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There’s nothing like a little child to remind one to pay attention, to live in the moment, to stay awake to life. On a recent visit with my granddaughter and her young son––my great grandchild Massey who will be three soon––I was reminded of this in the simplest of ways.
The three of us went for a walk around the small community where I live. We paused at a house on the corner because Massey spotted the statue of an owl in the side yard and wanted to look at it for a moment or two.
“The owl turned his head!” he suddenly exclaimed.
Sure enough, the owl had turned its head, directed by the small solar panel on the top of its head. In a few seconds the head turned again and all we could see was its back. Then it turned again, enough for us to notice one eye, and then finally full face forward with both eyes alert to viewers.
Massey was fascinated, mesmerized, glued to the sight. He didn’t want to leave. He moved closer to touch the owl. He enjoyed putting his little hand on the face and then he jumped back in delight. “It’s turning its head again,” he squealed.
I have lived in this neighborhood for eleven years and I have never even noticed the owl before, much less that its head turns. When I’m out for my daily walk, I’m making tracks. I’m movin’. I’m on the go, so I get my four to six rounds completed for the day.
Oh my! I wondered what else I’d missed right here in my own community!
That experience took me back to 2006 when my husband and I moved into our home. My grandson Miles was three at the time and he and I took numerous walks around the block and we stopped here and there to look at whatever caught his attention—flowers, bugs, property markers. They were all new and exciting to him and so they became new and exciting to me.
But Miles will be fifteen this year. It’s been a long time since he and I roamed the streets, talked about what we saw and shared the simple delights that captured our interest. We played shadow tag, took color walks, and chased each other from one corner to the other. But all that is behind us now. These days I am a spectator in his life–especially at basketball games.
I’m thinking about all this today and enjoying the reminder to stop, look, and listen and to remember the saying on a plaque I have in my yard: “Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee.” I believe this could apply to children, as well. Speak to your little ones and they shall teach thee.
Jesus reminded us of this as well, when he gathered the children around him and picked up some to sit on his lap.
Fragrant flowers, yummy candy, fancy dinners, beautiful greeting cards, colorful balloon bouquets and chocolate covered strawberries. They’re all part of how we say ‘I love you’ on Valentine’s Day.
But then February 15 dawns and the flowers begin to wilt, the dinner is behind us, the balloons deflate, and the strawberries are gone. Valentine’s Day is over till next year.
It’s fine to indulge in these delightful gifts, fun to give them and fun to receive too. But as we grow older we know from experience and observation that there is so much more to love than candy and flowers.
I can’t think of a better way to talk about the true meaning of love than Paul’s famous first letter to the Corinthians found in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7) that included his definition of this word—LOVE.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not selfish, and it cannot be made angry easily. Love does not remember wrongs done against it. Love is never happy when others do wrong, but it is always happy with the truth. Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits.” (Easy-to- Read Version)
Happy Valentine’s Day!
About thirty years ago–maybe more, I partnered with a good friend from church. We decided to pray for each other regularly and we continued for many years. We still call on each other when we have a great need for support even though we no longer live in the same city.
Today I have a personal prayer partner in my writing circle and I belong to a group of writers who agree to pray for each other from month to month as we post our needs on a private forum.
I am so grateful to have these awesome women in my life. I know that I can count on them to support me in every way and to share honest opinions and advice when I ask for them.
This week I’ve had various challenges in my personal life and professionally. It’s wonderful to know I am not alone. Praying friends are standing with me.
If you have a prayer partner I’d love to hear about your relationship. And if you don’t, may I suggest you invite someone to join you? There’s nothing quite like another person to help carry the load. And as that person is there for you, you can be there in return.
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
I spent a few days with my brother Kevin and family just before Christmas. Kevin travels and speaks for a living so I don’t see much of him–though I’d like to. It was a time of renewal and reconnection for me. We had time to take a walk and talk–not about anything particular but just life in general and how things are going for us. It was awesome. Now that both of us are in our seventies (he just landed in that decade and I’m about to exit) we seem to appreciate each other more than ever.
His gift to me was a most beautiful personal letter that I will always keep close.
He ended it by sharing these treasured words:
“Thank you for being my big sister but more so now my mentor not too far distant in years from me…you are teaching me how to be a better grandfather and father…and hopefully a better brother.”
After I wiped my eyes, a sweet memory poked through–a picture of me as a nine-year-old with long brown hair and a big smile on my face as I held my brand new ‘baby’ brother who had been born just days before.
Earlier this year my sister June died and I’m still feeling the effect of that great loss, and my youngest sister lives in Italy, so as the eldest sibling, I’m very aware of how precious these relationships are and more so as I age.
It seems the last half of life brings gifts of the spirit we might have missed had we not been given the gift of a long life. Thank you, God!
Let brotherly love continue. (Hebrews 31:1)
P.S. Tell us about your siblings and how they are precious to you.
I looked around my house this week and what do I see? Books, books, and more books. But then what else? I’m a writer and a reader.
What surprised me was the variety in each room. In the kitchen I have my devotional reading by Richard Rohr, the bible, and a new journal for 2018.
The coffee table in my living room holds a coloring book and colored pencils that I pick up and indulge in while I watch the evening news, two books on the Enneagram (I’m very focused on that study right now) and a book on writing, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (new update edition). I’ve read it before and am learning from it all over again.
My bedroom night stand holds my Kindle loaded with books I’ve read and some waiting to read, and two paperback cozy mysteries by Kitty French–good turn-to books just before dropping off to sleep.
And there’s my office–filled with how-to books of every kind on writing, all of which I’ve acquired over the years of my 40+ year career. Of course there are plenty of copies of the books I’ve written, as well.
All in all I’m rich in literature, rich in words, rich in readers like you. What a grand thing it is to write and read.
How about you? Are you writing for fun, for publication, for self-expression? Or for some other reason? And what do you like to read? What kind of books draw you? I’d love to hear how books and what kind of books inform your life.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
Last week I talked about the ‘pause that refreshes’ and felt committed to ‘pausing’ before speaking.
But of course the minute we commit to something we’re challenged, right? It wasn’t surprising then to come up against some situations and people that prickle, hurt, even stab. And I had a few choice words I’d like to have let loose. But I didn’t. Instead I paused.
I keep being surprised at how much competition, judgment, and unkindness there is in the world. None of us is perfect. We know that. But what does it take to simply be kind?
So this week I’m pondering that thought. In fact my word for the year is KINDNESS. I want to remember and apply it every day–regardless of my ego that likes to select who deserves my kindness and who does not! But then that’s what our EGOs do!
While reading Saint Paul’s letter (in the bible) to the people of Corinth (Greece) the following verse struck me like thunder.
“And we destroy every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
In other words, for me it means we don’t give any time or emotion to thoughts and judgments that are unhealthy, unkind, unproductive regardless of what’s coming at us. We grab hold of them for Christ, leaning only on his understanding not on our prejudices.
Then I turned to The Message (a modern version of Scripture) for further understanding:
“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”
WOW! Enough said. I hope these powerful words will bless and transform those pesky thoughts of yours and that you take them captive and then toss them out with today’s trash.
Let’s replace them with thoughts and actions of kindness.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).
I saw this slogan not long ago and immediately it hit me. It pays to pause whether or not you stop and sip tea, gulp cola, savor a cup of coffee or simply sit and ponder.
Pausing works and it may even save us from speaking before we think, handing out unwanted advice, or judging another person’s behavior.
Over the holidays I had many opportunities to ‘practice the pause’ and it made a big difference in my relationships with people I love and who love me.
I took a moment to listen, to look, to lighten up when something bothered me or I disagreed with an opinion, an action, a point of view. I reminded myself that I’m only responsible for myself, to be the person I hope people will want to hang out with and talk to and share life’s moments with.
And so for this new year I’m going to make it one where I pause, refresh, and carry on with love in my heart and in my eyes, enjoying people for who they are and hoping they will do the same for me.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”
May you be totally blessed all through 2018 and beyond!
. . . whether it’s raining or shining . . .
God is with us!
“My purpose is to give you life in all its fullness” (John 10:10)
Thank you for your faithful support throughout this year. I pray that each of you has the love of our heavenly Father to hold you, the heart of Jesus to warm you, and the joy of the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide you now and all through the new year.
A true story handed down from my husband’s father. I love to share it each year at Christmastime.
On Christmas morning, 1912, in Paducah, Kentucky, fourteen-year-old Charlie Flowers and his three brothers and two sisters huddled in their beds, fully dressed, trying to keep warm as the wind howled outside their small frame house.
It was a desperate time for the family. Earlier that year the children’s father had died. And their mother had not found work. The coal had run out and there was little money––none for gifts. Their scrawny tree with decorations made from scraps of colored paper had been given to them the night before by a local merchant. “Can’t sell this one,” the man said with a nod before handing it over to the eager children.
To pass the time, the siblings joked and shouted stories from their bedrooms across the hallway from one another. Then suddenly a racket from the alley at the rear of the house broke into their games.
Charlie,” his mother called, “would you see what’s going on out there?”
Charlie pulled on his shoes, grabbed a thick overcoat from the hook by the door, and ran out back. There stood a man in a wagon bent over a load of coal, shoveling it into the shed as fast as he could.
“Hey Mister, we didn’t order any coal,” Charlie shouted. “You’re delivering it to the wrong house.”
“Your name’s Flowers, isn’t it?” the man asked, still shoveling.
Charlie nodded yes.
“Well then, there’s no mistake. I’ve been asked to deliver this to your family on Christmas morning.” He looked the awe-struck boy square in the eye. “And I’m under strict orders not to tell who sent it,” he teased.
Charlie ran into the house, his coattail flapping in the cold morning wind. He could hardly wait to tell his mother and brothers and sisters. God had answered their prayers for help. He provided––just as he had on that first Christmas morning so long ago when He sent his only son to a needy world. They would now have a cozy fire to enjoy and Mother could make tea and toast. They would celebrate Christmas after all.
Charlie Flowers died in 1994 at age 96. And right up to the last year of his life, not a Christmas went by that he didn’t tell the story of that sub-zero Christmas morning of his boyhood when two men gave his family an unforgettable gift.
It wasn’t the coal that he remembered or cherished, Charlie often said, welcome as it was, but rather what two men brought to his desperate family. One, for his gift of recognizing their great need and taking the time to do something about it. And the other, for being willing to give up part of his own Christmas morning to deliver it.
That gift of coal so long ago has continued to warm the Flowers family from one generation to another, as Charlie’s son––my husband, Charles––called to mind each Christmas these two strangers, and whispered “thanks” to God for answering the family’s prayer in the nick of time.
Our God is good–all the time.