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Friday, January 27, 2012

He Carries Us

I have made an observation of late.  It is obvious to me that for various societal, economic and cultural reasons, a lot of parents are about a decade older that Lozanne and I were when they start to have children.  I have also observed that they seem to be more tired and indeed harried than I remember.  Looking after the every need of infants and very young children was and continues to be all consuming and a challenge.  Dare I dwell on the daunting prospect of “older” parents dealing with the continuous battle of wits that characterizes the teenage years?
Lozanne gave birth to four children within an eight year period from the time she was eighteen and twenty-six.  She enjoyed every minute of her “baby years”. I was a father at the age of twenty-one.  We both remember those years fondly and I dare say they were the happiest years of our lives.   I marveled at how Lozanne could cook supper with one hand while she held a baby in the other.  I remember enjoying changing, holding and feeding those beautiful babies in the early hours of the morning during the nights when it was my turn.  We had so much to see, talk about and share in those hours.  I don’t remember being tired.  Indeed being tired is one of the realities of middle and old age, not of youth.  One of the great things about babies and toddlers is that most of the time they have to be held.
I miss holding babies, but I gracefully admit I could no longer properly do the job.  I miss carrying babies and toddlers around at family and public events.  A young father is usually the strongest in the family and is even made stronger by carrying around a dynamic moving weight of twenty, thirty or forty pounds.  I remember so well the smell of freshly washed hair and the aroma of baby oil and baby powder.  I remember the intimate conversations with infants who could communicate in so many ways except speech and then the fascinating babble of toddlers and the clipped descriptive language of two and three year olds as they whispered in my right ear.  Much less prevalent in my mind are the memories of frequent illnesses, sleepless nights and dirty diapers.  Those were realities, but are by far over-shadowed by the joys of youthful parenthood. In Isaiah 46: 3-4 we discover that our loving and all-powerful God feels the same way.
3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, Who have been upheld by Me from birth, Who have been carried from the womb:
 4 Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
We who are believers are part of the remnant of the house of Israel.  In these two beautiful verses we learn that as loving fathers we are simply emulating the loving actions of our Heavenly Father, the Father who made us.  He holds us in the womb.  He holds us from birth and he promises to carry us not just as long as we are little children, but until we are old and gray.  Now that is a loving loving Father. I pray He is or will soon become your loving Father.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

For the last three months, my health has improved to the extent that I have been able to deliver a short gospel message from the pulpit in our chapel.  Since I am scheduled to speak again in two months, I have spent hours researching how I could use Lozanne’s iPad in order to combine a PowerPoint presentation of prepared slides with my speaking.  Since I am of the generation that was introduced to the digital age after we turned forty, new computer skills can provide a rather steep learning curve. The Apple equivalent of PowerPoint is called Keynote.  When I was ready to purchase and download the Keynote software, I then discovered that I must download the latest operating system for Lozanne’s iPad.  Knowing first hand the devastation of lost data that can be the result of an operating system update, I then researched for hours the new IOS 5.1 update recommended before I could purchase Keynote.  With some difficulty and much trepidation I successfully backed up all of the data on her tablet computer.  That completed with minimal damage done to my wife’s iPad, I then purchased Keynote, whereupon I spent hours learning how to make a presentation in Keynote on my iMac and then transferring it to her iPad.
Having completed these challenging feats, I then researched how to use an iPad with a conventional digital projector.  After considerable reading and asking a Christian brother for advice, I purchased the proper VGA adapter.  Adapter and iPad in hand, I planned to test out a sample Keynote presentation on the chapel digital projector between services last Sunday morning.  With the assistance of the young man who looks after the audio-visual needs of our chapel and who possesses towering technical knowledge as compared to mine, I connected the iPad to the digital projection system.  I turned on the iPad and brought up the Keynote software.  I opened my sample presentation and was immediately disappointed with the huge blank and dark screen behind the pulpit.  I tried every imaginable variation of  settings on the iPad.  He tried every possible adjustment of the projector with absolutely no success.  Exasperated,  I went into the crowd in search of the brother who had advised me which adapter to purchase.  I knew he had successfully shown a Keynote presentation with his iPad on the chapel projector.  I asked for his help and he willingly came up to the pulpit.  
He took one look at the setup and simply said, “Did you press play?”  Alas, with a red face I had to admit that I had not pressed play, not that the arrow before me was anything but obvious!  My delight with the successful projection of slide 1 overshadowed my embarrassment for being so dumb. The irony is, of course, that I had figured out all of the complexities, but in the end was stumped by the most simple of all the steps in the process.  Upon pondering the situation later, the words of Proverbs 3: 5-6 came very clearly to mind.
 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 
When left to our own devices, we inevitably will forget to "press play".  How we need the Lord!  I had in my human wisdom turned the simplest of steps into something highly complex.  Then I looked again at my first test slide and realized that the simple truth on that slide should not and shall not be made complex.  It is the simplest yet the greatest of truths.
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Persistence in Prayer

My father-in-law and grandfather to our children practiced as a very well known and respected Registered Massage Therapist in our community from 1946 until 2005.  He is remembered by many as a man with the gift of healing hands.  During the 1970’s, when two of his chiropractor sons took over the family clinic, he became a land developer and a commercial and residential builder who turned farm land into a suburban neighbourhood.  A mini-mall, a large medical plaza,  apartment complexes and residential neighbourhoods were all the result of his ability to put his careful plans into action.  A condominium development rounded out his dream for the area.  

One of the jobs of a developer, after the plans have been approved by the municipality and once the infrastructure like water and sewer lines is in place, is to suggest names for the new streets that have been created.  The municipality approves the names, but it is the developer who really has control over the naming of streets.  Customarily, developers put forward names of  business partners, investors and finally family members.  I well remember during the building of the final residential neighbourhood the rather broad hints dropped by my father-in-law’s four daughters.  Lozanne, in keeping with her personality, was very persistent about her wishes for the choice of names for the remaining streets.  She was good natured in her reminders to her father.  He in return was characteristically non-committal in his equally good natured responses. The memory of her persistence puts me in mind of the widow in the parable given by Jesus in Luke 18: 1-7.
 18:1 ¶ Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.
 3 “Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’
 4 “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man,
 5 ‘yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
 6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said.
 7 “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?
The true lesson of the parable is actually in the line introducing the story.  We are told to continually pray and not loose heart.  Persistence even in prayer demonstrates strong and abiding faith which is rewarded with answered prayers.  Indeed Lozanne’s persistence paid off with her earthly father and resulted in her name being attached to a large crescent that will be the home of hundreds of people potentially for a century or more.
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