Teach us to Number our Days

January is more than half over and I am still contemplating what my goals should be for the new year. I attended too many funerals last year. There were at least half a dozen. January brought even more. It is a sad reminder that life is fleeting.

I have been settling in for the long haul and God reminds me that this life is just temporary. Heaven is waiting. This life that I cling to so fiercely will be but a flash when I am finally home with Him.

So what are my marching orders as I live day to day here? My husband pointed out to me the most mentioned command in the Bible. I was sure it was something about loving God and our neighbor. Ready?…

“Do not be afraid”  or “Do not fear”

God said it again and again. He said it to Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Moses, the nation of Israel. He said it to Hagar, a slave girl, who was afraid her son was going to die of thirst in the desert.

The Psalms are full of the command.

Psalm 23:4 “…I fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Many of the prophets said it multiple times. (Isaiah 35:4; 41:10; 41:13)

God sent angels to give the message to Daniel, Zecharias, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, women at the tomb.

Jesus also repeated it often to his disciples. Reminding them that they were worth more than the sparrows. (Matt. 10:31)

The command applies to me as well. “Do not fear!”  – Why? Because I have a God who is with me and guiding my steps.

He doesn’t promise that my path will be easy. There will still be trouble and funerals and dark days, but He is with me.  …and someday there will be no more crying. There will be no more sin. There will be no more fear.

For now I need to trust him with today. I need to have courage that he will provide the strength for what he has called me to do. I need to believe that this God, who cannot lie, will do more than I can ask or think. Knowing that this troubled life is but an instant compared to eternity.

 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not…” Isaiah 35:4

“For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

…a Time to Laugh

“For everything there is a season…a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 4a ESV

My father was an honest man. He took great pains to do the right thing, say the right thing. He avoided anything that looked bad. When we went in a store he would remind us not to touch anything we weren’t going to buy.

He also loved to laugh. He loved to hear and tell jokes as long as they were clean. He was a little challenged as far as telling jokes. His timing was often a little off. Sometimes he missed the punchline or told the punchline before he had told some crucial information. When we would pause and say… “I don’t get it.” He would start again, inserting the forgotten part and wait for us to laugh, but the moment was gone. It wasn’t funny anymore. I think that is partly why puns became his favorite humor. It is pretty hard to mess up a pun.

One day when I was about 8 my Dad and I were in the local Woolworth’s dime store. I asked if we could go down the toy aisle and he agreed. We had spent a few minutes looking over the selection when we came across a small white drawstring bag with the words “Laughing Bag” printed in big black letters. He wondered out loud what it could be and reached out his hand. Something was triggered and a big contagious laugh filled the aisle. My father turned a little pale, looked at me and in a desperate voice, of one who has been caught, said “Let’s get out of here!” I grabbed his hand and we high tailed it to the front door without looking back. We didn’t stop until we reached our car. I think we laughed all the way home.

I’ve thought of that “laughing bag” often. I wish I could have found one again and given it to him for his birthday. For a man who loved to laugh it would have been the perfect gift.

I miss hearing his laugh, but suspect one of the things he is learning to do is to tell a flawless joke. One that will make God’s heaven shake with laughter.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” Luke 6:21b NASB

Home at Last

We moved this past year. My husband retired and we decided to relocate. We moved to a new house with new neighbors, in a new town and found a new church.

It has been about a year and we still feel unsettled.  We feel a longing to be known.

To have someone look at us with eyes of recognition. To know our names and ask about our kids.

I long for community.

…To have people know my name and ever so much more,

…To know I enjoy music and art, taking walks, a good cup of tea and auctions.

…That I have a sense of humor, am a pretty good cook and can be a fiercely loyal friend if given the chance.

I want them to know my heart aches from old wounds and some not so old. Things you can’t blurt out when you are just getting to know someone. It takes time…lots of time.

So, as I struggle to fit into our new community, I look expectantly to someday heaven. It will be a place of perfect acceptance, a place without longing.

I’ve been told a place is being prepared. (John 14:1-3) A just right place, a perfect place, a belonging place that isn’t uncomfortable. A place without an awkward adjustment period.

I imagine being greeted with a bear hug by the God who was unapproachable and untouchable in the Old Testament accounts. (*see below) Now he has promised to wipe away my tears. (Revelation 21:4)

I will be immediately known and loved. Not because I am good, but because I belong to a great King who purchased my freedom at an awful price. (I Peter 1:18 & 19)

He saved me even knowing who I would be and what I would do. Loved me in spite of all of it. Why? For a purpose, to worship and serve Him.

He will integrate me seamlessly into the heavenly community; giving me a job that suits just me. One where I can contribute and feel helpful.

He will delight that I am there, at home with Him. At home with the one who has loved me since the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:34)

And all of this will fade away. For I will be home at last.

 

 * God told Moses – “No man shall see me and live.” ( Exodus 33:20) ;                                Some men from Beth-shemesh looked into the ark and they were struck dead along with 50,070 others. (I Samuel 6:19);                                                                                                    Uzzah was killed for touching the ark (2 Samuel 6:6-7)

Looking for Home

He built most of it himself. It was a strong sturdy house with white siding and green trim. It started out as just four rooms. It was what they could afford. His brother, Clarence, helped him lay a basement foundation and then the new part of the house was built while we lived in the old part.

Electrical work, plumbing, windows. He did it all himself. One of the few things he hired out was a carpenter to make custom cabinets for Mom’s kitchen.

Dad rescued wooden floors from an old school that the city was taking down. He carefully refinished the wood and covered the floors in the living room, dining room, and all of the upstairs. He made the stairs extra wide which made it easier for us to slide down on our bottoms. I tried it once when I was older and nearly killed myself.

There was an old garage and a small shed on the ten acre property. The front yard was full of big shade trees. The old cottonwood was an especially fine specimen. My two sisters and I would try and grab hands around it. We could never quite grasp each other’s fingers.  There were two good climbing trees. We spent many hours reading books and eating lunch in them. I would often climb the one closest to the road to watch for my Father’s car as he made his way home from work.

My father carefully planted a shelterbelt made up of a row of evergreens, a row of Chokecherries, and another of plumbs. He added Nanking cherries a few years later. The plowed garden was about two acres. There was a strawberry patch, raspberry plants, and an apple tree with many varieties of apples grafted onto it. My dad was especially proud of the apple tree. He had done the grafting himself. It was a sight to behold when it was in bloom and later, when the fruit was heavy in its branches. He planted rows of corn. More than we could ever eat or freeze, but he liked to give it away. He started studying Gurney’s seed catalogue in the winter and ordered in plenty of time for planting. He usually started the tomatoes and Mom’s zinnias inside. The rest of the seeds he planted in the garden with us reluctantly helping.

The ditches were full of wild roses and white anemones. In the spring they were full of water which meant we could sail up and down on homemade rafts. If it was especially wet the side yard became a pond for a few short days.

There was a small patch of bushes that we called woods. We made an animal trap in a hollowed out spot. We crisscrossed branches and covered it with leaves. Of course we never caught anything, but we checked it often.

We had a big backyard where we played kick the can when church kids came over.

There was a well-worn path that led to the neighbor’s house. He was a widower that watched our dog when we went out of town. We imagined he was sweet on our grandma, but nothing ever came of it. He had a couple good climbing trees that he allowed us to use when we wanted. He also had some metal bars that we would swing on or hang from by our knees.

The winter brought storms which lasted a few days instead of a few hours. After shoveling we were rewarded with high snowbanks for building caves and forts. We would jump off the neighbor’s barn into deep drifts when the conditions were right. On occasion the garden became a skating rink. I imagined I was an Olympic racer.

It was a magical place full of imagination and memories. Now it was gone, replaced by a tangle of roads and buildings. They call it an Industrial park. Doesn’t look like much of a park to me.  I tried to hide my wet eyes from my granddaughter who was happily playing in the back seat. I so wanted to show it to her as it had been…but it was all gone. Not a hint remained of what had been. And I grieved.

I can’t shake the sadness…these emotions that well up. I was trying to find some link to my past…some proof that we had lived there. That my father had built a good life for us there. That we had been happy and safe.  Instead I found progress…I can’t see it improves things. When fields and gardens and climbing trees are wiped out for the sake of an industrial park.

But I think it is more than that. We are, after all, eternal beings. God made us to live forever and when things are ruined or don’t last an aching sadness sets in. This is not how it is supposed to be. Someday it will be different.

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Cor. 5:1

I take comfort in the fact that what my heavenly Father is working on will last for eternity. When He calls me home it will really be home. He will be my home.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms;

For further study:  Psalm 90:1b; Ezekiel 37:27; Matthew 25:34;  John 14:2&3; I Corinthians 2:9

 

Thinking on Gardens

I took a walk through my yard today. I was looking for things we had planted. I met with limited success.

The Toad Lily is nowhere to be found. We have planted it three years in a row only for it to refuse to come back to life each spring.

The hydrangea tree, which was beautiful last year, is now dead. Some small animal had eaten away at the bark close to the ground.

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We have planted many bluebells over the years.  Last year there were two. Only one of those survived. This isn’t a good sign.

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Most of the tulips had been eaten by the deer as soon as they appeared. Thankfully they left the daffodils alone.

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I did find the Jack in the Pulpit. It sprang out of nowhere.

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Lily of the Valley was thick and growing everywhere. Many places I didn’t remember it being before.

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The Iris are back and will be bursting into bloom soon. (I’ll keep you posted.) I know the Daylilies will come later in the summer. Now the leaves are lush and green.

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This Tree Peonie surprised me with its early blooms.

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The yard was full of unexpected life. Each year I am surprised when things come back from their long sleep.

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In an effort to hurry summer along my husband planted some pots as well.

I long for heaven and the gardens that will be there.

I suspect the animals will be better behaved. They won’t be allowed to gnaw through things or uproot bulbs.

Things will bloom where they are supposed to bloom. Nothing will be choked out by weeds. There will be a wild orderliness about it all. (Like God Himself.) God and His garden will take our breath away.

Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22:1-7 talk about “a river of the water of life” that flows from God’s throne. On either side of the river is the tree of life bearing 12 kinds of fruit. One for each month. It’s leaves are used for the healing of the nations. I can hardly wait. To be home with the God who loves me. To leave this earthly imperfect garden behind for such a spectacular one.

In the mean-time I work on this garden full of plants and people and situations all part of the work He has given me to do.

“Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:58

 

 

Afraid of the Dark

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1 (ESV)

My granddaughter, Arianna is afraid of the dark.

She is thrilled with the thought of there never being any night in heaven. (Rev. 21:25)

“We won’t ever have to go to bed, right Nana?” she asks me. “We won’t ever be tired, right?”

“Look at the stars, Nana. Those are the stars God made for Arianna, right Nana?”

When Arianna has to go out at night she looks up. The stars make her less afraid. They remind her of a God who loves her enough to give her some light in the dark.

If I am honest I admit to being afraid of the dark too. I tend to put my head down and move quickly. How much better if I would lift my head and see the stars God made for me.

“Lift up your eyes on high

And see who has created these stars,

The One who leads forth their host by number,

He calls them all by name;

Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power

Not one of them is missing.”  Isaiah 40:26 (NASB)