On Bittersweet Farm
It’s been a lovely week on Bittersweet Farm. Our spirits were lifted by sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures and a short holiday work week. We enjoyed clearing out the Christmas things and starting into a fresh new year. We hope all is well with you and yours. Thank you for reading. It’s heartening to know that so many of you across the country are encouraged by reading the Bittersweet Farm Journal. Everywhere I go I meet readers. That makes my heart glad. Here’s a story for you to think about this morning:
A Sunday Evening in Gallup, New Mexico
Our son Daniel was married in Gallup, New Mexico. It seemed like a foreign country to us. It was beautiful, stark, strange, and wonderful all at once. The wedding was a joyful thing and when it was over the couple left on their honeymoon and the siblings all went home via a side-tip to Colorado. Lois and I, Hope and our daughter Holly and her husband Jesse stayed behind.
We found a good church and attended services there on the Lord’s Day. After lunch we got some much-needed sleep. In the evening we went to a little restaurant downtown, not so much to eat as to have a place to be together. Sometimes it’s hard to arrange a good place in public for conversation, but the Lord smiled upon us that night.
The sun was out as it usually is in that part of the world. There was dancing in the town square. It was peaceful. The food was good, then we drifted into easy conversation.
I had been thinking about a book of stories that was on my heart. Stories of God’s unusual province. Times when God guided or provided or warned us in an unusual way. Whenever I got with people and time would allow I would ask them a question like this: “Do you remember a time when you feel God spoke to you, or a time of unusual circumstances that could only have been arranged by God?”
Jesse told me a story about how God confirmed his decision to go as a missionary for four years to Tanzania. We drifted into easy and meaningful conversation about the Lord’s direction, the Lord’s work, the Lord’s provision. How one obedience leads to another.
We talked about how Holly grew to admire him while reading the blog of his missionary work in Tanzania and how that ultimately drew them together from opposite sides of the country.
We lingered over our soft drinks and even now, years later, I think on that conversation with fondness because it was a conversation about things that deeply matter—ultimate things…
A Circle of Christian Friends by a Good Fire
I was reading of the conversion of C.S. Lewis the other day and came across this passage from a letter he wrote to one of his students capped with a lyrical line which I love… in it he was talking about conversations about things that are good turning into conversations about things that are ultimate…
“We meet on Friday evenings in my rooms,” Lewis says, “theoretically to talk about literature, but in fact nearly always to talk about something better. What I owe to them is incalculable. Dyson and Tolkien were immediate human causes of my own conversion. Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”
The fire helps. The food helps. Literature is good. Sports in good. Essential oils are good. Football is good. Child training is good. Landscaping is good. These are good things, but they are not ultimate things.
That is why we often have a sense of longings unfulfilled. We are not fully satisfied now, even believers, but as C. S. Lewis said in his address captured in The Weight of Glory; we are not satisfied now… “…but all the pages of the New Testament rustle with the rumors that it will not aways be so…”. Later he says; “One day—one day the door upon which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last…”
We will then experience full and ultimate joy, fulfillment, satisfaction in the presence of God…
Things that are good but not ultimate are meant to arouse a longing for things that are eternal and ultimate.
Timothy Keller has written; “Idolatry is when good things become ultimate things.” When that happens there will be an intense level of emptiness. All the world is bittersweet and it will be until all things become new, but if we don’t understand that we will never experience the sweetness of contemplation and conversation about ultimate things…
And people. This is what Jesus meant for his church to be.
Summit Township, Michigan
January 6, 2019