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Musings 45, Long ago –

Book club discussed a book (really), a book written for children by Antoine De Saint-Exupery titled The Little Prince. Long ago I could imagine a small person visiting the planet Earth and me from a small asteroid high in the heaven beyond the stars. Now- well, it takes some imagination to consider the possibility.

The book was published in 1943, and its author, a pilot, perished over the Mediterranean sea in 1944. World War 2 seems like ancient history, but I was a child, and I remember listening to President Roosevelt on our small Philco radio, hearing the shock of the day that is remembered as a “day of infamy” when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I could not imagine what that meant.

Hitler had invaded France, and De Saint-Exupery was a man without a country. The world was at war again, but not for the last time, and the world must soon learn how to live with peace. But how can the small planet Earth eliminate its baobobs?

The little prince was in charge of his small planet. He knew exactly what he had to do there, tend his rose and destroy the roots of the baobob tree, for with “baobobs, it’s always a catastrophe.”

I wondered if our writer would consider the Nazis his baobob trees as he flew his plane over his occupied country. He could not know he would fly from the desert to a watery grave.

“You have to look with your heart,” the little prince told the pilot. What does your heart see that the eyes cannot? We can see or smell a rose, or thousands of them, but not sense their beauty. Eyes are blind. What does the heart see? Does it ache with happiness and joy, or with loneliness and despair. We can open our eyes, but can we open our hearts? I believe adults must see as children see.

For Jesus said “suffer the children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”

There’s a sermon in that.

 

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Musings 44, by the authority of–

Who’s the boss? If you don’t know, you have much to learn. Many stories in the Old Testament show God is in charge. God knows all is demonstrated by Noah, who was told by God to build an ark before the rain came down. God is all-powerful is illustrated by Daniel when God tamed lions for him. God requires obedience is proven by Noah, swallowed by a big fish when he disobeyed. God is always present is proven by the 2,000 year history of the Jewish people in the Old Testament. There we learn that God is forgiving, for he keeps re-establishing his connection with his people despite their disobedience. God is obviously The Boss.

Our Boss has complete authority over us. Fortunately our Boss is gentle and loving. He does not give us burdens we cannot carry.

In the New Testament we learn about Jesus, his Son sent to show us how to live with righteousness and carry our burdens. Jesus always knew his Boss, and it wasn’t the Roman soldier he met up with nor the traditions of the Jewish people. Although Rome held the world captive, Jewish customs did not permit interacting with a non-Jew, a Gentile. Most Jews would not have stopped to hear the Roman centurion beg Jesus to cure his servant. Jesus listened, then volunteered to go to the soldier’s home to heal the servant. The soldier, who understood power,  professed he wasn’t worthy enough, but he recognized that Jesus held the authority to command, even from a distance. The centurion recognized the power of Jesus, and Jesus acted with the eternal power in his heart.

“Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee,” said Jesus, and the servant was cured that self-same hour. (Matthew 8: 13-14)

We live our daily lives controlled by government, but government power is temporal, likely to change. The power of God is eternal, beyond our knowledge. We are urged to accept and obey the will of God. Surrender to God’s will.

God know what is best for each of us, and when our problems seem insurmountable, we are urged to relinquish them to God. Unlike Atlas, who struggles to keep the world on his shoulders, God takes on the world, and his child Jesus carries the world as if it were as light as an apple in the palm of his hand.

God power! Submit to it and use it.

Musings 43, Tender Grapes

You may not remember “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.” It was a movie, produced in 1945, based on a book written by George Victor Martin in 1940. Starring Margaret O’Brien and Edward G. Robinson, this movie was greatly admired by two sisters in New Jersey. The older sister, about eleven, wrote a letter to the seven year old Margaret O’Brien in California, and Margaret O’Brien sent a signed picture in return for the favor. Surprise! Some think the movie was mainly ignored because its director was brought before a House Unamerican committee. Whatever–

In the movie, a Norwegian farmer and his wife (Agnes Morehead) in Wisconsin were busy eking out a living and raising their daughter. Told from the daughter’s point of view, the story is poignant for it establishes values in small town America. Author Martin (1904-198-) based the story on Song of Solomon (2: 15), “catch all the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

Our pastor reminded his congregation that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches that produce the grapes. He can be forgiven for not mentioning the book or movie, for he is a young man. But, more importantly, without the vine there would be no grapes. Jesus said, (John 15: 1,2) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit shall be taken away.

I don’t know much about grape farming, but I have a few citrus trees, and my lemons have been especially productive this year. I must have pruned the dead branches and fertilized well last year. The trunk is sturdy, and the foliage delightful, but a tree is known for the fruit it produces. There is a sermon in that.

We don’t always know what fruit our tree will produce. A fig tree will not produce lemons or grapes. A little letter and a three cent stamp produced a picture from an actress in California, and believe me when I tell you I sent a lot more letters to ‘famous’ (at the time) actors and actresses. Most produced pictures, and more joyous surprise. The little girl in the movie gave her pet calf away, and it changed lives. And Jesus said, (John 15: 12) “This is my commandment, ‘that you love one another as I have loved you’.”

What can be more important?

Musings 42, A Possible Peace?

The morning before the first State of the Union Address by the current president, and already some are criticizing what has not been said as yet. Strange? No, for we have met the enemy and it is us (or we). Enemies, internal and external, but our enemy today may become our friend tomorrow.

When he addresses the issue of world peace, the president might pray, “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord, our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm. Give victory unto us, O Lord, answer our cry for help.” (Psalm 20: 7-9)

The nature of the battle has changed. King David felt grossly outnumbered by chariots and horses, but he knew the Lord was on his side. Today we feel outnumbered by enemies, but not chariots and horses. Our leaders have buttons on their desks which can  destroy the entire world. Why? Have we lost faith in the power of God?

We look for sensible leaders, on the side of peace: not peace through appeasement or aggression, but a peace through agreement. Can we agree that corruption is evil, that all humans have basic rights, and that all leaders must be responsible to the people they lead? We look to leaders who would condemn the use of weapons, be they chariots or bombs.

The Lord is on the side of the righteous, of those who cherish peace. Our words are powerful, and boasting of strength merely aggravates the enemy. Notice that David did not boast of his strength. He boasted of his belief in God, and he thanked God for each victory.

There are many answers to our most serious questions in the Bible. Neither appeasement nor aggression contain peaceful solutions to problems. Look to righteousness. It might work.

My pastor this week read 2 Chronicles 20: 1-30 this week. When we don’t know what to do, we turn our eyes to the Lord. He has a unique way of establishing peace!

(2 Chronicles 20: 9) If when evil comes upon us, we stand before (the Lord) and cry unto him in our affliction, then he will hear and help.

(2 Chronicles 20: 29) And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel.

Musings 41, A Simple Story

How did I get here, and where am I going? I look to a simple explanation. A very generous God planted me here in his image. My God needs no gender: he is all things, and I’m uncertain about the rib deal. That’s a good story, probably invented by men. I am meant to be a caretaker. That’s the whole point of the Garden of Eden story. Adam was to take care of the garden while Eve took care of (and was a companion to) Adam. Enter the snake – evil serpentized.

How did the serpent get into the garden? Evil can sneak in anywhere, anytime, but we have to watch for it and keep it away. Perhaps Eve had neglected her duty to Adam when she engaged  in conversation with the charming snake, and I’m sure snakes can be excessively charming. The story then becomes complicated, as Eve is charming too, and, upon the advice of the snake, convinces Adam to disobey God. In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.

Our story veers from simple to complicated. God is angry. “Why can’t these people obey me?” he fumes. “Obviously they don’t deserve this garden.” He sends them packing, with their two sons. The sons try to please God. Abel is successful, but Cain not so much. Cain becomes ridden with jealousy and kills Abel. Obviously, people needed some guidelines to be able to live together.

So God gave ten rules to Moses who wisely wrote them on stone tablets. The rules were short and simple, but humanity would have to obey them thoughtfully and with care, for that snake was still lurking. Perhaps the snake invoked the leaders to add more rules, hundreds of them, complicated and bizarre – like what to eat, what to wear, what to do on every occasion. People became confused and found the rules difficult to follow.

Our Creator never gives us. He sent his son Jesus to live the rules. Jesus made the 10 rules very simple. Love. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Give love freely, and like a yo-yo, it will come back to you.

Now, isn’t that a simple story?

(Matthew 1: 23) Look! The virgin will conceive a child. She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’

((2 Corinthians 5: 21) We are made right with God through Christ.

(Romans 15:1) We must not please ourselves. We must help others do what is right. Christ did not live to please himself.

Musings 40, Vainglorious

This word should not be forgotten. From the French meaning worthless glory, vainglorious is used to describe one who is excessively proud of himself or his achievements. We have occasion to consider it, for it seems to be occurring rather frequently in our leaders. The opposite would be selfless, unassuming, and humble, but powerful men (and women) tend to avoid that obscurity.

Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1817 wrote a poem about the brevity of fame and glory. “Ozymandias” is a sonnet, only 12 lines with a repeating rhyme and much alliteration, but its message is unmistakable. A stranger journeys into a desert where he sees a broken statue, and on the base is written, “look on my works, ye mighty and despair.” He looks across the barren desert, noticing, “nothing remains of that colossal wreck. Boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Building a statue, a Sphinx, or a pyramid in the desert required the labor of many men, probably slaves. The act was vainglorious; the builder intended for it to remind his progeny how great he was in life and in his death.

It is good to be proud of our accomplishments, especially when those acts ease the burden of others or provide some sustenance they could not acquire for themselves. We cannot put our names on plaques, awards, foundations, or buildings and assume our posterity will remember and be grateful. Eventually the sands of time devour our best intentions. And so it is with all vainglorious acts.

We are reminded not to boast of our accomplishments, but to defer humbly to our God who allowed us to do something some consider “worthwhile.” Shelley was considered to be an atheist, but surely his soul knew God. You can Google to read the poem “Ozymandias.” I think you will like it.

(Revelation 21: 1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.

(Proverbs 3: 5) Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not depend on your own understanding.

((Hebrews 12: 1) Let us strip off the sin that trips us up, and let us run the race that God has set before us with endurance.

 

 

Musings 39, A Song of David

(Psalm 21: 6) And King David sings to God, “You have endowed me with eternal blessings and given me the joy of your presence.” If we know one thing about David, we know that he never lost his faith in God. The Lord was always his shepherd, and he knew what those words meant, for he was a young shepherd in the field when Samuel anointed him to be the future king. The Old Testament is full of interesting stories from which we can draw our own conclusions and apply them to our lives and current events.

We suspect that David was not always a good man. He let power go to his head, and he had a head for the ladies. When he saw his neighbor, Bathsheba, taking a bath on her balcony, he had lascivious thoughts. He sent her husband, Uriah,a loyal warrior in his army, to be killed in battle. (2 Samuel 11:15) David wrote to his General Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” Then he took the widow to be his wife.

David recognized his sin, and asked forgiveness. (Psalm 24:4-5) “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies, they will receive the Lord’s blessing.” David earned his punishment, but when things were going badly, David worshiped the Lord. He never gave up his relationship with God.

Surely a man of God does the right thing. The Bible calls for us to be “righteous”, to do the right thing. It is not enough to think or say the right thing; one must follow with right actions.

Sometimes it is difficult to judge what is right. David brought on his own troubles by doing that which he must have known was wrong. But God did not desert David, for David remained faithful.

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory, bringing about our own punishment, but keeping God foremost is essential.  Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart.” (Matthew 13: 35) We learn faithfulness from the Psalms of David.