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Archive for March, 2019

 

 

As I left the hospital Sunday evening, my attention was drawn to two little boys cavorting back and forth in the corridor, jackets winging behind them. In their father’s arms nestled their baby sister, barely visible in her hooded pink coat. Mama and Daddy were deep in conversation.

While passing them by, a strange phenomenon caught my eye: Mama was barefoot.

 

 

One of my alter egos, Sherlock Ruegg, began ruminating why a woman who was otherwise well-dressed for a Midwestern March evening, would be without shoes. Did she just receive emergency care for one or both of her feet? There was no sign of bandages.

A few moments later as I loaded my belongings into our SUV, the family of five came into view again. Poor Mama was still barefoot and hobbling along on her heels, no doubt to lessen the impact of freezing cold pavement on her feet.

Then I spied the evidence I’d missed before, and the explanation became clear.  Mama was clutching stiletto heels in her hands.   Obviously, the pain inflicted by the shoes was worse than that of frigid concrete.

 

(Don’t these look comfy for a long trek?)

 

Oh, what we’re willing to suffer in order to look fashionable, glamorous, and beautiful.

“Beauty” became my word of intentional focus for 2019 when I kept encountering such quotes as:

 

Beauty is a fountain,

emanating from the core of our souls

and bubbling outward,

overflowing.”

—Kristen Armstrong,

Work in Progress

 

What lovely imagery Kristen provides for the beauty that begins in our souls and bubbles up to our faces in cheerful expressions, ready smiles, and twinkling eyes. Such beauty overflows into deeds also.

 

 

But an ever-flowing stream of loveliness is impossible to maintain on our own.  We must allow God to do the work within us.

 

“God in his mercy

is shaping us into

what is useful and beautiful.

—Eugene Peterson,

Run with the Horses

 

And what does our Heavenly Father consider beautiful? (I’m pretty sure high heels don’t make his list.)

Thus far I’ve collected these descriptors and scriptures:

 

 

  • Strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25)*
  • Wisdom and kindness (Proverbs 31:26)*
  • Encouragement, peace, blessing, and witness (Isaiah 52:7)
  • Godliness and good works (1 Timothy 2:10)
  • A reflection of his glory (1 Corinthians 3:18)
  • A calm and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:4)*

 

 

Such a fountain of beautiful attributes can’t help but overflow into the lives of others. 

 

“Every time we reveal [God’s] attributes…

share the good news of Christ…

reflect patience in the middle of an upsetting problem…

smile from the heart or offer an encouraging word…

we are displaying the beauty

and glory of our God.”

—Joni Eareckson Tada,

A Quiet Place in a Crazy World

 

That’s the key to effervescent beauty. It’s not about our reflection in the mirror; it’s about reflecting to the world the beauty of our Heavenly Father and his attributes (Psalm 34:5a).

 

 

“Those who look to him radiant,” wrote King David (Psalm 34:5a).

And just what does radiant mean? In part, glowing or emitting brilliance.

Think of a fresh, dew-drenched rose or a multi-faceted diamond glittering on black velvet or the dancing glow of the Northern Lights—all examples of radiance.

What’s our response to such sights? We’re mesmerized, compelled to stare and take in the glory of such luminosity.

 

 

Radiant beauty does that; it seizes our attention.

Just so, there is within all of us the potential to be captivatingly beautiful people—drawing attention to our God of luminous Light who is perfect in beauty (Psalm 50:2).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Heavenly Father, as I strive to take in all your glorious magnificence, may I be open and mindful, allowing such meditation to achieve full effect upon my heart. Then I’ll become transparent, able to reflect your beautiful, radiant Light.

 

(Psalm 19:14; Colossians 3:1; Philippians 2:14-16)

 

*Yes, Proverbs 31 highlights the virtuous woman, and 1 Peter 3:3-4 also addresses women, but such qualities as strength and dignity, wisdom and kindness, composure and gentleness, are mentioned elsewhere in scripture and are just as attractive in men.  Am I right, ladies?

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pexels.com (Daria Shevtsova); http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com (Javcon 117); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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How would you complete the following sentence?

The most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity is:

  1. Prayer
  2. Worship
  3. Laughter
  4. Camaraderie with other believers

To be fair, all four of those God-given gifts are therapeutic. But pastor/author Charles Swindoll considers Answer C, laughter, as number one (1).

 

 

Perhaps he’s familiar with the research documenting the benefits of an enthusiastic guffaw. Laughter has been proven to:

  • Reduce stress, depression, and blood pressure
  • Increase the production of HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Improve immunity, mood, and sleep
  • Improve the function of lungs, heart, and cardiovascular system
  • Help relieve artery inflammation and pain

In fact, “the medical world has verified that laughter releases endorphins, God’s natural painkillers, which are fifty to one hundred times more powerful than morphine” (2).   Wowsers!

No wonder God inspired King Solomon to write: “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

 

 

I’m thinking our Heavenly Father also receives benefit and blessing as he takes delight in the laughter of his children–just as human parents (and grandparents!) do.

In addition, when we face the day lightheartedly and find humor even when life is hard, we’re actually expressing our trust in God.  That blesses him too.

Phillip Yancey has identified similarities between laughter and prayer–of all things. “In both acts, we stand on equal ground,” he says, “freely acknowledging ourselves as fallen creatures. We take ourselves less seriously…Laughter and prayer unite” (3).

I hadn’t thought of that before. Prayer does unite our hearts as we present together the same requests to God.

Laughter unites us too–young and old, employers and employees–even total strangers. We “become a single group of human beings, enjoying [our] existence”—W. Grant Lee.  And if we include God, the joy is multiplied.

 

 

But most of us won’t accumulate enough laughter in a day to do much good unless we intentionally seek it out. So the question becomes: how do we jump-start the habit of laughter and make it a morning-noon-and-night event?

Here are five suggestions to get the laughs rolling:

  • Purchase a joke-of-the-day calendar or access a humor website like Reader’s Digest’s https://www.rd.com/jokes/, and start the day with a few giggles. To increase the benefit further, share the joke with someone else.  Here’s a short sample–easy to remember!

 

 

  • Watch a few minutes of humorous YouTube videos. You can’t go wrong with Tim Hawkins, Chonda Pierce, or Michael Jr. I can almost guarantee they’ll have you in stitches, even if you watch them all by yourself.   But for best results, invite one or two others to watch and chuckle along with you.  Here’s Chonda Pierce talking about piano lessons:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjcfdnqSvT0

 

  • Spend time with young children. They laugh easily and so delectably, you won’t be able to resist laughing yourself.

 

 

 

 

  • Start a collection of jokes, cartoons, and humorous statements—whatever makes you laugh. You’ll be prepared with some giggle-makers when stress mounts, anxiety flares, or disappointment deflates the day.

 

Perhaps you’ll find one or two laugh-prompts here to begin your compilation:

 

  • “Normal is just a setting on the dryer.”—Patsy Clairmont

 

  • “Exercise in the morning—before your brain figures out what you’re doing.”—Unknown

 

 

  • “Youth is a disease from which we all recover”—Dorothy Fulheim.

 

  • “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes”—Unknown.

 

  • “Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting”—Unknown.

 

 

  • When Miss Andrews took her first graders to music class, the teacher, Mrs. Judson, wasn’t there. To keep the children productively occupied until she arrived, Miss Andrews asked the class if they knew the person whose name was written in big letters on the board: John Philip Sousa. One little boy raised his hand. “I don’t know who he is,” the first grader responded, “but if his name is on the board, he’s in big trouble” (4).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for giving us the ability to laugh. It truly is a gift of your grace, refreshing our spirits and opening our hearts to your joy. Teach us to express our trust in you with laughter, defying our worries and fears with frequent chuckles, giggles, and hoots!

 

 

What made you laugh recently?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1.  www.christianquotes.info
  2. Marilyn Meberg, Joy Breaks
  3. Philip Yancey, Grace Notes
  4. True story! It happened at the school where I taught for many years.  Teachers’ name have been changed.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.deviantart.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.afgsc.af.mil.

 

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“There is no wonder

more supernatural and divine

in the life of a believer

than the mystery and ministry of prayer…

the hand of the child

touching the arm of the Father

and moving the wheel of the universe.”

—A. B. Simpson

 

For those of you who may not know yet, Steve is in the hospital again.  Another health crisis began Sunday evening with numbness in his right hand followed within minutes by the inability to speak.  The diagnosis:  a  subdural hematoma.  Thus far he’s endured six seizures, the last three causing great difficulty breathing. You can access the details at www.caringbridge.org, under the name, Steve Ruegg.

When he had his liver transplant in December, prayer supernaturally supported us, and with God “moved the wheel of the universe” for him, just as A. B. Simpson described years ago. Everyone was astonished at Steve’s rapid recovery.

Now we’re praising God again for all those participating in the mystery and ministry of prayer on Steve’s behalf.   We’re also looking forward to more astonishment, as believers and our Father God move the wheel of the universe once more for Steve, because we know:

 

“With God,

all things are possible.”

–Matthew 19:26

 

 

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Tony always loved team sports. In his teens he focused on football, and at the University of Minnesota he distinguished himself as a talented quarterback.

 

 

But no pro team picked him up after graduation in 1977. He finally signed on with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent.

Over the next three years he played for three different teams.  His career seemed to be going nowhere.  And at the end of that third year Tony anticipated transitioning from football to something else.

But his alma mater drafted him as assistant coach for their team. And the following year he was offered the same position with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

 

Over the next fifteen years, Tony held two different coaching positions with two more teams before becoming head coach for Tampa Bay.  The Buccaneers did well for five years, making it to the playoffs three years in a row, 1998-2000. But the fifth year did not go well, and Tony was fired.

Now what, he wondered.

Within days Tony’s question was answered.   The Indianapolis Colts offered him the position of head coach. And in 2007 they won the Super Bowl. Tony Dungy became the first African-American coach to achieve that distinction.

 

Then-President George W. Bush receives an honorary jersey from the Super Bowl champs of 2007.  Quarterback Peyton Manning is to the president’s right, Tony Dungy is to the left.

 

It certainly hadn’t come easy. But after thirty years of ups and downs and hard work, Tony had finally achieved a long-held dream.

Tony’s story and the experiences of countless other persevering people have proved:

 

“The desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

–Proverbs 13:4b NIV

 

However, there is much more to that proverb than success in one’s work, as valuable as that is (Ecclesiastes 5:19).

 

 

And there’s much more to Tony’s story than a struggling football player who became a successful coach.

Tony is a Christian. And while he taught and trained athletes all those years, Tony was diligently applying himself to desires of eternal value.  He always felt that Christian principles were more important than everything else. Whatever position he held, Tony kept his faith at the forefront.

Proof of that statement lies in the choices he’s made—on the field as a calm, self-disciplined coach and off the field as a dedicated servant of God.

 

 

He’s been the national spokesman for “All Pro Dad,” and has worked with a number of organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, Mentors of Life, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Prison Crusade Ministry.

In addition, he and his wife Lauren have adopted seven children to round out their family of three biological children.  They also established the Dungy Family Foundation that works with Christian organizations, including pregnancy centers and youth ministries.

Tony says he loved coaching and winning the Super Bowl, but that was never his ultimate objective. “My purpose in life is simply to glorify God,” he says.*

 

(Tony receives the prestigious American Spirit Award

in November, 2007.)

 

There’s the secret to satisfaction in life.  Those who diligently desire to glorify God are the ones fully satisfied in their spirits.

But diligence requires effort—efforts such as:

 

  • Conditioning of the mind (Romans 12:1-2)

 

 

Tony would be the first to tell you the positive impact of scripture study in his own life. To highlight its importance, he put a Bible in his Hall of Fame locker, prominently displayed on the top shelf.

 

  • Humble submission (1 Peter 5:6)

 

 

Tony surrendered his expectations, knowing that God would bring fulfillment to his life, though not always in the ways Tony anticipated.

 

  • Patience (Galatians 6:9)

 

 

All the while Tony was playing football and coaching, he was learning to be a man of integrity, self-discipline, and courage.

Years spent in the public eye has also provided Tony a unique platform for: 1) mentoring players and coaches, 2) speaking at meetings and conferences on such topics as integrity, personal discipline, and overcoming adversity, and 3) writing books, including Quiet Strength and Uncommon–all endeavors of eternal worth.

 

 

  • Allowing pressure to achieve purpose (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

 

 

At the onset of each setback in his career, Tony wondered what God was doing. But he knew God could be trusted.

Then came the most painful setback of all—the suicide of his son in 2007.

Even then Tony did not falter. He allowed the pain to press him closer to his Heavenly Father, and he set about to use the tragedy as a way to honor God and help others.

In the final analysis, satisfaction is the outcome of diligent surrender to God’s purpose and diligent rest in God’s providence.

 

 

Just ask Tony Dungy.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I thank you, Father, for brothers and sisters like Tony Dungy who diligently spend their time and energy in usefulness to you, and all for the praise of your glory.  May I, too, diligently follow the narrow path of such uncommon people.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org (2), http://www.georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.bibleversestogo.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.macdill.af.mil; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com.)

 

*https://www.I/20160802/hof16-tony-dungys-faith-is-central-to-his-success.com

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.cantonrep.com/special/20160802/hof16-tony-dungys-faith-is-central-to-his-success
  2. https://www.faithwire.com/2018/08/30/former-nfl-coach-tony-dungy-one-of-the-reasons-god-has-me-at-nbc-is-to-give-christians-like-nick-foles-a-voice/
  3. https://www.l/20160802/hof16-tony-dungys-faith-is-central-to-his-success
  4. http://www.bpnews.net/22595/tony-dungy-voices-the-pain-and-lessons-from-his-sons-suicide
  5. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-2007-01-31-0701300302-story.html
  6. https://billygraham.org/story/tony-dungys-31-year-faith-journey-to-canton-ohio/
  7. http://www.enccylopedia.com/people/sports-and-games/sports-biographies/tony-dungy

 

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