The Joyful Test
By now you know me well enough to know how much I love summer and my swimming pool.
Last Saturday, we put the winter cover on the pool.
To me, it marked the last day of summer and that is very depressing to me.
But as we worked, I couldn't help but notice that the sky was as blue as a robin's egg. There wasn't a cloud to be seen to mar such spectacular beauty. The temperature was a comfortable and pleasing 75 degrees. I rejoiced in the perfection of a such a day. I wanted to reach out and grab it and put it my pocket to trade it on a dark gray dreary day of winter.
It was probably one of the most beautiful days that we've had in a long time. You would think with all this beauty and splendor, it would chase away my end-of-summer blues.
Later, we were in the car driving down a lovely country road on our way to dinner with friends. As I looked at the scenery, I noticed how the trees and shrubs are getting that tired green rusty look before that final burst of amazing Technicolor.
Squirrels scurried across the road in front of us, carrying prized nuts to be stored for the coming colder months ahead.
I got such a twinge in my soul. It was like I had swallowed a 10-pound stone that came to rest in the pit of my stomach.
We haven't really had fall yet, and already I'm dreading November, December, January, February and March.
Don't get me wrong. I love autumn. I love the color, the smells, the taste of fall.
I love the decorations of bright orange pumpkins, gourds, scarecrows, corn stalks and the kaleidoscope of colorful leaves. I love the smell of cinnamon and apple spices, hot mulled cider, delicious homemade apple pies and pumpkin bread and roll.
I love the season of fall so much, I planned our wedding for the first Saturday in October and every year, the beauty of the season is like an anniversary gift to us.
But I hate that it is such a short season and is a sign that winter is on its way.
I feel like one of the squirrels scampering around collecting nuts to store. Instead of nuts, I'm scampering to store up all the halcyon days of autumn as a reserve for cold winter nights.
Every weekend we have plans, filled with parties and events. It's like we're trying to cram as many outdoor activities as we can into just a few short weeks.
So these were my thoughts as I drove to church last Sunday on yet another gloriously beautiful morning. As I'm driving, I thanked God for all this magnificence.
It was Harvest Home at our church at St. Matthew's UCC in Kunkletown.
I can remember years when we had several tables laden with the bounty of the earth from fresh produce of our gardens to items from store's shelves. This year, the table looked somewhat sparse, maybe because the bounty from our gardens suffered from our rainy blighty growing season and our rainy blighty economic times.
Then we sang the last hymn of the morning and as always when I hear the grandeur of Beethoven's "Hymn to Joy," my spirit rose to meet the soaring notes. But it was the words this Sunday morning that struck a much -needed chord inside me.
"Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flow'rs before thee, Op'ning to the sun above."
What perfect words and melody to reflect the beauty of the last few days.
But here's the part that perked up my gloomy thoughts.
"Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!"
It was almost like God reminding me that He gives me so much beauty, it should fill me up when I am down. Because there will always be days of doom and gloom but those days are always followed by days of sunshine and light again.
"All Thy works with joy surround thee, Earth and heav'n reflect Thy rays, Stars and angels sing around thee, Center of unbroken praise. Field and forest, vale and mountain, Flow'ry meadow, flashing sea, Singing bird and flowing fountain Call us to rejoice in thee."
"Thou art giving and forgiving, Ever blessing, ever blest, Wellspring of the joy of living, Ocean depth of happy rest! Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, All who live in love are Thine; Teach us how to love each other, Lift us to the joy divine."
God's joy is indeed reflected on the earth, the heavens and the seas. Even though it wasn't a great and bountiful harvest season, it is still my duty that if I have two of something, I should give one away to someone who has none. Even if it's one can of soup, one box of macaroni and cheese, God will see and smile. As His gift to me, He will offer sunshine in my heart.
"Mortals, join the happy chorus, Which the morning stars began; Father love is reigning o'er us, Brother love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, Victors in the midst of strife, Joyful music leads us Sunward In the triumph song of life."
I left church humming this happy song. I walked out into the radiance of another gorgeous day, determined to keep on singing, to keep on marching through all the beauteous days ahead, and through all the dark and gloomy ones, too. I made a mental note to remember this happy melody and the uplifting words through the cold blustery days of winter. Through the tough economic times, through the aches and pains of the body, through the hardships of daily living. I vowed to let joyful music lead me Sunward in the triumph song of life.
But you know what? Things always sound good when the sun is shining. I just hope I can remember this pledge after the last crimson leaf has drifted by my window and the first fluffy white snowflake comes into view.
That will be the Joyful Test.
I hope I pass.