Thursday, November 13, 2014

Glass Beach
On the day that I make them My jewels. Malachi 3:17
Early twentieth century residents of Fort Bragg, California disposed of their trash by throwing it onto a nearby beach. Cans, bottles, tableware and household garbage accumulated in piles over thirty feet high. Even when residents stopped depositing trash on the beach, it remained an embarrassmenta disgusting, malodorous dump beyond human reclamation.
Over the years, however, wave action broke up the glass and pottery, and washed the rubbish out to sea. The pounding surf rolled and tumbled the glass particles in the sand, frosting and smoothing the surface and creating gem-like sea glass, which it then deposited on the beach, creating a kaleidoscopic beauty at which visitors now stare in amazement.
Perhaps your life has become a dump, a foul, disgusting mess beyond human reclamation. There is one who loves you; who waits to redeem your ruined and ruinous life. Just give Jesus your hearts affection and ask him to make you pure and clean. Believe in the slow work of God (Teilhard Chardin). He may tumble you a bit; it takes time to smooth away the rough edges. But He will never give up until he makes you one of His jewels.

When He cometh, when He cometh
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,
His brightness adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.
William Cushing

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reaching Out in the Darkness
How hard to think, through cold and dark and dearth,
That thou art nearer now than when eye-seen on earth.
—George MacDonald. “A Diary of an Old Soul.”

Our old Westie sleeps curled up at the foot of our bed. That’s been her place for 13 years or so.
Normally she doesn’t move or make a sound, but lately she’s been pawing us gently in the middle of the night. At first we thought she wanted to go outside, and tried to accommodate her, but that’s not what she wants. She just wants to know that we’re there.
She’s in her nineties now (in dog years), nearly deaf and partially blind. She can’t see well in the darkness and can’t hear us move or breath and feels insecure. So when she touches me now I just reach down and pat her on the head and assure her that I’m there. That’s all she wants to know. She takes a turn or two, settles down and goes back to sleep.
Confused in the darkness? Grieving, fearful, guilty, doubting, discouraged? Not sure of God? Reach out for him. Though you may be in darkness the darkness is not dark to him.[1] He could make the darkness light if he chose to and step out of it into plain sight. That would be no trouble to him because, though unseen, he is nigh. He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”[2] It must be true. Put your hand into his outstretched hand. He is there.
David Roper

[1] Psalm 139:12
[2] Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Daily Grind

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” —Colossians 3:22

The high school I attended required four years of Latin instruction. I appreciate the value of that discipline now, but back then it was a grind.

Our teacher was old school: She believed in drill and repetition. Repetition, repetition, repetition! “Repetitio est mater studiorum,” she intoned over us several times a day. “Repetitio ad absurdum,” we muttered under our breath.[1]

I realize now that that most of life is simply that: repetition—a round of ordinary, dull, uninspiring, lackluster things that must be done again and again every day. “Repetition is reality...our daily bread,” Kierkegaard said. But, as he went on to say, “It is the bread that satisfies with benediction.”

It’s a matter of taking up each duty, no matter how mundane, humble, trivial, or onerous and asking God to bless it and put it to his intended purposes. In that way we take the drudgeries of life and turn them into holy work, freighted with unseen, eternal consequence.

Gerard Manley Hopkins said that, “a man with a dung–fork in his hand and a woman with a slop–pail” are doing the work of God if they “mean it that way."

Knowing my heart, I’ll have to “mean it” several times a day.  

Teach me, my God and King, 
In all things Thee to see;
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee!
—George Herbert    


[1] She did, however, enliven some days by leaping up on to her desk and reciting passages from Caesar’s Gallic Wars!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Sounds of Silence

“Now what ought we to learn before everything else, but to be silent, that we may be able to speak.” —Ambrose

I often think of some lines from an old Simon and Garfunkel ballad: “In the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking; people hearing without listening...”

Some folks do talk without speaking, having little or nothing to say and taking forever to say it. As a fishing buddy of mine once observed, “Shallow streams make the most noise,” a delightful turn on the old adage, “Still water runs deep.”

But it seems to me that even more folks hear without listening. Oh, they hear the words, but they fail to silence their own thoughts and really listen.
I think it would be good if we all learned to be silent and still.

Not all silence is good silence, however: There is a smug, self-satisfied silence, the silence of detachment; and there is the silence of timidity and self-consciousness.

Good silence on the other hand is a listening silence, a humble silence. It leads to right hearing, right understanding, right speaking. “A man’s soul is like a deep well,” the proverb says (Proverbs 20:5). It takes a lot of hard listening to get all the way to the bottom.

And while we listen to others, we should also be listening to God and hearing what He wants us to say.

I think of Jesus, scribbling with his finger in the dust while the Pharisees railed on the woman caught in adultery. Was he writing the Ten Commandments as some have suggested? No, I think he was just doodling in the dirt, biding his time, listening for his Father’s voice and asking, “What shall I say to this crowd and this dear woman?” 

His response is still being heard around the world.

David Roper 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Icarus Revised

In Breughel's everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

—W.H. Auden

Auden is referring to a painting by Dutch painter, Pieter Brueghel, based on Ovid’s Myth of Icarus, the story of a boy who flew too close to the sun. It hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels.

If you look closely, in the lower right hand corner of the painting you can see Icarus with melted wings falling into the sea. Ovid's point was the danger of hubris; Brueghel had another idea.

In Brueghal’s version of the myth, Icarus falls and no one cares. Sailors on their ships, farmers and others are unconcerned, going about their own business, unaware of the calamity unfolding in front of their eyes. All are apathetic in the face of appalling tragedy and heartbreak.

Few of us are aware of the sadness all around us; we go our way inattentive and unmoved, too busy with our own business to respond to human need. Something amazing has happened: "a boy falling out of the sky"—right in front of our eyes—but we have "somewhere to get to and sail calmly by."

You don’t have to go far to uncover tragedy and heartache: a young widow, stricken with loneliness; an anxious parent concerned for a critically ill child; a frightened man awaiting heart surgery; a care-worn checker in a grocery store working at a second or third job to make ends meet; a young boy who's never had enough father; a single mother whose worries have washed her hope away; an old man who inhabits his bleak world alone; a needy soul behind our own front door—all right in front of us. Perhaps we don't have much to give, but we can see beyond what others see to the possibility of mercy, compassion and understanding.

I wonder how many times I've glanced at a grocery clerk, a bank teller, a waitress and failed to see the marks of woe, the drab, cheerless affect, the weary face, the downcast eyes, the mumbled response to my frivolous query, "How are you?" I hear the splash but miss the forsaken sigh, the deep sorrow in their response.  I turn away from the disaster. I feel no tug on my heart; I have somewhere to get to and sail calmly by.

John Newton said on one occasion, "If, as I go home, a child has dropped a halfpenny, and if, by giving another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel I have done something. I should be glad to do greater things, but I will not neglect this." Nor should I.

"Oh, how blessed are those who care," Israel's poet mused (Psalm 41:1). How rare and how happy they are.

David Roper

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Rugged Road

“He leads me in paths of righteousness...” —Psalm 23:3

Some years ago, a fishing buddy of mine told me about Louie Lake, an alpine lake located high on the north flank of Jug Handle Mountain here in Idaho. Rumor had it that large cutthroat trout lurked up there. He got a pencil and scrap of napkin and drew a map for me. Several weeks later I gassed up my truck and set out to follow his directions.

His map put me on one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven! It was an old logging road that had been bulldozed through the forest and never re-graded. Washouts, fallen timber, runnels, deep ruts and large rocks battered my spine and bent the undercarriage of my truck. It took half a morning to reach my destination and when I finally arrived I asked myself, “Why would a friend send me up a road like that?”

But the lake was magnificent and the fish were indeed large and scrappy! My friend had put me on the right road, one I would have chosen myself and patiently endured had I known what I knew at the end.

Here’s a faithful saying: God leads us in the right path (Psalm 23:3). Some paths are rough and rugged; others tedious and tiresome. Yet when we come to the end of our journey and know what we then will know, we will say, “God’s path was best for me.” 

He chose this path for thee;
Though well he knew sharp thorns would pierce thy feet,
Knew how the brambles would obstruct the way,
Knew all the hidden dangers thou wouldst meet,
Knew how thy faith would falter day by day;
And still the whisper echoed, ‘Yes, I see
This path is best for thee.’

He chose this path for thee;
What needst thou more? This sweeter truth to know,
That all along these strange, bewildering ways,
O’er rocky steeps and where dark rivers flow,
His loving arms will bear thee all the days.
A few steps more, and thou thyself shalt see
This path is best for thee.

David Roper

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wee Bairns

The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

In my college years I worked as a trail guide in Colorado, leading boys on weeklong treks into Rocky Mountain National Park. On one occasion one of my hikers—a small, frail chap— lagged behind and took the wrong fork on the trail. When we arrived at our campsite he was nowhere to be found. Greatly alarmed, I backtracked to find him.

Just before dark I came upon him sitting on a rock by a small lake, hugging his knees, and sobbing. In my joy and relief, I gathered him up in a giant bear hug, hoisted him on my shoulders and carried him down the trail to our campsite. 

George McDonald, describes a young woman finding a “wee bairn” lost in the woods.  She gathered him up in her arms and carried the tiny infant home to her father, at which point she gained an insight that “was never afterward to leave her: now she understood the heart of the Son of Man, come to find and carry back the stray children to their Father and his.” When afterward she told her father how she felt he answered her “in just four words and no more: ‘Lassie, ye hae it!’“

So, I want you know that Jesus has been looking for you all your life. He came to find you, no matter how far you may have strayed and how lost you may be and to carry you home to your Father. God has “Love to seek and Power to save...” (John Greenleaf Whittier). You may not know much about God, but if you know that much, “Ye hae it!”