A Picture of Grace & a Poem

Yesterday I came across this story of a sweet woman who rescues forgotten Bratz dolls and gives them “make-unders,” redeeming them to be lovely, clear-eyed, and wholesome. You may have seen it. I viewed her video several times because it made me so hopeful for our broken world. It was such a vivid picture of grace.

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(see more at http://treechangedolls.tumblr.com)

In what this woman does with these discarded dolls, I see a glimpse of the gospel. The way she scours thrift shops, finds them naked, hair gnarled, limbs missing, and brings them into her home. The way she washes them, tenderly erases their sleepy bedroom-eyes and puffy cartoon-lips, paints them a new, bright and happy face, restores their missing parts, and adorns their exposed bodies in adorable hand-knit outfits. Every detail is attended to; nothing is overlooked. After undergoing what C.S. Lewis would call “the full treatment,” these dolls are made completely new. There is not a trace of the old, hyper-sexualized “brat” that existed before.

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In these broken, jacked-up dolls, I see myself. In the benevolent demeanor of the woman who rescues these dolls, I see Jesus. He too, is a humble, skillful artist, grace-giver, and savior. He too, gives life to what was dead and transforms what seems like hopeless rubbish into breathtaking beauty. And he does so with the human heart.

He came to make all things new. The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) I have heaps of pain and sin and rubbish piling up inside, but 1 John 1:9 tells me that “If we confess our sins He is faithful & just and will forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Found. Rescued. Washed. Cleansed. Transformed. Made new.

What a love story.

…This whole thing just brought to mind to a poem I wrote a while back:

Falling, falling
through the cracks;
Slipping, sinking
And who shall mourn?
Blind and burdened,
lacking wisdom
to die
that she may be reborn.

Someone please
save her, love her.
Jesus, Jesus
forgive her sins;
Pour living water
down upon her,
That she may never
thirst again.

Lifted, lifted
Up from darkness;
Waking, rising
tasting love.
Greed, lust, pride
all despising;
Carried, given
life above.
Death and sin
conquered, buried;
By Christ
she is loved and seen.
Rescued, valued
holy, cherished;
Awake to the
eternal dream.

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Meditation: A Way of Life

Going into this Year with the Disciplines project, there were two spiritual disciplines that intimidated me most, one of which was meditation. I confess: I’d been avoiding it. I had this idea that meditation was a heavy, solemn thing, as I’m sure sometimes it is and should be. But it really didn’t feel that way. On the contrary, it felt freeing and uplifting. Maybe God was being especially sweet and gracious to me during my first month with this blog, giving me that extra little nudge. I was so happy and surprised to be relieved of any pressure to conjure up some grand spiritual revelation or experience. Instead, God reminded me of the beauty, simplicity, and everyday practicality of meditation. The ideas of tending to my spiritual garden and tasting spiritual honey really sunk in for me, and what I had thought would be a chore felt like a luxury. I can only hope that this next month carries with it the same sort of romance; it is February, after all!

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Before we move on to prayer (the other discipline that I have issues with), I wanted to share some last tid-bits that could be helpful to you on your personal journey with the art of meditation.

Here are a few other quotes from the chapter that I love:

“Meditation is a more passive discipline. It is characterized more by reflecting than by studying, more by listening than by thinking, more by releasing than by grabbing. With the discipline of meditation we are not so much acting as we are opening ourselves to be acted upon.” (Study Guide)

“The meditation of scripture centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage. The written word becomes a living word addressed to you. Take a single event like the resurrection, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you. Seek to live the experience…apply all [the] senses… Smell the sea, hear the lap of water along the shore. See the crowd. Feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach. Taste the salt in the air. Touch the hem of His garment.” (26)

“Mediation is not a single act… It is a way of life. You will be constantly learning and growing as you plumb the inner depths.” (29)

Finally, some other helpful resources/quotes on the subject:

A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer, by Madame Guyon
(Particularly Chapter 2 – The First Degree of Prayer: Meditation)

Warm Yourself at the Fires of Meditation, by David Mathis.

The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence

Meditation – What It Is, by Tim Keller (audio message)

Psalm 1:1-3
“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of mockers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”

Union with Thee, by Madame Guyon

“Here sweetly forgetting and wholly forgot
by the world and its turbulent throng
the birds and the streams lend me many a note
that aids meditation and song…
…Here let me, though fix’d in a desert, be free,
a little one, whom they despise.
Though lost to the world, if in union with thee,
I am holy, and happy, and wise.”

If you have been reading along this past month, I want to say thank you!! I hope that this first of the 12 spiritual disciplines has blessed you, and will continue to make it’s way into your everyday life.

Next, we embark upon our new subject: prayer!

Meditation: A Most Practical Thing

Meditation is about being still in order to seek the face of God. I’ve noticed that whenever I take the time in the morning to quietly, humbly, and unhurriedly center on Him, the day ahead becomes alive with color. I’m not spared from difficulties, but instead am armed with the grace to meet them. I take on on a calm, slower, more measured pace. It always seems that I don’t have the time for such an impractical thing as being still, and yet it turns out that it’s the most practical thing in the world.

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Being still is a counter-intuitive act of faith; it says “I have so very much to do, and yet, I choose You above it all. All of it can wait: the dishes, the people, the to-do list… I need you, Lord, before all these things, and alongside me as I do them. Without You they are empty and burdensome, but with You they are a joy.”

When I start my day with some sort of confession like that, two things usually happen:  First, it seems like the day stretches out to be longer, like a few more hours have been added, and everything that needs to be done fits in perfectly, with time to spare. Second, all the cares that were weighing me down at first are put in their place. I name them to God and He gives me some practical instruction about them. Deadlines coming up, offenses taken, worries regarding the hardships of a loved one, anxieties over past mistakes, glaring character flaws that I see in myself: my desire to be impressive, to be in control, to get my way… I hand them all over to God, and a transformation happens as a result. I begin to “walk in the Spirit,” no longer at the mercy of my emotions, moods, and circumstances. One way to practice this act of “handing over” is a method of meditation which Richard Foster calls “palms up, palms down”:

“Begin by placing your palms down as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God. Inwardly you may pray ‘Lord, I give you my anger toward Joe. I release my fear of my dentist appointment this morning. I surrender my anxiety over not having enough money to pay the bills this month. I release my frustration over trying to find a babysitter for tonight.’ Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you, release it. …After several moments of surrender, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord. Perhaps you will pray silently, ‘Lord, I would like to receive your divine love for Joe, Your peace about the dentist appointment, Your patience, Your joy.”

Often, as I’m releasing a care to God, He will bring a verse to mind. When I’m overly concerned about my looks, 1 Peter 3:3-4 saves me: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel– rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” I’ll be battling bitterness toward someone I feel has mistreated me, and Ephesians 4:32 will set me straight: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” My mind is abuzz with all sorts of negativity and worry, and I’ll realign myself with Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s letter to the Philippians goes on to say,

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Be still, and dwell on these things. In so doing, we uproot the ugly weeds that have sprung up in our hearts, and cultivate a lovely, peace-filled garden in their place.

Meditation: Much Like Tasting

Last Sunday it drizzled steadily at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, where I sell jewelry that I make. I’m usually nestled off to the side among the cluster of other artisans, but because several vendors didn’t show due to the weather, I was bumped up to a better spot on the main strip. So, I had new neighbors, and made friends with a lady to my right named Janet. She was selling raw orange-blossom honey, and we traded two small jars for a necklace.

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Janet has a raspy, enthusiastic voice, and periodically called out to umbrella-toting passers-by to try out her honey, raving about it’s medicinal properties and eternal shelf-life. She was cheerful, as sweet-natured as her honey, and made me happy I had shown up despite the rain.

Today, as I opened my new jar of honey and had a taste of its smooth, floral goodness, I remembered an explanation I had once read, likening the experience of honey to the experience of God:

“There is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man can’t have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty.”

-Jonathan Edwards, A Divine and Supernatural Light

In other words, there is a secondhand knowledge about honey that I can have without ever having tasted it, based primarily on what I’ve read and what others have told me. I can set the honey in the center of my kitchen table, walk by it every day, examine it’s amber hue, or read up on it via Wikipedia. But, until I put it to my own lips and taste it for myself, I don’t have my own personal, firsthand knowledge of honey; all I have is hearsay.

This is how I see the concept of meditation. To me, meditation is sensing, tasting, God’s goodness on my heart. Intimacy requires focus, devotion, savoring. I can (and often do) go about my days religiously hoarding information about God, but meditation happens when I experience and enjoy Him; when I think about Him, and revel in those thoughts. As Matthew Henry says, “What we love, we love to think of.” Or take Fredrick W. Faber’s famous line:

“Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name
Earth has no higher bliss.”

So, I give you this as my first thought regarding the discipline of meditation. It’s is the sort of thing where I believe it’s best for us to begin with the end – the enjoyment of the One contemplated- and work our way backwards – with methods and suggestions. Meditation is a tool that is available to all of us, in the midst of our busy days. This month as I’ve studied this discipline, I’ve been simply taking moments to press truths of scripture to my heart, linger there, and taste. It’s made the art of meditation less daunting and more satisfying; who wouldn’t want to partake of something delicious?

“…the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul…”

(Proverbs 24:13-14)

2015: A Year with the Disciplines

Hello Again!

Today I’m beginning a spiritual renewal project for 2015 that I’ll be sharing about on Savoir Vivre throughout the year. Each month, I intend to purposefully devote myself to one of the twelve Spiritual Disciplines as described in one of my most cherished books, Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.

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As I read this book for the first time, I felt like I was being handed useful tools for cultivating a beautiful garden in my soul. Written in 1978 and now a classic, it introduces not only the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting and study, but also the the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission and service, and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. Chapter by chapter, the term discipline began to take on a new form – no longer rigid or burdensome, but instead a potential avenue for grace to enter my life. As Foster explains:

“God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us… A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is to provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He puts the seed in the ground where the natural forces take over and up comes the grain. The Disciplines are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where He can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are a means of God’s grace.”

-Chapter 1: The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation

Since happening upon Celebration, I have become fascinated with the disciplines, reading more books on the subject. I’ve reveled in the idea of simply being receptive, like a flower must be towards the sun or the rain. So, my New Year’s Resolution is to make my heart like fertile soil by devoting myself to these disciplines, in the order they appear in the book. As I study and practice them, I will be sharing about my experiences here with you. For January, I turn my focus to the discipline of Meditation. I invite you to purchase the book here and to read along with me throughout the year. I often spot copies at the library and used book stores too!

I am eager for the lessons ahead! This year, may we both both grow in grace and love, and as the apostle Paul wrote, “discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.”

Savoir-Vivre, Day 1

Welcome to the first day of my blog! Thanks for being here.

I finally bit the bullet and navigated through WordPress in order to present Savoir-Vivre to you. I’ve been tinkering around with the idea, and grew tired of tinkering. All sorts of quotes on Pinterest were daring me to “believe in the beauty of my dreams,” reminding me that “perfect is the enemy of done” and “if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” Ok, duly noted.  Here is my dream, and yes I am scared.

My dream is that this blog might be helpful and encouraging to you in your own pursuit of a beautiful life, which is where “Savoir-Vivre” comes in. The french word, savoir, means “know,” and vivre means “life.” Pronounced “sav-wahr-vee-vruh,” it literally means “knowledge of life.” It is a knowing how to get the most out of life; the ability to live life well and with intelligent enjoyment; meeting every situation with poise, elegance, composure, and grace.

Quite a lofty title for such an inconspicuous little blog, and for a clumsy, newbie blogger who has much to learn in the art of such matters! How do I intend to rise to meet it, to experience savoir-vivre in my own heart, mind, and soul, and then transpose some token of wisdom of such to you, dear reader? I find my answer in Psalm 34:5 – “Those who look to Him are radiant.” My own ability to know anything about how to live is so meager and my own radiance is minuscule. But I can look to the Source of all Knowledge and of all Life, and there life becomes full of light.

So, won’t you please join me here every now and again? Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing about a year-long project I’ll be embarking on, in order to more intentionally apprehend this gift of savoir-vivre.

With love and gratitude,

Shannon

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