The sun has yet to dawn upon the horizon. The moon and the stars are veiled by clouds. Darkness prevails. I sit in my family room surrounded by a soft glow of amber, which is produced from the gold light bulbs that adorn my Christmas tree. The dim light barely illuminates the furnishings in my home yet generates a warm and cozy feeling in the house.
No one in my home is stirring. Few in my neighborhood have yet risen to greet this day that is beginning in such blackness. I have only seen lights in one nearby house and there is still no traffic on the street. The lonely darkness outside stands in stern contrast to the welcoming illumination indoors thanks to the Christmas tree.
The quietness of the morning has afforded me time to appreciate my tree and to ponder on this holiday that provides the background for one of the most treasured truths found within the pages of the Bible. Few theologians believe that Jesus was actually born on December 25, but all believers acknowledge that on a dark night in a Bethlehem manger the Light of the World began to shine.
The prophets of old had foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God. Although the light of that promise shone only dimly against the dark world of Roman oppression, the faithful believers found solace in the glow of God’s pledge. Just before the dawning of the new day for humanity, the Christ child was born on a dark night, in an obscure village, and in an ignoble place. Mary, Joseph, and a few shepherds were awake. They were privileged to bask in the warm glow of His glory and His grace.
Yet, the darkness of every night yields to the brightness of a new day. If I sit here on my couch long enough, the sun will rise; and its bright rays will diffuse the blackness outside and saturate my house with vivid light. The neighbors will soon be awake; the traffic will flow; and life will thrive in the bright light of day. Darkness may endure for the night, but the sun comes up every morning.
Although I may start this morning against the backdrop of darkness and find some comfort in my softly illuminated surroundings, I know that I am not destined to work and play in this level of dimness. The same could be said for the babe born in a manger! He may have come at night; He may have illuminated only a few in the nativity; He may have shone glory only in a small sphere on that night in Bethlehem; but He brought the dawning of the new era.
The obscurity of the manger gave way to the full light of Christ’s ministry. His miracles and His message shined light everywhere in Judea and Galilee. While He lived, many responded to His brightness. Yet that was just the beginning. Throughout the last two millennia, people in all nations have heard of Christ and responded to the brightness of His glory. He may have been born in an obscure manger, but He came to be the Light of the World.
Isaiah 60:1-3 declares, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (ESV)
May your holiday season be filled with the hope of a bright future as you celebrate the birth of Christ, who is your Light and the Light of the whole world.
The clock by the side of my bed beckoned to me as though the inanimate object had a relentless will to interrupt my night’s rest with an agenda so important that sleep had to succumb to the neon-illuminated hands of the night stalker. “Get up,” the clock demanded. “Hurry! The time approaches!” the timepiece exclaimed. Somewhere around 3:00 a.m., I submitted. Surely one so wise as to calculate passing seconds, mark the moments in which life is lived, or announce the hour when the appointment must be kept could not be wrong. I would obey. I would yield my will. I would arise.
“Honey,” I said to my husband as I gently stroked his back. “Ready to get up and go shopping?”
“Nooooooo,” he muttered. I paused for a moment and then tried again. My second call caused him to roll toward me and open his eyes. “Are you serious?”
We had discussed rising early for our first-ever Black Friday shopping experience. However, after a day of Thanksgiving cooking, eating, entertaining, cleaning, working, celebrating, and eating again, we had determined we were too tired to attempt the world’s most bizarre shopping experience. That was - - - until Mr. Clock worked his magic.
I suppose that the persistent nature of the clock had somehow transferred to me, because I convinced my husband of the urgent need for us to forego rest and arise to the challenge of shopping. We walked through the doors of our first store by 4:00 a.m.
When we saw the check-out line, we formulated a plan: he would stand in line, while I ran to find the items that were on the family’s wish list. We were armed with our cell phones. He would call me if he neared the check-out before I reappeared from amidst the masses of jubilant holiday shoppers with my early-bird priced treasures in tote. What a marvelous use of time. In under an hour, we were in and out of store #1.
Our successes suggested that we had chosen wisely. No wonder so many people with sweet holiday spirits elected to shop on Black Friday! Negative news stories about this day must surely have been reported incorrectly! We were confident that Mr. Clock had given us sound advice - - - until we entered store #2.
Three million people had decided to shop Target before sunrise. I might be underestimating – it could have been four million. We squeezed our way through an agitated crowd to get to that special doll only to find it already sold out. We maneuvered our passage around the swarm of less-than-cheerful shoppers toward the video games to discover empty bins. After several hours of arduous efforts, we had two gifts. Two!
We entered the check-out line that wrapped around the store three times. Then my wristwatch started to talk to me. It taunted me. It refused to tick tock on the regular pace. NO! It slowed to a crawl. Now I have experienced long days and endless hours throughout my life: studying for final exams in college, sitting in the dentist chair, waiting for tax-returns, flying trans-continental half way around the world, and laboring in child birth. To that short list of elongated time distortion, I was considering adding Black Friday.
What seemed like hours and hours later, we emerged from the store only to find the sun just rising on the horizon. The whole day lie before me. There was time for breakfast out plus time to return home and set up the Christmas tree.
As Black Friday ended and I climbed into bed, I came face to face with my alarm clock. It seemed to smile as though waiting for me to give adulation for its wisdom in time management. I smiled, nodded, turned its face toward the wall and said, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night.”
Within days, we will sit down to our decorated tables inside our comfortable homes and consume a scrumptious feast. We will probably eat too much. We may enjoy the fellowship of family and friends. We might even ‘veg out’ in front of the latest wide-screen, digital-display TV to cheer our favorite football teams to victory. Ah, Thanksgiving Day with all its modern-day festivities has become embedded within the American culture.
Heritage is important. Traditions matter. They bond a society together and ensure that the generations will remember. They produce a cultural and generational synergy that not only creates ethnic identity but also engenders national loyalty. They usually begin because an exceptional event has transpired or because a person or a people group has accomplished extraordinary achievements. For example, our nation’s independence is celebrated on the Fourth of July while Jesus’ birth is commemorated at Christmas. Accurately remembering the reason for the tradition guarantees the propagation and safeguarding of the heritage.
Thanksgiving was first celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. Its roots are firmly planted in biblical faith. In 1620, one hundred and three pilgrims departed England for America because religious persecution had brought harm to their persons, families, reputations, and livelihoods. The Pilgrims described their mission in their Mayflower Compact in the following words: “having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of Christian faith a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia.”
Throughout the first hard winter, fifty-one people died. In March of 1621, a Native American named Squanto joined the pilgrims. William Bradford, who was the governor of Plymouth Colony, wrote in his famous work, Of Plymouth Plantation, “[Squanto] was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He showed them how to plant corn, where to take fish and other commodities, and guided them to unknown places, and never left them till he died.”
On November 23, 1623, three years after the Pilgrims landed and two years after their first Thanksgiving celebration, Governor Bradford declared the day an official holiday. “In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetable, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house . . . there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”
For 390 years, Americans have feasted on God’s bounty and enjoyed His goodness as we have celebrated Thanksgiving. Some citizens have given thanks to God. Some have just given thanks while not identifying the one to whom the thankfulness should be directed. In order for our nation to fully commemorate this national holiday, we should be mindful of the biblical faith of the Pilgrims who, while suffering hardships, trusted in an Almighty God. “But these things did not dismay them (though they did sometimes trouble them) for their desires were set on the ways of God and to enjoy His ordinances; but they rested in His providence and knew whom they had believed.” (Bradford’s farewell address)
May your Thanksgiving Day be filled with abundant blessings and overflow with the goodness of God, and may you return your thankfulness back to the One from whom all blessings flow. In the spirit of the Pilgrims, Happy Thanksgiving!
I sat at my kitchen table looking through the window as the sun was rising and casting early morning rays upon the fall landscape. The beautifully-colored foliage, which had adorned the trees for the past few days, had endured a hard wind throughout the night. Many leaves had been knocked off the branches and were now creating a kaleidoscope of color on the ground. Almost immediately, my memory was flooded with thoughts of my childhood and snapshots of my children’s younger days when piles of leaves meant hours of play. My heart warmed at the reflections.
As I continued to gaze and reminisce, I became aware that I could see the neighbor’s home across the pond. Throughout the summer days when the trees were thick with foliage, that sight had been blocked. The plethora of lush green leaves filled all the branches creating sort of a barrier to that which lay beyond. The greenness of the grass, the looming 25 foot high maple, and the flourishing bushes of summer all told me that my immediate surrounds could fill me with abundance, fruitfulness, and bounty at my finger-tips. I did not have to look far or search for distant treasures when summer’s copious growth reached to my doorstep.
But that morning, I noted that the tree only sported about one-fourth of its leaves, the grass was faded and sparse, and the bushes only donned a few spots of brown foliage. Although the autumn colors were lovely, the landscape seemed to be testifying that the season of abundance was fading from view.
My reflections were almost immediately replaced with contemplations. I thought of the time when our family was in a major season shift. My husband’s career had yielded great satisfaction to him and a good income for the household. We had been able to build a new home that had enough bedrooms for our five children and even included a pool in the back yard. Each week the paycheck came. Life was full with that season’s proliferation.
Church ministry opportunities beckoned to both me and my husband. I was frequently being called upon to travel and teach the Bible. He was offered an opportunity to plant a new church and fill the senior pastoral roll. After much prayer and seeking counsel, we decided he would be bi-vocational until ministry could financially support our family. We planned to traverse the seasons without any change to our thriving environment.
Then one night, a hard wind blew. It came in the form of a fire that burned our business to the ground. As we surveyed our immediate surroundings, the lushness and the bounty of the past season had been stripped from view. The big warehouse, the stored inventory, the pending jobs, the stacks of contracts all lay in grey ashes on the ground. Before the fire, we had no need to look far or search for distant treasures because that season’s copious growth reached to our doorstep. But with the leaves of the former season stripped away, we were afforded the opportunity to look beyond and discover what had been formerly obscured from our view. For us, a new world of full-time ministry was on the horizon.
My morning reflections stirred me to think about the disciples and the death of Jesus. His followers endured the storm of the crucifixion and discovered that their booming, flourishing ministry was in ashes. But beyond the grave lay the resurrection. The falling away of the former season produced a view that was previously obscured. New days and new horizons became visible.
I arose from my window view on that fall morning with happy memories and hopeful expectations. No one can avoid the changing seasons. But when the burgeoning season begins to dry up and the leaves begin to fall, we have the opportunity to look beyond and discover a future of new possibilities.
The young man, David, stood before the giant. His mind was spinning. He must act and act quickly. He was keenly aware that his actions would result in life or death. When he awakened that morning to his regular routine of tending the sheep, he had no thought that the day could possibly be his last day alive.
Just after sunrise, David’s father, Jesse, had requested that his youngest son run supplies to three of his older brothers who were fighting with King Saul against the Philistine army. Loaded with food for his family and food for the captain of their regiment, David hurried to the front lines. He had arrived at the time when the two hosts went out to face one another with a battle of words. Insults flew even if ammunition did not.
David could feel his heart pounding within his chest. The very atmosphere felt electrified reminding David of the times when, while he was out on the field with the sheep, the sky pelted the earth with torrential rains and great bolts of lightning. Amidst the tumultuous noise of the soldiers’ shouts, David found his brothers. Barely had he begun to dispatch his father’s communiqué when the champion of the Philistines marched onto the field. The giant Goliath, who stood over 9 feet tall, hurled curses at the Israelites and the God that they served. For forty days, he had waged a word war, attacked with verbal insults, fought with spoken weapons. For forty days, the armies of the Lord had been thwarted at the sight of him, defeated by the threats he threw, and conquered by the fear of him.
David stood in dismay. None of his imaginings of the battle field had yielded this scenario. Israel served the God of their forefathers who had defeated Egypt in the mighty Exodus event, caused the walls of Jericho to crumble at the sound of a shout, and pummeled the armies of five Amorite kings with hail during wartime in Joshua’s day. When David was a young child, Jesse had rehearsed the glories of battle to his children. Dad’s words had struck David’s heart creating faith and had delivered truth into David’s soul securing hope. For the honor of his nation, his people, and his God, David determined he must fight Goliath.
His eldest brother, Eliab, accused him of vain ambitions of a youth; and the King, Saul, forewarned him that Goliath had been a soldier longer than David had been alive. Nonetheless, the word war launched from brother and King could not conquer his courage. David remembered his battle with a bear who sought to ravage his father’s sheep and a lion who tried to annihilate the flock. David had conquered. God had aided. Those fights yielded supernatural victories. Why should David expect a different outcome when the flock to be protected was the people of God? David’s courage mounted. He could go up against the Philistine.
There, on the field of battle, David stood before the giant whose armor weighed more than of David’s body and the head of his spear equaled the circumference of David’s torso. The sounds of Goliath’s threats to feed the boy’s dead carcass to the vultures became muted by the shouts of resolution emanating from David’s passion. He ran – not away from the threats to cower in fear – but toward the enemy. He ran. David ran while loading his slingshot with a stone from the brook. David ran while pulling backwards on the slingshot’s pouch. David ran as he released the pouch and fired the projectile into the air. It landed. The rock landed into the forehead of Goliath.
When he awakened that morning to his regular routine of tending the sheep, he had no thought that the day could possibly be his last day alive. But by the day’s end, David was alive and Goliath was dead. The war of words had ended with the victory of faith. The enemy of the Lord had become the conquest of the people of God.
Finding our way through the various pathways in this life is no easy task. Life often presents itself to us as a maze, an obstacle coarse, or a labyrinth. We need a map. Only after we have trodden any pathway on the feet of our own experience can we be sure that our current steps will lead us to a successful end. We are blind to that which lies around the corner, unless we have previously rounded that corner and gained first-hand knowledge for ourselves. All of us have been schooled in that institution whose famous motto is “experience is the best teacher.” At the end of some of those hard lessons in life, we often find ourselves wishing we could secure a different teacher rather than the tutor who comes with the school of hard knocks.
If we would prefer not to learn all our lessons by the process of autonomy and independence, then we must be open to the idea of learning from the hand of another. All men embrace this idea in some measure as is evidenced when we send the children to school, pay the piano teacher for the weekly lessons, or sign up for the adult education class. These actions and others like them are our testimony that life is best lived when we are influenced by the wisdom of an instructor. A person who has walked a road, found the wisdom, spied out the pitfalls, and laid out a course of action can impart to us the needed instruction to speed up our journey and insure our success. But, without the help of those who can guide, we are committed to that process of trial and error, attempt and fail, or hit and miss that wears out our energy and undermines our nerves.
Why then, would we choose to not heed the voice of a teacher? Could it be that the voice of our arrogance, self-reliance, or independence dooms us to walk the hard road? If we love success, we must love instruction. If we love instruction, we must embrace an instructor. And finally, if we embrace the instructor, we must forfeit the mindset that refuses the harness of the coach, the discipline of the master, the chastisement of the pedagogue, and the evaluation of the tutor.
Once we have accepted the teacher, we must abide in the process until we have been taught. We cannot forsake the instructor or the instruction when the requirements become burdensome, the grades are less than complimentary, the exercise demands continuance, or the process grows painful. We must remain under the teacher until we have passed the course and gained the wisdom. Loving instruction is the process of ranking under a tutor until that tutor releases us through graduation and promotion. Loving instruction, therefore, demands a humble and contrite heart, one that knows the wisdom of submission to a master and the benefits of receiving from an expert. Such a man, the scriptures tell us, has great value in God’s eyes and is promised exaltation and prosperity in God’s kingdom and in this life. Those who love instruction will themselves become the masters and the tutors of tomorrow.
Our nation is in a political crisis and tug-of-war. We are just a few weeks from the midterm elections and both sides are hoping to dominate the field. The politicians are talking; the media is talking; the patrons at the local watering hole are talking. There is no lack of rhetoric. Opinions flourish like dandelions in our yard during the hot days of summer. Feelings are attached to most points of view, and emotions drive many conversations. I find myself turning on the news and reading daily web posts just trying to ascertain facts. Ah – there is the issue. What is the truth?
This week I was listening to an exchange between the press secretary and a national reporter. The reporter was quizzing the narrator about a date. The respondent was notably reticent to give that information, so she was dodging the specifics. The reporter pressed the issue; the press secretary evaded the point. Back and forth went the tug-of-war. Ultimately, no facts were given.
At the same time that I was listening to the diatribe, my mind pulled up a memory of raising my children. I did not recall a specific event; I recalled a recurring scenario. It was the ‘who done it’ archetype of sibling interaction. As a parent, I was on the quest of truth. As a child, my son or daughter was on the mission to circumvent the truth. I was confident that truth would release justice; they were fearful that truth would release justice. The only point upon which we could easily agree was that truth is intrinsically tied to justice.
Truth is the basis for all forward movement in life’s endeavors. Truth is a key component in scientific discoveries, relational stability, and social structures. Postulated theories are tested in scientific laboratories to discover whether or not they are true. Philosophies are tried out in the laboratory of humanity’s social order to reveal their viability. Over time, error is revealed and reality stands. Unreliable and inaccurate information is unprofitable and unsustainable in the arena of human experience.
The primary health of our society is intrinsically tied to truth. Knowledge is imparted by facts. Ignorance is overcome and lies are combatted by truth. It does not bow under the influence of the powerful not betray the needs of the weak. Proverbs instructs us to search out knowledge and understanding (Pr. 2:3), and quantifies these commodities as more valuable than gold and jewels (Pr. 8:10; 20:15). Though not costless to unearth, truth supplies the culture with immeasurable worth. At every level of our existence, we have the commission, responsibility, and honor to communicate truth to the world around us.
Early in the biblical narrative, the reader is exposed to a conversation between the serpent and the first woman. Eve received a report from the serpent, which included misrepresented facts on the nature of God, herself, her present situation, and her future. Assuming that the father of lies had information on par with the Father of Light, she made her decision based upon the Devil’s spin (Gen. 3:1-7). Building her life and earthly culture from lies had disastrous results. Jesus warned that a house built on the sand of falsehood would fall into ruins (Mt. 7:26). Having forsaken the Author of Truth, Adam and Eve placed man upon a quest of the knowledge of truth.
Even today, that quest continues. Truth must be revealed in the family house, in the court house, and in the White House. Over 2500 years ago, the prophet Isaiah released a plea in the form of an edit to the nation of Israel, “Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the street, and honesty has been outlawed. Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.” (Is. 59:14-15, NIV) Isaiah spoke this lamentation at a time when Israel was standing on the cusp of God’s justice.
My prayer is that our nation, its citizens, and its leaders will not allow truth to be discarded into the street as though it is refuse. My children had to learn the lesson that hiding the truth does not circumvent justice. May our nation recall this pedagogic reality and once again elevate truth as our guiding light for justice.
I have finally had to replace my sunglasses. My ‘good-ole’ faithful designer eyewear had lasted through five seasons. Twice they had been knocked off my face by an ocean wave yet re-discovered floating below the water. Several times the screw, which held the side arm in place, fell out; yet I was able to have them repaired and salvaged. They had been lost and found, treated recklessly by the playful hands of grandbabies, toted to a half-dozen foreign nations, and shoved into suitcases and purses of various shapes and sizes. Yet they survived . . . until several weeks ago. Finally, the frame broke and I was forced to discard my lenses.
I went shopping. I noticed myself sounding like a Dr. Seuss book: “Too big, too small, too dark, too light, too funky, not funky enough.” Of course the price had to be right and the face-complimenting aspect had to be perfect. I asked my husband for his opinion. I must say that he valiantly attempted to tell a woman in the kindest of words how each specimen enhanced her beauty. Obviously, I could not trust his flattering words. But I did have one honest consultant nearby – a mirror. I tried another children’s fable but the ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall; who’s the fairest of them all’ routine yielded nothing but my own reflection and the spectacle that sat on top of my nose.
Then, I found them. The frame was rose-colored. The lenses were rose-colored. They complimented my skin tone. The shape softened the hard angles of my face yet did not over-power the soft curves in my cheeks. Yes – I found them – the perfect replacement at an affordable price.
The first real test of my new sunglasses occurred last week end when I was invited to minister in Chicago. My husband and I loaded our car with all the necessities for a 6-hour road trip and a 4-day meeting. Shoved into my purse were the new sunglasses. Within several hours after our early morning departure, the sun was sufficiently bright that I needed my new shades.
Almost immediately after I donned them, I began to make comments about the beauty of the autumn colors of the trees. “Look at that bright red maple,” I exclaimed. “Wow, look at the hues on that hill.” “How gorgeous are those orange leaves on that sugar maple?” “Did you see that purple-tone on that sweetgum?” Finally, my husband remarked about my remarks. He seemed to think that I was over-stimulated and over-reacting to a lovely, yet not over-the-top landscape. He suggested that the color of my lenses might be having an effect on my vision.
So, I pulled off my new sunglasses. Much to my surprise, the colors all toned down. The red was not vivid red and the orange was not vibrant orange. I returned the glasses to my face and sure enough – more resplendent tones. Off – duller; On – flamboyant; Off – hushed; On – radiant. Oh yeah – the landscape became more colorful through my rose-colored lenses.
That set off a week-end of yokes about me and my rose-colored view of life. It seems that the glasses vicariously expressed my overall approach to living. I am known to my family as the forever Pollyanna. Finding the good in the bad, the possible in the difficult, the hope in the hopeless was a lesson I learned from my parents while growing up. And that set of lenses has never needed to be replaced. I’m not saying that I have never temporarily had them knocked off by a hard-hitting wave of circumstances or that I have not misplaced them from time to time. I’m not suggesting that I haven’t lost a few screws in the way I have viewed my world. I am even aware that traveling upon the highways of life has caused me to shove my optimism into a storage case from time to time. But – when I do decide to wear those glasses, the dull becomes vivid, the mild transforms into intense, and the faded returns to lustrous. Perhaps the Apostle Paul had found his own set of rose-colored lenses called worship when he advised us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
October arrived and so did the dates for our six-day getaway. Months ago, my husband and I had made the decision to take advantage of an off-season resort special and go on a short vacation. We booked the venue, reserved the dates on our calendars, and bought our airplane tickets. During the ensuing months, we gathered information about the designated area of Florida. We looked at photos of our hotel with its pools and beach, gathered knowledge of sight-seeing options around Marco Island, researched the forecasted weather conditions for early fall in that area, and saved our pennies for the extra amenities we would be unable to resist. We knew what to expect. We were ready.
From the moment we arrived at our condo site, we were thrilled with each and every feature of the property. The staff was courteous and helpful; our room had a big balcony with an ocean view; and the landscaping communicated we had entered a tropical paradise. We were delighted. The pictures may have told us what we would see, but they had not been able to capture the grandeur. While not surprised, we were completely impressed.
Impressed turned into surprised, however, on our first day at the beach. Beautiful coastline, white sands, warm waters, and hot sun – the particulars that are part of an ocean-side experience on Florida’s gulf shores – were beckoning us to partake. We headed right to the water. The level of the surf and power of the waves striking our feet and legs was low. We had relatively no opposition as we waded out chest deep into the Atlantic Ocean. Sea gulls were flying overhead. A sail boat was on the horizon. Other swimmers were all around. The sights and sound, although not surprising, were delightful.
Then, unexpectedly, we encountered a completely unanticipated and unforeseen surprise. Under the surface of the water and all along the ocean’s floor were sand dollars. There, barely visible and nestled into the sand along the bottom were hundreds and hundreds of living sea urchins. We could hardly find a place to set our foot down without stepping on them. We reached down to pick them up and could feel the cilia moving on the underneath of the dollar while seeing the pattern that looks like five petals on a flower on top.
We were enthralled. There, below the surface, was that day’s – no the whole trip’s – most wonderful surprise: life packed into small round circles; complexity of being crammed into a brownish-colored shells; living beauty covered up by the sand. Who would have expected this discovery? We certainly had not anticipated it nor pre-planned to search of it. But, there it was, and we were drawn into the mystery and beauty that was just below the surface.
We lingered for hours floating above the sand dollars, collecting and examining them, returning them to their natural habitat so as to not damage them. I found a few white specimens, which was an indication that the urchin was no longer living. I collected those for souvenirs. In the surreal environment just below the surface, we discovered and enjoyed the surprise of our well-researched and well-planned vacation.
There is legend of the sand dollar in which Christians see the message of Christ. On the dollar’s top, there are five holes that testify to the five piercings that occurred during the crucifixion. The star-shaped spine reminds the viewer of the star from the East that guided the shepherds while the flower etched on the other side appears as a Christmas poinsettia and recalls Christ’s birth. When the shell is broken, five dove-shaped pieces can be found, which are said to represent the peace released by Christ’s atoning work.
Just like the sand dollar was the surprise on our vacation, perhaps the sand dollar along with it legend should cause us all to consider that no matter how well arranged our lives might be, the message of Christ holds a surprise for all who are willing to look below the surface.
Time has a very special way of being our friend. When encumbered by an unbearable work-load, weighted by a burdensome situation, or grieving over one of life’s many disappointments, time may drag; but even if slowly, a new day dawns. That is a promise. One season passes into the next as a winter of despair is replaced by a springtime of new hope.
I remember a few years ago when a bad accident left me with two shattered arms and a long season of pain, recovery, and rehabilitation. Living through it was a nightmare. But, looking back on it, the pain and passion of the moment have faded into just one of the many memories I hold about my life. That is precisely why time is a friend. The past can lose its power to hurt. The present season is the one that demands our time and attention, stimulates our senses with joys and sorrows more vitally than yesterday’s memories, and breathes the breath of life into our being. The present also carries the promise that today is tomorrow’s memory. So even if our current season is less than a happy one, our friend time promises us that this too shall pass.
What about the happy times? Changing seasons mean that we cannot encase a moment, for it is only here to pass. Does time then seem to be our foe because the special evening will end, the baby will grow, the change will occur? Or could time be telling us to pay attention to the moment and to drink in the fullness of life? Time just might be saying, “Thankfully receive, gratefully partake, and joyfully relish for you will not pass this way again.” If that is time’s advice, then we have been honored with wise counsel. To ignore today while wishing for tomorrow is folly. Opportunities are wasted; memories are not made; and life is not lived.
Every season withholds one aspect of life while offering to us another. Snow and flowers never come together in nature. The season for the strawberries is not the season for the pumpkins and corn. The children are not out of our hair while they are in our home, but they can be out of our home while never being out of our heart. The freshness of romance ends, but love’s enduring commitment arises. The labor of building finishes in time to usher in the responsibility of maintaining. Time passes; seasons unfold; and with each, life comes new and fresh again.