Taking Stock

January 2009

Dear brethren,

Well it’s 2009 and I’m enroute to hit the big 7-0 this year. Of course I most definitely realize that’s up to God, not me. As this new year begins and I envision that milestone, the thought that came to mind was “taking stock”.

I’m not sure how this phrasal verb came about, but I suspect in ancient times it may have had reference to farmers or herders inventorying their stock. This is just a conjecture, but it sounds good. Anyway it has reference to taking some kind of an inventory, whether it be something tangible or intangible.

With reference to new years and birthdays, they are natural times to take stock and reflect on where we are. Little children gleefully consider how far they have come, whereas people my age wonder how much farther we have to go. Nevertheless, it never hurts regardless of one’s age to contemplate where we have been and where we are going, so to speak.

As I look back I have my regrets. I didn’t always think carefully about where I was going. If I did, I didn’t always heed my own thought. I didn’t always choose the best manner in which to meet my life. There were times when I didn’t stand up and be counted as I should have done. Despite these regrets, I consider myself to have been exceedingly blessed by God up to this point in my life. Praise Him!

Where am I going from here? How do I get there? How far do I have to go? These are crucial questions, the answers which are not entirely up to me. One thing I have learned over time is to be trusting in God. This is preferable to being self-centered or selfish.

With the present situation in our time I am not happy or satisfied. Let me give you a couple of examples why. For example, the trampling of the Wal-Mart door man by the greedy shoppers on what is called Black Friday is one. Then this was followed by a syndicated article that implied it was the deceased man’s fault, as least partially, because he wasn’t trained in crowd control. The second was a nationwide survey of high school students (29,760) by the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles based ethics institute, wherein 64% said they cheated, 30% said they steal, and 42% said they lie. Yet 93% said they were satisfied with their character and personal ethics, and 77% said that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.” These two examples are microcosms of the widespread greed and ethical and moral problems we have in our society. Who will deny it in the light of what happened economically last November?

As I have indicated in previous letters, I attribute some of this, maybe a lot, to the fact that Christians have not been a united force. We have been too busy seeking to slay one another because of different opinions rather than converting people to Christ and living by God’s ethical standards. We compromised our witnessing for Christ by our legalism and party politics.

As I have also indicated in the past, and in this letter, God is still here and there, and He is in control. In the end I have faith that all will be well for those who truly trust Him in their hearts and proceed to obey Him to the best of their ability and knowledge. Even though some things aren’t clear in my muddled mind I ask Him to help me “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfector of our salvation”, or at my age, at least walk without stumbling too much.

With reference to taking stock, in early December bro. Ray Downen ran a very touching article by a friend of his. With this sister in Christ’s permission I close this letter with what she wrote.

Detached? Or Dutiful?

When I was a youngster, not too young, maybe thirteen, I was recovering from an illness. I wasn’t well enough to be up, but I was tired of staying alone in my room. So, I appropriated a large wicker basket and carried it together with a blanket and pillow downstairs to the dining room and placed them under the large table. I could fit in the basket if I bent my knees, as I was small for my age, and I curled up there where I could be out of the way of the rest of the family’s comings and goings but observe the others without being observed. Oh, they could see me if the stooped and looked under the table, but as long as I was quiet and not making any demands, I was largely ignored.

After all these years, I can still remember the detached feeling I had. It was quite comfortable actually. I didn’t have to do anything – just watch, and rest, and dream.

There are still times when I find myself wanting to return to some similar circumstance. I tire of demands, obligations, and responsibilities that dealing with life and people requires; you know how it goes.

You need to call your sister-in-law who is in a nursing home; Joe has a broken his hip and is in the hospital; your granddaughter needs help taking care of her sick children; a neighbor needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment; the nursery department at church is short of volunteers to care for the babies. . . . .

and on and on it goes.

There was an old song that said,

I’ll build a little nest
Somewhere out in the west,
And let the rest
Of the world go by.

It is a common human trait: call it introversion, laziness, or selfishness, but it is the opposite of the Christian calling, which is “not to be served; but to serve.” Yet sometimes the hardest door to get through is our own front door. We’d like to leave it closed and shut out the world and its cares.

Then the mind’s eye envisions our Savior, He “went about doing good,” healing the sick, feeding the hungry, blessing the children, teaching the multitudes, seldom having any time to rest, and “no place to lay His head,” and we are reminded once again who we are and whose we are. One day, we’ll find the rest we long for, but not yet. Not yet.

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our salvation.” Heb. 12:1

-Maxine Fream Gash

God bless you all!

In Him,

J. James Albert

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