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Posts Tagged ‘living in the present moment’

Jo 12It is a known fact in our family how much I dislike food shopping. To me, it seems such a waste of time to trail around the supermarket, trying to think of something as mundane as what to cook for dinner! So the other day, there I was, heading home from the shops yet again, feeling frustrated I had wasted so much time and eager to get back to writing, when my whole perspective was changed in an instant.

As I coasted down our street, I saw something that took my breath away. Nice and evenly spaced across the road in a little line, were a mother and father duck and eight little striped ducklings! In a seemingly nonchalant fashion, they were heading straight for the park and, no doubt from there, down the slope and into the creek. I slowed down, thinking they might hightail it back to the safety of the footpath. But no—they kept waddling right along as if they owned the entire road. With no alternative, I stopped the car completely and sat there, gaping at this little family in disbelief. There was nothing I could do but take in the moment, so I sat there grinning as I admired the serene, unhurried way they went about their business.

At that point, I noticed a man and a woman on the footpath nearby—two more real estate agents, canvassing for potential clients in our street. They seemed harassed and preoccupied, but eventually I managed to attract the woman’s attention. I smiled at her and pointed at the ducks crossing the road, a sight they had missed altogether. But the woman gave them only a cursory glance and kept moving. I felt sorry for her. What a lovely experience she had missed out on!

I went to take a photo but then realised it probably wasn’t a good thing to do while sitting in my car in the middle of our normally busy road. By then, the ducks had made it the whole way across and soon disappeared into the park. I quickly turned into our yard, then yelled to my husband to come and take a photo—but we were too late. All we could see of the ducks by then was an occasional little head bobbing above the grass, then the rear end of the mother or father duck as this little family disappeared into the creek.

Much later, I was still smiling at the beautiful little event I had witnessed. To me, it was as if it had been sent directly from God. It was as if God was saying, ‘Oh Jo, here you are, so preoccupied with things and so wishing you were doing something else that you are almost oblivious the beautiful moments right in front of your nose! How about you do life in my way and at my pace for a change?’ Here I was, thinking those real estate agents were missing out, when I myself was so unwilling to live fully in that present moment with God and to be at peace as I went about my daily tasks.

May we all learn to experience God so much more in all the small and big moments of life.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

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Jo 23I’m not the most ideal of patients. I have too many things to do and think about to be hampered by any sort of malady. At the moment, with a moon boot still decorating my left foot as a result of an ankle injury, I am unable to drive and also find it difficult to walk any great distance. So what’s to be done? I can complain and feel annoyed about the situation—or I can accept it, live in the moment and see what interesting lessons God has for me, right where I find myself, boot and all.

I try to choose the second option—most of the time! As a result, I have gained a new appreciation of the horrors those early convicts must have gone through when they found themselves with a ball and chain attached to one ankle. Granted, my moon boot isn’t anywhere near as heavy or as crippling as this device must have been. But it has made me value more the privilege I normally enjoy of being able to move about free and unfettered—and to empathise with those who have an injury or disability that truly hampers them in an ongoing way.

And I am also learning a lesson of a different kind. As I complain about having to drag my cumbersome moon boot around everywhere and move more slowly than usual, I believe God is showing me that this situation in the natural or physical realm also applies in the spiritual. What sort of other weights am I dragging around unnecessarily? What heavy, cumbersome things am I tolerating in my life that shouldn’t be there at all? At least my moon boot is hopefully helping my ankle to heal properly.  But what things am I clinging to that hinder rather than help me live the way God desires me to live?

Hmmm. … Could God be gently highlighting how much time and effort I put into worrying about this and that, even to the point of causing good things to become a burden to me? Could my lack of faith in God be holding me back in certain areas? Could my busyness be stopping me from hearing God’s voice as clearly as I used to and from knowing with deep certainty the way forward in my writing and in my life in general?

In Hebrews 12:1, after reminding us about the wonderful heroes of the faith in times past, the writer states:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Run? I couldn’t physically do that at the moment, with my moon boot. Instead, I plod along. But what about spiritually? Am I plodding through my life when I could run much more freely, unfettered by things that so often consume and entangle me and do not honour God? Why not get rid of them and, instead, trust God to enable me to scale the heights (Ps 18:33) and to provide those straight paths for my feet (Ps 27:11)?

How about you? Are you learning some spiritual lessons too from those annoying little things in your life?

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Jo 23Waiting our turn anywhere can be boring and frustrating. Yet, this past week, during a routine hospital check-up, I was challenged to react in a different way. I could choose to feel annoyed about wasting so much time, I decided, or I could opt to live in that present moment, fully seeing what God has for me to see and to learn.

Taking a deep breath, I begin to look at those around me. I notice the administrative staff as I wait at that counter. One sits staring and withdrawn at her computer, determined not to see us. Another is jolly and friendly as she talks on the phone while taking someone else’s details and keeping a general eye on things. She finally attends to me and we have a pleasant conversation about her ability to multi-task. A third worker wanders around, getting in everyone’s way. She seems to irritate the other staff, although they try not to show it. What are the dynamics here, I wonder. Why is this worker so annoying? She is older and has a thick accent. What are her personal needs? Is she lonely?

As I make it to the x-ray waiting room, an Indian woman starts chatting to me, as does her daughter. I notice an older gentleman with a glum expression sitting silently nearby. It must be his son beside him, I decide—they have the same features and profile. Yet they do not appear to be on friendly terms at all, unlike my lovely Indian lady and her daughter. As we wait, several beds with patients in them are wheeled past and parked nearby. I notice one older man lift his head from the pillow and look around as if a little frightened. No one is there to answer any questions he might have, so he closes his eyes in a resigned fashion and is still. What is his story? What is he worried about? Eventually, an African orderly comes to wheel him away. She has beautifully braided hair but looks bored and moves slowly, without even looking at her patient. What is going on in her head? Where would she rather be?

I glance around me again. So many people from so many different backgrounds and nationalities. Are they happy? Are they at peace? Do some of them at least know and love the Lord? For some reason, I remember what Jesus said when he looked at all the people who came to hear him and to be healed:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt 9:36

I don’t know these people and their stories—but the Lord does. I pray each one of them will hear his voice and follow him. I pray for joy instead of sadness, fulfilment instead of boredom, healing instead of sickness, peace in the midst of whatever is happening around them. And I repent of my frustration and my desire to be anywhere else but in the moment, seeing with God’s eyes and sensing God’s heart for those around me.

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I must admit to feeling a little nervous these past few days. You see, our younger daughter is due to have her second child, a breech baby, by caesarean this week. The date is set, but because her first child was born very quickly—in fact, while she was trying to walk from the bathroom to her bed in the hospital birthing unit—she is a little on tenterhooks with this one. She is sure the baby will not wait for that due date. So we wait and wonder. Will she make it to that planned caesarean? Or will the baby make up its own mind and opt for an earlier entry into the world?

‘I can’t wait till the new baby to be born!’ our granddaughter and the baby’s cousin told her parents recently. But, like all of us, she has to curb her impatience, hold onto that excitement and just plain wait—never easy for a seven year old.

I was reminded of another kind of waiting this past weekend when, despite the rain and a painful back, I decided to plant two seedlings I obtained for free from our local council. You see, the ground was so soft, making it easier to clear enough weeds away to enable me to dig those small holes and plant my callistemon and nandina. And the moist ground and humid weather will help my new little shrubs to survive and hopefully flourish. But it will all take time—years, in fact, before those shrubs are the size I would like them to be.

So many things in our lives require waiting, don’t they? As an author, I am well acquainted with this whole process—waiting for manuscript readers to comment, waiting for months to hear back from publishers to whom you have submitted your precious first few chapters, waiting for the whole editing process to be completed, waiting for that release date, waiting until the those copies arrive on the bookshelves in stores, waiting for reviews, waiting for those promotional opportunities … on it goes. Along with developing a thick skin, I think any author needs to work at acquiring a hefty dose of patience if he or she is going to survive in the writing world.

And what of our journey with God? As a result of working on my next non-fiction book that reflects on my own life story, I have seen how much I grew during those times of waiting on God—when I stopped to listen and learn, to observe what was happening in the now and to look to God for wisdom and insight. This ‘active waiting’, as it is sometimes described, is a skill I am still learning even now—that precious, God-given art of being ‘present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are’, as Henri Nouwen puts it. God has things to teach me right now, even as I wait for the birth of this new grandchild.

So let’s welcome those waiting periods rather than rush on. God may well be preparing us for what lies ahead. And God may even have deep and wonderful things to reveal to us as we hold our hearts open before him.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

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I’m not so good at waiting, I’ve discovered. How about you? I want this or that now. And I’m definitely not so good at living in the moment—at noticing what I have today and appreciating this particular point in time rather than feeling frustrated as I look ahead to a time that is not yet here.

I’ve discovered this with a vengeance this past week. I have been unable to do many things I normally do because of a severe lower back problem. Instead, I have had to lie down most of the time and simply wait for my specialist appointment and that operation planned for this week. Now I imagine this period of my life wouldn’t have seemed so long, except that I am in some pain. Anyway, I should be used to waiting. That is part and parcel of a writer’s life—waiting for feedback on a manuscript, waiting to find a publisher, waiting until that book is finally released. But I must confess I have become a tad impatient at times, even with those around me, sad to say, who have only been trying to help.

Then one day, I read a sobering account in Luke 19:41-44 about something that happened as Jesus was heading for Jerusalem, knowing he would die there:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and your children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

What sad, sad words! How clearly they show the depth of Jesus’ love for the people and for us. But it was his few, final, desolate words that spoke to me most. To me, they encapsulate Jesus’ deep grief that the people had missed their opportunity to know God. But they also spoke to me personally on a different level. In my frustration at having to wait this past little while and not be doing the things I want to do, was I missing something God wanted to teach me? Was I too not recognising the time of God’s coming to me?

I stopped then and reflected. I prayed and acknowledged God’s presence with me and in me. I stepped back into God, as it were, began to see things from a far different perspective—and soon realised how blessed I am. I have loving, caring, prayerful family and friends around me. I have a specialist I can access easily and a hospital I can go to. I have pain medication and a comfortable bed. But beyond all that, there are things God wants to teach me in this time—and I am so humbled. I don’t want to miss this moment in my life that may never come again. So right now, I am all eyes and ears to see and hear those reminders and revelations from our loving God.

How about you? Are you all eyes and ears too?

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