Grace Shines Best in Dark Times

“The impiety of the times is a foil to set off grace all the more, and give it greater lustre,” wrote Puritan Thomas Boston in his masterful analysis of Malachi’s statements (3:16-17) about the evil days after the second temple was built in Jerusalem more than 300 years before the birth of Christ. A Christian “is most lovely, when he is (as Ambrose says) like the cypress, which keeps its verdure and freshness in the winter . . . An upright man is always worth beholding . . . he is most to be admired when like a bright star he shines in the dark, and having lost all, holds fast his integrity.” (The Great Gain of Godliness by Thomas Boston, The Banner of Truth edition, 2006, p. 8)

Boston, or even Malachi, would be astounded to see the impiety of our times. Still, their observations could not be more appropriate if they were on the editorial staff of the New York Times today.

Let every believer remind himself that though we were not present to stand with our Lord in Gethsemane, nor to kneel at the foot of the cross, we have the greatest opportunity of our generation to let His Light shine. We must take time to “speak often one to another” as they did in Malachi’s era, and “behold the upright man” as the Psalmist reminds (37:37).

 

Winter Dangers & Snares

WINTER DANGERS & SNARES

Holidays present unusual and sometimes harrowing experiences. Casey purchased airfare to Jacksonville to depart after midnight shift at the hospital intensive care unit. The plan was to maximize income and time off. The 2004 Christmas storm immobilized Paducah, closing I-24 with 21 inches of snow, while over 400 automobile accidents piled up. It ain’t Minneapolis, y’know! Casey’s pal, Chris took him to Nashville’s airport on his way to Georgia. Four wheel drive took them through Paris, Tennessee avoiding the interstate.

 

Nashville airport was closed, full of travelers, and flights grounded. Merry Christmas! . . . No room in the inn. Over an hour later, they got a ticket from Atlanta to Gainesville, Florida only 50 miles from our home. Chris took him on to Atlanta, and I found him in the waiting area, trying to remedy his recent bout with self-induced sleep deprivation.

 

Earlier battles with the elements loom on memory’s horizon. In early evangelistic work, Donna Toews was our pianist, traveling with us from Denver. We finished eight days in North Platte, Nebraska on a Sunday night. A winter storm was on its way, but I insisted we had to get back to Denver, a five hour drive at the old 55 mph speed. We were all exhausted, and by Julesburg, visibility succumbed to a ground blizzard. I kept falling prey to road hypnotism, staring into the relentless wall of driven snow. Sharen, my faithful copilot repeatedly exhorted me to “Wake up!” Traffic vanished. Very late, we maneuvered through rising drifts into Sterling, renting the last motel room in town. Next day, four foot drifts kept us captive until afternoon when snowplows facilitated our escape.

 

Once, on our way from Cheyenne to Casper, we discovered the snow gate across I-25 blocking our path at Wheatland. Again, unexpected motel and restaurant expenses mounted while we waited.

 

In South Dakota, we ran into snow between Sioux Falls and Platte. We crawled along 15 mph with our windows open to see the marker posts. Sharen kept watch on the passenger side while I tried to keep the intermittent center line in view. We prayed that traffic would see us, that we would not be rear-ended, nor suffer a head-on collision. In Platte, we collapsed in the only room to be obtained. The road was finally plowed but we found only one lane of traffic through drifts three times the height of our car.

 

One November, we headed north from Denver to join my parents, aunt and uncle in Cheyenne for Thanksgiving. We stopped in Northglenn to pick up a few items at about sundown. Snow started falling as we left there. Approaching Loveland, I found my van losing traction on every slight rise in the road, and decided we’d better stop and wait for daylight. Our furnace in the trailer had been cantankerous, and we knew it might not heat properly. At Johnson’s Corner, a new campground was under construction. Snow was piling up relentlessly, so I navigated toward the main building trying to maintain speed, hoping to plug in and utilize our space heater. We spun out and halted, stuck in a drift. I retrieved 25 and 50 foot extension cords, strung them end to end through the snow, and barely reached an outlet on the veranda of the building. Praise God! It worked. Next morning, snow was drifted to the roof of the trailer. I walked to the truck stop and phoned my parents. (Aren’t cell phones a blessing?) I scooped snow and got the van out, leaving the trailer and a note to the campground proprietor. Sharen counted 104 cars wrecked or abandoned between there and Cheyenne. In Cheyenne, we walked through waist high snow the last half mile to our destination.

 

Anyone have ideas about my wife’s stress-related health problems?  Yes, we’ve known stress, but the amazing thing is that God has carried us safely through many dangers, toils, and snares!