Ripples

*Thanks to Henry Petty for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

Prayer is powerful.  It touches base with our Creator.  Think about adding this exercise to your prayers and see how it impacts you. Not only will it show loving kindness for yourself, but for others as well.

With eyes closed, imagine a pool of clear, still water.  Now, imagine a little raindrop hits the water, and you see a little ripple.  Imagine that first circle of the ripple and say:

May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be safe and free from suffering

Say this several times, and then imagine the second ripple, say:

May they be happy
May they be peaceful
May they be safe and free from suffering

As the ripple grows and grows, repeat this for people you know, the government, your boss, the earth, world peace, England, the atmosphere, so on and so forth.  Let it grow and grow, wide and broad.  But realize this started with just you – the center of it all, the first ripple.

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Sweet gum balls

*Thanks to my friend Debra Dickey for writing today’s post!*

008Yes, sweet gum balls.  Have you ever given them much thought?  Probably not!  I hadn’t either until my most recent inspiration, again, during my walks with my dog, Maddie. On these walks, I step through them, past them, over them, around them, and on them, the whole way.  My initial thoughts about them were not so complimentary!  Other than re-seeding, what are these stickery, round, brown balls of obstruction all over the ground, good for?  But upon a more careful examination, of my thoughts as well as the gum ball, I quickly acknowledged what a marvel of creation that stickery brown ball precisely is!  Have you ever picked one up and looked at it, I mean really given it your full attention?  It’s beautiful!  Intricately and uniquely designed, featuring details of marvelous architectural construction, unparalleled and not replicated in any other production in nature.   Amazing.

And from that humble reflection, I could not contain my awe and wonderment of the artistry, the indescribable workmanship (maybe that should be workGodship), the exquisiteness, the wonder, and the perfect uniqueness, displayed in every genesis brought forth by the hand of God in this realm we call ours.Amazing.  

Shapes, designs, colors, compositions, sizes, schematics, forms, shades, groupings – each different, each exclusive, each rare, individual, and incomparable.Who of us, even in this modern age of advanced technology, would have been able to even fathom, much less execute, the vast number of such unbelievable and intricate architectures?  From the softest blossom to the hardest bark, from the most delicate hues to the equally brilliant vibrant colors, from the sweetest fragrances and flavors to the pungent, piquant aromas, from the tiniest dewdrop and the most graceful snowflake to the resplendent mosaics worn as coats by the magnificent animal kingdom – how can it be imagined?  Even the sands are painted an unbelievable array of breathtaking colors.   Amazing.                                                                                                                                      

I am persuaded that we belong to a God who took the time to craft and robe this earthly space in which we walk in heavenly raiment, to delight our senses, lighten our journey, and refresh our spirits. And in so doing, He delights in our praise, and in His relationship with us, asks only that we place our faith and trust in Him.  Yea, also “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works, that I know very well.  . . .”  (Psalm 139:14)

And so I remind myself in my insignificance, that I too, like the artistry and architecture of nature,  am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, ‘intricately woven’, ‘knit together in perfection’, and ‘In Your book were written all the days that were formed for me, even before they existed’.  Amazing.  Amen.

 

 

My mother’s Emmy Award winning moment

*Special thanks to Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy for serving as today’s guest writer. Always a pleasure to read her work!*

          Timing was everything.  The sound of The Huntley-Brinkley Report emanating from the television in our living room was my ticking clock, each word a precious second flying by.  Night after night as they delivered the evening news to the nation, I sat at the chrome table with the marbled green top, the smell of spaghetti and meatballs, fried chicken, vegetable beef soup, or whatever my mother had cooked for supper that night lingering in the kitchen. I gripped the yellow No. 2 pencil, pressed my lips together, and tried to copy the elegantly formed letters of my mother’s handwriting.

   

Teresa with her sister, Liz Burns Glenn, and her mother, Madeline Norris Burns, at the Arkansas (now Lyon) College library

Teresa with her sister, Liz Burns Glenn, and her mother, Madeline Norris Burns, at the Arkansas (now Lyon) College library

  I was a third grader who had landed in the classroom of a teacher who routinely screamed at us, and, on one occasion, had tied an unruly student in her desk with a jump rope.  This teacher was rumored to have deliberately turned the stone of her ring palm-side in and slapped a former student’s face in order to make a more marked impression.  I believed that rumor, for she had once yanked me from my seat and whacked my bare leg so hard she left behind the imprint of her hand.  Just being in that teacher’s classroom caused my muscles to constrict and my palms to sweat.  Unfortunately, my constant state of unease led me to bear down too hard when I wrote, making my writing dark and prone to smudging.

     Up to this point in my schooling, I had never gotten a grade below a B on my report card.  That year, I received a steady string of C’s in penmanship.  My mother was typically a stickler for good grades, but when those C’s began appearing on my report card, she told me to do my best and not worry so much about the grade I got.  Even when the C’s dropped to a C- during one grading period, she didn’t reprimand me.

    “I don’t want to make a D,” I sobbed as I handed her the offending report card.

    “You won’t,” my mother reassured me.  “I’ve got a plan for improving your penmanship.”

   My mother’s plan was for me to copy her handwriting, five pages each weeknight for the next six weeks.  If I completed my work before my favorite television shows came on after the evening news, I could watch them.  If not, those Beverly Hillbillies would have to exasperate and outsmart the city folk without me.  The cast of Lost in Space would have to escape the villains of the cosmos without this small earthling cheering them on.  And worst of all, I would miss the antics of that adorable sheepdog in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.  Desperate to go to places where there were no mean third grade teachers, I filled up those five pages night after night as Chet Huntley and David Brinkley droned on about the escalating war in Vietnam and the rising racial tensions at home.

     When the report cards came out following my six weeks of diligent handwriting practice, I couldn’t wait to see how well I’d done in penmanship.  Certain that I had raised my grade to at least a B, I slid my card out of its manila envelope.  Next to the last grading period’s C- was a C+.  That afternoon, I trudged home, the air around me so heavy I could barely breathe.

     “How’d you do?” my mother asked, meeting me at the door to our house, her brown eyes bright with anticipation.

      I handed her my report card.

     She looked at it, her face never displaying the disappointment she must have felt.

     “Oh, well,” she said with a shrug.  “I guess your teacher just thinks of a C as average, and she gave you a C+, so she must think of you as above average.”

    

Teresa's mother, Madeline Norris Burns, receiving the Lyon College Friend of Education Award, 1999

Teresa’s mother, Madeline Norris Burns, receiving the Lyon College Friend of Education Award, 1999

In that moment, the air was infinitely more breathable.  Without criticizing my teacher, my mother had taught me the vital lessons of tenacity and acceptance. I don’t believe any of my favorite television programs won Emmy Awards that year; but, if they gave Emmys to teachers, my mother would have gotten one for her performance that afternoon.  In fact, her mantel would be filled with awards for recognizing and responding to so many teachable moments both at home and in the junior high school classrooms where she taught for thirty years.

   The next year, I moved on to the classroom of a fourth grade teacher who read us Beverly Cleary books and played peppy music so we could do shoulder-wiggling/feet-jiggling exercises in our seats on rainy days. She often gave us assignments to write about things that occurred in our lives.  For one assignment, I wrote about my family’s vacation to California.  Though it would have been thrilling to have written about seeing one of my television heroes out in Hollywood, I’m sure I stuck to the real-life events of playing with my aunt and uncle’s Pekingese pups and riding in the teacups at Disneyland with my mother.      

     When the teacher returned my paper, she paused at my desk and said, “You have such beautiful handwriting.”

     At the top of the page was a fat red A followed by a comment that read, “Sounds like a lot of fun!”

     I raised my eyes to meet my teacher’s smiling face.

     “Thanks,” I said. “My mother taught me how to write like that.”

   

   

 

Daily grind tip

*Big thanks to my friend Henry Petty for sharing his thoughts with us in today’s post.*

timeDuring the daily grind, we seldom find time for ourselves or a chance to really focus on “me”.  This is a great technique to cope with the daily life, to break it up a bit, to focus on yourself and to care for yourself.  If you’re finding yourself wondering where the day has gone and going to bed feeling empty and unfulfilled, this is for you.

Get an app on your smartphone that will go off every 2 hours during the day (there are lots out there).  When that timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and think to yourself, “How do I feel?  What do I need right now?”

copingcards.jpg (2)Take a few really deep breaths, scan your body and see what kind of pain is there, what it is that you need in the moment, and how you are feeling.Then try some techniques to relieve that feeling or to make yourself feel better.  It could be going for a brisk walk, doing some deep breaths, stretching, maybe listening to some stand-up comedy on YouTube, or listening to your favorite song.  Whatever that is, write it down on an index card.

This coping technique will not only break up your day, but will also make you feel good about doing something…for you!  It will show how grateful you are to be here, to be doing something loving and kind for yourself.

When you have made a stack of index cards, punch a little hole in them and put a keyring or something in them so you can refer to them every day.

It’s all God

*Special thanks to my friend Debra Dickey for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

Every image, every application, every petition that is granted, every prayer that is answered, it’s all God.  Every beautiful flower, every new kitten, every cake that rises, it’s all God.  Every musical note, every laugh, every talent, every shade of color, every blade of grass, every surprise of wonder, it’s all God.  Every drop of rain, every new plant, every field that is plowed, it’s all God.

Every hug, every ounce of love, every tear that falls, every knowledge on earth, it’s all God.  Every child, every person, every gift, every joy, every challenge, it’s all God.  Every blessing, every harvest, every snowfall, every successful endeavor, every lesson learned, it’s all God.  Every thoughtful gesture, every kind word, every safe passing, every road traveled, every insight, it’s all God.  Everything that matters, every opportunity for good, everything that creates a miracle, everything that happens, it’s all God.  Everything is God.  Every communication, every prayer, every meditation, every devotion, it’s all God.

For a while now, my children and I have faced challenges that have been and continue to be initiated by situations in every way beyond our control.  I have been at the business of prayer for many, many months and many, many years seeking answers, guidance, healing, and miracles.  Just recently I sat in a doctor’s office praying lengthily for a definitive outcome regarding a test that my son was having.  That prayer was answered, positively, and with good care and advice for the next steps.  I was overjoyed, elated, and grateful, sending praise and hallelujahs to the One whom my faith is directed towards that makes miracles happen.   To myself I thought, “At last, finally, one burden that I can lay down.”  It is all God.

Just two days later my daughter called with a daunting, urgent issue that needed to be resolved, and requested my assistance in working through the questions, considering appropriate and advantageous options, navigating a process new to her but which I had experience and connections with regard to, and then making the arrangements and following up to help her successfully accomplish what needed to be done.

Well _2To my own discredit, my initial reaction when I received that call was, “Oh my word, I’ve just prayed for and received a monumental blessing and divine miracle for which I am SO eternally grateful — How many times can I keep coming back and dipping in this well????”  Seriously, God, just moments ago You answered my humble prayers and bestowed Your Mighty blessing upon us . . . . and here I am, AGAIN… making another petition, asking for another favor, seeking Your authorship and benevolence for yet another problem!!”   This surely can’t be real.  My heart melts like wax, my emotions swoon within me.  How much can I ask of you, O God?   I am fearful, but I hold up my shield of faith, approach His Throne of Grace, offer my prayer, ask for God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience, beseech Care, Guidance, and Wisdom from Jesus Christ my Lord, and call upon His Holy Spirit to fill the space with Presence.   He made it happen.  More praise and hallelujahs!!  My heart overflows because of His Goodness.  I am humbled by His Greatness, and my soul cannot comprehend the depths of His Love.  There are not enough words in any language to fully praise Him.  Another worry allayed.  Thank you!  It’s all God!

As per the seeming dictums of my life, yesterday my son came to me to discuss yet another genuine concern that might be heading his direction.  I will take it to God.  Always and inevitably more.  This is my life — apprehensive; embroiled and entrenched, seemingly without an endpoint…..continual hurdles, inveterate mountains – and so necessarily absolute with me, embedded in incomparable prayer without ceasing.  It’s not that I don’t believe that my God is big enough, it’s just that there appears to be much before me of inordinate measure, and I don’t ever want to use up all of my favors with Him – the Source of All Living Waters.

The comfort flows plentifully and constantly as a river; strong as a stream to bear down the opposition of doubts and fears. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers, is as a fountain of living, running water, out of which plentiful streams flow,”  [biblehub.com]  Amen.