Monthly Archives: April 2018

Fish, part 5 (revised)

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I found myself in a proverbial small boat on a large, familiar body of water. Off in the distance threatening clouds approached. From experience, I knew I needed to break from my everyday routine and head for the safety of shore. Just as I arrived there the storm hit.

The unexpected storm in the fifth decade of my life could not be avoided. Bill Sr., my friend and father, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It proved to be the aggressive sort. After a two-year battle, doctors conceded his cancer was not responding to treatment. As a result my courageous father opted for palliative treatment and hospice care. Prayer, originally our first option, was now our only option.

How do you stand and fight when bad news rains down on you with the force a hurricane, trapping you in the wind and rain and denying you shelter from its fury? Raw human emotion like the tidal wave of a storm surge washed over our family, ravaging our souls and leaving us utterly defenseless. The force of these elements drove downward with such intensity that strongholds, including the place where the essence of hope itself dwells, was in danger of being lost.

An overwhelming and relentless attack bore down on our world. It was beyond our human strength to resist it. The teaming and pooling of water created rivers of destruction; flooding the very paths we once trod in safety and comfort. It changed our familiar landscapes forever. Was there a rock mighty enough to withstand such an onslaught, a refuge impervious to anything and everything in its path? Where does hope exist at such a time?

Our family knows first hand of such a rock because Dad guided us to it.   He helped us navigate through the maze of life’s distractions that might keep us from clinging to this rock of hope. Eventually we all found it and embraced it. We saw the value and the necessity of doing so because of Dad’s living example. I am of course speaking of Jesus Christ being our Hope, our Savior and a Rock without equal.  From the book, Junior’s Hope.

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Dad’s cancer affected his mind as his final days unfolded. The salmon hanging on the wall across from his bed became a single point of clarity for him. No matter how bad the confusion, if he could train his eyes on the fish, he could figure out who and where he was.

We all mourned when Dad went to be with his Savior in 2005. Following his death, I came to realize two things. First, I was deeply committed to the existence of the unseen and my ability to interact with it. God alone is able to receive into his presence those who have a genuine relationship with Him.  Because I have such a relationship with God I know I will see my father again. Second, the relationships I still have need to be cherished.

I saw you fishing the other day as I was cleaning up the yard and stopped to sit beside you. You shared your fishing pole with me and we took turns baiting a hook with worms and dropping the line in the water. You caught a sunfish, I caught one too.

As we sat together near the water’s edge watching a school of minnows congregate on the surface of the water, my mind drifted back to my senior year in college.  I had almost given up hope of finding that one person who could bring me joy, not just for a season, but perpetually. This person needed to be special, a girl who could captivate my heart so completely that I would be compelled to love her…always…forever. That person needed to believe in God and love Him like I do.

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It was your beauty that first caught my eye but I resisted its appeal. Beauty, they say, is only skin deep. Then, your eyes connected with mine and opened a window of kindness that my heart wanted to gaze into. A quiet smile complemented your eyes. I caught glimpse of the love you possessed in the well of your soul and I stood before you breathless, trying to hide my feeling of awe. I was not prepared to encounter real beauty, which existed previously only in my dreams.

We strode together into the movie theatre on our first date. I beamed with pride because I had the privilege of sitting alone with you for the next several hours. I wanted desperately to say something that would make a meaningful connection. A pang of fear pierced my thoughts, what if I was not the type of guy you are looking for.

Time passed too quickly as we watched the double feature.  Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase found love in the first film; Warren Beatty and Julie Christie found it in the second. I wondered if Patty would remember me tomorrow, and the day after that?  Bravely, I reached out and touched your hand and you cradled it in yours.  My heart beat faster. I did not want our time together to end. When it came time to say goodnight, I brushed my lips across yours. In that moment, with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, I tried to convey my willingness to be a part of your life, your dreams and your future…

The song “Downstream” was popular when we dated.  I still think of Patty every time I hear it.

“Downstream” by Supertramp © 1977

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Took a boat Sunday, down by the sea

It just felt so nice, you and me
We didn’t have a problem or a care on us
And all around was silence, everywhere

You are the reason I was born
Be with you through all seasons
I’ll always hear you
When you call

We’ll keep the love light shining
Through each night and day
A lonely life behind me
Oh, what a change you’ve made

So down here on the ocean
We will stay, we will stay, we will stay
Went through a lot of changes
Turned a lot of pages
When I took a boat on Sunday

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I count each day I spend with Patty a blessing. Sometimes when we sit together in our Adirondack chairs overlooking the pond behind our house, fishing of all things, enters my mind.  What began as a childhood experience (interacting with the unseen) has turned into a lifelong commitment.

Today I see fish as a symbol of hope.  One day all things will be revealed and on that day things we cannot see will become visible.  My prayer is that I will be remembered as someone who fished with patience and faithfulness.

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT

 

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Psalm 119:137-152 Are you perfect?

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This stanza of the 119th Psalm highlights the righteousness of God.  He is righteous (137) and so is his word (138).  His righteousness is everlasting and true (142) and is unchanging (144).

How can anyone measure up to this standard of perfection? The psalmist’s approach is one of an all out pursuit of holiness (139). He recognizes his lowly and despised condition (141), yet he has an unwavering desire to understand God’s word.

The second stanza reminisces, considering the time and manner of the psalmists pleadings with God.  Charles Spurgeon summarizes it this way…He prayed with his whole heart (145).  He prayed, “God save me!” (146). He prayed before dawn (147) and all through the night watches (148), He cried out, “Preserve my life!” (149).  God drew near in response (150).

“He who has been with God in the closet will find God with him in the furnace.”  C. Spurgeon.

1 Peter 3:12 ties the two stanzas of this psalm together.  The eyes and the ears of the Lord focus on the righteous and listen to their prayers.

Grace and truth

I heard a sermon recently about being an authentic Christian.  I wouldn’t describe my pastor’s words as comforting.  I have been thinking about two words ever since; grace and truth.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth through Jesus Christ.  John 1:17

I understand that grace and truth are a part of the Christian’s salvation experience.  But for some reason we followers of the gospel end up gravitating towards one of two camps over the course of time as we journey.

Grace without truth is meaningless.  You might know them as chameleon Christians who are tossed by the wind when they encounter change or challenging issues.  Conversely, truth without grace leads to legalism. Often times people find them to be an angry, condescending bunch when others make different choices than they do.

Having found myself in each camp at one time or another in my life, my pastor’s message troubled me.  Grace and truth are both needed as we journey.  Truth says to me, “You know right from wrong, yet you still make wrong choices sometimes.  You are in constant need of grace.”  Grace whispers, “I have embraced you time each time you have asked for it, so why not demonstrate it to others by loving God and your neighbor.”

We do need both.  Truth grounds us in the faith, and lovingly extending grace to others affirms our witness.  Thank you Pastor H. for bringing this to my attention.

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Don’t disqualify yourself

Do you disqualify yourself from kingdom work because of a perceived  fault or flaw?  Remember, God uses real people, faults and all for his glory.  Why not consider volunteering at your parish, church or favorite charity today?

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We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10

 

A flower’s notion

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Cold and dark surroundings have preserved me in the earth.
A predetermined message urges, “rise up from the dirt.”

Should I exercise caution as I push my way into the unknown?
No, I must not doubt my purpose for my beauty must be shown.

There are those who say, “You’re just an insignificant flower.”
They offer a convincing argument, “beauty yields no power.”

What do they know I reasoned, I’m part of a designers plan.
Then, strolling towards me I spot two lovers holding hands.

2018  Bill Roushey

Fish, part 4 (revised)

The fourth decade of my life could easily summarize in one word, successIMG_0361 My career at the plastics factory sprouted wings soared.  From my humble beginnings as a plastic materials handler, I graduated to operating injection-molding machines, and  changing the heavy steel molds that shaped melted plastic pellets into parts.  This was just the beginning. Within a few years I found myself supervising workers on a packaging line.

Within a couple of years, our company was awarded a contract to assemble disposable, one-time use cameras.  When the economics of reusing these cameras became favorable, our company was asked to start recycling them also.  Our involvement in this business grew to tens of millions of cameras each year. Our company’s success meant more supervisors were needed and managers to oversee the supervisors. Up the corporate ladder I rose.

Too busy to have anything to do with fish now, all my energy was being poured into my career, and finding ways to take it to new heights. Success fueled my competitive fire and I found new avenues of my life to express it.  Competitive sports such as softball, golf, volleyball, and bowling offered just that.  Academics also proved to fuel the fire. I pursued of a Master of Science in Leadership from my alma mater RWC.  The resulting crowning achievement was an appearance in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.  God was with me then but His voice was becoming increasingly harder to hear.  Success trumpeted loudly in my ears, blasting a beautiful melody.  I began to believe that what I had accomplished had less to do with God’s blessings on my life and more to do with my own abilities.

What free time I did have I spent trying to stay abreast of our sons’ ever-changing interests. As teenagers, they were more interested in how fast a boat could travel than experiencing the patience of fishing. Their interests included manning a space shuttle and traveling to other worlds on the starship, Enterprise.  So when we went for a cottage retreat on a lake, fishing was the lowest priority.  Instead, they experienced the thrill of being pulled in a tube behind a speeding boat and chasing after the model rockets launched into the sky’s great expanse. Computers and video gaming were becoming the rage and they fell in love with this sort of technology hook, line and sinker. 

My father never gave up on fishing, however, he continued to fish. His patience and steadfastness were richly rewarded whenever he reeled in a trophy-sized fish.

“Perhaps the most unusual object added to the room was a 40-pound stuffed and mounted Salmon caught by Dad while fishing on Lake Ontario years earlier. It was hung on the wall…and was the first thing he saw when he woke up every morning. It was a trophy that represented the patience, persistence and faithfulness that epitomized my father.” Bill Roushey from the book Junior’s Hope


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I distinctly remember two things of spiritual significance happening during this decade of my life. First, a sick feeling that rose up within me when I realized that unbridled success apart from a close relationship with God rang hollow. In the midst of all my success I can remember at one point wondering, “Is this all life has to offer?” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-14).  As a result, I began a period of connecting deeper with God, exploring a call to ministry and listening quietly for periods of time while I prayed. These periods of listening to hear from God led to the second event.

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The sick feeling that I carried around in my being was replaced by an unexplained hunger, a.k.a. the second event.  For some reason I felt I needed to reconnect with my father and deepen my relationship with him.  The feeling grew in intensity and became so strong it compelled me to act on it.  Weeks went by and the feeling never left me.

Dad’s upbringing was grounded in genuine faith in God but due to the rules placed on its members by his (our) denomination of faith it was expressed outwardly as a list of do’s and dont’s, or legalism.  In grade school I was looked at like a child from another planet when I handed my physical education teacher a note from my parents explaining that dancing was against our religious convictions.  I , too, loved God but I rejected that religious legalism as a college student, punctuating my rejection with a fun rebellion.  Somehow rejecting legalism had led to rejecting my father.   I never felt close to him after that.  When the hunger inside me didn’t subside, I prayed for God to show me some vehicle I could use to reconnect with my father.  That vehicle turned out to be researching our family genealogy (see my post Beginning’s).

I rarely fished with my father or father-in-law during this time.  I was too busy wandering in the wasteland of my presumption.  The great fish caught in this decade of my life were not mine. These fish belonged to the faithful who fished with patience and steadfastness, and they were richly rewarded.  In my mind these fish stood as a reminder of how God honored the faithfulness of those who drew near to Him and did not take their faith for granted. (Proverbs 3:1-7)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Dad’s 40-pound trophy salmon stands as a tribute to his efforts.  For the rest of my days, whenever I gaze upon at that fish I will associate it with my father, a faithful man of God. The end of this decade brought me closer to my father than I ever had  been.

But a huge dark cloud appeared on the tranquil horizon.  One that struck fear in my heart…