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One of the great surprises of the Broadway theater is the musical, “Rent.”  The play started on a dirty side street in New York City.  They call it Off-Off Broadway, which means the musical had little chance of making it to the big time.  But then something happened that nobody predicted.  The musical just exploded.  People started packing the house every night.  When the awards were given, “Rent” came away a winner.  Even after thirteen years it is still hard to get a ticket to this play.

Something about “Rent” touched a nerve and spoke to the heart.  It could be that the intensity of the young author spilled over into his work.  He was very sick as he wrote the play and died just before opening night.  The centerpiece of the musical is a song that comes in the second act called “Season of Love.”  Critics say this song may be one of the reasons that “Rent” continues to fill the theater night after night.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
How do we measure a year?

In daylights—in sunsets,
In midnights—in cups of coffee,
In inches—in miles,
In laughter—in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure
A year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.

Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure the life
Of a Woman or a Man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried,
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now—to sing out
Tho’ the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends.

Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Measure the love.

Measure, measure your life in love.
Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.

Paul understood these feelings when he wrote to the church at Ephesus.  From a jail cell, anticipating his own death, he too wrote with a great intensity.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father ~Ephesians 5:15-20

His audience met in a little house church surrounded by a pagan culture.  And Paul’s impassioned yearning for his friends speaks to a universal question.  Is it possible to live a meaningful life in a world like this?  He knew that many things chipped away at their souls and assaulted their values day after day.  His response was to say that they could take the minutes of their lives and make them count.

If we turn from the Bible to today’s newspaper it is amazing how current Paul’s concerns still are.  Like Ephesus long ago we are part of a culture that incessantly assaults our values.  The old seven deadly sins of the Middle Ages still rear their ugly heads.  After all these years we still do battle with pride, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, greed, and sloth.  Stephen Carter, Professor of Law at Yale University, calls one of our basic problems a lack of integrity.  He says we live in an age where winning is more important than playing by the rules of the game.  He footnotes his case with a multitude of stories.  A beauty queen is stripped of her title when it is learned that the educational credentials on her resume were fabricated.  A respected national TV network is forced to apologize for doctoring a TV clip to make a truck seem less safe than it is.  Respectable authors of a book on management are accused of bulk purchases at key bookstores to get their book on the Best Seller list.  He talks about Republican and Democrat politicians who are guilty of taking under-the-table money for elections.  Mr. Carter wonders what has happened to integrity in our time. (Stephen L. Carter, Integrity [New York:  Basic Books, 1996] p. 4.)

Paul also struggled with the integrity issue.  His advice on how to live honestly in a difficult time is found at the end of his letter to the Ephesians.  How can we use the minutes and hours that stretch out before us?  How can we walk without stumbling?  The Apostle gives his friends, and us, five solid words of advice.

Paul begins with wisdom.  He reached back into his Jewish heritage and reclaimed an old word.  He told his friends to live not as unwise persons but as wise.  The Ephesians knew a lot about wisdom.  Athens and Alexandria were the centers of wisdom in their time.  They knew that wisdom meant knowledge and facts and intelligence.  But not all the things that march under the banner of wisdom deserve to be there.

If he were writing to us I think he would say that wisdom is not scanning the Internet.  He could not have had in mind the multitude of how-to books that we keep buying.  He certainly did not mean that wisdom is synonymous with yet another diploma or degree.

Paul’s understanding of wisdom was not intellectual achievement.  He was talking about one’s attitude toward life.  How one looked at the world.  Real wisdom is looking through the lenses as a child of God and seeing our brothers and sisters everywhere and knowing that we are here to make a contribution and give something back.  Real wisdom is standing firm and not letting the world shape our values.  Maybe this is one of the reasons that the play, “Rent,” touched a nerve in our time.  Maybe the dying young author had come to understand the meaning of real wisdom.  It is making sense of our lives and the times in which we live.

Paul follows his words about wisdom with a second world about time.  He talks about using well whatever minutes we have.  The King James Version cautions us to redeem the time, which means to use carefully the time we have been given.  Our lives are everlastingly besieged by a vast array of choices.  The great test for all of us is that we pick and choose among all the options, taking take with us things that matter and not things shabby and inconsequential.

Frederick Beuchner has said that every day we live is like a birthday present waiting to be opened.  We are to use wisely what we have been given.  Open the package ever so slowly.  Take from the box each brand new day with its challenges and opportunities.  This present of a day will never come again.  No wonder the Apostle writes to his friends, be careful how you use your time.

Paul then uses the word understanding. He encourages us to understand the will of God.  He pleads for discernment.  This age of ours knows little of discernment.  We are much like the window-shopper who stares incredulously into the shop window where, on the other side of the glass, someone has mislabeled all the valuable items in the window cheaply and placed ridiculously high price tags on cheap baubles.  It is not always easy to distinguish between what matters and what is inconsequential.  Yet Paul says we can go beyond the confusion of our time.  We can know the will of God.

Patrick Overton speaks to this in his poem from The Learning Tree:

When we walk to the edge of all
the light we have
And take that step into the darkness
Of the unknown,
We believe that one of two things will happen—
There will be something solid for us
To stand on
Or, we will be taught how to fly.

This is discernment.  We all stand on the edge of a precipice from time to time.  There is great confusion about what we are to do next.  But, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, if we keep our eyes on the light that shines in the distance and follow it all the way, we shall find the path.  We call this discovery the Will of God.

Paul’s next word is a verb, fill. He warns his friends not to be drunk with wine but rather to be filled with the Spirit.  The cult of Dionysius held that wine-induced frenzies led to religious insight.  Remnants of that cult are still with us.  Many still believe that whatever gets us through the hard times is all right.  But Paul reminds us that there are no substitutes for the Spirit of God who fills and enlightens believers.

Our age knows all too well that addiction goes far beyond drugs and alcohol.  We can be hooked on material goods, on money, on status, on success and work and sex and exercise and just about everything.  Paul says we are to be filled with the Spirit of God.  In that Spirit we find energy, breath, and life itself.  We are to accept no substitute for this filling, which God brings.

Has Paul saved the best word for last?  He gives us the word thanks. One man found this to be a saving word during a sudden, scary stay in the hospital.  Lying there, waiting for the test results he was afraid might reveal a malignancy, he began to sort out the things that mattered.  His hospital room was flooded by the memories of a lifetime.  He remembered the pleasure of listening to the Saint Louis Cardinals on the radio when he was a boy.  He recalled watching a son grow from boy to man.  He thought of the sheer delight on his daughter’s face as she watered skied for the first time.  The wonder of his minutes and hours and days just poured in upon him.  He remembered pumpkins…a 1969 Chevy…bicycle rides…holding hands with his beloved…early morning fog…blue jays, and raisin-bread Dalmatians.  Once he began thinking, he couldn’t stop.  He thought of old folk songs and hot dogs and tomatoes from his garden and stained glass windows and News from Lake Woebegon.  He remembered dahlias and daisies and dandelions and Doonesbury and Snoopy and Oscar Peterson at the keyboard and somebody singing “Porgy and Bess.”  But he said the best remembering was when the doctor came into his hospital room and used the marvelous word:  “Benign.”  In that remembering his life was changed forever. (Gordon Greer, “Editor at Large,” Better Homes and Gardens, November 1982, p. 4.)

How do we use our 525,600 minutes?  Living a meaningful life has never been simple.  But even though our roads are plagued with potholes and barricades, with barriers and detours, we can discover some wisdom along the way.  We do not have to fritter away our time.  We can make the most of what we have been given.  We can come to some understanding of this wonderful will of God.  We can find our help in spiritual realities and not in the addictions of our time.  Most of all we can learn to say thanks not only for the ups but also for the downs of our lives.  525,600 minutes.  We can learn to treasure the things we have been given.  And when our time comes, as it did to the old preacher who penned the letter and to the young man that wrote the play, we too can say:  We remember the love.  We really do remember the love.

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I was running across some email that had been sent to me from various people for a myriad of reasons, and had been sent this video as an attachment… I think the video pretty much speaks for itself.

In the video, Daniel Beaty transforms himself and his audience into the little boys and girls we used to be, and then asks the difficult questions that arise from time to time.

In the poem Daniel’s father is a loving, involved father. Talking to his child every night, tucking him in, keeping him safe, assuring his child knows his father while growing up. One night, his father doesn’t come to tuck him in. He doesn’t come the next night, or the next… Daniel’s father has been separated from him. Daniel grows up missing those moments with his father that he should have had. These weren’t the fault of the child, but the fault of the father for the choices that he made that caused the separation between the two.

In the same way as Daniel’s father, we make decisions, take actions, say words, or neglect to make decisions, fail to take action, or refuse to say the words that cause us to enter into a state of sin. It is this state of sin that causes our separation from our Heavenly Father. Knock, knock…

In the same way as Daniel Beaty, we can imagine God sitting in His house, wondering whatever became of us. We used to come around, used to talk to him, and used to listen as well. We have separated ourselves, allowed our hearts to be hardened, and closed the door to our souls through sin. Knock, knock…

Today, I heard someone blaming God for the separation between us and Him. I spent time thinking about it, time praying about it, and time composing a blog entry on the topic in my head. At this moment I’m writing from a stream of consciousness, letting the blog entry write itself. While I’m doing so, I’m hearing a sound, a familiar one, one that I hold dear. Knock, knock…

I ended up approaching the person that sounded like they were blaming God for our separation from Him. I explained that WE are the ones responsible for our actions. WE are to blame through our sins against the laws of God. However, even as much as WE deserve to be forever separated from God, as much as WE have truly earned the wages of our sins – Just as Daniel Beaty doesn’t forget his father, God does not forget us. He does not fail.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

How much He must love us! Not only to continually forgive us, to reach out to us, but to send the means of our salvation and reconciliation to Him. And sending His Son, knowing that nothing short of the sacrifice of His Son’s very life would suffice to pay the debt WE incurred.

Oh, that sound? It is the sound that I hope each of my brothers and sisters here on World-Prayer, and you my reader, hear as well. It is the sound of Him, knocking on the door to our hearts. Closed by sin, opened by His sacrifice.

Knock, knock!

014-0582Knock-at-the-Door-Posters

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me. Revelation 3:20

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For me, to live is Christ.

Is it possible to sum up an entire existence with one word?

The word – Jesus?

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The one who is, who was, and who is to come.

Jesus, who is he to me?

He is the Prince of Peace, who calms my soul.

He is the Good Shepard, who guards my soul.

He is the Great High Priest, who redeems my soul.

He is the King of Kings, who governs my soul.

He is the Great Prophet, who illuminates my soul.

He is the Beloved, who loves my soul.

He is the Judge of the Living and the Dead, who vindicates my soul.

He is the Resurrection and the Life, who preserves my soul.

He is the Great I AM, who assures my soul.

Jesus – King of Glory.

King of the Ages.

King of all the Earth.

King of Kings.

My King.

Jesus.

Enough? More than enough!

When I am hungry, He is the Bread of Life that feeds me.

When I am lost He is the Way that leads home.

When I am trapped, He is the Door to freedom.

When I am uncertain, He is the Rock.

When I am speechless, He is the Word.

When I am in despair, He is the Bright and Morning Star.

When I am soiled, He is the Lamb of God that washes away my sin.

When I am afraid, He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

When I am impoverished, He is the Unspeakable Gift.

When I am in darkness, He is the Light.

Lord of Glory.

Lord of Hosts.

Lord of ALL.

My Lord.

To Him alone belongs the name above all names…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Sometimes others say things I’m thinking, feeling, or want to convey better than I ever could. While doing research for this post, I ran across this YouTube video. I think that the words that are spoken in this video, coupled with the imagry is powerful and says far better than I could the message I wanted to impart to you today. Do not be put off that this was an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ – Latter Day Saints (Mormon) talking… There is nothing in this video that could not be read, word for word, in any of the various facets of the jewel called Christianity. Give it a viewing, and let me know what you think…

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I don’t really know what makes me feel so conneced to the emotions conveyed in this song – but when I saw it performed in the original movie (1973), I was absolutely floored. I saw it on Broadway in the newer production (2000) and was profoundly touched. I saw it yet again with the touring company in Amarillo, Texas, and nearly broke out in tears… I’m sure it’s open to a myriad of interpretations, and that each person’s perception of the song, and the circumstance would vary depending on their own personal experience, and the strength of their faith – however, it’s a song that I traditionally listen to every Easter in order to aid my reflections of what has been sacrificed for ME, and I get to know that with HIS sacrifice, we HAVE started again. The slate is clean. I am saved through the actions of MY God, and MY Savior. – That and it’s just a cool song anyway…

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