Friday, February 29, 2008

what to pray?

ps 138.7 "tho i walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life."

even if there is difficulty, even if surrounded by enemies, God is there. who would know better than someone like David, whose whole life was filled with difficulties, yet thru those difficulties an awareness of the presence and provision of God the likes of which i can scarcely imagine.

so, what to pray? "O Lord, deliver me"? Maybe.
or "O Lord, let me see you even here"? Surely.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

in memoriam

15 feb 08

Tombstones: what pitiful markers for those who have punctuated our lives with their presence. An inscription like "Kenneth Lysle Watters. June 22, 1917-January 12, 2008" will never do justice to the totality of a life, certainly not in this case.

I've just come back from a memorial service for Ken Watters, who died a month ago at the age of 90. He was one of the "old guys" who labored to make Wycliffe Bible Translators the organization that it is, whose name would often appear in publications and organizational newsletters, such that you were always left with the impression "he's a 'Somebody'". We went to the memorial, not because he was a Wycliffe 'Somebody' – we never even knew him – but we know his kids, our peers, and wanted to honor and support them.

I've been to funerals where there is no hope; where people struggle for words to say at the departure of a loved one…sometimes grievious, sometimes welcomed. There have been other memorials, however, whose textures have not been so dark and sombre. And I can scarcely imagine a more eloquent and joyful memorial than this one was, truly the celebration of a life of service, full of integrity and lived for the glory of God.

I'm left with numerous impressions.

Person after person stood up and lauded his life, and not merely with the perfunctory "he's in a better place"-type platitudes you might hear in similar circumstances. They shared about his contributions in so many areas: military service, his involvement with Navigators, his history with Wycliffe. Truly a remarkable man. Themes of honor, integrity, his kindness, his love for scripture, his love for God, how he sacrificially cared for his wife, what an example he was were voiced repeatedly, the sheer volume of which only confirmed their veracity and could not help but leave me with the impression "I wish I would have known him too." What an incomparably valuable legacy to leave behind.

But then Josiah, one of grandsons shared…"I never knew my grandfather as an important person; I never knew him as someone who accomplished great things in the navy, or in Bible translation. He was just my grandpa." A tender, yet haunting statement. It made me reflect on how often my life casually touches specific points along the trajectory of the lives of others. They have a history; they have a future ahead of their present. And yet so often I treat the contact in a cavalier fashion, sometimes even wanting to avoid them altogether. But i'm reminded by this statement that I don't know where God has brought them from nor what God has in store for them in days ahead. There is simply too much about them I don't know to exclude them from the category of "important people". As C.S. Lewis has said:

"…It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses." (from The Weight of Glory)

In light of all the post-mortem honor heaped upon this man I could not help but think "What will my children say about me?" Now THAT's something to ponder. I know that countless impressions I've made during the course of my life are already planted, rooted, grown, harvested and fully digested in their minds and souls. So i figure I should get the jump on things now and write out what I want them to say while it's still fresh in my mind!