It is the chapter that keeps on unpacking. (See Unpacking Ecclesiastes 7)
"The end of the matter is better than its beginning"
~ Ecclesiastes 7:8
In India, we have a saying; everything will be all right in
the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.
~ Sonny Kapoor, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
i listened carefully to my teacher and read the commentaries, and i think Sonny understands what the King is saying.
And Max referenced a Brazilian Woodcutter.
“You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that [insert in simplest terms the mishap or horror here]. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”
"Life’s mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story."
"The LORD reigns. . .His decrees are very trustworthy. . ."
~Psalm 93, vs. 1 and 5 (ESV)
As a Christian, i have the beautiful promise, that all things will work to my good. All things. This is the only judgment i can make in the early stages of a great difficulty. "The LORD reigns. . .and His decrees are trustworthy."
When we get the same message over and over in a very short period, we best lay hold (as my Southern ancestors would say.)
i am taking hold of that truth today and asking God to lay it into the very foundation of my heart, my meditations, my understanding of Him.
"The end of the matter is better than its beginning"
~ Ecclesiastes 7:8
Click here for Ann Voskamp's version.
And here for Max Lucado's version which includes the Woodcutter's version.
And click here for the Pastor's version at Colonial Heights (available online by Thursday).
The lovely images today are by artist Varma Raja Ravi because they are pictures of women like you and me who are pensive and thoughtful. . .and beautiful and so much closer to the images of women known to Solomon. And i am so very weary of cookie cutter images of beauty mass produced by media, reinterpreted by Hollywood, embraced by my generation and plastered on magazines at the supermarket. . .God is so much greater!
"Do not say, Why were the old days better than these?
For it is not wise that you ask this"(vs 10).
"In the day of prosperity be joyful,
but in the day of adversity consider that God has made the one side by side with the other" (vs 14).
Verses ten and fourteen beg to be read as one thought.
The "stuff" in between, verses 11 - 13, tumbles like roses over a wall, helter skelter, seemingly random.
"For wisdom is a defense even as money is a defense, but the excellency of knowledge is that wisdom shields and preserves the life of him who has it" (vs 12).
Why has the writer paused in his elocution concerning the days of prosperity and the days of adverisity, to speak of Wisdom?
Why does he caution us that while money protects (defends, shields) us, Wisdom does more: it preserves . . .("restores, revives, quickens, refreshes, energizes"!~Vine's)
Is it because we need more than to simply survive the days of adversity. . .we need to be restored? And let's be honest, no matter how thankful we are, if we live long enough, the prosperous days don't quite fill the hole left by the long, dark, cold days of adversity.
i have my verse 10 days and my verse 14 days running concurrently in my life, and i know you do, too, my friend: prosperity and adversity, side by side.
Today, this day, what we need is the "excellency of knowledge" to view them side by side from above, not from in the midst. . .so that our trembling hearts will grow quiet, our despair will turn to peaceful hope, and the inertia of our depression is replaced with life, energy, purpose.
Here, this is what i mean: each one of can say. . .
This hard moment, this difficulty, this trial punctures my hope, drains my purpose, threatens my dignity and steals my strength, and leaves the debris of regrets.
i begin to dream of days gone by and long for prosperity as a way out, a way above, but no amount of money will ever dim the lurking sadness, always waiting to flood the moment.
Then wisdom speaks,
I have a plan for your restoration; and it involves far more than you. No suffering is wasted. I am working all the time. I have appointed you to walk this difficulty (not authored it, no! not desired it, no! but never out of My Sovereignty, never!). I have appointed you to walk this difficulty because I am doing things through you and in you, for you and for those around you. . .and by Wisdom, you will see more clearly what you always knew. . .
but until now, refused to acknowledge. . . and failed to defeat. . .but now, now! I, Wisdom, will not only protect you, I will restore, revive, and quicken you!
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way . . .
~Isaiah 43:18 - 19
For our benefit God made Him [Christ Jesus] to be Wisdom itself.
~ 1 Corinthians 1: 30
us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, if their blossoms
have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom— there I will give you my
~Song of Songs 7: 11 -13
I know where a pomegranate tree grows. . . in a walled garden above
the dark green waters of a canal.
In late summer, the pomegranate grows heavy beneath its canopy of curved leaves, falling from the green nailed clasp to mulched bed below. . .
and something ancient in the pomegranate sings her song to me in this garden. . .
Her image sings in the embroidered borders of the priest’s robes (Exodus 28: 33 – 34) .
She sings in the arms of Israelites returning to Moses with fruit from the land of Eshkol, edge of the Promised Land (Numbers 13:23).
She sings the song of the Promised Land, "a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil, and honey" (Deuteronomy 8: 7 -9).
King Solomon lifted her to sing in the carvings on the capitals of the pillars of the Temple (1 Kings 7: 18,20).
She was a gift sung by the King to his Beloved (Song of Songs 8:2).
And i stand in this garden once again and listen to her tune this sweet morning in August, a tune about Deliverance not only From but Deliverance To, about Wisdom, Maturity, and Love. And i will reach up and lay hold of the Promises in the song . . .for me. . .my daughters. . .my sisters. . .my nieces. . .for you, my friend. . .
The LORD gives His people strength; the LORD grants His people security.
"This is the very moment we must head straight to the throne of an all-powerful God and father, rehearsing over and over who He says we are and what He says we are worth. We must call on Him to fight our battles for us and through us and to stand us on steady feet in a confidence only He can supply. We must ask Him to bring forth the women in us that we didn't even know we were--women of substance and confidence with whom an image . . . cannot compete. We don't have to compete with them. Let them compete with us if anyone must. After all,
"if God is for us, who can be against us?" ~Romans 8:31
This is exactly the crisis point when we must say over and over in our thoughts. . .
You may have broken my heart and shaken me up, but you cannot have my security. I will not give it up to you or to anyone else. I am a woman of God, clothed in strength and dignity, and no one gets to take those things from me.
Then say it again:
I am clothed with strength and dignity.
In Jesus' name, I am clothed with strength and dignity.
(Excerpt from the powerful little book So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore.)
God doesn’t miss anything.
He knows perfectly well . . .
And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope,
and keep at it till the finish.
Don’t drag your feet.
Be like those who stay the course
with committed faith
and then get everything promised to them.
~Hebrews 6: 11 - 12 (The Message)
Have a blessed weekend, my Friends!
Round Rock lies just east of the Transition.
The gentle sloping hills of Virginia, where I live, are locked between the upper Appalachians to the West and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. This means that confrontations between the high pressure mass of artic cold air that is trapped in the peaks of the mountains and the subtropical jet from the South are inevitable and frequent.
We reside where the collision occurs, and the wavering transition line that slides a millimeter across the weather man’s forecast screens corresponds to twenty or more miles on land where the weather could be six inches of snow, sleet, freezing rain, or rain.
Plans rise and fall on out-forecasting the Line of Transition.
Like plans for BirthDays.
“We aren’t going to get anything.”
“They’re calling for six inches of snow.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
We set out early Wednesday morning for a day filled with surprise appointments for our Little Lady Blond One, undeterred by by the Weathermen’s forecasts that were erratic and changing every twenty minutes, causing Principals to close schools just as the buses were slated to arrive. School children had already missed one day of school this winter for a snow that never materialized, and only a cold rain fell on the yard, and so we grabbed our umbrellas and headed out, undaunted.
March that blows in like a lion.
We were twenty minutes from home, when we crossed the Line.
Every car behind us was washed clean with rain, but the cars in the oncoming lanes were thickly robed in blankets of snow. Within seconds we were in Narnia, the black pavement beneath our tires suddenly thick and slow with white. Traffic slowed, smaller cars slid and had difficulty on inclines, and the three lanes narrowed to a set of tracks to follow.
Need I say that we decided to turn around?
To turn around meant pioneering a long trackless exit, passing a stalled car pointed the wrong direction, easing around a tractor trailer flashing hazard lights, and making a u-turn across trenches of snow with oncoming traffic and poor visibility.
And a long slow drive through Narnia where even the street signs were growing invisible.
And back to Round Rock where the birds gathered at the feeder in puddles of freezing water and a light dusting of snow.
Appointments cancelled, disappointment swallowed up by the adventure and the winter wonderland beauty we would have missed here in our freezing rain mix, we made new plans. A big pot of steaming chicken gnocchi was brought to life on the Little Black Oven, and an impromptu BirthDay party with tiny chocolate ebelskivers stuffed with raspberry jam. Lori made her own BirthDay dessert, worked out with Wii Dance instead of the surprise Personal Trainer, had a home manicure, and watched a movie with her daddy who came home early. And we settled warm and protected under our roof and marveled at how differently things turned out. How much better.
Father had sent her Christmas snow for her BirthDay. He sent a big, beautiful deer to cross a side street just as she turned her head to look, he gave her little rainbows, and birds looking in from the window. He gave her family who loved her and Promises.
Promises about Transitions Lines and Changed Plans and Disappointments that are really Grace Gifts. Promises that He is never Surprised though we may be, and Promises that He, and He alone, sets the Lines.
The boundary lines
have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Happy BirthDay, dearest Lori.
You are part of my Beautiful Inheritance.