Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sweet Praise Singalong

Precious, sweet times.

Despite car issues with our teenager’s ’84 VW Rabbit, Tuesday turned out moving, and sweet. My group of girls worked hard in Awana, our inspiring children’s ministries director gave the lesson during our large group teaching time, and then God took such a nice evening serving Him, and ended it on a high note.

In the dark drive home from Awana Tuesday night, with the kids piled in my red Rondo,my eyes peeled for deer in the autumn darkness and my radio tuned to Life 107.1, we sang a few great songs on the way home.

My son, nine, was sitting right behind me, and he knew the lyrics to Chris Tomlin’s, “Our God.”

We sang -
“Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…"

And we sounded good together. God was at work on that, let me tell you. I could throw off any praise band if I hopped in as guest vocalist.

Look at this inspiring video of Tomlin’s song:

As we neared home we sang, Hillsong’s version of “Mighty to Save.”

“So take me as you find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again…
He can Move the Mountains,
My God is mighty to save,
Mighty to save."

Check out this “Mighty to Save” video, too:

What joy we shared driving home, praising God together. The girls’ pretty, teen voices, blending with David’s and mine, sounding nice, sending up sincere praise.

Not a bad Tuesday considering Monday started with two of the kids getting in a physical fight involving helmet-throwing, dog-hogging and leg-twisting while Mom was indisposed. Just keeping it real. Praise God.

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sycamore Poem

This poem makes me smile remembering outside play times around the sycamore tree, my teenage way of thinking and high school creative writing class with Mrs. Hicks. The assignment for this poem must have required extensive use of personification. Please keep in mind, I was 17 when I wrote this. (Imagine sheepish smile on my face.)


That strong, friendly sycamore tree,
With branches reaching skyward —
Guarding our home by night and day.
Nuts filling the air with a fresh scent,
Autumn leaves carpeting the lawn in
         A golden jubilee.

Climbing on the the tree’s lap as a little girl,
Sharing with it my childish wisdom,
The tree listened well — and didn’t laugh.
At times when tears were near,
         The tree wiped them away —
And held his arms out to swing from.
That tree’s treasures are
         Its safe silence and astounding smile.

My sycamore tree; remembrance piece —
Of childhood days when life was terribly simple,
                  Yet challenging,
                  To a child.

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Missed Sycamore Shots

Sometimes my photo expeditions just fail.

On Saturday at my parents’ farm, I  walked out in front of the house to capture some views of the little pond, about 100 yards from the house. 

The tall grasses rustled, and my stomach did that tightening thing where I might think supper didn’t agree with me, while my heart lub-dubs like it wants a pacemaker. Really, it’s just fear.        

Too riled to get any closer to the tall grass and lurking cougar, bobcat or nothing except the wind, I snapped a shot of the pond with a power pole’s guy wires in the foreground. Lovely. 

Deciding to capture a photo of the beloved sycamore tree in the back yard, I traipsed closer to the house, and its safety.

In my fear and shakiness, I snapped closeups of leaves, crisping at the edges with the telltale signs of autumn. They span the width of both my hands. Nice shot? No, blurry. 

I shot between the overhanging branches, through the sort of splotched yellow and tan-gray of sycamore bark, beyond the aging and now grassy livestock lots, to the outlying, low-lying bottom fields. What a scene. But, not to be idyllically captured.

Disappointed, on the drive home, I thought about if I turned an oh, well moment into a bit of unnecessary sadness. My favorite tree. I wanted to capture it. Yet, I know I’ve missed other shots, and I can laugh at myself over this.

But. My mom gave me my old Creative Writing class Critter Sitters folder from high school that day. In my office Sunday, I thumbed through the pages, and was delighted to find much precious work from my senior year.

And a sweet surprise, not a coincidence, a God-orchestrated discovery.

In my legible, but not artistic, cursive, I found a poem about the sycamore tree. What a smile that brought to my face, and my heart.

A two-fold gift, from my generous, kind God. In addition to the poem itself, I received confirmation and understanding of why missing that shot brought me a touch of sadness. My attachment to and appreciation of that tree truly is woven into my history.

Not very many kids of the 70s and before who sang the ‘Zaccheus was a wee little man song,’ actually played under a sycamore tree. Not all of them pretended he was in their trees in their backyards, and Jesus was right there calling Zaccheus down to invite himself over for a little din-din. But I did, often.

God gave me a gift in finding that poem  — immature and unpolished as it is.

God is in what may seem like little things, minor happenstances. And that’s good for us.

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

                   (Poem posted in a separate blog entry.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Let it Soak In

I set the wooden slats from our garden bench on a thick piece of cardboard on our garage floor. Dark wood peeked through the soft yellow paint, beckoning another coat for protection from the baking sun, pelting rain and lingering snow.

I started painting the bench last fall, brushing on that first soft yellow coat. Then one snow turned into another here in Iowa, with a cold, white quilt putting a summery garden bench in the back of my mind.

Then comes 2010. One rainfall merged into another through the spring and much of the summer, and I had set the slats – about the width of my palm – against the north wall of our garage, partly tucked between the upright freezer and my husband’s workbench. Distraction, plus procrastination, and here it is the next October, and I’m finally finishing the project.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

This week, I poured the yellow paint into a paper bowl, took the narrow, black-bristled brush and began in long strokes across the slats. Sometimes, I glopped too much paint on my brush, and I could hear the wood yelling, “Air! I need to breathe!” OK, I didn’t really hear that. However, personification ranks as one of my favorite writing tools.

But the project did speak to me. Actually, God used the painting project to speak to me. He faithfully touches me with truth often, so this came as no surprise to me.

But I am thankful.

You see, I am a studier. I love to flop open my Bible across the oak grain of our fingernail-polish-marked, century-old kitchen table, and look down into the study notes, see if I agree with the interpretation and envision the cultural insights, read the cross-reference verses to see the continuity in His Word, and generally dawdle in learning and re-learning priceless truths. This makes me so utterly aware of His love for me and mine, of His perfection and His breadth.

Genesis 5:21-24
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

I can easily spend hours loitering in the Bible – but the laundry, appointments, errands and vacuuming call to me, too. 

So, as I stroked paint on slat after slat of the seat and back of our bench, I noticed a little paint soaks in. Too much stays on top, pooling and really, being wasted.
Paint will peel off far too easily when it’s spread on too thickly. Likewise, mere head knowledge of God and His word offers less than He planned when He commanded us (me) to keep His words on our hearts (my heart).

His word on my heart? That’s a project I want to prioritize, not set aside. With a gentle heart attitude, not bound by be-a-better-Christian rules, but seeing the words of God’s heart through His love. Because He’s with me always.

Like with the paint, I don’t want to just spread study – or service or anything else – on so thickly that they do not soak into the wood, into my heart.

Romans 5:5
and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.

I long to live, and do live, with Him continually, aware that there will be stumbles on my part. I love and need my relationship with my God – Father, Son and Spirit – to spread out, over and into my life and my identity. More and more. To His glory.

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Work Trip's Blessings

Visiting a dairy farm with brown Swiss milk cows - and this cute sample of their youngstock - made a special treat for me. Photo by Helene Bergren

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

What a week. A whirlwind of recording video interviews, shooting harvest, livestock and dairy farm photos, and learning new software.

From Monday through Wednesday, I traveled on a video production trip through bluffy northeast Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The travels gave me the chance to meet some bright young dairy farmers and their families, pet cute calves, visit vibrant small towns, and the bonus experience of web software training in Minneapolis, Minn.

Our travels took my boss-client and I in a large circle from Ames, Iowa, through Minnesota into La Crosse, Wis., up through Eau Claire, Wis., into Minneapolis, and back down to Ames. Phew.

Previous video trips’ schedules have jammed even more into each day. This time around, we were eating supper between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. each night, pretty much, and found our stopping-point towns and were checked into our Super 8s (Plush, I know.) by 10 p.m. Not bad at all.

Two things I appreciate about this week – in addition to the chance to see the adorable calves and come home to my family.

1. God gave me a way to learn
2. He showed me how much I need to protect and prioritize special time with Him if I plan to have any

Back in the 90s, my love of learning, in part, drew me into this journalistic career. The fun part about my educational addiction is, I do not require some new fantastic skill. Little facts gratify me, too.

Such as . . .

·      Every rural road in Wisconsin is paved. So they cover the cost with a higher gas tax

·      Decorah, Iowa, offers a vibrant downtown, with coffee shops, well-preserved Main-Street style architecture, college-town events, a variety of retail stores and friendly people

·      When you eat at restaurants in Italy, often just being seated tallies up to a $2 cover charge just to take a load off

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
            Their ears are open for knowledge.
Proverbs 18:15 NLT

I’m not sure I fall into any particularly intelligent category. Pretty easy to see that based on my bullet list, I know.

However, gaining new insight this week showed me again what a variety of people God made, what great expertise people have in fields far different than mine, how big this world is, and when I think about it, how even bigger God is. That’s all good news.

Packing in Time with Him

When I travel, I in no way want to put God up on a shelf. In the midst of the driving and viewing scenery, I enjoy looking out and praising God for His handiwork, and seeking Him in how to handle an interview or conversation.

Of course, while driving, I could ask to listen to a praise music station or crack open my Bible in the car, and I have done that before. But who wants to be showy? I want this time to be a special, private meeting between just God and me.

So, this week showed me – again - how great a blessing God gave me when he opened the door for me to stay home with my children 12 years ago. A big benefit of that time has been my ability to lollygag around with Him in the Word, prayer journaling and the like. 

What a renewed respect I gained for my brothers and sisters in Christ who work full-time, parent, exercise and still protect time with Him.

So, on this outing, I missed a day of taking a bigger chunk of time to be with Him, though, I chatted with Him now and then. And starting a day in prayer — no better way exists to preface my day.

In part, when I think about an eventual return to full-time work, it will be natural for me to just set an alarm or stay up later to delve into prayer and Bible study time. True enough. But I also know, I will want and need to work hard to keep it a priority, with a heart of love for Him, not fear or self-condemnation.

So, I am thankful to God for the heads up of how I may need to re-structure my days as my life stages change. And I am thankful He leads me and blesses me in all the time I spend with him, whether it means a one-hour sit-down with him, or sweet snippets throughout the day. Any time praising Him and bringing Him glory matters eternally, and it makes my life better.

“. . . My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
John 10:10 NLT

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wisdom from Above

God's wisdom is above even these gorgeous clouds He made.  Photo by Helene Bergren

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.