At the Altar

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise … turn up Your praise ….

It was an amazing program.

I stopped and chatted with some of the people who came together to celebrate the music that my mom had enjoyed, arranged, directed and composed. We were gladdened by the strength of her memory, and the joy of sharing it.

Walk, talk. Swipe through my purse for my car keys. Stop, talk … swipe. Swipe. Sigh. Swipe … swipe.

As the church was locked up, we stood outside in the darkness, still talking, laughing.

Swipe. Grr. Swipe.

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise … turn up Your praise ….

I methodically began to unload my record-heavy purse on the trunk of my sister’s car.

Two paperback books – check.

(Mom’s writing. Great opportunity to share.)

A plate, a dish towel – check.

(Fun skit. You kinda had to be there.)

Usual essentials – check.

Except my keys.

We called my cousin, whose face is pictured in my mental dictionary, right next to the phrase “faithful steward.” Minutes after she’d driven away, she was back to open the church up again. Voiced no irritation. She walks in patience.

I searched the pew where I’d sat. Then I stepped up on the altar, looking around where the microphone had been.

Left, right.

Enough.

Removing the plate and books again, I kneeled and turned my purse upside down, shaking it. Plop, flutter, flutter. Kch, kch.

I think I hear them,” my son said, kneeling next to me, as I kept peering, not seeing. Not sure I was really hearing.

Kch, kch. He revealed the twisted pocket, the only pocket in the purse. Where my search began. Where my expectations are usually stored. The pocket that still held my keys. Kch.

I made my angry face. He helped me pull them out.

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise … turn up Your praise ….

My sister told her I’ve-done-that-too story. My cousin told her I’ve-done-that-too story. I’m not sure either one ever made someone drive back and re-open a church just for that. But I was grateful for their compassion.

With what I just happened to be carrying at that moment — doing what I normally do, as best I can, just wasn’t enough.

With that particular jumble … ok, and with jumbles I’ve had before – what I can do and what I can understand just wasn’t enough. Not enough to even simply keep moving.

Before my cousin drove away (again), she pointed out something: that I couldn’t really have done all that necessary shaking out, to begin to see what was twisted out of place, to get to the bottom of anything, while I was still out in the darkness. I couldn’t really even see what I was doing.

But once I was at the altar, I got the help I needed.

OK, yeah. So I didn’t leave my stuff there. When I walked from the altar, my purse was still heavy.

But … I was still so much better off.

In the jumble I carried weariness, aches. So much frustration twining through.

In the shaking out I found relief, fellowship. Unlimited divine intervention flowing through and glorified.

When I emptied it all out at the altar.

Turn down my performance,

Turn up Your praise!

Turn up Your praise!

Turn Up Your Praise!

At the Altar

September 2010 photo of lunch-hour pipe organ concerts by my mother Izola Collins

Lyrics from ‘Turn Down, Turn Up’ by Cheryl Crayton. Copyright February 2018

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Turn to dance

On point

Definitions:

1. law —

   Staying on the topic.

2. fashion —

    Perfect.

3. military 

    Taking the lead role.

4. dance 

    Staying on your toes.

Let’s turn to dance.


I took ballet as a preteen. After seeing my friend in recital, I got my mom to enroll me in lessons, and soon, I was dancing on Broadway 

 Broadway Avenue, our city’s version of Main Street, two afternoons a week at a storefront school. 


My mishmosh of memories from class include the gleam of tap shoes, doing the hustle (this was the ’70s), and the unyielding height of the barre.


Decades later, I still remember the lessons on pirouettes. 


Before the spinning starts, you have to choose a focus, a focus spot where you want to go. And with every turn, you have to refocus. Otherwise, the effort takes you far off course, leaving you disoriented, confused … sometimes even hurting and ill. But with discipline to refocus at every turn, there’s guidance and grace.


Staying on your toes, as defined by a believer in Jesus Christ, is not about mental agility or physical prowess. It means realizing that your statement of faith is a daily necessity, before leaving the bed. Worth interrupting your own agenda setting, grocery-list making, physical assessment and dream analysis — to seek to abide in God first. Thinking about who God is and why you worship Him. 


Even before we turn our wide-ranging thoughts into requests before God, we need to turn from all that’s on our mind, so we can speak directly to Him … about Him


And long after we’ve sat up, stood and shuffled from the bed, we need to be ready to interrupt all those things again — not only to seek God’s agenda at every turn, but to abide with Him more and more often during the day.  


We need that, and God delights in it. Reason enough.


Ongoing spiritual warfare provides even further reason.  Before we engage in battle, we need to choose that same focus, and then constantly refocus.  Otherwise, our thoughts, words and actions become confused and take us far off course, stranding us in our pain and hurting others.


Turn, turn, turn. To prayer. To praise. To petition. To devotion.


To stay on point as God defines it, turn often to God’s Word — 2 Chronicles 20:15 b, Ephesians 6:10-18 — for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 


To stay on point, keep your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Find guidance in grace. God makes it available to you daily, and it was never meant to be hoarded or rationed out. 


To live on point is to live extended to the utmost —  the utmost patience (1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:2); the utmost perseverance (2 Timothy 2:15, Philippians 1:20) and the utmost generosity (2 Corinthians 8:3-15) — all with a willingness to go beyond your personal resources. 


The history of dancing en pointe traces a movement to a dance style that disregarded the body’s natural alignment; it was a way of dancing that followed the fashion of its time. S
piritually speaking, living on point follows an everlasting standard, based on God’s nature instead of the stances that come naturally to us. 


Our natures, when placed in God’s hands, are redefined and then refined daily. He provides us with extensive practice to develop a strength that reaches beyond our own ability.  


God has taken on our perfection as a lifetime project.


To stay on point, turn and take God’s extended hand.