“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD (Psalm 104:34).”
Days like yesterday are rare for me. It was a day to remember.
First, it was just incredibly gorgeous. The temperature was temperate, the air was dry, the skies were clear and the sun was bright
My Sunday began with a visit to an open air market in the center of my town here in Finland. There was a large throng of people because this day the autumn farmer’s market was being held.
There were vendors everywhere selling their wares. Visitors could buy clothing, pick up a variety of vegetables and fruit, purchase crafts and take their kids over to look at three little pigs.
I got my day started right by standing in line for some porridge. It was hot, tasty and cheap.
Then I wandered over and bought some coffee from one of the kiosks. A good cup of brew always gets me in good spirits.
Once I was done at the market, I walked over in what the Finns literally call the “good air” (nice weather) to the thrift shop to see if I could find a sweater. I was not successful, but at least I had checked off one of the things on a long-term do list.
Since I was in the vicinity of the elementary school where two of my kids had gone, I walked over there. Sitting on a bench where I used to wait for them after school, I thought of and prayed for them.
Earlier, I had determined that I was getting my American food fix. Therefore, I walked a couple of kilometers farther and went to McDonalds.
There I watched the track and field world championships on their television while I munched on my chicken sandwich and french fries. It came to my mind how disciplined these young athletes were.
It was clear that they had trained hard for their events. To me, the victorious had “sisu” (Finnish for “guts”).
The events I watched were a metaphor for life. In a long distance race, people led early, then fell behind. One American came out of nowhere to finish second. One young fellow stumbled and fell and ended up far in the back.
In all the events I watched, there was always someone who blew it. When they did, it always reminded me of the opening comments to a popular sports show I watched when I young. The commentator would say “the thril of victory”, pause ,and then add “the agony of defeat” as some ski jumper crashed and burned.
The winners I watched on Sunday were those with perfect form and concentration. The best example was the female hammer thrower from Germany who tossed a heavy metal ball close to 80 meters.
After the fast food, I sat in the pretty harbor downtown and read my old Reader’s Digest. It too had examples of disciplined people who had focused thinking.
One story was about a homeless teenager who managed to go to Harvard. She noted in the article that her success wasn’t due to thinking about survival, but thinking about her goals. Every day she took actions in line with those.
Another narrative told about two 22-year old Norwegians who managed to survive a polar bear attack as they attempted to become the first people to kayak around an Arctic archipelago. As one of the young men was being mauled, the second one had the focus to pull out his rifle and kill the bear.
His mangled friend was yelling,”Shoot, shoot, or I die”. However, the boy with the gun made sure he wouldn’t shoot his friend before he fired.
In addition to killing the bear, the fellow kept his friend warm and awake while waiting for an emergency helicopter. His saved buddy told Reader’s Digest that he owed his life to him.
The most well-known story in the Bible of someone who thought of his friend in a similar way was that of Jonathan and David. Jonathan, at the risk of his own life, saved David from his own father, a king who was trying to kill him.
First, Jonathan talked some sense into his father Saul and got a reprieve for David. When Saul went back to the idea of knocking off his friend, Jonathan warned David, who was able to escape (I Samuel 19:1-7; 20:1-42).
The day was waning as I left the harbor. My day out ended at church. I hadn’t been to a service since I arrived in Finland from the States several weeks ago, and since this one was in English, I took the opportunity to go.
As I walked in, I found I was the only congregant. I stood in the lobby, chatting with the pastors.
They were getting ready for the refreshment time (which in this case began before the service) service and I asked them if I could help. As it turned out, what one pastor needed help with was reading a Bible passage and a prayer from the liturgy since they were losing their voice.
This was a privelege to me, to help lead the service for the handful of people who were there. God encouraged me through it.
As I walked home in the mellow dusk, I thought of what a great day it had been. It was a day of light and beauty in many ways.
It has occurred to me that God is in His nature like the day I had just had. The Scriptures say He is “wrapped in light” (Psalm 104:1,2).
God is a giving Person. I don’t feel like I have been particularly pleasing to Him of late, and I was moved by His love.
I also think God was trying to teach me walking with Him. It is so much more pleasurable than sin.
The wise man of Proverbs wrote:
The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble. (Proverbs 4:18,19).
I know God gave me yesterday as a gift, all wrapped up with a bow. Today, I am gaining the understanding that He wanted to exemplify to me what He is like through this day, that indeed He is the real gift.
On a practical level, I learned that having the mind focused on God, good goals and other people is what brings me in touch with God and into His light. It sure beats filling the head with garbage.
I was so tired, in a pleasant sort of way, that I could barely hold my eyes open last night. I was satiated with holy pleasure and peace.
In fact, one of the most moving things that happened to me yesterday was when the pastors circulated, grabbed my hand and said,”May the peace of Christ be with you.” This brought tears to my eyes.
Another human was passing on to me the peace of Christ. Just the touch of someone who was doing in their role of God’s shepherd was extremely heart wrenching.
All day long God was saying to me, “May the peace of Christ be with you.” I am so glad I took Him up on it.