Category Archives: Article

Celebration!

Isn’t it cheering that communal celebrations happen? I suspect that just about everyone, for instance, loves attending weddings. 

People have their own favorite reasons for a party…. England recently celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee – 70 years on the throne! – with all sorts of special events throughout the land. In May we went to lots of studios during Oxfordshire Artweeks, to celebrate the creative skills of artists throughout the county. As I write, we’ve just been to a nearby village festival to watch steamroller printing: large lino-cut images printed by a steamroller engine riding over them! Later this summer, a favorite local music festival will have its ‘Last Hurrah’ after taking place for almost 20 years. There’s New Church Day, with pageants and picnics and presents for children. And American Independence Day – parades, fireworks, more picnics.

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A Child of God

I admit, I’ve been more consumed by the problems of the world lately than by my efforts to live a useful life. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? When the world starts feeling impossible, we want to try to make a difference, or lean into the scary parts, which can lead to hopelessness, distraction, and/or underestimation of the difference we make in our homes and circles and personal relationships with the Lord. At least that’s how it goes for me. Caught up in rationalizations, zeal, and conversations about what to do about various things, at some point the idea of being a child of God landed in my head. With it came a distressing feeling that I had no idea how to see myself that way. I don’t know if this is a common struggle, or if it has to do with the oldest sibling “I can handle it” mindset I’ve had since I was quite small, but feeling so distant from a childlike safety made me weep.

So, in case someone out there needs to feel a little more held, I want to share a vision of being safe in the arms of the Lord. And for the record, I’m not saying that this safety means we needn’t worry about or do anything. We’re still responsible for our choices, and it’s important that we do the work of this life. But now I’ll focus on the protection, love, and mercy we can trust in as we do that.

A certain sense of trust comes naturally to children, but as adults the feeling of needing to be in control runs deep. It’s painfully obvious yet painfully difficult to remember that even the most unexpected, unplanned, unwelcomed things in our lives don’t veer away from the Lord’s Providence. His Providence continues seamlessly and unwaveringly through the seemingly impossible; through any and every state I find myself in. I can trust in what’s beyond my line of vision. That it’s there, and always was. Even before I realized I needed it to be.

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Hear Here

Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.

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Photo: Stephen Conroy

One of the songs for children that I wrote in my early twenties was about Samuel. The little boy was woken in the night by a voice calling his name. Assuming that it was the high priest Eli, Samuel ran into the next room to find him. But Eli assured him that he did not call, and to go back to bed. Three times Samuel hurried in before Eli realized that it had been the voice of God.

I recall a time that the minister described the disparity between what our heart hears, represented by Samuel, and what Eli knows, who is like our understanding. Samuel was a small boy. Eli was a judge. An inner voice can beckon us with innocence, trust, forgiveness, even while such a response is not easily justified.

An example he used was to speak a word in the Zimbabwe tongue. No one knew it, yet he used simple gestures to embellish it, and by the fourth time we guessed that it meant woman.  

The messages we receive from prayer can be confusing. Incomplete. We may be at a loss to explain our own response. But perhaps explanation is not the pinnacle of spiritual life. Is a spray of water droplets more beautiful if we narrate their fall?

There was a time when John and I were facing an enormous challenge. We each processed in our own ways, unable to really support one another because we were both unsteady. One day I asked him point blank. 

“What do you think???”

He paused as only an Odhner can. 

“I am trying not to think.”

I was stunned. And yet years later, it fits like a well worn shoe you lost under the bed last summer, and never quite gave up on finding. There are times when our answers do not come packaged in syllables. 

Love,
Lori

Small and Big

Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.

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Last month I delivered a meal to a family with a new baby. Their house is on the one block road I lived on in 1964. We were in the colonial on the left, which has had a series of upgrades since then. I gazed at the nine homes, reeling in recollections of whom each belonged to. If the family had no kids, the yard was inconsequential. The older couples only came into focus when we played Truth or Dare, and I accepted a challenge to ring the doorbell of the scary lady and run away. 

One of my inflated memories is that the seven children in our gang would perch on a red bicycle, go barreling down the hill, and crash in the field. I was little and got the back fender. My brother was older and sometimes got to pedal, though that did not also include the chance to sit. The journey felt enormous to me at six, but now I realize it was half a football field. In my Personal History, we did this all the time, but then again it is possible we only pulled it off once.

What struck me as I beheld it now in my mid sixties, was how compact the street was. This was the arena for four gripping years of my childhood, and it felt spacious then. I was not allowed to venture past the corner, but who needed to? I could explore all summer and not bump up against the edges. Now the trees seemed short, the road barely wide enough for two cars to eek past. The yard where we played kick the can and fifty scatter was the size of some people’s living rooms. Well, rich people’s living rooms. 

The ensuing afternoon entailed a series of annoyances. The package I expected was not ready when I went to pick it up and I had to go back a second time.

I had sprung for organic tomatoes, and found evidence of nibbling on their bright red skins.  The clothes someone had kindly brought up from the dryer, so that they could rotate in their own laundry, was damp. 

Yet by evening the composite of irritations seemed insignificant. Smaller than small. Unable to tip the balance on a dieter’s scale for serving sizes. 

My mind scrolled through some of the looming emergencies that plagued our family in the sixties. My father had gone back to graduate school and providing for four children weighed heavily. My mother began to act strangely, though it was another ten years before we understood the name of her demons. 

But now, fifty years later, those dire circumstances feel no heavier than a baby’s hand in the palm of One whose care spans yesterday, today and long into tomorrow.

Love,
Lori