Musings — August 2017

Loon call trills through the open window just as the rain begins to fall.  I leave the sash thrown wide because, I ask you, who could close a window on a song like that?  And as summer draws to a close, I am reluctant to close the window on a season that has been so short and yet so beautiful.

In August, we’ve enjoyed family time in all its chaos and delight and also had the experience of a day at the ocean with friends — and no kids!  One cooler and a few beach chairs!  Unimaginable simplicity!

 

 

We also visited Peaks Island with our son and his new bride. Riding the ferry from Portland, Maine’s largest city, and then walking the island gave us the opportunity to gulp in all the gorgeous views.

On the Blog

There’s a whole lot of truth to the idea of discovering the right book at the right time.  Jayber Crow was my introduction to the writing of Wendell Berry, and I was doing a lot of studying and teaching at the time.  It was exciting to be digging into Scripture and pondering the ways of God.  Of course, nobody warned me that there’s no end to the questions; and the more we search, the more there is to find.  Jayber’s questions ushered in a series of events that led him from theological training to the barber shop, but don’t for a minute think that this was the end of his ponderings about God.

Wendell Berry has created a fictional world in Port William, Kentucky and then populated it with the poignant, the hilarious, and the mundane.  Throughout my first reading of Jayber Crow, I found myself checking the back cover and muttering, “No, this is not a memoir by a real person.  This is fictional.” He’s a poet, too, and it shows — Berry, I mean, and so maybe . . . Jayber is, too.

Whether you prefer to gobble your books whole or to enjoy a more leisurely read, you are invited to participate in our reading and discussion group focused on Jayber and his Port William customers and friends.  Fair warning:  if your reading experience would be ruined by coarse language and obnoxious name calling such as you’d find in an old-timey barber shop, you may want to sit this one out.

If you love to talk about what you’re reading, OR if you would rather read the thoughts of others and just add them to your own quiet pondering, you are welcome.  I’m hoping that some of you will be inspired to write your own blog posts about your reading and ruminating and then to share a link in the comments.

Our leisurely and joyful discussion will begin on Thursday, September 7th when I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the first three chapters and inviting you to do the same. Here is the schedule so that you can plan accordingly:

september 7………………..chapters 1-3
september 14………………chapters 4-6
September 21………………chapters 7-8
september 28………………chapters 9-11
October 5……………………chapters 12-14
october 12………………….chapters 15-17
october 19………………….chapters 18-20
october 26………………….chapters 21-23
november 2…………………chapters 24-26
november 9…………………chapters 27-29
november 16……………….chapters 30-32

On the Monday following the tragic mayhem in Charlotesville, Virginia, SheLoves Magazine shared my essay addressing our spiritual blind spots through the retelling of a famous story about an elephant.  When the issue in the room is wide, gray and heavy, when it trumpets its voice and silences everything else within hearing distance, what is my right response? Will I lay confident hands on one aspect of the issue and announce that I’ve discovered its essence based on my own precious piece of the elephant?

 

The August book review that seemed to resonate with the most readers was Glory in the Ordinary by Courtney Reissig.  I think this may be because we all need reassurance that there is meaning in the mundane tasks that are stuck on replay in this mothering life.

 

Several months ago, Jerusha Agen wondered if I would be willing to contribute an article for The Fear Warrior Blog.  Of course I would! So, I shared a recent experience of God’s amazing ability to overcome feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in the context of ministry.  Greater than the reality of my fear is the promise of God’s presence and a moment-by-moment faith that allows Truth to inform my feelings. If you head over to Jerusha’s place to read more, be sure to scroll through other helpful articles — especially if fear is something you battle on a regular basis.

 

Just for Joy

 

We marked another milestone around our dining room table when our third towering son packed his belongings into his faithful truck and moved north to attend college in Bangor, Maine.  I miss him already.

Our oldest son celebrated five years of marriage to his lovely bride, giving us the excuse to nab precious time with their boy — our grand boy with the mischievous smile.

Homeschooling has begun for my high school boy, and it seems good to be returning to the rhythms of “normal” life.

August has landed hard on this pot of summer beauty.  A gift from May, I’ve watered through June and July, deadheaded, chased the sun, or moved the plant to shade as needed . . .  I thought.  But on this end-of-August day, I find myself snipping off dead stems, plucking away the brown and lifeless, trying to get back to green again.  Thanks be to God, there’s always a way back to life.  There is always enough grace, and my smallest movement along “paths of righteousness” is met with God’s unfailing supply of grace for the next move.

My prayer for you is that you are finding this to be true in your own following life.

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I’m joining Emily Freeman and Leigh Kramer in sharing my monthly musings.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

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Living in the Wide Open Spaces

Life has a way of expanding to fill the available space.

Little League games used to occupy Saturday mornings with hours of sunshine (and mosquitoes) and with chatting on the bleachers with other mums. However, a quick glance around my house reveals  our family has aged out of that particular American institution.  We’ve moved on, but even so, Saturday mornings are still booked. These days, though, I’m not a spectator.  I’m experiencing the great outdoors from the seat of a lawn mower.

If your goal in life is to live small and safe, beware the family business!  With its shifting parameters and employees who double as offspring and then have the audacity to grow up and move on to their own lucrative pursuits, our mowing business is challenging all my known boundaries.  Going from “I don’t do complicated machinery” to driving a zero-turn has been a harrowing experience, and one best accomplished in a wide-open field – for the safety of everyone!

There, with the startled butterflies rising along with the scent of fresh-cut grass, I’m gathered into the wildness of open sky alongside the coziness of trampled grasses where a deer bedded down the night before.

There, everything becomes an invitation:

See the wispy clouds, faithfully tending to their job of breaking up the stunning blue.
See the flock of hungry birds ransacking the honeysuckle bush.
See the honey bees, clearly all Threes on the Enneagram, hauling the makings for a flourishing life back to their far-away hive.

From my seat on the mower, inspiration is everywhere.  I have a job to do:  halt the advance of the Maine wilderness in this one location for this one season.

This I can do.
What a relief.

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I’d love it if you would continue to read this story of how driving a lawn mower is impacting my sense of vocation and my conviction that God is active and present in my crazy, in-between life.  Click on over to SheLoves Magazine for more on the truth that even when our circumstances are shifting and the future seems unclear, we can step through God’s open door and find the wide-open field of His calling.

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

February Musings — 2017

What February lacks in length, it has more than offset with depth — of SNOW and MUD! No sooner do we shovel our way through two feet of fluffy beauty, than the sun comes out and melts it all, turning the world into chocolate pudding!  It’s almost as if God is telling us to slow down — to stay home and enjoy these days of crazy boys and middle-aged marriage.  And so we have — with joy!

On My Desk

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It’s been great to get the women’s Sunday School class started up again at my wonderful church home.  We have been using Jen Wilkin’s study in I Peter, and it’s really keeping us on our toes with homework and a persistent (and important) reminder that we need to stay close to the text, reading repetitively and in context.  What that boils down to is at least one trip through all five chapters of I Peter each week, lots of marking up the text in our search for repetitive words and big picture concepts, and regular use of the dictionary (or Siri) for deeper understanding of the words Peter chose for his letter to all of us “elect exiles.”  I reviewed Jen’s book last spring and couldn’t wait to use it in real life with my friends who join me around the table each week.  The study is every bit as challenging and helpful as I thought it would be.

Vacation Bible School veterans will not be surprised to hear that I’m sorting through curricula and staffing for this summer’s ministry to kids, and so I’m wondering . . . what’s everyone else doing for summer ministry in 2017?

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Somehow I missed taking Economics in high school and college, so, in this third round of teaching a high school senior here at home, I’m switching gears, leaving our curriculum behind, and reading a book in tandem with my big, brown-eyed boy.  Emily Whitten has been sharing one classic book per month on World Radio, and her suggestion of Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics has been just what I needed to bring the theory and the charts and graphs and specialized vocabulary into real world application for my future welder (and for this present day domestic diva!).  You can listen along here.

 

On the Blog

One of the lovely benefits of blogging has been all the new friendships I’ve made with other bloggers — and every once in a while, one of those friends writes a book, and I get to review it here at Living Our Days.  When my friend Mary Geisen wrote Brave Faith, she dipped her brush into the lives of inspiring biblical characters and shared their stories alongside her own journey of moving outside her comfort zone and into the soul-enriching pilgrimage toward living brave.

Another blogging friend, Holly Barrett, invited me to join her on her weekly podcast, and the program aired on February 3.  Click here to listen in to the fun conversation as we chatted about family, books, and living this following life in pursuit of wisdom.  You can subscribe to her podcast here.

The dialogue at SheLoves Magazine is always lively and uplifting, and I was thankful to share a reflection on my mid-winter canning jars and the truth that the container is secondary to the contents.  It’s good new that my emptiness is an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me—whatever my assignment for 2017.  You can read more here, and be reminded of the Apostle Paul’s testimony that God met him faithfully in the midst of his own deep need.

The most-read post at Living Our Days for the month of February was my review of Humble Roots, by Hannah Anderson.  Using metaphors as earthy as our clay-based bodies, Hannah cooperates with the Word of God to reveal that the quality of life we most desire will not come to us through power or reason or productivity or any number of quick fixes, but, rather, through roots that are sunk deeply into a theology of need and answering grace — and a humble acceptance of a life that is lived close to the ground.

And, unbelievably, for those of us who are reading C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, we have only two more weeks left in our discussion group!  The book was already my favorite of Lewis’s fiction, and now I’m blessed by the great insights that have come from other readers through this group experience.  As we begin Part II, Orual realizes, “I must unroll my book again.”  We’ll be joining her in the process of sorting out the threads of her tangled memory.

Just for Joy

We did it!
The women’s fellowship at my church planned and executed a Family Valentine’s Celebration including a lovely dinner and a fun and wacky program.  We started brainstorming waaaaay back in November, and it’s encouraging to see what a small group of women can accomplish together as we celebrate our ministry to women and work toward greater opportunities and initiative for ministry by women.

captureThanks for meeting with me once again here at month’s end.  I am blessed by your generosity of spirit as you read, share your comments, and invite others from your circles into our conversation.

The beautiful and poetic words about snow in the image above come from Luci Shaw’s “Light Gathering, January” taken from her collection of poems What the Light Was Like.

Be sure to join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place where many of us gather at month’s end to share What We’re Into.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

All You Have to Be Is Desperate

By midwinter, the empty canning jars on my basement shelves are beginning to overtake the number of full jars.  Clear glass glints beside the jewel-toned beets, briny pickles, and thick spaghetti sauce.  By practicing the dying art of canning, I pay attention to these containers, knowing that a family of six can put away as many as sixty quarts of green beans in the space of those seasons between gardens.  Truly, the container is secondary to the contents.

A recent back injury is making me conscious these days of another container.  Paul the Apostle would have called it a clay pot.

That image suits me well.
Serviceable.
Functional.
Sturdy.  At least, I’ve always thought so.

But, feeling the brittleness of my mortal clay, it’s clear to me that I’m prone to breaking, and the sharp edges leave me bent and moving about with caution.

On one level or another, everyone fights the battle of fragility at some point in life.

So lest I fall into the mistaken notion that New Testament saints were bullet proof, I return to the words of Paul who strains his apostolic thesaurus to come up with metaphors adequate to the description of his own deep need:

 “We are hard pressed.”

Really?
Did his time move relentlessly forward as the work piled higher?
Did mounting expenses dwarf his income and suck the air out of his dreams?

“We are perplexed.”

Endless word of widespread persecution and death may have mirrored our present-day newsfeed, blaring a stream of events so unbelievable that emotions struggle to keep pace.

How does one meet all the needs, answer all the objections, filter all the choices?

The perplexity and the pressure are overwhelming to me, but Paul seemed actually to be strengthened by it:

“We are not crushed.”

Across the centuries, I strain my ears for the Uncrushable Wisdom, listening for a raspy voice, ruined from the blatant misuse of vocal cords in outdoor speaking engagements and thick with gravel from having traveled around in a tired body.  In exchange for Paul’s emptiness, God offered treasure: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” (II Co. 4:6 ESV).  He became so full that the sheer force of Jesus’ life offset the pressure and permeated all the empty spaces.

I’d love to make that man a sandwich and sit down with him for just a few minutes – or even to stand at the kitchen counter.  I want to ask him how it all worked for him.

Here’s what I think Paul would say:

“All you have to be is desperate.”

CaptureFinish reading over at SheLoves Magazine where we’re talking and writing along the theme of “Capacity.”  I hope you’ll visit and join the conversation!

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Pausing in the In-Between

It was a day like any other day in the life-long ministry of Zacharias the priest.  With Elisabeth’s goodbye kiss still warm on his cheek, he went about his business, reporting for duty in his scheduled commitment to serve in the Temple.

It was a day like no other day when the honor of entering the most holy place fell to Zacharias, and his aging eyes found the burning incense eclipsed by angel light. Startling and strange, the heavenly messenger’s words hooked unbelief, earning Zacharias a nine-month sentence of mute pondering.  God’s four-hundred year silence was broken, leaving an elderly couple blinking and gasping at this new way of understanding the word impossible.

“Well stricken in years” is the delicate, traditional rendering, a state that would have made for a challenging pregnancy in any era — even if you are carrying the forerunner of the Messiah.  Like a spavined barn with tar paper siding, Elisabeth’s olden frame would have been covered with skin already stretched and sagging, but with joy she bore the bone-on-bone pain of an aging back and a heavy load.

Did she understand that her glorious passage from barren to fruitful was more a rending of history than a miracle of gynecology?

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It was a December day like any other.  There was dog hair that needed to be vacuumed.  There were lessons that needed to be prepared.  There were emails unanswered and dishes unwashed.  By my calculation, Advent season includes the routine preparation of at least seventy-five meals on top of all the other holiday baking and decorating.

What does it take to transform those December days?

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Join me at SheLoves Magazine today and ponder with me the challenge of staying present to the wonder of the Word made flesh.

May God’s present-day proclamation land with power on your believing heart this season:
God is with us.
Nothing shall be impossible.

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captureCounting down the days until the beginning of the book discussion group on C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. Watch for a reading schedule on January 5!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Image credit

Sometimes, Instead of Bread, I Ask God for Stones

 

I have a battered notebook that has been with me for so long that four of its pages date back to the birth of each of my sons.  It is in this notebook that I write down the requests – big and small — that I bring to God.

Should our family take the adventure of a cross-country trip in a mini-van? 

Who gets my vote this time?

Lord, help our church family to find a shepherd.

Certainly, my notebook is a record of God’s faithfulness, but even after all these years, I don’t pretend to understand the pattern of scattered checkmarks – or the replies from God that they denote – for the notebook also chronicles my uneasy relationship with prayer.

At some point, it’s bound to happen to everyone who believingly follows the One who said “when you pray”:  the bubble of predictability is pricked and horror comes rushing in regardless of prayers to the contrary.  My notebook speaks into this tension.

  • Fervent prayer for a missionary friend with cancer – dead six weeks from diagnosis.
  • Focused supplication for a marriage to survive . . . and another . . . and another. All have dissolved, and are barely a memory now.

Even the Apostle Paul with his inside track to the third heaven never claimed to understand the ways of God.

Instead, he said, “I know whom I have believed,” (II Tim. 1:12).

Therefore, he took grace —  and the power of Christ —  as glorious consolation prizes that came instead of the healing for which he prayed three times, (II Cor. 12:8,9).

What has been your experience with prayer — especially when God says no?  This tiny confession of mine is part of a month-long theme over at SheLoves Magazine, so I’m hoping that you will join me over there to read the remainder of the story — and, hopefully, to be encouraged to persevere in your prayer life.

And while you’re there, do take a moment to visit the thoughts and shared wisdom of so many others!

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

The Label that Reveals

His drawing of a strawberry was lopsided, the printing was primitive, but the proud smile on my little guy’s face was as genuine as the ring of strawberry jam that circled his mouth.  He had made the jam and then had labored over the personalized labels that made each jar an announcement of his creative mastery of the jam-making process.

His jam.

His labels.

I still have one of them in his baby book to preserve the memory of making jam with him (and his three brothers that followed), because from the mashing of the berries to the last swipe of the red marker, I was helping my boys to build a shield of protection over their tender hearts with three strong words:

“I CAN DO”

Confidence based on competence is rugged and resilient, but, the truth is that the dents in that shield come early (and often) as we accept from the important people in our lives statements which do not line up with the true words that God says over us.

Slapping on a label may save me some time when I’m searching for jam in my pantry, but a label on a person means I never bother to see what’s inside.  I fail to ponder the life ingredients, the unique qualities that have come together to create this particular soul — which sets me to wondering:

What hasty words have I affixed to the real live people who populate my days?

Are you also prone to affix a label to a soul — rather than taking the time to enter into the life that comes with it?

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We’re pondering the topic of “labels” this month over at SheLoves Magazine.  Consider this your invitation to join me there for the rest of my story — and also to read widely and often from the selection of good thoughts that you will find in that friendly and supportive place.

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Join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place for lots more September fun with the “What I’m Into” community.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.