"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back

Looking back over 2012 brings a sense of excitement over all that I've been blessed with.  This Blog has enabled me to capture much of it, and I thought I'd share a highlight from each month:

January: Winter Beauty

February: Eternity

March: Sanctuary

April: Seeing

May: Becoming Real

June: Conscience

July: Purpose

August: What the World Needs Now

September: Intentions

October: Potential

November: Thanksgiving

December: Good News


May God be made Real to you this coming new year in every corner of your Heart!

Link to scripture:  http://niv.scripturetext.com/hebrews/13-20.htm

Take action:  Evaluate your life

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Good News!

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." --Frank & Ernest

Christmas Eve afternoon the snow began to fall.  I knew flurries were predicted but it was quite a surprise to see it stick and start to accumulate.  In the midst of my busyness I noticed there were quite a few birds about the yard, so I scrounged around the garage to locate an old bird feeder I could hang from the bracket outside the screened front porch.... 

I filled it with sunflower seeds.  Ken saw the first Cardinal, a bright-red male, arrive and then herald the new feeding station in the neighborhood....       ♫Cardinal Song♫


When he told me birds started flocking in from all over I couldn't help but think of God's Good News!  The angels heralded the coming of Christ and the shepherds gathered to listen.  

This morning while writing about it I realized the analogy also applies to us who have received the Good News--the Holy Spirit, God in us.  The Bread of Life that feeds us is something we should be singing about as the Cardinal did--not because we have all the answers but because we have a song of love in our hearts.  The Cardinal could not keep it to himself nor should we keep our Good News to ourselves.  

So why is it so hard for some of us to proclaim the Good News?  I think that is the question we each need to be asking ourselves.  As each excuse rises up it should be tossed aside or else we'll never get to the truth of the matter.....even if it means continuing to ask the question every day until you get an answer that leads to a solution.

Father, it's too easy to find reasons for our lapses.  They're all excuses.  You are God of all and in You and through You we have everything we need to unlock our hearts so that we can sing Your song of Love and Peace and Hope.  May I be so present in my life that I am aware of this from moment to moment.

Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/matthew/19-26.htm

Take action: How to Increase Faith


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Children

This is my favorite picture of my boys when they were younger.  I framed it along with the quote below and hung it by my bed so I can see it every morning while I spend time reading God's Word and writing in my journal.  It is my reminder that my life (and all that it contains) is not my own....

In light of the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday I wanted to share again Margaret Woods' writings from 1777 that I shared in my June 16th post on Fatherhood....

Here is the rest of the quote....
"We are so incapable of judging with regard to our own happiness, or that of others, that it should lead us to a patient acquiescence in the Divine will:  a resignation which would not only enable us to say, "Thy will be done," but to feel that submission of mind which would preserve us in calm composure.  Things which appear to our present unhappiness and disadvantage have frequently at a future period proved a benefit, and we have been led to acknowledge that the Lord only knows what is best for us.  Suffer us to beseech, O Lord, more and more to enlighten us with divine knowledge, and having made us sensible of thy will, enable us to obey it."

Link to Scripture: http://bible.cc/amos/4-13.htm

Take Action:  ♫God is in Control♫



Saturday, December 8, 2012

To Be or Not To Be


"To Be or Not To Be" that is indeed the question.  

Those are the words that came to mind as I thought about my disappointments this morning--a reoccurring theme in my life.  But I am very glad to report that I finally got to the root of it!

I used to think I had a self-esteem problem--that I didn't think highly enough of myself.  I realize now that my self-esteem has been too high and that my disappointments stem from that self-esteem because I had unrealistic expectations for myself....and this then would spill over to other people.  Because I thought too highly of them, I expected too much from them, as well.

So I endeavored to understand what could be done about this problem.  I know the answer isn't to esteem myself or others less.  And just to not have expectations doesn't get to the root.  The answer came in Julia Cameron's little book of affirmations, "Heart Steps--Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life".  She wrote, "I allow [God] to dream through me, to act through me, to create through me."  In that moment I realized it would be impossible to suffer any kind of disappointment if I just allowed this way of being to be....and the way to allow this is to stop judging myself by what I do or not do.  Instead I am just to be the channel through which God expresses His love.  God's love has many, many different ways to be expressed, and He accomplishes this through people who are open to Him.  Our personal prejudices (which are expressed through the judgments we make) block God's use of us--judgments such as "I can't" or "I'm not good enough" or "they can't" and "they aren't good enough".  

But then I have to go a step further.  I must be on the alert for such thoughts as "I won't".  How often do we passively resist God's Will for us by declaring that we aren't able (can't) to do something when the truth is we just won't do it.

So, the question is am I to be open to God and willing?  Or am I not to be?  That is the question!

Father, too often I lose sight of my own willfulness by hiding behind excuses of inadequacy when at the same time I declare that all things are possible through Christ!  No wonder I feel confused!  May I instead allow You to dream through me, act through me, and create through me.  Amen

Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/mark/9-23.htm

Take action: Trust and Obey
   


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratitude Part 2

In the Language of Flowers the Campanula symbolizes Gratitude....

One of the first posts I did on this Blog was on gratitude, but I feel a need to revisit this subject.  Alan Cohen has written a piece called "Thanksliving".  His focus is on past relationships.  He writes, "It is important that we hold our past in a sense of reverence, along with the people we have known."  

Recently someone from my past who caused me anguish at the time started coming to the Fitness Center I visit every weekday.  She seemed not to know who I was, and I was not inclined to make myself known to her.  She never looked directly at me, so I didn't feel the need to acknowledge her.  But then God began to bring particular writings into my morning quiet time and it became clear I needed not only to forgive this person but to gain understanding to why her actions still caused me hurt when I thought about them after all these years.  

And I did forgive her...as well as discover why it still hurt....and then was able share what I had learned with someone else who was dealing with a difficult situation.  I was eager to see this person again at the Fitness Center so I could smile at her and re-introduce myself (although, I had the feeling she already knew who I was).  Of course, she wasn't there--for days-- and when she did return I never found her looking my way so I could say "hi".  But, amazingly, it didn't matter any more.  The "work" had been done in me and I was able to have this sense of reverence of how God had used her in my life at the time and was still using her to show me things about myself I needed to see.  Cohen goes on to say, "Assume that everyone who shows up in your life is here to bless you in some way."  He suggests we make a list of significant past events and relationships and note by each the gifts we received from that person or experience.  I guarantee you it will change your perspective and help to heal any hurts that still linger.

Father, I am grateful for everything that has happened in my life because now I can see Your Hand in them, working to bring good to me and to others through me.

Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/romans/8-28.htm

Take action:  Gratitude

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving

Since it's Thanksgiving week I thought I should do a post about all the things I'm thankful for and then realized it would take forever to gather all the photos to go along with my list.  Plus, I don't know about you, but expressing thanks for all one has can stir up discontentment in others who do not have (I'm not immune!)....and I don't want to be guilty of that.  Instead, I'd rather talk about what it means to have a thankful heart.  Poetry the Calico Cat knows very well what it means to have a thankful heart.  Stories about her adventures in discovering where thankfulness comes from can be found on her website.



But first, let's start with this video:  Muppet Christmas Carol.  After watching it, please come back here.

Old Mr. Scrooge discovered that if he awoke each morning with a grateful prayer and thankful heart he'd find peace and joy.  It took his being shown his bleak future to wake him up from the nightmare he was living from being so stingy and uncaring.

Our next video, Veggie Tales, we learn that a thankful heart is a happy heart and the way to achieve this is to thank God every day for everything He has given us.


In this Peanuts video Sally gripes about having to write an essay at school because of Thanksgiving.  She definitely does NOT evoke the spirit of a thankful heart.

And last but not least Winnie the Pooh has some wisdom about what it means to have a thankful heart.

Thank you Father for impressing upon me my need for You and for enabling me to have a thankful heart.

Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/romans/8-15.htm

Take action:  ♫Thankful Heart♫

Friday, November 2, 2012

Foreseen Circumstances

"A psychic, seer, or prophet can look down the road and see likely outcomes of actions and attitudes that are currently in motion." --Richard Cohen

In the above photo the power company was removing a tree that had fallen on the power line on Monday afternoon in the early hours of Hurricane Sandy. My husband "predicted" the falling of that tree two weeks ago when he noticed it leaning toward the line and called the power company about it. He is not psychic, but if you use Richard Cohen's definition above then you could say that he is, as we all are when we take the time to look at situations with some thought and reasoning.  

Cohen goes on to say, however, "But at any moment, a human being can make a new decision and alter the course of events."  If the power company had responded to my husband's call two weeks ago and sent a tree cutting crew to take it down then, the power company employees would not have had to come out in the rain and wind on what was to become a nightmare of a night for the region when over 200,000 people were to lose power.  

Cohen's point is that once something is set in motion most of us are capable of predicting the outcome if we've learned from our past experiences.  However, it does not mean the outcome is certain.  Unforeseen circumstances can alter the outcome for or against our favor.  We have much more under our direction than we give ourselves credit for, however.  Sometimes it just involves choosing a different course of action or a different way of viewing the situation.  Depending on God and seeking His Wisdom can make all the difference in the outcome.  We just need to realize that outcomes are not set in stone when we let God have hold of the reins.

Father, help me to let go of the reins so that I can pay attention to You and make the right decisions about my life.


Take action: Give Up Control

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween


I do not celebrate Halloween.  As a child I loved the holiday.  I have fond memories of dressing up as a ghost and going door-to-door asking for candy, then coming home and gorging on it.  Yet once I became a mother I saw things totally different.  My boys probably feel deprived, but I just could not see myself allowing them to go beg for candy from strangers.  And besides, that much candy was not good for them, and I didn't want the hassle over when and how much they could eat at any one time.  Instead we always had pumpkins to carve.  In elementary school they had a class party for which they dressed up.  Dressing up was fun.  I had no problem with that.  And the schools would not allow anything gory--another concern I've always had with Halloween.  

In Richard Cohen's book, "A Deep Breath of Life", he explains that the holiday began as a celebration of purification.  It originated as the pagan holiday, Samhain, but once Christianity was introduced to the Celts it became known as All Hollows Eve, the night before All Saints Day (November 1st).  It was meant to be a time to call forth all the unhealed spirits so they could be blessed and released on All Saints Day.  

Cohen asks, "Are there any monsters lurking in the closet of your consciousness?  Are you carrying any hidden fear, resentments, or grotesque memories that stalk you in the night?  Are you annoyed by any emotional goblins that undermine your relationships?  If so, open the door and let them fly away.  Call forth the energy of love and healing, and ask God to free you of anything that stands between you and your good."

It's too bad that All Hallows Eve has reverted to being a pagan celebration, in this case, begging for candy and threatening "tricks" on the the person who does not comply.  Yes, I know it's all in good fun and hardly anyone plays tricks on people who do not hand out candy.  But wouldn't it be better to observe what the day is really all about?  

Father, Richard Cohen says, "Shine the light of truth on your basement, and you will have a whole new room to play in."  Please help me not to be afraid to open that basement door so that Your Light of Truth can shine on all the lies that may be lurking in my heart and mind.

Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/john/8-12.htm

Take action:  Remembering the true meaning of Halloween

Monday, October 22, 2012

Potential



I've been thinking a lot about potential lately.  Richard Cohen writes, "The question is not, 'How much potential do you have?'  It is, 'How much potential will you live?'" He uses the example that a woman is born with all the eggs she'll ever have.  But whether those eggs will become children depends on several factors.  The bird's eggs above will only hatch into live birds if they are fertilized and then incubated for the proper time.  The potential is there, but the bird's actions and other factors will determine if the potential becomes reality.

Too often we don't live up to our potential because we fear success as much as we fear failure.  With success comes responsibility and we don't want to be a one-shot wonder.  How often do you hear stories about that first book that was easy to write, but subsequent books now had deadlines or higher expectations for them.  The excuses can go on forever and often do.  

It comes down to what Cohen says about education which comes from the Latin "educare" and means "to draw forth from within": "Real education spotlights a child's uniqueness and stimulates her to discover and act on her natural talents. What would you be doing differently if you knew that the seeds of greatness were already with you?  What you are is God's gift to you.  What you make of yourself is your gift to God."  

So, relax about whether or not you "can" but rather concentrate on whether you "will".  If you have a desire of the heart, then the seed has been planted.  Your job is to draw it out through education, practice, and realizing no matter the outcome it will be good enough because it grew out of you--you with your particular flare, experience, and knowledge.  It won't be like anyone else's creation and shouldn't be.  Don't judge it--just let it come forth.

Father, thank you for this reminder that You planted my potential to share Your Love in creative ways and are here to help me bring it to fruition.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reframing Thoughts


Last weekend we visited Garrett County in western Maryland to enjoy the changing leaves.  One of the sites we visited was Mountain Lake Park where we found this delightful sculpture of children playing....

The child hanging from the bars actually swings back and forth....


We were enjoying the playfulness of the sculpture until we read the plaque....

When we lose someone who was precious to us we will either grieve that loss until we find peace or we will resist the loss and become bitter.  There is an ebb and flow to life that must be respected even when the length of it is shorter than we expected--whether it be our own or someone dear to us.  By changing our "point of view" about it we can give thanks for the days we DID have.  Just as we saw the sculpture as playful at first, changed our minds about it when we saw that it was a memorial, and then changed it yet again when we read the inscription reminding us to embrace what we have instead of dwelling on what we don't have, we need to constantly reframe the happenings in our lives to see them from a spiritual point of view.  God can bring good out of the worst situations if we will just allow His Will to be made perfect in us.

Father, thank you for all that you are doing in my life.  May I not lose sight of Your goodness that is available to me in all things.

Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/romans/8-28.htm

Take action: Reframing Thoughts

Monday, September 24, 2012

Intentions


We recently returned from a week's vacation on Martha's Vineyard where we went to the beach....

The carriage house we rented had a darling private garden just outside the french doors of the living room/kitchen area....
I sat at this little table each morning, when the weather permitted, and wrote in my journal.  The first morning there this is what I wrote....

6:16 a.m.  I was thinking as I got out of bed this morning that my whole routine will be different these next 7 days.  And then I thought about how it would feel if one knew she only had 7 days left to live.  I only have 7 days here.  How would I live my life?  I would live more intentionally....

We went on with our day....going to the beach, explored one of the several little towns on the Island, etc.  The next morning I wrote....

6:52. a.m.  I see my intention to live in the moment is going to take awhile to fulfill.

You see, I had planned to write about our day whenever I had a free moment and I totally forgot about doing it.  

How often do we start out with the best intentions only to have them fall by the wayside?  I got better about writing in my journal throughout the day as the week went on, although one night when I couldn't fall asleep right away, I realized I'd forgotten again so I got up and wrote down what we did that day then.  

After a couple days I looked through the bookshelf at the house for something to read since we were spending the evening in.  I found Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift From the Sea".  This was serendipitous because I had a copy at home but was saving it because I intended to read it the next time I went to the beach!  In her chapter entitled "The Beach" she wrote:  The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy or too impatient....what the sea teaches is....Patience and faith.  One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea."

7:08 a.m.  This (what Anne wrote) is how it was last evening as I walked along the beach.  The waves brought new stones and shells then would take some back while leaving the rest.  Then it would do it all again--and again....
video
As Anne learned lessons from different shells she found on the beach during her week on an island, I, too, was learning lessons as I went along.  Intentions are good because they start us down the pathway, but it's in living life that we begin to put our intentions to work.  It's through paying attention--being conscious of what we feel and think and what is going on outside around us--that we begin to carry out the plan our intentions set in motion.  

Walking along the beach, noticing the ebb and flow of the tide bringing in the stones and shells, connecting all that to what I was reading and the lessons Anne learned, made impressions on me that back home would have gone unnoticed. 

Sometimes we have to vacate our every day lives in order to see and feel things that we take for granted.  There are lessons all around us all the time.  This morning we had to be on the road at 6:30 a.m. for an appointment in another city at 8:00.  It was still dark when we left and as we drove down our little mountain we were rewarded with the beautiful colors of the sun-lit sky as the sun rose over the mountains in the distance.  I told Ken we should "take a vacation" right here at home every once in awhile--get up to watch the sun rise as we did last week in Martha's Vineyard. Who knows what we'll see if we do!

Father, thank you for the break in our routine.  You are the God of the universe and have so much to share with us if we'd just pay attention.  Thank you for opening my eyes and my heart to it.

Link to Scripture:  http://nasb.scripturetext.com/psalms/145.htm

Take action:  "Staycation" Ideas

Friday, August 24, 2012

Disillusionment


"Disillusionment means the illusion is over and you are closer to the truth."  --Richard Cohen


What you are supposed to be looking at in this photo is that small black mark on the bottom edge near the spine of that book lying on the top of my desk.  It's a mark that identifies the book as a "remainder", meaning the book did not sell well enough to keep the extra stock on hand.  These books are marked so that can't be returned to a bookseller for a full-price refund.   Stores like Ollie's and used book stores purchase them in bulk from the publisher and sell them at a discount.

Have you ever felt like a "remainder"?  That you are no longer sought out?  That you're no longer worth "full price" because of it?  

This is when many of us become disillusioned with life, but as Richard Cohen reminds us, "Disillusionment means the illusion is over and you are closer to the truth."  And just what IS that truth, you may ask?

That our worth is not based on what others think of us or even how they treat us.  It never was and never should have been.

God has told us in his Word and by His Word--Jesus--that we are worthy to become sons and daughters of God.  We are precious in His sight.  That He sees us night and day.  We are never out of His thoughts.  Let this be the truth that is revealed to you through your disillusionment.

Father, thank for the Truth.  For the love that always wins out.


Take action:  Read the scripture (John 1:1-14) in the above link then spend the rest of the music being quiet and asking God to reveal your worth to you, based on His love for you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What the World Needs Now

"One thing the world needs now is people who can tolerate ambiguity, people who are challenged, not threatened by the state of the world."  


This was said by Elizabeth Watson, a Quaker theologian, in 1980.  She had several suggestions of what might need to take place first in order for this to happen:

First:  "Do not seek security in things, nor yet in status....they can be taken away from you..."

Second:  "Don't rest in intellectual security....Wisdom is not amassing facts..."

Third:  "The only real security in the end is the love we have given and the love we have received....so pour out your love and friendship and do not hoard it..."

Lastly:  "Cultivate the light touch.  Develop a sense of humor.  Learn to light up a room with joy when you enter.  Accept the challenge of our chaotic and dangerous world with a sense of adventure, of gratitude that our time is now."

This last one caught my attention because it expressed the desire of my heart--to be able to light up a room with joy amidst so much chaos in our world....without feeling guilty about it AND without needing to hide it for fear of being labeled idealistic or worse. 

We, I, can maintain a joyful attitude, if we accept who we are and our place in this world and live our lives expressing the love that God has given us.  As Alan Cohen has said, "Because you carry the spark of God with you, you have the power to illuminate any time, any place."  This should be all the encouragement we need to accept the challenge.

Father, thank you for loving me and enabling me to love others.  Help me to view life as an adventure to be lived with gratitude for who You made me to be, not being afraid of what others may think.

Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/proverbs/12-20.htm

Take action:  What the World Needs Now

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Obvious

"The truth is simple; it is obvious, and it works....look for ways that you may more fully tap into the gifts that you have been given." --  Alan Cohen


This is my vacuum cleaner:


I was using it today when a string, unbeknownst to me, got sucked up and wrapped around the beater bar causing it to stop working.  I cleared the string, but it still didn't work.  I looked for a belt that might have come off the track, but could not see one.  Now what?  I was just about ready to take it to my husband to see if he could fix it when I noticed something I'd never seen before:


On the right-hand side that little red button all by itself...underneath it says "belt reset".  Ah hah!  I found a pencil, stuck it in the hole, pressed the button, and Voila!  It worked again.


How often do we not see the solution right under our noses because we aren't paying attention or have some agenda we're fixed on?  I've had that vacuum cleaner for several years, but until I ran into a problem I hadn't noticed that button.  Of course, the fact that I noticed it today is because I had that quote fresh on my mind because I'd been using it to help me find answers to some other problems on my mind.  I've been trying to "see" with new eyes, if you will.  Too often we get stuck in a rut and try to apply the same solutions to the same problems with the same unfortunate results.  That's why the problem still exists.  Rita Mae Brown in the Basic Text for Narcotics Anonymous (not Einstein as is often thought) said it in a different way, "Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results."  Using the same solution to fix a problem is fine if it works, but if it doesn't you must try something different.  It reminds me of a toddler trying to fit a square block into a round hole and getting so frustrated that he gives up while the solution--the round piece--was right in front of him.


Being "open minded" helps a great deal to see things differently.  Too often people, because they fear their principles will be compromised if they try to see things differently, carry this closed-minded thinking over into other areas of their lives--like problem solving.  It would help us all to gain a new perspective if we'd just allow for the possibility that solutions can sometime be quite obvious if we'd just get our noses out of the way.


Father, thank you for this new perspective on problems.  They are, after all, ways for us to expand our thinking, learn new and better ways to do things, and may even open doors to new opportunities.


Update:  A few days ago I had wanted to write about that quote concerning the problems I was using it to solve, but those problems weren't "photographable".  I've just realized that my vacuum cleaner problem was the answer to that problem.  


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/matthew/13-15.htm


Take action: Are you open-minded?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Purpose

"Keep your eyes on the Lord, and you won't lose sight of life's purpose." --Our Daily Bread


When I read the above this morning I thought about my struggle with needing a purpose for my life.  


Purpose:  the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists


To be human is to feel the need to matter and having a purpose fulfills that.  We take our place in our families, our circle of friends, our jobs wanting to feel appreciated and that often means we need to earn that notice.


When I was younger it was easy to feel I had a purpose.  I was a mother.  In my eyes, that was purpose enough.  I was busy serving in the church, too.  It was great!  But all those activities, when they brought me recognition, only served to engage my ego and kept me from having to examine my heart condition.  I was serving others, after all.  God was using me, I felt.  What greater purpose is there than that!  I failed to see what my real purpose in life was meant to be.





If my heart is closed to anyone, then it is not open to God.  My only true purpose--the only purpose that matters--is that I love God with my whole heart, soul, and mind and my neighbor as myself.  It's by keeping my eyes on the Lord--that is, my heart open to Him--that I shall fulfill my purpose because it is then that I shall be able to love.


Father, it is quite simple isn't it--just open my heart to You and You will set me free enabling me to love as You love.  But it's not easy because of the distractions in life--my ego that wants to make everything else more important.  So I pray that You will open the eyes of my heart.


Link to scripture:  http://bible.cc/ephesians/1-18.htm

Take action:  Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord

Friday, July 20, 2012

Failure

"The only time you fail is the last time you try." -Anonymous 



Last weekend I attended a two-day children's book writer's conference sponsored by our local chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  If ever I needed the above quote, it is now.  I always come away from these conferences exhilarated AND discouraged.  Exhilarated because the speakers' enthusiasm always stirs up my own passion to write.  Discouraged because I feel like a salmon swimming upstream.  It's not that I don't believe in my story, but I'll be the first to admit it may lack appeal to an editor that has a bottom line to consider.  I wave that aside and tell myself if they'd just look at it and give me their suggestions I can make it better.  The editors and agents who spoke at the conference, however, emphasized the fact that they get thousands of submissions a year and only the cream of the crop will be given a second look.  What I took away from the conference was this:  only send my best work.  It can't be potentially great, it has to be great already and then improved upon.  See how this can be discouraging.  The man-made dam those salmon were trying to jump is very much a part of the publishing world.


The greater lesson, though, that I took away from the conference is this:  those man-made obstacles hampering my progress are sometimes put there by me.  Those can be removed.  Every time I feel discouraged I must remember, "The only time you fail is the last time you try."  I came home from the conference with a whole new way to present my story to an editor or agent.  One of the speakers had said "understand your limitations and work to your strengths."  My strengths...yes!  I know what my strengths are but had not thought to highlight them concerning a book for children.  I rewrote my cover letter.  Then I went through the story looking for places I could make those strengths more evident.  After rereading it a couple more times with this in mind, I will send it off to the two editors and two agents at the conference.  They may not be in the market for what I have to offer, but I won't give up.  The only chance I have to get it published is to keep putting it out there.  If I keep doing that, my endeavor cannot be deemed a failure.  


God reminds me this is what love is all about--never giving up.  I may not always act in a loving manner toward others, either by commission or omission, but if I keep asking for forgiveness and trying again, I'll not have failed at His command that we love love another.


Father, thank You for loving me no matter what--for never giving up on me.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/mark/12-29.htm


Take action:  Love One Another



Monday, July 16, 2012

Crazy Bone


I'm not looking forward to it.  My index finger has seemed to heal properly, but if I bump it even slightly I get a sensation not unlike you get when you bump your "crazy bone" in your elbow.  


My Facebook Friends already know what happened last Tuesday morning....a tin can lid collided with my finger, forcefully.  It was shockingly deep, lots of blood....well, I'll stop there.  I'm sure you don't want to hear it and I don't care to relive it.  Once home from the emergency room I was able to piece together what happened.  A rag had fallen down behind the garbage can that comes out on a rail when you open the cabinet door under the sink.  I was in a hurry, doing two things at once (as is my nature, not because I lack time) and I used my knee to close the door.  But because of the rag, the can bounced back causing the door to hit my hand which was holding the sharp lid.


Of course, (as is also my nature) I need to reflect on this episode in my life to garner as much from it as I can.  It is costing us who knows how many hundreds of dollars since I have such a large deductible on my medical insurance.  I'm unable to type very fast since I can't use that finger and you knows how long before that crazy bone sensation goes away.  I missed a week at the Fitness Center since I came down with a 102 temperature the next day and I thought it best to save my energy for healing.  I can't work in my garden for fear of pulling my wound apart.  There are various other activities I'm cautious about, too.  So you see, I've got to get my time and money's worth out of this experience!


My immediate thought at the time was that I need to be more deliberate in my actions--slow down and do one movement at a time.  I had even been given a "warning" through a story earlier that morning in Alan Cohen's book.  The cost to learn his lesson, however, was merely a pushed out screen on his door.  And now that I'm writing about it, I realize the black snake in the grass a few days before was another warning.  I was walking out to the clothesline looking everywhere around me except in front of me when I almost crossed the snake's path.  Paying attention is part of being deliberate.  Perhaps by the time my nerve endings reattach and stop giving me a shock I'll have finally learned this lesson because, believe me, I am paying very close attention to what comes near my hand and making deliberate movements with it.


This makes me think of my relationships--with God and with people.  Am I paying attention and relating to them in a deliberate, conscious way?  Or do I try to do two things at once?  Do I give my full attention to my alone-time with God?  Do I wait in expectation to hear His thoughts to my prayers?   And when I'm talking to someone on the phone or in person, am I paying attention not only to what they say but how they say it?  Do I hear the silence between the lines, as well?


Yes, there is much I can learn from my little bit of trauma.  I hope I've learned it well, because it is not one I care to repeat!


Father, thank you that it wasn't worse--You do know, after all, what I can handle.  May I learn the intended lesson(s) well.  You know how I hate having to backtrack to get anywhere (that's my nature, too).


P.S.  My husband has purchased me one of those can openers that fold over the edge of the lid so it is no longer sharp.  Now, what to do about the knives...and my garden clippers....while I'm still learning this lesson?


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/isaiah/28-23.htm


Take action: Financial Medical Assistance for the Needy

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Prayer

Mary Proude wrote in 1635 that she believed prayer "distinguished a saint from the world; for that in many things the world and hypocrites could imitate a saint, but in prayer they could not." 


When I was a child this prayer my mother embroidered hung in my room...


I did not hang it in my children's room....that whole business about dying before waking seemed inappropriate to me for a child.  Monsters under the bed is bad enough!  And fairytales before bed?!!  Not the Cinderella kind, but the Gingerbread House and Witch kind!  What was that generation thinking?!  


It wasn't until I was an adult, however, that I came to believe in the power of prayer.  It had always felt like a one-way communication.  I was obliged to tell God how I felt about Him, about life, and make my requests, but I really did not expect anything to change.  A popular saying was "God helps those who help themselves," so I set about being as self-sufficient as I could be.  It was only some time later that I learned the saying was not from scripture.  Benjamin Franklin said it.  


It was only after we found ourselves in dire financial straits soon after moving into our house, I, a person who prided herself on her planning skills and had not anticipated this situation, discovered that God actually hears our prayers and answers them according to His wisdom.  In fact, I soon came to learn that He answers all prayers from the heart.  It's just that we do not always understand how He chooses to answer.  Too often because we've told God the "how" we miss the answer because we're looking in the wrong place for it.  


Yes, Mary Proude, a true saint is known by his/her prayers--those prayers that are made in private, trusting God for the outcome even if it's not what we expect or want.  It's being willing to be used as part of the answer like when you pray for someone's healing and He asks you to go clean the person's house or care for the children--those kinds of things.  It's like asking for help with the bills, then selling one of the cars or downsizing your house.  It's like praying for souls to be saved, then giving money to missions instead of buying that new couch you've been wanting.  Those kinds of things.


We can all, for a time, put on a good face for others, but God looks at our hearts and knows us even better than we know ourselves.  In those times when we lay bare our hearts He can show us our true selves and offer us forgiveness and love.  This is the essence of prayer--establishing a relationship with our Father--where we become vulnerable and willing to be made new through His help.  Where we are given the strength we need to carry on in the midst of our troubles.  Where new insights--the mind of Christ--can be laid hold of and implemented in the world.  Where we can find help and assurances as the prayer says...."If I should live for other days, I pray Thee, Lord, to guide my ways."


If you are new to this kind of praying, do not lose hope, for Romans 8:26 tells us, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  We just need to open our hearts to receive and then obey.


Father, may I never neglect to come to You for everything.  I praise You now for Who You Are and what you have done for me.  May I have the ears to hear You when you speak and the willingness to obey.


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/john/15-7.htm


Take action:  Quiet Time with God







Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Names Part III



Today is my second born's 30th birthday...


A jolly little fellow wasn't he!  His name--Matthew--came to me two weeks before he was born.  It means "Gift of God", and I can say that he was and continues to be so.  He was somewhat shy and an easy child--even his birth was easy--but only until he turned 15.  Once his older brother left for college, he stepped out of the shadows and exerted his true personality.  It's a wonderful personality!  But, I wasn't prepared for the metamorphosis that seemed to take place overnight.  Who was this young man-to-be I thought I knew?  Needless to say, I had a lot of adjusting to do and it took a while for us to come to understand each other.  


Like his brothers we gave him my maiden name as his second middle name.  His first middle name is Kenneth, after his Dad, because they are both a second son of a second son.  He has lived up to the meaning of Kenneth, too:  Handsome...
Matthew's & Paola's engagement photo


Living up to our names takes on a whole new meaning when the name is "Christian" (of, relating to, or professing Christianity or its teachings).  As followers of Christ we profess that we believe He is our Saviour because we need saving from our sins.  When we make this profession we receive the Holy Spirit which is confirmed by the evidence of our changed lives.  Scripture refers to this evidence as the Fruit of the Spirit...


The list sounds like an impossibility!  That is, until you realize it is not you that is producing this fruit but the Holy Spirit in you.  It took me years and years to grasp this.  I was constantly on one self-improvement kick after another.  It was only when I started reading my Bible and came to understand all I need do is surrender my will to God and the Holy Spirit would then be free to live His life through me.  It's His life in me that is bearing the fruit, not I, me, myself.  That's so I can't take credit and become conceded.  Ha!  I assure you, the ego will try to take credit whenever it can.  But, God, in His infinite Grace, provides opportunities for me to be humbled so that I once again realize that in and of myself I will always fail in being perfect because God's kind of perfect means complete.  To be complete in Christ means that whenever I allow the Holy Spirit freedom I will always love, always experience joy and peace, always be patient, kind, gentle, good and have self-control.  Yes, even the have faith I have is imparted to me by the Holy Spirit. 


Our metamorphosis takes place when we die to self and live for Christ.  We become one with Christ as He is one with the Father.  Christ was perfect (complete) and so can we be.


Father, You are the completer of my faith.  I need only give myself over to You so that my faith can grow into the fruit that the Holy Spirit in me produces.


Link to Scripture:  http://bible.cc/hebrews/12-2.htm


Take action:  The Work of the Holy Spirit

Friday, June 29, 2012

Communication

Alan Cohen says an archery target is a good way to map out the quality of communication....


He starts with the outer-most ring and works his way inward:


•   "News and gossip...which requires no personal
     disclosure or investment and moves attention
     away from the speakers."


•    "Opinions and judgments...in which we
      reveal a little bit of ourselves, but restrict 
      our communication to intellectual chatter."


•    "Feelings...at this level we begin to bring into
      the light what is going on unseen within us."


•     "Most vulnerable feelings and experiences...
       which are the most difficult (and most
       rewarding) to share, as we make ourselves
       naked in our pain and ecstasy."


And finally the bulls-eye...


•      "Unspeakable unity...we feel so joined with
        our partner that words would only detract
        from the golden beauty of the moment."


I recently toured Tasha Tudor's house and garden led by family members. Those who may not know who she was can read about her here.  Those who do know about her know that she died in 2008 leaving a contested will--three of her four children against the fourth who received the bulk of her estate.  He and his family had lived next door for 36 years and cared for her during the illness that claimed her life at age 92.  On the tour I spoke with that son and his wife about the house and to her grandson about the garden.  What I wanted to talk about was their family and whether they'd reconciled after the estate challenge and how they felt about it all.  I wanted to go to the heart of the matter.  But, of course, I didn't.  I was not a close friend.  I was a paying "guest".  


Being an introvert I find the outer ring--the news and gossip level--the most challenging.  Such conversation doesn't interest me and therefore I have nothing to contribute to it and thereby feel out of place in most social settings.  I found this definition of introvert.  It doesn't explain why, however, an introvert is drained by being around people.  It was obviously written by an extrovert who doesn't understand how chit-chat can drain a person who'd rather talk about what really matters to them.  I've also learned as I've grown older to keep my opinions and judgments to myself.  They do nothing to endear me to others since they are usually different.  The third level--feelings--is where I usually dwell in my "introvertedness".  This is where I want to start my conversations but have also learned as I've grown older it does not serve me well in most circles either.  It makes people uncomfortable.  The next two levels aren't even to be considered as you can guess by now!


So when do we get down to those last three levels of communication?  Hopefully, we all have someone(s) in our lives we feel close enough to, and they to us, to share this kind of intimacy.  In light of the hundreds of "social media" friendships we maintain today we may have little room for real relationships where we can build the kind of trust necessary to open ourselves to one another.  Do we not all have (at least women do) a girlfriend from our childhood we told a secret to and then were betrayed when there was a falling out?  So, trust can be a real issue for some.


Mr. Cohen ends his essay by saying, "To create more fulfilling lives, we must speak to each other with more intimacy."  He says the way to achieve this is to let others see more into you--the word "intimacy" is built on "into me see."  


I use to browse the Web and look at other people's Blogs and wonder why they took the time to do it.  Now that I have my Blogs I understand--it is a way to let others see more into me.  I Blog not because I'm an extrovert, but because I'm not!


Father, thank you for this insight.  I hope I've helped someone else to understand their need to connect in real ways to other people.  But ultimately, Father, I know we have a Friend in Jesus who loves us and sees into our hearts and desires us to let Him in.


Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/revelation/3-20.htm


Take action:  What a Friend We Have in Jesus