Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Hope in Trouble and Sorrow

Another new decade! Wow! How did that happen? It doesn't seem like that long ago that we celebrated the last new decade. Perhaps such sentiments are a sign of getting older. As the psalmist said,

"The length of our days is seventy years - or eighty, if we have the strength, yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10)

Seventy years? Now that I'm north of sixty years of age, I'm strangely aware of the fact that I'm rapidly running out of decades. Will I see 2030? Never mind another new decade, how about even just another new year? Will we see the next new year? Will we see 2021?

Maybe it's a good thing that none of us know the length of our days. A person could go crazy dwelling on their own mortality.

This morning I awakened once again, aware that the calendar had changed to a new year and a new decade, and grateful to be alive to see it. Despite some of the trouble and sorrow of past years, including the death of our firstborn son, there was also good in those years. In the past few years, after yet another time of trouble and sorrow, God has been pleased to bring some miraculous healing to our family. And, as if that were not enough of a blessing in its own right, He added two beautiful grandchildren to finish off that season of healing.

"He has put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." (Psalm 40:3)

So here's to the New Year. Whatever it holds, we don't know, which is probably for the best. Having said that, what I do know is Him who holds it, and I can rest in that. Whatever the number of my years is destined to be, seventy years - or eighty, I have confidence that God is still in complete control. If He sovereignly chooses to still add one more New Year's celebration to my life, or thirty, I will praise Him and I will thank Him.

My prayer for all of us, here at the start of this new year and new decade, is peace. No matter what the trouble and sorrow may be, may there also be peace. May He put a new song in [your] mouth, and a hymn of praise to our God deep within your soul. Peace and Blessings, friends; God is good.

"The losses and crosses are a better means to grow in grace
than when everything is according to our liking."
(John Wesley)

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Maybe God Loves A Good Clean Joke Too

There is an awesome chapter in the Bible that deals with the subject of "time." It is Ecclesiastes chapter three. It begins with, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." Look at that again; "every" activity.

Well, as you may or may not know, aside from the pastoral side of me (Yes, I used to be a pastor), I am also a bit of a humorist; I love a good old fashioned clean joke. I even have a second blog dedicated partly to this other side of me; I call it, The Other Side of Will.

Going back to our chapter in Ecclesiastes three, verse four includes "a time to laugh." I take that to mean that God must love laughter too, and maybe by default, a good clean joke as well. If He created all things and said, "it was very good" (Genesis 1:31), then just maybe, that included the creation of humour.

As such, I have now and then been playing with the creation of memes, most of which are comical in nature. One such meme was featured on this post that I entitled, Laughter Is Good Medicine.

However, the first meme on this post with the clock reminded me of a post I wrote way back in February of 2012: Time: The Great Obsession. Are we obsessed with time? Perhaps we are.

This past year, as I approached my last birthday, I was hit especially hard with the concept of time. No other birthday that I can remember has bothered me as much as this one strangely did. Somehow, I managed to reach my 60's. Shoot, I remember hitting my 30's, half my current age, and thinking I was old. What happened?! 60 years old?! Maybe I too am obsessed with time. Certainly my own personal longevity has somehow managed to find its way to the forefront of my consciousness. Then again, if both of my own grandfather's longevity were somehow relevant (they both lived well into their 90's), then maybe I still have a third of my lifetime yet ahead of me. Time; are we obsessed with it?

So rather than reinventing the proverbial wheel, and rewriting that which has already been written, in closing I would invite you to revisit this post from yesteryear with me:

Time: The Great Obsession

Are we obsessed with time? Hmm, I wonder. Peace and blessings, my friends. 😊

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Half-Built Sidewalks

"To progress is always to begin, always to begin again."
(Martin Luther)

Recently my better half and I were at an appointment in a nearby city. We arrived a little early, and so to kill some time, went for a bit of a walk along a sidewalk adjacent to the meeting location. Not far into our walk, the sidewalk came to a sudden and abrupt end.

I suppose we could have carried on walking on the grass beyond the end of the sidewalk, as others obviously had previously done, but chose not to. We opted instead to turn around and go back the way we came, but not before snapping this picture, as it reminded us of these words Jesus once spoke.

Consider the cost …

Looking back over some of my life's events, I am reminded of how many times I got myself into an unfortunate  predicament that likely could have been avoided had I first spend a little more time considering the cost of every day decisions. Personal and business decisions, which if they had been thought through a little better ahead of time, could have saved tens of thousands of dollars and possibly created an earlier retirement. Unnecessary and frequent job changes, residence changes, vehicle changes, expensive toys; to mention but a few. Each in their own way, cost huge dollars, some of which I am still paying for with interest.

Faith can be like that too. Though we may have come to the faith many years ago, sometimes it seems like we're still making decisions that keep us on a diet of spiritual pablum instead of meat and potatoes. As Hebrews 5:12 says, "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" Perhaps our Christian walks could have been a little more mature by now had we made a few different decisions along the faith journey. Sometimes it seems like we have left the proverbial tower (or sidewalk) only half-built. However, we mustn't let that get us down; our stories aren't over yet and thankfully God is not finished with us yet. Besides, ultimately He is the architect and builder of the sidewalk; we aren't. Thankfully our faith allows, and even encourages us, to begin again.

If anyone comes to me …

Jesus said, "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). What is this cross that we are called to carry? Is it the same for both you and me? Are we really carrying it, or only fooling ourselves? Are we really Jesus' disciples? Do we need to hit the restart button? (At the risk of digressing into another whole topic, which is probably better left for another post, Jesus' parable of the unmerciful servant suddenly also comes to mind.)

Before we can consider the cost of discipleship we need to understand what discipleship is. I cannot help but think that what Jesus was referring to in the previous verse is a radical decision made by you and me that ultimately involves the complete denial of our own selves. Could it be that confessing Christ is only half the cost, much like leaving the sidewalk only half-built? Is perhaps self denial the other half? Part of considering the cost is acknowledging that, by accepting Christ, we have given Him the full right to our lives. It is no longer a matter of what you and I want, but of what Christ wants. This doesn't mean that we cannot enjoy life's pleasures, but rather being fully in tune with what Jesus wants from and through us, is the greater goal and priority and cost.

Taken one step further, a condemned criminal was required to carry their own cross, symbolic perhaps, of the fact that they would not be coming back. Likewise, if I carry my own cross, I am saying to the world that I too won't be coming back; the old me is gone, the new me now has his existence tightly woven into Jesus. It is God's will that now governs my life, and not my own will or desires. Whatever my previous desires once were I've laid at the foot of the cross.

The Half-Built Sidewalk …

Am I there yet? In spirit, hopefully yes. In the flesh, not even close! Some days I feel more like a pseudo-disciple at best than the real disciple that Jesus would have me to be. While my faith-walk is sometimes on a relatively smooth sidewalk, that sidewalk often seems shorter than it should be as it unexpectedly seems to lead to nowhere. In fact, sometimes it too seems only half-built as I've often fallen off the sidewalk and wallowed in the dirt on the other end. God have mercy!

Maybe that's just how God designed this thing called life. Maybe half-built sidewalks of faith are part of His perfect plan. After all, if life were one smooth and nicely paved sidewalk from start to end, without some dirt here and there, how would we ever learn to trust Jesus? If the sidewalk didn't appear to come to a sudden and abrupt end now and then, would we even come to the realisation that we desperately need a Saviour? I wonder.

I love what Paul says in Philippians 1:6, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (emphasis mine).

Yes, our faith walks sometimes do seem like half-built sidewalks, but the good news is, God doesn't intend to leave them that way. He has another proverbial concrete truck just around the corner ready to bring to completion that good work, that sidewalk, that He already began in you. Praise God that we can rest in that.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing my humble musing. Peace and blessings, my friends.

God is good 😊

Monday, 16 December 2019

Each of Us Is An Innkeeper

"and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
(Luke 2:7; NIV)

This morning my wife and I both had a bit of an epiphany. While they came to us separately, when we later shared them with each other, it amazed us how they were really one and the same. We wondered if God might be saying something? Hmm, certainly for us it begged the question.

In her quiet devotional time, my wife came across two quotes attributed to Charles Spurgeon that caused her to pause and reflect. First, "For this child is not born to you unless you are born to this child." Secondly, "If you have room for Christ, then from this day forth remember, the world has no room for you." As she reflected upon those words, at the other end of the house in my own quiet place I came across the above beautiful image as I meditated on the birth narratives in the Gospels.

Each of us is an innkeeper.

I like that. I've never heard it put that way before, but I think it's true; we each have a decision to make as to whether or not we will choose to make room for Jesus. As the busyness of life races on, is there room for Jesus? Is there room for Jesus amidst the stressors of the job or the unemployment line? Is there room for Jesus on the school campus and during exam week? Is there room for Jesus in our entertainment choices and social gatherings? Is there room for Jesus when the kids are sick or a loved one passes away? Innkeeper, is there room for Jesus in you? Is there room for Jesus in me?

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6; NIV)

Going back to the Spurgeon quote, as much as the child Jesus was/is born to us, we too must be born to the child. Reborn, or born again if you'd rather, in and to Him. Spiritual rebirth into a new life. Jesus as our first priority, knowing that if He is truly first, all else will fall into its proper place in due course. Innkeeper, is there room for Jesus in you? Is there room for Jesus in me?

The paradox is seen in the second Spurgeon quote. If we make room for Jesus, the world strangely no longer seems to have room for us. Almost any cursory reading of any church history text will produce evidence of some measure of persecution or disassociation by the world towards those who have made room for Jesus. This is still true today. It's a choice and a decision that sooner or later, we all must make. Make no room for Jesus, and the world will generally love and accept you as its own; make room for Jesus, and the world has no room for you. That's okay if the world has no room for me. After all,

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8: 36-37; NIV)

Don't forfeit your soul. The babe in the manger comes as God's gift to mankind, but like all gifts, they must be accepted; room must be made in the inn of our lives. Innkeeper, is there room for Jesus in you? Is there room for Jesus in me? May it be so.

Something to think about.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas.
Peace and Blessings.

You may also be interested in: What Christmas Means to Me by C.S.Lewis.

Photo Source: Unknown

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The Quiet Place

There is an interesting passage in the Gospels that says, "The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" (Mark 6: 30-31; NIV)

The "quiet place" …

Doesn't that sound wonderful? In the bustle and hustle of our busy noisy world, a quiet place. In the workplace's plethora of stressors, a quiet place. When the job is sometimes so insanely busy that you don't even have a chance to stop and eat lunch, a quiet place. When introverts, like me, are pushed beyond our comfort zones in an extroverted world, a quiet place.

I love that. I need that. My quiet place is a simple but comfortable recliner in a corner of my living room. A small table for Bible and books on my left hand, and another small table on my right for my coffee. Conspicuously absent from my quiet place is a TV. There is not even the distraction of music when I'm in my quiet place. There are times and places elsewhere in the house for that. No noise. No distractions. No interruptions. The place is … quiet.

My quiet place is where I often go to in the wee hours of the morning when I find myself not sleeping. While the rest of the house slumbers on, including the dog, I like to curl up with my Bible and cup of coffee and quietly listen for what the Lord desires to tell me. Who knows; perhaps that's why I often awaken at 3:00am. It's a place for prayer and for meditation. It's a place for seeking God. It's a place for quieting my soul and finding much needed internal peace. "Seek peace and pursue it," says 1 Peter 3:11. My quiet place is my sanctuary.

My quiet place is also where I often go to after work to destress and to try an clear my head from the day's shenanigans. As a confessed bibliophile, with an extensive personal library that seems to have the ability to constantly grow in volumes, my quiet place is where I enjoy those literary treasures.

The one time my quiet place is not so quiet, however, is when the grandkids come over and climb on their Opa's lap. While then no longer quiet, the wiggling little priceless treasures are guaranteed to make it a memorable and enjoyable place as well.

Peace and blessings, friends. May you find and enjoy your own quiet place as well.

"He leads me beside quiet waters"
Psalm 23:2

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Blessing

There are days when I just don't know how I'm going to be able to carry on. Do you ever have days like that? I'm sure you do too.

Perhaps it's all a part of being a member of the human race, compounded by existing in a fallen world. Sin? Stress? A combination of both, combined with perhaps countless other contributors? Who knows?! Sometimes life just sucks, despite our best efforts!

All theology aside, I've had a plethora of days like that lately.

However, almost three years ago, something happened to me that helped to greatly reduce the anxiety and stress of those workplace blues; I became a grandfather, or as I'm now known, an Opa. Suddenly, that infamous and anonymous mantra, "If I'd known grandkids could be this much fun, I'd have had them first," seemed to make a lot of sense. Life suddenly turned a new page and became unbelievably joyous once again. Strange how the arrival of a grandchild (or two, in my case) can have such a profound effect.

Yesterday, after work, the plan was that I would go to my daughter's home, and pick up my wife who had been visiting and helping out there for most of the day. As usual, my brain was toast; the workplace junk of the day had all but sapped the life out of me. Still, dutifully after work I went as planned; my better half needed a ride home, and a quick hello and hug with the grandbabies is, of course, always a welcomed benefit too.

I walked into my daughter's house and she greeted me with, "Do you want a little girl?" The tired side of me wanted to say, "No." The Opa side of me instinctively said, "Yes." My little 8-month old granddaughter was crying buckets of big tears, as she went through the pain of teething. I know that all you parents and grandparents can relate.

I walked up to her, speaking softly to her and wiping those giant tears with my finger, and she began to settle down and even smile at me. Whatever my previous problems were, were no longer relevant; a precious little girl was teething, and apparently needing her Opa. That became the priority.

Meanwhile, my almost three year old grandson was downstairs playing with my wife. He heard me come in, and promptly ran upstairs to see his Opa. It wasn't long before both grandbabies were bouncing on my lap and having a good time (my daughter even captured the moment on a beautiful photo, which I shall always cherish).

After a while, who really knows how long, my granddaughter wound up back in my daughter's arms. Suddenly, out of the blue, my grandson looks up at me and says, "Opa, sing me a song." Before I knew it, and completely unrehearsed, I softly sang to him, "Jesus loves me." Throughout my less than stellar performance, my grandson put his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms tightly around my neck for what could have been an eternity. As I stumbled through the song, hoping I didn't screw up the lyrics too badly, he just sat there quietly and held on tight.

Three year olds never sit quietly for much … ever.

When finally the beautiful stranglehold embrace subsided, a new peace resided in my heart. Whatever the junk of the business world was that had previously torn me apart, suddenly and strangely was completely absent. I was fussing about … what?

Maybe that's why God created grandchildren; they were blessed with the beautiful ability of calming down the nerves of us old codgers, who have wrestled our workplaces for more years than we can or want to admit, settling us down and reminding us that, God is good.

Peace and Blessings, my friends. God is good.

"May you see your children's children!"
Psalm 128:6

Friday, 15 November 2019

From the Scriptorium

So what do you, my Christian brother and sister, do for morning devotions?

Three years ago, about Thanksgiving weekend 2016 (Canadian Thanksgiving is in October), my son turned me on to the idea of copying the New Testament by hand. Bored with the humdrum of what had become my morning devotions, and yearning for something new and a little more fulfilling, I was up for the challenge. Copy the entire New Testament by hand? Well why not?!

This was not a totally new idea for me. I was reminded of a Christian brother that I used to work with some years back who had done something similar. He had decided to create a hand written New Testament for each of his children as a High School graduation gift. If memory serves me correct, he had four children. Therefore, if he kept to this goal, he would have copied the New Testament by hand four times. While I'm not sure if he succeeded or not, I thought it an admirable goal.

So here we were, Thanksgiving 2016, and my son and daughter-in-law were back home for a visit. Over the long weekend, somehow the topic came up and he turned me on to the idea of copying the New Testament by hand as a devotional project. Suddenly, reminded of my former coworker who had done likewise, I bought into the idea. Cool. What a great idea!

I went to our local Chapters and bought a few beautiful green lined journals, with an embossed tree on the cover. I liked them instantly, thinking of how they reminded me of the biblical tree of life. How appropriate, I thought; Bible and tree of life. Eventually there would be ten volumes making up the set.

Unlike most Bibles, my handwritten version had no chapter or verses, with the exception of a header reference on the top left page corner. I also omitted paragraph divisions, which in my way of thinking, made it a little closer to the style of the original book/letter. I did, however, choose to add the sectional headings provided by the translation I was copying.

Well, in a much quicker time than I had anticipated, I completed copying the whole New Testament, from Matthew through Revelation. Now what? Since I wasn't ready to quit just yet, and since I was enjoying the project, I thought of adding the Psalms and Proverbs. I quickly scrapped that idea and decided to go back to Genesis and head through the Old Testament, all the way to Malachi. Well suddenly, about 37-months after beginning with this devotional project, I found myself on November 15, 2019, having completed copying the entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. Wow! What a bitter-sweet sense of accomplishment; bitter-sweet because of both the accomplishment, and the inevitable "now what?" question.

Next, as a hobby woodworker and leather carver, I am thinking of making a wooden slipcase for my ten-volume Bible, perhaps inlaid with some hand-carved leather. When completed, this may make a nice family heirloom to leave to my children and grandchildren.

So here we are. Please forgive my momentary pride; I just hand-wrote the entire Bible! I wonder if the amanuensis of old felt the same jubilation in their scriptoriums upon completing their copy of the Scriptures assigned to them? Hmm.

May God bless me with a glimpse into a new early-morning devotional routine that gives me a deeper understanding and following of Him. May He bless you with an equally rewarding quiet time.

Peace and Blessings, my brothers and sisters. God is good!

You may also be interested in seeing these related posts:
My Devotional Life: A Three Year Anniversary
My Devotional Life: A Handwritten Bible
Me as an Amanuensis: Morning Devotional's Next Level?
Morning Devotions Are Awesome Once Again