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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Show dogs are trained in gaiting --- trotting around the ring with their heads held high. Keeping the dog’s head up displays her form and motion for the judge who awards the final prize.

My dog is no show dog. On our morning walks she strains on the leash with her head down, snuffling along the pavement. She pauses at every abandoned candy wrapper and discarded cigarette, sees only the dead leaves and clumps of dried grass left withering on the sidewalk. Ahead of us rabbits leap for cover and birds flutter to higher vantage points, but my dog never notices them. She is too distracted by the clutter and garbage that litter the ground, and she misses the excitement and activity that cross our path only feet away.

Too often we keep our heads down, focused only on the road under our feet, gazing at the small patch of earth only inches ahead of our toes. We forget about the wide world, and we become unaware of the rest of life teeming just beyond our sight. We limit our perceptions and stifle our experiences when we do not raise our heads to see what lies before and around us.

I want to always be looking forward, scanning the distance for new and exciting opportunities. I want to be always fully aware of the broad and beautiful world that lies beyond my next step, and I ask God to guide me as we travel the path together. I pray I am always ready to discover all that lies behind each new horizon.

My dog is no show dog, and neither am I, but I can lift my gaze from the pavement of our daily walk and see the sights beyond my own small circle. I pray I will always examine the wider view and explore everything God puts in my way.

Have you ever limited your view of the world? How can you look beyond your immediate surroundings to perceive a broader horizon?

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