I was attending a silent retreat. While I was not speaking, things were far from silent. Sitting in the morning sunshine I was serenaded by the songs of various birds. Some I would have noticed before, but there are many I would have missed amid the sounds of human voices.
Even though I was not speaking aloud, the voices in my head continued. Random thoughts appear in my conscious mind, taking me back to the busy life I’d left behind. It was during these times that I realized how difficult it is to focus on only the present.
I gazed over an expanse of lawn, framed by towering evergreens. Off to one side, a river wound its way lazily through the property. I was surrounded by the beauty and majesty that God had created. In my mind, I heard the words “be still and know that I am God”.
It is in the stillness that God’s message for me becomes clear. For only when I block out the distractions of the world am I truly able to focus on the loving relationship that my Heavenly Father longs to have with me. There is peace, stillness for my mind and renewal for my soul to be found in the silence.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV
This is found in my book Inspirations From the Everyday. This past weekend I once again attended this silent retreat and had the same profund experience.
Spring takes a long time to arrive in Southern Alberta. When it finally arrives, it makes up for lost time. In the span of a week, the trees were full of leaves and brightly coloured blossoms. The lawn was lush and green and we could practically watch it grow. The other sure sign of spring is the profusion of dandelions.
The bright yellow flowers are a favourite for young children to pick. They look so pretty that it’s hard to remember that they are weeds. When the flower dies, the plant produces seeds. Dandelions can produce up to 20,000 seeds which are blown by the wind, landing somewhere they can germinate and grow. Left unchecked, a few dandelions can quickly spread.
I may follow all measures to rid my lawn of dandelions, but if my neighbours do not do the same, I will be faced with many more of these weeds in the future.
The same is true in my life. I know the things I need to do to keep my life running smoothly. Slowly I have let little weeds enter, feeling that they are small enough to not cause problems. Once I allow them to take hold, they put down roots, spread their seeds and multiply. Soon my life is overrun and I’m left wondering what happened.
Jesus plants only good, fruitful seeds in my life. My responsibility is to nurture these seeds and not to allow the weeds to choke them out. By walking closely with Jesus, I can eliminate the weeds and live the fruitful life that he has planned for me.
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:23 NKJV
Recently I told you about the small coloured flags scattered throughout my neighbourhood. Mine is one of the many yards to have another feature added.
Men arrived in my yard one day and dug a deep hole. It was fenced off by a piece of wood on four sides with orange reflective tape strung between them. A piece of plywood with the words Danger Deep Hole spray painted on the surface covered the hole.
Once the service work has been completed, the hole will be filled in and the wood and tape removed. In the meantime, these markings serve as a warning to keep me from falling into the pit.
Even though the area marked off in my yard is not as large as in some others, it could still be hazardous to stumble into.
I haven’t fallen into a physical hole but have slipped into pits of despair. My missteps led me onto unstable ground and I ended up in a deep, dark hole. There were probably warning signs but nothing as obvious as reflective tape and spray painted letters.
There seemed no way to climb out of the mud and mire. I wallowed in this despair until I called out to the one who could rescue me. The Lord heard my cry and lifted me up. He lovingly set my feet on solid ground. With Him walking beside me I am not concerned about falling into this pit again.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. (Psalm 40:2 NLT)
Today I am celebrating the seventh anniversary of this blog by sharing the first story I ever posted. ‘Under Construction’ also appears in my book Inspirations From the Everyday.
I had just returned from a road trip with a couple of friends. This seemed to be the time of year that there was a lot of road construction going on. Some roads had barriers blocking off one lane while the road was being improved.
Others were full of potholes that jarred the vehicle as we drove through them. One stretch of road had so many patches of fresh tar, that driving around them was like being on an obstacle course. A few times we travelled on gravel for several kilometers.
All of this reminded me of life. Our lives are constantly under construction. We’re jarred by the unexpected potholes we encounter. Lots of times we have problems that stick to us like tar. We don’t fully appreciate the smooth road of life until we have bumped along on the gravel for awhile.
Just like driving on roads under construction, things may be tougher to navigate but we can do it if we slow down and consider the situation we are travelling through.
God is working in us, reconstructing and repairing the damage that has been done. The process is not always pleasant, but it is necessary to enable us to travel the road that He has prepared for us.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
I put my hand on my husband’s arm to quietly stop him. “Look,” I whispered as I pointed to the yard we were passing by. At the side of the house were a mother duck with ten or twelve fluffy ducklings walking in a line behind her.
The previous week I enjoyed seeing this family in a nearby creek. Now I was concerned to see them three streets away and dangerously close to a busy street.
“You’re going the wrong way,” we said. “There’s no water here.” I wished there was some way to redirect these waterfowl in order to keep them from harm.
The ducklings trusted their mother so obediently followed where she led. I’m fairly certain she had no intention of leading her babies into danger. She probably lost her way and was trying to find her way back.
Have you ever been led astray by a well-meaning person? Or, perhaps you’ve been the one who unintentionally led one or more in the wrong direction. No matter how well-intentioned, we all lose our way sometimes.
I know I have sometimes wondered how I ended up so far from where I wanted to be. Was I following blindly without paying attention?
To keep this from happening I’ve learned to pray and seek guidance from the Lord. He knows where I should be and how to get me there. Only one leader can be counted on to never lead me astray. That is why I choose to follow Jesus.
[The Lord says,] “I will instruct you. I will teach you the way that you should go. I will advise you as my eyes watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8 GWT)
I know complaining doesn’t accomplish anything positive, yet there are times I struggle with this vice. Snow in May qualifies!
The calendar tells me it’s been spring for over a month. The weather seems to be on a different schedule.
We left home early Saturday morning for a city several hours away. The grey sky soon showered us with snow and freezing rain. Slippery road conditions meant reduced speed and extra caution for the next ninety minutes. We finally passed through the weather system and breathed a sigh of relief.
The remaining hours of our drive were pleasant, as was most of our drive home that evening. Close to home we were taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of snow and icy roads. An immediate adjustment to this new situation was required.
We’d gone through both easy and challenging during this trip and said a prayer of gratitude for our safe arrival home.
There was an accumulation of snow on the ground when we went to church Sunday morning. The pastor started by saying, “We won’t complain about the weather. The farmers need the moisture for their land.”
His comment caused me to stop and re-evaluate my thinking. Fields that produce abundant crops benefit many. Value from the weather situation was created. My temporary discomfort was insignificant in the light of the greater good.
Later in the day we travelled the same highway. The clear, dry road that would normally be taken for granted was now appreciated.
Maybe that is one of the reasons God allows storms in my life. They force me to slow down and rely on Him. Once they have passed I reflect on God’s protection and provision through all seasons of life. Instead of complaining about the storms I must look for the lessons in them and give thanks.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT)
“Tell us about your skydiving experience,” they said. “I can’t believe you did that. I’d never be brave enough.”
My new book has a skydiving picture of me on the cover, which prompted the request. The story is in Another Perspective, so I won’t ruin it by giving you too many details here!
I did share that it was a tandem jump. I was harnessed to an experienced instructor. Knowing someone ‘had my back’ increased my confidence level.
As I related the story recently, a couple of comments from one man stayed with me. He said “That’s what it’s like when Jesus is in your life. You can have confidence because you know He is there taking care of you.”
How true that is. Jesus knows where He is taking me and the safest way to get there. Fears are relieved when He is in control. He knows when freefalls are needed and when to employ the parachute to give me a soft landing. I am able to enjoy the adventure knowing Jesus has my back.
“You jumped with family members. Could you see them as you descended?” Actually, I could. They jumped after me and my tandem buddy pointed up to show them floating slightly above. After landing, we joined together in rejoicing for our shared experience.
“I picture the rapture and watching for our loved ones to join us,” he said. I’d never thought of it that way but he could be right. When Jesus returns for us there will be great rejoicing as we join those who have gone before us. Today I praise him for what He continues to do in and through me. On that day I can praise my Lord for eternity.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT)
We held our annual Easter Egg Hunt for the family yesterday. The grandkids were excited and couldn’t wait to get started. Once everyone arrived, instructions were given and at the signal, all ran in different directions.
Due to popular demand, the adults are also included in this hunt. While the children get to keep anything they find, the adults can only keep what is above shoulder level.
During this hectic time, the noise level escalates and fun and laughter abound. The result is the creation of fond family memories.
The grandkids know there are always treats in our pantry. So do the adults. It would be easier to gather goodies from there than to search through the house for the unknown. There is something exciting about the hunt, though.
This reminded me of my life. Many times I have set out searching for something even though I didn’t know what it was I was searching for. When I saw others finding what they wanted, I grew frustrated. Where was the treasure I was looking for? The one that would fulfill my hopes and dreams.
What I discovered was that it was there within my reach all along. I had been so focused on my search that I’d missed the treasure in front of me.
Jesus provided the answer to all of my needs. Once I put my life in His hands and trusted Him for the outcome, I could stop searching. He has led me on bigger adventures than I could have planned for myself. My life is sweeter and more fulfilling. His faithfulness is so great that I am excited to see what treasures each day will bring.
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22,23)
The statement took me by surprise. “Deep love is always accompanied by deep suffering,” our pastor said. My thoughts of love were of joy not suffering, but in that moment I could see how true these words were.
I have wept with friends over a serious illness of a loved one. I have sat with friends as they poured out the anguish in their hearts over situations with spouses, children or grandchildren.
Although I can empathize with my friends, I don’t know and love these people on the deep level they do, so will not experience the same pain.
Countless prayers are requested by those who are suffering. The majority of these revolve around someone deeply loved.
I think of my husband, my children (and their spouses, who are children of my heart) and my grandchildren. I love them deeply and would do anything in my power to keep them from harm. I suffer along with them when they are hurting. If one of them was in grave danger and the only way to save him or her was to sacrifice my life, I wouldn’t hesitate. That is how deep my love for my family is.
This helps me understand why Jesus would die for me. The sinless Son of God took on the sins of mankind because of his deep love for you and for me. Jesus suffered an agonizing death in order to save us.
I think back to the pastor’s words, “Deep love is accompanied by deep suffering.” If there is anyone who fully understands this, it is Jesus.
As we approach Easter and focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus I want to stop and think about the magnitude of this gift I didn’t deserve. He saved me before I even knew I was in danger. I praise his name for this amazing love.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16 NIV)
We spoke to our friend the day before he had cataract surgery. His concern about having his vision tampered with was understandable. What if something went wrong?
Several hours after the procedure we spoke with him again. Although wearing sunglasses to protect his eye while it healed, he was amazed at how much more vivid colours were.
The cataract had slowly obscured the view of his environment. The change had been so gradual it wasn’t noticed. The haziness of his surroundings had become normal.
Once the film on his lens was removed, vibrant hues long forgotten appeared all around him. Instead of looking through a fog, he could see clearly for the first time in years.
The miracle of clear vision was cause for celebration.
As I reflected on this, the memory of situations that had clouded my vision, played across my mind. Emotional struggles, betrayals, disappointments, illness, loss and a myriad of other less than pleasant events had gradually obscured my view of life. The haze surrounding me had become normal. Splashes of colour and promise became a distant memory. My joy slowly faded.
My life changed drastically the day I met Jesus. I had known of him for most of my life but that wasn’t enough. When I asked him to forgive me and take control of my life everything changed. The film of discouragement was replaced with the vision of a bright future. My faith in Jesus healed me.
I praise The Lord I can now clearly see the hope and promise he brings to everyone who calls on him.
“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:41-43)