Thanks for the Children

jesus_with_children4I picked my daughter up from school last week. As she got into her booster seat in the car she said, “I had a GREAT day!” When asked why, she said, “I had a cupcake today!”

I made a big deal out of it, “WHAT? A cupcake? How did that happen?” That child then did something that just got me. She giggled. It was that unbelievably dear sound moms sometimes hear, like music bubbling up. “It was a teacher’s birthday. There was chocolate frosting.” The simplest thing in the world made her so happy.

I have to give thanks to God today for children. At times they can be exhausting, and they are work intensive, but their innocence and delight in the smallest things makes life bearable to me. That music of Emmy’s laugh reminded me of the Lord Jesus with the children on his lap, the ones his disciples tried to shoo away from him. He took them in his arms instead and blessed them. I think he probably heard a giggle. The cultures that are aborting children by the millions are aborting away all of that music, all of that hope and all of that God-given life. How evil. How foolish.

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” ~ Matthew 18:2-6

Sanctuary – A Repost

I first shared this post back in January of 2013. Due to several conversations recently with friends, I felt the need to re-run it here at the Hope Blog. If you are weary beyond words or discouraged, I hope it is a blessing to you.

hillsJust off the main highway that winds through the rolling green hills is a dirt road. You would miss it if you didn’t know to watch for it.

On the south side of the road, a small, weathered sign in the shape of a T has the words “Sanctuary” on it. That’s where you turn in.

You’ll drive a good half a mile on that rough dirt road that turns and twists slowly up a hill. The trees crowd on either side and the sunlight is filtered through the leaves as you travel along. If your windows are open, the air is riotous with the sound of songbirds.

Then, suddenly, you are at the top of the hill and there you will see your destination. There stand several buildings made of the creamy field stone the area is known for. The structures look so solid that no wind could ever blow them down. The prettiest of them all, overlooking the lush valley down below, is a chapel building with a small steeple and bell tower. There are flower beds along the brick walkway, and in summer they are alive with color.

At evensong, when the sun begins to sink, the bells in that chapel can be heard for miles. There is a carillon that each evening chimes sweet peace to all of God’s creatures. sunsetWhether it is heard by the sheep dog resting on the porch of the frame farmhouse down the road or the family eating dinner in the valley, the sounds of those bells are carried on the gentle evening air.

A woman named Joan runs the place. She is a woman in her early 60’s, vigorous, with rough hands that are chapped with constant work. Her silver hair is short, because she has no interest or time to deal with it, her skin is tanned and shows the effects of much sun, but she has light blue eyes that are kindly and they nearly always have a smile in them.

There is a library in one of those stone buildings. A carpenter volunteered and put in shelves from ceiling to floor. Over the years, the book collection burgeoned and grew until Joan had to stop taking donations. The large fireplace, made of the same stone, was put in later. On cold winter nights, the library is as snug a haven as you could possibly find. Joan’s yellow lab likes to lie there on the rug before the fire, toasting himself, the firelight flickering on the backs of the books.

The green hills that shimmer in the summer heat are still with the silence and cold of winter. A different, frozen kind of peace descends. Footsteps and sounds seem muffled as the snow and ice blanket the beauty that lies in waiting.

Joan was once terribly hurt in her life. She was so hurt that she nearly gave up, turned her back on her faith and died for any useful purpose.

Then she inherited money and bought an old property up in the hills. Aroused from despair and defeat, throwing off her depression and her sense of worthlessness, she determined to provide a haven in the war zone of life for women who needed a sanctuary.

She made up her mind that she would never market her safe place. God would bring those who needed a rest, and she would provide it. And one by one, injured sheep make their way to her refuge. Sometimes they walk, sometimes they have to crawl.

She does not preach to them. But she prays for all who come. She offers her ear, her experience and plain comfort from the Bible.

Most of those who come are refugees from spiritual abuse. Like Joan. Sitting in her study, she listens to stories that are enough to make the angels weep. She sees the damage and the scars carried by those who have been nearly killed off by spiritual leaders, husbands, family members wielding the name of Jesus. Some are those suffering great loss or from long term, unresolved stress in their lives and who are nearly unable to function in their everyday lives as a result. They open their hearts in this safe place, sometimes for the first time.

And there, those same hurt people are given the opportunity to rest. It flows to them from the Scriptures and hymns at evensong, it shines down from the glories of God’s creation, where the billions of stars are not obscured by harsh city lights, it comes to them sitting on the swing where the small creatures can be heard rustling in the grass as they go about their nightly affairs.

Rest comes in the quiet of rooms, where in their plainness and simplicity, the Bibles on the nightstand can be opened without distraction, and prayer can take place without the oppression of digital noise that permeates everyday life.

Rest comes in healthy meals and walking in the hills, the sunshine warming backs and necks made stiff with stress. It comes in not having a schedule screaming its demands and all the expectations rising, exhausting and depleting.

Sometimes visitors stay a day. Others stay for weeks. When they leave, they give a donation of what they can or sometimes they donate their time to help work on the property in exchange for the kindness of their host.

There is a plaque in the narthex of the chapel, just to the left of the door.

It reads,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” ~ Jesus

The need for peaceful interludes in our lives can’t be underscored enough. Our modern life has many running on fumes. For those facing truly devastating losses and long-term struggles, time away from it all isn’t just a want, it is a need. The place I have described above is fictional, part of a writing project. I thought I would share it on the Hope Blog because it describes what so many women today would love to have–time away to find quiet and peace.

We may not be able to get away, and there may be no place like the Sanctuary in real life where we can physically get strength and perspective back, but all of us can cultivate a sanctuary in our hearts, a place where we won’t let anything or anyone disrupt the peace of God. The evil of our day wars against this peace. It is a real commitment to keep hearts and minds fixed on truth, on the real Jesus, not the brutal counterfeit offered up so often today in His name.

I love this piece by Secret Garden. The nature photography in the video is very restful to watch. Watching it, I find my own sanctuary.

In Memory of Ken Silva

A good friend and fellow blogger for many years, Ken Silva, passed away Sunday night at his home. His website became the go-to place for information on the disturbing trends within evangelicalism. I interviewed Ken many times on radio about the emergent spirituality, and we shared information constantly behind the scenes about the latest pertinent news in order to share it with our readers.

Words don’t convey the sense of loss to many of us who appreciated his work and contributions that helped readers to understand our spiritually tumultuous times. He, like all of us, took a lot of personal attacks for the work he did. I witnessed it many, many times at hate sites that smeared him in every way possible. He kept right on going. I am glad he is with Jesus now, beyond anyone’s ability to hurt him, beyond all pain and suffering. We’ll see you again, Ken. It won’t be long now.

Under an Autumn Sky

leavesIn the grocery store parking lot where I was loading things into my cart I heard a voice behind me and realized I was being spoken to. A man in a wheel chair was there.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” he asked. He had strong muscles from wheeling his chair up the long hill to the store.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” I agreed. “I wish I had a way to store these days to get us through the long winter.”

He nodded, and we stood there just a few moments enjoying the fresh, cool breeze and the sun on our faces. We were two perfect strangers connecting as fellow humans, our souls drinking in the great beauty of the afternoon.

All the best rhapsodic prose about the Fall of the year has already been written many times over. But I was struck again today by the leaves changing color. Emmy and I walked along for our 3 mile walk, taking it all in.

There is something about being outside that makes Emmy think of God.

“He’s up there in the clouds,” she said solemnly as she walked along pushing her doll in her stroller.

“Who is?”

“God. Pastor told us about that in chapel,” she said firmly.

“God loves me, and I love Him,” she added. “He’s watching over me.”

We stopped to admire a maple leaf that Emmy observed was pink, not red. Bees buzzed over some droopy black-eyed susans at the corner where we turn. A neighbor waved cheerily at us as we made our way back home up the long hill.

“It’s such a lovely day, isn’t it?” Em sighed blissfully.

Beauty and truth and faith under a deep blue sky.

(Photo credit to my friend Francis MacDonald. This is a photo of his native Nova Scotia in autumn.)

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The Most Important Trait

I think the most important trait in a man is kindness. Everything flows from that. Related to that is understanding. All the money in the world can’t buy the profound blessing of a man who understands you and doesn’t judge and dislike you for a weakness–someone who instead bolsters you up in that area instead of despising it. That’s what a good man does. They don’t crush the life and joy out of you, they give life and joy because of the way they live and show love. I am grateful to be married to a deeply kind man.

 

TomIngLake

Motherhood In One Picture

Emmy told me that last night she had a bad dream but that in the dream, when a monster was chasing her,  she came running to my room and jumped in our bad, and I kept her safe from the monster. That pretty much sums up how a child should view a mother. In a cold and often scary world, mothers should be a warm and safe place, a place that stays with you all your life in your mind and heart. I saw this unattributed photo today flying around Facebook and thought it summed up mother love all in one photo.

(This is in honor of my own mother, Freda, whose love has always come through, in good times and bad.)

 

mama