Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spanning the Years!

Under the same sky, fishing as boys love to do, we see here my grandson Michael (left) as a boy and years later his son Peyton (right), this year at Hembygden, our cabin in Wisconsin.

Who could have thought it years ago, when Michael was a curly-headed blond, that his son Peyton would be standing in nearly the same place, olive-skinned with trim, black hair? Thus does God work over time and generations to enrich our lives, ever watching our comings and goings and infusing them with grace and surprise. Only he remains the same, endlessly creative, always present, and forever loving--even when, for one reason or another, we lag in paying attention.

An old Swedish hymn that neither Michael nor Peyton know, one I grew up with and hope yet to teach them, comes to mind and streams from my lips and heart:

Thanks to God for my Redeemer, thanks for all thou dost provide!
Thanks for time now but a mem'ry, thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime, thanks for dark and dreary fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten, thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that thou hast answered, thanks for what thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered, thanks for all thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure, thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure, thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside, thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside, thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow, thanks for heav'nly peace with thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow, thanks through all eternity!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Which Way Ahead?

A recent series of satellite pictures on patterned life as seen from a distance are really fascinating. This one deserves commentary on a Sunday morning. Imagine a church in the center--surrounded, indeed almost fenced in by a circle of homes whose inhabitants it is seeking to reach. Prescribed place, well-ordered--with the church at the center. Mission well defined.

But what of the randomness outside the circle--of homes no less, plus commerce and industry, some clearly randomly placed, with most not observable at all, lost in the surrounding shadows. No less needy, perhaps even more so. Random life, rootless, undefined, outside the circle.

The picture came to mind this morning as I read John Notehelfer's "Sunday Musings" for today, lifting up images he has been getting from his summer reading. In one of those books, authored by Covenant pastor Tim Morey and titled "Embodying Our Faith: Becoming a Living, Sharing, Practicing Church" (IVP), the author cites a comment by Howard Snyder in his book on "Liberating the Church" that is very telling and worth our pondering:

"Church People think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world may change the church; kingdom people work to see the church change the world."

It may be an over-simplification, but there is food for thought in it nonetheless. Which of the two are you and am I on our way to worship this morning?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers"?

The quiet surrounding as this "time away" nears an end is redemptive in more ways than one. While it is comforting to be thus un-engaged, it is also shaping, requiring one to face things in oneself that one pays little attention to when busy with other things.

On waking early this morning the familiar saying quoted above came to mind. Why, after the quote, the question mark? Because I wonder if is really true. In one sense it is, of course, as any child finding a penny on the sidewalk knows. When I was a boy, you didn't ask questions about whose it really was. You just rejoiced in the penny candy it would provide for you.

But a boy is a boy is a boy. And now that I am older I realize how tempting it is to be thus self-occupied, as if life consists in providing for us, even at the expense of others. More often than not, when you hear "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers" used, the tone in the users voice is pretty revealing.

I wonder how God feels about my own spirit this morning. Of his love I have no doubt. Yet I confess to a certain pain I feel in having less of his mind than I ought by now to have. And without detailing that all out, I am certain that God is speaking to me this morning about it.

I feel broken and contrite, with far more to condemn in me than commend. Yet having in the stillness to admit that I am also being healed. How can it be? Well, Scripture reminds me that "a bruised reed he will not break," and one of our hymnwriters adds, "Ne'er a sin but he'll forgive it, nor a sorrow he cannot heal."

God has a way as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of confronting us--upsetting our prideful towers and neat little apple carts, if only to bring us back again to ground zero in him. And that is good, for therein--and only therein--lies also his forgiveness and healing, even empowering. Could it be that the self-serving common wisdom of "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers" also needs to be turned on its end?

I'm finding it so this morning, that losers like me, when they confess and admit it, are the keepers in God's sight. It's the self-absorbed finders, less in touch with their need of him or others, that are the real losers.

Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bridge Over (and Under) Troubled Waters

Sad news today, of a young family friend who took his life and left us bereft. All who knew him are grieving today, not least because while we sensed his depression--recently retired at an early age to care for his widowed mother--we knew he felt alone. Contacts from a number of us made clear that loneliness--having lost not only a number of loved ones but wondering if in light of so many things needing attention he had retired too early. Missing co-workers and friends, each with their own needs but surrounded by family, he clearly felt isolated.

His mother, even at her advanced age, wanted him to return with her to Sweden, her roots there and family-owned land. He wasn't sure, and the burden of seeking visas with all that entailed--in short taking charge when not ready to commit--no doubt added to his sense of isolation. Thus do many deal in life with mountains that seem immovable.

I was reminded of the bridge that has so often captivated me--spanning the waters between the city of Kalmar in southern Sweden and the island of Oland--a bridge in full daylight that descends before arriving on the island into the dark sea below. What might we have done to be such a bridge for him, from the sunlight and fresh breezes of so much in our lives these days to the subterranean depths so real in his? How might we have reminded him that no matter the darkness he was going through there was loveliness and sunshine on the other side of the bridge?

We know. We have been to Oland's island, a charming place, which the bridge now renders more easily accessible. Lord, forgive our insensitivity to the burdens of others. Waken us to gifts you have given us to carry them with us to a wholesome, warm harbor that you have created for all who feel alone. Help us going forward to journey better with them through the agonies they experience when light seems to have disappeared from view.

Open our hearts and homes to the bereft, and help us set before them the clear hope that comes from caring friends whose doors are always open and tables set with fresh bread and good food.

Above all, Lord, take our family friend into your open arms and bring him to rest in you. We trust in your mercy and commend him to your grace.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Sometimes little things
consume our minds
that other times
do not matter.

We are offered
new perspectives;
a sense moves in
of greater weight.

The sweep of life
captures your mind,
perhaps only
for a moment.

“Stop your fretting,”
it seems to say;
“Untie your soul
and let it breathe.”

“Is not life more
than breath, clothing,
and all the things
occupying you?”

Indeed it is!
Thank God it is!
Let truth sink in
to bless your day!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Still Life

What does one do when there is ample time for doing nothing? On the other side, now, of being with family at our cabin in Wisconsin and enjoying thoroughly all that entailed, we find ourselves alone with each other. Nothing is entirely still in the forest, of course, yet with time on our hands to observe it apart from any distractions, we seem to be almost in limbo. Reflection, reading, and rest are not the whole order of every day. There is golf to watch, there are games to play, meals to be served, and garage sales to search out. Yet in the midst of all that life now seems almost to be standing still.

One evening as the sun was setting in the west, the above caught my eye--a still life picture of light streaming through our kitchen window, capturing on the wall beyond our table, chairs, and an ever-present kerosene lamp--engraving them on our sight and memory.

I wonder as I look on that picture again: is not reflecting on such as symbols of life given and received what time away is all about? Activities come and go in ever rapid succession, but the gathering places around which they have occurred are ever in need of further reflection. Time needs to stand still in order to see it more fully in perspective.

My nephew Timothy Hawkinson preach a wonderful sermon in Boulder Junction some years ago now on "Jesus at Table," exploring texts throughout the gospels illustrating how often his ministry went on in such settings. It should not surprise us that he ministers there still, in our homes as well. And we do well in reflecting back on our lives to rejoice in the many memories of his doing just that at our table in this place.

Time away is never time wasted on those with eyes to see and ears to hear. One doesn't always need to be doing something to make time worthwhile. Sometimes our lives are best seen in perspective when time stands still. To disengage, as we are now doing in the last weeks of our time away may well prepare us better to reengage if we have the patience--and courage--not to run away from the quietness that true renewal requires.

There's an old saying that goes, "Don't just stand there, do something!" I'm finding in my own spirit that there are valid times and reasons for reversing the order. Might I encourage you to do the same? Wherever you are as you read this, try it: "Don't just do something, stand there!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ah, Strawberries!

We have been feasting a lot on strawberries this year, rich and juicy fare. The picture, taken by my granddaughter Stina on her mother's camera, celebrates that richness, inviting one to take a bite of some cut up morsels.

Don't let the richness and juiciness of them fool you into believing they just descended from heaven. The Swedes have captured their essence in naming them jordgubber, "old men of the earth." No earth, no aging of plant in the soil, no waiting for the fruit to appear and there are no strawberries. The same can be said for all fruit--blueberries, peaches, pears, tomatoes, or whatever.

There are parallels here to all of life. In what Elton Trueblood once called our "cut flower culture," we are forever being tempted to forget that. "Just give me the fruit," many say. "Forget the soil, the rich nutrients and time frames in nature that are behind its appearing. Strawberries can be had without all that. We know. We bought some this morning."

It's like saying, forget history and the cycles of life that have worked over time to produce life in all its forms. Can anyone have a baby without a time of pregnancy? No thing and no one, John Donne reminds us, "is an island entire of itself." Though everyone "is somewhere," as my mother used to say, they are never there wholly apart from all that brought them there.

The lesson is clear. To forget your own history and pay no attention to nature's is to lose the true richness of life. Sugar and cream may be used to add taste to strawberries--as nice clothes and other accoutements to adorn our bodies--but by themselves they have little to contribute. The real essence of stawberries lies in their being jordgubber. So does ours! We are of the earth, earthy. As graveside commttals keep reminding us: from dust you have come and to dust you shall return.

Monday, August 2, 2010


PeteandBonHembygden2010 from rooted wings on Vimeo.

Family time at Hembygden in Late July, pix taken by Bonnie (Peter's wife) and her daughters. Present also briefly were Charlotte Manning (Mary's youngest), just returned to US with Hannah from a Winnetka Covenant Church Mission Trip to Mexica, and Ken and Bonnie Fenton (Bonnie's aunt), who were with us briefly for two days.

Peter, Bonnie and their girls--Hannah, Sarah, and Stina--stayed through last week. We had a wonderful time.

Paul, Kristin and their kids--Annika, Colin, Kajsa, and Carson were with us briefly earlier in mid-July, taking and bringing home their kids from camp at Covenant Point in Iron River, MI.

And Eric, Patty and some of their family--Carrie, the newly weds Michael and Abby--wrere here for eight days before we came, returning to California by way of the Twin Cities to celebrate with all our kids my 80th birthday.

So it goes, two full weeks now for us into time away! God is good!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

God is ever watching over his creation and his creatures, all in light of his will as Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. Another view of one of Yosemite's waterfalls, illumined from above, was for me last month and is for me yet a living reminder.

It is Day 16 of Time Away and the sun is already up in the east. The daily cycle of God's faithfulness in lighting our way--the sun by day and the moon by night--continues unabated. Later this month, on the 27th at 12:30 a.m. I am told, we will actually see two moons, as the Planet Mars comes to within 34.65 million miles of the earth and appears next to the moon, a phenomenon not to be reapeated until the year 2287.

Brother Sun ansd Sister Moon daily offer the perspective we need to see our lives in the larger contexts of cosmic time and eternity. One more assurance this Sabbath morning of God's sovereignty and love. One more reminder that we are never alone in time and space, ouside the orbit of his providential care. Anxieties often fill our minds and hearts, but they are no match for the promises of God.

Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory (Psalm 24:7,10).