Like this, and this… Now move these fingers. As my beginner self practices the fingering and chords on my classical guitar, I move slowly. Learning a new piece takes time and attention, whatever the difficulty level may be for that person. It’s not enough just to know the notes but takes so much more into consideration, such as movement across the strings and how to play each phrase. It requires effort and dedication over time to make the whole piece beautiful and meaningful, knowing that there will be mistakes but persevering and doing our best. Then too, it is not so much the level of accomplishment as it is the satisfaction it brings to oneself and to others. This makes it fun and exciting.
Encountering new things is a regular part of life. What new things get you excited? Is it that new car smell, an anticipated job, a relationship, or a baby and new life? Maybe you are looking forward to a time of growth, learning a new skill, gaining knowledge, or an opportunity to serve. New things and new times can be hard and unwanted too. Maybe we’re just ready to shed stressful experiences and move forward. As I grow older, there are more things to miss but there are also more things to treasure. Faith in God, prayer, community, and family are vital supports when facing new situations. Working through new things can be a long process.
What if I just continued to play the same guitar piece or practiced the same scales over-and-over without using them to improve my music… never learned new pieces? I imagine that boredom or apathy would sneak in, and I may give it up completely. Where would I be if I just focused on my mistakes and my missed practice, or if I let my enjoyment be affected by feelings of not being good enough? Satisfaction and contentment come, not just from what we gain through our new experiences, but what we can also give to others.
My prayer is that we will be as new songs each day, that we praise God for his great love as He holds us through our pain and through our joy, and that we give even as we gain… May our lives be as beautiful music in His hands.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God… Psalm 40:3
• Gifts from the heart come in many forms • Give simple gifts freely and daily • A child’s embrace and trust are to be treasured • Receiving gives others the opportunity to give • Material gifts, while nice, should not be overrated • Do not turn away what is needed when offered in love • Gifts of time and service express compassion and fellowship • Examine what you value most • Share faith, family, home, and strength of community • Be genuine in giving • See those in need, be present with the lonely, hear the hurting • Give quietly and without expectation or demand of personal return • Do not reserve gift giving for holidays, celebrations, or other remembrances • Give “just because” • God gave all because of the greatest of love
from “Reflections from the Everyday” – Charlotte-Anne Allen
Heading home one November evening, I pass the yard with the purple flashing lights of a Halloween skeleton which had been left up. As I turn into my driveway, I see that my neighbor has set out his Santa figure and manger scene. Have you noticed a trend too? As the seasons move forward towards year’s end, decorations are being put out earlier and left up longer. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas…
There is a positive hope in these simple and familiar decorations, despite the challenges our world is facing and adjustments to a “new normal.” They reflect a strength of spirit and make room for happier times. I love the positive celebration of life! This time-of-year is a good opportunity to offer encouragement to others, to realize anew the value of family, community, work, church, giving to others…
As we go about our daily routines, what are we doing to strengthen and help each other? Everyone appreciates encouragement and recognition, or a listening ear. The lighted decorations make me think of the verse that says, “Let light shine out of darkness” (*2 Corinthians 4:6). Think of all the workers, the medical community, educators, transport services, and more who have struggled to keep things running. They have truly been a source of light. How are we impacting others and how have we been impacted by loss and a changing economy? How are we celebrating the good and coming together in our shared humanity?
May the flashing lights of the seasons’ decorations or the quiet humble manger scene be reminders. See through the darkness, give thanks for what we have, and remember the Christ child come to earth. In this journey I pray that we will grow stronger, wiser, more caring… trusting and serving God. May His light shine through each of us.
“Did that get it?” I squinted my eyes and turned my head to view the window I was cleaning, gaining a new perspective as the angle of light shifted. Rubbing out another smudge on the glass, I stepped back to check out my work. Looking good! No more streaks or dirt.
Isn’t life just like that too… especially in relationships with others?! Our feelings, emotions, and reactions are often wrapped up in our own perspective. We lash out or jump to conclusions… because of course that is what the other person was thinking or planning, right?! At least that is our own presumption. Unfortunately, I have found myself regretting my reactions and undergoing deep hurt or upset because I failed to consider where the other person was coming from, their thoughts or intents.
Considering things from the perspective of others brings a wealth of opportunities for positive experiences. Like the unseen dirt or smudges on glass, a shift in the way we see others and a desire to understand or extend some grace is needed. How often do we pause to reflect on the reactions or needs of others, to consider their past or present circumstances? How will looking at them from a different angle help exchange stress for compassion or lead to better understanding?
Perhaps Matthew and Luke had something of this in mind when they said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” * Don’t we all want to be understood and to be given some grace in those moments when things just aren’t going right? I sure appreciate it when someone recognizes why I may have had a certain reaction and I am encouraged when they offer support and understanding!
Perhaps the next time you are cleaning that window or mirror, when you notice a smudge on your glasses, or when you flip your windshield wipers on… you will pause to consider your own perspective in some current situation. May God, who knows the human heart, grant us peace and a better perspective.
The cool morning greeted me as I peeked out of the window, then stepped outside. Soft fog gently touched my face and chilled my arms. Drops of moisture clung to leaf and blade, lending its nourishment. Sounds of early morning rising were muffled and the neighbor’s nearby chickens clucked contentedly. The cats’ meows welcomed their morning feeding.
I love these soft foggy mornings, where the day begins more gently. The fog hides or softens our surroundings and I am more acutely aware. The quiet invites me to join in, easing my soul and settling my heart in preparation for the day. In that pause, I breathe deeply and feel at peace.
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of God’s majesty as seen in His creation. “It is (God) who made the earth by his power…He makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.” * I think of God covering us, like a mist or fog, offering us nourishment and gently touching us to cool our anxious thoughts.
What an encouragement and positive start for our day! As the sun rises and begins to burn off the fog, so we turn to our activities or head off to work. Breathe deeply. Draw on God’s covering presence. Know His touch.
• Waiting for when times are ripe is an exercise in patience • Develop good and savory aspects of your heritage • Preparation can be a long process • Choose that which will build up and strengthen • Discard that which is not productive or nourishing • Consider the many ways your interests and gifts can be used • Be careful of what you surround yourself with • What you surround yourself with will influence all that you are • Careful pruning develops better fruit and stronger character • We project our true character through our words and actions • May the scent of our actions draw and not repel • Act compassionately so others may taste of goodness and hope • Take nourishment through the Son’s light • Draw wisdom and knowledge through God’s Word
From “Reflections from the Everyday” by Charlotte-Anne Allen
“Thank you, God, for this day. Be with me and guide me.” These and similar thoughts and prayers are my daily morning greeting.
Whether we’re someone who awakens quickly, fully alert and moving, or are someone who slowly regains consciousness through blurry eyes and reluctant body where moving is concerned, we all have in common our needs or plans for the day.
With each day’s beginning, we also have a choice about our attitude and our outlook. Our thoughts and responses will likely follow what we have chosen to focus on. Are we dwelling on the negative? Do we make a conscious commitment to see the positive? I am learning to capture the bright spots, to be more aware of them, and to be thankful for those moments.
As I stood at my kitchen sink one day, humming to myself as I washed dishes, I was suddenly aware that I was happy. There had been frustrations earlier with my office work. I was concerned about the health of some family members. There were any number of things to get me down. But “right here, right now” I was happy. I repeated that to myself and smiled, and I thanked God for the “right here, right now” times. I am thankful for moments when I can refocus and trust that God walks with me, and I with him, when my focus turns away from stressful things and rests in Him.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he urged people to think on things that are good and positive. He urged them not to worry but to rejoice and to know that God was near and that His peace would guard our hearts and minds. * These words themselves are cause for happiness and hope.
How many times have we rushed on to the next thing without fully appreciating or acknowledging our spots of joy and happiness? Yes, bad things happen. Yes, some days are exhausting. People die or face pain, frustration, or tragedy… Then too, there are the powerful moments, when we realize in the “right here, right now” that happiness and peace comes from our great and loving God and His presence with us. Memories and moments can burst upon us and make us smile, even through our tears, and laugh and know God’s awesome love in the midst of it all.
My prayers for us all are to gather those moments and smile and exclaim to ourselves, “right here, right now… I’m happy.” God bless.
• Watch what you touch as it may stick to you • Accumulated experiences shape and form us • Heated words can burn up friendships • Act wisely and think to avoid spreading harm • Pain and struggle can contribute to unhealthy buildup • Uncontrolled anger spews hurt upon all around • Miscommunication causes frustration and estrangement • Covering up mistakes reflects insecurity • Honesty and humility help to clear the air • Tough things in life require hard work to overcome • Uplifting music covers encourages and soothes • Caring acts grow from compassionate hearts • Daily prayer is like a good cleaning • God is our chimney sweep
From “Reflections from the Everyday” – Charlotte-Anne Allen