313) Feelin’ Groovy

59th STREET BRIDGE SONG by Paul Simon

Hear the song performed in concert at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJBhdKrwTOc&feature=kp

Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last
Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy… Feeling groovy…
Hello lamp-post, what’s cha knowing, I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me, do-it-do-do, feelin’ groovy… Feeling groovy
I’ve got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy…

     59th Street Bridge Song was written by Paul Simon in 1966 and released on the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme album by Simon and Garfunkel.  “Life I love you,” they sing joyfully, and it is easy to like this song.  Granted, we all have those good days when “all is groovy,” and also some bad days when we’d rather sing like the Eurogliders “I don’t want to live here anymore” (see Meditation #310); but for the most part, we do want to keep positive and upbeat about life, and this is certainly an upbeat song.

     I get tired of all the pain, trouble, tragedy, worry, fear, misunderstanding, frustration, mistakes, illnesses, and regrets of this life.  And when this feeble life is over, I won’t regret leaving this ‘vale of tears,’ as the old preachers used to call it.  But I do love God’s gift of life!  This ‘vale of tears’ is not what God intended, and if God invites me to eternal life in a perfect home, I want to take him up on it.  God offers in heaven a restoration of life as he intended it to be, and I am interested.  If he is so gracious as to want me there, why would I not want to hear about it?  I do not understand the casual disinterest of someone like Clint Eastwood (Meditation #311 and #312).

     I am not as brave in the face of death as Blood, Sweat, and Tears when they sang “I‘m not scared of dying and I don’t really care” (See Meditation #298).  I do love this life God has given me, and I do care about its end, and, about what comes next.  Even if this world is a ‘vale of tears,’ it is still also a ‘wonderful world’ as Louie Armstrong used to sing; and if God has an even better one prepared for me, I want to be there.

Life, I love you.  –Paul Simon

Because I live, you also shall live.  –Jesus

Listen to Louie Armstrong sing “What a Wonderful World:”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5TwT69i1lU

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Genesis 1:31a  —   God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. 

Psalm 24:1  —  The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Revelation 21:1a… 3-4  —  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… , and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

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 O Creator of all things that are,

I lift up my heart in gratitude to Thee for this day’s happiness:
For the mere joy of living,
For all the sights and sounds around me,
For the sweet peace of the country and the pleasant bustle of the town,
For all things bright and beautiful,
For friendship and good company,
For work to perform and the skill and strength to perform it,
For a time to play when the day’s work is done,
And for health and a glad heart to enjoy it.

Yet let me never think, O eternal Father, that I am here to stay.  Let me still remember that I am a stranger and pilgrim on this earth.  For here we have no continuing home, but we seek one to come.  Preserve me by Thy grace, good Lord, from so losing myself in the joys of earth that I may have no longing left for the purer joys of heaven.  Let not the happiness of this day become a snare to my too worldly heart.  And if, instead of happiness, I have today suffered any disappointment or defeat, if there has been sorrow where I hoped for joy, or sickness where I had looked for health, give me grace to accept it from Thy hand as a loving reminder that this is not my home.

I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast so set eternity within my heart that no earthly thing can ever satisfy me wholly.  I thank Thee that every present joy is so mixed with sadness and unrest as to lead my mind upwards to the contemplation of a more perfect blessedness.  And above all I thank Thee for the sure hope and promise of an endless life which Thou hast given me in the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

–John Baillie, Diary of Private Prayer

312) Feeling Sorry for Clint Eastwood (part two)

From a sermon / May 2011

     (…continued)  And so, I do feel sorry for Clint Eastwood.  You wouldn’t think anyone would need to feel sorry for him at all, with all that money, success, fame, and honor.  But as you well know, a man of his age is on the verge of leaving every bit of that behind.  I feel sorry for a man (or woman) 80 years old (or any age) who doesn’t know enough to give some thought to his or her eternal destiny.  Clint Eastwood is fast approaching that day when no strength of personality, no piercing gaze, no ‘magnum force’ or physical toughness will be any help to him.  He speaks of death with that same calm voice that he always used on the bad guys, and it sounds tough; but is that tough, or is that foolish?  He is about to enter a realm where tough won’t help, and smart won’t help, and awards won’t matter, and where all the fame, wealth, and success in this temporary little world will be of no value.

     Although I feel sorry for Clint Eastwood, I also envy him.  You see part of my job has always been to be a communicator and a teacher, and I have always done that in small settings.  So I get jealous of the huge platform that Clint Eastwood and all of Hollywood has to teach and to influence people; and I am saddened at how poorly that influence is so often used.  This movie has absolutely nothing to offer by way of hope in the face of that mostly hopeless of all human prospects, and yet, for many people, this is the most they will ever hear on the subject.

     I can’t make movies for the whole world to see, but I can talk to all of you folks here this morning, and I can tell you about something firm and solid and true and hopeful.  I can tell you about Jesus Christ who died and lived again.  And this was not ‘near’ death experience for a few minutes.  Jesus was dead-as-a-doornail dead– whipped, beaten, nailed to a cross, stabbed with a spear, dead, and buried for 36 hours.  Then, he came to life again.  Can you think of anyone else who has managed that?  For forty years I have had my antennas out.  Unlike Clint Eastwood I am interested in this, and there is nothing in world history or any other religion like the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  This is not a fairy tale and not a myth.  You can find a lot of myths, fairy tales, and legends about people back from the dead.  But the resurrection of Jesus Christ was an actual event in history that will stand up to historical investigation.  And not only has Jesus risen from the dead to show that it can be done, he has said that he will do that for you. 

     In John 14:19 Jesus said to his disciples:  “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; and because I live, you will live also.”  ‘We will live also,’ Jesus says.  Earlier in that same chapter he had said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms… and I am going there to prepare a place for you… and I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also… I am the way and the truth and the life.”

     I realized already when I was in college that this is big deal.  I was good at math back then, and I figured out one time that I was going to be dead a whole lot longer than I was going to be alive.  So if there was something in the hereafter to be gained, I wanted to know about it; and if there was something in the hereafter to be avoided, I wanted to know enough to avoid it; and if there was something I needed to be doing or believing now to help me in the hereafter, I wanted to be doing and believing that right now. 

     I had heard about Jesus.  I was raised in the church, and I knew about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but I needed to know if that was a true story.  I decided that if the story of Jesus Christ was not true, then I was not about to waste any part of my life on it.  But if it was true, and a person could die and live again, I wanted to know that, and believe in it, and place my hope for life and death in Jesus.  So for my first two years of college, along with my regular studies, I read every book I could get find on the resurrection of Christ, whether it argued for or against it, and I came to believe that Jesus did rise from the dead and the Christian faith is true.  And everything I have seen and read since then has only served to affirm and strengthen that belief.  We do not, like Clint Eastwood said, just have to ‘speculate along.’  We can look into the story of a man who died and came back from the dead, and who then promised that we too can live again.  I want to know that man.  This preaching, you see, isn’t just a job for me.  There is also my own eternal destiny at stake here, and I wouldn’t be spending my weekends in church if I didn’t believe the Bible was true.  But since it is true, and Jesus did rise from the dead, then there is no better place to be on a Sunday morning than in church worshipping this man who has won the victory over death and the grave. 

     In the movie Marie says, “I have been to that place beyond death where we are all one day going.  How can you not be interested in that?”  That is just a line in a movie, but Jesus did die and did return and did promise the same for all who believe in him.  Believing, he said, that is the key, believing in Him.  That is what the New Testament tells us again and again.  “For God so loved the world,“ says that best known Bible verse of all, “that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Shall not perish…  Have eternal life…  Why would anyone want to ignore so great a gift?  As Marie says in the movie, “How can anyone not be interested in this?”  One day soon you will need it.  Believe in Jesus and you will be all right. 

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John 14:1-4  —  (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.” 

John 14:5-6  —  Thomas said to him (Jesus), “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:19  —  (Jesus said), “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.”

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O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity:  Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  

Book of Common Prayer

311) Feeling Sorry for Clint Eastwood (part one)

From a sermon / May 2011

     Clint Eastwood is a really tough guy.  Just think of the hundreds of bad guys we’ve watched him kill or beat up over the last 50 years, and he hardly ever gets killed.  Of course, that’s just television and movies, but Clint Eastwood looks tough in real life, too.  He has that piercing gaze, and that calm, firm voice which is very intimidating.  Even at age 81 he looks lean and muscular and fit– and tough.  I don’t think that toughness is just an act, I think he really is a rough and tough guy.

     I heard a while back that at this point in his life Eastwood wants to be working only on movies that he believes in.  And so I was very interested last summer to hear that he was directing a movie on death and what happens to us then.  I wanted to see what Clint Eastwood believed about that, he being an old man now and no doubt wondering what might be in store for him after his own death.  The movie is called Hereafter.

     Part of the movie is about a young woman named Marie who has a near death experience.  She almost drowns, and is even given up for dead; and then, she unexpectedly comes to and survives.  But she had spent a few minutes on the verge of death.  She was well on her way to whatever comes next, and in that time she had a glimpse of the hereafter.  She was blinded by a bright light so it was hard to see clearly, but she did see people who had died, and she was overwhelmed with wonderful feelings of peace and contentment and well-being.  This is fictional movie, but this part of the story is written to reflect what has been reported by many people who have had near death experiences, and I am not one to automatically disregard those testimonies.

     This near death experience changes Marie.  She had been a top newscaster; skilled, successful, famous, wealthy, good-looking, with lots of friends and admirers.  But all of a sudden she did not care about all of that as much.  She was no longer driven to go after all the political controversies of the day or get all the dirt on the latest celebrity scandal.  She had been on the verge of death and had a brief glimpse of what comes next, and now she wants, more than anything else, to find out all she can about the hereafter.

     Marie wants to talk to other people about this, but they all think she is crazy.  No one in her circle of friends has any kind of faith in God or belief in life after death, and they are sure Marie’s experience was just in her imagination.  Marie asks her boyfriend, “What do you think happens when we die?”  He replies, “When you die, you die.  Lights out.  That’s it.”

     She then asks, “Don’t you think it is possible that there is something more?”  He replies firmly, “No, I do not.  If that were the case, someone would have discovered it by now and there would be proof.”  So Marie wonders if there might be some proof somewhere.  She begins to look for others who might have experienced what she had experienced.  If this movie was made 40 years ago, she maybe would have thought to look in the Bible.  But that isn’t where she looks.  She uses Google in her search for truth.  She does find others who also had glimpses of the hereafter, and she becomes convinced that life goes on.

     But still her friends are not interested, and Marie is frustrated by that.  She cannot understand their indifference.  At one point Marie is talking about the hereafter and says to a co-worker:  “It happened to me, Michael.  I saw it with my own eyes… where we are going… what we will experience… each and every one of us… and that doesn’t interest you!?”  But he just shrugs it off.

     The movie is great about asking the question of the hereafter, but then it offers little by way of an answer.  What it offers is a hodge-podge of near death experience stories, references to scientific research that is never described, a psychic who can communicate with the dead, and several slams at any religious answers to the question.  Jesus is mentioned only once, and that is in the words of a rather unappealing preacher on a you-tube video clip.  All references to the Christian faith are negative.  The tone of the movie is somewhat spiritual, but not tied to any particular faith.  God, who one would think might have something to say on the subject, is hardly mentioned.  And while the near death experiences described are pleasant, even Marie, at the end, is still not sure if what she experienced was real.  The movie tells an entertaining story, but that’s about it.  Although it effectively raises life’s biggest question, it offers nothing by way of any comforting or credible answers.

     I still wondered about Clint Eastwood’s own beliefs.  I found a few interviews he did about the movie, and those who talked to Eastwood were also interested in his views on the subject.  One journalist got right to the point by asking, “How much did doing this movie make you think about your own death?”  Clint Eastwood replied, “I didn’t think too much about it.  I was just making a movie.  I thought about the screenplay, but I didn’t apply it too much to myself.”  Another asked, “Were you inspired to do this because you are now 80 years old?” to which Eastwood nonchalantly replied, “No, I just liked the story.”  Still another asked, “Do you believe in the hereafter?” to which he replied, “I have no idea…  There is only one way to find out, and it’s not a good way, so you just have to speculate along.”

     I cannot imagine such indifference in the face of death.  How can a man be 80 years old and not even interested in giving a thought to what comes next?  He is, in fact, so uninterested that not even making a movie on the subject can get him thinking about it.  ‘There is no way of knowing,’ Eastwood said.  Has he never heard of the New Testament?  Does he not know that all kinds of people really do believe the Easter story of a man who rose from the dead?  Is that not even worth considering, not worth looking into, not even worth a comment?  Clint Eastwood will sometime in the not too distant future face death, he doesn’t have a clue as to what comes next, and he is perfectly content to leave it at that.  (… continued)

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Job 14:14a  —  If a man dies, will he live again?…

Ecclesiastes 7:2b  —  …Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.

Psalm  90:12  —  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

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Dear Lord, when our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance; but may we hand on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it.  And then, may our bodies return in peace to mother earth who for so long nourished them.  Amen.  –Walter Rauschenbusch

310) Heaven Must Be There

     Sigmund Freud in The Future of an Illusion argued that all religion is based on an illusion, and, that the nearly universal hope for some kind of life after death can easily be explained as wishful thinking and nothing more.  His argument was that people have always been afraid to die, and so as man evolved around the world, every culture invented gods, religions, and beliefs about eternal life as a way of dealing with this fear.  But now, says Freud, modern rational man can no longer hold to such illusions and will soon abandon them.

     C. S. Lewis had a much different approach to this.  Lewis was a brilliant professor at Oxford and Cambridge, and his towering intellect was respected by friend and foe alike.  He frequently debated other faculty members in both of those world renowned universities, and colleagues recall him losing only one debate.  C. S. Lewis was educated to think in a purely rational and logical way, and that led him at an early age to abandon his faith in God.  He remained an atheist until into his 30’s when with his strictly logical, but open mind, he took another look at Christianity.  After a long process of thought and study, he became a believer in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

     Lewis then spent a great deal of time explaining Christianity and responding to the many intellectual challenges to the faith.  He had a response to Freud’s dismissal of the religion as mere wish fulfillment.  Lewis asked a simple question: If all people everywhere wish for something, should that be viewed as proof that what is wished for is not there, or, is it perhaps proof that it is there?  In Mere Christianity Lewis wrote:

     The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  A baby feels hunger:  well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim:  well, there is such a thing as water.  Men feel sexual desire:  well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.

     This is just a small part of a much larger argument and it does not prove the truth of Christianity, but it certainly provides a powerful reply to Freud’s simplistic dismissal of the faith as mere wishful thinking. Wishful thinking? Of course! We wish for all kinds of things that we were created to need, and God has provided for those needs.

     In previous meditations I have described our longing for a better place, and, a place where we are not always running out of time.  I have referred to Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says that God has placed ‘eternity in our hearts.’  I described the Christian belief that this longing for a better place goes all the way back to creation itself, where the story says Adam and Eve were created to live in the perfect garden of Eden where they were free to eat from the tree of life and never die.   That is the perfection and eternity we were created for, and that is what is behind our longing for a better place with more time. 

     Today’s song describes this very thing.  It is not from the 60’s or 70’s, and is not nearly as well known as most of the others.  It’s called Heaven Must Be There and is from a 1984 album by the Eurogliders, an Australian group. The song rose to #2 in Australia and to #21 in America.  We have longings and desires that this world can never fulfill, so ‘heaven must be there,’ said C. S. Lewis and the Eurogliders.  The song gives a nice description of our heart’s deepest longings, and even has a reference to the Garden of Eden.  However, a Christian would not say “I don’t wanna live in this place.”  Rather, we can be grateful for God’s promise of the life to come, while still being grateful to God for the many blessings of this life and world.

HEAVEN MUST BE THERE  by the ‘Eurogliders’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHuAkiPVTj8

Oooooh! Ooh I want to find a better place
Oooooh! Ooh I’m searching for a better place
Oooooh! Ooh I’m tired of living in the sand
Oooooh! Ooh I’m searching for a better land

Heaven, must be there
Well, it’s just got to be there
I’ve never, never seen Eden
I don’t wanna live in this place

Oooooh! Ooh I’m always trying to escape
Oooooh! Ooh I never know which road to take

Oooooh! Ooh I want to find a better place…  I’m searching for a better place…

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Genesis 2:8  —  Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

Genesis 3:23-24  —  So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Ecclesiastes 3:11  —   He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

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Our heavenly Father, we pray that you would save us from every evil to body and soul, and that at our last hour you would mercifully take us from the troubles of this world to yourself in heaven; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

–Paraphrased from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism explanation to the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

309) Can’t Get No Satisfaction? (part three)

     Our dissatisfaction plays such a huge part in our sinfulness that when God gave the ten commandments, he made two of the ten about this very thing.   The prohibition against stealing gets only one commandment, and the commandment against taking the life of another gets only one commandment, and marriage is protected against unfaithfulness with just one commandment.  But God’s commands about our satisfaction or lack of it receive two commandments.  The opposite of being satisfied is coveting; and both the ninth and the tenth commandments forbid coveting.  

     The ninth commandment is “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,” and the tenth commandment is “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his servants, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”  Not anything, God says.  Coveting can be described as having your eye on someone else’s possessions and not your own.  This does not mean that God forbids an honest desire and effort to improve your position with hard work.  In fact God oftentimes commands that very thing, especially in the book of Proverbs.  But coveting is desire with an evil twist.  It is desire without gratitude to God for what one already has.  It is desire that is never content and never satisfied.  It is desire that resents anyone who has something that you want and do not have.  And, it might turn into a desire that will try anything to get what it wants.  

     In fact, the commandment against coveting is broken before any of the others.  Before one steals, they covet the possessions of another; before one commits adultery, they covet the spouse of another; before one tells a lie, they covet the easy way out more than the truth; and so on.  Think of any sin, of any trouble that we cause ourselves or others, and usually, at the very beginning of the act or the decisions that lead to the sin, you will find some kind of coveting;– and then, even before that, you will see some kind of dissatisfaction.  Much of the trouble in the world and in our own hearts comes from the fact that we are not satisfied.

     There is an old hymn that has in it this line:  “I know of a sleep in Jesus name, a REST from all toil and sorrow.”  We often speak of death as a rest, and of the dead, as those who are at rest.  And one of the things from which we will get a rest, is from our ‘restlessness.’   In death, we are at peace and at rest, and when the sleep of death is over, we will rise to a new life– a new life with our Lord, and there, says Jesus we will finally be satisfied.  “Blessed are you who hunger now,“ Jesus said, “for you will be satisfied.”

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Exodus 20:17  —  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Romans 13:9-10  —  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

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You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

–Augustine

308) Can’t Get No Satisfaction? (part two)

     I remember my parents often telling me to ‘just be satisfied.’  Anytime I got into a store there was no end to what I wanted, and I often had to be told to be quiet and be satisfied with what I had.  That’s an essential lesson for parents to teach their children, and I found myself saying the same thing to my children, and now to my grandchildren:  ‘Just be satisfied,’ I say.  In fact, one of the most important lessons in life is to learn that ‘you can’t get always get what you want…’

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT by the Rolling Stones

Hear and see the Rolling Stones (without their wrinkles) at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM_p1Az05Jo

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was a footloose man

Refrain…  You can’t always get what you want  (3x)

But if you try sometimes well you might find 

You get what you need

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse.”   Refrain…

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him,  Refrain…

I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands   Refrain…

     This song was on a 1969 Stones album, but it never came out as a single and was never on the charts.  As time went, however, it became one of their best known songs, and is now #100 on Rolling Stones magazine’s top 500 Rock and Roll songs of all time.  Once again, there are a lot of incomprehensible words, but again, there is one unforgettable line with that very necessary lesson.

     It should be obvious that ‘you can’t always get what you want,’ but it seems many people grow up without ever learning that lesson.   And I don’t think any of us ever completely learn it, and we remain unsatisfied.   Think about all the troubles in the world that are caused because people ‘can’t always get what they want’ and are not satisfied.  Certainly, small children who are never satisfied can drive their parents crazy, but adults can cause each other all kinds of grief because they aren’t ever satisfied either.  Think of all the people who are in financial trouble now because of credit card debt.  They are not ever satisfied with what they have, but keep on buying and buying, adding burden upon burden.  Think of all the husbands who abandon their wives and children, leaving behind so much confusion and hardship and sadness, all because they are not satisfied at home and start looking for something else.  Think of all the wives and mothers that do the same thing, because they are not satisfied.  There are, of course, other reasons why marriages break up, but oftentimes it is simply because one or the other is not satisfied, and they should be.  Think of all the people who are not satisfied with life as it really is, and have to escape with drugs or alcohol into an artificially created satisfaction.  And there are all the people who are not satisfied with who they are or what they are as God made them, or, with what God has given them; and they are always looking with envy at other people who are smarter or prettier or luckier or wealthier or healthier or whatever.  They are not satisfied and spend a lot of time being bitter and resentful and mad at the world and at God.  Think of all the world leaders not satisfied with the power they have, but with cruelty to their own people or war against other nations, they seek to strengthen their hand or expand their influence.  Think of the unfathomable grief and misery that has brought and continues to bring upon humankind.  And think of your own private jealousies and envy and dissatisfaction, and all the discontent and unhappiness that brings to you, even though you know that you know better and should be counting your blessings.  One writer went so far as to say that most of the troubles in the world come from the simple fact that we are not ever satisfied, and in our bitterness or greed or grasping for more, we bring misery to ourselves and those around us.

     Jesus said that in heaven we will finally be satisfied (Luke 6:21, 23).  Not only will our bodies be made perfect so that we will no longer get ill or die or even age; and not only will our morals be healed in heaven, so that we will always do what is right and no longer be tempted to sin; but so also will our desires be cleansed and perfected, so that once and for all, we will be satisfied.  Content.  That will be a blessed state to be in, because now we are so often not content and not satisfied; but instead, we make ourselves miserable because  ‘we can’t always get what we want.’

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Isaiah 55:2-3  —  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you…

Hebrews 13:5  —  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

 I Timothy 6:6-8  —  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 

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Grant, O Father, that this day we may be doers of your Word, and not hearers only.

–Christopher Smart

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‘Mr. Jimmy’ from Excelsior, Minnesota.  Is he the Mr. Jimmy in the song?  Mick Jagger says he isn’t, but Mr. Jimmy says he is.  Read the story/legend at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Hutmaker

307) Can’t Get No Satisfaction? (part one)

     

     I Can’t Get No Satisfaction was recorded by the Rolling Stones in 1965.  Keith Richards woke up one night with the tune in his head, turned on a tape recorder and hummed a few bars, and then fell back asleep.  The next morning the recorder played back one minute of one of the greatest hits of all time and 44 minutes of Keith Richards snoring.  The song went to the top of the charts then, and is now #2 on the list of the 500 all-time greatest hits.

     When this song came out it was the cause of some controversy and many stations refused to play it.  Some people said it had too much sex, because the frustration sung about seemed to be in that area of life.  Others said the song was not about sex at all, but reflected a frustration with the commercialism of our society.  I find most of the words to be incomprehensible, except for that unforgettable title line: “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

     Do you ever feel like you ‘can’t get no satisfaction?’  Over the years there have been many things in my life that I have been less than satisfied with.  In many ways, I am not at all satisfied at this point in my life.  I have many frustrations, along with the frustration of being 59 years old already.  Where, I’d like to know, did all that time go?  I can’t think of any time in my life that I was ever fully satisfied.  There have always been things that I would like to see improved.  I do need to ask myself, therefore, where is the problem?  Is the problem with my life or with me?  Actually, I have had a pretty good life, as far as this life goes, and have been richly blessed by God in many ways.  I’ve had a good family, good health, good work, not much tragedy, plenty to eat, lots of good times, and so forth.  So the problem must be with me– and, I don’t think I am not the only one with the problem.  I have been told that I am more easily pleased and more content than most people, so I know that it’s not just me and the Rolling Stones that ‘can’t get no satisfaction.’

     Martin Luther, a bachelor until he was 42, once said this about the satisfactions and dissatisfactions of marriage:  “To be a single man and remain pure confronts one with temptations that are not trivial.  On the other hand, the annoyances of married life are almost unbearable.  There is no manner of life that, once undertaken, isn’t a matter of regret at times.  This is the fault of our sin which has so infected and defiled all human nature.”  Luther then looked up into heaven and said, “Good Lord, how could you ever arrange things to please us?”  It is because we are so infected with sin that we are never satisfied, says Martin Luther.

     The Bible has something to say to us when we ‘can’t get no satisfaction.’  In Luke 6:21 there are these incredible words of Jesus: “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” Wouldn’t that be great, for once, to be satisfied?  And when will that happen?  In verse 23 Jesus adds, “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”  It will be in heaven, said Jesus, that we will finally be satisfied.  (continued…)

I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION by the Rolling Stones

Hear the song at: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpZ3dVpE_pY

I can’t get no satisfaction 
I can’t get no satisfaction 
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try 
I can’t get no, I can’t get no…

When I’m drivin’ in my car 
And that man comes on the radio 
He’s tellin’ me more and more 
About some useless information 
Supposed to fire my imagination 
I can’t get no, oh no no no 
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say (chorus)

When I’m watchin’ my TV 
And that man comes on to tell me 
How white my shirts can be 
But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke 
The same cigarettes as me 
I can’t get no, oh no no no 
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say (chorus)

When I’m ridin’ round the world 
And I’m doin’ this and I’m signing that 
And I’m tryin to make some girl 
Who tells me baby better come back later next week 
‘Cause you see I’m on losing streak 
I can’t get no, oh no no no 
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say (chorus)

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Ecclesiastes 5:10  —  Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.  This too is meaningless.

Jeremiah 31:25  —  I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.

Luke 6:21  —  (Jesus said), “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”

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I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever…  The eyes of all look to you, O Lord…  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.  

–Psalm 145:1, 15, 16

306) Carrie Underwood and St. Teresa of Avila

     Today’s song is not from the golden age of Rock and Roll, but is a 2010 Country Music hit.  This is My Temporary Home was written by Luke Robert Laird and Zac Maloy, and was recorded by Carrie Underwood.  Underwood grew up on a farm in Oklahoma.  She was a college student in 2005 when she won the ‘American Idol’ competition.  Judge Simon Cowell predicted from the start that she would not only win, but would go on to be more successful than all the other ‘American Idol’ champions.  He was right about that, and she is now one of the top female vocalists in the country, both in country music and pop music.

THIS IS MY TEMPORARY HOME

Don’t miss seeing this award winning video at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LraOiHUltak

Little boy, 6 years old
A little too used to bein’ alone.
Another new mom and dad, another school,
Another house that’ll never be home.
When people ask him how he likes this place…
He looks up and says, with a smile upon his face,

Refrain: “This is my temporary home
It’s not where I belong.
Windows and rooms that I’m passin’ through.
This is just a stop, on the way to where I’m going.
I’m not afraid because I know this is my
Temporary Home.”

Young mom on her own.
She needs a little help, got nowhere to go.
She’s lookin’ for a job, lookin’ for a way out,
Because a half-way house will never be a home.
At night she whispers to her baby girl,
“Someday we’ll find our place here in this world.”  Refrain

Old man, hospital bed,
The room is filled with people he loves.
And he whispers don’t cry for me,
I’ll see you all someday.
He looks up and says, “I can see God’s face.”  Refrain

This is our temporary home.

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     St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Spanish nun, author, mystic, and reformer.  In her writings she often encouraged believers to remember that this earth is only our temporary home, our time here will pass quickly, and then we will live in the perfection of heaven, our eternal home.  She compared life in this world to a miserable night in a cheap hotel, encouraging us to endure our sufferings here with courage, knowing that in the morning of the resurrection we will be on our way to something infinitely better.  Following are a few quotes from the writings of Teresa, mostly from her classic devotional work The Interior Castle.

 Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Hope, O my soul, hope.  You know neither the day nor the hour.  Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience turns a very short time into a long one.

To have courage for whatever comes in life
– everything lies in that.

God withholds Himself from no one who perseveres.

Christ has borne with thousands of foul and abominable sins which you have committed against Him, yet even they have not been enough to make Him cease looking upon you.  Is it such a great matter, then, for you to avert the eyes of your soul from outward things and sometimes to look at Him?

The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.

Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.

The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.

Thank God for the things that I do not own.

In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel. 

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Hebrews 11:13-14…16  —  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.  And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…  They were longing for a better country– a heavenly one.

II Corinthians 4:16-18  —  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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Give me, O Lord, if you will, the prayers to offer you;
Or let me know dryness.
Give me, O Lord, an abundance of devotion,
Or if not, then barrenness.

In you alone, Sovereign Majesty,
I find my peace,
What do you want of me?
Yours I am, for you I was born:
What do you want of me?  

–St. Teresa of Avila

305) A Hound Dog’s Savior (part two)

    

James Alfred Wight (“Alf”)/pen name James Herriot  (1916-1995)

     (…continued)  Then one day Mr. Herriot saw Mrs. Donovan and the dog.  The dog was now a fine looking, healthy and strong Golden Retriever.  The vet could hardly believe it was the same animal.

     “Mrs. Donovan,” he said, “You have worked wonders with that dog.  I am amazed.”  And Mrs. Donovan proceeded to tell him about the care she had lavished on the dog right from the beginning.  There were the many baths with her special shampoo, and then there was the careful feeding after a lifetime of hunger, along with the daily exercising, and then at night, a special place for the dog to sleep right in Mrs. Donovan’s very own bedroom.  And of course, there were countless hours of gently combing out that hopelessly matted hair.  The dog received constant love and attention and affection from Mrs. Donovan, and it clearly paid off.  The dog was as healthy as any Mr. Herriot had ever seen.  That was the beginning of many happy years for that dog as Mrs. Donovan’s pampered pet.

     As James Herriot thought about this woman and her dog, he was struck by the dramatic change that came into that dog’s life.  All that dog knew for the entire first year of its life was darkness, deprivation, loneliness, neglect, hunger, and filth.  It had never experienced anything else, and it had no way of even knowing how deprived and miserable it was.  And then, one day that dog was taken out from all of that, and in an instant that dog was transported into an entirely different life; a life of care and good feeding, light and exercise, and constant loving companionship.  What a tremendous and wonderful transformation that must have been for that dog!  And to think, if Mrs. Donovan had not been standing outside that door, the dog would have been put to sleep without ever knowing any of that love or concern.  She saved that dog.  Mrs. Donovan was, we might say, that dog’s Savior.

     In the first chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul praises his Savior, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Paul says Jesus chose us, and he has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing.  In verses seven and eight, Paul says we have received redemption through Christ’s own blood, through which we have received the forgiveness of our sins, and by that Christ has lavished on us the riches of God’s grace.  Lavished is the word in verse eight.  Along with that, God has worked out everything for us, guaranteeing our inheritance in eternity.  It is in Christ our Savior that we know the truth, have our hope, live in his love, and know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us.  Blessing upon blessing, lavished upon us, who, without Jesus, would have nothing and be without hope.

    James Herriot’s story of that Golden Retriever a wonderful image of our life and hope in Christ Jesus, our Savior.  That dog had two lives:  the miserable life in that shed before Mrs. Donovan, and then the wonderful life after she lavished her care upon him.  And we also, according to God’s Word, are promised two lives:  the life we live now, here on this earth, and, the life in heaven with God.  And though our lives here are usually not as desperate as that dog’s life in that old shack, we do all get our share of misery, and, just like that dog, we don’t know anything else.  At a very young age, we learn to expect that life is filled with danger, disappointment, illness, sadness, and death.  When something bad happens, we might even say, ‘Well, that’s life!’  That’s all we know, and even on our best days and in our happiest times, we know it won’t last.  We know it can all be gone in an instant.  One day in our future, it most certainly will all be gone.  But that’s life, right?

    But, says Jesus in John chapter 14, someday “I will come back to this place for you, and I will take you to MY heavenly home, so that where I am, you may be also.”  And what a change that will be for us.  Paul had a vision of that wonderful place and wrote that it will be far more wonderful than anything we could ever even imagine here.  It is, he wrote, far beyond what any eye here has ever seen, or any ear has ever heard of.  In 2 Corinthians chapter nine Paul refers to this surpassing grace of God, and then words fail him and he bursts forth in praise saying, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

     James Herriot said that when he first saw that dog it seemed content.  It seemed very accepting of its poor condition, having not ever known anything else.  We also cannot even imagine a life without danger and death and fear and sadness always threatening, always lurking around every corner.  The apostle John had also been given a vision of heaven, and in the book of Revelation he described it as a place of no sadness, no tears, no grief, and no death, a place where God himself will live right with us.  It is in this hope that Paul could write those enthusiastic words of praise in Ephesians, thanking God for all the wonderful blessings that he has lavished upon us and will lavish upon us.

     This life is also a gift of God, and God gives us many good days here.  There may even be days we are so richly blessed that we may not even feel the need for these future promises of God.  In those good times we may be tempted to forget all about God, and say like that old beer commercial, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  But we do know that not all days will be like that.  There will be other days when everything seems dark and hopeless, and your life is full of misery and grief and pain, and you feel like ‘nothin’ but a hound dog.’  On those days remember that we are, in many ways, like that poor dog in that old shack, but there is a another whole world prepared for us.  One day, our Savior will come to get us and take us to that place.  And on that dying day we will have no more to fear than that dog had to fear Mrs. Donovan untying him and gently taking him from the only home he had ever known.  A whole new and wonderful life was awaiting that dog; and a life beyond imagining awaits us.

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Ephesians 1:7-8  —  In him (Christ Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

II Corinthians 9:15  —   Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Ecclesiastes 12:1…7   —  Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”…  and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

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Let our chief goal, O God, be your glory, and to enjoy you forever.  –John Calvin

304) A Hound Dog’s Savior (part one)

YOU AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT A HOUND DOG  performed by Elvis Presley at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URayWTkEPYM

You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Cryin’ all the time.
You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Cryin’ all the time.
Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
And you ain’t no friend of mine.

Well they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie.
Yeah they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie.
Yeah, you ain’t never caught a rabbit/cut a record
And you ain’t no friend of mine. (3x)

     This song was written in 1952 by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, a couple of 19 year-olds just getting started (the same duo that a few years later wrote Yakety-yak, Don’t Talk Back.).  Dozens of artists have recorded it over the years, the most famous being by Elvis Presley in 1956.  That record stayed on top of the charts for 11 weeks, and helped launch Presley’s rise to fame.  It is #19 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of top the 500 hits of all time.  It is a fun song, with no deep meaning to the words, and it has very little to do with what I want to say next– except that I am going to be talking about a hound dog, and this is the best hound dog song I know.  First, a story…

     James Alfred Wight was a country veterinarian in Yorkshire, England from the 1940’s to the 1980’s.  He was a wise man who had keen insights into the personalities of the animals he treated, and, into the personalities of the humans who owned them.  He was also a great storyteller and wrote several best selling books about his experiences using the pen name James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, etc.). In one of his books he tells the story of a certain Mrs. Donovan, the town busy-body.  She had her nose into everything, knew everything about everybody, and was always around whenever something happened.  She also was quite sure that she knew more about dogs than anyone; certainly more than some over-educated and under-experienced young veterinarian.  So she was, for James Herriot, a pain in the neck.  She knew even before he did when a dog was sick, and she was always there eager to sell her own home remedies, especially her special dog shampoo, which she said would cure practically anything.  And she never hesitated to say a bad word about Mr. Herriot, criticizing his every move.

     One day, a policeman called Mr. Herriot to assist him on a case of animal neglect.  The vet arrived at a rundown farm place that he had never seen before.  The house looked as if it were ready to fall in on itself, and out back was a little shed that was in even worse shape.  Inside the dark and smelly shack was a malnourished dog, little more than skin and bones, covered with a tangled mess of dirty and matted hair.  It was a Golden Retriever that the vet guessed to be about a year old.  He figured that the poor dog had been chained there, on a short leash, for its entire life.  A hollowed out spot in the dirt floor was where the poor dog had been lying, in the dark, day and night, without care or attention.  “How can anyone treat a dog like this?” Mr. Herriot asked the police officer.

     The officer said, “We were called out here this morning after the old lady in the house died.  She was an invalid and her son seems to be not quite right in the head.  He’d throw some food out to the dog when he thought of it, but he apparently didn’t think of it very often.  There doesn’t seem to be much hope for this dog anymore, and besides, who would want it?  I suppose, Mr. Herriot, you might as well put it out of it’s misery.”

     “Yes, I suppose so,” the young vet replied reluctantly.  Just then, out of the corner of his eye, Mr. Herriot saw Mrs. Donovan, standing out in the yard, straining to hear every word.  “How does she find out everything so fast?,” he wondered, annoyed more than a little bit at her constant presence and interference.  But then he had an idea.  Not letting on to Mrs. Donovan that he had seen her, he turned to the policeman and said, “Officer, I’ve heard about a lady in this very town who has a special shampoo that will work wonders on any dog.  Do you think we ought to let her have a look at it?  For all it has been through, the dog still has a strong heart, and it is young, so there is maybe a chance.”  The vet had no confidence at all in Mrs. Donovan’s special healing shampoo, but he had no doubt about her love for dogs.  Her whole life was given to caring for dogs, and she was still grieving the recent death of her own little dog.

     “Maybe there would be a chance,” said the officer, “but I don’t think anyone would even want to touch this filthy creature, let alone take it home and shampoo it.”

     “But I will! I want to!” said Mrs. Donovan, bursting into the shack, filled with pity for the poor creature.

     “Oh, Mrs. Donovan,” said the vet, “what a coincidence.  I was just speaking about you.  I was wondering if your special shampoo and potions could do anything for this poor dog.  Would you like to have a go at it?”

     “Of course I will,” she said, already gently untying the rope that had held the dog for so long, and out the door they went.

     The vet did not see the dog or Mrs. Donovan for several weeks.  He thought it especially strange when he did not even see her in the front of the crowd that had gathered at the scene of a minor car accident near her home.  He was very anxious to know how the poor dog turned out.  He had confidence in her care, but the dog was in tough shape, and he wondered if it survived.   (continued…)

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Psalm 104:24…25b…27  —  How many are your works, Lord!  In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures… living things both large and small…  All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.

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All things bright and beautiful, 
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all…

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well. 

Cecil Frances Alexander  (1818-1895)

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A PRAYER FOR THE ANIMALS  by Albert Schweitzer

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends, the animals.
Especially for animals who are suffering; for any that are
lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put to death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them, we ask a
a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful.