Autumn Light

Fleeting sun, departing friend,

Who calls to you, our joy to end?

Who beckons your redeeming rays

To other lands with longer days?

Did I despise your brightening hues,

Or seek another’s love to choose?

I cannot think what’s caused this rift

Between our ways. (The shadows shift.)

Your silken train of golden hair

Slips past my steps, my garden chair.

Departing glance. Your back is all

Can see my face, return my call:

Forsake this way, time’s mystery.

Return to stay and shine on me.

On the way to Shur

“The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’”

Genesis 16:7-8a

Seldom appearing in the lists of biblical heroes, Hagar and her story give me hope and a reminder.

Born in Egypt, Hagar finds herself hundreds of miles from anything familiar as a house servant to a Hebrew woman who cannot bear children. The woman’s husband has been promised by God that all of humanity will be blessed through his offspring, and it is between this promise and the couple’s doubts that Hagar’s destiny is defined. She becomes a man-made solution to a God-sized challenge. Unknowingly, she moves from obscurity to history’s center stage.

. . . and it’s showtime.

Continue reading “On the way to Shur”

Dangerous Illusions

“And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 1 Kings 17:12

When I was young, I was fascinated with optical illusions: Escher’s pair of hands that seem to be drawing themselves, climbing up the Penrose staircase that ends at the bottom, or the Impossible Trident…(does it have three prongs or two?)

I remember staring at these illustrations until my eyes ached trying to find a way to resolve the dissonant questions within.

But I never could.

The drawings were mysterious illusions . . . questions without answers.

Continue reading “Dangerous Illusions”

Good Questions

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” Job 38:31-33

God’s questions to the broken man, Job, are deep and daunting.

There is a unique mixture of compassion and correction in their tone as God seeks to update Job’s understanding of who He is by taking him to the end of his knowledge.

But I am grateful for that.

As my three sons near and step into manhood, I have had more and more opportunities to talk with them about those steps and what they mean.

More often than not, these conversations begin with great questions, too. But as time has gone by, the questions have changed and ended, recently, with a Job-like surprise. Here’s what I mean…

When the boys were just little guys, their questions were direct and easy.

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Making and remaking

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” Psalms 40:4

On February 5, 1976, Franz Klammer created an international sensation skiing the men’s Olympic downhill in 1:45.73 seconds. He skied like no one before him. He averaged about 64 miles per hour over silky powder in the crisp air of the Austrian Alps. He earned a gold medal and a top spot in Olympic history.

Whenever I think of the Winter Olympics, I think of Alpine skiing and the men’s downhill. I think of people like Franz Klammer and a unique behavior that sharpens champion skiers. Simply, it is this:

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Against them.

“And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them . . .” Mark 6: 47-48a

I have a deep respect for storms.

Living in the Midwest, I have nurtured a wariness for weather’s fury: the power of sudden, golf-ball sized hail in a summer thunderstorm, the screaming wind that announces the arrival of an F-4 tornado overhead, the smothering white-out of a winter blizzard rolling over the the frozen prairie land of Illinois . . . mountains of powdery, dry snow . . . and the deafening silence after.

Storms have a way of commanding our attention. Sometimes, too much.

Read the story of Jesus walking on water in the middle of a huge storm, and see this picture: the night’s blackness, the pitching waves in the Sea of Galilee, the growing unease with what may be coming, the small group of men in an open fishing boat terrified of it all.

But focus too much on the storm, and we can miss one of those, ” wait a minute. . . ” moments that signal something . . . astonishing.

Continue reading “Against them.”

Gift exchange

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

This Christmas, how will you be involved in the giving and getting of gifts? From ancient times, gift-giving has been associated with many holidays at the turn of the year, and the wise men who visited Jesus at his birth were leaders for us in the practice.

For the most part, gift-giving is a happy and joyful experience. But, have you ever had a less-than-joyful experience with gifts?

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True ways

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, . . .  put off your old self. . . . and be renewed in the spirit of your minds . . . “Ephesians 4:17-24

When I was a young student, every class day would begin with our reciting the United States’ Pledge of Allegiance. We said it every day, and then we’d sing a patriotic hymn of our teacher’s choosing.

The words we spoke or sung fell easily from our lips, because we had said or sung them over and over again . . . for years.

We were learning what it meant to be an American.

But it wasn’t always that way. Continue reading “True ways”

23 and Me

The Lord is the one who takes care of me. I shall lack nothing.
In his care, I am fully satisfied and content.
He leads me into restful stillness.
He restores my soul.
He leads me on paths that are true and good, because he is true and good.
Even when I walk in a darkness like death, I will not be afraid of being hurt,
For you are ever with me.
Your presence guiding me there, comforts me.
You provide a feast before me out of nothing,
And full of joy, I invite my enemies to join me.
You salve my soul with honor,
And your well-supply in my life overwhelms me with abundance.
Surely goodness and mercy shall always be mine,
And we will live together in your care, now, always, and in your home,
forever.

(Psalm 23, a paraphrase)