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Archive for the ‘WONDER’ Category

I have always adored autumn. The colors of the leaves, the still bright skies, the sunrises and sunsets, the chill in the air as the day winds down.

As I drove down the highway the other day I was mesmerized by the beauty of day, of everything I could see.

As often said at this time of year, autumn’s trees reminds us that there is beauty in letting go.

I think autumn is an exhale …

After the newness and freshness of spring …

After the refreshment and reconstruction of summer …

Autumn is the experience of lung cleanings that are exhaled in thanks, in appreciation for the sunshine that might not return tomorrow, in recognition that this beauty will fade so we must be present in it now. It is acknowledgement that dark days are coming, but choosing to not let that reality steal from today.

Until the winter rains fall, until the chill moves into our bones, until the grass withers, the flowers fade and the final leaf falls …

“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

Autumn reminds me that it keeps going on … nature, beauty, hope, life. The circle of life has no dark corners, no exit ramp, but that which God gives existence is kept alive in the seeds He plants within each living thing.

There is an autumn in life, as well. A season to exhale the past … joys and sorrows, growing and being cut down, things learned, memories made. We can pause in this autumn of life and see the beauty in our lives. We can look back, as though from a higher vantage point and survey how the many pieces of our lives fit together … that which was never present in the moment. We can exhale in understanding and acceptance that we are no longer in the spring or summer of our lives … and that is okay.

As we look over our lives, we can walk confidently into the next season, knowing that those pieces too will fit together … that we never walk alone.

We may feel as though we are withering, but really … we are doing the good work of dropping seeds into the ground, for many seasons to come.

I love these words of Beth Moore:

Thought I’d raise a little Ebenezer today. In a brutal time, Samuel set up a memorial stone & named it Ebenezer saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Ebenezer living is a heaven-raised gaze. Alert & deliberate daily dependence.
Of morning by morning.
Of Give us this day.
Of Today, if you hear his voice.
Ebenezer living is standing in the present moment, aware & awed that here we are, still alive and kicking and kept by God amid a fierce battle or in the wake of a season when we had no clue what we were going to do or how we’d get through.
Thus far my aging hand is still in Keith’s.
Thus far I can still lend some help.
Thus far I can get out of bed, walk dogs. Go to work.
Thus far I still enjoy things like the way a leaf rocks gently in the air, a lullaby, falling to the earth.
That’s far I still believe Jesus died and rose again and, because he did, I am changed & ever changing.
Thus far I still believe in the communion of saints & the fellowship of sacred joys and suffering.
Thus far I still bear my children close and have them in my heart though miles stretch wide between us.
Thus far, brothers & sisters, that which we thought would kill us
didn’t.
The world that we thought would fill us
didn’t.
The Lord who we thought might forget us
hasn’t.
The devil we thought would destroy us
couldn’t.
Here we raise our Ebenezer.
Thus far the Lord.

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If you don’t believe as I do …

then don’t talk to me,

don’t share my space.

For I do not want you in my space,

where I have to hear something

I do not agree with.

I don’t want you in my life.

If you don’t believe as I do …

then you are ignorant, uneducated, brainless.

For you don’t think as I do,

the only right way.

Me

Scrolling through social media for more than a second will convince us that the above words are the beliefs of many who post on such media platforms.

To me, such attitudes are far more dangerous to our societies, to the very survival of the human race than any far left or far right attitudes … for to reject each other based on our different perspectives is shallow, impulsive and a premeditated abandonment of a fellow human soul whose worth is, has never been and will never be based on our thoughts, attitudes or even behaviors.

I fear we are losing our grip on the value of our fellow humans, on human life itself.

To believe in the value of human life is love one another, as Christ loves us. This is the Good News of the Gospel. This is what can save our human race … it is the only thing that can. He does not love us because we agree with Him, because we do what He says, because we have it all together. As a matter of fact, He loves us in spite of the reality that don’t do or say or think as He does.

In Romans 5 we are reminded that Christ died for us, the ungodly … and this applies to us all … wherever our thinking and opinions and actions lie. Who that we know (including ourselves) will sacrifice … not for those closest, but for those who are so far on the ‘opposite’ side of whatever ideology we might hold to be true?

What brings us together … our human souls and the One who created us … is greater than what divides us. Perhaps we ought to water rather than cut down?

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Romans 12:3-5

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An oldie but a goodie image 😉

Here in Canada, turkeys are a-roasting this weekend as we pause to give thanks for all that makes up life and living.

For me, Thanksgiving is always connected to our youngest, our son.

At 10:10am, on Thanksgiving Sunday, October 10, he breathed in the air of life and I inhaled gratitude … for life is tender, fragile, not guaranteed.

Our very own Ben 10 is one I have immense thanks for, so today, gratitude is great, celebration is due.

As I feel and know gratitude for him, I pray that he always live a life of gratitude.

For gratitude is our exhale, and it is in the breathing out of thanks that gratitude is inhaled.

When we sit around a table, as we bow our heads in thanks for our food, his grace is always one of thanks.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago, when he offered thanks for the food, for his sisters, for his parents. This is not odd for him to do, for he knows where who is the Giver. Yet, on this particular day, I was not feeling particularly worthy of such appreciation.

Since that day I have thought numerous times about his offering of thanks … for one who had not been graceful to him just hours earlier. His gratitude, despite imperfection from the one he expressed thankfulness for, has been a new lesson for me.

It is easy to be thankful

for food … when it tastes appealing
for work … when we are enjoying it
for education … when we are succeeding
for people … when we are in good relationship with them
for the new day … when it is sunny

Yet, gratitude is not simply for the things that feel good at the time, for our thanks does not come after, but before the blessing. Thanks is the attitude of faith in the One who gives, not an acceptance for what has already been received.

Gratitude is the attitude that preexists the reality of what we are given … whatever it may be.

In being PRE-thankful … in ALL things, we are preparing for the good, bad and ugly that comes to us in life. We are being cognizant that gratitude is due, even though our mortal self may suffer. This is a great mystery, yet, for those who practise gratitude in all things … a peace that passes human understanding is the gifted result.

Ben knows this. He lives this life of gratitude in all things. He is not perfect, for his closest teachers (that would be his parents) have not modelled this consistently, his humanness fights against such illogical practise. Yet, as I hear him give thanks, for those who have let him down, I am encouraged that his life is heading in the right direction.

Happy birthday Ben. My encouragement to you today, are from the words of Paul,

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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It is socially acceptable in our world to talk about supporting those with mental health issues. Equally we talk about supporting those who struggle and suffer with chronic physical health issues. There are many similarities in both.

Those who have physical illness that is with that person for years on end, often (if not always) also experiences pressures on their mental health. How can it not? For physical pain can exhaust, wear out and depress the one who sees no end to it.

When we read the words of Job, in the midst of his losses and sufferings, as he is questioning his very birth, his life, we can see how the physical losses and pains have affected his mental health :

” … sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil”

Job 3:24-26

Here’s the thing about chronic illness and mental health … it doesn’t matter how much social media attention we give to such suffering, when the rubber hits the road, both are hard to watch, hard to be consistent in care, hard to stand by … and yet support. And the reason it is so hard is because both chronic and mental health issues carry with them a unifying characteristic … pain that others cannot alleviate.

So, how do we support those with chronic health issues?

As one who is in such a position of standing by, I am looking for answers too. For there is often little that we can do to make things better, no amount of there, there will ease the pain, no special Bible verse or prayer or measure of faith that will do what we most want to do …

to erase the pain and suffering.

There is, in my opinion, only one thing that we can do, only one thing in our power. It is the most difficult task. The one that often seems fruitless. Yet, it is the one modelled by Christ himself.

Be there.

Be present with the one who is suffering.

Stay near, while others turn their backs, leave …

This is such a difficult thing to do, for the only thing we can truly offer is our presence. In this we are reminding the one who suffers that they are not alone, that they are still valuable, worthy.

In just simply being there, we are the hands and feet of God. We are being the vessels through which God can be with them in their wilderness journey.

Moses words, to the Israelites, speaks to the work of our being there, not just for, but with those who suffer chronic physical illness and the mental health stresses that can accompany such agony :

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

I have to say to be there, the mire can feel like quicksand at times, for you can begin to wear their pain, weakening your own mental health. This is why we have to ensure that we, as supporters, as advocates need to hold close to God. To stay connected to Him in prayer, to remember that we cannot be a support unless we are upheld by a stronger force.

Our job is to remind those who suffer that they are not alone.

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I have a love-hate relationship with surprises … I hate to be confronted with surprises, but I love to plan them for others.

The other day I got to surprise a couple of people and it was such fun (at least it was for me). Their reactions were unplanned, without the filters that give us the ‘right’ words to say.

I remember, many years ago, when I was having a milestone birthday. We had booked a sitter for our daughter and went out to a nice restaurant for dinner. When we arrived back home, just before entering our house, I looked over to him and said, “thanks so much for not planning a surprise birthday party, because I really hate surprises” … lets just say, his face said it all … I gulped and opened the door to (you guessed it) a house full of people.

That was an undesired surprise, but then there are other surprises that are simply bad. When a loved one dies, a job is lost, a dark secret or a lie revealed. Those surprises can crush a person, changing the trajectory of life.

The thing is, every surprise we encounter is old news to God. He knows the good, the bad and the ugly that is coming in our lives. He knows the resources that we will need for the surprises to come.

That’s not to say that we actually choose to use or rely on those resources, but he has provided them. As a matter of fact the resource of peace through the Spirit is there for those who choose to accept that in our lives. He is never pushy, but there for our taking … if we so choose.

For those of us who have chosen, it is unfathomable to consider living this life, with all of it’s surprises, without the assurance that we do not have to face them on our own.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it.

Isaiah 43:19

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If you drive or bike by me while I am out for a walk, you will most likely see a woman, face forward, moving at a fast clip that ensures that the wonder-dog is in full panting mode. A brisk pace from beginning to end is what my daily walks are all about. I have a destination to reach and that is the end of the walk.

That’s me … the purpose driven walker.

For a few months there’s been a niggling in the back of my mind concerning these daily scurries around my hood. It has been poking me more and more until I finally had to admit the challenge being presented to me …

how about a slow, meandering walk for a change?

It is a bit embarrassing to admit that it took me months to try this out.

Finally, a couple weeks back, as I tied my runners I determined that my canine buddy and I would challenge the idiom about a dog and a new trick.

We wandered. paused. looked left. and right. and even turned back a few times. we stopped to watch the sheep nibbling on grass. we watched the gentle wind send the trees swaying overhead. we listened to the birds songs. checked out flowers, and shrubs. we breathed slow, deep.

Our walk took double the time we normally walk. We wandered, and lingered, and ambled and dawdled, and maybe even dilly dallied just a bit.

And, you know what?

it was pure delight!

There was no drive, no purpose, other than to enjoy the very moment we were in.

This slower pace may just become a more regular way to walk.

the one who acts hastily makes poor choices.

Proverbs 19:2b

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Months ago I began writing a blog post. The title, above, was all I wrote. Though I do not remember what exactly I planned to write, I know that I planned to reflect on our anniversary, as we reached the milestone of 32 years married.

And here we are, 32 years under our belts and a title for a blog post.

So, what is a promise?

  • a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen (Oxford Dictionary)
  • a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

But, these are nouns, things like a piece of paper, a marriage certificate, a legally binding document.

A marriage is more than paper and ink, more than a one-time declaration.

Marriage is a living entity. A moving, breathing organism. So, to define a promise we also need to look at it’s verb definitions:

  • to tell someone that you will certainly do something (Cambridge Dictionary)
  • to undertake to do something in the future (Free Dictionary)
  • to give ground for expectation (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

It is here, in the verb definitions, that our understanding of what a promise is takes form and brings understanding … understanding not just in words, but with feet to put it into practise.

Let’s be quite honest here, promises are not easy.

To make this marriage promise-making even more difficult, they are promises made in ignorance … trust. For neither knows what events, challenges and decisions are to come, that will poke and prod us as individuals and as a couple, that will change us, that will change the face, behaviors and mind of the one to whom we make these promises.

  • to have and to hold from
  • for better for worse
  • for richer for poorer
  • in sickness and in health
  • to love
  • cherish

Hubby is not the man I made those promises to …

and I am not the woman who he made those promises to either.

We have changed. Changed in how we live and think. Changed in how we spend our time. Changed in how we spend our money. Changed our location of living. Changed in our perspectives about issues that are important. Changed in how we see the world. Changed in how we see each other.

yet …

(and I can only speak for me)

I made a promise to you …

till death us do part …

And a promise should not be kept with gritted teeth, but with intent to make good what was said.

For the promise I made did not come with a caveat … no conditions or limitations.

It was not a promise to our marriage if … but even if.

Marriage is the covenant that God chooses to show, to reflect his holiness.

This promise-making is what can bring us closer to understanding the love of God (the groom) for His bride (the church). His promise is eternal, unconditional, unwavering and has far more to do with the promise maker (God) than the one to whom the promise is made (the bride).

It is not promise making for the sake of our happiness, but to bring us closer to THE promise-maker!

We must continue to hold firmly to our declarations of love, of faith. The one who made the promise is faithful.

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I am not sure what is it about nature that can almost always realign my thinking.

Whether it is a beautiful azure blue sky in summer, tulips pushing their way through the warming soil in spring, awakening to snow falling in winter, or the nearby, yet out of sights calls of coyotes in the early morning hours of fall, my attention is immediately distracted away from whatever problem or stress that has been filling my mind.

Just last week my mind was muddled with whatever problems of the world I’d decided were mine. A power walk hadn’t lodged them. Washing a bathroom walls hadn’t pierced the walls around my thoughts. Deep breathing exercises just about made me hyperventilate. So I took my book outside, to sit in the sun and see if that would bring me back to a comfortable state of homeostasis.

As I read each word, my frustration level, with myself, was only growing until …

buzz, buzz, buzz …

I looked up to my hanging flower pot, and there a bee was happily doing what bees do with flowers

and I smiled

and I heard these words,

whatever is excellent or praiseworthy
think about these things

Now, I didn’t hear these words audibly, but from within a place that is beyond brain, deeper within.

Without conscious decision, I followed the instructions, thinking about that which is excellent and praiseworthy, counting my blessings … naming them one by one.

The list grew, and grew, and grew.

My eyes watched the bee dart from flower to flower, taking in the nutrients to live and grow and thrive as I was nourished by my memories of the excellent and praiseworthy things in my life.

I do not know how long I sat there,

book closed on my lap,

sun streaming in,

eyes focused on the little honey-maker

as my mind was being renewed with sweet thoughts …

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Autumn is here! Along with the seasonal pumpkin spice lattes, the chill in the air and the harvesting of produce from the garden, is the resumption of the need of a well updated calendar.

Busy, busy, busy …

that is often the theme for people in this season … depending on your current season of life.

In my current season, it is not so busy, but the most intense times of life are not so far from memory that I do not still feel the tension that still innately occurs as the days get shorter and much of regular life resumes.

But it is the memories of the years of busy, busy, busy that are weighing on my mind these sweater in the morning, shorts in the afternoon days.

The memories of taxiing kids, checking and double checking on homework, on whether everyone has what is needed for the day before driving out of the garage (only to realize that something was, indeed, left home … discovered after we pull into the school parking lot). Memories of practises, rehearsals try-outs and sleep overs. Memories of dreaming of a snow day … in mid-September … desperate times call for desperate dreams!

And now I am living the dream of a one color coded calendar, a vehicle that is refueled every second week, groceries that can be carried in the house in one bag and days that are slower, quieter (partly by choice, partly involuntarily).

And I wonder, did our life of busy, busy, busy …

teach them was I want them to know, to be.

Is there a better way?

I will show you the most excellent way … a better way …

1 Corinthians 12:31

This is how the chapter speaking about spiritual gifts ends. It is like a teaser for an upcoming movie! So, we can assume from that that what is to follow is ever better than these gifts which are given from God, to do his will in His church.

What follows is often only referenced in churches for wedding ceremonies. This is a shame, for I am not so sure that God intended that this most excellent, this better way to represent married love.

Of course, what follows it (1 Corinthians 13) is the “love chapter” (I cannot write that without hearing it said, in my head by the sultry voice of someone like Barry White).

So, now lets read it, with the chapter start and finish in the way :

I will show you the most excellent way … a better way ... if I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3

What is Paul saying here?

It is pretty clear that what he is saying is that using our gifts, without the foundation of love for others is pointless. The gift is given by God, but the fuel to make that gift travel is love for one another.

So how does this apply to our busy, busy, busy schedules?

If we are filling the schedules of ourselves and our children with good activities, learning activities, giving activities, but omitting the love of God in all that we do … it is pointless and has no eternal value.

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For a few days now, my daily walk has not been accompanied by podcasts of messages by a couple of my favorite Christian preachers, but music.

The music is a bit different from much of my playlist, for the songs are long (like 7-8 minutes long, each one), with much repetition of lines in the songs. When I slip in my headphones and tie up my runners I am transported to the most beautiful sanctuary of worship within the beauty of the natural creation.

This daily, solo, worship service has facilitated my expressions of trust, love and hope in God alone. It has enabled me to escape the the me centered world I live, and live in. I can spend my walk time focused on the One who is really in control, the One who is always faithful, always with me.

And He alone deserves praise.

One of the worship songs that I have been using as a vehicle for my walking worship is the Doxology (praise God from whom all blessings flow).

It was written in 1674, by Thomas Ken, who had a fascinating life with positions in church leadership that had him mixing with the likes of Princess Mary (later Queen), King Charles 2 (and his mistress) as well as King James 2, whose Declaration of Indulgence, Thomas refused to read in church … and spent some time in the Tower of London.

His doxology was not printed publicly until after his death.

And today, over 300 years later, his penned praise to God is still sung, in cathedrals, churches, and along the paths and sidewalks of the Pacific Northwest.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.

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