"Ah, yes!" The pen is dipped into the inkwell, I sit back, ponder, pray, put the pen down, pray some more. I think of Jesus teaching, speaking from an elevated spot - He comes into focus.
He invites me, "Come to me, all - that means you, Ed - who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:27-29)
From there I am transported back to my desk. I pick up my pen, and the pen remembers that to build a house you must make the foundation sure. So, as you read the foundation being dug, here, for what will be these series of blog posts and/or studies and/or ramblings - remember that this all begins and ends with JESUS.
There is Joy in the Journey!
Let's start this journey with my PRIDE. I know, I know, this is a peculiar start, but after I share this with you, gentle reader, this journey will make sense - foundations need time to settle and firm up - to become solid - if you hope to build a house on firm footing. How wonderful of the Lord to build a life founded in Him - to use good solid ROCK that you - that I - stumble upon. Better to stumble, stub your foot on, trip over such a ROCK, than for this ROCK to fall on you - fall on ME - and be ground to powder. (Matthew 21:44)
Anyway, Pride - MY Pride . . .
I am a proud man. I pride myself by being equipped by the Lord with a strong back - and a stubborn streak to finish what I start. I have always taken this "equipping" to my workplace. I've been a bookseller for three decades and am currently employed by a corporate bookselling giant in the shipping and receiving department. My old fashioned work ethic makes me the strong man to handle the volume of heavy work that is required to keep inventory on the floor for bookstore enthusiasts. Shipping and receiving in such a venue is a job for young, strong, able bodied persons. At age 56, I feel that I still belong in this category. A workhorse my whole life - why should being middle-aged change that?
Recently, we were shipping out textbook returns on pallets. Now, each box weighs about 50-60 pounds with 35 boxes to a pallet. You do the math. Consider this particular day, I am loading FOUR pallets of books onto the truck. I don't ask for help, after all - I don't need it. I take the pallet jack, plug it into the pallet, pump the jack up, roll the pallet up to the dock deck, push the hydrolic button to lift the platform to be level with the truck.
It's cold outside and condensation has formed on the platform - it's slippery on the dock. I admit, I don't have the right shoes for this kind of work.
I get two pallets in and have two more to go. I set up the third pallet stand to roll it onto the platform - this is the heaviest one of all - probably weighing about 1,600 pounds to a ton (no fooling)! I strain to pull it onto the platform. It's not going anywhere. I muster all my physical might - but NOT my vocal cords to yell for help. Pulling up the incline to the platform, my foot slips on the damp flooring and I fall - about two feet - on my backside. I don't think I land too hard - I really don't even remember.
The truck driver sees this and assists me in putting the rest of the pallets in, and off he goes. I go on with my day - not thinking much of my fall. I get bumps and bruises all the time in this type of work - just another day at the office.
Over the course of four days back pain grew steadily worse. This happened on a Thursday - by the following Tuesday I couldn't even tie my shoes. I actually had to call in sick - and I NEVER do that! I spent the morning with a chiropracter. X-rays revealed a herniated disc. Not only that - but, also come to visit - and stay a while - was the marvelous pain of the sciatic nerve to keep company with the pain in the back. The sciatic condition has the pleasure of traveling from my damaged disc, down my right leg, all the way to the bottom of my right foot.
THE RESULT: I am out of work for ten weeks. No lifting. No pulling. No loading. Just rest and rehabilitation. Removed from my former comfort zone - I am now living in a totally new place. And, sorry - there's just no room for PRIDE in that place.
From day one of my convalescence, I started a new chapter in my BIble reading - now that I would have the time to commit to it. In the past, I've read through the Bible at least half a dozen times - basically blasting through, never stopping long enough to really hear the Lord. Oh, sure - some of it definitely stuck to the sides of my heart and brain - but never stopping to smell the fresh air or dine at the roadside table. I mean - I'm a guy - and when they travel, guys like to get there. We hate to stop. We like to get there in the shortest possible time. NOT this time, however!
The Lord spoke to me - I was listening - flat on my back now, I had nowhere to go, nothing to do - BUT listen. He put this into my spirit:
"Read the Red, and Pray the Power."
I was to slow down, read the Bible - very slowly - ALL the red letters in my Bible that you find in the New Testament causing the Words of Jesus to jump off the page. I was to look up the Greek and Hebrew original words and definitions of these Words - and not move on until the Lord was finished with me - till I got ALL the nourishment I could get out of the passage.
I was to READ - THINK - PRAY - and LIVE each passage studied. This WORD, this BIBLE, these RED LETTERS, were HIS direct Word to me - to INSTRUCT me - FEED me - CHANGE me - and MOVE me onto a new course - a new path in my walk with Him - to JOURNAL THIS JOURNEY.
"Okay," I said to myself - "Let's start!"
The first Red Letters I came to were in Matthew 3:15. In my wounded state, I was eager for the Lord to show me His way, to speak to me - right where I was at. I had asked, "Why now? Why am I hurt when my co-workers need me most?" You see - it was fast approaching the Thanksgiving and Christmas break and the"rush" of the holiday season. In the retail world, this is when all hands must be on deck and ready to work the longest and in some cases - most trying of days to please the public fervor for material goods. And, here I was - unable to wait on customers or to do much of anything except - WAIT ON THE LORD.
Jesus never fails. Matthew 3:15 reads:
"Permit it at this time; (let it b e so now) for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
I know that the text deals with Jesus allowing John to Baptize Him - but the Lord was speaking to me - directly addressing my current situation. In my spirit, I felt the Lord say to me:
"Let it be so now. I'm going to use this time to BREAK you - to RE-MAKE you - MOLD you into MY IMAGE. I'm taking you on this journey. You need not run from it - but EMBRACE it - this is a GIFT - not a curse. You need to lighten your load, pack properly, and, oh, by the way - you need better shoes! Better equipment!"
So, I didn't run away. I ran to it. During this time, He has led me through the most repentant, most sincere prayers of my Christian experience. He emptied me of the garbage in my past. I gave Him my past - my present - my future. I not only re-opened my heart to Him, but I threw open every nook, every cranny, every closet, every dresser drawer, every cabinet. I threw open the windows, the shutters, the doors to the basements in my heart. He was to inhabit everything - like the hymnist writes, "Not a mite do I withhold!"
These red letters are to me, His Footprints. I hear Him say, "This is the way, walk in it." With my NEW NO-SLIP SHOES!
I walk ever so slowly, ever so carefully. I sit down, I take a rest, I eat, but, most importantly, I LISTEN. With being still, and knowing that He is God, I HEAR His conversation with me - His challenge as recorded in Luke 10:21, "How do you read it?" And, from its cousin verse in Matthew 18:12, "What do you think?"
So . . what do YOU think?
Just a simple sheep grazing in solitude and contemplation - in quietness and contentment - I know PEACE. And, as I enjoy good hospitality - I want to share here, from my SHEEP'S PEN - the fruit of following our Shepherd.