Becoming Free-Lessons from Ecclesiastes 2:11

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11

While watching my grandchildren the other day, I followed the house rules by reminding my granddaughter that her homework had to be finished before she could play. The expectation became that once she finished her school work she could expect to play. I know when growing up I had similar expectations. The expectations of completing chores may have even included a few dollars from time and time, and later when working jobs a pay check, of course, was the expected result of my toils.

From completing our school assignments to working our jobs, we place an expectation that we will receive retribution for our efforts. When checking off our goals, or seeing our first book in print. or walking that 10,000th step of the day, we can measure our efforts as successful. When we exceed sales targets, or run that marathon, or declutter those office drawers, we can feel accomplished and successful from these things. Our expectation can grow that things are what make us a success and life meaningful. The idea that it is the stuff of the world that we can expect to make us feel successful, is planted in us at a very young age from well-meaning adults (something I still catch myself doing to the ones I love).

Things are Temporary

The thing is though, that things are just temporary. That A on that exam, that one marathon, that one completed book can make us wonder what is next to achieve. We search for meaning and happiness from what we have and do. We use things expecting them to serve us instead of seeing them as gifts from God. Solomon called this endless toil for life’s pleasures as “chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). Wind passes by us just like our good feelings from our accomplishments. All is temporary.

“We use things expecting them to serve us instead of seeing them as gifts from God.”

What is Meaningful?

Celebrating our achievements, recognizing our talents and gifts, are good things, when we move our expectation from the thing itself being a means to an end. In other words, it is not in the achievements that we receive meaning. When we are no longer expectant of things to bring us meaning, our security and self-worth no-longer are dependent on our successes, accomplishments, or anything that is temporary. We become free to enjoy God’s gifts in our lives.

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Ecclesiastes 9:7

And this brings me a cheerful heart! Joy Bailey, author and project manager of Hope Connections, after just picking up first copies for final, final edits (hopefully) of Hope Connections! You can find out more about the project at Inspiring Hope In You.

What gifts from God are you enjoying today? Is there anything you are placing your time and energy into that may one day be considered as a “chasing after the wind?”

Round and Round We Go

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“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecclesiastes 1:5

Late in his life, around 935 B. C., Solomon wrote reflections that we now read in the wisdom book, Ecclesiastes. Although written approximately 3,000 years ago, his words apply as he intended for all future generations. Interestingly, we still say the sun rises and sets, even though we know now that the sun stays in place while the earth does a full rotation around the sun every 24 hours, passing through it’s light. Daily, around and around the earth spins on it’s axis, never changing it’s direction causing the sun to appear to rise in the east and set in the west.

Nothing is new under the sun.

Death is a Certainty

Round and round life goes, Solomon writes (Ecclesiastes 1:8). Anything you do will have been done again if not already done before. (9) No one will remember the generations that have been and yet to come. (1:11). You will be forgotten.

Maybe it’s because I am now in my mid-fifties that I find myself more curious about my family’s past generations. Maybe it is because I have had loved one’s pass away seemingly too soon and before the generation before them. Maybe I am questioning more what the meaning is of all this time I have left here on this side of heaven. If I take a measuring tape, and with my fingers on one hand on the number that reflects my age, and then the other hand’s fingers on the number when I think I will leave this place, I see a whole lot of tape fallen away from me, and less between my fingers. It is the less that is left.

Death is a life certainty for us all.

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Our Insatiable Search

God’s plan for us though, goes beyond life and death.

“The world and it’s desires passes away, but who ever does the will of God lives forever” 1 John 2:17.

To grasp that there really is nothing new under the sun can be complex. Once I used a dial telephone that hung on a wall and now I punch numbers on a phone that I carry in my pocket. Generations before me that I do not know sent letters via a messenger or may have been the messengers sent on behalf of others. The way we communicate is new. Or has it just changed? The pursuit of communicating with others is not new, just the devices on how we communicate have changed. And will change again.

The search for what we think are better ways to navigate our world continues. The pursuit for better goes round and round, never changing, never new. Solomon calls the pursuit for world pleasures meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:1). Pursuits not of God leave us feeling empty and insatiable. True happiness cannot be achieved from the pleasures of this world without God at our centre.

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“Happiness is too noble and delicate a plant, to grow in this world’s soil.” – Thomas Watson

I hope you’ll join me over the next weeks as I do deep dive into the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes. Gosh, I need it, I know! Together we’ll discover that understanding the meaningless pursuits in our lives leads us to using the time we have left here wisely and fulfilling.

If you haven’t taken a look yet, come on over to Inspiring Hope In You where you will meet the Hope Connections writers! The Hope Connections book is in final edits and hope to have a hard copy in our hands in the next couple of weeks. This week’s feature post is by contributing author and poet – Hope Defined by Connie Mae Inglis.

(And talking of things going round and round…who remembers the Banana Comb from the 80’s? I guess they are on a comeback! I had a favourite pink one I wore almost daily! And butterfly clips too, are back, but honestly, I never stopped wearing those. Is there something that you have continued to use beyond it’s popularity? Or something you’d like to see come back in popularity?)

Linked up today at Recharge Wednesday with Soaring in Him

A Breath for Your Spirit

Inspired by Trudy at Freed To Fly who wrote this week on her blog, “Thank you to all of you who share beautiful nature photos on your blog posts. They always breathe hope into my spirit,” I decided to purely do a Breathing Space post. May you be refreshed in your spirit and restful in your mind.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31

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Embassy of Love

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20

Have you ever considered yourself an Ambassador for the Kingdom? When people ask what you do, have you ever considered answering, “I am an Ambassador?” And when they raise their eyebrows at you, you continue, “for the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I don’t know Ludmilla, but guess she may answer that way! Watch why…

What is an Ambassador?

A bible study I am currently in describes an ambassador as “a dignitary whose full-time job is to live for a period in a foreign land, intentionally building relationships with the people native to the land and purposefully representing to those people the desires of his king or sovereign and is given authority to speak and act on his behalf. Adapted from Chris Patton.”

How are we Ambassadors?

We are living in a foreign land until God calls us home. While we are here we represent  our Sovereign King. We live purposely by continuing the work of Jesus through the work of the Spirit that transforms our character and guides our steps. We are called to reflect God’s goodness and speak of His love.

Often I can get wrapped up in my wonderings of what my purpose is. Yet, God has it already laid out in His word!

Have you ever considered yourself as an Ambassador of God’s Kingdom? What resonated for you in Ludmilla’s story?

But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 

A Breath of Wind & Reading

Sometimes you can come across a passage of words in books that leave you breathless…
“He had seen it often, from the verandah of his uncle’s farmhouse, or at the end of a long street, but till now he had never heard it. The hollowing hum of telephone wires along the road, the ring of hidden crickets, the stitching sound of grasshoppers, the sudden relief of a meadow lark’s song, were deliciously strange to him.”
― W. O. Mitchell, Who Has Seen the Wind

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Psalm 19:1-6

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
 Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

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On Friday, my blog-friend, lovely Linda, is starting her On-line Fall Book Club. Click the link to find out what book is chosen!

Linda Stoll-I’d Rather Be Reading Book Club

Have you read passages in books that left you breathless? If so, what is your favourite?

A Breath of Waters

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. Matthew 14:22

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
― E. B. White

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A Breath of Summer & Beginnings

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Summer is not my favourite season. I know many would challenge me, but somehow the pressure of the summer days to be more active, socialize more, BBQ more, go to all the outdoor city festival events, try to keep the lawn free of weeds and the flowers growing, makes me feel that I’m never doing enough.

Summer just doesn’t seem to work for me. And I can feel weary rather than energized. So I put off editing those writings pieces, or getting that photo album done for the children, or finally cleaning up that room my youngest moved out of a year ago. ‘Cause it all just seems so darn hard.

How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Joshua 18:3

When Joshua led the Israelites to their promised land, there were several tribes who put off possessing their inheritance. They held back from going in, possibly not looking forward to the hard work it would take to settle the land and fearing the obstacles such as battles with their enemies. They may have grown weary of their situation and began to wonder if it was worth it to continue on anymore. And the procrastination delayed receiving the blessing God promised them.

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When I recently read Joshua’s story, I saw myself like one within those tribes that put off entering into God’s promises. I’d been wondering if the time and money I’d put into writing and photography, and other activities was really worth it anymore. Even though kingdom building is what I strived for, I fell into measuring my success from my bank account and how many social events were listed on my calendar, and comparison.

A habit developed of reading or watching Netflix, or even studying, rather then enter into my office to write or enter into a new place to photograph.

However, thankfully God’s promises do not have an expiry date. With the leadership and encouragement from Joshua, all the tribes did enter and take possession of the land the Lord had promised them. With the leadership and encouragement from God’s word, we too can take possession of His promises and come out of our procrastination, or our putting off of doing the hard work for fear of potential obstacles.

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No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Joshua 1:5-6

Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled. Joshua 21:45

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

It is never too late to begin again. And I do…and maybe even make summer work for me after all. 

How do you fight procrastination? Or is there someone that needs your leadership and encouragement?

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Did you know that journaling has proven health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and increasing brain memory? If you, or if have a friend that’s not sure how to start journaling, check this out!  

Living Full Heartedly

The Mighty One, God, The Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising sun to where it sets. Psalm 50:1

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Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you will honour me. Psalm 50:14-15

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God’s creations are in abundance. Every day the sun rises and the sun sets, warming and cooling the earth, bringing us the light of day and darkened nights. Although God is timeless, He knows we need these cycles of light and dark to refresh and rest our bodies, minds, and souls. He knows what the earth needs to grow our food, and the amount of waters required to quench our thirst. In places though, fresh water and food is lacking. People are thirsty and hungry, and sick. Animals are migrating, trying to find new habitats, some populations dying away to extinction.

Sometimes it’s hard to see God’s abundance in the world among it’s sufferings.

Yet, God calls us not too lose heart. Why? Because He, our Creator, knows that through a heart of gratitude we are delivered from our anxiety and worries. He commands us to call out to Him when we are troubled, so He can provide rest for our minds even when all seems to be in chaos. When we wholeheartedly trust in God’s abundance, hope prevails. Instead of being downcast, we are energized to continue to seek ways to make the world a better place. Through heartfelt love and obedience to Him we honour Him and all His creations.

Where is God showing you His abundance today? How might He be asking you to make the world a better place?

Linking up at:

Counting My Blessings

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A Word Teaching

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Just prior to the Christmas season, I was blessed to be taught a bible study method by Bonnie Gray, author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. As a thank you, Bonnie offered a live online bible study course for the women that had contributed to her publication platform. I first discovered Bonnie through her blog and always appreciated her kind, encouraging comments regarding my own writing and photography.

Over those few evenings when Bonnie Zoomed with us from her living room in California, I learned she attended bible college, taught bible study methods for many years, and once even led a singles ministry.  I also learned how to deeply seek the meanings of scripture and what God is saying to me through His words. And it’s changed me, in a very good way, on how I now approach my bible reading.

During our time together, she had us in Mark 6:45-52 as we observed, interpreted, and applied His word. She guided us in the understanding why it is in the interpretation of God’s word where most of our time is to be spent. She showed us how use the tools within https://www.biblestudytools.com/ and https://biblehub.com/

I was sad to see it end, and hope that one day Bonnie will offer a ‘train the trainer’ course so I can dive deeper into this bible study method and teach others!

But I digress…

What I really want to share is what I began to see when I read the following lines. And how just two lines in scripture rerouted my course, taking me ‘home.’

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Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. Mark 6:52

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed in the boat with them, and the wind died down. Mark 6:51

In the passage, it struck me how “immediately” is repeated, and that word ‘made’?–well it shouted out at me. Jesus made his disciples get into the boat, made them leave the party early so to speak. See, Jesus had just done the impossible. He fed 5,000 people with five loafs of bread and two fish. Five thousand people had just witnessed the miracle of Jesus! I can imagine the excitement of the disciples. Now….now…surely there were enough believers to make Jesus their king, right there and then!

But Jesus led the disciples away and made them get into the boat. I wonder if they objected? I can imagine Peter trailing behind Jesus as they walked away from the crowd, muttering to himself, and then standing in the boat as it sailed away from shore, shaking his head in wonderment as Jesus dismissed the crowd on land. The circumstances seemed to be exactly right for what he wanted to achieve, however Jesus was calling him back to the boat to travel to Bethsaida, where he, and the disciples Andrew, Philip and John had called home.

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Jesus knew it wasn’t His time yet to be crowned. And He knew His crown was not ever to be a crown made of gold and silver. Instead it was to be a crown of thorns He’d bear as He hung on a cross, fulfilling His Father’s purpose for eternal salvation.

As I studied this scripture, I began to see myself at the boat, defiant and resisting Jesus. “But I know what is best! Yes, I’m tired, hungry, and overwhelmed by the crowd, but I can’t step away from the party. Look what I’ve started! How can I just walk away?”

And Jesus’ gaze is gentle as he tells me, “I’m making you go across the waters, to a place you’ll know as home.”

“Trust Me.”

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I can imagine my body swaying slightly as the boat sails me away, over the waves, as I watch Jesus on land take care of the crowd, dismissing them.

Jesus is taking care of the details as I sail where He wants me to go.

So, as January 2019 comes to a close, my ‘goal’ book still stays closed, as I make my way to shore not sure what will come next. And whenever the wind feels against me, and the waves rough underneath me, He’s shown me through His word that I am “to take courage”, and “don’t be afraid.”

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All I need to do is let Him in, let Him teach me, and still me with His presence.

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What has God’s word taught you lately?

Linking up today with Soaring With Him Ministries

 

A reason for restlessness

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I’m not sure if it is either DNA or genes that dictate personality traits. So not sure if it is my Dad’s DNA or his genes that created a tendency in me to be restless within.

I’ve described my Dad as a ‘wanderer,’ however not sure if that is right word to explain his explorations including travels across provinces, country borders, or to the horse stables just a few miles from our home.

At home, too, in his lazy-boy chair he’d  wander into stories when reading his spy novels, biographies, and the three or four newspapers delivered to our front porch daily.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘wanderer’ as a person who roams about without a fixed route or destination.

No, I do not think ‘wanderer’ fits my Dad.

I’d called it wandering too, when late in his life and legally blind, he’d go on his a strolls away from the nursing home. Once while resting on a bus bench, a bus stopped, and the driver helped him on. He ended up riding the route, circling back to where he started (and where a relieved nurse from the nursing home waited on that same bus bench).

No, Dad can’t be called a wanderer  because, even if he wasn’t sure of his routes and had to refer to those paper maps in the glove compartments of his cars, he always had destinations in mind.

So maybe explorer would be a better word to describe my dad. And his explorations likely were motivated from a restlessness within. A restlessness derived from a knowing there is something more.

It is this more that can drive us to proceed, to keep seeking and reaching to fulfill our God-given heart desires of peace, joy, and love.

And to know Him.

I believe my dad’s heart desires were full-filled completely. He now rests in God’s presence, his restlessness no longer necessary to explore for something more.

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Yes, I may have received my restless trait to explore from my dad, but it is my heavenly Father who first gave it to me.  My restlessness can be used to seek Him for what only He can satisfy.

So I’ve begun to embrace more my times of restlessness within.

Because I know that in my restless explorations I am not wandering aimlessly but seeking more  direction from the One who created me.  My routes may shift, change and be corrected, but He is my constant companion. And with patience, mercy and grace, He is teaching me His ways to the final destination–complete rest in Him.

If you’re in a season of restlessness, my friend, I pray you know you do not need to wander. Instead keep your eyes fixed on the destination God calls us to–completeness in Him.

And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:10

Linked up today at #TellHisStory

Love Lynn, Certified Professional Life Coach @ Inspiring Hope in You