Saturday, December 17, 2016

Standing By The Side Of The Road

I left Houston this morning heading north on 610/I-45 in my Honda Fit but not as early as normal. Usually, when I go to my brothers' homes in Kansas for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I depart Houston in the 4-4:40 range to avoid the heavy traffic one often encounters. But today, my destination was Fort Worth for a two day layover so I can preach the wedding of Tiffany Brigham, one of my very favorite students ever. The rehearsal and dinner was at 2 PM and the check in time for my hotel was 3 so I risked leaving at 8:00 this morning. I should not have worried- no traffic problems whatsoever! On a typical excursion to Wichita, I get to Huntsville, Texas at about 6:00 or when darkness still covers this part of the earth. On the right side of the road as you near the city of roughly 40,000 stands an illuminated statue of Sam Houston, one of the great founders of Texas who also was the governor of Tennessee. It's never really been all that impressive to me, just a well-lighted landmark that helps me track my progress. (I never notice it on the way back- it must be because I always look to my right!) But this morning, I passed the statue and for the first time, I was blown away. There are no tourists gazing at Sam when I drive by in the dark but twelve hours ago, by the light of day, I spotted several standing in front, maybe taking pictures. And what struck me was how tiny they appeared...... and how very tall the statue was shown to be. Tonight, I looked it up and its height is sixty-seven feet on top of a ten foot base of granite so seventy-seven feet of concrete reaching the clouds. It's not quite the Tower of Babel but the dimensional statistics did really impress me. Not enough to stop and get out of the car but it did turn my head significantly to keep it in thought for the rest of December 17th.  

I'm not sure how tall I thought this work of art and history, whose exact title is A Tribute To Courage, was but probably about thirty feet or so. It wasn't until I saw the contrast between a living being whose size I can accurately estimate and the Houston monument that I really had a clue to its enormity. Not long after passing Huntsville, my phone did something it rarely does- it rang. It was Frank, my next door neighbor. He called to tell me he was admitted to the hospital earlier this week and would be there for awhile. A seventy-year old Army vet who came back from Vietnam less than whole, Frank has been falling at an alarming rate the past few weeks and can't get up. A call to 911 is required to lift him back to a sitting position and it takes several strong trained people to perform the task. He had become practically helpless but he seemed hopeful this morning that the treatment he was receiving at the VA hospital was helping. After our conversation ended, I was reminded how much I have to be thankful for. Frank's issues are almost insurmountable and mine, when stood up next to his, are nearly invisible. We talk ourselves into believing our problems are bigger than life when often, they pale in comparison to those others are suffering through. Last night as I walked out of a grocery store near my apartment, I saw a Sudanese man who has been in and out of our congregation for fifteen years or so. I greeted him- he invariably calls me Mister Steve in the most polite voice ever- and asked about his health as he was wounded in his nation's horrendous civil war. He showed me his ankle- I hope I did not blanch too visibly. There was a knot or growth above it the size of a grapefruit and yet he was cheerful and still getting around on his own power without any aids. As we parted, he promised to come see us again at church in the near future. I hope he does. 

We often throw around the term walking the walk very loosely, I'm convinced. I suffered a minor knee problem this summer in Vietnam and received considerable consolation, both here and abroad, and I have had zero effects since returning to the US. My two friends? I can't compare my troubles with theirs. But Paul in 2nd Corinthians 4 refers to his very real threatening conditions of the spiritual and physical and emotional nature as light and momentary. Light and momentary? You mean being jailed and beaten and stoned and hated? My standing up next to Paul and comparing my life to his is like the tourists comparing themselves to Sam Houston. Something just doesn't stack up. I just needed to see it in the light of day. 

Applicable quote of the day:
I would give no thought of what the world might say of me, if I could only transmit to posterity the reputation of an honest man.
Sam Houston

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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