Sunday, September 30, 2007

Brook in Waterlands: Open House

Today was a huge day for the folks at Bentley Farm as we celebrated (with many guests) the finishing of the model home. What a work of art! The pictures below (browse through dozens of pictures) give a small representation of the finished product. And to top it off, the day was custom ordered. Hats off to Hans and Hudson Valley Development Group!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Revolve"ing Tours and Planets

I returned this evening from a trip to Hartford, Connecticut where I spent the last thirty hours with Rebecca and a local church group and about five thousand other girls and chaperones at Women of Faith's Revolve Tour for girls. One of the saddest things that I heard shared was nestled in Chad Eastham's talk where he reported asking over one thousand girls across the country, "Do you feel treasured or targeted?" Apparently, of the one thousand girls that he asked, he said that only two girls reported that they felt treasured. A sad commentary, to be sure.

Speaking of feeling treasured, I am so thankful to say that, for so many reasons, I feel incredibly treasured! And today, the first man to ever convince me that I am a treasure, and to this day wakes me up every morning and reminds me that he still thinks that, celebrated a revolution of his own. Yes, the Earth has revolved around the Sun once more to mark the event of Dad's fifty-first birthday! Happy Birthday Dad, I treasure you too!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

He Has Filled the Hungry With Good Things

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness,
And for his wonderful works to the children of men!
For he satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry with good things.
Psalm 107:8-9

What a Clever Idea!

Our local city of Poughkeepsie was one of approximately two hundred cities selected to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts entitled, “The Big Read.” For the last month, Hudson Valley residents were given free copies of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird in an effort to engage a large sector of the community in a joint reading of a single piece of literature. Discussion groups attracted crowds of over one hundred. The grand finale of "The Big Read" occurred last evening at the Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie where hundreds gathered to watch the classic To Kill a Mockingbird movie starring Gregory Peck. The attending crowd was mixed in terms of ethnicity and age.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a well loved novel in our family, I think because Atticus, the virtuous defense lawyer, always reminds us of Dad. Those family members who had not yet read the book are currently enjoying our new free copy. We were definitely proud to be among the crowd that arrived early to catch the pre-movie organ recital. I was engaged for every moment of the movie, and of course was completely enthralled by the noble and courageous Atticus Finch.

Several weeks back I reported that my taxes went to four venues of the government. I am now happy to say that my taxes have a fifth destination: a small sector of the National Endowment for the Arts that supports “The Big Read.” What a clever idea and what a wonderful choice of literature! - Sarah Angell

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. [Dad's favorite lines from Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.]

What a Clever Idea

Our local city of Poughkeepsie was one of approximately two hundred cities selected to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts entitled, “The Big Read.” For the last month, Hudson Valley residents were given free copies of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird in an effort to engage a large sector of the community in a joint reading of a single piece of literature. Discussion groups attracted crowds of over one hundred. The grand finale of "The Big Read" occurred last evening at the Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie where hundreds gathered to watch the classic To Kill a Mockingbird movie starring Gregory Peck. The attending crowd was mixed in terms of ethnicity and age.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a well loved novel in our family, I think because Atticus, the virtuous defense lawyer, always reminds us of Dad. Those family members who had not yet read the book are currently enjoying our new free copy. We were definitely proud to be among the crowd that arrived early to catch the pre-movie organ recital. I was engaged for every moment of the movie, and of course was completely enthralled by the noble and courageous Atticus Finch.
Several weeks back I reported that my taxes went to four venues of the government. I am now happy to say that my taxes have a fifth destination: a small sector of the National Endowment for the Arts that supports “The Big Read.” What a clever idea and what a wonderful choice of literature!

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. [Dad's favorite lines from Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.]

Monday, September 24, 2007

Of Laughter, Gentlemen and "Surely?"

Some classic YouTube pieces are shared below for the love of children and laughter. The little girl reciting Psalm 23 is very dear to my heart because I remember standing up in Quaker meeting, also at age three, to recite the twenty third Psalm. It is intimidating to talk in front of people when you are only three, and the word "surely" doesn't really make sense, and all of the people listening to you are big adults!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On Perseverance and Surrender

I'm continuing to read Amy Carmichael's biography and becoming continually aware of the way that she lived her live in faith for the fulfillment of very many specific promises. If a hospital was needed, it was granted.

How often do I live a life of prayer to God for the necessary and specific counterparts to obedience? Is obedience such a vague thing in my mind that prayer is not embraced to the measure of necessity?

Prayer is interesting. There are times of convincement that I must hold on in faith for the coming of the Kingdom with regard to a very particular request and knock as the persistent widow upon Heaven's door. But, at times, the prayer of the persistent widow needs to be drowned solely and simply by the prayer, "Thy Kingdom come."

Teach me, God, to understand Your will, that I may know when to persist in prayer and when to simply trust that You hear and know the deepest longing of my heart. Let obedience be the fruit of belief and belief the fruit of obedience! (Journal entry from 6/29/05)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Friend in Need: A Friend Indeed!

My friend Emily and her brother Joseph joined in the priming of the walls today. What a job! We were lost in an infinitude of white and our bodies became canvases for modern art. Still more work is left for tomorrow and then we'll reach the real job: painting with color!

Desiring to Know True Doctrine

Somehow a major theme of the Christian life always seems to come back to the fact that knowledge of God and His truth comes through obedience. A challenging theme, to be sure! Our family was reminded of this theme as we continued to follow, in our evening readings, Catherine Marshall's Christy through a crisis of faith while serving as a school teacher in the Appalachian Mountains. Alice Henderson, the Quaker matron of the mission, recommends the following passage from John 17 for Christy's consideration in her moment of crisis.

My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (Jesus in John 7:17)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Numbering Your Days with a Nine Hour Exam

A family friend, Phil, was visiting our home for dinner recently and shared with us a sobering reminder of the reality that, in view of eternity, we have no time to waste in our sojourn upon this earth.

When we compare our lifespan to eternity, we quickly realize that our lifespan is incredibly short. To give a quantifiable idea of just how short life really is, imagine, for the sake of mathematical argument, that eternity is ten million years long. If you lived a long life, say one hundred years, then our lifetime compared to ten million years is a little less than nine hours compared to our lifetime. Imagine that - what if a nine hour exam determined the course and direction of the rest of your entire life!

Such it is with our lives and eternity: one hundred years compared to a small fraction of eternity, is but a nine hour exam measured against our lifetime.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On Calling and Vocation

So often it seems that when I give thought to vocation calling, I pose the question in terms of, "Where is it that I can serve in such a way that I am fulfilling the tasks that God has created me to do?" But how often do I think of vocation in terms of accepting the demands of who I am called to be as a child of God? Both doing and being seem entirely relevant, important and inseparable in the discerning of vocation.

It's easy for me to want to view the meaning of my life through the lens of the question, "Am I in a place where I can actively pursue what I am called to do?" But this season of life is slowly teaching me to submit and surrender to learning the lessons of becoming who God has called me to be.

Certainly the journey of life brings us to places of duty where we never would have chosen, vocationally speaking, to serve. Oh, for grace to say with the Psalmist in these moments, "I would rather be a doorkeeper in Your house, God, than to live my whole life somewhere else!" And in those days where I find myself only a doorkeeper, may I be taught to say, as a servant to a master, "My vocation is obedience and joy."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

For the Love of Boyhood and Bobcats

In enjoyment of the wonderful weather that has befallen us, I came home from work today and quickly left the house to enjoy the last moments of the day's sunshine. As I headed down the hill behind the house, I ran into Caleb and his friend Daniel who were coming up from the fields. The ax, pocket knives, hockey stick, metal rod, raisin rations and binoculars immediately betrayed their recent pursuit of adventure. As they sighted me they began to excitedly relay an escapade which involved intricate traipsing through the fields and woods in search of a bobcat den. We have had some bobcat sightings on the farm recently, and Daniel and Caleb were convinced that they had found the big cat's home.

"It's behind the pond where our old hideout used to be. We saw prints. This big!" Caleb and Daniel held out their hands for extra effect.

"Were you scared?" I asked.

"Well, we did run away when we found it," they sheepishly admitted.

"Is it safe?" I wondered, forever a girl.

"Well," Caleb quickly replied, "not for girls like Rebecca. But for me and Daniel, with our weapons and everything, well, we would have been just fine."

Now that's reassuring!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Autumn Is a Wonderful Invitation

I am so glad that God thought to create seasons. I am so very glad that God thought to let me live in a place where I could experience the fullness of all four seasons. I am so especially glad that God thought to design the crispest of air to follow the summer's humidity and to make trees that display continual change.

Of all the seasons, autumn is the most hospitable. It holds out a great invitation to richness and beckons, to all who take the time to pause, "Welcome to life."

The rich green pre-autumnal colors are alive in the Hudson Valley and will soon subside to crown the glorious year with the fullest spectrum of colors. The lands of Bentley look particularly beautiful these days. This season has made the model house take on a very distinguished look. The official open house is at the end of this month.

Monday, September 17, 2007

An Old Hymn

While reading Catherine Marshall's Christy as a family this evening, we found mention of a hymn that we had not previously encountered: "Oh For a Faith That Will Not Shrink." We found the lyrics to be quite meaningful. We located the piano music on iTunes and quickly learned to sing what will soon become a favorite family hymn.

Oh, for a faith that will not shrink
Tho' pressed by many a foe;
That will not tremble on the brink
Of poverty or woe;

That will not murmur nor complain
Beneath the chast'ning rod,
But in the hour of grief or pain
Can lean upon its God;

A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage without;
That, when in danger, knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt;

That bears unmoved the world's dread frown
Nor heeds its scornful smile;
That sin's wild ocean cannot drown
Nor Satan's arts beguile;

A faith that keeps the narrow way
Till life's last spark is fled
And with a pure and heavenly ray
Lights up the dying bed.

Lord give us such a faith as this;
And then, whate'er may come,
We'll taste e'en now the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.

Men on Stilts

The taping crew arrived today to make the sheetrock puzzle pieces fit together into a unified wall. I think it would be fun if I could teach with stilts like these men get to wear. I might actually be able to reach the top of the whiteboard!

Receiving the Word With Joy

One of the biggest encouragements in my life recently has been reading through Brother Andrew's book God's Smuggler. What a life Brother Andrew witnessed to embracing the call of discipleship as he brought the gospel and scriptures to the Christians behind the Iron Curtain! What wondrous works of God he has beheld along the path of obedience! Recorded account after account gives testimony to the power of a living God, active and alive in this world today. I have been struck, particularly, by how so many Christians behind the Iron Curtain greatly rejoiced simply to receive the scriptures. It seems so contrasted to a time where the Church in the West struggles to even make time for the scriptures. The following passage is worth recounting. It gives an account of Brother Andrew's visit to the Bulgarian people in 1957, a time when there was not even a Bible in every Bulgarian church.

In Brother Andrew's words:
Petroff sat down and I waited for the hymn, then realized that of course singing was impossible in this church underground. I spoke for perhaps twenty minutes, then nodded to Petroff. He jumped up and, with a flourish, unwrapped the package he had brought with him and held up... a Bible!

There were exclamations that threatened to be too loud before those assembled caught themselves and put hands to mouths. Then there were great bear hugs from the men and warm foreheads-on-the-shoulder form the women, before they passed the Book from one hand to another, tenderly opening it and closing it again.

Generations on the Farm

I received a friendly letter from Cousin Randy today, complete with an article written for young teachers and a classic picture of my dad's family dating from 1961. Our family always delights in seeing Cousin Randy at the annual Fourth of July gathering, and so it was particularly fun that the photo that he sent was of the Fourth of July picnic (which was held, at the time, on the farmhouse lawn).

I especially love how content Grandma Angell seems in the picture. My grandma passed away when I was four years old, but I have such distinct and love-filled memories of being with her. Many of the years that I knew her she suffered from the pain of cancer, and so seeing her love of the moment in the picture below was very special.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Hearth Fires Are Burning

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed

- John Greenleaf Whittier

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Apple Pie and Ice Cream

Friend Gary, whom Uncle Mark used to work with in a group home, loves to visit whenever Uncle Mark is around Bentley Farm. Gary has a wonderful gift of enthusiasm, especially for food. He calls our family about once every other week and his question of choice is usually, "What did you have for dinner last night?" It's usually hard for me to remember, but Gary always remembers what he ate. He also loves to put in special orders when he comes to visit Bentley.

Tonight's menu turned out to be identical to his last visit's order - steak, potatoes, salad, apple pie and ice cream! It is so fun to observe how Gary savors each and every moment of the meal, and with such delight! (Gary couldn't stay too long last night, because he had to make it home to watch the Red Sox play the Yankees. Caleb was getting a little nervous because Gary was routing for the wrong team!)

Got Dust

We do! The dry wall team is working overtime today to finish the inside walls of Grandma's apartment - quite a process! Meanwhile Dad is perfecting his shingling abilities and Uncle Mark is on the ladder support crew!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gratitude for Connections

I love connections. My soul discovers deep satisfaction in finding that the past has managed to weave its way, once again, into the present moment. I am so grateful for the opportunity to still be best of friends with the girls that I met when I was three and six years old. I find no scenery more beautiful than the hill where Dad used to sit and read to me from the King James Bible when I was a baby. I love that the home where I ran around with my "I love Vermont" t-shirt at age one, is still the homestead where my family lives today. I value connections and memories so much that I could even listen to Alan Jackson's Remember When ten times a day.

I cherish and relish these and many other connections so deeply. Somehow connections give extra meaning to life, they remind me that life is not just a collection of randomly polymerized circumstances, but an interwoven piece of God's handiwork.

Today, I loved opening the newest issue of Quaker Life to find an article written by Howard Macy, my affectionately adopted Oregon father. What a treat it is to hear the laughing voice of the man whom I worked for as a teaching assistant throughout my stay at George Fox University, come through the tiny words on the page of the magazine! I think back on the days when I was the one to take the handwritten notes on a yellow tablet and type them up so that Quaker Life could have an electronic copy. My eyes see the black words on a white page on the magazine in front of me, but my mind can only imagine scribble on yellow. I am thankful to attach a name, a classic voice, a smiling face and a life to Howard's words of wisdom, "To see and celebrate God's sustaining goodness in the whole fabric of our lives can bring us perspective, calm and great gladness."

What an inspiring choice of words: calm, great gladness and celebration of God's sustaining goodness! All the result of recognizing the weave in the "fabric of our lives." How blessed we are for connections!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

O Lord, Our Strength and Confidence

O Lord, our strength and confidence
Our eyes are unto Thee
Thou art the rock of our defense
Our song of victory
Thou who dost still the violence
Of any raging sea

Thou at the flood didst sit as King
What are our floods to Thee
To whom it is a little thing
To walk upon the sea
We wait to hail Thee conquering
King of eternity

Only, O Lord our God, we pray
Teach us to do Thy will
Through windy hours and flying spray
Thy purposes fulfill
Until the word of yesterday
Thou speakest - "Peace be still." - Amy Carmichael

The Pictures Way Up in the Sky

I have only taught five of the one hundred and eighty days of this school year, but I still relished every second of today's holiday. The day was perfect, complete with sunshine, crisp air and fanciful fluffy pictures painted across the sky.

In fitting with the season, we picked all of the ripe garden tomatoes and fresh basil to make a sauce that simmered all day on the stove. The cooking pot of garden produce left a lingering and delicious scent that is still detectable throughout the house.

Uncle Mark, Becca, Hannah and I took a picnic lunch to the Schwangunks and hiked up to Peterskill Falls. We spent a lot of time simply sitting on the rocks and watching the water gently fall to the next ridge below.

The remainder of the day afforded some time for quiet reflection and journalling in the sunlit fields behind our home. I was accompanied by a dump truck and excavator that brought load upon load of dirt from the back fields in toward the model house. In the midst of all of the change, I find myself enjoying, more and more, the scenery of the sky. Thank goodness that the sky cannot be excavated!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How's That For an Entrance?

The dry wall for Grandma's addition arrived today in style. The delivery of the dry wall was controlled to the perfect centimeter. The upstairs dry wall installment was transferred through the upper loft window. Fascinating!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good Thoughts for The Day

Our hearts are full today as we remember those who lost love ones in the terrorist attacks six years ago. What could lead our fellow men into such acts of hatred which wrought so much havoc into the lives of innocent people? How should Christians respond to such an outrage when we are called by our Lord to love our enemies and not to war against flesh and blood but against the very powers and centers of spiritual darkness? The following exerpt, taken from a February 2005 article in Christianity Today, records an interview with Brother Andrew about his book Light Force. Brother Andrew provides food for prayer and thought on these issues. He was very influential in bringing the gospel to the USSR during the days of the Cold War. He wrote of his experiences in the classic book, God's Smuggler - a meaningful read for many in our family. In recent years, Brother Andrew has lived in the Middle East and sought to witness the love of God to the Muslim people. These experiences set the stage for his writings as recorded in Light Force. - Sarah

Why did you write Light Force?

We, as Christians, are the only ones in the world that, on the basis of the Book, can offer everybody in the world a reason for living. If that reason for living is not there, do not blame [Muslims] to find a reason for dying, because that's the only alternative—living or dying. We want to dive right into the very center of the conflict. That's why we go to those groups.
The second step is to introduce the church there—a weak church, a diminishing church—to the subject. They can reach out to the Muslims, but they were never taught to do that. Now they're scared to do it. We want to help them overcome their fear and reach out to the Muslims. So our ministry is to the church so that through the church the Muslims will be reached....

What about your contacts with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah?

Hamas I contacted direct when they were deported to the mountains in Lebanon, December '92. And we made not only contact; we made friendships with them. And that continued by me visiting their families at their request. We gave them Scriptures and we prayed for them. We witnessed and made pictures. We went back to the mountains, gave the pictures to the sons, to the fathers, and then when it came to the close of their time, I invited them to have a meal with me. When they came back, it was still not in liberty. They were still under city arrest, and they were still unemployed. They couldn't go anywhere, but they came, and I invited them for a meal. That's why I got to know hundreds of them. And out of that contact came the invitation to lecture at a local university on the subject, "What is Real Christianity?"

So it goes on and on. It is a never-ending story. I call it friendship because it's a form of friendship evangelism. How can they ever love my Savior if they cannot first love me? I have to get close to them. And the easiest, quickest way to get close to anybody is [to help] a person in need. So, that's what I do.

And what do you think the results have been so far in building relationships and shedding some light in their lives?

I don't know. God keeps the book of the results. We do not talk about converts. The only question I can ask, which I also asked after Communism, is, "What would it be like if we had not done that?" I know that we in the West, Americans particularly, are always impressed by numbers and statistics. Once I visited the Christian Peacemaking Team in Hebron. This is a group that originates in America with the peace churches—great people, very, very great people. One time they said, "Andrew, how many Hamas have you led to Christ?" I said, "No one." They said, "Oh, hallelujah, because every letter we get from America asks, 'How many Muslims have you led to Christ?' And now we can say, 'Well, even Brother Andrew didn't do it.'" It was very comforting for them. We're not in the numbers game. We're in the influence game. And the strength of the church, anywhere, can never be measured in terms of numbers and statistics, but only in the influence it has in society.

On the other hand, people who naturally have a right to be suspicious of these groups, because of what they've done, might question whether they are just inviting you in for their own purposes.
They don't invite me. I go gatecrashing all the time. Evangelism, by nature, always has to be aggressive. We have deviated from that whole concept of Acts 1:8, and we've reversed the roles and say, "Well, they've got to invite us." No way. Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers.

Where do peacemakers go?

Where there's a war.

That's aggressiveness. That is taking risks. That's meeting the enemy, looking into his eyes.
The focus of my question was not whether they're inviting you but whether some people might think that some of these folks are using you for their own purposes.

Oh, absolutely. But there are also people who take this question one step farther. They say, "Andrew, you are wrong, because you make friends with Israel's enemies." To which I reply, "This is the greatest service I can do to Israel, to turn their enemies around." This is a definite attempt to turn them around. Because once they become brothers, they're not enemies anymore. And I have talked with so many of them. But I want to be neutral. I have not chosen for this or that side. I don't want to touch on the political because then you run into controversies where people say, "I have my right," or "No, I have my right." [I want to say,] "Jesus Christ has a right to both of you. Let's talk about Jesus." The Muslims want to talk about Jesus, definitely.
[One guy] came back with a stack of papers, a Trans World Radio correspondence course on the life of Jesus that he had done. At nighttime they listen and they write the lessons, then send them in. They're studying the life of Jesus because Islam does not and can never satisfy. It doesn't satisfy any Muslim. There's no forgiveness, no love, no eternal life. And they want to go to heaven. Everybody wants to go to heaven. But we live now in a time when Islam has been radicalized. And they now [think they] know the way to heaven—die in the jihad.

That's why I've been predicting that America will get another dose of terrorism, violence, because Muslims want to go to heaven. And we don't show them the way to heaven. Why don't we do that? That's the only way. They have no reason for living, for they found a reason for dying.

They want a messiah; they expect a messiah. But the Messiah has holes in his hands and he came riding on a donkey, not in a cockpit of an F-16. And they want to see that Messiah. So when we are vulnerable enough to go to them, and this being the only weapon, the Word of God, they accept us and see our message as the alternative, which, deep in their hearts, they fear. Don't you think that mother cries when the son blows himself up? Of course she does. They have the same feelings we have....

They see no way out. And we, with our Western attitude, force more and more into that extreme corner. We've got to get them out. Start a dialogue, visit them, exchange books. We need a new breed of missionaries to not only understand the issue but who are humble enough as followers of Christ to go without shoes, without a purse, go there, identify with them in their dire need, and say, "I am Jesus to you. I love you. I want to be your friend." Then you will find them hospitable and open.

So we need a new approach with the same message.
(The article can be read in full here.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Our Weakness, His Strength

There are some small moments of time that, in remembrance, capture a whole season of life's journey. One such moment, a distinctly remembered piece of our family life together, I have been reminded of in recent days.

The year was 1990. I was six years old and the setting was the gathering room of the Bulls Head Oswego Quaker Meeting House where a potluck was being shared to celebrate one of the biggest answers to prayer that we have ever encountered as a family: our brother Luke, after being born three months early at two-and-a-half pounds was finally brought home from the hospital. He had ridden a rollercoaster between life and death for several months and his arrival home was truly miraculous. Mom, especially, was aware of the limitations of her own humanness; she had cried out to God again and again for the life of her son and found no guarentee except that God was faithful. It was truly the moment of her conversion. The gathering room was full of people whom our family wanted to thank for their tremendous support in the little things - the stack of chopped wood we had found in our basement during the cold winter, the food that had been cooked and delivered to our home. Our hearts were filled with thankfulness.

Dad and Mom decided that they wanted to thank the meeting by way of testimony, by sharing their thankfulness to a God who is always faithful. After Mom and Dad spoke of their gratitude to God's presence in time of great trial, the family (six in number at the time) sang a short song by Steven Curtis Chapman with the ever poignant lines, "His strength is perfect, when our strength is gone."

As a child of six, I remember being surprised by the tears that began to flow among those gathered as six people simply admitted the strength of God as the only source of sustenance in a time of weakness. However many times I had heard Dad speak in meeting and share God's heart for His people, this was the moment that, as a child, I saw the message understood on the faces of those assembled.

We all long to know a God who is not too big or too important to stand as Comforter and Strengthener in the midst of affliction. And yet I recognize in myself that the testimony that I least want to offer is that of my weakness. I don't want to see the end of myself and my sufficiency.

But remembering these moments of the past remind me that it is in weakness that God's strength is made perfect. It is when our hearts are wrung dry as the tears flow down our faces, that we finally have room to soak in the Strength that is entirely not our own. It is the witness of this Strength that others long to see made visible in our lives. Oh, let me not be afraid of the trial of affliction, so long as Your strength is made perfect! - Sarah Angell

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength,
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me;
No great success to show, No glory on my own,
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know . . .

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone;
He'll carry us when we can't carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong;
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.

We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes;
His strength in us begins
Where ours comes to an end.
He hears our humble cry and proves again. . .

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone;
He'll carry us when we can't carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong;
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect. (Steven C. Chapman)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Hands on Construction

Uncle Mark arrived this week with a Winnebago full of Grandma's furniture. Mark is a worker of intense composition and has boosted the morale of the hands that have been laboring on the construction for months.

Nate's friend, Zack, also came by to offer his help yesterday. Nathaniel met Zack at the Dutchess County Fair several years ago and he is currently working on a two-year degree in landscaping. It's always inspirational to see Zack because he engages life with such zest despite the fact that he cannot hear or speak. Communication surely takes place in silence, and Zack is talented at communicating with his hands and motions in a surprisingly clear manner. Zack helped Nate with some landscaping around the farm and spent a bit of time riding around on the tractor, mowing the grass that continues to grow as if it were still the middle of summer.

Grocery Shopping Vignettes

In a big family the grocery store definitely constitutes ground for dividing and conquering. As grateful as we are for food and the resources to buy it, the task of finding the necessary items, putting them in a cart, unloading them from the cart, putting them back in the cart, unloading them from the cart again and finally placing them on a shelf back home tends to be no one's favorite chore. As with all tasks in a large family, the working motto is, "Many hands make light work." Grocery shopping is not an exception.

Ever since I was twelve, Mom decided to approach grocery shopping like a skilled gamesman playing Risk. She scoped out the store with the cheapest prices and then organized all the items that we would ever buy into columns by aisle. The fancy thing about her list was that it could always be cut right down the middle (corresponding to the position that was half-way through the store). When the list was torn, Mom took half and the "other hands making light work" took the other half. Mom's theory was that we would leave the grocery store in half the original amount of time.

As the oldest, I was the first one in the family to be handed the "other half of the list." When I was twelve, Rebecca was a baby and my mothering tendencies were in full swing. When handed my half of the list, I would dutifully take the cart, my baby sister Rebecca and start finding the items on the "other half of the list." I can only imagine now what the scene must have looked like - my pinky came in and out of Becca's mouth as she fussed and needed to suck. Among many other things, I piled eleven half-gallons of milk (it was cheaper to buy the half-gallons than the full gallons!) into the cart, five boxes of "sugar free" cereal, several pounds of butter, huge bags of pretzels, ten cans of orange juice concentrate, and a big twelve pack toilet paper. And in the midst of my heavily quantified buying, I distinctly remember the conversations with the strangers who would ask me how old my daughter was! The post-grocery store conversations must surely have included, "Guess what I saw at the store? A twelve-year old girl, pushing a baby in a cart, buying eleven half-gallons of milk!"

(The funny thing was that when I went off to college and for the first time started to buy my own groceries, I had no conception of buying for one person. Somehow the ten pound bag of flour still ended up in my cart, along with enough cereal for an entire family!)

Time has passed since the inception of the tear-able shopping list. And today, at the dinner table, we heard report that the youngest in the family, Caleb, is the newest inducted recipient of the "other half of the list."

Caleb, now ten years old, rose to the occasion and bought half of the groceries while Mom completed her side of the store. No new baby to push in the cart, he was given a cell phone instead. Caleb reported that heading down the aisle, talking to Luke on the cell phone and picking up groceries went relatively smoothly. That was, according to him. Caleb, however, reported a man walking up to him and saying, "My, my, son, what a show you are putting on!"

I can only imagine his dinnertime conversation!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

But You, Follow Me

How easy it is to identify with Peter, the fisherman disciple. What a person of true humanity! He asks Jesus during the transfiguration if he should build Him a shelter. He finds himself rebuked by the Master when he tells Him not to suffer and die. He asks Jesus what exactly his reward will be for having forsaken all to follow Him. He asks the Lord how many times he has to forgive. He walks on the water and finds himself sinking. He sleeps during the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. He promises to be faithful to the Lord unto death only to listen to a cock crow three times to remind him of his denial.

However many times I have related to Peter's tendency to talk when listening was in proper order, I have found myself most recently identifying with Peter in his conversation with the Risen Lord. After Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, and promises him a life of submission to suffering, ultimately to crucifixion, Peter sees the disciple, John, and asks the Lord, "What shall this man do?"

The Lord responds with perfect insight, "What is that to you? You follow Me."

How many times have I received the calling of circumstances from the hand of the Lord only to stand in Peter’s place and wonder why my calling isn’t that of another? How easy it is to find the gift in another’s calling and somehow hope that another’s calling could be my own.

It is my heart that must receive these words of Christ, “What is that to you? You follow Me.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Sum of the Matter

School is back in full swing and my quantitative side is fully engaged again. I have less time to write, but my thoughts are not as quiet as my pen. As I have been recalculating chemistry sums, I have found myself reflective on the way that God's calculations do not sum like mine. When I survey life and the challenges brought by faith, and in my natural mind sum all of the pieces together, the outcome of my calculations always comes back the same: impossible. An unsurmountable wall often seems to divide what, by faith I behold as best and right, and what by sight I see.

I found a card in my pile of notes that I love and it reminded me that my calculations are not all that there is to life. I so often relate to the girl in the picture, as she reaches for the top of that unsurmountable wall. But as Max Lucado so aptly says, "Impossible is one of God's favorite words." How thankful I am to trust the God of the impossible. When the sum of all of my calculations is "impossible" I am thankful for the most comforting reminder that, with God, all things are possible.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hitting the Interstates

I like to say that my taxes go to four places - the National Park Service, libraries, the National Science Foundation and the Transportation Department. I suppose this is quite a selfish view of taxation, but these are certainly my favorite governmental services - or at least they are the ones that I enjoy most directly. One of my new dreams is to go to a different National Park each summer, I enjoyed libraries immensely in my less busy days and NSF funded my graduate school education. But it seems that, of late, it is the upkeep of the Eisenhower Interstate System that is the most useful function of my taxation.

Mom and I spent the day on the road, travelling with our cousin Katherine to Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. Katherine is finishing her senior year at the Academy, following in the footsteps of our Uncle Jeff. I have never seen a high school campus that rivals the impressive New England architecture and design of Phillips Exeter. We wish Katherine a very successful senior year on this beautiful campus!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

It Would Have Been Enough

As far as investments go, memories rank at the top of my list. I think that memories are one of the most valuable investments to make – especially for children. I am so thankful for the rich memories that I have from childhood and it is particularly fun to say as an adult, “Remember when…” Siblings and parents make these memories rich with meaning, and I love sharing memories today with people that I experienced the memory with from long ago. When I visit Isaac in Ithaca it is not uncommon for him to begin reminiscing and asking, “Sarah, do you remember when we used to sleep in the same room and have pillow fights?” or “Sarah, do you remember making alligator milk?” Of course I always remember and remembering makes me content on the inside.

Recently I have thought often upon a song that Mom used to dance to in the kitchen as it played from the tape player of the old boombox. The song was sung by a Jewish woman and continually repeated the word, “Dahyenu.” In Hebrew, “dahyenu” means, “It would have been enough for us.” What an incredible word! I only wish English had a counterpart because I think that I would say it very often.

Anyhow, the song that I remember mom dancing to is apparently sung traditionally at a Jewish Seder and is translated in English to say:

Had He brought us out of Egypt and not judged them,

It would have been enough for us.
It would have been enough for us.
Had He judged them and not done so to their idols,
It would have been enough for us.
It would have been enough for us.

How many things have been given to me that I can so freely say, “It would have been enough?” But God always gives more, always gives in abundance and always in fullness.

It would have been enough if I was only a dream in the mind of God, but I was created. It would have been enough if I was created and given the breath of life and allowed the opportunity to walk for a couple of generations on this earth, but I was given relationships. It would have been enough if I was given a loving father, mother, siblings and friends, but I was given the gift of relationship with God Himself. It would have been enough if Christ had died and allowed me to enter into relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins, but Christ called me His friend. Dahyenu!