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Archive for the ‘Godly Character’ Category

Long ago one of my cousins (Alice, I think) knitted her brother a sweater for Christmas, and had almost finished it by the end of November when the extended family gathered for Thanksgiving.  However, the sweater had turned out much too big, and Alice was stymied how to downsize it.

“Give it to me,” suggested Aunt Orsie, the most skilled knitter in the group.  “I think we can fix that.”  As she chatted away the afternoon with the other aunts and older cousins, Aunt Orsie helped Alice take apart the sweater, undo the extra rows, snip, knit, and bind off the shortened rows until the sweater had miraculously shrunk to proper proportions.  (That terminology and order of steps is likely inaccurate—I’m not a knitter!)

Alterations make a significant difference, and not only in the way clothing fits.  As we know, standard counter height can be altered to accommodate those especially short or tall, and the print in books can be altered to accommodate the visually impaired.

Some alterations, however, are much more challenging to accomplish—even more difficult than downsizing a sweater.  Take attitudes, for example.  How do we alter negativity into positivity, a critical spirit into grace, discouragement into hope, or frustration into gratitude?

Here are a few possibilities:

Negativity can be altered by a different viewpoint.

Poet Langston Hughes wrote:

How altered our attitude could be if we searched for the rainbows and refused to focus on the dust of life.

A critical spirit can be altered by truth.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the family on a beach vacation.  While building a sandcastle their first day, the children spotted an old woman wearing a faded dress and floppy hat, bent over and mumbling to herself as she approached.  Every now and then she picked bits out of the sand and put them in a burlap bag.  

Though the children called hello to her, the woman didn’t respond.  She appeared lost in her own world. The parents watched warily, expressed their doubts about her mental state and a hotel that would allow her on their premises. They warned the children to stay away from her.

Each day the woman combed the beach, muttering and plucking as she went.  Finally the family asked the concierge if he knew about this strange woman.

“Oh yes,” he said.  “That’s Mrs. Thompson, a retired schoolteacher who lives up the road. She’s made it her mission to rid this section of beach of anything that might cut people’s feet, and while she walks, Mrs. Thompson prays for the people nearby.  No doubt she prayed for you!”

Discouragement can be altered by hope.

And in what do we hope? 

  • The promises of God
  • The development of our character, growing us into our best selves
  • The fact that God executes good plans even through our suffering 
  • That for those of us who know Jesus, the best is always ahead*

We know these routes to hope; it’s the determination to take them that requires our diligence.

Frustration can be altered by appreciation.

Sometime during our younger son’s toddler days, he scribbled on several pages of my Bible–splotchy eyesores among my straight-edge underlinings and carefully written comments. 

As the years went by, however, when I’d encounter one of those scrawls, my response completely altered.  “Aw, there’s one of Jeremy’s notes,” I’d smile, remembering the rambunctious and ever cheerful little boy he once was, just trying to be like Mommy and Daddy.

My frustration not only disappeared but became appreciation.

No matter the attitude that needs altering there is a means to transform it.   We can snip away at undesirable attitudes (like negativity and a critical spirit) with proper perspective and truth.  We can bind off the damage of harmful emotions (like discouragement and frustration) with hope and gratitude.

Most beneficial of all, we can invite God to miraculously shrink our erroneous ways of thinking until we’re good and pleasing to him.

What attitude-alteration have you witnessed or experienced?  Please share in the comment section below!  


* See the previous post, Promises Kept as well as Romans 5:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Photo credits: http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com.

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Given that everything in the universe has its origin in God [1], it stands to reason music originated with God. 

Granted, he could have bestowed the gift without participating himself, but scripture indicates otherwise.

In Psalm 42:8b we’re comforted with this assurance: “by night his song is with me.”  Our part is to pay attention to the lyrics that proclaim his perfections and good works—lyrics he sings over us straight from his Word. When we memorize verses of God’s Song, they can comfort our hearts even in the darkest of times [2].

In Psalm 32:7 we read of God’s “songs of deliverance” that encourage and inspire.  Where might we hear these songs?

In the calming sounds of nature.  Creation is full of God-Song—beyond the musical offerings of birds.  Think of burbling streams, the wind humming through evergreens, frogs ha-rumphing, crickets chirping, and the soulful underwater cries of humpback whales. 

Indeed, God-Song surrounds us in the air, on land, and in the sea, reminding us we’re enveloped in his love.  And because of that love, he provides deliverance from fear, trouble, distress, and the evil one [3].

Second, we hear songs affirming his goodness, dependability, and compassion in his Word [4].

Third, we hear God’s Song through the uplift of hymns and other Christian music. Men or women may be listed as the composers and lyricists, but surely all would give God the credit for his inspiration and empowering.

In Zephaniah 3:17 the prophet depicts God delighting in his people with song. 

“He rejoices with joy and joys with his singing,

which shows how delighted he is with his people . . .

his own righteousness upon them,

his own grace in them.”

— John Gill

Of course, God wants us to make music also, and not just with our voices and instruments.  God longs to come alongside, and within the sphere of his influence, make sublime music with our lives—much more beautiful and satisfying than anything we could accomplish on our own.

Perhaps you saw the video—based on an actual event (and available on YouTube):

A young father settles into his concert hall seat next to his wife, just as a performance is about to begin.

“Where’s Tommy?” he asks.

“I thought he was with you,” she exclaims, worry lines already criss-crossing her forehead.

At that moment the curtain goes up to reveal a little boy, oblivious to the audience, sitting at a grand piano, legs dangling above the pedals.  Tommy.

 One single note at a time—and rather haltingly at that—he begins to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

“Go get him!” Mom cries in a stage whisper.

Too late.  A tuxedoed man is already approaching the piano from behind Tommy.

Will he reprimand the boy for touching the concert grand? Will he demand that the parents of the delinquent come to collect him?

No, he quietly leans over the boy and tells him to keep playing.  Then he envelopes Tommy with his arms, and begins to add Mozart’s intricacies to the simple melody.  Together they make sublime music, and both smile with pleasure.  So does the audience.

That’s a picture of how the Virtuoso of the universe delights to make music with us, to raise our paltry human effort into transcendent God-Song.  With his righteousness over us, and his grace in us, we can make beautiful music. 

And those around us will hear and smile with pleasure, including the Maestro himself [5].

If you’d like to watch the video:

Art & photos credits: http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com.


[1] Colossians 1:16

[2] Psalm 23:4

[3] Psalm 34:4, 17; 107:6; Matthew 6:13

[4] Psalm 31:19; 145:17; 103:13-14

[5] Ephesians 3:20

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Most of us have asked at one time or another, “Why does God allow so much suffering?  Why doesn’t he intervene?” 

Surprisingly, people of the Third World where suffering is common don’t ask these questions.  They accept the fact that no one leaves this life without enduring times of trial and distress [1].

Even God’s own Son endured suffering. Unimaginable suffering.  And it didn’t begin with the physical torture inflicted by Roman soldiers or the horrific crucifixion sanctioned by Pilate.

It began the night before, in the garden of Gethsemane, as he experienced overwhelming desperation and sorrow, and his sweat fell like drops of blood [2].

BUT!  God Almighty takes the worst deeds of man that cause the greatest pain and turns them into glorious victory with eternal benefits.

As we wait for that day, God uses our suffering to fulfill higher purpose beyond our comfort and prosperity—purposes such as these:

God doesn’t intervene so we can learn to surrender and obey.

Even Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” [3]—poverty, hunger, temptation, pain, exhaustion, derision, and stress.  Anything we face, he faced.

God knows if we don’t learn to surrender to his ways and purposes, we end up living to please ourselves—and not liking the selves we’ve pleased.

On the other hand, obedience does lead to confidence in God, prosperity of soul, and the ability to face life with resilience and poise.

God doesn’t intervene so we can develop character.

Suffering works for the believer, not against, producing perseverance which leads to character; and character to hope [ 4].

So we strive to act wisely and in the process learn self-control.  We withstand discomfort and learn fortitude.  We endure self-sacrifice and learn how to love.

God doesn’t pour the rains of affliction upon our souls for nothing.  “Springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers.  And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life” [5].

God doesn’t intervene so we can inspire others.

Some of you may know the name Bill Sweeney, a popular blogger diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1996.  He graduated to heaven just after Christmas 2021. 

Bill outlived many others with the same diagnosis, but he suffered much.  For years his entire body was immobile.  Eventually Bill was composing his posts on a computer that tracked eye movements—posts that reflected deep faith, great strength of spirit, and delightful humor.

Commenters affirmed again and again Bill’s impact in their lives as he provided stellar encouragement and inspiration, all the more impactful because of his deteriorated health.

God doesn’t intervene so we can exhibit faith.

Bill Sweeney exhibited great faith even though he was incapable of anything beyond typing with eye movements.  But it wasn’t the suffering itself that produced spiritual strength.  It was his response.  Without self-pity he lived his life and shared his heart—humbly and honestly. And thousands of people found hope.

It’s important to understand: Christ did not suffer to exclude us from suffering; he suffered to exclude us from the consequences of our sins.  However, we can be confident of this:

That means Bill Sweeney’s sacrifice of suffering counts for all eternity.

And God will make your sacrifices of suffering count for all eternity too [6].


[1] Philip Yancey, Grace Notes, p. 69.

[2] Luke 22:44; Mark 14:34-36

[3] Hebrews 5:8

[4] Romans 5:3-4

[5] L. B. Cowman, Jim Reimann, ed., Streams in the Desert, June 15.

[6] F. Elaine Olsen, Beyond the Scars, p. 163.

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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My nephew is training for an Iron Man competition taking place in April.

Every day Preston follows a carefully prescribed regimen of exercise, riding his bike, running, and/or swimming. He eats a specified diet, and strives for proper rest. Recently he purchased a new bike based on current research for achieving top speed.

Much of this is according to his trainer’s recommendations, from his acquired knowledge and experience as a competitor. The trainer knows what it takes to finish the race.

Over the last forty-plus years of Iron Man Triathlons, participants have learned strategies for success. For example, they use their arms almost exclusively for the swim portion, saving leg strength for the bike ride and run.

 

 

Months ago Preston had to choose: should he embark on this test of endurance or opt for an easier goal? And if he did tackle an Iron Man race, would he seek guidance or train on his own? You already know his choices.

Now Preston is within weeks of the race. He’s in the best shape of his life and pushing his body to accomplish far more than ever before. But any current contentment will be multiplied many times over when he crosses that finish line and celebrates the completion of this extreme challenge.

What Preston is experiencing in the physical realm, God would have us understand in a spiritual sense, as laid out in Jeremiah 6:16:

 

 

Like Preston, we face a choice, but of much greater consequence than a competition.  Will we follow the ancient paths of God’s good ways or not? And like Preston, we can experience contentment now—not just when the race is complete. God offers us peaceful rest within our spirits (Philippians 4:6-7).

Meanwhile, many around us suffer from discontent and restlessness–the result of sin and following one’s own path. Jeremiah proposes a better plan: follow the good ways of God and contentment of soul will result.

But there’s a broader meaning to this verse. Jeremiah was addressing the entire nation of Judah. As he spoke the words quoted above, a national calamity loomed. Within a few years the people of Judah would be taken captive to Babylon, because the people had not listened to God’s words and they rejected God’s law (Jeremiah 6:19).

 

 

Our nation also stands at a crossroads, but few Americans seem to be looking to God for how to proceed. Instead they’re engrossed in self-interests. They don’t ask for the ancient paths that led us to security, prosperity, and blessing in the past.[1] They reject biblical values as out-of-date and stifling.

As a result, many Americans experience dissatisfaction in life, relying on drugs or alcohol to numb the emptiness and soul-strife.[2]

And what of us who believe in Christ and do seek the ancient paths? We stand at the crossroads of these choices:

 

 

  • Will we defend our faith even though ridiculed?
  • Will we remain on the ancient path of righteousness, or bend to blend in?
  • Will we stand for absolute truth or succumb to the relative truth of the culture that says it all depends on perspective?

 

Uncomfortable repercussions may result when we stand for our faith and absolute truth. But our souls will rest in the peace and contentment of a clear conscience.

When Preston finishes his race, family and friends will be ready to congratulate him.

 

 

When we finish our life race, God will be ready to congratulate us with, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

IF we remain steadfast.

 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,

for when he has stood the test

he will receive the crown of life,

which God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12 (ESV)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Help us all, O God, to be on guard against the lies of the enemy, to stand firm in our faith, to remain courageous and strong in all circumstances. Our heart’s desire above all is to honor you—by finishing strong. 

(1 Corinthians 16:13)

 

 

Notes

[1] The security of settled minds (Psalm 112:7-8), the prosperity as God’s people (Jeremiah 29:11), and the blessing of his provision (2 Corinthians 9:8).

[2]   a. In 2017, 12.7% of Americans were taking antidepressants, up 64% since 2014 (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/11/numbers).

b. About 38% of adults in 2017 battled an illicit drug use disorder (https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics ).

c. 14.5 million people, or 5.3% of the population had AUD, alcohol use disorder, in 2019 (https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics).

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Thanks to inventor Hans Busch, physicist Ernst Ruska, and electrical engineer Max Knoll, we’ve enjoyed the benefits of their invention, the electron microscope, since 1931.

With its superior magnification power (up to 10,000,000x), scientists can capture images like those below. See if you can identify the object in each photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo #1–the cross section of a plant stem; Photo #2–butterfly eggs; Photo #3–butterfly scales; Photo #4–olivine (rock); Photo #5–tomato plant leaf; Photo #6 rose petal.)

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

–Psalm 19:1

 

First, the heavens include our planet, of course.  And everything on the earth and in it also tells of the glory of God.

 

 

Second, what exactly is the glory of God? Theologian Charles Ryrie described it as “the manifestation of any or all of God’s attributes on display.” Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said it’s “the sparkling of the Diety.”  I love that, don’t you?

Just in those few microscope-images above we see evidence of his dazzling wisdom—in the design of a plant stem that moves water and nutrients upward against gravity to the leaves. And then the products produced by photosynthesis in the leaves are taken back through the stem to other parts of the plant, including the roots.

We see evidence of God’s stunning artistry in those butterfly eggs with the eye-catching ridges.

And we see his creative use of shape and color in the butterfly scales, the olivine sample, the tomato leaf, and rose petal.

Billions more examples can be found all across our varied planet, manifesting his goodness in the variety of plants, animals, landforms, and more that he’s given us to use and enjoy.

 

 

I wonder—do you suppose God smiled when he created those tiny eggs with dozens of ridges?  That tomato leaf with hundreds of sprouts? (No wonder they feel rough to the touch!)  That rose petal embroidered with ovals? Did he smile to think about the day when someone would discover the infinitesimal splendor he’d designed eons before?

And yet, even more astounding than the magnificence of God revealed in nature is God’s glory revealed in you and me.

 

 

All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces;

and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit,

transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.

1 Corinthians 3:18 GNT

 

We’re a bit like those watches with phosphorescent numbers. The more light those numbers absorb, the more they glow.

Similarly, the more we bask in God’s presence through prayer, praise, and worship, the more we’ll manifest the glow of his attributes:

 

 

  • his perfect wisdom guiding our life choices, what we do, and what we say
  • his marvelous artistry in our positive imprint on others
  • his divine creativity manifested in the unique shape and color of our gifts and talents
  • his absolute goodness in the blessings we bestow to those around us

 

And imagine our faces, glowing ever brighter as we continually reflect more of the sparkling of our Diety.

 

 

What could be more delightful and satisfying?

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com (4); http://www.rd.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.

 

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Our older son and his family enjoy a large magnolia tree in their backyard. Every spring it explodes into a breath-taking mass of pink and white blossoms, each one at least six inches across.

Unfortunately the dazzling display doesn’t last long. The petals soon fall to the ground, and thick, dark leaves begin to take their place. But when summertime heat arrives the family is grateful for the cool shade of that dense foliage.

 

 

In autumn, as the leaves take their turn to fall, the flower buds for the next spring become more visible. Compared to those on other flowering trees or plants, these are already about two inches tall—even in October. To form them, magnolias take full advantage of the sun’s energy during the summer months (1).

 

 

All winter long, those buds proclaim silent promise of the divine flowers to come. And then in March or April, as the days have lengthened and warmed, the furry buds begin to split open, offering a glimpse of their tightly-spiraled petals—a precursor of the stunning transformation just days away.

 

 

Were we to celebrate the magnolia tree for those few days she’s dressed in her chiffon-pink finery, we’d miss out on the joy of her shady embrace in summer and those hope-filled buds through fall and winter.

There is beauty in the becoming—whether it’s magnolia trees or people.

 

 

If those magnificent buds were capable of emotion, they would no doubt look forward to the glorious reveal in spring. Thankfully, we humans can anticipate our desires being fulfilled. And as God’s children, one of those desires is spiritual maturity–the day when we’ll be wise and self-sacrificing, calm and patient, peaceful and contented–to name a few traits we aspire to.

 

 

But if we’re always focused on the future, we’ll miss the wonder of what God is doing now. The question becomes, what can we celebrate as God carries out his beautification process within us? Here are two categories of possibilities to get us started.

1. Celebrate the moments when the fruit of the Spirit are on display.

For example, over the last few days can you think of occasions when you:

  • Spoke kind words or affirmation to others?
  • Shared the gift of smiles and perhaps laughter?
  • Held your tongue when tempted to argue?

Then you brought a bit of love, joy, and peace to others. Hurray for you!

 

 

2. Take note of the times when biblical truths guide your actions.

Again, review the last few days for such examples as these:

  • You found your mind wandering into negativity, then made an about-face when you remembered your goal to focus on everything excellent (Philippians 4:8).
  • You apologized for speaking harshly to someone, instead of pretending the offensive tone didn’t matter (Ephesians 4:2).

 

 

  • A stunning feature of creation grabbed your attention, and your first thought was to worship God for his incredible handiwork (Psalm 92:4).
  • The moment you recognized God’s protection, provision, or blessing, gratitude welled up in your spirit (Psalm 126:3).

 

Celebrate the growth of a renewed mind, humility, praise, and gratitude. You’ll be reinforcing the behaviors that contribute to your beautiful becoming.

 

 

“Growth, though silent as light

is one of the practical proofs of health.”

–Charles Swindoll (2)

 

Note Swindoll says growth is a proof of health—not perfection.

And when we honor God as the impetus behind the progress, we enliven our faith for the next steps of beautification he has in mind.

 

 

“Little by little

as God’s sanctifying grace works in us,

more territory of our lives becomes his.”

–Herbert Lockyer (3)

 

Right now we’re enduring the long winter of our development, but spring will come.

 

 

“He who began a good work in you

will carry it on to completion

until the day of Christ Jesus.”

–Philippians 1:6 NIV

(emphasis added)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise You, Almighty God, that as we grow in trust and surrender to you, we will become more like your Son, Jesus Christ. Day by day you are engineering experiences to that end. Thank you also we can enjoy the anticipation of that glorious day, when the beauty of becoming will finally be complete.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/ct-sun-0226-garden-morton-20170221-story.html
  2. The Quest for Character, Multnomah Press,  1987, p. 172.
  3. Seasons of the Lord, Harper & Row, 1990, p. 351.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com (2); http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixy.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pikist.com.

 

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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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