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Archive for June, 2018

IMG_4899.JPGIt was an evening of quiet, with clouds that were as sun-hiding as coastal fog.

Hubby had left to take our son and his friend to camp, where they will be working all summer.

Just the evening before, my family honored my request for a photo, by changing their schedules to make it happen. That’s what  families do … give and stretch for each other, even when it doesn’t make sense.

It was the last opportunity for all five of us to be in the house, and I wanted just one specific image. I am pretty sure they thought I had lost all sense of creativity, but they did it nonetheless (and I didn’t even have to pull out the “do you realize how difficult childbirth was” stories).

So that photo was taken (at the bottom of this page), then, the next day, our son walked out of his home of fourteen of his eighteen years for the last time.

Standing at my kitchen sink (my favourite place in the house), looking out into the back yard, the memories made in this home started to flood into my mind, and a realization that the opportunity to have memories promoted by this setting is coming to an end.

So I emerged from my window perch and wandered down memory lane.

When we entered this place our youngest couldn’t reach the light switch. He had to share a room with his sister, while the roof was added to the upper deck, to make a bedroom for him. He has had three different bedrooms in this house. We would often look to the back yard and see him use the back yard as a urinal (or his sisters would have him ‘water’ spiders). He learned to swim in our pool, just one week after we moved in. His favourite room in the house is the loft, where he and friends played various video games.

Back at the beginning, our oldest was ten, a competitive swimmer and eager to throw a party. She has thrown her share of parties, and utilized our pool for summer employment for a number of years. She has lived in an upper bedroom and in the basement suite. She was the first to leave our nest a year and a half ago. Her favourite place at our home … the pool.

Our middle daughter was only seven … just a little girl finishing grade one, swimming daily for the swim club, always angling to have a friend over and toting notebooks of scribbles and sketches. She has only ever had one bedroom in this house … the largest bedroom. She has been in school ever since we moved in and has had more friends over than all the rest of us (probably combined). Her favourite place at this place is her bedroom.

Our kids have grown up here, we all grew here, and in a few days we will move on to a new time and place, where stories and growth and laughter and tears will happen.

It was good to look back, and remember what we had here together.

 

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As the final student left the examination room yesterday, the doors to my summer opened wide, closing year one at my new job behind me.

A year ago I was sitting on the fence of change, wondering if I could survive without the familiarity and comforts of ‘home’. A year later I feel certain that I made the right decision, for I have been stretched and challenged in new ways that have forced me to grow.

Growth and challenge with purpose is essential for my undiagnosed ADD. For I easily become bored of monotony, and discouraged at busy work (for students as well as for myself).

I knew, in making the decision to accept this position, that I was doing it for the kick in the pants that I needed. I knew that I had become too confident of myself in my job, it had become second nature, and I knew that I needed to be pushed and stretched to be the best in my work.

And stretched I have been!

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Most days I got to spend my time assisting students with their math homework. It was pure joy for me, as I love the challenge that math problems present. It is not that I am an amazing or flawless mathematician, but that I recognize that math’s problems force us to work to find a solution, rather than the right answer. They are like a game where one needs to find a way to make the problem work. Personally, I think math prepares us best for life, for in our life we will have problems, and we need to learn to live with and through them.

Although I accepted a job for less income, I felt confident that God would take care of our financial needs, if I stepped out in faith, for a job that would challenge me and for one that provided more flexibility in terms of not having to attend professional development days that did not apply to my position or profession. What I never expected was that just weeks into my new position, a significant pay raise would more than meet our needs.

I was certain there couldn’t be a group of students who I could love more, yet, over forty students later (plus the ones who I have gotten to know who I didn’t actually work with directly) I adore this community of teens, who have accepted me, the new lady who loves math.

Then there was the community of co-workers. Though I still miss the community I had enjoyed for well over ten years, I have gained a new group of friends and colleagues. I have been adopted into a classroom which is a sisterhood of three, who I adore and respect, and into whose lives I have been welcomed with open arms. In our classroom (and via texts and emails) we have laughed, cried, prayed, celebrated and mourned … it has been a living, life-giving environment.

God has been faithful in providing for me through this year of change and transition. It hasn’t always been easy, and never perfect, yet he has guided and provided what I needed.

The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never
fail.”
Isaiah 58:11

 

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Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 6.49.38 AMOur family has a dirty little secret …

We don’t often take about this in public, and it causes great eye-rolling and disgust among our family …

It is the foot-licking of Duke, our wonder dog.

It doesn’t matter if we have just come from the shower, or from a day of hot and sweaty work in the garden, he wants to clean our heals, soles and toes (and everything in between).

His eagerness, insistence and inappropriateness about cleaning our feet makes me think of the passage about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:1-17).

It all took place in the midst of the passover meal. Jesus was surrounded by all of his disciples. Though Judas was still with the group, the passage says that the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus” (v.2).

So, right in the middle of the meal, Jesus gets up and prepares himself, the water and towel.

Now, foot washing was a normative thing as it was hot, dusty and everyone wore sandals. Washing feet was normally done by a servant, or one who was viewed as lower in society (women, children). It was completely normative for good hygiene and for refreshment.

But …

The normal time for foot washing to be done would have been when people first came in from outside, not in the middle of the meal. Why did Jesus insist on washing their feet, when the meal was already underway? Wouldn’t we presume that their feet were already clean?

The passage says he approached Simon Peter, who asked, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (v. 6)

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (v. 7)

-a hint that this act has more meaning than just clean feet.

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” (v. 8)

-Peter understood that a teacher would never wash the feet of his followers. There was a certain way things ought to be done, and this was not it.

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

-now we are being made aware of why this act must be done.

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (v. 9)

-he’s looking for a shower.

 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean …” (v. 10)

-here is where Jesus indicates that the foot washing has nothing to do with a physical cleansing. Jesus is reminding Peter that what needs cleansing most is that which is most dirty. It is our sin, the condition of all humankind, which soils us most … it is sin which we all need cleansing from, and it is only the Master who can cleanse that sin … we cannot do it ourselves.

“… though not every one of you. For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.” (v. 10-11)

-this was about Judas, for he had already struck the deal … his heart was moving in another direction. Judas had made the decision to choose filth over cleanliness, and that choice would be what would keep him from experiencing the cleansing that Jesus came to offer.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (v. 12-14)

-Clearly asking the disciple if they understood what he did, in washing their feet, was a redundant question, as they were clueless …

aren’t we all clueless when we don’t really want to know that is going on? Jesus had been alluding to ‘when I am gone’ for quite some time, yet there seemed to ignore these statements. I wonder if their selective understanding was simply that common human practise of doing the ostrich … burying our head in the sand when we don’t want to hear what is being said.

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (v. 15-17)

-the meat and potatoes of this story are now being served! His act of humility, of service, is a modelling of what he expects of them, for each other. As the human form of the new covenant, he exemplifies what it is to be, not just a master (for that is what he is), but a servant master … a far cry from the religious leaders of that day.

Sin is the dirty little secret we all share in common. Jesus is the only one who can make us clean from our sin, and, once washed, he requires us to follow his example of service to others.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 6.49.14 AMI was recently confronted with reminders of sins of the past. Sins that had hurt, sins that had ripple-like effects to far more than ever imagined at the time. That reminder took me back to a very dark time … a time when hope was shadowed by the blackness of sin.

There is a saying that has permeated my days since that reminder of sin:

A single lie discovered
is enough to create doubt in every truth expressed.

And so, in a moment I was thrust backward, from the present to the past, from freedom to slavery, from a life of truth back to deception. And heaviness  was on my spirit.

And then I was reminded of stones.

Stones are a prop for numerous stories in the Bible. There is one such story when Jesus himself used stones as a mirror, a reflector.

The story is told in John (8:3-11):

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

-Jesus had people gathered around him in the temple courts … it was he who the people wanted to hear (not the teachers of the law of the Pharisees). He was leading the people in a way that was through truth, relationship … they were leading from a place of position, education and wealth.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

-I so wish that the Bible gave account of what he had written! Some say it was the names of the accusers who had also taken prostitutes, or perhaps something from the Law. Whatever it was, combined with his direction that if they were sinless, be the first to throw a stone at her, they fled.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, sir,” she said.

But Jesus didn’t stop at responding to the question about the Law, he also looked at the woman, left behind by her accusers, and asked a most redundant question … “where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

And so he gives her freedom (I don’t condemn you), and advice that is always pertinent after a sin has been discovered … leave your life of sin. Because “sorry is not enough, sometimes you actually have to change” (unknown).

We can all be like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, reminding people of their sin, shaming others who have done wrong. I certainly have sat in the seat of the judgement of others … and I have great callouses on my back end for sitting in such a seat of arrogance. I have callouses on my hands for holding the stones so tightly.

But, Paul reminds us in Romans (3:23)

“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

His words are like a thorn in our side … or they should be! He reminds us that we judge, not as Christ judges, for we judge the sins of others while bathing in our own.

Paul previously reminds us, earlier in that passage (Romans 3:10) that,

“there is no one righteous, not even one”

Sin is the burden of our human condition. It is indiscriminate of who it will afflict, for it afflicts us all.

There is no one who can erase their own sin, there is no person who can eliminate the sin of another … except Christ.

The Matthew Henry Commentary says of this passage, and of God’s view of sin:

“It is plain that he hates sin, when nothing less than the blood of Christ would satisfy for it. And it would not agree with his justice to demand the debt, when the Surety has paid it, and he has accepted that payment in full satisfaction.”

And, in the words of the hymn, Jesus Paid it All, all to HIM I owe.

 

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Do you ever think about heaven?

Recently the discouragements of life were getting me down, so I turned on some music that I had hoped would lift me up from my pit of despair.

All of a sudden a song by Matt Redman started to play, called One Day. One Day is a remake or modern take on the old hymn When We All Get to Heaven. Eliza Hewitt wrote this timeless hymn as a young woman, while bedridden with illness for an extended period of time.

I guess she too was in a pit … but rather than than play encouraging music, she wrote it.

That is what we all need to do when we feel surrounded on every side … write or proclaim what is true. It was in John 8:32, that Jesus himself said, “the truth will set you free”

For Eliza Hewitt, the truth was what she wrote from her sick bed. For myself it was in seeking truth, proclaimed by others.

Truth will never fail us. It can temporarily hurt, or make us uncomfortable, but it does not fail in giving us a freedom that lies (of others and of ourselves) can never thwart.

The hope of heaven is a freedom beyond anything that this Earth can provide. And sometimes that hope can propel our minds when this earthly journey gets hard, and we need to be reminded of what awaits us.

“When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory”

 

 

 

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In our world today, fathers (men as a whole) are paying the price for those who have ruined the reputation, the name, father.

There are the deadbeat dads, the abusive dads and the physically present but emotionally distant dads whose actions, abuses and inactions can make dad a bad word. There has even been talk of no longer celebrating fathers with a special day on the calendar.

It is true that pretty much anything a father can do in raising a child, a mother can do too … as is true in reverse. So why celebrate fathers?

If no other reason, I think we should celebrate those who are active participants in the parenting process, rather than just talking about those who have failed or not shown up at all. To only discuss the failures is to create a wrong and negative view of all fathers. This damages, not just the ‘bad’ dads, but the societal view of all dads, of all men … and men are not the sole contributors of failure in parenting (let me tell you, I have blown it regularly).

The dads who have been committed to fathering, who have been strong enough to humbly ask forgiveness, who have changed diapers and tied shoes, who have laughed and cried, disciplined and praised, bandaged knees and braided hair, made breakfast and taken out for ice cream, taken to soccer and dance practise, yelled to get out of bed in the morning and tucked in at night with a prayer and a kiss on the forehead, those who have done the little things with great love, not perfection … these are the dads we celebrate.

What dads bring to the table is themselves, imperfect, loving and committed … and that is enough.

 

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Recently, my son told me about a comment he made to a friend about our upcoming move.

“This move, for us all, is pushing the restart button.”

I love the visual. He nailed it, perfectly!

A different home and neighbourhood, with fresh possibilities opens the door to not just a physical, but also a mental break from the past, an opportunity to start fresh and an open door to try something new.

What a lovely way to anticipate this change … as a blank slate, a fresh (re)start.

As one who loves and sees value of understanding the past so that we do not repeat past mistakes in the future, I also love what the prophet Isaiah had to say about the past:

“Forget the former things;
 do not dwell on the past.


There comes a time when we need not just move forward, but also stop glancing back.

For anyone, clumsy like myself, knows that glancing back can be the start of a catastrophe! Yet, I do it frequently … thinking that I will be assured that I am going in the right direction if I can see where I have been. But that simply takes my eyes off the direction I am heading, causing me to not live in the gift of today, but in the room with ripped wrappings and all the worn out gifts of yesterday.

Isaiah didn’t stop at counsel on the past, for he also had something to say about what is to come:

For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

The new thing that God has for our family, for all of us, had already been in the works long ago. God himself has cleared the way, bringing life to what seems dead, destitute.

That path in the darkness isn’t just about the hope for the future of my family, it is what is available to all.

In the Matthew Henry Commentary of the above verses, concerning the prophesy of the deliverance of Babylon, a reminder is given:

“there is reference to greater events. The redemption of sinners by Christ … and all that is to be done to rescue sinners, and to bring the believer to glory, is little, compared with that wondrous work of love, the redemption of man.”

Perhaps, better than I, Chris Tomlin describes the restart button best, in his song, Resurrection Power.

“I see the old has passed away
The new has come!
Now I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Jesus, You have given us freedom
No longer bound by sin and darkness
Living in the light of Your goodness
You have given us freedom”

 

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Now what?

This graduation season is the first in a number of years that I do not have a child graduating from a high school or university.

Though there are no caps and gowns to be worn under my roof, I do get to annually experience high school graduation through the students I get to work alongside.

As the ceremonies approach there are often two types of graduates:

  1. those who can’t wait to graduate
  2. those who say graduation is coming too soon

The thing is that neither of those responses to graduation is any indicator of how successful they will be after they cross the stage to receive their diploma.

There is one thing for certain, graduation will indeed occur, and this season of life will now be in their past.

As a mom who has watched three of her kids go through the high school graduation process, each with their own approach to, each with their own unique next step, I can say one thing is certain …

change is inevitable, unpredictable
and
in God’s hands.

One can never guess what a year from commencement might bring in the life of a graduate.

After a dozen or so years, a young adult experiences change in every area of their lives, often all at once.

Like the grad cap that gets thrown up into the air as the graduation ceremony comes to an end, the routines, schedules and relationships of much of one’s life disappear. For those who will leave home for school, work or travel in a new community, the amount of change mounts even more.

For many a hard reality awaits as:

  • finances include not just purchasing the newest technology, but rent, a car payment and the awful reality called taxes.
  • education means actually having to be responsible for doing the work, and a due date is actually the date the assignment is due … no exceptions.
  • one’s bestie in high school might find a new bestie
  • those amazingly natural basketball skills one exhibited in high school are mediocre at the university level, and one will need to work harder than ever before to get off the bench.

For others a great and unexpected freedom reveals itself:

  • education is exciting now that one can choose courses that provide interest and stimulation
  • new friendships develop with people who accept each other as they are
  • the list of extracurricular activities grows, providing more opportunities to participate in an area of strength
  • entering the workforce means leaving homework in the past

Whatever route a graduate goes, whether it is work, school or a bit of both, it can seem daunting and exciting … all at once.

Last weekend, actress and comedian Mindy Kaling gave the commencement address at Dartmouth College. She said,

“Can I do this by myself?
The reality is, I’m not doing it by myself,”
“I’m surrounded by family and friends
who love and support me.””

As the transitions associated with graduation occur, our graduates need to be reminded that they are not all alone in their changes. That they have supporters all around them, cheering them on, at the ready for when they need advise, a few bucks, a meal, a hug.

They also need the reminder that their futures are in the hands of a God who has “created them in their mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), “has loved them with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), “who will never leave them or forsake them” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

 

 

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Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 7.17.04 AMIt’s graduation season and that means that social media is abuzz with images of nicely dressed graduates and their families, all smiling for the camera … but we don’t show the images of doors slamming, threats made if marks don’t improve, or the student incapable of lifting their head after their face, their body, have been ridiculed on said social media, by one of their grad class.

We share our opinions on politics, saving the earth, and pipelines, yet fail to write our government officials of our concerns, drinking our smoothies and coffee in take out cups and driving petroleum-needy vehicles while using everyday products from make-up to purses to cameras to toothpaste … all made with petroleum.

We shower people with well wishes and greetings with we get notification of their birthday … even if we haven’t had any interaction since their last birthday.

We take images of our food, made at home or ordered in a restaurant that are picture perfect enough to create the mouth-watering effects that advertising companies aim for.

We post images of families, couples, besties all smiling and creating an image of joy, unity, health and perfection.

We document our travels, near and far, indications of our joy of life.

We post selfies of our smiling faces, alone, with friends, family, our pet.

We post quotes and images of people we agree with, yet fail to connect with people who love us … in real life.

We ‘like’ and comment on the posts of ‘friends’, yet find ourselves tongue-tied when we see those people in ‘real life’.

Though these public documentations of moments in our lives are lovely, in and of themselves, we all know that they are only a glimpse into a moment in time, not necessarily every moment in time.

These public posts are images but not necessarily reality.

This past week there were two famous people who died, at their own hands, driven by a mind that was (we presume) biochemically not healthy.

On my social media feeds I read quotes by individuals close to both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain which indicated that recent interactions with them left them with the impression that they were happy, in a good space …

more fake news.

That which is seen is not always true. 

There are invisible things, feelings, thoughts, which can seep into one’s mind and muddle the soul. Those who have experienced the reality of such darkness know that words do not help others understand … it is only being there, sitting in the smothering shadows  that brings true compassion. It is only in sitting in those dark shadows with the suffering, that wisdom and comes.

In the past number of months, during a season of heartache in our family (and that has affected our entire family), we have been blessed by numerous private interactions, messages, cards, prayers and more. These have kept us afloat. Though sometimes it has seemed that only our nose is on the surface, drowning has been prevented. These individuals have sat with us in the dark shadows, encouraged us with their private concern and care.

May we all be gentle with each other, may we all be kind. May we not just ask, “how are you?” but “how are you, really?” May we not presume that because they seem happy and healthy, that is reality. For we are all dealing with the struggles of life.

“Therefore encourage one another
and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

 

 

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On Saturday morning I noticed … something on my front step that made me bend down to investigate.

What greeted my eye was something I can only describe as grossly beautiful.

The largest moth I had ever seen, or imagined, just inches from my nose.

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I simply could not pull my eyes from it. It’s colours and texture soft and appealing. It’s body round and hair-covered, slightly reminiscent of a member of the creepy arachnida class (think spider … unless that gives you nightmares). It’s legs, also hair-covered, with distinctive leg parts (joints). It’s protruding antennae intricate and detailed.

Though a creepy vibe was definitely present, I couldn’t help by reach out and gently touch its furry body, it’s silky wings, it’s chubby legs.

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It was then that it seemed (my perspective) to relax, and stretched out it’s wings. It was huge! Five to six inches from tip to tip of it’s delicate, yet powerful wings. I had felt the strength of the wings against my finger as it open up. The tuft of hair on it’s back was at least a quarter of an inch in length. Reminding me of baby hair on an infant.

After posting an image on Instagram, a friend asked about any other spots on the lower wings, currently hidden under the top.

So, I went back and petted it again, only to be gifted with a view of vibrant and intricately-created eye spots, reminiscent of those of an owl.

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When I reported my finding to my friend, she informed me that what had come to visit was a # moth, a giant silk moth, common to North America. She also let me know that I should be thankful, for their life span is short, just days.

By this point I thought it probably needed it’s space, for I knew that, though I was pretty certain that it viewed me as a friend, I knew that it’s nature would see me as foe.

Numerous times throughout the day I would pop back out to see it, still resting on my step. Before going to bed that night, I checked, once again, to see it still on my step.

When I awoke the next morning, it was gone.

I looked all around my step, hoping to see it, safely protected in a tree. It was nowhere to be seen. My heart actually sank, as I wondered what it’s predators might be, and hoped that it had not become part of the food chain.

Later that day, my daughter sent me a photo (below). Our giant moth had not flown away, or became food for another creature, it simply found a new perch.

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Each day after that there will small, but distinguishable changes. The ‘hair’ on the top started to look lifeless, it’s wings seemed to look increasingly dried up and it’s responses became slowed when I would touch it.

The following Thursday morning, I peered up to the light to see if it was still there, and, indeed, it was, but when I reached up there was no movement, no fluttering of wings, no life.

Just days after it’s emergence from it’s cocoon, it had died. It’s lifespan short because it died of starvation.

You see, though, as a caterpillar it can eat up to 86,000 times it’s weight in food, this giant moth was not created with a mouth structure able to eat at all. So, once it emerges from it’s cocoon, it simply mates, lays the eggs and dies days later.

So, whats the point of that? Talk about a purposeless life! Why bother living at all?

Driving to work, pondering those questions asked of my moth visitor, the lyrics of a song interrupted my thoughts:

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I …
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love …

That short-lived moth, had purpose. If it was only to be a visual reminder of the works of art that God created, it is enough. If it was only to praise it’s creator by living, by taking each ordained breath, than so will I.

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