Saturday, November 22, 2008

45 Years

I can't let this day end without commenting on the fact that 45 years ago today, President John Kennedy was assassinated. Even all these years later, I can still feel some of the emotion from that day.

I was a fifth grader at Scenic Hills Elementary back in Springfield, PA. Mr. Oravek was my first male teacher, and I really liked the class. On Friday November 22, 1963, he was leading our class in a discussion of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. During that discussion, he received a call on the intercom from the school secretary, alerting him to what had just happened in Dallas. Our president had been assassinated. He was dead. We were speechless.

School dismissal was a very quiet affair that day. I don't remember much about the 4 block walk home, but I do remember turning on the television the minute I got in the house. I remained glued to the set for the remainder of the weekend. I remember attending Sunday School on Sunday morning, and upon returning home, I switched the TV back on, just in time to watch Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald right on live TV. If memory serves me, the funeral was on Monday, and we must have had the day off from school, because I remember every bit of it. The caison carrying the coffin, Jacqueline Kennedy's brave face sheilded by a black veil, John-John saluting his father's casket.

It seems like only yesterday somehow, yet so long ago. Less than two months later, the Beatles would make their US television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show (which I also remember watching), and the 60's were taking shape as the decade of unrest, protest, revolution, and free love. So many things happened in the years that followed, but none that grabbed the nation quite so completely as the day that shot rang out across the grassy knoll in Dallas.

His Ways

Some of you will disagree with my politics, but after the election I couldn't stop wondering how the result could possibly be good for America. While I sincerely believe our President-elect has the skills to lead, I have concerns about fiscal issues, defense and foreign policy issues, and most definitely social issues. I was bewildered that a man with quite a liberal viewpoint in each of these areas, and with an opportunity to influence the Supreme Court for many years to come, could possibly be the best choice for our country. I grappled with the fact that in my head I knew that God controls Kings and Kingdoms, and that His will would be accomplished. I just couldn't see how.

The good news...God is teaching me to trust.

Recently in my quiet time, I was reading in Numbers 21. To summarize the portion I read, it is part of the narrative that describes the period when Moses was leading Israel through the wilderness, prior to entering the promised land. A tactical change was made to their plans, and the Lord led them on a more circuitous route. I guess they had had just about enough, because they at once began to complain and rail against God and Moses. And for good measure, they threw in complaints about the lack of water and the "miserable food" (guess they didn't see manna as a blessing!). As a result, God sent poisonous snakes among them. The were biting the Israelites, causing a number of them to die. This apparently brought them to their senses, because they came to Moses, admitted their sin, and begged him to pray to the Lord and ask Him to take the snakes away. So Moses prayed.

Now here's my solution if I had been God: I've made my point, Israel has learned its lesson, so now I'll just take the snakes away. Simple. End of problem.

God didn't do that. He told Moses to make a snake and put it up on a pole. He was to tell the Israelites that whoever got bitten by a real snake could look up at the fake snake, and that would keep them from dying. OK, now that's just plain weird on several levels. First, God doesn't really go for the whole "graven image" thing. Yet He told Moses to make a snake, which Moses made out of bronze. It just seems that looking up at the bronze snake is somehow ascribing some power to it, when God has all the power. As I was reading, it just didn't seem to jive with what I would have expected God to do. I thought He'd just vaporize the snakes. I'm telling you, I really struggled with this. As I continued to dig into the passage and started reading some commentaries, God intervened.

Yes, God could have easily made the snakes disappear. But He knew that the real problem wasn't the snakes. It was the lack of trust in God by the Israelites that had to be dealt with. If God had simply removed the snakes, Israel would have been happy, and I'm sure they would have worshipped and praised God over it. But their praise would have been for something God did, and not for who He was. The trust problem would have remained, and probably before very long would have reared its head again. God's solution to the snake problem required that any Israelite who got a snake bite had to look up...the look of faith. As strange as it must have sounded to them that if they looked up at the bronze snake they would live, they HAD to trust God that this would work, or they would die from the snakebite. Not only was He answering Moses' prayer to get rid of the snake problem, but He was accomplishing His will by re-teaching Isreal to place its unswerving trust in Him.

Believe me, it is still hard for me to understand why God allowed our recent election results. But through this passage, God revealed to me that my disappointment and discouragement were nothing more than a lack of faith in Him to accomplish His will. I have to say that it is very hard for me to see, with my sin-hindered eyes, how God's will is to be accomplished in our country. The election result seems a very strange way for God to further His kingdom on earth. But now I can believe with some conviction (and a dose of humility), that God's ways are not my ways, and He will advance His purposes in His own ways and in His perfect time.

I have been set free to honor and pray for our new leaders, as God desires.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Critter Update

So the humane answer to my squirrel problem was supposed to be "fox urine". I purchased a product online composed largely of this "magic ingredient" (which smells pretty much like skunk!), only to find that my tree rat squirrels are quite content to sit in a pile of it while munching on my hibiscus. The primary predator of squirrels is the fox, and yet there appears to be no fear. I'm seriously thinking about firearms!

And now a new pest has arrived. Admittedly much cuter than a squirrel, but costing me a bunch of cash. This time it's a rabbit. I know...I know. A cute little bunny. Yeah, well...YOU try to convince the little bugger not to eat my freshly planted pansies.

For the first time since we moved to this house 4 1/2 years ago, I got the winter pansies planted by the end of October. I knew I was going to be out of town for awhile, so I worked hard to get them all planted sooner rather than later. My goal was to give them enough time to get very well established before the cold weather slows them down, so that in the Spring, they would really take off. Ah...the best laid plans!

Upon our return from 10 days on the west coast, I discovered that more than a dozen of my plants ($4 a pop at Lowes) had been munched down to the nubbies. Still alive, but without a bloom in sight, and seriously lacking leaves. I fear there is not enough left to sustain life in the cold. I think they will need to be replaced. Not happy about having to lay out more coin.

Honestly, I can't prove that a rabbit is the culprit. I've yet to see the dastardly act performed live. These snuggly little predators are apparently a bit more crafty (or private) than my brazen tree rats. I went online to research what might be eating my plants. I found a video that told me all I needed to know. I'll let you watch it here and decide for yourself if I came to the right conclusion about what has been dining on my winter greens!