Apr 30, 2013

Spring at last

We are back home for a few days and it has warmed up at last. I found myself overcome with the feverish Spring spirit and went a bit crazy in the garden spreading out all the previous years compost over the flower beds. I felt like the animals who all seem desperate to build nests, feed and get OUT. A rabbit is hanging out and fearless, happily grazing on the grass as I work, which I like but also know that I will pay for not scaring it off, it has already munched off a few tulip heads. The Coopers Hawks are back and are nesting, thankfully they are not as close to the backyard as last year but they are still hanging around, they do not seem bothered by me either.

I am wondering if we will get any morels this year and keep checking online to see when they will appear in our area. We have had them on a slope in our woods but it is hard for me to walk down there so am checking online first. They are the highlight of spring and my mouth salivates just at the thought of them. The ramps are just starting to show their heads so it won't be long now.

When we were in Missouri we saw a porcupine there for the first time. I did not know what it was at first and it was wonderful to see clambering around in the woods. Everything seems to be enjoying getting outside and it is a wonderful celebration to rediscover the great outdoors.
P.S. Oh how premature this was. One month later and it has snowed, rained and flooded and stayed COLD. Highs in the 50's and only 5 days this month without precipitation. I am hoping that it will warm up before the fall!

Apr 17, 2013

Friendship and Support.

The farm in Missouri
These weeks have been very full. My husband just returned from a week in Switzerland and tomorrow we head out for Missouri for 10 days.  3 days later we are off to Mexico for 4 days to help our "adopted daughter" get married and then back to the beginning of a new term of people coming to our home. I don't know how I will do it all, but I am only given one day at a time and so I will take it as it comes. The failure of Spring in Minnesota makes me hopeful of having a taste of it further south. I want to go mushroom hunting, but this time I will try to avoid chiggers and ticks, the scourge of Missouri woods.

I am feeling buoyed by lots of love and support lately and it makes such a difference when tackling hard things. Knowing I am not alone and am loved is very sweet and I do not take it for granted, as there have been many times in life when loneliness was a bitter pill. I am sure that is true for many, and knowing how that feels makes this moment all the more sweet. Friendship is a balm to the soul and makes things so much more bearable. My limitations do not make me feel despair, but I am seeing it as an opportunity for God through friends to make what is needed happen. He is doing that already. Thanks Susan and JoEllen.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them." Hosea 11:4

Apr 16, 2013

Edith Schaeffer Obituary -from her son-in-law Ranald Macaulay

EDITH SCHAEFFER :    1914 - 2013

Every generation produces individuals who seem larger than life. Like meteors they blaze into life and become something of a wonder to those looking on. ‘What remarkable talents,’ we say, ‘what energy, what achievements’ This is what Edith Schaeffer was like and for 17 years Rochester was her home.

Like many coming to the Mayo Clinic the reasons for her arrival were hardly auspicious. Her husband, Francis, had just completed filming in Switzerland for his second major documentary series called, ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race’. At the end of a gruelling day on the slopes near their alpine home, his dramatic weight loss over the previous week led Edith to telephone a medical friend at Mayo to seek advice. ‘Get him here as quickly as possible’ he said. So on the 9th October, 1978, Edith and Francis arrived in Rochester. Within hours he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and put on chemotherapy. It was to be the beginning, for Edith certainly, of a long association with the city and its people. Happily, Francis responded well to treatment and continued to be active and influential throughout the world for another seven years. By then Edith had moved their home from Switzerland to Rochester and it was there, on the 15th May 1984, that she heard his last quiet words… “from strength to strength” – taken from the sentence ‘they go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion’ in Psalm 84:7. Her days as the wife of one of the world’s most significant evangelical leaders in the 20th century had come to a close.

However, her surprise at finding herself living in Rochester was hardly her last! She seemed to specialise in surprises in fact. The next one came within weeks of her husband’s death and through what had been the major part of her life’s work, namely L’Abri Fellowship. She and her husband had founded this Christian work in Switzerland in 1955 and one of its half-dozen branches (now ten world-wide) had moved from California to Rochester to provide, amongst other things, practical support for them in their medical need. Not long after the funeral in Rochester came the new surprise - a Steinway grand-piano no less. This was a gift to L’Abri in memory of Francis Schaeffer and it held pride of place in her gracious living room. But the surprise contained yet another surprise and one which opened up a new chapter in her life. For what she quickly realised was that the actual piano involved, discovered not far from Rochester incidentally, had been manufactured the same year as her marriage – and came into her home the 6th July 1984, 49 years exactly after the very day she and Francis had their wedding - 6th July 1936! This piqued her already vibrant curiosity. So the next time she was in New York she arranged to call at the Steinway factory. Quite unexpectedly she found herself in the midst of a red-carpet-welcome and all because the company’s senior piano-voicer, Franz Mohr, had for many years been one of her avid readers and admirers. The visit began a lasting friendship and even resulted in a new book called ‘Forever Music’. Amongst other things it was a paean to the wonder of God’s creation. It also provided her with a medium to express one of the leading characteristics of her life, namely her delight in anything and everything beautiful. She herself was a beautiful woman and always dressed impeccably. When she provided meals it became an occasion not just for good food but for a ‘work of art’ – hence the title of another of her books, ‘Hidden Art’. But ‘Forever Music’ also described how God works into our individual lives – in this case via the biography and conversion of Franz Mohr himself. This in turn led to a concert with the Guaneri Quartet in Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Centre, NY, and to personal friendships with some of the world’s most illustrious musicians like Rudolf Serkin, Vladimir Horowitz and Yo Yo Mah.

Her ongoing life continued to be part of the ‘Rochester L’Abri’ for more than a decade and it enabled her to put her gifts of teaching, hospitality and creativity to good use. Many, for example, were the musical soirees in her living room around the Steinway. She spoke regularly at the annual Rochester L’Abri Conferences in February. But she also served as an international Trustee of L’Abri until 2001 making a grand total of 46 years within the life of the Fellowship. She also went on with her writing. Already she had completed nearly a dozen books, some of which, like ‘The L’Abri Story’, ‘The Tapestry’, and ‘Christianity is Jewish’ had sold almost as successfully as her husband’s – as they still do. The scope of her activities went well beyond Rochester, though, both within the United States and abroad. For example, she had been instrumental in the formation of the Francis Schaeffer Foundation based in New York and Switzerland and also in the Francis Schaeffer Institute in St. Louis, an adjunct of Covenant Theological Seminary. Her speaking itinerary was extensive.

Then followed another major surprise when she returned, now aged 80, to the very place in China where she had been born. Once again she found herself the subject of an official red-carpet welcome laid on, believe it or not, by the secular city dignitaries! The third and last of three daughters born to missionary parents, she was only five when they returned to the United States. Like all her memories, however, her recollections of China remained vivid and these she put into a children’s book bearing her Chinese name ‘Mei Fuh’.

For all her fizz and sparkle, however, and despite frequent displays of energy and creativity, even in old age, which left her younger colleagues in L’Abri breathless, the time came for her to return to her beloved Lac Leman in Switzerland. There she lived in a flat in a small lakeside village beside Vevey where she and her husband had spent many happy years. In due course she needed more care and one of her daughters, Mrs Debby Middelmann, with her husband, Udo, graciously provided a home in the mountains not far from where she and Francis had first founded L’Abri Fellowship in 1955. There, after a long decline in health, she died on the 29th March 2013 - aged 98.

It was a long and remarkable life – truly meteoric. But when all is said and done the best thing about Edith was who she was as a person: she never became big-headed because of her successes; she was always generous (even to a fault!); she consistently, and however inconveniently, treated all who came within her ambit with a gentleness and love both radiant and deeply genuine. In short, she was ‘real’ - a true Christian lady whose first desire was to glorify her Maker and Saviour. What she and her husband took as their life-long goal was to try to demonstrate and declare to all they met that the Bible really is true and that the Judaeo-Christian God is a kind and gracious Saviour to those who come to Him. She never swerved from that object. Nor, right until the day she died, did she ever flinch from the costliness of that call. She obeyed the apostolic summons to ‘present your body as a living sacrifice to Christ’ (Romans 12: 1). And now she is with Him. Hallelujah!

A funeral service is to take place in Gryon, Vaud, Switzerland at 2pm on the 19th April. Then, since it was their joint wish to be interred together, Edith’s body will be buried beside her husband’s grave, in Rochester Cemetery at 1pm on Thursday the 25th April. Her son-in-law and pastor, Udo Middelmann, will officiate on both occasions and all are welcome.

On the 11th May there is to be a larger Memorial service in Rochester led by Larry Snyder, who until recently directed the Rochester L’Abri. The Rev. Jerram Barrs, of the Francis Schaeffer Institute in St. Louis, will be the speaker. All details to be found on the L’Abri website -  www.labri.org/rochester

Ranald Macaulay MA Cantab ------   Ranald@christianheritage.org.uk  --------   The Round Church, Cambridge.

1374 words

Apr 3, 2013

Backyard Reverie

I am currently enjoying space and quiet in the outdoors. The fact that there is still a sea of snow in my yard and that it is only 40 degrees is not stopping me from spending time in the sun on my deck. The thermometer reads 80 in the sunshine and that is keeping the chill at bay. I am enjoying watching the frenzy of bird activity as my feeders and trees are full of juncos, chickadees and sparrows. I can hear the bicycle whir of the warbler but can't see it. The female cardinal is flying backwards and forwards from her nest with no sign of her mate. I hope that he is sitting on the nest as it is unsual to see her out without his careful attention. The Coopers Hawk is back, returning each spring for years, and it greeted me with it's commotion of sharp cacking. I am hoping it did not eat the male cardinal as it feeds on squirrels and birds. I saw a squirrel with a chunk missing from it's tail just this morning. The chickens have finally ventured out on the snow and have made it to the deck. They are currently gathered around me, probably wondering how they will get back home across the snow. It took and hour of coaxing to get them here; they like their feet warm and dry as do I. Ah, a pileated woodpecker just showed up, he is so dramatic in his call, size and appearance. He is over one foot long and has a bright red cap with black and white stripes. When he makes a hole it sounds like an axeman going at a tree.

This kind of back yard reverie reminds me of Annie Dillard's, On Tinkers Creek and I am thinking that I need to read it again. I guess that we are all craving fresh air and sunshine after a very long winter and I am connecting with the rest of nature in this rediscovery of the world around. This connection feeds my humanity and makes things feel as though they are assuming their proper place.  The hens are a little jittery at the birds so close by and they are clustering around my legs. They have had a few unpleasant encounters with the hawk who is not at all phased by my presence. She swoops at them right in front of me and sits in my tree boldly facing me down. I have mixed feelings about it, it is rare for them to be so bold with humans and I like that it has come to know me, but I feel guilty feeding the birds as this only encourages the hawk and it keeps the chickens sticking under the bushes and trees. Sigh, my fingers are getting stiff with cold so I must end and help the chickens back over the snow.
Post Script - the chickens were each happily carried back home and I am about to put my feet up too with the pleasant tired that comes from all that sunshine and fresh air.

Apr 2, 2013

Attracting hummingbirds

This is something I would love to try, I just need to have a Summer where I can be outside often. One year I was on my deck a fair bit and one hummingbird that had taken up residence there became tame enough to hover 1 ft from my face when I wore bright clothes with flower prints.  I find them fascinating and watch them just outside the window in my kitchen all Summer. I plant flowers that attract them and keep my feeders clean and full.

Apr 1, 2013

Edith Schaeffer - Memories

As the intense pain of grief  slowly fades, I feel the need to say more about this dear woman who I was fortunate to count as a friend. There has been much that has been written about her accomplishements which are many, and Frank descibes his relationship with her from his perspective. Edith's love for her children was great, that was very evident. She was a woman who loved all of her children fiercly and her relationship with them is for them to talk about. But even though I only new Edith better in the later stages of her life, I witnessed her life for 25 years in L'Abri and have, along with my husband given those years to the ministry l'Abri.  She first impacted me through her writing,  reading L'Abri in my early teens. I guess the fact that I came from a family in Christian ministry with 3 older girls and a younger son like her children made her story grip me and I went on to read all I could of hers. I then went to Switzerland at 21, the day on thanksgiving that Dr. Schaeffer was rushed to hospital. I witnessed there an integrity between belief and practice that fed the longing of my soul, as it seemed possible to live as a christian at last. I was loved by the people who worked there, both intellectually  taking me seriously and practically by being welcomed into their lives. I became a part of the story as I participated in the Monday prayer meeting and listened to Edith's long prayers. The work of L'Abri began with an act of faith that marveled me, and the evidence of Edith carried on in all her life.

We celebrated Edith's 90th Birthday here in Rochester, here you can see the rose petals, candles and cream puffs, all in her honour. It was a happy time with old friends and was followed with her dancing to B.B.King. She was beautiful, even at 90 and I found it hard to keep up with her energy even at that age. There are many who knew her better and worked with her longer, but I am so thankful for the influence she had on my life.
My husband would read to her from P.G.Wodehouse everyday that she was with us and she loved it. He is great with all the accents and she adored his reading. She also enjoyed listening to Frank Sinatra as it would take her right back to her youth and the days that Fran would play her music to romance her. By this time her short term memory had become much worse, but she never lost her long-term memory. She loved the familiar - white table cloths, rice pudding, cups of tea and songs from long ago.

She was still able to enjoy new things, such as getting to know a dog and she loved our Bella and Bella loved her as you can see. She had a very real faith and the truth of christianity was central to her. All that is good, true and beautiful were her delight to the core. She said that she did not want to be veneer but to be solid wood to the core, and that she was.

Breakfast in bed - Edith Schaeffer

Edith stayed with us for several weeks each year for a time and became firm friends with my dog. One morning she asked if she could have her cereal without milk, and when I asked why that was, she explained that it was so much easier to feed it to the dog that way! No wonder my dog loved her so much, she could never resist the dogs pleading looks. I was amazed at how beautiful she could look, even in bed, and one morning she exclaimed with a glow in her eyes that she had been dreaming of heaven and enjoying the company of those that had gone before. At last she is having that wonderful time that she so longed for. 

Easter and Edith

This was the passage preached from in Edith's church, Trinity Presbyterian here in Rochester, MN yesterday. Chris Harper had prepared his sermon before hearing of her death and did a great job. Easter was a wonderful encouragement in the midst of tears. This was Edith's firm hope as it is ours.
1 Cor. 15:50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[a]

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[b]
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

It was so appropriate to mingle our sorrow with this joyous hope as we live in the shadow of Edith's work that was indeed not in vain. Christ's Resurrection is the reality around which all of life revolves. Many people have so many lovely memories of her 18 years here in Rochester, MN.
Edith Schaeffer, aged 90