given on Sunday, September 21, 2008
This has been one of those weeks. Each of you knows what I mean; this week has been filled with all those irritations that just eat at a person. First there was the computer issue—I gave up and had to call tech support and that lead me to shipping it off for repairs. Then I smashed my finger and it really can get in the way. Needless to say, these were problems but both seemed to just create more and more irritations. Life was bugging me, then as I sat and read my Guideposts on Wednesday night, I realized how much I was allowing my thinking to get caught up on all these life problems.
Wednesday night’s reading was really nothing out of the ordinary, but it was the right thing to read at the right time. Gina Bridgeman, one of the contributors, wrote the reading and it began with Job 2:10: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” She then went on with her own thoughts:
For a while it wasn’t unusual for me to wake up during the night and stay awake, mentally recounting my worries: the bills piled on my desk, finding volunteers for a school project, some small detail of my son Ross’s college applications. Naturally this made me feel worse, so one night I thought up a better idea. Instead of worries, I’d itemize my blessings, thanking God for each gift such as my husband’s job, my children’s health, our comfortable and happy home.
As I finished up the reading, a small, actually tiny, little poem popped up in my mind. This little poem was introduced to me while in a college poetry class at MU. The professor was a “mother earth” style individual living in a small house in the woods with no running water or electricity (as I recall). I suppose he was trying to live as Thoreau. Still he chose to teach contemporary poetry and he shared this tiny poem by e. e. cummings entitled “Fleas.” The point at the time was the value of each word a poet chose to use.
“Fleas” by e. e. cummings
I know, it sounds a little corny, but that little poem has been surfacing in my head year after year after year. Our professor explained that the title “Fleas” represented all the problems we have in our lives. Even Adam, a symbol of all humankind, had those little irritations. When I read Bridgeman’s reflection, “Fleas” surfaced right up there into my conscious once again. Why should I think I was any different than other person in this world?
Life is filled with fleas, those little irritations that just seem to make us uncomfortable all day long. In fact, if we do not figure out how to get rid of the fleas, we can scratch or beat ourselves up until we are completely worn out and frozen with unhappiness. This same idea is in the words we just read from the hymnal, reading number 535:
Like an ant on a stick both ends of which are burning,
I go to and fro without knowing what to do,
And in great despair.
That is so true, so I ask, what is bugging you? Do you have fleas? Or do you have ants? Can you even identify what little pesky irritation plagues you?
Look at Paul’s life for a bit. There he is imprisoned in his own house. He feels driven to be out in the community telling others about Jesus. He is so excited about Jesus that he cannot just sit still and wait to join him in heaven. What he does is use whatever means he has to continue his calling. The letter to Philippi is so full of hope as he shares his circumstances and his message of Jesus. From the reading we learn that he accepts his imprisonment because he can still serve Jesus. He chose to look at life from a positive side rather than a negative viewpoint.
Life this week without my computer really was irritating. I could not send out emails. I could not surf the net comfortably. I could not get my sermon written. I could not . . . you get the idea. But Wednesday when I read that Guidepost devotional, I stopped. I turned my thinking around and began saying to all those pesky little bugs (fleas, ants, crickets, spiders) welcome to my world. I can live happily right along with those bugs.
We all have heard the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We know there is a book about it. We know that when tragedy hits that question starts bouncing around again even in casual conversation. When Mom was battling cancer back in 1990-91, so many people would come up to me and just shake their head and say they just could not understand how someone like Mom could have such a horrible thing happen to her.
Paul gives us a way to answer that question. We are to use those experiences to demonstrate how powerful God is. The negatives can imprison us in our lives, or we can do our best to live as Jesus taught us and continue witnessing despite our trials and tribulations. In The Message translation, Paul tells the Philippians:
And I am going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. . . . They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.
And that is much the way my mother viewed her battle with cancer. She may have lost her battle with cancer, but she did not lose her faith.
This week I almost let the fleas, the ants, and all those little pesky irritations get to me. But my faith remains in tact. All those terrible things that happen in our lives can drain us. They can challenge us to the point where we just want to withdraw from everybody around us, curl up in bed or our favorite chair, and literally hide for a while. But we are never alone. God is there with us and he will support us as we tackle each of those life irritations that get in the way of our journey to heaven.
Ask yourself what is your purpose in this world? Are you there to serve or be served? When you can identify your purpose and keep all you energies focused on that purpose, you are witnessing for God. Good things do happen to us. Paul knew his purpose and as tough as he had it, he continued witnessing and sharing Jesus’ message of love. The New Covenant makes our life so easy. Love God; love one another.
Remember, too, that bad things do happen to good people. Life is like that, it happens. Fortunately we know God’s love. As the words of our closing hymn promise:
When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing it will be!
When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.
Dear Heavenly Father,
This week has been filled with so many problems, illnesses, and sadness. Thank you for speaking to me, to each of us, showing us your love. Help us to take our faith and remain strong despite the challenges so we can serve as your messengers that God’s love really is the answer. –Amen