Lenten Retreat Reflections

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.

© 2021 Bonnie L. Smith-Davis

Reflections of Love

Note from Author:  I miss you, my dear readers. My long absence has been due to my recovering from hospitalization and my current healing during a long recovery. Never have I felt so enveloped by prayer and God’s Love as through that experience. To be held. To receive unequivocal, pure Love throughout my being. I will share more on that experience next blog. The current blog is a familiar one…  Being alone, yet how our dear Lord’s Love can enfold us in Nature and ripple through us if we just stop long enough to reflect in each moment and breathe the Joy.

Lake surrounded by trees. Leaves are turning.
Balsam Lake Wisconsin

Would you please put that phone away, Bonnie? I looked up into the descending sunlight on each side of Southern Wisconsin’s highway to our secluded cabin. Deep forested territory lined the hilly landscape. I cracked open a window to get the fragrance of the woods as it started to enfold us into the night sky. The cell phone found its home on the electronic charge pad in between the two seats.

As we found the cabin, a thump of ‘what are we doing here’ took over. We could be in a cozy hotel someplace or in our own home. We were “nowhere” and yet, it seemed warmly familiar. We pulled out our cell flashlights which barely scratched the surface of the dark.

All alone here. We said a prayer and carefully maneuvered along somehow familiar markers to the right pathway by familiar chairs, buildings, and scenery. The moon now lit up the porch area of this pine lodge where we looked for the key. My heart pounded. What if this was someone else’s house and not our rental cabin? We went to the other entrance and, blessed be, we found the hidden entrance key. I said a silent prayer of gratitude as we went in and shut the cold night air behind us.

This welcoming atmosphere soon led us to a cozy bed to collapse. A few days to relax by the lake which we hoped to see for the first time the next morning. Toward morning, I felt a very strange interior “whirlwind” of Peace relax my and fill my soul. Taking deep breathes helped a little, but I felt the restless draw of tranquil water lapping at the shore. So, I reached for my camera and padded quietly down to see the sunrise. Perhaps take a picture or two.

My camera in hand, I carefully made my way in the pre-dawning light to the mid-level deck area where I could pray and await the rising sun fill the lake. Vivid autumn colored trees of yellows, reds, oranges and browns across the lake filled my eyes. God’s beauty. I sat back in the Adirondack chair and closed my eyes and went into prayer for a while. Something pulled me out of prayer, perhaps a squirrel, bird, or the fresh smells of the woodland. As I opened my eyes, a mirroring of color started to extend out into the lake from the far shore. The sun was starting to rise, water rippling from quiet early canoeists, and my camera came off the arm of the chair, seemingly on its own to start reflecting the day into my memory.

As God’s light radiated into the water, I felt this warmth of interior power rise in me as it had earlier. The strength of God’s glory in Nature filled my soul and focused my mind on what was here. Now. In this moment. Time stood still and I with it. Mesmerized by the growing reflection of God’s beauty, I became one with it. Just rising and glowing with the power of the Sun. I remember taking pictures, but the lake drew me in. I padded down to the lake in my slippers, took off my shoes, and walked out onto the dock between the two docked boats, I lay on my stomach at the edge of the water and reached in. Cool, gentle ripples touched me and revived my heart. I pulled my hands back up and put them under my head as I lay there soaking up bird song, quiet rustle of trees, warmth of the radiate beams carries me away.

How can all that electronic noise fill my days? The Spirit touched my heart and brought me back to connections with every other human, rock, and the remaining stars. “See the Beauty in the moment, my Child, I heard in the wind. “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I thanked the Lord for this moment, and I wondered though if I really needed to be in this place to feel this deep peace. Wasn’t it possible to just belong along with the rest of life in our own yard? God is everywhere. Give Glory to God even when it seems like there is no Earthly reason…wars, diseases, famine, elections, natural disasters, unkindness and cruelty. Because overriding it all is the One true Creator… who proclaimed it all Good. When you get right down to it all is well when you turn the day over to God.

Today:  Try one of these ways to be: Find five reasons to be grateful and write them down in a journal and tell God how much you Love Him because He Loves you without question. Put down your electronic devices for an hour or two. You will survive.  Take a walk around the neighborhood. Call a friend just because you can.

© 2020 Bonnie L. Smith-Davis

What Nature Brings

Humility… comes with what Nature brings.  Beautiful sunshine gently kisses my eyes open seconds before my alarm.  Momentarily stunned by the “lots to do” bug, I pause. Just for the moment… breathe deeply and hear the music of the outside day beginning out to watch the sun fill in the shadows of our quiet room.  God’s immense plan will fill up with Beauty that day…despite the disappearing thoughts of “must do” plans that await.  

As I stir, a rippling cascade follows…Rascal lands 17 lbs. of loving terrier on my stomach and licks me right on the mouth til I opened my eyes, husband Roger snorts, (a cute snort😊) and cat leaps over everyone bounding to the floor. Nature calls…Walking down the hallway I step on something squishy. Afraid to look down, I hear a soft confirming purr right behind me.  Yep. Blake, our 16-year-old cat had left a message and follows the purr with a sharp nip to the leg. Breakfast, please. ME-Ow. Now.

As I dodge the cat under my feet, I glance into my office. Well laid out plans now lie wet under the cat’s new play toy…the tipped over once yummy banana smoothie drips onto my rolltop desk. The cat must have been hungry to go after that. Okay. This is what You’ve got in mind. Reminding me once again Who is in control, I see God’s wonderful sense of humor starting to shape the day.  Fun… I have to laugh. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Our patriotic red, white and blue beta Fred sulks in his house located on top of the file cabinet by the office desk. Somehow, inside his tank, he knows he is the last to be fed. Our life sometimes seems like that fish tank… As I reach inside to put in his food, Fred makes a beeline for my hand. I get the strangest feeling this little beta would just love to chomp on my hand for being a little tardy. Agendas are made, but God has Work for us to do through our day, and we don’t stop to see nourishing life-giving Beauty hidden inside the endless things to do in the tank, uh, Life. That is, until we are given a Nudge. The Sun shines its rays of Beauty.

While my boys eat, I visit our backyard to enjoy Solitude of prayer. I turn on the bubbling rock fountain, settle in the comfy deck chair, and close my eyes to hear to Grand Nature’s music rise in my heart. The sweet song from our new “renters” of our old wren house fills my ears. Freshly mowed grass and soft breezes tickling the wind chimes rest in my senses. All Nature is flowing together…rabbits “social distance” from each other chowing on the fresh clover…squirrels fill up on leftovers from the birds, sun flowing through all the yard resting on the garden yet to be weeded…a tomato plant hints at birth of a green fruit on its lower limbs. I close my eyes to be with the Maker of this amazing day to come.

All is well. All will be well. God is in control. Awaken to the light, weeds co-exist with the roses. Our plans are not His. Praise God.

Today: listen quietly to the joyous music of the awakening day. Be still. Remember that whatever is in your world from child to grandparent, rock to planet, every bit of existence has the Christ in it. God created it. You can enjoy each and every bit of each moment.

© 2020 Bonnie L Smith-Davis

Trust In Me

The gate swung wide into the backyard as sweat rolled off my face which flushed as I took a break to survey the back yard. Drat! Weeds were overgrown and twigs had fallen from the last night’s storm. Clearly might give the finicky lawnmower indigestion. So, with a tired sigh, I moved the mower into the yard and the steel gate clanged shut behind me. As I started the cleanup work, I heard a soft but very clear and firm voice from the other side of the gate. “I will mow for you, now.” It was not a question.

I looked up to find my quiet, young Burmese neighbor on the other side of our gate looking in my direction. I cocked my head toward the mower. “You want to help me mow?”  She nodded.

Time paused as her nearby children approached her and Lucy (not real name) turned to give them directions. I remembered how over the fence our families had been slowly, quietly learning a little of each other. My dog, Rascal was almost always the center of attraction. She had watched from a distance as we played simple American games with her children through the fence. But this wasn’t over the fence. Lucy had stepped forward.

But why now. Clearly God has always put people I need to have in my life, and I am sure Lucy was no exception. I continue to feel truly blessed. …Now a still small voice inside of me said trust in Me. Lean not on your own understanding. Clearly, I found myself seeing the Light awakening more ways to recognize compassion and grow trust. 

She and I had common bonds of being shy, liking children, and caring for our yards…mowing our lawns and taking care of magazine worthy vegetable garden. Clearly, Lucy knew how to teach a somewhat past middle-aged gardener (me) a thing or two.

In this uncertain world, I sensed caring, beauty and harmony, not isolation. In her reaching out to help an older albeit plucky older person, me… “What ifs weeds” that had jumped into my head dissolved into my heart. Whatever questions arose, we would work it out. All was well and would be well. So, I trusted, nodded and stepped aside.

She smiled and stepped confidently in, reached down to start the mower and got to work. My mind refocused on the garden. I reached down to pluck out nearby colorful weeds, but hesitated. They were really quite pretty. At the risk of more overgrown gardens, I just stood up and reached for my lemonade. I thought that if I had had a daughter, I would have hoped she might have the compassion and determination of this young wife.

So, it went on …for the entire backyard. As Lucy worked on the mowing, I did do some pulling of weeds, and thought how God reaches for us, do we notice…are we aware? I need to reach out myself, listen deeply and put my hand in the Master Gardener’s hand…And as a parent might, Jesus always stays close, waiting for us to call on His Love. The warmth of the sun combined with an intense joy I felt in my heart. Halfway through I asked if she wanted to stop or take a break. With an understanding smile, she shook her head no. As if saying give yourself a break. Just be. I got this covered. The lawn never looked better.

Something simple, but very beautiful happened to nourish seeds of friendship. Lighting paths to show how to be there when needed…language and other barriers dissolving. Her younger children stood on their side of the fence, fascinated with watching their mom, their faces pressed into the opening of the linked fence. They saw how she was helping…They tugged at my shirt and said, why is she helping? I said she saw I needed help and wanted to help me. They nodded and smiled. When the job was done, I thanked Lucy, and she smiled and nodded. Back through the gate she went to her waiting family to continue picking up limbs and tending to the children and garden.

It had come as a whisper – a simple, but totally courageous offer to care for someone else. Then, we reached out and walked together with compassion. Gentle reader, every action has an equally powerful reaction. How can you walk God’s Love out into this world today?

* I decided to learn more about how to communicate with Lucy. So, I called on our local Embarc how to best respond, not overwhelm or overdo, and did as they suggested. Her husband was appreciative of what I brought to them. Even though it wasn’t necessary, I was told it was acceptable to do. We accept each other as we are as good neighbors who care about each other. (The Embarc program helps families in need of assistance in very specific ways).

© Copyright 2020, Bonnie Smith-Davis