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The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

March 20, 2012

I never cease to marvel at the beauty and complexity of God’s creation.  I have watched over the last several weeks as Venus and Jupiter burst nightly onto the evening stage to dazzle all who care to watch with their elegant dance in the western sky.  Early in the month the moon joined them on the dance floor, as Mercury played the wallflower, shyly hiding its brilliance in the haze near the horizon, then stealing away to await a return engagement in June.

Even as a child I was fascinated and amazed by the many wonders I saw in the world around me.  I am truly grateful that child-like wonder has never left me.  A thought that frequently occurs to me as I stand in awe of our Lord’s handiwork is that no one sees precisely what I see; no one stands where I stand; no one else sees through my eyes.  It is God’s gift to me alone.  Others are given different gifts, similar, but distinct from mine by degrees.

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I came across an interesting linking of John 3:8 and Blowin’ in the Wind, an old Bob Dylan standard that is dear to my heart, as are many of his songs.  The lyrics are as rich and relevant today as on the day in 1962 he wrote them.  Keeping the John 3 verse in mind as I listened to Zimmy sing it again, the meaning of the lyrics subtly shifted, and the song gained depth.  Dylan never was one to explain what he wrote, and I seriously doubt he had John’s words in mind when he wrote the song, as this was long before his conversion to Christianity in 1979.  But God works in mysterious ways.

If you are interested, open your Bible and read the verse a couple of times, then listen to the song.  Dylan included versions of it on several of his albums, but I highly recommend the rendition on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, his second album, released in May of  ’63.  I remember listening to that album over and over again as I was a dyed-in-the-wool Dylan fan from the time Bob Dylan, his 1962 self-titled debut album, was released.

God’s message is everywhere when we choose to hear.

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A dear friend of mine sent me a link to a wonderful song.  Kelley Mooney, a young woman from Prince Edward Island, got the mechanical rights to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and swapped Cohen’s gritty lyrics for her own rendering of the Easter story.  The result is amazing!  You can view the world video premiere performance at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guhr0Vh2hE0  I have asked that the video be included as part of our Easter service at Montrouis International Fellowship.

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Many of the people in my community address me as zanmi—friend.  But lately that has changed for some.  I decided to assist a young man to start a business to allow him to earn a living for himself.  Now I am often greeted at Patwon—boss.  This is not a comfortable epithet for me, as the title has implications that I have tried long and hard to dispell.  To be called Patwon is to be acknowledged as someone who has power and money.  That is not the way I want to be seen.  I know that is not how God wants me to be seen.

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I won’t go into detail, but last week I went through a very ugly experience.  My heartfelt thanks to those who supported me through these difficult few days.  I thought I was about to lose my little house on the ocean.  I actually reached the point where I had accepted my loss.  I had no idea where I was going to go.  Through it all, the Lord kept reminding me He was with me, and I was amazed at the eerie peace I felt.  In the end everything worked out, at least for now.  I look forward to enjoying my home for some time to come.   Along the way God taught me some difficult lessons.  But sometimes I wish His “swimming lessons” didn’t involve the emotional equivalent of His pushing me off the ten-meter board into a shark tank.

God takes us into deep waters, not to drown us but to cleanse us.

-Unknown

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If anyone has a copy of John Edmiston’s The Jesus Manifesto, I would appreciate the opportunity to borrow it when I am next in Canada.  I have the eBook, but it is flawed; there are many pages missing.  But what I have read of this exposition of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has touched my heart.  I have never had the sermon explained in the way Edmiston does, presenting it as Jesus’ call to abandon my comforts and follow Him out of the world and into the Kingdom of God, not an otherworldly kingdom, but one in the here and now.

After reading the book, the Biblical text takes on new meaning.  As I now read it, it has become very personal.  Jesus is teaching from His heart to mine, His words ablaze with holiness.  He calls me to a very basic spirituality.  He calls me to be a lover of God.  He calls me to be godly.  He tells me the way lies in love and forgiveness, meekness and lowliness.  He calls me to renounce reputation, possessions, power and even life itself to live out Scripture in a hostile world.  Reinterpreting (not changing) the law in a way that transcends the letter of the law and penetrates to the spiritual values underneath, He explains how to live out Scripture not by my own power, but by the power of God.  Rather than being a call to works, inconsistent with the writings of Paul as some contend, it is pointing out that obedience to the law is impossible, and therefore our only hope is in Jesus.

This teaching is by no means new to me.  But the Sermon on the Mount was always problematic.  I wrestled with it, knowing in my heart that many of the interpretations I heard and read could not be true.  I never quite understood this “difficult” passage quite the way I now do.  Edmiston’s treatment of the teachings makes them understandable, consistent with what I believe.  Jesus is telling me that the life He calls me to is indeed impossible to achieve, but that I can live it out by being sensitive to the Spirit within me quietly encouraging me toward God and those He has given me to love, fitting me for the Kingdom and for eternal life.

I know that my summary of Edmiston’s work does not do it justice.  I look forward to reading the book in its entirety.

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It is interesting that in the absence of fact, people will fill in the blanks with their own thinking.  I have seen this many, many times.  In conversations with some of our students at the nursing school, I learned that, having little information on COPSA-Haiti, some had concluded that I was the principal.  Despite our having explained on the first day of classes that we are a licensed NGO and that the government would be issuing the diplomas to our graduates, a rumor was also circulating that the school was not accredited and that perhaps the students would graduate with a worthless diploma.   I have discussed this with Dr. Felix, and we intend to address the problem in the next few weeks.

On April 1st we will hold our Cap Ceremony at Club Indigo, the beautiful resort just down the road from my home.  As I understand it, the ceremony is an affirmation that our students have reached the point where we consider them as on their way to a nursing career.  The mayor of Saint-Marc and our local Senator will be in attendance, as hopefully will be several other dignitaries we have invited.  Dr. Felix told me today that I am expected to address the student body, in my choice of Creole or French.  So I have my work cut out for me.  But I know God will give me the words.

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