Straight

When I want to draw a straight line—the old fashioned way—with a pencil, I use a ruler. Sometimes, if I can’t find a ruler (Where do they run off to?) I might take a short-cut and use some sort of “straight edge,” the cover of a book or the cardboard bottom of a notepad. But if I have lots of straight lines to draw (designing a set for a play, etc.), I need to find that ruler. In fact, I will even dig out my trusty graph paper with straight lines aplenty. The abundance of the straight lines available to me, allows my creativity to bend and curve in proportion to the space available.

It is ironic but true that straight thinking by the established rules makes for intriguing shapes that are also useful and beautiful designs that also function. The beauty of the curved line is found in its reference to the straight line.

As a writer, I want to write with vivid imagery so I am always looking for the curved line that catches the eye and captures the attention of the reader. I could say what I want to say with a straight line—a simple sentence—without image or device. Chances are my message would fall on deaf eyes, so to speak.

Sometimes there isn’t time for all that.

The Poet prays to His God for straight lines!

“…make your way straight before me.”

He was in trouble, as these poets of the Psalms so often were. He didn’t need nuance—he needed news—straight up, we might say. He needed the essence, not the ornaments, the meat and not the potatoes—well, you get the point.

The Ruler with Ten Marks
In the USA we like twelve marks on our rulers—12 inches to the foot. Ancient Israel had ten marks—ten simple laws that formed the foundation of a meaningful life. Later, lots of details of the Covenant with God would be added but they all were applications of the ten, The Ten Commandments. They summarize easily.

  • You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me
  • You Shall Not Take The Name Of The Lord Your God In Vain
  • Remember The Sabbath Day, To Keep It Holy
  • Honor Your Father And Your Mother
  • You Shall Not Murder
  • You Shall Not Commit Adultery
  • You Shall Not Steal
  • You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor
  • You Shall Not Covet

Theologians call this the Decalogue.

The Two Great Commandments
Jesus made a New Covenant, revealing that even these ten marks of righteousness could be summarized by two Great Commandments:

  • Love God, and
  • Love people.

Life hangs, to use the word Jesus used, on these two. All the beautiful arcs and swirls of life that make it fun and beautiful hang on straight lines.

Not complicated. Not confusing. Not easy, but simple, direct, and straight.

Scriptures:
Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my meditation. Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I make my prayer to you. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you. For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, and evil cannot dwell with you. Braggarts cannot stand in your sight; you hate all those who work wickedness. You destroy those who speak lies; the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O Lord, you abhor. But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house; I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness, because of those who lie in wait for me; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; there is destruction in their heart; Their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Declare them guilty, O God; let them fall, because of their schemes. Because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But all who take refuge in you will be glad; they will sing out their joy forever. You will shelter them, so that those who love your Name may exult in you. For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.
Psalm 27:11-14 NIV
Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Proverbs 15:21 NIV
Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.
Isaiah 30:21-22; 40:3 NIV
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
Luke 13:24 KJV
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You gave me a love for beauty, for variations on a theme, for invention and graceful innovation, for the lovely arcs and swirls of truth. I am reminded today that beneath those endless embellishments are the straight lines from which they emanate. While I sing all the verses, each one a gem of creativity, help me love the chorus, too, as it is the same every time we sing it. Lord, don’t let my variations hide the theme, but enhance it. As winding as my course through life may be, help my every step to be a straight one, never moving an inch from Your good, pleasing and perfect will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Song:
Just a Closer Walk with Thee
Traditional

1. I am weak, but Thou art strong,
Jesus, keep me from all wrong,
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain:
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

2. Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Refrain

3. When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more,
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom’s shore, to Thy shore.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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