A Shout-Out to the Heroes and the Source of our Help

Many of you who have known me for a long time may not know that, for the past 2 years, I have had the opportunity to work “downstairs” (distribution) in a community hospital.  As you can imagine, the last few weeks have been pretty crazy. In one sense it’s been a little slower as all non-essential surgeries and procedures have been postponed or cancelled in light of the anticipated Corona surge. Some of the hallways are eerily silent, while others are buzzing with more activity than ever as some units have been shut down completely and others have been re-assigned. A Covid-19 Command Center has been set up, our limited supply of PPE is being severely rationed, and there is a sense of uncertainty and trepidation that seems to be ramping up exponentially day by day. We have already begun treating Covid-19 patients.

I want to give a massive shout out to all those on the front lines (doctors, nurses, techs, transporters, registrars) who are dealing personally, one on one, with the patients. I salute and respect every one of you immensely. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I also want to give a huge ‘THANK YOU’ you to all my colleagues in the support services, especially EHS workers (who have to, among other things, prepare and sanitize every room), but also Dietary Staff, Plant Operations, and my own department, Stat Stores (central distribution). Without all of you, there would be no patient care; there would be no hospital!

I’m pretty sure that all of whom I have mentioned in this post – and others – are committed to ‘see this thing through’ to the bitter end. Even the Community in which we are located has been fantastic: rallying around, seeking ways to support us in whatever way they can by donating supplies, making masks and face shields, encouraging staff with treats and thank you notes and promises of prayer… A shared crisis always seems to bring out the best in people and THAT has been beautiful to see.

But (and here it comes) I want to encourage everyone to put their hope and trust, not in the front line heroes, support staff or caring community, but in the Almighty God who is above all things! All of us are subject to failure, God is not! We can make serious errors in judgement, God cannot! We may grow tired and lose strength, not so the Lord Almighty! 3,000 years ago, a young shepherd/musician/warrior who would later become King David, cried out in desperation: “I lift up my eyes toward the mountains— from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). He knew! His confidence was not misplaced! God miraculously preserved his life. A few hundred years later, King Jehoshaphat also got it right. When a formidable foe was about to attack his kingdom he cried out to the Lord, “We are powerless against this vast army that comes against us. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12). The people of Judah turned to prayer, and they were delivered from the hands of the enemy.

And so we come to this time in history –  a time like no other! It is no exaggeration, nor is it histrionic to state that a worldwide pandemic is threatening the lives of every person on this planet – and we are powerless against it. We can follow all the prescribed measures to mitigate the disease, we can boldly and bravely rush to the front lines of the battle or support those who do, we can come together as communities to support, encourage and help one another, but ultimately our help comes from the Lord; and the key …. is with His people! The prescription could not be more clear. God Himself says this:

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain,
or if I command the locust to devour the land,
or if I send an epidemic among My people,

and My people who are called by My name
a) humble themselves and
b) pray and
c) seek My face and
d) turn from their wicked ways,

THEN I will hear from heaven,
will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

(2 Chronicles 7:13&14)

So people of God arise, move to the front lines where the real battle is the fiercest, and fall on your knees before our merciful God! If we truly humble ourselves, and sincerely pray, and actively seek His face, and decisively turn from ALL our wicked ways, this pandemic will be miraculously lifted, and this could be our finest hour!

If there are some who have read this far who have not yet joined the ranks of the redeemed, I implore you to repent, accept the forgiveness that is offered to you through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, turn to God, and join us in the battle! This could be YOUR finest hour!

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the salvation of the LORD!”

Exodus 14:13

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A Peaceful Repose – Psalm 23

In a world gone mad, in the midst of a global crisis, when chaos abounds, there is still a peace that surpasses all understanding for all who return to the loving arms of the Good Shepherd who loves us and gave Himself for us.

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LENT AND LIFE: The Journey Explained

And so the journey begins – the journey to the Cross! In one sense, we make this trek once a year. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday, the day we commemorate the death of the Son of God who loves us and gave Himself for us; the day we ‘survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died”! It is a journey of reflection, remembrance, and repentance, often marked with solemnity and sacrifice.

In another sense, the journey begins when, in response to God’s grace, faith is first activated in the human heart. For me, it was almost five decades ago when, as a 12-year-old boy, I knelt at a wooden altar in the tabernacle at Delanco Camp in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, USA, confessed my sins to Jesus, accepted His forgiveness, and began a new life with His Spirit living inside me. It was the moment I was ‘born again’! I like to call it “the Divine Exchange”: my sin for His sacrifice; my confession for His forgiveness; my brokenness for His healing. In response to God’s grace, my faith was activated, and my journey began. It is a journey of discovery, discipleship, and detachment, but one that is marked with unconditional love, ineffable joy, and inexplicable peace.

And so it continues. It will continue beyond the Cross … to the Resurrection … and beyond, when one day, face to Face I will meet the One who saved me by His grace, I will feel the touch of His nail-scarred hand on my shoulder, and I will hear Him say to me, “Well done, My good and faithful servant, and welcome to Paradise, My dear, completed friend!”

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Thoughts on the Third Strand (a little inspirational piece about the sanctify of marriage in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence)

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for children to alter the familial bands which have connected them with their parents, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station of Holy Matrimony to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, it is proper and fitting that a man and a woman shall leave their respective father and mother, and shall cleave unto one another, thus becoming One Flesh. It is fitting too that, in the very fabric of this Matrimonial Union, among the independent sinews which constitute the whole, a Divine Strand be intimately woven which shall, most assuredly, vivify, strengthen and sanctify the Marriage Bond.

three strand rope_edited1_uprightWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and the holy state of Nuptial Union. When any man, woman, religious, civil or political institution, philosophy, lifestyle or circumstance becomes destructive and seeks to dissolve or otherwise weaken this Sacred Union, all due diligence must be applied to ensure that such negative forces be rendered powerless and non-effective. This Matrimony, conceived and instituted by God, when tenderly and delicately woven with that third and Divine Strand, shall not be easily broken. What God hath joined together, let no one tear asunder.

 

* The wording of this piece is derived largely from the American Declaration of Independence and the motif is inspired by Genesis 2:24Ecclesiastes 4:12Hebrews 13:4, and Mark 10:9 in the Holy Bible.  I do not claim complete originality and no copyright infringement is intended.

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Sovereign Wisdom and Perfect Love

When I reflect on the events and the circumstances I have experienced over the years; when I “ponder anew what the Almighty can do” and marvel at the way He has so skillfully woven His will into the tapestry of my life; when I consider the sundry pathways upon which I have traveled – the mountains, the valleys, the sharp turns and dark tunnels; when I think of how the Master Potter continues to shape and mold me into an image that is both beautiful to His eyes and functional in His hands; how could I ever put my trust in anything less than His sovereign wisdom? Then as I begin to search the Scriptures to learn, to grow, to seek the face of my Creator, I find a God who  defies every earthly definition of love, who defines the very term itself, and who demonstrates it powerfully in the perfect sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ and I am gripped by the irony, by the scandal, and the power of the Cross, upon which the Son of Glory bore the weight of all my sin, took the punishment that I deserve – and died for me!

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The Heartbeat of Prayer

There is no greater work on earth in which to engage than prayer. There is no greater power to possess, no greater weapon to employ, no greater instrument to wield, no greater strategy to effect change in the world than prayer.  There is no closer communion, no sweeter fellowship and no deeper bond than that which we experience with God in prayer.  It is the heartfelt cry of the creature to the Creator; the sacred tryst of the mortal with the Immortal; the intimate exchange between the human and the Divine! Prayer is, at the same time, the easiest, and the most difficult form of communication.  It requires only the faith of a small child yet often demands the discipline of a master.  It is our humble service in the present age, and our greatest investment in the age to come.  

Through prayer, God supplies all we need to live lives that honor Him, all we need to do His will, and all we need to stand firm in the face of the enemy’s wicked schemes. Therefore, our adversary, the devil, will do everything in his limited power to block the channel of prayer. He will stoop to the lowest level and stop at nothing to keep us from praying. He will employ every trick, every device and every strategy to distract us from our time alone with God. He will lie to us, steal from us, torture us and deceive us in every possible way; his aim is to destroy. God’s aim is to give life. Therefore, do not give the enemy a foothold. Resist Him and he will flee from you. Draw near to God. Consciously, deliberately, intentionally, draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Find solace, strength, wisdom and hope in the shadow of His wings.    

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Snow Covers

Seems like just yesterday it was summer. The land around me was teeming with lush green grass and tall flourishing trees. The gently rolling, blue hills in the distance and the misty rays of sunshine forming arbitrary boundaries around the fields completed the perfect backdrop for this idyllic setting.

Now it’s Friday morning, December 13th, and I am seated comfortably on the couch in my warm and well-appointed home in Damascus, MD. The sound of German Weinachtsmusik fills the air.  In front of me is the mantel piece, tastefully adorned in festive array.  Just to the right of the empty fireplace, is our imitation Christmas tree decorated as ornately and majestically as ever. To the far left, in the next room, is a second tree – a real one – a touch of the Victorian. But my eyes are diverted to the view outside the big picture window on my right. The sun is shining brightly, and the sky is cerulean blue without a cloud in sight. The trees are mostly bare except for the traces of icy snow that line the bigger branches, and of course the evergreens off in the distance. The ground is still completely snow-covered, and although glistening in the sunshine, the pure, unspoiled look of the freshly fallen stuff has gone.

And I’m thinking, not of the beauty that captures my gaze, but of that which lies beneath: the cold, hard ground, callous and unyielding. The snow provides a superficial and transient covering, but the ground is still cold, hard, callous and unyielding. It’s like many a human heart. My heart, I know, has been affected by the cold; hardened by the subtle deceitfulness of sin and the tantalizing treasures that glimmer in the darkness. I have been swayed, at times, by popular opinion and desensitized by godless dissipation; I have allowed my soul to be satisfied with emptiness and my heart, consequently, has grown callous and unyielding. But I like the snow because it covers everything and makes beautiful, that which is sometimes barren and lifeless. I like the snow because it makes (even) me look attractive for a while. Snow is like the mask I wear. It’s like the fences we erect and the walls we build; the beautiful facade that hides all our blemishes and our stains and our ugliness. But snow is fleeting. It doesn’t last. It all melts away revealing once again the harsh reality of the cold, hard ground. The only hope is to await the arrival of spring.

And so it is with us. Our only hope is to await the arrival of spring – the promise of new life. As we acknowledge the state of our hearts, confess our need to be made alive and believe in the power of Jesus Christ to make us new creatures, something extraordinary happens: we are strangely warmed as our hearts begin to soften and our spirits begin to yield. The callousness begins to disappear as we are adorned with the character of Christ. Suddenly we find that we don’t long for the fleeting beauty of the snow to cover us anymore. We don’t have to build barriers and walls and fences. We don’t need the fugacious facades to hide behind because we are becoming beautiful, just as, in the beginning, we were all intended to be.

Soon it will be summer again. And once again the land around me will be teeming with lush green grass and tall flourishing trees. The gently rolling, blue hills in the distance and the misty rays of sunshine forming arbitrary boundaries around the fields will complete the perfect backdrop for this idyllic setting.

Summer again – because God, in His faithfulness, brought to life that which was dead.

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amplecti magnitudinem – Embrace Greatness

The people who dwell on this earth in this generation have a great responsibility to stand together for truth, for justice, for righteousness and for peace; ours is a sacred task that must not be taken lightly. Regardless of race, color, creed, national origin or sexual orientation we are called on to think rationally, to move intentionally, to act responsibly and to love unconditionally. We can – and must – effect real change in our world. But let us remember that any good there may be in mankind, whatever virtue may be found in us is simply a vestige of the Imago Dei. Mighty dictators have come and gone. Great civilizations have risen and fallen. We mortals have no intrinsic power apart from that which the Almighty has granted us. So let us rise … but let us look to Him for wisdom and strength, to His Spirit for guidance and empowerment, and let us look to Jesus Christ to be our Example, our Inspiration, our Savior and our Very Great Reward. When He is that for all of us, real and lasting change can happen and mankind can begin to embrace the greatness for which we were created!

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Why we need another Lincoln!

I stood in awe again last night at the sight of the Lincoln Memorial, resplendent with empyreal radiance, illuminating the darkness above the DC skyline. And in my reverie, I was reminded that there are two primary reasons why Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president the United States has ever known:

REASON #1: He was a man of the BOOK!

 

 

 

REASON #2: He was a man of PRAYER!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh for another president who shares and upholds these core values: values that shaped our nation, values that made us strong; values that kept us anchored in the deadliest of storms! Where have those days gone?  To our shame God’s Word and Prayer have been ignored; our Constitution has been compromised; our values have been revoked! Consequently, we have mislaid our moral bearings, we have lost our strength … and our anchor is no longer secure!

God help us! Send us another Abraham!

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RELFECTIONS ON ABRAHAM: Why Abraham is my hero! part 2

(this was originally posted on my Facebook page May 1, 2010)

Abraham, from Ur of the Chaldees, is my new hero for two big reasons. The second reason is nearly as incredible as the first.

Reason #2. “Abraham, when called to go … obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

Isn’t that fantastic? The old boy liked to live on the edge, there’s no doubt about that. But doesn’t that strike you as being just a little bit irresponsible? Crazy? Impetuous, or at best, eccentric? He went – but didn’t know where he was going. What was He thinking?

See, Abraham didn’t HAVE to know where he was going because he knew the One who had set the course, the One who would lead him, the One who would go with him all the way. He didn’t HAVE to know where he was going to end up… in order to get there. All Abe had to do was lift his foot in the first step of obedience … and God would set that foot down in the right direction. And as far as we know, Abraham was ok with that. That’s why he’s my hero.

This big adventure all happened 25 years or so before Isaac was born, but still it wasn’t just Abraham that was effected by this massive mystery move. He took his wife, his nephew, their servants, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired, herds of livestock … and who knows what else. And because God had told him to go, he went – picked up his tents and went – not knowing where he was going. East or West, North or South? He didn’t know. He just went. He knew they would end up in a different country. He knew it would be a different culture with different customs and perhaps a strange language. He knew they would encounter hardships and opposition along the way. He knew all of that. But he knew God would be there. Instinctively, he must have known what the Psalmist would write centuries later: “even if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:9-10). But still, it couldn’t have been easy for him. He and his posse had become well settled in the land. They were respected and loved by the people. They were comfortable. Life was ok.

But God said to Him, “Abe. I want you to go. Take your stuff and your peeps and leave this land of your fathers …. just go. I’ll tell you when to stop and I’ll tell you where you are when you get there.” So … “by faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

At the risk of personalising this too much … I feel a bit like Abraham at the moment. We don’t know exactly where God wants us to go we just sense that it’s time to go. And so, in obedience, we are going, even though we don’t know exactly where we are going. God has a plan and it’s probably much bigger than anything I can think of. I’m sure it’ll be very different from any scenario I can dream up. My only desire is to know God’s will and to be in the centre of it because I know that His will is by far the best place to be. I would LOVE to know where we will be 3, 5, 7 months from now, but I don’t HAVE to know … because I know the One who has set the course, the One who will continue to lead me, the One who will go with me all the way. I don’t HAVE to know where I am going to end up … in order to get there. All I have to do is lift my foot in the first step of obedience … and God will set that foot down in the right direction. I’m ok with that.

So thanks Abe. Thanks for showing me that it’s ok to trust God in this way. Thanks for showing me that trust and obedience are the two main ingredients for a man of faith. Thanks for being my role model, my hero. And thank You, God, for being the same yesterday, today and forever.

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