Saturday, April 25, 2015

When It All Comes Together

Last night and today, our parish hosted a women's retreat.  Our speaker was Father Nathan Cromly, who is a priest in the order of the Community of St. John.  He also heads up Eagle Eye Ministries.

The weekend's theme was "The Better Part," taken from the passage in Luke 10, where Jesus visited the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Without going into great detail, I had passed along the link to the music of my "journey song."  Our retreat coordinator, Mary, quickly decided it should become the theme song of our retreat.

And so, for the first time, I had the privilege of singing it with other women, and hearing their voices join with mine to call on take us, and shape us, as we sat at His feet.

In 2006, I had no idea.

Father Nathan


Father Nathan and friends  :o)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

An Update of Sorts

If you have been following my blog over the years, we have an item of unfinished business.

In this post from 2006, I wrote a song called "At Your Feet."  The words were posted, but I did not have the technology to share the music.

So, for better or for worse, here it is...!


Mary's Song (At Your Feet)

I walk into Your presence, Lord,
I fall down on my face
As I come before You, Lord,
I marvel at Your love and grace.

At Your feet, I find a place of perfect peace
At Your feet, I find a place of sweet release
At Your feet, I've finally found that I am home
So take me Lord; shape me, Lord
While I sit at Your feet

So many voices calling me
Can cause my heart to stray
But when I listen to Your voice
I know You'll show the better way... (back to Refrain)

I come and lay my heart at Your feet
I pour it out to You
And as I gaze into Your eyes,
You give me all of Your heart, too. (back to Refrain)

© 2006.  Joni Renee Johnson.  All Rights Reserved. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lord, I'm Amazed

For anyone who reads my blog with any regularity (and I hope there are at least a couple of people out there!), you may have noticed my lack of posts.  If you didn't, well, okay.  :o)

Our church organist, who has faithfully played at daily Mass for the past 30 years or so, took a nasty fall a few weeks ago.  In the process, he broke a bone in one of his hips.  Though no surgery was required, complete immobilization has been prescribed for proper healing.  I am his substitute, so have been playing more frequently.  In the process of that, my hands have received quite a thorough work-over.  Typing hasn't been as easy as I'd like.  That's all.

So, to make up for lost time, I have been pondering something over the past 24 hours.  Blowing the dust off the computer, warming up the joints, and away we go....!

Things that amaze me...

  • Sunrises
    - Over the Kansas plains, over the mountains of Colorado, over the Great Lakes, over the hills of Ohio, over the forests of Michigan, over the Straits of Mackinac, over the skyline of Detroit or's all good
  • Sunsets
    - Ditto from above
  • Raindrops
  • Rainbows
  • Storm clouds
  • Sunny skies
  • Faces of newborn babies
  • Faces of new parents
  • Faces of small animals
  • Great, blue whales
  • Tiny little jellyfish
  • Elephants and giraffes
  • Baby gerbils
  • Tears of joy
  • The laughter of a child
  • The knowing chuckle of an older adult
  • The first snowflake of winter
  • The last leaf of fall
  • The first budding flower of spring
  • The mirage of water in the midst of highway heatwaves in summer
  • A blowing field of ripened wheat
  • The smell of quickly-growing corn on a muggy summer day
  • The smell of freshly cut hay
  • The smell of a newly plowed field
  • The fragrance of rain-washed skies
  • The longevity of marriages held together by sheer will, love, and the hand of God
  • The stubbornness of a young child
  • The stubbornness of an elderly person
  • Hugs that heal
  • Quiet moments in God's presence
  • Beautiful, ornate cathedrals
  • Simple, small chapels
  • Artwork that comes from the soul of the artist
  • Photographs that capture moments of historical events
  • Photographs that capture simple daily occurrences
  • Poetry that makes the heart sing
  • Songs that eloquently sing of God's majesty
  • Songs that speak from the reality of life
  • Songs that use simple, straightforward lyrics
  • A beautiful symphony
  • A simple melody
  • Honesty
  • The love of my family and friends
  • The love of a stranger
  • The wonder in the face of a child, as they see their first fireworks
  • The wonder in the face of an adult, as they see their millionth fireworks
  • The cross
  • The empty tomb
  • The barren hill from which Jesus ascended
  • The power of the Holy Spirit
  • The truths of the Bible
  • The steadfastness of His Church
  • The love and mercy of the God who made it all
At least that's a good start...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lenten Encouragement

I've had to take a short recess from blogging.  I ran across this quote today, though, and wanted to share it.

Take heart!  His love is greater than tomorrow's worries!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Guest Blog

If you've never read our oldest son's blog--what?!  Surely you jest?  Never read it?  Well, today is your lucky day!  :o)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

20,000 Leagues and More

"Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity
    and passing over transgression
    for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger for ever
    because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion upon us,
    he will tread our iniquities under foot.
Thou wilt cast all our sins
    into the depths of the sea."
Micah 7:18-19

How awesome is the ocean?  I mean, miles and miles of nothing but water.  And under that water, miles and miles of plant, fish, and animal life, most of which have never been observed by human eyes.  Myriads of microscopic organisms floating, swimming, living, reproducing, and dying--totally beyond the reach of scientific observance.  The word "amazing" doesn't even begin to cover it, does it?

Wouldn't you love your faults, failures, and sins to be completely absorbed into all that immensity, never to be found again?  Never to be looked upon by mankind?

That's the beauty of God's forgiveness.  When we confess our sins, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  (I John 1:9)  It is gone, as it were, into the "depths of the sea."

Don't wallow in it.  Let it go, and let God cast it away.  

Spring Break!

Our oldest is home from college for the week, so I may not be posting every day.

Have a happy week!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Every Life Matters

I'm taking a step away from the daily Scripture meditation today.  I want to share something a bit different with my readers.

For the past several weeks, I have been hearing about a documentary called, "The Dropbox."  I first heard about it from Focus on the Family.  The promotional clips showed a Korean pastor caring for infants and children in Seoul, South Korea.  The children they showed were mostly little ones with disabilities:  Down syndrome, birth defects, etc.  I felt a tug at my heart, and wanted to know more.  There is a special place in my heart for Korea, as my dad is a Korean War veteran.  There is another place reserved for those precious children who are abandoned or unwanted due to perceived abnormalities.

Tonight, as we entered the theater, we were unsure if it was even being shown.  There was no sign of it on the marquee.  However, as soon as we were inside the doors, a woman asked if we wanted two tickets?  She had purchased four tickets to see "The Dropbox," but two family members were unable to attend.  Did we want their tickets?  We tried to pay her, but she wouldn't hear of it.  Wow.  I think we were meant to be there!

The theater was fairly full when the presentation began.  It was an unusual viewing, as it was not for entertainment purposes.  Yet here were dozens of people, gathering together to listen and learn.

The movie was directed by a man named Brian Ivie.  The background of the making of "The Dropbox" can be found at  What began as a project for the Sundance Film Festival became a life-changing journey for Mr. Ivie.  Meeting Pastor Lee and his wife was an experience Brian Ivie will never forget.
How can I describe seeing newborn infants dropped at this unassuming man's door?  Children who are unwanted, unplanned, or somehow seen as an inconvenience, left in the care of a loving stranger who will put them up for adoption, or adopt them himself...left in a dropbox.

The culture in South Korea still expects young women to remain chaste, in a sense.  That is, if a teenager becomes pregnant, she is seen as a "loose" woman, chastised by her peers, and often dismissed from school.  Though we often see single, teen moms in the United States, this is not the norm in South Korea.  Children with disabilities are too difficult, too expensive, and often looked upon with shame.  Unplanned pregnancies are seen as a disgrace.
Pastor Lee, however, sees each child as a gift from God.  He and his wife have a birth child with severe physical problems.  Through raising him, God opened their eyes to the gift of each life--whether deemed perfect by society or not.

This is a message so needed by our culture.  Children are not possessions to be kept or thrown away at a whim.  They are each a creation of God.  Each of them has a purpose and a place, if only given the chance.  To take that a step further, each human--no matter how young or old--has a purpose until the day God calls them home.  To shorten that life by any means is to ignore their dignity and humanity.

If you see one movie this year, this is the one.  Be ready to have your eyes opened, your heart challenged, and your life changed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Our Father, We Have Wandered

"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.  So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."
Matthew 18:12-14

The focus of the Scripture readings in Lent are repentance and forgiveness.  Everything we do throughout these 40 days is a preparation for Holy Week, as we remember Christ's death and resurrection.  In light of all He has done for us, we take a more intentional look at the things which separate us from the intimate relationship He so desires.

Often, we discover small things that have grown over time.  Things that are generally okay or even good can become distractions to our passion for Christ.  Like the sheep in this parable, we find a blade of grass--only a few feet from the herd--that looks delectable.  Oh, but there is a patch over there that appears to be even tastier!  Soon, we find ourselves far from the herd, off in our own little wilderness, and quite distant from the Shepherd.

Thankfully, in His ardent love for us, our Shepherd seeks us.  He actively pursues us along our wandering path, until He discovers our whereabouts.  Whether we're in a cave, have fallen down a slippery slope, or we're caught in the thorns of a wild berry bush, He works to free us from that situation.  Once we are found, there is rejoicing!  He doesn't stand by and say, "Well, too bad.  See if you can get yourself out of this mess!"


The Desire of Your Heart

In the path of thy judgments,
    Lord, we wait for thee;
thy memorial name
    is the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for thee in the night,
    my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee.
For when thy judgments are in the earth,
    the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10 If favor is shown to the wicked,
    he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals perversely
    and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
11 Lord, thy hand is lifted up,
    but they see it not.
Let them see thy zeal for thy people, and be ashamed.
    Let the fire for thy adversaries consume them.
12 Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us,
    thou hast wrought for us all our works.
13 Lord our God,
    other lords besides thee have ruled over us,
    but thy name alone we acknowledge.
Isaiah 26:8-13

Key words:

  • wait
  • desire
  • yearn
  • learn
  • seek (earnestly)
  • acknowledge
These words each show an aspect of actively pursuing our relationship with God.  Christianity is not a spectator sport.  It's all about being on the team and participating.  

Waiting may sound passive, but it is an action verb in this case.  I would define it as, "A purposeful pause of anticipation."  In other words, making ourselves be still to see what God has in store.

Desire is to have an appetite for God.  That may sound a bit odd.  Think about it, though.  If our physical stomach is hungry, we feed it with something that will satisfy those gnawings in our "gut."  If we allow our spiritual hunger to draw us toward God, with a desire to be satisfied, He will satiate us with Himself.

Yearning is a close relative to desire, but actually means to have a strong desire.  Not so much, "I'm hungry, " but more like, "I'm starving!"

Our society's common definition of learning is to "acquire information."  The meaning in this passage is far deeper.  It's not only about accumulating facts, but to make those facts a part of who we are.
To earnestly seek God is again, an action.  Picture it like this:  You've lost one of your small children in a mall during pre-Christmas shopping.  You don't stand around and watch people pass by, hoping you will eventually see your child, and all will be well.  You "earnestly seek" to find them.  This is what the Scripture is saying to us as well.  We need to be active in our relationship with God.

Acknowledging God's name alone means we recognize Him as the ultimate authority in our lives.  This also involves an active setting aside of our own agenda, and allowing His plans to be ours.

It's time to get off the bench, get in the game, and do our part!