Back to the House


House of the Lord

Psalm 23:6: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I don’t know what your family did for vacation when you were young, whether it involved the sea shore or the mountains or something else. I had a student once who wrote a story about a family spending their Christmas vacation in a hotel. I had never heard of anyone doing such a thing, so I said, “You have to change that. It’s not realistic. Families don’t spend Christmas in a hotel.”

She said quietly, “Mine does.”

Our “vacations” involved visiting relatives, some of whom lived in the mountains, so it wasn’t a total wash. Since both my parents were from large families, there were endless rounds of visiting cousins and uncles and aunts as we endured countless hours of a grown-up conversations.

Our favorite place to visit was where we stayed at my maternal grandmother’s house, which lay across a gravel road from some railroad tracks. We walked the tracks (don’t try this at home, kids), gathered up candy thrown from train crews and reveled in the sight of something so large and so powerful. Behind the house was a sizable creek with a length of cable dangling from a tree growing from one bank, ideal for playing Tarzan or Errol Flynn. My grandmother owned a cow which she kept in a barn whose loft was filled with bales of hay. We climbed to the loft and made forts out of the hay, using dirt clods as “ammunition” for our pretend battles. And I loved working the pump to bring my grandmother cool, fresh water from the well. To this day, if anyone needs to have a pump primed, I’m your man.

On one visit when I was about ten, I noticed how my younger relatives referred to returning to my grandmother’s home. They said, “Let’s go back to the house.” I thought it odd they didn’t call it “our house” or “our home” or “where we live,” but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the expression. Calling it “the house” was reminder of the place where we sat in front of a coal-burning stove during our time there at Christmas and listened to our elders talk, where we ate sumptuous Southern meals at that time prepared by the women of the family, and where we snuggled under warm hand-sewn quilts when it was time to go to sleep.

I think it was no accident that Jesus spoke of his “Father’s house” as the place that faithful will live out their eternal lives. There we will sing praise to God without having had a rehearsal, eat from a glorious Messianic feast, be in the presence of all the believers we have known and more, and bask in in the warm love and experience the bountiful grace of our heavenly Father.

Praise God for our houses on this earth, which give us shelter and encourage community, and praise be to the Father for our eternal home in a world without end. Amen.


Red Letter Days

Red Letter Days


2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the phrase, “red letter days.” I think I first heard it in fourth grade during our study of Virginia history when we learned that the year 1619 was a “red letter year” (which was made up of “red letter days,” I suppose) because in that year single women were brought to the colony to provide wives for all the single settlers. It works out better that way. The colonists also established the first local elected governing body, the House of Burgesses, which was also the first such form of governance in North or South America. The third “red letter” event when Dutch traders imported 20 enslaved people from West Africa. The They were, strictly speaking, “indentured servants” who had to work off the payment of their passage for a specified length of time, usually seven to ten years. However, colonists realized that the “indentures” were there against their will and very few of them spoke English, and so the system of slavery began. I would venture to say that 1619 was not exactly a red-letter year for those poor souls.
We as individuals, families and friends also observe red letter days, those days of great import and unique happenings such as births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and the passing of loved ones. We also see new jobs or houses or cars as important, while we mark round of holidays every year. I would venture to say that the most important red-letter day comes when we assemble in our places of worship on Sundays and other holidays to affirm that God is God and that he has created the universe and everything in it, and especially ourselves. Praise God for creating and saving us, for creating the universe and all that is in it, and for creating time even though God is beyond time in order that we might celebrate all God’s good gifts to us, and especially the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ his Son, who gave to us the gift of salvation by dying on the cross and being resurrected at Easter, the most important red letter day in all of time. Amen.

Old School

Old Gas Pump

James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I don’t know how long most of you have been driving, but I’ve been behind the wheel for 55 years, and I think that’s more or less typical among us. My total doesn’t include the time I spent aboard a tractor on my parents’ farm.
I was put into mind those early days of driving when we stopped for gas the other day at Cornwell’s station south of town. I looked for the slot to put my credit card into, but there wasn’t one. As I stood there trying to figure out how anyone could pay there, a woman called from the station office, “You have to pay first!”
This took me back to those early days of driving when I had to go into the station. I always paid with cash since my one credit card was for emergencies. And it wasn’t that difficult to pay with cash since gas at the time cost $.20 a gallon. (About this same time, my dad found it for $.17, but who knows how far he had to drive to find that price. He was always, uh, thrifty.) I recall running down the tank near empty and then scrounging for change under the seat and in the glove compartment and finding enough to buy a gallon so I could get home. Once I got there, we had a hand-pumped tank since we qualified for gas through Southern States, so I didn’t have to hitch-hike home.
The point of all this is that, as much as we change (and not always for the better), and as much as the world around us doesn’t stay the same, God is the great constant both now and through eternity. We can depend on God to guide us, to direct everything we do, to provide for our needs and to pick us up when we fall. The greatest of the great constants we know about God is His eternal love for us, love so great that he was willing to sacrifice his son on the cross so that we might continue to experience his love and his presence forever. Praise God for being constant, for being present, and for becoming the sacrificial Lamb so that we might continue to live and breath and have our being in Him in this world and beyond. Amen.