Happy Ninth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPresses’ “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

Now, you may be alarmed that I’d notice or care about “how many” people are interested in my blog, since ultimately whatever we do should be “heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). You are right, and I should not be driven by human approval. However, the reason I’m passing this along to you is because it occurred to me that you might be a lot like me…trying hard in your own way to make a positive impact on your world without getting a lot of obvious response. However, beneath the surface, every good and right thing you do will add value to our world, whether or not anyone recognizes it, and it may be that there are more people who are being positively impacted than you realize. (Which is sadly also true when we make selfish, sinful choices.) Think of us as being blood cells in a body. As individuals, we have a minuscule role, but what we do affects many to most of the other cells in the body.

Feeling discouraged? If you’re a believer, know that Jesus is our “boss,” our Lord and Savior. If He’s smiling, that’s really all that matters. However, if He’s smiling, there are probably others who are feeling warmed by the sunshine as well, whether or not you can see them.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Are You Backlit?

shineshine-and-autumn-leavesDo you ever have revelations during the night? Since ArtPrize started, I’ve been sleeping so hard I don’t even wake once up during the night, but I still have semi-conscious moments of thought. I woke up this morning thinking, “I know what’s going on!” Okay, so maybe I don’t really, but no fewer than twenty people, while viewing my mural, have asked me, “Are you using back lighting on your photos?”

“No,” I respond a bit sheepishly, “but I wish I could figure out how to do that!”

“Well, they look like they’re backlit!”

I’ve puzzled over that response, because one of my frustrations has been lighting. I installed LED bulbs with more lumens in the Holiday Inn’s ceiling fixtures above the mural, and the curator graciously allowed me to put footlights on the first half, “January to June,” which is in the alcove of the front lobby. However, fire codes and respect for traffic flow made it impossible to install footlights for the “June through December of Life” half of the mural, which is in the only softly lighted south entrance hallway. I’ve been worried that the colors don’t pop the way they need to, so it’s always a surprise when people ask if the mural is somehow backlit.

Here’s my thought: Maybe they’re seeing the radiance of God emanating from the photos. Could that even be possible? Are they picking up on something spiritual? Now I wish I could go back and ask each of them where they’re at on their spiritual journey. Because, in fact, the mural is named “From the Rising of the Sun” and is all about the beauty of God’s creation and his love for us, as demonstrated by this glorious planet that He’s given us. Backlit? No. Radiant? Well…maybe! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

Similarly, we’re just “jars of clay,” and I find myself frustrated that I’m not more luminescent. Perhaps, despite our own frustrations, others can see the radiance of God shining out through us, even in the shadowy hallways where we live. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!

“Shine on Us” (—Phillips, Craig, and Dean)

“Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

“That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way
In the darkest night
Let your light shine on us.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Valentine’s Grief Observed

DeVosDid you have a happy Valentine’s Day? We did, although it included Chinese take-out to the hospital so we could see Sammy. Before Jon was blessed by a purple tulip (one of a bunch that Gerlinde was joyfully passing out to all her single friends on Valentine’s Day some years ago) and consequently happily married, Jon used to call February 14 “Singles’ Awareness Day.” Purple Tulips from Jon to Linda 2.14.15(Jon now brings Gerlinde purple tulips every Valentine’s Day!)  My favorite facebook greeting last Saturday came from another good-hearted single: “Happy Valentines Day to those who are married, in a relationship, single, divorced, separated, widowed, all the children under 13, & the teenagers!” Amen to that!Valentine's Skiing                         Yes, Saturday was a happy day for my family personally, Ada Bible Church but it was a very sad day for a number of my dear friends, including one who had spent Friday saying goodbye to her husband of 40 years, who had died suddenly and totally unexpectedly while she was stranded out East on a business trip.GriefGrief 2 Here is the profound lament written by another dear friend after losing the love of his life to cancer before 2015 unfolded in her pristine robes of white:

“Fall with me into
The deep abyss of sadness
Swallowing my heart.”
(—Bruce Kerr)

Orange BouquetWe have friends who lost a son to suicide this past year, friends who lost their beautiful daughter (and mother of 4) in a car accident, and friends whose beloved daughter died of illness after just one day in the hospital last fall. We have friends who are just now going through the terrors of chemotherapy for a return of breast cancer and others who are deep in the throes of dealing with the wife’s deadly brain cancer. And, that is just the tip of the iceberg in a world that reels between ecstasy and misery.Handyman Bouquet           Much as I wish I could fix things for the aching hearts of loved ones, Veterans showing Respectsorrow marches on, and there isn’t much any of us can do besides try to “be there” for them, which is totally inadequate in the midst of their flooding grief. Brother   Perhaps you, or someone you love, was filled with sorrow this Valentine’s Day. SoldierPlease know that I am praying by name for those of you whose grief I know, and I am also praying for help in all the unobserved griefs troubling those of you who read this.  May I offer this ancient Hebrew blessing to you?

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee;
The LORD make his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
(Numbers 6:24-26)

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)