… reflecting…

This past Saturday morning I was wishing for the second day of Christmas. That’s what the day after Christmas is called in Austria, and it is a calendar holiday. There are several stories of its beginning in Europe, but it’s believed alms boxes in the Church as early as the 1600s were given to the poor that day.  Years later, Victorians named it Boxing Day; a day when the more affluent gave boxes of leftover food, money or other gifts to servants and trades people… to those who had provided good service throughout the year.

The day had nothing to do with Boxing, but all to do with acts of kindness and charity.  What a novel idea, indeed? Today the day after Christmas is considered a shopping or ‘return gifts’ day for most countries who once celebrated this as a giving, selfless day. When we lived In Vienna, it was a quiet, reflective day.

I think this second day of Christmas should be named… Reflection Day… especially this year when there is much to ponder…

I wanted another day of Christmas as the 25th found Tom and me alone with no hopes of celebrating with family.  Perhaps you were alone due to the viral pandemic, as well. I found myself wanting something more… something more joyful, more real, more like Christmases past. Would another day help?

So I reflect…

Yes, you and I know the story of Christmas. The words of Silent Night wrap us in peace.  Or do they? I understand  Emmanuel means “God with us”…

But why… at times, does He feel far away.  Maybe I have lost something these months  of 2020. I just returned this morning from walking, and a neighbor shared that the owner of the many cows surrounding our property and her property died three weeks ago of this virus; he was 60 years old.  Daily texts inform of someone testing positive… some fighting for their lives.

We came very near to losing a sweet son-in-law this summer to the virus.  I still reflect on those 83 days he was in the hospital, struggling for breath. What did I learn? What whispers did I hear from the heart of the Father?

So I reflect… I consider this year… soon to be history.

This scene out my dining window (all made by Tom in his shop) has somehow anchored my thoughts every meal these weeks.  The deer, masked in wood, has become a guide. My eyes go immediately to the star, but then I study the face of this deer.  I notice every day he focuses on the star while he guards the manger. We have had stormy weather, high winds, frigid temperatures. Yet, his gaze has constantly been upward; he has never wavered. Odd, this scene stirs me… causes an examination of my heart, my trust. Often, as I linger with coffee or hot tea, my spirit quietens, and I walk away with peace.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11,12. What words speak the loudest to you or perhaps, the softest?  While each word and phrase are almost holy, it is the words “to you” in two places that speak so personally to me. He was born ‘to me’ and then I was given a sign, a physical sign that He is real!  What do you do with this truth?  Amazing!

Whatever this year has given and taken away, as difficult as it may be, I must choose to reflect on the lessons learned, the truth understood, and focus on the important, even when tears fall.

“For the rest, sweet brothers and sisters, (italics mine) whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on, weigh and take account of these things… fix your minds on them.” Philippians 4:8 Amplified Bible

… reflecting…

“What was your best Christmas gift ever as a child?” I asked Tom on Christmas morning.  He smiled and immediately said, “The year I got my first bicycle … now I could go places!”  He told me what that new freedom meant living on the farm.

So we reflected on the places we have gone… and the beautiful people we have met on the way… You have filled our lives with immeasurable joy. My ABC* mind wants to list each one by name… but there are so many of you, I wouldn’t have room on this blog. Thank you for your presence on our journey.  (*check out my book published in July 2020, Whispers on the Journey: A Practical Guide using the ABCs in Prayer and Praise. Amazon.com)

I am going to leave the deer gazing… as a reminder to think on the good, pure, worthy of praise things this past year, and to focus on these in 2021. What about you? Will you join me in a dependency on the object of the star?

When they saw the star, they were filled with joy… they bowed down and worshiped Him. Matthew 2:10,11.

… reflecting…

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…hope… in a changing world…

I remember the snowy night Tom and I bought our first nativity. Woolworth’s was our favorite shopping place as newlyweds, a very popular five and dime store in America until 1997.  I had worked the candy and jewelry counter before we married, and knew of all the different nativity sets available.  After opening every box and inspecting the details and craftsmanship, we chose this one, handmade in Italy.

1964… our first Christmas together.

This year, 2020, as I opened the treasured Christmas containers, it was as if 55 celebrations of this season danced around me.  As I set this particular one in place, I stopped to hear what the donkey and cow sheltered in their stable might say this year. What stories? What memories…

Said the donkey… “I can hear how  excited those four  children were every December, saying, “Oh, I remember this from last year.” He added,  “I can still hear the strong voice of the father as he read our story on Christmas Eve.”  The cow mooed in agreement, thinking how sad the children were the time one of the Wise Men was discovered  broken. They both smiled at the memory of being  lovingly placed each year in the stable by those small hands.

I am sure the donkey and the cow were saddened the year  there were no children exclaiming in joy when the padded box they had been sleeping in was opened. Have they realized life has slowed down; there are less happy, crowded celebrations these past years?

Of course, these are my reflections as I consider these times; no matter the outward changes, I am captivated once again as this silent night comes alive. We have multiple nativity sets and depictions of the birth of the Savior, bought wherever we happened to be or gifted to us from around the world. Each image of the manger scene is culturally different; the African ones are beautiful.  I love every one… from Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Kenya, Honduras…and this one from Sopron, Hungary. I remember well my feet were almost ice frozen the night we bought this pottery manger  in a small village…

 

… memories…

But it is  our first nativity set that holds and protects every ‘holy-day’ memory in my Christmas bank. As I reflect on the scene in front of me, trying to balance that with the changes around me, I tearfully ask… where have all the Christmases gone? For brief moments these quieter years, I can cry for what is lost, for the pain in saying good-byes, for the questions of the ‘what-ifs’…

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5

Throughout all the changes in life, I am reminded the account of the nativity has not been altered  in any detail. The story in 1964 is the same as in 2020. How crucial for our faith, how important to know the facts are forever true, never changing.

This particular stable in the picture above is the fourth, or is it the fifth ‘new’ construction Tom has built these 55 years; I have added a sheep or two, and the story survives without the broken third wise man. Each figure continues to speak softly, confidently in our changing world …

Woolworth’s in America is forever gone. (Though I understand this store still operates in Germany and Austria! I wonder if it is the same as I remember in Tennessee.)There are changes for us, yes, every day, every month, but the truth of Christmas is etched forever in our hearts.

These past months of a world wide pandemic, producing fear and anxious moments, have perhaps caused us to lose hope. Whatever  changes or losses you may  experience,  I encourage you to remember… remember that one memory… that binds you to the truth of this greatest message ever given. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10,11.

Hope is paramount in the Christmas  story. These days when I crumble in the chaos of life changing around me… I stop. I remember…  I focus on the hope shouted that silent night, filling heaven with music: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

This year when the nativity scenes are packed away, I will cling to memories, yes, but more than that,  I determine to hold tightly to the truth that the story of Christmas never changes.

… hope… I share this gift with you…

 

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… rambling… in thanks…

One must always ramble in this area of being grateful… all day, every day.  I speak of the meaning of rambling as in … at length and unplanned.

On my morning walk yesterday I began singing as I passed our mailbox with the words give thanks on the  banner. Only I didn’t sing “Give thanks with a grateful heart”. It just came naturally to sing, “Give thanks with a broken heart.” Try it—words and music fit perfectly.

(click on the picture to read the words—and see the cows!)

If we allow our tears to deaden gratefulness, I wonder that we can be thankful at all. There are many things I cannot manage together. Tom always laughs and says I cannot row a boat and talk at the same time.  But I can cry while laughing, and I can dance in the rain.

Tears fall, yes, but I smile with gratefulness to see the birds at the feeder… to hear Christmas music these days. The glorious sunrise joys the moment. I ramble all day, thanking God for His goodness, praising Him in the pain, while the tears flow for life’s hurts.

I think we are all in this place— this pandemic has caused pain and confusion. From A to Z—my November prayer journal runs red with broken hearts and scattered pieces of life. I lay my hands on the names and weep. When I follow up with some, do you know what I always hear?  From Shanghai, Copenhagen, Vienna or Seattle, I can almost hear each one sing, “I… give thanks with a broken heart…”

Many of us can cry these same words from the Psalmist (you feel the anxiousness in the Amplified version). “My life dissolves and weeps itself away for heaviness; raise me up and strengthen me according to the promises of Your word. Chapter 119:28.  Would you believe four verses later, this same writer sings, “I run in the path of Your commands for you have set my heart free.” v32. I believe he observed the morning and rambled in thankfulness, despite the weariness of life.

Henri Nouwen’s thoughts on gratefulness expressed in Bread for the Journey: To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections –- that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

In my book, available at Amazon.com Whispers on the Journey, I write on Page 18 in the section on gratitude how the gift of an orange at Christmas taught me to be thankful:       To this day, I enjoy the fragrance and taste of an orange, and I smile. I didn’t know our family was as poor as we truly were. What I do know is that I was thankful for the small things, the blue sky days, the flowers, enough food for our large family. I am not sure you can teach someone to overflow with gratitude, to whisper thank you for the small gifts of life. Perhaps it was because I had few material things, I simply was grateful for the everyday miracles.

“My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.” Psalm 71:8

I will forever be grateful for this day, November 17. Fifty eight years ago today, I began walking with a teen age boy as a senior in high school. There are not many days that I do not whisper a thank you to him and one to the Creator for him.  I will continue to follow  both until….  

To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us—and He has given us everything… Thomas Merton Thoughts in Solitude

And to you, my friends and readers, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” Philippians 1:3,4. Your life is a gift to me, and I ramble…

…  in gratefulness… for you…

 

 

 

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… walking wisely…

I gasped at the size of this spider. Then I remembered the pest control guys told me two weeks ago this kind is my friend. “You want this one in your garage… even in your house. They eat the brown … Continue reading

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… leaving behind… what?

Recently, as I ran to catch up with Tom walking with Evelyn Jane and Isaac in the park, this scene stopped me. I was suspended ‘somewhere in time’. Memories flashed  around me. Pictures from the rear-view are a favorite of mine and always allow a vision of those who have gone before… lining the path ahead.

The words to “Find us Faithful” exploded over me. I remember Tom sang this song during our commissioning service when we left for Europe in 2000. “May those who come behind us find us faithful….”

What did these words  mean then when we left our children, family and friends twenty years ago?  What were we leaving behind?  And what would they remember during our ten years away?

What do they mean now for our grandchildren and our five greats– Evelyn Jane, Isaac, Eli, Natalie and Malachi—will they find us faithful—–to what and to whom?

The path looked a bit mysterious; Evelyn Jane and Isaac weren’t quite sure they wanted to keep going. “But it’s dark on this road,” Evelyn whispered as I caught up. As long as we were holding hands, they kept walking.

“May those who come behind us find us faithful”

I can admit I, too, am a bit afraid of the dark ahead.   Even David said, in Psalm 142, “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way. In the path where I walk, men have hidden a snare for me.” v3.”  He was in a cave, hiding, and he was afraid.  I can’t always see what’s behind the trees or around the curves, but I am trying to stand faithfully.

“… continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7,8

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

I see Tom’s mother waving excitedly as we approach, Mary Jane Lee from Kingsport, Tennessee, smiles her sweet smile, Dr. W.F. Hall– our Bible teacher at Chilhowee gives us a thumbs up as we pass. Oh, there’s Debbie Klementz from Vienna, Austria—many others who have finished the journey–and NOW encouraging us all to stand faithfully.

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind

May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

This week we have cleaned out the garage, reorganizing things and stuff…. and memories.  What will these containers reveal one day when we are gone? When the girls open a box of mementos, what will they remember about their parents? I opened a box of rocks… yes, rocks picked up along  the beaches of the countries we visited.  The kids will have no idea how we laughed over finding them. Hopefully, they will remember our lives stood firm on the ROCK…  the only Rock that matters.  Will our books, journals, pictures “lead them to the road that we each must find?

20201007_122658

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

CHORUS:
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

walking… one day at a time… trusting.

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… found. a new home…

If you read last week’s blog … on the way home…you will remember our pigeon was out for the day. After being here, resting for four days, we assumed  he was on his way home… NOT. Walter, as Tom had named him by now—(some of you will remember Walter Pigeon, the actor…an old one!) returned to us late afternoon on Thursday, and the scenario was the same on Friday…

Beautiful and clean... ready for home...

Beautiful and clean… ready for home…

Saturday morning, Walter would not leave the shop: no amount of nudging or prodding  persuaded him to fly out the opened shop door. I made a call to Mr. Edwards, the breeder in Pennsylvania, who called his owner in Meridianville, Alabama. They asked if we would be so kind as to trap him and take him down the road about five or ten miles in the direction of ‘home’. Both were sure he would arrive safely.  Mr. Edwards promised to let me know when Walter arrived home.

We didn’t go five miles, or ten; we went the nineteen miles … almost one third of the way toward Walter’s home.  Tom released him, he flew back under the vehicle just long enough to get his bearings. Away he soared… for home. We thought…

Sunday morning I received a text saying the bird had not made it home; I was so sad. At about the same time I looked out and said, “Tom, I think our bird is back.” Tom said, “No way; he has no training or homing instinct in returning here. But that does look like a pigeon!” It was…  our Walter!!  In the pouring rain, our homing pigeon had found his way to us and was now under Tom’s truck. In the same pouring rain, barefoot, I opened the shed; he immediately took his place on his roosting post.

The breeder is a bit astounded with this.  He says that Walter as a young bird either became scared by a hawk or was in some way distracted; in a few days with  shelter, food, water, he has reoriented himself to Miller Lane as “home”. I mentioned, “He has responded to love.” Mr. Edwards roared with laughter.  Evidently, a bird is not known to respond to love.  Tom keeps telling me, “Barb, this is only a bird.”

Monday morning,Tom and I drove him the sixty miles to Meridianville and left him with his owner. I was sad…

Whether it was a hawk or bad weather, this racing pigeon will never race again.  He will never soar to the glorious heights he was designed to do.  Today, Walter is no longer a free bird… Why?  He would most likely return to us if he were to enter another homing pigeon race. As a result of his choice to find safety in a good place, he must suffer those consequences.  He will be used for breeding purposes as he is from good stock.  Of course, he is!  He knew to find home here with love!

I am almost too close to this situation to make spiritual applications.  You will need to decide which lessons to learn from this.  I love the lesson of providing rest and comfort for someone who needs the space.  Maybe there is a lesson that often we “help” someone  too much —a child, a friend , a brother. What happens when they become dependent on us?

Is it possible that sometimes we are on the wrong journey? And we choose another ‘stopover’ that is the right one? And we love that person who encouraged and pointed us toward ‘home’… our permanent home.

Or maybe the only lesson to learn is from the previous blog… “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God… and live a life of love…” Ephesians 4:32, 5:1

Loving pigeons and people…

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…on the way home…

I always learn lessons from guests who show up unexpectedly.

Three days ago Tom and I noticed an unusual dove walking silently near us as we were eating watermelon under a tree.  We were able to catch him—or is it a her… and found bands on each leg. A quick Google search informed us that this is a racing homing pigeon. This is an universal sport, dating back centuries.

A phone call to the National Racing Pigeon association matched the number on one leg band to the initial breeder in Pennsylvania. Before this particular bird was fully feathered, he was shipped to Meridianville, Alabama,to join a racing club. Mr. Edwards said, “This racer is only sixty miles from home.”  I learned he came in 11th in last week’s 200 mile race. This past Sunday he began a 300 mile race…

He may come in last in this week’s race. He is still with us, roosting one night in the shed — we didn’t know he was still around; he just walked out when Tom opened the door early morning. The last two nights he settled in the garage. It’s warmer there.

So what happened? Racing pigeons often get lost on their journey. Weather changes disorient them, they crash into electric wires, or they simply get weary and hungry. They need a place to rest.

Social media advised me to provide some wild bird seed or uncooked rice and lentils and show him where the water is.  They will rest a while and be on their way. The breeder in Pennsylvania assured me this homing pigeon will eventually find his way home. It has been documented that  racing birds can compete in a 1,100 mile contest and get home safely.

While I am not sure this colorful, marked flying machine is going to leave and find his way home… at least to place himself in the finish…  I learn two lessons: we are either like the lost bird needing care and rest on our race, or else we need to be the safe place for a lost ‘bird’ to find encouragement and restoration.

I shared with the Pigeon association’s receptionist and the Pennsylvania breeder that this is a beautiful story of humans and homing.

You know the expression, “Home is where your heart is…”As believers our hearts are made for home. It was Augustine of Hippo who said, “Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”  We are on our way HOME. But what happens when we get too tired or changes in circumstances cause us to lose our way? What do we do when it is difficult to go another step? Where do we go when we’ve lost hope to finish the race.

I learned tired, hungry homing pigeons look for quiet, peaceful places for a stopover. The shade trees and bird feeders in our garden must have enticed this racer to stay awhile.  This is his safe place for now…

As I watch this ‘lost’ racing pigeon trek around the yard, sit in the shade of the trees, nibble at the grass seed Tom recently planted… I wonder… where do I go when I need a safe place… where are the arms that will hold me? Who will collect my tears in a bottle? Where do I find comfort before I can continue the journey to Now?

Remember the story in I Kings 17? During a drought in a political crisis, the Lord sent Elijah to the Brook Kerith for safety; he was provided food by ravens, and a bubbling creek was near by.  When the spring water dried up, the Lord sent him to his next safe place… to the home of a widow for food and protection.

I love the story of Onesimus and Philemon in the New Testament. Paul urges the household of Philemon to receive the former slave back into their hearts. Onesimus needs a safe place on his journey now, Paul hints. “I am sending him–who is my very heart–back to you. I would have liked to keep  him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.” verse 12,13. “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” verse 7

This beautiful, quiet racing dove, eating and walking at leisure near me, reminds me to hold you gently, to allow you to be yourself, to let you rest for awhile without judgement or questioning. I don’t even need to warn you to finish the race.  All I am to do is to be here when you seek a quiet, safe place.

How beautiful to find a place to rest… on our journey home.

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… scrabbling…

I’ve learned a new word…

I didn’t even know there was a meaning for this word, except for the game of SCRABBLE.  It’s like panning for gold, but more desperate… a frantic grasp for something more.  

“Each of us is the artist of his (her) own life”  jumped off the page one morning this week,  causing me to ponder if I had drawn a famous painting. Elizabeth O’Conner continued the thought: “The materials we are given to work with, the conditions we work under and what happens to us, are part of the drama of what we shall do with our lives.” Journey Inward, Journey Outward.

William Ernest Henley penned a somewhat different sentiment, though similar, in his 1875 poem, Invictus. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”.  Henley’s left leg was amputated below the knee while a teenager, due to complications of tuberculosis. The central idea in these lines is the confident belief one can overcome despair and life’s trials.

When teaching young adults throughout our ministry, I often suggested the game of Scrabble as a parallel in life.  We each draw a different set of letters. We moan when we draw a J or K; what about the X or Z? Or a Q without a U? Too many vowels? Not enough vowels… we complain.

So how have I scrabbled? It’s not that I minded the J or the Z—after all those letters count much more in the board game, especially when you play those on the Triple square. I wanted the more important letters in just the right combination to win the game!

In my younger life, I envied Martha Stewart… she could do everything right… in the kitchen, in the house, in the garden. It was only when I learned I could make a pie crust from scratch in less time than she, I breathed easier.  Later, I wanted to be a Beth Moore. Surely I could do the things she was doing. Writing books, leading large Bible studies, a popular conference speaker.  What is wrong with me?

I’ve always grasped for something more—surely I might paint a masterpiece if I could take the best lessons; perhaps I could write a best seller. Why wasn’t I somebody, doing something BIG.  I have this sweet friend who personifies mercy to everyone… why can’t I be like her?

… I scrabbled…

For years, I wanted to know, to discover what I was to be when I grew up. Yes, I lived in a sweet contentment in marriage and home, delighting in a serving ministry, loving internationals… but yet, a haunting desire to be More bubbled under current.  I must have thought it complicated, or else, it would be a spectacular revelation—and poof… I would be somebody. 

You may scrabble… for More….  

O’Conner concludes her thought: “Materials and conditions and events are not, in themselves, the determining factors.” It is the fact that we—you and I—hear the whispers of our Creator Father to come to Him. “He (or she) does not have to scramble (I would say scrabble) for a place in the scheme of things. She knows there is a place which is hers and that she can live close to the One who will show it to her. Life becomes her vocation.” (italics… my change of pronouns)

 “For we— you and I—are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Once, I asked Tom to read a page in my journal; I wanted to ask him a question about my thoughts. He browsed through it, reading. Looking deep into my eyes, he gently said, ”You will only find this MORE when you get to heaven. Your search will be finished.”

Surely I have grown up… NOW… I learn it is a simple thing. I am somebody! I have been ‘becoming’ all these years. 

We can each paint a masterpiece if we brush with the colors we are given and not scrabble for more exotic colors; we can write a bestseller of our lives as we sharpen the pencils we are given.

Whispers on the Journey: A Practical Guide using the ABCs in Prayer and Praise is now available on Amazon.com  It is my journey listening to His whispers affirming me, reaffirming me time after time…  loving me through mistakes and struggle. (In my scrabble to be more, I have not excelled in computer knowledge; I do not  know how to link this to my blog).

Join me in less scrabbling and more rest…

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” Psalm 62:1

 

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… making rainbows …

Can a rainbow be colored with black, deep brown and dark blues?

We typically think of beautiful colors contained in this visible spectrum… red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

In medieval days, there were five colors known as rainbow colors, but it was Sir Isaac Newton in 1665 that added orange and indigo. He believed the “harmony of colors in the rainbow must be similar to the harmony of the notes in a major musical scale. Seven steps in the scale; seven colors in the rainbow.” (LenFisherscience.com)

Rainbows…

Why do they make us smile?

A rainbow, any rainbow, small, full, part…and suddenly, we are assured with a hope. Well, at least, it defines me at the moment.The rainbow has long been a symbol of hope and assurance. The first rainbow occurs in Genesis 9:8-17; the Lord sealed His covenant with a promise never to flood the earth again. The skies became a backdrop for hope. Throughout centuries and cultures, rainbows represent hope and protection.

June 21, 2020, was a dark, cloudy, seemingly hopeless day for us. Tom and I were with our daughter Sharon and Ahnna, our granddaughter. There was no laughter, no joy. An hour earlier, we had heard upsetting and unsettling news concerning Fred, our son-in-law. He had been on a ventilator for a week in Vanderbilt Hospital with Covid. We just sat—watching clouds dump showers, then the rains ceased. After several of these starts and stops, a whisper interrupted my fearful thoughts, “Look for the rainbow.”

I jumped, “There’s a rainbow somewhere”. Three of us headed out the garage door. Tom added, “The sun has to be behind you.” There it was… to my left. It was as if the Lord whispered, “This is for you—a message of hope for today.” I cried.

I lived in the promise of that rainbow for days. Then there were times when the news from the medical team was too negative. I forgot the message.  I couldn’t hear the whisper. I didn’t trust the promise. Often, if I were still long enough and quiet in my spirit, I could hear, “Remember the rainbow.”

I cannot fathom that this big God loves me enough to send a message in a rainbow when I was so very low. But He did, and I accepted it as a gift from Him… even when I doubted.

We know that the colors of the rainbow are present in sunlight. A prism is made by the reflection and refraction of the sun’s rays inside the raindrops.  And these colored displays happen anywhere there are water droplets and sunlight at just the right angle. You can make your own rainbow with these two ingredients in your garden.

I’ve been thinking about colors— dark colors. Are they present in a rainbow?  I discovered there are hundreds, thousands… would you believe…a million colors in a rainbow!  That sentence deserves an exclamation point.

Of course, we cannot see them. But they are there. You know what this tells me?  That no matter what happens, no matter where I am, no matter if black wraps me tightly in its blanket or if I am being squeezed with deep brown cold mud, or blued with bruises of heart pain, there is a rainbow. If the Son light is in proper range.  Somewhere… there’s a rainbow… giving  hope, providing assurance that I will make it through this storm.

Hope is necessary to live . “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy  name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” Psalm 33:20-22

Fred describes his sense of hopelessness when Sharon dropped him off at the emergency room entrance… alone … to face whatever was ahead.  Five weeks later, she was allowed to stand at his window on the Covid floor, due to a change in Vanderbilt’s policy for ICU Covid patients. When asked later what that moment meant to him, “Hope stood at the window. I knew I could make it.” She was his rainbow that moment.

Tom and I made a rainbow…  I know…  it’s just water droplets and sunlight, but it was full of color and joy. I hope I always see a rainbow shining through my storms. It doesn’t mean  there will be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it can direct me to the One who gives promises and a hope to journey through the storm.  And I want to make rainbows giving hope and promise to those who see clouds.

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All it takes is Son light through my tears… at the perfect angle.

“But as for me, I will always have hope. I will praise you more and more…” Psalm 71:14

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… trapped…

“Oh no. I just caught a bird.”

The trap had been set to catch a pesky squirrel chewing his way into the finch socks. All other bird feeders are squirrel protected. I feed the squirrels, too, but they do prefer bird-food, and pursue it fiercely.

But now I have captured a bird, one of my favorite non human beings.  I feared the loud squawking and thrashing of wings could cause an untimely death… right before my eyes.  This bird wanted his freedom.

Picking up the trap carefully, I set it in the shade. The minute I picked it up and began speaking softly, there was silence. Tom was gone, and I could not open the wire cage. The response of this captured bird surprised me. Immediately, he … or she? stopped all frantic movement. I sat down beside the trap on the grass … you will now think I am crazy! After telling the bird not to be afraid…  that Tom would soon be back, and he could be free, he watched my every movement.

I began singing, “Jesus loves you… Little birds to you belong,” etc. making it personal to this scared fowl.  I quoted  verse 11 of Psalm 50…”I know every bird in the mountain, and the creatures of the field are mine.”  I paraphrased Matthew 10:29 into bird language,  “Not one bird will fall to the ground that the Father doesn’t know about.”

The captured bird never flinched one time; he never fluttered those wings.  His small eyes just watched… and he listened. 20200704_150933I smiled as this created gift watched me keenly. For twenty minutes I rattled off verses of the Lord’s watch care. I  reminded him that the Creator who knows every star by name, surely knew his. Psalm 147:4.

“You will be free soon.” And he was. Tom arrived, opened the cage, and off he flew, landing on a nearby branch first… looking at me as if to say, “Now, listen to the same promises.”

I heard a whisper. “Listen to your own words… affirmations of faith and belief. I am speaking these same promises, these same truths to you.” I sat still, sensing the Lord’s gentle hand pushing the hair off my face. I realized how trapped I was… in fear. Worry and concern over our son-in-law, Fred, remaining in critical condition in the hospital with Covid  has paralyzed me. I spend more time languishing in fear than listening to God’s promises.

Trapped.

John 5 is a timely read this week. The paralyzed man was trapped… for thirty-eight years he has been confined. An ABC study* reveals many trappings…  Alone-ness, Blame and Bitterness, Contentment in his trappings… perhaps. Dependency on others and Defensive… trapped in Uselessness and Worry… trapped.

We are, most likely, all trapped in one kind of cage … or another.

I wonder that we are trapped in a Fear Pandemic— politically, physically, emotionally, racially, socially, even spiritually.  I can only respond to my personal fears. Life lived within a trap is deadly.

Then we hear Jesus’ beautiful words, “Do you want to get well? Do you want to be free? Do you want to walk? Do you want to be clean? I am here. I am your answer to all the traps set for you. For the traps you have walked into.”

It seems much too simple. The trapped bird did nothing to earn his freedom…  but listen. The quick release of the lock set him free.

“And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” John 8:36

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will be set free (my words here) John 3:16

NOW… free.

 

As I have finished this and read and reread my thoughts, I am burdened that this is written on another level. I had no idea the many implications for these days.  See if you can discover another thought for the same blog post titled… trapped.

*(My ABC guide entitled Whispers on the Journey will be available on Amazon by end of this month.)

 

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