CHASING RAINBOWS

 

            Petey was my sister’s little Apricot Poodle.  He had more personality than a dozen other dogs combined.  He was like a naughty two-year-old.  Petey stole everything that wasn’t nailed down.  I’m convinced he watched with eagle eye, and when someone laid down the remote, or a pair of eyeglasses or a writing pen, in a flash, this adorable puppy snatched it and furrowed under the table to gnaw it to shreds.  It was a game with Petey, and my sister fell for it every time.  She jumped up and yelled and chased him.  “Give it back!  Put it down, Petey!”   He loved it!

Every time the door was left ajar, he was out and down the street running lickety-split with his long apricot ears flapping in the breeze.  Terrified that he would be hit by a car my sister always chased after him yelling, “Petey stop!  Petey come home!”  Sometimes I chased with her.  Even the neighbors got into the act enticing him with a slice of bologna or some other delicacy.  Finally, June gave up.  Turning around, she started back to the house announcing, “I’m going home now,” and, without further coaxing Petey turned around and padded after her glad to come in out of the heat.

Chasing a dog in the 118 degrees August heat wasn’t fun, but thinking about that experience, I realized that we spend most of our lives chasing after one thing or another.

When we were kids, we chased after the ball, the dog and each other.  As teens, the girls chased the boys and the boys chased the girls.  Then life became serious, the future loomed, and we began to pursue more important things—the ingredients of a “good” life—the things that would make us happy.

According to the Dalai Lama, our sole purpose in life is to pursue, chase after, happiness.  Many people have bought into this believing that possessions, position, and prestige are the secrets to that longed-for happiness.  All their lives, they chase the dream convinced that if they can just earn a little more money, enlarge the business, acquire a snazzier automobile, live in a better neighborhood, and run with the beautiful crowd, life will be perfect.  Only to discover that happiness is fleeting, and the nose must be kept to the grindstone in order to sustain that lifestyle.

            “I’M ALWAYS CHASING RAINBOWS” was a popular vaudeville song first produced back in the early nineteen hundreds, but recorded by many artists through the years.  To me, the lyrics portray disappointment, defeat and unrealized dreams.

“I’m always chasing rainbows watching clouds drifting by.

My schemes are just like all my dreams ending in the sky.

Some fellows look and find the sunshine.

I always look and find the rain.

Some fellows make a winning sometimes.

I never even make a gain…”

What a sad, sad song!  A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon.  It is an optical effect produced by sunlight and water droplets.  Yes, God gave us the rainbow as the sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood, but the rainbow, though beautiful, is not something that can be physically approached, nor can it be leaned on or trusted in.  It is not a thing of substance, and it disappears almost as quickly as it appears.   Chasing rainbows is pointless.  My apologies to Irish Leprechauns.

I am sure the writer of these lyrics had in mind something more than an actual rainbow.  I believe he was thinking of those things for which we work so hard hoping that, miraculously, they will produce the life we long for—that magically our dreams will come true.

Contentment is an ingredient in short supply in today’s world, because whatever it is, IT’S NEVER ENOUGH!  We strive so hard to get ahead, to acquire more stuff, to “keep up with the Joneses,” to make a better life that we leave ourselves no time to enjoy the simple pleasures.  Don’t you just wish sometimes that you could forget about what your friends have and what your neighbors are doing?

Our hearts and minds are so fixated on the present, on stockpiling the “good” things that we have little thought for the future—for eternity.

Matthew 6:19-20 (The Message) counsels us to “…stockpile treasures in heaven…” because those earthly treasures, on which we set such store, are in danger of being “…eaten by moths and corroded by rust or –worse!—stolen by burglars.”

Matthew is telling us that those things we chase so aggressively are just as unsubstantial, just as fragile, just as fleeting as the rainbow.

There is only one true source of the peace and happiness we so long for, and that is God Himself.

In Psalm 63:1, David cries, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you…”

Again in Hebrews 11:6 “…He(God) is a rewarder of those who diligently seek (who chase after) Him.”

CHASE AFTER GOD.  HE IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF REAL HAPPINESS!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT AN EXAMPLE

WHAT AN EXAMPLE

            I am thinking this morning of the well-publicized University Scandal.  That it is a disgrace, most people agree.  Yet, I cannot help but wonder about the children involved.  Did they know about the deception?  Were they party to the dishonest deals?  Then I am tempted to think, “Oh well, they are children of well-heeled parents, spoiled, privileged kids, who have been given everything their heart ever desired.  So, why not four years of partying at Stanford or Yale?”

However, I must consider the hurt and embarrassment these young men and women may be suffering.  Their parents may pay fines, and some may spend time in prison, but the kids now have a black mark on their reputation, and their chances for a quality education in a fine institution, if that is what they really looked forward to, are damaged, perhaps beyond fixing.  What a wonderful example their parents have set for them!  If you don’t qualify for it—if you don’t want to work for it, just steal it!

I am the first and only one in my immediate family to graduate from college earning an advanced degree.  My brother Lincoln was Full Professor at Florida State University, not because of his college education—World War II deprived him of that, but because of his many years of experience and diligent work in the World of Opera.  My brother Paul was a wonderful pastor for more than sixty years, but not because of his college education, for there was no money for such a thing.  He studied as long as he could, working as much as possible, but never able to finish.  He was self-taught digging in and working hard becoming one of the best preachers in the country, but without a degree.

Our parents were God fearing, hard working, and intelligent people with little formal education.  My Mom graduated eighth grade, but my father, who was needed on the farm, only had three years of schooling.

Three things were important to my Daddy—hard work, honesty, and his faith.  It wasn’t so much that my parents disdained higher education they just couldn’t pay for it.

When I decided I was going to college, my parents didn’t discourage me, but I knew I would have to make it happen.  So, after high school, while my classmates went off to college, I went to work.  I worked in a factory for a year making pajamas for SEARS.  I was guaranteed seventy-five cents per hour, but I was fast, so I doubled my earnings, $60.00 a week.

Sewing pockets on pajamas for an entire year was boring, believe me, but I was determined to get to “Southwestern,” one of our church colleges in Waxahachie, Texas.  I gave my Mom and Dad $15.00 a week to help pay bills, and I saved almost every nickel of the rest of my income. Wow, a $1,000.00—my savings for the year!  Though it wouldn’t get you around the corner in today’s economy, it was a good chunk of money in 1955.

Early in September that year, I packed my footlocker, boarded a Grey Hound Bus, and made my way to Waxahachie.  I subsidized my $1,000.00 by working part-time on campus first in the laundry and then in the Choir Director’s Office.  My savings almost got me through two years of college.  Today, at that same school, tuition and living expenses on campus is close to $35,000.00 per year.  Even that doesn’t compare to Harvard’s costs.

At the end of my second year, I was in debt to the college for $200.00.  I couldn’t go back until that debt was paid.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find a summer job.  My heart was broken.  I wanted so much to return.  Mama knew my sorrow.  One morning she disappeared for a couple of hours.  When she returned, she put her arms around me, and, with tears in her voice, said, “Pack your suitcase. You are going back to school.”  After a good cry, I did just that.

Mama had been to the bank and based on her good name only, she borrowed $200.00 to get me back to school.  She paid it back by hard, sometimes backbreaking work, but she never regretted her sacrifice.

My Master’s Degree Certificate hangs on the wall above the desk where I am now writing.  I am grateful for a good education.  I am grateful that it wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter, nor was it stolen.

Honestly, I don’t know if I would entrust a child of mine to one of these prestigious universities that have become more like a four-year summer camp, where courses meant for those living in fairytale land are offered.  Courses such as “The Amazing World of Bubbles,” “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie,” “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame,” “Pattern Making for Dog Garments,” “The Joy of Garbage,” “What if Harry Potter is Real?,” and many more such ridiculous  offerings.

I have discovered that you don’t have to go to Princeton or Brown to receive a good education.  You can go to a small college in a Podunk town, where qualified professors care about students mentoring and encouraging them to rise to their highest potential.  That’s the kind of undergraduate education I was exposed to.

Yes, I am thankful.  I’m thankful for the example my parents set for me.  From them, I learned hard work, sacrifice, and honest living.  They gave me everything I needed and more.  I would not be where I am today were it not for their exemplary, sacrificial life.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 9, the Apostle Paul commends the cheerful giver.  In verse 10, he says, “Now may he who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”

In 1955, my Mama sowed $200.00 into the soil of my life.  Her seed multiplied.  It grew into more than forty wonderful years of active, full-time ministry, and it still multiplies today, through my Bible teaching.

I AM THANKFUL FOR THE EXAMPLE OF HONEST, HARD WORKING, GODLY PARENTS.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

You surely have had one of those days.  You know the kind that starts with such promise and little by little unravels into a tangled mess leaving you frustrated, despondent and a little angry.  Nothing catastrophic has happened—just a bunch of, comparatively small, unpleasant surprises that you can’t fix.

This is a stressful time of year for me because, as my sister’s guardian and conservator, on or before March 10, I must file papers with the court proving that I am neither abusing her, nor am I stealing her money.

I learned the hard way that it is smart to hire an accountant to handle the financial report.  He likes to keep me on pins and needles each year wondering whether or not he will finish it before the deadline.  Bless him!  He sent the final copy yesterday, five days early.

I awoke this morning with great anticipation.  I would finally hand my reports over to the court, and forget about them for eight or nine months, while they drag their feet deciding whether or not to grant their stamp of approval.  I could feel the stress slipping away, as I struck out for the courthouse.

Of course, the closest parking place was thirteen miles away, but I finally made it through security allowing my cane to be scanned, I don’t know what they thought I had in it. I headed down the hallway toward the Probate Office, but the Probate Office was no longer there.  Upon inquiring, an officer told me that it had never been there.  Oh, really?  “It’s on the second floor where it’s always been,” he said.  It wasn’t there either, so after limping around for miles, I finally came back downstairs, and there was the office, just around the corner.

Thankfully, I didn’t wait long before my number was called.  The pretty girl took my papers, “That will be $300.00,” she said.

“For what,” I demanded.   “I have to pay you for doing something you make me do?”

The clerk had an extended conversation with the girl behind the next window, and together, they decided, “Yes, $300.00.”  I didn’t have $300.00, and they wouldn’t let me write a check, the rules will not allow me to use my credit card to pay my sister’s bills.  Being reimbursed is a sticky business that requires a lot of explaining, but I had no choice.  Suffice it to say, “I left the courthouse thoroughly deflated.”

From there, I traveled across town to return a walker I had purchased at a Mobility Store.  I didn’t need it after all, so I wanted my money back.  Wonderful news!  I had to forfeit 25% of the original purchase price for a restocking fee.  When I objected, the salesman pointed to a sign high on the wall on the other side of the show room.  “Of course,” I said.  “I’m going to nose around the store ferreting out all your sales rules before I make a purchase.”  Though he insisted he would have to resell the walker as used, I knew better.  It had never been out of my car and still had all the tags on it.

We finally agreed that he would return everything but the sales tax.  This morning, I discovered that he had cheated me by $7.00.  I hate that!  Oh well, it was one of those days.  I even left the grocery store without my groceries, and my brother wasn’t home when I called to whine to him about my crumby day.

What do you do with a day like that?  Well, you can come home and pout and complain and feel sorry for yourself.  I must admit I did exactly that for a while, but honestly, that kind of behavior takes a lot of energy, and I am a bit lazy.  So what is the alternative?

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Does that mean every day?  Did God actually make this insufferable day? Must I really be glad about it?  I think so!  However, if we remember that GOD IS IN CONTROL, He knows exactly what is happening, and He has allowed those annoyances in our life, that makes all the difference in the world.

“…I will rejoice and be glad in it.” That’s hard to do, but it’s a lot more fun than pouting.   Shout joyfully to the Lord.  Come into His presence with singing, dance a little jig, for the Lord is God, and you belong to Him.  You are one of His lambs.  That assurance alone ought to be enough to lift the gloom.

A song I used to sing with children says it all.

Happiness is to know the Savior

Living a life within His favor

Having a change in my behavior

Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine no matter if the teardrops start.

I’ve found a secret.  It’s Jesus in my heart.

Happiness is to be forgiven

Living a life that’s worth the liven’

Taking a trip that leads to heaven,

Happiness is the Lord.

Tomorrow may be another one of those days, even a day with tears.  Who knows?  Just remember He is in control, and…

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOD BLESS AMERICA

GOD BLESS AMERICA

No, it is not the 4th of July, but I am thinking about my beloved country today—no longer beloved by many, much to my sorrow.

Our President is in Viet Nam negotiating with Kim Jung Un about denuclearizing  North Korea while, at the same time Congress is in session trying desperately to find reason to impeach him.  Celebrities are fabricating stories about being personally terrorized, and politicians are promising to turn everything green and give away the store, while Americans are approving the murder of newborn babies.

I am thinking of those who sacrificed to make America a great country—a country once admired throughout the world.  From the Pilgrims, who made that perilous journey across the Atlantic to the boys who died in the Iraq War, and are still dying to defend our land, untold sacrifice has been made.

I was three weeks shy of my sixth birthday when Pearl Harbor was attacked and The United States of America declared war on the country of Japan.

I was much too young to understand the enormity of things that were going on in our world, but I did know there was concern in our home.  Mama was afraid her boys would have to go to war, and they did.  Three of my brothers served our country during that long, drawn out nightmare.

For the most part, I was a happy carefree, uninformed child during the war years, but there are things I do remember.  For example, there was V Mail or Victory Mail.  The morale of our military depended, to a great degree, on news from home, so mail was important.  V-mail letters were written on a thin, blue, 7 X 9 1/8th inch page, which, when folded properly, formed its own envelope.  Our V-mail letters were censored, removing any sensitive information, copied to film and printed back to paper, reduced in size by 60%, upon arrival at its destination.   Thirty-seven mail bags were replaced by one single sack, and 2,575 pounds of mail was reduced to a mere 45 pounds.  V-mail also deterred espionage communication.  Small and brief though it was, we anxiously watched for and devoured every letter from our boys.  It wasn’t unusual to receive a letter with parts missing. “LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS,” was a well-worn slogan during the war.

I remember the British Air Cadets who trained at Falcon Field just northeast of our little town.  My high school sister, who worked at the corner drugstore fountain, fell in love with Jimmy.  In time, Jimmy was shipped back to England to fight the war in Europe, but letters arrived faithfully until they didn’t arrive at all.  What happened to Jimmy?  He either fell out of love or was shot down over Germany.  My sister was truly one of the wars wounded.  She often sang to me:

There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover,

Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after,

Tomorrow, when the world is free…

And Jimmy will go to sleep in his own little room again…”

 

Then there was rationing.  So many resources had to be reserved for the military, mail from home and good food encouraged our boys, while at the same time, making many things scarce to the general public.  Sugar, tires, gasoline, meat, coffee, butter, chocolate, canned goods, shoes and many other things were difficult to come by.

Every person, from the youngest baby to the oldest grandpa, had two rationing books—blue for processed foods, and red for meat, fish and dairy products.  The rationing books were filled with stamps that must be presented at the store when any of these items were purchased.  No stamp, no purchase!  When the stamps for a certain item were used up, you couldn’t buy anymore until next month’s rationing books were issued.  Everyone was allowed only two pairs of shoes each year.

World War II was the backdrop for the world debut of Margarine.  Margarine was a glob of white stuff accompanied by a capsule of yellow food coloring.  Mama put the white stuff in a bowl and mixed the food coloring in.  It looked like butter, but in our home, “fake” butter created somewhat of a crisis.  Daddy would have none of it.   There were farmers in the church, where my father was pastor.  They often brought us real butter and other dairy products.  Daddy always bragged to visitors about our real butter, but sometimes it was not real at all.  Mama got a big laugh out of that.

We saved cans and planted Victory Gardens.  Women went to work in factories doing the jobs vacated by our men, who were fighting on the foreign front.  Everyone sacrificed in one way or another.

For a six year old the scarcity of bubble gum was probably the greatest sacrifice, and I did miss my brothers.

In some ways, those war years were good years.  Americans came together.  We were one united family loving the same thing, working for the same thing, and fighting against the same enemy.  We had one great purpose—keep our country free and bring our boys home.

The majority of people went to church, and even if they didn’t believe, there was still a sense of respect for God and the rule of law.

I look at my country now and see how things have unraveled.  It seems there is no longer any respect for anyone or anything.  Judges 21:25 says, “In those days…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  That sort of describes what is going on today.

I do want America to be great again, but in spite of how hard our president is working, and the good things he is accomplishing, I believe there is only one way that is ever going to happen.

Psalm 33: 12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…”  America will never be great unless God is great among us—unless He is our Lord.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!