Monday, May 30, 2011

One Hundred Pianos Retuned

I remember the day it all came to a head.  I ran to hide where no one could hear me, a tiny, windowless bathroom, and I sat on the toilet lid and rocked and sobbed soul anguish.  I grieved over my nothingness.  Without significance, what is the point of living?  I begged God to let me die.

In mercy, Yah was merciless. He didn't answer my prayer.  He stood silent and continued to give me breath while every good thing was being stripped away.

Losing my job didn't seem to be a big deal.  I was confident God had a plan.  But as the weeks turned into months I became fearful, yielding to feelings of guilt and worthlessness.

Relationships I treasured were cut off without explanation causing me to feel rejected and abandoned.  The sudden onset of health issues drained my energy and ability to sleep--I spent months in a recliner. 

When our daughter totaled my husband's truck in a three-car-and-a-house collision, I began to question God's love.  Had He removed the hedge of protection from my children? From my family?  From me?  What had we done to deserve this?  All I had asked was that Jesus be my reality.

All around me things were breaking--the dishwasher, the furnace, communication, relationships.  The roof was leaking and the basement flooded.  Life had become a whirlwind of chaos, and in the midst of it all, I was isolated--a bruised and battered tree on island in the eye of a storm.  (I wrote about it in a poem here.)

I sunk into despair, and could no longer finding peace or pleasure in the simple things I loved to do:  paint, pray, study Scripture, write, cook, swim, shop with the girls.

During one of the darkest seasons of my life, in a place where I have never felt more alone, a faraway friend sent me this olive branch--a quote by A. W. Tozer.  I used it in one of my first blog posts.

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole church of God gains when the members that compose it begin to seek a better and a higher life....

I remember how two days before I lost my job I had wept in prayer and cried out that all I wanted was God.  All I wanted was to be his instrument.  All I wanted was to bring Him glory, to sound His praise.

He gave me the opportunity to do it first with an audience of One.  And I failed miserably.  When the isolation and trials came, I wasn't able to "count it all joy."  I no longer sang His melody.  I bowed to fear instead.  I accused Him:  Of desertion.  Of failing to protect us.  Of allowing the enemy to have free access.  I chose death instead of life.

God let me bleed.  He showed me I had been living for me and the approval I received by "doing."  He opened my eyes to see where I was looking for identity.  And He shut every door.  I had been living in false reality.  I sang because of His blessings, because I had been blessed.  But when the winds came, stripping away every false dependency and source of identity, I reeled, not knowing who to trust.  The God I loved seemed to the be the One destroying me.

Finally, I yielded.  Face down in tear-stained carpet, I said, "Your will.  You know best."  This was what He was waiting for.  God gutted my piano so He could rebuild it according to His standards.  He answered my prayer, and showed me, He is the reason I live.  He is the One who gives me breath and bread and being.  He is the One who sustains me and gives me a song to sing. He is the One who deserves all praise.

I am learning that without God I am but dust.  My significance and acceptance can not be found in any work or relationship, but in Him who works within me. All my words and service to man and religion are meaningless if not birthed from intimacy with His Spirit.

The attention I receive from such works is stolen glory.  The identity I gain from them is but a vain imagination.

I am learning that my unity with other people, if not birthed in Spirit, is not true unity, but can easily become spiritual adultery.  He has put a longing in my heart for oneness with those of like mind and heart, for only in true unity can the body of Christ be seen as He is in this world, and only in unity can love flow freely from heaven to earth.

I am learning to surrender to weakness and need for Christ and His body, that my life will bear good fruit, for in God I find the source of all things living and eternal.  He is fine tuning me.  He says I am a "key player."

In an orchestra musicians train their eyes to rest on their conductor, and only play as they are directed. So we must learn to fix our minds on things above, and look to the One who gave His life, so with his life ours shall be hidden in God (Colossians 3:2-3.) This is unity in its purest form.

I recently re-connected with a body of believers for corporate prayer and praise.  I am amazed at how much I have changed--how much God has changed me.  Instead of criticism, I find love welling up from within.  I see not the faults, but unique beauty--the glory of Christ--shining from the faces around me.  Insecurity has been replaced with trust and hope.  My eyes behold the King, and my voice sings in key His notes. 

Together--He and me and we--make beautiful music, in delightful harmony, 100 pianos all tuned to the highest praise.

Quote from: The Pursuit of God, pp 90, by A.W. Tozer.
Photo Credit: flickr - Javier Parra

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Costly Perfume

Costly Perfume
by Melissa Campbell
I am weak and broken
I wonder at his scent--cedar, cinnamon and something else
I hear the sucking of their breath
I see a man who loves the least of these
I want to lay at his feet
I am weak and broken

I pretend I never knew the others
I feel no shame in baring my head
I touch my lips to dust-covered God feet
I worry I have only me to give
I cry as he lifts my face to his
I am weak and broken

I understand he paid in full
I say it is too much, but I will wait
I dream of catching the wind
I try to breathe, but only break
I hope it lingers, the mix of our perfume
I am weak and broken

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. ~ John 12:3 (NIV)

To learn how to write an "I Am" poem visit

Photo Credit:  Ryan Schultz - flickr

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Romance

The point is the love story.
We live in a love story in the midst of war. 
- John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance

Little Girl Dreams
Once upon a time I dreamed little girl dreams, of castles and crowns and happily-ever-afters.  My prince was my Daddy, handsome with dark curls and chocolate eyes, brilliant, tall and strong, having muscled arms that wrapped all love, rescued warm and safe, and drew me close for the sweetest of good-night kisses...and sometimes lashed out anger. 
Like father like daughter, I was quiet and contemplative, independent and strong-willed, analytical, but having a bent toward the artistic and creative side as well.  I lived to read at an early age, loved being outdoors, and learned to push against the boundaries, those austere iron gates that dared to limit my horizon--and where my mother often stood as a keeper.
Stubborn, I was forever reaching beyond the no's, always daring to test the waters for love and acceptance, though never able to catch more than a ripple or two.  And in spite of the fear that hovered and bellowed its thunder, sometimes overwhelming me with torment--You will never be enough!--I still hoped little-girl hope.  And I still dreamed little-girl dreams.
Because somewhere deep within was a longing for beauty and significance, and an innate, but not fully understood, sense of knowing a secret, one the world hates and wars against:  God fashioned us for romance.
He Loves Me
When I was in the second grade I penciled my first love poem to Ralphie MacFarland, a scrappy Irish boy with sun-bleached hair that hung to his shoulders and spiraled like my dad's.  His cornflower-blue gaze caused my heart to flutter a hundred butterflies. Ralphie lived in a boxy, brown-shingled cottage nestled snug among the pines, directly across the street from where my friend Molly's parents ran a dairy farm. 

In the "summer of love" Molly and I sat often among the blades high on a hill overlooking the little Cape Cod, up behind the barn where Bessie and the Jerseys grazed.  Some days we flopped on our backs, barefoot in the green, and dreamed dreams all color while adrift on clouds crossing a cerulean sea; and sometimes we plucked velvet the white of daisy petals round and round until they prophesied true:  He loves me.  He loves me not.  He loves me!

I got brave one day, in spite of the butterflies, and pedaled my royal-blue banana bike, streamers flying glitter from the handlebars, through the center of town to Molly's to ask her to deliver my verses, the brown paper now creased and wrinkled from hiding in my pockets. Along the way it slipped from my jeans into the milkweed growing along the road.
Oh, Sugar!  (An expletive I learned from my mom. {smile})
I didn't know.  Doug, my neighbor, my sometimes-best-friend and sometimes-worst-enemy, was only a few minutes behind me.  He was heading to the creek to look for crayfish--an illegal adventure we usually trekked together, illegal because of the sewage--another unknown--leaking from a neighbor's swampy backyard.  (Of course, we weren't allowed to play there either.)
Doug found the words of my heart lying lonely in the dirt, and being true to his nature and calling in life to make mine miserable, thought it great fun to read them out loud on the bus the next day.  I was mortified at the stumbling reveal of my heart!  Of course I denied it.  Vehemently.  But my cheeks, all rosy with shame, betrayed me and blabbed the truth.
Our bus, jammed with kids from both elementary and junior high schools, erupted into a chorus of oohs and ahhs.  And Ralphie, he laughed as we jerked to a stop in front of the pines, mussing my hair --a quick dismissal--as he sauntered to the front to get off.  A surge of laughter followed.  For the first time ever, I didn't get caught up in wonder of his beauty.  I couldn't bare to look.

The next five minutes were some of the longest in my life, as my friends and classmates sang a familiar playground taunt:  Missy and Ralphie sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G.  First comes love.  Second comes marriage.  Then comes...
I couldn't get out of there fast enough, tripping down the stairs and running home with tears and snot all drivel across the shame, my heart breaking and leaking pain.  This was my first lesson in love, one of several, none of which ended in happily ever after.
To be continued...

Photo Courtesy:  flickr - Kabils

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nature Lover's Paradise

My sister assured me on Facebook today:  You DO live in a "Nature Lover's Paradise" really DO!
My husband and I often joke at how our home was advertised before we purchased it.  The house itself has been more of a "money pit" than a paradise. But it's peaceful here.  We have great neighbors.  And our location is the happening hang-out for wild-life.
Two summers ago a black bear attacked our garbage can, leaving paw prints like half-moons in punched metal.  He hugged a tree in the backyard until my brave husband, brandishing a flash light, scared him away.
This weekend, shortly after Hubby removed the winter pool cover, two Canadian Geese and their four goslings arrived for an afternoon swim.  This time Hubby armed himself with the pool skimmer and had to scoop up one of the babies who couldn't quite make it to dry ground.  (See the family picture below.)
Today, as my beloved and I were keeping time on the swing--me with my feet bare and he skin-damp from mowing grass--a Robin swooped and landed in the leafy green above, then began to whistle a rollicking melody.  Odd.  I never knew a Robin to serenade like this, but there was his Robin-red breast for all to see. 
He hopped with spindly legs to another branch, still tweeting, and revealing his true colors--a stark contrast of whites and blacks.

I was intrigued by the oddity of this "Robin," his strange plumage and mellow sound.   When have I last taken notice of a Robin up close?  Perhaps in the first days of spring with the brownish-gray blur of a female winging by, dropping grass and mud and twigs all across the porches as she stubbornly attempted to build a nest on our beams.  Or maybe in the early morning still wet with rain as she played tug-of-war with an earth-worm, needing nourishment for her babes.

It was almost summer now.  The chicks were chirping, and the parents, still haggardly searching for food.  Their presence had become commonplace and camouflaged--their nests hidden in shrubs, NOT on the beams.  Their dull gray presence had blended into the background of bark and twigs and trees.  In a whirl of bold color and lush green they became "the least of these." 
Robins are one of the things in life I look at frequently, but rarely see.  
Could this be some kind of an albino Robin?

A flash of brilliant red and a bright whistle drew my gaze again to our feathered friend.  Though I need reading glasses to make sense of fine print, I peered wide-eyed into the branches and easily saw the beauty of a creature I have never seen or heard before. (At least to my knowledge.) 
I watched and listened and allowed the glory of a bird to touch my soul.

He invited me to wonder.  And ponder how God speaks everyday in the tongues of men and angels and...other exotic creatures.  Even ordinary Robins.  Some days He paints a rainbow across the sky to remind us of His promises.  He kisses us good-night with a glitter of lightning bugs at sunset.  And sometimes just because, He sends love-notes wrapped in feathers, and dances joy over the child-like heart who reads them.

When I was a young girl, another set of eyes, older and wiser, showed me the way, eyes that reflected the blue of sky, the love of God and the grace-full life that was my grandmother.  She was my best friend and a nature lover.  I sat with her many evenings on a swing, swaying to the easy, peaceful rhythm of country summer, drinking sweet tea and beholding--taking notice and celebrating life around us.

Someday I hope to do this with my own grandchildren, those yet to come who will carry the legacy of seeking and seeing and swinging.  I hope to impart the same love she gave me--for life and the Life-giver, for those not always seen.

With the bright sound of the Grosbeak-not-a-Robin piercing through the gray of day, I heard my grandmother's lilting melody.  Part of her is planted and springing to life in me.  It's the serenade of a Nature Lover, keeping time with the rhythms of heaven, whistling to get our attention and wooing with the colors of love.  The Creator makes a bold display of His feathers and then hovers over us with the same--as a hen broods over her chicks, all because He loves us. 
All because He IS Love.

And all because He knows, if we see and hear and know Him, we will love Him too. 
Today a Rose-breasted Grosbeak sang his song and then flew away.  But Jesus invites us everyday to be with Him where He is, to see the glory His Father gave Him.  To be there, to be here, to be with Him wherever He is, is Paradise.
Yes, I DO live in a Nature Lover's Paradise!  I really do!

Photo Credit (Grossbeak):  Whitevale Wonder - flickr

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Creeping Into God

"Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God." ~ Soren Kierkagaard (1813-1885)

I recently found this quote from Soren Kierkagaard, a Danish philosopher in a blog I penned years ago.  As I read retro words, I have to smile.  My longing to "creep into God" still presses me hard beyond the veil.  Every taste, and all that I drink, every new delight and experience in Christ, every word and promise Spirit whispers into my being -- all these and more -- only increase my thirst for God.

In Christ the veil is torn.  His kingdom comes.  His will is done.  Heaven invades earth, and the two become one.  Jesus in me--the hope of glory--invades my spirit, soul and body.

Jesus was so into His Father that He claimed:  to know Him was to know the Father (John 8:19.)  Before He went to the cross He talked with His Abba:

Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me

...may [they] be one as we are one—I in them and you in me so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

... Righteous Father,...I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. 
~John 17:21-24 NIV

With great hope I put my trust in Jesus and the words he prayed, and re-post an excerpt of my own, retro and re-polished:

From Creeping Into God
June 1, 2007
When I gaze into a breathtaking sunset, or look at the indescribable beauty in the petals of a flower, or delight in the glory beams breaking through a canopy of leaves overhead, I think, "Is it possible that I could just disappear into the One who orchestrated all this loveliness that surrounds me?"

There are other moments, precious as well, when friends and I sing our hearts out in love songs to Jesus.  And He comes.

When Jesus comes, it's all about Him.  No longer do I remember the bad day at work, or the yellow haze of pollen floating outside and making me sneeze, or how the girls complained about the casserole I made for dinner.  I lose all thoughts of worry, pain, hunger and strife as I press into the source of all my satisfaction and delight.

When Jesus comes, I lose awareness of myself and everyone else in the room for that matter. There is a unity of spirit --a oneness of body--that comes to hungry hearts who worship together in spirit and truth.

When Jesus comes I forget to breathe. I am no longer me. I'm an eagle soaring on the wind into the sun.

I wonder if Enoch felt like this when he walked with God -- faithfully, and then no more,  because God took him away.

I've been thinking about this friendship with God, our God who is so brilliant an artist--the Author of Life himself--that He paints across nature into our lives a portrait of Himself.  Who is He really?

How much more of Him is there to know?

Is He as close to me as my next breath?

How deep into His presence can I go?

How am I changed from glory to glory?

Shall I live the mystery of Enoch?

Who can tell the story?

Ponder this:  He who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit." (1 Corinthians 6:17 NIV)

If the Spirit of God lives within me, and I am in Christ the Son, just as He is in the Father, and He and the Father are one, doesn't it seem that I am already there?  In God?

I am convinced.  It is possible to creep into God!  And become so full of Him that we walk in a higher realm, that of the kingdom. When we enter into God's heart we see as He sees.  We love as He loves.  We become as He is in this world.  And our spirit flies! 

There is a highway of God where the enemy cannot come near us--it is the Way of holiness and love--and boasts the name of the Son, Jesus. This is what God planned for us all along: To walk as Enoch walked, one day barefoot in the dirt, and the next, swallowed up by Love.

Can you envision yourself?  A little child, trusting, vulnerable, precious, toddling to your heavenly Father, crawling up into his lap, and getting wrapped snug in His arms of love, comfort and security? I want to run there, and take everyone with me, there where I'm lost and found and far away from all the worries and cares of this life, there in that hidden and wonderful place where we are known and loved and changed to be like Him.

Photo Credit: James Chew - flickr
Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Word of Love Come Down

God is the perfect poet. ~ Robert Browning   

Word of Love Come Down
by Melissa Campbell

Word of Love
Come down, come down
Yah plants his seed in the earth
Dances barefoot in the dirt
Sing now
And we will listen 

Word of Love

Come down, come down
God born in flesh to die 
Love lifted to the sky
Suffer now
And we will spirit-waken

Word of Love
Come down, come down
From the cross you gave yourself to
In the fire you brought us through
Ascend now
And we will rise joy-strengthened

Word of Love
Come down, come down
Open our hearts to revelation
Inhabit the gates of your kingdom
Reign now
And we will shine
The light of your day-breaking.

Photo by Wonderlane (flickr)