Monday, October 31, 2016

Time For Rest?

Next Sunday morning we turn our clocks back an hour at the end of Daylight Savings Time. That makes me happy because I like to think I'm getting an extra hour to sleep. Not that it matters to me now that I'm retired, but I remember how it was when I worked. There never seemed to be enough time for rest.

This time of year seems appropriate to think about rest as the farmers near the end of their labor-intensive season of harvest. For months they race against the calendar and the approaching winter weather to complete harvest and as much post-harvest work they can before the ground freezes. For most Iowa farmers that probably means another month in the fields, if they are lucky. Before the monster equipment became common, farmers felt fortunate to finish harvest by Thanksgiving.

I watch as the younger generations navigate through the busy years of child-raising, school days, long work weeks, full schedules, and homemaking, and I wonder how they do it.

This time of year doesn't mean rest to everyone. Fall sports come to an end and students shift gears as they prepare for indoor basketball and wrestling, or conditioning for spring track, soccer, softball and baseball. Musicians gear up for the busy season of challenging yet glorious Advent and Christmas music. Churches move into super scheduling of preparation and planning.  Retail businesses load up their work schedules with additional laborers to be ready for the big sales season ahead.

As I begin to winterize by bringing in the flower pots and garden hoses, cover the outdoor furniture and grill, carry away the flowers as they die back and water the new trees and plants, I realize how cyclical our lives are. We adjust to the seasons by what we do and how we think. Every moment of every day is useful for work or for rest. God is always with us to provide the extra strength and rest that we need.

Whatever challenges you face today or tomorrow, address them with God's love and help and they will be manageable and achievable.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light," (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Race Before Us

I've got running on my mind this week because our grandson Calvin will run in his first State Cross Country Meet on Saturday in Fort Dodge. He has worked so hard for over two years to train his body to run distances. He spent the last two summers running up and down and around the gravel roads near his home, throughout the town of Gilbert, through the State Fair grounds, and around golf courses and cross country paths from here to Minnesota. I am so proud of the success he has had this year and the great times he has posted, but even more so I am proud of his determination and commitment to the craft of running. I wish I had the conviction to work that hard on anything.

But that's when I turn to the scriptures to relate running to the path of faith that lies before us. This is the race I want to win the most and the one I want my children and grandchildren to win - the race of life in Christ Jesus. Just as Calvin needs to focus on each step as he takes it, we too must focus on Jesus Christ in this moment and the next, not on what is already past.

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV).

As we read scriptures, pray, worship God, fellowship with other Christians, and study His Word, we become familiar with the path and our feet fall surely to the ground, one after the other, moving forward to conquer the hills and the rocky valleys.

"You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" (Galatians 5:7 NIV).

Yet, there are times when we lose sight of the goal or someone or something distracts our focus. We sometimes stumble or struggle on the path, losing our way or losing sight of the goal. It is then that we can call out to God and He will hear us and respond to our cry for help. His strength will bolster ours and we will be lifted up to follow the path and pursue the goal with courage and confidence in Him.

"The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:28b-31 NIV).

Monday, October 24, 2016

Love For A Lifetime

We had a family celebration this weekend. My big sister Burneta and her husband Gene celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary! It was a delightful day filled with friends and family all around them, sharing memories and updates on their lives. The daughters created a beautiful display of photos in the shape of 60 and they had Burneta's wedding dress and vail there with the photo album of wedding pictures. It was so fun to look through the photos and see the love in the young couple's eyes. They are so blessed; even though their lives have held many difficult challenges and sorrow, along with the joys and laughter; they have endured together.

They have four adult children who have made them so proud, along with their spouses, and four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren that they adore. They are amazed by the talents of their family members and just glow whenever they talk about them. There are also very special grand-horses, grand-dogs, and grand-cats that complete the family circle.

Though I don't remember Gene and Burneta's courting days, I've been told that I nearly ruined the relationship. Whenever Gene came to visit, I cried so loud, it was nearly impossible for anyone else to hear a conversation. But it is clear that Gene was smitten with true love because he kept coming back. He wisely took her out whenever possible.

Their child-raising years went by in a flurry of activity. With a little girl, twin boys, and another little girl, the days were filled with washing laundry, cleaning house, cooking, bathing, gardening, canning, and all the work of an Iowa farm. Add to that a job in the insurance office that eventually became full-time for them both. There were piano lessons and lots of music and dedication to the United Methodist Church in Albion. There were ball games and recitals and farm work to do. And aging parents to care for and to love.

I haven't done their life justice in these few paragraphs and there is still more to come! It has been a joy watching these two master life for 60 years together. They are an inspiration to other couples and a wonderful example of living life for a lifetime. Congratulations Gene and Burneta! We all love you!

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Crushing Waves of Life

"You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.' The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God" (Jonah 2:3-6 NIV).

I got to experience Jonah's waves in a very slight form this past week. We vacationed in San Francisco and viewed the Pacific Ocean many times along the coastal highway, both north and south of the huge city. I completed a bucket list item: I walked in the ocean water. I took off my shoes and socks and rolled up my jeans. It was a full moon time and the waves were crashing onto the shore. The beach was long and dotted by people on the 70 degree day. As I approached the water I watched where the waves were coming in and carefully ventured closer. Suddenly a wave swept toward me with a smooth sweeping motion that forced me to stabilize my stance as the water pushed up to my knees and slipped back into the ocean again. I braced myself, thinking at one point I was going to be pushed over. But I suffered only wet jeans from my knees down.

As I watched the bigger waves repeatedly crash onto the beach I was mesmerized by the roar of the powerful ocean. I can see how someone could get hurt by or be pulled back into the ocean by the waves. They were truly unapproachable, as the signs warned. I think I could have watched the waves all day. It was such a different experience for this farm girl. The white caps formed over and over in long rolls of foamy water racing toward the shore and crashing onto the sand or into the rocks creating water spouts that splashed toward the heavens.

I can't help but remember times in my life when depression was like the engulfing waters, wearing me out by the persistent waves that crashed over and over against me until I could no longer see the light, only darkness. But, God was faithful and delivered me also from the pit of pain and hopelessness.

"When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple" (Jonah 2:7 NIV).

Monday, October 10, 2016

Experiences of Life

Yesterday John and I stopped at a pumpkin patch out in the country on one of the roads we travel to church. Their parking lot was beyond full and there were hundreds of people scattered over the acres of ground, searching for the perfect pumpkin. John had a definite image of his perfect pumpkin, too. It needed to be very round and symmetrical and orange.

We were still in our church clothes but we just wanted one pumpkin to set on our front step and six strange-shaped gourds needed for a youth event at church. We walked up to the building to find out what the process was and noticed a table of large pumpkins that were already weighed and priced. We discovered we could choose one of those pumpkins and pay for it, rather than walking through the pumpkin patch. That sounded good to John so he chose a nice, big round orange pumpkin marked $10 and carried it out to the checkout stand. We noticed a table of gourds, so gathered six of the least-normal gourds and got in line at the stand. All the while we dodged the families pulling wagonloads of pumpkins, miniature straw bales, gourds, and other harvest goods. The pumpkin was heavy and John's back was already sore. We checked out and made our way back to our car with our purchases.

We also needed some rope for the youth event so we stopped at a farm store to buy some. Just outside the store we saw two huge crates filled with pumpkins, priced $2.99 each. John stopped to review them and assured me that ours was much bigger and more perfect and besides, it was all about the "experience" at the pumpkin patch.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm" (Proverbs 4:23, 25, 26).

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Following the Course

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths" (Isaiah 2:3a NIV).

I just received an email with the map for Calvin's next cross country meet. We always look for locations where we can catch a view of him running several times. Often we are able to cheer him on from several points along his course and we try to be near the finish line to watch his last push against time and other racers. The cross country course is often on a golf course where the manicured grounds are perfect for marking paths and providing challenging hills plus attractive scenery.

Our life path is similar to a cross country course. We move along for a while till we come to a sharp turn and double back the same way we came. Then we may come to a new path that takes us through deep valleys where we get muddy and become encumbered by the trials we face. Eventually we tackle the long hills and reach the top where another trail guides us through times of sunshine and fragrant prairies with far reaching views that make our hearts beat with joy.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).

When we put our trust in God, we have the golf cart driving ahead of us, showing us where the course goes next, giving us room to choose a different direction, but guiding us along the path He has chosen for us - if we keep our focus on Him. We have to keep going; we can't give up. We can choose our own pace but the prize at the end gives us the determination and desire to keep reaching toward the finish line.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

May God's word touch you with encouragement today so you can continue on the path He has set before you.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Precious Moments; Making Memories

What a wonderful weekend we had! We were able to spend time with all of our grandchildren. Though they weren't here all at once we spent valuable time with each one. And it was wonderful.

It takes time to get to know each grandchild and it is the extended time that is so precious in our hearts and minds.  The moments of hugs and cuddling are so needed to this old lady's soul. I hope those times are special to each child's heart also and that they will remember something good about their grandparents.

It makes my heart leap with joy when the youngest ones greet us by running to us with hugs. I will always cherish that greeting of love that only grows more precious as the children grow older. The quiet times of reading books together as they intently listen to each word and inflection. Listening as another child reads a chapter book to me that is just the kind of book I would have chosen when I was her age.

There are the little conversations that leave me wondering when the child became so wise and knowledgeable. The shared glances of mischievous grins, just overflowing with love. The times when the driving grandchild walks into the house, introducing a special friend. The enjoyment of conversation over a meal together, catching up on the grandchild's busy life and being in awe of the wonderful woman she is becoming.

I savor the snapshots in my mind of watching as the older siblings lead the younger ones in bedtime prayers - seeing the love between them all.  Listening to conversations between the children that make me smile and chuckle. Feeling such pride as I hear the dreams and goals expressed by each child. Gathering all these moments of memories and locking them safely away as treasures in my heart. Thank you, God, for the blessing of grandchildren. There is no greater gift in life.

"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (Proverbs 17:6 NIV).