Pooh Bear wisdom

There is a lot of wisdom in the simple brain of a bear called Pooh.

A little bit of it says, “You comfort me as I do you. Aren’t you glad that we make two?

The wise man Solomon said, “Two are better than one,” and “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. . . . And if one falls down, the other helps.”

And I say, isn’t it the truth?

When I am sad and someone shares my burden, it lightens it somehow. And when I am happy and someone is there to celebrate with me, it doubles the blessing.  Isn’t that rather incredible?

Friendships are more of a blessing than houses and lands, better than bank accounts and retirement benefits. They require time to cultivate, like a garden of flowers, but the reaping brings fragrance and beauty and delight.

Friends deserve grace for they grace us with a kind of commitment not found in contracts. They give themselves. They offer who they are. And are we not blessed by their giving?

I treasure my friends. I wonder if they know that? They are the ones with whom I can talk openly, be very honest and real and know they will love me anyway. They listen with their hearts when my words come out jumbled.

When they say they will pray for me, they mean it. They are OK if I cry. They are often the ones throwing out the lifeline that keeps me afloat when the troubled sea threatens to overwhelm me.

I am grateful for them. They are comforting like a cozy blanket on a chilled evening.

Let me be a good friend in return. Let me love lavishly. Let me not be offended easily. Let me forgive quickly and ask for forgiveness even quicker. Let me listen more and talk less. Let me see through the words to the soul. Let me pray when I promise I will.

Let me be as good a friend as you are to me.

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Sunday grace

I walk into morning light, a light mist hovering over the lake and grassy lawn. Beauty awakens me.

I am greeted by sun’s warmth, bird’s song, flower’s bud, and the coffee in my cup that is creamy and hot.

I am looking for lovely, finding it at every turn.

Like the Psalmist, I long for this thing, to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.

He has given earth’s beauty to be enjoyed, to bring pleasure to the heart.  The mountains, the sea, the grandeur of forests and fields, my own back yard.

He is beautiful beyond description. And He has made all things beautiful in its time.

Every creature, great and strong, small and imperceptible, reveals the beautiful Creator who designed it, spoke it into existence, formed it in perfection.

Every life carries beauty within it, upon it. The world has rejected it, stamping its own standard of perceived perfection. And we have missed the artistry and grace of the creation.

Look for the lovely in each face today. See the exquisiteness and comeliness of every fair expression. Lift up the downcast heart and speak words of life.

You are beautiful.

Sunday grace.

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For the love of music and people

It’s recital time, one of my favorite activities.

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Three years ago I was the director of an arts academy with almost 90 students. Instructors prepared their students for recital twice a year, in the fall and spring. It was the busiest, most stressful, and hardest weeks of the year as I planned and prepared details to showcase the students’ work.

And it was the most rewarding.

There is nothing quite like listening to young and older ones progressing on the instrument of choice, seeing them grow in stature and in artistic ability. It was a happy weekend.

I retired from that position and now only plan a recital for piano students who come to my home. While it is not nearly as large an event, it is still a busy time. This was the weekend.

I make lists and plan out my strategies. I purchase supplies ahead as much as possible. I delegate when I can, but the week of recital is always busy. I try to keep the designated day free of any other obligations so I can focus on this one thing. The day ends late and I am exhausted when it’s all over.

But the sweet return for my hard work is indescribable.

Years ago I held a corporate position, a demanding job with responsibility and staff to manage. It was one of those goals I had written down years before and it somehow came to fruition. And then one day it was over and gone. Budget cuts eliminated my position, and within a week I was out the door wondering what had happened and where this road was leading me now.

On that day I didn’t have a clue that I would find myself a new career, that of a piano teacher. My love for music led me to share it with others. My fledgling endeavor started slowly, grew by word of mouth, and I’ve had many people sit at my piano through the years. Some didn’t stay long, but some did, the ones who become musicians not just students.

I got a thank-you note this week from a young man to whom I had sent a graduation gift. He was my student for a number of years. His words were so kind, remembering the weekly session we shared at the piano in my living room.

“Sometimes I will sit down and play the piano and think of all that you taught me . . . I will always remember coming to your house on Wednesday afternoons to learn how to play the piano and read music.  Thank you for being patient with me and guiding me as a young man.”

Tears sprang to my eyes as I read. You mean I taught more than note reading and theory? You mean those thirty minutes each week were important to his growing up? I am stunned.

And I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to share the skill someone else patiently taught to me. Thankful for that job loss that gave me something completely new. Thankful that God took my meager efforts to make a difference to someone.

Recitals are musically beautiful to me, but they represent something more. There are children growing into teens heading toward adulthood who may remember the treble clef lines as “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” or the meaning of allegro and andante. They might be able to play a minuet or a sonata or a pop tune.

More importantly, will he remember that I cared about the person he was?  Will she know I encouraged the person she was becoming? I hope so.

Teaching music is a skill I learned through practice, just like playing the piano. Learning to love people is a life-long undertaking that requires patience, acceptance, forgiveness, understanding, genuine interest and concern.

I haven’t always done it well. I want to do it better.

Having been loved well by people God put in my life, I know how it works, how it continues to affect me. I will keep practicing until I get it right.

 

 

Christmas 2015 2

Christmas 2015 3

The lovely

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

I’ve seen Annie Downs via the simulcast of IF: Gatherings.  But I know her in a different way after having read her book, Looking For Lovely, Collecting the Moments that Matter.

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I really enjoyed this book for several reasons.  It’s an easy read with short chapters, and Annie is funny.  She often made me smile. It’s honest as Annie talks about her struggles and her victories.  It provides a glimpse of how Annie began to see beautiful in what once was dark and painful.

And isn’t that what life is about?  We grapple with the reason behind the bad things that happen to who we call the good people.  Yet it is common to mankind.  We will have tribulations in this world.  It is inevitable.  What we do with those experiences is vital to how we survive and live joyfully.

The book is divided into three sections.  The first is Annie’s “Absence of Lovely” and the transparent way she describes her clashes against the difficulties in her life.

Section 2 is her “Search of Lovely” where she describes events that point her toward the beauty of living out her purpose, how the dark threads are part of her canvas as much as bright and gold ones. It is in this section that she makes suggestions to the reader to take some kind of action to look for the lovely in life.

The book ends with a brief “When I Found Lovely” as a summary of the search and the found prize of living her days joyfully, knowing God is a redeemer of all things and will bring beauty from ashes every single time.

I enjoyed sitting on my deck where nature’s loveliness surrounded me and reading Annie’s stories.  They resonated with me.  Life is not an easy ride.  I don’t think it was meant to be.  But it is full of beauty and lovely and joy and glory if we will open our eyes and look for it.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the book Looking for Lovely, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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Sunday grace

Re-viewing my blessings and they bless me again.

Remembering the beauty of a day and writing it down is beauty twice.

I count my gifts in a journal. It should be a daily exercise, a discipline I practice. Sometimes I don’t take the time. Some evenings I am tired and  don’t remember. And then there are days when I forget how blessed I am.

A day offers gifts galore, joy one right after another, blessing upon blessing. And shouldn’t those graces be acknowledged, remembered, re-viewed, and counted?

Yes. A thousand times yes.

The One who blesses and gives bountiful grace deserves my thanks. By counting, I remember the Giver who is easily taken for granted for all He lavishes on me.

I will give thanks with a grateful heart.  I will keep counting, to one thousand and more.

Sunday grace.

Sunset in Colorado, by travis

Sunset in Colorado. Photo by the one and only Son, Travis.

Winged gifts

One morning this week, I found Sweet William sitting on the edge of the bed looking out the window.  He had spotted a Pileated Woodpecker on the plumb tree in our side yard.

I eased over quietly to see it, not only because it’s a rare occurrence around here, but because I had been wishing-praying-asking God for this very thing.pileated-woodpecker

A bulletin board hangs in the kitchen where a monthly calendar counts off the days. There are a few other things posted there. Like is a card someone sent with a drawing of two little girls in dress-up cloths.  It reminds me of my grand girls when they were young. There’s also a cutout of a little dog with the caption, “Wag more. Bark less,” a reminder to consider the words and attitudes I freely share with Sweet William.

Up in the corner of that hanging board was a picture I had cut out awhile back, the very woodpecker with its brilliant red-head feathers. It was a wish, a desire, a dream to see this creature up close and personal again.

(Photo from myrustichouse.com/)

Years ago, when the grandchildren were very small, I spied a woodpecker on the utility poll that connects electricity and phone lines to our houses. Those were the days when our family-too-far-away lived in the house next door, and it was a joyful arrangement.

The woodpecker was pecking that pole as if it were alive and he was going to find some treat in its battered surface. That’s the last time I recall seeing a critter like him around our area.

We have lots of birds making their homes in our yard and surrounding little woods. They build nests in our bushes and houses on poles, and they generally help keep the insect population under control as they swoop and flutter about. They serenade the morning dawn and entertain me throughout the day with songs and antics.

We are blessed to live across the lane from a lake that is home to a number of Canadian geese. This spring there are two pairs with three little goslings each, and Little Girl Maisie and I often see them waddling along or swimming in line as we take our walks.

My little corner of the world is full of blessings, especially the winged ones.

But it was a woodpecker I longed to see.  When I cut out the picture, I just decided to ask for one from the God who gives good things to His children. Of course, it was not a necessity for me to survive, but it was something I really wanted. Why not ask Him?

The morning I sat on the side of the bed with Sweet William and watched the woodpecker, waiting for him to make his way around the tree so I could see all of his foot-long frame, I was thankful for this gift, a gift I had asked for and had been lovingly, graciously granted by a good, good Father.

Some might think it just coincident or happenstance or the way fate destined it.

I choose to believe it was from my Heavenly Father’s hand because He delights in seeing His children enjoy the life and world He made just for us. His Word says, “He has filled the hungry with good things,” not just food to keep me from starving to death, but rich and tasty, good and pleasurable.

I pulled the picture from the bulletin board and pasted it in my journal, a reminder of this day’s joy.  Is it significant that the woodpecker sighting came at the time I was in an emotional skirmish?  I think it is. That bird appearance was a gentle hug from above.

And I think I may have heard a voice deep within me say, “Now what else do you want?”

I’m not a name-it-claim-it kind of believer. I don’t think I can influence the universe or bring things into existence by some power within me. Truthfully, none of us are that strong.

There is a sovereign Lord of lords who will do whatever He pleases, and I’m far from being wise enough to know what is best. I find the most effective prayer I can pray is “Not my will but Thine be done.”

Yet, there is a God who has given all good things for us to enjoy, given us opportunity to know Him and to become His child. He invites me to come and somehow when I do it gives Him pleasure. That’s impossible for me to understand because I’m not always the best company.

Do we shortchange ourselves by not asking more, knocking consistently, seeking until we find? Do we expect that suffering is all there is, resign ourselves to this lot in life so that we never expect deliverance, victory or joy? Do we fail to pray for big things from the God who is more than able to do what we cannot even imagine?

Perhaps I limit God by my small requests and thus minimize Him in my own eyes.

He fills the universe and beyond. He counts the hairs on my head. He stores my tears in a bottle. He keeps a journal on me. He loves me more than I can comprehend. He asks for my friendship, my time, and my attention because He desires me.

Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name forever!

He longs to be gracious to me and rises to show me compassion.

I will ask for my daily bread. I will pray for those who are sick and suffering. I will seek His presence and wait for Him, wait on His timing, wait for His “Yes” to my requests. I will trust Him when the answer is “no” and believe that He has something significantly better in mind.

And I will look for the next surprise gift He has planned just for me.

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A matter of perspective

It’s been a little random here at the Wright House.

Monday a fence was installed in the back yard for our Little Girl Maisie. It’s a beautiful thing and will give her a place to run some of that amazing energy contained in her small frame.

I came in to prepare supper and the pan I reached for under the sink was full of water. Other things stored there were also full.  The floor of the lower cabinet was soaked and sloping, the pressed wood giving way to the weight of pots and pans.  I began to pull things out. This is not the first time for a leak under the sink.  And each time it just about pushes me over the edge a little bit more.

Sweet William called for help, and his good brother responded to our S.O.S.  Still it would be a few days of all things stored underneath now sitting on table tops and counters. And the fan runs insistently under the cabinet.  Cooking will be minimal and clean up a pain.

In addition to that, I’ve been dealing with something I can’t quite explain, like low-grade anxiety. Several factors and life situations could be contributing.  One more was added with the kitchen situation. When lots of big and little things pile up, I begin to feel weighed down, drowning in it all, looking for a life preserver.

Times like this I go back and read old journals to find out what was happening last year, two years ago or more.  I suppose I am hoping to find some pattern or perhaps a different angle that will help me.

This morning I went to an earlier year and read the months of May to July.  I came upon an entry that brought me to tears just like it did that very year.

I was troubled and weighed down- again – with heartbreak and illness bearing down on my soul. Feelings were raw  Seclusion was my established self-protection. I wondered what, why, how long.

My journal entry recorded that I received an email from a sweet young friend who was serving the Lord with her husband in a far away land.  She wrote that she had been awakened in the middle of the night several times to pray for us.

Her night was my day, the time when I carried my sorrow, cried my tears, and wondered where my God was. She counted it a privilege to be awakened and to pray for someone on the other side of the globe. Her words of encouragement and precious Scripture promises brought more tears, but this time they were tears of wonder and thanksgiving that the Father whom we both serve united us through His Spirit, prayer and email.

And why is it that a God who cannot be contained in the highest of heavens or the depths of the earth would be concerned about me and my piddling problems? Why does He focus on this blue and green planet, so small in the universe? I don’t know how or why, and yet I know I am dear to His heart.

While I was wondering where He was in my pain those few years ago, He was waking my friend in the middle of the night to pray for me. And her email arrived at just the time I was in my deep despair, the very time I needed to hear from someone, somewhere.

So often I need a change in perspective. Looking at life differently. Seeing the big picture along with the small details.

Today’s challenges and problems can engulf my vision until I have no sight for the beauty around me, for the kindness of friends and a brother-in-law who comes when we are needy, for the bounty of good things God supplies in various and wonderous ways.

I ask for forgiveness and eyes to see, for wisdom to understand that God’s heart is always for me even when circumstances seem to be against me. Perhaps I will learn one of these days that no matter what I face today, my Lord will be a strong tower of defense, a shelter in my storm, a light at the end of my tunnel, a breath of fresh air in my devastation.

He is a good God. He knows when I cry and He brings relief.  He is not far away or unconcerned. He is near and faithfully working all things – All Things – for my good and for His glory.

May it be so that He is glorified in it all.

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