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Posts Tagged ‘Perseverance’

“You have made man a little lower than the heavenly beings…

You made him ruler over the works of your hands…

All the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and…

All that swim the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:5-8, italics added).

 

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“Paths of the seas.” What might that refer to?  That question crisscrossed Matthew Maury’s mind frequently.

Maury had always loved the sea, prompting him to join the U.S. Navy at age 19, in 1825.

Life at Sea

The second ship on which he served, the Vincennes, included a library. Matthew was eager to learn and spent his spare time studying navigation. Sometimes he chalked out problems in spherical geometry on cannon balls. When the Vincennes circumnavigated the world, Matthew received practical experience in the subject.

Upon returning to the States, Matthew took an examination in navigation and passed. He was then appointed acting sailing master on the Falmouth. Along with the ship’s commander, he was responsible for navigating the course, steerage, and sail trim.

Next Matthew determined to learn about winds and currents. He discovered that no one had charted such information for the treacherous Cape Horn off the southern tip of South America. He kept meticulous records during the voyage and wrote about his findings in a paper, published by the American Journal of Sciences and the Arts.

In 1834, Matthew married Ann Herdon, and they settled in Fredericksberg, Virginia.

Maury’s life was certainly following a positive trajectory. And no doubt, as a strong Christian believer since boyhood, he saw each new opportunity as a blessing from God.

Plan B

But in 1839, Matthew was injured in a stagecoach accident.  The final result:   permanent lameness.  Never again would Maury be able to work aboard a naval vessel.  His career came to an abrupt end, and Maury fell into despair.

Surely he must have wondered, What am I to do, Lord? The sea is all I know.

But Maury did not allow his despair to debilitate him. He used his convalescence to continue studying navigation, meteorology, winds, and currents.

Was God behind that compulsion? Perhaps so. In 1841, Maury was offered a position as manager of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the depot for charts and instruments. This position was perfect for him, requiring the exact knowledge and abilities he had acquired.

 

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In 1852-1853, Maury brought together ten major maritime powers of the world. In unanimous agreement, they began to compile unified records benefiting all mankind. For the next thirty-five years, more than a million ships’ logs were sent annually to the observatory. From those records were developed wind and current charts for the globe.

Pathfinder of the Seas

Meanwhile, Maury sought for the meaning of that mysterious phrase in Psalm 8:8, “the paths of the seas.”

As he studied those ships’ logs being sent to the observatory, he compiled charts of ocean-wind and sea currents. He set adrift weighted bottles that would float slightly below the surface of the water, where they would not be impacted by wind.

Instructions inside each bottle informed the person who found it to return the bottle, with the location and date of its discovery. From his charts and experiments, Maury was able to determine the “paths of the seas,” including the Gulf Stream.

Pathfinder of the Wind

Maury also proved the truth of Ecclesiastes 1:6:

“Blowing toward the south, then turning toward the north, the wind continues swirling along; and on its circular courses the wind returns.”

Further study and experiments indicated that the wind did indeed move in circular patterns. Today we call them jet streams. Maury’s investigations led to a better understanding of weather, and predictions became more reliable.

Plan C

But despair entered Maury’s life again when the United States declared civil war. As a citizen of Virginia, he felt obligated to side with the South, giving up the position in Washington at his beloved observatory. Jefferson Davis, President of the South, sent Maury to England as an ambassador for the Confederate States.

After the war Matthew spent three years exiled in England. Many honors were conferred on him during that time, but his heart was still in the U.S.

Did he wonder once again what God might be planning? Perhaps he prayed, “Lord, if it be your will, arrange circumstances so that we may return to America.”

In 1868, the U.S. offered general amnesty to ex-patriots and Matthew sailed back to the States. He accepted a position at Virginia Military Institute as professor of meteorology, a position he held to the day he died, February 1, 1873.

 

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Matthew Fontaine Maury, a self-taught navigator of the seas, astronomer, meteorologist, author, and educator, always sought to prove:

“The Bible is true and science is true,

and therefore each, if truly read,

but proves the truth of the other.”

–Matthew Maury

 

And though he may not have set out to do so, Maury also proved:

“I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

With the advantage of hindsight, we can readily see this promise grandly fulfilled in Maury’s life. Yes, he suffered pain and hardship. All saints of God do (Romans 8:17).

But! God brought Maury through every challenge and used him in mighty ways—ways that impact our world to this day.

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Lord, I am deeply grateful you are the one who plans each of our lives. What comfort to know that an all-seeing, all-wise God is orchestrating not only the main events of life, but every single day. I pray for your grace, in order to be accepting of disappointments, knowing that you will bring good out of every situation. In fact, you may very well be preparing something important. I want to trust you without hesitation.

(Psalm 139:16; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:10)

 

Sources:  The Founders’ Bible, https://answersingenesis.org; http://www.cbn.com; http://www.creation.com.)

Photo and art credits:  www.travelblog.org; http://www.firstladies.org.)

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“Success is a journey, not a destination.”

–Arthur Ashe

Too often we think of success as the final, glorious outcome of endeavor. But achieving a goal requires the successful completion of many steps along the way, some of which are slippery, steep, and uneven.  As time passes and difficulties mount, hopelessness can hold us back.

However, history is full of examples of people who persevered in spite of great difficulty, even failure. They didn’t allow tumbles and trip-ups to stop them. They maintained their optimism and effort toward the goal.  Prime examples include:  Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill.

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

–Winston Churchill

Another prime example is Thomas Edison. You might remember he tested over 6000 materials for the filament of his electric light bulb, and performed 1200 experiments before reaching ultimate success.

Once the invention had been released, a reporter asked Mr. Edison, “How did it feel to fail over a 1000 times?”

The inventor replied, “Young man, I did not fail 1000 times. I simply found 1000 ways how not to create a light bulb.”

Edison had learned to celebrate progress, not just the end result.

We, too, can learn to celebrate the steps toward our God-ordained, individual goals, not just the finish line.

And what are the steps worth celebrating? Here are a few:

  1. Making good choices, even in small things (Luke 16:10).

Doing little things with a strong desire to please God

makes them really great.”

–St Francis De Sales 

  1. Maintaining a positive attitude (Colossians 3:23-24).

Feed your hope with positive expectancy.

Instead of wondering, Why isn’t God doing anything?

Ask, I wonder what God will do next?

  1. Exercising self-control (Galatians 5:23).

“You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

  1. Applying wisdom (Proverbs 19:8).

“Wisdom is the means by which the godly can both

discern and carry out the will of God.”

–Douglas Moo 

  1. Striving for humility (Proverbs 22:4).

“I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility…

Really great men have a curious feeling

that the greatness is not of them, but through them…

And [they] are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”

–John Ruskin 

  1. Overcoming disappointment and failure (Psalm 37:23-24).

“Discouragement and failure

are two of the surest

stepping-stones to success.”

–Dale Carnegie

Too often we’re sidelined by our failures—even the little ones. We have to remember: success has nothing to do with immunity to failure.

“Success is getting up just one more time than you fall.”

–Oliver Goldsmith.

So! I’ve devised a little questionnaire, to help us appreciate our steps of success:

  • Did we accomplish one task today, leading toward our God-ordained goals, even though we didn’t want to do it?
  • Did we thank God for even one blessing today? Gratitude takes our minds off the way we’d like things to be and refocuses our attention on what God has already provided.
  • Was there at least one small thing we chose not to do, in order to apply our time and energy on the goals set before us?
  • Did we apply a bit of wisdom today that kept us on the path of success?
  • Did we demonstrate genuine interest in someone else without even thinking about ourselves at all? That’s C.S. Lewis’s definition of true humility.
  • Did we encourage ourselves with words or action, in order to press on?

Success is found on the path of most persistence.

So, let’s celebrate progress–those moments, those steps, that are leading us toward God’s call on each of our lives.

And if progress is slow, let’s not lose heart.  Most progress is slow.  God rarely rushes in with a delivery of instant success.

Let’s all take a deep breath and affirm:  God isn’t finished with us yet. He’s still working, still guiding, still engineering circumstances for the personal goals he has ordained for each of us.

That doesn’t mean we sit back and wait for God to achieve our success for us.  It’s a matter of balance.  We must trust him as if everything depended on him, and work as if everything depended on us (Living Application Bible note, Proverbs 16:3).

(Photo credit:  www.hikingtohealthy.com)

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What steps to success would you add?

And, how do you celebrate the successful steps along the way?

Please join the conversation below! 

  

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

Isabella, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, was born a slave in New York state about 1797. No one knows the exact date, because birth records weren’t kept for “property.”

Did her parents know the name means, “consecrated to God?” Even if they chose the name for its meaning, those parents could not have dreamed of the future awaiting their Baby Belle.

Her early years were difficult.  Belle was sold five times, several times to cruel masters.

At age eighteen or so, Belle fell in love with Robert, a young slave from a nearby farm. The couple had a daughter. But Belle’s master, John Dumont, forbade her to see Robert again. According to the law, all children of the union would belong to Robert’s master, not Dumont.

Two years later, Dumont forced Belle to marry an older slave. They had three children: Peter, Elizabeth, and Sophia.

In 1826, Belle escaped the Dumont farm with Baby Sophia. In a vision, God showed her a particular home to go to. That home belonged to a Quaker family, the Wageners, who took in the young woman and her baby. They even paid Belle’s price to Dumont and made her a free woman. Belle became a housekeeper, then a maid.

Shortly after her escape from slavery, Belle learned that her five-year old son, Peter, had been illegally sold in Alabama. She took the matter to court and won her case. Peter was returned to New York. That was the first time a black woman challenged a white man in a U.S. court. It was also the first time of many that Belle’s resolve and courage were put on display.

Several years later Belle was falsely accused of poisoning her former employer. In 1835 she took that case to court and won again.

Someone must have encouraged Belle to tell her story of being a slave and becoming a free woman. But she had never learned to read or write, so a friend wrote as Belle dictated. A Northern Slave was published in 1850.

In her book, Belle explained that several years after she was freed, God revealed himself to her, “with all the suddenness of a flash of lightning, showing her, in the twinkling of an eye, that he was all over, that he pervaded the universe, and that there was no place where God was not.”

The book sold many copies and Belle became well-known. She was asked to speak at a women’s rights convention in Massachusetts. Before long, Belle was traveling with abolitionist, George Thompson, speaking against slavery and for human rights.

In 1851, Belle gave a speech at another women’s conference, this time in Ohio. She spoke convincingly (and extemporaneously) about women being every bit as capable as a man:

“I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?”

And, no doubt with a twinkle in her eye, she added:

“As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart — why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.”

She concluded by asking: “And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?”

It’s not surprising that some were displeased with Belle’s speeches. One time she was told that the building where she was to preach would be burned down if she dared to speak. “Then I will speak to the ashes,” she replied.

Belle was also physically assaulted. One brutal attack caused permanent injury, and she had to walk with a cane for the rest of her life.

In 1863, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an article about Belle for the Atlantic Monthly:

“I do not recollect ever to have been conversant with anyone who had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence…She seemed perfectly self-possessed and at her ease. An audience was what she wanted—it mattered not whether high or low, learned or ignorant. She had things to say, and was ready to say them at all times, and to anyone.”

Imagine. A slave woman who never had the opportunity to go to school, never learned to read or write. Yet the power of her spoken word helped bring the end of slavery and pave the way for women to be granted the right to vote.

Belle proved:

“There is no difficulty that cannot be defeated.

There is no victory that cannot be achieved,

if you believe in the power of God!”

— Anonymous

Of course, by the time she achieved notoriety, Belle was known by another name.

You see, Belle had asked God for a new name several decades before the Civil War. Again, it was the result of a vision. She said God chose her new first name based on the fact she would travel. Then Belle asked God for a second name, “’cause everybody has two names.” And the Lord granted her request. Her second name proclaimed what Belle always declared from her podium.

Perhaps you remember Sojourner Truth.

 

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(Photo from http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

Sources:  www.biography.com; http://www.sojournertruth.org; http://www.; http://www.blackpast.org; http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org; http://www.christianitytoday.com.)

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Check a map that traces the trek of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, and you’ll see a meandering, looping pathway:

Wilderness Journey

God could have taken them along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a much more direct route. One commentator says that route would have required just days of travel. A short journey would have been so much easier on everyone, right?  Less chance of fatigue, boredom, and impatience to develop and create problems.

But God had his reasons for a long, winding route.

Reason #1: The Philistines. That’s not conjecture; that’s exactly what scripture tells us. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt’ ” (Exodus 13:17).

The Philistines’ territory stretched for fifty miles along the Mediterranean Sea, with the southern border touching Egypt. They were a well-organized, warring people. Five great cities, strategically located throughout their coastal holdings, created an alliance, the famous Philistine pentapolis.

A people suppressed by slavery for four hundred years would not be able to fight such an adversary. The Israelites didn’t have any trained soldiers among them either. Could God have given them a rousing victory over the Philistines anyway? Of course. But he chose not to.

Reason #2: Perhaps God determined his people needed some wilderness experience to train them in his ways and build their trust in him. Instead of quick and easy, God chose slow, step-by-step progress. He was like an eagle, teaching his fledglings by degrees how to fly (Deuteronomy 32:11).

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I wonder if the Israelites thought, Does God have any idea where he’s taking us? What is he DOING?!

In hindsight we can see God’s purpose:

  • To prepare them to be his holy people by giving them the law. (By the way, according to Exodus 19:1, Moses went up to Mount Sinai during the third month after they left Egypt. God was certainly in no hurry to get his children to the Promised Land.)
  • To teach them.  Through the laws he gave Moses, God taught the Israelites how to treat one another and how to worship him. They were to be different from all other peoples on earth.   “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy,” he said, “because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).
  • To challenge them. For example, God let them experience great thirst and hunger. Then he stepped in and supplied their needs. By degrees God taught them to trust him.

I have to admit: my life experiences have paralleled the Israelites’ in a number of ways. I’ve encountered a few winding roads, puzzling detours, uncomfortable wait times, and unanswered questions of my own.

You, too?

Here’s what we can remind ourselves of: God may not direct us by the nearest, fastest way—even though he could. In his omnipotent wisdom, he knows a better way. And he has perfectly sound reasons for his decision.

My choice in the matter? I can plead for the shorter route, complain about the delay, try to forge ahead on my own self-chosen fast track, OR…

…trust my all-knowing, all-wise Heavenly Father.

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Seeing the choices laid out in black and white, here on my computer screen, the decision is easy. However, complete trust in the moment of uncertainty, fatigue, and discomfort is much more challenging.

Perhaps I can encourage myself by reviewing God’s purposes for the Israelites. Chances are, he desires the same results in me:

  • God prepared the Israelites; he may be preparing me for the next chapter in my life.
  • God taught the Israelites; he may be teaching me what the next level of maturity includes.  (Yes, even an old Christian like me still has growing to do!)
  • God challenged the Israelites; he may be challenging me to trust him—in spite of a long, winding road and uncomfortable wait time.

In summary:  As I cooperate with him, God can transform me into a prepared, mature, trusting servant for the next chapter of my life.   I like the sound of that!

You, too?

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“Who compares with you, O God?  Who compares with you in power, in holy majesty, in awesome praises, wonder-working God” (Exodus 15:11, The Message)?  You are over-the-top trustworthy!  So, in advance, I thank you for the good that will come out of the winding road, detours, and wait time in my life–experiences you ordained for me, before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).  I place my hand in yours, my caring, constant Companion.  Help me to focus on your strong grip, not the uncertainties ahead.  Amen.

   

(Art credits:  www.registrypartners.net; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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Mayflower_compact

 

They had been at sea for sixty-six days, enduring overcrowded conditions. Storms had caused damage to their ship and sea sickness plagued them all– passengers and crew alike. Meager provisions and no heat on chilly autumn days caused further discomfort.

So on November 9, 1620, when they finally saw the coastline of North America in the distance, the Pilgrims and others aboard the Mayflower must have cheered enthusiastically. Soon they could abandon the cramped, cold, and fetid ship and begin new lives in a new world.

But. All had not been peaceful and congenial among the passengers during the crossing. And when it became apparent the storms had blown them too far off course to land in the Virginia Colony as planned, relations deteriorated further.

Not all of the travelers were Pilgrims. Also aboard were merchants, craftsmen, skilled workers, and indentured servants. The Pilgrims called them “strangers.”

No sooner had the decision been made to anchor off Cape Cod, than an argument ensued. Several of the “strangers” pointed out that, since they were not going to be under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, they would “use their own libertie” and do as they pleased. “None had the power to command them, they said.” (Quoted words are from William Bradford’s records. He served as historian for the Pilgrims.)

To avoid anarchy, five men gathered in the cabin of the ship to create a basis for law and order. The result of their efforts: the Mayflower Compact.

The first words of the document give strong indication of the Pilgrims’ hearts.

In the name of God, Amen.

“Everything they did started with God” (The Founders’ Bible, p. 187).

Next, the Pilgrims stated their purpose for coming to America.

We, whose names are underwritten,…by the grace of God,…having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and country…

Several phrases indicate the Pilgrims’ desires for their new colony:

  • “For the glory of God” would be a guide for all manner of decisions.
  • “Advancement of the Christian faith” would encourage them to remain strong in Christian faith among themselves and to introduce others to Jesus.
  • “Honor of our King and country” indicates their loyalty to native England and its monarch, in spite of his untoward actions that caused their flight to America in the first place.

…[We] do solemnly and mutually in the presence God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic…

The Mayflower Compact expressed their commitment to live together in a civil manner, in the sight of God.

[We] will enact…such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” 

Note:  there is no mention of a leader who would oversee the colony. The Pilgrims created a democratic, representative form of government, in covenant with one another, rather than by a monarchy or dictatorship.

It was the first document of its kind in the history of the world.

But the Mayflower Compact would only be as good as the commitment of Pilgrims and Strangers alike to abide by its guidelines.

Would the mutinous Strangers sign?

John Carver, church deacon and one of the organizers of the voyage, was the first to affix his signature. Other Pilgrims followed.

One book says there was a long pause. Then Captain Myles Standish stepped forward to sign. Standish had been hired by the Pilgrims to be their military captain; he was with them, but not one of them.

Soon other Strangers followed Standish’s example.  In total, forty-one signatures appeared on the document. One freeman, two hired men and seven servants declined.

At long last, Pilgrims, Strangers, and crew were able to disembark. And what did they choose to do first?

Pray.

According to Bradford, they “blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the fast and furious ocean..and a sea of troubles before.” Then he quoted scripture:

“Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good and His mercies endure forever.” (Psalm 106:1).

 

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We, too, praise you, Lord, for your goodness and mercy upon America all these years.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, may we remember the solemn history behind this occasion.  Thank you for the supreme example and sacrifice of our Pilgrim forefathers–strong in faith, commitment, and perseverance.  May we follow their example, not only because you are faithful to the faithful (2 Samuel 22:26), but out of appreciation for what you, our loving God, have already done.

 

(Sources:  By These Words by Paul M. Angle; The Founders’ Bible; The Intellectual Devotional:  American History by David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim; The Rebirth of America;  http://www.learningtogive.org; http://www.humanities360.com; http://www.crf-usa.org; http://www.americanhistory.about.com; http://www.tparents.org; http://www.mrkash.com; http://www.mayflowerhistory.com; http://www.plimoth.org.)

 

Art credit:  www.washingtonmayflower.org.  

 

 

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borfarb

 

“Katherine, I’m terribly sorry, but there’s nothing else to do. We have no money to hire a nursemaid for you children, and now that your mother is gone…”  His voice trailed off.

Is that what Hans von Bora told his five-year old daughter?  No record has been left.  We do know that, in 1504, after the death of her mother, Katherine was sent to a convent in Nimbschen, Germany. At age nine, she was transferred to Convent Marienthron, where she took her vows and became a nun. Katherine was just sixteen years old.

Katherine’s duties gave her opportunity to learn management and care of a large estate, since the convent owned much property. Proceeds covered the expenses for the forty-four nuns and forty servants.  They also made a profit.

About this time a tract was secretly passed among the young nuns titled, “The Monastic Life, and the Marriage of Priests, Nuns and Monks.” Monks, nuns, and clergy should be free to marry, it said. Marriage should be kept; it is monasteries that should be given up.

As this message spread it was not just monasteries that began to empty but convents also. Twelve nuns from Marienthron chose to escape on Easter evening, in April of 1523.  Among them was Katherine. Three of the young women were returned to their families, the other nine secretly delivered by wagon under cover of night to a nearby town. It happened to be the home of the monk who wrote the tract, and he took personal responsibility to see that the nine nuns were well taken care of.

Husbands were found for some of the women; others were given positions in households. Katherine was in the latter group. One suitor, a university student, did court Katherine that summer. A deep friendship grew between them, but when he returned to school, Katherine never heard from him again. Perhaps his parents did not approve of a marriage between their son and a former nun.

Was Katherine’s heart broken after this first experience of love?  Did she wonder why God would allow such a painful turn of events?  Again, no record exists.  We can only surmise that Katherine felt great disappointment as would any young woman in such circumstances.

Several other suitors came forward, but Katherine was content to stay and work in the home of the Lucas Cranach family.

Meanwhile, the monk who wrote the tract about marriage had left the monastery. He was considering taking a bride himself. Katherine let it be known that she was interested, as affection for the caring man had developed during the two years she had known him.

On June 15, 1525, the couple announced their engagement before five witnesses.   Immediately following was the wedding!

An abandoned Augustinian cloister was given to the couple for their home. Katherine became mistress of this virtual estate.  (The first floor alone contained forty rooms with cells above.)

Eventually every room was occupied, not just by their own six children, but by widows, students, and orphans that the couple took in. In fact, Katherine and her husband adopted four orphaned children from their relatives.

Can you imagine caring for so many people—without such appliances as stove, refrigerator, washer, or dryer?

But God had prepared Katherine to manage the estate.  Remember her duties at Marienthron Convent?  Katherine  was on the go from daybreak to night, overseeing the multitude of household responsibilities, the animals, a large garden, the brewery, and large parcels of land she purchased in order to grow grain for the animals.

That’s not all. Katherine ministered to the needs in her community, giving care to the sick and counsel to the hurting.

She made it possible for her husband to travel, preach, and teach, knowing that all would be well taken care of at home.

Day after day, for twenty years, Katherine served others in and around her home.   How ironic that one of the few quotes of Katherine von Bora which has survived the centuries should be:

“I’ve read enough [of the Bible]. I’ve heard enough. I know enough. Would to God I lived it.”

According to the historical record, Katherine most certainly lived by the truth of God’s Word. Who can deny her courage, perseverance, love of others, and servant’s heart?  She stands as a worthy example for us to follow.

Katherine’s husband grew to appreciate her greatly and love her deeply. He called her “Kittie, My Rib” and  “The Morning Star of Wittenberg.”

Does the name of their hometown sound familiar? Wittenberg was the home of Martin Luther.

The husband of Katherine von Bora was none other than Martin Luther himself.

 

(Sources:  www.the-highway.com, http://www.rpmministries.org, http://www.helios.augustana.edu, http://www.lutheranhistory.org, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org, http://www.haventoday.org.  Art credit:  www.lutherin.de.)

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White_Oak-15_acorns

 

Elena, almost eighteen months old, loves to collect acorns. A grand oak tree, on the church property across the street from her home, provides perfect hunting grounds. She trundles along the edge of the sidewalk, her eyes on the grassy edge. Now and then she bends over, chooses a prime specimen, and clutches it tightly to her chest.

Yesterday was a banner day for acorns. Way too many shiny nuts with perfect caps. Her little hands couldn’t carry them all. I was given the honor of transporting a few of her treasures home. And this opportunity became the starting point for a train of thoughts.

You’ve no doubt noticed this yourself:  Acorns do not appear capable of producing oak trees.  They’re too small and too hard.  How can the seeds inside even escape those tough shells?   Yet given the right soil, the right climate, and plenty of time, the miracle of growth occurs.  White oak trees can reach the height of 150 feet, growing twelve to fourteen inches per year.  Acorns do not appear until the twentieth year.  In the end, the majestic giant provides hundreds of benefits (www.arborday.org and http://www.ehow.com).

 

white_oak_5036-320

 

Now a few tall plants, like bamboo, grow very quickly. But not tall, strong trees.  I wonder why?

We humans are also slow-growing–in body and spirit. And I wonder about that, too.  Why didn’t God make us more like bamboo, able to reach maturity quickly? Instead, we progress through a protracted, sometimes painful, learning process to become “mature, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

Perhaps God willed our development to happen slowly so we have many opportunities to follow his chosen path and fulfill the potential he’s especially prepared for each of us. A false step in the wrong direction can be corrected, just as a crooked tree can be straightened if attended to promptly.

 

 HardMaple1

 

Yes, there are those who choose not to mature, not to participate with God.

But we know that God is good, that what he does is good. I want him to train and teach me (Psalm 119:68). My guess is you feel the same.

Day by day, choice by choice, we can progress along the spectrum from self-centered to selfless, from impatient to patient, from lesser to greater.  But we have to realize: it happens slowly over time.

Here’s another possibility, even better than just accepting slow progress.  Let’s embrace it.

You see, our culture tends to look at time as a thief who steals away our youth, worth, mental acuity, and energy.

But what if we view time as a gift–a gift of countless opportunities provided day by day, choice by choice–to grow into the mature and gracious people God ordained?  Instead of regretting the passage of time we can celebrate:

  • Our progress to become rooted and built up in Jesus, strengthened in our faith (Colossians 2:6).
  • The growing ability to bear fruit (the fruit of the Spirit, exemplary living, glorifying God to others)–even into old age (Psalm 92:14).
  • Becoming “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).

Oh, I like that last verse especially, don’t you?

And it can happen through  slow and steady perseverance, with God as our guide.

 

(Photo credits:  www.bio.brandeis.edu; http://www.treetopics.com; http://www.awesometools.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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