My heart overflows with joy this morning. So I've decided just to practice the original idea of blogging and do "web logging" today of what I experienced this weekend. The Lord is so good to his people.
Friday night my daughter's Christian school put on a talent show. Run by the students, it was a fun night of watching young people put their considerable gifts on display, from piano playing to high school boys spoofing 'N Sync. In the process, they raised nearly $1500 to encourage one of the school's families who is involved in developing orphanages in Haiti. The enthusiasm of the youth was contagious, and made me grateful for the community the school provides for our family.
With a cool but pleasant spring Saturday, I delighted in getting out in the yard and working on projects with my family. Mowing, trimming, and blowing got the lawn back into shape. I attacked the winter's algae in our little fishpond with new filters and a UV light. The back porch was swept and washed down to ready for visits there. These and other projects left my middle-aged body at the end of the day with those happy muscular aches that promise a good night's sleep.
During the day I exchanged emails with a longtime friend and mentor who recently lost his wife of over sixty years. Reading his note of faith, sorrow, and thankfulness as he spoke of her brought tears to my eyes as I thought of them, and put renewed gratitude in my heart for the wife I have had only half as long. A good reminder to enjoy the wife of my youth all my days.
Saturday evening a group of seminary students and their families joined us for a picnic. These men have been in a discipleship practicum with me this year, and we enjoyed further the comaraderie that has developed. Playing cornhole, jumping on the tire swing, seeing our wives in happy conversations, laughing over the antics of the babies and young children, eating a meal of grilled brats and hotdogs, and singing and praying together were some of the Lord's gifts we enjoyed together. But the highlight for me was sitting outside in the dusk as marshmallows were roasted for s'mores and having two-year old Maria, a student's daughter, willingly come sit on my lap and snuggle as we watched the fire.
On the Lord's Day morning we were further sanctified by struggling together as we discussed hard questions in a class about how to minister to those in abusive marriages, and then hearing a message on the Trinity and relationships in worship. I also witnessed a miracle. For Cory walked into church. This strapping young man with a wife and baby had nearly lost his life a few months ago, his body ravaged with something akin to Guillain-Barre syndrome and then also suffering other things such as septic shock and pneumonia. Yet his life was spared. Just a few weeks ago he was in a wheelchair and unable to move his limbs. Seeing his radiant smile and hearing him praising God for his goodness filled our hearts with joy.
Yesterday afternoon our family basked in the sun outside as we enjoyed a simple lunch. Then, like a little kid, as the ladies cleaned up in the kitchen I asked Miriam if I could use a two-month early Father's Day gift she had gotten me - a hammock. With her consent, I bounded out to the hammock strung between two trees. Laying there looking up at the trees, birds, and blue sky was as refreshing as the short snooze I took.
Late that afternoon we returned to church for a memorial service. My friend Thomas, who had come with me to every evening service over the past two years, passed away recently. As his family had him quickly cremated and had given him no funeral, we felt we should honor his life. It was wonderful to see about fifty people from the church gather to remember him. One of the highlights was reading and singing Psalm 113. In the last service Thomas had attended the night before he died, this psalm was read. The psalm begins and ends with "Praise the Lord!" As it was read that evening, Thomas had echoed, for all to hear in our normally staid congregation, his own "Praise the Lord!" We noted yesterday that the psalm also includes these words: "He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people." Thomas, who loved Jesus, is sitting with those princes now.
In the evening service, a seminary student brought us an encouraging message from Isaiah 60. He stressed how the Lord can stretch our hearts and cause us to love new, different-from-us people like the people we already love, much like a family receives another baby and immediately loves that child like the ones they already have. As I listened and missed Thomas' presence, I prayed he would bring us new, different-from-us people to love.
Returning home, the day ended with snacks and conversation around our kitchen table about our experiences over the last days. What a weekend! How blessed it is to be counted among the people of God! "On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate" (Psalm 145:5).