1393. Just like the lotus we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of the darkness, and radiate light into the world. ~Author Unknown

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Do you remember the last time you squealed with joy about something? Or do you at least remember seeing a young child squeal with delight? How about an almost 75 year old? Well it’s true; I did, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact I’m elated that just months away from my 75th birthday, there are things in this world that still can make me squeal with joy and amazement. I’ve long admired photographs of lotus flowers and knew a little of their history, but it never dawned on me that I would actually ever find one here in Texas. And yet just last week as my husband and I made our periodic run through our local Botanic Gardens that to my amazement I spotted from the car what I thought were the pods of a Lotus plant. And so camera in hand, I screeched for him to stop and jumped out of the car to go take a closer look. Not only were there the remaining pods of previous lotus blooms, but I actually spotted a bud. That’s when I squealed because it was almost like standing in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time, so much so that I half expected to see Adam and Eve eventually stroll by. So for days I went back to photograph the bud as it slowly opened. At long last it appeared that it would fully open last Wednesday, the day my sister and I had chosen for our weekly quilting get-to-together. But rather than cancel at the last minute I went on to her house since we both look forward to our quilting days and time spent together. Sadly it did fully bloom that day and by the following day when I went back most of the petals had already begun to fall away. But I had seen enough to remain fully thrilled and enthralled by the experience. And I know that where there once was one there will soon enough be more. The opening photo is a collage of lotus photos I found on Pinterest, but below as I reveal some of the fascinating information about the Lotus Flower here are the photos I took last week. They are not the best photos, but it was very hot so I was shooting fast, and I couldn’t get very close to them.

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The Lotus Flower is one of the earliest and most spiritually meaningful symbols in our world ever. It spans various thousand-year-old Eastern cultures and to this day holds enormous symbolic weight.

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So what is it about this mysterious blossom that people find so enrapturing? Its colorful bloom is an obvious suspect, but the lotus also has a life cycle unlike any other.

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Late in the evening the petals close and withdraw beneath the surface, then at daybreak, the flower again lifts up to the sky and unfolds its majestic crown. With its roots based in mud, it submerges every night into murky river water, and—undeterred by its dirty environment—it miraculously re-blooms the next morning without residue on its petals.

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Although cultures have their own interpretations of this daily process, there is a general consensus among ancient texts that the lotus symbolizes spiritual enlightenment and rebirth.

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The lotus stunned people with its ability to dip into the grime and revive itself unscathed—an incredible daily cycle of life, death, and a sudden immaculate rebirth that can only be described as spiritual. But the flower also has a fascinating will to live. A lotus seed can withstand thousands of years without water, able to germinate over two centuries later.

“O Lord, by these things men live, And in all these is the life of my spirit; O restore me to health and let me live! ~Isaiah 38:16  ✝

1390. The truer you are to yourself, the greater your gifts will manifest themselves. ~Tiffany L. Jackson

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For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:10  ✝

**First image of a crow was taken in Scotland by Natalie; all other images found on Pinterest;

 

1388. Everything that is born in the great matrix of life is sustained by roots that reach into the deep mystery of God’s life. ~J. Philip Newell

With you is the source of life, O God.
You are the beginning of all that is.
From your life the fire of the rising sun streams forth.
You are the life-flow of creation’s rivers,
the sap of blood in our veins, earth’s fecundity,
the fruiting of trees, creatures birthing,
the conception of new thought, desire’s origin.
All these are of you, O God, and I am of you.
-A prayer by J. Philip Newell

There are many images of the church in the Bible, but we will mention just three: the church as the Body of Christ, the People of God and the Bride of Christ. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:10; 4:15) and Christians are the body. “People of God” is another image of the church. God says of the church, “I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:10 NIV). The church is also referred to as the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7; 21:9), suggestive of a special and sacred family relationship between Christ and the church.

The concept of the visible and local church also touched briefly on the challenges and tensions that sometimes result in churches. Critics point to divisions and disagreements among Christians as evidence of a lack of unity and, hence, a lack of real biblical support undergirding the Christian church as a whole. Is this true? In some cases Christians do indeed need to admit to shortcomings and, at times, un-Christ-like behavior. But in looking at the bigger picture, the Christian church has always been united on key points of belief such as the reality of a personal, loving God, salvation that is found in Christ through His death and bodily resurrection, human depravity and the need for redemption through Christ and more. This “mere” Christianity or core of unshakable truths has united Christian churches throughout the centuries and continues to do so.

When it comes to the essentials or primary matters, Christians are united, but when it comes to nonessentials or secondary matters, there is room for some disagreement. This disagreement, however, does not change the unity on the foundations of Christianity such as the person of Christ and His role in human redemption. ~3 Excerpted paragraphs from an article by Paul Velarde

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. . .” -Job 12:7-8  ✝

**Images found on Pinterest

1387. In the early Celtic churches, earth, sea, and sky were, rather than enclosed sanctuaries, the temple of God. The high-standing crosses were gathering places. ~J. Philip Newell

The world is holy.
We are holy. All life is holy.
Daily prayers are delivered on the lips
of breaking waves, the whisperings
of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
-Terry Tempest Williams

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The church is not a building, but a body of believers with a specific nature and purpose. These biblical roles or ministries of the church are foundational to it. Worship is God-centered and Christ-centered. It is not about entertaining Christians with flashy displays or presentations, but about expressing our love by worshiping our Creator. We are to praise and glorify God in worship. As such, every Christian needs to be part of regular fellowship and worship. Edification is also a role of the church. It involves edifying believers, but also nurturing, building up or helping believers to mature in Christ.

Evangelism is also a key role of the church. This means reaching out to a lost world with the Good News about Jesus. Since people often have questions or doubts about Christ and Christianity, knowing the truth and being able to defend it is also part of the role of the church. But beyond evangelism in the sense of reaching out with the gospel, the church must also express compassion and mercy tangibly by helping others. In following Christ’s example to love others, the church, too, must seek to make a real difference in the world while not neglecting to share the message of Christ. If a church fails to fulfill any of these key roles – worship, edification, evangelism – then the church is not functioning as God intends. Granted, there are times when churches face challenges and struggles to one degree or another, but a healthy church seeks to overcome such challenges in a way that honors God and His intentions for His church. (This paragraph and the one above it are excerpted from an article by Paul Velarde_)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:19-20  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage by Natalie

1384. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being. ~Roy T. Bennett

you are not a name or a height, or a weight or a gender
you are not an age and you are not where you are from
you are your favorite books and the songs stuck in your head
you are your thoughts and what you eat
for breakfast on Saturday mornings

you are a thousand things, marvelous things,
but others often choose to see
only the things you are not
~Edited and adapted quote by m.k

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How far back would you have to go to recollect what it was like waking up and not caring what other people thought? Can you remember when you started tip-toeing through life in order to please others? How many of your actions, appearances, and situations have become moulded over the years by the perceptions of others? Whose life is it you’re actually living? Is it yours, based on who you truly are and how you honestly feel about things and what you really want out of life? Or is it a life more or less dictated by others? Has it ever occurred to you that those “other” people you’ve worried about are doing the same–living a kind of “fabricated” existence because they too are worried about what you and others think of them? Do you ever wonder what life might be like if we’d all just stand up and be the person we genuinely are, the one we were meant to be all along?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not implying that this kind of allowing-what-others-think scenario has influenced everyone else but me. I was just as inclined to play that game as anyone else, but as I’ve aged, I’ve come to have an intense dislike for pretense and an earnest appreciation and acceptance of who and what Natalie is. That doesn’t mean for a split second that I believe myself to be perfect or a be-all, end-all pillar of knowledge and/or wisdom. It just means that this is what God made me to be, and so I’ve come to realize, especially since I’m made in His image, that I and everyone else for that matter should be able to stand alone on our own gifts and merits or lack of them. But ya wanna know what the real game changer was in my decision to stop allowing what others think to have any place whatsoever in my life? It was when they were nowhere to be found during “the dark nights” of my soul! So wouldn’t it be grand if we could all just be our one of a kind selves and thus a true-to-self participant in this thing called life instead of being a concocted facsimile or a mere spectator.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ~Genesis 1:27  ✝

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. ~Psalm 139:14-16  ✝

**Image via Pinterest

1379. Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes. ~Carl Sandburg

Poetry should…should strike the reader
as a wording of his own highest thoughts,
and appear almost a remembrance.
~John Keats

Some of you know that I was an educator for 31 years. What you don’t know is that in the 8th grade I declared to family and friends that I would never become a teacher, especially an English teacher. But as it turned out I did become one and though it was not my first or second chosen teaching field, I ended up teaching English for half of my career. And like all else whatever we spend time doing has a profound influence on our lives. I’ve always had a great respect for literature and writers and storytellers. One of them. as I mentioned in a recent post, is Mary Oliver. When I read her poetry it’s as if she has been writing what dwells within my heart and soul. They are so accurate and she does it in a way that had I her ability I would have written them myself. But ya know, we don’t all have to be gifted to tell tales of our lives which might be what someone else needs or longs to hear. And I believe I can say with certitude that there’s not a single one of you who are reading this who were not profoundly impacted by at least one teacher in your life. Secondly, my guess is that their influence had little to do with academic subject matter. I expect it was stories they told or wove to reach you and teach you that made all the difference in your life. So never be afraid to share you grief and joys, triumphs and sorrows, whatever it is you hold dear or keep close for you never know when or where a listening ear will find remembrance and/or life-sustaining importance in them. ‘Tis even more important that you do so if the tale(s) tell of God’s grace, mercy, faithfulness, and abiding love for His children!

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. ~Acts 20:24 ✝

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean– the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~Mary Oliver

Photo of grasshopper on rose taken in her yard by Natalie

1376. Outside the open window the morning air is all awash with angels. ~Richard Wilbur

open your eyes
to the beauty around you,
open your mind
to the wonders of life,
open your heart
to those who love you,
and always
be true to yourself.
~Maya Angelou

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May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you.

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. ~Matthew 6:22 ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage by Natalie