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St. Louis, December 2010, Photo taken by Kara Haberstock, all rights reserved
‘And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’"
“Everyone under the sun suffers the same fate….There is nothing ahead but death.” - Ecclesiastes 9:3-4
In some ways, in a lot of ways, it’s a good thing. I’d hate to be stuck on this broken world forever. One lifetime provides quite enough suffering.
And it also makes one grasp the preciousness of every moment. Next semester my campus group is kicking of the semester with a Carpe Diem theme. Seize the day. Take advantage of everything that you have now and do something meaningful. Don’t waste your life. Don’t take the relationships you have around you for granted. Take joy in your life. Make your days matter.
“So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this…Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless day of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. Whatever you do, do well.” - Ecclesiastes 9:7-10
There’s a balance to be had in the spectrum between rash, emotional decisions and over-planned, tentative living, but I think sometimes I fall too close to the latter. I’d live my life a bit differently if I thought it’d be much shorter, or if the lives of those around me were much shorter. I’d take more risks. I’d probably get married sooner, spend more time with people, and take some crazier trips to places I’ve always wanted to experience.
Should I be taking some of these risks now?
I don’t really have much to say. It’s been a hard week.
What do you do with someone else’s suffering? When you want to do something, but you can’t do anything? When it begins to wear on you and worry you and becomes too much to bear? What happens when you feel yourself begin to lose control? When everything begins to break down?
I usually try to fix things myself, or I turn to other people and cling to them like someone drowning. It rarely works.
The only hope we have in this life is Jesus. I must cling to him.
Shut your eyes, take a deep breath, and listen.
(The Antlers, La Blogotheque Take Away Show)
“Look your hardest, dear. I wouldn’t hide if I could. We didn’t idealize each other. We tried to keep no secrets. You knew most of the rotten places in me already. If you now see anything worse, I can take it. So can you. Rebuke, explain, mock forgive. For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives- to both, but perhaps especially to the woman- a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted” - Lewis, A Grief Observed, 89.
I hope I can always say likewise.
And he continues:” To see, in some measure, like God. His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him. We could almost say He sees because He loves, and therefore loves although He sees” (89-90).
How amazing it is to be loved by the One who holds all things.
This world is broken.
“Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land….matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy” (8).
We are broken. We all know that we are. There are parts of us that are empty and just ache so. You can try to fix your own brokenness with money or people or things that make you feel good for now. It won’t work.
Money runs out.
“Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth- expect perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!” (10-11)
And everything else eventually passes away. Possessions wear out and break. People leave. All falls to pieces.
“We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us” (15).
And all of this seems quite hopeless. We seem quite trapped in our fate. But there is one who has come to give life, abundant joyful life.
“To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life- this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past” (19-20).
I want to be so busy enjoying the life God has given me that I have no time to bemoan what has passed. This I think is what it looks like to seize every moment. I want to live in celebration. I want to live in joy.
(All from Ecclesiastes 5)
Lights in the Dark (photo taken by Kara Haberstock, all rights reserved)
“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. after all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few” (1-2).
So opens the fifth chapter of Ecclesiastes.
I know that I often deny God the reverence he deserves. It’s easy to think of him as a friend, the One who never leaves, a lover, a father, and to forget that he is the Sovereign God of all creation, who holds all things together, who deserves all glory and honor, who rightfully demands that all things bow before him. He does not exist for my benefit; I exist for his. And thus, that what I do in his presence, especially when I come before him to pray and to worship, should not be done thoughtlessly. I serve a God above all others, a holy, righteous, perfect, infallible, unfailing God. Yes, I should be honest before him, I should be myself in his presence, I can be confident in his perfect love. But this does not mean being insincere or irreverent. And it does not mean that it’s okay for me to ramble and prattle on. I know that God loves me more than anyone will ever be able to, I know that he loves me in the midst of my quirks and shortcomings, and I even like to think that he smiles at the little tics of personality that I have (such as fumbling over words and tending to rant on certain issues). But I must remember just whose presence I am sitting in. (With this comes one of the other major themes of this passage. Don’t make empty promises to God. If you tell him you’ll do something, do it. Otherwise, don’t make that promise at all.)
In addtion, when I think about it, I often fail to give God even the smallest bit of consideration that I give to my friends. By this, I mean that I fail to listen. So often my interactions with God consist of me talking to him for a short or long period of time, then saying goodbye and going on my way. Sometimes I’m talking about how great he is, sometimes I’m making requests, sometimes it’s a mixture of the two. But I don’t stop to sit and listen to him. If I treated any one of my friends like that, our friendship would fail. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that God doesn’t take kindly to that either. He wants to speak into my life, to tell me about himself, about what he is doing, to give me guidance, to give me missions for others, to show me how he wants to use me. But he can’t (or at least it’s much more difficult) if I don’t listen. I like the way Solomon puts it:
“Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead” (7).
So I will come into God’s presence, mouth shut and ears open. It’s time to listen.