1447. The air is like a butterfly with frail blue wings. The happy earth looks at the sky and sings. ~Joyce Kilmer

It is a glorious privilege to live,
to know, to act, to listen, to behold, to love.
To look up at the blue summer sky;
to see the sun sink slowly
beyond the line of the horizon;
to watch the worlds come twinkling
into view, first one by one,
and the myriads that no man can count,
and lo! the universe is white with them;
and you and I are here.
~Marco Morrow

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Morrow mentions only the summer sky, but it’s a privilege to look up and behold the wonders of the sky at any time, isn’t it?! This time of year an especially breathtaking view of the sky can be seen by looking through flowering trees. But why is it that we like to gaze up at the heavens with or without trees? What are we looking for? And when our look up at the embracing canopy over us, why do words of wonder and awe enter our thoughts and subsequently fall from our lips? What is it about what we see that fills us with utter amazement? Is it because of the firmament’s majestic beauty and/or our puzzlement about the mysteries therein? Or is it because in our looking we become aware of a knowing that transcends ordinary knowing? Could it be that we recognize the handiwork of the One to whom we’re inextricably and lovingly connected? As we look and listen, can’t we hear the Holy One’s voice in the deepest part of ourselves, that quiet voice telling us that the sky and earth and life are not the result of a random happenstance but are acts of His divine and loving grace poured out for our benefit? Maybe in the sky and all else that delights our senses we see the quicksilver flicker of a tiny flame which illuminates our Maker’s face, a face our eyes have forgotten but our hearts still remember? Indeed, what a “glorious privilege it is to live, to know, to act, to listen, to behold, to love” under the tutelage of our grand and caring Father! And how wondrous it is that the knowing can come from just looking and listening and giving ourselves to Him!

It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s (and mankind’s, says Natalie) privilege to discover them. ~Proverbs 25:2 ✝

**All photos taken by Natalie; collage by Natalie

1432. The leaves drift toward the earth like ships to land, a voyage launched from timbers’ great lofty berths… ~Excerpt from a poem by Dan Young

Ah! the year is slowly dying,
And the wind in tree-top sighing,
Chant his requiem.
Thick and fast the leaves are falling,
High in the air wild birds are calling,
Nature’s solemn, autumnal hymn.
~ Edited poem by
Mary Weston Fordham

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Day by day autumn’s end draws nearer, and thus even more strains of “nature’s solemn, autumnal hymn” fill the coldish air. And because the temperatures finally dropped below freezing for several nights here, the things that had been hanging on perished or are now in the process of dying and so their joyous songs of life have ceased for the year. The terrain too is well-nigh down to its barest essentials, and all that we’ll soon hear are winter’s deep sighs and silences or the wailing of her bitter, gusty winds. Things that  hold onto the promise of spring either in their roots or in splitting seed casings will be busy beneath the soil whilst they wait for the sun to invite them to flourish “Thick and fast” falling remnants of leaves have been and are layering the ground to protect what lies beneath waiting for the appointed hour of rebirth in earth’s next circle around the sun. It’s all a God-ordained and Scripturally- declared grand plan, and I love watching Yahweh’s strategy play out round and round as the years pass. In fact on days when I feel out of sorts, I’ve learned to get outside regardless of how cold or hot it is, and as I look, listen, and wait under heaven’s canopy, it’s not long before my inner compass is made right again. Feeling earth’s heartbeat and becoming a part of its rhythms keep at bay the sense of hopelessness that’s often engendered by the trials of life and a world torn by depravity and meriless madness. Being close to the land is as comforting and reassuring as when I was a kid and slipped my hand into the safety of a parent’s hand. The same thing happens even more so now that I’m aware I’m drawing near God and what He has made. Standing in His Creation, I’m certain that even though humans transgress and frequently fall short of what they’re meant to be and do, He still stands ready to take His children by the hand, comfort them, and proffer His magnanimous gestures of mercy and redeeming grace. It’s not unlike what I experienced when I first felt my child move in my womb. I knew that the sensation which felt like wings of a butterfly barely grazing my inner flesh was the unmistakable touch of something sacred stirring inside me. The Lord’s movement in our inner and outer lives is much the same. It may be an ever so slight brush against our flesh and/or soul, but we know that we have indeed felt the Almighty’s loving Presence.

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:10-11  ✝

**All photos taken by Natalie

1395. As a writer you have a duty to be a messenger. ~Jay Griffiths

We all serve as a vessel to be
messengers for one another.
Are you sharing the messages
you’re inspired to speak?
Someone is waiting to hear your words.
~Nanette MathewsScreen Shot 2017-07-22 at 8.11.38 PM.pngMy work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam…
~Excerpted lines from The Messenger,
a poem by Mary OliverScreen Shot 2017-07-22 at 8.22.59 PM.pngWe often see ourselves as small, insignificant citizens,
but God sees in us as His messengers.
~Sunday AdelajaScreen Shot 2017-07-22 at 8.22.12 PM.png

“ ‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’ ” ~Daniel 4:17  ✝

**Sunflowers images taken by Natalie; hummingbird images via 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

1282. When I dance I forget everything else and just feel completely happy. ~Katherine Jenkins

When you dance, your purpose
is not to get to a certain
place on the floor. It’s to enjoy
each step along the way.
~Wayne Dyer

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If I Were
There are lots of ways to dance
and to spin, sometimes it just
starts my feet first then my entire body,
I am spinning no one can see it
but it is happening. I am so glad to be alive,
I am so glad to be loving and loved.
Even if I were close to the finish, even if
I were at my final breath,
I would be here to take a stand,
bereft of such astonishments,
but for them.
~Excerpt from a poem
by Mary Oliver

Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful. ~Excerpt from Jeremiah 31:4  ✝

**Image via Pinterest; special effects done on iPiccy and Movavi

1107. Plain dealing is a jewel, but they that wear it are out of fashion. ~Thomas Fuller

Knowing your own darkness
is the best method for dealing
with the darknesses of other people.
~Carl Jung

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Okay, so I know I’m an old codger and that many in the world think that as a demographic we old folk are just too old-fashioned to “get it” whatever “it” is that they think they have a better handle on than we do. So let’s consider for a moment the primordial “seven deadly sins.” And afterwards, feel free to let me know when and if any of them have changed: 1.) pride/vanity, 2.) lying tongues, 3.) the shedding of innocent blood by the hands of others, 4.) hearts that devise evil acts, 5.) feet that are swift in running to mischief, 6.) false witnesses who speak lies, 7.) ones who sow discord among their fellow man. Are these not things that have existed since the beginning of time? Have we not all encountered and commited many of them in our own lives? Have we not all been deeply hurt, desperately lonely, overwhelming despondent, and/or bitterly betrayed at some point even by those who were supposed to be family and/or friends? Have we not all had our hearts broken and almost ripped out of our very flesh by grief? Have we not all braved “dark nights” of the soul at least once in our lives? Have we not all experienced suffering and pain, both physical and emotional? Have we not all been lied to and cheated on in some way? Have we ourselves not been repeatedly mischievous and sinful? If the answer to these questions is not only yes, but hell yes, then what is it that ANYONE, regardless of age or gender, doesn’t get? Except maybe contrition and forgiveness, kindness and sincerity, compassion and grace, finding the strength to get up again and again after being knocked down over and over again. Life is freakin’ hard, and trust me when I say that you guys who supposedly “have a handle on things” which we old folks don’t understand, you’re going to find that the “hard” which you perceive growing old to be is not even close to the reality of what it is. So why don’t we all, young and old alike, try to learn to trust again, to hope again, to believe again, to be kind again, to be accepting again, to be loving again, to be authentic again and to do all those things with the greatest sincerity we can muster. For if we know our own darknesses, should we not attempt to be a light in another’s darkness instead of increasing their darkness? And one last thing, if someone offers you all these things, then accept them graciously as the gift they were meant to be and embrace them as well as the giver regardless of what’s happened to you in the past!

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. ~Proverbs 1 8-9  ✝

**Image found on Pinterest

1048. God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. ~Voltaire

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 7.35.09 PM.png

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 7.42.44 PM.png

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 7.55.45 PM.png

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth
with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam…
~Excerpted lines from the poem, The Messenger by Mary Oliver

I am 73 years old and nearly six feet tall, and yet there are things in life that still make me dance a jig and squeal with joy like a child. And I’m not one bit sheepish about doing it either. As many of you know I absolutely adore Mary Oliver’s poetry. It’s as if she somehow managed to crawl around in my soul and heart and then spilled out what she found therein into her poetry. So I bought 4 new books of her poetry at Amazon last week and when they came today, they were greeted with none other than the same unabashed, joyful squeals. Afterwards there was a round of eeny, meeny, miny, mo before picking one of the four to open first. Then I turned to the first poem in it, read the one above, and guess what? I joyfully squealed some more. Damn, but I love that woman’s thoughts and poetry!!!

When I was in college, there were occasions when my friends and I tried to come up with the names of five people throughout history that we’d most like to meet and spend time with. I’m not sure who I would have picked or did pick back then, but at 73 I know for sure who the top 3 on my list would be now–Jesus(God), Claude Monet, and Mary Oliver. The remaining two are still up for grabs, but that’s not to say that they aren’t lots of splendid candidates to choose from. I pray that each and everyone one of you who’ve read this also have something or someone that thrills you to the point of at least wanting to squeal with animated pleasure!

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 18:3   ✝