November 30, 2011

How Can We Prepare?

This morning I prepared quick breads for a gift. I carefully measured the ingredients and selected fresh cranberries and an apple and chopped them into to the perfect size chunks.  After baking, I placed the loaves in a basket that I had decorated for the occasion.

We prepare meals for our families, making sure each element of the meal is properly seasoned and cooked. And this time of year, we prepare our homes for the holiday season with attention to detail in our decorating. No room is overlooked, and each is duly cleaned and prepared for decoration. 
Have you given some thought to what we are preparing for? We may be thinking of holiday visitors in our homes when we dust each nook and cranny, placing our evergreens and treasured decorations just so.

But have we thought about preparing our hearts for the holiday? The season of Advent in the Christian tradition means to prepare for the coming of the Christ. We celebrate the miraculous birth of God’s own Son born into human flesh. The preparation we need to focus on is preparing ourselves to receive this extraordinary gift.

Retelling the story of Jesus’ birth brings a dimension of expectancy to the Christmas season. Think of Mary, laden with child, traveling far distances by donkey only to be turned out from a warm bed to a cold stable, bringing forth her firstborn son in a humble animal shelter. Surely the birth of the Son of God deserved greater fanfare than mooing cows and clucking chickens.

But in His humble beginnings, God shows us that greatness can be born amongst the least of us. God uses each of us, according to His purpose, to further His Kingdom here on earth. Whether we are rich or poor, lowly and meek or born to greatness, we each have purpose in the Kingdom of heaven. And that heaven is right here on earth, right now.

So we prepare our hearts and our homes for the joy of the coming of the Christ child, knowing it isn’t the decorations we place that welcome the child, but a warm and loving heart that embraces all of God’s people right where they are. Give to the needy, pray for the grieving, and open your heart to the One who can bring us peace here on earth. It’s His birthday we’re celebrating. The greatest gift we have ever received.

With grateful thanks we prepare to receive the joy of knowing Christ in our lives as we celebrate with loved ones in the season of giving. May you know His love and peace.

November 28, 2011

Looking for God in the Unknown

Recently I made a decision to change the path of my life. These kinds of choices always require much thought and deliberation. Through prayer I felt God was encouraging me to take a leap of faith into the unknown.

Change can be a scary thing. Staying with what is familiar is the comfortable way to go. Making the decision for change involves contemplation, and during the waiting we find this transition to be a time of trust.

I found myself ready to jump into the unknown, with only faith to hold me up.

I felt the imagery of standing on a precipice, with all of my tomorrows laid out before me on the other side of the canyon. My heart yearned for a glimpse of what lay beyond; a reassurance of the path I chose.

But my view was obscured by the low clouds covering the horizon. I could not see my future, or even the path I was to follow. The sun shone brightly on the ledge on which I stood, and in my heart I knew that I needed just to trust in God. I had to realize that the God of my days was there in my tomorrows, and that His plan for me was good.

I would leap off the edge, and I would soar, knowing I could trust in the One who knows my future. He would not let me fall.

It is exciting to know that God is in the unknowable future. It is reassuring to know that the God of our yesterdays will also be in our tomorrows, and that God is always the same.

Trust is an assuredness in something that is intangible. Believing that God is there for all of our days allows us to live in the promise that His unfailing love will always be there for us.

We can’t know our future, and truthfully it isn’t for us to know. We have to live it and learn as we go. But we can confidently go forward assured that we can follow the lead of the One who already knows all of our tomorrows. We can leap into the unknown, and trust that we will spread our wings and soar. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

Hope through a Kinder World

Is there a part of you that wishes for greatness? I think we all seek our 15 minutes of fame, and the fortune part wouldn’t be bad either. But few reach the heights of fame that produce fortune, and honestly, most of us are quite content to be right where we are.

Still, sometimes there is this nagging urge telling us we should be doing more, that we should create something BIG that would have a positive effect on the world. There are great minds in each generation that are the doers and thinkers, but somehow we feel as though we should go beyond our lifestyle to be someone that will impact the lives of those around us.
The truth is, we can make great impact through the smallest things we do. Little courtesies of holding a door open for a stranger or smiling and being honestly courteous to the harried sales clerk or barista as we go about our day may reach farther than we know.

I have noticed more people being kind to one another when I am out shopping or out about town. People are generally being nice to one another. 

Shopping at the big box store before the recent holiday, I found myself nearly overrun by carts and shoppers in a hurry to get their bounty and get home to begin the long holiday weekend. What I did not see was rudeness.

People offered apologies for being in the way, or hurrying and almost causing a cart crash. People excused themselves if they walked in front of someone looking at the endless choices on the shelves. People smiled, and took time to be polite. I was astounded at how the simple courtesies seemed to have a ripple effect among the shoppers.

The news reported much different behavior among some shoppers in a hurry for the best bargains later that same weekend, but the job of news reporters seems to be to point out the worst in human nature. They do not report on the ordinary events, but the uncommon ones that they deem newsworthy. Seldom do they focus on positive stories that will uplift our spirits and make us smile.

While on a road trip recently, I stopped in at a fast food restaurant to get something quick to eat. When my turn came, I made an effort to greet the young woman behind the counter as a person, using her name, and making a little small talk. By treating her kindly, I let her know I appreciated her as a person and not just as someone there to produce what I asked for.

Looking back at me, her face lit up as she smiled. Her joy was evidenced through her response to being acknowledged as an individual. Our encounter was brief, but I walked away knowing I had made an impact by being honestly courteous and appreciative of the young woman standing before me.

We each have something we can give, and perhaps it all goes back to that golden rule of the playground, “you must treat others how you want to be treated”.

Maybe we can’t all be Nobel prize-winners or leaders in the Great New Way of whatever is life-changing at the moment, but we can make our impact on society, and we can do it by doing the little things.

Doing the right thing never goes out of style, and who knows, we may start a trend that will have a ripple effect far beyond our kindly deeds.  As I’ve said before, you never know how far a kindness may reach. Perhaps it is the small things that together can become the BIG thing that will change this world.

Common courtesy and kindness. Let’s all share more of these through the holidays and beyond.  Perhaps we can change the world by killing rudeness with kindness. One smile and courtesy at a time.

November 26, 2011

Hope from a Chance Encounter

Have you ever had a chance meeting with someone, and afterward knew in your heart that God had placed that person in your path?

I was walking through the main hallway at church during services. No one else was around when I ran into him, a friend I knew from church. A friend, I knew, who was dealing with a deadly disease, just as I was.

He had found so many healthful ways to improve his lifestyle and health through the practice of yoga and eating well. I wanted to know this wellness, and use it for the battle I was facing. I wanted to use healthful choices instead of drugs, and I was uncertain of following the doctor’s path of medication and treatments.

But this friend got my attention and made me listen. He told me that the healthful choices would be good for me, but first I had to use everything in my power to stop the disease. He knew the aggressiveness of the enemy battling inside me. He helped me to understand that I had to first use all of my arsenal to stop the progress of the disease. Then, I could choose healthful ways for my lifestyle that would improve my overall quality of life and health going forward.

In hindsight, I know God put my friend in my path that day. I had difficult decisions to make and I needed to talk to someone even though I had not realized it. God placed me in the hallway at the precise time to run into my friend, and equipped him with the words I needed to hear.

Sometimes it just happens that way.

Just the other week I was at church, in the same main hallway on a weekday, and ran into a dear friend whom I haven’t seen in awhile. We chatted about many things, and then the conversation turned more serious. I shared with her about issues that were tucked away in my heart, and I cried and we embraced and the encounter was so incredibly meaningful and helpful to me. I hope it was for her, too. And I know God placed us in the same place on that day for a reason, to be there for each other.

Some may say things happen for a reason. Some are as assured of coincidental happenings as others are of fate. I know the feeling I have after sharing time with an amazing person who takes the time to really hear me. It is a gift. I feel renewal and connectedness, and go forward with gratefulness that I have been given the gift of friendship.

I can only hope that I have been that person for someone else when they needed a friend. The gift of ourselves is the sweetest present we can give. Sharing our time, and a little bit of our heart, spreads God’s love beyond ourselves.

As someone receives our gift of love, they will know His peace, and be ready to go forward to share love with someone else. In this way we fulfill the destiny of human kind. We never know how far a kindness will reach, and sometimes, that kindness is given to us. And that is truly a reason to be thankful.

November 23, 2011

Song of Praise

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever". Psalm 100 vs. 4-5 NLT 
  SONG OF PRAISE            
For all gifts both great and small
For thy sacrifice for all
We lift our hands in joyous praise
And give you thanks, O Lord

For guidance and thy shining light
And comfort in the darkest night
Together all our hearts we raise
To give you thanks, O Lord

Praise Him, Praise Him
From whom all good things come
Praise Him, Praise Him
Our new life has begun

For thy everlasting love
Raining down from heav'n above
All the souls on earth will sing
To give you thanks, O God

For thy heart's redeeming grace
And thy joyous, sweet embrace
For the gift of hope you bring
We give you thanks, O God

Praise Him, Praise Him
From whom all good things come
Praise Him, Praise Him
Our new life has begun

                                                                                   by Colleen Reske
                                                                                         all rights reserved

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving. May you have peace in your heart and plenty of food in your stomach! Be grateful for all you have been given. Life is a gift. Enjoy your present!

November 21, 2011

A Season of Thanks

My soft, warm cat lies on my feet, keeping close and warm as I write. I snuggle under a blanket, as the chill of November has found its way into my bones. I am thankful for feeling the warmth, and I wonder about those who are out in the cold with nowhere to go. 

When I finally turn out the light, and snuggle further down into the covers with my pillows, I thank God for my warm bed and the roof over my head, and I say a fervent prayer for those who must sleep out in the cold.

How many times each day do we turn on the faucet expecting the clear, fresh water we need for washing, cooking and cleaning? Hot running water pours out of the tap, and the cold water is fresh from our well and ready to drink.

I am thankful for the water from the faucet, as I remember a time with a houseful of young children when we turned on the tap and no water came out. Thousands of dollars later, after replacing the well pump and pressure tank, we could once again turn on the faucets. Giddy, I went from sink to sink, room to room, turning on the faucets, only to see brown, murky water pour out as all the lines needed to be flushed. How thankful we were when the water ran clear and good again.

There have been times when we were without electricity. That means no water either, when you are on a well with an electric pump. When the power is out, how quickly we realize what we take for granted as we automatically reach for the light switch even though we know there is no power. When the power is restored, we are grateful for the convenience of refrigeration and a stove to cook on.

As we prepare for our Thanksgiving feast, I marvel at the food choices we have before us. As I come home laden with packages from the grocery store, I thank God that we have the means to buy food to celebrate with family and friends through a feast of thankfulness. 

I prepare an enormous turkey that gave its life for our feast.  As I mix ingredients for the wide variety of side dishes we enjoy, my boys help with peeling potatoes and smashing cranberries. And I smile at these young men grown from boys who used to be so much smaller than me. And I am thankful in my heart for the gift of having them in my life.

We sit down to eat at our table loaded with an abundance of food, and we hold hands in a large circle as we share our thanks through saying grace. It is a moment special to each of us, to be together to share this meal, and to share time with each other. Everyone feasts, enjoying the plentifulness of foods and the company of loved ones.

There will be an empty place at our table this year. A dear friend who was family to us has left this world for what lies beyond. I know many of you may have an empty chair, too. The sadness we feel in our loss is immeasurable, yet life abounds around us and we move forward with each and every day.

Knowing the transience of our life on earth, we share in a feeling of gratitude for the time we get to spend together. We must cherish one another; love each other for our goodness and our faults. Each of us has a special part to play in the lives of those around us.

We are all connected. Together, we make a greater good. Let it be so.

November 19, 2011

Practice What You Preach

It would be wonderful if we could always live exactly the way we know we should. We strive to be good people and share our love with our families and the world. I am certain we achieve great success with that, for sharing love is as easy as sharing a smile with a stranger, lending a helping hand when someone needs one to open a door or traverse a large step, or giving a listening ear when a friend is in need.

 I think it is much easier to live the way I know I should when there is peace in my heart and a smile on my face. It’s when the dark clouds of anger or frustration blow in that it is harder to remain calm and keep my perspective.

I wish that I could say that I never think a bad thought or utter an ugly word, but in my humanness, though I strive for perfection it really is unattainable. We can try to live a life of gentleness and peace, and for the most part we can succeed, with practice and through prayer. But when those storms of life blow in that challenge us to the core, it is often difficult to retain our composure and to be the people we wish we could be.

We are human, and though we may strive to live in the manner of perfection it truly is a goal we will never reach. We will fall short, and afterward wish we had the perspective of hindsight before we lost our cool.

We are emotional beings, fraught with intense feelings that are challenging to control. It is so  easy to simply react to a situation, when it might be better to take a moment to breathe and think and perhaps provide a more helpful response. And it isn’t only our own emotions we must deal with. When we face the complex people in our lives sometimes even as we pause to breathe they explode in their emotions and our natural reaction is to fight the assault!

There are times when we wish we could take back what we have said. And there are times when we never should have opened our mouths in the first place, such as when a conversation somehow slips too near to gossip. We realize later that we should have changed the topic rather than adding our opinion, and we are filled with regret at the things we said.

The most frustrating part is when we live most of the time as a good example of Christian living and then we “blow it” by cursing in public or saying or doing something that is outside of our character. Believe me, there will be somebody who sees or hears and questions our actions.

Christians strive to live by the fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. That’s a tall order for us humans! While we may succeed at living our lives with most of these attributes most of the time, we will fail to live by all of them all of the time.

What is important for us to remember is to keep trying. If we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, through knowing Christ and living the Christian doctrine of loving one another, we already experience many of these wonderful attributes in our lives. Gradually we will work towards gaining the ones that are hardest for us to acquire.

When we feel we have missed our mark, it does no good to wallow in our failure. We are humans and we will make mistakes. Through this we learn of our weaknesses and frailties and understand the areas we need to put our efforts into improving.

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s even more difficult when the world is watching and expecting certain behaviors from us. But don’t let that deter you from living a life in the Spirit. The benefits far outweigh the falls.

In striving to live by the fruits of the Spirit, we will be encouraged as we sense these gifts in our own lives. And as we live by sharing these gifts with others, we may help them grow in their faith as well. You never know how far an act of kindness may reach.

November 16, 2011

God of the Universe - My Only Hope

Sitting in the audience at a Christian concert recently, I watched the crowd respond to a worship song with hands held high as they praised and sang. I remember how not too long ago that would have made me feel uncomfortable. I began to think about how we are all at different places in our spiritual journey, and how God meets us wherever we are.

As a young mother living under the big sky of Texas, I would take long walks and talk with God. It was at this time of my life that I was “born again” into the Spirit. You see, I hadn’t known a close relationship with God throughout my youth or young adulthood. I remember a conversation years before when my landlord had asked me if I was a Christian, and I wasn't even sure what that meant.

So many people I know grew up in the church and have always known the comfort of God in their lives. Others grew up in the church but never had a personal relationship with God. Too many religions preached of a God who discriminates against sinners, and aren’t we all sinners in a fallen world?

Perhaps it is better that I came to know my Lord and Savior later in my life. I had a lot of catching up to do, and reading the Bible in my first Disciple class was a real eye-opener. Twenty years later, I found myself questioning my faith, trying to understand just exactly what it is that I believe.

As I spoke with others about their beliefs, and questioned my Christianity to the core of who I am, a dear friend encouraged me in my journey by acknowledging that Jesus himself asked a lot of questions. Since He is my teacher, it made it all right to be asking questions and searching for answers.

I think it’s probably true that we will always be searching and never know everything for certain until we move beyond this earth. But through my heart-searching and questioning, I came to answers that for me have simplified my understanding of who God is and what He means to me.

It seems religions and people themselves have made understanding God to be something so complicated. When in fact, the simple truth is that God loves us. He created us and wants to have a relationship with us. He is not condemning. He is not standing there looking down at us shaking His head over the repeated mistakes we make. He doesn’t punish us. And He is not angry with us.

God is love. He simply is. He exists in us and in our world and across the universe. Who He is does not conform to any understanding we can muster in our human brains. We have nothing to compare Him to.

All that we believe or are accustomed to is based on human experience. We cannot wrap our minds around the greatness of God any more than we can fathom the number of stars in the universe. Did you ever stare up at a night sky filled with all the visible stars, and realize the universe goes on and on –- into what? Our minds cannot comprehend an expanse of universe with no limits. We are used to our world and its physical limits and the man made limits of time and space. We cannot wrap our minds around a concept of the universe, and likewise we cannot really grasp the greatness of who I believe God to be.

So I keep it simple. God is love. He is in me, and around me. He exists in all that I see and feel. He is as close as my breath. He knows my thoughts and my needs. And yet He is removed enough to allow me free will to make my own choices and live my life. Yet I can reach out to Him and He is always there.

Perhaps this vision of God is too simplified for you. But this is who He tells me He is, and who He is for me in my life right now. 

When I began studying with that first Disciple group, I told a woman in the class about how I talked to God. She was quite adamant that I was doing it wrong! She said, “You mean talking to God through the Holy Spirit, right?” and I, being so new to this religious talk, didn’t answer for fear I was somehow breaking a rule.

I have always spoken to God as if He were right here in the room with me, and now I know that is exactly where He is. After decades of learning and searching I realize that God is exactly where I always felt Him, in my heart.

We don’t need to complicate the relationship, and I'm certain we will always have questions that we cannot answer. But the simple truth is that God is love. He loves us. And it is up to each and every one of us to develop our own relationship with Him and to understand what He means to us in our lives.

November 15, 2011

Hope through Forgiveness

We all make mistakes. Some are big, and affect our lives or our world for a long time while others are small, and impact us on the inside in how we view our place in the world.

One thing is certain, we can’t change the past. The laws of physics in our universe assure us of that. So what can we do, but move forward into a new day.

We can learn so much about ourselves by realizing our faults and human frailties. And it does us no good to berate ourselves for our mistakes. We need to learn what we can from our minor disasters and then learn how to move on.

First and foremost, if we have done harm to others, we must ask for forgiveness. If we are unable to do this face-to-face, we can bring our requests to God. After all, He is the master of forgiveness. Pray for forgiveness for your mistakes, and pray that God's comfort will be known to anyone you have caused to feel pain.

We should pray to God for forgiveness if our actions have taken us off the path He chose for us. We know when this is so because of the way we feel inside.  Sometimes our choices seem like a good idea at the time, but we realize later how self-serving they were and how wrong it makes us feel.

There are times when we feel anguish over our choices, like a pounding waterfall beating us relentlessly with torrents of regret and shame. These are the times to come before your Maker and confess your mistakes and pray for forgiveness and a new direction in your life.

Other times, our mistakes are smaller and not as far-reaching, though we feel the sting in our memory and wish we could right the wrong. Sometimes this can be achieved by facing our guilt straight on. Pray for direction in how to go forward. An apology can go a long way in bringing peace to your heart and to others if they feel wronged. Pray for grace, that God will help everyone involved respect and understand the humanness behind the error.

We will make mistakes. It is part of our human nature. Staying stuck in regret will not help us. We must learn what we can from the past, and move forward with new hope. Let the little things go by, as they are probably not a big as you think. And work through the big problems with an eye toward what you can do to right the wrong rather than dwelling on what you have failed to do.

Take time to understand why you made the choice you did, to help prevent making the same mistake again. Understand that we are all human, and God knows we will make poor choices at times. He wants us to live in freedom and in peace, so do what you can to makes things right, and then forgive yourself. This is usually the hardest part, but you can take this to God too. Ask for help. Pour out your heart to Him. His is listening. 

Let God’s grace shine in your life and live it as an example of how we should treat one another. And that includes loving yourself. Charity begins at home, and must extend to all the world. Let us find hope and peace through forgiveness and compassion, and allow it to spread throughout this world we share.

November 14, 2011

Hope in the Search for Peace

Do you feel frustrated by the actions of people in your life? Do the course of events in your day leave you feeling like everything is spiraling out of your control? 

Sometimes I get frustrated by the littlest things that go wrong, and I feel anger welling inside of me instead of peace. I’m certain this is reflected in my outward appearance, although I may try to hide it.

There are other times when I feel more accepting toward others and my own situation. This acceptance is so much easier to live with than feeling frustration and anger. In fact, not only do I feel more peaceful in my life, I find I am actually happy with my situation.

Nothing really is different in my surroundings or the people in my life. What has changed is my attitude and my point of view.

I have a choice to let petty disturbances invade my peace, or I can look for a positive angle to view the situation. Usually this entails using ‘God eyes’.  When I let God’s love shine through my heart, my perspective changes. I see people for the blessings they are in my life. I experience situations with more patience and I am able to respond rather than react. 

When I shift my perspective to God eyes, I have a better understanding of his will in my life.  Though circumstances may not be what I have imagined or hoped for, when I gain the perspective of God’s sovereign will over my life I know I can trust that I am exactly where He wants me to be.

And somehow realizing this brings me peace in the center of my crazy life. And this peace is an anchor that keeps me tethered to God, no matter the strength of the storms I face.

What this means to me is the reassurance that God loves me, and has a perfect plan for my life. Whatever happens, He will use a situation for good, though I may not understand how it will work. Sometimes I get a glimpse into how the pieces all fit together, and I gain a momentary clarity into His plan. This is the encouragement I need to realize He really is there is watching over me, and to trust His plan for me.

There is peace in accepting that it isn’t necessary for me to have complete understanding. I have to lean on my trust in God. For me, that has been the lesson I’ve been working on for quite awhile now. I am learning to trust more completely in Him, and the more I surrender my doubts and fears to Him, the more acceptance I have that I am right where I am supposed to be.

Perspective changes everything, and I am most at peace when I see my life through God’s eyes.

November 11, 2011

Hope in the Gift of New Life

What comes to mind when you think of new life? The incredible blessing of babies being born? New growth of plants in the landscape in spring? These indeed are gifts of new life given to us here on earth.

But what about being reborn? Being made new. Inside of you. In your heart, in your mind, and in your outlook.

We all have an opportunity for God to work in our lives and change our perspective. Before this can happen, though, I believe we need to submit our lives to him.

For many people, giving up the wheel to let God steer is a scary proposition. But if we think we have it all under control on our own, we are misleading ourselves. Submission to God’s plan for our lives is an act of obedience. We acknowledge we really can’t do this on our own, and understand that He has a better plan for us.

This Sunday we are planting spring bulbs with our Sunday school children. We will talk about the promise of new life hidden inside the bulb and how, with the right conditions, the bulb will begin to grow in the spring and will produce a beautiful flower. The flowers will be there for all to see and admire God’s hand in creation.

Through trusting God that the bulb will grow and produce a flower, we can see how trusting God to work in our lives can produce something new in us, too. When we submit to his greater authority, and trust that He has our very best interest at heart, we can hope for new life or a new direction in our thinking.

Sometimes the changes are dramatic, and sometimes they subtly sneak up on us as we realize we are seeing things a little bit differently. There may be a great hurdle in your life that you need to overcome. Or you may just need an attitude adjustment to open your heart to see the world a little bit more through God’s eyes.

When we are open to have the Creator of new life work within us, great changes can be made. And hopefully, our light will shine for all to see the beauty of God’s creation in us.

November 10, 2011

Hope to Make a Difference

Each of us is given gifts, though we may not always recognize them right away. It takes time to develop our gifts into skills we can feel confident sharing with others. 

Some people are excellent public speakers. It is impressive to me when someone can stand in front of a crowd and eloquently share their views on a subject. 

Some people are teachers, with the understanding and patience to break an idea down into little parts that are easier for our minds to absorb. Others are scholars who keep learning and growing and challenging their minds with new information throughout their lives.

Are you a good listener? This is a wonderful gift! Giving the gift of your time to someone who confides a heartache or life experience to you is a blessing. You may never fully appreciate how listening to someone and allowing them to share what is on their heart will help them. Taking the time to listen frees us to be real with one another. Each of us has a story to tell, and a willing listener is a true gift to someone who needs to open their heart and share their story.

Do you know someone who has the gift of hospitality?  This doesn't mean that they throw the best parties and make certain that every guest has a beverage. True hospitality is making a guest feel at home in your home.  A person who feels truly welcomed is blessed to feel at ease in your home, and they feel appreciated and honored to be there.

Someone with a caring heart will always want to know that others are feeling well and are content. Loving God’s people is a great gift, and someone who truly cares is sensitive to the needs of others.

It is up to each of us to realize our special gifts, and to use them for the good of others. Every one of us, working in concert, allows a deep sharing of what we are best equipped to give. We have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others through offering our gifts with our hearts and with God’s purpose. 

How do we know if are following God’s purpose for our lives? Our work helping others to learn, share, grow and be well will seem effortless. When we nurture our gifts, it becomes very natural to share them with others. We feel blessed to share the blessing of our time or our talents to make others feel welcomed and important and cherished.

Perhaps the best way to help others is to imagine how you would like to be heard or understood, and then help the other person feel confident to share what is on their mind. 

Helping each other to live and grow in our understanding of ourselves and our place is this world benefits everyone, for each in turn realizes their gifts, and prepares to share what they can offer to the world. 

November 8, 2011

Joy in the Task at Hand

Raking leaves isn’t really hard
Because all I do is rake the yard.
I put them in a big, neat pile
And then I play in them awhile.
I throw them here and throw them there
Until they’re scattered everywhere.
And then I rake them up once more
Because to me, it’s not a chore!
                       Colleen Sweeney, Age 11

Late Autumn in southeastern Wisconsin brings the first heavy frosts to the early morning landscape, and Autumn winds bring down the last of the colorful leaves from the treetops.

During the warm seasons here, I work as a landscape designer, creating beautiful landscapes for homeowners to enjoy. This time of year, we do landscape maintenance work, which includes pruning and LOTS of leaf removal.

Many varieties of hardwood trees grow in this area, and we enjoy their leafy coolness in the summer and gorgeous displays when the leaves change color in the fall. It’s as if the forests and hills have been painted with the Artist’s brush, in reds and yellows and the brilliant oranges of the sugar maples.

Raking bright, crunchy leaves we reveal the deep green grass hiding underneath. And while I work, the little poem written above has been running through my mind. It seems it begs to be shared. Written decades ago, I am surprised to find it still lives in its entirely in my memory.

As the hours of raking wear on, I wonder when does this work become a chore? Raking and hauling and stomping down the leaves into the trailer for hours really is hard work! But this little rhyme kept running through my brain making me smile amidst the toil. If I have to work, I prefer to be outside in the sunshine with the breeze on my face watching more leaves falling from the treetops against an azure sky.

I thank God for giving me the strength to work, for the beauty of the day and the warmth that the sun still holds. Setting down the wheelbarrow, I pause and raise my face to the sunlight, close my eyes, and remove my hat for the breeze to cool my head. This is good work. It makes me healthy and strong. And very, very tired!

It helps to find joy in the simplest tasks, and to acknowledge a feeling of accomplishment when a project is finished. Whatever it is you do, take time to thank God for giving you the knowledge, strength, intellect and confidence to do your work well. Ask Him to walk with you throughout your day, and share a conversation of joy in the simple things you find. Pray for strength when you feel weary and He will see you through.

Each day holds special moments for you to find, and each season offers beauty to behold. Every moment offers a chance to be thankful. Take in the sights and smells that are unique to this season. All too soon, the fall colors will be gone along with the sweet smell of the damp earth.

Relax, breathe and be grateful for the life that lets us appreciate a glorious fall day.