Thursday, January 09, 2020

Obedience, No Matter What

Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.
That's an old refrain from another day and time. The truth remains true (funny how truth is like that) but I'm not sure our understanding of those words is as clear.

Obey - to comply with or follow commands, restrictions, wishes, or instructions

I get the feeling today that obedience in many if not most situations is subject to circumstance.

"But Mom, I couldn't do it because I got this text from a friend and had to..."
"I know the assignment was due today but last night I just wasn't feeling my best and..." 
"My work shift was scheduled to start ten minutes ago but there was snow on the windshield and..."

With genuine incredulity we stand amazed as the boss, teacher, or mom cites that instruction was disregarded, commands ignored, requirements disparaged. Lucky us if that is the case. At least we are in the company of those who have a correct assessment of the value of obedience.

More often, unfortunately, we may actually be coddled and excused from the failure to comply or follow through. Apparently disobedience is too strong of a word, too harsh an accusation to levy on an employee, student, or child.

Oh, how we fail to understand. And oh, how we fail to instruct.

There is right and wrong.
There is wisdom and foolishness.
There is obedience and disobedience.

It is clear. God is not a trickster who delights in keeping us clueless. His Word teaches us the difference between right and wrong and to recognize disobedience.

Open the Word and learn. Then teach your children. Practice discipline as the deserved consequence to be expected. Demonstrate mercy as the generous alternative that is not deserved. 

They will know the wrong of disobedience and the grateful heart of one who understands mercy.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Tree Side Sighs

We packed our luggage on New Year's Eve day and headed to Fredericksburg, VA. We just arrived home today from several days with Carina and her family. Up the long staircase I trudged with heavily laden arms, back to my world.

And our lighted Christmas tree greeted me. Window bays and tabletops still cheerily displayed familiar but out of time holiday decor. A bit of a time warp. Christmas was all put away and the New Year already welcomed in Fredericksburg but not here at 105 Main.

Bags were soon emptied. I intended to nap (it was a very early departure this morning.) But somehow I instead found myself obediently acknowledging the calendar. I began gathering decor for storage. Manger scenes, wreaths, snowmen and candles all were garnered on the dining room table for wrapping and boxing, evergreen boughs and holly stems tossed away. One trip, one handful at a time.

Until now. Now I sit next to the brightly lit tree, still soft and pliable and boasting treasured ornaments, glowing and filling the corner with colored light.

Sigh. Let me sit here. Let me enjoy this delight one more time. Have I even done this yet? Even once during December? I'm not sure that I did. Sigh.

Rick is resting. Merrick is at work. So I sit in the semi-silence of semi-darkness. Outside my windows, cars shuttle past on the way home from work as dusk falls.

But that is out there. Here, here by my tree I sit and sigh and stare.

You know what I'm learning?

Year by year I get a bit more reticent to let this season pass. There is never enough. It feels like I could use an eternity of days to just celebrate His goodness.

Sigh. What a good good, good good plan that is.

Monday, December 30, 2019

If At First You Succeed, Do It Again

I directed my first large scale adult community theater production. I think it was really terrific.

Just might do something like that again.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Let It Be

Packing the final boxes and bins at Mom and Dad's home. They've moved to a smaller apartment and downsizing is happening once again. And touching those precious items that stir memories and emotions is happening once again as well.

My mom had asked about her cedar chest, the wedding gift from her mom and dad years ago (how many? So many...) She knew there would be no room for it in their new home so I had already stored it away. I promised that it would stay in the family one way or another - at least in my lifetime.

"I just want to see those things one more time." So we dutifully brought some tangible memories to her for a final inspection.

Browned, fragile shopping bags from Sibley's (a once-upon-a-time premier department store in Rochester) housed her yellowed wedding dress and veil. She touched the fabric once more as I looked over her shoulder. "My mother made this for me by hand." I looked at the tiny stitches and marveled. My grandmother - the one who watched me as a preschooler, the one I watched as she fell to her knees in pain with her first heart attack, the one who wrapped her arm around me to comfort and assure me of my worth and her love, the one who always put a fresh molasses cookie in my right hand and another in my left hand as I asked, "One for my twin brother Darryl?" - that same grandmother had held this delicate fabric in her very own hands, carefully moving the needle in and out as she crafted a beautiful gown for her only daughter.

"Only it was white!" my mother remarked with such surprise.

"It is truly antique white now," I replied with a smile, genuinely appreciative and in awe of what time does. Always does.

That day a folding chair was brought into Daddy's "man cave" so he could sit as we sorted his seemingly endless stack of CDs. Daddy bravely faces time, knowing that these are somewhat obsolete in many ways, already becoming passé. He acknowledged that they would not be treasure to many.

I looked over his shoulder at his shelf filled with literally dozens of complete opera scores. Immediately my mind's eye recalled him sitting in his easy chair with a score on his lap, singing along as his state-of-the-art stereo filled the room with the music of Puccini, Verdi, Menotti. Rarely Mozart. He was never a real fan of Mozart's operas.

Today I folded that chair for storage and the room is empty. My eyes filled with tears. The season of this room belonging to him is past.

Time leaves its mark. I see it everyday on my face. I see it in my hair. My body feels the mark of it in joints that are aging.

My folks are now settled in a new, smaller place. They've managed to bring many treasures with them, for which I'm glad. And they left many behind for me to continue sorting.

I'm discovering faded 1950 Valentine's cards signed by my grandparents and sent to their daughter who was away at school, birthday cards inscribed with my Dad's familiar writing "Ken and the kids".

Photos of Daddy as a little boy in times and places long ago and far away.

Broken Christmas baubles and a somewhat crumpled Easter bonnet purchased at said Sibleys in 1962, with the original receipt in the box (note: $15 in 1962 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $124.72 in 2018.) That Easter bonnet was well recollected by me as a prize possession of Mom's for many years (for a Depression Era baby that was one huge investment!) Over the years I have found it repeatedly, carefully tucked away in its box, surviving every move...until now.

Time has had its way every where I look. Faded. Musty. Crumbling.

And as more time passes we add another word. Irrelevant. How many photos do I find at auctions, saved for decades in a box in the attic only to be viewed by me, a stranger wondering who this might have been and what they were named?

God has a better plan. Eternity. Never ending joy in His presence. Forever and ever.

And to that I say, Amen. Oh, let it be, let it be.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Days. And the End of those days.

There are specific verses in the scriptures that cause me to ponder and contemplate.

But there is a certain category of verses that stops me in my tracks without fail. Here is one example:
"So David rested with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David." 1 Kings 2.10
I have recently finished reading in 2 Samuel of all the mighty exploits of King David along with many trials and difficulties. Pages and pages. A long, full, accomplished life. It's taken me several days to read about all he did.

Similarly I read of Moses, or Joshua. Or Solomon, Paul.

And it is always the same.
"So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord." Deuteronomy 34.5
"Now it came to pass after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died... And they buried him within the border of his inheritance..." Joshua 24.29
Such verses never fail to give me pause. I stop short. I actually gasp - every time. It somehow catches me by surprise.

Not the fact of it. Rather the instant finality of it. All these pages telling of all their full-of-life deeds come crashing to a standstill with one word.

A man's entire life, his whole existence, his "being" STOPS. And no matter how it is prefaced, I find it to be abrupt; it is instant. It is a blink of an eye -- they are here and then...not.

That first verse quoted above gives an important perspective and piece of knowledge. David rested "with his fathers". This simple phrase clues us in: this has gone on for generations. This is not unique to David.

We all know that. At least I think we all know that. But how to grapple with such knowledge. What to do?

We can ignore it, push it aside, pretend it isn't so. And live in continuous "surprise".
We can fill our lives with "doing", grab for all the gusto we can, stack up the accomplishments.
We can savor each moment, commit it all to memory, build memorials and fill photo albums.
We can exercise, use anti-aging creams, try to stretch the moments and make them last.
We can spend our lives on religion, sacrifice for the good of others, gain accolades of sainthood.
We can imagine that this life alone is worth living for along with all of its pain and sorrow, sin and failure, suffering and brokenness.

No matter. In the end, it will be the same for each one of us. One moment here, the next...not.

However greatly you live your life; whatever degree of wealth, fame, success you amass; no matter how much you are loved when you are gone -- there is nothing to be done about the finality of life here in this world. It is an end appointed to all. There will be one simple summation: he died.

One man has overcome death. Only One man. And He is willing to share that victory over death with anyone who will ask and accept.

It seemed only right to tell you once again. He is the answer for the question: what to do?

Every time I stop short, gasp, and recall our days and the brevity of those days and the end of those days, I myself remember His great gift of eternal life. And I give thanks all over again.