Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Off the Beaten Path

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

It took a broken rib to find a better route.

We’ve been living on State Street for over twenty years.  Our house is the starting point and destination of three different walking routes: The “Regular Walk”, the “Grant Street Route”, and the “Short Walk”.  We know exactly how long each of these walks takes, and we developed our habit of walking them due to the time constraints that accompany full schedules.  

For over twenty years we have braved the treacherous village sidewalks so that we could enjoy exercise and fresh air, time alone, time in prayer, and time with friends.  But it’s been tough!  We have had to navigate cracks and crevasses, lakes and streams, ice and snow.  Sometimes the sidewalks have been absolutely impassable!

We lamented, and we satirized, the condition of the sidewalks of Potsdam.  But we chose to walk them because they were familiar.  

Last November Glen and I took our “OTHER” walk at the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center.  We take to the paths there when we have time constraints, but need some time in the woods to recharge.  That day we had a little more margin, so we decided to go off the path to check out a rocky ridge further up in the forest.  

It was on our way off the little outcrop, as the sun was setting, that the dirt, moss and leaves over the granite ledge slipped out from under Glen like a carpet and left him with a broken rib.  It was harrowing, but we made it out of the woods and to the E.R. before night fell.

After a week, Glen was ready to start taking our regular walks again, but we didn’t know how we were going to do it.  The sidewalks being unpredictable, he wasn’t in a place where he wanted to risk slipping or tripping.  We decided to try taking another route. (We were that desperate!)

Just at the end of our street the campus roads begin. Just at the end of our street!  Campus roads and sidewalks that are plowed, salted, sanded, and … maintained!  Regularly.  Roads we had never, ever, in over twenty years, thought of walking before.  Beautiful, wide sidewalks, where we can actually walk side by side.

We needed a little incentive to get off the beaten path.  I hope it won’t take a medical emergency next time!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017


humility.jpgAll of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:5b-7

The traditions of the Church intrigue me: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Pentecost Sunday, Lent, and Easter (to name some).  They are a rich inheritance, passed on to us by our fathers and mothers in the faith, meant to keep us rooted in God’s Story.  

Because we don’t have any kind of tradition surrounding the Lenten season at our church, I observe Lent in my own creative, but not very professional, way.

Earlier this week, though, I found myself having very un-Lenten thoughts.  Very.  Critical, judgemental, prideful.  I wished I could send my mind to the cleaners.  

Suddenly I thought about the imagery of Ash Wednesday.  A cross made of ashes drawn on the forehead.  A symbol of humility.  “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Genesis 3:19.

I pictured God drawing a cross of ashes on my forehead, a symbol of humility through which my thoughts could be filtered.   Amazed, I found myself laughing at my thoughts; taking them lightly, because the pride had been removed.

Purified thoughts are uplifting, and dust doesn’t weigh very much at all.


Waves and Breakers

If you hold a gecko close enough to your earlobe, he might bite it.  If you let him go, he will hang on just long enough to look like an earring!
Waves and breakers.png

This was a trick I learned just after I turned nine, when my family and I stayed with close friends who lived in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was entrancing.  With machetes, our parents harvested fresh sugar cane and coconuts for us to taste, and I learned enough Spanish to run down the street and buy milk at the corner store.  We discovered termite mounds on an old plantation that were taller than our dads - the tallest people we could imagine!  Best of all, one night we were rowed out into a bay full of phosphorescence.  Fish left trails of light as they swam around our boat, while the captain serenaded us on his guitar.  Magical.

Swept up in the beauty and fascination of the place, I was almost literally swept away one day while we were at the beach.  Spotting a sea cucumber in the shallow surf, I wandered further away from my parents than they or I realized.  As I bent to grab the creature from the water, I was knocked over by a breaker!

At first I tried to resist, but all that happened was that I kept being rolled over and over, scraped raw on sand and shells.  The wave was so strong I could not stand up or even stop my tumbling.  I ceased struggling and let the wave spend its strength, finally crawling out of reach of the surf when it was over, winded and shaken.

It’s been a long time since I was nine.  Seasons and circumstances have sometimes, like that giant wave, caught me unaware and left me feeling beaten and bruised.  In the relentless tumbling, I haven’t always been sure how much longer I could hold my breath.

Here is the truth about waves: They come in, spend themselves, and roll back out again.  If I trust that truth, I won’t fight them.  If I don’t fight, I’ll be standing when the wave is spent, smarter and stronger.

God knows the truth about waves. God has been with me in every breaker; my strength and my breath.  

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  Psalm 42:7 (NIV)


Monday, March 13, 2017

...for a penny

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  Matthew 10:29

Several years ago Glen transitioned from a position where our financial needs were covered to one where we faced a mounting deficit.  Sensing God’s call to do so, he went from a managerial position with InterVarsity back to full-time campus staff at Potsdam and Clarkson, and that involved relinquishing access to certain regional and area funding.  

We grew anxious as the deficit increased.  The call had been clear to us both, but sometimes we (well - okay - I) second-guessed because of the financial strain.

On my prayer walk one morning, I was feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed.  My praying was distracted as I struggled to keep my focus on God’s goodness rather than our overwhelming need.  The deficit wasn’t a personal one, it was funding for our work with InterVarsity.  Glen had already taken a significant cut in pay, and was considering taking on another job to support the work on campus.  He was beginning to think about selling the house.  

I noticed a penny lying in the snow and dirt on the side of the road, but I kept walking.  In our family, Glen is the one who picks up the pennies.  A few yards beyond that penny, I felt a nudge in my spirit to go back and pick it up.  I kept walking.  I didn’t want to retrace my steps for a penny!  

The nudge became so strong that I felt to ignore it might be a mistake. Retracing my steps, I took off my glove, bent down, and retrieved the dirty penny from the street.  Once I picked it up, I could see that a cross shape had been cut right out of its center!

The penny was a timely reminder of all of the ways God had provided for us in the past.  Tears came as I realized it was a reminder that He was with us in the present!  I hid the penny in my pocket, the thought in my heart.

Once I got home and settled, the phone rang.  It was a dear friend from ages past, and a former prayer partner.  She told me that she had strongly felt God directing her to send a check to InterVarsity toward our account (on condition of anonymity - which I am respecting here).  The check covered our deficit and gave us the margin Glen needed to raise the funding necessary to keep him on campus.  My friend had no idea about the specific financial need!  And she refused to let me be too effusive in my thanks.  “It’s God’s money,” she said.

I still have that penny.  It’s God’s money.