As a child, I loved to play outside with my friends. One of our favourite games was tag.
I would run and dodge, doing my best not to get caught. If tagged, I would become ‘it’ and have to chase the others until I got close enough to ‘catch’ someone.
It’s been a long time but I can still remember getting tired and needing a quick break to catch my breath. The only way to do this was to run to the willow tree in the front yard and have one hand touching the trunk. This was the designated safety zone.
The rules said I could only stop here for a few seconds, but that was enough to take some deep breaths in preparation for more running.
All these years later, I no longer play tag, but can still find myself running around and in need of a safe place to pause and regain my strength. Where can I find the renewal so badly needed?
My safety zone is found in the quiet time I spend with God. Rules of time don’t apply here. He provides me with what I need whether I ask a quick prayer for wisdom or spend extended time basking in his presence. However, the more time I spend with him, the more I find the rest, guidance and encouragement needed to step back into the race of life.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
“Next, we’re going to do something called the conga.” It didn’t take long before I figured out this wasn’t a fun dance the exercise instructor was referring to.
We were to do the same exercise for three minutes. It was broken into segments with the first twenty seconds being easy, the next twenty seconds being harder and the final twenty going full out. Then we would repeat the sequence.
We were to think of it as, life is good, life is not so good and yikes! It was the intervals of varying intensity that would give us the most benefit.
I can see how this cycle is repeated in everyday life. As much as I would like to stay in the life is good phase, this is a period of rest and not of personal growth.
When life is not so good, I need to work harder to keep a positive outlook. There are lessons to be learned if I take the time to look for them.
Then come the periods when I’ve been knocked down and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get up again. Everything seems to be fighting against me. It takes every bit of energy I have just to put one foot in front of the other. It hurts to stay in this place and I have to find a way out. This is when I need to dig deep and find strength and courage to forge ahead.
Each cycle will eventually flow into the next and contribute to a higher purpose.
“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the man perfected without trials.” – Chinese Proverb
We had no intention of singing. The visit to a Karaoke night was purely for entertainment purposes.
The range in vocal ability and style was vast. One woman was shy and faced away from the audience when she sang. Some were modest and sang from the heart. Others had fun and interacted with the audience. They all brought enjoyment to the evening.
We overheard conversations about practice and performance skills from a few. They took this very seriously.
I was fascinated to watch and listen as the singers took on a new persona when they picked up the microphone. Once the music started it seemed as if they thought they had become the original artists. Maybe the impersonation of someone they admire helped boost their self-esteem.
This is not a judgment, as I know I’ve done the same thing. When I see how popular and successful you are, it is only natural to want to duplicate this in my own life. The trouble is, I’m not you and never will be. Instead of striving to be like you, I need to be the best possible version of me.
Ironically, the way to do that is to model myself after a well-known figure. Jesus is the only one I should be striving to emulate. In fact, he wants me to mold my life after his. The more I am able to do this, the better my life will become.
I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better. (Ephesians 1:17 GWT)
While in Arizona recently, I learned about a type of cactus called saguaro. While the name (pronounced Sah WAR oh) may not be familiar, its appearance certainly is.
Easily recognized for its height, which can be over twelve meters or forty feet tall, as well as the arms coming out of each side; this tree-like cactus is often depicted in artwork. Many years ago I purchased a wall hanging with a saguaro as part of the design.
I found it fascinating to learn it can take up to fifty years before the plant blossoms and approximately seventy-five years before appendages sprout. After the first one appears, there is no limit to the number it may produce. We counted twenty arms on one!
Looking at the plant, it appears to have accordion-type pleats. These expand as it stores water. This method of self-preservation is able to keep it alive for an incredible two years without moisture.
What have I learned from these facts to apply to my life?
I expect to achieve my goals in a minimal amount of time. In reality, it can take many years to blossom and grow into my full potential. Once I’m mature enough, there is no limit to how productive I can be.
If I store up things that nourish me, such as the beauty of nature, wisdom of those who have gone before me and encouragement from friends and family, I am able to draw on these to keep me going during the dry spells.
When I model my life after these truths I will be committed to do what is necessary to reach for my goals and dreams. Then I will be able to stand tall and proud with outstretched arms to welcome whatever comes my way.
I was excited. We were staying in an RV park in Arizona and every lot had a fruit tree in front. There was an assortment of orange, lemon and grapefruit trees.
I had never picked and eaten fresh citrus fruit before and could hardly wait.
Under one tree we saw a box labelled Help Yourself and chose a large lemon. That evening I placed a slice of lemon in a mug filled with hot water. One sip was all I needed before gagging. It was terrible.
Maybe I’d have better luck with an orange. The one I could easily reach looked good but didn’t feel quite ripe so I stretched my arm deeper into the tree. The jagged interior branches scratched me and drew blood. I thought my prize would be worth the sacrifice but was mistaken. This fruit was dry and tasteless.
Sometimes life is like this experience. I reach for something that looks appealing only to end up injured and disappointed. Things are not always what they appear on the surface.
For the fruit, I asked a neighbour what trees I should pick from. Seeking and following that advice made all the difference in being able to enjoy juicy oranges and grapefruit.
A myriad of choices are before me daily. Picking the right one can be a challenge. Outside appearance does not give me enough information. I can’t see into the heart of the situation but know someone who can. My best option is always to pray and ask God for wisdom. When I do, my life transforms from dry and bitter to one that is fresh and sweet.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5 NLT)
Do you ever feel like you’re barely holding on? If you relax just a little, an avalanche of trouble will descend on you?
That’s the image I had when I took the picture above. The snow hanging over the edge of the roof was fighting a losing battle and couldn’t hold on much longer.
Some of us are feeling like that right now with our endless winter weather, wondering if we can last until spring finally arrives.
In other cases, it may be health issues. Currently, I’m recovering from an injury. The first week I was content to wait for healing to take place. Now, almost four weeks later, I’m impatient to get back to my regular routine. It will happen, just not as quickly as I would like. Perhaps there is a lesson for me in the waiting.
This holds true in many areas of life. The big question is how do I know what to hold onto and what to let go?
Past hurts and regrets serve no useful purpose and should not be held onto. The belief that I must take care of every detail myself or life will come to a screeching halt must also be let go. These will leave me bitter and disillusioned. Been there, done that, don’t care to repeat it.
What I won’t let go of are my dreams, goals and the hope that my life can make a difference in that of another. Those are things worth holding on to.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. – Albert Einstein
The date was March 31st. The sun was shining and the sky a clear blue. Mid-Afternoon my husband and I decided to walk to a nearby coffee shop.
The temperature had been chilly lately so I put on a heavy jacket but because the sunshine was so inviting, didn’t bother with gloves or a hat. We hadn‘t gone far before I realized the crucial mistake I’d made.
The calendar may say it is spring and the sky appears to indicate warmer temperatures but that was definitely not the case. In fact, the cold air was stinging my cheeks! A quick check on my weather app showed -9°C with a real feel of -17°C.
Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. My rational mind knew there was snow on the ground but the optimistic part of me wanted to believe the air was warm.
This is not the first time I’ve believed in something that was not what it appeared On first glance, my mind tells me to believe the positive. This is not always in my best interest. More investigation is required before I make a commitment.
How do I determine what is true and what is not what it seems? I need to stop and pray about it. Then I have to wait for an answer. Jesus sees past the surface and knows what is best for me. He will direct me when I rely on his guidance.
Just as I should have checked the temperature before I headed out for a walk, I need to check in with Jesus before I make any big decisions. He is the one I can fully trust.
In him our hearts rejoice for we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21NLT)
Have you ever loved someone so much you would risk injury to protect them? Would you go as far as giving up your life to save another?
Even before they were born I knew I would do this for my children. Now, the same holds true for my grandchildren.
But, would I freely give my life for anyone other than immediate family? Probably not.
Yet, this is just the kind of amazing love Jesus had for you and for me. He wasn’t forced but freely gave his life. I know this because of his words in the Bible found in chapter ten of the book of John.
Jesus knew he would be facing excruciating pain. He was beaten, mocked and tortured. Why would he put himself through this? It was to become the sacrifice for our sins.
I used to think that since I was basically a good person, I couldn’t be a sinner. How wrong I was. I hadn’t considered the little white lies, judgments of others or a myriad of other so called small things. Since it is not possible for me to live a ‘perfect’ life, I am guilty of sin and deserve to be punished.
The simple reason Jesus suffered and died is because he loves you and wants you to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. In response to this sacrifice, don’t think of Good Friday as just another day but consider how you will respond to His amazing love.
He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18 NLT)
The email said, “I’m sending you a picture of one of the lambs born on our farm this spring.” A friend from childhood sent this to me. She then said that they had named the lamb Tandy.
I’ve never had an animal named after me before and was honoured to have this adorable little creature share my name.
Spring brings new life and thoughts of new beginnings. Easter symbolizes that in my life making it a perfect time to reflect on my relationship to a lamb.
The Bible has many references to Jesus being a shepherd and we his sheep. Like sheep, we don’t seem to know what is best for us. Left on our own, we tend to wander and wind up lost and in danger.
As our shepherd, Jesus leads us with love and compassion. He knows the path we are to take and guides us there safely. Our job is to listen and follow Him.
A shepherd risks his life for the safety of his flock. Jesus did much more than this. He willingly gave his life for us. There can be no greater expression of love.
At Easter, we reflect upon this sacrifice. The picture of a lamb named Tandy is a visual reminder of how helpless I would be without Jesus. I am eternally grateful to be a member of His flock.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:7 NIV
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. John 10:11 NIV
My friend’s baby is learning to walk. She started by pulling herself up on a piece of furniture and moving down the length of it. Having the furniture for support helped her gain confidence.
Holding onto mom’s fingers was another way to walk from one spot to another. One day the time came for her to take a step without holding onto anything for support. This was risky and took a lot of coaxing. After a tentative step forward, she fell. The look of surprise on her face could have easily been followed by tears and a refusal to try again.
Instead, mom quickly scooped her up, praised the effort and stood her on wobbly legs again. Encouragement and cheers followed with every step and every fall. Before long the steps were more frequent than the falls. It won’t be long before she is ready to move from walking to running.
The same principle holds true for us. We expect to take off running when we start something new. This is unrealistic and leads to frustration and discouragement. There are times when the falls are so frequent I wonder if I should give up.
Past experience has taught me I learn best when I take baby steps and celebrate each small success. When I attempt to master new skills the support and encouragement of others can help me get back on my feet and take a few more steps forward.
This may be repeated many times before I can move quickly and confidently in this new area. When it feels like I’m not moving fast enough I remind myself that baby steps will get me farther than if I didn’t take any steps at all.