Savoring

 

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I walked into a farm store today to buy lettuce.  The entirety of summer growth was stacked plentifully across the wooden tables.  Why, I wondered, is it that the season seems to come into completed and near perfection right at the end? Why do we realize what we have, often only near the end of the season?

We take for granted what we have much of, while we have it. Even time, although we know it passes quickly, sometimes stretches  out ahead of us, like a desert, for as far as our mind can comprehend. When something is about to slip from our grasp, from our view, we sip in the last dregs, slowly yet furiously, refusing to acknowledge that we may have squandered our bounty.
But even though we meander through life, trying to sip and savor and seek and find, sometimes perfection is an exacting muse, beauty is an illusive sprite.  We chase and watch, but often the true desire of beautiful perfection, beautiful completeness, is to make your breath catch in your throat a little bit, to make your heart hurt just slightly, deep down knowing that the placid perfection of a moment does not last.  Every now and then, we catch a moment, a morning stream of light, an afternoon at the beach, an evening where all is calm. A portal into a perfect world breaks into our view.

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Sometimes the most painfully beautiful part of the summer is the end.  It is painful because warmth and green and growing life cannot linger on forever.  But the excruciating draw of these long sunsets and golden days is the hanging on, savoring, inhaling, trying to capture time that slips away like sand washed back in a diamond studded wave. Gorgeous tension stands overtly before us. The glorious summer, the winding toward the end of summer. The beauty of life, the ephemeral nature of beauty, perfectly complete contrasts with the ever changing messes of humanity. The world is held at bay by a few minutes of perfection.

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What we really know is that in the middle of this broken universe, there is a promise of beauty, a hope of eternal glory, of complete perfection through the cross of Christ. There is a beautiful resurrection behind a broken veil.  There is a something greater than the broken, a Father who will fix all things. There is more to existence than the mundane, because through a perfect and beautiful Creator, all things consist. There are a thousand little moments that are held together by Him. Every now and then, one perfect moment captures our hearts. It makes us look twice. We find that portal into the world of the beautiful. And without trying, God’s beauty comes and compels us to watch the enchanted sunset on a summer night. Perfection taunts us like the clear, still water surrounding us. And having seen these moments we are richer. We are equipped to savor the moments, to seek for beauty, and to head into a thousand other sunsets.

 

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Beauty Rest

 

 

He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

 

(Psalm 121:3-4 ESV)

 

I gently put the sleeping silky-skinned baby onto the soft pink sheets inside her white crib. I quietly latched the baby gate at the top of the stairs and descended, sliding from side to side down the steps, trying to avoid the creaks left by time and wear. A few hours passed by as she slept silently. As the summer night wore on, the dark air cooled, the breeze whirred slightly in between the trees and I headed toward my own soft bed. Enveloped in a white down comforter, the perfect companion to an unusually cool summer evening, I had just slipped into the first stage of sleep. A bleating cry, sad, disoriented, and persistent, blared out of the white monitor on my dresser. I headed back up the stairs, heedless of the creaking floorboards, stumbled through the baby gate and gathered the crying lump up into my arms. For the next hour or so, I attempted various methods of bribing her back into dreamland. For the next hour or so, she fought sleep, and for the next hour or so, I wondered why sleep must be so elusive. I grumpily thought I was the only person in the universe awake when I really wanted to be snuggled under my white down, sleeping, turning an unconscious wall to the world.

 

Sleep is a business in our world. There are sleeping medications, noise machines, customized mattresses and pillows, sleep studies, sleep labs, sleep research, sleep recommendations and guidelines according to age.

 

We lose sleep for a variety of reasons, some self-inflicted, some understandable battles with insomnia or anxiety, losing sleep because a baby or child is awake. Some reasons seem controllable, many are not. Our minds and bodies are crowded ballrooms of twirling thoughts and actions. Rest is the ever elusive suitor who dodges behind plants and doors and evades our embrace far too often.

 

As I held the crying, squirming baby in the dark night, the words of Psalm 121 came to my mind. “…he who keeps you will not slumber.” A parent is often the lucky recipient of the sleep deprivation prize. Some of us never sleep well after we have children. The baby may sleep through the night, but we do not rest fully, knowing there are others in our house or care to think about.

The darkness of that night was a shadowy reminder that God never sleeps. Our children do not realize that they are interrupting our coveted sleep because we appear at their bedside for them, when they cry. To them, they are not interrupting. To them, we are always there for them.

In similar fashion to our children, we do not interrupt our God. He is there for us when we cry. At any hour, in any time zone, anywhere, and everywhere, our God is awake, listening to the voices He created. He is coming to our aid, responding to our cries, receiving our joy, hearing our jumbled prayers that pour out from crowded minds and noisy hearts.

He has created us to sleep and at the same time has given us children to care for through sleepy nights. As we wake in the night, our lack of sleep underlines our great needs. We recognize that God our Father is by our side, without slumber or sleep. He is our rest, without needing rest. Only a perfect parent could be this complete. Only an eternal Father could be a perfect parent. We stumble and struggle and hope to not fall down stairs while holding a baby. We sit in the dark, bleary eyed, hearing the tick tock of a second hand propelling us closer to the start of a new day. We dread the dawn when sleep has eluded us. But God is not caught off guard by our neediness. He watches over each of us and our tired rivers of thoughts, as we do our children, without a thought for His own rest.

 

“…He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The nations fight. God does not slumber or sleep. He hears the cries. He ordains the kingdoms of Earth, He raises up leaders and sets down leaders. Without pausing for a rest, He sees His royal priesthood of believers, the Christians displaced from their homes, those who are persecuted, those who live in peace, those who worry over the future, those who worship in safety and in danger, those holding their own babies in the dark of the night, those awake praying for their children in the small hours of the morning.   He does not slumber or sleep as He holds us in His care.

“Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,” God is our rest for us. The rest that needs no rest. Because of the Cross, because of our adoption into God’s family, we can have strength through unrest because He is our rest. We can sleep because He is our rest. The Cross takes away our fear, it removes our loneliness in the night. Through the darkest hours, we have a Father- who does not sleep.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8;

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Summer Stillness

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I took an inadvertent break here through July. Some people announce their breaks, others give a schedule of who will blog for them or that they have prepared posts ahead of time. I did neither. I planned to post, but didn’t. Summer time has its own unique rhythm, for writing and reading. It does not mean that writing and reading do not occur. In fact often, these activities occur more.  But, our mind and souls move differently as the seasons pulse. July was full of movement, people, laughter, sunshine, and very little physical stillness leaving behind wonderful memories of sand covered, salt scented children. I love being busy. I like mental activity as well, but during some seasons, it is hard to correspond physical movement with quality mental activity. Driving on car trips to visit gorgeous places and amazing people provide plenty of time to think, but little time to write out thoughts or process them well. I made the decision early on in July, that rather than pound out words for the sake of hitting the “publish” button, I would process internally, to absorb the life around me, to enjoy the gifts God has given me. I like to plan, but I have learned that plans can only be gripped with a loose thread rather than an iron chain. Instead, sometimes life just comes and writing as a reflection of life sometimes requires less planning and more merely existing.

When wars ravage the Earth, and God’s people are sent fleeing from homes and livelihoods and all earthly possessions, it is hard to sit on a beautiful beach and not feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because I do not deserve to sit on a beach while others suffer. Overwhelmed because I realize that the same God I praise for the calm, breezy beauty around me is the same God who has promised good to those fleeing their homes. Overwhelmed because I begin to imagine myself in their shoes and become terrified. Overwhelmed because our Father has told us not to be anxious and that can only happen through His grace. Overwhelmed because our minds cannot comprehend the suffering that some endure, pulling them closer to the cross, to Christ’s image, while others seem to live without care. Overwhelmed because over all, the Creator of the Earth has made each life, cares for each of His children, and will hold each of them without failing.

There are instances each day where my little children do not understand why we are doing what we do. They do not see the larger picture of why we leave the beach at a certain time or why ice cream at 8am is not the fabulous idea it seems to them. They do not know why bedtime tonight is part of the plan for tomorrow. They do not connect why certain choices we ordain for them now, like educational options, cultural exposure, social activities, or event the books we read are carefully planned, thinking of their individual needs, their future mental abilities, or the view of God we hope to give them. In the same way as small children, we cannot see all that God is doing in our world and lives. We live, trusting that our Father loves us, more than we even love our own children. This is the love that compels us to rest, to breath in and out, to know there is a future joy for us.

The peaceful beach, the calm summer evening, the laughing family time, the afternoon with friends, the joy of living are all foreshadowed slivers of God’s good nature. The happiness we know compared to the pain that now exists, is a tiny piece of the joy we will know. The beauty around us gives us the promise that God is not broken, that He will heal us, cure our pain, and right all wrongs one day.

Times of quiet are sometimes not quiet at all. They are often the busiest flurry of activity, thought, and noise. There is a point to being quiet, not adding to the noise. In times of noise, in times of silence, the words of Psalm 146 echo off the caverns of our hearts.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, through the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, thought its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.


Psalm 146

 

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