. . . in which world? . . .

Hoof clops invade the morning stillness.   I watch the buggy pass the house, and I fancy I live in two worlds.  With the Amish–living without automobiles, electricity, running water, cell phones. . . no mirrors!

We live near a large community of Amish, the oldest order of this belief who settled in Lawrence county, Tennessee in 1944.  About 250 families have chosen to live here, but perhaps they only survive in this culture.  They live in another world, regarding the conveniences most of us use and enjoy as worldliness, the chief evil of life.  Isolating themselves from outside influences, they desperately  conserve the heritage of their past.

Am I missing something. . .

I listen a long time, realizing with each clop growing fainter that life, real life, needs to be slower, slower. . . slow.   My ears strain to hear the last sound as the hard wheels rattle a determined tradition of an old world.

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(this was my parking buddy at Kroger’s last week)

“Can your heart be in two places?” I asked Tom, one evening when we arrived home from one of our worlds into our other world.

“I think not”, he smiled. “You can’t for sure.”  He knows me.  Since December we have been living in two houses, in two worlds, every week–a hundred miles apart–one in Lawrenceburg where we retired in August 2016, living between cow pastures and corn fields.  The other in Lebanon near all the amenities of Nashville where Tom returned as Associate Pastor at Immanuel Baptist.

In our current living arrangement, I’m often confused in which place I am!  I know I had celery in the refrigerator–just not the one where I need it NOW.  I realize I cannot be at home  in both places. I am more at home where heart things surround me, wrap me.  Where the floors creak ‘welcome home’ and memories murmur.

Some of you will remember the T.V. series, I Led Three Lives, based on the true story of  Herbert Philbrick.  He was a citizen of the community, a Communist, and a counter spy for the F.B.I. Not even his family, his church, his friends suspected his covert  activities.  For nine harrowing years, he cautiously stepped into each day frightened. . .

As believers anticipating an eternal home, can you and I be fully home in this physical world?  Should we be?  There is a longing for the other world, the one we call home. For the something more. . .

Our Amish community has found a way to live in this world but not be in it. John says in 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. . .” We live in two worlds, but which one do we love.  I wonder how many lives we lead in those two.  Tom and I joke about leading three lives these days.

And Paul cautions us to “not be conformed to the world, to the patterns of the world, to be transformed. . .” Romans 12:2.  I imagine  it may be difficult for the Amish to live simply, without conveniences — or not. Perhaps the pull to the other world is stronger than the desires of the flesh.

The words of the old song whisper . . .”this world is not my home; I’m just a’passin through. . .”

In which world are you living. . . NOW?

 

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. . . desperate. . .

Easter morning dawned more in sad reflection than in a glorious celebration.  Lately there have been too many ‘why’ questions,  too many reasons to give up. How painless it would be to surrender to the hurts of life.

There has to be more. . .

My tears mingled with the bubbles in the sink as words of Michael W. Smith’s  Breathe hung in the atmosphere:  “This is the air I breathe, I’m lost without you; I’m desperate for you”–  jolted me to examine my desperation level.

A desperate squirrel (squirrels are always desperate, aren’t they?) raced up a small tree near my kitchen window. His idea was to jump to the bird feeder about six feet from the tree exactly as he had done the day before.  He didn’t know  the feeder had been moved two feet to prevent that possibility from happening again.

This feisty tree climber recognized something different; you could sense his nervous calculations.  I counted the times he scaled the tree, observed the distance, scampered down, up again, switching to another limb.  He prayed. (You’ve watched a spiritual squirrel stand with folded paws as if praying.) More than a dozen times he made this trip–up, down, more frantic each time.

Then suddenly, he scampered up the tall, stronger trunk in the center.  And jumped . . .

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Splash! He landed hard on the ground, missing his goal about twelve inches.  Do you think that stopped him?  For an hour he repeated these obsessive climbs and jumps. Each time he fell short. I had to abandon this scene for church, but now more encouraged. If a squirrel can try such an impossible feat-over and over and over, surely I can confidently walk into the NOW.

I can’t give up.

“Listen to my cry for I am in desperate need” – Psalm 142: 6. David encourages us in his transparency before his Lord at a time when he is fearful for his life.  Hiding in a cave from Saul who wants to kill him, David is not ashamed to cry out to the Lord for mercy, for refuge.  I cry, too, before the Lord, trusting that it “is He who knows my way, when my spirit grows faint within me.” (verse 3)

Dark, muddled circumstances of life can blind me momentarily, blocking the sunshine. Hiding the reality of God’s promises.  Sending me to a cave, my prison. It is then I examine my responsibility in this situation of despair. My heart may be breaking, but I, like this determined squirrel, must continually  seek God through the pain.

. . .desperate. . .

. . . you know, I think it is good to be desperate every day for the One  who leads with light and truth. I walked this morning down our country lane (we are living in two worlds currently –one where the squirrel lives and the second one, here with the country road), singing loudly, “this is my Father’s world.  I rest in Him complete.   This is my Father’s world

. . . still desperate. . .

Timothy Keller’s prayer on Psalm 142:  Father, your Son was no Stoic.  He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.  He was constantly weeping, sighing, and exulting in spirit.  I confess that I either deny my emotions, trying to put on a good front, or let them simply carry me away.  Show me how to bring them honestly, yet submissively to you. Amen (Timothy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, page 353. )

. . . after thought. . . I noticed the grass beneath the feeder was trampled perfectly flat when I returned home Easter Sunday.  How many times had that determined squirrel jumped and failed?  I think he may have bruised himself badly or broken a hip.  He or his two buddies have yet to return to the tree.  Did he give up?   But that’s another blog  🙂

 

 

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. . .anniversary ramblings. . .

I was 16  . . . going on 17.  “I am going to marry that fella,” I whispered to my friend Rosemary in church the last Sunday in August, 1962.

And so I did.

How did I know this young good looking ‘kid’ wearing a traditional crew cut of the 60’s would indeed be my knight in shining armor. We soon discovered that this was the beginning of a storybook journey . . . a daily adventure walking in step these 54 years.

“If I look for imperfections, I can find them, can’t I?” I asked Tom yesterday when he came into the kitchen where I was painting cabinets. I am a frustrated painter as I agonize over the drips, the tiniest nail holes that must be filled, more rough places to be sanded. I paint and repaint.  Then do it all again.

“Yes, you can.  Look at the whole picture, enjoy the room, just do your best.  This will never be perfect, Barb. There will always be drips to clean up and redo, more sanding to be done.  Don’t focus on the negatives.”

Good words, I mused as I remembered something I had read early morning pondering my blog of the day–wondering how we arrived at this 54 year occasion. Words from an article by Shana Schutte with Focus on the Family seemed to sum up what I had learned very early in marriage.  She was told by her mentor when she began dating a particular guy, “If you focus on all that he is not, you’ll miss what he is.”  (Sort of like the lesson in the kitchen, too 🙂

Early on I just believed that Tom was perfect. No doubts. I was young and immature, right? By the time I understood more of life, a truth dawned. Of course, he wasn’t perfect. But by never focusing on his imperfections, those things he wasn’t,  I did not miss all he was/is. And if I could have changed anything negative, even one tiny thing, he would not have been the Tom I chose. Surely there were times I failed in this, but Tom quickly reminded me–:-)

 

Tom’s first funeral in his pastorate was for a young husband and father of two boys; he had been mowing his yard, went in to rest, and died of a heart attack. Tom has had numerous funerals since that day, but that first one set a tone for our beginning years: I will live and love you today, this NOW.  We may not have tomorrow.

 

Psalm 133 is a beautiful song for marriage.  “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity” (v1). When two walk together, united in tears and laughter, strong against the winds that would destroy and divide, fragrant precious oils fill each space; needed moisture gives relief to the dryness in life.  These verses do not give promise to marriages alone, but this truth is revealed to our communities and the world . . .  as believers  sacrificially and selflessly  live, love and walk together in unity.

And “yes, yes,” I whisper again, “I ‘m going to marry this old man.”

. . . one of my all time favorites about 12 years ago. . .20180313_110438

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. . . barefoot . . .

For as long as I  can remember, a  field of  wildflowers beckons  me to toss my shoes  and . . .run. . . or a string of puddles after a heavy rain is a temptation to run through.

. . . do you remember as a child- running with total abandon?  How free. No thoughts of where, how or when.  You just ran with laughter, with joy.  No destination. You ran with pure joy. . .

. . .  barefoot.  you must be free of shoes to fully enjoy.

Walking and running barefoot seem to be a new ‘in’;  it’s a trendy thing.  Not only can it cause better foot muscle development for children,  it can be beneficial to your heart health and advantageous for joint pain.  Who would have thought? You can read many articles on the benefits of going barefoot from the Huffington Post, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/health-benefits-walking-barefoot_  or https://wellnessmama.com/walkingbarefoot  and others.  Don’t let some of the new-age concepts/words steal possible health benefits and fun of running free.

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So yesterday after all the rains in Middle Tennessee this February month, I did some puddle-jumping!  I ran through our yard full of deep puddles. And I laughed. I wish I could run often through the fields, through the puddles with the wonder of a child–looking for more.   I know it is there-this place of more; it is not disguised or hidden.  But time and toil as an adult rob me of this running, this seeking.

“I run in the path (barefoot) of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32. I sit in the quiet of mornings, my soul bare, ready to run for the more of wonder for this day, this NOW. It is in the freedom of running in His commands that we find the joy, the more of the moment.

The song, “we are standing on holy ground” always finds me with my shoes off.  How can I be here on holy ground with my feet covered in tight leather or canvas?  I think I may go barefoot all the time 🙂

You may not be as childish as I!  But I encourage you to unshod your heart to be totally free and open to NOW.

Running today. . .

. . . barefoot . . .

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a valentine for you . . . just you . . .

I remember spending hours as a fifth grader sorting through those little packs of Valentine cards, choosing just the right one for a special class mate. It was a long, arduous process.  I had to make sure the card said precisely what it should say to the exact person.  You know. I had to make sure a little boy wouldn’t get the wrong message!!

Then the next morning I was so excited as I dropped the finished cards into a decorated box in my classroom. And waited for all the cards I would receive.

It seems now there is a battle raging in some states to ban such a silly, needless, costly tradition.  After all, it might hurt someone’s feelings if they happened to get a ‘not so special card’ or perhaps, they might not get many.

Memories of that long ago celebration of specialness bring smiles.  I guess I was never traumatized by not getting less than someone or not receiving the prettiest ones. My small decorated paper bag was full and that made me happy.

Today, Valentine’s Day is marketing madness.    (click. . .on Valentine’s

I have a Valentine for you this year.   If this day is one of giving joy and appreciation for a special someone, then let’s imagine that Jesus has given us the greatest Valentine imaginable. Everyone is included; no one is left out.  You and I are the most important person to Him. . .

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photo: crosstheworld.com

For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son. . .John 3:16

Tonight on this eve of acknowledging those special, lovely people in my life, I am thinking of YOU.  My blog readers are either incredible, love filled memories of my past or lovely present moments of today, and I am grateful for you. I wish for you, first, a day of celebrating the love of the Savior,  and then a time of smiling at how thankful I am for you in my life.

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. . . the journey . . . changes . . .

“I am definitely not ready for this,” Tom moaned a few weeks ago when we awakened to our first frozen morning.  Winter is not his happy spot!

How different from the warm and sunny of yesterday, I thought, as I  ran out barefoot to break ice in the birds’ bath.  The birds had been pecking persistently for a drink— and several were in line for their early morning dip; they bathe and  drink in the same water 🙂 I asked them (I talk to my birds) if these temperature drops cause stress in their lives?

Change. . .

That one constant in life . . .

You would think we would be ready for it, yes, even plan for it. For much of  life I have enjoyed change, even initiated it.  I moved furniture as regularly and as often as my young granddaughters change clothes on a summer’s day.  Change brings those small daily surprises that give wonder and depth to life.

Some things we can’t change.  Can a leopard change his spots . . . ?(Jeremiah 13:23)  They are what they are, and I cannot change anything about them.   We can accept and adapt to the differences in the weather quite easily, but how does one adjust to everyday revisions and reversals that we may, or may not, understand?

One of our sons-in-law recently diagnosed with diabetes was told by his doctor when results were in, “You can keep doing what you have been doing, and I will medicate you, or you can change your life.”

Fred quickly responded, “I will change my life.”

Ninety days after making  a major change in his diet and lifestyle, cheerfully swallowing the necessary supplements Sharon, our daughter, had researched for him, Fred was told last week by his doctor, “I have never seen anyone do this without medicinal help. You are a rock star!”

You’ve heard the phrase, If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. (Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Tony Robbins–don’t you wonder who really said that first.)

It’s the changes that hurt I write about this morning, the changes in life that shatter hearts and give way to fear.   I have no control over those.  I can transition with the weather, but can I change with my crises of pain? Do I believe the sun will rise tomorrow?  Or should I pull the shade and wait. . .

Tom and I were driving through the country in November and saw this scene –I could almost hear the caption “Change! Not me!”  We looked at each other, laughed , and knew we had to turn around for a picture.  Imagine that one day this tractor happened to run out of gas, or the battery died, and the farmer simply went in to dinner. Of course, he was going to fix it tomorrow. Days went by; weeks turned to years.

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Can you count how many hindrances have grown around the tractor? And now, trapped and captured by the mundane happenings of life, there is no possibility for  purpose.  It is only a fixture of the past.

Change . . .

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. (George Bernard Shaw)

Some experiences, choices and consequences demand a personal change, a decision to act such as Fred made. Other events, inevitable in life and uncontrolled by us, allow us to focus on the One who is the same–day after day after day . . .

“Though the mountains give way and fall into the sea, I will not fear” . . .  My paraphrase of Psalm 46:2— I can do this; I will not be afraid.  I can face another day, even though my heart is breaking. If all things shatter and fail, if life will never be the same, I can be confident in the God who never changes.  .  .

. . . it is not easy . . .

now.

 

 

 

 

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. . . more. . . and less.

“Less calories,” I promised as I served our neighbors  slices of beautiful, crustless quiche the last morning of 2017.

“Good. That’s what I am about this year.  I want to walk more, drink more water and spend less money,” she laughed.

More. . . and. . . less . . .

We all use the phrase more or less to mean approximately or about.  How much sugar in this recipe?  Oh, about a cup, more or less.  How many miles did you run this morning?  Maybe three, more or less.   I am not using this phrase here, but the actual meanings of more which means another or a greater amount and less which is defined as not so much or in a smaller degree.

I usually do not make New Year’s Resolutions. All year I can change some action, a  habit or two, a learned behavior.  But I toyed with JoAnn’s words of more and less, especially as I had already been thinking I was going to clean less.

So when talking via WhatsApp with our granddaughter on Christmas Day, studying in London, I mentioned that I wasn’t going to clean as much this year.  “No way,   You’re the reason I clean my baseboards as often as I do.”

“Oh, no, Ahnna. Maybe you can do that just once a month,” I squealed.

“Not gonna happen, Barbara Jane. (that’s what she calls me :-)) You’ve ruined me.” She smiled, and I could hear her giggle all those miles across the waters that separated us this holiday.

But my heart had to think about those words. A long time.  Surely she and my other grandchildren know I am more than a cleaning lady. (And there is nothing wrong with a cleaning lady!) Surely they have seen more profound truths displayed daily, and they know the heart of their gram.

The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10) began to haunt me.  One listening and loving the Master.  One cleaning and cooking.

More importantly, this year I want to cry less and trust more.  My regular blog readers know that I have not written in three months.  Life has happened to cause many tears and much heart break in our precious family circle, and I have succumbed to fear and failed to trust. I desire to be transparent and vulnerable when I blog, and I just could not share our heartache.  So I didn’t write.

What about you? Is there an area where you want to do more, accomplish more, add another?  And a part of life where you need less of an activity or a habit? My list  is growing. . .

I need to begin with less of . . .

“being anxious about anything,” 

and more of this. . . “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.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4: 6-8

Maybe if I clean less, I will have time to sit, to listen

. . . more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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