Something to Think about is a daily (more or less) commentary on life. The Author, Howard Merrell's, goal is to help us think Biblically and Christianly about the issues of life, from the mundane to the sublime.
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If John Donne were a 21st Century American, he might very well write, ". . . search not the internet to know for whom the siren wails. It wails for thee." A relative of mine works at UNC Charlotte, friends of mine live in that community. What is going on in Tulsa and Charlotte is not unrelated to reality here in the quiet community I call home. I'll not argue for one version of the facts over another. Actions--probably actions on both sides of the horribly complicated situation are being driven not by facts (alone), but by perceptions--perceptions only partially fueled by facts. The rest of the space is filled with inappropriate conclusions, generalizations, prejudice, fear, and anger. The perception that a portion of our population is being dealt with unjustly, by the very people they should be looking to for justice, has to be recognized and dealt with. The perception that we cannot trust law-enforcement personnel to make good faith decisions, rather we must demand 24/7 video footage so we can make up our own mind is problematic and must be addressed. We often miss the point of the Good Samaritan storythat Jesus told. The story comes at the end of a dialogue between Jesus and a man who was "put[ting Jesus] to the test," and who had a desire to "justify himself." His opening question to the Lord was representative of the "I'm better than these other folk because I keep the law" mentality of the religious leaders we often meet in the Gospels (Look here for another example.) Jesus both pointed out how utterly misdirected the man's system of righteousness was, and the impossibility of him doing, through self-effort, what he needed to "do to inherit eternal life." The expert on the law was asking the question, "Who is my neighbor?" in order to narrow the field. It is hard to love my neighbor my neighbor as myself. I need to make the group who are my neighbors as small as possible, hopefully limiting it to others like me. That way, since I'm loving others who are just like me, it won't be hard for me to love them just like I love me. I figure as the man heard Jesus begin to tell about the man who was beaten and robbed that he asked, "Yes this is a veryinteresting story, but what does it have to do with my questions?" At the end Jesus reaches across the greatest cultural divide that existed in First Century Judaism and says, "You see that Samaritan, on the far side of the cultural landscape? He is your neighbor. The implication being that everyone else, between me and him is my neighbor as well. In looking for self-generated righteousness the legal expert wanted to know, in essence, "Whom can I leave beside the road, walking by without a concern, secure in my path to eternal life--whom can I treat as a non-neighbor?" Jesus shocking answer basically meant, "Nobody. There is no one who comes into contact with you that is exempt from this obligation. We agree on the mandate to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. You even acknowledge that you need to love your neighbor as yourself. Here is where we disagree. You see everyone who is different from you as a non-neighbor. I am saying they are."
I can't pick up every roadside casualty in world, but in my little spot on the globe Good Samaritan opportunities present themselves quite frequently. Is my behavior toward my neighbor leading toward, or away from what is going on in Tulsa and Charlotte? The siren's wail serves as a reminder.
As I write this, I'm listening to a story about Vin Scully. For longer than most of us have been alive, he has been the broadcaster for the Dodgers. He began in Brooklyn and then followed the Franchise to Los Angeles. Think of all the incredible baseball moments that Scully announced. Yet in the interview what stood out was not what he had said, but those times he had chosen to say nothing.
Like Scully, I have spent my life running my mouth. Like the sports-caster, as I look back, I am impressed with the power of silence--not the silence of cowardice, or ineptitude--dead-air--but the quiet that exudes from having wisdom enough to know that what I have to say at this moment is probably not the most important sound in the room.
Clickhere, to find out more about preparing for a meeting when "every mouth will be stopped.".
— Scully on the art of silence: “I love it. It’s probably selfish on my part. When I was about 8 years old, the reason I went in this direction … we have a big old four legged radio. I would get a pillow and a glass of milk and some saltine crackers and I would crawl under the radio to listen to a football game. I knew nothing about [the teams]. But the roar of the crowd absolutely intoxicated me. That’s what drew me to get into sports. Now I try to shut up so I can enjoy the roar of the crowd.” (Dan Patrick Show)
"I need to be quiet and let folk hear something far more important than cheering crowd." (hm)
I just spent a wonderful several days with my siblings and in-laws. It has been a long time since we all lived together on Blaine Avenue, but all of us continue to bear the image of Doc and Irene Merrell. Sure, there were crisis events that left an imprint on us, but mainly we were shaped by a slow steady force. It was kind of like water running over a rock. In an hour, a day, or a week, you can't see any impression, but over the long-term the difference that is made is undeniable. Irene and Doc were remarkable only for the high level of ordinariness that they exhibited. A blue-collar dad, a stay-at-home mom, a house in the suburbs, and a succession of Chevys, Fords, Buicks, Dodges, Frasiers, Crosleys, Ramblers, a Kaiser, a Pontiac, a VW, a Renault . . . (OK, Dad was extraordinary at buying cars.), a small church in the suburbs, and trips to visit the grandparents every summer. Yet, remarkable things have come out of that little rancher in a neighborhood, that looked like the model for an oddball hit song fifty years ago. It would be dishonest for me to claim that everything has gone well for the Merrell family. It hasn't. That was part of what we talked about and prayed about at our reunion. Still, especially considering the overall direction of this world, things have gone remarkably well. As parents we tend to look for ways to hit home-runs. If life gives you a hanging curve-ball in the sweet spot, by all means swing for the fence, but know that mostly you will progress in the parenting game, by patiently enduring and drawing walk, by watching for that opportunity to steal second, and bunting in a critical situation, because it is the best chance you have--little by little, inch by inch. It worked on me.
On this anniversary of 9/11 we are in the midst of a rancorous political campaign. Rhetoric about walls emails, competence, and security abounds. The mud-slinging is so severe that not only are candidates dirtied, but whole groups of citizens are made to look like they just emerged from a swamp. If we aren't careful we can get so carried away with concerns over security and being politically correct, or brandishing our incorrectness that we forget something very important. I only have a minute to write this--please forgive any typos--I'm going to church then leaving to spend a few days with my family. I encourage you to do the same, not specifically, but in general.
Go out and live!
I'm not talking about irresponsibility, but an enjoyment of and appreciation for God's blessings. Read the book of Ecclesiastes. There is no doubt God wants us to enjoy life. The Apostle Paul wrote a little letter while under house arrest on trumped up charges. You can't read Philippians without tripping over joy. I have to go. On this day of remembrance hug a loved one, look at the sky, feel the breeze, kiss your spouse--more if you choose--hold a baby, pet a dog, lick an ice cream cone, savor a good cup of coffee, roll the windows down and go for a ride, tell your loved ones that you love them--LIVE!
I predict there will jokes-a-plenty about how the thing runs ongas, or about the extra hot-sauce overheating the motors. Here it comes, though, to a University near me, drone delivered burritos. Just a short time ago I passed on news about pizzas arriving on little copters down under. Now I read that Chipotle, Google, and Virginia Tech have teamed up to test burrito's from the sky. Stephen, Sarah, let me know if they arrive still hot. If I were a student at Tech, I'd probably order some Mexi-drone food. There just has to be a Beamer Special, or maybe they come with Hokie Sauce. I'd probably go out in the yard and video my supper arriving. It's pretty kewl, but I read news like this with a pang of conviction. While others are so busy figuring out new ways to get pizza and burritos into people's hands, mouths, and stomachs, not to mention money in the suppliers account; what am I doing to make the Good News about Jesus to those who need it. To horribly mix my metaphors what we need is not a better way to remotely impact the world (the idea is not new), we needboots on the ground. Enjoy your pizza and burritos, whether they come by air or in the family car, but let's be sure that we pray, live lives that show forth the truth of God, and share the Good News whenever we have opportunity. It may be remote, but I'd love to make it up close and personal--If you don't know about the Good News, of which I speak, clink on the link at the end of this email
Why would You Cast Those Pearls Before Those Hogs?
I'm teaching a Marriage and Family class at Pacific Islands University. Part of what we are working on is getting started well--mate selection. I've been spending a great deal of time with my past. I'm using the story of how Kathy and I got together as a discussion starter for the class. I was reminded of an incident that happened to me fairly early in our relationship, while we were still in high school. I was on the wrestling team at Bremen High School, so in the winter the end of my school day was spent in a locker room showering and getting ready to go home. I don't remember how the subject came up, but I began to talk to some of my fellow wrestlers about Kathy. She was a favorite subject of of conversation. My friends on the team weren't particularly bad guys, just average American boys. Soon, however, I became concerned about the conversation. Anything, and I meananything, I said about Kathy was instantly distorted and turned into something dirty. Did I love Kathy at the time? We'll save that argument for another day. While my feelings for her and more importantly my commitment to her and to God concerning her, had not yet matured, I did cherish her. I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that I didn't want to do anything that would cause her name to be associated with the kind of conversation that I heard coming from my friend's lips or saw in the smirks on their faces. I decided that I would never talk of Kathy again in that context. As far as I remember, I never did, again. That locker room commitment was the first of many. Jesus tells of His goal for His bride in Ephesians 5:26-27. He wants to "sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." Guys, we are to follow that example. We are to not only protect our wives, but cherish them, and keep their name from being sullied. I learned that when I was still practicing. Now, almost fifty years later, I see way to many guys who failed to learn that lesson. They have never grown past the mentality of my foul-mouthed, leering high-school comrades. Hogs don't know how to deal with pearls.
People who come to my little community here in the Alleghany Highlands often comment about how quiet it is. Others who visit here complain about how quiet it is. A couple of weeks ago, about an hour away, a guy claiming that God told him to do it, and by some reports yelling "Allahu Akbar," stabbed two people. Just the other day a young man from right here in my town, suited up in body armor, got his guns and went to the Dam that creates one of the prettiest lakes in the world. He had heard from God as well. He was calling the faithful to join him in protecting the dam. "ISIS was going to blow it up." My little place on God's earth might not be as loud as your place, and the racket this fallen world makes might not rise to the level that its groans become audible as frequently, but"the whole creation" is involved. We can't hide from sin and its consequences. But, we can be victorious over it. After speaking with great eloquence about just how broken this world is, the Apostle Paul kicks his rhetoric into over-drive.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31–39, NASB95)