Summer Fun

Our family has been coming to the same stretch of Michigan sand every summer for 68 years. Although the dimensions of the beach change each year based on the depth of the lake, one beach feature has always been there: the creek.

The creek emergesAs kids we played endlessly in Deer Creek, a shallow, moving mini-river of water flowing mysteriously out of dark woods into Lake Michigan. Despite summers when algae grew on its surface or bark turned the water brown, nothing could keep us out of it.

If we left the beach and followed the creek into its deep woods we would find treasure beneath the water: minnows, sparkle-rocks and best of all, gray clay. During the carefree days before we hit the double-digit years, we were sure this clay was the key to flawless beauty. Working carefully on ourselves and each other to cover every square inch of exposed skin, we’d emerge from the woods looking like a potter’s wheel had gone berserk.

In the 1950’s, creek mosquitoes were so thick we often resembled measle-infected kids. Regardless, we followed the creek as far as we could, thinking it “went forever.” Sometimes wild winds knocked trees down, creating perfect bridges. We’d run back and forth, competing to see who could cross the fastest before mis-stepping and crashing into the water. During moments of rest, we’d straddle the “bridge” and talk for hours, sharing childhood secrets. Our parents let us roam, never nervous over our safety. Such freedom is a perk today’s children don’t often enjoy.

Deer CreekLast summer Jack and I had a carefree adventure of our own. Since the creek flows through the woods behind our cottage, we decided to walk home from the beach in its water. Between fallen trees, slippery rocks, tangled roots, and low-hanging branches, we barely made it. But I felt like a kid again, and it was worth the effort.

There aren’t many people following the creek these days. Parents need to keep a closer watch over their children, worrying about who else might be in the woods. (Thankfully there’s never been an incident nearby.) Maybe the kids are all on the internet or playing video games. Whatever the reason, they’re missing one of summer’s delights, not to mention a choice chance to learn about the Creator.

Exploring the features of Deer Creek is like nature’s summer school. Even studying the tiny body of a mosquito can teach children about God’s attention to detail and can initiate a special admiration for him. Although God can be appreciated for his part in the world of technology too, catching minnows in a beach towel or harvesting a bucket of sticky clay might be a superior route to getting acquainted with him.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Reaching Perfection

It’s hard to be perfect at anything. No matter how we try, our efforts are flawed. But when I was a kid, I got to be perfect at one thing: Sunday school attendance.

In the ‘40s and ‘50s, our church involvement went well beyond sitting through one hour-long worship service. Sunday school came before church, followed by a fellowship time, followed by “real” church. Since my family lived in the Chicago suburbs and Moody Church was in the city, we left home early and returned mid-afternoon, often heading back to church later for youth group and then an evening worship service.

Moody attendance pinNevertheless, many of us chased after perfect attendance. If we ventured out of town, a diligent search was made for an acceptable local church to attend. And it wasn’t good enough just to sit through a church service. In order to get attendance credit with our home church, we had to be present at a Sunday school hour, too. Then we proved that by bringing home a note from the vacation Sunday school, preferably written on their church letter-head.

If we successfully attended Sunday school for 52 weeks in a row, we received a gold and enamel brass bar attached to an attendance pin. Each new year came with a fresh chance to win another bar.

What made us want to attend Sunday school every single week of the year? In the beginning we were obedient little children just following orders, loving the flannel-graph stories and the teachers who taught them. That evolved into the fun of coming together with pals each week, which grew into asking hard questions from teachers who lived out their faith in front of us.

Many of us still point to these Sunday school teachers and youth pastors as important mentors in our lives. They encouraged us to “walk the high road” rather than cave in for instant gratification.

But the #1 motivation toward perfect Sunday school attendance was a person… actually three people. As we showed up week to week, we got to know and love (1)  God our heavenly Father, (2) Jesus our personal Savior, and the mysterious but powerful (3) Holy Spirit who, amazingly enough, was willing to live within us if we asked him. And because of these three, we learned that in God’s hands, even life’s negatives eventually yield blessings.

Sunday School pinWhether or not we find perfection in any category on this earth, the Trinity has offered to provide eternal perfection to all who believe. And we don’t even have to attend Sunday school to get it.

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of [Christ’s] return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)


Mopping Up

MBDGOWI EC006Rhett Butler was never without a handkerchief when Scarlett needed one, because he was a classy guy. Having a ready hankie was the mark of a true gentleman.

Nate was a gentleman, too.

I can’t count the times I needed his hankie-help when we were away from home. Coffee spills, make-up gone awry, tears at a funeral, or sticky fingers. His hankie was usually out of his suit pocket before I’d looked up from my sudden need, and he never gave a thought to the fact that he might want to use it later and find it soiled by his wife.

I can remember watching my mother put a handkerchief in her purse each time she went out, noticing that my father had one, too. People of that generation didn’t use Kleenex with abandon like I do. They were “thinking green” well before it was the thing to do.

I also recall shopping with Mom to buy a bridal shower gift. She selected a handkerchief made of gauzy white linen fanned out in a square flat box and wrapped in tissue. The embroidered pink roses on one corner were matched by a pink edging all around. As a young girl I knew the bride would love it and wondered if she might even carry it on her wedding day.

I can see how hankies are wonderful for mopping up moisture — from eyes, noses, clothes, children’s faces, and other places. Although I don’t own a hankie, I was delighted to be married to a handkerchief-carrying gentleman. I needed him, and I needed his hankies. Both helped me clean up many a mess.

Sometimes I think about the Lord and his expertise at cleaning up after us. Throughout the Bible he mopped up a variety of disasters, and he’s in the same business today, offering his services to those of us who keep messing up. And the best part about his cleaning is that it isn’t just surface work. What he offers goes deep into the heart and fixes what can’t be touched with a hankie but is far more difficult to clean. It’s the buried soil of sin.

The beauty of God’s mess-mopping is that once things have been cleaned up, he’s willing to let the past stay in the past. Although I don’t think God actually forgets anything, he does promise not to keep bringing up the messes we’ve made. They’re as good as forgotten.

Nate's hankiesI still remember quite a few of the wet clean-ups Nate’s hankies helped me with, and many of the handkerchiefs show stains testifying to this. Actually, now that I think about it, Nate never brought these things up to me again either. Like Rhett Butler, he was just happy he could help.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Praising and Praying with Mary

  1. I’m thankful I was able to eat some dinner tonight.
  2. I’m also thankful for how “normal” (and good) I felt being able to clean our condo tonight.