Category Archives: life lesson

of young and old…

I am trained to listen for themes in the lives of others, places God may be working, pockets of the heart they may be unaware of.

when themes start occurring in my own life, I try to pay attention, to ask God if He is doing a work, teaching a lesson, preparing my heart for something.

so when a number of conversations lately have included a Titus 2 thread, I have been listening and pondering. several friends from different parts of life and not known to each other, have been processing lessons learned from the older women in their lives. some lessons good and godly. some showing a lack of biblical response to life. others reflecting on lives well-lived for Christ, providing inspiration and encouragement to those coming behind. a few wistful for what they’d hoped would be a Christ-like attitude and example, only to have that hope dashed and the opposite be reality.

come, let us walk together as we walk with Jesus…

is this not to what Paul aspired?

put away anger

wrath

malice

gossip

speculation

roots of bitterness

and instead walk in compassion

kindness

patience

humility

forgiveness

when we walk this way, Christ is honored and allowed to do His work in our lives.

as we learn to walk in these new attitudes, looking at the example of others is only natural. there are innate questions of how to work out a new life while still living in our sin-bound bodies of earth.

there is an assumption, an expectation, really, that those older than us should be that example. it is a biblical idea and ideal. but it is not always reality.

those older than us may not necessarily be “older” in faith. each of us have our own faith walk, a journey and relationship with Christ that is uniquely our own. that others might learn anything from us is sobering and an amazing testimony to God’s great grace. calendar age may have little to do with faith age. some people get stuck somewhere in life have a texture of immaturity to them. those of older faith age might be younger than us, the rare spiritual “old soul” who lives in deep relationship with Christ. we can learn from all walks, learn about the working out of Christlikeness, and what is does not look like, of what is an attractive faith and what is not.

these thoughts, as they run through my head and seek expression, turn me again, as so often happens, to the Breastplate of St. Patrick, the prayer of St. Francis, and essentially to the root of Christianity: let me be in such deep relationship with Christ that when others see me, they see Him.

we are all older than another. and we are all younger. brought full circle, this begs that we never stop learning and learn to live in harmony with Christ, aware of the footprints we leave. that awareness should not be a burden, but instead a mirror to our lives and hearts. are we pointing others to Him? do they see Him when they look at us?

let us walk together and live in community centered around Him.

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of saints and vegetables…

(photo credit: the St. Nicholas Center)

she is three years old, this daughter-gift of ours.

old enough to start understanding what is going on around her, the bits and pieces of Christmas and Advent and all the hype and even the character set.

Jesus. Santa. Mary. Joseph. Frosty. wisemen and shepherds. elves. bell-ringers.

all mix together in a tapestry of fact and fiction, of reality and story.

sorting it is difficult. being a parent sorting it and shaping your child’s understanding of a most important day and season can be daunting. allow some childhood fantasy? or burst the bubble from the beginning, telling her there is no Santa Claus, knowing that her honest little heart will inadvertently burst another child’s fantasy?

the Christ-child is real, of that there is no question. bringing the season together, sifting the spiritual and commercial, was overwhelming.

until we stumbled on a simple tale told by vegetables. it is no unusual thing to find a Veggie Tales show or movie playing any given day in our home. but I was not expecting this particular tale to grab my attention and heart, shifting the focus of Christmas squarely back to Christ.

Nicholas was a Christian man of some means, orphaned early, and raised by his uncle. he shared his wealth and resources with others in Christ’s name, resting firmly in the knowledge that all he had came from, and subsequently was, God’s. along the way he became the Bishop of Myra, and eventually a saint and pop culture icon.

cuddling our daughter-gift through this story, Christ began a new, or refreshed an old, work in my heart. what if my own giving was influenced by an overflow of gratitude for what God has given? what if I gave because He had?

the shift was almost palpable. the frenetic schedule of the season slowed. the pressure released. what if?

the gift lists changed. the reasoning was different. additional gifts were added. others removed. where might encouragement lie? where might He be asking me to give, to give beyond my list on paper?

a handmade gift or two found its way under the tree, bits that would be treasured for memories evoked and new ones made.

the grace of Christ, His compassion and mercy, to me and each person I come into contact with, was overwhelming.

Nicholas gave because he could not ignore the source of his resource. He gave out of gratitude and love.

the grip of commercialism slipped a bit this year. and I am glad. praying it continues, really.

as for our daughter-gift, there is no longer a discussion of allowing a few years of childhood fantasy with Santa Claus. that also shifted as we watched the vegetable telling of this biography. her earliest teachings about Santa are steeped in reality. and they are taking hold in beautiful ways.

she asks for money to drop into red kettles. toy boxes are culled for bits others might enjoy. a goose figure for a friend with a farm set. a teapot for daddy because he has none of his own. an elf doll for me, its silly smile meant to bring cheer and make me laugh. simple gifts, given from her own bounty. because Jesus and mommy and daddy love her.

there are smiles and waves as she spies the mall Santa or a yard decoration. it makes sense in her world that Baby Jesus and Santa reside on the same lawn. and in a way, she is right. strip the commercial Santa away and Nicholas remains, a man who continually pointed others to the Christ-child and His ultimate Gift.

may we do the same.

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strength and perseverance

it has been a windy season. most days our daughter-gift wakes up and asks if it is another windy day. or more likely, she makes a statement of it.

when we lived in southern California, it was news when the winds blew. sometimes Santa Ana winds, and other times from storms coming through the area. it always puzzled us how often downed trees made the news, downed by strong, but not devastating winds. I remember a co-worker once stating that her son had not slept all night because he was afraid of the wind.

in this land of four very distinct seasons the wind is not a headline-grabber by any stretch of the imagination. tornadoes, blizzards, thunderstorms, and severe weather in general, are part of life. we do talk about the weather here, and for good reason. it shapes us in ways we do not expect. a beautiful day, no matter the season, is cause to stop and enjoy, if only for a moment. a windy day, in our understated manner, will be called gusty. bitingly cold wind might be described as blustery. rarely do we consider our trees and worry about them toppling.

this difference between the stalwart northern trees and those of our California friends is striking. many of the trees making their way into the news were the same as the sturdy ones “back home.” so we researched. and talked to some who might understand our confusion. what we found was fascinating. and has implications on our spiritual lives.

for a tree, life in California is easy. lots of sun. a relatively temperate climate. few storms. it seems trees have little reason to work at sending their roots deep, so they spread wide. and trees topple in seemingly innocuous winds. the root system cannot tolerate much abuse and a strong gust will take a large tree down.

to survive the extreme seasons of the north, a tree must send its roots deep and wide. they must be strong. and they must persevere through the ever-changing weather. their wood is different, stronger, than an untested tree. a northern forest gives a wonderful picture of this strength and tenacity. the outer rim of a forest boasts the strongest trees, standing strong and mighty, facing the storms and protecting those in deeper. those inside, the protected ones, are not as strong. they will topple, much like those in California. their fortress of protection, when removed, leaves them vulnerable to the elements.

how like the trees we can be! how we often long for the easy California tree life! we pray God saves us from trial and testing, grateful for uneventful days, and breathing relief when tragedy is averted.

but in the trials, the windy, stormy times, He grows us. our roots in Him go deeper.

it is easy to feel abandoned to the storm. to wonder if He is punishing us or has forgotten our suffering.

maybe the better thought, the better question, is to ask which roots He is wanting to grow, where He might be strengthening our faith.

He does not send the storm to punish, but instead to protect. in those times we are not forgotten, as we might feel, but instead remembered, cared for, and nurtured.

even, and especially, in the storm.

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wise words…

remember those “thought a day” calendars? a kind friend gifted me with one that fits on many levels. the following quote from William Penn strikes me every year as it comes around on the little calendar. he said:

“I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, as I shall not pass this way again.”

what an amazing lifestyle!

how Christ-like and gracious!

I love his acknowledgement that each day is its own. there is no assumption on tomorrow, no guarantees. today holds itself and will not be repeated. and in light of that, do good and do it today! do not hesitate or second-guess the path ahead. be kind. do good. be as Christ to another.

a no-regrets life. a heart after Christ. a truly worthy life goal.

it is not big and flashy, but quiet and discreet. as Jesus taught so often.

the state of your heart.

serving another

with joy and goodwill.

not begrudging the good deed,

but living as a servant, continually on the lookout for someone needing a grace-gift in their day.

ah, Lord, teach me to be your hands and feet in this way!

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the outward charm…

I adore this house!

can’t you just imagine C.S. Lewis writing away, sipping his tea and reading, smoking a cigar, hosting friends, and imagining Narnia?

I picture a place of solace and rest, a retreat for the weary, the character of the house lending itself to the envisioned peace.

given the size of our town and my route to various places, this sweet cottage is a regular sighting, a continual dream running through my head.

they cannot be avoided. the house and the dreaming.

it is for sale. out of reach fiscally.

but daydreams are free.

there was an estate sale the other day, and while I am always up for a bargain, the house itself drew me. I suspect the same was true of most people that day!

stepping through the door, I expected the mustiness. by all appearances the house has been closed up for many months. but the dated decor was unexpected. the overwhelming need for updating screamed louder with each footfall. it started as a whisper, “please, help me…” the house begged. by the time the circuit of all three floors was complete, the cry for restoration was palatable. some features of the original house remained. others have been discarded along the way.

from the outside, images of C.S. Lewis dance. on the inside, the Brady Bunch.

over week later, I am still pondering the differences.

which leads me to Jesus’ words about whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27) and the state of my heart, self, masks we wear, and so much more.

so many analogies. so much conviction. where to start? for that matter, where to end?!

the recurring thoughts about this house and my heart have been about what is presented to the world versus the reality of the internal. the outward can easily show such a different picture than what is really happening. I continually ask if my heart is musty and stuck in a rut (or many ruts), if the expense of change is worth it. changes to the internal need exceptional care and a skilled hand. a qualified inspector can make all the difference, finding things the naked eye would miss.

and my heart cries, again and again, to allow only Jesus to be the one who works on my heart, the one to restore it to the original design. He is the architect, contractor, designer, and lover of my soul. with Him there are no mistakes in the blueprints, no unexpected mess.

alas, the final design will not be known in this life. the waiting here will be worth the turmoil and angst. this I know. I have seen the beauty of a soul, albeit the muted beauty of earth, and what He can do when given carte blanche. would that I could be as open to His craftsmanship! would that people see Him instead of me.

there was a grace-gift in being able to enter the house as well. the house itself is out of our reach. could we stretch and make the purchase? maybe. a big maybe. but after seeing the inside, the renovation and restoration needed, and factoring those costs, there is no way, beyond being gifted the house, that we could afford it. and that is good. someone new will move in and (hopefully) do the requisite work. having seen the inside, it remains a dream house for some imaginings. and a renewed sense of thankfulness for our own bungalow washes over me. God does His work in interesting ways, doesn’t He?

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days on the calendar…

It was one of those days. A date on the calendar. For most, just a date. For me, an anniversary. A painful one.

Dreams shattered.

Life swirling around despite it.

Holding to Jesus. Desperately clinging to Him.

A heart and body wounded, never to be the same.

New questions. A paradigm shift.

A fresh sensitivity inward. Someday to turn outward and hold others in a similar place.

We all have them. Quiet anniversaries. Sacred. Shared with few. Life hurts that remain quietly remembered.

Walking wounded all. Feeling so very alone.

And yet not. Others have tread these familiar paths, so new to us, so unreal.

Death of a loved one. Job loss. Diagnosis. Car accident. Miscarriage. Relationship destroyed. Betrayal. Devastating confession. And so many more.

It is good for me to remember dates like these. They remind me that we all carry heart hurts. And most often we do not know the significant dates on someone else’s calendar. They may need some extra grace, a smile, a kind word. Things that cost me so little time, such small effort. BeingĀ  Jesus’ hands and feet. Bringing some Barnabas encouragement.

More than just a date on the calendar…

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I bring Easter!

we were packing for vacation. lots to do, many bits to remember before packing ourselves into the van and embarking on our journey. suitcases, plastic bins, and miscellany were everywhere. thankfully, the stress was not. it was a casual packing, with time for bits of fun in the middle of it all.

suddenly she brought her little suitcase into the living room and started “packing” by herself. I’d planned to fill it with toys, coloring books, dolls, books, and the sundry bits little girls like to have along. being distracted by my own packing and figuring I’d empty the case later, I let her pack whatever she wanted.

“mommy, I ready now. my suitcase is packed and I bring Easter to Nana.”

I thanked her for packing so thoughtfully. she moved on to her little beads and games. I kept packing.

eventually bedtime rolled around and I asked her to find some jammies. she went straight for her suitcase, unzipped it, and pulled out a set of jammies. it was my first glimpse into what she had done earlier. one pair of jammies. a baby book of pictures. her tiny princess dolls, a book, her teddy bear, and lots of Easter eggs (even a bag of Easter basket grass!)

she had thought through what she wanted to bring for her trip to Nana’s and what treasures she wanted to share. most importantly, she wanted to share Easter.

the little suitcase was so sweetly packed that I did not have the heart to disassemble and repack it. and it has me thinking about Easter and her statement, “mommy, I bring Easter to Nana.”

do I bring Easter? do I live the heart of Easter and carry it everywhere I roam? is Christ central? am I a goodwill ambassador for Him in how I live?

I have realized that bringing Easter is an amazing goal, a worthy pursuit, a lifestyle worth living every day and in every way. bringing Easter means bringing Christ, His mercy, love, hope, and message, to others. in order to do that and do it well, I need to be living it.

the call of the Christian life, at its root, is to bring Easter to others. to live in relationship with Him. to serve Him. to love Him. to let the vertical relationship flow into and through the horizontal ones.

what might “bringing Easter” look like on a practical level, in everyday living?

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