Thursday, April 28, 2011

Our Dog Does Not Have Fleas

Have you ever had one of those long, unbroken, string of days where nothing much happened and peace reigned in the family, both near and far?  Me either.  (Or is it "neither"?  Never can remember it correctly, either/or - neither/nor - whatever.  It isn't happening.)

Today, I have two rooms in disarray, due to preparations for new carpet being laid next Wednesday.  The painter finished last week, and it made no sense to put everything back in, only to have to haul it out again, when the carpets are installed.  So that means two whole weeks of stuff stashed hither and thither.

While I am not a complete neat-freak, I do like a certain sense of beauty, form, and order in my surroundings and feel discombobulated when I cannot have it.  But life bunches up on you.

One of the two disassembled rooms, also has a guest sleeping in it at the moment, due to the occupant having been up all night at the hospital waiting for the birth of her first grandchildren, twin baby girls.  They arrived a couple of hours ago, and thus our daughter/guest from out-of-town is asleep in a room with no pictures on the walls, no shelves in the bookcases, and no amenities to be found anywhere.  Freshly painted walls and clean sheets were all we could offer at the moment.  But when life bunches up on you, what else can you do?

My realtor called yesterday, and emailed me this morning, that the contract on a house I am trying to sell (in the worst real estate market in seventy years) has just hit a snag and may fall through.  Life bunches up on you.

The LOC (Lovable Old Coot) to whom I am married, is nursing a sliced hand, skinned leg and sore back, after a stack of folding chairs fell off the pallet at church last Sunday directly on to him, and thus we spent Easter afternoon at the ER while they checked him out and put in a few stitches.  He was just trying to help out, it wasn't even his day to usher; but life bunches up on you.

I could go on, but let's not.  Looking on the bright side, the dog doesn't have fleas, my oven does not need to be cleaned, we have not been hit by a tornado, and I have not shrunk any favorite shirts in the wash ... not, at least, so far this week.  Ruined two last week.

Okay, it may not be much to brag about, but when life bunches up on you, you take what you can get and learn to be grateful.  :)

Hope you and your bunch are doing well. ...Marsha

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holy Humor - An Unexpected Tool for Victory

Nothing irritates Satan more than us choosing God over our pain and suffering. We can endure everything if we know Jesus is sitting next to us.  ~Joni Erickson Tada

                          * * *

Our host today has written a fine post on how we gain victory over Satan's efforts to derail our faith.  We "win" by choosing God, faith and trust in Him, over fear and failure.  Karen knows whereof she speaks, as she is currently fighting her own battle with cancer.

She speaks poignantly about how the enemy of our souls knows how to push our irritation buttons, and about how we sometimes seem to race each other to the "top of the annoyance ladder" in escalating issues, family feuds, silly quarrels.  Yep, been there, done that.  Not proud of it.

Her post today reminded me of something I once read about Martin Luther's take on defeating Satan.  I am paraphrasing, but the quote was something to the effect that Satan can overcome the believer's resistance to his wiles in many ways.  But one thing he cannot tolerate.  Luther said, "Satan cannot stand to be laughed at."

I seem to recall C.S.Lewis used a similar thought in the Screwtape Letters.

Sometimes laughing in the face of tragedy can seem insensitive, even ghoulish.  But sometimes a good laugh in the middle of pain and problems is as effective as a good antibiotic.

My oldest son once came rolling rapidly in his wheelchair into the kitchen toward me, about a year after he had been paralyzed from an auto accident at nineteen years old, saying, "Mom, mom, I have decided what I want to be when I grow up."

I looked at him askance, never knowing quite what he would come up with next.  "What's that?"

"A stand-up comedian." he replied with a grin, and cracked himself up laughing.  I couldn't help but chuckle, too.  His sense of humor and his ability to make fun of his own severe disability was one of the things that got us through that terrible time.

He is in his forties now, and works as a high school special ed teacher, teaching the toughest students in a tough school.  Recently he dared them to complete some assignment and if they did, he would allow them to dye his hair purple on a day that he was scheduled to attend a public meeting of a serious business nature.

Talk about, "You can't keep a good man down, Charlie Brown."  :)

Of course, given Satan's devious and mean-spirited nature, he has tried to high jack the sense of humor God gave us.  Watch any current TV comedy (although I don't recommend it) and you will hear a long string of suggestive, and sometimes downright lewd, scatological humor.  Most of it originates in one of two rooms in the house:  bedroom or bathroom.  I hate it.

But God truly loves a good laugh.  He gave us humor.  His word says, "A merry heart does good like medicine." (Proverbs 17:22)

And part of the description of the virtuous woman in the final chapter in Proverbs is that "she can laugh at the days to come." (Proverbs 31:25 NIV)

Now I am not suggesting that we all go around with silly grins on our mugs in the middle of tough battles.  But I am suggesting that keeping a sense of humor in the middle of the fray may mean the difference between just barely hanging on through it all, or riding a wave of triumph that befuddles the sceptic and warms the heart of God.

God invented humor, many of Jesus' parables were funny stories in the culture of their day.  I have read that the "camel through the eye of a needle" was considered a real knee-slapper in his day.

So why not trust God with a good belly-laugh.  Oh, go on, go for it!  Satan will run like crazy and you will not only feel better for it, you will experience a touch of the "peace that passes understanding."  Laughing produces those endorphins, don't you know?

God bless you ...Marsha

Note:  Today's host is Karen over at In Love W.I.T.H Jesus.  Please join her and leave a comment on today's quote.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Clothed In His Righteousness

It is the day before Easter Sunday.  When I was a child, this is the day we would head to the department store (there was only one where we lived) to buy a new dress to wear to church the following day.  It was always called your "Easter outfit".  Even months later,  if you were going to wear that particular dress, you would say, "Well, I think I will wear my Easter outfit."

I do not know why we always waited until the day before, but that seemed to be the case.  Little ruffled dresses, patent leather shoes and matching white hats and gloves. 

Looking back, I cannot help but reflect that it seems somehow out of place that....

... we would buy a new hat to celebrate the One who wore only a crown of thorns upon his head

... we would buy gloves to wear to a church service to remember Him who had only nail scars on His hands

... we would buy new garments to commemorate the death of One who had only one good garment which the soldiers cast lots for

... we would wear new shoes to a service in honor of the One who trod dusty roads in worn sandals, until they pierced his feet with nails.

I do realize that our intent was to honor Jesus by putting on "new clothes" to celebrate the new life available to each of us through his resurrection and triumph over death.

However, tomorrow, as we go to church, I will not be wearing a single new item of any kind.  But I will once again be rejoicing in my heart for the new life, new hope, new opportunities, new joy He alone can provide to us.

God bless you on Easter Sunday!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dithering or ...

....deliberating?  I truly do not know.  I am working on it, but I am just not there yet.  It feels strange to me, because I was known for another "D" word when I ran a department with a multi-million dollar budget.

Decisive - that is a word that was frequently used to describe me.  I was often operating in the Dragnet mode - "Just the facts, ma'am."  During those hectic command-and-control years, I didn't dither.  There was no time to do it, even if I wanted to.  And I didn't want to.  This came from long years of admonition from my mother.  She was the consummate "anti-ditherer".  She just didn't do it; and neither did she tolerate it well in others.

I can still hear her words in my memory, "Marsha, make up your mind.  Don't dither."

For anyone who might be unfamiliar with this term (given that it is largely unused in today's common vernacular) "dither" can be either a verb or a noun.  One can be "dithering", meaning nervously undecided, casting to and fro about something; or one can be said to be "in a dither" meaning in a nervous or excited condition, generally with a whiff of confusion somewhere in the connotation.

Naturally, in light of this definition, a decisive person would much rather not be in a dither.  Thus, I hope I am deliberating.  I hope I am weighing pros and cons in a dispassionate, pragmatic manner.  There are a number of fairly significant decisions to be made in the next few weeks and months and it is hard to know whether one has all the relevant data; whether one has overlooked some salient factor, whether one is going stark raving mad trying to be sure one is doing the right thing.

Yes, I am aware that there is a shrill note of lunacy in the above.  I am trying to get a grip.  Certainly, there needs to be a chill-pill in my immediate future.  Meanwhile ....

I am reminded of the old story of a hound dog whose master tossed him two meaty bones. A large and juicy steak bone lay to his right and an equally appealing ham bone to his left.  Because he could not eat them both at once, he ran back and forth between them, trying to decide which one he wanted most. 

Finally, he became so exhausted running back and forth, that he lay down midway between them and just rolled his eyes back and forth, left to right, then right to left.  It was pitiful. It is said he starved to death laying between two perfectly good bones, all because he dithered.  Good grief, talk about a cautionary tale!

You will please excuse me now, as I have some serious deliberating to do.    And a large chill-pill to ingest.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On the Move ...Almost

Today, I spent my time on the road again (sorry, Willie) but I was not making music with my friends.

I was out and about for some twelve hours doing research on our potential (and much-hoped-for) move later this year.

Thus, I toured five houses with the realtor today.  Nice guy, and what do you know?  He is the great-great- (and not sure how many more "greats") grandson of the writer George MacDonald.  Yes, the very same writer whom C.S. Lewis considered to be his role model.  Tolkien also attributed a great deal of his style to MacDonald.

A large, beautiful map on the real estate office wall led to a discussion of his ancestry, which is how I came to learn of his connection to MacDonald, which led to our subsequent discussion of Lewis and Tolkien.  Suddenly, I felt much more at home with this complete stranger who was taking me on a tour of what could turn out to be my new home.

Life is just full of these amazing, unanticipated, connections - what some have called "divine appointments".

                                        * * *
A purple bathroom here, a jade green kitchen there - you ask yourself, "what were they thinking?".   That is just a hair before you remember the gosh awful scary-yellow you painted a bathroom once, and then had to live with for years!

Good taste is such a subjective thing.  It is all relative.  And much that strikes me as ridiculous may have, in fact, been the fulfilment of another's dream of a certain color, with the sun hitting it in just a certain way, at a particular time of day.

Speaking of the light hitting things in a certain way, don't get me started on skylights, which have gunk dropped upon them from over-hanging trees.  Why do people build skylights underneath foliage?  I mean, I like a good ray of sunshine as well as the next person, but why invite ongoing irritation with specks ... no make that globs ... of goo that you must look at for months before someone has to brave the ladder, climb onto the roof and clean the thing?  I'm just saying...

Will any of these domiciles become our new nest?  That I cannot say.  The main thing that keeps me on an even keel during this disruptive time of transition is that I know of a home that will be perfect.  In fact, it is already.  I have a "deed", I have an "earnest deposit" of things to come, and I have the blessed assurance that it is mine, for all time and eternity.

Now there is a promise to count on.  Hope you are relying upon those very same promises.  Meanwhile, as we scope out the new digs, I will keep you posted (no pun intended.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Tour with Dorothy and Toto in Ireland

It has been said that we get to choose our friends, and even to an extent, our neighbors and coworkers.  But we do not get to choose family.  I would also add, in the category of those whom we do not get to choose, our fellow tour mates.

When you climb those metal steps onto a tour bus you know that you are destined to spend the next several days of
your life with whomever is sitting in the seats not assigned to you and your spouse.  This can be a truly frightening prospect.

A sixty seat tour bus is a large vehicle, to be sure; but trust me on this, sometimes that is not nearly large enough.  One becomes privy to details of one's fellow passengers' lives about which one would much rather have remained unenlightened.  Talk about TMI.  I'm just saying ... 

They could be divided into roughly two categories; impatient husbands, and irritated wives; and nearly all of them had been married to each other for at least twenty-five or thirty years.  So they had their repartee down to a fine art.

"The cows are going to be just fine.  They don't know we are in Ireland!"  (Huh???)

"Honey, are you feeling any better? That sounded pretty rough last night."  (Eewww.)

"Did you remember to give the viceroy our contribution for the grand potentate's gift?"  (Okay, now that's just weird.)

Note to self:  the next time we book a tour, remember to ask if the majority of the tour is comprised of one major tour group.  This one was, and they were from Kansas Shriners, all seventy of them. 

Turns out the rest of us were just "filler bookings" - because seventy is too many for one bus, but not enough to fill up two buses, and thus, here we were - filling in among the Shiners from Topeka, on a two-bus tour.  Don't even get me started on the complications that arise from being on a two-bus tour. 

Don't get me wrong, they were by and large nice folks with good manners.  We were, however, badly outnumbered; there were seventy of them and about 22 of us non-Shriners, a total of 92 on two buses.  To describe them as homogenous travelers doesn't begin to touch it.  They spoke to one another in a kind of shorthand (I'm assuming you must grow up in Kansas and preferably also attend college in that state) in order to be fluent in Kansas-ese.  I had always hoped to become bilingual, but never envisioned my second language as one from the Great Plains.

They shared food preferences during meals (they liked the blood sausage, couldn't stand the tea); and they identified with the same ancestors (primarily those who had red hair - and in Ireland every third person is a redhead, so there was lots of ancestry identification going on.) 

"Marge, did you notice that little girl behind the counter back there?  She is the dead image of your Aunt Tilly."  All righteee then.

They also seemed to share sensory similarities.  As the tour bus lurched and bounced along over the dips in the bog roads - roads built over unstable ground with bogs beneath the paved surface - they would lean, dip and swerve in unison as though we were on a Le Mans course.  Guess all those years on roads where you can drive a hundred miles and never hit a bump or a curve, produces a kind of genetic resistance to rough roads.

Again, these were salt-of-the-earth, polite, genuine people.  But anytime they ran across anything that did not fit their repertoire of life experiences (which to borrow from Dorothy Parker, seemed to run the gamut from A to B) they would grin ear to ear and shout across the aisles of the bus to one another in wild abandon, "Well, Dorothy, guess we're not in Kansas anymore."

It was mildly amusing the first ten times.  But around day six I wanted to bang my head on the gleaming bus window, hoping it might produce temporary deafness.  No such luck.  Clyde especially just cracked himself up, every time they reminded one another that they were no longer in Kansas.

It never seemed to occur to them that the rest of us (what few of us there were) were no longer in Colorado or Oregon or California, either. 

The last Kansas / Shriner tribal ritual occurred on the final evening of the tour.  We were having a lovely dinner, in the main ballroom of a genuine castle. This was topped off by several presentations to, from, and about the grand potentate (the grand poo-bah of the whole dad-gummed Kansas clan, club, confab or whatever you call it.)

When I say the evening was topped off, I mean that quite literally, when three Shriner clowns performed for our viewing pleasure a trick wherein they called up the tour manager and somehow appeared to take her bra off without ever touching her person.  It was an illusion, at least I hope it was, and they were all hugely entertained by the performance.

At our table of eight, none of whom hailed from K. state, one new friend said, "You know, I'm beginning to feel like a second-class citizen here."

To which another table-mate immediately replied, "You just now getting there? I've been feeling that way all week."

I couldn't help but smile to myself.  I mean, good grief, what's next, Toto-envy?  After all, I got to make the acquaintance of Jenny, who was 81 years old, and on her twelfth tour with the Shiners.  It was the highlight of her year, and she could tell you great anecdotes from each one.  That alone made the trip more fun.  She was funny and spry as all get out.  I thought, "You go, girl.  Just don't forget, you are not in Kansas anymore."  :)
                                      * * *
(For any readers from Kansas, please keep in mind the above was all in good fun.  Sort of like those Shriner clowns. And all names were changed to respect the guilty.  :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Little Corner of the World - In Other Words

“God is not concerned about what is around the corner.  He created the corner.”

Corners are funny things.  They must be interesting to us, because we have quite a few sayings that we associate with them.

"I believe she has turned the corner." This usually means someone has made some noticeable improvement or progress in either a long-standing dilemma or illness or project.  Something like that.

And then there is the saying about "blind corners" as in "You never know what's coming at you around a blind corner."  True, but then again, I rarely know what's coming at me anyway, even on the straight-aways.
And, of course, the old standby, "He has certainly painted himself into a corner this time."  Uh-huh, been there, done that.  Put myself in a position such that no matter which way I walked, I was going to make a mess. 

So today, I am really relieved that He created the corner in the first place, that He knows what is around it, coming at me, how to get me out of one I have boxed myself into, or how to help me turn the corner.

I have long known He was the God of light and dark, up and down, and this and that; but it is good to be reminded that He is also the God of corners.  My little corner of the world is better for it.  Hope your is, too.
                                            * * *
Be sure and join today's host, Deborah, at Chocolate & Coffee.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Keep On Truckin' - Wrinkled Brows

Wrinkled Brows - on Mondays - an eclectic series on quotations or word definitions.

 It was back-to-school night; one of those occasions when parents gather at school sites all over the country to meet their child's teachers, take a look at their student's handiwork, and hear a bit about how their son or daughter is doing.

Many parents look forward to these little get-togethers, some dread them, and others simply never know what to expect.  We fell into the latter category.

Our middle son was one of those kids that just kept you on the edge of your patience, as well as the edge of your seat, for his entire childhood.  He was a good athlete, but a so-so student, and he could be so charmingly unassuming about it that you didn't quite know how to reproach him.  Or at least we didn't.  He was a happy, carefree little guy, with a laid back attitude, and a wacky sense of humor.

Thus, one evening when he was in second-grade, we approached the school grounds with a by-now-familiar sense of "what will he do next?" tension.   On this occasion, we need not have worried, as he was on his best behavior, and he was glad to show us his art project.

First the teacher told the assembled parents that, for this occasion, she had assigned the children the task of drawing three pictures that illustrated how they saw the world and life.  Within those very broad parameters, they could draw anything they wanted.  Oh, boy....

We approached our son's first drawing and saw that he had drawn a big shining sun with grass and a couple of attempted trees, and the caption in his large left-handed scrawl read:  God Is Love.

Well, color us happy.  The next picture showed a big cross at the top, a smiling face in the center of the page and down at the bottom a stick figure of a little boy.  The caption read:  Jesus Loves Me.

I was about to burst into happy-tears of love and pride, thinking, "He gets it.  And this is pretty deep stuff for a seven-year old.  First a global view - God is love; then a personal application - Jesus loves me."  Wow!  Color us both happy and proud.

We then moved on to his final drawing.  It was a big rig truck, with the simple caption:  Keep On Truckin'.  We looked at each other and burst out laughing.  I have laughed about it every time I remembered it since.

Additionally, I have also used this little story numerous times in various talks and speeches to church groups, women's luncheons, etc. over the years, as it isn't a bad life-philosophy when you think about the whole of it.

God is love, that is the over all crowning truth of scripture, followed immediately by the fact that He loves us individually, not just as some collective lump of humanity.

And when all is said and done, no matter what has worked out well, or what has come crashing down around you, about all you can do, unless you are a quitter, is to "keep on truckin'."  It still makes me smile.

Hope it gave you a smile, too.  Have a good day. ...Marsha

P.S. Cartoonist R. Crumb is credited with originating the saying in the 1980's Keep On Truckin'.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Give and Take of Life

" The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;  may the name of the Lord be praised.  In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."  
Job 1:  21-22 (NIV)

The neighbors later told me that they  had never seen me run so fast.  I simply remember my feet pounding the pavement, my heart pounding even harder.

We were packing to move, again, and the morning had been spent loading furniture and boxes onto the moving truck.  Our boys, four and six at the time, had been busy making a general nuisance of themselves as only little boys can, when there is serious work to be done and they are not getting enough attention during the process.

Suddenly I heard someone shout, "Your little boy has been hit by a truck!"

What? How could that be?  He was just under my feet a minute ago.

But he had somehow slipped away in the hurry-scurry of loading the moving van, and was around the corner from our house. As I ran, the words of these verses in Job ran through my mind.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord .... oh, Lord, please.  I am sorry I have been resisting what you are doing in my life.

The fact was that I had been crying, alone and in private, for three straight days.  That was unlike me, as I am not a "crier".  I tend to be fairly stoic.  But we were facing some truly dismaying developments in our lives, and I was not happy about them.

I had been complaining bitterly to God along the lines of "Why me?  Why now?" - and as I ran, I suddenly realized it all was in His hands and whatever God was sending my way, He would be there with me to face it.

As I rounded the corner and saw his little four-year old body lying at the side of the street, my heart broke as I said, deliberately and with purpose, "Lord, whether you give or you take away, I will serve You.  Please give me strength to face this.  Have mercy on my child."

A middle-aged man sat, ashen-faced, unable to move behind the wheel of his pickup.  My son, Mark, lay about twenty feet from his front bumper, unconscious, unmoving.  He looked almost asleep, his white-blond hair in disarray as it always was, his sturdy little arms and legs sprawled every which way.  There was no blood.

As the man stumbled from his vehicle, he began to murmur, almost to himself more than to me, "He just ran right out in front of me.  I never saw him.  I didn't have a chance to stop."

By then others had gathered around, as his father and I scooped him up and raced off to the hospital.  He had been hit head-on, and thrown twenty feet through the air, landing in gravel at the side of the road.  The front grill of the pickup was badly dented in, and looked like you might expect if the driver had hit a deer.

How could a little child survive a hit like that?  But he did.  Not only that, but when he came to and began to cry on our way to the hospital, he did not appear to have any broken bones.  Later the doctors said he had some bruised ribs, and needed two stitches in his hand for a minor cut.  He had a mild concussion and they advised us not to allow him to go to sleep for a few hours, and then to awaken him every two hours throughout the night.  That was it.

Sometimes, in life, the worst that can happen does.  And sometimes the worst that does happen is almost negligible, compared to how much worse it could have been. This was one of those times. I don't purport to understand the rhyme nor reason of it.  But this I do know, from both joyful and tragic experience; when the Lord gives He does so with abundance, and when He takes away, He does so with mercy and compassion.  More than this, I do not need to know.

From that day on, I have never read those two verses in Job without remembering that hard run and hard realization that it can all change in a moment's time.  That is when I first truly knew that all my times are in His hands.

God bless you .....Marsha
Miriam Pauline at MiPa's Monologue is hosting today and has given a thoughtful post on these verses.  Please join her there.

In Between the Two Extremes

Wrinkles Brows :

True greatness is not to be found at either end of the extremes, but is found in touching both ends at the same time and filling up all the space in between.  ~ Blaise Pascal  (Quote is an approximate translation)

Pascal: this generation knows him more for the computer language named for him, than for the scientist, philosopher, and theologian that he was hundreds of years ago.

When I first ran across this quote, it struck me as one of the most profound statements I had ever read.  Years later I still feel that way.  At the risk of making everyone who reads this mad, I have a little thought or two on the rancor with which our public dialogues are currently conducted.  What ever happened to "civil discourse"?
Extremism threatens the very foundations of our society today, both on the left and the right.  I am conservative by nature and temperament, as well as regarding social and financial "positions".

Nevertheless, I cringe as I listen to the strident and often arrogant tone taken by those on the social and political right.  I may agree with their basic premise in many cases, but I strongly disagree with the manner in which they put their case forward.

The liberals, on the other hand, spout "relative values" while rejecting that there is any such thing as an absolute.  And they often espouse a general "redistribution of societal wealth" in a manner that smacks of some of the cultures that have been soundly rejected by those whose governments forced such systems upon them for decades.

While I do not have any great wealth threatened by "social redistribution", I would like to keep most of what I have, and personally decide when and where to give some of it away.

What is a reasonable, responsible, interested, moderate person supposed to do?  It is hard to know, and there likely is no one right answer.  But there must exist some correct clues.

Here are two or three "clues" that I believe have merit, in how to take a stand on issues without, however well intended,  becoming a raving lunatic.

1.  Be well informed - know what you are talking about, before you speak.
        Uninformed opinions are a lot like a 3-day old sandwich:         
        ingesting them can be dangerous, and they generally stink
        up the place.  (I'm just saying...)

2.  Allow for the possibility that the other side may have at least one or two valid points in their argument, even if you largely disagree with their overall premise.
          Remember Erma Bombeck's "The Grass Is Always Greener
          Over the Septic Tank"?  Even a rancid area may have a wild
          flower or two growing in it that may be worth a second look.

3.  Put forward your belief, opinion, or position based upon facts, and conviction, not upon sarcasm, or personal attacks upon those who disagree with you.  (In debate rhetoric they call these "ad hominem" attacks.  Basically scoring an unfair low-blow.)

There are so many current examples of bad manners in public discourse that it is difficult to choose just one or two to use as reference points.

One East coast governor was derided for his political opinions based almost exclusively upon the fact that he was fat.  He is a savvy, sharp-minded, thinker who doesn't mind throwing a few sharp elbows himself, and I may agree or disagree with his opinions.  But I hardly think the number his scale registers is a relevant data point, unless he is applying to be a spokesperson for Weight Watchers.

Another fellow has written a N.Y. Times best-seller espousing universalism, that is the doctrine that a literal hell has been misunderstood and misapplied for generations, and that God's love is going to save everyone.  People are taking out ads, pastors have been fired for voicing an opinion on the book, and folks are generally ready to take up pitchforks over this guy.

Excuse me, but the idea of universalism has been around for hundreds of years,  and most of us conservative evangelicals already know where we stand on the issue.  So, please, could we all just calm down?

Well, that is my little offering (some might call it a diatribe, but I hope you won't) for the day.  Wishing you all a day full of spring sunshine.  ...Marsha

Friday, April 1, 2011

Turning Darkness Into Light

Saint Matthew, an Illuminated Manuscript Page from the Book of Kells, 8th or 9th Century Ad Giclee Print
Several years ago we took a trip to Italy and the first part of the journey was one of those "logistical nightmares" that every traveler experiences from time to time.  At our age, you either learn from your mistakes, or you sincerely wish you had.  We learned.

Thus, when planning our trip to the Emerald Isle, I made sure that we made the trip in stages, and we arrived in Dublin a full day and a half before the tour was to actually begin.  After sleeping off our jet lag, we set out to explore the city. 

We hopped a bus and went down to Trinity College, the oldest one in Ireland, to view an exhibit called The Book of Kells, Turning Darkness Into Light.  We were so glad we did.


This exhibit displays beautifully illuminated manuscripts written around the year 800 AD, and is essentially a copy of each of the four gospels, copied meticulously by Irish monks at a time when many such copies were being destroyed in Europe during what came to be called the Dark Ages. (Hence, they were turning darkness into the light of the gospel.)

After viewing these wonderful artifacts, we proceeded into a part of the college called "The Long Room" - so named because it is 65 meters long.  It is a library with wall to wall books on both sides of the hall, stretching from floor to ceilings approximately twenty feet high.  I had never seen so many books in one room in my life.

But (much like the late-night commercials) wait...there's more!  There were busts of Milton, Locke and many others.  And there was an original of the Irish constitution.

And then, in the middle of all this, we came to, what was for me, one of the most wonderful items of all.  It was an ancient harp.

It was a simple instrument, much like the one
pictured at the right.  But it was very old, in fact, it
was considered to be the oldest harp in Ireland.

There are only three instruments considered to
be native to the Irish, and the harp is one of

As I pondered their history, so rife with suffering, war, famine, and deprivation, I thought how fitting that the harp, with its hauntingly lovely music, is one of their native instruments. 

In the Psalms (137:1-4) the Israelites hung their harps on willows (or poplars, depending upon which version you are reading) and declined to sing the songs of Zion while in captivity to Babylon.

The Irish we met were friendly, cheerful, welcoming people, who are keenly aware of their country's sorrows, but who have overcome those times to become who they are today.

This reminded me of another verse, Revelation 14:2:

"And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder.  The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.  And they sang a new song before the throne ... ."

Like many of you, David and I have known times when we wondered whether there would ever come a time of joy again.  As you can see from the picture of us above, this trip was a real joy.

But there is another "trip" , the journey of life, and while we may sometimes feel that we are captive to life's heartaches, and must hang up our harps for the time being, there will come a time for all who believe, when we will take up our harps in that great, joyful celebration before the throne of the Lamb!

Vacations can be wonderful.  But our permanent home with our Creator, will be better than we can possibly imagine.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)
Until next time - God bless you ...Marsha