1348. Man is his own most vexing problem. ~Reinhold Niebuhr

To allow oneself to be carried away by
a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many demands,
to commit to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything
is itself to succumb to the violence of our times.
Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace.
It destroys the fruitfulness of our work,
because it kills the root of inner wisdom
which makes work fruitful.
~Thomas Merton

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My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. ~Thomas Merton

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name sake. ~Psalm 23:1-3  ✝

**Image found on Pinterest; special effects created by me on iPiccy

491. Every vine climbing and blossoming tells of love and joy. ~Robert G. Ingersoll

That is faith, cleaving to Christ,
twining around Him
with all the tendrils of our heart,
as the vine does round its support.
~Alexander Maclaren

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Like all else in Creation, vines remind me of the nearness of God perhaps because they reflect the way He wraps His arms around His children and keeps them close to Himself. In that way we go together like a hat and glove as they say for we are to the Lord as the branch is to the vine, as sheep are to the shepherd, as the flower is to the stem, as the bride is to her groom, as the bird is to air, as the fish is to water, as the star is to the sky, as the sun is to the moon, as the plant is to the seed, as the grass is to the dew, and as the babe is to its mother. Simply put, we are inextricably linked to Yahweh, the Maker of heaven and earth, and it is from our loving Source that we gather strength and energy. His supporting and sustaining provisions draw us into His holy web of life and subsequently move us closer and closer to the Light. In the Gospel of John are the “I am” sayings of Jesus which give us wonderful descriptions of the way Christ connects with us:

“I am the bread of life.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“I am the gate for the sheep.”
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.”
“I am the resurrection, and the life.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
“I am the true vine.”

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Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. ~Psalm 80:14-15   ✝

**Three images above Scripture via Pinterest

488. Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul but his life. ~G. K. Chesterton

Feel the wild imprint of surprise.
Free the joy inside the self.
Awaken to the wonder of life.
~Edited excerpts from John O’Donohue blessings

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When children first feel “the wild imprint of surprise,” they easily let go the joy inside themselves, but by the time they enter adolescence most become guarded about their feelings and their expressions of joyfulness. Then as playgrounds and backyard recreations are left far behind when they enter young adulthood, they are, like I was, less and less exposed to the wonders of Creation. However, I discovered when I first retired “that like a forgotten fire, childhood can flare up again.” The flames were sparked when I could at last spend greater amounts of time in my garden and with my creative outlets that I found my inner child was still alive and well.

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Sadly, the middle years of my life took me far from the things I loved in my childhood as well as through some deep valleys of brokenness. Now painful health issues rob me many nights of restful sleep, but I’ve yet to be “broken in two by time.” Though past and present circumstances have and continue trying to steal my “joie de vivre,” the Lord has not left me stranded on detours away from the His plan for my life nor stuck at dead ends. Instead the Shepherd keeps leading His lamb back into His keeping, and that as well as the freeing of my inner child helps to restore my joy. When one of my grandson’s was younger he told me once that he loved the way I often got down on the floor and played right alongside him and his brother. The question is: Was I doing it for them or for myself?

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. ~Isaiah 55:12 ✝

** Images via Pinterest

456. Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world. ~Robert Farrar Capon, Episcopal priest and author

She, a sapphire queen,
sits perched atop
her throne of green
filling her cup
with day’s holy gleam.
~Natalie Scarberry

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“We need to learn to enjoy life more. We should relax, remembering that Immanuel, God is with us, is always present. He crafted His people with enormous capacity to know Him and enjoy His Presence, and when His people wear sour faces and walk through their lives with resigned rigidity, He is displeased. But when they walk through the day with childlike delight, savoring every blessing, they proclaim their trust in Him, their ever-present Shepherd. The more they focus on His Presence with them, the more fully they can enjoy life. And if they glorify Him through their pleasure in Him, they, thus, proclaim His presence to the in-need, watching world.” ~Edited passage from a devotional by Sarah Young

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I(Jesus) have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11    ✝

Thank you, Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! May I dwell in Your holy presence and praise Your name for all that you have given and done.

413. 
When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. ~Chinese Proverb

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Lilies–as tall as ourselves and more lovely,
and full of fragrance, and long orange tongues,
and those playthings the bees–stood in

a neighbor’s yard, a thick, ramping
hedge of them.  You could not help but see
that to be beautiful is also to be simple

and brief; is to rise up and be glorious, and then vanish;
is to be silent but as though a song was in you only it
hasn’t yet been heard…

~Excerpt from the poem, The Book, by Mary Oliver

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. ~Psalm 23:1  ✝

225. Stripes that are red like the blood shed for me. ~Author Unknown

There’s a song in the air!
There’s a star in the sky!
~Joseph G. Holland

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The strongest connection one might make between the origins of the candy cane and any intentional Christian association is to guess that possibly some unknown person, at some indefinite time, took a long-existing form of sweet (i.e., straight white sticks of sugar candy) that was already associated with Christmas and produced bent versions of it to represent a shepherd’s crook and/or make it easier to hang on Christmas trees, but even that general association is nothing more than mere supposition with no supporting evidence behind it.  This is charming folklore, but one should not lose sight of the fact that such stories of the candy cane’s origins are, like Santa Claus, myths and not “true stories.”

There is one verifiable (albeit indirect) religious connection associated with the modern candy cane, however.

In 1919 Bob McCormack began making candy canes for local use and sales in Albany, Georgia, and by the middle of the century his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bob’s Candies) had become one of the world’s leading candy cane producers. But candy cane manufacturing initially required a fair bit of labor that limited production quantities (the canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line in order to create their ‘J’ shape,) and it was McCormack’s brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller, who came up with the solution: Father Keller invented the Keller Machine that automated the process of shaping straight candy sticks into candy canes.   ~Barbara Mikkelson

The woman said to him, “I know Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ).  “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”  ~John 4:25  ✝

224. There is a bird that God has blessed, she wears this honor on her chest… ~Rick Fernandez, Sr.

When father takes his spade to dig
then the Robin comes along;
And sits upon a little twig
And sings a little song.

Or, if the trees are rather far
He does not stay alone,
But comes up close to where we are
And bobs upon a stone.
~“The Robin” by Laurence Alma-Tadema

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Since the mid 19th century in the UK and in Ireland, the robin has been strongly associated with Christmas; its image has been used on Christmas cards and on postage stamps.  Legend has it, according to an old British folk tale, that when Jesus was dying on the cross, the Robin, then a simply brown bird, flew to his side and sang into his ear in order to comfort him in his pain. The blood from his wounds stained the Robin’s breast, and thereafter all Robins have borne the mark of Christ’s blood upon them.  More than likely however, the association with the robin and Christmas may have come from the fact that postmen in Victorian Britain wore red jackets and were nicknamed “Robins.”

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.  ~Hebrews 13:19-21  ✝