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Musings 4, Water

It is summer, and the heat in Southern California, and probably much of the United States, is oppressive. When the heat bakes the earth, its inhabitants long for cool, clear water, one of God’s greatest gifts. At Trader Joe’s is a bottle of “Smart Water.” I’m not kidding. For slightly more than a dollar, I bought some. It tastes like real water, but it is supposed to have electrolites that are good for my health. My friend Louise says she hasn’t been sick a day since she began drinking it.

At a recent Sunday service, I was reminded of the woman Jesus met at Jacob’s Well, found  in John 4: 7-30. Jesus asked the woman to give him a drink of water, and in return he would give her living water so that she would never be thirsty again. How surprised she must have been, for Jesus broke the taboos of Jews to regard with aversion Samaritans and  of avoiding women entirely, especially immoral ones. Jesus understood her sins, and was accepting of her kindness. Removing the barriers, Jesus offered the woman life-giving water.

“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink,” quoted the Ancient Mariner wearing his albatross on the sea of life. We feel the man’s thirst as he tells of helplessly languishing on the salty sea, far from cool, clear, drinkable water.

Eternal life with God! Who could resist an offer much better than Smart Water?

(Isaiah 12: 2) With joy you will drink from the fountain of salvation.

(Psalm 23: 2) He maketh  me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still water.

(Psalm 16: 11) He will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of his presence, and the pleasure of living with him forever.

 

Musings 3, Applause

We are trained to show appreciation with applause, not whistles or cries, not stomping feet nor yelling, but a genteel clapping of the hands together in a sound that is controlled and melodious. How fortunate is the performer whose acts or speeches are met with a long round of enthusiastic applause!

I have noticed that applause is rarely given in church, but sometimes, even in more sophisticated Presbyterian congregations, applause is spontaneous. Such was the case this past Sunday, when a guest organist was treated to a burst of gratitude in his rendition of Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in G Major. Generally we are so busy entering, seating, and making conversation we hardly listen to the organ prelude.

The guest organist set the tone for further appreciation of the volunteer summer choir after they sang “Shine on Us”, a sweet song urging the Lord to shine his light, his grace, and his love upon us. The sermon by new pastor, Steve Miller, was equally impressive. He urged the congregation to consider the ending  of this life as we live it day to day. Sadly, we neglected to give his message the applause it deserved.

Oh well, applaud if you love Jesus.

(Psalm 89: 15-16) Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound.

((Psalm 31: 16) Make thy face shine upon thy servant.

(Romans 3: 22) The righteousness of God is shown in the face of Jesus, and upon those that believe.

And — “So live that when thy summons comes —-thou goes joyfully into that good night.” Thank you Reverend Miller.

 

Musings 2, Patience

I think patience is an attribute given only to saints. I confess I am not one, and often act in haste without enough deliberation. I want patience – now! One would think, after 34 years of teaching young people, I would have developed a great quantity, but sadly, if I once had it, my patience has developed rough edges. It is good to read about the salubrious effects of patience.

Reading Ann Bronte’s novel, Agnes Grey,  reminded me of the difficulty acquiring patience and the great rewards of its acquisition. Ann Bronte was the youngest sister of Charlotte and Emily, and her books did not receive the acclaim of her two talented sisters. Ann, born in 1820, died in 1849. To ease the financial burden her presence added to her family, she became a governess. Her story reveals the burdens of leaving a loving family to reside in a home where she was not a servant and not a guest, but a necessary employee to teach and train the children.

In Ann’s story the children are beastly, and garnering patience to deal with them does not make the children better, or the governess happier. She suffers insults and obstreperous behaviors with a quiet fortitude that would inspire a saint. Do read Ann’s novel, for patience combined with diligence is rewarded, and Biblical assertions are exemplified.

True patience requires a steadfastness that cannot be observed. It is worthy to be included in our attributes.

(Psalm 37:7) Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

(Psalm 39:6) We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.

(Psalm 46:10) Be still and know that I am God. I will be honored through out the world. The Lord of Heaven’s armies is here among us.

(Micah 7:7) As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me. (9) I will be patient for the Lord, (17) for all nations will be amazed at what the Lord will do.

Musings 1, The Help

Hi! I’m back. The topics and scriptures are from Sarah Young’s little book, Jesus Always. I have been reading her stories of faith and rely on her collections of Bible lessons. The ruminations are mine.

My grandmother was a competent woman. I think she would be pleased that I now believe that about her: she was vastly underappreciated at the time. She cooked, cleaned, washed, and took good care of her family, my Uncle Lewis, my Mother and her two daughters, and my step-grandfather. The family was never less than five and often six or seven, depending on who was staying in the small three bedroom, one bath house. She rarely let my sister or me help her with domestic chores, perhaps because we were unskilled and less than enthusiastic.

Unfortunately all her skills and competency disappeared with her, and her grandchildren were left struggling to acquire the ability to fulfill their domestic duties. We were able to persevere, but never attained her degree of competence.

God lets us make choices. He gave us a set of precepts, through Moses and Jesus. Jesus boiled all the lesson down to one word – Love. If we had loved our Nanny as we should have, we would have helped her more and watched her carefully, then gradually offered our assistance and gained proficiency. Well, as the Dutch say, “Too soon oldt and too late shmart.”

Fortunately, our God loves us despite our lack of proficiency.

(Psalm 23: 3) He leadeth me in the path of righteousness, bringing honor to his name.

(Psalm 32:8) God will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. God will guide us.

(Acts 17: 27) (greatly transcribed) Our purpose on earth is to seek after God and find him, though he is not far away and readily available to help is in our need.

Esther, 7

Queen Esther put her life at risk for her people: but first she consulted her brain to use the king’s weaknesses. Haman was executed, and her cousin Mordecai was made prime minister, but what could he do about the king’s decree to kill Jews on the day set by the rolling of the dice.

“Send a message to the Jews, telling them whatever you decide,” said the king, “I am afraid an edict signed by my ring can never be reversed.”

Mordecai ordered the king’s secretaries to send another message throughout the land, permitting the Jews to fight back and kill those who came to kill them on the same day Haman had ordered their killing. Swift messengers were sent to the 127 provinces with notices bearing the king’s seal. Esther probably had a hand in that message.

On February 28th of that year Jews fought back their attackers, killings 500 men in the city and 75,000 throughout the land. Many of the people pretended to be Jews to avoid being killed. Then Mordecai put on royal robes and went out in the city where he was greeted with great joy.

Mordecai wrote a history of these events. He was a wise and thoughtful adviser to the king, and was greatly acclaimed by the people. So it is, throughout Israel and the world the Feast of Purim is celebrated, commemorating the “throwing of the dice” to determine the day when Jews were to be killed, but were saved by the efforts of Esther and her cousin Mordecai.

I do not know what happened to Esther, for I could find no reference to sons and daughters or her life after these events. Perhaps she returned to the royal harem where Mordecai visited her often, and there she was treated by all who knew her with respect and dignity.

Some say the story is a myth, based on Greek legend. Today it is widely believed and the Feast of Purim is celebrated each year by feasting and the giving of gifts according to Jewish tradition.

Xerxes was murdered in 465 BC by the commander of his royal bodyguard. Being a king is a dangerous business.

I believe God values women, and saves some of the most important work in his kingdom for them, and they do it well. He leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. I love to tell the story, especially Bible stories; old, old stories about the workings of God in our sinful world.

Happy Easter! That’s another great story.

Esther, 6

That night the king could not sleep. He ordered his eunuchs to bring the historical records of his kingdom to him, and in The History of King Ahasuerus’ Reign he read that Mordecai had exposed a plot by two eunuchs to kill him. “What reward did we give Mordecai for saving my life?” he asked his attendants.

“Nothing,” they replied, to his surprise.

The next morning Haman arrived early at court to request the permission of the king to kill Mordecai. The king saw him coming, and summoned him. “What reward can I give to a man with whom I am well pleased?” he asked Haman.

Haman smiled, believing it was he the king wanted to reward, and answered quickly. “You should let him wear your royal robes and let him ride through the city on the royal horse to proclaim that this is the way the king rewards those who please him.

“Excellent,” said the king. “Take these robes and get my horse. Find Mordecai and follow every detail you have said.” Haman had no choice but to obey the king.

Not understanding what had happened, Mordecai went back to work, and an unhappy Haman was summoned to the palace to attend Esther’s banquet with the king.

Again during the wine course the satisfied king asked Esther, “What do you wish for my dear Esther. Whatever it is, I will give it to you, though it cost half my kingdom.”

Esther fell to her knees and wept. “Spare my life dear King, and those of my people. I am a Jew, and Haman has plotted our destruction.” The king was aghast, and walked out onto the terrace to think. Haman approached Esther, but in his confusion tripped on a carpet and fell onto her couch.

The king entered the room to see Haman on his queen. “What!” he exclaimed. “Will you rape my queen before my very eyes?”

“Haman has constructed a gallows in his courtyard,” reported an aide.

“Hang Haman upon it,” the king ordered.

We know God works in mysterious ways, but we see God has a sense of justice, too. Today is Good Friday. God, give us all a sense of mercy and justice as we pray for all.

Esther, 5

Esther knew she was in grave danger if she revealed she was Jewish. Her cousin Mordecai had been her father, and his family were her family, but she was in a unique position in the palace and respected as a queen. Even though the king had not called for her in a month: she could not just “pop into his inner chamber.”

Mordecai sent a message, “If you keep quiet, God will find another way to save his people, but not before your relatives die. You may die too. God put you in the palace for such a time as this.”

Esther sent word to Mordecai, “Gather all the Jews in the city. You must fast and pray for three days. Although it is forbidden, my maids and I will do the same. Then I will got to see the king. If I perish, I perish.” (My pastor said God always answers prayer — in three ways, yes, no, and maybe later. How would God respond to Esther?)

Three days later Esther, dressed in royal robes, approached the king. He held out his scepter and said, “You may approach.”

“I have come to invite you and Haman to a banquet I have prepared for you,” she said.

The king was pleased. “Tell Haman to hurry,” he told his slaves. “Esther has prepared a banquet for us.” At the banquet, and after drinking the wine, the king said, “This is truly an excellent feast. Now tell me what you really want, and I will give it to you, even if it costs half my kingdom.”

“Truly, I only want you and Haman to come to another banquet I will prepare for you tomorrow,” she told him. The king was surprised, but assented.

Haman was delighted by how important he seemed to be, but when he left the palace, he saw Mordecai at the gate. Mordecai did not bow, nor did he seem humble, and this aroused his ire. His anger boiled in him, but what could he do?

He told his wife how important he was becoming, but Mordecai was being disrespectful. His wife had an idea. “You must erect a 75 foot pole on our property, and in the morning get the king’s permission to hang him now,” she advised.

Immediately Haman ordered the construction of a 75 foot pole to hang Mordecai in the morning.