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Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

Last week, on April 22nd, I read the devotion, “Listen to Me Continually,” by Sarah Young (Jesus Calling, Integrity Publishers, 2004).

Did you happen to read it, too?

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As you may know, Sarah determined a number of years ago to listen to God with pen in hand and write down whatever she believed he was saying to her. Those meditative moments became this book.

God’s messages through Sarah often speak timely challenges to me.  Last Thursday was no exception.

First, a bit of background.

As I write this, my to-do list is a bit long, even though I’m retired. (To those who are still employed or still have children at home under your charge, that sounds ridiculous, I know. But let me tell you, retirement does not change how busy you are, just what you are busy doing.)

Not only is that list of tasks long, but I have a strong desire to do a thorough job on each item. After all,

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(“If a task is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”)

Except that goal can easily lead to perfectionism, which I do have to fight against.

So here is what Sarah sensed Jesus telling her for April 22nd:

When Jesus died, he set us free. That includes freedom from compulsive planning.

And that’s exactly what I have been doing: figuring out when I could accomplish certain jobs, deciding whether a few tasks could be postponed, wondering if I’d be able to accomplish everything–on time.

Jesus continued; Sarah wrote more:

When we’re distracted by a whirlwind of thoughts, we cannot hear his voice.

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Oh, Lord, that is so true. Sometimes my thoughts are a stress-inducing jumble of “Stay on task! Don’t waste a minute! Don’t forget that! Do this first!” No wonder I feel overwhelmed.

Then Jesus and Sarah hit me between the eyes:

“A mind preoccupied with planning pays homage to the idol of control.”

Oh, my. I never thought of planning as a possible idol, something excessively adored.

But there is truth in that idea. I do prefer to be in control, to feel competent in handling my responsibilities, to know that everything will be accomplished efficiently and in a timely manner.

That sounds an awful lot like pride, doesn’t it.

I don’t think the problem lies in the planning, as if it’s a sin to make a to-do list.

The sin is in the attitude.  I need to ask myself:   Is my planning an effort toward making an impression? Rooting for compliments? Looking for a pat on the back?  I have to be honest.  Sometimes, yes.

Jesus reminded me (through Sarah) that my attention needs to be on him, not on the best ways to complete a task list. I need to listen to him, not the voices telling me to hurry to do this; scurry to do that.

And what will be the result? Stress will melt away, and I’ll enjoy the peaceful, God-enhanced, abundant life he’s promised.  I’ll be more useful to him and compliant to his will instead of mine.

That sounds much more satisfying and enjoyable, doesn’t it.

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Heavenly Father, I am so sorry that I’ve allowed a preoccupation with planning to become an idol. Help me to hold very loosely the plans I make, in order to embrace the interruptions and changes ordained by you. Teach me also to release control of the to-do list to you.  Amen.

Photo credits:  www.imgbuddy.com; http://www.picturequotes.com; http://www.eastbabtlife.com.)

 

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 Antiques-Roadshow

 

“Do you have any idea how much your painting is worth?” asks the antiques dealer.

“No, not really,” the owner answers.

“At auction, this portrait would probably bring…(a bit of a pause)…$5,000 or more.

The owner gasps. “And to think I only paid $25.00 at a garage sale!”

Scenes such as this are quite frequent on the popular TV program, Antiques Roadshow.  It’s astonishing how valuable some common-looking items turn out to be.  But I can’t help feeling a bit sad for the previous owners, who had no idea the worth of their possessions.

There are some folks who see little worth in the teachings of Jesus.  To their way of thinking, his world view and expectations seemed upside down and backwards.

For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus highlighted attributes that the world does not value, yet God considers of great worth.  Meekness would be a prime example.

Part of the problem lies in a common misunderstanding of the attribute. People think a meek person as weak-willed, passive, and too nice for her own good.

Such thinking is far from the truth.

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Meekness includes:

  • Surrender to God
  • Trust and confidence in His ways and provision
  • Gentleness and humility with others
  • More concern for the interests of others than one’s own
  • Self-control, self-sacrifice, faith, patience, and forbearance
  • A gentle and soothing disposition

A weak-willed, passive person cannot demonstrate such traits.   Meekness requires strength of character; it is power under control.

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Imagine wild stallions running free across rolling hills.   Manes and tails undulate and flow in the wind, muscles strain beneath gleaming coats, hooves pound a rapid rhythm. Indeed, stallions in motion are a majestic sight. They exude power. But that power is useless to man unless it is harnessed and trained.

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That’s the picture of meekness–strength under control. Strength to do the right thing at the right time. It’s not a human personality trait; it’s a super-human God trait. And the more we know his Son and abide in him, the more we’ll demonstrate meekness.

What might that look like, day-to-day? First, there would be no:

  • Mean-spirited sarcasm and rudeness
  • Arrogant behavior
  • Concern for prestige
  • Over-sensitivity or defensiveness

 

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Instead, the beauty of meekness includes:

  • Quiet trusting in God to supply
  • Adherence to the Golden Rule
  • Love in action—caring, giving, helping
  • Gracious understanding and forgiveness

The world would be a different place if meekness were a more prevalent trait.

Some of you may recall the old tune, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Do you remember the next line? “And let it begin with me.”

Surely the same could be said for meekness. We can each be an example. As opportunities arise that require meekness, we can allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with his power, much as we fill our lungs with air. In fact, we can use that physical act of taking a deep breath as a reminder of “the breath of God” within us, providing everything we need for meekness: trust in God, self-control, compassion, kindness, and patience.

Meekness is so important to God, he included specific promises in scripture for those who demonstrate this trait:

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  • “I hear the desires of the meek. I strengthen their hearts” (Psalm 10:17, RSV).
  • “The meek shall…be satisfied” (Psalm 22:26, ERV).
  • “The meek will he guide in justice; And the meek will he teach his way” (Psalm 25:9, ASV).
  • “The meek will…enjoy great peace” (Psalm 37:11).
  • “The Lord lifts up the meek” (Psalm 147:6a).
  • “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord (Isaiah 29:19a, RSV).

Strength, satisfaction, guidance, peace, uplift, and fresh joy. Valuable blessings, don’t you think?

Let’s seize the day in meekness. Let’s partake in the adventure of living our lives upside down and backwards, Jesus’ way!

We will NOT be disappointed in the results.

(Art & photo credits:  www.dealtrackersf.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.kansas.com; http://www.pinterest.com;

 

 

 

 

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Steve came into the kitchen carrying a lovely rose, its dewy petals just beginning to open.  Delicate baby’s breath surrounded the bloom; emerald-green tissue and a red satin bow created a fitting frame.

He passed the rose to me with love in his eyes and a sweet smile on his face.

I took the rose and threw it on the floor.

What?! you say. How could you do such a thing?

The truth is, I didn’t. I made that up. Not the part about Steve bringing me roses. He has surprised me with flowers numerous times over the years. I made up the part about taking a rose from him and throwing it on the floor.

That would be terribly rude, wouldn’t it. But the scenario described above does provide an allegory for the way we sometimes accept verbal gifts–occasions when we’ve treated kind words as trash:

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“Who, me? Oh, no. Not really. So-and-So is much better at __________ than I am.”

“You liked what I said? You must not have been listening very carefully!”

“I can’t believe you actually liked it. I thought it was terrible.”

Compliments are like roses, offered in an effort to bring a smile, provide good cheer, express appreciation and encouragement. When we discount them, it’s as if we’re throwing these verbal gifts on the floor. The compliment-giver feels put down, awkward, and lacking in good taste.

You may be thinking: Wait a minute.  As Christians, aren’t we supposed to be humble? Accepting compliments seems so prideful.

Not if you view positive remarks as declarations of God’s glory, as it’s reflected through you. Not when you consider that denying sincere, truthful compliments detracts from God’s glory.

So how can Christians accept compliments with grace? Here are several possibilities:

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  1. Simply say “thank you” and give the glory–the credit–to God. He is the one who gave you the ability to accomplish the task for which you are being praised. Pass the compliment on to God.
  1. Consider the compliment as encouragement. God is at work in you and he’s using you to minister to others. Thank the person for their kind words, and praise God for the opportunity to be used for his purpose, in ways that bless others.
  1. God often uses his people as agents for his encouragement. It’s possible those kind words are coming straight from God’s heart to yours. Take joy in the blessing.
  1. A gracious “thank-you-so-much-for-your-kind-words” will prompt the compliment-giver to continue offering encouragement to others.   Wise King Solomon compared inspiring/supportive words to gold (Proverbs 25:11). That’s how valuable they are.

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  1. If others were involved in your achievement, be sure to give them credit. Sharing the glory will increase the pleasure of the compliment.
  1. Later, when the kind words come to mind again, whisper a prayer.  For example:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing my effort and touching that woman’s heart. What an honor to be used by you to minister to her.”

Turn compliments into praise and they won’t turn into pride.

 

(Photo & art credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.handmaidcraftday.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wimempowerment.org.)

 

 

 

 

 

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The drummer begins a snappy, energizing beat.

The guitarists add moving chords.

The keyboard player joins with a compelling melody and attention-grabbing harmony.

Then the leader of the band enthusiastically proclaims, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Please stand and join me as we praise and worship our awesome God!”

It’s a familiar scene for those who attend a contemporary or blended worship service.

Have you ever wondered why we are invited to praise and worship? Aren’t the two words just synonyms for each other?

That’s what I thought for a long time.   Then a worship leader explained that the upbeat praise songs we sing first are designed to help us focus on God instead of the many mind-distractions vying for attention.

After a time of praise, he said, we are more receptive to the quieter, more reverent songs of worship. He likened our musical journey to the movement of Bible time worshipers, from the outer courts of the temple to the inner court.

Since then, I’ve learned more insights into the difference between praise and worship. For example:

Praise is an expression of approval and admiration, exalting God for who he is. We praise him for his wonderful attributes, like love, wisdom, power, and holiness. He is certainly worthy of every word of praise we can offer (Psalm 18:3).

But we can also praise people for their attributes. Even the family dog earns praise for being a good boy or girl! Praise is relatively easy to give. It costs us nothing except a little thoughtfulness and a little time.

A close relative of praise is thanksgiving. Just as we praise God for who he is, we express gratitude for what he does.

Worship, on the other hand, is exclusive. God is the only One worthy of our worship (Luke 4:8).

The word, worship, comes to us from Old English: weorth (worth) and scipe (ship). When we express our awe, love, and respect to God, we are proclaiming his worth to us.

True worship also includes humility, honesty, and surrender (John 4:24; Psalm 119:7):

  • Humility as we recognize God’s supremacy,
  • Honesty as we confess our inadequacy and sin,
  • Surrender as we relinquish our wills to his all-wise control.

Worship also draws us closer to God (Psalm 145:18), which is not just for Sunday mornings. Worship (as well as praise and thanksgiving) is designed by God to permeate our every day lives.

It’s as if praise, worship, and thanksgiving are tributaries, streaming together to form one great river. Three becoming one. Not like a braid, with three plaits woven side-by-side but still separate entities. No–a blending together into a whole, the parts no longer distinguishable.

Praise from a worshipful heart—one that is characterized by humility, honesty, and surrender—is the most sincere.

Thanksgiving that celebrates God’s goodness in his actions and praises God’s greatness of character, is the most complete.

Worship that includes sincere praise and complete gratitude is the most beautiful.

 

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Every day, Lord, you manifest your greatness to me. May I be quick to offer you praise, thanksgiving, and worship, because you are worthy of no less. And thank you for the gift of worship, for the overwhelming privilege of basking in your glorious and holy Light.

 

(Photo credit:  www.blog.nextlevelworship.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last fall I read there were more than 150 million blogs on the internet, with approximately 175,000 new ones being launched daily.  At that rate, cyberspace now includes over 213 million blogs!

After much shopping, I have found twelve devotional blogs which I follow regularly.  I’ll introduce six today and six on Thursday–in no particular order.  After reading these sample bits, you might want to visit these blogs yourself, and discover fresh insight from…

IMG_1727…Jennifer Dukes Lee (www.jenniferdukeslee.com), wife of an Iowa farmer, mother of two daughters, professor of journalism, and author of a new book being released in early 2014.  Recently she wrote about “How to Talk Back to Fear:”

“I believe that bravery looks a lot like…believing.  And I believe that there’s really no such thing as failure, because there’s nothing unredeem-able in the hands of Christ.”

Smart woman, that Jennifer.

…Holley Gerth (www.holleygerth.com), life coach and author, tackled the topic, “When You’re Worried What People Think.”

First, Holley quoted 1 Corinthians 4:3 (MSG):  “It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion…Comparisons in these matters are pointless.”

Holley says.  “When I care very little what other people think of me then I’ve suddenly got room to care a lot about other people.”

Quite insightful, don’t you agree?

Unshakable Hope…Unshakable Hope (www.unshakablehope.wordpress.com), written by Bill, married more than twenty-five years, father of two daughters, diagnosed in 1996 with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Bill has very little mobility, yet his spirit is more vibrant than ever.

On February 21, 2013, Bill wrote about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3).  They were about to be thrown into King Nebucadnezzar’s furnace and boldly proclaimed, “The God we serve is able to save us…, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (vs. 17-18).

Bill says, “For me, this is more than a great example of strong faith.  I believe this is a pattern of faith that all Christians should emulate regardless of challenges we might be facing.  We can proclaim that, ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from [insert your trial here].  BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT…we are not going to serve…doubt, fear, worry, hopelessness or anything else that destroys faith, hope, joy and peace.’

Strong words from a man of deep strength.

…Morning Story & Dilbert (http://www.morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com).  Kenny gleans thought-provoking posts from many sources and serves them up with a Dilbert cartoon — something for the mind and heart; something for the funny bone!

Recently Kenny included an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln, highlighting the president’s humility.  Although Lincoln was wise, responsible, and persevering, surely humility was one of the supreme qualities that contributed to his strong leadership.

Here’s the story Kenny shared:

“After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate forces were withdrawing to Virginia, and Lincoln felt that they were vulnerable. Eager to get the agony of the war over with, President Lincoln sent word to General Meade to attack.

“With his message, Lincoln also sent a personal note. ‘The order I enclose is not on record,’ said the note. ‘If you succeed, you need not publish it. Then, if you succeed, you will have all the credit of the movement. If not, I’ll take the responsibility.’”

Taking responsibility for failure, but giving others the credit for success.  Now that’s humility.

…Jean Wise of “Healthy Spirituality” (www.healthyspirituality.org), is a former nurse, but now focuses her time on writing My Photoand speaking.

On September 24, 2013, she shared the story of second-string quarterback, Kenny Guiton, of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Opportunities to get in the game have been few for this senior, but Kenny is always prepared.  Then, on a recent Saturday, he not only had a chance to play, Kenny scored a record six touchdowns!

In contemplating Kenny’s story, Jean said, “My job is to be faithful. To enter each day relying on God’s love and guidance.  To show up every morning with an open mind and heart.  To say to our heavenly coach, ‘Here I am, Lord.  What position do you need me to play today?’  To be ready when He calls me off the bench.  To wait and let God form me as He wills till His time is right.’”

Jean’s prayer resonates with my heart, too.

Diana Trautwein…Diana Trautwein‘s musings at “Just Wondering” (www.dianatrautwein,com).  She’s the mother of three, grandmother of 8, and a graduate of seminary in mid-life.  Currently Diana serves as a spiritual director.  Her post on October 11, 2013 was titled, “Giving Permission to Say No.”  Her words of wisdom include:

“Saying ‘yes’ is central to a full, rich challenging life.  We need to say yes to lots of different things over the course of our [life] journey.”

But!  “Try as we might, we cannot do everything.  (Because God already has.)  We cannot save the world.  (There is only one Savior.)  And we must not work ourselves to death.  (We are meant to enjoy God, and glorify God, not assume responsibilities we were never designed to bear.)”

See what I mean?  Wise woman.

Please return on Thursday to meet six more outstanding bloggers!

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“Please call back at your convenience and we can discuss the matter further,” the woman said.

I quickly wrote down her name and phone number, while listening to her message on the answering machine.

This is terrific, I thought, and hoped our conversation of “the matter” would prove productive.

Immediately I dialed her back, whispering a prayer that God would guide our conversation.  Then I  took a deep cleansing breath, in order to fortify my confidence.  Butterflies took flight in my stomach anyway.

Since it had only been a few minutes since R. had left her message, I fully expected to speak to her–not her answering machine, asking for name, phone number and a brief message.

That caught me off guard.  Leave a message?  What should I say?  But my brain was getting ahead of itself.  First I had to remember our phone number.

What I should have done is give R. my cell number.  That didn’t even occur to me.  Don’t ask me why.  Blame it on those pesky butterflies. Instead, the old house phone number (of two years ago) started to rattle off my tongue.  Oops.

Then a serious brain cramp seized up my memory.  Our current land-line number would NOT come to mind.  And while explaining (Does she really care?!) and apologizing for that, I frantically searched the office area for the turquoise folder on which our phone number was written in bold Sharpie.  Too bad it didn’t have a strobe light so I could find it.

After a few embarrassing moments, the folder turned up right where it should be–but hidden under some books.

I blithered my way through some sort of message, and hung up.

Oh, no!  WAIT!  I could have hit the # key and started over!  I could have presented myself as the competent and articulate person I wanted to be!  Too late.

I tried to be forgiving of myself, and recognize that complete competency would have led to pride anyway.  Had I spoken to R. with grand words strung together in fluid sentences, I know that a spirit of pride would have been right there on my shoulder, whispering:  Oh, that went incredibly well.  No doubt R. is very impressed with you.”

Pride.  That’s one sneaky sin that keeps slithering out from unexpected places.

How can I fight against it?  Paul gives a clue in 1 Corinthians 4:7.

“Who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

So here’s my plan.  I’m going to fight pride with praise.  Anytime a prideful thought comes lurking, I want to turn my mind to God Almighty who gave me all I have, including gifts, talents, and moments of success.  Without him I am nothing.

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Heavenly Father, thank you for taking interest in me, for working so hard to mold me into your image.  Thank you for the opportunities–like a tongue-tied phone message–that contribute to my maturity.  The outcome you’ve promised is astonishing:  that I may be complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).  That would include humility, wouldn’t it–a trait you value highly (Matthew 5:5).  So the next time pride tries to park on my shoulder, help me remember to send him packing–with praise!

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