Monday, January 26, 2009

STAINING WORK FINISHED!

It’s 5:55 p.m. on Monday, and after 3 gruelling days of rubbing the stain into the wood of my built-in bookshelves, the staining work is finished. Little did I realize the pain and aches that this step in the task would require. From laying on my back to reach the underside of the bottom shelf, to standing on a ladder with my head next to the ceiling, all the while contorting my arms in a way never meant for them to go, I managed to cover the wood with the stain bought to bring out the wood’s grain and match the room’s d├ęcor.

I now turn my attention to do the finishing work, putting the sealing protective finish called polycrylic on the wood. Advertised for “beauty and clarity”, it will give the wood grain a clear gloss to reveal its nature. This should be an easier task, as the liquid is brushed on with strokes which follow the grain. And WA-LA! After a few hours drying time, some touching up of the walls that have gotten in the way of the stain, I will be ready to UNPACK my MY BOOKS! It should be a “red-letter” week in the task of settling into our home.

As I was rejoicing over the ending work of staining, an old favority hymn came to mind:

In the old rugged cross,
Stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For 'twas on that old cross
Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

Yes, “The Old Rugged Cross”, and the words that came to mind are in the second and third line. “Stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see.” As I thought of the three days of aching labor I put in, I recall the Saviour’s suffering at the hands of those who physically abused and beat Him, causing blood to flow even before He was lifted up on the cross.

Then finally, the blood flowing from His head, back and wounds, from the crown of thorns to the “cat of nine tails” whip that cut Him, stained the “old rugged cross”. In this way He, through His death, applied a stain to my knotted and sin-grained life wood, redeemed me for a high purpose. Then through His death and resurrection, a new finish was applied to bring out His infused nature with a gloss truly glorious. Matthew 27:24-30 "Then released he (Pilate) Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified...The the soldiers...took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him...And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head...and led him away to crucify him."

Most of the books that will grace my new shelves are about Christ and how He has come to bring to life those still just “dead wood” without stain or finish to make of them beauty. I pray that the “shelves” of my life might be filled with His Words and words of Him, too.

My friend, do you have a job that has caused you some aches and pains? Remember Him Who’s pain and stain can make you shine! Be encouraged today!

Friday, January 23, 2009

PATIENCE ON TRIAL

Yesterday I spent 30 minutes listening to the same music over and over again, and it only played a few bars, just repeated. I did not choose the music. It was coming from my phone as I waited for someone at my former phone company’s internet service to answer my call. I never was able to get through and several tries got me no where. I was responding to a bill that charged me even though I had canceled my phone service on January 5th. I tried in vain to reach the company by internet but faced a maze of pre-ordered questions, none of which matched my query and led me down a path to nothing. Finally I enclosed a letter with my bill and hope that someone “living” will actually read it and respond.

As I waited, tapping my proverbial foot in impatience, I weighed the nature of my request and that of the company’s claim to business fame. First of all, they pride themselves on automatic and wireless dial-up, even though you get “automatically” no contact with people, and I do understand high volume of contacts with so many in my plight. They’ve high-speed DSL, also a time saver, though high speed contact they’re not! Then their parent company has all kinds of “state of the art” communications, i.e., unlimited long distance, caller ID, conference calling, etc., available if you are willing to pay for it. All great, but I’m still on hold, with my foot creating a permanent depression in the carpet.

Then, revelation strikes like a loud silence! My patience is getting a much needed trial as I reflect upon what my Lord would have me consider as a lesson in my relationship with Him, and how I should reflect it practically with all others. As it often is, it is not that which I always want to consider in the midst of such a situation of inconvenience, but in such times there is no way to “disconnect”, so I let Him speak to my heart and mind. Here’s a few of the thoughts that I considered:

In my relationship/connection with God there is no busy signal nor “holds of repeated music” while other customers are dealt with. With Him I am ever “on-line” with total access to speak to the real “Person” about my needs. Not even a disconnect when I feel like hanging up. And there are no pre-recorded multiple choices to try to match my specific need. He knows already my heart and mind before I dial His number and though it may not be the answer I like at the moment, it is always the best one for me. I have unlimited “long distance” calling available, and yet it is all very local with my own personal area code. WOW! And when I move to a different location, no disconnects and reconnects are necessary, not even a change of address form is needed. And if all of this is not enough, the “service” was paid for 2000 years ago, when the first telephone pole was set into the ground on a hill called Golgotha.

Now that I consider it, the LINEMAN that “climbed” that pole was the only ONE Who ever had a disconnect with the “central office”. And HE had it so I never, ever, would! (Mark 15:34 “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” )

So, thanks, AT & T, for my trial of patience.

Be encouraged, my friends, in your trials of patience. Consider how much we’ve all tried the patience of God!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BUILDING SOMETHING!

Last Wednesday the lumber company brought out my 12 foot 1 X 12 boards. The rest of the materials I buy in 8 foot lengths and haul them in the van. I started my built-in bookshelves on Friday. After 5 days I am almost through with the construction and ready to start the stain and finishing on the job.

Several things I have noted in the construction of the project.

First, I have changed the size and the design I'd drawn in my mind before I started. The room I'd chosen for my office is adequate but small, so I downsized, and the adjustments I made caused less cutting and fitting.

Secondly, I noticed that the boards were not free of company's stamped labels and, on some, the evidence of surface stains and dirt I'd have to sand. I was in a hurry to get the job done, so I opted, now with regret, to wait until the job was finished to do the sanding. WRONG! Live and learn!

Thirdly, if you realize our house's layout, you know that my workshop (in the place Virginia has named "the HOLE" - actually a very nice 6'8" high insulated "crawl space" with concrete floor) has only an outside access, which is out the front door, down the steps and around to the rear of the house. Imagine sawing each piece of lumber and making that trip back and forth for the slightest adjustments. I should have put my mileage meter on to measure how many miles it takes to build a bookcase. Whew, a lot!

Fourthly, if you have just moved prior to construction, you know that the most basic of tools is hidden somewhere in the bottom of the pyramid pile of boxes in the garage. Hence the reason when I sift through in ages to come, I will end up with no less than half a dozen very good tape measures. Like the proverbial scissors, we will have one for each room.

Fifthly, when construction and workshop are separated so far, invariably the precise tool you need is in the other place, and it usually happens when you are holding a board precisely where you want it with no way to let go without remeasuring and readjusting after making the trek to one place or the other. You may ask, why not do all of the work of cutting, etc., in the room. Well, my office already has all of my PC equipment set up and shoved to the side, so I can use it and still have room to work. All of the dust, etc., I am trying to avoid as much as possible. I know, I know, I've created my own problems! Tell me something I don't already know!

Sixthly, regardless of how many screws you buy, you never have enough. Oh, I have enough, but they, too, are keeping company in a box somewhere with the other tape measures.

Seventhly, getting 10 foot, 11 1/2 inch boards into a 10 foot, 11 3/4 inch length room (one not with perfectly distanced walls) takes two people to maneuver through the halls, and when it takes two additional cuts to fit, that's a lot of miles and scrapes for later repair. Virginia remains patient and helpful.

Eightly, as I told her the other day, after getting up from a low-down or down-low position, it seems as though it is harder to get up from the floor than it used to be. I did not need to hear it was "old-age" for I am certain that some other malady is responsible for the slowing of my getting-upper parts. You'd think that since my first "getting arounds" as a child were on the floor, that that would be where I'd be at my best, but I suppose being closer in age to "that place" higher up makes you less agile in the lower quarters! There's good and bad in all, I guess.

Ninthly, when I commented on how tiring each day from daylight to after dark on the project is, she asked if I was frustrated in the task. I thought about it and realized in spite of all the above eightlies, I was truly enjoying the job. It was the first time I really have had a place and the time to give consistently to building something with my hands. I do love to imagine and then try to duplicate what my mind has conjured up!

Tenthly, to round it out, I've been thinking a lot about how God must have felt when He first created the universe, the earth, its resources, and then His crowning work, man!
1. His design was perfect, no need to change. Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
2. His materials were just right and His brand is permantly and beautifully stamped in all He did. Romans 1:20 "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead!"
3. His workshop and the place of building were in close harmony - His Mind. He created the miles. Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion..."
4. His tools all perfectly in place - His Word. Genesis 1:3 "And God said, Let there be...and there was..."
5. The dust He made for a purpose - to form His crowning touch - man! Genesis 2:7 "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
6. His Spirit is a sufficent anchoring screw for all He did and does. Romans 8:11 "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you."
7. Everything He did fits exactly - not even 1/4 inch of variance. Genesis 1:31 "And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good."
8. Because He is everywhere, no place is hard for Him to work. Psalm 139:8-10 "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me."
9. Now I just know by experience with this construction and with Him that He loved and loves what He made. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
10. Well, now I've got new energy and drive to finish my job! Be encouraged, my friend, to know Him and finish yours, too!

Friday, January 16, 2009

HE IS DEEPER!

I just finished watching a movie last night I’d not seen in some time. In the midst of our move and reshuffling our DVDs, I saw this one and laid it aside to watch when I had some free time. It was a cold night following a hard day of continuing to try to get the house in some semblance of order. It seemed like a good opportunity to settle in to watch “The Hiding Place”, the story of Corrie Ten Boom’s survival through the Nazi prison camps during World War II. (Just a note about our copy of this DVD - we had the privilege of being in a Christian conference with the actress who played the role of Corrie Ten Boom, Jeannette Clift. We had opportunity to share with her personally about our drama ministry and she signed our copy of the movie.)

I confess to you that in the midst of getting settled into retirement, the thoughts of managing our finances presently, with our old home for sale thus, still requiring an outlay of funds until it does, has a tendency to consume some of my mental activity. It does create some tension, though I do trust that the Lord will see us through.

Corrie Ten Boom’s suffering in the camp, plus the loss of both her father and sister there, does put my own difficulty “in the shade” by comparison. Corrie herself, came close to despair and giving up on prayer, until her sister, in her final days before illness took her, reminded her that “there is no pit so deep deep that He is not deeper still!” Imagine maintaining a spirit of love and peace, not hate, as one’s life is being cruelly treated.

In truth, the relationship with Jesus can be deeper than any other chasm of crisis we may face. Be it the world that seems ever pulling man away from the truth of God’s Son come to seek and save, or even the financial stresses that are faced by many in these days, He is a deep “hiding place” of peace and joy that can keep the mind and heart.

Paul describes this depth in I Corinthians 2:9-10 "But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neighter have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

Oh, how the deep things of God call out to those who would know His heart by intimate contact with Him. The utter shame of it all is that we do not plunge into the depths on a regular basis. Instead we wait until we exhaust all other methods to cope before we turn to Him who is so deep and so full of love and wisdom that by comparison, our depth of suffering and anguish is like the shallows of a stream we can wade across without a bridge.

Oh, my friend, be encouraged in your trials. He is a deeper hiding place than all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Sweet Sorrow of Separation

I have to pinch myself frequently these days. Who says "you can't go home again"? As I sit here reflecting and punching out these lines, I realize that I am but about 6 miles from where I grew up, and Sunday I will be preaching at the church (just 4 miles) where in the summer of 1959 I gave my heart to Christ (almost 50 years ago? Ouch! But Wow!), the same church where in December of 1964 I started my first pastorate. (44 years! Pardon me - another Wow!)

This time of separation most recent, after 5 1/2 years of ministry with the folks of western Kentucky is, to be sure, a special sorrow of sweet joy. We've grown attached to a people who responded to our ministry of missions with a refreshing enthusiasm. Watching them blossom into "on-mission mindedness" is like having a child grow into his unique potentials. Sweet! And to realize that I had a special time in bringing them to their next phase and new equipping leader, yet another pleasing flavor of God's spices for His children's spiritual tastebuds. A sorrow of separation, indeed, for all of those I may not again see this side of heaven's gate!

Now before us, aside from the piles of "stuff" we seem to have collected over these 44 years of ministry moves, is the sweet flavor of something else a-cookin' on the proverbial stove of life. There's extended family that's now closer in distance than they've been in over 30 years, and though our parents are all gone to glory, we've their memory to sit and enjoy together as we pass it on to the next generation who didn't have them as long as we. Another sweet sorrow may we be faithful to spoon out to our kids and theirs!

Another recipe that's still in the prep stages is that which God is cookin' up for this next phase of ministry. Nope! Retirement does not mean just a sittin' around a doin' nuthin'. It means perhaps, using all of this we've learned in the kitchen of life to help create a whole buffet of sweets for others who need to discover what God has prepared for them who would be hungry for Him! Part of the sweetness I'm beginning to realize is the freedom of schedule to explore some new recipes for ministry application. Preaching, teaching, drama presentations, singing, in addition to writing, perhaps doing some art I've had on a back burner a simmerin' for a while. Add to it a partner in the kitchen with me, and bring on the groceries!

Now, lest you've gotten lost in the analogy of my blog, let me share a few reflections on the theme as God gives it to us through the picture of His Son's separation of sorrow and sweetness.
The Psalmist writes in 34:8, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him."

Beyond our imagination is the sweetness of the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternity past, and the unity of mind and heart that they "tasted". So much so that they willed it to spill over into their loved and creative focus, man. They not only set us down at the table to enjoy their spiritual culinary, but they brought us into the kitchen, and there to aid us in preparing some of the dishes, too.

One such offering was the sweet savour of the Incarnate Saviour! This kingly meal was served first in a "bowl of straw" in a stable. No candles on this table, but a single chandelier of starlight graced the repast! Consider this though, the sweetness enjoyed was produced out of the sorrow of separation as the Son left the Father's side, and the sorrow would not be finished until the greater separation took place on the cross of Golgotha, when the Father would turn His back on the Son because of man's sin He took upon Himself. Purposed in the mind of God, just as the fire of a kitchen stove is intended to release the sweetness of cane, the Son's death and descent to conquer the flames of hell itself were required to bring salvation's sweetness to man's table. A sweet sorrow, indeed. and in deed!

One realization is that in our lives, too, is this magnificent separation of sweet sorrow reflected. It is revealed when we trust in the Lord, and follow in His steps of self sacrifice for the "feeding" of the souls of others. It is seen again and again as we apply ourselves to the kitchen task of preparing a heavenly repast for hungry humanity. Oh, the delight of the kitchen! And, Oh, the faces of those who are served a dish of heaven's best. What sweetness for the cook and for the one who tastes and eats what only God's pantry can provide!

Be encouraged. Taste the Lord and see that He is good.