Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2001 Cross-Country Trip Journal Entry 1

Dear Friends,

The Rockies are on our right as I write to you, snow-capped in many spots and lovely!  Last Thursday we spent the day on the heights in the Rocky Mountain National Park visiting with elk and mule-deer.  The views were majestic and left us with a powerful sense of being "upheld in God's righteous right hand."  We will be passing through them again today on our way to Aspen.  Before we hit Aspen we're going to stop at Glenwood Caverns for some spelunking.  Going deep down in the "up!"   
This trip has been the unfolding of one delight after another!  Sean and Alyssa have proven to be outstanding travelers.  Even on our thirteen hour days on the road they have been easy and content.  Alyssa is keeping a detailed journal of the trip that will be a family treasure forever, and Sean has been reading non-stop.

After worshiping with friends last Sunday we made our way to our first KOA in Illinois.  Our thanks go out to the IV staff in Arizona who recommended KOA camping!  We enjoyed the pool, the friendly campers, cooking out... And no phone!  We've stayed now at KOAs in Missouri and Kansas, and they are all so clean!  In Kansas we met a wonderful little family who shares a vision for church unity - they travel from place to place spreading the vision and helping local churches come on board.

Monday we drove to St. Louis.  Our first sight of the Gateway Arch caused us all to explode with happy noise!  In the distance it was impressive – up close it was brilliant and awesome, shining in the sun!  Later I decided that I prefer to enjoy the arch from ground-level.  We rode to the top in microscopic pods lit with fluorescent bulbs; hot and cramped! Rose from Texas (appropriately named, if you think about it) rode with us and helped me feel better by looking terrified.  I could relax because Alyssa experienced vertigo and had to be kept calm. I didn't
even fixate on our height, or wonder if there were terrorists in the crowd (very often).  Sean and Glen were perfectly happy in the packed, stifling, high, narrow space.  Alyssa and I were just glad when it was over!  Our favorite thing was dipping hands and feet in the Mississippi.  Although the Mississippi is only romantic in your mind (it's full of mud and swirling debris up close and personal), it IS impressive.  I suppose that its history (and Mark Twain) has imparted a romantic glow to the muddy river.

That night we spent in Missouri, chasing rabbits and fireflies before bed. Sean and Alyssa caught fish with great ingenuity; Sean placed his cupped palms under the water of the pond we were camped beside, and Alyssa sprinkled breadcrumbs on the surface above his hands.  Inexperienced little perch found themselves scooped into space and dumped in an applesauce jar before you could say "Long John Silver!"

Tuesday found us in Kansas.  Most people don't find Kansas very stimulating, but I have roots there, so I was excited! It was at that KOA that we met the nice family with the vision for church unity.  We met them poolside – our kids were making friends with theirs in the water as we talked.  

Again we were camped at the edge of a pond, and next morning we had fresh fish in the applesauce jar! 

Wednesday we took a little detour to see "Rock City" Kansas.  Rock City is a place advertised by little slips of signs, sporadically placed along the roadside in such a way as to discourage tourism, which is why we went there. A bazillion years ago or so the receding ocean deposited sandstone concretions all on this one little Kansan field. Truthfully, it looks more like receding dinosaurs deposited them there...  You couldn't miss those chips!!!!!!!

From there we stopped in Ellsworth - a Kansas cow town and the place where my Granny was born.  We found her aunt's lace displayed in the little museum there, and the grave of her second son - my uncle Daniel - who died the day he was born.  Granny's treasure, buried here in this dusty little cow town, and I felt richer for having visited. 

On we drove and drove and drove across the prairie.  It was like a vast dance floor, with the corn and wheat doing graceful waltzes and the dust pirouetting with the wind.  Over us all a blazing sun in the blue sky, and cloud shadows in which we found temporary relief from the hot yellow breath of the sun.  That was the day we caught our first glimpse of the Rockies – a gray bump way across the plains - that grew bit by bit with the passing miles. We saw our first prairie dogs in Fort Collins, where we spent a few days with our sister-in-law Karen, and our nephew, Christopher.  

Local folks were probably disgusted when we veered off the road quickly to take photos of the prairie dogs - it would be like someone risking life and limb to take a snapshot of a squirrel in Potsdam!

Karen and Chris showed us gracious hospitality.  (We are driving under the continental divide at this moment! I just saw a shiny black bear lumbering across the mountain above us!) They were busy the first two days, so we entertained ourselves by exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park (as I mentioned) and doing laundry.  One night we had dinner at a micro-brewery in old-town Fort Collins, and another day we spent at a water park with the Rockies as a backdrop.

I am too distracted by the beauty of the mountains to continue this email. We'll write again later.  

One request I want to leave with you is for prayer for my Uncle Jack and Aunt Ellie Simpson.  We were to have visited them in New Mexico...  Uncle Jack has been battling skin cancer for years, and is currently having great difficulty with a new skin graft.  Three days ago I learned that Ellie has been diagnosed with colon cancer - on top of a host of other illnesses - and is in the hospital.  We can't visit because of the risk to them of further infection. They are very dear to me and I wish the timing was different...  But our love is with them even if we can't be.

Thanks!  May God unfold beauty after beauty for all of you, too, this summer!


Glen, Beverly, Sean, and Alyssa

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Goldfinch - Advent 2015 - Joy

For me, the goldfinch has become an icon of joy.

One morning last summer, on my way to work, I saw a broken goldfinch in the middle of the road at a busy intersection.  A bright, crumpled patch of sunlight and feathers, it left behind a shadow that interposed itself between me and the loveliness of the morning.

It was a travesty.  A broken bit of beauty about to be ground into the pavement by drivers completely oblivious to what was under their wheels.

I wanted to stop and move him to the grasses at the side of the road, where he could rest in peace…  But stopping would make me late for work.  Stopping would interrupt the flow of traffic and perhaps incite road rage.  Stopping and getting out of my car in the middle of a busy intersection to pick up a dead bird would make me look and feel foolish.  So I drove forward slowly to the stop sign, being sure I was squarely over the little bird so I would not be the one to pulverize him.  

My heart was heavy.  I kept re-thinking my decision to keep going. At the stop sign I looked in my rear-view mirror again.  There were no cars behind me.  I made up my mind to stop, be late for work and look and feel like a fool.

Nervously, I reversed the car.  I put on my flashers and got out.  Cars on the other side of the intersection began to queue up.  Sure enough - I felt like a fool.

The broken bird looked so pitiful there in the middle of the road.  I muttered a prayer - “Oh God!” I stooped to lift him gently from where he lay.  Another car came - this time from behind me.  The pressure and embarrassment intensified. But, just as I was about to scoop him up, the goldfinch flew away!

He had been stunned. He had flown into a vehicle, and been left for dead in the road!  He sure LOOKED dead, with his head and wings all at strange angles!

Filled with joy, I got back into my car.  I was no longer embarrassed or worried about being late.  My heart was singing!  I knew that I had not stopped in vain, because, if I hadn’t stooped, the goldfinch would have been run over by somebody else.  I had come at just the right time.

At just the right time, God, going about God’s very important God-business, saw us broken on the highway.  We were doomed to be crushed - unable to save ourselves.  God stopped.  Heedless of discomfort and humiliation, God stooped so that we might live.  


Isaiah 35: 8-10 (NIV)
And a highway will be there;
   it will be called the Way of Holiness;
   it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
   wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
   nor any ravenous beast;
   they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
  and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
   everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
   and sorrow and sighing will flee away.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Love - Advent Reflection 2, 2015

She loves him.  Six years after his death, she still tucks her husband’s shirt under her pillow before she turns out the light.  They were married for more than 50 years.  

God sees her tuck that shirt under her head each night.

The Advent candles light our darkest, bleakest days;  a reminder that life and light have come and will come again to chase away death and darkness.  Isaiah said, “Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains!  For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.  Isaiah 49:13

God loves us.

God sees us.  God so loved the world that he put his only son into our empty arms, so that, whoever would embrace him, would not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3: 16-17 )


Love became flesh on a Bethlehem night
(for darkness could never hold love at bay);
in Him was life and that life is our light.
Neither angels nor demons, depth or height
nor powers presume to stand in the way.
Love became flesh on a Bethlehem night,
Good News for the poor, for the blind, new sight!
The favor of God in a manger lay -
in Him was life, and that life is our light
that reveals the extent of God's delight
to consider the humble when they pray.
Love became flesh on a Bethlehem night.
One Word it took to put everything right
(that even the mute shall be taught to say);
Love became flesh on a Bethlehem night,

in Him was life, and that life is our light.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hope - An Advent Reflection

Each year Aunt Donna hoped that Uncle Bruce would throw her a surprise birthday party.  She waited, her birthday would come and go; no party.  In fact, each year, on Donna’s birthday, Bruce would be out of town on a hundred-mile bike ride through the mountainous desert country of Colorado.

This year Donna decided she was going to wait no longer.  She was tired of being disappointed.  She told Bruce not to even think of planning anything for her 70th birthday, because she was going out of town to celebrate all by herself!

The problem was that Bruce had already planned a big seventieth birthday surprise party for his beloved wife!  The invitations had gone out, family members were collaborating with him, the cake was ordered…  It was ON!

Desperate, Bruce called the family for help.  Together, they came up with a plan to keep Donna at home, but in the dark.  They planned an elaborate ruse to get her out of the house at just the right time, so the guests could gather.

Love works.  When Donna walked into her home after being sent on a wild goose chase, she was greeted with birthday cheer by all those who had gathered to celebrate her.  Her smile could have lit the entire state of Colorado!  After all those years, she had her party!

To participate in Advent is to participate in a great, cosmic surprise party!  

The Latin root meaning of Advent is “Veni” - to come. We wait - year after year, as Aunt Donna did in hopes of a surprise birthday party. We wait, Christ comes. In the darkest days of the year we light the Advent candles to recount the story of how Christmas came to us.  Each candle in the wreath is a stepping stone of light that leads us through time to the first coming of our Savior, and reminds us that he will come again.  

Tonight we light the candle in the Advent wreath that represents Hope.  The hope of the people of God as they waited year after year for a party that was a long time in coming, and our hope for the return of Jesus to turn this whole world right-side up again!  

The people walking in darkness
  have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness
  a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
  to us a son is given,
  and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
  there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
  and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
  with justice and righteousness
  from that time on and forever.

(From Isaiah 9: 2-7)