Someone has a birthday in a few hours. She’s kind of special to me. Her name is Carrie Jane. Wisely, I cannot seem to recall the precise number of years old she is, but who’s counting, right?
She is not the literary type like I, but the Bard said it better in his sonnets than I ever could–of what it means to love another when so much changes, when tempests howl, when age exacts tolls upon our frames, when we gray and slow and eventually cease–but through all that, how the invisible power of love sustains.
The funniest thing happened recently. My bride and I were riding my motorcycle in the hills where we live. We stopped for a bit to grab a bite to eat at a Mexican restaurant in a small town an hour’s ride from home. By that point, we had been riding for several hours. Our butts had been enduring the vibrations of the mountain roads and of the engine for more than enough miles. Finally, however, I pulled off at a small town at a Mexican restaurant that had a lot of cars in the parking lot. It must be good, I thought to myself, as I pulled in and we took off our helmets. I mean, look at all these cars.
“Let me see your helmet,” she said. “Hold it up for me.” She looked at her reflection in the back of the helmet so she could pull her hair up and look decent for our casual meal together. It was so funny to me. Guys would never think like that. I didn’t give a moment’s thought to my hair. But that was just the point. She thought about her hair, how she looked, how she would appear. I thought only of fajitas and salsa.
We went in, enjoyed some very good chips and salsa, chicken fajitas, etc. and had food left over to take home to one of the kiddos who loves Mexican food as much as we.
We ate, were full, and it neared time to go.
“I’m going to run to the restroom real quick,” I said, and I left my wallet on the table for her to pay if the waitress might happen to reappear while I was gone. When I was washing my hands in the restroom I looked in the mirror above the sink as I lathered and rinsed my hands. I had “helmet head.” My hair was board-straight and it was obvious I’d either been born with hair that looked like a stand-in for the 1980s hair band A Flock of Seagulls or I had indeed been in a motorcyle helmet for several hours. (Some might argue both; we have our own crosses to bear.)
We got home. I put up the bike. We were both really tired. We chatted for a bit. I gave the leftovers to my boy who put the to-go box in the microwave and ate while still playing online games with some of his friends.
I played with my dogs, and knew I’d not be up late. I was worn out. And I had an early morning ahead. I had a drive back to my hub from which I work, several hours away from home.
When I got to said place today, I caught up on some reading, looked over some material for a course I’m co-teaching online, went to the track for some time in the sun (it was a beautiful day in the 80s here today), listened to my favorite history podcasts, listened to some tunes I’ve probably sung thousands of times (I’m sure Dickey Betts hates how I do air guitar and butcher his amazing guitar skills on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Jessica” but so it goes), and watched a fellow soldier complete the “Murph” workout over by the pull-up bars, as he did air squats, pull-ups, and push-ups, and ran the regimen that is common for some soldiers to do in remembrance of Murphy.
And I reflected:
My wife literally caught her reflection in order to fix her hair up before we entered the Mexican restaurant in the small mountain town.
Several times during the motorcyle ride, I looked in my bike’s mirrors to reflect upon the road behind. I could see the hills we’d ascended and descended; I could see my bride behind me, and feel her legs straddling me as we gained more miles.
When we crossed the lake in our neighborhood, I caught the reflection of the last hours of the gloaming on the water, and saw red and yellow and green canoes on the rippling water.
When we got home and later that night lay down, I reflected on the blessing of my day, of the ways the clouds slid on the invisible winds, of the ways the air carried scents of grasses and hay and even chicken coops and pastures of cattle.
I reflected upon my Sunday school class, upon those men and women who love the Lord, and whose lives demonstrate said commitment.
I reflected upon my book of the week–a truly wonderful read by Doug Wilson entitled Mere Christendom–and of how I knew I’d finish it tonight, and wouldn’t go to bed at a decent hour like I should, and how 0400 would come early.
But they were as a whole encouraging reflections. They expanded the connotations of such a noun. And I hope they encouraged you, too, dear reader.
After Sunday school and church today and a lunch at our favorite local pizza place, I put the wifey on the back of the motorcycle and we went off for several hours of riding and burned a tank of gas in the hills this Memorial Day weekend.
Lots of motorcylists were out, along with topless Jeeps.
From Ellijay and up Fort Mountain’s one side, then down the other.
From one of the scenic overlooks, here are a few pictures.
Rode down into Chatsworth on the west side of the mountain and stopped at a good Mexican restaurant. Then back home afterwards.
Would it not be sad if life didn’t speak to us? What if the heavens were silent?
When I was on a walkabout down south, I crossed a bridge over a muddy creek I’ve crossed many, many times. Still the slow muddy creek ran. Raccoon and deer prints were stenciled in sand and clay. Herons waited like gargoyles on their skinny limb-legs.
Drove north several hours. Prayed and thanked God and families for my brothers and sisters who died while still serving in uniform during a ceremony commemorating those who laid it all down.
Got home. Piddled in the yard. Went to the pool with the bride as she sunned her pretty skin and I read more of a novel called The Overstory that I’m appreciating.
Came home. Piddled some more. Raked and picked up limbs and tended to some honey-do requests. Some deer walked up after I had used the weedeater.
The clouds overhead played with me. Sometimes they came between the sun and me. The leaves would appear a different shade then. Then the clouds would move and I would notice a fallen limb, with its grain running a pattern, or a dogwood that held blooms from April, or the deer’s nostrils pulsing black and bloodfilled as she smelled me, smoky from burning limbs I’d picked up earlier.
Speech was occurring, you see. Speech. As if there was a speaker. As if creation bespoke its author.
No message whatsoever here. Men are supposed to dress as women and praise Satan during Pride Night at the baseball park, don’t you know?
Perfectly neutral. No religious message whatsoever. At least the good’ole American pastime of baseball remains wholeshome.
Satan is smiling.
But at least there’s no theological warfare occurring. It’s all neutral, don’t you know? Nothing to worry about. Just enjoy your pronouns and go to the baseball park and don your t-shirts, and tell yourself: “It won’t affect me and my family.”
Was able to celebrate the graduation of our oldest niece recently. She’s off to nursing school/university now. Such a smart young lady with a good mind and tender heart. Her parents have done a wonderful job. It was so encouraging to see her offer the closing prayer and benediction at her school’s ceremony. That is a testimony in and of itself.
En route to see her and some of the family, was also able to snap a few amateurish photos of turkeys, the lakes and rivers, etc. hither and yon.
And my friend Jim shared some of his beloved feathered friends.
When the world’s news seems gloomier by the minute and the forces of spiritual darkness seem to be relentless, it is good to be reminded that there’s still good about, that the simple joys are the best joys, and that daily faithfulness in the small things may end up not being so small after all. For me, just looking at the simple beauties around encourages me–whether those beauties are my kids, my nieces, the clouds over the river, the hills of TN, the birds of spring, or the undulating ways turkeys browse amidst May grass.
I don’t know if it will persuade any atheists out there, but there is another way.
In fact, it involves prayer, too. But it’s not prayer to no one and/or nothing. Rather, it is prayer to the one true and living God, maker of heaven and earth.
To quote from one of church history’s greatest confessions:
Question: What are the requisites of that prayer which is acceptable to God and which He will hear?
Answer: First, that we from the heart pray to the one true God only, who hath manifested Himself in His Word, for all things He hath commanded us to ask of Him; secondly, that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of His divine majesty; thirdly, that we be fully persuaded that He, notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it, will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as He has promised us in His Word.
Introduction: Remember the Asherim? Below are three representations. The first is actually from the Israel Museum. Canannite goddesses. Idols of pagan worship. Indicators of false and damning worship of false gods, ‘gods’ that are fashioned out of material, ‘gods’ made by men that then are worshiped as if they had life in and of themselves. Seems the textbook definition of folly, right? It is, of course, and it’s all back with a vengeance.
Scriptural connection: This morning, I was studying in 2 Kings 17, set in the 700s B.C. Israel was once again apostatizing from the truth. They were ruled by heathen kings and demonic leadership because they got the leaders they deserved. Here is the way Scripture puts it:
7 And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. 9 And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger, 12 and they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” 13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”
14 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them. 16 And they abandoned all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. 17 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings[a] and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.
19 Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight.
21 When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord and made them commit great sin. 22 The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, 23 until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. (2 Kings 17:7-23, ESV)
Observations: Several observations are self-evident:
Invasions by other nations and captivity were results of apostasy (2 Kings 17:6-8)
Politics and culture are downstream of theology (2 Kings 17:7)
What we worship is evidenced via our behavior (2 Kings 17:9-12)
God continued to send prophets/prophetic voices to speak truth to a recalcitrant people (2 Kings 17:13)
Man’s nature in rebellion against the truth is clear (2 Kings 17:14-23)
The importance of the prophet/truth-teller (2 Kings 17:13, 23)
Connections to Today: I read the news online this morning. Men dressed like women protested they should be recognized and lauded on Mother’s Day yesterday.
It’s 2 Kings 17 all over again. Look what America’s become–an invaded nation due to apostasy, worshiping at idols of perversion, where the prophets are exiled, and man worship idols which baffle the mind.
And yet, God is longsuffering towards us. But just in case it’s not clear enough, will God stay His judgment indefinitely? Just ask Israel. Just ask Judah. Just ask Sodom. Just ask Lot’s wife. Just ask King Herod who supposedly spoke like a god (Acts 12:22). Just ask Nebuchadnezzar.
One Final Scriptural Encouragement: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, ESV). That, dear reader, is our only hope.
I got home today and the sun popped out from behind the clouds. The dogs and I played for a bit. And the deer came up to feed on the spring growth.
I cranked up the motorcycle and the wifey came downstairs and wanted to join me for a few hours in the hills on the bike. And so we made it happen.
Twas a beautiful afternoon in our neck of the woods. Lots of tourists were out enjoying the area (I invariably notice license plates to see where folks’ vehicles are registered). Saw fellow riders, too.
Come to find out, the woman sitting behind me was videoing part of the trip.