The Easter season is rich with stories and images unique for each of us, according to our family traditions, cultural backgrounds and our spiritual journeys. That is why the freshly published anthology, Easter Stories & More, is a delight to read, because it is comprised of insights into Easter from many contributors.
When InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship put the call out for submissions from its members for their new anthology, I was eager to participate. They were asking for creative fiction from the viewpoint of those involved in the biblical Easter story. To imagine myself as one of those who witnessed the drama of the Passion week makes it come alive for me. I am honored to have two stories, Carry the Cross and The Innocent Man, included in the book, as well as a poem, Psalm of Mary Magdalene. I am in good company, because the book abounds with a variety of stories, devotionals and poetry from the pens of gifted Canadian writers using their gifts to help you experience a more meaningful Easter.
I am eager to share this book with you, somewhat because of my personal involvement but don’t just take my word for it. Read a more erudite opinion from the foreword by Dr. David Guretzki.
What does this all have to do with the chapters set out before you in this book? Let me suggest that these pieces are a collective of Easter witnesses. The authors represent a wide range of backgrounds, ages, experiences and perspectives, and the genres in which they write include devotionals, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and even recipes. And yet each in their own creative and unique way are witnesses that expand the evidence for the reality of Easter.
David Guretzki, PhD
Executive Vice President and Resident Theologian, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Easter Stories & More is available now through these outlets, or from the authors. If you would like a copy for your library or to give as a gift, please let me know in the comments.
Winter is waiting on the doorstep with a foretaste of snow and clear, black nights in its breath. I can’t say I mind, for with it comes a sort of hibernation from the activity of fairer weather. Long evenings wrapped in the cocoon of a warm room with a cat on my lap and a book to ponder, I relish the repose of the winter season.
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven,” pens the writer of Ecclesiastes. (Ecc. 3:1 NKJV) Then he lists what he sees as the cyclical events of human life set forth in the providence of God. Birth and death, planting and uprooting, speaking and silence, war and peace; all have an appointed time according to God’s purposes. “And He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecc. 1:11)
If there is a season for everything and a time for every purpose, then my spiritual life has seasons as well. My relationship with God is shaped more like an ever-widening circle than a straight line. This infinite curve is never static; it undulates with the tides of growth and dormancy, mountaintop and valley, passion and complacency. I can not say I enjoy every spiritual season but I am beginning to understand that each one is useful and necessary, and that God has a purpose for it.
In my spiritual fall season I sense a need to prepare, to store up the things of God in my heart so I will be ready for whatever the future holds. As a farmer spends fall harvesting and storing his crops to prepare for winter, so God leads me to store up for myself treasures in heaven to strengthen me for the winters of my life. When I look back at difficulties I’ve experienced, I see that God always gave me a hunger to learn more and go deeper with Him in the time leading up to those difficulties. Fall can be cold and bleak but it does not need to be barren when God provides abundant harvest for the soul to store up.
The world appears inert in the deep cold of winter, when in fact it is dormant, in an inactive state in order to survive adverse environmental conditions. There is purpose in dormancy, even dormancy of the soul. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) If all I know when my heart is cold is that God is God, then that is enough. I remember when I was in such deep distress all I was able to hang onto was that one truth, God is. Those two words kept me from the abyss. There is life in spiritual dormancy, deeply hidden, inactive, yet life all the same. When God breathes warmth back into that miniscule spark of life, the ice of winter begins to thaw.
The words spring and hope go naturally together in my mind. When spring stirs and stretches, my spirit rejoices in the resurgence of life which speaks of hope and continuation. Spiritual hope projects all the way to eternity, not as a possibility but as a surety, an anchor of my soul because God’s promise in Jesus Christ is not a maybe thing. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23) The hope contained in the prospect of eternal life with Christ, perfected in His presence, fills me with joy and energy, like a spring lamb bouncing around a grassy field. That kind of hope removes fear of death, opening up the endless possibilities of heaven. Although it is not always so, it should be spring in my spirit all the time.
I live in a fruitful farming area where summer reveals fertile land bursting with crops of vegetables and grain. I never tire of seeing the abundance of provision growing on the land. A spiritual season of fruitfulness can contain many aspects, like varied rows of vegetables in a garden. There is the personal fruit of intimacy with God, the fruit of selfless labor and sacrifice, the fruit of encouraging others in their spiritual walk, the fruit of sharing the truths of God with those who don’t know Him and the fruit of prayers offered up for those you love, to name a few. Spiritual fruitfulness depends on staying connected to Jesus. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) I know I cannot be fruitful on my own, so sometimes my spiritual summer is short or yields little because I have drifted from the Vine.
Even when the spiritual season I am in is difficult I try to remember that God has a purpose for me being there, then I try to discover what that purpose is. The thing about spiritual seasons is that they always come around again, bringing more opportunities to discover the things God has made beautiful in His time.
An Indian princess opened the door for me. I found her waiting on a shelf between the faded red cloth covers of my first chapter book. She crouched behind a tree on page one, her black braids and fringed buckskin dress sketched above the opening paragraph. With a raised hand she pointed into the belly of the book so that is why I chose her.
My mother waited patiently while I drew down volume after volume from the shelves, knowing it had to be just the right one. This first trip to our local library marked my graduation from picture books to chapter books, a momentous event not to be hurried. Each cover needed to be judged on its appeal, each tome weighed in my small hands, pages thumbed through and illustrations perused. Then came the careful reading of the first few paragraphs, a slow process for a novice chapter book reader. The perfect choice must meet all my mysterious criteria. When the Indian princess beckoned me into her world, I knew. She rode proudly home on my lap with my fidgety hands on the cover itching to let her out to begin her story.
So began construction of the revolving door between my two worlds. In my exterior world I lived contentedly with family and common surroundings. But my interior world whispered around the edges waiting for any opportunity to grab my imagination by the hand and run. It teased my waking hours with daydreams, frustrating my parents and teachers with my lack of focus. At night it held sway, filling my mind’s eye with fantastic scenes and stories until I sank reluctantly into sleep.
Now I discovered a paradise of books legitimizing the stories inside my head; books revealing the interior worlds of others who possessed the gift of describing them in words. The door swung wide for a myriad of tales to march in, populating my world with rich characters and scenes often more real to me than everyday life.
Stepping through C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe door, I befriended Edmund and Lucy in the land of Narnia. The great lion, Aslan, evoked a childish reverence foreshadowing a future faith in his prototype. The miniature world of The Borrowers found me prone on my bedroom floor acting out their story with dollhouse furniture. The Secret Garden sprouted my temporary green thumb and I begged my parents for riding lessons while reading Black Beauty. J.R.R. Tolkien’s wizard, Gandalf, took on the bushy gray brows and twinkling eyes of my teacher, Mr. Smith, who read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings aloud while doing all the voices.
Fed by Tolkien’s intricate fantasy realms, my unfettered imagination was reluctant to return to the mundane reality of the classroom. I could not contain the words and worlds spilling out on page after page of cheap notebook paper. Gypsies and haunted forests, princesses and magic spells pushed their way through my pen, seeking form and voice in my amateur compositions.
The ravenous craving of a new writer could not ingest enough words to satisfy a desire to express my heart. Subconsciously my vocabulary and writing skills developed with the countless books I devoured to feed my inexhaustible appetite for stories. I saw the world as one continuous tale I longed to transcribe, if only a fraction of it.
Behind the exterior world of a shy, awkward girl a parallel world teemed with all that I did not possess. Adventure, beauty, humor and high virtue stumbled for expression in my writing, like infants learning to walk. At first I hugged my feeble attempts to myself, not ready to expose them to criticism. The exercise of writing brought a satisfaction wholly my own — a solitary catharsis not dependent on affirmation from others. But what good was a story written down if not shared? If one day mine was to be the book taken down from a shelf then I needed to let others into my interior world. The door revolved both ways.
So I released a few of my literary offspring to those I knew would treat them gently and to my wonder they were affirmed as showing promise. This changed everything. Books were the places in which I could be lost but now they became where I could be found. Reading for pleasurable escape evolved into exploring literature to learn from successful authors. Could I subtly comment on the social mores of the day like Jane Austen, create and populate whole worlds like Tolkien, craft an endearing heroine like Lucy Maud Montgomery? Could I spread my own heart across a blank page for readers to either disregard or identify with?
Years later, the door to my interior world still stands open for either response. It is the risk I take as a writer who chronicles from the heart. Numerous books have entered to refresh, stimulate and feed that world. I leave the door revolving in the wind. Perhaps an Indian princess will pass through.
“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” – from “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I used to live in a house with a view of the mountains. Every morning I would enjoy their changing aspect. Clean and pure in winter snow, verdant evergreens thick on their slopes in springtime, peaks aflame in a summer sunrise, mists encircling rocky summits above the gold of autumn. I received inspiration from those mountains because they reflected spiritual truths I needed to draw on during a difficult time in my life.
Psalm 121 begins, “I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
When I looked at the mountains I had to lift my eyes above the everyday scene on the street. Taking my attention off problems on the human level and focusing on the majesty of the Lord helped me to put things in a right perspective. I was reminded that the Lord dwells in the heavens and His ways are higher than mine. I was His small creation, beloved by Him but mortal and muddled. I needed to look up to Him in dependence and often in desperation. I could not understand the reasons for the hardships I was experiencing but I could entrust my future to the Lord whose omniscient vision could see His perfect purposes for my life.
The mountains beyond my window represented permanence, stability and agelessness. Every morning I could depend on them being there when I woke up, and they would probably be there for many years to come. But God reminded me that there was something even more immovable than those geological formations of rock and dirt.
‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10 NIV)
What promises to cling to when the very foundations of my life were crumbling beneath my feet! I was abandoned and rejected, yet God loved me with unfailing love. I was beset by problems and turmoil, yet God would not remove His covenant of peace. I was destitute and critically ill, yet God had compassion on me.
I no longer look at mountains outside my window. I look at a wide open prairie. God has brought me to a time of peace and blessing, no longer hemmed in by mountains of trouble but in a place where I am reminded of the vastness of His mercy and the limitless capacity of His great heart of love. He is greater than any mountain and cannot be moved.
Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God. (Psalm 90:2)
The heart holds the memory of a beloved voice, so when that voice is heard it responds instantly with all the affection felt for that person. When I hear my child’s voice on the phone, my mother heart wells up, eager to hear their news and respond with loving encouragement.
In Acts 9, a disciple named Ananias heard a beloved voice. It is not known whether he had heard this voice before, but he instantly recognized it as belonging to someone he loved. At the sound of this voice calling him by name, he immediately responded with, “Yes, Lord.” Ananias’ response speaks volumes about his relationship with his Lord. He recognized the voice of God because he fostered a loving relationship with God. In Acts 22, he is described as “a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.” (Acts 22:12 NIV) Residing in Damascus, Ananias was of the Way, the name given to followers of Jesus Christ.
In a vision the Lord told him to go to Saul of Tarsus, who would be found praying and waiting for Ananias to lay hands on him to restore his sight. This message went against all Ananias’ sensibilities. Deliberately seek out the man breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples? I can imagine Ananias pondering his response to God’s incredible request before replying. His reaction stems not from personal fear, but from a desire to protect fellow believers from harm at the hands of a known persecutor of their people. God hears his reservations, then tells him, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name.” (Acts 9:15-16)
Ananias went to Straight Street as instructed, now sure of God’s ability to transform an enemy into a kinsman. Placing his hands on the blind man, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17)
I have so much to learn from Ananias. His sensitivity to the voice of God and his immediate affirmative response, in spite of his misgivings, show a man walking in step with the Spirit, as I desire to walk. As God’s messenger, he demonstrates Christian grace and love to a man just recently known as a violent enemy. Only by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit can I love my enemies and do good to those who hate me (Luke 6:27), as Ananias does. Recognizing the validity of Christ’s appearing to Saul on the road to Damascus and his role as God’s chosen instrument to the Gentiles, Ananias encourages Saul to be baptized, without jealousy or mistrust. His only desire is to see Christ’s purposes fulfilled. I pray I can serve Christ this selflessly.
Ananias plays a supporting role in Saul’s dramatic conversion story, and is often overlooked in the shadow of the mighty apostle. Yet he is spoken of with respect when Paul gives his testimony in Acts 22. To me, that means he has something to offer to a fellow believer centuries later. I pray I will recognize my own Straight Street when my Lord bids me go there.
The trunk is split and gray, dry as sun-bleached bones. Leafless branches stick their skeletal fingers in the air, some broken and hanging like fractured digits. It is obvious there is no life in this old tree spindly on the edge of a cabbage field. Yet it stands steadfast through the seasons, drawing my eye whenever I pass.
I feel a slight sadness when I drive by it in spring. While it’s fellow trees are flaunting fresh, green leaves, the dead tree remains bare. Until one day I notice something different where a section of its trunk has broken away and fallen. Slowing down, I see green shoots sprouting out of what looks like dead wood. Tears prickle behind my eyes and my heart swells with something like hope.
I am reminded of what Job said. Heavy-hearted under the hand of God, occasionally Job speaks a glimmer of hope into his melancholy musings. In chapter 14 his thoughts are on the brevity of man’s troubled days, numbered by God and soon over. Then …. “At least there is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” (Job 14:7-9 NIV)
I see this as a picture of Job’s deeply buried hope. “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble,” (Job 14:1) he states gloomily. Then he uses the image of a dead tree putting forth green shoots at the scent of water. This is such a vivid picture of growth sprouting from decay, hope from hopelessness, new life from death. And what calls forth this green shoot? The scent of water.
Can a tree detect the scent of water? It seems impossible if it is dead, yet somewhere deep inside its mouldering wood a dormant cell senses life-giving moisture then begins to multiply. Can a soul dead in sin conceive of a life beyond this present world? God planted eternity in the heart of man, imbued it with an awareness of life beyond this conscious one now lived. At the scent of water our heart is called. Drawn by the scent of living water welling up to eternal life, water which symbolizes the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.” (John 4:14 The Voice)
What is the scent of living water? It is the fresh fragrance of forgiveness by God, who alone is able to pardon your sins. It is the perfume of perfection emanating from the Savior who calls you to be perfect, as He is perfect. It is the incense of sacrifice rising from His life laid down for you, no greater demonstration of divine love existing.
I was once like that bone-gray dead tree on the edge of a field. No green shoots, no new leaves; no life within my spirit. But then the scent of living water drifted across my heart, drawing me to the One who satisfies all my longings, filling me with His love. I bud with vibrant spiritual life, putting forth shoots new and green. The scent of water is now the River of Life flowing strong.
The scent of sun-warmed pine and salt air streamed past me as I coasted on my bicycle down the winding hill to one of my favourite summer destinations. My friend and I planned to spend the day roaming around Fort Rodd Hill, an old coastal artillery fortress and Canadian national historic site near Victoria, BC. It was a child’s paradise, with tame deer feeding on its extensive grounds, underground tunnels, cement barracks, and guard towers to explore and pretend in. When it came time to eat our picnic lunch, we always headed down the sand spit to Fisgard Lighthouse.
The red brick house and tall white tower were built in 1860 by the British, before Vancouver Island was part of Canada. Fisgard was the first lighthouse built on the Canadian west coast, and still lights the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour, home of the Royal Canadian Navy base.
As a child, these dry facts meant little, but what did capture me was the romantic idea of living in a lighthouse. I could picture myself as the heroic lighthouse keeper climbing the spiral iron staircase to tend the lights on a stormy night, sending the bright beams flashing through the dark to guide a sea-tossed ship home to safe harbour. I imagined I heard the mournful two-note dirge of the foghorn as diaphanous fog smothered sea and shore in gray mist. The lighthouse was a beacon, offering rescue and safety to those in danger, and I was drawn to the high calling it represented.
A decade later, the storms of life were battering me so hard I almost foundered, but for the lighthouse of Jesus shining through the darkness. He shone the bright beam of His love over the wind-whipped waves of my difficult marriage, a sinking sense of identity and the daily struggle of raising three small children. His light illuminated the truth of who He is, the Son of God sent to rescue the perishing. How I needed rescuing!
In a storm there is much confusion. Forces stronger than yourself push and batter until any sense of direction is lost. It is hard to see and harder still to hold on. Fear and fatigue tempt you to slip beneath the waves. But then a light flashes out of the tumultuous darkness. The storm still rages but now there is hope in that strong beam of light, beckoning you to safety. The source of the light is a place of refuge and strength, of peace and security.
That is Jesus Christ to me. He is my lighthouse. He said in His Word, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) And I can respond with all certainty, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1)
His is a light that will never be extinguished, able to pierce through the darkness of sin and offer the stronghold of His love and forgiveness to everyone lost. “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” (2 Sam. 22:29)
I will be away from my desk for the next two weeks. Rather than the usual devotional writing, I leave you with an original short story for some summer reading. Enjoy, my readers!
The school parking lot is empty but for one car when Esther pulls in, wheels spitting gravel, car door slamming in her rush to the entrance. A late meeting and too many red lights puts her thirty minutes behind schedule. She knows what that means. Once inside, Aydan’s yells echo to her down the empty corridor.
“I have to go! I want my moon rock! It’s made of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminum. My dad bought it for me! Let me get my moon rock!”
She waits for the thud of his fists hitting the classroom walls. A long silence, the murmur of a deeper voice, then she hears laughter. Aydan’s laughter? She pauses to look in the window before opening the classroom door.
Her brother Aydan is a beautiful boy with hair sweeping like a raven’s wing across his high forehead, eyes gray-green as clean river water. Thin shoulder blades defined beneath his white shirt, he walks awkwardly around the room, outlining circles in the air with his index fingers. The repetitive motion is as familiar to Esther as his face. It is what he does when he is upset or uncertain. Lately it is all he has been doing. Their recent move and a new school make the Asperger’s Disorder symptoms more pronounced. His world has spun out of its familiar orbit, now his reaction is meteoric.
His teacher, Nate Gordon, sits on the floor below the chalkboard clapping his hands in a steady rhythm while Aydan rattles off moon words in his flat-toned voice.
“Blue moon, new moon, full moon, moonrise, moonbeam, moonlight —”
Taking a deep breath she turns the door handle and walks in. Whatever Nate did to keep Aydan calm dissolves as soon as he sees her. He runs to the corner, throwing himself down on the floor, crying, flailing his limbs. Esther wants to hurry to him but Nate stops her with a raised hand. He approaches Aydan quietly, sits down beside him and waits. She drops into a child-sized desk, exhaustion written in her slumped shoulders.
“I got stuck in a meeting and the traffic was awful. Now I‘ve made you stay behind and —”. Her words fizzle, lost in Aydan’s cries. Nate holds his finger to his lips, placing his hand gently on the boy’s shoulder. He sings in a raspy tenor.
“Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.”
Aydan’s favorite Cat Stevens song slows his angry thrashing until he lies quietly. He keeps his face to the wall, his spine stiffly curled. Esther wonders when she can get him to the car and home. How much longer can she keep doing this?
In the three years since the accidental deaths of their parents, Esther has set aside all her own dreams to care for Aydan. The life insurance settlement barely covers the cost of this private school for children with Asperger‘s Disorder. Higher functioning than a child with autism, his education could equip him to live a reasonably normal life someday. It means relocation to an unfamiliar city, barely making it on her bookkeeper’s salary. It’s what her parents would expect of her, she knows, but she doesn’t have the patient attitude of her mother or the calm strength of her father to deal with Aydan. He is as mysterious to her as the moon he is so fixated upon. His moods change like the shifting phases of the orb in the night sky. Revolving around a world she cannot reach, he is unable to let her in behind his stilted, repetitive speech and averted gaze. She loves him but it is a worried love, heavy with responsibility.
Nate motions her to join him in the hallway where they can see through the window. Aydan’s fury at her lateness seems to have dissipated. They watch him stretch out on his back, drawing circles in the air.
“He had a great day, you know,” Nate says. He touches her arm, his gaze warm on her face. He is Aydan’s teacher and her friend. Someone who sees beyond the Asperger’s to the boy inside and loves him. Someone who sees beyond her worried brow and cares enough to listen and encourage. Then there is Nate’s faith. He often mentions praying for Aydan; “bringing him to the foot of the cross”, he calls it. He says Jesus gives him wisdom to teach Aydan. She can almost believe it when she sees her brother respond to Nate in ways she never thought possible. He can even make Aydan laugh, something he rarely does.
“You might not believe it, Esther, but Aydan is a lot like his favourite subject. He reflects God’s goodness and glory, like the moon reflecting the sun. Sometimes it’s hidden by clouds or is so small you can barely see it but it’s always there, ready to shine.”
Nate leans a little closer and whispers, “Don’t miss it.”
By the time they get settled for the drive home, twilight is seeping into the late September afternoon. Aydan keeps up a running monologue of moon facts from the passenger seat, oblivious to Esther’s weary silence. Traffic thins as they leave the city behind. Mist gathers in hollows between the gentle hills, twining vaporous fingers through groves of autumnal trees. Reaching the last hill before their turn, Esther feels tension drain from her stiff shoulders.
Their little house squats on the corner of a patchwork quilt of farm fields, its yard light glowing a welcome in the dusk. She questioned the distance from the city when she rented it but it was all she could afford. Now she treasures the calming drive home and the peace and quiet for Aydan.
After supper Esther kneels to wipe old linoleum, tears running off her chin diluting Aydan’s spilled soup. She knows his clumsiness is more apparent when he is tired. She doesn’t blame him, but she is just so weary of the constant vigilance and damage control. Maybe she should look into getting some respite care.
Suddenly Aydan’s bedroom door crashes back on its hinges.
“Come see, Essie! Come!”
He runs past Esther kneeling on the floor, beckoning frantically for her to follow as he flies out the back door. By the time she gets up he is running barefoot in pajamas across the frosted grass. Grabbing boots, she rushes after him, rounds the corner of the house only to stop short at what she sees.
The moon —- Aydan’s moon! A vast, amber sphere balancing on the cusp of the horizon, transfixes her breathless.
She blinks in wonder, the luminous ball embedding behind her eyelids, imprinting itself on her soul. Gone are tears, care, weariness. There is only this incandescent moon, flooding her vision with radiance. Boots drop from her hand as she runs barefoot across cold, crisp grass to where Aydan dances. Gilded in moon glow, he leaps and twirls, laughing with joy.
“I saw light in my window! I thought it was a flashlight, but when I looked out –This!”
He throws his arms wide, eyes reflecting miniature golden moons. Grabbing his hands, Esther dances with him in crazy circles, then pulls him into her arms. For once he hugs her back and she wishes time would stop. Nate’s words spring into her mind.
Don’t miss it.
This is it. Aydan’s fine-boned body held close, laughter still rippling under her hands. This is the glory Nate was talking about. God-glory blazing out from a full harvest moon fails to outshine the God-glory in this small boy with Asperger’s. Nate sees it and she is beginning to see it too.
“Look, Essie, we have a moon shadow!”
Aydan turns them away from the rising moon. It’s pearlescent light outlines their two silhouettes on the grass, hand in hand. She cannot see where her shadow ends and Aydan’s begins.
When my cracked living room window was replaced last fall, I hardly expected it to impact my inner life. But it has, because now I have a window I can open to warm summer breezes, sounds of bird song and scents of freshly mowed grass and lilacs. A shy mourning dove has built a nest in a tree by the window where she sits patiently on her eggs. I slip behind the wafting curtain several times a day to check on her progress.
Through an open window life stirs, gracefully billowing sheer curtains, carrying wisps of sound and scent on warm fingers of air to freshen and revive a room long closed. My heart often feels like a room long closed, in need of the cleansing breath of the Spirit of God. A heart shut up grows stale without fresh Spirit life to rejuvenate it.
Like a dancing breeze, the Spirit makes itself known definitely but invisibly. As I see the breeze stir the gauzy drapes at my window, so I feel the Spirit of God move my heart towards Himself. I cannot predict when He will move, but I also cannot deny when He does. By a leap of my heart, a prick of tears in my eyes, a swell of joy in my soul, He reminds me there is a spiritual realm I cannot see.
When Jesus described spiritual rebirth to Nicodemus in John 3, He used the wind as an illustration. Nicodemus sought out Jesus after dark, perhaps on a night when a cooling breeze blew across the hills of Jerusalem. Although a learned Jewish leader, Nicodemus struggled to grasp the revolutionary concept of spiritual rebirth. He had the desire to learn from Jesus, but had yet to have his spiritual eyes opened.
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 NLT)
When I see evidence of the wind in the billow of curtains or the sway of trees, it reminds me of how the Holy Spirit of God transcends understanding yet shows Himself in the lives of those who love Him. He blows away the desire to sin, ushering in a fresh love for the things of God. He routs out the dust of despair to replace it with the clean aroma of Christ. Sometimes in a whirlwind, sometimes in a whispering breeze, He speaks to the soul receptive to His guidance.
I want my heart to be an open window thrown wide to the wind of God’s Spirit. There may come storms or even doldrums, but because God’s Spirit is in them I can trust they will pass and I will be enriched as a result. The mourning dove sits securely on her eggs even as the wind bounces the branches where she nests. She is at peace. And so am I, resting in the knowledge that the mighty wind of the Spirit streams from the source of all love.
As June approaches, memories of my father fill my mind and heart, thus these early Father’s Daythoughts.
I didn’t have my father for very long. He died at 60, when I was only 30 years old. When I think of him I remember as a child waiting for a tall, handsome man striding down the gangplank of a Canadian Navy ship to scoop me up in his arms, his dark blue uniform still scented with the exotic places he’d been. I felt a bit shy of him. Three months is long to be apart in a child’s time frame, but a few moments in his arms gave me back my beloved daddy.
He wasn’t an easy man to live with when he was home. Career driven, cycling through bouts of alcohol addiction, I never knew who would walk through the door; the sober father I loved, or the stranger resembling him, with slurred speech and stumbling step. Although his addiction brought pain to my family, I loved him fiercely. He represented strength and protection to me, in spite of his weaknesses. He loved me; imperfectly, but sincerely.
I believe my father’s flawed love was instrumental in my search for and discovery of God, my heavenly Father. Faith was not part of my upbringing, yet I hungered for something to believe in. As an adolescent I learned about a Father who was perfect, unchangeable and reachable. When I heard the story of how God sent His sinless son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die in my place so I could be reconciled to Him, my search was over. The father-love of God filled the empty places in my heart where my earthly father had failed.
Yet many of my father’s ways of loving me showed me God’s heart. He loved to give gifts, especially when he returned from an extended Navy voyage to distant countries. I still have some of those treasured gifts; a Chinese music box inlaid with mother of pearl, a fragrant sandalwood fan from Japan, a toy koala bear from Australia. My father knew how to give good gifts to his children.
When Jesus taught about prayer in Matthew 7, He used the illustration of fathers giving gifts to their children. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ( Matthew 7:9-11 NIV)
No parent would respond to a hungry child with something injurious, like a stone instead of bread, or a snake instead of a fish. Parents are often foolishly indulgent, but God is all-wise; he knows what we need, what we desire, and what is good for His children. He would not call us to pray, then refuse to hear or give us what would be hurtful.
In the many years since my father has been gone, I have sifted how he parented me through the filter of God’s compassion and forgiveness. I have chosen to be thankful for the good and let go of the negative. Although he did not always fulfill his role well, he conveyed his deep love for me in many ways, and for that I am thankful. When I feel the ache in my heart of missing him still, I go to my heavenly Father to ask for His love to fill in those empty places. He is always faithful to give good gifts to those who ask Him.