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Seeing God

“What if gratitude is more about seeing the face of God? Of locking our eyes on his and remembering where our help comes from? Perhaps gratitude is not only a discipline but also a gift, one we are given in special measure just before we pass through the door to suffering.”  — Roots & Sky, Christie Purifoy

Give thanks in all things for this is the will of God. I practice it regularly as a discipline. I am commanded to do it.

Perhaps at times I felt like I was doing God a favor by noticing the beauty around me and saying “thanks.” Maybe hoping to chalk up points for good behavior.

Spiritual disciplines are good. They are not rule-keeping or legalism. I understand that. But sometimes I wonder if I discipline myself for the right reasons.

We walk, exercise, push away from the table and eat less sugar and salt. It’s good for the body. We learn to do something new, work Sudoku and word puzzles, read good literature instead of consuming so much internet or television. It’s good for the mind. We practice prayer and Bible reading, attend church and participate in mission projects. It’s good for the soul.

So daily giving thanks is good for something, isn’t it?

What have I really expected from it as I list my three or more gifts of the day? I’m not sure. I read the words by Christie Purifoy and ponder them. Seeing the face of God and locking my eyes on His? Does gratitude do that for me? Not always.

I want to see the face of God instead of the petty things I focus on too often. I want to lock eyes on my Savior and behold His beauty instead of allowing the things of this world to shadow and cloud my vision.

It happens easily to me. I can’t seem to get over myself. It’s something someone says or doesn’t say. It’s an expectation I have that fizzles like a wet match. My plans, the way I wanted things to turn out just didn’t. And before I know it, I’m less than grateful and my eyes began to look downward. I didn’t get the attention I thought I deserved or the reward for my labors. The world will simply not revolve around me.

My vision darkens as I look inwardly at myself. I am blind to the gifts and the Giver.

Being thankful for every good and perfect gift can bring my heart back to the center if I do it consciously, intentionally and for the right reason. The discipline of it lifts my eyes upward. Even when trials and trouble appear and it is not perfect at all, this is a gift if it turns me back to the face of God. Once again I know He is enough for me.

I have sought for and fought for contentment. It is an on-going struggle. I have prayed for Him to be all I need. My mind knows He is. I want it planted deep in my soul also. I want to be consumed with His utter completeness. I want to be filled with the Spirit. I want to know Emmanuel – God with us – so sufficiently that other things have no room to dilute my satisfaction with Christ and Christ alone.

I’m not there yet. I will continue to lift my eyes unto the hills and beyond the horizon, past the moon, sun and stars, to the heavens where His throne is. And I will remember He has come to me, to make His home with me, to be with me and in me.

Perhaps I will glimpse His face and it will be enough.

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Photo by Elena Walls

And a simpler time

Sweet William and I went on a little jaunt the first sunny day of our week.  We needed to get out of the house and on the road.

Our destination was a small historic town about an hour away, an easy drive on the interstate or a nice wander on the back roads less traveled.  Today we choose the interstate.  We will save the back roads for spring when yard sales will pop up along the way.

One of our favorite stops is the store run by the Amish community there.  It is organized, clean and neat as a pin.  Today it’s a flurry of activity with a variety of customers and the Amish women workers, dressed in typical plain dress.

They converse easily with one another in their own Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, but speak to the “Englishers” in English. Of course.

One of the best things about this store is the bakery all the way in the back.  The fresh backed smells greet us before we get to the busy area where donuts, bread, cookies, and other delicacies are on display.  The women are busy preparing the goods as we peruse the choices.

I pick a caramel topped cream-filled donut and Sweet William chooses a chocolate one.  Bar none, these are the best donuts in the world as far as I am concerned.  And yes, I’ve been to New Orleans and sampled their beignets.

There’s a carafe of coffee, free for the taking, so we each get a cup, find a bench close by and sit to enjoy the taste and texture of these wonderful confections.  Shopping in the store will come later.  Right now it’s all about the donuts.

As we leave the store with the trunk of the little black Honda full of deli meat and cheese, fresh farm eggs, herbs at ridiculously low prices, plus a myriad of other things, we see two young Amish women walking home.

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{Photo from The Amish, PBS documentary}

And we wonder what their lives are like in the simplicity in which they live.  They are not encumbered with multiple digital devices beeping and pinging.  No hundreds of cable channels to choose from with programs and advertisements that intend to influence and persuade.

Their lives are regimented with work and worship, family and fun, learning and honing skills that sometimes seem almost forsaken.

Our world has become complicated.  We have made it so.  We are not self sustaining any longer.  We depend on so many others for our daily needs.  If we should loose electrical service or, heaven forbid, the entire computer network should crash, life would cease as we know it.

But on the Amish farm, their lives would proceed as usual.

I’m not saying I want to be Amish or go back to a life like that.  Personally I like indoor pluming and hot water at the turn of the faucet.  I’m glad to flip the switch and suddenly there is light.  I enjoy the convenience of the internet and quick messaging.

But sometimes I feel this life style has controlled us.

There is something appealing about the simple way in which the Amish conduct their lives. “Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free.

There is a freedom in a less encumbered life.  And perhaps there is a way to simplify my own.

In my Season of Lent this year, of living in the moment, being present and trying to really experience this one wonderful life I’ve been given, leaning into simplicity beckons me.

Maybe I need to examine the many commitments I make so quickly without much thought and decide if all of them are really necessary, really for my best.

Do I need more clothes, more shoes, more books, more canned goods, more stuff?  Can I regard what I already have and discover it again?

I could pursue the simple pleasures found where I am rather than lust after what is out of my reach and be dissatisfied.

There is a place where I can be at rest, be at peace in the simplicity of the life I have today, this very minute.

And I think it is here that will I learn a little more of contentment.

Christmas beauty

I read the following words from Rhonda Quaney and just had to share them with you.

“. . . everything is simplified by the beauty of a woman in love with Jesus.”

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

That’s the kind of woman I want to be, the kind of beauty I want to have, the life I really want to live.

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Go with me to Deeper Waters, and let your soul breathe deeply.  You will be glad you took the time to read.

Living with open hands

I read a book years ago called Open Heart, Open Home which was aimed at hospitality.  I gleaned from it how to welcome people into the home even on the days when it was in less than pristine condition.  I struggled with that early in my marriage, wanting everything perfect before company came.  It was an impossible dream.  Learning to open my home without all the pressure of perfection was a great relief, and seeing it as a ministry was something I could embrace.  I could focus on my guests rather than trying to be the ultimate hostess.

The concept of open heart has evolved for me over the years as well. I am basically an introvert who is willing to be in the background, the listener of conversations, comfortable with my non-voice.  As a result I have been perceived as aloof, unfriendly, and stuck up. That is not the persona I wanted so I made the effort to become less shy, more open, and welcome people into my heart.  Again the focus was on others, and less about me.

It’s taking a lifetime of learning for God to bring me even close to the person I was meant to be.  I’m nearer than I was but a long way from being there.

Recently I have been making the effort to live with open hands, a concept that should not be new to me, but it has recently become a guiding light.  Perhaps it is because my own plans have run aground so many times in the last several years.  Perhaps because I’ve finally given in to not being in control at all. Perhaps because what I wanted most was not within my grasp and what’s a girl to do with that?

“Living with expectations kills relationships,” I read and am finding it profoundly true.  My unmet expectations produce frustration, anger, resentment, and discontent.  And that is not a happy place to live.

I’m figuring out that even the best laid plans of mice and men and me do so often go awry.  Can I be at peace with that or will I flail against the reality that what I think I want isn’t going to materialize?  Can I be joyful in whatever state I am in?  Can I learn to be content with less than hoped for by opening my hands and living without expectations of others fulfilling my wishes?

I am making the effort.  I find my hands clenched too often, holding onto, grasping for what I believe will make me happy.  But then happy is transient and when it flies away like the summer butterfly, what is left but a fist full of unmet expectations.

I can only pray for the grace and help to do what I know I need to do, live with open hands.  It goes against my selfish nature, but I want to live in servant-hood reality not in a serve-me fantasy.

So I pray,

“Lord and Maker of all, You knew me before anyone else.  You chose my personality.  You gave me gifts to be used to bless others.  You continue to work to form me into the image of Your beloved Son who made the role of Servant the highest and best job description.  He lived with open hands, always reaching out to give, to heal, to restore, hands that invited others to come but always gave them the choice.  Please make me more like Jesus.”

And open hands are ready and waiting to be filled with good things, unexpected blessings, just what I needed all along.

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What comes naturally

Outside the upstairs window I spied her building the nest.  It was wisely situated high in the fork of the tree, a good location and highly visible from my window.

I watched this robin gather materials from the yard, grasses and twigs, then nestle herself in to test for the comfort factor.  She stood up and rearranged materials again and again.  Then she sat down again and again.  It had to be cozy and just right.

I wished I could have put a camera on her so I could fast forward it to see the entire process.  But life is busy and I had things to do.  I couldn’t just stand and watch her all day.

I did look out my window ever chance I got.  I saw her sitting on the eggs.  Sitting for days.  She sat in the heat when the sun shone through the leaves and she opened her mouth to pant (do birds even pant?).  I saw her sit in the rain storm when droplets fell on her.  She sat because that is what she was created to do.  Her Maker made her with a purpose for this season, and she would do it.

She would not be distracted from her task by anything else.  Because this was her assignment, her duty to perform.

Throughout the weeks I watched as hatchlings bobbled unsteadily in the nest, three of them with mouths wide open.  Both mother and father robin came to feed their babies.  I saw the babies grow bigger and fill the nest.  I saw mother settle in during unseasonably cold nights.  She was their warmth and protection.

Neighborhood cats roamed our yard each morning and evening.  The robin sat and watched.  She did not stray from this one thing she was called to do.

Just a few days ago when I looked out the window, the nest was empty.  No activity at all.  The little ones had grown and flew away, as birds do.

And I consider what it would be like to do what I am called to do in the season I am called to do it.  Not distracted by busy-ness or other people’s agendas or my own selfish whims.  What would it look like to be about my Father’s business instead of my own?

And how do I learn to be content in that and know in my heart it is enough?

robin on next

A little busy

It’s been a little busy at the Wright House this week.  I’ve missed having the luxury of thinking slowly and writing the way I like.  But I will be back soon.

As we finish January 2015 and really face this new year head on, let’s don’t get sidetracked by what only appears necessary and urgent.  We so often give our attention to the “pressing task” when what is really important, the people around us and the work God has give us to do, languishes on the sidelines just waiting.  Just waiting for us to stop and take notice.  Just waiting.

Let us examine ourselves and ask our God and Father, “What’s the plan for today?”  Then may we take the challenge and follow Him wholeheartedly.  It is in the obedience, sometimes the hard obedience, that we find fulfillment, contentment, peace, and joy.

And couldn’t we all use a little more of that in 2015?

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Little dog

Day 28 of 31 Days of October – Roses Among The Thorn

 

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Buddy Boy is our eleven-pound Maltese, given to us by a friend who kept offering him to me, the last pup of the litter.  I was sure I didn’t want another dog.  We’d had our mixed breed Poodle during the one and only son’s growing up years.  She lived to be 18 and died the year Travis married.

No, I didn’t need another dog now.  Until I saw that little ball of white fluff one more time.  Sure enough, he claimed me.

He’s getting to be an old boy now, and like Sweet William and me he has his own health issues.  I’ve started making him wear doggie booties when he first goes out in the morning to keep the dew off his feet and hopefully help alleviate his allergies.

Buddy is low to the floor, so he’s always looking up.

Whenever I start cooking, he looks up at me to see if I might offer a morsel of something.  His tastes are discriminating.  He likes lettuce but not tomatoes.  He’ll eat a pear but not a banana.  He says “no” to strawberries but “yes” to green beans.

He looks to me for his needs, all of them.  He reminds me that I should be looking up also.

Buddy is content just to be with me.  He loves to go in the car, whether it’s two miles to Kroger or 600 miles west to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He is just glad to be along for the ride.

He wants to be where I am, upstairs or down, on the deck or the couch, by my rocker in the morning or at the foot of our bed at night.

I could learn something about contentment from him.

If I could only be that satisfied with Jesus.  Just happy to be going with Him wherever He is leading.  Just willing to trust Him for the journey without worrying about how long before we get there.  Just able to rest at His feet.

Yes, I can learn from our little Buddy Boy, learn to always look up.  Looking upward will keep my focus off the minutia down below.  Fixing my eyes on Jesus turns my heart away from my problems to the Problem Solver.  Looking to Him for my every need teaches me utter dependence on the One who is completely dependable.  And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. 

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For a list of the days of October, go here please.