~~~"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."~~~
The path of life, shown by God, is the narrow rugged path, cutting through some of the toughest life has to offer. It plunges down steep canyons of possible despair, rising against soaring mountain peaks of elation and cuts through even the valley laced in shadows of death. But it's the right path; not that smooth wide path leading to the soul's destruction, but rather life eternal, on the heels of the Savior's footsteps.
In that place; in His presence, joy is consummating, for the believer; the fullness, unblemished by the sorrows of life and beheld in its complete radiance. Beyond that valley, of death's lingering shadow, one can see the reality of pleasure. Not the cheap gaudy substitute of man's lust, but the pleasure of Heaven's eternity in the radiance of God's glory forevermore.
Pick the path you walk carefully, dear saint!
Our path of late, has grown in severity and challenge. It would be foolish to think that with gray hair, or little of it, we would have a more certain future. But this is not the way God has brought us. Around us, ideas and temptations swirl, like the wind driven mist of mountain clouds moving on the shoulders of the coming storms, or in the aftermath of the passing ones. Is this the beginning of something new, or the end of what was?
It seems fairly apparent, the door in this place is closing little by little; or a least in a series of small slamming motions. Any one of the events, to date, could be rationalized away without much adieu, but together the sum sits firmly and weightily, on only one side of the scale. Today, highlights one such event. We saw a vehicle precariously abandoned on the side of the road; in a dangerous corner, but not damaged, just parked. A mile or two up the road walked a solitary female carrying an armload of stuff, including a bright red plastic gas can. We were moving at a pretty decent rate of speed and passed her, without her making an indication of need for a ride or assistance. Seeing that the nearest gas station was still 2 miles or more away, we swung a quick u-turn and headed back. Rolling down my window, and while asking her if she needed a ride to the gas station, I noticed that this was one of the number of folks who had wandered away into the fold maintained by the cult in town; the cult headed up by the former leaders of our church youth group. The lady, declined the ride and offered a feeble excuse that her boss would soon be along to pick her up down the road, despite the drizzling rain and wet, non shouldered road. The spot she indicated for the potential pickup point was still at least a half mile away, but there was no desire on her part to cut her walk short. Foolish, and telling at the same time! Another slamming door!
The previous slamming motion was just a few weeks ago. A neighbor, our former next to the next door neighbor died. I'd always thought our interactions had been pretty smooth, but the wife also turned to this former church member to conduct her husband's funeral. There's two ways of looking at it for me. One is that since this couple never made their way to church and wanted nothing to do with God, she makes a logical "safe" choice for not hearing the gospel. I doubt his message of works will go far there. The second way of looking at it is more closely related to aforementioned event. God has allowed the inroads we had in this town to crumble and fall away. Mark me, no one is running to Christ; rather a nice cozy message of "anything goes" acceptance is the preached message from that crowd; do what you want as long as you are "loving" while doing it. A wee bit further, the door swings.
For the last twelve years, our former pastor had chosen to continue fellowshipping at our little church. More recently, he has made more and more trips to Los Angeles and a second home they have there. Burdened with a wife's MS, they have found the warmer climates a benefit, and the needs of a small church they grew up in, to be a place where they could fit in. But he still maintained a presence with us here; at least until the last month or so. Most recently, he has stepped up his contacts and visits with the former church folks; never joining in their cult practice, but stopping often at their house and visiting at length. Then he came one Sunday morning, picked up his horn stand and mumbled a few words about helping some other church out; offering a feeble comment that it was down in Paradise, sparing us the supposed agony of assuming he had joined ranks with the other town group. Not a word since; not a hello or goodbye or further explanation, just silence. And the door moves closer to the waiting jam.
Even more recently, I finally responded to what I believe was a God prompted shutdown of my Facebook page. It had become almost like consumption; eating up too many spare moments and even some of the moments that weren't to spare. One of the underlying factors also, was a connection to the sister of the cult leader's wife. She would promptly derail the comment's section on near every devotional post; carrying on about her continuing plethora of illness-related retching, or the sudden drop everything to make an instantaneous trip to the south land, while at the same moment, laying out a string of reasons why she couldn't make the long 1/2 block journey to church. Or telling of her sordid interactions with the neighbor's, that almost always involved sin; usually on their part. But you can read this, for the sake of your own conscience, as a need, on my part, to withdraw from the constant stream of gossip and garbage. Despite her continual pandering about my "place", as her pastor, it only took a day or two after the deactivation of my page, for her sister to come running to her rescue. To save her after being "abandoned" so ruthlessly, by this "unloving" person; namely, me.
And so, I peer off, into the rolling mist of not knowing, ahead; straining to make clarity out of the present and coming moments and what they mean for us. The sheep, entrusted by God to us, will be fed and cared for till a new under-shepherd arrives. Whether we stay or go, rests upon God's direction in many different arenas of life; children, grandchildren and the interaction with them all.