Guiding Lines

I found myself hunched over the steering wheel,  driving slower than usual,  because the headlights of the oncoming cars were reflecting off the wet pavement, making the road hard to see. I was nervous driving in those conditions, but whatever the circumstances, whether they be heavy fog, snow or rain, I know enough to fix my eyes on the white line at the edge of the road.

In the blackness of that morning,  I loved that white line.  Mentally, I was hugging that glow-in-the-dark marker.

David also loved a guiding line. He journals his feelings in Psalms 119:97, when he passionately declares, “Oh, how I love Thy law, it is my meditation all the day.”  God’s law, His guiding lines, were what kept David on track, through the bleakest of circumstances.  He was frequently fleeing an angry, jealous king who made multiple attempts to end his life,  and it was because of David’s love of God’s law that he was able to survive. Simply put, he meditated on God’s commands; he focused on them,  he held them near and dear to his heart, and God provided the wisdom and guidance he needed not just to hang on in life, but to be victorious in life.

How simple is that? And yet many try to complicate or confuse God’s loving  gift of commands, or even  erase them, thinking they are too restrictive.  I would have thought it very cruel if the road crew had not left a marker for me on my early morning drive; that clear, continuous, unfailing, white guiding line.  But it was there. And I was hanging on to it for Dear Life, feeling very thankful when I arrived safely at my friend’s door.

After our discussion,  I was soon retracing my drive home. As the sun’s brilliance was reflecting in my rear-view mirror,  the morning mists ahead were rising; ragged and grey in front of a magnificent backdrop of russets and golds.  The dark, slate colored storm clouds were far in the distance, and I had no trouble seeing the road, because my world was bathed in Light.

A foretaste of Heaven I’m sure.

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Hope

dsc_9379It is here.

The spicy smell in the cool air is officially here.  Summer has held on for an unbelievably long time, but the leaves have finally  shown their flaming colors and are beginning to drift to the ground.  Loving the smoky aroma of the incense, I rake them into fluffy piles to burn.

Standing under the branches of a favorite maple tree, and always looking for God in the “ordinary,” I was amazed one autumn,  when I discovered buds developing on the delicate tips where the leaves of the past summer were letting go. Science has determined that in order to create a bud, the tree needs the power of the late summer sun to develop the buds so necessary for the tree’s survival the next spring.   I was delighted not only in learning that little fact, but more so, because of this realization;  I am a child of the God of this beautiful creation,  and He is the God of hope.

My daughter gave me a gift of hope for my birthday this past week; a lovely brown bag full of daffodil bulbs.  She knows the battle I face every year about this time when I allow the shortened hours of daylight to cause darkness in my soul.  Things that aren’t as scary or overwhelming on a bright summer day, suddenly threaten to unravel my confidence in my Savior’s love and protection when the wind begins to howl, and storm clouds gather. How kind of Sarah to know her mama so well.

After digging in the cool black dirt of my flower bed on a warm fall afternoon, it was a blessing to tear open the bag and find the precious bulbs all prepared for next spring;  each had a pale shoot ready to go. As I set them deep in the ground and covered them  with a blanket of dirt,  my heart was full of thankfulness. I knew, because of God’s perfect plan, they would faithfully emerge from the darkness to add their golden splash of color to the otherwise dreary landscape of early spring in Wisconsin.

Paul personally knew how much we all need to be reminded of the hope-fullness of God.  He frequently wrote his letters while in chains, in the darkness of prison.  How much more weight his words carry than if he had never known suffering, but in those dark times, he learned  to know his God well.  He writes,  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  He didn’t just cling to a thin thread of hope while in the darkness;  he was filled with and abounding in joy and peace because of the great-fullness of  hope God had given him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This winter, when the temps drop below zero and I don’t see the sun for 3 weeks, I plan to hike out to my maple tree, and be reminded of God’s lavish gift of hope. Even under the snow and ice, the thousands of little buds will hang on; full and ready to burst, when the first warm days of spring arrive, demonstrating once again the faithfulness of our God.

That fills me with the joy and peace my soul craves.

Catching Glimpses

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My mother was a busy lady.  As a widow and  parent of six, she worked as a nurse, cared for a small hobby farm, and on rare occasions  was able to find time to be a Sunday School  teacher.   As a small girl, I was proud when my mom was the teacher of my little class.

Besides working at the nursing home down the road, I knew how hard she worked at   making our home-life wonderful.  After a long day of caring for the elderly, a less ambitious woman would have resorted to the then popular “T.V. dinners,” but we always had “home-cooked” meals filled with, among other things, produce from our garden.  And we gathered around our table not our T.V.

Not only did she take time to prepare our food, she took time to adorn our supper table,   usually with a bouquet of fresh flowers, or maybe a single rose floating in a crystal bowl.  She found beauty in the every-day things around her, and  whether she knew it or not, she was giving us all a glimpse of Heaven.

I will never forget helping her prepare a little garden for our Sunday School class to enjoy. Using an old blue enamel “roaster” pan for a container, she filled it with potting soil and placed tiny plants from around our yard into it.  She chose little “Hen and Chicks,” ( a succulent that produces small replicas of itself,) “Johnny-Jump-Ups,” (taller than, but resembling pansies with cheerful faces,)  and I remember her carefully transplanting a strawberry plant, complete with blossoms and berries for all of the children to see and admire.  I was astounded not only at my mother’s creativity, but also at the strange feeling I felt inside, when I gazed at what I felt to be a thing of such beauty.

C.S. Lewis described a similar feeling in his book, Surprised by Joy.

 As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult or find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s ‘enormous bliss’ of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to ‘enormous’) comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?…Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse… withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased…

The”toy” garden his brother Warnie had shared with him, was created on the lid of a biscuit tin and was crafted from moss, stones, twigs and tiny flowers he had gathered from the garden outside their home. I can only imagine  my mother’s garden held for me the same wonder felt in the heart of little Jack, (as Lewis preferred to be called,)  when he was first “surprised by joy.”

Friend of Jack, George Sayer, wrote;

It, [the experience of joy,]  came again while he was reading a book by Beatrix Potter, his favorite, Squirrel Nutkin.  He valued these experiences of joy more than anything else he had known, and he desired, as all who have experienced them desire, to have them again and again.  It was this mystical quality that set him apart from other boys.  He was surprised by joy.  He spent the rest of his life searching for more of it.  (Sayer  52)

I am searching for joy, and God surprises me with glimpses of it more and more frequently, (or maybe I am only now more aware of His consistency.)

I was surprised by joy when I crouched with my camera amidst the rubble of the pole shed to capture the picture of  burdocks for my last post, Burdocks and Blizzards.   After days of gloomy skies and rain, I was waiting for the sun to shine for a good bit of back-lighting  I thought necessary. Finally, one evening a sliver of sun was allowed to burst free just before setting, sending its glorious rays across the darkening sky filled with storm clouds.  I grabbed my camera, made my way around overgrown weeds and twisted wreckage in search of the ugliest burdock I could find.  Feeling cold and wet from the drizzle, and catching the nasty burrs in my sleeves, I framed in the shot. What I saw in my view finder amazed me;  from my angle on the ground, looking upwards, there was a perfect rainbow that appeared to be descending as a backdrop for the burdock.  (I don’t use photo shop to enhance the pictures, but if you look closely, you may see a faint coloring behind the  twisted, dead plant.)

As I stood, I smiled up at my husband who was working to replace rafters. Then with camera in hand,  I traipsed through the wet grass, back to the house,  warmer than I had been a few minutes earlier. I had captured a glimpse of  joy in an unexpected place, and I felt it.

Sayer, George.  Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis. Wheaton, Ill : Crossway Books, 1988