Since the dawn of time, or since I was a little boy- whichever is longer, I can remember being told that too much of a good thing would be bad for me. I could not understand if something was good, how then could too much good be bad? Of course, my early onset selective memory conveniently misplaced the upset stomach that resulted from a solo attack on a quart of chocolate ice cream; or the burned back and shoulders suffered from not slathering on DP 45 sunscreen at the beach. Still, how could anyone have too many Legos, too many marbles, or enough video games? Our backyard pool could have been bigger, my bedroom was certainly not roomy, and my closet was just too small to be clean.
“Here it is,” Johnny would scream from the front of the column, “I found the bread crumb!” Of course, ants don’t really scream because they don’t even talk, but if any could, Johnny would be the first. Each morning Johnny would set out from the colony in search of nourishment, because there were 40,000 ants to feed and it was Johnny’s job, along with 39,998 other ants, to find the food for the day. Johnny took his responsibility to his family and friends seriously.
I lived through another night. Funny, just a few years ago not living for any reason wasn’t something that I considered. Now, with all that has happened over the last 24 months, just being alive is a miracle. Although what I am doing isn’t really living…it is existing until I don’t anymore. If this journal survives, maybe it will help someone smarter than I am understand what has happened. I am not really sure.
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.
Most of us try to be first; first in that “over 40 year old 5K race,” first to get the promotion, first in line at the theater, first on line to buy concert tickets, first to get the view of the morning sunrise, first in your college graduating class, or first to get control of the TV remote. Being first has been a preoccupation with humankind, from the beginning of the Olympic games where we proved who was best at some sport, to the first to file a patent so we can lay claim to ownership of a design or idea. It is a natural human condition to want to be first, with a few notable exceptions: the first to die, the first to pay taxes, the first to sin. The reasoning behind not wanting to die first is obvious, and no one enjoys paying taxes so why do it first? To sin is to willingly separate from God, so why be first at something so bad? The initial sin is almost expected, because we all fall short of perfection, but the second sin is by choice – after observing or doing it once, we with full knowledge do it again. So maybe, it is better to be the first sinner, rather than the second. Perhaps the first sin is not the worst, but it is the second sin that we all must avoid.
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.
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?
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.