Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Longing in Our Hearts

Some time ago I watched a video that I'd heard a lot about. People said it was inspiring. They said I just had to watch it. Sometimes I ignore these kinds of messages, but eventually I gave in and clicked into UTube to see what all the fuss was about.

The small screen showed a rather plumb, unassuming middle aged man with crooked teeth. He stood at a microphone looking decidedly unsure of himself. Then the camera panned to four judges watching him. Their expression seemed to say, "Okay, let's just get this over with." Finally one of them asked why he was there. "To sing opera," he said simply. The judges smirked. I think one of them rolled his eyes. But they let him go ahead.

Then the man opened his mouth. The judges' jaws dropped. The man's voice boomed out as he sang from his heart and soul. Some in the audience began to weep. So did one of the judges. When he was done the audience was on its feet cheering for the cell phone salesman who had just demonstrated that you can't always tell a book by its cover.

The man's name was Paul Potts and he went on to win the competition called Britain's Got Talent. He's a star now, singing around the world and recording cd's. His is a fairytale success story that has captured the imagination of millions around the world. It made me wonder why. Why have so many, and I count myself among them, responded so strongly to Mr. Potts' performance? I think it's because all of us have a tiny part in us that says, "there's something great in me, if I can just find a way to let everyone see it." Some might call that 'delusions of grandeur.' I think it's something more. I think it's a deep belief that we are more than we seem to be.

And we are. When God created the first man he "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Genesis 2:7). He also created him "in his own image" (Gen. 1:27). Man is much more than just a bunch of bones, tissue and blood. We were created to house the very spirit of God himself, to be a temple and in a sense a representative of God. I think we all feel that, even long for it to be fulfilled - it's a longing for the nobility, the beauty, even the glory we were intended to have.

Every now and then we get a glimpse of it - as that audience did when Paul Potts sang. We respond to it, we stand to our feet and applaud it, and we weep because we long for it.

And it's more than a longing to be greater than we are. I believe it's a longing for God. That audience will remember Mr. Potts' performance but it will only serve to intensify the longing in them. Only a relationship with God will satisfy it, only striving to be like Him will fulfill it. The longing will never completely go away until we are face to face with our Lord, but when we connect with the One who put that longing in our hearts, and serve Him by acting according to His plan for our lives, there is a joy and fulfillment that can come from no other source.

That short video of Paul Potts made me weep. I will always have that longing in my heart, because I am a child of God yet separated from Him. My encouragement comes from walking the path He has laid out for me and feeling His presence with me. My hope lies in the reality that one day we will be reunited.

Go here to view the video of Mr. Potts. You might want to have a box of Kleenex handy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

War Story

In Honour of all war veterans and my Dad -

My father would never talk much about the war. For many years he refused to watch T.V. programs about it, be they comedies or documentaries. He became very uneasy on armistice day. Over the years I was able to find out a bit about his experiences, and to understand why he wanted to forget.

He spent the first years of the war in Canada, working as a clerk in the RCAF. There's a picture of him in uniform, brandishing a rifle, smiling proudly, the Halifax harbour behind him. Then he was moved to England where he again worked at a desk. There's a picture of him on a golf course in Ireland. Then the war was over, and somehow my father was sent to Germany with the occupation forces. Somehow he found himself with the liberation army at the gates of Bergen-Belsen. It was at that point, after the allies had won and the World War was over, that my father's war began.

He would never say what it was specifically that caused it to happen. Perhaps he looked too long into the face of one man, a man his own age, whose eyes were glazed with hunger and shadowed with pain, a man who looked a hundred years old, 'though he was only twenty. Perhaps my father looked into another face, one without any sign of emotion, of anguish nor compassion, a face which, though living, was dead. Perhaps he could not stop staring at the piles of dead bodies, the bones and skulls, or perhaps he was required to record the numbers, the unfathomable numbers. Perhaps he could not bear the smell from the crematoriums or perhaps it was the smiles, the smiles of survivors who welcomed their deliverers in silence. He would never say what it was, but something that day, in that place, made my father's mind stop. It stopped and could not go beyond the horror, the fear, the guilt.

I don't know how long he was in the psychiatric hospital. I know he was afraid to leave it, afraid even to go for a walk beyond the doors of the building. I know he could not sleep, that loud sounds sent him screaming. I know when he did leave and return home to his wife and children, he had not conquered his fears but buried them in a shallow grave. Many times they were resurrected and continued to plague him. I know in some ways he remained an unreachable stranger, even to those who had been closest to him.

Time heals and memories fade, but my father, that young man from Canada who never fired a gun in battle, would never talk much about the war. There are those who say we must talk about it, that the memories must never be allowed to fade, for if we forget such a past, the future will be in peril. They are right, but I wonder about the hope to which they cling. Will a generation that has not seen with its' own eyes nor felt with its' own heart have the courage, should circumstances demand, to stand and say with determination, "No. Never again?" Will all the television documentaries, all the books, all the trials be in vain after all? Perhaps that particular history will never repeat itself. But what about the other histories being lived now in so many parts of our world? Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Asia ...... Are we doing all we can to say no, or are we too comfortable, never having had to fire a gun in battle? Perhaps the real danger lies, not in forgetting the past, but in ignoring the present.

For more on WW2 go to

Friday, November 09, 2007

Standing Still

We had our first snowfall a few nights ago. We woke to a thick layer of the white stuff coating our yard and making the streets and sidewalks slippery. I must admit I wasn't particularly happy to see winter arrive, but as we drove down the highway later that day I had to admit it was beautiful. The sun had come out, making the landscape shine as the rays bounced off the fresh coat of snow.

Not far from our home the highway crosses a good sized river. Large Spruce trees line the banks and the hill rising above it. Seeing their dark forms outlined in white made me want to be among them, standing still in the middle of that dark forest. It reminded me of earlier days when I used to go cross-country skiing in a large park. The trails we skied ran for miles into deep forests of large pine and spruce trees. Often there were few people that far out and I remember many times taking a few moments to stop and just stand in the midst of that forest, breathing in the scent and the quiet and just loving being there. As we whisked by that forested hillside the other day it made me realize how long it's been since I did something like that. It's been too long and I have felt the lack of it in my life.

There's a short verse in the Bible that we are all too apt to miss. It's in the middle of Psalm 46 that speaks of our Mighty God - a God who is all powerful and sovereign over all the earth. That small verse says - "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps.46:10).

Our lives are so busy in this modern world that we don't often take the time to walk in a deep woods, to be still and take in the beauty of our world, or to take in the awesomeness of God. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we feel the lack of taking that time in our lives. Some of us don't even know how to be still. We are so used to going at a frenetic pace that slowing down leaves us feeling uncomfortable and even irritable. Road rage is evidence of the fact. High blood pressure and stress related diseases bear witness.

In a spiritual sense, we often are so busy "working for the Lord" that we don't take time to enjoy Him. We will feel the lack of that in our lives too. We will suddenly wonder why we're working so hard, why we don't feel refreshed, why we don't feel the presence of God anymore. It won't be long before we are feeling dry and burned out.

Perhaps it's time for us all to be still. Go stand in the middle of a deep dark forest resplendent with snow. Or stand by a roaring ocean and watch the waves crash. Or stand in a quiet room and know God is there beside you - the God of the universe who is sovereign over all.