~ Like Grasshoppers ~
“It is the One who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.”
~ Isaiah 40:22
Dear Members and Friends, Happy summer to you. Welcome to our combined July / August edition of the Bower Hill newsletter. Churches, like schools, tend to get quieter during the summer months, but they do not go dormant. Whatever your plans for this season, the staff and members of our church wish you a time of joy, and purpose, and spiritual growth.
One of the longstanding summer traditions in our family is to spend a week at the Chautauqua Institution, where Michelle scurries between every last lecture, and class, and concert she can possibly squeeze in. Me? Well, I take a more measured stride at Chautauqua. I need an hour or two between presentations to ruminate on what I’ve just seen or heard. I go through the schedule at the beginning of the week and circle the several events that appeal to me. Then I spend the rest of the week sauntering around the grounds, sorting through used books that are for sale in the basement of the library, and rising early each morning to attend Holy Eucharist at the Episcopal chapel. They’re two very different approaches to Chautauqua—and frankly, to life in general. But both work.
One year, an engineer lectured about her work in the Okavango Delta of Botswana (a place where I’ve spent some time, incidentally, and nearly perished with thirty other missionaries in a pontoon boat accident—a story for another time). The Delta is an immensely beautiful place, a vast green oasis in a khaki-colored land. But the engineer was meeting with all the hassles and disappointments that befall first-worlders in Africa. She was working and living in canvas tents without electricity, and the heat was inescapable. Machines didn’t work. People showed up late, or not at all. The bugs were making her crazy. The hippos and lions and hyenas were exotic, but actually kind of scary. Her work—whatever it was, I don’t recall—was going nowhere, it seemed. And she did what many seem to do these days: she shared all her anger and dissatisfaction on Twitter. Unexpectedly, she got a reply from an astronaut who, unbeknownst to her, had been following her work, and who was circling the globe in a satellite. The message said, “Thanks for your amazing work! Here’s a photo of the Okavango Delta today from up here in space.” And there was a picture, just taken, of that astoundingly beautiful place as seen from the heavens. It was a great, delicate swirl in varying shades of blue and many tints of green. The broad sweep of the great Zambesi River looked like the inspired brushstroke of a master painter. The dun-colored Kalahari Desert pushed in from all sides, framing the otherworldly beauty of the scene. But…it wasn’t “otherworldly.” It was exactly this—worldly, but this world as seen from a perspective greater than the tired, frustrated engineer could know. So, the engineer and her team went back to work reinvigorated, knowing that they were not just being assaulted by mosquitoes and flies, but taking part in a grand tableau of unspeakable loveliness and life. It restored their hope and joy for another day of labor in that difficult place.
It’s so easy to get “lost in the weeds” of life that we miss the greater perspective. (After all, Isaiah does compare human beings to grasshoppers!) I would encourage you, during these bright summer days, to spend some time gazing down at your life—and perhaps the life of our church—from a satellite. Notice the blues and greens and the big, empty tan places. What are you grateful for? What did you do right? What person, or decision, or influence made all the difference for you? Isn’t it funny how even the desert places have their part in the beauty of it all? It’s important to remember that life is more than the way we’re living it just now; it’s more than what we see just at this moment. There’s an intention, and a meaning, and a beauty that we don’t always see.
In Christ’s Peace, ~Brian