Grandpa’s Future

I’ve always been a little apprehensive about claiming prophet status. Between a suspicion that my dreams are primarily a result of too much Egg Nog and an inkling that camel-hair clothing would cause a rash, I tend to shy away from titles such as seer, magus or prognosticator.

The closest I ever got to telling the future was a few years ago when I blogged about my grandfather’s imminent death. Even then I included a loophole by highlighting his indefatigable spirit, and it’s a good thing I did  – the jolly old geezer is still cracking jokes today, even as his kidneys begin failing.

This is what I wrote more than three years ago, when he was flirting with his centennial birthday:

They say that the cancer has spread. There are a lot of things I don’t know: how far it has reached, how long he has, how much pain he’s in. The only thing I do know is that my grandpa is dying.

In all honesty, he’s been playing tug-o-war with the black angel for quite a while. Being a stubborn Welshman, the spectre of death has had to settle for taking him a bit at a time. Tooth by broken tooth, his mobility, and his eyesight in stages, the grave never had so much trouble getting someone to lie down as with gramps (and to this day his quick wit is intact, even if his hips ain’t.) There have been more than a fair number of winters pass that we thought might be his last, but spring always came; like a coal miner at the end of another shift, he’d poke his head out of the bleakness and head back home to his family.

William Francis Scarrott is not a large man, if you are counting inches. If I was half the man he is today, I’d be really quite small. It’s hard to tell because he rarely gets out of his chair anymore (he may give it a try though, just to give me a whoopin’!), but nobody ever comments on his size because it’s his heart that really stands tall.

From a grandson’s perspective, he has always been larger than life. His good humour was always present at the dinner table when he’d generously dole out a couple peas to each grandkid; the best game was getting into his favourite chair and staying there until he’d pour a glass of water on your head to get you out.

He wasn’t all tickles and giggles, though. Thirty years after the fact, I can see the fire in his eyes when I told him that he couldn’t spank me because he wasn’t my dad. I remember going hunting with him, and feeling the lump of coal form in my heart when I wasn’t silent enough, and I received that look of disappointment.

There are so many ways in which I’ll never do his name justice; so many aspects of who he is that I’ll never measure up to. The impression he left on that old favourite chair isn’t comfortable for me. I can’t weld, or gut a deer. Farming…? Uh… no. I may be named after him, but I’m under no illusions when it comes to comparing resumes.

The thing that makes my eyes all sweaty, is that I’m not sure he minds anymore that I can’t do all those things. You see, the last couple times I’ve gone to visit I’ve made a point to thank him for deciding to follow Jesus all those years ago. I’ve had the chance to express my gratitude for a heritage that has eternal value. Invariably I get a response that includes an, “ohhhhh, Bill.” As if he could have or should have been more.

Time takes a lot of things away from us. My grandpa can’t see, can hardly walk, and eats his meals with something less than a full set of teeth. He’s not the mighty hunter anymore. He’s just the one man that loved my grandma for all her life. He’s the man whose blind eyes tear up when we talk about Jesus.

Time will take my gramps away soon, but it can’t take away that. Whatever time takes away, eternity gives back in the hands of Jesus.

Three years later I’m even more careful about predicting his passing, but like I said, it appears that his kidneys are failing. The whole scenario got me thinking again this week about his legacy and how that compares to the priorities that I’ve made.

The heady spiritual mountaintop is where I’d like to be, while the steady faithfulness that God has demonstrated in my grandfather’s life is the bedrock that holds it all together. I’d still like to change the world; Gramps made one quiet decision that altered the spiritual destiny of most of his descendants.

Am I a prophet? It’s a question I’ll answer with silence and a shrug of the shoulders. All I’ll say is this: We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and it is a company that my intrepid grandfather will one day be a part of. Not because he travelled the globe like Billy Graham, ended slavery like William Wilberforce or parted the seas like Moses, but because he put one spiritual foot in front of the other.

Sometimes with the help of a cane, not always seeing the way clearly, but primarily in the direction of Jesus, trusting that there is grace for the detours.

If that’s all we can do, it is enough.

Open Letter To Mr. Franklin Graham

Dear Mr. Graham,

I attended one of your daddy’s crusades. As young as I was, my parents were able to make it clear that this was a rare honour. Their voices carried tones of reverence and awe. Decades later the only details that linger are the crowds and the verses of “Just As I Am.”

When I was a little bit older I joined the masses at one of your own crusades. To be honest, my first impressions were that your preaching was simple and unremarkable. Having said that, I couldn’t deny the power; unfelt and unseen, there was something there that made people get out of their seats and come to Jesus.

My first experience with Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child was years ago in a middle eastern country that is close to your heart. The shoeboxes were distributed by Muslim university students, who – with my help – went through the boxes ahead of time to remove any hint of Christmas or Christianity. We were trying to avoid outright animosity in a region where Islam had deep, fundamental roots. My prayer was that the gifts handed out that day would at the very least provide a bridge into the community for the “aid worker” who helped organize the event.

Years later I was in the right place and time to help with the logistics of distributing 9600 shoeboxes in a West African country recovering from ten years of civil war. For a young man, doing Christian work with the help of an armed escort was ridiculously exciting.

These aren’t the only times I’ve been able to partner in some way with the ministries you lead, but I mention them so that you know that I’m not just an outsider bent on maligning your good name. The knowledge I have regarding the work you do goes beyond the well-produced four minute video shown on the big screen on Sunday morning. Samaritan’s Purse demonstrates a real-life gritty love in the uncomfortable, unsafe regions of the world. My hat is off to you, in this regard.

I’m just an average Joe, wondering if you’ve listened to yourself lately. From all the research I’ve done, it seems that you’re truly in favour of totally shutting down immigration to the United States until a more hardy screening process is erected.

Here’s the thing: For years, we’ve mourned over the political and ideological barriers that made it unsafe for many people to mention the name of Jesus. We labelled these places the 10/40 Window and wrote books about them. We prayed for walls to fall and for the godless to see the light. How we longed to send more missionaries, given that for the most part we preferred to stay.

Day by day, year by year, our prayers were answered. The borders disappeared, some at the end of a pen and some by the end of a gun. But what a shock it has been to us that the roads that lead into these places have lanes that allow people out!

I have a friend who thinks that my issue with your stance on immigration stems from my Canadian niceness; that the big difference between you and I is cultural. He’s probably correct, to a degree. I don’t own any guns. Yet.

But then I think of how you and I both want to point people to Jesus. I think about the incarnation, and how this Jesus whom you and I both serve took some pretty serious risks all those years ago when he injected himself into this diseased world. I think about his sacrifice thirty-some years later, and how it must have hurt…literally. Could it be that following in his footsteps might require us to sacrifice some of our security, and a discomfort that Tylenol can’t touch?

“The kingdom of God is at hand…” He said; a kingdom with no screening process, save the one put in place with his own blood. The Jewish screening process was, in fact, torn in two from top to bottom. What if the time has come for us to choose between the citizenships we cling to so tightly? What if the time has passed where you could be an American Christian, and me a Canadian one?

The view from this side of the 49th parallel suggests that you and your fellow Americans are incapable of separating church and state. I think we’d better start practising, because when Jesus comes back it won’t be a democracy, and he’s going to invite way more people in than you or I are comfortable with.

 In conclusion, let me mention one little question I can’t seem to get out of my head: Can we invite one individual to come to the altar singing “Just As I Am”, when we refuse to invite the masses to our collective table just as they are? 

Thanks for listening.

Bill Scarrott


God let the walls come down we’d pray
We’ll send our best hoping that they
May preach good news and escape the blade
For we, dear lord, prefer to stay.

God when the borders disappear
We vow to send more over there
For we want to see your kingdom come
To them while we remain right here.

“I think perhaps you’ve missed the point,
Said a broken God with misplaced joint,
pierced hands and feet, and torn, bruised skin,
“Your constitution is not my focal point.”

“These are all my children dear:
The ones you love and the ones you fear
And like me it may cost you all you have
To eat their sin and draw them near.”


The Audacious Emmanuel

A Seraphim sits in the heavens, breathes on a drop of water and weaves the resulting crystal into a solitary snowflake. It falls to the ground like a mother kissing her sleeping child; gently, softly, silently.

Road salt turns it from angelic art into a grime that wiper blades smudge away. A work truck drives through the slush, rocks and sand pitting its windshield. A pleasant little “Bing” warns that an important fluid is almost gone. Feeling a bit harried and beat up, the driver listens to the news on the radio. He is running near empty too, tired and burdened.

From a distance the Earth is beautiful. Up close, sometimes not so much. What gives us hope is the fact that this is the same planet with the same issues that it has always been, and that it is into all this that a child was born, and they called him Emmanuel.

God With Us.

The audacity should shock us. The gods that we make in our own image are incapable of this measure of chutzpah. They remain far off, regal, indifferent at best, condescending.

What they never do is see with love, listen with compassion…or come closer.

None of us live in a snow-globe version of life, though at times it appears that the raw ingredients are there: gently falling snow, couples walking hand in hand, carollers bundled up on the front steps of a church. Look a little closer though, and things begin to unravel:

One or two of the carollers think that freezing their buns off is better than being cooped up with family.

That couple walking together down the lane? They’re wondering how to plan a funeral during the Christmas season.

That lovely snow? It’s trying to find shelter down the frayed collar of a homeless man.

And into it all comes Emmanuel, the newborn infant laid in a feeding trough, his virgin mother wrapping him tight against the cold. That’s where the magic happens, friends: the place where everything around us screams that we are unwanted and deserted, and a gentle hand comes in to calm our fears, wrapping us up snug and tight in linens of hope.

If you fall in love with Christmas, let it be because of the story of the Humble God who wasn’t afraid to get His hands dirty. Jesus didn’t come to buy shares in Hallmark- he came to bleed.

When uncertainties come in like a killing frost, when you find yourself whispering, “This Christmas, I just hope I’m not alone…”, look at Jesus again, and hear Heaven whisper…

…“Hope granted.”

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12 NASB