Saturday, November 22, 2014

You Had to Be There Habakuk 1:5

            Habukuk’s message from God , his “burden” includes this in the fifth verse of the First Chapter of his book. “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously; for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.”
            Oh, those moments that leave us awestruck. For a second or two, nothing else matters, not what has happened in the past, not what will come down the road in the future. Just a time when all we can do is take a deep breath and just try to absorb the wonder of God’s creation. During this time of hustle and bustle, organized ceremonies and unorganized chaos, we live for those “Ahh” moments when God is sufficient.
             My husband and I love to just get out and drive, and when the sun is shining brightly on our windshield, just topping a hill on one of Arkansas’ many scenic byways can present an incredible panorama of beauty. The colors of the leaves, the sky, the waterways are spotlighted at just the right angle. We don’t always stop the car or snap a photo, but those vistas stay with us, become a part of our memories of care-free days doing whatever we please.
            Sometimes, after a stormy day, the sun popping out from behind the clouds produces another such glorious moment. Heavenly rays extend to the ground, and we take a deep breath, knowing that God was with us the whole time. Often, He sends his classic symbol- a rainbow. We know it is a simple message from the maker that renews the promise he made to Noah so long ago. All will be right with the world again.
            Holding a new baby, especially when there is a family relationship, is another indescribable pleasure. The simple trust that this little soul is placing literally in your hands can be overwhelming. At that moment, the struggles leading up to the birth are forgotten; the worries of the days ahead are non-existent. God grants us just a second to simply revel in his miracle.
            In contrast, the same sense of peace can be felt at the bedside of someone who is nearing the end of their journey on this earth. All of the pain and suffering can be forgotten when the patient is comfortably communing with his or her maker. Peace penetrates the room, and all who enter. Unexplainable, totally illogical peace, except for those who understand what awaits on the other side.
            For me, awe strikes at the strangest times.  For example: when my house is almost literally bursting at the seams with busy people of all ages, preparing a meal, or trying to find a spot to relax afterwards. The joyous shouts of the youngest, the bumping into one another, the questionable crashes heard from the kitchen, all provide me with a moment of sweet joy. After years of changes, and missing faces at the table, I recognize these times for their temporary nature. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. The happiness is palpable, almost painful. I relish these precious chaotic moments, and store them away for future, quieter days.
            The shepherds felt the same way in Bethlehem centuries ago when the heavenly host brought them unbelievable news, and then they witnessed the miracle for themselves. How fortunate we are that Luke captured these moments in his Gospel. We can share in the wonder as we read that account over and over.
            The marketing wizards call moments like this “Priceless”. They remind us that no matter the cost, that one event is totally worth it.  Christians can enjoy these precious times with no thought to the past or the future, because Jesus has already paid the price. What is coming for us will be even more wonderful, more awe inspiring than any experience we have had on this earth. Amazing. I definitely want to be there.

            Thank you, Lord for these glimpses of your wonder.  May we always recognize and appreciate them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fine Dining- Tables and Chairs Optional

Most meals are forgotten after we clear away the dishes. Remembering them longer than that may have as much to do with the circumstances as the food.  To borrow a phrase from our real estate friends- it’s all about location, location, location. As a child, my adventurous mother would find the most interesting spots for a weekend picnic. One in particular involved crossing (or climbing through) a barbed wire fence. The locust trees we passed on our way to the chosen site displayed cattle hair that had been snagged on  spiny thorns. I remembered hoping the  hoofed residents who had left it there wouldn’t mind that we were  sitting in their field for a little while, and  I especially hoped that they wouldn’t return while we were eating. In contrast, another memory took place on the well manicured lawn in front of an art museum in Kansas City. I couldn’t tell you what we ate on either occasion.
These were simple meals, but some picnics are much more elaborate. For years, churches have carried Grandma’s prized dishes outside the building, or to a nearby park for “dinner on the ground”. With a few hours to kill before the Sunday services resumed, the meal was often followed by a game of  horseshoes, softball or baseball.
The menu for these events varies, but the main health consideration is keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Though ice has been sold in bulk for over a century, the invention in the early 1950’s of the ice chest (cooler) revolutionized dining “al fresco”. As my father-in-law would say, Mr. Coleman didn’t just make picnics easier, he made them Possible!
Sometimes, less planning means more fun. When the weather is nice, an exciting day starts with  throwing  together some sandwich fixins, a few canned soft drinks and a bag of chips, and heading  for the hills. In my pantry for this eventuality are several vinyl and cloth table coverings, a stack of paper plates, and a box of disposable plastic flatware. My mom would be sure to remind us not to forget the ants. When watermelon is in season, bringing along one of those deliciously messy fruits ensures that those special guests are invited.
 After  my parents retired to live full time in a travel trailer, all of our family celebrations turned into picnics. There was always more visiting room outside of their compact house on wheels, so we gathered around the campfire in all kinds of weather, bundled up in coats, snuggling under blankets with hot chocolate. Lot of love to keep us warm.
Back on the home front, there’s something about eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Cheetos while sitting on a blanket that means magic for kids. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon on sunny days in the front or back yard, and on rainy ones in the living room floor. When one of the picnic attendees is a small baby, the older kids learn basic babysitting skills by helping to keep the rolling or crawling infant confined to the safety of the blanket. It’s not just a meal, it’s an adventure.
After one of these special meals is concluded, full bellies lead to heavy sighs, and the cares of the world seem far away, especially if the location is outside of cell phone range. The breeze on your face, the songs of the birds bring a calm that can’t be matched in any restaurant in the world. At this point, the main concern is keeping the kids safely out of the nearest water source, at least until their food has settled.  One of our grandsons always searches for a long stick to “fish” with. We’ve got to get that boy some proper equipment.

In other areas of the world, picnics happen mostly in the summer-time. Here in the Ouachitas, autumn is the most wonderful time of the year. Sunshine, changing leaves, weather cool enough for a sweater and a campfire: Ahhh. A taste of heaven.  Though fall weather sometimes stretches into December, cold, dreary winter is sure to be just around the corner. Take advantage of every opportunity to plop down for a simple lunch. I’ll wave at you from my own blanket on the ground.