Praising God in the Dark

The February rain has usurped the modest daylight. i lie here trapped in a body that rarely tolerates being upright and i confess ingratitude. Recognizing how blessed i am to be watching a tufted titmouse at the feeder on the hill facing my patio doors stops me. A pile of rocks and roots that is the steep hill a few feet from my window blocks the view. Or, perchance, it is the glorious view of chipmunk, wren, and squirrel.

KQzoK4%+TVuQ2twtOQpuJwThe infirmity that keeps me lying and prevents me from participating in our society is the burden God gave me to bear. All our burdens are custom designed to help us grow toward Him.  The gloom and haze that infects the weather and our mood is the very medium we need to move our gaze to Him. i only feel sorry for myself when i am thinking about myself.

i am not the point. Period. Full stop.

Repentance, metanoia means to turn around, change direction and move the other way. i repent of thinking about myself.

The only reason i feel low is that i am thinking about what i would like to be doing. Being is more important than doing. i am learning in the lying down all the time to be. To be with God. In prayer.

Ceaseless, relentlessly He pursues me. Like Peter, i look about at the waves and cry that i am drowning. How can i drown when He is near?

i fear because i forget to be in His presence.

The hill does not block my view, the hill is my beautiful view even in the dismal dank rain.

My physical limitations are not preventing me from having a full life they are teaching me how to live a full life.

i praise God for His extraordinary blessings! His mercy never ends!

Do You Practice?

Brushes are versatile and solve many of our needs. We can brush our hair, clothes, clean electronics, or paint with a brush.

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Cleaning and painting are important activities. Despite the functionality, I wonder how many people today actually have brushes? I have noticed in stores a tendency to see paint rollers over brushes. Clothing brushes are rare to see today. We seem more likely to take garments to dry cleaners and shoes to the shoe-shine. Hair brushes are often made with plastic bristles so that they can be used on wet hair.

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My favorite brushes are used for painting, but not walls. I confess that not being an experienced wall painter I used a paint roller. Painting watercolors has made me aware of brushes in a way that I never was before. The variety is astounding. Varying the construction slightly creates an inviting array of results.

Effective use of all brushes requires practice.

In our modern culture we do not often allow ourselves the time to master the use of brushes. Practice is becoming something of a lost art. In most areas we expect to become functional almost immediately.

  • How much time do we spend practicing?
  • Do you practice? If so, what do you practice? Is it a sport or a musical instrument?
  • Or did you give up practice time when you left school?

The demand to be instantly competent has crept into our culture with stealth. It can be difficult to find a time when church choirs can practice. People want choirs. They even want to be in choirs, but they have no time to practice.

  • Why has practice become less important than actual performance?
  • Do you think God only hears you during worship?
  • Or is it that we unconsciously feel like practice is unimportant since the congregation will no long hear?
  • Have we been acclimated to value only performance and not practice?

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In some ways I wonder if this has even crept into our attitudes toward children?

  • Have you not heard of parents who search high and low for something their child has natural talent for?

If the child believes he/she must be “great” at an activity in order to participate they will never learn the value of hard work, or the sense of accomplishment when they finally master a skill that challenged them.

Where I worry most about this is in the area of our faith.

  • Who has mastered faith?

No one! We practice our faith. If we feel that we are really weak in one area, that is the place where we need to practice most. When we remove the time to practice and believe that we need only perform, how will any of us retain our integrity and be able to worship?

  • Why would worship be a performance?
  • Who are we trying to impress?

We are created to worship simply because we are made to stop and tell God how wonderful He is. It is not about what we get out of it. It exists to give God glory.

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I think that we leave the doing of faith, like the singing and teaching in church, to the professionals out of the same place that causes us to take the suit to the cleaners rather than brush it ourselves. We don’t have skills to brush mud off wool. We aren’t skilled musicians. We are not trained theologians. Someone might ask us a question that we cannot answer about the Bible.

We need to relearn the art of practice in our culture. There are plenty of skills that we can learn if we practice. It is good for us to learn how to hold a paintbrush even if we are not planning on becoming professional painters. Most of all we need to let the children around us learn that we do not need to perform every minute. There is time to learn all our lives. We can try, and fail and try again. We can worship God as imperfect creatures. Making time to practice is a productive use of time.

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Schedule some time this week to practice something. Perhaps some use of a brush that you have never mastered would be your choice. This might be the time you clean out your electric shaver, or paint a door, a picture, or brush your cat.

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  • What about one-hundred strokes with your Grandmother’s beautiful hairbrush that you inherited and never used?

The biggest challenge of all is not to tell anyone what you practiced. Let it be an offering between you and God. Tell Him that you will try to be more patient in practicing your faith. What is seen is temporal what is not seen is eternal. We need to allow ourselves time for the eternal.

A Tangled Life

child-562297__180 When I was a little girl I loved reading the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think that is where it actually began. She described the rag doll that Ma made her for Christmas in The Little House in the Big Woods. I’m pretty sure she had knitted garters and stockings.

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Sewing, cooking and knitting occurred in various degrees in all the books. My mother taught me to sew and cook. I wanted to learn to knit and crochet like a well-rounded Victorian little girl. My mother didn’t know how to work with yarn. She tried to get me in a class at the local yarn purveyor, but they didn’t want to teach a child. I eventually got in a class at the local creative arts center.

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You wouldn’t expect it to become that important, but in a way my life has been a steady stream of yarn knitted into a whole.

I’m not sure I remember everything that I have knit. I was taught to knit a rectangle that was made into a simple slipper. One was so badly done as to be unwearable.

Somewhere in that second slipper my fingers learned the process. It quickly worked it’s was into muscle memory and my hands know how to knit and pearl without looking, or even much thinking about what I am doing.

Knitting has become ingrained into me.

I find knitting very relaxing. Some people talk about running and reaching a state of peace and pleasure from the experience. I think they call it a, “runners high.” For me that is the feel of the yarn flowing through my hand and the twists and turns of my hands.

The extra blessing of knitting is that useful garments ooze out of the process. I bore easily, so I always knit something new each time. One year I made all my friends mufflers for Christmas. I began in June. The interesting part is that each scarf was different. A different pattern and new type of yarn. It was a fun way to experiment with novelty yarns.

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When I don’t have a project on my needles I feel like something is missing. Honestly, I find myself looking at my knitting basket, then remembering I don’t have anything to knit, and feeling empty.

I knit continental. The fact that I always have the working yarn running toward the needles makes me a fast knitter. My fingers start to fly as soon as I start to learn the pattern. Being a fast knitter means that I run out of projects ready too quickly.

I just knit a new fall hat last month. I bought two balls of a merino-silk worsted weight blend. I knew I probably needed only one ball, but it would be close and I buy most of my yarn mail-order. Now I have a finished hat and a second untouched ball. I thought about mitts and looked through my patterns, but nothing really spoke to me. I already have a matching caplet I knit a few years ago.

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The merino-silk blend has a wonderful feel as it slide through my fingers. I think it is the feel of the yarn that I find most pleasurable in knitting. I don’t like knitting rough or synthetic yarn. Wool is my favorite due to it’s stretch. Fighting my yarn is not enjoyable.

The absolute most important feature of yarn is the idea of one long continuous piece of fiber. The concept represented in knitting is the best characteristic. If there were no other reason to knit I would knit to remind myself that it can all be unraveled.

No matter how tangled, confused, unworkable the piece becomes it can always be fixed.

Because it is one long, uncut piece of yarn it can be “unknit.” If it tangles it can be untangled.

Life can feel too much like a messy piece of knitted work.

There are moments when you think that you cannot go on. It can never be made right. Life leaves scars. Knitting does not. Knitting can be undone and remade exactly right.

As a recovering perfectionist I do not remove all my mistakes.

Unless it will alter the usability of the item, or leave a hole, I leave my mistakes in and simply correct the row in which I found the error.

In quilting there is a concept of the “humility block” where if the piece would otherwise be prefect they add a mistake to remember that we are only human. I regard the slight imperfections in my work as signs of the fact that while I am flawed I am made and loved by a perfect God.

Nothing can happen to me that God cannot help me to redeem. In Romans 8:28, St. Paul reminds us that, “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” In my tangles I feel confident in my ability as a knitter of many years experience that I can repair the problem and move on.

Both the repair and the moving on are important parts of the crisis redemption. In life the same process must be undertaken.

Sometimes I must unknit in order to create something new. Always I need to undertake the process of remaking in light of the pattern. What was the purpose in the first place? Look at the big picture. What does the finished garment look like? How can you get back to the appropriate pattern?

I have never had anyone else able to find my corrections when the garment is finished. Even the worst mistakes can be worked out with a ball of yarn. It can be twisted and pulled into an amazing array of items. The longer you work at it the easier it becomes to unravel mistakes.

The more time we spend in Bible study and prayer the better we understand how to unravel life. It is one, long story. We are just a strand in a magnificent whole. Sometimes what looks like a mistake turns out to be a new stitch. Those of us who think ourselves particularly flawed are just the ones adding “texture” to the fabric of life. It all come out in the end. Fix the problem and move on. And On…

What should I knit next? Do any of you readers have suggestions for something that could be made with one skein and might be of some use with a hat?

Today I am linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Soul. What encourages you to keep going when things are rough? How can you use that experience to encourage others to hold on to Jesus when life unravels? Holley-Gerth-Button-250x250

<a href=”http://holleygerth.com&#8221; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://holleygerth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Holley-Gerth-Button-250×250.jpg”></a&gt;

How Fast is Time Flying?

imageWhat make time fly swiftly at some periods of life and crawl at others? This is one of the enigmas of time that we all recognize and ponder on some level. As a young lady I was fascinated by time and eternity. In my twenties I wondered why forty-year-olds didn’t know twice as much as twenty-year-olds. I concluded that it was a matter of constantly learning. I defined it as, “falling into a rut of sameness.” I vowed to keep my spirit hungry for learning and thereby to ensure a life well-lived.

My goal became to always keep growing and learning. I promised to never stay static. I recognized that life challenges us and encourages those who fall into being busy to the point of barely holding-on. Through the last decade I have witnessed an extraordinary push in our culture for people to overschedule themselves to the point of exhaustion. I am not sure if it is really more prevalent in our society or if it is a matter of the demographic that I am part of. Are we actually more stressed and overcommitted or is it generation-x coming into middle age? I suspect that both factors prevail. I know that I have been stretched so thin that I collapse exhausted into bed at the end of the day and rise eight hours later to start the whole run-until-you-drop all over again the next day. What I think may be new is that I consider myself lucky that I actually have the privilege of eight hours in bed. Notice, I did not say that I get eight hours of sleep a night. Like most of my contemporaries I battle insomnia.

We have lost our connection to the natural world. I managed to take my dog to the park three times this spring and summer. I did not go to the park without her. I do not have useable outdoor space at home. Three times I went out into nature! Perhaps this is part of the struggle to sleep. Our activity has nothing to do with the seasons, the sun, the wind, growing things.
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If I am going to be true to my youthful promises to myself I need to consciously re-orient myself to the fact that the possibilities are indeed endless. I love to learn. Learning something new has always been refreshing and restorative for me. This summer I am learning to paint watercolors. It has been something I have wanted for longer than I remember. I never painted. Well, not on paper or canvas and painting a room isn’t nearly as enjoyable. No matter how much I want to paint it takes careful planning to achieve time. Time that we do not view as productive is the rarest commodity in our culture. I cannot help but believe that this is one of the reasons that all community groups and church groups are desperate for volunteers. We have become a culture that views anything that doesn’t produce an income as a time-waster. We all have a bucket-list of activities that we are going to pursue, “when we have time.” The reality that we do not allow ourselves time to continue learning doesn’t dawn upon us until it is too late.

My mother was going to write a couple of books. All my life I knew this fact. Someday. She was healthy until she was in her sixties and then developed cancer and went home to the Lord fast. When she turned sixty-five I asked her if she was going to write. She told me she was too tired. She never wrote her books. We have all lost out on her words. I cannot write her words. God gave them to her alone. It is ever thus for each of us.

What gifts has God given you? What have you always longed to learn? Why are you too busy to become a full person? In my early journal I vowed to never stop growing up. I have learned many things in my life. One of the more important is that God wants us to use our time here well. A life well-lived that makes the most of our God-given talents and dreams and is within reach of each of us. It is assuredly a matter of priority. A half-an-hour here and there really does make a difference.

I had a dear friend who was active well into her nineties. She always introduced me as her “youth leader” and I told everyone I wanted to “grow-up” to be like her. She never lost her love of learning and shared my enthusiasm for technology even though she did not personally have a computer. When I bought a new computer with a touch-screen I took it with me on a visit and she happily played along with me, writing with a stylus, taking and editing digital photos, etc. She entered into other people’s joy and love of learning. Need I say that she was a teacher and wherever she went, people would come up to her and say, ”You were my favorite teacher.” Each one of us is demonstrating what we regard as important everyday with our actions. What do your priorities teach? Is your bank account your value as a person? How important are your relationships? Are you growing or are you withering?