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We’ve been using pussy willows on the altar this Lent. At first, the cut branches look dead, yet, as time goes by in their vase of water, the catkins begin to grow. Then the catkins fall off; and leaves come in, and roots grow longer. New Life, where it had seemed there was only death.

They didn’t all grow at the same rate; some branches are much farther along in their growth than others.

We are like those branches in the vase. As people of God, our spiritual lives grow at different paces, at different times. Yet, all of us are deeply loved by Jesus who knows each one of us by name, who was willing to die on a cross for us, to bring us to new life.


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The sight stopped me in my tracks.

It was an amazing sight in the early morning as sunlight flooded the church.

The colors from the stained glass window were splashed on the wall just under the cross, and onto the altar.

A sense of peace among the chaos of the world. Thank you, Lord, for this unexpected gift of grace.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

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Nature’s Gardeners

The early Spring garden was coming to life: the crocuses were opening their pedals to the sunshine, the stems of the daffodils getting taller. Evidence was plain that the squirrels had been busy over the Fall and Winter months. In the Fall, I had planted the bulbs in a neat line, alternating clumps of daffodil bulbs and crocus bulbs. The busy squirrels dug many of them up, moved them around, to the result of crocus on one side and daffodils to another.  I laughed quietly to myself – they had done a nice job of creating bursts of color in a way I would not have thought of!

God’s busy gardeners, caring for Creation.

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With a pang of guilt I looked at the drooping plant by the windows in the study. Its leaves hung limply, slightly curling inward. I had forgotten to water it that morning.

I filled the watering can, and gave the parched plant a deep drink. Within a couple of hours, it had revived, its broad leaves raised and open to catch the sunlight coming through the windows.

Watching the plant perk up reminded me of the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan Woman at the well.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

A gentle reminder to me, when I’m spiritually feeling like that drooping plant, that there is One who can satisfy the deep thirst in me. Jesus, offering us Living Water, to fill us with his grace and Spirit.

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Making breakfast one morning, I thought I heard the toaster oven “Bing”. I opened the door, and discovered the bread wasn’t cooked at all. Thinking I hadn’t actually turned the timer on, I mindfully turned it to the light toast setting and heard the clicking of the timer. Satisfied I would have toast in two minutes, I went about preparing the oatmeal. At the “Bing!” I again opened the toaster oven door. Again the bread wasn’t toasted.

This was a bit frustrating because this was a brand new toaster oven. Second time using it. It couldn’t have broken so easily.

I did the usual troubleshooting. Checked all the knob settings. Checked power…

It was then I discovered the plug lying on the counter. Apparently, the timer was mechanical; the heating element needed power to make the toast.

I plugged in the toaster oven, turned the timer knob again, and soon enjoyed toast with breakfast.

At times, our relationship with God can be like that unplugged toaster oven. We make noise, as the timer did, but without the connection to the power of God we don’t have the true closeness to Jesus; we don’t get the results God would want us to have.

Connect to God: Be still. Pray. Talk with Jesus as a friend. Let God’s Peace and the power of God’s Spirit fill you.

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

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Two trees stood side by side on the great lawn at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum on a late fall afternoon.

Their canopies were beautiful against the deep blue autumn sky. One tree displayed its summer colors of various shades of green. The other showed off leaves which had changed colors to deeps reds and oranges.

Each tree was beautiful as an individual.

Together, they were a magnificent testimony that for every thing, each has its own turn for change.

God knows when it should happen. All in God’s time.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

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The difference in the sides of the hospital room was remarkable.

A friend was in the hospital for a few days. A couple of us went up to visit in the late afternoon of the first day of her stay. There were already a few other people visiting her in the room, which quickly filled with laughter.  She had the bed by the door. The table along the wall, next to the bed, had a couple of bouquets of flowers on it.

My friend had a roommate, whose bed was by the window. I was later to learn her name was Lisa, and she was in our age group. Lisa didn’t have any visitors, no flowers on her table, the TV wasn’t on.  She was real quiet, reading a book. She had a certain peace about her.

The next day, I went back to visit my friend in the early afternoon. I was the only visitor in the room. By this time, my friend’s table was full of flowers, and a teddy bear held a Get Well Soon Balloon. My friend excitedly shared who the gifts were from.

Lisa’s side of the room was still bare; no flowers.

My friend whispered Lisa did not have any visitors during her stay.

Lisa felt more comfortable with only one visitor in the room. She put down her book and joined us in prayer. In conversation, I learned the well-worn book was her bible, covered in a paper bag to try to keep the cover on. It had been repeated repaired with tape. Lisa shared only a little of her life: she lived in an unnamed town, in a small rented room, didn’t have much, was between jobs. She was evasive when the topic of family came up. Yet she kept telling us how blessed she was, and how thankful to God she was for all He did for her. She hugged her bible.

The third day I visited, more flowers had arrived for my friend: they were on the table, on the food tray table, the chair, and had taken over some of the counter space by the sink.

There was a bouquet of flowers on Lisa’s table, too. I excitedly asked her who they were from. She replied they were from the nurse; the flowers were delivered to the hospital for someone who had been discharged already. So the nurse gave them to Lisa.?

Lisa was sitting on her bed, dressed in a simple sweatshirt and sweat pants. She was being released that day.

She picked up the bouquet of flowers, and gave them to my friend.

“But I have so many, and you won’t have any!” my friend replied.

“You seem to really like flowers,“ Lisa replied. “Enjoy them.”

“I have everything I need”, Lisa told us. “I have my faith in Jesus, and I trust in Him to guide me when I leave here“

Lisa  had an amazing sense of God’s peace. Her words have stayed with me, and I realize that Lisa, who we thought was poor, was richer than any of us in that room.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (more…)

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Begonia Plant


Begonia Plant

It’s nature’s sign of Endurance and of Hope: this simple, beautiful Begonia Plant. Begonias had been in a hanging basket on the deck, about 20’ away this summer; the plant seed must have sailed with the wind. Somehow, the seed found its way through the small rocks and landscape fabric surrounding a metal bucket in the lower garden. There wasn’t much room. The soil wasn’t very good, it was hard, surrounded by rocks. Sunlight shone there only a couple of hours a day.
Yet, through endurance and determination, this seed grew roots, and then found its way up into the sunlight, bending as required to grow from under the base of the bucket. It continued to grow and presented its beautiful flower for all to enjoy.

God’s Presence is seen in this flower: at times when we think we’re in a hard environment, when we feel we are trapped, this Begonia is a reminder that God is always near. Through His help, and our endurance, He will help us grow.

By your endurance you will gain your souls. Luke 21:19

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With a cheery sound, the metal tines gathered colorful leaves together in an ever-growing pile as I pulled the rake through the lawn. It was rather musical: thin metal bands moving across the lawn, the gentle sound from the drying leaves as they moved. The sun was warm on my face in this late afternoon, the air crisp. Not cold; sweatshirt weather. I had come home on time from work this day, a rarity, with the goal of gathering up and bagging as many leaves as possible for the following day’s town collection. My property has several tall oaks, maples, cherry and other trees on it. Both the front and back lawns were covered with leaves of various shapes, sizes, and colors. Weather and work schedules had stalled this particular chore. I had two hours of daylight in which to get the job done.

The squirrels were my companions as I worked: chasing each other around the yard, burying acorns. As I quietly went about my task, I reflected on the changes in the trees through the seasons: the stark branches against the blue-gray of the Winter sky; the gentle buds and growing leaves in the Spring; the shade cooling the house and the yard in the Summer, branches catching the ocean breeze; the spectacular colors in Autumn. I became nostalgic, thinking about the changes in my own life and how precious time was becoming.  My two children, now young adults, were almost independent. There were particular times in their childhood, especially the challenging teen years, when I thought the clock was especially slow, but looking back now it all seemed to go by so quickly.

 My thoughts were interrupted when my son, Mike, returned home from a moving job and joined me with a second rake. Together we worked, side by side, me building up the pile, he taking them from the pile and placing them into the bag in the pail. Every once in a while, Mike would stop, put his foot in the pail and with a loud “crunch!” the leaves would compress making room for more. When the bag wouldn’t hold anymore in the pail, Mike would lift it up with a “whoosh!” compress it again, and fill it with more leaves. The full bag was tied, and then taken to the street for the next day’s pickup. During our work, we shared the events of our day.

 It was a simple task, raking the leaves, repeated every autumn. At the end of leaf raking season almost 100 bags will be gathered. Finances didn’t permit a budget for a landscaper to do the job. Last year, when Mike was away at sea for the fall, I had done the job myself. This year was different: Mike was home from his duties as a Merchant Marine. I thought ahead to next year; with Mike possibly away at sea and me preparing for the GOEs hopefully in January 2015, I will need to figure out another way to get this done.

 Luke 12:22-23 popped into my mind: Do Not Worry. “He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  From Morning Prayer a gentle reminder: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: Come let us adore him.

 I was aware of God’s presence around me: in the companionship of my grown child, the dancing squirrels, strong trees and their colorful leaves, the warmth of the sun, the seasons. God has it all under control.

 A sense of peace and an overwhelming feeling of joy suddenly came over me.  I was grateful Mike was home safe after four months away at sea, grateful for the companionship and help with leaf raking. Mike being home was precious, a gift I don’t take for granted anymore.

 I offered up a simple prayer: Lord, I thank you for the gift of family, for children and for the precious time we are able to spend together. I am grateful for the safe return of Mike, and ask you to continue to hold Kathy in your loving arms. I thank you for the gifts of nature, for the trees and the seasons; for the warmth of the sun on my face. Help me not to be fearful about the future, and to remember you are with me always.

 © Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2013

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“Sit, Natasha!”  Please, please behave here I said to myself silently after coaxing her to sit down.

Excitement and energy filled the air on the church lawn this bright sunny morning. It is tradition at this particular church to have the Blessing of the Animals as part of the main service on the Sunday near St. Francis Day. The service is held outside, on the large lawn. An altar is set at the front; metal chairs in rows are arranged for the congregation, choir and acolytes. The congregation on the day I’m writing about included dogs of many sizes and shapes, their humans holding onto their leashed canines with care. Small carry cases sat safety on their human’s lap, containing cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, or a ferret; a child held tightly to a bowl with his pet turtle inside.

It was Natasha’s first Blessing of the Animals Day, and we weren’t sure how our newly rescued sweet, gentle yet very energetic six-year-old lab would behave among all these people and pets. Well, we kind of had an idea, which is why my young teenagers and I had brought her to an empty row of seats in the back. On walks at home, she was the mayor – greeting everyone and every dog we met; she wanted to do the same here but the service was starting.

Through the background noise of barks and dog movements, the service continued. An amazing thing happened at the consecration of the bread and wine: the animals became still and quiet. “Sanctify them by your holy spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son…” was heard clearly by all. The animals remained quiet through the Lord’s Prayer. They got excited again when it was time to go up for their blessings, but the timing of their quietness was amazing: animals spiritual?

The Blessing of the Animals service is held in remembrance of St. Francis’ love for all animals. St. Francis of Assisi is known as the Patron Saint of animals and the environment. His feast day is observed October 4 each year in the Anglican, Lutheran and Catholic churches. Blessing of the Animals services are held at many of these churches and all are welcome.

stfrancis w animals

St. Francis’ love of animals is told through many stories of his kindness toward them: the rabbit he rescued from a trap, the fish he was given to eat but he set it free instead, the pet lamb that loved him and followed him around, the birds he sang to and the wolf he tamed.

Francis was born in 1882 in Assai, Italy and lived the lavish life of the son of a wealthy merchant. As he matured, his encounters with beggars and lepers helped him to decide to devote his life to ministering to the poor. Over his father’s objections, Francis renounced all material values. He founded three religious orders, including what we now call the Franciscans. Francis died on October 3, 1226 and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on July 16, 1228.

Francis wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things. “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2013

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