“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, . . . . ”(Lk. 13:34-35)
We spent a wonderful day together with the Doige and Kemshall families as they celebrated Matt and Rebecca’s wedding. Pastor Ed was there as “The Wedding Singer” and his rendition of “Matt in a Vest” was unforgettable. I just wonder from time to time, how deep that creative well is and just about the time that you think you are there, he pulls something else out of the bag. I have to say Marc, that I love you and I bless you for surrendering this gift to God, to the church and I believe as the Old Testament prophets were used by God to speak uncomfortable truth to His people, so He uses you in our church today to keep many of us from becoming too comfortable. Personally I am afraid of that.
More than anything else, I am afraid that I will “settle in” for something less than what God has for me. I am so blessed here at First Wesleyan, so grateful . . . I just don’t want to get too comfortable and I don’t want the church to get too comfortable. I am convinced that as individuals and as a church we need to be always prepared to lay everything on the line for the kingdom. When we forget that God is the source of all that we have and when we begin to operate out of an overly cautious perspective where we are no longer willing to take risks, the blessing of God is removed. The essence of faith is a willingness to follow the direction of God and there are times when God will ask us to simply trust Him for the outcome and obey. You see churches die at all sizes. A church of 5,000 people can be as dead as a church of 25 people. God help us to be willing to lay it on the line.
At the rehearsal on Friday evening, Matt wanted to do something that was different from the norm at a point in the service. His dad, Rick said something to the effect that that is not the way that we do it or that he had never done it that way before. It wasn’t meant to say that it shouldn’t be done differently, it was just an observation. I was assisting Rick and I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Guess you can’t teach an old ‘Doige’ new tricks.” It’s a corny play on an old adage. An adage is a traditional saying that expresses something taken as a general truth. And often we fail to question and just cave to an observation that we accept as generally true.
The truth of that adage depends on the “Doige” or the dog. Personally, I think that any person who decides that there is always something new to learn can be taught “new tricks” – as a matter of fact they want to learn new things and that desire is what keeps them fresh and relevant.
Another adage that came to mind this week was, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” A senior pastor that I once worked for quoted that to me. One staff member would spend his entire budget within the first few months of the church year and we would find ourselves in a fall financial crunch and the budgets of other departments would then be curtailed and other plans would fall by the wayside. I questioned that and the adage was the answer that I received . . . as though it was a discussion stopper – an observation not so much of truth as of behavior.
I wasn’t sure what the lesson was. Did that mean that I had to “squeak” more if I wanted to be able to be able to carry out my plans? I wasn’t sure that I wanted to become that kind of a person – no I was certain that I didn’t want to become that kind of a person. Problem was that the adage was incomplete. Personally I think that if a wheel squeaks often, there may be a problem with the wheel and perhaps it needs something more than grease.
This adage is fresh for me this past week as well because of the death of Opal Duncan. She was one of those persons who in my mind had every right to “squeak” but I never heard her do it. I’m sure that she did occasionally but I never heard it. Opal was Bill Lapointe’s sister.
I received word of her death while on Grand Manan Island. The news came to me just prior to a drive to Stanley’s beach in North Head. There are a few places better to think of eternal issues. Even as a child, I found refuge and a presence on that beach. It was a place to go to tell the secrets of my soul. Whether calm or storm stars or the thickest fog, that presence was there. The eternal nature of God reflected in the ever-moving, restless waters.
You can watch time race past you on a beach, . . . things changing every moment. The tides flooding and ebbing, changing the visage of the sands with each cycle. New streams burrowing their way back to the ocean – the common destination of every waterway.
I talked to God many times on that beach as a young unchurched boy. We talked about failed romances, my parents’ floundering marriage, the uncertainty that this brought into my life, the pain of watching two people that you love in the process of destroying one another. I questioned Him there about the call that I felt on my life to become a preacher. No I argued with Him about that. I thought it was cruel to ask someone who was so afraid of people to “preach” the gospel. He won – I am so glad. Now I can’t imagine another path that would have brought such fulfillment and joy. God sees things that we don’t see you know. And eventually we come to see them. Either here or there, this world or the next. He tells us that if we are willing to trust Him He will bring us to the place where we can see what He sees enough to understand that it was His love that attempted to lead and guide us – not cruelty or the desire to take something good from us – but to bring ultimate good to us. I still hear the beautiful echoes of some of those wonderful conversations when I wander some of those beaches. I began to learn those initial lessons of trust on that beach.
We were there that night to try to find some sand dollars. The tide needs to be dead low to find any and you only have a short window of time.
And so stepping around on the sand bar, looking for the tell-tale signs of a sand dollar, a small irregularity in the sand, I found myself once more in conversation with God and we talked together about Opal.
I don’t want to try to convey to you today that I knew her as a best friend or a family member. I visited with her several times over the last seven years in her home in Risteen’s Landing.
I will tell you this though. I had the same experience with Opal that I have with most people who learn how to face adversity with the grace and help of God. I think of Barb Shipley or Rev. A.D Cann, people who rise above the adversity that they have faced in life and seem to be able to find a deep “grace well” that they draw on – not a “grease well” for squeaky wheels but the well of grace – God’s grace.
It would be patronizing for you and I to pity such people. I guess we could pity the person in such circumstances who try to find the strength to face life on their own. I guess I pity the person who chooses to face life that way whether they have an obvious disability or not. I surely didn’t feel pity for her – there was something else. In the few and short times that we had together, God used the life of this lady to inspire me relative to my own life . . . my own walk with God.
I’d buzz into the building, find my way to her apartment and knock on the door. At her invitation, I would let myself in and sit with her. Of necessity, the things that were most crucial in her life were closest to her. A remote control for the TV – seems to be there was some kind of medic alert device, Kleenex, some medications. The most important things in her world within arms reach. Music, . . . there was music, her favorite musician, Billy – was she ever proud of Billy, . . . and the pictures of her family most all within arm’s reach. Typically from my experience, we never talked much about her physical challenges. She was always grateful for the shortest visit. I never knew Opal as a church-goer – she was always confined.
I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had whined and complained. But she wasn’t a squeaky wheel.
Unlike Opal, I know of people who have adopted “squeakiness” as a life pattern. To get attention, make noise. Rather than trusting God as time wears on and drawing closer to Him, they just get squeakier. And grease doesn’t do the trick, it may ease the squeaking but not for long and it never really stops. The squeaky wheel just wants attention – from people. And no one is more dissatisfied with life because attention from people is like trying to drink salt water to quench your thirst, it just makes you thirstier. It’s nice when people care for us and all of us want to be loved but it takes something more than that to do the trick. We have this tendency to set our expectations on people to meet our needs and the best of human care-givers can’t meet the needs of our souls. Often it is our souls that cries out in adversity and we sense that need and misinterpret it as something that could be “fixed” by another person.
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore." (Psalm 121:1-8, NKJV) 
You don’t have to be old to be “squeaky”. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to be confined to a wheelchair to be squeaky. You just have to set your hopes on something that will never satisfy you. What is your hope set on today? If it is the hope that you will be spare form heartache, you’ll probably “squeak”. If it’s the belief that you can provide for yourself, a self-made person . . . then sooner or later, you’ll “squeak”.
I think that the adage should go, “There’s something wrong with a wheel that squeaks.” Maybe the wheel has lost it’s bearings. Maybe there’s rust for lack of use? Maybe grease won’t really fix a “squeaky” wheel, . . . maybe it just masks the real problem.
Just a few observations this morning relative to learning to live life with God’s grace.
1. The minor injuries of life cause some more difficulty than the major issues cause others. It’s the difference between the paper cuts and the knife wounds. As far as the pain goes, I have experienced more short term pain with minor injuries than I have with major ones. When I was stabbed years ago, I felt nothing really. The pain that I experienced from that major injury was in the healing. When my body was rebuilding itself, that was when the pain came. I would suggest to you that this is many times true in other areas as well. The injury itself can be numbing and we can drift into a type of shock. I think that I have wrestled through more personal pain in the years following my parent’s divorce than I did in the midst of the event itself.
“Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of widsom it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enought to enjoy the tales of other's pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with --but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the Devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”
2. The things that we hold closest to us are crucial. They were for Opal and others that I have seen as they have learned to try to cope with life’s tragic twists and turns. One of the reasons that many people find it so difficult to cope or recover is that we have collected “stuff” that has no value to us when it comes to difficult times. We have worked hard to get this or that, trading our lives, the best of ourselves for things that just won’t last and when adversity strikes the bank account is never big enough, the spiritual “Trust Fund” is gone.
3. Our unwillingness to move ahead for God is a greater obstacle than any disability that we may have. There may be a mileage problem. Not too many miles but too few. My mother has a 2000 Nissan Sentra that still smells new. I think that perhaps she may have just broken the 20,000 km. barrier. She had to get new tires a year or so ago – do you know why? The rubber was compromised from lack of use – rotten really. Most of us can get many more miles from driving the vehicle. In the Christian walk, it is crucial that you are moving, that you are somehow, in some way, investing yourself for the kingdom. You can’t bury your talent in the ground and expect a reward because it is given back in pristine condition.
People like Opal remind me that I “squeak” much too easily. They remind me that what I squeak for is not what I really need. They remind me that perhaps I should do more self-maintenance. Why “squeak” when you can pray? Why “squeak” when you can trust? “Squeak” more to God and less to people.
I don’t think that I ever helped Opal much. She was always courteous and genuinely appreciative . . . but you know what, I don’t think that she needed me. I think that she found help from “lifting her eyes” to the hills – beyond the hills to the one who made the hills – the one who made the heavens and the earth. The Lord who stirs the restless seas, who paints patterns in the sand, who buries tiny little mollusks at dead low tide on Stanley’s Beach on Grand Manan Island to stir the curiosity of those who find themselves stepping around tidal pools looking for irregularities in the sand to find them and asking themselves questions about the passing of time and eternity and the mystery of godliness as it reaches toward the healthy and the infirm with the very same message. You can’t make it without Him – without His Grace and Love – regardless of who you are, how smart you are, how wealthy you are, how self-sufficient you are.
FORGIVE ME WHEN I WHINE
Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely maiden with golden hair.
I envied her, she seemed so gay, and how I wished I were
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one foot, and wore a crutch, but as she passed, a smile.
Oh, God, Forgive Me When I Whine,
I Have Two Feet. The World Is Mine.
And when I stopped to buy some sweets the lad who served me had such charm.
He seemed to radiate good cheer, his manner was so kind, and warm.
I said, "It's nice to deal with you, such courtesy I seldom find!"
He turned and said, "Oh, thank you, sir!" Then I saw that he was blind.
Oh, God, Forgive Me When I Whine.
I Have Two Eyes, The World Is Mine.
When later I was walking, I saw a little boy with eyes of blue.
He sat and watched the others play, it seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment, then I said, "Why don't you join the others, Dear?"
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew, he couldn't hear.
Oh, God, Forgive Me When I Whine.
I Have Two Ears, The World Is Mine.
With feet to take me where I'd go,
With eyes to see the sunset's glow,
With ears to hear what I should know,
I'm blessed indeed, the world is mine.
Oh, God, Forgive Me When I Whine
I left the beach that night feeling much the same as I do whenever I meet with God. Feeling that God is big enough to have the whole world within arm’s reach.
"Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” ’ ” And Moses said, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?” And the Lord said to Moses, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.”" (Numbers 11:18-23, NKJV) 
He’s big enough to wrap His arms around you today with all your questions, with all your grief – whatever they may be.
He’s got the whole world in His hands . . . .
This is a common verb in the kjv, where it means “to grow.” We use it now only for the phases of the moon and in the idiom “wax and wane.” Otherwise, as the oed remarks, the word is obsolete or literary “with a somewhat archaic flavor.” Of the contemporary versions the rsv retains it in only one verse (Deuteronomy 32:15):
“But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked;
you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek.”
The second line of this verse, in the Hebrew, consists of only three words. If put as tersely into English, it would read: “you fattened, you thickened, you sleekened.” “Waxed,” “grew,” and “became” have a merely auxiliary status here, equivalent to the suffix “-en”; moreover, these three auxiliary verbs are synonyms.
This status is characteristic of the kjv’s use of the verb “to wax.” It carries no connotation of increase in magnitude or strength. It is only equivalent to “grow” in the sense that both “wax” and “grow” are equivalent to “become.” See oed, Grow, 12; Wax, 9(b).
“Wax old” (2 Chronicles 24:15; Job 14:8; Hebrews 8:13, kjv) means “grow old.” “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?” (Numbers 11:23, kjv) is now rendered as “Is the Lord’s power limited” (nasb, nrsv), “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” (niv), and “Is the Lord’s hand shortened?” (rsv).
In the parable of the grain of mustard seed the kjv has “it grew, and waxed a great tree” (Luke 13:19). The Greek word here represented by “waxed” means “became.” Similarly in Hebrews 11:34, “waxed valiant” represents Greek words which contemporary versions render as “became mighty” (nasb, nrsv, rsv), “became powerful” (niv), and “became valiant” (nkjv). In Luke’s statements concerning the child John (1:80) and the child Jesus (2:40), “waxed strong” is now “became strong” (nasb, ncv, niv, nkjv, nlt, nrsv, rsv).
"“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” " (Luke 13:34-35, NIV) 
While taking a walk one fine spring day
As I so often took,
I followed a shadowy woodland path
Which chanced to cross a brook,
The path was long and the day was warm
So I chose to rest a bit,
And in a patch of shade beneath a tree
I found a place to sit.
Perhaps twas the charm of this woodland glade
That really cast a spell
Or perhaps I slept or dozed somewhat
I really cannot tell
But it seemed that I could hear a voice
So full of joy and glee
Did it really come from that little brook
Right there in front of me?
I sat bolt upright the better to listen
And above the song of the birds
In a carefree and gay and wonderful way
I could make out a few of the words
This brook had a story to tell me,
And it came through as clear as a bell
And in the very same way as twas told that day
I'll relate it to you as well
My source is a pond way back in the hills
Where God and nature combine
To bring beauty and grace to this wonderful place
And everything is peaceful and fine
Where water lilies grow and cat-o-nine tails blow
Caressed by the soft mountain breeze
Where the little birds sing and find rest for the wing
In the boughs of the friendly trees
Where few men have tread, too busy instead,
In a drive for their own special goal
But those who've come through
Have left there tis' true
Enriched in both spirit and soul
 The New King James Version. 1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Manser, M. H., Fleming, N. B., Hughes, K., & Bridges, R. F. (2000, c1999). I never knew that was in the Bible!. Rev. ed. of: The Bible word book / Ronald Bridges. 1960. (electronic ed.) (477). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.