Sunday, July 29, 2012

Come to Me All You Who Are Weary

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus beckons all those who are weary and heavy burdened and promises rest. This past week he made good on His promise in a delightful little camp nestled next to Lake Michigan.

It had been a long two years since we last stepped foot on the grounds of Camp RKD. I have learned that you can make idols of people and places as easily as you can things, and so I scarcely allowed myself to imagine how it was going to be when we returned to this haven on the shore.

My expectations were high. I made a concerted effort to lower them. I needn't have bothered.

It should not surprise me that the place I first saw true glimpses of God is where He would offer such deep rest and refreshment after a challenging year.

Sometimes you don't know how empty you are until the fullness takes over.

This past week we were blessed with lingering conversations with friends old and new. It never ceases to amaze me that on any given day or night you can encounter another person you've never spoken to before and find youself in a kind and warm extended family. Those who know I have quite a bit of extended family in this area should know I'm talking about the non-relations. Though it was also special to catch up with several of my cousins and their extended families, which span generations not easily explained without a very large tree graphic.

There aren't many times in my calendar year that the pace slows to the time kept in Arcadia, Michigan. I had no cell reception, no TV, no wi-fi and no worries. I watched my oldest daughter put together a 1000 piece puzzle and take second place in an archery tournament. I enjoyed seeing my twins reunite with summer friends and make new ones, including many offspring of the teenagers I knocked around camp with some 30 years ago.

I went to the beach every day. We looked for Petosky stones (and found some!) and played in the water that was almost 80 degrees. That doesn't often happen in a great lake.

We ate ice cream in the old fashioned parlor, played cards and read books. We saw shooting stars and the moon up close through the brand new, donated telescope. We gazed at countless shining stars strewn across a velvety black sky that never grows so dark above the bright lights of Chicago. We square danced (though it was often in a circle) and jumped in the lake afterwards.

We sang and prayed and wept a little and laughed a lot. We were reminded about God's grace and filled with gratitude. We capped the week off with the very first service in the brand new Chapel on the Beach - an outdoor sanctuary that has been years in the making which now provides the heavenly view depicted in the photo above. We took our weary souls up north and laid our burdens on the Lord.

And He gave us peaceful rest.

Friday, July 13, 2012


About 24 hours after my last post we said goodbye to my father-in-law. Charlie Eder was one of seven boys who grew up in Chicago, moved out to the suburbs around 1960 with his lovely wife and produced four boys of his own, the youngest of which I am blessed to call my husband.

Four months shy of his 82nd birthday seems too soon to take leave. But it was a long nine months for Charlie after a second brain surgery in less than a year and a series of setbacks and complications. On Tuesday evening I sat alone with him for a brief time in what were to be the final hours of his life and read Scripture. It was one of the greatest blessings and honors of my life. I read Psalms 70 & 71, some verses from Romans and Ephesians and I prayed for this man whom I've known and loved for 28 years. He waited for his family to return to the room before passing on and went peacefully and gracefully, as was his way.

There are many things said at wakes to offer comfort to the mourning, but what a joy it was this evening to hear so many echo the virtue of this man and the legacy he has left behind.

One of the first passages in the Bible my kids became familiar with is found in Galatians Chapter Five, verses 22-23. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

I've heard many sermons preached on this passage. Most will agree that while those who have the Holy Spirit have at least some measure of each of these fruits, you will find some more pronounced than others.

Charlie exhibited them all.

He loved his family, especially his bride, who after 54 years of marriage he still thought of as his bride, often boasting he married the best girl in the whole world. And he loved his sons, and their wives and oh my, did he love his grandchildren. He traipsed around to ball games and recitals, birthday parties and concerts, communions and graduations. I remember when Ryan was playing baseball and the kids had just started pitching. It was a walkfest. There was one game when the score was 24-22 in the fourth and Charlie started offering $5 bills for strikes. But he stayed and watched the rest of the game.

He took great joy in the simple things. He loved maps. Dilly Bars from DQ brought him tremendous pleasure and one of his granddaughters who worked there was happy to oblige. He had a silly sense of humor that made even the bad jokes seem entertaining. He smiled and laughed often.

As far as it depended on him, to the best of his ability, he lived at peace with others (Romans 12:18) and by God's grace he died peacefully in a room surrounded by family.

His patience had no rival. I know no one who persevered, held his tongue, or put away anger better or longer than Charlie.

His kindness and his goodness were so consistent and so widespread that I don't think we will ever stop hearing stories of them.

The faithful are a dying breed in our age and society. Few are loyal to much of anything anymore. Charlie worked for Motorola for 35 years, resided in one home in Elk Grove Village and served in his local parish for more than 50 years, cherished Bernie well over five decades of marriage, and rooted for the White Sox and Notre Dame till his final days.

The opening lines of his obituary were borrowed, but every bit descriptive of Charlie: He was a gentle man and a gentleman... No word was used more frequently to describe him than gentle. Which is not to say he wasn't strong, but like Christ, one who used his strength to serve.

He had a great deal of self-control. In a culture of self-indulgence he was willing to sacrifice. In a room of rash words, he often wisely remained silent.

What a legacy he has left behind to the many friends and family who will miss him deeply.

"The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;"
Psalm 37:18

Monday, July 9, 2012


In a couple of weeks my family will be vacationing at my favorite spot on earth, a little camp called RKD where I have been spending summers since 1979. It's a throwback in time in that they serve up refreshment the old fashioned way...through fellowship, communal meals, sports, play, beach, an ice cream parlor and a game room with no outlets (except for the one T.V. on the premises used soley to check scores and weather).

Cell phones are not allowed in the public areas of the camp. The aformentioned game room? Wooden bowling, indoor shuffleboard, ping pong, fuseball, a variety of board games and puzzles. There's a craft shop. And the ice cream parlor's most expensive menu item will run you about $5.

They have miles of beachfront property. The moment I arrive I am at peace. I am rested. It's like my whole family does a collective sigh when we step foot on the walkway that parallels Lake Michigan to the front door of the Inn.

And you should see the sunsets. They easily match any Carribean five star hotel view. You can feel the stress melt off your shoulders. There is rest there. We didn't go last year. It was the first time I skipped a year in three decades. I missed it.

A lot.

My kids can't stop talking about it and it seems everything we encounter these days reminds us of it, so we are all the more eager to arrive in twelve days for our scheduled vacation week. I think missing last year is only half the reason we are twice as excited about it this time. The other contributing factor has to be the pace we've been keeping for the past nine months. We've been busier than any other time in our lives. And it's taken a toll.

My husband used to have a wonderful rule of thumb: we will not be out two consecutive weeknights in a row. I cannot remember the last time we were all IN for two consecutive weeknights in a row.

Part of that has to do with the long term health issues of his father and we understand it's a season in time and one that merits exceptions to our rule, but even without those visits our schedule has been incredibly full - and our kids activities are much more limited than most of their friends!

So it begs the question; How do you keep the Sabbath in this day and age?

Because I don't think that command is antiquated - I think it still applies and that it's for our good and God's glory to have a day of rest every week.

My mom says American's wear business on their sleeves like a badge. We use it as bragging rights over our peers - "You think your busy, well wait till you hear my schedule..."

I like having plenty to do. I'd rather have way too much on my plate than be bored. I find it can be easier to plan my day by the tyranny of the urgent than to have several less pressing demands none of which are truly vying for my attention. When the pressure is off the decisions can be harder to make. But when the pressure is off the decisions are made in a different frame of mind. A mind more like Christ's in my case.

I like living near a big city and I like vacationing in a small town. I'm always wondering how to bring more of the small town rest to the big city living without waiting another 360 days to do it.

For the first time in ages, by God's mercy, we've had a couple of days in a row where the pressure has been off schedule wise. So we swam in the pool in our back yard. We watched a PG movie together. We sat around the fire pit. We read books and played board games. We ate outside and laughed at funny stories. We slept in.

We rested.

And you know what? It felt a lot like Camp Arcadia.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hundreds of Degrees & My Declaration of Dependence

Okay so the greater Chicagoland area is in it's third straight 100+ degree day. That doesn't count last Thursday when it was 103, or factor in the heat index, which adds the 70-90% humidity we enjoy here in the midwest.

The A/C went out in my husband's car two days ago and the poor man has been commuting 60 miles round trip every day with the windows down. When he gets home we hand him a beach towel.

This is abnormal hot. It feels, in a word...oppressive.

I looked up the definition of oppressive to see if I'm describing it fairly.


1.Unjustly inflicting hardship and constraint.
2.Weighing heavily on the mind or spirits; causing depression or discomfort.

Yeah, that seems about right.

I wondered when the oppression would lift (ironically I was wondering this on the 4th of July). For the first time in I-can't-remember-when we did not go to a parade. My daughter Maggie gets seriously flushed anytime it's in the high 80's or hotter, so between that, being invited to two other places, wanting to see Dan's dad at Rehab and the village not funding the parade because everyone and their brother owes millions of dollars in pension money, we decided to skip it. But it was still hard not to go.

Because I love parades and the 4th of July is my favorite holiday. My husband was in the National Guard for 22 years and I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the men and women who have fought for our freedom. I love that this holiday falls early in July when it's full-fledged summer and families get together for BBQ's, picnics and firework displays. I know there are worthier holidays for glorifying Christ but I can honestly say I am reminded of many Biblical truths on Independence Day.

Freedom is the obvious one. And that's a biggie. The sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross freed those who place their faith in Him from the power and slavery of sin. That isn't to say those who believe in Him don't sin anymore, but it is very good news to know we are free from it's shackles (Romans 6 & 8).

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

But paradoxically, what I am reminded of even more than my freedom is the exact opposite of the name of the day.

I am reminded of my complete and utter dependence on God.

My daughter's first concert was at one of our church's campuses - the band was called Starfield and they have a song that's lyrics are stamped on a t-shirt she bought that night. It's called "Declaration of Dependence."

This is my heart’s condition
This world has ammunition
To tear me down
And steal my life away

I know there’s more than this
More than temptations kiss
So lift me up
And give me strength to stand

I will live
I will live for you

I’ve had a revelation
This is my declaration
More of You, oh God, and less of me

‘Cause You are my new existence
I offer no resistance
I’m running to the One I know I need

How could I walk away
How could I walk away
How could I walk away

I’ll never walk away from You

Monday, July 2, 2012

Alright Cubs Fans, Let Me Hear Ya!

In years past we often went to a Cubs game the week of my birthday which just happened to coincide with the week of a good friend/family member's birthday whose lovely wife would spend hours at the computer the day tickets went on sale to procure seats for our celebration. I was never that dedicated in the ticket department, but always grateful she was. In more recent years it's been harder to coordinate so it's been awhile since I celebrated my birthday with a trip to the friendly confines.

Until this year.

Neighbors of ours share season tickets with a group of folks and often attend the games with their two young boys. They are wonderfully generous people who had already been to the game once this week and decided to go up to a family lakehouse instead for the day. Oh, what to do with the box seats behind home plate with no time to put them on Craig's List? We gladly solved their dilemma. But it almost didn't happen.

When they first offered them to us Dan thought she said "Rush" tickets. So he hesitated. For quite awhile. He assumed she was talking about the Chicago Rush, the indoor football arena team whose quarterback used to live down the street from us. I thought that was odd because I didn't think it was Arena Football season.

Our daughter Caitlin thought she meant the band Rush and was very excited. They are among her top three favorite bands. I am not making this up. Today's Tom Sawyer's mean, mean pride...

Turns out they were both wrong and almost passed on four prime seats for a Marquee game on a sunny and warm Saturday afternoon.

Our neighbor didn't know who either Rush was. Hilarious.

We've been blessed to attend Cubs games at least a couple of times a year through the generosity of friends and family as well as Dan's work's tickets. Ryan has been more avid a fan than the girls, those Caitlin's interest increases with games won. Which is to say, it's been waning this year. However she decided she really wanted to go and so she packed her journal (in case she got bored) and we made arrangements for Maggie to "do something fun while we went to a baseball game" and headed down.

We made it to the Irving Park exit in 40 minutes. It took another 50 to go the four miles to the ball park. Good thing we left early and those wonderful neighbors had free parking in the green lot one block from the park! We missed the National Anthem and the first pitch, but saw most of the first inning and stayed through the ninth with a bonus 7th inning stretch rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game compliments of former "Red Baron" pitcher Rick Sutcliffe.

We limited our ball park food intake to hot dogs, peanuts and a couple of pops (I brought a bunch of waters with) despite Ryan's fervent attempts to sample the full menu of mobile goodies passing by.

We were playing the worst team in the league. But that didn't offer a lot in the way of a promised victory since we are the second worst team in the league. All Ryan wanted was to see a home run, I should clarify - by the Cubs - and a win so that he could sing the ridiculous song at the end of the game that has to be the worst combination of melody and lyrics in the National League...yet insanely catchy. It had been a long time since he or I had seen either a run or a win at Wrigley Field. I prayed that if it was God's will we'd see both, knowing full well those kinds of prayers are stupid. I also sent up several prayers of thanksgiving for being there on a beautiful day and knew a loss would be just one more opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ. Sort of.

Though faith in things unseen is probably better understood at Sheffield & Addison than a lot of other places on the map.

The Cubs recently called up a kid from the farm team called Rizzo whose been getting a lot of buzz for his performance in the minor league Iowa Cubs. Dan said, "Wouldn't it be cool if this kid socked one out of the park?" about a minute before the kid socked one out of the park to take the lead 3-2. Witnessed home run. Check.

That ended up being the final score. And so we also witnessed the win AND got to sing the silly song. "Go Cubs go, go Cubs go, hey Chicago, whaddya say, the Cubs are gonna win today...." We sang it loudly and passionately while waving our big white "W" sign up to the camera pointed directly at Ryan but no one recorded the game so who knows if they showed him or not. Other than Ryan, who is quite sure they did, for the record.

Afterwards we met my nephew who recently moved to Chicago for some snacks at a kid friendly establishment right under the "L" tracks. We all got a kick out of being in that environment - part of the whole experience. And killing time in Wrigleyville is always a good idea when you have to drive back to the suburbs. We made it home in less than half the time it took to get out there.

So after a long reprieve the Cubs won a game while I was at the ball park.

It's been a pretty great birthday week.