Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Summer Evening 2011 (by Judy)

The following is inspired in part by today’s sermon at my church. My pastor, Alistair Begg, has a wonderful way of incorporating daily events into the Gospel message. If you don’t know his preaching, you can google Truth for Life, for he is on the radio around the country – or if you are ever in northeast Ohio, come visit us at Parkside Church.

Last night we went to a Cleveland Indians game at the invitation of friends. Though my husband was very excited, I was more looking forward to a lovely summer evening outside, the good company, and even a taste of hot dog and peanuts in the shell. Though I thought I knew baseball, it was very clear that I was an outsider. I had no idea who the players were, I didn’t understand the scoreboard graphics, and I even was confused by the language – especially the phrase “a walk-off home run” referring to a hit by a player on the home team in the bottom of the ninth which puts the team ahead, and the game is over – everyone walks off.

As I kept asking questions, I began to feel distinctly like an outsider – “you are not part of the group; if you were, you would know what is going on; you don’t speak our language and you don’t understand what we are excited about.” I am exaggerating a bit, for my husband is very kind – but my mind wandered to the nasty situation in Washington, and our tendency to generalize about people and draw unkind and stereotypical conclusions. Surely you know what I mean, dear readers. May guess is that you have fallen into that trap recently, just as I have.

I am not going to refer to the Bible in this blog entry, but rather to a recent column by a New York Times columnist. His name is Nicholas Kristof, and he is well known as a humanitarian, not a church-goer. It is an excellent read – a tribute to one of the sweetest and brightest theologians of our generation – and also a reminder that evangelicals, and everyone else with thought-out opinions, deserves respect, not a dismissal. Here goes – I hope the link works from this blog. And I am going to mention a Bible story after all – the parable of the Good Samaritan. Also worth a read - it is about a man who crosses the road (aisle) to offer a hand of compassion.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seek and Ye Shall Find by Carolyn

Tis not too late to seek a newer world
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho;
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Tennyson wrote these words long ago. My favorite line is probaby the most oft quoted line, "To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield." It reminds me of another oft quoted line of Scripture, Jeremiah 29:13. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 'I will be found by you.' declares the Lord."

As Judy, my boon companion and I are about to dock at the shores of retirment; she from a career that lasted over 40 years and my husband from his, we are wondering what directions await. Where will the Lord lead us? Will He lead us down separate paths or the same path? Or, will He lead us down both? We don't know but we are sure of the Lord's promise in nearby Jeremiah 29:11. "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" We eagerly and faithfully embrace the future!

But there is more on my mind today than just this. Perhaps some of you are like I am, and from time to time find yourselves fretting about family, friends, associates and people of all kinds who haven't yet "sought" the Lord. There is still time to seek Him while He may be found. Even the hardest of hearts can be softened by Him because "Nothing is too hard for the Lord." He stands at the door of every heart and knocks. To find Him all we need to do open the door. For those who have already done so there is much to learn! For those who have not yet opened the door, a new world awaits! There is another way that leads to the same conclusion. We can knock on His door until He is found by us!

We should not "yield" but rather "push off", sailing "beyond the sunset", remembering, "tho' much is taken, much abides" and "tho made weak by time and fate but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" until He is found by us!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

All Roads Lead to Rome (by Judy)

I have just returned from the most wonderful trip I have ever taken, to Italy - quite a statement coming from a 66 year old who has been a consistent voyager since my 10th birthday when my present was a flight from Philadelphia to Washington, DC for lunch! My main reason for saying this is not the comfort of our accommodations, though they were exceptional; not the views and surroundings, though breathtaking; not the local foods and wines, though my waistline reveals the abundance and quality again; not the people, fun as they were. It was something different – the feeling of the presence of Jesus every step of the way.

Our first stop in Italy was in the hills of Umbria, where our house was surrounded by vineyards. It was there that I truly connected with the analogy that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, often in need of pruning. Jack and I watched the farmer traverse the rows and rows in his vineyard day after day from sun-up to mid-afternoon, cutting recalcitrant branches, insuring that all the plant's energy and effort goes into the grapes and not in the wayward tendrils. We also noticed that though his vineyard paths were clear, weeded, trimmed and neat, a neighboring vineyard was a tangle along the ground, with weeds choking the vines, sapping their strength and vitality. The lessons that I can apply to my with my Christian walk are clear and I felt very close to the One making the analogy.

Then we traveled to Rome, a city filled to overflowing with activity, vibrance, art, architecture, and humanity. No wonder Paul was so committed to getting there, surviving a shipwreck, rebellious followers, illness and snakes. This is a city of cobblestone streets, convoluted rabbit-warren neighborhoods, piazzas with churches every block, frescoes and statues by famous Italian artists blurring the senses - smells, sounds and sights so close to when Paul sat in his small garret, housebound, writing letters to the struggling churches across the Mediterranean lands. I could close my eyes and feel that I was actually there - a concept not so obscure as we admit our limited human attempts to force a linear view of time - when we know that only God is the Potentate of Time, yesterday, today and forever.

At every piazza, both in Rome and in the hilltop villages of Umbria, there are faucets springing from the ground - not the beautiful fountains we see on post cards, but rather humble pipes, bringing cold, fresh water to passersby. I do not understand how they work, for there are no spigots, turning them off and on. They run continuously, simply offering water from a faraway spring, living water, for sustenance and to wash off dirt. Jesus made the same offer to the woman at the well - the offer of Himself - "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Isaiah said, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." In Rome, I began to understand and even more, to want to share this trip with others.