old gospel hymn simply and sweetly reminds me of this promise, and I can’t remember whether I learned the song or the Bible passage first.  Both of them seem ingrained in my consciousness since before I can remember.  The chorus of the hymn explains my life, testimony and reason for singing better than anything I could have written myself:

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“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,  For His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

Indeed, nothing in my life is beyond His watchful, loving care.  He sees when I am hurting, or joyful or at loose ends.  He sees my frustration and fear.  And sometimes, He places a feather in my path to remind me that He is looking out for me.

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The Eye Of The Beholder

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What IS beauty, anyway?

 

We live in a world that is both beautiful and hideous.  We live in a society that is focused on selling us the idea that we can be “beautiful” if we will simply purchase and use certain products, starve our bodies into becoming a specific size and/or shape, and hide anything about ourselves that could possibly be perceived as a defect or an imperfection.  To me, these impossible standards of beauty are part of why our world is hideous.

Perfection is impossible…and if it were possible, it would be boring!  The iconic supermodel Cindy Crawford once told about a conversation she had with her mother in the very early days of her modeling journey about whether or not to remove her famous mole.  Her mother offered the insight that the mole made her face unique and memorable, and if she removed this unusual feature, all that would be left would be a scar.  

How many of us, in our efforts to fit into some arbitrary definition of beauty, have at some point or other, obliterated the very characteristics that make us identifiable and unique?  I am all in favor of beauty measures that help us to feel better about ourselves, that enhance the qualities and features that we like in both face and figure, and especially those that make us healthy and strong.  But I think the days of torturing ourselves and fighting against our looks need to be over.

God made us in His Image.  He made us beautiful.  At the end of His creative work, He declared all of it, including and especially humankind, very good.  Who are we to say otherwise?Image

To Every Thing…

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…there is a season

I am beginning to feel the welcome approach of fall.  For the past few weeks I have been detecting little glimpses of seasonal change in the world around me and, after a wet, muggy summer, I am more than ready to greet autumn with open arms.  My dogwood tree is always the first harbinger of the coming shift, with its shiny berries looking like the red-hot cinnamon candies that Aunt Mary used to enjoy putting into her hot tea.  After the berries burst forth, the leaves begin their gradual change from brilliant green to the warm rusty orange and golden brown I so enjoy seeing.  Each day the sun’s touch on the leaves paints on more color.

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As lovely as the changing dogwoods are, my favorite trees to watch this time of year are the maples.  Several different varieties of maple grow around here, and they turn the most spectacular colors, from lemon yellow and tangerine orange to vibrant reds and rich shades of burgundy.  I remember one year when we were living in Florida, my sweet husband and I came back to the Knoxville area in October for a visit, and the leaves were so vivid that everyplace looked like a postcard.  It was the most wonderful welcome home I could have asked for, and a more lovely fall than I had seen in many years.  Image

Of course, the beauty of nature was only part of the sweetness of that visit home.  Jeff and I took a picnic in the mountains with Mom and Pop Cutshaw, stopping by a little stream to have our lunch.  At one point I noticed that Pop was wandering off by himself and I started off after him, until Jeff told me that he was probably looking for a place to pee!  Such a funny memory now.  We did a little shopping that day and I bought a handmade basket to take back to our little home in Florida to decorate our apartment, reminding me of home and that wonderful visit.  I still have it more than 25 years later.  We took lots of pictures that trip and the colors were incredible that year.

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This time of year holds lots of happy memories for me.  There are the reflections of falls gone by when I was a college student, walking the rolling hills of the campus, feeling the first hints of autumn’s chill on my way to class, breaking out my favorite sweaters and hanging pictures on our dorm room wall.  There have been Homecomings  where I have been united once more with friends and professors from my school days.  I love the change in the air and on the trees this time of year.  And I love the gentle rhythm of the seasons, the reminder that God indeed has the whole world in His hands, and as long as there are summer and winter, seed time and harvest, His hands are where the world will stay.Image

Treasures In Heaven

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Visiting the place where I began to store them up

Yesterday I visited my childhood church home for services.  I have wanted to go back and visit for a long time, but Aunt Ruby’s recent death spurred me to get there, finally.  It was with her, Uncle John and our cousins that Reed and I first started going to church in this beautiful old building.  My memories of the times spent there, the visual beauty of the place and the familiarity of the order of service came flooding back, washing over me like a warm wave of comfort.  The Gloria Patri, Apostles’ Creed and Doxology with which I was raised issued forth just as they have for generations.Image

I parked my car in a visitor space and made my way to the nearest entrance, and when I stepped inside I was overcome with the fragrance of the building, warmth and home.  Immediately I was transported back to my childhood and youth group days by the mix of scents: antique wood and tile, varnish and candle smoke, old lady perfume and the “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints…”Image

Some of the physical aspects of the place have been updated and changed over the years.  Padding on the pews and carpeting on the stairs make it a little safer and more comfortable.  But many more things remain unaltered since my days there.  The colorful windows are still intact, thank God!  Images of faith in glowing stained glass shaped my earliest memories of church and worship, and helped me to learn what being a Christian was all about.Image

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We spent a great deal of time there as children, and many times we went exploring the less public parts of the building, places we were convinced no one else knew about.  There are many back stairways and narrow passages in that place.  Once I remember making our way up into the pipes of the majestic organ, (NOT during services, we would have gone deaf!) an instrument that was funded, installed and dedicated during my childhood there.  Image

The organ and choir sounded just as wonderful yesterday as I remembered them.  A few members from my childhood days are still there, and still singing in that choir.  Some things never change.  I find that very comforting.

There has always been an intricate wood carving of the Da Vinci painting of The Last Supper in front of the choir loft, and it too is still there.  Yesterday was actually a communion Sunday, and I was privileged to partake once more in the elements of body and blood, in the place where I first learned what communion was and what it meant.  This service of communion was both solemn and joyful for me, and very poignant as I remembered all the times I have prayed, communed, cried and laughed in that place, with that branch of God’s family tree.Image

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My cousin Alan’s favorite window was the anchor in what used to be called the Little Sanctuary.  That space has since been closed off and renamed the Flossie Cox Prayer Chapel.  Mrs. Cox was Mama and Aunt Ruby’s Sunday school teacher for years, a wise and gentle lady who loved the Lord and loved His people.  I always loved the window that shows an offering being placed in a treasure chest, reminding me both of the story of the widow who gave more than all the others because she, in her poverty, offered her last mite, and of Jesus’s admonition to store up treasures in Heaven.Image

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I saw many childhood friends yesterday, hugged and smiled and got a little teary-eyed a couple of times.  This church, this place, was where I was confirmed and baptized, where I learned how much I loved to sing, songs like “This Is My Father’s World” and “For The Beauty Of The Earth”.  Image

It is where my faith journey began.  That journey has taken me into many other churches, a few different denominations and allowed me to meet and love many of my brethren along the way.  But there is something special about the places where one grew up.  And even though I no longer attend church there, I will no doubt find my way back from time to time, because it was…Is…Home.