Preparing for the Last Reunion

Jo and I had a brief conversation at 1:00 p.m. this past Sunday, just before the first of what would be twenty-six relatives arrived to spend the afternoon at our shared acreage for the Popjes Family Reunion.

“You know, Hon,” I said, “even if no one comes, I would still count this family reunion a roaring success. Our house has not been so clean since we moved in last year. It has never been so well furnished, or so attractively decorated. Nor has the outside looked as good. Lawn cut and trimmed, raw clay covered with black soil, and seeded with grass or planted with perennials, the concrete block walks all laid and swept. All tools put away. Even the leaking rain gutters are fixed. Really, there is no need for anyone to come at all! We are already enjoying the benefits of all the preparations.”

Jo looked at me, smiled, shook her head, and said, “That’s you, because you get such a kick out of getting things done, but I’m still looking forward to being with everybody.”

Family 2nd PoseAnd she was right, we all thoroughly enjoyed the next seven hours. It was great to be together with all four of my siblings, and to see our kids and grandkids interacting with my siblings’ kids and grandkids. I was glad that my youngest sister and her husband from Prince Edward Island were making a trip out west so we could capitalize on their presence and plan a reunion for whoever could come. We had a great time eating and drinking, of course, but also sitting around visiting. The skies, though intermittently cloudy, produced no rain—an answer to our fervent prayers—and the wind kept the mosquitoes away.

That early Sunday afternoon conversation, however, returned to me when I was reading Matthew 24 this morning. Jesus, answering His disciples’ questions about the end of human time gives a general description of events that will occur, and then concludes with this warning about His return, “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come . . . . you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

The emphasis of the warning is that since neither the disciples then, nor we today, know just when Jesus is returning in power and majesty, we need to be continually ready. Our family reunion was planned quickly, but we still had plenty of time to get ready.

If a month ago, my sister and brother in law along with two dozen other relatives, had suddenly arrived without warning, the reunion would have been quite different. Nothing ready, the house dirty and everything in chaos, no new furniture, no food, no drink, and outside nothing but heaps of clay, gravel and black soil piled everywhere. Yes, we would have handled it, but being fully prepared quintupled our enjoyment and satisfaction.

About eight years ago, I wrote and published a blog post on the subject of being prepared for the Great Heavenly Family Reunion when Jesus returns. Later, I edited it and included the column in my second book, A Kick in the Pants.

It is not my opinion of how or when the “End Times” will occur. Rather it is a Popjes Paraphrase of Matthew 25:31-46, giving a vivid and clear description of what we, God’s family on earth, need to be doing to be ready for that Last Reunion when Jesus returns.

It is called This Will Happen and you can read it on the WordMan Facebook page.


How My Father Showed He Loved Me

Fathers teach—mostly by example. My father’s example put a strong desire in my eleven-year-old heart to be a cigar smoker like he was. Loving fathers also teach their children by exposing them to experiences that teach. My father, or Papa as I called him, was a loving father.

He exemplified the Dutch saying, “Hij is geen man die niet roken kan.” (A man who can’t smoke is not a real man.) For years I had envied my Papa, my Opa (grandpa) and all my uncles who smoked cigars every Sunday as they walked home from church. Sometimes they had a second cigar with coffee while lunch was being prepared. I couldn’t wait until I was a teenager and could be a real man.

I couldn’t wait, and I didn’t. I saved the pennies and nickels I earned as tips when delivering orders to customers of Papa’s store. One day I walked into the tobacco shop where Papa often sent me to buy cigars for him and, laying my money on the counter, asked if it was enough to buy a cigar. It was!

When I got home I realized I hadn’t thought through my plan too well. I couldn’t hide the cigar in the house, my Mama would be sure to find it when cleaning house, which was all the time. So I hid my carefully wrapped package outside, behind the drain spout coming down from the roof. It was dry, the spider webs testified to that, and totally safe from prying parental eyes.

But not safe from the eyes of the Saturday afternoon gardener. He turned my cigar in to Mama who passed it on to Papa who confronted me with it after supper. To my surprise and relief, he was not angry but simply said, “So you want to smoke a cigar. Fine, we’ll smoke our cigars together after church tomorrow.” Wow! I was beginning to feel like a real man already!

cigar2Arriving home from church the next day, he picked out a cigar for himself, clipped the end and lit it. I unwrapped my cigar, clipped the end and lit it. Then we walked out the front door puffing contentedly—in between my coughing spells that is. As we sauntered around the block, I started to get the hang of it, and inhaled deeply from time to time.

All was well, and I felt my real manhood arriving several years early, but half way around the block I stumbled—the sidewalk seemed to be moving. I walked along, not saying much, while Papa kept saying, “Come on, take another puff, your cigar is going out.” I was sort of hoping it would.

By the time the house was in view I was sweating, my stomach hurt and, when we finally got to our gate, all I could do was lean over the fence and vomit onto Mama’s violets.

Yes, Papa was a great teacher. Seven years later, after smoking for thirty years, he strove for a full year to quit. As I watched his struggle, he taught me another lesson. Smoking cigars together and allowing me to feel deathly ill was his way of showing love to his oldest son.

God, our Heavenly Father, is also a loving Father. Just like my Papa, God also exposes us to experiences that teach us. He allows us to live in the consequences of our actions, even when our actions result in nasty, unpleasant things like illness or accidents, fines or firings, or painful broken relationships. Sometimes He provides experiences that are not of our own making: computer crashes, economic meltdowns, loss of jobs, or loss through sickness, accident, fire or robbery.

How do we handle these pains and problems? It took me seven years to fully understand that my Papa’s action that day we smoked cigars together was done in love for my ultimate good. It might take seven years for us to understand that our Heavenly Faher’s action was for our ultimate good. We may not know until we leave time and enter eternity.

In the meantime, we believe that He loves us and that He is good, all the time.

What Is Your View of Time?

Plow and Plant

Plow and Plant

Harvest Now

Harvest Now

Pioneers in Canada and the northern United States knew that they needed to produce a crop every single year. If a farmer’s crop failed and he had no reserves, he and his family had to depend on the help of others or they and their livestock would starve. The growing season was short and winter cold stopped all food production.

These pioneers, not surprisingly, saw time as linear, one event following another in rigid succession. The right time to plant was critical, miss it by even a week or two and the crops would not ripen before the first killing frost. They had to do things at the right time, they had to keep their word when they promised a neighbor they would help, and they expected the neighbor to be dependable in return. The harsh winter weather looming ahead kept them working hard at harvest time.

This is not so in tropical or sub-tropical countries. Jo and I lived for decades in Brazil, and have spent considerable time, even years in at least a half a dozen other tropical countries. In Brazil, we planted fruit trees in our garden area with no regard for the month or the season. The Canela people can leave their manioc plantations grow right through the whole year, and if they don’t harvest the roots, they can leave them in the ground to grow for another year. A Manitoba potato farmer trying that would face financial ruin.

No wonder that the societies that live in a more forgiving climate developed a completely different view of time. Instead of seeing time as linear—a straight line with no recurrence of events, they see time as cyclical—as a cycle of events coming around repeatedly like a wheel. Miss an opportunity to plant? No problem, it will come around again in another day, or week or month.

In the countries where time is seen as cyclical, cultures tend to have many things in common. One is the lack of urgency. Delay is expected, no one is surprised when things don’t happen as planned. People may, or may not show up for meetings. Deliveries may, or may not be delivered at the stated time. Deadlines are missed without people getting upset. Projects are completed, eventually, but with no sense of urgency.

North Americans returning from vacations in some of these countries often express the wish they could live relaxed like that. No rush. No deadline. Finish the job tomorrow, or next week, no problem.

But there is a problem. On earth, ever since the dismal event in the Garden of Eden, entropy or disorder operates unless human being act to stop it. Work must be done at the right time. Metal rusts, unless we paint it, gardens turn into weed beds, unless we cultivate them, unused muscles wither away, skills not practiced are forgotten, peace will deteriorate into war unless someone interferes, and human relationships must be maintained or they too will deteriorate.

Therefore, to God and His people, it does matter what view of time we have. God’s view of time is certainly linear. There is a definite start to time and Scripture teaches there will be a definite end. “Time will be no more.” As His people, we need to live with a sense of urgency, “work for the night is coming,” of diligence, of being pro-active, assiduous, and persistent, actively at work at the tasks He gives us. Here are some examples:

  • Evangelize the world and start by being “light and salt” to our own families, friends and neighbors.
  • Stop the mass murder of made-in-the-image-of-God babies in the womb.
  • Promote and protect the God-instituted man-woman institution of marriage and family.
  • Protect the freedom of parents to have their children educated in Christian schools.
  • Get involved in the nitty-gritty of politics such as the nominations of candidates.

The world desperately needs God-oriented activists in every facet of society. People who, like God, have a linear view of time. What view of time do your actions show?

The Church is a Family. Not!

Following high school, I joined a seismic oil exploration crew in central Alberta, and worked at a variety of tasks. As driller’s helper, I noticed the specific layers of material that lay beneath the sod and black soil. The first was usually a thick layer of yellow clay, then came other layers of material, sand, gravel, grey clay, and several kinds of shale. I can’t remember the order  of the strata, but I do remember that the layers were completely separated, no mixing between layers at all.

I thought of that long-ago job recently when I was paging through the bulletin of a large church and noticed that almost every event was stratified according to age. From babies, toddlers, and elementary school age children, right through to teenagers, young couples, midlife adults and retired older folk, the congregation was rigidly segregated by age.

That church is not unique, North American churches tend to be organized by age levels. We Christians didn’t get this from the Bible, but from the surrounding culture. For generations, schools have been dividing students into thirteen distinct and separate levels from kindergarten through to senior high school. It goes on through college, and ends in adult communities, retirement homes and finally, the hospice for the dying. Our culture has influenced churches to organize the same way, with relationships being lateral, to others of the same age group. We like to call the congregation the Church family but it’s more a Church school.

I remember visiting a church during a furlough when our daughters were teenagers. After the service at which I brought an inspirational message on missions, we were greeting people in the vestibule of the church. Our daughters were stationed at the information tables, showing Canela artifacts, explaining photos and maps, handing out literature, etc.

When the crowd thinned out, several people came up to Jo and me to compliment us on our girls. One said,

“Your daughters are unique. They talk with adults! It’s been years since I had a meaningful conversation with a teenager. But your daughters relate to us easily and naturally.”

group-of-people2I explained that in Brazil we live on a mission centre, where we are part of a huge extended multi-family group. We all know each other well, we work together, we pray together, and old and young interact with each other not only among peers, but also vertically up and down the age scale.

Our life on the mission centre was much like the Canela society among whom we were working at that time. A Canela mother will have all her daughters living in or near her house, along with their husbands and families. Many societies in Asia value families living close to each other, Grandpa and Grandma, several sons and daughters and their families, often all live in the same large house.

But in our stratified western society, the relationships tend to be lateral, and teenagers talk with each other, not with adults. They don’t know how. Ever since kindergarten, they have been rigidly segregated into peer groups and as a result, they learned to talk only with those within the same age group.

Parents and teachers are the adults who interact with teens. And, based on my own experience as a teen, adults talked to me, not with me. My parents were too busy working and running a household to listen to me. My teachers had a message which went, “You be quiet. You listen to me.”

What would church be like if there were more multi-age, old and young together in sharing groups and Sunday school classes?

What about social activities where old and young come together, tell stories and jokes and share experiences, or where teams made up of all ages go bowling together?

Children have much to learn from older people, but older folks also need to learn from the younger ones. A grandpa likes to hear, “What was it like when you were my age, Grandpa?” He tells about getting into trouble for chewing gum in class.

But his grandkids face different troubles. They are exposed to dangerous drugs, their classmates worry about pregnancy, and if they should abort their babies. Grandpas and grandmas need to learn from their grandkids about their so very different world.

What would Church be like if we really were a Church Family?