This was the first major snowfall of the season. There had been a few that didn’t leave an accumulation, but this one was different.
I was attending a silent retreat and the blanket of snow seemed to also silence the land.
The sun appeared mid-afternoon, beckoning me to brave the cold and partake of the beautiful surroundings.
The only sound I could hear was the squeak of my boots on the snow. The pristine white surface sparkled with ice crystals looking like millions of pieces of glitter sprinkled before me.
I walked toward the evergreens dressed in their winter gowns.
The snow lay thick on the branches and I saw some weighed down by this heavy burden. Not only was this a photo op, it was also an analogy of life.
Too much of anything can weigh us down. A little guilt here, a touch of regret there and soon we are tired from our heavy load. We bow to the ground, unable to carry the burden. Without relief, we are in danger of breaking.
Jesus has promised to give us rest when we bring our burdens to him. First, we have to silence the noise in our minds. In the stillness will we be able to discern his voice and allow him to lighten our load.
When the sun shines on the tree branches the snow starts to fall away. In the same way, the Son of Man takes our worries, allowing us to stand straight and tall once again.
“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 GWT)
My husband and I have just returned from a mini-vacation. We travelled a little over an hour from home and spent three nights in the mountains.
In such a short distance and time frame we enjoyed a complete change of pace. No goals or expectations were set ahead of time. This proved to be key to our experience.
Jagged mountain peaks were visible from our room. We appreciated some time outdoors in the crisp mountain air, but had no desire to fill every moment with activity. Instead, we spent quiet hours relaxing in the spacious lobby area where a large rustic fireplace dominated one wall.
Any other time we would have felt guilty for not being outside exploring. On these days we relished the time to rest and recharge. This is something we would not have been able to accomplish at home where many tasks constantly call out for our attention.
There are always things we can be doing, but how often do we give ourselves permission to just be still?
Rest is a biblical concept. Jesus took time from his hectic life to withdraw to a quiet place for prayer. This was a necessity for him. After spending quiet time with God, he was better prepared to face the busy and trying days to come.
When I do the same, I am allowing the Lord to breathe new energy and focus into my life, preparing me for what lies ahead.
The news about Jesus spread even more. Large crowds gathered to hear him and have their diseases cured. But he would go away to places where he could be alone for prayer. (Luke 5:15-16 GST)
Do you ever talk back to your GPS? Not only do my husband and I talk back to ours, we challenge it on a regular basis!
When I stop to think about it, the technology in these devices is quite remarkable. They pick up a signal pinpointing my location and then analyze routes to find the best one to get me to my destination.
Why would I pay for one of these units and then disregard what it tells me? The short answer is because I think I’m right!
We recently looked at a map to visualize our route before putting the address into the GPS. It didn’t take long before the familiar voice (we call her Susan), told us to turn and we said, “No, that’s not the right way.” It recalculated and gave new directions, which we also ignored. We carried on like this for close to two hours.
After reaching our destination we discovered the route Susan wanted us to take would have been more direct. There was more than one way to get to where we were going and the one we stubbornly stuck to was not the best one.
How often in life do I seek advice and then ignore it because I’m convinced I know best? When I’d rather be right than listen to other options, my objectivity suffers. Who knows what I might learn if I take the opportunity to listen to others? My lesson this time is that I’m not always right!
“There is no one as deaf as he who will not listen.” Yiddish Proverb
Music has much to teach us about life. I didn’t realize how much until I heard a wise woman say that the rests in a piece of music don’t contain music themselves but are an important part of the complete piece. She went on to say the melody doesn’t end when you come to the pause; instead, you take the rest, carry on as if it hadn’t happened and hit the next note with confidence.
My life contains many similarities to music. I have times when all is smooth and steady, reminiscent of the whole notes. Then, there are the times when the tempo quickens like that of quarter and eighth notes.
The most interesting music has a combination of notes as well as sharps and flats. How I put these together in my life can create harmony or discord.
The part of the musical score I hadn’t thought about was the pauses.
Sometimes I have planned these into my life as a time of refreshment and renewal. Other times they are forced on me through illness, injury, or loss.
I had always thought of the unexpected rests in my life as interruptions. Now, I see they are not wasted time but actually help to make me who I am. It all depends on what I do with them.
Jesus was a perfect example of enjoying times of rest in the middle of the stress and demands of his busy life. He offers the same opportunity to me. I need to accept the full notes and the pauses.
When I spend quiet time with him I will be able to learn the melody he has set out for my life and hit the next note with confidence.
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)
One of the signs of summer is the distinctive music of an ice cream truck as it slowly winds its way through the neighbourhoods. The sound can be heard several blocks away which gives children a chance to race to their parents and beg for money to pay for a treat.
I don’t know of another sound in the summer that brings people running. Thoughts of enjoying ice cream treats delivered right to your neighbourhood, are enough to send many searching for their wallets!
Even if I don’t want to indulge in the offerings, the music brings pleasant memories of summers past, when I had young children excited to hear the sound of the ice cream truck approaching. If they were fast enough, they could wait at the end of the driveway and the truck would stop. If not, they would need to chase it down the street and maybe wait in line for their favourite treat.
Most of the offerings from the ice cream truck are available at local stores but people are still willing to pay a premium price to the ice cream man. There must be something in the simple melody the truck plays that draws people in.
I think of this attraction and wonder how many people are drawn to Jesus in the same excited way. The bounties he brings are too numerous to be listed on the side of a truck. There is no premium price involved; no need to chase him down the street, money in hand.
When I’m open to what Jesus has to offer, he delivers directly to me, no lineups involved. And, best of all, there’s no need to wait for summer to receive the refreshment he brings.
Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars. (James 1:17 GWT)
My husband Brian, and I recently went for dinner at our favourite little Vietnamese restaurant where we enjoyed a tasty meal and good conversation.
When we were finished Brian went to pay our bill and was told someone had already paid it. This was nothing we expected or deserved. It was the random kindness of a stranger, who left before we could express our appreciation.
The undeserved favour we received that evening reminded us of the way God treats us. There is nothing I could ever do to earn or deserve the blessings he has given me.
God sent his son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sins. Because Jesus paid my debt, I am free to come to God and talk to him at any time.
Imagine that, I can have conversations with the King of the Universe. He knows and loves me and invites me to come to him at any time. Not only that, but he has prepared a place for me so I may spend eternity with him.
That, my friends, is the ultimate undeserved favour.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” ( John 14:2-3 NIV)
Signs informing us of scheduled street sweeping appeared. They gave us a span of three days for this to happen, along with a warning not to leave vehicles parked on the street over this time.
During our long, snowy winter sand and gravel were used in order to make our city streets safer. Bit by bit it had accumulated. When the last of the protective snow covering melted; I was surprised by the amount of debris left behind.
It wasn’t obvious when it was covered up. When the street was laid bare, the eyesore was difficult to ignore.
Early one morning I heard the rumble of the street sweeper passing by. It went back and forth multiple times until the area was clean. This powerful machine needed to make many passes in order to complete the job.
On most of the street, a thorough cleaning was accomplished. The occasional vehicle made it impossible to for the brushes to get all the way to the curb, which meant some debris was left behind.
This was an analogy of my life. When negative experiences occur I try to cover and forget them. Over time, a mess accumulates. I don’t want anyone to see what I’m hiding as it won’t be pleasant.
Sooner or later, the cover wears thin and bits of the messiness begin to show. Like the vehicles impeding the street sweeper, I have blockages making it impossible to become clean. Until these are removed, there is no way to effectively deal with the debris that lies beneath.
Jesus offers each of us a chance to make a clean sweep in our lives. When we come to him, humble and repentant, he removes those blockages. In one pass, my messy life is swept clean.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 KJV)
I wasn’t sure exactly what it was in the box but knew it was unique and beautiful. The sculpture was a large circle with thick glass strands intertwining.
A card inside told me this was an endless knot, representing a never ending connection. It was also a symbol of eternity, harmony and endless love.
This lovely expression of endless love was a gift from family members. I have heard many stories from people who don’t have good relationships with their family. The object I held in my hands represented the blessing of the harmony that exists with my children and grandchildren.
Our lives are intertwined; each being made stronger by the connection with the others. This bond has been passed down through the generations.
As we draw near to Good Friday, the endless love of God is in the forefront of my mind. He showed his love by sending his only Son, Jesus, to atone for our sins and give us eternal life. This act of great sacrifice reaches to all generations, binding us together.
His love has no beginning and no end. He loved us before we knew him and paid the greatest sacrifice of all that our lives may be intertwined with his. For this, I am eternally grateful.
The Lord is good. His mercy endures forever. His faithfulness endures throughout every generation. (Psalm 100:5 NLT)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
During our recent vacation, I was having problems with my hair. I’d wash it and hours later it would feel dirty again.
After trying a few brands of shampoo I came to the conclusion the problem was with the water in the shower. Although it was frustrating, I didn’t know what else to do so had to accept it.
Each day we would go for a long walk along the beach. During the last few days of vacation, the tide was very high, leaving not enough sand to walk on. We didn’t want to forgo our walk so moved inland.
The next day I was pleasantly surprised with my hair. It still felt clean. It took another day of walking inland before I understood what the problem had been and felt foolish to not have recognized it sooner.
Upon return from our beach walks my sunglasses would be covered with a film of sea spray that clouded my vision. I hadn’t thought about that same spray also coating my hair!
The answer was obvious the whole time. Instead of seeing what was right in front of me I went searching for something more complicated. I don’t know about you, but this seems to be a pattern in my life.
Little white lies, judgments and selfishness slowly build up until, like the effects of the sea spray, my vision and my life become clouded. I no longer feel clean and tend to search for outside reasons for my gloom.
The problem, however, isn’t with anyone or anything else. It is my doing and only by taking responsibility can I remove the film that clouds my life. When I go to Jesus and sincerely ask forgiveness, he is willing and able to make my life bright and clean once again.
Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (Matthew 7:5 NLT)
The words didn’t make sense to me. I could understand being told to do my best. After all, I’ve heard no one can ask more of you than to do your best. Yet here was someone asking for more than that.
When I heard, “Do more than you think you can,” I laughed to myself, thinking that wasn’t possible. And then – I did it! I pushed myself harder to see if it was possible and ended up doing more than I thought I could.
I learned I’d been settling for less than my best for quite some time. What had formerly been my best was now commonplace and I was capable of much more. This was a huge eye-opener for me.
The lesson I learned was that I’m capable of doing much more than I think I can. Even so, there are limits to what I can achieve on my own.
Over the past few years, I’ve done many things I never thought I could. This happened when I stopped limiting myself and God by staying stuck in, “I can’t.” What would not be possible for me is no problem for The Lord. Now, I say, “If you want me to do this, I trust you’ll make it happen.”
Life is much more fulfilling when I don’t attempt to tackle it on my own. I am not supposed to be able to do everything. When I put my trust in the Lord, I can stand back and watch him do immeasurably more than I ever dreamed of my life. Every success and achievement is due to him and for that, I can never thank him enough.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NLT)