Monthly Archives: May 2014

Spring Reminds Me to Celebrate Youth

In the spring we gaze in awe at the flush of new growth we see all around us. The reviving trees paint the whole countryside with a coat of vibrant, light green. Basswood spring leavesHow to describe this astounding colour? Is it lime green? Not quite. Emerald green; closer but not as dark. Sea green may be closer still. Perhaps bottle green? Whatever the technical term might be, we love how the Creator decorates the hillsides with a thousand subtle shades of spring green. So fresh. So alive.

It reminds us of the vibrancy of young life. The wonder we feel at the birth of a new baby. The energy and excitement of a child. The awesome potential of a young person with his or her whole life ahead. It’s wonderful to celebrate along with youth the hope and dreams they feel.

Many of us older folks remain vibrant and hopeful but sometimes our aches and pains and sorrows make us somewhat jaded and world-weary. Admittedly, there are children who are obnoxious and young people who have a dark and hopeless view of life. But ???????????????????????????????too often we find unnecessary fault with the antics of a child, the perceived carelessness of a teenager, or the brash self-confidence of a twenty-something. Could our irritation be rooted in envy? Or perhaps nostalgia?

Older and younger, we need each other to achieve balance in life. Sadly, the modern breakup of families has left many of us without any positive experience of the warmth of an extended family; children, parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins. We segregate everyone into age brackets: Gen X, Baby Boomers, Millennials, and so on. It may help marketers but it’s not healthy.

Every year has a spring, summer, fall and winter and every human needs connection with people of every age and experience. Pers???????????????????????????????onally, I don’t find living in a senior’s ghetto attractive at all. (To some it may be just what they need.) But most of us seniors need to rub shoulders with children and young people—and they need us older folks. Perhaps some of their joie de vivre will rub off on us and some of our wisdom on them. Perhaps we’ll become more tolerant, better adjusted, less jaded and gloomy. Didn’t Jesus rebuke the disciples for hindering children from coming to him?

Advertisements

Sometimes Life Is Like A Swamp

Sometimes life is like a swamp: boggy, muddy, wet, full of biting insects. Can any good come out of these times of distress?

??????????????????????Swamps may appear pretty in the spring when clothed in marsh marigolds. But many consider swamps as useless land, good for nothing. And so, for centuries we have been draining swamps and bogs to create more tillable land or to enable buildings to be erected. Millions and millions of acres have been reclaimed to gratify our human view of progress. For example, the Florida Everglades have been reduced from eight million acres to just two million.

Like much else in our created world we have failed to understand the importance of conservation. In this case, in losing wetlands, we lose their incredible capacity to act as sponges filtering out harmful pollutants. We also lose their effect in absorbing flood waters. And so we harm ourselves.

We also disrupt the balance of creation by destroying the habitat for algae, zooplankton and all the higher creatures that feed on them. Wetlands create OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAan ideal environment for a host of creatures from snails to salamanders, frogs and lizards. Swamps create an ideal home for many birds and mammals: herons, ospreys, rabbits, otters, bobcats, deer, beavers, raccoons, and black bears.

Admittedly, swamps also harbor insects such as mosquitoes…but these feed a wealth of birds as well as annoy us.

Swamps can be viewed as a metaphor for difficult times in our lives. We’re journeying through sunlit fields of ripening grain, singing as we hike along shady forest paths and then suddenly we plunge ??????????????????????into a swamp. The ooze sucks at our shoes. Mosquitoes feast on our face and necks. A snake slithers across our boggy path.

Life has been good. We’re healthy and strong. Our children act like cherubs. Our pay cheque swells. We holiday in Rome and Venice. Friends multiply. Then suddenly the climate changes.

A child falls sick with a life-threatening illness. We are demoted at work. The catalytic converter on our car needs to be replaced. The washing machine packs it in. We develop headaches. Sleep eludes us at night. The doctor is mystified. The chiropractor can’t help.

Why Lord? Why so much all at once? What have we done to merit a swampy experience? The whys reverberate in our minds. The heavens are as brass. Silence from above. We suffer anguish without understanding purpose or cause.
We may need to remind ourselves that, like swamps, there may be a myriad of good effects hidden from our superficial sight.???????????????????????????????

Painful swamp experiences bring to the surface the pollutants that lurk unacknowledged in our characters: impatience, arrogance, doubt, laziness, aimlessness, tenuous grasp of God’s purposes, and self-confidence in place of trust in the Master. Trials and suffering give us a chance to acknowledge our terrible flaws and sins and bring them to the only one who can forgive and heal us.

Swamp experiences teach us to empathize with others in similar circumstances. God is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”(2 Cor. 1:4).

???????????????????????????????Swamp experiences, if we bow to Christ in submission, give the Holy Spirit opportunity to reform our character into the image of Christ. Out of bad, even evil, He makes a host of good to arise. “We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”(Romans 5:3-5).

But Lord, we are frail. Help us to remember you are always with us and help us to be a blessing to others for your glory.

Being A Refresher

For some time now I’ve been wondering what Onesiphorus did that refreshed ???????????????????????????????Paul. Writing from prison, Paul asked the Lord to “show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains….He searched hard for me until he found me…You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus”(2 Tim. 1:16-18).

Whatever Onesiphorus did, it had to be important or else Paul wouldn’t have mentioned it. Refresh means to invigorate, re-energize or revive. Maybe he took Paul a good meal, or clean clothes, or ointment for the sores caused by the chains he had to wear.

I don’t really know whether he did any of these things but I do know that he OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmade up his mind to do something for Paul. He sought him out; he wasn’t embarrassed to visit him in prison and while there he brought blessing into Paul’s life.

I’m thinking that he must have revived his spirit perhaps by bringing news of the spiritual fruit evident in the Philippian Church. Perhaps he shared some comforting spiritual truths. Possibly, he had listened to Paul’s teaching then spent time praying with him. Being present obviously meant much to the apostle. Somehow Onesiphorus let Paul know he cared. Since the word often is used, he must have frequently contributed to reinvigorating Paul’s spirit.

???????????????????????????????Other people have often refreshed me. One friend used to arrive at our door from time to time with a single red rose. Another friend used the phone to express her concern about how I was doing. Still another used to interrupt our phone conversations by saying, Let’s just take this to the Lord in prayer. Refreshers—how wonderful they are!

It’s good to be on the receiving end. But I ask myself, Am I a refresher, an Onesiphorus, or do I depress others? And so I pray, Father, even from my rocking chair I want to be used to refresh your children. (From Mary Helen’s rocking chair.)

Such A Long Wait!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Crocuses

Throughout this long, long winter we’ve been waiting impatiently for the first sight of green, the first peek of a crocus.

Waiting, like temptation, is common to all of us. Waiting to catch a bus. Waiting for traffic congestion to ease. Waiting in a doctor’s office. Waiting in line at the post office or the check-out line in the grocery store. Waiting for a diagnosis. Waiting for a sick friend to smile again. Waiting for a grandchild to find a godly life-partner. And yes, waiting for God to answer a decade’s old prayer for the conversion of a friend or relative.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe know that our heavenly Father wants us to learn patience while maintaining hope for the future—especially as it relates to the return of Christ. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains”(James 5:7). But we ask the Lord, do we need so much practice? Our natures cry out, we can’t wait—whatever it is we think we need, we want now—whether it be justice for the oppressed or relief from our own sufferings.

And Lord, two thousand years have gone by since the promise of Christ’s return. Just as we wondered this year why spring was delayed we wonder why the Lord’s return is so delayed. For as we gaze out on a hurting world through the medium of television, it seems apparent that Jesus should return so that justice and peace might roll down like a river. Suffering in Syria. Kidnapped school girls in Nigeria. Human trafficking. Sabre-rattling from Russia. Suicide amonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAg our teens. We cry out in agony, how long Lord?

Although we have not doubts about Christ’s return, we are perplexed and impatient. And so we do what we always do when perplexed, we return to the Word and read again the promises. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God”(1 Thess4:16).

The Scriptures remind us that all God’s promises are fulfilled, though often delayed. The judgment on Israel, the destruction of first, Samaria then Jerusalem was delayed for centuries as the prophets sought to arouse the people to repentance. Perhaps we forget that it is God’s comp???????????????????????????????assion and mercy that delays judgment. “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?”(Rom. 2:4). His delayed judgment on our age is really an expression of his mercy giving time for every tribe and tongue and nation to respond to the invitation of the gospel.

A delayed spring gives us practice in waiting for many things, but especially the return of Christ. After all, Paul did say, “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” when Christ returns in glory and power. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…we ourselves…groan inwardly was we wait eagerly” for the consummation of all things.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And so as we see leaves finally unfurling and flowers finally lifting their faces to the sun, we are reminded that even a long wait is worth it. Our wait for the new heaven and new earth will be worth it.