Monday, September 22, 2008

Shall We Gather at the River

We sit around and sing songs. Occasionally, one will call another a pet name (i.e. "Trouble") and they'll all giggle. Some don't sing, they just listen. Others will comment on the song we just sang. I've got to tell you, in human terms the singing was awful. But the other night, it felt celestial as we sang "It Is Well With My Soul." My heart swelled, my eyes teared up as we sang, "My sin not in part, but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it not more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!"
You've probably figured out, I'm not talking about church services. I'm talking about one Thursday night a month when several of us gather with several members of Skyline Manor, an assisted living home. Many of them can't hear very well. Some don't use a song book because they can't see it. But they're there when we show up.
The other night, we sang a song that I used to sing when I was a little boy. It was goofy to me then. I've even heard a joke about it. It goes something like this. A preacher was railing about drinking alcohol and he said we should take it all and throw it in the river. Right after that, the congregation stood and sang "Shall We Gather at the River."
There was something different about this song the other night. We sang it with a holy reverence. Listen to the words:

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing from the throne of God.

Yes, we'll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river.
Gather with the saints at the river,
That flows by the throne of God.

We had just finished singing those words when one sweet, gray-headed lady looked up with the look of an angel on her face. She said, "We'll get to see that river soon. Where is that verse that talks about that?" I turned to Revelation 22 and read them these words.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They wil not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

What an honor it was to read those words that night. I don't guess that passage will ever mean the same to me again. As I looked into the eyes of those wonderful aged people, their thoughts were on the One who sent His Son so they could have eternal life. The place where the river flows. "Thank you for reading that," she said. "Won't that be wonderful?" I could have sworn I heard a thousand angels shout, "Amen!" Have a great day. JW

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Could Face Certain Death

I love words. A good pun is like music to my ears. Wordsmithing is kind of fun (at least for a while). I guess being the son of an English professor has helped me to love how people put words together. Two incidents this week have made me laugh.
The first I saw on a sign at the German-American Center here in Omaha. It said, celebrate Oktoberfest here, September 19,20. Now, I thought the whole reason they called it "Oktoberfest" was because it was in October. They're going to celebrate and get the beer flowing a little early here. You know, any excuse for a good drunken spree. It doesn't have to be October. Perhaps they should reconsider and call it "Septemberfest."
The other was something on FOX News last night. In talking about the evacuation of Galveston and Houston for the onslot of Hurricane Ike, it quoted someone as saying, "Get out or you could face certain death." Does anybody else find that strange? "Certain death" means you will die. "Could" means you could survive. To put "could" and "certain death" in the same sentence seems like a contradiction. Could = perhaps, there's a chance, maybe. Certain = it will happen, there is no way out, it's a sure-fire thing. Oh, well. It's good to see everyone still has a sense of humor in these days of the political scene. I hope your day is a good one. JW

My Dad (remember, he was an English professor) used to say, "I only made one mistake in my life. And when I done it, I seen it." He also used to say, "English is my most fondest subject I am of."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Been Seven Years

I like asking people where they were when something, like a special event, happened. As someone from the Greatest Generation where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Or ask a boomer where they were when Kennedy was assassinated. It's now been seven years since the greatest terrorist attack on American soil was perpetrated. I listened this morning as several children of one of those father's who died in the attack on the World Trade Center gave their thoughts. My eyes welled up in tears as they recalled as best they could the father they will never really know. There wasn't anger, only sadness in not really knowing their father. There was hope in making the world a better place.
As I've mentioned in a previous blog, I had just had breakfast with our consultant. As Vice President of York College, I had a busy schedule, places to go, people to see. When all of a sudden, the world stopped. I'm sorry to see the rancor return. The threats are still there. Yet, it's good for us to learn that hate never cures anything. Paul said to hate what is evil and to cling to that which is good. But he never says to hate people.
Today, I chose to remember those who died who, as one of the daughters of one of those killed said, "I think of what could have been." I chose to remember the way we rallied to each other's side and knelt in prayer, Democrats and Republicans no more. Only Americans. Only Children of God. I chose to remember that one day, it will not have to be like it was then. I hope your day is good. JW

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Apartment Living

10440 C Ryker, Dallas, TX. I can't remember the zip code, but that's the address of our first apartment when we married over 32 years ago. It was a 2 bedroom flat that cost us $147 a month. The price went up soon after we moved in (what doesn't?). Since that time we have lived in a number of places, mostly houses. But now we've moved back into an apartment. Why? I can give you some why's and some "no, that's not it at all's."
One--I have no children at home anymore. My daughter lives here in town with her husband, and my son is away at college. Maybe if we stay in an apartment, he won't be tempted to come home and live with us after he graduates. He's not getting married. I have a signed napkin where he told us he wasn't going to marry.
Two--I don't like to mow the lawn. What's the use? It just grows back. It makes me sneeze. It wears me out. It costs money to keep a lawn mower going. It brings back a recurring nightmare of having to mow when I was a kid.
Three--It's not because we're moving back to Arkansas. That one is going around right now. I can tell you, we have no intention of moving back to Arkansas. There are no jobs there for us. Nobody has contacted us. And unless God intervenes, there won't be jobs in Arkansas.
Four--We have a time share. Usually, it's a two bedroom condo. On one of our trips, it was just the two of us. As we rested in the place, we looked at each other and said, "You know, we could get used to this." There is no maintenance. It's easier to maintain. Less stuff. We don't need the wide open spaces.
Five--It's time to downsize. We have 32 years of stuff in our possession. Most of it I haven't seen in years. It's been in boxes that we have moved from place to place. You wouldn't believe what we've thrown away in the last several weeks and we will continue to. But does anyone want to buy a bunkbed? How about a ping pong table? A cute day bed that would look nice in a little girl's room?
Now I know there are probably some out there who can't believe we're doing this. That's all right. We are. So get over it. When we get all of the "essentials" in, come and visit us. We'll share a nice quiet evening together.
There you have it. All the reasons why and some of the "not the reasons" why. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Good Intentions

I just heard a pretty cool commercial. Tiger Woods was talking about what his father taught him. He mentioned that failure was not an option, to listen to others and then make your decisions. He talked of listening to others, but not necessarily living off of their expectations. He talked of following through on your goals and dreams. The commercial? I think it was for a watch. Kind of disappointing after a good start.
I don't know, it seems as if we can talk a good game in church. We'll tell of what we're wanting to do. We'll mention that this year will be a good one because of our recommitment to God. We'll give all of our intentions. Then we'll do something that really doesn't matter. Kind of like the commercial.
Good intentions are nice, but they don't accomplish anything, other than make us feel good. We (I) need to be a people (person) of action. Perhaps we need to listen to what God, our Father, has taught us. Compassion moves us to action. Need moves us to meet the need and to share of our means. Satan's moves should be met with our stands. God marches on and so should we. "Onward Christian soldiers..." the old hymn goes. Let's go.
I hope your day is a good one. JW

P.S. Thanks for letting me vent about losing my son to college.
P.S.S. Pray for those who are displaced and who have lost valuable things because of Hurricane Gustav. I was there after Katrina and they can't take much more.