Suppose with me for just a moment – Someone walks right up to you and says, “You have thirty seconds to think, and then in five words or less, sum up your philosophy of living a healthy, satisfying and wholesome life.” What would you say?
Well, someone silenced me with that question a while back, and it set me to thinking. Now I could reply. “A meaningful life is all about focus and balance.” If I can stay focused, then I’m less likely to wander off. But without balance, my focus can become obsessive, and then I’m not healthy in my thinking or acting. So knowing how to focus and how to balance is the key. Don’t quite have all that figured out yet, but I’m working on it.
One thing that helps me stay focused on the things that matter and helps me maintain a healthy perspective is practicing God’s presence . . . easier said than done. But a few years ago, someone taught me a discipline that has helped me more than I can describe.
My husband and I were out at Laity Lodge, a Christian retreat center in the Texas Hill Country. The leader was Dr. Dave Peterson, an incredible Bible teacher and, at that time, the Senior Pastor of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston. Dr. Peterson challenged us to choose something that would always remind us that God is near and that He is active in our lives. My theologian husband chose the wind, thinking of the Greek word pneuma, meaning wind of the Spirit.
But I needed something a bit more concrete, so I chose the cardinal. Since that time, we have bought feeders and special food to entice these song birds. Bill even planted a rose garden after we learned they prefer building nests in thorny branches. These beautiful scarlet creatures have rewarded me with their presence for years, and my friends and family, knowing about my fascination with these birds, have rewarded me with quite a collection of cardinals—hand-carved wooden ones, porcelain ones, and glass ones that are perched all around our home. And then there are the ones Bill painted for me! Oh, and then there are the t-shirts, and sweaters, and jewelry . . .
My red-feathered friend is my God-Alert. I can tell you that little geysers of joy have sprung up from my heart at times when a red bird came pecking on the studio window, like a tap on my shoulder reminding me that my Father is near. But even when I can’t see the cardinal, I hear and recognize his multiple melodies. I’m so grateful God is still present, even when I can’t see Him, and I’m grateful that often His love is visible and audible to me through the lives of His other children.
My experiences with the cardinal and practicing God’s presence were the inspiration for a novel which will be released in October of this year. (It’s on Amazon now for pre-order.) I’ll be telling you more about THE CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT in upcoming weeks. But I will tell you now that as I sat in my overstuffed chair in the studio writing this book, I was visited several times by both male and female red birds who came to feed and drink and sing me their songs. What a gift!
I don’t know about you, but in this crazy world, I need reminders that help me focus on what is real, what is important, and what is eternal. Now I challenge you to choose a God-Alert – something to keep you focused and balanced, always reminding you of God’s great, deep and wide love for us all. And when you choose your God-Alert, would you be kind enough to share it with me?
Image: Original painting by Bill Nichols