Sunday, July 27, 2014

This, Too, Shall Pass Away

". . and this, too, shall pass away. . .".  This partial quote is from a speech made by Abraham Lincoln.  He told the story of a king from the far east who asked his wise men to make up a statement that would apply to all situations, good or bad.

I walked up the stairs to the library, watching my surroundings.  I saw a somewhat familiar face, but it had changed just enough I wasn't sure.  As I started to pass by, the face said, "I know you".

I mentioned a name, a question to my voice.  She confirmed.

I'd run into her once before at Wal-Mart, maybe about seven or eight years ago.  I'd grabbed and hugged her too hard that time -- just enough to irritate her  --  so I was careful not to push.  She rose from the bench and embraced me this time.

"How are your boys?" she asked.  I answered and added a note about my daughter and her kids.

"Do you remember my son?" she asked, describing the one she meant.  A visual image of a cute, sweet little boy, who had always been friendly to me, came to mind.

She described how her son had grown to manhood, attended college and worked with kids.  He had grown to be a wonderful person, as I would have expected.  Then she told me he was dead, cut down by heart trouble on a basketball court.  At least he was having fun at the end.

I have tears in my eyes as I write this today.  That wonderful little boy became a wonderful man and then he was gone.

She talked about how they had known of his heart problems since childhood.  "And we got to have him for twenty-three years," she said.  The positive spin that soothed her aching heart.

"I know why you took him when you did, Father," I said.  "You wanted him with you."

In a recent sermon Joel Osteen said God never leaves us in the valleys of life and when He brings us out, He makes things better for us than before the valley.

Part of me grieves for the ache in her heart -- and the hearts of her husband and the other three children.  The rest of me admires the courage and faith with which she faces life, as well as, death.

The hole in her life will never completely heal, I guess, but the ache will lessen as she remembers his beauty and sweetness.  Her life will go on and grandchildren will arrive periodically.  She'll have more good times to balance the bad.

This, too, shall pass away, may not mean that she will never grieve again.  But it does mean that she will crest the top of the hill once more and more joy will be in her vision.

And then at the end, she, too, will reach her time and he will be waiting with other loved ones to escort her to her Lord.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All In The Name Of God

". . . All the killing?  It was for God.  Someone says the wrong prayer -- good-bye.  Someone eats the wrong food -- adios.  Spring comes and this one says Happy Ramadan, and this one says Happy Passover, and this one says Happy Easter, and then they pick up their swords and try to cut each other's head off."  Anabelle, a character in Man In The Woods, a novel by Scott Spencer.  HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.

And then the Almighty, the creator of the universe, paces the heavens wondering what He did when He created mankind.  Was this a worse mistake than the artichoke?  (And yes, I like artichokes, too).

I can't speak for those saying Happy Ramadan, but the other two were instructed by God not to kill.  It is one of the Ten Commandments.  His commandments.  Yet what do the people of the world do?  They kill, kill, kill.  That is the nature of the beast inside them.  It courses through their veins.  They acquire a taste for it -- a thirst for the jugular.  And then they have the audacity to blame it on God.  They are killing to collect converts for their version of our creator -- Jehovah or Allah.

How we shame our creator!  We disobey his directive and then refuse to be held accountable for our sins.  It isn't us, they say.  We are doing this for God, they repeat.  We are supposed to bring converts to the fold.

Some models of religious persuasion we are!  Do we show the world how to be good?  Do we concentrate on saving souls and feeding the poor?  Are we examples of mercy?  Good judgment?

No!  We are examples of shooting and knifing and bombing.  We destroy in the name of Jehovah and Allah.  Then we have the nerve to pray in our churches and mosques and temples.

Well, maybe in another time and place, we might set good examples by caring and loving behaviors -- by being kind and thoughtful -- by being gentle.

I don't know about you, but I don't think a loving and worthy God will accept our gifts of death and destruction.  He wants life and well-being.

So pack up your guns, your bombs, your knives, your evil ways and ask the God in Heaven to forgive you for your sins and to show you how to win converts through being friends. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Matthew 23:23 and Luke 18:12

I've been watching a Bible study with Kenneth and Gloria Copeland the last couple of weeks.  They are focusing on tithing right now.

The tithe has been somewhat of a mystery to me during my lifetime.  I can't tell exactly where the tithe being ten per cent of one's income is written in the King James version.  I've seen it in another translation.  On the one hand we have the widow's mite being heralded as more than anyone else's offering.  She paid all she had/they paid some of their abundance.  I get that 100 per cent of nothing is more generous than ten per cent of a lot -- in terms of the expense to the giver.  But a widow's mite isn't likely to go far toward feeding the priest or building the temple.

I also get the concept that it is the generosity of the heart Jesus was praising, as well he should.

I bought a Biblical Concordance by James Strong last week for help with finding specific references, but it has not been particularly helpful on these questions.  (Thanks to the Half Price Store's used book discount, it didn't even cost the amount of a whole tithe).

I also get that God loses patience with people who give their entire tithe to their churches while letting their parents or children go without.  I believe he wants us to help our families and that he counts that as part of our tithe.

Some of what bothers me, though, is the teaching that abundance will escape us if we fail to tithe, but return if we give ten per cent.  Think about that a bit.  How would I feel about myself if I gave God my $82.30 per month so God would give me more?  The widow didn't seem to give her mites so she could get more.  She gave God all she had and just walked away.

Another thing that always bothered me was claiming charitable contributions, including tithes to churches, on our income tax returns.  Do people, then, give God ten percent of their tax savings?  And wouldn't He appreciate it more if we just generously handed it over without expecting something back?  Probably.

Then there is the problem of paying all the bills after one forks over all they have (or sometimes even ten per cent).  Perhaps the widow didn't have to pay rent, utilities, car gas, car or buy food, to say nothing of various insurance premiums.  Try living on nothing today.  Perhaps we could live like Jesus, traveling town to town and living on the largesse of good Christian people.  But, then, Jesus had a gift of his own to share with others.  People were happy to house him for a few days while listening to his sermons or watching him perform his miracles.  Where does that leave the rest of us?  Not all that many people even partake of sermons or programs or devotions that are offered for free.  Much less are they willing to pay others a meal for them. 

Perhaps the tithe is just one of those mysteries that God will explain to us in the hereinafter.  In the meantime, the churches and pastors can reap the benefit of the abundance they bring.

But we do need to remember that God gets impatient if we tithe our garden products but overlook things pertaining to His laws like judgment, mercy and faith.  He wants our complete commitment, not just our dollars.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Touching Shoulders With Jesus

"Jesus said to them, you will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.  These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father'".  Matthew 20:23

The mother of Zebedee's sons asked Jesus to reserve the places on his right and left for her sons.  Isn't that just like humans?  Everybody wants to be number one.  They seek out celebrities and nurture as good a relationship with them as they can.  It's as though they think that being near great people makes them great.

But Jesus told her and her sons that it was not his choice, but God's, who would be on his right or left.  God would make the decision as to who would touch shoulders with the Messiah.

Nothing's ever good enough for humans, is it?  Jesus had chosen just twelve disciples from an earth full of people, but Zebedee's wife and sons wanted first and second seats.

They should have been thanking the Almighty that they got to be in the presence of His son -- even in a crowd of onlookers -- much less wanting to be at the head table.  No wonder Jesus said, blessed are the meek.  He advised all present at the Sermon on the Mount that it was the meek who would inherit the earth, not the status seekers.