The Transitory Nature of a Moment

When was the last time that you shared a moment with someone and you knew, this is our goodbye? Did you take a pause to honor that situation or that person, why or why not? Do you have any lingering regrets?

Recently, I’ve begun meditating on the transitory nature of moments – how they pass away so quietly and we often don’t recognize in that brief span of time that it is the final time. We assign no goodbyes to mark the occasion. They just slip away quietly, relegated to the recesses of our memories. As a friend recently mentioned to me, one day was the last day you went outside to play with the neighborhood kids. Or, as I thought, when is the last time that a child requests a hug or a kiss, or a wave goodbye? When is the last time we see a certain place, or a group of friends or colleagues? I suspect that while some of these moments, a job transition, a death, moving away, all have a definitive end, far more fall into that other category, just silently fading away.

One day, without realizing it, there will be a final blog post, and this site here will be shut down, the domain and upgrades not renewed, and the articles and musings will disappear. Today isn’t that day, but, the reality is that it’s coming, someday. Goodbyes are inevitable. I don’t know about you but since I can’t undo those moments, those relationships, that weren’t honored with a proper goodbye, it makes me all the more eager to live in a state of awareness of the present, to cherish each moment, each person that enters my life (however briefly) and to try not to cling too tightly, for who knows when that passing moment will be the last?

If you could go back, would you hold that child just a smidgen tighter, longer? Would you savor that meal that much more? Linger a few more moments with that friend, before rushing off home or to your next engagement? Hold their hand a while longer? Embrace every moment, my anonymous readers, and take care.

In Search of Freedom

Happy belated Fourth of July, or, as I like to say to my friends across the pond, “Happy Insurrection Day!”. If you’re an American and celebrated the holiday this weekend, I hope that you had a great time of fellowship, food, fun, and fireworks.

Fireworks are always something I’m a bit leery of — I worry that the loud BANG! will frighten the pets. My own cat seemed to do just fine, but he was definitely sticking to dark, quiet, cave-like spaces…so perhaps it bothered him more than he let on. There was a community fireworks display, which we weren’t sure if it was going to go on as planned or not (apparently so). For our part, we picked up some not-so-loud, kid-friendly fireworks at a tent in a neighboring county and brought them out to be enjoyed by family we went visiting this weekend.

Fireworks have really evolved. They still have the smoke bombs I grew up with, but now there are also smoke sticks, that accomplish the same thing and burn longer. Snappers are still around, but so are firecrackers, that you light and throw and a loud POP! follows. Sparklers are no longer just wands, but they glow neon or change colors. And I still manage to burn my fingers attempting to keep a lighter lit long enough for the fuse to catch….instead of just using any of the number of provided pumps instead (haha).

Did you have a favorite firecracker growing up? Mine, either are no longer made, or just weren’t available at the highway stop that we tried. I think my personal favorite was one I nicknamed the “Japanese Lantern” — a beautiful disc that spun around, once lit, with sparks, and it exploded into an accordion of paper that you could hang up, and for lack of a better term, they looked like a delicate rice paper lantern, that you could hold suspended in the air, or string up and admire from a distance. Whatever your favorite, if you think back far enough, there’s probably a fond memory too.

Some of the firecrackers brought to this year’s celebration. I’ve no idea what that large bulb-looking one does.

As we drove home, I reflected on the glaring absence of any patriotic hymns, sung either at church earlier that day, or amongst family and friends. When did it become out of fashion to celebrate being an American? I hardly know. In small-towns, or in the heart of Trump country (sometimes, the same thing!), you might still find tiny flags lining driveways and large signs thanking our troops and veterans, or a Main Street parade with hay-strewn floats, tractors, and fire engines. Is it polarizing to be patriotic these days, maybe? Or maybe a better question, should outward signs of celebrating the holiday be a fair judge to begin with? Perhaps not, but that’s where I find my mind drifting.

Missouri skews largely Republican in the majority of the state, and predominantly Democrat in the two major cities, so, these party lines are keenly felt the the more rural you get, as there’s a shift. This may differ in your own area, and I don’t mean to imply that patriotism is strictly Republican, but, small-town America, in the rural parts, seems to be where you’re most likely to encounter these homey holiday touches that feel like they’re quietly vanishing. By the time my nieces and nephews are fully grown, and have children of their own, will their children be celebrating the Fourth of July in the same way I did at their age? Will there even be a free America to celebrate?

John Locke once said that “Liberty is not license”, and he goes on to speak that this license doesn’t permit us to destroy ourselves, but to seek a nobler purpose than just preservation for its own sake.

Jim Caviezel, who notably portrayed Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, cautioned in one of his speeches, “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom exists not to do what you like, but having the right to do what you ought.”

St. Paul, in the book of Galatians, wrote, “For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:13-15).

These are just a few ready quotes that come to mind as I’m mulling over the nature of freedom, in this case, to love and serve our neighbor. It’s not unreasonable to make the observation that you turn on the news and a lot of it seems to be the “biting and devouring” that St. Paul cautions the Galatians against. We are being consumed by one another, and our Nation with us. We have lost the noblest origins of our country’s founding, and it’s questionable whether we’ll ever see it again. These somber reflections leave me this year with a bigger question that I’m not sure how to begin to answer: is our nation’s freedom still worth celebrating?

Dulcimer

I have a story to tell you that is just beginning, of God’s faithfulness. Would you like to hear? If so, read on.

I started writing at a pretty young age and while I appreciate it, I have always admired people who could draw art or play an instrument. I tried a few different ones growing up and none really stuckā€¦piano, didgeridoo, flute.

When I was 10, 12, 13 (somewhere around there), I became aware of a television show set in the Appalachian Mountains about the English and Scotch-Irish who settled that region, and became fascinated by their musical history. As I grew older, I fell in love with folklore and especially, early American folk ballads.

Among them, I was especially drawn to the fiddle and to the mountain dulcimer. Now, growing up, my father had a fiddle we never played, but a year or so ago, I walked into a music shop to get it tuned and tried playing for the first time.

What I quickly discovered is that self-instruction can sometimes result in bad practices of fiddle playing that can be hard to break later, so I abandoned the attempt (for now). But, I have still been curious about the dulcimer, even though I’ve never tried it.

For a little while now, I have felt drawn to getting a mountain dulcimer. I don’t know why at this point in my life I decided to start pursuing it. I wasn’t even sure what they cost. After some research, I had a better idea of what a low-end dulcimer goes for around here.

A while back, I went dulcimer shopping. I experienced what I can only describe as “shopper paralysis” as there were so many options, but with none of them did I feel a stirring in my heart for, and I was horribly disappointed. I left empty handed.

I now had a better idea mentally of what I sensed I wanted. Realistically, it was never going to fit into my budget. I already had a conversation with God that if He wanted me to take this leap and get a dulcimer, He was going to have to work with what I could afford.

It wasn’t until I was woken up in the middle of the night by the devil whispering lies about God’s lack of provision that I started wondering if maybe I should’ve settled and bought a random dulcimer that didn’t fit my list, when I had had the chance. What if I missed out?

I went looking online to see if any of the ones I’d seen were still available, and that’s when I saw it; a dulcimer that I felt God said to my heart, “This is the one I prepared for you.” It was beautiful. It hit some (but not all) of my checklist, and it was the only one there.

Without going into all of the details, getting there to this particular music shop ended up being a challenge and I felt as if God was saying, “If you want this, you need to go today. This is the way.” I ended up walking 4km, up and down two hills, from the nearest transit stop, passing streets named after saints, and a wooden heart someone had nailed to a tree. When I got to the music store, not only was this particular dulcimer still available, but, the website description left off details.

Each of the things on my list, including the ones I thought didn’t make the cut, were all there after all, as if God Himself had seen my checklist and said, “Anything else?” And who am I to argue? And to top it off, the dulcimer and the accessories came a few dollars shy of the price point I’d given God to “work with”. If I’d bought a pair of strings, it probably would’ve rounded up to exactly that. No joke. It seems like God wanted me to own a dulcimer. So, I bought it and took it home.

Now, the very first weekend I had the dulcimer, I was looking forward to sitting down and trying to learn how to play. On the way home from work that day, I was thinking about how much I loved God, and singing or humming to myself songs about God and praying for people, and, I missed a raised slab of sidewalk, and went crashing, hard, and breaking the fall with my hands.

My palms looked like they’d been through a cheese grater. Mercifully, I was able to get home, unlock the house, and shut the door before the shock caught up with me and my brain registered the pain. I’ll spare you the rest of the details but, there was no way with my bleeding, stinging hands that I was going to be playing anytime soon. I didn’t even have gauze in the house to bandage them properly. It was just going to have to wait.

While I was thanking God for not being more seriously hurt, and for making it home safely, I felt His nudge again that I should practice playing my dulcimer, now, bleeding hands and all. So I found myself strumming and trying to read TAB (tablature) for “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, which turned into “Amazing Grace”, and while my palms were freshly opened and bleeding, my fingers were able to press the frets and hold a pick.

It was kind of around that time I realized, maybe I need to start documenting this journey with this dulcimer because, it seems significant, maybe even prophetic, to not only be facing a mild form of suffering but being called to praise God in the middle of it all, which made me wonder, what exactly does God have in store for this little dulcimer in my broken hands?

Thank You

Recently, a few people have been contacting me about this blog, and expressing a desire to pray more, or speaking of finding enjoyment or encouragement from these notes. You’ve no idea how blessed I am to hear from you all. Thank you. Comments are always open on my blog posts — if it’s your first time commenting, there is an approval process, which means I basically just scan the comment to make sure it isn’t inappropriate by most community website standards, and it gets approved.

This is a small community but one I am grateful for, and if anything I’ve written is helpful, or that you have questions about, or that might be applicable to your own experience, I’d love to hear about it. So, please consider leaving a comment sometime, and let’s grow closer to Christ, together. Thank you again!

Is It Worth Dying For?

The world is changing so rapidly, it’s quite steals your breath away at times, doesn’t it?

Hey, it’s Lauren. It’s been about two months since my last post. February was a blur of writing-related activity, catching up on new queries and client-related tasks, and then came March and we all know how the sociological landscape has changed in a month. And then March lasted for what felt like, years, and we’re finally, blessedly, in April and quickly approaching the end of Lent and the start of the Easter season.

This has been a peculiar Lent, a time of a spiritual desert. For many of us, our churches are live-streaming services, if not shut entirely. The Bible studies, youth groups, men/women’s meetings are cancelled, and for us Catholics, a priest that is willing to dispense any of the sacraments in person has become scarce. Grocery shopping yesterday, fear and control were evident everywhere I went. Perhaps you’ve told yourself that it’s worth this sacrifice, for a little while, to protect our families, and our neighbors from the prowling beast that we can neither see or hear or smell, but we are told it’s here, and it’s sniffing at our doors, and looking to prey upon the weak, or the unlucky. You already know its name.

Photo from Pexels.

And I go online and there’s such squabbling right now, angry, fearful people asking, “is it worth dying for?” This is one person’s question, being critical of a parent choosing to take their child to an empty playground when both are healthy. Or someone getting the evil eye for purchasing new flowers and mulch, “non-essential” purchases, perhaps, but the stores are still open and maybe, just maybe, it’s the little bit of beauty they need to keep going for another day, and not lose their sanity. I could name other stories I’ve seen, but you get (I hope) where I’m going with this.

There’s a lot of fear right now. Fear for oneself. Fear for one’s family. Fear of death. And some folks are looking at their spending habits differently now, and asking themselves, “If I get exposed to the virus while out shopping, is this worth risking my life over? Is this worth dying for?” I think that’s an interesting question, and I’ll get back to it, but first, a story.

If you’ve had any extra free time lately, like me, chances are high that maybe you’ve been revisiting some old hobbies of yours. I’ve been crocheting, writing, reading, cooking (yes, really!), and we’ve pulled out some board games and a deck of cards. I think it was around the time that I was attempting to build a card pyramid that my husband realized that I might be bored. He claims it was earlier, when I was playing solitaire with physical cards… but when these new Windows models don’t come with solitaire and minesweeper pre-installed, of course you have to resort to physical cards! When I’m not sketching, and I’ve been doing a bit of that as well.

I started sketching when I was a child, and for whatever reason, dropped it and didn’t pick it up again until a few months ago, but one of the earliest sketches I can recall doing (sadly, now lost) was of the French saint, Joan of Arc. Although I am not French by birth, I have always had a fondness for St. Joan of Arc. I remember one year borrowing a biography of her from my grandmother, one of the many dusty books in that corner of their house, and it had a highly detailed drawings of her, the kind of ancient book that has a rice-paper thin page over the drawing to protect it. You know what I mean, probably, although I’ve momentarily forgotten the technical term. But, one lazy afternoon, I attempted to do a drawing of her. I ended up tracing the outline, and drew in all of the details myself.

Was it just out of laziness and boredom, or why that figure specifically? Well, the thing of it is, I chose her as a drawing subject, because I admired her for being a young person so totally devoted to God and country, that she would willingly sacrifice her own life to accomplish His mission for France. That kind of patriotism and radical faith is inspiring to me, even today, but sadly lacking I think. St. Joan’s story is not dissimilar from the biblical story of King David, both confronting their Goliaths. Even though her story ended in martyrdom and his in kingship, they both received their crowns — David’s during his lifetime, Joan’s after death.

Which brings me back to my earlier question: “Is it worth dying for?”

In both of these stories, we see that God will use people of any age, if they are willing to be radically led by him to break the conventions of the day and be led by Him alone. But what does that look like today? Maybe it ends up being a quiet life of obedience to God, or maybe you could be on the battlefield, like Joan and David. If either sounds like a life you want, begin today to open your hearts to hear His voice, and don’t harden your heart. In the end, we all die anyway. Don’t fear death, fear the Lord who is master over death. He’s worth living and dying for!

May the Lord bless your families and keep you safe, and as we enter Passion Week, may you draw closer to Him still, uniting your suffering with Him, and trust in God alone.