a lesson from the snowflakes

Snowflakes? What could we possibly learn from something that disappears in seconds if it lands on your hand? We know that each has an intricate beauty all it’s own, but we can’t easily see that without magnification. A snowflake is so small that each is insignificant. Yet there is power in these miniscule masterpieces. And that’s where the lesson lies.

I looked out the window the other morning, after a day of snow and high winds. As usual when there’s a lot of wind with the snow, there were areas of bare ground and others with sculpted snow piles. The contrast can be startling, and it’s interesting to see which areas are clear after each storm. As I focused in closer, I saw a wave of snow within the window frame, curled in toward the window.  It was amazing to see how smooth the curve was and how deeply it curled over the clear area underneath. And that’s when I realized just what the snowflake can teach us.

You see, it is when the individual snowflakes work together that they begin to accomplish things. A few hundred thousand and you’ve got a snowball. A couple trillion and you have to stop and clean your car before you can drive. Get enough of them together, and they can tie up miles of traffic on the highway.

Like a snowflake, on our own we may feel insignificant and powerless against the forces blowing around us. But if God can cause the snowflakes to bind together is such a way that they can withstand the power of the wind, imagine what God can do with us. After all, with the snowflakes, it’s a matter of God-given structure. With us, we have our God-given gifts plus the capability of finding a way to bring out the best in our combined gifts.

As we face the challenges of the coming year, can we learn from the snowflakes? Can we seek out ways to come together and use our God-given gifts to make our world a better place? Lets start a conversation – after church, at the grocery store, over coffee – where doesn’t matter, what matters is that we come together. Will you join?

the comfort of three

I wear three bracelets on my left wrist and during a quiet time the other day, I was contemplating why I feel so strongly that I need to wear all of them. And I realized that the comfort they offer goes far beyond the habit and the physical sensation of having them there. Each bracelet is different and each represents important, even vital, aspects of my life.
One is a cuff bracelet with the phrase “always in my heart” engraved on it. I’ve worn it every day since I purchased one for myself and both of my daughters after my mother-in-law passed away last November. I’ve come to see it represents not just my mother-in-law and her loving heart, but all those that have come before me. They are the foundation I have built my life on, and without them, I would not be the person I am today.
I also wear a beautiful double strand braided gold chain bracelet that my husband gave me in honor of of our 25th anniversary. In the 11-plus years I’ve been wearing it, it has come to represent the interweaving of our two lives. Each visibly separate, but intricately connected. It is my present, the circle of love that surrounds my daily life.
And “last but not least” is an expandable bracelet with a charm that says “Nana”. I received it as a Mother’s Day gift, and I proudly wear it in honor of my grandchildren and my children as well. Because without my daughters and sons-in-law, I would not have this amazing blessing of being a grandmother. They are the future, not just my future, but the future of the world. I pray that at least a tiny part of my love will live on in them and perhaps be the foundation of their lives…

a.c.t.s.

Adoration… Contrition… Thanksgiving… Supplication…
I was introduced to this approach to prayer several years ago. I love the simplicity. It helps me remember that my prayers don’t need special words, don’t have to be fancy.
Adoration: a way for me to recognize and praise God’s greatness.
Contrition: acknowledging my mistakes, the wrong things I have done, and the right things that I have failed to do.
Thanksgiving: expressing my appreciation for God’s boundless love and gracious gifts.
Supplication: asking for God’s help – for others and for myself.
Or as I tried to explain it to my grandson: “God is great”, “I’m sorry”, “thank You” and “please help”. 🙂
The other day at work, I took a moment to pray. It was a busy morning in a crazy week – not just crazy at work, but at home and at church too. I started an ACTS prayer and had no problem with the adoration. Yet when it came to the contrition, I got stuck.
You see, I realized at that moment that I had been failing to trust God. I truly believe the saying “if God brings you to it, God will bring you through it”, but my stress over decisions I had made and things I needed to do showed me my lack of trust. I know that the things I am currently doing are a true call of God. And I know that, after prayerful listening, I am being called to new things. So if I know that God has brought me to this place and these tasks, why was I worrying about how I would accomplish them? After some time and reflection, I came to realize that it was because I had stopped looking at God and was focusing instead on the tasks. And like Peter, when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the water, I was floundering. I felt like I was the one who had to do all the things ahead of me. I lost sight of the fact that God is the one that would be doing the work, I was only to be the hands, the feet, the voice, that people would see, and hear, and feel.
I’m a bit ashamed at how slowly I come to this realization, but now that I have, I am able to complete that prayer…
“Merciful God, You are the source of all I need. Forgive my lack of trust, forgive my attempts to take on Your role. I am grateful that You have brought me to this time and this place. Strengthen me and guide me as I follow the path You alone have called me to. I love You!!!
Amen…

bring them home

On my way home from my daughter’s this afternoon I experienced a new (at least new for me) way of praying. I was listening to the song “Bring Him Home” from the musical Les Mis, written by Claude-Michel Schonberg. This song has always spoken to me, and for some reason, I felt pulled to play the song over and over on my 30 minute ride. Since I was alone in the car I felt free to sing along (often quite loudly, but I had the windows closed, so I wasn’t worried about torturing anyone around me with my singing!) and today, I heard in the words of the song words to an unspoken prayer of my heart.
In my church, we are dealing with the effects of too few people to do too many jobs. And whether this is an effect of the falling numbers of families with children and youth, or the cause, our Christian Education program is struggling. This is certainly not because of a lack of effort on the part of a group of dedicated volunteers. Their perseverance and willingness to give their hearts and time for the children and youth is truly a blessing. But we seem to be at a crossroads, and this is the basis of that unspoken prayer. Where, and how, are we to go? What am I, as an individual, being called to do with my God-given gifts?
I was about halfway home when I realized that I was praying with/through the song. And as I continued to listen to “Bring Him Home”, I heard the answer to at least part of my prayer. When I take the song and apply it to all the children and youth of my church, rather than just the young man Marius that Jean Valjean is singing about, I hear the direction I am seeking.
I’d like to share what I heard through the simple yet powerful words of Claude-Michel Schonberg…
“God on high, hear my prayer. In my need, You have always been there.”  
I couldn’t agree more. God has always been there for me, even when I didn’t know I needed God.
“He is young, he’s afraid…” 
Even with my years, and the wisdom I’ve  gained from many struggles, there are times when I am afraid because of things going on in our world today. I can only imagine how much harder it is for the children and youth.
Let him rest, heaven blessed. Bring him home…”
How will the children know that God is their fortress, their hiding place in times of trouble, if no one will tell them? How can they begin to understand the blessing of having Jesus as their close, personal friend and the Holy Spirit as their constant companion and guide, if no one shares their own experiences with them? And if they don’t know those things, how can they rest, how can they come home?
“The summers die, one by one. How soon they fly, on and on. And I am old, and will be gone.”
There is no way to know how long I, or any of us, have on this earth. Time passes so quickly, each day that I hesitate to speak of my love of God, the joy and blessing I receive from my friendship with Jesus, the security and peace from the Holy Spirit, could be one less day for the children and youth to know that joy and blessing.
“You can take, You can give, let him be, let him live. If I die, let me die, let him live…”
If giving more of my time can help the children and youth come to know God, can help them understand more fully that they are truly beloved children of God, then let me die. Die to the time I spend on the computer or waste watching TV. Let me die, so that they can live. Live in true relationship with God.
“Bring him home, bring him home…”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). Not standing in their way isn’t enough. I, no, all of us that know and love God, need to do our part to share God with the children in our lives. Because that is the only way we can bring them home, home to God.

butterfly touches

I had an interesting experience yesterday. I saw a small brownish butterfly furiously flapping around our car three different times – in three different communities.
Can I guarantee that it was the same butterfly? No, I can’t. The three instances were 20 minutes or so apart, and there were a good 15 miles between them. Those facts would make it difficult to believe it was the same butterfly. But, the butterfly was an unusual color that I don’t recall seeing before, and each time I saw it, it was in the same place over the hood of the car on the driver’s side, the direction I happened to be looking from the passenger seat. In my heart, I know it was the same butterfly.
But whether it was the same butterfly or not isn’t what matters. What matters is how the butterfly “spoke” to me and reminded me of an important issue. You see, butterflies are special to me. I wear a butterfly charm every day as a reminder of the new person I became when I finally accepted the fact that I was worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice. I have often felt God’s call as one might feel a butterfly’s touch – so light, a gift requiring my attention to really notice it, and unfortunately, all too easy to ignore.
Over the last several months, I have felt those butterfly touches many times as God shared ideas for things I could write about in this space. Messages of the connection and love God offers us. But I managed to ignore those calls, those butterfly touches. And even if I felt a bit guilty about ignoring them, I felt justified. I’ve been busy with family responsibilities, work, two courses I’m taking and the related homework, my church work. I’ve been tired, and I felt I deserved the chances I had to rest.
But as I watched that butterfly flapping it’s wings so furiously, as if struggling to get my attention, I realized that if any one is deserving, it is God. Doesn’t God deserve at least a portion of my time, some attempts to share the gift of words that I have been given? After all, if not for God’s love and care, I would not be here at all. And Jesus, doesn’t He deserve some effort on my part? If not for His sacrifices, I would not, could not, be the whole person I am today. And the Holy Spirit? How She weaves Her blessings and support throughout my days, guiding my words and my actions. And even though I know I am following God’s call in my work, and my studies to become a Spiritual Director and Retreat Leader, I can only imagine how it must hurt Him when He asks me to share His love, and the only words I come up with are excuses why I can’t or shouldn’t do as I am asked.
So here I sit at the computer, trying at last to give back a bit of what I have been blessed with. To share a reminder of the sacrificial love and grace that is there for us all if we will only pay attention to those butterfly touches…