Oh great God, please watch over me as I walk today’s path. I humbly ask that you take control of everything I encounter. If it be trials, hardships, or disappointments, use them to make me better; to make me more like You. If it be blessings, then help me to recognize them and rejoice in them with a grateful heart. Whichever comes my way or crosses my path, may I lay down in peace tonight, and be thankful.
The very first day of the year is almost over. I’m ending this first day of the year much like I spent the previous year: At the hospital. I’m waiting outside in the parking lot while my precious wife fights through some recovery challenges from her liver transplant. Because of Covid, I can’t go in with her, so I sit in my car and wait. It’s starting to feel routine.
I am so grateful she received the transplant. It was a life saving procedure. Now, the path since the transplant has been a bit rougher than I thought it would be. I keep hoping for the green pastures and still waters. In the meantime, I just keep on moving forward and do my best to trust the Good Shepherd will get us there.
Friday, November 26, 2021
I’m sitting in the hospital with Tammy, the sound of the ventilator clicking away like a slow second hand on a clock. It’s hounding me with Time’s relentless push through another painful day. I stare out the window at the blue sky and ponder the reality of a day lost. What a lousy way to spend what looks to be a perfect day. A day that could have been spent walking and holding hands under the blue sky, or talking with family, or enjoying a meal and a TV show. Maybe popcorn and Hogan’s Heroes while we lay in bed and wind down the end of the day.
Instead, we are in the hospital. I’m waiting, watching, praying and trying to muster faith. She, hopefully, mercifully, is sleeping and won’t even remember these days. But as soon as I thought of these days as wasted and lost for us, I heard a familiar voice inside my head. God can give me back these days ten-fold or more. I know it’s true. Maybe these days in the hospital are like seeds. Days spent here will reap many days later. For every day we spend here, perhaps we will get 100 more added to the number of our days. Wouldn’t that be just like God?
The doctors, nurses, and hospital workers are all a part of this day too. So who knows, maybe the intersection of our days spent in the hospital with their lives here may be something of eternal value. Then it would certainly not be days wasted. It would be days invested in order to reap eternal rewards.
Any day that is spent in the center of God’s will cannot be a day wasted.
The Hubble telescope has seen a star so distant from us that its light took 9 billion years to get here. Nine billion years, traveling at the speed of light. It’s an unimaginable distance, yet God put that star there, and about 200 billion trillion others, all for one reason.
I used to think God created the universe, maybe even spending a lot of time on it, designing galaxies and stars and planets just to keep himself busy and fulfil what must be an enormous creative impulse. Sling a star here, plop a planet there, different colors, different sizes, different designs. Who knows. Maybe he even created other beings on other planets, then one day decided, “Hey let’s try this again. I have some ideas for a place called Earth.”
Well it didn’t happen that way. Not according to the bible. This is what the bible says in Genesis chapter 1:
God made two great lights – the greater light to rule over the day and the lesser light to rule over the night. He made the stars also. God placed the lights in the expanse of the sky to shine on the earth,
Even if you take the creation story as allegorical, surely you must at least accept the reasons for God’s actions as given in the bible as truth. Otherwise why would you believe the reason for Jesus any more so than any other story in the bible? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” Is that allegorical too?
It’s true. God gave his son as a sacrifice for our sin because he loves us. And he made a universe of 200 billion trillion stars, just to shine on the earth. So next time you are out on a dark clear night, look up. All those stars in that unimaginably immense universe were put there by a loving God for one simple reason. To shine for you.
The spiders have taken over. Last year, we told the exterminator not to kill the spider that had made a home just off our front porch. We liked to see the web and enjoy watching nature do its thing. Well, nature did its thing. A lot. This year we have a zillion garden spiders all around our house. And it’s fascinating.
If I am honest, I have to admit that just like most everyone else, the spiders scare me. They are small monsters hanging in a sticky web, ready to pounce. I suppose I could take a big stick and knock them into oblivion. Or spray them with some powerful bug spray and watch them shrivel and die. But I just can’t do that. I respect them too much.
When I see their web, I marvel at the design and wonder at the accomplishment. How did this spider get a single strong strand of fiber to stretch from the peak of my roof to one corner of his front porch pearch. Another strand stretches all the way to a single leaf of a green bean plant, growing in my front yard. As I picked the green beans a few days ago, I touched it, and was amazed at the strength I could feel in that tiny taught strand.
So, when I walked out the front door on my way to work this morning, I said hello to the spiders, and with a little fear and trepidation, quickly ducked around their webs and headed for the car. As I drove away, I contemplated the odd combination of fear, adoration, and wonder that these spiders inspired. It occured to me that it could be a small example of what it means to fear the Lord, which the Bible says, is the beginning of wisdom. And if the “fear of the Lord” is where wisdom starts, maybe respecting a spider is not a bad way to get started.
My computer keeps showing me pictures. Every time I wake it up from sleep, it shows me a beautiful picture and even asks if I like it, and would like to see more like it. I always say yes to the nature ones, so it keeps showing me lots of nature pictures. Beautiful icy landscapes. Tall cliffs blocking the advance of tumultuous ocean waves. A crystal stream rambling its way through a green tropical forest. You get the idea. You probably have similar pictures popping up on the screensaver of your computer, or your TV, or Roku, or smart speaker…. these days, they are everywhere.
There is a downside about seeing these pictures of beautiful places. For me at least, it plants a little seed of discontent. I look at the beautiful place in the picture, then I think about where I am, and I wish I could be there instead of here. I’m sitting in an office building behind a desk while some lucky photographer got to be sitting on a rock, behind a camera, taking a picture of a waterfall. I want to be near the Amazon waterfall, not the office water fountain.
The truth is, most of my life I’ve dreamed of being somewhere I’m not. What would it be like to live in Alaska? How about living on a boat near the ocean? Maybe I could move to the mountains. These are mostly dreams that are only fantasies. They will never come true. Just like many of the pictures on my screensaver, they are places in life where I will never roam. It’s sad in a way. But it’s also not a complete story.
When you think about the guy sitting on the rock in the Amazon taking the perfect picture of the beautiful waterfall, do you also think about how hard that rock gets after a while? Or how many mosquitoes are gnawing on his skin? Or the 100 degree temperature and 99% humidity the guy has to endure perhaps for days just to get to and from the place where he can take the picture? Would you rather see the icy landscape? I wonder how cold it is there? How many long dark cold snowy nights would I have to endure to enjoy one day of sunshine on clean fresh snow and ice?
I know what it IS like where I am. I know what it can LOOK like some places where I think I want to be. But I also know that the way something looks and the way something is are almost never the same. I just have to keep reminding myself that. About a lot of things.
One thing I am learning through the trials: Enjoy the peaceful nows. Tomorrow, or yesterday, the previous hour or the next minute may have trouble. I might even see the possibility of real trouble in the future, but if there is no trouble right now, I’m learning to enjoy that. To enjoy the peaceful now. The moments when everything is ok, at least for now. Those are the “peaceful nows” I am finding scattered here and there among the trials and tribulations of life. And though I wish they were numerous and extended, perhaps the very fact that they are not has been a major part of teaching me to relish them more when they do happen. No matter how far between and fleeting they are, enjoy the peaceful nows.
I went for a walk this morning, just through our neighborhood. It was amazing. There were thousands and thousands of helicopters everywhere. It was like helicopters were growing on trees. Who could design that? A tree that manufactures helicopters?
I helped my son move to Knoxville this week. It was a bittersweet experience. I was glad for the opportunity to help, but sad to see him go. He and his family are now four hour away instead of 20 minutes.
After we finished unloading the U-Haul trailer, I was getting ready to come back home when he asked me if he could pay for the gas. I told him “No, but there is one thing you can do for me.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Promise me that if you ever need help, you will call me.”
“I promise.” he replied.
Fighting to maintain our macho guy image, we both got a little glassy eyed, gave a quick hug, then quickly turned and walked away. The emotions were strong because I am his father, and it gives me comfort to know that my precious son would not struggle alone when he needs help. My love for him stretches way beyond the four hour drive to Knoxville. I want him to know that if he needs me, I will be there for him. I might not always see or do things the way he wants, but I want him to always, always, always, know that if he needs anything, he should talk to me about it, because we love each other.
So, that brings me to this morning’s bible study. It was from Luke chapter 11. It’s the story where the disciples ask Jesus how they should pray and he gives them an example, and a story about always asking, seeking knocking. Those christians who would make me feel guilty for making my prayers mostly about asking God for things should read their Bible more closely. It’s exactly what Jesus told us to do. Our Heavenly Father wants us to ask him when we need help. Why? Because we love each other.
Yesterday was a nice day, especially for December. The temperature was above normal and the Sun was shining bright, so I stretched out my hammock in the back yard and enjoyed a rare December day, relaxing on the hearth of God’s bright, enormous fireplace. While listening to the birds singing joyful thanks to the Creator for such a beautiful day, I looked up at the trees that were holding my hammock. I realized that the same trees that provided shade from the Sun in the Summer were now clear of leaves so that the Sun could shine through and warm the Winter ground below. What a marvelous design. And believe it or not, while laying there in the hammock, I actually got to talk with the Designer.