Never Alone

Never Alone

The prophet Elijah was kind of bummed out. It had been a rough stretch. Sermons not going over well, people out to get him, powerful folks trying to do him in. A royally ticked off queen named Jezebel determined to kill him. (Not a really unusual reaction from a pagan ruler when you’ve totally embarrassed her in a public showdown and then celebrated by executing a few hundred of her pagan prophets.)

So, Elijah skedaddles to the wilderness. It was just him against the whole world. Woe is thee, woe is thee…

In First Kings Chapter Nineteen, he laments to God: “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Sometimes doing God’s work can feel pretty lonely. It’s easy for us, in the tunnel vision of self-centered discouragement, to feel like we’re on our own. We’re not and neither was Elijah.

Basically God tells him to suck it up and get back to work. Other tasks left to do, you know. And, God lets him in on a little secret, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal…”

There are always more faithful followers of The Divine than we are aware. People who love truth, who seek justice, and show compassion. People who share the same ideals, the same vision, the same pursuit of righteousness and peace. They’re out there; God knows where.

And, at the right time, God will send one of them to us. Or send us to one of them. At just the exact moment when we truly need and maybe least expect it. One or twenty or a hundred of them will show up and get us through whatever we need to get through.

Who knows—other than Jehovah? Today might be the day that you meet up with your Elisha!

And besides, as long as we are seeking and serving the Almighty, we are never alone.

H. Arnett
5/20/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A Good Visit in the Middle of May, 2020

At the end of a four-day visit from our daughter,
we sit on the deck on a Lord’s Day morning,
feeling the forming of this good Sunday.

Following a week of mostly rain and clouds,
we enjoy the lifting of the shroud of heaven:
sunlight filters through the high branches
of an eighty-year-old oak tree
while an intermittent northeast breeze
shimmers chills along the lines of my face.

It has been nearly thirty years
since we have had this much time with Christy—
days with no schedule,
no particular demands of any particular thing
that had to be done at any particular time.

She and Randa have gone for walks,
we have talked for hours,
watched movies,
and spent a little time together
out at the Cowley Lake Waterfall
and at Camp Horizon’s Inspiration Point,
skirting the edges of limestone ledges
along the fringe of the Flint Hills.

The view of miles of rolling fields,
the sandy bends of the Arkansas River,
and the murmuring sounds of gravity and water
may have not been all that we or our daughter needed,
but was certainly a call well heeded.

The sun rises higher and in the ebbing of the breeze
quickly warms whatever skin it can find.
We transition to that unwelcome ending of conversation,
leave the chairs sitting out on the deck.

I help Christy load her stuff into the SUV,
and we all hug our goodbyes.
She heads out on her five-hour drive,
a final wave to each other
caught beneath the branches of the Chinese elm,
sunlight and shadow filtering across the asphalt.

H. Arnett
5/18/20

Posted in Family, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , ,

Tub Time

I’m not sure what’s going on, folks, but it seems the older I get, the more I’m enjoying tub time. I suppose it’s possible that it’s a second childhood kind of a deal but to be honest, I’m not sure the first one ever really ended.

Whatever it is, even without a rubber ducky or a plastic Tuffy the Tugboat, I love soaking in the tub. Seems like the hot water just sort of eases both body and mind and even gives the spirit a little recuperating time.

At the end of this morning’s stint, I sat upright with my legs stretched out, feet against the opposite end of the tub, legs slightly bent, and popped the plug. Concentrating in a rare moment of mindfulness, I was aware of the warm water receding, exposing wet skin to cooler air. I knew the instant when a small spot on the back of my left calf first touched the bottom of the tub. Then the right calf. I felt the weight transfer as the water receded and my flesh began to bear its own weight. Finally, as the last bit of water drained out, all sense of relieving support was gone. Back to the reality of life, so to speak.

We have those times in our lives when we feel the full lifting of the Spirit, a calm but buoyant faith surrounding us. Hope resonates throughout every part of our awareness and being. We walk in complete assurance of God’s purpose and presence in our lives. Perhaps, then, there are the other times.

We feel the full weight of each step, the whole of our bodies driving down through one foot and then the other. We may even feel as though the stone is turned to sand beneath our feet. Maybe even turned to mire like the bottom of an old woods pond that hasn’t been dredged in eighty years. All the silt and half-rotted leaves offer almost no support and we sink in the slime up to our knees.

In those times, we might need to reconsider whether we’re walking where we are supposed to be walking. Perhaps we’re trying to force our way through the swamp when we should be waiting for God to show us a better path. Maybe we temporarily abandoned our walk of faith and substituted our own judgment for his guiding.

And, it’s also entirely possible that we may be at one of those times in our lives when God is up to something else. It could well be that he has placed us in a time of different experience. A time that will remind us that even when we may feel that we have drifted away from his presence and his leading, he is still guiding our steps, still shaping our souls, still preparing us for the eternal abode.

I am quite certain that God never intended that we spend more time soaking in the tub than we spend walking in his will.

H. Arnett
5/13/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Metaphysical Reflection, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , ,

On the Passing of David Miley

After all the months that seemed like years,
after all the tears that seemed like fire,
after all the dread and the long, long, tired days
of walking through the maze of cancer-ed life,

After driving back from Florida into the Twilight Zone,
the decade that we called “April of 2020,”
the meetings after meetings after meetings,
working in some sort of hazy drifting,
a constant shifting between fear and anger
and the growing sense
of “What the hell are people thinking?”

After all that time of living with knowing
about your father’s disease,
came that awful aching Mother’s Day morning
when the true nature of all that had been forming
inside his body suddenly came to light
in the harsh bright of the ER department.

In only a few hours then,
he was gone.

Gone the strong hands that worked
for as long as you can remember.
Gone the hands that held children and grandchildren.
Gone the smile and the sad ache in the eyes
that sometimes belied the reassuring,
“Oh, I’m okay.”

In the coming hours and days and weeks,
months and years,
there will come those times of tears and weeping,
the sudden pangs of missing him
and wishing he could have seen this,
all the things that he will miss.

But hopefully, too,
will come some sense of knowing
that he is now beyond all aches and pains,
beyond all grinding agony and helpless loss,
held by the hands that once shaped wood
and raised up houses where none had stood,
hands that healed sinners and comforted the broken,
that brought forth Lazarus from the tomb,
and will—on that One Great Day—
bring your father back to you.

H. Arnett
5/11/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Death & Dying, Family, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Last Morning in April

I love the way early morning sun
tilts its low-angled slant across the lawn.

The way the slender shoots of tender grass
just sprouted a week ago—
the way the fragile yellow blooms
of a scraggly rose bush
set near the corner of the house—
the way the billowing pale blue swirls of iris
set along the weathered boards of the neighbor’s fence—
catch the light.

The way coffee steams and curls into the still air,
the quiet calm of unhurried dawning,
the soft, unspoken hope
of this new day.

H. Arnett
4/30/20

Posted in Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

End of a Dry April

The mud that was the yard a month ago
has cracked into crosshatch seams
wide enough for a man’s finger to fit
in the ground in the lawn south of the house.

To look at just the dirt this early in the season
before Bermuda and crabgrass have started to grow
gives reason to think April looks more like August.
That takes a very narrow focus, though.

The opening buds of iris blooms
and the rich green of fescue in the neighbor’s yard,
and the three nights in a row near or below freezing
just a few days ago, make it hard to think this is summer.

No, it’s just been an unusually dry April, I reckon.
And the National Weather Service is reckoning
that we’ll likely have some heavy rains today
right here in south central Kansas.

The colors shifting our way on the radar map
and the way the rumbling thunder
rattles the windows in the house
make me suspect they may be right.

Although the showers and thunderstorms
will bring a hiatus to my siding-the-house project,
they will definitely help the scraggly little blueberry bush
I just reset in a dry corner of the yard.

God has a way of bringing to each day
and each season
a reminder of the ways and reasons
that patient faith is often rewarded.

And though our plans seem sometimes thwarted,
and we don’t finish on schedule everything we started,
we may find from time to time as life still flowers
that a Better Plan was formed in a Greater Mind than ours.

H. Arnett
4/22/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Gardening, Metaphysical Reflection, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Visiting Dorothy During the Plague of 2020

On a sunny Lord’s Day afternoon
at the time of year when irises bloom
and the bright lavender of redbuds
has barely begun to fade in the fringe of the woods,

we stood outside her window at the hospital,
and tried our best to hear her words—
sometimes clear and strong
and sometimes fading into a long murmur,

a sort of mumbling through the screen,
thoughts barely said out loud,
crowded out by the whirring drone
of the huge AC unit fifty feet away.

She said she’d lost twenty-five pounds
in the two or three weeks she’d been there.
She didn’t say but I couldn’t help but think
that she didn’t have that much weight to spare.

But even though she seemed weak,
even though the lines of nearly ninety years
have etched deeply into the soft skin of her face,
and even though she bruises now with the slightest touch

There is still something of strength,
still something of that domineering pioneer spirit,
and that plain-spoken stubbornness,
sometimes tempered with a soft chuckle.

Something more in her eyes than in her voice
speaks of choices made long ago,
a road not always chosen but always traveled,
decades of doing what had to be done,

lying down at night long after the sun,
rising again and again,
working in the relentless winds of the plains,
enduring the pains of storms and troubles,

yet always knowing that He Who Has Made Us
has always kept his word,
always supplied for each day what was needed for the day,
and will welcome her into eternal rest

if she ever decides
she doesn’t want to be in Kansas anymore.

H. Arnett
4/20/20

Posted in Aging, Christian Devotions, Death & Dying, Family, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , ,

What Lives Within

Several years ago, I read or heard someone say something like “There’s nothing like a crisis to build character.” I thought about that, quite a bit, as I observed or listened to reports from areas hit by flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake and other instances of general mayhem.

My conclusion is that crises don’t build character nearly as much as they reveal it. The true inner person comes out in such situations. Compassion, criticism, selfishness, arrogance, humility, determination, consideration. All of those traits—and many others—may suddenly be put on display but those attributes were already present. The ones we nourish (or indulge) during a crisis or disaster or calamity will be made stronger. And be even more ready to be revealed in the next one.

During this time, we’ve seen our own values made more obvious. We realize what matters to us, what we’re willing to do to help safeguard the health and safety of others. Or what risks we’re willing to take and expect others to make. We come to see what sacrifices we’re willing to make and for what reasons. We find out about our own priorities and concerns and realize that sometimes those may conflict with one another.

We want to help protect our elderly relatives and friends—but we also want to be able to pay the mortgage. We want to do our part to minimize the risk of spreading disease—but we also want to have food to eat. We want to support those we love and those we don’t even know—but we also worry about the eventual economic fallout from prolonged sequestering.

Times like this assault our emotions, put our convictions to the test, and tempt us to superficially judge other people. We may find ourselves contemplating responses and reactions that contradict who we believed we were.

We have to have something that guards our minds and our hearts from the things that could eventually destroy them. Something that lets us shed the strains and stresses of the things that want to make us something other than what we truly desire to be. Something that steers us clear of spiritual, emotional, and mental danger.

Something like a conscience. Something like a healthy way of looking at the world. Something—or rather someone—like the Spirit of God living within us.

If we will trust, be quiet and listen for a while, and reflect on what Jesus spoke and taught, I believe we will find ourselves living as we ought to live. Walking in love, showing mercy, and remembering that God works for our good in all situations. Even this one.

H. Arnett
4/17/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , ,

More Than Good Looks

The plan was to scrape off the loose paint and repaint our small, ranch-style house. There’s a lot of loose paint on this old house which meant it would take a lot of scraping. But after I started the scraping, I realized the wide planks of western cedar siding are in worse shape than I first realized. In fact, they’re in worse shape than I second and third realized!

Many of the boards are cracked and split and several of them are badly cupped as well. That’s a shame, too. These boards are a full inch thick and twelve inches wide. Cut and milled back in the middle of the previous century. They would have still been in good shape, if they’d been kept painted. They weren’t, they aren’t, and they’re not going to be.

Some things get beyond reasonable repair and they have to be replaced. Ten years ago, fifteen years ago, a new coat of paint would have kept the wood protected from the sun, moisture and mildew that eventually grew back up underneath the loosening edge.

It will be a lot of work, tearing off the old siding and installing new. A lot of work.

But it will make the house look new and that’s not altogether insignificant. Another thing the new siding will do, and this ultimately is more important; it will keep the exterior sheathing and the frame from rotting. Keep the walls sound and the insides dry, even during the driving storm and the pounding rain.

I’m pretty sure that keeping a life safe and sound is both better and easier than trying to rebuild one.

H. Arnett
4/16/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Metaphysical Reflection, Remodeling/Construction, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , ,

Soft Flowers & Hard Frosts

I felt rather foolish, but I was getting a little desperate.

Just last year, in mid-summer, I set an apple tree in our back yard. Not the best time for setting trees and such, but I got a great deal on the tree. That’s how that works, you know: the lower the odds of survival, the lower the price. Buy great-looking healthy stock early in the season when it’s virtually guaranteed to thrive, pay top dollar. Later on, in the blistering heat of July when several weeks of drought are likely, you can get a really scraggly, blighted and wilted specimen for one-fourth of original price.

So naturally, that’s what I did with my purchase of the little Honeycrisp apple tree. Surprisingly enough, it sprouted leaves and bloomed this spring. Cool. Even cooler was the predicted low Sunday night: twenty-eight degrees. “Danggitt! Another late Arctic blast and it’s going to kill the blooms and buds!”

Not having any trash cans that are eight feet tall that I could upend over the tree, I searched through the barely wrinkled recesses of my brain for some idea that might protect the little clusters of fruit-promising blooms.

What I came up with was plastic bags. At first, I thought I’d put little Ziploc sandwich bags over each bloom cluster. That was interesting, what with the wind gusting to forty miles-an-hour and what have you. But the neighbor’s high board fence offered a little protection. At least to the lower five feet of the tree. While I was covering each set of pink flowers with the happy little blossom mittens, (actually they were “Glad bags”), it occurred to me that I could use kitchen trash bags and cover the whole load-bearing end of each branch.

So, I did that. Another happy little surprise, which once again made me glad, was that the bags stayed on the branches all Sunday night. In spite of the wind gusting to forty miles-an-hour and what have you. So, I did it again last night. And will do it again tonight. And tomorrow night…

I’m hoping that this will be the last spell of nights below freezing until late next fall. Even better, early next winter.

I don’t know if I’ll end up with edible apples a few months from now or not. But I do know that if I didn’t do something now to protect the blooms and branches, there’ll be no chance of a happy little harvest later on. Kind of like raising kids, surviving a pandemic, and such as that.

H. Arnett
4/14/20

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Gardening, Humor, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , ,