I had just completed a week-long conference at a Navajo Reservation in Monument Valley, Utah. Each day, I jumped into my rental car and drove about 12 miles from my hotel at Goulding’s Lodge to the small assembly called Faith Covenant Church. The view from my room as well as along the road I traveled provided me with spectacular sights. Huge red rock formations jutted from the flat planes heavenward forming stunning configurations and magnificent structures. I found myself in constant awareness of the power of the Creator and the grandeur of His creation.
Sunday morning brought an end to the meetings. I packed the car to drive back to Flagstaff, Arizona for my flight home on Monday. I had noticed that my route would take me close to the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Alone, in my rental car, I unfolded an old fashion road map because the GPS would not pick up a signal; and I headed for another wonder of creation.
I found my way, entered the park, parked the car, and walked toward the first viewing point. Emotion swelled up within me so quickly that a lump formed in my throat and tears spilled down my cheek within less than a minute. I had expected to be amazed. I was anticipating being astounded. But the photos that I had seen and the stories that I had heard had not sufficiently prepared me for this sighting. There, stretching out in a breadth that created a 180-degree panoramic view, in a depth that plunged miles into the gorge below, and in a height that challenged the clouds for authority to occupy the heavens was the Grand Canyon.
Huge is too small a word. Grand is too modest an adjective. Remarkable is too ordinary a modifier. Speechless - I was speechless. The beauty and grandeur were inexpressible. I could only weep. I stood there silently and reverentially attempting to embrace the experience.
The mighty Colorado River could barely be seen at the bottom of the deep ravine. It appeared as a small cord wound throughout the rough terrain. I know that the river provides agricultural water for irrigation systems, utilities for many cities, and power for many states; yet in contrast to the vast canyon, the Colorado was dwarfed and hardly visible.
The rock formations displayed such varied angles and asymmetry that they seemed to be competing for a trophy for most unique sculpture. Color tones from light tans to dark browns and pale pinks to dark reds appeared to be painted into the rock striations, thus highlighting the layers, accentuating the complexity, and emphasizing the beauty. No painting of man could compare to this masterful canvas of artistic splendor.
After a prolonged period of reflective appreciation, my mind recounted the words of the psalmist who, upon contemplation of the creative works of God’s hands, declared, “What is man that You (God) take thought of him; and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God and You have crowned him with glory and majesty. You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” (Ps.8:4-6, NASB)
I could identify with the sentiments of this psalm. In comparison to this great canyon and the rock formations of Monument Valley, who was I? The rocks have endured since the foundation of the earth, but I am here today and gone tomorrow. This wonder of creation draws spectators from around the world, while I am known to only a few friends and family. The canyon is steadfast and immovable, while I am often inconsistent and wavering in my faith. Yet God – yet God – has created mankind, including me, to bear His image in a way that no other created thing can match.
My source of tears changed. I went from crying over creation’s beauty to weeping over amazing grace. Smaller in size is not less in importance. I stood before the grandeur of the Grand Canyon and worshipped. I worshipped for the world God has created and for the way He has created me in order that I might worship. “All the earth worships Thee; they sing praises to Thee, sing praises to Thy name.” (Ps. 66:4)
He barely remembered the event but he was painfully aware of the incident. He was young – maybe only around 5 years old – when the harrowing news came. His grandfather, the nation’s renowned leader, had been killed in battle with the Philistines. Fearful that the grandson of the defeated and dethroned king would be killed, the governess swept the small boy into her arms and attempted to flee. She stumbled. She fell. She dropped the child, and the fall resulted in the crippling of both of the lad’s feet.
Regret did not change the reality. Sorry did not reverse the result. Mephibosheth was crippled. Although he had little memory of the fall; he had unrelenting consciousness of the effect. His father Jonathan was dead; his grandfather Saul was slain. His home and the life he had enjoyed as a member of royalty had been crippled. Through circumstances entirely beyond his control, his fate, his future, and his person were unmitigatedly marred.
Although he survived the accident and the commandeering of the monarchy, Mephibosheth had been relegated to a life in LoDebar, life without family, and life without inheritance – life impaired at every level. Who chooses that? What child dreams of that? From all appearances, he was condemned to live with brokenness.
Days passed; years passed; and opportunity passed up the young man. Those around him viewed him as handicapped; he viewed himself as a burden. Although Mephibosheth was aware that David had become king and he also knew that pre-king David had been a close friend to his father Jonathan, the crippled boy lived with the dread that someday he might be discovered and, perhaps, executed as part of the lineage of the dethroned family. Fear of another disaster further disabled his life.
Then one day, King David’s men arrived in LoDebar. They had been dispensed by the King to seek and find the son of Jonathan, who David had recently discovered to be the only living heir in Jonathan’s lineage. Once again Mephibosheth was picked up and whisked away – both times by those in the king’s service. The first time he was removed from the capital; the second time he was being returned to the capital. He prepared himself for another fall thinking that the first was unto misfortune but the second would be unto destruction?
Mephibosheth landed – not on the ground but in the palace of the King. David welcomed the son of his friend, this descendent of his comrade. David had pledged love and loyalty to Jonathan, and the King was committed to keeping his promise. David had prepared a seat at His table where the young man was invited to feast.Ornately carved wood upon which was spread an elaborately woven tablecloth afforded not only a platform for the banquet but also a covering which hid Mephibosheth’s broken feet from view. From LoDebar – the land of no pasture from which to feed or thrive – unto Zion – the city of the great king – the hurting and needy man found himself offered the abundance of kingly provision.
David had also reclaimed the lands that belonged to Saul and Jonathan and reassigned the inheritance back to Mephibosheth. David even appointed servants to work the lands and bring the increase to Mephibosheth. In every way, the King arranged to repair and restore the broken life of the one disabled by a fall.
Life changes when love is extended. Past brokenness can be transformed when grace is offered. Damages from the past can cease to cripple the present when kindness is given. Each of us is a Mephibosheth who has been dropped and disabled by some event in our past.And each of us has the opportunity to have our broken feet covered under the table of another King from the lineage of David – King Jesus invites all to his banqueting table.
(This story may be found in the Bible in I Samuel, chapters 4 and 9.)
When the early morning sun rose over Heredia, Costa Rica, it brought more than just heat. For our U.S. team of seventeen people from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Texas, the dawning of each new day revealed a landscape that most had never before seen, illuminated a way of life about which we had only obscure knowledge, and shone light and beauty that could be found in the inhabitants of the beautiful land. Heat or not, we anticipated each and every day of our week-long mission’s trip.
We had been invited to tour the land, teach in several churches, train up some local pastors, and conduct several worship symposiums. Months before the actual trip, we began making preparations. We selected persons who were qualified to help fulfill the assignments. Funds were raised; passports were obtained; airline tickets were purchased; and all physical accommodations were arranged.
While the other teachers and I were assembling our messages, our band and singers took on the added task of learning songs in Spanish. Extra nights of practice, along with some help with enunciation from a Spanish teacher, yielded a great-sounding, Spanish-singing worship team. The preparations were completed, the day arrived, and we departed for Costa Rica.
The first evening’s service brought surprises that we had not anticipated. Introductions were made and cordial greetings were exchanged. Then, the band began to lead us in song. Those in attendance were surprised (and delighted) that they could understand the words. They had come expecting to listen to foreign people singing in a foreign language. As each piece of music was performed, the participation of the congregants escalated as a revelation of similarity began to establish a bond of unity. We, likewise, were surprised (and delighted) as the cordial was replaced by heart-felt acceptance and genuine embraces. This same scenario was repeated in every meeting and with each new group of people.
A similar phenomenon occurred when we stood before area church leaders to teach doctrine from the Scriptures. In those cases, the common language was established by way of translators. We all had the same love for the Lord, appreciation of His word, and desire to see His will be done. The result – the distance caused by our diversity was bridged as we put forth the effort to stand side by side on common ground.
A new day of understanding dawned upon us that seemed to bring with it even more light and heat than the Costa Rican sun. What was the illumination? It was that making the effort to learn someone’s language, whether that is their spoken dialect or some form of their love language, tears down barriers that separate. What was the heat? It was the warmth of friendship.
No one need travel to a distant land to be confronted by barriers that separate us one from another. If just one person will take the time to school himself or herself with the language of the other person, a new day can dawn. If we maintain the mindset that they speak their “Spanish-type words” (metaphorically speaking) and we speak our “English-like vocabulary,” then we just may not experience the beginning of a day seldom if ever seen, the illumination of a way of life formerly obscure, or the light and beauty that shines forth from those in the world around us.
Habits! Some are good. Some are annoying. I remember my mother fussing at my father for twiddling his thumbs. If his hands weren’t busy with some form of construction, they were resting on his lap with fingers interlocked and thumbs rhythmically circling each other.
My husband used to pop his knuckles. He started his ritual by pulling his pinky, progressed one digit at a time until all ten yielded the pop-pop-crack, and then returned to press each finger inward toward his palm thus releasing another joint. After ten finger and ten knuckle cracks, he would intertwine his fingers, invert and extend his hands away from his body, and apply pressure to ensure that no joint had gone unattended. That accomplished, the ritual would begin all over again.
Thankfully, not all habits are designed to test the patience level of a spouse. Some habits are formed out of a conscious decision to repeat a behavior that is either useful or pleasing. Such is my husband’s and my habit of enjoying our morning coffee together. In the summer, we sit on the glider on our deck. During these cold days of winter, the couch in our family room is our designated resting spot.
We rise early before the sun; he usually hits the brew button on the coffee pot; I set out the cup-of-choice for the morning. He regularly turns on one small lamp on the end table while I customarily pull out the warm, hand-made coverlet under which we will nestle. After that daily routine, we fill our cups, settle down onto our comfortable sofa, and begin our day.
The habit of morning coffee provides us the chance to reflect over the events of yesterday or discuss the schedules of that day. Sometimes we have serious things about which to converse. Other mornings begin with review and analysis of our favorite T.V. show that we watched the night before. We almost never miss the opportunity to comment on the beauty that surrounds us, whether we are observing the sky, the lake in our backyard, or some aspect of our interior decor. Mornings at the Amsden household (now that the kids are grown) are peaceful and pleasant.
The best part of our morning-coffee-drinking-habit is the prayer time we share. We daily bow our heads to thank the Lord for His bounty and His blessing. Next, we take our burdens to God. Between our five children, their families, our friends, our church, and our nation, we have a plethora of burdens about which we offer petitions. There, in the serenity of our home prayer closet, we follow the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer asking for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
G. D. Boardman is known for the saying, “Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Over five decades ago we became Christians and were taught about the act of prayer, which has become our firmly entrenched routine. According to Boardman, habits are building blocks for character and destiny. I believe he is correct. The Bible confirms that prayer has the potential to build personal godliness and release heaven’s providence.
Habits! Some are good. Some are annoying. Prayer may not replace every thumb-twiddling, knuckle-popping repetitive behavior that humans are prone to develop; but it is a habit from which we can reap blessing both in this life and that which is to come.
The pilot’s voice rang out over the intercom: “We are making our final approach to St. Louis International Airport. Cabin attendants, please prepare the cabin for landing.” As a frequent flyer, I had often heard those words. I knew the drill. I began to close down my laptop and secure all my belongings under the seat in front of me. My seat and tray table needed to be returned to their upright and locked positions. I busied myself following all the protocol. After a few moments, I settled down to look out the window for some familiar landmarks of home.
As I peered out the window next to my seat, I observed that we had entered into a cloudbank. The sunlight was dulled because of the dense fog-like haze through which the rays were attempting to penetrate. This whitish-gray mist was so opaque that I could barely see the wing just behind my seat. The whole scene was eerie. I entertained myself for a bit with thoughts from sci-fi movies. Music from the Twilight Zone danced through my head. For a short time span, I reverted to childhood days of imagination and role play. I was absorbed in inner thoughts when the voice of the stewardess broke the internal monologue and called me back to reality.
She was passing throughout the cabin to collect any last remaining items to be discarded. That completed, I returned to my window gazing. The scene had not changed. The dense cloud coverage was all that my eye could behold. This time, my thoughts meandered more along an adult line of reasoning. I noted that we had been in this thick haze for over twenty minutes. I began to think about safety. My body could detect that the plane was making turns, banking, changing elevations; but visually, everything looked the same. I thought about the pilots. I was grateful that Federal law mandated they be instrument-rated. If they could only navigate by visual acuity or some internal sense of perspicacity, we would surely have been in danger. Especially on days like this, pilots would have to place one hundred percent dependence upon the accuracy of the instrument’s readings over that which their senses would communicate.
That forever-the-Bible-teacher-thing in me kicked into operation. I thought about seasons in life when we enter into clouds of confusion. Our ability to get a clear line of sight on the horizon can often be blocked by the immediacy of the moment. The sense of balance that we normally derive from a healthy inner ear of our own wise advice can be disrupted by internal sounds of deception. When this occurs, the external voice of our counselors is clouded out. Our keenness, perception, or wisdom can become dulled when the dark haze of circumstances obstructs the senses. If we are not instrument-rated, we might lose our ability to navigate through life.
The Bible is a reliable compass. It transcends the temporal, grants insight beyond the immediate, and directs destiny through ambiguity. God’s Word illuminates our pathway and clarifies our individual steps. Those who know the Word are instrument-rated, having been trained in the use of God’s only tool for safe navigation through life’s cloud-obscured days.
The TV, internet, and discussions at the neighborhood market were all broadcasting the same weather report. A cold front, called a polar vortex, was imminently going to hit the Mid-West. The forecasted temperatures were to be minus 23 in Chicago and minus 2 in Collinsville, and those numbers did not include the wind chill factors that could plummet the cold’s effect another 20 or more degrees. All civil agencies were advising citizens to remain in their homes if at all possible. The area schools were being closed. Stay home, stay warm, stay safe – that was the advice of the professionals.
Stay home on the cold days of winter? Enjoy the warmth of my fireplace when the snow falls? Look at winter’s outdoor landscape through the window of a cozy home? Sure – I could do that! As a matter of fact, one of the particular factors that I love about living in the Mid-West is winter and winter days. Since the time that I was young, I relished a snow day. During the time when my children were young, I welcomed the occasional inclement weather that forced us all to stay home and play the day away. I would bake cookies, make hot chocolate, build a fire, and find games to play. I always made the cold outside an invitation to warm the hearts of the family. Stay home, stay, warm, stay safe – that advice was an invitation for me to remake winter’s best memories.
Monday morning arrived with the extreme weather that the meteorologists had predicted. My children are now grown with children of their own, so only my husband and I now occupy our home. But did the fact that there are only two of us stop me from reinventing a winter’s freeze day? No, it did not! I started early in the kitchen preparing special treats. Early morning coffee demanded pumpkin cream. The smell of baking wafted through the kitchen. Our fireplace burns gas rather than logs, so the ambiance was present even if the smoky smell was not. And games? I selected the card game of rummy.
By mid-morning, the game had commenced. We were only semi-serious about cards. A movie was playing in the background, to which we gave cursory heed. The whole environment was set for family interaction; and although the family was down to only two, we played the day away from the warmth of our home. And – by the way – I totally defeated my husband in rummy, which added a little extra joy to the whole day’s experience!
I went to bed Monday night thinking about how rarely we can turn an impending worst day into a best day. Life’s problems are almost never solved by a cup of hot chocolate or a causal game of cards. While I was cozy and warm during the vortex, others were seeking shelter from the cold. While I had a companion with whom to play, those who live alone might have been struggling with isolation and loneliness. While I could draw from satisfying family memories, there are people who have no paradigm from which to imagine joy in family life. Sometimes, an external polar vortex brings hazardous conditions from which we can hardly secure internal shelter.
Thankfully, a polar vortex is a temporary weather front. Wind currents can shift and bring warmth. Changing environments introduce new climates. Frigid temperatures become part of history while new headlines catch our attention in the present. If you are currently in a personal “polar vortex” of your own, I trust that God will grace you to find a place of internal warmth and shelter and a spiritual place to “stay home, stay warm, and stay safe” until warmer days arrive.
We have a bird feeder mounted on the rail of our patio. All who sit at our kitchen table can enjoy watching as an array of birds stop by to eat. My husband and I even call to each other to come from another room any time that a new specimen arrives. The whole sitting-still-and-watching-nature-thing never appealed much to either of us in our younger days. But now, either because age has slowed us down or wisdom has finally caught up with us, we find ourselves regularly entertained by the winged-creature-follies.
Just yesterday I noted four doves, three sparrows, two blue jays, and one red-headed woodpecker vying for a turn at the feeder. I stood quietly and watched for several minutes. I had not seen a woodpecker or any blue jays throughout the summer. As soon as the blue jays flew away, a cardinal joined the gathering. He, too, had been absent during the warm summer days. I guess that the abundance of food sources available when the crops are growing gives these species more tantalizing options than the store-bought mix that we load into our feeder. However, when the harvest is over, the cold weather arrives, and the natural sources become scarce, they look for a storehouse of grain. Welcome to the Amsdens!
Scripture tells us to observe the habits of birds and learn a spiritual lesson. They do not build their own granaries but rather trust that each day will produce the food necessary for that day. We deduce from nature’s lesson that God, who has demonstrated his disposition toward providential and loving care with the birds, will likewise care and provide for us. We are admonished to have faith in God. However, the Bible doesn’t end its ‘lessons from the pages of creation’ with only one chapter on ‘bird watching’.
We are also instructed to consider the habits of the ant that labors to gather when food is abundant, stores it up, and has available portions for a season when provisions are scarce. The ant instructs us on diligence and planning. Ants don’t come looking for the Amsden’s storehouse during the winter, for they have prepared a storehouse for themselves. Scripture says one who does not follow the leading of the ant is a sluggard and will surly come to poverty.
God doesn’t want us to exemplify only bird-type behavior or all ant-like qualities. We are to have a blend of both. While laboring and storing, we should trust. While trusting for each day’s measure, we should be laying up for winter. Winters come. And when they do, we will draw from what we have in reserve. If we have stored up good relationships, they will satisfy us in days of sorrow. If we have tucked away abundant supplies of love, kindness, and compassion, we can draw from those graces when the harsh winds of winter blight the landscape of our lives. If we have filled our hearts with hope and faith, those forces can sustain us when our days seem to have more dark hours than daylight.
The birds around my home need not worry. I have prepared a storehouse for the cold days ahead. The ants under my home are not concerned, for they have laid up provision for this season. As for those of us inside the Amsden home, my prayer is that we will always find our storehouses adequate when wintertime arrives.
Here I sit inside a Starbuck’s Coffee Café in the middle of a bustling business district of a major city. Outside the first snow of the season is falling lightly enough to allow the streets to remain clear while densely enough to create a Norman Rockwell scene. Big-city-Starbuck’s and days-gone-by-Rockwell in the same thought – what a world of contrasts!
I have my laptop open writing this article while drinking a cup of coffee. Did I say coffee? I meant a triple shot grandé white chocolate mocha americana. I ordered it like a veteran yuppie and paid for it by swiping my in-store gift card. No one seemed to notice my polyester pants instead of the latest fashion designer jeans. They assumed that I was part of the ‘happening’ thing because I could spout the Starbuck’s rhetoric. Yep – that’s me – a thoroughly modern grandma blending the style of my day with the vogue of today – did I mention that it is a world of contrasts?
To further emphasize my awareness of disparity is my all-too-vivid memory of this last week. Four of my grandchildren moved into my house while their mom and dad were on a trip. For the duration of their stay, I was thrust back into yester-year. I remembered the caregiver, child-raiser, nurturer role. After all, I raised five children of my own. Cooking, bathing, entertaining, and refereeing – ah yes, it all returned to me. Sounds of girlish giggling, glimpses of flying balls, sights of strewn toys – yesterday’s glories revisited today. Definitely satisfying! Immensely familiar! Very customary!
Now today, the grandchildren are back home with their folks and me? . . . . Well, I am planning a immanent mission’s trip to Costa Rica. Soon I will board an aircraft to spend a week with people hardly know who speak in a language I cannot understand. My world will rapidly move from familiar to new, from traditional to foreign, from customary to unknown – have I mentioned anything about contrasts?
Scripture teaches that a wise man is both a teacher and a student (Matthew 13:52). He is a teacher because he has mastered the past and has, thus, amassed resources of knowledge and experience. However, he is also a pupil, always studying the present to accrue more assets. From his treasures of both old and new, the wise man views his world, understands the current age, and makes wise decisions for himself and his household.
The contrasts and incongruities in our lives force us to become students. We must study, read, and learn. Then we must embrace, apply, and adapt. That isn’t always easy. I must admit that my first few trips to the new, improved coffee counter found me ordering a small cup of just regular coffee, which was the sum total of my past coffee knowledge. The new day’s menu intimidated me, as did the customers in line before me who had conquered the new jargon. Then, I decided I was willing to reveal that I was unlearned. I could show my ignorance. I could present myself as a student. So I asked. I taste tested. I learned. Triple shot grandé white chocolate mocha americana – how wise do I sound now?
Coffee conquered – give me Costa Rica! Whether the contrasts in my life come in the form of new drinks, new nations, new technologies, or even new thoughts, scripture promises me that a storehouse of both old and new treasures await me if I will revere the familiar and welcome the new.
My husband is entering his eighth week of recovery from a broken foot. His injury was complex. His attending physician placed him in a cast and confined him to a wheelchair. The dislocation of the bone joints that occurred in conjunction with the injury will necessitate either surgery or some kind of orthopedic aid in the months to come. Until the prognosis becomes clearer, he sits in a wheelchair with his leg and foot in a bulky, fiberglass cast.
These past days have provided him with many challenges that can only be overcome by the help of others or by an extra degree of effort on his part. Things that before were ordinary and unproblematic have become tests in tenacity and opportunities for creativity. The need to make a simple trip across the kitchen to get a glass of water thrusts him into an internal debate. Is he thirsty enough to put forth the effort to get up from the sofa or chair where he had secured a comfortable resting place, pull himself into the hard-bottomed wheelchair, propel himself across the carpet and tile floor, evade pieces of furniture that stand as obstacles along his path, and take himself to the kitchen sink? Quite often he will just sit until a family member (who is usually me) comes within the sound of his petition.
Much of his daily routine has to be temporarily downloaded to someone else and all jobs that can be postponed are deferred. We tried a few hours at the mall, but that outing was certainly one of those save-to-another-day-when-the wheelchair-is-gone events. Some tasks, however, have to continue to be accomplished regardless of the impediment. Day to day still demands an expenditure of energy, but his predicament requires a refocusing of his efforts.
In times of crisis, casual desires are optional while critical needs continue to be mandated. The more importance we place on any necessity, the more determination we will apply to find the means to achieve the end. Hindrances and obstacles may arise to add difficulty to our quest; but the higher the priority of the need, the less deterring are the barriers. The higher the level of thirst, the more exertion will be expended to find the water.
Life seems to bring to us the ‘become thirsty, overcome obstacles, get the water’ scenario in a variety of packages. A man who becomes dry at his workplace may rise to the challenge of more education, thereby obtaining the refreshing of a new career. Another man, perhaps bound by some form of addiction, may reach out from his parched condition to find help, rise above the problem, and drink in a new life. A family in relational dehydration can seek counseling, press though difficulties to find solutions, and soak up joy from resolved conflict.
In the middle of all difficulty lies opportunity. When my husband is thirsty, he often waits for a family member to pass by. But, if sufficient time elapses and no one comes his way, necessity demands that he arises and, in spite of difficulty and restricting circumstances, find another solution to his dilemma. Outside of the rare exception when a person is in a desert, water is usually only a short distance away. In our society, we are surrounded with medical assistance, self-help groups, support groups, training, and education. We can dial up and dial in. Charity organizations, government-backed institutions, and the private business sector are available to meet every need known to the human race. Water, water everywhere! And, there is more than enough to drink for the person who, in the season of brokenness, will acknowledge his thirst, rise up from his current station, and begin the painful process of overcoming difficulties. At the end of the journey is a refreshing drink that will satisfy the parched and thirsty soul.
On the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, my husband and I decided to take a drive into Troy to do a little reminiscing in the city where I grew. Snug in the warmth of our car, we traveled down the interstate, turned on Main Street, and headed to view my family home that had been occupied by new residents since the passing of my Mom and Dad.
Upon viewing the front, I noted that the new tenants had made a few improvements but had kept the overall look of the property as it had been. Warm emotions filled my heart. We drove around the block and down the alley where we could stop the car to look at the house from the back. I cracked my window to get a better view.
The backyard testified to the dominance of winter: the grass was brown, the trees were leafless, and patches of frost dotted the landscape. There were about a dozen blackbirds and an equal number of sparrows pecking at the ground for seeds, while a brown squirrel busily scampered up a tree and through its branches. A slight wind was blowing, the howl of which seeped through the window and sang winter’s cold, doleful tenor.
After a few moments of observation, my memory took preeminence over my cognition. As though with a flip of a switch, I was transported to my grade school days when my parent’s backyard was a playground for the neighborhood. I envisioned the game of tag and the special friends who gathered to play it. The tree at the edge of the property was no longer barren and brown but alive with foliage and was, again, home base. The clothesline pole upon which the birds perched was likewise transformed to reveal an off-base safe zone. I could see it – kids running to avoid getting tagged; shouts filling the warm summer air; pursuers shouting, “gotcha; you’re it.”
How real those few moments of memory became. Again, warm emotions filled my heart. A smile transformed my face as a tear fell upon my cheek. I stayed in the reminiscence. I lingered in the nostalgia. If it had not been for the imaginary sound of my father’s voice calling, “Pat” in the background, I might have dwelt there longer; but the present demanded my attention and the cold reality of winter again came into view.
Later that day, I thought about my flashback. I thanked God for that good reservoir of memories. I whispered a prayer to express gratitude that I have the ability to draw from yesterday’s blessings to refresh myself when the present seems frozen and fruitless. Proverbs talks about the wisdom of gathering and storing during a time when the fields are bountiful. Why? Winter will come. Less profitable, less bounteous times happen to everyone. That which has been stored during the summer becomes our sustenance for winter.
I spent the rest of my day in mental containers of yesterday. I recalled early family memories of my sister, brother, and cousins that filled my childhood with love and laughter. I reminisced about abundant seasons in my younger, adult life: our first home, a new baby, the memorable vacations, and those dream-come-true opportunities. I looked back over the decades of serving God and His people, and the many joys from that career. I was refreshed and renewed.
I’ve lived long enough to learn that every winter must complete its course and that wishful thinking does not change the reality of life’s coldest season. If it were not for storehouses, only the strongest would endure. Therefore, I must adhere to the wisdom of the scripture and make good use of my reserves. Summer will come again. Until it does, I have storehouses abundantly overflowing which have the power to add warmth throughout the winter days.