Clay

Cobalt and crisp she sat on the shelf

Pristine and painted and cold.

A vessel of value, of untarnished blue,

A vessel for eyes to behold.

Crack! The walls shook as the earth shifted plates,

The shelf tilted crazily south;

A blue brittle vessel felt gravity grip

And she tumbled headlong to the ground.

Smashed and crushed she lay on a heap

When the Potter shoved open the door,

He gathered the pieces and whistled a tune

Remembering a dream from before.

Next day found a Potter bent over His wheel;

His hands molding pieces of clay

Tears flowed down his beard and softened those shards

Oh, it proved to be Redemption Day.

Cheerful and charming she sits by the well

Smooth, yet porous deep down

A vessel lifegiving for watering, washing

Cracks zigzag up to her crown.

Chosen by One, The Humble Clay Potter—

He still hums a merry refrain—then

Dust wafts the air with wanderers astir.

Thirsty hearts drink and hope again.

Several of us are doing are doing a word prompt a day in July. “Clay” was yesterday’s prompt.

On Planting Perennials

When you begin your new perennial bed, find a wonderful neighbor like Lucy.

Step two. Wander around her yard and ask for a snippet of this and snappet of that. Of course, you have wandered around her yard before, oohing and aahing over greens and blooms and now finally it is your turn to try Russian sage, daisies, thyme, sedum, poppies, blue stars, a grass, and more.

Step three. Stuff roots and dirt and stems into grocery bags or black plastic pots—every garden shed has a stash of those in one spiderwebbed corner.

Step four. Transport via your one set of wheels that carries everything from the weed-eater to the bike to the kitchen chairs. If you are lucky enough to have a relative that lives on a farm, swing by their place and also transport home a bucket or two of rich black gold to enhance the orange clay in which you will be spading.

Step five. Borrow your neighbor’s spade and dig holes. Divvy out black gold accordingly.  

Step six. Empty trunk of assortment of sprigs and leaves and cuttings; arrange and plant to your hearts content.

Step seven. Water liberally. Weed as needed.

Observations: Occasional early morning chats with flowers boost one’s spirit, especially conversations with coffee cup in hand. If a sprig here or there perishes, just toss it. Perennials spread rapidly and fill small spaces quickly. It is wise to leave a few spots so that upon visiting another neighbor one can carry home peonies, chives, and lily of the valley, packing more happiness into another crevice. Or one may find wilted bulbs on the laundry room shelf or in a bucket in the shed. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize them or have no recollection as to where they came from. Plant them. They may turn out to be calla lilies as mine turned out to be. Surprise. The past years experience attests to plants from Lowe’s or other nursery’s costing a lot more and dying quicker than ones from the neighbor; possibly their fine roots aren’t attuned to orange clay or black gold.

Opinions: The first year coddling them along and watching them grow is fun. The second year is more fun, watching green shoots poke brave heads out of cold soil when March winds are still howling.

Warning: Worms may destroy more delicate plants like roses, of which I have no advice on how to deal with such varmints. On the other hand, however, one may receive exquisite happiness from simple green fronds that burst into bloom. Thirdly, one may glean insights into the Master Gardener’s tender planting and pruning which he so lovingly carries out in each fleshy garden.

Conquered

The world tipped crazy that Friday night

When they captured the Teacher and

Bound him tight; with a straggling crew too weary

To pray, a disciple that betrayed him when caught

In the fray, alone and sinless, condemned to die.

The mob screamed “Blood!” in exchange for a thief

When the choice lay before them, they rebelled in

Disbelief that this Teacher was their Savior;

The Messiah, King of kings, so a sign was erected

To identify the Man in the middle, torn with grief.

The earth reeled violent; the veil split in two

When the Son of God fell silent, sacrificed

For me and you. Darkness mantled soldier, mother,

Night embraced each passerby, graveyards yielded

Saints long-sleeping, when the world’s Creator died.

The tomb sang “Empty!” that Sunday morn

When the women heavy-hearted ran with offerings

To out pour; not remembering Jesus’ teaching that

He’d rise and vanquish hell. Angels said, “Why

Do you seek the living Son among the dead?”

A Pandemic Virus

The world has gone mad, but

The finches still chirp at the feeder

So glad for a seed and some suet,

The sun shines today above cloudy

Gray skies, yet the fear and the tension

I sense in green eyes, on terse face

Makes mention of doubt. Have they no Father,

No God that is greater than pandemic

Viruses, rather self to trust. Have they

Not read in Psalm 46 the first verse that

The Lord stays the storm. He’s our refuge

And strength.

Be still and know.

Faith

It would be easier to wait till the story is written, till the final chapter is finished, till one knows. It is also nice to describe life from the mountain top; fantastic vistas, balmy breezes, blissful sunshine. But you know as well as I that a lot of life happens trundling through briary paths between stones and cacti or over blazing desert stretches; traversing winding mountain passes with frigid winds and fording swollen streams.

And so a question I’ve been pondering is, “What does it mean to worship in the dark?”

I haven’t got thunderous answers to my flood of questions. Only one still small assurance: “I am with you.” As these four words continue to settle in, they run like life-giving liquid deep deep down. A small assurance becomes a guiding star.

You see the preacher said Sunday that faith is not a leap in the dark but a walk in the light. Another quote I read recently said, ‘Patience with family is love. Patience with others is respect. Patience with self is confidence and patience with God is faith.’

Anchor Points

Anchor points—those specks of light that guide a ship into harbor, that’s what I’m thinking of. Even though your vision is 2020 at present and the new year spans before you like a perfect June morning, the storms will roll in. The tsunamis will hit. We haven’t passed through those pearly gates yet although some days we live like it.  Have you staked your anchor points? You may need them.

Job was anchored. In the utter fog of millionaire-becoming-childless-and-moneyless he declared, I know that my Redeemer lives and that he will stand in the latter day upon the earth. (19:25) Job also declared, He knows the way I take. When He has tried me, I will come forth as gold. (23:10)

Last fall a tsunami swept my craft out to sea, dumped it upside down, tossed it like a toothpick. On a breezy Saturday afternoon out stringing things on my wash line I contemplated my options: sink or swim. It became clear to me that letting go of the lifejacket and sinking was an option. I was drowning. I had a choice to make.

As the storm continued, I bobbed. Other days I swam. When my head burst through the waves and I gasped for air, I set my sight on a few glimmers along the shoreline of that inky night. One light gleamed from Isaiah 43:2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. Verse four paraphrased says, Because you are precious in my sight, I love you. I think God in his kindness empowers our feeble efforts. I kept swimming.

Psalm 121 was another anchor point. A beam of mercy. He will not allow your foot to be moved. When all you have energy for is to cry and sleep remember, He who keeps you doesn’t slumber. He will preserve you from all evil (depression).

There were also days when I said, ‘I can’t swim.’ Those were the days the Almighty carried me through. Ps. 51:17 A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. He only said one thing in all the darkness, “Come to me and rest.” I understand the temptation to want to throw up ones’ hands and slide silently down through a black hole into an abyss and sleep forever. That would be the option of least resistance.

Another anchor point came from Ps. 46. I paraphrase, God is with us. Be still and know! God is sovereign. He saw the tsunami sweeping in. It didn’t take Him by surprise. Be still and believe.

What are your anchor points? I would love to hear from you.

Advent

Oh shame, to raise your face and

say ‘Yes, Lord’ to will so wild, for one

would never dream of such

unwanted fate, be found with child, unwed,

betrothed, sure of your lover’s word. Now plans

lie shattered, scattered ‘neath a racing heart, a trembling lip; perhaps a

tear slipped silently as you surrendered.

Yet utter peace enfolds your gentle ‘yes’ and with that word

The Holy Spirit quickens, gives

new life and Comfort that defies the human mind; a

confidence despite the neighbor’s wandering eyes, that all is well

when answering to the Father’s will.

Autumn’s Fairyland

October –

the month of wood dances

and festivals grand

When the trees change their garments for

            laces of yellow and

            bonnets of red,

            blouses of crimson rust-

            browns trim the edge.

Tis gay to be cheery

Not a day to be dreary

While the sky like a canopy spans overhead – in her

            Deepest blue

                        Truest blue

                                    Richest most mildest blue

With a wisp of a horsetail tossed

Here and there.

            Soft as a feather

                        Like a dusting of powder

Oh the magic of raindrops

High high in the air.

Ah the mornings are crispy.

Makes a body feel frisky.

Gives new step after summer has drained all our strength.

Take a moment to savor

Fresh pumpkin’s the flavor

Or apple and nutmeg and cinnamon spice.

God in heaven – You’re awesome!

            Amazing and dazzling

Creator of Beauty – the Supernal Source!

And to think,

we marvel

at Your footstool.

Trickling Thru the Centuries

How is that the faithfulness of a king four thousand years ago still inspires me today? Asa’s heart was loyal to the Lord all his days. 1Kings 15:14b Who will read my story a century from now and think, ‘She was true – I can be too.’

Why are we such creatures of persuasion? Why are we so easily influenced? Does it really matter what you do when no one notices? Recently my dad was recounting an object lesson on integrity that he had observed. The speaker had stacked a number of cardboard boxes and then asked a boy in the audience to remove one from the stack without felling the tower. As you may guess, this is almost impossible. And so with integrity, that moment by moment choice which develops habits and builds character; a tower with missing pieces can only rise so high.

Last week at school Mr. Stoltzfus encouraged the students to be courageous. A noble choice usually influences the peer beside you to also do right and so on and so forth.

When I was little and caught up in a squabble, my dad would ask three simple words to clarify the responsibility of all parties involved: “Is it right?”

May God help us live nobly that faithfulness may trickle through the centuries and inspire individuals in 6019.

Kaliedescope

This summer has been a huge gift. I don’t know where to start or stop, but some of you have been asking so I’ll write for a bit.

Frost has said it well, “As way leads on to way.” Conversations, places, people that I didn’t orchestrate and here we are.

A large part of the summer found me with school books and a pen again at Christian Light. My highest regards to the many faithful who plug away beyond the ten-week summer sprint to avail our communities to high quality curriculum year after year. Your halos shine bright. I wonder how long we will have the privilege to write our own school curriculum. What an incredible opportunity. Delving into these pages again awoke a passion that i care deeply about our schools and what we put into them-into our children. Thank-you for the brainstorming sessions we shared, the stimulating conversations in the office or over grilled burgers, the collaborating. This is much bigger than one can do alone. This is also pushing me to grow as an adult, to pursue classes that build writing skills, to stay alive as a teacher.

And then it was the end of July, and a plane whizzed off to Belize. Luckily, I was aboard. Running through airports is not fun, and I did it this time. Lesson learned-give yourself more time. :/ Having lived there for four years, I always go back and find a part of my heart. This year was no exception. No exception. Actually as friendships mature the ties grow stronger. I’m so encouraged to be faithful because I see the faithfulness of my friends. I see the faithfulness of young ones embracing Jesus and walking in His footsteps. I see faithfulness through very hard times. Little ones that were in my 2nd-3rd grade classes are now the leaders, teachers, and brides. The wedding was so hot. Outside under a pavilion, 400 strong we gathered to witness. While the warm breezes fanned us, we listened to the long-winded preachers and the lovely choir, then scarfed down delicious rice and beans and chicken with fresh squeezed lime juice and melting ice cream. It wasn’t an exotic trip, just a week with precious moments; it was bubble tea and tacos with my spanish friends, planting flowers, playing spot-it over cups of iced coffee with another and talking life and laughing. a. lot., barbecue and delicious tortillas, catching rides to visit others, bouncing over speedbumps and thru muddy dirt roads, catching up with a teacher from Guatemala, joining in the heartiest hymn sing your ever attended, walking one afternoon in the sweltering sun to see another long-ago-student of mine and her mother and to learn that she was just diagnosed with cancer, so we sat and talked and cried and prayed together. It was reading stories to the ‘neighbor children’ that used to call at the gate, now one of these-no-longer-a-child will teach school in the same classroom i taught in. God, give me faith to believe bigger and grander. It was reconnecting with former missionaries also back to visit, late nights and full days. And all too soon the plane zooms off and I had to be on, unluckily this time.

In between and among these two paragraphs…

there was a camp-out on Skyline with girlfriends. We go back to school days…that night still makes me smile!!! So good. When it began to drizzle, we were offered shelter by a neighborly camper along with beer and cigars. 🙂

there was a family reunion….i think we number thirty-seven…where do all these people come from some wonder. i do too. tents, rain, campfire bombs, singing, good food, a covered bridge excursion and a random ride on a Amishman’s haywagon….so much fun with nieces and nephews…

another sunday afternoon with a friend by a creek, sharing life and wisdom

another afternoon with a sister and the kids in the pond and more sharing life and wisdom

another afternoon with a friend on a downtown mall in Pittsburgh…it turned into a progressive supper, starting at a French bakery, ending with tofu and blackberry tea, and a variety of other mushrooms and cheeses in between. oh yes, and a parking ticket.

garden goodies the days I stopped in at Mom’s house—always good food and company there

another sunday at Lake Huron…so, so pretty….so, so fun. such good friends.

Now it’s August. Teacher’s week at FB was again such a gift. we gave. we took. we came away inspired.

I was impressed this summer that God knows exactly where I’m at. And he really cares about me. Story one. I’m half an hour from home, sitting at a gas station, texting before I get back on the road. I jerk up to see if the car pulling alongside is going to sideswipe me. The driver motions me to roll down my window. He looks trustworthy so i cautiously put my window down. Is he lost? What does he want? We converse and he says he’s a mennonite and noticed I’m one too. Do I have a baby in the back, he asks. Um, no, it’s my luggage, i’m on a two-three week stint. oh, more conversing…a few more mennonite connections. After a few minutes he says he just wants to bless my trip; he tosses a couple of twenties in my window and away he goes. What is this startled woman supposed to do but keep on her way, thank God for the extra cash, and watch for more angels!

Story two. I’m flying from Atlanta to Pittsburgh but have a six hour lay-over in the Atlanta airport. I go to a Delta desk to see if i can go stand-by. “That will be $75, ma’am.” And besides the plane was full so no chance. Good luck. I wander to the approximate gate since my flight doesn’t show on the departures screen since it is too far off and I begin to kill time; catch up on social media, observe the milling millions, and all the good things one does in an airport while waiting. After about two hours i sling my backpack over my shoulder and head back to a departure screen again. Still no update. hmmm. Find a different Delta desk. “Ma’am, could you tell me which gate I’m leaving from so that i could at least sit at the right gate?” “Sure,” she replies, punch, punch, click, click on her computer. “Would you like to go stand-by on an earlier flight?” “Um, yes.” Then I gave her the previous story. “Oh, her manager just said there is bad weather brewing and they may put people on stand-by at no extra charge, because should a storm set in, they don’t want a bunch of extra people sitting in the airport.” So with a few more punches and clicks, she spit out a new boarding pass for two hours earlier, rerouted my luggage, (no guarantee your luggage will make it on the earlier flight she warned) and I went back down the long corridor amidst the milling millions, ate a bowl of rice and beans, and we were soon boarding. The skies were clear and my luggage was one of the first pieces off at the other end and it was so nice to get to my friends house at ten-thirty instead of twelve-thirty that night.