When the Watch Stops
I don’t get real excited when I have to go to the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong, if I have something special I want to make or I have a craving for something to eat, I don’t mind going to the grocery store then. But going for a whole week’s supply of food involves way too much thinking.
The other thing that bothers me about grocery stores is that there always seems to be someone standing in front of the product I want to get or where I want to see what the selections are. That wouldn’t be too bad, if the person standing there would just pick their product and move on. That doesn’t usually happen with me. Most of the time it is like they have this sense about them that I just want to get my product and move on. They seem to enjoy the power they have over that space. Almost in an act of defiance, they just prolong their residence there even longer.
The other thing that annoys me is when the aisle is blocked by two carts or people who refuse to move. Of course, that is the aisle most of the items you need are on. It could even be two people talking in the aisle not even looking for food.
Then there are the parents with the kids. I think if I hear one more time, “Johnnie, don’t make me count to three…” I’m going to explode. What’s even worse is the parent who just totally ignores the screaming or crying child. It’s like they’re saying, “Welcome to my world.” I’m sorry, I didn’t come to the grocery store to be part of “your world.” Then there are the parents that say, “No sweetie, we aren’t going to get that pack of cookies.” You can almost always count to 50 and those cookies will be in their cart.
Once you think all your pain is over, then you have to head to the checkout counter. There are never enough registers open. If you use the self-checkout, you are either going to have a bar code that is messed up or you forget what type of pepper it is that you are purchasing.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. The unveiling of his statue was about to happen. It was forty-five years after his death and a few days past what would have been his 110th birthday. Just two years before, Governor Samuel Felker, a Democrat, realized that his election was a fluke. He pushed through the idea of a statue to honor his state’s only President.
Work was completed on the statue on October 15th, shortly before the next gubernatorial election. The statue was unveiled on November 25th. The Republicans finally consented to have it placed on the very edge of the State House lawn. Shortly thereafter, Felker turned over the keys to the governor’s mansion to the new governor, Republican Rolland Spaulding.
If you think about it, it is really sad. Here your state has only had one resident President born, and die, in your state, and he wasn’t even given a parade or even a welcome home celebration when he left office. Forty-five years after his death, that same state was even arguing whether he even deserved a statue in the first place.
The other very sad part of the equations is, in my searches, other than this statue, I can only find one other public statue of this President. That other statue is in Rapid City, South Dakota. That statue there isn’t so much to honor this President as it is to honor all the former Presidents.
Former history teacher Don Perdue, who was also a big fan of the arts, roused up support for Rapid City to put up a statue for all the former Presidents. So in 2000, Rapid City launched the City of Presidents project. Over the next ten years they would put up a statue for each of the former Presidents.
The view on top of the mountain must have been beautiful. It was probably cooler at that attitude. A light breeze might have made it even cooler. He might have been the most famous mountain climber in the whole Bible. There was just something about the mountains.
He wasn’t originally from the mountains. In fact, he was more coastal as a child. He was also the adopted child of royalty. So, not only was he not from the mountains, he was more of an educated city individual.
I’m sure royalty has its perks, but it wasn’t all he was looking for in his life. Something inside him was missing and he knew not how to fill that hole. He was determined to find “his people” and be part of that group again. But “his people” rejected him. There was nothing left to do but to leave town and “find himself.”
So our Bible character headed east. He found a wife and started a family. There was still something missing, though. Then God made it clear to him that He wanted him to go back to “his people” and lead them. Their rejection still stung. He didn’t want to do it.
I’m sure we all have met very stubborn people before, but there is no match in the stubbornness game compared to God’s stubbornness. Our Bible character would soon give up his objections and listen to God.
It was Saturday and it was time to do our weekly grocery shopping. My wife was in another part of the store. I turned the corner to the produce section. I had just left the deli to get my lunch meat for the week. My wife told me to look for one more type of fruit for my lunches.
It was as I passed the oranges that I noticed it. It was a shopping cart. No one was around the cart. I quickly looked inside the cart and noticed some of the items. There were three different packs of soft drinks. There were a couple of boxes of cereal and some canned vegetables. I didn’t want to be too nosey, so I moved on to the task at hand.
You might be wondering what I was doing looking into someone else’s shopping cart. I guess I should start at the beginning of the shopping trip. That might take a little of the weird factor out of it.
Just a few steps into our entrance to the grocery store, my wife and I heard someone yelling in the produce section: “Call 911! Call 911!” The man doing the yelling rushed to the floor where another man was having a seizure. I have never felt so helpless in all my life. As I stood there, almost in shock, I thought back to all the first aid classes I’d taken over the years, but nothing was coming to me.
A crowd soon gathered. A half dozen store employees, with walkie-talkies, rushed to the scene. They looked almost as confused as I was. Soon someone came out of the crowd and said she was a nurse. I nudged my wife and said, “I think they have got it under control and there are enough people standing around watching.” So it was off to do our grocery shopping.
As I was standing at the meat deli, the man that had the seizure had long since gone. I’m really not sure what happened to him. I don’t know if he went away in an ambulance or if someone just came and got him. As I stood at the meat counter I could see over into the produce section. The last little bit of cleanup over his attack was complete and the final two employees left the scene.
It was as I was heading to get my fruit that I noticed the man’s shopping cart. The groceries were still in it, like he was just in the store looking for something else. Of course, he wasn’t. I thought for a moment about life.
One may look at our headlines today and think, “How have we gotten so divided?” Protests and displays of disgust seem to be the popular trend. People with beliefs on the other side of these protests hint at a blatant disrespect for our nation’s history and a breakdown of moral respect. Can a nation that seems to only have self-interest long survive? Can freedoms and differences of opinion coexist?
In a sense, our frustrations with our society stretched all the way back to our beginnings. Our unresolved differences have festered. Compromise has given way to a stubbornness not to move an inch on our opinions. Then compromise becomes some kind of dirty word that can only be attached to the weak.
South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks was probably a poster child for those frustrations boiling over. His response followed “The Crime against Kansas” speech delivered by Senator Charles Sumner. Sumner’s speech, and his deeply entrenched abolitionist view, compared Brooks’ cousin’s, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler’s, views on the pro-slavery agenda towards Kansas with that of raping of a virgin.
Brooks was none too happy with Sumner’s speech about his cousin and the next day he raced to the Senate floor. He found Sumner sitting at his desk in the Senate chamber and he picked up his cane and nearly beat Sumner to death. The North and the South had just one more reason to hate each other.
Sumner’s speech came about because of a situation called Bleeding Kansas. Basically, pro-slavery and abolitionist forces rushed to populate Kansas to influence whether it would enter the Union as a free or slave state. The pro-slavery side seemed to win out and fighting broke out. John Brown, and his violent abolitionist forces, invaded the territory.
Where was the President, Franklin Pierce, in all this? Even though he was from New Hampshire and he never owned a slave, Pierce seemed to side with the pro-slavery side. He didn’t seem to interfere with what was going on because the pro-slavery side seemed to have the upper hand.
Basically, Pierce did nothing and the Civil War moved closer because of his inaction. Pierce did not believe the South should succeed, but his inactions did nothing but encourage that prospect.
After the Civil War was over, and it had been a long time since Pierce was President, Lincoln died. A period of mourning was declared after Lincoln’s death. Pierce’s neighbors, in New Hampshire, where he was now living, formed a mob and headed toward Pierce’s home because he refused to raise his flag as a public mourning gesture.
An angry Pierce came out to face the crowd. He said he was saddened by Lincoln’s death and the crowd had some nerve questioning his patriotism. He had spent most of his life in the military and in public service. The crowd seemed satisfied and dispensed without incident.
God put many obstacles in Moses’ path in order to make him a great leader. He had to convince a very stubborn Pharaoh to let “his people” go. Even when he did, Moses had to learn on the job how to move this large group of people. Then when the Pharaoh decided to chase them and bring them back, Moses had to learn how to defend this large group of people.
Even when the Pharaoh wasn’t pursuing them, Moses was always dealing with a griping, unappreciative crowd. The long journey through the wilderness never seemed to end.
But Moses found his relief, his inspiration, his relaxation, in the mountains. He would climb into the mountains and talk to God Himself. His conversations gave him a glow. They renewed his spirit. Yes, the mountains are where Moses found peace.
Yet, for the task that Moses was called, leading this large group to the Promised Land, he would end up one step short of the goal. God would not let him step into the Promised Land. Instead, Moses would climb the mountain, one last time, by himself. There was no one there to hold his hand when he died on top of the mountain.
Moses, perhaps the greatest leader in the Bible, wouldn’t be there to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. He looked over the land from on top of the mountain. The breeze blew on his back. The reflections filled his soul. A peace overcame him as God lifted him up into heaven.
The world didn’t stop when Moses died. God’s goal of getting the Israelites to the Promised Land didn’t end on Moses’ death. The whole crowd didn’t stand around, in sorrow, wondering what to do. No, after a brief period of mourning, life moved on and a new leader, Joshua, emerged.
Sometimes our world is full of thoughts of our inconveniences or our troubles. The aisle is blocked. Our leader has died on top of the mountain. Our President doesn’t seem to stand up to those we think are evil. Kids are acting up. The crowd is confused. A mob forms. Someone is standing in front of an item we want. Our vision has been dashed. Our country seems to be going down the tubes. The line is so long. The wilderness is so scary. The statue doesn’t need to be built. The world has a lot of nerve trying to slow us down. The world has a lot of nerve not giving us any clear direction.
Over in the corner sits a cart, the mountain in the distance, the statue at the edge of the State House. A cart full of groceries, a heart full of hope, or a dream of a legacy having no one there to push it forward. Who will claim the groceries now? You see, the groceries are still going to be here even after the shopper is gone. The trail ahead is still going to be in front of us even on the leader’s passing. Those dramatic events that fill the news may be around for ages.
Our life isn’t about the groceries or even the grocery store shopping. The leader’s shadows are not always going to give us a place to hide. Our life’s accomplishments will probably never demand a statue. They are part of the world and to be part of God’s kingdom, we all must one day step out of that world and leave our shopping carts for someone else.
Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, Thank you for letting me reside in Your creation. I know my stay here is brief, but please let me never become so attached to this world that I forget that my real home is in Your heavenly kingdom. Amen.