Paradox ?

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I must admit from the start that this is an unusual post for me. True, I have submitted several posts about Carson over the past two years, but today is different. Obviously, I am (Cheryl is, too) crazy about this canine. At the same time he is a great source of occasional irritation…love him anyway.

The Paradox for which I titled this post may not be so much a paradox, but a simple reality.

We adopted Carson after he was a breeder dog in a puppy mill in Nebraska. There are these wonderful people who keep distressed dogs until they find a new owner. And, there are organizations which give folks like us the opportunity to see such dogs who need a home. In our case it is called Little White Rescue (we were interviewed before acceptance to bringing Carson home). So it should be.

We were told he was about three or so years old, but time has shown us that he was more likely six years old. Today, Carson is close to ten years…not a big deal for most dogs. However, he is 95% deaf, is developing cataracts so he cannot see that well, and has a terrible hacking cough as a result of an attack by a pit bull several years earlier. His trachea is collapsing so he has to take steroids more often than we like.

Now, for what I entitled as a paradox may simply be a matter of the circle of life, so-to-speak. Our two grandchildren are spending the night with us! Elliot is almost three and half years and Audrie seventeen months young. How fun, is right! I might add, exhausting, too. They are pure joy.

So, I walked today with an aging pupdog (as I call him) who may not be around much longer, and will engage with two very special children for the next twenty-four hours or so. The wonderful thing is that Carson has accepted the kiddos while they have learned to like and interact with a mammal of a different species. They really seem to like him. To watch their encounters together is priceless.

Well, there it is…my paradox of sorts (but not really). I simply love them all and want them to remain with us forever. We have had other animals we wish the same for, as well.

I am comforted by the words I read in my Bible which go like this, ” The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6.

So, I am encouraged that there shall be a reunion in Heaven with man and his beloved animals. This is not meant to be a theology lesson, but a point of hope for future blessings to abound. Thank you for reading and contemplating that which may be.

Success: One Definition

 

I recently read a profound quotation by Whit Hobbs, which goes like this: “Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however young or old, and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you’re good at-something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it today.” That is one long  sentence, but it comes alive-as if the author were running out of breath and didn’t want any periods…especially since this is a combination of thoughts expressed in a condensed format. I consider Whit’s statement to be an achievement in and of itself.

Recently, I watched Carson lounge in the early spring sunlight. After his breakfast, he bounded off the deck, did his business, walked around the yard (sometimes chasing a squirrel or bird), and then came inside to play a bit of ball. He gets ‘success’ without evening thinking about it! Next, he is content to simply rest where he decides to flop his white, furry body down…his reward for being joyful. Just watching him go through his morning routine makes me smile. Often, personal reflection occurs at these moments.

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I recall relating to Whit’s statement many years ago when life was full of dreams and reality didn’t derail any of them. Those were the ‘Good Old Days’ as Carly Simon would sing about back in 1971. However, the truth is the good old days can also be here and now so we better find and embrace them. Living in the past provides a reference point, and good memories if one were so lucky to experience them. I am fortunate to reflect on my past with a high degree of fondness, as well as with a dose of sadness and a pinch of regret thrown in. I’m an optimist at heart, but also a realist. Life has taught me much. So, despite any negative experiences from the past and present, I choose to view the present and future with a positive attitude. Although not always easy to do, the opposite is quite unappealing in every way.

There are many definitions about success that one could argue for a lot of them, and dismiss most. So, what about success as Hobb’s describes it? Can it be defined by a simple paragraph, or does the term need an entire book describing this elusive noun of which most gauge their lives against? In my humble opinion there are too many books…too many articles…too many lectures about what success really means, and how much it matters in our lives. For one individual success may be related to financial and professional achievements and to another it may be defined by how one contributes to the greater good of others. Of course there are so many other ways to view success.

I have lived much of my adult life wondering about such things to the point where I was often troubled. Was I doing enough? Was I engaging enough? Did I risk enough? Did I achieve enough? Was I enough? How could I become successful if I didn’t understand what that really meant? So many questions, and seldom any satisfying answers. Such was my conundrum. Perhaps this is why Whit’s definition impacted me so much. It is filled with the essence of joy permeating one’s life, and I like that. Plus, it is simple to grasp his intent without having to read a term paper to understand it.

I think what this quote does for me is to reveal a great word picture which causes me to desire the result. I want to wake up tomorrow morning, bound out of bed, and seize the day with gusto. I believe that is possible. I also know myself, and that I can be my own worst enemy. In addition, current trials hamper my ability to be as positive about each day as I would like. This reality is frustrating. Nevertheless, I will try, and continue to try until this joy becomes a daily reality. To do otherwise is like surrendering when there is no clear adversary confronting me. I do admit that this type of optimism requires daily (sometimes hourly) effort and prayer-at least for me. One day it shall be much easier to bound out of bed and attack with a fervor that which I love to do most-and do it well.

I sincerely hope you can relate to Whit’s statement and are experiencing the fruit of joyful living. If not, then please join me in relearning how to awaken with gusto.

 

Summer Rain

???????????????????????????????Ah, the cleansing, satisfying, cooling rain of summer…how sweet it is. Today is Sunday and it is afternoon. The rain started about two hours ago and has fallen steadily, uniformly and with confidence. The air is pure, the sky is beginning to clear and the dripping of rain water from tree leaves is occurring as I write.

My words are simply thoughts of appreciation and of wonder. No rain equals no life; it is as simple as that. In the fertile land I call home we have been blessed with an abundance of rain at just the right time and in the right amounts to sustain a healthy and green environment. The past three years we experienced serious drought-like conditions so this regular rainfall has been wonderful. Crops grow plentiful and lakes and ponds are full.

I sealed my deck with a stain-sealer liquid yesterday…before the rains came. Now I watch the water bead upon the planks of flooring and railings and marvel at the molecular structure of water and how it can form islands of liquid that will move when on an incline or create drops which fall to the ground with a pitter-patter that is so soothing. Currents of rain water flow across many streets and our rain barrel overflows. My heart overflows, as well, because of this blessing.

Rain is not a respecter of geography, tribe, skin color or religion. As we know, some areas of the earth receive more rain than they can accommodate while others receive barely a few inches an entire year. The Bible says that rain is not a respecter of persons, as it falls among the just as well as the unjust. I am both at varying times, and am most grateful for every ounce of this precious liquid from which I benefit greatly.

Tomorrow, the creeks and rivers will be moving at a fast pace, carrying with them rubbish that has accumulated but had no way of being relocated except for rain water, and lots of it. I have rubbish that accumulates within my heart and needs to be flushed away from time-to-time. Rain reminds me of this simple fact. As I receive the much-needed water from the sky, so I receive the much-needed Living Water from Heaven. I love the rain…every last drop of it. I hope you do, too. As you receive this living water, please do so with joy!

“Our Prayers Are With You”

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo.

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been the glad recipient of manifold prayers for my health over the course of years. And, most recently, an intensification of such intercession during the past month. To what degree these prayers have assisted me, I honestly cannot say with any certainty. However, by faith, I believe each one to be effective and fruitful.

 In our American culture, it is a common occurrence for a person or group of persons to state that they are (or will be) praying for another when an obvious need arises. We hear it in sports talk when analysts comment that they will pray for an athlete’s recovery after sustaining a serious injury or because of a personal tragedy. We hear the common place, “We’ll be praying for you”, when a friend, family member or acquaintance is in a serious trial of some sort. The words can seem trite, regardless of the sincerity behind them, because they are spoken so often.

 There may even be feelings of hypocrisy about such prayers when our judgment of the person(s) doing the promising is not real high on our moral list; perception of others can taint our objectivity. In essence, we may at times, feel that the out pouring of promises to be prayed for may be nice gestures, but nothing more. How many of the kind folk who actually offer their prayers, actually pray? To know the answer to that question would require a gathering of all such prayers as evidence. Obviously, that would be absurd. Prayers aren’t like mathematics wherein numbers can be quantified. Prayers come in all different shapes and sizes, metaphorically speaking. However, it is an interesting thought to actually ascertain if every person who promised to pray actually did!

 The question begs asking, “Does prayer work?” Scripture has abundant examples regarding the power of prayer. Over the years, including today, many an individual will argue to prayers’ effectiveness based on their personal results from it. Regardless of the spiritual diversity within our society, there still seems to be an underlying belief that a prayer spoken in someone’s behalf is effective-or has the possibility of being effective. To what degree of certainty or hope is probably as varied as the types of prayers spoken, as well as in the manner they are uttered.  James, one of the original twelve Apostles, wrote that we should pray for one another, and that the prayer of a righteous person has great power. Jesus even gave us several models, guides so-to-speak, to assist us in our efforts to pray correctly. So, purely from a Christian perspective, using the Bible as our source, prayer is of paramount importance and is valued because of its ability to produce powerful results.

 What if the one praying is not a Christian? How do we determine one’s righteousness? The answer to the latter question is, “We don’t!” God does. The first question is much more difficult to answer. In the context of Judeo-Christian belief, prayers are effective when spoken by those who have accepted the Lordship of Christ and seek to emulate Him. The Bible speaks about the prayers of the unsaved. When spoken out of harmony with the principals of the Old and New Testaments, said prayers are ineffective and often wrong (prayers to idols for example). However, I don’t believe I have ever read a clear scripture or interpretation concerning the sincere and earnest prayers of the non-Christian in behalf of others; much less the effectiveness of these prayers. My ignorance is showing which fuels all the more reason to continue to study and learn.

 So, what am I to think about the well meaning and sincere prayers (from all sources) that have been uttered for me concerning my chronic lower back pain, spinal fusion surgery, and continuing recovery? They are wonderful, that’s what! I believe them to be sincere and effective regardless of the person’s belief system. It is scriptural that God holds the prayers of saints to be of particular importance, but He does not dismiss the prayers of the unsaved as mere sport. Every human being has been created in the image of God-not a physical image, but a soul-saturated (spiritual?) image. Prayer is an integral part of mankind’s relationship with his Creator. Sure, many are messed-up in their theology when they pray to idols or persons or false gods, but when they pray with sincerity to a God (even if He is not their Christian God, per se) who exemplifies the concept of a supreme being, Jehovah God hears their prayers.

 I just watched (again) the riveting conclusion to the movie, Apollo 13, where the failed attempt to land on the moon almost ended in death for the three brave astronauts on board the space craft. The year was 1970, the technology was 1960s, the damage to the space craft and the ensuing problems where overwhelming. The odds for those three men to successfully return to earth, alive, were 1000 to one, if not worse. From parts of the craft blown away, oxygen depletion then CO2 buildup, equipment failures, illness, a variety of electrical and mechanical failures to computer malfunctions-basically you name it and it went wrong- these men and their flying machine made it back safely. The manually performed, strategic burn of thrusters to adjust the guide path of the space craft so it would not ricochet off the earth’s atmosphere or burn up was a miracle in itself. One of many. This movie was well put together because it seamlessly pieced actual film footage and actual reporting with the movie, especially near the end.

 It was reported during the most critical period for the returning astronauts, and replayed in the movie, that this was the first time in recorded history where peoples of all races, creeds and color-across the entire globe- prayed in unison-in this case,  for the safe return of these men and their space craft. There were Christians, and Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, Native Americans and, perhaps, agnostics praying. The actual commentary and film footage was inspiring. Did prayer play a part, perhaps a major role, in the successful return of these men? They made it back against insurmountable odds. You decide. If you say, “Yes, prayer made a difference”, was it only because of Christian prayers? Is it possible that God heard the prayers of all His children, irrespective of religion, and acted graciously? You decide that, as well. To me, the abundance and depth of sincerity of the prayers poured out in behalf of the Apollo 13 crew was monumental in their safe and miraculous return. Man did his part, as God has equipped and expects him to do, but ultimately God heard and responded favorably.

 In my case, God has equipped man in the form of adequately trained and skilled doctors, amazing medicines, high-tech equipment, and state-of-the-art facilities-all which allowed me to have a successful operation and recovery thus far. Have the prayers for me made a difference? I believe so, and not merely because my operation was a success. I have at least six months of recovery to accurately determine the depth of my healing and reduction in back pain. To be rid of all pain and to walk again without serious side effects would be totally awesome. But, if I receive only a partial healing, this will be better than my condition prior to the surgery. The level of healing does not make the matter of prayer more or less important. The effectiveness of these prayers, made sacrificially by so many wonderful people, does not determine my faith level or God’s power.

 Intercessory prayer blesses the ones whom pray and the object of their prayers. For the person who prays, a part of their heart is cast upon the alter of a loving and holy God. These prayers are like gifts, and as we know, to give is often better than receiving and then we are blessed. Prayers which we can gauge success by healing or miraculous escape from something harmful are faith builders, to be sure. And, when a person receives healing of deliverance from some terrible disease, addiction, or circumstance, can become life-altering experiences. As for me, I believe God has heard and responded to each sincere prayer made in my behalf. How God chooses to answer these supplications for healing is totally up to Him. I am truly humbled and eternally thankful for each person and each prayer. The best way to put it is that I am blessed. In turn, I pray His choicest blessings upon those who have interceded for me. May all of us keep on praying, and let the blessings flow!