Irrational Choices Versus Common Sense.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m neither a philosopher nor the son of a philosopher—as you can easily discern. My dad and one of my brothers were engineers, the others skilled in the building trades. I took forest engineering. We were taught pragmatics, something most profess but few practice.

Why do I say that? Well, legislators seem to be abandoning common sense. They propose practices that run counter to reality: replacing his and her pronouns, adopting multi-sex bathrooms, financing sex-change operations, legalizing some drugs and on and on it goes. It’s time to ask why? Where have these ideas come from?
In my search, I’ve returned to Francis Schaeffer’s book, He Is There And He Is Not Silent. In the 1950’s and ’60’s he challenged the irrationality of atheism and agnosticism as philosophies. Today irrationality rules.

As Schaeffer pointed out, our world view (philosophy) must explain the reality and dscn4172complexity of our universe. There are two main answers given. One, there is no answer. All is chaotic and irrational. No one has been able to live with this answer in real life. They daily depend on gravity and a thousand concrete and unchanging realities.

Answer two, there is a rational answer that can be communicated. Among those who accept this thought, there are three possible sub-answers.

1. Everything that exists came out of absolutely nothing—no energy, no mass, no motion, and no personality. No one has ever been able to sustain this answer. It is unthinkable. Those who maintain this as a view embrace other irrational ideas. But empirically, everything we enjoy practically, comes not from zero but from already existing matter.

dscn39502. Everything had an impersonal beginning whether from mass, energy, or motion. However, if we start with an impersonal something, how do any of the particulars that now exist have any meaning? No one has ever demonstrated how time plus chance, beginning with the impersonal, can produce the needed complexity of the universe, let alone the personality of man. If we subscribe to this answer, human love is just an impersonal chemical reaction. And if everything arose from impersonal “things” why have values. Why worry about pollution, poverty, or injustice? Indeed, why ponder questions at all? The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know if or why mankind has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero.

3. Everything had a personal beginning in a personal-infinite God. This choice alone explains value, complexity, and personality. Schaeffer comments, “I would

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be an agnostic if there were no Trinity. Without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers.” Man, created in the image of God, has personality and in his complexity he has unity. God expresses in his being, the unity and diversity we see in the universe. There is no other answer that explains reality.

If, as most in the west do, we reject answer number three, we are left at sea without direction, purpose, moral principles, or goal. By choosing to ignore our divine origin and accountability, our society runs either by consensus or according to whoever has the loudest voice or the most influence. Whether a policy fits with reality doesn’t matter. Society just does whatevdscn1336-1er it wants; whatever feels good at the time; whatever gets the most votes; whatever is most convenient.

Is this any way to live? You be the judge. As for me and my house, we accept the third choice and thus embrace the description of reality and values as revealed in the Scriptures.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1; on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Our Home; Castle, Idol, or God’s Provision

dscn3692Being homeless must be one of the most difficult experiences humans can endure. Imagine wandering from place to place with no expectation of adequate shelter let alone a place to call home. Divorce, illness, or unemployment has caused many to lose everything, casting them onto the street. Many have seen their hopes rise only to be shattered again and again. They are left in despair, self-respect gone.

The despair of the homeless is compounded among refugees forced from familiar homes by war. They gather with others in camps and erect plastic shelters against rain and dust and cold. One month. Two. A year. Two. Five. Again and again they’ve attempted to flee to a congenial country only to be rebuffed. Despair must corrode all their expectations.

By and large most people, be it ever so humble, have a home. Whether constructed of concrete, stone, brick, wood, or mud; most have a place to which they can go to find shelter and warmth. A place where they feel safe and at peace, a place they can decorate dscn3925with their keepsakes.

In many places in the world, including Canada, we take having an attractive house for granted. It is our basic right. Our houses become a mark of our “success” as measured by their size and luxuriousness.

It is almost impossible for us to feel with those who are homeless. Indeed, the description of Christ sounds unbelievable. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58) Then Jesus said, “Follow me.” Clearly, being a disciple who follows Jesus wherever He leads has priority over having a comfortable place to call home.

Baby Robins, 2012In truth, we idolize our homes or take them for granted. It’s extremely hard not to. During the last four or five months, God rocked our world. He gave us a little—very little—insight into being a homeless disciple. The apartment where we planned to spend our twilight years was sold. We were given notice to leave with no certain place to go.

Frantically, we beat the bushes for another apartment to rent or a reasonable condo to buy. We quickly found that those migrating from Toronto’s super-inflated real estate market had bid up house-prices and filled available apartments. Our offer for an adequate condo was instantly submerged by much higher bids. For a month or two extreme anxiety stalked our lives. Would we be forced to go far afield, join a new church, find a new doctor? Would we be able to find anything?

Fortunately, memories of how God has protected and provided for us over 56 years of marriage kept smothering our worries. Our daughter and others in our loving family kept reminding us of God’s care.

God also used Scripture during that challenging time. “Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (PsalOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAm 90:1,2). He, not bricks and mortar, is our eternal dwelling place. Cannot He who created the world and continues to govern it provide for us?

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I
will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1,2). Oh, Lord, are we resting in you as our shelter and fortress, or in a condo or house? Deepen our trust.

Finally, under God’s marvelous providence we found a condo amenable to our limitations and within our price range in a nearby town. But even at the last minute, complications arose that almost sMovingcutled that provision. It was as if God was saying, “Do you really trust me?” His provision has been so amazing and so timely, we still shake our heads in awe.

Yes, we are very fortunate in our housing but we try to remind ourselves daily not to idolize our home but to rest in the Almighty who is our real, and eternal shelter.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1; on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

 

Musings of a Short-term Nomad

Have you ever seen pictures of Tuaregs or other nomads going from place to place with a string of camels? Their tent and its supports, bedding, rugs, cooking pots, pet dogs are all tied to the back of their camels.

dscn3926Well, for five weeks now, our car has been our camel. Everything we might need has been stuffed into the trunk, back seats, and even under the front seats. Bedding. Foodstuffs. Clothing to adjust to both warm and cool weather. Important documents. Books to read. Our computer. Too much stuff.

We’re homeless. Okay that’s not quite accurate. We’re between homes; waiting to get into our little condo. Meanwhile, we’ve been traveling from place to place, staying a week here, five days there, two days another place. In rented locations we had to provide our own bedding and cooking paraphernalia. We’ve been to some wonderful spots. It’s been great, yet quite stressful.

Friends and family have been phenomenal. The opportunity to visit different places has dscn3925also been great. But after four or five moves and sleeping in different beds, we’re tired of the gypsy life. How do they do it? How do nomads handle having no fixed address? Where do they get their mail? What address do they put on their camel-driving license? What if they can’t get email or log into Facebook?

When I was young; much, much younger, I thought wandering all over God’s creation would be cool. But now, I long to settle down, to have a fixed address, to be able to ease into my favourite recliner. I blush to admit I can almost empathize with the wandering, grumbling Israelites. I guess I’m grumbling a bit and after only six weeks. Yeesh. As to Syrian refugees. I can’t even begin to imagine their trauma.

dscn3950I think there is something in us that yearns for stability. A place to put down roots. A home. A roof over our heads. A connection to stable family and friends. A country to call home. A citizenship.

Fortunately, one constant reality during our frequent change of location has been our connection to the changeless God. “I am the Lord, I change not” Malachi Of course, we know that, unless the lawyers abscond with our money, we have place that will be ours very soon. But more important, we have an eternal home that is not subject to taxes, the whim of landlords, nor the wear and tear of use and weather. “In my Father’s house are many mansions if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1,2).

Spiritually, we are strangers and pilgrims on a journey to our heavenly home. But! No real estate transaction can secure this glorious home. Our sins estranged us from God, our heavenly home-builder. Someone must mediate between us and God, whose gracious laws DSCN1326 (1)we have thwarted. Ah, there is a mediator—only one, Jesus Christ who has for us a hearing with the Builder. How did he do that? He bore our sins in his own body on the cross. He rose from the dead and who has gone on ahead to mediate our forgiveness from God and prepare a heavenly home for us.

How do we inherit this home? No money changes hands. No lawyer is involved. No commission must be paid. We receive this home freely. But first, a transaction must take place between us and God. We must from the depths of our hearts cry; “Lord, we believe in your Son, Jesus Christ. We confess our sins. We trust in his sacrifice on our behalf. We believe in the salvation He offers. Come into our hearts. Be Lord of our life!”

Are you sure of a heavenly home?

When subtraction equals multiplication

dscn3701-2We find ourselves in this 55th year of our marriage extremely wealthy. Oh, we don’t own a yacht, or many stocks and bonds. We are struggling to fulfill the conditions for one small mortgage on a little condo. We have a car from 2004—which runs very well, by the way. We don’t winter on the Riviera nor take round-the-world cruises; but we are extremely well-off.

How is that possible? Let me go back a few years. Back to when we were about 19. When Mary Helen and I didn’t know the other existed. We separately, a thousand miles apart, were moved to faith in Jesus Christ. We confessed our sins, bowed to the Lordship of Christ and were born again.

My growth was slow; two steps forward and one step back. But early on, due to the godly mentor-ship of more mature Christians, I was led to become a committed follower of Christ. Although different in detail, Mary Helen’s experience was similar.  Both of us independently felt the call of God to give up our secular pursuit of success and prepare for overseas missionary service. (This, of course, is not the experience of all Christians, many of whom He calls to demonstrate godly discipleship in secular occupations. He doesn’t call all to missionary or Christian service.)

But in our case, he led both of us to go to Columbia University in preparation for missionary service among Muslims. It was there we met, sensed our similar callings, and fell in love.

In the course of our Christian walk, we both had been confronted with the challenge of Jesus Christ. “If any man would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross DSCN1448daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). That means subtraction. All genuine Christians have to learn subtraction—to subtract from their lives a passion to fulfill the desires of the world, the flesh, and the devil; to subtract selfishness; to subtract choices that contradict God’s revealed will; to subtract a determination to follow a course of life that leads us to our own glory…and so on. We cannot be followers of Christ without serious subtraction.

Like other disciples, Mary Helen and I independently and together, repeatedly sought to surrender our wills to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Surrender, subtraction, was often a struggle. It scared us to think of leaving North America as missionaries but the burden would not leave us. We often failed to be courageous and submissive to his leading. But ultimately, he led us to serve in Pakistan and then later in Ontario in a pastoral and writing ministry.

That meant we had to give up the dream of a home and retirement plan. But God had other OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAways of providing for us. An English woman, who had offered my father hospitality during the First World War when he was pilot, included us in her will with a small bequest.  When we were led from missions into pastoral ministry, we discovered that my mother had left us the family home in Toronto knowing we would never be able too own one. God provided in a multitude of ways.

God is no man’s debtor! As Paul reminds us in Romans 8, “He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)?

As we look back now, we realize how much Jesus’ principle has proven true.  Jesus said, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29,30).

We have received many times more than we could ever have expected. What a return on a tiny investment. We enjoy connections with a huge missionary family. Love for Pakistan, a beautiful but needy country. Pakistani friends. Scores of friends in Australia, England, the US, and Canada. Wow, we are wealthy. In the kingdom, subtraction does mean multiplication!

 

Our Plans–God’s Surprises

dscn3446After serious downsizing to fit into an apartment, we got notice to vacate from what we thought would be our last move before the Lord took us home. The owner wanted to sell the condo. Agh…! And we had loved the location, near Cobourg’s waterfront and harbour. Why did this happen? What to do?

We madly scrambled to find other rental accommodation. Cobourg’s vacancy rate stood close to zero, and with some mobility problems, we needed a one-floor apartment in a building with an elevator. We madly searched the town, taking down contact phone numbers–to no avail. Some of those we did find were so small that our bed wouldn’t even fit into the bedroom.

Lord, you have cared for us down through 55 years. What do you want us to do? Should we move away from the town where our daughter lives? Should we move further away from our doctor and the local hospital? Somehow that doesn’t make sense.

From seeking a rental we moved on to searching for a small two-bedroom dscn3623bungalow or condo, that we could buy with our limited resources. Three or four times our hopes were raised only to be dashed. When friends told us about a lovely little one-level condo coming available, we were sure this was it. We made an offer that was a little higher than the asking price to be sure it would be accepted. But no, with multiple offers, the winning bid came in at $27,000 more than ours. We hadn’t figured on Cobourg’s red hot real estate market fuelled by empty-nesters selling their inflated homes in the Greater Toronto area and buying up bargains in Cobourg.

Through this period we kept on down-sizing even more than the year before. I cut my library by another half. Negotiations with the landlord to extend the deadline to vacate were unsuccessful. The weeks slid by.

The promise of another ideal condo, made by our real estate agent, had been deferred again and again for weeks and weeks. And hope deferred makes the heart sick. Lord, please show us the way. We want your will, but darkness and puzzlement obscure the way ahead.

Our daughter reminded us that the Lord has always provided for us–often very special accommodation–even during our 18 years of missionary service. Just trust Him. Yes, but we are so tired. We’ve had 27 or so main moves, plus every summer in Pakistan we had to move to a home near the kids’ boarding school–hardly minor moves since we had to set up house-keeping for them during the summer.

dscn3692I guess we’ve earned our PhD in moving…but with energy depleted, we thought we would settle down!

Finally, we returned to a new development of small condos in a neighbouring town for the third time and providence unfolded a special opportunity. Unknown to us, the man we had been talking to about the units and their availability was the actual owner-developer. He told us to wait while he got a key and then to follow him. He showed us a unit that he had used for his daughter while she waited for her house to be built. It was wonderful with extra upgrades! “I can make this available to you in mid-October,” he said. He quoted a price much less than similar units he had built in Cobourg. Yes, we almost shouted. This is it.

And so, while we are nomads for 6 weeks, we are no longer potentially homeless!

Throughout our lives, God has surprised us again and again and again with a direction or
provision much better than wedscn3701-2
had planned. How true is Proverbs 16:9 as preached by our pastor (David Daniels), “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We plan, we imagine, we ponder, and sad to say,
we often worry…but God sovereignly modifies our plans to bless us in a place and time of His choosing. Blessed be our Triune God, our shepherd, our rock and high tower!

Woodland Therapy?

A recent article in the Globe and Mail confirms the value of forest therapy. Now,Sugar Maple that’s a value I’ve always treasured, but when I express something similar, folks look at me strangely. I can see in their eyes the query, “Are you some kind of weird woodsy throwback? What about all the mosquitoes? Just tell me where to find the nearest Starbucks.” Ah, but wait.

Cassandra Szklarslo writes about “the forest-bathing movement…which is a cornerstone of preventive health care in Japan.” Forest-bathing?? Weird. The article explains that they’re not talking about bathing in water but “immersing SummerWalkEricDukeoneself in the healing properties of trees.…A walk in the woods can be great for boosting your mood.…A burgeoning group of nature enthusiasts say it can do much more—including strengthen immunity, lower blood pressure, increase focus, and ultimately lower health-care costs if done regularly.”

Data collected in Japan and Korea found that “forest-bathers” had an increased number of “immune system cells that combat disease.” “It involves simply walking—quietly, slowly and deliberately—in a forest, and taking in the sounds, DSCN1325scents, colours, forms and general vibe of nature.”

I’ve always loved the outdoors, from the fields near our home to the creek that gurgled through a nearby valley. Probably it was that love that led me to study forestry in my undergraduate years. I’ve never understand why some declare; “If you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.” Every tree enthrals me; from the stately umbrella-shaped American Elm to the majestic White Pine.

I’m not surprised by the article. Many people appreciate the natural world. But OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhat deepened my love was an experience with the Creator of that world. In my second year of university, He sent a gospel shaft of conviction into my heart. I became a simple follower of Jesus. It was as if I unexpectedly was fitted with a hearing aid; or as if a light went on in the dark room of my mind. Suddenly it seemed as if “all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres,” for “this is my Father’s world!” “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

As this Psalm reminds us, it’s not just trees that should cause our mouths to drop open in awe and our hearts to sing God’s praises. No, it’s stars and clouds, birds and flowers, the roll of breakers on a beach, the colours of pebbles on a shore, Mute Swansnowflakes and rainbows. It’s more; even the undulation of sand dunes in a desert, the giggle of a child, and the smile of a wrinkled senior. For He made them all.

Oh, I know, there is trash in the ocean and war among nations. We are doing our best to ruin God’s world. But beneath and beyond all that disturbs, if we have redeemed eyes to see, remains the matrix that displays the creativity and artistic genius of Almighty God. This matrix reminds us to breath deeply of God’s love and grace and point people to the beauty intrinsic to the world we live in.
Besides we live in hope! “He will make all things new.” In the meantime, “all the trees of the field will clap their hands” whenever God reclaims territory in our ruined world by the spread of his spiritual kingdom in human hearts. (See Isaiah 55:11,12).

So this summer, let’s take time for a walk in the woods. Then we will return Honey bee on fall mumsrefreshed and more able to practice holy love wherever God places us.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1 and on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Does Anyone Love the Lonely? – Attributes of God, #6

DSCN2176 - CopyCrowds attend celebrations such as Canada Day and the Fourth of July. But millions are lonely, feel unloved, estranged, nervous, alienated and fearful. These words describe too many in our day. What a strange anomaly at a time when we are more connected than ever through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texts, and by 24-hour news updates.

In an article by André Picard entitled; “In spite of everything, pundits tell us that we have never felt more alone.” Picard writes that, “an estimated six million Canadians live in isolation. Social researchers are now calling it a hidden epidemic.”

Don’t be a lonely statistic! There is someone who is closer than our own skin; someone who loves us with an everlasting love despite our sins and foibles. God has described his care and concern for you and me in dozens of metaphors. Consider a few.

Our Shepherd: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Is 40:11). Celebrate the gentleness with which our divine shepherd protects us, provides for us, and carries us close to his heart. This wonderful image is repeated often from Psalm 23 through Isaiah to John 10.

Our Father: Far from being inscrutable and indifferent the true God reveals himself as a loving, concerned, involved Father both in the Old Testament and especially in the New. “You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior” (Psalm 89:26). “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10) And so we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). He loves us, not as a group, but individually, personally, practically. He listens to our prayers.

Our Provider: Feeling empty and unsatisfied; longing for something more? “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost….listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me” (Isaiah 55:1-3) If we digest the biblical message of the invisible God, our besmirched souls will be cleansed and our hungry hearts will be satisfied as with the choicest foods.

Our Shelter: In a setting where the sun blazes down on people without mercy, burning their skin and blinding their eyes, people seek shade and protection. The Psalmist writes, DSCN1325“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Better than venturing out in the blazing desert of life without God we would be wise to daily abide in God’s presence.

Our Canopy: We know about huge circus tents and wedding tents. We can picture the tents used by desert nomads. In this metaphor, the sky is a tent! “He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” (Is 40:22) Yes, God sees earth’s goings-on; God sees your heart-ache and mine and He is strong enough to do something about it.

Our Friend: Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants…I have called you friends.” “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” To prove his loving friendship, Jesus laid down his life to atone for our sins. “ ”Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 15,14,13). Imagine having the Son of God as your friend!

Our spiritual Husband: “For your maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His name—the Holy One of IMom's wedding picsrael is your Redeemer…God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:5). Spoken originally of Israel, this metaphor astonishes us with the closeness and intimacy, the love, care and provision that God, like a
good husband, provides to his wife. The book of Hosea tells us that God seeks us even when we fall into deep depravity.

Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know
Spirit breathing from above, thou has taught me it is so!

Have you found a friend in Jesus? Do you know God as your Father, your shepherd, your spiritual husband, and your provider? Are you assured of his love? Let your loneliness dissipate as you draw close to him.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1 and on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )