Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Two Weeks

Geoff just finished two VERY NEEDED weeks off.

He had crashed and burned. Something had broken. All was not right.

After a deep, real, "help me" conversation with our director and then the manager, he was "sat down" and told to take two weeks away from the things that had obliterated the Geoff we know.

This desperate state did not suddenly materialize. Since August, when the head of child care had to abruptly leave, he had acted as director of child care--our largest department here at New Hope besides our schools. This on top of his regular position as leader of the Early Adulthood department; a member of the management team; an elder; a mentor, a husband and father. I think there might have been only a handful of nights that did not include emails, phone calls or meetings well beyond supper time. Most nights he was still working diligently on the computer until after 9 p.m. But, even then, he started the next day with left overs. Left over assignments from previous days, left over conversations cut short due to emergent needs and left over pieces of Geoff hanging on to God's hand.

The numerous demands crowded out his ability to keep one-on-one time with the young adults entrusted to his care as part of the early adulthood ministry as well as staff that he usually mentors. This inability to relate on a personal level due to other time constraints was the most life-draining aspect of his packed schedule.

Finally, it became too much, "Something has broken inside of me," he said.

The Saturday evening before his two weeks off began, he read to us at the dining room table as we began our weekly Sabbath. He had randomly marked a chapter in a book we'd been reading together as a family called, "Created for Work," by Bob Schultz. But, God knew the relevancy of that random chapter before we did. As the words tumbled from his tired lips he recognized the words were describing him.  "Have you ever ridden in a car when the timing is off a few degrees? Ka-pow-pow-puh-pow. The whole car shakes, jolts, and sounds like a Fourth of July celebration. Few cars drive very far in that condition. Like engines, sometimes our hearts get out of time. They begin running poorly, leaving us frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes angry. Few of us like to admit we're running rough, even when folks around us clearly hear it. Though it may seem complicated, like repairing an engine seems to me, resetting the timing of our hearts is really quite simple. The standards by which a man tunes his heart is the nature and attributes of God."

These past two weeks have been spent in the garden preparing soil, planting maize and weeding the beans; at home repairing shutters, painting doors, unstopping drains and RESTING. We weren't sure that home, in the middle of New Hope's primary site, would yield real rest and opportunities for prayer and reflection. But, surprisingly Geoff was able to spend a great deal of time praying, studying, listening, and worshiping God.

He left his phone off during the day and our community truly respected that he was not available. He read, he napped, he enjoyed the kids, and the two of us went to Kampala for a night out and some great food.

Toward the end of the leave time Geoff spoke the words we had hoped we'd hear. "I feel hopeful again. I remember what it is like to look forward to work. I am thankful."

And so are we. Toby often was heard these past few months verbalizing his frustration at the demands his Dad faced, and when there were extra meetings or assignments Toby was the first to protest. He is especially happy to see his Dad peaceful again.

Recently, we received two personal letters handwritten by young adults whose lives we are a part of to varying degrees. I truly believe one of the main reasons Geoff was struggling was a direct result of not being able to interact with the young people we are here to minister to. The words in these letters are encouragement that even in the past few months of busy, busy, busy, there has still been an impact of God's truth, love and light in hearts dear to us.

"I have written this letter to thank you for everything you've put in for me to be able to attend Investment Year because I am learning important things which will help me in life. I am really blessed because the challenges I am experiencing during the year (are producing) growth in me, although the year has not ended. The first training spoke to me a lot and my life is changing. I wish that every youth could go through this year and challenges like I am. After the computer training my heart was like, 'I should thank the one(s) who enabled me to attend IY, Thank you so much and may the Lord bless you."

"As I look back at this ended semester, I realize that if it wasn't for God, if it wasn't for your prayers, and encouragement, I wouldn't have made it. Therefore, I want to say thank you for giving me your shoulder to lean on. Thank you for the many things you have sacrificed to see me to where I am today. You have given hope for tomorrow."

And that, my friends, gives us hope for tomorrow.

Geoff returned to the office yesterday without many of the responsibilities he'd carried these past few months. Yes, he is still an elder, still on the management team and remains as the head of the early adulthood ministry; a manageable load. He was home for lunch on time, home from the office on time and thankful for opportunities to speak into the lives of others.

Thanks to those of you who prayed for us during the past few months. We couldn't have survived without God's sustaining hand on us. The blessing of your prayer support is beyond our ability to fully express. THANK YOU.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Thankful


After more than ten orbits of the sun here in Uganda, living and working at the same place for all ten+ years, I feel both excitement for the days and ways we live in our remote village and a commonplace-ness that keeps me from seeing any of the days as special.

Today I feel particularly nothing special at all.

But, I have this pressure and angst to write something that would move you--move me--lift us off the plateau of everyday and inspire us to a beautiful view again.

Honestly, what is it that inspires us? (Insert "Sunday School answer" here: Jesus) After all, when we "don't know what to say, just say Jesus." I hate that song, by the way. As if His name is some trite magical "abracadabra" that excuses us from engaging with Him in the process of taking responsibility for our actions and reactions, and sifting through our thoughts and questions. Allowing His name to pass through the lips does not automatically fill the ugly void created by foolishness or ignorance. Jesus is not a trite answer. He could never be that. But, honestly we live often as if our lives did NOT depend on Him.

Living life in Uganda, China, California or Georgia, Nepal, Siberia, Guatemala, or Tasmania we are all His. Whether we view our days as mundane, ordinary, extraordinary, fulfilling or filled with randomness, we all come from Him. Our lack of recognizing His hand on us doesn't negate that His hand has given us life.

For that I am most grateful.

His nail-pierced, raised hand is the reason I live. My God, my Father gave His son Jesus for me. Life for life. Amen.

Whether I see today as special or I see it as regular old whatever doesn't change that it is an ordained day according to His plan.

Thankfulness changes what I see.

I am thankful.

Thankful for the privilege of living among Ugandans, meeting weekly with young people and walking with them as they desire to understand God and live for Him.

Thankful for the privilege of watching the kids entrusted to us walk past my house everyday to school or church, the football field or basketball court.

Thankful for the privilege of being the house where massive amounts of munchkins swarm the compound every afternoon, raising the din from bird banter to kid's laughter and squeals.

Thankful for the privilege of homeschooling my kids. Though, sometimes our activities surrounding such can seem to only maintain the mundane.  I've got the schedule, the plan, the handy-dandy teacher's guide, and a vision for why we school the way we do. But, we often fail to start the school day committing our intentions to Him. We run from the breakfast table--where we've prayed and talked together--off to our individual morning tasks and then show up at various intervals at our desks to begin the academic pursuits. Before I know it, we're scattered all over the place and no one wants to stop their momentum to pray together and give it all to Him again. So much can happen between breakfast and the end of the first hour of school. Why do I fail in this regard? Homeschooling as if it didn't depend on Him. Forgive me Lord, for these kids are yours and these hours are given to show them You. This is truth no matter where one lives--the mission field of another country or the mission field where you've always been.

I am thankful for my kids' hearts, their passions, their struggles, their questions and doubts, their hopes and sadness, and the nothing special.  The privilege of being with them all day long as they grow and change and come to better understand who God is and how He is over it all and loves us all is a gift regardless of where we might find ourselves in this world.

We've spent ten years together in this different culture with all its beauty and its ugly, its fascinating and its strange, its exhibition of uniqueness and exposure of common human frailty. No doubt, it has changed us!

I'm thankful for the ways we've changed.

Never completely at home in this host culture, never again completely at home in our original culture.

In all the stretching, painful, joyful and wondrous experiences we've had we've changed. For the better.

Though I forget to give thanks in many moments of many days, I have learned that I can't go very long without being reminded that being able to give thanks for even the difficulties brings growth towards Him.

Let's not forget to give thanks . . . to GOD, to Jesus. Don't just say Jesus, LIVE for Him! I hope as much for you as I do for myself that we would LIVE, even in the mundane, with a thankfulness that lifts us, even in the difficult, to appreciate and see His hand.

In that vein I share a recently crafted poem I wrote inspired by almost losing my youngest at the end of the first week of February this year. I am thankful for all the days we have, however long they last.

In the bush of Uganda
Under wide open sky
Through the hot dry season
Climbs Kevin very high

A fruit snack the goal
His eyes on the prize
He scales trees barefoot
He scales trees of size

The young ones below
Yell, "even me, you throw!"
And Kevin climbs up

An expert hunter
A toe here, a toe there
Placed ever so adeptly
On each branch with care

Branches hold, fruit sways
Three jackfruit are spied
As he knocks them down
"Weebale!" Tikes cried

With jackfruit scored, over yonder a new reward
So, Kevin climbs up

The old jambula tree
Heavy laden with fruit
It calls, "Climb me!"
And Kevin's in pursuit

"Up, Up!" Kids squeal
"We want more snacks!"
So farther Kevin goes
Steady in his tracks

Juicy plump ones entice
And they look so nice
So Kevin climbs up

He sees few this side
But, what's over there?
That looks like a haul
With plenty to share

Grabbing branches on left
Scaling branches on right
He has no idea 
Of the soon coming fright

The branches wiggle and they prance with a 
Creak--
crack--
dance!

And Kevin falls down!

Twenty five' to the ground
Kevin tumbled straight down
And everybody shutters
At the loud smack sound

Uncle Steve and Aunt Virg
Run out their front door
The kids and the teens
Come close to see more

Kevin wails and he cries
Uncle Steve at his side
Aunt Virg calls the mom
And says bring a ride!

Uncle Paul sets him in
But there is no smile
To the hospital we fly
All praying all the while

X-rays are taken
Ultrasound done
Pronounced free and clear
And to home again we run

In the bush in Uganda
A clambering boy 
Survives a great fall
And lives to our joy.

Kevin fell from the height well beyond the top of the water tower! He began his fall near the top right of the dark green tree in the middle of the photo.


Blessings to you as you LIVE!


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Early Morning Rafting


At about 7:30, after a quick sip of tea or coffee and small bites of biscotti, we headed out to the fish ponds on our farm land. I walked with Bubbly, our black lab. The kids rode their bicycles and Geoff rode a motorbike with the bamboo raft strapped on. Once there we tightened the sisal around the bamboo poles. The sun was not too hot yet and the birds were abundant. It was a great morning activity! Nearby villagers drawing water from the pond were pretty curious as to what we were doing. The watchman observed us for awhile and then asked that we have a photo together. 

Just a little work on tightening the sisal before we set it afloat.
These red-footed birds are called, "Jesus birds," by the locals for their apparent ability to walk on water. They actually walk on slightly submerged lily pads, but are still fascinating to watch.



Taking a pause to pose with the inquisitive watchman.
Whoops! Perhaps our physics were a bit off! 
A very wet Kevin already begins to plan his next bigger, longer and more effective raft!
It is a nice vehicle for floating shoes.

Leaving the wet raft behind as a curiosity for the villagers. 


On our way home up through the livestock pasture.


That was our Saturday morning. The rest of the day shaped up to be quite restful. Our planned lunch with fellow staff was cancelled as the wife delivered her second child in the morning. Geoff is readying himself this morning to preach and we are together enjoying a quiet, albeit already hot morning. Blessings to you all!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Afternoon (The last before we start school again)

Happy New Year from the Britton clan! We have enjoyed this first week of 2017 by welcoming back the staff who were away over the holidays. It has been HOT HOT HOT!!!
This was the reading in the shade a little while ago. In the sunshine it shot up to a reading of 110 in less than a minute
Crystal says it's too hot to mew. 

Acacia and her good friend opted to stay out of the sun for awhile and instead cleaned up the kitchen. After this, however, they walked over to the basketball and played for a bit! 

Afternoon jackfruit has been a staple for the past two weeks. These two know how to properly indulge--place the "slaughtered" jackfruit on a freshly harvested banana leaf and enjoy in the SHADE!!! Kevin keeps the local bike close for quick trips around New Hope for more adventure, usually picking up younger kids (or sometimes older) and giving them a ride around the site.




Bubbly's favorite snack is jackfruit so she made sure to descend on the abandoned jackfruit remnants as soon as Kevin and Acacia vacated the site. 

Not too much later I found the boys hiding away inside the nice, cool house, playing games  on their tablets.

Geoff spent the day in town at a planning and organization meeting for the Investment Year staff, while I visited with my dear friend Vicki and then spent the afternoon in the Banda finishing up the preparation for starting our school's final term on Monday. 

Tomorrow in the early morning we are going over to the fish ponds as a family to test drive Kevin and Toby's bamboo raft. They made it this week from the discarded pieces of Bamboo we rid ourselves of after thinning our bamboo "forest."

In the afternoon we will take lunch to another staff family who is soon to deliver their second child. And the rest of the day Geoff will finish preparing for preaching on Sunday. The kids and I will brave the heat with bicycle rides, walks, possibly a much-needed water fight, JACKFRUIT-YUM, and lots of water. 

Next Wednesday we begin our annual Envisioning meetings. Geoff is also one of the speakers for that.

Bless you for caring about us and the life we enjoy here! 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Christmas Carol

What is your most treasured Christmas carol? Which one stirs an intensity of emotion or strikes the richest chord of deep dwelling memories?

Almost without fail, every time I sing, "O Little Town of Bethelem," I am reminded of my teacher's voice telling us to not wave at our parents in the audience. Some of my earliest memories of Christmas traditions past come from elementary school Christmas programs replete with the excitement and nervousness of standing in front of 100s and believing everyone was scrutinizing my every move--never mind that they probably never saw me since each and every parent had eyes for only their child.

And, "Joy To The World," is now always accompanied with a recent memory of discovering that said song wasn't written for the Christmas season, but was simply written as a worship song. Read the words afresh and be lead in worship.

Today I did not hear the music, but saw only the words for, "O Holy Night." I read it in someone else's blog post as they included the lyrics. This has long been the song which diverts my heart from regular beat and causes a momentary skip, then a deep breath and a moving reverence for my Lord. But, today He illuminated a new reason to cherish this piece as a line stood out above the rest, almost as if I'd never heard it before.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices
O night divine!
O night when Christ was born

The bold, underlined phrase took my breath away this morning. "Til He appeared and the soul felt it's worth." The soul FELT it's WORTH. Without Him I am not aware of my true worth. Without Him many live, but do they truly FEEL their worth?

Value of the person may be stated as intrinsic, but truthfully it cannot actually be intrinsic without that value being given by the Creator Who is loving, compassionate, present, and Savior.  As humans our behavior often betrays a carefully presented persona. Behavior focused on being fulfilled with people, things, titles and reward, speaks of a soul longing for value-infused return on their constant investment of energy for self-preservation.

There is no need to strive for value, fulfillment, or security for He appeared and forever more each soul can feel it's worth. Unfortunately, not every soul chooses to believe this truth.

You are worth His humble appearance as an infant. You are worth His shed blood. You are worth the Father's unwavering love and unfailing compassion and justice.

Your soul is sought after by the Creator of the Universe. Yield to His open arms of love and feel your worth.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sir Isaac Newton, Benedict Arnold, and other world changers




Any of you who actually reads our e-newsletters or blogs of late will know that we are focusing on what Sabbath means for us, attempting to move through life in a rhythm that allows for optimum ministry, family and personal health.

I said, “actually reads” because I’m as guilty as the next human of thinking I’m too busy to do more than simply skim in-box matter, cull websites for just the tidbit needed, and look at the pictures in a blog before deciding if I really need to read all the words of the post. It was a sobering day when I realized that if I’m not reading my fellow missionary’s entire newsletter/blog, why do I believe they read ALL of my carefully crafted words? Even the exhortation by Christ Himself, “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” hasn’t changed my ways.

And so, I truly don’t expect you to continue reading past this point, but I hope you do . . .

Busy is a disease. No one is immune. Juxtaposed to entropy that takes over without well-directed energy, busyness will jam us cock-eyed into its chaotic mold unless we intentionally direct our activity.

I just finished reading another book on the theme of Sabbath and out-of-control busyness. Appropriately titled, Addicted to Busy, by Brady Boyd, it challenged me to pragmatically review my habits and default tendencies, and identify how to change patterns that lead to unhealthy physical, emotional and spiritual results.

Essentially, I have come to realize that I don’t know how to rest by taking a day off mostly because the term, “Day Off” has always troubled me—I don’t know what it means.

As a Mom, I truly can’t take a day off. As a wife, I am always looking for ways to love, respect and serve Geoff. As a Christian desiring to follow and honor God I also have my eyes perpetually open to where I can serve and act in honor of Him. In those three respects I can’t take a day off. They are who I am.

A “day off” actually disturbs me. However, I am coming to realize that we must alter our daily and weekly rhythms to incorporate Sabbath for the express purpose of resting in God, rather than endlessly trumpeting our own agenda.

An ironic side note here as I say I am seeking rhythm: Rhythm was always a spelling test stumper for me until I had a teacher that taught me the nemonic Run Hard You Thick Headed Monster. Interesting that our crazy, out-of-control rhythms lead us to become Thick-Headed Monsters (‘It’s just who I am, so don’t expect me to change”) who are bent on running hard and fast.

One of my very favorite people I worked alongside for many years was fond of responding to admonishment to slow down with, “I can sleep when I die.” I learned a lot of good things from my co-worker, but that wasn’t one of the wisdom nuggets. Unfortunately, I also adopted that stance and elevated its position in my mind to more than just a default, it became a drive.

Currently, as a ministry, New Hope Uganda, approaching the age of 30, is actively seeking health and we recently engaged in a “Change Management” Seminar. Whether change is incorporated on an individual or corporate level, the process can run close to daunting. But, daunting is NOT synonymous to impossible.

In the midst of all this talk of change, rest, sabbath and rhythm I also realize I have spent the greater part of 50 years developing a well-fed guilt complex regarding, “not doing enough,” and even more so living under the fear of being perceived by others as not doing enough.

Producing is everything. At age two if I wanted to move I had to coordinate movements to get from point A to point B. When I succeeded there was great applause. As I moved through my early childhood, the teen years, university and my first jobs, success was marked by how many “A’s” I received: “Applause,” “Approval,” “Acceptance.” I liked and worked for all of them. More than 50 years later, I’m still looking for “A’s”.

So, most likely one of my main problems with sabbath, rest & rhythm is that I honestly believe if I rest, if I take time out for sabbath, if I change my well-oiled rhythms, I’ll be less productive and therefore in jeopardy of receiving something less than an “A”.

What a LIE.

“The sabbath was made for man,” said Jesus in Mark 2:27. In other words, if I don’t sabbath I will die sooner and with less quality of life.

Sabbath is an asset, not a liability.

I am made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and He himself demonstrated the need for rest, “For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his,” Hebrews 4:10, and Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Despite these truths, I felt that familiar 50-year-old pang of guilt and fear last week when I read the following in my kids’ science curriculum. “Sir Isaac Newton was once on recess for a year and a half while waiting for a bout of the bubonic plague to be eliminated from his school. During this time he wrote the founding observations for the mathematics of integral calculus. What do you do in your time off?” (emphasis mine)

“Well, for crying out loud,” I thought, “I certainly haven’t changed the world with my brilliant postulations or newfound discoveries in mathematics, science or any other subject. Way to bring a downer, dude. Thanks a lot!”

I assume the author didn’t intend to bring guilt, but to inspire. However, the subtle undercurrent of negative pressure rises.

No doubt, living in a rhythm of sabbath is going to require change. I can’t continue in the default of pressure and performance for “A’s”.

Change. A basic truth. We undergo change all of our lives. Growth requires change. It is fundamental to life. If I don’t change, I die.

Change — This morning I came across another gem in my kids’ school books. American history. Benedict Arnold. What a guy—unforgettable. I didn’t get any farther than the first page where I read about the predictions made by others when he was young regarding Arnold’s future. Some said he would be a great success, others disagreed and said he’d turn out badly. He lived both predictions. In 1777, Washington called him, “The bravest of the brave.” And he was. But only three years later he was described as “the veriest villain villain of centuries past.”

And here’s the clincher that stopped me, “The trouble was not that Benedict Arnold changed, but that since his teenage years he changed so little.”

Ouch.

Lord, help me to change my defaults, habits, and patterns which block my ability to rest in you. Keep me from the desire to push my own agenda in pursuit of “A’s”.

Let me not change simply for change sake, but for effective and ongoing change which produces desired growth in the right direction.

I don’t know yet what a healthy rhythm of sabbath looks like for myself and my family, but I am willing to continue pursuing it every week and let God change us for the better.


Tonight, Saturday night, our usual night we attempt sabbath, was enjoyed as a youth worship night and fun event. It was a great time for all the kids and many adults, and we were blessed to be there. Sometimes we have to adjust the rhythm a bit--it is a learning process and we refuse to be rigid with it. However, we are committed to implementing sabbath at some point in each and every week.

 



Monday, September 5, 2016

Too Much



Been reading Ecclesiates in the mornings for a few days now. It depresses me.

I was already succumbing to the crashing waves of demand for various reasons and then reading about the futility of life seemed to bring on the tears.I am remembering my dear friend Ketty (in the left of the photo in her bright red jacket!) as September 5th marks the one year anniversary of her leaving us for a better place.

Overwhelmed by the thought of the few years I have left with my kids around. Taken with the reality of the struggles they have in their own attempts to maintain a personal walk with God. Wondering if I will ever have enough hours in the day to do all I want to do with them--instruct, laugh, work alongside, train, pray with/for, teach.
A photo with my lovelies on my 50th birthday a couple of years ago.

Praying for the neighbor who is caring for a tiny 7-month old Down's syndrome child who is very sick and has been even more sickly of late. Being concerned for the strain on her as she attempts to fully provide for him with all his needs and then carrying the weight of desire to walk in wisdom alongside her.

Waking up this morning to two dead rabbits that belong to the same neighbor, but were in our domain of attention while she was in the hospital with the 7-month old. We failed to put them away last night and a wild dog helped himself to a rabbit snack. Geoff had burial detail before 7 a.m. and then delivered the horrible news to her once she arrived back home after an 8-day hospital stay. Being the tellers of such bad tales was not on my agenda when I saw morning light a few hours earlier. The "if only" haunts were prevalent this morning as we all wished we'd remembered our furry neighbors last evening. (Buying new rabbits and delivering them helped shave off some of the painful burrs, but the loss delivers intermittent waves of regret for our irresponsibility.)

Sometimes the mistakes we make are just too much to bear.

As I was engaged in the mundane work of cleaning up yet another of life's messes this morning I remembered popular bumper sticker sagacity, "Life is hard and then you die." (I blame my reading of Ecclesiates each morning this past week for such optimism.) I quickly changed it to an arguably more depressing rendition, "Life is you making mistake after mistake and then you die."

Now before you pronounce me clinically depressed, listen. It is what you and I do with the mistakes that make all the difference.
Cry and whine?
Cry and Wine?
Cry and blame?
Cry and shame?
No.
Pray and HUMBLY ask to be bolstered by His strength.

Humility is a theme that has come alongside the Sabbath focus for Geoff and me. We've had some nasty run-ins with our own failure to HUMBLY confront situations in family and friends. We've also watched as some ugly pride reared up in the words and actions of others have left a wake of confusion. And we have regretfully been a part of leaving our own path of destruction with words and attitudes levied at those who truly needed a bit of correction, but not in the way we delivered it.

What do you do when the weight of life seems too heavy, when you've been a part of laying burdens on others due to your pride--delivered offensively with either harsh words or attitudes, or when others' mistakes really do hurt and leave many addled and in want of health again?

I haven't yet mentioned the numerous extra relational things on my to-do list today that have been left undone because I am trying to rid my head of a migraine which is now going strong on 3 days. The pain and need to rest horizontal threatens to well up within me another dose of "you're not good enough because you're not accomplishing all you could today while you nurse a silly migraine." Today I am not meeting with girls in David family who have asked for mentoring; not having that tough conversation with someone who has asked for my guidance; not being present with someone who is grieving; and not able to walk alongside my own kids today; this one day in the short amount of time we have together on this earth.

When I was up for a short bit earlier to deliver this week's spelling words to the kids (yes, I still attempted here and there to accomplish some school instruction, but I wasn't very successful), Acacia went to the bookshelf to retrieve a dictionary and in so doing she knocked off and broke the frame around our picture of a Laguna Beach sunset. One of our few sources of visual peace we keep on the bookshelf to remind ourselves, in this land-locked country, of God's creative beauty in the ocean. The reality of the brevity of the lifespan of "stuff" sent a heat wave up my spine as I instantaneously pondered the futility of the energy required to keep all the "stuff" looking nice and functioning well. Again, I found myself feeling very, "Ecclesiastical."

Then I remembered as Acacia was in tears over her mistake that the only thing, THE ONLY THING, that really matters AT ALL is God Himself. As I hugged her and told her that what had just happened was really not a big deal, I was reminded that God alone is our comfort and the reason for which we live at all. These are the verses I reread today and I share for encouragement, ''Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man's all."

Of all His commandments, it is His commandment to FORGIVE that is staring at me today. To forgive myself and others when we don't measure up.

It is God who can help me find true humility--Who can help me find hope in the midst of my mistakes--Who can deliver me into life when I feel surrounded by death and struggle--Who can help ME to rest and have true Sabbath in Him, laying down my efforts to accomplish good, and instead walking in His righteousness.  Why? Because He Himself is humble, He is Hope, Life, Rest, Righteousness. It is this same God who has forgiven me all my sins and has commanded me therefore to forgive all those who have hurt me. And then, to bless them.

Yes, to bless. What did Job do after being mocked, berated, criticized, wrongly judged and blasted by his three "friends"? He obeyed God and prayed for them. "And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends." Lord, let me do the same to those who hurt me and even to myself when I can't see any of my stupid mistakes warranting redemption.

Let me pray for others and myself to know forgiveness, even to speak it out loud to them and to myself if I must and then pray a blessing over them (and receive one for myself.) Jesus gives me such comfort in His words, "Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

So, when life seems too heavy, too much, a mound of mistakes and failures--others or my own--let me learn from Him. Let me rest in Him and be hopeful because He was, He is, and He will always be in the midst of my life, my kids' lives, my neighbors' lives and your life. Amen.