Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vintage Memories

Today in church, the minister pointed out, "Today is the first day of winter, believe it or not. The good news is, the days get longer from here on out."

Sounds like music to my ears, for two reasons. One, it means we are halfway through the brutal weather, and two, the days will continue to get lighter longer rather than darker sooner, and as a victim of SAD my mood meter will point towards "chipper" more often. There is something about the dark night that puts my spirits under-- when the skies are cloudy all day long and to top it off, it starts to really dim around 4pm, it's hard not to become a bit down. I live for bright, sunshiny days. But then I am also of the belief that we must experience the dark and the dim to truly appreciate the bright sunny bliss (and I am speaking literally and figuratively), so it all works for me.

Tonight was the "Kaiser Christmas." Man, our family is big and growing. Over the past 5 years, we have increased drastically in number due to bringing more spouses and children into the mix. It's a wonderful thing to see how blessed a family becomes in this way over time. I looked over at the "kid's section" tonight while biting into my pizza and noted that it wasn't too long ago that I was sitting over in that area with my first cousins, although there were only about 8 of us and now there is around 15-20 of them.

How time flies, and there is no way to stop it. While at my Grandma's tonight, Kelly and I dug out some old photo albums and began flipping through them. This became a popular activity all at once, and we had huddles of aunts and cousins thumbing through the pages and reminiscing about old times, looking at the aged photographs, and comparing the looks of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to the current generation. I love looking at pictures, and I especially love it when it becomes such a nostalgic activity for those involved. It's so neat to see how times have changed and fun to hear about old memories.

I read a verse in Ecclesiastes 7 the other night that stumped me a bit at the time. I happened upon this verse very shortly after looking back on the "old days" and smiling at how wonderful they seemed to be. Letters in the mail, horse & buggies, bonnets and baskets. Then I read Ecclesiastes 7:10 which says, "Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions." I was guilty of that very thing. I often look back on the "old days" with too high a smile, and I credit those times with an idealistic perspective of wonder.

After looking into the verse a bit and studying the context around it, I have a new-found understanding of the application. The chapter talks about wisdom. I could write several posts centered around this chapter, but tonight we will just look at verse 10 and the surrounding verses.

I found a commentary explanation that seems to sum up the meaning of v.7-10 nicely:

"The event of our trials and difficulties is often better than at first we thought. Surely it is better to be patient in spirit, than to be proud and hasty. Be not soon angry, nor quick in resenting an affront. Be not long angry; though anger may come into the bosom of a wise man, it passes through it as a way-faring man; it dwells only in the bosom of fools. It is folly to cry out upon the badness of our times, when we have more reason to cry out for the badness of our own hearts; and even in these times we enjoy many mercies. It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times; as if former ages had not the like things to complain of that we have: this arises from discontent, and aptness to quarrel with God himself."

I put the ending sentences in bold as I would like to pay special attention to those thoughts. Those words popped out to me. Today, we might say the times are not the greatest. Daily, we see evidence of continual corruption in our society, as well as an economic downfall that sheds a very dim light at the end of the tunnel. However, Ecclesiastes 7 points out that it is folly to "cry out upon the badness of our times, when we have more reason to cry out for the badness of our own hearts." Convicting? It made me think. Yes, times my be tough, but then, they aren't terrible. And even if we were huddling together in a box on the street without job or food, at that point, what still counts is our hearts. Our current conditions and the state of the "times" is less important than what is going on in our hearts. If all crumbles away around us, yet our mortal bodies survive, what is left? A human with a heart, mind and soul. And where is our heart? Where is it when we are prosperous?

This brings us to the next thought, "It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times; as if former ages had not the like things to complain of that we have: this arises from discontent..." What Ecclesiastes 7:10 is trying to say is that when we look back on the "good old days" with too high a prescription of rose-colored shades, it's a symptom of a discontent heart. Why? The truth is that the former days had its fill of tough times, as well, and should not be viewed as the "ideal" when we have been dealt the present. Furthermore, looking at the previous verses discussed, ultimately, it's not entirely about "the times" but about the condition of our heart during these times. It is not wise to dwell on what we did have or what we could have, but to live for what we do have, and in that, serve Christ fully with our heart focused on Him.

With all of that being said, I do not think it is so wrong to thumb through old photo albums or talk about timeless memories with grandparents and friends. This is a part of sharing and connecting, and I don't believe Ecclesiastes 7:10 is trying to shy us away from such fellowship. It's talking about the ideas discussed above, and how we should have a wise perspective about our lives in order to effectively serve the Lord.

Enjoy the ice land pictures-- water is such a fascinating concept. It's a vapor when heated, capable of absolutely beautiful formation when frozen, and in liquid form it is what keeps our hearts beating.

Love you all!


1 comment:

caitlin said...

Love Ecclesiastes. Great application--There's a verse in 3 (the 'there's a time for everything' chapter) that might go well with this:

_Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end_

I liked the 'for its own time' part and how the author brings the focus back to the human heart and condition, which is ultimately the root of our significance in God's eyes....where we stand in relation to Him through Christ's sacrifice.