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The crowd pressed around the little table, everyone nudging, leaning, and reaching. The organizers of this event had wrapped dozens of donated books in plain brown paper and labeled them with short descriptions of the stories concealed inside: “Shirtless men with swords,” “Rich people problems $,” “Rare eye disease vs. power of love.” I selected “For when you have to flee the city due to the zombie apocalypse,” and escaped the mob.

We chose our books based on the scantily-worded descriptions, not knowing what we had gotten until we slipped away and peeled off the paper to reveal the history, mystery, or fantasy concealed inside. With only a few clues, we made a decision and trusted we would enjoy the story that ended up in our hands.

So many times in our lives we make choices based on a few scarcely-revealed details: “Romantic marriage proposal,” “Exciting career opportunity,” “A stranger needs our help.” We have to choose a path and trust that our decisions will lead us to a happy ending.

We cannot know how our story ends until we open the package and uncover the story beneath. Faith means facing the unknown with trust and excitement instead of fear and uncertainty about the future. It is receiving what we’re given with the belief that God always knows the outcome, and he will place the right volume into our hands.

In the car I opened my “zombie apocalypse” package and found Scott and Helen Nearing’s The Good Life, the true story of a couple who left New York during the Great Depression and moved to a farm in Vermont. The Nearings dug their gardens and built their stone house by hand. They didn’t know what to expect when they left the city, but their books tells the story of the great future they found.

And it reminds me that sometimes we come to the table expecting an apocalypse and discover the good life instead.

What surprise are you unwrapping today? How do you feel about the story that awaits you?

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My daughter and I created our own “On the Edge” masterpieces at one of those “paint your own” places, where a young instructor in paint-spattered sneakers patiently prompted us through the steps. I dried the surface with a hairdryer, then carefully carried the canvas home and hung it on my office wall. It reminds me that when darkness looms and storm winds blow, God remains unmoved. It is by faith that we cling to him and his promises.

When tempests howl and threaten to throw us down from our foundations, there are a few things we can do to stand strong on our faith in God.

Pray. Sometimes it is difficult to praise God in the midst of our troubles, but the Bible says we should thank God for our challenges because hard times increase our strength. Trials produce patience and prepare us for greater work to come.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Help others. When it seems hardest for us to move forward, it is time to reach out and lift up another person who is struggling. When we know we have people counting on our help, we are given new purpose and reason to forge ahead.

“Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Trust God. When we feel burdened with worry and uncertainty, we can know that God holds every outcome in his hands. We can choose to believe that everything happens for a reason and every circumstance offers us a lesson to be learned.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Believe we are loved. Despite the concerns and struggles of our lives, God’s word declares his unending love and compassion for all people. No matter the depth of the problems we face, we know we cannot be separated from the love of God.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39).

Throughout the storms that batter our lives; through death, divorce, disaster, or crushing disappointment; through every time and season of tempest or turmoil, God is ever-present. His love is always promised, and his faithfulness never fails.

Today I pray you hold tightly to the faith that holds us in return.

What helps you hold onto your faith in God? How do you know you have a firm foundation in him?

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Today I pray that you greet each changing season of your life with grace and hope for the future.

May you know that God is with you through warm and sunny days or dark and chilly nights.

May you always reveal your best and brightest colors.

May you feel the comfort and warmth of God’s presence and the support of people you love.

This autumn season, I pray that you move forward into a rich and rewarding time of fulfillment and joy.

What are your prayers for this fall? How do you display your colors to the world?

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Growing up in a small town, I made a weekly walk up a steep hill, through broiling summer sun or chilling autumn air, to a place that was, for me, an escape and solace from the world outside – the public library. In the peace and quiet of the old library building I could hide behind the shelves of science fiction paperbacks and read all the Ray Bradbury books I wanted. I have learned a bit about life through years of regular library visits.

Be quiet and listen. Before cell phones, libraries were peaceful oases of furtive whispers, shuffling feet, and rustling pages. I learned to recognize other regulars by their murmuring voices and stifled coughs. We discover more about other people when we are receptive and observant. When we stop talking and simply listen, we hear more of what others have to communicate.

Learning is active. Before the Internet and cable TV, I had to pull a book off a shelf, crack open the cover, and spend hours reading words from a page. I learned to critically consider what I read, draw my own conclusions, and apply new information to my own situation. True knowledge requires effort. We should not passively accept whatever we are told; but we are capable of forming our own thoughts, considering the alternatives, and making our own decisions.

Everyone is welcome. Before Facebook and social media, the library was a public living room where I could meet up with friends and help each other with our homework assignments. I learned to ask questions and explore new ideas. True community should be available to everyone regardless of socioeconomic standing, background, or belief system. To grow in understanding and compassion, we have to connect with others, build friendships, and share our resources.

Today I live in a larger city, and I drive to the library a few miles from my home. The automatic doors swing open to greet me, computer kiosks wait to check out my books, but the library remains largely unchanged. In the quiet and comfortable atmosphere, I am always ready to learn something new.

What have you learned from listening to others in your community? How do your share your resources to encourage each other?

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The automatic doors whooshed open, and we walked inside the glass dome. The air felt heavy and humid. Voices hushed and murmured. Despite the general peace and quiet under the sparkling dome, the botanical garden had much to teach about the colorful abundance and orderly chaos of life.

Reach for the light. The flowers in the garden turn their blooms toward the sun and rise slowly upward from the ground. The trees are always striving from the darkness of the earth toward the brightness of the sky. In life, we grow when we look up. We have to keep stretching skyward, always reaching toward a better life and a brighter atmosphere.  

Have deep roots. Tall trees and shrubs spread their root systems downward to hold them firmly in place. The taller the tree reaches, the farther its roots spread beneath, and the stronger the trunk will stand. The values we practice and the beliefs we hold will secure us firmly when storms rage and winds blow. The higher we want to go, the stronger and deeper our foundations need to be.

Hold on to what you love. Vines entwine great tree trunks and climb forever upwards with their support. Their clinging branches need something to support them as they seek for higher ground. We all need others to hold us up and help us reach our highest purpose. When we find the causes and people that give our lives meaning, we need to wrap them tight and hold them close.

But know when to let go. The earth turns, the air cools, and trees lose their once-green leaves. Seasons of growth and change are part of the natural progression of life. We need to recognize when old situations or relationships are no longer helping us learn. Sometimes we will have to release what we once had and move on to a new season of growth.

Be colorful. Each leaf in the botanical garden is different. Every bloom is a carefully crafted original of beauty and design. Each person is made to fulfill a different purpose within God’s vast creation. Every one of us can find her perfect place and perform her unique contribution.

The doors whooshed shut behind us when we left the garden. The trees continued reaching, flowers went on blooming without our interference. Life moves on without our constant direction or control. The earth turns at God’s command, and we can be comforted that all is safe within his hands.

 

How do you recognize the abundance of life surrounding you? Where do you go to remember the perfection of God’s creation?

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