Archives for November 2012

Time for Wonder

We’ll miss them if we’re not careful. Wonder. Beauty. We won’t see them if we don’t take the time to look.

This summer I invited extra beauty into my life by putting a birdbath and birdfeeder in our backyard. Since my office window provides a perfect view of that portion of our yard, I’ve enjoyed moments of wonder I would never have spotted otherwise.

I took the above photo of a cardinal in November and was very pleased to capture the shot. In my experience with photographing birds so far, I’ve found that the male cardinals don’t sit still for long—at least not long enough for me to get a shot centered and focused.

I’ve also spotted a few new-to me birds, saw a huge bird land in our yard (must have been a hawk of some sort), and enjoyed watching not only birds in the birdbath but also  caught squirrels and a cat drinking there as well. I even captured a shot of squirrel trying to get in on the action at the birdfeeder and also managed to thwart a neighborhood cat’s attack on one of the unusual birds that visited our yard this summer.

But I wouldn’t have seen any of these wonders or enjoyed their beauty if I hadn’t taken the time to look.I make a point of glancing out my office window several times a day just to see what special treats God might have waiting for me right under my nose.

I’ve got to admit, though, sometimes I’m so busy I’m tempted to ignore anything going on outside of my current task. I’ve stayed at my keyboard or dashed in and out of my office, not taking the time to slow down and savor beauty, not taking the time to try to capture some great photos. I wonder what I’ve missed during those times.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss the beauty. I don’t want to miss God’s blessing. Join me, won’t you? Let’s take time for wonder.

“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40:5

*What wonders have you seen lately?

The Gift of Silence

Do you have your own name written down on your Christmas list? If not, put it at the top right now.

I’ll make it simple for you and even tell you what to give yourself. Gift yourself with silence. That’s right—the glorious life-giving gift of soothing silence.

The gift of silence took me by surprise a couple of weeks ago. Not long after the early morning hubbub of going-to-school-and-work traffic had ceased, I went out to fill the birdbath with fresh water. As the sun shone brightly, the night’s heavy frost still glittered all around.

Happy to be out enjoying a few minutes in God’s beautiful world, I sang as I worked—until I realized my voice was the only sound I heard. I then stopped and listened.

I couldn’t believe it. Pure silence. No wind, no birdsong, no car humming down the street. Not even the rustle of leaves. It was as if the earth was holding its breath.

I looked around and drank in the frosty beauty of the cold fall morning. First one leaf and then another drifted to the ground without a sound, almost like following the cues of a conductor. A silent symphony in a soundless sanctuary. If it hadn’t been so cold, I would have lingered a little longer. I would have partaken more deeply of the solace of silence.

Yes, silence can heal. Silence refreshes and restores. It gives us a chance to take a deep breath and commune with the Father. We need silence but many times we don’t recognize it or take time for it.

At a writers conference I attended recently, Betsey Newenhuyse, editorial director of Moody Publishers and one of our workshop instructors, spoke about nurturing the Christian writer’s soul.

Betsey told us that mental stimulation is critically important for creative people, but she pointed out that we have a deep need for silence and peace as well. She reminded us how our lives are overstuffed and then cautioned us to think deeply about what we don’t need to do and to focus on what we need to know, not on things we don’t need to know. I’d say that’s good advice for anyone, writer or not.

Are we allowing time for silence in our lives? If not, what changes do we need to make to gift ourselves with its life-giving benefits?

Let’s not wait for the moments of silence that surprise us—though those are wonderful. Let’s seek out silence as well, especially during the holiday season. Let’s enter into a soundless sanctuary and wait for the silent symphony to begin. The Conductor stands ready to give the cues. Let’s accept his gift of peace.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” Psalm 23:2

*Flickr photo by Zadok the Priest

For Thanksgiving: An Unchanging Blessing

“Your word, O LORD is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Psalm 119:89

Our lives can change in a flash. Ask those who’ve lived through storms like Sandy or mass shootings like at the Aurora, CO theater. Ask those who’ve lost their jobs in the latest round of lay-offs or who’ve been told they’re no longer loved or wanted in their marriages. Yes, this world is full of shifting sand.

So what can we count on today? The verse above from Psalm 119 holds the answer.

When we can’t bank on anything else, when sure things even crumble and fall away, we can be confident that God’s word will endure. More than that, it will not only endure but will stand firm as well. And of course, if God’s word endures and stands firm, it follows that God himself will be the unchanging rock and sure foundation that we all so desperately need.

I’d say that kind of unchanging blessing is all the reason we need to give thanks during Thanksgiving week—and beyond as well. Some of us may have many things working against us right now, but we all have our eternal and steadfast God loving us and working for us each day of our lives. Let’s never forget that God is for us.

May God give you a Thanksgiving holiday filled with the knowledge of his unchanging love and goodness, and may your hearts overflow with the peace that comes from trusting in the One who never leaves us or forsakes us. Our God—an unchanging blessing indeed.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week with your family and friends!

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; neverwill I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5b

*What are you especially thankful for this Thanksgiving week?

*Flickr photo by felipe_gabaldon, Creative Commons License

*I’ll be skipping my midweek post. Fun times ahead with family! See you next Sunday!

A Winner Plus a Love Song

Today’s the day! Finally time to announce the winner of the annual Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway. The lucky winner this year is . . . Mary! (If you are one of the Marys subscribed to Life Notes, the winner’s email address begins with “mmm”‘.) Congratualtions, Mary! I’ve emailed you and will put your Barnes & Noble gift card in the mail as soon as you send me your mailing address. Enjoy!

For all the rest of us, I have a little treat today. Not long ago when I turned to my hymn for the day (remember I’m enjoying fresh worship with old-fashioned hymns this year), I was pleasantly surprised to see that I would be singing “Jesus Loves Me” that day.

Actually, I sing “Jesus Loves Me” rather often since I teach preschool Sunday School, but it had been a long, long time since I sang all the verses. I can’t tell you how much it blessed my heart. Almost instantly I thought of all of you and knew I’d have to share this special song of love with you soon. Today seemed like the perfect day to pass along a blessing.

So here’s one of the greatest love songs of all time. Sing all the verses and be blessed today!

Jesus Loves Me

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.


Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.


Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
He’s prepared a home for me,
And some day His face I’ll see.


Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

(Anna B. Warner, altered, as it appears in The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration by WORD MUSIC)

“‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”‘ John 15:13

*What’s one of your favorite love songs?

*Flickr photo by Neal.

Causing Others to Rejoice

May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 119:74

Do people rejoice when they see us coming?Does it make them happy to get to spend time with us?

If so, why? If you’re like me, it might be because you carry chocolate at all times :) Hopefully, though, it’s something more meaningful than that. Maybe we always have a smile for others and freely share encouraging words. Or perhaps we’re good listeners. Think about yourself for a moment. Why do people rejoice when they see you?

On the other hand, if people don’t rejoice when they see us, why not? Could it be that we tend to have a negative attitude or are always criticizing others? Are they afraid we’ll slam them with a sarcastic remark or perhaps act coolly towards them?

None of us want to become a person that others dread interaction with or try to avoid. Instead I think we all hope to be someone that others are drawn to and want to be around. We all want to be liked.

The verse above from Psalm 119 holds one of the keys to being a source of joy for others. It tells us that if we put our hope in God, people may indeed rejoice when they see us.

This could be true for a variety of reasons. If we’re trusting in God and his Word, we may radiate a sense of peace and joy that naturally spills out onto others. We may have a reputation for honesty and dependability or inspire confidence and hope in others. We may have the wisdom of God’s Word stored up in our hearts, making us a welcome source of encouragement and advice.

I don’t know about you, but I want others to rejoice when they see me. And not just because of my chocolate :) No, I want others to see the love, the peace, the power, the wisdom, and the hope of God when they look at me. And the only way that can happen is to stay very close to him.

I bet you’d like others to see glimpses of the Lord in you as well. To be honest, we’ll fail at times, but that’s no reason not to try. Let’s surrender our hearts to him each day and let him fill us. Let’s cause others to rejoice when they see us coming!

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence ofour God because of you?” 1 Thessalonians 3:9

*What do you want others to see in you?

*Flickr photo by kelsey_lovefusionphoto

**The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is still underway. Details are in my Oct. 17 post and sign-up is to the right. Deadline is noon Wednesday. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!