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The Gift of Summer

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“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.”

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

You made summer… and gave it to the earth.

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Roots - Wings

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It's that time of year again! Time for buying school supplies, filling backpacks and waving goodbye as the bus pulls away. But, for some, like our guest writer, Heidi Zwart, the school year also means leaving her firstborn son 1,000's of miles away at college.

May all you mama's and grand-mama's be blessed by her words and by God Himself as this another school year commences.  

Don’t blink. Time flies. It’ll be over before you know it. So many clichés. But now I’m living them. Why?

My first-born just left the nest.

I swear it was yesterday I embraced Drew while we sobbed together in our kitchen after announcing our move to the East Coast. It was 5 years ago.

The day before that, I smiled as he smiled back at me for the first time… with braces. It was 7 years ago.

And just before that, I walked him to the end of the street before he stepped onto that big yellow bus for Lincoln Elementary. It was 13 years ago.

And JUST the day before,  I labored for 27 hours for a long-awaited 10 pound, 1 ounce baby boy named Andrew, who forever changed my name to mom. It was 18 years ago.

Can anyone relate?

Looking back I feel incredible joy living right alongside sadness at the moments that we’ve left behind. Some will get hazy with the passing of time while others will remain firmly locked with crystal clarity.

A few years ago, during a moment of panic about the future, a friend shared wise words with me about preparing for, enjoying, and letting go of each moment in time. Her words have carried me through the past five years and will forever guide me into the future.

Simply put, letting go is a process and we are equipped for each step. If we look too far ahead, we get overwhelmed. The truth is, we never live life as fast as we do in our own mind. Our kids don’t go from kindergarten to marriage overnight.

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Can You Hear Me Now? Supplication

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A nun I know once told me she kept begging God to take her character defects away from her. After years of this prayer, God finally got back to her: I'm not going to take anything away from you, you have to give it to me.

Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

I first crossed paths with them in the housewares department; a young dad pushing his two-year-old son in a cart with his four-year-old daughter skipping along close beside. He was obviously passing through this department on the way to his desired destination, judging by the hurried pace with which he was moving. 

As they whirred past, I overheard the little boy ask his dad if he would buy something for him, to which his father replied, “If you’re patient, I’ll stop and get some ice cream treats on our way home.”  

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I Have a Confession to Make: Confession

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Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective!

James 5:16 

As we walked through the large wooden doors into the Cathedral of the Divine Savior in Morelia, Mexico, a hushed awe fell over me. Light flooded the lofty hallways and sanctuary. A service was in progress as tardy parishioners trickled in, finding a seat in the back. I smiled thinking, “They are not unlike American parishioners, I see.”  

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Women of the Bible: A Responsive Heart - Lydia

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 Nothing is so infectious as example.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld 

Do you have role models in your life? People you look up to? People whose lives, work, attitude or actions encourage and challenge you to believe more fully and to live and love God and others more freely?

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Women of the Bible: Wave Battered Naomi...Faith-filled Ruth

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 Death, like ocean waves, surrounded me,
and I was almost swallowed by its flooding waters.

2nd Samuel 22:6  

I have heard it said that trouble comes in threes. I know it's just an old wives tale, but, oddly enough it happens from time-to-time. It's happened to me. How about you? 

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Women of the Bible: God's Cheerleader - Elizabeth

Women of the Bible: God's Cheerleader - Elizabeth

After praying and pining for a child of her own, Elizabeth had long settled it in her heart, now that her childbearing years were far behind her, that she would never experience being a mother.

But, that didn’t stop others from speculation and gossip as to the why’s and wherefores. In that day childlessness was often attributed to sin of some sort on the part of the woman.

The pain-filled stares and the whispers were not lost on Elizabeth all those years. 

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A Lenten Meditation

 A little Easter heart preparation - by Macrina Wiederkehr from her book Seasons Of Your Heart

Wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body.

2nd Corinthians 4:10 

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For the Sake of Our Children

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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the Kings horses and all the Kings men

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What is love?

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love.”

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A Sanctuary

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You are God’s sanctuary and God’s Spirit lives in you.

1st Corinthians 3:19  

I love old churches and cathedrals. 

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Sketches

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A few years back I picked up a sketchbook and began what I call ‘chicken-scratching.’ My little doodles are nothing to write home about, but, I do so enjoy it. I have one little book filled with drawings of flowers and leaves. But, while staying up in the woods at the prayer cabin last November, I decided to try my hand at something a bit more difficult.

After trekking through the woods looking for just the right subjects to try my hand at, I shot a few photos and then headed back to the cabin to give it a go.  

Recently I showed my sketch to a friend of mine. She couldn’t make out what in the world it was. That made me laugh out loud! “I guess you’re not looking at the next van Gogh, then,” I said with a wink.  

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Waiting: A New Years Quiet Time Devotional

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Take some time to sit quietly. Allow your spirit to settle. Savor this opportunity to be still in God’s presence.

Have a journal and pen or pencil ready to jot down any thoughts that come to you during your time together.

Ask Him to hush any stray thoughts that may distract you from hearing His still small voice. And ask the Spirit to give you an open, responsive heart that you may hear all that He longs to say to you today. 

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A Conspiracy of Love

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The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.

George Matthew Adams, The Christmas Heart 

 “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

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Keeping Vigil: A Christmas Quiet Time Devotional

Keeping Vigil: A Christmas Quiet Time Devotional

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Before you get started, take a few minutes to quiet your spirit.

Close your eyes and take some slow, deep breaths. Imagine laying every burden and all of those holiday pressures at Jesus’s feet.

Be sure that you are in a comfortable position that allows your heart to be most attentive to His voice. Try to make that space as interruption-free as possible. It should be a set-apart place where you enter, as it were, the Holy of Holies to meet with your Savior.

Ask Jesus to clear away any stray thoughts that may distract you from truly meeting with Him - in order hear all of the things that He has on His heart to say to you today.

Open your journal and have your pen/pencil ready.

 

When you sense a readiness in your soul...read the passages below slowly.

 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the one who looks for him. It is good that one should be quiet and wait patiently for the Lord’s salvation.

Lamentations 3:25-26

 

When eight days had passed, Jesus’ parents circumcised him and gave him the name Jesus. This was the name given to him by the angel before he was conceived.

When the time came for Mary and Joseph to do the things the Law of Moses taught about being pure, they brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a righteous man devoted to God, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. He was waiting in prayerful expectancy for the time when God would come to help Israel. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Messiah.

Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area; so, when Mary and Joseph arrived to present the baby Jesus to the Lord in obedience to the law, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, and said,

“Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant, die in peace as you promised. For I have seen with my own eyes how you will save your people. Now all people can see your plan. He is a light to show your way to the other nations and he will bring honor to your people Israel.”

Luke 2:21, 22, 25-32

Now Anna, a prophetess, was also there. She was very old, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow for 84 years. She never left the Temple, but continued to worship there night and day with times of fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for redemption in Jerusalem.

Luke 2:36-38

Whoever waits at my door and listens for me will be blessed.

Proverbs 8:34

  • Now, go back and read the passage again. As you do, be aware of any phrases that tug at your heart. You may want to write those phrases down.
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Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Quiet Time Devotional

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One of my favorite ways to spend time with the Savior is to sit quietly reading his love letter, the Bible, using the slow, meditative approach known as Lectio Divina. Lectio divina means divine or sacred reading in Latin. It is a quiet, prayerful practice where we invite the Holy Spirit to open the ears of our hearts in order to hear God's still small voice speaking to us through His Word. It is not a discipline meant to master the Word or to acquire new information or knowledge, it is what Henri Nouwen calls, reading the Bible on your knees...where we allow the Word to descend from our minds into our hearts and become a personal word to us

Using the lectio divina method, then, we will be reading the following Bible passage several times, each time with a different intent. 

Before you get started, however, take a few minutes to quiet your spirit.  

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Be The YOU God Made You To Be!

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I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made...

Psalm 139:13 

I wish that I was quick-thinking, or had a quick wit, or was just plain quick. I’m afraid I am a bit of a plodder. More turtle than hare. Slow, but, steady. Studious. Strategic. Prefer a good book to a big crowd. Always have...and at nearly 57 years of age...probably always will. 

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Listening to the Voice of Fear

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13 2Moses sent out men to explore the land of Canaan... 25after exploring the land for forty days, the men returned. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. 27This was their report: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. 28But...the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified!

30 Caleb tried to quiet the murmur amongst the people saying, “We must go...because we are more than able to do it!" 31But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go..." 32So they began spreading this bad report: The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. 33We even saw giants there.”

14 1Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest...

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Passion

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Whatever you do, do it with all your heart for the Lord...

Colossians 3:23 

What are you really passionate about? How would you describe the feeling you have when you are living out your passion?  

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Recent Comments
Guest — Laura Bonne
I needed that "kick" today. Thank you, Julie.
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 08:27
Julie Miller
Oh Laura! Isn't it amazingly wonderful how God gives us just what we need? Hugs to you!
Friday, 31 October 2014 11:48
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Muddied Waters

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In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, I will flee!’ (I’ve got places to go and people to see!)

Yet the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love...

Blessed are all who wait for him!

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Forgetful Jones

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 My heart...is full of leaks.

My memory has no retention,

I forget so easily the lessons learned,

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Guest — Sherry Carter
Forgetful Jones - I forgot about him from my Sesame Street watching days. I forget everything. I forget to do things and, occasio... Read More
Monday, 06 October 2014 17:35
Julie Miller
So good to know that I am not the only Forgetful Jones out there Sherry! ... Read More
Monday, 06 October 2014 18:16
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Hidden Potential

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For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.

Cynthia Occelli 

I planted Allium bulbs this past weekend. I’m so excited! If all goes well, large purple globes and petite blue orbs will greet me next spring. 

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Recent Comments
Guest — Debbie Croft
Beautiful and so true. Great spiritual analogy.
Saturday, 11 October 2014 13:50
Julie Miller
Thank you Debbie! So glad you could spend a few minutes with me today!... Read More
Monday, 13 October 2014 16:42
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Drowning

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I have come into the deep waters–the floods engulf me. I am worn out from calling for help! Do not let the flood waters engulf me or the depths swallow me up.

Psalm 69:1-2, 5

I woke up with a start. Sweat beaded my brow. My heart was racing. My arms aimlessly beat the air. The nightmare seemed so real that my bed and surroundings did not. I blinked in the darkness trying to get my bearings.

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An Ode to September

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Be joyful in the Lord your God. For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains come. The threshing floors will be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil.

Joel 2:23-24

The Gifts of Autumn 

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Wendy Macdonald
Julie, you've chosen such beautiful pictures and quotes to usher in autumn. I love the gentleness of this season. Blessings ~ Wen... Read More
Thursday, 04 September 2014 22:45
Julie Miller
Me, too, Wendy!
Monday, 08 September 2014 14:02
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Dream a Little Dream

In the last days I will send My Spirit on all people. Then your sons and daughters will speak God’s Word. Your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. Yes, on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28-29

 

The Christian church has tended to forget the religious value of dreams.

Morton Kelsey: Dreams: A Way to Listen to God

 

I’ve been slowly making my way through the book of Ezekiel this summer. It’s not a book of the Bible most folks spend a lot of time in. One reason for this is all of the supernatural visions and dreams that Ezekiel has. They can be very confusing to understand.

 

Stuart Briscoe wrote a book years back based on Ezekiel, titled “All Things Weird and Wonderful.” I like that title! It is precisely because it is weird and wonderful that I was drawn to sit down with it for a spell.

 

I determined from the get-go, however, not to read it analytically, like we Americans tend to do with almost everything. Instead, I took my reading cue from Jesus, who said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Children accept things at face value. They are neither put off by fairy tale images nor do they try to relegate those images to hard, discernable facts. They get swept away in the imagery, as if they were there in the story experiencing it for themselves. That’s what I wanted to do.

 

So, with a child-heart I began my adventure.

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Recent Comments
Barbara
Your experience with this book demonstrates that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for c... Read More
Monday, 01 September 2014 07:56
Julie Miller
It sure does, Bruce!!
Monday, 08 September 2014 14:03
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  • Julie

    Julie

    I’m turning 62 this year. I can hardly believe it myself. But, I’ve decided that I no longer want to live comfortably. I want to live with a spirit of adventure like I had in the past. To be unafraid of what’s new or different. I want to remain so open to the Spirit of the living God that his love compels me to go wherever he leads me.
  • LuAnn

    LuAnn

    I am passionate about people leaning into all that Jesus is. You. Me. Us. Journeying together with God. This is my greatest blessing. And now that my kiddos are out on their own, I’m learning to navigate my new normal. And I am finding there is life after little ones and teens after all!
  • Emilie

    Emilie

    I am currently finishing my degree in relational communications and plan to graduate in the spring of 2020!! I am thankful I have had time to grow, heal, appreciate a slower pace of living, and to invest more time into relationships with family, friends, and God. Through this process I am learning what I want to prioritize in my life and figuring out ways to make that happen. Most of all, I am figuring out that life is all about process, taking steps closer to where I want to be and celebrating the little victories but also accepting that there will be setbacks and disappointments along the way.
  • Sally

    Sally

    Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.
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