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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Can We Thank Him?

My grandson Liam has soared to new heights this year.  He has been so very much on his game of making sure all concerned are only too aware of his Christmas wish list.  For the last three months, he has used personal reminders, written notes, telephone calls and email to make sure Grandma and Grandpa know exactly what he wants for Christmas.  
Due to my advancing maturity, like so many others of my generation, I have done my best to learn computer skills in order to literally keep up with this world.  One of my weaknesses has been all aspects of video capturing, editing and saving. The other day I was trying to expand my horizons by simply rooting around in the Photo Booth software on my iMac.  There before me was a file entitled “My First Project”.  I knew that I had never used the software and had certainly not saved any such file on my computer.  There was Liam’s smiling face.  I clicked on his face and was treated to a 90 second clip of just what he wanted for Christmas.  I have no idea when he recorded the digital video on my computer and Liam had never mentioned the clip to me.  I am beginning to realize that wherever I go on my computer, my eleven year old grandson has been there before me. 
 I felt truly blessed. Liam’s diagnosis of moderate autism before he was two years of age had included a prognosis of limited speech and indeed the likelihood of a life bereft of any clear communication.  The ninety second video clip was an animated and expertly choreographed verbal masterpiece in which he clearly outlined his deep desire for Pokemon White, Pokemon Black (books) and a DVD including the original soundtrack of Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove”.  The delivery was spirited and downright entertaining with the use of many  pertinent gestures and intonations.  There was an introduction and a conclusion to his creation.  At eleven, Liam not only knows more about my computer than I do, he can read and write at grade level or better and best of all he can express himself on an impressive oral level.  I can only thank God for such unexpected blessings.
Other than just saying thank you in prayer, what is it that we mere mortals can do to properly show our gratitude for blessings allowed in our and the lives of our loved ones.  Admittedly there is not much we can do for an all powerful and all knowing God.  Psalm 116 does give us some insight in verses twelve to fourteen.
 12 What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me?
 13 I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the LORD.
 14 I will pay my vows to the LORD Now in the presence of all His people. (Psalm 116: 12-14)
By taking up the cup of salvation, we determine in our minds to make Jesus our lord and our savior.  We admit our sinful and weak nature and submit fully to His taking all of our sin upon Himself and dying for our sake in order that we may spend eternity in heaven.  In short, we accept his offer of salvation by believing and following Him.  We call upon Him for all of our needs.  There is something else we can and should do within verse 14.  Just as Jesus paid His vows to God before and during His cruel death on the cross, so we should speak out and make our faith a public matter.  All those around us should know our stand and our submission.  To put it even more simply, they should know by our thoughts, words and actions that we are saved.  By doing so we are truly thanking God appropriately for His endless grace.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Prayer and Proverbs

During our last winter at our country home, we enjoyed a family gathering consisting of  two Lozanne’s siblings and their spouses.  Our visitors called ahead and offered to treat us to a takeout supper of fried chicken.  We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and after our guests left rather late, we decided to clean up all the dishes in the morning.  I placed all of the chicken bones and other disposables in a large garbage bag, as I have often done from time to time in the past, beside the waste pail in the kitchen and went to bed.
I am a restless sleeper and I could hear sounds that I mistakenly interpreted as middle of the night personal grooming which Marley is wont to do from time to time.  Of necessity, last year especially, I was up and around every two hours.  As I was moving out of the bedroom, I heard the same smacking sounds I had heard earlier.  As a I approached the kitchen, Marley slinked past me rear end close to the floor and with her tail decidedly firmly pressed down between her legs.  Her guilt was so evident that it was palpable.  As I continued into the kitchen, I was shocked to find the garbage bag in the same position that I had left it hours earlier; however, its contents were now all over the floor.  A closer inspection confirmed my worst fear.  Marley had eaten every last chicken bone that were the remnants of a meal by six adults.  She had never touched a garbage bag before in her five years with us, but the temptation was just too great this time.  The amount of bones she had consumed was staggering and scary.
My heart rose to my throat.  I had always believed that soft cooked chicken bones, which actually splinter when chewed, would surely cause a dog a horrible and painful death.  The quantity consumed conjured in me a belief that a death sentence loomed over the head of our good friend.  My immediate reaction was to pray for what I then believed to be a miracle.  My second act, since it was the middle of the night and emergency wards do not exist for our canine friends, I consulted the internet by way of Google.  I was surprised to find several websites dealing with the same problem.  Much to my relief, another myth was debunked by the website of an eminent American veterinarian. In most cases, I learned, the bones simply pass with a possibility of diarrhea.  In some, but not many, cases the bones cause intestinal distress and may require expensive and extensive veterinary intervention. The welcome advice was to monitor her carefully for forty-eight hours watching for signs of intestinal distress or blood in her stool.  I felt marginally better and indeed watched her very carefully for the two day period.  
It occurred to me several days later that my actions in the middle of the night were very biblically based.  I did two things in the face of what I initially considered a catastrophe.  Most importantly, I started with prayer and then in response to prayer and I sought expert advice.  Jesus tells is in Matthew 7: 7-8 just exactly what we as believers should do.
7 ¶ “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
In the face of difficulty, we should always start with prayer.  In this case, I was convicted to seek the advice of an expert which in this digital age is a not a difficult thing to do.  In Proverbs 18:15 we read just that admonition.
15 ¶ The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
In seeking that knowledge we should search out wise counsel as we learn in Proverbs 11:14
14 ¶ Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Marley was closely observed for the next two days.  She suffered no serious ill effects.  Despite her cast iron digestive system, I learned a very valuable lesson.  All edibles, including chicken bones, should be properly sealed and left out of reach.
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Friday, December 9, 2011

The Light

This afternoon I was finally able to finish stringing some Christmas lights on the tree in front of our home.  Such ordinary seasonal jobs don’t get done nearly so easily or quickly  as in the past.  Later, as I drove Lozanne to the hospital for an evening of pastoral care work, we had the opportunity to see many homes decorated with thousands of brightly colored light bulbs.  Each year the display of lights becomes more impressive.  Lights are now strung on every possible outside structure including very tall trees.  The result at night is really quite impressive.  New this season are the inflatable and lighted Santas, snow men, sleighs, skidoos or Santa helicopters actually placed on the roofs.  The sight is really quite beautiful.  I began to wonder to myself this evening as Marley and I  returned alone from the hospital why so much time, effort and money is spent on Christmas lighting at this time of year.
I would like to believe that the majority of these beautifully decorated homes dramatically underscore the true reason for the season and that would be the birth of Jesus.  I am only too aware that the recognition of Christmas has become all too secular and is celebrated simply as a long and commercially entrenched  early winter festival.  I was reading an article the other day by the environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki who was postulating that,  since December 21 is the shortest and darkest day of the year in northern climes, by putting up many lights we are attempting to shed great light in the darkness in the hope of reminding ourselves that spring will actually come with longer days.  He could be right.  Personally, I regard Christmas lights as representing Jesus Himself as he came into this world two thousand years ago.  In John 1: 4-9 we read that Jesus Christ is regarded as light or as in His case, “The Light”.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
 6 ¶ There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 
In these five verses we learn that John the Baptist was sent by God as a witness to “The Light”.  Jesus, who is “The Light”, provides believers with the light they require to understand and follow in the ways of the true Christian life.  Verse five tells us the light shines in the darkness of this world and yet the darkness (world) did not and can not comprehend it.   This verse summarizes my thoughts on the ever increasing assault of Christmas lighting.  The light gets brighter and brighter with each passing year, but the vast majority just don’t understand why the lights are installed in the first place.
In John 12: 46 Jesus tells us Himself that he has come into the world as a light.
46 “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Ever Watchful

This morning I was walking with Marley, our Springer Spaniel, on the road that borders on a resort that provides wildlife tours of game animals kept within its electrically fenced boundaries.  We have walked near there most of the last two seasons and have rarely seen more than a glimpse of any wildlife in the fields and trees.  This morning was different.  A group of eight female deer were feeding from a large round bale of hay placed by handlers not more than fifty feet from the fence.  The does, who were under the watchful eye of a very large buck lounging on the snow covered ground behind them, heard and smelled us long before I became aware of their presence.  Marley’s low and tentative growl caused me to look to my left only to be met with sixteen big beautiful brown eyes staring straight at us. 
 Even as they clamped down on the hay already in their mouths their heads were raised as high as possible and their stare was so firmly fixed that it was actually a little disconcerting.  They didn’t blink and moved not one muscle. Their concentration on the possibility of danger had rendered them immobile with rapt attention.  Only one thing was of any significance to all eight of these impressive creatures and that was our presence at such a close proximity.  Marley, predictably, in the face of larger animals than herself, was careful to not escalate the situation beyond a tentative muted growl, hoping, I suspect, that I would simply tell her to move on.  I stood there for several minutes admiring their silent and perfect attention.  Marley returned the same.  It occurred to me as I admiringly stared back at them that this was the kind of attention that we all should emulate when it comes to a prediction made in the Bible.  
The second coming of Jesus is predicted more than a few times in the Holy Bible.  The words of Luke 21: 25-27 tell us:

25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;
 26 “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.
 27 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  
These startling words, all but ignored by modern mainstream religion, are the words of Jesus Christ.  Years ago, when I became a professing Christian, I made a conscious decision to accept what the Bible says, as best I can understand it, as the truth and only the truth.  In my Bible, the actual words spoken by Jesus are printed in red ink.  Every verse I have quoted above  and below is printed in red.  When I see the actual words of our Savior in the Bible,  I sit up and take particular notice.  If Jesus said it, you can be certain that it is going to occur.  We have no idea when He will actually return to take His saints, living and dead, to Heaven, but we know that He will come for those who believe in Him and follow his ways.  He tells us very clearly to pay particular attention in our watch for His return.  We are to watch and pray with the intensity of wild animals seeking out that which is dangerous. What we are watching for is not dangerous to believers, but it promises to be a glorious and joyful sight and eternal experience.
 34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
 35 “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
 36 “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21: 34-36)
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