Reflections by the Pond

#561: Living & Dying

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Reflections by the Pond – July 23, 2012

One of the more nostalgic voices in the summer chorus is that of the cicada. It is utterly illogical, but true, that the sound of an ugly brown insect on humid summer days should so fill the mind and heart with rich memories of one's youth. The metallic buzzing drone of the cicada is the sound of sticky summer evenings, the smell of charcoal and hot dogs and grilling hamburgers. It is a sound that reminds us that we once were young, and back then it didn't bother us that we hadn't air conditioning. It reminds us of the way the house smelled when mom was canning pickles.

But the humble cicada also reminds us of something considerably less warm and inviting...

#560: Nothing Grows When it is Dry

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Reflections by the Pond – July 16, 2012

The green lawn has turned the color of straw, and the grass crackles underfoot, like treading on desiccated grasshoppers. The soil on which it struggles to survive is riven with splits and cracks, hard as a rock. Well-established, deeply rooted trees and bushes are curling up—or even prematurely shedding—their leaves to harbor precious moisture. Beyond our property, field corn shrivels, and the young ears on the plants lack the resources to mature.

We did not receive rain last week, we will not this week, and the week after that looks the same: hot, dry.


#559: Backwards

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Reflections by the Pond – July 9, 2012

It is considerably more agreeable to think of ourselves as givers, rather than takers. Our perspective is typically one of magnanimity; we consider ourselves to be relatively independent beings who, from time to time, out of the goodness of our hearts, give to others.

We give to our pleasant neighbors. We give to our children. We give to our aged parents. We give to missionaries who serve in our stead. We give to the Red Cross and the local homeless shelter.

We give to God...

#558: Two Families

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Reflections by the Pond – July 2, 2012

As is common in small groups throughout the family of God, our adult Sunday School class begins each session by sharing with each other those things uppermost on our hearts: requests for prayer, inquiries about the well-being of someone absent, specific joys experienced during the previous week.

Recently one of the members of our class requested prayer for the contractor doing work on his property. The contractor—also a member of our congregation—has been suffering for several years with a malady that often prevents him from doing his work. Days can go by without him being seen on-site; sometimes his helper shows up alone, sometimes no one. The situation can be frustrating—not just for the customer, but for the contractor: wishing only to put in a day's work, his body won't let him.

In our class, the customer requested prayer not that the delays would come to an end and the work be completed in a timely fashion, but that the Lord would help a brother desperately in need of healing...

#557: When He Says "No"

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Reflections by the Pond – June 25, 2012

I had done everything I could in myself: practice, prayer, more practice, more prayer, taken every available pill for my chronic throat problem. My heart and motives were right-aligned: everything for His glory and the edification of His church.

Yet, come Sunday morning, once the accompaniment was cued and I began to sing, immediately my throat was obstructed by the persistent crud I had prayed so earnestly for the Lord to remove. He could have easily, of course, kept my throat clear for the few minutes of the song. After all, if "all things are possible with God," then this small thing He could do without batting an eyelash.

But He didn't do it.

He said, "No."

#556: Nurturing Faith

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Reflections by the Pond – June 18, 2012

It's a favorite old story, the basis for myriad sermons delivered the world over, taught to wee little ones in Sunday School since its invention in the 1780s. Everyone within and without the church is familiar with the moniker, "Doubting Thomas."

But many of us have the story wrong. Even this writer got it wrong decades back when writing a monologue for the wife of the disciple, who is defending her husband's reputation. In rationalizing the "doubts" of her late husband to one of her grandchildren she explains...

#555: Between the Pastor and the Pot Roast

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Reflections by the Pond – June 11, 2012

The sermon has been delivered. The invitation has been given and the final hymn sung. We are all standing with Bibles and purses in hand and a growling emptiness in the pit of our stomachs. And we all know what comes next. The Pastor lifts his hand and utters one from a handful of familiar passages—perhaps this Sunday the most familiar of all: "The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you..."

And if you're like me, you probably didn't hear a word of it; your mind was elsewhere. Maybe on one of the pastor's sermon points; maybe on those who came forward today (or on those who didn't); maybe on the pot roast that will soon be filling that emptiness in your belly; maybe on that important Monday meeting. Maybe you just figured that you had heard that same passage so many times before—indeed, could recite it from memory—there was no point in paying attention this time...

#554: Shadows

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Reflections by the Pond – June 4, 2012

From out of the deep-green mysteries of the woods the deer emerge. They could just as easily, without noticeable effort, leap the fence. But often they amble through, nice as you please, the old sagging gate that hangs from one hinge at the back of the pond.

I sit in the ill-tempered grass that covers the gentle slope leading down to our equally ill-tempered pond. A soft breeze moves past, cooling my skin. Chickadees and woodpeckers flutter and peck at the bird feeder overhead. All is quiet, serene. Even so, the old gate stares at me from across the water, its odd, drunken angle a sarcastic leer toward how a more civilized gate would behave.

What is in there? What lies beyond the moldering back gate, deep in the shadowy gloom beneath the wooded canopy? Here in the sunlight all is peaceful and calm, normal. But what transpires back in the shadows? What lies in those places I cannot see?

#553: Oh, to be like Peter

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Reflections by the Pond – May 28, 2012

He just couldn't wait to get to Jesus.

° ° °

Shortly after Christ's resurrection we find seven of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. They had decided to do a little fishing. I have always imagined this moment representing the disciples' struggle to regain some sense of normalcy after the traumatic events of the previous days: the arrest in Gethsemane; the trial (and, for Peter, his humiliating denial of Jesus), crucifixion and burial; then the resurrection and Jesus appearing before them by walking right into a shuttered room. I think after all of that we too might say, as Peter does, "Aw—I'm going fishing."

#552: Hate

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Reflections by the Pond – May 21, 2012

One of the books I am currently reading is O Jerusalem! (1972), which recounts the traumatic, violent birth of the modern Jewish state in 1948. Page after page of this book is filled with the visceral hatred between Arab and Jew, and the orgy of bloody violence they both conducted over the soil of Palestine. This explosive hatred of one group for another reminded me of an episode I observed some years back.

The internet-based discussion group I frequent for the Adobe Creative Suite applications is usually marked by good manners and helpful, constructive advice—that is, until one day someone posted a request under the username "JesusIsGod"...