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Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Thoughts’ Category

Marjorie Holmes on Creation

“How can we worship without being grateful? Giving thanks in all our beings for the sheer privilege of being here to witness the marvels of creation–from the magnificence of stars and mountains to the frailest blue harebell or humblest mouse. How can we worship God without rejoicing and being grateful for the greatest marvel of all–self? One’s own precious, sentient self, and every circumstance of its life experience.

Gratefulness! Just being grateful–that, too, flings open even wider the door to God. One thing is sure, I can never hang on to God if I keep right on whining and complaining, blaming other people, the world, and sometimes even the weather, for what seems my dismal lot. In essence, blaming God! No, no, such ingratitude is an insult to my Creator. It’s like slamming the door on God.” – Marjorie Holmes

We can’t be grateful unless we notice. Unless we see reasons to be grateful. Unless our eyes are open. In the beginning of a romance, it’s easy to notice things. The lilt of a voice or the cute accent. The fine features or the curly hair. It’s easy to be grateful for every moment shared. It’s natural to show gratitude to the loved one, in thoughts and words and deeds, because that person is all we’re thinking about.

But time passes and the beauty seems to fade. Our eyes grow dull … or did we never see clearly in the first place? They say that love grows cold; passion and romance related to fire, and apathy to frigidity. Must love always fade into coldness, something wintry and worn instead of springlike and new? Must our love for God do the same?

God forbid. Help us to open our eyes. Because the wonder and the newness, the gratitude and the receiving of every perfect and beautiful gift, comes with seeing eyes.

So much love is sprinkled throughout the world. Awash in the light of every day are gifts bestowed from a God of perfect love. A goal or purpose to pursue. A sight that brings laughter or belonging. A worthwhile cause to promote. A son or daughter or husband or wife to love and with whom to rejoice. A friend or a book that puts in words something you’ve always felt so you know you’re not alone. A crystal sky, a placid lake. A puddle reflecting pristine blue.

It is all love. We see it and know it if we will only take the time to look. A writer, an artist, a lover, tries to take that time. It might come more natural for certain people. But there are moments for every one of us that it takes effort. Because our hours are brimming with timely tasks and overdue projects.

Today, perhaps this moment, stop. Take that time. Make that time. Look. Listen. Let your heart and mind fill with wonder. Then write … or live … from a heart of gratitude.

 

God, it is a challenge, my days filled with so much to do and try to be. Help me to make the effort to stop, fill my heart and life with gratitude … so that I may truly see the wonder of all You are and all that You have done.

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Saturated by Grace - Brennan Manning

“Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter – in a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water, in a rainbow after a summer storm, in a gentle doe streaking through a forest, in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in a child licking a chocolate ice cream cone, in a woman with windblown hair. God intended for us to discover His loving presence in the world around us.” – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

The act of writing is a certain grace, and it begins – in many ways – with a sense of wonder. A writer takes in the sweetness of the world and its pain, the joy and the sorrow, the windblown moments of awe and the heart-catching times of silence. The task and the privilege of a writer is to see it all. To look upon the beauty and the shame of the world and of us who live within it, and write with wonder and fearlessness for the sake of that world. For the sake of us who live within it.

Writing, and those words written, are a dispensation of wonder … or they can be. When the words are riveted with grace, fastened with that ever-deepening sense of awe and gratitude, the result is beauty for the world. A ray of light. Of truth. But it begins with eyes open, and a heart seeking the sweet exchange of God and nature. Seeing His fingerprint, ever so lightly, tracing all things within the world. The opening and closing of a blue butterfly’s wings as it rests upon a butter-colored flower. A stone beneath the ripples of a stream, its colors brought to life by those waters. A child’s trusting smile at the promise of his parent.

A writer is beckoned to move slowly enough through the world to see these things, to reflect on the story whispering beneath the sight, and to write of them.

A New Year begins. I feel as if the past year has charged past without me having taken stock of it. But it is gone. So many moments of raw beauty and wordless wonder passed by. How many did I miss with my eyes closed, or my gaze fastened upon the weight of my daily tasks and concerns? Too many. Too many for a writer who feels the beckoning of truth and light and wonder and grace … but only when I stop and take the time to truly look and listen and see.

A New Year begins, and it begins with the desire to see the world with wonder anew. For my sake and for the sake of my family and those I love. For the sake of a God of love, who dispenses cupfuls of color and joy and laughter at every step of nature and asks us to behold His glory. And to measure it out freely to the world.

 

God, this year, let my words, my thoughts, my writings and my deeds, whisper the weight of Your glory and love, and bring glory to You. It begins with a sense of wonder at all You do and all You are. Let me move slowly, breathlessly enough to see Your works with eyes of awe and gratefulness for all that You are. Amen.

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juggling pinsWe all struggle with our desire for balance, that place of imaginary security. We all admire balance; we even envy it when we perceive others are living a more balanced life than we. But this balance we see and the balance we desire, is it from God? Is it from a need for God? Or is it personal, prideful gymnastics?

…  It takes all my effort and focus just to maintain this appearance of balance. How long I can continue the effort will depend on my resolve.

Eventually, in exhaustion, God offers me merciful futility. I fall down. Gratefully defeated.

There is an unbalanced balance that pleases God. You see it throughout the Bible. It’s only when I accept my imbalance and acknowledge how weak and crippled I am, that I become dependent on God.

That’s where I find the paradox of balance, leaning totally on Him. –  Stephen Shortridge, in Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies

One of my ongoing struggles is with balance. I sometimes feel like a tightrope walker. Sometime like a circus clown with a juggling act … a clown because if anyone were to look closely enough, they would realize how comical it really is. “Why are you trying to juggle that?” I’m not sure if I would have the answer. So I hope no one looks too closely while I keep up the act.

And I get frustrated when I drop a pin or two. Or I get annoyed that no one notices how hard I’m trying to maintain. Or I sink into a dark morass of self-inflicted disappointment, because of self-set goals I’ve missed.

And still, I try to find a balance.

I recently edited a project for a writer, who is also a painter. In order to get a better sense for his writing style, I began reading one of his previously published works: Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies. Something I read did more than whisper to me. It spoke, loudly: “This is you. Pay attention!” Maybe it was the timing. Maybe it was just the simple truths. But I saw myself in the above paragraphs.

Finding an unbalance balance. A strange paradox indeed. Unsettling, even undesirable. But sometimes it is necessary because maintaining a perfect balance requires motionlessness. But life itself requires movement, change, challenges. The passage I read and the resulting reflections drew me, on the threshold of a New Year, to make this my prayer …

 

Heavenly Father, it’s a New Year. I meant to have everything worked out, my goals and to-do list for the entire year. Okay, maybe not that, but in my mind I wanted everything figured out, and preferably on paper, so I know what to expect in order to decide in advance how I will tackle it.

An unbalanced balance must be what I need to embrace this year, at least in the beginning, because I see that a motionless balance will not be an option. Please help me with this, Lord.

I don’t have everything figured out and that’s okay. Rather than patting myself on the back because of my misguided sense of control, it will force me to depend on you. And that’s what I really want. Even when I don’t want it, it’s what I really need.

Forgive me for trying to figure it all out instead of resting in You and allowing You to work.

Help me to understand that the things I try to do without Your strength and guidance will only fall flat. And the things that You do through me, often almost without me even knowing or realizing, are the things that really matter. The things that go farther than those things I am grasping to control.

It’s the start of a new year. Let me be led by Your Spirit, guided by Your hand. Let these not be just words but the deep prayer of my heart. Help me to surrender to You in every way, even when it means giving up some of my so-called rights.

Lord, You had every right, and made Yourself a servant. 

Forgiving me for trying to make myself a master, of sorts, in my own mind and bearing. I know you have forgiven. Your grace is renewed each morning. Thank You for that. Help me to lean on You and in leaning, find my strength, my joy. My true balance.

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