A Truly Silent Night

The Germans started it.

The Great War, the War to End all Wars (now known to us as World War I) had been raging for five months in late 1914. On one side were Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and others. On the other was France, England, Russia, and later the United States and others. Neither side had made much headway in defeating the other. A 500-mile stretch of territory that ran through Flanders (Belgium, France and the Netherlands) was called the Western Front.

Early in December of that year Pope Benedict XV made a public plea to both factions in the war. He asked, “that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang.” However, commanding officers on both sides ignored the Pope’s request and were determined to fight on – Christmas or not.

Nevertheless, on Christmas Eve, 1914, German soldiers in the trenches caught the holiday spirit. They lit candles and hung them from evergreen trees. They hoisted banners that read, “We not shoot, you not shoot.” Not knowing what to think, the British soldiers held their positions. Finally, a German soldier dared venture into “no man’s land,” the field that separated the two battle trenches. A single voice began to sing:

Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht.

Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht

(Silent Night, Holy Night

All is calm, all is bright.)

British soldiers answered with antiphonal greetings. Before too long more soldiers on either side left their trenches and began presenting small gifts to each other and exchanging handshakes. One British soldier wrote: “I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything. … I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons. … I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange….”

News spread down the lines. From Christmas Day until well into the New Year, regiments along the battle lines joined in with similar gestures of goodwill, much to the chagrin of their commanders. (One notable dissenter was a young corporal named Adolf Hitler.)

Referring to that short unofficial ceasefire, another soldier reported, “I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking, and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire, and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas’, even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”

This Christmas war story brings heartwarming and inspiring sentiments. One coming from a passion for freedom; another coming from a yearning for peace. But the Prince of Peace, Jesus, had already come to wage His own war against sin and despair that has been around since Eden. The peace He gives, however, is not the absence of conflict but the serenity of spirit that the Apostle Paul describes as “the peace that passes human understanding.”

Today our world is full of conflict and oppression without any external sign or hope of relief. This makes knowing the Prince of Peace even more beautiful.

Jesus spoke of freedom in John 8: 31-32

‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”

Regarding peace, Jesus told His disciples,

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I’ve been watching a lot of Christmas movies this season. It always helps me get in the Christmas spirit. One of my favorite movies is A Charlie Brown Christmas. This season there was talk of taking this movie off the market (streaming and network showings). Too religious, they said. Too “old school” they said. But this isn’t the first time this classic has met with opposition. Before it ever aired, the network protested.  Their main complaint?

“You can’t read from the Bible on network television!”

It was 1965 and Peanuts had been a favorite newspaper comic strip for 15 years. Charles Shultz, its creator, had done a short film with animator Bill Melendez and producer Lee Mendelson, but he had never considered making a TV movie for Christmas; that is, until the producer called Schultz and said that an advertising agent for the Coca-Cola Company had suggested they create one. Within a few days, the producer and creator had written an outline for a script. It included three main chapters, 1) a sad Christmas tree, 2) a school play, and 3) ice skating.

The 25-minute animated film budget was around $150,000, which even in the 1960s was quite low. The creative team of Schultz, Mendelson and Melendez pressed on, however, until they had a full production to present to the TV network CBS.

The main complaint that the TV execs had against the film was the recitation by Linus straight out of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. CBS did not believe that a biblical reference, much less a direct quote from the King James version of the Bible, was appropriate for their audience. Charles Schultz, however, begged to differ. He is quoted as saying, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” Schultz refused to delete the scene or the scene where the children sing the religious carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

But the biblical reference wasn’t the only thing the network didn’t like. They also didn’t like that real children, not adult industry professionals, were used to record the voices on the film. (In fact, some of the children were so young that they couldn’t read their lines and had to be fed them by the producer one sentence at a time.)

Another thing that did not ring true with the CBS executives was the music. Jazz musician and composer, Vince Guaraldi, had already written a song called “Linus and Lucy” for a documentary about Peanuts that never aired. The creative team called Guaraldi and asked him if they could use the song on the Christmas special. The composer also wrote another song for the film, “Christmastime Is Here.” CBS thought the songs, especially the theme song, was too abstract and offbeat for a cartoon.

Under pressure by the sponsor Coca-Cola, the network finally conceded. A Charlie Brown Christmas would be aired on a Thursday night, December 9, 1965. More than 15 million TV viewers saw the show and the ratings for the show was at number two just behind Bonanza.

The film has had some changes over the years. One is that the Coca-Cola symbols are not shown on the present version since the soft drink company no longer sponsors it. A few more edits have been made, too. But only minor ones.

The original animation, which many thought was crude, is exactly as it first appeared in 1965. It has now been dubbed “classic” by animators and producers since.

At Christmastime, we focus on those who believed that the Infant in Bethlehem was the Messiah: Mary, Joseph, shepherds, Wise Men. But what about those who didn’t believe? Some just couldn’t see the potential lying in a manger or later walking the earth.

Since Charles Schultz was a believer, he may have resonated a little with Jesus as His skeptics passed Him over. Network naysayers were just as blind as stubborn Pharisees to the treasure that was right in front of them.

An angel spoke to Joseph in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

If you are traveling by airplane for the holidays, this story might have more significance than others.

Man had been fascinated with flight since the beginning of time. As far back as the ancient Chinese in the 4th century B.C. humans have tried to harness the wind and fly above the ground like birds. A kite was his first attempt at flight, though somewhat unsatisfying because he could only observe from the ground.

Leonardo Di Vinci in the mid-15th century A.D. drew over 100 designs for a flying machine, but Di Vinci was often ahead of his time in so many ways.

Then in the late 19th century the manned glider was invented, but man’s flight was controlled by the wind itself. Many glider flights ended in tragedy because the pilot had little or no control of his direction.

It was not until just before Christmas, December 17, 1903 that Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio perfected the design for a true flying machine.

By trade the brothers were bicycle and printing press builders. Both of these were not only noble professions but lucrative as well. They could have been very satisfied with their careers. But they dreamed bigger. Using the research of many others before them, the sons of Milton and Susan Wright, camped out on the eastern seaboard at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for three summers. There they worked on a “fixed-wing” flight design. 

After two summers, however, the brothers had become discouraged. They were sure that man would some day fly, but that he would never fly during their lifetime. Fortunately, the men did not give up. In the summer of 1903 after building a gasoline-powered engine that turned propellers, Orville and Wilbur decided to stay past their usual season as the fall temperatures started to plummet. They decided to keep trying despite the weather and the coming holidays. On that December morning, Orville piloted the lightweight spruce-constructed muslin-surfaced Wright Flyer I off the ground for 59 seconds with Wilbur running along beside. The flying machine’s altitude reached 10 feet.

After Wilbur and Orville made their momentous flight, they naturally wanted to share the news with their family back home in Dayton, Ohio. They sent a telegram to their sister, Katherine, telling her of the flight and that they would be home to celebrate Christmas. When Katherine excitedly ran to the newspaper office with the news, she was surprised when the editor looked at the message and exclaimed, “Oh great, the boys will be home for Christmas.”  In the next morning’s paper ,the headline read “Popular Local Bicycle Merchants Home for the Holidays.”

The point of this story is that the editor supposedly missed the impact of the message. Excited that his friends would be home for the holidays, he ignored the biggest news of the century. Man had flown!

In the excitement and preparations for Christmas, it’s easy to miss the point of the season. God had come to earth. No matter what else you might hold dear at Christmas, don’t miss the reason why Jesus came: to give us eternal access to our Heavenly Father.

Following the Dust

Recently on a family vacation, I took my first ride in a UTV(utility task vehicle) which is a four-wheeler two-seater version of an open off-road recreational vehicle. We (Dennis and I) had helmets, goggles, masks, seatbelts, and much trepidation as we were instructed to trail a line of other UTVs ahead of us. We were sort of in the middle of the group, and we were told to just follow the dust.

At first we didn’t know what that meant until we accelerated appropriately in our designated route. Then we understood. We were in a desert climate which meant that sand and dust were the substance of our path and would be kicked up in our faces by the next guy in line. Follow the dust—of the vehicle directly in front of us.

There were times when the dust was all we could see. We didn’t have a clear visual on the vehicle in front of us, nor of the trail beyond it. We literally were pointing ourselves toward all we could see. When the vehicles slowed down or stopped, we could see everything clearly. In the fray, however, our vision was just dust. Yet we continued to follow it.

Maybe I’m straining too much to make this a spiritual metaphor, but I saw this as a message about days ahead. It may seem like I’m in a dust cloud with no idea where I’m going or what’s around the next corner. However, this scripture reminds me what I’m supposed to do. Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will direct your paths.

It may seem like a dusty road you’re on. It may seem impossible to figure out where you’re going—especially where God wants you to end up. But I think that is exactly how to follow Him. Be ready to believe that His path, even when it is occluded, is still for your good and unique to you. God is speaking to ancient Israel at the time this is written, but I believe He speaks to us now. Jeremiah 29:11 says,

“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.”

He’s got this—even when you feel that you’re going nowhere in a cloud of dust.

Poof! Just like that.

All people are like grass
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
(Isaiah 40: 6)

Not our actual tree

Did I mention that I love fall? I really do. The colors, the crisp air, even the pouty overcast days are wonderful in my opinion.

Last week, my husband and I were on our back porch watching the sunset. We do that almost every evening. There is a tree just behind our house, a sugar maple I think, whose leaves were bursting with versions of red. Crimson, scarlet, coral, and garnet—all on one tree. It was breathtaking.

Not our actual tree

The very next day we went out to watch the sunset again and every leaf on the tree was gone. Every. Leaf. Gone. Not even a remnant. Perhaps in the night there had been a wind that blew just right and it took with it my beautiful red leaves. I say that they are mine, but truly they are not. They belong to a tree that sits on property that we own, but I can hardly claim that tree. I didn’t even plant it. Someone who lived here before us had the forethought to put it on our land. However, I feel a sense of loss and betrayal with the leaves’ departure.

Isaiah, my favorite Old Testament prophet, knew just how to put things—metaphors, similes, personifications, and such—to make God’s words, through him, burst with relevance. In that passage, in the 40th chapter of Isaiah, he puts the nature of life in perspective.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.

     (Isaiah 40: 7)

The prophet uses metaphors—grass and flowers—to illustrate the fragility of humanity. We are here today and gone tomorrow—like the leaves on the tree. Notice, too, Who is in control of this: the Lord. His breath is all it takes to wipe us all out.

A few months ago, our phone rang late at night. It was our youngest son who, at the time, lived 250 miles away. Generally he doesn’t call unless there’s something new and exciting going on in his life: a new grandchild on the way, a new job opportunity, a new vista. But this time his news was devastating. In fact, it shook me to the core. His beautiful wife, 38 years old and the picture of health, had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. I couldn’t believe my ears. I kept trying to wrap my mind around what I’d just heard. Denial was my first response. Surely not. This is a mistake. Anger was my second. How could this happen to my precious daughter-in-law, the mother of my beloved grandchildren? I couldn’t even pray at that point.

As we drove into the wee hours of the morning to be with our family, this thought came to mind: how quickly things can change! One doctor’s report, one phone call, one errant step—makes dreams and confidence disappear like mist. This Isaiah 40 scripture came to mind. 

The prophet, however, turns disconcerting news to hopes in verse 11.

[God] tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…

The Good Shepherd heard our cry and scooped us all up into His arms, and He gave our Michelle a hopeful prognosis. A new drug that is useful in her particular form of cancer is available and it has begun to start fighting that horrible disease. We praise God for His mercy and for His provision, but we’re always reminded that one contrary wind can change normal into chaos.

Please continue to pray for Michelle. We do not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.

 [We] will have no fear of bad news; [our] hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Psalm 112:7)

Like A Robert Redford Double Take

Even a child is known by his doings… Proverbs 20:11

Everyone is known for something. A physical attribute. A personality trait. A character element. A power. A weakness. A quirkiness. A good or bad deed. When someone you know is mentioned in conversation, you might think or say, “Oh, he’s that guy/girl who…”

Well, I notice quirkiness, repeated behavior and verbal recurrences. And I tend to label others by this trait or behavior. For instance, every time I see the actor Robert Redford on the screen, I already know that he is going to do a “double take”—or several. (Double take means a “delayed reaction to a surprising or significant situation after an initial failure to notice anything unusual.”)

Redford is notorious, at least in my book, for his repeated, but endearing, reaction to a character or line of dialogue. In his movie Sneakers—my all-time favorite film—I’ve counted eleven double takes. There may be more, but no matter. That’s what I think of when I see him.

Have you ever wondered what you’re known for?

Some of our Bible heroes were known for what they did, not necessarily for who they were. For instance, Moses had a temper. It drove him to kill an Egyptian soldier and then hide his body in the sand. Later, Moses was angry with the nomadic Israelites when they complained (which was often) about their lack of water. God had given Moses the command to speak to a rock and water would come out. Once before, Moses had struck a rock for water, but this time the instructions were different. He was to speak to the rock. Moses, in a rage, struck the rock. Yes, water did come out, but God held that against him for the rest of his life.

Moses isn’t known for his displays of temper, however. He’s best known for receiving the Ten Commandments and leading his people out of Egyptian slavery. Known not for his flaws, but for his moments of obedience.

Noah, that guy who built an ark, was a heavy drinker. Jacob, the one who started the Israelite nation with his 12 sons, was a deceiver. David, the man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and a murderer. Elijah was a pouter, but he kept his people from being corrupted by false gods.

Maybe I’m pushing it too much to mention Robert Redford and Moses on the same page, but still it brings up the question—what are you known for—your physical quirks, your failures and weaknesses, or your moments of obedience? It’s something to think about and something you may not know for sure. Others may perceive you differently than you see yourself. You may evaluate who you are by what you’ve done in the past. Others may revere you for overcoming a checkered past. You may see yourself as a hero for something you’ve done, but others may see you as being arrogant and boastful about one action.

It’s interesting that Jesus asked His disciples what others were saying about Him, like He didn’t already know. Their response was that some of the people thought Jesus was the reappearance of a dead prophet or matriarch. Then surprisingly, He asked them what they thought of Him. Peter answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Well, the disciple’s answer was correct, but it didn’t keep him or the others from distancing themselves from Him when times got tough. Peter denied. Thomas doubted. Judas betrayed.

Now three things come to mind:

1) Be careful that your actions reflect who you truly are.

2) Don’t judge someone else by one isolated deed. Remember Paul persecuted Christians and then became one of the most dedicated and revered believers in history.

3) Don’t let someone else’s opinion become your reality. Remember God sees you differently.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)”…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…(Romans 8:17).

The Apple of His Eye

Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings… (Psalms 17: 8)

It’s fall—and it’s also my favorite time of year. The crisp air makes it perfect for viewing the changing leaves and sitting by the fire—and buying freshly harvested apples. I love apples. My favorites are Arkansas Blacks and Stayman Winesap. Tart. Crisp. Delicious. I can eat them raw, or stewed, or baked, pied, cobblered, candied, juiced, or dipped in caramel. Anyway is fine.

Every time I go to an apple house (there are many in the mountainous regions near us) I think of this scripture. I’ve heard this idiom (…the apple of my eye…) all of my life. I’ve always believed that saying refers to someone who is the object of great affection—one cherished above all others—like a child or grandchild. And it does mean that. But in looking up the origins of this saying (like us word geeks do) I found that in the Hebrew (Old Testament language) it literally means “the little man of the eye.”

It appears several places in the Bible. David said it. (Psalms 17:8) Moses said it. (Deuteronomy 32:10). Zechariah said it. (Zechariah 2:8.) But what does it mean? Does it imply that God plays favorites?

This passages here refers to one looking into the center of the eye of another (the pupil) and seeing his/her own reflection—but a much smaller version of it.  A miniature. And I think that’s what the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs meant when they asked to be the apple of God’s eyes. To see their own images when looking directly at God.

Imagine, as a Child of God, being reflected in His eyes! Think of being His focus. In the Deuteronomy passage mentioned earlier, the blessed thought continues. Moses says in his final words of the Israelites, “God protected them in the howling wilderness. As though they were the apple of his eye. He spreads his wings over them, even as an eagle overspreads her young.” (Deut. 32: 10-11) Even though this was written to an ancient people, I believe that it is a promise for us. We are each uniquely made, each can see himself reflected in the Creator’s eye, and each can enjoy His protection.  

Go eat an apple and ponder this thought.

Know It All

“Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid.”

(1 Cor. 1:18-21 The Message)

I overheard a conversation recently between a mother and her (approximately ) 8-year-old son.

SON: Mom, do you know everything?

MOM: Oh, no. Not everything—just a little something about a lot of things.

SON: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I wanted to say to that mom, “Cherish this moment because your son won’t always think that highly of you or your knowledge.”

Perhaps the young boy wasn’t asking about his mom’s knowledge, but about her wisdom. There’s a difference, you know.

Knowledge is acquired through experience or education. In other words, we can study enough and travel enough and experience enough to gain knowledge. That’s impressive!

Wisdom, however, goes beyond knowledge. A wise person has perspective and discernment. He/she knows how to use the information he has to make good decisions. The only way to gain wisdom is through a gift from God. Someone once said: “Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to say it.” 

When thinking of wisdom, we often think of good King Solomon from the Bible. He was the son of David and Bathsheba who inherited the throne of Israel when his father died. God appeared to  Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” Solomon, who had a whole kingdom at his disposal, asked for a “discerning heart” to judge the people of the kingdom. God told the king, because you haven’t asked for riches or health or long life, I’ll give you wisdom. And with the wisdom would come all of the other things that usually follow success. Find this story in 1 Kings 3 and  2 Chronicles 1.

Of course, the rest of the story isn’t so good. Solomon had it all, but he allowed his possessions and successes to go to his head. That’s where we get the term “Pride goes before the fall.” His pride was his undoing, not his knowledge or his wisdom.

There is something about getting older that awakens us to new things, new ideas, new knowledge. Trial and error. Adventure and experimentation. Voracity. These teach us a little something about a lot of things. But wisdom comes from a heavenly source. My favorite verse about this is in James 1:5 “ …if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (NASB)

As a mom, I called on this promise often—everyday sometimes. The child rearing books were everywhere and I read many of them. I had a lot of knowledge, you might say, but what I needed was wisdom on how to bring up my boys in a way that was pleasing to God. And when I asked, He provided.

These days we’re getting a lot of information—some of it tainted with opinion and some of it sound with truth. However, none of this is valuable without first asking, “Give me wisdom, Lord.”

Romans 12 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Emphasis mine.)(NASB) The first part of the verse is a great word about gaining new ideas and insights, but the last part is the promise to which I cling. If I test the information I receive against Truth, wisdom will guide me to finding what is the right action.

Like the old hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”  says, “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour..”

No matter what we face, wisdom is the first thing to ask for and then courage to act upon it.

Ties That Bind

First, forgive me for my silence on this blog. I haven’t forgotten my readers or my mission. I just took a little break to teach some of what I know about creative writing to college students. Although Dennis and I are retired from our full-time jobs, we’re still teaching online. Now I have more mental and emotional energy to devote to my writing. So, here we go—again!

“…Lay aside every encumbrance…which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB)

Recently I felt encumbered. My jeans were digging into my waistline, my shoes were pinching my toes, and my face mask got tangled up in my reading glasses. And those are only the things I’m willing to share! As I was trying to disentangle myself to some level of comfort, this Bible passage came to mind. I realize, of course, that this word is not about physical comfort because that kind of encumbrance is surely to get worse as I get older. This admonition from the writer of Hebrews (who is unknown) is a mental and spiritual message. He just uses the metaphor of a physical race to make his point. 

I’m not a runner, never have been, and probably never will be, but I’ve seen many races in my time as the mother of sons who participated in sporting events. These events were often about speed and endurance and it was clear that the runner could not win if he was dressed in heavy clothing, carrying superfluous weight, or wearing shoes that were too tight. 

Some of the burdens in our lives can come from the past—failures and successes. Wearing our medals or carrying our trophies, like the winner of a race, can become a burden because it’s impossible to “rest upon” our laurels. 

Disappointments and bad decisions can anchor us to our past also. As my friend, Derric Johnson, says: “My ‘I never could,’ becomes my ‘I could never.’” In other words, just because I failed in the past doesn’t dictate my lack of success in the future.

Paul, too, used the race metaphor several times in his correspondence. In his letter to the Ephesians, he writes… “lay aside the old self…” (Eph. 4:22) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you…” (Eph. 4:31)

That is one weight we can do without.  Bitterness toward someone who has done us harm is a huge weight to carry around, and usually, we who hold the grudge are the ones most afflicted by it. Extra baggage.

These kinds of encumbrances affect not only our spiritual and mental well-being, but it can influence our physical health as well. A University of Minnesota study on how fear and anxiety can damage our physical health declares, “Fear [and anxiety] weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death.”

How do we throw off the encumbrances? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Rick Warren, the renowned author and pastor, suggests this to help us to find peace when we feel encumbered:

R—Realize nobody’s perfect.

E—Enjoy God’s unconditional love.

L—Let God handle things.

A—Act in faith, not fear.

X—Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace.

Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Just Whistlin’

I’m a whistler. I admit it.

But I come by it honestly. My dad was a whistler, too. In fact, the family could locate him in the house or in the yard just by following the sound. Maybe he’d be rendering a Southern Gospel tune, a hymn, or a ‘40s classic, but we always knew what was in his heart by what song came from his lips.

Maybe it’s genetic because I often find myself whistling (at ultra-low volume most of the time) from my mental repertoire, which is quite wide: from “Auld Lang Syne”, to my high school fight song, or to something we sang at church last Sunday.

Recently, after many decades of surrendering to this habit, I decided to actually analyze my playlist, making notes and tracing the tune from whence it came. Sometimes it’s produced from a line in a movie or TV show that I’ve just watched. The “Theme from Jurassic Park” or “Darth Vader’s Theme” are personal favorites. So is “Gone Fishin’,” the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show. I don’t have the tunes fully categorized according to popularity, but I do know that at least somewhere in the top five is the old chorus “God Is So Good.” It’s not hard to trace this subliminal message that I often produce in tune form.

You’ve heard the saying, “God is good—all the time and all the time—God is good.” If I turn on the TV or look at the effects of evil, I admit that I begin to question this train of thought. How can God be good when so many are hungry, oppressed, and dying?

In Dr. James Dobson’s book When God Doesn’t Make Sense, one of the first points the author makes is that God isn’t obliged to explain Himself or His ways to us. In fact, Dobson writes that God chooses to hide Himself from us—even for reasons we cannot know. The word why falls from our lips all too often, and yet God will not reveal some answers no matter how fervently we beg. Isaiah reminds us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, or His ways our ways. I take that to mean that God knows we can’t possibly comprehend the grand design of life; only bits and pieces, and small ones at that. I believe that the jigsaw puzzle picture doesn’t come clear on this side of eternity. I don’t like to admit that. I want to have His plan all mapped out (or GPSed), especially when I’m reminded of human suffering and mortality. Sometimes it seems as though God has lost control or, worse, has abandoned me.

In the biblical account of Job, God attempts to explain why bad things happen to good people. But even that story puzzles me because I can’t imagine God and Satan having a conversation, much less challenging each other when it came to the faithfulness of His servant. Read the Book of Job and explain it to me if you will. I’m all ears. The only takeaways I have to that story are Job’s takeaways from his experience. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (NJKV Job 1:21) “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God…”(NJKV Job 19:24-26).

So, when anyone asks me, “How’s life?” I say, “Life is life, but God is good.” I have to believe that or NOTHING makes sense. And I’ll whistle my tunes, especially the one favoring this simple message about God’s goodness.

P.S. If my sons pick up this habit, does that make me Whistler’s Mother?