The Towers Crossed, It’s a New Year, And God is In His Heaven

Radio Tower

If you’ve driven Interstate 16 in Georgia between Savannah and Macon (on the way to Atlanta), you know the signs of civilization are sparse in some sections. You should have seen it forty plus years ago. Back then, it was so sparse you had to check your gauge before heading out because the gas stations were nearly non-existent.

Back then, I attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta. I drove the highway most Sunday nights because I went home every weekend I could, in order to see my future wife, Sharon. (We had already decided she was my future wife and me her future husband, we just hadn’t told anyone.) Sunday night was the sad time of the weekend, when I left her and headed back to Atlanta.

It was a lonesome drive and I spent much of the time trying to find decent radio stations to listen to for a few minutes before they faded away. But, as I neared Macon, I could always pick up WMAC—a good radio station with a strong signal that stayed with me for about an hour.

Also, as I neared Macon, (Mile Marker 9 on I-16 , measured from Macon) there were two radio towers off to the left. I watched each time, and near the spot where I passed the mile marker, the towers lined up and looked like one tower for a split second. As I continued, they would start to visually separate, and then over a hill and around a bend they were out of sight.

Although I never measured it, I took the point where they looked like one tower as the middle point of the journey. On the Savannah side I was leaving Sharon, and on the Macon side I was going to school. My thoughts would go to what paper was due or which test was coming up. But, of course, Sharon and the big picture of the two of us eventually being together remained uppermost in my mind.

It’s a new year. At midnight, New Year’s Eve, two towers in our personal journey appeared to be one for a split second, but they’re already farther apart and will continue to separate. We may or may not feel we are leaving something behind, but, now we should focus on what we need to do as we go forward. And, of course, the Lord and the big picture of us eventually being together with Him in Heaven should remain uppermost in our mind.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” Revelation 21:4

I Don’t Know What It Is

What is it?

What is it?

I downloaded the photos from my camera and remembered all except this one. I had no clue. If I was taking pictures with film and the developed photo looked like this, I would think there had been trash all over it. Or perhaps thought it was a shot from the movie Ghost that picked up the dark spirits passing by.

I reviewed the other photos from the download and retraced my day’s steps. Then I remembered this was a shot from the front yard and there was a flock of hundreds of blackbirds landing and circling in the peanut field across the road. Obviously my camera isn’t fast enough for rapidly moving blackbirds.

If you were able to tell what this was before I explained it, you were more perceptive than even me, who took the photo in the first place. But, I would think most folks were like I was at first – didn’t have a clue.

My confusion over the photo reminded me of Philip and the Ethiopian in the desert (Acts 8.) The Ethiopian was sitting in his chariot reading out loud from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Philip heard him read: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living

Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, and the Ethiopian replied “How can I, except some man should guide me?” And Philip guided him through Scripture and he understood (in fact, came to saving faith and was baptized.)

At times we may feel like we don’t have a clue about a passage in the Bible. If prayer and meditation don’t provide clarity, that means it’s also time to ask  someone to guide us. And, on the other side, there are Scripture passages we understand clearly. Along with prayer and meditation, that may be the opportunity to guide someone else.

How can I, except some man should guide me?” Acts 8:31

 

Sometimes You Have to Take a Photo of God’s Creation

Cloud Over Tree Garden

Cloud Over the Tree Garden

These days smart phones have made it easy to take photos of anything and everything. Some worthwhile and some not. Here’s one I thought was worthwhile. I was cutting grass, listening to a Nero Wolfe mystery novel (on my smart phone). As I made the turn, this was before me. What a beautiful sight of God’s creation!

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1 ESV

Polishing Up Our Graces, for God’s Glory

Needs Some Polishing!

This Reflector Needs Some Polishing!

 

My first real job was as projectionist at the Georgia Theater in downtown Statesboro, Georgia. It was an interesting and fun job, most of the time – but, since it was back in the time of one screen with the same movie showing for several days, it could be boring, too.

Several memories come to mind about the job: My first night working by myself, I learned that if you incorrectly flip the thingy that holds the film frames straight, the movie shows half on the screen and half on the wall, and you start getting yelled at by members of the audience.

When I worked on Friday or Saturday night, my (future) wife, Sharon, and I sometimes stayed after the last showing. We were able to eat the surplus popcorn and listen to music on the theater’s sound system. It wasn’t fancy by today’s standards but was the best sound in town in those days.

But, something I read this week reminded me of the projector’s carbon arc lamps used back then, and the reflector that focused the light on the film. In the arc lamp, two carbon rods are brought together and an electric current flows through them (see photo.) As you move the rods apart, an arc forms and creates a blinding white light. The light from the arc goes in all directions within the projector chamber, and because the frame of the film is very small, there isn’t enough light going to that one spot to clearly show the movie on the screen.

That problem is solved with a concave shaped mirror near the back of the chamber. It reflects and focuses the light on the film frame and the images as bright and clear as daylight appear on the screen.

Since the reflector was partially surrounding this miniature blast furnace (the arc consumed the copper bit by bit), it would get smoky and splattered with bits of metal. If you paid attention to how the movies looked you could see the screen darken over time and know when to polish the reflector. (The one in the photo definitely needs polishing)

That meant it was time to get out the Bon Ami. Bon Ami was, and still is, a powdered cleanser that consists of tallow soap and feldspar, a natural mineral abrasive. The cleanser was spread over the reflector with a wet cloth, then allowed to dry. When it dried, it formed a film on the mirror (much like car wax.) As you rubbed the film off, you were using the abrasive to remove the smoke and tiny bits of carbon, and also polishing the surface. It was amazing how improved the reflector was after the process. The images “bright and clear as daylight” were a reality again.

In his Bible Study on Philippians, Sinclair Ferguson wrote “Suffering is the friction which polishes our graces. Without it, we would be all the poorer as reflectors of the image of (Jesus).” As I read that in our Bible Study this week, you can see why it reminded me of getting out the Bon Ami and polishing the reflector.

Many books have been written about Christians’ suffering, and these few words can’t address the depth of questions that can be discussed. So, I’ll just try to give us something to think about.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of us being the light of the world, and noted that you put a lamp on a lampstand for it to be seen. Then, He said  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 ESV

We have no true light of our own that will glorify God. As Ferguson wrote, the light we want to shine before others is a reflection of the image of Jesus.

As you read the following passage, think of God using our suffering as His spiritual cleanser – maybe taking off a bit of pride here, or a bit of self-righteousness there, but particularly polishing off the smoky film that not only blocks out God’s marvelous light that is shining upon us, but also prevents us from being able to reflect that light (the image of Jesus) and focus it on others.

Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ” Romans 5:2-5 ESV

And the image becomes bright and clear as daylight again, and the Father, who is in heaven, is glorified

(If you’re interested in a little more info on the projectors of the past, here’s a link with good info and photos)
http://www.mywvhome.com/1900s/plaza3.html

(PS: I hope to be posting again on a more regular basis – life got in the way!)

Autumn Can’t Be Remembered – How About God’s Love?

chapter graphic

I’m reading “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck, which tells the story of a trip around the USA they took in the 1960’s (Charley was his poodle). Steinbeck’s first stop was in Maine, so early in the book he wrote a good paragraph to ponder. A woman was describing the majesty of the autumn colors of the tree leaves. She said “Autumn can’t be remembered, it’s a surprise every time.” She explained that you think you remember, but the first day it’s in full splendor you realize your memory has faded from the real thing.

I thought of a trip my wife, Sharon, and I took to Colorado a few years ago. The first sight of the Rocky Mountains was stunning – bringing the open-mouthed wonder kind of stare. I think I can still see the mountains clearly in my mind, but another trip and another sight of them would be stunning again – A surprise every time.

I mentioned the woman’s statement to Sharon, and her first thought was that first day you notice the greenness and newness of life in Spring after a long, seemingly dead Winter. You realize your memory has lapsed from the actual level of beauty.

These sights may be so glorious and non-ordinary that the routine of daily life tends to dull our remembrance. Routine begets routine and we end up with a veiled version of the true picture. The surprise doesn’t come when autumn or spring happen, or when we see the Rockies. They are well known parts of God’s Creation. The surprise comes when we encounter the real thing again, the veil is lifted and the actual beauty comes back into focus.

God’s love is well known to believers. It should be no surprise when His mercy and grace reveal it to us. But, we can allow our thoughts of God’s love to become routine – to become a veiled version of the true picture. Then, we talk with someone whose heart has recently been changed by God. The wonder and amazement  fill us with joy, lift the veil, and we see the actual beauty once more. We are surprised by the Lord’s gloriousness because we have not remembered it as it is. (The circumstances that bring that same response are too numerous to list!)

I stated above that we shouldn’t be surprised when God’s mercy and grace reveal His love. That’s from considering the many times it has been revealed.

But, there is a basic level of surprise that should always be there for believers. That surprise is that the Holy God of all Creation loves and saves sinners from themselves.

And, on this Christmas Eve, we should remember God’s love in its full glory, and be surprised and thankful and awestruck that God came to Earth for one purpose.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”   Matthew 1:21 KJV

What’s the Best Thing About Being a (Christian) Writer?

chapter graphic

I joined Goodreads the other day and went through the profile process and set up an author page. Found some friends from Facebook and some friends who weren’t from Facebook. So far, it seems to be a good contact point for the book, and a place to learn about books in general, and find specific books to read.

As part of the Author Page start-up, they listed questions you can answer if you want to. I picked a couple and this one caused me to think a bit:

“What’s the best thing about being a writer?” My answer:

“I like the way it can open your eyes, ears and mind to what is happening around you. Specific words and phrases catch your attention. Sights create word pictures in your mind. You notice life and your thoughts go in both directions – how did this moment come about, and where will it go from here?”

I had not answered that question specifically before, but that’s the basic theme of my writing. I appreciated the words coming to mind and giving me a paragraph describing the process.

Of course, the best thing about being a Christian writer is being able to help others think about God, and as I mentioned last post, hopefully to give the glory to the Lord. You can place His presence, guidance, goodness, mercy and love in every sentence of the paragraph I answered the question with, because, when it’s right, that’s Who it all comes from.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” Psalms 103:1

Remembering the Proper Order of Our Prayers

 

Wilderness Camping

Wilderness Camping

Several years ago I participated in a Wood Badge course for Boy Scout Leaders. Most of the class work was done on weekend camping trips over about a six month period. Along with instruction in the details of leading a troop the Boy Scout way, and being taught how young boys learn best, the camping setting allowed us to practice outdoor skills we could pass along.

I remember one of the first activities was related to setting up camp. The instructor led us on a short hike into the woods, stopped and gathered us around him, and asked “What’s the first thing you do in setting up camp?”

After a moment of the entire group’s silence, my reply was “You look around.”

Everybody burst into laughter and the instructor was laughing loudest. He repeated my statement, gave the old “what a stupid thing to say” chuckle and head shake, and moved on into his spiel. The answer he had wanted, and then gave us was  “set up a tent or shelter.”

He continued “Make sure you pick a good spot – don’t set up where you might get a flash flood in mountainous terrain or end up in a puddle of water here in flatland south Georgia. Is there space for a fire? Check for ant beds on the ground and rotten limbs hanging over the area. etc., etc.”

After my initial aggravation at being laughed at, I did get a kick out of listening to him, in effect, tell us the first thing to do: “you look around.” Some of the others may have also picked up on that, but the instructor never seemed to make the connection.

All of us may remember times when we were right, and were either laughed at, or not believed. As you see, that one is readily available in my memory. But, I hope I remember the incident more from the lesson to be learned. When setting up camp, or in any task, or plan, it’s best to look around first.

Sometimes we think we have the answer all figured out – Praying, “Lord, please bless this thing I want to do.” before the “looking around” prayer that should come first. “Lord, please guide me in what I should do next.”

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” Psalms 25:4-5