Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thanksgiving in June



Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.--Psalm 37:4

Once in a while I have a secret deep-down desire for something good.  However, what is "good" in my mind isn't always what is best.  Sometimes I ask God for whatever it is, not always.  But He knows.

Three things I wanted to do for a very long time were:

1. Play the piano.  This has not happened much for many reasons, but I do play a little.

2. Visit old people, which is problematic because of extreme shyness. 

3. Sing with people,  especially hymns. For a while I was in a church choir, which I LOVED. But we moved. 

However, the church we now call home has a monthly hymn sing at a nearby retirement community. What a fun and non-threatening way for me to get to do #2 and #3!  

Then, a while ago the piano player was not able to make it anymore, so I decided to try filling in (they let me.)  Enter #1.  Though a bit shaky at first (being my first real gig) I'm pretty comfortable now.  Anyway, you could hardly have a more forgiving group than Grandmas & Grandpas!  


The hymn sings are awesome, because of the old people.  I really love seeing them, worshiping and praying with them. As the accompanist I get to pick the hymns each month, so I ask the residents for requests.  They have taught me wonderful new songs that also show me more about their faith.  

But that's not all.

It has been my desire to spend more time with these folks than just an hour every month...but, how to do it...

Then one evening I was out for coffee with my friend, Joanne.  She said that she and a few others from her church meet on Sunday mornings for early worship at the same senior center!  We compared notes and found that we knew some of the same residents.  She said my family was welcome to come too.

The service is early enough for us to go to and still make it to our regular church. We love it, and have met more precious people. 

I am so thankful for all these things, but even more, that God has revealed his kindness to me through the secret desires of my heart.  It is unimaginable to be loved as much as we are by God.  

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together--Isa.40:5a


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just Stating the Obvious



 


...your Father knows what you need before you ask him.--Matt.6:8b

Recently I didn't get something I wanted.  At the time I was sure I wanted God's will more than my own--I wanted Him to guide the decision.  It seemed He did, and basically the answer was, "no."  I was okay with it, at first. 

However, as weeks have passed by, and I have been living with the results of this decision, doubts have crept in.  And the thing I wanted has been popping into my head increasingly, nagging at me that I made the wrong decision.  There is no chance of changing the circumstances now.  The thing is gone.  I definitely can't have it.  So why do I even think about it anymore?

It seems the more we have, the more we have to fret about.  I never used to worry about losing everything, because we had nothing.  And we had about the same amount of "happiness" that we have now.  I used to want things that I now have, and now that I have them I worry about them and maintaining them. 

I don't want to be foolhardy.  We have children who are depending upon us to care for them.  But honestly, sometimes I don't even know what that means anymore.  Would what I wanted have been good or bad for them?  Surely God knows better than I do.

This morning, thankfully, I finally realized that there was no way it was God harassing me about that thing I had wanted. Hmm, then, I wonder who it was?  With that recognition, the thoughts seemed to vanish like a mist.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.--1 Pet. 5:7 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gardening tips




                                                      the ugly tree

                                        we have a tree we bought a time
                                        when on the lot the trees were few
 
                                        'twas sparse and craggy for its size
                                        and age as though 'twere old, not new

                                        not cute nor sweet in any way
                                        nor promised future grander bough

                                        from hook-like stubby clawing stalks
                                        that grasped a flapping leaf or two

                                        why e'er we bought it i'll not say
                                        so often we bemoan the lapse

                                        and how the beastie will not die
                                        but only leans in feigned collapse

                                        altho' an ice storm hit the thing
                                        'twas only strengthened in its will

                                        much more unsightly to become
                                        and grow more asymmetrical

                                        with ropes to close the gaping holes
                                         i pulled the splaying branches in

                                         essaying to affect a shape
                                         less spider-like and more sanguine

                                         alas the day we planted it
                                         grim future we could not foresee

                                         and now years hence i sound the cry:
                                         ye best not pick a forlorn tree.

                                                      




      

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sassafrass



I really enjoy cutting the grass.  A large part of this is having a great lawnmower.  Maybe not everyone would consider mine a good one, but it is just right for me.  I love my little red mower.  It is not fancy at all.  It was cheap when we bought it, about $100 almost 20 years ago. I believe we got it at K-Mart.  It has a 3.5 HP Tecumseh engine, whatever that means.

Little Red almost always starts on the first pull.  She's lightweight enough to maneuver easily around all the twists and turns of flower beds and other plantings in our yard.  I don't use a weed whacker so I have to get up and around things, like the swingset and gutter extensions, pretty close.  Her wheels have become somewhat floppy over the years, which actually helps to navigate these challenges.  Her handle has broken through a couple times and is held together by metal slats bolted on each side.  The loop which once held the pull cord up to the side bar is gone so I have to stretch a bit to grab it, which I don't mind, kind of like reaching down to give an old beloved dog a pat.

Recently a neighbor friend of ours was selling his mower, as he had bought a newer fancier one. Happy as I am with Little Red, I know she won't last forever.  Sometimes her wheels get so wobbly my husband can hardly do anything about it.  And she is getting old.  Knowing that our friend buys quality stuff and takes care of everything he owns, I decided to buy his machine to have as a back-up.

His mower, although replaced by a "better" one, is still pretty deluxe.  Large and yellow, with huge tires that do not falter at all, it is quite heavy and goes forward only in straight lines.  It is a behemoth of immense power and multiple features, such as a mulching option, choke knob, and probably a bunch of other things I don't know about. I tried out Big Yellow a time or to, and it was not my favorite.  He was to reside in the shed, on furlough, until further notice. 

Meanwhile, I continued chugging along happily with Little Red.  I felt kind of guilty as our neighbor would probably see me still using what he most likely considered my old junky mower.  He might be wondering why I was rejecting his super monster...  And then we started getting rid of stuff. We go on these purges once in a while, and I thought, "It's kind of dumb having two lawnmowers.  Maybe it's time to  give Big Yellow another try."  So I did, and I did not like it.  I even said to Ron, "If I had to use this thing I would hate mowing the lawn."  So back it went into hibernation.

I resolved to use Little Red til whenever she finally died.  One day I needed her wheels adjusted to a better height.  But when Ron was done with that she wouldn't start.  I let her rest a long time, several times--still no luck.  I decided to pull out Big Yellow as I needed to get the job done.  It was a lot of work.  I started to think about how, if it had to be, if the time had finally come, at least I would be building a lot of muscle using that beast.  It was a hot day and the extra exertion caused me to stop for a drink.  When I came back Big Yellow wouldn't start.

Pretty soon I was out there cursing under my breath as neither one of them would start and I needed to finish up.  Finally I called Ron for help.  He came out and discovered that Little Red's spark plug wire had come loose.  He popped it back on and BAM--she started right up on the first pull.  Boy, she felt light as a feather!  Big Y went back up the makeshift plywood ramp we had built for His Bulkiness.  I was back in the saddle, well, not really as they are both push mowers. But seriously, there is nothing wrong with Big Yellow, per se. It is a man's mower.  I am not a man.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter


Ron & I have pretty much had children between us the entirety of our marriage.  Finding someone to watch the kids can be a problem, and we have gone for long stretches without having any time out as a couple.  This is not good for anyone. Recently we found a sitter, so we have had a few dates.  Being a bit rusty, I prayed about the first one.  It turned out to be surprising and sweet. 

It was winter, and there was a good amount of fresh snowfall.  I had seen a on a friend's facebook some lovely woodland scenes she had posted from her morning trek that day.  I thought we should follow her lead and take a walk along the same path near our home.  The white blanketed trees sparkled in the stinging air.  The crunching of our feet was fresh to hear against the quiet, not having kids along to yammer and make noise the whole time.  It was enjoyable, but COLD.  My friend's photos had failed to capture the wind chill, and though we were glad we had tried it, we made it brief.

Deliberating on our next destination, as we were driving, we saw signs for an art show.  I love to look at artwork, especially without the kids.  It turned out the exhibit was at the local high school.  We decided to check it out. Upon entering the building we found it was a district-wide affair.  They had everything from kindergarten classes and up, in all areas of fine arts.  It was really pretty cool.  As we wandered through the halls admiring the students' projects we came to a large, round, window-lit stairwell.  A group of about fifteen highschoolers, dressed in medieval costumes, stood along the wall and across against the railing, curving up the staircase. The young men and women, completely at ease with each other and their audience, began to sing.

The hallway filled with rich tones in Renaissant harmonies. They were really good. As they sang they smiled, and I knew they were enjoying the wit of the lyrics and the fun of singing together.  I was surprised by joy.  After hearing all the time about troubles with teenagers, here they were--a whole bunch of 'em--sweetly singing.  Their performance was flawless, provoking my emotions as music often does.  I tried to hold the tears back. I felt so blessed to be at this lovely concert, unexpected. I was overwhelmed.

It reminds me of a time, many years ago, when I visited a church.  I hadn't been to churches much in my life.  The building was pretty, not huge, but stone, with large stained glass windows.  It was a perfect spring morning, everything pale green, moist, first flowers in bloom. The air was sweet. Sunlight was streaming into the sanctuary. A flock of children came flowing in from the back, singing, as they came down the center aisle.  Their voices were so beautiful, like angels, I thought. I had spent so much time in the dirt, their song was like a healing balm that flooded my tired, broken soul with hope.

It was there that the pastor spoke about this parable that Jesus told:

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off."--Matt. 18:12-13         

It was like he was speaking directly to me, and at that time I desperately needed to hear it.     

Fast-forward back to my date with Ron:  After the art show we headed over to our favorite authentic Mexican restaurant.  I discovered that Mexicans make the most wonderful cinnamony coffee.  We had delicious avocado tostadas so gorgeously stacked they looked (and tasted) like birthday cakes.  I was completely refreshed.  The Lord always knows exactly what I need, when I need it.  He is the Good Shepherd.

Happy Easter.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Love of God

   
Something occurred to me the other night that I had never thought of before.  Jesus had a choice.  He didn't have to go to the cross. 

Why, after 18 years of following Christ, hadn't I realized that?  Maybe it was my own blinding sense of "entitlement" as a spoiled, rich American. Although I am in truth needy, it is not my cries that command the One who can save me.  As wonderful as it is, somehow it is hard to admit how much He loves me (us).  One of my favorite teachers likes to point out, "God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance." (Rom.2:4)

His kindness cost more than we know:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him--Heb. 5:7-9

This same teacher has also many times equated faith and obedience. "And without faith it is impossible to please God"--Heb. 11:6a  Obedience is a demonstration of our faith.  Jesus had a choice, and we have a choice:

"Faith requires the possibility of rejection, or it is not faith." --Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew

We can have faith in God, and we can demonstrate that faith. But part of it is believing--"because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists"--Heb. 11:6b  How thankful I am for the father who cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”--Mark 9:24b  Again, God shows His kindness in the words of this story.  Jesus does help his unbelief--"he rewards those who earnestly seek him."--Heb. 11:6c  Those 18 years ago I sought to settle the question.  I could not rest until it was decided. Was Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) or not? 

After wrestling with the question for quite a while, here is how I came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God:  I thought about what the world would look like if I determined that He was not--if my perception of things would change. If, say, I would look at a tree and see it as any different. It was a pivotal moment for me. The thought of even a tree, without Jesus being Who He said He was, was horrific.  Like all the color went out of it, and the world, and there was no hope.  So, I believed. I decided that Jesus is the Son of God.

It was a good decision.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mr. Bean



My husband, Ronald, is 100% Dutch.  I don't know if this is the reason, but he has hobbies.  He has to be busy. He cannot loll around. He calls it "the Dutch curse."  This has played out in various ways over the years.  Fishing, gardening, shooting, house projects, weight-lifting... Lately he has been into roasting his own coffee.  Contributing to this obsession is his professional experience working in laboratories and his knowledge of science.   

Ron has spent hours researching where to find the best beans, methods of roasting, brewing, etc.  He follows precise formulas using a gram scale to measure his ingredients.  He has a special hand grinder with ceramic inner workings (I found this out after accusing them of being plastic).  He has a special pot to heat water and various filter papers. Ron has experimented with different brewing systems which have included a chemex, presspot, stove-top espresso pot, and his stand-by--the pour-over filter cone.

He roasts the beans in the garage, using second-hand hot-air popcorn poppers.  This process fills the air with smoke that smells like burnt popcorn, though Ronald insists it is a delicious coffee aroma.  However, in the morning when he grinds the freshly prepared beans, a smell comes wafting up the stairs so enticing that it is almost visible.  

Living with someone is challenging, because all people are at times bothersome.  My wonderful husband, as perfect as he may be, sometimes bugs me.  Part of it is his perfectionism.  I'm not saying that because he's Dutch he's persnickety, but, well he is 100%.  Watching him spend so much time painstakingly going through all this rigamarole for a cup of coffee sometimes just gets to me. 

The other day I sort of let it slip out.  I said, "You know, you are really kind of annoying with your coffee."  To which he quickly replied, "You know, you are really kind of annoying with your blog."

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.--Matt. 7:2