Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Old Piano

Ella and her mommy spent the day with us and what a delight that was!  Oh, in case I haven't mentioned it in a while, Ella is our beautiful 13-month-old granddaughter and "mommy" is our wonderful daughter-in-law, Monika.  They shared lunch with us and then several hours of play time, much to our delight. 

One of the special things for Ella when she comes to grandma and grandpa's house is the piano!  Her face lights up when we lift her up on to the piano bench and a smile spreads across her sweet face as she tentatively plunks a few keys.  Then once she gets the feel for it, those little fingers really start making music...well, Ella music!

A musical genius in the making!
I was looking at our piano after the girls left today.  It's the piano that I took lessons on as a child.  It's the piano where I spent hundreds of hours in painful practice, sometimes with my mother sitting by my side counting out a song's particularly difficult rhythm. It's the piano on which I prepared for numerous fear-invoking recitals.  And I enjoyed very little of that!

However, the joy came later!  Because over the years, I have spent countless hours playing that piano simply for my own pleasure.  I have worked my way through many hymnals and praise songs and come away inspired and renewed by the music.  I never became a great piano player.  But I didn't need to in order to experience the joy of the music.

I thank my parents for persevering when my sisters and I grumbled over our piano lessons and practicing.  I'm pretty darn sure my mom, in particular, got tired of hearing us whine and probably, play!  But it was a gift for which I'm thankful.

So, I hope that Ella's face will always light up when she sees our piano.  And maybe someday, she'll become the talented pianist her grandmother never was.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Too Familiar?

I grew up in a house that had an amazing view of Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains.  One Sunday, my parents went out for a drive and came across a building lot at the top of a hill that looked out over this phenomenal view...and they fell in love.  Unfortunately, at the time, they were raising a young family on a teacher's salary and a view lot didn't exactly fit into their limited budget.

Eventually, they found a way to purchase the lot, but it was some time before they could afford to build a house on it.  When they finally did start building, my dad put in many hours of sweat equity to help keep the cost down.  It was a good, solid family home without a lot of frills.  But oh, that view!

From our living room window we watched tug boats pulling barges up and down the Sound and pleasure boats skipping through the glassy waters.  To the right, we could see the pale green Narrows Bridge stretching across the straits. And the Olympic Mountains' jagged silhouette framed the entire view.

But it was the sunsets that took your breath away! On clear evenings, a changing kaleidoscope of colors...reds, pinks, oranges...painted the mountains, water, and sky as the sun slowly made its way to the horizon.  And every night's light show was different! 

But the funny thing about all this beauty was that, seeing it every day, almost had a numbing effect on us. Sometimes we would walk by the window and barely notice the view at all.  It wasn't that we were totally oblivious to its beauty, but sometimes it took a REALLY spectacular sunset to make us stop and appreciate the beauty. 

Had the beauty become too familiar?  Did we simply take it for granted, because we had daily access to it?  Was our appreciation of it dimmed because it was part of our every day lives?

Unfortunately, I think that this is how we often respond to God if we have known him for a long time.  We take for granted His glory and majesty. We diminish the miracle of His love and forgiveness.  We lose sight of the wonder that the God of the universe desires a personal relationship with us!

Just because I have known God personally for a long time, I never want to be so familiar with Him that I become numb to who He truly is. I never want to just "walk by" and barely take notice of His beauty.  Instead, I always want Him to take my breath away!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Social "Not-Working"

This weekend my husband and I went out for breakfast at a little small town cafe not far from us.  Our efficient hostess seated us at a small table in a little area that had about four other tables in it.  After perusing the menu, we each made our breakfast choices and then settled back to visit and do a little people watching while waiting for our waitress to come take our order.

There were only three other people seated in this area with us; a man sitting alone at the table next to us and two young women sitting at one of the other tables. It was these two women who caught my attention. They had arrived before my husband and me and were already comfortably seated by the time we were shown to our table.  There they sat, facing each other from opposite sides of the table...both totally engrossed in their own smart phones and completely ignoring the presence of the other person! I nudged my husband and whispered, "How sad is that?" 

I know I'm climbing up on my soapbox here, but I'm so tired of how cell phones, tablets, computers and the whole technology thing has turned us into such rude, inconsiderate people. Somewhere along the line we seem to have lost the skills of face-to-face social interaction.  We spend our time catching up with other people on Facebook.  We are even getting to the place where it's too much trouble to place a phone call so we can actually speak to another person.  Instead we send texts back and forth, and back and forth. 

I am saddened by this turn of events and I fear for the future of interpersonal relationships.  You'd think that with the popularity of places like Starbucks that seem to be all about getting together with friends, that social interaction will remain as strong as ever.  But if you take the time to look around a Starbucks, a large percentage of the people there are absorbed in what's on their laptop or their phones.  Of course, there's some visiting going on, but it's often interrupted by someone constantly checking their phone.

This phenomenon has certainly made its way into the workplace as well.  I can't remember the last time that I was in a meeting where at least one person didn't pull out their phone to read a message they had just received, as if the world would come to an end if they didn't check it immediately.  It's rude and insulting to the people with whom you are meeting.  The worst example of this that I have witnessed was when a high ranking manager, who was welcoming a group of new employees, stopped mid-sentence to check his phone that had buzzed.  Really?

I'd like to say that I haven't been sucked into all of this, but I'd be lying.  My cell phone goes with me where ever I go and I check it frequently.  And to my shame, I have been guilty of ignoring the person I was with in order to read a text that just buzzed in on my phone.

I know that tweets, texts, blogs and Facebook walls are all suppose to be the modern tools of social networking.  But to me, it's social "not-working."  I am going to make a concerted effort to be more deliberate in how I interact with the people in my life.  I want to enjoy them.  I want to be available to them and I want them to know that I value them...more than my cell phone.

Okay.  Would someone give me a hand? I'm stepping down from my soapbox now.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Grace Upon Grace

In my devotions yesterday, the scripture verse for the day was John 1:16 which says "For of His fullness, we have all received, and grace upon grace." NKJV. It was that last part of the verse that caught my attention, "grace upon grace." I haven't been able to stop thinking about that.

In scripture, "grace" can refer to two things, the first one being God's saving grace that was manifested once and for all in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, as the payment for our sins.  How grateful I am for that grace! 

But over and over again, the Bible speaks of God's grace toward us and it is referring to a different type of grace.  This grace is God's free and unmerited favor that he extends to us in spite of our sinfulness.  There is nothing that we can do to earn this grace or to deserve it. 

We live in a world where grace is in short supply.  Our imperfections and failures are rarely met with grace and forgiveness by others...even by our friends, and certainly not by our enemies.  It is a hard life, with little expectation of grace.

But then, in walks God. And with Him comes grace.  Psalm 86:15 says, "But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." Philip Yancey, author of the book, "What's so Amazing About Grace?" has said, "There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less." And it is because of this unfathomable love that God is gracious towards us.

I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never live a life that is deserving of such grace.  But the good news is that God is willing to cover my shortcomings and failures with His "grace upon grace."  He offers me forgiveness and showers me with blessings simply because that's who He is.   And the only thing that I can do in regard to this amazing grace is to accept it with a thankful, humble heart.