By Cynthia Ruchti –
As I write this, I’m surrounded by the wonder of a warm autumn day, one that smells like toasted summer. The autumn light spotlights the bright colors of the autumn trees and autumn-crisped grasses, perfuming the autumn air with that mellow, smooth, ripe fragrance of cottonwood at its peak and rusty pine needles, of apples begging for picking and tomato plants giving up their last fruits of harvest.
By the time you read this, few places this far north will have leaves on the trees. The staccato dance of color and rustle will have given way to the rattle of bare boned branches against one another, brown against a gray November sky.
Autumn seems too short of a season, most years. And sometimes that’s my fault. I cheat it of its shelf life, because I know what’s coming–winter.
Winter–not my favorite time of year, living in this land of ice and cold, snow and blizzards, closed roads and colorlessness; unless you count white as a color.
Winter–the season that seems endless, its days short and bone-chilling.
Autumn, on the other hand, calls for sweatshirts and long hikes through the opening woods, for s’mores over the campfire and quilt cocoons, great sleeping weather with the windows open and the down comforters piled high, pumpkins and earthtone decorations and Thanksgiving and putting up the garden’s produce.
But I hesitate in autumn, never taking a full breath, because I know what the season right behind it will demand.
A cancer patient in remission might fail to take a full breath, knowing she’ll have another biopsy six months or a year from now. A parent of a pre-teen might miss some of the beauty because of a premature, imagined chill still years distant. A marriage might suffer from a similar syndrome: “We made it through that crisis, but there’s bound to be another one ahead”.
When God said through Solomon that there was a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3), I wonder if He also was telling us not to cheat the season we’re in. To plan for, but not pre-live, the crises of the next or opposite season.
“Don’t you be talking when it’s the season to be silent,” He might rephrase that instruction. “Don’t feel loss when it’s the season of gain. Don’t pre-worry about a season of death and miss the season of living.”
PRAYER: Father God, why should thoughts of an icy wind trouble me on a day like today when the sun is blindingly bright against the yellow leaves, the breeze merely cool, not cold? So fill my sense with this present moment that I don’t miss Your Presence in it!
“There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 CEB).
By Cynthia Ruchti –
Some of the home improvement shows on television invite neighbors and prospective home buyers to walk through a house both before and after a major remodel. On their first trip, they’re filmed saying things like, “This room is so dark.” “What is that smell?” “Eww. Disgusting kitchen.” “Is that mold on the windowsill?” “The décor looks like something from the 60s, and not in a retro way.”
Then the remodel team shows up with paintbrushes, carpenters, designers, and granite countertops. They knock out view-prohibiting walls, replace or reinvigorate scarred hardwood floors, patch holes, paint walls and woodwork, and install state-of-the-art appliances. A designer sweeps in to stage the house with appealing furniture and distinctive lighting.
A second open house welcomes the same group of people who originally had little positive to say about the home. This time through, they make comments that in essence communicate, “I love what you’ve done with the place!”
Fresh colors. Better traffic flow. Clean. Crisp. Welcoming.
I’ve been thinking about the remodel concept since landing on a verse of Scripture that hadn’t drawn my attention before, for some reason.
Psalm 41:3 reads, “The Lord will strengthen them when they are lying in bed, sick. You will completely transform the place where they lie ill” (CEB).
Completely transform. God can completely transform a sick room. I wonder what that would look like.
The stale air would be replaced with the sweet fragrance of His presence. And that transforms everything. He knocks down walls blocking our view of Him and of the hope-filled future. He sands away the scarred places, digs and scratches from our experience. He patches holes, lines the sick room with a fresh perspective, stronger colors, evidence of the courage He offers in abundance. He lights the room.
In His Hands, a sick room can be “completely transformed.” The illness may remain. The diagnosis may be unchanged. But the place where the sick lie can be so thoroughly revolutionized by God’s presence that the suffering one will rise on one elbow to say, “I love what You’ve done with the place.”
PRAYER: Father God, it has sometimes been me in that sick room. Forgive me for not always noticing what You did with the place. And for those I care about who are lying in bed, sick, right now, I pray Your presence would be so strongly evidenced that their pain and distress are transformed in Your light.”
“The Lord will strengthen them when they are lying in bed, sick. You will completely transform the place where they lie ill” (Psalm 41:3 CEB).
By Cynthia Ruchti –
I know I’m not the only one who could sit for hours staring off into the water. Big water. The Great Lakes. The Atlantic. The Pacific. The Gulf of Mexico…
Anytime a vacation or conference takes us near a wide expanse of water, I always feel we’re leaving the spot too soon, as if to walk away from the shore is an interruption of something vitally important.
I was born in a Pacific coast town, but moved inland with my mother just a few days later. Far inland. To the heart of the Midwest.
It’s not just the connection to my birthplace that draws me to the shore. It’s more than just liking water. It’s beyond a fascination with waves and tides.
Today, I think I figured out part of the pull. I reread a verse I’ve seen before, but landed on it this time as if spreading a beach blanket for a prolonged visit to the water’s edge.
Isaiah 51 expresses God’s promises about the endurance of His salvation. “Pay attention to me, my people; listen to me, my nation…My salvation is on its way, and my arm will judge the peoples. The coastlands hope for me; they wait for my judgment” (Isaiah 51:4-5 CEB).
Just a few verses before the passage that reminds us the earth will wear out like clothing, we’re given this beautiful picture of the shoreline itself longing for Christ’s coming. Whatever a theologian would say about it, I gained a deeper understanding of why I feel so at home near big water. The coastlines hope for Him. They long for His return. We share that in common.
The whisper of the waves as they kiss the shore says, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus.” Just like the pulse of my heart.
Romans 8 affirms that the whole of creation groans with a longing we usually attribute to humans awaiting their answer, their salvation.
The next time I’m given the opportunity to linger near the water’s edge, I’ll understand a little better why staring out across the vastness of the sea resonates with an inner “watching and waiting.”
PRAYER: Father God, I’m amazed every day that even after years of digging into Your Word, there’s still more, always more to learn, more to grab onto, more to explore. Thank You for the reminder that I’m not alone in the pulsing anticipation for the future You’ve prepared for those of us who love You and follow Your plan. Glorious expectation that surges like the waves of the sea.
“…creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children” (Romans 8:21 CEB).
By Cynthia Ruchti –
A coupon came in the mail today. A limited time offer. The problem was it hadn’t been delivered until after the offer expired. Big sale. Big, big sale. Yesterday.
The satellite TV offer looked good…until we read the fine print that revealed the discount was temporary and would bump up significantly after two months of the two-year contract.
The medication worked great. But the recommendation from the doctor, confirmed by the pharmacist, limited its use to no more than ten days. The ailment lasted far longer.
The limited warranty for the riding mower covered everything except the part that failed. Limited warranty sounds a little like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?
I’m bound by a 24-hour day, a seven-day week, by the limits of my artificial knee’s range of motion and by the boundaries of my checking account.
One of the church songs I remember from my youth rang out with this truth taken from the pages of Scripture:
His love has no limit.
His grace has no measure.
His power, no boundaries known unto men.
No limits. His love and grace carry no expiration dates. He’s not bound by the things that limit us.
Another truth has brought immeasurable comfort in recent days in light of horrifying headlines and personal tragedies and grief shared with friends who are slogging through unbearable crises.
His understanding has no limit. Even His understanding is infinite!
How often are we confronted with disappointing news? Or hear a tragic story? Or wonder what someone was thinking when they made an unwise decision (Notice how I avoided using the word dumb)?
When the heart cries out, “Lord, I don’t understand!” He answers, “But I do.”
He understands the hows and whys that sometimes cripple us. He understands the whens that we think have no end. He understands what is at the heart of our fears and addictions, our anger and pain, our knee-jerk responses and nonsensical grudges.
He gets it that we cry when we’re happy and laugh when we’re nervous. When no one else understands, He does.
It’s a truth we can count on. Where human understanding fails us, His is not threatened in the least. His understanding is unlimited, boundless, infinite.
PRAYER: Father God, how have I overlooked this wonder for so long? You can’t be befuddled or mystified. You never wonder. You KNOW! Thank You, Lord God, for always and unfailingly understanding me even when I don’t.
“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5 NIV).
By Cynthia Ruchti –
The message came through Facebook, as crisis messages often do these days. An urgent message. My son needed help.
So here I am, bringing ice packs for twenty minutes every hour. Keeping a cool washcloth on his forehead. Urging him to try some crackers so the medicine won’t upset his stomach. And listening to him snore a very manly snore.
My son is twenty-seven. I’m his mama, but the call came from the woman who loves him now. The one who had to go to work today. The one who cares so much that she didn’t want to leave him alone when he was in that much pain. So she called us, his parents. Dad took the first shift. I’m taking the second.
Yes, the chicken soup is on the stove, even though it’s more tradition than anything. I don’t remember chicken soup listed as a cure-all for torn tendons in the neck. It’s the thought that counts. And that delicious smell.
I’m praying for my son while he sleeps, even though he didn’t and wouldn’t ask. As I pray, I’m thanking God for the woman who loves him with a tenderhearted love and who reached out to make sure someone was here when she had to be gone.
I wonder if that’s how God feels when His people rally around those in trouble, the hurting, those sick to their stomachs with grief. I wonder if He says, “Bless you, dear one,” to those who care so much they’ll call in reinforcements rather than leave the hurting person alone to fend for himself or herself.
My son is temporarily broken. But it’s a deep comfort to know someone else loves him.
Our churches and neighborhoods are full of broken people. Can God count on us to love them? For whom are you making spiritual chicken soup today?
PRAYER: Lord God, our Healer and Sustainer, it’s an honor to care for the hurting in Your Name. When I get caught up in my own schedules, my own routines, my own problems, yank my chain, Lord. Jerk me back into consciousness of those all around me who need someone to sit with them for a while, listen to them, or to love the ones they love no matter what’s going on in their lives.
“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:36 NIV).