A collection of past contributions…
I walked alone among the many lunchtime travelers, passing small storefronts and restaurants that defined a backstreet in West Philly. Inviting aromas from a Greek restaurant wafted out their open door. The bright sun was out again after a rainy Philadelphia morning. A request had gone out to help with Alex, the son of a coworker, and I was headed to Children’s Hospital to give blood. My mind was on Alex. I prayed for his healing as I walked. Alex was dying of Wilms Tumor and had needed many blood transfusions. He was four. Alex ultimately did not survive his battle with cancer. I have a lasting memory of that lunchtime walk. Including the memory of a shimmering, bright reflection in a puddle left by the morning rain. The puddle clearly reflected the blues and whites of the sky above. As I moved along, a thought came to my mind, “Even the puddles reflect the sky.”
Joe is 84. I always ask, “How are you doing, Joe?”. His unfailing response, “I’m on the top side of the grass!” Once though, he added, “The number of my days was determined in eternity past, and I will live no more and no less.”
So why did Alex have so few days and Joe so many? Jesus, referring to children, once said, “Of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” There must be lots of kids in Heaven.
We don’t understand the reasons for our number of days – why one has so many, and why another has so few. But do we have to understand in order to have faith? Or even to have peace? Faith that, in spite of the intense pain of loss, still looks up, or at least while looking down, sees a reflection of the sky in the puddles?
Jesus Christ provided a way whereby we can look forward to a time of reunions, when there will be no more pain, or tears of mourning, and no more death. That’s the long view – for Alex, for Joe, and for us.
English people may have struggled contemplating the new world order created by the loss of the American Colonies. How would commerce, social and political arrangements be affected? It was a bumpy path, with additional skirmishes to follow.
But we were excited. As Benjamin Franklin optimistically observed at the First Continental Congress, which was frequently a divided body even back then, the sun carved on the back of the Chairman’s chair was rising, not setting.
So the sun rose on our new nation. The providential occurrences that were a part of that age, including George Washington’s evident divine protection at the battle at the Monongahela River in Western Pennsylvania during the French and Indian Wars, made it evident that this nation had a divine place in history. At that battle, while many holes were put in Washington’s uniform, no holes were put in Washington! This led the Indian leader to instruct his warriors to stop trying to shoot him off his horse because he was being divinely protected.
So the sun rose on our new nation. With our many flaws we have remained here with our ever changing place in history. So whereto from here? We celebrate our freedom but we stumble over our freedom. “Freedom” itself gets constantly redefined – and compromised. Hopefully that sun has not run its course across the sky of our existence.
But there is one celebration of freedom that will last at least another 1000 years. We have Providential promise of that. Found in Leviticus 23:34 and in Zechariah 14:16, it is the Jewish “Feast of Booths”. It commemorates the escape of the Hebrew nation from Egyptian slavery. The whole millennial world will celebrate!
God has His hand on history, and He has his hand on our nation – our extent and our duration. May we celebrate His blessings for many years to come!
Sitting on the veranda cooking up some burgers on the grill, I’m thinking “I should be doing something while I’m doing this”. After all, while I just sit here waiting for the grill to do its job, I could be being productive doing something! The hardest thing is to sit and wait. But sometimes we don’t have a choice. Like eight minutes on a side for burgers. We’ve got to wait. Waiting can be for bigger things too, like surgery recovery, or test results, or a phone call.
I’m not good at waiting, but I may be getting better. I think it must take practice, and the older I get the more practice I get.
The Bible talks about waiting. There’s waiting on God – prayer. Then there’s waiting for God – patience. And there’s waiting with God – power for living. We’re told that the farmer “waits for the former and latter rains”. That’s learning that God’s timing and purposes are right. Wait for it.
All waiting takes time. It takes time to pray, communicating with God about “stuff”. Patience, by definition, takes time. But patience helps build faith as we discover new areas where God has heard, is aware, and cares. Finally, we can find power for living when we are confident in God’s presence with us. Jesus said, “I am with you to the end of the world.”
That promise gained significance for me one summer when I worked in Thule, Greenland. “Thule” means “the end of the world”. God was present there too. His faithfulness reaches to the remotest places on earth, with or without human presence.
And with or without human presence, God is good. Very good.
In the busy-ness of life we seldom take time to think about these things. We feel called to an active life, not a waiting life. But both are necessary. And it’s a good journey.
I think the burgers are done.