Other translations of Ecclesiastes 1:2
*Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher. Vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (KJV & ASV)
*"Everything is meaningless," says the Teacher, "completely meaningless!" (NLT)
*Hevel, havalim, saith Kohelet, hevel havalim; all is hevel. (OJB)
*"It is of no use," says the Preacher. "It is of no use! All is for nothing." (NLV)
*"Futility of futilities," says the Preacher, futility of futilities! All is futility (NASB)
*"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher. "Vanity of vanities! All (that is done without God's guidance) is vanity (futile, meaningless--a wisp of smoke, a vapor that vanishes, merely chasing the wind)." (AMP)
Similar to being mesmerized by a campfire, I love watching steam rise & swirl from a hot beverage. The random fluidity of vapor can be simultaneously mysterious, calmly frantic & delicately serene. A beautiful dance of nature--unrepeating, fleeting & wonderfully artistic. When I read the different translations of Ecclesiastes 1:2, I think of these enjoyable encounters I've had with "hevel" (steam). In saying "All is vanity" the Teacher/Preacher, at least in part, is describing the not so uncommon feeling of being 'stuck in a hamster wheel' ... but there is a bit more to it than that.
The Amplified Bible translation (AMP), with its explanation in brackets, makes sense of this verse in light of the whole twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes. The Preacher says "And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor ... and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun." (2:10-11) It makes sense to listen to this wisdom learned because even after literally having everything one's heart could possibly desire and more, the Preacher proclaims the pointlessness of all of it "under the sun" but what about "in the Son" (as in, in God's way): "For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?" (2:25)
A common question, is the Preacher depressed or just pessimistic? He shares that even wisdom is futile, "...in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain." (1:18) It is God's help through grief & pain that brings the Preacher the Truth of God. Although this does not relieve his own suffering, the Truth continues to come through, from him, to help others, as God allows. Seeing 'the glass as half empty OR half full' is not nearly as important as honoring the One who provides the glass & drinking the living water within it that eternally quenches our thirst.
So first and foremost, meaning & enjoyment (yes, it's fun!) come through a Godly life: "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgement, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." (12:13-14)
"A generation goes and a generation comes ..." (1:4); the fleeting nature of life, like steam, reminds us to put our faith not in people or things but in the Lord, for "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (KJV) & "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing" (NIV). We are to want, not what we want, but what God wants. When we take this Godly perspective, we live in appreciation of all the beautiful things God provides, such as enjoying the breeze (rather than chasing the wind, lol) & we ask Lord, "Please remove or fulfill my unmet needs & desires in ways that are glorifying to You, amen!" This is not repression, rather it frees & makes us lighter.
I pray God that we do not get caught up in self importance & the pursuit of happiness. I pray for all who are ensnared in the traps of this world; the never ending striving for success on our own terms. Help us put You first & not just give you the time we have leftover after everything else gets done or to turn to You only when we're in dire straits. The Preacher cautions us to: "Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed;" (12:6) Just as a ship needs an anchor onboard before leaving the dock, we are to know & honor "God, the Eternal" before befalling into the pit of despair and before crawling desperately dehydrated upon a well to find only a shattered pitcher there. For a moment of separation from God is (like) an eternity in hell that only ONE lived through & triumphs over. Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God Almighty, In Jesus name, amen!
I've been thinking about the significance of monotheism - One True God. I've been watching the series, The Triumph of Christianity with historian scholar, Bart Erhman, of the University of North Carolina. He explains that the commandment 'Thou shall have no other Gods before me' is a major factor in what caused a handful of Christians in the ancient, mostly pagan, Roman empire to become 25-35 million Christians by 400 CE.
Just as one pitfall of modernity is too much choice, the practice of worshiping many gods potentially allows for detours away from difficult but necessary changes & growth, for example, that certain circumstances or limitations are meant to cultivate. When push comes to shove, most people will take an out if given the chance. Would we not continually go from one wonder-doing god to the next until we get the help & answers we seek? Would these gods then not just be feeding our already overstuffed egos? Lower case gods appease people for status & money but the Lord God does not. Many people I'm sure wish it were not so that God doesn't work for $ lol, amen!
Simply put, we often don't like His ways & plans & that's just tough beans because there is none higher to appeal to. Much of the toughest stuff we are faced with is of our own doing anyway, not God's. The consequences of sin are often brutal. Even within the mercy & grace of Jesus Christ, the painful effects of sin are real & take time to heal. It's tempting to imagine that something else needs sorting out first, to get distracted with other 'pursuits' (gods) & before you know it, sin some more, rather than just keeping on resting still in God's hands while he mends our wounds. Our salvation happens in an instant, the moment we first believe, but healing from sin can take a lifetime & sometimes takes God level patience, like when a day feels like a thousand years. God bless, y'all, amen!
The Psalms most certainly are 'a place of abundance' that the Lord brings me to during trials & refinement. To those going through times of insurmountable challenge, reading Thy Word literally releases THE POWER of GOD to deliver us from "the snare of the trapper" (Psalm 91:3) & for many other things. I will spend my eternal life savoring the marrow of The Psalms. Here are just a few of many gems:
"For the Lord God is a sun & shield; the Lord gives grace & glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." (Psalm 84:11)
"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth." (Psalm 145:18)
"Bless the Lord, O my soul ... who heals all your diseases ... " (Psalm 103:2-3)
"This is my comfort in my affliction, that Thy word has revived me." (Psalm 119:50)
"On God my salvation & my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God." (Psalm 62:7)
"God is to us a God of deliverances & to God the Lord belong escapes from death." (Psalm 68:20)
"For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime ... " (Psalm 30:5)
"Lovingkindness & truth have met together; righteousness & peace have kissed each other. Truth springs from the earth ... & our land will yield its produce." (Psalm 85:10-12)
"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing ... " (Psalm 141:3-4)
"I will awaken the dawn!" (Psalm 57:8)
"The stream of God is full of water..." (Psalm 65:9)
"Light is sown like seed for the righteous & gladness for the upright in heart." (Psalm 97:11)
"And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water ..." (Psalm 1:3)
"How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103)
Furthermore, I also greatly appreciate the refreshing 'holistic realness' of David's pleas throughout the Psalms, voicing not only praise but his concerns as well. He shows us the way of authentic, vulnerable worship in declaring his troubles & feeling abandoned by God. Even Jesus, God himself, while on the cross, expressed that He too went through this experience, quoting David (Psalm 22:1) He said: "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" - "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
"How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?" (Psalm 13:1)
"Thou hast made Thy people experience hardship; Thou hast given us wine to drink that makes us stagger." (Psalm 60:3)
"O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day & in the night before Thee. Let my prayer come before Thee; Incline Thine ear to my cry! For my soul has had enough troubles & my life has drawn near to Sheol." (Psalm 88:1-3)
Not until we are 'poor in spirit' ("The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken & a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." Psalm 51:17) & humbly ask God: "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2) do we intimately understand "That power belongs to God ..." (Psalm 62:11)
I found this photo from the 80s showing the car that my Granny Joyce loaned to my Mom. With renewed fondness, I remember the bumper sticker on it: READ THE BOOK - love it! We don't know what Godly magic Thy Word will insert into our lives until we read it. Thank you God & Granny, amen.
Dear Lord, I pray for us sinners & for those who some might consider the last to ever come to Christ. Not only the naysayers but those whose hearts have completely hardened, crumbled into dust & blown away. Lost souls...but not forever. Only you can restore such deep chasms, re-form dust & soften stone into new flesh ("I will give you a new heart & put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone & give you a heart of flesh." --Ezekiel 36:26).
God, I pray also for all the good & caring people who think God is 'just religious make believe', not possibly true or relevant in "today's world". It takes just a tiny spark of hope (like the possibility of lighting a match) for your flame of warmth, truth & beauty to envelop & bring us evermore fully into your love & understanding. In your sovereignty & justice, I trust in your giving each of us the opportunities ('the matches') we need to step ever closer into your glory, amen.
To move forward, we must first remember Christ. Only in Christ, can we look at our own & others' sins from His purifying eyes & redeeming heart. Made new & holy, forgiven, we forgive & move forward, changed by grace in Christ, amen!
Job is an especially rich book of the Bible for me. Reading it got me back into daily Bible devotion in 2020 when I was going through a period of depression in addition to ongoing ME/CFS since 2007. Much of what Job says is dramatic, understandably so, considering the intensity & unrelenting nature of his tormenting condition of festering boils from head to toe. I can relate to much of his lament, such as when he repeatedly asks God about why he is even alive, ("What's the point of life when it doesn't make sense, when God blocks all the roads to meaning?" Job 3:23). Day after day of pain & illness to the point of being unable to function, eat and sleep would make anyone question their existence. This is precisely the point of the masterpiece of Job. The author intrigues readers to examine their lives & consider how or if God intervenes, what God allows or provides to us & why.
Job contains 40 chapters of deep rhetoric between Job, his friends & God speaking through a storm. Note, spoiler alert, I was at first a bit disappointed that the conclusion leaves us without a straight forward answer from God about the main dilemma -- "Why do many Godly people go through horrible things while (so it seems) many wicked people live in ease & luxury?" I've come to understand through discussion & multiple readings of God's response to Job's defense (here's one example of so many)...
"Have you ever in your life commanded the morning and caused the dawn to know its place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth and the wicked be shaken out of it?" (Job 38:12-13)
...that we are not to know or overly concern ourselves with such matters only God contends with. We are to turn toward rather than away from God, especially in our anger & devastation, He can handle it. Crying out to, is trusting in God and so we pray without ceasing ("Teach me to see what I still don't see. Whatever evil I've done, I'll do it no more." Job 34:32) to deal with our situation to the best of our abilities.
On a personal note, I will share how helpful & healing it has been to have a friend, GJ, who also has ME/CFS. Unlike Job's friends to Job, GJ doesn't shake his finger at me! We are patient, empathetic & encouraging of each other in ways that are difficult to know how to be for those who have not experienced long term illness. We share the same faith & discuss all things Bible for fun ... yes, truly a joy. It was GJ that came up with the phrase "Job it out" which I take to mean: complain as you must for a time then look to God for strength & support ("I've talked too much, way too much, I am ready to shut up & listen." Job 40:5) and do not expect everything to make sense!
Modifying the old adage 'When life gives you lemons...' for those facing chronic illness, I try "gently squeezing" every drop of good (God) out of the 'lemons' I'm given ... & out of life in every situation possible. I certainly did so this past summer when I was able to go camping with GJ (who, by the way, I would not have met if it were not for having ME). Camping took much more planning & rest than previously when I was well but this time I got to go "slow" camping with my ME friend & we had a wonderful time. I'm praying for more adventures like that (minus both of us getting covid afterwards) & beyond. Amen!
This phrase: "The miracle that we are IS God" is my initial take away a few chapters into listening to the audio-book: "Cure Your Fatigue: How balancing 3 minerals & 1 protein is the solution you're looking for, by Morley M. Robbins. It is nothing but wondrous how the human body functions in all of its complexity! All glory to God, Amen.
I took this moonset photo early morning October 10th, 2022 while I was visiting my Dad in Campbell River so it brings recent cherished memories.
Esther 4:14 is a message from Esther's guardian Mordecai, explaining her difficult situation: "For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” However, Esther's identity as a Jew was a secret at that time so she may have been able to escape the planned massacre of the Jews. Despite this she decided to offer support to "her people" no matter the cost ("And if I perish, I perish" Esther 4:16)
Risking her life twice, Queen Esther acted against the king's rules by going to him uninvited and she revealed her Jewish identity to him. Yet by doing these things, she was not put to death but instead, she was able to stop Haman's ploy to kill the Jews. Amen!
"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Who knows? God knows & it is not only Queen Esther but it is all who come to the kingdom, the Kingdom of God, that come for such a time as this!
Knowing when it's a time to:
*rest & remain silent or a time to act & speak up;
*honor & conceal or a time to obey & reveal;
*pray, fast & offer risky support ...
takes courageous dedication & faith in God's grace, guidance & purpose. Praise the Lord, Amen! Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Before my Dad passed away, he told me: "The idea that God will swoop down, pick up my dead body & bring me to heaven, is so absurd but ... I can't be certain that it won't happen." he said. My Dad, being a naturalist & science-minded, was not a fan of certainty (especially other peoples' certainty, lol!). Even though his skepticism drove him away from religious belief, at some point it also brought him back.
My Dad's realization that we can't be certain that the laws of nature as we know them are the only possible laws, is a beautiful, little, powerful miracle. Emphatically he would declare "God is love & heaven is right here & now!" With much prayer I trust my Dad's heart & mind was renewed even further & now he's singing & soaring limitlessly through eternal life in heaven with God who creates all the laws, how cool, amen!
So often the question Why not believe? comes to my mind. What harm or difficulty is it to believe GOD IS LOVE? The Bible & Gospel is such a rich & fantastical Truth story. I am so grateful to have been drawn by the Father & to be surrounded by believers in God's magic through Christ: "People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me; and I will raise them to life on the last day." John 6:44
Thank God for waking me up to the bondage of sin (mine & others)! Thank you Heavenly Father for giving me sanctuary & community to support my repentance & growth in Christ. I pray for the same for everyone all over the world.
Many people like myself, broken & scarred, turn to Christ when we finally realize it is the painful, heavy grip of chains of our sins that pierce & paralyze us. Duh! It is so obvious, once you know, you know. "Therefore since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin." (1 Peter 4:1) True freedom is freedom from sin which comes through faith in Jesus. What a blessing to have ears to hear, amen!
Even though being chronically ill often feels like I am "in bondage" I continuously remind myself: I am one with Christ in eternal life knowing the only true God & Jesus Christ whom thou has sent (John 17:3). In this way with me/cfs illness, I "exercise/work out" constantly & have become a spiritual warrior. I don't let being sick turn me from Christ. Instead, I use every spark of light & energy to feel & share God's love. When I can not move on my own, I ask him to carry me. He directs my everything; my standing up, going out & lying down. "The Lord is my strength & my shield..." (Psalm 28:7)
I pray for those who do not yet recognize or feel the pain of their sin. Even though facing it can be unbearably uncomfortable, this humility is necessary for salvation ("The world's sin is unbelief in me..." John 16:9). Please Lord have mercy in your way of bringing awareness to those who are ready (& those in preparation) for the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome them. In Jesus precious name I pray, amen.
2 Chronicles 7:13-14
Dear Lord, I pray for & hold up to you all who are going through hardship; people, land & animals in fires, floods, war, poverty & other oppressive situations. God, thank you for unburdening us especially in times of weakness & trouble by insisting that we submit to you our grievances & wrongdoings & change our ways to your way. May we seek your counsel in all things. Holy spirit, I ask that you be with each person working in law enforcement, government, the judicial & medical systems & cast away from them all evil influences.
Please God bless & protect our farmers dealing with exhaustion, extreme weather, insects & political upheaval. Please lead to salvation & heal those who are suffering with addiction, illness & injury. Lord, help us mend our relationships with each other & with the land you so graciously created & provide to us. Make us much better stewards of our beautiful earth home for many generations to come. I pray all these things in Jesus name, amen!
I am writing this blog to highlight Bible verses that I experience as especially healing and relevant for daily guidance. My journeys in life have been truly amazing. Chronic illness with ME/CFS, as difficult as it is, continues to take me wild and loving places for healing.