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Savoring My Passage - the monthly journal of A. C. Gray

February, 2011

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The Matterhorn...Switzerland

Winter days now give me reason to ponder an era of my life when I lived in the woods….first at Arbreux  near Orkney Springs in Shenandoah County and more recently at L’Abri, my place at Massanutten on Piney Mountain.  It was my time, like that of Henry David Thoreau , living his solitary life in a small cabin by Walden Pond.  My reason was not unlike his.  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately” he wrote,“to front only the essential facts of life, and see what I could learn that it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 

 I stayed in the woods as long as I thought I could compete with the task of keeping the trees from reclaiming their space and wage a successful encroachment on my living quarters from the wildlife whose domain I occupied.  Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that the rightful ownership of those woods was that of the squirrels, primarily, but also all the other creatures native to the forest.  These winter days, in the comfort of my diminished living space, I relive many of those days with immense gratitude.  Living as I do with the blessed assurance that I will be rehearsing those days ages and ages hence as royalty living in splendor, I surmise that some may look upon me as eccentric, even more so than was Thoreau.  I hope to tell him some glad day that I read his books.  Likewise, I live with the expectation of meeting other great authors – Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, among others and tell them how marvelous that the Holy Spirit spoke to me with their words.

                         

Only he who lives by the forgiveness of his sin in Jesus Christ will rightly think of himself.  He will know that his own wisdom reached the end of its tether when Jesus forgave him.  He remembers the ambition of the first man who wanted to know what is good and evil and perished in his wisdom.  ….Because the Christian can no longer face that he is wise he will also have no opinion of his own schemes and plans.  He will know that it is good for his own will to be broken in the encounter with his neighbor.  He will be ready to consider his neighbor’s will more important and urgent than his own.  What does it matter if our own plans are frustrated?  Is it not better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together  

Going North
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Wednesday March 30, 2011 —

Canadian Honker leaving Albuquerque, NM and heading North for the summer.

                  

           A February Valentine           

Finally, there is this – keep loving.  For if love is the most Christlike thing in the world, and if you love someone with all your being, does it not follow that Christ cannot be far away?  If you have begun to realize that the ultimate meaning of life is love, and if you are allowing a spirit of affection and compassion to banish hardness and censoriousness from your heart, must you not be nearer than you think to Him who was the greatest Lover of all, and to the God who so loved the world that Jesus was His gift?  James S. Stewart, in a sermon, Hearsay or Experience? 

 

 

Chalet Arbreux
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Excerpt from Clouds, Darkness, and the Morning Star, sermon in the collection: The Gates of New Life, James S. Stewart, Edinburg, Scotland, 1938.  Reprint; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan,1972.

          How do I know, looking at Jesus, that life has meaning, and God a purpose?  I know it from His character.  Into this tumbled, chaotic world there has appeared at one point of time that quality of life –absolute chivalry, consistency unwavering, love triumphant over every evil, compassion as wide as the sea, purity as steady as a rock.  And when I gaze at that, immediately there is a voice in my own heart that begins to cry –“The meaning of life is there!  God’s purpose for me, and for all humanity, is there.  Soul of mine, follow that gleam!

How do I know, looking at Jesus, that life has meaning and God a purpose?  I know it from His cross.  When a flag is flying in the wind, you cannot always make out its design and pattern; but then perhaps there comes a sudden stormy gust and blows the flag out taut, and for a moment the pattern stands out clear.  Was it not something like that which happened nineteen hundred years ago?  The flag of life and of man’s long campaign had been flying for ages, and none could read its meaning; but suddenly came a storm-blast, the fiercest gust of all, and straightened out the flag: and men looked, and lo! Its pattern was a cross.  Does it not help you, in your sufferings, to know that that cross is the ground plan of the universe, that life is built on that; that the trials and troubles and sacrifices which often seem so meaningless, the very negation of all purpose, are really the means by which the most glorious purpose imaginable is wrought out; and that therefore every pain you have to bear can be a holy sacrament in which the God who suffered on Calvary comes to meet you, and your contribution to the building of the kingdom of heaven and the redeeming of the world?  Christ died to tell us that.

          How do I know, looking at Jesus, that life has a meaning, and God a purpose?  I know it from His resurrection.  Do you remember the dramatic passage in which Browning likens conversion to the effect of a lighting-flash in a dark night, showing up everything momentarily as clear as day?....What was the resurrection of Jesus?  What were the appearances to the disciples?  They were the lightning-flash of God, the bursting of the unseen world into the seen, the break-through of God’s new creation, the spiritual world order, into the order that now is.  No wonder Paul, meeting Jesus outside the gates of Damascus, fell blinded to the earth!  What had he seen?  Do not think it was the Syrian sunshine that dazzled him.  No!  He had seen –for one tremendous moment, in that risen, death-defeating Christ, he had seen – the unveiled purpose of God. And you who have been where Paul and these disciples were, you to whom He is now the companion of the way in a blessed intimacy of friendship whose wonders never cease – you need no further proof.  Life does have meaning and a purpose and a goal.  And we poor creatures are not the doomed playthings of chance and accident and futility. We are getting somewhere.  We are moving onwards to a day when this suffering, tormented creation shall see at last of the travail of its soul, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, and God shall be all in all.

          I am the bright and morning star,” says Jesus.  It all comes back in the end to the question:  Who will follow that gleam?  Are we prepared to live now as those who have seen the purpose of God, as men and women who have tasted the powers of the world to come?  And will we hold to it in spite of everything, in spite of the tangles and the darkness and all that God’s will is coming out at the last; that though hindered often and set back by human blindness and folly and sin, its ultimate victory is sure?  O trust that morning star!  God set it in the sky for you.