Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We Live in Deeds, Not Years...

"We Live in Deeds, Not Years; In Thoughts, Not Breaths"
by Philip James Bailey (1816-1902)

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
And he whose heart beats quickest lives the longest:
Lives in one hour more than in years do some
Whose fat blood sleeps as it slips along their veins.
Life's but a means unto an end; that end,
Beginning, mean, and end to all things—God.
The dead have all the glory of the world.

~*~

I found this on the Academy of American Poets web site (www.poets.org). I subscribe to their e-newsletter, and this was linked in this morning's issue on the theme of "Carpe Diem."

It certainly goes along with my workshop on the "The Real 3R's of Literature: Read, Reflect, Respond" that I am presenting at the second annual Books & Beyond seminar on January 24. I do not ever wish to live my life numbly, but to think and feel deeply.

Here is another bit from the poet Philip James Bailey, found at www.BrainyQuote.com.

Let each man think himself an act of God,
His mind a thought, his life a breath of God;
And let each try, by great thoughts and good deeds,
To show the most of Heaven he hath in him.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dark Chocolate

People who know me very well are mostly aware that I have a particular fondness for dark chocolate. Thad bought me a big bar of gourmet extra dark for Christmas. Unfortunately, it was so dark that it was way too bitter for me. However, the girls had bought some milk chocolate chips to make cookies, which I find a bit too sweet. (I usually buy semi-sweet, and we went through a few bags during the Christmas baking season!) Anyway, I digress from the current story. Not wanting to waste chocolate (which would be a crime!) I crushed up the bitter bar into a bowl with the sweet chips, melted it all down in the microwave and spread it on graham crackers for the family (and I) to enjoy. I also molded some into a little bar and chilled it in the freezer to enjoy in solitude later. I took a few nibbles, but when I took a nap, Melody somehow climbed up on a chair and got into it. Thad found it smeared all over her face and hands, but no bar left for Mommy! I shall forgive her, though, not only because she is three and she is my own daughter, but also because I myself raided her M & M stash yesterday.

The moral of the story is that when life hands you a bitterness, mix it with something sweet, enjoy the result of your resourcefulness, and then be sure to share with others, which brings a special sweetness of its own.

Blessings,
Virginia

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Good Quote from A.W. Tozer

"The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol." A. W. Tozer

I found this little gem in this week's e-news of Orlando Grace Church, a congregation we attended for many years. This quote of Tozer's is worth thinking about more than once. Part of the reason we get so irritated with other people is that we don't like to admit that we might be wrong in our own attitudes or actions or that we value our own perspective too much. Even if the other person is not being very gracious in their comments or body language, we should LISTEN (with our hearts and not just our ears) and think about what they are trying to say and what positive thing we can do to improve the situation. Sure it's a blessing when someone agrees with our opinions and appreciates or affirms us. But it is even more of a blessing, to ourselves and everyone around us, when we can be humble enough to listen and learn even from those who aren't perfect, even in the midst of conflict.

May God bless you with abundant, authentic peace in your every day life!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Advent Poem #7: Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi(Body of Christ)
by Virginia Knowles
Advent 2007


He, eternal and radiant Creator
Became a human mother’s son, a humble babe
Promised and anointed one
Ambassador from Heaven to Earth
Not in resplendent majesty befitting Celestial Royalty
But in an earthly body like ours
A body like ours?

Yes, a body!

A body with eyes to seek out scattered and wounded ones
Eyes that weep, eyes that sleep but do not sleep
Ever searching, ever watching
Eyes that pierce our straying sinner-souls with gracious gaze
Eyes that shepherd us safely home again
So angels can rejoice with our Father in Heaven

A body with ears to hear quiet sighs
And frantic cries of desperation (Lord, have mercy!)
As well as words profane and cruel, uttered by fools
His ears hear not only what we hear
But the very echoes of our silent thoughts and intentions
He hears this evidence that we are all fools
We need not only wisdom but redemption

A body with a mind that senses, muses, keenly understands
All beauty he had designed
Ruined by Adam’s Eden fall: Paradise Lost
All that was, he remembers still
And all that will be, he already foresees
Untangles twisted circumstances and chaotic confusions
Even when we know not ourselves
He knows and cares and plans: Paradise Regained
Is anything too difficult for him
Whose thoughts are high above the heavens?

A body with a mouth to teach the way of life
Sermons to the simple and to the sophisticated, parables and pearls
Soul seeds to blossom in hearts of those who have ears to hear
A mouth to proclaim truth and justice
Yet speak forth mercy to those who do not deserve it
To answer with probing questions
Warning those Pharisees who use their mouths to snare
A mouth to bless children and all who are old yet childlike still
And this man-child’s mouth thanks his Father
Prays: “Not my will, but Yours be done”

A body with hands: gentle yet tough are those hands
Which created this world we call home
Hands to work hard, stuff of daily life
Built with carpenter’s nails and beams of wood
Hands to heal, stretched forth in victory over pain and decay
Hands to break the meager bread and fish
Multiply in abundance to feed the hungry multitude
Busy hands, yet not too busy to embrace a wee child
To ruffle matted hair, to wash dirty feet
Or to scribble words of pardon in the sand
For a damsel in distress: no stone thrown


And a body with feet, walking from village to village,
House to house, soul to soul
In dusty sandals we mortals are unworthy to untie
Walking on waves amidst the stormy sea
(His feet are not for soil alone)
He traverses the land, announcing the Kingdom of God-With-Us
Among those who do not yet recognize his benevolent dominion
He goes to those who will not come on their own, in mercy
Chases those who run headlong toward the brink of destruction:
Hound of Heaven

Yes, a body!
Yet he did not just live in this body merely as an example
So we could know how to be good
But offered it as a sacrifice because
We could not, would not, attain to any goodness in ourselves
A body crucified, stretched out to die
Pierced with carpenter’s nails on beams of wood
Pierced with spear until blood and water flow
Willingly punished for our iniquities, not his own
(Only a perfect sacrifice can obtain atonement for sins of others)
Then taken down and laid in borrowed tomb, but not for long
Mortal once, yet immortal always, resurrected in power and glory
Walking and talking again among men and women
So their eyes could see, hearts believe
What had been foretold from ages past by prophets of old:
God in a body like ours, yet not like ours, victorious over death!
(O Death, where is your sting? We are raised with him!)

Yes, a body!
But where is this body now?
The Son ascended again to his Father’s side
Intercedes on our behalf, pleads for his Bride, his Church
Whom he purified with his own blood once for all
Prepares glorious mansions for us, a wedding feast for us
Who deserved his cross and grave and wrath instead
Yet he has not left us bereft as we wait
He has poured out his Holy Spirit: fill us, empower us, guide us
Why? Because we, we who believe and follow
Are now the Body of Christ on earth:
Our eyes shall seek out the lost and guide them home
See, really notice, then meet earthy needs meanwhile
Our ears shall listen to their cries, questions, doubts, confusions,
Confessions, prayers, testimonies at last
Our minds navigate mazes and minefields of life
Solve riddles to serve mankind, strategize, plan
Our mouths proclaim good news, call sinners to repent and believe
Teach the Jesus way, always pray
Our hands serve and heal, wash and feed, build and embrace
(Gentle always, please)
Our feet go out for the King and his Kingdom
Around the globe or down the street
Our body, his body, working together to do as he has done
Laboring with all his strength under his sovereign command
Ambassadors of Heaven to Earth
Corpus Christi
~*~*~



"Corpus Christi" is a poem in my Advent series. Written in 2007, it was inspired by the excellent book Holy Available: What If Holiness Is about More Than What We Don't Do? (previously titled The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life) by Gary Thomas and was also posted on his web site for a while. Click here to read my review: Holy Available. The poem is also based on the following Scriptures:


“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)


“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)


“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” Colossians 1:15-24 (ESV)


“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” Hebrews 10:10-13 (ESV)


“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:3-13 (ESV)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent Poem #6: Shepherd's Tale

Shepherd’s Tale
by Virginia Knowles

A prayer I make to stay awake,
To watch the sheep safe in my keep,
When I should see, in front of me,
An angel bright in darkest night.
“Be not afraid!” the angel bade.
“Good news of joy! A baby boy
Is born today, on bed of hay.
The Savior mild, the Lord’s a child!”
Now in the sky the angels fly,
And gladly sing of newborn King.
“Give God high praise, hosannas raise,
And peace on earth through Jesus’ birth!”
All shepherds know that they should go,
To follow them to Bethlehem.
Where baby rests is not the best,
A scratchy stall holds Lord of All.
But God above sends Gift of Love.
Forgiving sin, he lives within.
Now spread the word, till all have heard
Amazing story, to God be glory!

~*~*~


This is one of my very rare rhyming poems and it's fairly short, so it's a good one to read to your kids, if you have any. Tomorrow (Christmas Eve) I think I will post my last Advent poem in the series, "Corpus Christi."

The painting is "The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Giorgione. It is in the National Gallery of Art.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent Poem #5: Candlewick

Candlewick
by Virginia Knowles

Burn with holy flame!
This is your destiny
Slender thread, stiff stub of wick
Down and down, lower, low
Snuffed and silent…
Then lit to blaze again awhile
Amid liquid wax and taunting draft.
You flicker blue and gold
Bright and hot
O light the way
Hallow the table
Illumine the Book
Kindle these candles!
When lower reaches lowest and there is no more of you
Humble service is over
Your destiny here has been fulfilled
And the flame is snuffed one last time
Then you shall join the blaze of glory
Higher, higher and higher more
Bright and hot, holy and pure
Shining ever in the presence of the Eternal Flame!
~*~*~
Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:43
~*~*~

I wrote "Candlewick" a few months ago, thinking it might be my "official" Advent poem for 2008. Later, I wrote "The Story Did Not Start with a Stable and a Star" instead, but I wanted to send this one along anyway, especially after some thoughts popped into my head yesterday at church.

This poem makes me think of different people who have shown the light of Jesus through their quiet, humble service. People like my mom, Mary Quarrier, who takes care of her elderly parents every day and night, with much love and tenderness. People like my friend Kathy, who, just a few days ago, stopped to give a ride to a girl who was carrying some heavy packages. It turns out the girl is 16 and 4 months pregnant. Kathy took her to our friend Allura, who let the girl stay with her overnight and then tracked down her grandmother and brought her there. Today, Allura is delivering Christmas gifts to Wanda, a needy mom of four. One of these precious little ones is still safely in her womb because Allura kindled her light of conscience in front of an abortion clinic a few months back. My friends Valencia and Denise are leaving later this week for four days in Haiti, bringing down gifts and food and LIGHT into a scene of abject poverty. Our senior pastor, Danny, will go down there next month. My friend Angela ministers to children in remote mountain villages in Bolivia, and will be a mentor to my daughter Julia, who plans to work with her there for at least two or three months, leaving in just a few short weeks. My friend Rich takes teams of young folks downtown twice each month for outreach. My friend Viv in Australia is looking for ways for her family to serve orphans in Africa. It is such a privilege to have these ladies and gentlemen, these candlewicks, as my friends and examples who kindle my own stiff stub of wick.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine! Join me!




Sunday, December 21, 2008

The 2008 Official Knowles Family Photo


Here it is! Our 2008 Knowles family picture! I'll write our annual family letter later, but I wanted to get this up on my blog! You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

In the back row are Joanna, Julia, Melody, Virginia, Thad, Rachel, Lydia, Mary and her husband Ryan Tindall. In the front row are Ben, Naomi, Andrew and Micah.

Sarah Jencks, one of Julia's friends, took the photo for us outside Metro Life Church this afternoon.

Advent Poem #4: Rhapsody in M

Rhapsody in M
by Virginia Knowles (Advent 2006)

Myriad mercies:
more and more
merited? no! no merit in murky miserable me

Mystery:
manic malice meted on Messiah Martyr
Mighty and Meek

Miracle:
manic malice meted on my Mediator misses me
marvelous mercies ministered on me

Majestic Master:
master me
move massive mountains in me
make merry melodies in me
mirrors of Thee in mere me
more and more
myriad mercies

~*~*~

But when the goodness and lovingkindness
of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,
not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy… Titus 3:4-5a
~*~
Let us then with confidence
draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

~*~
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23


I wrote this Advent poem in 2006, and I hope you have sensed the love of the Messiah Jesus, the one who was sent to redeem us from our sins and bring us into fellowship with the Father, not because we deserve it, but because of his lavish mercy!


This painting is "The Crucifixion" by Matthias Grunewald, National Gallery of Art

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent Poem #3: Psalm to Sweet Jesus

Psalm to Sweet Jesus
by Virginia Knowles

Sweet Jesus, you bring to me all that is good:
Comfort and hope when I am discouraged,
Peace and reconciliation when I am in conflict,
Strength and enthusiasm when I am weary,
Wisdom and guidance when I am confused,
Courage and confidence when I am afraid,
Forgiveness and mercy when I have done wrong.

You bore the fatal punishment that I deserved,
Yet rose up again in power,
Promising that if I would turn from my awful sin,
And believe in your awesome grace,
I could become your own precious child,
And enter into your everlasting Gloryland.
Such a rich salvation that I could never earn!

As a simple gift of gratitude,
With help from your Word and your Spirit,
I will trust and obey your loving commands,
I will worship you with my prayers and songs,
I will serve others joyfully,
I will share your Good News,
So that each one who hears and believes
May receive the matchless treasure
Found only in you.

~*~*~

This is another of my very early Advent poems, from at least 11 years ago. Life is no easier now than it was then, and I will always need the strength, comfort, and forgiveness of my Sweet Savior!

Christmas Blessings,
Virginia

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advent Poem #2: The Story Did Not Start with a Stable and a Star



The Story Did Not Start with a Stable and a Star
by Virginia Knowles

The story did not start with a stable and a star
But in the beginning, before billygoats on boulders or bluebirds in birch trees
The Trinity, the Three-In-One: Father, Spirit, Son
Viewed a vast void with a venturesome vision
And lo, this Lavish LORD said, “Let there be…”
And there was Light and Life and Love
Tigers and tiger lilies and tiger sharks
Amoebas and ants, aardvarks and apple trees,
Honeysuckle and honeybees and heavenly hallelujahs
For it was good: this grand garden, green and growing, glorious and glowing
With two to tend Eden: Adam and Eve

Masterpieces made to multiply more masterpieces in the image of their Maker
Working and walking with Him, worshiping Him for the wonder of His wisdom
But then came a choice and a cheater and a chilling challenge
They rebelled and rejected and ruined their Royal Relationship
In punishment, pushed out from Paradise into pain and peril, perishing
Generation after generation
Mankind multiplied moral messes
The Spirit sometimes seized sinners into the Sovereign Sacred Story
Prodding prophets, priests, and preachers to proclaim:
“Repent! Return! Revere! Renew!”
And so the Father sent his Son
And seers sought this Savior from afar
But the story did not stop with a stable and a star

The little Lord Jesus, who lay there so lowly, lived his life
This Great God-With-Us grew in grace
He, the Holy One, who helped and healed
Preached and prayed and praised His Father
This Lord of Love looked high and low to liberate the lost
This consecrated Christ carried His cross
He was crucified in His courage by our cowardice
Thus our Prophet-Priest paid the penalty price for our Paradise
His ransom rescues rebels from ruin
Freeing those who by faith will fully follow
Generation after generation
Multiplying more miracles among mortals

For the Spirit of the Sovereign Sacred Story
Still seizes sinners and sanctifies saints
And our Royal Redeemer shall return:
Holy is He! Hark the heavenly hallelujahs!
For it is good and God is glorious!
Earth shall end and eternity shall start
And the story of the Savior shall always speak to the heart.



~*~*~

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” Genesis 1:1


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 10-14

~*~*~

This is my newest Advent poem. I've been waiting a while for the inspiration for this year's poem, and had actually written a different one called "Candle Wick" in October. It didn't seem quite Christmasy enough, though. Then this past Sunday morning I woke up with the first lines of "The Story Did Not Start with a Stable and a Star" rattling around in my head. I got up and scribbled most of it down, then polished it later and read it to my English students the next day. I may still twiddle with it a bit more. (Kind regards to the late Ruth Bell Graham for her lovely picture book One Wintry Night and to our friend Dan Hardaway; both reminded me that the story of redemption begins before creation.)

You can find more by clicking here: Advent Poems by Me.


Blessings,
Virginia

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas at Providence

Dear friends,

In our 7th-8th grade English class at the Providence Home Educators co-op, we taking two weeks to enjoy the Christmas season in fine art, music, Scripture, poetry, and film. All of our assignments are on-line here: Christmas assignments on the Providence blog. You will find everything from St. Nicholas to Silent Night. And, as a sneak preview, I have slipped in my newest Advent poem, "The Story Did Not Start with a Stable and a Star" at the bottom of the post called Baby Jesus at the National Gallery of Art. (I'll post it sometime soon on this blog, too.)

This is "Adoration of the Shepherds" after Annibale Fontana, 1600s, Terracotta, National Gallery of Art


Oh, and so you don't miss it in the shuffle, you might like to see the fascinating interactive web site for a movie called Magdalena, Released from Shame by the folks at The Jesus Film Project. The fact that Jesus came to seek the lost is at the core of the Christmas message!

Christmas Blessings, Virginia

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Advent Poem #1: The Paradox

Dear friends,

Over the next few weeks, I will post several of the Advent poems I have written in years past. "The Paradox" is one of my earlier ones!

"The Paradox"
by Virginia Knowles

Come, see where He lays,
Good Shepherd and Little Lamb
King of Kings and Servant of All
Prophet and Prophecy Fulfilled
Physician and Wounded One
High Priest and Atoning Sacrifice
Counselor and Rejected One
Builder and Foundation Stone
Righteous Judge and Condemned Prisoner
Ancient of Days and Newly-born Babe
God and Man

Jesus is a paradox, a seeming contradiction in terms. Who is he? What is his nature? And why did he come? If you have ever wondered how to understand or explain the mystery of Jesus, I invite you to look up the following passages, which correspond line by line to the facets expressed in the poem, The Paradox.

John 10: 11 / John 1:29
Revelation 19:16 / Mark 10:43-45, Philippians 2:7
Luke 7:16 / Matthew 1:22, Luke 4:16-21 (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Matthew 15:29-31 / Isaiah 53:4-6
Hebrews 7:23-28 / Hebrews 9:11-14, 10:19-22
Isaiah 9:6 / Isaiah 53:3, John 10:22-33
Hebrews 3:3, Matthew 16:18 / 1 Peter 2:4-9
John 8:1-11, Acts 10:42-43, Acts 17:30-31 / Mark 14:60-65
Daniel 7:13-14 / Luke 2:8-20
John 1:1-5, Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:19-20 / 1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 1:1-4


Many years ago for Christmas, I used a gold metallic paint marker and wrote it on painted wooden plaques as gifts. This one is at my parents' house in Maryland.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tough times?

Dear friends,

This is a little something from my monthly family letter that I sent out last week...

I know that many of you are going through exceedingly tough times right now with health issues, financial woes, family relationship crises, and assorted inner turmoils. Especially in the past few years, I have been learning more about growing stronger and deeper in the midst of challenging circumstances. The temptation is to frantically trying to fix things as fast as possible or at least, in a flurry of activity, to distract ourselves from our distress. Even if our self-imposed efforts are spiritual and noble, we can totally we miss the point.

Trials are often sent to get our attention, to draw us home to the only One who can truly satisfy our longings and heal our hurts. At times, God takes away the presents so he can give us his presence instead. (Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, those who believe in him have free access to the throne room of grace and mercy in time of need.) There are other blessings in disguise. Enduring tough times can enable us to connect more completely with those around us, either because we are finally desperate enough to ask for help or because we finally understand enough about their struggles to show a little extra compassion. There are new choices, too… We can stop placing such stringent expectations on others, and instead guard against our own unhealthy reactions toward those who disappoint us. We can humble ourselves enough to seek God's guidance, rather than just plowing ahead with whatever solution seems most efficient at the moment. We can survive with less clutter and start to appreciate simple blessings. Our lives can become less compulsive and more compelling. We can become real, authentic, sincere people, rather than cold, hard, shallow shells. We can allow ourselves to feel and grieve and then move on, instead of covering it all over with a superficial happy face. That's when the deeper peace and joy come along -- as the inner calm right in the middle of the tempestuous storm. For that, we can be thankful, any time of the year. As we often sing at our house:
"Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
Psalm 30:4-5

I pray that God will richly pour out his tender mercies for each of you, from the inside out. Look for it!
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