Sunday, August 25, 2013
Happy, Happy, Happy, Chicago, IL
I recently read a short story about a family with a six year old son that had just euthanized their terminally ill dog. The parents took the young child along for a teaching moment life lesson. However, as sometimes happens, they were the ones who benefited from their son’s “wiser than his years” observation. As they were pondering why dogs don’t live as long as we humans, the little boy offered up his opinion. He observed that we humans are born to learn how to live a good life and love one another. Since dogs are already born with that ability, they simply don’t need to live as long. You know what? That actually makes a lot of sense!
A dog wakes up each morning with the attitude that “I’m gonna live life to the fullest--so far, so good”! No matter how you treat a dog, he’s always exceedingly happy to see you when you return home. I’ve never met a dog that didn’t enjoy a good road trip; preferably with his nose sticking out the window sniffing all the good smells of mother earth as the wind rapidly flaps his ears. A brisk walk is a close second in terms of pure dog joy. There’s nothing like venturing out into the world with your trusty life friend and making your mark along the way—and I mean all along the way. When you encounter someone they know and trust, a dog will spontaneously break out into an unpretentious dance of life with shaking and tail wagging that won’t end until the petting stops.
And when the day is done or maybe it’s just the beginning of a long weekend, a dog will curl right up with you for a much needed, stress relieving, satisfying nap. If life has been less than bearable, a dog will sit silently beside you and intently listen to your every complaint and concern. He’ll join you in a quiet prayer for peace and goodwill and intently look you in the eyes when you’re reflecting on life with that classic expression which says, “That is so profound. I would have never thought of that”!
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Door Knob, London, England
I was spending my first night in ICU after a serious heart attack when a senior nurse walked into my room during the "graveyard shift". We entered into a short conversation as she checked my vital signs. After just a few minutes, she looked up and said, "You're a Christian, aren't you"? I incredulously said "Yes" and remarked that since we had just met, I didn't believe I had told her that. She then volunteered that she too was a Christian and held the hope of an eternal spiritual life after this temporary mortal one. After spending many years in ICU on the "graveyard shift" which she preferred, the calmness of spirit or the shear fright of death was very apparent to her in her patients.
We don’t need to dwell on death, as our creator gave us life to live to the fullest. Yet, we shouldn’t be blind to the elephant in the room either and we need to contemplate our common destiny more often than we probably do spend thinking about it. I received the following short explanation of death recently which prompted me to recall my brief conversation with the senior nurse above:
A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to
leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I’m afraid to die.
Tell me what lies on the other side.”
Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don't know.”
“You don't know?
You're, a Christian man, and don't know what's on the other side?”
The doctor was holding the handle of the door.
On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining,
And as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and eagerly leaped up to him.
Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog?
He's never been in this room before.
He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here.
And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.
I know little of what is on the other side of death.
But I do know one thing... I know my Master is there and that is enough.”
I remember reading years ago about a famous painting illustrating a prominent closed door with Jesus standing outside knocking. The subtle focal point of the painting was that the door did not have a door knob on the outside—we’ve all been created with the free will to invite him into our hearts. But it’s becoming a bit late when we’re lying behind a door in ICU, as that door may never be opened.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Emitting Light into the Darkness, Chicago, IL
Throughout history we’ve all read about how a king has sent a trusted emissary on a mission that is critical to the survival of the kingdom. In my mind, I can picture one of King Arthur’s knights riding out the castle doors on a muscular white steed adorned with colorful silk fabrics and banners. This gallant knight has spent years training and working for just such an assignment as he ventures out into the harsh world to serve his king. His subsequent adventures turn out to be the stuff legends are made of in our lives.
The prophet Isaiah was just such an emissary to our creator who knew that the faith that is begun in darkness is grown in the Light. He related an Old Testament mission that the Lord had anointed him to proclaim: A Messiah was to bring renewal and release to people hurting materially and spiritually. He would bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim release and liberation for captives, provide comfort and joy to all who mourn and raise up hope for the discouraged. Jesus affirmed that mission in his words and actions throughout the New Testament. As He ascended into heaven after his resurrection, the King of the world left all disciples with the Great Commission to do likewise. We do this by being a light upon a hill. And by following Jesus’ teaching to spread that Light of Life out into the world our fellow journeymen will not walk in darkness, but walk along a straight path in the eternal Light of our Heavenly Father(John 8:12).
Friday, August 9, 2013
Blowin' in the Wind, Jamestown, NC
It’s interesting that both the Hebrew and Greek words for wind, breath and spirit are the same. God breathed life into the first human beings and Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the first disciples after his resurrection. This counsellor and comforter is always with us throughout our mortal lives. This wasn’t a CPR type of life giving event, but a supernatural event that follows with the human soul’s departure on our last breath. I’ve sensed our creator’s presence in the winds and soothing summer breezes that is His healing breath. The air around us has been described as the kingdom of the heavens. We certainly can’t survive without it. Is it merely composed of natural elements like oxygen and carbon dioxide, or is there something more transparent and spiritual at work in this rarefied air?
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
On Approach, Jamestown, NC
Soft Landing, Jamestown, NC
Jesus councils us in Luke 12 that we should not worry about the future, but place our faith in our creator to provide. Of course, that generally requires some planning and diligent hard work on our part. I’m not sure that there is another created being on this planet that works harder for his survival than the diminutive humming bird. Many times God works through others to supply blessings to His creation. We can find purpose in life if that vessel happens to be us. These beautiful winged spirits are getting an assist today from my neighbors, but nonetheless, they are taking care of business and their needs are being supplied!
And how much more valuable are you than the birds of the air? ? Worry doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles—it steals today’s peace.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Moon Light, Jamestown, NC
Have you ever had the experience of standing in a subterranean cave or a photographic dark room and someone turns out the artificial lights? After the tiny muscles in the colored iris of your eyes respond by dilating the pupil as wide as possible to admit any possible stray light beams, you find that your surroundings are completely pitch black. Although your brain is throwing all the switches available to it, you still cannot perceive a thing and it’s as “dark as the inside of a black cat”! You’re no longer even capable of seeing yourself. We’ve all awakened in the middle of the night at some point and our eyes have been able to adjust to a smattering of light rays that enable us to slowly acclimate to the room around us.
The phenomenon of total darkness is unnerving and even fearful if it persists for long. Timothy Keller tells about a 1914 team of British explorers in “Jesus the King” whose ship was trapped in the Antarctica ice. There’s no sunlight for two months during the polar winter and beyond the challenges of starvation and frigid temperatures, the worst thing that the men faced was the darkness. They became totally isolated and disorientated. Keller notes, “Spiritual darkness comes when we turn away from God as our true light and make something else the center of our life”. Whenever we focus too much on anything of this world, we inevitably end in disappointment.
A state of total darkness in the Bible is a certain sign of God’s judgment. The prophet Isaiah notes in 13:10 that on the day of the Lord “The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light”. The book of Exodus records that total darkness was over the Egyptian people during that first Passover when the final plague prompted the pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage. The disciple Mark observed that as Jesus was dying on the cross, total darkness descended on the land from noon to three in the afternoon. Keller writes that this was no natural phenomenon, but “This was a supernatural darkness…So when this darkness fell, we know that God was acting in judgment…Jesus the Maker of the World was being unmade. Why? Jesus was experiencing our judgment day”. Death became a shadow on that day and all humankind gained access to the Light of Life as the temple curtain separating our creator from mankind was symbolically torn from top to bottom. It’s written that the new earth will have no need of a shining sun or reflective moon, as the light of God’s presence will dwell there eternally.
It’s been said that we only have to look to the cross to understand the depth of God’s love for His creation. And perhaps we only have to briefly endure the experience of being surrounded by pitch blackness to understand the isolation of spending eternity apart from the light of His presence.