DayBreaks for 11/25/19 – Where Insignificance Goes to Die

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DayBreaks for 11/25/19: Where Insignificance Goes to Die

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

At the northern end of the Locke Hill Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, is a tombstone marking the final earthly resting place of Grace Llewellyn Smith.  Her marker has no date of birth and no date of death.  One might wonder why – was it because no one knew them?  That’s not likely given the fact that the names of her two husbands are also on her tombstone.  Our best clue as to why her tombstone has no dates of birth and death may be found in the other words that are carved into the granite, that say this: Sleeps, but rests not.  Loved, but was loved not.  Tried to please, but pleased not.  Died as she lived…alone.

Given that epitaph, one can probably assume her date of birth and death aren’t there because no one really cared about her.  Her epitaph would seem to stand as a monument to futility.  Doesn’t it make you wonder about Grace Llewellyn Smith…about her life?  Did she perhaps choose those words herself in advance of her death as her way of telling the coming generations about her life and misery…or did she just live those words and someone else put them in stone?  She had two husbands…yet died alone.  Did she deserve that?  Was she some kind of shrew that drove two men and friends away forever?  Was she as bitter and forlorn as these words make her out to be?  What did she look like?  Was her hair flowing blond, or black?  Were her eyes sparkly or dull?  Did she ever laugh, and if so, at what? 

Bigger questions could – and should – be asked, including this one: what is it that causes some lives to be so productive and fruitful and others to be so empty and futile?  Loved but was not loved…can you imagine the long nights, the empty space in the bed next to her, the sounds of silence that must have filled the house where she lived?  The lack of response to messages and letters she may have left or written?  She loved…but received none back. 

Tried to please..but pleased not…can you hear the words of disappointment chopping into her heart?  “How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t like it when you dress that way!”, or “You’ve never amounted to anything and you never will!” or “Are you stupid –can’t you ever do ANYTHING right!”  The hurtful words keep chopping away – day after day – week after week – year after year – until a lifetime is gone and the words couldn’t hurt any more.

Died as she lived – alone.  How sad.  Dying alone.  How long had she been dead before anyone found her?  A day, or was it a week or more before someone wondered why they’d not seen her?  No one knows anymore.  It sounds like she was dead inside for most of her life. 

This is about as tragic as it gets.  Yet there are many Grace Llewellyn Smith’s in the world: the homeless living in the garbage dump in Ecuador, the party and bed-hopping hoi polloi in glitzy Miami Beach who seek love but don’t find it, the spouse that is now facing life alone who was constantly reminded of how pitifully useless and inept they are by the one who promised to love them until death parted them.  The list is long and varied. 

To human appearances, Grace Llewellyn Smith died alone.  Yet if Scripture is true in saying that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father knowing it, surely neither did Grace Llewellyn Smith die alone.  One can only hope that she knew the Lord, for she surely was loved by Him.  In Jesus is the answer to every one of the critical lines in Ms. Smith’s epitaph: in Jesus we can find rest (“come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and you will find rest for your souls”); in Jesus we are loved eternally (“For God so loved the world…”); from Jesus we shall hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’; and we will never die alone (“I will be with you always.”)

Are you a Grace Llewellyn Smith?  Do you know one?  Grab hold of Jesus – and never let go!

PRAYER: Lord, my heart breaks to read Ms. Smith’s epitaph and to ponder her lot in this world.  Open our eyes to the Grace Llewellyn Smith’s who are all around us, living lives of silent desperation, bleeding from a thousand wounds – who need what Jesus alone can give.  When we are broken and hurting, may we turn first to the One who can heal and cure our every hurt.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 11/19/19 – The National Rush to Therapy

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DayBreaks for 11/19/19: The National Rush to Therapy

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2009:

Ft. Hood, Texas.  Sadly, that name is now in the archives along with Columbine, Lockerbie, Auschwitz (though this was a much larger scale) and others.  It is a name that will “live in infamy” to borrow a phrase from Franklin D. Roosevelt.  On a beautiful fall day, blood was spilled mixing its color with the leaves.  Thirteen died (as of this writing) and many more were wounded.  It was a tragedy that should not have happened – just as Cain should not have slain Abel, David should not have had Uriah killed, and Saul should not have killed Stephen.  Yet human tragedy seems to be the legacy of the human race.

On November 9, 2009, David Brooks, writing in the New York Times in an article titled “A Rush to Therapy”, analyzed the events and news coverage in the aftermath of Ft. Hood.  I have no interest in sitting in judgment on Maj. Hasan – I am more than willing to leave the judging to God as He alone is qualified to sit in judgment.  I don’t have that right, but He does.  What was interesting about this article was Brooks’ focus on how people have tried to explain away the man’s behavior.  He was stressed out from hearing about others stresses (secondary stress syndrome – we even have a name for it).  As a pastor, I can understand that – I’ve been there before and most assuredly will be again.  Others suggested that he acted out of a fear of going to Afghanistan into a war zone (then why did he create one of his own?)  Others said it was “pre-traumatic stress syndrome” – anticipation of the events of the foreseeable future that cause him to snap like a dry twig (yet couldn’t we blame everything on such a “syndrome” if we want to?) 

I want to be fair and honest about this, so I now tread carefully.  I don’t know what was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but it seems to me that all the efforts to explain it away, to reassure us as to why it happened, have missed a very crucial point: the existence of evil.  Major Hasan was not different from anyone you meet on the street.  Everyone has struggles and they’re happy to tell you about them if you’ll stop long enough to listen.  Everyone has things they dread in the future (aging, loss of income, health issues, fear of death or abandonment, fear of conflict.)  But not everyone responds as Major Hasan did.  He chose to act evilly.  Why did he kill and wound so many?  Because of evil in the heart.  So it has always been – and so it will always be until we let God create new hearts within us. 

On the same day as Brooks’ article came out, it was announced that the Beltway Sniper (John Allen Mohammad) would not receive clemency and would be executed that same evening at 9:00 p.m..  Something inside of me “cheered” at that news.  After all, I wanted to see “justice” done to this man who held much of the eastern seaboard hostage to a murderous terror spree some years back.  What beat in his heart?  Evil.  I recall people trying to excuse his behavior, too.  I have no doubt that he suffered disappointments, possibly abuse.  Yet that didn’t make him a murderer.  It was his choice about how to respond to those things that made him a murderer.  He could have chosen to go another way – to become a counselor or social worker who helps people who have experienced the things he did, but that wasn’t what he chose.  He chose to act evilly.

But then God puts a check in my heart.  “How have you responded to evil, Galen?”  Well, Lord, there have certainly been times when I talked about someone who hurt me behind their back.  I’ve thought thoughts about them that should never be thought – let alone spoken.  I may have intentionally wronged someone or acted in an evil manner.  But those, too, were choices.  And where do they come from?  From the same heart that drove Hasan or the Beltway Sniper to do what they did.  Perhaps my actions weren’t as evil in the eyes of society, but they are still evil. 

Enough of the evil.  Enough of denying its existence in the hearts of others – and in our own hearts.  Let us all pray that God creates that new heart within us that David pled for when he recognized his own need: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and renew a right spirit within me.  (Ps. 51:10) 

PRAYER: Create in us clean hearts, Father and a spirit that is fashioned after Your Own.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/22/19 – Drinking Your Own Kool-aid

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DayBreaks for 08/22/19: Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2009:

Many of you will recall Jim Jones and the People’s Temple located in Guyana.  Jones was a charismatic leader by all accounts.  He had fanatically devoted followers who left behind families, homes, careers and jobs in America to follow him to a jungle “paradise” that was called Jonestown (that should have been a clue to the man’s ego.)  They moved after a magazine, New West, raised questions about the legality of some of their practices.  According to Wikipedia, after moving to Guyana, Jones developed a belief in something he called “Translation” – the idea that he and his followers would all die together and go to another planet to live in peace.  He even held mass suicide “practices” where followers would drink Kool-aid and fall to the ground as if they were dead in order to prepare for Translation. 

The day finally came when it wasn’t practice – it was for real.  A total of 914 people died in the mass poisoning – 638 adults and 276 children.  By the time that authorities arrived, many of the bodies were already in such a state of decay that there is some dispute about how many actually died.  It was not a pretty scene. 

I have often wondered about the mindset of those present in Jonestown on that fateful day.  It is hard for me to comprehend parents giving cups of poisoned Kool-aid to their little ones.  For me, it is almost as hard to understand how people could take the cup and drink it down themselves.

An old blog entry had a synopsis of an article from Vogue magazine by Jenny Sanford (the wife of the infamous Governor Sanford who was caught having an affair with an Argentine woman while lying about his whereabouts to his family and staff), where she was describing what it was like to watch her husband’s “addiction” to a woman with whom he was carrying on an affair.  The writer of the blog (my youngest son, Tim) noted this quote from Ms. Sanford: “Politicians become disconnected from the way everyone else lives in the world. I saw that from the very beginning. They’ll say they need something, and ten people want to give it to them. It’s an ego boost, and it’s easy to drink your own Kool-Aid. As a wife, you do your best to keep them grounded, but it’s a real challenge.” 

What struck me was her comment: “…and it’s easy to drink your own Kool-Aid” – a reference to what happened in Jonestown and how it was so deadly.  It isn’t just politicians who are quick to drink their own Kool-aid.  I fear we are all quick to believe our own deceptions and lies and to seek that which flatters and boosts our egos.  It is frequently said of sports teams or athletes that get too “fat” of a head that they “believe their own press,” i.e., they believe the things they say and think about themselves to an unhealthy and potentially fatal degree.

We do the same thing when we think we’re better than we really are, or when we think we can withstand a certain temptation that has always pulled at us – and we’ll get too close to it and wind up in the dirt like the families who died in Jonestown. 

God doesn’t give us poisoned Kool-Aid, nor does He want us to drink our own concoction.  Instead, He offers us the Living Water – water that is pure, sweet and gives us life. 

Maybe it’s time for us all to do some serious introspection to find out if we’re drinking our own Kool-Aid.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. – Isaiah 12:2-3 (KJV)

PRAYER:  Our eyes are all too often blinded and our minds are dulled by our own press and impressions of ourselves, Lord.  Help us not to drink our own Kool-Aid, nor the Kool-Aid that anyone else would offer us.  Help us to seek and drink only Living Water!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

DayBreaks for 7/30/19 – Vanished From Sight

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DayBreaks for 07/30/19: Vanished from Sight

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

A recent story from the Associated Press told a fascinating story about hoarding which holds Christian implications.  “Jesus warned against piling up money on earth, because money comes and goes. A sad reminder of the vulnerability of money came with the June 2009 news story of an elderly woman in Israel who had hidden her life savings of one million dollars in her bed mattress. Every night she slept on one million in American dollars and Israeli shekels. She must have felt very secure with her fortune literally inches away, holding her up each night—especially since 2008 and 2009 had been disastrous years for banks and financial institutions as the world economy suffered its worst recession in decades. What’s more, she had had a bad experience with a bank and had lost trust in them. Whom could she trust? No one! In fact, she did not tell even her own daughter where all that fortune was hidden.”

And that was the wealthy woman’s big mistake. One day her daughter decided that the mother needed a new mattress. Who knows, maybe she sat on the bed, and it felt a bit lumpy—one of those ten thousand dollar lumps perhaps—and she thought, “What a cheap bed this is!” She decided to replace the mattress. She wanted to present the new mattress as a surprise gift, so the new mattress was delivered without her mother’s knowledge, and the old, lumpy mattress went into the garbage.

How pleased the daughter must have felt as she watched the delivery men put the new mattress in place and haul the old mattress out to the truck. Imagine the smile on her face when she brought her mother into the bedroom and presented her surprise gift. Somehow her elderly mother did not put two and two together right away. After a night of sleep on her new mattress, however, she woke up and suddenly realized what had happened to her life savings. She literally screamed.

A video news report of this story showed the daughter walking through a garbage dump hunting for the lost mattress. News reports showed workers combing through the trash as bulldozers moved piles of garbage attempting to uncover the lost treasure.

Truly there is no sure way to safeguard our worldly treasures – and they will all be taken from us at one point or another by life or death. 

PRAYER: Help us to truly believe that the only things in life that are worth pursuing are the eternal ones.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/05/19 – The Angel and the King

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DayBreaks for 07/04/19: The Angel and the King

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

Recent days saw the passing of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson.  Farrah Fawcett was one of Charlie’s Angels, and was considered and eulogized by some as being “America’s Angel” (meaning America’s favorite angel).  Michael Jackson, of course, was called the “King of Pop.”  Interesting how both are being idolized in the press.

Both deaths, of course, were sad and tragic, but the reactions (especially to Michael’s death) seems to me to be way over the top.  People weeping who never knew him at all, making all sorts of outrageous statements about how the thing that had given their life something beautiful and hopeful are not just outrageous, but revealing and sad.  It reveals the depraved status of our souls when people have been raised without a God-consciousness and awareness of where meaning comes from.  I mean, if people think that the only thing that can give them joy in life is a moon-walking singer – no wonder they weep in desperation when that singer is gone.  How spiritually bankrupt has our culture become?

I didn’t know Farrah nor Michael.  They had kudos here on earth.  What was their reception like beyond the veil of tears?  God alone knows.  But of this I am confident: their fame meant nothing to God.  He wasn’t impressed with either “America’s Angel” or “The King of Pop”.  He wasn’t impressed with their looks, their ability to dance or sing or act.  The only thing He cared about was looking at their heart to see if it was covered with the blood of Jesus.  I can only hope such was the case.

The same will be true for each person who reads this message and for all those who never read it.  Earthly achievement just doesn’t impress God at all, nor does He want us to find our meaning and joy in things of this world.  He has offered us so much more and created us for vastly greater things. 

PRAYER: Teach us a wise perspective on what has value and what You search for in us, Lord.  Help us learn that things of the spirit are far more critical and valuable than anything of the flesh.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/3/19 – The Great Bailout

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DayBreaks for 07/03/19: The Great Bailout

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

There has been a lot of talk about bailouts lately.  Banks, investment firms, big companies, car manufacturers…maybe even your next door neighbor have received a bailout.  Not being very smart economically, I don’t know if these were the right thing or not, but I certainly have my opinions on the matter!

But that’s not the kind of bailout that I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about people who bail out when things get tough.  This past week, we had Vacation Bible Camp at our church and I observed lots of behavior from the campers, helpers and teachers.  Most of it was all very good, but even VBC campers and workers are humans, and during the course of a hectic week, you are bound to see all kinds of human behavior.  Including some teens who were helping who received some needed correction from an adult – but who then didn’t show up the next day.  They’d made a commitment to help for the week.  But they broke their commitment.  They bailed out.

Commitment seems to be a dirty word, or at the very least, a word which has lost its meaning in our day and age.  We wonder why kids aren’t committed to anything.  In many cases, all we have to do is look at their home life to find out.  Many are not living with their biological mom and dad…their parents divorced (maybe more than once) and the children learned a lesson about “commitment.”  Their parents perhaps bounced from job to job when they grew frustrated or got angry…and instead of working it through and sticking it out for the benefit of the family, dad quits his job and can’t find another one.  And the children learned another lesson about “commitment.”  They have heard mom and dad say things such as, “Sure, I’ll take you to the zoo this weekend,” only to find that when the weekend rolls around, mom and dad are too busy or too tired.  And the children learn another lesson about commitment.

So many children lack commitment to anything these days (or so it seems to me).  To find the reason why, we have to look no further than our own mirror. 

Jesus knows about commitment and he modeled the importance of it to us.  He committed himself to death on a cross in order to redeem us from a fate that we rightfully earned – eternal damnation.  When your kids want to know about commitment – tell them about Jesus.  And then live a life of commitment for them to see and emulate.

PRAYER: We are weak and tempted to run when the heat is turned up on us, Lord.  Help us to be people who keep their commitments and teach our children to do likewise!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/02/19 – Earning Trust

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DayBreaks for 07/02/19: Earning Trust

(NOTE: sorry about no DayBreaks yesterday, our internet was down!)

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

The year was 1921, the city was New York.  Dr. Evan Kane is performing a routine appendectomy.  He’s done this over 4000 times in his 37-year medical career, so it’s old hat to him.  But there are two things that this time are different, that make this a special operation. 

First, Dr. Kane was concerned about the dangers of general anesthesia and he is doing this surgery using local anesthesia.  It wasn’t easy finding a volunteer to go through this surgery because no one knew for sure how well local anesthesia would work in such a surgery.  Many of Dr. Kane’s associates agreed with the dangers of general anesthesia, but volunteers were hard to come by.  Finally, Dr. Kane found a volunteer willing to undergo the experiment.  He’d looked long and hard for a volunteer before he got one. 

As it turns out, the surgery was successful.  The patient experienced only mild discomfort and was released two days later. 

Thanks to the courage of the brave volunteer, local anesthesia was shown to be an effective treatment option that in many cases is highly preferable to general anesthesia.

The second special thing about this surgery is that the volunteer was Dr. Kane himself.  Yep – he operated on his own appendix under just local anesthesia.  Why did he do this?  First, of all, he was convinced of what he believed and was willing to “put his money where his mouth was.”  Secondly, he couldn’t persuade anyone else to try it, so he became a patient in order to convince other patients that they could trust him as the doctor.

This is the core of the gospel and our great hope.  Christ became one of us, enduring the things we endure, suffering the things we suffer, identifying with us in our humanity.  Because he did that, we can trust him and that he understands!

PRAYER: Thank you for giving us proof that you believe in our worth, and that you understand what our lives are like when we struggle and hurt!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>