1968) Wonderful, Wonderful World

What a Wonderful World was written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss.  It was first recorded by Louie Armstrong and released as a single in 1967.  Armstrong’s recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

What a Wonderful World

These lyrics do not mention God as the Creator of this ‘wonderful world,’ but I am thinking about God when I hear this old favorite.  Therefore, What a Wonderful World becomes like a hymn of praise for me.

What a Wonderful World 

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’, “I love you”

I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Oh yeah

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Go to this link to see an old video of Louie Armstrong singing this song:

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

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Genesis 1:1… 31a  —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Psalm 19:1  —  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 139:14  —  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

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Prayer for the morning of the 21st day from A Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie, 1949

(Read this prayer slowly and more than once, meditating on each phrase.  It is filled with both gratitude for this world and anticipation for the world to come.)

     O Thou 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 was 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 the earth. 
For here we have no continuing city, 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 any sorrow where I had 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.

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1967) Assuming the Worst

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By Joshua Rogers, at http://www.joshuarogers.com, August 25, 2018.

     I was standing across the counter from the lady at the hole-in-the-wall dry cleaners and I was getting irritated.  She had lost my pants and I was sure of it, but I couldn’t find my ticket to prove it.

     The woman kept insisting that I hadn’t dropped them off with my suit jacket.

     “Ma’am, I wouldn’t have just brought in a suit jacket,” I said.   “Can’t you just check to see if there are some navy blue pants lying around somewhere?”

     She grew more defensive and said that she was positive I didn’t bring in any pants because she always double checks people’s orders.

     She probably loses people’s clothes all the time, I thought.

     She went to check one more time and I stopped and thought through the last time I had seen them.  When she returned empty-handed, I had an idea.

     “Hold on a second,” I said nervously. “I need to call my wife.”

     I called my wife and asked her to look in the drawer where I normally put the dirty dry cleaning.  Then I waited. My wife got back on the phone.

     “Yeah, you’ve got some navy blue pants in here,” she said.

     I got off the phone and sheepishly said, “Ma’am, I’m really sorry.  They’re at my house.”

     It’s not the first time I’ve unjustly made negative assumptions though.

     There was the time I got annoyed with the barista who ignored me when I spoke to him from behind.  When he finally turned around and started talking, I realized he was deaf.

     There was also the time I thought my coworker was nuts because she screamed when I abruptly came around the corner.  It turned out that she was a crime victim and the perpetrator had just been released from prison.

     And let’s not forget how remarkably rude the cashier was on Christmas Eve at the Hallmark store.  It was so bad that when I came back in a couple of months later, I mentioned it to the manager.  Her polite response caught me off guard.

     “I know exactly who you’re talking about, sir, and I’ll just say this: You never know what people are going through.”

     She was right. I didn’t have any idea, yet I’m still prone to give myself permission to read people’s minds, project motives and make assumptions with very little information.

     James 1:19 says, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  But in moments when we’re convinced we’re right, we do just the opposite: We’re slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to get angry.  And when we do that, it says a lot more about us than the person we’re judging.

     We apparently think we don’t need to slow down and check our assumptions.  We’re so wise and knowledgeable that we’re unwilling to give the thing we need: a little bit of grace, which people need regardless of whether our assumptions are right.

     I once had a coworker who was always ascribing wrong motives to people and it irritated me.     Finally one day I said, “You know what?  I bet that nine out of ten times you’re right about people’s motives.  But the one time out of ten you’re wrong makes it not worth it.”

     It’s some pretty good advice, if I don’t say so myself.  Maybe one day I’ll start taking it.

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James 1:19-20  —  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Matthew 7:1-2  —  (Jesus said), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Ephesians 4:29-32  —  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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I confess and ask for your grace, because I have so often in my life sinfully spoke with malice and contempt against other people.  They depend on me for their honor and reputation, just as I depend on them for the same.  Help us all to obey this commandment, giving our neighbor the benefit of the doubt, and explaining their actions in the kindest way.  Amen.  

–Prayer by Martin Luther, based on his catechism explanation to the 8th commandment

1966) Trusting in Muggs (2/2)

     (…continued)  Holding on to Muggs got me through a year or two of childhood.  Sports and good looks might get you a few good years in high school, maybe college, and for a very few, maybe even a bit more.  After that, you better have something else to depend on.  And even money, which we all need, will get you only so far—all through your life, if the money lasts, but then not one bit farther.  All of these other things will, in the end, let you down.

     Speaking of security, I just turned 64 years old, so guess what I have been looking at a little closer these days?—Social Security, and the security of my pension fund.  And just like holding on to Muggs used to make me feel a little more secure, I am now doing the math and figuring out how secure I will be able to feel when I come to the end of my working years.  It makes me feel good and somewhat secure that I can put a certain amount of trust in those resources.

     Now social security and IRAs and savings accounts will be able to help with the bills a lot more than Muggs ever did; but they are all alike in that they are short term securities, and can be trusted in only for the time being.

     Thirty years ago there was a woman in my congregation who had a brother that was a Lutheran minister.  He was a few years older than me.  Don and his wife would show up at our church every once in a while when he was visiting  his sister, and we would always have a good chat.  Then I moved, but a few years later Don got a call to a church the same area where I was then serving.  We renewed our friendship as we would meet each other at conference meetings.  Then I moved again and we lost touch, as often happens with friends in the ministry.  I did not hear from Don and he did not hear from me for about 20 years.  Then one day I saw his name in the newspaper.  He and his wife were killed in a car accident not far from the congregation I was then serving.  Don had just retired.  The financial security he had built up over a lifetime of work helped him only a few months.

     But that is not all Don and his wife were trusting in.  They also believed in and trusted in and found their best security in Jesus, who had promised them He was going on ahead to prepare a place for them; a place that would be secure and safe, even after fatal car accidents.  And so they are still okay.

     That is what you call “building your house on a rock,” as Jesus once described it in a parable in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus told about two men– one who built his house on sand and one who built his house on a rock.  And then the rains came, and the streams rose, and the wind blew; and one house stood firm and the other house came crashing down.

     We can put our trust in many different things in life, but eventually the storms will come.  I suppose one of the first storms came for me when some of the older kids in the neighborhood started asking me, “How come you are always dragging around that ugly monkey, you big baby?”  So, I decided if I wanted to have any friends I would have to venture out on my own without Muggs.  Then, I always liked sports, but I wasn’t much of an athlete, so I knew that wouldn’t get me very far.  But I could get good grades, and so I trusted in my intelligence to get myself some scholarship money for college.  How else was I going to afford to further my education with college costing $1,850 dollars a year, plus books?  I did get the scholarships, and I did all right in college and seminary.  But then, working as a pastor taught me I had a lot more to learn yet, and a lot of what I needed to know wasn’t in the books.  That is another kind of storm that taught me to trust in someone bigger than myself.  Raising kids, serious illnesses, death of loved ones, difficult and painful relationships, etc., — those are the kinds of things that have made me keep looking to that more solid foundation for my life.

     Such storms challenge us all to look at what we are trusting in and where it is that we seek our security.  I heard of a man who was in his 50’s and was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Chemotherapy was going to get him a little more time, but would not cure the disease.  He would perhaps get another year or two.  A friend asked him how he was doing with all that.  The dying man said, “Cancer changes your perspective on a lot of things.  I have not been paying as much attention to the stock market and my IRAs these days, and I have been paying a lot more attention to Jesus.”

     Romans 14:8 says, “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”  That’s far better than anything we can manage on our own.  As is says in Hebrews 6:19:  “We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure.”

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Matthew 7:24-27  —  (Jesus said), “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

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Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.    

Book of Common Prayer

1965) Trusting in Muggs (1/2)

Muggs

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            Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”

            TRUST, it says, TRUST in the LORD.  I want tell you about something else I used to trust in.  The photo above is of Muggs.  I found him going through a box of old junk in my garage.  I have had Muggs for as long as I can remember.  In fact, one of my earliest memories is of dragging Muggs along wherever I went—around the house, outside playing, in the car, and to bed.  In the crazy way little kids get attached to certain things, I was attached to Muggs. 

            This was a long time ago, and I don’t remember much about it; but apparently, I felt better when Muggs was with me.  Many small children have a special blanket that they just have to have with them all the time, especially when they go to sleep.  I’ve been told I had one of them, too, when I was even younger.  But then later, for a while, I had Muggs.  Muggs was my security, something to hold on to, and I suppose in a way, you might even say, I trusted in Muggs.  That is what is behind the phrase ‘security blanket’—a child feels more secure with the item in hand, be it a blanket or a favorite doll or a Muggs.  And that’s silly, isn’t it?  How can anyone trust in, or rely on, something like that?  What did Muggs ever do for me?  Nothing.  He can’t even stand up on his own.

            We all quickly grow out of depending on such silly little things as that for our security, but we all do then, go on to put our trust in other things, some almost as silly.  These other things can perhaps do a bit more for us than a blanket or a stuffed monkey.  But they are still not worthy of our complete trust, and will still not give us the ultimate security that we really want and need.

            Teenagers, for example, well trained by the advertising industry, learn to put their trust in outward appearances.  Therefore, some will spend all kinds of time and money on clothes, makeup, tattoos, or their hair so they can look just right, in order to fit in with whatever group they want to fit into.  Others will focus on their athletic ability, and they trust in sports to make themselves feel important and special and make life happen for them.  And of course, everyone wants money.  But it is usually later in life, in adulthood when you are paying your own bills, that money becomes that which is most craved and trusted in for security.  That can happen when one gets a little older and has more money; along with a decline in one’s athletic or appearance attributes.  Appearances, athletics, money, along with other things like jobs, popularity, position and authority, travel, entertainment, health, houses, and hobbies—any of those things can become all-consuming passions that we begin to focus on, trust in, and rely on more than anything else in life for our meaning and self-worth and direction and security.  What do you trust in, rely on, and depend on, most of all, in your life?

            The Bible says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.’  The verse doesn’t say anything about all that other stuff.

            So what does that mean, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart?’  How can we do that?  As you well know, we DO need to work, to make money, to pay our bills.  You can’t trust God to put the checks in the mail.  And, the very nature of some jobs is to, by necessity, have a certain amount of power over people, perhaps even over a whole company.  And sports and hobbies can be a lot of fun, and there is nothing wrong with that.  And personal appearance and grooming, though way over emphasized these days, should not be neglected either.  And we certainly need houses, and we should do our best to stay healthy.  All of those are good and necessary aspects of life.

            But to trust and rely on God means, as it says in the catechism, to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”  Trusting and relying on God means to see and approach all those other things in light of our relationship with God.

            So, for example, we must not neglect God in our pursuit of those other things.  And we must not disobey God by lying or cheating other people in our pursuit of money or position or happiness or any of those other things.  And we must be grateful to God, and not live our lives in resentment because someone else has something more or something better.  Rather we should see all of life as a gift and everything that we are or have as coming to us by God’s grace.

            And so, trusting in God means, as the verse says, to not rely on our own insight or resources or strength, but to trust in God’s direction and guiding in telling us what is most important in life, and then, how to best handle all the rest.

       God’s Word also reminds us that we live not only for a few years on this earth, but we will live for an eternity.  With or without God, we will live for all eternity.  This life, then, becomes not the time where we need to desperately do it all and have it all, but a time to prepare and to be ready for what will inevitably come next.  Believing in that will change our approach to and understanding of everything else.  Although we have been blessed with great freedom, we are not totally free.  We have a duty and an obligation to obey God, and to know and understand what God expects of us in our brief time on earth.

            Only God is worthy of our complete and total trust.  Only God can provide us with a security that lasts for all eternity, and which can give comfort even in death.  All other things that we trust is, be it good looks, talents, athletic ability, or money—all of that will give us a security that will last only slightly longer than the security I found for a while in Muggs, my stuffed monkey.  Nothing, other than God, can give lasting security, or, is worthy of our complete trust.  Everything else will get you only so far.  (continued…)

1964) More Good Advice

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The book of Proverbs is exactly what the name implies, a collection of short sayings gathered from different places and produced over long periods of time.  In general, these sayings represent wisdom derived from practical experience.  Although they contain no profound contributions to theological ideas, they constitute wholesome advice about the way a person should live in order to attain a simple and peaceful life, obedient to God.  Today’s meditation contains a few sample proverbs from the Old Testament book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 18:2  —  Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.

Proverbs 18:9  —  One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

Proverbs 18:13  —  To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.

Proverbs 18:14  —  The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Proverbs  19:1  —  Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

Proverbs 19:3  —  A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.

Proverbs 19:11  —  A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 19:20  —  Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Proverbs 20:3  —  It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Proverbs 20:4  —  Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

Proverbs 20:19  —  A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.

Proverbs 20:22  —  Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”  Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

Proverbs 21:2  —  A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Proverbs 21:6  —  A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

Proverbs 21:9  —  Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife (or husband).

Proverbs 22:1  —  A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 23:4-5a  —  Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone.

Proverbs 23:17-18  —  Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 25:28  —  Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.

Proverbs 26:12  —  Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for them.

Proverbs 26:17  —  Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

Proverbs 26:18-19  —  Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

Proverbs 27:1  —  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Proverbs 27:4  —  Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Proverbs 27:17  —  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 28:13  —  Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Proverbs 28:19  —  Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

Proverbs 29:20  —  Do you see someone who speaks in haste?  There is more hope for a fool than for them.

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Our Father, you called us and saved us in order to make us like your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Day by day, change us by the work of your Holy Spirit so that we may grow more like him in all that we think and say and do, to his glory.

–Soren Kierkegaard

1963) Good Advice

Image result for book of proverbs images

The book of Proverbs is exactly what the name implies, a collection of short sayings gathered from different places and produced over long periods of time.  In general, these sayings represent wisdom derived from practical experience.  Although they contain no profound contributions to theological ideas, they constitute wholesome advice about the way a person should live in order to attain a simple and peaceful life, obedient to God.  Today’s meditation contains a few sample proverbs from the Old Testament book of Proverbs.

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Proverbs 1:1-3  —  (These are) the proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair

Proverbs 1:7  —  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 3:5-7  —  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.

Proverbs 4:14, 23  —  Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers…  Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 5:21-23  —  Your ways are in full view of the Lordand he examines all your paths.  The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast.  For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.

Proverbs 6:6-11a  —  Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.  How long will you lie there, you sluggard?  When will you get up from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief.

Proverbs 11:2  —  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:7  —  Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

Proverbs 11:17  —  Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.

Proverbs 11:29  —  Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.

Proverbs 12:1  —  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 12:11  —  Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

Proverbs 12:16  —  Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

Proverbs 13:3  —  Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.

Proverbs 14:12  —  There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 14:13  —  Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.

Proverbs 14:29  —  Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

Proverbs 14:30  —  A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 15:1  —  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:3  —  The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

Proverbs 15:16-17  —  Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.  Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.

Proverbs 16:2  —  All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Proverbs 16:18  —  Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:28  —  A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:1  —  Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:13-14  —  Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good.  Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

Proverbs 17:17  —  A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 17:22  —  A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:27  —  The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.

Proverbs 17:28  —  Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

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Two things I ask of you, Lorddo not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

 –Proverbs 30:7-9

1962) God and Facts and Perspective

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By Andree Seu Peterson, posted August 15, 2018, at http://www.wng.org , published September 1, 2018 in World magazine.

     My father’s garden is a money-loser.  If you count the man-hours, seed catalog purchases, water usage, and petrol expended in transporting trapped raccoons out to the hinterlands, each tomato may cost 50 bucks.  Dwelling on those facts could drive you mad.

     Or, you can look at my father’s garden differently.  You can choose to see it as a hobby that costs far less than the pastimes of the golf course and casino.  Out in the sunshine you get fresh air, exercise, vitamin D—and if we’re so blessed, a few tomatoes.

     Since I have settled on this latter perspective, I no longer feel the slightest anxiousness when he turns on the hose.

     But what is this thing we call perspective?  Is it just a lie we tell ourselves when we can’t bear the truth?  Or is the right perspective very truth?  When I choose the second way of seeing Dad’s garden, and reject the first, do I just foist a pleasant fiction on my mind?  Or have I found something like wisdom?

     To the Scriptures for the answer, as for every other thing!  There’s where we must turn to learn what’s rubbish and what’s real.  I for one want to live in the real.

     Turns out God is bullish on perspective.  Not just gardens and our water bills but all the other things that make the fabric of our day are to be seen through divine-colored glasses: “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).  What is this if not an actionable command?

     “Things above” must be things that aren’t visible—love, heaven, kindness, the faithfulness of God to His own promises.  “Things on earth” must be things that we see, which soon will pass away—“the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

     What would happen to a person who adopted this perspective all the time?  We don’t have to guess: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  That man—if there is such a man—who lives consistently inside the right perspective, and so moves and walks unswervingly, gains things above without losing the earthly things.

     Finding the correct perspective—the perspective God enjoins that gives us peace—is not an automatic thing.  Joseph’s brothers needed help arriving at the right view of the 20 years that led up to their meeting.  Joseph coached them on the way to look at it, lest they sink into despair: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).  Wrong perspective leads to worry, as we saw in cases of expensive vegetable gardens.

     Right perspective means there is no such thing as brute facts.  A “brute fact” is a fact that has no interpretation attached to it, a fact that exists independently of what anyone thinks.  There is no such fact in God’s created world.  We must always consider what God thinks of the fact.

     For example, you have trials.  Trials as brute facts would be unbearable.  Suffering without an explanation would be hell on earth.  Therefore God is quick to tell us how to see a trial: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

     This is true and not a mental trick.

     Viktor Frankl sustained himself through nights and days at Auschwitz by imagining the face of his beloved wife smiling on him, answering him, encouraging him.  To learn, when he got out, that there was no one home awaiting him was the ordeal he found most difficult of all ordeals to overcome.  What had given him a meaning in his trial had not been real.

     It is a thing that you and I, as children of the God who sees, need never fear.

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Colossians 3:1-2  —  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Matthew 6:33  —  (Jesus said), “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

James 1:2-4  —  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

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Almighty God, Lord of the storm and of the calm, of day and night, of life and death; grant unto us so to have our hearts stayed upon your faithfulness and your love, so that whatever happens to us, however black the cloud or dark the night, with quiet faith we may trust in you and walk with you; abiding all storms and troubles of this mortal life, begging of you that they may turn to our souls’ true good.  Amen.

–George Dawson (1821-1876) English Baptist minister

1961) Waiting for God

( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3_xiUYMnXA )

“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” by Allan Sherman, 1963.

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By Andree Seu Peterson, posted August 1, 2018, at http://www.wng.org , published August 18, 2018 in World magazine.

     A big hit in the summer of 1963 was Allan Sherman’s novelty song Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp).  Here is the gist:  “It’s raining; Joe Spivey has developed poison ivy; Leonard Skinner got ptomaine poisoning after dinner; the counselors hate the waiters; the lake has alligators; the head coach wants no sissies—he’s quoting from Ulysses; they’re convening a search party for the missing Jeffery Hardy.”

     Worst of all, moans this most unhappy camper in his missive home, “I’ve been here one whole day.”

     The trouble with the trials God sends into our lives is that He never tells us in advance how long they’re going to last.  The danger therefore is to bail out of the testing just before you have a victory:  It was a six-month trial and you gave up on the 29th day of the fifth month.

     Waiting is not cancer, but it’s hard in its own way.  One rarely waits to a John Williams soundtrack, which would at least ennoble the monotony.  One goes to the office.  One does the laundry.  One gets no pat on the back and no sign in the sky that anything is coming or will ever be different or better.  “Where is the promise of his coming? … [A]ll things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).

     Abraham, who lived 4,000 years ago, is still revered above most men who ever walked the earth.  Yet what did he do?  Did he conquer a continent like Genghis Khan?  Did he end slavery in America like Abraham Lincoln?  Did he climb Mount Everest like Edmund Hillary?  Nothing of the sort.  He waited.

     Twenty-five years he waited.  Unglamorous years of eating sand and believing for a son.  Just think of the daily talking to yourself you’d have to do under these conditions to keep waiting for something humanly implausible based only on a word you heard way back when.  Abraham is one of the greatest men in history for simply believing God for a long, long time.

     No guesswork on why Joseph’s great: “His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Psalm 105:18-19).  How did the word of the Lord test him?  By giving him a daily choice between it and appearances.  By my rough calculation, Joseph had about 4,745 successive chances (13 years of days) to choose trusting God’s word and faithfulness over bailing out of his teenage vision of the bowing sheaves and stars.

     Waiting was the secret sauce in Moses’ life too.  You’re still too proud and self-reliant, Moses.  Go herd goats in obscurity in Midian for 40 years.  The waiting will do something to you.  Next time you’re in Egypt you won’t be so hot-headed as before; you’ll be “the meekest man on earth” if you let waiting have its way.  And you are to “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect” (James 1:4).

     What trial does God have you in?  Is your job a drag?  Is your husband mean?  Is your health subpar?  What if there’s a different job around the corner, which you don’t see yet?  What if your mean husband is about to be converted by some guy at work, which God foresees but you do not?  What if when you wake up sick each morning and you make a choice to praise the Lord, He notes it in His book and it accrues with interest (Philippians 4:17; Revelation 2:7; 20:12)?

     Waiting is the laboratory of the godly character.  We have it all backward when we think our best times are our happy and successful times.  It’s just the opposite.  I have nothing against happiness and success, but nobody ever learned much by them.

     The sun came out at camp, and our young camper changed his mind about his bailing-out idea.  He starts a different tune before he ends his letter to the folks back home: “Wait a minute, it’s stopped hailing / Guys are swimming, guys are sailing / Playing baseball, gee that’s bettah / Muddah, Faddah, kindly disregard this letter.”

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Psalm 27:13-14  —  I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

James 5:7-8  —  Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

II Peter 3:4  —  They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

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PSALM 13:

How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

1960) Simple, Godly Wisdom

From Mother Theresa  (1910-1997)
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People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway. 
If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway. 
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway. 
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway. 
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.
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There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work.
This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in– that we do it to God, to Christ.
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One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
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Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think is a much
greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.
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Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
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Because we cannot see Christ, we cannot express our love to Him in person.  But our neighbor we can see,
and we can do for him or her what we would love to do for Jesus if He were visible.
Let us be open to God so that He can use us.  Let us put love into our actions, beginning in the family,
in the neighborhood, in the street.  It is difficult, but there is where the work begins.
We are co-workers with Christ, a fruit bearing branch of the vine.
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Love begins by taking care of the closest ones– the ones at home.
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I am like a little pencil in God’s hand.  He does the thinking.  He does the writing.
The pencil has only to allowed to be used.
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Matthew 25:31-40  —  (Jesus said),  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
    “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 22:35-40  —  One of them, an expert in the law, tested (Jesus) with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 
 
Romans 12:10  —  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  
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Deliver me, O Jesus, from the desire to be extolled… honored…  praised… preferred… consulted… approved… popular;
And deliver me, O Jesus, from the fear of being humiliated… despised… forgotten… rebuked… wronged… ridiculed…  suspected.
–Mother Teresa, A Simple Path

1959) What is Rich? What is Poor?

Image result for "wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country"

This profound little story has been making the rounds on the internet ever since a guy named Dan Asmussen posted it on Facebook last month:

     One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son how it was to be poor.  They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

     After their return from the trip, the father asked his son how he liked the trip.  “It was great, Dad,” the son replied. 

     “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. 

     “Oh yeah,” said the son.

     “So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. 

     The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four.  We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.  We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.  Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.

     “We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.  We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.

     “We buy our food, but they grow theirs.  We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

     The boy’s father was speechless.  Then his son added, “It showed me just how poor we really are.”

     Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate on what we don’t have.  What is one person’s worthless object is another’s prize possession.  It is all based on one’s perspective.

     Sometimes it takes the perspective of a child to remind us what’s important.

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Money can buy a house, but not a home.
Money can buy a bed, but not sleep.
Money can buy a wedding ring, but not love.
Money can buy a clock, but not time.
Money can buy an education, but not wisdom.
Money can buy jewelry, but not beauty.
Money can buy insurance, but not safety.
Money can buy a crucifix, but not a Savior.

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Philippians 4:11b-12  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Proverbs 22:2  —  Rich and poor have this in common:  The Lord is the Maker of them all.

Proverbs 28:11  —  The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.

Revelation 3:17  —  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

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PROVERBS 30:7-9

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.