The heating system in the seminar room began to have problems. As a result the room was too cool to be comfortable. Trainees put jackets on to stay warm. The helpers needed to keep their professional demeanor so this was not an option.
The majority of the helpers stayed in the hotel so only had access to the clothing they brought with them. I was one of the few fortunate to live close enough to travel home each night and planned to wear a warmer sweater for the following day.
The next morning I also brought a blanket shawl with me and offered it to a friend. After she had a chance to warm up, I asked that it be passed on to someone else. The shawl gave much needed warmth to many as it was passed around that day. In fact, it warmed me just to see how others were enjoying it.
Later, my friend referred to this as a blanket of love that I freely shared with all who needed it. Her lovely words reminded me how easy it is to wrap those around us in love.
When I not only see your discomfort, but do what little I can to show you I care, I am wrapping you in love. It may be a physical blanket, such as this was. It may also be a smile, an encouraging word, a hug, or a home-made brownie. Love comes in many forms. We all need the opportunity to give and receive it.
Let’s encourage each other with our stories as together we share a blanket of love with the world. Let me know what you do and you just may receive a surprise gift of love from me!
Please welcome Kim Louise Clarke as my guest blogger today. Kim and I met through Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship. Her first book came out in 2016, a devotional travel memoir, entitled The French Collection – Moments with God in Paris.
Outside my friends’ house, I waited for her in my car. Across the street, the movement of a swinging birdfeeder suspended from a tree caught my eye. It was a simple design: an open tray suspended by ropes from a branch about a metre above the snowy lawn.
The cause of the movement came, not from a bird, but from a squirrel rummaging around in the feeder. Nearby on the ground, a bird—a magpie as big as the squirrel—seemed to be pacing as if waiting its turn. No sooner had the squirrel hopped off the feeder to scamper down the road, than the magpie jumped up to see what it could find. And no sooner had the magpie flown away, than a tiny bird that had been waiting on its perch high in the tree, darted in to have its turn.
Because I’ve seen how magpies can torment squirrels, with three of them squawking and hounding one poor squirrel fleeing along a fence, this was like a peaceful scene out of Narnia. It was a short animal dramatization of I Corinthians 13, focusing on love. “Love is patient, love is kind. … It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered” (verses 4, 5).
How appropriate for February, the month of love, to see this reminder of how we should treat others. Even doing the little things, like patiently standing in a cafeteria line, waiting your turn, and letting others go first does not go unnoticed by God. It is by our loving behaviour that He is glorified.
My friend arrived and got into my car. We drove away with me chatting about squirrels and magpies. Having been exposed to one sermon, we drove off to church for another.
You can find out more about Kim through her website: www.kimlouiseclarke.com
To contact her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
While driving in an unfamiliar area we saw a sign that said, Rough Road NoTurn Around. I have encountered phases in my life where this could apply.
Maybe it was because I either missed or chose to ignore an earlier warning sign; the one that said Wrong Way. In some cases I wasn’t paying attention but in others I felt it didn’t apply to me. After all, I knew where I was going and this was a short cut to get there.
Except, this route lead me to the rough road I then had to travel. Once I realized my mistake, I was too far in to turn around. No matter how rough it got, I had to keep going. My errors in judgement couldn’t be erased. They had now become part of my story.
All I could do was put one foot in front of the other as I trudged forward, hoping to find the smooth road once again. Since turning back wasn’t an option, the only thing left was to find some value in this uncomfortable area I found myself in.
When I pay attention, there are lessons to be learned. I now know to watch for the signs and to heed the advice they give.
“We’ve signed up for ballroom dancing classes,” some friends said. My husband and I exchanged knowing glances. Many years ago we had done the same thing and their comment brought the experience to mind.
It wasn’t totally unpleasant but certainly had its challenging moments. We had a great deal of difficulty in co-coordinating our steps.
Other couples were gliding across the floor and we remained in our little practice box, unable to master the basic steps.
Part of the problem, OK, most of the problem, was with me. I kept trying to take the lead. As long as I struggled for control, no progress could be made.
We didn’t know what to do to improve the situation. I tried to follow, But soon found myself fighting for control again. Our instructor could see what was happening and gave us a simple solution to this problem. I needed to keep my eyes closed.
As strange as that seemed, it worked! When I couldn’t see where I was going I had to trust my partner to guide me. Soon we were out of our self-imposed practice box and moving across the floor.
Can this lesson translate to my walk, or dance with God? Do I trust God’s leading and willingly follow or do I question where he is taking me?
if I’m not willing to trust him with small steps, how will I ever be able to take on the bigger things he has planned for me?
i sometimes forget God is my leader in the dance of life and attempt to take control. Maybe I need to close my eyes in order to fully trust. Better yet, I can keep my focus on the Lord. He knows where he is taking me and the best route to get there.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)
Please welcome Lynn Simpson as my guest blogger today. After you enjoy her words and her photographs you can find out more about Lynn in the brief bio at the bottom of the post.
Lifeless leaves in colours of blood and coffee on a dusty footpath crush beneath my worn hikers. I pull my wool hat lower over my ears with one mittened hand, the other grips my camera. Ahead, I know, is a low lying
bridge, over a cheerless pond, just four steps wide and seven steps to the other side.
I’ve been here before, on this trail in this national park close to my home. Been here too, during the times of chirping frogs and singing sparrows.
But today, under a silvery sky, the life sounds seem hushed. And this feels right. As my brother of only a few years longer in life than me, was recently stilled and silenced. His path moved now beyond this world.
My downcast eyes wander to lanky, burnt mustard grasses. I halt, grasp my camera in both hands, adjust the dials, kneel and frame the scene. Click. Reframe. Click. Capture a moment. Now. And then gone.
And I wonder, in this moment, what is the point really? A captured moment just changes in time. And is lost. Gone.
Does it make any difference, to do this or that in this moment?
Do I make a difference?
I shake my head, try to clear of it of this melancholy. Fingers seek for tissue in my coat pocket.
Crush of lifeless leaves interrupt, from steps that are not mine.
You must be a pro, he says. I unbend my knees, stand. No, I reply. He is tall, slender, like my brother (my late-brother) with midnight black hair that matches the camera he clutches in bare hands. My friend gave me his camera to try for a day and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing and my pictures look terrible, he tells me, his face crimsoning. Can I see yours? he asks. I show him, am warmed by his delight. How did you capture that from that? He points to the field of littered grasses. It’s about the angles, and the scene, and the light, and the imagination, I tell him. I show him a few tools, a few features and simple ways to set the light, to frame the scene.
He clicks. Reframes. Clicks. Captures a few shots with the new settings.
Wow, he says, his grin infectious. That totally made a difference! Thank you!
There is a wooden bridge that crosses marsh-like waters just up ahead, I tell him. You may want to try there too.
He takes a few steps backwards, on this ginger path, waves a free hand. Great! I want to be able to show my friend later what moments I captured here. Thanks so much! he says.
I watch him turn away and move on. I look down. Auburn and chestnut coloured leaves stir from a light wind. I kneel, position my camera. And click, capturing a new moment.
Lynn J Simpson understands the need for creating spaces for rest, renewal, and transformation both personally and as a Professional Life Coach. Her own journey is rarely without a camera in hand, capturing breathing spaces to share. Her recent publication, Breathing Spaces-a 21 day journal of rest, reflection and renewal is used by individuals and groups to help create healthy mindsets. You can read more of Lynn’s musings on faith, hope and love at Inspiring Hope (lynnjsimpson.com), and connect with her on Facebook and YouTube.
Do you have a penny collection? My husband and I discovered we are part of the multitude that seemed to collect these coins. For us this wasn’t intentional, it just happened.
Recently we brought our collection out of storage with the plan to roll and exchange them for paper currency. We were surprised to see how many pennies we had tucked away over the years.
The last Canadian penny was minted in 2012. They were discontinued because the cost of producing these coins was more than they were worth. Although not in circulation for several years, we still had an abundance of pennies.
We had begun to count and stack the coins when a grandchild came to visit. She was fascinated by the pennies and we stopped our counting to search for dates representing the birth years of her parents and siblings. Our granddaughter rejoiced each time one was found.
When we searched through the coins we discovered not all shiny pennies were newer ones. Each year came in a variety of conditions. None of this made a difference to their value. Each coin was worth the same amount.
I had plenty of time to consider this as we continued to sort, count and roll thousands of coins over the next few days. Some similarities between life and these pennies came to mind.
My worth is determined by God. He doesn’t just keep those of us who are shiny and attractive but has a purpose for everyone, even those well worn. This was a good reminder that no matter my age or condition I can still bring value to the world.
God is not going to remove us from circulation because it costs more to keep us than we are worth. In His currency, we are each collector editions.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28 NIV)
Every person faces grief in their life. Some are thrust into the deepest, darkest parts of the valley of the shadow of death as they deal with life-altering losses. Serenity McLean is one of those people. With a background in adult education, she wrote Honest Grief to support others in their own unique journey through the valley. She’s my guest blogger today.
Without going into a lot of detail, I’ve lived through three years of loss. No aspect of my life was left untouched by the devastation. I hardly caught my breath from one major loss when the next hit. After three or four, I found it more difficult to get back up and carry on. After eight or nine, my life was a shambles and I was ready to just stay crumpled in a fetal position.
I’ve heard a lot of advice from well-meaning people about what grief should look like. From my perspective of walking in the deepest parts of the valley of the shadow of death, loss and grief, I wonder if many have become caught up in the happy-at-all-costs craze. In today’s instant gratification society, people expect instant happiness. Just look at the popularity of the song Happy – you know the one, “clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” Having dealt with a lot of grief, I can honestly say happiness is not the truth. Don’t be fooled into believing a person is failing at life because of an absence of happy while grieving.
The truth is, life is not sunshine and unicorns every day. Most of us will deal with a loss of some significance, and it takes time to come to terms with the pain, anguish, sorrow, regret, remorse, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, and a myriad of very honest and real emotions. In fact, there are more than three dozen challenging emotions common to someone grieving. None of these can be dealt with in three bereavement days. When they all come at once it’s going to take a lot of time and work to address what I call grief stew. There is a road through grief to peace. It just takes time to forge a path through the chaos and turmoil. It simply takes time to seal up the wounds of a broken heart.
So next time your friend experiences the death of their loved one, don’t expect them to find their way out of that valley of the shadow of death quickly. Be gentle with them in their sorrow, because they are being refined. Sorrow is one of the most difficult things we humans can deal with. Be patient with your friend. It takes a long time to complete the journey through that dark and lonely valley. Grief can require months, even years to work through. When your friend emerges from the valley, they will carry deep scars, but they will be exquisitely beautiful. They will be a person of fortitude. They will be someone worth knowing.
One of the best things (and hardest things) you can do for your grieving friend is to stay close. Now more than ever they need a steady true friend. When many disappear because they fear the unhappiness, you can accept this is their journey and remain their friend.
Serenity McLean, the author of five Christian fiction novels, just released Honest Grief, a not-so-ordinary guidebook to surviving the abyss.
Nature has many lessons to teach us. I heard an interesting story about fear and survival in the wild.
When a zebra is grazing and hears the roar of a lion, it runs away from the dangerous sound. This decision often proves to be fatal.
You see, the male lion roars from behind the prey while the lioness, who is the hunter, waits ahead. In its fear reaction, the zebra runs directly into the path of the lioness and is caught.
Fear can also cause us to run into danger instead of away from it. No matter how hard we try, it isn’t possible to outrun our fear. The best option may be to face the fear head-on. We may find that it is nothing more dangerous than the roar in our mind.
God knew we would face many fears in our lives. That could be why the most repeated command in the Bible is Fear Not. Over one hundred times the words Fear Not or Do not be afraid are repeated.
We are also told the enemy prowls like a roaring lion. He wants to frighten us so we run into his trap. If we remember to trust in God rather than giving in to our fear we will remain safe.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
This week marks the 100th anniversary of my mother’s birth. I can think of no better tribute than to share an excerpt from something she wrote years ago. She’s been gone for many years now but lives on in the following message.
At some time in our lives, I would imagine that each one of us has worked on a jigsaw puzzle.
Usually, the first thing we do is to study the picture on the box. It’s much easier to know how the pieces fit together if we have the completed picture in our mind’s eye.
The second thing that we do is to turn over the box and empty out its contents. Often our reaction to that pile of pieces is to wonder how such a jumble will fit together to form the picture on the box.
However, we set to work, turn all the pieces right side up and begin to sort them out and fit them together. Each piece has its own particular spot. Have you ever found one piece coming into your hand every few minutes? You try it here and try it there, and it almost fits, but not quite – so you put it to one side and go on with the rest. Whenever you find it in your hand again, you give it another try. Eventually, you find the right place for it.
Every piece of the puzzle must be there to start with, or we can never hope to see a completed picture.
Joining any kind of group is something like this jigsaw puzzle. Before we join we try to get an overall view of the whole picture. Then we look around at the number and variety of people who attend and wonder if we’ll ever sort them out and fit them together to make the picture we envision.
First of all, we have to turn them all right side up – that is, we have to find the right and good side of each. We can’t expect a piece to fit into our puzzle ANYWHERE. It won’t fit if we’re looking at the back, or standing it on its side, and trying for force it into where WE think it should go. We have to accept each person for who THEY are and not try to force them to be what WE want or expect them to be.
Some people are like the piece of the puzzle that keeps coming to our hand and we have difficulty finding a spot for. We must recognize the fact that everyone does not fit with everyone else all the time, but there is a proper spot where each of us belongs, and that no one else can fill. Every piece of a puzzle is absolutely essential if we are to have a completed whole.
It is my belief that our lives will be happier if we let each person take his place as an individual. Together we form the complete picture.
My husband and I stood near the church entry, welcoming people as they arrived for the morning service.
Outside was a frigid -30°C. When people entered the building we shook their hands and I said, “It’s cold outside, come in and enjoy the warmth.”
My words had a double meaning. The first was obvious as the indoor temperature brought a welcome reprieve from the cold air outside.
The second was a little more subtle. Life can be challenging and the world often seems cold. The church should always be a place of hope and a refuge from the cold.
There is no need for anyone to brave the cold world on their own.
It goes even deeper than the church building. As a follower of Christ, it is my duty to extend a warm hand and friendly greeting to all. I was once told, “You may be the only Bible people come in contact with.”
When I show genuine care and provide a safe welcoming environment I am reflecting the light and love of Jesus. Only then will they trust me when I share the difference a relationship with Jesus can make in their lives.
There is no better way to come in from the cold.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)