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Sunday grace

Thinking. It seems we hardly have time to or even need to. All questions are answered quickly with a Google search or a response from Alexa or Siri.

The twenty plus volumes of encyclopedia, bought when we were newlyweds and taking up an entire shelf on the bookcase, are long gone, gifted to a thrift store because no one would buy them.

Attention span is short, us flitting from one sound bite to another without retaining much of any of it.

Information comes at light speed through multi-channels of technology. There are online articles and blogs to read; news feeds to keep  me current; one thousand channels to surf on TV; CNN and FOX news telling me over and over the current condition of the world; and NOAA weather advising me if I should bring my umbrella or not.

I hardly need to think at all. And yet I must.

I seek solitude and silence, turn off the constant flow of information, in order to give my mind time to slow down and contemplate.

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I easily say “yes” to too much without thinking it through. Then I find myself in a dither, a flurry of activity, feeling the stress rise and wanting someone to stop the dizzying merry-go-round so I can get off.

No wonder we struggle to wind down, our calendar spaces filling, adrenaline pumping.

Slow down.  Breath.  Be quiet.  Listen.  Think.

I need to hush my fast-beating heart, think my own thoughts, clear my mind of the world’s voices.  Then perhaps I will hear what the Spirit of the Lord would say to me. His voice is softly gentle, easily drowned out by the shouts of a culture that wants more and entices me to join its throng.

Be still my soul. Lift your eyes to the heavens. See how the Father provides for His creatures, how lavishly He splashes beauty everywhere. Observe His sovereignty  over all things.

I will think about all you have done; I will reflect upon your deeds!
— Psalm 77:12 NET Bible

Think on what is lovely.  Just.  Honest.  Pure.  The good report.  Think on God’s promises.  His faithfulness.  His compassion and goodness.  His love.

And be still my soul.

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This, another year

I’ve been quiet on the blog for the month of May. The Wright House has been busy, my mind full to overflowing. I’ve written in my journal, but there was nothing pressing to say out loud. So I let well enough alone, ignoring any self-imposed obligation. When there are no words, what’s the point?

But today, I write.

The approach of a holiday that is difficult for me creates a storm of emotions. I felt it coming for weeks. I make an effort to push thoughts aside and focus on pressing events ahead. Tears erupt without warning and sometimes I give them release. I connected with those who share common sentiments. Understanding brings some comfort.

I plan my Sunday. I will be good to myself this one day of the year, giving myself grace. I reserved movies at my library. Mom’s Night Out will give me the gift of laughter. Sarah, Plain and Tall will give me permission to cry.  Sweet William will do whatever he can to make me happy.

See the source image

My to-do list is full for the weekend. Recitals will fill the air with music and celebration. There’s a lot of work yet to do. I love this time of year, joyful in the accomplishments of budding musicians and being amazed that I get to be part of it.

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The weeds in the gardens mock me and I have paid them no heed. Walking through the yard, I am astounded at how quickly what shouldn’t be there grows tall and lush. I need a downpour of rain to soften the earth so pulling wayward growth will be easier. I gave myself one hour outside today so it doesn’t look like the occupants have up and moved. My back pays for it.

The green of the trees in the little woods is especially beautiful this year. The warmth that has finally arrived refreshes me, and I take my chance to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee when I can.

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Two pair of geese at the lake have babies. I look for them when Maisie and I walk. They are attentive to their young during this season, these little ones being their only focus. They will not fly to other possibilities during summer. They are rooted and purposed to be the providing and protecting parents until goslings are fully grown in the fall. I watch the process and remember my mothering years.

This month of my planner is full of people and places and events. How does a life get so full while I’m not paying attention? It’s not even the middle of May and I’m already anticipating a slowed-down June. If I’m not careful, I will miss today while I look forward to tomorrow. If I let it, life can pass me by and I will not have savored the sweetness of it.

Today is a gift, the precious present. God meant for it to be lived with fullness of joy and with thanksgiving. He understands my tears and is near to the broken. He rejoices over me with singing, and He delights when I am filled with thankfulness.

No matter the circumstances, I shall give thanks for this is His purpose in Christ Jesus.

His purpose for me is to look for the gifts and enjoy what He has given, in every season of my life. What I perceive as good brings delight. What I perceive as difficult teaches me endurance, compassion, and patience. It is all for the conforming process of becoming  more like Jesus. A life conformed will shine like stars in the night sky and it will be for the glory of God.

May it be so.

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December beginning

I think perhaps we’ve had a bad impression of Martha for too long. Not Martha the American mega-business woman. Martha from the book of St. Luke.

We’ve chastised her for being a busy woman. There are a lot of busy, hard-working people whom I admire. They stick to the task. They get things done. They don’t mind getting their hands dirty. They keep at it until the job is complete. We can count on them.

Have we equated being diligent with being un-Christian?

Our first introduction to Martha is in chapter 10 of Luke, ” . . . a woman named Martha opened her home to him [Jesus].” She had the gift of hospitality and she welcomed Jesus and his followers.

When we bring people into our homes, there are things to do. Martha set herself to the task of feeding a group of hungry men.

We see the problem arising a couple of verses later: “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Ah, the distractions. I have walked in Martha’s sandals.

Other versions of Scripture say she was worried and troubled, disturbed by all her responsibilities. I especially like the rendering of the Message:  “Martha was pulled away by all she had to do . . . ”

I have been pulled away too. Pulled away from sitting at Jesus’ feet, pulled away from what is important by what seems urgent, pulled away from the people I am to serve by my need to finish all the preparations.

As I see it, herein lies some of the problem with the Christmas season. It has become complicated, full to overflowing, demanding, over abundant. We have become distracted by all the preparations. And we have been blinded to the beauty of Christmas.

Martha lost sight of her Lord, the very nearness of His presence in her home, while she became engrossed in the work at hand.

Her distraction and worry brought on accusations and demands. “Don’t you care?” she asked Jesus. “Make Mary help me,” she commanded Him. The audacity.

I have found myself guilty of Martha’s sin. I have wondered if God cared. I have stomped my feet like an angry child who didn’t get her way. I have been distracted, troubled and worried by the tasks and the schedule and have overlooked the reality of Emmanuel.

How can we approach Christmas with a work ethic like Martha and a heart like Mary?

Jesus said Mary chose the best, the place of sitting quietly and listening. Her attention was focused on His words that were Life to her.

That is the challenge. We live in a culture of extravagance, and our schedules fill quickly as we try to do more and be more. Yet we are not called to do everything or be all things to everyone. We are called to be still and know our God first. Then we are called to serve.

We cannot walk in power and peace if we lose connection with the Prince of Peace.

It will take determination, imagination even, and a made-up mind to spend some quiet time with Jesus each day, especially in December. So many voices call after us seeking our attention. We have to make a decision what is most important to us.

If you wonder where to begin, seek out someone you know who has developed the discipline of quiet meditation each day. Or simply ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. It is His specialty.

In the quiet of His presence, we will hear Him speak. We can take a deep breath and feel the calm infuse us. We will get a clear focus on what is important. And we gain wisdom from God who gives it liberally.

His plan for my day is always better than my own.

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Sunday grace

It’s been such a busy week. I already feel caught up in the vortex of coming end-of-year celebrations.

Thanksgiving is a few days away. December is on its heels, and the roller coaster wheels are turning. I see colored lights already blinking on porches and in windows as we push toward The Holiday Extravaganza.

Thanksgiving deserves its own day at least once during the year.

A local store mailed me an advertisement last week.

BLACK FRIDAY
FIRST PLACE TO STOP. BEST PLACE TO SHOP.
(IN STORE AND ONLINE)
STORES OPEN THURSDAY AT 6 PM

When did a day of thanks and a time to gather with family become a strategy to get the best deals, save the most money, and beat out other shoppers by camping on sidewalks until stores open?

Have we lost something in our 21 Century living? Are we more focused on accumulating additional stuff than on being grateful for what we have? What are we teaching the next generation about the value of human contact, the art of face to face conversations, and simple pleasures of enjoying being fully present at family gatherings?

Thanksgiving Day has been a federal holiday since 1863, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,”

We have made it into something else.

The Almighty God is the originator of thanksgiving guidance, instructing His people to remember the goodness of God, to recall His deliverance and grace, to count the blessings He bestows lavishly on this earth.

Do we become more self-centered if we bypass being thankful? Shall we not pause to recognize that there is a Great Benefactor of all good gifts? We are not islands unto ourselves, making our own pathways through life, accomplishing our goals and becoming successful through our efforts alone.

There is a God who sends rain and sunshine, who causes seed to grow, earth and planets to revolve in their orbits, stars to shine, and seasons to comply with His plan and direction.

He gives the very breath we breathe, created the body to function like a beautiful machine, made our minds to think, reason, create, relate, and remember.

He gave His Son that we might become children of God. That alone is reason to thank Him.

As the week moves forward, can we give thanks to our great God? Can we pause amidst the  lines in grocery stores, the hurry of projects and the hustle of food preparation to remind ourselves Who is the source of our every blessing? Could we hug those precious people whom the Father has brought into our lives to love and cherish and remember they are gifts from a benevolent hand?

“It is a good and delightful thing to give thanks to the Lord,
To sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”  — Psalm 92:1 AMP

Sunday grace.

 

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Normal Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post 1943

 

 

 

 

Let’s continue on

Completing one more Bible study is not just another notch in our belts.

A group of women and I finished Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild, and we celebrated this week. Seven weeks of meeting together created a bond of friendship that happens in the middle of opening God’s Word together. It’s amazing how we learn from the Scripture and how we learn to love one another. It’s special.

The challenge now is to continue the daily time of study and simply be in the presence of our Savior Jesus. How do we shut out the world for a few minutes each day and sit at His feet like Mary did?

We are good at being Martha, bustling about to accomplish tasks. That in itself is not bad. But in our “Martha-ness” we can become distracted, frustrated, critical and fussy. As we compare our own work load with another, we make demands and question our Lord. We lose our contentment in the gifts we have been given, gifts meant to bless others.

Our culture encourages us to work hard and find efficient ways of doing more. The “being” part is often left out, and we are left wondering how to do that.

We’ve somehow lost the art of being present, of being still.

So let’s try this. Dedicate fifteen minutes for some quiet, meditative time with the God of the Universe. Uninterrupted time. No multi-tasking. Press the pause button on your To-Do List. Turn off the smart phone. Take some time to pray, and then to listen.

Can we do that? Just fifteen minutes a day? There’s a very good possibility that the dedicated fifteen minutes will strech into thrity as we get lost in the Presence.

When we set aside a portion of our time, it becomes sacred. It becomes holy. And we find the Holy One has been waiting for us.

And in the holy stillness, our hearts will open and we will see God.

 

In the stillness

On a busy Monday, when everywhere we turn traffic will clog, when we have jobs to go to before vacation time kicks in, when we go from place to place and yet another place purchasing gifts on the list – it can be a challenge to find stillness in the rush of madness.

My list of tasks is long today.  I need items from the grocery that I should have gotten last week.  The dirty clothes pile is getting big and I really must do laundry.

I check my calendar and wonder how it got so full this week and if I will be able to accomplish it all.

The season is busy and blustery and time rushes and so do I.  And is there enough time to come and adore Him?

There is enough time . . . if I will slow.  Stop my frenzied thoughts.  Be still.

Sitting in the silence this early morning, I hear the ticking of the clock.  I realize I only hear it when all is quiet.  When I am quiet.

In the stillness, I sit and listen for His voice.

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Taking a breath

I’ve noticed that I’ve been a little tense lately.

My body is talking to me.  Simple health issues belie the stress.  My schedule has been crowded.  My inner spirit feels the need to take a breath.

In this my second year of retirement, I’ve not put restrictions on my activities like I did the first year. And I am feeling a bit overloaded.

Today I had plans; then I canceled them.  Instead I went to a friend’s home and sat in her sun room and began to take a breath.  She served me sumptuously, what she called simple fare but to me was fit for a queen.  Queen of quite a lot on her plate.  I relaxed in her comfortable friendship and the view of trees and sky.  I nestled into the chair with the pillow at my back, breathing deeply.

We talked.  Sometimes that is the prescription I need. No pressure to do anything, but simply the opportunity to be myself and to express my feelings.

My friend gave me a gift today, spur of the moment for sure.  She was willing to change her plans on my behalf, to minister to me around her table.

It is around the table where I find ministry takes place so often.  I think of Jesus and His disciples around the table at the last Passover they celebrated together.  Jesus had longed for that time with them.  It was the evening before His momentous event, and it was spent reclining at the table, sharing food and talking with His friends.  Jesus had words of love to impart and words that would call them to the same kind of love.

This afternoon I am breathing easier; I’m taking some time to rest.  I will fulfill my scheduled appointments already penciled into my calendar.  But I feel the Spirit urging me to be careful.  Take time to think through the plans and resulting actions required.  Consider what God wants to do with me, in me, through me.

I don’t plan on sitting around the rest of my life.  That’s not what I’m called to do.  There is still work with my name on it.  There is work and there is rest.  There are appointments to keep and there are margins to guard and maintain.

Life is to be abundant, joyful, and about the Father’s business.  It just doesn’t have to be bursting at the seams.

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