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.

Running for a Hug

…she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go… I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide.

So often I hear grandparents, myself included, talk about how much more fun it is now with our grandkids and that if we could have, we might have opted to have our grandchildren first! Of course, the idea of grandkids first would only have served for us to have our grandchildren at a time in our lives when we were focused on a hundred other things called life, job, career, education and duties or responsibilities that crowd out all the time we should be taking to just enjoy them as it was for our own children!

Our grandchildren are with us at a time in most of our lives where we can focus on keeping the main thing the main thing. An old adage from days gone by is wherever you’re at… be there. The point of that really struck home with me a couple of times in my life. Once was during those years when I was working long hours at the job and going to school part-time. Very often one of my small children would be tugging on my arm trying to get my attention for a moment or two and if I did finally acknowledge the tug; too often I was only half-there with an ‘uh-huh’ ‘that’s nice’ when they may have just told me they set their sister’s hair on fire! The other time was when I was older and my mom was quite a bit up there in years, a widow all alone and she would call every day to talk about absolutely anything. Sometimes, it seemed like she talked about everything. One day I caught myself ‘uh-huh’ and ‘that’s nice’ to my mom as I clicked away at my computer while she may have just told me that she was going to run off and marry the mailman and join a Wallenda Brothers High Wire Act! It hit me hard that someday I would miss those phone calls and I committed myself that I was going to be stronger at ‘being there’ when I was talking with my mom. Now that she, too, is in glory I’m so glad I did.

One of the dividends that comes from having the time to spend hours with my grandchildren and to work on wherever I’m at -being there is that I get to practice what it was I loved about my maternal grandfather. Most of the times I was with him, there were usually several of my cousins in close proximity. Being deep in the heart of West Virginia, you couldn’t throw a dead cat without hitting a relative of some sort or another. But no matter how many of us curtain climbers were there vying for Papaw’s attention, whenever I was with him; it was as if I was the most important person in the whole wide world to him. Now I get to enjoy helping my own grandchildren all feel like they are the most special person who ever wore hair.

There is another great dividend and that is the total, one hundred percent acceptance and love that our grandchildren give to us. They just love us. Sure they expect that we will take care of them but especially at this very early age, they don’t know beans from apple butter as my mother would say, about what our careers were or how important or unimportant we were… they just love us and most of the time they cannot wait to be with us! I confess, though, to this day I still have no idea what that saying of my mom’s meant and frankly, why does anyone need to know the difference between beans and apple butter? Who cares? I digress.

The grandkids will come running at us as hard as they can to get a hug. Their eyes light up and they are like the former

Courtesy Topps Laser
Courtesy Topps Laser

Cleveland Indian, Carlos Baerga, chugging for home plate. I love to get down in a catcher’s stance and just absorb the full hit of that hug-run. Of course, sometimes they are running that fast because of something they just did to provoke their mother to a fit of temporary insanity and they needed the shelter and protection that only Papaw can give and they needed right now! Just the other day two of my grandchildren were over and I was preparing to leave to do some work I had to do. (Don’t faint or think I’m telling an untruth, I do actually perform functions that bear a striking resemblance to work, at times. Not real often mind you and it is a nasty habit I am trying to break!) I had hugged one of the children and rather than head for the car I went to the study to retrieve one of the multiple things I always forget whenever I am leaving to go just about anywhere. (I think the neighbors have a pool going, every time I leave as to how many times I will go back in the house for something I have forgotten or how far I will make it down the street before I have to turn around and come back for something! So far, I haven’t left a child at home alone or anything like that… yet.) What happened next though is what started me thinking about this running for hugs business.

The other granddaughter had thought I had left without hugging her but when she learned I was in my study she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go. Unprepared as I was, with my back to the on-coming assault, she landed hard and grabbed me around both knees (including the new one the doctors just so lovingly and expensively installed.) It was a hug that about made my kneecaps pop off. Glad they didn’t that one cost me about $6,000! You can’t just go down to the Jiffy-Lube and have ‘em pop it back on. And Amazon, no matter what they say, does not have an app for that.

Here’s what I got to chewing on about this whole running for hugs business. I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide. Can you imagine how it would make our Heavenly Father feel if we felt like that toward Him and we would not be able to wait until the very next time we could be, like my grandkids say, ‘At Papaw’s house!’ only at our Heavenly Father’s house? Sometimes we can’t spare five minutes during the day just to stop by and say ‘Hello’ to our God. His Word tells us that He inclines His ear toward us eager to hear what is on our hearts. He knows, certainly, but He wants to hear it from us. Sometimes, our grandkids who are old enough to be in school, will receive an accolade of some type and their Mom will tell us about it. But, I still love hearing it directly from them, too. It is even more special when they are eager to share it with me. I think God is like that with us. Yes, He knows every word before we speak it, but He still wants to hear it from us and He loves when we are anxious to share it with Him.

Do you remember the story of the prodigal son in scripture? After he has gone away and unwisely spent all of his money. He is sheepishly returning home, hoping maybe his father will accept him as a servant. But the father has been watching every day hoping he would see his son come home and finally on that amazing day when he looks for the thousandth time that he had looked out that door, he sees his son coming in the distance.

Courtesy ourchurch.com
Courtesy ourchurch.com

This time the son isn’t running to his father; no he has a lot to be ashamed about – but just as he turns that last corner, BAM! His father – who ran all the way from the house – slams into him like William Refrigerator Perry of the Chicago Bear’s fame hitting an on-coming Quarterback with a loose ball in his arms!

Courtesy Freezer3.net
Courtesy Freezer3.net

Maybe, on that first day when we enter heaven, we’ll be excited to finally see our God face to face and we may take off on a dead run for Him and maybe, just maybe, our Heavenly Father will be running full-tilt anxious to hold us! That will be an amazing day – running for a hug.

Sometimes God Says…

Aaron made his way into my study and quietly took a seat in the leather chair just across from the corner of my desk. Without saying a thing he sat. I could see him from the corner of my eye; he was watching me work, waiting patiently for me to acknowledge him so he could say what obviously was on his mind.

In times past, we have had an opportunities to learn wonderful lessons from the off-hand comments of our children and now our grandchildren. Simple words that drive a theological truth home so strongly yet so innocently. Those moments seem to always happen when it is unscripted. It happened again just a few days ago.

As I sat in my study, surrounded by work, without any particular agenda or even focus; I was visited by my oldest grandson, Aaron. Not only is Aaron my oldest grandson, he is my first grandchild. Now in 2nd grade, Aaron has gotten to a point where he is thinking through some of the most complex concerns for adults by seeing them with the innocence and simplicity of a young boy. President Ronald Reagan once said, “They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”1 Perhaps it is due to Aaron’s young age that his outlook is simple because there is no real question about whether or not one should do what is morally right.

Aaron made his way into my study and quietly took a seat in the leather chair just across from the corner of my desk. Without saying a thing he sat. I could see him from the corner of my eye; he was watching me work, waiting patiently for me to acknowledge him so he could say what obviously was on his mind. When I finally turned my attention his way, he looked at me and matter-of-factly asked, “Is it true that sometimes when you pray to God that sometimes God says ‘No’?” I affirmed for him that his thought was right on the mark. His look was one of satisfaction that what he thought to be true was true. At least, in his eyes, if his grandfather said it was true, it must be. I considered digging a little deeper to find the source of his question; but I know my grandson pretty well and I know his expressions. If there was another concern there, he wasn’t giving away a ‘tell’.  I was fairly certain this was one of ‘inquiring minds want to know’ moments.

I could not help but remember an episode of M*A*S*H, the iconic television series of the 70’s and 80’s which continues on in syndication. In the episode Quo Vadis Captain Chandler, a young bomber suffers a head wound and believes he is Jesus Christ. The staff of the hospital, certain that he is simply Captain Chandler with a mental issue, still cannot help but be drawn to his simple, peaceful, way. The camp chaplain is particularly engrossed in theological discussions with him. The psychiatrist, a Jewish major approaches him and Christ, as presented by Chandler, notes that he and Sydney Freeman have not met yet. Major Freeman asks, “Is it true that God answers all prayers?” Chandler, a look of sad resignation on his face, as a tear trickles down his cheek… he replies, very quietly,, “Yes, sometimes the answer is ‘No.’”2

In chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark, the story is told of a man who had been out of his mind, living naked among the tombs; the villagers terrified of him. When the demon possessed man saw Jesus the demons immediate bowed before Him and begged not to be destroyed. In an apparent act of compassion even toward the demons Christ sent them into a herd of swine which then ran headlong into the sea. The villagers immediately pleaded with Jesus to leave them alone and to go away; which Jesus did. We should be careful for what we ask of God. As Christ was entering his boat to leave, the man freed of the demons asked to go along with Him but the Bible informs us that Jesus’ answer was ‘No.’ Jesus had something else for this man to do. Jesus said to him, “`Go away to thy house, unto thine own [friends], and tell them how great things the Lord did to thee, and dealt kindly with thee; and he went away, and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how great things Jesus did to him, and all were wondering.”3

The Bible never tells us what eventually happened in Decapolis. It was clear that when Jesus said, ‘No’ it was because He had something else of importance for the Kingdom to be done. There was a role and place for that one man that only he could fill. Has God said ‘No’ to you lately? Look closely at your request. Is it blocking something else that God might have for you?

In a theological discussion the priest and Captain Chandler were considering Judas Iscariot. Chandler (as Christ) said, “Being Judas, he could do nothing else.” Sadly, it seems Judas was born into this world for the horrid purpose of betraying Christ. Every person born into this world have been molded by the Potter as God explains to Jeremiah the prophet as recorded in Jeremiah 18. “I go down [to] the potter’s house, and lo, he is doing a work on the stones, and marred is the vessel that he is making, as clay in the hand of the potter, and he hath turned and he maketh it another vessel, as it was right in the eyes of the potter to make.”4

Paul writing his letter to the Romans recorded in chapter 9, declares “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”5

From 1954 to 1960 Americans were educated in the life and times of the manager of the General Insurance Company, Jim Anderson and his family, wife Margaret and their children, Betty, Bud and Kathy. Jim Anderson was played by veteran actor, Robert Young who went on some years later to play the role of Marcus Welby, M.D. In this 1950’s view of the ‘typical American life’ viewers came to understand that the title of the show was in fact the premise upon which every episode was built, “Father Knows Best.”6     

Without being trite or giving more due to the writers of a 1950’s sitcom than they deserve; Christians have come to realize that when it comes to matters of everything of any consequence (and for all those with little or no consequence in the grand scheme of things) our Heavenly Father knows best. And… sometimes, our Heavenly Father says, “No.”       

 

1 Kristol, William and Michel Makovsky “The Obama Complex” The Weekly Standard February 10, 2014  p 10

        2 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0638393/

       3  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark5&version=YLT

      4   http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jeremia18&version=YLT

      5  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans9&version=NKJV

    6   http://sharetv.com/shows/father_knows_best?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=father%20knows%20best%20tv%20show&utm_campaign=Bing+Campaign