Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Of Coffee, questions, and grace...

     It's a windy day, cold for mid-September. The week's been a big one. We both feel like it's time for some stress relief. Friday afternoon finds us at our favorite little haunt -- an amazing Mexican style coffee shop, tucked away on the edge of town.  Annie*  and I settle on Mochas. "They're to go." We tell the gal at the till. She smiles big as if she's there just to make our day. We grin back, grab our hot drinks and head for the lake. Time to get in a good brisk walk we've decided.
     After a silly wait at the cross walk where the light seems extra confusing we decide we're supposed to go across before it turns red again, so we run across. Poor Annie spills on herself and we both laugh. "Hope no one we know is around town," we quip. Laughing we head out briskly along the sidewalk. With a jerk coffee spills down my front and we laugh again, rather ruefully. My sisters and I learned long ago that one of the main ingredients to survival and sanity rests in this light and loony commodity called laughter. We use it liberally these days.
     We walk FAST. Reveling in the stress draining, staccato beat of footsteps on pavement, the exhilaration of wind blowing cool on exercise warmed faces, the easy comfort of companionship, and the sweet strong delight of coffee warming the insides. I'm counting on the espresso in my coffee to get me through this extra sprint of activity. We walk along commenting on the houses and people we pass. Enjoying light conversation. Nothing more important than the moment. Nothing more urgent than just being together.
   "These would be perfect for wedding photos..." The forever romantic in us surfaces as we stop, winded from our walk, and descend a secluded winding stone stair-case . =) At the bottom we sit down on the cold stone steps and gaze out at the tossing gray of the heaving lake. Like a living creature of mood it moves ever inward -- restless -- uncertain. A huge weeping willow sways in the wind, a curtain of teary whispering gray green, adding to the mood of the moment. White ribbons of light dance across the ripples of gray water. Like the silver joy of these moments riding the waves of life.
      We sit, just us. Hidden away from the world above. Silence. Drinking the last dredges of chocolate from our Styrofoam coffee cups. Light laughter. 
     Then we talk -- talk about hope and  feelings, past and future and the present. What life might be like a year from now we wonder? Wonder how the tide will turn. What His will will look like in the autumn of another year, and wondering if the ships of dreams will make it to harbor or if they will be forever lost at sea.
     We sit and ponder that life is full of  mystery. That we may never understand. Ponder God in His vastness and our own inability to ever understand Him. The moments tick by. Just us and the wind, us and questions.  The silent heavens offer us no answers. Yet still a sense of accepting faith prevails. Somehow in all the vast unknowns we sense Him. Know the miracle of another week of getting through. It is a miracle we insist. It has to be. Without Him we couldn't have gotten through. The moments of wondering are moments of recognition too. Moments of finding the strange light of hope flickering in hearts full of questions. Moments ripe for bowing before Him. Acceptance of His sovereignty and our smallness. The moments become sacred and the stone steps become an alter. Words wing heavenward, praise and petition, surrendered and yet expectant. Then it's time to go.
     We move back into the noise and bustle of humanity, leaving behind the somber of cold and questions warmed by sacrifices of praise and  the golden fires of grace.But the incense of communion still lingers. And the giddy joy of simple gifts, strangely intensified by the pain of life, rests like dew on the petals of our hearts. Laughter tinges with color, the world of gray sidewalks and darkened shop windows,  as we move homeward, journeying on with our hand in His.

*(for those who wonder who Annie is - It's my younger sister Anna's nickname.  )

Monday, September 19, 2011

The messenger of trouble

“My Father is the husbandman” (John 15:1).
It is comforting to think of trouble, in whatever form it may come to, us, as a heavenly messenger, bringing us something from God. In its earthly aspect it may seem hurtful, even destructive; but in its spiritual out-working it yields blessing. Many of the richest blessings which have come down to us from the past are the fruit of sorrow or pain. We should never forget that redemption, the world’s greatest blessing, is the fruit of the world’s greatest sorrow. In every time of sharp pruning, when the knife is deep and the pain is sore, it is an unspeakable comfort to read, “My Father is the husbandman.”
Doctor Vincent tells of being in a great hothouse where luscious clusters of grapes were hanging on every side. The owner said, “When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years, but this is the result.”

There is rich suggestiveness in this interpretation of the pruning process, as we apply it to the Christian life. Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, the gardener appears to be cutting it all away; but he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.
There are blessings we can never have unless we are ready to pay the price of pain. There is no way to reach them save through suffering. –Dr. Miller.
                                                                                                   -  Streams in the desert September 19

Friday, September 16, 2011

The trial of our faith

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:2-5

"Just so surely as we ask to have our Faith strengthened, we must feel a willingness to take from God's hand the means for strengthening it. We must allow Him to educate us through trials and bereavements and troubles. It is through trials that Faith is exercised more and more. God affectionately permits difficulties, that He may develop unceasingly that which He is willing to do for us, and to this end we should not shrink, but if He gives us sorrow and hindrances and losses and afflictions, we should take them out of His hands as evidences of His love and care for us in developing more and more of that Faith which He is seeking to strengthen in us." - George Muller

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Uncertainty

Of one thing I am certain
In this world of uncertainty
My God knows all about it
And He's working good for me

And as I look around me
I may not understand
The way that You are working
But I know you have a plan

So help me Lord to trust You
Please Lord just hold my hand
I know that as I follow
We'll reach the promised land
                        -Rachael Lofgren

Friday, September 9, 2011

Being REAL

"Worry about your character and not your reputation, because your character is who you are, and your reputation is only what people think of you." Unknown

"He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away."  Raymond Hull

"We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves."  Fran├žois Duc de La Rochefoucauld

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."  E.E. cummings

"The truth will make you free!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On an autumn afternoon...

Dreamy afternoon...
Perfect for something special...
And what better than a wedding?  And this the perfect spot!!
Scattering bits of beauty...
And every wedding needs a flower girl...
Nervous Bride -- awaiting "the moment"
And the waiting groom... (The pastor had to do a lot of convincing before the poor "shy" groom was willing to participate in the day's celebration. =) There was talk on the bride's part of proceeding without the groom present but at the last minute...LOL!  )
And the ceremony...the pastor being the only solemn one in the whole party. 
Warm congratulations from the "audience".
And hugs all around.
Bridal party hilarity.
And the happy couple! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fashioned in the Fire

"Unto you it is given . . .to suffer" Phil. 1:29..

God keeps a costly school. Many of its lessons are spelled out through tears. Richard Baxter said, "O God, I thank Thee for a bodily discipline of eight and fifty years"; and he is not the only man who has turned a trouble into triumph.

This school of our Heavenly Father will soon close for us; the term time is shortening every day. Let us not shrink from a hard lesson or wince under any rod of chastisement. The richer will be the crown, and the sweeter will be Heaven, if we endure cheerfully to the end and graduate in glory.--Theodore L. Cuyler

The finest china in the world is burned at least three times, some of it more than three times. Dresden china is always burned three times. Why does it go through that intense fire? Once ought to be enough; twice ought to be enough. No, three times are necessary to burn that china so that the gold and the crimson are brought out more beautiful and then fastened there to stay.

We are fashioned after the same principle in human life. Our trials are burned into us once, twice, thrice; and by God's grace these beautiful colors are there and they are there to stay forever.--Cortland Myers

Earth's fairest flowers grow not on sunny plain,
But where some vast upheaval rent in twain The smiling land . . . .
After the whirlwinds devastating blast,
After the molten fire and ashen pall,
God's still small voice breathes healing over all.
From riven rocks and fern-clad chasms deep,
Flow living waters as from hearts that weep,
There in the afterglow soft dews distill
And angels tend God's plants when night falls still,
And the Beloved passing by that way
Will gather lilies at the break of day.--J.H.D.

                                                          Streams in the Desert

Journeying On

Lord of the cloud and fire,
I am a stranger, with a stranger's indifference; 
My hands hold a pilgrim staff, My march is Zionward,
My eyes are toward the coming of the Lord,

My heart is in Thy hands without reserve.

Thou hast created it,
redeemed it,
renewed it,
captured it,
conquered it.
Keep it from every opposing foe,
crush in it every rebel lust,
mortify every treacherous passion,
annihilate every earthborn desire.

All faculties of my being vibrate to Thy touch;
I love Thee with soul, mind, body, strength,
might, spirit, affection, will,
desire, intellect, understanding.

Thou art the very perfection of all perfections;
All intellect derived from Thee;
My scanty rivulets flow from Thy unfathomable fountain.

Compared with Thee, the sun is darkness,
All beauty deformity,
All wisdom folly,
The best goodness faulty.

Thou art worthy of an adoration greater than my dull heart can yield;

Invigorate my love that it may rise worthily to Thee,
tightly entwine itself round Thee,
be allured by Thee.

Then shall my walk be endless praise.

~The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers