Friday, May 30, 2014

To Lift Others

I got a note from an old friend a few days ago.
Told me how the Lord had brought me to mind in prayer.
Spoke of faithfulness, and thanks,
and friendship with God,
and sunlight.
Isn't it good to hear encouragement?
Have you given any out lately?

I found myself pondering
how words of thankfulness and blessing that we hear
slip down the drain when one complaint is voiced.

But thou, O Jehovah, art a shield about me; 
My glory and the lifter up of my head
~Psalm 3:3

I am thankful for those who let Him use them to reach out and lift others.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Water and the Weeds

I turn on the sprinkler for a few minutes in the garden,
letting it pool up on the dirt.
Then I turn it off and wait so it can soak into the ground,
as I go around watering the rest of the things I have planted.
Once the water has soaked down, and no longer pools,
I take my bucket and squat down in between the rows
and begin another day's weed pulling among my onions.
The dirt is wet enough to cake on my hands, and under my fingernails.
What are these weeds? They're everywhere.
I focus on one small area at a time, carefully grasping each one at the base,
and applying slow steady pressure with a gentle twist.
When I am careful, and don't rush the work,
the weeds come sliding out satisfactorily,
all the way down to their slender root tips.
They pile up in my bucket.
The vegetables I planted become visible.

My toes go numb in this position, and I stand up to stretch.
I double over, and work awhile that way,
to let my toes and the back of my legs rest.
It was a hot day, and the garden earth lets off a cool vapor.
I think about Adam walking in the cool of the evening,
and wonder what the Lord showed him there in the garden.
I think about weeds and water and good soil.
How we need to be softened up with the Water,
so our hearts can let go of those bitter roots.
How skipping the watering makes the weeding impossible.
The roots break, and the weeds hang on.
I don't want that good seed to be choked out.

I spot a huge weed, and prepare for a struggle with it,
but the water has done its work, and it comes out easy.
I am careless over a small one, because it is small,
and I move too fast, and it wasn't watered well, and it breaks.
I'll have to work harder on it the next time.

I don't finish this time, just as I didn't the day before.
It will not be finished.
But tomorrow, I'll pull a few more after I water.
The rows are getting clearer, and the good seed is growing.
The weeds will get smaller.
They won't go away entirely, but it will be clear which side is winning.
Each day when I finish what I am doing,
and see how much was accomplished, I am surprised.
It was more than I expected -- even though so much is left.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Quiet Living in an Unquiet World

It was one of those nights best communicated
by a cranky baby,
a chili dog,
a chest cold,
a light in my face,
and heavy equipment working on a road not far from my house.
Can I please have a nap?

Most nights, I head to my bed nearly giddy with anticipation of sleep.
It's so disappointing when the snorting and complaining start up
just as I begin to drift off.
And when I wake in the morning,
it would be nice if I felt more rested than I did when I laid down.

I started my day with coffee, and a hungry baby who left me one-handed.
I've been reading the book of John,
and I balanced that while holding the baby and sipping the coffee.
It feels good on my throat, and lessens the coughing a little.
There is a crashing sound from upstairs,
laughter from another room,
and strains of Oh My Darling, Clementine playing from the harmonica.
The harmonica makes me smile.
I owned one myself as a kid, and never once played a real song on mine.
My son was playing two or three before he had owned it 24 hours.
But this is Quiet Time.

Quiet Time is that magical thing Christians urge each other to have
in order to grow spiritually.
First Thing in the morning, when you are fresh.
Except I am not fresh.
I am exhausted.
It consists of reading one's Bible prayerfully just as the sun comes up,
and all the rest of your family are still sleeping.
Mine are rarely still sleeping,
and I feel like the sun was shining in my face all night.
It was really the garage light, but nearly as bright.
Then, of course, that Sweet Hour of Prayer.
When they truly are silent,
and I am not interrupted by announcements of the cat having thrown up,
or the toilet overflowing,
I do spend more time 'in prayer'.
And if the baby is sleeping when we go to bed at night,
he holds my hand and we whisper together softly,
holding our breath when the snorting and kicking starts up.
But most days, it's here a little, there a little.

I think about ambition for a quiet life while I fold laundry.
About working with my own hands while I pull a few weeds in the garden.
I pray for a grieving friend while I rinse the plates,
and sometimes it's less words
than just a heart lifted up to heaven with an ache and a sigh.
I trust the Holy Spirit to know how to minister to that sighed-over friend.
I think about the phrase 'the God before whom I live', as I live,
transferring loads of laundry,
and changing diapers,
and cleaning out the spaces between small toes.

Study to be quiet...
I'm trying.
Trying to get it right.
Practicing again when I got it wrong.
The Scripture calls a quiet spirit very expensive to God.
It's worth cultivating.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just Words From a Song

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added affliction He addeth His mercy:
to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men:
for out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
when our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
when we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men:
for out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

It's beautiful at any time, but it was sung over a coffin today.
It is the weak He displays His power in,
and when are we more weak than in the face of death?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I Needed You

I needed you.
I needed you to wreck my world.
To yell into my quiet life,
and smear your sticky fingers on my windows,
to highlight how dirty they are anyway.
It was easy to be the perfect mother when there was no one talking back to me.
When my theoretical children showed off my parenting theories.

I needed you.
I needed you to struggle through sounding out r-a-t,
so the impatience could rise up in my chest,
and I would know I need my Father to be patient with me, too.
Because sometimes, the simple things in His Word
are the ones I'm stuck on, too.

I needed you.
I  needed you to come late into my life,
later than we wanted you,
after we knew we were failures.
A little gift of grace we couldn't earn.
A gifted miracle.

I needed you.
I needed you to stare up at the sky and shriek that you saw an airplane,
because I was too old to look up
and wonder at the impressiveness of flight until you reminded me.

I needed you.
I needed you to hold me while you sucked your fingers
and laid your head against my chest,
and sighed and fell asleep and drooled on me:
to watch your belly rise and fall with your sweet baby breaths.

I needed you.
I needed to learn to give,
and to pray,
and to hope the best for you when your spelling was atrocious,
and your writing was behind.
I see you in your future -- perfected in the things you practice doing now,
and I never saw anyone like that before you.
Love believes all things.

I needed you.
I needed your trust to teach me about trust;
your fears to help me to lay mine down;
your bickering so I would value peace.
In correcting you, I correct myself.

I needed you.
I needed to hear you laugh until you couldn't breathe;
I was serious, and you were carefree.
You taught me to laugh at myself.
To see the person with the sparkly eyes
behind the milk mustache, and the dirty clothes.

I needed you.
I needed you to forgive me for blaming you for taking what I lost myself.
To throw your short arms around my neck and kiss me
even though I got it wrong and made you cry.
You've borne with me, and taught me grace;
how families have to choose over and over again to love and to forgive,
because in being family, we have much to forgive each other for,
and we aren't always so lovable.
But we always need it, don't we?
And sometimes the one with the loudest voice needs the most gentle handling.