Sunday, September 18, 2016

To Know Your Own Heart #SmallWonder LinkUp


My church’s interim pastor, Jay McDermond, spoke on the life of Peter last Sunday, spending much of his time focusing on Peter’s less admirable qualities. (I believe the words “bone head” may have been employed.)  By human standards, Peter probably wasn’t the best candidate for Jesus to build his church on, but Jesus called him anyway.  
  
After highlighting Peter’s commitment and betrayal, our pastor focused on the conversation between Jesus and Peter found in John 21.  Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  Peter responds each time, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”  According to Pastor Jay, the nuance of the conversation is a bit clearer in the Greek where two different words for ‘love’ are used. 

Jesus: Peter, do you ‘agape me?’
Peter: Yes Lord, ‘phileo se.’

Jesus is talking about one kind of love, Peter is talking about another.  Jesus uses the Greek word “agape” referring to divine love.  “Peter,” Jesus is asking, “do you love me like God loves you?” 

Peter responds with ‘phileo se,’ “I love you like a brother, Jesus.” 

This exact exchange is then repeated with Jesus again asking whether Peter loves him with divine love and Peter responding, “I love you like a brother.”  The third time, though, Jesus changes his wording to match Peter’s ability.

“Peter,” he finally says in verse 17, “do you love me like a brother?” 

“Yes,” Peter says again, “I love you like a brother.” 

Jesus responds to Peter’s humanity by lowering the bar.  It’s as though Jesus sees Peter’s true condition and decides, “Yeah, I can work with that.”  This is good news – the same grace extended to Peter extends to all of us.    

It’s also important to note a change in Peter.  By the time we get to this final conversation near the end of the book of John, Peter, for once, doesn’t try to pretend he’s capable of more than he knows to be true.  Maybe he learned that lesson during the long, dark night of his betrayal.  When Peter heard Jesus’ prediction of suffering and death, Peter promised to be faithful to the bitter end.  Jesus, never the fool, told him, “Before the rooster crows three times, Peter, you will betray me.”  In other words, Jesus says, “Peter, you don’t even know your own heart.”

For Peter, the realization of his own capacity for betrayal (ie. his capacity for sin) was devastating.  When the rooster crowed for the third time, Peter ran out and “wept bitterly.”  That night in the courtyard and later through the still, silent night of fishing without success, Peter came face to face with his own humanity.  It’s not that he lost his tendency to bluster and bluff, but that he became painfully aware of it.  By the time he talks with Jesus again, Peter is certain of who he is – fully human, flawed, and yet willing to love the best he can. 

If I were Peter standing on the shoreline held in place by Jesus’ direct line of questioning, I can’t help but think I would’ve been tempted to claim I’m capable of more than I am.  This seems to be the sin I’m most prone to commit over and over again.

But Peter discovered a bedrock truth about himself, about his limitations and abilities and that discovery gives him solid footing in the face of Jesus’ questioning.  The good news is that Jesus doesn’t reject Peter for his limitations, in fact, I wonder if it wasn’t Peter’s certainty about his own limits that helped Jesus decide he was the right person for the job. 

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

They're Off (to Kindergarten) #SmallWonder

Oh my word, these two used to stand in the windows at our old house eating apples and watching the cars drive by on Franklin St.  

I hear, again, the patter of little feet upstairs.  It’s 7:30 pm, a good half hour since the song and a prayer and good nights.  But there he is in the half-dark hallway, a taunt wire of worried little boy.  I reach out my arms and pick up his long, strong body because that’s what Mamas do. 

“Are you worried?” I ask.

He gives me a wide-eyed exasperated look.  “Mom!  Do you think I wouldn’t be worried about my first day of school ever?” he says.

It’s true, he has every right to be worried.  “It’s ok,” I say, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
 
He looks away and Daddy arrives at the top of the stairs to take the hand-off and I return to helping the older two wash off the last remains of summer.  I joke that we may not recognize them when the scrubbing’s all said and done. 

Later, when the older two are sprawled on couches and I’m reading aloud, I hear a thump of feet hitting the floor above my head and a pitter-patter in the hallway.  Looking up I see him squatting there at the railing. 

“Remember that poem we were supposed to read the night before school to help us sleep better?” he asks.  “We forgot to read it.”
 
I remembered the poems after they were in bed and thought we’d let it go until morning.  But now that he remembers, there’ll be no letting anything go.  Up the stairs Daddy goes again, this time with the yellow school folder and poem in hand.  They open the folded yellow paper revealing a little bag of “magic confetti” inside.  The confetti, the poem explained, is to be sprinkled under one’s pillow to ensure a good night’s sleep. 

Levi scurries to his bed, shaking the little bag with vigor, making sure to get every last piece of confetti, talking the entire time.  It works and he sleeps through the night.  In the morning, though, picking out a new shirt to wear, he yawns and looks at me with baggy, red eyes.  “I’m tired,” he says.    

//

In the early morning chaos of fixing breakfast, packing lunches and sorting new shoes and shirts, Isaiah walks up to me with wide eyes. “I’m scared,” he says, “because when we get there, you won’t be with us.”  At the word “you” he pokes me in the chest for emphasis. 

“I know,” I say, squeezing him in a hug.  

Then the whirl of morning preparations pulls us in separate directions until I pause, putting bread in the toaster.  He approaches again, staring up at me with questions brimming in his brown eyes.  “Will there be bullies?” he asks.

“No,” I say, “there won’t be any bullies, honey.” 

//

Everyone’s ready a good half hour early and when it’s finally time to go outside for the buses, Isaiah is unable to smile for a picture.  He doesn’t cry, but his face is a grimace of worry. 

Mercifully, the bus is on time and they’re up the stairs before I can cling to them for one last hug and a kiss.  The bus driver tells them to head to seat four, but I call out from the foot of the tall, black stairs, “They don’t know the number four.”  

I will myself not to climb those stairs and help them to their seats, not to call them back for one last hug and kiss.  My husband, seeing their confusion, points to the window by seat number four and in a blink, two happy faces peak out smiling, waving, and then they’re off. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day (A Picture Post)

It's Labor Day here in the United States.  My husband is off from work, my father-in-law is visiting, and this is ALL FOUR kids' last day of summer vacation.  It's been a hot, dry summer in our neck of the woods and somewhere half-way through we re-discovered the Yellow Breeches creek just a few minutes from our house.  Even on the hottest of days the creek's cool and shady, filled with wonders.

Yesterday I picked up a book my soon-to-be fifth grader recommended, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, a lovely book about the power of story and the lengths we must go to to protect it.  The book begins with this quote, which I'll leave you with, as well as some pictures from our time at the creek. Tomorrow's a new bend in the road for us and I'll see you on the other side. #SmallWonder link-up will be back next week. 

The most priceless posession of the human race is the wonder of the world.  Yet, latterly, the utmost endeavours of mankind have been directed towards the dissipation of that wonder . . . Nobody, any longer, may hope to entertain an angel unawares, or to meet sir Lancelot in shining armour on a moonlit road.  But what is the use of living in a world devoid of wonderment? - Kenneth Grahame
















This summer's Zinnias are almost spent and I'm looking forward to adding more variety to next year's crop. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda



John 5:1-9

How long must you wait
by the water’s edge
for the angel to dip
her fickle toe and
stir the surface
of the world?

And what if
even after
days, months
of waiting,
watching,
you sense
the air’s movement,
see the water shimmer
with circle after concentric
circle and yet,
are unable
to enter in?

To be near
the miracle is not
enough.  Second
place will earn you
no reward. 

What then?

Nothing can move
you save for the one
question most difficult,
“What do you want?”

The answer 
to that question
turns you away 
from waiting
and the still, 
smooth surface
of the water.  

The answer
to that question 
bids you,
“Pick up your mat 
and walk.”

Sunday, August 28, 2016

How to Find Hidden Treasure (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Our giant black chicken stood outside the open kitchen window clucking with vigor yesterday afternoon.  Despite the high heat and humidity, she marched back and forth in the green grass busily squawking with an air of self-importance, a clear sign she’d just laid an egg. 

I dropped what I was doing and rushed outside.  “A-ha!” I thought.  The day before I’d gathered a measly four eggs. I knew the hens were holding out on me and I walked slow searching circles around the yard in the afternoon and early the next morning hunting for their secret nest. 

Our sixteen hens have a total of seven nesting boxes spread between two coops and one “alternative” nest tucked in a pile of hay on the garage floor.  They have plenty of good places to lay their eggs.  But once a month or so first one, then three or four find a new place to lay. 

The first secret nest we found was tucked under a piece of abandoned plywood lying at the base of our largest pine tree.  In the sheltering shade of the old wood, resting in a shallow depression between two roots, lay a clutch of eighteen eggs.  Since then we’ve found clutches on wooden shelves in my husband’s wood shop, in dark corners of the garage, and in the middle of a much-trampled flowerbed.  The nests are cleverly hidden and nearly impossible to find, although they have hens sitting in them and coming and going for most of the day.   

When I suspect the hens are hoarding eggs, I prowl the yard looking around the base of shrubs and trees, I roam the garage looking for secret corners and shadowed shelves.  Most importantly, I start listening to the chatter among the birds.
 
Every chicken we have, save perhaps for the shy Polish hen, announces her freshly laid egg with a puffed chest and wide-spread wings, her beak opening to pronounce pride with a voluminous round of “bawk-bawk-bigawk.”  This announcement can go on for a good five or ten minutes as the hen boasts and elates over her own great deed.  If I’m paying attention, then I notice this cackle of delight and quickly head toward the loud-mouth hoping to catch her red-handed at the scene of the crime. 

Yesterday when I heard “Thunder Storm” (as my daughter calls her) or “Darth Vader” (as the boys call her) clucking up a storm I ran outside and checked closely in the weedy flowerbed beneath the window, pushing aside leggy Cone Flowers and Daisy stems that refuse to yield more buds.  I scanned the base of the overgrown shrubs that need trimming but found nothing.  Lately I've noticed the hens hanging out around the old well-house just beside the kitchen window but I’ve checked the ancient trellis there with its climbing vines and knew, just knew, there was nothing there.
 
Still, I paused and scanned low again while the black hen with her feathers that shimmer iridescent blue and green chattered on.  Then my eyes caught it, just a glimpse of brown tucked in below the trellis, behind winding vines hidden in shadow.  Kneeling, I tenderly pulled back vine to reveal a sheepish brown hen who, startled by my abrupt arrival, decided she had sat for long enough.  Tottering off, she too began to boast about the egg just laid and I stared at the pile of eggs, treasure revealed.
 
I called the kids outside to witness my discovery and we started counting the brown, white and blue eggs I pulled out of their secret shade.  “Eleven eggs!” I shouted, delighted with my find. Then I ferried the eggs into the house in the upturned hem of my shirt.
 
In the kitchen, I eased the eggs gently onto the counter and sent my husband a text, “I found the secret nest!”  Then I washed the eggs, checked for freshness and slid each into its own slot in a new carton.  
  
//

I don’t know why the hens change their laying habits, why they refuse to utilize the seven perfectly good nesting boxes.  I suppose it has something to do with hiding from predators and other ancient longings they could not quite articulate even if given the gift of human language.  I want those eggs, though, as much as any fox or raccoon in the wild might, because they’re of value to me and since I feed and shelter the birds (as much as they’re willing to comply) I feel entitled, you might say, to certain benefits.
 
I find it tempting, then, to accuse my birds of hoarding their gifts and from there it would be an easy leap to turn this into a reflection on hiding one’s talents under a bushel basket and the likes.  Some of us do hide the gifts we’ve been given and hoard them to the detriment of ourselves and those around us.  But the truth is, many of us have a hard time finding and claiming our own nest of gifts.  Many of us spend weeks and months circling our lives waiting to discover what it is we have to offer a needy world.

I could tell you not to hide your talents, but I bet most of us know that’s a no-no already.  Instead I want to offer this to those who are hunting and seeking for the hidden nests among us, the places of fertility and fruitfulness, the places of hidden treasure: 

I never found a hidden nest by shaming a bird.  

I’ve never sat a chicken down and had a stern talk eye-to-eye and told them they really should be more compliant.  (But I have a hunch the effort would be wasted.)   

What I do, when hunting hidden treasure, like a nest or a talent or a sense of true vocation in this world, is listen for the song.  Look for the place where joy and pleasure abound, splitting the air on even the hottest of days, the place where you sing loud enough that you can be found.  

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  








   

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life Sends Us Out, Love Binds Us Together (#SmallWonder Link-up)


(My kids don't start school for two more weeks, but many in our area start tomorrow.  I'm praying for and thinking of all those kids and Mamas tonight and wanted to re-share this post from fall 2015.)

All four kids took turns rummaging, elbow deep, in the large metal pot that holds rusted nuts, bolts, washers and nails.  First they made robots, tiny friends composed of wing bolts and screws.  They each made three or four and named them based on appearance and abilities. 

Then Solomon made a “weapon,” something like nunchucks, by tying nuts on either end of a piece of string.  He practiced throwing it until he could get it to wrap around a tree.  Then the other kids caught on and started in with their own string and nut creations. 

This morning he tied a washer in the middle of the string and, pulling the two ends taunt, observed the washer spinning first in one direction, then another.

//

This fall my four kids will be spread among three different schools.  Two will climb on separate buses within minutes of each other, heading in opposite directions.  Then the other two will ride with me in yet a third direction for drop-off. 

I have three separate Back to School nights listed on the calendar, all requiring babysitting, and two more Meet the Teacher events that include some, but not all, of the kids.  A large sheaf of papers pinned to the bulletin board announces teachers’ names, room numbers and other pieces of essential information.  

I feel something like that nut tied in the middle of the string, spinning in one direction and another as my kids fly out into the world.  How lucky we've been, piled together for the summer, like those nuts and bolts in the pot.  We've clattered around the house and yard together, merging and separating at will.  With fall, we will be flung a bit wider, but I'm grateful, always, for the cords of love that bind us together.  


*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  








Sunday, August 14, 2016

Un-Disciplines: Do Something Foolish (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


I loaded three cartons of eggs and three ice blocks into our straight-out-of-the-eighties rolling cooler this morning.  We inherited the cooler from a friend because she didn’t need it anymore and we didn’t want to spend $20 on a cooler for eggs that might not sell.  Once the eggs were tucked in, I hauled the cooler out the front door to the little farm stand in front of our house. 

My husband built the stand, out of an old door and leftover lumber, at the end of June and we've kept it stocked with garden surplus ever since.  The hope was to keep from wasting the abundance of our little corner of Eden and make some spare change in the process.  We live on a fairly busy state road and I thought a farm stand would do well here. 

This morning I was surprised to find a dollar sealed inside a plastic bag at the stand.  I had left the Ziploc bag there with instructions for anyone who bought cherry tomatoes to “leave the container,” implying (I thought) they could use the bag to corral the tomatoes.  But someone bought tomatoes and left the money – a crisp dollar bill – in the bag instead.  

I'm happy to report that this new development doubled our year-to-date farm stand income.  That’s right, doubled it.  As in, we've made two dollars over the course of a month.  I quickly sent my husband a text with the heady news and started dreaming of a spending spree . . .

Not really.  

But I did feel a small spark of hope, which is no small thing when most days I feel like abandoning the stand completely.  

A few weeks back a woman stopped by the house unannounced and asked whether the stand itself was for sale – she thought it quite clever and said it would look amazing standing outside her store.  I told her no, the stand isn’t for sale, but took her number saying my husband could build her one of her own.    

We’ve yet to call her back, but in the weeks since her visit I’ve done the math - we could surely make more by selling the stand itself than we hope to make keeping it stocked by the road all summer long.  I thought about that math this morning as I loaded the eggs.  Maybe we should just be done.

But then there was the dollar and when I came inside carrying the overripe zucchini that didn’t sell, the tomatoes that aged beyond use in the carton, I found myself sorting more tomatoes for the stand and wondering what else I could set out.  Even now, I want to go cut fresh Zinnia bouquets to sell and gather some of our just-picked violet potatoes into a carton too.
 
I feel foolish most days, tending the stand while cars speed by.  There is, for me, a naked vulnerability in selling things along-side the road.  And, minor income aside, that’s why I persist in doing it. 

When I become aware of feeling foolish and vulnerable my tendency is to want to draw back and hide.  I'm not much of a risk taker by nature, not much of a let's-see-what-happens kinda gal.  But lately, when I feel foolish, some wisdom inside me awakens.  

//

"Ah," wisdom says, "what's this?"  

"I don't want to cut flowers that won't sell, don't want to pack and haul eggs fifty feet to sit all day by the side of the road," I snap.  

"Why?" wisdom asks, curious and eager. 

"It feels too much like waiting to be picked in gym class," I say, "I don't like the risk, the uncontrolled exposure.  I feel foolish."

"Oh, now that's good," wisdom says, fully awake now and delighted with my predicament, "that's something we can work with."  

I don't want to listen, but curious now, I do.  

"This stand is giving you something invaluable," wisdom continues after a moment of thought, "the opportunity to feel foolish."

//

What wisdom knows is that things like hope and faithfulness often feel foolish.  They aren't, but they feel that way quite often.  By practicing the ability to endure negative sensations, like foolishness or vulnerability, we forge a deep resilience that can translate to other areas of our lives as well, areas where the risk and reward are much greater.  

Somehow I know that voice is right.  I load the eggs, cut my lovely flowers, gather the red and orange tomatoes and offer them to the world.  Not because I want to get rich, but because I want to be enriched.  

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!