Saturday, December 4, 2010

What's This I Hear About Being Another Year Older?

Not to strut my stuff like a proud peacock (I've been known to do that), but today's my birthday! Let's hear it for me!

(smattering of hand-clapping among the chirping of crickets...Hey, I'll take that considering it's December, 28 degrees and snowing outside.)

Those among the readers who like me have their birthday fall in this Season of Light have yet another reason to celebrate. The older I get, and the more open I am to God's presence in and around me, the more I like this. Yet thanks be to God that I am still here and able to share what meager thoughts are in my head!

Some thoughts as I peruse the early round of well wishes on my Facebook page:

It's good to be alive and well, and not showing that much more the worse for wear at my age.

It's a blessing to have the ability to love who you are and what you do, and to be helpful to others.

It's a blessing, so the prayer goes, to stand in the presence of God (Who is everywhere) and praise Him in thanksgiving for the blessings above.

It's a challenge to look at the future. It's challenging to look around and know that my grandparents and many people I've known no longer walk in this world, and that my parents, my mother-in-law, and many of my contemporaries are struggling with concerns that might remain with them for the rest of their earthly life. I too struggle with the consequences of decisions I've made when I was younger and more full of myself than I was with others and with God. But I know that this too is a blessing. As time draws me inevitably closer to my appointment with the hereafter, I take the position that God is directing me toward those places and people I need to be among.

I give you, the reader, a gift of hope today. It comes in the form of an 18th Century hymn; and the story behind its composition could be likened to a setting in that time and place of It's A Wonderful Life.

The British hymnist William Cowper (1731-1800) wrote a total of 67 works over the course of his life. He was a contemporary of John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace, penned after a stunning personal conversion experience. Cowper, whose fa­ther was cha­plain to King George II, went through the mo­tions of be­com­ing an at­tor­ney, but ne­ver prac­ticed law. He oft­en strug­gled with de­press­ion and doubt. One night he de­cid­ed to com­mit su­i­cide by drown­ing him­self. He called a cab and told the driv­er to take him to the Thames Riv­er. How­ev­er, thick fog came down and pre­vent­ed them from find­ing the riv­er (ano­ther ver­sion of the story has the driv­er get­ting lost de­liber­ate­ly). After driv­ing around lost for a while, the cab­bie fin­al­ly stopped and let Cow­per out. To Cowper’s sur­prise, he found him­self on his own door­step: God had sent the fog to keep him from kill­ing him­self. Even in our black­est mo­ments, God watch­es over us. This experience is reflected in the following text, reportedly the last hymn Cowper wrote.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

O fearful saint(s), fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.


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