I can’t resist stepping out into the brilliant fall sunshine for my walk and quiet time. With a nearly cloudless azure blue sky, the air is crisp and clean--fresh, like sheets that have hung outdoors on a clothesline. The only sound I hear is the wind stirring the fallen leaves, and a distant bark of a dog.
It’s a brisk 56 degrees and I zip up my jacket to ward off the October chill. The landscapers have groomed and tidied flower beds with smiling purple pansies, surrounding them with a fresh blanket of straw along the main boulevard. Leaves on the Bradford pear trees are just beginning to turn orange and brown, framing the backdrop for tall, pungent pine and yellow sweetgum. A furry, busy little chipmunk scurries across the wildlife meadow in front of me, searching for food or perhaps getting his exercise, like me. I pause long enough to admire him sporting his stripped fur coat of brown and tan.
It’s so beautiful and peaceful, you could almost close your eyes and imagine hiking in the mountains far away from the suburban sprawl. As the sunlight kisses my brow, I turn my face upward to soak in the warm rays and gaze at a lone hawk soaring across the sky, gliding along the updraft of the morning breeze. A golden butterfly dips down to drink nectar from purple blossom of the butterfly bush.
It’s a wonderful time to be alive and I feel invigorated and restored, soaking in the peace from nature’s very powerful presence. The sun feel’s good and I begin to finally warm up.
Near the nature trail, I stop, lean over the rail, and look down at the creek, not much more than a trickle, gurgling over the stones. The sunlight dances in merrily, touching the towering trees and rooftops with radiance, as the leaves shimmer in its light. The limbs of a weeping willow stir in answer to the wind’s sighs, and I think with delight about things to come.
God placed the nature around us so we could understand His presence and magnificence, and be reminded of Him. Only a divine creator could produce the fragile balance of life throughout spring, summer, fall and winter, each with its unique splendor and design.
How many people living behind the windows of these superb homes, have taken time to notice such splendid surroundings, or thought of life’s delicate blueprint or even each other? Most families are so busy working and raising children and planning their agenda that they often forget what nature has to reveal.
Just last year I was in Montana with its unlimited sky and mountains and was drawn close to God’s presence. No matter where you are, He is there, pursuing and wooing us like a lover. No wonder we are called the Bride of Christ* even in our imperfections, because of His perfection, we are made worthy.
Turning toward to home, I see fragrant pink roses tumble over stack stone, and bright orange pumpkins flanking a cheerful scarecrow on a park bench. Color bursts of fall are everywhere, hinting at the glory to come. Then autumn will put on winter’s mantle of chill, pulling our thoughts inward as we reflect on God’s goodness at Thanksgiving.
Take time today to be still, look and listen, or you will miss out on the call, as He gently draws you to Him by the very beautiful canvas painted by His hand.
*Revelation 21:9b-“Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” NASB
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Summer Steadman faces one of life’s most difficult challenges when her husband and 4 children succumb to the deadly typhoid fever while traveling to Oklahoma. Stranded in a Mennonite Community in Kansas where her family is buried, she feels cold and empty, believing that God has deserted her. Grieving, Summer has little desire for existence or hope for the future. She decides to stay in Gaeddert, KS to be near the graves of her four children and secures a job for widower Peter Ollenberger as a tutor for his little boy. Peter is a gentle giant of a man and, having experienced grief first hand, is patient and tender with Summer. She quickly becomes attached to his son, Thomas, who returns the sentiment, hoping she will become his father’s wife. The Mennonites are a tight community and do not receive Summer favorably because she is living under the same roof of her employer. Throughout the fall and winter, she learns the Mennonite customs and traditions which Kim Sawyer portrays in a vivid but believable way through her writing. Summer and Peter mutually respect each other, and they grow very close while shielding their own grieving hearts. Peter, patient and sensitive in his own quiet way, points out the many ways God helped him recover from his own loss. Hope blossoms in Summer’s heart, and she slowly begins to live again. Sawyer tenderly describes Summer’s visit to her family’s grave with such intensity that I felt Summer’s grief, and I cried. Excellent writing can bring out real emotions and Sawyer has done that in her debut novel. Without being preachy, she has shown us how God can sift us and refine us as silver, and restore us amidst life’s tragic circumstances. I can hardly wait for the second book in this series. Way to go Kim!
at 8:36 PM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I know I said that I would post a review of my friend’s book, and I will soon. But I feel compelled to relate what happen to me on my Saturday walk a week ago. I think the writing of it will pale in comparison to actually being there, but I will try to convey it the way it unfolded.
It was 5:40 pm and I started my walk singing, When I Call on Jesus. Not very loud, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Soon, I quit singing and was talking out loud to God.
I was anguished about something deeply personal, tired of waiting to hear back from editors, and struggling to know if my passion for writing was a huge waste of time. Besides, who wanted to read my stuff anyway? What have I accomplished? I asked Him if He really cared that I was unhappy and confused today. Why didn’t He just answer me somehow? I begged for answers to my heartfelt questions. I entered a small park, watching the children playing with their parents, their shrieks of laughter and giggles, floating across the playground. That brought a smile to my face, and lifted my heavy heart. Of course, it also brought to mind when my children were little, and I had a momentary pang of loneliness for them.
On my way back home, I was thinking about all the chores I still had to do before the day’s end. For some reason my foot starting hurting, so I walked to a bench near the tennis court. I took off my shoe and rubbed my toes. Feeling the sun over my right shoulder, I turned to look as it started to slowly go down. Then I looked ahead, then up at the sky, which is normally for me. The half-moon was rising, right above a few puffy clouds. But what I saw in the center, made me draw my breath in sharply, and hold it in disbelief. A perfect cross was formed. Not jagged, or filmy, but with clearly defined lines. I couldn’t believe it! I started to cry. It didn’t move away quickly like the other clouds, but stayed there, hanging perfectly still for at least 8 or 10 minutes. God had just communicated his love to me, an ordinary person. One who never walked on water, or calmed the sea, but just plain ole me. No one special or accomplished, but nonetheless, special to Him because He heard my cry. He knows my heart more fully than anyone else. The symbol in the sky spoke to me of His forgiveness, and what price He paid for me. I was overwhelmed! Several times in my life God has shown me His infinite grace, although I will never be worthy of this kind of unconditional love. None of us really can. Bottom line is He loves me, warts and all!
Isn’t it funny that the words I sang earlier were this: When I call on Jesus, all things are possible, mountains are gonna fall. He’ll use heaven and earth to come rescue me when I call. Call him in the morning, in the afternoon time, late in the evening, He’ll be there. When you feel discouraged and your heart is broken, you can just remember that He cares. I can mount on wings like eagles and soar…Brenda
at 10:53 PM