Time Passages

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I love the title of Al Stewart’s song, Time Passages.  It describes so well the amazing gift of time that we have on this earth.

My dear mother passed away in early January.  A parent’s passing is always a defining moment in a person’s life.  My mother was blessed with time.  She was 96 when her time came to pass on.  Although she had been afflicted with some type of dementia for several years, she was still cute, sweet and at times downright funny.

However, it wasn’t always so.  Helping to write her obituary, I realized a lot of things about my mom and ever since her passing, there have been conversations with siblings about her life and reflections on what she accomplished in life.  One single life on this earth is so complex and so precious.  Each life has a myriad of experiences to go through and so much to learn from those experiences, taking each lesson learned on into the next experiences.

Mom had a lot of challenges in her life.  She had a fairly controlling mother, eight children and not much money.  She lived through the depression years, World War II and the shocking 60’s when all societal rules seemed to fly out the window.  She spent hours dealing with her own mother when she herself had small children to take care of as well and later, when her father and her mother-in-law were old and needy, she spent all of her days caring for them and taking care of those needs.

My mother was an overcomer.  She met all of those challenges with grace and dignity.  Sometimes she had reactions as anyone would, but she did what she needed to do without complaint.  As we were writing our mother’s obituary, we realized that we couldn’t make it so flowery that she would seem to be a saint from the moment of her birth.  It wasn’t that way.  It never is, right?  Isn’t it more real, more adventurous, and more challenging to have a life long parade of situations that, through the passage of time, shape our nature?

Mom always had her own personality, but her character developed as she aged.  She became more patient, a better listener, more concerned with others.  As those qualities increased, others decreased: less anger and less worry.

Enhancing the positive qualities and diminishing the negative ones is what this life’s journey is all about.  We are all born with issues and we all encounter troubles along the adventurous road of life, but what an exquisite testimony there is when one of God’s children is at the end of their journey here, giving those who knew them the opportunity to look back at all the hardships along their route and to witness firsthand the growth of God’s life in that person.  What a solid evidence, sure and positive, that we can do the same in our lives.  Our situations may be different, but we have the same potential that they did.

When we witness a wonderful life, we don’t have to stand far off and feel dismal about our own existence.  This person was an ordinary person, just as we are, and he or she began his/her life with the similar challenges and similar skepticism about the possibilities of ever changing them.  Because we, like them, are born into the human condition, we too can allow our circumstances to mold our character and improve those things that require either a bit of touch up or a major overhaul.  We too can experience time passages and watch God’s handiwork in our lives.  Day by day, step by step, we come up a little higher and when time has finished its passages in our lives, hopefully others will say of us that we were overcomers and will, in their time, find inspiration to do the same in their lives.

A simple solution for a worn out world

There will be regular rains, the land will give you bumper crops, trees will be loaded with fruit long after the normal time and you will have as much to eat as you want and live out your days in peace.

Wow!  Regular rain, year after year of success in gardens and farms, plenty to eat and a peaceful world without fear.  Who doesn’t want that?  Who among us would say he or she wouldn’t want that?  Is it too boring to have peace and safety?  Is it too mundane to have bumper crops year in and year out?  So, what’s the catch?  Isn’t there always a catch?

Yes, there is a catch, but it’s not expensive, nor is it egregious.  All you have to do is to love God your Father who provides these things freely to his obedient children.  You have to obey his commandments.  You have to love your fellow man who is your brother and your sister, who also a child of God.

The first paragraph above comes from the book of Leviticus, chapter 26.  The Old Testament is filled with rules and regulations.  Jesus boiled all of them down to two.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.”  “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”  If you obey these laws, all those other ones fall into place.  You won’t steal from someone that you love as much as yourself because you don’t like to have things stolen from you.  You won’t punch him, kill him, hate him, lie to him, lie about him, take his wife or do other mean things to him because you don’t like those things either.

Our world is falling apart fast.  The daily headlines are enough to fill our hearts with terror.  We need to take hope and make that hope the anchor of our lives.  There are solutions but the ultimate solution always comes back to those two commandments spoken by Jesus.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.”  Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”  Jesus said it best.  You can’t improve on that.

Verses and a verse: Courage

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**Sandinista Avioncitos

The little airplanes of the heart

with their brave little propellers

What can they do

against the winds of darkness

even as butterflies are beaten back

by hurricanes

yet do not die

They lie in wait wherever

they can hide and hang

their fine wings folded

and when the killer-wind dies

they flutter forth again

into the new-blown light

live as leaves

–Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

These are difficult days that we are experiencing.  Sometimes, it feels as if we are buffeted by the winds of the hurricanes that have recently traversed our world or by the flames that scorch our west coast.  We need to take heart in the Scriptures that uphold the righteousness that God has planted in us.  We need to surely know that righteous lives soften the paths that others must follow in the future.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

** Although this title seems negative to me because of the reference to Sandinistas, I have chosen to leave it in so that the poem can be properly identified.  The poem itself is very sweet.

The Kingdom of Heaven is within!

I have a relative that lives on an island in the Caribbean.  He has often said that he lives in paradise.  During the night on Tuesday, his paradise was demolished.  He lost everything but his dog and his life.  We are extremely grateful that his life was spared.

Many stories emerged this week that make it abundantly clear that the earthly places that we equate with paradise can be destroyed.  However, the true paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven, will never be destroyed.  If it dwells within you, it is your life and can never be taken from you no matter the circumstances.

It will be like the house built upon the rock.  When wind and storm and rain beat against it, nothing, no storm and no attack from hell, can tear it down.

Life is an allegory of something bigger

 

My garden is my place of quiet and peacefulness.  Yesterday I brought in the top of a lettuce plant that had gone to seed and this morning I was taking off the tiny flowers and opening them up.  The tiny seeds inside fell into the paper bag.  Soon there were enough seeds in the little bag to plant plenty of lettuce in next summer’s garden.

One lettuce plant produces enough seeds to create ten future gardens.  Imagine how many gardens could be created with all of the seeds from all of the plants in the garden!  God is amazing.  He put enough seeds in one plant to create an abundance of new plants.  It’s a miracle.

Think of a maple tree.  Each maple has thousands of tiny helicopters on it that will float down to earth and potentially become more maple trees.  He gave us enough seed to make up for all the possibilities.  Seeds falling on rocks.  Seeds being eaten by squirrels.  Seeds being washed away by rain.  Even with all of the destruction that can happen to each maple seed, in the spring we find our yard filled with tiny maple seedlings after a few spring rains.  And no matter how I clean up my garden, in the spring I find random lettuce plants growing here or there, tiny tomato seedlings sprouting where I don’t want them any more.  About fifteen years ago, I planted some mustard green seeds.  Every year those mustard greens still show up.  They never sprout in exactly the same place, but they faithfully make an appearance wherever the wind has blown them.

As I open each miniature seed pod and scrape out the seeds, it is impossible not to realize that these seeds represent hope.  They are the hope of a successful garden, not this year, but next.  They are the hope of the return of spring even before winter has arrived.  They are the hope of new life, of all things good, of things even bigger and better than this year.  Thank God for hope.  Thank God for the tiny seeds that anchor us in the faith and knowledge that life will go on.  Winter does not last forever.  Hardships will cease. Spring will come.

Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature – his eternal power and divine character – have been clearly perceptible through what he has made.  (Romans 1:19)

United we stand?

On September 9, 1776, the congress representing the group of colonies that made up this country at that time decided to call it the United States.  However, ever since its inception, this country has been tested as to the meaning of its name.  Although the founders held deep convictions and high ideals for this country, there were already deep divisions in our unity, specifically over what to do about slavery.  That crack widened until we fought a bitter civil war over the issue.  Even since the end of that war, the divisions have persisted.

Over time, those divisions have branched out from the issue of slavery and new divisions have been created.  Nowadays, our congress cannot even agree on the simplest of issues.  I read in this morning’s paper a comment by a young man of 27.  He said, “My generation can’t talk to each other.  They don’t want to hear another perspective.  If you label yourself a conservative or a libertarian, they don’t want to talk to you.”  (“What of Civil War Re-Enactments,?” Hartford Courant, 9-5-2-17)  What is wrong with us and why can’t we even have a civil conversation to discuss the issues?! The crack is widening and there seems to be no way to bridge the gap.

However, God is giving us a chance.  Unfortunately, the times that we come together end up being the worst of times and yet the best of times.  Disasters somehow make us forget politics and opposing opinions and bring us together in a common goal of survival.  The experience of Houston, Rockport, Wharton and Port Arthur has both horrified and softened the hearts of Americans across the nation.

I believe that everyday Americans would welcome a change from the divisive rhetoric streaming off the airwaves.  Another huge storm is heading our way.  Hurricane Irma.  Hopefully, we will rise to the occasion once again and pitch in to pick up the pieces that are left in its wake if indeed it ends up taking direct aim at us, but why do we need a monster storm to force us to do that?

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  We know this to be a truth.  We have to come together.  We have to be willing to listen to one another.  We have to work together if we want to ensure the survival of our country for the future.  We can do it without another storm.  Teach young people to discuss.  Be an example of civil discussion. Listen first.  Listening doesn’t cost a thing.

Doers of the Word

 

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This morning I was walking along and came across this scene.  There is one guy down in the hole working hard at digging the hole deeper.  Five guys, some with clipboards, are watching him work.  There must be a reason why they need five to watch and one to work and yet it seems a little absurd.  To me, this picture illustrates one of the many problems in our society.  We are becoming top heavy.  My mother had a saying stenciled on the wall in front of our kitchen sink.  It is no longer politically correct to use this saying, but when we were children it plainly let us know that there were: “Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.”  Therefore, we’d better get to work!

It seems that everyone wants to be the boss these days and very few want to do the hard physical work.  The bosses give themselves large raises while maintaining the poverty of those few who are doing the labor for which the bosses are being paid.  It’s true that we need administrative help, but do we need so much of it?  One of my relatives works at a small private high school.  He told me this summer that due to recent hiring practices, his school now has thirteen administrators but only eight teachers.  How is that possible?  No wonder tuition is going up nationwide.

It’s not just a problem in our schools and in our nation.  It’s a spiritual problem as well.  James 1:22 warns us not to be that way.  “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”  This Scripture tells us that if we stand around and do nothing while other people are fulfilling God’s will, we are deceiving our own selves.  God wants people of action.  He doesn’t want people who stand around watching and commenting on what others do.  He wants people who will live their faith and who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.  There probably will be plenty of commentary from the watchers.  “You should have done it this way.  Why did you do that?”  But if our motives are to follow after God’s will for our lives, we will be in the right way.

Just as the man digging in the picture is possibly getting a lower salary than those watching him work, we might never receive any kind of natural benefit in this world for doing God’s will. Even so, God is faithful.  Verse 25 tells us, “a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  Verily, there is a reward for the righteous.