Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dealing With Suffering

Among the seasonal letters we’ve received and in the weekly church prayer list we read a litany of troubles and trials. Several struggle to lovingly care for partners with Alzheimer’s. Some face operations or long periods of recuperation. A number struggle with the grief brought on by the death of life partners. Both Mary Helen and I seem to be in a period of physical challenge.

The reality faced by so many dredges up perennial questions. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do those who serve God seem to suffer as much or more than others? Why not just give up and wallow in misery?

Can the cause of personal suffering be found in the sufferer? The catastrophes that burst on Job led his friends to search in Job’s life for some root of rebellion against God, some sin that would cause God to judge him. They were wrong in thinking that Job brought it on himself. The reasons for Job’s trials were not to be found in him but in a clash between God and Satan. Ultimately, God vindicated Job but did not explain why he lost his sons and his wealth. Instead he called upon him to trust in the infinite and inscrutable wisdom of God.

The story of Job tells us that we will rarely understand why suffering occurs. The cause may be rooted in the rage of Satan in the heavenly places. (Read Job 1) The devil knows that his time is short. He hates God. He hates God’s beautiful creation. And he especially hates all God’s redeemed children. Living as we do in a conflict zone, we must learn to trust in God and put on his full armor. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”(Eph. 6:12).

Asaph had a similar quandary in Psalm 73. He was astonished at the arrogance and prosperity of the wicked in the light of the sufferings of the righteous. Why do they have so few struggles? Why are they so healthy? While, “all day long I have been plagued”(Psalm 73:14). It was only when Asaph took the long view that he saw the doom toward which the wicked were racing—the judgment of God.

In the midst of suffering let’s remember that if we believe in Christ as our savior, we “are aliens and strangers on earth”(Heb. 11:13). Like Abel, Enoch, Abraham and Noah along with the whole catalogue of the faithful in Hebrews eleven may God help us to live by faith, “longing for a better country—a heavenly one”(Heb. 11:16). Jesus has promised to prepare that heavenly place for us. (See John 14:1) And what about our aching, failing bodies? Jesus rose from the dead to be the first-fruits of all those who will inherit an imperishable, immortal, glorious body free from pain, a body like unto His. (See 1 Cor. 15:50-57.)

While faith and hope give us glimpses of a glorious future, let’s not forget to look back to the beginning for the real cause of suffering. Remember, “the sting of death is sin”(1 Cor.15:56). And where did sin come from? I’ll tackle that ultimate question in a subsequent blog.

Meanwhile, as Mary Helen and I struggle with physical ailments, we need to remind ourselves that spiritual health is more important than anything. “Be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise…understand what the Lord’s will is…be filled with the Spirit…always giving thanks to God the Father…put on the full armor of God”(Eph. 5:15,17,18,20; 6:11).

Let me know your thoughts about these issues.

Advertisements

DESIGN & ORDER amidst human disorder

 

Newscasts trumpet misery, scandal and chaos. BUT! As I wander down summDSCN5023 (3)er DSCN4962 (2)pathways and drive along our country roads I’m impressed by a recurring theme. Whether it’s the tiniest beetles I find on leaves or the rising of the moon, there is evidence of design–and of the Designer.

DSCN2805 (2)It’s the same when I gaze on the apparently bewildering display of creativity among flowers. Or the astounding intricacy of a snowflake. Or the various plumages of birds or even the blades of grass DSCN5204 (2)in a farmer’s field. Variety but not randomness fills our world with a richness and interest our busy lives usually lead us to ignore.

From sunsets to cloud formations, from eyesight to dandelion fluff all around us throbs the evidence of an omnipotent Creator. “Day after day they pour forth speech.”  Too often our ears throb with a cacophony of artificially generated sounds.

Lord, help us to pause, to look around, and to lift our hearts in worship and praise–and even appeal. DSCN3181 (2)Truly, “this is my Father’s world.” This Father can bring order and redemption to our disordered and broken lives.

January Sunset

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Crabby Old Lady

When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland, it was believed that she had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through her meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Ireland.

The old lady’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the North Ireland Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on her simple, but eloquent, poem. And this little old Scottish lady, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this “anonymous” poem winging across the Internet

Crabby Old woman
What do you see, nurses?
What do you see?
What are you thinking
When you’re looking at me?

A crabby old woman,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit,
With faraway eyes?

Who dribbles her food
And makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice,
“I do wish you’d try!”

Who seems not to notice
The things that you do,
And forever is losing
A stocking or shoe?

Who, resisting or not,
Let’s you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding,
The long day to fill?

Is that what you’re thinking?
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse,
You’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am
As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,
As I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten
With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters,
Who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen
With wings on her feet
Dreaming that soon now
A lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty,

My heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows

That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now,

I have young of my own,

Who need me to guide

And a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty,

My young now grown fast,

Bound to each other

With ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons

Have grown and are gone,

But man’s beside me

To see I don’t moan.

At fifty once more,

Babies play round my knee,

Again we know children

My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me,

My husband is dead,
I look at the future,
I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing
Young of their own,
And I think of the years
And the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old woman
And nature is cruel;
‘Tis jest to make old age
Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles,
Grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone
Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again,
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living
Life over again.

I think of the years
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people,
Open and see,
Not a crabby old woman;
Look closer . . . see ME!!

=========================================================

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might
brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . we will all,
one day, be there, too! In fact it might be me.

On Portraiture

Steve’s portraits project character and depth

Steve McCurry's Blog

Portraits reveal a desire for human connection;
a desire so strong that people who know they will never see me again
open themselves to the camera,  all in the hope that at the other end
someone will be watching,

someone who will laugh or suffer with them.

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Afghanistan Afghanistan

What could be more simple and more complex,
more obvious and more profound than a portrait.

– Charles Baudelaire

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Baluchistan, Pakistan Baluchistan, Pakistan

A good portrait is one that says something about the person.
We usually see parts of ourselves in others, so the

good portrait should also say something about the human condition.

Afghanistan Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan Kabul, Afghanistan

The most difficult thing for me is a portrait.
You have to try to put your camera between the
skin of a person and his shirt.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Philippines Philippines

Pokhara, Nepal Pokhara, Nepal

Lambari, Brazil Lambari, Brazil

Madhya Pradesh, India Madhya Pradesh, India

Dubrovnik, Croatia Dubrovnik, Croatia

Photography and the genre…

View original post 76 more words

Christmas Traditions, Religious Ritual, and Christian Freedom

Country Inspiration

Most families have treasured Christmas traditions. The sending and receiving of Christmas cards. Buying Christmas gifts. Searching for and decorating the perfect tree. Attending the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Gathering the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhole extended family together for a turkey dinner.

But it must seem strange to those from other religious backgrounds that evangelical Christians have no rigid religious rituals that they must observe. This will be especially so for Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Shinto friends for whom external rituals are prescribed. Our Orthodox, Ukrainian or Roman Catholic friends may even consider this lack of ritual as an erosion of faith. And for some this dearth of fixed traditions may indeed indicate disinterest or a lack of faith in the reality of Christmas.

But to understand gospel freedom from ritual, we must consider the differences between the Old and New Testaments; the old and new covenants. Out of a pagan culture rife…

View original post 720 more words

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 )