Secular Saturdays – “Life” (Elvis Presley)
Somewhere out in empty space,
long before the human race,
A vast and timeless source began,
Intelligence was born and then,
there was the world,
Powers filled the universe,
matter formed and broke the curse,
Love became an ageless soul,
nature reached her highest goal,
And breathed the breath of life,
Well creatures come from out of sight,
Daylight came from in the night,
and all was good,
Life became a masterplan,
Love produced the perfect man,
The image of the makers word,
worshipped him with all he had,
But then one day,
From in the depths an evil seed,
grew and manufactured greed,
That changed the way of life,
Oh the loving power looked and saw,
Inside the heart of man a flaw,
began to grow,
Well, the fires of hell began to burn,
and so he sent his chosen son,
To let us know,
That love had surely made us all,
and hate would surely make us fall,
So from the cross,
Well he showed the world that dreadful day,
That love could be the only way,
or all is lost of life,
For life is love,
And love is life.
I was in a rather reflective mood last night and wrote some poetry titled Finding Peace
The waves of life washing over my feet, hypnotically I stare ahead, not really noticing my feet sinking into the sands of time. It takes all my energy just to stand, against the forces against me…
and the Sea of Life.
Masses of people going to and fro, like waves on the shore. Coming and going with the tide of
societies expectation. Crashing and eroding ones sanity with the ethic of greed and consumption. The weight of the grains of more, add to the dunes of the never stable hills, on which one slides and digs into as they climb with hope of success….
What are your thoughts about peace and life?
It is noon, when I am posting this. The viewing as started, with the Funeral soon to follow.
Terry was a wonderful young man, friendly, funny, and quick. I was fortunate enough to have spent some time with him in his short life. I was able to teach him in Sunday School for a while – now I regret having given that position up. I would read a passage, and ask them to think and we would discuss. He was sharp, quick. He was just fun to be around.
I cannot image what the family is feeling – a mother without a child, a sister without a brother, grandparents loosing their first grandchild, the Church loosing a light in this world. He was for a long time, our only youth around his age. He would sit with us before Church, without children. They would play, and laugh. We ned more children laughing in this world.
As I write this, I am dreading going to the funeral. I try not to think about, about the mortality of my own children. We are rather selfish during this time, thinking of our own mortality more often than we should. I find myself being a lot easier on my youngins – if they are loud, that’s fine. They are in my ‘way’, that’s fine, I would rather have to strain to listen to anything else than to never hear the sound of my children again.
Today, I am going to keep in prayer the pastor who has to preside over this funeral, in the very church building where last week, the young man was singing. Even over the sobs, it will be too quit in that sanctuary. I will pray for the mothers who will hold their children all the more closer. And I will pray for the children.
The Apostle Paul wrote that neither death, nor even life, could remove us from the love of God; John Chrysostom would later write that this same love of God unites us even with those who have been removed from our sight. We will grieve, but I am assured that for those of use who abide in the love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, we will one day be reunited with Terry, and not tear will ever dampen the eye.
Pray for me.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (The Apostle Paul to the Romans)
For such is the power of love, it embraces, and unites, and fastens together not only those who are present, and near, and visible but also those who are far distant; and neither length of time, nor separation in space, nor anything else of that kind can break up and sunder in pieces the affection of the soul. (Chrysostom)
My wife has a blog, and has issued her own thoughts.
A Quote for Saturday
“ Life without love is death. To love is to be in the light; to hate is to remain in the dark. We need no further proof of that than to look at the face of a man who is in love and the face of a man who is full of hate; it will show the glory or the blackness in his heart. ” – William Barclay, “The Letters of John and Jude”
Life as a Parable – Snow Day
Yesterday morning, about 4:30 a co-worker and myself starting from Charleston, WV to Bangor, Michigan. Granted, if you had been watching the weather, you would notice that West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio was suffering under a great winter storm full of ice and snow and all kinds of hazardous road conditions.
When we left Charleston, it was raining, but the 6 inches of snow was on the ground, but covered by a thin layer of ice. We headed up interstate 77 in the dark. My co-worker, Sounding, was driving. Sounding drove about 62 miles and hour, and as he talked, it slowed to about 54. This was not all bad because the further north that we drive the worse the road became. We left the rain and entered into freezing rain. The temperature was about 34, so not too bad. We made our first rest area north of Ripley. As soon as we stopped we heard a tree, near, snap under the weight of the ice and snow of the last few days. Have you ever heard a tree snap under the weight of water?
It was still dark and it above freezing. It was not long before I closed my eyes for sleep. When I awoke, it was dawning, and our eyes were opened. We stopped at the rest area in Byesville, Ohio. The parking lot was a giant sheet of ice. The snow on the ground was covered by an half inch layer of ice. The two lane highway had shrunk to a very narrow lane. The semi-trucks where parking on the side of the road. The temperature was now 32 and the freezing rain was now ice. Travel was limited to 30 miles an hour and the weather reports coming from Columbus was dismal.
Our prayer that morning had been for either God to give us safe passage or the good sense to turn around. We turned around. You might say that we came to ourselves, and realizing the muck, the sludge, the hazards that waited for us, we decided to go home to safety.
So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! (Luke 15:15-17 RSVA)
The Prevenient Grace of my Life
Prevenient grace is divine grace which precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin, prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer.
Looking back upon my relatively short life of 30 years, I can point to a time when even as a sinner, the grace of God was my support. It has led me to a strong belief in prevenient grace, or in the language of the modern vulgar, the preceding grace. Yes, this preceding grace allows for God to call the sinner, but it is more than that, it a grace that lifts a sinner to the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, often times giving the sinner support and surrounding him in preparation of the love of Jesus Christ.
It is this type of grace that uplifted me in during the latter half of 1995. I was 17 then, living in Mississippi with my grandfather – my mother unable to take care of even herself due to alcoholism. On June 23rd of that year, at approximately 2 in the afternoon, I found my grandfather dead, and he had been some time since he had been missing since before dawn. I cannot express to you the love and appreciation that I have for my grandfather that I have to even this day. He was a solid force in my life and even today I think about my short time with him.
I was sitting in Church on Saturday night just a few Months later on September 16th listening to a minister. For the life of me, I cannot remember the sermon, but I do remember thinking to myself that if my mother would but her that message, she would give up her sinful life, which by this time was consumed by alcohol and drugs, and really make a start for God. You see, it was just a few days before that I had told my mother that due to her constant let downs, her constant lies, and her life, I wished nothing else to do with her – going so far as tell her in my triumphant and condescending 17 year old voice that the next time she saw me would be at her funeral and she would lucky if I showed up. That Saturday afternoon, again about 2pm, she crossed the yellow line, killing not just herself, but another person as well. See, I didn’t know this as I sat there listening to that sermon about the need for God and praying that I would have a chance to tell my mother about it, praying that she would listen this time. It was not until about 9pm that I was told by my then pastor’s wife who had helped to raise me almost from my birth.
Then, in December of that year, my then-pastor’s wife was overtaken and destroyed in her battle with cancer. That pastor did not believe in doctors, so for the months, possibly years, that she was being eaten up inside, everyone simply thought that she would get better. By the time that someone finally took her to the hospital, it was too late. She passed quietly from this world in the middle of December. She had always been there for me, and had through her pain comforted me through the death of my grandfather and my mother. A few years before she could see that I was sick and invited me to stay at their house for the night. The next morning, I awoke to a feverish day. Unbeknown to anyone but me, and now you, she took me to town to get me some Tylenol, facing the wrath of her husband, because she felt that common sense easily went along with faith.
It was the previous year that I was fortunate enough to spend some time with my grandfather’s sister, my Aunt. We talked for a long time, and as we shared a few things she shared with me the single most important Psalm to her. It had helped her through life’s troubles many times.
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
As I set there and read that, I thought that it was a decent Psalm, really paying no attention to it until the time that I needed it. With each death, and with each reading, that Psalm provided me with strength and knowledge that no matter how bad it was, God was still there. There were times that it seemed that I had made my bed in hell while other times I prayed that I would wake up from the horrible nightmare that had suddenly become my life. No, it was not like my life was all that easy before, but this year, well, this year had shaken me, and often times, even now, I still wonder how I made it through.
There were times after the deaths that life got pretty difficult, and often times I wish that God would have taken the other parent. Often times, during that time, I would wish that God would simply have taken me. But, He took me by the hand and led me to a place of rest. I was serving Him, but I know some of the Truth, some bit about God. I was still a sinner and need of His Grace, but so many times through that horrible years and subsequent years, there was a preceding Grace calling me unto Him, leading me and protecting me.
I still was able to get into plenty of trouble, plenty of heartaches, and plenty of sorrow, but I can stand here today and turning around, see God’s grace calling me to Him.
I realize that this is not a normal post on this blog, but it is still my blog and I am still finding it’s voice. Grace is what Jesus Christ brought first of all – not doctrine. His first call was for repentance, not for theological discussion. He sought to bring the very words of Life to the sinners, not to debate bible version. He called the false prophets out, but in doing so, He protected the sheep from their venom. He taught grace and truth and brought to people God. This man Christ Jesus was rewarded for His efforts with the cross, the needed sacrifice that would truly bring us grace, but before that He had spent at least 3 years imparting to the Apostles a preceding grace and lifted them out of Judaism and the dead vine until they were ready for the Day.
For so long in my life, I have subsisted on nothing but the grace of God and have subsisted because of the Grace of God. It is by His hand that I have beed led safe thus far and it is because of this grace, that I at the perfect time found the call to repentance only natural, and so very sweet. I have let my God down many times, and most likely will do so a few more times, but I know that He is always there, and He has never let me down.
I thank my God for His Grace, for His mercy, and for His patience as I travel along.
John Chrysostom on Emulation
lBe imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.” This is a rule of the most perfect Christianity, this is a landmark exactly laid down, this is the point that stands highest of all; viz. the seeking those things which are for the common profit: which also Paul himself declared, by adding, even as I also am of Christ. For nothing can so make a man an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbors. — St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 1 Corinthians 11
Emulation: The Proper Place for Adoration
A few weeks ago, we had a fete for our Pastor’s wife who recently turned **. During the moments of thanks, a speak spoke about emulation, of emulation not only the Pastor, but his wife as well, and their marriage, when in some small way was being celebrated there as well. I know that the speaker could not go into emulation on that day, and that is fine for him, but I have been mediating upon emulation for a bit now.
Some define emulation as a mimic, or as the ambition to follow after one, or to excel. Emulation is easily meant to follow so closely after one, or to seek to build upon the successes of another. Both definitions are adequate. And in turning to the Scriptures, we find a command to watch closely those that follow Christ, to imitate them.
Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example.
(Php 3:17 NET)
Paul commands us thrice to ‘be followers’ of him. Paul’s reasoning is sound each time. If he is a follower of Christ, then if we imitate him, then we too will be followers of Christ. This is not to say that we must copy Paul’s actions and thereby be saved, instead, we learn from his manner of life and in following that, we learn about the Christian life.
Our pastor and his wife have been married for over 40 years. Yes, there have been hard times, no doubt, and yes, they have seen good times. They did not marry within the Church, only later coming to be found by God, so they did not have the foundation of holiness and the examples of saintly marriages. Yet, upon coming to God, they began to adopt certain aspects of the writers of the New Testament and those living examples set so rightly before them. In their own pastor, no doubt, did they find someone worth emulating.
It is the same for anyone who really sits under a pastor. If that pastor is a follower of Christ, then that pastor will have a life that is worth emulating. I wrestled with Paul’s commandment in 1st Corinthians 11.1, which should conclude the previous chapter. I wrestled with a meaning that fits the words. In my understanding, I can hear Paul telling us through the Corinthians to be followers of Paul in every way that he is a follower of Christ. Would Paul have meant that we must all be tent-makers? That is a difficult assumption at best. However, could Paul not have rather intended for the Saint to live a life of missionary service, even in a stationary posting, such as Paul lived? Ready to die for Christ, counting all things lost for Christ?
Did he wish everyone to develop the temper of himself? Or would he have rather us devote ourselves to living in peace with all men. Surely, he would have had us to stand firm for the Church, but it is easily recognized that Paul was somewhat harsh in his dealings with those seeking schism.
When I think of our pastor, I simply do not see a perfect man, nor his wife as a perfect woman; instead, I see perfected saints. I see a marriage that was withstood great change in the outside world, inside the Church, and yet, through the years, there is no doubt held by anyone that they dearly and wonderfully love each other. Yet, the marriage is not a perfect fit for everyone; however, it is a perfect example for all. In our emulation of them, we strive for the marriage that they have, seeking, however, to apply their examples to our lives but increase upon it.
When I first met my pastor, he said that his desire for his ministers was for them to excel and to be successful. Is this not a fatherly sentiment as well? Do we fathers really want our children to sit in our shadow or do we wish for them to take the best part of us and build upon it? Of course we want our children to use us as stepping stones!
This to is the sentiment of the Christian. We stand on the shoulders that come before us. We see the greatness in the lives of those that surround us, and like a buffet of character, we take those things that are right within us, and use those things to build our own life. We take the examples of sturdy marriages from a generation ago and digest the fruits thereof and use that nutrition as a foundation to model (not copy completely) our own marriages on.
We emulate our pastor and his wife, not in every way, but in every way in which they follow Christ.