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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

There is a line which speaks such truth, in the movie, Shadowlands (the story of the relationship between CS Lewis and his wife Joy Davidman … that is all I will say as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who doesn’t know … but, the two are played by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger … SEE THIS MOVIE):

“we read to know we are not alone”

To read something that makes you feel, that reminds you that your thoughts and emotions are experienced by another is enlivening. Sometimes it is in reading a good book that we find connectedness, but sometimes connectedness comes from other, unexpected places.

Having a coffee with a friend who is safe to share your heart with can bring connectedness and relief from the wear and tear of life like nothing else. Laughter with loved ones, praying for others, a shared look across a crowded room with your love … they all remind us we are not alone in this life.

But people are not the only pathway to experiencing this human need. Have you ever taken a walk in nature only to feel overwhelmed by the beauty around you? Or, tasted a meal that brings joy to your palate? Or inhaled the scent of lilacs (or roses, or whatever flower provides olfactory delight)? Or glanced at a painting that moved something within you? Or … heard a piece of music …

Have you seen the video (below) of the toddler hearing someone play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata? It is a very moving, moody, melancholy piece of music. This little guy has an emotional response to the sound of this music. A response so visceral it is as though he understands, from experience, great sorrow.

But, what if he is simply having a human experience of connectedness. Connectedness to other humans, to nature, to God? For does not God exist in all beautiful things? Is not our human experience one of the combination of great joy and sorrow at the same time?

Yes, God is in the beautiful, the arousing, the joyful … but he also knows sorrow, loss and brutality.

As we move beyond the Easter season …

the season of our greatest gain,
his greatest loss

Easter is not left behind, for it’s joys and sorrows they go with us, in us.

Easter is the great reminder that we are loved, we are never alone, we are connected … and there are reminders of this everywhere.

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This weekend and last are such a contrast.

Last weekend (the Easter weekend) held for us two church services, a birthday party, a family dinner and not much else. Our down time was spent watching BCDs (British Crime Dramas), playing with our puppy and few household chores.

This weekend we have spent all of Saturday doing chores around the house to knock a few things off the legendary to do list. The power washer was in full force, paint was utilized, the garage and storage area of our basement organized, deck furniture cleaned and put into summer position. And that is only one day!

As we were outside we got to meet a neighbor. She is in her seventies, a widower who is involved in local theatre, loves gardening and is a sun-seeker (I think we might be kindred sprits). Her smile is warm and welcoming and her eyes sparkle.

“When you do what you love,” she said of her late in life discovery of joy in acting, “life is just better.”

I continued considering her words the rest of the day and into this new morning. But, I also considered them in relation to something my hubby said of those who are aging,

“There are those who are living to die,
while others are dying to live.”

Last weekend was a good one, a mix of peopling and rest, but … maybe too much rest. I remember waking last Tuesday and my body ached … from doing nothing. This weekend I have kibitzed and laughed with my neighbors, moved heavy things, painted a table, swept and cleaned. I love doing these things, I am confident in doing them. My body is a bit achy this morning, but … I feel good! Progress was made, things got done.

I realized this morning that movement is key to keep this body feeling better … sitting still, though good for a bit, will not prevent the aches and stiffness associated with a moving-beyond-midlife body.

The same is for our minds. It is not healthy to sit still with thoughts for too long. Pain from mulling over our worries and sorrows can steal life from our souls. We cannot benefit from sitting still with our pain and struggles. We need to face problems that we can solve, to stretch our minds from problem to solution (whether it is arranging furniture, deciding on a paint color for a table or doing a crossword or jigsaw puzzle). Our minds need variety, engagement, the ability to do things that feed our souls, that we are confident in doing.

I want to be dying to live … all the days, every breath of my life, because life is just better that way.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

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What do you need to live, that is not a necessity?

I was pondering that question the other day, when, out of the blue a quote by CS Lewis (above) appeared on my Instagram feed (hum … maybe technology is now, not just listening to what we say, but now reading minds?).

Maslow had his Hierarchy of Needs, the Bible says that God supples all of our needs (Philippians 4:19) and, when disasters strike, humanitarian organizations strive to provide medical care, water, food and and shelter.

When I think of basic human needs they include water, food and shelter. But then there are rest, clothing and purpose followed by love, faith and community.

Yet, when I think of life beyond just survival, beyond just living …

I think of sunsets, walking under a canopy of trees, listening to music that brings you to tears, seeing a painting that stirs something deep within, reading a poem that reveals your heart, opening the door to an ecstatic fur friend, a hug from a loved one, flowers in bloom … there is just so much more. So much in our world and lives that, perhaps our hearts would still beat without, but … would it want to?

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Do your Monday thoughts begin on Sunday?

For years (though I love my job) I would awaken on Sunday mornings with regret in my heart … for once Sunday had come to it’s natural end, Monday followed. It was as though the door to Monday was already being opened on Sunday, leaving a dark shadow of the end of the weekend before it had even finished.

It is good that we can enjoy of ‘off’ days, our fun days, our free time days. It is not good, though, when we wish away time, in search of other time.

The NIV (New International Version) of Psalm 90:12 tells us:

“teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

but it is in the New Living Translation that more clarity of meaning is communicated:

“teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom.”

Brevity … how short our life’s span.

These Sundays of awakening with thoughts of regret for the end of the weekend, the Spring Break, the holidays … these are moments when we are not acknowledging the brevity of our lives (and I am most certainly, guilty of such thoughts). These are moments when we are not availing ourselves to the wisdom that God gives.

Welcome to Monday … what a privilege to be here!

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Reflection of one’s life can be prompted by many things … birthdays do it for me …

every.

year.

I had one this week, a birthday. There was cake, and a brought-in dinner, and family, and calls, and cards and messages. They were all fodder for reflection. So were my aching muscles from a week-long mini renovation to our kitchen and sunroom (painting, changing lighting, installing flooring, etc.) … thank goodness for pain relievers!

and I reflect …

It is fall here, on my springtime birthday. The autumn of my life. Autumn demands reflection.

So, as the daffodils brighten the planters outside my doors, I think about how short their lives are, yet how they bring beauty to this world.

What if this were my final earthly birthday?

The thought crosses my mind, pausing, sinking into my mind, my aching muscles. It lingers, like the scent of the cut daffodils in a vase, that I’d moved to another spot. Reminding me of their presence, even after they were gone from that room.

Will I leave a beautiful scent? Will I leave something good? Even after I am gone, no longer present in the room?

How a mind can wander, can go to unexpected places.

And so, I reflect. Looking back in my mind’s eye at the life I have lived, those whose lives have intersected my own.

I thought of the well wishes of friends on social media accounts. I am so blessed to have such a great and varied group of humans to call friends. Some going back to elementary school, others I met just a few months ago. Some with whom faith is shared. Some connections through our kids. Or my hubby. Or work. Or through this blog. Some who I connect with daily, others whom connection happens just this once or twice a year. To have such a great earthly cloud of witnesses is all privilege.

I thought of the events of my life. My marriage, births of children, moves to different communities, deaths, celebrations, jobs, churches, joys and sorrows … the blessings and apparent curses intermingled in a such a way that each one is dependent on the others. In the end, all are blessings, for all move us here, to now.

I thought of my walk with my God. How I can look back and see the through-line of of his grace, his persistent pursuit of my soul. I can see his fingerprints on my life … from earliest beginnings until today. I can also see my, often, lackadaisical pursuit of him and where that has often altered my direction in ways I regret.

I see how what was planted in the beginnings of my life has grown. The flowers that have bloomed, the challenges, when conditions were tough. But, I also see that through these years of life and living, no moment of my life has ever been without the presence and plan of God.

So, what if this was my last earthly birthday?

Well, there is only one response that comes to mind. The same as Paul, in Philippians 1:20-21 :

I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 

It’s a win-win situation. Now, I am not peering through my closet, picking out coffin clothes. Just saying that as long as God is with me (and his word says that he will all the days of my life), whether I live or die, I win.

In Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Mr. Tumnus explains, “It is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long…. always winterbut never Christmas.” For me, these may be my autumn years of this earthly life, but there is always something blooming … it is always spring in my soul.

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While chatting with a friend recently, she told me a story that I was certain must have been a tale, for I simply struggled to believe it. A young woman she knew found wrinkles so unappealing that she was reticent to smile … ever! My friend had never seen this young woman smile, for fear that the temporary creases formed on the skin would permanently scar her perfect skin.

Just a couple days before this conversation, hubby and I got to wander around a local home and garden show. Many businesses were there, promoting their wares, some more aggressive than others. A lady caught my eye and offered a sample of a serum that would decrease the appearance of facial lines. I was invited to sit on her stool and she would apply the serum. After she applied it, she then used a small, hand-held fan to dry it. She was right … I could see that the lines around the eye with the serum had faded. I looked at the image, comparing one eye to the other, then looked a the sales person and said,

“I see the difference, but … I like my wrinkles.
I have earned each and every one”

(and that was before I heard the price was over $200 for a small vial).

I like some of my physical flaws … the ones that were attained by hard work, personal sacrifice, evidence of having experienced the blessing of still breathing in the fifth decade … the stretch marks, the grey hairs, the wrinkles on my face.

I don’t want to avoid these evidences of aging, of living. I want to accept them, to embrace them as trophies of a life lived … smiling all the way.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.”

Psalm 39:5

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We are so misled.

So deceived.

So forgetful.

We deny the truth, the reality.

We do it in our mortal relationships, too.

But it is here, in our soul’s walk through this life, this breathing in and breathing out each and every moment, that we miss it …

His love, his delight of us.

The Lord of all creation loves us. He loves us an artist looks at their masterpiece, as a parent looks at their child. Our use of the gifts he has given us fills him with pride. Our worship of him is the fulfillment of all of his dreams for us.

But, his love for us does not originate in our doing, but in our very existence (both now and in eternity).

His love for us, proven in the extent to which he went to prove it (to the cross).

It is easy, when life, our world, is dark and heavy to forget this most basic truth, that he who created us, loves us. This is most profound, most overwhelming.

I think we are not in the habit of acknowledging this out-of-this-world love. Maybe we aren’t even able to take it in.

Yet, in moments of our lives we get glimpses that sink deep into our souls of how he loves us …

and that glimpse of his love

overwhelms us,

filling all our empty spaces,

reminding us of whose we are

and how much he loves us.

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Spring break has begun for school-aged kids (and school staff) in my area. I always feel this is the most perfectly timed break in the school year, for it pivots us from winter to spring, to the final countdown to summer.

For some this break represents time to travel, for others to visit family and friends, or to read, or sleep late, or explore local restaurants, shops and entertainments and for others to do tasks around the house such as spring cleaning or renovations.

Rest looks different for everyone.

For me, the thought of sitting on the sofa watching TV, packing everyday with social events, or travelling are not the most restful ways to spend time. Don’t get me wrong, I love to visit with friends, to see new sights and to watch a good BCD (British Crime Drama). But, for me, rest is most favorably attained by being creative, physically building, painting and renovating, with no voices other than those of the podcasts teaching me and crime stories. This is pure bliss, restful to my body (though pain relievers are sometimes needed), mind and soul.

My ‘to do’ list this break is … rather sizeable, as I am doing a mini renovation in our kitchen. I have removed a couple of hanging cabinets, built and installed boxes above the existing wall cabinets, added trim, crown molding, removed the old tile backsplash (along with the gyproc). Now I need to replace that gyproc, paint my cabinets and trim, order countertops, paint walls, install lighting and (in the adjoining sunroom) install engineered wood flooring. I know that I will sleep well, be challenged, fill my cup and feel such joy in the finished product.

Rest will not just come to me through the physical work, but also the podcast reading through the Bible (I highly recommend The Bible in a Year with Father Mike Schmitz, which is also available on Youtube), as well as listening to numerous sermons from people who share the Word in diverse, educational and inspirational ways that challenge me to live differently, to walk with Christ each day.

This is the rest I need, the rest I long for. It is an opportunity for me to shut out the distractions, the discouragements, the noise of the world. To get my hands dirty with a taste of the creative, the redemptive work of God, all while being immersed in Him through the reading and teachings from his word.

And so, I approach this renewing time, being reminded of the words in Matthew 11:28 :

Come to me,
all you
who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

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Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 10.15.07 AM

ad·vo·cate
intercessor, consoler, comforter, helper

1 John 2:1 came to mind:

“we have an advocate with the Father …”

It was the word advocate that drew my attention.

An advocate is one who intercedes, who speaks for, who pleads a case to a higher authority. We do not have to argue our case for justice, because an advocate will speak on our behalf, will fight the fight for us.

To have one to plead our case is such a gift. Because, sometimes we need an advocate simply because we don’t have what it takes to speak for ourselves, to stand up for us when we are weak, when we are ill, when we are not at our best. One who will look at us and our condition and says the words and makes the decisions that we do not have breath to speak.

Someone who is willing to get dirty on our behalf.

I think we all, instinctively, look for such a person. One who knows us so intimately that they will speak and do for us when we cannot. Though we may come up empty in looking for such a one with skin, we do have advocate.

Who is our advocate? “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One,” (1 John 2:1b).

But, Jesus also refers to the Holy Spirit, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14).

Jesus, the righteous, sinless, virtuous, good. He is our advocate, it is his spilled blood that has corrected us so that we can stand before the God of this universe as righteous, sinless, virtuous and good. In a sense his blood is the rose-colored glasses through which God sees us.

Jesus who, as Charles Spurgeon said:

“Jesus.” Ah! then he is an advocate such as I want, for he loves me and takes an interest in me. Jesus is the name of one who became man for my sake. He knows what sore temptations mean; he understands what trials mean, what afflictions mean. I am glad I have one who will be interested in my welfare, and will plead for me as a friend for a friend, and as a brother for a brother.”

No better advocate can be found than one who loves us, who is interested in us, who understands what it is to experience human temptations, trials and afflictions. Not only that, but he is one who will argue our case … to death, to his own death.

That is how much he believes in us! How much he loves us.

We have an advocate, and his name is Jesus.

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One of the relationships between two people in the Bible, that I am most in awe of is the friendship between David and Jonathan. They loved each other as brothers (perhaps this is the relationship David’s son Solomon was thinking of when he wrote the Proverb about “a friend who sticks closer than a brother … though, I guess, if this was the case it was only so because of what he heard his father say of his dear friend Jonathan).

Their souls were knit together (1 Samuel 18:1).

At the death of Jonathan, David declared, you were delightful to me; your love to me was extraordinary (2 Samuel 1:26).

After Jonathan’s father, Saul, ordered all of his servants, including Jonathan to kill David, Jonathan warned him because he delighted greatly in David (1 Samuel 19:1).

The faithfulness of Jonathan to his friend had great weight when Jonathan was one of the names given to our son. My hope for him has always been that he would love his friends with such commitment.

I think part of my admiration for Jonathan’s friendship for David is that he was such a better friend than I am. He was committed, consistent, sacrificial. I can be inconsistent, selfish.

I have a wonderful group of friends. Some I see regularly, some too rarely. Some I met through work, or church or through my husband or kids. Some who I have known since children, when we attended elementary school together and some who I have met in recent months. Some who are my age, others who are a generation younger, or older. No matter the amount of time we spend together, the length of our relationships, our ages, or what/who brought us together there is a beautiful bond that, as I get older, grows sweeter, dearer, more important to me existence.

A friend is truly a gift in this life. They make life better … simply by being yours.

In this month full of chocolates and flowers and candle-lit dinners, may we not forget to express our love for those who are our friends who stick closer than sisters … or brothers.

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