Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No charge

I love this conversation between a mother and her son. We can date it by what the little fellow wanted for his services!

A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on. After his mom dried her hands on an apron she read it, and this is what it said:

For cutting the grass: $5.00

For cleaning up my room this week: $1.00
For going to the store for you: $.50
Baby-sitting my kid brother while you went shopping: $.25
Taking out the garbage: $1.00
For getting a good report card: $5.00
For cleaning up and raking the yard: $2.00
Total owed: $14.75

Well, his mother looked at him standing there, and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind. She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he'd written on, and this is what she wrote:

For the nine months I carried you while you were growing inside me: No Charge.

For all the nights that I've sat up with you, doctored and prayed for you: No Charge.
For all the trying times, and all the tears that you've caused through the years: No Charge.
For all the nights that were filled with dread, and for the worries I knew were ahead: No Charge.
For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your nose: No Charge, Son.
When you add it up, the cost of my love is: No Charge.

When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, there were big tears in his eyes, and he looked straight at his mother and said, "Mom, I sure do love you". And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote:

Booker T. Washington's answer to prejudice

~ Not Anger but Patience ~

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was a great Afro-American educator. He organized the famous Tuskegee Institute, a school for Afro-Americans, at Tuskegee, Alabama. He was the school's first president.

Washington was born in slavery at Hales Fort, Virginia. Although he attended a mission school, he was largely self-educated. Few people have influenced the black race as much as did Washington.

On one occasion Washington was invited to give an address in a large city. Hailing a cab, Washington asked the driver to take him to the auditorium where Washington was to speak. But the white driver refused because Washington was black.

Patiently addressing the prejudiced driver, Washington said: "Alright, then, if you will get in the passenger seat I will drive you to the auditorium."

- Jack Finegan, At Wit's End (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1963), 74

Teach us to number our days!

"Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should" (Psalm 90:12 TLB).

"Each day receives an inheritance from yesterday, and at its close passes it down to the day which comes after...In countless ways yesterday's life and today's are intertangled. Each day is but a little section of a great web, containing one figure of the pattern, the warp running through all the days and years. A life is a serial story, opening with infancy, closing with death, and each day is one little chapter in the story" (J.R. Miller).

"[Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time" (Hebrews 11:25). Moses understood values. He renounced rank and royalty, "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" Hebrews 11:10. He chose the worst of religion to the best of the world. The pleasures of sin are for a very short time but God's love is everlasting.

There is within life an infrastructure that demands decision. Our foundation can crumble with a momentary gratification; it can also be strengthened when we choose to weigh the consequences. The eye of faith sees beyond the present amusements to the eternal rewards of joy. Egypt's gold cannot compare with the prospective delights of the Holy City. So Moses could number his days and spend them with the people of God. His priorities were in order. Never again was Moses troubled about the warp and woof of life.

"[We] also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when [we] do not expect him" (Luke 12:40). So the better part of wisdom is to know how to spend our days and hours most profitably for God, for others and for ourselves. God guarantees the interest on His loan of life to us!

Salt - A Seasoning And A Preservative

"You are the salt...of the world" (Matthew 5:13).

Salt is both a seasoning and a preservative. We sprinkle spiritual salt on our anger to turn it into meekness; on our bitterness to change it into forgiveness; on our doubts to change them into faith; on our inclination to gossip so we may change this malignant habit into acceptance of others; on our restlessness so we may become content with life. The seasoning and preservative is found in God's Word, for it is here and here only that we find the code of conduct for our lives.

Jesus told His disciples and us in His Sermon on the Mount that His people are savors of others. Salt, to be effective, works quietly and unobtrusively. We go out into the world and act and speak with grace seasoned with the salt of compassion and encouragement. A wise word is spoken in reason as well as in season. Jesus also lamented salt-less salt: "It is no longer good for anything..." (Matthew 5:13). How it must grieve Him when we don't live up to the potential and the nobility He has given us. "How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull!" (Lamentations 4:1).

Therold gives an excellent description of one who has lost the flavor of Christianity: "The bane of the Church of God, the dishonor of Christ, the laughingstock of the world, is in that far too numerous body of half alive Christians who choose their own cross, and shape their own standard, and regulate their own sacrifices, and measure their own devotions; whose sacrifices do not deprive them of a single comfort from one year's end to another, and whose devotions never make their dull hearts burn with the love of Christ."

Monday, June 25, 2012

On American Motherhood - Theodore Roosevelt, March 13, 1905 (MAGNIFICENT!)

Before the National Congress of Mothers.

In our modern industrial civilization there are many and grave dangers to counterbalance the splendors and the triumphs. It is not a good thing to see cities grow at disproportionate speed relatively to the country; for the small land owners, the men who own their little homes, and therefore to a very large extent the men who till farms, the men of the soil, have hitherto made the foundation of lasting national life in every State; and, if the foundation becomes either too weak or too narrow, the superstructure, no matter how attractive, is in imminent danger of falling.

But far more important than the question of the occupation of our citizens is the question of how their family life is conducted. No matter what that occupation may be, as long as there is a real home and as long as those who make up that home do their duty to one another, to their neighbors and to the State, it is of minor consequence whether the man's trade is plied in the country or in the city, whether it calls for the work of the hands or for the work of the head.

No piled-up wealth, no splendor of material growth, no brilliance of artistic development, will permanently avail any people unless its home life is healthy, unless the average man possesses honesty, courage, common sense, and decency, unless he works hard and is willing at need to fight hard; and unless the average woman is a good wife, a good mother, able and willing to perform the first and greatest duty of womanhood, able and willing to bear, and to bring up as they should be brought up, healthy children, sound in body, mind, and character, and numerous enough so that the race shall increase and not decrease.

There are certain old truths which will be true as long as this world endures, and which no amount of progress can alter. One of these is the truth that the primary duty of the husband is to be the home-maker, the breadwinner for his wife and children, and that the primary duty of the woman is to be the helpmate, the housewife, and mother. The woman should have ample educational advantages; but save in exceptional cases the man must be, and she need not be, and generally ought not to be, trained for a lifelong career as the family breadwinner; and, therefore, after a certain point, the training of the two must normally be different because the duties of the two are normally different. This does not mean inequality of function, but it does mean that normally there must be dissimilarity of function. On the whole, I think the duty of the woman the more important, the more difficult, and the more honorable of the two; on the whole I respect the woman who does her duty even more than I respect the man who does his.

No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night. She may have to get up night after night to take care of a sick child, and yet must by day continue to do all her household duties as well; and if the family means are scant she must usually enjoy even her rare holidays taking her whole brood of children with her. The birth pangs make all men the debtors of all women. Above all our sympathy and regard are due to the struggling wives among those whom Abraham Lincoln called the plain people, and whom he so loved and trusted; for the lives of these women are often led on the lonely heights of quiet, self-sacrificing heroism.

Just as the happiest and most honorable and most useful task that can be set any man is to earn enough for the support of his wife and family, for the bringing up and starting in life of his children, so the most important, the most honorable and desirable task which can be set any woman is to be a good and wise mother in a home marked by self-respect and mutual forbearance, by willingness to perform duty, and by refusal to sink into self-indulgence or avoid that which entails effort and self-sacrifice. Of course there are exceptional men and exceptional women who can do and ought to do much more than this, who can lead and ought to lead great careers of outside usefulness in addition to — not as substitutes for — their home work; but I am not speaking of exceptions; I am speaking of the primary duties, I am speaking of the average citizens, the average men and women who make up the nation.

Inasmuch as I am speaking to an assemblage of mothers, I shall have nothing whatever to say in praise of an easy life. Yours is the work which is never ended. No mother has an easy time, the most mothers have very hard times; and yet what true mother would barter her experience of joy and sorrow in exchange for a life of cold selfishness, which insists upon perpetual amusement and the avoidance of care, and which often finds its fit dwelling place in some flat designed to furnish with the least possible expenditure of effort the maximum of comfort and of luxury, but in which there is literally no place for children?

The woman who is a good wife, a good mother, is entitled to our respect as is no one else; but he is entitled to it only because, and so long as, she is worthy of it. Effort and self-sacrifice are the law of worthy life for the man as for the woman; tho neither the effort nor the self-sacrifice may be the same for the one as for the other. I do not in the least believe in the patient Griselda type of woman, in the woman who submits to gross and long continued ill treatment, any more than I believe in a man who tamely submits to wrongful aggression. No wrong-doing is so abhorrent as wrong-doing by a man toward the wife and the children who should arouse every tender feeling in his nature. Selfishness toward them, lack of tenderness toward them, lack of consideration for them, above all, brutality in any form toward them, should arouse the heartiest scorn and indignation in every upright soul.

I believe in the woman keeping her self-respect just as I believe in the man doing so. I believe in her rights just as much as I believe in the man's, and indeed a little more; and I regard marriage as a partnership, in which each partner is in honor bound to think of the rights of the other as well as of his or her own. But I think that the duties are even more important than the rights; and in the long run I think that the reward is ampler and greater for duty well done, than for the insistence upon individual rights, necessary tho this, too, must often be. Your duty is hard, your responsibility great; but greatest of all is your reward. I do not pity you in the least. On the contrary, I feel respect and admiration for you.

Into the woman's keeping is committed the destiny of the generations to come after us. In bringing up your children you mothers must remember that while it is essential to be loving and tender it is no less essential to be wise and firm. Foolishness and affection must not be treated as interchangeable terms; and besides training your sons and daughters in the softer and milder virtues, you must seek to give them those stern and hardy qualities which in after life they will surely need. Some children will go wrong in spite of the best training; and some will go right even when their surroundings are most unfortunate; nevertheless an immense amount depends upon the family training. If you mothers through weakness bring up your sons to be selfish and to think only of themselves, you will be responsible for much sadness among the women who are to be their wives in the future. If you let your daughters grow up idle, perhaps under the mistaken impression that as you yourselves have had to work hard they shall know only enjoyment, you are preparing them to be useless to others and burdens to themselves. Teach boys and girls alike that they are not to look forward to live spent in avoiding difficulties, but to lives spent in overcoming difficulties. Teach them that work, for themselves and also for others, is not a curse but a blessing; seek to make them happy, to make them enjoy life, but seek also to make them face life with the steadfast resolution to wrest success from labor and adversity, and to do their whole duty before God and to man. Surely she who can thus train her sons and her daughters is thrice fortunate among women.

There are many good people who are denied the supreme blessing of children, and for these we have the respect and sympathy always due to those who, from no fault of their own, are denied any of the other great blessings of life. But the man or woman who deliberately foregoes these blessings, whether from viciousness, coldness, shallow-heartedness, self-indulgence, or mere failure to appreciate aright the difference between the all-important and the unimportant, — why, such a creature merits contempt as hearty as any visited upon the soldier who runs away in battle, or upon the man who refuses to work for the support of those dependent upon him, and who though able-bodied is yet content to eat in idleness the bread which others provide.

The existence of women of this type forms one of the most unpleasant and unwholesome features of modern life. If any one is so dim of vision as to fail to see what a thoroughly unlovely creature such a woman is I wish they would read Judge Robert Grant's novel "Unleavened Bread," ponder seriously the character of Selma, and think of the fate that would surely overcome any nation which developed its average and typical woman along such lines. Unfortunately it would be untrue to say that this type exists only in American novels. That it also exists in American life is made unpleasantly evident by the statistics as to the dwindling families in some localities. It is made evident in equally sinister fashion by the census statistics as to divorce, which are fairly appalling; for easy divorce is now as it ever has been, a bane to any nation, a curse to society, a menace to the home, an incitement to married unhappiness and to immorality, an evil thing for men and a still more hideous evil for women. These unpleasant tendencies in our American life are made evident by articles such as those which I actually read not long ago in a certain paper, where a clergyman was quoted, seemingly with approval, as expressing the general American attitude when he said that the ambition of any save a very rich man should be to rear two children only, so as to give his children an opportunity "to taste a few of the good things of life."

This man, whose profession and calling should have made him a moral teacher, actually set before others the ideal, not of training children to do their duty, not of sending them forth with stout hearts and ready minds to win triumphs for themselves and their country, not of allowing them the opportunity, and giving them the privilege of making their own place in the world, but, forsooth, of keeping the number of children so limited that they might "taste a few good things!" The way to give a child a fair chance in life is not to bring it up in luxury, but to see that it has the kind of training that will give it strength of character. Even apart from the vital question of national life, and regarding only the individual interest of the children themselves, happiness in the true sense is a hundredfold more apt to come to any given member of a healthy family of healthy-minded children, well brought up, well educated, but taught that they must shift up, well educated, but taught that they must shift for themselves, must win their own way, and by their own exertions make their own positions of usefulness, than it is apt to come to those whose parents themselves have acted on and have trained their children to act on, the selfish and sordid theory that the whole end of life is to "taste a few good things."

The intelligence of the remark is on a par with its morality; for the most rudimentary mental process would have shown the speaker that if the average family in which there are children contained but two children the nation as a whole would decrease in population so rapidly that in two or three generations it would very deservedly be on the point of extinction, so that the people who had acted on this base and selfish doctrine would be giving place to others with braver and more robust ideals. Nor would such a result be in any way regrettable; for a race that practised such doctrine — that is, a race that practised race suicide — would thereby conclusively show that it was unfit to exist, and that it had better give place to people who had not forgotten the primary laws of their being.

To sum up, then, the whole matter is simple enough. If either a race or an individual prefers the pleasure of more effortless ease, of self-indulgence, to the infinitely deeper, the infinitely higher pleasures that come to those who know the toil and the weariness, but also the joy, of hard duty well done, why, that race or that individual must inevitably in the end pay the penalty of leading a life both vapid and ignoble. No man and no woman really worthy of the name can care for the life spent solely or chiefly in the avoidance of risk and trouble and labor. Save in exceptional cases the prizes worth having in life must be paid for, and the life worth living must be a life of work for a worthy end, and ordinarily of work more for others than for one's self.

The woman's task is not easy — no task worth doing is easy — but in doing it, and when she has done it, there shall come to her the highest and holiest joy known to mankind; and having done it, she shall have the reward prophesied in Scripture; for her husband and her children, yes, and all people who realize that her work lies at the foundation of all national happiness and greatness, shall rise up and call her blessed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quiet, please!

I used to work in a library. I decided one day to peruse a back issue of the Congressional Record, a most interesting document that we received daily. Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie was the Chaplain of the Senate at that time. I started reading his prayer and decided to copy it since I am an apostle of silence. We live in a world that is plastered with noise. My friends tell me that I am becoming a fanatic about the noise we can't seem to ignore because it assaults us on every side. I would like to share this wonderful prayer:
Dear Father,

Our lives are polluted with noise. The blaring sounds of a noisy society bombard our ears and agitate our souls. The television set is seldom turned off. We turn on our car radio at the same time we turn the ignition key. Music is piped into everywhere we go, from the grocery to the gym. On the streets, horns blare, tires screech, and tempers flare. Meanwhile, people around us talk constantly trying to find out what they want to say in the welter of words. It's so easy to lose the art of being quiet.

Even in this quiet moment, our minds are racing, our nervous systems are on red alert and we're like sprinters waiting for the starter's gun to go off. Calm us down, Lord, so we can work creatively today.

Lord, we hear Your voice saying, "Peace, be still." We want the miracle of that stillness and accept it as Your gift. We breathe out the tension and breathe in the breath of Your spirit. In this time of prayer speak to us the whisper of Your love and assurance, grace, and guidance. Get us ready for a day in which we can be still inside while living in a noisy world. In the name of our Lord and Savior.
Isaiah 30:15 tells us, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." There is no way on this blathering, blasting earth we can enter the Heart of God unless we go to the Mountaintop with Jesus! That means shutting off the computers (yes, Pat, you too!), TVs, radios, telephones and all the other paraphernalia that shouts at us. The last straw is the car that talks to us!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

DIRT ROADS - Paul Harvey

What's mainly wrong with society today is that too many Dirt Roads have been paved.

There's not a problem in America today, crime, drugs, education, divorce, delinquency that wouldn't be remedied, if we just had more Dirt Roads, because Dirt Roads give character. People who live at the end of Dirt Roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride. That it can jar you right down to your teeth sometimes, but it's worth it, if at the end is home . . . a loving spouse, happy kids and a dog.

We wouldn't have near the trouble with our educational system if our kids got their exercise walking a Dirt Road with other kids, from whom they learn how to get along. There was less crime in our streets before they were paved. Criminals didn't walk two dusty miles to rob or rape, if they knew they'd be welcomed by five barking dogs and a double barrel shotgun. And there were no drive by shootings.

Our values were better when our roads were worse! People did not worship their cars more than their kids, and motorists were more courteous, they didn't tailgate by riding the bumper or the guy in front would choke you with dust and bust your windshield with rocks. Dirt Roads taught patience. Dirt Roads were environmentally friendly, you didn't hop in your car for a quart of milk - you walked to the barn for your milk. For your mail, you walked to the mail box. What if it rained and the Dirt Road got washed out? That was the best part, then you stayed home and had some family time, roasted marshmallows and popped popcorn and pony rode on Daddy's shoulders and learned how to make prettier quilts than anybody.

At the end of Dirt Roads, you soon learned that bad words tasted like soap. Most paved roads lead to trouble, Dirt Roads more likely lead to a fishing creek or a swimming hole. At the end of a Dirt Road, the only time we even locked our car was in August, because if we didn't some neighbor would fill it with too much zucchini.

At the end of a Dirt Road, there was always extra springtime income, from when city dudes would get stuck, you'd have to hitch up a team and pull them out. Usually you got a dollar . . . always you got a new friend . . . at the end of a Dirt Road!

Healing the Brokenhearted

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, . . . He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all who mourn, . . . to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isa. 61:1-3, NKJV). If we had none other, this one Bible reference would suffice to tell us that we have a loving God who will light our way through the darkest night.  

1. God will give us beauty for ashes, radiance after the ashes of the volcanic eruptions that overwhelm our lives. It’s well known that the land is renewed after fire blackens fields and forests. Beauty indeed appears after the ashes. Crumbling lava and volcanic ash make the most fertile soil. So God grants us enrichment after we are consumed by a fire that we fear will destroy us. “He lifts [us] from the dust—yes, from a pile of ashes” (1 Sam. 2:8, TLB).

2. God will give us the oil of joy for mourning. Jesus often went to the Mount of Olives to pray. I’ve thought about Jesus’ agony that night being the oil pressed out, to become our oil of joy. The garden experience that night was horrendous: “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears . . .” (Heb. 5:7, NKJV). We need not be ashamed of our tears—Jesus wept several times.

3. God will give us the garment of praise for our spirit of heaviness. We are to wrap ourselves in praise. It is will, not feeling. The feeling comes after we have obeyed and praised, in spite of!

Jesus’ “garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom” (John 19:23, NIV). In His time people indicated great sorrow by tearing their clothes, but His particular garb was left whole. Is this our garment of praise, praise that Jesus comforts and saves us? Come, let us wrap Jesus’ seamless garment around us!

Fill Your Mouth With Laughter

Laughter may indeed be the best medicine after all. In his Anatomy of an Illness, published in 1979, Norman Cousins recounts how 10 minutes of solid belly laughter would give him two hours of pain-free sleep. Laughter stimulates heart and blood circulation and promotes respiration. It produces deep relaxation, thereby breaking up our tension. 

Just putting on a happy face can be rewarding. Working in a high-rise for senior citizens for several years, I made what I thought at the time was the profound discovery that if I smiled—whether I felt like it or not—I would feel better. I knew I couldn’t go in to those old people looking like a grump, so I would paste on a smile, and soon I was actually smiling. In an article published in the Orlando Sentinel, Ronald S. Miller states that “if we just assume facial expressions of happiness, we can increase blood flow to the brain and stimulate release of favorable neurotransmitters.” So when I smile I am releasing neurotransmitters and giving others—and myself--a better day in the process! 

Years ago I had a ministry with parents who had lost children. At the risk of sounding like a heretic, I asked them to keep a good joke book beside the Bible. I explained that there would be days when even the Bible might need to be supplemented with a good laugh that could, at least momentarily, lift the incredible weight of pain and loss. My personal daily shot in the funny bone was Lynn Johnston’s For Better or for Worse. God bless her for her painkiller insight on family life. 

One more bit of advice: don’t stick around negative people. These are what one writer calls “energy suckers.” Do yourself a huge favor and find someone positive and funny and enjoy life. 

God wants us to laugh and enjoy the full range of positive emotions He created. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have promised to “fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with rejoicing”! 

So let’s rattle those funny bones today and praise our heavenly Father for the wonderful gift of laughter. 

Two Mothers

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother ... "
John 19:25
"The mother of Sisera watched through the window for his return."
Judges 5:28 TLB
Jesus and Sisera -- and two mothers whose hearts are broken ... !

These two mothers didn’t know each other but their hearts were equally shattered because these were beloved sons in trouble. Mary saw her Son being mocked, spat upon and crucified. Sisera’s mother didn’t even know where her son was; she sat there by the window expecting him home at any moment, never realizing that before long her life would forever change.

Both sons were betrayed. Sisera, a Canaanite captain, was murdered by Jael who thought she was doing the Lord’s work (poor God! He gets blamed for so much!). Jesus was betrayed by a kiss, the symbol of love and loyalty,
and murdered by those who, again, thought they were doing the Lord’s work.

And so we are left with two grieving mothers who didn’t know about enemies, politics, treachery and murder. All they knew was that they had sons they loved with all their hearts.

The more I thought about the juxtaposition of these two broken hearts the more I was impressed with how finally futile schemes are. In the end, beginning and middle, life comes down to mothers and fathers and children -- and love and faithfulness and hope. This is the common bond among us all: love and a Father who loves us beyond measure, even to the Cross.

What a pity human nature intervened on God’s perfect plan for our happiness.

In the end, beginning and middle, life comes down to mothers and fathers and children -- and love and faithfulness and hope.

Letter to the bank - Anonymous

The letter to the bank below is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by a 80-year-old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, prerecorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.
Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me level the playing field even further.
When you call me, press buttons as follows:

1 To make an appointment to see me.
2 To query a missing payment.
3 To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
5 To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
6 To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
7 To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.
8 To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
9 To make a general complaint or inquiry.The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call. Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?
Your Humble Client

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Actual Instructions on Consumer Products

On a Sear's hairdryer:
Do not use while sleeping.
damn, and that's the only time I have to work on my Hair)
On a bag of Fritos:
You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.
(the shoplifter special)
On a bar of Dial soap:
Directions: Use like regular soap.
(and that would be how???
On some Swanson frozen dinners:
Serving suggestion: Defrost
(but, it's just a suggestion)
On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert
(printed on bottom): Do not turn upside down.
(well...duh, a bit late, huh)
On Marks Spencer Bread Pudding:
Product will be hot after heating.
(...and you thought????...)
On packaging for a Rowenta iron:
Do not iron clothes on body.
(but wouldn't this save me more time)
On Boot's Children Cough Medicine:
Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.
(We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5-year-olds with head-colds off those forklifts.)
On Nytol Sleep Aid:
Warning: May cause drowsiness.
(and...I'm taking this because???....)
On most brands of Christmas lights:
For indoor or outdoor use only.
(as opposed to...what)
On a Japanese food processor:
Not to be used for the other use.
(now, somebody out there, help me on this. I'm a bit curious.)
On Sainsbury's peanuts:
Warning: contains nuts.
(talk about a news flash)
On an American Airlines packet of nuts:
Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.
(Step 3: maybe, Delta?)
On a child's superman costume:
Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.
(I don't blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)
On a Swedish chainsaw:
Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.
(Oh dear...was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)

Facts about Mitt Romney

Personal Information:

· His full Name is: Willard Mitt Romney

· He was Born: March 12, 1947 and is 65 years old.

· His Father: George W. Romney, former Governor of the State of Michigan

· He was Raised in: Bloomfield Hills , Michigan

· He is Married to: Ann Romney since 1969; they have five children

· Education: B.A. from Brigham Young University , J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard University

· Religion: Mormon – The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints

Working Background:

· After high school, he spent 30 months in France as a Mormon missionary.

· After going to both Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School simultaneously, he passed the Michigan bar, but never worked as an attorney.

· In 1984, he co-founded Bain Capital a private equity investment firm, one of the largest such firms in the United States .

· In 1994, he ran for Senator of Massachusetts and lost to Ted Kennedy.

· He was President and C.E.O. of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

· In 2002, he was elected Governor of the State of Massachusetts where he eliminated a 1.5 billion deficit.

Some Interesting Fact about Romney:

· Bain Capital, starting with one small office supply store in Massachusetts , turned it into Staples; now over 2,000 stores employing 90,000 people.

· Bain Capital also worked to perform the same kinds of business miracles again and again, with companies like Domino's, Sealy, Brookstone, Weather Channel, Burger King, Warner Music Group, Dollarama, Home Depot Supply, and many others.

· He was an unpaid volunteer campaign worker for his dad's gubernatorial campaign 1 year.

· He was an unpaid intern in his dad’s governor’s office for eight years.

· He was an unpaid bishop and stake president of his church for ten years. The stories of his personal involvement in helping others, as well as his annual gifts to charities continue to be impressive.

· He was an unpaid President of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for three years. He stepped in to take over a troubled Organizing Committee and oversaw the making of the the Games successful. (A very complex task, accomplished because of his leadership and experience in working with people for a common goal.)

· He took no salary and was the unpaid Governor of Massachusetts for four years.

· He gave his entire inheritance from his father to charity.

· Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest self-made men in our country but has given more back to its citizens in terms of money, service and time than most men. (In fact, it's difficult to find another man even close in this respect!)

Mitt Romney is Trustworthy:

· He will show us his birth certificate

· He will show us his high school and college transcripts.

· He will show us his social security card.

· He will show us his law degree.

· He will show us his draft notice.

· He will show us his medical records.

· He will show us his income tax records.

· He will show us he has nothing to hide.

Mitt Romney’s background, experience and trustworthiness show him to be a great leader and an excellent candidate for President of the United States.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Gift of Forgiveness

""Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:8 NKJV
I'm convinced that our mental and physical health depends on our attitude toward others and how we treat them. Included in this is forgiveness. In fact, if I could choose the one gift from God that I personally need to have and to give, it would be the gift of forgiveness both for others and for myself (by the way, have you forgiven yourself, dear reader?!).

Maltbie Babcock wrote years ago: "How sure we are of our own forgiveness from God. How certain we are that we are made in His image, when we forgive heartily and out of hand one who has wronged us. Sentimentally we may feel, and lightly we may say, `To err is human, to forgive divine;' but we never taste the nobility and divinity of forgiving till we forgive and know the victory of forgiveness over our sense of being wronged, over mortified pride and wounded sensibilities. Here we are in living touch with Him who treats us as though nothing had happened -- who turns His back upon the past, and bids us journey with Him into goodness and gladness, into newness of life." Well, God asks that we do the same for others and ourselves.

We all know someone we are reluctant to forgive, for whatever reasons. There's that bit of pride that hides in the corner of our heart and flashes out to bite us when that certain person digs in with sarcasm and corrodes our self-esteem. After being bitten royally one day -- again -- I asked myself if someone else had said this same thing, would it have bothered me so much? What a surprise to realize that I wouldn't have thought once much less twice about it. But it was this person! Why? I still haven't figured it out!

But it was at that moment I realized that my attitude is wrong, and that I'm only hurting myself, not the other person who probably isn't even aware of what is happening. So I am learning to treat this person "as though nothing had happened." And if there is one certainty in life, it is this: love never fails! And it is God who gives us that love to love. What a revelation and relief to finally put aside how I feel and to will a love that only God can give. The great gift is that I truly love this person now!
And if there is one certainty in life, it is this: love never fails! And it is God who gives us that love to love..

The Prodigal Brothers

Editor's Note: This is neither short nor it is a story. It is a "sermon" preached in the 1980's at Pat's church. First it was a two-parter on her local Christian radio station (she was the Friday guest). One of her elders heard about the radio talks and asked her to deliver this as a sermon, so this is the result. Pat says; "I dearly love this chapter for it presents such a loving Father--and we all need Him so much today!"


Jesus talked about the ordinary things of life: prodigal sons, yeast, fishing, lost sheep, etc. He used everyday illustrations to give us profound and eternally-applicable principles. In one of the most profound chapters of the Bible Jesus told us about truth and love and hope, and He used ordinary illustrations that the average person could understand, for Jesus loved--and loves--us average people.

In Luke 15:1-2, "[T]he Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, `This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'" It was beyond their comprehension that the man who claimed to be the Son of God could so love those who the Pharisees labeled and libeled as weak and immoral and ordinary, heaven forbid. Only they were worthy of God's love. In this passage Jesus tells the world for all time that He is our Friend who seeks us to save us, for we are all lost sinners. He says to each of us, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice, then open the door, and I will come in and eat with you, and you with me." (Revelation 3:20.)

In this chapter there are not three but four losses: the lost sheep, the lost silver, the lost son, and the lost sympathy of the older brother. We've heard about the first three, but we don't often consider the lost sympathy. This is also the glorious chapter of the found. Here is Jesus Christ's immortal lesson about unconditional and self-sacrificing love.

In each parable the reason for the loss was different:

1) The sheep were heedless. "The farmer came down the lane. `Got a stray,' he said. `How do they get lost?' asked the city man. `They just nibble themselves lost,' said the farmer; `they keep their heads down, wander from one green tuft to another, come to a hole in the fence -- and never can find a hole by which to get back again.' The city man answered, `Like people, every generation of foolish men.'" (The Interpreter's Bible, Volume 8, page 265.) It's so easy to nibble, with our heads bowed, looking for more. Before we know it, we're tripping over tufts on our own turf.

2) The drachma did not lose itself but, by the law of gravitation, rolled into a dark corner. The way the world is turning today, it's too easy to tumble into shady corners and lose ourselves with borderline buddies and provocative paperbacks and dirty dramas and soap operas, all of which stir our cauldron of sensations and finally make us broken cisterns. God misses us when we are looking for excitement in the dark corners of our life. It hurts him If we are even temporarily lost to him and to his purpose in life for us, for God wants us with him all the time. He suffers when he loses his sheep.

3) The third cause was rebellion against a father's love. There were many losses in this particular parable, for the father and both sons lost something, and the two brothers lost, too. This is a tender parable of the unrighteous prodigal son, the righteous father whose love and devotion are truly remarkable, and the self-righteous older brother who refused to have anything to do with his unrighteous younger brother. This young man's story is as fascinating as that of the so-called prodigal son and just as sad.

In these three parables we have varying proportions of possession and loss: a hundred, ten, two; a seeming trifle, then more serious, then heartbreak. "There is something in human nature which makes anything that is lost precious by reason of its loss. Its absolute value may be little; its relative worth is great. Divine love goes after, not the greatest world, but the lost world." (Homiletic Commentary, Volume 24, page 410.)

One would think that one out of a hundred wouldn't matter so much but to God it does. The Shepherd is painfully aware that one is missing, even though there are 99 left. Then the coin represents a great loss, relatively, to the poor woman who hasn't much money. Most of us can relate to this woman when we are paying bills. And of course the loss of the son is the ultimate; the return is the ultimate, too. If we have lost a child, in whatever way, we can identify with this. Our Lord gave these three parables as one, to show how God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit "receives sinners" and fellowships with us.

1) The Son, like the shepherd, seeks the lost that he might save us: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10); "Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after it until he finds it?" (Luke 15:4b). Until he finds us! There is no check here of love and effort; instead, he lets us sign a check in whatever amount we want of his love, for his bank is open twenty-four hours a day, but we have to sign the check. What a comfort to know that his deposit of love is always there. . . .

2) The Spirit, like the woman, seeks the lost that he might use us. Lost persons are lost to usefulness and all the good that might come of that usefulness. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things" (John 14:26). There is vincible and invincible ignorance. For the Christian there is no excuse for invincible ignorance, for we have the Holy Spirit and the Word. The Spirit is ready to teach us when we are ready.

3) God, like the father in the parable, seeks the lost that he might have fellowship with us: "And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3); "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14). It encourages us to know that we are the only one to God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Son. God does not see the mass of men but the mess of a man. Jesus finds the lost and leads us into the fold with the Shepherd's crook that became a cross. "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart ..." (Isaiah 40:11). Our gracious God neither drags us behind Him nor drives us ahead of Him, but He lifts us and carries us: "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). On heart- and head-aching days, what a grand visual this is!


In this chapter, Luke 15, and particularly v.24, is the Gospel and the song of salvation: "For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found." In The Prodigal Heart, Susan Ertz, the author, points out that the prodigal younger son was prodigal in body but at least part of his heart was always at home; the elder brother was prodigal at heart but his body was at home.

"There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said, `Father, give me my share of the estate.'" (Luke 15:11,12). Not even a please or thank you is recorded here. This boy is saying to his father, "You owe me." Just like us: "God, you owe me a good life." We lay a debt on God; we forget that everything is a gift from God, even waking up in the morning to a new day and a fresh agenda: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). This is the way to start the day, in thanksgiving.

This young man wanted to get away from his father and what his father represented: authority. He wanted the liberty to take license. And the father did not reproach him (this is a major message throughout this chapter) but he gave his son his portion. He would not force this his beloved son into compulsory obedience and dependence. God wills not to force his will on us. "My Spirit will not contend with man forever" (Genesis 6:3). God finally leaves us to our own devices. "Let us break His chain and throw off His fetters," we cry. (Psalm 2:3.) Fortunately, the son eventually was to learn a lifelong lesson that true life is lived in gratitude, not gratification.

God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers;
And flings the thing we have asked in our face,
A gauntlet -- with a gift in it.
E.B. Browning.

"Not long after that . . . [he] set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living" (v.13). Winston Churchill wrote a novel titled A Far Country. In this novel, the far country is that alien land of the loss of standards and ideals. We too can be in an alien land of desire for fame, wealth, things, popularity and knowledge rather than wisdom. All of these can be the far country, away from the Father who wants us to be happy with Him. We can't live in the far country for very long without great longings for a noble land.

"And there squandered his wealth." This son, so precious to his father, had everything and lost everything. We throw away minutes, thoughts, hopes, dreams and loves without realizing what treasures they are. They seem so trivial at the time but, when we can no longer retrieve them--when minutes have become years--we surely regret the waste.

Sin is the greatest spiritual waste of all. There is a double waste here: that of what we have had and that which we might have been and done. There's much too much waste today. The daily papers are filled with the sweepings and dissipations of spirit and mind and body. God made us for noble ends: "But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands" (Isaiah 32:8 NIV). What a lovely verse! Some synonyms for noble are ethical, high-minded, respectable, trustworthy, compassionate and conscientious. They sound like a description of Christ and Christ-like people.

"Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, `Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!' Jacob replied, `First sell me your birthright.' `Look, I am about to die,' Esau said. `What good is the birthright to me?'" (Genesis 25:29-32). The prodigal son also sold his birth privileges for a mess of pods fit only for pigs. Notice both Esau and this son said, "Quick, let me have ..." Human nature is basically the same until Jesus touches us and gives us a new heart of discernment about what we really need in life. "Quick, Lord, let me have a new and patient heart and mind." We live in an instant age which isn't exactly an insightful age. Let us pray as did Solomon, "Give your servant a discerning heart. . .to distinguish between right and wrong" (1 Kings 3:9). The rest of life seems to take care of itself after a prayer like that. There is another point here for our youth: this young man left with all this money and no purpose for his life. What a setup for a letdown. It's difficult enough for a young person to leave home but this young man left with nothing but his own desires and devices in mind. What a disastrous combination!

"After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need" (v.14); " ... But no one gave him anything" (v.16). The friends who collected around the prodigal son while he was squandering his inheritance left him, and his father wasn't around to give to him anymore. Does this sound familiar? There is a severe famine of friends, hope, love, faith, all the substance that really matters in life, when we sell our inheritance for the pottage of immediate satisfaction. When misfortune came his way, the prodigal son had no spiritual resources left to meet his misery. He was homeless and friendless. He who had been priceless was now worthless, or so he must have thought. He bartered God's gold for the world's gild and found it to be most illusive and impractical. "How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull!" (Lamentations 4:1). Moral degradation turns gold into dross, the precious gem into a dull and now flawed paragon of mediocrity. We lose character and stability and influence when we have lost our spiritual luster. The cynical Lord Byron wrote a poem this young man could have written:

My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the anguish, and the grief,
Are mine alone.
The fire that on my bosom preys
Is lone as some volcanic isle;
No torch it kindles at its blaze --
A funeral pile!

"So he went out and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs" (Luke 15:15). He was too proud to go home; he wasn't hungry enough yet. A citizen of that country took note of the young stranger and took him in. "`That citizen,' says St. Bernard, quoted by Archbishop Trench, `I cannot understand as other than one of the malignant spirits, who in that they sin with an irremediable obstinacy, and have passed into a permanent disposition of malice and wickedness, are no longer guests and strangers, but citizens and abiders in the land of sin.'" It is best to stay strangers of the far country. "Lot . . . pitched his tents near Sodom" (Genesis 13:12). It was a bad move. And to feed swine! This was the lowest form of employment for, to the principled and refined Israelites, a pig was an unclean creature that they wouldn't even name, calling it "the other thing." How ironic that this swine he was reduced to feeding should have more value than he who now cared for them. But that is the way of the world: the glitter turns to bitter. It is then we realize that God's love is lavish; the world's is slavish. The feeding of the swine is indicative of the final course of sin: we are forced to do what we never thought we would have to do. It is degradation at the end of our course of what we thought would bring us happiness which we have mistaken for joy.

“When he came to his senses...” (Luke 15:17). Ah! this hungry and hopeless young man recovered his senses because his senses of touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell had been assaulted. "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" (Ephesians 4:19); "[We who insist on our own way] are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (Romans 1:31). Our excessive son got tired of it for he still had sensitivity to what is good. As Susan Ertz said, part of his heart was still at home. He finally realized that he had willingly left the home of a loving father to become the slave of a hard taskmaster. Sin will do that. It was finally body hunger, the physical sense of hunger, not soul hunger at this point, which brought the son to his senses. It would have been more noble had he felt the soul hunger first, but God works in mysterious and different ways with us all. We can't judge the how but only be grateful for the why and when of another's conversion. It is far better to enter the father's house with bowed head than not enter at all. We personally live in a comfortable world and it's difficult for us to understand that sometimes we have to notice another's body hunger before we can help their spiritual hunger.

"I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: `Father, I have sinned against heaven and you ... " (Luke 15:18). "So he got up and went to his father." (v.20a). "I will arise" (v.18) ..."And he arose" (v.20). We have here determination followed by demonstration, evidence of his repentance. He arose, he didn't waste time just wishing he could do something about it, but he moved toward this intense goal of cleaning up his life. The son chose to leave his father's house and finally chose to leave that choice--so we don't have to stay with bad choices. The son chose to leave in rebellion and he chose to return in submission. Life is filled with options and remedies.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.' (Luke 15:20). How can we not be touched to our core! Herein is the kiss of pardon. The father gave the kiss before his son said a word. It was given while the prodigal was still dirty and in rags; therefore, it was entirely unmerited. This first blessing was followed by many others. Not a word of reproach is spoken. How important this is for those of us who speak words of reproach to God's children because they may not do and speak as we do.

This is the story of our Father who runs to us while we are yet far away and when we are desperate after having tasted of the husks of life and are tired of searching for what is real and true. The son tells his father that he is not worthy but that does not stop the father from loving him and forgiving him and bringing out the best of what he has, to give to his precious son who has come home. Our Father runs to us and gives us His best--anyway! Can we engrave this bright verse on our sad hearts as a beacon light for those days when we feel that not even the Father loves us? When we feel we don't deserve anyone's love. . . .?

"The son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." (Luke 15:21). "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (Psalm 51:4). The father didn't seem to notice the young man's confession. He was so happy to have his son back that, for now, he seems to overlook the young man's confession in his rush to welcome the boy.

"But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. FOR THIS SON OF MINE WAS DEAD AND IS ALIVE AGAIN; HE WAS LOST AND IS FOUND.' So they began to celebrate." This should take away our very breath! Everything is done to assure this precious son that he is welcome and forgiven in full. This beloved son doesn't need to pay off any debts to the father, for the father has loved away the debt. This son will not be put into temporary moral seclusion and told to pay off by word or deed the debt he now owes his father. The father is not going to demand his pound of flesh from this boy whose concern was catering to the flesh. This isn't to say that he condoned what his son did, but he forgives in grave silence.


And this is our portion, too: the Father's love and forgiveness. It is Jesus Himself. God gave us His Son that we might be sons and daughters of God and live in His house for eternity. If we truly believe this, then we don't need to demand any other portion from God or man. We don't need to wander into any far countries of excitement to search for any other treasures, for God has given and will yet give the greatest treasures: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him ... " (1 Corinthians 2:9; Isaiah 64:4).

"Quick!" Jesus says, "bring the robe of righteousness that these my sons and daughters may exchange their filthy rags and be invested with a new natures; Quick! bring shoes for their feet that they may not be servants but my sons and daughters; Quick! bring the Bread of Life that they may be strengthened to feast on my love. This is Jesus’ "quick": to give and to save; "Quick, let my children have all that I have." Here is God's "quick" of total love and forgiveness and generosity, so different from our "Quick, give me." "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).

The Brother

One commentator calls this brother the narrow-minded saint. We Christians may be more inclined to be the older brother, for we are spared the gross sins of life. Also, the older brother may have felt that he was the only one who really had the family's (God's) interests at heart. Elijah thought he was the only person left in the world to do God's bidding but God informed him there were 7000 others out there who hadn't bent to knee to Baal. We are so foolish at times.

"The elder brother is very unpopular--in the parable. He is not unpopular in society, and he has many descendants. He is sometimes an officer in the church, a leader in reform groups, a `key citizen.' He thinks, or wills to think, that all other races are `inferior.' A man out of work is simply unemployable: `I was always able to find work, and always worked hard.' A prodigal like the younger son is just a wastrel: `Actually you can do nothing with them,' he says. He has `no patience with people who squander time and money,' especially money. Any neighbor of progressive mind is to him `a dangerous element in the community.' When disaster falls on the righteous, he doubts if `it pays to be good,' for he is sure that goodness ought to `pay.' Friedrich W. Krummacher has an honest and penetrating comment. A questioner asked his opinion of the identity of the elder brother. He replied: "I learned it only yesterday ... myself.'" (Interpreter's Bible, Volume 8, page 279.)

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. `Your brother has come,' he replied, `and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'" (Luke 15:25-27). "The older brother became angry and refused to go in" (Luke 15:28). He wouldn't go in! How often we stay out of the Father's house because we are angry. We may have children who have left home for a time because they are so upset with us. They're going to show us. But they get cold and hungry and come home. We return to the Father's house, too, when we are cold from the world's indifference and we are hungry for spiritual warmth. Some of us are petulant enough to stay out of the Father's house because someone said something nasty to us in church. Many a pastor laments church squabbles over petty things said and done to and at each other. Or we won't go to the Father's house because the pastor doesn't come often enough to see us. We can conjure up legions of reasons for not going into our Father's house.

"So his father went out and pleaded with him" (Luke 15:28b). The elder brother here represents the Pharisees in their moral correctness and exclusiveness. The father wanted to win over the elder son and, in telling this parable, Jesus wanted to win over the misdirected Pharisees. "Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles, too? Yes, of Gentiles, too ... " (Romans 3:29). "No true saint will look coldly on a poor sinner who staggers to the mercy seat" (W.G. Pascoe).

Jesus did not approve of the Pharisees' excessive devotion to the letter of the Divine Law and to the proud traditions of their race and to their misplaced patriotism. Even so, he treated them with a gentle love. The father is kind with this self-righteous, stern and unloving son, also. This son may be in greater need for his sin is less discernible. He is consumed with jealousy, feeling that the fatted calf for his brother made this sinful brother not just his equal but his superior.

This elder son no doubt believed that the father really loved the prodigal more than he did the son who stayed home. The son who remained with the father didn't seem to realize that there never was extraordinary cause for joy; all these years it had been a quiet, stable relationship. In the long run of life, this is the better way. The elder brother couldn't grasp that there is no deprivation to the virtuous in consequence of kindness shown to sinners. Relating this to family life, one child will need more help during a period of his or her life. This does not diminish the love for another child. That child, too, will receive help in his or her time of need. But it is so difficult to convince the child who feels left out that his or her turn is coming.

"But he answered his father, `Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders ... '" (Luke 15:29). "`All these I have kept,' the young man said. `What do I still lack?'" (Matthew 19:20); "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:11). It is well to remember that Jesus chose a tax collector, Matthew, for one of his disciples! The brother was in his own far country of anger, jealousy, condemnation, pride, gross ingratitude and petulance. We have here the attitude of the self-righteous toward the unrighteous. Those who think highly of themselves think hardly of others. These folk are hung up on the quid pro quos of life; there's no giving or forgiving; we get what we deserve, both good and bad. He did not have the same sins, but big brother had sins, too, and, in the long run of life, they may have been worse sins.

Here is the self-righteous person who has long served God and been kept from the gross sins of life. For this reason, he or she has no understanding of the "younger brothers" in life, those who have fallen and are trying to arise and get back to the Father. It is the Righteous Ones who sometimes get in the way of the sinners and who keep them from arising. If anything, it is these very ones, the Righteous Ones, who should have the most humility and gratitude, because they have been kept people. They did not break through the hedge God so lovingly placed around them. Within this verse, also, is the concept of servant/friend. This older brother was not his father's friend for he so stated, "All these years I have been serving you ... " Apparently he did not stay out of any devotion he felt toward his father. Here is yet another outrage against the father who didn't merit this ruthless treatment. The younger son is beginning to look like a saint.

" ... And yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends" (v.29). There's no please or thank you recorded here, either, for the many years of living in his father's house and having access to all the good things. This elder brother is also saying to his father, "You owe me." He, too, lays a debt on the Father. The younger brother said, "Give me ... " The older brother said, "You never gave me ... " The one demands and the other accuses, so both have sinned. This poor father got it with both barrels. And this older brother wanted to make merry with his friends, not his family.

"But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" (Luke 15:30). This bitter brother won't acknowledge his younger brother. He is disrespectful to his father as he scornfully says to him, "This son of yours ... " Big Brother doesn't hesitate to point out that his little brother has been cavorting with prostitutes, too. He is intent on rubbing the dirt in the father's face. After all, he stayed home all these years and he has been a good boy! At this time he can't realize the hostility that is gnawing away his own substance. To mention the transgressions of his brother's life at such a time as this is very bad taste, let alone a total lack of generosity and humility. "That love is great to cover faults, and to develop the most unpromising germs of goodness. It is not expended in the single effort of forgiveness, but has reserves of force to transform, purify, and elevate." (The Biblical Illustrator, Luke, page 194.)

The father quietly replies: "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours" (Luke 15:31). There are no restrictions or exclusions here; the older brother has always had access to the father's gifts (we forget these are gifts and not something that is due us). It is love that says, All I have is yours; it is law that says, You owe me. We are all older brothers and sisters in great need of unconditional love for each other, a love that is definitive and infinite. It is agape love that says, "No matter what you do or say, I will love you never-the-less." God had His neverthelesses, too: "Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security" (Jeremiah 33:6).

"But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; HE WAS LOST AND IS FOUND" (Luke 15:31). The elder brother contemptuously told his father, " .. This son of yours," so the father reminded his elder son that this was also his brother. "Am I my brother's keeper?" we can almost hear this puritanical, confused and rude young man say. There is something about this older brother that makes the younger brother less lost and more appealing. This poor older brother is a non-conductor in society; the power of love doesn't pass through him to others who so need encouragement and the nourishment of mercy. Perhaps the brother, whose faithful though grudging life had been quiet, was resentful of his younger brother's sudden joy; after all, he had stayed with his father and he had lived a quite commendable life, or so he thought. Then this upstart sinner comes home and all the excitement revolves around him.

How many of us have worked hard and faithfully, only to have the glory go to someone else. An elderly minister has worked for years with his deaf and seemingly dumb flock, and an assistant comes in who reaps their affection; the pastor works quietly and patiently with an unbeliever for years, and he is converted at a revival meeting; a friend's child is devout while ours, in spite of all our prayers and love, goes on his merry way; an employee works hard and is loyal, and when he or she retires, the new employee starts out with a higher salary and more benefits; the list is endless of the seeming inequities of life. "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants ... as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow" (1 Corinthians 3:5,6). Jealousies and partisanships don't belong in a Christian's life. We can rise above these hurts and grow into another task God has for us. It also helps to remember, "Not to us, O Lord, not us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness" (Psalm 115:1). This should weed out the unnecessary pride we feel in our work and, therefore, any hurt we may feel over another's success. "You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit" (John 15:16). We are to bear our own fruit; we are not to worry about what fruit another bears. If we want to waste God's time considering the injustices of life, then let us "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that [we] will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3).

And let us celebrate and be glad for we, too, were dead and now we are alive again; we were lost and now we are found!