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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Witness

Memories not evoked for years seemingly appear out of nowhere. When I was a boy, if we wanted to get into town from our suburban home, we had to cross railroad tracks that constituted the major transportation hub that was in North Bay, Ontario at the time. There were multiple train tracks to cross and it was routine to sit in the car for ten or fifteen minutes while the trains shuttled back and forth. There is now a major overpass built when I was a young adult over the whole of the crossing. That particular location is on my mind this morning. Until I was about ten years old, most of the engines working at that crossing were driven by steam. I well remember the black smoke bellowing from the large smokestacks and the characteristic sounds made by steam engines for over a century.

By the time I was old enough to get a driver’s licence, the use of diesel engines had taken over. My memory of that crossing and what was to transpire on one particular late afternoon is very vivid. I had walked from school to where my father worked in order to get a ride home. I was allowed to become a licensed driver shortly after my sixteenth birthday, but I was not allowed to drive the car without the presence of my father or my mother until I was seventeen years old. I realize now, of course, the wisdom of such a parental edict. As we approached the railway crossing there was a long line up of vehicles waiting for the shuttling trains. We settled in for a long wait.

As the signal lights and bells ceased, we were shocked to see a car that had been on the other side of the tracks careening out of control over the crossing. As was revealed to us later, the driver of the car had hit the gas pedal instead of the brake and had panicked with her right foot in that very position. It was a surreal scene as she continued to drive at a frightening speed at right angles to the line up of vehicles in front of us, hit two cars shoving them violently aside and then turning in the nearby field to return again and hit two more cars. She hit us hard on the rear passenger wheel and fender sending our car a full 360 degrees around and up the street thirty or forty feet. The panicked driver finally came to a violent rest under the porch of a house across the street. Pandemonium reigned as everyone got out of their vehicles to check for injuries of which there were miraculously none. It occurred to me as I sat in that damaged car in shock that if she had hit the passenger front door, my father may have been killed. Thankfully my father had just installed lap seat belts in that white 1962 Pontiac. Seat belts were not factory installed in those days and indeed were rarely actually worn. We had both buckled our belts as we embarked.

As the police were making their exhaustive multi-paged accident report, something else occurred to me. My father had warned me the day I got my driver’s license that one accident would be enough to end my driving career. I knew he meant it. I was very relieved that he was an eye witness to the accident. Beyond a shadow of a doubt he knew that I was absolutely not at any fault in any way. I would live to drive another day. In 1Peter 5:1 we read of another witness of what happened to an absolutely innocent man.

1 ¶ The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

We know from the writings of others in the gospel books that Peter was a major witness to the sufferings of Christ. I am comforted by his own assertion that he was indeed a witness. I live by faith, but I am delighted to be reminded of the actual historical references to the life and suffering of Jesus Christ. Peter was an eye witness to the suffering and death that resulted in my redemption. He was there when I was redeemed and he has reported such to me. Like Peter, as a believer, I am also a partaker of the glory that is yet to be. As we are also reminded in Colossians 3: 4, when Jesus, who is our very life, returns, we will appear with Him in Glory. What a day that will be!

(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, January 12, 2011

God Knows the Heart

I marvel at how quickly we can be judged by our outward appearance. Simply changing our clothes can create another persona for us within the world. Recently I had another occasion to note how quickly opinions about us are formed by those around us. Unless I am dressed for chapel, you can usually find me wearing bibbed work pants which are usually termed by most as coveralls. I wear them for comfort and out of necessity born of the results of surgery almost five years ago. I can’t count the number of times when I attend an appointment that I am asked if I am returning to work right after. Those who know that we are retired and living in the country are more likely to make a comment about me returning to “Green Acres”.

During my professional career, I quickly learned the importance of wearing proper attire. A jacket and tie have a very real effect on a classroom of children. I noticed a difference every time a casual dress day was enjoyed. Even parents and trustees respond differently to a three piece suit as opposed to a jacket and tie. I can assure you that you are seen differently in formal dress attire. I would not dream of going into court, negotiations or arbitration without “the suit”.

The clearest example that I have ever experienced; however, occurred about a decade ago. When I worked, I often walked fairly long distances for exercise and relaxation on the weekends in particular. One Thanksgiving Sunday, I found myself walking in the downtown core. A local church was serving a turkey dinner to those in need. There were several individuals out on the street inviting those who appeared to be homeless inside to enjoy a great festive dinner. I was dumbfounded when a young woman came up to me and invited me in for dinner. As I politely declined, I paused to regard what I was wearing. Very old baggy jeans, scuffed boots and a very used leather jacket combined with not shaving seems to have been the ticket to a free dinner for the homeless and those in extreme need. I realized how we make so many judgements just by observing the physical appearance of others. God does not judge us by our outward appearance or indeed even our observable behaviour. In Psalm 44:21 we read:

21 Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.

God does not need to see if we are wearing a suit, coveralls or old jeans. He sees what is in our heart. This is made even clearer in Hebrews 4: 12-13.

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two–edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

It is an absolute revelation to me that He accomplishes this discerning power through the word of God. The words in my Bible are powerful and alive and they pierce my heart and reveal what is really there. Now that is a sobering thought. Oddly, it is a comforting thought as well. Since I can have no secrets from my God, we can put the superficialities aside and deal honestly and lovingly with each other.

(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, January 8, 2011

The LORD Gives

Yesterday I took Marley for a walk on the frozen lake. Despite the cold wind from the east, I wanted to enjoy the openness of the lake while there is not much snow as a result of our last extreme thaw. We started out strong and followed the shoreline around the bay in front of our home. Before we had gone very far, I could feel the exhaustion building. Some days I feel like I can conquer the world. Yesterday was not one of those days. I turned around to head back to the house. The wind was now in my face and the pace slowed even more. Marley baulked at having to leave her beloved lake where she can virtually run all of the time and investigate every foot of shoreline with that nose that never stops working. I felt, as I made very slow progress, older than my years. Each step was an effort as my legs became heavier. As I was trudging along, my mind went to a whole other season and circumstance.

When I was fifteen years of age, I applied to take the Award of Merit course and examination from the Royal Life Saving Society. There was a problem. The minimum age for successful completion of the examination was sixteen. The instructor of the course was an air force officer who, although he invited me to stay for the first night of instruction, stated that I would have to wait until the next summer to complete the course and the examination. I reluctantly agreed to stay for one night. I participated and interacted with the mostly adult group in the swimming and life saving drills with some enthusiasm. At the end of the session, the instructor suggested that I could return for a second night if I wished, again just to monitor the course. I enjoyed the second session even more than the first, especially when the instructor made an offer that I could not refuse. He would allow me to take the course and try the examination and if I could maintain a very high standard in all the criteria, he would grant the Silver Medallion for the Award of Merit on my birthday the following winter.

I was delighted with the offer and attended every gruelling session. On nights that there was no formal instruction, I would attend at the pool in order to swim lengths to build up endurance. Over the course of the summer, I realized that I was physically stronger that I had ever been in my young life. What I didn’t realize of course was that I was in the best physical condition that I would ever be for the rest of my life as well. It would be all a slow decline from here. On the night of the physical part of the exam, I swam the required distance, the extent of which I have now forgotten, in seven minutes despite the fact that the requirement for the yardage of the various strokes was a fifteen minute completion. I watched wrapped in a towel while others struggled to finish the course. I can still remember how strong and ready to continue I felt. I was successful that night and indeed received the Award of Merit on a cold January evening the following winter.

What a difference forty-seven years can make. As I walked slowly and painfully into the wind yesterday, I was initially tempted to feel sorry for myself. Then the words of Job 1: 21-22 came to mind.

21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."

22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

The afflictions visited upon Job, as allowed temporarily by the LORD, were almost unimaginable compared to my minor rapid aging concerns. Yet Job was able to keep the LORD in His proper place. He alone is God and as God, He can act as God. The Book of Job was the first book of the Bible read to me in its entirety by Lozanne. I continue to be in awe of this man Job who was able to keep his perspective on the lordship of his God despite great hardships. What an example he was to me yesterday.

(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, January 5, 2011


It just dawned on me that this year’s New Years celebrations were exactly ten years after the turn of the millennium. I won’t easily forget the infamous Y2K (Year Two Thousand). The problem arose with the practice of using two digit dates rather than the proper four digits. At the time, it was supposed that rolling over from 99 to 00 would virtually bring the computer world and as a result, our world, to a screeching halt. Much work was done by information technology departments on a global scale in order to prevent power black outs, banking disasters and the like. Many individuals and companies simply bought new computers. We will never know if the extensive preparations cured the forecast problems or if the whole Y2K scenario was vastly overstated in the first place.

I remember spending New Year’s Eve as a new Director of Education with my cell phone on and at the ready for the worst. Custodians were on duty in all forty-two schools of the district school board to make sure that the hydro and heat stayed functional after midnight. A handful of generators were purchased to be used in the event of power outages. The Manager of Plant and his regional employees were on duty for the whole night. Nothing happened. Nothing, that is, with the exception of one of the most spiritual experiences of my young Christian life.

Lozanne and I were invited with twenty or thirty others to a Y2K house party. There were many Y2K parties that New Years Eve, but few of them, I suspect were like this one. This party welcomed the New Year with about forty minutes of prayer which started exactly at midnight. We prayed for the new millennium. Most of the prayers were not about the much discussed Y2K problems, but about spiritual blessings hoped for in the new millennium. I had only been a Christian for a few years and I was much taken by the idea. It was a beautiful time. It also caused me to think then and now of the words of Jesus in Matthew 18: 20.

20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

I am aware of the scholarly view that this verse refers to the reconciliation of Christians separated from the church by sin. I am also aware that it can be applied to any meeting of believers at any time and at any place. There we were at a Y2K party gathered in His name and there He was in the midst of us. I have been to many New Years Eve parties over the decades. This party was the most memorable and indeed the most fun. What a guest list!

(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.)