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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Every day that we awaken with inhaling the breath of life in a new day is worth celebrating. That breath (every breath) is a gift worthy of celebrating. Now when that breath comes on the day of one’s birth … it’s time for a party.

Today our family gets to celebrate our first born daughter, for today is her birthday.

As I think of who she was as a baby, a toddler, a child and who she is today, there are so many similarities. So, baby girl, let’s walk down memory lane …

As a very young child, you were always looking to see if we were looking at you, watching your actions and antics. You cared then and you care now how others see you. Perhaps this comes from that first born, people-pleasing personality. Perhaps it is an innate human need to hear someone say, “well done.”

From a very young age, you were a defender of the marginalized, from your preschool days of sticking up for a kid being excluded by others in a restaurant play area to working with street intrenched youth and women with addictions. You are one who cares for the “least of these.”

I remember the day I changed the curtains in your bedroom, when you were at preschool (you knew this story was coming). You were not happy, not comfortable with this change of decor. Appreciation of consistency, of ritual is part of who you have always been. This unique trait helps you in your work to train teen to be leaders … consistent leaders who do not change with the season, but who hold fast to foundational habits that grow integrity, trust and responsibility. You are like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

Here’s the thing, baby girl … don’t forget that your value isn’t in perfection, or what you do for others, or consistency …

your value is who you are,
because you are
a real, living soul …
dreamed and created
in and by the God of your soul.

There is nothing to do, no one to do for, and no expectation of following a prescribed method that will increase or improve your value. You are and always have been a child of God.

You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do, or what you have done, but simply because you are.” Max Lucado

Happy birthday, baby girl, we love you so very much and pray that this is the beginning of a great new year for you.

“For the Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty
gives me life.”

Job 33:4

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I read recently of a young woman, brought up in a home of atheists, who was inexplicably drawn to go to church. She choose her church according to what was comfortable for her. Then, alone one Sunday, with no knowledge of the practices that take place, she walked through the doors of a Christian mainline church.

She wrote of the experience that day as well as the experiences she had been experiencing for the months of attendance and participation.

This young woman found something else in going to church each week …

church provided a structure, a rhythm which gave her focus as she walked through a season of depression.

Those of us who have attended church for years may have forgotten this, we may even resent when the services are the same each week, feeling boredom over the same songs, the repeating of words or phrases, the mundane order of service, the practice of shaking hands as we enter or exit the sanctuary.

Jesus himself followed the church/synagog practices of his day, attending the synagog, recognizing the rhythm of the calendar, practicing prayer. He did not omit these rhythms and rituals from his daily life, but they are accounted in the Bible as a reminder to us that he has endorsed their value and their purpose.

Through the church calendar we are reminded that after forty years of wandering in the desert the Jews reached their promise land, that though the Israelites were being chased by the Egyptians … God opened up the Red Sea for them to pass through safely, that after the horrors of the crucifixion came Jesus rising from the dead, that the young (Mary, Timothy, etc.) and the old (Abraham, Anna, etc.) have roles to play in God’s plans.

We are also reminded through a call to worship and congregational response that we are not alone in our worship. That the repetition of the Lord’s prayer is a shared intimate act. That lifting our voices (no matter the individual musical quality) together makes a beautiful sound. That bowing in prayer for others who are sick, or around the world reminds us that we are all one in Christ.

The perspective of this woman helps me to see the rituals and rhythms, not as mundane, but meaningful.

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When we are children we often have aspirations for greatness for when we grow up. What I never realized as a child and teen is that it never stops, for as we learn and grow and experience life we continue to acquire aspirations for when we grow up.

Recently I had opportunity to attend a volunteer gala/appreciation evening … at a seniors facility. The greater majority of those being honored were aged seventy and up! The oldest was ninety-three!

That evening reminded me of something I heard during a sermon or speech a number of months ago:

“challenge our young people
and comfort our aged”

I jotted it down because it did not sit well with me … I could not hear it and say that I heard truth … that I heard aspirations for all.

The other night confirmed for me that that statement is an unfortunate generalization of how society approaches the aged (and young people), for I saw seniors/the aged who are active, contributing members of society who are offering comfort to their peers, their community as well as challenging (by their example) those of us who are younger that their gifts can still be used in later years.

I remember my grandmother, in her eighties, telling me she was still driving the old girls on her road to church each Sunday. This is a real life goal!

Joel 2:28 tells us:

“… I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

The Spirit is poured out to all people, from the young to the old. If we look at further verses throughout the Bible we would see that the Spirit is poured out to the Jew and the Gentile, sons and daughters, the young and the old.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary speaks of this verse in Joel:

 ““Your old men, who are past their vigour and whose spirits begin to decay, your young men, who have yet but little acquaintance with and experience of divine things, shall yet dream dreams and see visions;” God will reveal himself by dreams and visions both to the young and old. “

When I grow up I want to be challenged, I want to be giving and sharing the Spirt of God in all that I do … maybe even comforting my peers … and the youth.

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Something grabbed my attention as the Wonderdog and I walked up the sidewalk. It was the morning sun, rising over the mountains, shining with abandon.

When I reached the corner, then turned, walking toward it, I felt bathed in light. It is impossible to not stretch a smile across ones face when the sun is shining on it, serotonin flooding every cell of the body.

Then I turned again, south this time, and the sun disappeared by the line of trees, then the line of homes, leaving the street ahead dark, shadowed.

It was not until I turned again … west this time, but a street on an incline. With each step I knew that I was emerging from the darkness, the shadows. Once at the top of the street, I was again flooded in light.

weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning
Psalm 30:5

Rejoicing comes … after the weeping
Peace comes … after the conflict
Success comes … after the failure
Redemption comes … after the separation
The light comes … after the night

This morning of bright sunlight was preceded by a the dark night … the depth of the darkness was where the sun rose, piercing the night and flooding everywhere it touched with it’s light.

This is life.

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Pivotal moments in our lives can be grand occasions, with multiple witnesses, but they can also be in the solitary and still moments when the only with you is your Creator.

I remember such a time, driving in my car, feeling very much alone in every way.

It was a drive when the frustrations of that current season had reached a peek. I was unable to positively impact the situations going on around me. I felt that the dreams had in years previous, would never come true.

As I drove I remember saying, out loud,

“The life I had hoped for will never come to pass … it is a dead dream.”

As soon as the words slipped through my mouth it was as though a lightbulb was switched on and I knew what I needed to do to survive the grief and bitterness that I was already feeling …

I needed to grieve that dream, for it was gone … and there was no future until I bid the dream of the past adieu.

So, I found a safe and private place to park, then took some time to identify and grieve the things that I could no longer hold tightly.

It hurt … it hurt deeply. I felt as though I were standing over a hole in the ground of a cemetery, dropping flowers, intermingled with tears into the open grave.

Then, when I named the dead dreams, when I finally opened my hands and let them fall into the earth and they were mine no more … a calm washed over me, filling all the empty places. I realized that letting these dreams go didn’t leave me empty, but instead they made space for God’s comfort to fill me.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

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There is just so much to look forward to in life! Counting days to desired events comes natural for me. I love counting down to the next ‘event’.

We count down everything from years to retirement, to weeks of a pregnancy, to days until Christmas, to hours until the weekend. Having something to look forward to is motivating, exciting.

Looking forward is not a bad or wrong thing, but our life is to be lived, not in the past or the future, but in the present.

This is the very day of the Lord that brings
gladness and joy, filling our hearts with glee.

(The Passion Translation) Psalm 118:24

Today, as we take our first breath awake, as our eyes open to this morning, as we smell the coffee brewing, as we taste it’s anticipated aroma, as we hear the noises of our family, pet or the floorboards beneath us …

this is the day.
the one that God himself made.
the one that we need to receive with joy, gladness, glee.
the one that is all that matters.

No looking back.

No looking forward.

Just this very day, a day to celebrate …

simply because,

He made it

and we get to breathe it in.

How will we breathe it out?

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When we live and breathe and experience life we all experience injuries, bruises and trauma. These leave us with scars … some that leave a mark on our skin, some on our minds or hearts.

Probably the oldest scar I have, which is barely visible, is from when I fell into the corner of a door, gashing my head just beside my eye. My mother is always amazed at how it is almost invisible, for the injury was so deep.

There are other scars that are more recent, more visible. A couple of years ago, while trimming branches on a tree with a reciprocating saw, the hot blade lay, just for seconds, on my arm and it burned into my skin. The freckles are just starting to darken this almost two inch area, still very visible.

Then there are the invisible scars. The ones that leave no physical mark, yet they scar, altering other areas of my life … my mind, my habits, my thoughts.

Scars can be like the stones that God told Joshua to have the Israelites bring up out of the Jordan River, after God opened it up so that they could cross through the middle of it. God said to have one man from each of the twelve tribes carry a stone on his shoulders to the place where they would sleep that night (I am hearing Annie Lennox singing “Sweet Dreams are made of this”).

“They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan when the Ark of the Agreement with the Lord crossed the river. These rocks will always remind the Israelites of this.” Joshua 4:6-7

I love the thought that scars could be reminders of the depths of pain that we have gone through, by the grace of God. Reminders that we did not go through the waters alone, but that God was always with us. Memorials to our faith in God, when that is all we had left.

Scars are the evidence that we survived.

Sure, they remind us of pain, and sadness, and hurt. They take us back to a time of tears, of prayers beginning with “why, God?” But they also remind us that that pain is finished, that, by the strength of God in the midst of our human weakness, we are still here, we survived.

Like those stones from the river Jordan, our scars can provide opportunity for us to tell our children of the faithfulness of God during painful seasons in our lives … the telling gives good for the bad, blessing for the curse, redemption for the pain.

“Waking up to a new sunrise
Looking back from the other side
I can see now with open eyes
Darkest water and deepest pain
I wouldn’t trade it for anything
‘Cause my brokenness brought me to You
And these wounds are a story You’ll use
So I’m thankful for the scars”

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