Archive for December, 2007

Am I Living Right?

Well, Christmas is over. As I recall the wonderful week we had visiting my wife’s parents, duck hunting, and hanging out with her extended family during the traditional Christmas Eve festivities, I’m reminded of an article I wrote for the Rogers Hometown news during my last visit to Romania in 2006. After pulling it up on my computer and reading it, I realized much of what I said then is still very relevant today, especially the week after “the big day”.

The mental snapshots of my visits to the Promenade Mall in Rogers the week before and after Christmas are interrupted with memories of Romania and it’s people. Like a good Power Point presentation, a song is repetitively accompanying this mental slide show (I should say a line from the chorus of a song by John Mayer. “I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdict-less life. Am I living it right?”).

I see an image of a horse-drawn wagon full of dried cornstalks and it is replaced with a man trying to park his Cadillac SUV. “I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdict-less life. Am I living it right?” I see a family of 7, in what is likely to be their Sunday best, walking in the mud toward the local Baserica (Romanian for church) which dissolves into a picture of a family of four in Build a Bear. “I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdict-less life. Am I living it right?” In the next scene I see tears rolling down the cheeks of a young woman who is overwhelmed with gratitude as she is served a meal she didn’t have to grow, kill or cook herself. This is abruptly overtaken by a picture of a young woman expressing her anger over the extended wait she has had to endure at P.F. Changs. “I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdict-less life. Am I living it right?” The final pair of pictures is more vivid than any of the others. The first of the duo includes a young man wearing the same pants, shirt, and jacket for four days in a row. The second is of a woman carrying so many bags of new clothes and shoes she can’t take two steps without having to set them down to readjust her grip. “I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdict-less life. Am I living it right?” I could go on but I think you get the idea.

I don’t know if that strikes a chord with you or not, but here’s what I’m thinking. We live in world of stark contrasts. The United States, despite its share of conflict during its brief existence, is a country of immense material wealth. Romania, on the other hand, has spent the last 18 years crawling out of the devastation left in the wake of a Communist regime that lasted for over 45 years. Lifestyles of consumption and waste, as well as the expectation of not only obtaining more but of everything being bigger and better than before, have become American trademarks. Romanians are so busy coping from one day to the next they haven’t time to develop any expectations and the idea of deserving something isn’t even a consideration unless, of course, they’ve had the “privilege” of visiting the west. There is also a striking contrast between the churches in the two countries. But that’s for another article.

As the pictures run over and over through my head, it becomes painfully clear. Despite living in abundance and wealth, Americans, on average, seem to lack gratitude and joy. Rather than expressing thanks for and rejoicing in every good and perfect God-given gift, we walk around with frowns on our faces demanding more or at least a different kind of gift as if every one we received was a right rather than a gracious blessing. When our expectations or demands aren’t met, we grumble and complain as if we were owed more.

Despite living in need and in many cases poverty, Romanians, at least those I’ve observed, seem to remain grateful and joy-filled for what little they have. Their eyes are brighter. Their smiles are bigger. Their laughter is deeper. Their families are closer. And interestingly enough, the same seems to be true for Christians and non-Christians alike, even though I know the height, depth, and breadth of gratitude and joy is greater for the former than the latter.

Having had the opportunity to experience another culture, I have to ask myself, “Am I living right?” As a matter of fact, it would probably be a good exercise for all of us. “Are we living right?” Of course the answer to that question may not be easy to hear. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Luke 12:34

Soli Deo Gloria



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Pray for Palmer

Palmer Richardson

I would like to make a plea on behalf of a family friend. Palmer Richardson is a sweet 14 year-old young lady who has been diagnosed with T-cell ALL, a type of leukemia. She is currently in Nashville, TN undergoing treatment and in desperate need of our prayers. Please visit her website for more information in regards to her daily fight, prayer requests, and how you can help financially to support her and her family.



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Her velvet sleeves lay motionless
And limp against the scarlet dress.
A half-said word hung still and thin
Between her frozen lips, and in
The distance she could hear the screams
Of men whose adolescent dreams
She metamorphosed into sin
Converting fantasy to skin.

No blinking now from bark-brown eyes,
But only blankness, while the skies
Above the city fill with smoke
From burning wives who used to stoke
The supper stove and wait for men
Who didn’t come, allured again
By Rahab to the harlot’s bed,
They’d sworn to see her dead.

But now, as always, there she stood,
As far from burning as she could,
And thought about a thousand nights
When she had watched the flames and flights
Of passion in her patron’s play,
But kept her heart a mile away.

She watched until the sun went down
And all of Jericho’s renown
Blew southward to the Salted Sea.
Then terrified and fearfully
She fell and spread her hands and face
Upon the ground, and to abase
Herself she scooped the dust and dirt
And threw it on her head and skirt
Until the last of strength was gone,
And then she wept until the dawn,
And choked out words repeatedly:
“Why was I spared? Why me? Why me?”

At dawn she heard a Jewish voice:
“Tis good to weep and not rejoice;
The sorrow first and then the song,”
The words of Joshua were strong.
“Now rise and go down to the stream,
And make you clean this is no dream!
The answer to your cry, ‘Why me?’:
The God of Abraham is free.
His sun is rising in the east,
The priests have made for us a feast.
Go, make you clean and come with me;
There is another way to be.”
So Rahab made her face to shine
And took her place before the shrine.

And thus may God make all things new
As we light advent candle two.

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The priests and merchants in the hills,
And girls and women at the mills,
Had smiled at old man Zach as long
As many could recall. “The song!”
They’d shout, when he returned to them
From duty in Jerusalem,
“The song!” For twenty years they’d sung
The song, and put it on the tongue
Of children when they told the tale
Of how the “Desert John” was born.
That’s what they called his son.

The corn
Would crush between the wheels
As women worked to make the meals
For half a dozen priests from old
Abijah’s clan. Then they’d be told,
“The clan is back! And old man Zach
Is coming up the hill!” With pack
And staff and ninety years of life,
—Or more, some said—he’d climb.

His wife
Had met him on the ridge until
She died. Most say she’d taken ill
Because the desert took her boy.
She groaned for days and cried, “Destroy
Your snakes and vipers, wilderness,
But not my son!” The boy was less
Than twelve the first time he had not
Returned. And then before he’d got
A beard upon his face he ceased
To come at all. And facing east
Upon her simple mat she died.
But not the old man Zach. He’d cried
For her and John, but then he took
His staff and pack and sacred book.
And kept his yearly vigil for
Another fifteen years. “Adore
The God who gives and God who takes,”
He used to say. “The Sovereign makes
No large or small mistakes.”

When he
And other hill-born priests would be
A furlong from the village mill,
The shout would rise, “He’s on the hill!”
And girls would leave their grinding stones.
“The song! The song!” they’d shout. The tones
Were struck and all would sing—just four
Short lines for old man Zach, no more:

“A barren womb has given birth,
A desert boy from desert sprung.
Who can foresee the baby’s worth,
The boy who made his father young?”

And it was true: the boy had made
His father young. Old Zach had prayed
That God would let him see the day
When John would lift his voice and say,
“Prepare! Prepare the way of God!”
Now thirty years gone by, he trod
This one last time the village hill,
And at the setting of the sun lay still
With fever in his face.

The men
Kept vigil through the night, and when
His breath was almost gone, he said,
“John, John.” An old friend stroked his head.
For all they knew the boy’d been dead
For fifteen years. The sky turned red
Along the eastern ridge. His breath
Would pause, and then, evading death,
Return, each time more soft. And then,
Against the blood-red sky, the men
Saw silhouetted like a black
And brawny desert priest, with pack
And staff and sacred book, the frame
Of John. They knew it, for he came
Straight to the simple shelter where
He’d lived for half his life. And there,
Without a word to those who sat
Spellbound, he knelt beside the mat.
And as he bent, his long black hair
Fell ‘round their face like answered prayer,
And made a holy tent. He kissed
His father’s eyes with glazen mist,
The first flesh he had touched for ten
Long, lonely years plus five. And then
He put his lips beside the old
Man’s waiting ear and said, “Behold,
A voice that in the desert cries,
‘Prepare the way of God!'” The eyes
Of Zechariah twitched. His hand
Rose as if drawn from heaven, the grand
Gesture of a grateful priest.
And as the glory of the east
Began to shine, his arm fell ‘round
John’s neck, then softly to the ground.

O God, our arms and hope are weak:
He has been gone so long!
But He alone is all we seek!

O that your bright and shining face
Would shine in candle one,
And grant by your almighty grace

That we embrace the Son.

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