Pondering and Plodding On

source: leshaines via Flickr

source: leshaines via Flickr

There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 8:14 (NIV)

Life isn’t fair.

As I read Solomon’s astute observation, pasted above, I was taken back to watching 12 Years a Slave with Wendy earlier this year. It is the true story of a talented, educated and free African-American man kidnapped from his family by slave traders and taken south to be sold into slavery. It is a gut wrenching story much like the story of Schindler’s List or The Hiding Place. History is chalk full of such things, and most every companion I’ve known on life’s road can share a story or two of less horrific yet intensely personal experiences with life’s unfair qualities.

I really appreciate Solomon’s honesty as I read through it again. The further I get in my life journey the more willing I am to accept that the sojourn is fraught with mysteries that I may ponder endlessly without ever reaching complete understanding. I don’t know why the righteous sometimes suffer what the wicked deserve and the wicked seemingly enjoy the rewards befitting the righteous.

I do realize, however, that when I’ve suffered life’s injustices I have emerged with a measure of wisdom and maturity that could only have been acquired through the suffering. I know those who seemingly have it so much easier than me, but then I discover that they are suffering an internal kind of personal, relational, and/or spiritual hell. I have also met those who seemingly have far less than me, whose road seems infinitely more difficult than mine, but then I find that they experience a personal, relational and spiritual peace and joy that appears incongruent to their life’s difficulty.

I may not understand all of life’s mysteries, but I feel quite confident in my daily task:
to seek God wholeheartedly,
to faithfully walk the path set before me with joy,
to be wise in my decisions and patient as I plod,
to leverage self-control in order to do good in thought, word, and act,
to be gentle with myself and with those entrusted to my care and provision,
to live peacefully others and treat both companions and strangers with love, kindness, respect, and forgiveness.

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The Trump Card on the Other Side of the Table

source: cutenessareej via Flickr

source: cutenessareej via Flickr

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins.

This only have I found:
    God created mankind upright,
    but they have gone in search of many schemes.”
Eccelsiastes 7:29 (NIV)

 

It is election season here in the U.S. and every television commercial seems to be an attack ad of one form or another. On either side of the aisle these attack ads are all lies, half-truths, obfuscations, and misleading innuendos. Politicians say they hate these ads, but each side says they “must” produce them in response to the other side and they are forced to do it because they work. And, they do work just like the lies, half-truths, obfuscations, and misleading innuendos politicians feed to the press and the public to cover their butts and scheme for their own political agendas on a daily basis.

I was thinking about all this as I drove home from the Twin Cities yesterday. I have long bought in to what Solomon observed in today’s chapter. Evil exists and there will always be those in society who scheme to fulfill their own insatiable desires for personal power, prestige, profits and/or pleasures. When well intentioned individuals and groups try to pursue a winning hand of altruistic, well-intentioned goodwill, evil in its endless array of manifestations is always the trump card on the other side of the table.

I do not think that this means we stop pursuing peace and goodwill. In fact, I believe we need to pursue it all the more vigorously. At the same time, I have come to believe that we cannot pursue good with our eyes closed. For good to succeed in a fallen world, we must acknowledge that evil will seek to thwart its every effort. In some cases evil reveals itself in the violent hacking off of an innocent hostage’s head. In other cases, it subtly works its way into the hearts of of well intentioned, seemingly upright politicians and leads them down a path towards schemes for lust for power, prestige, and personal gain. In all of its manifestations, we must address evil if we are to achieve the good God calls us to do. Jesus began his three years of ministry by confronting the Enemy in the wilderness. In his ministry, Jesus confronted evil as regularly as He healed, fed, loved, and forgave. We would be wise to heed His example.

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Appetites

source: life on the edge via Flickr

source: life on the edge via Flickr

Everyone’s toil is for their mouth,
yet their appetite is never satisfied.
Ecclesiastes 6:7 (NIV)

Twice in my life journey I have gone through the process of dropping a significant amount of weight. In both instances, the key for me was taking control of my appetite for food and the pleasure I derived from indulging it. Realizing the truth of Solomon’s observation that my appetite was never satisfied, I knew that I had to discipline myself to be content with less. I allowed myself to feel hungry between meals and to patiently wait for meal time. When meal time came, I chose smaller portions and soon found that my body could be fully satisfied with far less than I had grown accustomed to eating. Instead of indulging in a handful of cookies, I satiated my after dinner sweet tooth with a single square of Ghiradelli chocolate.

I soon realized that my body followed wherever my appetite led, and it adjusted to my intake. When I indulged my appetite, my body started craving more and more. When I controlled my appetite, my body started to work quite contentedly on much less.

You may have also noticed that I mentioned having to drop weight twice. This is because of another important lesson I learned the hard way. Without perseverance and diligence, my appetite will slowly and subtly return to craving “just a little bit more” until it is consistently being indulged more than necessary. Over time I found myself right back where I started (well, close to where I started).

Through this experience, I learned that there is a pattern in life that I must ceaselessly and personally recognize and address. We all, every one of us, have unhealthy appetites. Our craving leads to indulgence which, in turn, develops into habit (and sometimes addiction), and left unabated will usually leads to negative consequences and some degree of brokenness. Sometimes we can wrestle back control of an appetite through reason and will. Sometimes we need the help of others. Sometimes, as the Twelve Steps has so powerfully taught millions, we cannot do it without surrendering to our Higher Power. Tragically, some lose the battle and feeding their appetites leads to death.

Today, I am thinking about my own appetites and cravings. I am taking it one day, one step at a time.

(Note: I gave a message on this very subject a few years ago. If you have any interest you can listen by clicking here)

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Clutter, Consideration and Commitment

source: rossap via flickr

source: rossap via flickr

As goods increase,
    so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
    except to feast their eyes on them?
Ecclesiastes 5:11 (NIV)

As Wendy and I prepare for selling our house, we are in the process commonly known as “de-cluttering.” We are going through everything we own and choosing to peddle, pitch, or pile into storage. It’s been a long time in coming and it’s been a fascinating process. We are certainly not candidates for an episode of Hoarders, but there are moments when the shelves and containers full of stuff seem endless.

Last night, I sat on the living room floor and went through two large containers with receipts, owners manuals, warranty information, tax documents, and etc. It was crazy how much paperwork we have for the smallest of things, and I was shocked at the amount of peripheral documentation builds up around the ephemera of our daily lives. Much of what I went through was for gadgets, appliances, technology and d00-dads we don’t even own anymore. Oy!

The de-cluttering is having a fascinating and positive effect on both Wendy and me. The house feels more open and peaceful, our day is strangely lightened. When we feast our eyes around the house there is less to consume our mindshare, less to worry about, less to have to think about, and less we have to do something with. It is making us consider how we want things to be different in our new home.

As I read through Solomon’s wisdom regarding the silliness of the accumulation of things I am both convicted and encouraged this morning. I am sure that what I am feeling is common to virtually all who have gone through this process, but it is where I am in the moment and Solomon seems exceptionally wise from where I am standing this morning.

As I look back over my life journey I realize that I have often been considerate of things I should do, but then fell short of actually doing them. As I think about my desire to commit to permanently de-clutter house and life, I am mindful of something else the Teacher wrote in today’s chapter:

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.

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Warmth

Art Center date with m'love. Now off to Django!

(Photo credit: Tom Vander Well)

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Ecclesiastes 4:11 (NIV)

It is feeling more and more like autumn. There is a chill in the air, and the temperatures last night dipped lower than they have since the last breath of winter gave way to the new life of spring five or six months ago. According to the Banker Weather station nearby we’re only about fifteen degrees from freezing this morning.

And, our frugal Dutch blood has challenged Wendy and me to see how long we can go before we break down and crank up the boiler. So, this morning found Wendy and I snuggled like spoons under our summer bedding, not wanting to get up to face the cold. Thus, I’m a little later than usual with this post.

Today, I have nothing profoundly spiritual share. I’m simply thankful for the warmth of Wendy on chilly autumn mornings. :-)

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Hit Your Cue

southpacificThere is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

       a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
       a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
       a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
       a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
       a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
       a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
       a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

 The musical was South Pacific and I was playing Captain Brackett.  One particular scene in the show begins with a meeting in Brackett’s office between Brackett and three other characters. As the lights came up on the scene that night it was clear that someone was not at the meeting. It happened to be the gentleman playing Commander Harbison, Captain Bracket’s next in command. There are few experiences more terrifying to actors on stage than when someone misses his or her entrance. My fellow actors, aware that something was desperately wrong, held their focus well, but I could see in their eyes that they were having the same “Oh shit” moment that I was.

So, I did what military officers do. I started screaming. I stood, slammed my hand on my desk, and went into a full out crusty sailor rant.

“Where’s Harbison?! WHERE THE HELL IS HARBISON!?”

I knew that Dayrel Gates, who played my admin Yeoman Quale, was standing just off stage because I’d passed him during the scene change.

“QUALE?! QUALE GET IN HERE!!”

Dayrel immediately ran in and stood at attention like a terrified sailor.

“FIND HARBISON AND GET HIM IN HERE NOW!!”

Dayrel was brilliant. He picked right up on what I was doing, gave me an “Aye Captain!” salute and exited. As soon as he exited the stage he started yelling in the wings. “Commander Harbison!? FIND COMMANDER HARBISON!” Others cast members who realized what was happening started yelling for Commander Harbison as well and you could hear their screams in the hallway outside the auditorium as if an entire platoon of personnel were scrambling around the camp looking for the tardy Commander. It didn’t take long before the actor playing Commander Harbison came running on stage. He was out of breath, sweating profusely, and in a full panic. It turned out he had stepped out between scenes for a smoke and didn’t realize it was his cue.

When you’re on stage you learn that one of the fundamental essentials is to hit your cue and make your entrance on time. It’s critical to the success of the show. Bad things happen when you miss your cue.

Solomon’s words are brilliant and powerful in the simplicity of the truth he communicates. Timing is critical to almost every season and to every element of life. There is a time for everything. I have learned, however, that attention, observation, introspection, and wisdom are required to discern the time you are in and to respond accordingly.

All the world is a stage, as the Bard said, and we are all players in it. It’s fundamentally critical to success that we hit our cues in life. Bad things happen when we don’t.

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My Life: A Photo Abecedarius

2013 Sanna Senior Pic 002

S is for Suzanna. Wendy’s youngest sibling came to live with us last summer and has been such a blessing to us. It’s been so awesome to watch her processing life and growing into such a capable (and gorgeous!) young woman. We have been and continue to be blessed to walk along side her on this stretch of her journey.

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