Chasing Joy

"I am guiding you on the way of wisdom and I am leading you on the right path." Proverbs 4:11

Restoring Wonder | Breaking Down and Breaking Through

hope is not hope at all without something to hope against

-seth haines


the dark skies hover overhead while flashlights illumine words we are intending to sing.

no more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
far as the curse is found….

“mom, you must be really cold.” my youngest wonders aloud as he’s trying to interpret my shaking and cracking voice.  we’re standing before a shepherd and his wife, the depths of suffering against which Hope is springing forth in the chorus of their beloved sheep who’ve come to sing to them in the night.

Lord, i have beheld Your glory


life trudges along as it does.  bickering and bantering abound and push-ups on the side of the road* and spilled boxes of cereal and husbands who are far away and finals and sickness and Christmas time is here the radio has said.

i fight hard against it all for hope and Hope fights hard for me.

* (push-ups is one of our standard consequences-and sometimes you just have to pull over and deal with stuff before moving on down the road for everyone’s sake.  just keeping it real here.)


we arrive for worship frazzled and late and without coats even tho it’s beginning to snow.  but for an hour we breathe in deep the beauty of corporate worship and the power of Words read and songs sung.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross he bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

Then i saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,
and there was no longer any sea.

i saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride beautfully dressed for her husband.

And i heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live among them.
they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said,

“I am making everything new!”


we rejoice together at a successful long division time with those same 4th graders who brought me to tears last week.  “I need help getting snacks for Friday’s party….i hate to ask you….” i know she knows this isn’t my thing “it’s ok, i can make some calls.”  we laugh together at how neither of us has our Christmas Trees up yet and that there’s one week left till break.  It’s monday, but it’s off to a good start for both of us.

later on…..
i glance over at my 4th grader; “how was your day?”  “well…it was good except for one thing.  we were all lining up for 2nd recess you know….”

and my mind wanders a bit to what may have happened-some rowdy ones ruined it all and they lost their 2nd recess, or maybe he missed a great catch at kickball……

“….Mrs. – phone was ringing and when we got back she wasn’t there.  her brother died all of a sudden of a heart attack.  he was her only brother.”

my gasp is loud and i try to keep driving through the blur of tears that are filling my eyes.

“did you know her brother, mom? ”  he wonders at my response.


i glance over and notice some interesting spots on the neck of my 4th grader.  i look him over and there are interesting spots all over him.  the doctor will see him tomorrow afternoon.

it’s only been 3 days since that fog lifted but the chorus is still working it’s way into each and every day.


Then the angel showed me the river of  the water of life,
as clear as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
down the middle of the great street of the city.

On each side of the river stood the tree of life,
bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

No longer will there be any curse…….


Joy to the World

The Lord Came
The Lord Comes
The Lord will Come

Hope

against the curse
far as the curse is found
no longer will there be any curse

Take Heart

Our King has come
He has overcome


to draw further in: Revelations 21-22 and pretty much any Christmas Carol including their 2nd-4th stanzas

Restoring Wonder | Deep calls to Deep

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it’s friday.

these hard weeks have taken their toll.  still i trudge along carrying the discouragement just below the surface.  an hour spent with a handful of 4th graders and long division leaves me in tears i fight to hold in. but when their teacher asks how it went out they all come.  oof.  embarrassing.  i knew i was a bit fragile, and i’ve no problem with the tears-just a problem with the current context of their appearing.

sigh.

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i pick up my lone 6th grader who has stayed after school.  we talk well in the car he and i and he shares all the ways he’s been having that sick dread feeling in his stomach and all the strategies he’s used to cope.  i want to just listen, he is an amazing strategiz-er. my heart just hurts at him dealing with it all by himself.  we talk deep and pull in to a parking lot. It was only 5 minutes ago that I’d been instructed to drive here to meet up with grandma and my other two.  mid conversation he interjects; “can i go play at the park?” so that’s that and out he hops, bounding over to the playground my eyes had failed to see tho we’ve been here countless times.  i watch him-there is a spring in his step-the day is far behind him, the park is up ahead.  for a moment i sit in the car thinking deep thoughts, but then that Wonder of a Counselor whispers; “join him”

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i hop out and walk over and take him all in.  wonder fills my heart at this child who hasn’t let the struggle of the day rob him of the joy of monkeybars and climbing up the outside of the slide.  i marvel at the last-minute and unplanned steps that brought us here-to this very place at this very moment in time.  the park and parking lot is abandoned and quiet.  the sun is beginning to set.  and if for only 5 minutes we are both free and free to drink deep of the joy.

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we swing side by side to see who goes higher.  he almost turns completely upside down; “you should try it mom, it feels really good”

we jump off-he lands farther.

when our time is up, deep has called to deep, deep joy has called to deep discouragement, and we are refreshed.

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really, this is how it seems to go for me.  discouragement piles on, and i can’t climb out of it on my own.   But God….oh that glorious ‘But God’, He leaves me in Wonder at the ways He lifts me out-even though all the things remain-He restores Wonder in my heart and it makes such a difference.

i’m tempted to pray that when the children are all grown and i’ve no more 11 year olds to invite me to the swings on a hard day, i’ll have the wisdom to go there anyway.  do you see what i do there? i try to discover the recipe and take control, removing the very Wonder of a God who Knows Everything.  my prayer shifts and instead i ask that i would keep my eyes open and have the wisdom to see.

O my God, my life is cast down upon me [and I find the burden more than I can bear]; therefore will I [earnestly] remember You from the land of the Jordan [River] and the [summits of Mount] Hermon, from the little mountain Mizar.

[Roaring] deep calls to [roaring] deep at the thunder of Your waterspouts; all Your breakers and Your rolling waves have gone over me.

Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

psalm 42:6-8 amp

 

 

Restoring Wonder | Gift List

if you haven’t yet noticed, i need help entering into Wonder.  I was pondering some of the things in my life that have been useful in ushering me into that place of being affected by awe, and the fact that it tis the season of giving.

so i thought to myself, why not put the two together and share a gift list?

yes, why not!  here goes:

untitled  Radio TheatreChronicles of Narnia.  This is word for word with the books, but acted out vs. read aloud.  Think audio book only way better.  We actually have about 15 different books done this way either via FOTF or BBC’s radio theatre production companys.  Narnia gets the most play time ’round these parts.  on the most ordinary of days someone will be building Legos whilst listening and i’ll catch a snippet of pointed wisdom exchanged between Aslan and Lucy Pevensie…causing me to stop right in my tracks affected by the wonder of needed words from a talking beast.  and then there are the road trips…..our sweat family of 5 fitting nicely into our 5-seater gallivanting along the highway for a lovely 8 hours-i can almost picture it….almost.  Rather, our cantankerous family of 5 crammed into our 5-seater and Radio Theatre turns a grueling 8 hours into something bearable!

 

Snow Crystal ImageSnowflake Bentley:  after a trip to the library one cold wintery day we sat to read this children’s book Bentley was a Vermont farmer who took pictures of snowflakes.  he died in 1931.   He Took Pictures of Snowflakes! In the 1920′s! There is a most wonderful gift shop including a book containing his more than 2400 images of snowflakes and frost!

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley 1925

One year i custom ordered some matted Lantern Slide Prints  with the quote “Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated.” (similar to this only with one snowflake.) Mine is framed hanging in the bathroom-to remind all who enter of the One who fearfully and wonderfully created the snowflake…..and created them!

 

Infant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Infant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Hubble Telescope images:  There is nothing that reminds me of my smallness and the wonder of a God who has both numbered the stars and the hairs on my head like images from the Hubble Telescope does.  You can even download and print some of the pictures for free!

 

famFamily Favorite’s CD:  Every year the 5 of us gather up our favorite songs and put together a CD.  We are currently in progress weeding out for our individual top 5 (there’s usually room for 20-22.)  There are a couple of us (ahem) who have enough to fill the CD themselves, and so the others help by indicating which ones they hate don’t care for.  In a way it becomes a snapshot of where we’ve all been in a year.  I marvel at our ability to still make this work  and i marvel at the places of Wonder the playlist takes me.  So this isn’t one you could purchase, but you could make your own!

 For more inspiration, head over to Emily Freeman’s blog for her list of Simple Gifts to Encourage the Soul.  it’s what got me thinking about Wonder-gifts in the first place.

 

disclaimer: no affiliate links or sponsors were used in this list-simply because i’ve not entered that territory in the blogosphere yet.

Restoring Wonder | Through the Fog

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in the darkness he kisses me good bye and leaves on the jet plane-he’ll be back next week and then will have some time off-yay!

a few hours later the calls begin to trickle in from school nurses everywhere and one by one my children end up home sick with a feverless flu.  in a matter of 24 hours all 4 of us remaining behind have become sick.

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i breathe deep and wave the white flag of surrender.  i argue with the voice declaring; “figures” by sitting long with Sara’s adoration….You are acquainted with grief, misunderstood Savior, formed in Mystery….  we eat ramen and crackers and popcicles.  we nap and listen to Narnia. we drink lots of water and take all the extra vitamins.   i find myself weepy over any and every single thing.   i put away the white flag and rebelliously declare; “to bed early! tomorrow everyone’s back at school!” only to find that tomorrow morning comes and my declaration was powerless to make anyone well.  and so i surrender again.

we’ve been hunkering down for a few days now, and i’ve inwardly ranted about the state of our fast-paced culture, the demands of work and school, the junk food we ate last weekend, the running that never happened, grasping at something, anything i can direct blame to for yet another bout of illness for the umpteenth time.  finally i come to the end of myself…..i‘m done.  i surrender trying to figure it all out and do all the healthy things-if i’m gonna do something healthy it’s gonna be just because it’s the right thing to do-not to keep us from getting sick cause i just have no control over that.

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eventually they will all return to school and i will be here alone.  and i will miss them.

it all feels like a curse and i just want off the rat race-but i’m not in any frame of mind for any clear thinking.

my body is full of sickness-and i am depressed about it.

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and then….we begin to exit the residual sick-brain fog enough to gather around for our advent devotions-one decides to dim the lights and light the candles.  we’re behind so we formulate a catch-up plan taking 2 days at a time.

the wonder of all wonders begins to happen in a candle-lit living room of recovering sick-heads and their grasping for a catch-up plan

two stories back to back;
abraham and sarah-laughter at the gift of isaac
abraham and isaac-and the sacrifice God asked.

we close the book and think on it all.

“Wow, how quickly life goes from laughter to sorrow back to laughter again.” “How must it have felt to look up and see that ram?” ….we can imagine it….. “he got his life back.” says one.  “I would celebrate everyday if i was him.” says another

All of a sudden i’ve become Charlie Brown; “That’s It!”

This is Christmas!  We got our lives back!  Christ came!  This is why He came!

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and then-lo and behold-a chorus begins to play in my head;

 Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

whatever form of living under the curse i happen to be in at the moment-however foggy my brain happens to be-whether i feel it or know it or don’t…

the wonder of His love is that it reaches….

far as the curse is found.

 

Restoring Wonder | Lament

i’ve sat on these words for a few days now, wondering; who am i to write on suffering and lament?  there are many wiser and more qualified folk who have covered this subject well- C.S. Lewis’ A Greif Observed and Amy Carmichael’s Rose from Briar are long time favorites of mine on the subject.   The God of all Comfort-He is a Mysterious One.   but this is where i am-battling yet again for Hope and Wonder amidst deep pain and suffering and so much i don’t understand. the only thing i know to do is wrestle with the Angel-because there is no other Rock; I know not one.

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Job’s Second Test

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.   -p.492 of my Bible

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my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me?  -Jesus

 birdsdakota

Dishonesty allows my false self, the imposter who is the slick, sick, and subtle impersonator of true self, to engage in life on a fraudulent basis…..The denial, displacement, or repression of feelings is blatant dishonesty and leads to a loss of integrity.

-Brennan Manning, in his introduction to Fil Anderson’s book Running on Empty (p.xiii)

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there was this battle for hope… (so many battles for hope)

the pray-er approaching the Throne room with loud cries and supplications-that she believed with all her heart came directly from her King in the first place.  it was a real battle on another’s behalf for hope to be supernaturally supplied and a real battle to believe that her prayers were not in vain.

the appearance of things from that day are that hope mockingly laughed at the foolishness of this pray-er to believe that God prompted or heard, and even worse, hope mockingly laughed at the one prayed for-the one suffering terribly already-that she would trust this pray-er’s words and believe that God would respond with comfort and a glimpse of Himself.

Sometimes our Faithful One says yes to the sifting and no to the cry for release.

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i don’t know if Job ever sinned in his suffering.  i do know that Jesus never sinned in His.

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with toddlers underfoot my days were often spent chuckling whilst wrestling one into time-out because of their wailing and kicking over not getting their way.

if not for the honest lament, i would not have been able to address the selfishness.

those days also found me wrestling with one wailing and kicking because his broken nervous system could not process the air touching his skin-these were cries for relief from horrible pain.  again, if not for the honest lament, i would not have known to seek help for his suffering.

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like my children, some of my laments are shallow and immature-stemming from a root sin of selfishness and pride. and some of my laments are deep and mature, stemming from a root of utter fear of the One whose love i’ve trusted will not fail.

either way…..

I want to see miracles, to see the world change
I’ve wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
and I’m not copping out, not copping out…..
Cause You’re raising the dead in me

-Switchfoot-Twenty-Four

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The Lord delights in those who fear Him; who put their hope in His unfailing love…..

sometimes i think Hope looks a little like Lament…..

Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of
Your Unfailing Love.

 

To draw further in…. Psalm 22; 40; 42:7-11; 44:23-26; 103; Lamentations 3

 

 

 

 

for understanding | pursuit

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Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.

 the door slams and i start washing the dishes. the tension is thick and i think to myself, no one is feeling very safe or very loved right now.  how can a fortress provide refuge if the battle is inside its walls?

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 i stew in all the ways that i am right and have been offended.  as is often the case with these dishes of mine, the Spirit begins to stir within and i’m told to pursue.  to seek out.  to walk the path to where she is hiding out.  and i’m reminded of all that i do not know and all that i long for our home to provide to it’s inhabitants and all the ways it doesn’t.

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and so i walk the path and do not expect the tears i find.  we walk the path back together with dad (who is so logical and steady) and talk it all through and at the end we have come to understand each other (related to this particular issue anyway) and it makes all the difference.

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i too am hiding away in my pain and grief related to this season and all the ways we’ve failed eachother.  and He pursues.  He walks the path towards me and together, my Steady One and i talk it all through…..

i’ve attempted all the things, but all the things appear to be no match for the wounds from without or the wounds from my own sins.  my misjudgments (read misunderstandings), my leanancy when strictness was called for and my strictness when tender mercy was called for.

You have said i’ve been redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to me from my forefathers.  -1peter 1:18

and i resolved not to hand down an empty way of life to my kids.  but deep within i fear that is the very thing i’ve handed down.  which leads me to wonder;

what is it that makes a life empty?
what is it that makes a life full?

it is not perishable things that redeem, it is only the blood of Jesus and i too am helpless in the handing of  that down…..except for a demonstration of my own neediness for it, of our neediness for it.

this is what these teen years have been revealing to me-the wounds have not been covered by all the things, even the good and obedient things.  they can only be covered by Christ’s blood. 

oh Father, that she would…..that we all would …feel safe and feel loved…

in You.

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……and i begin to understand the One who Pursues. …and this One who Pursues provides understanding.

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days later we’re all crammed together working at this workhorse of a kitchen table.  with papers strewn between us, this Pursuing One breathes hope and i am overcome with perplexity and gratitude.  in this moment, amidst this mundane, she grasps my true heart towards her and speaks it forth.  in her words, i grasp her true heart towards mine and my heart swells with the joy found amidst papers and assignments and drudgery.

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oh my Lord-

i have beheld Your Glory.

for understanding | charactor

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Sifting through the pains of my recent influx of misunderstandings, i am becoming aware of the sting related to having my words misinterpreted from a deficient knowledge of my character.
and then there is the deeper pain of having my character misinterpreted because of misunderstanding my words or my actions, my absence of words or my absence of actions.

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i’ve found myself in some difficult passages of scripture lately and this is how things went the other day;

me: ranting and raving about how what i’m reading seems so cruel.

Christ-do you see how you are misunderstanding Me?

me: oof….sigh

here i am allowing my confusion to lead me into questioning the Faithful One’s character.  and so it goes with everyone else.  i do this to others and they do it to me and it hurts.

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some source this quote to Plato, others to Ian MacLaren (http://quoteinvestigator.com)

the Word made flesh has invited me to view His word through what I know of His Character rather than view His character through what i’m struggling with in His word.

and he’s offering me salve for the wounds i’m carrying; that pain when people think bad things about me because I’ve made their favor my goal.

Come now, My love. My lovely one, come.
Come to Me, My weary, My burdened one, come.

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your soul.

to draw further in: Isaiah 43; Matthew 11:28-30; Song of Songs 2:10-14(NJB)

for understanding | composition

Her eyes give away the anxiousness mixed with anticipation.  in her thoughts she reminds herself that her God is both good and sovereign and can be trusted with what He gives and where He leads.

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Photo taken at a Quilt Show in 2011. I do not know the artist’s name.

composing  those words and this picture amidst a scene of other excited travelers embarking on a wonderful week-long artist retreat in Normandy France  would carry the statements about God into a specific place in a receiver’s heart.

composing those words and this picture amidst a scene of bomb-destroyed rubble and other weary and frightened travelers embarking on a long journey to a refugee camp would carry the statements about God into a very different place in the receiver’s heart.

same words, same picture.  different understanding.

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the places that the Lord is inviting me- you know, those places of feeling inept, the pain of being misunderstood, of struggling with communication.  i have become aware of a myriad of ways this is playing out in my life these days.  Providentially showing up it seems everywhere i turn.  and so my Father has my attention and i am seeing various places for tearing down idols and building up strength in Him.  so here i am with another unplanned series.

today is a lesson in composition.

i have mastered enough of the English language to effectively use words to communicate.

however, that composition thing-the way words filter in through the composition of a person’s life and land where they will within that- Jesus alone is master of the skill of weaving words perfectly and personally, getting to the individual heart of things.   He is also the master of the skill of giving enough detail in such a way to gain understanding.   me-i am inept at all of that.  and so if anything i say is to be understood the way it is meant to be understood-He will have to intervene.  and if anything i say is to be understood the way HE means it to be, He will have to intervene there too.

…”for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

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and so the Master Communicator invites me to pray over my words….

….and then release them into His capable hands.

growing quiet

sky and trees

i sit amongst a group of folks and attempt to share a glimpse of hope from my tender Father.  the response is clear-they don’t get it. in fact what they hear is completely opposite of what i am actually saying.    it’s important to me, so i try again.  i give it a third go.   driving home, sifting down the frustration  and i can name it-misunderstood.

i resolve that i must be inept and unable to communicate.  and so i grow quiet. everywhere.

later, i’m back amongst these folks and 4 people, yep 4, share the very glimpse of hope i was attempting before and everyone, yep everyone gets it.  i resist the temptation to declare (read shout) “That’s exactly what i was saying!”  but i don’t.  instead i write in my journal-what am i going to choose to do with this?  What are You inviting me into here?

i am very well aware of the churning and battle going on that is specific to me and there is no coincidence here-this pain of misunderstanding, this awareness of my lack in communication-it is purposeful and i know the Lover of my Soul is inviting me into something other, something new.

so i do what makes the most sense for thinking deeply and processing through what is going on in my heart…..

i clean odd and random places; the drawer under the stove, the top of the fridge

i dash outside facing off that wind blowing the fall out and winter in and rescue a few branches with leaves on them…you know to decorate with.

i sit down and read one of the Anne of Green Gables books.

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Gilbert had finally made up his mind that he was going to be a doctor.

“It’s a splendid profession,” he said enthusiastically.  “A fellow has to fight something all through life…..and I want to fight disease and pain and ignorance…..I want to do my share of honest, real work in the world, Anne….add a little to the sum of human knowledge that all the good men have been accumulating since it began.  The folks who lived before me have done so much for me that I want to show my gratitude by doing something for the folks who will live after me.  It seems to me that is the only way a fellow can get square with his obligations to the race.”

“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily…..

-Anne of Avonlea p.53

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me too, Anne, me too.

 

 

food for thinking on

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God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.

-John Piper

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