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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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FINDING MEANING IN THE MUDDLE

Life sometimes seems to be one big muddle. Webster's Universal Dictionary and Thesaurus defines muddle as (verb) "to confuse or to mix up" and (noun) "confusion, mess." Sounds like life to me —sometimes more mess than meaning, more confusing than clear. Morally speaking, America is definitely in a muddle. Just today (Thursday, May 15, 2008) California's Supreme Court overruled a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in that state and will now allow it. Fifty years ago the homosexual lifestyle was designated "queer" by many if not most Americans. Now it's "gay" and to call it "queer" is to practice "hate speech," intolerance, prejudice, and "homophobia." People who consider themselves as holding the high moral ground equate those who oppose homosexual practices with prejudiced white people who opposed civil rights for black Americans in the 20th century. Along with such practices as abortion and adultery, homosexuality used to be considered immoral, indecent, illogical, and in some cases illegal. But that was before the days of the so-called "sexual revolution" which led to "sexual freedoms" and "sexual preferences" which have now led us to sexual anarchy. And to judges who are politically correct but morally mixed up. Yep — as a culture, we find ourselves hopelessly lost in a moral muddle.

Then, the circumstances of life can leave us feeling like life is one big mixed-up mess. In the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1ff, life bounces back and forth (often uncontrollably) between contrasting and conflicting seasons and times in our lives. Solomon sees life as a muddle of experiences that includes times of "birth and death, planting and plucking up...killing and healing, breaking down and building up, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing...gaining and losing, keeping and throwing away...loving and hating, war and peace." Current headlines remind us life on earth is a muddle. They include war and terrorism, volatility in the stock market, economic uncertainty, and skyrocketing gasoline prices.

Recently, cyclones in Myanmar and a devastating earthquake in China snuffed out the lives of 10's if not 100's of thousands of people, including many students and children. Closer to home, personal struggles leave our hearts aching and our brains struggling to find meaning and make sense of it all. You may find yourself agreeing with the 20th century French philosopher Albert Camus who said life is a bad joke. But before you give up, listen to Solomon again — 'He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." Solomon found meaning in the muddle and clarity in confusion, not by denying God or leaving Him out, but by bringing Him in. Solomon admits faith won't eliminate all of life's mysteries or clear up all its confusion. But he also insists faith helps us find meaning in the muddle. As a beautiful song says, "Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand. But I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand" ("I Know Who Holds Tomorrow" by Ira. F. Stanphill).

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ