A Time for Everything… but Not Time for Everything

I’m pondering these words and thoughts today. There is a time for everything, but there certainly isn’t time for everything. I’ve been feeling stretched thin recently, between having an older dog, most likely in his final months (a sobering reminder that his time to die is approaching), and spending more time visiting and helping my parents as they get older. Nathaniel and Meghan will soon be in NYC, bringing our two delightful grandchildren to the East Coast for a month, so I am very much anticipating a time to visit and to babysit (a time to laugh). I’m also doing what I can to help Arielle with her wedding planning (a time to dance!). This is just a small sampling of what’s been on my plate recently or will soon be on it, and I’m realizing my plate is overly full.

I have been preparing for and leading lively Sunday morning discussions on Sabbath and rest, which takes a lot of time, but also reminds me weekly of the need for downtime, for quiet, renewing and refreshing time in God’s presence (a time to be silent). As I take some time to be quiet and evaluate how I’m spending my time, I am realizing that it is time to drop some of what I am doing, so that I can fully appreciate the things that it is really time for.

Time is passing, as it always does, and I want to be sure I don’t miss that which is important. When Rowan needs extra attention, as he does more and more, I want to be relaxed enough to be fully present with him. When I am, I cherish that time, knowing that it is precious and irreplaceable. When my parents have an appointment or would like to have lunch with me, I want to be available and not rushed, fully present with them and enjoying the time together. When my children and grandchildren are here, I want to be a relaxed mom and grandmother, ready to sit on the floor and play with blocks, calm enough to peacefully rock a crying baby if needed. And through it all, I value evening walks with Stephen and quiet times hanging out together (hopefully soon by the fireplace, if it’s cool enough).

And now it’s fall, my favorite season of the year, and time outside enjoying nature adds color to all of life. Sketching, whether autumn colors from our deck, or birds at the feeder, or wolves at the wolf center, calms my soul, helping me to be quiet and still enough to notice with wonder God’s fingerprints in the world around me, so easily missed when I rush through packed days. And then I am more likely to hear his still, small voice helping me sort through all I could do to know what is best to do.

I will probably post some musings and prayers in the coming weeks, but won’t be doing so regularly, as that is one of the things I’ll be letting go as other things take priority. This week I will especially be pondering these verses. I think most of us are familiar with the thoughts in verses 1-8, but as I read verses 9-14 this morning, I was really struck by the peace of verses 11-13, and I am writing them out to post on my desk this week.
    There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

Enjoying evening light from our front deck

Rest for your Soul

Sometimes life feels overwhelming and exhausting, and the last thing we want is another obligation, yet it seems like there’s always more that needs to be done. In our Sunday morning discussion of Sabbath rest yesterday, we spent most of the hour delving into Jesus’ invitation to come to him, rest, and learn from him. Jesus invites those who are weary and burdened; let’s come to him this week and receive his refreshing peace.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Monday: Do you tend to view with spending time with God as a duty or a privilege? Meditate on Jesus’ words in this passage and ponder what they say about time with him.

Tuesday: Jesus invites us into his presence. We don’t need to make an appointment or be in church or make ourselves worthy- he invites each of us now, wherever we are. Spend some time with him today and thank him for welcoming you.

Wednesday: We don’t have to come to Jesus all upbeat and happy. He invites us to bring our burdens to him and to come when we’re weary and in need. Bring your troubles to Jesus, and rest. Just rest.

Thursday: Jesus tells us to take his yoke upon us, to walk in step with him, and that we’ll find his yoke easy and light. Walk in his ways him and talk with him throughout the day today.

Friday: Jesus is gentle and humble. Think about what grace this is for us, when he is also Lord of all. Pray for the ability to likewise be gentle and humble with those over whom you have power or influence.

Saturday: It is only in Jesus that we can find true rest for our souls. Come to him, learn from him, and receive the peaceful rest he gives.

Close of Day

All are welcome to join us for our discussions about rest and Sabbath on Sunday mornings from 9-10. More information below…

Come join us!

Very good and very loved– Musings and Prayers

I’ve been reading on Sabbath rest as I prepare to teach a Sunday school class on it, and several authors point out that often our extreme busyness is due to our efforts to justify ourselves; to prove to ourselves or others that we are valuable. To combat that I find it helpful to meditate on Scripture verses that speak of my inherent worth as someone created by God and loved just for who I am. Over time, this message is sinking in deeper into my sense of who I am, but it’s always good to review, so this week, that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:27, 31

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

God created mankind in his image and said that we were very good, and he now delights in us. This week let’s allow that to sink in and affect how we view both ourselves and others.

Monday: Think about the marvelous truth that you are created in God’s image. What does that say about your value? Do you treat yourself as one bearing the image of God?

Tuesday: Ask God to open your eyes to the beauty of his image in everyone you encounter today. Look for opportunities to affirm them as image-bearers of God.

Wednesday: God said the people he made were very good. Look with admiration at the work he has done in how he’s made you and others. Praise him for his craftsmanship!

Thursday: God rejoices over us. Isn’t that amazing?!! Quiet yourself in his presence today, meditate on the words of this verse, and bask in the wonder of God’s love.

Friday: When you speak with anyone today, try to think of them as someone over whom God is rejoicing with gladness. Pray for the ability to be able to join with God in rejoicing over who he has made them to be.

Saturday: Meditate on these and other verses and let God’s word transform your opinion of yourself and others. Allow yourself to be filled with awe and joy as you see God’s handiwork in and love for people of all sorts.

Baby Paul
Tanzanian Safari Guide

Moon, stars, and the wonder of creation– Musings and prayers

“O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
                                                            Psalm 8:1, 3-5, 9

God reveals his glory in all of his creation, and this coming week I will be reveling in the glory of creation as I spend time on the Maine coast. We’re close to a new moon, when the sky is dark, with stars  unobscured by moonlight, so, weather permitting, I am planning to go to a location with no lights and stand in wonder under a dazzling canopy of stars.

With an abundance of natural beauty all around me, I’ll be pondering the magnitude and splendor of the universe and what that says to me of the God who created it all. I hope you will also be able to make time to go outside some clear night to look at the stars and meditate on what they reveal of our great God. Here is the url for a website that puts the size of Earth in perspective with the rest of the Universe- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nroo-i8t8vg

Monday: Ask God to open your eyes and your mind to what he is telling you through the world he created. Slow down long enough to look about you and savor some aspect of creation.

Tuesday: Take some time today to consider the vastness of creation. What does it tell us of God’s power? Praise God for his creation and for what it reveals to you of who he is.

Wednesday: Meditate today on the wonder of God’s love for us, small as we are in the world he has made. What does that reveal to you of your worth to God? Let’s carry that thought with us throughout the day today.

Thursday: Think of the many peoples of the world who are treated as though they have no value or honor for any of a variety of reasons. Ask God what you can do as an individual to make a difference in some small way. What can you do to help the people you encounter on a daily basis have a better sense of their inherent value?

Friday: Recently I’ve been stepping outside several times a day on overly busy or stressful days to simply focus on the sun shining on treetops, or dewdrops sparkling on morning grass, or on stars watching over the earth at bedtime. Doing this has calmed me and has often helped me regain perspective on who God is and who I am. Think about how you can plan in some intentional moments of creation observation today and in the coming days.

Saturday: Let’s wrap this week up by looking for things great and small in creation that fill us with wonder and awe at God’s greatness. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Full moon sketch
Night sky sketch

 

Shelter and Refuge– Prayers and Ponderings

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:1-4

As I mentioned last week, I loved hearing this psalm read in Hebrew when I was at a funeral recently. Psalm 91 is one of my favorite psalms and I especially I love the imagery of the first few verses. Seeing a small tree growing in the shadow of a large one or a mother bird sitting on her nest sheltering her young always brings the words of this psalm to mind for me. Here in New York, we tend to welcome sunshine most of the time (except maybe for this week of blazing heat), but the idea of a shadow being a safe place makes a lot of sense when I remember that David, who wrote this, lived in the blazing sunshine of the Middle East, where shade could mean the difference between life and death. This week let’s meditate on these images and also look for reminders of God’s care for us in the natural world.

I was halfway through writing this last week, when I got a call that a deer had leaped onto the driver’s side of the windshield of my parents’ car, when they were going 60mph on a highway (which is why this didn’t get posted last week). Amazingly, despite the shattered windshield and many small pieces of glass in his eyes, my almost 92 year-old father was able to drive 100+ yards till there was a safe place to pull over. There also just happened to be an EMT right behind them, so they got immediate assistance. Both my parents are doing fine now, and this was a big reminder to me of how God doesn’t keep us from hassles and difficulties, but is with us through them.

Of course we are all very thankful for how this experience turned out, but even when things don’t turn out as we would like, God is, in some way, our refuge and fortress, our God in whom we can trust. I haven’t always understood or recognized God’s care at the time, but, looking back, I know he has sheltered me and brought me through to the present.

Monday: From what do you need or want protection? Think about what it means that God is the Most High, greater than anything that could threaten us, and that he offers us shelter.

Tuesday: Throughout Scripture we are urged to dwell in God’s love, care, and presence. Meditate on what it might mean in your life to dwell in God’s shelter.

Wednesday: Are you tired, weary? God invites us to rest. How can you accept that invitation and rest in his refreshing shadow?

Thursday: Meditate on the imagery of a hen watching over and sheltering her chicks- they run to her whenever danger threatens and find safety and comfort under her wings.

Friday: Where do you run when you feel threatened or afraid? Take some time today to think about the things that stress or frighten you, and then imagine how you could find shelter, comfort, and peace in God’s care, even while the danger lurks nearby.

Saturday: Let’s look for images in nature or the world around us that can remind us of God’s care and protection– a Robin covering her young with her wings; a sapling standing in the shadow of larger tree; a woodchuck standing guard at the mouth of her burrow… and please comment if you have images to suggest.

“In the Shadow”

The Lord is my Shepherd– Prayers and Ponderings

This past week I attended the first Jewish funeral I’ve been to–a moving experience, as it was the funeral of a gentle and kind man, whom I met through dog training. The prayers and psalms were read in both Hebrew and English, and as I listened to the 23rd Psalm and Psalm 91, of course I didn’t understand the words in Hebrew, but I listened to those words with a feeling of awe, knowing that these were the words as they were originally written, thousands of years ago, and as Jesus would have heard and prayed them in his time on earth.

The 23rd Psalm, with which we are so familiar, was written by David about 3,000 years ago. Psalm 91, one of my favorite psalms, was written by Moses about 3,400 years ago. Hearing these psalms read in Hebrew reminded me that we are part of a long, long history of people of faith. This week I’d like to ponder and pray through a few verses of Psalm 23, and next week we might look at Psalm 91.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:1-3, 6

God loves us with a nurturing love that meets our deepest needs, by providing rest and refreshment so that our souls will be restored. This week let’s avail ourselves of what God so graciously offers us—his leadership as a shepherd who leads us to what we most need.

Monday: Good shepherds are gentle with their flock, as well as strong and protective of them when danger threatens. Thank God for being both gentle and protective, and entrust yourself to his care for the day.

Tuesday: Because our shepherd meets our deepest needs, we can truly be content. Thank God for the many riches he’s blessed you with— a sense of belonging, friends, forgiveness, access to him, love, peace, and much more.

Wednesday: As shepherds want their sheep to feel safe enough to lie down and rest, God wants us to trust him, so that we can rest from our work and not live with constant stress. Ask God to help you trust him more fully and let go of your anxiety.

Thursday: Take time today to drink deeply of God’s thirst-quenching water for your soul as you read your Bible and spend time in prayer.

Friday: Think about the many ways God has restored your soul in the past. Allow him to refresh and restore your soul today. Praise and thank him!

Saturday: Take some time today to meditate on God’s goodness and mercy. Rest quietly, knowing that you are loved and cared for and will be always.

He makes me lie down in green pastures…

Fingerprints of God in Springtime– Prayer Guide

Last year’s Robin’s nest

This time of year is exciting for birders, as spring bird migration is in full swing, and there are also numerous birds courting, gathering nesting material, and sitting on eggs. I’ve been watching a pair of Robins in my yard in the past week; each day for four days the female laid an egg, then sat on them keeping them warm. Now there are two little nestlings and two eggs, which I expect will be hatching over the next couple of days. As I see new life unfolding with the leafing out of shrubs and trees, the blooming of all sorts of flowers, and the exuberant life of birds, I am reminded of God’s creative work that is constantly happening in this world. This week let’s look at some passages that tell of God’s work in the natural world and how creation can speak to us about God.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work…
The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests…
Psalm 104: 12-13, 16-17

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made… Romans 1:20

Monday: Ask God to open your eyes and heart to see his invisible qualities in the ways he makes them apparent through his creation.

Tuesday: Think about ways in which God’s eternal power has been made evident in creation recently. Let your mind dwell on God’s power. Worship him in awe!

Wednesday: Look around at springtime unfolding. Meditate on what you see and ask yourself what it tells you of God’s divine nature. Praise God for the ways he reveals his nature in nature.

Thursday: Ask God to renew a sense of wonder in you, so that as you observe his creation, you will be seeing reminders of God and be drawn closer to him.

Friday: Look for opportunities to share about God’s nurturing and creative nature with others as you share your appreciation of and joy in springtime.

Saturday:  Praise God that he leaves his fingerprints in the world as a means of revealing himself to those who have eyes to see. Take time today with God, enjoying some aspect of his creation with him.

This year’s Robin’s nest

 

Comfort in Grief and Trials Prayer Guide

Always in your heart
Always in your heart…

Many people I know are grieving the loss of a beautiful, vibrant, beloved young woman. I am sure there are also many others who are grieving for losses in their own lives, so I am drawing thoughts for prayer and meditation this week from a couple of passages that speak of Jesus’ compassion and God’s comfort when we face loss or trials. In addition to these passages, there are many psalms where grief and lamentation are clearly expressed in prayer. Feel free to comment if you would like to know other passages that I have found comforting when going through hard times.

“When Jesus saw her weeping… he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. …Jesus wept.” John 11:33,35

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God is a God of mercy and comfort. Jesus weeps with his people when they grieve, and he cares about each of us and longs to comfort us in our sadness and afflictions. Let’s sit with the words of these passages this week and allow them to work peace in our souls.

Monday: Bring your heartaches and tears to Jesus, knowing that he feels your sadness and welcomes you with open arms. He weeps with you and joins you in your grief.

Tuesday: What are some things that remind you of God’s love for you? Try to think of some ways you can remind yourself when you’re feeling down that Jesus understands and is always there to comfort you.

Wednesday: God, who created the entire universe, is full of mercy and comfort for us, small though we are in relation to the rest of creation. Let’s meditate today on the truth that the God of all creation cares tenderly for our hurting hearts.

Thursday: God often uses people to comfort others and touch them with his love and grace. Ask God to give you discernment and compassion, to recognize when others are hurting so you can comfort them.

Friday: Pray for people you know who are grieving or struggling in some way. Ask God to be close to them and to fill their hearts and minds with his peace and comfort.

Saturday: Thank God for the way Jesus showed us God’s compassion. Thank him also that he can use our pain and brokenness to someday help us comfort others, lending purpose to our times of sorrow. Move forward with him, asking that your struggles enable you to experience more of Jesus’ presence in your life, maybe not today, but over time.

More Easter thoughts and meditations…

In many churches Easter is celebrated for a season, rather than just one day- Easter Sunday, and actually, every Sunday’s worship is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. This week’s prayer guide is from another passage about Jesus’ resurrection, taken from a conversation the risen Jesus had with two disciples who did not yet believe that he had truly risen from the dead. I followed a different format this time, breaking the passage up into separate verses to meditate on each day.

Monday: “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…” Luke 24:19b-21a

Are there ways in which you have been disappointed by God that have affected your faith? If so, talk honestly with him about it. He can handle it, and throughout the Bible God invites people to speak with him openly and honestly about how they are feeling and what they’re thinking.

Tuesday: “In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” Luke 24:22-24

Do you tend to automatically receive or automatically dismiss other people’s testimony? Pray for the ability to accurately discern truth, so that you can benefit from the experience of other believers without being gullible to error.

Wednesday: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24: 27

Read and meditate on the testimony of Scripture about Jesus and let it inform and transform you.

Thursday: They urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. Luke 24:29

Ask God to open your heart, so that even when you don’t really recognize him or understand clearly how he’s working, you will be able to be hospitable to him in your life.

Friday: When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him… Luke 24: 30-31a

Thank Jesus for nourishing us with the bread of life—his body—and revealing himself to us. Ask him to give you the ability to recognize him in whatever way he is present in your life.

Saturday: Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Luke 24: 35

Share how Jesus has worked in your life, that others may be strengthened in their faith through your testimony. Praise him for his gift of Scripture, the fellowship of believers and his presence!

Cattails

Resurrection: Nonsense or Marvel?

For a number of years I wrote a weekly prayer guide for our church, generally drawing suggestions for daily prayer from one passage of Scripture for the whole week. My focus in these prayer guides is on drawing closer to God through self-reflection and through reflection on Scripture, as well as on pondering how to apply the principles of Scripture to live them out in daily life. I’m planning to start posting one of these prayer guides, either one already written or a new one, at the beginning of each week. Since this is just one week after Easter, I thought I’d start with one of my favorite resurrection passages.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared…when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how he spoke to you while he was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest…But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

How often does it happen that we think God isn’t working or is working in one particular way, then find out that he’s actually doing something amazing that we weren’t seeing? Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest example of that, so let’s meditate on that step by step this week.

Monday: The women, acting out of love for Jesus, were prepared to anoint his dead body. Let’s put ourselves in their place and imagine how deep their sadness and despair must have been.

Tuesday: Jesus’ body wasn’t there! Imagine the women’s confusion and the questions hanging in their minds when things weren’t as expected and didn’t make sense. I wonder how often we, like the women, misinterpret what we see, and God may actually be working in marvelous ways.

Wednesday: When the angels told the women what had happened, they remembered Jesus’ words and believed. Let’s ask God to help us be open to the truth, no matter how inexplicable it may seem.

Thursday: The disciples didn’t believe at first, because they considered the women’s words nonsense. How often do I dismiss truth without evaluating it, because I consider the messenger unreliable? Let’s pray for the humble attitude needed to receive truth openly.

Friday: Peter, who had recently denied Jesus, was now open to the truth and eager to respond. I am trying to allow my doubts and failings to drive me to Jesus, so I can find joy in his life.

Saturday: Staying open with heart and faith allows for wonder. Let’s meditate on the marvel of the resurrection and be awed by our great God!

[For the more skeptical among us, I recommend The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel, a former skeptic, who lays out evidence for the resurrection from various fields of inquiry. His research helps convince my skeptical side, which often speaks loud and clear. I recently reread this book, and am marveling at the plentiful evidence and the wonder of Jesus’ resurrection.

Mink Pond- Adirondacks