Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bee Still

A few days ago I was at work and I got an email that really frustrated me.  It was a personal matter, not work related, but it was an unexpected and it left me with a feeling that I wanted to cut and run.  I was going to work through lunch but my concentration was shot and my office was freezing so I took a walk.   I needed to feel the warmth of the sun, and since the Mississippi humidity hasn’t hit yet the noon sun was bearable and a welcomed relief.

At first I was going to sit in my building’s outdoor eating area but then I remembered the Medicine Wheel Garden built by the campus Inter-tribal Society so I decided to take a stroll through it to see what was blooming.  The garden was built in 2007 and for a long time it was mostly weeds with a few plants here and there.  A couple of years ago one of the campus organizations went in and cleaned it nicely but it has overgrown again with bushes and trees taller than me.  I liked walking through it even though it was a little unsettling not being able to see around the corner to the next quadrant.  I came out and sat on a log bench and looked into the garden with my back to the parking lot.  There in my solitude I thawed in the sun and cooled my mood.

As I sat and thought and prayed I heard a familiar sound.  It was the zzzt zzzt zzzt of a bee.  I looked around and noticed the blooming Smooth Sumac tree I was sitting near was swarming with bees.  These bees were not the friendly looking bumblebee like the one on the cereal box, nor were they the beneficial honey bees that are disappearing at an alarming rate.  These bees wore slick black armor and carried yellow backpacks with a black dot in the middle.  These were carpenter bees.  I really don’t care for carpenter bees.  They are destructive and arrogant.  They’ll hover at eye level and stare you down.  Thankfully these bees were so enrapt with their feast they did not notice me.

I know some people who will flee at the mere thought of a bee near them, but bees do not bother me.  I leave them alone and they leave me alone.  Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to don a beekeeper’s suit and delve into a hive for honey, but I did feel an air of confidence sitting there with bees all around me.  They kept me still and their droning was like a monk’s chant, calming and meditative.  

It’s always easiest for me to spend quality time with God when I am surrounded by his creations with the sounds of nature as my only distraction. As the hour melted away in the warmth of the sun, so did my worries and frustration lift away on bees’ wings all the way to God’s shoulders. 

Psa 46:10  Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


A year ago's Mother’s Day, started with a nice breakfast cooked by my husband and ended with me having a swollen stitched-up face and sedated by Lortab lying on the couch watching Harry Potter.   Now I am healed with a small scar and a porcelain tooth to keep forever as souvenirs of my most memorable Mother’s Day to date.  Last year I was fiercely missing my own mother, so this year I’ve decided to put all that behind me and concentrate on another mother, the Blessed Mother.  

I learned I was pregnant with my children by seeing a plus sign on a stick I … well you know.  Mary, on the other hand was heralded by the archangel Gabriel.  He brought her the news of God’s favor and told her she would conceive a son.

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Luke 1:32-33.

Mary agreed to allow God’s will be done.  But what was Mary’s true understanding of this proclamation?  Did she realize her son was going to be the Son of God or did she think He would wear an earthly crown like royalty?  By accepting God’s will she had to also face shame and fear.  If the man who was chosen to be her husband rejected her then she might be stoned to death.  But God took care of that obstacle too by sending an angel to Joseph as well.  

“…Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21.

As my child grew on the inside of me my body grew on the outside of me.  When I met people I was usually greeted with the question, “When are you due?” or “Are you having a boy or a girl?”   But when Mary met her cousin, Elizabeth, she was greeted with the words,

 “…Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”  Luke 1:42-45.

If Mary did not know her son was divine by that time, then surely Elizabeth’s words gave her a clue.

When I was pregnant my biggest concerns were finding clothes that fit me and what I was going to use to decorate the nursery.  Of course I prayed for a healthy baby, but I had excellent medical care so I knew from the beginning my children were going to be fine.  There were no blood tests, heartbeat monitors and ultrasounds 2000 years ago.  Mary only had faith to depend upon.  Mary did not have a nursery to decorate or a sterile environment in which to deliver her son.  Instead when she was near her due date she had to make a long, difficult journey to Bethlehem with Joseph to be counted in a census.  While in Bethlehem, 

“…she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7  

When my first son was born I had very few visitors in the hospital.  One was my Aunt Betty who has always been the faithful, thoughtful relative.  I truly appreciated her visit even though all I wanted to do was sleep.  I imagine Mary must have longed for her mother or other female relatives to help her bring her son into the world.  We do not know if she had help, but we do know she had visitors. God had sent an angel to a group of shepherds and the angel proclaimed to them,

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11.

And soon a multitude of angels were before them, praising God in a chorus of heavenly voices.  Then the shepherds, 

 “… came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.   And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2: 16-19.

I like the part that says Mary “pondered them in her heart”.  I can see the wheels turning in her mind, the dawning of realization that her Son is no ordinary child.  The words spoken to her by Gabriel and Elizabeth must have taken on more meaning to her once Jesus was born.

And if the shepherds’ stories of angels were not enough to convince her of her son’s divinity then the three kings who came to see her child should have driven home the message.   

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11.

Personally, I think the truth of Jesus became most clear to Mary when she and Joseph presented Him to the temple to offer the sacrifice for sons as was required by the law of the day.  There they were met by Simeon a man who received a message from the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  When he saw Jesus he took Him in his arms and said,

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”  Luke 2:29-32.

The passage goes on to say that Mary and Joseph “marveled” at the things Simeon said.  They marveled.  They were astonished a total stranger told them their baby was God’s salvation.  But here’s the part that strikes me the most about this passage, 

“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” Luke 2:34-35.

The writer here makes a special note to emphasize that Simeon specifically told Mary that her son would be the rise and fall of many.  He said a sword would pierce her soul.  On one hand Mary is told her son would be great, and in the same sentence she is told she will suffer for it. 
A few months ago my family and I were at my husband’s sister’s house and we left late at night during a terrible thunderstorm.  We were in three different vehicles.   I was the lead car, my husband was behind me and bringing up the rear of the caravan was the car with my two sons.  The rain was coming down so heavily I had to drive at a crawl just to see the road.  I prayed to God to please keep my children safe.  Please keep my children safe.  I crept slowly around the curves and across the bridges that lead to my house because I could barely see and also I felt if I went slow the cars behind me would be forced to go slow as well.  Please keep my children safe were the words I repeated over and over until we were all finally at home.  The fear I felt in the thunderstorm was only for a fleeting moment in time.  It subsided as soon as we were all safely together.  I can only imagine the ceaseless prayers Mary must have prayed for Jesus his entire life after hearing Simeon’s words.

As a newly expectant mother I had a romantic notion of motherhood being times of having a soft, sleeping baby in cuddly clothes cradled in my arms as I rocked him gently to sleep.  While there were times when this notion rang true, the reality of motherhood was anything but romantic.  It’s heart-wrenching to send your child to school every day and not be there to protect him from harm, both physical and emotional.  It’s downright frightening to watch your teen drive off alone for the first time, no, make that every time, they get behind the wheel.  How did Mary make it through each day knowing that one day something so horrific would happen to her precious child that the hurt of it would pierce her own soul?

I guess Mary made it because she was chosen by God for a reason; she had great faith.  God had a plan for her just as He has a plan for every mother and child he unites.  I, we, just need to have faith to see it through.  We, I, need to remember Mary’s words of praise when she said to Elizabeth, 

“…My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;  As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”  Luke 1:46-55.