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Monday, November 30, 2009

It Is all About You

Yesterday I experienced a moment of clarity that is all too rare. I was at chapel and participating in the Lord’s Supper. Some readers may know the Lord’s Supper as Communion or Breaking of Bread. Several months ago, on several occasions when I was not physically able to go to chapel, I experienced the Lord’s Supper alone at our kitchen table. It can be a powerful experience done corporately and, as I have discovered, enjoyed independently. When I was alone, I regularly turned to Luke 22 to read the story of the Last Supper. Yesterday morning, for some reason, I turned there as the loaf was being passed around and I read again the story of the Last Supper. When I came to the two verses directly related to taking the bread and the cup, it is like I had never read the verses before. One word jumped right of the page in both of the verses. Jesus is the speaker in verses 19 and 20 in the 22nd chapter of The Book of Luke.

19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

I have always read the above two verses with a fairly clear understanding of what Jesus wants us to do and why. He wants us to remember his sacrifice on the cross and to specifically remember the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood. What I have missed is the personalization embedded in the verses. His body is given “for you” and His blood is shed “for you”. Yesterday morning I internalized that, yes He came to earth, suffered and died for all mankind, including those believers sitting with me at the Lord’s Supper, but I also realized with flash of understanding like I have never felt before that he did it for me! His body was given for me. His blood was shed for me. I sat there in awe. Why would he do that for me? Why would he assure me the forgiveness of my past and continuing sins and welcome me to a life in eternity with Him? Why me?

I can’t understand it, but I can appreciate it and I do.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Terror By Night

The night was cold and crisp. The near full moon allowed an almost daylight view of the immediate snowscape. Our snowshoes moved easily over the partly packed trail. It was the month before I turned sixteen and it would be my last winter camping expedition with the Boys Scouts of Canada. Winter camping found us in a very rough log cabin with a fireplace and a barrel woodstove that had to be watched in two hour shifts by two scouts throughout the whole night. Since I was the eldest, I was dispatched by the scout master to retrieve three younger boys at the concession road which was about a mile down the trail. A parent was driving them to be met at the road’s end by our escort which consisted of myself and two other boys closer to my age.

The trek out to the road had been uneventful. Our feet were beginning to hurt a bit as the cold temperature started to penetrate our high cut moccasins. As we headed back toward the camp, the boy at the end of the line said with some alarm, “There is something back there!” I had been in the lead, but now snow shoed back to assure him that his imagination was playing tricks on him. In order to prove my point, I shone my flashlight into the trees beside the trail behind us. The light was immediately reflected back at me by six pairs of yellow glowing eyes which I instantly realized belonged to six timber wolves. The pack was stopped as we were and peered at us from a distance of about seventy-five feet. All of the boys saw the sight and indeed now we could see the pack rather clearly without the use of a flashlight. I suppressed my own terror and told the others to keep moving. I tried yelling and waving my arms to scatter our unwelcome escort. They did not move. As soon as we started to move as a group, so did they. They maintained the seventy-five foot distance with an eerie accuracy. Intellectually I knew that they would not attack as long as we remained upright, in a group and moving. Knowing something intellectually and living through the fear are two different things. I told the boys in front of me with as much confidence as I could muster that indeed they would not attack strong looking upright individuals in a group. Our subsequent safe arrival at the camp was the longest three quarters of a mile in my life. The pack followed us to within exactly seventy-five feet of the door. It goes without saying that the batteries in my flashlight were absolutely dead as we arrived at the door.

At the time, so many years ago, I did not have any comfort from the Word of God to rely upon. There are many verses in the Bible that provide comfort in difficult circumstances. My favourite Psalm is the one that directly addresses fear and dread. Psalm 91 reads as follows:

1 ¶ He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. (Psalm 91: 1-6)

We are reminded to not even fear the “terror by night” or the “pestilence that walks in darkness” because our God is our protector, our fortress and our refuge. I love the last four verses of Psalm 91. If we know and acknowledge His name, he promises to deliver and honour us. That is what I call comfort.

13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation." (Psalm 91: 13-16)

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Time of the End

¶ "At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.
4 "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Daniel 12: 1-4)

This morning I am in awe of the Word of God. I am intrigued by the possibilities. Most Bible scholars would agree that Daniel, when he refers to “the time of the end”, is speaking of the second coming of Jesus to this earth in order to gather in believers both alive and dead and escort them to heaven. This will signal the seven year period termed the Great Tribulation. Most scholars, until recently, and indeed some still refuse to change their minds, have maintained that verse four refers to the expected resulting confusion and great desire to study the Word of God prior to and during the Great Tribulation period. I personally see in the light of personal experience, as do others, a completely different meaning to the prophecy. What I am discussing this morning has absolutely nothing to do with the “2012 end of the world” nonsense that has become popular in the media.

In my short lifetime of just over six decades, I have witnessed milk and ice home delivery in horse drawn wagons. The development of car and truck technology has evolved from the basic to the very sophisticated. This has resulted in the building of many roads and freeways to handle the greatly expanded traffic. Air travel has developed from a primitive state to a very common and fast mode of transportation using very sophisticated jet engines and computer technology. In my lifetime space travel has become a reality. Speeds of 20,000 miles per hour are used outside the atmosphere of the earth. High speed trains are common in most parts of the urbanized world. No other generation has travelled long distances as quickly and frequently as my and the following generations. “…many shall run to and fro…” (Daniel 12:4) has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

As a small child, I recall being held up by my mother so that I could speak into a huge telephone mouthpiece protruding from a large wooden box on the wall. She held the heavy wired earpiece to my ear so that I could speak to my father on the telephone. As I grew older, the advent of the dial telephone ended the need to give a number to the human operator in order to place a call. Long distance technology, touch tone and wireless phones were to follow. I now can use a very compact cell phone to place calls, send texts, exchange email or search the internet. I did not see a television until I was six years old. Now I sit in front of a 52 inch color screen and have , not just one channel available to me, but hundreds of channels made possible by satellite technology. The invention and development of the computer led the world to the advent of the internet. I am still in awe of the easy availability of knowledge, both good and bad, that is attainable as I sit at my kitchen table. I was taught as a child and indeed as an adult to read and attain knowledge from a limited number of text and reference books. I was taught to write as a child with the use of straight pen and a bottle of ink. “…and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4) also takes on a whole new meaning for me in the wake of my life experiences.

Jesus made it clear to us that we would not and could not know the time of his return. He did speak of certain signs that would signal the beginning of the end. I must admit that my reading of the Book of Daniel gives me pause of late. Never have the inhabitants of this world experienced advances to transportation, technology and the absolute explosion of knowledge that we currently enjoy.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

He is in Control

As regular readers will be aware, Lozanne and I returned last week from a three year check up with my out of town oncologist. I was surprised by the thoroughness of the process. This wasn’t a cursory look at laboratory results. The clinic time was longer than usual and the planning of monitoring into the next two years was extensive. I had hoped to be dismissed from three month blood work and six month visits. That did not happen. The very good news is that, by all indications, I am cancer free. I have the Great Physician to thank for what three years ago would have been an admittedly unexpected diagnosis and prognosis.

Our trip was not entirely uneventful. Just a few kilometres from home, we were hit by a large stone thrown from the tires of an eighteen wheeler. It was still dark and we did not see the stone that sounded more like a boulder when it hit the windshield. It was disconcerting to say the least. It took me a good ten seconds to realize what had happened. The sound of the rock hitting our car was as loud as a gun shot. The force of the blow was so violent that there were actually small pieces of glass on the dashboard. The windshield was miraculously still intact, but there were two splits from side to side and top to bottom. The stone hit on the passenger side of the windshield where Lozanne was sitting. She could actually feel the force of the blow and I suspect some flying small pieces of glass. She was completely unhurt, but shaken up, as I was. Again we have our God to thank that the worst outcome was the expense of a new windshield installed three days after the mishap.

As we drove towards home, I thought a great deal about how the Lord is in control. He directs the hands of the physician in effecting a cure. He directs the trajectory of a flying rock so that it will be a glancing blow. He is in control of every facet of our lives and for that fact I am most thankful.

My thoughts turned to being able to recommence the writing of my messages for this space. I recognized then and there another example of how the Lord is in control. We read this fact in Isaiah 55: 10-11.

10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

In publishing the Word of God, I really have come to believe that the Lord has allowed me to serve him despite my disabilities in the last year or so. I haven’t until recently been able to go out and speak His Word. Despite that fact, he gave me a laptop, a satellite internet connection and the time to sow His seeds with my devotional blogs. The deal that I have with the Lord is really simple. I cast forth His Word into the virtual world of the internet and He makes sure that these same words that I publish, His words not mine, do the work that he intends for them. As it says above, these words do not return to Him void. They accomplish what he pleases and prosper in the things for which He has sent them.

How thankful I am that He is in control.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Secret Santa

As Christmas approaches, some of the traditions surrounding the holiday come to mind. In the workplace, attempts are made by the few, in order to bolster the Christmas spirit of the many, to institute some pretty silly ideas (in my opinion) like Secret Santa. To the uninitiated, Secret Santa involves placing a number of secret gifts so that the recipient you have picked by chance will find them without knowing who purchased and placed the gifts. At times messages are sent, perhaps unintentionally, to the recipient. One such gift that I received many years ago is still on my bookshelf. It is a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook. The message being sent was that I should stop being such a “boy scout” and stop trying to please so many people and to be a little less efficient or should I dare say it, prepared. The international motto of the Boy Scouts was and I suspect still is “Be prepared.” The message was a veiled insult that I still consider a compliment.

The word “prepared” shows up four times in the very brief Book of Jonah. Jonah is known of course by most children who have ever attended Sunday School or even watched a VeggieTale movie as the man who was swallowed by the whale and after three days deposited back on dry land by the whale. Adult Bible believing readers know Jonah as one of the most unwilling, yet successful evangelists in all history. The Lord forced him to bring dire warnings to the people of the city of Nineveh and at least one hundred and twenty thousand citizens listened, repented and were saved. Such was his distaste for evangelistic work that Jonah wasn’t the least bit happy even with his own success and complained bitterly about it.

In verse 17 of Chapter 1 of the Book of Jonah, we read the following very well known verse.

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

The LORD also prepared a plant to shade Jonah after his work was done (Jonah 4:6), a worm to eat the plant to take away that shade (Jonah 4: 7) and finally a “vehement east wind” (Jonah 4:8) in order to get Jonah’s very close attention so that He could teach him a very valuable lesson in setting his evangelistic priorities. Jesus Himself, when the Pharisees ask for a sign, tells us that Jonah is the only sign they will see. We read this in Matthew 12: 39-41.

39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
41 "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

As Jonah spent three days in the great fish, so Jesus spent three days in the grave. As Jesus was resurrected in three days, so Jonah was rescued from the stomach of the whale in three days. As Jonah, albeit unwillingly, sought to prophesy and preach, so did Jesus. Jesus also tells us that the people of Nineveh listened to Jonah and repented, but even “one greater than he”, who is of course Jesus, could not convince the hard hearted Jewish leaders of His day.

The definition of the word “prepared” suggests determination and resolve in making ready to complete a task. It is evident to me that God the Father was prepared to sacrifice His Son for our salvation. Happily for us, God the Son was prepared to do just that. Now we can take great solace that Jesus has gone to heaven in order to prepare a place there for us and indeed He is prepared even as I write this morning to come back and take us personally to heaven. Are you prepared to receive Him?

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What the Locusts Have Eaten

Next week I have a follow up appointment with my oncologist. Normally I dread these appointments. The required laboratory tests are completed three weeks prior to the event and for three years I have waited for the much expected frown followed by the blunt truth. Oncologists, I am sure, take extra hours in medical school studying “The Blunt Truth 101”. They can very objectively, because of much practice, I am certain, tell you very directly what you would rather not hear. This visit is different. For the first time in this battle, I am beginning to feel much better. The temporary damages done by aggressive treatments seem to be abating. My immunity and energy level are much improved in the last month or so. The permanent damages done are simply being accepted over time. My motto is now “Get over it!”

Several years ago when I was feeling particularly vulnerable to what has been termed “the plague of the 20th Century”, I remember looking in the mirror as Lozanne and I were going out for coffee and saying, “Why is my father going out for coffee today”? Without skipping a beat, Lozanne looked in the mirror beside me and declared, “What is more disturbing is that my mother is going out with him!” There is no doubt that being sick or caring for someone who is ill can make you look old. While I was in the hospital three years ago, the lady who rents out television sets to patients came into my hospital room and said to Lozanne, “Does your Dad want to rent a T.V.? Despite my weak protests from amidst the various beeping machines and tubes entering and exiting my body from the strangest of places about our relative closeness in age, all Lozanne could do was find the situation uproariously funny. I must admit that now I can find the situation just somewhat amusing.

Our battle with cancer has spanned a period of five years. The intense fighting has been for the last three years. As I am better able to cope with life and indeed work and play hard outside, I am beginning to appreciate so much what the Lord has done for us. I have always been assured of heaven throughout the ordeal. I can’t even begin to recite the lessons learned through adversity and I can’t thank Him enough for improved health and vigour. One of my favourite Bible verses comes to mind. It is a very simple thought and for a believer it is a promise that you can count on!

25 "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,…(Joel 2: 25)

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lift Up Your Eyes

This morning, as I was driving to town for supplies, I tuned into a talk radio show. The host was interviewing Terence Dickinson a renowned and much published science writer and amateur astronomer. Mr. Dickinson has recently written a book about the loss of the night sky in most of urban Canada. Light from our expanding cities and suburbs has made it very difficult to see the night sky like it should be seen. As an example, most interested observers of the night sky are not able to see the beauty of the Milky Way Galaxy. Those who live in more rural areas in Canada have a much better view of the stars. Our country home is situated where light pollution is not the least bit evident and I am quite simply in awe when I step away a few hundred feet from the house. The night view upward on a clear night is undeniably breathtaking.

Terence Dickinson has gone to great lengths to enjoy and study the night sky where it is most accessible. He has travelled the world to observe it from the best possible vantage points. He described this morning the view from a remote high altitude desert in Chile. He was outside the observatory on site when the music of Mozart could be heard as the large telescope doors opened. Apparently the professional astronomer in the observatory has a penchant for Mozart played on a very powerful stereo system while he works. Mr. Dickinson describes the emotions he felt as he listened to the music and looked up into the crystal clear and black night sky. The effect of the visual and auditory splendour was so great that he fell to his knees in awe. He was speechless and unable to even stand up given the power of the majesty before him.

At this point the radio host asked the obvious question that most listeners were wondering. He asked if the experience had a spiritual element for Mr. Dickinson. He answered in the affirmative, but quickly disappointed this listener. He said it was spiritual in the sense of the unparalleled beauty and the many unanswered questions concerning this universe that we may never fully comprehend. It is spiritual to him in the sense of wondering if others are out there looking for us. In other words it is very spiritual to him within the sphere of exciting and beautiful scientific study.

When I walk with Marley our spaniel friend into the open fields behind our home on a clear night, I am in absolute awe at the size and grandeur of the universe before me. The prophet Isaiah sums up my thoughts with the following words found in Isaiah 40:26.

26 Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.

When I look up into the night sky, I cannot imagine any other conclusion than my God created all of this. Who or what else could have done it? He brings all of these stars out each and every night. He has named each and every one of them and never in all His power and might even forgets one of them. When He calls them, all are present and have been since He created them. The night sky was there before I was born and will be there long after I am gone from this earth.

I fall to my knees at the power and majesty of the view, not because of the intrinsic and awesome beauty of that view, but because of the power and greatness of my personal God.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stand and Knock

I find it strange what we are able to recall from our early childhood. As I age, I find myself remembering fifty-five year old events better than what happened last evening. At the same time, others can recall to me a mutually lived event from years ago and I have absolutely no recollection of the memory so vivid to them. The event doesn’t need to be momentous in any way. It just was and the memory is. The recollection of it is a very individual matter.

I am sure that I was only four or five years of age when I enjoyed one of my first independent walks in our neighbourhood. In those years children were allowed so much more freedom at a younger age due supposedly to living in a safer world. I did learn very early to avoid the local bully. I hiked through the fields behind our house and soon came to the street bordering that field. I started down the sidewalk and soon came to a small church. I can still remember how I felt compelled to approach the door of that chapel. It was as if I was being drawn to the large double door at the end of the walk way. I sincerely believe that we are all spiritual beings and indeed from a very early age we are drawn even to inanimate objects such as a building where the faithful meet. I walked up to the door and knocked. There of course was no response to my knock, but deep down I was hoping for a response. We all need a response to our spiritual quest.

As it turns out, as I learned much later in life, I had the knocking situation reversed. It was not me who should have knocked, but it was me who had a choice to open the door and admit the ultimate answer to my spiritual search. In Revelation 3: 20 we read the words of Jesus.

20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Jesus is talking to the members of the Church at Laodicea, but there is no doubt in my mind and those of assorted biblical scholars that the invitation is much wider than one offered only to church members. Jesus is the one who is initiating this relationship. We all feel the urge from the earliest of years to open that door for Him. The invitation is made to all of us. Jesus says that He will allow “anyone” to open the door. He does not force Himself on us. We have a choice to make. We can, and many do, refuse to open the door so that He grows tired of knocking and speaking to us and finally leaves. He may return to knock again and then again maybe He will never return to knock another day. In many ways, it all sounds so simple and indeed it is. All we have to do is to acknowledge His knock that we all hear and begin to listen to His voice. When we open the door, a relationship is started. Dining together is associated in virtually every culture on earth and within every historical period with love and friendship. If the door is opened, a religion does not come through the door, but a relationship with the Son of God.

I repeat…we all hear the knock. Have you answered that door?

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Strength and Courage

From the time I was eight or nine until I was fifteen years old, I was involved in the Boy Scouts of Canada. I learned more about persistence, leadership and courage under difficult circumstances than I did anywhere else in my youth. In my last year of involvement, our much respected scout master resigned and was replaced by another very interesting character in my young life. This man had a middle European accent and some very unique skills. He taught us much about surviving in the worst of outdoor circumstances and was an amazing example of courage.

Roman had immigrated to Canada by way of the United States after the Second World War from the Czech Republic, then called Czechoslovakia. In 1939 his reaction to the Nazi occupation and threat to his homeland was to join the Czech underground movement. Because of his hunting and outdoor survival skills, learned as a child, he was immediately drafted into moving intelligence that would eventually reach the American forces by way of the Black Forest. How he made his way through Austria and/or Hungary in order to reach the forested rectangle of 200 Kilometres by 60 kilometres in southwest Germany was never completely explained. Before the war was over, he actually worked directly with and for the American Army. The Black Forest was a heavily guarded frontier bordering on neutral Switzerland. Being caught crossing over resulted in being immediately shot or even worse, being questioned and then hanged. He spent days and nights hiding within a few feet of German guards. He could only move at night and often the journey was slow and difficult. I can’t even imagine the courage required to withstand years of such danger. I suspect strongly so many years later that a strong faith in God had to be part of that fortitude.

Another brave warrior found within the pages of the Bible has left us a record of how God bolstered his courage. A good friend recently ended an uplifting email message with this thought just the other day. In Joshua 1: 6-9 we read the following.

"Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
7 "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
8 "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Joshua was charged with the responsibility to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan. It seemed to most that conquering the land was impossible. Indeed it was impossible without the love and power of the God of the universe. God tells Joshua three times to be strong and to be courageous. He tells him something to which we should pay very close attention. He tells him to know and to adhere to the Word of God at all times. The LORD also promises to be with Joshua, and indeed all believers, wherever we go. In verse 5 we find the greatest comfort of all:

5 … I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Lesson Lived

My last message introduced to you a flight instructor who taught me how to fly in 1966. Sam was 110 years old at the time. Actually he was probably a bit older than I am right now, but from the perspective of an 18 year old, he was ancient. Sam would rank right up there with one of the most interesting characters I have ever met. It is strange that I should think of him so often these days. He was a man of few words who exuded a wisdom that we all envy. He could teach so much with just a gesture or a look. Like everyone else in the sixties, Sam was a smoker who could hand roll a cigarette with an expertise that was enviable even by a non-smoker in the present day. He was capable of the one handed perfect cigarette.

Early in my flight training career he directed me to climb to four thousand feet over a very large lake. We were seven or eight miles from shore over the white capped water when we reached the height he requested. At that point he announced, “I have control” and proceeded to explain to me that he was about to demonstrate an incipient spin and how to recover from it. In my naïveté I though to myself, “How bad can this be?”. He pulled back on the throttle and pulled the nose straight up in the air. I was beginning to suspect how bad this could be. As the airplane stalled in the air, it actually slid downward and backward in the air. The left wing then suddenly dipped and the nose fell toward the lake below. If you can imagine your most terrifying midway ride and then multiply it by five, you have an idea of the sensation of spinning downward nose first towards the lake…the rough white capped lake that now seemed so close. Since we seemed, in my mind at least, to be spinning forever, I looked back over my shoulder in desperation wondering if Sam had passed out or something. I know I certainly felt like doing so! What I witnessed will be seared into my mind as long as I remain on this earth. Sam was rolling a cigarette as we plummeted to earth, well… water covered earth. Indeed he even took the time to light the perfectly rolled smoke with his Zippo lighter prior to explaining how to pull out of an incipient spin and indeed demonstrating it rather successfully at who knows what altitude. I will never forget what a stall or an incipient spin is, nor will I forget how to get out of one, which I quickly learned to do just as the stall was over and the spin had hardly begun. I also learned that a stall was to be avoided at all costs. Like I said earlier, Sam was a man of few words who could teach so well by his actions or in this case his very delayed actions. Any good teacher will tell you that a lesson lived is a lesson learned.

The greatest teacher who ever lived also used many living lessons to reinforce His ministry. One of the best examples is found in The Book of John. The disciple named Thomas refused to believe the accounts of the other disciples who had seen the resurrected Jesus. He claimed that he would not believe He was alive and risen until he could see the marks left by the nails on the hands of Jesus and the wound in His side. (John 20: 26-29)

26 ¶ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"
27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Thomas is immediately transformed into a believer and indeed an apostle by actually seeing and feeling the wounds of the risen Jesus. All of the apostles, upon interacting with the resurrected Messiah, came out from behind locked doors and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and openly. Clearly a lesson lived is a lesson learned.

Having acknowledged that, I just love the last line of my selection today, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Are you blessed today?

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Leap of Faith

It was a perfect autumn day for flying. The weather was sunny and clear. There was just enough wind to make the direction of the breeze visually obvious on the surface of the water. I was cruising at 1500 feet on the downwind leg of a circuit when my flight instructor told me to land in the bay below us and to taxi on step to the island at the end of the bay. I completed the manoeuvre without a lot of thought until Sam told me to pull up to the dock of the only water access cottage on the island. He proceeded to open the door and exit the Champion two seat pontoon airplane. The next thing I heard I am glad that I had no prior knowledge thereof. He said that it was time for me to fly solo and that I was to push off, taxi into position, take off and fly one circuit and that I was to enter the bay on step again and pick him up. He proceeded in a very relaxed manner to roll yet another cigarette by hand. Other than being terrified at the prospect of not having him behind me in the cockpit, I took the news in stride and proceeded to execute just what he had told me to do. I have never felt more alone in my life of eighteen years as I slowly and carefully taxied out and turned the small plane into wind. He had chosen a spot in the fairly calm lake that had a take off and landing length that was literally miles in length. I suspect he had used it many times in the past for just this purpose.

After my checklist was complete and the rudder pulled up, I advanced the throttle and correctly placed the pontoons on step by pushing forward on the stick. As the Champ moved forward at an increasing rate of speed, I watched the tachometer and the air speed indicator until I hit the proper take off speed. I thought that number would be etched in my memory forever, but I must admit that as I sit in front of this keyboard so many years later, I have no idea what the proper lift off speed is for a Champion Cub. But I digress…In order to lift a pontoon plane off the water it is necessary that you break the suction caused by the water by lifting one pontoon off the water first and then rotating the stick ever so expertly so as to lift off the second pontoon. I lifted the left off first, followed by the right and it was as if the plane had become suddenly feather light. Indeed it leaped in to the air and the feeling was quite simply exhilarating. I climbed to circuit height and completed the circuit in a manner of minutes. I set down the pontoons onto the water of the bay in one of the smoothest landings I was ever to experience. I would later attempt to learn landing on skis and wheels. Pontoons are so much easier. It is like you are on a rail the second you stall out and touch the water. The plane proceeds straight ahead or indeed exactly where you steer it on step with almost no effort. Landing on wheels, as I was to learn later, presented a great adventure in trying to keep the airplane on the runway after every touch down. Sam greeted me with a grin as I taxied up to the dock. I did eventually earn a private pilot’s licence, but flew very few hours after that spring that I graduated from secondary school and made ready to attend university.

In my memory are etched both the exhilaration of the take off and the feeling of security of the landing on that day. Very close to exactly thirty years after that day, I made a decision while walking down a city street that was the equivalent to breaking the suction holding me down by lifting my left and then my right spiritual pontoon and leaping into the life of faith in Jesus Christ. There is no doubt about it. Accepting Jesus as your saviour is a leap of faith and it is both scary and exhilarating. Every time I land, spiritually speaking, it is as if those pontoons are on rails. Wherever I decide to go with His guidance, I know every time that I will pull in straight and safe. My saviour keeps me away from the skis and the wheels.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)