Encouragement From The Word

A calendar change

Happy new year!

I have a habit – a tradition, of sorts – that I undertake every time I change a calendar. I did it this morning before sitting down to write this. In my study hangs a calendar, right over my computer table, which I can consult for checking dates – but also for receiving modelling inspiration and invoking memories. It’s a Canadian train calendar. And each year, when I take it down to replace it with the next year’s edition, I review the photos that went with each month. It’s hard to pick a favourite, since one photo might have a favourite locomotive and another might have the most breathtaking scenery. Occasionally, they combine for a “keeper” shot!

(In case you’re interested, 2014’s calendar favourites included a tie between VIA’s Canadian tied down in the station in Vancouver in 1986 and a Canadian Pacific RS-18u posing in front of the majestic old CP station in MacAdam, New Brunswick. I’ve visited the former; I hope to see the latter on a future trip east.)

A similar habit could be undertaken of the snapshots of our lives over the course of the past year, couldn’t it? If you’re a Facebook user, you know that their magical algorithms choose a bunch of photos for you to display, if you choose, as the highlights of your year in Facebook photos. But your own memory can do better: consider the events that comprised 2014, and look for where God was at work in your life through those events.

This may not be a quick undertaking. You may need to set aside an hour, or even the better part of a day, to ponder, prayerfully, what God has done through the events of your life in the past year.

One of the values of doing this is to quicken your sense of being able to see God’s hand at work in your life this year. Even if you consider last year your annus horribilis, it will still be a good exercise to see where God was at work, even in the midst of your suffering or trials. And I can tell you this: God was at work in you, and God is at work in you. That, if nothing else, should give you cause to start this new year with rejoicing.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139.7-8, NIV).

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Encouragement From The Word

Getting ready for the real thing

Watching Rick Mercer Report on the CBC a couple of weeks back, I saw that Rick got to do what any railfan or model railroader would love to do:  he got to run a full size locomotive. (He happened to be at the rail museum in Squamish, BC, which I have visited and was impressed with.) Rick operated the former Canadian Pacific FP7 number 4069, built by General Motors Diesel Division in London, Ontario, painted in her old maroon and grey scheme. (I have that locomotive on my layout, in the action red paint scheme.) As is his custom, Rick acted like a little kid.  Obviously, he had been schooled a bit, since starting and running a locomotive is a great deal more complicated than doing the same with a car.

I must confess that I have had the experience of operating a diesel locomotive. While I didn’t giggle like Mercer did, I certainly found it an exciting Jeff at the controls of an S3experience. With some good friends, I got to operate an old Montreal Locomotive Works S3 switcher on an industrial spur outside Windsor, Ontario, a few years ago. (See the photo; ironically, I was wearing the T-shirt that I got at the rail museum in Squamish that day!)

Operating a real locomotive made me a better model railroader, I think. (I have no idea what it did for Rick Mercer, except bring up his ratings among the railfan demographic.) Now, when I run trains, I don’t just turn on the layout power and start rolling at 50 scale miles per hour. No, I make sure there’s time for the brake pressure to increase, and start slowly so the slack in the couplers between the cars is taken up gently. Running a train, in any scale, is an art form, and I found that operating the real thing helped me operate the imitation better.

So what?  Good question. There is a sense in which the Christian life is intended to be a rehearsal for heaven; what we do in worship and service, seeking to bring God’s Kingdom on earth, all serves as preparation for our eternal destiny.

There’s a lot we don’t know about heaven. The great cartoonist, Gary Larson, depicted it with a fellow, wearing wings, sitting on a cloud, saying, “Wish I’d brought a magazine.” Anybody who has read at least some parts of the Bible can say with assurance that Larson’s notion is not particularly accurate. However, what we do in worship – or, perhaps, what we should do in worship – does reflect a measure of the reality of heaven.

For the Christian, worship participation (not merely attendance, which doesn’t require engagement) is the model railroading that leads to operating the full size locomotive. When we read the Scriptures and participate in worship, we are seeing a glimpse of what heaven will be like, where we will be, as Charles Wesley put it, “Lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

And it will be a lot more exciting than operating a locomotive. If you know me, you know that it’s a big deal for me to say that!

Engage in church life. Read the Scriptures. Get ready for the eternity in God’s presence whose price Jesus has paid.

For now we see only a reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13.12a, NIV).