October 1st is the anniversary of Yosemite National Park, Stanford University, Ford’s Model T, People’s Republic of China, Disney World and the first CD player.
Sadly, it will also be remembered for the deadliest-ever mass shooting in modern U.S. history. At this writing some 60 lives were snuffed out by a lone lunatic who showered a concert crowd with a blizzard of bullets. More than 500 are hospitalized, many of whom may never make it home again.
Couldn’t an all-powerful God have prevented this? What kind of sinister monster or twisted worldview inflicted this horror?
One of God’s chief spokespeople, Paul, put it this way. “We’re not fighting against human beings but against wicked, spiritual forces.” Namely, Satan and his demonic angels. That said, Paul advises us to put on the armor that only an all-wise, loving God gives us to ward off the enemy’s attacks.
October 1st is also the day in 1957 when “In God We Trust” first appeared on our U.S. currency. Because what happened in Las Vegas won’t stay in Las Vegas, in whom or what are you placing your trust?
Millions of Americans are heartbroken, trying to rebuild their lives after being ravaged by hurricanes and flooding. Meanwhile, Seattle just ended a 55-day dry spell. If only it could’ve given Texas, Louisiana and Florida a few of those days. But there must have been a different plan.
Just as a loving, mature parent does not shield his/her child from every painful experience, the God who loves us and gave us the gift of making our own choices will sometimes, in His wisdom, allow what He, with His power, could prevent.
Some 4,500 years ago, after rain had fallen for 40 days with no let up, causing a worldwide flood that lasted 12 months and 11 days, God told an ancient mariner named Noah, “Never again will all living beings be destroyed by a flood … As a sign of this everlasting promise, I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds.”
Despite hurricane-caused calamities, many who felt their blows have now chosen to trust Jesus Christ who promised to walk with His followers through every valley. He who turns heaven’s faucets on and off truly is our only Hope. He knows your name, has crazy-love for you and wants to have an intimate relationship with you forever!
Just think, before we had words to represent things, people had to sit out in front of their caves at night and dream them up.
FRED: “Hey, Wilma, what’s a word for those round things on my footmobile?
WILMA: Fred, if you wouldn’t spend so much time with your crossword puzzles, we’d have more words to help us talk to each other.”
As a word, automne crossed the Channel from France, coming ashore ‘neath Dover’s cliffs where it changed its spelling to autumn. Fall is shorthand for “the fall of the leaf.” The Old English feallan meant “to fall” or “to die.”
This is the season when, if we’ve planned wisely, we’ll enjoy a plentiful harvest. Our Creator said you must plant a seed in the ground and let it die if you want to produce many new kernels. If you don’t, it will end up as one, lonely, dead seed. He should know. He chose to die in your place. Do you know the word for that?
From Vancouver Island to California, this captivating evergreen is easily identified by its silky-smooth, luxuriant, orange-red bark. The no-two-alike, curvaceous madrona sprouts bell-like flowers in spring. In autumn its red berries tantalize birds, bears and Beatles.
Wrapped in papery bark that peels and dangles in long, curling strips, madronas hug the shores of the Strait of Georgia, the San Juans and the untamed coastline of Washington, Oregon and California. This gnarly but elegant specimen appears poised to leap from rocky outcroppings, brazenly daring Pacific storms to wrench it from its roots.
History’s most famous songwriter promised that those who take time to know God are like trees that bear fruit, prosper in life and never wither. Exercising their personal freedom, those who do not choose this path, he says, are like chaff, scattered by the wind.
Is this really such a difficult choice: to be a healthy, fruitful tree or one whose roots are perilously not anchored to its Creator?
It’s the season for sun and fun … top down, radio cranked, wind in your face, one-arming the steering wheel, doing your best “Lovin’ Spoonful” to the twangs of “Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck gettin’ dirty ‘n’ gritty.” The only cool relief nearby is the chilly waters of the lake. Slip into your ski. Grab a John Deere inner tube. Ahhh, that was “the life.”
King Solomon tells us, “As cold waters for a weary soul, so is a good report from a far country.” The cold facts are, today we get few good reports from anywhere.
An ancient hymn writer described a desirable mindset: “He is not afraid of receiving bad news; his faith is strong, and he trusts in the Lord.” Solomon adds, “You will not be afraid when you go to bed, and you will sleep soundly through the night.”
To sleep soundly tonight, will you rely on Mr. Pillow, a cooling swim, or will you be trusting in the Lord?
Christmas Day 1896. J.P. Sousa is aboard the S.S. Teutonic, returning from a European holiday with his wife. In his day he is America’s musical superstar, part Bernstein and part Beatles. Before disembarking he writes the melody that will become America’s “official march” -- the most popular march ever written.
As we reflect on our nation’s independence, many are marching to drummers of discord. Character assassination fouls the air like a gagging smog. Friendships dissolve in partisan rage. Love of country and respect for authority are endangered species. “Stars and Stripes Forever” is being replaced by Scars and Snipes forever.
Paul’s counsel is worth recalling: “There is no need to write you about love for each other. You have been taught by God how you should love one another. … Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living. … In this way you will win the respect of those who are not believers, and you will not have to depend on anyone for what you need.”
Could this be the life that our pilgrim ancestors and Sousa had in mind?
It’s graduation season -- time to dole out diplomas, time to “commence.” To earn that tassel for your rear view mirror. Posing for pictures with family. Exchanging tearful hugs with fast friends never to be seen again.
In 1905 “Pomp and Circumstance” was performed as its composer, Sir Edward Elgar, received an honorary Yale degree. Annapolis grads first tossed mortarboards aloft in 1912.
Graduation ceremonies began at 12th century universities where scholars spoke Latin, thus “degree” and “graduate” come from gradus which means “step.”
What steps have you taken since you left those ivy-covered walls? Where have they taken you? On what or whom have you relied to take those steps, or have you been your only counsel?
Israel’s aging King David wrote, “The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take.” Isn’t it astonishing that the steps you take today can make God smile?
Beginning in the weeks following the Civil War, the simple act of placing flowers on American soldiers’ graves birthed a national observance. The purpose was to honor the 620,000 who gave their lives for freedom. Memorial Day features parades in small towns and big cities the last Monday of May. Why then? Flowers are blooming their best by this unofficial beginning of summer.
The intervening 150 years have seen the tribute to our war dead slip from a snappy salute to a nonchalant nod. Respect for our military has taken a severe hit.
Two millennia ago crowds lined the streets of their capital to toss petals at a parade. All eyes were on a donkey-borne carpenter from a backwater village. The rider was a miracle-working, children-loving rebel whose mission was to set mankind free.
Later that week the mob turned on Him, sending their would-be king to a cross. No need to bring flowers to His tomb. He’s not there.
Surely, as a child you played “Mother, may I.” In this instance may is a request for permission. “Tomorrow it may be sunny.” May suggests a possibility. “May is a bright student.” May can be a name. “April showers …. They bring the flowers that bloom in May.” Now it’s the merry, merry month!
Some words have multiple meanings. Reliable communications requires a careful choice of words that are clearly understood. It’s significant that our Creator referred to Himself as “The Word.” “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. And the Word was God.”
Jesus came to earth to communicate to us what His Father is like. Have you welcomed Him into your life? If not, just say the Word.