horse-3386051_1920

A Tale Of Two Showers

So I say to you, “If you knew the blessed God, and who it is that is offered to you-the sweetest love, the richest mercy, the surest friend, the chiefest good, the greatest beauty, the highest honor, and the fullest happiness… You would be more willing to leave these frothy joys and drossy delights for the enjoyment of God than any prisoner was ever willing to leave the misery of jail for the liberty, pleasures, and preferment of a court.”

-George Swinnock, The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of the Soul

I attended two bridal showers last Saturday. Funny thing was, I didn’t even know I was at the one until I got to the other. Then these dull eyes started to make sense of what I’d seen. 

Because you’ve got to have no sight at all to miss a bride making ready for her big day. 

Bridal Showers

One shower was bigger, with dozens of cousins and aunts and friends. The other was just three sisters, until along came me. 
One shower had a table spread big with buffet of sandwiches and salads and mixed nuts and cake. The other was not so broad- some sips of soup and applesauce. Both showered refreshment on the guests. Both tables amply laid. 
At one shower, the bride-to-be was getting vases and sheets and picture-less picture frames. The other was giving vases and quilts and pictures in their frames away. Both had a devoted sister beside her, noting each gift opened or given away. 
At one shower, the bride is counting down-38 days and 18 hours-before she’s given away. The other bride knows not the day nor the hour. She suspects she knows the season and content to leave the precise timing to her bridegroom. 

She says, His timing is always best.

Preparing For Their Big Days

Both brides are picking playlists for their celebration days. Both select from among the special songs that marked their relationships along the way. One bride might play I’ve Got You. The other, for sure, Trust and Obey

Both brides are clearing clutter. One bride has far less than the other. Both sort through unneeded things from their single days. Both go deep into closets and drawers to throw old clippings and awards and cards and notes away.
Both brides can talk a blue streak about her beloved. Both smile and look just a little bit smitten when each says, in so many words how she knows his love. Both brides describe- in a word- their husband, their betrothed, as faithful every day 
Both brides will relocate upon their wedding days. One will move across the country to her groom’s new medical school. The other will go a little further than Philly. Both might miss some folks, but they say they’re not afraid to go away. 
I’m dense sometimes. I don’t always see through God’s signs to the truth that is behind. But even I couldn’t miss the message of the brides after the shower last Saturday. 

And Grandma Did A Fist Pump

It is possible for your dying day to be your wedding day…for then the fairest of ten thousand and your soul will be solemnly knit together. 

-George Swinnock, The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of the Soul
Two weeks ago we found out Grandma’s cancer had came back. This time it was more painful-incurable pancreatic. We don’t know just how long. And how I wanted to visit while Grandma still felt, her word, perky. 
So I headed up Friday night, clueless about her shower. The second one Saturday, for lovely cousin Hannah, that one I knew about. You can see how the surprise was all on me when I walked in to find the three. Grandma with her sisters were gathered around the table writing lists and making plans and setting up the service. 

What’s the oldest blessing in the Bible? they asked me. Aaron’s, I think, at the end of Numbers chapter six. Grandma’s sister read it. 

That’s it, Grandma declared. Now, write that down so you don’t forget.
Then she let me to recite some verses I’d been working through. And when I got to- Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemptionshe broke right in with glee.

Here where Grandma fist-pumped and said so joyfully, 

That’s me! I’m sealed for the Day of Redemption, for Jesus. Oh, I’m so glad He loves me!   

Revel A Minute

A Puritan named George Swinnock lived 350 years ago and he would have fist pumped, too. Because what Grandma knows, Swinnock knew- that when outside is fading, the inward can be renewed. And that the abundant life Jesus gives only starts with our short as dew, fading like wildflower lives on God’s green earth.

We can know this too. We-me and you, church, the body of Christ, his betrothed bride-we aren’t unaware.

So revel here a minute with Swinnock and Grandma and me.

Come forth; behold your beloved in all His glory. His arms are stretched out to embrace you. His lips are ready to kiss you. Oh, what a loving look He gives you! I am certain that you have a greater place in His heart than you have in your own…Your beloved will entertain you with precious and costly feast at His own tableIf you accept this offer, it will be life for you to think of death. You will lift up your head with joy when the day of your redemptions draws near. (Swinnock, p. 76-77)

Saints know where their portions lay. Grandma’s portion showed through at her shower on Friday night. I saw Grandma’s affections are getting more set on Christ, her true husband, and that this world is gently easing out of her, so it’ll be easier to say good-bye. 
For now Grandma’s showering us all-her beautiful Connemara Girl and woolen Sunbonnet girls, her hand-sown quilts and beloved hymnals, even her dear Dutch art-her Delft blue and windmills and tulips. She’s giving it all away. 
And she’s sealed and dressed in fine linen and fist-pumping awaiting one glorious redemption day. 
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Revelation 19:6-8

horse-3386051_1920

On Arrows and Portions

Mother, Mother, Watch and Pray

Mother! Mother! Watch and pray,

Fling not golden hours away!
Now or never, plant and sow,
Catch the morning’s earliest glow.

Mother! Mother! Guard the dew,
While it sparkles clear and true.
No delay! The scorching noon
May thy treasures reach too soon.

Mother! Point them to the sky,
Tell them of a loving eye,
That more tender is than thine,
And doth ever on them shine.

Mother! Lead them soon and late
To behold the golden gate;
When they long to enter there,
Lead them to the Lamb by prayer.

Mother, seize the precious hours,
While the dew is on thy flowers!
Life is such a fleeting thing,
Mother! Mother! Sow in spring.-Selected, “Verses of Virtue”

Counting down the minutes

In 53 minutes-but who’s counting?-Gabe’s school bus is due to return him at the end of our driveway.  The only day I’ve wanted to see him more was the day he was born.

This first day of school for Gabe distracted me. I meant to write about portions today.  As in Psalm 73:26:

My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. 

And Psalm 16:5

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

Parenting can be one’s portion. But only for a little while. Child-rearing is a temporary assignment. Being a mom is a sweet, short season, but it shouldn’t be our biggest “portion,” the source of our identity and hope.

Is parenting your full and first portion?

Are your children your refuge, your identity, your strength? Does parenting more define you, or refine you?

My latest favorite 17th century Puritan is George Swinnock. In The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourish

 

ing of Faith, he urges moms like maybe you and like me with incredible candor to resist finding our portion in anything on earth. This would, I think, include your beloved children.

Swinnock was only 46 when he received his eternal portion. And I don’t even know if he was a father. Regardless, he speaks to my almost-bursting mother’s heart, even as I count down the 13 minutes before the bus returns my boys and I steal a hug from a brand new kindergartner, and, if I’m lucky his third grade brother.

The fuller the blossom, the sooner they shed.

Swinnock explains the finding our ultimate hope and joy in an earthly portion.

Earthly portions are like roses, in that the fuller they blossom, the sooner they shed. They are often misused through pride and wasted throughcarelessness…However, my portion will always be full (without diminution) and first (without alteration).  This God will be my God forever. He will be my guide and help unto death. Even death, which dissolves so many bonds and unties knots, will never separate me from my portion. On the contrary, it will give me a perfect and everlasting possession of it. 

Arrows in the hands of a warrior, are sons born in one’s youth.

That came to mind in the bittersweet walk alone from the bus stop this morning.

But then I remembered: Arrows leave the hand. They are not one’s portion. Arrows are meant to be shot forth. Seize the precious hours and watch them fly.

To kindergarten and beyond. God speed, my sons!