Civil War Thoughts on 2007

In 1861, a family named McLean lived on a large farm in Virginia. As history would have it, the first two battles of the Civil War were fought on the farm and pasture land owned by Wilmer McLean.

Having a war start in your back pasture frustrated him so much that he decided to sell his land and move because he didn't want any more battles fought on his property. So he sold his land and moved quite a distance away – to a little place called Appomattox.

And, as you know, that is where the Civil War ended! General Grant and General Lee signed the papers that ended the Civil War in Wilmer McLean's brand new living room.

The crowd that was present for that signing ceremony was so caught up in it that they decided to take some souvenirs of that moment in history. So they tore down the curtains, grabbed pieces of furniture and almost completely stripped his house. Can you imagine having to deal with a situation where you have a war that started in a pasture you own and ends with the articles of peace being signed in your living room—a new living room, in a new house, in a new location that you purchased to avoid the winds of war!

This isn't just a historical fact for Wilmer McLean, it also turns out to be the way things go in our lives. We don't always get what we plan; we often don't get what we want. While we have many things that go like we want or plan, things for which we are grateful, there are also some things that we would like to change, some of them drastically.

That is how it is for all of us. No one is exempt from this twisting and turning of life – no matter how successful we become, no matter how mature we are, the more involved we are, we still are quite vulnerable to what happens to us and around us.

As it turns out, life is what happens when we have made other plans. The New Year has started and it already has had some unexpected twists and turns.

As the year wears on, life will push us to recognize that life is often different from what we desire or even plan for; we also recognize that life events happen to us that we neither desire, deserve, nor cause to happen.

Yet we choose to believe, as Christians, that God is somehow mysteriously present in our individual worlds and individually in us—working out his rhythms—working our his purpose.

And we come to realize that the wisest stance for us to take when confronted by the twists and turns of life is one of faith. We choose to trust; we choose to commit ourselves to God; we choose to invest some of our energies in the world as we attempt to make a positive contribution to the river of life.

And we also believe that, although life can be quite unpredictable, our God's mercy, justice, love and, most of all for me, grace—as we face the changes and chances of life are always predictable.

Life is all about what happens when we have made other plans—and God is also what happens!

God's rhythms continue. And for us, too, there is a season and a time for every matter under the sun. "Eventually, all things merge into one, and God’s river of life runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of God’s rocks are timeless raindrops. And under God’s rocks are the words—and some of the words are theirs—and some of the words are mine."

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