What Refugees Remind Me About Thanksgiving

Pictures of refugees fleeing their homes in Syria and Iraq, cry out for men and women of good will to respond with compassion. On a practical level, a group of five churches in our town, among others, have banded together to help bring five to seven families here to start a new life. Unfortunately, red tape may seriously delay their arrival.

Day after day the devastation and cruelty, the destruction and misery grinds on in the Middle East. We pray for it to cease. We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…The wicked oppressing cease them from distressing!

Meanwhile the misery of those in refugee camps remind me of how much we have for which to give thanks. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.

We are safe from the rockets that fly by day, and the bombs that fall at night. We take safety so much for granted! We can sleep at night without fear of being captured and tortured by inhuman monsters. God, of our fathers,…From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence, be Thy strong arm our ever Rainbowsure defense.

We live in lands blessed with a beauty that is unspoiled by war and destruction. For the beauty of the earth…Hill and vale, and tree and flow’r.

We have roofs over our heads, soft beds to sleep in, and kitchens in which to cook our abundant food. Refrigerators to keep things from spoiling. Furnaces and air-conditioners. Grocery stores with a bewildering array of foods. Malls chock full of every kind of consumer product from clothing to books and shoes. Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices…who from our mothers’ arms hath blessed us on our way.

Beyond our cities and towns, farmers work long hours to supply our population and people in other countries wLocal applesith an abundance of food. Come ye thankful people come. Raise the song of harvest home.

We have running water at our finger tips and sewage systems to drain away our waste, not onto the street but somewhere beyond our thought and care.

Every day, we open our closets and let our eyes wander over the various choices we have in what to wear. We have blankets and coats for the winter. Imagine, having only the clothes on your back. Imagine trekking to safety in worn out shoes. We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,…our life, our health, our food.

We have newspapers and bookstores and libraries and access to the Internet. We are wealthy in information and free to travel along our highways and through our skies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have abundant hospitals, clinics, and doctors plus a bewildering array of other health care providers. Our drug stores are well stocked with medicines. Fire brigades and police forces are there when needed.

We have the freedom to vote; the freedom to speak out against tyranny and evil. And in spite of concerns about the deterioration of religious freedom, we still have freedom to gather in our churches and worship God according to our conscience. In everything we give thanks for what we have, whi???????????????????????????????le we intercede for the suffering churches of the Middle East.

But most of all we give thanks for the Bible and for the Holy Spirit who opened to our hearts the good news of Jesus who died for our sins and rose that we might have new life. We thank Thee for Him—Thy unspeakable gift without whom all others were vain…For Jesus, our Light, our Salvation, our All, Our Hope till His coming again.

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

Prospering in Stoney Ground

One day we took a walk through a park along the shores of Lake Ontario. I wandered down to the pebbly beach. Wave action has broken off zillions of smooth pebbles from the exposed layers of shale—ideal skipping stones of boys like me.

Although the beach seemed sterile and inhospitable, I was amazed to find a flowering plant rooted in the pebbles along the shore. How, I wondered, could it survive in such a barren location? On the way home we saw another remarkable sight, a mossy stonecrop plant growing out of the top of an old highway post.

Windy day at Presqui'le ParkTenacious plants remind me of Christians like Grace Anderson, the 99 year old woman whose memorial I conducted several years ago. Grace radiated a youthful, exuberant spirit until the day she went to heaven. Her hopeful attitude toward life blossomed in spite of trials that would leave many reeling. She went as a single missionary to India as the flames of war engulfed Europe. She ministered during the Indian independence movement in an apparently barren town in the north. Her first term was nine years, in order to wait for her betrothed. Back in North America, she and her family struggled to find housing and jobs when their 23 year career as missionaries ended. Her secret? A desire to please God and do His will and a persevering faith in her Lord.

Flowering plants growing from stony soil also remind me of stories from around the world. People rising from the ashes of poverty and sickness in Mozambique to flourish for God. A Christian released from prison, choosing to return there to minister to other prisoners. The joy of a converted biker and drug dealer—transformation changing a ruined life. A Christian woman in Pakistan refusing to deny her faith in Christ in order to escape possible execution. The church multiplying in Iran in spite of virulent opposition. Children refusing to convert to Islam when threatened with death.

We don’t have to look far for examples of people flourishing in spite of grievous trials. I’m sure you’ve met many. The flowers of faith, hope, and love seem to blossom most prolifically in the lives of some of those suffering the most from job loss, ill health, disappointment, persecution or tragedy.

In yielded souls, nothing can keep God from bringing blessing out of barrenness,

beauty out of ugliness, godliness out of wickedness. “I will restore the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). “Is anything too hard for the Lord” (Gen. 18:14)? Whatever is going on in your life right now, He can fix it. He is not only the Creator, He is also the Re-creator!

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

Enjoying Simple Pleasures

Enjoyment comes in many forms. A holiday at the seashore. An affirming friendship. A wide-screen TV. A candlelit dinner at a high end restaurant. A Sunday afternoon nap. The smell of a new car. Reading a good story while sipping a cup of coffee.

But as I think back over my life, I’ve often been disappointed by experiences anticipated or things desired passionately. My first portable radio quickly lost its fascination. Our first new car turned out to be a lemon. Disappointment has not dogged my steps, but I’m gradually learning to appreciate the simple pleasures of life.

God has given us five senses to use in the enjoyment of his gifts. “God gives us richly all things to enjoy.” Many of these simple things flow around us unheeded as part of the natural world in which we live—unnoticed until we pause long enough to stop, look, and listen. And most of gifts are free!

Sight. The sun rising in the morning and the moon at night. Cumulous clouds drifting across the sky. The breeze ruffling the leaves on the trembling aspens. Swallows dipping and diving for insects. A squirrel eating a peanut. The unfurling of a flower. Words on paper telling a wonderful story. Snow covering everything in a white blanket. And letters in the mail.

Taste. The first asparagus of the season. Ripe, garden-grown tomatoes, cut thickOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and eaten juicy on a slice of freshly baked bread. The taste of one’s own home grown beans, carrots, peppers, and cucumbers. A freshly picked cob of corn smothered in butter. A bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day. And, ah yes, a steak broiled on the BBQ.

Touch. A hug from a grandchild. The encouraging touch of a friend. A kiss from A Wright family dinnerone’s sweetheart. The feel of opening a new book.

Hearing. The enthusiastic harmony of a congregation singing, How Great Thou Art. The chatter of a c???????????????????????????????hild. A phone call from a friend living far away. The wind rustling leaves in a tall oak. The chatter of a goldfinch.

Smell. The scent of freshly plowed ground or cut grass. The fragrance of lavender or the earthy pungency OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof a forest glade after rain.

How very kind of our Heavenly Father to have kept me from great wealth lest my appreciation for simple things become jaded. No costly caviar nor expensive wine for me: better a burger or a fresh-brewed cup of coffee, the sight of towering storm clouds or a rainbow after rain.

Lord, take envy far from me. Instead give me the good sense to enjoy the pleasures you have spread all around me—the simple pleasures of life.

Why Do the Shorelines of Lakes and Oceans Attract Us So Powerfully?

Cobourg harbour1A few months ago we moved to an apartment near the waterfront in a town on Lake Ontario. The pier that juts out into the lake, daily attracts scores of people coming in their trucks and cars for no other apparent reason than to gaze at the water. It’s a strange, but universal phenomenon. And one we share. Almost daily, we amble along the shoreline.

If we could, we would probably invest in a lakefront or ocean property. However, the premium charged for properties with water frontage makes such a dream unrealistic. What is there about oceans and lakes that inspires such adulation and competition for frontage?

KayakI’m sure part of the attraction concerns the fun to be had at a beach. Swimming and frolicking in the water. Kayaking and surfing. Boating and water skiing. Fishing.

Perhaps it is also the sight and sound of waves endlessly lapping on a beach. From as far as our eyes can see, the waves march toward us hypnotizing us into a pleasant state of reverie. Unless they crash on the beach in a wild storm, the sound of the waves mediates a sense of tranquility. Their regular rhyMary Helen on Myrtle Beachthm soothes our frazzled spirits in a hectic world, whispering, “All is well.”

Or perhaps we are attracted by how expanses of water reflect the infinitely varied moods of creation. One day calm and tranquility reigns. On another day gentle waves lap the shore. Then a violent storm lashes the shoreline with towering breakers. The rising sun paints the surface with astonishing colours. Evening comes and people OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgather at the shore for another free and unchoreographed light show from the Divine Artist. As darkness deepens the moon rises gilding the waves with silver.

Our oldest son credits the magnetism of shorelines with the views they give of distant horizons. Most of our lives are spent with the walls of buildings or trees limiting our view. But at a beach, we can gaze off to the horizon without anything impeding our vision. This somehow expands our spirits giving us a mysterious sense of wellbeing.

Perhaps it is that very mystery that intrigues us. Below the surface there is an unknown universe so we invent snorkels to see below the surface and diving suits to probe the depths of our oceans. And yet they resist all our attempts to uncover all their secrets.

Perhaps it is the human desire to conquer or at least to get to the othPicnic at the shoreer side. We can’t walk on water like we do on land. So we invent canoes and sailing ships to traverse this mysterious element. We teach ourselves to swim. But in spite of all our attempts to conquer expanses of water, we cannot parcel it out like we do the land. It refuses to be domesticated. We can pollute it but not conquer it.

Squalls change the temper of our lakes in a moment, sending boaters fleeing to harbour. On the ocean, tides rise and fall answering alone to the moon’s gravitational pull. Storms drive tidal surges that crush our puny attempts to limit the ocean’s reach. Cities like New York and New Orleans reel from their effect.

When we venture out of our controlled environments to visit a seashore, the distant horizon humbles us. There we come face to face with something vast and mysterious that resonates with the human heart. At the margin between land and water, we sense something almost incomprehensibly Ocean along Maine coastvast. Where did it come from, we muse? We slip back to Creation and feel the, often unacknowledged, presence of the infinite and all-powerful God.

The Lord God, “who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand” (Is. 40:1 NKJV) invites us to bring our joys and troubles to Him. He who spoke and 322,300,000 cubic miles of water came into existence has the capacity to understand our concerns and meet our deepest needs.

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

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 )