A Better Me

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a woman, I put the ways of childhood behind me. – 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

When I was four, I told my aunt I couldn’t wait until I was 29 so I would be older than her and could then tell her what to do. She laughed and said, “Sweetie, that will never happen.” She had given me a correction I didn’t like. Instead of finding the truth in her correction, I decided to try time travel or science fictional age progression.

When I reflect on that moment, I think I responded so strongly (and so illogically) because my feelings were hurt. I love and respect my aunt so much, and four-year-old me couldn’t compute how she could both disapprove of my behavior and still love me.

Sometimes, adult me isn’t so different. I’m quick to react before I engage the truth in critique. I get defensive more than I’d like to admit.

I don’t think this defensiveness comes from a desire to feel perfect. Instead, I think it is difficult for me to believe those who love me could find fault in me and still love me anyway. I look at my flaws and can’t imagine someone would love me in spite of them — let alone, someone wants to love me through the messiness of working through them.

Thankfully, my aunt keeps loving me as I make mistakes and grow from them. She taught me a lesson at four that I keep relearning. People who love me won’t shield me from the ways I need to evolve.

Prayer: Thank you for surrounding me with accountable love. Melt my defensiveness away so I may learn to be a better me. Amen.

This reflection was written by Marchaé Grair, a spiritual director, facilitator, and director of public relations and outreach at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Follow her work at marchae.com. It was part of the Daily Devotional created by the StillSpeaking Writers Group, a ministry of the United Church of Christ.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you hear a voice within you say, “You cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. — Vincent VanGogh

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In Need of Prayer …

As we build this community prayer platform, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

Let’s remember to approach the throne room and respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer.

What is one of the most important things we should do as Christians? Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).

We’re a little light on requests because I’ve been on the road all day. Most of the requests received were unspoken. Those shared include:

Emma, 15, was found and is safely home again with her family! Praise God ! Now please continue your prayers for her mental health and the well-being of her entire family. They are in a critical battle

Joe seeks prayers of discernment.

Rocco, a great-grandson of one of my group’s members, and his family need prayers. The 14 month old baby boy fell in a pool, drowned, but was revived. However he did not make progress on his swallowing or breathing, and has gone into hospice care. This is so difficult for his big sister, parents, family, church family, and friends. Please pray for comfort and strength God for Rocco’s family.

Dave is dealing with a roving blood clot. Doctors can’t figure out why since he is on heavy duty blood thinners. Last week he was hospitalized with bacterial pneumonia. He is staying positive but can use some prayerful uplifting.

Andrew continues to struggle. This week there were high fevers, hallucinations, and “something” the size and hardness of a skillet behind his navel (behind something the size of a billiard ball in his navel).  Tough times for a tough guy. Prayers are keeping him afloat.

Cilla is asking for prayers. She is going into hospital for kidney failure.

Please continue remembering Jim in prayer. He is still battling anxiety, depression and panic attacks after a lot of suffering the past 1 ½ years. Please continue lifting him up.

Julie asks us to pray for her healing from mental illness and her deliverance from an addiction to smoking.

Scarlett was able to go home with Mom and Dad. Her numbers are up but she’s still not feeling good. If all goes well the new surgery date is January 30.

They are threatening to re-admit Emily into hospital. Please pray she is well enough to remain home with Luke and their baby. She has already been apart from her for so long and is finding it really hard!

Greg, one of the original members of The Wiggles, suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed while performing at a bushfire relief concert in Sydney Thursday night.

Cheryl had been in the hospital, was released, but she has been readmitted. She can’t hold anything down and is really weak.

Five year old Jeffry is battling for his life in the ICU.

There were a host of unspoken prayer requests and we heard of a number of deaths this week. Prayers for their families as they go through this earthly trial. We grieve … heaven rejoices.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week — some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Emma, Joe, Rocco, Dave, Andrew, Cilla, Jim, Julie, Scarlett, Emily, Luke, Greg, Cheryl, Jeffry, and all those needing Your healing and guiding touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The fruit of Silence is Prayer. The fruit of Prayer is Faith. The fruit of Faith is Love. The fruit of Love is Service. The fruit of Service is Peace. – Mother Teresa

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Five Minute Friday — Sacrifice

Time for this week’s installment of Five Minute Friday. It certainly creeps up on you … especially when you’re on the road.

Five Minute Friday, of course, is a discipline where independent writers join together to transform thoughts on a specific prompt word from their minds through their fingers onto the screen for five minutes. Then we get together and share our pearls of wisdom {okay, some times they’re swine, but the intention is always good} at our spot on Facebook.

To entice you to check us out, I’ve also been including some of the experiences my fellow writers have shared as chronicled in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. This week, I’ll include the words contributed by Pamela. I hope her words inspire you to join our writing club.

“I can’t even begin to share what the Five Minute Friday Free Write did for me, during a particularly hard year. With the ‘negative voice’ volume turned down, I was free to LISTEN to the words I should have listened to all along and just WRITE. It was therapeutic, heartfelt and so, so good for the soul. It was amazing how one simple word could stir up so many different emotions, not only for me personally, but the other posts I read as well. I’m forever grateful for a chance to be part of such a great group of ‘God’s Children’.”

There you go. Another voice to listen to. Another reason to join the group.

Now for the task at hand. The prompt is SACRIFICE and the timer has been set, so it is time to GO…

We’ve all done it … make a little “sacrifice” here or there. I know many moms who might have sacrificed  dinner so the little ones could eat — dads maybe not as much. We’ve heard the stories of one partner sacrificing their dreams so the other could complete theirs. My wife, for example, sacrificed a lot so I could wander around the country in pursuit of my career.

And we’ve heard over the years about those who gave their lives in service to their country.

We’ve been taught that sacrifice is  noble. We offer sacrifices to the Lord — especially in pre-Christian days — as a way of giving back.

Of course, there was one sacrifice that tops it all. It wasn’t altruistic. It was an act of love. Jesus came to earth to teach, preach, heal, witness, and build a bridge back to heaven through the ultimate sacrifice — His death for one and all, for you and me. God Himself made the sacrifice by giving us His Son … STOP

for this ultimate sacrifice. He didn’t have to do it. We didn’t and don’t deserve it. But He did. Because He loves us.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. — Robert Louis Stevenson

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Family … Family … Family…

I have been blessed. From my earliest recollection, I have had a wonderfully supportive family — even when I didn’t fully realize it at the time. As I grew, married, settled down {relatively speaking}, and raised children with my wife, that family connection was the glue that kept us together and got us through some rough times. Now that I am in the winter season of life and watching how my urchins turned out, I am continually blessed with how close they are with each other and with their respective families. It makes me think Karen and I did something right — with the help of God.

During my latest adventure visiting the kids/grandkids/great-grandkids, I have discovered first hand how they are carrying out the familial tradition. Some are throwbacks to their growing up years. Some are hybrids with new traditions. Some are completely different. All use the family as the nucleus.

I was privileged to join in the Kohlhofer monthly dinner this week. The Kohlhofers — my older daughter — try to plan a family dinner at least once a month. Start a conversation and then sit back and watch what happens. The three boys and their families congregate to break bread, tease each other, and just enjoy each other’s company with loads of laughter. Plans were made for February and March. It was a special blessing because I WAS HERE TO WITNESS IT!

From a mom’s perspective, I encourage  you to read Dee’s account of the night — and, more important, the thoughts it inspired — at Scruffy Hospitality.

My younger daughter also plans fairly regular dinner and board game nights; my youngest son plans regular beach outings in South Carolina; although living alone, my oldest son’s door is always open for visitors; and my middle son has a built in hospitality plan with a wife, four children and a dog.

It actually warms my heart. My parents were always opening their home for scruffy hospitality. Thanksgiving was a three day party with aunts, uncles, cousins, and  friends bopping in and out. Karen was always opening our home for scruffy hospitality. She never knew how many extras would show up for dinner and then some. It was little wonder she ended up in the formal hospitality field as an innkeeper, although she always kept a pot of coffee on the stove for pop ins.

Family. It’s all about family. It’s about the memories we have. It’s about the memories we make.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. — Aristotle Onassis

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Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

So, let’s smile a little!

Words of Wisdom

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

And now for the bonus …

The New Grandmother

As a new grandmother, a woman was very protective of her daughter Meredith’s baby girl. One cool afternoon she dropped by to see her grandchild. Meredith and a friend had taken little Allison for a walk in her stroller and were just coming up the street. As soon as they reached grandma, she bent down to admire Allison and, in her fussiest voice, remarked, “Your little head is cold. You should have a hat on.”

Her daughter looked knowingly at her friend and said, “You owe me ten bucks.”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Even if you cannot change all the people around you, you can change the people you choose to be around. Life is too short to waste your time on people who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you. Spend your life with people who make you smile, laugh, and feel loved.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

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I need someone to hold me accountable for my personal writing. No. I need someone to manage my writing activity. No. I need a ringmaster to corral my thoughts. No. I need them all.

There are a couple of facts to remember. I love writing. I like traveling. I am not organized and easily distracted — oh, look a squirrel just jumped on the tree out the window. I am not the most extroverted person on the world.

This blog certainly gives me a chance to be expressive. It has spawned three books — a novella, non-fiction and fictional memoir — in this season of life. And as the miles roll by, my imagination has been unleashed, which has led to numerous writing destinations in the recesses of my mind. Do I settle down or keep the wind rustling through my snowy white, thinning hair? Do I seriously attack the potential works in progress (WIP) or just fit it in as the muse inspires me?

Oh, the pain of an unorganized procrastinator is real — very real!

Seriously, though, there are at least three WIP which should be either attacked vigorously or just abandoned. That’s why I need an accountability partner. I need someone to prod me forward — oh, look, the squirrel just returned.

The WIPs are in various stages of development. As a whim — with the wind rustling through my snowy white, thinning hair — I wrote a Christmas story for my grandkids/great-grandkids — Yes, There Is a Santa … And I’ve Met Him Personally Many Times, A First-Person Account. I read it to them live on Facebook Christmas Eve. They were, in a sense, my beta readers/listeners.

I learned a lot from the experience. I’m not sure I’m ready for children’s stories. It was too long — a 45 minute read with 10 pages missing! If I move forward, it really has to be condensed and — for want of a better term — “dumbed down” for an 8-11 year old audience. It would also need an illustrator. Did I mention I’m not sure I’m ready for children’s stories?

The second WIP — actually the first before Santa snuck in — was a second volume to the non-fiction Wisdom From a Father … one dad’s thoughts on life. It was originally intended to be a Black Friday release for the holidays like its predecessor. I hit the road and it was shelved to the to do list. The sad part is, a lot of the work is already done. The short stories from the blog — the emphasis of the book — have been chosen. They just need to be updated and the project edited and formatted for publication. And I need to just do it!

Then there are other random thoughts floating around  in the head. Oceans. Mountains. Road trips. Special events. Nature — oh, that darn squirrel is back!

So, there you have it folks … a desperate soul looking for accountability, management, and ringleader {just to keep the circus running in an orderly fashion}. Any takers?

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. — Amelia Earhart

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Pebble in the Water

Words for the Week to ponder

Drop a pebble in the water, just a splash, and it is gone,
But there’s half a hundred ripples circling on and on and on;
Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing out into the sea,
But there isn’t any way of telling where the end is going to be.
Drop a pebble in the water; in a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing, and there’s ripples circling yet,
And there’s little ripples flowing, to a great big wave have grown.
And you’ve disturbed a mighty river just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word or gesture; in a minute it is gone,
But there’s half a hundred ripples circling on and on and on;
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go,
And there isn’t any way to stop them once you start them on to flow.
Drop an unkind word or gesture, in a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing, and there’s ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart a mighty wave of tears you’ve stirred,
And disturbed a life that’s happy when you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness; just a flash and it is gone,
But there’s half a hundred ripples, circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave,
‘Til you wouldn’t believe the volume of the one kind word you gave.
Drop a word of cheer and kindness; in a minute you forget,
But there’s gladness still a-swelling and there’s joy a-circling yet,
And you’ve rolled a wave of comfort, whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water, just by dropping a kind word.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. — Alice Walker

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