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The Greatest Saints

May we be those saints who daily give thanks with all our hearts

for God’s wonderful deeds (Psalm 9:1).

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Art credit: http://www.canva.com

A Taste of Heaven

Ask a group of people to name a taste of heaven and likely answers will include a favorite meal, a beloved quiet spot, or a happy get-together with family and friends.

But British minister William Romaine (1714-1795) suggested a different way to experience a taste of heaven that doesn’t involve cooking, traveling, or gathering.  His recommendation:  gratitude to God.

Gratitude to God

makes even a temporal blessing

a taste of heaven.

–William Romaine

Such tastes of heaven are not few and far between either. During every one of the 1,440 minutes of each day, blessings descend, including such privileges as:

  • Just getting out of bed in the morning and being able to move about
  • enjoying the privilege of communicating with others–including with God himself
  • receiving adequate strength to fulfill the day’s responsibilities
  • taking in helpful information and experiencing delight through our five senses
  • encouraging others with kindness and increasing our own joy in the process

Though none of these are rare blessings, they still hold great value.

If you remember the dignity of the Giver,

no gift will seem small or mean,

for nothing can be valueless that is

given by the most high God.

–Thomas á Kempis

Not only do the gifts themselves hold value, they demonstrate the depth and value of God’s gracious love toward us—when we’re grateful for them. 

To be grateful is to recognize

the love of God in everything He has given us—

and He has given us everything.

Every breath we draw is a gift of His love,

every moment of existence is a grace,

for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

–Thomas Merton

Therefore, we’d do well to follow the advice of nineteenth-century Scottish minister and author J. R. MacDuff: 

Little did Reverend MacDuff know what secular researchers would discover about gratitude a century beyond his lifetime. The benefits include more than a sense of well-being.  Grateful people enjoy:

  • Better sleep
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved mental health
  • Increased optimism
  • Better relationships*

In addition, a few discerning Christ-followers have noted:

1. Gratitude soothes over the irritations of life as attention is directed away from trouble and toward the blessings that remain.

We would worry less if we praised more. 

Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.

–Harry Ironside (1876-1951),

pastor, author, theologian

In other words, a grateful heart is a contented and satisfied heart.  Doesn’t that sound like a taste of heaven?

2. “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter every day epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world” (John Milton).

Every day epiphanies?  Transcendent moments of awe? These too sound like glorious tastes of heaven.

3. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life” (Melody Beattie) . . . as we begin to see the wealth we already own, the blessings we already enjoy, the prayers God has already answered.

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies;

but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and,

as the magnet finds iron, so it will find in every hour,

some heavenly blessings!”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Imagine naming a blessing for each iron shaving here!

In this week leading up to Thanksgiving 2021, what tastes of heaven are you enjoying? Please share a sample with us in the comment section below!

* https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-gratitude-practice#takeaway

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org.

Hound of Heaven

“Father, please try to understand. I cannot go back to medical school. I’m not well-suited to be a doctor.” Francis looked hopefully into his father’s eyes. Perhaps this discussion would finally convince Father to let him follow his heart’s desire:  to become a writer.

“Son, you’ve spent six years in training,” began his father, a physician himself. “It would be foolish to throw away all that time and effort. Besides, think of the security provided by a position in the medical field. If you pursue this notion of becoming a writer, there is no guarantee of success or even a steady income.”

Once again, father and son had reached an impasse. And so, with only a few coins in his pocket, Francis set out on his own.  He traveled more than 220 miles to London, found a job as a bookseller, and wrote in earnest as time permitted. The year was 1885.

Francis’ health began to suffer and he lost one job after another until he ended up selling matches in the Whitechapel slums of London’s East End.

That barely provided food much less rent.  Soon Francis was homeless. To make matters worse, he found himself addicted to the opium he had first taken for relief of neuralgia pain. At one point he attempted suicide.

In 1887 Francis sent some of his poems, “scribbled on sugar paper,”[1] to Wilfred Meynell, the editor of a journal, Merrie England. Meynell was highly impressed, in spite of the humble presentation, and agreed to publish them. But the proceeds were meager.

The following year Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of Whitechapel. Francis did what he could to protect the murderer’s would-be victims, the prostitutes of the make-shift brothels. Perhaps it was one of these women who saw Francis collapse in the street one day.  She allowed him to stay with her and even cared for him for a while. (Francis later referred to her as his “savior,” though he never revealed her identity.)

When the publisher Meynell discovered Francis’ dire circumstances, he arranged for the young poet to live at a monastery where he could regain his health and overcome his addiction. The process took five years. As Francis began to heal physically, Meynell and his wife helped Francis renew his faith in God. Sometimes as he walked the peaceful grounds of the monastery, Francis would become overwhelmed by God’s grace to save him, and he’d break out into songs of praise.

(Perhaps scenes such as this caused Francis’ outbursts of praise.)

During this time Francis continued to write—poetry, essays, and short stories—including his most famous work, “The Hound of Heaven.” The autobiographical poem recounts his experience of being lost and God’s persistent pursuit of him.

“Hound of Heaven” begins:

I fled Him down the nights and down the days

I fled Him down the arches of the years

I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears.

(Such a monastery chapel as this may have inspired line 2 above.)

Later in the poem Francis described God’s pursuit:

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after

But with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

They beat–and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet–

‘All things betray thee who betrayest Me.’

Another section provides God’s explanation for removing certain pleasures from the speaker’s life, because they were leading him in the wrong direction. God’s purpose was to guide him toward choosing the right path.

In the end God tells the speaker that “the happiness he sought by running away was following him all the time” (Cummings).[2] And the darkness of deprivation had been but “the shadow of the Divine hand stretched over him in love” (Blamires).[3]

Once Francis had regained his health in 1893, the Meynells invited him to stay with them. That same year Meynell helped Francis publish his first book of poems. “Hound of Heaven” was included.

“It was immediately recognized as a masterpiece.”[4] One critic called it “one of the great odes of which the English language can boast.”[5]

Over the ensuing years, “Hound of Heaven” was praised by such respected authors as Oscar Wilde, G. K. Chesterton, Eugene O’Neill, and J. R. R. Tolkien. O’Neill showed his high respect for the poem by memorizing it—all 182 lines. Chesterton said, “it is the most magnificent poem ever written in English,” to which Tolkien responded that Chesterton wasn’t giving the poem the credit it deserved.[6]

Francis Thompson subsequently became a well-known, respected poet, essayist, and spiritual writer. But his health suffered due to the hardship of those years in Whitechapel, and he succumbed to tuberculosis in 1907 at the age of 47.

Across the decades since his homegoing to heaven, Francis would surely have us remember these words of the apostle Paul:

Notes:

[1] https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/heavens-hound-got-francis-thompson-11630688.html

[2] https://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides3/hound.html

[3] Harry Blamires as quoted in Oxley, The Hound of Heaven: A Modern Adaptation, 81, as quoted by

www.hopechristianchurch.org

[4] http://houndofheaven.com/product/the-hound-of-heaven-the-story-of-francis-thompson/

[5] https://www.patheos.com/catholic/hound-of-heaven-pat-mcnamara-07-10-2012

[6] https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/is-hound-of-heaven-a-name-for-god/

Additional  Sources:

  1. https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/601/faith-focus/poet-return-god
  2. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/opium-addict-and-derelict-the-extraordinary-life-of-francis-thompson-christian-poet/130930.htm
  3. http://www.teleiaphilia.com/a-modern-adaptation-of-thompsons-hound-of-heaven/
  4. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/undergraduate/modules/fulllist/second/en227/texts/thompson-hound.pdf

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.canva.com.

From Earth and Sky

The psalmists of old seemed to have a favorite metaphor for God: Rock. You’ll find the imagery used twenty-nine times.  Sometimes the writers included reasons why this was a meaningful comparison for them; sometimes they included synonyms:

  • “The Lord is my rock, my fortress” (18:2)
  • “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my  stronghold” (also 18:2)
  • “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (61:2)
  • “God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe” (62:2 CEV)
  • “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come” (71:3 NASB)

David seemed especially fond of this metaphor, perhaps because he spent months hiding from King Saul in the rocky terrain of the Judean wilderness. Psalm 57 was written specifically when he escaped into a cave. It may have been the characteristics of the rock walls surrounding him that brought to mind descriptors of God—solid, strong, protective, and unchanging.

Perhaps a cave such as this hid David and his men.
Might such a formation as this have provided the inspiration behind
“Be the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2)?

Later when he became king, David composed Psalm 18, probably after the numerous battle victories summarized in 2 Samuel 8.  Four times in that psalm he extolled God as his Rock.

In the New Testament we find Jesus’ parable about a foolish man building his house on sand, and a wise man building his house on rock. The point is clear: God is a reliable foundation-Rock on which to build our lives.  He provides:

  • solid, trustworthy wisdom for decisions 
  • strength and power for life’s challenges
  • protection from our arch enemy, Satan
  • unchanging reliability, faithfulness, and love—to name a few unfailing attributes
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise,
like a person who builds a house on solid rock” Matthew 7:24.
(House in Meteora, Greece.)

One of my favorite examples of Bible imagery is found in Philippians 2:15.  To understand the context though, we have to start reading at verse fourteen:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

so that you may become blameless and pure,

children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

as you hold firmly to the word of life.

–Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Isn’t that a glorious statement in the fourth line above?  We can shine into the darkness of the world like stars as we allow the Spirit to foster purity within us!

Ngc 3603 Nebula Cluster Of Stars

Now why would letter-writer Paul choose stars to make his point? Perhaps their beauty reminded him: with kindness, patience, joy, and more we can bring beauty to the world around us–a world darkened by selfishness, greed, and hatred.

Paul would also have known about using stars for navigation.  As far back as 3000 B.C. ancient Minoans were using constellations to navigate the Mediterranean Sea (1).  Perhaps Paul connected the starlight to God’s wisdom shining in mature believers, enabling them to provide guidance to those around them.

But now, centuries later, we know more about stars than Paul did and further comparisons can be drawn:

Stars shine by burning hydrogen into helium in their cores.  We shine as the Holy Spirit burns away the dross in our lives—those unbecoming traits like pride, negativity, and ingratitude. That’s when we can become radiant.

One prominent star in the evening sky of Fall and Winter is Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), which is 19 quadrillion miles from earth.  The gleam we see left Deneb about 1500 light years ago in 521 A.D (2). The gleam of our lives can also achieve far-reaching effect as one life touches another which touches another, and then another . . . ad infinitum.

Stars not only create beauty but fulfill function.  They manufacture and distribute into the universe such elements as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen (3). As we shine like stars in our circles of influence, we too fulfill function, manufacturing and distributing such elements as goodness, encouragement, and helpfulness.

From earth and sky come these two insightful examples of biblical imagery:  rock and stars.

Do you see the connection between the two? As you plant yourself on the firm Rock of Almighty God and shine for him like a star . . .

. . . YOU are a Rock star!

Notes:

  1. https://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/navigation/
  2. https://earthsky.org/space/ten-things-you-may-not-know-about-stars/
  3. https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/how-do-stars-from-and-evolve

Photo credits: http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

Eyes That See

Sanders’ statement above begs the question:  where might seeing eyes focus?  No doubt there are a number of areas, but for today, let’s look at—or rather, see (!)–just two:

Seeing Eyes Focus on the Evidence of God

First, all areas of science from astronomy to zoology are grounded upon such laws of nature as gravity, the 24-hour cycle of light and dark, and the evaporation / condensation cycle of water.  Such regularities beg the question, why is everything in the universe so structured?

“There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules,”[1] and yet it clearly does. Someone had to give order to what would otherwise be chaos.

Second, the more cytologists study the structure of cells, the more complexities they discover. Even so, five years ago they did create a cell with 473 genes.  However, they have a long way to go to match God’s engineering skills.  The single-cell organism, E. coli bacteria, contains 4,000 genes; a human cell, 30,000.[2] 

Third, all around us are examples of God’s artistry, but, “for lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.”[3]  Such loveliness—right outside our door–includes:

  • A sunrise back-lighting the tree-tops
  • Ethereal mist swathing the woods’ undergrowth
  • Dewdrop jewels sparkling in the grass
  • Scampering squirrels making thin tree limbs dance
  • Hydrangeas transforming their finery from shell pink to deep salmon

And seeing eyes turn heavenward in worship.

Seeing Eyes See People

Perhaps a true story will illustrate best:

There I stood over my son’s open suitcase, staring at the tag on his new school uniform pants. They were the wrong size. J. needed those pants the very next morning when all the sixth graders of his school would head to Washington D. C. for a three-day field trip. 

We’d ordered those pants the previous week when the uniform store didn’t have his size in stock.  They’d arrived on Saturday, but I never checked the tag till that moment. A glance at my watch confirmed:  if we left immediately, we might arrive at Harris Prep Shop (a half hour away) before it closed.

But a long night lay ahead with another hour added to the agenda. And what if they still didn’t have J.’s size?  Several scenarios played in my mind while I called the store.

Mrs. Harris apologized for the mix-up, then informed me a shipment had arrived that morning, including pants. I told her we’d get there ASAP, but it would take thirty minutes.

“Wait a minute,” she replied.  Her voice became muffled while she spoke to someone else, then came back to me. 

“Mrs. Ruegg?  There’s another mom here from your school, and she says she’ll pick up the pants for you. You can return the others another time.”

“Oh—that would be fantastic!” I cried.  “What’s her address?  I’ll meet her there.”

More muffled conversation ensued, then Mrs. Harris relayed, “She says, give her your address and she’ll drop them off.”

An hour of precious time was suddenly regained by this thoughtful mother.  Granted, she didn’t see my eyes widen upon discovering the size-tag, or my brows furrow as I fretted over several less-than-satisfactory solutions to our dilemma.

This woman was able to see me across the miles with the eyes of empathy and responded with gracious kindness.

Now that kind of sight is rare indeed.


[1] https://www.everystudent.com/features/is-there-a-god.html

[2] https://kenboa.org/apologetics/scientific-evidence-of-gods-existence/; https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2021/03/scientists-create-simple-synthetic-cell-grows-and-divides-normally

[3] Evelyn Underhill

Art & photo credits: http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixaby.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.facebook.com; http://www.piqsels.com.

No Matter

Fixate on current events and become anxious.

Consider the bleak projections for the future and become fearful.

Dwell on your own struggles and become discouraged.

Focus on personal inadequacies and become doubtful.

Mull over regrets and become guilt-ridden.

Contemplate fading dreams and become despondent.

Permit negativity free reign and become depressed.

How easy it is to drift away from the truths that provide prosperity of soul.

We must choose to remember the following.

NO MATTER what we see happening, no matter the fear beginning to build, we can affirm: “For every visible reason for terror, there is an invisible and immensely more powerful reason for trust.” [1]

O Lord, God of our ancestors,

you alone are the God who is in heaven.

You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth.

You are powerful and mighty;

no one can stand against you!

–2 Chronicles 20:6 NLT

NO MATTER that we may not know the way forward; we do know the loving, all-powerful, and trustworthy Way Maker who has promised:

NO MATTER that life is a struggle right now, God will use it for good.  “There is coming a day [when] . . . We will have the glorious truth of our difficult ‘now’ laid out before us in a way that makes perfect sense, that will leave us panting a breathless ‘hallelujah’ for the process we’ve walked to get there.” [2]

“You do not realize now what I am doing,

but later you will understand.”

–John 13:7

NO MATTER how inadequate you feel because of failures, shortcomings, and doubts, you must remember:  “Weakness . . . is the very thing that qualifies you. Never mind your feelings of inadequacy; it is God’s work, not yours. 

“Simply make yourself available, and let go of any need to impress others, or prove yourself worthy, or achieve ‘success.’  What matters is that God has chosen you, and that God claims you as His own.” [3]

NO MATTER what you’ve done, “You no longer have to fear the consequences of your past, for your sovereign God promises that he will cause everything in your life to work together for your good and Christlikeness.” [4]

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven. . .

. . . Blessed is the one whose sin

 the Lord will never count against them.”

–Romans 4:7-8

NO MATTER that your dreams may be fading; “the death of your dream [is] not the death of God’s dreams for [you].” [5]

NO MATTER that circumstances conspire to steal your joy, you can . . . “Begin to rejoice in the Lord and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness. Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! Joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power.” [6]

“Do not be worried,

for the joy of the Lord

is your strength and your stronghold.”

Nehemiah 8:10 AMP

NO MATTER the uncertainties and challenges of life, we have an all-powerful, wise and caring Companion for the journey, who provides all we need to experience prosperity of soul.

Stanza #3 from “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” by Elisha A. Hoffman

[1] Elisabeth Elliot, These Bold Ashes, 11.

[2] F. Elaine Olson, Peace for the Journey, 101.

[3] Brother David Vryhof

[4] Kay Arthur, His Imprint, My Expression, 274 and Romans 8:28.

[5] Tasha June, Take Heart, 25.

[6] A. B. Simpson

Photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.www.pixfuel.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg.

God of the Unexpected

Imagine tagging along with the disciples during Christ’s ministry, listening to his teaching, watching his encounters, witnessing his miracles. 

One day your group encounters two blind men along the roadside in Capernaum.  The sightless men cry out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus touches their eyes, and instantly the two men can see (Matthew 9:27-31). After a collective gasp, everyone bursts into cheers and joyful laughter.

On a second occasion outside the town of Bethsaida, some people bring another sightless man to Jesus.  Perhaps he’s heard what happened to the two blind men of Capernaum, because he too begs Jesus to touch him and heal his blindness.  But that’s not what Jesus does.  Instead, he spits on the man’s eyes and then puts his hands on him. 

Even a second touch is added to restore this man to full sight (Mark 8:22-26). Amidst the celebrating for this miracle you wonder, Why did Jesus spit on this man’s eyes when one touch healed the blind man in Capernaum?

On a third occasion as Jesus and your entourage leave Jericho, you encounter yet another blind man, Bartimaeus.  Will Jesus touch him and/or spit on the man’s eyes to heal him?  Neither. Jesus simply speaks to the beggar and his sight is restored (Mark 10:46-52). Your bewilderment grows deeper still.

And then while in Jerusalem, Jesus heals a fifth blind man.  By now you’ve given up trying to predict what the Master might do.  Even so you blink in surprise as Jesus spits on the ground, makes a bit of mud, spreads it on the blind man’s eyes, and instructs him to go wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:1-9). You catch yourself before throwing your hands up in disbelief as Jesus demonstrates one more way to heal sightless eyes.

You’ve now witnessed five men healed of blindness by four different methods.  The evidence speaks for itself:   

The Son of God is unpredictable.

The Old Testament provides proof that God the Father also acts in unexpected ways.  You may remember when he:

  • Raised up two humble shepherds to positions of leadership[1]
  • Spoke to one of his prophets through a donkey[2]
  • Made the sun stand still[3]
  • Used a blind slave to kill thousands of Israel’s archenemies[4]
  • Allowed another prophet to be swallowed by a big fish[5]

Numerous other examples from scripture could be cited to prove:

Our God is unconventional.

Even today he proves his penchant for the unexpected.

A few weeks ago our daughter H., a school psychologist, relayed to us a story about a student she worked with last year. We’ll call her Emma.  After frequent interactions, H. and Emma developed an easy rapport, the girl was making good progress, and H. grew to care deeply for her.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is images-2.jpeg

But this fall as school resumed, she learned Emma had moved to Florida.  Not wanting the girl to lose momentum, H. called the new school and asked to speak to the psychologist there.  She hoped to offer some helpful background about Emma and set the tone for continued progress.

Imagine her surprise when the gentleman who answered the phone turned out to be Andrew __________, a colleague who’d been part of the same master’s program as H. at Florida State University.  Out of just twelve students in that program, Andrew just happened to be the one to oversee this little girl who’d won our daughter’s heart.  And Andrew assured H. he’d take good care of Emma.

Time and again our God has proven . . .

. . . He is full of surprises.

I for one take great delight in a Heavenly Father who mystifies me by his unpredictability, wows me with his unconventionality, and takes my breath away with his surprises. 

How about you?

Please share in the comment section below an example from your own experience of “a wonder that cannot be fathomed.” Let’s . . .


[1] Moses, Exodus 3; David, 1 Samuel 16

[2] Balaam, Numbers 22

[3] Joshua 10

[4] Samson, Judges 16

[5] Jonah, Jonah 1

Photo credits: http://www.freebibleimages (3); http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.uihere.com.

To, In, and Through

You’re going to be so glad you stopped by today.  I’ve prepared a pop quiz for you—a little trivia challenge!  But don’t worry–it’s multiple-choice and short.

 

How many stars do astronomers estimate occupy the universe?

A. 500 trillion

B. 750 quadrillion

C. 1 septillion

What are the objects in the above photograph?

A. Virus microbes

B. Husks

C. Starfish babies

What is the average weight of a cumulous cloud?

A. Over 10,000 pounds

B. Over 100,000 pounds

C. Over 1,000,000 pounds

Number one is a freebie, because an accurate count is impossible.  But there are those astronomers who would agree with Answer C—1 septillion. That’s a one with 24 zeroes after it![1]

For the second question the answer is B—husks.  In a few select areas of the Western Pacific Ocean, live tiny organisms called Foraminifera.  When they die, the tide carries their husks—millions of them–to beaches on the coasts of Japan and Okinawa.[2]  Visit those places and you can walk on the stars.

Look close! Can you see a few stars that are still intact?

The answer for #3 is C. Holding up even the largest of cumulous clouds is the air beneath them, which weighs even more.[3]

I’m guessing you know a few amazing trivia facts too.  Isn’t it astounding that the body of information about the universe continues to grow, even after centuries of study?

See Endnote #4.

The short sampling of creation’s wonders mentioned above gives us a glimpse of God’s glorious capacities at work:  his inventiveness, engineering skill, power and more.  But we also see evidence of his magnificence in:

  • The Bible.  No other book matches its wisdom.  And when put into practice, it transforms a person’s life.
  • God’s attributes at work in the world—his love, grace, faithfulness, and mercy—to mention a few.
  • Miracles—happening around us every day.  The problem is we’re so used to them we call them ordinary.[5]
  • The gracious actions and glowing faces of his saints–miracles in themselves.

Truly, God reveals his glory TO us every day in countless ways.

But perhaps even more astounding: God—in all his magnificence—chooses to reside IN us when we say yes to his Son, Jesus.

Imagine.  The fullness of God—all his glorious attributes—within us.  And over time, as his Spirit instructs and trains us, we become more and more like Christ—more joyful, hopeful, and contented; less self-centered, dissatisfied, and distressed.  Such a glorious reality![6]

“God is mercifully shaping our lives

into what is useful and beautiful.”

–Eugene Peterson[7]

And then God chooses to make us channels of his glory, working THROUGH us to impact others.

How?

Every time we choose to be generous instead of selfish, patient instead of peevish, mindful instead of thoughtless, or merciful instead of intolerant, we’re demonstrating the attributes of God to others.

And as we make ourselves available for him to work through us, we may very well become the answer to someone else’s prayer.

“To become the answer to someone else’s prayer

is to live a life of rich purpose.”

–Maggie Wallem Rowe[8]

*      *       *      *      *      *

O God, thank you for revealing yourself TO us in numerous ways, producing joy in our spirits as we earnestly seek you.  I praise you for dwelling IN us, providing all we need (and then some!) for the abundant life Jesus promised.  And I thank you for working THROUGH us to positively impact others and give us satisfying  purpose.  There is no one like you!


[1] https://www.space.com/26078-how-many-stars-are-there.html

[2] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2085f_Japon_Hatoma.jpg  

[3]https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/how-much-does-a-cloud-weigh?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

[4] The heavens don’t only include the stars, other planets, and moons.  Our planet occupies a tiny corner of the universe, and everything in it also tells of the wonders of God.

[5] Hans Christian Anderson

[6] Ephesians 3:21; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[7] Run with the Horses, 79.

[8] This Life We Share, 242.

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.canva.com.

Mildred Jefferson

The emergence of Mildred Jefferson’s life purpose can be traced all the way back to her childhood, in the small town of Pittsburg, Texas during the 1930s. 

Pittsburg, TX 1925

That’s when her fascination of medicine began, under the wing of the local physician who allowed her to tag along on house calls in his horse-drawn carriage.

One day Mildred announced to him, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a doctor too.”

He could have suggested, “A career in nursing might be another good choice, Millie. It’s not a bit fair, but most medical schools will likely turn you down because you’re a girl, and even in these modern times, most doctors are men.”  He might also have mentioned the barriers Mildred would face because she was black.

But the doctor encouraged her to work hard toward her dream. So did her mother and father, a teacher and Methodist minister respectively. 

Mildred followed their advice and graduated from high school at age 15 and then college at 18, summa cum laude no less. Too young to enter medical school, Mildred earned her master’s degree in biology while she waited.

Against great odds, Mildred was accepted into medical school–at Harvard–and in 1951 became the first African American woman to graduate from the esteemed institution.

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Then she became the first woman to intern at Boston City Hospital and the first female surgeon at Boston University Medical Center, where Mildred eventually served as professor of surgery.

By 1970 the abortion debate had begun to garner much attention.  At the time, the American Medical Association was preparing a resolution in favor of abortion rights. Mildred strongly opposed such action, citing the Hippocratic oath and Judeo-Christian values as her defense.

Driven by her strong faith in God and heartfelt patriotism, Mildred began her fight against abortion. She helped found the Massachusetts chapter of Citizens for Life and later co-founded the National Right to Life Committee.  Mildred served as president of the latter from 1975-1978.

After forty years of coping with sexism and racism Mildred had developed great strength of character and courage.  She did not mince words concerning her conviction that abortion was wrong.

“I became a physician in order to save lives, not to destroy them,” Jefferson said in a 1978 interview. “I will not accept the proposition that the doctor should relinquish the role of healer to become the new social executioner.” [1]

In another interview, Mildred stated:  I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live” (2003, American Feminist Magazine). [2]

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azquotes.com/author/29722-Mildred_Fay_Jefferson

Mildred abhorred the fact that women of color aborted at higher rates than white women.  Were there racist motives behind the push to publicly fund abortions? Was a purposeful genocide being committed against blacks?  It certainly appeared so.[3]

Mildred asserted: “I would guess that the abortionists have done more to get rid of generations and cripple others than all the years of slavery and lynchings.”[4]

The articulate doctor received invitations to speak all over the country.  Her logical arguments and impassioned delivery convinced many people that abortion was immoral.

After a television appearance in 1972, Mildred received the following letter:

“Several years ago I was faced with the issue of whether to sign a California abortion bill. . . . I must confess to never having given the matter of abortion any serious thought until that time.  No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching . . . I wish I could have heard your views before our legislation was passed.  You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life.  I’m grateful to you.”

The letter was signed, Governor Ronald Reagan.[5]

For nearly 40 years Mildred continued to fight for the rights of the unborn as she lived up to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:40, that whatever we do for the least of those among us, we do it for him.

Sources:

  1. https://christiannewsjournal.com/one-doctors-prescription-for-life-mildred-fay-jefferson/
  2. https://www.classicalhistorian.com/johns-blog/mildred-fay-jefferson 
  3. https://cultureoflifestudies.com/newsletter/dr-mildred-fay-jefferson/
  4. https://kofc.org/en/news-room/columbia/2020/january/passionate-pioneer-remembered.html)
  5. https://marchforlife.org/dr-mildred-jefferson/

Notes


[1] https://kofc.org;en/news-room/columbia/202/january/passionate-pioneer-rememberd.html

[2] https://marchforlife.org/dr-mildred-jefferson/

[3] op. cit. https://kofc

[4]  https://www.classicalhistorian.com/johns-blog/mildred-fay-jefferson 

[5] op. cit. https://kofc

Photo credits: http://www.picryl,com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org, Ben Steed; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.all.org.

Against All Odds

More than 1,000 miles east of the Philippines lies the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of earth’s oceans—so deep it reaches into the earth farther than Mount Everest reaches into the sky.  That’s more than 36,000 feet, or close to seven miles.

Not even today’s sophisticated submarines can submerge to that depth without imploding from the pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch–the equivalent of a full-grown elephant standing on your big toe.

But in 2014 oceanographers constructed a cube-shaped basket, attached it to cables, and dropped it into the depths of the trench.  The descent took four hours. 

They left the basket in place for twenty-four hours, to gather data by camera and hopefully collect samples of life—if it existed at all in such inhospitable conditions.

At the end of twenty-four hours, they used acoustic signals to release the weights that had caused the basket to fall.   With the help of flotation devices, it then rose to the surface.  Against all odds, here is what the scientists found in the trap:

The new species of fish, about eleven inches long, received the name Mariana Snailfish.

Video revealed their activity in the depths—swimming, tail-swishing, foraging—what you’d expect from healthy fish.  They appeared to be perfectly content, unfazed by the bone-crushing pressure of the water around them.

So how do they survive?

God has especially equipped them.  For example, instead of bones snailfish skeletons are made of cartilage that can withstand pressure. These fish also produce certain fatty acids that help cell membranes stay flexible. Even at the molecular level, the muscles of the Mariana Snailfish contain certain enzymes that help them flourish at the bottom of the ocean.

In addition, scientists believe the following characteristics also contribute to their survival: big stomachs,  transparent skin, thinner muscles, and incompletely closed skulls. 

Just as the Mariana Snailfish can withstand extreme physical pressure, we can endure extreme mental, emotional and spiritual pressure—with God’s special equipping.

First, he’ll gladly help us develop resiliency—the ability to handle significant sources of stress. The snailfish manifests several characteristics in the physical realm that can be applied in the spiritual.

A Big Appetite

The large stomach reminds us that those who have a big appetite for God’s truth in the Bible also tend to be survivors; they’re strengthened to withstand the pressures of life.

Abraham Lincoln was just such a person, enduring great pressure from politicians, the press, and the burden of civil war.  He had this to say about scripture:

Transparency

This quality reminds us to be transparent about our concerns–before God and a few good friends. Just telling someone else about our stresses has been proven by researchers to reduce anxiety—a truth scripture has taught all along.[1]

It’s worth noting that just as the Mariana Snailfish lives completely at peace in the midst of physical pressure, we can live completely at peace in the midst of emotional stress as God frees us from worry and trusted, grace-filled friends support and encourage.[2]

Flexibility

These fish are also examples of flexibility—deep down at the cellular level.  You’ve probably heard the maxim, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  The flexible person will look to God for the adjustments needed to handle the pressures of life  and search out his guidance for how to cope.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, would have us remember:

If we allow the stresses of life to accomplish the latter, they will not only be survivable, they will be accompanied by the deep contentment of nearness to God.[3]

Notes:

[1] Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

[2] James 1:2-4; Philippians 4:6-7; Proverbs 12:25

[3] Philippians 4:11-13; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1

Sources:

  1. https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/11/28/theres-a-deeper-fish-in-the-sea/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01158-x
  3. https://theconversation.com/the-deepest-dwelling-fish-in-the-sea-is-small-pink-and-delicate-88991
  4. https://www.natureasia.com/en/research/highlight/12923

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.pxfuel.com and http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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