What’s in a Name?

During my Lectio Divina practice this morning, I reflected on the second line of the Lord’s Prayer. Again, I got ahead of myself and assumed “hallowed” would be the focus. Again, I was wrong 😊

“Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9 NASB

I couldn’t get away from name, so I relaxed and listened to God. He led me to the scripture where Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was. He asked Peter directly, and got the answer He is hoping to hear. Jesus always pointed to His Father and resisted those who wanted to worship Him instead of His Father.

 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matthew 16:14-16 NASB

What we are called says a lot about who we are, and what we call others says a lot of who they are as well as who we are. I thought about what I call God. I usually call Him Father when I pray, but I also like Creator. When my prayer is very personal, I call Him Adonai.

I use Yahweh, Elohim, and El Shaddai when supplicating because I feel the need to call all His names when I’m desperate. The Jewish people use HaShem, the Hebrew word for “the Name.” I like that name because it reminds me that God used I Am when referring to Himself. There are over thirty verses in the Bible where God uses those words to describe Who He says He Is. Father fits best for me because it reminds me of who He believes me to be. I am His beloved daughter, and that name is the one I go to when I need balance or reassurance. It is the most precious name I have.

A name means something, so I do my best to call those I know by name when addressing them. I taught over 2,000 students, so it is very difficult to recall every name. Facebook helps me with that 😊

Kathy, Kathy Jean, Mom, Mrs. Proctor, Ms. Kathy and Gigi represent different aspects of who I am. Child, friend, wife, mother, teacher, volunteer, and grandmother. The first time I heard “Mom” my heart was altered forever. The first “Gigi” stretched my heart beyond my wildest imagination. When my first students called me Mrs. Proctor, I felt a new sense of identity and purpose. I love, and answer to, all of the above; but there was one name that left a deep scar on my heart. I do not answer to it any more.

My father called me “stupid” for the first five years of my life. It got my attention and captured my essence for too much of my life, but I knew that name lost its power when an angry middle school boy lashed out at me in the office one day. I wasn’t his teacher and had nothing to do with his anger, but I was the person standing closest to him.

I asked what was going on, simply wanting to help. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Shut up you stupid b****!!” I realized at that point that it would be best to leave him in the hands of those involved in his situation.

I smiled as I left the office because that name didn’t anger me at all. In fact, I quietly told the young man that I was a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

The Power of “Our”

I’ve been practicing Lectio Devina lately and was taken aback this morning by the power of the word “our.” I decided to go through the Lord’s Prayer over the next few days and began with:

Our Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9 NASB

I tend to get ahead of myself, so I imagined before I went into prayer, that “Father” would most likely be the word God would bring to me as I prayed. For those unfamiliar with Lectio Divina, it’s a Benedictine practice that involves reading and rereading a short passage until one word becomes clear. It literally means divine, or sacred, reading.

Lectio Divina allows the living Word of God to speak to the heart as the person praying digests each word in the selected scripture. One word will come to the surface, and God will lead the person to a greater understanding of that one word.

It seemed obvious to me that “Father” would be the word because it was the most important word as far as I could tell. As always, God turned the obvious around and left my head and heart spinning in the process. I was delighted to find that “Our” was to be the focus of my prayer this morning.

I repeated the scripture over and over again, emphasizing the word “Our.” My body and spirit become still as I chewed upon the tiny word. The more I chewed, the more it became clear that “Our” opened an important door in Christ’s powerful prayer.

In uttering “Our” to the disciples, he included them in God’s kingdom. They became, and we become God’s children. I quickly smiled and repented not giving that simple plural possessive pronoun its due. The whole of the Good News Christ brought into the world is contained in that tiny, seemingly insignificant, word.

The power of “Our” became crystal clear after praying, and I had to laugh as God made it clear that this “Our” was more inclusive than possessive 😊   God gave the image of my smallest granddaughter, who will be two in a few weeks, taking ownership of all in her reach. Like her sisters before her and two-year-olds around the world, she is fascinated by another little possessive pronoun. Mine!! She has a little munchkin voice until she uses that word!

Her voice deepens, and her face becomes ready for battle when she sees something new and says, “Mine!” I smile when she says it, but I also tell her that something isn’t hers if it doesn’t belong to her. I have a little seal I bought in San Francisco that makes a loud noise when you squeeze it, and she likes it a lot. She held it tightly, pulled it to her side, and said, “Mine!” in her deepest I mean it voice.  I told her nicely that it belonged to me, but I would share it with her. She seemed okay with that as long as she could still hold on to it.

Too often, Christians take a two-year-old attitude when it comes to Christ. He shared as no one ever has, and His love was never clearer than in the first little word of the prayer He taught us all to pray.

Precious Moments

On a cool evening back in March 2015, I captured three beautiful images of the same sunset. I love the views from my new apartment in town, but I miss the sunsets from the home I shared with my son and his family. Every evening was a breathtaking performance, and every day was a sweet adventure with my little granddaughters. I’m only two miles away now and see the girls often, but I treasure the moments we shared on the mountaintop.

 

 

So You Think You Can’t Sing!!

I was happily singing “The Orchestra Song” in fourth grade music class, when my music teacher sarcastically snipped, “You are not a violin!” He laughed and instructed me to try singing the clarinet part quietly.  The incident ranks very high on my list of most humiliating moments.

I learned the hard way that I couldn’t sing, and it took decades for me to unlearn that terrible lesson. I didn’t wait for someone to ask if I could sing, I volunteered the information every time I was in a singing situation to all those around me. It breaks my heart to hear someone say they can’t sing, dance, read, draw, or do any other activity that requires a particular skill. Doing begins with thinking, and a thoughtless remark can create the indelible tattoo “I can’t” on the heart of its recipient.

I’ve often wondered if my teacher realized the damage he did to my heart with his hateful remark. I’m not sure a comforting voice away from the class would have resulted in a different outcome, but it certainly would have been less humiliating than having to look at my peers while they enjoyed a good joke at my expense.

Fifty years later, during Holy Week of 2009, a very different teacher planted a singing seed in my heart. When I retired from teaching in 2007, I took on the job of Secretary/Treasurer at the church I was attending. My pastor, a former choral director, was in charge of music for the community Holy Week services and needed someone to accompany him. Those who had been helping him were not available, and he needed help.

When he asked me to sing, I thought he must be kidding. He knew how I felt about singing, so why would he ask me to sing in front of a group of people. I knew him well enough to know that he would never joke about something he knew was painful for me. He has a wonderful sense of humor, but I could tell by his countenance that he wasn’t kidding. The crowd was a loving group, so I decided to give it a shot.

As we practiced, John told me I had a beautiful voice. Again, I looked at him as if he had lost him mind; but he still had that serious look that let me know he wasn’t kidding. I lost myself in the songs and even sang a few verses alone. My heart was as light as it had ever been. When we got back to the church office, I asked him about ways to improve my voice. He gave me some pointers and explained that singing was mostly letting go and breathing. The rest could be learned in voice lessons. He said my voice fell naturally in the soprano range.

I floated out to the car that afternoon. I was a violin! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a clarinet; my mama had a beautiful alto voice which I tried to copy without success. In fourth grade, I was singing what felt right to me, and it turns out, I was right. My choir director and voice teacher both agree with John’s assessment. I am definitely a soprano.

When I decided to write this post, I looked up “The Orchestra Song” on youtube. My music teacher changed the words to the song. In his hateful version of the song, “the clarinet, the clarinet; he doesn’t know it but he learn it yet.” I remember that line vividly and decided, after trying to be a clarinet, that I was never going to get it.

Method and manner are very important when it comes to learning. My music teacher was a horrible example of what not to do. I thank God for placing another teacher in my path; the seed he planted eight years ago is finally beginning to bloom.

I decided to take voice lessons last month, and my teacher is amazing. I approached her after my grand daughters’ recital back in June and asked if she would be willing to teach me. She said she would love to. During the first lesson, she told me that she envied my range,  but my natural singing voice was a soprano. While practicing my “mee, mee, mees” during one lesson, she beamed and said, “Wow! What a wonderful meee!”

I laughed and replied, “I’ve been working on that me for fifty-five years!!”

 

Expectation

Expectation takes its lead from my heart. If I’m expecting gloom an doom, that’s exactly what I get. If I’m expecting to get what I deserve, that’s what I get. I spent most of my life thinking I deserved less than God had in mind, and that’s exactly what I got. I love this image of the girls right after they helped put up the Christmas tree because they are excitedly expecting the wonderful things to come. My heart has grown to expect the same.

Advent should be a season of great wonder and excitement. God’s Son came down to be with us, and He’s coming again!! If Christians had half the excitement about that good news as these little girls have about the prospect of Santa Claus coming, the world would be a very different place.

Waiting is never easy, and that is particularly true for little ones at this time of year; but when we wait in the sweet anticipation of knowing God loved us enough to send His only Son and loves us enough to send Him again, we become like children who believe with all their hearts that something amazing is coming! That makes us smile and squeal the way these two little ones did when the Christmas tree was finally up.

I pray my heart will always be like a child waiting for something beyond my comprehension but real enough to make me squeal.

Rejoice!!

When I hear the word rejoice, I immediately think of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It is a favorite and familiar song that lifts my heart every time I hear it.

This song makes me want to sing and defines worship for me. Worship begins with love. Love leads to faith, and faith is the stage upon which I rejoice. Singing is a natural response when it comes to worship, but I learned from a terrible music teacher in fourth grade that I could not sing. Up until that moment, I sang with abandon. After his ugly comment, I mouthed the words in public and stopped singing when alone.

During Holy Week in 2009, a dear friend helped me see myself as a singer and gave me the courage to sing in front of a small group. I never felt more alive in my life than when I was singing “What Wondrous Love is This” and “Where You There.” Mama died a few months later, and life took an unexpected turn. I sang in worship and when alone, but I didn’t pursue singing the way God wanted me to. I had the desire to sing, but I lacked the courage. Hateful words have deep roots.

Singing, loving, rejoicing, dancing, and worshipping are best done with abandon. All of them should be done whether anyone is watching or not, and all should come from a deep place in the heart. Last night, God reminded me how much He loves to hear me sing. Like the parent of a little child, nothing delights Him more than hearing His little ones sing with abandon. He also showed me that the only time singing, loving, rejoicing, dancing, and worshipping are inappropriate is when they are about me and not Him.

I could relate because nothing is more off key than singing done to shine a light on the singer. I’ve heard singers who performed perfectly but left my heart feeling flat. I’ve also heard performances that were not perfect that caused my heart to soar toward heaven. The point of all worship is to glorify God. When we do that together, it is magical.

I love the time I spend alone with God. Sometimes I sit quietly and listen. Sometimes I talk to Him. Sometimes I sing, and sometimes I dance! A solo is beautiful, but it is a taste of heaven when voices join in sweet harmony. That harmony doesn’t depend upon everyone singing in the right key; it happens when hearts are tuned in one accord.

Lillyann spent the night last night and warned me when we went to bed that she did not like getting up in the morning. According to her, it would be a problem. I told her I could handle it 🙂 I heard her singing in the bathroom while I was writing this post. Again, God’s timing always amazes and usually amuses me!

I went in, and she was washing her hands and singing sweetly. She stopped singing and looked up at me sheepishly. I told her to keep on singing and told her she was up fifteen minutes early and singing! She grinned, and I told her to blame it on the cinnamon buns. She laughed and asked if they were ready.

As we were driving to school this morning, I told her how much I loved to hear her sing. I also told her that nobody love to hear us sing more than God. While we waited in the line of cars, I told her about my fourth grade music teacher’s remarks and the effect they had upon me. She said, “That’s horrible!!” I told her I loved to sing now because someone else encouraged me to sing. She said, “That’s good.” I heartily agreed 🙂

She was singing again while putting on her shoes before we left; I decided to capture that sweet moment because she didn’t stop when I walked over.

 

 

 

Patience

Patience is a virtue that took over sixty years for me to grasp. It took a lot of patience on God’s part to teach me the importance of patience. Stillness and patience are kindred spirits, so it’s not surprising they came into my heart at the same time. I’m not claiming to always be still or patient, but I do have a greater understanding of both thanks to God’s lessons of late.

I’m learning to wait in a different way, and I believe that is at the heart of Advent. My busyness kept me from the patience and stillness needed to wait as God desires, but that was my own doing. Busyness is the perfect hiding place, and that was just what I was looking for. God, however, had something much better in mind.

Busyness kept all that was whirling around me from crashing down on me. Like staying in front of a wave on the shore, those breakers could not catch me if I kept moving. God knew I would have to face the waves eventually, and He knew they would break me. He also knew I must come to a stop on my own, so He didn’t force me. He just held my hand and picked me up after they hit.

Fear of the waves and a lack of faith kept me from experiencing the stillness and patience God knew would bring me nearer to Him, but He also knew it would only work when I chose to stop. As I told my grand daughter, God doesn’t cause the bad things that happen to us; He simply holds and loves us while they are happening. Like mommy and daddy, He is there to make sure we know we are never alone. She liked, and understood, that kind of love as only a loved child can.

In the same conversation, she asked if she could ask God for things. I told her God heard our prayers and would answer them, but we don’t say give me this or give me that to God. Her response was, “No, that’s Santa!” I grinned and said, “Yeah, and there’s a big difference!”

I love learning from my grand daughters, but I’m afraid they didn’t offer much help with patience and stillness. Children are wiser than we, but they are still novices when it comes to patience and stillness -particularly at this time of year 😉

They do, however, sit  beautifully still when there is something worth waiting for or watching. This photo of the girls is a beautiful example of just that.