Monday, August 18, 2014

Checking off the bucket list

The house we now live in had been a vacation home when we purchased it and the purchase price included all of its furnishings including sheets, towels, blankets, pillows, dishes, kitchen equipment, bedroom furniture, couches, tvs and multiple toys to be used on a lake, including the boat.  We also inherited several bicycles in the deal for varying ages and genders.   We pulled the mom and dad bikes out this spring and have been enjoying them greatly.  

Last summer when we were settling in my husband and I made a bucket list of things we wanted to do and see now that we were living back here again, and one of the things on the list was to ride the Elroy-Sparta bike trail.  This trail was opened in 1967 as the first rails to trails program using abandoned railroads as bike trails.  The trail has been around almost as long as I have been, yet all the while growing up I never once rode on it, even though it started (or ended, depending where you rode it) in practically my back yard.  

All the years we made summer trips to visit family we said to each other, "one of these visits we have to ride the bike trail."  Yet, like so many things in life we talked about doing it but never did it.

Isn't it funny how God gets someone to do something they have been saying they want to do?

I got three days off in a row last week and we made it a priority to ride the bike trail.  We had gotten our bikes checked out by a local bike shop, new tires for Tim's and some gear adjustments for mine.  Tim had bought us both new bike seats earlier this summer to make riding a little more comfortable on our behinds and we were ready to roll.

We left our house just before 8am for the 30 minute ride to Elroy.  The cost to ride the trail for the day is four dollars but the trail office wasn't open when we got there so we got on the trail anyway with plans to get our tickets at our first stop six miles ahead in Kendall.

And we're ready to roll!

It was a beautiful day, a little on the chilly side as we started out and our first stop was at the official marker at the start of our ride.

The scenery was lovely, the trail was quiet, taking us past farms and cows and fields of wildflowers.  

 My new bike basket, carried my camera perfectly!
We stopped often to stretch our legs and get a drink and take pictures along the way.

Even though the complete trail is 32 miles we had no intention of riding that far in one day.  Our goal was to make it to the first tunnel, nine miles from our start, having to stop in Kendall to get our trail pass.  It was a nice even ride with no hills.  Once we got to Kendall we got our passes and looked around the railroad museum.

Then we were off to the first tunnel just three miles from Kendall.  We were feeling full of ourselves for sure.

 The unique feature of the Elroy-Sparta trail is the three tunnels that are part of the experience.  Two of the tunnels are 1/4  mile long and the other is 3/4 mile long.  But the funny thing about riding a trail to a tunnel is that the tunnel was made to get the train through a hill.  So our nice flat ride turned into a slow steady incline, climbing three miles before reaching the first tunnel.  It was not a hot day, thank you Lord, and we were glad to finally see the start of the tunnel come into view!

 You can see the "light at the end of the tunnel" behind me.  We left our bikes on the side of the trail and walked the 1/4 mile length and back.

When we came back to our bikes we visited with a family who started the trail about midway through and were heading back to their campground.  We began our nine mile journey back to our start and were grateful for the downhill ride coming back.  

After putting our bikes in the truck we found a cafe across the street and had a nice lunch to end our journey.  

It took us about four hours to ride the nine miles twice with stops for pictures and butt relief.  We thoroughly enjoyed the ride and have plans to do another portion in the future.  If you are ever looking for something to do I highly recommend this trail.  You can rent bikes for all sizes and trailers for the little ones too.

Have a blessed week!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I missed it while I was laughing

I've been reading the internet feeds on the death of Robin Williams, just like most of you have I would guess.  It's so interesting to me how one person, one event, one disease, one disorder can polarize two people almost immediately.

From those who have suffered depression or mental illness to those who have tried to help those suffering to those who have been a recipient of someone suffering depression and/or suicide, everyone is so certain of their take on the topic from their view, I wonder, does anyone really want to understand the other's point of view?

I'm really wondering that today.

It doesn't have to be depression, suicide, mental illness in general, or addiction.  No matter the topic, politics, religion, parenting, divorce, you name it, there's so much talking going on but not a lot of listening.

Has it always been this way?

When I was a kid there wasn't too much talking about much these big topics.  There was a lot of suffering in silence.  We didn't talk about problems.  My parents didn't talk about their  problems and their parents certainly did not talk about problems.  But now, everyone is talking and no one, it seems to me anyway, is really listening.

And here I am, typing away, lending my cheap seats view too.


So many words.

Just bouncing and bouncing and bouncing and bouncing.

I feel responsible for Robin's death.  This is why:  Because I laughed when he was really crying inside while making me laugh.  I didn't know him personally, but I wonder now, did he ever wish we would stop laughing at him and see the pain he was really suffering?  I've read that he was the kindest man, that he would introduce himself to everyone who ever worked with him or around him.  He would take the time to find out about their families, their jobs and, from what I've read, found a way to connect with each person he met, even the gorilla.

But did any of us laughing at him ever take the time to find out about the side of Robin he didn't let anyone see?

Sure he was a talented, creative, imaginative guy.  But clearly, he was in deep, deep pain.

Maybe we thought because he was so rich he could buy his way out of pain or he shouldn't have so much pain, but obviously, in the end his money and fame didn't end it for him.

So I'm wondering now, not pointing fingers, just wondering, who is hurting around me, that I see everyday who feels they cannot share with me their pain or their fears or their suffering?  Who feels they always have to give me the fake side rather than the real side?

The thing about depression is, words don't always help.  Like "cheer up" or "things could be worse" don't really do the trick for someone who is on the brink of giving up completely.

I heard a woman on TV today say that she has never felt such darkness and felt so alone as when she was contemplating suicide.  Is that how Robin felt?

When it's so dark and so lonely for someone, and they are surrounded by so many words and tools and still they feel these deep and dark thoughts, where can they go?  Can they come to us and say without reservation, "I need help."  And if they do have the strength or courage to come to us will we brush it off with a pat answer or will we stop everything to walk them through the darkness?

Who of us is willing to stop talking (stop writing) and just start sitting with someone in their darkness?

Are you?  Am I?

It could be any of us suffering in silence and we could be judged for how we handle or don't handle our successes and failures and money and marriage.  Yet, are we willing to do or be what it takes for those who are suffering so close to the edge to be the light they can't see and the company they can't find?

Just wondering out loud, using words that have probably been said in a hundred different ways by people smarter than me.

In a few days, this will be old news.  We'll see his name mentioned at the end of the year on the roll call of "celebrities lost", but I don't think I will ever be able to watch one of his movies again without wondering about the pain he was hiding even then.

I missed it while I was laughing.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

In darkness God's truth shines most clear

I remember reading Corrie Ten Boom's book, "The Hiding Place."  I remember reading about when she and her sister Betsie were in the concentration camp Ravensbruck during the Holocaust when six million Jews were exterminated and another five million also were killed, and there were women all around her, of all Christian backgrounds, yet, in that dark place they could worship the Savior all of them knew.

"They were services like no others," she writes, "these times in Barracks 28.  A single meeting might include a recital of the Magnificat in Latin by a group of Roman Catholics, a whispered hymn by some Lutherans, and a sotto-voce chant by Eastern Orthodox women.  With each moment the crowd around us would swell, packing the nearby platforms, hanging over edges, until the high structures groaned and swayed.
     "At last either Betsie or I would open the Bible.  Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text we would translate aloud in German.  And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, back into Dutch.  They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb.  I would think of Haarlem, each substantial church set behind its wrought-iron fence and its barrier or doctrine.  And I would know again that in darkness God's truth shines most clear."

I can hardly look at the pictures of the refugees in the mid-east.  My heart aches for those forced out of their homes by terrorists, rockets, hatred and revenge.  The stories of execution and murder because one does not profess one religion over another is baffling to me.  Simply baffling.

Because they are Christians or whatever label that is hated, they die.

Yet here in the United States we live.  We go to our denominational churches, singing music in our denominational flavor, in our denominational orders of service and worship, yet we have no fear of anyone forcing us to give up our beliefs, practices, traditions and our homes or die.


I wonder, if, or when, such a day may or may not come, will they look at us western Christians who call ourselves by such added names as Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterians, Orthodox, or Catholic, will they even care that we are of the Southern end, the Missouri side or the Reformed?  We will not die because of the name in front of our Christian name.  We will die because of Christ.

Doctrines matter and doctrines divide.  But only one doctrine, only one name is what is causing death in the mid-east and Africa and other parts of the world.

Not Wesley, not Luther, not Calvin, not the Pope.


He's the threat.

If you carry His name above all other names, you are the same threat.

I get the reasons for taking stands on certain doctrines of faith and practice.  I get it.  Each of us, led by the Holy Spirit moving us when we understand something with clarity and certainty is something I am well acquainted with.  I ginosko what it's like when God leads us to take a stand and not move.  We gotta do what God leads us to do.

But, and this is a big but,

Christians, all flavors of Christians, are being murdered or forced out of their homes and villages.  There is no checkpoint for denomination or doctrinal stance.  All types of Christians are being targeted.


If terrorists consider any flavor of Christian a Christian and equally deserving of death, than why do we western Christians not see other believers not of our flavor or doctrine with the same eyes?  The name of Jesus is the target.  If you claim the name of Jesus, you are the target, no matter what doctrines or stands you take.

Remember what I said, I GET the reasons for doctrinal divides, I really, really do BUT, will those divides really matter if or when the day of evil arrives again on our shores?

A Baptist doesn't get a Lutherans take on Communion or Baptism and draws the line.  A terrorist doesn't care.

A Lutheran sees the sola scripture, sola fide, sola gratis and draws the line.  A terrorist doesn't care.

You baptize babies and your non-denominational neighbor doesn't and both draw the line.  A terrorist doesn't care.

If collectively, in a terrorist's eyes Christians are seen as Christians no matter where they worship or what and how they practice, then why can't we see the same?  Is it really the doctrines that are dividing us or is it our own hollow hearts?  

Oh that God Almighty God would give His people this same spirit of oneness as Corrie and Betsie experienced, before darkness comes.  Let it not come after we've been banished from our homes with nowhere to go, but let it come among us now, sweeping not only into our Sunday mornings but also our Tuesday afternoons and Thursday evenings.  Let His Holy Spirit fill us each with a love for each other that knows no bounds, that is not hindered by doctrine or creed, but sees only the heart of the hurting.  The hearts Jesus knows, the hearts Jesus lavishes his grace on too.

With much love and

"And I would know again in darkness God's truth shines most clear."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When the Stones Were Dropped

Based on John 8 (some words added for effect, not literal translation).

The sun was peeking over the Mount, coloring the sky in shades of yellow, orange and red
He walked among the quiet stones and lifted up his head.
They gleamed and shimmered, reflecting quite a sight
But nothing to the glory that was hidden in broad daylight.

He saw her standing there, her hair mussed and tears falling down
upon her face that was once made up to hide her imprinted frown
She was standing there, between the men, shaking and trying not to run,
When He looked at her and saw right through the things that she had done.

The men surrounding her said, "what do you say about this woman who has broken our holy law?
"She should be stoned, she should be punished for not heeding to Yahweh's law.
"We caught her with a man with whom she was not wed.
What do you say, will you be the one to help us stone her until she's dead?"

He looked around and when he could not see the man to answer with her to this charge,
he knelt down and began to write, using his finger for a pen,
Not answering their questions of what should be done,

He kept writing, we don't know what, and when he was finished he stood tall,
"If any of you have not sinned, then please, I'll stand back against the wall.
You can pick up your stone, hold it tight in your hand, be sure to throw hard,"
then he stooped back down and wrote some more, and did not erase or discard.

The words continued to be penned and as he wrote they began to leave,
no words were spoken just the sounds of dusty feet refusing to believe,
the oldest to the youngest finally left and walked away
the questions slowly stopped, there would be no snapped trap today.

Only he and the woman were left,
she was still shaking and overwhelmed,
His voice was gentle as he spoke to her , "where are they who condemned you,
has no one picked up a stone?"

She shook her head and said, "no one sir," looking around to be sure,
His eyes pierced through to hers, his heart so full of concern,
Then neither do I condemn you, go now and leave this life of sin."
Did she stay, did she run, did she wander away basking in the great win?

What did he write that day on the ground, we will never know
Did he write the sins of the men who brought her there?
Their lies, deceit and lust
Or did he list the times they all used the girl to heed to their own disgust?

We may not know the words he wrote, but whatever he wrote was true,
He pierced the hearts of those who judged and those forgotten few
The young who watched the elders rage, were caught in the crossfires too
They saw their lives before them, empty and aimless to pursue.

The words spoke loudly, this much is true
What would they say if they were written about you?

Have you suffered, have you sinned, have you faced the traps of deceit
Do the stones get thrown at you for what you continue to repeat?
Do you find the stones held in your hand for those who sin worse then you
Or have you laid your stones down, for he has ransomed you too.

He told her, go now, leave your life of sin,
For it's not the way we win.
I'll be there to hold you, I'll be there to see you through
The life you thought you'd never leave, will let go of you.

I'll be the one to hold you when the fears of life surround,
just look to me to make a way from the earthly bounds.
Don't fret, don't fear, don't take another step
Feel my hand holding yours as I hold you safe...and kept.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Photo Albums of God

Where does he keep them, those memories lost
In the minds of bodies that still pump and shoot neurons to the muscles still working,
as the beautiful minds fade and forget, 
where do their memories go?

Does he have a storehouse in heaven with categories on file
of births and weddings and birthday parties and soft spoken smiles?

Does He pull them out and look at them like an old photograph book
Does He remember with a smile the day she first took Him at His word and stepped out in faith
To give her life to Him and walk and not glance back with a look?

How far away does the east keep them from the west to guard her mind from the past
But what about those memories of courage, trust, and faith and fun
Are they placed in His storehouse of life's moments that will forever last?

Does He have them filed by moments of triumph, moments of courage, moments of joy?
Will He remember them by the years of growth like the markings on a chart remembering 
our height as we stood up straight to get the tallest mark?

Where does He keep them, these memories lost and forgotten, each moment that mattered to Him or someone along our path?

When we're with Him, when we're Home, will we pore through the stories and laugh and smile and rejoice as we finally see Him beside us, through the things that did come to pass, through the days that weren't wasted?

Will the cloud of witnesses stand behind us then and chuckle and laugh and say, "I remember when."

"I remember watching you from above and cheering you on as the dreams you had made fell to the majesty of His dream for you.

"You couldn't see it then," they might say, "but we knew His plan was good, see that smile on His face there, you didn't know it then in your tears, but He knew you were right where you needed to be."

The memories of the pain can never be washed entirely away, for the days of joy were made in the days of grief and heartache, of disappointment, rage, and fear.

They are all a part of the story that got us here today.

What could be changed, wouldn't be changed, for the story has to be told, of the miracles that are your life, too many to be left untold.

When the mind gets tired and the memories fade, they only get filed away 
for the moment when we all go home, oh what a glorious day.

To see the things that mattered much more than what we could have ever thought, played out in someone else's life we never could have wrought.

The albums will fly open, the laughs and chuckles too.
We'll see His face on every page, see there,
He's holding you!