Preparation

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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

A Bad Rap?

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Think now of the mule, the donkey, the goat…
Such creatures as this who bear a great load!

Such poor reputations and so misunderstood
For services provided on a regular basis

Now Jack, now Jenny the sun is well risen…
Come on! You’re well rested! Time for a new day

Let’s go! … Please?!
Hey, wake up! Ah well…

Here Sweetly. You too HeeHaw.
You can join your friends in the cow pasture.

Guard duty today. No, over here…
Ohhh! I’m your friend. Run everyone! Run!

Billy! Where are you going?
Get out of the way! Don’t eat that!

…There we go. All settled now?
All in a day’s work for my unappreciated friends

What’s that? You’re considering getting a camel?
Hey! Watch out! He’ll spit in your eye!

Reflections on Sawdust

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The bits and pieces we leave behind speak of life lived
• We gain in wisdom as we are shaped
• The remnants we leave are our legacy
• A protective surrounding will shelter and nourish new life
• Warmth and support bring contentment
• A soft bed and peaceful rest are not to be taken for granted
• The smell of worked wood inspires creativity
• The unfolding of outer layers can be difficult
• An artist forms things of wonder and beauty
• The Master’s hand can form beauty from the roughest exteriors

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, 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

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)

STILL

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“Hold still a minute, please!”

How often have we said or heard that phrase?! Whether to a wiggly child getting assistance with a coat before rushing out to play or putting finishing touches on any procedure, “holding still” is sometimes a challenge. This can be especially difficult if pain or discomfort is anticipated, such as getting a splinter out. We will ourselves, with gritted teeth and wavering resolve, not to pull back!

Our “go” and “do” society often encourages or rewards us for all those good or expected items. How do we choose when we have so many options? Group or individual activities, self-improvement, school activities and sports, community volunteers, arts and music, support groups, church and family… The possibilities are many!  Of course, there are seasons of life when things are full. Making a living and raising children, study or training for an occupation, and caring for loved ones are all important. There is satisfaction in work and events accomplished. These are positive things, right?

Besides, when we stay busy then we don’t have to think about things …things like life and faith. Who has time or energy to think?! The passing of time, especially things that make us uncomfortable or unhappy can be easily shoved aside. Even positive things can slip away before we know it. We somehow don’t get around to seeing that neighbor, friend, or family member. Things are set on autopilot, keeping up with our “to do’s.”

The problem for me with packed days of “go and do” is that I often find myself restless or stressed. By not allowing myself to pause, worry can become a norm. It’s difficult to fully relax and enjoy life. Taking time for those precious moments of stillness will renew and refresh us.

The writer of the book of Psalms knew this great gift and need for stillness, having struggled with it himself. God reminded him to “be still and know that I am God…” * The psalmist paints a picture of life as a surging sea; sometimes the waves mount up, but God quiets them with a word. *  This is echoed in Jesus’ words in the book of Mark, “Quiet. Be still” he rebuked the winds and waves. * Good reminders for us today!

My prayer for us, is that we will be intentional about our moments of stillness, however brief, and that we will treasure them. I pray for pauses to give thanks and to recognize God who brings healing and strength, and that you may heed His caring words, “Quiet. Be still.”

* Psalm 46:10a; Psalm 89:9; Psalm 107:29; Mark 4:39

Small World

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Why look right there
Now what is that

I peer into
A small world

Busy hurrying
Here and there

Creeping crawling
Flying digging

Busy ants and
Chirping crickets

Waiting spiders
Swaying webs

Wasps and bees and
Buzzing mosquitoes

Caterpillars munching
Butterflies flitting

Dragonflies and
So much more

Such interesting lives
We seldom notice

Working and living
See their small world

Reflections on Wheelbarrows

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• We have many options when tackling a big job
• If things become unbalanced, we can tip over
• Loads can be eased with the right equipment
• Gathering resources first will increase success
• When the load is large, work a little at a time
• Easing burdens improves the work process
• We take on challenges so we can move forward
• Dumping anxiety and doubt eases stress
• Step-by-step, progress is made
• Consider your best path to offer services
• Take care of your tools for long and productive use
• Thank the One who works along-side you

Reflections on Chairs

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• A good foundation lends strength to the outcome
• We need each other for support
• Sometimes we need a little help getting to our feet
• Adding a personal touch makes a positive difference
• Chairs can be a place of gathering
• Welcome others to a place of rest
• A secure lap brings much comfort
• Balance work and relaxation
• Reliability is an important feature
• The Chairmaker brings strength and encouragement

From “Reflections from the Everyday”

Reflections on Ants

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Size does not determine wisdom
• Don’t disregard the value of hard work
• Never pausing to rest will soon burn you out
• Things which look enticing may also bring negative results
• Never consider things from only one small perspective
• Focusing on only what is right before us can blind us to everything else
• Regular communication is key to life
• Working together for a common purpose brings results

• Helping those who are hurting strengthens everyone
• There are seasons to draw together and seasons to venture forth