Wednesday, June 26, 2013

If you've forgotten and your two halves are coming apart and what bees have to do with it all

We’re here just going about our business when Jeff, our pest control guy, comes in during his quarterly maintenance visit and says, “I think you’d better come out here.”

 It’s a statement that strikes dread in the heart of anyone who’s been through as many pest control storms as we have involving a million ants and nearly as many other kinds of critters. Jeff is like a member of the family having guided us safely through these troubled waters.

We followed him to the side of the house and he pointed. “Looks like you have bees in your walls.” I followed his finger to honey bees cueing up to slide through a small gap between the brick and the siding.

“We can’t kill bees. You’re going to have to hire an extractor.”

We understood, having read that bees, essential to agriculture, are in decline, so we wanted to do the right thing.

Let me dispel the idea that an extractor does the work in exchange for bees. No one does that. You have to HIRE an extractor.

We did a little research and located an expert, Rodney, who after his inspection, determined we had around 25,000 bees that'd made their way into the boxing of our house.


A lot of bees.

It took all one morning, but we are now bee free, and Rodney has a queen for a new hive at his place one county over.

Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Someone else has said we should thank the bees for one-third of our diet.  

We buy produce, eat, and enjoy. We delight in the beauty of a garden.

And we either don’t know or we forget that we owe the bounty to an invertebrate animal with a winged segmented hairy body, which sucks nectar and gathers pollen.

We don’t remember that every spring they’re buzzing around out there preparing our next meal.

Entomologist May Berenbaum states, “Pollinators are what ecologists call keystone species. You know how an arch has a keystone. It's the one stone that keeps the two halves of the arch together. [...] If you remove the keystone, the whole arch collapses.”

Bees are a keystone species in the physical realm.

All this got me thinking that in the spiritual realm, there’s only One who can keep our halves together, who can keep us from collapsing.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26).

Jesus became the bread of life for us. And sometimes we forget the cost.

We forget the Via Dolorosa and the crown of thorns and the pierced side. We forget the cross and lose touch with His work on our behalf.

So much more than the bees give us food for our physical bodies, He came to give us life in our souls, and without Him, we implode. Even though we didn't deserve it, He came for us.

So, God, increase our thankful remembrances for all you’ve done through Jesus.

The undulating buzz of bees in the house has diminished now, but the hum of God’s spirit faithfully continues.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

If you’re running out of gas on the way to your 25th wedding anniversary

We did.


The gas gauge on our car has been broken for some time. Because the vehicle has 225,000 miles on it, we didn’t see the wisdom in spending money repairing it since we hoped to buy another car in the not too distant future.

But when we fill the gas tank, we make sure we reset the trip meter for the mileage we anticipate and then refill when the numbers roll over to that mark.

My husband Jerry and I observe twenty-five years of marriage this month. We hope to take a short trip to celebrate later in the summer, but we did want to observe the day, especially since some wonderful folks gave us a gift card to a nice restaurant.

So, on the evening of our anniversary, we get in the car for the short ten-minute ride to the restaurant.

About the time we reach the YMCA—sputter, sputter, sputter.

Jerry pulls in the parking lot—sputter, sputter, sput…

The car dies just as we roll into a parking space.

I’m no mechanic, but I’ve heard that sound before. I’m having flashbacks of almost running out of gas in the remote Delaware Water Gap a few years back. At least we’re only a few miles from home. I could walk if I had to. Hated to ruin my metallic sandals though.

Jerry tries to crank the car. The engine won’t turn. “Must have forgotten to reset the trip meter.”

We called our son to come help us.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking of how I might find humor in the situation. It’s hot, and perspiration runs down my back. My formerly crisp white linen pants are starting to wilt, just like me.

“Happy Anniversary,” Jerry said pitifully.

I surveyed the empty YMCA parking lot. “I wish I could see something funny about this.”

I called a friend who seems to be able to find a laugh in any circumstance, and told her about our dilemma. She didn’t think it was that humorous either, but since she was closer to us geographically than my son was, she offered to bring us gas.

In a short while, my friend pulls up, her son rolls down the window on the passenger side, and hands us a gas can. He has three cooked sweet potatoes on a plate in his lap. I have no idea why. She has one of my books in her hand as she hops out. “Can you sign this?”

As I sign the book, Jerry pours the gas in, just as my son, who was already on his way pulls up.

He’s trying to keep his composure as he points to a nearby practice field. “Mom, if you had a blanket, you could just spread it over there and have a picnic.” He grins.

I tried to see spending my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary on the soccer fields at the YMCA. I couldn’t. But I hadn’t imagined I’d spend it in the parking lot either.

With the gas in, the car cranks, and everybody goes their way.

Our wait at the restaurant was much shorter than we anticipated, and we ran into precious friends from out of town that we would’ve missed had we been earlier.

The anniversary didn’t go as planned, but it will be memorable--like our marriage. Like everyone’s marriage. It never goes as planned. There are joys and heartaches and triumphs and tragedies and bliss and disappointments and health and sickness and so much more that we never see when starting out.

Sometimes we run out of gas around year seven or thirteen or twenty-one. We look at each other and think we’ve said all we have to say, we’re so over the snoring, and what were we thinking anyway?

How will we ever make it to ten, or fifteen, much less twenty-five?

So, here are a few tips on how we did it.

1.       Pray together every night. It’s nearly impossible to go to bed mad or with things undone if you know you’re going to have to pray together.

2.       Have adventures. It doesn’t have to be a world cruise. Always on a tight budget, we’ve had to get creative, but we’ve tried to have little adventures even if it’s just eating lunch in an unique restaurant with a half price coupon.

3.       Revisit memorable places. Holding on to the threads, which have been part of the weft and warp of our lives, gives us a sense of continuity.

4.       Read old love letters. Helps us remember why we fell in love and enables us to recapture the magic of those days.

5.       Cling to Jesus. At a low point in a marriage, amidst heartache and tragedy, or when everything about the relationships seems to be going south, sometimes, we just need to hold on to Jesus. Because if we are faithful to Jesus, we will be faithful to all others. And for very sure, Jesus will be faithful to us.

We’re looking forward to the next twenty-five years, but keeping a close watch on the trip meter, though.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

If you need to know how powerful it is

One summer, which doesn’t seem too many years ago, our family took off for Toronto, Canada by car via several stops including Niagara Falls.

These children are in college now, but God is still teaching through our experiences on that trip.

The Niagara River runs north twenty-three miles from Lake Erie to Niagara Falls and then moves on another thirteen miles to Lake Ontario. The Falls themselves transcend any idyllic picture postcard depiction, because it was not so much how Niagara Falls looked that moved me, but how the waterfall made me feel.

It felt like unrelenting, unending explosions of power.

We drove beyond the falls, and witnessed the escalating force of the Cascade rapids. The rapids churned the water towards the precipice of the falls, a mighty torrent of six million cubic feet of water plummeting over the falls every second.

Yet the power of Niagara is miniscule compared to the power of God.

As I stood at the rail looking out over the falls, the water misting my face, I gained a greater understanding of how big, how mighty, and how powerful God is.

Yesterday, I read again in Brennen Manning’s Abba’s Child,  “Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves. Being the beloved is our identity.” Understanding the quality of God’s love for us makes a difference every moment of our lives.
But the questions assualt us--will his love hold? Will it last?

At one time in my life, if you’d asked me if the sense I had at Niagara Falls had anything to do with intimacy with God, with His love for us, I might have said no—that the power, the might, the thunder are other dimensions of God which don’t inform His intimacy. But I would’ve been wrong.

Power and might have everything to do with God’s love, because his love is not fragile, but awesomely strong. His love is strong enough to endure, to last, to hold with a tenacity we can’t begin to imagine and yet tender and gentle at the same time.

Manning again: “Suppose for a moment that in a flash of insight you discovered that all your motives for ministry were essentially egocentric, or suppose that last night you got drunk and committed adultery, or suppose that you failed to respond to a cry for help and the person committed suicide. What would you do?

“Would guilt, self-condemnation, and self-hatred consume you, or would you jump into the water and swim a hundred yards at breakneck speed toward Jesus? ...would you let Jesus be who He is—a Savior of boundless compassion and infinite patience…?”

The sense I had of the immensity of God’s power at Niagara translates to the immensity of God’s love.  
A wise tentmaker said it well, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

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