A Stranger Barged In

How do we see others? By their outward appearance? By what they’re wearing, or not wearing? By the words they speak? We can’t tangibly see their heart or their thoughts, nor they ours. So, do we react to what we see and hear, or reach out to meet others where they’re at?

Not long after we moved to Clifton, NJ in 1965, my Dad went to the boys’ Cadets meeting at the Christian school we kids attended. A few blocks from his destination, he saw a man struggling with a flat tire. Having been a farmer and now a truck driver, this was no problem for my Dad to fix, though it might get him dirty and make him late for his meeting. Without hesitation, he stopped and changed the tire for the stranger, refusing pay for his efforts. Each going his own way, they soon discovered their destination was the same meeting, and became instant friends!

But, how do we treat that stranger when he or she walks into our church? They may be different from those of us who normally attend… and, sadly, the stranger in our midst may not feel welcomed or accepted. They may not be dressed up fancy like some of us. They may look a bit shabby and worn, be wearing the dirt of life, or even carry the aroma of alcohol.

And I was reminded of the time a stranger dressed in black barged into our church, slamming the door behind him, dropping into the pew. As music worship leaders, my friend, Patsy, and I smiled to welcome this man as we sang. But, he was having none of it, staring straight ahead with an angry sullen attitude. Barbed-wire tattoos encircled his upper arms, the sleeves cut off a black T-shirt. His black hair stood up in spikes, and chains draped from his black jeans. Then, just as our Youth Pastor stood up to read Scripture as our pastor was away for the day, this man bounded up to the pulpit. Grabbing the Bible, he began to read: “…But the Lord said… Do not consider his appearance or his height…. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

What’s his purpose? Why is he here this morning? Does he have an ulterior motive? Are there more like him outside? Are there more like him in other churches in town? Why does he look so sullen and angry? Is he sad and lonely? Do we need to protect ourselves from harm? Does he have a gun? What could we use as a weapon? How can I make him feel welcome? I mean, he’s so different! Will he even accept us? How can we best reach out to him to meet his needs? Such were the questions running through the minds of us parishioners, as we slowly realized that this was actually our Pastor Steve dressed up for a lesson as he expounded on that verse.

Do we share our love easily with someone different from us? We pride ourselves on maintaining a status quo of acceptable friends, those with whom we’re most comfortable. But what about others in various difficult situations? What about those who may be going through hard times and are poorer than us? What about those who are dealing with life’s deepest struggles, lost in the midst of their grief, dealing with inner emotional pain or depression, or perhaps seeking answers to life by delving into alcohol and drugs to numb their pain? They, too, are in need of the love and comfort we just might be able to give.

What did Jesus say about the strangers in our midst? In telling one of his parables, Jesus spoke about a king whose servants were called faithful and righteous for the love they had shown the king in his time of need. They replied, “‘[But] Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King [replied], ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)

In response to his critics for eating with those considered “unholy”, Jesus gently said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) And later, the Apostle Paul wrote that this “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23)

And I admit that I, too, stand guilty in many ways. We can express ourselves and our opinions with kindness rather than with an attitude. We can welcome the stranger who is different from us, sharing a peace and comfort from deep within our heart. And, we can reach out to others who are hurting with the same love and mercy we’ve been shown by our Lord… for in so doing, not only will they be blessed, but we’ll be blessed in turn.

The Pew and the Barstool
Linda A. Roorda
One day I walked through an open door
Looking for a seat but the pews were full,
Except in the front where I sat to listen
Searching for comfort from a world of pain.
~
The message of love was heard in my heart
And I longed to feel this emotion lost.
I yearned for peace in my troubled soul
Hope for the day and light in the dark.
~
Wisdom and truth for a hurting world
These were the words in the message heard.
But as I turned to follow the crowd
No one reached out… no one showed they cared.
~
No welcoming smile… no words kindly shared.
Their glances away gave proof of their thoughts.
Shabby were my clothes with tatters and tears,
Dirty was I, and smelling of beer.
~
No comfort from pain, just withering looks.
No peace or love was offered to me.
I stood alone feeling shamed and grieved.
Where was this love they sang from their lips?
~
And so I strolled to the other side
Across the street where welcomed was I.
Finding my seat on a barstool tall
I ordered a round to drown out my pain.
~
If only they knew their hearts had grown cold.
Who was this Lord they claimed for their own?
Where was the love, the hope and the peace?
Did they not know who walked in their midst?
~
Have they not heard and have they not read?
I was a stranger yet nothing they gave.
They fed not my soul, warm clothing not shared
Sickly was I, but comfort they withheld.
~
Do they not heed the words of their Lord?
Whatever is done for even the least
Is done in His name to brighten a dark world,
For those who bless will blessings receive.
~~
12/08/15
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

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Tolerance

It seems we often want our way regardless of how anyone else feels. That old “give-and-take” attitude I remember growing up with seems to be lacking… all too evident among those who mock and bully others, even within today’s world of politics… where a war of words has erupted yet again. It seems like absolute truth and moral or ethical standards have become a negative, cause for ridicule… while relativism, or determining our own truth as we want it to be, is more often revered.

Authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens are now suspect, apparently not worth our reading in today’s political correctness. They, like many others, wrote about the way life was as experienced while they walked upon this earth. The Wilder Award in literature has been renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award because Wilder used words of a different era, inappropriate for today. We were appalled at censorship, banning and burning of books many years ago, yet even now we walk a fine line of what is appropriate. We disallow our children to read of life in other times when words or language we now recognize as inappropriate was used. Even our Holy Bible is not accepted at times because it might offend.

Yet, as discerning parents, we did not allow our children to read a few certain books in high school. We discussed why they were inappropriate reading material with both our children and school personnel. We were told by the principal that, because we calmly explained our objections, the school graciously saw our valid points and gave alternative reading material. In Jenn’s case, after giving one particular oral book report, two classmates told her they wished they’d read that book instead, too. A true story, it showed a quality of character in the challenges a young man faced as an Olympian runner diagnosed with cancer. Unable to compete, he turned to helping inner city under-privileged kids.

The book read by the rest of the class, however, was filled with gratuitous sex, filthy language, and mocking of parental/family values – found when I simply opened the book at random junctures. Actually, the teacher told his students to seek their parents’ permission to read that book! And, apparently, if the kids actually showed it to their parents, I was the only one who said “no way!” Even the school board was shocked to learn what that book held, and it was pulled from the school’s recommended reading list. There truly is a time for discernment of right and wrong with respect.

My poem here began to flow with news of the violence and tearing down of our nation’s historical monuments in the summer of 2017. Removing such historical memorials does not erase or change history. There are lessons learned in those memories earned. We’ve come so far. We’ve grown in understanding and acceptance. Isn’t that cause for celebration rather than condemnation? Our differences can be teachable moments. That’s what Freedom of Speech is all about… with a chance to show love and respect even in our disagreement, revealing true tolerance.

Tolerance, by definition, is an ability to be fair, to accept a viewpoint which is different, and to bear with another in realizing that the opposition also has rights… without approving wrong by our silence. Perhaps we remember that society’s Golden Rule (which promotes tolerance, when you think about it), actually comes from the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law…” (Matthew 7:12a)

Yet, tolerance is not a license to do anything we want at will. A moral society adheres to absolute truths of right and wrong, or it breaks down without this solid foundation. We should certainly be cognizant and tolerant of others’ opinions or beliefs, respecting our differences… but, that does not mean we have to tolerate rude or foul language, or abusive, bullying, or violent behavior. Tolerance is not freedom to persist in traveling down a wrong path. There are consequences for everything we do… and there is a time and place for speaking out respectfully against inappropriate words or actions.

So, where did tolerance go? Too often, it seems tolerance is relegated to that which accepts and promotes a particular politically-correct agenda to the exclusion of the opposing view… and regards differing perspectives as not having validity to be honored. What happened to our ability to show respect through appropriate discussion? What happened to true Freedom of Speech? Why the hate-filled, foul-worded, disrespectful language? Why violence with riots and angry rhetoric to disallow conservative or religious speakers on college campuses? What is there to be afraid of? That others might actually have valid points, different than your own perspective?

Fear of a differing opinion by engaging in anger and wrath toward that with which one disagrees serves no good purpose. We have heard violent mobs calling for their rights… while proclaiming how tolerant they are. Seems to me that violence as a coercive bully tactic is anything but tolerance. Perhaps it would be wise to observe that true tolerance… the courtesy to listen, even agreeing to disagree… comes by respecting another’s viewpoint, their freedom of speech, without the backlash of vitriolic speech and/or destructive violence.

When morality steps up and extends a hand in true respect, we’re living out the ancient Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Given by God to Moses for the Jewish nation during its exodus from Egyptian slavery, these words serve us well as a moral foundation even in today’s modern society. Doing our best to live out Jesus’ words in what we call the Golden Rule, we show great love and respect for others… just as we wish to be treated. With this love, and acceptance of those with whom we disagree, we embody Christ’s love, for “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” (I Corinthians 13:6 NIV)

Tolerance
Linda A. Roorda
~
Could I but live a life that was safe
I wouldn’t question the wrongs encountered.
I would not wrestle with problems I face
Or troubles inherent with consequent strife.
~
For if I the bad from this life expunged
I’d then have left the best for display.
My life would exist by my design
For my benefit and pleasure alone.
~
Remove the memories and mask the failures
Fashion the remains to what I deem fit.
Let visible be selfish ambition
My life according to myself and me.
~
I have no tolerance for views but mine
My way is right and suspect is yours.
I demand my way and fight you I will
If only to prove entitled am I.
~
Yet what I now see is your hand held out
Bearing a gift, tolerance by name.
You’ve come to my aid and lift me up
To help me stand with dignity tall.
~
There’s a price, you see, for this freedom shared
It’s a cost in red that flowed for us all.
And it grants relief from oppression’s fist
That your words and mine comingle in peace.
~~
08/18/17 – 08/30/17
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
~~

The Artist’s Eye

I love a good painting, especially a realistic portrayal.  Actually, once upon a time I painted landscapes, getting so lost in the effort of creating art that I’d easily forget the time and when to eat.  Sadly, I haven’t picked up my brush and oils in a few decades… though I used pen and ink to illustrate a few stories I’d written for my grandchildren a few years back.

In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of abstract art, though I can appreciate various works of modern art among the different genres.  Yet, each one of us views a painting, sculpture, or even a photo differently… because we “see” through our own heart, our own emotions, our own life experiences.  That which may stir my thoughts and emotions with a depth of appreciation may do nothing for you at all.

And that’s what art is meant to do – to stir our thoughts and emotions, perhaps leading us to recall another time and another place.  A great work of art can transport us in thoughtful reverie as we ponder the meaning of the vision before us… taking us back in time to what once was… or stirring our imagination to envision something only a dream may hold.

The artist’s work might convey a concept, an idea, a novelty… that which sparks our interest to understand better what the artist is trying to say or trying to elicit through our individuality.  Good art should challenge us to think in a way we might not do otherwise.  Good art can tear at our heartstrings and bring us to tears.  It can incite anger at an injustice.  It can elicit great joy within our soul.  It can combine a dichotomy of powerful conflicting emotions.  It can portray evil overcome by good.  It can soothe the weary and distressed.  And, it can even reflect a tremendous calming peace, a peace within the storms of life.

A good painting can be likened to the beauty we see in the people around us.  Each of us portrays an individual beauty, a uniqueness created by the Master Artist.  We’re one of a kind, no duplicates.  Even the world of nature exudes a seemingly immovable, yet ever-changing panorama which the Master Artist blessed us with.

After He created each aspect of the world, our great God “saw that it was good.”  (Genesis 1)  And in our appreciation of nature, even the simplest perspectives excite emotions within us… as we observe brilliant sunshine lending both a glow and a shadow to life, the menacing darkness of gathering storm clouds, a brilliant colorful rainbow during or after the rain as the first rays of sun return, the fanning out of the sun’s rays from behind a cloud like fingers of God, the awesome display of stars and moon in brilliant light upon a black velvet tapestry, from the calm and peace of gentle waves to the roiling waters which batter a shore, from the awe of majestic mountain grandeur to the simplest flat or rolling land with grass gently waving in a slight breeze, to the colorful changes of the seasons…  as these vistas elicit thoughts and emotions within our hearts and minds.

And, though the world and people around us are seen individually, through our unique emotions, we see all as through the artist’s eye…

The Artist’s Eye

Linda A. Roorda

In the artist’s eye is beauty beheld

Within each scene perfection arrayed

A haunting image that speaks to the heart

A story told in visual display.

~

Facing blank canvas, brush poised in mid air

A picture forms in the artist’s eye

As ever gently stroke upon stroke

The scene unfolds, its beauty to share.

~

From lighting bright to shadows darkened

Lingering mirage or perspective clear

 Sentiments stir as we gaze upon

The artist’s work from within the heart.

~

They say a picture is worth more than words

And there are times words uttered alone

Cannot convey the depth of feeling

Where spoken voice the ambience missed.

~

For within our soul perception awaits

The depths of which we don’t often plumb

That we might enjoy designs unique

By an Artist greater than humanity’s touch.

~

So we gaze upon the scene before us

As emotions stir like brush on canvas

For out of feelings tempered by life

Colors are worked with passion displayed.

~

Thus, what the artist has framed for our gaze

Reaches into the depth of our soul

As image pondered gives rise to emotions

Its secrets exposed through the eye of our heart.

~~

02/13/15-02/15/15

All rights reserved.

May not be reproduced without permission of author.

~~

 

You’ve A Gift Within

Sometimes, our best inspiration comes from the most unlikely place! I often enjoy relaxing in the evenings with Ed by watching reruns of M*A*S*H. Though not overly fond of some of the show’s escapades, I especially prefer Corporal Walter (Radar) O’Reilly and the latter years with Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce’s new surgical partners, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, and Major Charles Emerson Winchester, III, as well as their commanding officer, Colonel Sherman T. Potter, and Major Margaret Houlihan. The show and its characters seemed to have evolved from a certain nonsense to one of moving and memorable themes. As the varied characters offer a wide array of human egos and emotions, I find the wisdom of humanity expressed well in many of the shows.

Recently I saw an episode that has always held a special place in my heart, one that I consider the arrogant Major Winchester’s best. After operating on a wounded soldier, able to save the young man’s leg with his surgical expertise, Winchester tries to encourage his patient further. Explaining that, although he’ll have permanent nerve damage to three fingers of his right hand, it won’t be too noticeable. Angry, the soldier is reduced to tears and despondency, telling Winchester that his surgical efforts weren’t good enough. His hands were his life… he was a concert pianist!

With determination, Major Winchester approaches the 4077th’s company clerk, Corporal Max Klinger, handing him a list of sheet music to pick up in Seoul. Later, with music in hand, Winchester wheels Private David Sheridan into the Officers’ Club and positions him in front of the piano. Despite his patient’s disgust, Winchester attempts to encourage the young man’s gift to make music. Angry and resentful, Sheridan wants none of it.

Unshaken, Winchester shares the story of a pianist from another time who’d lost the use of one hand. Placing sheet music for a one-handed pianist in front of Sheridan, he asks, “Don’t you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be.”

Private Sheridan scoffs at his surgeon: “Gift? You keep talking about this damn gift. I had a gift, and I exchanged it for some mortar fragments, remember?”

With great feeling, Winchester responds: “Wrong! Because the gift does not lie in your hands. I have hands, David. Hands that can make a scalpel sing. More than anything in my life I wanted to play, but I do not have the gift. I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music. You’ve performed Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. Even if you never do so again, you’ve already known a joy that I will never know as long as I live. Because the true gift is in your head and in your heart and in your soul. Now you can shut it off forever, or you can find new ways to share your gift with the world – through the baton, the classroom, or the pen. As to these works, they’re for you, because you and the piano will always be as one.” (from the TV series M*A*S*H, “Morale Victory”, 1980)

Just as Maj. Winchester tried to help Pvt. Sheridan understand, we’ve each been blessed with a special gift, a talent. We can hide it, misuse it, or use it to benefit others… we have a choice. Though we may not see our gift as the blessing it is, Jesus’ brother James acknowledged that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17a) Even the Apostle Peter encouraged us by writing that “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10 NIV)

We can encourage a friend with our words or any of our special gifts, like the gift of our time. When we make wise use of our talents and training, we truly are blessing the recipients of our gifts. In faithfully serving others, may we one day hear our Lord say to us just as he told the young man who grew his financial gift: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)

You’ve A Gift Within
Linda A. Roorda
You’ve a gift within your heart to be shared
To love your neighbor as you do yourself
But much more than this is humble service
Sharing devotion from depths of true love.
~
Seek out the hurting, the ones bewildered
In a world of turmoil, in the midst of grief,
At a loss for words, not knowing where to turn,
Be an anchor bringing peace to their soul.
~
Be generous with praise, speak truth with wisdom,
Carry the burden to lift the heavy heart
Encourage and esteem, strengthen with hope
Humbly meeting each need on your path.
~
Lift up the oppressed, release from restraints
Enfold in your arms those wounded by life.
Show mercy and grace, forgive the offense
Come alongside to guide wavering feet.
~
For out of confusion and cries of the soul
In walking a line tween query and quest,
Comes peace that calms and joy that rebuilds
From the gift within your heart that was shared.
~~
04/06/18, 06/30/18, 07/22/18
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
~~

Something I’ve Learned

With school either having started for some, or about to start for others, I pondered the realization that there’s so much I thought I knew when younger, but really didn’t. Over the years, I’ve learned I can’t turn the clock back to undo or redo what’s been done. Life doesn’t have a rewind button for our editing… so we inevitably move forward in a relentless flow of time.

And in that flow, learning becomes an emotional and spiritual process as disappointments and suffering soften our hearts amidst the joys. This is how we mature and become wiser. In the process, we learn that we may not get that second chance. Make amends now… apologize, forgive and move forward. Love one another… and let the other know it. I have searched for and regained friends from years ago… friends I’d lost when moving away, and a few friends lost when my childish words took their toll, and to whom I’ve given heart-felt apologies. I cannot undo, but I can atone for and correct my wrongs.

Walk away from sin… don’t let it overtake you with its tempting appeal. Don’t condone or excuse the habit of lying, concealing your wrongs to protect yourself. Even if no one else is the wiser, God knows. Own it, confess it, and make amends. Others do take notice of what we do… do it well, for a good name is much to be treasured. Love, listen, take advice gladly, and learn… and you won’t go wrong. “Be very careful, then, how you live… making the most of every opportunity…” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

As we look back, we often wish we knew then what we know now. Wouldn’t such knowledge have saved us a whole basket of trouble?! But, did we hear, did we listen, did we truly heed the advice given as we grew up? I’m afraid I didn’t always do so. I thought I “knew it all” in my teens. It took time as life traversed a variety of circumstances unique to my needs to gain understanding and knowledge with wisdom from God. And from the realization of my own errant ways and words, I apologized and made amends… because the Lord has done so much more for me.

For the loving Father that He is, God took the time to teach me all through the years. Because I was often not listening to wiser words in my youth, I now treasure the wisdom of others as I sit at their feet to learn, and recall fragmented words of wisdom expressed years ago.

Blessed with Godly wisdom, Solomon wrote in Proverbs 2:1-6: “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” And vs. 9 adds, “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path.” Oh, how true!

If only… that age-old phrase we all quote… if only I knew then what I know now. So, let me take what the Lord has taught me through the difficult struggles to reach a satisfied contentment… through tears of deep sorrow to tears of great joy with laughter’s healing touch. And may we use the blessings He’s bestowed upon our hearts to reach out in love with something we’ve learned…

Something I’ve Learned
Linda A. Roorda
~
Something I’ve learned since I was young…
If I knew then what I do know now
I’d have been spared life’s toughest lessons.
But, then again, how else would I learn?
~
Something I’ve learned came slowly with time…
For I wanted life to move fast forward
And in wanting more, I just needed less
As contentment dwells in life’s simplest gifts.
~
Something I’ve learned by looking backward…
That in facing life I thought I knew all,
But looking forward from slow motion days
Impatience revealed an unsettled heart.
~
Something I’ve learned wishing I’d discerned…
By heeding then the sage’s wisdom
Who’d lived and seen what I could not fathom
For experience marks the role of teacher.
~
Something I’ve learned is not easy to say…
That which I rue when youth went its way
As lessons learned brought maturity’s wealth
With understanding through wisdom’s trained eye.
~
Something I’ve learned by climbing the hill…
Conquering hurdles that hindered my path,
For stones that seemed like unmoving boulders,
Were mere stumbling blocks to peace found in You.
~
Something I’ve learned I treasure now more…
My faith in You, Lord, once taken for granted
Its value gained from bumps in the road
Which led me to where I stand on Your Word.
~
Something I’ve learned we all have to face…
Sorrow and loss have taught to accept
That which was healed as my heart grew wise
For only from pain can compassion speak.
~
Something I’ve learned about all my stuff…
I can’t take it there on the day that I leave
Much better by far to share with you now
Showing my love in tangible ways.
~
Something I’ve learned that when the door shuts…
Reasons there are for not looking back.
Express regret for what’s done is done
Then welcome the door He flings open wide.
~
Something I’ve learned with You at my side…
To share the bounty of blessings divine
To gently speak with a tender voice
And to hear with love from a generous heart.

~~
05/21/16 – 06/02/16
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
~

Going Back Home…

Attending the Owego Free Academy 45th class reunion on July 28, 2018, it was great to see and chat with several classmates. We were the 100th class to graduate from OFA, and the first class to graduate from the new high school building – such honors! Having moved 15 times by the time I was 15, attending five different schools, learning to make new friends at each school, I’ve held onto many treasured memories. With this reunion in mind, I just had to share this blog originally posted in 2013.

Oh, the childhood memories of places we’ve been and the friends we’ve made! Don’t you just love to visit with friends from long ago, remember childhood fun, and recall the good ol’ days when life was simpler? I suspect we all have precious memories tucked away, ready to be pulled out every so often. It’s a chance to gaze back in time, to smile anew on fun shared by all. But, I’m sure I’m not alone in having some memories that bring emotions to the surface, and tears to the eyes.

Twice a year as our children grew up, we’d visit back and forth with my childhood friend and her husband, Hugh. Kathy and I were friends in East Palmyra – in church, in class at the Christian school, and in playing at our homes. We continued our friendship via snail mail after my family moved away in 4th grade, just before I turned 10. It was a very painful and emotional move for me – away from farm life, away from the best friends I’d ever known to city life in Clifton, New Jersey where I was born, and where my dad’s parents and siblings’ families lived. It was an unwelcome change. I hated city life, was horribly homesick, and cried for weeks.

But, life got better as I let go of childhood pain and released the sadness. Though there were difficult times and events in Clifton, I now find many good memories to replay in my mind’s eye. It was an era when my sister and I could walk or bike everywhere without fear. And then there was the time we biked from our eastern side of Clifton to where our grandparents lived all the way on the other side. When my grandmother opened the door to our knock, trust me, she was not pleased… because no had known where we were! Still, with the used bikes my grandfather gave us, we felt so rich! I treasure memories of fishing with my dad in northern Jersey lakes, and of spending time with my grandparents. My grandmother was a former professional seamstress who taught me to sew clothes and quilts – and to rip it out if it wasn’t right and sew it over again, more than once as I recall! This little Dutch immigrant had an unspoken life motto – “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!” How I miss her greeting us at the door with a hug and always sweetly saying, “Hello Dear!” in her softened Dutch accent.

Admittedly, my favorite memories are those of my childhood on the farms, and the fun my sister and I had back when there was no technology to ruin what our little minds could conjure up. My earliest memories, though, begin after we moved back from Delta Junction, Alaska. My dad had a foreign assignment in the Army, stationed at Fort Greeley before Alaskan statehood. He wanted to homestead, but my Mom wasn’t keen on the idea, so back to New Jersey we went. I’ve often wished I’d been old enough to remember the trip and the beautiful sights down the Al-Can Highway back to the States; but, then again, as I heard about the road without guardrails next to steep cliffs, of an old car with a steering wheel that caught at the most inopportune times (like coming around a curve and heading straight for a cliff when, at the last moment, the steering engaged again for my Mom, preventing us from plummeting off the cliff), maybe I’m glad I wasn’t old enough to remember that trip. Dad got rid of that car as soon as they got into Washington state, and they took a train east to Newark, NJ where my grandparents brought us back to their home.

Dad next went to work on the Everson Farm in Clifton Springs, NY. I have photos of that time, but my first memories begin when he worked on the Wychmere Farm in Ontario/Sodus, NY. I clearly recall that, at age 3-4, we drove down a lane to a Lake Ontario beach where I floated in an innertube. Seeing a ship on the horizon, my child’s mind feared it would “run me over!” Then, imagine my excitement when, while dating my husband-to-be, Ed, my friend, Kathy, and her husband, Hugh, took us to that very same lane and beach near Chimney Bluffs and it was totally familiar to me, remembered from all those years ago!

Next, on the Breemes farm in Marion, NY, my sister and I could be seen playing in and around the barn; milking “my cows” with an old tea kettle on the bank-barn’s wall ledge while standing on a bale of hay as Dad milked his cows; throwing rocks into mud/ manure puddles with my sister, and accidentally following those rocks into the muck. My brother, Charlie, was born that year, an interloper to our fun… or so I thought at that age. Later, we once again moved back to Clifton, NJ where I went to kindergarten, a big girl walking several blocks by myself to school.

Returning to Marion the following year, we had many more adventures with Fran and Betty DeVries while living upstairs in their beautiful Victorian house on their parents’ farm. I still remember the layout of their barn, helping a few times to put milking machines together, watching their Dad put in silage with the belt-driven unloader off the tractor. My Dad knew Gerald and Joann from the Sussex, NJ Christian Reformed Church when he was herdsman for old Mr. Titsworth after graduating high school. Actually, Mr. Titsworth was a direct descendant of Willem Tietsoort who settled that area after the 1690 Schenectady massacre, purchasing extensive lands from the northern Jersey Indians. Unknown to our family back then, my genealogy research several years ago discovered a daughter of Willem Tietsoort was one of my mother’s ancestors!

Moving up the road to the spacious farmhouse on the Musshafen tenant farm brought more fun as we meandered the fields, and walked back up the road to spend time with Fran and Betty. My Dad bought a steer from Mr. DeVries to raise for beef, and my sister and I named him Elmer… as in Elmer’s Glue! We also thought it was more fun running between rows in the garden instead of our weeding chore. Brother Mark was born here, with Charlie anxiously asking, “When can he play ball with me?” My Dad’s sister, Aunt Hilda, taught us the little ditty, “On top of spaghetti…” Needless to say, whenever I recall that song, it is always with images from that house as the poor little meatball rolls off our dining room table, out the back door, down the cement steps, down the slope, past the garden and under the lilac bushes this side of a small creek! We shelled endless piles of peas and snapped mountains of beans, and, I’m ashamed to say, threw some under those lilac bushes when we got tired of it all. We practiced our fishing techniques, aiming to put the dobber into a bucket though I don’t believe we were too accurate. We caught tadpoles and watched them grow into frogs in jars before returning them to the creek. And we tried to fry an egg on the road on a very hot summer day… well, the adults always said it was so hot you could…!

Next, as tenants on the Bouman farm on Whitbeck Road, fun found us running with Ruth, Annette and Grace in the haymow, catching my shoe on baling twine and tumbling down to the wooden floor below, barely a foot away from the upturned tines of a pitch fork and getting a concussion; traipsing over the fields and through the woods; walking among the cows in the pasture only to be chased by a very indignant new mom for getting too close to her baby and barely making it under the fence with her hugeness right behind me; roller skating, only once, on a pond because we didn’t have ice skates; building snow forts, sledding down the hill outside the barnyard; playing telephone as we kids all sat in a circle, laughing at how the secret message had changed from the first person to the last; playing Mother May I, Red light, Green light, and Hide and Seek; learning to ride bike under Grace’s tutelage with resultant scraped-up knees; playing at friend Kathy’s home, sledding down their hill and across the field when a train came through, freezing up and not thinking to roll off – thankfully, the sled came to a stop a few feet away from the track as I looked up in horror at the train rushing by; voraciously reading every book I could get my hands on, a life-time habit; and so much more…! Oh such fun!!

Then, abruptly, we moved back to city life in Clifton, NJ. Sadly, much was left behind, including the unique doll house made special for us when I was in kindergarten. But, now we enjoyed visiting often with our grandparents, and loved the family gatherings for every main holiday on the calendar. When brother Andy arrived, my sister and I, at ages 10 and 11, were responsible every week for months for hauling the family laundry in a wagon to the laundromat across the street from the bar at the top of our block, washing and folding it all (we became little pros, respected by all adults doing their own laundry), getting to buy treats like 5-cent double-stick popsicles, way bigger than today’s version! We taught Charlie to ride bicycle in the former train station’s empty parking lot across from the end of our block. Our Dad took us fishing to northern Jersey lakes and on Clifton’s Garret Mountain with its great vista overlooking the cities to the New York City skyline, all fishing holes from his childhood. We two girls enjoyed traipsing the city unsupervised and unaccosted, walking or biking everywhere to parks and the city library, and to Passaic Christian School and then Christopher Columbus Junior High 12 blocks from home. I can still visualize so much of the city like the back of my hand, forever frozen in time.

After four years, my heart rejoiced when we moved back to New York, through the outskirts with bumper-to-bumper heavy traffic and hippies of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969. Our long drive ended in Lounsberry, half-way between Owego and Nichols, where the odor of neighboring farms was heavenly. Here, my latter teen years were spent caring for three-dozen-some chickens, 6 Muscovy ducks and their newly-hatched ducklings (who grew to provide us with fine dining), my lamb, and mare, War Bugg, a beautiful grand-daughter of Man O’ War… along with our youngest brother, Ted. I was, admittedly, very disappointed he was not a little girl, but I soon fell in love with him and those big blue eyes as my sister and I helped care for him. After all, we were “pros” in baby care by then! And just a few short years later, I met and married Ed, and a whole new story began.

Simply spending time recalling precious memories of family and friends in a long-ago world brings a few tears and many smiles to my heart… So, what cherished memories do you have that are waiting to be brought to mind and shared?

Going back home…
Linda A. Roorda
Going back home within my mind
To simple retreats of childhood days
Holding sweet memories of yesterday
Like quiet oases of rest and peace.
~
Stirring emotions that overwhelm
On traveling back to gentler times
With early images tucked far away
On pages engraved in a long-ago world.
~
For what could ever make me forget
The fears that then descended strong
With dog at fence and thunderstorm
To shake the world of toddlerhood.
~
While a life-long love was built in scenes
Of farming and learning beside my Dad
With laughter heard through carefree days
In adventures had by my sister and me.
~
The many homes of my younger days
Are shelters now for cherished views
As dear and precious memories enhance
Wistfully perfect they ever remain.
~
But tucked within the pages recalled
Are days of change and tender tears
Moving away and losing friends
Through a lifetime lived, they’re never forgot.
~
Yet often they say it’s just not the same
We can’t return to scenes of our youth
That life and times are forever changed
The rift between then and now is too great.
~
But as I gaze on all that once was
I find it’s okay to let the tears flow
As they wash away the lingering pangs
To leave my heart refreshed and clean.
~
So I shall always savor the joy
Of going back home within my mind
And holding dear those treasured days
Of childhood mem’ries and lessons learned.
~~
09/21/13
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
~~

Contentment Flows

It’s just an accumulation of trinkets and stuff, an assemblage that needs to be fed every so often. I should know, because I have my own collections from the past. But, in the long run, none of it will go with us when life’s earthly journey comes to an end. We should be content with what we have and who we are… not seeking to satisfy our appetite with more of everything life has to offer. Be at peace, rest in who we are meant to be… don’t compare or judge ourselves to others.

In contemplating that accumulation, I’m reminded of a song by the rock group U2 from their Joshua Tree album – “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” A fitting comment to an endless search for just the right thing. Theodore Roosevelt was even noted to say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How truthful and fitting both sentiments are for all of us at times!

So, what is contentment? How do we find it? And when is enough… enough? The dictionary on my desk tells me contentment is where the heart is at… perhaps rested and satisfied, at peace, with a quiet and calm joy. Contentment is an attitude of the heart… being thankful and grateful for what we do have, serving others out of a joyful appreciation. Because, believe me, contentment is not found in eyeing what someone else has… of being jealous or envious of what’s on their plate… as if we didn’t have enough to take care of on our own.

In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul wrote “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Hmm… so how could he say that with all the many difficulties he faced?

There’s an old hymn I’ve loved since childhood, coming to treasure the words even more after our daughter, Jennifer, died. Horatio G. Spafford wrote a poem after he and his wife lost their 2-year-old son, their property in the 1871 Great Chicago fire, suffered further economic losses in 1873, and then lost their remaining four daughters at sea – “When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul…” …well-known words of comfort. Having three more children, losing a second son at age 4 in 1880, he resettled in Jerusalem with his wife and remaining two daughters. There, he founded the American Colony, a Christian group providing humanitarian relief to the disadvantaged of any faith. He’d learned the secret to contentment.

The Apostle Paul, writing to a dear young friend, stated in I Timothy 6:6-7: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Don’t get me wrong… it’s not about denying ourselves the ability to succeed in our careers or home life and to have nice things. Instead, it’s all about the depth of our heart, our faith, our attitude… the intangibles… the spiritual treasures.

Life really isn’t about gathering as much stuff as we can hoard for ourselves. Life was never meant to be like that old saying attributed to Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s not about God ensuring that we have a wealthy and happy life. It’s not His plan to make us “rich and famous” in a life of ease without pain. Instead, contentment is a learning process… learning to be who God intends us to be… learning to be gracious and loving when our life is full of pain, disappointments, illness and setbacks. And, in learning to give thanks and appreciate what we do have, we find ourselves gladly serving others around us with a heart of joy and peace… as contentment flows from our soul.

Contentment Flows
Linda A. Roorda
Contentment flows from the soul at peace
Not easily grasped though deeply pondered
How quick am I to follow my will
While yielding to trust finds Your truth with grace…
~
Grace to understand blessings of mercy
In wending my way through waves of turmoil
Seeking shelter from storms that threaten
As Your calming spirit brings showers of peace…
~
Peace that envelopes my very being
From the depth of stress that oft overwhelms
Which tugs and strains the restful repose
To humility meek with a heart of joy…
~
Joy that shines bright in the face of woe
Amidst the sadness of sorrow’s dark tears
As rays of hope through shutters burst forth
To flood my soul with serenity’s rest…
~
Serenity’s rest within the world’s din
Marks peace of mind when focused on You
Grant me, I pray, a heart full of love
One filled with thanks as contentment flows…
~~
07/06/16
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of the author.