Out of Control

I was driving the family car. I had been a passenger many times, but never the driver, and I was terrified that at any moment I would do something wrong. The sun was on its way down, and I was on the edge of losing control when I crested the top of a short hill just outside of town and woke up. I’m not sure how I managed to drive, since, at age eight, there was no way my legs could have reached the pedals, but hey, it was my “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” dream, and in a situation like that, rules are made to be broken. It was a recurring nightmare when I was a child. It could have meant something or nothing at the time. I don’t know.

Have you ever found yourself at a point in life where you felt, like in my dream, that you were barely holding on? Since we can’t be certain when the circumstances of our lives will take a wild and crazy turn, it’s worth considering what and where our place of hope and security is. You may feel, as an adult, that you’re better prepared to be behind the wheel of your life than I was to be driving our Oldsmobile, but just what is waiting for you beyond that hill’s crest? When you get there, will money keep you safe? Your own strength? Your family and friends? No matter how well you’ve managed your finances, no matter how well you eat and how much you exercise, no matter the quality of your personal relationships, the reality of the human condition is that stuff happens. So what, then? Is it a waste of effort to be right and responsible? Or rather, given what many view as the uncertainty and ultimate futility of life, should we teach the virtues of selfishness and hedonism?

Over 2,000 years ago a man came along claiming to be the Son of God. At first those in power viewed him as simply another in a long line of self-aggrandizing trouble makers. But the politically sanctioned murder of Jesus Christ was not the end, instead, it was just the beginning. In dying, then defeating death by rising from the grave, our Lord made available eternal life to those who would turn to Him. Not only did the teachings of Jesus show us how to live life here on earth, his actions secured our access to eternal life in the place God has prepared for those who ask for forgiveness and turn from their sins.

   Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:6-7 ESV


  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29 ESV


Your tears and blood
Lord
have won
But for your tears
and blood
Jesus
we’d be forever done
the end would be the end
but for the one who calls me friend
now darkness and death
turn to light and life
eternal joy instead of strife
because of the Son


© Joel Tipple 11/2/2019




Don’t Wait

The first funeral I remember is one I didn’t go to. I don’t know if my parents decided I was too young or if I was given the choice of going and decided to opt out. I do remember what I spent the service’s time doing while I was waiting at my aunt’s house: I read a book called, “Rascal,” by Sterling North. Wonderful book, but I digress.
For as long as we have records to tell us what humans have been up to on earth, we’ve had rituals associated with death. Christians believe a person’s afterlife experience has everything to do with whether the man or woman asked for forgiveness of their sins and committed to a relationship with Jesus Christ. But even within the Christian faith, funerals and memorial services vary greatly in style and tone. What’s true of an Irish Catholic service is not for an Irish Protestant. What’s true of Greek Orthodox is not for the Southern Baptist, and so on and so on. Any way you slice it, these celebrations of life can be tricky affairs for our emotions to handle. The grieving process involves pain, even when the person we’re saying goodbye to left a long and fulfilling life. If we’re not ready for them to go, or if the hole left in our life seems impossible to fill, the trauma can take a lifetime to resolve, if it’s ever resolved at all.
It may sound trite, but I’m convinced how we handle death has a lot to do with how we handle life. What I mean by that is, if you had told your loved one all the ways they had contributed to and enriched your life, if you had told them not just that you loved them, but why, would it make dealing with their passing much, much better? Beyond that, and beyond whether it would be a good thing to do, isn’t it absolutely the essential thing to do? I believe it is.

If I didn’t say, loved one, how much I love you,
if I didn’t say how much and all the whys,
if I put it off till all of our todays ran out,
would there be too much pain to say goodbye?


If I didn’t lift you up
when you were discouraged,
feed you when you were too weak,
If I didn’t give you the words
Jesus said were most important,
when the time came to say goodbye,
how could I speak?


Sometimes in life we see death coming,
but too often it comes
and we didn’t know.
Since we might not see tomorrow
the people we care for today,
let’s not put off the loving words
that we owe.


“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:1-7 ESV

©Joel Tipple 7/6/2019

The Gardener’s Tree (Keeper of Memories)

Once there was a gardener who kept a great estate for a wealthy client. The gardener was very talented and did amazing things with his client’s grounds. He was especially adept at taking care of diseased plants. In fact, his reputation grew to the point that he often traveled to diagnose problems that other master gardeners could not fix. Over time his relationship with the estate owner grew so that he became like family to the man. He moved into a fine home adjoining the estate and was given an inheritance of the estate orchard when the owner passed away. This orchard was immense, and the gardener earned a good living, but he had a special relationship with a beautiful large apple tree in the center of the orchard. You see, it was the first thing he planted when he began working on the estate and he always treated it in a special way, with love and reverence. He even crafted a large tree house for his children in it. Whenever the family got together for picnics during fine weather, the tree was witness. Then, one season the tree began to exhibit some symptoms of disease. The gardener treated them, but eventually he realized that the tree’s sickness was beyond even his great talent. Eventually, the last leaf fell and rain in the form of the gardener’s tears touched the ground beneath where the apple tree’s branches yielded tasty apples and relief from the hot sun. Some time later the gardener began a project that kept him busy in his workshop for hours on end. He stayed up late many evenings until finally the project was completed. It was a beautiful curio cabinet with intricate scroll work and inlaid glass for shelves and doors. He placed it at one end of the family dining room where everyone would see it when they shared meals. Inside he placed all of their favorite photos, the children growing up, graduating, getting married, loved friends. And so, the apple tree lived on, sheltering the family as it always had.

Memory Tree come shelter me,
in God’s orchard when I am gone.
Show heaven’s stars through your leaves once again,
then rustle with the wind at dawn.
Be the meeting place as my friends and family
move on to their reward.
You are God’s gift to me in heaven as you were on earth.

© Joel Tipple
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