Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Patience and Wisdom

Patience and Wisdom!
I read a story recently about a poor farmer. He had one horse he depended on for his Living. (1) His horse pulled the plow and was his only means of transportation. One day a bee stung the horse and it ran away into the mountains.

His neighbors in the village heard and came by to tell him how sorry they were to hear abouthis “bad luck” in losing his horse. The old farmer again said to his neighbors; ” Good luck, Bad luck…who is to say?”

A week later the horse came home and with him were twelve fine wild horses and the old man and his son corralled these fine horses. Again the news of the farmers
windfall spread throughout the village and his neighbors came back to congratulate
him on his good luck. Again the old farmer just shrugged and said; “Good luck, bad luck…who is to say?”
The only son of the farmer was one day trying to tame one of the fine wild horses and the horse threw him off and his leg was broken in three places. When word of the accident spread the villagers came back saying, “ we are sorry to hear of the accident and the bad luck of your son getting hurt. The old farmer just shrugged and said: “Good luck, Bad luck…who is to say?”

Two weeks later war broke out between the provinces…and the army came through
constricting every able bodied man under sixty.The son did not have to go because of his injury…which turned out to save his life because every soldier in the village who went was killedin battle. The old farmer was wise in accepting the fact that we human beings, regardless of advantages or education or money…are not wise enough to make final judgments on what is good luck or bad luck.

He was profoundly wise in accepting his creaturelessness and his inability to make
a final verdict until all the evidence is in. As Paul tells us, ”now we see through a glass darkly” (I Cor. 13)
We are wise to remember that we are not in a position to make a final judgment on some things that happen to us. Some events that have every appearance of bad luck…in the mysterious unfolding of life, may turn out to bring unexpected good.

We may flex our muscles and spout off our learning in the arts and sciences, but I visit in hospitals and nursing homes enough to know... we are not always in charge of our own body.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I love to quote the eight lines of poetry below to illustrated the fact that God often uses the difficulties of life to teach us important lessons ! I have certainly learned important lesssons in my life in times of disappointment and sorrow I would never have learned other wise.

It began at the age of nine, when I stood at the bedside of my dying father and witnessed the Christian peace and love that, not only sustained him , but gave him joy in the midst of death.

"I walked a mile with pleasure
She chatted all the way.
But left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow
And n'er a word said she.
But Oh the things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me."

A few years ago a piece with a similiar theme passed through the internet entiltle "I wish you Enough."

Something to think about as we began a New Year,
"I wish you Enough".
"Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments
together at the airport. They had announced the departure.
Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said "I love
you and I wish you enough." The daughter replied, "Mom, our life together has been more than enough.Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom."
They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry.

I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking
"Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?".
"Yes, I have, "I replied. "Forgive me for asking but why is this a
forever good-bye?". "I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and thereality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral" she said.

"When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say 'I wish you enough'. May I ask what that means?

"She began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone".
She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail
and she smiled even more. "When we said 'I wish you enough' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them". Then turning toward me she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory --

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough faith in God to get you through the final good-bye.

To all my friends and loved ones: A HAPPY NEW YEAR OF GRACE AND PEACE.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas at a Children's Home

It was Christmas Eve. A minister named Henry Carter was working feverishly on a Christmas sermon. He said Christmas is a hard time of year to find something fresh to say. So much activity! People also so tired with all the commercialism of Christmas to really listen to a message from God.

Carter said the house mother of the Children's Home he supervised appeared at his door with yet another crisis.

Christmas Eve is a difficult time for emotionally distrubed children in a Children's Home. Many of the children had gone home, at least over night. The childen who were left in the home reacted to the empty beds and the changed routine.

The pastor went upstairs chaffing at the repeated interuptions he had had all week. This time it was Tommy. Tommy has crawled under his bed and refused to come out.

Pastor Carter said the House Mother pointed to one of the beds in the room but not a hair nor a toe showed. So he addressed himself to the cowboys and bucking broncos on the bedspread. He said he talked about the lighted tree in the church vestibule next door. He talked about the packages underneath the tree and all the other things waiting for him out beyond the bed.

There was no answer from under the bed. The minister finally dropped to his knees and lifted the bedspread and was still fretting at the time all this latest interruption was costing him.

Two enormous brown eyes met his. Tommy was eight but looked like a frightened five year old. It would have been no trouble to simply pull the child out from under the bed.

But Tommy did not need pulling. The pastor felt like Tommy needed trust and he now needed a sense of deciding things on his own initiative.

So the pastor got down on his all fours beside the bed. He told Tommy about the stocking with his name on it that the church women has made just for him. Still here was silence. There was no sound that Tommy heard or cared.

At last, because he could think of no other way to make contact, Pastor Carter got down on his stomach and wiggled in beside Tommy, the bedsprings snagging his suit jacket. For a long time he lay there close beside Tommy.

He told Tommy about the big wreath above the altar and the candles in the windows. He reminded Tommy of the carols he and the other children would sing. Then the pastor just waited quietly beside the child.
As he waited, a small chilled hand crept into the large hand of the pastor. In a little while Carter said, “It close quarters under here, let’s you and me get out where we can stand up.

As he stood up, he saw again the wonderful truth of how God came down at Christmas. Because flattened out there on the floor, the pastor realized anew he had been given a new glimpse of the mystery of Christmas.

God had called us from far above as the pastor had called Tommy. God had called with his stars and his mountains. God had called us to enjoy His whole majestic universe. And when we would not listen, He had drawn closer. He sent prophets with words about God.

But it was not until that first Christmas when God Himself came down with a baby in His arms. It was when God Himself stooped to earth and took our very place and came to dwell with us in our loneliness and alienation that we, like Tommy dared to stretch out our hands and take hold of God’s love.

The WORD was made flesh and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten Son of God. (John 1:1-15)

The birth that is Christmas does not orbit history. History once looked forward and now looks back revolving around this historical birth that is Christmas...a birth that changed the course of history; B.C…before Christ and A.D. Anno Domini (In the year of our Lord).

The magnificent incarnation which challenged flesh to contain God has challenged our most luminous orators, writers, artist, poets and composers to contain it with words and music. It is a challenge that has produced some of the world’s greatest music and poetry. And it has always stretched language to it’s breathtaking limits.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Christmas Story

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what..

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unl ess we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood - the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?"

You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it.

Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, sonwe could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?"

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children - sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that,but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, Whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.