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Friday, 12 August 2016

Identifying with King Hezekiah

   A slightly obscure story in the book of 2 Kings 20 has to do with one of the good kings of Judah, who reigned from approximately  715  BC to 686  BC.  The prophet Isaiah was given a revelation to share with a seriously ill King Hezekiah that went as follows:
   "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order because you will die; you will not recover."
Period. End of discussion.  Except that like his forefather David (when told his infant son would die), he turned to God and begged for a different outcome.  And so, the startling news came to Isaiah before he had even left the palace after delivering his first message.  He is now to tell Hezekiah some details about how to be healed and a promise that God would extend his life by 15 years.
   Have you or someone close to you outlived a doctor's prediction about life expectancy?  The first such person I can remember meeting was Mr. D. On July 28, 1979, Mr. D. was injured by a sudden explosion of the propane line while checking out a faulty propane furnace at the Newcastle Block plant, which he owned .  Miraculously he was able to retreat from the building to his home next door after which he was rushed to hospital and eventually arrived at the Scarborough Burn Unit with 3rd degree burns to 40% of his body.  Those close to him did not expect him to survive, yet the churches in his community mobilized and cried out to God for healing and restoration.  When this gentleman shared his story and King Hezekiah's at a school-wide chapel service in 1995 he had already gratefully received more than his "extra 15 years" [1].
   Another parallel to Hezekiah's story was shared in a funeral eulogy written by my uncle.  The tragic occasion was the funeral of his 17 year-old son who had been struck by a rogue bolt of lightning after a storm had passed over the island where he had been camping.  This uncle recalled the time when the same boy was just two years of age and ravaged by malaria in Nigeria.  The medical missionary father did not think his son would live to see the next day, and yet he did.  This perspective on a teenager's short lifespan demonstrated the grace that had been given all of them for a full 15 years. Hard as it was to let go of this young man, there was a recognition that he could have been taken in childhood.
   Next, a man at my church had had a serious heart attack in middle age and was given three months to live.  When we last spoke he was over 65 years old!
   My final example came from the Pentecostal preacher I heard at an open air service in cottage country this summer.  He told us about a child nicknamed "Zero Percent."  Before this boy was born, the doctors had told his mother that there was 0% of him surviving to term.  This preacher was approached by the child's father, who was understandably distressed at the prognosis and the pressure placed on him to give consent for an abortion.  The two of them poured out their hearts to God and trusted in God's power to do the impossible.  In fact, the preacher told the expectant father that the figure of 0% was good news in a way because if the child survived, everyone would know God had done it.  If, instead, the doctor had said there was a 2% chance people could have credited the 2% chance as the reason for his survival rather than a miracle.  Not only did the pregnancy reach term, but this child is living a completely normal life with his grateful parents.
   Doctors are often asked to give timelines when a terminal illness has afflicted a person, but all of these are subject to the Life-giver's sovereign plans.  He alone can number our days aright (Psalm 90:12a).

[1] The event of Mr. D's accident is told briefly in this archive of the weekly newspaper called The Canadian Statesman dated August 1, 1979:  http://vitacollections.ca/claringtonnews/2843209/page/2

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Waste Land?

   I'm sure most people have driven on a divided highway that has patches of grass between the lanes bound in opposite directions.  Many of us see the overgrown grass, Queen Anne's lace and red clover and think to ourselves how messy it looks.  Couldn't someone trim this wasteland to make it look nicer?
   Last month my husband and I had the opportunity to go to Iowa, a state in the mid-western United States.  We were surprised at how non-existent such wasteland is there.  As far as the eye can see neat fields of corn or soybeans fill the landscape.  The grass along the road side is not allowed to get out of control; most farmers cut and bale it into hay.  All this cultivation looks pleasing to the eye, but something is missing.  There are very few birds or butterflies to be seen as you drive along these paved roads where light traffic is the norm.
Corn and soybean crops; the grass at the side of the road is also baled as hay.
   The reason for my being in Iowa in the first place was to take a course called "Issues in Education." My husband who joined me for the road trip seized the chance to ride his bicycle on the relatively even terrain for five days.  In the cultivated areas, even traveling at a slower speed he still did not see much wildlife except at an abandoned gravel pit. The photo below shows a variety of wildflowers. What the photo does not show were the ten plus varieties of birds he was able to see there, including red-headed woodpeckers that we don't see in Ontario, Canada.
Biodiversity in ... an abandoned gravel pit.

   This is more than a lesson in biodiversity or ecology.  Sometimes in our drive for efficiency, we squelch creativity.  Sometimes having packed schedules there's no room to notice someone who needs our help.  Productivity-driven mindsets can marginalize relationships.  Pushing students to study and cram from early in the morning until late in the evening makes them less than human. For life to flourish, there needs to be space for the unplanned, the spontaneous, the sometimes unruly.  It's something I need to take to heart.  How about you?