Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Endings are such a good time for reflection. In the midst of a whirlwind week of packing, cleaning, organizing and rearranging the house, getting together with friends whom I won't see again for a while, and finishing up at work, I find myself pondering the things about life that seem to become more obvious in retrospect.

One realization is just how blessed I am to have so many people who love me and whom I love. I HATE saying goodbyes, but sometimes goodbyes cause me to value my loved ones even more than I usually do.

I remember when I realized a couple years ago that loving and hurting go hand in hand; if you love someone, you are signing up to be disappointed and hurt--no matter how much the other person wants to avoid disappointing or hurting you. There just is no way that another human can possibly do the right thing every time, or meet all of your expectations--and ultimately, there are painful goodbyes involved, too. True love always involves sacrifice; to love someone is to commit to give of yourself and to put the other person's interests ahead of your own.

Why is it, then, that giving of oneself seems to result in overflowing richness? Why is it that as I look back at the relationships I've had with people around me, I feel most enriched by the people to whom I gave the most of myself, my time, my prayers and sympathy? You might say that they cost me the most, but now I feel more enriched by them than by those whom I only loved as far as it was easy.

And when I remember the times that I refused to demonstrate love, deciding to spare myself the sacrifice, I remember them as times of poverty--poverty of joy and fulfillment and peace. When I chose to keep for myself, I was impoverished; when I chose to give, I was enriched.

These years could have been a lot easier. But, except for the times when my selfish decisions got in the way, they could not have been more blessed.

Perhaps this is the secret behind Jesus' words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Results Are In!

Three years ago, when I moved here to care for my grandparents, I began an experiment. My life up to that point had been unusually comfortable and easy, and I felt that I needed to be stretched and put in a position where I had to depend on God more directly. I wanted to prove to myself that God was enough for all my needs—that I didn’t have to depend on my parents, or the church I’d grown up in, or any of the other supports that I was used to.

I didn’t know what I was getting into. The past three years have been the most difficult—and the most wonderful—of my life. Looking back, I marvel at the goodness and perfect love of God, how He so perfectly balanced struggle and strength, giving me challenges that were just hard enough that I had to reach for Him in desperation, but not so hard that I was crushed beneath them. My heavenly Father custom-built my load, knowing just what I needed to learn and what disciplines I needed to develop—and although it has not been nearly as heavy as that which so many other people carry, it was just heavy enough for me.

As my time here draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons that I’ve learned (or at least begun to learn.)

I’ve gotten a glimpse of just how weak I am, and just how strong God is. I guess I knew this in theory before, but I had never before reached the point of KNOWING that I did not have the strength to do what was required of me.

I’ve found that I’m more impatient and selfish than I ever suspected. And that God is able to give patience and love that I could never manufacture on my own.

I’ve been lonely beyond anything I felt before, and learned that although God usually doesn’t wipe away all the loneliness, He can wipe away the tears. And depths of loneliness can become portals to the sweetest fellowship with Him. He may not give me the one for whom I’m lonely, but He gives me One far better, Himself.

I’ve learned that hope and disappointment come together when applied to any thing or person on earth. How comforting it is to know that hope in God “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

I’ve begun to learn that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), but that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

I’ve learned more about how unlovely I really am, at the core of my being—and I’ve learned a little more about just how much He loves me.

I used to live in dread of facing a “real” trial in my life. But the Lord has so proven Himself to me during these years, that although I know better than ever how unable I am to handle trials, I also know better than before how faithful He is sure to be when hard times come.

And that’s really what my experiment comes down to—it has proven God’s faithfulness and goodness to me. I am stunned by the intricacy of God’s dealings with His own, as He weaves together all that we don’t understand and asks us to trust Him for the results. And yet the simplicity of His care is breathtaking, “I was brought low, and He saved me.” (Psalm 116:6)

I am not the same person that I was three years ago. It’s not that I’ve become any stronger, any better in myself, any wiser in my own reasoning—on the contrary, I’ve learned a lot about how utterly inadequate I am. But I do know my God better, because He has been nursing me along, spirit, soul, and body, with infinite care and love.

Hardship plus random chance, fate, luck, or whatever you want to call it, could never result in the blessings that I’ve experienced. This is the work of the God Who at once keeps all the stars and planets in their place, and gives me about fifteen breaths and seventy heartbeats each minute, who arranges the kingdoms of the world and the minutes of my days. It’s the work of the God Who knows me better than I know myself, and loves me better than anyone else could love me. It’s the work of the God who “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

The experiment has been a success. God has proven Himself worthy of every fragment of faith that I placed in Him—worthy, indeed, of so very much more faith than I had! I hope that for the rest of my life I will be learning to trust Him more, and will thus see His works more and more clearly. It’s an exciting prospect, because I’m already sure of the answer. It’s underlined in my Bible, Psalm 25:3, “Indeed, none of those who wait for Thee will be ashamed.” I will never have to admit that God failed me, that I drew on one of His promises and the check bounced.

I can’t say it any better than David the king, “Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalm 28:6,7)

Friday, August 26, 2011


You should see my room right now.

The bookshelves are empty except for a few stragglers, the walls are stripped of pictures. My closet has gone from being overstuffed to just comfortably full. My bed (which at the best of times is nomadic in style to make room for bookshelves) has been reduced to a piece of foam on the floor with my sleeping bag.

In the middle of a floor is a pile of boxes whose labels provide interesting reading material. Most of them are liquor boxes, because they are (a) free and (b) strong--and no, I have not been imbibing. Ironically, the slogans on the liquor boxes make more sense to me than the slogan of one computer box, "Inspiring Innovation Persistent Perfection." Apparently computer programmers don't use punctuation. When my mind wanders from my work, I stare blankly at the sentence (if you can call it a sentence) and the words rearrange themselves into rather awkward sequences like "Perspiring Innovation Insistent Perfection." After all, didn't somebody famous say that genius is ninety-nine percent perspiration, and one percent inspiration?

And what, you ask, is the point of this new decorating style? Well, friends, I'm moving. Packing up my bags and heading to the state that eats more ice cream than any other state(good choice, don't you think?)!

All joking aside, I am, in fact moving, sometime in October. Fall seems like the season that most highlights change, and changes are happening here at the farmhouse. The Lord has made it clear, through many different means, that the time has come to transition the care of my grandparents to others, who are fresher for the job and ready to tackle the challenges with new ideas and enthusiasm. I'm so thankful to know that Grammy and Grampy will still be able to live in their home for the time being at least, and to enjoy this beautiful place.

It's very strange to go through daily life and realize how much there is to leave behind. When I first moved from home in Connecticut, I didn't know that I wouldn't be returning. But now, the fragrance of the fields, the beauty of the sunsets, the familiar sights on my commute, the special people I work with at my job and at home, and most especially my grandparents themselves, all become more dear because I know I'll be leaving them soon.

At the same time, I am quivering with excitement about the new opportunities and experiences that are in front of me. I can't wait to live with Dad and Mom again, in their new house, in a town full of people and places I've never encountered! It will be fun to share the lives of my childhood friends who live near my new home, to hold their babies and build forts with their kids. I'm looking forward to a season of rest with time to refocus and see what the Lord has for me next. Maybe I'll even be able to write blog posts regularly again!

There's just no way to describe what the past three years have meant in my life--the lessons and challenges, the frustrations and disappointments and defeats, together with the adventures and joys and personal triumphs. Each blade of grass in these fields where I've walked and talked with God, represents one of His mercies to me. Each of the brilliant stars stands for one of His precious and magnificent promises. I like to think of it that way. Because Maine is full of grass, too. And the same stars that shine here, shine there as well.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Not Forgotten

The other morning I went into my grandparents’ bedroom and saw something startling. Grampy had scooted down to the bottom of his hospital bed, and had his lower legs up over the footboard, trying to get out of bed (he has side rails on his bed to prevent him from getting up without help, and falling. The sheets were tousled and pulled out of place, a clip on lamp had been knocked down, and everything was disarranged. Trying to keep the scolding tone out of my voice, I asked, “What were you trying to do, Grampy?”

“Oh,” he replied. “I was trying to get up! I figured it was Sunday and time to be getting ready for church, and I guessed you’d forgotten about us.”
I was frustrated—frustrated not so much at my grandfather but at the old age which has left him confused and mostly helpless. It wasn’t Sunday. It wasn’t time to get up. He has not walked without assistance for almost three years. And I had not forgotten him.

I tried to explain, but couldn’t quite hide my annoyance and hurt, “Grampy—“ I began, then stopped myself from continuing, “I couldn’t forget about you any more than a mother could forget about her child!” There’s no point in reminding him of the resemblance. Instead, I tried to remind him gently, that for three years I have not yet forgotten about any of his major needs—his meals, his medicines, his risings, his goings to bed—and that he can trust me to be there to help him when it’s time for him to get up.

And as I spoke, it was as though another Voice was whispering in my ear, “But [Rachel] said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me, And the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.’” (Isaiah 49:14, 15) And He went on to remind me how for the twenty-one years that I have known Him as my Savior, He has not forgotten a single need, but has known and cared about and provided for every detail of my life.

As I helped Grampy move to his wheelchair so that I could fix his sheets, I realized that probably he had been working for a good half hour to get as far as he had, only to end in a futile tangle. All that time he could have been resting in quiet trust that help would come when it was time to get up. The analogy was inescapable, and as I got him settled and went back to my room, I was so humbled as I realized what hurt I must give to the Lord when I doubt His faithful care. Grampy has, after all, some reason to doubt me; now and then I’ve forgotten some detail of his needs. But the Lord has always provided for every need of mine long before I realized it was a need!

So often, when I could be peacefully resting in the knowledge that He will work at the right time, I’m squirming about, trying vainly to figure out how to accomplish what I think needs to happen. Like Grampy trying to find a way around the side rails that are there for his protection, I try to clamber over the limitations that God has put in my life for my safety. And it seems like the Lord must look down at my foolishness and want to say, “My child, don’t you realize that I’ve never forgotten about you yet? The time is not right, and your way is not right, and you aren’t strong enough to manage on your own anyway. Just “wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

I don’t even have old age for an excuse!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

His Face

Dear Few and Faithful Blog Followers:
It has been so long since I wrote! Not only has it been difficult to find quietness to distill my thoughts into words, but I have somehow felt unable to write about the things that have been touching me most deeply.

I've been thinking so much about my future--decisions that have to be made, opportunities that will be encountered, people I hope to meet (mostly one person :), difficulties that I will face, sorrows that might come. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the "what ifs" and "what abouts" and to let them take the joy and excitement out of the prospect of fifty or so more years of walking with God and discovering His plans for me.

This made me think of something that I wrote several years ago in a journal, when I was meditating on what might be my favorite single verse, Revelation 22:4, "And they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads."

"There are some whose minds are clouded by despair, plagued by depression--they shall see His face, and their darkness will be light.

"Others weep with wounded hearts, bound by sorrow and suffering--they shall see His face, and their sorrow will be swallowed up by joy.

"Some push through life with arms that feel painfully empty, finding loneliness their constant companion--they shall see His face, and their love-hunger will be filled to overflowing.

"Some bear the burden of misunderstanding, hurt by those they seek to help--they shall see His face, and it won't matter anymore.

"Some empty themselves in sacrificial service, worn out in labors of love--they shall see His face, and it will be worth it all.

"There are some who trust, yet falter, tortured by fears and uncertainty--they shall see His face, and their doubts will be gone.

"And there are some who devote their lives to the good rather than the best things--they shall see His face, and their perspective will be transformed.

I don't know about you, but somehow the trials and tribulations that the next fifty years might hold, don't seem so terrifying in the light of this hope. And all my treasured little plans don't seem quite so important. Because pretty soon Rachel and Jesus Christ the Lord are going to be looking at one another face to Face--and I CAN'T WAIT!! :)

Make us Thy mountaineers--
We would not linger on the lower slope.
Fill us afresh with hope, O God of Hope,
That undefeated we may climb the hill
As seeing Him who is invisible.

Let us die climbing. When this little while
Lies far behind us, and the last defile
Is all alight, and in that light we see
Our Leader and our Lord--what will it be?

~Amy Carmichael

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Visited Earth

I've gotten out of the habit of taking walks lately, and today I remembered why that was a mistake. Somehow I had thought that looking at a beautiful afternoon through the window, from the comfort of a warm kitchen, would equal putting on coat and boots and hat and mittens and striking out into the muddy fields. It doesn't.

It looked like a pretty ordinary March day from the kitchen, but when I got outdoors, I realized that there is no such thing as an ordinary spring day. When I went out the door, I was thinking of the tragedies that seem to make up so much of life--tragedies of people on the other side of the world, and tragedies of people in my own closest circles. It seemed as though hope was a farce. But as I began my voyage across the soggy field, I was strangely unable to feel oppressed by these thoughts. Despair and springtime just don't go together.

The wind was sharp and cold, but so clean--it left the whole earth feeling scrubbed and fresh. It was good to remember that there is something clean left in the world. The sun was bright and warm and cheery, trying to make up for the chill of winter. It was good to remember that soon the world will be warm again. The ground was slightly muddy and springy beneath my feet where the frost has given way. It was good to remember that frozen things can become soft again. The brown fields are beginning to hint of green--maybe it's just my imagination, but it was a nice reminder that the world will soon be full of color.

And it was sure good to see the birds again. Several different species must be migrating, because they were everywhere! Some marvelously fat robins were parading pompously around on the grass--how do they manage to be so plump and resplendent despite their long journey? And whole flocks of some other kind of bird were perching in the trees or swooping wildly across the fields, chattering busily. Maybe they have reached their destination, and were discussing territorial arrangements. Maybe this is just a rest stop for them and they were planning the next leg of their journey. Or maybe, like me, they were just telling God how grand it is to have a Father like Him!

It made me think of Psalm 65:9-10, "You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; The stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth. You water its furrows abundantly, You settle its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth."

God is visiting the earth in a special way just now. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Without A Cause

Have you ever been hated?

Recently a dementia patient whom I was trying to help to take a shower, fought me away, hitting frantically at me in fear and rage. I don’t blame her. I would do the same if I were in her place, feeling trapped and not understanding why somebody had to invade my privacy. Even though I understood, it hurt a little for my loving care to be misinterpreted and rejected.

That doesn’t come anywhere close to being hated. But it made me think of the words of Jesus, speaking of His countrymen, “‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:25)

Why did they hate Him, anyway? Why do you, or why did you at one time, hate Him? Of course, we say, we never would think of hating Him—that seems like far too strong a word. After all, we admire His teachings—but maybe we’re not willing to trust Him enough to anchor our lives to Him. Call it rejection, then—we admire Him but perhaps we have rejected His offer to save us from our sins. Why would anybody reject Him? Maybe we don’t even consciously reject Him, but just ignore Him. Why?

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day saw His miracles, saw Him heal the blind and bless the poor and raise the dead and have mercy on sinners. He promised them rest and comfort (Matthew 11:28-30), forgiveness of sins (John 3:18), and the opportunity for eternal joy with God (John 3:16).

But still they hated Him, a man who was full of good deeds and gracious words. He had a way of putting a finger on their pride, pointing out that maybe they weren’t quite as good as they wanted their neighbors to think (Matthew 23:27). Would we reject Him for the same reason?

Perhaps they hated Him for suggesting that they couldn’t meet God’s righteous standards by their own efforts. (Matthew 5: 17-28). Does it bother us to hear God’s Word that, “There is none righteous, not even one…there is none who does good.”? (Romans 3: 10, 12). Would we hate Him for that? Would we reject a Jesus who tells us the truth we already know deep within, that we tend to do the selfish, proud, willful thing even though we know better? Does anyone have a good reason to reject Jesus, or could He say of some of us, “they hated Me without a cause?”

But there’s something far more surprising than that mankind would reject the best Man who ever lived. It’s the fact that such a Man would love those who hate Him. That, while He was being tortured on the cross, He would look down at His murderers and pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) There was nothing in them, nor in us, to make us lovely to Someone who knows our every thought and motive. In fact, the apostle Paul pointed out that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” But He loved them, even while they drove nails into His hands and ground a crown of thorns onto His head. And He loves us, with the kind of love that would die for us, die instead of us, being punished for sins that He didn’t commit.

We hated Him without a cause. He loved us without a cause. Don’t we have good cause to love and trust and obey Him?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Not Even Close, Solomon!

2 Chronicles 1:15 says that Solomon the king made silver and gold as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones. Pretty impressive. But God blew Solomon's glory out of the water the other night, when He blended a little rain with cold temperatures and we woke the next morning to a world that was so brilliant you could hardly stop squinting!

I went out to take a lot of pictures and when I came home and looked at them, I thought I hadn't gotten any good ones, because the dazzling splendor of the real thing was still upon me. But when I looked at them a week or so later, I realized that I captured maybe 30% of the beauty in digital form. :)

These pictures are kind of dark because I had to adjust the metering a great deal in order to be able to see any detail.

Even the clothesline was covered with beauty. I think there's something profound about that, don't you?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Covering Love

Today I cared for a remarkable patient. She was unable to talk to me, but her family told me bits of her story. This patient never throws away curtains, clothing, and other things that have stains or rips or worn spots. Instead, she makes heart shaped patches to cover up the spot. As a result, her home is full of hearts--places where she made a blemish into decoration. The time when Jennie spilled juice on the tablecloth, or that Charlie ripped the curtain, are recorded only by the heart that covers the blemish.

Wouldn't that be a lovely way to live? We can allow frustrating people, personality quirks, faults, and annoyances, to spoil life, and rather than seeking to salvage those tough situations and uncomfortable relationships, toss them into the discard pile. Or, we can turn them into opportunities for love to triumph and to beautify life. Each of those choices is like a heart-shaped patch, reminding us of when love gained the victory, and surrounding us, as the years go by, with fond memories instead of aching regrets.

"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8, the Bible

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To prove I haven't forgotten about my blog... :)

Hello folks! My apologies that it's been SO long since I posted on this blog (I'm sure you've been waiting with bated breath :). Life has been so busy and so full of lessons that I haven't processed enough to share on a blog, that I haven't been writing or photographing much at all. And I do miss it! So to make up for it, here's a really loooooong post. :( Sorry for being so wordy!
I was sitting in the dining hall when one of my instructors came in the door. His eyes scanned the room, deciding where to sit. Then he hung his coat on the back of a chair at my table and went to get food, saying, “I’m think I’m going to sit right here, because you look like you’re enjoying what you’re doing!” Unfortunately, I was doing nothing more inspiring than munching on a delicious, pulled-pork sandwich.

But his statement struck me as unusual—is it unusual for people to look like they enjoy what they’re doing?

This little incident returned to my mind during a long drive to Maine. I had been driving for several hours and was accumulating a pile of used tissues as a result of a drippy cold, and was pondering the deep matters of life. I’m pretty sure I did not look as though I enjoyed what I was doing. However, the beauty of the day began to drown out the misery of a snotty nose, and it dawned on me how much of God’s creation DOES look like it’s enjoying what it is doing. This world has been cursed because of man’s sin, and the Bible describes it as groaning while it waits for the day when “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21). And yet, have you ever noticed how much of joy and exuberance seems to be hard-wired into nature?

Humans seem to be more capable of apathy toward life, than any other part of creation. Have you ever heard a bird sing apathetically? Rather, the notes tumble out like a hearty giggle. Goats jump on and off of rocks just for the sheer fun of it, often adding another lithe twist and kick in mid-air simply because they can. Horses, dogs, and sometimes even cows, can be seen running through the grass, not because they need to, but because, it seems, their overabounding exuberance must come out somehow!

Even the inanimate things are full of vigor, intensity, and joy. God has built it into the bounce of tall grasses beneath the wind, into the tumbling of streams and the roaring of a waterfall, into the waving of tree branches in a gale, and the crash of waves upon rocks. Why else would He make dandelions such a brilliant yellow, and poppies a luscious red, and young ferns a fluorescent green, and mushrooms an audacious orange? Did God really mean for living to be so mundane and humdrum as we seem to consider it?

Of course, we humans encounter a lot of sorrow and difficulty that the animals and trees never face. We are designed so that our natures will not be satisfied apart from meaningful relationships, with other people and especially with God, who made us to know and enjoy Him. But this should mean that rather than being doomed to a doleful existence, we have been given an even greater capacity for delight and joy—for did not Jesus die in order that our relationship with God could be restored through faith in Him? Therefore, those who have trusted Him can enjoy not just life, but eternal life which, as Jesus described it, is “that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

Why, then, are we not perpetually exulting along with the rest of God’s creation? Why do the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing for joy (Psalm 98:8) while we go through life with long faces and consider it childish to clap and sing for sheer happiness? There are many reasons, of course. One is that we are too burdened with cares—although Jesus pointed out the birds and flowers as examples of those who leave their needs in God’s hands and live in rejoicing splendor. (Matthew 6:25-29). Another reason is that unconfessed sin fills us with guilt and therefore, and until those sins are brought to Christ for forgiveness, we don’t have freedom in our souls to rejoice.

But don’t you think that often we simply don’t remember to enjoy life? We focus on the few things that are difficult or annoying, and forget about the hundreds and thousands of things that are truly wonderful. That breath, for instance. Wasn’t it great? You didn’t even notice that you breathed, it was so effortless, so satisfying of your body’s need for oxygen.

Sometimes I find it’s a useful exercise to look at my life the way it seems to other people. Have you ever noticed how other people’s lives look so much more pleasant than your own? And it irks you when they say, “You have such a nice home,” or, “How nice of your inlaws, to babysit the kids,” or “it must be so nice to be able to spend that time with your grandparents!” –and you think, “if only it was all as great as it looks.” Well, isn’t it? Isn’t this house a blessing, even though the kitchen ceiling leaks, and the wood stove is hard to start? Isn’t it wonderful to be with my grandparents, even though I do trip over the walker or find Grammy’s stuffed animals in the middle of my cooking area?

But beyond all the stuff I have and the things I can do, isn’t it just intoxicatingly wonderful to be alive, today, seeing this glorious sunshine, alive to see the beauty of another day, healthy enough to be outdoors and to see what fun the Lord is having making the clouds dance in slow motion. Isn’t it splendid to see the snow driven by the wind, to feel the energy of the wind itself, and the gentler vigor of warm sunshine?

And beyond all that, far, far beyond all that, is the glory of knowing that I’m loved, personally and tenderly, by the God Who created all this beauty. There is the intense freedom of knowing that He has put all my sins out of His memory because of the blood of Jesus Christ. The rest of knowing that all my minutes and days are in His hands, to weave them together into something beautiful and joyous and useful. The anticipation that some day soon I’ll see His face and rejoice in union with Him for all of eternity.

And when you start to think that way, it seems impossible to contain the surging of joy and delight that starts from within. If I could draw it, the colors would have to include the whole rainbow and then some. If I could translate it into music, I would need a rollicking fiddle and a laughing banjo and then a clash of drums and cymbals, Tchaikovsky-style. If you could smell this joy, it would be pungent like citrus and cinnamon, and it would taste like them too, only with a dash of zesty pepper and the tang of mint. And how it would feel? Like standing in the wind on top of a mountain (the best place on earth to be, when you’ve had to work to get there), and like that exhilarating gasp that comes when you jump into a refreshing stream, and like sinking your hands into warm, moist bread dough, and like sprawling on a warm, sandy beach, and like diving into a field of fragrant grass.

Really, people, REALLY? Do we have good reason to go through day after day as though it’s not a miracle that we’re alive at all? To plod along as though life is boring and allow the dandelions and squirrels and—good gracious--even the crickets and frogs, to out-rejoice US? I sometimes want to shake myself and any other people who, when we have so few REAL troubles, live life with a long face and a plodding step. If I were God, I would feel as though I had a whole set of pouting kindergarteners on my hands!! Do you suppose, when He has promised to carry our burdens, that He wants us to carry them anyway and allow them to blind our eyes to the furious joy that He’s painted all across our lives? When He has promised to give us deliverance from our sins, does He want us to hang onto them because we are afraid of losing a little fun? Or, when we have confessed and forsaken those sins, does He think it spiritual for us to continue feeling guilty for them, and thus to miss out on the thrills that He embeds into life for those who trust and obey? Don’t you think that He made sunsets to be noticed and reveled in, that He made roses to be smelled and mountains to be climbed and forests to be explored and bird-songs to be listened to?

Don’t you think God WANTS us to enjoy what we’re doing, right down to eating a pulled-pork sandwich?