Look

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But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love your name may be filled with joy.

For you bless the godly, O Lord;
you surround them with your shield of love.

(Psalm 5:11,12 NLT)

When I looked out my window I saw a dull gloomy day. Landscape photographers are dependent on the weather. Fog and rain can make interesting lighting conditions but in the autumn when the trees are in colour I wanted bright light. I didn’t feel like it, I decided to go anyway. Once I was on the road I saw a small patch of blue in the sky to the north.

I simply followed the light and  came to the end of the road at a small lake at the foot of a mountain. I parked and waited, enjoying God’s presence and soaked in the warm breeze and the song of the birds.

Then the sun broke through.

Sometimes it takes some effort to follow the light and look for the positive and beautiful around us. I’m not ignoring alarming stories of fear and evil. I care very much. But when I stay in the gloom too long my eyes become dim. I stop looking to the horizon for hope and begin to add my own sad you-think-that’s-bad stories.

It’s not so much a matter of avoiding negativity as actively pursuing the positive – things for which we are thankful.

John, who recorded his experiences in the book of Revelation, began by saying he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day when he looked. And then he looked, and then he looked some more. Seeing things from God’s perspective requires active participation on our part.

For me on that day, hope started by getting out of the driveway, looking to the sky, and heading toward the light.

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Today

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It was a difficult time. There was nothing more the doctors could do for my friend. She surprised everyone by living a happy, healthy life ten years longer than the sell-by date first suggested by her most optimistic specialists. In fact, she outlived two oncologists. Now the third told her the cancer was back and he had nothing left to offer her that they had not already tried.

She holed up in her lovely house in the forest for a while, reviewing her life and faith and relationships. Then one day she phoned and told me she was coming over.

“Today I am not dead. Let’s enjoy it.”

She was my accompanist, a misleading term, really. She didn’t accompany me like the paid companion in Victorian novels. We were a duo. We gave most of our concerts for an audience of three – ourselves and God. We chose music we wanted to do. We challenged each other. We allowed the music to say what we could not.

For six months we made music, dropping the more evocative songs when they caused one or both of us to choke up. You can’t sing with a lump in your throat. She stopped me and said the reason she liked coming to my house was that it was one place where she didn’t have the burden of comforting other people. I saved my tears for later.

She wanted to go to be with Jesus. She was ready to go. She longed to go. She felt no shame in not wanting to fight anymore.

But she determined to not make a career of dying. “One day I will die,” she said, “But on the rest I will live. Let’s sing.”

Most of the trees in my neighbourhood are barren now, but up at the top of the street a weeping willow glows in the sunlight. I stood under its swaying branches enjoying every moment of golden beauty that surrounded me. It carried a familiar message.

Today I am not dead. Today I am alive. Let’s sing.

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Can I Silent Be?

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“Doth not all nature around me praise God?
If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe.
Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies?
Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration?
Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire?
Hath not the whole earth a voice?

And shall I, can I, silent be?”

– Charles Spurgeon