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Life in Greencastle - Who Holds onto Us

Yesterday was a full day after a few weeks off for vacation and refreshment, and it was also a good day.  It began by gathering for our Sunday morning Bible Study in the parlor, as we continued to explore the Book of Acts together.  I'm really grateful that over the years we've grown closer as a group, and I was particularly grateful for the honesty we brought to the conversation yesterday.  To be sure, just like every other Bible Study I've ever participated in, we continue to find all sorts of things to talk about, but - to me - the good sign of really wrestling with and engaging God's Word is when we truly consider for ourselves what this text may be saying to us.  With the Book of Acts, that requires a great deal of openness, courage and even trust.  So much of the story in Acts is about God's sovereignty, power and freedom - how God can and does blow into the reality of our world, and how God's Spirit always brings about beautiful new realities for those open to such grace and renewal but also how it brings about challenges to those who have put their trust in things of this world.

I've been reading a wonderful little book by a friend of mine named Kyle Kramer called A Time to Plant.  In it, Kyle reflects on the call he received to buy and care for a particular piece of land in Southern Indiana, and how that call has expanded over the years to include husbanding not only a twenty acre piece of forest and farmland but also being an actual husband, father, neighbor, and employee.  He's had to do a lot of work over the years to live into these new responsibilities - including building an actual two-story home on his land.  And in the midst of his reflections on his many years of toil to raise everything from crops in the field to a home for his family of three growing kids and a wife, Kyle wrote something that was very significant.  He mentioned how the only true home for his soul is God.

From his own experiences and trials, he realized how easy it can be to place one's identity into many things in this world.  It was very easy to see his worth in how productive his farm was, how much progress he made on building his two-story ranch home, or even on achieving some Hollywood vision about marriage or country living.  He's come a long way, recognizing that while all of those things are good and that some of them, like his marriage, are very good, none of them are truly what define who he is.  That meaning must come from his Creator and Redeemer.  That truth must come from the God who shaped the land he lives on and the interior wonder of his own heart and soul.

Kyle's story ties in very well with one of the early and prominent messages from Acts.  When we can look to God as the source of all of life and the One who defines and saves us, we can be set free to experience the joy of being held by God.  Conversely, we can try to locate our identity in some other worldly reality, but those things will fail us.  It doesn't matter what it is:  house or professional role or money or even something as wonderful as our children or the great Jewish Temple of the First Century.

In specific ways, I can sense how our small group in the Bible Study is beginning to wrestle with some of these realities:  What is important for us to hold onto in this life?  What is God inviting us to let go of?  And what does it look like to live a live devoted to God, trusting God, letting ourselves be filled with God's grace and power as Stephen was?  As we said yesterday in the Bible Study, it's something we all desire, but it's also hard.  We can't help but put our confidence in other things from time to time.  Our conclusion:  Lord help us.

What we're really talking about here is learning how to be God's children again.

Thankfully, yesterday afternoon, I got a glimpse of what that rest and assurance might look like.  It came from a visit I make occasionally to the home of Mr. Henry Myers, a man who was born during the days of Woodrow Wilson's presidency.  He's much further along in his journey through this world than my friend, Kyle.  Henry's been through the Great Depression, met and married his wife, had six children with her, worked for over forty years here in Greencastle, has seen his children find strength and maturity enough to start their own lives and families,.  He's also had his own share of loss - including the deep wound of losing his spouse and partner of over seventy-two years, his wife, Rhea.

In Henry's home, there's a small painting that hangs above the recliner he sits in when I go to visit him.  It's a scene of a hardy tree in the late fall or early winter, it's limbs naked to the wind that is blowing it and bending the trunk.  The picture seems to capture Henry, how his own life has seen its many seasons and how age and time have stripped away much from him, as time and age do to all of us.

But as we were sitting there yesterday, Henry began to tell me about the things he's been remembering lately.  It's the hymns and songs from his childhood, he tells me.  Songs that Carolyn Thomas and Maxine Patterson recognize from before the days of "Rock & Roll," which all three agree they don't enjoy or get, as I smile to myself.  But, the song he hears most of all is the Old Rugged Cross.  He tells me he can't remember all of the words, just bits and pieces, and Carolyn and Maxine begin to sing the one verse they know.  And I realized that in the winter of his life, Henry has begun to remember the gifts given to him as a young boy, perhaps even as an infant.

What is more, every time I get up to go after visiting Henry, I always give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  And he does the same for me.  He has no need to put up pretense.  He's happy to let me hug him, and to return a hug as he sits in his recliner, telling me how much he loves me.  He does so with the candor and the openness of a child.  And I know, as he knows, that is precisely how his Lord will receive him whenever his days in this world will come to an end.

Yes, what is our one and lasting consolation in this life?  That we belong to our Lord in body and in soul.

Thanks be to God, through Christ our Lord.

Wes

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