Measuring My Days

November 2009
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“I pause amazed, again arrested, by the changing season.  The languid, downward spiral of fecund harvest, the slow closing down of fruit and flower, reminds me that death, a yellow-gold leaf in a shaft of life, too, is one of earth’s basic rhythms.  The four-four time of eternity is played out on every field and forest; it echoes in every human heart -  the dance, the dirge, the diurnal drama of dust to dust.”              Bonnie Thurston 


I   had a place, mortgage free, on the eastern slope of Piney Mountain, a house at the southern-most tip of the Massanutten Mountains that split the Shenandoah Valley all the way from Front Royal to Elkton, Virginia.  Facing northeast, I saw the morning sun lift majestically over the Blue Ridge Mountains and as evening fell, shadows mute the gentle old Appalachian hills with mist and mystery.  The house was a solidly built chalet that I named “L’Abri”, meaning shelter.  I borrowed the name from its counterpart in Switzerland, a place that gained a measure of fame because the man who lived there, Francis Schaeffer, wrote a best-seller book called The God Who Is There.  Perhaps intuitively I knew that our Lord would be there too and would be my companion in this sheltered place among the towering old pine, maple, oak, and tulip poplar trees.  Living there nine years, I came to commune with Him often and found Him to be more resolutely the Director of my life.   

The house must have been built on an ancient deer path because they often traversed through my property, sometimes in families of five to eight.  Scenes reminiscent of Arbreux, my other place in the woods of Shenandoah County, repeated themselves.  Pileated woodpeckers came to drill for food on ancient pines.  Again I saw  wild turkeys on the front lawn and once I saw an opossum climb my neighbor’s tree to invade a squirrel’s nest.  Rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs, raccoons, and bears were also co-owners of the place, their ancestor’s protagonists and no doubt food for the native Indians who had a prior claim to these hills.

 Living there long enough, I realized the energy needed to be a proper steward of the place could not be sustained. So I moved on to this village of retirees with a prayer that I could continue an active life and demonstrate the courage to confront another passage.  I look back with immense gratitude for the wise counsel and benefactors through the transition.  So I have special cause this year to raise thanksgivings for the joy and lessons learned living there, for the friends I made there, and the measure of good health that enabled me to stay there for my allotted time.                       

“Give yourself to life, give yourself to the important things of life, give yourself above all to the personal.  And the most personal of all…your relationship with God.  This above all is what life passing impresses upon you.  By making you serious enough about Him so that He has a chance to become real to you ….to become peace and contentment in the face of life and death, which is the ultimate joy…. Let an old friend out of Nazareth lead you in these dying days of autumn to the place where He had to go before the end, to the joy that does come as in the face of frailty, we learn to rest ourselves in God.  May the fading light lead us all to the One who is our ultimate hope and joy.”  Gilbert Bowen, in a sermon, “Living in Time.”