“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.”
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
You made summer… and gave it to the earth.
It's that time of year again! Time for buying school supplies, filling backpacks and waving goodbye as the bus pulls away. But, for some, like our guest writer, Heidi Zwart, the school year also means leaving her firstborn son 1,000's of miles away at college.
May all you mama's and grand-mama's be blessed by her words and by God Himself as this another school year commences.
Don’t blink. Time flies. It’ll be over before you know it. So many clichés. But now I’m living them. Why?
My first-born just left the nest.
I swear it was yesterday I embraced Drew while we sobbed together in our kitchen after announcing our move to the East Coast. It was 5 years ago.
The day before that, I smiled as he smiled back at me for the first time… with braces. It was 7 years ago.
And just before that, I walked him to the end of the street before he stepped onto that big yellow bus for Lincoln Elementary. It was 13 years ago.
And JUST the day before, I labored for 27 hours for a long-awaited 10 pound, 1 ounce baby boy named Andrew, who forever changed my name to mom. It was 18 years ago.
Can anyone relate?
Looking back I feel incredible joy living right alongside sadness at the moments that we’ve left behind. Some will get hazy with the passing of time while others will remain firmly locked with crystal clarity.
A few years ago, during a moment of panic about the future, a friend shared wise words with me about preparing for, enjoying, and letting go of each moment in time. Her words have carried me through the past five years and will forever guide me into the future.
Simply put, letting go is a process and we are equipped for each step. If we look too far ahead, we get overwhelmed. The truth is, we never live life as fast as we do in our own mind. Our kids don’t go from kindergarten to marriage overnight.
Well it's crazy to imagine,
Words from our lips as the arms of compassion,
Mountains crumble with every syllable.
Today was one of those days that used to make me cringe when I worked as a meteorologist. Clear and sunny in the morning, but with possible showers moving in by midday. These are the most deceiving days, when I would warn viewers to pack an umbrella…just in case. For some, this is a huge inconvenience. Why would they want to lug around an extra umbrella just in case it was going to rain? While some people are okay if they get a little wet and don’t beat themselves up for not heeding the warning, others want assurance that carrying around that pesky umbrella will be worth the effort. My job, of course, was to please them both.
But for others—like me—lugging around an umbrella gives us a sense of security, a little insurance policy for the “what ifs” that may come about during the day. We don’t even mind if the rain never comes, as long as we know we’re equipped. For me, an umbrella is the sign of the one who is prepared and in control.
I often use planning and structure as one big umbrella—something I keep tucked away in my gigantic carry-all purse, for those moments when I see something coming that might sprinkle a little chaos into my perfectly-coifed life. When the sky gets a little dark, and I feel the wind pick up, I can feel the outline of that umbrella in my bag and I know that even if it does rain, I will have the proper tool to emerge victoriously. My schedule keeps me equipped and gives me the sense that I am on-the-ready for anything that comes my way.
One of the great benefits of living on a lake is getting to watch a storm come across the water. The rain and wind engulf the calm waters section by section, until the storm is right at our doorstep. It is magnificent. It is amazing. And sometimes, it’s a little scary.
The scariness comes in watching the fishermen who like to hang out in our bay. On any given day, there are half-a-dozen boats trolling for walleye out in front of our house. I can always tell the dedicated anglers over the casual sport enthusiasts. When the storm starts moving across the lake, the casual sportsmen start speeding off. The dedicated anglers stay a little longer, hoping to snag that last fish. Or, maybe I have it mixed up? Perhaps the seasoned fishermen are the ones who know enough to get off the lake before they get caught in the storm. One poor boat had to pull up to my neighbor’s dock and hang on for dear life as a particularly windy storm came out of nowhere and threatened to do them in. They had nowhere to go, so they grabbed a hold of whatever might keep them afloat, even if it was just the post on a dock. The scene reminded me of a storm we read about in Mark’s gospel account—a storm that threatened to do in the disciples.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
I first crossed paths with them in the housewares department; a young dad pushing his two-year-old son in a cart with his four-year-old daughter skipping along close beside. He was obviously passing through this department on the way to his desired destination, judging by the hurried pace with which he was moving.
As they whirred past, I overheard the little boy ask his dad if he would buy something for him, to which his father replied, “If you’re patient, I’ll stop and get some ice cream treats on our way home.”
Keep your eyes open to your mercies.
The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.
—Robert Louis Stevenson
Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective!
As we walked through the large wooden doors into the Cathedral of the Divine Savior in Morelia, Mexico, a hushed awe fell over me. Light flooded the lofty hallways and sanctuary. A service was in progress as tardy parishioners trickled in, finding a seat in the back. I smiled thinking, “They are not unlike American parishioners, I see.”
One of my greatest joys is to hear my sons playing their instruments in the house. My youngest plays piano—sweet and melodic. My oldest plays electric guitar—not quite as sweet, but reminiscent of the 80's rock I used to crank through my boom-box. Either way, it’s a glorious sound, the sound of people using their talents to touch another soul, bringing joy to someone fortunate enough to be within earshot of their creative expression. I can honestly say, the music somehow restores my soul and helps me connect with our praise-worthy God.
I was fortunate to grow up in a musical household. My Mom would come into my room in the morning and actually sing me awake. She would also sing in the course of regular conversation. If someone inadvertently made a comment that came anywhere close to resembling a song lyric, she’d pick up there and sing the chorus for our listening pleasure. But what I loved most about having a professional opera singer for a mother was standing next to her in church. Those hymns take on a whole new meaning when you hear them belted out by a soprano who can hit all the notes. And (side note) I have yet to hear a rendition of “O Holy Night” that holds a candle to hers, which I heard each Christmas eve at the Midnight service. Simply spectacular.
My Mom always said that God loves to hear us sing praises to God. She has a poster hanging in her music room that reads, “He who sings prays twice.” The phrase is sometimes credited to St. Augustine, but the sentiment first appears in the Psalms.
The Lord your God is with you;
the mighty One will save you
and he will take joyful delight in you.
“I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God.
I always figured that if God had a job to do and needed someone to act on his behalf here on earth that he’d choose someone who was perfectly qualified to get the job done.
I try, have tried, and am trying to be that person whom God might want to entrust with one of his jobs. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Toiling away at striving, perfecting, and keeping up appearances that I am, indeed, worthy of the task is a never-ending job. Worse yet, I continually fall short of making myself the perfect candidate. Every. Single. Time.
That’s why I love the story of Rahab. She’s far from the model citizen. But she believes who God is and what He can do. She wants in. And when faith collides with willingness, we get to see God’s power at work.
Nothing is so infectious as example.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Do you have role models in your life? People you look up to? People whose lives, work, attitude or actions encourage and challenge you to believe more fully and to live and love God and others more freely?
We live in a world where faster is usually perceived to be better. We like speed, and we are willing to pay for whatever gadget, gizmo, vehicle, computer or phone that will help us get where we need to go or get done what we need to do. We frequent places that offer fast food, quick results, and speedy service. We choose a checkout line based on what the people have in their shopping carts, or how capable the cashier looks. We find ourselves fuming if we select one line on the entrance ramp and then suddenly realize that we’ve chosen incorrectly. Slow drivers make us crazy. Lines make our blood boil. Having to wait has become increasingly difficult in a world that thrives on speed.
Sometimes waiting takes on a more serious tone—like waiting to hear the test results, or waiting for the phone to ring after an argument with your friend, or waiting to see if you got the job, passed the test, or made the team. One thing is for sure, none of us like to wait.
What we also know is that waiting, especially prolonged periods of waiting, seems to bring out the worst in us. Frustration builds, impatience takes over and we start to make decisions that might make things happen faster, but may not end up serving us well in the long run—decisions that do not tend to bring God’s best for us.
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
Psalm 105:4 and 1st Chronicles 16:11
My legs were sticking to the bleachers as I watched people file into our high school gymnasium. I was eight years old and had come with my parents to see the traveling evangelist. Back in the day, before internet and cable, most anyone coming into our small town was quite an event and the buzz of the town.
After praying and pining for a child of her own, Elizabeth had long settled it in her heart, now that her childbearing years were far behind her, that she would never experience being a mother.
But, that didn’t stop others from speculation and gossip as to the why’s and wherefores. In that day childlessness was often attributed to sin of some sort on the part of the woman.
The pain-filled stares and the whispers were not lost on Elizabeth all those years.
A little Easter heart preparation - by Macrina Wiederkehr from her book Seasons Of Your Heart.
Wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body.
2nd Corinthians 4:10
Several weeks ago I learned that a young girl from my community was in a coma after losing control of her car on one of the icy streets nearby. Her family waits by her bedside, hoping she would awaken from a coma that threatens to steal her life. As a parent, as a Mom, I have to admit…this story has wrecked me.
I remember, as a young single woman, telling my father that I wasn’t sure I wanted children. He said, with teary eyes, that I would never understand the depth of love that he had for me until I had my own child. I have to admit, as many of us often do, that my father was actually right… so right in fact, that I repeat this story to my own children, hoping they will also understand the deep love that I feel for them.
Each afternoon, I walk to the end of our long driveway where I wait for my young son to get off the school bus. Although he pleads with me to “let him walk the driveway alone,” I can’t seem to make myself do it.
As I am reading through the gospels with my children during this Lenten season, I am struck once more by how often we read about Jesus making time to get away and talk with God. Mark records Jesus getting up in the morning, while it was still dark, to find a solitary place where he prayed. Matthew records Jesus dismissing his disciples and heading up to a mountainside where he could be alone with God. Luke writes how Jesus spent the entire night praying, calling out to God. Luke records Jesus crying out to God in prayer on the eve of his crucifixion. And when Jesus did that, Luke writes that an angel from heaven “appeared to him and strengthened him” (Luke 22: 43). While Jesus was crying out to God in the garden, his disciples were nearby. Although he’d asked them to pray, they were sleeping.
As I closed the book for the night, tucked in my boys and headed off to my own bed, I began to wonder… how often, at the end of the day, I choose sleep over prayer. I sleep as a way to escape the problems of the day rather than cry out to God, as a way to gain strength to face those same problems.
I mentioned in my previous post that rest is essential to building relationship, with God and with others. Rest restores our soul and when we give God our time, he replenishes us. In the Garden, on the night Jesus was betrayed, we see God once again offering something Jesus desperately needs. As a response to Jesus’ prayer, as a loving response to Jesus’ cry for help, God, gives Jesus strength.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
“Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love.”
I tend to do my best writing and my best thinking in the early part of the day. After a good night’s sleep, my morning time with God and a short workout, my body is rested, my mind is fresh, and my spiritual bucket is full. When time eludes me and things get busy, as they often do, one of those areas always seems to suffer. I might skip a few workouts because I’m approaching a deadline and feel like I need to use that hour to work. Or my time with God gets shortened or skipped entirely because I’m crafting a message or preparing for an interview. Or worse yet, I open up my email before I open up my Bible. That’s always a sure sign that my day is not going to start out—or end—well. While technology allows me more access to God’s Word with electronic Bibles, daily devotions sent to my in-box, and social media that can connect me with prayer requests from others, starting my day in that way seems to drain me quickly.
Just one generation ago, sociologists were predicting that with technology, Americans would work far more effectively. Access to information, they said, would allow us to complete their work at such an accelerated speed that we would actually have too much spare time.
Do you have too much spare time?
You are God’s sanctuary and God’s Spirit lives in you.
1st Corinthians 3:19
I love old churches and cathedrals.