Sunday, July 29, 2012

A SOLITARY PLACE

When I was turning on my computer this morning, for some unknown reason the title of the following chapter of one of my books appeared on the screen. I have not looked at this book on the computer for several months, so I have no idea why this happened, but my thought was the perhaps someone needs to read it. It might be you.

  
A SOLITARY PLACE

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest and fastest-moving of all the gospels. The author does not elaborate a great deal on each of Jesus’s episodes or the disciples’ lives, but simply and quickly moves from one to the next, often using the word immediately to connect two incidents. It perhaps should not be surprising that Mark should write this way, because (as it is commonly thought) Mark wrote his gospel from accounts given to him by the Apostle Peter, with whom he traveled on his preaching circuit. Peter himself was a man who was rather economical with his words and was, as we know, a man who quickly moved from one event to the next. Although Mark may have written in the hurried style of ministry that he shared with Peter, I have my doubts if Mark was of this same, impetuous temperament in his personality.
Mark sometimes writes as if he is a little out of breath as he followed the apostle Peter in his travels. Mark alone, of all the gospel writers, in telling about the ministry of Jesus with his disciples, mentions a couple of times that they were so busy that they did not even have time to eat (Mark 3:20; 6:31).
I find it a little amusing that Mark writes in this way, since he was not even present with the disciples when these times of going without meals occurred. Nevertheless, I can imagine Mark listening to Peter tell him about those days and being quite impressed by this fact. The ministry of Peter almost certainly still had some of those same active characteristics, and Mark could probably relate well to this when Peter told him about it. Perhaps Mark, in his own personality, would have taken things at a bit more moderate pace—just possibly.

The Need for Solitude
 More than any of the gospel writers, Mark seems to take note of the times when Jesus went off by Himself to a secluded place where He could be alone for a little while. And Mark is the only one of the gospel writers who makes note of one specific thing that Jesus said to His disciples at a crucial point in their lives. Perhaps what Jesus said to the disciples on this occasion was not so significant, and yet, it is significant enough for Mark to have recorded it.
On this occasion, Jesus had just sent the twelve disciples out on a journey. Actually, they went out in pairs on separate journeys. Jesus told them to take nothing for their own preparations except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money, nothing. What Jesus did give them for their journey, however, was authority over unclean spirits.
So the disciples went out and “preached that people should repent.” We are told that the disciples also “drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:12-13). I am sure that their journeys were filled with activities of all sorts, and the demands upon them were great. On these types of ministries, sleep is never adequate, and fatigue begins to build. After a time (we do not know how long), the disciples returned very excited about their short-term mission trip. They were full of stories about all they had done and taught.
The very next event after this in the lives of Jesus and His disciples is the significant and famous story of the feeding of the five thousand people. The other synoptic gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, mention in both of their accounts that at the return of the disciples from their travels, that Jesus took the disciples with Him as He went to find a place where He could have some rest (Matthew 14:13; Luke 9:10). However, if we would only have these two accounts, it might even seem as if Jesus looked for the opportunity for Himself to be alone but did not necessarily communicate the importance of this to the disciples.
It was only the gospel writer Mark who tells us of a simple phrase that Jesus said to the disciples at this point. Ordinarily, in his action-packed style of writing, we would expect Mark to next write, “Immediately after these things,” and then move on to the feeding of the five thousand. Both Matthew and Luke pause very little at this point in their narrative, and in their writings, they quickly begin telling about that next event. But Mark departs from his normal style of writing to add something that Jesus said to the disciples.
“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while,” Jesus told His disciples (Mark 6:31, NAS).
Mark then pauses further to emphasize the fact that many people were coming and going and to mention, as he had on one other occasion, that Jesus and His disciples did not even have time to eat. He then continues, “They went away in a boat to a secluded place by themselves.”

A Society That Dissuades Solitude
 Jesus’s words about going to a secluded place demonstrate a need that we all must address in our lives and that is reflected in Jesus’s own life. Jesus often sought quiet times. It sometimes was difficult for them to find those times. Ours is a society that is constantly on the move and in which personal solitary times are becoming increasingly rare. We have for so long lived without solitude, we no longer even know how to be alone. Any observation of the mannerisms of people show us that it seems that if we do ever find ourselves alone, we must either be plugged into our iPods or talking on our cellular phones to drown out the noise of silence.
Lives that are to have meaning cannot continue in this way. In order to understand and process all of the activities that are going on around us and in which we ourselves are involved, we must seek some time when we can and find a “secluded place” to reflect on all that is happening and to bring it all before God. We need solitary times to process that which is occurring in the course of our lives. Not to do so will result in ourselves being carried along by the capricious nature of life instead of ourselves directing where life should carry us.

The Pattern for Solitude
Mark took special note of this need of solitude. In one of the very first incidents that he records in the life of Jesus, Mark tells of how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, who had been lying sick and with a fever. When the news of that healing began to be spread about the town, Mark writes:

When evening came, after the sun had set, they [the people of the city] began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.
Mark 1:32-34 (NAS)

This event in Jesus’s life demonstrates the nature of the daily pressures for Jesus. The crowds were constantly pressing in on His presence. Their needs were so numerous and so great. The needs were not merely physical needs such as need of food and healing of illnesses, but they were also spiritual in their nature. The needs of the people included the casting out of demons. Jesus found Himself in constant battle with the demons. It is in the midst of all of these pressing needs that Mark again tells us of something that Jesus did. “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (Mark 1:35, NAS).
            Alas, the time for Jesus in His secluded place was short-lived. His disciples were searching for Him and found Him out. “Everyone is looking for you,” they told Jesus. Indeed. The demand was constantly there.
            So Jesus continued His ministry, because, as He told the disciples:

“Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Mark 1:38-39 (NIV)
           
The life of Jesus continued in its hectic pace. Mark, I think, was a bit exhausted just hearing about it, and took special note of the times when Jesus took time out for prayer and reflection.
“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while,” Jesus told His disciples.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

Friday, July 20, 2012

SYMPATHY

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here is about the best definition of sympathy that I have ever read.
It is my grandson Will putting on a sling and being sympathetic about Grampa's broken arm.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ROAD TRIP - PART 4

Vivian and I are now nearly at the end of our trip. By the time I post this to the blog, I guess the journey will be completely over and we will be home on our little farm. Right now, we are at our son Jesse and his wife Lisa’s place, having a couple of days to visit with them and play with James and Will, our two grandsons of 5 and 3. Fun days! (But there is a little caveat that I will mention later).
But first, I need to rewind in this trip about 3000 miles to the point where we were just entering the state of Washington to visit our friends in the mountains above Yakima. We first met Mark and Vicky when they and we were first preparing to leave for Venezuela. They were our friends and neighbors in that country, but we have not seen them since that time. Mark is now the director of a Christian camp in the pine-covered mountains of Washington. They have got a beautiful situation and as always, doing a very good job with their ministry.
After our time there, our plan was to go out to the Pacific and drive the Oregon coast down to see the redwoods. Vicky kindly arranged for Vivian and me to stay with her sister and husband, who live along that stretch of road. As we drove away from the camp, we rounded a bend to see the majestic Mount Rainier. The weather was beautiful, as it had been for us on the entire trip.
In fact, the weather had just cleared up the day before we got there. Vickie’s sister told us that many people visit the coast, but because of fog and clouds are never able to see anything. We had beautiful clear and blue skies for the whole drive and are very thankful for that fact.
Here is Vivian with one of the larger trees
Even with a broken arm, I was able to hoist one of them(I admit it was not the largest one)


I wrote in the last post about the redwoods. It is an astounding thing to walk among these giants. I have long wanted to see these noble trees of Northern California. I had seen many pictures, of course, but like most truly marvelous spectacles of nature, any photo or any painting can never even approach what it is to actually experience them and being in their presence.
We were glad next to see my nephew who lives and works in the Sacramento area of California. This is a big rice growing country, and my nephew works in this industry. He gave us a tour of their processing plant and showed us his new product. This is a new type of cooking rice where the factory first starts the sprouting process in the rice, but halts it before the actual sprout develops. This process releases more food energy when the rice is cooked and eaten. It is a new innovation and my nephew is greatly involved in it.
My cousin and her husband live less than an hour south, and we next went there. They have an almost unique business where they contract with different municipalities in fire prevention. There are many gullies and other almost inaccessible places in the San Francisco bay area that grow up in brush, causing a large fire danger. When you see houses in the west on the news that are burning, it is often because of this fire hazard. My cousin and husband have a business where they have huge herds of goats (6000 goats in total!), cared for by different shepherds. These guys put up temporary fences around these gullies where they then turn the goats loose to graze the brush, thus eliminating the fire danger.
There are a few people that are doing this in the area now, but my cousin, who is also a veterinarian, and her husband were really innovators in this. It is especially appropriate that this is so, since he is a veteran fire fighter in the area.
Followed by Larry the Cucumber
With this, we pointed out truck east on I-80 and headed toward home. On the last day of our journey, we were followed for many miles by the happiest car that I have ever seen. Every time I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw this little face, smiling at me like Larry the Cucumber. This is also how this trip made me feel. It was a great adventure and very fantastic renewing old friendships and making new friends.
From the door of my cousin in California to the door of my son’s house is 2019 miles. We made no detours on the way home, other than driving around a couple of times near the freeway to find a hotel. It is good to be back here and it will be good to be home again.
My arm is feeling better and hopefully I will be able to get at some of the work that awaits me. On a sadder note, this morning I spilled some hot coffee on my little grandson James, giving him a burn. Grampa must learn to be more careful. I am praying that he will be ok with no scarring on that handsome little face. The doctor said he will be fine, but it is one of those moments you wish you could just take back.
Now, it is back to the farm for Vivian and me.

**************************


Vivian planned this whole trip and did a great job. I told her that she should start a travel/concierge business, but she is not so keen to do so. I thought since the shoe factory closed down near our home (neither was she keen on that idea), this would be another employment opportunity for her. Nevertheless, in case she in fact does start a travel service, here is her first unsolicited testimonial.

DON FROM WISCONSIN SAYS:

I had Vivian from Vivian’s Travel Service plan a trip of a life time for me and my wife. Vivian arranged for everything on the whole trip to run smoothly, and even arranged for us to have fantastic weather. Vivian was willing to adjust the schedule as the trip progressed to suit my wife and me and we had experiences that I am sure we will never forget.
I highly recommend Vivian’s travel service for all of your travel needs. You will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

IN THE REDWOODS



I walked in the midst of giants,
Trying not to break their silence.
Afraid that any uttered word
Be interpreted as defiance.

But then in the treetops I heard
The light evening song of a bird.
Then the sound of the slightest breeze;
It whispered, as the top branches stirred.

And then, in addition to these,
I thought that I heard the word, “Please.”
And although I could not be sure,
It seemed as if it came from the trees.

“Behold my height. Behold my girth.
“See all of the marvels of the earth.
“But not in these we find our worth,
“It is in the one who gave us birth.”

I walked at the feet of the world's tallest trees,
But it is to their Maker I bow my knees.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

ROAD TRIP - PART 3

Bull Mountains, MT burn area
I hope all of you who are in the United States enjoyed the 4th of July celebrations. Many of the states out west are very dry, so there were no fireworks for Vivian and I this 4th of July. We drove through a little of the burned out area a few days ago…but I am getting ahead of myself and should back up about a week.
As I said in my last post, Vivian had some of her happiest childhood memories when she lived in Union Center, South Dakota. She was just a little girl at the time, just entering first grade when her Dad became the pastor of the church there. They only lived there four or five years, but the friends she made while there became her lifelong friends, and when I married Vivian, they also became my friends.
In the Men's Room
We have always really enjoyed our visits in Union Center, and we stopped there about four days to see everyone and to catch up with what is happening. The church has been a part of our work overseas all of the years we have been serving, so it was great to worship with them on Sunday. This is ranch country, and the people of the church are represented by the brands of their ranches on some of the trim in the church.
TheThree Amigos
The special treat was to have almost the entire first grade class of Union Center One Room Prairie School of 1959 sing a special song in church. They sounded good and have the potential to make it big. I think would call the group, “The Three Amigos.” If they would add a bit of the choreography of the original Three Amigos, they could fill a musical niche that has so far been left untouched. But really, and all kidding aside, the song was very nice and sung from the hearts of three very special people.
After church, Vivian and I started our drive north. The next people that were on our way to see lived in Havre, Montana, which is only about 20 miles from the Canadian border. The road from Union Center to Havre brought us through some wide open spaces of both Wyoming and Montana. This is the land of the big sky, where the horizons are very distant and the vault of the heavens seems more grand.
Grave Markers at Little Bighorn
We stopped at the Little Bighorn River, at the sight of the defeat of the U.S. Army, led by Lt. Colonel George Custer of the 7th Cavalry, by the arrows and rifles of what the Park Ranger called “perhaps the best light infantry in America at the time.” These were the Indian warriors of the Lakota Sioux, the Cheyenne, and the Arapaho. The Park Ranger gave a very detailed description of not only the day of the battle, but the days preceding it and even of the economic and political climate of the time. His talk was, in fact, the best I have ever heard given by any Park Ranger. He tried to avoid any finger pointing or taking any sides, but simply explained why he believed events happened as they did at Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876.

As Vivian and I approached Havre, Montana, I noted that the town of Havre has a spelling very similar to the name of a former Green Bay Packer quarterback, but the pronunciation of the town’s name seems to be more phonetic than is the quaterback’s. Actually, I heard that the name Havre from the result of two early settlers who were fighting over a young lady. Finally, one of the men conceded defeat and said to the other man, “Ok, you can have ‘er!” I think that this is supposed to be a joke but you can decide for yourself.
Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea
In Havre live two families with close connections to our own town of Spirit, Wisconsin. One of them actually is originally from Spirit, and moved to Havre some years ago. They now run an Ice Cream Shop right on the main street of town, Scotty’s Ice Cream. Be sure to stop by if you are ever up that way. They have good ice cream and it tasted especially good on a 90° + day.
The other family has never lived in Spirit, but the mother of the dad of this family was raised in Spirit, and he still has relatives there. Surprise, surprise, I am one of them! I really enjoyed catching up with these two families, and greatly benefited and marveled as I listened to them tell of some of the lessons that they had learned in their walks with the Lord.

Even if you convert this to celsius, that is one cold night!
On the 4th of July Vivian and I started out early and drove as far as Thompson Falls, Montana. We passed through wide spaces, mountain meadows, and along rushing rivers to arrive in this small town in this far west Montana town. This morning, we will continue on to see friends who work at a Christian camp around Yakima, Washington.