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.
A few days ago an adventurous, two-year-old slipped unnoticed out of his daycare facility in a neighboring town. Unescorted, he ambled over to a busy road where an alert motorist spotted the lad and returned him to a much-relieved search party. His mother told reporters she was sure the driver had saved her baby’s life.
We adults are prone to wander off on our own at times, often arriving in harm’s way. “Like sheep without a shepherd” is one simile used in the Bible to describe a life lived apart from God’s watchful care. “All we like sheep have gone astray.”
So, have you placed your destiny In the strong, loving arms of the Good Shepherd?
Springtime in Seattle is a sight for sore, soggy eyes. The dark drapery of evergreens backdrops an outburst of reds, pinks, yellows, whites, lavenders and blues. Gardeners and passersby exchange smiles as they ogle radiant “rhodies,” dazzling azaleas, Japanese cherry blossoms and a rainbow of early-riser forsythia and magnolias. These eye-popping, fragrant, new flora are welcomed by choruses of returning robins and other Canada-bound frequent flyers.
Interesting that our Creator unveiled His artistic, floral gift in a garden and referred to Himself as “the Rose of Sharon” and the “Lily of the Valley.” Roses are admired universally; lilies are praised for their purity. Those who love and follow this Rose are themselves a multi-colored bouquet, plucked from diverse soils of sin and made pure in God’s sight by His grace and their faith.
This heavenly Rose and Lily invites you to come back to the garden, choose to root your life in Him, then bloom where you’re planted.
I brain-cramp when Daylight Savings Time rolls around. What does “spring forward” mean? It’s supposed to give us an added hour of sunlight, especially welcome in a cloudy clime. But isn’t that stealing an hour from darkness? So much for eight hours of sleep. And, by the way, which clocks reset automatically for DST?
In the very, very beginning we read, “Then God commanded, ‘Let there be light’ – and light appeared. God was pleased with what He saw. Then He separated light from darkness, and He named the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night.’ Evening passed and morning came – that was the first day.”
Could it be any simpler? It seems that anytime we add the human element, confusion is the result. The Creator Himself, in whose image we all were made, called His followers “the Light of the world.”
In light of that, are you ready to spring forward?
What’s your recipe for achieving world peace? What are the tools at your disposal?
There’s human intelligence, common courtesy, goodwill, compassion, fear, government, diplomacy, espionage, sanctions, arms build-up, intimidation, anarchy, combat, terrorism, peaceful demonstration, rioting, insurgency, pacifism, media, commerce, labor, alliances, religion, academia, the lessons of history, et al.
We’re groping to find a formula for harmony that works for everybody. Perhaps our expectations are unrealistic. Is this as good as it gets?
Maybe you recall Tony Bennett singing, “If I ruled the world, every man would say the world was his friend. There’d be happiness that no man could end. No, my friend, not if I ruled the world. Every head would be held up high. There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky. If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world.”
Even if each of us could take a crack at ruling the world, we’d all fail. There’s only one “Prince of Peace.” When He was here 2,000 years ago, He said there would be no peace until He returns. Nailed to a cross, He made peace with you by name.
Some say Robert Frost’s poetic piece de resistance of 1916 may be “the most popular piece of literature ever written by an American.” You may recall how The Road Not Taken ends:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
This year you’ll come to a fork where two or more choices will present themselves arrayed in all their tempting colors. How will you choose which to take? What will be the outcome? Whom will it affect? Can you live with the results? Why so?
King Solomon’s counsel may be the one least taken, albeit the wisest:
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
That next fork is just ahead. Which way are you leaning?
Which of these ad headlines is more appealing: “Free Worries” or “Worry-Free?”
The New Testament’s most prolific writer says it’s possible to have no anxiety! Think of all the time that would free up for you.
When you place your life in the hands of the One who made you and loves you with no strings, He guarantees to convert all that happens to you to your advantage! With that truth tucked under your wing, you can tell the Lord all your cares, then relax and enjoy His supernatural peace. Paul’s advice is “Don’t sweat anything!”