Stand Firm

Stand Firm and Tall

 

 

          The air is cool, but still, and the flag hangs limply against the pole. Nothing of consequence challenges it; nothing lifts it out of the doldrums of mere existence. The colors and shape of the fabric seem to melt into an indistinct, purposeless blob. It seems drained of energy and purpose. It looks tired and insignificant.

 

          The people it represents, for the seeming lack of anything more important, quibble over tax rebates and tax increases, budget surpluses and shortfalls, granting and refusing of oil drilling rights, and whether or not prayer should be offered in public. They are all discussions that will go on and on and on. The career of a congressman is destroyed over rumors and innuendo, not knowing and maybe not caring, about the facts, and almost forgetting the young woman whose disappearance started it all.

 

And then the winds come.

 

          The winds lift the flag, challenge it, attempt to destroy it, to carry it away into oblivion; and yet it remains. The red, white, and blue banner takes on shape and distinction. It stands out from the pole stiff and straight, proud and purposeful. The winds whip it, the sun bleaches it, the rain and the ice may cause it to tear, but still it remains. It flies damaged, dirty, and torn above the carnage, but proud and firmly anchored in its history, its constitution, and most solidly in its people.

 

          And the people it represents are changed. Old concerns remain, but the perspective is different. All the people are threatened. Others want to destroy them. Rather than be defeated, they rise up, united, strong, proud. Rather than be cowed by fear, they stand firm. Prayer is offered in public without shame, without question. Many volunteer their very lives for the benefit of all – and some will die. But the challenges do not destroy; the threats do not discourage. Instead, they strengthen the resolve, the nerve, and the very character of the people.

 

When struggles come, whether for the nation, or for you individually, whether from some outside, unknown source, or from within your own family or circle of friends, stand firm. God is still there. Your faith is still there. Your character, your values, the things that make you who you are, is still there. Use the challenges to make you, as they have this nation, stronger, taller, and more capable. Draw on the strength and the compassion of others. Remain anchored in your faith, your character, and your purpose. After the storm, when the calm returns, your flag may hang limp, faded, worn and frazzled, but having survived, you will be able to retire it to a place of honored, treasured memory and replace it with a new flag of brilliant color, heavier fabric and stronger seams. You, like a new flag, will fly with greater strength, greater sense of purpose, greater confidence, greater honor, greater respect for yourself, and greater respect for and from others.

 

And one other thing, when your neighbor’s flag is worn and tired and frayed and frazzled, help him lift it up, help him mend it and get it flying again.

 

Larry Meissner (written shortly after the events of September 11, 2001)

God Came

Into This World – God Came

 

 

It was a world of sin and depravation, denial and deviation. It was a world that had rebelled against God. In some ways, not all that different than today. But it was also a world without hospitals, with comparatively little education, where few could read or write. It was a world for the most part empty of compassion for the young, for the sick, for the elderly. It was a world where life was cheap. Where the sick or the elderly were abandoned in the mountains or on the tops of the city walls. Where execution was often the price for minor offenses. 

 

Into that world, God came.

 

It was a world lost in emptiness, lost in the day-to-day struggle of finding sometimes scraps of food to survive. A world of dirty, smelly, cities and people. A world where people made a symbolic gesture of worship to some one or more higher deities, but lived their lives as though nothing was greater than man. It was a world where slavery was common, where respect for someone of another nation was often non-existent.

 

Into that world, God came.

 

With flashes of lightening, crashes of thunder,

Blasts of trumpets tearing the night asunder,

God did not come.

 

As a king in royal splendor demanding glory and adoration,

Proud and haughty, with arrogance beyond mention,

God did not come.

 

To crowds giving praise and honor and adoration,

Seeking his favor craving his attention,

God did not come.

 

But to the lonely and frightened, the sad and bewildered,

To the sick and abandoned, downtrodden and tattered,

Into our world, God came.

 

In the form of a man, with the respect of a slave,

To the hungry and naked, and the demented who raved,

Into our world, God came.

 

We were in sin, removed from our God,

Our creator abandoned, without hope on this sod,

Into our world, God came.

 

This God, who came in his Son into a world of sin and rejection and death, came so we could be his children. He came to die so our sins could be forgiven. Jesus came so we could live in the glory he abandoned.

 

Larry Meissner ©2016

Nothing New

Nothing New

            My wife and I saw a popular new movie recently. In the few days it has been open it has made hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of dollars. It was a good movie; I enjoyed watching it and will likely watch it again sometime. But I had seen it before.  No not the movie, but the story. I was disappointed in how many elements it borrowed from its predecessor. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised. After all, there are only so many different stories to tell. All fiction is the retelling of one of only seven basic plot lines. (How many different ways can Hallmark retell Cinderella or Romeo and Juliet?) It reminded me of something Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  (Ecc. 1:9 NIV-1984)

            Solomon was right (no surprise there). We commit the same sins our ancestors did. We sometimes think no one could be as bad as we are. No one could commit a sin as bad as my sin. But, “there is nothing new under the sun.” And all of us sin, no one is immune (“… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23)

            Our sin is the same and the cost is the same: “… the wages of sin is death …” (Rom 6:23). The remedy is also the same. We must turn to God for forgiveness just as the Israelites needed to do and ultimately as Christians learned to do. Through all of the Old Testament, even from before he laid the foundations of the world, God’s path for forgiveness was the same – His Son, Jesus. All of the sacrifices offered under the Law of Moses pointed ahead to the death of Jesus. When Jesus came and died on a cross to pay for our sins, the path became clear. That path remains the same today. Our message should be, as Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

            In the movies, though the people and circumstances are usually different, the stories are not new. Our personal stories are not new either. Any temptation we face has been faced before by someone else. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.”  (I Cor. 10:13) And God offers the same means of escape – his son, Jesus, needed by and available to everyone.  There is nothing new under the sun.

            Larry Meissner, January 2, 2016

What Am I Worth

What Am I Worth?

 

 

Men are like steel – when they lose their temper, they lose their worth.”  -- Chuck Norris

 

 

I spent all afternoon Saturday moving furniture and steam cleaning the carpet in the bedroom. Then, while I was vacuuming one last time to fluff up the nap of the carpet, the puppy came in behind me and wet in the floor.

 

 

            I don’t loose my temper very often, but I was angry. I yelled at the dog and chased her out of the room and kept yelling at her, “You couldn’t even wait two hours!” Then, when I almost tripped over her, I told her in a quiet, dark, thick voice, “You might be safer outside right now.” My daughter scooped her up real quick and shoved her out the back door. 

 

 

            By the time the dog came back in a couple of hours latter, she was went right back in the room where she got in so much trouble (she’s a little ‘dense’ that way) and was just as friendly as always. My daughter, on the other hand, sat quietly huddled in a blanket until I finished cleaning that spot in the floor again and started replacing the furniture. By then I had finally calmed down enough to see that she was almost in tears. I gave her a hug and apologized for losing my temper and then the tears broke loose. She said, “You don’t like her!” I assured her that I do like the dog, at least I want to, we just have some issues to work through.

 

 

And what did I accomplish by loosing my temper? Two things: 1) I scared the dog for few minutes (not very long), and 2) I crushed my daughter. Will the dog remember? Experience with her tells me she will not. Will my daughter remember?  Always. From this point on, for a long time, whenever the dog does something wrong, she will be afrad I will want to get rid of her puppy. It will take some time to fully reassure her that I want to keep the dog as much as she does. It must have made me feel better to get that out of my system though, right? Oh, sure. I was shaking and tense, and giving up control. “Giving up” because I allowed myself to react rather than responding appropriately. And what did I give control to? A little black dog that I haven’t managed to train properly. Afterwards, I was angry and disappointed with myself for allowing myself to give up control and hurting my daughter. Yeah, I really felt great.

 

 

Getting angry accomplished nothing good. Giving up control of myself to a little dog was foolish.  Giving up control to anything that makes me fell like I felt then is foolish. Giving up control to anything that makes me do what I would not do if I took time think things through is foolish. I am responsible for what I do and how I treat people – and dogs. Will I yell and scream at them and look foolish when someone does something I don’t like, or will I respond calmly and do what is in my power and ability to do to fix the situation? I can’t control the actions of others. I can’t control very many things; but I can control me. And that level of control is a measure of who I am, a measure of my true character. Will I allow the actions of other people to control me? Will I allow circumstances or a chemical substance to control me? Or will I, with God’s help and direction, grow up and control myself?

 

 

 Larry Meissner

 

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