NOTICE AND DISCOVER – POWER

(NOTICE AND DISCOVER #3)
Monday, July 26th

I felt a little ridiculous taking this photo. I didn’t understand why I would be so prompted; I had very little idea of what this cylinder even was. I only knew it had a purpose, obviously something to do with electrical power.

But as I continued my walk, I began thinking about the ways we continue to learn and grow throughout our lives. As I keep learning, I realize I have much more to learn! There are times when I read old blog posts and want to rewrite some of them, because of new insights I have gained since then. I began to see this cylinder as a humbling symbol to remind me that I still have much to learn; that I will not always be right; that I should seek every opportunity to become better informed.

My thoughts went deeper then… into the great mystery of God. God is so awesome, infinite, and beyond our understanding, that to try to describe God is to limit God. Could we ever truly envision or fully know God?

When I arrived home, I looked up information about this type of electrical cannister. I learned that this is a transformer; its purpose is to lower the high voltage coming from the main long-distance power lines into the voltage we can use in our homes.

Suddenly I thought, “This is how God works!” The power of God would be too much for us to comprehend or take in, but God transforms this power and love into ways we can absorb and understand. God’s love is transformed for us through Jesus. Through the Word and words. Through the Spirit. Through our faith and experiences. Through creation.

Even through gentle nudges to take photos.

With this thought, there came another parallel idea. How often do we take for granted the electricity that provides our homes with light, warmth, coolness, and other helpful comforts? When we turn on a light, we don’t hear electricity say, “You have me to thank for this!” Never once have I said, “Thank you, electricity, for cooling me on this hot day.” We may appreciate what we notice – such as the light and the comfort – while not giving much thought about the power supply that enables them to bless us.

How often do we do this with God? Do we appreciate our gifts, but not always the One who provides them?

God is always moving, always supplying us with power for every need, always enlightening, always warming our hearts and refreshing our souls. God’s incredible power has been transformed into quiet, subtle, softer ways that we can comprehend and embrace. Oh, there may be lightning bolts once in a while! But God chooses to humbly become small so that we might glimpse and know God’s incredible love in the ways we can comprehend.

Soon after I took this photo and began pondering these thoughts, I listened to another podcast episode of “Learning How to See.” I heard Brian McLaren say this:

We do not see everything so we do not know everything. We do not even know how much we do not know. Nor do we know how much of what we know is actually impartial, distorted or false. That is why we seek to
open our eyes to encounter the world afresh in humility and in silent wonder to learn to see.
1

This was another small God-miracle – these additional thoughts supplemented my first observations, again reminding me that I am to be attentive and to humbly remain a learner in all things!

~~~~~

This week, is my invitation first of all a reminder that I still have much to learn? Am I being invited to ask for both wisdom and humility in my prayers? How might I pay better attention to the lessons God is revealing? How might I be more aware and grateful for God’s power all around and within me?

Perhaps more importantly, how does God want to transform me into a lesser conduit of God’s power? How might I serve as a small, humble vessel of God’s infinite love, for others to more readily receive?

Do these questions resonate with your soul this week? Where are you noticing God’s daily miracles?

My prayers for you continue.


1Boxes Inside Boxes — Center for Action and Contemplation (cac.org)

Photo by Karen, Hurricane, WV

Thinking about the ways we learn and grow, you may be interested in my husband Jim’s interesting and humorous new blog: Ruminations of an Ultracrepidarian – Observations and Opinions about Life and Faith (who-asked-me.com)

FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY: ORDER

FMF Writing Prompt Link-up :: Order – Five Minute Friday

We make a good team. Jim loves a clean house with sparkling bathrooms and shiny floors. I love an organized house with tidy closets and little clutter. When everything is clean and organized, our home serves as our sanctuary; we find refuge from the chaos or messiness of life that can sometimes surround or overwhelm us. Today’s prompt, ORDER, makes us smile!

And yet, as people of faith we are called to journey into this world, to confront the messes, to restore the brokenness, to face the chaos, to serve one another, and to do all the good we can. As tempting as it may be to seclude ourselves in our safe and secure – and orderly – home, we know that abundant life is much more than that.

Where can we find our sanctuary, our refuge as we are out in the world?

We can order our days with prayer, practices, and presence. We can keep Christ as our centering point. We can seek the kingdom amid the mess. We can take time for those sanctuary moments, to rest and reflect, to replenish and regroup. We can ask for peace, strength, patience, and joy for our journey.

We can trust that the One who has created and ordered the infinite universe can surely order our days.


(Five Minute Friday is an online writing community. Each week, we are given a one-word prompt and five minutes to write. You may find other posts or add your own at the link above!)

NOTICE AND DISCOVER – NARROW ROAD

(NOTICE AND DISCOVER #2)
Monday, July 19

I actually went past this sign as I walked along in the morning sunshine, but further down the road, I was suddenly nudged to take a photo of these words. Turning back, I snapped the picture – and was surprised by a flood of enthusiasm and inspiration! I then knew that this is the theme I was to notice this week. And each day, I found messages that enhanced or deepened this narrow road idea. I regard these as small miracles of God, discovered only because I was prompted to notice.

My initial thoughts went to these familiar words of Jesus in the book of Matthew:

Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way leading to destruction and many are the ones entering through it. How narrow (is) the gate and constricted the road leading to life and few are the ones finding it. (Matthew 7:13-14, from the Interlinear Translation from Greek to English)

There was a time when I interpreted these words as an instruction to follow all of the strict rules found in the Bible in order to get into heaven. If I strayed from the narrow road, I would end up in hell! But the more I know and love about Jesus, the more I see this narrow road as the way of truth, of kingdom living here and now. Our road is not made narrow by boundary walls of rules and stipulations, but by keeping our focus on Jesus and allowing him to lead the way.

Jesus comes to free us, to give us abundant life in him, to open us to love and goodness. Instead of walking in fear, we can hold his hand in childlike trust as we follow this narrow road. The road is not a difficult one of self-striving, but an invitation to greater things, to joyful and abundant life. We can stop worrying about achieving perfect righteousness as we trust the Spirit to work within us.

A few days later, @chasinggraceinsta posted a beautiful photo on Instagram with the caption, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”

Amen, and thank you, God. The road may be narrow – but may our trust be expansive.

Finally, this idea was extended further by yet another small God-moment. Jim read our next devotional reading from We Make the Road by Walking called, “A New Path to Aliveness,” (wow! 🙂 ). Brian McLaren writes about Jesus’s message in Matthew 5:17-48:

Jesus employs his “you have heard it said… but I say…” pattern once more, perhaps the most radical example of all. Tradition always requires love and responsibility toward friends and neighbors, people we like, people like us, people “of our kind.” That is a big step beyond utter selfishness and narcissism. But Jesus says the road of tradition was never meant to end there. Love should be extended farther than before, to outsiders as well as insiders, to “them” as well as “us,” even to our enemies. We may not have walked the road that far yet, but that is God’s intent for us… God is out ahead of us, calling us forward – not to stay where tradition has brought us so far, and not to defy tradition reactively, but to fulfill the highest and best intent of tradition, to make the road by walking forward together.1

Our narrow road is the road of love. Following Jesus on that narrow road, we keep walking further into his love, and further into our love for one another. We seek ways to love and serve others well, to be Christ for them in our words and actions. Thanks to Jesus, what a beautiful road this narrow road can be! It truly is the road “leading to life.”

What are the invitations this week? How might I follow Christ more closely, trust him more fully, love him more deeply? Can I learn to look to God for my truth rather than comparing myself to the standards and expectations of the world? Where might I narrow my focus in order to expand – is this an extension of last week, am I being called to live more simply, to see God’s glory in the everyday? What things do I perceive as limits that keep me from expanding in Christ? How might I expand in love?

Are these questions yours, too? Or have you noticed something else this week? What are you discovering in your noticing?

My prayers for you continue.

1McLaren, Brian. We Make the Road by Walking. Jericho Books, 2014.

Photo by Karen, Hurricane, WV

FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY: STRONG

FMF Writing Prompt Link-up :: Strong – Five Minute Friday

Let me be strong in you, God.

Let my strength come not from striving
but from centering
in you.

Let my strength come not from pushing
but from placing
myself in your hands.

Let my strength come not from grit
but from your grace
alone.

Let my strength come not from power
but from the peace
only you can give.

In this strength, I pray…

to refrain from reacting with hurtful words or actions
to return kindness and gentleness in the face of hostility
to walk gently as a steward of this earth
to stand firm in times of trial
to seek understanding in conflict
and to know when to speak or remain silent.

Amen.



(Five Minute Friday is an online writing community. Each week, we are given a one-word prompt and five minutes to write. You may find other posts or add your own at the link above!)

NOTICE AND DISCOVER – WILDWOOD

(NOTICE AND DISCOVER #1)
Monday, July 12

On the first day of my “notice and discover” practice, this word – Wildwood – caught my attention on my morning walk. Thoughts and memories of Wildwood Metropark in Toledo immediately came to mind. My friend Nancy and I walked the paths at Wildwood quite often when we lived in the area.

Nancy and I met every other week to hike and talk about life. We sought to make our time together a spiritual one; we often talked of our joys and sorrows, shared the ways we felt God was moving in our lives, and then held each other in prayer until our next hike. We walked in comfortable and comforting companionship through some very difficult trials. We uplifted one another by speaking words of encouragement, and at times, by pointing out a particular gift of nature, such as a bird, a flower, or a special scene we had noticed. In every walk, through every season, we always felt the goodness of God. I would come away inspired and renewed from our time together.

As I reflect on this now, I realize that Wildwood became so much more to me than a lovely park. I will always regard Wildwood as a God-created sanctuary, set apart in nature’s beauty, a holy and sacred space, a place to reconnect with a dear friend and God.

And this past weekend, Jim and I watched two documentaries – “Arctic Daughter” and “ReWilding Kernwood” – that deeply touched our souls. Jean Aspen and Tom Irons share their experiences of living in the remote Brooks Range of Alaska. They narrate their family’s story with gentle, peaceful voices; soft piano and violin music plays in the background; the photography captures the incredible beauty of the Arctic; and their wise and tender way of living is inspiring us to live more simply, to appreciate and tend the earth, and to savor and embrace life for all it holds. Jim and I were so moved, deeply touched by the beauty and the message, that we often had tears.

I notice that God is repeating this theme for me; I am to keep paying attention. My longing for the spirituality and sanctuary found in nature has been profound in recent months. Hiking feeds my soul, God feels so close when I am outdoors. These beautiful times in God’s creation are inspiring my reverence and awe, becoming my holy spaces for this time in my life.

For today, my discovery is the reminder that all of creation is holy and to be revered. When we look at the beauty of the world through our spiritual lens, when we seek the kingdom here and now, when we see all of life as sacred and regard it with gratitude, the whole earth becomes our sanctuary.

Through this discovery, what invitations is God extending? Am I being called to live more simply? To spend more time, feed my soul in nature? To be a better steward of our earth? To see God’s glory all around me? To move with the seasons and the passing years with the same grace and dignity that nature displays? These questions will be my invitation for further reflection this week.

Is this discovery resonating with your soul today? Are these questions also an invitation for you? Or will you notice something else this week? My prayers will be for your awareness and discernment.



Photo by Karen, Hurricane, WV

NOTICE AND DISCOVER – INTRODUCTION

Jim and I have been reading Brian McLaren’s excellent book, We Make the Road by Walking, for our daily devotions. One of our recent morning readings (“Significant and Wonderful”) has really impacted me. Brian writes about the miracle stories in the Bible – such as Jesus changing water into wine – noting that some people will believe these stories, and some will not. But he then offers us a third option…

“We could ask another question: What happens to us when we imagine miracles happening?” Brian adds, “Perhaps a miracle story is meant to shake up our normal assumptions, inspire our imagination about the present and the future, and make it possible for us to see something we couldn’t see before.” He continues by saying that miracle stories “stir us to imagine new ways of seeing, leading to new ways of acting, leading to new ways of being alive.”1

For the rest of these summer weeks, I hope to take this idea and apply it to my everyday life, by seeking the deeper meaning or significance of the things I notice. God is always present and moving, but I know that I am not always paying attention. There may be miracles all around, yet I am missing them by expecting the mundane. When I am able to be more attentive to God, I begin to notice patterns and repeated messages that tell me God is at work and wants me to notice.

Each week, I will ask the Spirit to keep me aware and present, to help me notice what I should. Then, on my morning walks, I will take a photo of any scene, object, or image that draws my attention. In my quiet time, I will prayerfully and contemplatively reflect on that image, asking what God may be teaching me or revealing to me through it. And – if you would be blessed to do so – I hope you will join me! Each Monday, I will share what I have discovered, and offer some invitations for your own contemplation (I would love to learn what you have noticed, too).

May we all learn to be more vigilant and attentive to God in our daily lives, and in doing so, may we be surprised and assured of God’s constant presence and loving care for us. And may we begin to see our own daily miracles – to see the ways our extraordinary God is working through our ordinary days.


1McLaren, Brian. We Make the Road by Walking. Jericho Books, 2014.

Photo by Karen, Hurricane, WV.

FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY: SUMMER

FMF Writing Prompt Link-up :: Summer – Five Minute Friday

I believe I am finally shedding my cocoon of protection created during the cold, harsh realities of a winter season that lasted far too long. These summer days have warmed my soul, brightened my outlook, and inspired me to begin living and growing again.

But will I emerge from this cocoon as the same person who formed and entered it? Or will I have been transformed in some way?

I’m writing this on my back porch, looking upon green forested hills, listening to birdsong and hummingbird wings, feeling cool morning humidity against my skin, savoring the aroma of my hazelnut coffee, immersing myself in my thoughts, and being overwhelmed with gratitude for this day.

Yes. This liminal time in the cocoon has made my vision clearer, my appreciation deeper, my heart softer. My protective cocoon has been left behind, and new, vulnerable skin has been exposed; skin that may be more sensitive to wounds, but skin that yearns to embrace all of life with loving hope and gentle tenderness.

May I now develop wings to fly, God, that I may flutter with your wind, alight on your creation, and softly touch others with your incredible goodness.




(Five Minute Friday is an online writing community. Each week, we are given a one-word prompt and five minutes to write. You may find other posts or add your own at the link above!)

FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY: DESERVE

FMF Writing Prompt Link-up :: Deserve – Five Minute Friday

Keep me, God,
from trying to make sense of our world
by dividing it into tidy categories
according to what we deserve.

Keep me, God,
from deeming who is worthy or unfit,
from judging who merits your goodness
and who should be denied it.

Keep me, God,
from separating your love and call
according to my joys and trials,
for your goodness shines through all.

Help me, God,
to divide only the word, deserve,
and choose to live with gratitude and grace,
my focus solely on serve.



(Five Minute Friday is an online writing community. Each week, we are given a one-word prompt and five minutes to write. You may find other posts or add your own at the link above!)

PRODUCE GOOD FRUITS

(A SEASON OF NEW GROWTH #12)
Wednesday, June 30th

My Father is glorified by this,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
(John 15:8 NRSV)

As we finish this series today, let’s think about the final goal, our desired outcome from nurturing our healthy spiritual growth: producing good fruits in abundance. In order to reach this end, we need to keep tending and maintaining our growth, by watching our progress and addressing any needs that arise.

When it comes to fruit trees, there is always more to learn. So many people assume that growing fruit trees is easy. You just plant your tree, water it, and wait for the harvest. The truth is that once your tree is in the ground there still is some work to do to keep it healthy. Make an effort to learn the key fruit tree care skills – including how to evaluate your site and research your trees, correct planting and young tree care, winter and summer pruning, pest and disease prevention, and soil and nutrition management. What you will discover is that the better you care for your trees, the more they will give back to you – by providing you and your family with an abundant harvest that you can enjoy for many years to come.1

How do we tend and maintain this healthy growth that produces good fruits in abundance? In John 15:5, Jesus describes himself as the vine, and us as the branches connected to him. As a “branch,” we can look two ways for the guidance and support needed to produce good fruit.

We can look to the fruit.

What are some of the good fruits that come from growing in faith? Here are a few…

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV)

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8 NRSV)

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35 NRSV)

Holding before us the desired end result, the good fruit, helps us to persevere with our purpose and direct our growth. We tend our growth by asking discerning questions as we make choices and take actions. What will be the result of the actions we take today? What sort of fruit will result? Does this decision lead to increased love for God and one another? Will this action draw people to God? Am I serving God honorably and excellently? Am I being patient, kind, and generous today?

At the end of the day, will I have made progress in growth toward all of these good fruits?

We can look to the source.

Most of all, we can produce good fruits by looking to and remaining attached to the vine, by abiding in Christ himself.

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:8-11 NRSV)

When we remain attached by abiding in Christ, when we keep his commandments to love God and one another, our fruits will be the natural outflow of that abiding. I have heard it said that couples begin to look more alike the longer they are together. May we develop such a close and loving relationship with Jesus that we begin to look more like him.

How might we do this? We can remind ourselves of his life and love by reading the Gospels. We can ask the Spirit to guide and reveal all that is of him. We can pray to him, seek to follow him, die to ourselves, and love him fully with a life of loving service. We can become the love of Christ in the world by letting his love flow through us, resulting in abundant and beautiful fruit.

Then at harvest time, may Christ find that we have all grown together into one beautiful garden, bursting forth with great joy – because his joy will be in us, and our joy will be complete (vs. 11).



1Growing Fruit Trees The Thrive: And The Five Mistakes New Orchardists Make And How You Can Avoid Them (orchardpeople.com)

Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

BLOSSOM IN BEAUTY

(A SEASON OF NEW GROWTH #11)
Monday, June 28th

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

(Psalm 139:13-14 NRSV)

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:10 NRSV)

In this past year I have grown to love podcasts! I love the convenience of learning, laughing, or being inspired while I am walking or driving. With the popularity of podcasts increasing, I began to consider offering a podcast of my own, one in which I could talk about my blog post for the day. There only seemed to be one drawback.

My voice.

I don’t have a gentle, soothing voice, or a lilting, lovely one. Nor do I have a clear, majestic voice, or an elegant, mellow one. My voice has always been a bit raspy at times, and the hoarseness has worsened with age and earlier chemotherapy treatments. My voice is also soft – I cannot yell – and it falls in a vocal range that is especially difficult for those with hearing loss to absorb.

Years ago, I even joined a group that developed public speaking skills. I was soon told that I spoke too nasally, and was advised to open my throat when speaking. Well, this “helpful” suggestion only made me more nervous, and my throat closed up so much that it seemed my nose did most of the talking! And then there is this story: a bemused teen in my youth group once told me that when I spoke, my tongue clicked against my teeth and I sounded like a chipmunk.

And so I write. 😀

(I hope that brought a laugh today…)

Today’s reflection is to Blossom in Beauty, but our invitation is to blossom with our own unique beauty. When I think of this type of blossoming, dear Therese of Lisieux comes to mind. She has been called “The Little Flower” because of her selfless, humble, and truly beautiful way of living:

Therese is most known for her “Little Way.”  She spoke not of doing great things, but of small things with great love.  She saw herself as a child who lived in complete dependence on God.  Therese acknowledged her littleness and believed this showed more clearly God’s greatness.  She once said, “If all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtime beauty.”  Therese saw herself as a tiny flower in the garden of God and believed His power shone more clearly through her weakness.1

When we live as our best selves according to the way God has created us, our beauty may not radiate from the features or abilities we wish we had; yet each of us has been created uniquely and beautifully in God’s eyes. We have been given special gifts and strengths to contribute to the diverse beauty of all creation. We cannot be or do everything, but we can strive to be what God has made us, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Like Therese, we can trust that the beauty of God’s power will shine through our weakness. We can blossom in the beauty of love alone.

What is your unique way of bringing beauty to God’s world? How might your weakness be a way for God to create a different beauty of God’s making? How will you blossom through the beauty of God’s love in your life?

May we remember that our unique beauty is best revealed when we let God’s beautiful love outshine our imperfections, while we focus on doing those “good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”



1Saint Therese of Lisieux: God’s Little Flower – My Catholic Kids

Photo by Karen, Hurricane, WV