Last night was a long one for Bill; too little to eat, too much to drink and way too little sleep. The alarm only accentuated his pounding headache, so knocking the clock on to the floor of the hotel room seemed a fair exchange for waking him this early. Rolling out of bed, Bill walked, in not so much of a straight line, to the bathroom. What he saw in the mirror was not a pretty sight; although the mirror had been cruel to him for many years now, so he should have expected nothing less. Before washing his face Bill looked at his reflection in the mirror. The bloodshot eyes were no surprise; most mornings were met with varying shades of red surrounding black pupils. His once thick, black hair was thinning across the top and offered more grey than black. The sagging bags under his eyes were pronounced, looking like a wave of exhaustion pulling down his face. There is a crooked scar just under his right eye, a reminder of falling asleep while driving home late one night from somewhere that he should not have been. The morning beard is a staggered mixture of white and black. Why did the architect of this hotel make the mirrors so big? There was nothing here Bill wanted to see.
To love us
To guide us
To help us
To mentor us
To be our Father
To support us
To fulfill His dreams for us
To calm our fears
To give peace to our anger
To sacrifice Himself first
We need to have goals and dreams, for ourselves, family and friends; it is a vital part of being human that God placed in each of us. We need jobs, homes, vacations, food, transportation, clothing, value, friendship: all off these things are also a part of life. First though, before all else – we need God. He needs us, too.
Thanks for reading.
Is it just me, or does the world want more out of us, but continues to offer less in return? Are we paying more for what was a free service only a few years ago? Flying is a perfect example of the negative change in the cost to value relationship of so many services or products we use. Flying used to be a luxurious form of transportation: good food, free movies, and big suitcases – a pampered existence for a few exciting hours. Now, you pay extra to bring clothes to your destination, unless you can squeeze them into a lunchbox sized carryon; if you are hungry, then bring your own food, and if you want entertainment, bring a credit card. The cost is up and the value is down. When I was young, ice cream was sold in a 4-quart container; we called it a gallon of ice cream. Now, since the makers of the ice cream have grown weary of raising prices, they have decreased the amount sold to 3.5 quarts. Since when is 3.5 quarts equal to a gallon? Everywhere, we are asked to pay more, and offered less in return – except in our transactions with God. His cost has stayed the same, and His value has not tarnished. His gifts are free and the value is immeasurable. Yet, even with a cost to value relationship so tilted in our favor, the darkness in this world wins too often, so we believers need to do more. The amount of pain, sickness, and hurt; the abandonment of all things Christian by governments big and small, and the stress of living in uncertain economic and political times, calls us to do more. We, who believe in God, must dig deeper to help those who do not know how, or where to dig. We need to sharpen our spoons.
Once upon a time, in a land not very far away there was a small town, nestled in brown rolling hills and oak trees, inhabited with mostly happy people who got along with each other and with neighboring cities. Gardens were planted, golf was played, churches attended, businesses thrived, and many a feast was eaten; that is until the day of the great let down. On that day the banks, money changers, manipulators, and Federal Regulators let everyone down: and so the Great Recession began. Every town had lived through recessions in the past, but nothing had been seen in decades like the Great Recession. Where once flowers had grown on the land between the lanes of traffic now stood people with cardboard signs asking for work or food. Stores, restaurants and shops all over the land closed their doors, leaving many people without a way to care for their family. When people could not pay their mortgage, the same banks from the great let down threw the people to the street. Families cried, asking their leaders for help.
There is a point on the two lane highway as you enter the Napa Valley where the horizon is filled with vineyards that stretch outward across the valley floor and then sweep upward as high as the hills will allow. The only break in the perfectly aligned rows is an occasional family home, almost always two story and white, with a wide porch encircling the house, or clump of oaks majestically watching over the vines. During summer the view becomes a sea of green, balanced by the alternating red lines of soil; but as autumn arrives a mosaic of red, yellow, and orange attack your senses in a vibrant mosaic of nature. I see a small sign placed at the entrance to a dirt road leading to the white house that reads, “Drive slow – grapes at play.” I think there is more truth to the sign than we know.
Lynn (Mom) walked from the kitchen, where she was making breakfast, to the landing midway up the stairs, “They are in your top drawer on the right side, with all your other socks -same place that they have been for the last four years; and remember the rule of not shouting in the house?”
“Yes Mom, thank you.” ‘You’ was drawn out in typical adolescence overkill. Kallie was the middle child in this busy household.
This German folk tune, later sung by a host of musicians including Peter, Paul, and Mary, asks a very good question in its title; “Where have all the flowers gone?” Throughout the song, the songwriter misplaces a multitude of people and things – I used to sing this song in my eighth grade German class. Listening to the tune brought back a memory of the last time I “lost” my keys. All of us have lost our keys, books, wallet or purse, only to find the missing artifact in some obvious place a few moments, or hours later. We are amazed to think that we could have overlooked during our frantic search a set of keys sitting on the kitchen table. Could the keys have become invisible for two hours, and then just reappeared? Is there a wormhole to a distant universe in my kitchen? Or maybe, when we lose, or temporarily misplace something, it is because we have forgotten where ‘it’ came from and how to find ‘it’ once it has become missing?
It appears to me that life, nature, and dice always arrive in polar opposite pairs; not always, but often enough. If I throw a pair of dice, I invariably get a six and a one. If I get a raise at work, the transmission in my car blows up, thus nullifying any potential extra money I may have planned on. Often the opposites are not equal in strength; a big positive is only partially offset by a minor negative, or vice versa – so equality in a specific event is not a given. This concept helps me understand the optimists and pessimists of this world; optimists believe life will be driven by more wining pairs than losers, and pessimists favor the opposite. However you view the world, your glass is rarely empty or completely full, it is somewhere in between. The trick to living a happy and fulfilling life then, is to manage the level in the glass.
The first thing that I noticed was his eyes; piercingly intense, visible even through the thick brown hair that was wet with sweat and had intermingled stains of red. Those eyes could have been wild with anger, or hate, we would have understood, but instead they were sincere, full of compassion and knowing. His eyes were kind – even today.
He was kneeling in thick dirt, dried mud from sweat and blood covered his hands to the elbow; his feet and calves were equally stained. The crowd roared with approval when the soldier raised the whip high to the sky. He yelled for the beaten man to “get up now.” Idiot. Didn’t he know that whipping a hurt man will not make him move any faster? I wanted to look away because he was my friend, my master, but I could not. The whip came down hard; his cry was muted by the force of the approving mob. He had been beaten, but he wasn’t beat. He moved his right foot slowly, dragging upward to a kneeling position. The cross was balanced on his right shoulder, with the cross member in front just past his knee and the end reaching ten feet behind. Weighing 200 pounds, it was a massive killing staff designed with only one purpose. The crowd continued screaming for more, hoping for another blow from the guard. But the guard was tired from a long night, so he rested, hoping for selfish reasons that the prisoner would stand up soon.
Dreams are a fickle animal. Not the dreams we have while sleeping, although the two can definitely be related, but the dreams we have for our future, or that of a spouse or child. Dreams are the building blocks of the road that goes up; they’re the yellow bricks that lead to a sunset over a flower filled hill. Dreams sustain hope, and draw our lips to smile when the circumstances that surround us would dictate otherwise. A house, a new car, a college diploma, a promotion; these are common dreams, but so are peace, serenity, contentment, belonging, acceptance, and love. The fulfillment of some dreams then can be seen and touched, being made of wood, stone and steel. Other dreams are as ghosts, invisible to the eye, but real to the heart and mind. Hard as a rock or light as air, dreams are a powerful creator of emotions, turning light into darkness, and back again as quickly as a thought. The importance of having and holding a dream in the context of a full life cannot be overvalued, so then dreams must be carefully constructed and stored in a fortified space, protected from the harsh elements of today.