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Archive for the ‘Generosity’ Category

If you’d asked Robert’s mother Elizabeth about her teenage son, she may have replied, “He is a strong-willed, rebellious daredevil. If God doesn’t get ahold of him, he may not make it to twenty!”

No doubt Robert’s parents wondered if they’d made the right decision, when they allowed him to drop out of school at age fourteen and work in an iron foundry. But given his learning difficulties, on-the-job training seemed appropriate, to prepare Robert for his future.

Two years later in 1904, God answered the concerned parents’ prayers for their son. Robert decided hell was not an option he wanted to risk and at age sixteen invited Jesus into his life.

Later he would write, “No bolts of lightning hit me. No great flash of awareness. I just prayed to the Lord to save me, and then I was aware of another presence. No words were spoken. I received no messages. It was just that all of my bitterness was drained away, and I was filled with such a vast relief that I could not contain it all.”[1]

Robert moved from one uninspiring tradesmen job to another until he became an auto mechanic and discovered his passion—machinery. He opened his own garage with a business partner in 1911.

In April of 1917 the U.S. entered World War I. Robert volunteered for the war effort, working in a naval shipyard north of San Francisco. In August of that year he married Evelyn Peterson.

Upon returning home to Stockton, CA in 1918, Robert discovered his partner had sunk their business into debt. Robert carried $5000 of that liability.

He wondered, was God trying to transition him out of business? Should he become a missionary so he could work for God more directly? Robert sought guidance from his pastor and after praying together the clergyman remarked, “You know God needs businessmen too.”

Not long after, a rancher asked Robert to level a large parcel of land. The job paid well and Robert signed on. He satisfactorily completed the task in good time and actually enjoyed the work.

Through the 1920s earth-moving contracts kept coming Robert’s way. He bought land and built an engineering shop where he put his ingenuity and giftedness for engineering to work, designing machines that completed the task more efficiently. Most other companies still used mules with plows and dozens of men with shovels.

(Two of LeTourneau’s early machines)

But even as a top-notch, road-construction contractor, financial struggles still plagued Robert. Now and then he’d sell one of his earth-moving inventions to help make ends meet for his growing family. (He and Evelyn had five children, though tragically their first died during the Spanish influenza epidemic.)

In the early 1930s, Robert’s attorney suggested, “Why don’t you focus on manufacturing your machines? That might prove more profitable.”

Robert decided to try, even though the nation was suffering through the Great Depression. During his first year in 1932, he earned a profit of more than $52,000 and by 1935, well over two million.[2]

(Robert nearly always included reference to his life verse with each signature.)

It was then that he and Evelyn decided to live on 10% of Robert’s income and give 90% to Christian mission work, colleges, and institutions. Meanwhile Evelyn started Sunday Schools and youth camps. God blessed each of their endeavors.

Robert not only invented the earth mover, but also the bulldozer, the electric wheel, the tree crusher, the log picker, the Tournawheel (a two-wheel tractor), and more. Eventually he’d own 300 patents and construction plants on four continents. He’d also design the first off-shore oil rig.

(from the he R.G. LeTourneau Museum and Archives, The Margaret Estes Library, LeTourneau University)

During World War II Robert’s company supplied 70% of the U.S. Army’s earth-moving equipment, making it possible for the Allies to quickly build roads, airports, and military bases.

After the war, Robert’s machinery helped construct the 48,000 miles of U.S. interstate highways.

(R.G. LeTourneau:  The Man, Machines, and Mission Collection
Evelyn LeTourneau Collection)

In 1946 he and Evelyn founded the LeTourneau Polytechnic Institute, a Christ-centered school especially for veterans who desired training in engineering. It has since become LeTourneau University.

Business and philanthropy weren’t Robert’s only pursuits. Though he’d always feared public speaking, Robert felt compelled to accept an invitation to share his story at a banquet in 1935. Soon he was speaking all over America and even overseas.  Robert would encourage others to honor God with their wallets and see what God would do.

“You will never know what you can accomplish

until you say a great big yes to the Lord.”

Robert Gilmour LeTourneau (1888-1969)

How has God blessed you as you’ve honored him with your wallet? Please share your story in the comment section below!


 Notes:

[1] https://www.wayoflife.org/reports/christian_inventor_rg_letourneau.html

[2] Ibid

Other sources:

 http://www.giantsforgod.com/rg-letourneau/

https://www.letu.edu/75/exhibit/panel-faith.html, and subsequent panels

https://www.oemoffhighway.com/trends/article/21366254/historical-construction-equipment-association-hcea-the-great-innovator-r-g-letourneau

https://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2011/jan/rg-letourneau

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; Margaret Estes Library, LeTourneau University (2); http://www.dailyverses.net.

Special thanks to Shelby Ware at the Margaret Estes Library, LeTourneau University, for arranging permission to use the two images of R. G. LeTourneau in this post.

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Eliza strained forward as her legs churned beneath her, the underbrush tearing at her long skirts. The small boy in her aching arms whimpered, sensing a danger he couldn’t see.

“Hush, chile,” she gasped in a whisper. “Mama’s gone keep you safe.”

Eliza dared a quick glance behind her. She could see nothing of the slave catchers who’d found her hiding place, a house near the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.  She’d slipped out the back door and into the woods as they approached the front. But they would surely guess her run for freedom, and their long legs, unencumbered by skirts, would quickly bring them close.

Runaways like Eliza Harris

Eliza dared not slow her pace toward the northern side of the river, where she and her baby had a chance to be together. Though her master had been kind, he was planning to sell her son. Eliza could not let that happen; her two older children had already died.

Finally, Eliza could see glimmering flecks through the trees as morning light danced on the water. But this was not what she’d planned. Eliza had expected to walk across the mile-wide river on ice, given the winter season. Instead she found the ice broken up into mammoth chunks, drifting slowly on the current.

With a prayer on her lips, Eliza made the choice to cross anyway, jumping from ice cake to ice cake. Sometimes the cake on which she stood sunk beneath the surface of the water. Then Eliza would slide her baby onto the next cake and pull herself on with her hands. Soon her skirts were soaked and her hands numb with cold. But Eliza felt God upholding her; she was confident he’d keep them safe.

On the northern bank stood William Lacey, one of those who watched the river for escaping slaves in order to help them. Time and again he thought the river would take the woman and child, but she miraculously reached the bank, heaving for breath and weak from cold and exhaustion.

When she’d rested for a few moments, the man helped her to a house on the edge of town. There she received food and dry clothing before being taken to another home and then another, along the Underground Railroad. Finally she reached the home of Quakers, Levi and Catherine Coffin, in Newport, Indiana.[1]

Note the mention of Levi Coffin

By the time Eliza arrived on their doorstep in 1838, the Coffins had been helping escaped slaves for more than a decade. In fact, the following year they would build a house specifically designed for their work as station masters on the Underground Railroad.

A Federalist-style house, similar to the Coffins’ home

In the basement they constructed a spring-fed well, to conceal the enormous amount of water needed for their many guests. On the second floor, they built a secret room between bedroom walls, just four feet wide. Up to fourteen people could hide in the long, narrow room.

Eliza Harris was only one of more than a thousand slaves (some say 3,000) that stayed in the Coffin home on their way to Canada. Had the Coffins (or others) been caught helping runaway slaves, they would have owed a $1000 fine (which few could afford) and would have spent six months in jail (which meant no income for the family during that time). Slave hunters were known to issue death threats as well.

But the Coffins held strong convictions concerning slavery. In the 1870s Levi wrote in his memoirs, “I . . .  risked everything in the work—life, property, and reputation—and did not feel bound to respect human laws that came in direct contact with the law of God.”[2]

For the introduction of Coffin’s book, William Brisbane[3] wrote the following about Levi and two other abolitionists:

“In Christian love they bowed themselves before their Heavenly Father and prayed together for the oppressed race; with a faith that knew no wavering they worked in fraternal union for the enfranchisement of their despised colored brethren, and shared together the odium attached to the name of abolitionist, and finally they rejoiced together and gave thanks to God for the glorious results of those years of persevering effort.”[4]

Should we face such hatred and endangerment in our day, may we stand in the midst of it like Levi and Catherine Coffin—steadfast and unmovable in the power of God.

Addendum:

In 1854 the Coffins visited Canada and happened to encounter a number of former slaves they’d helped. Eliza Harris was one of them–settled in her own home, comfortable and contented.

Her story may sound familiar because Harriet Beecher Stowe, a friend of the Coffins, included the slave’s harrowing escape in her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


[1] Now called Fountain City

[2] https://www.indianamuseum.org/historic-sites/levi-catharine-coffin-house/

[3] a doctor, minister, author, and South Carolina slaveholder who turned abolitionist and moved north where he freed his slaves

[4]https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/coffin/coffin.html

Other sources:

http://www.womenhistoryblog.com

http://www.rialto.k12.ca.us/rhs/planetwhited/AP%20PDF%20Docs/Unit%206/COFFIN1.PDF

https://mrlinfo.org/famous-visitors/Eliza-Harris.htm

Art & photo credits: http://www.nypl.getarchive.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.slr-a.org.uk; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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(From Morning by Morning, March 4.)

S. Truett Cathy (1921-2014) was just such a person, who grew up in poverty during the Great Depression to become a steadfast and unmovable masterwork of God.

At age eight he started his own business, inspired by a woman in his Atlanta, Georgia neighborhood. She sold cupcakes from her front yard.

M-m-m.  What could I sell to earn some money? Truett wondered. 

The answer: soft drinks. He purchased six bottles for a quarter and sold them for a nickel apiece. Just twenty six-packs, he figured, and I’ll have a whole dollar.

Truett quickly realized he could expand sales by enticing the door-to-door salesmen with cold drinks. He began to serve ice with the soda.

Soon the young entrepreneur had saved four dollars—enough to buy an old bicycle. Now he could make quicker profits by delivering newspapers.  But competition for customers was stiff with three well-established papers in Atlanta.

Truett had learned the value of customer satisfaction, however, so he made sure his papers landed on porches. On rainy days he put them inside the screen doors, and his customer list grew.

Truett delivered papers until high school graduation, after which he was drafted into the Army. Upon honorable discharge in 1945, Truett returned home to pursue his lifelong dream:  owning a business.

He decided to open a restaurant, knowing a bit about cooking for a crowd.  For years he’d helped his mother as she daily prepared meals not only for their family of nine but also for six boarders.

Truett and his younger brother Ben pooled their resources, took out a loan and bought a piece of land near a Ford assembly plant and Delta Airlines at the airport which provided a large customer base.

The tiny restaurant, aptly named the Dwarf Grill, included just ten counter stools and four tables.  The brothers served quick-to-fix burgers and steaks.

(The Dwarf Grill is still in operation, but in a new building with a revised name.)

They worked hard and the business thrived. But in 1949 tragedy struck. Ben, another brother, and two friends were killed.

Later Truett would remark, “I lost two brothers in an airplane crash, both of them leaving a wife and kids.  When I get to heaven, that’s probably the first question I’d like to ask: Why was it necessary?”[1]

The heartbreak did not erode Truett’s strong faith in God, which had been inspired by his devout mother and nurtured by Sunday School teacher and life-long mentor, Theo Abbey.

Then more trouble ensued.  In 1959 Truett was diagnosed with colon cancer. In an interview he explained that just prior to the successful surgery he experienced a new peace, knowing that whether he lived or died, he would be with God.[2] God granted another fifty-six years.

In 1960 the second restaurant burned to the ground, and then the original Dwarf Grill caught fire in 1965. But instead of becoming discouraged, Truett leaned on his God, growing stronger in faith and more determined than ever.

With only one restaurant to oversee, he focused his time on developing the menu. Truett remembered his mother’s impressive fried chicken, how she seasoned it the night before and put it in the ice box to marinate. 

He experimented with recipes, tried his efforts on regular customers and soon created a new menu item: the Chick-fil-A sandwich—a play on the word fillet, but also indicating the meat was grade A.

Customers loved the new sandwich, and in 1967, Truett opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant. One successful opening followed another until, in the year 2000, the restaurant chain grossed one billion dollars in sales. By 2018, it surpassed $10 billion in sales.

(Enlarge this image to read about Truett Cathy’s winning habits
–based on Biblical principles.)

Today, the company generates more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain, even though all locations are closed on Sundays. (Since his first day in the restaurant business, Truett set aside that day for his employees and himself “to rest and worship if they choose.”[3])

Truett’s commitment to put God first is expressed in the company’s statement of purpose: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”[4]

Truett also delighted to glorify God by spending his fortune to encourage others.

How do you identify someone who needs encouragement?

That person is breathing.

–Truett Cathy

Since 1973, Chick-fil-A has given more than $35 million in college scholarships to its employees. Truett also founded the WinShape Foundation, providing approximately $18 million dollars for the development of foster homes and summer camps.

His legacy of planting Christian ideals in the lives of others continues, even though Masterwork Samuel Truett Cathy now resides in heaven. (He is survived by his wife of sixty-six years, three children, eighteen grandchildren, and nineteen great-grandchildren.)


[1] https://www.quotetab.com/quote/by-s-truett-cathy/i-lost-two-brothers-in-an-airplane-crash-both-of-them-leaving-a-wife-and-kids-w

[2] https://www.11alive.com/article/news/thank-you-god-that-im-alive-in-book-chick-fil-a-founder-s-truett-cathy-shared-faith-affirming-brush-with-mortality/85-48c52862-7a53-4167-9e7a-1a37bd8d6185

[3] https://thechickenwire.chick-fil-a.com/inside-chick-fil-a/secret-menus-and-closed-on-sundays-chick-fil-a-fact-or-fiction

[4] https://billygraham.org/story/a-conversation-with-truett-cathy

Other Sources:

http://www.academicstar.us/UploadFile/Picture/2015-7/20157331854318.pdf

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/311452

http://www.giantsforgod.com/s-truett-cathy/

https://www.thextraordinary.org/s-truett-cathy

Photo credits: http://www.pixhive.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.samiskelton.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com.

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(In honor of Women’s History Month)

 

Hannah More (1745-1833)

 

The odds were stacked against her.

Like all young women of eighteenth century Britain, Hannah More would have to choose between marriage and a select few occupations for females. Universities did not accept women, most professions were closed to them, they couldn’t serve in government or even vote.

Yet the case has been made that Hannah More wielded strong influence in important arenas of her time. How could that be? God paved the way.

 

 

First, he gave Hannah a quick mind and a schoolteacher father who taught his five daughters at home. As the girls grew into womanhood Mr. More helped two of the older sisters open a boarding school for girls in nearby Bristol. Hannah attended for a while, but at age eighteen, became one of the teachers.

In addition to the ability to teach, God gave Hannah a gift for writing. Even at an early age she was composing poems and essays. Later she began to write plays for her students—dramas that included life lessons.

In her early twenties, Hannah became engaged to neighboring landowner, William Turner. Three times the wedding date was set; three times he backed out. The third time Hannah broke the engagement. To assuage his guilt, William gave her a monthly stipend, enabling Hannah to move to London and focus on her writing.

 

(www.azquotes.com/author/10363-Hannah_More)

 

God also provided opportunities for Hannah to meet people of influence. With her intelligence, wit, and charm, she was often invited to dinner parties and became a member of high society.

Meanwhile she made the acquaintance of John Newton, the slave-ship captain turned preacher who wrote Amazing Grace. They enjoyed a life-long friendship.

 

 

Newton was a member of the Clapham Sect, a group of passionate Christians, eager to release people from the oppression of poverty and slavery. One of the sect members served in Parliament, William Wilberforce. He, his wife Barbara, and Hannah also became friends for life.

 

     

William and Barbara Wilberforce

 

Hannah already despised the slave trade and joined the Clapham community. Their strong commitment to Christ greatly influenced Hannah and the practice of her faith took on greater importance.

At the suggestion of Wilburforce, Hannah wrote a poem to raise awareness about the treatment of slaves. It was published in 1788. One passage described the capture of Africans:

 

The burning village, and the blazing town:

See the dire victim torn from social life,

See the sacred infant, hear the shrieking wife!

She, wretch forlorn! Is dragged by hostile hands,

To distant tyrants sold, in distant lands.

 

As a result of reading Hannah’s impassioned account, thousands of people signed petitions demanding an end to the slave trade. The next year, Wilburforce used her poem in a Parliamentary debate concerning slavery.

Hannah helped the cause in other ways also. She encouraged a sugar boycott, since slaves provided the workforce on the British plantations of the Caribbean.

 

 

She even used her influence at dinner parties. Among people dressed in finery and focused on pleasure, Hannah would engage in cheerful banter, then pull out a folded piece of paper from her reticule, a drawstring purse.

“Have you ever seen the likes of this?” she might ask while spreading a print flat on the dining table—a diagram of the cargo hold inside a slave ship with Africans packed tightly together. The startling image helped garner more support for the cause.

 

 

Even as she campaigned for the abolition of slavery, Hannah took on another endeavor: education for the poor. She and her younger sister Martha established Sunday Schools since many of their students worked Monday through Saturday. (Child labor wasn’t prohibited in Britain until 1880.) They taught the three R’s and Bible lessons.

Soon three hundred children attended. Then adults were included and job placement provided. Within ten years, the sisters had opened sixteen schools, three of which still functioned into the twentieth century. Hannah involved herself in these schools for thirty years.

 

(Hannah More Academy, built 1834; closed 1974)

 

And of course, Hannah continued to write. She produced numerous pamphlets, plays of Bible stories that missionaries used around the world, as well as Christian novels and nonfiction. Her books outsold Jane Austen’s.

At age eighty-eight Hannah died peacefully in her sleep, just weeks after Parliament abolished slavery. The battle had taken forty years.

Even after her death Hannah’s positive influence lived on. She left the proceeds of her books, 30,000 pounds, for distribution to the poor—the equivalent of three million dollars today.

Hannah wrote in Practical Piety (1811):

 

“We must, while we keep our hearts humble,

keep our aims high . . . As God is unlimited in goodness,

He should have our unlimited love.

The best we can offer is poor, but let us not withhold that best.”

 

No one can say Hannah More did not give her best. May we follow her example.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/hannah-more/
  2. https://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-26-number-1/hannah-more-1745-%E2%80%93-1833
  3. https://www.str.org/w/hannah-more-guided-by-christian-convictions
  4. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/march/hannah-more-powerhouse-in-petticoat.html
  5. https://religionnews.com/2014/11/05/hannah-karen-prior-evangelical/
  6. https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/breakpoint/the-power-of-a-poem-hannah-more-and-the-abolition-of-the-slave-trade.html.
  7. https://mylordkatie.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/hannah-more-a-heart-for-the-poor/
  8. https://www.citieschurch.com/journal/culture-shaping-faith
  9. http://christianwomenonline.net/2020/02/18/hannah-more-changing-the-world-with-a-pen/

 

Art & photo credits: http://www.picryl.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (3).

 

 

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It happened again.

Steve and I had just finished our meal in a local restaurant when the waitress stopped by to check on us. We’ll call her Sarah.

“How was your dinner?” she asked.

“My chicken was delicious” I enthused. And then she looked to Steve.

“Well, this could have been better,” and he indicated his plate where a third of his steak remained. “It was left on the grill a little too long,” he explained. The dark, dry cast of the meat provided the undeniable evidence.

Sarah’s smile morphed into furrowed concern. “Oh, I am so sorry,” she exclaimed. “We have a new guy training on the grill tonight. He clearly let that steak overcook. Shall I have the chef fix you another?”

 

 

“No,” Steve replied. “That’s okay; I had enough.”

“Well, if you’re sure…Thank you for being so nice about it. I just took back five steaks from one table. They were not happy.”

“As a pastor for forty years, I know how people can be sometimes, forgetting their manners when they feel wronged. But this isn’t your fault,” Steve asserted.

Sarah nodded. “I’ll get your check,” she announced and dashed off.

Upon her return, Steve handed Sarah her tip in cash.

Now those of you who know Steve may guess her reaction to what she received, because he’s always been a very generous tipper. It’s part of his mission to be God’s agent, blessing other people in the name of Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

 

 

But Sarah’s response was a surprise. She began to cry. We could tell Sarah wanted to say something but she couldn’t speak for a moment.

“You don’t know what this means to me,” she choked. “I know God brought you in here tonight. It’s my fifth anniversary today for being sober, but it’s been a difficult day—not much of a celebration.

“When you said you’d been a pastor, I felt like God was saying he knows what I’ve been through. He sees the progress I’ve made. And now this.” Sarah indicated the bills in her hand as the tears continued to flow.

Now my eyes started to fill. To think: God had used us at just the right time to honor this young woman for her faith and perseverance.

“Well, you have to know,” Steve continued, “as a pastor, and Nancy here, a teacher, we didn’t make a fortune during our working years. But God has blessed us over and over and we just want to bless others—like you.”

“Thank you so much,” Sarah enthused. “I will never forget this.”

Steve and I won’t forget that encounter either. Surely as we left the restaurant our faces glowed as much as Sarah’s with the supreme joy of affirming her.

And Jesus’ beatitude that Paul quoted was proved yet again: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

 

 

In the last few years, scientific research has confirmed those words of Jesus. Now we know that generosity:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Lessens depression
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Contributes to longer life
  • Increases happiness, as the “feel-good” chemicals of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin are released.*

But that’s not all. When we give what we have, it may prove to be a treasure.

Our gift to Sarah returned a treasure to us of sublime satisfaction and euphoria—results far beyond what we expected. But Sarah’s gift of honesty and appreciation certainly blessed us beyond what she expected also.

 

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/539952

 

“Give what you have.

To someone, it may be better

than you dare to think.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

* https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.unsplash.com; http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com.

 

 

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“Your life can overflow with radical blessings!” Jesus told the crowd.

Maybe he didn’t use those words (even in Aramaic), but that was the reason he shared eight glimpses of what happens when we embrace God’s way of thinking and living.  Those eight declarations of blessedness are called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

Declaration #1 reads as follows:

 

 

The subsequent seven statements follow the same pattern.

But read through the rest of scripture and you’ll find other beatitudes as well, especially in Proverbs. And now that I’ve accumulated some life experience over a number of decades, I see more clearly than ever:  we do receive radical blessings when we embrace God’s ways.

For example:

Rhonda was struggling financially, trying to work part-time as much as she could while putting herself through college. She came over for dinner one night and I felt compelled to give her a bunch of coupons from my file, for the things she purchased regularly.

 

 

Now you have to understand, that coupon collection was extensive, because I gathered from numerous sources, traded with others, and even sent away product labels to receive high-value coupons.

It hurt to hand over a fistful of my precious stash. But I knew it was the right thing to do.

The next week, I received–from two different women–two bags full of coupon inserts from Sunday newspapers.

And I learned:

 

 

Or, written Beatitude-style:

Blessed are those who give freely,

for they will gain even more.*

 

___________________________________

 

 

Everyone loved “Aunt Toss.” She never went anywhere without a smile on her lips, a twinkle in her eye, and a chuckle at the ready. Frequently Aunt Toss would pop into Steve’s office to share a joke he might be able to use in a sermon. She saw humor in everything, was quick with the witty quip, and could pun with the best of them.

Yet during the years we knew her, she suffered terribly from shingles. And she missed her husband dearly. No one would have blamed Aunt Toss if her cheerfulness slipped a little. But she didn’t let that happen.

Instead, Aunt Toss enjoyed a continual feast of happy thoughts, pleasurable moments, and the reflected cheer from others, as she caused everyone around her to smile and laugh with her.

And I learned:

 

 

Written Beatitude-style:

 

Blessed are the cheerful,

for they have a continual feast of delight.

 

(The lovely lady in the photograph is not Aunt Toss, but she exuded the same joy.)

 

___________________________________

 

One of my husband’s spiritual gifts is generosity (Romans 12:8). Even during those early years of our marriage when the budget was tight, he would graciously help others in need.

So how did we make ends meet? We lived quite frugally, owned one car, wore some very nice hand-me-down clothing from family and friends, shopped with coupons of course, and watched for bargains.

One store in particular became a regular stop on my errands—a hit-or-miss place that carried an ever-changing array of goods.

One day a jumble of Keds lay piled on a table near their door. Heather, our middle child, was just about ready for a new pair. But she had narrow feet; her shoes had to be purchased at places like Stride Rite. The chance I’d find her size on that table was slim to none. (‘Hope you like puns!)

But a good rummage through the mound turned up a pair of size 7 slim after all. The best part? The price. You are not going to believe this:

Fifty cents.

 

 

Now granted, this occurred in the late 1970s. Things were cheaper back then, but not THAT cheap! At Stride Rite, we were paying $14.00 for a pair of Keds.

During those years of financial challenge, God provided bargain after bargain and gift after gift, due at least in part to Steve’s God-honoring generosity. And as only our Heavenly Father can do, he made sure our needs were always met—and then some.

 

 

For our beatitude statement, we can add the result of kindness, from verse 31:

Blessed is he who is kind to the needy,

for he honors God.

 

___________________________________

 

Over and over God has proved:   His ways are always best.  In fact, they are perfect.

 

 

How has he proved his wise ways in your life?  Please share your story in the comment section below!

 

* Of course, financial gain is not the only way God blesses those who give freely. Gains can be received through enhanced relationships, an uplifted spirit, added wisdom, greater contentment—and that’s just for starters. Our God is highly creative; he brings gain into our lives in countless ways.

 

Art & photo credits — Sermon on the Mount: wikimedia.com, bird on branch: www,canva.com,  coupons: http://www.pexels.com, hands: http://www.flickr.com, smiling woman: http://www.pexels.com, heart: http://www.pexels.com,  tennis shoes: ww.pixabay.com, Proverbs 14:21: http://www.heartlight.org, 2 Samuel 22:31: http://www.dailyverses.net.

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“Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem,

because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary,

who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

–Luke 2:4-5 excerpts, NIV

 

The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about eighty-five miles. Can you imagine walking that far, nine months pregnant? I can’t. Even if Mary rode on a donkey, she’d have been jostled and swayed from side to side. How comfortable would that have been? I think I’d rather walk.

And yet, in spite of Mary’s unremitting discomfort and Joseph’s growing concern, the couple surely traveled the road to Bethlehem with great hope in their hearts. Her firstborn would soon enter the world—a Child like no other. The angel, Gabriel, had made it clear to both of them: Mary would bear a son, the promised Messiah, and he would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Sure enough, Mary delivered the child while they were in Bethlehem, the exact birthplace identified by the prophet Micah (5:2), centuries before the event.

 

 

That same night shepherds cowered in the grass as blinding light pierced the darkness and a startling figure appeared—an angel. Fear quickly gave way to wonder, however, as the shepherds heard the astounding announcement. The Messiah had finally been born, not in the Holy City of Jerusalem as one might expect, but just a stone’s throw away in their own little village.

Soon the shepherds were also traveling a road to Bethlehem. But this was undoubtedly no midnight stroll; they may have even tried to outrun each other. And the exuberant joy that propelled them was accompanied by confident faith in their hearts. They knew the angel’s message had come from the Lord (Luke 2:15).

 

 

Many miles to the east wise men took note of a special star and shortly thereafter set out upon their own long road to Bethlehem. It’s possible they followed the star westward for two years, in order to worship the Messiah and present him with precious treasure: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Theirs was a road of generosity.

And now it’s our turn to travel the road to Bethlehem—a figurative one. With Thanksgiving behind us, we journey toward December 25, the final destination after a month-long celebration of our Savior’s birth.

Like Mary and Joseph we can travel with hope because our Heavenly Father is a God of his Word, who loves, encourages, strengthens, and more (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

 

 

Like the shepherds, we can embrace the truth of our Savior’s birth and all its implications for an abundant, God-enhanced life now and unending euphoria in heaven yet to come (John 10:10, 1 John 5:11-13).

Last, like the wise men, we can follow the road of generosity, not only with presents for family and friends or contributions to ministries and charities, but also with such gifts as:

  • A smile for the harried store clerk,
  • Focused attention on the toddler who wants to sing “Rudolph,”
  • A listening ear for the elderly lady at the grocery store,
  • Cheerful patience while waiting in line at the post office, and
  • The benefit of the doubt—for everyone.

Best of all, our road to Bethlehem extends beyond December 25—into eternity—where hope will be culminated, faith will become sight, and generosity will be rewarded (1 Peter 1:3-4; Hebrews 11:1; Ephesians 6:8).

 

 

The road may seem long at times.   But the destination will be rapturously worth it.

______________________________

Your turn:

Of course these three–hope, faith, and generosity–aren’t the only roads to Bethlehem.  There are many, including the familiar roads of love, joy and peace.  What road (s) will you travel this Advent season?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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Destroyed_Warsaw,_capital_of_Poland,_January_1945

(Warsaw, Poland, January 1945)

 

World War II reduced much of Western Europe to rubble. Homes, businesses, factories, and much of the infrastructure were damaged or destroyed. How could the region rehabilitate itself? It couldn’t. Even two years after the war ended, very little rebuilding had been accomplished. Many people were living in poverty. Government agencies, in chaos themselves, could offer little if any support.

America came to the rescue, helping to rehabilitate post-war Europe at the cost of $22 billion dollars.   That’s about $182 billion in today’s economy, to assist sixteen nations, including Germany, for six years (1946 to 1952) (1).

Granted, the investment provided a boon to our economy when those nations began to thrive and became strong trade partners with us. National security was undoubtedly enhanced as well.

But a nation such as ours, rich with resources and populated by creative, entrepreneurial people, could surely have survived quite well without their participation. Besides, think what America could have done with $22 billion.

No, greater than economic gain or national security was the importance of doing the right thing and providing humanitarian aid – even to our enemies.

 

Picture of German Children receiving aid from LWR in 1951, taken from Together in Hope book by John Bachman.

German Children receiving aid in 1951, taken from Together in Hope book by John Bachman.

 

“Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos,” said then-Secretary of State, George C. Marshall.

No other nation in history has offered such post-war assistance—and so generously. Now, nearly seventy years later, the foreign aid continues—still totaling billions of dollars every year. And not only does this aid go to our allies or other republics, but to nations of differing political doctrines, all over the globe.

Such generosity is one of our core values in America, contributing to our nation’s greatness. But it is not the only thing.

No other nation on earth offers so much humanitarian aid—much of it by volunteers. Think of the doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, plus a multitude of non-profit organizations whose sole objective is to relieve suffering around the world and help others lead more productive, satisfying lives.

In 2013 just one agency, the American Red Cross, accomplished the following (among many other achievements).

They:

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  • Assisted millions of people in 24 countries, impacted by disaster.
  • Continued to aid 4.3 million earthquake victims in Haiti to rebuild their lives.
  • Helped vaccinate over 98 million children against measles.
  • Continued to develop disaster preparedness in 32 countries, so communities are not so vulnerable.
  • Helped to reconnect nearly 900 families separated by war or disaster (2).

Is it safe to say that, without America, the world would be a very different place? Our generosity and humanitarianism alone have produced significant results around the globe. But there is still more that sets us apart.

No other nation on earth provides such freedom, opportunity, and protection for its citizens.

In addition, recent immigrants often speak of the wonder and delight they experience upon coming to America. They marvel that: roads are regularly repaired, highway signs are clear and accurate, business practices are generally fair. They’re astonished by the volume and variety of goods available–things that most American take for granted, like shampoo, disposable diapers, and deodorant (3).

And what’s the foundation of all this goodness that has contributed to America’s greatness? It’s the values and principles most Americans still embrace–those laid out in the Bible.

For example:

Our generosity can be traced back to Deuteronomy 15:7-8, Proverbs 21:26, and Matthew 25:34-40.

 

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Our humanitarianism—even to our enemies—is rooted in the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:44) and Paul (Romans 12:20).

And our way of life, based on freedom, fairness, and adherence to law brings to mind the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), Romans 12:9-10, and many other scriptures upholding respectful treatment of all.

Granted, we’re not perfect. Selfishness, greed, and power-grabbing fester among us.  But the world is still a better place for the biblical principles named above which provide America’s foundation–whether folks acknowledge that truth or not.

Praise God for his influence through our founding fathers (many of whom were Christians) and self-sacrificing believers in Jesus throughout our 240-year history. It is on their shoulders we stand to do our part. to advance those attributes that make America great–like no other nation.

 

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What do you think has contributed to America’s greatness?  Celebrate your appreciation for our nation in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. usnews.com
  2. redcross.org
  3. heritage.org

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.lwr.org; http://www.redcross.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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Cy lined up his machine at one edge of the wheat field. He gave Henry, their most reliable workhorse, a few reassuring pats on the shoulder, and a rub to his nose.

“This is it, old boy,” he whispered. “I think we’ve got a winner this time. Are you ready?”

Henry nodded his head as if he understood. But Cy knew the horse was just anxious to head down the rows, hopeful there’d be a carrot or two at the end.

With a doff of his hat to his watching father, Cy got behind the machine, and called, “Walk!”

Henry pulled forward and the machine followed alongside, exactly as Cy had designed it, so Henry’s hooves would not trample the wheat–just one of the problems Cy had solved as he worked on his invention.

Actually, it wasn’t solely his. Cy’s father, Robert, had worked for sixteen years developing a machine to ease the slow, back-breaking work of cutting wheat with a scythe or sickle. Also important to a wheat farmer: a quick harvest.  Too often they suffered the debilitating disappointment of a crop ruined by rain because harvest couldn’t always be achieved fast enough.

 

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Solutions to several problems had evaded Robert. Twenty-one year old Cy asked if he could give the reaper a try.

Cy worked out several improvements: 1) a paddle wheel to press the wheat against the cutting blade, 2) a toothed blade that moved back and forth. 2) a comb-like affair that held the stalks in place for cutting, and 3) a divider situated ahead of the reaper, to separate the grain to be cut from the grain left standing.

Now, just six weeks after receiving permission to take over the project, Cy was ready to test his newest version.

As reliable old Henry plodded down the first row, the machine whirred among the grain, neatly slicing the stalks near the ground. In no time Cy and his reaper had reached the end of the field. The wheat was neatly cut, none had been trampled or left behind, and the blades had not jammed.

 

mccormick-reaper-jpeg

 

Cyrus McCormick had just changed the way the world farmed. For centuries, no more than an acre or two of wheat could be harvested in a day. Cy’s invention reaped a dozen or more.

On June 21, 1834 (one hundred eight-two years ago tomorrow), Cyrus McCormick took out a patent for the horse-drawn reaper.

By 1847, he and his brother, Leander, were moving from Virginia to Chicago to build a factory for reaper production. Waterways and railways made the small city of 40,000 a new hub for transportation. It was also on the edge of the Great American prairie, where pioneers were turning grasslands into farms.

 

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Four years later, Cyrus would be honored by the French Academy of Sciences for “having done more for agriculture than any other living man” (1).

He was also amassing a great fortune.

Perhaps you remember parts of Cy’s story from history class. But few history students (I would guess) know that Cyrus McCormick was a Christian—a man who didn’t just listen to God’s Word, but lived it (James 1:22).

 

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For example:

Cyrus’ business practices followed the Golden Rule, making it possible for struggling farmers to buy a reaper. He was the first American businessman to offer: 1) an installment plan for purchase, 2) a set price—no haggling necessary (a common practice at the time), 3) a trial period, and 4) a written warranty for his product.

 

McCormick portrait

 

Jesus said, “Freely have you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). For Cyrus that meant supporting ministries. McCormick’s legacy included:

  • Large contributions to the salaries of two missionaries, John R. Mott and Sherwood Eddy. (At the time American mission work abroad was growing rapidly.)
  • $10,000 to Dwight L. Moody to help start the Chicago YMCA.
  • Another $100,000 to Moody to start his Bible Institute.
  • Yet another $100,000 to Northwestern Theological Seminary, later renamed McCormick Theological Seminary.

All three of these institutions are still functioning, still impacting people all these years later.

mccormick theo sem of presbyterian ch

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for such heroes as Cyrus. H. McCormick, whose legacy continues in the lives of many, including the graduates of Moody Bible Institute and McCormick Theological Seminary. No doubt his influence is also at work around the globe, through the ripple effect of John R. Mott’s and Sherwood Eddy’s work. Only You know how many other ministries and individuals McCormick impacted.

 

Lord, keep me mindful that “the greatest use of my life is to spend it for something that will outlast it” (2). That something would be your kingdom, and Cyrus H. McCormick is a prime example.  

 

Notes:

  1. lemelson.mit.edu.
  2. William James

 

Sources:  www.cbn.org; http://www.intheworkplace.com; http://www.worldencyclopedia.org; http://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org.

 

 

Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.american-historama.org; http://www.wisconsinhistory.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.chicagotribute.org; http://www.chicagopc.info.

 

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How would you complete this statement?

“____________________ is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

Possibilities might include:

A. Financial assistance

B. A thoughtful, meaningful present

C. A favor or kind deed

D. Attention

According to a speaker I heard on the radio, the answer is D.  He was evidently quoting Christian author and activist for the poor, Simone Weil (1909-1943):

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Attention is a rare form of generosity, because it involves time and effort—both of which are precious commodities.

But every now and then, all of us need someone to focus her eyes on ours, listen to our words with mental concentration, and respond appropriately–even pick up on our facial expressions and tone of voice.

listening-ear

That’s often the exception, however, not the norm. Who has not tried to share a deep, heartfelt concern, only to have the listener look away at a slight distraction or steal a glance at her phone, then fail to react appropriately because she wasn’t tuned in to the story? Worse yet is when she interrupts with her own story, her own agenda.

I don’t want to be that distracted person. I’d like to follow my brother’s example. John has always been one to give up the precious commodity of time for others.

During our growing up years, we lived next door to a family with five children. Tragedy struck one afternoon when the father fell while repairing their roof.   He hit his head on the concrete driveway and never regained consciousness. The next day he was gone.

Though John was at least seven or eight years older than three of those neighbor boys, he would play ball with them now and again, giving them a bit of attention, which they surely needed.

One time when Fred, the third oldest child, came to our door and asked, “Can John come out to play?” we had to laugh. (Not in front of Fred, of course.) At the time, John was in his early twenties, serving in the Air Force and home on leave! But he did go out to play.

A silhouette of a father and his young child playing baseball outside, isolated against the sunsetting sky on a summer day.

I’d also like to follow the example of Dixie, the choir director of one of the churches where my husband served as pastor. She perfectly demonstrated how to live out Philippians 2:4 (NIV): “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (1).

Dixie always stayed focused on the persons sharing with her. She was responsive, without saying too much, letting the speakers know they were being heard and understood.

Great satisfaction can result from providing the gift of attention to another. But that’s not the only blessing.

  • We gain a better understanding of life while listening to the experiences of others. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2 NIV).
  • Our own relationships can be strengthened as we learn from the examples of those who share with us.
  • Worthwhile ideas are discovered—ideas we may never have thought of on our own.
  • When we’re kind to the needy, we honor God (Proverbs 14:31b).

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*     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord, I don’t want to be wrapped up in my own agenda. I’d much rather be like my brother, John—generous with my time and communicating encouragement through my attentive presence. Help me also to be an attentive listener like Dixie. Remind me, Father, to slow down, embrace the moment and genuinely interact with those around me.

 

  1. Note to self: Concern for self is not wrong as long as true compassion for others balances the scale of my attention.

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

Who has provided the rare gift of attention for you?  What did you appreciate most about that gift?  Please share your story in the Comments section below!

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