Redeeming Time

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Today I have a couple of hours to kill while the kids are busy at church. I head for one of my favorite haunts I discovered in college, a series of little pull-off picnic areas along the river. It’s not exactly a well-kept secret. Most of the locals know about it. But it has remained a quiet place where life, like the river, flows at a more peaceful pace.

I throw my blanket on the bedrock outcropping at river’s edge. The ancient pink granite, marbled with white quartz veins, is wrinkled and worn, its face wearing splotchy patches of green and gray fungus. Where rock merges with water, ripples and swirls dance silently along an eddy line. Water bugs drift downstream, then suddenly dart back up. They have one goal: not to become food for the fish that frequently surface in search of a snack. At moments like this, I’m reminded how good it is to be at the top of the food chain!

Of course, being at the top of the food chain carries with it some heavy responsibilities. We’re created in God’s image. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;”(Genesis 1:26a) We each have a soul, a will, a conscience, and a creative intellect unknown to the animal kingdom. We’re not merely highly evolved mammals, driven by instincts and urges.

In Ephesians 5: 15-16, Paul reminds us to “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil.” Unlike the rest of earthbound creation, we’re accountable to God for our choices. That means we should be deliberate about how we use our time and resources, right?

Lately, that’s a real challenge for me. It feels like life is passing me by. I can’t seem to find time for the things I feel compelled to do because I’m preoccupied with the things I must do. When I have free time, usually at the end of the day when everyone else is in bed, I’m too tired to tackle much more than a movie and some embroidery. I wonder what I’m accomplishing that’s of eternal value. Friends tell me caring for my family is my current calling. I know that’s vital. I don’t want to minimize my role as wife and mother in any way. But somehow it doesn’t feel like enough.

The river flows onward like the march of time. This water, which holds me spellbound, has just begun its long journey to its union with the Mississippi River, then journey’s end at the Gulf of Mexico where it will be lost in oceanic vastness. It will never pass this way again. My days are dancing swiftly, steadily, silently by, carried along on the current of time. The wasted days can never be reclaimed. The missed opportunities may never come again. There are no “do over’s” in life. Each tick of the clock brings me closer to eternity.

The thought compels me to pray, “Lord, am I being obedient? Am I doing what You’ve called me to do? If my current task is solely being devoted to my family, then give me peace. If not, show me what I’m missing and empower me to do it.”

There is no immediate peace, no immediate answer. One question lingers, as food for thought from the Heavenly Father. When I leave this earth, will I leave any mark behind to commemorate my existence? Or will I, fly away and soon be forgotten.

               Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away;

              They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.

              (lyrics from Our God, Our Help in Ages Past, by Isaac Watts)

Sin’s Snare

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Today I find a grass snake sunbathing on a pink granite boulder. We startle each other and he slithers off (before I can get a picture), probably sulking. He did have the perfect spot to soak up the sun. But I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go. There’s something unsettling about the silent stealth of a snake. Its scaly body, piercing eyes, and forked, flicking tongue don’t help either. 

The only living things I dislike more are spiders. They give me the willies! All those legs and eyes and those larger-than-life pinchers… YUCK! The other day one was crawling on me… not on my clothes… on me! I could feel its hairy feet scampering cross my skin. My kids laughed when I did a wild highland jig trying to get the creepy thing off me.

My aversion to arachnids began at a young age. Bulging-bodied grain spiders hung from every nook and cranny in Grandpa’s barn. I kept a watchful eye on them when I helped put up hay, fearing one might attack me when I wasn’t looking. That never happened. The wolf spiders never attacked while I was playing in the water either, nor did the marbled orb weavers jump at me while I harvested wildflower seeds. But I know the sneaky little spiders in our house sometimes attack me at night. They leave clusters of itchy bites.

Exactly why spiders and snakes strike such fear in my heart, I’m not certain. But I find it interesting that both are used in Isaiah 59: 4-5, to describe the deception and lies running rampant in Judah. “No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; he who eats of their eggs dies,and from that which is crushed a snake breaks forth.” 

Isaiah first compares the lies and wickedness of the people to snake eggs. The eggs that were eaten killed. The eggs that were crushed hatched even more evil. Then Isaiah compares the wickedness in which people were being ensnared to a well-woven spider’s web. What great word pictures! Can’t you just see a nest of snakey babies writhing in a tangled mass, each trying to escape but caught up in the mess? Or an insect vainly struggling to escape the sticky grip of a spider’s web? Perhaps this is the foundation for the old adage, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

There’s nothing inherently evil about spiders or snakes. God created them with care. Their subversive ways, however, are a reminder to us to avoid sin’s entrapment; to keep a watchful eye out for webs of deception that could entangle us, and to be wary of snake-like snares.

God’s Gifts: Above and Beyond

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Today I consider color. I look outside and see green trees. But all the trees are not the same green. They range in intensity from deep, almost-black green hemlocks to pale, almost-yellow green birches. Today white plume-like clouds reach across an intense blue sky. But sometimes the sky is pale blue with a splattering of gray clouds, or blue with a hint of sunrise or sunset. To say the sky is blue doesn’t quite cover it.

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Squirreling Things Away

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Today I watch our resident red squirrel raid the apple tree. She leaps along to the end of a branch much too thin to hold even her lightweight frame. The branch bends nearly to the ground, burdened not only by the apples it bears, but by the added weight of a hungry squirrel. She bites into the little green apple and tugs until the stem lets loose. Then she scampers down the squat trunk of the apple tree, across the lawn, and up to the lowest limb of our red pine.

I have to laugh. The apple she’s carrying is nearly as big as she is. Yet, she’s determined to take it home and either eat it for lunch or tuck it away for a rainy day. Suddenly Ginger, that’s what the girls named our red squirrel friend, realizes I’m spying on her. She scurries up the tree and takes a flying leap to a nearby birch.  I lose her in the branches and filtered sunlight.

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Thunder and Lightning

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Today a storm rolls through, darkening the midday sky with ominous, angry-looking clouds. Thunder rumbles long and low in the distance. The wind kicks up, tugging at the branches as it passes. The pines bend and bow to the gale’s superior power. Rain pummels the parched earth, sending sandy splatters into the nearby grass.  The large raindrops resound as they dive-bomb the granary’s metal roof. Lightning cuts through the curtain, followed almost immediately by a brilliant blue-white flash and an earth-shaking crack of thunder. That one was close! Nearby, splinters from the struck tree trunk litter the road.

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In God’s Image

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Today the summer air is a wet blanket hanging heavy on some cosmic clothesline.  I sit under a shade tree near Shadow Lake, praying for even the smallest wind wisp to cool the perspiration pooling on my forehead.  I briefly consider going home, but almost immediately dismiss that thought… no air conditioning.  So I try to distract myself by watching the water. (If I had extra clothes along, I’d distract myself by jumping in!)

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Creeping Crayfish

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Today I sit on a rock outcropping which overlooks an abandoned mill pond.  Just where the river spills over the dam, a colony of crayfish have taken up residence in the stones cluttering the river bottom.  I don’t usually make habit of watching crayfish.  I prefer observing God’s “prettier” critters.  But, I have to confess, they’re quite interesting little crustaceans.

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Never Ending River

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Today I find a few free hours to visit my favorite place. Fortunately for them, unfortunately for me, someone beat me to my favorite spot in my favorite place. I drive through the park to my second favorite spot.  Bird-watching is nearly impossible from this vantage point.  However, from here I can eves-drop on the chatty river as it clamors over slabs of granite bedrock.

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Spring Color

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Today the trees cast their spring colors against a steel blue sky that promises thunderstorms somewhere to the not-too-distant south. The maples sport dainty flowers in untold shades of red, gold and muted orange.  The yellow birch trees stand out in the crowd with their jaundiced bark and frosted, mint green crowns.  The weeping willows are yellow-green (or is it green-yellow) with life.  Only the oaks, always lagging somewhat behind, are just now realizing they’ll need to let go of those old brown leaves if they hope to wear new green ones this spring.    If a stiff wind doesn’t tug them off, the new leaf sprouts will push them out of the way.  All in good time…  Though more subtle than the fall colors, the spring foliage brings new light and life to the dark landscape.

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Love is in the Air

Today the turkeys put on a show in our big pasture. A big tom is strutting his stuff for a harem of hens that has encircled the main stage.  His crimson head gradually turns blue as he  fluffs his feathers and splays his tail like a fine, silk fan.  The ladies look on with casual indifference, and rightly so.  The tom will, as the old country song says, “love ‘em and leave ‘em alone.”  The womenfolk will be busy hatching and raising chicks while the menfolk are off behaving like bachelors.

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