Church Mouse

Call me a church mouse

Yep, generations of ‘em

Here, under the oaken arches

And that golden and blue glass.

Long quiet pause

Day after day

We like that

Place all to ourselves

Except for one singing woman

With a mop

And a quiet man in black

Sits on a bench with open book

Drops to his knees often

Down where we are.

Couple a’ times he near

Squashed me

But he didn’t know.

Seems gentle and trustworthy

Others before him

Mostly the same, my folks tell me.

…No, I take that back!

Couple of them struck real fear

Into some of the women and kids.

Those few with the nasty smirk

Never looked at the picture windows

Never sat in the bench

To get real quiet.

Sometimes I climbed

All the way up to that

One picture with those fluffy critters

And the kindly man with the staff

(Bearing subscription Ezekiel 34).

Did it twice when

The place was crowded.

Loud sounds, blended voices

Clapping hands, fun apparently.

Then all got real quiet

And the man with the black coat

Spoke, spoke long

And hard, and raised up that Book.

My siblings were busy out back

Sampling the cakes and fruit.

But I had the better portion

In this lovely quiet and focus

And that Book seemed to be

So very important.

He even pointed up

To the glass picture behind me

Thought I might get noticed.

Crouched down real low.

Nice people, mostly.

Somewhat confused.

They might come more often

If you ask me.

Moshe of Mars Hill

It’s all coming apart. Here I am in the City of Wisdom. Fairly successful dry goods shop. A few cousins recently arrived from the coast of Phoenicia. Putting them up until they see their opening.

I manage the noon hour talks about four times a week. They are about everything. Restless, intelligent men. Recently they have been trying to take strips off Paul, messenger of the new sect of Christ followers.

It is quite something to watch. He was once a religious leader of the Jews. Interpreting. Distinguishing. Rule making. And hounding non-conformists to prison and death. But he says that he had a revelation. Stopped him dead in his tracks and showed him the majesty of Jesus the resurrected one.

Released from the grave, just as He promised. Walking through Roman justice as if it were a mere inconvenience. Right around Passover. Now that IS majestic and other-worldly.

And this Paul, almost convinces me. The prophecies. A Virgin birth. In Bethlehem. Steeped in the wisdom of Torah. Rejected by His peers. Crucified. Placed with honour in a rich man’s tomb. Saved from corruption on the third day after burial. And it is said that He was true to the Law, Prophets and ceremony.

How brilliant of God. Taking a major detractor and turning him into the Chief Apologist for the life and teachings of the Galilean. And His incredible victory over death, fear and hate.

I am tired. Never a sense of conscience clean; of merit to stand before God free from shame. I want to get beyond culture and stifling repetition. What if the real Passover Lamb has now appeared ONCE to put away sin? Precious blood message.

A little group meets with Paul in the evenings. I intend to show up.

Open my eyes Lord. Make me undeniably free. And yours. And show me what to do about my own people, the Jews.

Come Here. I Want to See You*

Small-town Coldwater Michigan has been hit with an unthinkable phenomenon. People are reporting that they are getting phone calls from dear, departed ones; that they are getting insights into Heaven.

A real estate agent, a building contactor, a police chief, a day-care director, a dentist. All of them thrilled by repeated Friday phone calls expressing that Heaven is wonderful…no need to fear. Love is the grand pre-occupation.

Imagine what happens when the media gets hold of this and the internet. Churches, politicians and businessmen prepare for the onslaught. There is also a single Father grieving over the death of his wife while he was in prison. He can hardly tolerate these reports. Oh how he would thrill to hear her voice again. And so would his young boy Jules. But enough of that; just harmful sensationalism. “Sully” launches a mission to disprove the whole phenomenon. Some prankster with a strangely cruel streak.

I am only part way through the book “The First Phone Call From Heaven” by best-selling author Mitch Albom. In my estimation he scores another Grand Slam in inspirational writing.

I was sitting reading this very early at a McDonald’s. A well-dressed Englishman sat down beside me and flipped open his morning newspaper. Very business-like. Articles full of a recent provincial election.

I attempted to engage with him about this fascinating book before me. His demeanour indicated that he did not desire conversation, and particularly about some silly fable. After two attempts, I wished him good day. Pity. There was more of redeeming value in my read than in all of that rag of half-truths and advertising that had him so mesmerized.

Ears to hear, my Lord. Ears to Hear.

Next over to Walmart for some breakfast items. I mentioned the book again to the woman at the cash register. She listened through a good synopsis. No people in line behind. And then her response:

“Sir, I was in a coma after a car accident. Vehicle totally flipped over. Should have died. While unconscious I distinctly heard my dead Mother’s voice saying it is not your time Sweetheart. You will return.”

Her face indicated that she was somewhat stunned at having shared the treasured experience with a total stranger. But it felt good.

We thanked one another for the shared thoughts, and went about our business.

…how much Coldwater had changed since the miracles. There were complants, head shakes, more complaints.

But there was also talk about heaven. And faith. And God. There were more prayers said than in years past. More requests for forgiveness. The volunteers for soup kitchens far exceeded the need. The mattresses at churches far outnumbered the weary. (at page 178)

(* first words by telephone from Alexander Graham Bell)

Let ‘Er Go

She was shaking with rage and hurt as she reviewed the awful exchange of moments before with that neighbour. There had been no cause for the outburst and damage to property. Other neighbours had seen it, and they were shaking their heads.

It had been all she could do to retain her temper and not to lash back. But now in retrospect she was boiling. Her husband later got the whole story as he perused the damage.

Why do people do this? Where is the cancer inside? Should she press on for justice, for retribution and some kind of punishment. Then came the nasty ideas and the imagined “snappy answer speeches”.

She couldn’t eat her supper and her stomach and head felt terrible. Just more collateral damage.

Her Husband looked at her with a curious sort of smile. He said, “I will not fear. For Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

One full minute’s silence. Then both began to laugh, and heartily.

“Let ‘er go, Hon.”

It seemed like a good time to go out back and clean up the mess. Self-imposed monkey no longer on anyone’s back.

The Man from Glengarry

 

Hilary has had some good talks with other patients on the ward.

One young man is Aaron. He has faced a number of tragedies lately; obviously intelligent and kindly disposed. This morning he opened up a talk about Jesus. He has had many problems with the presentation of the Church but he has great admiration for the Carpenter of Galilee. In our outing this afternoon Hilary loosed the “hound of used book stores” on a mission: “Doug find something with a very direct salvation message. This man is close to the Kingdom” Funny how you get a definite opinion about some people some times.

I gave a wry smile when I found a handy copy of The Man from Glengarry by Ralph Connor.

Consider one of my posts from years ago:

This is a classic of Canadian literature written by a prairie Presbyterian minister using the pen name Ralph Connor.

It traces the growth of a young Christian man in the Townships at the eastern end of Ontario and near the Ottawa River. The protagonist goes to work in a lumber operation and rises in the organization as he acquires quite honourably the favour of the owners.

It has been a long time since I read the book. The part that sticks in my memory has to do with the forest logging and the treacherous river ride of the cut logs in a huge mass contained within a boomed perimeter.

A French Canadian is heralded as the master at riding the logs with sturdy boots and gaffed pole. A severe workplace accident is described in detail as the man becomes isolated on a section which comes into furious rough water. Eventually he loses his balance and falls between the wooden monsters and is crushed and drowned.

We then come to the logging camp funeral where the superintendent is called upon to say a few kind words. He mentions the years of dedication, the tireless effort of each work day and the happy esprit de corps. Surely the good logger will be missed. God rest his soul.

But that is not all. An old Scot who has been with the Company longer than most is the reputed spiritual mentor of the men. Always a willingness with sincere and appropriate prayer. Always a facility in saying a good word in season from the Book of books. But his countenance now is troubled. He must be entirely honest before the men for sake of their own souls. He speaks bracing words:

“Aye, and the gewd Jacque*  wull trewly be messed. But ah must say men that a’am lewkin’ fer the signs – signs of peace made with ower Holy Gawd. Signs of a broken an’ contrite sperit, havin’ gone threw the Vale o’ Repentance. A’ve seen it not, an’ ah moost warn ye men that a gewd disposition and a hearty desire to dew one’s best wull not do the busness of salvation. One moost ne’er be too certain of oneself.

Ah pray trewly that there’s summat a’ve messed. The judgment is the thing I’ll be warnin’ ye of. Bless all yew fine men.”

(Note: We have all attended funerals where the words have been kind and the preacher has attempted to celebrate a life and apply the hope of glory to that life. What must be the pain when the preacher sees no signs of grace in operation? I sent a copy of this book to a Canon of a nearby Anglican Diocese. He had been an old boyhood school chum. He never acknowledged receiving it.

Let us pray that this solid adventure book from days of timber around the Ottawa River will bear fruit.)

(*name escapes me)

Alone at the Helm, But Not Alone…

The Captain leaves the young mate at the helm as wind shrieks in the rigging and the lumbering craft takes on a terrifying list. Waves crash repeatedly over the starboard bow. Hold her steady Son. This is where you learn of the thrilling challenge of the storm’s fury, and the merits of quick and respectful ejaculations of prayer Heavenward. God boasts against this fury and He will bring the calm. You will be changed Matie. This humbling brings on the honest-to-goodness manhood. Should there be trouble I will not be too quick to return above-decks. This is meant to be a shining hour, and yours.

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;

24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.

26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.

27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.

28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.

29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

31 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalm 107)

Shine

On the Monday following Easter weekend, and upon Karl’s insistence, Ted went out for coffee and a talk. The old German parishioner had sensed that Ted was tired and a little discouraged. Perhaps a lot discouraged.

“Zo da message yestaday had been goot, ant hit all da main points. But vat’s up Ted? You sheem down.”

Ted really trusted this old fellow. There had been prayer vigils and many house visitations together. He was tired. He felt that so often the people of the church just needed to be weaned off his supply. Did they spend their own time and quiet moments in the means of Grace? Prayer. Scripture. Heartfelt discussion. And don’t forget simply waiting upon God for His input.

He felt that he would burst if he had to attend one more fellowship meal or social night.

Sometimes he would breeze by a broadcast of one of the American mega-churches on television. They had the numbers, the happy faces, the publishing and recording branches. But you know it was largely ear-tickling and he knew it.

Forget the infatuation with the do’s and dont’s of Christian Living. Let’s just draw closer to Jesus and His Gospels, and receive as if by absorption, His life, love and sense of mission to lost, hurting ones. When might the River flow with Ted’s bunch? And where were the youth? And where were the anxious new faces on any Sunday morning? And where the brokenness in the flock?

Ted really didn’t know where to begin, but he took a stab at it.

…Forty-five minutes later Karl put his withered old carpenter’s hand on the Pastor’s on the coffee table.

“Zo, mein friend. Rezolve dat it ishn’t up to you. No, you are not anybotty’s canal horse here. Ztay close to da Mashta. Shine. In da goot report tank God. In da bat report pray to God. Use da name ov Jesus mit joy and fear, often use it. Ant da people vill draw closer. Ant da people vill pick up da reins. Amen.”