Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 — What Stands Out

I’ve started reading Ecclesiastes slowly, in a meditative way.  Here’s what stood out for me in Chapter 2:

“Even in the night his heart does not rest.  This also is vanity.”  Ecclesiastes 2:23

Probably this struck me because I have trouble sleeping (see A Thorn in the Flesh), and I have a busy over-active brain that sometimes makes it hard for me to relax..  However, here the author (King Solomon) is talking about something a little different — being unable to rest because we are discontented with our life.  We are so intent upon our own satisfaction, it irks us to realize that at some point we will lose it all.  Everyone dies.  The things we have achieved may be forgotten;  the wealth we accumulated will be passed on to somebody else.  Guess what, we’re not in control!

God doesn’t mean for us to live this way.  Rest was built into creation and the Sabbath was given to us not as one more rule to follow, but as a blessing.  Solomon also says in this same chapter:

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him, who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”  Ecclesiastes 2:24

We cannot find satisfaction through our own merits and efforts;  this is indeed vanity because we are not giving God His proper place in our lives.  We are to relish the gifts He has given us each day, and stop fretting about the future, which is in His hands.  We must accept that He knows what’s best for us. Any hope of rest lies in turning our life over to Him. That’s what true rest is about.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

~Psalm 62:1-2

For more posts about rest see:

Come Away and Rest

Resting In His Love

Final Rest

 

Advice From E. B. Pusey

E. B. Pusey was an Anglican churchman whom I’ve quoted before.  Today in my morning devotions, I read his advice on how to lead a contented life:

If we wished to gain contentment, we might try such rules as theses:

  1. Allow thyself to complain of nothing, not even the weather
  2. Never picture thyself under any circumstances in which thou art not
  3. Never compare thine own lot with that of another
  4. Never allow thyself to dwell on the wish that this or that had been, or were, otherwise than it was, or is.  God Almighty loves thee better and more wisely than thou dost thyself.
  5. Never dwell on the morrow.  Remember that it is God’s not thine.  The heaviest  part of sorrow is to look forward to it.  “The Lord will provide.”

“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  Philippians 4:11

Waiting…

isaiah 40-31Are you tired of waiting?  It seems like we pray and nothing happens.  We think the Lord isn’t paying any attention to us and whatever we’re going through is just dragging along.  We can’t do anything ourselves, but we pray and ask the Lord to do something, anything.  Please, just get us out of this place where we are so…  stuck.

Oh, yes.  I’ve been in this place for quite awhile.  I was stuck while I was taking care of my terminally ill husband.  I prayed for change because I was unhappy with the place that the Lord had me.  I had nursing aides during the day so I could work and then I came home and took care of my husband until bedtime.  To say that I was exhausted would be an understatement.

But I learned a lot during that time.  I learned to be patient.  I couldn’t change the situation I was in so I had to rely on the Lord.  After making myself miserable (and probably those around me) I found this verse:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

So Paul had learned to be content, because the Lord was the one who gave him strength.  So I worked on this in my prayer life, thanking the Lord for the life that he gave me, that I had a job and aides to help, food on the table and a roof over that table.  My attitude got better and I wasn’t so miserable.  It was still extremely hard but I could feel that the Lord was with me, and my heart was so much more grateful for the small things in my life.

My husband died three years ago and lately I’m back in another waiting pattern.  I have plans to retire in two years so now I need to just wait until that two years is over.  I have plans for what I want to do when my life doesn’t revolve around my job.  Yes, this is a different waiting pattern because it has a scheduled end and I’m not as exhausted as I was before.  I’m anxious to get started on my plans, but they have to wait.

Until then, the Lord has put in front of me a challenge to deepen my study and prayer time.  This I can do before and after work, but it’s still a challenge for me!  I’m looking forward to my free time that I’ll have in several years, and then I’ll have a deeper knowledge of our Lord.

 

 

Truly Blessed

There is an elderly lady in our congregation named Bea.  Her health is not good and she lives in a nursing home.  My husband, her Pastor, loves his visits to Bea because she is always cheerful, positive and thankful. According to Bea, the caregivers are so kind to her;  her children and grandchildren visit often;  she has a prayer partner in another state whom she has never met who calls her, sends cards and prays faithfully;  she has a loving church family.  Bea says she has so many reasons to thank God.

Did Bea have an easy life?  Not especially.  She didn’t finish school because she married very young.  She raised a large family.  Her first husband died fairly young.  Her second husband also predeceased her.  Yet Bea tells my husband she is thankful to have had two good men in her life.  She has been in and out of the hospital due to pneumonia, but when asked how she feels, she believes that each day she is getting a little better.

Bea is not blessed in the eyes of the world.  She is old and ill;  she had no high powered career;  she is not rich or famous.  Yet of all the people I know, she is one of those I consider truly blessed.  She loves God and like the apostle Paul, has learned to be content in all circumstances.  I struggle every day to become more like Bea.

“Now there is great gain in godliness and contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”  1 Timothy 6:6-8

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is the day that we all sit down with family and eat and eat and eat.  While we’re doing that I have a few things that I’d like all of us to think about.  Part of this month’s theme has gluttony in it.  Gluttony is usually associated with food, but let’s take it to the next level.

Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have.  Gluttony is the opposite of that.  Webster defines is as “greedy or excessive indulgence”.  So why talk about this on Thanksgiving?  We, as a people, need to learn to be thankful for what we have and be content.  The marketing companies in this country are always about having more, or better.  We find ourselves wanting more.

I’ve been there.  We were pretty poor, on Food Stamps and Assistance.  One year the local church came with a box of food, a turkey with all the trimmings.  Needless to say, I cried, and I felt so humble.  Here I was feeling bitter because we couldn’t afford the whole meal and the Lord stepped in and had these wonderful people bring it to me.  Yes, I was very thankful that year.

But I still wanted more out of life.  I wanted the house, the car, the job…  all the things that this world tells us we must have.  Didn’t matter that we had a roof over our heads, food to eat and a vehicle to drive.  I wanted better.  I won’t go into how the Lord brought me to where I am today, but let’s just say that life has never been easy for me.

Through all these years I’ve learned to be content.  Content with what I have, which is more than what many others have.  I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, food to eat and a loving church family.  What more could I want?

Good Stewards are Content

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.”  Philippians 4:11

Part of good stewardship is being contented.  After all, how can we share what we have, if we’re convinced it isn’t enough?  Everything about our society seems based on consumerism and having more, more, more.  Ads constantly barrage us with the latest or better new product we need to purchase.  The lifestyle of a family on the average television show would require an income of $200,000.  Styles change quickly so we feel compelled to add to or change our wardrobe.  Phones and other technology are constantly updated, so that older models become “obsolete.” We’re always sure we’ll be satisfied when we get one more raise, the next new car, the slightly bigger house, and so on.  Unfortunately as sinful humans, that little bit more doesn’t satisfy, it just whets our desire for the next thing.  We never reach the point of being content, so we’re never thankful for what God has given us, and we’re never willing to be generous with what we have.  We don’t have time to serve others, because we’re so busy chasing after the latest and greatest toy on our list.  According to the apostle Paul, this kind of discontent leads to disaster.

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”  1 Timothy 6:4-10

If you’re an older person, you’ve seen that money, jobs, hobbies, trips and all the fancy trappings we try to surround ourselves with don’t last.  When we’re gone, people won’t remember what we had, they’ll remembImage result for images of contentmenter what we did with what we had. Did you live a life of integrity?  Did you serve God?  Did you love others?  Those are the things that will be important.  So practice the art of contentment — it’s one of the keys to good stewardship.

In Marriage Relationships #2

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely hind, a graceful doe.”  Proverbs 5:18

Beth Ann’s post got me thinking about my own marriage, also one which has also required perseverance.  We’re both strong willed, complicated people.  Over the years we’ve had financial problems, problems with teenagers, conflicts with relatives, disagreements with each other, job stress, depression, anxiety, etc.. It seems like just when one area straightens out, a new problem crops up.  That’s life, I guess. Or at least life in a sinful world.  Yet we’ve managed to stick with it for 46 years.  As older folks, we’ve reached a kind of contented plateau.  The kids are grown and on their own;  careers are over or winding down.  Finances are settled, for better or worse.  Instead of striving for the next big thing, we’re looking back at how we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished …and for the most part, we’re satisfied.

One special thing about a long marriage is knowing so many different aspects of your spouse.  Yes, I could be widowed and marry again, but nobody but Terry would remember me as a teenager, a college student, or a young mom.  No other husband would share the birth of my children, my first “adult” job, all the years of growing in Christ and so much more.  I once read a book where the main character said something like this, “in this house we are not just two old people — we are all the people we have ever been.”

Like Beth Ann, I wish I could convince people, it’s worth the hard work.  If you are married to the love of your youth, rejoice!  Let’s hear from some other lady bloggers, what do you have to tell us about the marriage relationship?