My seminary lectures and readings last week were all on the book of Ecclesiastes.
Kind of depressing at first.
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (1:2)
“The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing.” (1:8)
“So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after the wind.” (2:17)
Vanity. Futility. Striving. Grieving. Restlessness. Discontent.
Not only did I spend time looking at the book of Ecclesiastes, but because I was in search of some encouragement in the face of fear I turned to the Psalms. The one I read and prayed through (#90) seemed uncannily in the same despairing tone of Ecclesiastes.
“As for the days of our life, they are seventy years. or if due to strength, eighty years. Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.” (v. 10)
and then later…
“Make us glad according to the days you have afflicted us, and the years we have seen evil.” (v. 15)
Labor. Sorrow. Affliction. Evil.
But, you know what? I’ve always said I’d rather have the raw truth than some candy-coated, fairy-tale version sure to result in heartbreak when reality arrives at my doorstep.
So, it’s true. Life, especially life in a fallen, broken world is often sorrowful and disappointing.
But I love what my professor told us was Martin Luther’s theme and final message of the book of Ecclesiastes: “To enjoy life as a gift from God.”
I think he was right, and have been trying to do just that this week.
So, in the spirit of enjoying and being glad in these days, let me share five of my favorite things from this week…
1. A Quaint Vermont Inn
When I checked in last Friday evening, there was an autographed photo of Bob Newhart behind the front desk. I know this will date me, but Newhart (that sitcom from the 80’s) is what I first think of when I think “quaint in in Vermont.” Well, turns out this was the inn Hollywood used to film exterior footage for the show. It’s kind of a crazy story, but the producers/directors chose this inn out of all the inns in Vermont, starting filming the exterior in all different seasons, decided the inn looked too dark in the footage, painted the whole thing white, filmed in all seasons again, and then painted it back to its original colors. I learned this story when I couldn’t resist asking the front desk clerk why Bob Newhart’s photo was on display. She was sure to tell me that Bob Newhart never actually made it to the inn, but that Darryl and his other brother Darryl did. Ha!
I couldn’t believe I was staying in the very place my mind goes when I think of Vermont. Newhart was all we Texans had to go on, because no one actually ever went to Vermont, of course.
The quaintness did not stop with the iconic inn beautifully decorated with autumn colors, though. On Saturday afternoon I was back at the inn studying and going over notes for our next session at the women’s retreat. I was craving a cup of coffee, and knowing the closest Starbucks was an hour away, I decided to ask about getting a cup from the kitchen.
This is what appeared at my door just a few minutes later:
And there is just something wonderful about coffee and cream on a tray delivered to your room.
2. A Taco Restaurant…in Vermont
I knew I would get hungry on my three hour drive home Sunday afternoon, and feared there would be no place to stop for real food. I actually drove past this place, but about a block later decided this was probably as good as it was going to get and turned around. My Mexican food expectations were low though, because…Vermont. But, two chicken tacos with crispy shells, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and black olives later, my tummy was very happy. Tacos in Vermont. A new favorite.
3. A Sibling Skype Date
I considered staying an extra night at that quaint inn in Vermont, but this sibling hangout had been on the calendar for a while, and I didn’t want to risk not having good internet service. We had some technical difficulties, one of which was that my video wasn’t working. It’s why you only see three siblings instead of four, but we still had fun catching up and discussing the merits of Stranger Things 2. We’re trying to make it a regular date, which it not easy as the four of us live in four different times zones. And we’re even thinking of broadening our Skype date horizons, so you’ll have to keep checking in here to see what comes of it.
4. Freedom Cafe Coffee Dates
The Freedom Cafe is my new favorite place to meet for coffee dates, and I’m thankful for Alena (Taylor and Brittany, too) for suggesting it. It’s now located in the basement of First Baptist Church which is practically on the campus of UMass, and I’m there at least once a week talking about life and faith with college women. I love that we’re supporting (even if in a very small way) the “efforts to end human trafficking and rescue its victims.” There is a donation built into the the cost of your drink, but you also have the option to round up or donate any amount on top of that. Coffee for a cause. I love that.
5. Flowers Delivered To My Door
Aren’t these so beautiful and bright? Some dear friends from my church sent these to me this week with encouragement and thoughtfulness attached. I was so surprised when they arrived yesterday afternoon, and this vibrant bouquet has been my favorite thing to look at ever since – a reminder of God’s kindness and care via the body of Christ. And they were from Atkins Farms, which is one of my favorite places to shop in this season. And there were bright Gerbera daisies in the mix, which are my favorite flowers.
So, I’m with you, Martin Luther. I’m enjoying these favorites as gifts from God in spite of the vanity and futility of life. I think it’s exactly the Psalmist, Moses in this case, meant when he prayed this in Psalm 90:
“O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (v. 14)