Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mourning: Better Than Joy: Eccl. 7: 2-4

English: The Bible
English: The Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When love came knocking shortly after I got saved, I worried I would make the same mistakes I made when I had married. That relationship proved damaging to who I was as a human, so I prayed that God would shut every door He needed if He did not want me with Harry.

Every door opened. So I let down my guard and allowed myself to love deeply. Then Harry broke off with me, and my world spun out of control. He claimed the cliche: it was him, not me. He wasn't ready for marriage. A week later he began dating a friend of mine.

We all attended the same church, so I had to hold no hard feelings against anyone, but this break-up hurt more than any I had previously--even my marriage.

So new was I at my faith, I understood nothing. I held my Bible in my hands, lifted my voice to God and said, "Lord, they tell me this book holds the key to every problem. If that's true, please open my eyes to Your word."

God answered that prayer abundantly. One thing that has stuck in my brain all these years was Eccl. 7:2-4

 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

  • In sorrow, we lean on God. Our joy, we attribute to ourselves.
  • In sorrow, we learn of our humanity--both its mortality as well as its dignity
  • In sorrow, we learn compassion and humility.
  • In sorrow, we know our lives end. If life is transient, we best make the most of it.
I can't say I magically made my pain to pass quickly. But the Word of God opened to me, and I found myself dancing around my apartment with joy uncontainable which mitigate my loss.

How have you found sorrow better than joy?

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eccl. 5:18: Love Life: Sew Simple

Fat Quarters Fabric August received
Fat Quarters Fabric August received (Photo credit: Follow the White Bunny)

"Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot" (Ecc. 5:18).

I used to love to sew. That is after I pinned the pattern and before I had to rip out seams. Picking the pattern, the material and seeing the dress form under my hands delighted me.

Oh, I could also do without the finishing.

Then one day it hit me. Why did I like sewing? Half of it I despised. I made the decision--to find joy in the minutiae of it. I strove to
lay it out perfectly. I sang as I ripped stitches and strove to make my finish work as fine as the broad strokes. Thus today's Scripture.

To enjoy life, we must:
  1. Find joy in the little things. Is it too cold? Look at the glittering frost, note it's beauty.
  2. Love our job. Some of us do "traditionally" great things--teach, nurse, police, protect. Others pull a lever, drive a truck, cash out customers. What's good in our job? It pays the rent or we get to work on the road away from the idiots in the office or we can chat with a wide variety of weirdos. Each job brings us joy.
  3. Enjoy our sustenance. We have homes. Maybe not million dollar ones with hardwood floors. But they keep us warmer than the elements. We have food. Steak may be too pricey, but who doesn't love pasta?
  4. Be grateful. We live. We feel the warmth of carpet on our toes, the embrace of a child, the fellowship of believers, the taste of olives, the kiss of a spouse, the sight of a sunrise, the touch of a breeze. We have electric, heat, water from a tap, vehicles, shelter.
  5. Fellowship is our Maker. Even those of us who know Him, fear our death. But in the end, eternity will wipe away all our tears--and if we truly know God, our moments here on earth are finer.
For what are you grateful?

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ecclesiastes 6:7: Be Happy in What You Have

The Lotto Powerball logo
The Lotto Powerball logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Eccl 6:7 All the labor of man is for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied.

Last night we had a mega-buck drawing for the lottery, and people lined up, knowing the odds, to have a chance for happiness.

I, too, considered it. For two bucks and billion-to-one chance, I could win half-a-billion dollars. But would it make me happy?

Oh, baby, yeah, says my soul.
Oh, Carol, no, says the preacher.

Look at previous lottery winners: Hurley from Lost?

Okay. Hurley, like the characters in my novels, is not real. But previous lottery winners have run into all sorts of unhappiness. This morning's paper ran an article about a homeless man who won a big lottery in Florida. He gave to many charities, was befriended by a "financial adviser" who eventually killed him.

And beyond this recent news maker, many lottery winners end up in despair. Why? I think the reason is obvious. If don't treasure what we already have, we'll never treasure what we gain. Happiness is not dependent on our status, rather on our state of mind. Which brings us back to Hurley. He'd never been happy to begin with.

Be happy in your life...or nothing could change it.
How could the lottery change your life?
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sacrifice of Fools: Guard Your Tongue

 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it" (Eccl 5:1-5).

The preacher asked for testimonies. The usual suspect raised his/her hand...and proceeded to ramble on about his/her striving prayer, dutiful petitions, unwavering faith. Thus the miraculous answer.

Someone volunteered to pray. Throughout the entire monologue we learned of the longsuffering of the petitioner.

A blogger types her influential exposé. For as much of the essay as you were able to read, she rambled on about herself--the quintessential example of whatever.

We've all heard the sacrifice of fools. And universally it repulses us. And across the board, each of us denies ever having offered this sacrifice.

It is better that we go near to listen rather than babble in our own name, for even a fool is considered wise when she/he holds his tongue (Prov. 17:28).

Two questions I ask of my readers: 1. How have you witnessed the sacrifice of fools?                   
2. How is wisdom found in silence?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Keep Company

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:25). NIV

 "It's better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth" (Eccl 4:9).THE MESSAGE

(Neil has my thumb of approval)

Sometimes I want to strangle my husband. Usually, that's when he: 1. climbs into bed at 11PM, snaps on the light, and slurps ice cream or 2. decides dinner has to meat and potatoes, not a vegetarian casserole like any good husband would adore.

But the old Ann Landers' question tells me, life is infinitely better off with him than without him. So, too, with friends and church family. They're not all as normal or talented or beautiful as we...but we need each other as much as wives need their husbands. How?

  1. Truth. You believe one thing, the "weird" congregant follows the "off-the-wall" ideology. The truth is probably in the middle. Neil is a United Methodist. I'm charismatic. Blend the two, and we live a well-balanced faith.
  2. Help. Sometimes we struggle--with our faith or our finances or family. With regular attendance and fellowship, people know our strengths, weaknesses and habits. They can give us a hand. When I run--I fall, sad but true. When I'm hurting Neil babies me. Cooks dinner, runs the vacuum and insists I go to the doctor's when things don't mend themselves.
  3. Companionship. We humans are pack animals. We need each other. Church offers pot lucks, after-service coffee and Bible studies. All are welcomed, and in continual fellowship, we see beyond our oddities to the strength of our characters. Sometimes I need my space, and when Neil says he's going some place, I rejoice. It never fails. I get anxious if he's gone too long. I want him here.
Treat your church like a cherished marriage. How does  your church meet your needs?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Goofy Gratitude

If, as Songs of Solomon says, it's the little foxes that spoil the grapes (2:15) , then it's the little perks that create a wonderful life.

Family and friends are counting down the days to Thanksgiving--thanking God for truly important and wonderful things. But as my family recovers from Sandy, as they pine for the big things: electric, heat, cooked food, I'm sure they've also missed the little things.

Here are my (not so) inconsequential little things that make life glorious:

  1.  Light switches. Flip it up--voila. Snap it down--all gone. I love light switches.
  2.  Remotes. I'm old enough that I remember getting off the couch, walking across the room, turning dials to change the station. Now I remain under covers, sprawled on the couch, channel surfing. (I actually do not know how to change the TV station without a remote).
  3.  Car chargers. (Some are more lucky than I; I only have two, many have more). In the aftermath of Sandy, people relied on their cars--not to get down the streets. Those were blocked with trees. But to charge their phones and Kindles and Ipads and laptops. Isn't it glorious we can ride in a car, read our ebooks and never lose power?
  4. Meat thermometers. Mine just broke and the new ones aren't very accurate. It's wonderful not to guess about that roast (especially with the price of roasts).
  5. Paper Books. Without power, the ereaders die and then what do you do without electricity, TV, radio, video games, Words with Friends or whatever else distracts us? A good old fashioned book doesn't need electric. And reading by candlelight. How romantic is that?
Silly--but makes living in this century so easy. As we count in gratitude, think about the little things we've come to depend upon. We'll find we're more blessed than we can imagine.

What silly thing makes you thankful?
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