Harvesting Joy…

In the neighborhood where I grew up, an older, very kindhearted couple lived at the end of the street. Each fall afternoon, over the course of a number of weeks, the neighborhood children would gather in their front yard to collect chestnuts freshly dropped from the two huge trees that adorned their lawn.

As I think back, I do not recall anyone ever asking permission. Somehow, though, it was a privilege extended to school aged children from one year to the next. I am not sure that any of us knew how it started, but undeniably, the couple received our presence just as graciously as they offered their harvest. You see, they also had a beautiful vegetable garden with tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini among other things. The husband would walk down the street every so often to deliver a bag full of fresh produce to our door. The gift of his presence, generosity, and kindness along with the delicious, wholesome vegetables that he and his wife had nurtured and delivered with great love brought much abundance and joy to them, that they, in turn, shared with their neighbors.

While I did not know much about this couple as a child, or even later, what I witnessed in them spoke volumes and stuck better than glue. They put their heart and soul into their work; work that was meaningful and that could be of service to many. As a result, their garden overflowed not only with produce but also in spirit. Rather than storing it all away or letting it become spoiled, Wisdom led them to open their store to others. They received as well as they gave of themselves, and their harvest. In the end, with generosity, they reaped joy.

ChestnutsBasket

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And, the Sun…

Amongst the many voices and other various noises as the events of a day unfold, reside the quieter, more subtle, sometimes missed happenings. Whether during celebratory or somber times, there are signs… gifts… blessings ever-present. It is as if they are there to acknowledge, “Yes, that…, but also this.” Perhaps they are there to help one remember, or to consider, all that is true in any given moment. It seems at every turn, there is opportunity to receive peace, strength, wisdom, joy… whatever grace may be needed or may be of benefit to those present, close by, and even far away.

Oftentimes, there is so much more than what may be immediately in front of us, or surrounding us. Yet, it can be easy to forget that. Even worse, it can be easy to become focused on a single piece or a fraction of the whole and to exclude the picture in its entirety from consideration.

We must remember, it is not only the sun that rises and sets, but also the moon. Together, they help to make the day complete.

SunsetRI2

Walk This Way…

One of my favorite memories of my father is how occasionally, if we were walking somewhere, he would move a little close and gently say, “Carissa, walk this way.” Then he would put his arm around my shoulder, and with a smile on his face, he would change the direction or the gait of his walk. This would not happen frequently, but when it did, I would follow along, also with a smile on my face as we took a new path or walked in a different way.

Today, this memory also brought to mind the way that setting out on a new path can be inspiring and uplifting. There can be a sense of adventure, energy, and excitement in going where one has not gone before, or going a different way than in the past. However, often in the world, there can be preconceived notions or fixed ideas on what “the way” is or what it needs to be. These can make pursuing what is new or different less appealing or intimidating among other things.

As one goes along, it can be challenging to figure out how much weight to place, if any, on expectations or ideas originating outside of us, or even within. Despite this, each of us is created to walk not as the world would have us walk, but to walk as one’s soul longs to walk. While examining our thoughts and opinions as well as those of others can be helpful, ultimately, it is best to prayerfully consider them alongside seeking the Truth. We all have Wisdom with us; waiting… wanting to guide us toward what is truly good, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of those around us as well.

Path

An Island unto Itself…

Earlier today, the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship was making its way into Boston Harbor. It moved along its way slow and steady. As I watched and thought about the length, width and height of the ship and the many people who work to keep it running, those who visit and vacation on it, and those who serve them as well as all the available amenities, I found myself feeling amazed at this “city” on the water.

Sometimes the thought of being self-sufficient and an island unto oneself, can be enticing. Especially when one can have everything wanted, needed and/or preferred encapsulated in a setting that is perhaps picture perfect. However, while the ship and all who are on it may be seemingly content in the middle of the ocean, or a short way from the shore, there are just as many people off the boat as there are on it who help to keep it going. Activity by both land and sea is necessary for the successful operation of the cruise ship. This is true regardless of whether or not everyone involved is a fan, or cares for the idea of a cruise.

For example, the person who provides or delivers the produce to the ship may have no desire to take a cruise or go offshore, for whatever reason, yet their role remains vital. Often, especially in times of disagreement, we can lose sight of the facts, the value of each other, and the truth. Just as water in the ocean can become less clear from turbulence, the truth also can become muddled.

“The irony is that at the very moment he [Pilate] asked his question ‘What is truth?’ he was staring at the pure incarnation of Truth. The One who is the Truth had just said to him, ‘Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’

Pilate missed that voice. The words bounced off his ears. He was not ‘of the truth’.”
– R.C. Sproul

In Psalm 145 it is written, “The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (v18). Even in times of distress or uncertainty, the Truth is always closer than we may think. The Truth is often right in front of us, next to and inside us, waiting to be discovered… waiting for us to be open and ready not only to see it, but also to receive it. When we call out and seek the Truth earnestly and honestly, with both heart and mind, its Voice is unmistakable. Everything else is just noise.

QMII

Every Tree… Known by Its Fruit

Have you ever stopped to consider the wide array of fruits and vegetables around the world and the richness in color and nutrients that they offer, not to mention the satisfaction they can bring to one’s palate?

Earlier in the week I had a kumquat for the first time. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I found it to be interesting and surprising in both texture and taste. Its outward appearance (shape, feel and size) was similar to a grape tomato but of a yellow-orange color and more firm. Upon chewing, it was full of a very citrusy flavor like a tangerine only with greater tartness and fewer seeds. The experience was not at all what I thought it might be like—a mild tasting fruit. It was new and very different than anything I had tasted before.

While I have seen kumquats in grocery stores many times, I had never gravitated toward them or been curious enough to try them. In fact, had it not been for the story and the excitement with which an acquaintance offered me one as she explained how she came to buy them, just a day or two before, for the first time herself, they would still be foreign and unknown by me.

Thinking about the experience, it is intriguing how the kumquat, such a little thing originating half way across the world from where I live, could pack such a powerful experience… powerful enough to create a sense of “wow!” and a desire to share the news with others for both my acquaintance and myself.

Perhaps, even more compelling, the fact that the Cantonese name for “kumquat,” pronounced gām-gwāt, means “golden orange” or “golden tangerine.” The name definitely gives an indication of what to expect in terms of citrus flavor and if you see a kumquat tree it looks very much like a tangerine tree, however, in looking at the outside of this little fruit it looks nothing like what a tangerine is supposed to look like. The shape is different, it is smaller (or at least what I had was), and the skin is not peeled. Despite this, the kumquat certainly tastes like a tangerine, and, if what is on the inside truly counts, then that is all that matters.

In everyday life, as we go about our business, we all bear fruit. There are many different ways in which we do so and just as many kinds of fruit. Sometimes we can jump to conclusions, assess people and/or situations, or make assumptions, based on what appears to be rather than looking at what truly is. We must be aware. We must remember substance.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.
– Luke 6:43-45

Kumquats

The Flock…

As I gazed out across the quiet, mostly still water, there were a number of Canadian geese slowly making their way to the other side of the pond. They appeared to be in a sort of formation. It was one that could be labeled more interesting or captivating than their typical landside behavior and the annoyance caused by the parting “gifts” they often leave behind.

Although the geese were not in a straight line, they were all pretty much in a row. They were moving together, eventually all in the same direction and with a similar, if not the same, purpose. They were united, even if only by the species to which they belong; not all that different than any other species.

Oftentimes amidst disagreement or unrest, it may seem that all we have is the knowledge that we are the same, but also simultaneously not the same.

When at an impasse, it can be tempting to throw up one’s hands and not only walk away, but also to stay away. While sometimes, this is necessary and perhaps truly for the best, Jesus cautions his disciples not to do so too easily or too quickly. For even in weighing the pros and cons and allowing them to inform and guide decisions, the heart—in all its depth, and holding knowledge of a different kind—can be left behind or squeezed out.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:15-20

We are to help each other to stay true… to stay in formation—connected—so that we do not get lost and so that the equation does not leave cunning intellect and surface emotions to dominate and direct rather than Wisdom.

In the final analysis, I believe in man, in spite of men – Elie Wiesel

TheFlock

Abide with me…

Driving down the highway the other day, I was thinking about some recent news and feeling a little troubled. As I was contemplating what had happened, the words in the song playing in the background interrupted my thoughts. “Abide with me, abide with me.” The repeated phrase shifted my attention to the lyrics of the song.

Oftentimes life can be thrown into flux with little or, sometimes, no warning. Experiencing trials however big or small, or seeing and hearing about devastation whether caused by Mother Nature or human nature can be both eye opening and eye popping. It can be gut wrenching to live through yet alone witness such happenings. However, it can also lead to better things and better days… a changed course… a new path… unexpected blessings. Still though, it can be hard to swallow and to accept that much in life is beyond our control. From the moment of conception, transition and uncertainty are very much part of everyone’s journey.

Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23). St. Paul counseled the Romans, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Ultimately, we all belong to God and as such, to each other as well—all created in one image (Genesis 1:27).

When we hold onto this knowledge and allow it to come to life in us and through us, we are changed for the better, with each moment. When we cling to God, “what is good and pleasing and perfect,” no matter how foreign it may be to others, becomes clear. All we ever really need to do is to abide in the One who abides with us.

Abide With Me – performed by Matt Maher

https://youtu.be/MuGV4mOyPK0?t=1s

I have a home, eternal home
But for now I walk this broken world
You walked it first, You know our pain
But You show hope can rise again up from the grave

Abide with me, abide with me
Don’t let me fall, and don’t let go
Walk with me and never leave
Ever close, God abide with me

There in the night, Gethsemane
Before the cross, before the nails
Overwhelmed, alone You prayed
You met us in our suffering and bore our shame

Abide with me, abide with me
Don’t let me fall, and don’t let go
Walk with me and never leave
Ever close, God abide with me

Oh love that will not ever let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
You never let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
Oh You never let us go

And up ahead, eternity
We’ll weep no more, we’ll sing for joy, abide with me


Matt Maher, David Crowder, Jason Ingram, Matt Redman
© 2015 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / I Am A Pilgrim Songs (BMI) / David Criwder designee/Sony/ATV Timber Publishing/Open Hands Music (SESAC)/Matt Redman designee