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Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Thief in the Night

I was completely caught off guard. It never occurred to me that it could happen, but it did. There was the proof. Two very distinct snowmobile tracks cut like a knife in the untouched snow on our septic bed. As any country dweller knows, snow is not to be packed over the septic bed lest it drive the frost down into the weeping bed. In our case, the septic bed area appears to be a very large lawn of about 2400 square feet. From out of the night and off the dark lake, two trespassers had violated the unspoken country pact to stay off any septic bed in the winter, not to mention that they were also trespassing on private land. It is just not done. Yet it was done. One pass on the septic bed is unlikely to cause any harm, but repeated traffic can be disastrous.

I immediately drove to the local Home Hardware to purchase two large rolls of yellow plastic caution tape which is similar to the tape used to mark crime scenes by the police. I improvised a way using stakes and trees to completely mark off the area of the septic bed. I wondered if the interlopers would return and would they respect my now clearly marked area? Indeed, two nights later I observed new tracks stopping about six inches from the south side of the taped area and then veering off in the direction of my neighbour’s property. I was relieved to learn that at least they would respect the yellow tape and stay off our septic bed. Soon I or my neighbours will discover who the trespassers are and deal with them appropriately. I find myself now listening for the sound of snowmobiles in the evening and during the night. While I was outside last evening with Marley for her final business of the day, I was reminded of a verse written by the Apostle Paul. These two snowmobiles do indeed come like a thief in the night. I have not been able to predict when they will come; so it is with the coming of the day of the Lord.

2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. (1Thessalonians 5:2)

The day of the Lord starts with the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Believers living and dead will immediately go with Jesus to heaven. This is called the Rapture. As a Christian I look forward to this day. As much as I look forward to the day when Jesus will return to this earth, I can have no idea when He will come. There is simply no way to predict when He will return. The two trespassing teenage boys (I suspect) have reminded me of a very clear Bible principle and for that, at least, I can thank them.

20 ¶ He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Your God is my God

There is no relationship quite like that of a mother and her daughter-in-law. Despite the best efforts at compromise and mutual affection, there are bound to be times when the relationship is strained. I know this, not only from my own first hand observation, but through the reflections of other sons and fathers-in-law. Simply stated, both the mother and the daughter-in-law love the same man, in different ways of course, causing each to be a rival of sorts from time to time.

In the summer of 1977 my mother and father had come to visit our new home. While they were on the guided tour our precocious daughter, Jessica Rose, who was in her third year, tagged along for the fun. Even at an early age, Jessica spoke in sentences and exhibited a sometimes surprising command of the English language. In the basement, we came across an ironing table that was already set up and indeed used as it had been in our former home. To this day there is little doubt in my mind that Jess knew very well what the object was and its intended use. Instead she paused and said, “Grandma, what is that?”, suggesting of course that she had never seen one of those things before. My mother carefully explained its use, probably convinced, temporarily at least, that her dear son was suffering through an ironing boycott. As she asked the question, Jessica gave her mischievous intent away though her telltale habit of firmly placing her tongue in her cheek. It would take her years to outgrow that obvious sign of disclosure.

In the Bible there is another mother and daughter-in-law relationship that is very carefully explored. Noami had come with her husband and two sons from Bethlehem to the land of Moab. Her sons married Orpah and Ruth, both of whom were gentiles. As a decade came to pass, Noami’s husband and her two sons died. Grief stricken, she decides to return to Israel and she tells her two daughters-in-law to return to the home of their mother. Orpah does just that, but Ruth refuses to part and gives us the poetic verses found in Ruth 1: 16-17.

16 But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.

17 Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me."

I have always been touched by the loyal tenacity of her words and actions. Lately, I have focused in on her acceptance of the God of Noami. She is not only willing to look after her mother-in-law, but she has a need to accept the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She even makes a vow before the LORD Himself to let only death part her from her mother-in-law. I am struck not only by her fierce loyalty, but by her enviable faith.

(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, December 5, 2010

Forget the Rules

He was the strangest sight; completely out of context. Head held high and tail wagging, down the hallway strolled, confidently I should add, a beautiful reddish coloured Irish Setter with a child of about eight years of age in tow on the other end of the leash. The smiling boy was backed up by a nervously smiling woman looking back and forth furtively as if some great wrong was being committed. It took me a moment to comprehend what might be taking place within the confines of the radiation section of the regional cancer centre. As was confirmed a few moments later, the large friendly dog was attempting with the help of the woman and her son to break into one of the most sterile environments on earth in order to allow Grandpa, who was bed-ridden upstairs in the hospital, to spend a few, probably final, minutes with his best friend. They had chosen the long radiation waiting room hallway because it led to a back staircase that leads to the cancer wards above. What the woman had not counted on was five consecutive waiting rooms housing at least one dog lover each. She was actually running a gauntlet of patients stopping the three to admire the beautiful dog. Unlike his mistress, the long eared and furry setter was very much enjoying the unexpected attention.

One of the main reasons, I suspect, that this trio had chosen this particular hallway was the fact that it is always populated with many patients and very few staff. I was one of the waiting who stopped to admire this beautiful canine specimen. Just as the trio came to the end of the expansive hallway, one of the radiation machine technicians stepped out from one of the last doorways. We all thought that this beautiful, albeit perhaps inappropriate, attempt to please an old and very sick man upstairs had just ended. Fortunately, the young female employee energetically headed in the opposite direction down the hall, obviously oblivious to the presence of the dog. The trio did make it to the staircase without detection. I am not sure how they fared on the ward, but I hope they pulled off their assault on the rules. I am convinced that more good than harm was done that afternoon. As Anatole France (1844-1924), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921, wrote, “Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened”. I can readily understand the significance of that visit to the cancer ward.

I am quite sure that Anatole France is referring in his famous quotation to the soul that is actually defined as those things like conscious thought, speech and feeling that separate us from the animal world as human. He could also be referring to a person’s emotional and moral nature. I am equally sure that he was not referring to the kind of soul found in Matthew 16: 26.

26 "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

What does Jesus mean by His use of the word “soul” in this verse? The Amplified Bible does not even use the word ‘soul’ in its translation of verse 26. In the place of the word “soul” are the words “his blessed life in the Kingdom of God”. If I spend all my time on this earth concerned with making, spending or conserving money and preserving my own comfort, then I will miss the opportunity to give my all to Jesus and reap the eternal reward of my soul being in heaven. I look so forward to my blessed life in the Kingdom of God. Just maybe my favourite canine friend will be there as well.

(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 29, 2010

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

At 1:00 A.M. on Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of having an MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging does not use radiation like an x-ray, but powerful magnetic fields interacting somehow with radio frequencies to create an image of the area being scanned. We are most fortunate to have such modern technology in our regional hospital. I actually went to bed early Saturday evening and my eldest son kindly appeared out of the country darkness (despite my assertions that I could drive myself into the city) to drive me into our local regional hospital in time for the midnight admitting done through the Emergency Department. Midnight on a Saturday night at the emergency ward could inspire yet another blog. I was somewhat amazed by the number of persons in need at that particular hour.

I had experienced an MRI four years ago. I had forgotten just how “interesting” the process can be. On Sunday morning, I had the added pleasure of having my head cradled and strapped into an apparatus that prevented any movement. I could see the technician through the distant window by way of a strange mirror in front of my eyes. All metal jewellery and glasses removed and noise muffling headphones in place, I was moved into a very tight tubular space with the cryptic request that I not move for the next twenty-five minutes. In my right hand I clutched the panic bulb that I was to squeeze if I could simply not take any more. As I was moved into position, I comforted myself with the consolation of being able to pray undisturbed for the next twenty-five minutes. What an opportunity! Unfortunately, I had forgotten the loud irregular noises and periodic bone shaking vibrations that made up the next nearly one half of an hour. The machine literally cracks, pounds, rattles, thumps, shakes, contorts and whirrs for the whole time you are in it. I was completely and utterly unable to intelligibly pray. I just held my elbows painfully at my side and stared straight into the mirror waiting for the endless session to be over. “Help me Jesus” was about as far as I could get with my prayer session. The distractions of the machine are just too great. I made it through the session without moving and was soon back on the dark winter road to home no worse for the wear.

In many ways, I realize today that the MRI machine is very much like the modern world in which we live. We are all surrounded by constant distractions that keep up us from our communication with God. We are bombarded with media noise and worldly temptations. Amidst the noise, we are often taken further away from our Lord. I find solace in the actual words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 5-8.

5 ¶ "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

I am greatly comforted by verse 8. My Father knew very well my needs and indeed supplied those needs within my Sunday morning MRI machine. I was completely unable to articulate, but He had no need of my words at that point. “Help me Jesus” were the only words required.

(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 28, 2010

Accepting His Will

Dear Regular Reader,

There are several realities that I have had to accept in the last little of them being that I am currently having difficulty publishing blogs every two days. I hope to be able to contribute to this site at least on an intermittent basis. I pray that someday soon I might be able to add significantly to the 166 messages written in the last year and some months.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23: 1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Decision

Finally, it had happened. We had a conflict. Jeremy’s hockey game and his music lesson were almost at the same time. Missing the hockey game was unthinkable to our nine year old son and missing the piano lesson was equally unthinkable to his serious and professional music teacher. The solution, it seemed at the time, was for Jeremy to attend his piano lesson wearing his equipment, less the helmet, skates and gloves of course. When his lesson was over, I was to whisk him away to a “just in time” hockey game at the arena. We thought it was a good plan at the time.

The piano teacher lived just down the street and Jeremy was able to walk to the lesson. I assured him that I would be ready to drive him to the game as soon as he returned. He left and in very few minutes had returned and announced that now we could go to the game. Confused, we questioned him as to why he was so early. Jeremy told us that when he arrived and sat down on the piano bench, the teacher, who was rather passionate about the study of music, told him he had to make a decision. Since he wasn’t volunteering the nature of the decision, we had to ask him about the choice he had to make. His kindly but serious teacher had told him, no doubt in her delightful eastern European accent, that he must decide between playing hockey and studying music. We are fairly certain that she meant that eventually the two would conflict and that then he would have to make a decision. To the nine year old literal mind, he heard that he was to make a decision right here and now and indeed he did. Apparently, as she later confirmed, he assured her immediately that he had decided to pursue hockey and leave behind his music career. Then he simply put on his boots, left the house and came home very relieved that he did not have to return to music. Indeed, he never did.

We are certain that Jeremy would not have continued much longer to take piano lessons. It was patently obvious that he did not enjoy the exercise. I have often thought of the hastiness of the proposed decision as expressed by the piano teacher. Giving a nine year old boy dressed for a hockey game what sounded to him to be an ultimatum could have only one result. He made the decision and she lost a student. Verse 5 in Chapter 21 of the Book of Proverbs reinforces my initial theory.

5 The Thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness, but everyone who is impatient and hasty hastens only to want. (Amplified Bible)

On the other hand, perhaps she had assessed his future enthusiasm and success in piano studies and very purposefully and kindly allowed him a way to get out of what he did not enjoy.

21 ¶ The wise in heart will be called prudent, And sweetness of the lips increases learning. (Proverbs 16:21)

(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 20, 2010

New Every Morning

I am a morning person. As I age at what appears to me to be an exponential rate in relation to my peers, the “morning effect” as contrasted with the “sundown effect” is multiplied and very welcome. Today we awoke to the first significant snowfall of the year. As I went outside in order to shovel some snow, I started to think of other mornings so prominent in my memory.

When I was six or seven years old, my father actually took me to the hardware store to buy me a snow scraper. He finally grew tired of me asking for one so that I could shovel the walk and driveway. He found the lightest one, which in those days was not an easy feat. Snow shovels were all made of steel. Plastic or child sized snow shovels simply did not exist. The first thing I did each and every winter morning was to check the amount of snowfall. I was outside sometimes before breakfast enjoying the chilled early morning air and the task of clearing the snow. I have maintained that excitement for early morning snow shovelling. Unfortunately, the physical part of completing the job is not nearly as much fun as I remember as a boy. Today as I struggled to open up a trail to the garage, I was honoured with the sighting of a large magnificent eagle literally rising up in the gusty winds over the shore of the mostly frozen lake. Suddenly I felt the reality of the words, “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40: 31). As my eagle was mounting up in the wind, my strength was renewed.

When I was ten or eleven years old, I delighted in climbing out my bedroom window at dawn in order to go fishing on spring mornings. The sun shining off the clear water as I cast my line from my plywood boat is as real to me this morning as it was on those mornings so long ago. It occurs to me now that I did not need to climb out the window in order to heighten the adventure. I am positive, after long experience as a parent and grandparent, that my mother and father were very aware of my early morning fishing expeditions.

In adulthood, I experienced another joyful morning experience. I was more of an observer, but I still enjoyed the utter delight that Lozanne felt and demonstrated during the years that our children were babies. She simply could not wait to greet the babies and toddlers in their cribs. No matter how tired she was from lack of sleep during the night, the slightest sound, whether it be crying, laughing or baby talk, would bring her joyously talking and laughing with each of our four children even before she reached their room. They were lifted immediately from their crib and another day of continual attention and love would start anew each and every day. I don’t doubt it for a second when Lozanne tells me that the years spent raising our babies were the happiest days of her life. I observed the joy renewed each and every morning.

The LORD does the same for us each and every morning. We read of His faithfulness and compassion in Lamentations 3: 19-24.

19 Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall.

20 My soul still remembers And sinks within me.

21 ¶ This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!"

Each and every morning, even as life becomes more difficult, my hope is renewed. I am assured that His mercies will follow me all day long. I will not be consumed by the troubles of the day. His compassion will always be there for me. Great is His faithfulness that is renewed each and every morning. No wonder I continue to be a morning person.

(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 18, 2010

Far from God

Last evening Lozanne and I watched episodes 25 and 26 of the television mini-series entitled The Forsyte Saga. Over the past month, we have rented and watched all of the 1967 BBC adaptation of the series of novels written by John Galsworthy. To my knowledge, the twenty-six black and white one hour episodes have never been rebroadcast in Canada since the summer and fall of 1970. Although it was not the first mini-series made for television, it is certainly the first I can remember. It had a very dramatic, but believable soap opera quality to it that actually emptied pubs and churches when it aired on Sunday nights in Great Britain. The effect was similar when it was broadcast by the CBC following the Ed Sullivan Show at nine o'clock on Sunday evenings in 1970. Families gathered around television sets to catch up on the multi-generational series starting in Victorian England and ending in the third decade of the twentieth century.

Watching the series forty years later has drawn Lozanne and I back to my parents’ living room as we made sure to be present for the weekly instalment to be broadcast on the twenty-one inch Admiral television with the rabbit ears set in the perfect position for the best possible reception. We were staying with my parents in the summer of 1970 for six weeks so that I could attend summer university courses. We spent many summers in various locations for the same purpose. It is good to be reminded of our parents who were so good to us. At the time, I thought of them as old. Now as I look back, I am shocked with how youthful they were at the time. How we enjoyed those Sunday evenings seated on the low backed green fabric couch with a rounded cushion on one end. The baby was in her crib, hopefully asleep, and Soames, Jolyon, Irenie and Fleur were bound to entertain us with their family intrigues that were destined to lead ultimately to further scandals.

Lozanne and I have been pleasantly surprised that this early attempt at a television mini-series has withstood the test of time. It is still believable and entertaining after forty years of more modern competition. I am not sure that our children and grandchildren would enjoy such unsophisticated entertainment, but we have. Forgiveness is a central theme throughout the twenty-six episodes. The lawyer, Soames Forsyte, who is a pivotal character throughout every episode, was played very convincingly by Eric Porter who had the challenge of initially playing a twenty something year old and then finally at the end of the story, a man in his seventies. He and Irenie, played by Nyree Dawn Porter, endured a very sad marriage of about twelve years in the early episodes. Both contributed to the absolute misery that was their marriage. Several times through the years, Soames attempts to forgive and let bygones be bygones by offering a hand of reconciliation. Irenie, who actually loathed her former husband, is unable to reciprocate on every occasion. In the last episode, just hours before the untimely death of Soames, Irenie actually extends her hand in forgiveness. The audience is absolutely shocked when he then refuses to accept her long awaited attempt at reconciliation. He strides out of the room literally to his accidental death later in the day. I am sure that the importance of this scene escaped me in my youth. I was very disturbed by it last evening. Soames went to his death unable ultimately to forgive. What a tragedy. The words of Matthew 6: 14-15 came to me as I tried to get to sleep last evening.

14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses

As a mature Christian, I readily understand that the forgiveness of our sins is granted to us unconditionally through our belief in Jesus Christ. Even if we die as a believer before forgiving another, we are, through the grace of God, granted entry into heaven. William MacDonald in his “Believer’s Bible Commentary” tells us what we risk by not forgiving others is our relationship with the Lord. If we want to feel close to God here on earth, we must indeed offer our forgiveness to others just as He has forgiven us. The irony of Soames not accepting what he had initiated on several occasions throughout his life is a very powerful example of the lesson being taught in today’s two Bible verses. Had Soames been a real person living a real life, by refusing to forgive, he would have most certainly felt very far from God for what was to be his last day on this earth.

(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 16, 2010

The Hand of God

There they stood at my apartment door. I use the word apartment generously to describe my sub-leased second floor rooms on Mountjoy Street South. I knew one of the three young women from a recent date that was not to be repeated, but two had come along to meet the new guy in town. As I invited them in on that beautiful warm spring evening in 1968, I had no idea of what God had orchestrated just for two of us in that room. My eyes and my interest immediately rested on only one of them. She was the most talkative and animated of the three and with the exception of her good looks, I could not logically understand at the time why she was so very appealing. She was dressed in shorts and indeed her feet were bare despite the fact that she was the driver who had transported my guests in her father’s early sixties Valiant. There was what could be best described as an aura around her. I could not look away. She infuriated me and my careful and cautious ways even as she began to capture my heart.

Stupidly, I chided her for driving without shoes. I was, at least in my own mind, a mature twenty year old who thought he could correct the behaviour of this seventeen year old beauty. My protestations that driving without shoes was unlawful and dangerous seemed to have little effect upon her. I have no idea why I started what was to become a lifelong relationship with a correction. I suspect that I just didn’t know what else to say given her profound effect on me. As I was soon to learn, our personalities were about as diametrically opposed as is possible. The adage that opposites attract became a sizable understatement in our future relationship. Even as I upbraided her, I was drawn to her lively good humour and ability to ignore my uptight nonsense when required.

The next night the same three visitors appeared at my door. Since they were on foot, I offered to drive the threesome home as it became dark. I consciously made sure that the formerly bare foot young lady was my last stop. I was to learn later that she had me drop her off at the wrong house down the street, because her parents would not have approved of a university student who owned a car as a prospective boyfriend. Indeed, I did ask her out to see the movie “The Graduate” the next night and of course the young woman who was soon to become my wife and the mother of my four children said yes. I still to this day remember the blue dress with white trim she wore that night.

We have spent a lifetime of being different. We complement each other. Her strengths prop up my weaknesses and my strengths, I hope, do the same for her. The aura that surrounded her in May of 1968 is there to this day. I have written before about my firm belief that the hand of God is always upon those who are destined to believe later in their lives. I came to town to work at the Kamiskotia Mine for only a few months as a summer job that was elusive anywhere else that summer. Except for leaving to attend school, I have never left since, nor have I left her side. The words of Psalm 139:1-5 make it all so clear. The LORD laid his hand on us both. Lozanne and Mark were predetermined long before the spring of 1968.

1 ¶ For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.

3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.

4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

5 You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.

(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, October 24, 2010

Beauty for Ashes

Lately, it seems that I cannot dismiss from my mind what has become, in the last several years, my favourite verse from the Bible. The words dictated to the prophet Isaiah by Jesus gain more meaning with each passing day. This morning that quotation caused me to stop and think about what was the best gift I ever received in this mortal life. I have received many memorable and beautiful gifts. The one that stands out in my mind involves a gift of absolutely no material value.

I was four or five years old. The weather was dark and the rain beat against the windows. I was forced to remain in the house rather than set up my collection of dinky toy cars and trucks in the sand plot by the back door. Although, I have no memory of my mood, I must have been unhappy and pouting about a circumstance that only God could change. My mother surprised me with a homemade set of road signs. They were constructed carefully of empty thread spools, toothpicks and small pieces of paper. Each sign was a replica of actual street signs in use around our home in the fifties. A few months later, I became the proud owner of a metal set of miniature street signs. Those expensive metal signs were never as valuable to me as the hastily, but lovingly and painstakingly, constructed signs given to me by my mother. The reason for that is obvious. Material gifts do not compare in any way to the gifts given out of time, effort and love. That being said, there is no gift that can compare with what our God has in store for us.

In Isaiah 61:3 we read the words that were actually spoken by Jesus and recorded for us by Isaiah seven hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ. Jesus is speaking of His second coming seven centuries before His first visit to this earth. The words are directed to those who mourn in Zion and as a believer I claim my position as a mourner amongst them and I look forward to Jesus returning to this earth to take all the believers with Him to heaven. Even if I die prior to his Second Coming and meet Jesus on my way into heaven, I have already begun to receive the gifts as outlined in this verse.

3 … To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."

In ancient Israel, ashes were associated with death and mourning. The beauty expressed in this verse can, in my opinion for what that is worth, be anything that we personally consider beautiful. We actually trade beauty for death, mourning and corruption. Rather than mourning the disgraces, sin and difficulties of this world, we can apply the oil of joy. In biblical times, the application of oil to the hair and the body was considered a great pleasure and a luxury. We trade unbelievable grief for joy. Rather that feeling the heaviness of our sins, we can look forward to being praised by the Lord Himself. We trade crushing guilt and self-blame for praise from God Himself. As preposterous as it sounds, we will be tall and powerful examples of goodness.

We receive none of these gifts through our own effort. We collect these completely undeserved gifts simply by accepting them through our faith in Jesus Christ.

(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, October 20, 2010

Constantly Behold Him

This morning, while rummaging through a workshop drawer, I happened upon a package of old postcards and letters. Prior to this year, I had almost forgotten the existence of these artefacts. Twice in the last few months, I have sat down and read the messages mailed to me by my mother during the spring of 1957. They chronicle a month long motor trip to Florida taken by my parents and another couple. The messages were mailed almost daily for a period of four weeks. The affection, encouragement, travel details and reminders to keep up with my school work contained in the letters and postcards are almost incidental to what I most remember about that very long month.

At the age of nine years, I was abruptly removed from school and the entirety of my social network and sent to live with my aunt and uncle and their two very young daughters. They treated me with great kindness and respect. I was given enough school work by my teacher to complete independently the grade three curriculum for all of the four weeks in March and April of that year. I spent each morning sitting alone at a card table completing my required lessons in mathematics, reading, social studies and writing. I learned more about research and independent study than I cared to know as a nine year old boy. The most difficult part, of course, was to simply force my young self to sit down and start to work. I spent each afternoon exploring the small City of North Bay. I must have walked hundreds of miles during that spring. I learned a great deal about being alone, independent and competent. I do remember very well visiting my older just married sister as I was allowed to explore the city streets.

To be blunt, those four weeks in the spring of 1957 are remembered as difficult and lonely. Although I was very well treated, I was forced to adapt to completely foreign circumstances for what then appeared to be a very long period of time. I have realized lately that I matured a great deal that spring and that the discipline learned over a difficult month was of great use to me as an adult. A decade later, I was to use the same skills to catch up with disastrously lapsed university studies during a post-Christmas break spent alone in a university residence. As a middle aged man, I used identical discipline and skills to independently prepare for the Ministry of Education Supervisory Officer examination. If it was possible, I would send my parents a thank you note right now, but the true author or our learning through adversity is God Himself. It is often through adversity that we learn the most. Adversity is very often the favoured teaching method of our God. In Ecclesiastes 7:14 we read.

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other…(New King James Version)

The prophet Isaiah makes the point very clear in Isaiah 30:20.

20 And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. (Amplified Version)

Like me, if you find yourself in adversity today, look around with fresh eyes for the Teacher. Your God and your Jesus will be right there where, if you look and believe, you “can constantly behold” 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.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No Remission of Sin

I have previously written several blogs describing events observed and lived during summer visits to the farm of my great aunt and uncle. These events have remained in my memory for more than fifty-five years. It will be plain to the reader just why today’s memory has remained so vivid.

There I sat on the fence, completely unaware of just what was about to unfold before my seven year old eyes. My great uncle and his adult sons had brought a docile cow which was probably a steer and tied it to the barn yard fence. After some quiet preparations and without a word of warning to the animal or myself, one of my second cousins swung a sledge hammer and hit the steer squarely over the head. His action was followed almost simultaneously by another cousin who drew a sharp blade across the throat of the animal. A third man attached the hind legs of the steer to a hanging chain come-along and slowly pulled the cow upside down so that the blood could more efficiently drain from the now dead carcass. I was indeed shocked by what I witnessed. I have realized in adult years that the reason that I was not sent into the house or forewarned of what was about to happen was because not one of those men considered what they were doing to be anything but routine farm work. Indeed, as vivid as the memory is, I was not harmed psychologically for life by witnessing their work reality. The quantity of the blood spilled and collected that day was a life lesson in itself.

When I first became interested in reading the Bible, prior to becoming a Christian, I had a lot of difficulty reading and understanding the necessity of the animal sacrifices described in the first few books of the Old Testament. I simply could not make the connection between the forgiveness of sins in return for the shedding of blood, albeit the blood of a sacrificial animal. My childhood memory of the slaughter of an innocent animal made the Old Testament descriptions all that more real. I finally found my understanding of the process in the New Testament Book of Hebrews.

22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Hebrews 9: 22)

The Old Testament covenant or agreement between God and men and women was dedicated with blood. Sins could not be forgiven without the shedding of the blood of sacrificial animals. The New Testament covenant was a completely new agreement for us sinners, but the shedding of blood was still involved. We read this very clear statement in Hebrews 9: 11-14.

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Indeed when we celebrate communion, we are asked by Christ Himself to drink the wine in remembrance of His shedding of His innocent blood on our behalf. How thankful I am not only for my understanding of the process, but for his great and final sacrifice made directly for the remission of my sins.

(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, October 14, 2010


I often marvel at what constitutes a lasting and robust memory. Last evening, I had the occasion to suddenly remember my brother-in-law, who passed away about a decade ago. When I was a child, he often visited our home throughout his long courtship of my older sister. Gary was one who enjoyed good naturedly teasing anyone from whom he could evoke a reaction. Although I don’t remember reacting to the innumerable times he sat down on the couch, opened the newspaper and declared that “How Green Was My Valley” was on the late movie. This classic film never, to my knowledge, was shown on the midnight movie schedule of the only available television station when I was a young adolescent and older teenager. Indeed, I did not see the movie until I was an adult husband and father. I had by that time concluded, erroneously, that the title was just one of Gary’s fabrications designed with teasing in mind.

Last evening, Lozanne and I watched a rented copy of the 1941 masterpiece “How Green Was My Valley” directed my John Ford. We have both seen it many times over the years. With the opening credits, I could not help but fondly remembering my brother-in-law and how entertained he would be to learn that indeed it really was on television tonight. The movie chronicles, through the frequent narration of a never seen man in his fifties, of his life as a boy in a large, loving and Christian family who lived and worked in a Welsh coal mine community at the turn of the twentieth century. There isn’t much about life that is not present in this heart warming story of unrequited love, marital joy and humour, family dynamics, long term illness and accidental death in the coal mines. Unfailing stoic behaviour in the face of great physical and emotional hardship is a major theme of the film.

Despite previously enjoying the movie, I had not until last night gleaned from the script the deep Christian faith of the Morgan family. Praying on special occasions, the singing of hymns, Bible readings from Isaiah 55 and statements of eternal faith jumped out and grabbed my attention last evening. The most profound moment occurred just moments following the tragic death of the patriarch of the drama. At the end of the story, his wife, Beth Morgan, looks up into the sky with a look of unexplainable euphoria and proclaims to her daughter and widowed daughter-in-law, “Father came to me just now and he spoke to me. He told me of the glory he had just seen!” The Bible tells us that we on this side of the divide can have no idea what is in store for us in Heaven. In 1Corinthians 2:9 we read the following reassuring words.

9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

The word “glory” appears three hundred and fifty-one times in the Bible. It can mean great praise and honour for man, but the praise is usually given to God. It can also mean inexpressible beauty and magnificence. Along the same vein, it can mean splendour and bliss. Indeed at times, as we see in Psalm 73: 4, the word is used as a simple but powerful noun that sums up the beauty and peace of heaven.

24 You will guide me with Your counsel,

And afterward receive me to glory.

Last evening as the words “The End” appeared on the screen, it struck me with great clarity, what Beth Morgan was expressing for all to understand. What magnificence, what splendour, what peace, what bliss and what beauty awaits those who believe!

(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, October 12, 2010

Fallen Leaves

There are some inevitable consequences to be faced for living in the country. One of them is dealing with fallen leaves. Around our house there are many evergreen trees, but the majority of the shady greenery consists of birch and poplar trees. There are a few maple trees fighting for some space as well. All of the trees act all summer as protection from the sun and the wind. As winter approaches, the leaves turn varied shades of gold, yellow, brown and red. Initially the property is beautiful. Before very long, we are buried in decaying leaves. I have long since given up trying to rake and dispose of the leaves in the fall. I am convinced that it simply can’t be done. There are just too many leaves.

One job that must be done twice weekly for the month of October is clearing the eaves troughs of the falling leaves. There is no escaping this ritual. The troughs and downspouts fill up to the point that water will not flow within them. It is necessary to climb up on the roof and meticulously clear each run of eaves trough and then remove the bottom of each downspout and clear the leaves collected at the bottom of each spout. This year, for the first time, I have contemplated installing covers over the eaves troughs in an attempt to stop the deluge.

As I was working on the roof the other day, one thought was in my head. How could there be so many leaves to clean out of the troughs? Who could ever count the number of leaves falling on our roof? How many leaves have I cleared and dropped to the ground? I even started to figure out varied ways to estimate the numbers of leaves. The numbers are seemingly endless. There is no way that the human mind can even grasp the shear enormity of the numbers of leaves falling to the ground. Two verses in the Book of Matthew came to me as I worked. In Matthew 10: 29-30 we read:

29 "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.

30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

The human mind cannot truly grasp the complexity of this world as created by an omniscient God. Who can even pretend to understand the active role that the Lord plays in the eternal unfolding of the universe? As I was asking myself who could ever know the number of leaves falling to the ground, the clear answer came to me. God knows! At any given second, on any given space, God can tell us how many leaves have fallen. He placed each leaf on the trees and through His will they fall to the earth before the weight of the snow and ice breaks down the trees. He created you and me as well. He is so aware of our being that he can tell you how many hairs are on your head. It occurs to me that if he is that aware of the minutia, just think of the important things he is watching and providing guidance and assistance to those who believe.

(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, October 9, 2010

We Have Dominion

My memories of the Christmas of 1957 are vivid. I had asked for and received a beautiful red leather jacket that I wore exclusively for several seasons until of course I outgrew it. My most powerful reminiscence; however, was based in the natural world. Late December of that year was extremely frigid without a hint of snow. The extreme cold coupled with a lack of wind and precipitation created the most perfect sheet of skating ice on Lake Nipissing that I have ever experienced. Nipissing is an Algonquin word meaning “big water” and indeed the lake is about 40 miles in length and 16 miles in width at its maximum, creating, that Christmas, a flawless ice surface of about 337 square miles. The ice froze almost instantly to a depth of about 8 inches. There was no hint of a thaw after the freeze took hold. The ice was so clear that it was possible to see the bottom of the lake at surprising depths of water.

The real joy came from skating in any direction until exhaustion or the constant cold caused us to return home. Parents in those days set few ground rules after making sure that the ice was safe. We were confined to an area about one mile from shore and we were not to skate any further than the then city limits of North Bay, Ontario. That created for us a rink one mile by five miles. I can still feel the exhilaration I felt skating at full speed for miles at a time. Although I enjoyed playing hockey and skating with neighbourhood friends, my most vivid memory is getting up at dawn and skating alone great distances as fast as I could. The flawless surface remained for about ten days until a snowstorm in January of 1958 covered the ice. My skating skills improved daily during that period.

As I recall the winter weather of my childhood, there is no doubt in my mind that the temperatures were consistently colder than those of today. I have no scientific or statistical proof for that observation except that I know that it was colder. Although, as I age, moderation in the temperature is quietly welcome, I realize that so called global warming is an observable phenomenon to individuals of my age and stage. The effects of shrouding our planet in clouds of greenhouse gases is causing the earth to warm up with the dire consequences predicted facing our succeeding generations. Of late, I am sickened by the televised images of the horrendous damage done to the Gulf of Mexico and to a river in Michigan all in the name of greed for more oil. The recently televised red toxic sludge oozing towards the Danube River in Hungary is frightening indeed, especially when I consider the direct words spoken by God in Genesis 1:26.

26 ¶ Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

God gave us “dominion…over all the earth”. We have not done a very good job with His entrusted stewardship. Hopefully the younger generation can reverse our failures in taking on and achieving this God given responsibility.

(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, October 6, 2010

Precious in His Sight

In the last twenty-four months, Lozanne and I have mourned the loss of five saints. The last to enter the door to heaven was declared to be, in his obituary, a “man of God, husband, father and gentleman”. As important as the later three characterizations are in a life well lived, they pale in comparison to the significance of the former, a man of God. Some readers may indeed be confused by my use of the word “saint” to describe those friends in Christ who have recently passed away. In the Bible, the word “saint” does not describe those who have been designated such by a church hierarchy. Sainthood is not an earned title to be conferred after exhaustive investigations into your holy life years following your death by church officials. One of my favourite short verses in the Bible is found in Psalm 116:15.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.

The above verse is taken from the New King James Bible. Who are “His saints”? Different translations of the Bible render those two simple words as “His loving ones” (Amplified Bible), “those who love Him” (The Message), or “His faithful ones” (Holman Christian Standard Bible). John Calvin in his commentary referred to the saints as “the godly”. “The sanctified ones” is how John Gill rendered his take on the meaning of saints. Matthew Poole characterized them as “God’s people”. The one that best fits my definition of saints is “all believers”, which was coined by the great nineteenth century preacher, Charles Spurgeon.

A saint is anyone who has accepted the free gift of redemption so freely and generously offered through His redemptive work on the cross by Jesus Christ, the son of god. A saint is a professed believer in Jesus. A saint is a repentant and confessed sinner who knows he or she is forever forgiven. A saint is one who knows he or she is going to heaven. A saint is one who understands that his or her death is not a moment of regret or sadness, but an event that is actually precious in the sight of the Lord as He welcomes them finally into heaven. If you are a believer, you are destined for sainthood!

I suspect that I would have to look hard and long in the temporal and secular writings of this world to find another example wherein the words “precious” and “death” appear together in the same beautiful concept.

(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.)