After our walking tour through the zoo, she came over to our picnic table with little packaged snacks for the grandchildren. She explained she brought extra snacks when she came with her kids to share with friends they made there. A black family giving the hand of friendship to our white one. Our grandchildren had run together excited over seeing the various animals as we walked through the zoo, with us adults complaining about the Texas heat. Nothing unusual as far as my daughter and I were concerned, but in her eyes something special was going on. Maybe in this volatile, racially sensitive time, it was. For whatever reason, she left us a message of hope for the future.
While going over some of our Savior’s virtues this morning and asking for those same virtues to be in me—love, joy, peace, generosity, forgiveness, mercy, gratefulness. Wait a minute, gratefulness? Does God need to be grateful? He lacks nothing and needs nothing we can possible give him, not even our prayers or worship. He has no need that I could think of to be grateful. Though thankfulness to God is expressed throughout the Psalms and New Testament prayers, it isn’t mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer. But then Jesus defended the thankful woman who poured the expensive perfume on his head when even his disciples questioned what she did (Matthew 26). And when he healed the ten lepers, and only one came back to thank him, he asked, where are the others (Luke 17). Jesus appreciated being thanked and he always thanked God in his prayers. God may not need to be grateful, but Jesus was grateful, so gratefulness stays on the list.
In the hot, dry summer months I refresh the water in the birdbath when I pick up my newspaper each morning. Almost as soon as I’m back in the house a bird shows up, tentatively looks around and after deciding it’s safe, happily splashes away in the water. This morning it was Mr. blue jay first, then his wife. After the blue jays and the cardinals and, of course, the crows finish, the titmouse, wrens and sparrows take their turns. Sometimes a squirrel runs them all off, except for the crows. There’s no first come, first served or waiting in line, it’s who is the biggest and the baddest who gets to use the birdbath. Nature is beautiful and wondrous, but it’s survival of the fittest out there, just the opposite of how Jesus says we should act. We can’t blame the critters for doing what comes naturally, but even for us who know better, it’s not easy to think of others before ourselves. Jesus knew that, of course. His command was to love others as we love ourselves. Still not easy!
Though my life in retirement is way less busy than when I worked full time, my whole week is still planned for the weekend. My Saturdays and Sundays I try to leave free for church and anything else I feel like doing. So no laundry or cleaning or yardwork on the weekends, unless I really want to, and I usually don’t. It’s a time to read as much as I want or watch an old British detective mystery or take a nap, guilt free. Before the virus, I regularly met friends for dinner at a restaurant on Saturday evenings as well. It’s my freedom from my somewhat structured lifestyle, a lifestyle I can’t seem to totally set aside. Some sense of order and structure is good, but I believe freedom in Christ includes freedom from our own hurried (and harried) obsessive behavior too. So, it’s OK to take a break and take time for yourself. I know some of you can’t take two days off, but even God took a Sabbath rest!
One of my dear aunts grew up in an orphanage. When we visited her and my uncle, she always made sure we were well fed. She was constantly concerned we weren’t getting enough to eat. Even my children noticed, as they happily ate whatever cookies or other sweets she gave them. It made me wonder if she had gone without enough food at times in her life. It seemed to her food equaled love. My husband hired an engineer from China years ago, and afterward, he and his wife (now a doctor) began showering us with gifts. They were so appreciative Ed hired him, even though his English was limited, so they kept giving us gifts. Finally, I had to say, no more gifts! Giving gifts was the way they showed how grateful they were. I receive intricate, handmade cards from a couple of my friends, and I believe putting that much time in creating something beautiful for others shows love. Though love can be shown in many ways, love is always outgoing, away from self. And, it always costs someone something.
Family out for a swim.
On my last birthday, two of my little great grands sang the happy birthday song to me. They also helped choose the birthday flowers that happily reside in pots on my patio. When I think about how blessed I am to enjoy knowing not only my grandchildren but also my great grandchildren, I feel overwhelmed and thank God for this special privilege. Life is a gift, a blessing that mustn’t be taken for granted. I’m not a Pollyanna, life isn’t always easy. It doesn’t always turn out as you think it should, but in every circumstance I’ve found God is always right there with me. And that includes even when I make a wrong decision. Isn’t it amazing how merciful our Father in heaven is, that he continually forgives and rescues us even before we recognize and acknowledge our sins to him.
Every few days when I open my computer, another beautiful photo of some place in the world appears on the screen. Most of the photos are nature photos, of amazing waterfalls or surreal looking mountain cliffs or mysterious forests. The caption, “Like what you see?” is in a corner of the photos, and I always respond that I like the photos, even though the photo may be of a desolate desert scene. The deserts of this world have their own beauty. The photos are from everywhere, some of the places I’ve visited and some I haven’t, but all are beautiful. God didn’t limit nature’s loveliness to one country or to one continent; he spread it generously throughout the world for all his creatures to enjoy. That realization confirms again God’s love for this world and all the people in it, no matter who they are or where they live. We are all his children. The scientists say earth and nature are running down and will eventually be no more, but God says earth and nature will be redeemed and transformed, just as we are and will be. That’s good news!
The small plane was flying low over the landscape. That’s what I first noticed, its yellow wings looking golden in the sunlight. It’s not uncommon to see personal planes flying here, but flying that low was unusual. As I continued driving, I saw it again, but this time it was even lower, then it banked and flew across in front of me. It’s going to land in that pasture, I thought. Was there an emergency? Then I saw a wide area had been mowed through the field to make a landing strip. The plane landed and taxied down toward some outbuildings. I’ve always wanted to fly a plane, but the closest I’ve been is a computer flight simulator. I’ve flown in a plane many times, from huge Boeing 747s to helicopters, and even in a private jet once, but that’s not the same as being up front at the controls. How freeing that must feel to be up in the air flying over the earth. Someday, in another life!
What’s for breakfast: a boiled egg with wheat toast or yogurt with blueberries and granola or toast with peanut butter and a banana? I’m not a big breakfast person but know I should eat something to raise my energy level. Then I thought of those millions who would appreciate just having breakfast. Their primary concern is not what to eat, it’s survival. Those people live like the wild birds and animals. Squirrels, rabbits, armadillos, possums, raccoons, skunks, bobcats and coyotes and sometimes deer visit my yard, always looking for food and water. While I sometimes skip breakfast, I know in a few hours I will eat again. Every hour of the day, hungry people’s whole existence, like the birds and animals, is spent searching for food and water. God did not intend the world to be this way. His intent was plenty of healthy food and clean water for each of his beloved ones. We can’t feed all the hungry but we can donate to our food banks. Feeding the hungry is being the hands of God!