How pleased I am that you can join me for our walk this morning. It is a beautiful morning. The temperature is around 65 degrees, and the sun is shining brightly. A few trees are beginning to show their future bright colors, a forecast of the autumn beauty that will come to New England. This is the time of year when I recall my days at my father’s farm when I was young. The sky and clouds at this season are incredibly blue and fluffy white. How I loved to lie on the hillside before the farmhouse and watch those white clouds of a thousand imaginative shapes cross the azure blue sky above the meadow. Now, there are times when I sit in my study and look out the large window at the clouds and sky as an elderly man still feeling the wonder and joy of my boyhood. The picture below is not from my study window but from a hill not far away. It captures the sky and the clouds of the end of August. Looking back on my life I am grateful to God for all His blessings.
Years ago, I visited a patient in the hospital, a man I loved and respected. (I feel the same way about his son.) The man was Jack McKenzie, the former President of Massachusetts Bay Community College. He was terminally ill with cancer. Life had not been without difficulties for him, especially in his last years. Yet when I visited with him for the last time, he said to me after we had talked for a time, “ Ken life has been sweet to me.” I hold that moment close for looking on my own life, in spite of difficult times, life has been sweet to me too. On this journey called life, we must look closely at our lives and be witness to the kind of soul we have built. Are we appreciative of our blessings? Do we see our God having a hand in our lives and walking with us in times of struggle and in times of joy and happiness? Have we worked and prayed to be a person with an optimistic outlook and a love for those around us? Do we really wish the life of someone else? Would we want to trade places with someone who was wealthy, did not have to work, did not struggle and then not have the joy of triumph?
Recently I went to my bookcase upstairs in the garage and brought down a volume of John Greenleaf Whittier’s poetry. Those of you who know me well know that along with hymns I love poetry. While perusing the book of poems, I happened to come across the poem, Maud Muller. I had not read that poem probably since I attended college. That’s a very long time ago now.
The poem takes place on a beautiful summer’s day like the one we are experiencing today. Maud was raking up hay, and she was singing. From where she was tending hay, she could look down into the town and wonder what kind of life she would have if she dwelt there.
As Maud was contemplating a life, a wealthy judge riding a beautiful chestnut- colored horse approached her. He asked of Maud if he might have a drink of water from the spring across the road. Ashamed of her ragged gown and her bare feet, she “blushed” as she passed him the cup.
The judge talked to her of the grass, flowers, and trees and questioned if the day would turn to bad weather. Maud forgot her dress and her bare feet as the judge talked, and as he rode away, she thought, “ That I the Judge’s bride might be.” If she married the judge, she would wear silks and drink fine wine. Her father would have a broadcloth coat. She would give her mother beautiful clothes and, my “baby would have a new toy each day.” Maud continues, “ And I’d feed the hungry and clothe the poor, and all should bless me who left our door.”
As the Judge he rode away, he also held a different vison of his life. His thoughts, “Would she were mine, and I today like her, a harvester of hay.” His life a life of finding truth out of fact and fiction. If he were a farmer, he would not have to hear, “weary lawyers with endless tongues.” No, if he lived the life of Maud, he would appreciate the, “low of cattle and song of birds, and health and quiet and loving words.” Then the Judge thought of his mother and gold, his sisters so haughty, and so he closed his heart.
The Judge married a wealthy fashion-minded woman. He still thought often of Maud Muller and “meadows and clover-blooms,” and wished for freedom. Maud married a poor man without an education. She bore many children but, “care and sorrow, and childbirth pain, left traces on heart and brain.” Yet like the Judge, she remembered his stopping for water that day, and she dreamed of not her” narrow kitchen” but of stately halls. But then, she like the Judge would live her life thinking, “It might have been.” If only they were young again.
Now Whittier thinks to eternity where all things can be understood and made right. This pastor believes that as well, but would add looking to what is to be understood when all is over that we need to find appreciation, wonder, and joy as well with the blessings we have. Both Judge and Maud, in my opinion, should have looked to the blessings they were given and appreciate life and find that amid toil and strife, discord and pain there are also a great abundance of blessings. Look well each one of us – we must – at our multitude of blessings from God. Like Jack McKenzie, may we one day proclaim, “Life has been sweet to me.”
Thanks for walking with me. Hope you will walk with me again – until we meet again – “may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”
(Our walk is late as I have had computer problems. Hope to have then resolved in the near future.)