Slow down This Summer, Discover David Grayson

51tF1mgpTnLThis summer, I’m re-reading “Adventures in Contentment” by David Grayson. You probably haven’t heard of Grayson or his series of books—many haven’t. (I stumbled upon them a couple of decades ago, by accident. It was a “God thing.”)

David Grayson is a pseudonym used by Ray Stannard Baker, an aggressive, muckraking, Chicago journalist at the turn of the 20th century. Baker created Grayson, a fictional character, to tell what it could be like to leave the rat race of the city and experience life on a quiet New England farm. The books were written in a nonfiction essay style that left many readers at the time believing them as truth.

(Read more about it: “The Truth About David Grayson” by Nick Grabbe)

David Grayson portrays himself as a well-read man who has left the city to live on a farm. He likes to walk around visiting people and meeting strangers. He patiently observes the ways of his rural neighbors and shows respect for the humblest of citizens. In the words later attributed to Will Rogers, he never met a man he didn’t like.

The stories are a mixture of essay, philosophy, and quiet humor. They frequently cite the Bible, Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius . . .

One reviewer wrote, “Those who read Grayson with sympathy and enlightenment are strangely conscious that here is a loyal, familiar and well-approved friend. Here is a man who has thought our thoughts for us, and who has given the soul of those thoughts their appropriate body in words.”

Although fiction, Grayson’s stories serve as a reminder to notice and appreciate the little things in life.

Are you caught up in life’s rat race and too busy to notice? Stop right now and read Luke 10:38–42.

06500_all_01-01-feetAs Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NLT)

Make time this summer to notice and appreciate all the little miracles and blessings that God is has placed around you.

“Adventures in Contentment” by David Grayson begins:

I came here eight years ago as the renter of this farm, of which soon afterward I became the owner. The time before that I like to forget. The chief impression it left, upon my memory, now happily growing indistinct, is of being hurried faster than I could well travel. From the moment, as a boy of seventeen, I first began to pay my own way, my days were ordered by an inscrutable power which drove me hourly to my task. I was rarely allowed to look up or down, but always forward, toward that vague Success which we Americans love to glorify.

My senses, my nerves, even my muscles were continually strained to the utmost of attainment. If I loitered or paused by the wayside, as it seems natural for me to do, I soon heard the sharp crack of the lash. For many years, and I can say it truthfully, I never rested. I neither thought nor reflected. I had no pleasure, even though I pursued it fiercely during the brief respite of vacations. Through many feverish years I did not work: I merely produced.

The only real thing I did was to hurry as though every moment were my last, as though the world, which now seems so rich in everything, held only one prize which might be seized upon before I arrived. Since then I have tried to recall, like one who struggles to restore the visions of a fever, what it was that I ran to attain, or why I should have borne without rebellion such indignities to soul and body. That life seems now, of all illusions, the most distant and unreal. It is like the unguessed eternity before we are born: not of concern compared with that eternity upon which we are now embarked . . .

Slow down. Read Grayson’s books. You can find them for free on Project Gutenberg or buy the complete collection of e-books on Amazon for just $2.99.

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I Had a Brother . . . But, He Died.

jhk_11“Today would have been your brother’s (fill in the blank) birthday.”

I resented hearing Mom’s words every January 17th. Stillborn? Died at birth? I wasn’t sure. But there had been an older brother who died eight years before I was born. When he died, he left me an only child. A part of me went missing forever.

I remember when my parents told me at a restaurant, dinner-time dark. “You had a brother, but he died.” My five-year-old eyes gazed out the window past the red-white-and blue neon sign. They fixed on the Interstate, counting cars, blinking back hot tears.

In the first grade, my teacher asked, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” “I have one brother,” a classmate offered. “Two sisters.” “Three.” She wrote the numbers on the chalkboard. When my turn came, I answered, “I had a brother, but he died.” I recognized then that this dead brother validated me. He lifted me up from that “only” category that I despised. I wasn’t an only, and I wasn’t alone.

I knew little about him. His name would have been Dennis. My mother had almost died in childbirth. Dad’s mother, so full of grief, smashed his oak cradle into a million pieces. They buried him in the grave with my dad’s infant sister with a simple marker: Infant Son of Betty and Charles Fischer. Still, this brother existed in my heart in the present, and he grew older every January 17th.

Other than the annual birth announcement, my parents never mentioned him. There was much that I wanted to ask, but I never did. As an adult, I could imagine the stinging pain of losing a child. I stopped resenting when they counted the years.

Three months after what would have been his 55th birthday, my mother spoke of him as she lay dying in her hospital bed.

“I’m going to see your brother.”

I held her hand. “You’ve been the best mom to me. Now, go. Take care of your little boy.” I gave her to him, and she went willingly.

January 17th comes and goes without the words, “Today your brother would have been . . .” Still, every day, he lives in my heart. I feel him growing old with me, always present, my guardian angel.

1 Corinthians 13:12 says: “Now we see as if we are looking into a dark mirror. But at that time, in the future, we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part. But at that time I will know fully.”

il_340x270.1072332969_8atsSome day, my brother, Dennis, and I will be together in heaven. But until then, I go on doing what I always have—living for him and with him, enjoying every minute of my life here on earth, never feeling like an “only”. My brother is and always has been a part of me, a treasured gift from God.

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Are You Still Waiting?

004-shepherds-angels.jpgMy favorite part of Jesus’ birth story is the shepherds. I imagine them under a starlit sky. Some guard their sheep from predators. Others nap until their watch shift, the only sound the occasional bleating of a lamb. And then comes a blinding white light! An angel of the Lord appears.

    The bible says the shepherds were terrified. Who wouldn’t be?

Do not be afraid,” the angel says. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the sky opens up. A host of angels praise God:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Wow! Wouldn’t you want to be there?

static1.squarespace.jpgThe shepherds never questioned the angel. They knew exactly what it meant. The Messiah had come. In that age before newspapers, radio, television, social media, it took more than a thousand years for the news of the Messiah to spread until everyone heard. The bible says the news spread through many generations: fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. The news trickled down from prophets who passed it to the people. Then, finally, God chose the lowly shepherds in the dead of night as the first to know that the prophesy was fulfilled—the Messiah had come. The long wait was over.

The lesson here is that God makes His people wait until His time is precisely right. What to humans was generations of waiting, to God was a blink of His eye, an appointed time in His master plan. We forget this. We want God to act instantly. We forget that part of His character is making people wait. His timing and ours is not the same.

jesus-second-comingWe count the days to Christmas, the day when we celebrate Christ’s birth, but we also wait for the day when He returns. Maybe our generation will be like the shepherds that night. Maybe we will be blessed to see Him come. If not, then surely our ancestors will be surprised like the shepherds. When they least expect it they will see Jesus coming in the sky to take them home—forever. And how glorious that will be!

Please remember this Christmas that the miracle of Christ is not over. We wait for our Messiah to come again–in God’s time–in His perfect time.

Glory! Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those whom his favor rests.

God bless all of you, my readers,
At Christmastime
And always!

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