If you look close, you can often catch joy and sadness walking hand in hand.
I did anyway while on a ten-day mission trip in Guatemala. At a school in Xela, our team played crazy games like Zombie Tag, where the kids laughed and ran and mumbled, “Must eat brain, must eat brain.” In chapel services those same kids sang, “Sin has lost it’s power, Death has lost its sting, From the grave You’ve risen VICTORIOUSLY” at the tops of their lungs. Zombies, even pretend ones, singing about the ultimate anti-zombie, Jesus, was beautiful and hilarious. The kids listening with rapt attention when we told our stories about how God loved all of us was pure joy.
This was mingled with the sadness of watching street boys, ages nine or ten working, shining shoes on the square, or the little Mayan girls carrying their heavy burdens on their heads to work instead of to school. Or the blind man begging, or the two gringas wobbling down the street drunk at about 4 in the afternoon. Deep. Sadness. I wanted so to be able to tell them too of the love of God for them.
I noticed something else about joy and sadness (I have seen this before but always forget). Wealth and joy were not always hand in hand, nor were sadness and poverty. There they were together, wealth and poverty, sadness and joy arm-wrestling. The wealthy do not have a market on joy nor the poor on sadness.
Hurt, pain, worry cut across all lines, as does laughter and song.
I remembered then that our problems and our hopes are deeper than dollars can dig. Maybe that is why God does not simply throw money at us when we ask for help.
The poet and prophet Isaiah told his people in a time of deep poverty and sadness that God would one day “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
As Ben Harper sings, God wants to use our two hands locked together, along with joy and sadness, to work this miraculous exchange of beauty for ashes for all of us.
Eugene C. Scott is most moved by being with people and seeing God in them. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.
9 responses to “With These Two Hands I’ll Change the World”
Visiting a more simple culture — often referred to as “3rd world” or poverty-stricken or primitive — is a blessing to us in many ways. AND, it is certainly more similar to the world as it was in “Bible days!”
I used to tell my children, “You can’t experience BEING both rich AND poor at the same time.” I think we tend to learn more about/(experience) the “important things of life” when poor, compared to those who live nothing but “rich” exceptional lives. The rich actually become disconnected from the fundamentals and basics of life, giving way too many orders, pushing way too many buttons for results, thereby learning very little about how things really work, or where things really come from. Learning to serve, before taking “being served” for granted, is a step that should not be omitted from one’s proper wholesome spiritual and psychological development.
I also often told them, “I figured if it was good enough for Abraham Lincoln, it would be good enough for MY kids.” Abraham Lincoln was born in a very primitive Kentucky log cabin setting.
In the history of even our very “rich” country, we don’t really have to look back very far to find primitive “hands on” survival roots across the board. The thing that is SO GREAT about “primitive” survival, is that we can tap into (be connected with), our “instinctive intelligence” which not only comes naturally to us, but is actually very creative, spontaneous, clever, practical and fundamentally enjoyable. Deep inside, we were created for this!,…to be “one” with our world, to succeed in mutually beneficial projects, voluntarily working together with gratitude and appreciation for our neighbor, even easy sincere smiles!
Actually, I don’t even really “feel sentimental and sorry” for a child that carries things, helping the day’s work of the family to be accomplished, as there is an integrated usefulness and meaning connecting that child to its community. “Fun” is not a necessary “spin” that has to be on everything a child does. I would feel more sorry for the “idle” and isolated child, with “nothing to do,” bored, sitting alone, dull and uninterested on the sidelines,…and we have plenty of those right here among us.
Of course, the joys and opportunities of schools and shared “religious” experiences and learning are wonderful and beneficial as well, but these certainly can factor into a simpler culture in gratifying ways, without meaning that all cultures must eventually become delirious with expanded delusions of purposeless pride and grandeur, maxing out the Tower of Babel effect and essentially “losing touch” with what it is to be fundamentally “human” — a willing and co-operative servant of God and one’s fellow mankind.
The epidemic of “personal and egotistical isolation” and rotten substitutes for meaningful living, that are our “not blessings” in a “rich” and mechanically and technically-driven, automatic, and truly uninspired or falsely-inspired culture, — which broadens its non-personal dictatorial influence and alienating control steadily inch by inch — strikes me as being much more dangerous and more like a pathetic and spiritually-poverty-stricken curse, than the customs of a simple society in which it is also just simply natural for children to be expected to help with chores.
Georgie-ann: I hope your children look back on all the home-grown wisdom you passed on and are still gushing. I know I do. Eugene
Of course, they had their chronic complaints at the time, but they’re very appreciative now — (2 boys, now good men, 40 and 33 years old).
Youth doesn’t really know or even understand what its REAL needs are to develop fully, maturely, and properly. And on its own pleasure-oriented and self-focused terms, is much too sadly and easily indulged and thereby “spoiled” — as they say — actually receiving much less (training) than they were designed for.
This is why genuine long-standing “cultural wisdom” — that has stood the “tests of time” — is invaluable, and certainly worth studying. (The Bible & Proverbs, of course, is one invaluable source.) I searched deeply into the subject at the time, gleaning what significant concepts that I could, that weren’t necessarily being preserved by the disintegrating and alienating American industrialized and de-personalized culture-of-the-day-going-modern-amoral-ambiguous-theoretical-technological-narcissistic-pornographic-wild-drug-addled and now almost completely upside-down from its practical, god-fearing/respecting, and comparatively sober roots.
Given my Southern background, and being suddenly transferred as a captive youth — (meaning: I had no choice in the matter!) — into the “dog-eat-dog rat-race” of the (North) East Coast, (and this was noticeable even on the school playgrounds!), I was alerted seriously and subliminally, by this jarring experience, that “all things are not equal.” And if I wanted to eventually produce a life that was “true to myself” and my deepest character (instilled by my Bible-respecting Southern roots), I came to realize that it would have to be by my own purposeful and designated decisions (and God’s help), that I would manage to create something that I would not be ashamed to offer my own children.
I will have to stop now,…perhaps I’ll bbl with a few quotes and anecdotes!
Thanks, Oo-gene! You listen much better than my kids did! (-:
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Just as a tomato vine (or definitely a grape vine!) will usually produce better fruit if the gardener takes the time and trouble to stake and tie the main stem(s) properly off the ground and in the right season (stake early to prevent root damage), children really need similar “training” (beginning early) by a firm and steady example, guidance, teaching, little consistent duties and expectations, the positives of love, compassion, appreciation, bonding and understanding, while holding firmly to godly principles of righteousness and service.
“Pruning” is often done along the way, by the wise and knowledgeable custodian, to concentrate the plant energy into selected branches and fruit in order to improve the quality and desirability of the fruit, as opposed to “letting everything run wild” — which inevitably produces rambling vines that are hard to care for, mixed in with thistles &/or poisoned ivies, and bearing lots of smallish and sourish and bitter fruits. And these aren’t “good sellers” at the marketplace! They may, in fact, become pretty much worthless:
Matthew 13:37-43 [The Parable of the Tares Explained]
37 “He … said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'”
Matthew 13:47-50 [The Parable of the Dragnet]
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Just as a farmer supports and tends to his developing plants, also removing the undesired and choking weeds which vie for space in his garden, he learns to wait patiently for the harvest, which can only grow and be nourished by God’s miraculous provisions and designs for life.
James 5:7 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.”
In faith and trust, having done his best to provide properly, according to his ability and knowledge, for the needs of the living/growing things under his care, then the farmer must also wait for the living forms to take the special shape that God has endowed them with, allowing for the time and nourishment that only God can give through the sun and the rains, and the timing and inner intelligence and power that God has placed within his growing Creation. We can help guide and support life, but we cannot “make” anything grow by (or according to) our own will. This is a process that we must treat with great patience and respect.
GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) applies to more than computers. Humans are very susceptible too! “Wisdom” is a precious asset, even an art, to be lived and applied to our own lives and those of others,…especially those in our personal care. Everything that grows needs freedom and room to grow, respect for its individuality and design, but also wise application of principles of guidance, integrity, discipline, self-control, etc.,…
Even an untrained, or undisciplined, animal is never able to be a very helpful companion to the human who would try to interact with it in a cooperative manner, especially over the tests of time.
So, here’s a standard apropos Bible verse often cited:
Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early.”
This does not convey simply a sense of corporal punishment, but also implies that holding consistent examples (and expectations) strongly to the “standards of righteousness,” will act like having a training rod, or a straight stake, with a similar effect to the training stakes used for holding tomato plants upright.
Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.”
And so it is with this one too. The foolishness really begins when the responsible adults — AND the general culture — neglect the admonitions to “train up (the) child in the way he should go.” And substituting false pleasure-oriented and white-washed humanistic “theories” is like trying to pass off lies for truth,…it can never bring about solid success,…and it will certainly never “fool God” or be a blessing to the child.
Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.”
Revelation 3:19 “Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude].”
Always remembering these precious words of Jesus:
1 “I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.
2 “Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.
3 “You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].
4 “Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
6 “If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.
7 “If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
8 “When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine.
9 “I have loved you, [just] as the Father has loved Me; abide in My love [continue in His love with Me].
10 “If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love.
11 “I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.
12 “This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you.
13 “No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends.
14 “You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do.
15 “I do not call you servants (slaves) any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing (working out). But I have called you My friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father. [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him.]
16 “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you.
17 “This is what I command you: that you love one another.”
(edit: John 15:1-17)
One of the kind of cute lingering and seemingly incurable “chronic complaints” that emerged from our very simple dairy farm days, — (actually to me it was pretty much “heaven on earth!” — we didn’t run the farm but were able to live there for a lot of years, and participated) — was from the older son (older by almost 7 years). Poor kid! It took him a REALLY LONG TIME to get over the (subjective) feeling that he always had to do so much more “work” than his younger brother on the farm.
Finally, I was able to point out to him, one of his 2 or 3-year-old little boy cousins whom he knew pretty well at that time, and told him that that was exactly how old his younger brother had been when he had started carrying coal up from the basement for our coal stove in the winter. (Nothing like the necessity of freezing temps to get people in the regular habit of working!)
Finally, “the light dawned” and he realized how impossible it would have been for the little one to have carried an actual bucket of coal until many many years later,…unfortunately, by then we had moved! Now I think he realizes that he was really the “lucky one” in these things, and even had the opportunity to learn and experience much more!
The perspective of youth is definitely flawed, personal and fallible, but we will grow and mature if all goes well.
1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
This is normal. These changes in perspective are normal and to be desired.
The problem, culturally speaking, for us now, is that we have effectively enshrined and marketed “simplistic childhood and pampered youth” to such an extent, (and created such repeatable fantasy imitations and versions of “life”), that very few children can easily or successfully compare the differences between what’s “really real and necessary and important/significant” and the concocted imaginary “fun-filled” entertainment-based pastimes that have gotten them so hooked, entranced, and diverted/side-tracked from the more substantial things!
Where will they eventually go from here? Serious work? Dedicated service? What’s that all about? What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t want to? Well,…I won’t even mention the obvious and rampant self-indulgent and often self-destructive pitfalls that await the really unfortunate and unwise.
But,…we’ve been failing them right along,…they should have been better prepared,…more seriously warned,…more productively guided,…freedom that blooms into unfettered license is a really bad problem to grow into,…
edit, correction: … maybe the “lucky one” …
a couple of more points:
I’m prone to comment (and very frequently lament) about the “lack of a backbone” in so many of our culture these days. Having a (psychological) backbone, meant not only that a person “knew who they were,” but that they would stand up uncompromisingly to defend and preserve their right to be that righteous and dignified person, whether anyone else liked it or not. I believe that “God must have been on their side,” inspiring them, supporting and adding to their strength, because it would have taken more than strong winds, wild temptations, and teams of horses to move such as these off their positions of righteous God-fearing simple dignity.
Such was the elderly caretaker of the dairy farm we were living on, Mr. Harry Kimble, and his wife Grace. Such marvelous examples and role models for my children were these precious and humble giants of the faith! I will always be grateful to them and to God for blessing us with them in our lives. These are the earth’s real treasures and greatest riches, believe me,…people with genuine character,…having a true and Godly backbone. In fact, they DO shine like the stars!
Daniel 12:3 “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.”
It was God — leading us through prayer and intense, sincere desire to carve out a better way — who led us to this farm opportunity,…I’m very sure of that! For us to have experienced comparative “richness” vs. this “poor” simple life, I would have had to sacrifice my “hands on” time with my children during the openness of their growing, formative youthful years, and this was an irretrievable opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on,…either for them or for myself. “Timing is everything,” it is said,…and there are moments when this is absolutely true. Seize the precious moments, and trust God.
Pausing for a moment to offer thanks to God and the wonderful Kimbles for these precious memories,…
addendum & wrap-up,…
So much of the modern economic and socially failing structural collapse, has influenced us in extremely challenging ways. “Going with the flow” is often a very bad option at this time, but “rowing upstream” is also difficult. “God can make a way where there is no way” — (remembering the Red Sea!) — might become the prayer theme and hope of those who wish to escape or minimize the pervasive degradation and influence of our times. Often, our choice will involve the application of our own steady and consistent efforts, rather than looking to something else to carry us along. We are wise to make God-fearing efforts. If we are really sincere, He will help us and protect us. These things I have seen with my own eyes.
A random sampling of cross-cultural “sayings” and “wisdoms” that have stuck with me over the years, and that I have found to be relevant and helpful in child rearing — (most of the sources are long-forgotten!):
(1) Treat your son as a prince until the age of 5,…as a slave until 18,…and after that, as your best friend! (That would certainly shake up a few child psychologists, I expect!,…but I understand the “wisdom” in what they are saying,…and again, the timing is significant,…Note: also see Proverbs 20 reference at the end.)
(2) STOP,…a lot of the distracting things you are habitually doing, and: LOOK at your child, especially when he/she is talking to you, and you are talking to him/her. LISTEN,…Paying attention to your child, really connecting with them, is the greatest gift you can give to them. (For our “oh-so-busy” lives, it may take intentional efforts to curtail our own momentum, and to carve out these times,…but it can become a very good habit!)
(3) To change the momentum of a child, BEGIN by connecting with them at the energy level where you find them, and then begin to reset the pace, and bring them to the energy level where you wish them to be. Again this is a connecting, cooperating effort,…not barking orders from afar,… (It works!,…often “like magic!”)
(4) A “wise” person will allow a lot of things to simply pass on by, without getting caught up in unnecessary reactions or being “taken in.” (I think these days we call a lot of wasteful energy distractions “feeding frenzies” and they are well to learn to avoid and minimize whenever possible. Calm but clear-headed is a good “space” to be in.)
(5) Operating in a steady and trusted framework of Biblical truth promotes security, and God’s blessings: ” … as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) Speaking these truths in love,…consistently relating everything we do to be centered around God’s Truth and Love and Reality.
(6) Of course: LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!!!,…they are SO PRECIOUS,…and time goes by so fast,…
(7) from Proverbs (“random” samples,…there are so many more!):
1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. …
3 “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
4 “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
5 “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.
6 “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?
7 “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.
8 “A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
9 “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
10 “Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.
11 “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
12 “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.
13 “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread. …
15 “There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. …
17 “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
18 “Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
19 “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
20 “Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
21 “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
22 “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee. …
24 “Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way? …
26 “A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.
27 “The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
28 “Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.
29 “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.
30 “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.”
Can we say, “no pain, no gain?”
God does ask us to “sacrifice” our human indwelt evil ways and temptations, but what He has to offer us instead is SO MUCH BETTER!
One more thing to note,…which should be obvious:
The time-tested ways to successfully “husband”/tend one’s crops, farmed animals, and children and communities, were treasured/valued “information” and customary procedures that were passed down in all respect and seriousness to the next/subsequent generations, and were expected to be followed, cooperated with, and passed down again and again. Otherwise, one could not successfully sustain and maintain life. Losing a generation of proper practices and procedures, was not a frivolous option that Life could afford. Restarting from scratch would be very seriously challenging for man vs. nature.
In this context and framework, were the teachings of Scripture also presented, valued and maintained. Would that we — (in our overly abundantly supplied life-styles, in which we take so much for granted) — would realize how valuable and precious these spiritual truths are to our social and spiritual survival and well-being, and how great our duty is to pass them along to the new generations.
We have “let so much go” in regard to social expectations and real commonsense. So many just want to skip right on over the fundamentals of basic obedience to God, of “good living,” and then say, “Well, here I am in a mess,…take care of me.” But NOBODY wants to go back to “square one” where the deviancy from God’s Word begins, and rethink where their behavior is coming from.
I realized the ages in my (1) quote above, MIGHT have been “5, 21, and after.” Just imagine a society where obedience to the “norms” is commonly expected/mandated until 21 years of age. The brain might actually be developed enough to handle its “independence!” Well, it would surely be quite a different experience,…& most likely would have to maintain some kind of sensible social structures that would profit and satisfy the ongoing interconnectedness of its people. I’m sure it was from a fairly ancient culture. But nonetheless, I do believe that teens and young adults are not at all well-served by all the freedoms, lax morals and glamorized sins that they are surrounded with today — but to be successful, ideas of obedience, cooperation, and having really good sense, must be implanted in children long before then. Start early & stay strong! And “God be with you!’