Tag Archives: job

Fish, part 1 (revised)

IMG_0360As I stumbled around my bedroom getting ready for work, I had no clue that inspiration was about to strike. I placed my wife’s coffee on her nightstand as a beeping alarm clock roused her from sleep. Being thoughtful, I shuffled across the floor to her aquarium thinking its light would be easier on sleepy eyes. The instant the tank flooded with light the epiphany came. I felt the need to write about fish. What? I questioned the thought immediately.  What does writing about fish swimming in an aquarium have to do with anything other than lowering someone’s blood pressure?

Immediately, I concluded two things. The thought had nothing to do with work since I am not a commercial fisherman, nor was it about food, because I don’t normally think of fried fish immediately after breakfast. I left the house confused.

I arrived at work and began making my way through the building. Robotically, I turned on a light to illuminate a corridor I had walked down a thousand times. On my left I noticed an expanse of blue paper hanging on the wall. Pasted on the paper was an assortment of hand-colored fish of the sort you would find in a coloring book.

I wonder how long it had been there?

Another light revealed more fish. Hmmm.

I made my way to my desk. Certainly a cup of coffee would help me think more clearly. I retrieved my thermos and a coffee mug I stored in a drawer. Placing both items on my desk, I flicked on the overhead light and sank into my chair, already anticipating the positive effect pouring hot black liquid down my throat would have. As I reached for my cup, I noticed a card lying beside it. Believe it or not, it was a subscription card to the “In-Fisherman” magazine. My immediate thought, you’ve have got to be kidding me. I seemed to have just experienced a three-fold affirmation to write about fish. Since I subscribe to the belief that there is a Divine Being who works in all areas of my life, I resolved to give the subject matter a bit of serious thought.

I reflected on what I had to work with. All three instances involved fish-related subject matter already present in the darkness and appeared visibly when I turned on a light. I spent the rest of the morning physically working on maintenance projects while my mind tried to determine what direction to take on this project.

Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you. Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you. Let the fish in the sea speak to you. Job 12: 7-8

I began by tapping into my earliest memories of fish or fishing. Several hours later I had a shirt pocket stuffed full of notes written on paper scraps spanning six decades. I’ll begin with my earliest recollection.

During the first ten years or so of my life, going fishing with my dad would definitely make my highlight reel. Our family began taking vacations to Ontario, Canada about that time. Somehow my parents managed to get in touch with a farmer who rented out a pair of cottages on a private lake. My most special memory while staying in one of those cabins involved Dad taking me out fishing early in the morning while my brothers and sister slept. This I imagined equated to having a position of privilege.

The expedition began before dawn. We were in the boat as a pre-dawn mist rose up from the tranquil waters.  Dad rowed into the mist.  The oars creaked as he drew them through the water. This felt to me like an adventure.  Once my father reached the intended spot we cast our lines in the water.

My excitement quickly waned, and the hours began to drag slowly by. No fish were biting.  By late morning my stomach was growling.  I’d already consumed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich earlier.

I remember boredom biting me as I sat in the front bench seat in the nose of the boat. Sometimes the best games grow out of boredom.  I decided make a game out of leaning over the side of the boat and trying to get my face as close to the water as possible. My father was oblivious to this folly as he occupied the middle seat and had his back to me.

It was hard leaning over the side with a faded orange life-jacket on but somehow I managed it. I decided to add some interest to the game by grabbing the middle of my fishing pole and dangling a lure into the water close to my face. The green rubber frog appeared lifelike as I manipulated it like a marionette.

IMG_0369I stared into the dark void as I played.  Suddenly, a pair of ghostly eyes emerged from the black depths.  A large gaping mouth full of teeth opened, inhaling the frog bobbing on the water.   My face was so close to the water that I fell backwards into the boat trying to distance myself from the creature. A mammoth northern pike sunk back into the depths without the slightest splash, my lure still in its mouth.

Had I imagined the whole thing? No way. The fishing pole I still held was pinching my hand against the side of the boat. A grating sound emanated from the reel as line peeled off it. Filled with excitement, I felt the need to stand up. The boat rocked wildly as I rose to my full height. I almost fell overboard as I grabbed the pole with both hands and yanked upwards, attempting to set the hook. From behind me I could hear my father yelling, “Sit down!”

His words did nothing to quell my excitement, as I watched the tip of my pole bend down below the water line. The fish swam away from the boat taking fishing line with it and I could do nothing to stop it. Dad got excited once he saw what was happening. He spun around quickly to face me.

“It’s a monster, Dad, I saw it,” I screamed, trembling all over.

“Don’t pull to hard, you might snap the line,” he advised.

The fish suddenly stopped. My line, now taunt as a guitar string, felt as if it had the anchor tied to it.

“Dad, it won’t budge,” I said quickly growing frustrated.

My father never attempted to take the fishing pole from me; he instead concentrated on offering me encouragement. He rowed the boat towards the fish to take some of the pressure off the line. We left a cove overrun with lily pads and edged closer to a rocky bank that tumbled into the lake.

“Reel in some line Billy and take up the slack. Keep tension on the line.”

He stopped rowing when the angle of the fishing line running into the water appeared straight up and down. An occasional heavy tug was the only evidence something was still on my line. The fish and I had reached a stand off.

“Billy, the fish may have wrapped himself around something on the bottom,” Dad offered.

“Dear God, please don’t let this line break,” I prayed out loud as only a child could.

To be continued…

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Ecclesiastes: Futility and Folly

Have you been so concerned with a problem that you have felt the tension in your arms, legs or chest? Have you been so stressed out that you lost sleep over it? Solomon is telling us he has seen the futility of life under the sun. In this section (Ecclesiastes 1:17-2:26) his futility gives way to frustration. He is leaving “no stone unturned” in his search for the meaning of life.

William D. Barrick refers to the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes as Solomon’s honest confession. He can’t solve life’s most important issues without God. It is highly unusual for a king of this era to admit to “failure, frustration and folly.” But God uses failure, frustration and folly to draw wandering prodigals back to Himself.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

In chapter one, verse thirteen a new prospective is identified, “under heaven;” the abode of God, the all-supreme Creator. However, Solomon’s search under heaven does not include the eternal, only the temporal.   His search includes:

Wisdom – The more we know, the less it seems we know.

Wm. Barrick – “What is crooked cannot be straightened” (a proverb). In essence, mankind cannot change all that is done under heaven. C’est la vie (that’s life).  “With wisdom comes much grief” (another proverb). In essence the more wisdom obtained the greater the grief. Solomon keeps reaching the same conclusion that man cannot save himself.

Josh McDowell – If education were the key to life, “universities would be the most moral, ethical and spiritual centers of any nation.”

W. Wiersbe – “The Christian won’t be able to explain everything that happens in life but life is not built on explanations, it’s built on promises.”

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Pleasure – Solomon denies himself no pleasure. He enjoys it. Today we talk ourselves into believing that pleasure is something we have earned, or deserve; like the advertising jingle, “Work hard, play hard.”

Why does pleasure lead to disappointment (under the sun)? We seek the ultimate meaning out of that which is temporary and perishable.

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Work – alone is not the key to happiness. The more we work the more unbalanced the rest of life becomes. For many, work is an attempt to keep them busy from facing how empty their lives really are (under the sun)

Work is not evil. God put Adam in the Garden and gave him work to do. We are wired to work. Unfortunately, for some accomplishments in their work give them the feeling that they are captains of their souls, masters of their destiny.

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Wealth – wealth cannot be taken with us when we die. Where is the advantage of wealth? “The more we have the more we want what we don’t have.” (Dr. D. Jeremiah).

“Money is the universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and the universal provider of everything except happiness.” Wall Street Journal

More about work – Solomon struggles with the realization that labor doesn’t produce anything that will endure for eternity. Futility of labor is equivalent to a hamster on an exercise wheel.   Additionally, there is a realization that death levels the playing field. It comes for everyone; both the lazy and hard-working, the wealthy and poor, the renowned and anonymous. Work done under the sun is not lasting in the light of eternity.

Why did Solomon use the word “hate” referencing his toil? He couldn’t keep the fruits of his labor (his toil ultimately is handed to others). Secondly, he couldn’t protect its fruits (those who receive it won’t have the same appreciation as the person who produced it). Finally, wealth can’t be enjoyed as it should (a lifetime of toil leaves relatively little time to enjoy it).

Solomon’s Conclusions:

Remember Solomon is attempting to find the meaning of life under the sun (striving apart from God). He mentions the sinner, which means one who falls short or misses the mark. This person ultimately gathers resources only hand down to someone else when they die.  Life apart from God (without reconciling with God) leaves the sinner no means of accessing the eternity of heaven.  For them “all is vanity.”

Everything we have is a gift from God.   The believer in God whose prospective is above the sun (under heaven) can find enjoyment under the sun.  In the words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21