“WHAT SHALL I CRY?”

The season’s festivities have already begun for another Holy Day celebrating our Lord’s miraculous birth! He is Emmanuel, God with us; here to bring us into fellowship with the Father. Bless the day of His arrival to Bethlehem!

The season’s greetings and celebrations this year, more than ever, will be shrouded by a cloud thoughts and feelings of terror and fear. Our reality almost every day is some form of violent and tragic incidents inflicted upon innocent everyday people somewhere in the world. We’re all afraid that one day it may be our town, our neighborhood, or our family.

What are we to do in the light of all of these harsh realities and deep rooted feelings of fear? What are we to say in the face of the world’s cynicism, hopelessness, and fear?

Isaiah faced a lost nation with the same desperate inquiry: “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’” (Isaiah 40:6 ESV)

The answer is clear and powerful for a generation long removed from Isaiah’s reality: “Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength; O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” (Isaiah 40:9-10 ESV)

Listen to His promise to a people lost under pretentious religious formality, insensitive consideration of their own countrymen, and where wickedness abounded. It is a word fresh with life for a new millennial age of skepticism, unbelief, fear, and moral bankruptcy. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

It is an old and familiar word to the church! Above all, it is relevant to where we stand in the midst of terrorist violence that is being imposed upon the entire world. We are all vulnerable in this global reality. As Christians, we are also blessed that our God is still on the throne and changes not. He is both aware of these latest happenings among us and He has us on His mind to care for us whether alive or facing death.

Choose Him today, as His promises still live with assurance and power for these days of uncertainty. Our strength is in the Lord!

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ANOTHER CHANCE

“Judge not, that you be not judged.   For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.   And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?   Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and look, a plank is in your own eye?   Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV

Two young men are caught in the act of shooting whitetail rabbits in the night using their headlights to startle them.   It was out of season, they were shooting a .22 gauge rifle near residential properties, and trespassing.  One of the rabbits was gravely injured and thrown into the bed of a pickup along with other rabbits that were killed . . . another ‘mistake.’

A grandfather of one of the ‘boys’ was called and informed the arresting officers that his grandson was a problem, ‘he won’t listen,’ and whatever the officer’s charges should be, his grandson deserved them.  He leaves his grandson in the hands of the officers.

What was interesting after the grandfather departed is the officers’ conversation about the boys’ mistakes and how often they themselves had made poor choices as youthful novices.  It was interesting to watch them identify themselves with these two boy’s ‘mistakes,’ stating, ‘we’ve all done some stupid things.’   It is amazing how so many don’t get that!

They concluded that they should only be warned.  The truck would not be confiscated, nor the .22 rifle they had used.  The trespass citation would not be given nor the citation for shooting near someone’s home (endangering innocent people).

They were given ‘another chance.’

Isn’t that what mercy is all about?  Or, is that too much mercy?   You have to make your own mind up about that.  But another chance at doing things right despite failure, doing things wrong, and getting caught is something all of us should appreciate.

Another chance is a principle that everyone seems to understand only when caught in the wrong.  Everyone else deserves to be condemned and in some cases destroyed!   Of course, if it’s a beloved within one’s family or circle of friends, then mercy should be applied.

Can we learn this lesson, that all of us need mercy!   Don’t think so highly of self that it never occurs to you that our best deeds in life don’t measure up to divine standards.  God is not all that impressed with the best of us!  If you don’t need another chance now, assuredly, you will need it (them) later.  And, equally true, we all need to show mercy.   Judgments cannot be applied and not experienced.  Be careful how you judge others because the same measure will be applied when it is your turn!  And everyone gets a turn (or a few)!

Don’t forget . . . another chance should be afforded everyone that has gotten caught.  And for those who have never been caught, your day is coming when you too will need ‘another chance.’

INTERNET ANONYMITY AND THE GAME

The Ole Miss loss at LSU this past Saturday night has raised deep feelings of heartbreak, anger, frustration among the fan base and great glee among outsiders of its followers.  It was to be expected with all of the high hopes that have been generated by an unprecedented season and a shock for those who do not wish the team or institution well!

In light of some of the written responses posted over various internet mediums, it doesn’t seem to matter which side you’re on when reading the posts of the anonymous (not named or identified; made or done by someone unknown; of unknown authorship or origin)!  Many are enraged and don’t mind expressing it while others are so happy they cannot contain their overwhelming joy at the loss.  Of course, people have a right to their feelings and the right to express them!

The cover of anonymity seems, however, to give people an opportunity for boldness to be insulting, rude, challenging, or even offensive in their posts to complete strangers.  People in authority or people that post either their joy or sorrow are approached by usernames that are protected by passwords and other means.  Their profiles, pictures, or real identity are hidden away and one has to be really computer savvy to chase down these culprits of insult and rage.  And many times, very decent, honorable people are tempted to dignify these rants with their own comments in return (big mistake).

It’s not just an Ole Miss game that does that to us!  Most any post of a political, religious or social nature brings out the worst of humanity with a strength to criticize, critique, castigate, ridicule, assassinate, or destroy the posts’ authors or an entire genre, group, following etc with all the hate that can be mustered.  And it is much of the time done under the shadow of anonymity.

O, I understand that it is legal to say what you want to say about most any topic!  But I wonder if it is in the best interest of a nation and its sense of unity and dignity for us to tear at each other under the covering of darkness of anonymity?  Does it serve a good purpose to undermine our neighbors or total strangers?  And worse, what does it say about us individually that we can spew such vehemence, rage, hate, or disgust from within ourselves?

James the Apostle advises us to bridle our tongues (James 1:26 NKJV), suggesting that it reveals what our hearts consist of, its vanity and self-deception.  Perhaps his thought could be applied to our internet interactions under the shroud of anonymity to teach us about our fingers over the keyboard or touch screens of our cell phones.  They have the same effect of uncontrollable tongues that spread the mongering cries of ill will and ugliness among people and deceive us of our own vanity, self-righteousness and deception.

There was a time when we could play our games in a friendly manner with every desire to win without such rage being expressed during or after the game.  Foes were friends during the week and enemies for 60 minutes.  And it was over afterward with only the emotions of gladness for the winning team and disappointment for the losers.  Political positions have always challenged the opposing side with an eye upon compromise, collaboration and cooperation!  That too is a thing of the past.  Social order has usually been maintained by constraint, dialogue, and a desire for amiable relations and peace.  Not anymore!

It’s a whole new game today and one better be careful in the parking lot or under the cover of anonymity over the internet!  You may be attacked by a strain of hatred thrust at you through the powers of typed anonymous messages designed to destroy you for only stating your case or emotion about an event.  It’s a whole new game today!

Well, the LSU game is over!  My team lost and I’m unhappy about it!  But, I think I will stop now!  I’m going back to my anonymity!

THE HUMMINGBIRD WAR

The Hummingbird Controversy has escalated into all-out warfare.

The gloves are off, the diplomacy is over, and the positioning and maneuvering about has ended.  This is war!  And the dispute is over two bird feeders with free food containing Hummingbird Food, an enriched Natural Springs Nectar with essential vitamins and minerals.  That is what the fight is all about!

Imagine media’s observations of this fight.  It could be assumed that social dynamics or religious beliefs have brought this confrontation to this reality.  They might consider that perhaps prejudices or biases have deepened among these little creatures causing such hostilities.  Some have a greenish hue, one has a red ring about its neck, and some are longer while others are short and fuller in appearance.  They each have long beaks appropriately. But they are all fighting trying to outdo each other or cause harm by flying into each other with strike after strike.  They are not equipped for warfare, but are made to fly swiftly and with precision to procure their daily rations of nectar for their survival.  But, they are fighting with a vengeance.  Or this may be an old fight only escalated by the presence of ‘free food.’

The feeder was moved and the fight was moved to bring the conflict to the sight of it.  It didn’t matter that one feeder is in the front and the other is in the rear.  The fight now is on, without a break throughout the day.  While flowers with nectar from nature still bloom within sight and a very short flight, these beautiful and otherwise amazing creatures fight over ‘free food.’

What comes to mind is this?  Humanity’s fights could very well be similar in nature to these hummingbirds.  Much of our war mongering may be over ‘free stuff’ that is available to meet everyone’s needs.  But there are some of us who insist that the ‘free stuff’ is mine, all mine!

Have you heard the often quoted statement, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?”  There is probably more truth to that comment than we’re willing to admit.  Some people actually want it all!  Not just access to resources, blessings, or opportunities, but the entirety or the whole of everything.  Some don’t just want a piece of the pie; they want and must have the entire pie.  And, at any price, they are willing to fight to have it all, whatever “it” is!

Could some of the world’s conflicts be settled or tensions eased through thoughtful consideration of the needs of others, other nations, or other parts of the world?  Have we overstated ‘war and rumors of war’ to mean something other than what it really is, an unwillingness to share resources that are provided for everyone’s benefit?  Land, oil, water, air space, outer space, technologies, the list goes on and on.  But the truth of the matter is that all of these things and everything else belongs to someone else regardless of our right(s) or entitlement.  Entire kingdoms and empires have been lost due to man’s need to control everything.  Greed trying to control access to the resources and the resources themselves will drive entire nations to a frenzy of war when out of control.

Isn’t it interesting that the real things of life go neglected, overlooked, wasted, or stockpiled away at the expense of a fight for ‘free stuff.’  Freedom is jeopardized but cited as the just and noble reason for the fight.  Life is lost for what is presented as noble!  Later on, with more objective thought and careful examination, it can be see for what it really is,  a fight to grasp and hold on to resources, blessings, and opportunities from others who have as much right as everyone else to consume or use for their own benefit and blessing.

The nature of war has changed such that we cannot automatically assume that once lofty ideals, principles, or noble causes are the motivation and incentive to stand in the wake of aggression toward others.  Great wars have been fought for noble causes and won so that ideals, principle, and the best things in life might flourish and grow.  It is a new day where mongering on battlefields is at times driven by hidden agendas of the haves against the have nots.  The prophets in ages long past spoke to such issues and were oppressed and killed.  Not much has changed!

This is not an effort to oversimplify the matter.  Conflicts are real, the loss of life is real; the fight is overwhelming expensive in effort and resources.  It is even observable with these little hummingbirds that are expending time, energy and everything they have to this fight.

On one level, like those hummingbirds, it can be a matter of survival and sustaining a way of life.  But no one hummingbird needs the whole feeder.  No one hummingbird can consume the whole bottle of enriched nectar in an hour or a day or a week even.  It will take time for the overpowering and winning hummingbird to consume all of the contents of two feeders. Greed has them enraged and out of their senses, determined to win, to feed exclusively, and have it all to themselves individually!

Would it help if it occurred to these little creatures that the provider of the feeder may have in mind providing more to replace the already consumed nectar.  In other words, whoever decided that these little creatures should have access to ‘free food’ may again provide from among their resources with the same generosity some more ‘free food.’

Which brings up the most important thought about this warfare:  None of the ‘free food’ belongs to either of the hummingbirds.  It is not in their possession, neither of them.  They have access to it!  But once they leave for the season to head south to warmer weather during winter’s reign, the feeder will still be here and they will be gone.  The nectar will still be here and still available!

Think about the fight, the warfare, the conflict that you’re in or the ones that you support.  What is it really about and what really happens if you win?  And, what happens when you or the ones you gave everything to in support of their aggressive solution are gone?  Whose ‘free stuff’ will it be when you and your way of life are gone?

Our sense of entitlement to everything cannot be our justification for the fight!  Sharing and coexistence are worthwhile alternatives to a fight to the death!

Be careful of engaging in all-out war!  It may not be worth all that it takes to win, for the hummingbirds or for mankind!