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Saturday, May 14, 2016

From Carolyn...
Morning by Morning
5.14.2016
Hallmark Days

Mother’s Day was last Sunday and Father’s Day is on the horizon. It is a good thing to honor our parents. I miss my mother and have discovered I never regret one moment of care and love in which I gave myself to her. Not just in words but in deeds, especially as she grew older and her needs were greater. Others tell me that I cared for her well and that was certainly my intention. However, at times a tiny voice reminds me of moments I could have been more understanding or given more of myself. I know the truth that God in His higher purposes can and will bring good out of my mistakes and they are each paid for by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. And so I don’t dwell on these missteps but use them as data to give thanks to God for His mercy. I also use these memories to ask Him to make me aware of other folks in my life to love, and when and how. But again, I never regret the times I followed God’s love in obedience and demonstrated my love for Mother by my actions and words.


It’s also a joy to receive the care our sons give me or David. Listening, doing, being-with and sacrificing time for us. Care is an evidence of love when freely given and often speaks louder than words. Certainly however,  the words “I love you” when followed by caring actions are both a huge boon and a blessing, not to be taken lightly. Something big to thank God for.

As I think of these parental Hallmark Days, I think of John’s words that he had no greater joy than to see  his children walk in the truth ( 3rd John 1:4).  The truth John spoke of was Jesus, all He was, all He had given and how He asked that we walk in His sacrificial love for others. He desired we take on the Father’s trait of love as we give our lives to Him, fully and freely. And as we love His other children sacrificially. 
As good as it is to celebrate this familial love on special days, I also think of some whose hearts break for a variety of reasons on such days. First, some did not have a loving environment in which to grow. Even as one grieves this loss, these special days can be a time to remember and count on the fact that we are cradled in the steadfast love of a Perfect Parent who wastes nothing. Even our less-than-perfect relationships are fodder for His healing and for our usefulness. Even their less-than-perfect parenting. Even our less-than-perfect parenting!

Ruth Bell Graham addresses two other circumstances that cause heartache for some on Hallmark Days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Both of these poems have provided insight and strength for me at different times in my parenting. And these poems have been challenging.  Both can be found in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them by Ruth Bell Graham. I encourage you to take some moments to let the truths in Graham’s well-chosen words soak into your soul and do Gods work there.

They Felt Good Eyes Upon Them
They felt good eyes upon them 
and shrank within –undone; 
good  parents had good children 
and they – a wandering one. 
The good folk never meant 
to act smug or condemn, 
but having prodigals 
just “wasn’t  done” with them. 
Remind them gently, Lord, 
how You 
have trouble with  Your children, 
too.

*********

Whether thinking about a wandering child of one’s own or looking at others whose child is wandering, it is good to remember that while good parenting is called for and can influence a child toward God, there is another factor. Children have choices. All of God’s children have choices including all of mine and all of yours. 

Another sadness on these special days can be when storms and stresses abound in a child’s life. When we implore and agonize over their situations—the job, the relationship, the health issue, the......you fill in the blank. When we pray and pray. When we “know” what is best for that dear one. This next poem by Ruth Graham gives a wider perspective. Not that we stop praying but that we realize something else also. Someone else is on the move. And the story is not over yet.

Had I Been Joseph's Mother
 Had I been Joseph's mother
I'd have prayed protection from his brothers
"God, keep him safe.
He is so young, so different from the others.”
Mercifully,
she never knew there would be slavery and prison, too.
Had I been Moses’ mother
I'd have wept to keep my little son:
praying she might forget 
the babe drawn from the water of the Nile.
Had I not kept him for her nursing him the while?
Was he not mine,
and she 
but Pharaoh's daughter'
Had I been Daniel's mother
I should have pled 
"Give victory!
this Babylonian horde—
godless and cruel—
don't let them take him captive
better dead,
Almighty Lord!”
Had I been Mary,
Oh, had I been she,
I would have cried 
as never mother cried,
"...Anything, O God, 
anything...
but crucified.”
God, how fortunate
Infinite Wisdom
Should prevail!

**********

Whether in our role as a child or a parent may we remember the One Perfect Parent and thank Him for His self-giving love and His resurrection power in our lives and in the lives of those we care about. Then may we walk in rest and joy even on Hallmark Days that are tinged with sorrow.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the God who so loves each of us,                     
Carolyn

Monday, May 9, 2016

Courage!

"With God we shall do valiantly; for He it is who will tread down our foes."—Psalm 108:13

As a child I loved The Wizard of Oz and being a rather small and timid chap was drawn to the Cowardly Lion. In the end, as you know, the lion was given a medal for bravery. “Look what it says," he exclaimed, "'COURAGE!’ Ain’t it the truth, ain’t it the truth!”

Physical courage is one thing; moral courage is another. Sometimes the hardest battles are fought within. Emily Dickinson wrote, "To fight aloud is very brave, but gallanter, I know, who charge within the bosom, the cavalry of woe..." Fortitude is the name we give to this virtue. 

Fortitude is not simply one of the virtues, it's the virtue that gives strength to all the others. Chastity, honesty, patience, mercy are hard-earned virtues in a world like ours. It's fortitude that enables us to endure, to stand immovable in the midst of danger.

Fortitude is "a long obedience in the right direction"; it is doing the right thing over the long haul despite the consequences. Fortitude is sticking with a hard marriage; staying in a small place when prominence beckons; refusing to betray a moral principle just to get along or to get ahead. We can be brave and do the right thing for God is with us in the battle and “He it is who will tread down our foes.”  (108:13).

I think of a scene in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle: One of the children, Jill Pole asks, “What do you think is inside the stable?” “Who knows?” Tirian replied.  “Two Calormenes with drawn swords, as likely as not, one on each side of the door... There’s no knowing. But courage, child. We are all between the paws of the true Aslan."

Ain't it the truth! Ain’t it the truth!

David
5/9/16 

Monday, May 2, 2016

HOME


Most of my boyhood was spent in the cedar breaks in North Texas. The countryside is built up now, but back then it was mostly ranchland—rolling chalk hills redolent with cedar trees and junipers. The woods were a boy’s paradise with wonderful places to explore. At night, when I was in bed on our screened-in-porch, I’d listen to the coyotes howl and exult in the fact that I was home rather than out in the dark where the wild things were.

One of my favorite daytime pastimes was walking the creek. It was a special stream, an oasis in a dry land. The brook ran clear most of the year and supported lush stands of cottonwoods and willows. When I think about that creek today, I think of deep shade, long walks, solitude and friendly dogs. I have memories of leaving home early in the morning with my yellow hound, my single-shot .410, a bag lunch that my mother made, and walking to the springhead or downstream to where the creek emptied into the lake.

Those hikes were high adventure for me—at least I made them adventure. There were rocks to skip, birds to watch, dams to build, tracks to follow, squirrels to flush along the way. And then if I made it to the mouth of the creek, my dog and I would sit and share our lunch while we watched the biplanes land across the lake.

We’d linger as long as we could, but only so long, for my father wanted me home before the sun went down. The shadows grew long and the hollows got dark fast in the cedar breaks. I’d be wishing along the way that I was home. Though weary, I’d trudge on. It was the hope of going home that kept me going.

Our house sat on a hill behind some trees, but I could always see the light on the porch as I made my way through the woods in the gathering dusk. The light was always on until all the family was in. Often my father would be sitting on the back porch, reading the newspaper, waiting for me. “How did it go?” he’d ask. “Pretty good,” I’d say. “But it sure is good to be home.”

It’s been a long time since I walked that creek, but the memories live on and fill me with what Mole called “divine discontent and longing.” They make me think of another long and arduous journey—the one I’m making now. But I know that at the end of the trail there’s a caring Father and my eternal home. I'm a little weary these days, but it's the thought of going home that keeps me going. 

As I look back on my life I must say that it has had its ups and downs. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, I’ve gone on “sometimes comfortably, sometimes sighingly,” but taken as a whole t's been a pretty good trip. One of these days, though, it’ll start to get dark and I’ll head for home. I’m expected there. The light is on and my Father is waiting for me. How did it go? He’ll ask, “Pretty good,” I’ll say. “But it sure is good to be home.”

David Roper

Monday, April 18, 2016

SAUNTERING

"I am old and move slowly"

-Socrates

When I was a much younger man I used to run several miles a day. When my knees gave out I began to walk, first aerobically and then slowly. Now I saunter.

Henry David Thoreau, in an essay on walking, explains the origins of the word "saunter." He says the term comes from the Middle Ages, when wandering pilgrims would beg for alms to finance their journey to "la Sainte Terre," the Holy Land. Such people became known as "saint-terrers," or "saunterers."

I can't vouch for the etymology of the word, and I understand Thoreau's theory is in doubt these days, but I like his explanation better than any I've heard, for I myself am a saunterer, a wandering pilgrim, begging for grace, making my way toward the City of God. 

Let's hear it for sauntering! My dictionary defines the word as, "to wander or walk about idly and in a leisurely or lazy manner; to lounge; to stroll; to loiter." That's me: God's loiterer, in no particular hurry, taking time to see the world around me and sample it along the way.

Very few people saunter these days. Most folks are in a hurry—speed-walking, or racing around on mountain bikes, rollerblades and skate boards. I wonder where they're going, or if they know why. An old song by Alabama comes to mind:

I'm in a hurry to get things done 
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun 
All I really gotta do is live and die 
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why. 

The same can be said for those who follow Christ. So many seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere and do something, running off to this meeting or that, signing up for one course or another, frantically working out their own salvation, sanctification and service for God as though everything depends on them. I wish they knew how to saunter. 

Sauntering is an art. It grows out of our conviction that "all things are from God” (2 Corinthians 5:18). It’s rest and peace to know that every aspect of our pilgrimage is in His hands. He has freed us from past sin and guilt and is freeing us now from its power. Our destiny is not riding on anything we do, or have done, or have failed to do. It rests on the work of One who is faithful to the end.

Trappist monk Thomas Merton suggests that we, ”Go for walks, live in peace, let change come quietly and invisibly on the inside.”  

I find Merton's words reassuring. We can trust God to bring completion to the process he has begun. Whatever change takes place in us will come quietly, slowly, occurring in some secret, hidden part of us and often imperceptible except in retrospect. It may be years later that we see what God has been doing all along.

In the meantime, while we saunter toward heaven and home, we can begin to pay attention to those around us. We can take every occasion to listen, to love and to pray, knowing that we don't have to rush about and make things happen; God himself is preparing good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). 

Thoreau often wrote with luminous insight. Thus he concludes his essay on sauntering: "So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn." 

Thoreau was wiser than he knew: Someday soon "the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). Then the Son "shall shine more brightly than ever He has done, shall shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn..."

And then we shall settle into a perfect pace.


David Roper

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Think of It No More


In C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, Aslan, the figure of Christ, appears to the children: "’I have come,’ said a deep voice behind them. And in less time than it takes to breathe Jill… remembered how she had made Eustace fall over the cliff, and how she had helped to muff nearly all the signs, and about all the snappings and quarrellings. And she wanted to say “I’m sorry” but she could not speak. Then the Lion drew them toward him with his eyes, and bent down and touched their pale faces with his tongue, and said: “Think of it no more."[1]

Early in my Christian life I was led to believe that shortly after entering Heaven all my “snapping’s and quarrellings,” would be portrayed on a giant screen for all the world to see. Now I know that God does not remember even one of my transgressions. “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:1). Every sin has been buried in the deepest sea, never to be exhumed and examined again. God has said, “Think of it no more!”

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A day or two ago I was thinking rather sadly of the past—so many sins and failures and lapses of every kind. I was reading Isaiah 43, and in verse 24 I saw myself: ‘Thou hast wearied me with your many iniquities.’ And then for the first time I noticed that there is no space between v. 24 and v. 25, ‘I, even I, am He that has blotted out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.’”

Indeed, when our Lord comes back he will "bring to light the things hidden in darkness and he will disclose the purposes of the heart.” But then “each one will receive his commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). On that day, he will see only what he has done in and through us. All else will be forgotten. 

So, as for my sin… I will “think of it no more!”

David Roper
4/9/16

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, New York: Macmillan, 1953, p. 202.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On My Eighty-third Birthday

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come (Psalm 71:17,18).

I vaguely recall George Carlin's routine about aging—how we "make it" to 60 years and then we "hit" 70. I think he ran out of verbs at age 80, but today I can say that I have been "given" 83 years. I’m here solely by the grace of God.

God has indeed taught me from my youth. I was raised in a home where Jesus was honored and I cannot think of a day when I did not love him. I can say with John that I know and believe the love he has for me.

I live today in a spirit of thanksgiving to God for the years he has given me. “Most people my age are dead these days,” as Yogi Berra famously said. There must be a reason for me to hang around, for God has a good reason for everything that he does. 

One thing I know: I can continue to grow. There are parts of me that are unconverted, vast areas to be conformed to the likeness of God's Son. I want to continue to hear his word every day and ask for his help while he finishes the work he has begun. 

I look to many of my aging friends for encouragement. Their strength in weakness, their endurance in illness and  pain, their love despite sorrow and weariness, their faith and hope in the face of death—encourage me to become like them when I’m grown. 

And I know God has other things for me to do. Certainly to love and to pray, for these have long been the works of the aged. And much can be said for just "being" and resting in the love of God. Perhaps in these and other ways I can "proclaim God's might to the next generation; his power to all that are to come." 

In the meantime, God has promised that he will never forsake me. He has been my shepherd for 83 years now, holding me with his strong hand, guiding me with his wise counsel, and one day soon he’ll “receive me into glory” (Cf., Psalm 72:23,24). 

"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow." Who could ask for anything more?

Growing old but not retiring,
For the battle still is on;
Going on without relenting
Till the final victory’s won.  —Anon.

David Roper
3/30/2016


Monday, March 14, 2016

Check Your Knots

"Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall"(1 Corinthians 10:12).

I have a friend who roams the Pacific Northwest looking for lunker trout. I got this note from him a few months ago:

I just returned from a few days at Henry's Fork, at Harriman’s State Park. The challenge of hooking a fish there is great. You scan the water looking for feeding fish. If there is one and you decide to go for it, you carefully wade out and position yourself up stream to make a dead drift down to the feeding fish. Presentation is everything at Henry's Fork.  All the changing, shifting currents, and boiling water makes it quite difficult to get the fly over the fish where it is feeding. Observing the fish’s feeding pattern and what it is taking is a skill in itself. Several insects may be on the waters surface at the same time. Selecting the right fly for the moment is key. One may only have a short window of time to select the right fly before the fish stops feeding. Time is of the essence. If you select the wrong one and present it well you still might put the fish down. If you are fortunate to present the right fly, at the right place, at the right time and the fish takes it, I have often pulled it out the fish’s mouth in the moment of excitement or set the hook too hard and broke him off.  Relax, Relax on the hook setting. Controlled set, wait just long enough for the fish to take it, set the hook but not too hard, especially with a larger fish. If all goes well it's fish on and playing and landing him is a story itself.

I know all the above is not new for you. You have been there a thousand times. It never seems to get dull or tiresome hunting for that "big" lunker. I had one really nice fish take my fly. The hook was set and within an instant he was off. When I checked my leader, I discovered a faulty leader knot. I felt like a school boy. Back to the basics. Check your knots for stress.

Indeed, I thought. What areas of my life are easily broken? What are the situations that bring me to the breaking point? Where am I most apt to fall?

“Temptations are sure to come,” Jesus said. It is better to know my weakness than to stumble on it in mock–strength only to fall into greater folly.

Better check my knots for stress.

David Roper  

3/7/16