Thursday, January 20, 2022

Sparks and Smoke at the Sawmill

 I worked as a weekend oiler at a local sawmill in my last three years of high school.  As a grease monkey, my assignment was to ensure the chains and machinery on the outside log decks, cut-off saws, and 2 debarkers were greased and lubricated.  I worked the early shift on Saturdays, starting at 5am and getting off work at 1pm in the afternoon.

There's a lot of potential to get a workplace injury at a sawmill.  We had to be well versed in lockout procedures that turned off the electricity and air (as some of the log kickers were pneumatically powered) and 'lock it off' so someone didn't accidentally turn it back on while you were working in the machinery.  Often times some of the larger machines like the barkers had whole panels of switches (see image below) that one had to turn off to ensure it was safe to work in and around.  For these larger machines, we were trained to turn all the panel switches off, run a cable though them in the off position, and then put our lock on the end of the cable.  That way no one could flip any of the switches back on again unless they had the key for your lock.

MCC Panel

One particular Saturday, I was wrapping up my work on the 26 inch barker and removing my cable from all the switches on its MCC panel.  Once I pulled the cable free, I threw it on the ground so I could wrap it up nicely before turning the switches back on.  As it hit the ground, sparks shot up in the air.  Something around me was electrified and I didn't know what it was.  I surveyed my surroundings, trying to see where the sparks came from. Seeing nothing obvious, I kicked at the cable I'd just dropped and noticed it was 'stuck' - actually spot welded - to a pike pole that was sticking out of a welding cable.  
Pike PoleDebarker (not installed)

A pike pole is a long pole with a point and a hook at the end, for moving logs around.  They should never be found stabbed into live welding cables.

Realizing I was in danger with this live current around me, I tried to see where/how I could turn off the electricity to the welding cable.  While I was doing that though, the lock-out cable I'd originally thrown to the ground started to smoke, and then burst into flames.  A fire in a wood framed sawmill is a not good at all.  I quickly found a fire extinguisher and put out the fire.  By this time there was a large cloud of smoke at my end of the mill and people came running over to see what was going on.  When I showed my boss what had happened, he was quite relieved I hadn't been hurt and said I was very fortunate as there had been a lot of electrical current energized around me earlier.  God's protection surrounding mePsalm 91:9-11

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Saturday, January 8, 2022

God's Protection With Vehicles Growing Up

 Remembering how God protected me in vehicles growing up, I'm conscious of how things could have been much worse given the accidents I was involved in.  I've already posted about the very first, worst one here.  With the other three, I think if my position, the vehicle's speed, or the timing had been a little different, the outcome could have been much worse.  I believe that I walked away from these accidents unscathed because of God's protection.

Flipping a Honda ATC

When I was in grade 10, our high school band got a government grant to be part of an exchange program with another high school band on the other side of Canada in Nova Scotia.  We hosted them in our community in BC during a week in February that year.  They played their repertoire of songs in schools and community centres in the area and experienced life in Western Canada.  Then later in May we travelled out to Nova Scotia to do the same.

I was hosted by Kyla Woodworth's family on their apple farm while we were in Nova Scotia.  The farm had been in their family for more than a generation and they had many of the usual tools and implements one would see on a farm like that, including a couple of Honda ATCs.

ATCs were gaining notoriety at the time because, being 3-wheeled, they were easy to flip.  And if a large one rolled on you it could be bad news.  The first full day I was there, Kyla and I took those ATCs out to a back field to burn around.  I had grown up driving a dirt bike, so I wasn't too far out of my element with this motorized trike.  What different for me was steering - on dirt bikes you can steer at speed by leaning and turning the handlebars very gradually.  Leaning on an ATC does nothing except move your centre of gravity.

Returning to the farmstead after burning around in the field, I chased Kyla down a dirt lane that was lined on either side with young saplings.  At one point I found myself going at a good clip drifting towards the saplings on the left side of the lane, so I leaned right.   Nothing happened - I continued my trajectory towards the saplings on the left.  Starting to panic and forgetting steering was different, I leaned further right.  Still no change in direction, and as a result I plowed into those saplings.  Because I was already leaning right, the ATC flipped, landed on me and rolled off.  

It took Kyla a minute or two to realize I wasn't behind her anymore.  I'm sure her heart must've come close to stopping as she drove back to where I was.  There were a couple of fender parts on the ground and the ATC was upside down.  I was a little bruised and muddy, but otherwise fine - God's protection!  She helped me roll the bike back on its wheels and we headed back to her house at a slower pace, and we didn't ride bikes anymore that week.

Dodge Aspen Accident

For a number of years while we were in high school, Mom and Dad had a 2-door Dodge Aspen with a 318.  That car could motor!  Generally Mom drove it, and one Christmas holiday she was driving us to the community ski hill for the day.  My brother and I often got season's passes to the hill during high school and spent most days and evenings during the holidays there.

This particular day there was a bunch of snow on the roads from the snowstorm the night before.  The drive to the ski hill had a significant downhill section with a sharp curve at the bottom.  My mom refrained from pressing the brakes to hard going down the hill to avoid skidding, but unfortunately that meant we had too much momentum to safely make the turn at the bottom.  We fishtailed into the opposite lane going around that turn.  Fortunately, there were no oncoming cars.  Still trying to control the car, Mom fishtailed back into our lane and then did a 180 across the road into a telephone pole.  Again, no oncoming cars had impeded our slide into the telephone pole. God was protecting us with good timing!

Rolling the Toyota

My Dad had a small Toyota pickup that he used as a commuting vehicle for work when we were growing up.  We also used it to haul the wood to heat our house for the winter and go on fishing trips up in the mountains.  It didn't like road salt that much, so by the time my Dad was ready to give the truck to me it was 'well used' and in rough shape.  Originally the truck was yellow, but by the time I got it, we called it 'the overripe banana' because the rust on it made it look.... well, like an overripe banana.  Additionally, the engine wasn't running on all its cylinders - so much so that when I drove the truck to work I had to take a run at larger hills to ensure I didn't slow down too much before getting to the top.

One of the 'fun' things to do in our small, remote community was to take old vehicles out on the logging roads and do fishtails and doughnuts.  We'd 'take our beater out for a dig' - basically all the fun stuff that was not really legal on a paved road.  

The summer after I graduated, right before the August long weekend Dad signed the truck over to me and then promptly left with Mom for a weekend getaway.  I lost no time in picking up Shane M., a friend from school and church, to take the 'yellow banana' out for a dig.  I didn't have a lot of experience doing intentional fishtails and donuts in a vehicle, but did my best trying to impress Shane.  At one point, I found a gravel pit that looked fun to burn around in.  We drove in there at a fair speed and I pulled the emergency brake an yanked the wheel sideways.  As we started to slide sideways, I began to question my judgement as rocks the size of softballs were kicked up over the passenger door by the leading edge of the truck.  Immediately after that the front tire right tire caught an edge, dug in deep, and the truck rolled over onto its roof.  

Fortunately we had our seatbelts on.  I don't think there is a graceful was to unbuckle your seatbelt when your hanging upside down by it.  We got out of the truck, a little scratched from the broken glass, but otherwise fine.  Again, God's protection! I walked to a nearby house and called for help.  The policeman that showed up was my brother's girlfriend's father.  He thought the whole thing was rather funny but warned me it could have been much worse.  Then he called the tow-truck and drove us home.

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Thursday, December 30, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 7 - Goodness and Mercy Follow Me

  Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 7 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

Goodness and Mercy Follow Me

One of the 'Dad jokes' in our house goes  "God has three sheepdogs. He's named them: Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy."  I honestly don't remember where I first heard the analogy that Goodness and Mercy are like God's sheepdogs, but it definitely stuck with me.  I love that mental image.

Even trying to sleep last night, though, I found I had 'traded' God's sheepdogs for other hounds called Stress, Worry, and Concern.  They were nipping at my heals for some time before I realized what had happened.  Being self employed and a single income family doesn't make this much easier.

Jesus says we shouldn't worry.  Something I'm finding lately is one of the best ways to combat worry is to be thankful.  More details about my original AHA moment around that on this post.  Its seems its far to easy to end up like the seeds in Jesus' Parable of the Sower which landed on the good ground but were choked by the thorns of 'worries, cares, and concerns of this world.'  

As an adult, I get glimpses every once in a while of what its be like to live without worries, cares, and concern.  Makes me want to be a kid again.  Carefree. 

Being Followed

Goodness and Mercy follow me.  That sounds like it should be a rather passive experience.  Given the context in this Psalm, if I follow the Good Shepherd's path of righteousness I shouldn't have to try and conjure up goodness or mercy in my life - they should just happen.  I'm curious though... does that mean I experience God's goodness and mercy in my life, or God's goodness and mercy overflow out of my life to others?  While its not clear, I'd like to think both.  As I experience God's goodness and mercy for myself, I can't help but share with others.

Other posts in this series:

Thursday, December 23, 2021

I Need God's Glasses

Sharp Vision

My wife has 20/20 vision.  I do not.  Neither do our kids.  For years the kids and I thought my wife was overly keen about cleaning things - the bathrooms, the kitchen, our hardwood floor - and then I realized one day that she's like this because she can see perfectly.  We can't.  She'll talk about how dirty a shower is sometimes, and I have literally no idea because I don't wear my glasses in the shower.  Or, just as often, my wife will ask me 'How can you see through those glasses?  They are so dirty!'  No wonder I can't see the dust on our hardwood floor.   :-\   Clear, focused vision is a gift, and I'm definitely missing it.

Focused Spiritually?

It got me wondering - how is my spiritual vision?  Jesus said 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.'  How do I see God?  Is my picture of Him as it should be... do I see Him as He really is?  Or is it distorted and out of focus?  Do I let worries and cares distort my perspective of His loving heart for me?  Are my expectations of His involvement in my life out of focus?  What about how I see others and how I see my past?  Is it through the lens of God's grace?

Getting Blindsided

If you haven't noticed, I tend to ask myself a lot of questions.  I think this stems from an experience I had at a Discipleship Training School in Texas back in late fall, 1990.  I actually recalled this in a journal entry this past week...

Dec 3, 2021
“He has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light”. This was the verse that came to me this morning after reading my devotions.  Every time I hear/read this verse it takes me back to ICT (Intensive Christian Training) school at LDM in Texas.  This was ‘the verse’ the school counsellors believed God had spoken over our class.  I was so keen and expectant to hear from God during that time.  

For me the seminal week and day of that schooling was the last day of our Openness and Brokenness week.  We were encouraged to be brutally open and honest with ourselves and the class about sin in our lives in the past and ask God to break our hearts over it - show us how He felt about that sin - and ask for his forgiveness.  We were warned against pride in sharing.  

I had kind of been through an exercise like this informally the previous year at college.  As a result, when I shared that day in Texas I was proud that I could be so open because I 'already had experience at this'. But I certainly wasn’t proud of the bad things I had done.  My attitude, demeanour, and lack of true remorse in the openness and brokenness exercise were perceived as pride - or at the very least, enough of an improper attitude that the leadership excused me from the proceedings for the rest of the day.  This was a shock and it hurt.  I was blindsided.  I felt like I had terribly misunderstood something important and questioned everything.  The counsellors couldn’t have know my heart and the subtleties of my experience.  What they saw and heard must've been more black and white to them.  At the time I wasn’t informed enough and lacked the experience to understand why I had been oblivious to what was really going on.

Why am I bringing this up now?  I see now that even though some of my motivation was wrong, deeper in my heart I wanted to be involved and do the right thing.  I wasn't trying to be intentionally malicious in what I did.  God disciplines those He loves.  He doesn't give us more than we can bear.

I left the classroom that day, not knowing who to talk to or where to go.  I felt exposed and alone (so far from home, too).  All kinds of crazy thoughts go through one's mind after being publicly reprimanded and excused like that.  It was a rough afternoon.  Pride comes before the fall, and I fell hard that day.  

From that point and for many years following, I was much more cautious, hesitant, and less confident in my relationship with God.  I didn't want to get surprised like that ever again.  I consequently examine my motives and my spiritual decisions closely, asking myself a lot of questions. 

Search Me Oh God...

In several places in the Bible God is concerned that His children miss the forest for all the trees - even though they think they can see, they are truly blind to what really matters.  Just like my experience above, we can get a distorted spiritual view of ourselves.  

But God sees me with more clarity and in sharper contrast than I can see myself.  That's probably why David prayed 'Search me oh God, and see if there's any wicked way in me.'  He knew that our hearts can deceive us.  God made me.  He knows what I'm going to think before I think it.  He's aware of all my foibles and issues, and He wants to help me see some of them a grow into someone who acts and thinks more like Him.  Be He needs me to be ready to accept 'His glasses' so I can get a little bit of his view.  

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 6 - Anointed Head, Overflowing Cup

 Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 6 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

You Anoint My Head with Oil....

I'm not a shepherd, and I never have been.  While I've heard that oil can be helpful on a sheep's head, I don't claim to know that for a fact, so I won't get into that here as it doesn't mean much to me personally.   This phrase does speak to me about a couple of things: resources I need, but that are beyond my ability to control, and the value of 'anointing' to David.

Even in this day and age, both oil and water are valuable resources.  What kind of oil was this - vegetable oil or some petroleum based oil?  Where ever it came from, it was likely purchased by the shepherd.  Since the shepherd anoints my head with it, that means I must also have an intrinsic value to him.  A comforting thought, even if I don't entirely understand the practical use for oiling a sheep's head.

Being 'anointed' had a symbolic and powerful meaning to David.  He was actually anointed to be king and lead God's people (in ceremony) three separate times.  His first anointing was performed by the prophet Samuel.   King Saul was also anointed by Samuel and because of that David wouldn't touch him.  Multiple times Saul tried to hunt David down and kill him, and David wouldn't touch Saul because 'he is God's anointed one.'  I recently re-read the story of David's life in the bible and one of the things that struck me was how adamant (frustratingly stubborn) David was in this conviction of not touching Saul, 'God's anointed one'.  At least, if I was in David's group of men, that's how I would have felt about it.  Clearly though, David believed that God's anointing carried with it a strong connotation of God's authority and protection.  

My Cup Overflows

I've been recently intrigued by imagery in the Bible of overflowing springs, wells, and cups.  The Garden of Eden was watered by a river that split into 4 rivers and watered things.  Where did that river come from - the ground perhaps?  Twice God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness by means of a spring of water from a rock.  The city of Jerusalem was built around the Gihon Spring (Gihon means gushing), and once David became king he made Jerusalem the capital.  In John 4:13-14, Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well and says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  And finally the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, chapter 22 talks about Eden being restored and a river flowing from the thrown of God.

An abundance of water - overflowing spring of life

Considering the value of a resource like water in a place like the Middle East, particularly for animals like sheep, the symbolism of an overflowing cup is extraordinary.   A valuable resource in abundance, provided for me!  Not just for drinking, but washing, and swimming.  Perhaps this also gives me an indication of what the table that God prepares for me looks like?

Oil and water don't mix...

I've made the assumption (hopefully a safe one) in this meditation that the 'overflowing cup' in this Psalm is overflowing with water.  If that is true, one could say that these two valuable resources are drawn from opposite sides of a spectrum, because oil and water don't mix.  Yet, the Holy Spirit in the Bible is represented at different times as water and/or oil.  I haven't really delved into the significance of all that, but thought it was interesting.

Other posts in this series:

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Lost and Found... With God

My First Time Being Lost

Getting lost for the first time can be traumatic for small children, but I think its actually more traumatic for their parents.  The first time I remember being lost I was about 5 and my family and I were moving to Vancouver Island.  My Dad was already working there and my Mom, my brother, and I were catching the ferry on our move to be there with him.    

These are not small ferries. The ferry we were on had multiple car decks, probably holding 150+ cars and 500+ people.  I loved ferry rides as they were a nice break from all the driving and still something of a novelty and adventure for us.  

Towards the end of this particular trip we heard the expected announcement telling everyone to return to their cars, so I calmly headed back to our car on the car deck with a crowd of other passengers.  After going down a couple of flights of stairs towards our car deck, I realized that my Mom and brother were not with me.  I thought 'I'll just stop here and hold the door open for everyone coming down.  Surely Mom and Paul will come along soon.'  But they never came.  

After several minutes of holding the door for everyone else, the crowd started to thin and I began to wonder where my Mom and brother were.  Just then a crew member showed up and asked if I was Perry McKenzie.  I said 'Yes' and she replied 'Oh good!  You better come with me then.  Your mother is pretty worried about you."  I followed her up to the captain's office where I was surprised to find my Mom in tears and quite relieved to see me safe and sound.

Now as a parent, I understand the concern, emotion, and potential perils of having a child missing on a large ship like that.  Puts a whole different spin on being lost.  I know - one of the first things a parent does in those situations is pray and ask God for help.  I'm glad God showed His faithfulness to us in that situation: protecting me, keeping me in good spirits, and helping me get found.  

Lost and Found - A Different Perspective

Its interesting to consider that the first question asked in the Bible is God asking Adam and Eve where they are.  Adam responds saying that they intentionally hid from God because they were naked and afraid. Sin separates us from God and makes us fearful and ashamed, like Adam and Eve.  The Bible says in Romans "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God",  so we all come into this world spiritually lost and separated from God - thanks to Adam.  

Jesus came to fix that, and find us.  He illustrates this in several stories you can read about in Luke 15:  The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son.  What I find interesting in these stories is the literal 'happy ending.'  The searcher is super happy at finding whatever was lost, and in two cases, throws a party!  Its so special to know God is intently looking for us lost souls and once found, He's so happy in the restored union with Him.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 5 - A Table in the Presence of My Enemies

 Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 5 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

You Prepare a Table for me....

Have you ever tried to eat when you were anxious?  Until I was married I didn't really draw an association between how I felt when I was eating and indigestion I felt afterwards.  However both my wife and my daughter have more sensitive stomachs than I, and it is definitely 'a thing' with them.  They both need to be emotionally relaxed when they eat and have 30 minutes or so of downtime after they eat.  If that doesn't happen, the meal doesn't sit well - at all.  I was honestly skeptical of this when I first married my wife, but after living with her for almost 30 years I've had enough proof to convince me that some people need to eat in a calm, relaxed environment.

What does the table God prepares for me look like?

What does God's prepared table look like?

...In the Presences of My Enemies

Who is my enemy?  My original perspective was that the 'enemy' in this verse was the 'enemy of our souls' and his minions.  John 10:10  1 Peter 5:8  With that perspective, this phrase just feels like a bit of an 'in your face, devil' statement to me.  God can not only protect me, but prepare a table for me - which is much more than just feed me.  I don't have to eat on the run - its not a take-out dinner.  I can sit down to a real meal.  

Some interesting examples of 'eating in the presence of my enemies' from the Bible:

  • David ate at Saul's table.  Saul wasn't exactly best friends with David.  On multiple occasions Saul tried to kill David.  One could definitely consider Saul as one of David's enemies.  
  • David living (and eating) among the Philistines in Ziklag for over a year, running from Saul.  They were definitely enemies of Israel at the time - one of the reasons David thought it would be safe to hide from Saul there.
  • Even the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem could be looked at this way.  Judas was at that table, and Jerusalem was full of Jesus' enemies.

When I consider all of these situations, it reminds me of the words to Surrounded - a song we play at church sometimes:  It might look like I'm surrounded, but I'm surrounded by You.  2 Kings 6:15-16

Asking myself again...  Who is my enemy?  Everyone probably has a different answer to this question - something I didn't actually consider until I discussed this passage with my wife.  What if I have a personal enemy, at school or at work?  What if there is someone in my life that I have a vehement disagreement with?  God tells me to love my enemies...  Does that mean I should be sharing my place at this table God is preparing for me with them?  Jesus seems to strongly suggest this!  

Pronouns in Psalm 23

I find it interesting that halfway through this Psalm, the pronoun used for referring to God as a Shepherd changes from 'He' to 'You'.  As soon David starts referring to death, fear, and enemies, David's relationship to the Shepherd seems to change.  I find it comforting to know that:

  • God wants me to know that He's closer, more available to me when I find myself in dire straights
  • David wanted God to be closer to him when he was in life-threatening situations (as would I)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 4 - The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 4 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

Though I Walk Through the Valley...

...of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  The previous verse says that my Shepherd leads me on paths of righteousness, and that God's reputation (His namesake) is involved in me staying on those paths.  What if His path leads unpleasant places?  Actually, its not really an 'if'.  David didn't say 'If I walk through the valley...' or 'Though I might walk through the valley...'  Jesus said 'In this world you will have tribulation...'   I shouldn't be shocked when bad things happen.  

Even though being on God's path isn't a guarantee of an easy, happy-go-lucky life, David says 'I will fear no evil.'  Jesus similarly responds, 'Be of good cheer, I've overcome the world.'  

Similarly, while I'm heading this direction, its in a walk.  I'm not cowering, sneaking, hesitating, or running (all things I might be doing if I was afraid).  To me, walking in this context alludes to being secure and relaxed.  Further to this thought....

Your Rod and Staff Comfort Me

Finding comfort in an unsafe place.  

a safe, comforting hand to hold
We have a large outlet mall near our house.  It is a 2 kilometre walk around the inside circumference of the building.  Some time ago, I was there with my kids on a busy weekend and noticed a young boy about 5 years old who was clearly lost.  He was calling for his mommy and daddy and not getting an answer.  You could hear the emotion start to well up in his voice as his calls became louder and more concerned.  I was about to turn and help him when a uniformed security guard showed up.  He spoke quietly to the boy and offered the boy his hand.  The young fellow immediately calmed down and put his hand in the guard's and they walked off together to the mall's office to find the boy's parents.  This scene really moved me.  It spoke to me of being afraid, but then finding comfort in an authority figure who was bigger than me, protective, in control, and knew where to go and what to do.  Similar to the Good Shepherd.

Even now as a grown up, I often find I need someone in my life I can lean on who is bigger than me, knows all my foibles and concerns, and has everything control even when I don't feel like it.  If I can remember that and centre myself on that thought and in His presence, I find the comfort and protection I need.

Freebie Thought... Identity

In the 23rd Psalm, there really isn’t much spoken about what a sheep does other than normal living... it lies down, it walks, it eats and drinks. It’s a ‘being’ rather than a ‘doing’. Interesting. Oxen pull a plow or a cart. Horses carry people or pull chariots. Sheep... don’t really ‘do’ anything. Today we’re very consumed with who we are, what we’re doing or what we’ve accomplished, and what people think of us. You don’t see any of that in this psalm. It’s all about who God is and what he’s doing for us.

Other posts in this series:

Monday, September 6, 2021

Being Thankful

 Growing up in church, memorizing memory verses was the 'currency' in Sunday School.  If one memorized enough memory verses you got a prize and a small bit of notoriety.  Similarly in Bible Camp in the summer, if enough people in your cabin memorized a verse it helped you all in the quest to become the winning cabin for the week.

God's Word is powerful and alive, and having it memorized has helped me many times in my life.  'Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.'  Many of the verses I memorized were from the King James Version.  God has used those memorized verses to help me avoid sin, be less anxious, give me guidance and direction, and even help me grow in how to talk and commune with Him.

Something interesting happened recently.  I discovered I'd been 'missing' a piece of a verse I regularly go over in my mind.  I often return to Philippians 4:6-7 during my week, quoting it in my head or when I'm praying in the morning.  But in the last couple weeks I realized I had been remembering/quoting it wrong - for years!   All that time I had been recalling it in my mind and in my prayers as 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and supplication make your requests known to God.  And the God of peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.'  I had been missing a couple of important words:  'with thanksgiving.'

The inclusion of this small phrase in that verse has been rather revolutionary for me.  When I'm thankful, my perspective changes.  My eyes are opened to more of what God is giving me, doing for me, and His involvement in my life.  When I consider my life with a thankful heart, my anxiety decreases, my attitude changes, I complain less in my mind, I enjoy life more, and I become more God focused.  

Being thankful changes my perspective
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Its funny how you can hear talks and read books that encourage you to be thankful, and think to yourself 'Yup, I do that.'  But being intentionally thankful and go looking for things to be thankful about is, I'm finding, something different.  Its changing my outlook and life and my attitude towards God.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 3 - Restoration and Righteousness

  Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 3 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

He Restores My Soul

'Restore' is an interesting word.  In my mind, the scenario it conjures up is:  a store of something, in this case, whatever a soul stores has been depleted, exhausted, and it gets built back up again.  Re-stored.  Exhausted is another good word.  When I'm tired, no just physically, but combined with all the other ways one can be tired, my outlook on life gets very negative.  I feel depleted, used up, spent, baked, 'done'!  

But God says 'the joy of the Lord is my strength'.  He rejoices over me with singing.  And He restores my soul.  It doesn't often happen in a snap.  Actually, a good sleep is what I need a lot of the time.  There is a lot of truth in the statement 'His mercies are new every morning.'  I can then face another day with a renewed attitude, perspective, and vigour - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  

He Leads Me in Paths of Righteousness...

...For His namesake.  Isn't it interesting that God ties his reputation to my direction?  The name of God is one of the massive underlying themes of the Bible - its who He is.  The Israelites had all kinds of names for God to remind themselves of who He is.  A person's name in Biblical times was tied to who they were.  God even changed some people's names to give them a new identity (and a new path?) in life:  Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel.  I get a lot of comfort knowing that my direction in life is ultimately guided by God.  If I start to stray, He'll make sure I get back on His path for me.  

When I was younger I used to fret about finding God's will and direction for my life.  I'd get to a point where I'd almost have analysis paralysis trying to discern what God's 'path' for me was.  Now I feel much more secure as I 'commit my way to the Lord..' because '...He will direct my path.'  Prov. 16:3.  Even if I live up to my human nature and get inadvertently distracted or turned around, I can rest assured that God is still in control. Proverbs also says 'Many are the plans of a person's heart, but its the Lord's purpose that prevails.'  God has put His name and reputation on the line as a guarantee.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 2: Green Pastures and Still Waters

 Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I often wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 2 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

My initial thoughts around this section of the Psalm centre around rest and food.  Its interesting that the very first thing David highlights in this Psalm that the Shepherd does for his sheep is related to rest.  A good thing to consider while I'm trying to go to sleep.  Stress and rest don't really go together.  A sheep can't get run away from predators fast from a lying down position, so there's an element of trusting the shepherd in the act of lying down.

He's not making me lie down just anywhere.  Green pastures would be soft and cool.  They're also full of the best food (from a sheep's perspective) so I'm not concerned about what I'm going to be eating because its all around me.  God takes the stress out of my life, if I trust him.

He leads me beside still waters

Whenever I consider this phrase I have a picture in my mind of a creek/brook a foot or two below the level of the green pastures, with a smooth, waveless current.  The water is crystal clear and trees are scattered around the bank.  Something like this picture, except the banks aren't quite that tall:

The Good Shepherd leads me here!  I am:
  • refreshed - the water is cool and flowing over me, 
  • cleaned - the water current gently washes the dirt off of me, and 
  • my thirst is quenched.  

What I can't connect

So here's the disconnect in my head...  These green pastures and still waters, where did David find them in Israel?  When I go to Google Maps and look at satellite and street views of different places there around Bethlehem where David grew up, I can't find green pastures and still waters.  Not easily anyway.  Was David wistfully imagining this place in his mind, or was the pedosphere (skin of the earth) in Israel different back then?  I don't have an answer to that question, but its definitely something I think about.  

A river in a desert is almost a contradiction of terms.  Water is precious and in most places in the bible people had to dig wells to get to it.  Then they had to haul it home for cooking, washing, cleaning, etc.  It was a significant chore back then, yet we don't consider much these days in developed countries because of our access to water.  We can turn on a tap and there it is.  For a shepherd in David's time and place, having access to a clear, still steam of water would be tantamount to gold.

These questions aside, I take much comfort though thinking of the Good Shepherd making me lie down in green pastures and leading me by still waters.

Sparks and Smoke at the Sawmill

 I worked as a weekend oiler at a local sawmill in my last three years of high school.  As a grease monkey, my assignment was to ensure the ...