Patience

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick tempered man displays folly.” – Proverbs 14:29

Perhaps one of the blessings that comes with time is patience. Whether in seasons of success or suffering, this virtue seems to never fail. It is like a muscle that develops over years of training. You can’t get there quickly; you just have to take one step at a time.

It is also a total act of trust for me. To be patient now means that I trust God. In training or healing; in work that takes years to reach completion; even muddling my way through the unknown with confidence that God is working all things out…patience is gained through living it.

In a season of difficulty many years ago I came upon this quote by Mother Teresa. It was written on a card where I could keep it visible in my daily routine. Over time the words lodged deep within me. And lodging there, this became a prayer of trust and patience for me. I’m still receiving blessings from that wisdom…poured into me by someone who knew well the path.

Let nothing trouble you,
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.
– Mother Teresa

God of patience and mercy, thank you for never giving up on us. Help us to trust you in moments we want to act too quickly or walk away too soon. We need never to give up on what you are doing in our lives and in the world. Thank you for your faithfulness and love. We trust you completely. Amen.

Monday Morning in June

Summer has its own rhythm. The heat of the sun reminds me how important perspective is when seasons change. We all do things in the summer that we don’t do other times of year. Water and lightening bugs; cookouts and watermelon. Vacations for some; camps and retreats for others.

I have an annual practice of reading through the book of Proverbs in the summer. These verses of wisdom are reminders. They quicken my mind and spirit. Ancient wisdom rises to the surface and foolishness is placed in the light where it can be seen for what it is.

This book of wisdom encourages, corrects, clarifies and makes me think. It’s funny how much I need the reminders! Thus, every summer I return to these words.

I read whatever chapter matches the date. Today, June 13th, is Proverbs 13. Just looking for one sentence that I can carry through the day. I don’t worry so much about missing a day, I just do this through June-July until I’ve read all 30 chapters of the book. It’s my summer renewing of the mind.

Occasionally a friend will join me in the reading and it makes for good conversation as the summer days pass. It is a great practice for parents and children – especially adult children. It’s a great practice for friends, couples, groups…whomever is up for the blessing of engaging in the adventure.

Pride only breeds quarrels,
But wisdom is found in those who take advice.” – Proverbs 13:10

This weekend I attended the 92nd birthday party of a distant cousin and a Celebration of Life for a 100 year old friend. In both places I was surrounded by my elders. Men and women who have shared life wisdom, both by example and conversations. What a treasured gift!

As you begin your week, perhaps a dip into the pool of Proverbs wisdom will refresh your mind and spirit. You won’t be alone; I’ll be reading with you.

God of wisdom and mercy, thank you for providing a way for us to encounter your ancient teaching. Thank you for people who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Give us a humble character, Lord, to listen; and courage to follow when this gift comes from you. Forgive us for our pride in thinking we know so much. Open us to what you offer; we need you. We welcome your Spirit to teach us.

Today

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. – James 1:4

Facing the wind, 2021

I encountered this bird on Amelia Island last year. I have never forgotten the moment. He stood there for the longest time. The wind blowing in his face. His feathers all ruffled and worn. He was shaking. Every few seconds I thought he would blow over or give up and fly away. To my untrained eye he seemed determined to stand in the wind and gather up courage and focus for the day. I wondered if this was his morning prayer.

When I think of what it takes to stay the course when we are tired or frustrated or feeling like what we’re doing is not making a difference, I think of the way James teaches about challenges and trials. It frames my attitude and thought process. If there is something waiting for us after a season of perseverance, James reminds us that it is worth the waiting. It is worth the patience, diligence and whatever else you are mustering up to walk through each day. Something more than eye can see is happening. Perseverance comes with a blessing. It is something we trust and hold on to when the days are hard. Hold on today; prayers are all around you.

Lord, thank you for being with us when we are living through seasons of challenge. Please bring patience enough for today, and hope that fills the spirit and offers peace. Protect and guide, as you have promised to do; your wisdom is our greatest source of help. We trust you completely, Father, and we love you. Thank you for your faithfulness! Amen.

When It Doesn’t Make Sense

There are so many times when life doesn‘t make sense. Heartaches we can‘t resolve. Violence that leaves us speechless. Diagnoses that come too fast and healing that takes too long. Tsunamis and eruptions that remove communities and change the landscape forever.

It is life…all of that mixed in with the joys of pregnancies and falling in love. Holding that first grandchild. Walking by the river. Staying up late talking with friends. Coming home after a time away. Life.

I couldn’t sleep part of the night. My worries are small and not enough to keep me awake. I was thinking about the parents, friends and spouses in Texas and New York who can’t sleep because their grief is so violently raw. I was thinking of the brothers and sisters that are wide awake, becoming way too familiar with what it is like when death comes too early, and it feels like a part of you dies with your sibling. I had no words so I just prayed for them all. Trusting God to move into the spaces of their long night and give them peace even when it doesn’t make sense to have peace.

I woke up to the rain moving in and it blessed me. The earth will have the drink it needs today. If we need to be crying we won’t be alone as nature cries with us. Restoration comes. The earth will be relieved from the dryness and our creeks will run full again.

What will fill us from our heartaches and grief? What will restore us when the days get too long while we are waiting? Who will come to sit beside us in the dark, reminding us that we are not alone?

I’m a person of faith so I believe Jesus waltzes into my bedroom in the middle of the night and sits in the chair and waits with me. There have been so many times the resurrected Christ showed up when it made no sense that holy could stand in the middle of the darkest parts of life.

The peace of Christ we pray for when life doesn’t make sense is the peace that …doesn’t make sense. It’s the peace that comes even when circumstances don’t change and life still hurts and healing is delayed. It’s the peace that insists on being present with us. With us when we are asking questions no one can answer. With us when we are crying. With us when all we can do is try to breathe the next breath.

I believe armies of prayer warriors are launched in these times when life doesn’t make sense. It has become one of my practices in the dark to sing the truths that keep my roots intact. Sing the song. Read the prayers. Or just breathe and remember their message.

Psalm 121 is a quiet but powerful reminder that our help, when life doesn’t make sense, comes from God. Pick up your Bible and find the Scripture. Make it your prayer. I’ll be praying with you.

https://bit.ly/3tlGS4f

God, thank you for bringing peace into our life spaces where it just does not make sense right now. Thank you for people that pray for us even when we are unaware. Thank you for bringing peace to the many communities that stand so deep in grief from the persistent violence in our world. And help us, holy God, to let that peace transform us in the ways that only you can do. We love you and we trust you completely. Amen.

“Do not be anxious about anything. But in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

When The Tall Trees Rest

She was an artist and a poet. But more than anything she was a friend. Her art began with trees reaching high into the sky. They are all praising God at the move of her paintbrush. I marveled at her creative process. I am so grateful for every painting and every poem. She left us with such beauty, and it never stops blessing my days. 

It is Susie’s art and poetry that I saw when we were by the river yesterday. A tree had fallen. A big rip from an old trunk still standing on the bank of the river. A hard fall, based on the jagged edges of the trunk. It must have been loud in falling; it must have shaken the ground. The tall, strong and beautiful tree lay quietly in the flow of the river’s current. Ah…the tall tree is resting. 

Today we celebrate the life of another friend. Nothing will be able to contain her life. No words or prayers. No song or Scripture. But everything will point to the Creator who gave her to us for a little while. Everything will praise the One who placed the Holy Spirit within her and created a channel of intentional love.  Every breath we breathe is mingled with the same breath God breathed into her. She is a tall tree resting now. So deeply loved. I do wonder if Susie is talking with her; welcoming her friend into the eternal peace, eternal joy, eternal rest. 

the roots of tall trees
go 
deep
search
crumble granite
penetrate core
impelled
by the knowledge
that they are
the linchpins
that hold this
entirety
together

– Susie Sims Irvin, The Tall Trees



Lord, for all who mourn today, please bring peace and comfort. For all who need healing, place your hand on their eyes and bodies, restore gently and completely. For the one who is searching, may your spirit guide them clearly to discover you. Let no one who needs a friend remain alone today.
Please keep us growing, Lord. Keep us reaching tall to find you; digging deep with roots that sustain us in the long journey. And for all you hold in your arms today, Jesus, thank you for the gift of their presence. Thank you for the tall trees in our lives. Amen. 

Harpeth River, May 2022. Melinda Britt photo credit

How Are We Listening?

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

My morning started at the river where the mist rising from the water met my prayers with hope. The birds declared melodies welcoming the day; sounds of reckless joy my voice can never muster. I am grateful how nature praises God and I am allowed the gift of participating. There is a chorus moving through the woods; a dance flowing in the water. I needed to begin here.

I wonder if I am heeding this teaching of Jesus to “consider carefully how you listen”? When I listen to the birds sing the morning praise it never occurs to me to assess their pitch or tone. I marvel at their persistence. I’m intrigued with the joy they bring in welcoming the day. I turn my attention to the music and let the song come close to me. And listen. Just listen. I laugh at how easily they all sing at once; if a director is present my untrained ear cannot discern it. I am grateful.

Is it possible we could listen to our brothers and sisters with this same grace? I wonder… If we employed such a natural curiosity as I find this morning while listening to nature, what would we hear? Anticipation not as prediction, but rather a simple wondering for what is being offered. Is there something I need to hear today?

God, you created us with ears to hear, minds to comprehend, and spirits to discern. We must often miss the very special thing we are in need of hearing. Please open our ears to what you are speaking in so many people and places right now. Tune our ears to the sound of your voice. Drown out the noise that begs for our attention and turn us carefully, humbly to you. We welcome and yearn for your divine voice to speak into this day. Help us to hear. Amen.

Early morning at the Harpeth River. May 2022

Where Is the Trail?

Hiking always brings a risk of not being able to find the trail. It happens to nearly everyone. You plan the hike, you watch your map, you follow the trial signs. And then…often without warning…the trail just seems to disappear. The signs are not visible. No hint in any direction. You look up and you simply don’t know where to go! Then what?

My spring hikes have been full of beauty and a couple of them have also included moments of not being able to find the trail. Perhaps it’s true that the more you hike, the more often you’ll have this experience. I’m not sure, but I’ll admit, it’s happened to me several times. I love to hike so I’ve learned to accept the reality that part of the adventure does include the occasional angst that comes with losing the trail.

But I don’t have to like that part; right? It is such an exercise in patience, strategy, and trust. Experience is a great teacher. Still, whether you’ve been hiking two years or seventy years, sometimes you’re going to look up and say, “where is the trail?’

Twin Arches Loop

Four things I do pretty much every time I lose sight of the trail:

1. Stop and look at my surroundings. There is a trail, I just need to see it again. Pay attention to exactly where I am in that moment. Listen. Look.
2. Check the map. Does anything on the map match what I’m seeing around me? Does anything on the map match what I’m hearing…like water or other hikers nearby?
3. Pray: “Lord, help me see the trail.”
4. Backtrack some steps, if possible, that return me to a trail marker or path that clearly marks the way. Stop often and check. Look and listen.

Sometimes trusting the signs is hard if that little wind of doubt has entered my mind. Careful, attentive steps in the direction of those signs, is a way to keep moving, or to simply not panic! Hiking with a friend or group, or simply engaging others you find on the trail obviously makes “seeing” or finding the trail a lot easier.

There was one moment in a recent hike when we had to backtrack. Within moments we ran upon other hikers on the same trail. We went forward together and with their different eyes and assistance, we finally identified the trail. It was well disguised but it was also clear once we found it.

Relieved and encouraged, we all traveled on our way with gratitude. And we were all reminded: the signs aren’t always easy to see; we need each other.

For me, hiking has always been one of the ways God teaches me and reminds me of things I need for my journey through life. I am encouraged by the way God so carefully created beauty and nature.

The dance of spring flowers in the woods
Ferns and flowers: new life emerging after winter
Spring dogwood in bloom

I am sharpened by the friends that journey with me. Their companionship, conversation, and challenge often help me hear my own voice a little clearer. Compassion and wisdom are nurtured along the way.

I am restored in the solitude and magnificence of God’s creation. The God who created all of this, is surely watching over me! God is watching over us. Faith and trust are strengthened; humility comes.

God’s presence with us doesn’t mean that life will always be easy. Life is challenging and heartbreaking; it is amazingly beautiful and full of unexpected miracles.

God’s presence with us means we are never alone and there is a trail. Sometimes we just need a little help to see it. Occasionally we are even asked to help blaze it.

If you are in a moment or a season that has you asking, “where is the trail?”, take a deep breath. You are not alone. There is a trail and you will find it. One faithful step at a time.

God, please open our eyes to see the trail you have provided. We especially struggle to see when it looks different than we expected. Help us to embrace the adventure of discovery! We love you and we trust you completely. Thank you for loving us.

Swinging Bridge over Wolf River

Trusted Teacher

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.  – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:4-5.

Jesus gives some last instructions and words of wisdom to his disciples before he is arrested. He reminds them that the time they have shared together and all that he has been teaching them has prepared them for all that is to come. There is a caveat to the work ahead.  If the disciples want to be involved in what God is doing on earth, they must abide in Christ. They must stay as close to Christ as a branch is with a vine. That’s pretty close.  

Abiding doesn’t mean performing for approval. A branch does not perform and then look back to see if the vine approves or not. Nor does a branch disconnect from the vine and do anything that replaces the nutrients, power, and life that the vine gives.  When a branch disconnects from its vine, it eventually dies. Abiding in Christ means living in and with that connection. It is life itself, breathing in and breathing out moment by moment. It is not a program or mandate; it is a way of being alive. 

There is freedom abiding in Christ. We are not alone. We do not have the world resting on our shoulders. We are in this life with Christ. We are drawing from the strength and love of the one who came to earth for us! Not to harm us, but to show us what it looks like when the love of God is fully in human form. 

Jesus, our trusted teacher, came to help us experience a different way.  Our trusted teacher came to save us from distorted truths and a hijacked religious hierarchy that had lost connection with God’s loving intention for our lives on earth. Jesus came to redeem all these things and to fulfill the kingdom of God on earth. What a gift our Creator gave the world – and continues to give us every day. 

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 10:10

We seem be in a constant stream of focusing on a group of people and literally tearing them apart with our opinions, judgements, and disappointments.  We’ve seen it happen with law enforcement, teachers, doctors, nurses, and numerous other groups.  A mistake by one person becomes a condemnation of everyone. An error that needs forgiveness and justice becomes a pass to never trust anyone again. 

It may be that the noise of it all begins to make us think there are no trusted sources in a world that really needs wisdom to navigate through the circumstances of daily life.  Hear the good news:  Jesus is a trusted teacher. Jesus is the son of God; the Messiah the prophets said would come; the resurrected Christ that is with us even now.  The teaching he shared while he was on earth is trustworthy.  It is a teaching that sets us free.  The way God continues to teach and guide us through the Holy Spirit is trustworthy. Abiding in Christ helps us remain tethered to that stream of wisdom. 

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:11

Check out more of what Jesus said by reading the 15th chapter of John: https://bit.ly/3wT9pkf

Three simple ways to practice “abiding” in Christ right now:

  1. Read from the Gospels several times a week or even daily. Start small. Ready for five minutes. Read a chapter. When you finish all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), start back and begin again. We need to be reminded daily of these teachings. It provides focus and food for our spirit. 
  2. Ask God to hold you close to the vine of Christ. Simple & powerful prayers: 
    “God, please keep me close to Christ today”. 
    “Lord, help me to walk faithfully through this day.”
    “Jesus, come right away; I need help!”
    “Christ, you are my vine; I am your branch; let it be.”
  3. Do one small act of kindness for someone. It can be as simple as saying, “I love you” to people in your household; taking a bouquet of spring flowers to a friend or stranger; thanking someone for their service (waiter; store attendant; co-worker; teacher; etc.); listen to the one who needs to simply say their things. Anonymous kindness strengthens the spirit. Known kindness strengthens relationships. It’s always good to intentionally be kind to others. How can you be kind to someone today? 

Lord, when your ways are so different from ours, it is probably going to be hard for us to see. Please draw each of us and all of us near to you so when you teach us, we are able to comprehend. We want to abide in you, and we need you. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely. You are our trusted teacher; our Savior; our friend. Amen. 

My Trust in the Lord – Psalm 11

Trusted Surrender

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:34-38

Jesus says these words right after he and Peter have a very tense moment.  They exchange some heated words.  Jesus is giving his disciples a heads up about what he is soon to face: arrest and crucifixion. It sounds like pure evil and failure to Peter; he disagrees with the approach Jesus is taking. After an immediate response that rebukes Peter, Jesus pauses to offer this word…this teaching. Just so we know – the way we enter the abundant life involves surrender. 

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” 

God works in our lives and in the world differently than we often expect. Part of following Christ is humbling ourselves enough to listen, to watch, and to discern how God is guiding us. It often means receiving teaching or instruction that is beyond our understanding – but that we choose to accept and trust God with it. In truth, the teaching of Jesus is often over our heads! It rubs up against what we want to hold onto, or even what makes sense in the world. It causes us to squirm a bit and hope no one notices how much he shows us that we simply ignore.

Denying ourselves can be giant steps of bold surrender. It can also be tiny steps of faithfulness for today. It can be a step. Today. We all have different things in our lives that could use some surrendering.  For Peter (see Mark 8:31-33), it is surrendering his attitude and confidence that he can adequately judge what Jesus needs to do. Peter is basically telling Jesus, “You have this wrong…let me tell you how we’re going to handle this situation.”  

We do kind of have a problem with thinking we know what God needs to do and how it needs to be done. Surrendering is not placing our brains on pause or acting recklessly with our resources. It is, however, being fully aware that we need to listen for God’s guidance and to follow it with humbleness and trust.  Surrendering – or yielding – means we make space in our lives for God to speak. 

What does that look like? What it looks like for you is probably different than it looks like for someone else. How are you providing space for God to speak into your daily life? What wisdom are you reaching for to give you guidance? Is it the wisdom of God or the loudest voices that are pushing their way into your vulnerable moments? 

Denying ourselves during the season of Lent is intended to develop spiritual muscle for the journey of faith. That muscle serves us in times of vulnerability.  It helps us realign our minds and spirits; it sets our feet on solid ground.  Whether the practice of surrender comes in denying ourselves a food we crave or spending 15 minutes a day being quiet and unplugged from technology, every step we take toward God is a way of saying, “I yield my way to your way, Jesus.”   

God, we are all in different situations, but we share a deep need for you. We get caught up in our ways of handling life’s challenges and we often miss how you are moving among us.  When we seek you today, please reveal yourself in whatever way each person needs to experience you to know that you are right here, walking with us. Strengthen us for the journey. We yield our lives to you. We love you, Lord, and we trust you completely.

TobyMac Lose My Soul

Winter’s Last Dance?

My grandfather always said to wait until after Easter before counting on winter weather to be finished.  Like any good farmer, he held even that with open hands, often reminding us that God is the one who created the world, and we don’t control the sun and the rain.  A farmer works on faith and prayer in all efforts. A good approach for a Monday morning!

Was this winter’s last dance?  I don’t know, but it was beautiful. 

I am always fascinated by how quickly nature adapts to changing conditions. I don’t see resistance or hear complaint. Life persists fully and confidently forward.

Monday Prayer
Lord, you are our dwelling place. Wherever we are and whatever the conditions of the day, we need you to order our steps. Give us courage to walk into the week with confidence of your presence, and trusting that in your presence there is fullness of joy and life everlasting. We believe in YOU. Where life is overwhelming, please come quickly Lord to assist. Thank you for your faithfulness in all seasons. We pray in the name of the resurrected Christ, Amen.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
– Psalm 16:11