Thursday, June 18, 2009

A New Year Wish

-George Matheson

I sent a New-Year wish to a friend
Who stood at the gate of life's morning hours,
And I breathed it thus: 'From beginning to end
May your path be strewn with flowers!'
But, as I thought of the words I chose,
I paused to ponder if it were well
To leave no place for a thorn in the rose
Of the fate I would foretell.

I sat down to wish my wish once more,
And the words to a nobler song were lined:
May thy path be covered from shore to shore
With the flowers thou hast left behind;
Be it thine to pluck from thy way the thorn
And with bleeding hand plant the roses red,
That the sons of men in the days unborn
On a path of flowers may tread.

And such, my soul, is my wish for thee-
Thy Father's wish in the heaven above
That thy road in life may a pathway be
Bedecked with the flowers of love.
The flowers of love are not nature's flowers,
They are not born in the desert air;
They are brought from the heart's far distant bowers,
And must be transplanted there.

Thou shalt find the Canaanite in the land-
I shall not wish that it were not so;
It is good the seed should be sown by thy hand
Where the briers were wont to grow.
Of all good wishes it is the best-
Best use for life and best cure for pain-
That thy hands should toil for another's rest,
And plant for another's gain.

If I could re-write the biographies of those I love, would I ask that God pluck every thorn from the way and "their path be strewn with flowers"? No, though I wish it were not so, "it is good that seed should be sown by (the) hand where briars are wont to grow"; better than flowery beds of ease are the flowers that are left behind.

So I would pray, not for ease and comfort, but for God's strength to endure every pain, for the best seed is sown by the hand "where briers (are) want to grow." This is the "best use for life and the best cure for pain"-that our hands should toil for another's rest and plant love for another's gain.

These plantings are not "nature's flowers," but transplantings from above. They flourish in the heart's "far-distant bower," that place of shade and shelter where we meet with God and our hearts are nourished by his love. Then, through thorny ways he gives the strength to sow seeds of love and leave righteousness and peace behind. There, in our path, "a pine tree shall grow instead of a nettle and a myrtle instead of a thorn. It will be to the LORD's credit, an everlasting monument to his name that will never be effaced" (Isaiah 55:13).


Tuesday, June 9, 2009


“We're safe," said Ford, after his first ever teleport transfer (and discovering that he and Arthur had been transported onto the bridge of an enemy space ship). "Ah," said Arthur, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word 'safe' that I wasn't previously aware of."

--Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Spring of Gihon lies on the eastern flank of Mount Zion and, in Hezekiah's day, lay outside the walls of Jerusalem. Foreseeing a siege by the Assyrian army, and believing that the location of the spring was the city's weak point, Hezekiah drove a shaft from the spring through solid rock and directed the water inside the walls to the Pool of Siloam. He then closed off the "old pool" (the pool of the spring Gihon) and built a second wall to enclose it. Thus Hezekiah made Jerusalem safe.[1]

Isaiah observed: "You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to its Maker, nor did you have respect for Him who fashioned it long ago."[2] The irony of the project, according to the prophet, was that God, who fashioned the spring long ago, deliberately placed it outside the walls. Its location was divinely designed to make Jerusalem weak and vulnerable.[3] Weakness was God's will for the city.

As it turned out, Hezekiah's walls and water system were wasted time and effort. God delivered the city in a way that had nothing to do with their endeavor. You can read the story for yourself in 2 Chronicles 32.

Here again is the abiding principle that God creates weakness in us that we may become strong. Our physical, mental, social, and emotional limitations were fashioned long ago that we may know our Lord's abiding, boundless strength.

Therefore, we can never say of anything God asks us to do, "It is too hard for me," for our weakness, when acknowledged, brings us to prayer and into the presence of God's infinite power. Our weakest points become our strength, if we have regard for him who fashioned those weaknesses long ago.

Paul, who was fond of paradox, put it this way: "When I am weak then I am strong."[4] We're most safe when we're most vulnerable--a "strange usage of the word 'safe,'" I must say.


[1] Cf., 2 Chronicles 32:20
[2] Isaiah 22:11
[3] It was, in fact, the means by which David gained access to the old Jebusite citadel of Jerusalem when it was in the hands of the Canaanites (2 Samuel 5:6-10).
[4] 2 Corinthians 12:10

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Limping Home

Your rigging hangs loose:
The mast is not held secure,
Thus your sail is not spread.
But an abundance of spoils will be divided
That which limps will have carried off plunder.

-Isaiah 33.23

Isaiah sees an ancient storm-battered sailing ship, limping into port. Topside, her stays are broken, her mast is atilt; her "sail is not spread." A wrecked and ravaged vessel, yet her hold is laden with treasure.

The port of call is a city that heretofore has been too "far off" to see. There one's eyes gaze upon "a king"[1] who is beautiful beyond description. His city is "a place of broad rivers and streams," but no warships ply those waters; "no galleys sail them." There is no terror there, no suffering, no sickness, no sin. "No one living (there) will say, 'I am ill'; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven." There, at last, our journey will be over, our "tent stakes will never again be pulled up." We will have reached our final destination, "a quiet place," the home that will, at last, heal the homesickness that has marked our days.[2]

And so, though I limp toward that harbor, I must say that my ship is laden with treasure: the comfort of godly parents and a stable home, eternal salvation when but a child, a wise, loving, forgiving wife who lights up my eyes; our three sons and their families that bring me colossal joy; many years to love and serve others; God's forgiveness for all my failings; his grace to renew every effort; his loving kindness that has followed me all my days. Indeed, my hold is filled with the goodness of God.

An ancient bark, limping home, but laden with treasure!--an apt metaphor for this old hull.


[1] The noun, "king" has no article, but we know the king Isaiah had in mind.
[2] Cf., Isaiah 33:17-24. Cp., Revelation 21:1-22:5

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