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Archive for January, 2010

Another night had passed. I had slept fitfully throughout the long hours, awakening many times. The surroundings were new and I had not yet become acquainted with the source of all the peculiar noises I heard throughout the long hours of darkness. And, I was alone. As far as I could tell there was no other human being for a good many miles. I was alone on this mountain top.

The early summer sun had warmed the previous day up so that, even with the cool breeze which seemed to be continually present, it had been pleasant to be outside. Late in the afternoon I had spent a lengthy period of time simply seated upon a large, flat rock. The sun had warmed it so that I was able to lie back upon the hard surface, close my eyes, and drift off to sleep for a short period of time. When I awakened the air was beginning to cool and the sun was dropping rapidly towards the western horizon.

As I returned to the fire lookout tower and climbed the long steps to the small, window-enclosed living quarters at the top, I could see that sunset had already arrived in the deep canyons surrounding the high peak I was on. I stood on the “catwalk”, after reaching the top of the stairs, to catch my breath. Now the sun appeared to be racing for the horizon with increasing speed as each minute passed.

As I moved slowly around the walkway, pausing occasionally to gaze into the distance, I noticed the long shadows cast by the trees, and the tower, just moments before the sun dropped from sight. Several minutes later I looked far to the east and picked out the faint flicker of a light on another mountain peak, far away. Another lookout had also witnessed the setting of the sun and had already turned on their man-made light to provide them with illumination for the next few hours.

As night rapidly descended upon my small corner of this world it seemed that an unusual quietness accompanied it. I continued looking around me as it grew dark upon the mountain top. Again, I sensed a feeling of loneliness. I was by myself. No one else was anywhere close by.

I reached for the kerosene lantern setting on the tiny table and, moments later, a soft, yellow glow filled my “home.” I lacked much of an appetite, having eaten a large meal at lunch time, so I simply made myself a sandwich and, with a small can of juice, my evening meal was complete. The sense of loneliness became almost oppressive as I sat and stared out into the blackness of the night. I determined that I would hurry the arrival of the dawn by going to bed and, hopefully, falling quickly asleep.

That was not to be the case. It seemed that the night became one long session of tossing and turning and frequently checking my watch. Each time I found that rarely had more than a few minutes passed. Finally, waking after one fitful period of sleep, I lay looking up at the ceiling and realized that the blackness inside the tower was beginning to take on a faint touch of gray. Morning was finally coming!

I rose up on one elbow, looking towards the east, and saw the sharp outline of the horizon standing out. Dawn was on its way! It would not be long, now.

I hopped out of my bunk and opened the door of the tiny wood cook-stove which doubled as a source of heat for cool mornings like this. I touched a match to the paper inside and in a few moments the kindling and wood were starting to pop and crackle as the stove began to throw out warmth into the cool air of the morning.

I dressed and stood close to the stove, soaking up its warmth, as the old metal coffee pot began to “sing” and spread its fragrant aroma across the room.

It was only minutes before the mountains were clearly visible around me. The deep canyons were still in darkness but it would not be long before the rising sun would cast its warm glow upon me and its light would reach into the darkest of the rugged country surrounding me.

As I reached for the coffee pot, preparing to pour my first cup of the day, sunlight burst through the windows. With its arrival my spirits began to rise and the bleakness and sleeplessness of the night was quickly forgotten. Morning had come!

Haven’t we all experienced the renewed sense of joy that comes with the morning after a long night? It may have been a “long night” of illness, discouragement, heartache or possibly grief. It may have been a “long night” of leanness of spirit when God seemed far away.

But, in Lamentations 3, beginning with verse 21, we find these words: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Aren’t you thankful we are loved by a compassionate Heavenly Father whose faithfulness allows us to sing with fervor, “Look up my child, joy comes in the morning!”

Prayer: Lord, thank you that whatever may be the cause of the “long night” we are experiencing, we can be reminded “joy comes in the morning.” Thank you for your faithfulness, Father. Thank you for traveling through the “night” with me—always! In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I awoke in the darkness that surrounded me, needing several moments to realize where I was. As I lay still I began to notice an eerie sound. It was almost as if someone were standing outside blowing softly on some type of a flute or a musical instrument. The pitch and volume fluctuated regularly. What was it?

I turned over, the metal springs of the old military bunk making a hideous noise in the darkness. I pulled the sleeping bag up snugly around my neck to keep out the cold night air and lifted my head off the pillow, attempting to distinguish what might be making the unusual sound.

Then I became aware of other sounds. It was a squeaking and grating sound as if two objects were being forced against each other. The noise came from numerous directions around me. What in the world was causing that?

By the time I began to sense a gentle swaying motion of this room, I felt as if the hair was beginning to stand up on the back of my neck! I wanted to stick my head back into the sleeping bag—and hide!

But, as I became fully awake I began to realize that a strong wind was blowing, making the mournful sound I was hearing as it whistled through the heavy steel cables holding the lookout tower in its place high off the ground. The wind was strong enough that it was causing the small, glass-enclosed room I called “home,” to twist and turn and squeak and groan as if it were in deep agony. I certainly hoped this old tower was tied down solidly!

I felt around in the darkness on the shelf located next to the bunk, locating my flashlight and wristwatch. As the beam of light illuminated the dial of the watch I saw that most of the night had passed. It would not be long before the sky in the east would begin to see the darkness pushed aside as the sun made its way up over the horizon. I always enjoyed the sunrise in the mountains! And I was ready for this one.

I rose up on one elbow and looked out towards the horizon. There were still a multitude of stars, in every direction I looked, providing me with an indication that the new day coming was going to be sun-filled and warm.

I turned and looked across the room and out towards the western horizon. There was the moon, just a thin crescent shape, preparing to drop out of sight until tomorrow night, when it would come up on the opposite side of me and just a little bit larger in size. I lay back down on the bunk, pulling the sleeping bag tightly around my neck as I attempted to return to sleep, at least for a little while longer.

Suddenly, there came a noise that made me catch my breath and caused my heart rate to increase! This was a new sound and it did not fit with the others I had heard. It sounded as if someone were rubbing a heavy stick against one of the long wooden legs of the tower. As I lay still, listening, the sound continued. Was someone outside trying to get in? I certainly had not heard the sound of a car approach! And surely I would have—wouldn’t I?

After several minutes of the disconcerting sounds I unzipped the sleeping bag and got out of bed as quietly as I could. The longer I had listened, it seemed the noise must be coming from down near the ground. I was unable to see anything out of the windows and directly below because of the walkway, or porch, that encircled the top of the tower. I opened the door, as quietly as I could, and stepped out onto the porch, the weathered and worn planks squeaking beneath my bare feet. I shivered as the wind struck me.

As I leaned over the railing and looked towards the ground I immediately saw the shapes in the pre-dawn darkness. Elk! There were six or seven of them milling around the base of the tower. One of them was rubbing his horns against a leg of the tower!

The rapid beating of my heart began to slow as I stood watching them. After a few moments they began to appear as if they were becoming nervous. They must have sensed that an intruder was nearby and they were becoming uneasy. Suddenly, one of the animals gave a snort and jumped and instantly they were all loping away over the side of the mountain, disappearing quickly into the trees below on the steep slope. I stepped inside and returned to the warmth of the sleeping bag. Hey! I had some time to catch a few more winks.

We live in a world saturated with disturbing “sounds” which often make us uneasy. We wonder about the cause. At the same time, through all the noise, God is trying to reach us; to speak to us. It is when we become quiet, simply waiting and listening, that we will begin to hear.

It is no easy task in the busy and hurried days in which we live, to simply stop—and listen. But listen for Him, we must! When we do we reap great and lasting benefits. In Isaiah 30: 21 we read, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

That is preceded by verse 19 which reminds us, “How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.”

Aren’t you glad of that!

Prayer: Lord, help me to be careful to take time to listen for You, and to You. Help me never to allow the busyness of my life to keep me from those necessary times when I simply allow You to speak to me. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a . . . uh . . . it’s a youth pastor!”

I thought I had seen most everything by now. Not so, I learned some time back. I was going along, minding my own business, when I happened to see movement on the roof of one of our local church buildings. I stopped and took a closer look. What I observed really grabbed my attention.

A young man I quickly recognized as the youth pastor for that particular church was on the roof, creeping around the edge of the building, carrying something in his hands as he strained to keep his balance against the steep pitch of the roof. He was clearly taking care not to slip and do a nosedive onto the ground below.

“But what was that in his hands?” I wondered. “No! Couldn’t be!”

But it was. It was a paper airplane! A very large paper airplane!

“Aw, c’mon, now!” I mumbled to myself. “I thought I’d seen everything! A youth pastor flying paper airplanes from the roof of the church! You gotta’ be kiddin’ me! Is that some new type of ministry?”

I left mystified by what I had just witnessed, but several days later I learned that the youth pastor had been assisting a school student in a project in which the students in one particular class were attempting to fly a handmade airplane from a location well above the ground to a safe landing, carrying a fresh egg as cargo. The challenge was to design the airplane and then fly it in such a manner that the landing would be nice and soft and the egg would not break. An article in the local newspaper a day or so later confirmed the story the youth pastor gave me.

Two thoughts came to mind as I considered this incident. In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul stated, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22,)

You know something; I believe Paul would have climbed onto a church roof if it meant the difference in someone learning about the grace of God and His forgiveness, offered to all mankind. Would you and I be willing to do that?

Second, when we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we have placed ourselves in the safest of all possible locations. A soft landing, unbroken and whole, is assured. The promise of Heaven is a reality for us. I hope you are living with that assurance today.

Prayer: Lord, help me not to shrink back from what might seem out of the ordinary means of showing people how the grace of God can become a reality in their lives. Use me however you might like, Lord. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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SWEET LIGHT

“Hey! Look at that, would you!”

Just moments earlier we had stepped from the roadway below us and begun scrambling up the steep tree-covered slope. As we climbed, wading through thick brush beneath the tall pine and fir trees, we were careful to keep an upraised arm in front of our faces to protect us from the branches slapping back at us from the person walking in front of us.

The object of the exclamation was a gaping hole in the side of the rocky hill in front of us. Rough and jagged rocks were scattered in all directions around the mouth of the opening. My younger brother and I began to pepper our Dad questions.

“Is it a real mine tunnel? Who made it? Did they find any gold in it? Why did they quit?” These were just a few of the questions we asked in those first few minutes as we viewed this curiosity before us.

We stopped at the mouth of the old mine tunnel and paused to catch our breath after the steep climb up from the road. A strong odor of dampness was coming from inside the tunnel as we stood peering into its darkness.

Our breathing began to slow and as the beat of our hearts slowed and things became quieter we could hear the sound of water running in the stream below us on the opposite side of the road. Several black ravens were screeching back and forth to each other as they soared overhead in a bright blue sky. Somewhere nearby a tiny chipmunk began to chatter loudly. The sounds of nature were all about us as we stood facing this unnatural opening in the ground.

Dad stepped up closer to the opening and, raising his voice spoke, “Helloooo.” Immediately there was a responding, “Helloooo . . . . . ” from inside the tunnel.

My brother and I grinned at each other and began yelling into the mouth of the tunnel. “Hey, you” was quickly answered by “Hey yooouuu” and my brother and I began to try and outdo each other as we played with the echo of our voices.

“Do you suppose we should take a look inside?” Dad asked us.

He did not have to ask a second time as we excitedly followed him into the damp, cold darkness of the old mine tunnel. He removed a small flashlight from the pocket of his jacket and began to swing the beam of its small light back and forth in front of us. For some reason we boys began to speak softly when we talked. It was almost as if, for some unspoken reason, we needed to be quiet. I looked back over my shoulder towards the entrance of the tunnel, now a bright spot in the darkness surrounding us. And then more questions came.

“What if it caves in on us?” We had read or heard stories of such things happening, hadn’t we? We could find ourselves trapped and no one would know where we were at. We might never be rescued!

“What if there is a bear inside?” Bears always lived in caves, according to the books I had read, and this was just about like a cave, wasn’t it? And it was large enough to hold more than one bear!

My Dad slowed as he walked carefully over a small pile of rocks which appeared to have fallen from the roof of the tunnel. It became quiet for a moment and in the silence we began to hear the “drip . . . drip . . . . drip” of water. In fact, as we looked around us we could see that the floor of the tunnel was damp and there was a small trickle of water running crookedly among the rocks, flowing towards the opening of the tunnel.

As we stood silently a moment, listening to the water, we suddenly felt a strong breeze blow against our faces. How could there be wind in here? Where was that coming from?

As my Dad continued moving into the darkness the cold, damp, musty smell became almost overpowering. I gave an involuntary shiver as I looked over my shoulder more frequently to assure myself that the opening of the tunnel was still there. I was beginning to think that I would rather be on the outside in the light than underground like this!

My Dad spoke up. “Well, boys, it looks as if this is all the further it goes,” he said. I peered around him and saw that he was approaching a solid rock wall and the end of the tunnel. Hey! That was fine with me!

Again, I looked over my shoulder to be sure I could still see the light of the tunnel entrance. I was ready to get back outside! As we turned and began to move towards the entrance I began walking rapidly. We stepped out into the sweet light of day and air that smelled so fresh and fragrant in the afternoon sunlight. A person just did not realize the beautiful fragrance and freshness of this mountain air until being in a place like the clammy darkness of that old mine tunnel!

In 1 John 1:5-7 we read, “. . . . God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Having the light of Jesus in our hearts fills us with a fresh and beautiful fragrance, along with a joy and zest for living, found no other way. I truly hope you are living in—and experiencing that Light!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of your Son, the true Light of the world. Help me to reflect that Light so that others would desire to know you for themselves. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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PREPARED FOR WINTER

“Oh, man! Honeeee! Look outside. Ya gotta’ look outside. It snowed last night! I love it! . . . . . . . . . Uh oh. . . . . I’m gonna’ have to have you do something today sweetie pie. . . . . Now don’t look at me that way. It won’t take you all that long. . . . . What? You want to know what I want you to do? . . . . . Well, you’re gonna’ have to take the car in and get the studded tires put on!

“Now, now. Don’t give me that kind of a look. I have been busy—very busy, in fact. I was planning on getting it done this next Saturday but, . . . . Well, you have to admit I have been very, very busy, sweetheart. You understand that, Love. . . . . Right?

“Now, wait a minute. We agreed we would not bring up old garbage in our marriage, remember? In fact, if you recall, sweet pea, that was your idea! . . . . . And I can’t help it if I was busy last year also! You have to remember that I work very, very hard to make us a living. . . . . . . Yes, yes, yes, yes! I know, I know! Yes, I understand that you work hard taking care of the kids all day.

“Listen, I’ll tell you what. I’ll take you out on a date tonight, how about that! I want you to know I really do appreciate you, kiddo! . . . . . . What about the kids? Well, I guess you will have to make a choice. I’ll leave it up to you, dear. We can hire a baby sitter, and go for a Value Menu meal somewhere—I’ll let you choose where at—or we can take the kids with us and we’ll go for Chinese food! They have those cheap children’s plates and besides, you can have all the tea you want!

“What? Oh, let me look again. . . . . . Oh, I’d say about 4 – 5 inches. Clyde will probably be picking me up in his 4-wheel drive but . . . . . . No, no, no. You are not going to have any trouble getting to the tire store! You are a good driver. I always have confidence in you sweetheart. What? . . . . . . . Ah, now deeeeaaar! That’s no way to talk to me. I will get the hoses and the sprinklers in by this weekend—I promise! Unless you would have time to do that today. I do kind of hate to leave them out if it should get really cold in the next few days. . . . . . How would you find them under the snow? Oh, you wouldn’t have any trouble. Just put your boots on and walk back and forth across the yard sliding your feet and you’ll find them in no time. . . . . . . . The kids? Well, take them outside. They will love playing in the snow! You know that, my love!

“And listen, I promise, I really do, that I will make it up to you somehow. I will figure out something. And next year I will be sure and get those tires on well before the first snow flies. . . . . . But, honey, come look out the window. You’re gonna’ have to admit that it really is pretty.”

Oh, me! I am certain that, as we have moved well into the beginning of the winter months, none of our readers have ever found themselves caught unexpectedly as was the individual we just listened in on as he conversed with his wife. Yet, we all know people who procrastinate in many areas of their lives. They have good intentions, but those intentions seem to tumble and fall by the wayside as they go through life finding they are often caught in a state of unpreparedness at a time of greatest need. What is really frightening are those who procrastinate in the spiritual realm of their life.

As I write this at the beginning of the new year, my wife and I have been talking about our future. I think we have some pretty good plans for the days ahead. Our intentions are good. There are a number of things we would like to do in the months ahead. Yet, we have absolutely no firm assurance that we will, in fact, see the culmination of plans we have made. No matter how good our intentions or how well planned the “trip,” no matter how carefully my wife and I have prepared, something—anything—could happen to bring unexpected change or even an abrupt end to our journey.

Far too many people believe they have the best of plans for life. Yet, these same individuals really do not know the way to real Life. Far too many people know they need Jesus Christ in their lives, and they see some imaginary point on the far horizon when they will take steps to "make things right," with God. They will do that “some day,” but not just yet. I wonder how many are caught unprepared, having put off too long those things absolutely necessary for eternal life?

Our Lord has warned, time and again, against procrastination. It is a killer! It catches individuals who have failed to prepare properly in its deathly and eternal grip, and there is very rarely ever a second chance!

In Matthew 24:44 we read: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Are you prepared for “winter?”

Prayer: Lord, help me to live my life in such a manner that I am always ready to meet you—no matter when that might be. Please keep me from procrastination on things of eternal value. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Ever help move a piano? Heavy, huh? Really heavy! And awkward—very awkward! They don’t put enough handles on a piano to move them with any ease. Four men and a piano never seem to fit through a doorway without a certain amount of huffing and puffing, grunting and groaning, and the scraping of knuckles and shins. And pianos were not made to turn corners or go up stairs, let me tell you! And we all know that no one ever moves a piano by themselves. Why, you could do irreparable damage to yourself attempting such stunt! At least that is what my mother would have told me. Well, I know someone she would have had a few words with!

Several years ago a member of our church determined it was time to move a piano from one building into another. Common sense succumbed to impatience and this individual “horsed,” the piano onto a little cart, wheeled it out of one building and headed down the sidewalk. Not too common a sight, you understand!

Well, this lady comes driving by and nearly put a kink in her neck looking at such a sight—one man moving a piano, mind you! In fact, it caught her attention to such a degree that at the next intersection she made a U-turn and came driving slowly by, once more, apparently to reassure herself she was not having a frightening hallucination! After passing by the second time she made yet another turn, came back towards the piano-pusher, and stopped alongside him. He paused in his strenuous efforts for a moment and, as the lady looked at him curiously she stated, “I know. You’re walking your piano!”

I wonder what she told her family when she returned home that evening. It probably began with, “Hey, honey. You wouldn’t believe what I saw today . . . . .”

I am reminded that our days are filled with all kinds of images. Some of them, like piano-pushers, make us laugh and shake our heads in wonder. Others cause us sadness. There has been much of that in recent months. There are also images that fill our minds when we read God’s Word. One of those we find in Psalm 42:1-2 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Quite a picture, isn’t it? I hope that, as we prepare to step into the new year ahead of us, that you will “thirst” for God. He is faithful. We can trust Him! If we thirst for Him, and search for Him, we will find Him—and He will meet every need of our hearts! What a God we serve!

PS. If you happen to need a piano moved, please get someone to help you!

Prayer: Father, help me remember that I can trust you—you know what’s ahead and you will be with me in every moment of the future that is before me. And Lord, in this new year, would you put within me an insatiable thirst for your Word? Thank you, Lord. Amen.

 

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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