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Archive for the ‘God’s Goodness’ Category

That’s what we can expect when we choose to live God’s way: supreme blessedness.  Jesus made that clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  You’ll remember he began with eight statements of blessing called beatitudes.

One example:

 

 

In other words, profound joy comes to those who humbly depend on God, as they avail themselves of his heavenly kingdom-benefits.

Of course, there are many other attitudes and actions he rewards, in addition to those eight Jesus named.

Below are listed several means to blessedness that have come to my attention over the years. Perhaps you’ve experienced them too:

 

Blessed are the risk-takers, for they shall sail on winds of faith.

 

 

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for” (Grace Murray Hopper).

 

Think of Abraham.

 

“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went,

even though he did not know where he was going.”

–Hebrews 11:8

 

We too have to be willing to travel blind toward undisclosed destinations. Otherwise we’ll never experience the thrill of God’s power taking us to ports we’ve never dreamed of.

The way ahead is always hidden, sometimes causing uncertainty.  But!  We know the One who’s leading. Uncertainty does not have to cancel out confidence.

 

Blessed are those who seek God’s desires, for they shall know delight and fulfillment.

Somehow we think the pursuit of our own desires will bring satisfaction.  But haven’t we seen enough of the rich and powerful crash and burn in despair?  “Everything [is] meaningless; a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

How much better off we are to pray along with the psalmist:

 

 

It is in the practice of obedience we learn its precious worth.

 

Blessed are the encouragers for they shall be encouraged.

Such an interesting phenomenon: make the effort to lift someone else’s spirit, and you find your own spirit uplifted.  Actually, wise King Solomon recorded this be-attitude long ago:

 

 

Guaranteed double pleasure.  How’s that for supreme blessing?

 

Blessed are the sifters of thoughts, for they enjoy golden contemplations.

If we’re not careful, our minds can easily gravitate toward dross thoughts–the negative, unwholesome, and ugly.  It takes effort to seek out the gold: the honorable, lovely, and commendable. But true contentment awaits those who do.

 

 

Blessed are the focused for they shall not spread themselves too thin.

Our bodies were made for a rhythm of rest—7 to 8 hours out of every 24. Short-changing sleep actually lowers our productivity and endangers our health (1).

That’s why:

 

 

We just can’t do it all, much as we’d like to. Priorities and parameters must be set. That means, saying no to some good things may be the best choice.  We must give others permission to do the same also.

 

Blessed are those who pay attention to the ordinary, for they discover the extraordinary.

For example:

  • Icicle sentries in winter, clinging to the seat of a deck chair

 

 

  • Wildflowers in springtime, cupping tiny pink and yellow stars

 

 

  • Sunbeams on a summer morning, filtering into the glen

 

 

  • God’s artistry (and penchant for color!) splashed on autumn leaves

 

 

Each eye-catching display is a precious love-gift from our Heavenly Father. And around us are countless more, waiting to be discovered, savored, and praised.

 

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.”

–Psalm 145:3

 

And there you have six more beatitudes–examples of God’s supreme blessedness lavished upon us–when we choose to live by his wise and loving ways.

 

 

What be-attitude would you add?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

1) https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/tired-at-work#1 and https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170209/skimp-on-sleep-and-you-just-may-wind-up-sick#1

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.libreshot.com; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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Recently I read about a woman named Rachel, persevering through very difficult circumstances. She knew that praising God was a smart strategy to implement.  Praise invites his presence, and it is in God’s presence we can experience absolute joy (Psalm 16:11)—even in the midst of trouble.

But putting praise into practice proved challenging. Her situation wanted front and center attention; her mind kept returning to the worry and what-ifs.

Rachel decided to make her morning swim a time of praise. For each letter of the alphabet, she tried to name a descriptor of God’s goodness while she lapped the pool.

Her tactic worked. Focusing on praise first thing in the morning helped to establish a positive frame of mind, easing stress and worry for the rest of the day (1).

 

 

The author did not include Rachel’s list. I had to wonder: Could I name twenty-six facets of God’s goodness, each beginning with a different letter and affirmed by scripture?

The effort turned out to be a delightful, uplifting exercise.  Below is my alphabet of praise.

Our God is:

A – Attentive to every need of every person in his realm (Matthew 6:25-33)

B – Benevolent beyond our dreams (Ephesians 3:20-21)

C – Compassionate toward those who are hurting (Psalm 86:15)

D – Dependable to support, sustain, and keep us secure (Psalm 55:22)

 

 

E – Eager for all to know and understand truth, to receive his gift of eternal life (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

F – Faithful through all generations, as enduring as the earth he created (Psalm 119:90)

G – Gentle in his guidance and care for his children (Isaiah 40:11)

H – Honoring us (!) with all needful favor in this life and admittance to glory in the world to come (Psalm 84:11 and Barnes Commentary)

I – Impartial to all who come to him, no matter our circumstance or appearance (Romans 2:11; Psalm 145:8-9)

 

 

J – Just in all his ways, choosing what is exactly right (Isaiah 5:16)

K – Kind, considerate, and helpful as he continually demonstrates his caring nature (Jeremiah 9:24)

L – Loving to the extreme; sending his Son to the cross as the supreme sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10)

M – Merciful beyond belief, exchanging our shame for his glory when we turn to him (Ephesians 2:4-7)

N – Never-failing to accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 46:10)

 

 

O – Omnipotent over every event, every circumstance (Psalm 103:19)

P – Patient to refine us, day by day, into the best version of ourselves (Philippians 1:6)

Q – Qualified to rectify or redeem any situation (Matthew 19:26)

R – Righteous and perfect in all his ways (Psalm 145:17)

 

 

S – Sheltering us under his powerful, protective wings (Psalm 57:1)

T – Tender yet practical in his continual thoughts of each of us (Psalm 139:17-18, 32:8)

U – Understanding of our foibles and weaknesses (Psalm 103:14)

V – Victorious over all sorrow, crying, pain—even death—when Jesus returns (Revelation 21:4)

 

 

W – Wise beyond human understanding (Romans 11:33-36)

X – X-pert at all he does (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Y – Yearning for all his children to come home to him (2 Peter 3:9)

Z – Zealous to fill us with hope, joy, and peace (Romans 15:13)

 

 

And this is just a sampling of who our God is!

Think of it: ALL that we need is found in ALL that he is.

 

“With the goodness of God

to desire our highest welfare,

the wisdom of God to plan it,

and the power of God to achieve it,

what do we lack?”

—A. W. Tozer

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Help me, O God, to soar on wings of praise, even in the storms of life. May I keep my eyes on you, my sovereign and powerful Heavenly Father, in whom I can wholly trust. Hallelujah!

 

(1) ______, God’s Little Lessons on Life, Honor Books, 2001.

 

What facets of God’s goodness would you add to the list?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.peterson.af.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.)

 

 

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(A new parable)

 

In the high-ceilinged reception hall of the palatial residence of Elohim (1) stands an uncertain woman, Encie (2). Her new friend Jesus has just ushered her in, but what might happen next, Encie has no idea.

A tall, winged being of shimmering light glides into the hall through a massive door on the left. “Welcome, Encie! Welcome to your first day in the eternal kingdom of God! I am Avodah (3), honored assistant to Elohim. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to kingdom living.  But first, please direct your attention upward.”

With a graceful sweep of his arm, the angel (for what else could he be?) draws attention to a great choir of angels hovering high above.  They begin to sing a joyful, undulant melody accompanied by fast-rolling harmonies. Such a beautiful weaving of sound Encie has never heard, but all too soon the music crescendos in a heart-stopping finish.

 

 

And then silence.

The angel whispers, “That was for you, Encie.”

She turns, wide-eyed, to stare at Avodah.  “Me?  I don’t understand.”

“We can’t help getting excited every time another person invites Jesus into his or her life!” he explains.  “And now, Encie, we have gifts for you!”

He grandly gestures once more, this time toward a long line of angels entering the hall from a door on the left. Each bears a different gift.

The first angel approaches with a thick packet balanced on both hands.

“These are your adoption papers, Encie. They indicate you are now a full heir to your Heavenly Father’s estate, which is the whole universe. As an adoptee, you’ll enjoy other privileges also. For example, your Friend and Brother, Jesus, will be with you wherever you go, to provide strength and comfort.”

 

 

With trembling hands, Encie takes the adoption papers from the angel, barely able to whisper “thank you.” Can it be?  She is now a child of the King of all!

Angel #1 quietly slips away toward another doorway to the right and a second angel moves forward with a thick book.

“Ah!” says Avodah. “This gift will become more precious to you than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. It is Elohim’s Supreme Instruction Manual, filled with wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.”

 

 

Angel #2 places the manual on top of the adoption papers in Encie’s arms and exits in the same manner as Angel #1.

Angel #3 approaches carrying an identification badge on a lavaliere.

“Allow me!” cries Avodah. Taking the badge, he drapes it over Encie’s head and positions it gently around her neck. “You now have direct access into the throne room of Elohim Himself. You may ask Him anything; you may tell Him anything.”

 

 

“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” Encie blurts. “Nothing I have to say could possibly be important enough for Him.”

Avodah lays a lightbeam finger on God’s Word in her arms. “You’ll read here that He actually wants you to bring everything to Him. You can drop off all your worries and concerns in His throne room. In their place He’ll offer you another precious gift: His peace of mind that no human can explain. You will never again have to experience stress or sleepless nights—unless you choose to.”

Avodah pauses for a moment, allowing Encie to absorb the glorious possibility of exchanging life’s pressures for Elohim’s perfect peace.

 

 

And then Angel #4 glides forward. In his cupped hands he holds what appears to be a sparkler, but there is no stem. The ball of shooting sparks hovers over his hands, apparently causing no harm or hurt.

“Oh, Encie.” says Avodah, with reverence in his voice. “This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is because He’s already been working in your life that you are even here today. But now He will bring wisdom, understanding, and strong counsel to your mind. He will enable you to serve Elohim in far greater ways than you ever could on your own. And that’s just the beginning! You’ll learn more about the Spirit in God’s Word there.” And Avodah lightly taps Encie’s new instruction manual.

 

 

Suddenly the sparkler-orb arises out of the angel’s hands and moves toward Encie. She experiences no fear, and there is no pain as the light passes through her being into her soul. Upon entrance, a warm, euphoric joy spreads through Encie until she is filled with the presence of Spirit Light.

Yet there is more.

Avodah asks, “Encie, do you see all these other angels waiting in line? They, too, carry gifts for you including:

 

 

  • A padlock for your heart, because God’s love is locked into you in unending commitment
  • A can of sunshine yellow joy-paint, to splash on all life’s circumstances
  • A spool of never-ending blessings
  • An anchor of hope to hold you firm and secure
  • A level for smoothing the paths of life
  • And a packet of fruit seeds the Holy Spirit will help you grow into mature, delicious character traits over time

 

 

“Oh—and don’t worry. We’ll make sure all of these gifts make it home with you.”

“I-I don’t know what to say, “ Encie stammers and lowers her head. “The words ‘thank you’ seem…worthless.”

Avodah lifts her chin with his glowing hand and speaks with tenderness in his voice.

“The best way to show your gratitude, Encie, would be to demonstrate heartfelt reverence for all Elohim has done for you. Take Him at his Word, follow His all-wise ways, and trust Him. He loves you so very much, Encie.”

 

 

Encie nods.

“Why don’t you go into the throne room right now?” asks Avodah, indicating a golden door in the center of the back wall. Tell Elohim your thoughts. Remember, He’s not listening for impressive words; it’ll be your heart He hears.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Lord Almighty! Everything within me cries, “Thank you!” I try to sing my gratitude; I kneel in worship in an effort to express my gratitude. Thank you for Your love and faithfulness expressed in countless ways. You are the One and only, great and glorious Elohim, my Heavenly Father! 

(Psalm 138:1-5)

 

Notes:

(1) Elohim: infinite, all-powerful God

(2) Encie: New Christian (N.C.)

(3) Avodah: a Hebrew word meaning work, worship, and service

 

Scriptural basis for elements of this parable: Luke 15:10, Romans 8:14-17, 29; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 11:28; Psalm 119:72; Romans 5:1-2; Philippians 4:6-7; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 3:16, 20; Acts 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 4:4-8, 11-13; Psalm 40:5; Hebrews 6:19; Proverbs 4:26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 147:11; Hebrews 11:6; Titus 2:11-14.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com by Tyler Neyens; http://www.canva.com.

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at       https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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“Are you all set for your move to Chicago?” I heard Jessica* ask. She’s one of the hair stylists at the salon I go to. Her station is just on the other side of a partition from where my stylist Anna* works.

As I settled into Anna’s chair last Wednesday morning, I readily heard the conversation between Jessica and her client.

“Yes, we found the perfect house,” the woman was saying. “There are just two bedrooms, but…”

I knew that voice.

In late December my hair appointment had overlapped with the same client. That day she had expressed concern because none of the properties shown on realtor websites were fitting her and her husband’s criteria. She feared there would be no suitable homes to tour during their house hunt set for mid-February.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she confided. “I hate to think of moving into a rental and then moving again later.”

It seemed fitting to share our house-search experience.

“Excuse me,” I interrupted while peeking around the partition. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation and just wanted to tell you the same thing happened to us before we moved here three and a half years ago.  We discovered that if the perfect house becomes available too soon, it’s likely to be sold by the time you’re able to visit the area and view homes.

“Our perfect house came on the market just two weeks before we flew up here from Florida to house-hunt. The same will happen for you, I’m sure of it!”

She thanked me warmly, appreciative of the voice-of experience offering reassurance.

And now, at the end of March, I was quite certain that same woman (whom I had not seen since December) was in Jessica’s chair again, sharing the next chapter of her story.

I peeked around the partition just as I had before.  Instantly we recognized each other.

“You found the perfect house! Awesome!” I cried.

“Just like you said, “ she replied. “It came on the market a couple of weeks before our trip to Chicago.”

It wasn’t long before the two of us sported our coloring-chemicals and sat together so I could hear about her house. We chatted away like old friends.

A couple of times Diane* mentioned her husband’s illness but gave no specifics; I didn’t press for details. Later in the conversation it seemed appropriate to share Steve’s recent diagnosis of liver cancer. (You can read a short explanation at the end of last week’s post, “Haven of Peace.”)

“I don’t always talk about the details of my Ken’s* illness,” Diane confided, “but you need to know.” She paused. “Ken was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. The doctors only gave him twelve to fifteen months to live after the surgery, but it’s been two years and he’s still here!”

And together we praised God for his goodness.

I left the salon last Wednesday with my heart greatly uplifted. Ordinarily I would have sat at Anna’s station and read magazines or the book I always bring along.

But God is El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13). He saw my need for companionship that day.

He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:14). He provided Diane to be his voice of encouragement, hope, and joy.

He is El Shaddai, God Almighty (Psalm 91:1). He rules over all—every situation, every difficulty, every illness—even cancer.  Sometimes he ordains miracles.   Diane’s husband and countless others are living proof.

 

 

He is Yahweh Nissi, The Lord Our Banner (Exodus 17:15-16).  He goes into the battle before us, leading the way toward victory in all circumstances—a victory of faith in the face of trouble (1 John 5:4).

He is Yahweh Rapha, The Lord Who Heals (Psalm 103:2-3). And if the healing is not realized on earth, it is guaranteed in heaven (Revelation 21:4).

 

*     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, O God,

for your knowledge that comforts,

your provision that reassures,

your power that enables,

your leadership that guides,

your healing that perfects.

You alone are the wellspring

of all that we need.

May we trust in you

with unwavering confidence

and rest in your transcendent peace.  

 

*Names changed.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.minot.af.mil (Cassandra Jones, photographer); http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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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 out 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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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

(Mary McLeod Bethune)

 

Mary turned over in her bed for the umpteenth time seeking a restful position, even though she knew discomfort was not the cause of her sleeplessness–excitement was. Tomorrow morning, October 4, 1904, she would stand in front of her first class of children in her own school: The Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Negro Girls.

Mary smiled, remembering the miracle of learning to read for herself when she was a girl of ten—miraculous because: 1) the provision of education for African-American children was rare in 1885, and 2) out of the seventeen children in her family, she was the one chosen to attend.

 

(Cabin where Mary was born, the fifteenth child out of seventeen)

 

The school was five miles from home, and she had to endure harassment and assault from white children on her daily treks. But Mary knew: this opportunity meant God had purpose for her life.

In 1886 a Quaker missionary financed the continuation of her education at Scotia Seminary in North Carolina.

Seven years later she entered Moody Bible Institute in Chicago as the only African-American among hundreds of white students. Instead of harassment and assault, however, Mary encountered acceptance, proving that “blacks and whites could live and work together with equality” (1).

While at Moody, Mary sensed God leading her to Africa as a missionary. But when it came time to apply, her denomination’s mission board denied her request because she was black.

The disappointment was deeply painful, but Mary soon turned her attention to those of African descent in America, and became a teacher—first in Augusta, Georgia and then in Sumter, South Carolina. She worked tirelessly, not only for her students but also for the surrounding black communities.

Thank you, Lord, for those nine years of teaching experience, Mary prayed. You prepared me well to found this new school.

Granted, there would only be five little girls greeting her in the morning, but it was a beginning. And Mary was confident God would make her school grow.

She chucked to herself. Of course, Lord, you left an awful lot of work for ME to do!

First she found a community in need of a school: Daytona Beach, Florida. Numerous African-American families were moving there, in order to be employed by the newly formed Florida East Coast Railroad.

 

(Workers on the East Coast Railway Extension, 1906)

 

Next Mary found a run-down cottage to rent for eleven dollars per month.  She convinced the owner to accept $1.50 as a down payment.

To supply her school with furniture and other necessities, Mary foraged at the city dump and behind hotels for anything useful. Old peach crates became student desks and chairs, an old barrel became her teacher’s desk.

She retrieved discarded linens, kitchen ware, and cracked dishes for the homemaking and skilled trades she would teach. Everything was scoured, mended and repurposed. Even charred wood had value as substitute pencils.

To cover expenses, Mary sold sweet potato pies and fried fish to wealthy tourists. She canvassed neighborhoods, spoke to church groups and clubs, and distributed leaflets.

Now, opening day was hours away.  And as she finally drifted off to sleep Mary wondered, What might the future hold?

If God had told her, even Mary’s strong faith would have been stretched.

That tiny handful of students in 1904 would grow to almost 250 by 1906, requiring more teachers, an advisory board, and a bigger facility. Among the influential men (black and white) on the board was James M. Gamble of the Proctor and Gamble Company.

 

(Mary and her students, ca. 1905)

 

In 1923 her school would merge with the Cookman Institute, a co-educational school for African-American students in Jacksonville, Florida. Mary was chosen as the first president. Later the Bethune-Cookman Institute became a college and then a university. (Today, nearly 4,000 students attend the school.)

 

(Faith Hall, built in 1907 to accommodate Mary’s growing school;

now part of Bethune-Cookman University)

 

In 1935 Mary helped organize the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) “to connect African-American women across the country and establish a national voice for them” (2).   Mary served as the first president.

A White House Conference of the NCNW met in Washington, DC in 1938. Then president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, offered her the position of Director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.

Mary met one-on-one with President Roosevelt several times a year and became good friends with Eleanor.

 

(Eleanor in the middle; Mary to her right)

 

Her participation on various government committees actually spanned the terms of four presidents, from Calvin Coolidge to Harry S. Truman.

 

(Mary’s home in Washington, DC)

 

Mary often said:

 

 

The impossible events of Mary’s life offer ample proof.

 

(Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955)

 

Notes:

(1) http://www.talbot.edu/ce20/educators/protestant/mary_bethune

(2) https://savingplaces.org/stories/mary-mcleod-bethune-bethune-cookman-university-hbcu-history#.WnzP3pM-e8U

 

Sources:

http://www.talbot.edu/ce20/educators/protestant/mary_bethune

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ969859.pdf

https://savingplaces.org/stories/mary-mcleod-bethune-bethune-cookman-university-hbcu-history#.WnzP3pM-e8U

http://www.wciujournal.org/journal/article/mary-mcleod-bethune-an-agent-of-change-and-leadership

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.nationalparkservice.org; http://www.wikimedia.org, http://www.canva.com

 

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