THE TURN

The perfect God/man, Creator of all things, the Son of GOd blackened by the most horrific sins imaginable. God the Father could not bear to look.

Those who know the Easter story, who know the biblical account of the crucifixion and who have perhaps dug deeper into the traditions that surrounded the gruesome yet beautiful event, will remember well the climax of the story. At least, it is the climax of the story from our viewpoint. Luke 23 beginning in verse 44 is where I want to begin.

” Now it [l]was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was [m]darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in [n]two. “

Jesus had taken on the sin of the world. All sin for all time. The perfect God/man, Creator of all things, the Son of God blackened by the most horrific sins imaginable. God the Father could not bear to look. God the Father turned His face away, His back toward His only Son. Jesus cried and asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” The anguish of seperation between two who for eternity past had been One, now torn… Jesus commits His spirit to the Father and from our viewpoint, the story of Good Friday and Christ on the cross comes to an end.

Right now its almost 5am on Easter Sunday morning 2019. Most pastors are getting up preparing for the sunrise services. Me, an old retired cop, just spent 5 hours on a security detail for my company and I’m preparing for bed, hoping to make the non-sunrise service. But, driving home, contemplating Easter morning I began thinking about what time it was that Jesus actually arose. We know the women came to the tomb at first light but how long had Jesus been back to the earthly domain? Had He stood over His mother Mary, as she fitfully slept in shear exhaustion, eager to comfort her? Maybe watching over His disciples, knowing their hurt and how joy would come to them this day.

As I thought on those things, I went back in my mind to Friday. Just after Jesus died. That was perhaps the most amazing and overwheling part of the story and we, for the most part have missed it! The picture above of Jesus in heaven is a nice picture but think about Jesus story of the prodigal son and how the father came running down the road to greet him when he returned.

AFTER God the Father had to turn His back on Jesus, His only Son, seconds later, Jesus is there with the Father and God turns back, His face now beaming at His Son! Can you imagine the embrace? Can you picture God the Father running to embrace His Son? Ah, Easter, thank God!

Garden Time

Jesus, too, likes to spend time with us in the garden… Don’t ever confuse inactivity with wasting time.

This morning I had the pleasure of reading a short devotional by Dave Branon titled, “Come Sit a Spell” in the July 2, 2016 Our Daily Bread. In it, he related arriving as a child with his family at his grandparents’ home in rural West Virginia, something to which I can relate very well! He said that his grandmother would meet them at the door and encourage them to come on in and sit a spell – take time to talk and get re-acquainted or just caught up on what was new in life. David related the story of time Jesus spent with Zacchaeus, over dinner at his home to help them get to know one another and it changed Zacchaeus’ life for an eternity!

Today was our family reunion and there were family there that I have not seen in a very long time! There were members of our family there that I have never met before today; because, some of them were not even born when we had our last reunion! And, for the most part, we all did a lot of sittin’ a spell, getting to re-kindle lost connections and make new ones. My brother Rod was celebrating his 70th birthday. He and I talked some about him being the oldest blood member of the family present. Currently living, but not able to be with us today, is an uncle and an aunt that were not able to attend. That pair, a brother and a sister are the last remaining blood relations of our father’s 3 brothers and 2 sisters. We talked about how so quickly so many of the layers seemed to have peeled away. As we would look out at the young children and families there, we could see how the family would eventually carry-on as others take their turn at the top layer!

I couldn’t help but remember Dave Brannon’s homily about building relationship through time together.  Often times, Jesus would wake early and spend precious time with His Father in prayer and solitude. Other times, Jesus would take His disciples into the garden and there share with them private thoughts and cares or concerns for them and with them.  And then, my mind traveled back about half a century; when I had a chance to spend time with my maternal grandparents. One summer in particular, when I was staying there alone for a few weeks, I got to spend precious time in the garden with my grandfather.Delbarton

It wasn’t at all like the Garden of Gethsemane or the Mount of Olives; rather, with my grandfather – my Papaw, (I never once called him grandfather), our time in the garden was a large patch of ground that held really only three things besides the dirt. The three things were rocks, snakes and potatoes.  I was really enjoying my time, throwing aside the rocks, watching out or the Copperheads, and digging the potatoes. As a boy of probably 8 or 9, I was feeling full grown being out there working alongside this man I loved so very much, who I still do. That summer, I also helped him build a garage – I know now how much real help I was; but, for him to allow me to stand on that scaffolding with him, pounding nails into the boards, I was having the time of my life.  My aunt, who had children my age and lived near-by, seemed like she was hurt that I would rather spend my time digging potatoes with my Papaw then come to her house to play with my cousins. No doubt I loved my cousins – particularly one impish ball of fun – Melanie – but, time with Papaw was too precious to miss even a second! Going to the post office to check his box, riding in that old red Ford sedan of his with the red interior (and I remember having to fasten-up the red seat belts) was incredible because this time, I was in the front seat with him – just me!! Time was so critical. When my brothers or cousins were around, I had to share my papaw and this particular summer, for most of those days, he was all mine and I wasn’t going to miss a second!Elk Creek Bridge

Our Heavenly Father feels that way about us, too, you know. He wants to spend time with us like He spent with Jesus during His time on Earth, in quiet solitude, sharing the cares, joys, concerns and plans for the day. Jesus, too, likes to spend time with us in the garden. Maybe it is time in a quiet place like among the ancient olive trees outside of Jerusalem or a restful spot near our own Jerusalem. It is there where time is spent listening to His Word that He left for us or attending to that still small voice. Maybe its digging potatoes out of the ground, putting them in the coal bucket, that we have to drag along some days, while we watch out for serpents and toss rocks out of our path. No matter the location or even the circumstance, what is important is the precious time we share with Him building our relationship, getting to know each other more. Summertime sometimes allows us some quiet moments just for sittin’ a spell. Don’t ever confuse inactivity with wasting time. There is a mountain range of difference – if you’re truly blessed, somewhere in your youth you traveled such a range – mine was the Alleghany’s, or down home they called them those West Virginia Hills.

When Your Elephant Drops

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come… I knew when my elephant dropped it was time to get back to work.

 

 

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. That is a wise piece of sage advice that I made up just a few hours ago. I have no doubt it will last for centuries and grace the finest of Chinese cookie emporiums the world over, especially those whose home base is somewhere in upper New Jersey.

“What brought me to this amazing revelation? You ask. Okay, so you didn’t ask; but you are curious enough to keep reading. Perhaps you know my legendary wit; well, half-wit. Maybe, you are hoping that if you read this all the way through you can help my family get the evidence they need for a permanent commitment. Whatever your reasons, I encourage you to read on. I believe it will be worth it.

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. A very simple piece of logic really. All of us need a cue to know when it is time to move on in life. Maybe we need to move on to a new job, a new home, or perhaps, a new fiancé’ (I’d be careful on that one). It might not be something nearly as earth shattering as that. You may need to move on from one normal, everyday task to another in order to try to accomplish as much as possible before the day winds down unto its coming night. No matter the size of the task, it is important to know that when the elephant drops, that is your cue to move on.

Wisdom, the Bible tells us can be found with many counselors. It can be found with age and experience. Sometimes wisdom is born of trial and error, with the emphasis on the error. I have found, over time that I learn much deeper lessons from my mistakes than from my successes. Success seldom requires a review, a debriefing to understand the why of it. Although it is a good idea to do such an evaluation, normally, we accept the fact that if we were successful it is because we were right or good and as long as we are our amazing self then we will continue to be successful. At least that is the reason I don’t re-evaluate a great many of my successes, at least not like I evaluate my failures. The failures I prefer to limit from happening again; so, I evaluate my process to learn how to avoid the same mistakes a third or fourth time. (I did not say, ‘second’ because I usually don’t decide to re-evaluate until I have failed at least twice. My first failures are always accounted to ‘the wrong part’, ‘the wrong instructions’, ‘the wrong day of the week’ – certainly not anything I could have done! After the second failure I grant, begrudgingly, that perhaps it might be something I am doing incorrectly.

Yes, wisdom comes from a multitude of sources. I have found, as a grandfather now for nearly eight years, that wisdom comes to me through the eyes, the insight, the lives of my grandchildren. I don’t think I learned nearly as much from my children for two reasons. First, I still thought I knew a lot about life and things. Second, I was just trying to keep up with them most of the time. The song, “It’s a Wonderful World” sung best, I think, by Louis Armstrong; allows us to see life through the eyes of the song writer and looking at the children, he says, “They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know…” and that is so true. So, our grandchildren can teach us once we have reached an age where we realize we don’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. They can teach us, too, when life has slowed enough for times of introspection and taking stock of where one is in life’s journey.  Sometimes such lessons are prompted by a statement, bluntly spoken by our grandchildren. Recently, my eldest told me that I can really take on the role of Santa now that my belly has gotten as big as it has. Good, honest, tongue-biting truth. It’s great!

By now, the number of surgeries I have had in the past fade in memory, overtaken by the pain that arthritis can bring to those same areas that surgeons fixed so effectively decades ago. A police service related shoulder repair, now needing to be a shoulder replacement has enough arthritis to keep Bayer in production; except that a previous perforated ulcer make aspirin a no-no. My spinal fusions from police related injuries and the bone taken from my hips for those repairs now provide plenty of opportunity for creaking and popping as I try to move stealthily through the night on my way to the bathroom for the fourth time, trying not to wake my wife or the dogs. To interrupt either is not good. If I wake the dogs I have to take them outside in the cold and wait for them. If I wake my lovely wife, she doesn’t get enough rest with as hard as she works now without me waking her; so I try to let her sleep whenever she can. Then there is the arthritic knee that the ‘Doc’ recently told me has to be replaced. I tell you that to say that if I could find a way to do all of my work and social engagements, business meetings, phone calls and meals within the confines of my Jacuzzi, I would.

Warm (to boiling) hot water is the only real relief. I am very thankful for the medications and all the other things that are done to keep me functional; but it is the escape in the warm water where my brain is freed up to think. Our thirty year old Jacuzzi hot-tub downstairs gave up the ghost some time back so I am relegated to our garden tub Jacuzzi in our bathroom; for which I am eternally grateful. It is, however, garden sized. As my grandson will tell you, I am built something more like a “Horse pasture –long in the inseam, wide across the shoulders (and belly) with the pasture taken in just a little around the hay feeder” – I will use the garden tub as long as I can fit in it and get out of it. Silly us to allow the design of our bathroom to include steps up to the Jacuzzi tub. When we built it no one needed hand rails or maybe a floor level entrance to step in and out of without trying to go over it like a high hurdler at the Moscow Olympics. Still, if there was a Nobel Prize for pain relief, Jacuzzi get s my vote and that is where the elephant comes into the story.

I share my Jacuzzi with an elephant. I know that sounds a little crazy but, I also share it with two ducks, one rubber one plastic. The elephant, too, I should clarify is a one piece plastic mold elephant about the same size as the rubber duck. I don’t get much time to play with them but from time to time one of my grandchildren will ‘visit’ with me while I am catching up on my Weekly Standard, National Review or NewsMax. I also do many of my Bible devotional readings there, too. As I said, if I could, I would work throughout the day there. Electronics however do not fare well in warm water. Even my revered Weekly Standard et al., have succumbed to the water on more than one occasion.

When my grandchildren pay me a visit and it becomes ‘grab a bathing suit and sit with Papaw in the Jacuzzi,’ invariably along with the rubber duck, out comes the plastic elephant. Known best for his ability to spring to the surface after being held at the bottom, he is an all-around favorite. If we had a large swimming pool, I fear they would want a real elephant to see if he, too, would spring up from the bottom of the pool! When the grandchildren are not around, the elephant stands guard at the edge of the Jacuzzi as if looking forward to the time that the children play with him again.

Elephant

It would be too easy to escape my on-going pain by keeping myself as long as possible in the Jacuzzi guarded by my trusted elephant. However, there comes a time when all of us have to step out of our comfort and be about the business to which God has intended us.

The disciples and others loved to listen to Christ teach. His sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew was a time of great spiritual learning, encouragement and challenge. Eventually, though, they all had to come down from the mountain and be about the ministry set before them. It is a true joy, at times, to remove ourselves from the hectic world of ministry or other life challenges that come before us; work, family turmoil or illness, difficulties with finances, friends, even schooling and preparation for future ministry. All of these things take a toll on us. They can, too, take a toll on our relationships; particularly those involving close family members. Retreating from the daily stressors is sometimes absolutely essential for us to be able to carry on and to prepare to meet the next challenge. The temptation to not re-enter the fray is high. Some of us have the option to completely step away from some of the areas that cause us the most difficulty. Sometimes that is what God intends for us to do but, most of the time, God intends for us to recharge, regroup, and regain our hold on the reins and be about our Father’s business.

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come. For me, today I knew it was time because, my elephant dropped. I never saw him move on his own, but somehow, that little gray plastic elephant worked his way to the edge of the Jacuzzi and plunged trunk first into the water. I knew that when my elephant dropped, it was time to get back to work.