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Archive for June, 2019

 

 

How would you fill in the blanks of this quote?

 

“Nothing is so strong as _______________,

Nothing so _______________ as real strength.”

–St. Frances de Sales (1567-1622)

 

Possibilities include:

  1. Discipline / disciplined
  2. Gentleness / gentle
  3. Steadfastness / steadfast

According to de Sales, the answer is 2.

Yet gentleness is not a trait that readily comes to mind when we hear the word strength. We’re more likely to describe the strong person as self-confident, self-reliant, and assertive.

 

 

But consider which of the following actions requires more fortitude:

  • Defending one’s own rights or deferring to another’s?
  • Airing one’s views or actively listening to understand someone else’s?
  • Tackling the personal to-do list or taking time to help another person with theirs?

Gentleness includes consideration, kindness, and grace. It is genial, not demanding its own way, and it refuses to manipulate people or circumstances. Neither is it easily threatened, offended, or angered. Gentleness requires humility, maturity, and self-control.

 

 

Most of us do not gravitate toward such habits on our own. It takes strength to become gentle—strength that begins with God, as we learn to relax in his sovereignty over all things (Psalm 145:13), and count on him to work in his way (Proverbs 16:4a), in his time (Acts 1:7).

Gentleness begins to grow in our spirits as we:

  • Become acquainted with the One who personifies gentleness–Jesus (Matthew 11:29)
  • Choose to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18), which improves our perspective and calms our spirits
  • Refuse to complain or grumble (Philippians 2:14)
  • Desire to be molded by God and patterned after his purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Affirm trust in his reliability and endless resources (Psalm 62:5-8)
  • Practice his presence (Exodus 33:14) through continual, prayerful connection

And the result? “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 NASB, emphasis added).

Or, as Max Lucado interprets the verse, “Blessed are those who acknowledge that there is only one God and have quit applying for his position.” *

 

 

That inheritance Jesus promised includes joyful contentment in God’s provision and pleasure in the simple things of life, the delight of blessing others and celebrating their successes.

My grandmother was just such a person.

Before she turned forty, Grandma lost a young sister, a toddler son, and her husband. During the depression she kept the mortgage paid and her family clothed and fed by baking all night, then catching a bit of sleep while the three children were at school. Yet Grandma’s strong faith in God never wavered. (You can read more about this amazing woman in another post, The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, Part 1).

 

 

I never heard Grandma raise her voice or speak unkindly. What I do remember is hearing her humming along with the hymns on the radio as she worked in the kitchen.

She spent much of her time serving others, beginning with family. When Grandma stayed with us, she mended and hemmed our clothes, helped turn the apples from our tree into applesauce for the freezer, and braided old woolens into small rugs to place in front of our doors.

Grandma was gracious with praise and gratitude. One time I noticed tiny aphids on her prized African violets. You’d think I’d saved the neighborhood from a locust invasion. “Well aren’t you my Little Bunny Bright-Eyes!” Grandma cried, and hugged me tight. “I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn’t been here. Thank you!

 

 

Later in life she developed neuralgia in her right cheek. The slightest breeze could cause an agonizing bout of pain. Grandma would grimace and gasp as her hand flew to her face. But she did not complain.

In these ways and many more Grandma Rachel proved that the strong of faith are also gentle of spirit.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

O God, I know the quality of gentleness is precious to you, and I want to cultivate a life that brings you honor and pleasure. Keep me mindful of your empowering presence so that your gentle spirit of grace, kindness, and goodness will flow through me to others.

 

(1 Peter 3:4; Psalm 147:11; Isaiah 40:11; Galatians 5:22-23)

 

Who provided an example of gentle strength in your life?  Tell us about them in the comment section below!

 

* Grace for the Moment, Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 277.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (3); dailyverses.net (2).

 

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Emily* and I met at a meeting, and afterward the subject of the Bible came into the conversation—a conversation that went something like this:

“The Bible is just fairy tales,” she declared.

“That is a popular viewpoint,” I replied. “How did you come to that conclusion?”

“Well, it’s full of crazy, unbelievable stories,” Emily asserted passionately. “Noah and the ark, David and Goliath, not to mention Jesus and his supposed miracles. Who in their right mind would believe such stuff?”

 

 

I began to pray silently as our conversation continued. Lord, help me speak your words.  May Emily reconsider her position and seek truth.

“I agree such events seem incredible,” I offered. “But I’ve come to believe the Biblical record is truth, backed up by decades of archaeological research, hundreds of ancient manuscripts—including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and dozens of scientific and medical corroborations. Also, numerous prophecies have been fulfilled with amazing accuracy. I can recommend some books written by experts if you’d like to know more.”

But Emily became defensive, insisting such proofs were either coincidental or made up by misled people determined to keep the fairy tales alive.

 

(The Ark Encounter at the Creation Museum, Petersburg, KY)

 

The conversation did not end well. Emily only became more vehement so I let her have the last word and bowed out as gracefully as I could. It felt like failure. Somehow in spite of my prayer, I must not have spoken God’s words for her.

Since that encounter, however, I’ve come to realize:

We can trust God with our words if we’re seeking his wisdom (James 1:5) and speaking in love (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Remember what God told Moses, upon commissioning the wilderness shepherd to be his voice to Pharaoh?

 

 

It would stand to reason that with God teaching him exactly what to say, Moses would eloquently convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites on the first encounter.

Instead, Moses had to confront Pharaoh numerous times. Even a constant barrage of plagues didn’t deter Pharaoh from refusing Moses’ request—until every firstborn son died in every Egyptian household, including Pharaoh’s. The hard-hearted ruler was brought low by grief, and finally let the Israelites go.

Does such a record indicate that God’s words through Moses failed repeatedly? NO. God had his reason for the delay:

 

Then the Lord said to Moses,

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart…

so that I may perform these signs of mine among them

that you may tell your children and grandchildren

how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians

and how I performed my signs among them,

and that you may know that I am the Lord.”

–Exodus 10:1-2 NIV

 

 

These verses offer me great comfort for my conversation with Emily and others. I can trust God with the words I prayerfully spoke to her that day. They may have caused one more chink in her wall of defense against Christianity, so that she will one day know “that [he] is the Lord” and accept Jesus as Savior.

Such prayers are the kind God especially loves to answer.

 

 

 

What could be closer to God’s heart than the eternal destiny of one of his children?

Perhaps Emily will contact me one day and say, “I remembered what you said about the Bible and it got me to thinking…”

So I continue to pray.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

As I submit myself to you, O God, may my words be characterized by your wisdom that gently persuades and winsome grace that draws people to you–all from a heart motivated by love.  Then may your words echo in the minds of those who hear until doubt is transformed into faith.     

 

*Name changed.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailyverses.net(2).

 

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Father and son take a walk down the road in front of their farm. The father has long been a nature enthusiast, especially interested in trees. He studies the tall oaks bordering the road that his grandfather planted long ago.

He knows that oak trees are among the longest-living organisms on the planet, that large specimens can consume up to one hundred gallons of water per day, and drop 10,000 acorns in a good year.

The father delights in those stalwart oaks; his desire is to keep them strong. More than once he’s called an arborist for advice on their care.

The son, on the other hand, watches the cars and trucks go by. He guesses every make as it comes into view, and he’s usually right. As far as the boy’s concerned, each one is a work of art.

 

 

He especially hopes a sports car will pass, so he can enjoy the rev of its large engine. And the whole while he’s dreaming of the day he will sit behind the wheel of a car or truck, wind whipping at his hair as he follows the road to his destiny.

Dad hardly sees the cars; the son barely notices the trees.

What a person delights in captures his attention and impacts his desires.

King David asserted that truth long ago, but in matters of the spiritual dimension rather than physical.

 

 

“Take delight in the Lord,” David wrote, “and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

David was not referring to desires for possessions, like sports cars or even healthy trees.  That interpretation doesn’t fit the context of the rest of the psalm.

David stresses that we’re to:

  • Trust in God (vs. 3, 5)
  • Delight in him (v. 4)
  • Commit our way to the Lord (v. 5)
  • Be still before him (v. 7)
  • Wait patiently for him (v. 7)

Those are the signposts of spiritual maturity: 1) to trust God even through the storms of life, 2) to delight in all that God is and all that God does no matter our circumstances, 3) to submit ourselves to his all-wise ways, 4) to remain calm and restful in his care, and 5) wait patiently for him to act.

 

 

As we become proficient in each of these areas (and it is a growing process), we often find our desires changing. Over time God molds his desires in our hearts—desires that provide true fulfillment, contentment, and peace.

However, we can accelerate the growing process and augment our delight in God.

Consider how the father and son grew in their delight of trees and cars. They learned. Each had made a study of their favorite subject. The father knew trees; the son knew cars.

We can increase our delight in God by:

  • Pursuing gratitude as an avenue of delight in him
  • Becoming a sleuth among everyday events, tracing the evidence of his love, wisdom, and power
  • Celebrating his blessings
  • Soaking in the Word of God, discovering his attributes and involvement in the lives of humankind
  • Practicing his presence throughout the day–acknowledging him, talking to him, and listening

 

“If we will let our hearts be filled with God till it runs over with delight,

then the Lord Himself will take care that we shall not want for any good things…

We may have disappointments; but if these bring us nearer to the Lord,

they are things to be prized exceedingly,

for they will in the end secure to us the fulfillment of all our right desires.”

–Charles Spurgeon, Faith’s Checkbook

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

That is my prayer, Heavenly Father, to be filled with the delight of YOU, sensitive to the perfect desires you have for me. Then I will know fullness of joy.

 

There are many ways to take joy in God.  What fills your heart with the delight of him?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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Several years ago our daughter dashed off two love notes and hid them in our house just before she and her family returned to their home, more than 2,300 miles away. You can imagine those little notes provided delightful, heartwarming surprise upon discovery. And I’ve kept them, to enjoy again and again.

God also leaves love notes tucked here and there into every day.

Love notes like:

 

 

  • A butterfly casually flitting above the traffic in a busy intersection—a dash of delicate beauty amidst concrete and steel

 

  • The welcome aroma of coffee wafting from the kitchen while golden sunbeams stream in the windows

 

 

 

  • Enthusiastic greetings and hugs whenever we see the granddaughters

 

  • The first fireflies of the season, drifting upward out of the grass and underbrush to float among the trees—soft, flickering lights, waltzing to silent music

 

 

  • A hummingbird lighting upon a flower at one end of the deck planter, even as I’m trimming sprigs at the other. A Close-Encounter-of-the-God-Kind if ever there was one.

 

 

  • Lost keys, found. I had dropped them at the grocery store somehow; ‘didn’t even know they were missing for more than twenty-four hours. But God kept them safe for me, and inspired some kind person to turn them in–an unmistakable love note of his compassionate care.

 

Some of God’s love notes actually include words—but not always from the Word.

 

 

Recently at the hairdresser’s I happened to pick up a secular magazine to pass the time. In her introductory letter, the editor wrote about her grandmothers and their important influence in her life. She reaffirmed that investing in our grandchildren is highly worthwhile, and they do remember love expressed, attention bestowed, and examples set.

Her words suddenly became God’s words, and tears came to my eyes. There is significance in the repetition of Goodnight Moon, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and pony rides. There is power in appreciation for primitive artwork, impromptu dances, and weed bouquets. There is influence in affirming strong effort, perseverance, and the courage to try new things.

 

Granddaughter #2,

building a stool for her doll with wood scraps–

with a little help from Dad

 

Also recently, I encountered a restaurant worker cleaning the drink station as I approached to pump my herbal tea. We exchanged the typical “hellos-and-how-are-yous.   Her greeting was especially positive and cheerful.

“Are you really that fine?” I asked, leaning forward in order to make eye contact.

“Yes, ma’am,” she exclaimed with enthusiasm. “God is so good, I can’t complain!”

“I feel the same!” I answered. “God has been incredibly good to us too.”

The woman finished her task and turned to leave, with more praise on her lips. I wish I could remember her exact words. Nonetheless, I do know those several moments with her provided another love note of affirmation from God, stirring up gratitude and joy in my spirit.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Lord, open my eyes to find all your love notes, prepared for me each precious day of life. Then nudge me to turn every note into praise, and joyfully celebrate you.

 

 (from http://www.quotefancy.com)

 

Oh, yes. Let me one of those who takes off her shoes.

 

What love note have you received from God recently?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.geograph.ie; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com; Eric Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefacy.com.)

 

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