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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Gift of Gratitude

Do you ever have the kind of day that your body and mind just want to shut down... and you wanted to escape it all?   I have a feeling I'm not alone, but that is how I felt today, weary to the bone, in spirit and my body too...

And the amusing thing was I was going to joyfully write about Gratitude!  For this was the next word on my list of words for the Lent season.

Days like this, we choose life, and take a lot of rest!  Cheerful friends encouraged me, and getting some care from the doctor helped too...and I thought about what I was grateful for on this pilgrimage of Lent, where I am posting these words, week by week.

Give thanks in ALL things... so the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians.  And truly, this has been a wonderful thing for me, each day, to write what I am thankful for, what brings me joy.

Lately, it has been the robin, faithful each morning, greeting the new day and heralding that spring is really, truly here.  Even if it is a little cold outside!

It has been a deep awareness of how much I am loved.... by the One who created me, and God watches over us. And how God loves each one of us.

I'm thankful for precious family, dear caring friends, a wonderful work environment, and the list is far too long for a blog on gratitude.

And yet, we can have difficult days, as I did today... and then a miracle happened.  I came home, weary and we had a late dinner.  And the phone rang... and this person who knew nothing of my circumstances, of my day, proceeded to tell me how God cared for what was going on my life... and He was providing me the strength to carry on.  How I needed those words of encouragement!

And I was overflowing with gratitude for God's provision through someone who listened to His voice and took the time to phone and encourage me.

Some years ago I was profoundly moved by a book by Ann Voscamp called One Thousand Gifts.  It is a book all about practicing gratitude every day, an awareness of all God has provided for us.  It is a wonderful read.  This past week I posted one of Ann's quotes, where she says: "Being joyful isn't what makes you grateful.  Being grateful is what makes you joyful".  There is truth in that, don't you think?

Week Four of the Lent Journey - all about gratitude!  Thank you for sharing these thoughts with me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Contemplative Life

Many of us express our faith journeys in different ways, as different as the personalities God gave us.  I believe those lines are blurring as we have conversations and learn to worship ecumenically... together!  I absolutely love gathering with different denominations, and although we might have different theological interpretations, we can rejoice about what we have in common!

Part of my own spiritual journey has to enter into more contemplative forms of worship, to be still, to listen to God, and this has enriched my life immensely!

For some, this might seem foreign, or different that what we are used to, but I remember our dear professor, a gentle man of God, telling us to lift our hands to God and open our hands, asking God to show us truth, and trusting God to filter what wasn't of Him away...

As I entered my first silent retreat, I was quite nervous.  I wasn't used to spending this much time alone, and in silence.  But as I did, a profound sense of peace came, and I sensed the God I loved was there.  "Be Still and Know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) has become so vital to me... for it is when I am still, and inviting God's presence, there is a knowing... often confirmed by scripture.

I love to sit with scripture this way... asking God what I need to learn, and often the words come alive as they speak to different areas of my life, often the very thing I need for that moment.  And I know I need to practice this more!

Part of the joy of my art doodles is playing with words, and often I feel led to different scriptures to understand a thought or theme.

As I have been walking through this season of lent, I asked God which words I should think about for each week.  This week is the word Contemplation.

Now you might have noticed that in the art work, I use a word with the letter t - which becomes a cross.  I believe the cross is central to my faith, to following Jesus.  The cross is central to the Easter story, the gift of Jesus' life, his death and resurrection.  

There is an interesting verse from 2 Corinthians 3:18 which talks about how we contemplate the Lord's glory, and part of following Jesus is being transformed into his image!  

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit".

The practice of Lent comes from those early days when Jesus was preparing for ministry, where he spent 40 days in the desert.  That is a long time.  And as he sat in silence, I think he had much time to contemplate and meditate on what God was preparing him for.  As we know, he was also tempted, and he overcame that temptation.  

"My Soul finds rest in God.", the Psalmist says... and that involves time.  Time away from the phone, the TV, the busyness of life... time to just ponder... this is part of the journey. And I'm trying to practice this through these days of preparation for Easter.

There is mystery to this.  And wonder.  That is part of faith.  To think about - contemplate - that God, through Jesus came so that we could have life.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Joy of being Forgiven

This post, the third in the series of reflections on the Lent journey, is one I've thought about a lot.

The word that came to me for this week is Contrition.

As we enter into a life of following Christ, we become aware of our own need, of our own faults.  In the many visits I make and spiritual conversations I have, the words sin and repentance can often be a barrier to conversation.  Many have felt judged before they felt loved...and the truth of it is that often humans are very good at judging before they practice loving.

I believe it is God's realm to judge... we are called to share his love.  Part of this good news is sharing God's gift of forgiveness!  I liked a definition of sin I heard recently... it is all about the middle letter... I!  My own desires, my selfishness, and we know we are human and don't measure up.

One of the emphasis of Lent is to take a solemn look at ourselves, and come, as we are, to the one who loves and calls us.  He is full of forgiveness and healing!  I love the picture of a dad, receiving his penitent child, and celebrating restored relationship!  In the story of the Prodigal son, which Jesus told, he shares the tales of two sons... one who blew it all, and lived recklessly... and then came back, so sorry and wanting restored relationship.  And the dad received him with open arms!!

And then there is the other son... one which I've identified with at times in my life... self-righteous, working hard, felt he was doing it all correctly... and then angry when his dad showed forgiveness to his brother..

It was a turning point in my life when I could say, God, in my weakness, with my faults, I come to you... and joyfully receive forgiveness and love.   God loved me exactly as I was.  God is a God of mercy and compassion!

There is a cleansing when we confess our faults, a transparency and authenticity that I believe God desires, and also helps us in our relationships.  James said, Confess our sins to each other and pray for each other that you might be healed!"

Psalm 51 is a wonderful prayer to pray when we are entering into confession... this Psalm of David was a cry of repentance after he committed a grievous crime.  "Create in me a clean heart!" he cries, and God was faithful to restore their relationship, even calling David a man after his own heart.

In this journey of Lent, I am thankful for the gift of Christ, who came, who invites us into relationship, who offers forgiveness.  This is the gift of freedom, to trust in One who loves us so deeply, who has given us the gift of life.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Waiting in Expectation

The next few blogs I write will be more devotional in nature, my own commitment to Lent this year, and I'm grateful if you choose to explore these themes with me!

The second word of the series is Expectation.  As we are invited into this walk with Christ, there is much expectation.

I was thinking this morning of how as a little girl I anticipated birthday parties, or other celebrations or vacations.  Truly the expectation was a good part of the thrill and enjoyment.

At times, people view Christianity as something to be feared, a big list of do's and don'ts.
When Jesus said come and follow me, it didn't mean my life would be easy.  But what God offers is joy and peace, and companionship!  There is an anticipation and expectation of what this looks like, what God, my heavenly father will do for me!

There is a wonderful verse from Exodus, "The Lord Himself will fight for you, just stay calm!"  Wow... this is an invitation to be still, to let God do the work.  I see this picture of a father saying... Calm down, let me take care of it.

We are called children of God, and when you sit with that thought, it frees me to truly trust, as I wait with expectation.  I can tend to be a fearful person, but when I operate out of trust, knowing that God wants my best, it enables me to relax.  King David said, "When I wait, You strengthen my heart."

The practice of Lent is still fairly new to me, and I've been reading what I can about it.  My understanding is that it comes from the 40 days and nights Jesus spent in the wilderness before the beginning of his ministry.  The season of Lent as we follow today is taking 40 days and nights (Sundays are excluded in this count) to reflect, to fast, to focus on the life of Christ as we prepare for Easter.

For some, this has become a time of giving up something.  We were inspired by another idea, and want to give something, so we found a box and want to fill it with items that we can donate to those who need it.... an item for each day of Lent.

However you practice this season, for me, just like Advent, it is an invitation to look at the life of Christ, to prepare myself for this holy celebration.   Jesus' time in the wilderness was a time to wait on God, and as I learn from that example I feel compelled to wait... to wait with expectation to see what God has for me.

In the waiting, it is good to be reminded of Jesus' words, as I quoted last week: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28).

I love the paraphrase of this verse in the Message, "Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me... watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."  

As we wait in expectation oh God, may our hearts draw near to You.  Amen.