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
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.
“I’ll be back in a little while,” my mom would say, as she headed out the door to check on some neighbor. They would often call on “Ms. Marge” with questions or concerns about their health, perhaps needing their blood pressure checked, and my mother was always attentive. With her nursing background, we sometimes referred to her as “the neighborhood nurse.” She would make sure they were alright or encourage them to get to the doctor’s office, often taking them herself. My mom was a very caring and giving person.
We are each a part of “community,” and it is by reaching out to each other, using our unique abilities or interests to support and encourage, that we find fulfillment. Whether in times of unrest and difficulty or in everyday routines, how will we rise to the opportunities that we encounter? How will we give and receive care, and so allow God’s light to shine?
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he spoke of his own ministry. “…But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”
I think of my family, friends, and church who have offered their presence, resources, fellowship, practical help, and prayers. What an encouragement! How overwhelmed, humbled, and thankful I have been for them. In big and small ways, we care for each other. It can be hard not to compare ourselves to what others are able to do, can’t it? I’m glad to be able to offer what I can and to express my gratitude when that care is offered to me.
Paul, this time to the Galatians, reminds us, “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all…” May our words and our actions speak God’s voice, and may we receive and offer grace when we fall short.
My prayer is that we do not miss those opportunities amid the rush and whirl of our daily activities… God bless. Be content.
• 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
When I was a girl, I loved climbing up into trees. Sometimes I’d take a book with me to read, but often I would just sit… swaying gently in the breeze. I would look quietly around me and up into the sky and imagine what it might be like to experience the world like a bird. Darting from tree to tree or soaring through the air… their perspective must be so different from mine!
From the walkway in front of our small-town house, steps led down to the street sidewalk with a nice place to sit on either side. Beneath them, chipmunks made their home. It was a safe place away from the neighborhood cats! I had learned to sit very still, up toward the house, to watch them scampering back and forth. I wondered what they saw as they looked about at the world towering over them!
We people upon this earth come from such rich and varied backgrounds! Like the birds and the chipmunks which I watched, we each have our own unique perspectives. I’m reminded of the story in Acts 2 about the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. People from all nations and speaking many different languages were in Jerusalem during the celebration of the harvest festival, known as the Feast of Weeks (Shavout). Can you imagine the crowds gathered and the diversity of the people?! Hear the shouts and voices of people making their way about the city. See the variety of clothing. Smell the aroma of foods cooking…
Then a great roaring rush of wind drew the crowds to where the apostles and followers of Jesus stood. Can you sense their amazement and confusion as they heard, from these uneducated men, the “wonders of God” in their own languages? … And thousands became followers of Christ from this one encounter.
One thing that I had never really thought about was that these very people, from all nations, then came together. They lived, ate, and worked together in their shared humanity. Their very differences were their strengths… Isn’t that so true for us as well?
I try so hard to consider the perspective of others and what might be influencing or affecting them. Some days are just more challenging than others, aren’t they?! It’s my prayer for us today that God will help us to better consider the perspectives of others and to acknowledge our common humanity. Can you see the people? Can you hear the sounds of life? Can you smell the rich aroma?