Archives September 2023

Abundance of Life

His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
(Job 1:3)

brown camel

“It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 7:5-6)

Cycles of nature—I find it interesting that this time of the year is designated autumn, but we often dub it as fall. Fall? Is that because leaves fall, or fruits fall, or I’m not sure why we call it fall.

No matter what we call it, autumn or fall, it’s my favorite time of the year. I have a throwback poem by James Whitcomb Riley that is one of my favorite poems that I mention every year, “When the Frost is on the Pumpkin.” It’s all about autumn and the harvest and the fragrance and abundance of life.

Abundance? Life? Two of my favorite questions… or maybe it’s really only one question—What does it look like?

From Michael Knowles: “So many have gotten duped by society. Our entire culture has told them to put off getting married, don’t have kids. Just focus on their career. Get an endless series of degrees. Don’t go to church. Don’t believe in anything above yourself. Life is about nothing more than bingeing Netflix and traveling around the world, having fun experiences, and going to brunch.”

When Frodo in “Lord of the Rings” movie complains about wishing this time hadn’t ever come to him, Gandalph replies that it’s irrelevant. Basically it is as Ecclesiastes says, “Time and Chance happens to us all,” and Gandalph replies to Frodo “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Gandalph from J.R.R Tolkien.

What does an abundant life look like? At one time it looked like a husband and wife, owning their own home, and Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and… a cat. However, as Michael Knowles pointed out that’s not in today’s society.

“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9-10)

What is important at the beginning of life may not be what’s important at the end. How does anyone know what will be important? If we lean on our own understanding or our own wisdom we will come up with as many different ideas as there are individuals. In the end, it will be like Bill Watterson’s comic paper conclusion in Calvin and Hobbes—Everything is going to implode and nothing will matter…

In a recent article, the writer expressed how he wished he had read Ecclesiastes and Proverbs when he was much younger. He thought it would have helped him avoid some of his mistakes, yet…

Yes, there is so much wisdom, but… Like all wisdom, you will only find it if you are looking.

How much do we miss of all the things we see when we see if we aren’t looking? Maybe we aren’t looking at the right thing, or not looking for the right thing. Nevertheless, we don’t see.

The Bible’s wisdom is timeless. The Psalms have been deemed the highest form of poetry by the experts. And again, Ecclesiastes has so much to tell us. However, and I believe I gleaned this from something Seth Godin wrote:

“But the time we spend arguing about proof that we’re not prepared to accept is simply wasted. Belief needs proof the way a fish needs a bicycle.”

If someone isn’t prepared to accept the timeless truth, or if they aren’t looking for and not wanting those truths, the time is wasted. How many times do we as Christians scour land and sea, going near and far, telling people about Jesus and salvation and the love of God, and preaching the Word? We may gather a few interested souls, but sometimes it seems like few and far between. We wonder, why are not more people looking? But the answer lies therein—they aren’t looking.

Yet, we continue to sow the seed, as in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13, Mk. 4, &Lk. 8). Sometimes in the same places we have sown before, because people who weren’t ready to receive at one time may be ready at other times. It was the Apostle Paul who declared, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

Back to the theme of an abundant life and what it looks like. Does it look like a bigger house, a fancier car, or nicer clothes? When you chase happiness what do you get? It is important to remember those things won’t bring people lasting happiness. The Bible warns us not to work for or “labor for the wind”.

“And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?” Ecclesiastes 5:16

Some of those things may last a long time on this earth, such as a new car, house, or whatnot, but not always, and there are some things we don’t want to sacrifice to end up with a mouth full of gravel as in Ecclesiastes 5:17 “All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.”

In the end, no matter if we gain wealth and /or honor and fame what matters is peace and contentment. “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. (Ecclesiastes 5:18 & 19) Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”

What’s On Your Heart?

The idea of busy—busy doesn’t have to do with profit and/or money.

unrecognizable man enjoying sunset on beach

We should take heed lest life, under the guise of making money, is reduced to the illusion that making money is the most important thing. It trumps the weightier things of life. But it doesn’t~

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24)

A number of people are wrestling with the issue of what they want for their lives. They have reached the age where they’re confused and are wondering, like the words of the cynical old song—is this all there is?

“Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:13-14)

Lenore Calandra Pott wrote this in an article from “Grown and Flown” (How to Throw Away the Memories Our Kids Leave Behind.)

“We rush through our lives with carelessness and we mark the occasions and milestones with baby books and cake toppers and the things of our lives are the times of our lives; subtlety inward and a combination of past and present. And so when the cicadas return I’ll figure out what to save and what to not keep.” ~Lenore Calandra Pott

The piece is a bitter-sweet questioning of life before, and after—of the question “What is important now?” And this question is popping up all around me. It reverberates as if it is important and that it is imperative that I find the answer.

Here’s another excerpt from a recent article on the same topic:

“My husband is important — but we can’t go back to a time before we had kids; we aren’t those people anymore…all those regular parenting tasks are gone, and what initially felt like freedom now (that the kids are gone) feels more like a void…Making dinner for two is not nearly as fun, and if one of us has an evening event, eating dinner alone is quite a change. Some questions I ask now are: (I’ve narrowed her questions down to five from her original fifteen)

1. Who am I now?

2. What is my purpose?

3. What is my purpose now that I’m no longer needed in the same way as a Mom? (This was written by a woman, but it could be rethought of as a man or a parent.)

4. What are my dreams now that my time is my own?

5. What’s important to me now?”

Tracy Hargen August 2020

Going from parents of seven children to an empty nest parent can be traumatic. One year we had eleven people living in our house. Then some of the family members found their feet and a new home, but that still left several children at home. Things continued to change and shift as kids graduated, went off to the military, or off to newer jobs or for education.

During the shifting years someone said to me, “Mom, it’s a good thing you have Benjamin or you’d have an empty nest…” and I thought by gummy she was right. What an eye-opener that was. We had the first six children in ten years. They were close in age and would leave home in rapid succession—those first six kids—and that can be almost too sudden a change.

In rereading the snippet from Lenore Calandra Pott, no matter if you’re before that stage in your life—The stage of “Grown and Flown” children or if you’re there already, ponder on those prophetic words about rushing through life.

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)

When a person is eighteen life looks like it stretches in front of them forever, but in reality, it flashes away and your downhill slide has slid. And there you are.

Someone told me way back in the day when our family was shifting and changing, “You have the nicest family.” I had an epiphany moment where, not sure of what I should reply, I said “Thank you, we worked hard at it.”

Good families don’t ‘just happen.’ It may not be a conscious effort, but someone taught their children to be respectful, kind, and all of the things that go into being a good person.

Good lives don’t just happen either. Stupid happens but the important thing is that a person doesn’t encourage stupid to happen to them. We aren’t responsible for what happens to us, but we are responsible for what we do with what happens.

As we grow we change, no matter if we are growing up or just growing older. In our twenties, thirties, and even into our forties we don’t consider that we are growing older. However, we should employ the five questions in our youth instead of waiting until we’re on the other side of the downhill slide. And I’m taking the liberty of changing number three to fit the timeline change.

1. Who am I now?

2. What is my purpose?

3. What is my purpose now before I’m needed as a Mom? (Or as a father.)

4. What are my dreams now that my time is my own?

5. What’s important to me now?

Some answers might read as follows:

*I am a young man/woman at the beginning of my life. I take that station seriously. Because I know the dawn of life is full of foolishness, I humbly seek God’s providence and guidance…

*My purpose is to glorify God, but in so doing I’m seeking God’s blessing and as in the prayer of Jabez: “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:10)

*My purpose now is to study and become the best person I can be, becoming ready to be a good husband/wife and eventually the best partner and parent as God develops.

*My dreams are to study my purpose and cultivate Godliness and the talents God has given me for future use in the Kingdom.

*It is important to me to be true to God and myself…

What people don’t think about at a young age is—what it will be like to be old. It’s the last thing young people want to think of, but as Solomon warns, our old age is built on what we do in our young age. So, in youth, it is necessary to be wise in order to put sorrow away from our hearts. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)