Surprising Joy

Summer has had a hard time coming this year. Late rains and cool temps have played havoc with the usual spring festivities. And yet, today, the first official day off since school let out last Friday, turned out perfect. Blue skies with huge puffy clouds skirting across blended with the verdant greens of the trees dappling the roads with leaf shadow. The temps were comfortable and for once I dressed without the obligatory fleece I’ve been sporting for way too long this year. Early summer in northern California can be nearly Edenic.
I sat musing on this perfection this evening as I shelled peas off the back steps. The kids were in the pool even though the water was a tepid 74 degrees. Not quite bone-chilling, but cold enough to make you think twice about getting in any further. Kids are resilient, persistent, and determined, however, and even in the colder temps they will go in the pool. It’s not for the faint of heart. But my kids were splashing around, Clara trying to coax Joseph to race across the shallow end, but shooting her cause a deadly blow every time she cried out in mock angst, “Oh it’s cold!” Joseph, wise for his nearly 4 years, had determined not to commit to a full immersion but to stick to the platform where the water only came to his knees. He was happy with a squirt toy and throwing diving toys to the bottom for Clara to fetch. It was the first time all day I could remember them playing together for longer than five minutes without either of them spitting, hitting, biting, or calling a name. And I allowed myself to settle into a peaceful joy. Summer is here… garden fresh vegetables for dinner, kids playing in the pool, warm summer evening breezes, bliss.
God allows us these glimpses into the perfection He has planned for us to make us more eager for His coming Kingdom. But we don’t live in perfection. Sin and evil have turned our garden perfection to an impoverished planet. And the stark contrast between the joy I saw in my kids this evening and the joy of a group of five children in South Africa near the 1,000 Hills Clinic is startling at best. 1,000 Hills Clinic was founded by Dawn Faith Leppan and is supported by the CareNow Foundation. Dawn recounts an experience she had about a year ago:
“I was called out at 8:30 one evening to visit a family of five children. These children had lost their mum and the family they had been staying with had asked them to leave as they themselves were struggling. They had managed to find an abandoned shack to live in, and with your (CareNow) wonderful assistance I managed to get clothing, blankets, and food together and arrived at the shack to be met by the eldest child who had managed to find a small piece of candle for me to assess how they were living. It broke my heart to see not one blanket and an old twisted and blackened frying pan with some dry phutu in it that someone had given them to eat. One of the children was covered in shingles. They were thrilled and quite confused when we gave them the food and blankets (Prayers are answered!). The next day they were brought to the centre. All the children had a lovely hot shower, given a nice plate of porridge and Sister Dlamini in our clinic attended to the child with shingles. Their plight was reported to the social worker and things are beginning to look brighter for this little family.”
“They were thrilled” to receive food and blankets. This is a totally different joy, isn’t it? Joy in having the basics. Food for the belly, a blanket for warmth and comfort, hope that someone is watching out for God’s little ones. Joy.
And perfection. The perfection of God’s people called and acting on that calling, following the perfect example of Jesus to minister to the impoverished. Before I launch into some cliché riddled diatribe on the “less fortunate,” I have to pause. We’re all impoverished in some way, aren’t we? For some of us, the indications of suffering and brokenness are less than subtle. Lacking food, shelter, warmth, running water, clean water, a mother, light, health… these are very visible signs of impoverishment. In my own plenty, devoid of these signs, in fact blessed in a multitude of visible ways, there is a broken spirit that not even a cup of tea could fix. Because we all know a cup of tea can fix just about anything from hunger to a broken heart. Like pulling on a fleece on a chilly morning, a cup of tea is a blanket, cozy and comfortable, a sip of hope. Right? I think you’d be surprised how true this is going to be!

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