Reflections on Stars

• Starshine inspires awe and wonder
• Imagination leads to inspiration and discovery
• Discovering what forms the whole leads to greater understanding
• Coldness and distance are a matter of perspective
• Light can seem distant when we are in a dark tunnel
• We often crave guidance and assurance of our way
• Having a reference point helps determine our position
• Argument is a heat that burns deeply
• A positive personality brightens those around them
• Gaze into the clear night sky and feel your worries recede
• The vastness of the heavens is a small taste of eternity
• Our Creator knows every star by name

Preparation

apple red_peel_pexels_cropped

I lifted my nose appreciatively as the scent of apples wafted through the house, creating images of years gone by. It was the season for apples, one I always looked forward to. In the town where I grew up, we had one large old apple tree and several smaller ones in our backyard. They were the best red apples anywhere! I still remember their sweet crisp taste, although the trees are now long gone.

Gathering and preparing those apples was a family affair. We separated the older apples that the bees, birds, and other insects were enjoying and brought the others in to wash and pare, setting some aside for eating as they were. A lot of preparation went into canning the applesauce, sliced apples, apple butter, and apple jelly, not to mention apple pie, cake, or other goodies. Preparing ahead of time made the work go easier and the results were appreciated during the months ahead.

Preparation is a part of life. Sometimes we are called to prepare things in advance of events, like setting the table for a meal or arranging items for a program. I remember the story of John the Baptist, as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.” * John’s words got the people who heard them ready to receive the words of Jesus.

While I have learned to “go with the flow” when needed and have enjoyed occasional spontaneous activities, preparation is important for daily routines as well as long-term future needs, goals, or hopes. It reminds me of the movie trailers released as previews to upcoming shows. Haven’t we all at some time, upon seeing a preview or hearing of the anticipated release date, said, “Oh, I’d like to see that!” The movie previews put the word out that something good is coming that we just don’t want to miss!

How can we prepare ourselves to receive the words God has for us? It has been easy in times past to let my good intentions slide away or my quiet time with God to be relegated to a quick, sometimes desperate, “Oh God, please help me today” as I rush out the door. I don’t want to miss the good things coming or the encouragement offered in a mad rush to the next thing.

Like those apple gathering seasons, to receive the full benefit and goodness God has in store for me I have to prepare to receive Him. Times for quiet, for worship, for study, for listening, for fellowship, for obedience, or for action must be intentional. Discovering what these are for us and making them a priority is part of the preparation.

I hope that we can pause to ask ourselves regularly, “How am I preparing to receive God and the blessings, love, guidance, and support He has for me each day?”

*Mark 1:2

Reflections on Cicadas

cicada-by parlansky_Pixabay

• Transitions may cause both anticipation and anxiety
• Be watchful and allow time for outcomes to develop
• Value the past for it prepares us for the todays and tomorrows
• We grow accustomed to the familiar and the constant
• The cries and words of the forgotten are paid no heed
• Loss is felt the greatest when we first realize absence
• The roar of circumstances can drown out all else
• The effects of our experiences crawl into all areas of our life
• Our soul is carried in the swell and fall of majestic music
• Join your voices for the cause of good and wholeness
• A joyful chorus gains strength as others join in
• Lift your voice and your hands when the season is right
• Hear the words of the One who calls us to Him
• Gather nourishment for each day from God our source

from “Reflections from the Everyday”

Oink Oink, Moo, Vrrmm … Oh God!

pigs two piglets-by skeeze_Pixabay

“Oink-oink, moo, woof-woof, meow!” As the toy animals bound about the room, I smile and watch the interaction with the parents. “Vrrmm” they exclaim as another toy bounces off the couch or across the floor. Are you smiling too as you see this in your own mind’s eye?! Perhaps you too see the pig, the cow, the dog, or the cat. Here comes the toy car or favorite truck! The joyful play of a young child is a thing of wonder.

In my work with preschoolers, as a speech-language pathologist, I have seen that great communication is possible even without words. The process of learning to use words to communicate can be a challenge for them and their families. Sometimes a single simple word – a name, a “wow,” or an “uh-oh” – says it all! Having options other than their voice is important too. A gesture, a picture, or an electronic voice can also give assistance and success.

There have been times in my own life when I simply had no words to express my deepest feelings. Whether faced with unexpected joy or with great sorrow or hurt, I could only feel. When I see a magnificent display of God’s world, perhaps a sunrise, a rainbow, or a grand vista, my whole being lights up… “How beautiful!” In times of tragedy when the hurt and grief is too great, my mind and body are torn.

Some moments I treasure for myself. Some moments I am not ready or able to share… Some moments I want to and need to share, but I just have no words.

How, in our need, can we communicate what we are thinking or feeling when our insides are so scrambled up, especially when we are hurting or angry? Just as a young child expresses themselves, a simple “wow” and “uh-oh” can convey a lot. The parent or caregiver, who knows and understands their child, can supply the needed words. Silence speaks as well.

We too have a Helper, someone who speaks for us to God, who knows and understands us. I am reminded of a verse from the book of Romans. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (NIV) *

Isn’t that encouraging?! We have a voice and an Advocate*. We do not have to stress over expressing ourselves to God. A simple “Oh, God” or just resting in silence as He hears our heart is sufficient.

I am so thankful to God who understands us all. We are His children, sometimes joyously bounding about the room with our “oink-oinks” or “vrrmms” or other times curled upon ourselves in voiceless pain. Whether our words pour out to Him in great torrents, with simple utterance, or are voiceless… He gets it!

My prayer for us today is that we may be encouraged that He hears us and knows us, and that we can come before Him as a little child.

*Romans 8:26, John 14:16-17

Reflections on Telephones

phone wood background_Jessica Lewis_pexels

• Communication is a circle not a one-way line
• The gift of language is a foundation upon which all is built
• Fruitful communication requires more than one sender 
• Take care not to spend all your time in self-absorption
• Touch another life in positive support and compassion
• Affirm worth and heed subtle calls for help
• Words once spewed from our mouth cannot be recovered
• Flashy ads and gadgets can distract us from what matters
• Seek knowledge with careful thought
• Value learning for a fuller and richer life
• When dark clouds gather we need each other
• Giving someone your full attention is priceless
• The sound of a caring voice can bring sunshine to a life
• Listen to God who hears our calls

from “Reflections from the Everyday”  by caallen

Responsible Freedom

Sunrise 2_IMG_1787

I’ll be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want.” What budding young adult upon first striking out on their own, or dreaming of doing so, has not had that thought or something very similar? Children too, fret at times under the authority of their parents or others.

I can remember similar thoughts of my own and I see in my mind’s eye that eighteen-year-old me as she headed off to college. Admittedly, there was a little anxiety as well. Though I was “on my own” I did not leave all behind nor dump what had been instilled in me for the previous eighteen years. I brought with me my faith, my values, life’s teachings, and lessons learned from my parents and others. I realized that with this newfound freedom, there was also great responsibility.

As unfinished and developing human beings, we allow our thoughts, emotions, and actions to drive how we react to others. The familiar, “He (or she) hit me first” of children is echoed in many forms for we adults. We justify ourselves by placing blame and by not recognizing our own responsibilities within our freedom to choose.

Paul said this well in his first letter to the church in Corinth. I like that my Bible titles this section as “The Believer’s Freedom.” He said, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. *

Wow! That was pretty radical and certainly not something usually promoted, including today. Two words that stood out for me in Paul’s statement are “beneficial” and “constructive.” Not everything that we have the freedom to do results in good. Not everything we have the freedom to do serves a useful purpose or builds up others. While this freedom may be related to written laws or practices it is much more than that. This freedom has to do with personal character and integrity. It has everything to do with personal faith and commitment. Tied into all of this is compassion, love and care for others, and mutual respect.

That doesn’t make it right” is a common response to the child’s declaration of “He (or she) hit me first!” What are our thoughts, our reactions, or our words to everyday situations? Do they reflect responsible freedom? Do they shine Christ’s light? This is a challenge for us all, I think.

I pray that I will better walk the path of responsible freedom. May we all seek and follow that path, ever striving for that which is beneficial and that which is constructive. All praise and thanks to God who draws His children closer to Him.

*1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Reflections on Bridges

wooden bridge in woods_pexels_cropped

• Sometimes the way seems impossible
• By persevering we make a way for others
• We cross from one season of life to the next
• Some roads lead us over roaring torrents
• Other paths cross and meander over quiet ways
• Ways that meet can change the world
• Making bridges together forms strong bonds
• Reach and stretch to pursue positive goals
• Build what is good and strong and enduring
• Move forward with open eyes and positive perspective
• As you travel notice beauty around you and give thanks
• The Son is our greatest Bridge-maker

from “Reflections from the Everyday” by caallen

Windows of Our Hearts

fan electric_by Roy Muz_Unsplash

The hum of the big exhaust fan in the window of our upstairs hallway signaled the beginning of another summer evening. As night drew closer, the familiar voices and sounds of my family about the house or in the yard were comforting and familiar. In those days of yesteryear, I see myself stretched out on my bed or curled up on my window seat reading a good book or just watching life from my bedroom window. To this day these same things in my own home bring contentment and peace.

We always closed the windows and retreated to the cooler lower floor during the day as summer’s heat began to build around mid-morning. Then, as evening’s cool touch came, the windows were opened, and the fans began to draw out the warm air that had built up in our upstairs rooms through the day. I remember breathing deeply of the cool night’s air as it was drawn in and listening to the sounds of life… the voices of insects, tree frogs, and owls and the rhythm of our small-town. The refreshing coolness brought a sense of peace and renewal, especially if the day had been long or difficult.

The windows of our hearts can be like those rooms on hot summer days. Sometimes we close them – perhaps due to doubt, anger, or fear – as we seek to guard ourselves or to declare our own will. I know that when I am hurt, let down, angry, or disappointed I too tend to withdraw and shut off as much as possible from its source. This may bring some relief for a time, until there is room for healing and the opening of those windows.

As we beat against the ills we see, so that our ears are deafened to all else, God’s cool healing breath washes over our world. May we not fail to see and feel it! There is injustice in this world, but there is also the breath of God. Like those fans, as we open our hearts to God, His breath fills us and draws from us that which is stale and stifling… that which has caused hurt.

Have you considered the breath of God? As in the beginning of time, “then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” *

We are living beings, whom God loves, and He said it was very good. *

My prayer for our world is that we will know God’s refreshing and renewing breath. I pray that He will draw from us that which is stale and stifling, driven by hurt, and fill us with the hope of His Spirit.

* Genesis 1:31, 2:7

Reflections on Bullfrogs

bull-frog-Jill Wellington_Pixabay_cropped

• Great leaps arise from great thought
• Dive into good tasks with all you have
• Jumping into things without thought can cause unwanted splashes
• Our voices are heard in community
• Speak with forethought as ears are listening
• Sometimes we bellow to draw attention
• Listening to constant bellowing can lead to depression
• Overwhelming others for the sake of gain will backlash
• Big eyes may cause us to overconsume
• When we all want something only for ourselves things can get violent
• The finest looking morsel can sour once gained
• Night can blind us to danger or cloak us in peace
• Wait and watch so you will be prepared
• Good change grows as our Creator works


from “Reflections from the Everyday” caallen

Keep Your Heart

Heart made with stones_beach_by AnnaER_Pixabay

When I was a teen, I helped my neighbor clean her home on Saturday mornings. She was a retired teacher and the bit I earned gave me a little spending money. My parents had taught us the importance of keeping our own home as well. We were expected to clean our rooms each week and beds must be made before we went to school or did anything else for the day. Keeping our home clean, and helping outside the home as well, taught us the importance of caring for what we had. Some seasons or days were busier, but the established pattern of keeping our home in order helped ensure that we would catch up. Of course, a bit of prodding and reminders from our parents were sometimes needed!

There was much more involved in keeping a home than cleaning! My dad was a handyman and he made sure the house was cared for, involving all of us in that work as well. Maintaining a home was a continuing job and safety was important too. I remember always checking that the doors were secured each night.

Like keeping our home, keeping our heart is important too, and it impacts how we develop and grow as a person. For me, this is a life-long challenge! What we allow to come in – our thoughts, what we see, and what we listen to – has an effect for good or harm. A favorite verse in Proverbs says, “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” *

Good “heart care” prepares us to face temptations and difficulties in life. Leaving my “windows” wide open to negative or unhealthy influences when storms of life come or when things seem dark does not protect or keep my heart. Throwing open the doors to them allows the prowlers to come in. What situations are we putting ourselves in? What do we listen to each day? What are we watching? … I so need God to help me with this heart work!

God reminds us of the importance of examining our heart and allowing Him to guide and help us. I am thankful to Him for giving us positive influence and support of parents, mentors, friends, and Christian community. We can all help each other to “keep our heart” so that what flows from it is good and life-giving.

*Proverbs 4:23