Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

About being an old duck

I can remember when I first took a 10% discount because I was 55.  I was reticent at first, as though I was cheating.  Some restaurants issue a card for seniors, but even then I had the feeling that I was stealing.  I feel fine.  Why should I pay less than others for this meal?

A few more places joined the benevolent policy when I turned 60.  Then it was 62 or 65 or I don't know.  Those increments are all so irrelevant now.  And I no longer feel a qualm.  There are too many other reasons to lose sleep now.  I'll take all the courtesies merchants will offer, thank you.  They don't really compensate for the pains of aging.  Getting old is a bummer!  But as they say, it's a lot better than the alternative.  Yet even that is not true for the Christian.  God is still reminding us that to depart and be with Christ is far better.  Hey, all this and heaven too!

I can remember the first time a little teen age girl, a bagger at the supermarket, offered to help me out to the car with my groceries.  Are you kidding, Missie?  I could carry you and the groceries myself.  That was then.  Now I am frequently tempted to take the offer.  Walking the full circuit of the market, toting my stuff home and putting it away is now a day's work.

It was much later in my life than it should have been when I first realized I would never play professional baseball.  I did have a few memorable highlights in the church softball league.  The day I made "the catch" for example.  Or the night I hit home runs in two consecutive times at bat.  Evidently my son, Bobby, remembered my prowess and yet discounted what all the intervening years (and several "Outback" meals) had done to my constitution.  When we visited him on a night when his team from work was playing, he asked me to be the ringer for a missing player.  I asked to play catcher so that I wouldn't be required to run.  But he wrote me into the batting order in clean up position.  Traditionally the fourth hitter was the heaviest hitter so he could bring in the men who had reached base before him.  Well I was the heaviest hitter, alright, but only when you can appreciate the double entendre.

Social gatherings find women discussing recipes and the men talking about exploits and skirmishes from their places of employment.  But when we become seniors, we talk about other things.  My lengthy hospital stay with pneumonia for example, or my heart attack or my hip replacement surgery.  Someone has cleverly dubbed this "the organ recital".

I remember when I felt sorry for the old duffer who was struggling to cross the street.  Now I AM that old duffer.  I used to rise to the challenge of little things that broke and fix them, feeling so smug about saving repair bills.  Now I'm planning to hire some strapping young man to dig up a pernicious plant that is gradually invading our flower bed.  It takes enough of my fleeting energy just to prune the roses, pick tomatoes and zucchini and water the crops.

God has his own way of encouraging us to long for heaven, and not all of my motives are noble and pious.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Old Rugged Cross

It's been a favorite of Christians for so many years.  I cringe to say this, but I do not like to sing this song.  For many years I conducted a hymn sing/devotional time at the local retirement home.  They frequently asked that we sing this old gospel hymn, and we usually had no pianist, so I had to lead out loud and strong to get them to sing.  I wasn't comfortable doing this, and once in a while I would make a few comments as to why.

Many wonderful truths are celebrated when we sing this song.  "In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see; for 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me."  This references the blood of Christ as "divine".  Strictly speaking, God has no blood.  But on the basis of Acts 20:28 we appreciate that it was with His own blood that God purchased His church.

The real meaning and beauty of that cross is found in the work of Christ that accomplished our justification and our sanctification.  "Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me."  Every Christian wants to sing this in one form or another.  It is the joy that carries us through this broken world into glory.  It is the only hope for sinners to gain the eternal city who's builder and maker is God. It is the substitutionary atonement that opens the door for grace to flood and govern our lives forever.

So why do I find any discomfort when I sing this gospel song?

Well, I want to know why George Bennard planned to exchange that cross for a crown.  If we are singing about the cross of pain and persecution we might bear in life, yes, I will exchange that for a crown.  But in the words of this hymn it is that old rugged cross--the one on which my Savior died for me--it is THAT cross that gets exchanged for a crown.  

No, no, Georgie boy, we will never exchange that cross for anything here or in eternity to come.  In glory it will be the cross that brought us there that we celebrate.  More accurately, of course, it will be the Savior who died on that cross who will be the focus of our devotion.  As surely as the resurrected Jesus bore the print of the nails and spear for Thomas to examine, he will show us that same, marked, resurrected body in heaven.  No crown that He is pleased to give any of us in glory will ever be an exchange for the old rugged cross.  If I receive a crown in glory, I know I will follow the example of the 24 elders who throw their crowns at Jesus' feet and say, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God..."

There's the exchange.  Crowns for the Cross-bearer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Unforgettable "Red" Gage

When he thought he was having a heart attack he drove himself to the hospital.
"Red, why didn't you call.  I would have been glad to take you there."
"No need.  I know how to get there, and it was faster than calling anyone."

If there was an appliance or gimmick that you needed to acquire, it was wise to ask Red if he knew where you could get it before shelling out the money for a new one.  If it wasn't in his remarkably stuffed garage, he probably knew someone who knew someone else, etc.  We once visited a naval cadet.  She must have visited the church in order for me to have contact with her, I don't remember just now.  But she was this cute young girl who had a baby and was divorced and short of cash.  In conversation she revealed her need of a washer and dryer in her new quarters at the local base.  It was Red who located the machines which we delivered to her home.  She was delighted, and I thought we were making points to be cashed in by getting her to church again (and perhaps getting her to come to Christ, Who was the real source of this blessing).  But we never saw her again.  When I called again two weeks later, I found she had taken off with a suitor.

When I knew Red, he was no longer red haired, but rather grey, including his scruffy facial hair.  He could have passed for one of the homeless people he was forever helping.  I'm not quite sure with which agency he was once employed, but I know he talked about when he used to carry a 45 to enforce the law.  We became fast friends, and often found a lunch counter or diner to hang out together.  Most places seemed to know Red, and were glad to see him.  I think he had more friends in town than I ever did.

Red made a deal with the manager at a local supermarket and loaded day old bread and other goods in the back of his pickup which he distributed to homeless folks.  He seemed to know where to find them all.  At certain addresses of people who were scraping to get by, and in back alleys he knew how to give away all these leftover donuts, cakes, breads and other stuff.  Red never considered himself an evangelist, but he made sure the recipients of his generosity were aware that these provisions came as the compliments of the "good Lord Jesus."  He paid a little to obtain the supply, but he very seldom asked the church to reimburse him.  Red always had his resources.  He was a deacon long before the church finally ordained him a deacon.

I used to ride along with sheriff deputies.  That's an interesting story all its own.  But I remember one night we needed Red.  We had a call that said there was a homeless man sleeping by a certain dentist office, scaring away the patients.  Soccer moms who finally dragged their little ones to the dentist would park the car and had to walk by this scruffy, snoring dirt bag to get to the office.  He had been chased out of there before, but just brought his shopping carts and vermin-infested mattress back in a few hours.

Neither the deputy nor I could form a plan that might disenchant this vagrant of his favorite sleeping accommodation.  I recommended my street-wise deacon friend to this deputy, and we called Red out to help us.  He took the lead like a drill sergeant, barking orders to this mumbling urchin.  He told him to throw half his stuff in the trash bin at the grocery, and keep all his stuff in only one shopping cart.  After hassling him, he was intimidated enough to stay away from the dentist's office.

Melford "Red" Gage was never confused as a Rhodes Scholar, but he was really a loving man who was interesting to engage in conversation and had street smarts, learned from his manifold experiences.