Saturday, December 31, 2016

About Christmas … You Don’t Always Get What You Want!

“Where there is faith, there is love; Where there is love, there is peace; Where there is peace, there is God;  And where there is God; there is no need.”  -Leo Tolstoy

Christmas, while growing up, was a magical time. Just like all the other children of the post Second World War era, I looked at the mail order catalogues and drooled over all the toys that were being offered. In our world, that protected cloister we called family, there was the small “s” spirit of Christmas called Santa Claus.  I am not sure at what age the truth about his actually being just an image was revealed. I am sure it made a difference at some level, but we still left our Christmas stockings out to be filled and had great expectations of what might be left under the tree, long after we heard the truth.

I am not sure really, that it made that much of a difference about having a Santa Claus or not having one, as the true meaning of Christmas was always present for us. The Christmas Story was read from Luke Chapter 2 through the years, and we have passed that on down to our children… or we pray that to be so. The main theme of Christmas was that of love. All the other bi-products of the commercial celebrations were just a bonus to us. Did we fully understand that when we were merely youngsters? No, of course not, but as we grew and matured it became more evidenced in those family traditions that made up the Christmas season.

I wish I could say that every day was just like Christmas Day, but none of us can say that with all truthfulness, can we. Back then, there was the threat of knowing that the mystical Santa Claus had both a nice and a naughty list, and we lived in fear of a lump of coal or a bundle of sticks in our stockings. We all have those memories where things didn’t always run smoothly and relationships got ruffed up a bit. Some of those moments were hard to get beyond; our ability to let go of “stuff” and forgive, often took a beating. It is said that you can’t take back what comes out of your mouth. Once the harsh or unkind words are spoken, they are fixed in time… and in “memory”… if not yours, the person you said them to.  I remember how important it was for our parents to remind us that we should watch both our language and our attitudes. More than once I have been reminded of my Mom telling us that it was a sin to tell someone that we hate them, and the Scripture reminds us that if our hearts begin to hate someone, we have in essence killed that person already. That was enough to frighten our young hearts, but not always enough to stop our young and contemptuous tongues from spilling forth the words, when our anger got the best of us. Love is sometimes hard to cling to, and even harder to administer under duress, created by self-doubt, or in our weakest moments.

In our culture, in Eastern Canada, we watched Santa Claus’s message every day, following the evening news on the National TV Network. I will never forget Santa’s instruction to all the girls and boys as he ended his talk; “Now repeat after me… I promise to be good in every way and try to make every day, almost as happy as Christmas Day!” That was reflective of the ideal, which hoped for not only joy, but peace in the family, community and world.  Tolstoy’s quote, remind us that there is a “basic need”, required to accomplish the kind of peace in the world, that would be both everlasting and fulfilling. I once wrote of my Mom’s desire to have her sons love her 365 days of the year, not just on Mother’s Day. Love, not being a continuous process on a daily basis, has no great or lasting effect on humanity. There must be a deliberate striving toward that level of love, wherein you gain and retain peace.

Things have changed in so many ways over the past 6 decades. A few days ago our family took a drive around the area to look at the outside decorations and lights. In the 1970’s there were pockets of brightly decorated homes in certain areas. People would flock to those communities and drive around, just to enjoy the beauty of the Season. Not all of the decorations reflected the Christ of Christmas; many were just reflections of childhood interest, in a seasonal reproduction of gifts, and Santa Claus, along with the special arrangements of coloured lights. While the joy of the trip to visit those communities was often discussed among friends, little of the peace and joy of the Christ Child’s birth was retained, just because of superficial dressings of people’s homes. It was what took place inside the homes that was of more interest, as I began to mature, and my heart still wonders, as we drive through those same communities, visiting friends and family during the Christmas Season; do they know the true Reason for the Season?

I can remember pouring through the Christmas Wish Book, which was one of the delights of the pre-Christmas season, as a child. Those mail-order catalogues, though there were central outlets for them in most communities back then, were important factors in every child’s penning of a wish list for Santa, to be delivered through Mom and Dad. Some will remember that old song where the lyrics went something like this: “Johnny wants a pair of skates, Susie wants a dolly; Nellie wants a story book, she thinks dolls are folly”. I may be off on the lyrics there…. It was the version my Dad used to sing. We soon learned that just because we wanted something, our dreams did not always come true.

We lived in an era when the Walt Disney program sang that song, stating that our dreams come true when once we have wished upon a star. Those fantasies soon disappeared when we had to look at the future through some not so rose tinted glasses. Work for you supper and you’ll get breakfast was more in alignment with what took place. Not that we were stone poor; it was a bi-product of living with older parents who saw the plus side of teaching their children the responsibility of helping to support the family by earning their own way in life. It helped everyone, including our parents, who no longer needed to fully shoulder the burden of meeting all the expectations of a new age, with new dreams and potentials, that for the most part, cost lots of money.

Christmas has become even more commercial than it ever was. Can one turn back the clock and revert to a slower, more moderate time and survive the penalty of peer humiliation? Some would say, “Absolutely!” and not care about the repercussions of derision heaped against those under their care, especially those children in relational and fellowship groups in school and playgrounds. There has never been a time when people did “not” look down on the less fortunate. That is a sad statement for sure. But human nature raises its ugly head and scoffs at those who do not come up to the standards of the times. But, still, we don’t always get what we want.

In my work as clergy through the years, there were other circumstances, other reasons, other criteria whereby I experienced the plea for a wish to come true. I’ve stood by the side of dying people and heard their family’s plea for a life to continue, for sickness to turn once again to health. I have listened while well-meaning individuals promised the sick that if they surrendered and believed, and asked for healing, they would be healed… after all faith can move mountains… right? And, that just scratches the surface of pain and misfortune I faced almost on a daily basis. That may sound so harsh, and on the edge of unbelief, but I can tell you that not all sickness stems from sin, other than Adam’s sin… and not all prayers are answered as we want them, just because we pray in faith believing. We must be cautious about how we approach God. We come as a privilege to his throne, not as demanding servants who bring a wish-list and expect that list to be filled. We, who are the servants of God, understand the mystery of His will, only as He allows us to see it… just like everyone else. God is not Santa Claus nor is He Walt Disney who grants wishes because we have written him a letter (prayed) or wished upon some star. I have written before of Christ’s plea in the garden, just before His arrest. That was a believer’s prayer! He received what was needed, not what he desired, in the human context of his prayer.

I got my sword… a wish come true. I met the woman of my dreams… bingo! God allowed me to attain an Electrical license, that happens to serve me well to this day! My prayer was, “God allow me to become an electrician and I will go where you want me to go!” (And so I went, even to India on 4 different occasions in service for Him.) Well… I got it partially right anyhow. Out of electrical work and into ministry He sent me … kicking and screaming, for the first 5 years or so. Sometimes we get what we want with added codicils. Now, 30 years or so later, I am coasting through my retirement years, clinging to the hope that financial burdens of home ownership, and standard maintenance, will not shove us too close to the edge. Who am I kidding? That is standard fair for everyone these days! LOL  

So? How about those Christmas dreams? Mine include family gathered, time to laugh, a meal shared and most of all love, that binds us together, no matter the size or intrinsic worth of what those Christmas wrappings enfold. Quite like the Christmas fever, that we pay homage to in a commercial sense, daily life can spring some surprises on us from time to time. A turn of the tide, a fork in the road, or even a flat tire can change the planed design of your day and cause either deep heartache or bring a rich blessing. A poet  by the name of Robert Frost once wrote of the road less taken; it can bring meaning to life, as we plan ahead, and I want to share the last verse with you today, as you consider the theme I bring forward.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

While planning life, I find myself in my latter years more able to let go of what I thought should happen, and the fears of what could happen, and I cling to the promise that no matter what does happen, I am loved. For me, this has made all the difference; you might say it is the only instance where I could be assured that I really got what I wanted. I have given my wife and family every reason in the past, to really dislike me on many levels. I have been absent when I should  have been present, and I let my work take the place of the relationships that were most important to me, as I strived after what I thought was the Master’s calling on my life. But, He also called me to be a good, present husband, and father to my children. I was reminded of my remiss early enough to make some changes, but the continued pressures of work and the stresses of ministry did take its toll. Am I sad? Yes, sometimes more than I need to be perhaps. Am I ashamed? Yes, more than most will ever know. Yet God is not only good, He is great! As you look down the road toward the future, measure what you want over and against what you need, and be careful not to put all your eggs in the basket of guaranteed assurances… You don’t always get what you want! Maybe you need to look to the right "Star" and hang your future on it! That is living near the edge!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Starting the New Year with Wings

My wife and I grew up, as some will know, in Bible-believing families. We all had our favourite Scripture verses and my wife’s favourite is taken from Isaiah 40:30-31. The latter verse states: “… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV) It is a powerful image of just how our faith can help us rise above calamity, trial and tribulation, to soar with new freedom in our daily lives.

But, what about the reality check that many do each day? We are never without some sort of problem for very long in the context of our daily lives, or that of our family or friends.  A parishioner of mine once said; “If my life were a TV program it would be a soap opera! ... Every day is filled with endless drama and nothing ever gets settled … it is just one thing after another!” It is hard to imagine living a life without drama. For those who follow Facebook on the internet, you will find that there are many who post statements proclaiming the desire to live without the constant drama, and will give sage-type information on how to overcome relationships that are always causing “Drama”.

But it isn’t just the dramatic, found in friends and relationships that can cause the sap to be drained from us on a daily basis. It is the effort of living, the constant drudgery of the mundane, along with the normal everyday things that can be overlooked. Like snowflakes that gather into mountainous drifts, the “small” things left unattended, due to exhaustion or indifference, caused by busyness overwhelming our sensitivity, can soon become another nail driven into our striving for just plain peace in living. There are so many factors in our lives in this era in which we are living. The striving after all the trappings of living today can tire us out and there is more and more chance of our souls being weighed down, than ever before.

I have always loved nature. Who doesn’t; right? Even as an adult I was mesmerized by the effort of squirrels for instance, who work tirelessly to prepare for winter. Even while invading my outhouse at the cottage, and using its eves for a winter nest, those little creatures gave testimony of their endurance and stamina. Ok.... I got them out of my eves, but that does not belittle their effort, and their seemingly endless proclivity for doing what came naturally. The interesting part was their chatter and then their constant scolding when I interrupted their work, or even came near them. They got disturbed, but not to the point that they could not continue.

I wonder how many times a beaver will rebuild it’s dam, once the forestry department has torn it open. How many times will a wildcat or coyote approach a trap and try to steal the bait without being caught in its grasp? It seems that nature’s design has as part of its plan, to make us both tenacious and resilient. My wife and I once saw two birds flying up the harbor near where we live. They had come quite a distance and they seemed to be struggling, as their flight looked wobbly, reflecting perhaps their exhaustion as they carried what looked like sticks in their talons. They were eagles, carrying building materials to their nest somewhere in the Provincial Park near our home. What stamina! No matter the energy needed to build the nest, this nesting pair took on the project and I suspect continued until it was complete.

But, that is the animal kingdom … right? What makes us so susceptible to the weariness, found in the activity of living? Why are there so few moments where we just rest peacefully, rather than wander about in the maze of mental gymnastics, while caught up in subjective reasoning, rather than seeking freedom in the solace of faith? Is it our training, our upbringing, some cultural environmental disease that is battling our immunity, finding a way to block sensitivity to our own plight? Well, perhaps so. We are the product of so many environments these days. We are looking down all the avenues of reasonability for answers, but want too many quick fixes and superficial answers. I was once accused of being too pragmatic in my early adulthood! Can you imagine! LOL… I had to look it up. I am a linear thinker, or so I found. Everything for me runs in straight lines, or so I was told. That made me a good Chair of the Board, because I wasn’t easily pushed down rabbit holes in conversation. While there were many occasions where I had to defend a decision, concerning the direction of higher academics in my job, I wasn’t drawn away from the point of the argument by those who would try to dismiss this mere mortal, who just happened to be the bearer of not-so-glad tidings by times.

The question arises then; why do we rise to the occasion sometimes and crash and burn on other occasions? It wasn’t always easy to face the upper echelon of academia, believe me! More than once in my academic journey I was reminded that my duty to the job at hand was my studies and not chasing after the call of God in my life. Yes… you heard it right! There is a fine line between an active Christian trying to fulfill the mandate toward preparedness, and being that of a servant in the activity of carrying out their calling. Balance in life is not always found even in the hallowed halls of Seminary. Many were the blossoming theolog, who fell under the weight of striving after academic achievement, far above the true path of preparedness through surrender. I do not believe God’s desire is for all who enter preparation for the work place, either as a seminarian or through a broader path of academics, to gain the highest academic standing in every case. Taking time to understand a broader spectrum of understanding of life, family, community and the world, better prepares young minds for both living and thriving through the stresses of life being lived; not just striving after being on a Dean’s list somewhere.

But people do fall down and many more are weighed down so heavily by life that they have trouble seeing the forest, much less the trees, the moss, the nature that surrounds them. There is often little that supports the effort to rise to meet the needs, much less the courage to match the desire to find such exertion. I read this morning that we often carry the weight of living daily too much on our own. The burdens of our own little world on our shoulders can make flying impossible. Imagine tying 40 pound logs to the talons of those eagles, wanting to build their nest. There is no way that these majestic birds could carry such a burden, but we, like the eagles in that scenario, often overwhelm ourselves with such burdens and yet expect to rise above it all, just on the power of self-proclamation and inner strength. This is a circumstance headed for a collision course with reality.

So, what is the answer? Inner peace, though elusive by times is just a matter of surrender and release. Ok… too much reductionism for some, but take time to do the research. What makes life so stressful for you? Where do you put the focus of your efforts? What drives your desires on a day to day basis? Most importantly, what is the most significant thing in your life … something that means more to you than anything else? Put away your cares for a moment and walk to the edge. Yes… the edge. That is where we face all the fears; it’s that place where one decision can make the difference in the direction of our lives. There we find ourselves evaluating our priorities with a deeper sense of importance, and it is there that we most often are enabled to make good decisions, over against those that may lead us back into the fog of just daily living. Being on the edge is like being at our lowest point in life. I once said that I was at a point where I felt lower than a snakes belly in a wagon rut. It was no picnic there… it was life or death for me. As hard as the moments were in those days, I found that there were things worth living for.

Today, I look back and wonder how many times I have felt the weight of situations that I could not handle, on my shoulders, and still I tried to manage. My first instinct tells me, “I can do this!” But God says, “Let go and allow Me!” That is no easy task, believe me. Pride and embarrassment take its toll and when the effort to handle the moment alone overwhelms me now, I am reminded that I am not alone.

Are you carrying around burdens that are not yours to carry? Don’t just let them go for a minute while you pray, only to pick them up again afterwards and carry them away with you. If a short prayer does not seem to work, then kneel down in your heart and surrender to His peace. I can tell you that it is not easy… but it is worth it. Walk over to the edge, dump the load and take time to see those things which bring you joy while you are there. Be reminded that life is not just a minefield waiting to blow up in your face; it is a garden in which dreams and joys are planted, so that the harvest might bring dreams fulfilled and even greater joys. Blessings are not fiction; they are a real part of our surrender to God, so that He can bring peace as He carries our burdens for us… so that meanwhile, we can find our way!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

When the Going Gets Tough.... There Is God

My hands have hurt a lot lately. My doctor told me some time back that I might begin to suffer more each year with arthritis. We had that whole conversation about family history, what types of arthritis my parents and grandparents had, along with the usual suggestions for diet and exercise. All that would be great if I lived a sedentary life and was not the type to be out doing things that perhaps might be qualified as "hard" work for most. I grew up hearing about what daily life was like in my parents and grandparents time. Hard work was the norm back in the early 1900's. It was not just expected, it was necessary for the welfare of the family. There were not the conveniences we have in this day and age. Work with your hands included hands not just in dough for our favourite recipes, but in dishwater, washing clothes, along with cutting, splitting and piling wood that had to be harvested in the forest without our chainsaws and diesel driven harvesters and hydraulic hoists on log trucks that deliver the wood to our door. After a days labour I feel exhausted and my days are not 8-10 hours long anymore. I am lucky to get 4-6 hours out of this old body these days, but I keep going.

I am one of the fortunate ones I believe. My discomfort is not unmanageable. I take over-the-counter pain management meds as needed. Doctors continue to say that the pills don't work when you won't take them. There is that fine line between being medicated for the pain and medicated so you won't feel pain. I have known people who medicate so that they won't feel pain, and that can be a downhill journey. I am not trying to be judgmental, but for myself, I fear that journey. I need to be able to function daily and manage pain that is real so that I can continue to be reasonably pain free, but also be alert, especially as I use machines that call for my complete awareness. I can't afford to be numbed or medicated so that I might be in a situation and not be aware of some critical decision making process that I am not acutely aware of, or fully capable of handling. I value my life and the lives of those who may be assisting in a project, especially in the woods, working with a chainsaw and felling trees.

Some days are worse than others. I believe we all find that to be true don't we. For my physiology, the weather makes a difference. As a sufferer of migraines for most of my life, I have been critically aware of weather patterns and changes in seasons which have been tough on my pain management program. As seasonal climate changes take place and one season changes to the next, I may suffer for several days as my body acclimatizes to the difference in temperatures. As another example, while working in the woodlot this fall, I have been lifting heavy loads and my hands have taken a beating. My wedding ring no longer fits, and my knuckles are so stiff and sore that getting them moving in the mornings is a real chore, but I persevere and exercise gets them limbered up. I remember my Dad being told to get a small rubber ball and squeeze it in first one hand and then the other through several repetitions each day. His hands, that had begun to twist as the arthritis did its damage, began to straighten out a bit, and for several years he kept up those exercises, and it helped his condition to a great extent.

Due to the damage to my knees some years ago, arthritis is now finding a home there as well. I often wonder; how far can this advance? How many of my joints will succumb to this painful disease. Well, all perhaps, or so it seems. My wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips and even my ankles seem to be saying to me some days... "How's that for lack of response!", and I limp on until the fluid motion of this old body finds somewhat of an acceptable level of norm. I've been told that there is a key to living with an arthritic condition. Like all keys there is a limit, but within that limit there lies a diversity of options that gives us some leeway, in the decision making process. From my doctor's perspective, along with the idea of pain management through medication, there is that simple age old and time proven method used by my grandparents. We just keep on moving not matter what! One could ask the question, "Won't that do us more harm?" Well, with today's technology, there are the advantages of joint replacement. But I continue to wonder why our "now generation" has come to that so quickly. It may perhaps be as simple as diet, lack of the proper exercise and repetitive action on joints that were once used in a broader spectrum of functions daily, that kept wear-out and tear-out at a minimum. But, I am no specialist and I can only speculate. So I wonder; is my hard work good for me or more destructive than I should be taking on at my age? After all, a great deal of my life was more sedentary, in style, in the workplace. I guess the answer is going to be found in the undertaking! 

I am not sure that God wants me to rust out. Some of my longtime friends are convinced that wearing out is better than the alternative of rusting out. As I mentioned I stay busy, but when needed I stop and rest, I do. That has been my mantra of late, as my body feels like it is about to shut down. What I mean by that is, as I reach a certain level of exhaustion, and I can feel my body beginning to not just slow down, but also to scream with pain, it is telling me that enough is enough. You know what? I am just a young buck next to Methuselah or Noah. After all, when in your 60's, you should be able to go a full 16 hours and be ready for an evening out. After all Noah built an ark when he was a lot older than me... actually he was over 500 years old. Ok... We don't live that long anymore... That’s not my fault! LOL But, I believe that God has a plan for my working life as well as my resting life. What's the difference you ask? 

My resting life is that period in time when I am fully aware of Him...His being God! Some take that time during one day only per week... Sundays perhaps. Others choose a life that includes God daily, keeping in touch with Him through the daily journey and with a constant mind for Christ, so that as events and circumstances arise we feel His presence and relate our needs to Him. For me it is the latter. Yes, I do practice the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, but every day is God's day for me. I want to feel Him with me, near me, beside me and around me, and when I feel like collapsing in exhaustion, I know that He has me in His care. When I am weak He is strong. So does that make me vulnerable or over needy? No, it makes me reliant on God for my daily walk, my work, my up-time and my down-time and I am not ashamed. I have heard people state that we should not bother God with the small stuff. I can tell you from experience that if you try to handle the small stuff single-handedly, you soon lose control of even the big stuff along with the small... we are just not strong enough to take it all alone. Even Christ knew the hazard of reliance upon self and its pitfalls, as He petitioned The Father for courage and strength, if not the removal of his tribulation to come.

Each day becomes a journey of trial for us all. It is folly to try and gloss it over with an assumption that the pathway is paved with joy and blessing each moment. Life does not happen that way. We may have moments of peace, but we also endure hours of pain through exhaustion and failure. Like my arthritic condition we may seek chemical answers as some relief, but there also has to be a rethinking of life, its values and our personal actions. I know that if I abuse my body, without considering the consequences, I feel horrible. So I have to limit myself, keep my life in check so to speak, and be cautious of those moments when desire to accomplish something takes over and leads me into over-extending myself. It is living near the edge on a different level daily. It is as dangerous being an over-achiever as it is as being an under-achiever. To rust out as an individual means a waste of good potential, and to wear out, without regard for sustained potential being met, is folly as well. So I strive to walk the fine line. I walk to the edge each day and consider the options, the possible positive outcomes of whatever seems to be on the plate before me. How I reach the right outcome depends on my dependency upon God and my reliance on what He enables me to do, without taking steps independent of His will. 

It is not an easy journey, this journey of life management, focused in Christ. It is however an incredible journey, when we cast off the burdens of self-definition and determination and take on His will each day. It is hard to always be true to that path, for it is fraught with pitfalls, which include stresses and pressure from all sides. The blessings though outweigh the trials. Keep your eye on the Christ and your heart in tune with His will... Living near the Edge becomes less scary and more manageable then.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hmmm… What Just Happened Here and Why?

I suspect that most of us have been in that situation where it seems like we have gone to bed in a rose garden, only to awaken in the midst of some forsaken briar patch with all the prickly thorns finding an opening anywhere available to inflict their painful presence. Well, that may be overstated, but you likely get the essence of my meaning. Things don’t stay the same for very long and some days the most unexpected pops up to change the course of our lives and interrupt the calm demeanor of our state of mind. Some might say that is “Murphy’s Law” and no I am not referring to an old acquaintance by that name should he be reading this. It means that if something bad is going to happen it will happen to me. But, most often it is just a matter of happen-stance; circumstance that just happens when life spins on its own path and beyond our control. There are some that will argue that bad things happen when we are not in communion with God as he decrees. I beg to differ on that argument. I have known too many instances where bad things have happened to good people who love the Lord with all their hearts and serve Him to the best of their ability. We tend to forget that Satan is at hand in the world, and he casts his net to drag in whoever will be caught, while in the fog of doubt, or who are often under the influence of pain, sorrow and often even misinformation.

There is never a good time for most things that “crop up” in a negative context in our lives. We may tell ourselves that we are prepared, or at least have done our best to steel ourselves against the worst that may come, but it is folly to assume that the reality of change, in its worst scenarios, can just be shrugged off and we can continue on with life, while dealing with earth-shattering  problems at hand. Over the past few weeks my family has dealt with a grave illness of a dear Aunt and now the death of my  dear father-in-law, who had gone to the city for what was to be only a minor operation. Granted, he was 90, but the expectation from most of us was that he would have his surgery and, as stated by the surgeon, return home the next day.

Things do not always happen according to plan. I was ambling along at just daybreak… I was in my late teens at the time. I approached the brow of a hill and looked at the steam rising from a picturesque lake stretched before me. A sloping grass covered lane that I had traveled on, made its way downward toward the lake. With sunrise awakening my senses, it was like a mystical garden, a beauty that is difficult to describe, which lay before my eyes. The forest on each side of the lane was not dense and from out of its cover walked 2-3 deer. OK… yes, I was deer hunting. It was my first time, without the company of my Dad. Now a hunter’s first inclination is to raise his gun, take careful aim at the most desired deer and pull the trigger. Well… that was not to be. I watched the deer eye me with gentle curiosity and then amble off into the under-brush, opposite the entrance they had made. It was not a short hesitation for them. They stood there perhaps a few minutes and as a young hunter I just stood there mesmerized by the site of their beauty and the natural state of freedom they were enjoying. So… what did you do you are asking? You likely have guessed by virtue of my description. I unloaded my rifle and walked that long lane, several miles back to the vehicle, and never went deer hunting again. So now your reflection might be, ”Did I miss something here?” No! I, as it sometimes happens, have now digressed.

That feeble attempt at a long rehearsed memory, much shared with my children, still haunts me to this day. It does not fall in the same category as perhaps an unexpected death, but reminds me that not everything is according to plan. My intention that day was to finally become an experienced hunter, providing venison for the table, but that didn’t happen. These are some of the things that we realize, as we begin to find our footing in life. It becomes necessary to make mature decisions based on our particular nature, the direction of our psychological preferences and resign ourselves to the fact that we must deal with those quick unexpected changes in our own way. It is not necessary for us to either defend our personal perspectives in all matters, or be forced to make decisions based upon someone else’s ideals. Cough, cough! I know that was a mouthful. Here’s the skinny on that thought. Sometimes I just need to sit down and have a good cry. Not a “manly” thing to do some might say. But I have to, in my own personal way, release my burden of pain, so that God has room to work on my soul. It matters not to me, at this juncture in life, what the world may think of that odd sampling of courage, that such a “world-defined weakness” demands. Yes readers, I am admitting that I do cry from time to time, when I am overwhelmed and the sadness beyond which I have no control, runs amuck in my life, or the life of those I love or know. I didn’t cry that day I watched those deer walk out of sight, just because I forgot to shoot; it was because my heart said, “How can you harm that beautiful creature?”… And a feeling of guilt for thinking that I might shoot, not remorse for not shooting, had crept into my heart.

Ok… now you are wondering; does this soppy wimp eat meat? Well, yes I do. I even eat deer meat when someone offers me a steak or roast. I have eaten it as hamburger and the occasional mince pie… so I am not against its consumption, but my heart is just not in taking their life. That is one of life’s strange twists, which is better left to another blog… as I smile a twisted smile of “Oh ya… like that is going to happen!” I digress!

“Can the awful things that just pop into our lives when we least expect them, be of divine providence?” … One of my students once asked me. I wish that I had all the answers for people. It would be great to fully understand our Sovereign God, and be able to bring full insight into every circumstance of life to all those who fall into the category of inquirers/searchers, but that is not to be. We are given a day… that day is today and we are not given a key to the map cabinet, where the great charts of life’s course are stored. We are the deck hands, the men and women who climb the rigging and trim the sails at the captain’s command. I am not sure I want to be apprised of the days ahead, like some would strive to discover. Many there are who favor the prophetic symbols of the apocalyptic writings and/or some mystic references… Yes, even striving to add to or more fully project greater meaning from God’s Holy Word. But the Word tells us that no one will know the day or the hour of Christ’s return. No manner of prophetic message from those proclaimed “seers” of contemporary time, will ever fully enable mankind to understand what is happening, with any more accuracy than merely trying to hazard a guess.

We have much to be thankful for as Christians. No matter the trial or tribulation of the moment, we are not alone. Our family may be rocked by news of illness, and then face a death bringing sadness and questions of the future for our dear Mom, but God has everything in hand… He cares for us... we just have to allow Him to shelter us from the stormy blast of fear and discomfort, amidst the assailing of those crushing events. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us of that very thing. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths”. While our hearts are searching for answers to those questions of, “What just happened here and why?”… God is at work in our lives, even while we are still reeling from the news of change and apparent disruption in our life plans. There is no Band-Aid that can just fix a little scratch to our psyche, like a mother applying a plaster to an abrasion in our childhood. No… this stuff is for real, and we try to catch our breath and wonder how the next few moments will become even tenable at the very least.

Those moments are present where we are pushed near the edge. There is only one tether here, only one true life-jacket available in those situations. The human touch helps a bit, but it can’t erase the pain of loss, or our security now unhinged, and the hole that is left, as the void widens in acknowledgement that this is for real. Some people say; “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Well, while there is some degrees of sense, found in this philosophical prophesy, I still maintain that something is going to take my life someday, and in the meantime I am still a man with tears in my eyes from time to time. I am sure happy that I can hear my God remind me that, while I am weak, He is always strong. I can live there… on that edge… with God beside me as my (Isa 9:6) …Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; while He is also King of King and Lord of Lords. You and I are not alone through those horrible turns in life, which can leave us spinning and afraid. God is standing on the edge with us, and can give us a different perspective from there, if we let Him. Why not ask Him (God) to be there with you today and always… even when you are shoved unexpectedly to the edge. Be blessed, and I am praying for you!