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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.

Musings 38, The Eyes of Love

The eyes of love start in the mirror. Perhaps this sounds narcissistic; we are not taught to love ourselves. Parents and others find and try to correct our faults. “I don’t like that outfit you are wearing,” or “You should comb your hair.” They do not want to be mean, but they want to see a more perfect vision of us. Often when we look into the mirror, we see a vision that needs correcting.

In the mirror freckles, pimples, wrinkles are magnified. Curly hair or straight hair, not just-right hair, add to gray, white, or no hair. It’s just not fair. But– there’s hope.

God is not aware of minor imperfections. God loves us as he made us. Now, I’m not saying we should not wash our face or comb our hair. We live outside the mirror, too. But perhaps we should look into the mirror and say, “I’m pretty great. I’m good. I get better every day, and I see me as God sees me, with Love attached.”

Being  grateful for our loving God and praising him for his handiwork returns his favor. God sees us through the eyes of love, and we are worthy of his love. Despite our flaws, our imperfections, we must love ourselves and distribute that love to others.

When we look into the mirror, the eyes of love stare back at us.

(Psalm 91: 10) 70 years are given to us. Some even live to 80. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble.

(Romans 8: 38) I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

(2 Thessalonians 3: 13) Paul writes again- I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. In 2:3 he continues – Don’t let yourselves be fooled by what others say.

(Ephesians 4: 3) Be kind to each other, tenderhearted and forgiving, just as God, through Christ, loves you.


Musings 37, Fear Not

Is it ever possible to live without fear? Today, after months of drought, it is raining. Not a gentle rain, but a major storm that beats down on the dry, burned hillsides and causes mud to slide down on hapless victims. News media give warnings, to take heed and prepare sandbags, or use plastic tarps to cover vulnerable areas. Stay indoors and off rain slicked roads. Use your fear to keep safe, we are warned. Fear is a natural reaction when we encounter something different from normal.

Courage is the antidote to fear. Consider Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den. He did not want to go there, but he used his courage to confront the natural proclivity of lions and to keep them subdued. God was at his side, and God always helps when we face danger. I’m sure he must have told Daniel to proceed with caution and courage.

We need to stand up for what is right, or those who wish us harm will triumph. When the shepherds in the field saw angels, they must have been frightened, for the angels had to tell them not to be afraid. Fear is a natural instinct to protect us from harm. I think if I saw an angel, I would want to call the police. Maybe angels have a soothing presence that would overcome any fear of them.

There are answers to my fears in the Bible. Let me share some with you –

(Luke 2: 8-10) And the angel said to the shepherds, “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day a savior which is Christ the Lord.”

(John 3: 5) Whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

(Philippians 4: 4) Be careful for nothing (don’t be afraid of anything): but in all things by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God.

(Philippians 4: 13) and Paul continues, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

– and so can we. We’re stronger than we think, and have abundant courage with faith in God.