Monday, May 8, 2023
Monday, March 27, 2023
Let me start by giving you some advice. Don't read Ecclesiastes if you are depressed. I'm reading through the Bible this year and knocked out this book a few days ago in my quiet time unaware that later in the day I'd receive some sad news. Of course I had no way of knowing that, but I'm just saying, maybe skip it. I'll sum it up for you. There's a season to everything but overall there's nothing new under the sun, everything is pointless, then you die and other people get your stuff.
Also a summation of every estate sale you've ever been to.
If you haven't read it in a while you might remember it being beautiful and poetic, uplifting even. That's probably because in the sixties the Byrds took the coolest part of the book and made it into a song.
Turn, Turn, Turn.
You can hear it now, right?
Solomon, who as you will recall was on a lifelong quest for wisdom which he asked God for, comes up with advice on how to live a worthwhile life. His conclusion for how to live is to fear God and keep his commands and be happy in your work. Not bad advice but everyone up to him had been saying the same thing without the vocational recommendation.
His more practical advice for living is found in Proverbs.
How much richer are we than Solomon that we live in the light of the grace of Jesus and as Christians we have the Holy Spirit living in us? We have the Gospels and all the writings of the New Testament. While the things Solomon says are true he lived his entire life without knowing the fullest truth of God's plan for the salvation of mankind.
When you read Ecclesiastes you can almost hear him saying, "This is it?"
For the full context of his final conclusions about the meaning of life you'll need to read the accounts of all he accomplished. (1 Kings 4-9 and 2 Chronicles 3-9)
It's far more than you or I could hope to achieve in our wildest dreams.
Maybe the best way to approach Ecclesiastes is to read it with sympathy for the man who achieved such incredible things in his lifetime, a man who's name is still remembered and associated with great wisdom and building the Temple. But for all of that he did, he didn't have access to the completed plan of God. He lived and died with the greatest event in history hundreds of years in the future and never having heard the greatest news of all.
So for all his vast wealth, reputation, and wisdom you and I are in a better position to have hope for the future than Solomon. We live in the light of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We have the gift of grace and the assurance of our own resurrection and eternity with God.
Solomon in all his wisdom could not have imagined such a thing.
Monday, March 13, 2023
The approach of spring, which if you follow this blog, you would imagine fills me with joy and anticipation had the opposite effect on me this year. I laid on the couch recovering from food poisoning in a dirty house and looked out the window at a garden in such bad shape I just wanted to rip it out and sod the whole thing.
Have you been there?
And as a beekeeper spring means even more work and the clock is ticking and doesn't stop because I'm over all the things. While I was wasting time and procrastinating, because that's what we do when we don't have a plan, I found a bunch of cleaning videos on YouTube. I have to say watching someone else clean has an almost magical effect.
I thought, "I can at least clean the sink and wipe down my counters."
Three hours later I had deep cleaned my entire kitchen including cleaning the oven and the refrigerator.
If you are stuck I highly recommend any of the "clean with me" videos on YouTube that appeal to you. The attitude adjustment is almost instant.
A week later I had finished my setting the house in order and doing it reminded me of my mom, who believed spring cleaning was a team sport.
She'd pick a day and put on a stack of records or turn up the radio and set us to work taking apart our rooms or helping her in the kitchen or living room and clean the things that didn't get done in our regular daily or weekly chore list. This included things like moving furniture to sweep behind it and dusting pleated lampshades with a paint brush. No one ever wanted to do any of this but once we got started we began looking for things to clean and to see dirt that had been invisible to us only the day before.
She made it feel like an event with open windows and music. After a few hours of work she'd yell, "Break time!" We'd all sit down and eat some terrible corporate mid century junk food like Ruffles and French onion dip or rip open a bag of Chips Ahoy. Then it was back to work fueled by Coke and and chemicals. At the end of the day we were all exhausted but satisfied and the house sparkled. The air even felt cleaner.
My mother never read any books by admirals about making your bed or the power of atomic habits but she did understand the power of getting started and of making something that could have been drudgery into an event.
Maybe it's that same upbeat commraderie makes the Millenial mommies' YouTube videos fun and inspiring to watch.
What's your favorite way to motivate yourself when you don't feel like doing anything?
Next up: taking it outside.
Monday, February 27, 2023
I have an ornate ceramic lamp from the sixties that I inherited. It's quite old and the switch might give out any day. Since it's in the upstairs hallway and only needs to be on in the mornings and evenings I have it on a timer to save wear and tear on the switch.
It comes on at 5:15 in the morning. If I wake up and light is seeping in around my closed door I know it's time to get up. I can step out into a bright cheerful space instead of fumbling around in the dark for the switch.
Depending on how tired I am or how hard I've slept I may lay there a while with my eyes closed. This morning I was doing this in that early morning brain fog and wondering if the light was on or if it was the middle of the night. Finally I had the thought "I could open my eyes and find out."
I wiped the sleep away to see that the hallway was brightly lit.
The lamp could have been on for hours but how would I know if I didn't open my eyes? It could have been on forever but unless I chose to see it that wouldn't matter. It's possible that I could have stayed in bed in the dark, maybe even cursing the darkness, because I refused to see.
Our spiritual view of the world is like this. In our postmodern culture it's considered enlightened to think if there is a light it's one that comes from within. We are our own little gods, our own personal centers of the universe, and of course we all conveniently have our own truth. What we really do have is the choice to open our eyes and see the light that is shining
It lights our way and keeps us from stumbling in the night. Imagine being in a store or restaurant and seeing people willfully keeping their eyes closed not only putting themselves in danger but creating chaos in a public space. We'd shake them and demand that they simply open their eyes and look around. But we see many surrounded by brightness clenching their eyes shut as hard as possible, the bright truth glowing all around them as they grope and trip along their way through life.
What is needed is a great awakening. As the days grow darker the Light of God's love and the person of Jesus is shining ever brighter. Let's pray that they will "open their eyes to their true condition that they would turn from darkness to light."
Many are standing at the edge of a great precipice unaware that they are in danger feeling perfectly safe in their chosen darkness. The blind take others by the hand, "don't look at the light," they say. "shut your eyes and ignore all that you've been taught by the church or your parents. No one ever knew anything until now. After thousands of years we finally have arrived at truth." While they stumble and fall down scrambling to make their way in their chosen darkness anyone may come and take their hand and lead them into ever increasing danger and they will follow them as long as they too curse the light.
It's in this world that we are called as Christians to be salt and light. There is hope for the world and for mankind, his name is Jesus. In his name delusions are broken and people can be released from mental and spiritual bondage. Love and pray for the willfully blind.
Monday, February 13, 2023
Isn't it strange how things you see every day become invisible? Like that important piece of paper you tack on the bulletin board and then fail to see when you actually need it. It's so common for us to overlook things unless there is some kind of change involved. Our human brains need to create a lot of shortcuts for thinking in order to keep functioning in our ever increasingly complex world, we tune out a lot of information we've already seen.
This truth struck me recently. During a blast of winter weather while walking with one of our dogs I noticed a "swerve right" or "keep right" sign that I've seen hundreds of thousands of times over the past 30 years.
Later by the fire with a cup of tea and a now warm dog on the sofa next to me I was struck with the thought that this sign which technically means "keep right" seemed to be saying swerve and move on. Avoid the obstacle and keep going. And even if you take the literal meaning, keep right isn't bad advice either based on the definition of right: what is good, proper, and just.
Do you want to be in accordance with what is bad, improper, and unjust? I'm guessing no.
Beehives that are doing well are known as queen right. I know you were up all night wondering about that.
There are times to stick to our guns (I discussed those in last week's post) but lots of situations call for us to be able to wisely maneuver instead of plowing ahead. Very often we can swerve to avoid disaster. We can adjust the sail to chart a new course. Charting a new course when things have gone sideways is a valuable life skill. One thing we have learned in the three years is that moving forward no matter how haltingly you are doing it is important. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.
Knowing when to hold on tight and barrel through and when to pivot and recalculate takes wisdom, not knowledge. Fortunately, we can ask for that.
If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Monday, February 6, 2023
People who don't want to believe in God, sometimes only because it's what their parents and the church taught them, will believe anything else. They'll believe that something can come from nothing even though it's a scientific principle that is impossible. They'll believe in life forces and affirmations and magic rocks and a myriad of other things which come without a standard of behavior. Not having any higher authority to tell them where they have gone wrong seems to be the main point of searching for something else. The latest version of this thinking is The Simulation.
I listen to a lot of different podcasts from a wide variety of people with divergent thoughts and ideas and this theory is becoming prevalent. It goes roughly like this:
We're in the matrix. Or a matrix or computer game or some other version of a simulated world. In this world there's an intelligent being running things. We can affect things about our own lives by choices we make in the simulation though the jury is out on whether or not free will exists. Sometimes something coincidental or strange happens. "That's the simulation winking at us." They say. Whoever is running the whole thing is wildly and unimaginably intelligent and we are nothing by comparison.
Let's translate. We live in a created world. A mind with infinitely superior knowledge created this world and us. This intelligence orders events and affects things in this created world. This being influences us and tries to communicate. Compared to the creator we are inferior to the point of total dependence.
That sounds vaguely familiar. Almost like we live in a created world that God created. He also created us and desires to know us and have a relationship with us. He speaks directly to us through His word, nature, our conscience, and if we are believers through the Holy Spirit. We cannot live or exist or have our being without him.
A belief in the Christian God comes with an added benefit. The God of the universe loves each us and wants what's best for us. Our lives have purpose in a cosmic battle of good and evil. There's redemption.
Let's set aside actual belief in God for a moment. You just can't bring yourself to believe for whatever reason. That's fine. But compare these two ways of framing reality. If you wanted to choose a lens to filter your life through which one would bring the most comfort? Which one would alleviate your deepest fears in the middle of a dark and lonely night? Which one would give you hope that your life is not just a meaningless bundle of experiences?
Which one touches your heart and soul?
Even if all we are doing is choosing a way of looking at the world belief in the Christian God comes with the added benefit of feeling loved and cared for by a creator. It's also the only one that comes with a self sacrificing hero who showed up to save us all. It comes complete with a set of rules for living. It offers the hope that even the worst things can be used in the grand scheme and good can come out of our despair. It says there is evil in the world but it will be overcome with good.
It says you have a Father and a Friend.
Monday, January 30, 2023
A few days ago I took a walk after dark with the dog. The moon was full and the weather was unusually pleasant for this time of year though windy. The thing about walking the dog is that there's a lot of stopping and waiting, looking around. He thinks his job is to prevent cardio of any kind. Whatever, dog.
I love to look at the night sky and while I was scanning it during one of our many stops, through the clouds I noticed a light that looked like a star. But it seemed to be moving so I thought maybe it was an airplane but it was far too distant to be a jet. A satellite maybe? Whatever it was it was moving rapidly. I stared at it for a long time trying to reckon its strange velocity in my mind. The ghostly gray clouds were drifting across the sky. I fixed my eyes on the light to see what direction it was moving. It was moving, right?
It suddenly dawned on me. The light was stationary and the clouds were being blown by the wind and I'd been using them as my reference point. The light was a star that likely hadn't moved much in thousands of years.
How often do we do this? We look around at events, or culture, or our own emotions and make judgments based on shifting vapors. But the plumb line of truth remains unmoved and unwavering. We try to adjust the standard to the shifting thinking and beliefs of our day. In our culture truth has become a dirty word, something to mock and question instead of something to rally to. Many rail against the fixed point holding its place outside of time, civilizations, and empires. A fruitless battle that leads to nothing and nowhere. A fight that leads to exhausted delusion and eventually the inability to even see that the shifting is a vaporous lie confused for truth.
We cannot navigate by clouds. They are too easily tossed about by swirling winds and the change of season. Our hearts and minds are created to search for that which is decidedly fixed. We are imprinted with the desire for what is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But our world is corrupted and fallen and easily led astray and we are often invited to step onto the shifting sand of popular opinion.
It's when the furious swirling is at its most intense that we should take a reading of where we are in relation to the unchangeable truths of life. While many people delight in confusion and take daily readings of the situation to determine who they are and what they think. Let us fix our beliefs, behavior, and values to the unchanged and stand firm whatever the clouds may do.
Monday, January 23, 2023
When we think about spring some pretty cheerful ideas come to mind especially for gardeners but all the planting doesn't take place on beautiful spring days. That works if you want cucumbers and zinnias in July but if you want a lovely spring garden you must plant it months ahead in the fall of the previous year. I hardly ever get around to it because that's when I'm usually busy finishing up the honey chores. So for me the tulip and daffodil bulbs are often planted in the worst weather. This isn't ideal and they should be planted a few weeks sooner though living in the south gives me a bit more leeway. Still I've been out in a sleeting snow before trying to get them in the ground before Christmas. Somehow I always seem to end up planting them in the freezing cold with a wind blowing, my nose running and the cold seeping through my clothes.
Isn't that just like life? The future beautiful harvest that will be a joy to you is often planted in a merciless cold season. Perhaps you are raising children and struggling with finances or relationships. It could be you are helping a friend when you are feeling depleted and as if you need help yourself. In the harshest seasons of life hopelessness lurks around the door and you lay awake nights wondering what to do.
I encourage you not to despair because it might just be that hanging on through whatever dark and cold season you are in is going to result in a beautiful harvest you haven't had the glimmer of hope to imagine yet. Persistence, courage, and faith are fruits that seem to be planted in the harshest winters.
Something happens in the cold. There are plants who need a season of cold to become their most beautiful when it's time to bloom. We all crave comfortable circumstances and easy lives, but there is little growth there. Growth is a forceful determined thing, a struggle. The relentlessness of growth is what leads to the beautiful blooms that brighten the world and cheer the heart. If you are struggling through a cold season do not give up. The breakthrough you're waiting for may need a quiet time in the dark for nourishment you don't understand yet. Often further down the road the purpose of the bleak periods is made clear and it always gives you the ability to encourage someone who is in their own dark night. How are we going to know how much someone needs warmth and shelter if we've never felt a cold wind?
Let's pray that our growth is relentless no matter the circumstances. Remember the blossom of your beautiful endurance will give hope to others.
Monday, January 16, 2023
Have you seen people posting New Year, New Me! If only. Right?
Some people go the opposite direction, New Year same me. Well that's defeatist as well as impossible. Also, do any of us really think we're all that great the way we are?
New Year, new direction. That might be the Goldilocks resolution.
We can't make over our entire personalities in one year or ever for that matter yet lots of people behave as if they can Cinderella the change at midnight. Staying the same isn't possible either. It's equally impossible. Life is about change. Everything alive is changing all the time. Every leaf. Every animal. Every human being. Even every cell.
We are at all times either going forward or backward. There is no standing still so we might want to develop some kind of plan for that.
Here's a hopeful goal.
We can change direction. We can stop going along the same old road in ruts put down by habit or the influence of others and go a different way.
Imagine yourself as a car. You don't magically become a Lamborghini because you pass a particular mile marker. But we can note the marker and ask ourselves how long have we been driving mindlessly on this road? How long have we been in low gear? How did all this trash get into the car?
We can take notes and correct. We can choose another road going slowly at once because it's unfamiliar then gaining speed as we move along. Did we get lost somewhere along the way? Do we need to consult the GPS? We can always decide to wake up and pay attention, work on driving the car better and marking our progress.
This is where I find myself at the start of this new year. Changing my focus and looking around to see where I am. I'm taking a new road. God is at work in unfathomable ways and as he loves doing new things I'm excited to see what the year holds. I'm not sure what that means but I'll be showing up here regularly to offer some encouragement and share something hopeful.
If that sounds good to you then grab your coffee and join me here on Monday mornings throughout the year to navigate together.
Happy New Year, here's to a new road!