Father, thank you for all the goodness of your creation that surrounds us. Please help us see all the beauty in our world.

Thank you for all you do to protect and provide for us, your children. Please be always our leader and King, our advisor and friend.

Help us follow the guidance of your Spirit as we learn to live and grow in peace. Help us help others by giving generously with care and compassion.

Be with us always to show us your ways, and teach us to show others your love. Thank you for the love of your Son who promises eternal life in your presence.

We love you, and we ask you to help us remember how blessed we are to share life in this country.

Amen.

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“What is that supposed to be?”

We stopped before a crooked metal staircase that stretched up into nowhere. The plaque on the base read, “Where We Goin’?” and “Please do not climb on sculptures.” For a moment we contemplated the mysterious meaning of the twisted metal. I snapped a picture, then we moved on.

 

This morning the wind blew gently, stirring the leafy branches of the trees and the waving stalks of grass. The breeze blew mist toward us from the fountain in the center of the lake. Birds called overhead, and a blue heron watched us from where he stood in the water.

This morning I walked with my daughter, around and around the lake on a winding, narrow path. We walked through bright and sunny spots, alternated with shadowed and shady areas. We enjoyed the cool morning air, the warming summer sun, the sounds and scents of trees and water. We contemplated the towering metal sculptures that stood beside the lake’s circling path, and we enjoyed the time we set aside to spend together.

I love these leisurely walks with my family or longer wanderings by myself. A walk allows me to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, birds and flowers, trees and grass. Walking reminds me to be grateful for the grace of seasonal changes, sky and sun, wind and earth.

A walk clears my head, awakens my thoughts, clears a way for new ideas and inspiration. Walking allows me time to think, consider my purpose, and wonder where my path is taking me.

A walk with someone I care about offers a time for reconnection and conversation, sharing where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing, or just commenting on the world that turns around us.

“Look, there’s a ground squirrel.”

“Where?”

“He’s gone.”

Walking makes me feel alive and grateful for all the world has to offer. A walk encourages me to commune with the God who created that world and gives us the power and freedom of movement to enjoy it.

This morning, I encourage you to take a walk with someone you love. Find a way to step outside and enjoy the brilliance God has given us to share.

For information on the physical and emotional health benefits of walking, click here or here. For tips on beginning a walking program, check here; or for a plan on losing weight by walking, try here.

How can you enjoy a walk on this summer day? What is your favorite aspect of taking a walk outdoors?

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This morning I am giving thanks for all the blessings of my life, and I am considering how I can best use this day.

Today I am thankful for warming summer breezes, blooming flowers, and sheltering trees.

I am thankful for the love of family and the support of friends who share my life.

I am thankful for receiving all I need and possessing an excess to share with others.

I am thankful for the protection of God’s love and the knowledge that he is ever with me.

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:29).

Today I can pray for someone besides myself and ask God to share his comfort, courage, and peace.

I can meet someone else’s need by sharing what I have and showing my compassion for others’ troubles and cares.

I can leave my comfortable, safe places to meet others in need wherever they may be.

I can encourage my friends with positive words and wishes for their success.

I am thankful for you! Thank you for reading these words and sharing my goal to support and strengthen others.

What are you thankful for today? How can you use this day to comfort and inspire someone in need?

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“Are we there yet?”

Two years ago, my husband planned a romantic weekend getaway at a bed and breakfast in the heavily-forested corner of our state. He found the destination online, made the reservations, GPS’d the route that would take us to our secluded getaway. We packed the car and struck out for a few days of rest and relaxation.

But something went wrong. The GPS route took us on miles of out-of-the-way winding and wandering roads.  We cruised through darkened, mysterious forests and unexplored, dusty trails. We steered the car through steeply twisting paths, over green hills, down dark valleys, and around sharp turns. We passed abandoned, unpainted barns and tilting, empty houses. Gravel roads pinged the car with scattered stones. We drove around the countryside for miles, always following the curvy blue line on the GPS screen, but seemingly getting no closer to our destination.

“Are we there yet?”

Sometimes our lives lead us on long and winding roads and across unbeaten paths. We circle back and loop around through the curves and redirections, all the while worrying about where we are headed and wondering when we will ever arrive.

On that long and wandering drive, I could have complained about the endless delay, the bumpy roads, the flying gravel dust. I could have fretted about the desolation and isolation of our path, the long suspense of waiting to find a functioning bathroom. Instead, what I remember now is the beautiful scenery: the green, shading trees and fields of blooming wildflowers, the grazing deer and soaring birds, the interesting old barns and spooky, empty houses. When we finally arrived at the secluded B&B, we felt more grateful for the welcoming room, the comfortable bed, and the wonderfully functional bath.

We can complain about the unexpected twists and turns our lives may take, worry about frustrating delays, fret about arrival times, argue about the best and most efficient way to proceed. Or we can relax and enjoy the ride, watch the passing scenery, appreciate the beauty of God’s creation that surrounds us. We can choose to be happy and grateful for the time we spend traveling together; and when we arrive at our destination, we will be more aware of the warm and welcoming greeting that awaits us.

What road are you traveling this spring? How do you appreciate and enjoy your journey?

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On a gray and rainy day in a dark and drizzly week, all I wanted to do was retreat to the sofa with a book and a blanket. All the cold and damp aggravated my old knee injury, so just hobbling to my desk seemed like too much effort. All I wanted to do was curl up in a cocoon on the couch.

Instead, I called Terra, a former coworker, and asked her to meet for lunch. I braved the tempest and limped through the crowded Chinese restaurant. We ate beef and broccoli while Terra told me about the breakup of her marriage, her upcoming move to a new city, the medical problem that put her in the hospital for two days.

“But I’m not crying anymore,” Terra said. She shook off her slump and again became the cheerful and positive friend I worked with years ago. “I know God is taking care of me. God will work it out.”

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

On that cold and dreary day, I was reminded that my aching knee is not the only pain in the world. My story is only one of many stories. God hears every prayer, and he knows every concern. Each day he offers me a new opportunity to choose joy in the life I am given, look for the reasons I have to be grateful, trust in him for the resolution of the future, and care for someone else within my reach.

Leaving my cozy and comfortable home reminds me of my purpose: to reach out and connect with friends, offer companionship and support on our shared journey, spread cheer and encouragement wherever I am able. When I trust that God is taking care of me, I am free to forget my small problems and focus on caring for others instead.

When we choose to confront each new day with joy, give thanks for all we are given, and love others we meet on the way; then the drizzle becomes less dreary, and the sun begins to break through the clouds.

How will you face the new day the Lord has made? How do you rejoice and give thanks for God’s care?

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“Abby is giving henna tattoos in the cafeteria after yoga class!”

We moved through tree pose and downward dog, then rolled our mats and hurried to the cafeteria.

The big room echoed with the voices of a few scattered groups sitting around at tables. The dimmed lights made the atmosphere calm and serene while Abby patiently painted brown henna dye onto offered forearms and hands.

For me she designed playful paisleys and sunbursts. My daughter requested a blooming flower surrounded by swirling waves. While Abby worked on my daughter’s design, I chatted with Hank.

My daughter and I had attended this women’s nature retreat together for two years. We hiked in the woods and watched for birds in the treetops, stretched and twisted through yoga class, aimed arrows toward paper targets, roasted marshmallows over the late-night bonfire. Hank, my favorite workshop instructor, had led the birdwatching hikes.

As we talked over tea cups in the cafeteria, Hank told me about his health problems, his wedding anniversary, and the appreciation for family and friends he developed as he grew older.

“Enjoy your life while you can,” he told me. “Enjoy your partner while you can. You never know how much time you have left.”

Abbey finished her work on my daughter’s arm. I thanked Hank and said good-night, left my cup in the kitchen window, and retreated to our cabin for the night.

It occurred to me that I may not return to the nature retreat next fall. I may never sit and chat with Hank again. That evening’s talk in the cafeteria may be the last conversation he and I will share.

In the morning we packed the car and headed home. The henna dye had cracked and crumbled. The dust washed off in that night’s shower. The red markings that remained gradually faded through the next week of washings.

“You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Our lives are like henna tattoos, beautiful designs lovingly crafted and carefully painted into place, destined to give temporary joy before fading into memory. Our lives are as beautiful and brief as flowers that fall in the field, clouds that skim across the sky, waves that break and churn upon the shore.

“Enjoy your life while you can. You never know how much time you have left.”

We cannot know how long we have to share with the people who improve our world. All we can do is decide to be grateful and choose to enjoy the special moments and companions while we have them.

Today when we pray, I encourage my friends to give thanks for every moment of our short and amazing existence.

Thank God for every minute we spend with people who encourage and cheer us.  Appreciate conversations shared over teacups, wisdom offered and welcomed, and every chance to speak positive words into someone else’s life.

Thank God for beauty of trees and birds, clouds and sky, made more precious because we know this world around us is constantly changing.

Thank God for opportunities to help others and share, for the privilege of praying for the people we love, and the time we can spend enriching someone else’s experience.

Thank God for the unique abilities he has given to each one of us, for all the talents he entrusts us to invest, and for every cherished gift that blesses our days.

I thank God you are reading today and I pray you will remember that every life is a work of art. We are all merely the creations of God’s generous and loving hands.

What do you have to thank God for today? How can you be grateful and appreciate each beautiful moment of your amazing life?

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While I silently grumbled about having to clean these footprints from my white tile floor, I realized these marks, tracked in from the wintry outdoors, give me a reminder of my many reasons to be grateful.

Footprints on my floor are evidence I have someone else to come home to and share my life with. Muddy floors show my house is lived in and filled with friendship.

Dirty dishes to wash every day show I have enough food to eat, a filled pantry and refrigerator, a nearby grocery store and enough money to buy more when I need to.

Some crusty stuff on the stovetop records a history of delicious food prepared and shared around the dining room table, with people I value and love.

My basket of dirty laundry says I have enough clothing to keep me warm and the freedom to dress and express myself anyway I want.

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we will be content”

(1 Timothy 6:6-8).

The bathroom to scrub each week makes me especially thankful for indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water, soap, and clean towels.

My life is sometimes messy. My floors go unmopped, and my to-do list is never done. My days get crazy-busy, and my schedule is complicated. My life is sometimes imperfect, but always perfectly amazing.

Today I am grateful for my busy, messy life and the people who are busy and messy with me.

What is your evidence of a life well-lived? How does God remind you to be grateful for your crazy, messy, and amazing home?

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