Resting in the Everlasting Arms

 Everlasting Arms

Deuteronomy 32:27: Our eternal refuge with Our Creator eternal, and God’s almighty arms underneath are everlasting.

I am almost three weeks into my radiation treatments for prostate cancer (my prognosis is positive and the treatments are quick and painless, and I am thankful that so far I have had no adverse effects), and share a ride with a woman whom I’ll call Sharon from our church. It’s nice to have company on the 32-mile round trip drive, and I’ve gotten to know Sharon better over the past couple of weeks.

The past couple of weeks, Sharon has shared a number of stories from her past with me. She grew up in Derry, a small town in New Hampshire and went to the local high school, where Robert Frost taught for a while. (She told me she did not have him as a teacher.) The population was so small that one school bus covered the entire attendance area. And I thought I had a long bus ride in high school! Sharon went on to say that buses were only for students through grade eight. After that, they were on their own. Her father went to work at 6:30 AM and dropped her at a traffic circle about a half mile from school. The janitor lived at the school so he had the building open and stoves going when she arrived. I imagine it was a glimpse of Paradise to come in to a warm building from the New Hampshire winter.

Sharon’s older brother was born in 1930. While he was still an infant, his mother stood holding him in their living room while an electrical storm raged about them. Lightning struck the house, traveled into the room and hit the baby, not harming the mother at all. Of course the infant suffered neurological damage and had seizures and other medical problems the rest of his short life. He passed away at age seven when Marge was four, and she spoke with great tenderness of taking care of this unfortunate child.

I had never heard of a babe in arms being struck by lightning, much less while being held in loving arms. It seems to me a parallel to how God treats each of us as God’s eternal children. We are babes in this world, and as the storms of life rage about us, sometimes we are struck by any number of destructive forces. But no matter how we are harmed or the extent of our injuries and diseases, the arms that hold us are everlasting. Let us praise God for God’s goodness, care, compassion and eternal vigilance over us, who are to the Creator as babies to their mothers.

 

 

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Facts and Theories

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John 14:6: Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

I don’t know how you feel about facts. Maybe you are a Sergeant Joe Friday type and want “just the facts. M’am.” Perhaps you’re more a theoretical person. I believe this world needs both kinds of people, and you can put me down as theoretical or moonstruck or absent-minded or whatever you wish.

The most dramatic example of this collision of two worlds came when I was student teaching with Helen Leach at Oakton High School in 1970. Helen is an editor now for The Manassas Observer. You may hum “It’s A Small World After All” at this point if you wish. Anyhow, as a graduate student, I was full of theories (and other things). Whenever Helen and I were talking about some issue, I’d say something like, “Well, there’s a theory that applies here.”

And Helen would say, “I’m sure there is.”

“What’s the matter, Helen? Don’t you believe in theories?”

“No, I don’t. I believe in facts.”

We never did resolve our differences, but we both survived student teaching and went on to long careers in which we didn’t traumatize too many students, in spite of many of them deserving it richly.

 Anyhow, this pertains to the present situation in that I still like theories and testing them out no matter how crackpot and benighted they may seem or be. Take the idea (that I read on the internet so I knew that it was true) that turning off your car engine at stoplights and at other times when you’re idling saves gas. I tried this method on both my cars for a tankful of gas and found my mileage was worse, probably because of the gas used by restarting the engine. So facts overcame theory in that case. It should have worked, but it didn’t.

 And so, you’d think that would discourage me from trying to prove any more theories correct. You’d be wrong if you thought so, because I started thinking that if I drove at or below the speed limit and not like a banshee late for a goat sacrifice and coasted whenever possible or prudent, I’d save gas. And money. And the environment. It could be a trifecta of theorizing.

 And I’m here to tell you that it worked! My Impala, which normal gets 17.6 mpg, got 20.1 using this method. I haven’t quite rule out a tank on the Mazda, but I’ll tell you about it when I do.

 I was telling our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Joanne Hazlett this, and she commented that that’s the way they learn to drive in England, where gas (or petrol) costs four times what it does here. So, I now call this method of driving the Hazlett Method. Be sure to tell Joanna when you see her.

 And so, in this case, facts proved the theory. I’m glad they did, because the bigger kids are starting to make fun of me and beat me up at recess. Being beaten up is a fact I can’t handle.

 Theologically, I think that this pertains because Jesus was not just a theory or an idea or a sprit or a concept. His presence here on Earth was a fact, as was his death on the cross, his resurrection, his teachings, the love of God, the provision for each of us at God’s hand and the community of brother and sisterhood under the benevolent care of the Creator. Let us praise the God who created all tings for facts—and for theories.

 

Zen and the Art of Suburban Driving

Zen Pictograph

Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God.

I don’t know if you remember a book from the early 1970’s called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It was a freakish best-seller that caught on with everyone from hippies to philosophy professors. It recounted a motorcycle trip by the author and his son, narrated by an alternative persona named Phaedrus. Phaedrus attempts to reconcile the classic view of life and reality with the romantic side, or the rational with the spiritual, emotional and intuitive parts These lofty considerations aside, one comment I would make about the book is that Phaedrus is totally crazy about maintaining his machine. Now, I’ve never even been on a motorcycle, much less ridden one, but I do know that bicycles take some maintenance. And maintaining one wasn’t what I would call a high point in my life, and I certainly didn’t burst with joy when I had to do it. Call me insensitive, but that’s how it is. (A bit of free advice here: never, never, never, I repeat, never attempt to adjust the spokes on a bicycle. You’ll end up with a wheel whose shape might charitably be described as resembling that of a hippodrome. Oval wheels don’t make for a smooth ride, so just bite the bullet and pay someone to do it who knows how.)

The book sometimes ended up in the car/truck/train/airplane motorcycle section of some bookstores, and I’ll tell you why. This is a well-kept secret, so don’t tell anyone, but people who buy for bookstores don’t read every book they put on the shelf. Neither do librarians. They read reviews, and this practices sometime got school librarians in trouble when a book contained material unsuited for students. We English teachers didn’t have that problem because we were required to read every book we taught. This didn’t cause much strain on us since English teachers like to read. We also understood the importance of becoming familiar with everything we taught. One teacher didn’t preview a film called The Golden Fleece and ordered it, thinking it was about Jason and the Argonauts. It wasn’t: it was about sheep ranching in Australia. If I had done this, I wouldn’t have told anyone about it, but she told everyone.

All this is a prelude to my latest attempt to save money and gas (but not time). I have taken to driving at the speed limit (not five miles over, which seems to be the norm around here) and coasting as much as possible. I have found I am able to coast most of the way from Caton Merchant House where my Dad lives to my house. I have learned several things from this experiment:

  1. If you’re going to do this, don’t try it with a long line of traffic behind you. You’ll either be shot or run over.
  2. Expect to become very aware of the topography of the region. Since I started doing this, I find myself looking for a route with as many downslopes as possible. Of course, that means going uphill on the way back, but into every life some rain must fall.
  3. Deliberately slowing down induces in me a state resembling that of meditation. We all live busy, harried lives, and driving is a big stressor. It doesn’t have to be.

I have not run through a tank of gas yet doing this, but I’ll let you know if it works. If it doesn’t I can always go back to driving like I’m in a stock car race. Old habits are hard to break.

All this does have a spiritual side. I believe God honors us when we are still, when we take our time, when we are more aware of God’s creation all around us. I hope whatever method you choose to achieve these states of mind, it works for you and that it works well and allows you to let God work in and through you to the glory of God and the coming of the heavenly kingdom.