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The Gift of the Magi — Part II

The Gift of the Magi – Part II

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday, I posted a diary about O Henry’s magnificent little story, “The Gift of the Magi.”

This morning, on my Facebook wall, I found a story that has been around a long time.  But as I saw the header, I thought, how beautifully this story compliments my diary of yesterday.  I have no idea who first told this story, but whoever he is, all credit goes to him.  Here is the story.

“There once was a farmer who had some puppies for sale.  He made a sign advertising the pups and nailed it to a post on the edge of his yard.  As he was nailing the sign to the post, he felt a tug on his overalls.

“He looked down to see a little boy with a big grin and something in his hand.

“‘Mister,’ he said, ‘I want to buy one of your puppies.’

“‘Well,’ said the farmer, ‘these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal.’

“The boy dropped his head for a moment, then looked back up at the farmer and said, ‘I’ve got thirty-nine cents.  Is that enough to take a look?’

“‘Sure,’ said the farmer, and with that he whistled and called out, ‘Dolly.  Here, Dolly.’  Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly Followed by four little balls of fur.  The little boy’s eyes danced with delight.

“Then out from the doghouse peeked another little ball; this one noticeably smaller.  Down the ramp it slid and began hobbling in an unrewarded attempt to catch up with the others.  The little boy pressed his face to the fence and cried out, ‘I want that one,’ pointing to the runt.

“The farmer knelt down and said, ‘Son, you don’t want that puppy.  He will never be able to run and play with you the way you would like.’

“With that, the boy reached down and slowly pulled up one leg of his trousers.  In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.  Looking up at the farmer, he said, ‘You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.’

“A little choked up, the farmer gently lifted the puppy up and set it in the boy’s arms.

“‘How much?’ the little boy asked.

There is no charge for love,’ responded the farmer.”

There is no charge for love!

In O Henry’s story, Jim and Della Young each sold his and her most prized possession to buy the other a gift that enhanced that possession.  That is the ultimate expression of love.

But so is the story about the crippled little boy and the crippled little puppy.  It is heart-rending to see him skip the healthy puppies and choose the crippled little runt.  It takes a special person to choose the one with imperfections.

People make a big deal about the birthday of “Jesus.”  They call him the “prince of peace” and “Love personified.”

How wrong they are!  “Jesus” NEVER learned the lesson that Jim and Della Young have to teach, or the one that the little boy has to teach, for that matter.  In Matthew 10, he flat-out says that anyone who loves anyone else more than they love him is not worthy of him – a megalomaniacal statement if there ever was one! In Luke 14:26, he demands that we hate those who are dearest to us in order to be his disciple.  The word “hate” used here is interesting.  It does NOT mean “love less,” like Christians would have you believe.  The original Greek word is ”miseo,” which means “hate, detest, despise, abhor.”  The word exists today in our words “misogyny” – the hatred of women, and ”misanthrope” – someone who hates mankind.

It is interesting to note that NOWHERE in the four Gospels is “Jesus” ever recorded as saying the simple little phrase “I love you,”  nor is God ever recorded in the Old Testament as expressing love for his creation, including man.

Jim and Della Young teach a wonderful lesson about what true love really is.  So does the little boy in the story above.  And those lessons can best be expressed in the farmer’s statement, “There is no charge for love.”

There is another beautiful statement that expresses the farmer’s statement in a longer statement.  That statement is I Corinthians 13.

“There is no charge for love.”  That is a message that is worth remembering and living by for the entire year, not just at Christmas.

Seasons Greetings, and may each of you have a blessed holiday season.

Bill

 

December 25, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous, Religion | , , | Leave a comment

The Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi

Hello, everyone.

It is Christmas time yet again, and that means that in churches and homes across the land, people will be reading about and singing about the so-called “Christmas Story” in Luke 2.  However, there is a story that, in my opinion, captures the REAL story of Christmas far better than the Luke yarn, and that is the story “The Gift of the Magi,” by William Sydney Porter, better known as O Henry.  I reread the story in preparation for this diary, and here is the link I used:  https://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html

I first learned of the story 60 years ago when I was a freshman in high school.  Being a boy, I approached the story as a boy, but at the same time, there was something about that story that grabbed me and never let me go.

Everyone knows the story, so I don’t have to rehearse it here.  It is the story of a young couple, Jim and Della Young, who had no money but who loved each other almost to the point of death.  A key element in the story is that each had a possession that he or she was tremendously proud of.  Here is O Henry’s description of those prized possessions:

“Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.”

They loved their possessions, but they loved each other even more.  And Christmas being Christmas, with the overemphasis on the financial side of the holiday, they wanted to celebrate, to the point that each did the most supreme act for each other that they could do.

As I said earlier everyone knows the story, so I don’t have to retell it.  So I will move to the last 2 paragraphs of the story:

“”Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

“The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

I cried as I reread the story.  I am fighting to keep from crying as I type this.  Why?  Because this story is possibly the greatest expression of love that was ever written.

My late wife Carol and I lived in California, and we had a hard life out there.  I was never able to find a real job – jobs were nonexistent when we were there – so we had to live on Carol’s salary as a church secretary.  We were so much like Jim and Della that it was not funny.  The main difference is that instead of a watch and glorious hair, our prized possessions were each other.  Carol and I loved each other to the same degree that Jim and Della did.

Earlier, I said that that I thought that “The Gift of the Magi” was a far greater Christmas story than the story in Luke 2.  How so?  During this season, for some bizarre reason, our focus is on each other and our love for each other.  We want to care about and do for those who are the most precious people on earth to us.  Sometimes even old grudges are swept away and relationships restored.  Like the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, not because of some baby born somewhere – if that event really happened – but because the thought of “peace on earth, good will toward men” actually does hold sway to some degree.

If the truth be known, towns and cities are filled with copies of Jim and Della Young – people who truly love each other to the point of sacrificing for them.  These sacrifices need not be monetary or even of one’s most prized possessions.  The sacrifices can be of time, such as helping someone in a store reach for something or helping a person who has fallen on the ice.  They can be spiritual in understanding and accepting someone who doesn’t believe as you do.  It can be one’s pride, such as realizing that no political position is worth sacrificing a friendship or relationship that has existed for decades.  As O Henry says, of those who give gifts, those who give the gifts that I have mentioned are the wisest people.  They are the Magi.

Seasons Greetings, and may each of you have a blessed holiday season.

Bill

 

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous, Religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Fill the World With Love

Fill the World With Love

Hello, everyone.

This Thursday, 2/14/13, is Valentine’s Day. I really don’t know the story behind Valentine’s day, and that is just fine because I don’t want to talk about the day. Instead, I wish to address the subject of the day, and that is love.

What is love? It is one of those abstract nouns that defy definition. Poets have attempted to write definitions of love, and preachers have attempted – unsuccessfully, in my opinion – to portray “Jesus Christ” as love personified. In his masterful classic Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis portrays the title preacher as being filled to overflowing with love – carnal “love,” that is. Everywhere he goes, Gantry proclaims, “What is love? It is the morning and evening star,” and so on.

A definition of love is not the purpose of this diary. Instead, I want to focus on the portrayal of love in our lives.

This morning (2/10/13) the “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had “Love” as the program theme, in honor of Valentine’s Day. Lloyd Newell gave a wonderful meditation based on the love that George and Martha Washington shared as man and wife. The meditation was based on Rosemarie Zagarri’s book, Martha Washington: A Life, which can be found at this URL:

http://www.marthawashington.us/exhibits/show/martha-washington—a-life/the-war-for-independence/front

The first song that the choir performed was “Fill the World With Love,” which was written by Leslie Bricusse for the 1969 remake of Good-bye, Mr. Chips, which was based on the novella by James Hilton. Here are the lyrics of the song:


In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise.
At a moment in my life when the world is new.
And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me,
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

(Chorus)
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love my whole life through

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine,
At a moment in my life when the sky is blue.
And the blessing I shall ask shall remain unchanging.
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through

(Chorus)

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset,
At a moment in my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only I can answer.
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

(Chorus)

When the film came out, movie critics were virtually unanimous in their praise of the story and the stars, Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark, but were virtually unanimous in their damnation and condemnation of Mr. Bricusse’s songs for the movie. One critic said that the songs were extremely forgettable. Another said that the songs had no coherent link to the book (or script) but instead were folded in as a cook folds beaten eggwhites into a recipe. Yet at least this one has survived to hold a solid spot in the repertoire of the Mormon choir.

This noble idea of filling the world with love and love’s place in the world has been around for decades, if not centuries. One could even say millennia because the teachings of The Buddha were built on the idea of love. The concept that “love makes the world go round” has been the subject of too many songs to even attempt to count, although a song with that title, written by Bob Merrill, was the key song in the 1961 Broadway musical Carnival. A few years later, in 1965, Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote a song titled “What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love,” which enjoyed some popularity and which was also used in certain Mainline religious circles. In the 1940s, a lady named Alma Bazel Androzzo wrote a song, “If I Can Help Somebody,” which carries the idea of displaying love towards our fellow men by helping those in need. So the idea of filling the world with love is far from a new concept, seeing that its seeds lie in the teaching of The Buddha.

Not to be outdone, the Evangelical community talks long and often about their “Jesus” being the personification of love. But is he really? Here are some verses, taken from the New King James Version.

Matt 10:34-38

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  NKJV

Luke 12:49

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! NKJV

Luke 14:26

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. NKJV

WOW! Some kind of love there – NOT!!

Incidentally, the word “hate” in the verse from Luke 14 actually IS “hate” and NOT “love less.” The original Greek is miseo, from which we get the words “misanthrope,” a hater of mankind, and “misogynuy,” the hatred of women. Anyway, Greek is an extremely precise language, so if the idea of “loving less” were intended, that would have been reflected in the original Greek text.

The Evangelical church and its Catholic brother would say, “NO!! It is a misreading or a mistranslation.” But one cannot – and should not – argue with the Greek language. In addition, there are people who actually apply this interpretation to their philosophy of life. A spokesman for a group known as The Catholic League is described as follows:

As a man, he is a poison. In the media, through press releases, even through tweets, he exists to hurl bile at all those that challenge the church, or seek to reform it, or dare to condemn it, and at some point he decided that the entire world was but a subsidiary of the church, and that the code of the church would govern all, or at least his own extraordinarily narrow view of it would, and damn the rest of the Catholics, the people who sit in the pews on Sundays, and damn the objectors, and damn everybody else besides.”

That attitude sounds too much like the attitude of Jesus Christ as expressed above for me to feel very comfortable about it.

If you want to check out the article where the quote came from, here is the URL:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/10/1185467/-Euthanizing-gay-dogs-for-Jesus

Another thing that turns the Evangelical crank is the idea that animals have souls and are capable of feeling human emotion. They claim that “the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that animals have souls, and therefore they don’t.” Well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about jet aircraft, the Apollo moon landings, or the atomic bomb, but those things have existed and still do exist. Anyway, who hasn’t had a cat rub against his legs or curl up in his lap? Who hasn’t had a dog lay down at his feet or had a dog express great joy at seeing his master? And who hasn’t experienced the love expressed in a dog’s sloppy kisses? And who has not seen the bonding between the males and females of some species – the equivalent to human marriage? Do not try to convince me that animals do not have souls or are incapable of experiencing emotion. Sure, the animal emotions may not be the same as ours, but I would be willing to bet that they are pretty darned close.

So you Evangelicals who want to follow the example of your Jesus and put the kibosh on human feelings in general and love in particular, you go right ahead and do it. But I hope that you don’t mind if the rest of us celebrate this Valentine’s Day by celebrating this crazy, wonderful thing called love. After all, it is love that makes this poor weary world go round, and also makes our drab, tired lives worth living.

As Popeye said in one of his cartoons, you can catch more flies with sweetness than you can with sour puss. You Evangelicals and your Jesus would do well to try to learn this fact.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.

Bill

 

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Music, Religion | , | Leave a comment