For many years the little white angel spent most of the year in a box with other Christmas decorations that would be briefly displayed and then put away. She had been a trinket-type Christmas gift from either a friend or co-worker, but had such a sweet serene face that she had been kept. In due time a collection of angels assembled themselves on top of the bookshelf and she joined them there. Quietly, they watched over the living room.
But the peacefulness of the little group was disturbed when a construction worker very unwisely maneuvered a long baseboard through the wide doorway and hooked the little angel sending her flying into the floor below. Crash! My irritation level was already high with the workers and now this. I turned around expecting to see only scattered pieces of the ceramic angel, but instead saw her face down in the floor intact with only a shattered wing. Surprised, I mumbled to the horrified worker that it was nothing expensive.
I picked her up and turned her over. Her wing was gone, but the serene look was unchanged. Immediately I saw the analogy and gently placed her back on the top of the bookcase. She had been hurled to the floor without any warning, crashing face down. Damaged, but not destroyed. Changed in an instant, never to be the same. But, still loved and still treasured she was not to be cast off. I swept up the broken pieces and threw them away, thankful for the gentle hand of the loving Father that’s there to pick us up when we find ourselves face down in the floor. Part of us may be broken, but with His care we will be restored to our place in His plan.
Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter,
Find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter,
Clear our eyes that we can see
all the things that really matter,
Be at peace, and simply be.
–Shirley Erena Murray
Each of us has a quiet center, deep within our being where we meet our true self. In that silent place we find solace and peace and see what really matters.
Both President Trump and Texas Governor Gregg Abbott have declared September 3, 2017 as a Day of Prayer following the destruction of the Texas Gulf Coast and Houston area after Hurricane Harvey last week. There has been much praying already for these areas and I am hopeful that this Day of Prayer will remind people how important it is to pray.
Eleanor Roosevelt was not only the First Lady during a difficult time for our nation, but she was also a powerful humanitarian and lobbied for human rights until the time of her death. She and President Roosevelt believed in doing everything they could to help others who were less fortunate. She was also a woman of faith. In his book Eleanor and Franklin Joseph P. Lash writes the following about her:
Fundamentally Eleanor was neither stateswoman, politician, nor feminist. She was a woman with a deep sense of spiritual mission. Like Saint Theresa, she not only “had a powerful intellect of the practical order” but was a woman of extravagant tenderness and piety. There was always some prayer in her purse to recall her to her Christian vocation. Christ’s story was a drama that re-enacted itself repeatedly in her thoughts and feelings. Amid the worldliness, the pomp, and the power of Washington she managed to hold vivid and intimate communion with Christ with a child’s innocence and simplicity.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b NIV
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5 NRSV
Love so amazing, so divine. God’s love is poured down upon us just as water in a fountain cascades down filling one level after another. He doesn’t use a funnel that’s wide at the top and narrows down at the bottom; he pours his love full strength over us and through us so it fills us from one layer to the next. It’s not a flooding torrent either like some of the storms we experience here in South Texas that end as quickly as they begin. God’s love is soft and gentle, yet strong, covering us securely without drowning us.
But, unlike the fountain that has a recirculating pump to carry the water back to the top, once his love fills our heart it flows out from us to reach others. As we receive God’s love, mercy, and grace it overflows from us naturally. Yes, sometimes things don’t go right and we feel separated from God or we separate ourselves, but the love is there always. Just remember to turn the fountain back on!
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight Philippians 1:9 NRSV
The start of a New Year is much like opening a new notebook and seeing the first, clean page in front of you. In turn, during the year as we change the calendar from month to month it is much like turning the pages of the notebook to show another clean page. The month and the year before us are fresh and waiting for the pen of life to make the permanent marks on the pages.
As we start 2017 our calendars are empty before us. Perhaps today you will fill in upcoming commitments or jot down those pesky resolutions we all feel compelled to make. But first pause for a moment and reflect on the past year. Review the good things you are thankful for and tuck them into your treasure chest of good memories. There have been unpleasant episodes and unhappy days; reflect on them and learn the lessons they taught, but don’t dwell on them. Perhaps you’ve had sadness fill your heart, but remember that the loving Father is near. In the good times and the not so good times, God is with us.
After this review it is time to close the calendar for 2016; it is the past and 2017 waits before us. As your pen hovers over the first day of January pause for a moment and look forward. The page is blank waiting for your pen to begin the writing and a fresh, new year is waiting to unfold.
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. The Book of Common Prayer
My neighborhood was constructed over very unstable ground, and as a result most homes have shifting foundations. When one homeowner dug up their yard to re-landscape they revealed a sidewalk that clearly showed signs of upheaval. If the shifting ground did that to a sidewalk I can only imagine the force that is moving my house’s foundation around! The movement of forces deep within the earth certainly has a tremendous effect on what’s on the surface.
We experience upheaval in our lives, too. And while we usually blame external forces such as jobs or family quite often it is really internal just like the force of the shifting ground. The external force may be the trigger that sets off the upheaval, but the inner self then takes over. The problem gets rolled around in our mind and then grows significantly until our vision is cloudy and out of focus; the real issue becomes obscured. Then it simmers like a pot of soup or chili that is bubbling on the back of the stove. To further increase the upheaval we may discuss the issue with friends and family; like Job’s well-meaning friends they give us their view of the problem and how we should react.
As the upheaval starts step back, realize what is happening, and accept it. It may not be easy to do that or to think of the issue with a joyful heart, but it is the first step to avoiding upheaval. Then before your inner self takes control ask God to bless the situation. Just lifting it up to Him and knowing that He will take you through the situation takes the weight off of you and the upheaval never has a chance to start.
The ocean intrigues me. Although I’m not an “in the water” or “on the water” person I love to be on the coast. I like eating fresh seafood, walking on the beach, and hearing the gulls calling. I don’t mind the heat and humidity, after all there’s air conditioning to escape to! I love the seacoast and never get enough of it.
Genesis tells us that God created the seas (1:10) and truly his handiwork is evident in the complexities of the ocean. The waves never cease. Day and night, season after season they come up on the shore just like God’s love that never ceases. The tides come in and out right on schedule, just like the rising and setting of the sun. They are examples of the preciseness of the creation. The waters conceal hidden wonders that lie beneath them, just like the hidden places of our hearts and minds that only the Holy Spirit can search.
But I think that what the ocean really reminds me of is eternity. Sit on the beach and look across the ocean and try to imagine what is beyond the horizon. All you see is water that seems to stretch forever. Just like eternity.
At a recent used book sale one of the first things I found was a small Book of Common Prayer. I’ve always loved reading prayers from this book and had browsed online for a copy, but was so confused about the many versions that I gave up the search. When I saw this little book I knew it was mine, especially after I saw the inscription on the fly-leaf dated 1943! I quickly checked and, yes, it was a copy of the 1928 version of the Book of Common Prayer that was published in 1935 by the Protestant Episcopal Church; just what I wanted. I had to wonder about the giver and receiver of this book and what it meant to each of them, as well as how it ended up at the PTA used book sale; I’ll never know.
The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of prayers and liturgy assembled for used in Anglican worship. The first version of the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549 as a result of the Protestant Reformation with a second version following in 1552. It was banned during the time of the Puritans control of England. The fourth version would be issued in 1662 and is still the official version used by the Church of England. Today the Episcopal Church uses a version approved in 1979. (If you would like to see a timeline click here)
While the “thees” and “thous” may be a little too heavy for some readers, the prayers and liturgy are very poetic and graceful. Reading them slowly and thinking about the content is very peaceful, much like slowly reading a Bible passage and absorbing the message. Many of the prayers are based on Psalms incorporating familiar passages. There are prayers for just about every life circumstance, birth, death, marriage, sickness, thanksgiving, Advent, Lent and Easter. There’s liturgy for every event in the church from confirmation to ordaining a Bishop!
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who hath taught us to pray unto thee.
(from the Book of Common Prayer, 1935)
I’ve never liked the expression “you have to bloom where you’re planted”. I heard this and similar sayings as I grew up, both at home and in my church life. It seems to be an acceptance of weak resignation to endure a situation and make the best of it; life is the way it is and no matter how miserable you are this is just the way it is meant to be. I cringed every time this phrase popped into my head when I thought about something that I was involved in that was not bringing me any happiness. But not anymore!
One morning while complaining to myself and God this expression crept up on me and as I wished again that I had never heard it I also had the accompanying thought that I could not bloom where I was planted and that I needed a transplant. A transplant just like some of the plants in my yard were needing. Eureka, the light snapped on! Just like plants that need the right conditions to grow and flourish, so do people. If the condition you are in isn’t right, then you need to consider a transplant.
A fern will not grow in bright, hot sunlight no matter how much water you give it. Likewise, zinnias will not grow in shade and hibiscus will not grow in cold temperatures. Granted, some plants will tolerate a condition that may not be altogether favorable for them. And some thrive just about anywhere you plant them. But most plants need just the right amount of light, a certain amount of water, and temperatures that are favorable to their species. Aren’t humans like that, too? Some people thrive no matter where they are or their circumstances. Others seem to be able to tolerate a few bumps in the road of life and go on their journey. But most of us need just the right conditions.
No, you don’t have to bloom where you’re planted if the conditions aren’t right for you. God does not intend for his children to be unhappy and miserable. Yes, sometimes things happen that we can’t do anything about; that’s where faith that God will get us through comes in. And, sometimes we back ourselves into a situation that we just have to deal with. But if you’re in a situation and you just can’t bloom there, then it is time to think about a transplant. Think about the plant that can’t grow in the wrong type of soil; transplant yourself.
Most of us remember when rechargeable batteries were introduced. They were quickly accepted and hailed as remarkable, especially by parents. The charger in my house was constantly in use! Within a few years rechargeable devices were commonplace, too. Today new homes feature a charging station, public places also have charging stations, and there are even the little portable quick charger devices. We live in a rechargeable world. Your battery is dead? No problem, here’s a cord and an outlet, recharge.
But we also need to recharge our inner self, our spiritual self. One night this week I had a brief time between arriving home and heading out to an evening activity. Even though I had other things to do I felt like I just needed to go outside and sit on my deck for a few minutes. It would soon be dark and the air was cool, so quiet and peaceful. As my mind emptied itself of the stress of the day at work I realized that I was recharging. I continued to sit quietly, watching the darkness fall and letting my inner battery recharge.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3 NKJV