Reborn on the Wind

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These days, I find beauty in everything. It is as if my eyes have been opened and I see things more clearly. Simple things attract my eye and take on fresh, new meaning. I think this is the result of coming so close to death.

One very ordinary place I have found beauty is in a common dandelion. It is a thing so graceful in the wind, and yet when the wind blows hard, the dandelion loses itself, scattering into hundreds of tiny feather-like seeds.

The real miracle is that each seed holds the possibility of taking root and being rebornΒ all over again.

I am not embarrassed that I have come to revere and appreciate such a seemingly insignificant part of nature. In the past, I have blown dozens of dandelions without a single thought. Today, I cannot even see one without marveling at where it’s seeds might go.

June Stover says that “Dandelions, like all things in nature are beautiful when you take the time to pay attention to them.” She is so right. The dandelion is yet another miraculous creation of our creative God. Perhaps God put dandelions on the earth so that thousands of children can blow them and make wishes. Perhaps they are here to remind us to have a sense of wonder in where the wind might take us.

I don’t really know a dandelion’s eternal purpose, but now I do know it’s beauty and gracefulness in the breeze. I might just make a wish the next time I see one. And I hope that my wishes will be light on the wind and plant themselves everywhere, reborn as dreams on the wind.

Thank you, God, for dandelions.

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Singing Silence to Song

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Even when we’re surrounded by a harsh and heartbreaking world and our own challenges both within and without, we reach for the roots of our faith. And we find just enough faith to pick ourselves up and move forward. So many times we find ourselves struggling to grasp for hope.Β Against all odds we journey ahead as expressed in Bishop Steven Charleston’s reflection below. We face the tragic silence before us with hope enough to share our song of faith. It’s melody is found in our acts of compassion and works of justice.

You were born to believe. Even if there have been times when you tried to let go of faith, accepting doubts or disappointments as reason to suspend your dreams, you never were able to release that last spark of light within you. It is you. You were born to believe. Against the odds, despite the culture, through the hard work of hope, you have not only kept the faith but given it away. You sing the silence to song. You trust the love around you. You make justice grow. You were born to do this. It is your birthright. It is your calling. It is the part of time entrusted to your care.

– Bishop Steven Charleston

I have found this to be truth. I have, on occasion, sung silence to song, breaking my silent world into one filled with joyful singing to God. It is the way of faith. It is the soul’s melody of praise. And it is a grace-gift for those whose hope has become small. So when times get rough for me, I’ll be singing silence to song.

Seasonal Graces

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Each season has its own graces . . . the strong sunlight of summer, the scorching temperatures, the pesky Georgia gnats.Β In the winter, the breezes are brisk and the sun doesn’t bring its warmth on many days.Β The spring is new and fresh, with a slight chill in the air, along with the sunlight and showers that bring new buds and young bird families.

But the autumn is chock full of grace . . . cool breezes, leaves changing to brilliant colors, skies clear and blue like the poem says . . . “October’s bright blue weather.”

We’re not to the leaf-changing time yet, but the summer gnats are gone from my face, eyes and ears.

Of all the seasons, autumn has for me the most pleasant graces.

It’s the beginning of football season, after all, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Autumn brings another phenomenon . . . a living room.covered up with fake leaves, grapevine, pumpkins, florist wire, glue guns and lots of stuff. And from that mess emerges brilliant wreaths, table arrangements and all manner of home decor.

My sister-in-law’s house where we are currently crafting is a disaster area. Even her dog, Crosby, gets into the creative corridor, eating every grapevine piece he can find, as well as the artificial berries that inadvertently fall to the floor.

Yes, Autumn has its fair share of seasonal graces. Preparing our homes to celebrate the fall is one of those graces. Last year at this time, I was not healthy enough to enjoy this season. I am so grateful to God that this year I feel like being knee-deep in fake leaves and pumpkins. We must never forget to be grateful for the small things in life.

Looking for Rainbows and Stars

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“When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars.”

What a wonderfully positive quote! We definitely focus on the things that aren’t so pleasant most of the time. We dwell on the troubles life throws our way, and refuse to see the silver linings in the storm clouds. We see obstacles as negative barriers that halt our journey because we cannot easily get around them.

We sometimes detest rain, even though we need it. And we sometimes dread the darkness, even though it helps us see the stars better.

It’s all about our outlook on life. It can be pessimistic or it can be filled with optimism. I don’t know about you, but I plan to look for rainbows and stars more.

Live Like You Were Dying

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Have you ever watched an eagle as it was flying? The sight is breathtaking, one of those life events that are not to be missed. Watching the span of those wings gliding through the air is quite an experience.

Yesterday I had a very different kind of experience, breathtaking in its own way, I made a discovery. I should have known it all along, but denial can be a great protector. Anyway, what I learned I saw on a graph, made simple so that even I could understand it. The discovery? There is a researched survival rate for persons on dialysis. To be exact, I saw one-year and three-year stats. The discovery was disconcerting.

Now, the reality is this: we all have survival rates, we just live as if we don’t. Though three years doesn’t seem long enough for me, I know that it’s possible not to even survive the day . . . for any of us. And although I am aware that the mortality study I saw simply uses one year and three-year markers to quantify the study, it reminded me that I am certainly not immortal, that my time on earth is finite, and that I need to learn to live life with a sense of enthusiasm and spontaneity.

Two contemporary examples illuminate this discussion.

The first is “The Bucket List’, a 2007 comedy-drama film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman which follows two terminally ill men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.”

The second is an uplifting song written by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols, and recorded by Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying.” The songwriters had the inevitable discussion about people who learned that they were dying and how they responded: “Wow, it’s time to get busy,” as opposed to, “I’m going to go lay down in my bed and freak out.”

The lyrics of the song give some suggestions for full-on, “make-the-most-of-life” living, like skydiving, climbing rocky mountains, and riding a bull for 2.7 seconds. If you know me at all, you know that there’s no way I’ll be doing any of those things in the years I have left. But the song includes some things I will do: watch an eagle as it soars, give forgiveness I’ve been denying, love deeper, speak sweeter. Some of the lyrics . . .

I went sky divin’,
I went rocky mountain climbin’,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin’.
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin’.

The truth is that all of us should live as if we are dying, bucket lists in hand, forgiveness in our hearts, on the way to the fishing hole!

The song is available on YouTube at this link:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TNWg5DlWVa8&autoplay=1

When the Soul Sings

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Some days are just meant for the soul to sing praises to a mighty God. Regardless of what life holds, the soul can sing. This act of praise makes all the difference in my life. Certainly, I can sing with my lips, but when my soul is able to sing, I am fully aware of the greatness of God.The Psalmist expresses it in this way: “My lips will sing with joy when I make music to praise you! My soul, which you have redeemed, sings praises to you!” Β –Β Psalm 71:23 (Paraphrased)

When the soul sings, the melody inside a person is transformative, making all things new, both in sunshine and in shadow. I cannot help but think of the wonderful hymn of faith “How Great Thou Art,” published as a poem in 1891. Carl Gustaf Boberg was a Swedish pastor and editor. Mr. Boberg was taking a walk when a thunderstorm suddenly appeared and a severe wind began to blow. After the storm, Mr. Boberg looked out over the clear bay and heard a church bell in the distance. It was then that the words to “How Great Thou Art” began to form in his heart.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My SaviorGod, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

You will enjoy hearing a video of this hymn on YouTube at this link:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?autoplay=1&v=j1hVY7bmqsA

It looks as if today might be an overcast day. I hope that, for you, the sun will spread its rays on your life and that you will be very aware of God’sΒ greatness. Rain or sunlight, whatever comes your way on this day, may your soul sing in awesome wonder of God. When the soul sings, life becomes an act of praise. When the soul sings, your inner being is transformed. You might be thinking, “I can’t sing a note.” But the soul can always sing, and the melody comes from deep within you. You are changed when your soul sings!

Meeting God on Higher Ground

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God desires to meet us on higher ground, on that plane where we are above the trials of this life. But the reality is, we cannot escape those times that lay us low with concerns and problems.

I have noticed that living life happens a little easier in the daytime. When night comes, my body begins its aching ritual, coupled with regrets from a day that may not have been so productive. The darkness of night can be a time of despondency, when all the cares of life descend on you in the dark. For some people, when the sun goes down, their hope sets with it, and they feel night’s loneliness. And yet, for others, the night brings a refreshing respite from the workings of the day. The world gets quieter and there is finally some time for spiritual contemplation. Those who experiences the stillness of the night in this way are truly blessed.

They feel no fear of the darkness, no sense of being alone, no dread that the night might bring its terrors, no fear that sleep will not come, no belief that the night will be for them a dark night of the soul.Β Instead, they greet the night sky with hopeful anticipation of quietly being refreshed and re-created. That kind of night is described beautifully by the words of Bishop Steven Charleston.

In the stillness of the night I listen. I listen for the distant sound of quiet voices, all praying in their own way, in their own words, from a need I can recognize, speaking softly in the endless dialects of our human lament, our hope and our ambition, the prayers strung like lanterns against the darkness . . . each honest soul a religion of one, bent but not broken.

If you listen, you can hear it in the night . . .

The truth is that God’s comfort is available to us night and day, whenever our problems overtake us and stop us in our tracks. We need just to be still, to stand before God.

So come stand over here, just a step or two beyond the place you have occupied for so long, where you have worn the earth smooth with your pacing, where you have spent so many hours fighting the problem you cannot seem to solve. Take a break. Catch your breath. Come stand here, where you can catch a freshening breeze and see far into the valley below. Let the distant clouds carry your worry for a while, see how the sun empties the world of shadow. The answer you seek may be just a step beyond, a higher place where the view is clear of all obstructions.Β (Charleston)

It is my prayer that, in the midst of your pain, God will meet you on higher ground.

You may enjoy hearing the hymn “Higher Ground” at this link:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F2emsPPCH4c

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?

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The dictionary describes “brokenhearted” well, “overwhelmed by grief or disappointment,” and includes several synonyms: heartbroken, grief-stricken, desolate, devastated, despondent, inconsolable, disconsolate, miserable, depressed, melancholy, wretched, sorrowful, forlorn, heavy-hearted, woeful, doleful, downcast, woebegone. Not a good emotional place to be!

“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is. a song recorded by Jimmy Ruffin and released in the summer of 1966. The song essentially deals with the struggle to overcome intense sadness.Β It was written by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean.

The poignant ballad asks what will become of those whose hearts have been broken.

As I walk this land of broken dreams
I have visions of many things
But happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion

What becomes of the brokenhearted
Who have love that’s now departed
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
Maybe

Fruits of love grow all around
But for me they come a-tumbling down
Every day heartaches grow a little stronger
I can’t stand this pain much longer
I walk in shadows searching for light
Cold and alone no comfort in sight
Hoping and praying for someone to care
Always moving and going nowhere.

While there are no remedies for broken hearts in the song lyrics, there are answers in the thirty-fourth Psalm.

The LORD hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.
– Psalm 34:17-19 New Living Translation (NLT)

There are so many people whose spirits are crushed, who are experiencing all kinds of trouble, who are living life with broken hearts. This scripture in Psalm 34 speaks to them and reminds them of the God who hears their cries of lament.

This Psalm, so full of wisdom, also says that “the righteous person faces many troubles.” Bad things do happen to good people. But the promise that God is close to the brokenhearted brings great comfort.

What becomes of the brokenhearted? God hears their cries for help and rescues those with crushed spirits. If you are facing heartbreak, remember this promise.

Who Am I These Days?

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Who am I these days? My husband says I’m quiet and don’t say much, a huge change from my former gregarious personality. I know I have changed. Certainly, I have changed physically since the onset of my kidney failure.

I have changed spiritually, becoming far more contemplative and far less “share your religious ideas with everybody who will listen.” You might say that I have transformed from a “preacher” to a monastic. Not that bad of a change if you ask me.

Most of all, I have changed emotionally. This change is witnessed and pointed out by everyone I know. I don’t know what caused the change, and I don’t know how to change it back. I simply know that my once social and opinionated personality is now very quiet and shares very few opinions.

If I had to describe my current state of being, I would call it contemplative and introspective. I do know that the “eyes of my heart have been enlightened” and that definitely required some quietingΒ down for me. I often think of the scripture in Ephesians:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 1:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

If I am learning what is “the hope of God’s calling” and more about “the riches of the glory of His inheritance,” then this quiet phase of my life has been worth it. If my heart is being enlightened, then this change in my personality is for my good. If I am learning who I am, then this time of life is a gift. As I said, I do not understand the reasons for the change. I just know that I am a very different me.

I read a quote today that is somewhat descriptive of what I’ve been sharing in this post. Here it is:

Sometimes the strength within you is not a fiery flame for all to see. It is just a tiny spark that whispers ever so softly, “You got this. Keep going.”

Hold Steady on to God

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Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist during the Civil War, known as the great emancipator of slaves. She was born into slavery in 1822 in Maryland. She eventually escaped and dedicated her life to freeing other slaves. She did this with her antislavery network which became known as the Underground Railroad. She died on March 10, 1913 at the age of 91.

A wise woman, she had many things to say that are now archived and widely quoted. Here are some things she said that are lessons for our lives.

β€œI freed a thousand slaves,” Harriet Tubman said. β€œI could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

β€œEvery great dream begins with a dreamer.” she said. “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

And she said this, β€œLord, I’m going to hold steady on to You and You’ve got to see me through.”

For us, a good place to start is in knowing what we are slaves to. Is it a habit? Another person that is not good for us?Are we slaves to depressive thoughts or destructive actions? If we know we are slaves, we can free ourselves from most any enslavement.

Can we really reach the stars and change the world? Harriet Tubman says we can be dreamers, and by dreaming a great dream, we have within us the passion and the patience to see the dream come to pass.

Finally, she speaks of holding steady on to God, knowing that God will see us through.

Three great life lessons from a remarkable woman. I pray that you will know when you are enslaved, that you willΒ dream of reaching the stars and changing the world, and that, through it all, you will hold steady on to God.