Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wise in our own eyes?

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all
then peace-loving,
full of mercy,
and good fruit,
and sincere.

From James 3:17

Do these qualities punctuate our conversations and relationships?
Are we living lives that exhibit wisdom, or are we merely wise in our own eyes? People have always been content to do what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). "That's just the way I am," we say to justify behavior or attitudes.

Are we lovers of peace or promoters of conflict?

Do we habitually exhibit consideration for others, submission and mercy in our dealings with others--especially those with whom we live?

What is the fruit we bear? If we are known by our fruit, or by the company we keep, what does that say about us?

Do we stir up dissention to further an agenda in our partiality, or are we impartial? And what does that mean anyway--to be impartial with regard to wisdom?

Just a few questions that come to mind as I read that passage today. I'll be thinking about wisdom. May God inspire our reading and understanding and give us grace to change when we need to grow toward Christ-likeness.

Dandelion photo copyright by Rob Kiser. Used with permission.

Friday, January 27, 2012

How Long Can We Hold That Pose?

Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory. ~William Barclay

Our stance matters.

The position of our posture affects how long we can maintain it.

This landmark figure in Palma, Mallorca boldly strikes an interesting pose extending what appears to be an olive wreath while raising a dagger. As with many yoga positions, it looks hard to maintain such a position for long. Yet many find themselves in such a posture daily. The way we hold ourselves largely determines the possession of our burdens as well.

This reminds me of a story...

A young woman strode across the room while explaining stress management to an audience. She held a raised glass of water, and many thought she was going to ask the question, "half empty or half full?" She fooled them all.

"How heavy is this glass of water?" she inquired with a smile.
Audience answers ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter; it depends on how long I hold the glass. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens alone all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."
"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden, bearing stress longer and better each time."

Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment. Relax. Pick them up later after you've rested, even if only for a bit. First thing in the morning, ask yourself, "whose burden is this to carry?" Don't just pick up everything indiscriminately. Our arms are not made for such a load. And, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night.

Let us faithfully endure life's challenges with the help of the One who helps us transform hardship and burdens into glory!

"Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28-30

Cast all your cares on him [God], for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

Monday, January 23, 2012

Formed by Time and Pressure

Cuando anhelamos una vida sin dificultades, recuérdanos que los robles crecen con fuerza, con vientos en contra y que los diamantes nacen bajo presión. Peter Marshall

My sister-in-law, Bettina, posted this quote by Peter Marshall today which I could not translate without the aid of Google translate, a handy reference in this modern age. (What could Nancy Drew have done with her quick-witted chums, her own ingenuity, and an iphone fifty years ago?!) As a fan of the late Dr. Peter Marshall, former chaplain of the U. S. Senate, and of his wife, author Catherine Marshall, I saw the name and was moved to check it further. Their son, the late Rev. Peter Marshall carried on the call to Christians in this country to remember the precious heritage of religious freedom we have that has allowed for Christian expression in the public sector. Some will say that we had; it merits serious reflection.

And, as we read more easily in our own language, I offer it here for those I know will appreciate it in a native tongue, in Russian for both Elenas, in Portuguese for Teresa and in English for most of us:

Когда мы долго к жизни без трудностей, напоминают нам, что дубы растут сильно, с встречными ветрами и что алмазы рождаются под давлением.

Quando almejamos uma vida sem dificuldades, lembrar-nos que os carvalhos crescer fortemente, com ventos contrários e que os diamantes são nascidos sob pressão.

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strongly with headwinds, and that diamonds are born under pressure.

In this day of instant communication and data processing, there is no substitute for time and pressure to create things of value such as nature's majestic oak or a costly diamond. No shortcuts allowed. Just the real thing. We, too, are shaped and formed by such forces, but the result of time and pressure can create in us, character of lasting value.

May we remember that we are being formed and shaped by what happens to us, largely because of our response to what happens to us.

Are we resilient? Do we grow stronger in adversity, putting forth deeper roots and spreading our 'extremities' to better keep our balance in threatening situations? Let us not be defined or limited by external circumstances but be transformed through all that happens into persons who will withstand the pressures life brings and emerge stronger because we are rooted and grounded in the God of all creation.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father...that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:15-19

FYI http://petermarshallministries.com/about/dr_peter_marshall.cfm

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back to Basics - Again

What a joyous opportunity to serve with great love in small ways last week in N.C. with Cindy! When we tend, nurture, serve and offer a peaceful setting for healing and renewing a body under physical stress of disease, perhaps some of that comes back to us as caregivers and convicts that we need to take our own advice:

Get plenty of rest.
Exercise daily.
Drink lots of water.
Eat well.
Stay actively engaged in things worthwhile.
Spend time in thoughtful prayer and meditation.
Go to sleep early enough to greet the day well-rested.
The Basics.

Haven't we heard that somewhere before? So why do we not do consistently what we know to be true? Sure, we go at it in fits and starts, but our zeal fades somewhere along the way. Having seen the benefits of creating a safe space for nurturing health, I am trying to replicate the same in my own home with renewed commitment.

I even learned some surprising medical discoveries about the power of contemplation and prayer to alter the brain. Amazing. Will share later...

God be with you and yours as the days unfold before us
, and I pray we can receive with grace whatever comes to us this day. Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Away on Assignment, as they say...

I have the privilege of caring for a friend who is receiving treatment at Duke University for glioblastoma. November brought hard news to their home with the life-altering diagnosis and stop-in-your-tracks mid-course correction needed to respond to another of life's interruptions.

Cindy, loving mother of two daughters in heaven and one precious senior in high school, beautiful dancer, accomplished business woman in the '70's and 80's ahead of her time, is a spiritual force to be reckoned with. She reveals a life yielded to God as she leans on the Spirit for sustaining her body and soul. Daily. Not just in response to a frightful diagnosis. Her faith is real, having been tested more than she would ever dream.

I must take my own advice and streamline what I can manage well, so I'm taking a few days off to focus on the task before us this week and next. You may follow on her Caring Bridge if you would join in praying for Cindy. That is where I am writing these days as well.

Sometimes we must multitask, and sometimes we are able to give focused attention. This is a time that calls me to focus. Thank you for your support and encouragement always!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Dreams--Maybe Better Dreams--in 2012

I do love folk music, and this is a simple favorite (shared here in a sample by James Taylor and Joni Mitchell):

Yesterday, a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game


So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and ’round and ’round
In the circle game
And go ’round and ’round and ’round in the circle game.

Here's to 'new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty' in 2012!

With all due respect to Joni Mitchell, we are not actually trapped on the carousel of life--thanks be to God. Captive in the temporary circumstances of this life, I'll agree, but not bound by them. And not without hope. And not without a companion.

So when we find ourselves going 'round and 'round and unable to stop and unable to get off, let go of the reins. Take hold of the hand, figuratively, who will never leave us alone. There is, after all, a larger circle than the carousel--one drawn wide enough to enclose within God's loving embrace all those who would respond to the whisper of love and offer of forgiveness.

Who couldn't use a clean slate in a new year? Who would not benefit from a fresh beginning and a deep cleansing breath as we embark on the uncertainty of 2012?

May the God who creates and loves us breathe new dreams, maybe better dreams, into our souls for the coming year.

Circle Game by Joni Mitchell, released 1970.