DayBreaks for 12/14/17 – A Theology Lesson from Dr. Seuss

Image result for yertle the turtle

DayBreaks for 12/14/17: A Theology Lesson from Dr. Seuss

From the DayBreaks archive, December 2007:

How’s your world going today?  When you got up out of bed, did you leap up full of joy and excitement, or did you stub your toe or arise with a headache?  There are things you plan to do today, right?  Chances are, either formally or informally, you’ve got your day somewhat planned out.  You know some things that are “must-get-done’s” and others that you can do if you get around to it.  You know some of the people you’ll probably be talking with and what you’ll talk about.  You may be filled with trepidation about some of those meetings, or excitement at the prospect of spending some time together with them.  Either way, you have a schedule, a plan, in your mind for how you’ll spend your day. 

We like to think that we are in charge of our lives – that we have a significant say-so in how the day unfolds, how our interactions will turn out, and what we’ll do and where we’ll go.  And, to some extent, we do have some control over some of it – at least, we have an illusion of control.  We like to think that we are masters of our destinies – even if it’s just a small, insignificant destiny like planning to stop at Starbucks for a cup of joe on the way to work.  Our little fiefdom, over which we rule…or so we think. 

One of the best commentaries about this is in a book on political science theory by a “theologian” you may have heard of, named Dr. Seuss.  It’s a book called Yertle the Turtle.  A little pond of turtles is ruled—or so he thinks—by Yertle, who’s a turtle.  One day, he decides his kingdom needs extending. 

Yertle, the turtle, the king of them all,

Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small. 

“I’m ruler,” said Yertle, “of all that I see. 

But I don’t see enough. That’s the trouble with me.

With this stone for a throne, I look down on my pond.

But I cannot look down on the places beyond. 

This throne that I sit on is too low down. 

It ought to be higher!” he said with a frown. 

“If I could sit high, how much greater I’d be! 

What a king! I’d be ruler of all I could see!”  

And so it happened that Yertle the Turtle sent out a decree that all the turtles that lived in his pond should be stacked up to be his throne—to extend his power and glory.  The whole pond scrambles to obey; first dozens, then hundreds of turtles were positioned underneath Yertle, who rose higher and higher into the air until finally he was so high up that he could see for miles. 

I’m Yertle the Turtle, Oh marvelous me,

For I am the ruler of all that I see! 

Yep, Yertle thought he had it made.  He was “on top of the world”, overseeing his little domain, inflated with a sense of his own importance, overflowing with prideful arrogance.  He believed he had everything under control and that his reign in his little realm was as secure as could be, but in the end, it wasn’t:

For the turtle on the bottom did a plain little thing. 

He burped, and that burp shook the throne of the King.

And today, the great Yertle, that marvelous he –

Is the King of the Mud. That’s all he can see.

And that’s where all who lift themselves up eventually wind up – back down in the mud.  We are all just one little burp away from reality.

We think it’s about us: my family, my work, my friends. We want to fashion our lives into a kingdom we control. But every once in a while, there’s a little “burp” someplace and we’re reminded of reality. 

Luke 18:14 (KJV) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

PRAYER:  Give us this day the wisdom to keep You on the throne and may we be content to be Your servants!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 11/28/17 – I Have Returned Alive

Image result for shoichi yokoi

DayBreaks for 11/28/17: I Have Returned Alive

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

Shoichi Yokoi was a soldier, conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 and sent to Guam shortly thereafter.  In 1944, as American forces reconquered the island, Yokoi went into hiding.
On January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in a remote section of Guam by two of the island’s inhabitants.  For 28 years he had been hiding in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring that World War II had ended.  “It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive,” he said upon his return to Japan, carrying his rusted rifle at his side.

There is no question that the Japanese soldiers during WW2 were incredibly loyal and committed to their cause.  Much of the fiercest fighting of the war took place in the Pacific theater.  One of the things that the Japanese had drilled into them through their culture for centuries is that you never surrender.  To surrender was the greatest possible insult and shame that a soldier could face.  If you were a Japanese soldier, there were only 2 ways that you could return home honorably: either as a victor at the war’s end or as a corpse.  Hence, Mr. Yokio’s comment: “It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive.”  The poor man had stayed at his post, alone and in hiding on Guam, for nearly 30 years.

Many thoughts run through my mind as I read this story:

I’m impressed with such dedication to a cause, such loyalty.  It makes me wonder about my commitment to the cause of the cross. 

I’m intrigued by the mindset that coming home alive is a shame.  Then, I stop to think about our Lord’s instructions that we must lose our lives if we hope to find life.  We must die to who we are in our sinful human natures.  And to come home, to stand before God’s judgment bar in heaven without having fully died, would be a great shame.  I think that I must redouble my prayers and efforts to “put to death” the old man so that a new One can live inside of me.

In spite of the shame of not truly dying to myself as I should in this life, Jesus will see to it that I do come home alive.  And when I do, it will be to a welcome, not to shame.

PRAYER:  Help me to die, Lord, that I may live.  And let that life be in the glory of Your Presence, that we may not be ashamed!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 11/13/17 – The Risk of Mortality

DayBreaks for 11/13/17: The Risk of Mortality

NOTE: Galen is traveling.

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit of a news lover.  I am constantly checking to find out what’s going on in the world.  I find it fascinating.  More often than not, what I find fascinating is the way in which the news is reported, or even the idiocies that are claimed in the news story itself. 

For many of us, on 11/07/07, some great news came out from the Associated Press (imagine that!)  It seems that some medical studies have been done recently that suggest that being overweight isn’t really as bad for you as we’d all been led to believe.  Here’s part of the article:

“This is a very puzzling disconnect,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “That is a conundrum.”

“It was the second study by the same government scientists who two years ago first suggested that deaths from being too fat were overstated. The new report further analyzed the same data, this time looking at specific causes of death along with new mortality figures from 2004 for 2.3 million U.S. adults.

“Excess weight does not uniformly increase the risk of mortality from any and every cause, but only from certain causes,” said the study’s lead author Katherine Flegal, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Galen’s Thoughts: I’ll bet many of you feel better after reading this, don’t you? 

What a fantasy world we live in!  Did you catch the bit of fantasy as you read through this portion of the report?  Here it is: “Excess weight does not uniformly increase the risk of mortality from any and every cause…”  Hum.  Now isn’t that interesting?  When you stop to think about it, what is the risk of mortality that we all face?  Isn’t it 100%?  I seriously doubt that, fatness or thinness aside, anyone’s risk or dying (sooner or later) will go above 100%, or below 100%.  I think that our risk of mortality is pretty doggone fixed right there at 100%, period.

It was just last night that I lay in bed thinking about mortality.  I’m a 55-year-old male, non-smoker.  I watch what I eat and try to not consume too much cholesterol or saturated fats.  I force myself to eat salads when I’d much rather be snacking down on some juicy steak.  Bluch…  Why?  To reduce my “risk of mortality”.  I’ve already had one quadruple bypass.  What are the odds of my reducing my risk of mortality to 98%, or 70%?  Z-E-R-O. 

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take care of our bodies – they are the gift of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit according to Scripture.  I’m just pointing out, once again, that our risk of mortality is 100% and we’d better get used to that idea instead of trying to pretend that it won’t happen. 

When I was young, I couldn’t really conceive of dying.  If it would ever happen, it would be someday way off in the future, decades away – in fact, so far away that it might as well have been something that would only happen in Never-Never Land.  Now, given my family history, I might be lucky to make it another 15 years before mortality overtakes me.  How ready am I?  Good question.  How ready are you?

PRAYER: May we live this day as if it is our last, may we live tomorrow, if we are granted it, in gratefulness and thanksgiving.  May our lives be fully swallowed up in the Risen One!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/21/17 – I Wonder About Lazarus

DayBreaks for 9/21/17: I Wonder About Lazarus

Note: Galen is traveling this week.

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

ABID JAN, Ivory Coast (08/26, Reuter’s): “A 2-year old girl was recovered alive three days after she was buried in a village cemetery.  Grave diggers in the area heard the young girl and immediately uncovered her grave.  Minata Lafissa was taken back to her parents in the village of Yakasse-Feyasse.  Lafissa was originally pronounced dead from a mystery illness.”

What a terrifying experience this must have been for little Minata!  One of my greatest fears (I’m claustrophobic – afraid of being closed in), is that I would be buried alive.  I can’t hardly stand to crawl underneath a car to change oil!  Can you imagine what it would be like to be sick, fall asleep, and wake up some time later in a closed, sealed coffin – buried alive!?!?!  It is the stuff of the worst horror movies and nightmares.

How do you feel about death? 

John 11.43-44: When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

There was a difference between Lazarus and Minata: unlike Minata, he was really and truly dead, it was done, over, finished.   He, like Minata, had been in the grave for days.  Only he was dead for all that time – not awake and screaming.  Then, all of a sudden, he hears an irresistible Voice – he opens his eyes and sees he is in a tomb.  Somehow (the verse isn’t real clear on how it exactly happened) his body moves forth out of the tomb (he couldn’t probably walk wrapped up as he was – it appears that he perhaps was “levitated” out of the tomb, but who knows?)  His eyes begin to see light through the wrappings around his face.  The first face he sees is probably his friend Jesus, or the faces of his sisters, Mary and Martha, as their trembling hands remove the wrappings.  They’ve all been crying, but for different reasons.  Mary and Martha are crying out of incredible joy for having their brother back.  Jesus has been crying because of the ravages of sin on mankind that brought death to his friend. 

How do you think Lazarus felt?  I wonder if he was happy to be back, or if he’d rather of stayed where he was.  (Probably a silly thing to wonder – if he was with God!)  How would I have felt?  If I’d already gone through the anxiousness of death itself, of the painful good-byes to loved ones, of drawing the last breath with a shudder – I think I wouldn’t be too keen on repeating the experience all over again.  I wonder what he saw while he was dead.  We simply aren’t told, because it really isn’t important.  I’d have liked to see him, talk with him, to have known him after this happened.

But, at the same time, if I’d been Lazarus, I would be amazed.  I would be standing before Jesus, knowing that some incredible power, His incredible power, had made me alive again after I’d been dead.  Here’s the amazing thing: I have been where Lazarus was!  If you’re a believer in Christ, you’ve been there, too:  Col 2.13: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins… 

How does it feel?  I have been brought back to life by God’s amazing power.  And I am sustained by His great power.  And even though I will die physically, I will not die spiritually – I will live forever with Him.   Let me tell you in case you haven’t experienced this resurrection of the spirit – it feels great!!!!

What Jesus did for Lazarus, what He’s done for me, He can and will do for you – if you believe in Him.  He wants to raise you to a new life.  He wants to raise your friends and family to the same life, too.  When you look at your fellow-believers this weekend at church, remember – you’re looking at a person who has been raised from the dead by the power of Jesus Christ!

PRAYER: Father, thank You for life, for stirring and breathing life into our dead souls.  Help us to celebrate and rejoice in the new life You have given us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2007 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

DayBreaks for 9/18/17 – Living With an Intruder

Normally, I try to hold DayBreaks to a spiritual bent.  While today’s message is about spiritual things, it’s also about physical things.  Dick Peterson and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married for 37 years and they live in South Carolina.  They are fellow Christians, and today I’m sharing some of Dick’s writings.  For a number of years now, they have been living with an intruder: Elizabeth has MS.  This is just a part of the article, but I found it to be profound and thought-provoking.  It has certainly caused me to do some soul searching of my own.  I think that you may benefit from the part of it that I’m including.  You seldom find such gut-wrenching and soul-searching honesty. – Galen

“We both pray for healing.  With our families and our church, we agonize before God for a return to the day when Elizabeth can offer an open handshake instead of a permanently clenched fist, or take a flight of stairs without thought.

“But if we only grieve the loss, we miss the gain—that what this disease does to us may also be done for us.  Even as the MS steals abilities from Elizabeth’s life, a healing grows almost undetected inside.  When we talk about this, Elizabeth wonders aloud, “Did it really take this to teach me that my soul is more important to God than my body?”

“And I ask, “Is this what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples to serve?  When he washed their feet, did he look 2,000 years into the future and see me washing my wife’s clothes and helping her onto her shower seat to bathe?  Did it really take this to teach me compassion?”

“Could it be that God in his wisdom and love gives Elizabeth and me this disease to heal us from the inside out in ways he considers far more important than how efficiently nerve signals travel from her brain to her muscles?

“Whom do I love more?

“God’s healing can be sneaky.  We pray that Elizabeth will resume her old life; he wants her to assume a new life.  We long for change on the outside; he desires change on the inside.  We pray for what we want; he answers with what he knows we need.

“Is it wrong to want a whole, functioning body?  Not at all.  But though we focus naturally on the flesh, this disease compels Elizabeth and me to turn our minds to the Spirit.  The apostle Paul said, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6, NASB).  How unexpected is that?

“Truth be told, Elizabeth and I are still learning the realities of that revelation.  She tells me that when she had no choice but to submit to multiple sclerosis, she learned how to submit to her Lord.

“And he has made me question whom it is I love.

“When I pray for healing, is it for Elizabeth?  Or is it because her healing would make life so much easier for me?  I challenge, “Aren’t you the God who heals?  I love her and I want her well.”  But in the back of my mind I know I also want her healed for me.

“In response to my challenge, Jesus asks me as he asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”  I think, He wants me to love him more than my wife?  So I reply with Peter’s words, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

“Tend My lambs” (John 21:15), he tells me.

“I care for Elizabeth.  She’s his lamb.  Doesn’t that show I love him?

“But what is he really asking?  He’s asking if I love him more than these things I say I want, the things I’d have if this disease would just go away.  Now my answer’s not nearly as glib.  Can I actually love God more than my wife, but not more than these things I say I want?  They’re not bad things: a happy, healthy life together, a stroll on the beach without a wheelchair to become bogged down in the sand, getting to church on time because she can dress herself.

“The exposure shames me.  Do I love him more than these?” – Dick Peterson, Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership Magazine, 2007

PRAYER:  Father, I am humbled by this couple and the lessons you’ve been teaching them, and us through them.  These questions gnaw at my inner being.  I can’t answer them, and although I can’t find the answers in myself, Lord, You know…You alone know how I would react, and whether or not I love you “more than these.”  Hear our humble confession and help us to learn what love truly means and does.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

DayBreaks for 9/06/17 – Traveling the Circle

DayBreaks for 9/06/17: Traveling the Circle

From the DayBreaks archive, 9/2007:

From “The Scrivener”, a blog by Doug Dalrymple:

“I’m reminded of a passage in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton, habitually unhappy, is pondering a great act, a beautiful act, which if carried out will certainly cost him everything.  Setting aside his customary bitter tone, Sydney suddenly asks the elderly Jarvis Lorry, ‘Does your childhood seem far off?  Do the days when you sat at your mother’s knee seem days of very long ago?’  Venerable and wizened, and having spent his days in simple, loving dedication to others, the octogenarian Lorry replies:

‘Twenty years back, yes; at this time in my life, no.  For, as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in the circle, nearer and nearer to the beginning.  It seems to be one of the kind smoothings and preparings of the way.  My heart is touched now by many remembrances that had long fallen asleep, of my pretty young mother (and I so old!), and by many associations of the days when what we call the World was not so real with me, and my faults were not confirmed in me.’

“I recently asked my father a similar question: Whether or not, as he’s grown older, his memories of childhood seem to fade or grow more vivid? He replied, ‘a little of both.’  By Jarvis Lorry’s measure this suggests my father has yet to complete his circuit and that my children and I will enjoy the blessing of his company here below for years to come.  I do pray, however, that aging becomes for me (and for each of us) less a process of alienation from the child I once was, and more a process of recovery.  God willing that I should grow old and gray, I hope some day to gaze into the mirror and through the fog of outward appearances to apprehend the faint outlines of that seven-year-old boy, fully inhabiting the old man’s frame, secretly supplying him with joy and wonder and curiosity in the world, in his Maker, and especially in those given to him to love.”

Galen’s Thoughts:

I’ve mused on this kind of topic before, but my son has a wonderful way with words that express things far better than I can.  I like the idea of traveling in the circle – and that as we get nearer and nearer to the end, we are actually getting nearer and nearer to the beginning.  And is it not so?  We came from God, and we shall return to Him.  While that is a comfort to those who have come to know Him and His Son, it is also a very sobering reminder.  We tend to think that as we age we are further and further removed from our origin.  But such is not the case.  It is precisely at the midway point in our lives (whatever that may be for a given individual) that we are the farthest from the origin.  As we get older, the period of our alienation here upon earth grows shorter and short and the time of our arrival on eternity’s doorstep grows ever shorter and nearer.  And in eternity dwells the One who is our Origin, our Creator, our God and our Father. 

When my younger son (Tim, not Doug) was a competitive gymnast, at the end of a day he’d be somewhat exhausted – sometimes very exhausted.  My advice to him was always the same (and I’m sure he got tired of hearing it): “Finish well.”  What kind of horrible tragedy will it be for us to get so close to the finish line, to completing the circle and returning to our Maker, if we lose our heart for Him and His Word toward the end?  If we suddenly stop and turn away from the truth He taught us throughout the first part of our journey around the circle?  I’ve been through my mid-life crisis, and I’m here to tell you that it was no fun.  I came close to chucking it all out the window a number of years ago.  But I think one thing, more than any other, made me hold on: my life would have been a waste and my testimony a sham if I turned away. 

I want to finish well.  I want to complete the circle in such a way that when I put my foot on God’s doorstep, He’ll open the door and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord!”  I pray you will finish well, too.

PRAYER: Oh, Lord.  Help us not to grow weary or to lose sight of the end.  May we be ever more mindful each and every passing moment that we are drawing close to the completion of this life’s journey and that when we pass from this world, we will stand before You.  May we hear Your voice filled with pleasure when we awake from our sleep!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 8/17/17 – Falling Stars and Fleeting Days

DayBreaks for 8/17/17: Falling Stars and Fleeting Days

Note from Galen: Sorry for all the DayBreaks repeats these past few months. I happen to be in a very busy season of life right now. Oh, yeah, yesterday was my anniversary, so I took the day off from DayBreaks! I appreciate your understanding!

From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:

On Sunday evening, 8/12, some friends and my wife and I sat out on our deck and watched about 2 hours worth of the Perseid meteor shower.  I’d read about it before, so I was familiar with what it was.  Basically, for those who may not know, it’s when the earth passes through the tail of a comet (Swift-Tuttle) that originates in the Perseus constellation.  The effect of passing through this comet’s “tail” has been observed for over 2000 years, and if you missed it, don’t worry: it happens every summer and peaks at about August 12 each year.  Some of the effects we observed were rather insignificant – faint streaks of light that happened so quickly that you didn’t dare blink or you’d miss them entirely – but others were very bright and left a long, glowing streak across the sky as the particles flamed out in the atmosphere.

There is a song by Fernando Ortega in which he contemplates God’s protection and Presence with us.  In that song, one line goes as follows: “My days are passing by like falling stars that blaze across the night sky and then they are gone…”  The Perseids gave me new perspective on exactly what that means.  And I paused in my heart to take stock of my life.  Life truly does fly by like blazing “falling stars”, does it not?  Scripture talks about it as a mist that appears for a short time and then vanishes…I think Fernando’s take on it is more apt and seemingly (at least to me) much more realistic.  Blink, and you miss it.  Blink, and it is gone, over, done.

I don’t know how long the Lord will permit me to abide on the face of the earth.  I’m 55 years old now (65 as of 2017).  From the actuarial tables, I’ve got maybe 10 years left.  10 years.  The first 20 went by so quickly, and the years from 20 to 40 even faster.  Let’s not even discuss my perspective on how fast I got from 40 to 65.  It’s frightening to contemplate.  And if I’m lucky and blessed, I may see another 15-20 years, but with the history of cardiac problems in my family, the odds are probably against that happening, but God knows. 

So, what am I to make of all this?  I suppose there are several things that come to my mind:

FIRST: I wonder what it will actually be like to die.  It struck me with new force that it’s an experience we can’t really prepare ourselves for – we just don’t know how it feels until we go through it.  Last night as I contemplated this, I wished I could ask my father what it’s like – since he’s been there and is now at home with our Lord.  I will NOT escape that experience, no matter how much I might wish to, or how good I’ve been.  I can only say that I hope it will be like falling asleep and waking up to see the Lord’s face smiling at me. 

SECOND: I ponder all the things that I’ve wanted to do in life, but that I’ve not yet done.  Places I’d like to see.  Friends I’d like to see “one more time.”  Problems and temptations that I’d like to “overcome” before I say my final farewell to earth and fly to meet Him.  Some of those things are unimportant – such as the places I’d like to see.  But what haunts me is the thought: “As I lay on my death bed, what will be my biggest regret?”  If I could answer that question and then manipulate human history and events, then I’d put that question to rest.  But, alas, I cannot manipulate life, and I don’t know until I reach the moment of death what will be my biggest regret at that moment in time.  But, methinks it’s worth thinking about. 

THIRD: I can see the holes in my character, and their size is humbling.  I see many of the faults in my obedience and love for God and others.  Those are humbling, too.  So what’s a man or woman to do who stops long enough to take stock of life and a future of unknown and uncertain duration?  I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in these words of Scripture from Paul’s pen in Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV) – I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  I’m glad that Paul didn’t say that he himself would have to complete what God had started.  How much better that the one who began that work in us (God Himself!) will see to its completion in ME…and in you!  Although it is beyond my ken and comprehension, I have God’s word on it.  And if that’s not good enough to launch out into eternity, then what is?

PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for falling stars and the sweet days of life that flee from east to west in the twinkle of an eye.  Life is sweet, Lord, and it is precious.  May we remember what a great gift this is that You’ve given us.  Thank You for Your Faithful Word and Promise to bring us to spotless perfection in Christ Jesus.  You are amazing.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>