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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Return and Rest

Pasture     He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

I smile, and breathe a deep sigh of ease, looking at a picture of my husband and younger son relaxing in our back yard.

It is surely one of those green pasture moments. My son is playing with his pecan-tree-branch walking stick and our fuzzy small dog. My husband is sitting on the porch steps, savoring every spoonful of his ice cream cup. And the sun sets slowly enough to illuminate everything.

And this is another green pasture moment. I sit on the plane, headed to vacation. Both sons sit behind us, still enjoying their reunion after the firstborn’s return from freshman year in college. Husband has his audio book and a nap. I have time to play with my phone, to actually change the wallpaper all by myself, to find the golden sunset picture. To be soaring here and there, all at once.

The next day I am praying to God, glad for rested sleep and strengthened body, the fullness of the day previous and the newness of the current day, letting thank you fill me until I feel it in my soles. This is green pastures too, taking a longer gaze at my Shepherd.

And in my prayer I trust him with the times He’s led me through and rested me from. As I pray, I am freed from wearying myself all over again when I remember them, and how they tried me.

And I trust him with the times He’s leading me to, where my soul will be called to remember Him and His green pasture. To return to rest not only in summer, but daily, and throughout each day. Not to commit entrance to his green pastures to memory, but to frequent His presence, to seek Him and enter fully into His rest at all times — instead of being stranded by the situation. To feast in His presence in the presence of my enemies: distraction, frustration, offense, pain, weariness and fear.

To become rooted there. Tended there. To be reminded that nothing in God’s green earth bears fruit from great concerted effort, but rather yields it.