Monday, May 30, 2016

Little Fox, Big Eyes

Saturday morning we were sitting on the deck and watching the birds when there was a burst of scurrying through leaves and up trees by the squirrels. As we glanced in the direction of the action we saw a little fox sitting and looking at us with eyes wide open as if to ask, “What are you?” The fox had a sense that squirrels were to be chased and caught, but he (or she?) was not sure about us – we were larger than squirrels. Lily and Lina were also on the deck with us and they regarded the fox as an intruder – as they bounded down the stairs the fox ran into the woods, away from the barking dogs.

We love these glimpses of joy in creation, yes, creation can be cruel thanks to the Fall, but that is on us and not on creation – creation knows enough to know that things ain’t as they should be (Romans Chapter 8), we, on the other hand, suppress that truth (Romans Chapter 1).

While we were living on the Zuck Homestead a fox chased Lily, then a puppy, onto the front porch and into the door with a “bang!” When Vickie opened the door to see what was the matter Lily pushed her out of the way and ran under the bed where she stayed for hours. Lily is no longer a puppy, and besides Lina was with her, so she could confidently charge down the deck and after the little fox on Saturday morning.

Once again on the Zuck Homestead, a fox chased one of Davey and Sally’s cats onto their front porch, little did the fox know that Wallace, their rat terrier, was on the porch – no doubt enjoying a siesta. One moment the fox was chasing the cat and the next the dog was chasing the fox – do not wake up a rat terrier from pleasant dreams, do not chase a family member of a rat terrier onto a porch…just as William Wallace fought against all odds, Wallace the Zuck terrier fights against all odds – the little dog chased the big fox and the big fox ran away.

Joy in the midst of steel and concrete and asphalt and plastic and poisons and cacophony – we’ll take what we can get and be thankful for it while we still have it. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fledgling Delight

It’s the time of year when fledglings figure out who they are; the little cardinals bop around on the ground wondering why the adults are at the feeders – the mourning doves are on the ground, shouldn’t little cardinals be on the ground too?

Lily was lying on the front porch when a baby titmouse landed two feet from her – Lily looked at the bird and the bird looked at Lily as if to say, “What are you?” When Lily didn’t answer the bird flew away.

On the deck were two fledgling wrens, it had just rained and they were wet. They flew onto the wood furniture and spread their little wings out to dry, all the while a parent looked on – we watched and the parent watched.

As I walked to the vegetable garden I stopped to gaze on three fledgling thrushes hopping on the ground, one with a worm in its mouth. In a nearby evergreen two adult thrushes looked on; after a minute or two I made a step and the little ones flew into the tree with the adults.

Thank you Father for your creation – thank you for the delight you give us through creation. What joy, what pleasure, what beauty, what tenderness. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Picture of Society?

In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair...the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.
Dorothy L. Sayers

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The House

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I do wish God would leave my house alone, not really, but yes not really...yes really. Well, it is His house...but why does He mess with it so? Why can't He just make the basic changes that Lewis suggests? Am I the victim of "bait and switch"? I don't recall anyone telling me about this; I do recall well-meaning church people showing me tract housing, nice and neat and orderly - my job was to look the same as everyone else. Of course each denomination had its own house style, but by and large nothing was offensive and much was comfortable. 

God seems to be continually working on His house - doesn't He ever take a vacation? I thought He rested from His work?

A funny thing is that the walls that I thought were bearing - like "do this and don't do that"; "look like this and don't look like that"; are not bearing at all, they don't carry weight - and God has had to tear those walls down and teach me what is weight-bearing, what should support the structure. Change, change, and then more change - He tears the old out and installs the new. Amazing, He lifts the house off one foundation and puts it upon Another.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Glorifying God - But How?

My friend Brian Atkins remarked, "We are to glorify God in everything we do, but we cannot glorify God by doing everything."

Our insecurities drive us to busyness, and busyness not only causes us not to rest in Christ, but it distracts us from our special calling in Christ, it distracts us from the one thing, or those few things, to which we are especially called - and so while our lives may be busy they are flat - and others suffer because we are not contributing our special graces and gifts and callings. We need to abide in the Vine, to trust Jesus, to surrender ourselves...and to glorify God in everything we do, realizing that we can't glorify God by doing everything.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Whoever stole you from that bush of bloom

Whoever stole you from that bush of broom,
I think he envied me my happiness,
O little nightingale, for many a time
You lightened my sad heart from its distress,
And flooded my whole soul with melody.
And I would have the other birds all come,
And sing along with me thy threnody.

So brown and dim that little body was,
But none could scorn thy singing. In that throat
That tiny throat, what depth of harmony,
And all night long ringing thy changing note.
What marvel if the cherubim in heaven
Continually do praise him, when to thee
O small and happy, such a grace was given?

Alcuin of York (c. 740 - 804); translated from Latin by Helen Waddell

While we don't have nightingales where I live, I think of the little wrens who sing praise - such a little bird, but such a sound of joy and praise.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Five Years – Patrick

Driving to work this morning I was thinking of Patrick Revere – today is the fifth anniversary of his death, or I could write the fifth anniversary of his entrance into heaven. Death is real for sure, but it is not lastingly real – I am reminded that Jesus Christ came to abolish death (2 Timothy) and to bring life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

Had Patrick not already been adopted I think Vickie and I would have asked him if we could adopt him. He was so good to us. He certainly loved Alice and their boys, Seth and Silas; and he certainly loved Davey and Sally. He loved others, and of course he loved animals – even snakes. I remember the time I called him because a black snake became entangled in some landscaping mesh; he came down to our house on the Zuck Homestead and carefully extricated the snake and set it free. Patrick said, “It was as if the snake knew I was trying to help it.”

The Washington Nationals have a ballplayer named Jason Werth; Vickie thinks he should cut his hair but I like his long hair the way it is because Mr. Werth reminds me of Patrick – though I will say that Patrick’s long hair was nicely kept, unlike Mr. Werth’s. Patrick loved baseball, so for now when I see Jason Werth playing I think of Patrick.

Speaking of sports, I enjoyed introducing Patrick to cricket, we watched some matches together; we shared a good laugh when in a game between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka a player dove for a ball and his pants came down beneath his underwear – that’s not something you see in baseball.

I loved reading the Bible with Patrick and talking about Jesus, I loved just being with Patrick, as did Vickie. He’d come visit just to talk, just to visit, just to be with us. Patrick was one of the most innocent and pristine people I’ve ever known, and one of the most the most thankful.

Vickie and I still feel his loss acutely and when I pray for Alice and the boys I still find myself beginning to pray for Patrick as well…after all…for years my prayer went “For Alice and Patrick and Seth and Silas.” Kind of hard to stop saying something you’ve said for so long – I’ll never really stop…because I’ll always remember and reflect…and then pray with a renewed and ever new awareness of our loss – and continuing thankfulness for the blessing of knowing Patrick and of being loved and cared for by Patrick.

When I got to the office this morning and opened my email I saw this from Sally to Vickie and me:

Hi, dear ones,
Could it be FIVE years ago today we lost Patrick? You both were such comforts during and after that time! I just can't express how much we value your sustaining arms as an expression of God. You were the first ones to know there was trouble. Then you came running when you heard our cries of grief. Vick stayed right by me when I had to make calls. Bob went with David to the hospital and upheld Alice. The funeral was the most honoring funeral I have ever experienced and poured peace into our hearts. (Did the funeral actually take place on what would have been Alice and Patrick's 16th wedding anniversary? And Vick, remember all the sewing and cooking and cleaning up?) This is going to be a hard couple of days.

This is a pilgrimage isn’t it? What a blessing and comfort to walk in this Way with those we love and who love us.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

0 for 25

In baseball, going 0 for 25 is no fun – that means that in the last 25 at bats that you haven’t gotten a hit. 0 for 25 is no fun for the player, no fun for the team, and no fun for the fans – at least for the hometown fans.

A baseball player can have a great game, but he has to move on from that game to the next game, if he lives in the previous game he won’t do well in the current game; the pitcher in the last game is not the pitcher in the current game.

I’ve had a streak of games in which it seems I’ve gone 0 for 25 – and they have come after a pretty amazing game in which I saw the Lord do some wonderful things. Even though I’ve been taking batting practice, and even though I’ve been praying to “see” the ball so that I can connect with it, it has been 0 for 25. I’ve been watching game films and repenting and realizing (in some measure) how I’ve missed the ball and blown the plays, but I’ve gone 0 for 25 – either striking out, or hitting into double plays, and leaving men on base – that’s one thing you really don’t want to do in baseball, leave men on base.

Well, it’s another morning, so it’s time for more batting practice; prayer, praise, worship, time in the Word – let’s see how today’s game goes. The great thing is that I can’t play the game without Jesus, can’t hit the ball without Jesus, can’t field the ball without Jesus – it’s all about Him playing the game in and through me…I’m not out there by myself.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

One Lane Road – Traffic Control - Six Minutes

The other day I was driving on a road that was being repaved with asphalt. Since it was a two-lane road one section of the road was paved while the other served to carry traffic. Since years of experience have yielded the lesson that cars going in opposite directions in the same lane run into each other, the paving contractor established traffic control at both ends of the single lane – the control consisting of a man with a two-sided sign on a pole, one side said “Slow” and the other “Stop”. Since the traffic lane was about two miles long the contractor also had a “pilot truck” to lead the traffic, first one way and then the next way.

I slowly approached the man with the “Stop” sign and braked where he motioned me – I was the first car in line. The man came up to my window and said, “It will be about six minutes before the pilot truck comes back, just thought I’d let you know.”

“Thanks,” I replied. Then I said, “You know, six minutes is nothing compared to eternity.”

He agreed with that as he walked back to the front of my car with his sign. Then I said, loudly so that he could hear me, “I like praying for people. Is there anything I can pray for?”

“Not really. Things are good with me and my family.”

“Ok, that’s great. I’ll pray that God will draw you closer to Him and take care of you and your family.”

With that he moved back toward my window and we talked about the Lord. Then he said, “You know, this has been a good day and people have been nice. Sometimes they aren’t nice when they have to wait. I’ve found that somehow the way the person in the first car is influences the way the rest of the people are.”

Now I don’t pretend to know how that could be, this idea that the person in the first car influences all the rest of the people, but this gentleman had firsthand experience and I don’t. I’ll take it as a reminder that you never know, you just never know, what you’ll come upon during the day and who you might be a blessing to and who you might influence. Six minutes is nothing when compared to eternity, but eternity can invade six minutes. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Feed Us, Entertain Us

Paul wrote that having food and clothing that we should be content. We think that having food and entertainment is necessary for contentment, for therein lies diversion. We are taught to consume and to remain in perpetual distraction so that we need not think, need not pray, need not repent, need not rise above our stupor.

Art has been replaced by entertainment, entertainment which deconstructs our minds and moral awareness – which eats away at our souls. Food, meant not only for basic sustenance, but also for community and fellowship, is now an end in itself. We need not be morally responsible with anything we do for there are no morals to which we can be responsible.  

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Important

I will encounter important things today, but the important things will not necessarily be what I think they are. There may be small things that are important but which I pass by – the wren, the rose, the persistent dandelion, the blue bird, the puppy, the cat – these are important because they speak of beauty and song and innocence in a world gone mad.

Should I pass by an old house in Petersburg today that displays fine exterior woodwork or metal work I should note that once upon a time men and women were creators of beauty and artistry and worked while they danced with the aesthetic – perhaps “once upon a time” will give me hope for a future time, at the least perhaps it will shed a ray of sunshine on my day.

Not all of the things I see today will be important, much of what I see will be distraction – advertising, fashion, the drive for money, entertainment, fearmongering.

There are important things that my eyes cannot see but which I must see anyway; I must see beyond what can be seen, see beyond the actions into the powers and ideals behind the actions.

All of the people I see today will be important, for there are no unimportant people. Am I prepared to see them, to meet them, to encounter them, to touch their lives with prayer, with word, with deed?

Jesus sends me into the world today to meet important people, to see Him in things that may seem unimportant but which are reminders of Him, and to be faithful to Him and others on a cosmic stage on which the principal players are unseen. I wonder how the day will be?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

What Kind of Foodie?

“They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the dripping of the honeycomb,” Psalm 19:10.

“How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103.

“My son, eat honey, for it is good, yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste; know what wisdom is thus for your soul; if you find it, then there will be a future and your hope will not be cut off,” Proverbs 24:13 – 14.

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work,” John 4:34.

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst,” John 6:35.

“As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also will live because of me,” John 6:57.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Driverless Cars

Driverless cars, coming soon to a dealership near you, are extensions of driverless lives. Since we don’t think about the higher things of life, the first tier questions, but rather accept without critical thinking what we’ve been taught and go on our way consuming goods and services because, after all, when we die we die – why should we have to think about driving? A driverless car will give us more time to electronically “connect” with people, buy things on the internet, and listen to lyrics and music often without beauty and thoughtful composition – music and lyrics that deaden rather than lift the soul.

Fools that we are, we don’t realize that there are no driverless cars just as there are no driverless lives; something or someone will always have to drive the car, and someone or something will always have to drive lives. The difference between a driverless car and a driverless life is that when the system in a driverless car fails and the car crashes – that is not by design. However, when a driverless life crashes, when a driverless society crashes, that is by design; not the design of God, but the design of the enemy – we are involved in a massive societal pileup, a crash, a catastrophe; but we are drunk at the wheel and don’t know it – when we start to awake we take another drink and deaden the pain.