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Tag Archive: grace


He walked through the streets in darkness,

Homeless but not alone,

A man on a mission of reverence

beyond the mundane chore of survival,

in a spirit of grace and mercy.

___

He stopped at Johnson’s Laundry

With it’s Closed for Christmas sign,

He knelt on the sidewalk outside the door,

Quietly saying the Lord’s Prayer,

the only prayer he knew.

___

Thanking “Papa” Johnson

For the clothes left unclaimed,

He left a small package – a crude, homemade cross

With a card on which was scrawled,

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Next was Garcia’s Grocery

For the leftovers not yet spoiled

He knelt and prayed –

Another crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Ten blocks later, Miller’s Hardware,

For his sturdy, cardboard box dwelling,

and timber for his bed,

A kneel, a prayer, a larger crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Too far from home, the mission closed,

He found a bench in the park,

after a passerby bought coffee

and he walked – recalling forgotten memories –

without knowing what they meant.

___

Early the next morning on Christmas Day,

he fought the wind and rain,

through the cold streets to the mission,

where Christmas dinner was served, the soul sustained,

and life again had purpose.

___

The rain stopped, the wind died down,

as he trekked on home,

home – an alley behind the church

white and made of stone,

with a view of the cross on the wall.

___

He turned into the alley

and stopped in his tracks.

Where his cardboard box had stood,

was a sturdy lumber shack,

with a roof, a window, and a door.

___

He opened the door to a sturdy wooden cot,

An orange crate table, his few possessions inside,

with something new on top.

A suit of clothes hung on a hook,

with the laundry marker still on it.

___

He closed the door because he could,

he’d forgotten what it felt like.

Walking to the table he turned on the lamp,

it had been years since he had his own light,

but then his breath went away.

___

Also on the table sat a Bible, brand new,

inscribed with a name he hadn’t used in years,

next to a picture of a family he’d forgotten he had.

He stood staring at them, his mind racing,

memories bombarding his thoughts.

___

He sat on the cot and picked up the Bible,

after staring at the picture a while.

He ran his fingers over the only thing he owned

that wasn’t worn by wear or weather,

with emotions he couldn’t control.

___

Through tears, with shaking hands,

he opened the Bible and read

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___________________________

© 2009  Daniel L. Roark

Merry Christmas!

Peace be with you.

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Where was God when disaster struck?

God was with the baby who survived
because her window
was the only one in the house
that did not implode.

God was there to comfort
the woman who lost everything
she owned, and most
of her family.

God was with the family
who stuck together
during the tragedy
and survived – together.

God was with the family members
who were separated
before the disaster,
but found each other safe.

God was with the people
who – despite injury and loss –
helped others who could not
assist themselves.

God was there with the families
of the victims
helping them to deal with
the question of why?

God was there with the family
of those who may have caused
the disaster and who are
struggling to understand.

God was there with grace
to pour upon those affected
and help them to carry on
despite unexpected change.

God was there.

Cyndy and I went out in the backyard the other day and discovered that one of the guinea hens from next door had overshot the top of the fence and found herself in our yard. She did not seem interested in exploring our back yard. She seemed intent on finding a way back to her yard, but clueless as to how to do so. She would strut in small circles, moaning with soft clucking sounds between the rose bushes and the fence.

Suddenly, the guinea hen would run for about ten feet along the fence. She would look startled and confused before racing back to where she began. Then she would begin the whole routine over again. As she ran down the fence, she appeared to be looking intently at the fence as if a hole  might open up at any time for her to escape through.

We did not let our dog, Misty, into the backyard for fear she would scare the guinea hen to death – literally. We were not exactly sure what Misty would do. So the hen spent several hours going through the same routine over and over again. Then our middle son, Cameron, let Misty out and she headed for the guinea hen, who flew back over the fence.

Which made me wonder why she did not fly back over in the first place. The obvious answer would be fear and panic. But that’s what made her finally fly back over. Did she continually go through the routine because she secretly enjoying the change, but was worried because she smelled Misty?

As Christians, we find ourselves in difficult situations we have placed ourselves in. When we overshoot a fence we should not be crossing in the first place. We find ourselves pacing back and forth, wasting energy, wondering where God is and why he doesn’t answer our prayers. We look expectantly, as if we will see a “hole in the fence” magically open up so we can walk into a parallel universe in which our problem is solved. But there is no parallel universe – only the one God created.

When God does not answer our prayers in the manner in which we would prefer they be answered, we begin to fear God. We begin to think that if he is not answering our prayers he has an agenda that may well be detrimental to our own, insignificant, agenda. Or even worse, that he is not thinking of us at all. So we keep pacing back and forth by the fence, calling out to any mortal who can hear us.

The fear begins to consume us. Finally, in desperation, we bypass the thought  processes and give ourselves to God’s grace and mercy. The fear pushes us beyond the limits of thought and instinct (understood here as faith) takes over. Surrendering to God’s will, we flutter over the fence and back into familiarity and home, where God put us in the first  place. God gave humans intelligence, but free will keeps us in doubt. We should work on dispelling the doubt and keeping the faith.

Peace be with you.

The bird in the window was about half the size of this bird.

We had a small visitor at our old house. She spent most of the day outside each of our sons’ rooms going in rotation to all three windows. Cyndy and I thought at first it was a Finch, but Cyndy decided it was a female cardinal. I have large hands and could probably hold the bird in a loose fist without any part of the bird showing. I do not know much about birds, but I do know that this particular bird had the common sense of a tree trunk.

She began to visit in the early afternoon after lunchtime. Which is one of my main reflecting and writing times so the intrusion was quite unwelcome, at least at first. I mistakenly took the sound to be our dog, Misty, scratching at the window trying to get out at a squirrel. But the tapping was more melodic and deliberate and did not result in the harder thump that our medium-sized dog would make as she hit the wall.

The first sudden tap made me jump, expecting to hear glass hit the wood floor at any moment. Less than three minutes later, another tap. Sometimes it would stop for as long as five minutes, leading me to believe it had ceased. But sure enough, as soon as I started working again – another tap. I realized Misty was laying on the floor in front of the my desk so she could not be making the sound. Then I heard a deeper, heavier noise follow the tap, as if someone had thrown a rubber ball at the window.

I went down the hall quietly and stood in the doorway of Conner’s room at the front corner of the house. The bird was standing in the middle of the window sill of the window facing the side of the house. She would look at the window, look around the side yard, then back at the window. Then, suddenly, she would tap the window hard with her beak – as if she had forgotten it was there, or just to be sure she had not been wrong the first five times. It was also entirely possible that she had tapped her beak so hard she had rattled her brains.

Then, in between periods of tapping, so suddenly it made me jump, she backed up a step and flung her little four inch, 20 ounce body against the window as hard as she could. Only appearing to be dazed for a few seconds, she flew around in a small circle and landed back on the window. She looked at the window for a few minutes, looked around a bit, and the whole cycle began again. I stood transfixed, thinking surely she would not do it again. But sure enough, after a series of taps, she backed up and body-slammed the window.

I leaned against the doorframe and watched for a while. Either the bird was so daft that neither thought nor pain registered in her small brain or she was so stubbornly persistent that constant failure was not enough for her to give up her task, whatever it was. Regardless, her task was a painful and fruitless one. Stubborn persistence can sometimes be beneficial, but more often than not it is simply detrimental.

While I thought the bird’s actions were ridiculously naive and mistaken, they reminded me of our stubborn persistence in not listening to what the Lord is telling us. Rather than having faith and trusting in God, we insist on looking for an easier way. Which actually turns out to be more difficult in the long run.

We have a chance to fly free, as it were, and explore all that the Lord’s world has to offer. Yet we insist on constantly tapping on the glass representing the things that we think we want or should have, but would never give us the fulfillment we long for. In our stubborn persistence we “body-slam” the glass, throwing our entire body into the refusal to accept what is before us. But,  as if that is not enough, we turn right around and start the whole process over again.

Like the Israelites of the Old Testament, we keep giving in to our temptation to slip back into sinful ways. We begin to find excuses to not read the Bible, pray or attend church or volunteer regularly. When life is going okay, we’re too busy for God. Then, when tragedy strikes, we wonder where God is – when, in fact, he has been there all along.

After God saves the day, yet again, and life returns to normal, we begin the insistent tapping all over again. We need to have faith in God, trust in his mercy, accept the grace he freely offers, and strive to live the way we were taught to live by Jesus. What is on the other side of the glass is ultimately unimportant.

Peace be with you.

The beginning of my aforementioned “fortunately…unfortunately” week was a week ago yesterday, when the computer crashed as I was starting to backup the most recent files. I only lost the recent files, which was regrettable and annoying, but not a major loss. I did not know I lost the files until I took it to the technician. The saga that ensued made the loss of files irrelevant.

I took the computer in on Monday morning. He kept saying he would call me at a particular time, but I had to call him back each time. The last time I called Monday evening he was about to install the operating system. I asked him if he would get the files off of the hard drive first. Meaning no computer for another day.

Tuesday afternoon when I called, the tech ask if I had a flash drive to copy the files to. I drove back up to the store with my external hard drive. Which is when I learned what files were missing. Or so I thought at the time. Suffice it to say, the tech was off on Wednesday which made Thursday afternoon the earliest I would possibly get my computer back.

Which was maddening. Our middle son, Cameron, let me borrow his computer in the meantime. Which helped me get online, pay bills, and so forth. But without the programs I needed, I could do little else. I was still in limbo as to whether they would be able to retrieve my files from the hard drive or not.

Trying to concentrate on writing was more difficult than usual. My mind kept wandering,  thinking of software I would have to replace or find the installation disk for. Thinking of files I was not sure were included in my last backup. And simply feeling completely out of sorts because my routine had been upended and thrown into the corner behind the waste basket.

Of course I was praying. Even so, I was not sure God, other than being with me through the Holy Spirit and his grace, could provide digital assistance. I did, however, feel the moments of comfort – letting me know God was with me, regardless. Yet the situation dragged on.

I finally got my computer back and re-installed most of the programs. Which extended the period of feeling out of sorts with no control. Hours upon hours of waiting for files to load and  updates to run. Having to restart my computer for the changes to take effect and wait for even more updates to run.

Everything seems to be loaded and running at the moment. At least until I think of some other program I no longer have and need to load again. There was one odd thing though. I was going through the file containing  what the technician retrieved from the hard drive. I figured if there was nothing in some of the files, I might as well delete them. Fortunately, I started with an insignificant file.

When I hit delete, I found myself waiting for the computer to delete thousands of files that were not supposed to be there. Which would explain why they could not find anything on the hard drive after he had transferred the files. It also leads one to think that the files are potentially retrievable. So after I sufficiently recover from last week’s episode, I’ll find someone who can possible retrieve them. I don’t want to get my hopes up and have them trampled on again any time soon.

But come to think about it, maybe God has gone digital after all.

Peace be with you.

I wrote an earlier post about the hens next door (the rooster, thankfully, has found a new home elsewhere). Our neighbors now have four different colored hens which are white, tan, black, and grey-striped. The black hen recently discovered she could fly over the fence into the front yard. Her choice of direction for her escape was quite intentional. Dogs could be heard barking on the other side of the fence of the other three sides of the backyard.

The hen has taken to wandering from her yard through our yard to the yard on the other side and back again, pausing at length under the bush at the far corner of our house. She also likes the bush next to the front door. She struts so close to the house that we can hear her clucking from inside. When I walked out the front door the other day, the dust flew as she scampered away from behind the bush. Unfortunately, she gives our dog, Misty, added incentive to try to escape when someone opens the door.

In the past few days, the black hen has become more curious and adventurous. She was wandering across the street, exploring the entrance to the driveway across from ours. But she mostly hangs around our front yard and her own. However, when I walked out into the backyard this morning, my assumption that her direction of escape was intentional was torn completely asunder.

The hen was strutting away from me about ten feet ahead. I was glad I had not brought Misty out with me. She strutted around the yard and seemed to be trying very hard to ignore the fact that I was there. As if she just ignored me, I would not notice she was there. She did not cluck at all, presumably so I would not hear her and become aware of her presence. She had acted the same way in the front yard. Yet, even though the hen tried to ignore me, she had to face the fact that I was still there and was not going away.

Which I tend to think is how we are with God at times. “I am just one person out of billions on the planet. Maybe if I try to be insignificant, God will not notice my presence or recent transgressions.” Then, at other times, we wonder why the Lord does not respond when we pray. We cannot have it both ways.

Try as we might, it is beyond our ability to fly underneath God’s “radar.” No matter where we go, God’s presence is always with us. He knows our smallest transgression – and forgives us with his grace. He is present when life is most difficult – supporting us with his grace. We just need to have faith, ask for God’s forgiveness, and accept his grace.

Peace be with you.

It is not uncommon for people to ponder the question of whether there can be good without bad or evil. Considering the fact that both good and bad obviously exist, it is almost begging the question. Theoretically though, if bad and difficult times did not exist, there would be no perception of good because good would have no qualification. There would simply be existence.

With that said, I do not think “would there be good without bad?” is the correct question. It certainly has no discernible answer. I think the proper question would be: without bad, would we have any appreciation for what we received or the life we lived? If there were no pain, would we know when we felt good?

The plumbing backed up in our home a few weeks ago. We have a home warranty, but the plumber could not come out until the next day. We soaked up water with towels, ringing them out as best we could. We were not sure we could run the washing machine without acerbating the situation. We lit scented candles and sprayed air freshener in an attempt to override the stench of sewage. The attempt was only partially successfully.

A couple of weeks ago the heater went out and we were without heat from sometime in the early morning on Monday until Tuesday evening. We had two space heaters, but in a two- story home they were not all that effective. Naturally, the temperature dropped to freezing overnight. Cyndy and I both work at home so there was no choice for us but to bear the uncomfortable situation. However, while we were forced to bear the situation, there was no grinning to speak of.

When the plumber left weeks ago, with everything flushing or draining, we felt relief, even though the stench took a little longer to get rid of. We relaxed as the tenseness of waiting for the plumber to arrive dissipated and the problem was rectified. The feeling returned when the heater technician left a week or so later. With the addition of the anticipation of warmth.

As Joni Mitchell said, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” But what about when it comes back? When the power goes out, the plumbing backs up, or the heater or air conditioner stops working, one begins to appreciate things working when the switch is flipped, the toilet flushes, and the A/C cycles on. Knowing that at any given moment, something may stop working – causing inconvenience and added expense. The principle does not only apply to utilities, of course.

Whether I had a toothache, fractured jaw, gash in my knee, broken heel, or even an end of a relationship (of any kind), I embraced – in a manner of speaking – the pain or inconvenience. Not the misery, but the situation as it is presented. With a toothache, if the tooth is not abscessed, I put off going to the dentist. Not only because I am not fond of dentist’s offices, but also because by living with the pain for a time helps me to appreciate the times I do not hurt – and I know how much better I will feel when the situation is remedied. It did not help when the injuries coincided with times of financial deficit and conflicting schedules.

To put it another way, I am an optimistic realist. I hope for the best, but am prepared for the worst. Difficult or painful times are part of life. There is no reason to get worked up about it – it is no one person’s fault and getting upset will not change the outcome. I did not enjoy the toothache. But I had the comfort of knowing the dentist was there to ease the pain at some point.

Then there are painful times when relief cannot be seen on the horizon. A family member or close friend dies or is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Or one any of a number of calamities occurs. In those moments it is hard not to get worked up about the situation or be upset. The answers are not as clear. The problem cannot be fixed with a single visit when you are tired of the pain. The pain – physical or emotional – seems endless.

Whether or not good could exist without bad, the fact remains that both do exist. Evil can be seen rearing its head in daily life. It affects us in many ways. Fortunately, God also exists and is stronger than the worst evil. We are human, with free will. There will still be illness, death, and other forms of serious pain. But God, with his grace, will help us get through any circumstance and quiet the fear within us. When God helps us through a time of pain, we have a greater appreciation for his grace and the times when life is good.

Peace be with you.

Happy New Year everyone, and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! The past year was interesting, to say the least, for all of us. I do not make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals for the year ahead. There are the usual health related goals: walk more, eat better, and adjust the daily schedule. And the Christian goals: give more, use less, better Bible study, and more mission work. As well as the harder ones: be more sensitive to others’ needs and less attentive to my own, be more considerate and less quick to anger. Lastly, the writing related productivity goals: post more, write more, and publish more.

I will reach some of the goals. I may even surpass a few. Unfortunately, however, I am afraid that I may fall considerably short with others. But that does not mean I will cease attempting to accomplish them. Some of the goals I’ve been working on for years. One of these years, maybe I’ll accomplish all goals across the board. But then there will be more goals to work toward.

Whether you make new year’s resolutions, set goals for the year, or do not dwell on it at all, I hope the year goes well for you. A new year brings new experiences, new opportunities, and new chances to improve our lives. May God watch over you and bless you with grace.

Happy New Year! – peace be with you.

When God Seems Absent

There is a rock in the flower bed outside the office door to the backyard. If you glance at it quickly, and use your imagination, it looks like a heart. If you look closer, it still resembles a heart – just a little misshapen. Each day I walk outside (except during inclement weather), I glance over at the rock and take comfort from its presence.

I cannot remember when I saw it for the first time, but I remember seeing it for the first time. It was not one of my better days and seeing the rock cheered me up. I thought it was there for me. A sign that God was with me.

Part of me feels a little silly getting comfort from a seemingly random vaguely heart-shaped rock. Regardless, I still feel that comfort. On a difficult day, when everyone seems to have me in their sights, the rock is still there. Letting me know I am never completely alone.

Then one day last week the rock was gone. There was an indentation in the flower bed where the rock had been. It had rained recently, but there was no corresponding deposit of soil. Our dog, Misty, often buries food and digs it back up later. Cyndy and I thought we knew most of her spots, and she usually covers it back up. Regardless of the reason, the rock was gone.

I felt lost. Which I feel rather silly admitting, but it is true. I walked around in circles, looking for where it might have ended up. The day did not seem right without the rock in its proper place. The rock had been a sign of hope. Was its absence a sign of the opposite? My mood was altered without a discernible reason.

The temperature was beginning to get colder. I would kick around and peer through the grass and leaves, but it was not a thorough search. I would tell myself that it really was not worth it and I would just have to get used to it not being there. But the feeling of emptiness did not go away. When I went back outside, I found myself circling the area again, with the scenario repeating itself.

A few days ago I was searching again – closer this time – and dug up a couple of rocks. I felt around and dug a little further. I do not know what caught my eye or caused me to dig where I did. But there was the heart-shaped rock. I placed it back up in a place of relative prominence near the bricks that border the flowerbed.

I do not know if the rock is from God, but I would like to think he is using the rock – so to speak – to get a message across. If not to me, then through me, by my telling of the story. But I do know that there is a message here – one way or the other.

We tend to take God for granted. We see the signs, and feel strangely warmed, but we simply come to expect them rather than appreciate them. We do not take time to thank God for the grace he bestows upon us. We take the fact that God is always with us, no matter what we do, way too literally. We forget our part of the covenant.

Then something happens and we think God is not there. We walk around in circles, looking for him. We shuffle the grass and leaves wondering where he could be. Then we get desperate, praying that we will find him. After digging a little bit, putting forth effort and praying, God makes himself known to us. Letting us know he never actually left us in the first place. He did not fail us. We failed to live up to the faith God has in us.

Peace be with you.

He walked through the streets in darkness,

Homeless but not alone,

A man on a mission of reverence

beyond the mundane chore of survival,

in a spirit of grace and mercy.

___

He stopped at Johnson’s Laundry

With it’s Closed for Christmas sign,

He knelt on the sidewalk outside the door,

Quietly saying the Lord’s Prayer,

the only prayer he knew.

___

Thanking “Papa” Johnson

For the clothes left unclaimed,

He left a small package – a crude, homemade cross

With a card on which was scrawled,

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Next was Garcia’s Grocery

For the leftovers not yet spoiled

He knelt and prayed –

Another crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Ten blocks later, Miller’s Hardware,

For his sturdy, cardboard box dwelling,

and timber for his bed,

A kneel, a prayer, a larger crude cross,

And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___

Too far from home, the mission closed,

He found a bench in the park,

after a passerby bought coffee

and he walked – recalling forgotten memories –

without knowing what they meant.

___

Early the next morning on Christmas Day,

he fought the wind and rain,

through the cold streets to the mission,

where Christmas dinner was served, the soul sustained,

and life again had purpose.

___

The rain stopped, the wind died down,

as he trekked on home,

home – an alley behind the church

white and made of stone,

with a view of the cross on the wall.

___

He turned into the alley

and stopped in his tracks.

Where his cardboard box had stood,

was a sturdy lumber shack,

with a roof, a window, and a door.

___

He opened the door to a sturdy wooden cot,

An orange crate table, his few possessions inside,

with something new on top.

A suit of clothes hung on a hook,

with the laundry marker still on it.

___

He closed the door because he could,

he’d forgotten what it felt like.

Walking to the table he turned on the lamp,

it had been years since he had his own light,

but then his breath went away.

___

Also on the table sat a Bible, brand new,

inscribed with a name he hadn’t used in years,

next to a picture of a family he’d forgotten he had.

He stood staring at them, his mind racing,

memories bombarding his thoughts.

___

He sat on the cot and picked up the Bible,

after staring at the picture a while.

He ran his fingers over the only thing he owned

that wasn’t worn by wear or weather,

with emotions he couldn’t control.

___

Through tears, with shaking hands,

he opened the Bible and read

“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

___________________________

© 2009  Daniel L. Roark

Merry Christmas!

Peace be with you.

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