It’s about time

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

Time is such a gift.  I realize it more and more.

We each received the gift of time this morning, my friend and I, as we met for a couple of hours.  And our chatter was the give and take that friends do.  We share life experiences, and we pray for the each other.

This kind of gift cannot be purchased and wrapped with a bow.

Time is a gift we give to God.  Imagine that we can gift something to the God who owns everything?  But think it through.  He desires to be with us, to talk and listen to us.  To share heart experiences.  To hear our prayers.

How much time do we really give Him?  Uninterrupted time.  Focused time.  Meditative time.

When I was but a small child, my mother presented me with a daily devotion book.  It began on January 1 and ended on December 31.  It was her way of encouraging daily time with the One she knew so well.  She wanted that same precious relationship for me.

Mother kept me in devotion books through the years hoping I would develop a habit of spending time with God.  It was a discipline I would desperately need through the years.

There were seasons when I could barely bring myself to open the Bible, open the devotional, open a study book.  Times when I felt alone and forsaken.  Times of depression and darkness of soul.  Times when all looked hopeless.

But the daily habit was ingrained.  So I did it.

And it brought me face to face with my Savior once again.  It was the face I needed to see, beyond the current storm I was in.

And so I want to recommend The Devotional for Womendevotional for women.

It begins with Day 1, not January 1, so you can begin it at anytime of the year.

It begins with Genesis and goes through Revelation, encapsulating the entire Bible, not leaving out the tough parts.

It is a book written by women for women so it speaks to us personally.

It has a “strong focus on what God has to say to women.”

And it’s just pretty.  Purple.  With a soft almost velvety feeling cover.  It appeals to the eye.  But it’s what’s inside that is important.

Just like a woman.

Are you needing something to spur you on this year?  Have you already forsaken that “read the Bible through in 2016” resolution and feel like a failure?  Would you like some help in developing the discipline of being in God’s Word and spending time with Him?  Could you use a a little guidance that you can pick up at anytime?

Check out The Devotional for Women.  If not for yourself, make it a gift for someone.

Because time is the gift.

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

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Looking forward

December 31 marks the end and the beginning.  They come in tandem.

We celebrate the beginnings. A marriage. A birth.  A new job.  And we celebrate the endings. A graduation. A finished project. A race.

Sometimes we are just glad the thing is over, wanting to move on, hoping for something different, something better.

I’ve been both places.  Haven’t we all?

Some years I planned and listed goals and worked to accomplish them.  Other years I simply put one foot in front of  the other, leaning into the wind of adversity, hoping to survive.

As I look back over the year, I ask questions.  What did I do with the time I was given?  Did I use my days well?  Did I appreciate each one?  Was I present in the moments?

As my years increase, the days of my life become more precious.  I don’t want to spend what I have left foolishly, wasting it on fear, anxiety, unresolved anger, unforgiveness.  There is an abundant life offered to me, and I really do want to take hold of it and live it well.

Looking forward, I know there will be joy and sorrow.  They run side by side at times.  There will be challenges, hard places on the journey, and there will be joy unspeakable and full of glory.

I look forward with hope.  That hope is in Someone who has a plan and I’m part of it.  Hope calls me to live with courage to press on, to press in, to press forward.  When the muck and mire weigh me down, when the rain pours hard and soaking, when the fiery trial burns hot and unrelenting, I hope in the Lord who is God over my life.

There is only One worthy of my hope.  He is the One who can redeem my past and give promise to my future.

So I ponder the coming year, the new day, the next tiny second.  What am I going to do with the rest of this one wonderful life I’ve been given?

I will hope in God and I will yet praise Him.  He is my health and well-being, the One who is before and behind and surrounds me with His presence.

In Him my unfolding year is secure.

happy new year


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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The gift

airplane ride

I was out of town last weekend, flying by myself on an airplane and finding my way through Houston International Airport for a connecting flight.  I felt like a grown up and a child at the same time, navigating signs, regulations, and my own insecurity.  I did it, a bit nervously, with purpose.  I went to get my granddaughter who lives states away and bring her home to stay with us for a month.

And that is a gift.

She’s the eldest of my three wonderful grands, and the one who first made me a grandmother with that bursting wide open of my heart.  I had no idea that love could just break me right apart as I scooped up this tiny being who would take the heart of me and change me forever.

Love does that.  It transposes the song of life and we are never the same.

Love gaps us open, open for joy but also open for pain.  Pain is often the price of loving deeply.

I’ve felt the contradicting emotions, the loving and the losing, the holding close and the giving up.  The loss comes in different forms, whether by moving, misunderstanding, divorce, or death.  It happens to all of us sooner or later.

But the risk of loosing is more than worth the joy of loving and being loved. “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is so true.

The granddaughter and I flew home together, our heads bent in conversation, laughter, taking selfies (with a photo bomber), stories, tears, and hugs.  She is a kindred spirit and we feel the connection deeply.

selfies of me and E

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A day in the life

100_3175Since December 21, the day’s are getting longer.  Well, actually a day is still 24 hours, but the daylight is lasting longer.

I am entering my second year of partial retirement.  As I look longingly for the season of spring I realized I am in the autumn of my years. Both of my parents have died.  People in my Sunday school class are grandparents and great-grandparents.  Friends my age have severe health issues.

And I know my days are numbered.

When I was younger I read a lot about time management.  I collected articles and went to seminars to learn how to plan my day and work my plan.  I wanted to use my time as wisely as possible which essentially meant getting as much done as possible.  And I had a lot to do.

Looking back I am not so sure all that management information helped me become a better person.  I may have accomplished tasks, but did I impact lives?  Did I invest in people, in eternal things?

What am I doing with the rest of this life of mine? I question how I spend my time as I watch the clock ticking away.  Sunrise.  Sunset.

Each new day is mine to choose how I will use it.  I can waste it on worry, anger, impatience, fighting silly battles that have no eternal value.  Or I can use it for good, speak encouraging words, stand for what’s right, look for the gifts of God and be thankful.  I can practice joy today or I can just coast along with whatever emotions invade me.  I can learn to be content.

That takes practice.  That’s what I tell my piano students to do.  Practice, practice, practice.  It. Is.The. Only. Way.To. Get. Better.  At anything.

What I do today is important. Time is a gift and it is valuable.  I need to keep practicing using it to the best of my ability.  That does not necessarily mean completing set number of tasks and checking them off my list.

I pray with the Psalmist:  Teach me, Lord, to number my days so that I can get a heart of wisdom.

And I take Paul’s words to heart:

So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good.

The days can be difficult.  They can pull me away from my purpose.  They can side track me if I am not carefully looking at this day and praying to be wise in how I choose to use it.

Life is a gift, every single day of it.  I will give account for what I did with my days.  I don’t want to regret the price I paid for this day.

Time for a new year

clockThe year’s end makes me reflective, remembering what happened in the last 365 days. Time takes on new significance when I acknowledge how quickly a year comes and now is gone.  Wasn’t it just a short while ago that we were ushering in 2014?

Time.  It’s precious and fleeting.  Time is what makes up a life.  It’s a gift we have been given.  And it’s a gift we can give away.  When we spend it on each other, we become richer in the process.

A new year approaches, and I wonder what it will bring. Some year’s I have hoped for something different, something better, something easier.

There is no crystal ball into the future no matter how the prognosticators might try to convince.  No one knows what 2015 has in store for any of us.  I wish there was some assurance that people will be kinder, that crime will go down and kids won’t do drugs, that our country’s financial situation will improve, that our world will get better . . . but I’m not persuaded of any of that.

But of this I am assured:  the God I serve is in control.  I don’t hope in the future.  I hope in the God of my future.  He alone is the help the world needs.  He is the only One who has the answers and holds time in His hand.

I leave you with a few lines from a poem by Sir Issac Watts.  In the 1700s he understood something about time and hope.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

O God, Our Help in Ages Past sung by Thomas Road Baptist Church

Happy New Year, Friends.  Hope in God.

Tax day

It’s tax day – at least it is for me. Don’t freak out if you haven’t filed yours yet. You still have a couple of weeks before April 15. Actually I just discovered that the last date this year to legally file taxes is April 18 due to April 15 being the day the government will observe Emancipation Day, which is really April 16. But since April 16 is Saturday, it will be observed on the Friday before, thus April 15.

You didn’t know you were going to get so much information today, I bet.

It’s tax day for me because I finally got all my information together in a handy-dandy folder and dropped the packet off at my accountant’s office. I told the receptionist that I really meant to have it there sooner. She said, “You are not the only one.”

I’m guessing there are a lot of procrastinators out there who, like me, had good intentions.

I listed “tax preparation to be complete in February” as one of my 2011 goals. I’m a month late. And why is that?

Filing my taxes is like a lot of other things in my life. It is important but not urgent. It is easy to put it off until later because I can. That is until April 15th gets precariously close and suddenly tax preparation becomes urgent.

A seminar I attended taught about prioritizing tasks by drawing a square and labeling the quadrants like this: 

 Important but Not Urgent  Important and Urgent
Seems Urgent but Not Important Not urgent and Not Important

As I remember, we were told we need to spend most of our time on the things in the first quadrant, Important but Not Urgent. But all too often we spend our lives on the Not Urgent and Not Important or what Seems Urgent but is Not Important. In other words, we waste time.

I could make a list here of time-wasters, but I will let you make your own mental list.

It is so easy for us to put off what is not screaming loudly to be done while giving ourselves away for what will be of no use in the final count of our lives.

I think of relationships I cherish. Most of the people in my life are not urgently crying out, telling me they need some time and attention. They can be put on hold easily while I spin my wheels on other stuff that sometimes makes bigger noises or flashes brighter images.

I have been known to say “In the scope of eternity, what does [name the event or circumstance] really matter.” It is the people who are in my circle of influence who will matter in the scope of eternity.  They are affected most by my interactions – or my unavailability.

Recalling 1 Corinthians 3:11 – 13, Paul talks about building on the foundation Christ has laid. Christ gave us the foundation of living. He expects us to build carefully on that foundation.

Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing,” (The Message).

Christ cared for people more than anything else.  We are to model our lives after His and continue to build.   

An old saying I’ve heard since a child says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Don’t neglect what is important, and that is your relationships, the people God has put in your life.  Good intentions don’t accomplish anything.