The Sky That Calls Me

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Getting older brings various limits. What used to be an adventure now feels risky, even dangerous. Digging a flower garden is more of a challenge. Making up a bed is harder than it used to be. Lifting heavy things can leave one with days of back pain.

A long road trip sometimes feels prohibitive. A long plane trip seems out of reach. The worse thing is that taking risks can be frightening, and chasing dreams and adventures sometimes feels impossible.

And yet the sky still calls out to me, opening up before me with new dreams and fresh adventures. Only I can decide not to lean on the age-old excuse, “I’m too old!” As I do many times, I bask in the inspiration of Bishop Charleston.

Fly before the wind that lifts you, soaring on wings outstretched to the sun. Do not feel constrained to stand below, afraid to take the risk, but trust in your own imagination, in the wild ideas that others cannot yet see. Let them pull you from the common ground and up to a different horizon, a far vision of what might be if only you can reach it. Already you feel a stirring to do something different. Go with that first breeze and see how far it can take you. You were not born to plod the earth, but to test the limits of the sky that calls you.

The sky still calls me. I still want to soar. What if I still can? What if dreams and adventures are still possible for me?

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh, but my darling,
What if you fly?

― Erin Hanson

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Psst!

 

imageStout’s Point, Petitjean State Perk, Arkansas

Psst! Sometimes it seems that God is so quiet toward us that we can barely hear. Maybe he uses “psst!” To get our attention. Which means we have to be listening to hear God’s voice. In my experience, God does not shout. God simply prompts very quietly, as if he wants us to learn more about paying attention.

God can be maddeningly hard to get. Sometimes we have these encounters when God breaks into our lives with power and answers our prayers. In those times, God waters the garden of our faith, making it lush and green. And then there are seasons when an unrelenting silence descends. We cry to God in our confused anguish and God just seems silent, absent.

The holy is not loud. It is more like a still, small voice that speaks to us when we are attuned to it. And that’s the secret, I think, being attuned to the holy moments, waiting patiently for God to nudge us, listening carefully lest we hear a holy “psst!”

To be in that listening place, we must clear our lives of everyday chaos. We must be attentive to our spiritual journey. And we must spend some time in prayer and contemplation. Sounds straightforward, but it is not that easy for those of us with full schedules and multiple responsibilities.

The bottom line, though, is this: I want to hear from God. I want to be still and quiet enough to to hear God, even if God’s only utterance is a holy “psst!” If I hear that, we can go on from there to grander communication. And that’s so important!

Joy!

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You shall go out with joy, be led forth in peace. The mountains and the hills will break forth before you into singing, and all of the trees of the field will clap their hands. – Isaiah 55:12

What an expression of pure joy! It’s the kind of joy I long to experience, to live my life in praise to God. Such joy doesn’t come naturally for me. The toils of life push me down, and often disturb my joy. Problems and concerns often assail me. But I believe that there is a secret to finding joy, prayer and singing.

It works every time, no matter how grave your circumstance. Sincere prayer, giving praise to God with your whole heart, and singing songs of joy are remedies for the blues. And God desires that we experience that kind of joy.

I think it’s all about making life’s journey a spiritual journey. Wendell Berry writes about such a journey.

The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.

When my journey turns the corner leading to sadness and I am feeling melancholy, my cousin always says, “Be joyful!” That is very good advice. Feeling joy brightens my journey and invigorates my physical, spiritual and emotional being.

And so today, I embrace joy!

By the Light of the Moon

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Just a few days ago, April 22, the moon was full and so beautiful. It’s comforting to know that you can count on the moon to wax and wane according to schedule. And yet, every common moon is miracle to me, its beauty mesmerizing for me every time I see it.

It’s my job to notice it, to never take it for granted, to see it with eyes that are open to miraculous sights. It is completely my job to sit under its light and to allow it to enlighten my small world. It’s my soul work to allow the moonlight to illumine my contemplation and to inspire me to a better life.

Most of all, it is up to me to thank God for the moon and all creation, given to us to enrich our existence. The Psalmist expresses it best:
To God who made the great lights,
For God’s lovingkindness is everlasting:
The sun to rule by day,
For God’s lovingkindness is everlasting,
The moon and stars to rule by night,
For God’s lovingkindness is everlasting.

Psalm 136:7-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“By the light of the silvery moon,” the title of a song published in 1909, always reminds me of the ethereal color when the full moon lights the sky. Gazing upon it is a special life experience, not to be missed. When I lift up my eyes toward the light of the moon, I always contemplate the astounding handiwork of God and give thanks.

Deep Peace

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I search for deep peace, not a superficial kind of peace, but a peace deep enough to touch my soul. I search for a peace deep enough to heal a frantic spirit, to calm my very being.

There are disturbers of peace all around us . . . from health concerns, to family upheavals, to the noise of traffic and the cries of violence. We suffer through all the things that rob us of peace and we struggle to find our peace again.

A Biblical blessing proclaims, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

A Gaelic Christian blessing soothes our chaotic spirits with these beautiful words:

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ,
of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

– Adapted from an old Gaelic rune

Miracles!

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Miracles surround us every day, but sometimes we fail to notice them. As for me, I do believe in miracles that make life worth living. Sometimes I notice them only after they are over. But at other times, I find myself right smack dab in the middle of a working miracle. It’s magical. It enlarges my life and boosts my faith. It makes me look forward with joy to another day of life.

I often wonder how many people actually believe in miracles. I wonder if people are able to transcend a mundane life and instead experience a magical life of miracles, small and large. I have discovered, though, that miracles are not magic tricks. Miracles are a product of deep faith and living life on a soul level, embracing not only our physical world, but clinging tightly to our spiritual world.

My son recently told me a story about my one-year old grandson, Jalen, who was born with end stage kidney disease. As they consulted with the doctor recently, they learned that Jalen no longer needed dialysis and the many medications e was taking. The nurse looked at the doctor with surprise and asked, “Is this a miracle baby?” The doctor responded, “Yes!”

Why did they believe? Because they saw miracles. Things one person took as chance, a person of faith took as a sign. A loved one recovering from disease, a fortunate business deal, a chance meeting with a long lost friend. It wasn’t the grand doctrines or the sweeping ideals that seemed to make believers out of people. It was the simple magic in the world around them.

― Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages

And that phrase describes miracles well: “simple magic in the world.” Don’t forget, the most important thing to know about miracles is that they happen.

The Peace of God

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Anxiety overrules contentment. In fact, anxiety can easily have its way in our lives, making a shambles of all that we have accomplished. We humans spend a great deal of time building our comfortable nests, making life a positive experience.

I am expending my energy on my flower garden. It’s filled with ferns and flowers that give me positive energy. I can breathe deeply in my garden, exhaling all the cares and toils that come my way. I am happy in my garden, and it is a place of solitude and peace.

Anxiety can wreck it for me, so I do all that I can to hold anxiety at bay. There are several things that make me anxious, including my health and the possibility of a kidney transplant. But anxiety adds nothing good to my life. Instead, I work hard to fill my spirit with peacefulness. It is the peace of God that guards my heart and mind.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Mountaintop Moments

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Mountaintop experiences . . . so few and far between. They are the special times we long for, those times when we experience God in fresh, new ways. We travel along life’s dusty roads hoping for just one mountaintop moment. And on occasion, we do find ourselves with God on a high mountain. It’s worth the long wait.

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

(Matthew 17:1-2, New International Version)
We meet you on the mountaintop, O God, hoping for a glimpse of your glory. Hoping for a moment sacred and holy. We meet you, having ascended from a mundane existence. We meet you, hoping that your usual silence with us will turn into hearing you speak to us of greater times. We meet you hoping to transcend the ordinary and to find, in your presence, a holier moment of grace.

We linger on the holy mountain, O God, waiting for your transfigured presence, and hoping beyond hope that you will change us, if only for this moment in time. And then we descend into our world, the ordinary place we live, but we are not the same. We are no longer ordinary, because we have experienced you, heart and soul, in a fresh, new way.

We give you thanks, O God, for mountaintop moments.

Amen.

Simple Pleasures

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Today will be a quiet day, a day to recuperate from our 12 hour trip from Little Rock. We had rain, stormy rain, and traffic delays at every turn. The trip was exhausting. But we spent an exhilarating week with family, good friends, and our three grandchildren.

We were so tired we slept late this morning, our bodies moving toward normal through extra rest. Our emotional and spiritual selves will need their own special kind of re-creation. That part of us took a hit because we had to say goodbye to our grandchildren and our son. So today we will spend a day close to home.

We need rest and peace. We need the simple pleasures of home.

After all, I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.  ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

The Coming of the Dawn

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It’s a brand new morning filled with possibility. It’s also the day we leave our Little Rock home to go back home to Macon. So there is emotion involved, bittersweet feelings that remind me that we are once again leaving behind our son, our grandchildren, and a host of lifelong friends. We cannot straddle two states very well. We cannot cure the sadness of distance with FaceTime or Skype. This situation simply is what it is, and we will have to navigate the emotions of having family far from us.

I have no doubt that when night falls on us tonight in Georgia, we will feel at home and content. We will nurse a little sadness, yes. We will work with melancholy feelings for a while. But we will be in our home, our safe place and our place of rest and peace. I will be glad to see my garden and marvel at how it has grown in a week. I will be very glad for my own bed. Night will find me in my place.

Once again, Bishop Steven Charleston describes my emotions in his eloquent writing.

“It is quiet now. All the cares of this long day are drifting away. There is peace in the house, and in the garden, and over the fence into the wide world beyond, a peace that passes beneath the trees and through the fences, circling the moon in a spiral of silver light, following the night air, going into places where lonely hearts hide, searching for the wounded among us, comforting the dreams of the innocent. It is quiet now, for the love of God walks this night, as every night, gently seeking, seeking those who need love the most, as they wait, wait for the coming of the dawn.”

Missing my grandchildren, I will “need love the most.” But I know that the words are real and true: “. . . the love of God walks this night, as every night, gently seeking, seeking those who need love the most, as they wait, wait for the coming of the dawn.”