I’ve had a really hard time deciding what to write about for P. Not because of a paucity of good words beginning with P, but because of a plethora of possibilities parading through my head. All day yesterday, and then last night, after I went to bed worn out from a few very stressful days with serious parental health problems, my mind promptly perked up, with P words racing nonstop through my thoughts. I finally fell asleep and dreamed about choosing a word to focus on, and woke up with more words pouring through my mind. I pursued several potential paths, then finally decided I needed to proclaim a PAUSE

And that is what I did. I went out and planted pansies (oh dear, more P’s), and that partially cleared my head. I realized that whenever I have a stressful few days, even when I have had the margin I wrote about a few days ago, my mind does tend to get going and it acts like a runaway horse (or should I say pony) and will not slow down. I sleep poorly, I wake up groggy but wired, and my thoughts revert at the drop of a hat to whatever my mind has latched onto. Perseverance is good, but perseveration is exhausting.

I really do need to pause, but it seems I can’t simply do a passive pause, because my thoughts snap back to their previous focus like a rubber band that’s been stretched and released. Hence my decision to get out in the fresh air, take a walk with Ramble, sketch a tree, and do some gardening. As I ponder this problem, I recognize that, though the subject differs, this is perhaps one of the more important skills I need to develop– the ability to pause my mind. I don’t know if everyone’s mind gets stuck in a permanent loop like this, but looking back, I can see that this has been my response to stress for as long as I can remember, even when I was a child.

And that makes me think that while calling a pause is a good start, I probably need to address the root of the problem, which is how I respond to stress. I suspect that this is actually a form of worrying, even though I am not specifically worrying about the issue at hand. I am going to try a three-pronged approach to Pausing:

  • Redirect my mind– Go for a walk, sketch, read.
  • Remind myself of truth– I am not God. I’m responsible for my actions but not for outcomes.
  • Receive God’s peace– “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

As I look ahead to tomorrow, I am thankful that there are not as many Q words!

And now I need to click “Publish”…

A to Z April Blogging P

Connection and relationship– Musings and Prayer

My sweet Rowan most likely has nasal cancer. I say “most likely,” because I’m not going to put him through the stress of a biopsy or other diagnostics, but his symptoms point to a nasal tumor. We’re giving him prednisone to keep him comfortable as long as possible, and I am cherishing all the time I have with this wonderful dog, who has been by my side for thirteen years.

A few months ago, though, I was having a harder time enjoying time with Rowan. He has been declining for a while with cognitive dysfunction (dementia), and as he became at times confused and disconnected, I found myself distancing myself from him emotionally. I think that was an unconscious response on my part to my fear of losing him, as if distancing myself now would somehow protect me from the hurt of losing him.

Then a friend told me that perhaps Rowan, who has always taught me so much, is now teaching me about life and death. He encouraged me to stay connected, fully experiencing both the joy of Rowan’s presence and the sadness of impending loss. I realized that distancing myself to protect my heart wouldn’t work anyway; the loss will come, but I will be better off if it isn’t mingled with regret. And as I am finding now, through moments of joy and moments of tears, there is a unique sweetness in this time with Rowan.

As is often the case, lessons I learn from dogs make me think about other relationships, and as I ponder this connection, disconnection, and reconnection with Rowan, I am thinking also of my connections with other people. This week I’m hoping to cultivate peace and gratitude in my heart and in my relationships of all sorts. This passage is rich with encouragement on how to have peace in our relationships with one another, so let’s meditate on it together this week.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.                                                                                 Colossians 3:15-17 The Message


Monday: We need peace in our own hearts in order to be able to be in tune with one another, but sometimes we choose to go our own way, avoiding the peace and joy of connection for whatever reason. Let’s think today about whether our words and actions lead to greater or lesser connection, along with the peace that connection brings.

Tuesday: Gratitude is essential to having peace. Throughout today, think of what you have for which you’re grateful, and thank God for those things and for the time to enjoy them in the present.

Wednesday: God’s word imparts wisdom and points the way to peace with God and one another. Ask God to give you a growing hunger for his word. Spend time today mulling on a passage of Scripture, allowing it to dwell in you richly. This week’s passage is one I meditate on frequently, allowing it to deeply affect my attitude.

Thursday: When we give each other any kind of guidance, it must be done wisely and sensibly. Pray for wisdom and grace to be able to do this humbly, lovingly, and respectfully.

Friday: Whether or not we sing aloud during the day, we can have an attitude of praise and thanksgiving, based on our knowledge of God and of his amazing works. Praise him today!

Saturday: In all we do or say, we can it in the name of Jesus, faithfully representing him to the people around us. Thank God for the awesome privilege of representing Christ and pray for the ability to do it well.

Rowan and me

Doing and Being… Musings and Prayers

Two weeks ago I visited my parents’ church, where the sermon was based on the story of Jesus and his disciples visiting Martha and Mary for dinner. Mary was sitting listening at Jesus’ feet, while Martha did all the serving, and Martha got bent out of shape and irritable that Mary wasn’t helping. Then this week at our church, our pastor preached on the same passage! God got my attention the first time, two weeks ago; he got it even more strongly this week with the repetition of the passage and a similar message, so I will be pondering this closely during the coming days.

I am by nature a Mary– I cherish quiet times of contemplation, and I enjoy learning, either by meditating on Jesus’ words in Scripture or by listening and observing, especially to nature. But I can also get into a productive mode, getting a lot done and feeling good about it. Sometimes, though, I all too easily shift into feeling like I’m doing too much or being resentful that someone else isn’t helping enough. I think those are the times this passage is addressing.

Of course, doing is both necessary and important. It’s easy to read this passage as an indictment against Martha and those who are busy like her, but I don’t think that’s what it’s saying. I really like what my pastor said yesterday about Jesus’ words to Martha being not so much a rebuke as an invitation– an invitation to her (and to us) to bring worry and anxiety to him and then sit at his feet to be renewed, so that we can go on to serve gladly in whatever way God has made us to serve.

In the message a couple of weeks ago, my parents’ priest (who says she is a Mary and her sister is a Martha) suggested reading The Practice of the Presence of God, a very motivating short book by Brother Lawrence, a 17th monk who learned to be attentive to God even in the midst of his daily work in the monastery kitchen. For this week I want to respond to Jesus’ invitation to sit at his feet and then take that focus with me as I go about whatever work I do.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

Monday: Let’s take time today to be quiet in Jesus’ presence, reading his word, Scripture, or meditating on creation and what it reveals about him.

Tuesday: Today let’s think about the responsibilities or concerns that distract us from focusing on God. Talk with Jesus about your work and your anxiety.

Wednesday: Do you resent others or God because of the responsibilities you have? Ask God for insight into how your approach to work affects your relationships with him or other people.

Thursday: Most of us are anxious or troubled at some time. Ask Jesus for the ability to keep your priorities right, even when you have much on your mind.

Friday: Mary chose “what is better,” time with Jesus, listening to and learning from him. Let’s do this today and find peace and wisdom in him.

Saturday: God doesn’t call us to work all the time or to overload ourselves with responsibility. Praise him for being a God who wants us as friends, not slaves.

“In the moment”

Peace in Troubled Times– Musings and Prayer

Is it possible to be at peace when there is so much trouble all around? Jesus tells us that he gives a kind of peace that can keep us steady even in the midst of trying circumstances and trouble in the world.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Monday: Let’s read these words of Jesus’ over and over, meditating on his statement that we will have trouble in this world, but that, even so, he gives peace. Let’s pray for his peace for ourselves and for our nation and world throughout this week.

Tuesday: How or what does the world give? How is that different from what Jesus offers?

Wednesday: Ask Jesus to help you receive his peace, even when there is trouble all around. He tells us that he gives so that our hearts won’t be troubled and so we won’t be afraid. I appreciate the realistic words that there will be trouble. That tells me I don’t have to work myself up to some kind of denial of reality to have faith or peace. There is trouble of all sorts, but Jesus offers us a kind of peace that can exist and calm us in the midst of trouble.

Thursday: Meditate on Jesus’ words, allowing them to fill your heart and mind. Sometimes it helps me to write out and memorize some verses that help me receive his peace. Some verses I find helpful are Psalm 23; Psalm 27:1-4; Psalm 46: 1; Isaiah 43: 1-2; and Philippians 4:7.

Friday: Jesus tells us we can expect to have trouble and difficult times and yet somehow still have peace. Talk to him about your troubles and fears, asking him how you can have peace even in the midst of them. I sometimes go for a walk and pour out my heart or even rant to him about what’s troubling me.

Saturday: Let’s pray together that Jesus’ peace and love will overcome the strife and conflict that is raging in our country and around the world. How can each of us share that love and peace in our circles, whether local or far-flung?

Imaginary Mountain View 0111

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.

Light in Darkness Prayer Guide


…because of the tender mercy of our God…
the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
 and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

Monday: God, the Creator of all that is, is a God of tender mercy. Let’s meditate on this today and ask him in his tender mercy to calm our fears and draw us close to him.

Tuesday: Jesus is the rising sun from heaven, who has brought light to dispel the darkness of the world. Let’s ask him to light our way, especially when the world seems dark around us.

Wednesday: Thank Jesus for the light he has shone into your life. Let’s pray for those we know who are struggling with darkness, that they could experience and receive his light and life.

Thursday: Pray for those who are fearful or grieving under the shadow of death, that Jesus would light their way and comfort them.

Friday: Thank Jesus for the peace he gives to his people; peace that can steady us even in the midst of darkness. Ponder this and ask him to keep you close to him and living in his peace, no matter the circumstances.

Saturday: Thank God for the good gifts of mercy, light, and peace that he has given through his Son, Jesus. Ask how you can share what you have received with those who need God’s mercy, light, and peace.Maine-Sunset-102512

Quiet Day Musings

Today I am enjoying my weekly Quiet Day, a day when I savor the gifts of silence and solitude, with unhurried time to read, reflect, pray, ponder, walk, and write.

This morning I took a leisurely walk with Petra.

I relaxed in my rocking chair with hot green tea in a pretty mug (I always choose a pretty mug on my Quiet Day) and Acadia purring on my lap.

I sat on the floor beside Rowan, running my fingers through his soft, luxurious coat, feeling his warmth and the gentle tickle of his whiskers as he sniffed my face, thankful for all the time I have with my aging boy.

I laughed as Milo played gleefully, his tail and ears going in all directions with his irrepressible joy.

I watched and sketched squirrels and birds, always lively on our deck, not trying to do great sketches, but just capturing the moment.

Often, when I am feeling wound up with too long a to-do list or with concerns that weigh on my mind or with the busyness of this time of year, my animals help me slow down and return to the present, where I regain perspective and where worries take their place behind gratitude. I am thankful for a full life, for quiet moments that help me appreciate that fullness, and for the peace God gives as he reminds me of his presence through his creation.

The Sweet Savor of Home

We got home earlier this week from a wonderful trip visiting Arielle and Stephen’s mother. We walked, talked, ate good food, hiked, painted, and generally had a restful, refreshing time. I may post some of those paintings and sketches in another post. I love traveling to visit family or see interesting places but, even so, I’m always happy to come back home.

I especially cherish the simple, peaceful moments at the start of most days when I sit, tea in hand and Acadia warming my lap, reading my Bible and watching birds breakfasting at our feeders. 

Quiet evenings I stroll in the yard with my dogs romping or exploring as I review the day, while long shadows and rich evening light refresh my soul. 

And then at the close of the day, right before I go to bed, I usually step out one last time to look into the depths of the indigo sky sprinkled with bright stars, and I thank God for the wonder of his creation as I bid the day good-night.