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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Sunrise, Wednesday, November 17, 2021

In our neck of the woods things have been saturated by rain.

This has caused drains to back up, basements to flood, land to give way, livelihoods gone amuck, transportation to be cut off and lives lost.

Currently I am watching the time. For the police detachment in the area (once a lake, before dykes and pumps) of the most significant flooding, will soon be updating the public on the situation. Last night words like escalated, significant risk to life and catastrophic were used to describe the situation.

Our hearts are heavy.

Heavy for the those who mourn, who are hurting, who do not know what tomorrow brings.

As I sat at my desk, in these early morning hours on Wednesday, I glanced out the window. Though the image (above) just doesn’t do it justice, the light creeping up the horizon was glorious. The colors streaked across the sky grew, blazing in pinks, oranges, reds.

I smiled wide, took a big lung-cleansing breath.

As I absorbed the beauty of this new morning, this dry morning, I felt lighter, momentarily relieved of the constant whispering of my soul for those affected by the devastation of flood waters.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

Burden bearing … it is what we, who are Christ-followers have been instructed to do, on behalf of those who carry a weight too heavy for them to manage on their own. And so we take them meals, or send money to charitable organizations, or fill sand bags, or help them get their livestock to dry ground … or (and we all are asked of this) we lift them and their heavy burdens up to God, letting them rest in his hands.

in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ

As I dove into commentaries and writings by modern Biblical scholars, I saw that there are variations about what this law of Christ might refer to. Some thinking it refers to the Mosaic Law or the New Covenant expressed in the Sermon on the Mount.

As I read I could only come to one conclusion (and I am no expert or theologian) … the law of Christ is the new commandment that he gave his disciples. Those in the upper room on his last night, those of us who follow Him today:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

As we, who follow Christ, bear the burdens of those who suffer, we are fulfilling the law, the life of Jesus Christ. We are his hands and feet. We are the sharers of the Good News.

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Silence …

That is the most powerful part of a Remembrance Day service, for me. When I and those around me submit collectively to our thoughts about this day, it’s significance, those souls for whom the day honors.

In my thoughts, I will drift to my own children, thankful they have not been forced to decide upon such a high risk commitment. I will drift to those in ages past, within my family, who answered such a call … and the price that generations since have paid, for traumas unattended. Then, as if something visceral leads my eyes, I look around the cenotaph for those who have served … often frail, wrinkled … those standing often utilizing every bit of energy left within them … as if standing, not for their own memories, not for their own honor, but for those whose lives were snuffed out … in front of them.

There is a song I hear, often in our home. A song of commitment to one’s country. A song of honor to those who have gone before, who sacrificed their best, their own breath, for country. Not the place, for that is just sod and biology, but for the souls who make a country living, whole.

They did not die without reason. Nor did they die for a nation who imperfectly, embarrassingly has been corrupt in it’s treatment of others (Aboriginal, women, disabled, ‘different that us’).

They died for what we as a nation can be!
They died for the possibilities.
They died in an act of love.

For love is not about the one being loved, but the commitment of the lover to love without limit.

The beautiful, haunting hymn, A Vow to Thee My Country, was originally called, Urbs Dei (“The City of God”). It is a love song of allegiance to Two Fatherlands (another title for the original poem).

The first stanza focusing on a very Remembrance Day theme of loyalty to one’s earthly home (country).

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

The second stanza, focusing on the source of such national love, that City of God. This stanza is the glue that keeps all expressions and commitments to love in focus. It speaks of the perfect peace found within her fortress walls, with the very King of this city. It is a place … but, not just a location, for it is a place one can be while on the battlefields … of war, of life. For the City of God can be with us, if we vow to her King.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

And, in true Gustav Holst form, his composition (from his piece called Jupiter) provides measured moments of near silence for the depth of the words to be digested into your soul.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:16

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All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands …

I sang those words, driving down the road, top of my lungs, most sincerely from my heart.

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good

Then, out of nowhere that small, still voice …

the voice that challenges one’s intent, their heart.

Are you just singing these words out of
a good morning?
a good mood?
sun in the sky?

I know better than to just answer. I know that words are not enough … saying what I think is expected isn’t … expected of me.

And so I instantly, immediately pondered my life. The good, the bad and the ugly. I considered the failures, the weaknesses, the really horrible things, the heart-hurting things. The dangers walked into, the abuses committed, the rejections, disappointments.

Even for a Pollyanna like me, I cannot look clearly at my life and say I have always been protected, given what I need, or had it ‘easy’.

No God, I am not singing these words just because the sun is shining, or because I feel uncharacteristically well, or because the day started well.

Silence (other than the song playing on repeat).

*Don’t get me wrong, the questions I was ‘hearing’ … I was not hearing with my physical ears, but the ears of my heart.

The silence was long enough to cause me to feel discomfort.

Why are you singing these words, then?

The song kept playing, yet louder in my ears. The words echoing in my heart, as though He made them stand out to me, as though they were my most sincere reality. For, like the prodigal son, who, in desperation came home to the Father who he knew would hold his arms open. And what he was greeted with … was even better,

for the Father was running to the prodigal, running full out, his steps started even before he could see his son.

And my heart spoke, sang my answer to my Father:

Cause Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
‘Cause Your goodness is running after
It keeps running after me

What is real goodness? What is real love?

It is to be loved even when we do the unlovable, when we speak the unlovable, when we choose the unlovable, when we live the unlovable life.

That is the real love.

That is the goodness of God.

A couple of days later,

the sun was hidden under dark clouds, wet skies.

the day just had little productivity to it.

the mood was as dark as the skies.

and the phone call brought unexpected, bad news.

And I hung up the phone and heard whispers in my heart that caused me sing out loud,

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

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As I was walking down the stairs I came to the landing, but, because I was walking in the dark I paused, tentatively stretching my foot to see if I had indeed reached the landing or if I had one more to go.

Why was I stumbling in the dark?

Was the power out? No.

Was I trying to be stealthy? Ha! No.

Did I forget to turn the light on? No.

I was stumbling in the dark simply because that is the habit I have gotten into. At some point in my life I simply stopped turning lights on when walking through the house. It is a habit I continue today … one that is … stupid, possibly even harmful.

As I stretched my foot forward the other day a new thought emerged …

why do I walk in the dark,
when there is light at my fingertips?

Instantly I understood so much about myself, others, human behavior.

I saw, in my lifelong physical habit, the reason why we all stumble in spiritual darkness, even though the light of Christ is right there, illuminating our way through the life we live.

It’s habit.

It is simply what we do, over and over. Somehow a false sense of security comes from being blanketed in the dark we know … versus the light that is unfamiliar. Our eyes are closed by our routines. Our mind foggy with tradition. Our comings and goings shadowed by tradition.

We choose to walk in the dark, until …
one day, light a lightbulb going on in our minds,
we open our eyes
and see that there can be light in our life.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 
“I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

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For some birthdays are frightening, depressing or discouraging. This reality has made the makers of lotions, surgeries and self help books wildly wealthy.

Aging has never been a thorn in my flesh. Birthdays come and go, as do wrinkles, coarse hair (covered by my lovely stylist) … and, speaking of hair, I no longer pluck my eyebrows, but I am constantly discovering them on my chin (often long enough to put in a ponytail by the time I notice them).

For me, the greys can still be covered, the wrinkles make me smile and the hairs on my chinny chin chin … they get plucked.

I have a hope for my future, alive or dead, and an appreciation for each moment I have breathed.

Don’t get me wrong, if I were given a fatal diagnosis, I would sob my eyes out and I would feel fear and sorrow. But death is not my greatest fear as I rapidly move through this autumn of my life.

My greatest angst about aging is quite simple, that …

I am running out of time.

Time to do all the things, travel to all the places, spend time with the people, try the new experiences, share the love of God, time to live … to really, fully, intentionally, live this one magnificent and glorious gift of a life that I have been given.

I don’t want to waste a moment!

Sometimes the urgency within me to do all the things resembles one who scurries in a state of constant activity powered by something deep within.

But, now in my fifties there is a new factor that is irritating me … fatigue. This fatigue does not whisper, take a break, but stops me in my tracks, holding my mind and body ransom so that I no longer can do that one more thing. This only increases my passion to not waste the days, the hours, the moments I have been given.

“Lord, life is going by so fast!
It frightens me unless I remember your eternity.
We are as rootless as tumbleweeds
and will be blown about all our lives unless you are our dwelling place.
In you we are home.
What I have in you I can never lose and will have forever.
I praise you for this unfathomable comfort.
Amen.

Tim Keller

These words of Keller stopped me the other day. They reminded me that my purpose is not just doing, but being.

They are the truthful assurance of eternity, for those of us who have submitted to the will of God. They are the reminder that it is in Him we have our foundation, our roots. They are the reminder that even during times of fatigue, we are with Him and He is with us and in that here we also have purpose.

“I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills His purpose for me.”
Psalm 57:2

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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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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 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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