messengers

messengers

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We had a rough week. 

It wasn’t related to the Coronavirus, but yet it was. The parameters established, although critical, can make situations more challenging and ladle stress on top of what already resided. The details aren’t important because I am confident at this crisis point, we can all fill in the blank regarding a hard circumstance compounded because of new limitations.

Today is better.

This past week when I was feeling a bit fragile and shaky, I paid particular attention to the words  read and heard. There seemed to be a repetition of words as well as harmony of theme.  I would have missed the impact of these words if I hadn’t decided to slow down, shunning stress and anxiety.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe what some might call a coincidence is simply a messenger or an invitation to pay attention. 

Over the years, I have practiced lectio divina which means divine or spiritual reading. Now before these Latin words cause you to glaze over, think of these two words as describing the posture you could take while listening to a friend. 

Imagine a friend sharing a piece of wisdom or insight. You listen and mull the words over in your mind. This is possible because you have made time, no hurrying or rushing to the next appointment.  You ask your friend to utter the words again and once again you listen, lingering over the words to see if they take on any new meaning. Without fear of redundancy or seeing rolling eyes, you ask your dear friend to say the words once more, because these are good words.  Your friend smiles, speaks the words aloud and now the conversation begins.

In lectio divina, you are the one who speaks the words aloud. You are the one who mulls and reflects and turns the words and phrases upside down until you are right side up. You are the one who initiates conversation with your Maker.

So many spoken words surround us on a given day. News reports, bad news, phone calls, words during a meeting, kids bickering over the remote control, or simply the people in your home talking loudly. 

How often do you read aloud, softly, and slowly?

When was the last time you heard words spoken over yourself, in your voice?

 What if you paused and considered what these particular words could teach or guide you on this particular day?

What if instead of reading words quickly and moving to the next task, you allowed yourself to linger over words over, over, and over again? 

How many epiphanies have been missed because of refusing to slow down and sit with words?

 Perhaps you might exit the time of lectio divina with a lighter heart, a new resolve, or with renewed hope. 

My invitation to you is to try lectio divina. 

I will guide you.  

Last week, I kept stumbling across two scriptures and a very well-known prayer. I heard the verses on podcasts and read them in books. The prayer was repeatedly posted by attendees in the chatbox of my Weight Watchers virtual meeting. Go figure.
I tend to rush over passages I know quite well. But when I read the words out loud and without hurrying, I uncover unmined gems.

Below I have included the prayer and the two scriptures I found great comfort in this past week.

Choose one.

Following these three options, I adapted the practice of lectio divina for you and have provided additional resources at the end of this post.

 

/1/

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

 

/2/

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)


/3/

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT)

*****

  • Find a quiet place. I realize this could be a challenge during this time. 
  • If you desire, a pen and journal can be helpful to have on hand to jot down any thoughts which arise. 
  • Take a few breaths as you anticipate the gift of this invitation. 

 

Read the passage slowly and aloud.

What words or phrases stand out?
What do you sense God is saying to you through these words or phrases?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud a second time.

From those words and phrases, is there an invitation God is extending to you?
How do these words or phrases apply to your life right now?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud for a final time.

Journal your thoughts, questions, concerns, resistance, desire to change directions, or simply speak these words and have a conversation with God.
What do you need from God?
What can you thank Him for?
What are you grateful for?

 

Well done, friend. 

You can practice with any passage of your choosing. I hope you will.

Keep listening.

*****

May we experience familiar words in new and fresh ways this week.
May the loss of familiar ways draw us closer to God who longs to settle our spirits.
May we breathe and allow our spoken voice to bring new revelation or gentle comfort.
May we slow down and give ourselves permission to be soothed by our Maker.

 

More about lectio divina.

I have used this journal over the years.

This book.

 

elevator grace

elevator grace

elevator button

 

I confess when I am alone in an elevator, I push the button to close the doors

as quickly as possible.

Elevators can be awkward.

Usually when I need an elevator, I seem to be in a hurry.

I definitely do not want to linger before arriving at my destination.

Last Thursday, I had an appointment with a specialist

as I have some blood levels which are being quite rebellious.

The consultation I thought would last 30 minutes spanned close

to 2 hours leaving me a bit sore from all the poking and prodding

and offering up more blood.

I raced to the elevator and was the only one waiting for that

familiar ding and lit up arrow to draw me closer to my car

in the parking garage below.

Of the four door options, I found the one with the gaping hole

and stepped inside.

I pressed the number button and perhaps assuming I was “safe”,

I didn’t push the close door arrows.

The doors were closing and I was exhaling as

a man straddled the threshold and stumbled inside,

joining me.

He was white-haired and quite striking.

I quickly determined

if his floor choice needed to be pushed.

With a grin he told me we were going

the same direction and asked how I was.

I told him I was doing alright.

I reciprocated by asking him the identical question.

Without his smile leaving his face, he paused.

He glanced his eyes to the heavens which in this case,

was a cold metal ceiling and didn’t utter a word.

His pause was long enough that even

without our elevator encasing it would have felt awkward.

Silence reigned and I wanted to reach out

to touch his arm or even give him a hug.

But we were in an elevator and surely this gesture

would have broken protocol or etiquette.

It was a pause saturated with meaning.

When what felt like the final grain of sand had joined a

heaping mountain in the bottom of an hourglass,

he volunteered,

“You know, just sitting in those rooms makes

my blood pressure go up.”

As the doors begin to slide apart and

this dear man strides to exit,

I nod and say,

“Yeah, they don’t give us lollipops or stickers

when we have been brave anymore.”

He turns and faces me as we are now

among the cars in the cool, dark dampness

of the underground garage.

He says,

“Oh yeah.”

“Man, that’s a good line.”

He is still wearing the smile.

The smile we have learned to assign ourselves

in our public lives.

The smile meant to shield the world from the inner

life residing in the dark, damp underground

place we park our fears and concerns.

I could see behind his smile and he knew I was not

just feeding him a line.

We parted as people in cars visually pleaded with us

to vacate our parking spots.

We separated by telling one another to take care.

I sat in my car and prayed for a man I will most

likely never see again.

I prayed he has people in his life who will wait with him

in the pause, even when it feels awkward and long.

I prayed they would remain after the words are uttered.

I prayed that he has comforting places where he can

wear whatever face he deems appropriate.

I prayed that he would be steadied when his pulse races.

An elevator,

a check-out line,

a cross walk,

a classroom,

a bus

or any other everyday place can be an opportunity

to gaze into someone’s eyes and offer them grace.

Each day we have the privilege to give others  stickers

and lollipops of our affection and concern as they bravely

walk through a life filled with landmines.

Perhaps we all need to pause before we push

the doors closed.

 

 

at last, a work of heart

at last, a work of heart

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I have spent the bulk of my life in hospitals.

As a physical therapist and as the daughter of a hospital pharmacist.

My brother and I would sit on the floor of our father’s (tucked in the farthest

corner of the hospital basement) pharmacy and spin lids onto empty

prescription bottles.

Whenever there happened to be a child

needing an overnight or extended stay, our father would have us

visit.

You know, the healing wonders of a friendly face.

Several years ago, a new hospital was built and during a visit

with my parents, my dad gave me a tour.

We had barely begun the tour and my tear ducts disobeyed me.

I remembered the old hospital but this new building was like

the most beautiful cathedral of healing.

It’s common to fear hospitals, it is understandable

as they can be a frightening place.

Hospitals have always felt like church to me.

In fact, the reverse should be true.

Churches should be like hospitals.

A sanctuary of healing for everyone with various types

of sickness.

The place where you find company when you fretted you would sit alone.

A setting where you are engulfed by outstretched arms helping you to stand.

*****

After dabbling in writing classes and filling stacks of journals,

I decided to start a blog.

Before I could bring this blog into existence,

I had to decide on a name.

For a person who adores words, this was not an easy task.

As I grappled with calling

and purpose, the echo in  my ear kept reminding me,

I was God’s work of art.

Each one of us is a priceless and unique work of art.

The patch of time where I had struggled most intensely with identity,

faith and living in the midst of trials required deep intricate surgery.

It was heart work which could only be adequately performed

by a masterful Physician.

A Work of Heart was born on August 26, 2006, a day

after my 42nd birthday.

Initially I only made my address known to my family and a few friends.

Over time I grew stronger in my passion to encourage others and

I made my blog public.

The landscape in the blogging world has changed immensely.

Initially I had to explain to many what a blog was and now

it seems everyone has one or knows someone who blogs.

Year by year I began to find my voice and grew braver.

My original tagline was Fresh Ink From Above.

I felt as if God was reaching his hand down upon my own and

infiltrating every drop of ink onto the page.

I never recapped my pen without feeling as if

God had mingled with me and met me.

As I have written often, writing felt like prayer.

Is it any surprise to know I envision

A Work of Heart as a hospital?

I hope when you spend a moment on this blog

you will be able to find respite from the downpours

of life.

I am here to open up the most expansive

umbrella of encouragement over you.

I want you to take off your coat and shake

off some of the debris of life.

Although a hospital is hallowed ground,

I don’t expect shoe removal as I know

your time is precious.

In fact there are three wards in this hospital

I want you to remember:

  • Pay Attention
    A Work of Heart is the art of paying attention to
    God in our midst.
    He is everywhere.
    I have found him slices of pizza, hailstorms,
    the pages of books and at the foot of wheelchairs.
    Search for him in the spectacular ordinary days of life.
  • Rest
    We all belong to a collective group of weary travelers.
    I am hiking right beside you.
    We were meant for work but we were also meant for play
    and refreshment.
    Don’t forget to plan time for less of everything.
  • You are not alone
    I pray there will be a word, a sentence or a paragraph
    which will reinforce the reality that you are not alone.
    You are not alone in your struggles.
    Last week, when I shared about empty wrappers,
    a friend on Facebook wrote,
    “We are all the same!”
    We were meant to share this life experience by giving
    voice to our commonalities.
    I will continue to unwrap my struggles along with
    my triumphs.
    Let’s walk this unpaved road together.

The very best part of A Work of Heart is you can visit

without having to leave the comfort of your home or

change out of your pajamas.

Better yet, I don’t have to drag you out of bed!

I long to lean in close and whisper words you need

to remember.

You know these words, they reside within you,

perhaps you have

just forgotten.

When I press publish, this will be my

700th post.

I think God knew there would be a milestone to celebrate

at the conclusion of recapping my blog history which

is part of my story.

I am so humbled whenever I find evidence of someone’s visit here.

There have been a wealth of words written this week but never

enough words to capture the God who escorted me to this space.

You see, I am a girl who needs every ward in the hospital too

as I tend to race off on my horse at full speed.

I don’t always pay attention to the signposts as I forge ahead on my path.

I collapse exhausted in need of rest and relief from my folly.

Yet in the distance, I hear the sound of galloping and I am scooped

up by the Father.

He has pursued me and chased me down,

not to scold me or even to shake my shoulders in dismay.

He simply has been trying to catch up to me so he can reaffirm

His love

and delight in me.

Here’s the clincher,

no matter how far away I ride,

no matter how deeply foolish the mistakes I make,

he reminds me He has always been

right beside me even when I couldn’t hear the panting of

his horse’s breath.

Welcome my friends to A Work of Heart.

*****

This is the final post in a series called A Work of Heart History.

If you have a thirst for more words, you can read the previous

entries here, here, here and don’t forget here.
~~photo credit: Fahad Zahid

the reality of my corner office

the reality of my corner office

 

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I imagine most homes have one or two prized places to sit.

The overwhelming majority of my family likes to plop into their seats and

linger for a while in one place.

It’s not the most comfortable chair but it possesses the best lighting and I dare say the

best place for inspiration.

The head chair at our dining room table is this highly favored spot.

I have dented the cushion with countless hours making lists,

pouring over books or verses and  pounding out words

upon my laptop.

Others like to read the newspaper while eating their morning Wheaties.

Some just sit with ear buds in place and read.

Any given activity is abruptly stopped to witness the increased

traffic pattern of birds finding our bird feeders.

There is an unspoken language in our family and we all make way for whoever

happens to take a seat first.

I appreciate this grace extended to all.

Most days I can wait my turn as I have the most access to this chair.

Over the last couple of years, there have been extended times where the

chair has been occupied…continually.

I decided to turn a section of our “everything” room into a creative space for me.

It already had bookshelves where I kept most of my books and there was a table,

several cupboards and EVERYTHING else.

It was a room where items without a home found a rest stop.

When we first moved in 20 years ago, it was an empty room which we christened

the Costco room. We couldn’t imagine it ever being filled from floor to ceiling.

I got serious last summer and it has taken nearly a year to recover this space.

The process was lengthy as each time I cleared a space,

some lovely wonderful precious person would fill it.

Did I mention they were lovely and wonderful and precious?

Okay!

Good!

I had to reinforce new boundaries for this room.

We all had to reorient our thinking.

When company would come, it had been a pattern to dump wayward objects

on my work table or on the floor.

Returning later, I would find a mountain of stuff and it would extinguish any

creative flame.

We all have places in our lives not only our homes

which are crammed from floor to ceiling.

We shout halt to a few areas in our lives to welcome space and

are puzzled how easily and quickly a no vacancy sign returns.

This small space is a work in progress because this room is not a static space.

It is going to take constant monitoring and avoiding slipping back into bad habits.

Even though it is functional, I have to rewire my thinking

and remember to come downstairs.

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For many evenings, I would walk down the stairs, turn the switches

of the lamps and let my eyes dance around the room.

I would smile, I would dream a little and head back upstairs.

Months of painstaking work and I felt powerless to enter into this set apart space.

Perhaps I was scared to consider what might be created in this place.

But today, I could be upstairs, watching the birds and witnessing the breeze create a

spring snowfall as white azalea petals are tossed airborne.

Instead, I am sitting in a different chair with a different view.

I wonder:

Are there any spaces in your life?

Is your day filled from pillow to pillow?

Do you have a space but are afraid to “sit in the chair”
because of what it might demand?

Sometimes only a corner is needed to resuscitate 

your passions.

Where in your life are you longing for space?

Name it and believe the people in your life will

support you.

Let them amaze you in their solidarity

to not abandon the stuff which does

not belong in your space.

Take a deep breath and claim your space.

**********

A few months ago, I changed the tagline for A Work of Heart.

Bonus points, if you can remember the old one!

The current tagline still needs a bit of tweaking and condensing but for

now it is a piece of A Work of Heart.

I have become aware how many people who pop in and read this blog either

are not in my offline life or haven’t read from the beginning.

Some are in my day-to-day life and only due to the wonders of Facebook,

have just discovered I write.

I started A Work of Heart almost 8 years ago

and next week, I would like to share a bit of

my story.

I think it will be fun and even if you do know me,

you might discover a tidbit I have neglected to mention.

Join me for  a short A Work of Heart history session.

Have a most blessed weekend!