Fragile, quivering fears and hope that dares not sprout lest it be destroyed by the impending storm that never comes in this desert of my life.
But you join me in silent reverie each day, repeating the patterns that we expect to last for an eternity.
These are the good old days we will long for when one of us is gone.
It won’t be the Garden of Eden of summer with the piccolo sound of the birds, or the swishing of the creek against the flood-tossed rocks on our morning walks.
It won’t be the breath of the breeze warmed by the sunrise, or the dew heavy on the silver willows and grasses by the edge of the well worn path.
It won’t be the excitement of coming events–vacations, new babies, renovations, reunions, new, new, new anything to take my mind away from the hope I dare not grasp for fear that it will be washed away.
No, what I will long for is your warmth as we lie together like scared children in each other’s arms, fearing the monsters that have existed since we could imagine.
I will long for your prayers–pious or sincere: rants, whispers, silent sights.
I will long to be carried on the wave of faith that transcends time to the shores where hope is certain and faith is sight.
You take me there, as we sit drinking coffee on another good old, boring day that lights up my life.
“Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear. . . “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.”. . The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4: 9, 10, 13-20 NIV)
The parable of the sower and the seed tells us that the kingdom of God does not come through human activity,
not through doing something,
but through doing nothing, through passivity,
through being like good soil,
through hearing, listening.
The farmer does not improve the soil conditions by cultivating the beaten path,
nor does he pick the rocks or pull out the thorns.
The parable is not cast in imperative language, “Be good soil!”
But simply uses the language of description—this is the way things are with the kingdom of God.
The parable is about the kingdom, the mystery of the kingdom. It comes early in the gospel and becomes a kind of interpretive key for understanding the gospel as a whole. As in the parable, so in the gospel it looks as though there is little promise of a harvest. It appears that the kingdom of God, as presented by Jesus, is destined to amount to nothing.
Jesus is rejected by his family and by those from his home at Nazareth.
The love of wealth chokes the word in the case of the rich man who, though he likes what Jesus has to say, is not able to surrender his “many possessions”.
The Pharisees and temple authorities are the hardened path, rejecting Jesus outright.
And most disturbing of all, even his own disciples prove not to be good soil.
Peter, the rock, turns to sand in the time of danger and denies Jesus.
Judas betrays him,
Peter, James and John fall asleep in the garden.
In the end, when Jesus is arrested, all of the disciples desert him and flee for their lives. One looks in vain for much of anything in the gospel that puts them in a positive light. They are known for their little faith.
At one point, Jesus refers to Peter as Satan and indicates that the disciples are spiritually blind and deaf.
Yet, the parable tells us that in spite of evidence to the contrary,
There will be a great harvest.
The Son of Man will “undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31)
Through suffering and endurance, the kingdom comes to us all.
And though it is “hard to enter the kingdom of God” (10:23), especially if one is rich, “all things are possible with God” (10:27). In spite of ourselves.
And those who have “left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields . . . will receive “a hundredfold now” and “in the age to come, eternal life” (10:30). Though like the prophets of old, they may never receive what had been promised (Heb.12:39) until eternity.
Postscript by Elaine
“Through Gates of Splendor” and “The Shadow of the Almighty” by Elisabeth Elliot are classic biographies that recount the martyrdom of her husband and four other missionaries in 1956 at the hands of the Huaorani people of the rain forest of Ecuador. They are must reads for those who need to be reminded that God works through tragedy. A favorite of mine in the 90’s, it recounts the events leading to the death of the five missionaries and the subsequent return of Jim Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, to live amongst the Huaorani along with the Summer Institute of Linguistics several years later. (Wikipedia)
It is our work to show God’s love in the barren places; it is his work to make it grow.
Psalm 90:1, 2 “Lord, you have been our dwelling place through all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalm 71:17-18 “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”
Families are the means by which God passes on His story. Our impact may never be known as we fulfill our purpose from generation to generation.
My beautiful picture
My beautiful picture
Rhubarb and sugar, washer boards and wringer washing machines, washing tubs, clothes pegged to the lines. How did I know you?
In your hands that pared the fresh vegetables from the garden.
In the slop pail we carried to the garden filled with peelings and egg shells.
In the egg sandwiches you wrapped in wax paper for the boarders and grandpa’s lunch kits.
In the empty glass quart jars you left out until the horse-drawn cart arrived with the milkman.
In the way you held my hand as we crossed the railroad tracks on our walk to Whyte Avenue to buy meat and produce for supper.
In the pennies you gave me to buy candy or ride the bus.
Did you know that I slid down the wooden bannister while you napped?
Did you know I gouged the ice cream in the freezer and snuck oatmeal cookies from the metal cannisters?
Did you know I cried when I left you to go upstairs to my tiny apartment when Mom and Dad came home at night?
I was the princess. You and grandpa, the king and queen.
We ruled the castle. I was the “smo yenta”, the “svenska flicka”, the “scrap yenta” who made grandpa laugh and wrinkle his nose when he came home from the garage with his greasy hands.
When we moved away to start our own life, I was exiled from the kingdom. No longer the only child. The magic spell was broken and I was the older sister to a brood of children that didn’t respect my royal status.
You still whisper to me when I make krumkake in December or hear gospel radio in the dead of night. I can taste you in the candy corn and the mints I give my grandchildren in church. I see the pride in your eyes when I crochet a blanket; I feel you beside me when I kiss my grandchildren.
Will they love me thirty years after I’m gone? Will they hear my voice or see the love in my eyes as they enter a room. Will they know the presence of God in the ordinary, the way you taught me? Will they feel his presence in the garden or in the hand that holds them as they walk across the tracks to eternity?
You tie me to the ancestors I never knew and I connect you to the future that neither of us can fully predict. I touch three centuries when I look at you holding my son and daughter in the faded picture on my shelf.
Love, Family, Faith
A conviction that God is with us through the generations, writing our story with grace and faithfulness. You stand as a testimony to His presence. My I be a light to those who come after me.
The mantle has been passed. May I be worthy of the name
Life involves both leaving and receiving. We hear about this in the gospel.
Disciples say to Jesus: “Look we have left everything and followed you.”
Jesus says, “there is no one who has left house or brothers and sisters or mother or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)
I’ve thought about the kinds of leaving that this life involves at all stages:
Children leave the comfort of home and go to school with strangers, leaving toys, free time, and the familiarity of routines with parents.
Companies downsize and restructure, opportunities for advancement arise elsewhere, or working conditions become intolerable, forcing people to leave their place of work.
Seniors move out of their homes to go into assisted living, losing their independence and freedom.
The empty farm house where I grew up is a mere shadow of its former glory in the days when it thrived as an active farm. Leaving what once was, is painful.
Visiting family is colored by the question, “When are you leaving?” even before the suitcases are put into the spare bedroom.
And the leaving of this life is often painful. That’s why the rich man in Mark 10 was “grieving.” He didn’t want to leave it all behind.
These words from Psalm 38 may express how we feel when we must leave something we love:
“6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; I go about in mourning all the day long.” “8I am utterly numb and crushed; I wail, because of the groaning of my heart.”
But the leaving referred to in the gospel is matched by a much greater receiving:
One who has left home and family . . . will receive “a hundredfold now in this age . . . and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:30)
Just so, our leavingneeds to be balanced by the much more of the receiving.
It is like the leaving referred to at the beginning of Mark 10, that which refers to the creation story in Genesis 2. Jesus says,
“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.” ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.’” (Mark 10:6-8; Gen 1:27; 2:24)
It may be hard to leave father and mother, but one receives so much more through marriage and having a family of one’s own.
I think of all that I have received by leaving my own father and mother for marriage:
I have children and grandchildren of my own along with a partner who is a witness to my life.
What a joy they have brought to us. Our five-year-old grandson at breakfast one morning said this to his dad as he was eating a piece of bread:
“I’m eating Jesus’ skin, right?” His dad replied, “Well, not really.” To which he replied, “It’s in the Bible!”
We rejoice each time a new child enters our family. Our hearts are enlarged with each new person.
Such joys are part of the receiving that has gone with leaving my father and mother for marriage.
But the attachment to that which is precious can prevent us from receiving what is far better and far more valuable.
Attachment to parents has prevented many marriages from thriving.
The rich man’s attachment to money in Mark 10 kept him from following Jesus.
Mark 10 speaks of these attachments that one must give up: “house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields.”
What have you had to give up in life? What leaving has defined you?
What does Jesus ask you to leave in order that you may follow him?
Christian faith does not eliminate the pain of leaving that we experience in this life—in some ways it intensifies it, even as Jesus asks people to leave what others do not leave.
The rich young man in Mark 10 had to choose between his wealth and Jesus.
Either / Or — his wealth or Jesus.
What either/or defines your life of faith?
Yet, there is something drastic—seemingly reckless or irresponsible—in what Jesus calls the rich man to do—to sell everything he owns and follow him. In my experience, money and possessions give one a sense of security. Who would want to give away this security?
But it is good to be reminded that not even money in the bank can give us ultimate security in this life.
One day this week as I thought about the struggles our families have faced through the years. No one is immune. I read the words of Psalm 36 that speaks of the much more that we receivefrom God.
5Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds. 7How priceless is your love, O God! Your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings. 8They feast upon the abundance of your house; you give them drink from the river of your delights.”
Jesus invites us to follow him and to trust in him above all, and to find our ultimate security in him alone. He invites us to throw caution to the wind as we follow him on the great adventure of faith.
Oftentimes Jesus directs our attention to what is most dear, most precious to us, and even asks us to give this up in order to follow him.
He wishes us to find our ultimate security in him and in his love.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
Trusting in the Lord isn’t always easy for us, but Jesus doesn’t play it safe.
Sell it all and give it away, every bit of it, and come follow me.
Thomas Green likens the life of faith to learning how to float in the ocean. Floating rather than swimming. In swimming, one is in control, energetically swimming to a certain destination; when one floats, one surrenders to the current, allowing it to carry one wherever it will. (Thomas H. Green, S.J. When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings. Ave Maria Press, 2007)
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt11)
Do you like to feel in control of everything in your life? Are you a swimmer rather than a floater?
As we see early in Mark 10, Jesus calls us also to give up our self-sufficiency and to become like children. To leave adulthood in order to receive the kingdom of God.
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Matthew 18)
Kids know that they are not responsible for everything in the world. They don’t usually carry the weight of the world of their shoulders.
This week I watched a mother with three pre-school children walk into Safeway and then a few minutes later leave Safeway. She carried one child, followed by a boy and a girl following him. This girl, perhaps 3 years old, seemed completely lost in the wonder of being a child. She took huge giant steps as she walked across the marked cross walk leading from the store—then tried to balance on the cement parking bumper.
Jesus invites us to leave the burden of adult life for childlike, joyful, carefree living.
Is Jesus saying these words to you?
“Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”
Psalm 127 adds:
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” (v.3)
Jesus looks at us, and loves us, and wants us to be free of all the encumbrances that we are so attached to and that prevent us from finding our rest and security in God.
The painful memories of hurt, abandonment and loss
I wrote myself a letter in 1970 that I found in my closet just last week. “Live in the moment,” I admonished myself. “Enjoy one second at a time.”
Does life consist of the seconds?
“I’ve been through an awful lot, but no more than anyone else,” I told myself. “My problems are great, but not insurmountable and my joys are exalted, but they very quickly pass. I am a teenager.”
Foolish, pious young girl. What did I know about life:
“There is much misery and the threat of death, but these things have a habit of looming so large in our minds that we completely destroy the sensitive place in our hearts reserved for soft, simple things in life.”
I was at the beginning of the race. Ready to be part of the generation that would change the world. Lofty goals, high ideals, full of promise.
But last month I retired. I retired and they deleted me before I was even out the door.
I’m obsolete, the vision of the past, easily replaced, quickly forgotten.
My influence evaporates.
Friends promise reunions, but they are still in the race and the promise will be forgotten and
“Let’s get together” becomes, “I ought to call her.”
Guilt replaces good intentions.
I’m disconnected. Just another senior fumbling for change at the check out.
“I don’t know how it happened, but I found myself walking amongst thorny shrubs. I was in a patch of wild roses. Only the month before the bushes had been full of bright pink flowers. Now the flowers had faded and died. Only the seeds were left. The seed was shaped like a tiny red apple. It was homely, without vivid color or the soft curves of the pedals, but no matter how much I wanted that seed to blossom again, it would not. It would take a cold winter and the warm thawing sun in the spring to bring it into bloom.” (Elaine, 1970)
Could it be that the seed will bloom again in this new chapter of my life?
The teenager focused on the future; now as the elder, I see it was not the prize at the end that shaped my life, but rather the way I ran the race.
What would I tell my teenage self?
Learn to love those you hate
Honor the humble and the meek
Serve those you lead
Value your weaknesses
Be cautious of your strengths; pride weakens you.
You will not change the world; make sure the world changes you for the better.
“I know the plans I have you for,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “And will bring you back to the place from which (you began).” Jeremiah 29:11-14
Hans Kung, a leading 20th century theologian, writes in his 2009 book What I Believe:
“In the act of saying “Yes”, venturing fundamental trust, risking trust in life: in that way and only in that way I can go on living my life. . . .And the unbounded joy which I experienced was similar to the joy I experienced as a child while swimming, when for the first time I had the experience that the water really supported bodies, even mine, that I entrusted myself to the water, that all alone–without support or any aids–I could trust myself to the water.” (chpt. 1)
Peter saw how Jesus trusted the water on the Sea of Galilee.
“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, “It’s a ghost”, they said and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied,” tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “Why did you doubt?” Mt. 14:25-31
This same story appears in Mark, without Peter’s request; the richness of Matthew is that it gives us permission to go beyond our comfort zone, even if we fail.
“Trust the Water” by Elaine Knudtson
I stand on the edge of the shore between now and then,
Letting the water tickle my toes, but I’m afraid to go farther.
I trust the land. I can control my exit:
I know the resting places
the curves in the well worn paths
the dark valleys to avoid
the hidden off ramps
It’s comfortable, safe, predictable.
But I’ve come to this place and there’s no turning back.
The water is inviting. They say its cool, refreshing, peaceful.
It’s the reward for leaving the land and coming to the end of the lenten journey.
But can I trust it?
Its deep, dark, unknown
There are docks and buoys to mark the safe places, but I want to go beyond the ropes into the vastness of the reefs where the colorful fish swim across the coral.
I know there is a beauty and adventure for those who dare. But I’m new at this, and I’m afraid.
I look behind me and know the road has been closed. It only goes one way, and I can stay here on the shore until I’m ready, but the day is waning and I see others beckoning me to join them.
They are my friends, my family, my mentors, who assure me the water is fine.
It is the water of experience, faith, community, “koionania”, “logos”, the “word made flesh”; and it is good, it is “tove meode.”
And so I leave the shore; reach my arms to the heavens and fall into the water. so that when you come to the shore, I will be able to call to you,
I think of my grandfather’s farm site, the place where my dad was born and grew as a boy. When I was but six, dad went to work dismantling everything that stood there. The barn was taken down and its lumber was reused to build granaries at home in our yard. The house and other buildings were dismantled. Everything was cleared away and the land was broken and crops grew where the buildings and corrals once stood. Now those who drive by that old farm yard on the road see no trace that of the yard and buildings that once stood there. The house and home have disappeared completely from the face of the earth. As Psalm 103 says, “it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”
Recently, my siblings and I decided to sell the land that had been in the family for over a century; land that had belonged to our grandfather. This decision affected all of us emotionally.
“I think I am experiencing grief at the sale of the land. I am in mourning. Perhaps we should wear black. I will be OK I think, but it is still painful. It is a big loss. My head and my heart are out of sync. I am happy that we still have each other.”
I feel that I know that land like no other. It is my land, and I even feel that that land knows me. It has seen me from my earliest years. I was a baby, a boy, then a teenager on that land, in that place. I became familiar with every slough and every slope; I spent Saturdays as a boy exploring the rugged hills of the coulee together with my brothers.
The farm, this plot of ground, this place has always existed in my mind as my geographic center or North Pole—the place from which I looked out on the world. Even when I moved away from home, this place remained the imaginary and emotional center of my universe.
Now all of that has changed—and I am struggling to understand how to get oriented in my life without such a North Pole. I feel like I must now live in a landscape that looks the same as before, but which now can no longer be defined in terms of North or South, East or West. My old compass no longer works—the needle turns back and forth aimlessly, unaffected by any magnetic field. That piece of earth was where my life began, it was the place from which I looked out on the world, the center of my geographic sense of the world—and continued to be the place within my imagination that was my center.
What has happened in this community is the story of what has happened across the prairies as a whole. Farms have gotten larger and the rural population has diminished. Dozens of small rural churches now stand empty on Sunday mornings. Small towns and villages have lost stores and the railway.
With such profound changes, I sometimes wonder what sense of rootedness my children and grandchildren will have. They are disconnected from their ancestors, their heritage, and the farm. What this means for the future or regarding the meaning of my family’s history from generation to generation, I do not know.
One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. . . For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter; he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling and set me high upon a rock. . . . What if I had not believed that I should see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Ps. 27:5, 7, 17
Thank you for joining us! As we retire, we bring together a collection of stories, poems and reflections to share with family and friends. Wisdom is gained as we encounter the spiritual in scripture and through the “logos”–the Word made flesh. It is our hope that you will find encouragement for the journey.
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Being a Child
Reflections on Genesis 1 and 2
By Elaine Knudtson
Children squeeze, tease, ignite hope and leave. . .
But I remember –
The way they folded into a ball in my arms and tucked under my chin like a soft plushed toy;
The smell of new skin and vellum—is that how we smelled in the Garden?
Did we tuck ourselves under God’s chin and fold into a child, soothed by the beat of His heart?
Could we sense His love, hope, excitement?
Did we bring Him joy,
Or did He fear that we would soon leave?
What love; to bring life into the world, knowing it is only for a moment. But oh the sweetness of those moments.
It is enough to risk the pain. It is a call to seize the moments.
Memory is the album of our life. I choose to remember beauty, truth, peaceful pastures, quiet respite between the storms.
I forget the pain of leaving and remember being tucked under Your chin and carried as I listen to the beat of your heart.
Thanks for joining us! So much of life is below the surface and intuitive. What we believe to be deeply personal and unique is often universal. The spiritual is ignored until the pressures of life exceed our capacity to make sense of any of it. Out of the struggle emerges wisdom and a connection to the Logos, “The Word made flesh”.
As we retire, my husband and I are collecting our poems and reflections to share with our family and friends. We offer it as an encouragement and hope for the journey.
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton