Merry Christmas to everyone.
It’s been hard times around here. I haven’t written much because I have not had time to write.
In the past month, we’ve buried two members of my family, and my brother diagnosed with an as yet undetermined blood cancer. That’s two of us now. In addition to all the many things I share with my brother, I now share blood cancer with him. His seems to be the Myeloblastic kind while mine is Lymphoblastic in nature. It has been hard to watch him have so many mysterious symptoms, some connected to the nature of his blood, and some related to other things as yet undiagnosed. We are doing all we can. We have our hands full.
In the midst of many travails, I have been overwhelmed with the kindness of friends who have gone above and beyond the call of duty for my family and me, who have come and given freely of their time and their purse to help us and serve us in so many ways. They have fed us, hugged us, cried with us, mourned with us, covered themselves with sackcloth and ashes with us, loved us, tended to us, helped us, upheld us in prayer, and have simply been there as they carried us through the things that have befallen us. Our cups all run over at your displays of your love and your many kindnesses. There are hundreds of you. Thank you all.
Several have also given of their time and labor in helping us get ready for hunters at Timberview Lodge. I seldom get involved with the hunters, though I have taken them out and put them on stands when asked. Managing and directing hunts were not my responsibility; that was left to my step-father, Ike, and to my brother, Newt. Ike is gone, and at this time Newt is not able.
Enter my cousin Dennis, his friend, Dan, and our family friend, Ned. Dan and Dennis worked non-stop this week to prepare shoot-houses which needed to be cleaned up, de-vermined, and made ready for folks to sit for hours. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, at how nasty a shoot-house deep in the woods can get when owls, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, rats, other birds, the occasional snake or two, and every known sort of wasps have made their home in them for a year. I am eternally grateful for their help. The shoot-houses are spotless.
Ned is from Vermont in the summer and Florida in the winter. Ned and his wife, Bobbi, came to Timberview Lodge a long time ago as hunters. They came back many times. Now, Ned and I have worked side by side all week long, fetching corn, putting up the feeders, repairing and installing the feeder motors, setting the twice daily feeder time, and marking and hacking trails for the hunters to use. Ned will also come back next week to help with the hunters as I take some time to accompany my brother to the local hematologists, and then perhaps further afield if they cannot make the diagnosis. I have BATCC on standby, ready to receive us should we need to go there.
Ned, Dan, Dennis, and me have been wet, cold, hot, sweaty, briar-scratched, tick-bitten, muddy, winded, sore-muscled, and exhausted, but we got all the work done. Friends who help you in times of need are true friends. When you look over at a friend who has mud on his face and sweat on his brow, for days at the time, as he is helping you go about things you must get done, you are looking at a true friend.
When times get hard, it is refreshing, no, more than refreshing, it is urgent that we stop and be thankful for what we have rather than focus on what we have lost. I could list things for which I am thankful, but family and friends pretty much cover it all, although I got my guitar out and played it for a couple of hours tonight and declared to Debbie, Piper, and Canaan that I sure am thankful to have a guitar that speaks to my soul like my D-18. There is not a better guitar in the whole world than mine; I am persuaded of that. It brought me great joy in a time of sadness. It always has. It still does.
I am also thankful for a faithful God who cannot fail. While I may not understand all the things He has in mind for me, I am persuaded of this: That nothing can separate me from His love.
The patriarch Job had some good friends who served him well until they started to talk to him about the reason for his great troubles. Prior to running their mouths, they served Job, helped him bury his dead, prepared him food, tended his wounds, nursed him in his sickness, mourned with him in his grief, and, I expect, tended to any business that presented itself that needed attention during the times that he was overwhelmed with the most baleful travails. Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad are sometimes maligned, but in spite of being sometimes misguided, they were there, they were present, they were by his side and about his business, and they served Job to the best of their ability. In the long run, they helped Job recover. Job was lucky to have such great friends.
It was God, however, who helped Job the most, by reminding Job, in a not too pleasant way, that not only did Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar not have all the answers….neither did Job. God sees things we are not capable of seeing. God knows things that are beyond our comprehension. Sometimes, it is best for us to throw our hands up in the air and admit that what we know is next to nothing. When there is no comfort in knowledge, and no knowledge that leads to satisfactory answers, then let there be comfort in going through the motions. Sometimes the motions are all we have. Sometimes the motions are hands uplifted to heaven as the cry comes from our soul, “Why?”
I will declare this, which I think are among the greatest, most uplifting verses in the bible. In the middle of the most suffering a human being can endure, Job declared this to his friends:
As for me, I know that my redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold and not another. My heart faints within me.
Job: 19:25-27 (NAS)
This glorious prophecy is mine. Job declared it for me. I claim it. I will hold on to it and not let it go. I am persuaded. I cannot be moved. It is certainly among the things for which I am most thankful.
As for thankful, the list is long.
And I reach out nearby my chair as I write this and scratch an offered ear, look down into the cataract-opaqued eyes of a old, deaf dog that only has a little bit of sand left in her glass, yet still that thinks I am the most wonderful entity that ever walked the face of the earth. She is thankful for the scratch, and I am thankful for her thankfulness, and I rejoice.
Thank you, Ned.
Merry Christmas, everyone. And especially, a Merry Christmas to all of you who mourn your own great losses at this time of year, as it can also be a very lonely time. My heart is with you. I wish you peace.
It is said that we serve God by serving others. I think that is true. In the past month, God has been well served around my house. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough. The only thing that will serve is that we pass your love along to others every chance we get. We all owe that to each other.
Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Job have served me today, across the millenia. I reckon it never occurred to them that anyone was paying attention. I am thankful for them, too.
©2018 Mississippi Chris Sharp