Source for this image here.
The clocks went back yesterday, and what a difference it has made! That extra hour seemed to make the pace of the day seem quite different - all day long. It's made me feel somehow very rested and calm, just because of that extra hour! Today I have been very much minded of the title of this blog - which Papa Bear chose, after we had been doing our family devotions one day last winter. We'd been in Proverbs, and we were looking at comparative texts for Proverbs chapter 14, with which many of us Christian ladies will already be familiar, as it starts with the very well known verse -
"Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands". (Proverbs 14: 1).
Almost at the end of this chapter of Proverbs however, is the verse that in the King James Bible reads -
"A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones" (Proverbs 14: 30).
In the New Living Translation, which is Papa Bear's preferred Bible translation (he has severe dyslexia and finds reading anything extremely challenging. The King James translation of the Bible is beyond his reading ability just now), this verse is translated as -
" A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones" (ibid).
And in the New American Standard Bible, which is the version that we used when I was homeschooling the cubs, the translation is thus -
"A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones" (ibid).
I am currently reading a book that I found in a second-hand store by Claire Cloninger called "A Place Called Simplicity" (link will take you to Amazon.co.uk - it is out of print now, but still available second-hand) which has been very inspiring to me so far. The chapters I have read until now (I am about halfway through) detail the ways in which it is possible for us, guided by Scriptural principles, to rethink the way that so many of us live so that we are more connected with what really matters, and able therefore to focus more deeply on our relationships - with God, with our husband, our children and those that we serve in the wider community around us. It's about discarding our attachment to material things, and also to timewasting distractions which may not be material, but may still prevent us from spending our days wisely and productively. One of my favourite films is the adaptation of Edith Wharton's famous novel, "The Age Of Innocence". I have seen that film so many times, that I probably know the whole score off by heart! I have read the book several times too. But there is a scene in the film in which Ellen Archer, concerned at going out with family and leaving her husband, Newland, alone at their holiday house by the sea,
"you can find some way to spend the afternoon, can't you?"
To which her husband's reply, is -
"Oh, I think for a change I'll just save it instead of spending it".
And now, reading "A Place Called Simplicity", I am reminded of that quote, and of the importance that saving our time for what is most important, can lead us to have a life that is more peaceful, more fulfilling, and more wholesome.
How can we do this?
By ensuring that we have our priorities right! And how do we know what they are? Well, the Bible can tell us that!
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6: 33).
It's so easy to get caught up into worrying about the smaller details, when what really matters is so simple. We can fuss and worry ourselves all day about things that we can't change - and overlook the most important details because we aren't able to focus on the bigger picture properly. Of course, what really matters depends on what season of life we are in. If we have wee bairns to care for, then our priorities will probably be different from those of someone with children the age of our cubs, who are pretty much independent and able to care for themselves. It was after they'd started their college courses, just over a year ago now, that I began to realise that I had entered a new season of life - and that my own priorities would change.
It was just after Christmas, towards the end of January, when we had a period of relative peace and quiet at home, that Papa Bear suggested that I start writing a blog. He thought that it would be something valuable for me to do, as a mother of grown children, with more time to spend away from caring for them, than when they were younger and I was homeschooling them. With them out of the home during the day for the first time since they were babies, it felt very strange! But I got use to the peace and quiet. I found my "tranquil heart" was beating at a different pace, from the way it had when we were all at home together during the day! I started to understand that God's plan for me was not to carry on being the same Mama Bear that I had been when the cubs were wee. Now they were grown and starting out on their independent lives, and my role had changed! It was a big learning curve for me - but an exciting one too! And during this year that they have been at college, I think I have probably grown in wisdom, just as much as they have!
I've learned that I can be more productive now, if I don't rush about. That the material things - acquiring them, maintaining them, worrying about them - don't matter as much as the spiritual ones. That coveting things - and comparing our possessions with those of others - breeds discontent and pulls me away from God, and into the world, under its malign influence, which corrupts and distorts the beauty of God's perfect plan for us. We know that as Christians we must -
"be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12: 2).
If we understand what God's will is for us, by focusing on this, through prayer and thanksgiving, then we may indeed enjoy the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4: 7). Our true peace comes from knowing, understanding, and accepting God's will for us. Today I have found great calm and reassurance in reading one of my favourite passages from the Bible - Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 8 -
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
Let's all save our time for what really matters, and learn to listen to the "still small voice of calm" that dwells within us - trusting that it is God's will for us that is the only guidance that we need to follow - no matter how busy our day may seem - and make space to hear what He is asking of us, and respond to him - in humility, grace and supplication.
- Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
- Forgive our foolish ways!
- Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
- In purer lives Thy service find,
- In deeper reverence, praise.
- In simple trust like theirs who heard
- Beside the Syrian sea
- The gracious calling of the Lord,
- Let us, like them, without a word
- Rise up and follow Thee.
- O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
- O calm of hills above,
- Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
- The silence of eternity
- Interpreted by love!
- With that deep hush subduing all
- Our words and works that drown
- The tender whisper of Thy call,
- As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
- As fell Thy manna down.
- Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
- Till all our strivings cease;
- Take from our souls the strain and stress,
- And let our ordered lives confess
- The beauty of Thy peace.
- Breathe through the heats of our desire
- Thy coolness and Thy balm;
- Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
- Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
- O still, small voice of calm.
John Greenleaf Whittier (adapted by Garrett Horder)