Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blood from a Stone - completion, from L.L. Barkat

from Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

We come to the final chapter in L.L. Barkat's remarkable first book. This chapter is important for us all, even if more directly important for us post-fifty people and beyond. It speaks of growing older and approaching death in developmental terms, rather than in debilitating terms. Of course the writer to Ecclesiastes is right; there is an age when we do begin to fall apart or lose abilities we had before. The writer may be writing from the beginning of that perspective, or drawing from others who are there, but even in that is value. L.L. notes all of that and more, in this encouraging chapter, calling our attention to finishing well in our lives, just as she finishes well in this book.

How we look at older age is reflected in what we do when people turn fifty, or even forty or thirty, as L.L. notes. Our outlook is important for ourselves as we approach older age. We live in a culture which wants to live in denial of approaching death, and of old age or the good one can do when old. Such are often seen as less valuable or even dispensable in our world. L.L. touches on that.

But God's Story we receive from Scripture is quite different. God will pour out his Spirit on all people so that the old will dream dreams from him. We find Simeon and Anna playing key roles in the revelation of God's Son to the world. We read in the psalms of those remaining green and fruitful in old age, as they proclaim the greatness and goodness of God. L.L. shares of older people she knows in her church fellowship who are active in ways they can be, and who have pronounced God's blessing over her so that she'll complete her journey and calling well.

I think of people I know and I've known, who to the end did what they could. And it was surely much more than meets the eye. We possibly stay younger in body, a study suggests, by keeping active along with an outlook which sees what we can accomplish and that God is evidently not finished with us yet, since we're still here.

I also look at myself and realize just how out of line my thinking can be, as I contemplate what I think could have been, where I am now, and how there seems to me to be no future for me. Deb lovingly challenges that, and I'm thankful for her. I don't want to limit what God wants to do through me or others. He has something special for all of us, regardless of our age or situation in life.

I end with L.L.'s final words of the chapter:
I want to be like this tree [she's referring to these two passages she's just cited], in which the birds of the air make a home. I want to offer shade and fruit. I want to be full of life and grace, for my family and the world. So I ask my elders to murmur the psalmist's vision as a prayer and a blessing for me - may I continue to live the adventure of stone crossings, but may I also take root by the stream . . . to show that the Lord is still upright. Even as I lay me down to sleep.
What about us? How do we look at the completion of our lives? Do we see growing older as a downgrade or in a sense an upgrade in continued development in Jesus? How can we avoid the seeming bitterness and cynicism reflected in the writings of Ecclesiastes over life (though that book ends well as we would expect)? Is it our goal to end well, whenever our journey is to end? And do we see that as possible?

See this beautiful review of L.L.'s book.

1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
9. Indiana Jones - fear
10. Old Stone Church - love
11. Goldworthy's Wall - sacrifice
12. Clefts of the Rock - responsibility
13. Olive Press - gratitude
14. Forest Star - humility
15. Seedstone - healing
16. Sugar Face - forgiveness
17. Lava Rock - witness
18. Climbing - justice
19. Roxaboxen - heaven
20. Blood from a Stone - completion


L.L. Barkat said...

Ted, what a beautiful way you end here. Thank you for your faithfulness in posting week after week-- what a blessing to me, to have you interact so personally with the work.

I like your conclusion that your own life still has precious much to give, regardless of age. It does, brother, it does.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, L.L. for your kind thought and encouragement.

Here at work I kind of wanted to get rid of the part in which I mention how I struggle with my own future, because I did not want this post to be about me! But, of course, your point about me injecting my life into what I write is an important one. And looking at my reference to Deb's encouragement there, I decided to leave it in- though not happy with it. But others struggle as well, probably many of us that way. So hopefully it can help someone.

It was quite a privilege and I benefited much from interacting with each chapter. Certainly a book to keep close by the rest of my life. (and I look forward to your next one and all the writing you have yet to do.)

Anonymous said...

when you interact with the book it helps others to interact with it also, i think. good sharing :-)

this is a wonderful post, as well as all the previous posts generated from the reading of l.l.'s book.

well done, brother!


Anonymous said...

by the way...

i believe that your life belongs to God.


i believe that God will do...well, you know...His will. i don't think any of us can get a better deal than that, brother.

but, i do know how it is when we can get to thinking about what it should look like, and sometimes it just does not match up to what we would sometimes want. and the future is quite a knee knocking, nail biting, thing just hovering out there in front of us like it does! but, i don't know how we could live without the future. so there ya go!

praise God!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks for your good words of encouragement. Yes, the Lord holds the future and we need to trust him in all the details of that, as well as in the promise which I think holds true for us in Jesus, that he wants to give us a future and a hope.

Thanks, sister.

Spherical said...

How do we look at the completion of our lives? Do we see growing older as a downgrade or in a sense an upgrade in continued development in Jesus?

Is old age perhaps the real test of our faith (at least for those who are there or getting close?) I find it interesting how many who reach this stage hold so closely to their faith. Perhaps that is the point when we truly learn what it means to depend on God.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks. I think there's definitely wisdom in what you're saying here. People do sometimes turn to the Lord in older age, but it seems like more often than that their life choices and faith, or lack thereof, are simply confirmed. But good thoughts to add to us here.