The Case of the Persistent Spider

For the last few weeks, I’ve been fascinated by the perseverance of a spider. Where? On my car! This little spider lives in the housing of the driver’s side mirror. It spins a web between that outside mirror and the door, especially the door handle since the surface of the door is so smooth.

The first time I noticed it, I dismissed it. “As soon as I drive the car, the wind will blow it away,” I thought.

But no, day after day it reappeared to either repair or strengthen it’s web. Fascinated by its persistence, I didn’t have the heart to destroy the web and chase away the spider. I wondered how long this would go on.

Last weekend we drove 250 kilometres or so at speeds around 100 kph. “So much for the spider,” I ruminated.

We returned home, parked the car, and went to bed. The next day we went out for groceries. What did I see but my nemesis? The spider, fatter than ever off insects it had caught was still there strengthening and elaborating its web. As soon as we drove off, it disappeared to shelter in the mirror housing only to reappear when we stopped.

Lord, if one of your little spiders can exhibit such perseverance, why am I so frequently tempted to give up? When the regimen of exercises given by my therapist seem so boring and routine? When there seems to be so little change in mobility? When collapsing on the couch and reading an exciting novel seems so much more attractive than studying something edifying? When eating out at a fast food restaurant is easier than preparing a healthy meal at home?

And what about my walk, Lord? Do I need to concern myself overly about keeping up daily prayer, daily Bible reading, meeting with your people, and trying to serve? After all you have called us into freedom and not legalism. No one will know my quiet time nor if we cut back on our giving. Do I really need to keep on walking by faith and exercising integrity? How about if I just go with the flow for a day or a week or two?

But then I hear the whisper from your Word; “perseverance produces character and character hope,” “run with perseverance the race marked out for you,” and “the testing of your faith develops perseverance”(Rom. 5:4; Heb. 12:1; James 1:3). Okay, thanks Lord for sending the spider.

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

Affirming Others

I’ve always tried to grow vegetables and plant attractive flowers wherever we have lived. I enjoyed seeing things grow, even if it meant weeding, watering and getting my fingers dirty.

But now we’re in an apartment with no balcony.
Instead of picking our own flowers, we saunter up and down the streets around Cobourg clock2where we live enjoying what the town has done to beautify its streets and parks. And we delight in the gardens of home owners.

This change in our lifestyle has reminded me that we should express appreciation for what others do. This is especially so when their efforts increase our enjoyment or show hard work or ability. When I grew prize tomatoes or planted an attractive flower garden, I took pride in it. Feeling a sense of satisfaction and joy in what one does is certainly not wrong. But when others commended my efforts, I felt affirmed and even motivated to do better.

It is easy to take others for granted; after all, don’t they get paid for what they do? A server at a restaurant. A clerk in a store or bank. A repairman fixing an oven. A doctor or nurse. A town employee weeding a garden. An artist. A pastor.

Cobourg flowersMy wife, Mary Helen, has taught me to view that approach with a jaundiced eye. She almost invariably encourages those she meets; commending them for the tasks they do. Recently I’ve heard her say to a server, “You’re good at your job. You deserve a raise.” I could give many examples.

I’m gradually learning from her! So if I see a home-owner working in her garden, I commend her about how attractive it looks. When a store clerk helps me find a product I usually express my appreciation. When a car waits while we cross the road, I wave my thanks. I often go up to a pastor after his sermon to encourage him. It’s only taken me 50 years to learn the value of words of affirmation and encouragement. And I still forget too often.

Didn’t Jesus say we could expect, “Well done, you good and faithful servant,” for Cobourg flowers (2)hard work in His service. (Matt. 25:21) The writer of Hebrews urges us; “Encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). Note the daily, not rarely.

Words of encouragement and affirmation serve to lighten people’s loads and improve their performance.

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

Help, I’m Buried Under Passwords!

How did life get so complicated? Nowadays, we can hardly do anything without a password or pin number. I tried to get some address labels printed the other day. Simple? No. First they wanted me to set up an account and choose a password!

I need passwords for Facebook and Twitter. For Linkedin and Amazon. Whether it’s to access my telephone account, my bank, or to buy groceries I’m hounded for some pin number. Dozens of them. Scores. Hundreds.

What happened to the simple life? It’s not enough that I’m me not someone else; Eric E Wright not Eric Beaucoup? The Internet is taking over life. And according to security experts, we can’t just ignore it because evil hackers are out there just waiting to pounce.

We may not be able to approach a government department without a password. But I’ve got good news for weary moderns. We can approach the King of the universe without a pin number. We can pray anytime, anywhere even if our memory is bad. We can cry, “Heavenly Father, I need help!” We know that His ears are immediately open to our cry. No matter if our requests be so gigantic that Warren Buffet couldn’t fulfill them or so small that they seem insignificant, God loves to hear us pray. And He loves to answer.

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray”(James 5:13a). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”(Phil. 4:6,7).

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer”(1Peter 3:12). Jesus urged his disciples; “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete”(John 16:24).

The invitation to pray goes to everyone on earth. All God asks is that we believe He exists, that He sent His Son to save us from our sins, and that we admit our sinfulness and need of a Saviour. But even people who are struggling with doubts about God are welcome to come to Him in prayer. He has an open door prayer policy.

What an invitation! Let’s take advantage of God’s benevolence and keep the heavenly talk line humming with chatter, with thanksgiving, with requests for ourselves, our families, our nation, and our world.

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

How God Speaks Today

To assert that God speaks today, many consider either the height of arrogance or wild imagination. Yet it is true; God does speak into our worldMute Swan. However, as I indicated in the previous blog, Christians generally don’t mean that God speaks to them in an audible voice. God speaks in many ways—if we have ears to hear.

The main bottlenecks to hearing God’s words are either human inattention, hearing impairment or bias against the very possibility of receiving a message from God. “Hearing, they do not hear or understand”(Matt. 13:13). Of course, few humans admit their impairment, just as people who are hard of hearing often delay getting hearing aids, blaming their difficulty in hearing on the way others speak.

Are we listening? Do we want to hear God’s voice? Do we have an innate bias against even considering the possibility that God would speak? Or conversely, has our response to the gospel rendered our heart tender and open to God’s entreaties?

Assuming that we want to hear God’s voice, what means does He use to speak to us?

Firstly, God speaks through the created universe. ”Day after day they pour forth WTripTrainMt smallspeech…there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth…to the ends of the world”(Psalm 19:2-4). In this case He is speaking through the stars, sun, moon which “declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”(Psalm 19:1).

Romans explains further; “What may be known about God is plain…for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse”(Rom. 1:19,20).

Has the Holy Spirit helped us to feel a sense of awe at the greatness and glory of God manifest in creation? Has He helped us to learn something about what God is like?

Secondly, God speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. In order to properly interpret events as diverse as suffering or prosperity, sin or judgment, we need to assimilate biblical content—theology. We desperately need a balanced and comprehensive understanding of the whole counsel of God. “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” Have we spent time reading, meditating, and storing the wisdom of the Bible in our minds?

Thirdly, God speaks through history—the ebb and flow of world events. The Bible gives us a template to use in interpreting events. In the record of early history in Genesis, the story of Israel, and later the story of Jesus and the establishment of the Church we find principles that illuminate world events. Even the record of Israel’s misunderstandings of God’s purposes and may help us today.

But what about our own personal lives? On a micro level, biblical characters and general biography give us a sense of how God works in the lives of individuals. Interpreting events in our lives is not easy. Job’s three friends completely misinterpreted his sufferings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClearly, we need the Holy Spirit. He alone can interpret the events we confront and give us guidance about how to react or what direction to take. He also uses experienced and godly counselors to guide us. We should be humble and open enough to accept counsel while avoiding dogmatic declarations; “God told me to do this or go there.”

We need to be cautious and humble, careful to ensure that what we believe God is saying is consistent with Scriptural revelation. God will not contradict what He has already said in the Scriptures.

A further caution. Even mature Christians may misinterpret what God is saying. We are imperfect until we get to heaven. Preparing to hear God’s voice requires faith in Him, complete submission to whatever He may reveal as His will, a heart that is cleansed from sin, and a mind that is sensitive and not arrogant. Sometimes our faith lags, or sin clouds our perceptions, or we are so overconfident that we trust too much in our own interpretation.

Learning to hear the voice of God is a very large subject that will require more than this blog. What about dreams and visions? What about mystery? What about God expecting us, as we mature, to require less and less special guidance? Why not join the conversation?

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

Does God Speak To Us Today?

The host of a radio talk show asked his listeners, “Does God speak to us?” He was reacting to a sports celebrity who claimed that God spoke to him about his relationship with his girlfriend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Christians we often assert; “God spoke to me,” or “God told me,” or ”God led me.” Non-Christians usually misunderstand us; they think we are either self-deceived or arrogant.

However, Christians rarely mean that they heard God’s voice audibly. Scripture makes clear that God can do that. “God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’”(Ex. 3:4). But more often God has either communicated directly with a prophet’s spirit or given him or her a vision or dream. “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision”(Daniel 2:19).

big question is not, does God speak, but are we listening? Are we even able to hear God? In our natural state mankind is hearing impaired. Jesus addressed this universal deficiency by quoting from Isaiah who had encountered the same problem. “Though seeing they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving’”(Matt. 13:13,14).

Of course, few humans admit their impairment, just as people who are hard of hearing often delay getting hearing aids, blaming their difficulty hearing on the way others speak.
To correct this hearing deficiency, we need God’s Technician to install a hearing aid and teach us to use it. That Technician is the Holy Spirit who alone can “give us ears to hear.” How? Through convicting us of our careless and unconcerned attitude to what God has clearly revealed in the universe around us, in our consciences, and in the Good News of the Gospel. When we admit that we have OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAshut our ears to God’s voice but want to become hearers, the Spirit gives us spiritual hearing equipment, that is, a new heart. Through this conversion, we become believers, those with faith in what God communicates. “And without faith it is impossible to please God [or hear Him]” (Rom. 10:14).

With this spiritual “hearing aid” in place, and faith to receive God’s Word, the Spirit begins to teach us how to interpret what God is saying in life and providence. “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”(1 Cor. 2:11). Just as simultaneous translators interpret a foreign speaker and beam the translation into the ear of delegates to the UN, so the Spirit becomes our interpreter.

Learning to interpret God’s voice requires us to go through a training process. Sometimes we misinterpret God’s voice. In a subsequent blog, I’ll discuss the process whereby the Holy Spirit trains us to interpret God’s voice accurately.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright        Twitter @EricEWright1)

Time to Downsize?

Some months ago, we began the arduous task of selling our home in the country See www.countrywindow.caand downsizing. We needed to reduce everything so we could fit into an apartment less than half the size.

We got radical! I agonized over what books to cull in order to reduce my library by three quarters or more. Mary Helen began giving away her unique spoons and teacups to grandchildren. I rejoiced to find two people in ministry to whom I could entrust the collection of illustrations and topical subjects I’d gathered over fifty years. But how to condense five filing cabinets of records into one? Some of the heirloom items passed on to us, we gave to our kids and grandkids. Every week the garage guys wondered about the number of bags at the curb.

We loved our country property with its mature trees and gurgling stream. If possible, we would have gladly waited for the Lord to take us home from that idyllic spot. Why then pour ourselves into such a stressful task? It was time.

The urge to simplify and de-clutter makes good sense at any time. We all saddle ourselves with too much stuff. But as we age, we hit a critical time when downsizing becomes not just a wise choice but an urgent necessity. Haven’t we all heard too many horror stories of seniors who die leaving a home stuffed with junk for their relatives to get rid of? Such a legacy is cruel. Here then are a few questions we asked ourselves that might help you make a similar choice.

Is our home cluttered? One look in my closet told me that Mary Helen was right. “You haven’t worn some shirts for years! Get rid of them.” And a survey of the two levels of our house demonstrated that we had too many knickknacks, too Movingmany paintings, and too many family photos. And the garage! Tools, I’d never use again. All kinds of stuff that I once thought I’d use. The decision made, we took many trips to local charities with useable items from our abundance. Other stuff just needed to be taken to the dump.

Is our health weakened? The list of prescriptions we take, tell us the answer is, “yes.’ For some time now our family has warned me about using ladders. And yet there were windows to wash and gutters to clear. There were dead trees to fell. A realistic appraisal of our health, made us realize that we need to live where maintenance would become another’s responsibility.

Is our energy diminished? Mary Helen and I both scratch our heads about a mystery. Where has all our youthful energy gone? Weariness creeps up on us unexpectedly. It’s obviously time to sort out family memories to keep and toss out useless files while we still have some energy. Better to expend what energy we have on preserving and passing on memories and heritage rather than cutting grass.

Is our mobility reduced? With our washing machine down a flight of stairs, Mary Helen had found it increasingly difficult to keep up with the washing of clothes. With a knee replacement, I tackled stairs very gingerly. And we lived at some distance from town with its shopping and doctors’ offices. Time to move to an apartment building in town with an elevator where we can have everything on one level.

www.countrywindow.ca

Does this mean we should now mop and moan about our past? No way. New vistas of enjoyment have opened for us in town. We live near a beach and harbour. We can still see birds from our apartment window. And we can walk to a local coffee shop. Restaurants are nearby. Taking a jaunt into the surrounding countryside is still an option. Doctors’ appointments now are not 30 minutes or an hour away.

We’re so glad the Lord graciously nudged us to downsize and move to a place more suited to our current limitations. Have you considered downsizing or de-cluttering? Why not take the step while you can?

Wind of the Spirit

Wind is invisible; known only by its effects. When surrounding trees are still, we conclude that there is no wind. If we live by a lake or on the seashore we gauge the wind’s intensity by the height of the waves.

Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is invisible; We discern His presence by His effects. Since He convicts “the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement”(John 16:8), where we see conviction of sin we know the Spirit isOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA at work. Where sin is denied or redefined or relativized, as happens throughout our societies, we conclude that the Holy Spirit is being hindered. Where righteousness is rare and wickedness is exalted; where no fear of judgement exists we should cry for God to move among us.

Without the Spirit’s work we are bereft of the anguish that attends conviction of sin which, in turn, moves us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Without repentance and faith people cannot be converted. And without conversions there can be no transformed lives. And without transformed lives social transformation cannot occur. Perversion and wickedness will continue to spread.

Our societies need many more people re-born of the Spirit—converted. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”(John 3: 7,8).

Without being born again by the Spirit, we will not be able to overcome the acts of our sinful natures; “immorality,…hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition”(See Gal. 5:19-21 for the full list). Without the Holy Spirit we will not be able to produce the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”(Gal. 5:22,23).

Surely, we don’t want societies where hatred, discord and fits of age endure as we have seen recently in some of our cities and around the world. We all long for societies where love and peace and gentleness and self-control predominate. That can only happen as one person at a time is transformed by the Spirit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s ask the Holy Spirit to spread ripples of blessing from our lives. As individual Christians we depend so much on the invisible work of this Counselor, Comforter, biblical Interpreter. He leads us (Rom 8:14 ); strengthens us (Eph. 3:16 ); motivates us to love God and our neighbours (Gal. 1:8 ); enables us to overcome our tendency to be critical(Eph. 4:3); assures us we are God’s children (Rom. 8:16); and comforts us in pain and tragedy.

May the wind, or its absence, remind us to pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to control us individually and create a hunger for righteousness in our villages, our towns, and our cities. Come Holy Spirit; make known the transforming love of Jesus Christ. Spread the good news of mercy and grace to all.