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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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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“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Today may you possess the confidence that comes from knowing you are valuable to God.

May you feel the certainty that God is watching over you always.

May you believe you are capable of all things through Christ who gives you strength.

May you daily be aware of the God who holds you lovingly in his care.

Today I pray you know the peace of God’s presence and feel his unwavering love. Know that you are the cherished child of our Father in Heaven.

Amen.

What are you praying for today? How do you recognize the peace that faith in God gives?

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I have been back at the sewing machine. The hum of the needle feels peaceful and relaxing. I am rewarded when the pieces I’ve patiently cut from old pajama pants come together to form a new and original finished piece.

My pattern of choice is usually boxy squares. The straight lines are easy to sew, and my projects fly together quickly. I realize my preference for squares indicates a need to fill my life with neatly arranged corners and angles. Random sizes and shapes of material are cut down into manageable blocks that neatly stack and form straight corridors. My masterpiece of quiltwork included old sweatshirts and nightgowns and now covers the daybed in my office.

God does similar work within our lives. He disassembles the worn and ragged areas, cuts away the excess borders that no longer work or fit. He rearranges the pieces to form a new and original pattern, then he carefully stitches us together again to form a greater and more colorful whole. God uses the scraps that would be discarded by others, and recreates our lives into something useful, new, and beautiful.

When we allow God to shape the fabric of our existence, he makes our lives more manageable. He forms the straight lights and corridors that lead us where he wants us to go. Under God’s constructive hands, everyone can be remade with a new purpose: to warm, embrace and comfort others, to cover with softness the others in our care.

We are all like quilts, and God is our Creator. He cuts the pattern and places the pieces into his great and masterful design.

 

How has your life been remade in God’s hands? How have you become a new and useful masterpiece?

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