How did you sleep last night? Sometimes deep sleep evades me when I allow my mind to work overtime trying to determine why answers don’t come as planned. Tonight, tossing and turning just pulls at my peace.
So, I do what I often do … get up and go out in our quiet backyard. Dressed in warm pullover and sweatpants, I kick off my shoes and pad with bare feet on the concrete patio into the deep darkness of lush, deep uncut grass barely visible in the shadows.
The earth’s softness tickles my feet with loving tendrils of bending growth. The fresh wet air deeply fills my nostrils and flows down into my lungs. I start to feel some grounding.
Tonight, as I look up a blanket of thick cloud masses cover my vision of the sky’s starlight.
I settle in a deep patch of Earth to rest thoughts return that seemed to prickle my mind and try to spin me in sleeplessness.
Bugs find their way into my flesh making a tasty meal for themselves creating a sure-to -come itch in a few hours.
Eyes closed; I stretch out on my back with my arms wide open to the universe. I focus my attention by caressing the grass with my hands bringing them to rest on to my stomach feeling the inhales and exhales, slower and slower. Concentrating on my breath.
Rising to sit in meditative prayer, I feel cradled in the fullness of God’s loving embrace that holds me close.
As time passes, the gentle warmth of white light nudges me to open my eyelids. Slowly I open my eyes a tiny bit to look up…to find a smiling, radiant moon searing a wider space between the thick, dark clouds. Its brilliance pulls my attention into focus.
Entranced, I rest my growing awareness on the power of God’s light as it gently penetrates whatever it touches. Thoughts melt away.
This Light infuses my shadowy body, and my heart trustingly responds with a deep “yes” to “Let go. Breathe. Let go”. Somehow, now less tired, I feel my heartbeat flowing, restorative energy of God’s Love interconnecting all beings including me!
The cloudy darkness will eventually cover the radiant moon, but now, I remember seeing Light behind the darkness. Sleep will come. Infinite Peace. Sleep well, my Child.
Where is a rose most lovely? The deep aromatic fragrance of beauty Soft, fragile petals silken and radiant within and without Upright, graceful stems reaching up to the collar holding awakening, nursing color Flowing full on with the energy of life-giving nutrients Thorns gently protect delicate loveliness within Wherever it is, the magnificence stays Filling the world’s heart with never-before thought of possibilities Because it is wholly love. Beauty in and of itself Hello, rose. Fill your world.
My Burmese neighbor brought a package of homemade rice-coconut cakes in banana leaves to celebrate their daughter’s 13th birthday. Feeling very blessed with learning to share our lives. We share back as well. Learning each other’s names and languages. Hope to share more about how to plant and grow food as they do as we nourish the seeds of friendship.
Sky greets me, tail wagging and straining forward as before, in her new warm grey- and -white sweater. Her new mom Jess smiles as Sky confidently moves forward. As I get reacquainted with beautiful Sky, Jess reaches down to stroke her sweet pup. “Sky is improving in her balance and in learning how to be with others after her amputation,” but really doesn’t seem too sure about coming back here to the humane society for our visit. A tentative wag combined with a gaze around the animal pen and while leaning in to my leg confirms her guess.
After a pause Jess continues with her eyes steadily on her pup, “Sky loves to be close to me and play with her tug/toss toy at home. She knows that I need her as much as she needs me. We help each through each day.” Sky gazes back at her mom and gives her a reaffirming sniff and nose lick.
Jess continues stroking her little girl and adds that it has been a tough month or so for both of them…and that they are so grateful for all the loving, caring friends at the humane society in the Second Chances program that allows pets with special considerations to be readied for adoption. Also, that new owners as herself wish to show deep appreciation for those willing to devote sponsor kennels and surgery sponsors. ** Thank you!
Bored by all of our continued “barking”, Sky spots a tug toy by the dog house and runs over to check the scents. Conversation turns to the holidays and the fact that soon Jess and Sky will celebrate their very first Christmas together. Sky seems truly a special gift from God for Jess and Jess for her. Love. Pure and simple Love. As Sky wanders back, she nuzzles closer when Jess bends down to adjust her pup’s sweater to keep warm in the November chill.
Sky, looking up obediently at her forever mom for the next instruction, lays down on command, now just contented to be beside her mom. The bond of trust and love that has been building since they first met is clearly growing stronger.
Jess quietly adds that throughout the decision-making process of whether or not to adopt, each time she visited Sky or Sky was allowed to visit at her home, she quietly believed with all the love in her heart that she would be Sky’s forever friend. They would be together throughout all their challenges. Still, Jess had to consider would be best in the long run for Sky who had gone through so much with coming to the humane society with a deep hurting body, the amputation process. for her loved ones, and for herself.
Finally, Jess listens to her heart and decides to take the necessary steps to adopt her inspirational, loving, young pit bull mix with her missing right front leg and the enormously loving heart!
Since that decision, these two friends have been at each other’s side through periods of adjustment in their life and the lives of those they love. Sky comforts and remains very close to Jess as Jess has needed her during a dear friend’s illness. Jess has consistently been there for Sky, taking her into the vet for regular checkups following Sky’s amputation which the vet says is healing well. Also, Jess, as alluded to earlier, keeps working with Sky in conjunction with her training to grow more comfortable with her new gaited walking, to act appropriately and to be more comfortable around others.
As the chill nipped underneath our coats, and a few more questions are answered, we all have the warm feeling spoken only through our hearts. Joy and Love. Sky has her fur-ever home. Her amputation is over, and the healing takes over, not only of the body, but in her deep, loving heart with so much to give! Sky was home. And so was Jess.
Merry Christmas, dear readers. We must continue to be love. Sky’s deep love-filled heart which does not give up but shows endless determination to love others in spite of her missing limb!
My challenge for you: about a personal “limb” or wound that you really focus (lean) on, spend a lot of time being concerned about, like a job, bill, illnesses, or possible outcome of an event. In other words, what are you willing to cast aside in order to focus on showing the gift of Love of Christ?
Then, set an intention to read Corinthians 1, chapter 13 (below) every day for ten days. Ponder what deep love might look like for a person or creature in your life.
Verses to Ponder: First Corinthians 13
“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…8 Love never fails.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
What does it mean to hold space for another person?
Truly, this is perceived in different ways. But some facets in all these perceptions seem to use tools to meld or laser focus Light in the discerning heart.
One current way of holding space, is described by Heather Plett of “Enlightened Consciousness” to be walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. To open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
Put another way, holding space is in what First Corinthians 13 says so clearly… “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always hopes, always perseveres.”
The discerning heart will tell you how to use these perceptions. The couple in the above picture that persevered in life are my parents. After the Great Depression, they held space in their own way while married for 72 years and built a life together in not ideal circumstances.
They grew together in a challenging multi-generational family, lived through family separations and divorce of past generations, survived more than three wars and life -threatening and debilitating illnesses, raised two children, moved, made job changes. All the while, they maintained responsible relationships in work and at home. Watching each penny that they spent, they loved each other through these and countless other difficulties.
Was their relationship perfect? No, not really. But they never gave up on each other enjoyed moments present to each other. Did they disagree? Yes. But I remember no violence or arguing in front of us. Dad and Mom patiently, but not perfectly, worked together and they always came back to loving and forgiving each other.
In this give-and-take of life, they honored their union and respected each other enough to remain there. They held space for each other and for us.
So, is there one perfect way of holding space in a relationship? We each have our own stories of individuals whom we feel have held space for us or not held space as the case might be.
Personally, I am still learning how to hold space, not by doing exactly everything my parents did, because their lives were configured by God differently than mine. But they and others continue to guide me, as I do my imperfect best to pray, read and live the Scriptures for example in Corinthians, Galatians and Colossians. Not just memorize verses…but to see life through them using the discerning lens of my heart.
I believe God doesn’t keep count of mistakes we make as we walk a life journey committed to Him. If we are truly present in life, we can perceive how Jesus continues to be Love in everything we experience …In this manner, the Spirit guides us. Holding us, He shares His very life.
The challenge I give you is this. While give yourself some grace along the way, start this process for a week.
1) Read to discern a tool, a gem, in a few verses of Scripture each day…perhaps in Colossians 3 or Corinthians 13 or Galatians 5.
2) Try to laser focus, by maintaining a space of time to use that gem with another person/creature and be kind (as an example), no matter what the rough exterior. What reactions, if any, do you see in yourself or the other being?
3) Perhaps choose to jot down your thoughts as you walk through this process. Quite possibly you and I may not have 72 years in any relationship. Time doesn’t matter. Take care of the other as Jesus does you. Now. Today. Love.
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
“No problem! I got this…”
Do you ever feel this way?
I received a strong reminder of God’s power when the neighborhood cat Daisy triggered a gut feeling in our Rascal dog that cleanly knocked obeying his master out of the park.
“My territory. My way.”
We were walking Rascal in the neighborhood when all of a sudden, I saw a flash of fur ahead of us in the near distance. Before I could react, the leash flew out of our hands with a big sudden jerk, trailing behind a disappearing Rascal around the corner of a house. He was chasing Daisy, who was scared for her life.
Oh no—he’s loose! This was the cry of my heart.
A deep wrench of “why didn’t you” flashed before me as I ran with heart thumping …Why hadn’t I had (didn’t I) keep a stronger grip on his leash? I clearly did not “have control“ and there was a problem. Rascal was gone!
Why, Why, why… A busy street lay just beyond Rascal’s disappearing tail. Roger hurried around the other side of the house in an attempt to head him off. But no such luck. As I ran, I prayed that Rascal would be found safe from danger away from the busy road in front of our house and return to us. I caught my breath in the front yard and surveyed the landscape in an eerie out-of-time pause.
When time picked up again, I returned to the present, seeing Roger across the busy street yelling to me, “I see him! Rascal, come see dad!”
A splash of light brown tail raced in the other direction. Then, as Rascal finally heard our voices, an “Oops I forgot look.” appeared on his face. He stopped dead in his tracks and faced us as Daisy scrambled behind her house.
Rascal approached Roger, much like a child after being caught with his hand in cookie jar. He slowly dipped his head, tentatively wagged his tail, and bowed deeply, as if asking for compassion and understanding.
As his contrition unfolded, my heart reawakened me to how our loving God welcomes us as we truly observe our weaknesses. He reveals them in what we are doing to ourselves and others, and bids us come back to Him.
When we awaken to the realization of our thoughtless actions, judgment of others, and disregard of God’s ways, we hear God’s voice calling us.
In the same manner as Christ, Roger leaned down, joyfully surrounding forgetful, cat-chasing Rascal with his arms. Roger’s loving tone rang out, “Rascal! You heard me and returned when I called.” Rascal’s tail immediately wagged faster and smiled. He behaved as if he were home, welcomed into His master’s arms.
We may say, “I got this! No problem!“
But do we? Our Savior says “Come to me. I Love you no matter what, I will surround you with my Love and strengthen you throughout your life. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Not our power, but His holds us in life.
My challenge: read and meditate on the following verses from Corinthians 1, chapter 13 about LOVE. Perhaps, replace the word LOVE with your own name or God’s. Try doing so twice daily.
“13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Awaken to others by learning more about what our Lord Jesus did when he came to us as a man, choosing to be present with lovingkindness for all. Pray ceaselessly, giving God praise and worshiping him. Come back home.
Later, as we rested, I felt such gratitude and love as Rascal jumped up and nestled close with a sigh. As I petted his soft curly fur, he looked up, ears flopping open with his deep, soft brown eyes melting into mine.
God’s Love whispered, “I’ve got this. I Love you. You are Mine.”
Answer: everywhere and in everything. In every molecule of water, every blade of grass, all animal life, every living, breathing human on the planet, every star in the sky, every breath we breathe.
Alive and well. All is well.
But how can we say that all is well when a loved one passes, friends argue, a job is lost, an illness arises, crimes are committed, COVID-19 continues, hunger and homelessness live on, forests are burned, and smog fills the air? Anger arises and trials run on and on….
Above all, be aware, choose joy and love, patience and kindness, acceptance, and hope. We can choose to love because God loves us without reservation— just as we are.
We can choose to see God through a beautiful phrase I heard the other day…
Life events happen for us, not to us. The more difficult the day, the more we can choose to rise to meet it with God’s help. God is in every crack and cranny of this world and beyond. We can choose to see with the eyes of faith and be made stronger when we recognize our dependence on God to help us through each circumstance.
Last year, I experienced what doctors labeled a deadly serious illness in my digestive tract and ended up “alone” in the hospital because of COVID-19, with technicians and doctors working hard to get me through. Throughout this time, I felt so close to God, just depending on him. My husband and I trusted God’s plan. I prayed that God hold Roger and the rest of the family close if I didn’t make it.
Through this struggle, I learned to have more patience and acceptance, among so many other things. Prayer and love held us together. Throughout my life, God has continued to provide people—just the ones I need—to be there for me. As God is for you. God loves us. Each one of us.
Recently my husband underwent an MRI. He had gone through an ultrasound that did not show any conclusive reasons for a problem that was becoming an enigma. He had been experiencing dizziness and had previously had a mild mini-stroke that left him with difficulty speaking and in need of medical treatment for a long time.
God chose to let him stay with me and healed him. The current MRI showed residual effects. Perhaps this dizziness was a wake up blessing, spurring us to take needed measures.
We will continue to search for answers, but will continue with trust, knowing peace and having hope, for this situation has been given to God. The unbreakable thread of Christ’s Love holds strong in our lives. We will keep praying, believing, and doing all we can.
We feel a wellspring of gratitude for the breath of life and the opportunity to love and serve as we are able. Not that we do not grumble or complain at all, because we do. But life events happen. How we take those moments is up to us.
We can choose to see Son shine in each moment, whether breaking a garage door, cooking a meal, doing the dishes, walking the dog, changing a tire, serving at church, praying with others, or sharing a celebration – endless circumstances in which we can grow more like Christ.
Intentionally, we can choose to see and be Christ’s presence as we are called. We can know God is in us and completely with us… working in our lives. We know this is true in the depths of our being. In our heart.
We may spiral down but come back up through the power of Christ’s Love.
Alive and well. All is well.
Where are you seeing God working in your life today? No way is too small. Praise God!
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.
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