1039. Do not let Sunday be taken from you. If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan. ~Albert Schweitzer

Oh to relive
those Old Sundays,
those sacred things…
~S. Michaels at https://5wise.wordpress.com

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My faith journey began long ago at a time when I was young enough that all I knew was unmarred innocence, youthful unawareness, and blind acceptance of what I’d been told and taught. In handmade, starched and often white organdy dresses and on feet in meticulously polished white shoes I’d enter with my family, as I’d been taught, solemnly and quietly into church buildings with their tall steeples and large, sonorous bells that called the masses to worship. Inside there was the unmistakable aroma of old wooden pews, time-worn Bibles, and tattered hymnals that spoke of countless others who had come before us to worship. And because it was a time of greater formality, we were greeted at the doors by ushers in dark suits wearing white carnations in their lapels; these men and/or women would hand us freshly printed programs as they led us down the aisle to a pew with red velvet cushions, cushions that had seen many a day and been sat on by a multitude of churchgoers. Somewhere along the way to our seats, I would encounter an image of the Christ who was portrayed as a man with soft brown hair and a sweet face. When all who had heeded the call to worship were seated, the acolytes would march in under gothic arches carrying state and national flags in the glow of blue, red, green, and yellow light streaming through the stained-glass windows. On their heels came the choir and the robed pastoral staff. Once everyone was in place, choral voices led us in songs before we were implored to make affirmations of faith and recite the Lord’s prayer. Then came the giving of tithes in gold offertory plates, before we drank from silver chalices filled with the “Blood of Christ” and took from a silver plate the bread wafer that symbolized the “Body of Christ.” All the while these sacred things were taking place, a large pipe organ played softly in the background behind flickering candles and pretty flowers on altars covered in sacramental cloths. Finally by the time all was said and done within the hallowed gray, stone walls, we had sung a number of old familiar hymns, shouted amens, listened to a tutorial sermon, bowed our heads for the holy benedictions, read words of Scripture, raised our arms and voices in praise, and prayed for friends and neighbors as well as the hungry and the needy. And all of it was fervently carried out in hopes that God, was then and would always be with us, listen to our pleas, and answer our prayers.

Sadly at a church after we moved here I witnessed such widespread hypocrisy and intolerant prejudice by clergy and church members alike that I stopped going to church and turned away from Lord and His teachings at the age of 19.  However, the Good Shepherd would not let go of that which was rightfully His and so He pursued me for the next two decades as He does all of His wandering and lost “sheep” until one day I turned to listen to His voice again. Soon afterwards I chose to walk back into a church, and fortunately it was one where sincere sanctity appeared to be palpable and devout holiness seemed to permeate all that and who had gathered to honor and consecrate the Almighty, the Holy Spirit, and the Christ. It felt like home and I knew I was home. As sentient beings, everything we encounter evokes some kind of emotional response from us which affects both flesh and psyche. So powerful and evocative are such experiences sometimes that there have been people who are healed of life-threatening diseases by constantly picturing themselves in times and places of the past wherein they were happy and well and sensed the presence of the Almighty.

Experience life in all possible ways –
good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light, summer-winter.
Experience all the dualities.
Don’t be afraid of experience,
because the more experience you have,
the more mature you become.
~Osho

The sacred pathway is
not hard, children
know it…
~S. Michaels at https://5wise.wordpress.com

…if I(Paul) am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory. ~1 Timothy 3:15-16  ✝

**All but one image via Pinterest; collage by Natalie, and one photo of Natalie

1018. Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles. ~Edwin Louis Cole

Even if I know I shall never change the masses,
never transform anything permanent,
all I ask is that the good things also have
their place, their refuge.
~Richard Wagner

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Scripture tells us that we are made in the image of God, and I expect that has nothing to do the with our faces and everything to do with our hearts. Therefore through us He can bring to fruition all that is within His limitless power to do. How?

Our hearts are able to feel another’s anguish, Our eyes can see the lacking needs of others, Our mouths can deliver His smile to light up darkness, Our voices can declare quiet, comforting words for ears to hear, Our hands can administer compassionate healing, And our legs can carry us wherever we need to go to accomplish such things.

How then can one who breathes the very breath of a Holy God, who bears His very image do anything less than deliver anything He asks of us. That is the purpose that should drive our lives. It has never been all about self, for truly what is love, and all humans yearn for and must have love, without a place to spend it, and where better to start spending than with someone in need. Honor the gifts you have been given, rejoice in them, and use them.

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  ✝

**Image via Pinterest

947. Creation betokens a Creator. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is more completely
the child of art than a garden.
~Sir Walter Scott

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I often marvel at the Lord’s artwork in Creation, and one of the things I love most about our amazing Creator’s handiwork is God’s occasional bent towards the frivolous. I see in it in flowers like the pink dahlia in the photo, and when I do, again I know why we are implored in Scripture over and over again to rejoice in the Lord and in His ways. Clearly God sees merit in such because nature itself speaks profusely of the Divine’s joy and delight in it and all that He has made. Not only that but after each day of Creation’s work in Holy writ it says that God looked upon what He had made and saw that it was good. Since this flower and other frivolous entities are a part of Yahweh’s grand design, I believe that perhaps they are made especially for times when the human heart has difficulty finding much of anything in which to rejoice. After all we are not asked to rejoice only in the good times but at all times. In a poem I read this week the author purported that each of us is “God clothed in a body.” Inasmuch as we are made in His image and as believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, at the very least that perception is a good way of remembering just how sacred and precious we are in the eyes the our Creator. Thinking that way might also help us rejoice more when we look at ourselves in the mirror and when we look at others.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. ~Psalm 68:4  ✝

**Image found on Pinterest

690. The world of Celtic spirituality is completely at home with the rhythm and wisdom of the senses. ~John O’Donohue

When you read Celtic nature poetry,
you see that all the senses are alerted:
You hear the sound of the winds,
you taste the fruits, and above all
you get a wonderful sense of
how nature touches human presence.
~John O’Donohue

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Nature isn’t just around us like the walls of a house or a building; it moves into our space and through our senses to touch us in very discernible ways. We live and breath and move on divine, holy ground and in that realm many of our life experiences come by means of our God-given senses. Even in the reading of Scripture spring’s coming is announced by the mouth in song and the ear in hearing. So this week as we approach Easter, be mindful that one should not only hear about Christ’s resurrection or see images of what happened on the Cross at Calvary, but we should also feel the agony He suffered and in a very real sense “taste” what His sacrifice accomplished.

May your body be blessed.
May your realize that your body is a faithful
and beautiful friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful
and recognize that your senses are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is mindful,
gazing, feeling, hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to celebrate
the universe and the mystery and
possibilities in your presence here. . .
~John O’Donohue

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. ~Isaiah 35:1-2   ✝

**Images via Pinterest, collage created by Natalie

660. A snowy day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder. ~Susan Orlean

The first fall of snow is not only an event,
it is a magical event.
You go to bed in one kind of a world
and wake up in another quite different,
and if this is not enchantment
then where is it to be found?
~J. B. Priestley

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I know snowy manifestations get in the way of “human” comings and goings and doings and that in areas where winter delivers a lot of the fluffy white stuff the populace tires of it, but man oh man is snow one of my favorite things. And for me it is definitely an “enchantment” any time it happens here which is not all that often! But snow in fact it did last week, and as always it was a “magical event” that layered the world in loveliness. Regrettably, I could only watch it from my hospital bed, but oh well, such is life.

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What I love best about snow is that, like God’s grace, it takes the ordinary, the humdrum, the lackluster, even things that are dirty or ugly and moves them into the realm of the extraordinary and the beautiful. We are told in scripture there is a time for everything under heaven, and that there is goodness and purpose in all that God has devised. It also tells us that stopping man from his toils so that he takes time to consider the work of God’s hands is a part of the grand plan too. And so it is that the slower, quieter pace of winter affords us abundant opportunities to consider the amazing works of God’s hands, to honor the Lord for what He is and does, and to enjoy His amazing abilities and gifts. And it’s the best time of year to force man’s gaze off his own self-inflated sense of greatness and to refocus his regard on the enormous magnitude of Him who made it all and who teaches His children ways to cope with whatever comes against them.

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.” So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor. ~Job 37:5-7   ✝

632. A garden is a bird’s dinner table bursting with bugs and worms and succulent berries. ~Anne Raver

That little bird has chosen his shelter.
Above it are the stars and the deep heaven of worlds.
Yet he is rocking himself to sleep
without caring for tomorrow’s lodging,
calmly clinging to his little twig,
and leaving God to think for him.
~Martin Luther

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Red–bright, bright, glorious red! How easy it is to find in the winter landscape! Yahweh not only provided birds with sheltering places, but He also formed plants that produce colorful, and therefore easy to spot, feasts of red berries. In Scripture, we are told that we needn’t worry about what we require either because the Lord promises to provide for our needs too. However, since youth is an opiate that leads many a “fledgling” like I once was to a) believe that he/she is infallible and b) to believe he/she is the only one on the planet with a clue about anything, I foolishly thought for a time that my life was only what I was making of it. Then as time passed I began to realize there were doors that did not have to open, but they did; there were opportunities that didn’t have to present themselves, but they did; and there were misfortunes that could have occurred, but they didn’t, and so on. It’s our God-given free will which allows us to make choices that determine the outcome of our lives, and even poor choices can and do sometimes lead to a path that eventually merges back into the one the Lord wants us to travel. Looking back at such things I realize now that it’s only because of the intervention of God’s divine and saving grace that advantageous things happen. And who knows perhaps even the detours are gifts of His divine providence meant to protect the unwise sojourner from harm. Though prudence and patience are lessons I’m still trying to master, at least I’ve become more aware of the importance and necessity of listening to the Lord, consulting Him before making choices, yielding to His will and plan for my life, and living more like the birds who worry not. So on I go these days putting one foot in front of the other. In the meantime God keeps His eye on me and the sparrow, the birds feast upon the garden’s berries, and I rely more and more on the Lord, letting my little piece of Eden continue to feed my soul and remind me of His faithful provision and promises.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin…” ~Matthew 6: 25-28   ✝

**Images via Pinterest; overlay created by Natalie

630. If Heaven made him — earth can find some use for him. ~Chinese Proverb

Truly, I am as a grain of sand in the desert,
Infinitesimal, so very small!
And, yet, I serve a purpose in this wondrous world,
As do the trees, so stately and so tall.
I’m just a tiny atom that God has placed down here—
I do not even know the reason why!
But I’m sure that He, with wisdom, has evolved a plan
To fit me in His pattern ere I die.
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham

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According to Scripture, each one of us is made in God’s image, and though we are, as Buckingham declares, merely an infinitesimal “grain of sand in the desert,” we do indeed, as she also purports, serve a purpose “in this wondrous world.” We are also told in Holy Writ, that the Lord with His limitless power is ready, willing, and able to helps us discern what our purpose is. So the question is how does He do that? Well, we are given a brain that has the ability to learn, a heart that is able to love, ears that hear, and eyes that are capable of discerning a wide spectrum of things. Okay, then, how does He, from afar, orchestrate the discharge of His plan. Well, since our mouths can deliver His loving smile, our voices speak comforting words, our hands administer compassionate healing, our legs carry whatever is lacking to places totally bereft of the “wondrous” aspect of life, it would appear our lives are to be spent serving Him with the gifts we’ve been given. The better question is: how can we who bear Yahweh’s image and breathe His holy breath, do anything but make it our primary concern to spend time with Him and ask for revelation about what it is He would have us do with our “one wild and precious life.” Otherwise, what would be the point of being able to give and receive love if there were no place to spend it nor people with whom to share it?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28   ✝

** Image via Pinterest

528. Behold congenial autumn comes, the Sabbath of the year. ~John Logan

There’s music in the sighing of a reed;
There’s music in the gushing of a rill;
There’s music in all things, if men had ears:
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.
~Lord Byron

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Year after year I fall in love again with autumn, and this one is no different than all the others. Even though few leaves have changed colors, there are tangible signs of Keats “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” Samples of such manifest themselves daily in the form of ripening seeds, nuts, hips, berries, fruits, and acorns. As well several crisp mornings have filled autumn’s cup with its quintessential sanctity, and some shrouded in foggy mists have revealed squirrels scurrying about with greater urgency while birds, soon to pull out on migratory treks, feast on seeds and berries like the ones in the photo. These are American beautyberries, and they first appeared months ago in shades of pretty, pale greens, but as autumn drew near they deepened into their stunning shade of magenta and began issuing forth tunes in this, the next series of earth’s delightful melodies.

Passages in Scripture indicate that music originated with God and accompanied Creation, and there are those who yet hear the continuing echoes of Yahweh’s “Divine symphony” as made evident in the lines I quoted from Lord Byron. The American evangelist, Beth Moore, says that a song is “the fluent language of the soul,” and I couldn’t agree more because it is my soul that “hears” the myriads of earth’s melodic voices. I think perhaps the hymns of nature are more discernible in spring and autumn after they’ve been weighed down by winter’s oppression or nearly snuffed out by the intensity of summer’s fires, but earth’s music never fails to play on. And whenever the “echo of the spheres” and “the music in all things” of which Baron Byron spoke is heard, it is a privilege to “listen” to the “songs of the morning stars and the angels shout for joy” (Job 38:7). And how blessed are we, the peoples of the earth, that God “takes delight” in us, that “He quiets” us “with His love,” and that “He rejoices” over us “with singing.”

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”   ~Zephaniah 3:17   ✝

425. When you celebrate, you are taking time to recognize, to open your eyes and behold in your life the quiet miracles and gifts that seek no attention; yet each day they nourish, shelter, and animate your life. ~John O’Donohue

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs;
ask yourself what makes you come alive.
And then go and do that.
Because what the world needs is
people who have come alive.
~Attributed to Howard Thurman,
American author, philosopher, theologian,
educator, and civil rights leader

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The Lord demonstrates great passion in all that He does and in all that He creates, and so made in His image as we are, we are designed to be passionate. Our passions make us come alive, and it is in that awakening that we come into full bloom like the passion flower above. Passion unlocks our potential and helps us discover our divine purpose in this life; it creates “moments that blossom,” and that’s what makes the human heart want to celebrate. We are implored in Scripture to celebrate; celebration has been described as a delightful and intense form of human presence. It draws us together, and I believe our relationships with each other ultimately lead to a desire to be in relationship with the Lord.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24    ✝

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace! Like Saint Hildegard Lord, may I too be a feather on your holy breath and spread, like seeds, the gospel abroad.

420. At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

“You’re lovely, but you’re empty,” he went on.
“One couldn’t die for you.
Of course an ordinary passerby would think
my rose looked just like you.
But my rose…is more important… since she’s the one I’ve watered.
Since she’s the one I put under glass.
Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen.
Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars.
Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained,
or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all.
Since she’s my rose.”

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“People where you live,” the little prince said,
“grow five thousand roses in one garden. . .
yet they don’t find what they’re looking for. . .”
“And yet what they’re looking for could be found
in a single rose. . .”

And the little prince added,
“But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”
“One sees clearly only with the heart.
Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”

~Excerpts from THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

What the little prince said about the essential being invisible to the eyes is profoundly true. Scripture tells us we are made in the image of God, and that truth puts into perspective the vast and diverse abilities of our Maker. Simply put, it tells me that the Lord is bigger and more powerful that we could ever imagine. It also tells me there is a distinct reason for the uniqueness of every created entity. It tells me that how we feel about what our eyes see should be filtered first through that knowledge and our heart of hearts. It tells me that what we are matters only in the light of how we treat everyone and everything that crosses our path on this journey, be they flowers, be they animals, or be they people.

As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man. ~Proverbs 27:19  ✝

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace! Like Saint Hildegard Lord, may I too be a feather on your holy breath and spread, like seeds, the gospel abroad.