For as 1 John 4:19 tells us, “we love because he first loved us.” It is the effectual love of God that first changes our hearts in order to make us capable of love.
The truth is that what we “see” is not what is visible to the heart. You can’t make an animal love you. For example, this photo of our animals shows love profoundly in my heart. The newspaper explains what the world might have seen as very important at the time. The headline blares out words of “this is something that you must know”.
My dear Buddy dog and Blake cat are focused on what is important to them. I look at their eyes. Seeing through their eyes, Blake is looking at the “world” around them…the kitchen, the food on the table, the next fun thing for him to do. Buddy focuses on Roger, my husband, and the photographer. He immediately loved and wanted to rescue Buddy from the “pound”. Roger saw what was beautiful inside of this sweet creature, once bedraggled, mistreated, scruffy, and flea -infested and, even to me, not so special to any other visitor to the humane society. Buddy knew that in his heart. His wounds heal from love inside out. Like ours. You cannot make an animal love you or you love any of God’s creatures.
Claws dig into my lap and my eyes focus on the two dear, sweet animals that want to share a little lap time with Mom. Normally, I realize they would probably not have chosen to spend much time so close to each other. But these sweet boys come up to visit Mom and share the warmth of sweet trust and love. Each sees what is most important to him or her as we live and love in our small community.
God’s love Light encompasses the whole picture. Simply love all, deeply, truly and forever. Christ’s love lives and loves through us. May we strive to do this for others and ourselves. …each moment be in the present, alert as your heart peels away the wounds of your hurt and below the surface reveals to you the deep love hidden in plain sight beneath.
There is a prayer vigil today. Where are the faithful? Praying at home? Coming to church? Going to work? Prayer comes in many forms. Taking care of family. a garden, pets, making phone calls to friends, walking in Nature…Smiles, helping those in food banks, what is your prayer today?
Who goes to their knees, to speak words of kindness and joy? To be compassionate and loving. Churches, unite in love in your hearts. It began with Christ. It continues with you. At home. Everywhere we are, God is. Each and every moment give thanks for God’s everlasting Love.
John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Sometimes when I go walking, I feel so attune with Nature, hugging a tree, letting my fingers caress the rough bark weathered by the seasons. So, longing to be bubbling inside feeling God sparkle in every moment everywhere I look. I remember how much I long to just be in His Presence.
Today I start my day standing in my yard, listening to the wind on a cold Lenten March day. I feel the chill of the day precluding a coming storm. The cold tears my eyes and my heart bleeds for my once beautiful trees with infestations eating away at their core.
Remnants of a ripped apart limb broken off during a high wind show me how this strong tree has stayed with us throughout the winter months. No matter what, it stands tall hoping to see another spring. It sheds small teardrops of twigs at its base.
My ash still embraces the squirrels that climb its limbs enjoying each moment with these little ones. Enjoy your run, your home may be gone before you know it. Like the squirrels I climb upward, jumping from one limb of life to another with faith that there will be a branch that will hold me, food to feed me. Positive energy surges through me, the seed of faith planted early in life still grows facing adversity.
My dying ash seems to have compassion for me. As I hug it, its strong base just holds steady. Why is it that those most hurt seem to share the most love? Rough bark seems to like my touch.
Love is like that, holding onto you, enfolding you, enlivening you as it reaches out in its own joyfully proclaiming every moment. Do I share this aliveness so clearly embedded in creation?
Filled with years of systems, plans, hurts, last chances, I urgently wish to see beneath the exterior/facade of busyness…
The more that life tears at what I think is real, the more I see layers of “truth” fall away. I bow in quiet prayer to open my mind to the wisdom and truth plugging into the beautiful source generating flooding light.
Time and again these moments of quiet prayer hold me. Its cousin Nature renews and lifts me above the seemingly unending timeline onto the dimension of being, knowing somehow all is connected…the heartbeats of trees, birds, pulsing stars, flowing water from the sky and rivers, budding growth on bare branches and me. On a speck of a section of a tiny planet within a smaller solar system within a galaxy of planets.
How can I be important to the absolute, the Source…my development, His wish to see me become more like Himself get out from under your circumstances and get tuned into God shining patience joy filled in the deepening of Love.
Be humble, accept your humanness living in Christ in God. Be grateful for each moment to extend, infuse and live the Love that God so lovingly has for us. We live unaware of how He feeds us with every moment, we must just listen with our hearts.
Hello Friends! Have you ever awakened from a dream and discovered that in your dream, you had become or accomplished so much more than you are right now? Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you let go, really let go of the past, and started taking steps towards your dream life? Have you ever meditated on what you’d really like out of life, and what you want your accomplishments to be at the end?
We only have one life to live. And it is so important to take a few moments or even an hour, a day, or a week or more away, and write down your hopes and dreams and what your goals will be. (Get out your notebook today! Start with a dream brainstorm.)
If you need help with confidence, get help from a coach or a counselor or even a friend. What God has put in you, do not allow to fade like a flower and forever be unused. Bring forth your gifts and talents for the community around you to be blessed by and to encourage others towards being all they can be, and so it becomes a circle.
You give who you are and what you have so the next person is inspired to do the same, and we all feed off of each other in a good way, to edify, uplift, purposefully contribute who we are and who God made us to be, functioning in His body, and blessing God and ourselves with our gifts and contributions to others and the world.
Let’s not give up! This is your day! Never, never, never give up the dreams God has put in your heart. And if for some reason you have moved away from them, do a recovery dive! Take a new step in your original direction! There is no time to waste!
“This poem is about the dreams God has put in each child, including you, and what might become of them. Amen.
Starving for Dreams
They scrounge in the Dust looking for something not Remembering what it was they Lost So Long Ago Children’s Young hopes Set Aside for the time But Time became long And Longer they served Someone else’s dream Slaves to the fact that they Dependent on others for the image of freedom Forgot their own and Died, remembering Not from Whence they Came from God their thoughts Put to rest as Young adults Never to be seen again except as a foggy dream in the night, half asleep half awake, an angel’s reminder that they were made for MORE— Thoughts in the pallor of busy lives Forgotten as in Dis-Believed, as In not Honored for their Whole Purpose— to Love, to be LOVED, and to Die with their hands full of what could have been Had they Listened– Had they Heard— Had they begun to Believe that inside their future they held the Seed, As Children, to Become All they were Meant TO BE— Had they Not compared their Dreams to Another’s— Had they Known that in the Internal Gold Treasure Trove of their gossamer Thoughts, Intentions and Hopes— they could Have It ALL— Don’t let GO— Remember Who You Are What You Dreamed (before Someone taught you they were impossible) Keep Listening to the Deep Impregnable Art of the Threads of Design in Your Mind and Heart— Creator and Created One In Sync.
Blessing Others, Self and God By Keeping to Your True Destiny Fullness of Joy Being Doing Dreaming Art in your music, numbers, architecture of a life fully lived before God— as in—Who You Were Meant to Be— Amen.
Mark 4:27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.
Ephesians 3….20Now to Him who is able to do so much more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
More snow. A beautiful thick blanket of white tucks in the Earth below every night now. As my feet touch the ground a soft crunch radiates up from my boots to my ears. Icy cold too. As I struggle to focus through glasses fogged with breath, evergreens gradually appear to my right standing tall and strong with snow heavily resting on their branches. An occasional bird and squirrel peek out from under the green cover.
Close by, the empty bird feeder glass shows hunger of the wildlife. Time to feed again. The chill blazes down through my nose as I breathe in the winter air. As I move to get the mail and garbage container, the deep silence resonates a loud chill into my soul. Next week is Ash Wednesday.
With measured steps I make my way to my destination. Quietly I move as the earth rests preparing itself after a very long year open to all that came seeking. I see no one which seems so much a part of last year. Separation from those of us that are dear to us. Not able to see the vibrancy of their lives close up, their breath, touch and dear faces within an arm’s reach. Yet. Hope sustains.
I see a small bit of earth peeking out where the plow has dug deep down, bleeding the life underneath. I remember the lesson that resonates throughout the Gospels. Infinite Beauty calls us to stop, rise above the noise to listen and feel the warm embrace that surrounds all life everywhere. The quiet growing of Life beneath the Earth seems to shout “I Love you. You are mine. I forgive you and you will be with me forever.”
Scratching the ground for a bit of food and chattering to himself, an impatient squirrel hears me bringing the empty garbage can up to the house. Ralph, as we call him, scampers up the tree. Hurry up human, I am hungry. “Patience,” I say under my breath. I observe that I feel a lot like Ralph sometimes. Just digging and searching impatiently for quick wisdom and reassurance of what I think I need.
How will we approach Lent this year, as we are rooted and grounded in Christ, to proclaim our beautiful connection to all that exists in this world? Deep inside the seed that grows within …Jesus shows us how as we listen, observe, participate fully in life. I wish to grow, to learn as I push upward through the snow with Christ as my closest friend and guide through in whatever “weather” I find myself.
And, as Ralph reminds me so lovingly, don’t forget along the way to feed the animals and all creation, including yourself. Nourish tenderly with kindness, service, joy from deep within your beautiful self that God created. Live in the moment and perhaps, hug a tree…
Takeaways: Stop and warm yourself with the joy of Life. Listen with your heart to the message of the following beautiful old hymn of faith and trust. Listen as the Spirit leads you to grow…to push upward through whatever “weather” you find yourself. Find the Light in others.
Begone, unbelief, My Savior is near Author: John Newton
Begone unbelief, My Savior is near, And for my relief Will surely appear: By prayer let me wrestle, And he will perform, With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.
Prayer: Jeremiah 15:16 When I received your words, I ate them. They filled me with joy. My heart took delight in them. Lord God who rules over all, I belong to you. Amen
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
“ Rockie Raccoon really does not live at our house, but seems like he wants to. He loves to come up to the back-porch door and beg for food. He stands up on his back legs and scratches at the door. Scrapper, will calmly explain in his best growl that isn’t the appropriate thing to do, but this doesn’t faze the raccoon who loves people food. Eventually, Rockie gives up and goes next door and climbs in their attic. Only dog bones and water and a few other treats in our yard*. No Light of Love shining from Scrapper in this story.
Granted, dogs are territorial and are very careful in choosing to be open to letting in. Yet, Scrapper shared space with Tomcat living in the same house. Tomcat even crawled under the door to get to his doggie friend so he wouldn’t be alone.
Human behavior sometimes can be like their animal friends cohabiting this beautiful world. For example, we are conditioned this past year by the pandemic to just keep a safe distance when needed. But, still, we have our “pods” of people we trust and let into our space. Other than medically, given that situations do exist where people come “together”, how do you decide whom you will reach out to “through the glass door” into your space?
Take this hypothetical example. Roberta notices and walks up on a cold day as a hardworking team of church community members are outdoors serving a long line of cars with people in need. “May I help?” she said. Roberta had not come before, but saw the long line of cars to get needed supplies and opened her heart to join in. She may need assistance herself, but she reaches out. How would you respond to this need? Or, as a member of the team serving?
Thought questions: Starting this new year, think of Matthew 22 verse 39 which says to love thy neighbor as thyself. Do we actually listen to or are aware of their need? How do you shine the Light of Christ in your life?
*illustration by HannaRose Illiff, story by Bonnie Smith-Davis, 2021, Tales of our Boys.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
What do you see when you look at this shed in this picture? On first glance you may see an old, well weathered, square steel structure with its white sides, corroding a little bit more each day. Recently, one sliding green panel door twisted and nearly came off in a violent wind storm. My husband had to hammer the panel to protect its contents. But, despite his best efforts, a space in the door could not be repaired and allows in light and weather. The open places outside of the shed’s floor, covered by bricks, have expanded to allow determined little furry little creatures enough access to bury themselves under the shed for protection from cold, rain and snow.
Through the door panel space, you see the shed’s “treasures”. The light reveals the lawnmower, the gardening tools, the chairs and table to sit comfortably on the outside patio. Assorted nutrients and other lawn machines are nestled in their places. All of the treasures are now vulnerable to what the outside world may bring.
Today I feel a kinship to our shed with my “rusty” spots. Some outside, some inside. It can be hard to get out of bed and get my energy up and going. Titanium body parts let me know now and again that they are not original parts of God’s gift to house my soul. The tennis game that once took me to a championship falters as I push to make moves that I once felt mimicked the best in the game. My fibromyalgia that once wracked my body with pain, now chooses to push my brain to forget things and makes finding an antibiotic that I’m not sensitive to in my system a real challenge. My eyes work extra hard to see past cataracts, and night driving is out of the question.
I will turn 70 soon. Under my somewhat “rusty” belt of experience, I have lived with my generation through three national wars with family members called to active participation, September 11 Tower attack, 15 Presidential elections, a Presidential assassination, assassination of national leaders as Martin Luther King, recession, disease and virus isolation and death, campus riots, introduction of television, computers and cell phones, disappearance of typewriters and carbon paper and the nearly lost personal art of beautiful cursive letter and card writing to name a few things. These “weathering” experiences have helped me explore my beliefs, courage, compassion and love of God more deeply.
And, unlike the rusty steel sided shed, the Light that shines within us (me) continually renews, nourishes and transforms the amazing treasures God created inside each of us because we are His beloved children. With gratitude I feel the Breath of life that starts and threads each day with prayer and praise.
For example, after prayer and Scripture, I often feel led to often follow my dog outside in our yard while he runs after and plays with the squirrels. I look toward our dying backyard elderly trees and wrap my arms around them. This will be their last winter. After the run I often end up in the living room where I am immersed in practicing my piano, letting the Joy-filled praise of God release from my heart and my fingers into all that is around me. I find that I often can lose track of time when I play.
Like the shed and all the other things of this world that may disappear, we all have our “rusty” spots. But we have God’s unending Love to connect and hold us all as the Light transforms the inner treasures just as God plans for us. All is well and all will be well in 2021 because of the One who truly leads us forward. This I believe. Peace, Joy and Love be yours.
Challenges for you today: What do you see are “treasures” in your shed? Let God’s Love flow through you, seeing the Love of Christ that is in everyone and everything. These moments, perfectly planned by God, won’t come again but the memories and love will regenerate throughout time and space. Joy without end. Amen.
It was Christmas break, and I was home from college. I attended the University of Northern Iowa. The big white farmhouse with green shutters housed my two younger brothers, who were 16 and 18 and my sister who was 18 months older than I. Her boyfriend was visiting from Germany, and we were having our common teenage times of visiting with friends, and doing our regular things, however, all was not well.
As we watched our mom go from a bright-eyed perky person to a depressed, zombie-like state, we worried and wondered and hoped.
Christmas that year was strange without Dad, who had left us to go with another. But what was stranger was that Mom’s brother Uncle D. came and helped Mom shop for gifts for us. The usual lights and brights of Christmases past were not to visit us that year. Christmas morning was solemn and somber as mom sat in a catatonic state on the couch and we took turns opening our gifts and thanking her. We had gifts for her too but she seemed vacant and foggy.
Later that day, preparing to go to my Grandmother’s house in town, my brothers and sister and I snapped a picture of ourselves out in the snow by our cars. Someone had lobbed a snowball at someone else so there were a few smiles, but in the photo, the strain and worry and somberness of that particular season showed up on our faces.
I am not telling this to depress you. I am sharing this because not everyone around us is having a merry Christmas. Although we all have so much to be thankful for, even for breath, food, clothes, life, and whatever family and friends remain in our lives, we can be thankful! Even if loved ones are no longer in your life, it is great to remember them with gratitude; the opportunity to have known them and to share some part of your life enriched or taught you or brought understanding that we may not have had any other way.
I have often said that people need to have grace on others while in the grocery line and while driving. I think it’s important to be polite and give others the benefit of the doubt. You never know what news they just received from the doctor, or what family member had a difficult thing to share on the phone that morning. We need to not take everything personally but give our brothers and sisters on the earth grace for whatever may be happening in their lives.
How about you? Can you relate to a joyous occasion turning out less than joyous? Or a season of loss and grief in life that seems to be accentuated by the expectations that there should be joy and peace?
What would you say if I told you that there can be joy and peace no matter what has happened, and no matter what is going on in your life? When we look up to the cross and to Christ and see the sorrows that he endured in order to make sure we had a way to have access to his most loving, holy, heavenly Father for eternity, we can focus on the blessing of Christmas; the fact that because Jesus Christ the Messiah came to earth, we can see through any trial, looking forward to the end result, the salvation of our souls.
Laurie Stawicki, singer/song-writer, poet and writer, lives, loves and creates in Iowa where she is mom to five children (and others by association) and a labradoodle dog. Raised in a Christian home, yet marked by abuse, she has spent her time praying, journaling, reading and singing all the while learning more and more about the healing God offers through his Son Jesus Christ. It is her hope that her upcoming book, “Sacrifice of Tears,” will be a blessing to others by showing them the possibility of redemption even through family tragedy, and the hope we all can have in the Lord.
1 John 3:1. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so, we are.
Despite our best efforts, we just lose control of the situation involving our kids, our co-workers, our family and friends, our health, whatever is precious. How do we get through?
The peaceful glow of the white Christmas tree lights and flickering Advent wreath candles lull me into a curled-up position on the couch. I pull out my Light upon Light Advent book with my soft purple macramé quilt draped over me. It is so good to be back home. Our Benji-dog Rascal snuggles into position by my stomach and sighs contentedly. I adjust my head on the pillow and turn over for better light. Unfortunately, a small turkey dinner leads me into deep dreamy slumber, the book falling silently onto the carpet. So tired.
The dream began with a loud buzz that startled me, felt a blast of cold air and a railing. I looked over to see the bedside monitor by the empty fluid bag. My heart rate slowed a bit as I deep breathe as I focused on how I got to where I was. It had started as a simple doctor visit. The doctor came in with the test results. I twisted my wedding ring from habit and look at my husband as we focused on the doctor’s face as he gave us his diagnosis. “You need to go to the hospital. We will call the ambulance for you.”
“No other choice?” My husband of 31 years Roger and I looked wordlessly at each other and touched hands. We knew that I must get effective treatment soon.
“This is very serious, Bonnie. You need hospitalization, now.”
So, in what seemed like slow motion the doctor, efficient, gentle EMTs and nurses got me to the hospital emergency room. My IV embedded into my skin and fluids attached. Test after test, question after question. Blessedly no Co-vid, but now I would be in a solitary room for 3 ½ days with a condition that can turn deadly.
My attention came back with soft footfalls of the caring nurse who quietly shut off the buzzer, checked my vitals and set to work. As I heard her gentle, quieting words as she changed the bag, I reflected on the hands and feet of Christ Jesus. These amazing, dedicated and caring front liners helped me with tests, blood draws, consultations and so much more, even sitting with me holding my hand during difficult times. All of these moments led up to the new cool liquid antibiotics flowing through my veins to effectively start the process of killing off the advanced kidney infection in my bloodstream.
In this darkness after she left, the One Light deep in my heart and loving prayers enveloped me, raining down loving comfort of my Healer Who was holding my hand. A peaceful sleep covered me. So tired.
Ka thump! Seventeen pounds of furry reality lands on my chest with a soft wet, pink tongue licking my face. My eyes pop open to see big dark brown eyes in the darkness peering down at me as if to say, “It’s okay, Mom. I am here for you.” I smile and snuggle close to the warm furry body. The brilliant white star from the tree echoes the loving response back to my heart. I am here with you now and always.
The holidays are upon us. But they look different now. The frenzied fun of yesteryear involving grandparents, aunts and relatives around a loaded Christmas tree is now a more sedate occasion. I miss the happy shouts of glee as fun toys are uncovered from under shiny wrapping paper. And I haven’t felt very festive for years.
As my toddlers turned into kids, and then teenagers and young adults, the gift giving scenario changed. Now as my twenty-something son sits at my table sipping hot chocolate, I decide to share a nugget of wisdom.
“Son,” I say, “If you ever have a family, sit down with your wife two months before Christmas and decide on a budget, pray about the budget and what God would have you do for Christmas. It could be different than you expect. Maybe it would be a trip or a visit to family.”
I don’t want my kids to feel they have to spend a lot of money for Christmas. I add, “Or it may be small gifts for each family member and people that God has placed around you at work or in the neighborhood.”
I go on. “You should be OK to give a four-dollar box of cookies to each person and not be ashamed. If money is the thing we are comparing then that’s not really the Christmas spirit. We should be able to give as we wish, without compulsion or shame, and just enjoy the fellowship and the fun.”
I think about the stress I have felt over the years as I tried to make a nice Christmas for my family, often with little money.
“The pressure of buying and giving should not be what marks the holidays,” I comment, “and it’s totally ungodly to go into debt to buy things people don’t need to impress whom?”
He smiles at me and nods. “If I get married, I’ll let you know,” he says drolly. We both laugh.
I smack his arm and give him “the look.” “I better be invited to the wedding,” I exclaim.
“You will be,” he says, munching on a cracker.
I go in my office and pray. “Lord, what is on your mind for the holidays here this year?” We may have a daughter’s boyfriend for Thanksgiving, but no grandparents or aunts or uncles because of COVID-19.
“I want you to have fun,” is what I hear Him say. Board games come to mind. Maybe charades or a nerf gun war. Yes, that would be fun! We also could play instruments and have a jam session with everyone.
I cheer up a little. It should be OK. Maybe even the hassle of making the food could be divvied up as well. Each person could be responsible for an item. Or we could get carry out!
As I try to bypass the stress of the expectations from each of my children and myself to have a happy holiday, and how I always try to create a Norman Rockwell kind of homey photo op, I decide I need to re-frame the holiday to the kids.
Maybe it would be appropriate to talk about our feelings of sadness over the changes we are experiencing due to COVID-19, and just growing older. And then we could talk about what things we can still enjoy and for what we are grateful. We can still create good memories within our new boundaries. We are still family and still together even though some of us will be missing.
Thank you, Lord, for the thoughts. I lift up our prayers to you for blessings this holiday season. I also ask you to open my eyes to any in need around me for an encouraging word, a batch of cookies, or a prayer. Please help us as a family to be givers into your treasure trove of heavenly stores.
This week: As you make plans for the holidays, consider stopping to pray about what God would have for your family this year: who you can be a blessing to as well as how to celebrate within your family. Maybe he will surprise you with some fresh ideas! I pray you have a lovely holiday season filled with God’s love. He is the reason for the seasons. He gives us hope for the future. He gives us all we need for the present. And now I think I’ll sit and sip some hot cider while I compose a new family email, and hum the doxology.
Laurie Jane Stawicki is a Christian mother of five, a poet, singer/songwriter and author. She started writing as a child to hang onto sanity in a troubled household. Her writing mission statement verse is Luke 2:35, when the angel says to Mary, “A sword shall pierce through your own soul also that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Laurie Jane believes that her writings could be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves and she’d like to inspire others to trust more in God. She would like to encourage people to bring their experiences to God’s presence for healing.