Being Present to the Present

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A few years ago, I bought a set of DVDs called Sunrise Earth. They are exactly what you think they are. Each program is 50 minutes of spectacular sunrises in some of the most beautiful places in the U.S., captured without any additional music or commentary. In short, the filmmakers let nature speak for itself.

I confess that I haven’t really watched any of these until very recently. I even forgot I had them.

But I rediscovered them and found myself watching the beauty of nature unfold. Instantly, I was in North Maine at Kidney Pond, watching a mother moose with her calf cavorting in the water. I could literally feel my blood pressure falling and a feeling of calm and serenity coming over me.

I confess. Too often, I don’t see the nature in front of me because I’m too focused on where I have to be on Wednesday or something coming up on Sunday. I fret and I worry about what may or may not happen in the future or what could or should have happened in the past.

I can’t change either one of those. I can choose to live in this present moment and be alive to all that God is unveiling before me. I can choose to look out my window and see the sunset (or God forbid, actually forklift myself out of bed at the ungodly crack of dawn to witness a sunrise).

I can also choose to be thankful for the moment I’m living in. I can decide that I don’t want to be so obsessed over the future and the past that I miss this present. Jesus said that tomorrow will take care of itself. And that God will take care of you when that tomorrow comes. It won’t make one bit of difference if you worry or not, because fretting over the future won’t change one iota of it.

So I’m going to continue to be a broken record and say that I want to be fully present to where God has me right now, whether it’s everything I hoped it would be or not. I can look down at empty hands and see all that I am missing out on or I can see those hands as ready to receive all that God is preparing for me in a future that is so much bigger and wilder than anything I could ever dream of on my own. It’s all about my perspective.

It’s my choice. It’s your choice, too.

 

I Wonder as I Wander

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I came home from a Christmas Eve service a little bummed. Not for any specific reason. Just that I was tired and thinking once again about all I didn’t have instead of what I do.

Then I saw it. I saw the setting sun reflected off the still waters of a shallow pond. It was almost as if God gave me that moment to remind me that what I DO have matters so much more than what I DON’T.

I started wondering a few things:

I wonder if Mary mourned the loss of all she gave up when God called her. I know it seems strange, almost sacreligious, to think such a thing.

But Mary was a teenager who must have had her own dreams and her own fantasies of how her life would turn out. None of them involved an unexplainable (in human terms) pregnancy or giving birth to a Son whom she would witness being unfairly tried, tortured, and publicly executed.

God’s dreams often require that we give up not just bad things, but even some good and even very good things if they’re not God’s best for us. Letting go of those things can feel like a death knell to our hearts even if we know something better is coming.

Mary could have had a normal marriage with normal children and been well-respected in her community and taken no flack. But no one would ever have remembered her name.

God has a dream for you in His heart that sometimes won’t make sense. At times, it will feel too much like a letting go and giving up of much that we hold dear. It will be painful at times, like losing a part of your heart.

The payoff is so much more than worth it. Mary got to see the Messiah, hold Him in her arms, see Him grow up, and watch Him prove that not even that horrific death could hold Him down.

She got to see with her own eyes the salvation of the world. Her own salvation.

I call that more than worth it.

That Old One-Note Symphony of Grace

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I’ll be honest. I sat here staring at my laptop trying to come up with something else. I even scanned the headlines on msn.com in a vain attempt to find some noteworthy news to comment on. Nothing exciting happened today, so I guess I’ll fall back on a familiar topic. Grace.

Grace never gets old for me. It may get old for you reading about me writing about it yet again, but it truly never gets old for me.

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If I lived to be 1,000 years old, I think I’d still be amazed by grace. You’d still catch me dumbfounded, mouth wide open in awe of grace working in my life.

Grace is why I’m not still mired in my own sins and phobias, trapped by my own sense of worthlessness, doomed to stay inside a prison of my own making.

Grace is the smile of God over me and the Everlasting Arms underneath me that keep me going on the good days and gets me through on the bad days.

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Grace sees past the awkward conversations, the good intentions once again executed poorly, the regrets of words not spoken, and all the failures to the perfect end result.

Grace sees the best in me and allows me to see the best in the other and helps bring it out of both of us.

Grace revives dashed hopes, broken dreams, crushed spirits, ruined relationships, and forsaken lives.

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Grace is me not getting what I deserve and getting what I do not deserve– life more abundant and full and satisfying than anything else out there.

Grace means I woke up today with a thousand blessings waiting to be seen through a heart filled with thanksgiving and gratitude and joy.

Grace is my family and my friends loving me, rooting for me, calling out the God-colors in me, and helping me remember the song in my heart when I’ve forgotten the words.

Grace is the setting sun, the autumn breeze, the laughter of children, the old couple still holding hands, the leaves changing colors, and the applause of heaven over one  wayward sinner who comes home.

And grace is mine, all mine.

 

Things I Love 22: I Have Lots of These Because I’m Old

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It’s sobering to realize that that girl I thought was really cute was born around the same time I graduated from high school. That’s when the reality set in that I’m not a twentysomething (or even a thirtysomething) any more. But I can still be immature as long as I want.

There’s no graceful way to segueway into my list, so I’ll pretend that the first part of this blog doesn’t exist. On to #586.

586) Last minute invitations to birthday (or other social) gatherings, especially if they’re anywhere near downtown Franklin.

587) The coolness of  the night air after an unexpected rain.

588) In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted– no bad choices, no mistakes, nothing.

589) In heaven, love and not gold is the standard of currency.

590) That I’m still adding songs to my iPhone’s growing playlist.

591) Getting to sleep in tomorrow because it’s a holiday.

592) Not being afraid of the loud firework noises anymore.

593) Casablanca on blu ray.

594) My newly discovered social skills.

595) Having the privilege to pray for family and friends and knowing that prayer will avail much.

596) Both the 1974 and the 2013 versions of The Great Gatsby (though I prefer the older version slightly).

597) True redheads.

598) Having to show my driver’s license to prove my age.

599) Real accountability and transparency.

600) Getting handwritten letters in the mail.

601) All the Lord of the Rings movies (though the books are still better).

602) Taking pictures at Radner Lake.

603) Seeing what everybody else posts on pinterest and instagram.

604) Making people feel welcome and a part of the group.

605) California seedless raisins.

606) Peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

607) Doing my small part in recycling.

608) Being on the ultimate winning side.

609) Knowing that one day there will be no more politics and no more need of anything political.

610) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

611) Walking in the rain.

612) Watching a beautiful girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful.

613) Being able to appreciate beauty without feeling the need to possess it.

614) A good neck and back massage.

615) The way my grandmother’s nails felt when she used to scratch my itchy back when I was little.

616) The smell of eggs and bacon in the morning.

617) Seeing a sunset from above the clouds.

618) My Starbucks friend who may not be the tallest person but who has the biggest heart of anyone I know.

619) Every time faith wins out over fear.

620) Only having 380 more to go.