Something Wicked This Way Comes


May 24, 2022.
Evil entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas. Evil can take many forms, sometimes it’s obvious, almost cliche-like: the Nazi concentration guard ushering hundreds of Jews and undesirables into the gas chambers, dad or stepdad abusing their own children, but often it is more subtle; the scam artist preying on the elderly, seeking to rob them of their life savings, those spewing hatred and vitriol on social media in some perverted dogma or twisted religious idea.  This time it came in the form of a deranged, demented 18-year-old armed with a rifle. An hour later 21 innocent people, children, and teachers are dead. We grieve as a nation, we struggle to understand, to wrap our head around how and why this is happening. Both political parties and all media channels, take positions, issue statements, and offer endless criticism and solutions without acknowledging that evil exists.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the war in Ukraine rages on with untold innocents killed and all but forgotten as this latest tragedy rolls onto our front porch. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home.” The Ukrainian crisis in no way diminishes the horror that occurred in Uvalde, the causes are different, but the loss of innocent life remains tragic whether it’s one life or hundreds, every life is precious regardless of age, nationality, or religion.

Evil will never be a popular topic at a dinner party, it’s unpleasant and for the most part, we want to believe it doesn’t exist. If we acknowledge evil, it forces us to accept that it’s part of our existence, but out of our control. We want to believe that we are in control, that while things are not perfect, the next ordinance, law, or legislation will bring us closer to perfection and peace. History has taught us differently.

Ironically as it sounds there is a positive side to evil. The design of the universe and nature teaches us that where there is darkness there will also be light. Recognizing evil is not a loss of faith or condition of hopelessness but rather an embrace of something even more powerful. Romans 5:20 “…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

I love this from Henri Nouwen, “But in the midst of all this pain, there is a strange, shocking, yet surprising voice. It is the voice of the one who says:  ‘Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.’ That’s the unexpected news: there is a blessing hidden in our grief. Not those who comfort are blessed, but those who mourn! Somehow, in the midst of our mourning, the first steps of the dance take place. Somehow, the cries that well up from our losses belong to our songs of gratitude.”

“Lord have mercy.” A short prayer, three simple words, a prayer of a contrite heart, acknowledging no goodness within us, and that God owes us nothing, but hearing a quiet voice saying, “My grace is sufficient not just for you, but all of my creation.”

The Joy of an Incoming Storm (and lack of control)


Obviously, We don’t mean a tornado or damaging storm, but those sudden spring shifts in the weather, where a cold front moves in, and minute by minute the skyscape changes until the swirling dramatic clouds are replaced by a wall of solid grey, the rain descends as the wind whips the trees back and forth and they sway as if hearing the beats of distant samba drums. Here at the Four-Acre Wood, the back deck and the view of the valley below us provide a great perspective for that drama.

To be honest our favorite vista for incoming storms has been Sanibel Island and the view across the Gulf of Mexico. Unobstructed by trees, the demarcation of the approaching cold front is visible miles away. Suddenly you feel the temperature drop 10 or 15 degrees and at the same time, the wind picks up … gathering sand from the beach and blasting any exposed skin. Seconds later the rain arrives at a horizontal angle, pelting and stinging. The wind roars in your ears as you laugh, running for shelter, never feeling more alive.

Is part of that exhilaration an acknowledgment of a lack of control on our part?

We, humans, want to be in control. Intellectually we know that storms will be a part of our life, both in nature and emotionally, yet we plan, devise, plot, and worry endlessly …borrowing trouble from a future that has not yet occurred.

How much better if we could surrender control over things that we have no influence on and just say a simple prayer … “Lord, I’d love a life of ease, with no problems and no worries, but that’s not what you promised.  What you promised is that you would never leave us or forsake us … not through loss of job, divorce, financial hardships, or cancer. You play the long game, not through the pop-up storms of our life as painful as they may be, but through the eternal.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Vespers and Birthdays at the Four-Acre Wood

We are one day short from the middle of May. Okay, technically (since May has 31 days) a day and a half for all you sticklers to details. Let’s not quibble, it’s the middle of May. Winter has relinquished its hold on the northern hemisphere (at least in the midwest). Everything is green and growing, our weeds have never looked healthier. 

Today we celebrated the birthday of our youngest daughter (since we are being technical, one of two). It was a simple and relaxed meal. The convenience items were the store-bought birthday cake and the potato salad. The burgers, baked beans, and deviled eggs were homemade. Our two daughters and three grandchildren were in attendance, and no one complained, especially when it came time for cake and ice cream. It was a time to count your blessings.

Twilight descends on the Four-Acre Wood. The air softens, and the edges of the tree leaves begin to blur just slightly. The village of Kimmswick, so visible during the winter has now disappeared from view.

Vespers, a time of evening prayer, a time of reflection. The world’s problems and ours do not stop at twilight, but it is a time to set them aside. Our work is done, the day is done, and tomorrow holds the same promises that we held today.



The Sparrow’s Nest


A sparrow selected our front door wreath last spring as a prime spot to build her nest. In her mind I’m sure the location made sense, it was sheltered from rain and inclement weather. That it was a high-traffic area was beyond her understanding. Every entrance and exit from the front door set the nest in motion causing her to fly away. Understanding the situation we took to entering and exiting through the breezeway door or the garage until the fledglings had literally, “flown the nest.”

Fast forward to 2022 and a newly designed spring wreath is hung on the front door, and yes, Mrs. Sparrow came back.  The wreath was removed before she could take out any building permits for a new nest. Several days later we noticed the front porch was strewn with twigs and bits of evergreen. There is a reason the term, “bird-brain” exists.  She chose the next closest spot to build her nest, the blades of the ceiling fan on the front porch.  Day after day she worked on her nest until the next stiff breeze caught the blades of the fan, spinning them and sending her nest architecture onto the floor of the porch.

“Can you build something in the corner of the porch, away from the door where she can build her nest in peace,” Susan asked?

Every day we are bombarded with news of war, violence, refugees, famine, and cruelty beyond imaging. Closer to home we watch as friends and family deal with issues that leave us feeling just as impotent as the events on the other side of the globe. Our world spins like the blades of the ceiling fan, scattering our feeble constructs and there seems very little that is in our control. Some days the best we can do is to offer a smile to a stranger, a kind word when a sharp word is our first thought, and build a little ledge for a sparrow’s nest.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God.  Psalm 84:3


Weeds Give Me Hope!


Here at the Four-Acre Wood we are ready for spring. Every season has its charm and beauty, yes even winter, though at times it’s a stretch to find that. The robins have been back for weeks now. Where do they go during winter? We could “Google” that to find the answer, but the mystery is more charming than an explanation. A little magic trumps a computer generated response every time.

The valley behind us spills into the Village of Kimmswick, then on to the Mississippi River. The trees lift their branches heavenward, still bare, but in supplication, knowing that new growth will come.

Our once carefully manicured and mulched flower beds offer the first hints of new growth and fresh green. No, not hybrid hydrangeas or hostas, but weeds.

Steinbeck wrote in Cannery Row, “.”Our Father who art in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth.”

We could add to that list, weeds.

Steinbeck’s observation is spot on. God did not give the gift of survival to the exotic and rare, the Siberian Tiger or Peacock, but to the lowly, the common … weeds … and me.

I’m slowly checking off things I won’t accomplish in my life time; brokering peace in the Mid-East, finding a cure for cancer, or balancing my checkbook. But I’m okay being a weed, so long as I’m a weed in God’s plan.

Our Father who art in nature.

(But God, we’ve got to talk about mosquitoes and poison ivy)

Inside and Outside

At The Four-Acre Wood tonight, there is the inside, then there is the outside. The outside … well it’s been 24 hours of sleet and freezing rain, nasty stuff, even Mimsy with her four-leg drive has slipped and fallen (me, let’s not talk about it … the video would have gone viral). Far from The Four-Acre Wood the world news seems even more dismal. It’s a time for perspective and faith. 

Inside we are blessed to have our oldest daughter, and youngest granddaughter with us while her husband is on the other side of the world on miltary duty. We have heat, we are safe, and we have have enough produce for a nice salad. We take none of these things for granted. 

Outside the trees lift up their bare arms, covered in a coat of ice, waiting for spring. Waiting. Spring will come as it always does. Bare limbs will become green once more. It’s ordained, it’s God’s design. 

Inside we finish watching “The Major and the Minor” a classic Ginger Rodgers movie. We dance with baby Adeline (not as smooth as Ginger) but dance we do. 

Outside we place the future in God’s hands and go along for the ride.

Poppy, SuSu, Erica, and Adeline