E-Letter 170

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Devotions | 0 comments

     A late afternoon storm rolls in, and Ingrid and I stand holding hands on the front porch of her home watching ominous, purple-gray clouds scolding the sky as they side-arm heavy raindrops across the city landscape.  My year and a half old granddaughter wakes up from her too-brief nap hoping to color with hot pink chalk, the porch steps, the driveway, perhaps her mother’s garden planters, and surely the rear bumper of her dad’s car. Seeing the rain, however, she turns around, raises her arms, and asks to be lifted into her swing suspended from the porch roof.  I hesitate for a moment knowing that this toddler will get soaked every time I push her swing, but Ingrid is one of those “go-big-or-go-home” kind of children, and I decide to go for it.  Clutching her piece of sidewalk chalk in one hand and her sandbox shovel in the other, I push an adventurous Ingrid to the beat of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, “The Swing”. How do you like to go up in a swing, Up in the air so blue? Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing Ever a child can do,” I chant as a surprised Ingrid sputters and giggles and coos with delight to be caught up in the miracle of an afternoon shower. “But, Ingrid,” I comment apologetically, “the sky isn’t blue is it?  It’s gray, purple gray, and it’s going to rain all day, but you know what?  WE’RE STILL GOING TO HAVE LOTS OF FUN!”  Peeking through the front door, my daughter hears my pronouncement, and assessing the situation, she diplomatically suggests that I bring Ingrid inside, dry her off, and change her clothes. 

     The evangelist Luke tells the story of the chance encounter of Paul, Silas, and the wet-behind-the-ears disciple, Timothy with a “certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God” (Acts 16).  Lydia is a sophisticated, high-powered businesswoman, a dealer in purple cloth. She listens eagerly to Paul’s words, and after she and her household are baptized, she invites the three street preachers into her home.  Lydia’s home becomes the base for their mission to evangelize Philippi, a Roman colony.  In no time (3 verses!), Paul and Silas are in trouble with the city authorities who strip them, beat them, and then throw the two men behind bars with their ankles bound in the stocks. God, however, intervenes, and the men are freed. They return, bruised, battered, open-armed, and in high spirits, to Lydia’s home.

      I wonder what makes Lydia’s hospitality so appealing, so inviting, to the two road-weary-and-hung-up-to-dry apostles?  Why return to the feisty businesswoman’s house after unexpectedly receiving a get-out-of-jail-free card instead of hightailing it to higher, safer ground? The narrative stays with the story of the two men; they “see and encourage the brothers and sisters there.”  How do they find the inner resources to do that?  Answers are elusive, but I suspect that both men find a sympathetic ear in a woman who has heard and seen much in her lifetime – the good and the bad, blue skies and purple-gray clouds. Although she does not talk about it, I imagine that her conversion shakes loose her spirit bound up in the former certainties of a life lived in black and white. With eyes wide open, Lydia experiences the grace to be found in tones of gray –the awareness that one can stand steadfast, even in the purple-grayness of a late afternoon storm.  On a rainy day, or any day, the Good News for a dealer in purple cloth is that blue skies linger behind ominous, dark clouds. This Good News is so hopeful!  It is the front porch miracle we must share with our children and grandchildren – that today and tomorrow and everyday we will swing as a people of faith!

Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,

Rivers and trees and cattle and all

Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,

Down on the roof so brown—

Up in the air I go flying again,

Up in the air and down!