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Archive for March, 2016

 

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Nicolas Flamel (ca. 1310-1418, pictured above) looks like he could be St. Nicholas, with that full beard and impish face. In fact he lived long after and far away from the well-known saint. Flamel was a French scribe and manuscript seller. He also dabbled in alchemy.

Alchemists were those who, especially during the Middle Ages, experimented with various materials and procedures to turn ordinary metals like lead into gold.

Another dream of theirs was to discover an elixir of life—a potion that would provide eternal life.

 

Sir William Fettes Douglas The Alchemist 19th cent.

“The Alchemist,” by Sir William Fettes Douglas, 1855

 

By the seventeenth century, legends had developed around Nicolas Flamel. Some claimed that he had discovered the Philosopher’s Stone, the alchemical substance that would turn lead into gold and produce the elixir of life.

But the only immortality he achieved is in print. Victor Hugo mentioned him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and R. K Rowling in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Nicolas Flamel is buried in Paris at the Musée de Cluny.

By the 1600s, alchemy was, for the most part, abandoned.

Alchemy simply did not work in the physical realm.

However! In the spiritual realm, with God exercising his supernatural power, the alchemy of grace (1) performs great wonders:

 

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The lost become found (Luke 19:10)

Darkness becomes light (John 8:12)

Death becomes life (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Mourning becomes joy (Jeremiah 31:13)

Ashes become beauty (Isaiah 61:3)

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Hatred becomes love (Acts 9:1-2; Philippians 4:1)

Discouragement becomes hope (Romans 5:1-2)

Fear becomes peace (John 14:27)

Striving becomes resting (Exodus 33:14)

Weakness becomes strength (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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No doubt we could mention many more magnificent facets of transformation that occur because of God’s alchemy of grace—a transformation even more miraculous than turning lead into gold.

To appreciate just how miraculous, consider what happens when we’re left to our own devices:

 

Darkness begets depression

Hatred begets ulcers

Fear begets paranoia

Striving begets stress

Discouragement begets self-pity

 

Would it be disrespectful to say that Jesus is our Philosopher’s Stone? He is the one and only Way to experience the alchemy (and grandeur and wonder!) of God’s grace (2).

 

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Do you find your heart swelling with gratitude and praise?

“Trace the roots of grace, or charis in the Greek, and you will find a verb that means ‘I rejoice, I am glad” – Phillip Yancey (3).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Holy Father, how astounding to consider that we are being transformed into the likeness of your Son with ever-increasing glory. Thank you for the alchemy of your grace that transforms our leaden lives into lustrous, 24-carat gold! 

(2 Corinthians 3:18; Job 23:10)

* The “alchemy of grace” is a phrase borrowed from Charles Spurgeon.

(1) Grace is undeserved love, manifested in unmerited favor.

(2) John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5-6

(3) Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?, Zondervan, 1997, p. 13.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org (2), http://www.theodysseyonline.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblehub.net; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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clothing-5

 

A friend and I enjoyed a bit of clearance shopping last week.  As she gleaned one rack, I gleaned another.  It was while scooting hangers left to right that a sweater fell to the floor. I bent over to pick it up and my sunglasses fell from their perch on my head. Quick as a wink, though, a nearby shopper (not my friend) retrieved them.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, taking back the sunglasses. “That has to be the fastest ‘pay it forward’ in history! Thank you!”

With a big smile for me, she returned to her shopping.

What a contrast to other shopping experiences, when someone has:

  • Bumped past me with her cart without an “Excuse me.”
  • Sauntered with two or three others down the middle of the parking lot lane, oblivious to the fact they’re holding up traffic.
  • Walked through a door I have held open without saying, “Thank you.”

Common courtesy seems to be disappearing from society, as some people have allowed the constant pursuit of self-interests to turn into self-absorption. Perhaps they think worrying about other people’s feelings is a waste of time and energy.   Others may see customs of politeness as downright archaic and puritanical.

The truth is, courtesy and consideration can do us a world of good. Research indicates that kind deeds release feel-good endorphins into our nervous systems. Benefits include diminished pain, decreased depression, and relieved stress. (1).

Of course, the Bible has taught the value of kindness all along (2).

 

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Yet some folks cringe at the thought of teaching scriptural principles to our children in school or holding ourselves to those standards. “Legalistic!” they claim.

But would it be so horrible if we:

  • Cheerfully greeted one another, even if we’re strangers?
  • Allowed others to enter a building or aisle first?
  • Held doors for one another?
  • Treated service personnel (clerks, wait staff, attendants, etc.) with friendly respect?
  • Said “thank you” at every opportunity?
  • Followed the Golden Rule that Jesus taught (Matthew 7:12)?

 

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Good manners are based on good principles; good principles are found throughout the Bible.

And Biblical principles not only provide positive impact on people (and our own nervous systems!), but may very well form the foundation of a strong nation:

 

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws

will secure the liberty and happiness of a people

whose manners are universally corrupt.”

–American statesman, Samuel Adams (1722-1803)

 

So…

 

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*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Lord, help me leave footprints of kindness wherever I go, to live out your Golden Rule for the benefit of others and for the praise of your glory.  May others know I’m a Christian by the cross I wear and the love I share.

 

(1) Allan Luks, The Healing Power of Doing Good (2001).

(2) Examples include: Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:32, and 1 Peter 2:17.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.allthingstarget.com; http://www.etsy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.askideas.com.)

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