The Road Less Traveled

“……I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

By Robert Frost from “The Road Not Taken.”

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 9; Psalms 92–93; Isaiah 37; Revelation 7

Driving through the familiar Appalachian Mountains last week gave me a chance to reflect. Returning from a short trip to visit my two oldest boys, I took a new route that not only saved me an hour, but surrounded me with great scenery and wilderness that reminded me of the struggles most of us face; sometimes raising children. The road that led through the years, to the joy of family in the restoration of relationships, through the power of love and perseverance.

Yes, there were still those moments I longed for the time when my children were younger; the sweet, innocent years, moving away fast in the rearview mirror. As I thought about the challenges we had all faced, how we had survived, tears of gratitude filled my eyes. My children were healthy, happy and productive, but it hadn’t always been this way. As much as I wanted to protect them and love them, it wasn’t always possible. Things often got in the way. Sometimes it was the things I couldn’t control; and sometimes it was me!

My trip to North Carolina began with nearly twelve hours of driving, arriving in Raleigh just in time for dinner. I had picked up Brendan, my twenty six year old, in Hendersonville, continuing on to Raleigh meeting up with Travor (my twenty eight year old), and his awesome wife Samantha. I can’t begin to describe the joy of celebrating life, breaking bread with these three extraordinary people who have found productive paths by overcoming personal challenges.image

After our feast at the legendary Angus Barn, and a good night’s sleep in Chapel Hill, Brendan and I drove back up the mountain, another four and a half hours to Hendersonville. There I was privileged to enter Brendan’s world, which included a short trip to the home of Carl Sandburg; the hobo poet who won the heart of the country in the early 1900’s. I had visited this special place with my two sons in 1995; now it was one of Brendan’s sanctuaries. A place he went to find God who had revealed love for His children and for the human race through nature; and by kindness expressed in the lives of others. I believed God’s love was also revealed in the Bible, the story of His disappointment at our reluctance to receive His blessing and keep his commandments; and the story of redemption.

Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ” -Revelation 7:15-17

Yes, it was true that God loved us enough to reconcile us back to Himself, whether we thought we deserved it or not. This was the amazing love that I wanted to emulate and yet fell short of every day.

How much can a parent love a child? You can answer this for yourself, but I think most of us would say “a lot.” How much would we sacrifice for them? Would we die for them? Many parents defer their dreams and pleasures (and more) for their children. Carl Sandburg had written that “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.” Truly our children are miracles to whom we pass the eternal torch. My hope was to pass the story of the Messiah on to mine by demonstrating love and leading a life that pointed to the truth.

As I drove through Pikeville, KY, the ghosts of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s roamed the hills, shooting memories of how fast relationships can go bad from harboring resentments, and from acts of vengeance. People who were once close, even family, can become hostile to the point of no return; or so “the enemy” would have us believe. The truth, was that by God’s power and love, restoration was always possible in the grace of forgiveness. image

Now I drove a new route from Asheville to Ashland, one that I hadn’t considered before. It made me think that the restoration of our relationships was similar. Sometimes we needed to try a different way. Sandburg said, “Anger is the most impotent of passions. It effects nothing it goes about, and hurts the one who is possessed by it more than the one against whom it is directed.” The power of love over anger and indifference is a gift from God. One so powerful it is able to restore goodwill between parents; between parents and children; between people; and between people and God.

We are all God’s children and to reconcile us back to Him, and in a sense to each other, he demonstrated amazing love by becoming human and dying for the sins of all humanity. By becoming the sacrifice of atonement, he redeemed each and every person. So by accepting this propitiation, by faith, we can receive God’s grace along with His Holy Spirit, which gives us the supernatural power of sacrificial love and restoration. Loving our children in the difficult things, and one another when it makes no sense, demonstrates God’s love; this is how we help inspire loving children, and so on. It is for me, my road less traveled, “and that has made all the difference.”

A Father and a Son

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. – Ecclesiastes 11:6

Numbers 1; Psalm 35; Ecclesiastes 11; Titus 3

We never know what might become of our small acts of kindness. By sharing our love, each of us play a part in the restoration of God’s kingdom. The coolest part, is God does most of the work. When we submit to God’s will, we are more able to be used — and as we are used, we are transformed in the cycle of spiritual rebirth.

One morning when I was six, my dad woke me while it was still dark and we drove to the Boynton Beach Pier. I was half a sleep and filled with wonder about this strange new pre-dawn world and with the joy from being alone with my father. Just the two of us, on our own adventure, walking hand in hand out onto the old pier. Together we wandered into the coolness of the early morning, before the sun rose up out of the ocean.

At the end of the pier, my father crouched down, looked into my eyes and asked, “do you want some hot chocolate?”

“Yes!” I said.

The chill of the morning had penetrated my skinny frame, and as I sipped hot chocolate with my father, I felt the warmth that comes from security, and sugar.

After dropping my fishing line over the side rail I looked down and saw fish of all sizes swimming in the bluish green water, circling in and out of the range of our bait. Eventually I got one on the hook. As I reeled it in, I looked up at my father’s warm peaceful smile. “That’s a red snapper Ricky, you caught a red snapper!” The world was a good place then.

My dad built a boat in our garage that year. We worked on it together when we had the time. Often after dinner, before I went to bed, me in my pajamas and him in his Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt. Occasionally I would hand him a tool or remove a scrap of wood, making me feel as if we had built it together. I knew that one day we would ride in the boat with my brothers out to the sea, through the treacherous currants of Boynton Inlet that had swamped bigger boats and better captains.

Working with my dad was an absolute joy; I was an important part of something big, just not in the way I had thought. Since then I have come to realize helping my father build a boat was like helping God grow His kingdom. God, in His love for me, and in His infinite wisdom, includes me in His work when I am willing. The amazing thing is this: when I surrender my selfish ambitions to the will of God, He does his best work in me.

It has been said, through the relationship with our fathers we first begin to understand God. And while I believe that God can reveal himself through anyone, it is those closest to us that often have the greatest impact. I know not everyone has, or has had, a positive relationship with their father, and like mine, this relationship can be cut short through divorce and death. Even so, it is by acts of love and compassion between people, that God reveals Himself.

Each of us has the power to show God’s love. And when we do, we are helping to share the Gospel, to lift each other up and grow God’s kingdom. Sharing God’s love is one way we can find joy and hope in His will.

God please enable me to share your love with my children and everyone I have contact with. Amen.