Wintery Places

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A dark night, I draw into my coat against the freezing wind and biting chill. My head aches from the cold air I draw in through my reddening nose. Memories of warmth and light seem dim, as does the path ahead…

Haven’t we all faced similar scenes in life’s journey?! Sometimes our dark nights come gradually, perhaps painfully, as those we love slowly leave us … whether through increasingly debilitating illness, addictions, mental or emotional challenges, or any number of things which result in that withdrawal. Other times we are slammed abruptly by a flying boulder which smashes all that we care about into a pile of unrecognizable debris. We are left feeling numb, angry, or broken.

How do we face life’s times of loss and the resulting debris left behind? It can be a long, cold, and lonely journey. God, who faithfully walks with me and carries me, gives me hope. Through Him, that sometimes-dimming light can grow brighter. He touches me with the joy of His presence.

I’m reminded of some favorite verses in the Song of Solomon. What a wonderful reminder this little-quoted and sometimes misunderstood book of the Bible is! God’s love poem to us!

For lo, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. *

Like a warm scarf, God’s love wraps around me. I blink at the light shining through breaking clouds and find shelter from the driving wind. There is delight in the sparkle of new snow and clinging icicles. Friends and family bring comfort and fellowship. Warmth welcomes.

Through Jeremiah, God spoke a promise for us all:

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again, I will build you and you shall be rebuilt… *

May we find in God’s love poem and His words of promise, comfort in our wintery places. Be encouraged.

*Song of Solomon 2:11-12; Jeremiah 31:3-4a

Requirements!

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Papers please… Don’t forget to renew by… You must have… Payment due… Reports needed!

Life seems to be a never-ending cycle of requirements just to keep the daily gears turning! How do I keep up? Sometimes things come all at once. I get flooded with extra work to do, insurance payments, certification and dues renewal, vehicle registration and inspection, extra commitments, and more.

Honestly, sometimes I wish that I could just sit back and let go of some of my responsibilities. Don’t we all feel overwhelmed sometimes? Whether from a paid job or volunteer positions, there are always associated requirements.

Yet in the midst of all of that, I am ever aware of the richness of life and I am thankful. A job and income provide basic necessities. I have a car to drive, which enables me to drive so that I can work. I have a home to live in and family around me. There are friends to share with. Church, music, dance, and writing have special places. My life is full.

As I think about that, I am reminded of what Micah, a prophet living in Judah in the early 700s BC, said. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” * In that is the true stuff of life, isn’t it?!

Even when I tire of the many requirements, they are a part of all we do and are not always a negative thing. They provide direction, maintain what is needed, and allow us to follow our call. What does the Lord require of us? To give our all, to extend His love to others, to walk humbly… with Him! Despite all the craziness or stress, the pain and grief we may encounter, and the loss of loved ones… in those words there is fulfillment and contentment.

*Micah 6:8

Reflections on Slippers

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• Each day needs slipper moments
• Rise to a new day with anticipation of good
• A warm smile and kind touch bring comfort
• Soft words encourage healing and rest
• Protecting others is a most noble call and occupation
• Reach out to others like a warm home on a cold day
• Slip on true friendship and slide off falsehood
• Put on that which will enrich life
• Embrace laughter and silly slippers for a joyful heart
• A peaceful evening of rest is a great blessing
• Knowing we are useful brings contentment
• The Comforter is always with us

Celebrate

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That’s wonderful! Yay! Great! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you! You did it!

We enjoy celebrating those noteworthy moments in life. Whether it be the result of long hard work, another year of life, a special anniversary, or a new life born… times of celebration express joy and excitement.

I remember the celebration of my mother’s 80th birthday. Friends and family worked to make this a special surprise. The church secretary asked my mom to stop by to pick up something and the plot was sprung! What joy shone on my mother’s face as gathered family and friends all wished her a happy birthday and expressed our love for her, to one who was so giving and compassionate. I treasure that memory.

I celebrate too, the quiet satisfaction of accomplishment… perhaps a completed task for work, a finished piece of writing, simple tasks around the house, or doing something for family or friends. These daily celebrations are as important as the larger occasions and are a source of contentment and affirmation of life.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the quiet of the night was awakened to joy-filled words of celebration! “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” the host of angels proclaimed, “and on earth peace…” When the shepherds found this newborn Son of God, they celebrated by spreading the news to all who would hear. * Can you imagine the amazement and excitement in the little town that night?

There were other celebrations in the coming days as well, the praise of Simeon when he recognized Christ and the thanks of Anna who shared the news of his birth to all of those who had been waiting for that day. *

When the wise men arrived at the home of the child Jesus, they celebrated through worship and through the giving of gifts. They too had been searching for the child who had been born to the world. *

Something which is especially meaningful to me is Mary’s quiet and strong celebration, simply stated in Luke 2:19. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Her thoughts must have gone back to the earlier encounter with her cousin Elizabeth as they celebrated together. * After months of carrying this child, now came further affirmation. Imagine her awe and joy, and perhaps also the fear or questions about what this motherhood would bring in days and years to come. All the pain, discomfort, whispers, and exhaustion must have faded as she looked upon her son and saw the face of God.

As we travel through life, may we treasure those moments of celebrations. May we ponder deeply and long the greatest gift of all, Emmanuel, God with us!

* Luke 2:13-30 (Shepherd and Angels); Luke 2:25-28 (Simeon); Luke 2:36-38 (Anna);
Matthew 2:10-11 (Wise Men); Luke 1:39-56 (Elizabeth and Mary)

Reflections on Popcorn

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• Youth is full of energy
• Energy can be guided to much good
• Things bursting upon us may catch us unprepared
• We build hard exteriors to shield our inner being
• Holding onto bitterness will cause us to explode
• It is difficult to grow when dry and malnourished
• Accepting our imperfections develops inner peace
• Beauty can come from brokenness
• Cracks allow access to nourishment
• Opening up enables us to receive as well as give
• Things which bring joy are the seasonings of life
• The Spirit within ourselves is the source of good