Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Bridges over Old Chasms

I grew up in a whole different environment than this generation of high tech and instantaneous everything. I had the curious experience, while very young, of following around a grandfather, who was by nature somewhat quiet, but did take time to spend with his grandchildren. It was a time with a much slower pace in life. Our household fluxed with the needs of family, as they came and went for various reasons, sometimes staying for a month or more with us, but they were good times for us all. Some of the stories of my youth I have shared already, others are still to be recounted and put into print. Here are some more of those memories.

Our backyard had relics of the past, reminders of how things used to be when Grandad kept a horse, either one of his own, or for someone else. I was always enthralled by items such as the old sledge used to bring tree length logs out of the woods, both at home and elsewhere. In back of our home was an old corduroy road that was a remnant left from one such access to our back lot, where firewood was harvested for the winter, and was likely placed across the swamp so the horse and sledge could safely get to the woodlot and back.

These old roads could be found everywhere in my time. Along with the common corduroy roads were the log bridges, built across brooks and streams, which needed constant repair and upkeep, to ensure another season’s use. They were a necessary part of the work load and their maintenance was part of the landowner’s schedule, if the roads to woodlots were to be used for another year. If the stringers got bad, then the whole bridge was replaced, if the wood on the other side of the stream was worth the work needed to rebuild the structure from the ground up. This work was all done by hand, taking long hours in some cases, and much back-breaking effort.

Winter and spring storms that brought floods, meant that rot or complete destruction was a norm for the woodlot owner back then. Today, machines move into woodlots building roads, bridges and ditching the access routes to ensure years of practical usage, and when they do need repairs the machines return. What could take days or weeks then, in some cases, may only take hours in today’s standards. They are putting in a new set of bridges across the local river in our town. One of the bridges replaces a train trestle and the other a single span bridge used for vehicular traffic. Both were in need of replacement, both will be a welcome addition, especially as the vehicle bridge will now be a double lane structure. The look is certainly different, but the structure will be much safer and grant an easier route along a busy highway. Seems like the work is being completed in the twinkling of an eye!

This past weekend, which has been Easter, I got to spend the day with my whole family; meaning all of our children and grandchildren along with some of the extended family, including our sons–in-law’s parents and other of their children and grandchildren. It is times like these that I give thanks for family and am reminded of my own childhood, as I watch both old and young alike gather in a very different format, than I would have experienced in my own youth. I sat in their local Church Service on Easter morning and my heart swelled as all of my children and grandchildren filled several of the pews around me.

Easter in my childhood was very much about the change of season. People wore their “Easter” outfits, small children sported new clothes and little girls had on new Easter bonnets. Religious services often spanned a three day celebration, starting with a 3-hour service on Good Friday, sometimes a musical event somewhere on Saturday night, and then Easter morning events and services. The hardest part of the celebration for me, is and has been, the knowledge that while the Easter’s message, being one of reconciliation and forgiveness as God’s grace to His creation shone forth in the Christ event of death and then resurrection, seems of little consequence in the overall perspective of many. After all, it was the once and for all breaking down of the wall that sin had built, between Himself and humanity. Yet, little seems changed in the hearts of those who fill the churches to celebrate… life goes on as usual, as they exit the building. Mine is neither to judge or condemn... I have no right, yet my heart aches nevertheless.

I had in my youth, a fascination with the flexibility of the moral fiber of those who call themselves believers. Varying levels of acceptability of practice and denominational tolerences made the challenges of personal direction of faith sometimes grey and forbidding. Though there is much debate over the breadth of practicalility in the sweep of that brush; there creates a much confused set of definitions, that have been debated at all levels of religious strata, since the time of Christ. Our moral compass is greatly affected by our environment, decision processes, and to a great extent our peer groups, and the effects upon us can be as many as they are varied. Knowing personally how easy it is to be drawn into a situation,  without even realizing the folly that has beset you, I fear for those who have no hope in faith that is founded in Christ. To hear the Easter Message, to celebrate why and how God made it possible for people to gain forgiveness, should make a difference in our lives; shouldn’t it?

What does it take, in the case of the human soul, to repair the damages of time and mishap? Unlike the labour of strong hands and clever skill sets, enabling men to repair and rebuild damaged bridges just by their sheer will and ingenuity, the malefactions of humanity encompass such a broad spectrum of both subtlety and blatantness, that man’s sheer will is not enough to either overcome, or repair the rift between themselves and God.  There could be only one solution and that became totally dependent upon God himself. We find in all religions, the presence of a deity who is both master and co-ordinator of the universe, yet none who themselves became the sacrifice by which the believer was granted both reconciliation and forgiveness, but in the God of the Christian Faith. As the believer has cause to sing the great hymn of the Faith, “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”, the quiet peace of knowledge of God’s love and assurance, to those who seek Him, still rings true today.

I am sure there are many who read this blog, and feel embittered by religion and the fickle nature of the "Church”, as we have all watched humanity drift in and out of the church-house seemingly unaware of the nature of their witness to the world. We are called to worship, and much of the time are confused at both its meaning and its call to the state of both mind and heart. It perhaps becomes easy to settle upon a neutral state of limbo, both revering God in some circumspect awareness and a haphazard compliance to tradition, when circumstance demands. Churches are oft times full at Easter, Mother’s Day and again, while not so much, on Father’s Day and then filled again at Christmas. A quiet need to revert to family tradition, or to pass on to the next generation the religious context at some level, is a need that is not totally passed over at least by “this” generation. My concern remains for the next, as the rift between belief and faith find an unholy indifference towards one another as time goes on.

If you are the searcher, the wanderer, the procrastinator or even the cynic, you have chosen a path that has been steered by situation and experience. We each face life, never ready for the winds of change and disappointment, but nevertheless find a course that we feel suited to our personal satisfaction, based on both need and comfort. While there are quite often variances in such a generalization, most often we settle in life just for the comfort of settling itself. There is little room to wriggle in some situations I understand. We find a way to sustain presence without too much damage to either our moral fiber, or our presence as part of family and peer groups alike. While many choose to run from life, more than we might believe do stand and fight against the fear and anxiety of life being lived.

Sorrow, despair and depression are not crimes against normalcy, though they are quite often treated like they were. Upon hearing chiding voices speaking those hurtful words, “Only the weak need God!”, many once deigning to chance the walk of faith have had their resolve broken, never to return to that path once again. Those turning to God with significant needs are walking near the edge, many times so weary of the activity of living that there is nothing left to hide from God and so look up, not wanting just an end, but merely to finally realize peace. Here near the edge there can be peace. Here near the edge we can find love and acceptance. Here near the edge does not mean we shall no longer feel the storms of life, but we are assured that the fear of being in the midst of the fray can pass while never feeling totally alone. Today humanity still occupies the pews of the local church, and as humans pass through the portals, coming and going to worship, they still carry the burden of all those human shortcomings that have been the bane of our existence since the fall of mankind. They go... many seeking.... many finding!

Each person who enters God’s house does so as an individual; entering not to gain, but to give back, not for mere profit in redemption, but as a gift of love toward God, never to merely fill the coffers of the religious establishment, but in due homage to Him who has granted life, not merely in eternity, but also life in fullness, to those who would believe. The bridges once broken across chasms, once deep and wide are spanned, and the swamps, bogs and un-crossable terrain, now have a passable road to carry us to safety within God’s love; that proffered in the death and resurrection of the Christ Event, celebrated at Easter! You only need to trust the bridge, and take that first step! I trust the builder and so can you!

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