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We don’t think of heaven enough; we are too earthly bound. We cannot imagine the glories there; we look through a glass dimly. What will be our focus, what our glory there? I was listening to several hymns on the YouTube channel A Cappella Hymns. The simple, unadorned polyphony of voices helps me to focus on the words and learn the melody and parts. Arriving at the last verse of the hymn, “The Sands of Time”, I thought, “Yes, that is what I will do there.” I won’t be glancing around at lesser glories and gifts, but upon my glorious Redeemer. Then, because of His grace through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and finished work of salvation, the phrase will be secured, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) The metaphor in the song is biblical and applied well:

“The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown he giveth,
but on his piercèd hand:
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.”

And it reminds me of a similar thought in the hymn, “Oh, That Will Be Glory”:

“When by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face
Will through the ages be glory for me.”

Mind you, infinite, all sufficient, sovereign, free grace is all that you or I need to enter heaven. The preacher I heard this morning pointed out that free grace is a tautology, a repetition of ideas, since grace, unmerited favor, could be no other than free, that is unearned. But then to say grace is sovereign, meaning that God has made the free, uninfluenced choice is yet another shade of the same thing. It seems man’s mind hunts for ways to contaminate the simple teaching of Scripture and we must add modifiers to limit and clarify terms to the exact meaning within Scripture. And so with infinite and all-sufficient, the same idea is emphasized in slightly different ways. Infinite speaks to my heart of the never ending nature of grace and all-sufficient pronounces all my sin and shortcomings fully covered by grace.

A mere place in heaven, “a cabin in the corner of gloryland” would be glory, but trivial compared to looking upon His face. And”That will be glory, be glory for me!”

The first answer that I received was, “You should pray without ceasing.” (from I Thessalonians 5:17) Yes, we should, but I am not there, though under the Holy Spirit’s tutelage, I do pray far more now than in years past. But really, under what circumstances do you pray? Frequently, we pray when we are hurting, confused, afraid, sad, or lonely. Do you pray when you are angry, happy, dull of mind and spirit, or thankful?

Listen to Jeremiah’s prayer: “O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.
For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name, ”Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it. For I have heard the whispering of many, “Terror on every side! Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!” All my trusted friends,
watching for my fall, say: “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, with an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. Yet, O Lord of hosts, You who test the righteous, who see the mind and the heart; let me see Your vengeance on them; for to You I have set forth my cause. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hand of evildoers.” (Jeremiah 20:7-13)

Jeremiah is clearly upset, dare I say angry, with God. He doesn’t say God has lied, but he does say He has deceived him. He is angry about the mocking, threats, subterfuge, and potential harm coming his way because he is obeying God. And unlike me on occasions, Jeremiah is not mistaken in his following of God. God clearly told him what to say and do. And he can’t even hold in the words given to him by God because they are “like a fire” (v.9) within. So, Jeremiah pours out his complaint before God. But this is not like the complaining of Israel in the wilderness, because that whining involved unbelief (Hebrew 3:7-19).

And that is the turning point of this prayer- belief- when Jeremiah says, “But the Lord…” (v.11). The simile he uses feels deep and substantial, like the tune (1) most used for “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” God is “like a dread champion.” Despite our present society’s aversion to war (2), our God is a Warrior, and of the most fear inducing kind for His enemies. Jeremiah knows His Champion defends him, as He is “with me” (v.11), and they will fail at their scheming and threats. Even with this knowledge, in his pain, Jeremiah longs to personally, presently see their judgment, not merely in the afterlife. As he struggles his faith comes to the fore and he praises God for his deliverance. He transitions from accusation to appreciation and anger to approval. Prayer accomplishes much in the heart of the one praying.

This is not the end of his struggle in the prayer, however. I did not quote the whole of the prayer above. In verses 14-18 he curses the day that he was born in a very similar but abbreviated way as Job did in the midst of his suffering (Job 3). Jeremiah ends his curse with, “Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow, so that my days have been spent in shame?” (v.18). Shame is Jeremiah’s focus. I wonder if shame is more taxing and bothersome to us than suffering?

Oh, what is all of this complaining about? Does it show fragility of faith, or is it warranted and acceptable to God? God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15) And “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1) “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7) (3) God wants us to call on Him in our joys and distresses. The other day, while trying to finish a deck before I was to leave town for five weeks, I did not see how it would all get done. I called out in my distress, “God, why does it always have to be so hard?” I didn’t get an answer to the question just then (4), but I did get an answer to my real need. It was a very long day, but my wife observed as we dropped into bed that night, “It is amazing how much you got done today.” It wasn’t just my hard work, though that was involved, but things went smoothly that frequently will not. God is good and He patiently hears our cries.

Indeed, Jeremiah’s prayer reminds me of many of the Psalms in which David bemoans his plight and despairs the outcome, but comes around to seeing what God has, is, or will do. Or consider Psalm 73 where the psalmist bemoans the wicked: “Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease…” (v.12) But then he says, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; thenI perceived their end.” (v.16-17) Mysteriously, God uses our prayers to forward His purposes. God is all knowing, but somehow prayer can bring about change. Moses experienced it multiple times (e.g. Exodus 32:7-14, Numbers 11:2).

When you don’t feel like praying, pray more. Boldly pour out your complaint and confusion before Him, knowing that He cares and is pleased that you have turned to Him with your troubles.

  1. Tune: Ebenezer
  2. Not that anyone with reason or an ounce of the goodness of God in them loves war
  3. Also see 2 Kings 1, Psalm 102, Psalm 142
  4. A couple of days later I heard the Casting Crowns song, “Voice of Truth”, and I thought, “His purposes and glory were served and need was accomplished.

I decided awhile back in writing blogs that since accurate quotes are hard to come by, especially from notes taken from live talks (sermons, lectures, conversations, etc), that I would at least communicate with myself when I was not exactly quoting, but just accurately summarizing with words actually spoken (or synonyms thereof) but not necessarily in that order, to surround them with apostrophes (‘) rather than quotation marks (“).(1) See if you think that I am wrong to pass these off as nearly quotes.(2)

In the sermon this morning, my pastor said many noteworthy things. I was dull of mind and slow of pen and didn’t get many of them down, but following are a few essentials I grabbed out of the verbal stream:

“God is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… These are the foundational issues we build our lives upon.”

‘In the variable winds and choppy waves of our rapidly changing culture that make us soul sick, we do not build our lives upon trends in our culture or traditions of better days, but the truth of God’s Word.’ Actually, he didn’t use ‘variable’ or ‘choppy’ but described the bounce on a small boat that made him sick. And though he conveyed all of the thoughts with almost all those words, they never appeared in one sentence. So, what are you building your life upon in these changeable time- trends, traditions, or truth? Trends and traditions may align with truth, but they are not the judge or guide of our choices, truth is.

He read about the sixth day of creation from Genesis 1:24-31. Though he said much more could be gleaned, he did offer 5 applications:

“God is our authority. Life is precious. Men and women are different theologically and biologically. We should celebrate the differences in men and women.” ‘We live within our God given callings and then we are blessed.’ I was behind on my writing and could not get down the last one exactly, but it most interested me. He talked about how obeying God’s calling, which he prefers over the word role, brings life, while living counter to it brings death. We see the promotion of so much death in our culture these days that verify the judgements of Romans 1 on those who refuse to acknowledge God and His callings. Are you as a church-goer, perhaps even devotee of Christ, following these life cursing trends in our culture? For the sake of us all, please stop!

1. That was such a fun sentence to write. I hope it is grammatically correct and easily understood.

2. Do you realize that I am suggesting a new grammatical form and use of the apostrophe? Old School Grammarians would disdain my attempt to amend the rules. They might say, ‘You do not need such non-sense. We already have quotes and summaries of ideas.’ I would retort, “That is what they said. I just am not willing to swear in court that they used those exact words in that exact order.”

Diminutive Beauty

One sunny day not long ago I was resting and reading for a short period of time. After I completed the passage, a deep essay on theology, I looked up and called my wife’s name. The house sounded empty. I cruised through the rooms and she was not to be found. Then I looked out the window and there she was wandering around in the yard with her head down. I went out and made a comment about the beautiful day and asked her what she was doing. She raised up a hand grasping small flowers, most people would call weeds, and said, “They cover the yard, and they are so beautiful.” She had three different flowers. I began the search, and we found seven different types of flowers, some hardly as big as the head of a pin, but covering the yard with blues, yellows, violets, and wee little whites. All the detail for male and female flower parts and nectar production and beautiful little petals. How much of God’s beauty goes unnoticed because we are looking but not perceiving, looking inward and not around us, looking to find fault rather than encouragement, or looking to show off rather than being shown to? So small, frequently unnoticed, but declaring God’s glory anyway, quietly turning heavenward.

Many years ago I watched a program about the exploration and mapping of the cave Lechuguilla that is in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. At the very back of the cave is a room with intricate gypsum stalactites, one 20 feet long. The majority of the cave was not discovered until 1986 when cavers broke through an extensive breakdown blocking the main passage. The Cave of the Crystals in northern Mexico features selenite crystals up to 37 feet long and 4 feet in diameter. The conditions are harsh in terms of temperature, humidity, and vaporous sulfuric acid. The cave was discovered in 2000 by two miners after extensive pumping cleared the room of water.

Many other examples of once hidden beauties and wonders could be paraded before you, but these several examples demonstrate to me that God has many hidden beauties in His Creation, quietly giving glory to Him, and how many may never be discovered? Secondly, I believe it gives new meaning to why we explore at all. We don’t just climb a mountain because it is there, we seek something, something wonderful or beautiful or hidden. Our desire to discover and explore reveals God’s glory. Many explorers and exploration societies give glory to the explorers or the less than scientific explanations of what is found, but pieces of God’s character in power and design and goodness and wisdom are revealed in what we find. That is a worthy reason to explore and discover, reveal and describe.

The seventh type of flower is hidden around back and several are facing away, but they decorated our window sill for few days.

I was somehow more attentive and engaged in Resurrection celebration today than I remember being in years past. God was at work in my heart and those of my brothers and sisters at church. The sunrise service, breakfast and fellowship, cantata, and sermon warmed my heart and encouraged my faith. This evening, full of many thoughts and thanksgivings, I desired to write a poem. The first verse began to come as my summary of my pastor’s thoughts on Resurrection Sunday rolled around in my mind.

Christ is risen and now I know
His blessings to me will forever flow
My past is covered
My future secured
My present empowered
So that I may grow

Christ is risen the church must go
To tell the nations and the Gospel sew
Its command rendered
Its purpose is clear
Its victory sure
That God’s glory show

Christ is risen who once was low
In pain and death to save sinners who owe
He ascended high
He reigns from there now
He will come again
In great glory to His saints all aglow

Christ is risen, do not say no
To His call of salvation don’t be slow
You are a sinner
You can’t save yourself
You need His mercy
Or you are headed for woe

“Low in the grave He lay
Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day
Jesus my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey
Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away
Jesus my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed
Jesus, my Savior!
Vainly they seal the dead
Jesus my Lord!” (1)

What was He doing? He had suffered but was now at rest, but He was not idle. The Bible says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “H e ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)” Ephesians 4:7-10 “made alive in the spirit, in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark” I Peter 3:18-19 I don’t fully know what this means, that He “led captive” and “made proclamation”, but it certainly did and will bring glory to Him for His power over death and grace toward sinful man. The next verse may or may not relate to this scene in The Grave where He descended. It may mean that they had the Gospel preached to them during their lifetime, but it may also mean they were preached to in The Grave. “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” I Peter 4:6

Back on the top side, “Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” Matthew 27:65-66 But it was in vain, for He arose, the stone was rolled back, and the guards were as dead, fully fainted away. Death could not hold its prey, nor could the government seal and secure His grave, nor could the religious leaders lie Him out of existence and influence, nor could the crowd crying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” thwart His purpose to rescue His people. The mystery of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, how God died, how sinners were rescued, the timing, the scope, the suffering, and the victory were a mystery to all, even prophets and angels:

“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” I Peter 1:12

His victory was not merely His and our joy, but our assurance and proof to anyone willing to look that He is who He says He is and accomplished what He says He accomplished.

“Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
He arose! (He arose)
He arose! (He arose)
Hallelujah! Christ arose!” (1)

  1. Hymn by Robert Lowry, 1874

Spring has sprung, and along the Catawba River Greenway, it is in full bloom. The years pass and I have seen every season multiple times on this 6 miles of trail by the river. To long time watchers of this blog (1), this entry might be a bit boring, but there are a few new twists and turns and the beauty of God’s Creation never grows old. I am especially drawn to its ability to regenerate and renew. I didn’t take a picture, but I observed several large Mayapple patches blooming in the middle of a died out Kudzu patch. Of course, as the weather gets warmer, the Kudzu will take over and completely shade and choke out the Mayapple for the remainder of the season. But the plants persist because they sprout, leaf, bloom, and fruit by mid-May before the Kudzu has done much more than sprout.

I found a wildflower new to me. I took two pictures and immediately sent them to sister-in-law, the family resident wildflower expert (2). Within two minutes she replied with the name and inquiries as to the presence of crossbred varieties with different color centers to their flowers. A short distance down the trail I spied a curiously marked songbird, and the two of us stared each other down for a few minutes. I made a cautious one step for a better view, and the bird flipped around on the branch preparing to fly, allowing me to see the backside coloring. After another good look I cautiously moved away, leaving the bird on his branch. I feel quite confident, after looking it up, that I was viewing an Ovenbird, a larger songbird but smaller Warbler. I haven’t the camera to even have bothered to try to take a picture, but the breast markings, eye ring, back and tail feathers were distinctive enough.

To think that this walk had come about because every effort to secure work for the day had fallen through. So, what do you do when you can’t make your best laid plans A, B, and C happen? Take a walk, pray, and look intently around at the beauty of God’s world. For a few of the pictures I did manage to take, click on “Greenway Flowers“.

  1. Some of my former blog entries on Spring on the Greenway follow: “Out and About“, “Small Delights“, “Colorful Treasure“.
  2. In fact, she is a remarkable woman. If you don’t believe me, check out this link: https://www.wate.com/news/local-news/remarkable-women/2022-remarkable-women-linda-francis/

It was a bit cooler than we anticipated last Saturday for climbing. My climbing partner arrived at the house just after 8 AM and it was still about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. We decided to go to a south facing, low elevation crag. From what we observed and others said later on, it was a good thing. One friend at church said, “I could swear that when I looked up at the mountains it was snowing.” I replied, “I can swear it was snowing.” We had snow showers with sunshine and wind alternating with just sunshine or then dark clouds and wind. Just as we were hiking out a fierce sleet flurry rushed down the draw. It was laying before we could get out of the woods. On our first climb the rock was quite cold resulting in cold fingers, but after that the sun warmed the rock just often enough to make it good climbing. We had lively talk, good climbing, brisk hiking in and out, bracing weather, Spring just breaking in blooms, and Winter trying to hold on for one more hurrah. It was a good day. Check out the pictures at Crag Day.

Lists 1.02

I previously proclaimed my proclivity for and prowess with lists. You can check that out at Lists.

The other day I stepped up my list using a notch. I now live outside of the town I lived in for 22 years. There and back that is now 50 minutes of driving. There are frequently multiple chores to do when in town. I have recently felt a mild frustration at the inefficiency of getting things done in town, increased by the price of gas. One worried little about either when things were a 3- 5 minute drive from the house. So, I thought, what would be the most efficient route for getting the chores done. I decided to sketch a map, labelling all of the places I needed to go and then mark an order of visiting various venues. It turned out to be a circle. As you can see, I have labelled highway numbers and initials of places to visit.

The oval represents the town, which reminded me of a small developmental art lesson I had one time. An artist had observed many children drawing. In the video children were shown drawing. He points out to the commentator, ‘See, she puts a circle around it.’ Then he explains that at a certain developmental stage, children circle their scribble and call it an object, a person, a thing. Before that they just scribble. After that they are trying to draw an object they hold in their mind.

In the middle of the circuit, we decided that we needed to make an additional stop. I just added it to the circuit without any backtracking or inefficiency. I wondered how few of stops need a map. Is it how many stops I can easily hold in my mind with all of the other details running around in my head and without forgetting a stop? Or is complexity of the route? Or is it the amount time between planning the trip and executing it? Is the number 2 or 3 or 5? Certainly this list of 6 was enough for me to not immediately see the most efficient route without mapping it out.

It saved time, gas, and frustration trying to figure out where I should go next. And given that I don’t just walk or drive a few minutes to this store or that business and come back home, it may become a more regular habit to map-list where to go…”Next!”

My wife and I had a long weekend with family, the first since Thanksgiving because of sickness, finances, and business. We interacted with 8 our of our 10 grandchildren, two of our children, three of my brothers, one of her sisters, nephews and nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces, and in-laws at meals, on hikes, sitting around, and in church. Click here are some pictures of a few of the activities.

I found the following reflection from 2011 that I never published. It still the way my wife and I do life.

One of the choices our family has made over the years is to live materially conservative lives. Obviously, if a family has financial limitations then their life must be lived frugally to maintain stability. That has been our allotment for which we are thankful to God. As I have said in times past, “Though we don’t always know how, the bills are always paid.” However, it is possible even within this forced frugality framework to choose convenience overr conservation. For instance, three of our babies wore exclusively cloth diapers and the fourth wore them until continuous diaper rash persuaded us otherwise. It began as a clear way to save money but continued as a mindset on how to conserve resources.

          Another attempt at conserving resources is the compost pile. We began our marriage with two gardens and continued maintaining one for most of our first fifteen years of marriage. We miss our gardens but our present plot is very poorly drained with very heavy soil that doesn’t grow garden vegetables well. But even now without a garden we deliver our ‘wet’ garbage to a covered compost bin that is about 3’ x 5’ x 2 ½ ‘ high. The compost pile helps return nutrients to the ground, reduces the number of times a month trash must be delivered by the rural resident to the dump, and reduces the amount of landfill usage.

          For me personally the compost has had another benefit. Though life is busy and I send one of the children out or my wife frequently took it out in times past, I actually enjoy taking out the small bucket full of scraps. In winter I most often carry it out after dark in anything but the hardest rain and never minding the cold. The smell of the air may suggest a coming snow or rain. The wind chills the nose and ears and shoulders and tells of fast changes to warmer or colder. But the best times are the clear, quiet cold nights when the stars are at full brightness. That is a time to reflect on the celestial light peering down through the bare twigs onto the detrital refuse of Earth below, and everything in between- a quiet moment to consider God and His most excellent Creation.

Pet Loss

I had a peculiar feeling today (1). Two people were talking about an animal that had to be put down for attacking the owner and in the past other people. The owner cried during the conversation and the other person empathized and then turned and asked if I had a dog. I do not. Because of a poor experience (2) with a dog as a child, I don’t really enjoy pets that much.

Some people have pet dogs or cats. Some people have pet hamsters or gerbils. Some people have pet fish. Some have pet rocks. Later in the day I received a strange text with a picture (click here). I had a sinking feeling when I saw the picture. I lived under that plant for 22 years. I cleaned up after it. I trimmed it. I looked up at it during various seasons and variable weather. I enjoyed its shade, its shape, and it size. The new owners had ever right to cut it down, but I was still a little upset. It was, as my wife reminded me, the largest tree in the neighborhood, and it was probably 150+ years old. I have long known that I like trees, but today I realized that I must hold some similar emotions to other pet owners of dogs or cats or gerbils. I felt a sense of loss over an old companion. (3) I responded in a quite non-committal way to the text with the picture, “Make a alot of good firewood.”

  1. Let me tell it in the present tense even though a week has slipped away since it happened.
  2. I wasn’t attacked. I just didn’t like the dog because I had to train it and feed it but couldn’t really play with it because it would always run over you when you went into the backyard.
  3. Far older than me, perhaps 120+ years old based on other oak trees of similar girth on which I have counted the rings.

In Sunday School we have been studying Romans chapter 6. Some weeks we don’t even get through one verse. We were looking at verse 13: “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The word translated “instruments” is frequently translated “weapons”, so Paul is using a metaphor that has the parts of your body likened to weapons of warfare. One of the drills in military procedures, particularly since the inception of the firearm, is “Present arms!”. The soldier is displaying his weapon for inspection, drill, and show of allegiance. Also, there is a significant parallelism here, and I find it easier to see if I diagram it. My pastor pointed out that presentation of your members to God is not doing good deeds, which leads to a self-righteous moralism, as opposed to sinning. Rather, we present our members to God, which means sin is everything that is not God and counter to Him. This verse is very practical when it comes to growing in sanctification. This idea is why we must put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10ff. We are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, but “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

I have been privileged to work on various types of projects since I began Decks And Such (see https://www.facebook.com/decksandsuch). Friends at church asked me to repair the porch on their house that was built in 1875. They built houses differently back then. Likely, the beams and boards were milled on the property. The beams in the porch were treated with tar that smelled like creosote. I can imagine a crew of workers cutting, milling, cooking tar and applying it, building the foundation and floor joists all from materials found close about. Check out the progression of my repair work at This Old Porch

Wow, time flies whether you are having fun or not. So many challenges and unknowns have come our way in the last 3 months, but God is faithful and His providential care and guidance is unerring even when we can’t see it. We are thankful that our house sold, but we don’t know where we are going next. Houses are hard to get in this rarefied real estate market, and direction for where we should be is even harder at the moment. I am by no means a control freak, but I like a little predictability and consistency in my life, and that is all out the window at the moment. My climbing partner said just today that I seem to handle uncertainty (“the unknowns” as we called it) pretty well. I testified to God’s work in my life to make that so. If I say that I trust God, then I need to prove it by not fretting and by waiting for His guidance.

Having said all of that, I am also thankful for decompression times like hiking hard on an approach to a cliff and climbing hard on climbs that are very challenging for me. That was today. Last week was more chill (or was it?) on a bright sunny day and friends trying hard at the boulder field. Check out a few pictures of that trip at Bouldering with Friends.

Girls are becoming more common in the Francis Clan. Our 10th grandchild was born on 2/23/22. We met her on the Greenway the other day, all bundled up and sleeping as we strolled along. As I held her, I said, “God bless you little girl.” And, as is my custom, I wrote a poem intended for the purpose of saying a blessing over this young one who are our posterity.

May God bless you little girl
With early knowledge of Him
Seek out the greatly priced Pearl
In this evil world that’s grim

Heidi be of noble kin
Who serve God, a priestly race
Quell temptation, quiet din
In the home with love and grace

Louise a famed warrior be
This world is no friend to you
Pray hard and live righteously
Know and teach the Word as true

May God grant that you live free
All your children’s children hold
All following God you see
None to unbelief may fold

As I stood praying with several brothers and sisters after service, a young sister prayed with fervor and striking wisdom for one so young. The latter is largely the result of her good Christian heritage, parents and grandparents. The former is because she “owned her faith”, as her grandmother said. It was not just her parents’ faith, it is hers.

Suddenly, an analogy flashed across my mind.

Young Christians (specifically, I mean young in Christ, young in the faith) are like Igneous rocks, newly formed and fiery, that is, passionate about their faith and progress in it.

Mature Christians are more to be likened to Metamorphic rocks, who through heat and pressure of this life are become purifying factors making the believer hardened and weather resistant to the wiles of the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Carnal and Disobedient Christians are similar to Sedimentary rocks, who once were living stones, but now have retreated to being mere history lessons of past events recorded in layers of deposition or fossils of mineralized bones of past failures of belief.

The analogy can quickly breakdown (erode) if pushed too far, particularly with inclusion of rock cycle transition. However, I think one transition in the rock cycle that should encourage us in this analogy is that even Sedimentary rocks can be metamorphised into more stable forms, just as Carnal and Disobedient Christians may repent and pursue maturity. Then the history lesson of their sediments is both a precautionary tale and a picture of God’s grace in bringing us to completion.

As I listened to the pastor preaching on the parable of the Lamp in Luke 8, my heart was stirred to further consider the truths of the passage. In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly urging His listeners to hear Him or else affirming the value of doing so. Following are two examples where He does the latter, revealing the relationship to God and blessing that comes from listening to His Word.

“But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21

“But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28

What does Jesus mean by hearing? Certainly He does not mean merely receiving vibrations of air into one’s ears or even registering their reception or even focus on the communication. Jesus warns against this type of hearing in the preceding parable in Luke 8. “His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, ‘so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. [Isaiah 6:9]'”” (Luke 8:9-10) Jesus is defining ‘hearing’ as understanding and acting on what you understand. In the continuation of Isaiah call in chapter 6 of that book, God continues with what Jesus has quoted above (v.10):

“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

‘Return’ is an action of faith. Jesus makes a hard connection between hearing and heeding in the Word, His Word, God’s Word. You “hear…and do it” (Luke 8:21) and you “hear… and observe it.” (Luke 11:28) When you hear and heed, then you will highlight the goodness and power of God to change your life. You will be His “mother” and “brother” and “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) In John 15:7-9, Jesus calls this hearing, heeding “abid[ing”, which then results in highlighting the Father (glorified by this”) by “bear[ing] much fruit”.

Of course, this brings much blessing (Proverbs 4:4, John 14:21) to the one who truly hears, faithfully heeds, and graciously highlights the goodness of God.

Soon after my last blog entry (Transitions), I had a realization about my thinking processes. See if this assertion rings true for you. I frequently think more clearly and find more insight into a subject if I am not directly focused on it. It seems that when I set to determine a course of action, develop and idea or conviction, or gain deeper understanding, I get bogged down in my thinking processes or research when I concentrate on it. If I, instead, look at it as if with peripheral vision, listening to others discuss the idea, having previously considered the subject, allowing rather than pushing my mental wheels to spin and weave a coherent answer or summary, I think and formulate more clearly. If you carefully read, I do not mean haphazardly blab opinionated platitudes, but rather having previously considered the subject and raised it to the light of Scripture. In fact, it is at the moment of so raising it by myself or others to the light of Scripture that I seem to make connections. And connections are the stuff of analysis leading to synthesis.

Transitions

When I was an educator by vocation, one of the frequent comments in meetings was “Change is your friend; get used to it because it’s here to stay.” I am here to say that change is no friend of mine and never was. Change is a sometime enemy that stalks my peace, effectiveness, efficiency, stability, and progress as a teacher* and person. It cannot be avoided but it should not be applauded, lauded, and promoted. In education, I think change is probably an excuse for never settling on a good and meaningful curriculum and pedagogy. Good teachers who are allowed to teach the same subject will reflect on their craft and better it in delivery, content, and relevance. Bad teachers will not be jolted by change to better their approach, but will find loopholes to continue their poor delivery. (2) I am not quite sure where all of that came from. It must have been latently hovering below the surface for a while.

The real subject of this post is change that really is unavoidable if more beneficial outcomes await. Change, just because it is or because we refuse to resist its eroding influence, is frequently contemptible, but change resulting from a transition which leads to a better place may be hard, but good. (3)

So, my wife and I are in a major transition. At our age, 60’s, these are usually to be avoided for settling and security. In our case health, finances, and pursuits are driving change. The basement of our home of 22 years was growing in water content and mold. Given my wife’s health and blood tests identifying mold as a partial culprit of her symptoms, we decided to sell our house. Some of the pictures (click on “Parting Shots“) reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. We could have spent the rest of our days in this house, given its wooded yard, quiet neighborhood, familiar surroundings, and good community facilities. (4)

Financially, it may not be reasonable or possible for us to live at our accustomed and desired standard of living in terms of housing in this town. Anyone at all aware of real estate at present is aware that it is flat out crazy. Pandemic paranoia and panic has doubled the price of houses in our town. The only house we were able to get as far as bidding on was gone by the next day. We cannot compete. But God’s providence, rather than more direct means, very frequently guides those who are trusting Him to where He wants them. To where might this lead?

That brings us to the last transition driving point, pursuits. In this context, I mean what I (we) desire to do with a part of the remainder of our days. For that you must wait until we discern where and how God is leading us, be it down the block or across state lines.

  1. Fill in the blank with your profession.
  2. Certainly opinion but one gathered from 28 years of being in the trenches.
  3. Many of the educational elite would say that this is what they are after. I do not beg to differ; I insist upon it. If transition to a better place was what was sought after (aka reform) then education would be better, but much of “educational reform” is a smoke screen for covering incompetence and wrong presuppositions. Leave the good teachers alone to settle in and improve their craft. Help the bad teachers to see they may need to find other work. Maybe this should have been a post about educational reform (or lack thereof).
  4. We agreed and I said, “I think that perhaps what I like best about this town is the [6 mile] wooded trail by the river”. I have run, walked, biked, explored, photographed, read, disc golfed, played with grandchildren and friends, picnicked, and talked on this greenway for 15+ years. I have not yet seen another one of equal beauty or variety.
Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains