A cardinal perches on the evergreen just outside the door. He taps the sidelight window curiously, and cranes his neck as if to look into the house. I smile. It’s another reminder – I can face every new day, even a whole new year, without doubts, fear or regrets, because this is my Father’s world and he’s here.
Jack had an early morning appointment last week. He went out to the barn and I came downstairs to make coffee. It had stormed the day before, but now the wind was still. A reverent hush filled the air – the reward for those who get up at 4:30 a.m. I peered out the window into a magical world. A full moon cast silvery shadows across the snow-covered lawn. The trees, every branch festooned with a thick layer of white, stood at attention under a starry, cavernous sky.
I lingered in the dark, knowing I could never capture such majestic ambiance with my camera. I grasped for words to describe the picture in front of me, but nothing did it justice. And so I stood there and simply took it in, committing it to memory as best I could. How do you hold onto a feeling of surreal contentment and the sense that one stands in the presence of greatness? Deep calls to deep – here was a message with clarity beyond words, bringing the grace of God into the heart of his child, inspiring a longing to stay close forever. It was a “surprised by joy” moment, such as C.S. Lewis described.
Twenty-four hours later I woke up at 4:30 again, this time for no apparent reason. I turned over and tried to settle back into sleep, but dire thoughts intruded – deep concerns for people close to me in serious situations. I offered hazy prayers, tossing and turning, my mind darting from one thing to another. Suddenly my eyes opened wide. Fully awake I thought of a bill that needed to be paid this week and some year-end bookkeeping tasks requiring immediate attention. Next thing a flood of unpleasant memories of my childhood pressed in – times when I disrespected my parents, betrayed a friend, told a nasty lie. (A long memory for intricate details isn’t always a happy blessing.) Nothing connected logically to anything else, but it all came slamming down on my blurry psyche. All I wanted was to make it stop.
I began to pray through Psalm 103. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. As I listed the benefits I stopped to consider each one. By the end of the psalm I was calm and ready for sleep again.
God’s own word
Today I’m staring out the window at another spectacular scene – a bright blue sky over glistening fields. A head cold makes it hard to focus, but I’m still contemplating the contrast between those two very different experiences last week – morning glory vs. the twilight zone. How can a person go from near euphoria one day to the brink of panic the next? Was the first experience real, or just my imagination, an emotional flight of fancy? Funny – I don’t question the validity of the second experience. Problems are real. Then again, it was prayer and God’s own word that banished the anxiety and put the troubles into proper perspective. What could be more real than the Lord’s presence in the lives of his children through blissful moments as well as stressful ones?
I think about the new year stretching out ahead of me, as pristine and unmarked as the snow-covered field out the window. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were filled with mornings that glowed with God’s presence? But you can’t orchestrate those times. They’re a gift. The other moments, the disheartening ones, are more apt to occur. And yet, God’s presence is real in those as well. That’s where we live, isn’t it – in the midst of daily challenges, but always with the assurance that God is with us, working it all out for our good and his glory.
A cardinal perches on the evergreen just outside the door. He taps the sidelight window curiously, and cranes his neck as if to look into the house. I smile. It’s another reminder – I can face every new day, even a whole new year, without doubts, fear or regrets, because this is my Father’s world and he’s here. I’m sure of it!