Garment of Praise

Light snowflakes swirl and tumble tangling above and below each other. Every now and again one blows right into the window as if to say hello and then twirls away again…around and around, up and down. The sun peers slightly out of the cloud covered sky. One lonely snowflake sprints across my field of view trying in vain to catch his friends who have all but vanished.

The branches on the leafless tree sway. What looks barren and lost will soon bloom with life. How do I know? Not by what my eyes can see. For all I see is death. But what is bearing no fruit – what looks dead on the outside is bursting with life on the inside. I am powerless to form one bud on the tree. My construction paper bud taped on the branch is indeed no life at all. It’s a lie, an illusion.

How am I so certain life will come again? Because I’ve seen the process year after year sitting in the same black recliner looking out the same window. The autumn leaves display a show of grand colors before they shrivel and float to the ground, the snow lays heavy on the branches until tiny buds burst into life. I know it because I have seen it to be true in the past. I trust because I have no reason not to believe it will happen again.

Today,  sound is muffled by the blanket of snow on the ground, I still my soul. For in the stillness I see God. I know the sun will shine again, the birds will chirp again, the warm winds will blow again.

Today, I don’t ask why the seasons change. I acknowledge One’s power greater than mine. I don’t wish and long for spring for I know that life with only pleasure brings no joy at all. Without the hard moments, there would be no easy ones. Without the hurt, we can not appreciate the depths of pleasure. Spring without winter would just be normal, mundane, boring.

I trust the One who sees all, who knows all and is working this moment for good. Winter brings life. Without the cold, the insect population would explode bringing destruction to the tree. In cold, the tree holds energy in reserve for building new life. The excess must be pruned from the tree so its structure will be strong and healthy. Pruning in the dormant time stimulates new growth while trimming in the active time stresses the tree.

And when the winter seems endless, I still praise Him. For who am I but an imitator of the True One with my construction paper fruit and duck tape? With palms open, I utter not my will but Thine. I sit in the dead of winter and I waste not the still moments by wishing for spring.

“to provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3


*The above ramblings come from processing some of what we have been learning in church about praise. I am learning praise is more than a moment of worship music or positive words.  Praise is a place I set my mind by acknowledging God is bigger than my understanding, and he is working all things for good. I choose praise when I shift my eyes from my circumstances to God, releasing my expectations of a life without problems.  Instead of searching endlessly for the why praise sets my heart on God’s faithfulness and love.  

 

Are books better than the internet?

I started watching The Crown last night. The Netflix original TV series is set in England in 1947 during the reign of Queen Elisabeth II. In one scene Princess Elisabeth (Claire Fox) rushes into the study to answer the phone. My breath caught as I admired the floor to ceiling wall of books.

Books have always intrigued me. As a child, I could escape to far away places where anything was possible. Now, I love watching blank paper transform into worlds birthed from my imagination.

I doubt I will ever have a wall of books because my Kindle Paperwhite can hold an entire library of books – 6000 books to be exact. While I love that, I miss the sensation of walking into the wonder and possibilities a room full of books of different sizes, shapes and smells each book.

The last few months I have felt a shift in the way I consume information. In 2016 I set a goal of reading 36 books. I ended the year reading a total of 45 books, a variety of fiction, non-fiction and books on learning the craft of writing. I spent so much of my free time committed to reading, I didn’t have time to keep up on the news or other online articles.

This year I struggled with how to strike a balance between books and the Internet. News, blogs and social media contain real time information -some things are better suited for digital formats. Rather than a set number of books I want to read this year, I set a goal of spending a half hour a day reading a variety of news articles and blogs that interest me, and a half hour a day reading a book.

How I’m reading on the Internet:

  • Skimm The byline is “Making it easier for you to be smarter”. This website sends you an email on weekdays with the hot news topics. It’s free to subscribe.
  • Flipboard has recently had some big updates. My favorite feature is being able to select which blogs you want to follow in a Smart Magazine.
  • Twitter I haven’t given Twitter much thought before, but it is becoming one of my favorite sources of information from President Trump to entrepreneurs who I can learn from because they are further ahead than I am.

How I’m reading Books:

  • 2017 Book List These are books I plan to read this year.
  • GoodreadsYou can check out all my books, what I have read and want to read

Technology is still a love/hate thing with me. The information from these sources is up to date and relevant. It is easy to access and consume. But, it doesn’t hold the rich smells that the crinkled pages of a book do as the book holds all the stories of those who have read it before me. As I touch books part of its soul seeps into me and mine into it.  Books are like real, live human friends. Consuming media on a sterile device is like having a conversation with someone over text or Facebook. It’s just not the same as sitting in Panera with a warm drink.

For me, both books and the Internet have a place in my life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you enjoy books or do would you prefer reading information on a device?

Does pain have a purpose?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

I don’t like pain.  If I have a headache, I run for the aspirin. When physical pain arrives my goal is to stop the pain. That’s what the TV commercials tell us, right?

Getting you back to normal – Tylenol
All Day Strong. All Day Long. – Aleve
Advil. Stronger than Pain
Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is – Alka Seltzer

These verses in James challenge me to shift my thinking. Bumping up against difficult people, circumstances beyond our control, physical pain or other hard things isn’t necessarily bad.   I used to pray my children would have an easy life. But, I realize now that won’t do them any favors.

 Faith develops in trials.

Joy comes not because I like what’s happening, but because the trial is developing character in me.  I trust that God is who He says He is – and He will do what He says He will do.

Instead of me needing to control all that is around me,  I can rest my hand in my Father’s loving hand, realizing He is God, my Creator, and Maker. He loves me, and He is all I need no matter what is happening to me on this earth.

I’m not sure we can grow without pain. So, what at first glance looks like an inconvenience, disruption, or worse, is shaping us into the best version of ourselves – if we let it.

I’m thankful for Tylenol and all for enjoying life to its fullest. But, when I run up against the things I can’t or shouldn’t fix I know it’s time to grab my big girl panties. Just because something doesn’t feel like it’s for my best doesn’t mean it isn’t.

The goal isn’t to stop the pain
The goal is to be mature and complete.

Trials develop endurance.  Endurance is the staying power that no matter how hard something is, I won’t give up. Quitting is not an option. Why? Because God is good and will use this for good. Because it will be all worth it one day.


Thank you, Jesus, for the peace in knowing you don’t waste my pain.  Thank you for giving me joy in knowing the things though things seem bad you can use them for good.  I want to be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Thank you for being faithful and loving. I come with open palms knowing you are a good, good Father.


Challenge: One thing that helps me is to write out a verse on a 3×5 card and put it in my pocket.  Reading it throughout the day encourages me and helps me keep a true perspective on my circumstances.  Choose a verse from below or pick your own. Write it on a 3×5 card or use a dry erase marker and write it on the mirror in your bathroom.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“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

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalms 136:1

Memorizing the Book of James – Final Update

I finished memorizing James by the end of 2016. But, I’ve procrastinated posting because I was trying to get it perfect.  I’m learning that done is better than perfect.  So here it is.

I used the video on Mastery of Memory final comprehensive review as I recited the verses. I muted the sound so I could watch the prompts as I said the verses.

Overall, I am thrilled the program worked – even if it took me six months instead of one. I intend to follow his recommendations and review the book once a month going forward so I don’t forget what I’ve learned.  It would be nice if he offered more courses on memorizing other books of the Bible.  Maybe I’ll give making my own mnemonics a try?

I’m not sure where I am going to go from here.  I am working on a study now that is in Romans 8.  I think I’d like to memorize that chapter – maybe more.  We’ll see.

The things that worked well at my five-month update brought me to the finish line.  My biggest takeaway from this experiment that if you show up and do the work, you will succeed.  If you want to learn something new, it doesn’t matter as much which program you use. Just show up 15 minutes a day and put the time in.

I got hung up on posting this because this audio isn’t word perfect.  I stumble around a bit in chapter two.  But I am embracing the art of done over perfect.  How many things do I not finish because I’m afraid of not doing it perfectly?  I’m reminding myself that nobody is perfect except God, and throwing aside the weight of perfection and celebrating finishing well. It’s not an excuse to be lazy or do poor work but rather to accept excellent instead of perfect.

 

Imperfect progress over time = success.

What one thing have you been procrastinating on? Let go of the goal of perfect and commit to finishing it.  Leave me a comment below and let me know what you are committing to finishing imperfectly this week.

 

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman – Book Review

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" Book Cover "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"
Richard Phillips Feynman, Ralph Leighton, Edward Hutchings,
Biography & Autobiography
W. W. Norton & Company
1985
350

Richard Feynman is a quirky, practical joker who is also a brilliant physicist.  Here he recounts his experiences with working on the atomic bomb, cracking uncrackable safes, as well as playing the drums and learning to paint.  His book reflects his insatiable curiosity combined with his passion for learning.

 

A few months ago my husband emailed me a link on Richard Feynman. Apparently,  Bill Gates is such a fan of Richard Feynman he bought the rights to all his lectures and posted them online for free.  Out of curiosity, I added his book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman to my to-read list.

I chose it as my first read of the new year and have been surprised at how much I enjoyed listening to the audio copy from my local library.  January winter nights passed by quickly as I sat by the fire coloring with my cat.  (My cat wasn’t coloring, he was sitting on me while I tried to color and listen to the book.)

I think I enjoyed this book so much because it gave me a glimpse into the way someone else thinks. I would have thought a book written by a Physicist would be boring and hard to understand.  But it was just the opposite.  Mr. Feynman is a funny guy and I just laughed and laughed at his practical jokes. He is also curious and always learning.  If you watch the video in the above link on Bill Gates, you will see his face light up as he describes fire.  Seeing how other people think stretches me and reminds me that my way isn’t the only way -or even the best way.

His tone is conversational and some of the chronology is not in order.  At some point, I got confused if he was on his second or third wife.  My approach to information is to take what is useful and leave the rest. So it’s worth noting that Richard is a colorful character and some may find parts of his stories and language to be offensive.

In one sentence, how did this book change me?

You can accomplish a lot in life by being curious and just being your own quirky self.

Who would I recommend it to?

Someone who likes history, biographies and enjoys laughing.

Quotes

“I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding; they learn by some other way—by rote, or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!”

“the whole problem of discovering what was the matter, and figuring out what you have to do to fix it–that was interesting to me, like a puzzle”

“When it came time for me to give my talk on the subject, I started off by drawing an outline of the cat and began to name the various muscles. The other students in the class interrupt me: “We _know_ all that!” “Oh,” I say, “you _do?_ Then no _wonder_ I can catch up with you so fast after you’ve had four years of biology.” They had wasted all their time memorizing stuff like that, when it could be looked up in fifteen minutes.”

“And Von Neumann gave me an interesting idea: that you don’t have to be responsible for the world that you’re in.”

“attitude that anything can happen, in spite of what you’re pretty sure should happen.”

“All the time you’re saying to yourself, “I could do that, but I won’t”—which is just another way of saying that you can’t.”