Delicate Wings

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I love watching the fluttering flight of a butterfly. I am mesmerized by their colorful, delicate wings, amazed that they are so resilient. Monarch butterflies, for instance, possess a mind-boggling skill. Without any guidance, they inherently know how, when and where to migrate across continentsβ€”and it takes four generations to make the yearlong trek.

The monarch butterfly’s migration begins in the spring, with the first generation making its debut into the world. Born in March and April, these tiny insects pick up where their predecessors left off, traveling farther north on a generational journey that totals 1,200 to 2,500 miles. That’s quite the feat for creatures with wing spans of only 3.5 to 4 inches.

We could learn a lesson from the butterfly. It emerges from a lifeless cocoon, develops beautiful wings, and embarks on amazing migrations. I like the migration story told by Annie Dillard in her book, β€œPilgrim at Tinker Creek.” She writes that the monarch butterfly flies across Lake Superior and makes it all the way without a rest. That is a distance of about 500 miles! We don’t understand how those delicate butterflies do that. But thousands make their way across that mighty lake every single year during their migration.

None of them arrive without being wind-battered, snatched at from behind, hind legs torn off by the birds that pecked at them along the way. Our life journeys are just as challenging. Like the butterfly’s wings, we can be delicate. ButΒ even though we may be battered and broken along the way, we take risks, we keep flying, we persevere. We move forward. We survive!

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Namaste

 

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Namaste. “I bow to the divine in you.”

The word Namaste, now spoken as a greeting all over the world, is used both for salutation and valediction. Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called AΓ±jali Mudrā or Pranamasana. In Hinduism it means “I bow to the divine in you.”

What a respectful and loving sentiment. Would that all persons would see the divine in one another. And how incredible it would be for persons to speak this word to others, showing respect, love and compassion. It would bring transformation.

One writer defines Namaste with these words:

My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things, we are united, we are the same, we are one.

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The truth is that the divine does dwell within each of us, just waiting for an opportunity to reveal itself. A prayer for a friend. A word of care and comfort in crisis. A cup of cold water offered to one who thirsts. A proclamation that bears witness to all that is just and righteous. A song of praise to God. All of these are ways the divine in us is released to bless others.

And so on this day I share with you . . . Namaste!

Wherever You Go Take Peace

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When you enter a house, first say, β€˜Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.

(Luke 10:5-6 New International Version)

In the world these days, peace is hard to find. There is an abundance of hate, rancor, battles and wars. Humility and kindness are in short supply. We find ourselves sharing opinions, convictions, battle-laden speech instead of passing peace one to another. Countries are at war, communities fight intolerance, individuals find hate easier than love.

I love the thoughts shared recently by Nikki Finkelstein-Blair.

Not everyone will receive peace, and not every place will live with peace; but everywhere you go, take it. To everyone you meet, offer it. Because where it is shared, the Kingdom comes.

Thanks be to God.

Change and Growth

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The Chinese Tallow tree in my yard constantly changes. I have been documenting its changes for over a year, and I am amazed when it tassels and then becomes heavy with green berries. By fall those berries will have changed color from green to black and finally to white. The lifespan of Chinese tallow stems seems to be less than 100 years, although roots may live longer. Other experts report that Chinese tallow is short-lived, surviving 40 to 50 years.

The tree experiences many changes during its lifetime, much like we humans do. In that way, the tree reminds me that our lives cycle and change too, from season to season, as the years go by. We have to be comfortable with change and growth, standing firm, just as the Tallow tree does. We stand against scorching sun and rainstorms. We weather strong winds and enjoy light breezes. And all the time, we’re growing and changing.

God gives us the strength to stand tall in sunshine and shadow, through strong winds, gentle breezes, bitter cold and oppressive summer heat. It’s the way of nature, and God is faithful through it all, walking beside us as we change and grow.

To the Stars

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It’s not easy to reach for the stars, to cast our aim higher. Life certainly presents us with a healthy share of obstacles and challenges. The way can be difficult. But facing life challenges makes us stronger and more resilient.

An easy pathway does little to refine us. It doesn’t cause us to grow and change much. It maintains a status quo existence. So in some ways, I welcome difficult times, always believing that those times will make me a better person.

As W.C. Done has said, “Life has no smooth road for any of us.” Though he was born in 1832, his words are timeless.

Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim, the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself.

Yes, the way to the stars can be a steep way. But aiming for the stars moves us to higher plains, to more full lives, to a new glimpse of hope. The steep path is treacherous, but getting there is worth it.

I decided to be happy!

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I simply decided to be happy again. It was my choice, after all. I had been through a grueling coup in my nonprofit organization. Friends and colleagues of many years betrayed me in very hurtful ways. I lost all that I had worked for in the previous ten years. The community lost a significant resource. I lost long time friends.

But that was several yesterday’s ago. I suffered a great loss, and grieved that loss for at least a year. I learned that the decision to be happy again is my own decision. The choice to hope again is my choice.

It was a good day when I made that choice. It was a good day when I made peace with the past, when I thanked God for the positive things I accomplished. It was a good day when I decided to be happy again!

The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and to have courage when things go wrong.
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thankfully, that’s where I am today. The painful yesterdays are but a slight mist. The tomorrows are bright with hope.

Pleasant Pathways

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I love it when life gives us pleasant pathways. Though some paths have been treacherous, for the most part, I have been blessed to walk pathways bathed in sunlight, surrounded with verdant greenery, marked by cooling breezes. Life has been my pleasure.Β I owe it all, I believe, to a loving, protecting God who walks beside me every moment.

There were times, of course, when life was difficult, times when I was very ill, in fact. But God’s presence was constant. God’s comfort was abundant, and I felt safe in loving arms. My family and friends surrounded me. The Holy Spirit filled my soul.

So many times, I have been comforted by the words of Isaiah 41:10.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

And so, with God ever near, and in spite of several roadblocks and obstacles here and there, I have been blessed to walk pleasant pathways.

Change

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Living can be fragile, easily moved by winds of change. It is true that most humans resist change. We dread any assaults on our normalcy. We guard against changes in our routine, in our jobs, in our family. And when change comes upon us, we feel discomfort.

The problem is that life is all about change. We grow older. Our children grow up and move away. We downsize and miss our former home. Change is constant, blowing in life’s winds, challenging us and changing us.

How comforting that we worship a God who never changes. How comforting that even when change assails us, God is always the same, always near us, always gracing us with abiding presence.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Β  (James 1:17)

Look for the Light

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I had a delightful afternoon on Monday with my seven year old granddaughter. We watched the film “The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave.” The film featured a great little song sung by Reba McEntire, “Look for the Light.”

It was a joyful song, childlike, but full of wisdom. We could learn a lot from these lyrics:

When you’re stuck in a hole and you don’t know where to go,
When it’s too dark for you to tell your tail from your toe,
You wonder which way is wrong and which road is right,
The best thing for you to do is just look for the light.

Look for the light, one little spark,
A little bit of hope to lead you out of the dark;
Somewhere deep inside of you, it’s shining so bright,
All you gotta do is look, you gotta look for the light.

Look for the light, open your eyes;
You never know when you’re going to find a surprise;
Some things may tickle you, others may bite;
Listen to my sister, mister, come on and look for the light.

If there’s a wall, sometimes you bump it;
A big ol’ rock, you have to jump it;
Maybe you’re tired, maybe you’re scared;
But the only thing you have to be
Is be prepared…

To look for the light and you’re gonna see
You will find your way eventually;
And you’re not alone, ’cause you’ve got me;
Don’t get lost inside your head;
Listen to your heart instead;
Open up and let yourself be led;
Come on and look for the light.
Oh, look for the ligh
t.

We would all do well, especially when we find ourselves in a dark place, to look for the light.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12)

Remembering Uganda

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It was so many years ago, but I remember it as if it happened yesterday. The two of us, my husband Fred and I, stepped off of a plane in the Nairobi airport to begin a new life. As very young missionaries headed to Uganda, we had no idea what we would face in the days to come.

Getting to Uganda from Kenya was a long, dusty ride through the most beautiful places we had ever seen. Through bush country and savannah, through banana groves and rain forests, through tea plantations on mountainsides and the rushing waters of Bujigali Falls, we were getting acquainted with this continent. The terrain was ever-changing, and the way was marked by the majestic beauty of elephants, giraffe, cape buffalo, gazelles, flamingos and Ugandan crested cranes.

We were filled with awe and excitement. But the most moving sight of all was the people, barefoot and downtrodden, wearing rags and carrying heavy water containers. Their country had all but been destroyed by the evil dictator Idi Amin, who orchestrated the genocide of 100,000 to 500,00 Ugandans.

Churches were burned to the ground, schools pillaged and all but destroyed, roads were in shambles. Children were left orphaned in a country of widows. Their faces showed the wear of grief, their bodies the mask of mourning.

They are why we have come, sent by God to comfort a grieving people in small ways. The days ahead would find us digging water wells, distributing agricultural tools and vegetable seeds, giving out books, bibles and sewing supplies, bringing in simple medicines and vaccines.

I can never think of the Ugandan people without recalling Lamentations 5, a scripture passage that was read in a church service to describe the plight of the Ugandan people. As the reader read through her tears, the entire congregation wept, mourning so many losses. I offer the text here in its entirety:

Lamentations 5 New International Version (NIV)

Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;
look, and see our disgrace.
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
We have become fatherless,
our mothers are widows.
We must buy the water we drink;
our wood can be had only at a price.
Those who pursue us are at our heels;
we are weary and find no rest.
We submitted to Egypt and Assyria
to get enough bread.
Our ancestors sinned and are no more,
and we bear their punishment.
Slaves rule over us,
and there is no one to free us from their hands.
We get our bread at the risk of our lives
because of the sword in the desert.
Our skin is hot as an oven,
feverish from hunger.
Women have been violated in Zion,
and virgins in the towns of Judah.
Princes have been hung up by their hands;
elders are shown no respect.
Young men toil at the millstones;
boys stagger under loads of wood.
The elders are gone from the city gate;
the young men have stopped their music.
Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our hearts are faint,
because of these things our eyes grow dim
for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,
with jackals prowling over it.
You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.

Idi Amin was deposed. God did restore Uganda , and those who had lost so much found life again. Their mourning turned to dancing, dancing filled with joyful gratitude to a compassionate and faithful God. Amen.