“The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” This is Fort McHenry in 1814. Sadly, this also describes devilish acts in today’s Baltimore, Ferguson, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Columbus, the Middle East, Munich, Nice, Paris, Brussels and too many more.
When asked, “What will happen to show that it’s the time for Your coming and the end of the age,” Jesus replied, “You’ll hear the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away; but do not be troubled. Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come. Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be famines and earthquakes everywhere. … When that day will come, the Father alone knows. … So then, you must always be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting Him.”
He came first at Christmas. He promised to return. Ready? Or not?
The only piano instrumental to hit Billboard’s #1 spot is Roger Williams’ 1955 chart-topper, “Autumn Leaves.” It “covered” the 1945 original, a French song entitled “Les Feuilles Mortes” (literally, “The Dead Leaves”).
Autumn splashes us with a palette of warm, earthy tones, easing the transition from summer’s scorching colors. But all too soon autumn leaves. Trees that proudly modeled fall’s finery are stripped of their moment in the sun, now barely a memory.
Our lives parallel nature’s predictable pattern. A seedling bursts forth into a bud that blossoms into its role in life’s bouquet. Then comes the chill of the next cycle, graying the landscape. Finally, the helpless leaf drifts to the soil below.
Our Creator’s half-brother James writes, “You don’t even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke which appears for a moment and then disappears. What you should say is this: ‘If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.’”
On the face of it the event we celebrate on October 31st seems innocent. Parents and their kiddos get to act silly together, visit neighbors they avoid the rest of the year, and spend an evening not staring at the tube. All good stuff, right?
Oh, but the flip side is the risk taken by little goblins dashing across streets without looking, bagging a million calories, knocking on the doors of total strangers, damage done by pranksters’ “tricks,” and the emphasis on the devilish and weird.
Come to think of it, the mask is an appropo symbol for Halloween. Whether worn by fun-seeking children or looting protestors, it hides one’s identity. Deception was the first tripwire that soiled our paradise-planet. The Carpenter from Nazareth warned, “Don’t fall prey to deception.”
Sixty miles west of Seattle the Olympic Mountains get soaked with almost 17 feet of precipitation a year. About 10 miles from there at sea level the sun-drenched village of Sequim logs a mere 16 inches. After massive weather systems from the Pacific dump their dampness in the higher elevations, there’s little left for those who live in the “rain shadow.” But they can choose to travel from arid to fluid in no time.
Two thousand years ago God walked the dusty roads of today’s Israel. He told a woman who’d come to a well for water, “Those who drink this water (from the well) will get thirsty again, but those who drink the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life.”
If your soul is parched and nothing seems to slake your spiritual thirst, it’s time to step out of the shadows of doubt and, by faith, tap into the Water of Life that never runs dry.
Two of our grandchildren and I just spent an afternoon with one of the world’s top composers of music for TV and film. After thirty-seven years in Los Angeles he and his wife are back in the Northwest. His state-of-the-art recording studios sit amidst twenty-three, densely treed acres of old growth timber.
Having worked with the best in the business, he’s traded Burbank for the backwoods, yet the world still beats a rhythmic path to his door.
Not talent, but putting in endless hours of practice and performance is his recipe for renown. Paul the apostle adds this important perspective: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Like sand sifting through your fingers, summer is too quickly making its annual migration to the southern hemisphere. Our planet is streaking through space at 67,000 mph, yet it seems we’re standing still.
Each of us, tortoises and hares alike, wants to make the most of life’s journey. Some do so in the spotlight while others play valuable roles backstage. Our Creator plays no favorites. He loves all of us equally.
The clearest evidence of that is the cross on which He sacrificed His life to pay sin’s penalty for every person of every station in life. A no-strings gift that’s ours for the taking. He’s bigger than the trackless universe, yet intimate enough to know your name.
“God the Father made God the Son, Jesus Christ, who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Christ we might become right with God.”
Sometimes the most curious object captures your fancy for seemingly no good reason. Tugboats do that for me! Plodding up and down the pacific waters of Puget Sound, they silently maneuver vessels outrageously disproportional to their size. Their captains expertly navigate crowded harbors and narrow canals, steering clumsy barges and skyscraping container ships safely in and out of harbor.
Describing the power of the human tongue, Jesus’ brother James writes, “(Although ships) are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.”
Will the words from our tongues today bring refreshment and hope to others? Who’s piloting your ship? Is He the one whose “Be still!” calmed the storm?
Do you have a “cousin Vivian?” Mine has tamed the English language to do her bidding. Words muscle their way to cut in line, vying to be chosen by her. She recently relayed this pithy premise:
“Things are not falling apart. They are falling into place!”
That’s actually the title of a book I have not read. But it makes perfect sense to those whose faith is in a loving and just God. When your emotional footing crumbles, let these words from Paul replenish your hope deficit:
“If God is for us, who can be against us? … nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.”
Don’t you wish you had a cousin Vivian to toss you a lifeline when you need it most?
Ever heard of someone being “hard of walking?” Or “hard of thinking?” “Hard of ______” has for five centuries been used to mean “having difficulty doing something.” Aging can make us “hard of hearing.” An estimated 37.5 million Americans are experiencing hearing loss. Very few use devices to mitigate their loss.
Stephen Covey writes, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Ernest Hemingway adds, “Most people never listen.”
The Good Shepherd tells us, “"I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me….” As a result, we read, “They follow Him because they know His voice.” One wonders if sheep experience hearing loss. Or if they heed an impostor.
Truth is … “They won't follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don't know his voice." Many voices are cued up to distract us from hearing our Good Shepherd. Their distraction, if surrendered to, can be our destruction.