The last few days winds seem impetuous, reckless in the whisk through yards wanting green, rashly bending slender trunks and tender branches no longer brittle with winter freeze. It whispers, wanting to bring spring, but is pushed from directions carrying chill, carrying only “wish for” instead of tulip and sprouts of future lilies. A damp smell rides along, oozing up from the mud-melts, from the recent rains that puddled down yard slopes, clattered out eave spouts, and gushed to curbs. The deck again holds my sit, the seat cushion squitching rain from the foam, adding “why didn’t I think of that” humor to the soon to settle think. Churlish clouds plop atop sunshine, scoot away in seeming laughter at the bite they leave on my arms and face. A starling and grackle at the feeder billow feathers and challenge winter’s cling. Me, well I drift to farm days when midday heat harshly beat the behind the barn dirt pasture into dust puffs under tractor tires. One, old oak – bent into years of bulk and burdening branches – offered shade, offered a respite of relax seldom taken. Dad sat atop the silo, guided staves into tongue and groove place as others at the bottom did the same. Each spring the silo caved in winds, no fill of silage to keep its shape, to hold it firm. He wished for clouds I suspect.
I recall an old poem, “God and the Farmer” by Frederick Erastus Pierce – quite a name to recall actually. “They sat in the cooling shadow/At the porch of templed wood;/And each looked forth on his handiwork,/And saw that the work was good.” The entirety of the Smith farm spread for dad’s view from his precarious perch. I am sure he saw, too, the times stealing the land he would soon be unable to till. Pierce’s poem questions whether the wind “stroked that farmer’s hair?/Or had God’s own hand of wind and flame/Laid benediction there?” The breeze, annoyed by me escape, slips under my shirt with cold claws to scratch into my warm, succeeds and replants reality.
The creep of recent violence in Florida, the insistence of shooting each night in Milwaukee, the dread of opioids invading our schools – reality denies my spring as much as anything. Marches, protests, words upon words upon words into swords of slander and hate. “Do something” mired in deepening mucks of mudslinging, meagerly, money driven nothing but talk…My head hangs a little, weighted by the want to do and unable to find the to do that will help. Thinks do not seem quite good enough, the recognition of problems – be they federal, state, or local, be they community, family, or church family – as frustration builds on frustration. “Just quit – give it up!” echoes and re-echoes. And the echoes come from a soul-less call bounced in the canyon walls devoid of hope, falling hard on the surfaces weathered by steady torrents of all that’s amiss.
Howard Swain once wrote that in the world “much debases, and much exalts. /The world’s not bad if left as it is!” I do not think things can be left “as is.” We live amidst smile and sorrow, but I think dwell a bit too much on the latter. A second step seems to come in the stride towards noting the good and working those positives into the changes to come. Prayed over and studied change, reviewed change, transparent change. No, I did not forget a first step. Christians know it, live it every day. Edgar Guest writes that “Time has not changed the joys we knew; the summer rains or winter snows/Have failed to harm the wondrous hue of any dew-kissed bygone rose…” If I can be so bold to add, we cannot go back – this world moves too fast – but we should not forget what created the good. Turning our frets over to God, putting them in a box, locking the lid, and placing the likely crate-sized collection at the foot of Jesus’ cross. I try to transfer this from Easter Sunday lessons and songs, this burden box of “I need to…” shifting to the waiting hands of God’s “Let Me handle that as I have said I would.”
Bertha Adams Backus poetically wrote in “Then Laugh”:
Build for yourself a strong-box,
Fashion each part with care;
When its strong as your hand can make it,
Put all your troubles there;
Hide there all thought of your failures
And each bitter cup that you quaff;
Lock all your heartaches with in it,
Then sit on the lid and laugh.
And I would only add, I can sit on that box in sighed relief ONLY in knowing its contents have been given to God and He returns the joy of grace, love, forgiveness, and assurance.
~ Dave Smith