There’s a Time to Retire

This anecdote was posted on my first blog on June 14, 2012:

Lotte Lehmann became a famous opera singer just before WWI and performed a total of 93 roles in her career.  She retired from the opera in 1951 and became a music teacher for over twenty years.

One day she was visiting with an up-and-coming young soprano who remarked sympathetically that “It must be terrible for a great singer like you to realize you’ve lost your voice.”

“Not at all,” the older lady replied. “It would be terrible indeed if I didn’t realize it.”

To everything there is a season… including a time to quit – before you become an affliction rather than a delight to your audience.

That Squealing Second Pig

Ideology Meets Reality

I was reading an interesting anecdote yesterday which reminded me a lot of a story my mother-in-law would tell. The central character in yesterday’s tale was a Frenchman and tells how he gave up on Communism. When he discovered that, if/when Communism came into effect in France, he was going to lose half the francs he had saved, he dropped out of the Party.

Coins equal.Kevin schneider
Image: Kevin Schneider at Pixabay

The tale Mom told must have been adapted to the Canadian prairies. Apparently back in the 1920s and 30s, the goals of Communism sounded quite noble and had a fair bit of appeal to some average working people. Mom said it was quite common to hear people going on about how communism could make the world — or at least some people’s lot in life so much better.

As mom told it, two farmers were visiting and the one — I’ll call him Percy — was going on enthusiastically about how things would change for the better once the Communists took over in this country. Which they surely would, he assured his neighbour. I’ll call him Bert.

“There’ll be no more poverty, no more crime,” Percy was saying. “Everyone will work for the good of all. Everything will be shared equally. All those farmers with big herds and lots of land will have to share with the guy who has none.”

“So what you’re saying is that, if you had ten sheep you’d give me five,” Bert asked.

“That’s right.”

“And if you had four cows, you’d give me two?”

“Sure thing. That’s exactly how Communism will work. Everyone will have the same,” Percy assured him.

“And if you had two pigs, you’d give me one.”

“Yes, of course I… Now hold on here, Bert! You know I have two pigs!”

According to Mom, this was where Communism as a theory ran smack into the reality of human nature. People who have nothing are quite ready to receive, but as soon as they have to give up something themselves — like their second pig — the whole scheme breaks down.

In more recent years I read the account of a girl in the eastern States whose parents, along with many others during the 1930s, were so enthused about this ideology that they sent their children to a summer camp where socialism was taught and practiced as a model for future society. (Or where children would be indoctrinated, if you want to be a skeptic.)

The children at this camp would receive packages from their parents at home, and the rule of the camp was: “Whatever you get, you share with the others in your cabin.” One day she received a package from home and opened it. Her eyes lit up. Among other things her mother had sent along the girl’s favorite candy bar.

She reached for it eagerly, then thought about the sharing rule. She imagined her bar split six ways; it would give each of the cabin mates — herself included — a very small piece. Yes, she was supposed to share. But it was her bar; her mother sent it for her. Furtively she slipped it into her sweater pocket and hurried outside behind the cabin. Renouncing socialism, she ate the whole bar herself — and enjoyed every last bite.

Almost all of us seem to recognize that some government-enforced “public sharing” (like income tax) is necessary to keep things running efficiently. Communes may work for a time because membership is — at least initially — a voluntary thing. But Communism, that great theory of universal brotherhood and sharing, has proven unsuitable to human nature. And human nature has been a fairly constant thing through the years. 🙂

Gladiator Mouse

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

You had to admire the little guy’s spunk. With no means of defense, pitted against an enemy twenty times his size, he was putting up a brave fight.

He was only a mouse captured in the claws of our family cat, but he wasn’t taking this lying down. For a moment the cat let him go and took a step back; instead of running away squeaking in terror, the mouse stood up on his haunches, jumped as high as his little legs could send him and tried to bite the cat’s face.

Whoa, I thought: Kamikaze mouse! Another Reepicheep, lacking only the sword.

For a few minutes I watched the unfair contest. The cat would bat the mouse around and he fought back as best he could, rushing toward the cat, trying to scratch it or nip it with his tiny teeth. I actually felt enough sympathy for the gutsy little gladiator that I might have picked up my cat and removed him from the conflict – had the arena been elsewhere.

However, the battle was going on right beside my garden where I surely did NOT want a mouse to find refuge. At one point he made a dash for freedom under a tomato plant but the cat snagged him and carried him off. I walked away and let nature take its course.

Later on I saw his lifeless body lying on the lawn. Well, at least he died trying.

As Christians, we have an adversary, a foe much greater than we. The Bible describes him as cunning and ruthless, opposed to all that is godly:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith…” I Peter 5:8

Yet we are told, “Don’t just lie there and whimper when the devil rakes you with his claws. Get up and fight back.” And we think, Are you serious?

We feel the devil’s hot breath on our neck at times as he sends us evil thoughts, temptations, depression, negative feelings about ourselves, wounded pride, anger, misunderstandings. Maybe we are inclined to wring our hands and say: ”Why are we troubled with these thoughts?” or “Why do I feel the way I do?”

As surely as cats hunt mice, our adversary will attack us. The Bible tells us that Satan is determined to decimate us, to dissuade us from following the Lord, by terror or temptation. Unlike defenseless mice, however, we have God’s promise that resistance pays.