Welcome Grey November
Grey November is upon us out on Bittersweet tonight, yet is has its own beauty. This week I spent a few delightful hours out in the indian summer sun managing leaves. Every year my skill increases and I refine my technique. Every season I am better able to read the direction of the wind and mix may means of blowing or raking or mulching the leaves I so looked forward to seeing in mid-May. They shaded the farm through the long sunny days of summer and died in a blaze of colorful glory then wafted down like young dancers to the earth where they turned brown in the sun. Now they skitter along the ground at the will of the wind.
As I stand out in the yard and rake them onto the tarp my heart is filled with thanks for them and “…for the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies…” A Pileated Woodpecker surprises me with a brief visit. Cars pass. The leaves swirl in a vortex of color behind. Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and murmurations of dark birds I can’t identify fly over Bittersweet.
My chores around Bittersweet are simple. I clear the flowerbeds. I fill the bird-feeders. I tidy the Carriage House (I’m never done with that). I store summer things away. I check football scores on my phone and take occasional calls from parishioners. I gather windfall branches and putter with my equipment and make excuses to stay out under the open sky as long as I can. Out there my puttering seems like prayer. My heart is deeply thankful.
This week the moon rose full into the purple twilight behind dark, slender branches blown bare of leaves by an unrelenting wind. Lois was visiting Daniel and his little family in the panhandle of Florida of all places and visiting the white beaches in 80-degree weather. I drove to dinner out on Clark Lake with friends. We talked and kept a wary eye out for deer and marveled at the beauty of the moonrise over the lake.
A few years ago a read a biography of the great Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson. I wrote a little something about his growing concern for the faithfulness of the generations to come after him…
Reflections on generational faithfulness from reading the life of Adoniram Judson.
The nearer we get to the heart of God the more we have a vision within for multi-generational faithfulness. This is true of the Church. When you see the Church grow cold and apostate you will notice that they speak little and care less of the generations to follow. We are more concerned with our happiness and prosperity than we are with our holiness and posterity. We are more concerned with our own comforts than we are with the world and the church our sons and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will inherit. We insist on our own preferences without regard to the effect such selfishness has on the generations that will follow us.
When the Spirit brings revival, though, things are different. When men and women of God grow close to the heart of God they begin to consider and cherish God’s values, including an obsession with generations of faithfulness to God. When you read Christian biography you see this clearly.
I discovered a beautiful example of this in the biography of the great Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson. His story was powerfully written by his son Edward Judson in 1883. Five hundred and thirty pages in, in the record of the final weeks of his life, the great missionary experienced an awakening, a renewal of spirit. As his physical strength ebbed away his inner man was being renewed with spiritual vitality. The effect of that renewal was to stir up his heart for the generations to follow for the glory of God.
These observations on the final days of his life were written by his wife in a letter to his sister. Notice how he was taken more and more with Christ and with things eternal:
“There was something exceedingly beautiful in the decline of your brother’s life—more beautiful than I can describe though the impression will remain with me as a sacred legacy until I go to meet him where sun shall never set, and life shall never end. He had been, from my first acquaintance with him, an uncommonly spiritual Christian, exhibiting his richest graces in the unguarded intercourse of private life, but during his last year it seemed as though the light of the world on which he was entering had been sent to brighten his upward pathway. Every subject on which we conversed, every book we read, every incident that occurred, whether trivial or important, had a tendency to suggest some peculiarly spiritual train of thought, till it seemed to me that, more than ever before, ‘Christ was all his theme.’ Something of the same nature was also noted in his preaching… He was in the habit… of studying his subject for the Sabbath, audibly, and in my presence, at which time he was frequently so much affected as to weep, and sometime so overwhelmed with the vastness of his conceptions as to be obliged to abandon his theme and choose another. My own illness at the commencement of the year had brought eternity very near to us, and rendered death, the grave, and the bright heaven beyond it, familiar subjects of conversation.
When he was touched by God he had a renewed unction in the exercise of his gifts and he had a vision of a long unbroken line of his generations gathered around the throne of Jesus.
“I believe he has sometimes been thought eloquent, both in conversation and in the sacred desk; but the fervid, burning eloquence, the deep pathos, the touching tenderness, the elevation of thought, and intense beauty of expression, which characterized those private teachings, were not only beyond what I had ever heard before, but such as I felt sure arrested his own attention, and surprised even himself. About this time he began to find unusual satisfaction and enjoyment in his private devotions, and seemed to have new objects of interest continually rising in his mind, each of which in turn became special subjects of prayer. Among these, one of the most prominent was the conversion of his posterity. He remarked that he felt impressed with the duty of praying for their children and their children’s children down to the latest generation. He also prayed most fervently that his impressions on this particular subject might be transferred to his sons an daughters, and thence to their offspring, so that he should ultimately meet a long, unbroken line of descendants before the throne of God, where all might join together in ascribing everlasting praises to their Redeemer.”
When a man walks with God and nears the throne of God he acquires the heart of God and the heart of God is for a godly posterity. Men and women of God are concerned, burdened with godly generations. They are not content to simply survive the entrapments of this present world and make it through safe to heaven as the world crumbles behind them. They want to build bridges of faith for those who follow them on the path. They want to plant trees of fidelity to truth so their generations can live in the shade and eat the fruit of them.
“O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18)
Prayer: “God of Eternity and of all the generations to come in all the earth, be honored and glorified by all people for all time. Be exalted in the ages to come and today give us an eternal vision to see into the future with the eyes of faith. Stir up in us a spirit of intercession for the nations around us and the generations ahead of us. May we live and speak and work and pray and serve with that eternal impulse always beating within us. For Jesus’ sake, for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. -Amen.”
November 8, 2022