Tuesday, September 22, 2009



You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to look around you and see that there are people with bigger problems than you have.

The trouble is that usually we are not looking past our own trials in life. The Lord caused me to look beyond my petty trials to see some real trials that other people face daily…

I worked in an office building for many years. There is a large parking garage attached to the building and many of us used the garage for daily walks. Walking around and around a parking garage is pretty boring if walking alone, so I started using my walk time to talk with God. We had wonderful conversations… One day, I was troubled because I felt like I had wasted too much of my life outside of the church walls. I was pretty much beating myself up… heh… Sometimes, I am really good at that old self condemnation thing, but only for a little while before God reminds me that I am His and to stop abusing myself… He has a purpose for me and my job is to be obedient… But, I digress… I was talking with the Lord about all of the time I wasted being disobedient and that I wished I had always stayed in the church instead of wandering off… like I did. Following is our conversation as best I can remember because it was several years ago now.

Me: Father, I am so sorry I wasted so much time going my own way and messing things up so much.

God: I forgive you

Me: I am ashamed

God: I told you that I forgive you

Me: But, I wish I had stayed in the church from my youth like some of the other people in the church

God: (sigh) Why, my child, can you not accept forgiveness?

Me: But, Lord…my life would not be so hard if I had not gone my own way

God: How is your life hard? I have blessed you anyway...

Me: If I had been good, you may have given me a child of my own…
(Immediately, God brought to my remembrance a young couple in my church with only one child – a profoundly disabled child)

God: Do you think your life is this hard?

Me: Oh Lord, no. I am so sorry I said that. Bless that family, please?

God: Do you see how happy they are with their child?

Me: Yes, but it must be so hard for them…

God: They are strong enough to carry my cross…

Me: I am ashamed….

Consider the work of God;
For who can make straight
What He has made crooked?
In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.
Ecclesiastes 7:13-14
If you have visited my profile page, you have seen this comment:
I asked God why He gave my best friend such a big cross to carry and He said "because she is strong enough". Then I said to God "I am ashamed because my cross is so small".

My best friend has a debilitating illness. Yet, in spite of the illness and physical challenges, she is cheerful, positive, uplifting and loving to all. She is my hero. I heard many times that when the going gets tough, the tough get going… I have seen this in my friend. I have begged God – repeatedly – to heal my friend. He told me that she is strong… He also lets me hope big and shows me encouraging signs that He may be healing her, and like Abraham, I hope on in hope…

Solomon shares with the reader that he has seen everything in his life:
a. A just man who dies in righteousness
b. A wicked man who lives long in his wickedness
We’ve all seen it… A really good person dies too young. We ask why??? A really bad person who seems to be just fine – good health, lots of money – seemingly like their life is perfect. It makes us wonder why God allows the righteous to suffer and the wicked to prosper.

Then Solomon says this:
Do not be overly righteous,
Nor be overly wise:
Why should you destroy yourself?
Do not be overly wicked,
Nor be foolish:
Why should you die before your time?
Ecclesiastes 7:16-17

“What is the use? If you are too good or too bad, you will die young.” Is he saying to be mediocre? No… Read more:

It is good that you grasp this, And also not
remove your hand from the other;
For he who fears God will escape them all.
Ecclesiastes 7:18

Remove one hand from the other? I have meditated long and hard on this one verse – about a month. This is the reason for the lag time between the last Ecclesiastes blog and this one. I think Solomon said several things at once. I think this is what the Lord wants me to understand:

a. Get understanding
b. Pray without ceasing
c. Hang on to the Lord – do not stray
d. Revere the Lord

But, mostly, I think the Lord wants me to understand that “it is what it is”. Take what our life is and do the best we can with it. My best friend loves the Lord. She chooses to be happy and trust the Lord with the rest. She spreads sunshine where ever she goes. She is so strong…

I am so ashamed…

Darlene Cirinna
July 18, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009





It was Christmas Eve ~ mid-‘70’s. My husband and I were separated and I was alone ~ very alone. My in-laws insisted I join the family for Christmas Eve festivities. With no small reservations, I drove to my sister-in-law’s house that evening. Although his family made every effort to make me feel welcome, my husband was less than pleased to see me. He was visually uncomfortable, distant and cold. Even so, when my husband learned I would be there, he made a last minute purchase at the drug store…a pretty little wooden musical jewelry box. I also had a gift for him. I do not remember what, but that pretty jewelry box still sits on my dresser ~ approximately 35 years later. It serves as a reminder that even in the worst of times, my husband loved me.



But ~ that is not my only memory of that sad Christmas Eve. There’s more….

My husband had other plans for Christmas Eve, so he left early. Right here, I want to say that I do not want anybody to judge my husband for what happened in the past because I certainly was not the “injured” party back then and I am completely blessed with him now. As my Mom always said, “It takes 2 to tango.” I was no more innocent than him – I just happened to be the one alone at that point in time. My husband was as wounded as I was and I might mention that both of our “wounds” were self-inflicted.


After my husband left the family party, I stayed only a short time longer. I don’t think I need to describe how I was feeling. I will just say ~ not good… Feeling lower than low, I did not want to go home to an empty house during this time that is most especially for families. I did not want to be alone ~ so I went to a bar. I was totally downcast; therefore, I really didn’t look around at the other patrons of the bar for a little while. I studied that scarred tabletop and wallowed in my pain until my drink arrived. All I wanted was some relief from the pain ~ my pain-reliever of choice back in the day was alcohol… After I took a few sips of my drink, I picked my sight up off of the scarred tabletop and took in my surroundings. The jukebox sat silent in the corner. As I looked around, I saw that no one was sitting with any another person and nobody was talking to anybody else. There were only about four or five other people in that bar – all older men who I knew had already drank themselves into ruin ~ men who had destroyed themselves, their jobs and their families with alcohol ~ every man having put distance between himself and the next man. Nor did it escape my attention that I was the only female in the place. Right then and there, I had an epiphany ~ I knew in an instant that I was seeing my future if I did not change my ways. I got up out of my chair at that very moment and walked out of that bar. It would be a couple more years before I really got myself together, but the peek into a bleak future was ever on the fringes of my mind… And it was unsettling to me ~ at a minimum. The revelation worked on my mind until Godly sorrow settled in ~ eventually ~ when I finally took my eyes off of the world and put them on God.

Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by a sad countenance
the heart is
made better.
Ecclesiastes 7:3

When I read Ecclesiastes 7:2-6, I think of churches and bars. I’m pretty sure that most people who read this passage do not think about bars. The Lord speaks to us as is needed…and He will use our experiences to make His point. He will use our experiences to teach us and He will use our experiences to remind us. If we are willing ~ we listen ~ and we do not point our fingers at others who HEARD differently from our Lord ~ because God’s Word is between Him and you ~ for no man to judge…



Many people consider a bar to be a fun place. I do not… I remember too much. I remember the conversations of persons who thought they were really smart when they were drunk. They argued because each person thought he was smarter than the other ~ stupid conversations often lead to stupid arguments. I particularly hated to hear drunks argue about God and religion…It was profane in my ears ~ even then. I think about people drinking, dancing and laughing… I pause to remember the laughter… It was mindless, desperate laughter that I heard in bars…people laughing at ~ NOTHING ~ REALLY ~ no REAL joy ~ no REAL happiness ~ filling long, lonely spaces of time ~ WITH NOTHINGNESS ~ echoing with pain from bad choices. And they did not know it ~ SADLY ignorant of the joy that God wants to give us all. I think about the laughter when I read about the “crackling of thorns under a pot” (verse 6). I really don’t know what crackling of thorns sounds like, but I imagine that I would find it annoying ~ the same as I find an intoxicated person’s mouth and actions to be to me now.


Continuing down the path of my memory, I remember my old friends. Most did nothing about their life styles. Some of my friends moved from alcohol to drugs. Many died in and of their addictions. I tried to tell friends and loved ones of my “vision” of my future and the Grace of God that saved me from myself. They did not listen ~would not listen. They laughed and they told jokes about me. I was hopeful they would have their own epiphany at some point in their life. I became a joke to my former friends. They would not listen, so I shook the dust off my feet and left them in my past. I had to because the Lord was bringing me along and they were trying to hold me back. I understood the Grace of God because He showed me grace one sad Christmas Eve. I did not understand why no one else in my old crowd could see.


And, while reading the same passage, I think of churches. Church is the place where I took my sorrow. True sorrow is Godly sorrow. This is the sorrow that comes from sincere regret. You can tell if you have Godly sorrow by how you handle your regrets. Godly sorrow will lead to repentance and a changed life. Godly sorrow results in eternal salvation.

For godly sorrow produces repentance
leading to salvation, not to be
but the sorrow of the world produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

And, while I read, I think of that Christmas Eve revelation and repentance and eternal salvation. I thank God once again…. I thank Him that He caused Godly sorrow to sprout in my heart on a Christmas Eve so many years ago.

The end of a thing is better than its beginning;
The patient in spirit is
better than the proud in spirit.
Ecclesiastes 7:8



This is just one example of the beauty of God’s Word. I know you all have heard that one of the ways God speaks to us is through His Word. Even though the Bible contains the same words for each reader, God will use the same passages to speak truths into different people’s hearts. If you read this passage and you don’t see a connection with churches and bars, I will not fault you because that is not the message God intends for you. God has His own message for you and you will hear from Him just by opening your heart to Him and letting Him speak to you through God’s own Word. Likewise, I ask that if you do not receive the same message, you do not fault me because of my obedience to Godly instruction.

Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools.
Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
Ecclesiastes 7:9-10

Sadly, I am seeing too much condemnation for one another within the Body of Christ for what scripture means to one, but not another. If you don’t agree with the message received by one from our Lord, you have permission to move on quietly without judgment and condemnation because the message was not for you, but I have faith that it was for SOMEONE and probably for someone who is a CHILD in Christ. And should you add dissention and condemnation to this blog, you may injure a child growing in faith. And I am pretty sure that Jesus would weep….


Darlene Cirinna

Saturday, May 23, 2009





When I was a teenager, my Mom told me that there were three things that I must protect my whole life long. Those things were my good name, my reputation and my credit. I only understood the reputation part, but that only because my Mother talked so much about “getting a reputation” ~ as my Mother put it… At that point in my young life and in my young mind, “getting a reputation” was the same as pre-marital sex. I didn’t want a “reputation”, nor did I think it was wise to protect it ~ if I was to get one… Well ~ so much for what I “thought” I understood…


Now I am older ~ MUCH OLDER ~ and from the perspective of age, I can tell you that my Mother gave me valuable advice. I came to understand that when you “protect” your good name, you are protecting all of it… name, reputation and credit. I understood little about my upcoming “credit”, or how I would protect it. (Actually, back in the day, women weren’t allowed to have their own credit.) Neither did I understand how I was to go about “protecting” my good name…

A good name is to be chosen
Rather than great riches,
Loving favor
Rather than silver and gold.
Proverbs 22:1


But, I was taught well and I CHOSE to protect my good name above all. This meant that in the good times and in the bad times, paying my bills came first. I had my parents as teachers and role models. It really doesn’t get much better than that.


My parents were careful to pay all bills and to pay them on time. I watched my Father work hard to provide for us and I learned, by example, perseverance of a dependable employee. I watched my Mother stretch every dollar and I learned thrifty ways to manage a budget and a home. I knew that the time would come that I would have a job, a home and bills of my own. I understood the importance of being a steady, dependable worker. I understood budgeting and paying all of my bills “on time”. But the most important thing that I learned ~ the one most important tip I can think of to pass along to the younger folks ~ is this: Be responsible with your money and your credit! You will thank yourself later…


And….I am so glad I paid attention to early instruction and the examples set by my parents because it was followed by the biggest quiz of all ~ LIFE~. What I didn’t know is that the “quiz of life” is full of trick questions, dips and curves, mountains and valleys. Kind of like a roller coaster ride!

On the other hand, at the end of the ride, I will certainly be able to shout “Woo Hoo ~ that was some ride!!!”

A good name is better than
Precious ointment,
And the day of death than the
Day of one’s birth
Ecclesiastes 7:1

Solomon knew the value of a good name. In Ecclesiastes 7:1, he called it better than precious ointment. Following that brief statement about a good name, he makes a strange statement about the day of death being better than the day of birth. My reaction in the natural was ~ “What???” “Huh???” I began to think of the births in my family ~ happy days all… I heard the story of the day of my birth ~ happy day ~ funny day because Mom (still drugged up) said she had puppies…LOL… Ahh…hemmm…but I digress. How can the day of death be better than the day of birth? Well, I suppose we think that way because we are still in the middle, or close to the end as in my case, of the quiz of life. We know from experience that the day of birth is a wonderfully, happy day and that the day a loved one died was sad to the max. I have long thought that God’s view of “death” is completely different than the way we view death. I do believe it is a move from the physical to the spiritual, but since I haven’t been there – yet – I cannot state it as fact. What I know for sure is that this life as I know it in this physical body will end one day and I HAVE FAITH that this little spark of life in my physical body –my spirit– will join the Lord in the place He has gone to prepare for us. But, that is not my point. My point is this… “life” can be quite a trial at times. Our journey takes us over mountains and through valleys.


It can be trying enough that sometimes we take our eyes off of the goal and set them lower…yes…we all have done that lowering thing – even if you don’t want to admit it. There have been times we just want to give up. Yes…we look at that next mountain and decide to sit in the valley and rest for a while. Well, yeah…me too… But, what I learned is that I developed my strength in faith while climbing those mountains. I grew not the least little bit while resting in the valleys. In fact, if I rested too long, I grew weak and, a few times, even took my eyes off of the goal. So, after all the mountains and valleys, I think it will be a better day to reach that goal ~ that is IF I don’t sit down in a valley and stay there until I take my last breath.

Many times in life, things get really hard. I have a favorite passage in my Bible that I turn to in such times. When I was working the last couple of years before retirement, I was really tired…not just physically, but mentally from the extreme mental activity needed to do my very complicated job. One day, I took a piece of paper and wrote these words… “PRESS ON” and I taped that paper to the wall in my office where every time I lifted my eyes from my work, I would see that piece of paper on the wall. Many people who entered my office didn’t understand the sign ~ for those people, it was a witness tool. The Christians who entered my office understood very well. There were days when I took my eyes off my “sign” and put them on those guys named “frustration” and “aggravation”. In those times, a fellow (Christian) office worker often said just two little words to me ~ “Press on”. It was like our own secret code ~ like the Christian fish… When she said “press on”, I got back on track.

I love how Paul said it:
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press
on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, let us, as many as
are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

Philippians 4:12-15

Well, as you know, I did reach that retirement goal and you know what? It was the best day of my career ~ much, MUCH better than that first day on my first job more than 42 years earlier. I was happy that first day, but I was ecstatic on the day I retired. There were ups and downs throughout my career. There were good times and there were hard times. How we handle the hard times are the things that shape us. I think life is like that…

And I believe I have not yet seen the best day of all… While waiting for the “best day”, I continue to “press on.” I am NOT sitting in that valley in my retirement…I have mountains to climb!



(Note to friends: OK…so I sat in a valley for the past 3 weeks… Ecclesiastes, Chapter 7 looked like such a mountain to me. Chapter 7 is loaded with wisdom and I wanted to do it justice, but there is NO WAY to do justice to Chapter 7 all in one blog, or the blog would be so long that nobody would want to read it. So…I am breaking Chapter 7 up into smaller bites. Not sure yet how many bites, but it will be as many as the spirit leads…)

Darlene Cirinna

Sunday, May 3, 2009


At first glance, Ecclesiastes, Chapter 6, seems to repeat the same line of thought as in Chapter 5; however, if we look more closely, we see that in this chapter, Solomon speaks of the appetite.

In the first two verses, Solomon gives an example of what he calls a grievous evil. This is a man who has everything, but dies and someone else enjoys what the man worked for in life.

This reminds me of a parable that Jesus told about a rich fool... In the parable, Jesus speaks of a rich man who just gets richer... The rich man decides that he has plenty of the good things laid up, so he will take life easy - eat, drink and be merry. The Lord said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you prepared for yourself?" Jesus said that this is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God. (Luke 12:16-21)

In the second example given in verses 3-6, Solomon tells of another man who has a large family, lives a long time, yet he did not enjoy his prosperity, nor did anyone grieve his passing.

It looks to me like this man "had it all", but was a stranger to his own family. I think he worked all the time, provided well for his family, but failed to develop a loving relationship with them. His wife probably had other interests, having given up on him long before, and his children were probably completely spoiled from having every material desire satisfied by their hard-working father. Then, when this man died... Let's just say that nobody missed him much.

Again, Solomon says a stillborn child is better off than a life such as either of these examples. He goes on to say that even if a man lives 2000 years and fails to enjoy his prosperity, he has lived a life for nothing. It is well to remember that we will all go to the same place – the grave.

Having given the two examples of men who literally lived for nothing, Solomon begins to speak of the appetites of man. Certainly we can agree that it is appetites that drive us. We work primarily so that we can have food, shelter and clothing. Those are our basic physical needs. When we desire beyond our basic needs, our appetite enters the picture and, depending upon what we desire, our fates can be determined…

I remember a sermon at church many years ago. The message was delivered by our, at that time, Bishop Henderson. Bishop Henderson asked if we knew why the lost sheep got lost...referring to the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-5). Then, he proceeded to tell us. The sheep got lost because of appetite. That little lamb put his head down to satisfy his appetite. He took his eyes off the shepherd and put his eyes on what it would take to satisfy his appetite. And, while he was satisfying his appetite, he got lost… Isn’t that the way with us all? We have to be careful of our appetites. Does what we desire take our eyes off of God?

In looking at appetites, we determine that, for the most part, the satisfaction of our appetite is short-lived. We satisfy the appetite, then it returns when it wants more… It can be a vicious cycle if the appetite is for something addictive – such as alcohol or drugs. Seemingly harmless things can also be an addiction if the desire is for excess – such as food, shopping, money, acquisition of “stuff”, gambling, sex…the list goes on and on. The desire for recognition, fame and fortune is also a well trod path to destruction… We can conclude that satisfaction of an appetite, in such cases, is elusive and the rewards are temporary at best.

While we travel our path through life – satisfying our appetites – what are we neglecting or losing? Solomon concludes that it is better to be satisfied with what the eyes see rather than the ever roving appetite. The most important things in life are God and family. Be content with what you have and enjoy life…

We have another biblical expert on contentment…Paul who was formerly Saul. Paul wrote to Timothy about Godliness with contentment. (I Timothy 6:4-10) Paul makes the following points:

a. We came with nothing and we leave with nothing.
b. Be content with food and clothing – in meeting our needs – not our wants.
c. If you want to be rich, you fall into temptation and a trap.
d. Foolish and harmful desires plunge men into ruin and destruction.
e. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, causing some to wander from their faith and cause themselves much grief.

In a letter to Timothy, Paul charged Timothy to flee from the love of money and all that it can buy. Instead, pursue righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Command those who are rich to not be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, but instead, put hope in God. Command your flock to be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share. In this way, you lay up treasures for yourself that money cannot buy. (I Timothy 6:17-19)

Paul practiced this as well. We see in Philippians 4:11-13 that Paul considers it better to be content in every situation, whether in plenty or in want. He advises that you can do this through God who gives you strength.

We all have appetites… They have been with us from birth. At birth, our appetite is simply for nourishmen. As we grow, our appetites change. The question is – what are your appetites now? Are they temporal or ethereal? What will your appetite cost you? Will your appetites cost you happiness and contentment in this life? Will they cost you eternity with our Lord? Maybe it is time to evaluate your appetite…

Just something to think about…

Darlene Cirinna
Copyright 4/30/09

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


As I begin to read Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5, right off, my spirit is reminded of so much scripture and I think…how am I going to fit all this in one blog? So, I pray that the Lord will give me what HE wants me to write.

Verse 1, short as it is, is full of wisdom. I could write a four-point sermon on verse 1 - all by itself…yeah.. But, I will hit upon all four points in brief and expand on only one, as the Lord is leading me. The four points are:

1. Walk prudently when you go to the house of God – remember that your place of worship is God’s house. Behave with respect as if you are standing before the Lord Himself – because you are. Remember you are standing on holy ground…Exodus 3:5
2. Draw near to hear – remembering always that when you are in God’s house, you are there to hear God’s will and to learn so that when life presents the unexpected that you know how you are to behave. You “hear” from God on a personal level, taking what you “hear” into obedience.
3. Rather than to give the sacrifice of fools – God had much to say about our sacrifices. First, I want to relay a story from I Samuel, then a message from God, delivered by His prophet, Isaiah…

In Samuel I, Chapter 15, the Lord charged Samuel to anoint Saul as king and to send Saul into battle to punish Amalek for what he did to Israel. The Lord’s instructions were to destroy all men, women, children and livestock – sparing none. Apparently, Saul did not listen very well and this is what he heard: ‘Spare King Agag and let your people do as they determine is right…’ You think???

So, Saul attacked the Amalekites, intending to do God’s will as he has “reasoned” is God’s will. He spared King Agag and his men plundered the best of the livestock. Afterward, Saul went to Carmel to make a monument for himself. Hmmm….naughty boy worshiping himself?

When the Lord told Samuel what Saul had done, Samuel was grieved, so he went looking for Saul. When he caught up with him, Saul was well pleased with himself because he believed that he had done the bidding of God. Samuel confronted Saul about the livestock. First Saul lied, and then he blamed “the people” for taking the livestock, saying it was for sacrifice to the Lord.

So Samuel said:
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
I Samuel 15:22

And, just so, did God’s favor for Saul come to a sad end – over because of disobedience. Sacrifices do not please the Lord. It is your obedience that pleases the Lord. And partial obedience is the same as disobedience. You can’t do things according to the joint will of you and the Lord – nope. You cannot please the Lord if you partly obey Him and the rest is your own will.

In Isaiah, Chapter 1, Isaiah relays God’s call to repentance. It is too lengthy to write here, so I hope you will read the whole chapter. In Isaiah 1, God recounts the rebellion of His people as a sinful nation, backslidden, brood of evildoers and corrupt. A people who have forsaken the Lord. God says the whole head is sick. He could have been saying the same in the 21st century – probably IS saying the same thing! But, as interesting as that is, I want to move into what the Lord has to say about sacrifices.


“To what purpose is the multitude of your
sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of
rams and the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats.
When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts?
Bring no more futile sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity
and the sacred meeting.
Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hates;
They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.”
Isaiah 1:11-15


And, there I will leave it – for the Holy Spirit to speak to you personally while I hope that you read the rest of Isaiah, Chapter 1.

4. For they do not know that they do evil – quite simply stated is because they did not first seek the Will of God.

Next, Solomon speaks of the words we speak. Here again, my spirit is flooded with much scripture about the mouth… You see, I had much to learn about the mouth and what I learned is another whole blog. So, pardon me if I, once again, share what the Lord is giving me to share. Maybe later on I will write about the mouth….

Solomon speaks of vows. His language is in the form of a warning. Solomon tells us to not be hasty when making a vow before the Lord (as all vows are) and to let our words be few..he says a fool’s voice is known by his many words… He urges that IF you make a vow to God, that you do not delay to pay it because God has no pleasure in fools. He goes on to say that it is better to not vow than to vow and not pay.

While you think about that, I will relay a little story found in Judges 11. The people of Ammon made war against Israel. Jephthah, commander of Gilead, made a vow to the Lord…


And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said,
“If You will indeed deliver the
People of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my
House to meet me, when I return in peace
from the people of Ammon,
Shall surely be the Lord’s,
and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
Judges 11:30-31


If you know this story, you know that Jephthah was successful in the defeat of the Ammonites. When he returned to his house at Mizpah, his daughter, HIS ONLY CHILD, came out to meet him “with timbrels and dancing”….happy to meet her beloved father who was returning from battle. This story did not have a happy ending, but if you want to read it, the end of the story is found in Judges 11:35-39. How foolish was Jephthah’s vow? And, remember… God isn’t even pleased by burned offerings! All God wants from us is obedience… If God had told Jephthah that He required Jephthah’s daughter, it would be one thing, but God did not… Jephthah made a very unnecessary vow.

I remember back in the ‘60’s, a story I read about a woman who begged God to let her son live and if God would let him live, then she (the mother) vowed to eat frogs for the rest of her life. I thought about that vow a lot over the years. In the news article, they reported that the boy lived and the mother was living on a diet of frogs. I have wondered many times over the last 45 years, or so, how long did that woman keep her vow to God and eat nothing but frogs??? As a teenager, I saw the vow for what it was….foolish. But, what happened? Curiosity sent me to Google, but I couldn’t find any reference to a mother eating a frog diet. (Hey…it was worth a try…I love to Google…) Whether she continued with her diet of frogs or not is not important here. What is important is that we must be careful in what we vow to God or to each other, for that matter. Consider carefully before vowing anything and do not vow often….

It also reminds me of how I was raised. In my mind, a vow and a promise are the same. My parents did not tolerate any nonsense when it came to promises. My sisters and I were taught the importance of a promise. We were taught that we should be careful of what we promise and make no promises without first considering if we could, or would, or wanted to do what we were about to promise. With that said, I can assure you that if you receive a promise from one of my sisters or me, we will fulfill that promise as quickly as possible and as promised, even if we no longer want to do as we promised. Or, as we say in my family…You must keep a promise - even if it hurts…

Solomon cautions us to not allow our mouth to cause our flesh to sin. If we make a vow or a promise that we do not keep, it would have been better for all if the vow had not been made to start with. To break a vow is to cause our flesh to sin. How much better it is when vows are not made unnecessarily or in haste?

Beginning in verse 8, Solomon abruptly changes his topic to labor and money. First he says we should not be surprised when we see government oppressing the poor, and denying them justice and their rights. Solomon goes on to say that every government official is protected by higher officials. He concludes this short portion of scripture by saying that the profit of the land is for all and that even the king depends upon the harvest. Solomon follows up with his conclusions about money:

1. If you love money, you will never be satisfied.
2. The richer you are, the more money you will need.
3. A working man sleeps a sweet sleep.
4. Worries about money keeps the rich man from sleeping well.
5. It is a terrible thing to save money so that you can leave an inheritance to your children, then to lose it all through misfortune.
6. You enter the world with nothing, labor your whole life and then leave the world the same way you entered – with nothing.
7. Whatever you gained while in life is left behind when you die. You can’t take it with you!
8. We get to live our lives in darkness, grief, sickness and anger.
9. What profit has he who has labored for the wind?

Once again, Solomon concludes that it is better to eat and drink and enjoy what he has worked for; this is man’s fate. If God has given a man wealth and property, and allows man to enjoy them, he should be thankful and enjoy what he has worked for because it is a gift from God.

It is with no little sadness that I dig up a memory to share with you. When I was a child, there was something said often that some would not understand, but that I understood well. It was this…”Don’t use that. I am saving it for good.” This meant that something was being saved to use on a future day for some special event – that imaginary, bright, happy day in the future that would be worthy for use of the item being saved. It was my Mom who always said that – all through her life. I encouraged her to use her possessions – to enjoy them. She did not. Mom died last November, leaving personal property in three states. It was my sad task to sort and make disposition of the Florida property. Even sadder was the discovery of boxes packed up for a better day – once new items grown old and dusty, rusty, yellowed or spotted with age – still in original packaging – never used.

I found a little Christmas soap that was given to Mom by her small great granddaughter a few years ago. I remember also receiving my own little Christmas soap. The soap had a delightful fragrance and every time I washed my hands with that soap, I smelled it, I lingered, enjoying every moment, and I smiled while thinking about my little niece and her wonderful gift of love. I ENJOYED that little soap and when it was gone, I continued to enjoy the memory. I knew Mom was “saving” her soap, so I encouraged Mom to use her soap and enjoy it as I was doing. I told her that the soap would lose its fragrance after a while…to use it and enjoy it. Sadly…she never enjoyed that little Christmas soap. The soap was spotted with age and smelled badly…And I was extremely sad as I gently laid the little gift of love in the trash can.

Sunday, April 19, 2009



“That’s not fair…” When I hear someone say this, I immediately think about a man that I worked with many years ago. He was the head of our organization – a wise and accomplished man. He had an answer each time someone said this. He always said… “Life is not fair. The only fair I know about is the one that comes once a year - out on West 50.”

Heh… Did you ever get tired of hearing one liners? Oh yeah…I cringed every time someone said something was not fair in this man’s presence, because I knew what his next words would be. It got really old!! But, it is so true… There is nothing that is “fair”.

When tragedy strikes, we begin to question why God would allow such a thing to happen. Many non-believers have said these words… “If your God is such a loving God, then why did He allow such and such to happen?” Well…unfortunately, you will not find the answer here because I cannot answer that question, nor does anyone else know the answer. Only God knows. I prefer to think that God knows what He is doing…but that is just me… I know that nothing is fair about life. But, I do know that I can adjust my attitude about how I handle the things in life that I would just rather had not happened… You know?

“Fairness” has always been a really big issue in my life. I grew up under the “Fairness Doctrine”. Oh yeah…my Mom taught us that everything had to be fair. I have two sisters, the same as Mom did. As the middle child, Mom often felt neglected by her own mother, so she decided that no child of hers would ever feel left out. So, the last piece of cake would get carefully cut into precise thirds. If we were given candy ~ jelly beans for instance ~ we waited patiently while 3 little piles were carefully counted to be equal. The number of gifts received at Christmas would be equal for each of the three of us. She even made sure that the same amount of money was allotted to be spent on each of us. We understood that at times, lots must be cast to make sure no favor was shown for one child over another. We grew up with all of the “lot” type activities ~ you know the ones of which I speak… We drew straws, we did the paper/rock/scissors and eenie, meenie, miney, mo things… and dice…

haha… gotcha! NO, we did not throw dice…but we understood the concept. Heh…yeah… At a very early age, we understood words like fair and equal.

Sadly, there was a reason why my Grandmother may have kept my Mother at an arm’s length – emotionally at a minimum. While Grandma was pregnant with my Mother, her 3 year old son, David, became ill and died. He died in 1927, but I guarantee you that every person in my family and in my generation and some in the next, know who David was because he was kept “alive” by Gram – never allowing him to be forgotten. When David died, my Aunt Bev was an infant, already welcomed and already loved. My aunt was also very ill at the time David died. My Grandmother went from two children to one and a fear that the other might die as well. It must have been a horrible time in Grandma’s life. As time moved on, Grandma did not get over the loss of her only son. She made no secret of the fact that she would, willingly, have traded the life of my Mom for the life of David. She said so… and my Mom overheard her say it. My Mom was born to a Mother who was so lost in her grief that she really didn’t want my Mom. My Mom’s life as a child was much like a small shadow, living in the shadow of a ghost brother she never knew. Later, a third daughter was born, who lived the life typical of a youngest child and spoiled beyond belief. My Mother’s perception of her world was that both older and younger sister were loved, but she was not. Whether that was true or not does not matter because our perceptions become our realities and our realities become our truths. And from those perceptions are born our outlook on life and subsequent actions and beliefs. Mom tried all the usual tactics of a child who did not feel loved. She tried to be really good all the time. She did not do things to grieve her parents. She simply existed – desperately trying to please her Mother. She did have the complete love of a good Father, but there was always that void in her life, that perception that one was favored over another and she was not the one favored. This feeling persisted as my Mother grew. She said that Gram would often say… “If David were here, he would be _______ (playing football, going to the prom, graduating from high school…fill in the blank…). For my Mother, it was like growing up with a ghost. Mom said that the last time Gram used that phrase was at the time David would have graduated high school. For the last time, Gram said “If David were here, he would be going to war.” Mom said with that sad realization that David may have only lived to die in war, Grandma let David go. It was all vanity and the answer was blowing in the wind.

In the first 3 verses of Chapter 4, Solomon considers the life of the oppressed, comparing praise for the dead to the one who has never existed. He concludes that it is better to have never existed to start with. As a child, my Mother felt oppressed. She lived with praise for the dead. Mom thought it would have been better if she had never been born…she said so. However…she was here and she lived a life that was a balancing act. Careful to never offend her Mother who she never believed wanted her. The “balancing act” continued into her adult life. She was always careful to be the good daughter, the good wife and the good Mother. It was out of this careful balancing act that was born her “fairness doctrine”. I also have 2 sisters. My Mother was determined that my middle sister would NEVER feel like the unwanted, neglected middle child. In my Mother’s perception, the middle child gets lost in the family because that is what happened to her. Mom was careful that everything was FAIR AND EQUAL between my sisters and me. My “middle sister” never got lost in our family. Mom made sure that my middle sister never felt the way she herself felt while growing up. It is noble that my Mom felt this way and translated her feelings into actions. Yes…that was a good thing. It gave my sisters and me a good foundation for understanding fairness, but on the other hand, were our expectations realistic? REALLY??? Anybody who has spent much time on this earth knows that there is nothing fair about life! Upon entering the adult world, I was let down considerably by how unfair it is out there in the world… I didn’t know just exactly how unfair the world was because I grew up under the “fairness doctrine”! I can tell you that an upbringing like I had was good in many ways, but leaves one unprepared for the inequity and the unjust aspects of life we learn when we become adults and step out into the world. There is no “fair”…under the sun. And, I also conclude that it is all vanity and grasping for the wind.

More on Labor: Solomon again considers labor as vanity. He considers that the fool may be better off than the one who has his hands full of toil and grasping for the wind. (Vs 5 & 6) He sees that even one alone, without companion or son or brother, labors towards riches, never satisfied and never asking “For whom do I toil…? (Vs 8) This type of person works hard, amasses a fortune, but for what? He has no one with which to share, or even a son to inherit because he made his whole life about getting wealthy, perhaps leaving no time for a family. He succeeds by the worldly standards, but not without personal cost because he has no family, he has no love… He has no one to share life with him. His life is empty regardless of his wealth. Sad for me to think of such a man… Ebenezer Scrooge comes to mind… Solomon concludes that it is “vanity and a grave misfortune”.

He continues to reason that two are better than one because that is a reward for labor…for if one falls, the other can lift up, but woe on the man who is alone because who will lift him up when he falls? Also, as one alone has no extra warmth and if two can warm each other, how much better to be three?

Though one may be
Overpowered by another,
Two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12

Solomon concludes that being alone is not a good thing, two is better, but a threefold cord is not quickly broken…. When the enemy comes against us, the person with no one may be overpowered, whereas, two or more have the strength to withstand. And though two have strength, if you add a third, additional strength is added. I have always thought that this scripture pertains to God being the third person who adds strength enough to bind the enemy. We have victory when God is our third cord… And if our work comes between us and God, family or friends… it is foolishness.

Solomon also considers that it is better to be a poor and wise young man than a rich and foolish old king who the Lord no longer chastises. Even the man who has a rich and successful life will be replaced one day by a younger man. So, why lose your life, love and companionship while trying to make a name for yourself and while striving to become rich? It’s all vanity and really for nothing…

Don’t take your job so seriously because your job does not define you, nor will it keep you warm when all else has been lost while you toil for recognition and fortune… Remember…LIFE IS NOT FAIR! When you reach the goal post and look around, will anybody be there? Or have you lived a life in vain? God did not intend for man to be alone, living in a paradise with all comforts, or He would not have created Eve.

And the Lord God said,
“It is not good that man should be alone;
I will make him a helper comparable to him.”Genesis 2:18

Wrapping up Chapter 4, we find Solomon’s opinion on youth and old age. Contrary to the general opinion that wisdom lies with the elderly, Solomon points out that we may have forgotten the lessons of our youth to become foolish. He opines that it is better to be poor and wise in one’s youth, than to be king and too foolish to take advice in his old age. He continues this line of thought with the fact that there will always be a young man to take the place of the king. And he adds that when the old king is gone, no one will be grateful for what he has done anyway, so it is all useless…like chasing the wind…

This made me think back and recall some things about my own life. I worked in human resources in state government for 36 years before retiring. Many years ago, when I first started in my career, the personnel manager watched me work like there was no tomorrow. I worked all day, and then I took work home at night. I preferred to think I was dedicated and hard working, but from the perspective of age, I know that I was simply an ambitious young lady who wanted a good career, but lacked the wisdom to prioritize and organize. I had a lot to learn, so work flow was often interrupted while I went seeking through state rules and regulations for answers that later became ready knowledge. The manager, seeing the work habits I was developing, decided it was time to share some wisdom with me. This from the perspective of his age, no doubt… He told me that there are two things that I need to know… But, first, he wanted me to visualize myself putting my fist into a bucket of water, then pull it out. He asked me how long the hole stays there in the bucket of water. Once I understood that there would be no hole, he went on with the two things I needed to understand. The first thing is that if I am killed on the highway on my way home after work, someone would be sitting in my chair, doing my job, within a week or so. The second thing…when you are gone, everything is your fault because you will be blamed for everything found to be wrong after you leave. I never forgot the bucket of water analogy, nor did I forget that I was not the only person who could do my job.

I’m not saying you should not give your best to a job. I’m just saying that you should not over estimate your own importance. I would add a postscript to his advice…from the perspective of age…mine this time…when once you were the young whippersnapper, remember that when you are old, there will be another young whippersnapper to take your place. And the new whippersnapper will do as good a job as you did and maybe better. It is vanity to think otherwise.

Once again…I would like to remind you to stop, enjoy your life and smell the flowers along life’s way…

And, be the best friend you can be because you never know when you might be the one to make a difference in someone else’s life.

This concludes Chapter 4. Thank you for studying along with me as I share what Ecclesiastes means to me and how I translate it into real meaning for my life. I hope you also see how this book relates to your life as well. Please continue with me in Chapter 5. It will be up soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


When my Dad entered the hospital for the last time, something deep inside of me knew it was his time to go home to the Lord. Yet, I had a tenacious hold on HOPE and FAITH that God would not take MY Dad. And nagging at the back of my mind was the fact that God is God and just because I ask…well….more like beg, HE is not obligated to give me what I want. I wanted my Dad and this was a really BIG BIGGIE in my life. With that, once again, I began mulling the “time thing” over and over in my mind.

Many times in the past, I had wrestled with the belief that we each had an appointed time to be born and to die. Now…in January 2004, I was face to face with the issue. I had to know… I struggled with the “time to die” concept mainly because it is clear that many people died prematurely, by our standards, by accident, suicide or murder. I cannot believe that a loving God sits on His throne and decides, before birth, that someone will be murdered, or die a horrible death in a fire, auto accident, suicide, or even a slow suicide by addictions or any death that is not a natural death. I do believe that in many cases, it was the free will choices that led to an early death. We all have free will and I believe that the very same free will changes things. For instance, I do not believe that at some time before a drug addict was born that God “decided” the specific date the addict would die and that it would be by drug overdose. No…our God is not like that…of this, I am sure. A drug addict has free will and it was that free will that ultimately takes the addict’s life because he/she chose to use drugs. God didn’t choose that for anyone. I pondered the “time to die” scripture for a very long time and I could never completely wrap my mind around it. Many times the timing of one thing hinges on an earlier event. We can take it all back to the free will that has been given by God and the domino effect that will follow a free will decision.

On the other side of the coin, I do believe that God has a plan for each life…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares
The Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

And that MAY include an appointed time to die…IF that person lives a righteous life according to the known Word of God, which is God’s will, and not by their own free will by pursuing things not righteous. If a person lives a righteous life and the full measure that God had for him had been lived out, as I believe my Dad did, then I can agree that just possibly we have a specific moment in our future when we will meet God. Well, this will not be the spoiler blog…you will have to wait until the end of the study of Ecclesiastes to see why I believe this and how it played out in my spirit to this conclusion…

Before we dig into Chapter 3, I need to say that the Book of Ecclesiastes is a philosophical book and is the only book of the Bible that is the closest to pure philosophy. These were Solomon’s thoughts, impressions and beliefs. The Book of Ecclesiastes IS God inspired, but it is not a statement of fact, nor is it a rule book. Ecclesiastes should not be taken literally, but, instead, should provide food for thought and spiritual growth. For me, the book was beneficial in putting life into perspective. As this study progresses, I hope it will do the same for others.

In Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, Solomon recognizes that there are established patterns in nature and of life. There IS a “time” for everything under the sun. At the end of a gestation period, it is time to give birth. Every person will die at “some time”. A farmer plants one time of the year and reaps at another time of the year. A time to kill may pertain to warfare, considering the author of the book and the time in history. I remind myself that these are Solomon’s thoughts; therefore I must also consider the events of his time and his experiences during the same time. Considering all of that, I must look at the “time verses” in the same light as by Solomon. When he states in verse 1 that to everything, there is a season. I look at that as an interesting statement because seasons are not all alike. For instance, in planting season, the time that you plant may hinge on the last frost; yet planting must take place during a specific time frame – a season... In Florida, we have a “rainy season”. We don’t always have a lot of rain during rainy season, but it is still “rainy season”. Things change – seasons change – our seasons are defined by what we normally expect, but we recognize that the abnormal does show up – out of season. We have a ready example this week. It is the Spring Season. In spring, we think of new and tender shoots of green beginning to grow, early flowers, the sun warming us after a long winter. But, this week, the first week of April, there was snow in places where no more snow was expected. Yesterday in Florida, the “March Winds” arrived…in April and last night was unseasonably cold…for Florida. It really doesn’t feel like the spring season as we know it, yet the calendar tells us it is spring. I think we can safely say that time marches on and seasons will repeat themselves year after year, but there will be deviations from the normal. And, I think we can see that we cannot attach rigid specifics to time or seasons. In my humble opinion, I believe this is what Solomon means in his “time” verses.
.. ..
Recognizing that our life comes down to be just “a season”, Solomon re-examines the labor in our lives. Certainly some labor is necessary to provide those things we need – food, shelter and clothing. But, he quickly moves from the aspect of physical labor into the realm of God-given tasks.

What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?
I have seen the God-given task with which the
Sons of men are to be occupied.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Also He has put eternity in their hearts,
Except that no one can find out the work that
God does from the beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

Solomon recognizes that God exists and that, though His ways are mysterious, they are right. Our whole life is in God’s hands and our attitudes, actions and beliefs towards and about God will determine what kind of life we have IN Him or without Him. We cannot know all that our human condition desires to know about God, but what we do know is that for the man who seeks God, things begin to make sense. Not only does he see life in a new light, but he acquires wisdom, knowledge and joy. This is the gift from God for the man who seeks Him and who loves God enough to submit and obey Him. And, can we all agree that when we seek to really know God, our life may well be as He desired for us? That we may live that “full measure” that God intended for us at the moment of our conception?

But, you say… WHOA… What about the person who is living for God, but dies suddenly in the prime of life, through no action of his own??? Well, I can only remind you that God has mysterious ways and we cannot see or understand neither the beginning, nor the end. This leaves only TRUST and FAITH. Sometimes that is all you have to hang onto in times of trial, but hang on you must!

In verse 11, I find a curious statement that God has put eternity in our hearts. In my own philosophizing, I believe that to mean that God has put in our hearts the desire to really know God, to please God and to, eventually, spend eternity with God. To me, that is the ultimate joy. Therefore, I think that Solomon recognizes the same and that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, do good, eat, drink and enjoy their lives, which is the gift of God. Yet, all the while, we can rest in the assurance that all is well in our spirits when we place our faith and trust in God and live a life pleasing to God. And when the things come that we do not understand, we do well to remind ourselves….

I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should
Fear before Him.
Ecclesiastes 3:14

Fear: acknowledge, honor, respect. For understanding, please read my blog – Fear the Lord – dated 8/11/08.

Further, Solomon understands there will be judgment, “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” (vs. 17)

Solomon decides that we are no different than the animal. “As one dies, so does the other”; man has no advantage over the animal; all is vanity (vs. 19). “All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.” (vs. 20) In verse 21, Solomon concedes that man really doesn’t know if a man’s spirit goes up and the animal’s spirit goes down to the earth. This scripture pleases me because I have had many, many pets in my lifetime…each one dear to me, grieved and greatly missed after they were gone. Many view this verse as being the know all, end all verse that confirms that there will not be animals in heaven. To that I say… Hogwash! We do not know where spirits go – not man and not animal. The wisest man ever to walk the face of the earth, Solomon, did not understand this mystery either. To look into the eyes of a beloved pet, one KNOWS BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that there is intelligence, understanding, love, need – a soul and a SPIRIT. It’s all there….in the eyes…the window to the soul.

So, you see…man is not that different from an animal and in that, Solomon was correct… We all die and return to dust, but we do not know where each spirit will go. It is all speculation while in the flesh, therefore, I save the energy it would take to argue whether my beloved pets will be in heaven or not. I believe they will and that is enough for me!

I’m going to digress for a minute…. I often said that everything I know about FAITH, I learned from my dog. This is true… I had a wonderful dog who lived to be 17 years old. Her name was Elvira. Elvira was with me during my faith-growing years. I learned much from her. She trusted me. She knew that she didn’t have to bark or act out to get my attention because she knew that I would take care of her every need. She believed that I would feed her when she was hungry. She understood that I cared for her and would always do so. She had FAITH that I would be there for her in every situation. I came to understand that FAITH in God is likewise…through the eyes of my dog!

Elvira knew that I loved her. And, I knew that Elvira loved me with the purest love known – that unconditional love rarely displayed in man, yet found in abundance in a dog. Given that capacity to LOVE…do you think for one minute that God does not have a place in heaven for animals? But, like Solomon, I do not know where our spirit will go. However, like Elvira, I have faith that God knows the love between man and pet, for who do we think PUT that love into the spirit of a beloved pet? And that FAITH lets me believe that one day our spirits, mine and Elvira’s, will dwell together in the same place.

And then there is this to consider… in God’s new heaven & earth (Isaiah 65:17-25), there are ANIMALS ~ CANINES (WOLVES) AND FELINES (LIONS)!!!

Thank you for bearing with me while I remembered Elvira. She was a blessing! And, I do so hope to see her again one bright day ~ when we all are together again in God’s new heaven and earth!

WELL!!! THAT being said…. Back to Solomon – who concludes Chapter 3 with his perception that nothing is better than that we should rejoice in our works, for that is our heritage and we cannot see into the future anyway.

Chapter 3 is the very reason that I was led to study the Book of Ecclesiastes in 2004. I pretty much knew that the chances of my Dad surviving another heart surgery at age 75 was slim. When he was admitted to the hospital, I began garnering strength from wherever I could from God’s Word. Ecclesiastes 3:2 naturally came to mind and while I was reading, His Holy Spirit came strongly to my consciousness to show me that this book was where my strength would come from. Trusting the Lord in all that I had within me, I embarked on a study that not only carried me through the difficult days ahead at that time, but other difficult days and situations since that time. Not because it is a “rule book”, but because the Book of Ecclesiastes makes you think about what you really believe…. At least it did for me and I am hoping for the same for YOU.

May God bless each of you who remained while I rambled on in thoughts and about my dog during the study of Chapter 3. I pray that you will join me in Chapter 4 soon.

Monday, April 6, 2009


In Chapter 2 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon contemplates pleasure, attainment and labor, first from hedonistic, then from materialistic points of view.

he·don·ism (hēd'n-ĭz'əm) n.

1. Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.

2. Philosophy of hedonism: The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.

3. Psychology of hedonism: The doctrine holding that behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The Vanity of Pleasure: In verses 1-3, Solomon briefly examines pleasure and quickly comes to the conclusion that happiness is not found in entertainment. Just because you laugh, drink and enjoy your pleasure, does not mean you have found true happiness. Often times, pleasure is used as an escape from the things in life that are unpleasant and when the entertainment is over, you crash back into the reality of your unhappy life. Pleasure is in vain as it pertains to the meaning of life.
I blame my generation for making pleasure the epitome of our existence. Shame on the flower children. How did my generation justify the pursuit of pleasure? There was an expression – “If it feels good, do it.” Sad but true…this expression was on almost everybody’s lips of the day. They justified sexual gratification by declaring that “God is Love”. Some went even further by using just enough scriptural knowledge to form communes to live out their hedonistic philosophy. In the commune lifestyle, it was “free love”, drugs and a combining of resources so that the commune community could spend all of their time in the pursuit of pleasure and not materialism. Hmmm…this leads us to the next point. It seems that Solomon had an opinion about materialism as well.

Well, Thank You God that You gave me the parents that You did because I was not really a citizen of that world. No siree….my parents would have yanked me out of such a lifestyle and made me wish I had not even glanced in that direction. I am grateful that I had such parents.

ma·te·ri·al·ism (mə-tîr'ē-ə-lĭz'əm) n.

1. Philosophy of materialism: The theory that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena.

2. The theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life.

3. A great or excessive regard for worldly concerns.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The Vanity of Attainment: Solomon acquired much in his life. His wealth and possessions were great and he excelled more than all the Kings of Jerusalem who lived before him (vs. 9) and his wisdom remained with him throughout his reign. Yet, when he looked upon all he had attained, Solomon realized that all was, once again, vanity.

Then I looked on all the works
That my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed, all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 2:11

I can relate… I worked from age 18 until 60. During this period of time, I attained much. Sometime during my 50’s I came to realize that possessions did not make me happy. I was and am a very happy person, but not because of all I owned. In fact, possessions began to feel like a burden. All I wanted was to simplify my life and that meant getting rid of “things”. I find it ironic that I spent approximately 35 years acquiring “things” and then I didn’t want them. And, how much better it would have been if I had kept it simple from the start and saved all the money I spent on “stuff”!!! It was all vanity… “Stuff & things” do not hold the key to the meaning of my life.

Likewise, Solomon’s possessions did not give meaning to his life. And, as he considered further, he examined wisdom compared to folly. He reasons that, in the end, the wise man is no different from the fool.

For there is no more
Remembrance of the wise
Than of the fool forever,
Since all that now is will be
forgotten in the days to come
And how does a wise man die?
As the fool!
Ecclesiastes 2:16

Solomon concludes his contemplation of attainment with this pronouncement that it was not worth the work and stress:

Therefore I hated life because the
work that was done under the sun was
distressing to me, for all is vanity and
grasping for the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:17

The Vanity of Labor: Prior examination of “attainment” leads, naturally, into thought about labor. Solomon examines labor – for what? He makes no secret of the fact that he hates that he worked so hard, but only to die and leave his wealth to someone who did not work for it. He reasons that he attained all of his wealth through wisdom, knowledge and skill, yet he must leave his heritage to, not only someone who did not work for it, but quite possibly a fool.

For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun?

For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest.
This also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 2:22-23

So far, Solomon has examined the reason for life intellectually, hedonistically and materially. Regardless of how successful he was, how much he attained materially, how much pleasure he found; I suspect that Solomon still felt emptiness in his life. I’m thinking that Solomon was thinking….”Why did I bother?” I’m also thinking about that expression “he who dies with the most toys wins”… I think NOT.

Solomon recognizes that, possibly, the key to the meaning of life can only be found in God, but that causes him to consider the difference in what God may give to each… the believer and the sinner. And that this also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy
to a man who is good in his sight;
but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering
and collecting, that he may give to him who is good
before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:26

Enjoy life: Solomon comes to the conclusion that there is nothing better than that man should eat, drink and be happy. Solomon’s message is that we should enjoy life because it is a gift from God and that without Him, our life is labor without joy, which he also concludes is vanity and grasping for the wind.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow of turning.
James 1:17

Is this all there is? The answer is blowing in the wind…it remains a mystery. We come to realize all of life is vain or in vain. Our world is flawed and can’t be fixed. We must live our lives the best that we can live it… The empty feeling inside cannot be filled by intellectualism, hedonism or material possessions.

As a happy Christian, I can tell you that empty feeling can be filled by God. And instead of continually striving against the world? King Solomon had some good advice... He decided it is better to enjoy life. My advice? Don't waste your life... Take the time to smell the flowers...

Thank you for joining me in the study of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 3 will be up by the end of the week.