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Archive for the ‘Godly Character’ Category

 
Five samples of red wine sat before the young man, each labeled with a price tag ranging from $5 to $45 a bottle. He tasted one, cleansed his palette with plain water, then tasted the next.

“Which one tastes better to you?” the researcher asked.

“Oh, definitely the $45 bottle,” responded the participant.

Most everyone who tried the wines agreed. The more expensive vintage was clearly superior. What they didn’t know: the wines labeled $5 and $45 came from the same bottle (1).

The preconceived idea that more expensive wines taste better had greatly influenced the participants. And it makes one wonder, what other preconceived ideas influence what we value?

 

 
Do we choose our clothing based on the logo? Are we more likely to accept certain invitations based on the importance of the host? Do we take great interest in the rich and famous?

In today’s world, people value:

  • Influence, power and authority, little realizing its downward pull. “Power intoxicates men,” asserted James F. Byrnes. “When a man is intoxicated by alcohol, he can recover, but when intoxicated by power he seldom recovers.”
  • Self-reliance, assertiveness and drive. Charles W. Eliot isn’t the only one who’s believed “the efficient man is the man who thinks for himself.” But that discounts the value of knowledge, wisdom, and creativity of others–including God’s.

 

 

  • Wealth and material possessions. By contrast, St. Augustine would have us “soar above our worldly possessions. The bee does not need its wings less when it has gathered an abundant store; for if it sinks in the honey it dies.”
  • Fame and privilege. But “what is Fortune, what is Fame? Futile gold and phantom name—Riches buried in a cave, Glory written on a grave” (Henry Van Dyke, “The Talisman”).
  • Physical attractiveness. “The most highly respected and valued attribute in our culture is physical attractiveness, “ wrote Dr. James Dobson (2). But of course beauty fades over time. What then?

 

 
It’s all chasing after the wind.
 

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

and then is heard no more;

it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

signifying nothing.”

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 
And yet, if you exhibit at least several of the elements listed in bold print above, you are deemed successful in this world—even though those who reach the pinnacle of such success often experience loneliness, boredom, and dissatisfaction.  What kind of prosperity is that?

Still, men and women through the ages have been fooled into believing that pursuit of these values will bring happiness–in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
 

 
Praise God he offers a better, truly fulfilling way to live. And since he made us, he knows exactly what will satisfy.

To an outside observer, the values of his kingdom must appear upside down. Note how opposite they are from the world’s values listed above:

  • reliance upon him (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

 

  • humility (James 4:6)

 

 

  • generosity (2 Corinthians 9:7)

 

 

  • a servant’s heart (John 12:26)

 

 

  • inner beauty based on character (1 Peter 3:3-4)

 

 
These are the qualities that provide a solid foundation for wise choices.  And it’s wise choices that contribute to peace, contentment, and fulfillment.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Lord God, I know the world’s ways lead to futility, yet I can still be drawn in by the lies. Give me strength to choose your way and make wise choices based on your Word. May I be mindful how blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied. I praise and thank you for the full satisfaction you freely give!

Ephesians 4:17-24; James 1:5; Matthew 5:6 ISV

  

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080126101053.htm
  2. https://www.drjamesdobson.org/blogs/dr-dobson-blog/dr-dobson-blog/2018/10/15/sources-of-self-esteem-in-children-part-1-society’s-infatuation-with-beauty

Photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com’ http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.pixnic.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net (2).

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I read the poster, then checked my watch—again. It was time to notify.

“Excuse me, but my appointment with Dr. D. was at 10:30 and it is now 11:15.” I spoke in even tones that belied my frustration.

The receptionist referred to the schedule on her computer. “Thank you,” she responded pleasantly. “I’ll check to see what the problem is.”

Returning to my seat, I expected to be called shortly, but it still took ten to fifteen minutes. Another annoyance: no one ever explained the delay or apologized.

 

 

No doubt you’ve endured similar experiences. Waiting nearly always creates nuisance no matter how many magazines they provide. Who hasn’t been stuck in the waiting areas of car repair shops, office buildings, and airports—when we’ve places to go and things to do?

But those aren’t the only forced pauses we face. At one time or another all of us spend time in the waiting room of life—as we anticipate achieving a long-term goal, receiving that long-awaited email or phone call, or seeing an ongoing prayer finally answered.

How are we supposed to handle the interminable pauses in life?

The following truths promise to ease our frustration and offer hope.

 

 

In God’s view, to wait is not to waste.

There is always purpose in God’s delays. King David wrote, “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23 GNT). Next to this verse in the margin of his Bible, George Mueller wrote: “And the stops too” (1).

Just what might God be doing during the stops? He often uses wait time to work on our character, transforming pride into humility, doubt into faith, weakness into strength, and impatience into serenity.

 

A time of waiting provides a time for discovery.

As we turn attentive hearts toward gratitude for what is, praise for who God is, and satisfaction in serving him now wherever he has placed us, we’ll discover contentement.  With Paul we’ll be able to say:

 

 

“The heart is rich when it is content, and it is content when its desires are set upon God,” wrote Miguel of Ecuador (2).

On the other hand, a heart cannot be content if set primarily upon an attainment in the future.

 

Waiting is part of the wonder to come.

It’s a basic principle of investment: the longer we wait, the greater our return. Delay enhances delight.

And one day we’ll finally receive the explanation for the pauses in our lives. No doubt our eyes will widen in wonder to see all that God accomplished when in our view, progress stood still.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I thank you, Heavenly Father, that we can trust you during wait times.

You know the perfect sequence and timetable for events to unfold; we do not. You see the whole picture—the lives of others who will be impacted during this wait time; we cannot.

So may we rest on what we do know: You are a God of goodness, faithfulness, and wisdom. The one who trusts in you, whose confidence is in you, is blessed.

  

(Psalm 130:5; Psalm 139:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:24;

Psalm 100:5; Romans 11:33; Jeremiah 17:7)

 

Notes:

  1. George Müller (1805-1898) founded schools and orphanages in Bristol, England, in the early 1800s, providing care for thousands of children.  His testimony of great faith included numerous miracles of provision for the orphans under his care.
  2. Miguel of Ecuador (1854-1910)–teacher and author

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (3).

 

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If we could gather in large crowds right now, and if our plans had included a baseball game yesterday, we would have witnessed in interesting phenomenon: every player wearing the same number—42.

 

 

Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day, when all major league teams celebrate his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, April 15, 1947, wearing #42. As you may know, for the preceding seventy years, all players had been white.  Jackie Robinson was African-American.

 

 

You may also know how such an opportunity opened up for Jackie, through president and general manager for the Dodgers, Branch Rickey.

 

 

But perhaps you didn’t know (because many books and films have omitted this information) both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson were Christian men of high integrity.

So what inspired Branch Rickey to put his faith in action by fighting against racial prejudice? It began with an incident in 1906.

Rickey coached the college baseball team at Ohio Wesleyan. When they traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame, his star catcher Charles Thomas, a black player, was denied lodging with the rest of the team at the Oliver Hotel.

Rickey asked if Thomas could stay in his room on a cot. With reluctance, management agreed. Later that evening when Rickey returned to their room, he found Thomas crying and rubbing his skin.

“If only I could make it white; if only I could make it white,” he sobbed.

Rickey made a vow to God that night. If he ever had a chance to combat racial prejudice, he would take it (1).

Not until 1942 did the opportunity present itself, when Rickey was hired to manage the Dodgers. The timing seemed perfect.

 

 

All races of Americans were fighting against the racist Nazi regime in Europe—even as racism continued in the States. The incongruity was obvious to anyone who considered the evidence.

Rickey spent two years contemplating the impact of integration on baseball and looking for the best candidate—a man of athletic ability and godly faith who could withstand the maelstrom of trouble sure to come.

Finally, in 1945, Rickey found Jackie. Not only could he play ball with the best of them, he was a strong Christian.

 

 

The two men met and Rickey offered Robinson a place on the team. He warned the recruit that racially motivated abuse would likely occur. “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,” Rickey told him (2).

That meant Jackie could not retaliate. Only then might their experiment succeed, so more players of other races would be able to join major league teams. And once the color-barrier in sports was broken, perhaps change would come in business, entertainment, education, and more.

In October 1945, Branch Rickey told his friend and well-known broadcaster Lowell Thomas he was about to announce the signing of an African-American to the Dodgers.

“Branch! All H-___-___-L will break loose!” Thomas cried.

“No, Lowell,” Rickey responded, “all heaven will rejoice” (3).

Thomas’s words seemed prophetic. That first year, Jackie Robinson suffered vehement loathing—ridicule, defamation of character, death threats, and more–not just from baseball fans or opposing teams. His teammates added their own abuse with snide remarks and exclusion.

How could Jackie withstand such contempt day after day, week after week?

He prayed—on his knees—asking God for strength to resist fighting back, and Jackie trusted God to guide him and sustain him.

 

 

“I can testify to the fact it was a lot harder to turn the other cheek and refuse to fight back than it would have been to exercise a normal reaction,” he later wrote. “But it works, because sooner or later it brings a sense of shame to those who attack you. And that sense of shame is often the beginning of progress” (4).

Progress was enhanced by the support of Leo Durocher, Dodgers’ player-manager, Ed Stankey, second baseman, and PeeWee Reese, shortstop and team captain.

 

(PeeWee Reese)

 

By the next season, a few black players were hired by other teams and two more by the Dodgers. Pressure on Jackie eased.

Years later, Jackie wrote of Branch Rickey: “Others have insinuated that he is not sincere because he speaks so frequently and so emotionally about the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It is the way of some people to make light of sincerity of this kind, because they themselves are too small to speak, think, and live big” (5).

As for Jackie, sportswriter Red Smith wrote, “[Jackie Robinson] would not be defeated. Not by the other team and not by life. The word for Jackie Robinson is ‘unconquerable’” (6).

 

______________________________

 

We too can be unconquerable in our challenges if we remember:

 

 

Jackie Robinson showed us the way.

 

Notes:

  1. https://godreports.com/2013/04/jackie-robinson-how-god-used-two-faith-filled-believers-to-desegregate-baseball/
  2. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/jackie-robinson-100th-birthday-his-faith-in-god-was-the-secret-ingredient-to-his-success
  3. https://www.investors.com/news/management/leaders-and-success/branch-rickey-revolutionized-baseball-in-more-ways-than-one/
  4. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/jackie-robinson-100th-birthday
  5. https://sportsspectrum.com/sport/baseball/2017/07/18/jackie-robinsons-faith-god-detailed-new-book
  6. https://goodnewsmag.org/2011/03/the-life-and-faith-of-jackie-robinson/

 

Other sources:

http://www.davidprince.com/2015/04/15/the-ferocious-christian-gentleman-behind-jackie-robinsons-famous-moment-2/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/04/11/jackie-robinson-a-man-of-faith-column/2075367/

 

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

 

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h63568

 

(In honor of Black History Month)

 

In the predawn hours of May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls’ experienced hands gripped the ship’s wheel of the Planter, though his heart was pounding. Ahead were five checkpoints along the Charleston River, and then the open sea. Within a few hours he and the fifteen others onboard would be free from slavery.

Or, failing to succeed, they would be sinking the ship, jumping overboard and perishing together. They had already decided: being captured was not an option.

Smalls prayed aloud, for the benefit of his crew and passengers: “Lord, we entrust ourselves into thy hands. Like thou didst for the Israelites in Egypt, please stand over us to our promised land of freedom” (1).

The first checkpoint came into view, its lanterns gleaming gold against the darkness. Even though the sentries would not be able to see him clearly, Smalls had taken the precaution of wearing the captain’s coat and straw hat. He even assumed his captain’s posture. And when Smalls gave the correct whistle signal, they allowed him to pass without question.

Robert whispered another prayer, this time of gratitude and praise. He marveled how God had engineered events–starting in his youth–to bring him to this moment:

  • At age twelve, Smalls’ master, Mr. McKee of Beaufort, South Carolina, had rented him to an employer in Charleston. Smalls had worked in the city ever since, as waiter, lamplighter, and then wharf hand.
  • Currently he was employed as wheel hand aboard the Confederate supply ship, Planter, under command of Captain Ripley. His circumstances had allowed him to learn how to sail and how to make the correct whistle signals at checkpoints.
  • The captain and white crew members frequently spent their nights in Charleston, not on the ship. This night was one of them.

 

charleston_s-c-_-_street_scene_-_nara_-_525179

(Charleston street scene by Matthew Brady)

 

  • Smalls enjoyed good rapport with the other ship-hand slaves of the Planter. Without them, this daring getaway would have been impossible.
  • The opportunity for escape presented itself when a pre-dawn mission was scheduled for May 13. Smalls’ 3:30 a.m. departure, although earlier than actually scheduled, did not alert the harbor guards.
  • Smalls had time to notify his wife and children that he would pick them up at a prearranged wharf nearby, prior to the first checkpoint.

A small pinpoint of pale light appeared ahead. Checkpoint Two. Again, the Planter slid by without incident as Smalls signaled to those on shore. Three, four, and five also allowed them to pass.

By sunrise they were sailing into safe Union waters. Upon sighting the first vessel of the Union blockade, Smalls took down the Confederate flag and hoisted a white sheet—just in time before sailors aboard the Onward began firing at the Confederate vessel.

His plan had worked; the little band onboard had escaped to freedom. No doubt their shouts of celebration included, “Thank you, Jesus!”

Smalls surprised the captain of Onward with his knowledge of Rebel fortifications and their locations. Also of value: a book of secret flag signals used by the Confederates, and a full cargo of armaments.

It wasn’t long before Smalls had joined the war effort for the Union, helping to enlist Black men to fight. Nearly 5,000 former slaves fought courageously for the North.

For his part, Smalls became the Union Navy captain for the CSS Planter, the ship he had sailed to freedom. He also captained the ironclad, USS Keokuk.

 

uss_keokuk_h59546

(The USS Keokuk)

 

Smalls led Union ships into waters the Confederacy had protected with mines—mines that Small had helped to plant while enslaved in Charleston. Soldiers deactivated the mines, opening those passageways to Union vessels.

Smalls courageously conducted seventeen missions in and around Charleston, which included assisting in the destruction of railroad bridges in the harbor area.

After the war, Smalls and his family returned to Beaufort, South Carolina. He was awarded the rank of Major General of the South Carolina Militia during Reconstruction, and turned his attention to business, education, and finally, politics.  He opened a general store and started a newspaper. He helped establish the first school built for African-American children in Beaufort County.

 

robert_smalls_-_brady-handy

(Robert Smalls)

 

From 1869 to 1889 Smalls served in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature, and five terms in the U.S. Congress. Referring to his political service, one commentator said, “His record was brilliant, consistent, and indeed he led in all the most prominent measures” (2).

One story in particular highlights Smalls’ Christ-like attitude that impacted his entire life:

 

robert_smalls_house_beaufort_south_carolina

(The McKee/Smalls House in Beaufort, SC)

 

He eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase the house in Beaufort where he and his mother had been slaves of the McKee family. Sometime after Smalls and his family moved in, Mrs. McKee came to the door. By this time she was elderly and perhaps suffering from dementia. She thought the house still belonged to her.

The natural inclination would have been to send her away or have her delivered to her current home. But that was not Robert Smalls’ way. He invited Mrs. McKee inside, gave back to the woman her old bedroom, and then served her.

Robert Smalls died in 1915 at age 76, and was buried with great honors.

In 2001 a Logistics Support Vessel was launched with his name, the Major General Robert Smalls. It was the first ship named for an African-American.

A worthy honoree, indeed.

 

Notes:

(1) Boone, Bishop Wellington, Black Self-Genocide, p. 165.

(2) http://www.docsouth.umc.edu/neh/simmon/simmons.html

 

Sources:

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ibiblio.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (4)

 

(Reblogged from February 2, 2017.  Jury duty has interfered with writing time this week.)

 

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Ask a group of young adults to name three of their life goals, and many of them will mention: success in their careers, loving families, and good friends.

Few if any will say, “to lead a quiet life.”

Yet God inspired Paul to write:

 

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”

–1 Thessalonians 4:11a

(emphasis added)

 

First, I suppose we ought to establish what a quiet life might include—qualities such as:

  • Composure
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Gentleness
  • Peacefulness

 

 

Equally valuable?   An understanding of what the quiet life would not include:

  • Boasting
  • Being easily-ruffled or offended
  • Whining and Complaining
  • Bossiness
  • Being argumentative

 

 

It’s easy to see: those who lead calm, kind, gentle lives are the ones we like to be around.  The second group of boasters, whiners, and arguers–not so much.

But there are many more benefits to the quiet life than offering pleasant company for others, honorable as that is. Consider the following:

 

A quiet life produces inner strength.

 

“Strength is found not in busyness and noise but in quietness.

For a lake to reflect the heavens on its surface, it must be calm.”

–L. B. Cowman (1)

 

Have you noticed that those with great inner strength and tranquility are most often grounded in faith?

 

(Grandma Rachel, circa 1910)

 

My grandmother(2) was just such a person.  Her strength through tragedy and challenge came from calm confidence in God and complete dependence upon him (Isaiah 30:15).  As a result, serenity and peace radiated from her life.

She was a 1 Corinthians 13 sort of woman—quietly patient, loving, and kind–not boastful, proud, or easily-angered.  I never heard her raise her voice, gossip, or complain. And she consistently thought of others before herself.

Those qualities of the quiet life Grandma exhibited, still radiate in my heart today.

And that leads us to the next benefit:

 

A quiet life provides resounding impact.

 

 

Sunbeams silently rest on plant and tree, generating photosynthesis and growth. Dewdrops silently form in the night, refreshing the ground. Gravity silently presses all matter to the earth.

Similarly, a life of tranquility provides a quiet, positive influence on others through calm demeanor and gentle speech.

Limited speech is also impactful. We’d never think to apply the adjective quiet to a nonstop talker, would we? Thinking-before-speaking includes this advice:

 

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

–Spanish Proverb

 

Columnist Robert Brault seeks to accomplish that feat this way:

 

“I like to think of myself as a finely aged wine,

and one thing that keeps a wine finely aged

is to put a cork in it” (3).

 

A quiet life wins respect (1 Thessalonians 4:11a, 12a).

 

 

Tirades and obnoxious behavior may garner rapt attention, but composure and self-restraint earn high regard.

We’d do well to remember:

 

“The only way to demonstrate

that Christianity is the best of all faiths

is to prove that it produces

the best of all men [and women].”

–William Barclay (4).

 

A quiet life is blessing.

 

1) Composure and contentment result as we grow in tranquility—highly desirable qualities in this world of unrest, discontent, and anger.

 

2)  A quiet life also steers us toward the blessing of maturity, where trivial annoyances no longer infuriate, giving is more fun than receiving, and building up someone else is more satisfying then bragging about ourselves.

 

https://quotefancy.com/quote/1557578/

 

3) The best blessing of all for humble, gentle, and peaceable individuals? The commendation of God himself (Matthew 5:3-9).

 

“How slow many are to learn

that quietness is a blessing,

that quietness is strength,

that quietness is the source

of the highest activity—

the secret of all true abiding in Christ!

Let us try to learn it

and watch for whatever interferes with it.

The dangers that threaten the soul’s rest are many.”

–Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

 

“Abide in me and I will abide in you” (John 15:4 ISV).

 

Notes:

  1. Streams in the Desert, p. 450
  2. I’ve written about her before: https://nancyaruegg.com/2013/02/18/1106/
  3. http://www.quotegarden.com/speaking.html
  4. The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 234.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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Science teacher Mike Burns emerged from his house and headed to his car for the short commute to his middle school. ‘Wish it were Friday instead of Wednesday, he thought. How can two days feel like five?

Mike’s next door neighbor was already puttering among his prize rosebushes, even though the sun was just rising.

He called out a quiet “Hey, Bill,” so as not to waken any neighbors, then opened the door to the back seat and set his briefcase and lunch on the floor.

“Howdy yourself, Mike!” Bill responded cheerily, raising his clippers in a salute. “’You have a great day now. And just remember: The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese (1).”

 

 

Mike chuckled. Bill always had a quick joke or silly quote to share.

“I’ll try to be that second mouse!” Mike quipped, taking his seat behind the wheel, and waving good-bye to his retired neighbor.

As he waited at the first stoplight, Mike found himself sniggering again. Gotta love that Bill—always so positive.

On his way from parking lot to faculty lounge, Mike thought of several colleagues who’d also appreciate Bill’s advice, and smiled again. Yup, they’re gonna love it, he thought.

Early bird that he was, Mike decided to make the coffee. And while it brewed, he straightened up the papers, pens, and other office supplies littering the worktable. With a satisfied grin he surveyed the surprise for his coworkers, then grabbed his mug, poured the first cup out of the pot, and headed to the second floor.

 

 

English teacher Angie Thompson arrived next, the teacher who made coffee more often than anyone. But the lounge was already filled with the aroma of a fresh brew.

And look at the table! I’ve never seen it look so neat—and inviting! Angie smiled, already forming a mental list of teachers who might have been so thoughtful. Then with her own cup of joe in hand, Angie walked briskly down the hall to her classroom, invigorated for the day.

Half an hour later, as students strolled in, she found herself engaging with them in good-natured banter. And when the bell rang, Angie greeted her class with an extra dose of cheerfulness and enthusiasm.

The positivity proved highly contagious and as discussion groups got under way, the students responded to each other with more courtesy than usual.

 

 

The same phenomenon was occurring in Mike’s classroom too, as partners companionably constructed barometers.

In fact, the atmosphere of good will continued to spread throughout the day, impacting the entire school community by the time the last car left the parking lot.

And when everyone went home, each was surprised how energized they felt—even happier. Hundreds of households benefited from the positivity.

 And all because Bill offered a bit of friendly conversation and humor.

_________________________

 

Now some will say this sequence of events highly exaggerates the results from one small act of kindness. But research has proved:

“Kindness is contagious. It can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way…One good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people” (2).

No wonder God inspired Paul to write:

 

 

Mother Teresa gently expanded on Paul’s instruction this way:

 

“Be kind and merciful.

Let no one ever come to you

without leaving better and happier.

Be the living expression of God’s kindness:

kindness in your face, kindness in your smile,

kindness in your warm greeting…

Give them not only your care, but also your heart.”

 

Imagine the over-lapping ripple effect if each of us became the living expression of God’s kindness.

It can start with just a brief, neighborly conversation.

 

 

What recent kindness made a difference in your life?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. One of comedian Steven Wright’s famous one-liners.
  2. Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Standford University for Scientific American, July 26, 2016, https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness).

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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While Steve and I savor the last few days of family gathered in one place, I hope you’ll find wisdom to savor, among these seven quotes:

 

The bad news is time flies.

The good news is God is the pilot.

–Unknown

 

I wish, my brothers and sisters, that during this year you may live nearer to Christ than you have ever done before. Depend upon it: it is when we think much of Christ that we think little of ourselves, little of our troubles, and little of the doubts and fears that surround us.–Charles Spurgeon

 

REFLECT. REVIEW. REPENT. RENEW.

–Unknown

 

Renewal is rooted in faith, not in resolutions! They are made for New Year’s and forgotten on an average of thirteen days later, say the surveys. Faith is the result of a decision about Christ. I cannot make a new me or a new you, but Christ can make you new and me new, as well, if we decide for Him.–Frank Harrington

 

If this is to be a Happy New Year,

a year of usefulness, a year in which we shall live to make this earth better,

it is because God will direct our pathway.

How important then, to feel our dependence upon Him!

— Matthew Simpson

 

Trust an unknown future to a known God.

–Corrie ten Boom

 

Recipe for a Happy New Year

Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all the specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time.

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing—don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution.

Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of humor.—Anonymous

 

___________________________________

 

Which quote was most meaningful to you?  Tell us about it in the comment section below.

 

May 2020 be a year of increasing spiritual strength and prosperity of soul for us all!

 

Photo credit:  http://www.pxfuel.com.

 

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Cinematographer Conrad Hall won three Academy Awards during his fifty-year career. His genius produced such classic films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and more recently, The Road to Perdition.

When Hall died of cancer in 2003, his colleagues declared him “one of the great cinematographers and a master of light.”  Yet toward the end of his career, Hall stated, “You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

Another cinematographer, John Bailey, affirmed the same truth: “A lifetime commitment to learning and studying…is real important.  It’s a constant process…you’re a student for your whole career.”

I wonder…

Might the dynamic of continual learning be important for us as believers in Jesus?

 

 

He seemed to think so.

During one of his last teaching sessions with the disciples (recorded in John 14-16), Jesus inferred they would always be students—even though these men had been under his tutelage for three years (the time it takes to earn a degree in ministry today).  Consider also, their Master was the Son of God.

But even they required more –a Helper to guide them into all the truth (16:13).

And so do we.

Now some might be discouraged by the reality we can never attain full understanding about God or achieve perfection of character this side of heaven.  Even the great Apostle Paul asserted he had not arrived:

 

 

But there is a positive side…

I can imagine that cinematographers Conrad Hall and John Bailey (mentioned above) enjoyed ever-increasing satisfaction in their work, as their knowledge expanded and their competence developed.

We too can enjoy ever-increasing satisfaction in working out our salvation (1), as we expand our knowledge of God and his Word, and develop the competence of a mature believer.

It’s a process that continues as long as we live on earth. The better acquainted we become with God, the more we want to live by his wisdom. The more we live by his wisdom, the sweeter and more satisfying life becomes.

 

 

Just as cinematographers cooperate with their directors to bring characters to life, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and he brings to life the character within each of us, developing a mature person–complete and not lacking anything (James 1:4).

His Word becomes the joy of our hearts, obedience becomes a delight, and peace rules in our minds (2).

 

 

 

So…

“Don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others.

“With these qualities active and growing in your lives…no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus (3).”

You know who wrote that? The Apostle Peter—one of the disciples at that last Passover meal with Jesus. And for several decades after that memorable dinner, Peter did allow the Helper to guide him through the maturing process. He knew the rewards.

Now it’s our turn to learn, study, and cooperate.

Together let’s keep moving forward–and revel in the process as we do.

 

 

This post is based on a mini-devotional written by our son, Pastor Jeremy Ruegg.

 

Notes:

  1. The clause, “working out our salvation” comes from Philippians 2:13: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation (NLT).” By no means can we earn a place in heaven by working hard (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We could never work hard enough to deserve its magnificent riches.
  2. Psalm 119:111, 35, 165
  3. 2 Peter 3:5-8 (MSG)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.com

 

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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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Along with spring-cleaning of the house, I thought perhaps a purging of the blog-post-ideas file would be worthwhile. Six years of collecting starters has produced thirty-five pages of possibilities.

Some ideas have languished in a notebook nearly the whole six years. It’s probably time to admit they’re never going to amount to anything, I decided.

Then you came to mind! Maybe you’ll see potential where I’ve given up hope. And with a deft question or suggestion you’ll send me off researching and keyboarding with your fresh insight.

Or, you’ll say, “I’d like to know more about that. Keep that one in the hopper!” And the life of that idea will thus be saved.

So what occurs to you about these topics, dear readers? Do you see any possibilities here for a worthwhile post or two?

  1. From Anxiety to Joy. Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” What might those consolations be that can bring joy in the midst of anxiety? (That’s quite a feat!)

 

 

2.  God’s ways are an outgrowth of his character—even when tragedy strikes. How can hurt and pain be the outgrowth of God’s beautiful and perfect attributes?

3.  Delight and Desire. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” How do we learn to delight in the Lord and desire what he desires?

4.  The Adventure of Grace. What insight might we gain from the definition of adventure? How is the life of grace is like an adventure, and why is that attitude helpful? How can we embrace the adventure more enthusiastically?

 

 

5.  The power of right attitudes over body, mind, and spirit. What have medical science and psychology discovered about the impact of attitudes? What does scripture have to say? How can we change our attitudes?

6.  “He who keeps one end in view makes all things serve”—Robert Browning.   That statement is true in the Christian life: if our main ambition is to fulfill God’s purpose, then all events will serve equally well.

7.  Goodness is not only good for those around us, it’s good for us.

8.  How do we accept with grace the circumstances that are unpleasant and outside our control?

9.  Turning Boredom into Contentment. Life can be full of mundane tasks that sap the joy right out of our spirits. What’s a person to do?!

 

 

10.  Game-Changers. Our viewpoints of life’s circumstances are perhaps more important than the circumstances themselves. Sometimes all it takes is a pithy statement to change our attitude. Possibilities include: “We obey God, not because we have to but because we get to” (A quote from one of the lay pastors at our church.) Or, how about this statement: “If the Lord does not change the place for the better, he will make us better in the place” (Charles Spurgeon). What other perspective-changers can we apply on a circumstantial rainy day?

11. Taking offense at less and less provocation seems to have pervaded our culture. What happened to resilience? Is it important? Does the Bible give us instruction for this attribute? How do we develop it?

12.  Rock Climbing—a metaphor for life. We need the handholds of God’s character when life becomes a difficult climb. We must cling to his attributes.

 

 

That’s enough for today. I’ll look forward to reading your creative suggestions in the comment section below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.nps.gov; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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